about bliss

Monday, December 24, 2007

happy christmas eve!

After a *grueling* train ride to Michigan on Friday (the train from Chi-town to EL was 3.5 hours late due to a derailment which necessitated our train using different tracks that needed a different engineer, who couldn't make it to our train for 1.5 hours)...and after 24 hours of blowing, gusty high winds and powdery, horizontal snow...and after some last minute christmas shopping...and after a lovely first birthday party for little baby S. and visit with friends...and after 2 delicious meals at Zingerman's...I'm here in good ol' western Michigan, in a white winter wonderland, ready to celebrate with my family. Our traditions are shifting this year and it's a year of transitions. It's good to remember that times, circumstances, and people change and sometimes our rituals need to alter as well.

As Zora Neale Hurston writes in one of my favorite novels, *Their Eyes Were Watching God,* "there are years that ask questions and years that provide answers"...I would add that there are years for new beginnings, and years when we survey all around us with fresh eyes. This year has been one of questions and answers, and many blessings. I'm grateful for all of the wonderful people who continue to touch my life with their kindness and generosity. I hope you know how special you are, and how I treasure you. I know it sounds trite and hackneyed, but you are my greatest gift.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"what does this song mean? my whole life i don't know what this song means..."

photo courtesy of wikipedia, licensed under creative commons

I think I've mentioned Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne" on this blog before. Yesterday morning I heard the song for the first time this holiday season, and, sure enough, I was in tears by the end of the song. And then the DJ announced that Dan Fogelberg passed away this last weekend. I wouldn't consider myself a DF fan, but this song has a strange emotive power.

Meeting again after years in the frozen food section symbolizes the coldness that intervening years can create between estranged lovers. The coldness melts as they attempt to reconnect, however superficially, and aided by a little alcohol. At the end of the song, the snow turns into rain, illustrating the perhaps greater sadness of an emotional thaw after years of frozeness and emptiness...isn't it heart-rending? Doesn't it perfectly express that distance that exists where there used to be none?

Have I mentioned that I love grocery stores?!? I think that's one of the reasons the song resonates. The grocery store represents quotidian necessities, and, for a foodie like me, a place of infinite possibility, on which the song capitalizes.

In other news, I've stirred some interest in writing a collaborative fun romance tale, and plan to create a blog for this creative endeavor in the new year. This all stems from my paper-grading-stress-induced-confession-of-funny-romance-stories at study night on Sunday. My very talented colleagues are creating romantic phrases that are discipline specific, and what more fun than to write a collaborative story?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

a truth universally acknowledged...

watercolor sketch of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra, 1804, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Saturday afternoons mean watching PBS cooking shows amidst grading, baking, and doing laundry. Between Rick Bayless' *Mexico, One Plate at a Time* and *America's Test Kitchen,* the most wondrous "commercial" appeared: montage of scenes from various Jane Austen films appeared, accompanied by the strains of Coldplay's tear-jerker "Fix You." At the end of the lavish display of love requited and not, appeared the kicker: The Complete Jane Austen, January 2008! Jane-ites, unite:)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

opalescent lake michigan

Today was the best kind of winter day--sunny and crisp, with a bright blue sky in counterpoint to gleaming white snow. When I arrived home around 3:30 pm, I layered on wool and fleece and headed outside. I wanted to walk by the lake because the magic of light and snow created the illusion of opalescence...the lake gently undulated, slowly, under small patches of thin ice. At once white, silver, blue, and pink, the effect was as breathtaking as the chilly air. The sky turned pink and violet, striped with thin grey clouds. Small ice floes are beginning to form around the shoreline, and yet flocks of geese still remain.

In between my interminable, infernal grading, I baked a loaf of cranberry orange nut bread for my American Lit class tomorrow morning. I'm a little nervous that someone may be allergic to nuts...I try to be sensitive to such needs, but this was one of the few treats I had all the ingredients on hand for. I just tested an end slice--crunchy, tart, and nutty. Delicious!

I'm excited to plan ahead for next weekend, the winter solstice, when I'm back in Michigan visiting my dear family and friends. My va-cay begins with a short visit with my two best friends S and H (and H's lovely family), and a very special first bday celebration for S! Hoorah! And, watch out, Zingermans, here I come! S and I will enjoy breakfast, our favorite meal, there, and my brother L and I will stop there on our way back to Holland to buy the Fromage de Noel. And cranberry pecan bread (very different than my aforementioned "tea loaf," this is a dense, bread-bread. I know that sounds ridiculous, but my addled brain cannot think of a better description).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

citrus love

photo by Scott Bauer, from the Wikipedia Commons

One of the bright spots on these gloomy, chilly winter days is the profusion of delicious citrus fruits. I love starting my morning with half of a ruby red grapefruit--a tart and tangy wake up! And a juicy navel orange at lunchtime brings a smile to my face. I particularly need the nutrients of citrus now as I'm trying to drive away a common cold...

I'm in the thick of grading essays...one class after another...and everyone's stress level is high as we anticipate our long January break.

My neighbors continue to play video games late at night, and the digitized sound of shooting and who knows what else thumps up through the floor and fills my bedroom. I try to crank my classical music via NPR as a peaceful antidote, but then it's simply too loud to sleep. So I made use of my guest bedroom and slept wonderfully, even if the bed is much smaller than my own big bed.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

tales from the city

This morning I'm recovering from a long day of fun yesterday, all whilst hosting a little common cold. C and I set out for the big city late yesterday morning. Our first stop was the Allen Edmonds shoe store/factory, where we discovered a secret cache of *nice* women's shoes at reduced prices...like Cole Haan, Privo, and Ugg. We also discovered some very attractive men with some damn fine shoes.

We then made our way through some of the sadder parts of Milwaukee to the cute gentrified area of Wauwatosa, where we met A and Red Beard for a delicious lunch at City Market. I had a veggie quiche, a cranberry walnut scone, some fresh fruit, and coffee. Sitting in the pastry case was a Buche de Noel, and I was filled with zeal to make one myself. A said they made one in French class when she was in HS.

We said goodbye, and C and I searched for the secret shop, which proved a little tricky. In the middle of our search we went to a few neat shops--a women's boutique and an independent bookstore. After many circuitous routes, we finally found the secret shop and spent a wonderful while in the tiny gem of a store, buying gifts and dreaming of future visits...

Then it was off to the controlled madness of the shopping mall. I have never seen so many security guards and police, which saddened my heart to think of how much needless, senseless violence happens. We shopped, chatted, and drank coffees and lattes from Alterra.

Our final stop was for pizza in She-town, a perfectly delicious ending to a delightful day.

To think that this time last year my future was so uncertain and all I knew of this place that I am now was indeed my now friend C, and the possibility that I could end up here. And now here I am, and it all still seems a bit of a miracle to me.

Friday, December 07, 2007

frozen tundra: it's no joke

Between the Brett Favre obsession and the cold weather, I've been schooled on essential Wisconsin-ism this week. Let's just say that to even question Favre's god-like status is tantamount to blasphemy in these parts. And, apparently, to argue that up-and-coming QB's are "the next BF" is a logical fallacy.

As for the weather--jeez louise, as my friend B. would say--it's a depressing situation. The low temps for the next few days are as follows: -2, 0, 0, 23, 5, 5. That 23 looks like a heat wave:) I've made quite an impression on campus with my pink uggs, which I usually intend to change out of, but on cold days, they're just warmer and comfier to wear than heels.

Tomorrow I shop! I'm most excited to go to a nifty little specialty store that I can't write about here because I would spoil the surprise for many people who may be reading this blog and receiving a gift from me. And, I found a little cafe with a delicious menu for a lovely lunch. Then there's the mall, which will be *crazy* with harried shoppers. I may need a few zen/yoga/happy place breaks throughout the day.

This week's highlight was a talent show on campus. The students gave phenomenal performances, and I was so impressed with everyone involved in the grand production. The final act was a student doing the Solja Boy dance, which I've decided I simply must learn. I've added learning the dance to my increasingly long list of things to do in January when I have a break (list also includes moving, writing a conference paper, preparing for one new class, revamping two classes, going to doctor/dentist/eye doctor, etc).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

baking up a storm

The first winter storm of the season brings excitement, nervousness, and non-stop weather updates on TV. I started my morning at Lowes, where I selected a snow shovel--my very first. I've never been in charge of snow removal before, so I needed to stock up on accoutrements. I then stopped at the grocery store to buy the items I forgot yesterday, and headed home to await the coming storm.

Light flurries began around 11:30, and continued to build, swirling with the increasing wind, and turning into a sleet, ice, and snow mixture, which continues as I write now.

To while away the stormy afternoon, I took refuge in the kitchen and welcomed my friend C. and her adorable, pink-loving, expert candy-cane smashing daughter T. Together we made chocolate sandwich cookies--two thin, delicious wafers filled with pink peppermint frosting and then rolled in the aforementioned smashed candies. And we attempted to make marshmallow fudge. I discovered that substituting regular milk for evaporated milk doesn't necessarily work so well, and my "fail safe fudge" turned into a fudge mousse. I'm thinking of rolling it into balls and calling it truffles...We had a lovely afternoon, chatting and baking, and it was just the holiday fun and friendly lift I needed on a day that otherwise would've seemed really long and rather lonely.

Tonight I had a long chat with my dear friend S. and worked on a Christmas gift for some friends...

If only every stormy day could be so peaceful and homebound:)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

soup for a winter's night

Sometimes I please and surprise myself in the kitchen, when I try something new and it turns out fabulously. As the temperatures dip, and flurries fill the sky, I crave luscious, hot soups--the perfect balance of warmth and faux heartiness. I love that soup can be virtually fat-free and yet taste utterly voluptuous. I came home from work *early* (if 4pm is early after arriving at work at 7am...), set some frozen roasted butternut squash pieces out and went for a very short walk. I came home, enjoyed coffee and couch time, reading my new *Cooking Light* magazine, and then headed to the kitchen.

I sauteed diced carrots, celery, and onion in a little canola oil. I added chunks of the still frozen squash, water, a bay leaf, dried sage, black pepper, and salt. I cooked away until the squash was thawed and the other veggies had a little give. I used my stick blender to roughly mash the soup, preserving some rustic chunks. I ladled a bowl full, drizzled honey on top, and ate with a wedge of Zingy's Paesano bread with olive oil. Yumm. The veggies and spices give the soup a thanksgiving flavor, and the honey draws out the sweetness of the squash.

Christmas baking beckons...my cooking magazines are filled with delicious new recipes, like Chai shortbread, and chocolate sandwich cookies. Or how about a Chocolate Cake layered with homemade peppermint ice cream, enrobed in ganache? Any takers? What are your favorite holiday treats?

Monday, November 26, 2007

post for a winter's night

I'm cuddled up in my pink fleece blanket, the same one I take to movie club when we watch scary/violent movies like *Braveheart*, and skimming *The Dharma Bums* for class tomorrow. Yes, I said skimming...sadly, it's been long enough since I've last read the novel that even my copious marginalia seem new, or, reflect early beliefs/impressions I don't quite hold anymore.

The maple bourbon pecan pie turned out deliciously, its success hinging on my lackadaisical and imprecise and rather generous sprinkling of Maker's Mark (from a ginormous jug, the dregs of bourbon left over from my famous PhD graduation Pink Party) into the filling mixture. Boozy, caramelly, and nutty--a most lovely combination.

My weekend in Michigan hinged on relaxation--I went to a vigorous yoga class on Friday morning, visited the historica Cappon House with Mom and Grandma in honor of Grandma's birthday, drank a lemon martini in the happening New Holland Brewery with my family on Wednesday night, and shared a traditional Thanksgiving feast with my family.

The train trip seemed to stretch out into giant interminable swaths of time, the seats crowded with train *amateurs,* as my friend M once said about airports, and my wide-eyed reflection gazing back at me from the dark train windows.

Now, a flurry of holiday activity and an overwhelming mass of grading awaits...and then it's back to Michigan to *finally* see my dearest friends who I haven't seen in MONTHS, and to spend more time with my dear family.

I'm reading Amy Bloom's critically acclaimed novel *Away* and very much enjoying the story and her writing style--evocative but not effusive, stylish but not spare.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Tonight I watched my very first Japanese Anime film, *My Neighbor Totoro,* by Hayao Miyazaki, which was utterly delightful. The landscape animation radiates peace, calm, and beauty. The littlest girl in the film is simply adorable, and the expressiveness of all characters, their vivid imaginations, the presence of the spirit world (represented by the fluffy, bunny-esque Totoro), and family sadness is palpably expressed in deceptively simply characters/animations. We (the intrepid movie club) dined on cookies and milk, and all I needed was my pink fleece blanket to feel totally kid-like and comforted!

Tomorrow I make my way back to Michigan for Pie Day! Hoorah! I'm taking the Amtrak, my new favorite method of travel. I have four brand new magazines to keep me entertained on the long-ish journey around the lake.

Have a lovely feast and a delightful break, everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

pie-day preview

If my memory serves me correctly, last year I wrote about pie-day--what others call Thanksgiving, I like to call pie-day, named in honor of my favorite part of the feast (well, except for all the gorgeous vegetables, and the delectable mashed potatoes) and nicely shifting attention away from the problematic mythos of the holiday (about which I was just reading in preparation for my class tomorrow). Today I made a rustic apple tart that I'm taking to work with me tomorrow. I made the crust yesterday, a standard all-butter crust, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. It seemed a little "stretchy" today, but it baked up nicely flaky. I sauteed the apples in butter, brown sugar, and then added a touch of vanilla and cinnamon. I lined the apples on a rectangle of dough, folded the excess dough over the fruit, sprinkled the entire creation with large grained Turbinado sugar, and baked it until golden. A little preview of pie day, a little practice with pastry!

first snowfall

While flurries have danced throught the sky on several occasions this past week, last night they stuck. I stayed up LATE reading an old Jenny Crusie novel, *Tell Me Lies,* that I found at the library. Before finally falling asleep, I peeked outside and saw a thin blanket--make that a cotton sheet--of snow on my car top, rooftops, and even on the grass. It was pretty and magical and I remembered everything I love about winter--mainly, the sense of "hibernation" with a good book and hot chocolate. I carved out some time from work duties and student needs to do just that this weekend, and I feel refreshed. Now, the sun streams in the windows and quickly melts the snow into common moisture, and beckons me outside for a brisk, bracing walk before facing today's tasks: reading the Beats for class on Tuesday, planning a continuing ed course with my friend B, and baking cookies (for students) and an apple galette (for friends/colleagues).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

fun times with the VP + the Beard

Last night my gang and I celebrated the end of another long week, jammed full of special presentations and observations, with a little trip to She-town for pizza and conviviality at Il Ritrovo. Once we had bread and water in our starved and parched bodies, conversation flowed, laughter reverberated, and fun reigned. I was pleased to make an appearance with friends rather than dining alone yet again. And I even garnered a flirtatious wink from the ever-amiable host.

This morning the rain turned into snow (which makes me think of that Dan Folgeberg song about meeting an old lover in the grocery store...that song breaks my heart every time I hear it). I've stayed warm inside, doing laundry and tidying my home. And--to my utter amazement--watching the downstairs neighbors pack their giant UHaul truck! They're moving!

My thoughts turn to Christmas, to gifts to make, and warm thoughts to share, to delicious treats to create. I think it will be a truffle year--hoorah! This, of course, necessitates an order from Chocosphere. With the snow and grey skies, it's also the time to stock up on SAD-staving-off chocolate bars. A little Cluizel, a handful of Pralus, and something new awaits me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

a funny thing happened on the way to the grocery store

An elderly gentleman, decked out in camo jacket and hat, stopped me in the Copps (where does the apostrophe go?!?) parking lot, and said, "You look nice. You look like a lady."

I was wearing my favorite Ann Taylor suit--a wool boucle suit with cream splotches randomly sprinkled across the fabric--black hose (which I didn't want to wear, but was having a Bridget Jones' -esque situation with tights and hose this morning), and my favorite classic black pumps (not nearly as swanky as the Cole Haans, but still nice), and--ugh--my puffy white down coat, because IT WAS SNOWING this morning. Little tiny pellets of snow. Cold, brisk wind. Layered grey skies.

Anyway, it was a sweet comment that warmed my heart on a depressingly winter day.

if the shoe fits and you can't buy it

Besides reflecting on place, home, and loss while walking around Lenox Square mall, I also engaged in retail pleasures. I spent several hours in Bloomingdales, trying on cashmere sweaters (and buying a classic black turtleneck, with slightly puffed sleeves at the shoulders), shoes, and boots. I tried to slip my foot in a size-too-small Cole Haan black patent pump with Nike Air cushioning just to see if these shoes would provide the comfort and springiness for which Nike is famous. It's hard to say since my whole foot was smooshed and losing sensation. The shoes are beautiful--with clean lines and a classic, more substantial heel than is often found.

And the boots, oh Lord, the boots. I've been on a boot mission for several years. Most boots are too wide in the calf for me (as one annoying salesman told me, I need to get bigger calves. Like it's me and not the boots that are problematic). I told the friendly Bloomie's salesman about my quandry and he brought out several different boots, ranging from a Franco Sarto with synthetic uppers, to an all leather zip-up Stuart Weitzman, to the stunningly gorgeous all leather stretch Cole Haan boot in a buttery, caramelly leather, that skimmed my calf and nicely scrunched but didn't slide down my leg as I walked around the shoe department. I wanted to live in these boots. But, even with the special promotion of 20% off, the boots would be a *major* investment that I just can't make now. I pretended I didn't like the pull-on feature of the boots, and the salesman told me that this was the most classic, beautiful boot on the market now, better than anything by the more upscale Gucci. I believed him. I gingerly packed the boots back in their large box, patted them goodbye, and headed toward the cosmetics department in search of more affordable luxury.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The airplane glided over the twinkling lights of metropolitan Atlanta, and landed with a jolt and a jar to the system...I stepped out of the plane into an airport that reminded me of so many trips between my significant places, back when I called Alabama/Georgia and Michigan home. Light traffic on I-85 made the trip from the airport to Buckhead smooth and speedy, and within no time I was hopping in S’s car and we were making our way to Mellow Mushroom, an old favorite pizza joint from grad school days. The Buckhead location is more polished and less hippy-deadhead-chic than either the Auburn or Carrollton locations that I frequented “back in the day,” but the food tasted the same. As I sipped sweet tea from a red plastic Coke glass as big as my head, I listened to the strains of “Curtis Lowe” and “Honeysuckle Blue” welcoming me back home to the South. Since it was Thirsty Thursday, loud trivia and crowds of just-out-of-college grads surrounding us. I felt old.

Tucked away in a seemingly forgotten corner where old, flat industrial buildings mingle with new artistry, Floataway Cafe didn’t disappoint me in terms of warm ambience (a really wonderful blend of polished stainless industrial and cool, calming earth tones and natural fibers giving a wispy, cloud impression), impeccable (and flirtatious!) service, and seriously good food. I was disappointed with the vegetarian options--I could have sampled the unlisted vegetable plate, but it include such cult veggies like Beets (which I detest. Dirt, Soil, Earth: that’s what I taste when I deign to eat Beets). I selected a small dish of marinated Tuscan olives, a slippery, salty, and savory counterpoint to my Lemon Gingersnap Martini. Next came a simple arugula and parm salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. The long slivers of parm perfectly rounded out the peppery bite of the greens. Finally, I selected the pizza margherita, which would have been wonderful, all San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella topped with trendy microgreens, except that Il Ritrovo has spoiled me for any other artisan pizza.

And then we were off to the Chocolate Bar in Decatur. I ordered a San Pellagrino and coffee to accompany my Caramel Ganache dessert: one thin, small round of chocolate genoise, topped with a perfectly voluptuous egg of dark chocolate ganache, garnished with edible gold leaf and fleur de sel, next to a thin, crispy, nutty, spicy chocolate wafer topped with a smooth egg of medium chocolate sorbet. The contrasting textures and ingenious use of shapes, temperatures, and variations of chocolate delighted my discriminating chocoholic soul.

Saturday night S and I dined at Tamarind Seed Thai Bistro, my old favorite relocated, spiffed up, but still serving my favorite Thai Dishes of spring rolls and Mixed Vegetable Curry with Tofu. A glass of crisp Jewel Viognier nicely cut through the lush heat of the curry. My tummy was happy for awhile, but mystified by the presence of fried food (a real rarity in my diet).

On Saturday afternoon S went back to the hotel room to rest, and I wandered Lenox Square Mall on my own and remembered previous visits. The time I bought my Farewell to the South Dress. The time I talked to H. on my cell phone in the Ann Taylor dressing room. The time I had a Bobbie Brown makeover. Before I even left Wisconsin for Georgia I wondered what my emotional response might be. For my ‘Sconnie friends reading this blog, and my Michigan friends and family who are close by, you’ll be happy to know that I couldn’t see myself living in the ATL metro area. Despite the delicious food, the temperate climes, the fantabulous shopping, and the beautiful people everywhere, I just didn’t feel at ease. To live anywhere near there (which I would’ve been had I accepted a different job offer), I would have to be a different version of myself, and though I don’t doubt that she would be wonderful, I think the version of my self that my current small-town life demands is more true-to-form. M- may be small, and the men (and women) may have mullets, and the winter may be grueling and inescapably long, but I know we won’t run out of water, and I won’t be hemmed in by towering edifices of glass and steel. I can drive to She-town in the time it took me to drive 5 miles in ATL. I can walk out my apartment door and breathe clean, fresh air not polluted by so much car exhaust (though I may smell algae stink from Lake Michigan).

Maybe I really am a Midwestern Girl after all. Maybe I like Chicago better than Atlanta, in that it’s a true walking city...and a Lake front city, and a city that I’ve experienced not alone but with my family and friends. So many of my Atlanta memories seem to magnify the loneliness I often felt during those late grad school and early post-grad days. Upon returning to Wisconsin, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being alone in the world--here I was leaving a supposedly familiar place and returning to a place that’s just not home yet. My “re-entry”--a term I learned to apply when moving back and forth between two homes during grad school--startled me with its intensity and melancholy. I used to agree with writer Gretel Ehrlich that “home can be many places,” but I’m starting to think that home is a more complex intersection of geographical place, memory, mood, adjustment, people, and comfort. This *can* exist in many places, but those places change as one or more of those factors change. For now, M- isn’t home, and home is still rather abstractly and defiantly Michigan, and for that reason I can’t wait to go “home” next week...but I also can’t wait for the day that M-too is home. I know that day will come (though you’ll never see me sporting a mullet or dating anyone who has one:)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

all my bags are packed, i'm ready to go...

I should be revising/proofreading my conference paper, but as my friend and fellow panelist S. says, "that's what plane rides are for!" One of our friends once infamously wrote her entire conference paper in the hotel the night before her presentation! As for me, well, I don't want to waste potential meal and shopping time, so I'll be writing changes in the airport and on the plane. Nevermind the mind-softening effects of Dramamine:)

As I sit here shivering in 2 layers of clothes, I'm practically giddy at the thought of sunshine and relative warmth. And the company of friends I haven't seen in nearly a year! And the culinary adventures I've waited years to have...

So far, our tentative eating spots:
Floataway Cafe (a definite, with reservations)
The Chocolate Bar (what's not to like with a name like that?)
Mellow Mushroom (a nostalgic fave)
Tamarind (Thai, though now it has a new name and a new location that I can't remember)

I was chatting with a senior colleague at work today and showing him the pile of google maps on my desk, printed out, highlighted, and ready to go, and my still-unfinished presentation draft on my computer screen. He assured me that my priorities are spot-on.

My suitcase is nearly packed, and can you believe I'm only taking two pairs of shoes? The ridiculously fashionable brown patent leather peep toe mary janes for professional activities, and my new favorite patent/suede/nike nylon cole haan mary janes for casual wear (think: shopping).

I can't wait to go into Sephora and smell the mingled scents of a hundred perfumes, and to see every possible shade and shine level of pink lip stick/gloss/stain/glass arrayed in front of me. To walk through the wide, white tiled hallways of bloomingdales, and try on dresses that have no rational place in my small-town life. To say hello to the Manolos and Jimmys and Kates at Neiman Marcus. To purchase new stationery at Crane's, and think of my dear friend M, who first told me about the store, and who I haven't talked to in ages as we both (and his wife B) started new jobs and made big moves this summer...ahh, the power of memory, and the thrill of creating new memories. Long chats with my friends about life, love, and babies (theirs, not mine:). A respite from my daily life, which is becoming increasingly cluttered with more and more piles of papers everywhere.

Look for a full report of the eats when I return--I promised B some post-prandial prose to tide us through til the VP makes a break out of this small town and hits a big city (an event that needs to happen sooner rather than later!).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

sunday evening

I have now successfully smuggled chocolate ganache glazed chocolate cupcakes into our local Starbucks, to fortify the tummies of the VP gathered for a weekend session of gab. I know, I really live on the edge here! The highlight of our time there was a smiley, cute 6 month old baby, whose mother handily passed him over to my friend C. to hold so she, the tired mom, could drink her coffee.

Today I said "bon voyage" to my neighbor M., who's moving to California and leaving her apartment ready for ME to move into in the New Year! I can't wait to settle into the new space and take advantage of the amenities, which include a jacuzzi bathtub, a brand new dishwasher, a cute porch, and a real garage. Two particularly sunny rooms, with windows on three sides, have me convinced I can grow indoor plants. Well, that, and being friends with a plant biologist...

I've been reading and re-reading Wallace Stevens' poem "Sunday Morning," one of my all time favorites, in preparation for class on Tuesday. It will be a challenging read for my students, but I hope also illuminating. "Divinity must live within herself."

This week will bring the first snow flakes and also my return to Georgia for a conference. A week of contrasts, of present and past...of new friends and old.

fall back...

A glorious "extra" hour of sleep is a gift on these too-short weekends! Unfortunately, I awoke to ominous grey skies that hint at the winter to come...and the much cooler temperatures and flurries that will dance across the region in the next few days.

Here's a poem I'm working on (of course, the poem, and all content here is copyrighted, so please don't run off with my halting words and broken images:)

As of Yet Untitled

Just another Carrie Meeber
riding the rails, seeking adoration,
material comforts, and a pair of
snug blue jeans.

The train winds past Chicago warehouses
filled with so many hairless, naked
mannequins--rigid limbs askew,
preternaturally pert breasts pointing skyward.

Grandeur meets squalor meets expanses
of grain: corn and soy stretch from highway
to railway, eclipsing views of Lake Michigan,
as Illinois sighs into Wisconsin.

Vast expanses of emptiness between
sunglassed sadness and the gazes of passersby.
Eyes limned with tears, iPod buds in her ears,
a crumpled Vogue thrown on the vacant seat.

One bulging suitcase above, an overstuffed
shopping bag below, and a silent cell phone stuck
in her green purse. Miles to go before she’s home:
clutter, forgotten work, laundry,

and no rocking chair. Nowhere yet to dream
the happiness she hopes to know.

Monday, October 29, 2007

bye, bye birdie

When I was a freshman in high school I was a chorus girl in the musical *Bye Bye Birdie,* along with a gaggle of my friends. We wore pastel pedal pushers, cardigans, and chaste cirle skirts that our moms and grandmas sewed for us. We sang never-ending renditions of "we love you Conrad, oh yes we do" and danced jaunty box steps to the teen chorus number, the name of which escapes me right now. And, I even sang one solo line in "The Telephone Hour": "It won't last/not at all/He's too thin/She's too tall."

But that's not what my title refers to this evening. Rather, it's an allusion to my abysmal performance at the inaugural badminton match. I give my sincerest apoplogies to my friend B., who is the more talented half of our team, Vance Refrigeration. I floundered all over the court, suffering from the dreaded TR (twisty racket) of tennis fame, the blinding bright lights in the gym ceiling, and the shame of hitting my own self in the head with my racket not once but twice. And at least one of my students, several of my colleagues, and our very athletic Dean were all watching.

It's rather a good thing that my continued employment does not hinge on my athletic prowess. Academic prowess? Culinary prowess? Sartorial prowess? Silly prowess? Yes, these I can excel in. But team sports have never been my strong suit. Why can't we have running or yoga intramurals? Those are "sports" I could definitely participate in without looking like a jackarse. Or better yet, how about a battle of big words? (which we're actually doing in my comp 2 classes this Wednesday. I'm calling it a define-a-thon, after an article I clipped from the NYT last Spring). Or what about a CHOCOLATE competition? Any other suggestions for non-athletic intramurals?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

ça va tres bien, merci!

I hope my French title is correctly spelled and grammar-ed. I left my lesson worksheet at work... I'm now learning French via podcast! Yesterday I sat in my office repeating French phrases and likely sounding a bit loony to all colleagues and students walking down the hall. The first lesson included such helpful phrases: yes, no, how are you? i am well, i am very well, i am not well, i am in good form, and you?

Why am I learning French in haste? I'm in the early stages of planning a mini-study abroad/continuing ed course that would focus on the American Ex-Pat writers in Paris, mainly in the Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Wharton years. I'm planning on applying for a grant to fund a brief site visit this summer and therefore need to have at least rudimentary language skills. If my summer trip comes to pass, I will most definitely need a travel companion or two or three...please feel free to volunteer yourself:)

Last night I had the most scrumptious pasta in recent history. The honors of best Italian restaurant are shared between Trattoria Stefano, Trattoria Stella, and Cafe Spiaggia as to which restaurant has my favorite pasta. For now, Stefano is pulling ahead because of their geographical proximity, the warm ambience, and their (still giant) half portions of pasta.

After work yesterday I drove to She-town for two hours of bliss (i.e. highlights and haircut), and then walked into crowded Il Ritrovo for pizza. Because it was so busy I would have to wait even to eat at the bar, the host suggested I walk across the street to Stefano, where I could also order pizza if I wanted. The warm atmosphere, small tables with flickering candle light, and hushed patrons created immediate intimacy. I settled down at a round high table beside the bar and ordered half a glass of red wine (my new trick so I can imbibe with my meal and still be able to drive home). My mista salad (described in previous entries, I'm sure) arrived almost instantly. The salad is evolving with the seasons...now it includes small slices of young pecorino, which I usually am not overly fond of, but this non-aged variety was mellow enough to offset the barnyard tang.

I abandoned my platonic ideal of pizza when I read the menu: instead, I settled on a half order of rigatoni con mozzarella. Simplicity: rigitoni, cooked perfectly al dente, with a san marzano sauce, thin slivers of garlioc, parm, basil, and fresh mozzarella. I don't know how they manage to produce such amazing foods that I nearly make a spectacle of myself. When the host from across the street walked in, he stopped by to see how I was enjoying my dinner. I'm almost ashamed to say that I did not at all disguise my utter culinary bliss.

Here's the magic of a fine meal: my imagination is fired, my idealism returns, hope triples, and my heart expands to include everyone and everything that had previously fallen aside with the daily grind of disillusionment. Eating well can be truly transformative, and I pledge myself to making everyday foods and moments so spiritually elevating.

Thinking of Amanda Hesser's dear Mr. Latte (who misguidely orders lattes after 11am), I ordered a decaf espresso, which was bracing and just the tonic to cut through the heady dreaminess of my meal and set me back in reality and ready to drive home, my hair stylishly coiffed, my tummy happily fed, and my soul expanded.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

old fashioned autumn sunday

autumn leaves by John Everett Millais, 1856*painting held by manchester city art gallery, manchester*from wikipedia

Today has been just the kind of glorious, quiet, meandering day I needed to recharge for another busy week. I ate my breakfast and finished my grading and prepping for class tomorrow and went for a short run all before noon. The afternoon was mine alone, to fill at my leisure. I noticed a rake propped up outside my house and decided I would contribute to the yard work by raking the front yard and the small side that borders the neighbors' home (where I will be moving come January--more on that later). The sun poured down through the few remaining leaves, a warm antidote to a gusty wind that made raking seem like a ridiculous task. But I powered on, raking and scooping and flipping leaves into a giant pile on the edge of the street. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, chunks of fresh pumpkin were steaming and roasting in the oven. I "rendered" the pumpking from the cute pie-sized orb I bought at the market last week.

Upon finishing the leaves, I tended to my pumpkin, pureeing the softened chunks with my stick blender. I felt no small degree of satisfaction for taking this extra step to make homemade pumpkin bread. Even the great Dorie admits in her cookbook that she uses canned pumpkin (which I always otherwise do, but this pumpkin was so darned cute and sweet looking). First, I set forth to make carrot spice muffins from the aforementioned Dorie while the pumpkin cooled. By the time I had popped the muffins in the oven and washed my dishes, the pumpkin was cool and I mixed up the pumpkin bread, which is almost done. The house is now redolent of freshly grated nutmeg, ginger, and ceylon cinnamon (the only cinnamon I have left! a trip to Penzey's is in order next weekend). I tested one of the muffins and they are deliciously moist and delightfully healthy, with canola oil, walnuts, only 1 egg, and my special addition: flax seed meal.

I found my 2 hours in the kitchen slipped away without one moment of anxiety or urgency or feeling of "i should be doing..." and I haven't reached that flow state in quite some time. I listened to old grad school tunes--better than ezra and shawn mullins. I thought of my former friend A. who was in love with the lead singer for better than ezra, and how overjoyed she was when he touched her hand at the concert on our campus. I hope life is treating her well.

Now I sip my french press coffee and stretch out on the couch with my american lit anthology, reading ahead for the week. We start the Harlem Renaissance this week, and begin our first novel, Zora Neale Hurston's exquisite *Their Eyes Were Watching God.*

Monday, October 15, 2007

return of hot chocolate season

Fall can be a lively time, a season of overt transitions, of showy leave-takings, and bountiful harvests. As trees display their bare limbs to the world, and the well-laden tables at the farmer's market showcase hardier goods like winter squashes, gourds, and maple syrup, my heart starts to fear the coming winter. The endless days of grey skies, the bone-rattling cold that seeps through three layers of clothes, and the gorgeous snow that turns from sparkling to tawdry with each footprint and passing car...alas, this is the price we northerners pay for our gloriously temperate summers.

So I look for the silver lining in those foreboding clouds. And I have only one word: CHOCOLATE.

My favorite fall/winter bedtime snack (because, let's face it, who can't help but love a pre-somnolent treat?) is hot chocolate. You can forget your swiss miss or carnation (though I lived on a ginormous canister of swiss miss during the winter in college). I don't go all out with fat laden milks and melting pure chocolate (well, on an extremely rare occasion...). It's as simple as 1 TBS best cocoa powder (I'm partial to the mahogany bliss of Valrhona, though you may have to search for/mail order the stuff, and it isn't inexpensive), 2 tsp sugar (I use raw or vanilla sugar), a splash of vanilla (I like Mexican), and 6-8 ounces of milk (I use skim or 1% organic valley). Place the first three ingredients in a small sauce pan, and add a splash of the milk. Stir with a small whisk until smooth, and then add the rest of the milk. Heat over low-ish heat until it reaches your desired warmth. Serve with or without marshmallows and/or liqueur (I'm fond of starbucks coffee, bailey's irish cream, or godiva chocolate). Eat a piece of lightly buttered toast on the side (I've been using Natural Ovens--a local sandwich bread bakery--organic whole wheat + flax seed bread).

This is how ritualized my hot chocolate moment is: I actually have a designated mug, a Holly Hobby mug my mom bought for me from my cousin N. for a school fundraiser. It's trademark blue and white, with a lovely blue interior, and a floral sprigged exterior that features Holly and the phrase "start each day in a happy way." I like to think that my late-night treat is setting me up for a peaceful morning:)

Friday, October 12, 2007

the problem with eating locally

So I've posted many a time about my food ethos--of eating locally, sustainably grown goods over conventional goods coming from god-knows-where. I like to support my local farmers and food artisans, my local food purveyors, and small businesses.

But what happens when eating locally leaves you feeling a consistent sense of lack?

I know that some very dedicated and talented individuals have conducted eating experiments where they stay inside their watershed for all foods except items like spices and maybe coffee. I have never pretended to be that dedicated. I must have my chocolate, my spices, my oils and vinegars, my wines, my italian tomatoes. But for veggies, and now, cheeses, I've stayed true to my region.

My downfall is bread. With my apologies to any 'sconnies reading this entry, there is no good bread to be had in our little corner of the state. Well, there's decent bread in She-town, but only one variety.

I needed a Zingerman's fix, and I needed it quickly, a need which they so graciously obliged to fill. I placed my order on Wednesday morning, and when I arrived home from work today I found a big box inside my foyer, stuffed with three loaves of bread. I cradled the loaves, sniffed deeply of the crust, and promptly sliced off a huge hunk to stick in the oven before slathering with Wisconsin butter and honey from Suttons Bay, Michigan.

The crisp crust, holey interior, and delicious crumb made my heart melt with happiness (remembered tastes) and sadness (that returning home-less-ness feeling). I laced up my tennis shoes and went for a long walk, following the sandy shores of the lake and allowing the waves to ease my sadness. I imagined life on the other side of the Lake. I thought about my life here. I came home and ate dinner whilst reading the Zingy's newsletter that was so thoughtfully included in my package. I smiled to read about how the Bakehouse bakers worked with Michael London, a man I had just read about a few nights ago in this bread book I'm reading. (I know, first pies, and now bread. I'm wondering when I'm going to stumble on the cake book!).

I hate spending my now dreaming of the future and revisiting the past more than enjoying the moment, but sometimes, my mind makes its own way through the meandering web of time. I started scheming about multiple Zingy's trips over holiday break...and I can't wait to walk through those doors and hit the chaos and the profusion of gastronomic goodness that I so love and think of as my culinary HOME.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

throat tingling adventures...

Today fall asserted itself with a vengence--a taste of the blustery days to come, when swirling leaves transform to a breath of snow. Rain, wind, temps dipping into the 40s all drove me to the grocery store in search for chili makings.

I typically make chili with 2 varieties of beans, and tonight I chose black and pinto. Two colors of peppers, red and yellow, a carrot, a handful of frozen corn, and purple onion provide the veggie base, along with two cans of tomatoes--Muir Glen diced fire roasted tomatoes (I used one can with green chilis and they are throat-tingling hot!). I simmer the soup with cumin, chili pepper, a few cloves of garlic, and water as needed. I top the finished chili with chopped avocado, cheddar cheese, and sour cream; on the side, I serve piping hot homemade, Southern style cornbread with melted butter. And, a real treat, a Coronita Extra: a 7 ounce bottle of Corona that's just darling and a nice foil to the heat of the soup.

Now, I'm blasting Couperin (and the other gems Wisconsin Public Radio is playing tonight) to drown out the running of the bulls downstairs (i.e. untold numbers of small children who are ostensibly wild from being cooped up inside on a rainy day). Somehow this seems fitting for this evening's reading: Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

longing for words and treats

I miss blogging! I miss baking! I miss thinking thoughts that are unrelated to motivating lazy, difficult, and ill-prepared students, and I miss conversations that don't revolve around those same students:)

To that end, I'm dedicating this weekend to writing/baking/deep thoughts, and I can't wait. I have a conference paper to create--a fun piece on the evolution of romance fiction in the digital age. I will bake pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I will sketch out the mini-study abroad course I want to propose (American Ex-Pat Writers in...PARIS!). And I may follow the swirling, colorful leaves Northward to Door County to drink in the gorgeousness that is middle fall...

And I will share with you all some untold stories about Chicago. And lines from men in local bars. And my favorite fall moments.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

mad-town to chi-town: a weekend adventure

The drive to Mad-town seems longer than it is, primarily because of the neverending expanses of farm land and the dearth of substantial towns along the way. I pulled into Madison as the sun gave one last fiery appearance before slipping over Lake Monona and gracefully allowing the moon to cut into the blue-black sky.

I dined at Eldorado Grill, a slightly gourmet-ey Tex-mex restaurant located in an old candy warehouse. I settled into my table, extracting my tenure-track notebook (green with white hearts on the cover) out of my purse, and instead of writing deep thoughts about large projects or lofty goals, wrote notes about the restaurant. I'm waiting for the day when someone mistakes me for a semi-famous regional critic, but alas, I'm merely a foodie blogger with a tendency to verbosity and a palate limited by my personal ethics of eating (in the words of Phoebe Buffay, "no food with a face." Unless, of course, it's a morsel of crispy bacon, or tender ham. I know, Pigs are the 6th smartest animal, which should potentially make my craving for all things porcine seem all the more deviant. What can I say? My inconsistencies are complicated. But I digress).

I ordered a mojito, chips and salsa, and a guacamola tostado. The mojito refreshed my road-weary nerves, though I don't like it when the mint is cut into small bits. These are easy to suck up in the straw and then tend to get stuck in my teeth or lodged in my throat. The chips and salsa were delightful, and the black beans that came with my tostado were simplicity. And wonderful for their utter pureness. The crispy corn tortilla base had that slightly off flavor that fried foods can acquire, but overall the meal was satisfying, and would be even more so with a raucous group of friends to keep me company.

And perhaps my slight harshness towards Eldorado can be attributed to the fact that my parents and I dined at Rick Bayless' legendary--and James Beard Foundation Award Winning--Frontera Grill the next night, and everything was fabulous. Hot, spicy, flavorful, simple. Yumm. We sat at the bar since the wait for a "real" table was 2 hours. We enjoyed drinks--various mojitos (watermelon, mexican, and traditional, all with nice large mint leaves that stayed put in the bottom of the glass), margaritas, and, for Dad, a tumbler of second-shelf tequila.

Several summers ago, S, H and I went to Frontera and loved the food and ambience, and I was eager to share the experience with my parents, especially since Dad adores Mexican food. There's always a moment when I hold my breath, afraid that the restaurant I've raved about will disappoint my fellow diners, but luckily, this weekend all grills and cafes satisfied everyone.

We struck up conversations with others at the bar, and passed drinks back to the crowds of people enjoying the nightlife. I was--sort of--hit on by a 70+ year old man wearing a tweed jacket (no, seriously!), who then proceeded to hit on my mom by telling her she's "the best looking mom he's seen in a long time." Meanwhile, Dad was learning about Tequila and sampling habenero sauce from the man sitting next to him...

We walked back to the hotel, enjoying the bright city lights, wrapping our coats around us to shut out the very slightest of chills in the air. We stopped at Intelligentsia for a decaf nightcap, and went back to the hotel to chat and sleep. Poor Dad had to spend his Saturday in meetings, but Mom and I ventured out on the town, wearing stylish but in-advised shoes, and dodging attacks by kamikaze pigeons, but those are stories for another day...

Monday, October 01, 2007

waiting for the fog to lift

This morning and afternoon, thick fog wrapped around town, enveloping everyone in a funky sluggishness. Days like this breed existential melancholy that makes me long for all that I don't know... in turn making me crave an empty afternoon to escape in an engrossing novel...or the guilty pleasure of a daydrean about an idealized future...someday...right now I'm simply trying to create semi-fun and pedagogically sound class sessions for my students. Tomorrow I'm pairing Melville's masterfully short story "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street" with an episode of *The Office.* Quelle horror?!?

Yesterday on the train from Chicago to Milwaukee I started thinking in poetry again...something about "just another Carrie Meeber..." and something about the stacks of mannequins I spotted through a factory window as the train curved out of Chi-town and headed towards expanses of dairy farms and endless sky...something about home/less/ness.

Too many ellipses even for me tonight:)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

favorite foodies in the news

Imagine my excitement to see Paul and Ari, of Zingerman's Fame, receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetite! Oh, how I want to go to Zingy's to celebrate...December 22 or 23 will find me holed up in a corner of the Next Door bakery, hands wrapped around a steaming pint glass of coffee (laced with cream and raw sugar cubes) and an assortment of breakfast goodies on the table. Friends H, S, and maybe little baby S, as she celebrates her first bday, will be there with me.

And then, to amp up my excitement, the latest Gourmet includes the best farm-to-table restaurants, including several joints I've been fortunate to visit, like The Flying Fig in Cleveland, Frontera Grill in Chi-town, and, most significantly, The Journeyman Cafe in Fennville, Michigan!!! Yeah! I love this little restaurant, an unexpected delight in the middle of Fennville (best known for apple farms, wineries, and being the BIG rival of my Mom's alma mater, SHS). Their bread--a revelation of crumb and crust and yeasty goodness. Their coffee--Intelligentsia from Chi-town. Their food--delicious, simple, lovely, and local. I'm so proud to see them in the esteemed pages of Gourmet.

And, a restaurant I've been dreaming of for 4 years and will FINALLY dine at in November also made the list: Floataway Cafe in Atlanta!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"oh yah, we got our kopps on"

The title is the quote of the day from my friend C., as we all sat outside lavishly sighing at the smooth, creaminess that is Kopps frozen custard. I had one of the flavors of the day, Pecan Toffee. Um, yum. Way yum. The custard extrudes out of big steel tanks in long snake like sections, and falls into tubs, where the workers, clad all in pristine white, scoop up nice dishes of the stuff, garnishing dishes of custard with triangle wafer cookies. We were surrounded by folks proudly wearing the green and gold, and excitedly discussing how the Packers are now 3-0. A quintessential Wisconsin afternoon.

I bought a pair of pants and a knit sage shirt at the ATL (not to be confused with the Hotlanta airport), and two magazines at Barnes and Noble: Body + Soul and Gastronimica, an issue devoted to food politics! It is well worth the $13 cover price to read about my current favorite political issue.

Here's to many more fun trips to the city with the VP (a super secret nickname that I can't disclose) and their entourages:)

welcome, autumn!

The first day of autumn here in NE Wisconsin feels more like summer, with bright sunshine and temps climbing to the high 70s/low 80s. I like the contrast of warmth and bright blue sky with the first tinges of crimson and gold in the maple trees lining my street.

Last night I listened to *A Prarie Home Companion* and smiled as Garrison Keiler waxed poetic about fall, mentioned my humble little town in passing, and tempered his sentimentality with a well-placed Midwestern joke.

Yesterday at the farmer's market I chatted with the organic farmers, who regaled me with tales of their farm, their experience with my college, and even their religion. It was an interesting conversation and shows how food can really connect people. They gave me their card and invited me to call and come to the farm for veggies...I also stopped at the public library yesterday morning, and came home with my body, mind, and soul ready to devour the delicious, life sustaining foods and books I gathered.

I'm reading *Stealing Buddha's Dinner,* a memoir I've wanted to read every since Mom sent me the review from the GR Press last year and a former colleague asked me if I'd read the book. It's so lovely and melancholy all at once. The author/narrator, Bich Minh Nguyen is about my age and describes her childhood days, growing up Vietnamese-American in the Dutch stronghold that is Western Michigan. Many of the places she mentions are places I know, and at times the book made me so homesick for my home region that I had to set it down and walk away. I feel a real kinship with the author when she describes her escape into books as a way to both be alone and not be alone. It's a gem, and I'm going to teach it in my Multi-Culti American Lit class in the Spring. I'm excited to plan this class...

Today, my friends, their kids, and I are heading to Milwaukee for an afternoon of fun! this time I'm going to spend a little time in Barnes and Noble, selecting at least one new book of my own! Libraries are wonderful and elemental, but there's something about having "a book of one's own" that conveys a delicious pleasure. What I'll choose remains to be seen...several possibilities come to mind: *White Teeth,* *Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,* my very own copy of *The Omnivore's Dilemma*...or a book I have yet to meet. Ahh, the excitement of the unknown!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

alice's "delicious revolution"

Ahhh, I so love to read about fellow idealists, who can be frustratingly lovable in their optimism and faith, and their zeal in, well, a kind of perfection. I love that the meal Alice cooks is so utterly simple (and vegetarian!). Check out this article in the NYT:


A wonderful read and a nice intro to Alice Waters' philosophy if you're not familiar with her legacy and her ongoing "delicious revolution."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

poetics of early morning

I'm one hour into a 12 hour fast. Not for any transcendent motive, but rather for my very first cholesterol and blood sugar screening tomorrow morning. And it seems that my chocolate is calling me:) That I can have an iron will (when I so choose) is quite helpful at moments like this.

Today my class created our own cheese tasting...we're writing food culture narratives and I find that a tasting activity helps show the importance of multi-sensory details. And, when in Wisconsin, make like a cheesehead:) One student brought in the Italian cheese Bra Duro, which I tasted at Stella in TC this summer and adored. I had to deviate from my cheese abstention plan (bc of the aforementioned cholesterol test) to sample a cube or two. Yummmmm.

I'm supposed to be reading Thomas Jefferson. And Ben Franklin. For class tomorrow. Fascinating history wise, but literary wise...I can't wait until next week when we jump ahead to the Transcendentalists and then the rest of the semester falls into line and I can chat extemporaneously (and confidently and knowledgeably) about ALL the readings.

This morning I watched the most beautiful sunrise yet--all pink and blue and purple and cloudy and striated, the sun rising as a fuschia orb from the azure depths of Lake Michigan. That moment of breathtaking beauty, around 6:35 am, when I watch the sun slowly make its way skyward from the vantage point of the YMCA parking lot makes the 5:00 alarm worthwhile. Forget the sweat-inducing and heart-racing spinning class. That's minor compared to the poetry of a daily miracle that we mostly take prosaically.

Poetry, prose, poetry. I'm almost feeling ready to write another poem. It's been three years since my last attempt at verse. I think it's time to leave the sprawling exuberance of prose and revisit the spare elegance and eloquence of poetry. Maybe I'll share...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

kitchen home

My weekend has largely evolved in the kitchen, the only place I seem to feel at home these days. I keep reminding myself that this feeling of homelessness will pass as the weeks and months unfold and I settle into the strangeness that at times seems so jarring. Autumn weekends in Wisconsin are distinctly color coded: Red on Saturdays (to cheer on the Badgers) and Green and Gold on Sundays (to cheer on the Packers). I felt like the only person not wearing the de rigeuer garb as I wandered the Farmer’s Market yesterday and the grocery store today.

Yesterday at the market I was waiting in line to buy delicious beautiful organic veggies--they always have a line, which is heartening (they’re the only table to declare themselves organic or anything close)--when I felt hands on both sides of my waist. It felt like something my Grandma would do if she were here, but of course she lives in Michigan. I turned to see that the owner of the hands was an elderly woman on a mission for tomatoes. I waited for her to say something as her hands left my waist and I turned away, but she silently sidled alongside the table toward the heirloom beefsteaks. I, on the other hand, patiently waited my turn.

I watched kids eating cider donuts, and felt a prick of homesickness when I saw a table of blueberry honey from Grand Haven...And I remembered that the last two years this was “apple weekend,” the fall gathering of my best college friends and myself. We’d stay at my parents’ home and spend Saturday in Saugatuck/Fennville. I would run the Mt. Baldy 5K (last year I even won 3rd place in my age group!) and then we’d lunch at the Journeyman Cafe, pick apples at a conventional orchard (where we’d also buy apple butter and cider donuts) and an organic farm (where we wrestled with the threat of bees and poison ivy), drink coffee and enjoy scones and hummus at one of my favorite coffee shops (uncommon grounds), walk around cute shops, and eat pizza at Marro’s (where I would drink one glass of wine and someone else would have to drive my car back to my parents’).

My kitchen became a place of refuge on a cool, breezy day. I made butternut squash ravioli-- a mixture of roasted organic squash, caramelized onion, roasted garlic, sage (all from local farms), pepper, salt, and honey (from Leelanau) stuffed in wonton wrappers (someday I’ll brave my own pasta). After boiling the ravioli, I pan toasted them with more sage and chopped walnuts in a bit of butter. I finished them with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of wisconsin parm, and set them on a bed of wilted organic spinach. A side dish of oven roasted cauliflower and carrots completed this wonderful expression of fall! Oh, and the last glass of my Crios Torrontes, one of my favorite wines.

I also “invented” a tart yesterday, and it’s good, though it needs a little work to be great, and a bit more work to be transcendent. A basic pate brisee topped with dark chocolate ganache (made with half-and-half, which worked surprisingly well), and then a layer of butterscotch pudding (made mostly with skim milk--it is a bit less voluptuous, but makes me feel better about eating the dessert:). A sprinkle of toasted nuts or shaved chocolate on top. Yeah, it’s fairly good, but the crust is a tad tough and too thick. It’s been awhile since I’ve made pastry and hence am a bit out of practice.

Today I made stuffed shells despite a DIRE situation with ricotta/cottage cheese. Yesterday I bought cottage cheese, brought it home and then remembered that it’s one of those products that often contains various gums and stabilizers. So I went back to the grocery store today and the only like product I could find that’s not filled with various gums and stabilizers was marscapone and I couldn’t justify that high level of fat (especially with my cholesterol test on thursday morning!). So I used cottage cheese with all that CRAP in it and I was quite put out by the whole situation. I might not have pursued the dish but I already had the cottage cheese at home and would feel bad about throwing it away. My cover-up strategy involved adding tons of good stuff to the cottage cheese filling: fresh basil and parsley, roasted garlic and roasted peppers, spinach, black pepper, wisconsin parm. But, I swear I could still discern a difference in taste and texture since I usually avoid all such fakery. And this situation annoys me to no end because it is endemic of agri-business. If we bought local, sustainable foods, we wouldn’t need such crap in them because they wouldn’t be coming from some faraway place. And everything would be simpler and taste better!

But I can feel myself being self-righteous and that’s not a good combination with a feeling of homelessness:) Besides, I need to check on my raspberry jam, the last fresh dish to come out of my kitchen this weekend, and then rest for the week ahead.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

the best pizza in the world (for now)

Dvorak's 9th, the *Symphony from the New World* is on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) tonight. The station plays a program that includes educational discussions of classical music; instead of playing the symphony in its entirety, they'll play one movement and discuss it before moving on to the next. I actually played AND studied this piece back in college, when I minored in music. Ooh, now the DJ is discussing similarities to Beethoven's 9th (my fave symphony, though not my fave classical piece. That would be Barber's Adagio).

The warm fragrance of just-baked banana nut muffins wafts through my home, promising good snacks for the next two work weeks. A few years ago I took to baking batches of muffins, freezing them, and taking them to work for a healthy delicious snack. In a few weeks I'll do something pumpkin chocolate chippy. Yumm.

Today was pleasant though cold. My friend down the hall brought Starbucks to work for me, another friend brought bday treats, and yet another was interviewed on WPR. My students are more than engaged--we're actually planning a FASHION SHOW for later in the semester, in conjunction with reading *The Devil Wears Prada,* and they want to have a little inter-class competition, though when I insisted the competition must take some written form they rolled their eyes a bit.

But, I will delay no longer on my discussion of THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD (for now). I very well may revise this statement when the blessed day comes that I travel to Italy...For now, dining on pizza that has been officially certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association is close enough to being in Naples myself...

Yesterday I left work and drove along the Lake, watching the interplay of billowy clouds, fierce winds, and intensely blue waters. Turning on the interstate, I watched the sky transform into a luminous Beirstadt painting (I had been looking at his "The Oregon Trail" in our American Lit book). I shopped at Target before heading to my new Aveda salon. The trademarh herbal, floral Aveda scent, so familiar and redolent of relaxation and pampering, eased any remaining jagged edges of my day. A vanilla honey latte and a good haircut make me want to return. (I realize that I'm stalling, making you wait for that delicious pizza...). I stopped at Younkers and tried on shoes, but it wasn't the same without Mom, Grandma, or S shopping with me.

Finally, I made my way to Il Ritrovo. Settled into a table for two. There's a certain art to dining alone in a real restaurant. It's difficult to refrain from apologizing for only taking up one chair, but I'm mastering the art (not that this means I intend to become overly comfortable dining alone. But it's a precious skill.) I asked for half a glass of wine--wish granted. Did it help that I was thumbing through the latest copy of *Food and Wine* that I brought with me? I deliberated between the specials--a veggie minestrone, a caprese panini--and my usual. I had pizza on my mind. I needed that perfectly balanced taste and texture again. As I have on my previous visits, I ordered the Mista salad and the Margherita Classico.

Mista salad: bibb lettuce, cubes of fennel, half-moons of cucumber (from round cucumbers, I suspect), long shaved carrots, and wedges of heirloom tomatoes--green zebra, and some completely transcendent variety that's so red it's nearly purple, and sweet, and lush, and a revelation (I found myself thinking in poetry--instead of Elizabeth Bishop's "rainbow, rainbow, rainbow," I was thinking "tomato, tomato, tomato!). Between the fennel chunks and the cucmbers, a delicate floral fragrance pervaded every bite of the salad, which is tossed in a basalmic vinaigrette, in its purest form.

My *Food and Wine*: forgotten. Every taste nearly bringing tears. And it's just a salad!

And then the pizza arrived. It's quite large--probably 14 inches. The crust is thin, and charred in places, crisp, yet inexplicably chewy in the center. Topped with a slick of Italian tomatoes, grown in volcanic soil. Thin slices of fresh mozzarella placed sparingly, and torn basil strewn haphazardly are the only toppings. Steam undulated upward when the pizza first arrived, and I paused before grabbing a slice, a rough quarter. I folded the slice in half and began the transformative meal anew. What makes this pizza so delicious is the utter simplicity of ingredients. The pizza is not much to look at, and indeed might appear disappointing to fans of American pizza, laden with toppings and oozing with cheese. Here, each flavor asserts its rightful place, from the clean textural contrast of the crust to the simmering sweetness of the sauce and the creamy chewiness of the cheese. I find myself smiling through the whole meal--experiencing what the French call joissance.

A decaf non-fat cappuccino, with one lump of raw sugar, and a perfectly blended crema, helped balance out the dreaminess of my half glass of italian red and ready me for the drive back home.

Monday, September 10, 2007

velour pants and fleecy blankets

The first really cool day of fall always surprises me. And make that chilly day a rainy one, and the shock multiplies. Further compound the hint of arctic air with a freezing office, and you have a day of blue fingernails and longing to be home, curled up in the aforementioned velour pants and fleecy blankets (both pink, of course), sipping hot chocolate and lost in some deliciously addictive book, like *Gods in Alabama,* which I'm currently attempting to read betwixt the letters of Columbus and the ravings of the Puritans. And informal student writings. And non-fiction accounts of life on the tenure track. And all my fun blogs...

When I finally made it home, and layered on warm clothes, and curled up with a mug of steaming hot guatamala antigua coffee, I relaxed, breathed, and then proceeded to doze off in my study whilst reading Columbus and de Vaca in preparation for tomorrow's class. Shameful. Or Shameless? I long for the day we begin the Transcendentalists and I can bring in my American Lit photo album. English-major dorky, of course, but it's so sweet! There's Walden Pond, all the nifty sites in Concord, MA, including Emerson and Thoreau's graves, Louisa Mae Alcott's home, the Old Manse, the North Bridge...and then there are the Emily Dickinson photos that students particularly love because I'm in the photos wearing a sorority sweatshirt! and sporting really dorky hair! And, finally, the Kerouac photos. It's a nice collection.

I finished the last of my Corallo bar yesterday. And I'm quickly making my way through the Scharffen-Berger bar stashed in my office drawer as of yesterday. If this cool weather sticks, it will be time to make a little online pilgrimage to chocosphere.com. Hoorah!

Tomorrow I'm going out for THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD, which I keep teasing y'all about. I'll write tasting notes soon...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

newbie bloggers and early morning cycling

I spent today reading and commenting on the lovely posts my students are creating for our class blogs. I'm so proud of their willingness to try something new and to share themselves. I'm so excited to see how using a blog for class might change the classroom dynamic--hopefully improving the connections between students. Many of them express a bit of skepticism but their long-ish and personal entries betray their real interest in this "experiment."

Tomorrow morning I will be at the gym, on a fancy bike, listening to pounding music, and peddling my legs into pools of jello at 5:45 am. Yes, 5:45 am. Those of you who know me well know that I am NOT exactly what one would call a morning person. I need a good few hours to adjust to being vertical and alert. Actually, I love mornings, but I like them as a quiet, caffeinated, reflective, peaceful cushion to the more frenetic energy of the rest of the day. This spinning class, which I intend to take 3 days a week, is a testament to my dedication to maintain that delicate life-work balance. To carve out dedicated time for physical fitness. To start my teaching day on a post-spinning high.

If, in a few weeks, I admit to sleeping in, please help boost me out of the bed and back on the bike:)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

booze and big city adventures

A beautiful day--the kind of day when the sun's warmth is tempered by a cool breeze, and the crispness in the air means one thing: summer has slipped into fall. I spent the morning dowtown, selecting a few novels from the public library, and deliberating over the gorgeous vegetables at the farmer's market. I came home laden with organic goodness, and with the added treat of mini mozzarella balls--made right here in Wisconsin!--and a mediterranean olive mix from the cheese vendor. Their store in Green Bay is locally famous for delicious cheese from the state and the world. I have yet to make it up to the frozen tundra...but will soon when my cheese stash runs out.

But today I piled into the car with my friends and we set out for a northern suburb of Milwaukee. Under bright blue skies spilling in the moonroof, we laughed and chatted all the way to a colleague's home. We dined on delicious treats and celebrated our host's new status as a tenured prof!

Upon leaving the soiree, we headed south and visited Bay Shore Mall, giddy at the possibilites lining the streets of the urban shopping mecca. We all bought new school clothes, and enjoyed coffee from Alterra. Yummm.

And then we wandered through Trader Joes, loading our baskets and carts with delicious treats and fabulous finds that cannot be had in our small town. I yelped, "bread! real bread!" as I deliberated between a pugliese and sesame semolina loaf. I chose the former. Fage greek yogurt, organic extra firm tofu, baked hickory barbeque kettle chips, 2 bars of Valrhona, 1 bar of Scharrfen Berger, a pound of california walnuts, and a pound of california almonds rounded out my purchase. Oh, and a bottle of slightly fizzy pinot grigio. What happiness in a brown paper sack! And what lovely company on such a gorgeous day.

My next culinary undertaking is to creating a lemon-limecello, per the girls' request, since we polished off the limoncello last night. We've christened it the "Mason Jar Special" after its illustrious vessel:) I've discovered that cutting it with sparkling water makes it very tastier and a little less jangly. It is, after all, made with 100 proof vodka!

Ahh, what a wonderful weekend! Tomorrow it's off to figure out a way to make the Puritans seem absolutely thrilling.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

let's get it started...

This photo has nothing to do with my subject. But it's pretty, and it's from my parents' house, and it just says "ahhh, summer!" on a day when southern temps and hazy sun fill the air while eager students and excited teachers hit the classrooms...

On to the subject line...my friend J. sent me a wonderful mix CD of "traveling tunes" for my move last month, full of eclectic songs ranging from the theme to *Smoky and the Bandit* to a insouciant Lily Allen number, to Justin Timberlake and the aforementioned "Let's Get it Started." When S. visited a few weeks ago, we tooled around Door County (the Wisconsin version of Leelanau), listening to the CD. Upon hearing the Black Eyed Peas for the 7th time, I quipped, " Wouldn't it be great to walk into the first day of class and play this song? Maybe dance around a little? Even go old school by bringing in a BOOM BOX?" I loved the idea, but since I'm starting out and have a reputation to build, I decided to stick to my standby: declaring the necessity of chocolate to any and all reading and writing success. However, S. is an established and very talented middle school choir director and she decided to use the Black Eyed Peas. From what I hear, her students loved it and her street cred has increased exponetially.

I share just three words, not even very descriptive words, to describe my first weeks on the job: I LOVE IT.

And my foodie romance article? DONE.

Tales from my kitchen...very pedestrian. Various salads and pasta dishes, sandwiches and frittatas, using the finest local Wisconsin produce. However, delicious thoughts of a towering three layer coconut cake--one with marshmallowey, meringuey frosting, and a dusting of coconut--pervade my mind at the most inopportune moments. I predict a cake party in the near future. The cake will be pink if I'm feeling kitschy and uber-feminine, white if I'm feeling classic. And if I'm feeling like a cheesehead, I may "Packer" it out in yellow and green...

This was my birthday cake in 2006, all coconutty loveliness, with a coconut-less section on the side for my brother who doesn't like the texture. How old was I that year?!?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

at home in the kitchen

My grandparents "inherited" this cabinet when they bought their house--a house they've lived in for as long as I've been living and then some. My Mom and Grandma "antiqued" it back in the 1970s, and then my Aunt T refinished it with class brown stain and glass panes etched with cattails and ducks. She returned it to my grandparents this summer, and Grandma called me to see if I wanted it. I did, but not in its present incarnation. I had visions of clear glass, and a pink-tinged white paint finish. I'd always wanted a Hoosier cabinet, but I feared I wouldn't have the time to refinish it before moving. Grandpa gamely volunteered to paint it for me for the bargain price of a few chocolate cakes.

And here it is, my very slightly pink cabinet, my favorite part of my new, large kitchen. I imagine all the women before me who might have rolled out pies on the enamel top. I think of the loaves of homemade bread that sat in the aluminum drawers, feeding the family for a week. Now, the cabinet holds my fancy glass, the bread drawer my vintage apron collection. I've taken to placing a vase of farmer's market blossoms--mostly vibrant zinnias this time of year--on the enamel top.

Someday, when I have the luxury and the money to design my own kitchen (I must believe that this day WILL come), I hope to pass up "modern" installed cabinets for a collection of "vintage" freestanding pieces. A pie safe, for one.

I move around the kitchen, still growing accustomed to the new layout, and as I bake my grandma's cookies, or make my Mom's homemade yeasted waffles for breakfast, I feel guided, comforted, and at home.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

chocolate: the new black

My absence this week is explained by my procrastination on the aforementioned "foodie romance" article. My deadline looms--August 31--and therefore I've been trying to remember how to write academic prose. It's more difficult than one might think to switch from writing romance and food writing to writing ABOUT them!

I've been doing a little online shopping lately, to replenish my back-to-school wardrobe, which has never been completely restocked since I lost a bit of weight running and eating as few processed foods as I can. This fall, my closet is filling with a collection of chocolates!

Ahh, how I wish my kitchen cupboards were likewise filling with chocolates...my dear Cluizel, Corallo, Domori, Vosges...you shall return when the days turn cooler and shipping you across the country, across the globe does not cost a small fortune.

But I digress. Chocolate is the new black. It is very versatile--provides a warmer palette than black; coordinates well with the assortment of pinks I am already devoted to; and reminds me of my little foodie obsession:)

From Nordstrom I ordered utterly fabulous shoes--chocolate patent leather peeptoe Mary Janes with, to quote the website, "Trapunto stitching," for vintagey-mod flair. They are HIGH and I feel very TALL wearing them. Considering I'm already 5'8", I really AM tall in these 3 1/2" heels. I also ordered a chocolate brown trench coat with removable liner for these cooler Wisconsin autumns, and to finally look like the professional I am when I go to work (last year I was all denim jackets and patagonia fleece). A chocolate t-shirt and chocolate cardigan from bluefly.com, a wonderful discount fashionista site with distinctive pieces and quick shipping. And, finally a tealish and brown print silk dress from the clearance section of Ann Taylor.

Chocolate overload?


ps...am very conscious of the chick-litty appeal of this post. have spent much of the afternoon reading reviews of *Cooking For Mr. Latte* and *Julie and Julia* that trash them simply because they look like--egads--chick lit. am rather distraught about all the negative discussion of chick lit. so, in its defense, here's a heaping dose of chocolate and shopping. the cocktails and men will have to wait for another entry...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

a long, strange trip back to *On the Road*

In a past life, I was a Jack Kerouac junkie. No, not in the Burroughsian sense of “junkie.” I mean in that, “wow, Jack was so cool and misunderstood, the voice of a generation, who was deeply romantic and henceforth tortured a la Heathcliff, and who was always seeking a deeper connection and real spirituality through whatever avenues were available to him, and he tried his hardest to live in the moment when really he was always simultaneously stuck in the past and already in the future, and wow, was he sexy when he wasn't looking so wasted...” That kind of junkie. I had a bit of a crush, really, and even went through a phase of digging Kerouacian fellows, or at least those who read Kerouac.

Well, those days are past, for various reasons, but primarily because writing a dissertation and focusing all one’s intellectual and therefore most other energy on a topic and a group of writers tends to lead to overdose. I needed a break. And I needed to find some fellows who never even heard of Jack Kerouac, much less read any of his works.

So. My scholarship turned towards romance novels, and fashion, and food. My fellows read John Grisham novels (okay, admittedly not an improvement, really. Where are the fellows who are, say, Michael Pollan devotees? That kind of fellow I could settle in with.)

From time to time I think of Jack and the gang and feel a twinge of something...not longing, but a sense of loss. Back in my doctoral days, I could’ve recited the publication dates of Jack’s novels. I could’ve rattled off some impressive anecdotes about the Beats. I could’ve told you which female Beats slept with which male Beats, and how those relationships ended (which they always did. end.)

So yesterday I received my NYTimes Book Review preview email and saw two articles about Jack and the 50th anniversary of the publication on OTR. I needed and wanted that paper, but wasn’t sure where in my new small-ish town I could locate the Sunday Times.

This afternoon, after whittling away at my foodie romance article, I braved the cold (62 degrees) and rainy day to head to Starbucks in search of liquid rejuvenation and my NYT. They had it! I settled into a comfy chair with the Kerouac articles and my tall non-fat misto (cafe au lait). As I read about Jack’s infamous first draft of OTR (the scroll), the Starbucks music shifted from a bluesy-jazzy mix, to something that sounded suspiciously like the Grateful Dead. “Cold Rain and Snow.” Followed by “Uncle John’s Band” and “Casey Jones.” How more Beat could it be? And how much more could I be propelled back into the past, say 2000-2003, when this particular mix of literature and music filled my days? I finished the Kerouac articles, picked up my American Lit anthology to prep for class and laughed out loud as the Dead gave way to Dave Matthews. “Stay or Leave,” from Dave’s solo album.

I sipped my coffee and waited for that pang of longing to be back in 2000, listening to Dave and the Dead (throw in a little Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, and Shawn Mullins for authenticity) and reading about the Beat boys and girls, while living in sunny Alabama and at the zenith of intellectual prowess.

And the pang didn’t come. I was content to be in a Starbucks, which looked and felt like it could be anywhere in America, in my new lakeside town in Wisconsin. Happy to be preparing to teach American Lit. Thinking of how I could use these articles, and maybe even some of this hippie music when I teach Kerouac’s *The Dharma Bums* later this fall. Really, DB is my favorite of the few Kerouac novels I’ve actually read in their entirety. Rather than the frentic and at times completely alienating motion of the road, I always identified more with the Kerouac who longed to lay in green fields and free chained dogs. The Kerouac who didn’t want mystical orgies but wanted real soul talk between lovers (okay, in that case I’m back to OTR).

And so this, my 100th post on my little blog, is devoted to Jack, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of OTR. The publication of which would alter his life dearly, and, if the insights of some of those who knew him best at that time are to be believed, an event that would begin his long, slow spiral downward, madly burning to be saved.

What I always loved best about Jack’s writing was the sense of wide-open possibility, of a never ending seeking, of a yearning for something transformative. It's that message that today’s readers, perhaps more than ever, need to hear. We’re still searching, still looking to see if “God is Pooh Bear,” still looking for our forefathers (and mothers) to show us some better ways, and still searching for personal and national redemption...

Friday, August 17, 2007

school supplies

This time of year, I'm overcome with giddiness when I see special aisles dedicated to brightly colored paper folders; packages of crayola markers and crayons; tubs of elmers glue and rubber cement; and trendy lunchboxes and backpacks. I always loved school, which is partly why I stayed in school as long as I could, and now work in higher education so I can still surround myself with the accoutrements of--and contribute directly to--learning. This year I purchased several sets of crayola markers, glue sticks, and safety scissors, placed them in clear plastic boxes, and brought them to my office. To engage different learning styles, we're going to do more visual/artistic representations in my classes this fall. We'll create identity collages for one class, food collages for another, and American Dream collages for the other. Do I worry that this seems too sophomoric for my first and second year college students? A little. But research--and my own experience--shows that engaging other areas of the mind can help strengthen our writing and help break us from the formulaic patterns we've absorbed in earlier writing experiences. I, for one, am thrilled with these projects. We'll also go high tech and create class blogs...

My personal school supply purchases this year include: a mini pink stapler, complete with PINK staples; a bright candy pink folder, the kind with the clear plastic pocket to slip in a collage to personalize the front; a fancy, imported from Spain notebook with a green cover with white hearts on it; two green pilot v5 precise pens, my favorite to grade with; a brown and pink paisley rug for my office. And then there's my gorgeous green leather HOBO "briefcase" that my dearest friends gave me as a send-off gift, filled with all sorts of goodies, from pens, to hankies, to a journal, and a Vosges Gianduja chocolate bar (which is long gone. I HAD to consume before it melted:)

I'm still working on that all important first day of school outfit...but soon enough I'll be all tricked out, ready to bring my love of pink, green, chocolate, and all things literaturey and foodie to my students and colleagues:)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

of things vintage, new, and excluded

This is the famous Zingerman's, in Ann Arbor, home of all that is delicious and good. Oh, Zingy's, let me count the ways I miss you...

Today I'm conjuring up some of their Paesano bread in my mind, and dipping it in the fine Arbequina Olive Oil I recently bought from the Oilerie, an Olive Oil bar in Fish Creek, WI (the most touristy of the Door County towns). Fantasy bread and real olive oil. Hmmm.

And this is me in the photo, wearing a dress that used to be my Mom's, from the late 80s/early 90s, that I like to call vintage, but she doesn't like to hear called vintage.

This is me before I got my hair cut (note to any former students who happen to be reading this blog, yes, I know, I used that abhorrent word GOT)...which I had done right before moving, I'm sure subconsciously it was a symbolic act. I'm still adjusting to my sassy layers that just barely fit in a ponytail...last year this time my hair was flowing halfway down my back. Last year I was also training for a half marathon and confidently running up to 8 consecutive miles with limited difficulty. Today I'm lucky to manage running 1 consecutive mile before sucking air...

But I digress. Today's a day of memories and bits of the past that make me homesick mixed in with my new reality, which is thrilling and positively full of potential.

But. I really wanted to post a mini-rant today about the discrimination against RN's in used bookstores. I've frequented quite a few such bookstores lately, and have noticed that while they include special sections for all manner of odd and esoteric subjects (including the always interesting Circus Book genre), and include sections for other popular, mass-market genres of sci-fi/fantasy and mystery, ROMANCE is no where to be found. A few may be scattered in with the general fiction/literature, but these titles are teetering towards the slightly more "respectable" women's fiction. This exclusion made me mad. I've been formulating reasons in my head--i.e. there are simply too many RNs to even admit any because it is, after all the MOST popular/best-selling genre, and the bookstore would be overwhelmed. But wouldn't this also then mean that these books would come in and out of the store with greater frequency? Surely they could set aside a little shelf space for tales from the heart.

I suspect the exclusion has more to do with perceptions of high/low literature, class/cultural capital perceptions, and suspicion of those damned scribbling women, and their impressionable readers. Again.

Friday, August 03, 2007

fabulous frittata

Yesterday morning I drove to Sheboygan to sign my insurance papers, and decided to treat mytself to "brunch" at the previously mentioned Field to Fork. I ordered the vegetable frittata and wrote in my journal and jotted notes for my classes while listening to the chef prepare my brunch at the open kitchen beneath the loft where I was sitting. The swirl of eggs being whisked, the intoxicating scent of breakfast meats lingering in the air (not that I partook...I'm not that lapsed of a vegetarian. Yet.) heightened my anticipation. When my server set my plate down in front of me, my hands ached for the digital camera I don't yet have so I could share this beautiful creation with y'all...

The frittata was plate sized, with a thin, ruffled edge. Studded with sauteed vegetables--summer squashes, peppers, onions, and mushrooms--and topped with thin slices of crecenza (sp?) cheese, and topped with a salad of frisee, miscellaneous spring greens, cucumbers, more peppers, halved grape tomatoes, and a light vinaigrette, it was a sight to behold. Beautiful, fresh, and bursting with simple flavor. Delicious. I savored every bite, and ate to the point of fullness, munching on wheat toast spread with creamy butter, and sipping perfectly acidic coffee.

I picked up a can of San Marzano Tomatoes, a half pound of Guatamala Antigua coffee beans, and a 3/4 lb. slab of Wisantigo Strevecchio cheese (an aged Wisconsin parm-reg style cheese) and headed back home to the joyful task of unpaking and arranging my library. Then I met some of my new friends for cocktails and felt the welcome of new friendship and the joy of working and socializing with like-minded, fun-loving, thoughtful, and intelligent colleagues.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


photo courtesy of Wikipedia, taken by MadMaxMarchHare, licensed by GNU Free Documentation License

I can't remember when I've been this bone-tired for this many days in a row...packing, loading, driving, unloading, unpacking...it's grueling business, moving is.

My parents and brother L all made at least part of their journeys on the S.S. Badger, pictured above. I'm looking forward to making the boat ride across the big Lake myself one of these days. I can hear the ship's horn at my home, heralding departures and arrivals...and, I can see a fine film of the Badger's coal-fired black soot on my windows, blown there by a lovely lake breeze...

I'm pleased with my new home, and thrilled with the kind generosity of new friends/colleagues who appeared in droves to assist with my move. Life will be good here.

Anonymous, thank you for your heartfelt comment. Every new beginning means a farewell to what came before, an opportunity to challenge and grow and settle deeper into understanding of myself, and I welcome that change, which I sorely needed.

Soon I shall share the wonderful story of the Best Pizza I've Ever Eaten, my encounters with local color in area liquor stores, and tales from the road. For now, I crave sleep, sweet tea, and restorative yoga!

Friday, July 27, 2007

my favorite things about Michigan, a fond farewell

photo from wikipedia, taken by Lars Lentz, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0

1. my family and friends
2. the beaches of Lake Michigan, with long slopes of sand and rolling dunes
3. foodie destinations: zingermans, trattoria stella, journeyman cafe, uncommon grounds, captain sundae, schuler books and music, simply wine, foods for living, Okemos farmer's market, Holland farmer's market
4. memories of the 26 years I lived in "the magical mitten"
5. two of my three alma maters, Alma College and Michigan State University...oh, and I suppose I should throw in my k-12 schooling at West Ottawa, places that all contributed to my eggheadedness:)

somehow a list seems incomplete, but if I think in full sentences this morning I'll focus more on the sadness of what I'm leaving than the exciting possibilities that await me in Wisconsin...

I'll catch up with you on the other side of the Lake...

Monday, July 23, 2007

last desserts

Friday's the big day: we load up the 16 foot Penske truck with all my worldly goods. There's much questioning about the size of the said truck: will it be large enough to hold all my boxes? I'll spend the night at my parents' home and then make the drive to WI on Saturday morning to unload with the help of my new colleagues/friends.

Yesterday I baked my last goodies in this kitchen that I've hated yet grown accustomed to, with its dark pressed wood cabinets and annoying refrigerator that insists on freezing my baby lettuces...

First I made a cute two layer six inch chocolate cake, which I'm just about to frost. I'm bringing it to Grandpa C, who loves sweets, but particularly chocolate cake. He's refinished a Hoosier cabinet for my new place and I promised to pay in chocolate cake.

Then I made an ultra rustic peach and blueberry galette, with Michigan peaches and my own family's blueberries (I have many stories about that to come). I had to dig my rolling pin out of the box it was already packed in, and attempt to maneuver it on the small counter space left free during the packing frenzy. The pastry crumbled and fell all apart, so I had to press it back together...It certainly wasn't the prettiest of galettes, but it was tasty.

My friend K came over to spend the night and we enjoyed the tart and tumblers full of wine (as I already packed my nice stemware). K and I are friends from college--we were the two highest officers in our--brace yourself--sorority (more on that another time:)--as well as editors on our college newspaper (she was editor-in-chief and I was Features). We caught up on college gossip and discussed the travails of young motherhood and single life, respectively. We're planning a visit for her family to come to WI and go to a Packers game (her husband is a HUGE sports fan)...we have to wait until Brett Favre retires to get tickets, but it will certainly be an adventure (especially for me, as I'm functionally football illiterate).