about bliss

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

perfect joe

Just a quick post today, which will likely be the situation for the rest of the week/weekend/early next week until all my end-of-the-semester grading is over. I've already graded 12 research essays since class yesterday, so I'm quite proud of myself for being on target (I devise an elaborate grading schedule!). This morning I managed to make the perfect cup of coffee--the right strength, with plenty of body, a touch of sweetness, and just the right amount of hot milk. And I enjoyed a slice of pumpkin chocolate chip bread from Great Harvest Bread with my coffee...I love those free slices of bread they give out. I always choose something decadent even while the bread I'm buying is anything but (honey whole wheat).

Now I'm off for a short stroll before I start preparing for my afternoon on campus.

Tonight Mom and I are going to see Elizabeth Berg at a local school--I'm looking forward to hearing what she has to say about the art of fiction:)

Monday, April 23, 2007

beware the giant iced mocha...

Last night I met up with some former students for a reunion of sorts, and I can't remember the last time I had so much fun or felt like I was back in college myself. The evening was one of those balmy spring evenings, and we sat outside along the main strip adjacent to campus and chatted, giggled, ate, and were all around silly. I drank a giant iced mocha--apparently ordering the wrong size--which was delicious, but come 1, then 2 am, when I still couldn't wind down and fall asleep, was more of a curse. Then I felt old:) I wouldn't really want to be 19 again, but for an evening it was delightful pretending I was younger than I am.

Now today the research paper grading madness begins...ugh. On a positive note, in a week the semester will be done and I can start my new writing routine...I'm anxious to dig into my novel again with a singlemindedness. Well, besides packing up my life, that is:)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

be here now

My tea party yesterday was delightful: the best of friends, delicious treats, and one mesmerizing baby! My friend H is an amazing mother, and little S is about the sweetest baby I've known. I can't wait until she can join in the fun by eating the treats too. For now, her palate is limitied to Similac.

H, S, and I enjoyed Sweet Potato Biscuits, Pimento Cheese ('menna cheese) on thinly sliced Zingy's baguette rounds, grape tomatoes and carrot sticks with parsley and mint, cucumber sandwiches, and a classic sponge cake with strawberries and vanilla whipped cream. My tea party fare this time around had a pronounced Southern flair...

And this morning I think of sweet Auburn, Alabama with the greatest affection. I remember my charming home there, with its 10 large windows, screened in porch, and lovely hardwood floors. I think of the smell of sandalwood incense filtering through the rooms, the focused brain power as I stumbled my way through my dissertation. I romanticize the place and the time, and wish for a moment or two that I could go back, just for a day or two, for one of those fun grad school parties, or a meeting of the Jane Austen Reading Group (which inevitably devolved into conversations of men, fashion, and gossip. I think Jane would approve). But I'm not the same, I'm sure my former home isn't the same, and I know my friends have changed--and moved on too. And I try to remember the truth behind the new-agey statement to BE HERE NOW, as these days will likewise fade into memory, and I'll be waxing poetic about these few rooms, with fewer windows, but quiet, tree-filled views..from my new vantage point, wherever that may be.

Last night I joined friends at J and A's house for a soiree, meeting new people and enjoying the first glass of Rose of the season and fresh conversation.

Today I've been cleaning my home, trying to keep the endless pieces of paper from taking over every room, especially on the eve of reaserch paper submission day. Ugh.

Now it's time to head out into the 75 degree sunshine and revel in the gentle breezes and sun rays gathering intensity, while ignoring the persistant pollen that's beginning to cling to cars, sidewalks, and my clothes.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

string cheese incident

I just finished thoroughly enjoying a mug of coffee, with a smidgen of sugar and a glug of milk, and a buttermilk biscuit with honey...yummmy. I need something sweet and caffeiney after meeting with at least 20 students today to review their essays before the big due date on Monday. Sometimes I wonder where I find the patience to keep my face calm, positive, and engaged, when really inside my head I'm screaming "why didn't you get this the 12 times we've discussed this in class?" I actually said something akin to this statement to one student who has been chronically absent. He said that it was his frat "hell week" and so if he was in class he was sleeping. A big W-E (whatever) to that! I did have a student deliver a book he'd borrowed and a string cheese. Very funny and charming. The cheese came in handy when the line of students was curving around the hallway and I had eaten all the chocolate on my desk.

So, the Dalai Lama shoes are going back to Zappo's, as they're too big--slidey around the heels and gappy on the sides.

And the soiree last night was pleasant but disappointing, as our fearless captain, the department chair, was sick and missed out on the fun. This party was meant to celebrate his new position (he's leaving the department), and without him there, the power shifted subtlely yet noticeably.

On the reading menu for the weekend are a few favorite fun authors: Jennifer Crusie, Meg Cabot (who I met last summer!), Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and a novel published by Red Dress Ink, an imprint of Harlequin that I'm considering as a publisher of my novel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

new shoes to see the Dalai Lama

I'm stalling before heading out into a grey, gloomy world for my morning constitutional. The weather has us Michiganders on a seesaw--warmish and sunny, cool and wet. I'm holding out for warmish and sunny so I can delve into my fun and flirty spring wardrobe. I just ordered a new pair of fun, preppy green Ked's skimmers to trek around this summer. Truth: I needed a comfy yet stylish shoe to wear to Chi-town in two weeks when I go to see the DALAI LAMA! I'm so excited. He's speaking in Millenium Park and though I know I won't really be able to see him from my vantage point on the lawn, I can't wait to be in the presence of someone with such a clear and open heart and mind. H and I are going down for the weekend, which will likely include a visit to Bloomie's, Vosges Haut-Chocolat and maybe lunch at Cafe Spiagga...and this time I'd like to find the Intelligentsia coffee shop. I also hope to see M and B briefly, before they move away from Chi-town to their new digs in PA.

I decided yesterday that I for one could not watch *The Matrix* in class after the VT tragedy...I distinctly remember watching *Heathers* in a grad class right around Columbine, and feeling seriously disturbed. So, we had a little chat about why I decided against the movie and then proceeded to write fun pass around stories. I forgot how exercises like that really open up students' minds and sense of fun with writing...even if their stories feature in large part kegs, pot, and nudity. Today we're--they're--reading their creations aloud and then we're going to do Mad Libs. I suppose some might think it retro/middle-schooly, but sometimes, especially at the end of the semester with research papers, exams, and presentations looming, it's good to lighten the load a bit.

And tonight is the annual departmental party, with a fancy cheese and fruit tray, a whole salmon (yuck to me, but a big draw for many), awkward speeches, awards, and presentations. It promises to be an interesting soiree...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

the cruelest month...

I always think of T.S. Eliot in April, pondering that opening line of *The Wasteland*...is it the unrequited/unfulfilled desire of which he speaks? The existential morass of modern life? The shock of waking up from winter to see the sublimity of life (okay, there I'm hearkening back to the Romantics...). Either way, this year the line echoes the tragedy at VTU yesterday...I found out from one of my students during class, and caught a CNN update on the TV in the lounge of the dorm/classroom wing where I teach. Talk about surreal.

As wise people remind me, tragedy can strike anywhere and one can't be prepared for anything. But there's an eerie feeling when such tragedy strikes in the kind of place you call home. My thoughts are with everyone at VTU as they try to make sense of that which is senseless...

Monday, April 16, 2007

hope, necessity, and luxury

A brisk walk after breakfast and before writing helps awaken my creative energies. Spring is here--the forsythia's blooming, the snow is blessedly gone, and the myriad shades of new green are peeking through on every leaf and blade. Ahhhh...there's nothing quite like spring to help re-ignite hope and possiblility...

"I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous for windows,
Superior for doors--"

Emily Dickinson (from memory, so please excuse any mispunctuations and capitalizations. I would never attempt to standardize Ms. Dickinson's delightfully idiosyncratic poetic form).

My "party" with my former students--pizza and cupcakes--was lovely, though I came home feeling sad and feeling a need to steel myself for this life-changing move. I suppose all moves are life-changing, but somehow this one seems really big, on par to the cross-country move I took when I started my PhD program. I hope this is a bit easier than that was...

Last night I dabbled in a few projects at once, which also watching *Desperate Housewives.* I was in one of my dilletant-ish moods. I worked on some background character sketches for the H/HN (hero/heroine) of *Surprise Developments,* my RN that's more "traditional" rather than Chick Litty. I'm starting with this one rather than the other because I think it will be simpler to finish. I'm going to need a little help on some of the technical goodies--like info on construction/building ordinances/and whether or not there's such a person as a building consultant. The H is someone who travels around the country "consulting" on downtown renovation projects (though--here's a little plot lead for ya, he really wants to be the builder but doesn't think it's high profile enough--one of his demons with which to wrestle).

Then I was thinking about my *Cooking for Mr. Latte* paper, and what theoretical inroads I can make with all this consumption stuff. Someone at PCA suggested the importance of pleasure, which reminded me of Colin Campbell's book *The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism*--one of those books I read and go, A-Ha! Check this out:

"There appears to be general and widespread agreement that modern consumption is characteristically 'luxury' consumption, and whilst that word has been variously defined, it does typically possess two different, if related, connotations. The first is the idea that 'luxury' is in some sense a superfluous item, something which is desired yet is additional to need...The second of the two meanings found in the word 'luxury' is the reference to sensuous or pleasurable experience. Here the emphasis is upon the verb rather than the noun, and upon activities rather than objects...From this perspective luxuries constitute the means to pleasure, whilst necessities are merely whatever is needed for the maintenance of existence, a state best described by the word 'comfort.'" (59)

Yes! This will be so helpful in talking about the world created within chick lit and foodie texts--how the food writer seeks out pleasure, and how we, the intrepid readers, are able to vicariously share in that pleasure.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

don't be so bulgar

Last night I made a bulgar salad, loosely following one recipe and improvising as I'm wont to do. It was delicious--like a dressed up tabbuoleh. Bulgar, mint, parsley, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, bulgar, grape tomoatoes, red peppers, scallions, and feta cheese. Yummy!

The only other time I've had bulgar in something other than straight tabbouleh was a delicious bulgar salad with dates, walnuts, and celery that my friends M and B made. They packaged up a neat container for me to take on the Amtrak back from Chicago after my half-marathon. It was delicious, and I have fond memories of swaying trains, sore quads, a tired but exhilerated mind and body all associated with bulgar.

Now, if I was like most literary conscious writers this would be the moment I would casually mention Proust or madelaines or both, depending on how obtuse I'm trying to be. And I suppose by even mentioning it I am doing it, but I would LOVE to put a moritorium on the whole damned Proustian association. It seems everything I read that uses food as a vehicle for memory feels honor bound to throw out the connection, and frankly, it's so last century (or even the century before). Let the food and memory stand on their own and if your readers know Proust, they can make that connection in their own minds.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

reading binge

I've been thinking of the consumption of reading since this topic came up on the academic romance blog, teach me tonight. I had been experiencing novel withdrawal myself, and so I checked out 4 novels from the public library yesterday, including a few romance novels by authors mentioned (or met) at the PCA conference last week. After zipping through all my must-do's yesterday, I settled in with Susan Elizabeth Philips' *Match Me if You Can,* which proved to be a wonderful and smart modern romance novel...

But something stranged happened part way through the reading. I realized why I stopped reading RN's (romance novels) for a time...they just seemed so unlike real life, or sadly, at least the bulk of my romantic life. The beauty of the RN is that the hero and heroine overcome any obstacles--the primary obstacle often involving one party's hesitancy to commit to love. Somehow, they have a grand revelation and love reigns triumphant.

It's for this reason that some critics feel RN's are dangerous, setting women readers up for disappointment when their own relationships don't always so nicely resolve themselves. And, as anyone with a failed relationship knows, the tears and pain are not always assuaged with the hero's return. Rather, they're ofeten soothed with other material goods (chocolate, ice cream, wine, MAC lipgloss, strappy sandals--all the chick lit cliches) and long thoughts/discussions with friends about what went wrong. But I digress.

But as I tried to suspend my cynicism mid-novel, I thought that RN's also offer readers something really powerful: HOPE. While a real world relationship won't likely be as smooth (or as quirky or beset with so many obstacles) as the RN version, the RN whispers in our ear not to give up hope that there is a real love possibility out there for everyone. And that small lesson sometimes needs to be heard...especially by disillusioned idealists and erstwhile romantics:)

Anyway, I set my cynicism aside, gave myself over to the story, breathed in the promise of hope, and finished the story, happy for Annabelle and Heath (the main characters).

Then, in true reading binge form (think of *Literacy and Longing in LA*), I picked up yet another novel, Jenny Crusie's *Anyone But You* and tucked in for the rest of the night. I finished that one about 2am, without the same critical diversion mid-novel, and then settled into sleep, sure that I would wake up with a reading hangover, but delightfully, I didn't.

I have new critical thoughts--wanting to explore the consumption within and of RN's and what they might tell us about the relationship between readers and authors and narrative worlds....stay tuned as I develop these ideas...

As for more literal consumption, today I will make a mediterranean feast for a girl's movie night, as well as deep chocolate cupcakes topped with a marshmallowy meringue frosting for a little party with some former students tomorrow. Hoorah!

Friday, April 13, 2007

on cadbury cream eggs

I'm a chocolate connoisseur. I admit that my tastes run to the dark, pure, complex wildness of a Pralus Colombie or an Amadei Toscano...fairly rare stuff to find these days. Check out chocosphere.com if you want to venture into this land of luxe chocolate. And yet, every spring, I look forward to the overt sweetness and silly kitchiness of the Cadbury Creme Egg. The milk chocolate hollow egg isn't nuanced, and neither is the dual-dyed fondant center, but there's some inexplicable pleasure of the giddy sugar rush these candies bring me. I remember savoring these Easter candies until last, after the coconut nests and the malted eggs disappeared from the pile of soft pink Easter grass lining my basket. I still eat these candies slowly and near reverantly, waiting for that jolt of sugar energy to wake me up and then let me softly crash when it wears off. They remind me of the joyous surprise and pleasure of the world waking up after a long, cold winter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

climate change is no joke...

I sit here drinking pot after pot of tea (darjeeling, straight up, though I'm thinking of switching over to a rubust chai next), looking out the window at a slushy world of white. I'm confused. It is April, isn't it? I haven't somehow dreamed the past month and a half, have I? Today has a very February feel of frustration with the nasty-persistance of wintery weather. A friend joked today that global warming must be a lie because here we are, about 20 degrees below normal...but I can't help but think that the idea of climate change is that the weather gets wacky, unpredictable, fickle, and unstable.

The big news is that I'm going to be spending my summer, my first summer ever since embarking on this professor business, not teaching. Hoorah! My plan is to seriously work on my romance novel(s) and aim for publication. This will be my "job" along with packing and paring away for my move to Wisconsin come late July/early August. I couldn't dream of a much better summer (honest moment: okay, so I could, but this is a pretty good start:)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

return from hibernation...

So, to recap the past 5 months:

recovery from half-marathon
4 job interviews, 3 job offers, 1 new job (hoorah!)
several holidays
1 birthday
several trips (to aforementioned job interviews, and to Boston for a conference)
some delicious new foods (lime chiffon cake, a de-constructed german chocolate cake)
many books read (most recently, *Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously*)

Many stories are begging to see the light of the internet, but I will save them for another time...because, believe it or not, I'm back, with ideas overflowing and masterpieces to be written.

Stay tuned...