about bliss

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!