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:)