about bliss

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

baking adventures: tuesdays with Dorie

cupcake tower for M and B's wedding

I really love Dorie Greenspan's baking sensibility--her cookbooks are wonderfully written, the recipes delicious and diverse, and her overall joie de vie infectious. I'm thrilled to announce that I've joined the group Tuesdays with Dorie, a group of bloggers/bakers, who all bake the same recipe from Dorie's masterpiece Baking: From My Home to Yours each week and then blog about it on Tuesdays. (note: I am aware that the name is a riff on the popular bestseller Tuesdays with Morrie, a book I've deliberately shunned). So, look for regular baking posts from yours truly, sans photos (still no digital camera), but with fabulous written commentary.

The inaugural recipe for September 2: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters on page 73.

This project will expand my baking repertoire, connect me to other baking bloggers, and further endear me to my colleagues and friends who will be sharing the treats of my labor.

Monday, August 25, 2008

book meme from B

So, my friend B has a lovely blog, and she writes such funny, witty stuff. I'd share a link to her blog but I need to ask her first if I can out her as a blogger:) Anywho, she recently posted two memes--an adventurous eating meme and a book meme. Of course, I immediately decided to ditch the list of entries in my queue in order to add this book meme. Now, I need to say that I have no idea who chose the books for this meme, and believe me, I'd have a few things to say to them about their choices: it's very Anglo-centric and not at all multi-cultural. But I'll try to leave the English PhD behind and have fun with this list.

Bolded books: I've read in their entirety; italicized books: I've read parts of; commentary is for your pleasure.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen a good choice to start the list
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien - never had any desire.
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte; this used to be my favorite novel. the moors...the passionately doomed love...heathcliff, the ultimate bad boy...
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - to quote B, "oh god. miss havisham!"
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy; Hardy's a total downer
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare; undergrad, with Dr. O
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks; what?!? is this a book i should know?!?
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger -
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot; it took me MONTHS to read this, but i loved it
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald; one of THE best American novels. Who can resist that green light and the hope of an "orgastic future"?!?
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams -
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky; have read parts of The Brothers Karamazov. I have issues with the Russian Realists.
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy; see above for my issues with the Russian Realists
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen; okay, I adore Austen, but seriously, three Austen novels?!? Share the love...
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis; once again, I want to leave B's original comment: "Er, duh, this is one of the Chronicles of Narnia. Who's in charge of this list? Moron."
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery; the entire series, multiple times. i've also visited prince edward island...i'm a bit of an anne fanatic:)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood; I've read other Atwood...
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan; I liked On Chesil Beach better
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen; OMG! Too much Austen! How about some Edith Wharton...
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac; The Dharma Bums is my favorite Kerouac. Ask me about Jack and the Beats...I wrote my dissertation on the Beats:)
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy; what's up with all the Hardy on this list?!? This is starting to look a little Anglo-centric...
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie; I saw him speak at Michigan State...
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville ; a surprisingly delightful and thought provoking novel
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce; are you kidding?!? I've read Joyce-lite--Stephen Hero, Portrait, Dubliners...
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert; Emma Bovary annoys me so much that I can't finish the novel
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery; my Aunt B gave me this when I was a young lady
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

total: 35 read in their entirety, 7 read in bits and pieces.
I swear I'm well read.
I'm not at all feeling inadequate in my profession.
I really don't sit around and only read Harlequins.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I'm just saying.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

both sides now

I love Lake Michigan, that gleaming body of water rimmed with towering dunes, rocky beaches, rolling dairyland, and magical vistas. I suppose I'm lucky to say that I've lived on both sides now, and I never want to become accustomed to the sublimity of life by the Lake. But when it comes time to leave this side of the Lake for the other, my heart is heavy, my soul deflated, and my mind anxious.

Maybe if I think of the Lake itself as my home, the distance between two of my home places--my childhood home and my present home--will disappear, and home will again be one. Add my "third place" (a concept I promise to explore in some depth later) and the Lake seems even more my home (that is, forgetting my time south of the Mason-Dixon line, a time in which my Lake ties were stretched thin).

Gretel Ehrlich, an insightful nature writer, writes that home is many places. I believe Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can never go home. The mnemonic HOMES helps kids memorize the Great Lakes. Home is more of a state of mind, but cannot be entirely divorced from place--geographical, literal, on the map place.

Lake Michigan. Home. My Place. My primary residence amongst many HOMES. Whether here or there, then, I'm always already home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

sweet somethings: captain sundae

It's 9:45 p.m. on a balmy August night, the air sweet with flowering weeds, and tangy from Lake Michigan breezes. I'm craving gelato or ice cream, something cool, refreshing, and quintessentially summer.

Last week I lingered over a dish of Palazzolo's cafe mocha gelato at the Coral Gables Annex in Saugatuck, but that's too far of a drive tonight.

Visions of creamy, smooth, flavor-laden gelato dissipate and now I'm thinking of a Tommy Turtle sundae from Captain Sundae, just a ten minute drive from my parents' house. I look at the clock. I call. They're open until 11:00 p.m. Hooray!

Mom, Dad, and I climb into my G6, and drive under a golden moon to an assortment of tunes on my road trip mix CD, starting with Kid Rock's blend of Alabama and Michigan in "All Summer Long," followed by Brad Paisley's flirtatious banter in "Ticks."

The parking lot is full, and entire families crowd together on faded wooden benches next to the new Captain statue (chained down, since the old one was stolen). Cars whizz by on Douglas Avenue, the road that eventually becomes Ottawa Beach Road and leads to Holland State Park, home of Big Red Lighthouse and Mt. Pisky.

Big Red, Holland Harbor Lighthouse, photo by Bill Konrad, wikipedia commons, licensed by creative commons

Mom orders a chocolate cone, Dad holds out for the last piece of blueberry pie at home, and I order the aforementioned Tommy Turtle: vanilla soft serve draped with achingly sweet caramel, thick hot fudge, toasted buttered salted pecans, whipped topping, and a plump stemless maraschino cherry.

One bite and I'm back in High School, sitting on the bench closest to the road, hoping a car will honk, hoping someone will see me sitting here and be smitten.

The artificial sweetness is jolting me awake, and I wonder just how much high fructose corn syrup is in this plastic cup. I'm fairly certain I don't want to know.

"I can't believe you're eating that whipped cream," my Mom says, knowing all too well that this is no cream but topping, of sketchy moral turpitude. One time I argued the virtue--or lack thereof-of whipped topping with a friend. I rightfully asserted that there was no dairy to be found in a tub of whipped topping, and he believed there was. We reached an impasse. I avoided whipped topping, and I still do.

But tonight, the past pulls stronger than my desire for fresh, pure, whole foods, and I revel in the momentary bite of the past, the tug of the caramel on my teeth pulling me into memory, the brights illuminating the corn and blueberry fields keeping me grounded in the place where memory and present meet. Sugarland and friends sing "Life in a Northern Town," and my heart swells.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

peninsula meditations: door county

beautiful flowers at door county peninsula state park

When I decided to take a new job in Wisconsin last year, several people pointed out that I would be relatively close to Door County. Suddenly, Door County references proliferated--articles in Midwest Living magazine, blurbs in the local Sunday paper, in conversation with friends. I was eager to investigate this shapely peninsula.

Studying the atlas, I noticed that the Door Peninsula almost mirrors my favorite stretch of land, the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan. In my mind this geographical parallel certainly conveyed a deeper similarity. But, as Japhy Ryder tells Ray Smith in Jack Kerouac's novel The Dharma Bums, "comparisons are odious." I often forget this gem of wisdom. My first visit to Door County, when I was expected the undulating orchard land and breathtaking lake vistas, the charming towns with tasty treats, of my dear Leelanau, was an utter disappointment. Door County did not fit into the Leelanau model I so adored, and therefore I found the Peninsula lacking.

This summer I was determined to give Door County another try. After all, I was much closer to Door than Leelanau, and I had a year of living in the Dairyland State to my credit. It was time for me to challenge my first impressions and make some new memories. I wanted to love Door on its own merits, not as a substitute for a truly unique place.

So, one Sunday afternoon my friend B and I set out for Algoma, a small town towards the base of the Peninsula. Two places in Algoma enchant visitors. The Flying Pig art gallery and garden shop, features artworks by local, regional, and even national artists. The plants are arrayed in gorgeous gardens that are also sprinkled with art work, and the selection of terra cotta pots is phenomenal. I purchased a tall, narrow French style terra cotta pot, a round terra cotta bowl with three feet to set it on, and a gorgeous lavender plant.

Also in Algoma, Cafe Tlazo serves delightful fresh sandwiches, from wraps to paninis; salads; and a bevy of espresso drinks. I'm partial to the Honey Latte myself. Their lunch choices overwhelm--this is one of the most vegetarian friendly places I've encountered in Northeast Wisconsin, and each time I go it's hard to decide what to order. On that Sunday, I enjoyed a Mediterranean wrap with a side of kettle chips. Yumm!

B and I also stopped in an antique mall in Kewaunee on our way back down the Peninsula, where I was tempted by a pink and chrome dinette table, but left it behind for someone else to purchase.

Several weeks later, I decided to venture farther up the Peninsula on a sunny Sunday. I packed a picnic lunch in my cooler, packed my day pack with essentials for a short hike or two, and set out. Driving the Peninsula affords spectacular views of gently rolling dairy farm land that stretches right to the shore of Lake Michigan. I drove past my favorite Algoma stops and continued on to Egg Harbor, where I stopped at the grocery store for chips and a drink to round out my picnic lunch. I also wanted to peruse their wine selection, as I had remembered it fondly from the previous year's ill-fated trip. They have many nice bottles, but nothing I had to buy that day.

I drove the few remaining miles into Fish Creek, the most kitschy and overtly touristy of the towns on the Peninsula. I motored on by the crowds of confused tourists thronging the sidewalks and headed for Peninsula State Park.

This state park hugs Green Bay and offers a lovely interplay of densely wooded forests, rocky beaches, and towering stone cliffs. Bike trails and hiking paths lace the park, and features like a four story lookout tower, golf course, and campgrounds, appeal to many different ideas of recreation. I found a semi-sunny picnic spot along the beach and enjoyed my lunch. The clouds kept building, hiding the sun and threatening rain, but I bundled up in extra layers and made the best of my time. I then drove up to the aforementioned lookout tower, where several trails begin.

a perfect spot for a picnic

I selected the Sentinel trail first, thinking it would be decently busy, because less strenuous. The trail winds through varying landscapes--woods, meadows, tall grasses, and features interpretive signage along the way. I kept mosquitoes at bay by maintaining a brisk pace, stopping only to skim the signs and snap a few photos.

Invigorated by my time in the woods, I decided to tackle the Eagle Trail, rated the most difficult in the park because of rocky ledges, small boulderfields, and large hills. I expected this trail to be less traveled than the Sentinel, but it was actually filled with hikers--most of the amateur-not-so-polite and/or ginormous-extended-families-blocking-the-trail variety. The excellent views of rock walls and dense, varied foliage kept me company as I stepped off the trail to let others pass: good hiker etiquette.

eagle trail

My day ended as I wended my way back down the Peninsula, bypassing the myriad fruit stands since my fridge was well-stocked from the previous day's trip to the farmer's market. I stopped at Door County Coffee Company for a little latte caffeine infusion to fuel my drive home, and dreamed of my next trip--in the fall, with friends, camping overnight and enjoying the gorgeous color explosion of hardwoods in their autumnal finery.

Has Door County entered my soul like Leelanau? No. Leelanau still lays claim to bucolic farmlands, orchards, and lake views; their wineries produce nuanced, flavorful, not syrupy sweet local wines. Plus, I have a nearly fifteen year history of summer jaunts with friends. But Door stands on its own merits now, of breathtaking and accessible state parks and a closer geographic if not emotional distance, and I'm beginning to love it too.

Monday, August 04, 2008

leelanau + traverse city

rolling hills, orchards, lake swept vistas, wineries, lots of local food culture, film festivals, vintage clothing stores, old friends, relaxation: bliss.