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Thursday, December 31, 2009

daily bliss: 2009

I could've spent all day reflecting on the past year, but, alas, party preparation and household chores seriously cut into my thoughtful time. At times like these, memes are handy ways of looking back before moving forward.
According to my friend B (check out her list here), this meme ojriginated with Linda at All & Sundry.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? presented at the Romance Writers of America Conference; traveled to Washington, D.C.; attended a county fair; drank a liter of wine; fell in love for real.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? last year's goals, straight from this blog: "This year I vow to carve out more time for myself, separate from my career. Time to read just for the fun of it. Time to linger over coffee with friends. Time for a quick visit with family on the weekends. Time to date and find Mr. Almost-Wonderful (as my dear Dissertation advisor calls him). Time for an hour of vinyasa yoga, a long walk along the lakeshore with my new digital camera (yay!), and time to pursue my non-academic writing goals." Yes, I achieved these goals:) And, yes, I'm working on new goals for the new year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? several work colleagues/friends

4. Did anyone close to you die? my best friend s's dear pooch; a former student; my great aunt

5. What countries did you visit? none:(

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? equanimity. grace. peace of mind.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? may 29. the day i met G:)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? presenting research at both the Popular Culture Association Conference and the Romance Writers of America convention. writing 100 haiku in 100 consecutive days. building a successful adult romantic relationship.

9. What was your biggest failure? allowing work stress to take over my life

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? terrible gastro-intestinal bug that struck when i was in lake geneva for the yoga journal conference, which was my 35th bday gift to myself, and which i totally missed.

11. What was the best thing you bought? so many amazing foods—wisconsin's finest local goodies. itouch. detroit lions tickets for G, my brother, my dad, and i.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? my friends and family, who live genuine, real lives, and who share themselves with me.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? to echo B, many politicians. hatemongers.

14. Where did most of your money go? food. gas. bills.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? meeting a certain blogger in real life, and hanging out with him for the rest of the year. my upcoming paris trip. being on a panel with jenny crusie.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? journey's "don't stop believin'"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer? happier, fatter, and every-so-slightly richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? spent more time with friends and family. lived in the moment. yoga. walking/jogging/strength training. writing. reading.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? worry.

20. How did you spend Christmas? in michigan, with my family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? yes, she writes giddily.

22. What was your favorite TV program? chuck. jane austen extravaganza on pbs. gilmore girls re-runs. glee.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? no.

24. What was the best book you read? tolstoy lied by rachel kadish.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? stephen kellogg and the sixers. andrew bird. iron and wine. (thanks to G and his buddy C! for some of these:)

26. What did you want and get? love.

27. What did you want and not get? peace of mind.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? Julie and Julia, and Food inc.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 35! a few friends came over for snacks, sparkling wine, and cake on my actual bday. my parents and brother drove here for one night and we ate at il ritrovo.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? having all my family and friends nearby.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? wedging my expanding "voluptuousness" into my existing wardrobe, creating scary muffintop action that i counterbalanced with a vintage triple strand of costume pearls.

32. What kept you sane? my dear friends and family. chocolate. laughter.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? a certain presidential someone.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? food politics, by far. we *must* fix our broken system.

35. Who did you miss? my far flung family and friends.

36. Who was the best new person you met? the cute blogger dude: G, my boyfriend:)

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. much of what i worry about is simply not worth the energy. that balance is tricky and an ongoing process of adjustment...

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. "i'm in the moment/The one where nothing matters/And everything's alright"

daily haiku: 100/100

sparkling magic
transcendent clarity: love
once in a blue moon

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

daily haiku: 99/100

shimmering snowflakes,
holiday lights, tunes in sync
reunited hearts

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

twd: low and lush chocolate cheesecake

my first food photo on my new apilco zen plate. thanks to my brother for the awesome gift!

'Tis a cliche to discuss holiday craziness, hecticness, busyness.

I remember the joy of multiple family holiday events as a kid, riding the energy—of surprises, gifts, cookies—from Christmas Eve morning to late Christmas night.

This energy lasted through my college and early graduate school years before transforming to a certain more anxious kind of energy...

Add in a 900 mile plane ride from one home to another, and suddenly the constant forward motion was both exhausting and multiplied by an urgency to fit in as many visits as possible in the few days I was in Michigan.

The day before my trip, the actual travel days, and the day after my trip became affectionately known as "transition days." Days filled with tears, angstiness, longing, and a feeling of being torn between two places.

Though I no longer live 900 miles away, I do face a 300 mile drive now, which actually takes longer than the aforementioned flights, and in some ways makes the distance more palpable.

(I should explain that today is the travel day at the end of my holiday sojourn, hence the long preamble before the cheesecake tales).

Since I left my Dorie book at my parents' at Thanksgiving, I was ready to bake this week's recipe after the holiday gatherings had subsided. I glanced at the recipe and smiled—my family and friends would love this recipe, and I would love baking it because it was easy, which I sorely needed mid-trip.

And so, on Boxing Day, we decided to make a special meal for my immediate family, and I volunteered to make the cheesecake...

...which took up precious oven space and delayed our dinner. Sorry, everyone!

We ate the first slices of cheesecake just three hours after I prepared it, and the chocolate was muted in the slightly warm slices.

The next day, the chocolate was more pronounced. I'm glad I added a few handfuls of Ghiradelli chocolate chips to boost the richness. The texture was creamy and voluptuous, despite my substitution of 1/3 less fat cream cheese. Mom wasn't thrilled with the touch of cinnamon in the graham cracker crust, but I liked it.

I packed up a few slices as my offering for a BFF sleepover at S's new house, and the three of us enjoyed the chocolatey treat after many glasses of wine, laughter, and tears.

And, there's one more slice tucked into my refrigerator here at my home in Wisconsin, saved for one special guy who I've known for seven months today, and who makes coming home from home that much easier:)

If only these transitions were as easy as this cheesecake...sigh.

Thank you to the Tea Lady, aka Margaret, of Tea and Scones, one of my favorite bloggers and tweeps, for selecting this delicious and simple recipe for post-holiday baking.

daily haiku: 98/100

happy math: seven
plus one eight multiply by
two fourteen. lucky.

Monday, December 28, 2009

daily haiku: 97/100

(where) my heart is home
so many far flung places
full of sadness, joy

Sunday, December 27, 2009

daily haiku: 96/100

endless falling snow
magically drapes hushed landscapes
in tranquility

Saturday, December 26, 2009

daily haiku: 95/100

snowflakes tumbling down
family togetherness
winter vacation

daily bliss: christmas breakfast

mmm, fresh tropical fruits: pineapple and grapefruit.

fromage de noel: french brie, dutch edam, and a selection of wisconsin's finest

bounteous breads: wheat rolls, toasted baguette, and cranberry walnut

the little ernie knife, from my brother's childhood silverware set, a cute, nostalgic addition to the cheese plate

a homemade spin on dad's traditional boy scout cuisine: bittman's biscuits laced with cinnamon, placed atop butter and sugar, and alabama pecan pieces

dutch treat: a banket wreath (flaky pastry around almond paste)

and, four smiling faces. family. tradition.
happy holidays, everyone.

Friday, December 25, 2009

daily haiku: 94/100

christmas morning fun
gift opening, breakfasting
i'm a kid again.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

daily haiku: 91/100

coming on christmas
long stretch of toll road, highway
to drive away on

twd: i'm still in...

...just not baking this week again. End of semester + travel made it impossible to make the delicious pecan pie this week.

Monday, December 21, 2009

daily haiku: 90/100

candles fairy lights
longest darkest night solstice
winter tugs deeper

Sunday, December 20, 2009

daily haiku: 89/100

first grade math tells lies
addition isn't simple
one plus one is three

Saturday, December 19, 2009

daily haiku: 88/100

dancing elves twinkling
lights stacked wrapped gifts and full tins
of buttery treats.

Friday, December 18, 2009

daily haiku: 87/100

places in between
(where i am, in the middle)
navigating worlds

Thursday, December 17, 2009

daily haiku: 86/100

slick of tomato
roasted vegetables warm cheese
top a blistered crust

daily bliss: little moments

The little girl in the post office, long brown hair and face framing bangs, and an open smile, saying "hi" as I methodically placed stamps on my holiday cards.

"What are you doing?"
"Putting stamps on my letters."
"Stamps? Are they like stickers?"
She bent down to hide under the counter.
"Can I have one?"
"I need to use them all. I'm sorry."
She walked around to my side of the counter to watch me. As I peeled the last stamp off the backing, I noticed that the front cover of the stamp book was also adhesive. I pulled it off and gave it to her, and as I walked away I saw her playing with it.

A chance run-in with a colleague from another campus, enough time to chat food and end-of-semester stress. Her friend, who teaches at another campus where I was offered a job, says, "Oh, you're the one who took the job at M instead. Good decision!"

Sitting alone at a corner table for two, which feels, now, strange, but was so familiar for so many years. I relax into the table, sip San Pellegrino, read a poem from a friend's collection, and listen to the gentle thud of chef's knives chopping vegetables. I glance up into the kitchen prep area, and watch one of the pizza chefs gather a handful of arugula like a bouquet. My server, friendly and appropriately attentive, describes the specials—none vegetarian, but all blissful sounding—with real affection. My pizza—the campagnola, with a slick of san marzano tomato sauce, roasted zucchini, roasted eggplant, roasted peppers, sauteed rapini, and mozzarella—arrives swiftly, and I tuck into the earthy flavors, and my own thoughts.

A perfect skim, single cappuccino, topped with a lush layer of crema, served with two raw sugar cubes, and small silver spoon, in a brown stoneware cup and saucer.

The clerk who carries my purchases—local organic milk, eggs, squash, garlic, onions, dried beans, and crusty italian bread, as well as imported san marzano tomatoes in a bpa-free glass bottle—out to my car

Driving the long, scenic way home, curving along the lakeshore, bathed in shades of grey and white.

Reading journal entries from 2009 instead of the novel I'm working on (Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children), and smiling back on the fabulous, marvelous, once-in-a-lifetime moments unfolding.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

daily haiku: 85/100

lights twinkle along
the lake, curving the shoreline
bright diamond necklace

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

daily haiku: 84/100

six long years to prove
whether i'm worthy or not
only halfway there

Monday, December 14, 2009

daily haiku: 83/100

four chocolate layers
crunchy peppermint frosting
enrobed with ganache

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

daily haiku: 81/100

slushy parking lots
trunk full of holiday gifts
shopping trip for two

Friday, December 11, 2009

daily haiku: 80/100

lincoln boulevard
our very own bedford falls
decked halls and snow boughs

Thursday, December 10, 2009

daily haiku: 79/100

pile on the layers
cotton, wool, fleece, and goosedown
and yet i'm still cold

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

daily bliss: snow days

Last night I listened to the wind howling, the icy snow balls hitting the windows. I checked the weather forecast—in more than one place—and hoped. When the power went out at 11:00 pm, I felt confident that we wouldn't have school today. I basked in the quiet of an electricity free home, lit candles, and climbed into bed with layers of blankets and a book.

I woke at 2:30 am hot and wondering why it was bright in the living room—the power had magically reappeared! I snapped off the lights, peeled off some layers, and drifted back asleep.

When I woke later to the scrape of snow plows, I turned on my blackberry to see what time it was and to discern whether we had school or not. After reading a few promising tweets, I headed to the TV for confirmation.

I jumped up and down, squeeing "snow day! snow day!"

I peered out the windows at a world transformed by white. The driveway was, blessedly, impassable.

My mind sifted through a list of must-dos, want-to-dos, and maybe-dos:

Grade 12 essays.
Bake bread.
Make soup.
Cook veggie stock.
Work on holiday cards.
Practice yoga.
Lift weights.
Stay in pj's all day.
Stay inside all day.

Today was just the day I needed—an unexpected free day to fill with varied activities, without any sense of urgency. A gift.

The beauty of the snow day is the seeming randomness—who can really predict the weather?—and the sense of temporary vacation that transports one out of the weekday, schoolday routine. A day to recharge. A day to do something special. A day to just be.

As I rolled out sweet potato gnocchi and munched on caramelized onion focaccia tonight, I realized I was once again living purely in the moment, a blissful state that I spent most summer occupying. This fall semester, as I attempted to balance work with my fuller personal life, I often found myself rushing from one moment to the next in order to stretch some moments. And while I wouldn't trade any of those moments, I'd like to live more completely in every moment. Without rushing. Without attempting to disrupt the space-time continuum. To lose myself in whatever moment I'm experiencing. This is my winter wish:)

daily haiku: 78/100

snow day dreams come true
soft music warm pajamas
time to work and play

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

daily haiku: 77/100

arctic snowfilled wind
lacy ice crystal windows
wishing for snow day

twd: sablés

sparkly tree

Me: Okay, I'm going to read off some different flavors. For cookies. Tell me which ones sound interesting, 'kay?

G: Alright... (said skeptically, wondering, no doubt, where i'm headed).

Me: Lemon. Pecan. Spice—cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. The next one is weird: parmesan.

G: Lemon, no. Pecan, ehh. Spice, yes. Parmesan, interesting.

Me: Alright, I'll make two different kinds—spice and parmesan.

This was Saturday afternoon. Somehow, we couldn't tear ourselves away from our brand new blackberries (yeesh! the yuppiness! the techiness! the thesephonestotallyrockness!) to mix up the dough. We managed to melt some chocolate and whack some candy canes for a delicious peppermint bark before meeting G's parents for dinner, but our culinary aspirations were thwarted by a search for apps and ringtones...

On Sunday afternoon, while G was at the store buying Christmas lights for the tree, for the second time in one day, when tree trimming isn't his favorite activity in the world (have i mentioned how totally awesome he is?!? he is.), I mixed up the dough in two separate batches, since the parm have no sugar and the spice do. Because the logs had to chill three hours, we didn't make it to the tasting portion.

I did, however, prepare a lovely hot spinach and artichoke dip, as well as a Wisconsin favorite—cheese platter!—as a tree trimming snack. When G returned from the store, he strung the new lights on the tree, and we piled crackers with dip and cheese whilst basking in the glow of a balsam tree lit with 200 LED icicle lights.

Yesterday I headed home from work, turned on my sparkly tree, decked with ornaments from both of our collections, and sliced and baked the two sablés.

Spice: good.

Parm: weird. Not bad. Not good. Different.

I'll tuck them in the freezer, ready to add to holiday packages and to share with tree-trimming-hero G next weekend.

Thank you, Barbara, of Bungalow Barbara, a fellow Wisconsin TWD baker, for selecting these simple and tasty treats.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

daily haiku: 75/100

white icicle lights
lions balls glass hearts pink bells
shimmering tinsel

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

Thursday, December 03, 2009

daily haiku: 72/100

holiday music
twinkling lights and fragrant pine
freshly fallen snow

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

daily haiku: 71/100

at the edge of sleep
anxious nightdreams transforming
to blissful daydreams

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

daily haiku: 70/100

watching the moon rise
over intricate tree tops
piercing the blackness

Monday, November 30, 2009

daily haiku: 69/100

driving home from work
darkness enfolds me broken
by colorful lights

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

daily haiku: 66/100

post pie day breakfast:
maple bourbon pecan tart
a dollop of cream

Thursday, November 26, 2009

daily haiku: 65/100

family and friends
gathering at the table
so much gratitude

daily bliss: thanksgiving

Tom Turkey, happy to be alive and stalking photographers.

My Favorite Holiday.

A day dedicated to food, family, and fellowship.

What's not to love?

(well, the cruelties inflicted on millions of turkeys, but I will save my vegetarian rant and happily eat my squash boats instead of turkey;))

I'm blessed with many happy memories—Thanksgivings at my parents' house, the little cabin up north, and my grandparents' home; a Cajun thanksgiving in the Florida panhandle; southern holidays with J and her family; and, of course, an early harvest feast last weekend with G (post pending. i promise!)

I love the rhythms of the holiday at my parents'. After breakfast, Mom and I tie on our holiday aprons (which mom made several years ago), make pies, and prepare stuffing while Dad and L go hunting. The kitchen warmth contrasts with a typical chilly, grey world outside. Grandma and Grandpa arrive shortly after the hunters return, and the guys watch the Lions win, er, lose, while we continue our kitchen deliberations and sip a little sparkling wine. After the game, the table full, the conversation lively, our hearts happy, we give thanks and eat.

This year, I was looking forward to one more typical Thanksgiving before traditions shift yet again next year...however, our table will be smaller, as Grandma and Grandpa are en route to Arkansas for my great aunt's funeral. I miss them already.

Traditions anchor us to moments. They provide a sense of history—who we are as individuals, as families. And, as life unfurls, they adapt as new roads are traveled—my aforementioned vegetarianism altering my meal, for instance—and new people—G, though he's with his family today—arrive to share in our history.

This afternoon, as candles flicker against the darkness, I'll revel in the company at the table, and also give thanks for those who aren't seated with us but are here in spirit, in our hearts.

"For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

daily haiku: 64/100

enshrouded in mist
city of big shoulders stands
proud along the lake

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

daily haiku: 63/100

promote peace and love
learn to live with everyone
practice tolerance

Monday, November 23, 2009

daily haiku: 62/100

smooth with molasses
fragrant with pungent spices
crisp with raw sugar

Sunday, November 22, 2009

daily bliss: midnight movie premiers

Ten thirty p.m. on Thursday night. I bundle up, grab a travel mug filled with steaming earl grey tea latte, drive six blocks, and head into the chilly night.

Moms and daughters rush past me with homemade fleece blankets and folding chairs, stowing their camp-out accoutrements back in their cars.

The line snakes down the sidewalk, swollen in places with groups of ten or twelve pre-teens and teens, wrapped in Twilight blankets and wearing shirts declaring their chosen team: Edward or Jacob.

Rumors of passersby throwing eggs float along the line. Must be some teenage boys jealous of Edward Cullen's indefatigable hold over teenage girls' collective romantic dreams...

I spot my students scattered throughout the line, and join one group. Only 30 more minutes before the doors open, so we chat. Other young women wander over to say hello, share details about their lives, and wander back to their place in line.

The doors open.

The girls clap and scream.

We filter in, offering our pre-purchased tickets. I buy a small popcorn and water, and find seats for a few students and myself. We chat for an hour, my students eagerly sharing stories from their lives. So open, and so optimistic about lives so very different from mine. They juggle school, children, new relationships, part-time jobs.

The theater darkens. The previews show. The movie...

begins. Clapping. Breathy anticipation.

We wait. For him.

And there he is, in his pristine pallor, his red lips, his changeable eyes.

Screaming ensues.

The movie continues, following the contours of the novel much more closely than the first iteration. Verdant northwest scenery and angsty-emo indie music seduce this viewer.

The rival appears, with shorn hair. He lifts off his shirt...

audible gasps and palpable wanting fill the theater.

The story unfolds, the viewers entranced.

A few moments before the final scene, and I know what it will be.

The romance scholar in me grins.

The scene unfolds with an unanswered question.

The audience's frustration at that ending fills the theater as the credits roll and the full house leaves a fantasy world behind.

It's 2:10 am. Colder. Quieter.

I start my car and the movie soundtrack picks up where it left off, with my favorite track: "No Sound but the Wind" by the Editors. Help me to carry the fire, we will keep the light together...it will light our way forever.

I think back to last January, when I devoured all four books in the span of three weeks. The days were long, the daylight short. The story culled forth memories of awkward teenage years, seeking—and never finding—perfect—or, for that matter, imperfect—love. Longing for something that seemed so impossible. I listened to the soundtrack obsessively. I thought of my literary crushes: Gilbert Blythe and Mr. Darcy. I dreamed, hoped, wished that this might be the year that I would find him...

And, as I settle into bed, I think of him, sleeping twenty minutes away.

Sometimes dreams really do come true.

daily haiku: 61/100

cartwheels on the beach
dodging waves and honking geese
mid football day stroll

Saturday, November 21, 2009

daily haiku: 60/100

cooking together
sharing a reflective meal
our first harvest feast

Friday, November 20, 2009

daily haiku: 59/100

screaming gasping girls
line sidewalks fill theaters
dreaming of one love

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

daily haiku: 57/100

friendship: rebuilding
bridges spanning troubled
waters, calming woes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

twd: cran-apple crisps

Despite my unparalleled love for all things cake-ey (tall layer cakes, cupcakes, babycakes), there's something alluring about fruit desserts. They seem somehow more wholesome. Virtuous, even. Unassailably nutritious...or at least that's what I tell myself, especially when said fruit desserts feature cooked apples, which I can no longer eat raw due to allergies. 

Last Wednesday night, I decided on a whim to make the crisp. The topping blended together in less than five minutes. I snagged a few apples from my mom's stockpile—an assortment of Ida Red and Jonathans. I removed a bag of Wisconsin cranberries, a treat from G's mom, from my freezer. I mixed together the fruit in the buttered pie plate, added the topping, and baked the crisp.  

I love the tartness of the cranberries, the mellowness of the apples (oh, how i've missed you!), and the tangy sweetness of the dried cranberries blanketed in crunchy, spicy topping. I might play around with the amount of butter next time, and not use all the topping, in order to truly feel virtuous eating this dessert. 

Thank you, Em, of The Repressed Pastry Chef, for selecting such a seasonally appropriate recipe for the TWD bakers! Check out her blog for the recipe. 

daily haiku: 56/100

soft warm flannel sheets
norah jones on npr
wanting to linger

Monday, November 16, 2009

daily haiku: 55/100

resplendent guileless frolic
depthless verdant bliss?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

daily haiku: 53/100

twilight descending
homes glow with simulated 
life insular worlds

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

daily haiku: 50/100

flirty eyebrow raise
steady hazel gaze, wry grin
sinking deeper in...

daily bliss: raking

At a certain point in every semester, most everyone grows weary of the relentless pace, the neverending assignments to craft and grade, the frustration with too many tasks of varying importance, the insistence on measuring time by syllabi

Usually this weariness is compounded by seasonal woes—the everpresent grey skies of November, the lingering snow of early April. 

This autumn, November is awash in sunshine, in unseasonably warm temperatures—a stretch of balmy fifty degree days! The semester ennui annoys because everything about these days, from tempered blue skies to gentle breezes to sun, glorious sun, calls me outside. Whispers, "This won't last...enjoy now."

I can almost remember those halcyon summer days when I lived purely in the moment. 

And, on weekends that seem at once to stretch beyond two and a half days and to fly by, I begin to remember this other way. The bliss of a moment unfolding. The purity of full embodied mindfulness translated, magically, into a kind of self-forgetting, as the world simultaneously shrinks and expands. 

Then Sunday evening descends, the work week beckons, and long goodbyes are said. I'm tempted to rush through the week, focused ever ahead, on Friday evening. On recipes to bake, laughs to share, walks to take, gasp—football to "watch." 

This is no way to live 5/7 of a week. And so...I throw my whole self into my work. I make crazy gestures and silly analogies to motivate students. I dispense unconventional life advice. I share baked goods. I take time to laugh with colleagues. I try, my best, to overcome that frustration, that weariness, that ennui, by being where I am. 

I drive home, after a challenging and fun day at work, determined to use the scant hour and a half of remaining daylight to power walk my neighborhood and rake the front lawn. I leave my iPod inside, listening to the zoom of passing cars, the brash voices of teenagers, the scrape of my rake. I watch the sky burn golden in the West, and fade to pastel pink in the East. I feel the seasonal chill set in as the sun melts, and wrap my scarf closely around my cold nose. I comb, I lift, I scoop piles of dead leaves into the street. I don't think of verdant blossoms nor glistening snow. 

I think of here. And now. How this moment contains everything. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

daily bliss: pom cocktail

About a month ago, I received an email from POM Wonderful asking if I'd like to sample their product.

Having never a) tasted POM Wonderful and b) been chosen for product review, I accepted their offer.

A week later, a box with eight eight ounce bottles appeared!

A week after that, my Cooking Light magazine arrived (is anyone else extremely disappointed with the changes to this once venerable magazine? that deserves a post of its own...), with a recipe for a rosemary-syrup pom champagne cocktail.

This Saturday evening I decided to improvise. I poured about a quarter teaspoon of my favorite organic natural cane sugar in the bottom of a pink martini glass, added about one ounce of POM juice, and then filled the glass with some sparkling rose.

The color, reminiscent of the signature Sex and the City drink, brought cheer. The sweet tartness of the POM juice and the tiny bit of sugar refreshed. And, the effervescence of the sparkling wine giggled.

A fine, fine cocktail. Simple, elegant, and delicious.

Do you have any suggestions for my remaining POM juice?!?

daily haiku: 49/100

combing still green lawns
the detritus of summer
fills these city streets

twd: all in one holiday bundt cake

November usually descends with grey skies. Cool temps. Naked trees. Snow flurries. Early darkness. 

I usually respond to these changes with increasing gloom. Extra introversion. Hearty meals. Seasonal desserts. 

I planned a weekend of baking such hearty meals and seasonal desserts, tucking into November with culinary comfort. 

And then...sunshine, glorious sunshine! Unseasonably warm temperatures! 

I eschewed a weekend of baking, and settled on making just one of the delicious picks for this month, the All in One Holiday Bundt Cake selected by Britin of The Nitty Britty

Late Sunday afternoon I mixed up the cake, using canned pumpkin, a grated Ida Red apple from my mom, and a cup of local cranberries from G's mom. My two bundt pans, rose and sunflower shapes, don't seem to match the seasonality of this particular recipe, so I made two loaves instead. They baked for about 50 minutes and perfumed the house with spicy warmth. 

After the loaves cooled, I topped them with the optional maple glaze and chopped pecans. G and I enjoyed thick slices with cups of hot vanilla green tea as our weekend came to a close. 

Both of us were impressed by the density of the cake and the interplay of flavors. Delicious! I wrapped up a slice for G to take home, placed the partial loaf in the freezer, and set aside the other whole loaf to take to coffee hour at work tomorrow. 

G raved about the cake and how the flavors improved overnight. While his direct comments are off-the-record, his overall impression of this cake is *very* favorable. A perfect autumnal cake, suitable to November days in all their manifestations. 

Monday, November 09, 2009

daily haiku: 48/100

one perfect pink heel
shiny, seductive, slingback
flying through the air

Sunday, November 08, 2009

daily haiku: 47/100

dark way too early
sunday night blues descending
waiting for the moon

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

daily haiku: 45/100

whitecaps heave and wail
crashing pluming over piers
gales of november

Thursday, November 05, 2009

daily haiku: 44/100

watching the sun set
a lone tree burns golden orange
against all the grey

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

daily haiku: 43/100

friendships ebb and flow
lives move at varying speeds
hold them together

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

daily haiku: 42/100

honking geese fly south
dry leaves pile on frosty lawns
something in the air...

Monday, November 02, 2009

daily haiku: 41/100

driving endless miles
crisscrossing states our laughter
filling the warm car

Sunday, November 01, 2009

daily haiku: 40/100

perched in the roar zone
drunken virgil leads the crowd
lions inferno

Saturday, October 31, 2009

daily haiku: 39/100

drive around the lake
miles slip away between homes
sharing family

*drive around the lake
date at uncommon grounds with
an uncommon friend

*last two lines written by ggg

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

daily haiku: 36/100

some days haiku bloom
continuously. other
days, they hide away.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

daily haiku: 35/100

walking the lake shore
scrawling wishes in damp sand
please don't wash away

Monday, October 26, 2009

daily bliss: on the road

During my angsty grad school days, I wrote a dissertation on the spiritual quest in male and female Beat writers' works. 

There's something about that particular pilgrimage—the spiritual, not so much the Beat—that appeals to me. A journey for something ineluctable, intangible, and yet transformative. 

I like to think we're all searching, each in her or his own way, for something infused with meaning. 


I love road trips, those times when the miles slip away under the humming car wheels, when scenery shifts and slides from one landscape to the next. Those times when the small space inside the car seems to contain the whole world, whether you're traveling along, accompanied by good tunes and your own meandering thoughts, or with a traveling companion (or two or four), whose own thoughts dance with your own, filling the hours with innumerable tangents. 


Is life more about the journey than the destination? Endless thinkers, poets, seekers, and musicians pose this question, and some go as far to answer (thank you, Miley Cyrus).


Are we there yet?


The world shifts, tilts, and rearranges itself when the car door opens. 


Are we where we were before?


Does "a journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step?" (Lao Tzu) and "what is this self I will loose if I leave what I know?" (Joanne Kyger)


A warm car, eclectic tunes, car snacks, laughter, real soul talk, travel games, and a hand to hold. 


The journey is here. 
The journey is now. 
The journey has just begun. 

(don't stop believin'/hold onto that feelin')

daily haiku: 34/100

inky pens, empty
pages, ready for the raw
open honest scrawl.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

daily haiku: 33/100

long drives and deep talk
through golden leafy splendor
feels like home to me

Saturday, October 24, 2009

daily haiku: 32/100

rain slick leaf strewn roads
winding through city and town
a rural escape

Friday, October 23, 2009

daily haiku: 31/100

petals fall open
soften, crinkle at the edge
bittersweet beauty

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

daily haiku: 29/100

wrapped up in white tulle
everything's translucent moist
and somewhat hazy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

daily bliss: apple layer cake with cream cheese frosting

When I heard of Gourmet magazine's demise, I felt shock. It was the first foodie magazine I subscribed to, back in the late 1990s when I started to cook for myself. 

Now, in addition to Gourmet, my mailbox is filled with Cooking Light, Saveur, and Bon Appetit. I regularly buy Gastronomica when I can find it, and still love Food and Wine

Yes, friends, I am a cooking magazine addict. 

And, so many recipes I mark—with dog eared corners—go unmade, as I fall into old patterns or search the blogosphere for a tried-and-true recipe from one of my fellow bakers. 

But Dorie Greenspan's latest selection of apple desserts in the October issue of Bon Appetit stuck in my mind. 

Early Saturday afternoon I declared to G, "I'm going to make a cake!" 

He did not protest. I showed him the magazine photos of the Fuji Apple Spice Cake. When I told him the frosting was cream cheese, he grinned. 

I left for the grocery store to purchase supplies, and he headed out for an unnamed errand. When I returned, a dozen roses and a smiling G greeted me. [insert schmoopy sweetness]

And so, in making the cake, I made a large, two layer eight inch cake to share with whomever, and a little four inch babycake just for G. 

I also bought a pint of Haagen Dazs five brown sugar ice cream (when you don't have time to make homemade, this is a more than fine substitute), and later that night, after making Vietnamese summer rolls for dinner, and after the babycake was assembled, I presented it to him as a token of sweetness. 

He shared his little cake with me, and I sent him home with a quarter of the big cake. 

Readers, this cake, like most Dorie creations, is a marvel. With warm autumn spices, diced apples—I used a mix of empire and cortland—as well as applesauce—I made homemade—and nuts—I used toasted walnuts—the cake is chunky and texturally pleasing. It's moist, dense, and yet inexplicably light. 

Since I have an oral allergy to raw apples, I can only eat this, one of my favorite fruits, cooked. I revel in this cake, which delivers fragrant appleness in every bite. It's the essence of fall, of sweetness, of homeyness, of comfort. I'll definitely be baking this cake again!

twd: sweet potato biscuits

Martha's Cream Biscuits. Bittman's Yogurt Biscuits. Dorie's Sweet Potato Biscuits. All delicious, all favorites that I've made and enjoyed with simple soups and roasted veggie meals. 

And yet...

Nothing quite has the emotional pull of Mom's biscuits, often served with sausage gravy...or accompanying my standard birthday meal of fried chicken, succotash, mashed potatoes and gravy. Mmm. Even now, this vegetarian hungers for those tastes of home, of Southern heritage kept alive in the Midwest where I was born and raised. 

Sigh. Now, my standard birthday celebration meal is a Neopolitan pizza at Il Ritrovo, shared with my family when possible. A little more foodie, a little less socio-cultural-emotional-familial. Something in me longs for those earlier meals...

But this post is supposed to be about Dorie's sweet potato biscuits, selected by the awesome blogger Erin, of Prudence Pennywise. I made half a batch after work yesterday. I baked two medium sized sweet potatoes, mashed their vibrant interiors, and stuck them in the fridge to cool a bit while I worked the rest of the dough. A pinch of cinnamon and a sweep of nutmeg over the grater added a hint of autumn warmth to the biscuits. 

These were a lovely treat alongside roasted veggies and sauteed chickpeas and spinach. I love their orangeness, and the hint of sweetness. I imagine they would be tasty with a thick slice of aged cheddar tucked inside. Or drizzled with a little vegetarian white gravy laced with cracked black pepper, a modern update on former comfort foods...

daily haiku: 28/100

darkness descends soon
nude branches pierce the grey sky
tears spill to the ground

Monday, October 19, 2009

daily haiku: 27/100

scribbling in white heat
vivid imagery

Sunday, October 18, 2009

daily haiku: 26/100

so much depends on
what is/not there: the edge of

Saturday, October 17, 2009

daily haiku: 25/100

one dozen roses
from the sweetest guy i know
such a lucky girl. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

daily haiku: 24/100

geese soar over pond
curving through the autumn air
my body flows too...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

daily haiku: 23/100

thirty three years ago
steve and katie said "i do"
i was flower girl.
happy anniversary, mom and dad!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

daily haiku: 22/100

wednesday afternoons:
twelve minute drive to starbucks
between two classes.

daily bliss: sunday dinners

There's something special about a slow cooked Sunday dinner, the delicious smells wafting through the house as the chatter of commentators, roar of the crowd, and smack of helmets and pads drifts from the television. 

Such multi-sensory moments bring me back to childhood in the old "garage house"—the first house my Dad built for our family, which would eventually be converted to a garage when he built the second, larger home next door, fifteen years later. Throw in the panic induced by unfinished homework, and my past Sundays are complete. Delicious dinners, football on TV, and school stress. 

Since living on my own, these rhythms have changed. Subtract the football, replace it with quiet classical music, increase the school stress, and toss in an often over-the-top dinner preparation for a typical dharmagirl Sunday these past five years

This fall, my life is a little different. Add in one awesome, football enthusiast boyfriend who I'm teaching all about my crazy foodie ways, and suddenly Sundays feel and sound and smell a little bit more like those of my past, and feel more like home

"What do you think—soup or lasagne?" I asked this past Sunday as I surveyed a bulbous butternut squash. 

"Mmm, I can't decide that," he said, giving me free reign in plotting our dinner. 

I decided that lasagne would be easier, since the butternut squash soup I most like making also involves homemade cheese ravioli, and I didn't want to spend all afternoon fiddling with tiny pasta. 

I tackled the squash with my handy Wüsthof chef's knife, cubing it, tossing it with olive oil and salt, and placing it in the oven to roast. 

Note to self: always set the timer when roasting vegetables, or they just might become a little too black and crispy... 

After salvaging the squash cubes, and after the first football game finished, we laced up our shoes and went for a walk in the chilly, brisk bluesky world. 

As afternoon faded into evening, I assembled the lasagne: layers of pasta, a ricotta shallot chard garlic saute, squash chunks, and bechamel. The top layer was garnished with expertly grated mozzarella (thanks, G:). 

Add side dishes of roasted broccoli and cauliflower, garlic bread, and glasses of pinot noir, and slip into Sunday evening mellowness. 

Try to forget that tomorrow is Monday, that another weekend has ended, that numerous football teams didn't perform as you hoped, that the grading hasn't been completed, that it's cold outside, that we have to say goodbye for now. 

not TWD, but still muffins

This week, the TWD group baked allspice crumb muffins, a simple spiced muffin that sounded delicious...however, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins sounded even more delicious to me, so I went rogue and baked different muffins. 

Back when I lived in Okemos, Michigan, I would purchase honey whole wheat bread from the Great Harvest Bread Company. Their ingenuous marketing strategy is to offer free slices of any of their breads when you step into their warm, yeasty shop. This time of year, they would offer a pumpkin chocolate chip bread so moist and fragrant of fall that I nearly swooned. 

I decided to try to recreate this bread at home, with some success. Then, I moved, lost track of recipes, and can no longer remember whose version I followed before. A quick survey of my baking books and my cupboards directed me to the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking recipe, which relies on all whole wheat flour, three eggs, and one stick of butter for 24 muffins. (the original recipe is for bread, but I simply adapted the baking time—about 25 minutes—for muffins). 

These muffins are moist, lush, spicy, chocolatey, and just the right amount of pumpkiney for someone not super jazzed by pure pumpkin flavor.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

daily haiku: 21/100

candy corn pumpkins
pumpkin chocolate chip muffins
but not pumpkin pie.

Monday, October 12, 2009

daily haiku: 20/100

crimson tipped yellow
leaves shine against grey cloud filled
sky pregnant with snow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

daily haiku: 18/100

the bus grows quiet,
sleeping, sweeping across miles,
rolling toward home.

Friday, October 09, 2009

daily haiku: 17/100

three giggling young girls,
rakes in hand, gathering leaves:
pile, spin, and dive in.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

daily haiku: the explanation

Several weeks ago, G mentioned a neat idea he saw from a writer on twitter. For the last 100 days of the year, choose something to do every day until the end of the year. If you miss a day, you start over at day one. If you don't miss a day, you'll finish on the last day of the year. 

After some deliberation, I decided on two tasks I wanted to integrate into my days: daily haiku and tiny yoga. I learned about tiny yoga from Kiki at Yogademia, who credits Sark with the concept. 

I hope to post the haiku here most days. And the tiny yoga varies from day to day, though usually I flow through a few sun salutations in the morning while my oatmeal bubbles and cafe au lait heats. 

I like the tiny-ness of these tasks—they're manageable moments of creativity and connection, and I can see envision these moments lingering into the new year. 

daily haiku: 16/100

olive oil, sea salt
sweet potatoes, cauliflow'r
spicy beans and greens

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

daily haiku: 14/100

fourteen: waves meet shore
familiar and new, same yet
changed forever. you. 

twd: split level pudding

Football Sunday: a cool, grey day, leaves beginning to spill across still verdant lawns. During halftime I headed to the kitchen to mix up the pudding. 

"Cinnamon, espresso, or vanilla?" I asked G, who was diligently checking football scores around the NFL.

"Mmm, vanilla."

I happily agreed, and cut a two inch chunk of plump vanilla bean.

"Have you ever smelled a vanilla bean?" I summoned G to the kitchen.

"Mmm." [note: more descriptive comments are not allowed as G said he wasn't quote worthy this week, and I allowed all such comments to be strictly off the record.]

I made half of Dorie's recipe, using skim milk, the vanilla bean, as well as vanilla extract, to cut down on the fat and amp up the flavor. I eschewed her food processor method, and used just a saucepan and a bowl, which worked beautifully.

By the time the game started again, the pudding was done, and we sampled the still warm mixture. Our eyes widened as the fragrant smoothness coated our mouths. 


I divvied up last week's leftover ganache into two custard cups and topped each with the pudding. I settled back in to watch the Bears trounce the Lions. (boo!)

After a post-pummeling and pre-next-game walk, we ate the pudding. 

Full. Voluptuous. Simple. Pure. 

This recipe's utter ease requires the finest ingredients, as the flavors shine through, unmuddied by anything extra. 

Comfort. Homeyness. Warmth. 

Thank you, Garrett, of Flavor of Vanilla, for this week's delicious selection. 

Monday, October 05, 2009

daily haiku: 13/100

raindrops dishwasher
football commentators crowds
and your soothing voice

Sunday, October 04, 2009

daily haiku: 12/100

shimmy, shake, and strut
strip off your gossamer gown
exuberant nude.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

daily haiku: 11/100

full white cotton bolls
puffy like cumulus clouds
something pricks within

Friday, October 02, 2009

daily haiku: 10/100

color my mom hates:
daffodils and coldplay songs
eggs sunny side up

Thursday, October 01, 2009

daily haiku: 9/100

season of pumpkins
leaves turning crimson and gold
corduroy and wool

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

daily haiku: 8/100

stacks of magazines
a sapphire lake michigan
the view from my couch

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

daily haiku: 7/100

stuffy runny nose
wanting to retreat to couch
first cold of the year

twd: chocolate-crunched caramel tart

"Doesn't this tart look amazing," I whispered on Saturday afternoon, as the sky greyed and raindrops threatened to fall.

"Okay, I'm just not sure why this is called a tart," G said, as I showed him the photo in Baking: From My Home to Yours before we embarked on the baking process.

"Well, a tart is, um, not just for fruit! It's baked in a pan like this one!" I showed him the round, fluted edged pan with a removable bottom, the one he was about to butter for me. (is it cruel to delegate such tasks? he does a much more thorough job of buttering and flouring, as needs be, than i do). 

"I still don't get it," he said, shaking his head. 

I walked out of the kitchen...

...and into the study, where I selected my trusty pocket Oxford dictionary. "A tart is an open pastry creation!" I remarked, and then made a slightly risque joke involving the second definition of tart (consult your dictionary).

With that bit of banter established, we set about making the pastry. G buttered the pan, careful to fill each tiny pleat of the edge, as I mixed up the dough. We set it into the freezer and began the business of caramel and ganache making. 

I delegated the ganache making to G, as he's a huge fan of the versatile creamy chocolate concoction. He chopped 8 ounces of bittersweet Scharffen Berger chocolate, and whisked meticulously as I poured over the boiling cream and added the chunks of butter. 

Meanwhile, I faced the hot, tedious task of caramel making. I've successfully made caramel, in many stages and versions, on several occasions. I'm always nervous, though, as molten sugar foams and bubbles, threatening to harden and blacken in an instant. The caramel crafting was hot, steamy, and touch and go. I may have uttered a few profanities as I stirred and checked the candy thermometer. The color test was not reliable, as I used my favorite beige colored Florida Crystals organic cane sugar to intensify the flavor, and pale yellow star thistle honey in place of corn syrup. 

As I struggled with the caramel, and the tart shell baked, G chopped the cashews—Planters Harvest Jumbo cashews, roasted and lightly salted.

Our tasks complete, we sampled the components, eyes lighting up at the voluptuous flavors and textures of the ganache and caramel. 

We covered the cooled ganache and caramel, and set them in the fridge overnight. I decided to freeze the tart crust to keep it as fresh as possible. 

On Sunday, we assembled the tart and brought it to G's parents' home for an early fall Corn Roast and family get-together. 

After a delicious meal of grilled meats and soy products, roasted corn, salads and salsas and fruits and vegetables, we sliced the tart into sixteen slivers. 

With mugs of coffee in hand, the adults surveyed the tart and began eating...


The children were not fans, eating everything but the ganache, or declining outright. (next time i'm going to bring cupcakes adorned with pink sprinkles for the girls!). 

"This tart is not (a) tart," M said, delving into his second, nay, third sliver a few hours later, "but it's good anyway!" 

Conviviality and celebration filled the air as we watched the Detroit Lions finally, finally win a football game for the first time since December 23, 2007. 

I adore this tart, as it marries several of my favorite flavors—chocolate, caramel, nuts, and buttery pastry. Next time I'll use salted and roasted pecans, and I'll share it with my Mom and Dad and G, perhaps the night before the Lions win yet another game. 

Thank you, Carla, of Chocolate Moosey, for selecting one of the recipes I most wanted to bake! 

Monday, September 28, 2009

daily haiku: 6/100

one dozen cupcakes
and one tiny chocolate cake
i love babycakes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

daily haiku: 5/100

warm maple syrup
thick homemade bread french toast
bourbon soaked peaches

Saturday, September 26, 2009

daily haiku: 4/100

bright kid, drug problem
eighteen months of jail time
two weeks out, he's dead

for LS, a former student, who died last week of a heroin overdose

Friday, September 25, 2009

daily bliss: madison memories

a lovely little venue 

Last weekend G and I attempted to live like we're still twenty-something years old (we're not.even.close.) and attend three concerts in three days:

Sugarland, in a stadium venue in Milwaukee. Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush (and band) played and rocked and danced and generally made merry on a gorgeous stage.

Andrew Bird, perhaps the best whistler I've ever heard, lulled me into half-sleep with mad violin skillz and cerebral lyrics at the Overture Center in Madison.

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers and Carbonleaf jammed, rocked, ballad-ed in the intimate Majestic in Madison.

We survived...

On little sleep (staying with G's friend C! who hosted us and several others for a UW football weekend, which made for some interesting late night conversations).

On caffeine.

On adrenaline.

On lazy Sunday afternoons column writing (check out the full story of our Madison Farmers' Market meanderings at Corner Table for Two) and football watching, er, listening to.

We traveled from one concert to the next, alert and awake until sometime after midnight Sunday night/Monday morning as we wended our way home, two and one half hours, on dimly lit highways. We took turns driving, keeping one another awake until the miles disappeared just as the raindrops gathered into a shower.

Between the concert going, we explored Madison.

I've waxed poetic about Ann Arbor before, a city with a certain urban liberal hippiness that I adore. In many ways, Madison reminds me of Ann Arbor, except it's not quite as urban. It's less...snooty. And more easygoing.

We spent several hours promenading around the Capitol Square Farmers' Market, observing the varieties of human behavior—a man carrying a tiny dog in a special backpack, a man decked out in prison orange playing Bach on a piccolo—and purchasing novel vegetables—edamame and cranberry beans.

We spent time—and money—in foodie shops, including Fromagination, a cheese and gourmet foodstuffs store, and Barriques, a "wine cave" featuring a wall of 100 wines under $10.

We ate. Oh, we ate well. Couscous and hummus dishes at Kabul, an Afghan restaurant on State Street.

vegetarian couscous

Roasted veggie and montchevre omelets at the Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery. (and cupcakes—mocha chocolate, raspberry lime—to take home).

roasted CSA veggie and montchevre omelet

Summer rolls and red curries at Sa-Bai Thong.

spicy jungle curry

And we drank.

Some wine (thanks, C!).

A fabulous glass of fresh squeezed orange juice.

Lots of lattes and au laits.

what am *I* doing with a latte?!?

Monday I walked around work on a Madison high, sharing my experiences with anyone who would listen.

Tuesday I crashed.

Tonight I'm wishing for my next trip to Madison to happen...soon.