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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?"
"Yes!"
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