about bliss

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

twd: rewind: pecan sticky buns

Last week I had an ambitious thought: make a pan of homemade sweet rolls, likely the cinnamon variety, for Christmas morning breakfast. For many years, my dad created a mock cinnamon roll, using a recipe he learned in boy scouts, which involved dropping bits of butter and a shower of brown sugar into a cake pan, and topping it with a package of canned biscuits--the kind that pop! out of the package when you start unrolling it--and baking them to golden perfection. Since we've stopped making these, there's limited sweetness on our holiday table, and I was determined to rectify such a sad situation.

We always have a banket wreath from the local Dutch bakery; banket is a flaky pastry filled with sweet almond paste. This year Gregg and I made homemade banket to taste test alongside the bakery version; while we liked out pastry better (Gregg was in charge of that step), the bakery filling topped ours in taste and texture.



As I graded student exams on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, it became clear that time was limited and my cinnamon roll dreams would not come to pass.

My apologies to the non-banket eaters (Mom and L), who feasted on cheese, bread, fruit, coffee, and mimosas alone.



As I settled back into home after a whirlwind trip to Michigan for the holiday weekend, I remembered that this week's TWD selection was a rewind. I paged through Baking: From My Home to Yours and soon was smitten with a photo of lush cinnamon, glossy pecans, and viscous caramel.

A week too late.

I made them anyway.

And, starting homemade brioche on Tuesday morning for a Tuesday blog post?

A day too late.

I beg forgiveness from all involved.

And I raise a petite, perfect roll in your honor.



Sweet and spicy and crunchy and soft and utterly delicious.

I have half a recipe of brioche dough tucked into the freezer, and promise to share next time.

Happy belated holidays, and happy belated TWD blogging.

Monday, December 27, 2010

happy holidays

Traditions: holiday hijinks. banket wreaths from the local dutch bakery. waking my brother up on christmas morning. christmas eve cocktails, family gathering, and late night pizza. christmas morning european style breakfast with mimosas and fromage de noel (gratte paille from france via zingermans). bubbly with mom and aunt s. and grandma on christmas afternoon.

Change: integrating gregg into our traditions. christmas evening at home, cooking a gourmet meal and playing raucous uno. pre-christmas gathering with gregg's family.

Joy: laughter of dear friends and family. waking up next to gregg on christmas morning. sharing a long weekend with my family. roadtripping with gregg. a giant bottle of rombauer zinfandel.

Sadness: realizing Grandpa V's health is declining.

Christmas 2010: smiles and tears. new and old. wishing, as always, for ever more time.

Determined—afresh, anew—to live fully in 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

holiday haiku: pack

gather stack pile wrap
sort select bag box arrange
haul load secure: go

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

holiday haiku: solstice

saluting the sun
fading behind snowfull clouds
shortest day this year

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

holiday haiku: wrapping

scissors slice paper,
corkscrew metallic ribbon
trim ragged edges

Friday, December 17, 2010

holiday haiku: provisions

wandering the store—
flour sugar eggs chocolate—
this baking blitz eve

Thursday, December 16, 2010

holiday haiku: twinkle

tiny white lights shine
nestled between pert branches
twinkle through the night

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

holiday haiku: crunch

boots crunch on packed snow
walking under snow flocked trees
moon rising, sun sets

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

twd: apple coconut family cake



Oh, my baking friends, how I've missed you! I can imagine the warmth of your kitchens, the happy smells of vanilla and sugar, and the delicious cookies and cakes and pies you've made without me.

This week, I'm finally done with classes, and in the liminal stage before final exams start pouring in, which means more time in the kitchen to play, and more time on the computer to write.

As I write this post, the apple coconut family cake is baking, perfuming our home with a slightly boozy (bourbon), tad spicy (cinnamon), and altogether autumnal (apples and pears) scent. I'll skip the glaze, and perhaps dust the cake with powdered sugar in the morning, before taking it to work for one of our coffee hours.

I made a few minor adjustments to Dorie's recipe; I used one apple and one huge pear, since the rest of my apples are in cold storage (a cooler in the garage) and it's too cold (7 degrees) to venture out for two apples. I used bourbon instead of rum since that's what I had handy, and, as I mentioned above, don't have jelly for a glaze.

Still, my colleagues should be pleased with this hearty, rustic cake, and I know I will be too.

Thanks to Amber of Cobbler du Monde for selecting this simple and pleasing recipe. Please check out her blog for the recipe.

holiday haiku: last

last day of class blues
community dissolving
a thing of the past

Monday, December 13, 2010

holiday haiku: grading

stacks of bright folders
stuffed with white scrawling pages
waiting for comments

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

holiday haiku: blizzard

snowflake flocked windows
flurries swirl blow drift gather
endless blank white page.

Friday, December 10, 2010

holiday haiku: lights

houses trimmed with lights:
dangling white icicles
or multi-colors?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

holiday haiku: snow

cue the swirling flakes
twirling between light displays
nestling in lawn décor

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

holiday haiku: tunes

holiday cd:
songs selected, mixed, arranged
with friendship and love

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

holiday haiku: wrapped

swathed in fleece blankets
undulating pashmina
and boiled wool slippers

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Saturday, December 04, 2010

holiday haiku: shopping

wandering bookstores
target foodie stores galore
visualize delight

Friday, December 03, 2010

holiday haiku: tree


tinsel draped branches
threaded with tiny white lights
support memories

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

daily bliss: gloom busters

At November's end, temperatures plummet, skies grey, and darkness descends early. Somedays, gloom is all too ready to descend and grow.

These days, I take comfort in simple pleasures:

flannel sheets and faux down comforters

early morning yoga or walks

twice daily cafe au lait

steel cut oats with brown sugar, walnuts, and dried fruit

a small fraser fir twinkling with white lights

warm hugs and supportive ears from family and friends

streaming internet music

student engagement

cooking and baking for the ones I love

laughter

love

love

love

Monday, November 29, 2010

haiku: thanks

kindness of strangers
bubbling lasagne, red wine
eighteen months of bliss

Sunday, November 28, 2010

bliss eats: sweet sunday soup


I bought this seven pound butternut squash at the last farmers' market of the year, and decided today would be the day I'd test my Wüsthof chef's knife against its sturdy shell. I cut it into eight big pieces and roasted until tender. I tucked most of the wedges in the freezer, but saved one for a warm, sweet, orangey soup that was taking shape in my head. 

I made a batch of veggie stock and cooked two pounds of dried cannelini beans. I set aside some of each for the soup. And then I played with flavor and hoped for the best. 

This soup, which I've decided to name Sweet Sunday Soup, is hearty and yet light. It's perfectly satisfying after eating Thanksgiving foods in a variety of forms, and is warming on a cold late late fall night. 

Sweet Sunday Soup
3 cloves garlic 
several carrots, cut into small pieces
1 rib of celery, diced
part of an onion, diced
4 small yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 sweet potato, diced
part of a butternut squash, roasted and diced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 cups of cooked cannelini beans
several cups of veggie stock
several cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
fresh spinach
parmesan cheese, grated

Saute the first four ingredients in olive oil until they brown. Toss in the potatoes and sweet potatoes and cook for a few minutes. Add stock and water, along with the herbs. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until potatoes are crisp-tender, then add the beans and squash. Cook until flavors meld and all vegetables are tender, adding liquid as necessary. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Tear spinach into soup bowls and then ladle in the hot soup. Garnish with cheese. 

Serve with warm cornbread. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

daily bliss: lazy long weekend

Ahhh, the coveted holiday four day weekend! Thursday feels like Friday and Friday feels like Saturday and Saturday feels like Saturday and Sunday, well, feels like Sunday with a tinge of Monday (but we won't go there just yet).

There's plenty of time to laze on the couch after lunch watching the Food Network; to linger in bed listening to NPR Morning Edition buried under warm soft layers; to empty summer's terra cotta pots and to buy a small cute christmas tree and place it in the stand; to walk or drive downtown to spend a few hours in a bar or coffeeshop connecting with one's significant other; to page through Martha Stewart cookies cookbook and drool over the gorgeous photos whilst debating the merits of chewy versus crispy cookies; to take one's daily shower right before bed to warm up and invite sleep; to listen to the tapping of keys and whirring of dishwasher and the crisp still late late fall silence. 

And tomorrow there will be plenty of time to read and grade and email for work, exercise, bake cookies, trim the tree, do the laundry, and listen to football. 

Savor. Enjoy. Surrender. 

Be right here, right now. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

daily bliss: date day

For sweetest day, G planned an awesome day of fun activities we both would like, from wandering the Mitchell Bio-domes to watching Japanese flower arranging (Ikebana) to dining at a Japanese restaurant.

I wanted to plan a date that centered around some of G's favorite activities, and so today we walked in the blustery cold to a local tavern to watch football, drink an adult beverage, and shoot darts.

As Auburn trailed Alabama at halftime, we took to the dart board, and G, who has been shooting on a league for 15 years, showed me the basics. I loved watching him think and release the dart, and he made many impressive shots.

I'm proud to say I hit the board most of the time.

As the game returned, and Auburn began to build momentum, we focused on the television, and I cheered as Auburn steadily moved toward victory.

A quiet post-holiday afternoon, a little bonding time, and a whole lot of fun were just what I needed today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

giving thanks

autumn/winter:

cafe au lait and paperback novels

ruby red grapefruit and fast flowing pens

meandering conversation and dark chocolate truffles

alarm-free mornings and thick warm sweaters

indie music and the sunday times

unexpected surprises and neverending kisses

woolen slippers and soaring violins

***

gregg

mom and dad

L

grandmas and grandpas

aunts uncles cousins

g's family

friends

students

colleagues

fellow humans

***

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

daily bliss: new traditions

As the wind howls outside and whips around mixed precipitation, I take a break from prepping vegetarian cornbread stuffing, making roasted garlic gravy, and baking a maple bourbon pecan tart to reflect on the blessings of this holiday, and the chance to create new traditions.

Since G and I are merge holidays this year, spending Thanksgiving here with his family and Christmas in Michigan with my family, I have a chance to see how my town ushers in the holidays.

Tonight G and I watched the local holiday parade, cheering for my colleagues and students, waving at adorable kids, and sipping coffee from the new, narrow shop. Santa, by the way, has officially arrived.

We joined a group of G's friends, back visiting family for the holidays, at a local bar/pizza place for laughter, stories, and beer.

When our take-out order was ready, we headed home to eat pizza slices studded with red pepper flakes and piles of vegetables.

And now, we're doing our cooking and baking and food prep.

We're blogging, the soft clicks and clacks of keys in syncopated rhythm.

They blend well.

And so do we.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

daily bliss: frost

That time of year...again...sans snow...

[photo to be added when blogger decides to cooperate again]


the frost performs its secret ministry...

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Frost at Midnight"

Monday, November 22, 2010

daily bliss: auntie



I am blessed to be an auntie to this charming young lady, who calls me Auntie Jess. Isn't she adorable? She's also very smart, super sweet, and highly verbal. She'll be four next month. And, she'll always be my special niece!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

haiku: loss/memory

cold november night
miles rolling underneath tires
a friend says goodbye

for S and her family: remembering N, a man full of love, faith, humor, opinions, with many tractors and nifty gadgets and a loving family and a generous heart, who died four years ago today.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

daily bliss: family/story

I'm spending a few days in Michigan, a pre-holiday visit, if you will, relaxing and visiting my family after some busy weeks at work. One Grandpa recently had a pacemaker installed, and the other is slowly recovering from a nasty bout of skin infection, so I was especially glad to see them. And, I enjoyed surprising my Grandma at the outlet mall where she and Mom "just happened" to be shopping. Tonight I chatted with an Uncle and cousin who stopped by after an evening in the woods looking for deer. And, this afternoon, I watched the Gilmore Girls and sipped tea with my mom, and talked politics and planned an early morning walk out to the blueberry field with my dad.

But mostly, I love to listen to their stories.

Stories of a daily nature, of local travels.

Updates of family I won't have a chance to see this time.

Stories from the past: one great-uncle's loving gesture to his childless wife, one grandfather's harrowing experiences as a prisoner-of-war.

Stories in the making: new holiday traditions and widening family circles.

Story creates and sustains us.

Family.

Story.

Forever.

Friday, November 19, 2010

daily bliss: hats



Two summers ago, I bought this chunky, fun hat at a sidewalk sale, and tucked it away until winter. It's still my favorite headgear, and attracts positive comments every time I wear it. Now, I'm a little distressed that I need to wear a hat (i'm never ready for the temperature free-fall), but at least this one brings joy to many:)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

daily bliss: writing groups

Our bookshelves are lined with writing advice books: Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, Ralph Keyes, Brenda Ueland, and many others.

I took a few fiction and poetry writing classes during my graduate school years, studying with Gordon Henry, Judy Troy, and Natasha Tretheway.

Back then, I gathered in coffeeshops and homes with friends and classmates to share fiction and poetry and hybrid prose.

And now, I'm in a writing group with four other women. We meet once a month to share our writing and provide insightful, productive critiques.

And the part of me that's been quiet, and mostly solitary, and shut up in academic prose, soars.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

daily bliss: blogging, part two: how blogs changed my personal life



Blogs brought me a boyfriend.

(blogger should use this as a selling point, yes?)

My friend B stumbled on Gregg's blog about two years ago, and told me I might like it. "He's all zen, and funny, and a writer." So, I clicked over, read the blog description, tried to puzzle out the title, and bookmarked it. I checked back every so often and wondered about this guy. Where was he? Was he single? He seemed like someone I could relate to. He wrote about cheering for a losing football team from my home state. He described taking his parents to see Garrison Keillor. He made me smile and laugh and dream, just a little, of romantic possibility.

And then one April day, I clicked over to his blog and my heart started thumping. He wrote about attending a poetry reading at a local college.

My college.

A reading I organized.

And so I came out of lurkdom and left a comment, and, well, the rest will be a lifetime movie, according to my Mom's hair stylist.

I love our story so much that I never tire of sharing it.

When I was single, people would tell me to do things I loved as a way to meet people.

What I most love are reading and writing, baking and yoga. These are either solitary activities or predominantly female activities.

And yet the advice worked.

Our love of words brought us together.

How very poetic.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

daily bliss: blogging, part one: how blogs changed my professional life

NaBloPoMo definitely tests one's blogging fortitude, with a daily challenge to write something. In a month that tests my mental fortitude—November's sudden chilly grey damp days are always a shock to my system—this practice of opening up my blog post box and filling it with words and images grounds and paralyzes me.

(secret confession? days of haiku are days with no inspiration, or great inspiration but no mental, physical, emotional energy to actually write the post I have in mind.)

Tonight, though, I want to celebrate this medium, which has brought me great joy this week. For the past three years, I've been using blogs in the classes I teach. I create one blog for the class, add the students as authors, assign a weekly post deadline, and turn them loose. Some students take to the digital writing space immediately, while others founder for words. I wanted to study how to best use blogs in the class, and to explore how this kind of writing can help teach students how to think, read, and write in an academic discipline. And so, earlier this fall, I applied for a rather competitive fellowship that the UW-System supports.

I was selected to represent my college, which means access to workshops and presentation forums, as well as financial support (ipad, anyone?!?). I'm thrilled to study and share my love of the blog space, and to bridge my personal and professional interests in this way. I'll begin the project late next Spring...stay tuned for more updates!

(stay tuned for blogging, part two: how blogs changed my personal life.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

daily bliss: slippers and ugg boots

Tonight I'm padding around the house, reading and responding to student drafts, monitoring items on ebay, tidying up our small space, wearing drawstring pj pants, a soft grey tank top, hoodie, and my dirty, faded, tall pink Ugg boots. (and, in the interest of full disclosure, I must add that I'm wrapped in my oft-mentioned pink fleece blanket.)

While these boots have outlived much of their original purpose--keeping my feet warm and dry during winter's finest storms (largely because they don't succeed at the dry bit)--they make  fabulous "slippers" when my wool mary jane haflingers won't do. These boots are cozy and broken in, and, as long as I'm not standing for long periods of time, so comforting.

Now, as long as I don't have to wear these--or any--boots outdoors for another month or so, I'll be happy-ish.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

100 words: sensuous

I'm participating in a weekly writing challenge: 100 words. Each week, Velvet Verbosity posts a prompt, and participants write 100 words, in any form, that evoke the word. This week's word: pleasure. 


Sensuous
stillness of early morning, the sun rising pink and orange over steely Lake Michigan
laughter, tinkling or guffawing, rising and falling
swirling, sipping a glass of seductive pinot noir
colored leaves, or gentle snowflakes, floating to the ground
swimming in words, lapping through the pages of a thick novel
swaddled in a fleece blanket, pink
four layer cake, white with berry filling and whipped cream, or chocolate, with 
         sticky caramel pecan frosting, savored
samuel barber’s “adagio for strings,” soaring and hollowing
a warm hand pressed in the small of the back
the free-flowing scrawl of a fast-moving pen

Friday, November 12, 2010

daily bliss: afternoon coffee

Between 3:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon, I love to have a mug of cafe au lait and a small snack, if I'm at home. Sometimes I flip on the Food Network or the Gilmore Girls to keep me company.

Today was special. My mom arrived at 3:30, and we set about making coffee, steaming milk, and arranging snacks. The banana bread I made was still slightly warm, and mom brought pear crostata. As we sipped and nibbled, we chatted and settled in for a weekend visit. What a blessing to spend this blustery weekend catching up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

haiku: fuel

michael pollan talk.
chocolate scone, chai latte.
deep conversation.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

twd: not-just-for-Thanksgiving cranberry shortbread cake


Wisconsin, in addition to the distinct honor of being home to the Germanic trifecta of cheese, sausage, and beer, is the cranberry state! This time of year, our local grocery store sells cranberries, all ruby and firm, in red netted bags. I buy a few bags each time I'm at the store and stash the extras in my freezer for tasty treats long after the cranberry holidays have come and gone. 

This week's TWD recipe, selected by Jessica, of Singleton in the Kitchen, features a thick layer of cranberry orange jam nestled between layers of a soft, dense cake with a crisp outer crust and the delightful butter flavor of shortbread. 

I baked the cake on Sunday, and offered it up to our dinner guests, Gregg's parents. Everyone liked the cake, and G declared it better than the classic apple pie I also served. I love how not-sweet this cake is, and I love the textures. I'll definitely make this again, perhaps in the middle of summer, when cranberries are but a dream in the bog, but stacked abundantly in my freezer. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

monday morning musings

One cup of coffee too many yesterday evening taught me that I've reached that regrettable age of caffeine intolerance. Boo. Hence last night I tossed and turned, my mind filled with bizarre dreams and worries. I woke for good at 6:00 when I heard an intermittent chirp--that tell-tale sound that one of the detectors/monitors needs new batteries.

As the rising sun burned off a layer of fog, I sipped my coffee and read for classes today, pushing aside the worries and anxieties. They came crashing back once I laced my shoes up and set out for a brisk walk after a hearty breakfast of well-dressed steel cut oats.

A few weeks ago, I encouraged my students to do a pair of writing exercises: write down your current stresses, and then, after a break, write about your blessings. Linking these two writings helps reframe the brain, theoretically.

And so, though this blog is more about bliss than stress, this morning I'm going to take my own advice. It won't be polished or pretty because an 11:00 class awaits, but I need this more than anything this morning.

Stresses:
Concern about my family: my 92 year old Grandpa is recovering from a severe infection, and is currently at a "facility"--somewhere between the hospital and home--until he regains strength. This is making all of us a little more aware of mortality, the swift passage of time and how we spend it, and the kinds of connections we make with each other.

Concern about my job: how will the recent election results impact my standing as a (often vilified) state employee? I'm sure financial hits are coming, but I don't know to what extent. And, as I continue on the tenure track, I worry about choices I've made to redirect my career, namely to write more creatively and less scholarly, to stop working on projects that brought me little joy, and instead write in my voice, from my heart, to connect with the readers I most want.

Concern about the holidays: this year Gregg and I are merging our holidays, which is wonderfully exciting, but stressful, too, as we leave the comfort of our established rituals and enter into a new way of celebrating with each others' families. I feel nothing but love from and for Gregg's family, and am so blessed to have them in my life. Still, the holidays are, well, the holidays. Filled with tradition and memory and expectation--qualities that can be both positive and negative. Making new traditions and memories is a happy form of stress, as well as a kind of loss.

Missing my friends, both locally and scattered around the country. How did we all get so busy that reconnecting seems a chore more than a joy?

And the anxiety of body image, of worst-case scenarios, of generalized worry seems to be gaining strength. Yoga and walks and journaling and talking are effective ways to manage these troublesome thoughts and feelings, but at 2:00 in the morning they don't quite work.

Blessings:
A loving family, including a fabulous boyfriend/co-habitator/co-conspirator, parents, brother, two sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and G's family, who have taken me into theirs so warmly.

A diverse and wide circle of friends, including many kindred spirits.

A job I mostly love, with many non-material benefits.

A cozy home in a lakefront town.

An open heart, mind, and soul.

Access to healthy food and wellness centers and yoga studios.

Good health.

Numerous writing outlets.

Readers!

Hot tea and cafe au lait and soft sweaters and a cloud bed and a reliable car and a strong social network and chocolate and kindness and hugs and kisses and an amazing music collection and warm memories and...

possibilities.

(i feel better already. namaste, my friends.)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

haiku: kitchen magic

dishwasher churning
swell labor saving device
lulling me asleep

Saturday, November 06, 2010

daily bliss: saturday simplicity

Eating oatmeal with brown sugar, dried cranberries, walnuts, and cinnamon.

Stretching and breathing throuh a sixty minute power yoga class at the gym.

Grading a stack of short essays.

Being silly with Gregg.

Co-journaling.

Walking to a new coffee shop owned by a former student.

Wandering the video store picking out movies.

Gathering groceries.

Cooking and eating a simple autumn/winter meal of whole wheat couscous with assorted roasted vegetables, tossed with olive oil and smoked spanish paprika.

Being silly.

Watching  I Love You, Man.

Laughing out loud throughout most of the aforementioned movie, especially at Paul Rudd's character.

Thinking about how dreamy Paul Rudd is.

Answering yes when Gregg asks me if I think Paul Rudd is dreamy.

Baking and eating a small apple pie.

Drinking vanilla chai tea, laced with maple syrup and half-and-half.

Blogging.

Talking to my mom.

Reading Happily Ever After, the fourth book in Nora Roberts' Bridal Quartet.

Snuggling in the cozy flannel sheets and faux down warmth of our Cloud bed.

Sleeping for an extra hour.

Friday, November 05, 2010

butternut squash and apple ravioli with apple cider beurre blanc



Last Sunday, I was struck with culinary crafting fever. I wanted a project meal. You know, the kind that takes many steps--none of them difficult--but many just the same.

This was my incentive to grade, grade, grade and tidy, tidy, tidy.

And so it was that at 3:30 in the afternoon I was roasting butternut squash, caramelizing onions and shallot, and kneading pasta dough before the trick-or-treaters arrived.

I toasted walnuts, crisped sage, roasted garlic, made applesauce.

Did I mention the many steps?

Many.

Here they are, in rough quantities and approximations because that's the way I cook when I'm inventing a dish the first time.

Pasta Dough
I use a recipe from Lidia Bastiannich, which contains egg and olive oil. You can use your favorite recipe, or, to simplify matters, use wonton wrappers.

Ravioli Filling
My "recipe" made more than enough filling for 14 ravioli. I packaged up the leftover filling and stashed it in the freezer for another meal, when I don't have quite as much time to play.

1 medium butternut squash, seeds and weird stringy stuff scooped out, cut into wedges. Toss with olive oil and roast on a baking sheet or in a glass baking dish for 30ish minutes, depending on the size of your wedges. Allow to cool, and then peel.

3 cloves of garlic, roasted.

Several shallots and part of an onion, caramelized slowly on the stove top. I deglaze the pan several times with wine right at the end.

2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced, simmered with a bit of water until they break down into a rough sauce. Sprinkle with fresh nutmeg.

Combine all of these ingredients in a large sauce pan; season with salt and pepper. Thin with water as necessary, and puree with a stick blender.

Crafting and Cooking the Ravioli
Cut your pasta dough into whatever size squares you prefer. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of half of your squares. Don't overfill. Don't underfill. You need to play around with the filling amount to get it just right, I'm afraid.

Dip your finger into water, and trace the edge of the squares with filling. Place an unfilled square on top and press together. The water should act as a glue of sorts. I like to then crimp the edges with a fork to ensure a tight seal.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; salt it generously. Add a few ravioli at a time to the bubbling water; don't crowd them. They'll flip and swim and sway. When the pasta seems to have suctioned to the filling, they're done. Remove from the water and place on a platter or baking sheet. Repeat until all the ravioli are cooked.

Apple Cider Beurre Blanc
The day I made this dish, I listened to a podcast of the Splendid Table and listened to a guest wax poetic about beurre blanc, a classic French sauce that combines reduced, flavorful liquid with rich, cold butter for a silky emulsification. I thought of the half-gallon of cider in the fridge, and decided to experiment. I sauteed shallots in a bit of butter, and then added a few generous glugs of cider. I cooked it on medium high until it was reduced, and added a few pats of cold butter, whisking them in one at a time. A bit of salt and pepper completed the sauce.

Accoutrements
Toast walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts.

Crisp a handful of sage, on the stove top, in olive oil.

Final Assembly
Add the ravioli to the warm sauce, and swirl around until the ravioli are coated. Plate the ravioli next to a bed of beautiful steamed spinach, and garnish with the toasted nuts and crispy sage.

Sip a lovely Riesling, like my favorite Kung Fu Girl variety, chat and laugh and sigh and smile with your favorite people as you delve into the flavors of fall.

Enjoy! We surely did, after all the ghosts and witches and cows and dragons and ups boys left, their plastic pumpkins or spare pillowcases stuffed with candy.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

daily bliss: found

I'm wrapped in my favorite pink fleece blanket with a green scarf wound around my neck as the 37 degree air drafts ever-so-slightly through the wall of lake-facing windows.

But I don't mind.

I enjoyed a blissful afternoon.

Due to a canceled meeting, I was able to leave work earlier than I have in weeks, nay, the entire semester. I actually blocked out time this afternoon to work on my writing--my non-scholarly, creative writing. And, I planned on attending a challenging yoga class.

And so, I drove to Kohler, to sit in a soft leather chair next to the fireplace at the Craverie, sipping a latte and crunching a deep chocolate biscotti. I wrote approximately 900 words of a piece that is becoming nearer and dearer with every word; it's inspired by a great-aunt who had a grown-up, life-size dollhouse of sorts, something that strikes me as sweet and sad all at once; it's about family and it's about having and not having babies.

Once my caffeine cooled, and my word flow slowed to a trickle, I drove to the nearby market, to buy Alterra coffee beans (this week's special: black and tan, a mix of sumatra and nicaragua. mmmm.), browse the wine, and check the dairy (Oikos honey greek yogurt for 80 cents cheaper than my regular grocery store? yes, please!).

Then it was time for yoga, a 75 minute Baptiste Power Class I was convinced would kick my ass.

And it sorta did.

And it was amazing.

The studio features in-floor radiant heat, which is kept at 85 degrees, so you're enveloped in warmth from the moment you roll out your mat. A wall of windows looks out onto a "lake," or, more aptly, a pond. As we moved through our vigorous practice, the geese rose and fell, the clouds hovered and lifted, the sun set.

On the way home, I picked up a pizza from my favorite pizza place, Il Ritrovo, and called Gregg. He turned on the oven, and soon after I arrived, the pizza was reheated, our wine glasses were full, and we settled in to re-watch Stranger Than Fiction. Writing and baking? Emma Thompson and Will Ferrell? What could be better?

Today was the day I've been needing for months, a day that I could spend a large chunk of not grading or teaching or chairing a committee meeting, not cooking or cleaning or planning. A day to set aside time for myself, alone, to go off and find my bliss, which has been playing hide and seek this fall.

No longer.

I'm relocating my bliss in books and words and yoga, and reconnecting with myself.

Namaste, my friends.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

haiku: fabricating fall

wool and fleece and down
corduroy and cashmere
please, no angora

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

twd: peanuttiest blondies



I grew up eating brownies. Dense, low, fudgy brownies. When I started baking my own, I tossed in handfuls of chocolate chips to provide pockets of pure bliss.

I never made blondies until I joined TWD.

Seriously, what was the point? A handful of chocolate chips in a buttery, sugary, cookie-esque base?

No way. Give me brownies!

But then I made a batch of blondies and marveled at the caramel, butterscotch notes to the base, punctuated with rich chocolate and toasted nuts.

I'm a convert:)

These blondies rely on peanut butter and roasted peanuts to create a rich, dense foundation. I used milk chocolate chips (more than Dorie required, actually, because I love chocolate soooo much). A hint of cinnamon heightens the complexity of these bars, and makes them a perfect partner for a chai latte.

Thank you to Nicole of Bakeologie for selecting this recipe and reminding me of my newly found Blondie love.

Monday, November 01, 2010

nano, nablo

November, in case you're not a writerly type, is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This wildly successful movement was started by Chris Baty in 1999, to encourage folks with novelistic ambitions to crank out 50,000 words in one month, and to give life to their unwritten stories. I have attempted NaNoWriMo on two occasions, beginning with energy and enthusiasm, and fumbling at about day 10, when the daily pace became unsustainable given my day job of helping others craft words and read stories.

The blogosphere-twitterverse-facebookland radiates with writing energy today as friends virtual and real dive in. I wish them endlessly flowing, fast pens; receptive, fat notebooks; and boundless, creative momentum.

As for me, I'm sticking with National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo (which, I've just discovered does not exist in wikipedialand--quick! make a page!)), which I have successfully completed about four times now. I'll blog all month, writing posts short, rambly, poetic, and utilitarian.

It may not be a novel draft.

But it will be writing.

Thirty days worth!

Hopefully, with readers.

Stay tuned.

And, won't you join me?!?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

daily bliss: happy halloween!


Greetings from chilly Wisconsin.


I hope your Halloween was happy and glowing, just like these pumpkins 
I carved this afternoon. 

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

twd: double apple bundt cake


I used to eat two raw apples a day during apple season. Paula Red was my favorite variety, with a crisp tart sweetness that satisfied my snacking urge. Add a few crackers and some sharp cheddar cheese, and the snack was sublime. 

When Honeycrisp apples debuted, I started to notice a tingling in my lips when I ate them. Then I started noticing this weird sensation in my throat anytime I ate an apple of any variety. 

I called my mom, who for years avoided eating raw apples because they made her allergic. "Oh no. It sounds like you have it too."

Yes, I had developed an oral allergy to raw apples. And, I discovered, grapes. Sometimes pineapple, too. Chamomile tea? Forget it. 

Damn. I loved all these fruits. I did a little research and discovered that this form of allergy wasn't so strange at all, and was directly related to my other allergies, particularly trees and grasses. 

The good news is that eating these fruits cooked does not elicit the same reaction. The bad news is that cooked fruits aren't nearly as portable. And, the cooked versions often entail tasty, yet caloric, accoutrements. Crust. Crumble. Pastry. Sugar. Butter...

No mind. I must have my apples. 

And this week's cake is a fine way to eat this delicious seasonal fruit, surrounded by luscious cake, moistened with apple butter, and spiked with spices. 

I made half the recipe, and used almost all whole wheat flour because I'm out of regular unbleached white flour (I'm stocking up in Michigan this coming weekend, where bags of KA are $2.89 versus the $5.99 I pay here in Wisconsin). I used organic apple butter. To increase the spiciness and add a bit more texture (especially needed since I omitted the raisins), I chopped some candied ginger and tossed it into the batter. Oh, and I chose local Empire apples, crisp, and if I remember my apples correctly, my favorite blend of tartness with a hint of sweet. 

This cake is unbelievable moist, and absolutely delicious. It's a much-desired taste of apple that doesn't provoke an allergic reaction. Thank you, Lynne of Honey Muffin, for selecting this recipe. Click over to her blog for the recipe, and check out the TWD site for a list of everyone who made this week's recipe. 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

100 words: electric youth

I'm participating in a weekly writing challenge: 100 words. Each week, Velvet Verbosity posts a prompt, and participants write 100 words, in any form, that evoke the word. This week's word:ditch.


Electric Youth

Sarah shot anxious glances at the stormy sky, then at Brad, white-knuckling the steering wheel. 
“Do you think we should just go home?” She wanted to be back in her bedroom, listening to Vampire Weekend and eating cookies.
“We can beat it. We’re almost to Pizza Hut.” He was driving his dad’s car and wearing cologne. 
“Brad!” 
“Shit!” He swerved to the side of the road, wrenched open the car doors, pulled her out, and flung them into the deep ditch, covering his body with hers as the twister skipped across the neighboring cornfield. Electricity zinged. 
“Wicked first date.”

Thursday, September 30, 2010

daily bliss: endorphins

A two and a half mile walk through the neighborhood, orange trees reaching up into cerulean skies, brings a smile to my face.

A circuit through the weight machines and free weight area of the gym turns my arms and legs to jello.

A handful of laps in the pool leaves my eyes stinging and red.

A series of yoga poses in the warm water therapy pool washes my body in languidity.

Five minutes in the cedar lined dry sauna relaxes every tight muscle.

Recharged, relaxed, rejuvenated.

Happy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

haiku: cloud

tall and billowing
swathed with cotton and faux down
cradling me asleep

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

daily bliss: finding inspiration



Some weeks, I drown in ungraded student work, pressing committee business, and a general sense of work induced weariness.

I long to set paper to pen, fingers to keys, and create my own sentences, but by the time my other responsibilities are fulfilled, I'm exhausted.

Yesterday, I made my words a priority, and wrote a blog post I love. I wrote a journal page of "I wishes."

And I felt like a writer.

Today, I was back to harried writing professor and frazzled committee member.

After nine hours of wrangling with others' words, Gregg and I drove to a nearby town to see/hear Michael Perry, one of our favorite authors. I'm currently teaching Perry's memoir Truck, and I encouraged my students to attend, promising extra credit for a blog post on his reading. Four students attended. At the end of the reading, several of them stood in line to have their books signed and their picture taken with Perry. I caught smiles and laughter on their faces throughout Perry's 90 minute talk.

And I was inspired.

Inspired by Perry's awesome storytelling and insights into the writerly life. But moreover, inspired to see my students interested and excited enough to attend an evening event in a town 30 minutes from campus.

Words change lives.

How much I needed this reminder today.

Monday, September 27, 2010

what came first


Hold me.

I am solid.
I fit in the curve of your palm.
I am a contradiction of oppositions: fragile and strong, solitary and multitudinous.

Tap me gently, and I yield to pressure, thin walls and membranes stretching open.
Rap me decisively, and I cleave, neatly sliding out.
Crack me harshly, and I shatter into jagged shards, piercing myself.

Separate and whisk me:
I thicken into voluptuous richness
or
I billow and froth into airiness.

Swirl me together, whole, and I strengthen and lift.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

haiku: autumn weekend

sunshine and high clouds
miles unwind beneath my tires
driving home to home

Saturday, September 25, 2010

100 words: (bitter)sweet water sea





I'm participating in a weekly writing challenge: 100 words. Each week, Velvet Verbosity posts a prompt, and participants write 100 words, in any form, that evoke the word. This week's word: greater.


(Bitter)Sweet Water Sea
Sand swirls and beach grasses sway along undulating dunes.
The early evening sun streaks between grey clouds, illuminating
pink salmon orange striations. Whitecapped waves build, crest,
break, roil silt, creep up the shore. Plastic chairs teeter along disappearing banks. Looking east, she sees only water, churning across the distance, far greater than the 60 miles between Michigan and Wisconin. The pier, reaching out from the harbor, calms the waves. She runs toward it, scaring up flocks of seagulls taking wing on gusts of wind. Her feet dance along the strand edges, avoiding frigid water, leading her somewhere closer to home. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

daily bliss: party prep

Tomorrow, Mom and I are hosting a bridal shower for N, soon to be my cousin's wife. Since I rolled into town this afternoon, Mom and I have shopped for supplies, strolled the beach, cooked Mexican dinner with my dad, drank slightly effervescent wine, baked two kinds of cupcakes, and made pimento cheese.

Whew!

More importantly, we've chatted, laughed, and enjoyed time spent together, in the same place, which happens much too infrequently.

It's good to be home.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

daily bliss: stress relief

a stroll in the brisk autumn air

podcasts of The Splendid Table and This American Life

homemade chocolate chip walnut cookies

a silly sweet text message

reading a few pages for fun

child's pose

a chat with my mom

email from far-flung friends

not having to clean up the kitchen after cooking dinner

two new pairs of shoes

snarking with a friend

humorous malapropisms in student essays

an unexpected compliment

a colleague helping me carry my lunch to a meeting

fast, flowing pens

nerdy TV sitcoms

a soundtrack of joss stone and mindy smith and neko case

the tapping of computer keys

warm arms drawing me in for a big hug

new magazines with features on stress and simplicity

funny tweets

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

daily bliss: falling into fall

I'm munching the addictive combination of candy corn and roasted peanuts, and sulking because I missed the super harvest moon, due to a cloud-filled sky. I'm rubbing my eyes after grading essays, and stressing about all the work-related responsibilities that seem to be piling up. Falling into fall, indeed.

Sometimes it feels more like flailing.

I long for the long, lingering days of summer. I dread the short, stunted days of winter.

But I do, despite my current issues of overwhelment, love fall: crispness. Brightness.

Thin sweaters and dark jeans.

Soup and cornbread.

Transitions.

Happy autumnal equinox, y'all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

twd: coffee break muffins


When I discovered espresso powder years ago, my chocolate cakes and cupcakes were transformed by a richness and depth they previously lacked. There was one unfortunate incident where an espresso powder laced kahlua chocolate cheesecake kept a group of poker players up much of the night, a reminder that this magical ingredient packs a caffeinated punch. Overall, this one ingredient wields great power!

Dorie's Coffee Break Muffins include two forms of caffeinated goodness: strong brewed coffee and the aforementioned espresso powder. Besides adding layered coffee flavor, these ingredients create that same depth and richness I discovered in my chocolate treats. Only slightly sweet, this muffin would be a perfect vehicle for a layer of nutella, don't you think?

I ate my muffin after lunch yesterday, with a mug of hot vanilla green tea instead of coffee. I didn't want to go to class jittery. 

I like these muffins—they're rich, simple, and different. They're not my favorite, but I will make them again for brunches or coffee hours. 

Thank you, Rhiani, of Chocoholic Anonymous, for selecting this week's TWD recipe. Check out her blog or buy the book for the recipe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

daily bliss: twd rewind: rosy pear and pistachio tart

A few Friday nights ago, after a too-long hiatus, my wine club reconvened. This crisp evening, we sipped Rieslings from around the world, gathered around a chiminea, talked, laughed, snacked, and reconnected. Bliss. Besides a bottle of Dr. L Riesling (tasty, only slightly sweet), we brought this delectable tart, made with farmers' market pears soaked in a bottle (an entire bottle!) of shiraz.


I just love the facets here, so very jewel-like. I prepared the pears Thursday night, and allowed them to soak overnight in their poaching syrup. 



By Friday afternoon, the wine had seeped in, creating a gorgeous deep blush, and an extra-boozy flavor.

My assembled tart wasn't quite as pretty as the one in Dorie's book, partly because my pistachios had been roasted and hence lost some of their bright greenness. But I loved the layers of sweet crust, rich pistachio custard, poached pears, and candied nuts. A stunning dessert for a wonderful night. My friends deserve nothing but the best:)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

daily bliss: cookbooks

My students are reading Michael Perry's memoir Truck: A Love Story this semester. I chose Perry because he's a reasonably local author with an amazing range of vocabulary, emotion, and experience. Many of my students are, ah, infrequent readers, and I'm trying to show them that reading can be...fun.

Last week we read the second chapter, in which Perry waxes poetic about leafing through glossy seed catalogs during the cruel winter months. He also describes his collection of thirteen cookbooks in some detail.

Many students were not impressed by the detail.

They thought it was...weird.

Me? I get it.

My cookbook collection skews to the pastry arts, with a smattering of vegetarian cookbooks, and a few all-purpose tomes: Gourmet Cookbook, Bon Appetit Cookbook, a vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook like the one my mom used when I was growing up, and G's contribution: Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

On Thursday, my copy of Dorie Greenspan's latest book, Around My French Table, arrived. I settled in with a cup of coffee, and slowly turned the pages, marveling at the delicious recipes, gorgeous photos, and delightful stories.

I use cookbooks mostly as guides and inspiration, and my typical approach when cooking a new dish is to find several different recipes for it, and then create my own version, using loose measurements and relying on my senses to properly prepare the dish. Most of the time, this strategy results in tasty meals.

Cookbooks are comfort, possibility, offering up food as more than mere sustenance; rather, they show us food as craft, as companion, as love.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

100 words: lost beats

I'm participating in a weekly writing challenge: 100 words. Each week, Velvet Verbosity posts a prompt, and participants write 100 words, in any form, that evoke the word. This week's word: jars.


Lost Beats
He emptied the closets, packing boxes and hauling them to Goodwill, saving the flannel plaid shirt that smelled of sandalwood and sweat. Sifting through books and CDs took longer; he flipped cover pages and scanned liner notes, tracing the handwritten initials. He turned pages, read marginalia, and lingered over the autographed, vintage copy of On the Road. He loaded the five disc player with music he always hated: classical, blues, jazz. He kept Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, soundtrack to their third date. He opened the pantry door, gazed at the gleaming jars of jam, his final gift, and wept.

Friday, September 17, 2010

daily bliss: friday night lights

A crisp Friday night in fall: my parents drop me off at my best friend J's house. We drive a few blocks,  join the crowds heading into the stadium, buy tickets and some snacks, and then find our favorite seats: along the perimeter where the band sits when they're not marching on the field. Under the bright lights, cheerleaders shake their pompoms, and the football players take the field. Let's go WO! The band plays the national anthem, then the school fight song, sung to the tune of "On Wisconsin":

on you panthers, on you panthers, wearing black and white/we'll defend our alma mater we will always fight you rah rah/on you panthers, on you panthers, fight on for your fame/fight panthers, fight and we will win this game!


The game begins. The band returns. We watch precious little game, instead preferring to flirt with certain trumpet players, chatting with our friend M, who plays clarinet. We make plans for after the game—gathering at J's house for Little Caesar's pizza, pop, and an intense game of running or dancing on the Nintendo power pad (circa 1991). One year, we decide to prank call a boy two of us like, and A chirps, "i want your bahhh-dee" into the phone as we dissolve into giggles.

As such behavior might suggest, my friends and I didn't attend many dances, and very few of the dress-up variety.

Oh, but some of us wanted too. Years later, when my baby brother, nine years my junior, was on the snowball court (he may have even been crowned king), I was jealous.

I longed for those taffeta dresses in bright colors with matching shoes.

***
After a long five hour meeting, and a coffee date with a friend, I head to the mall in search of a dress to wear to my cousin's wedding, a bridal shower gift, and a clearance rack bathing suit to wear to the gym. The few remaining bathing suits are juxtaposed against racks of wool and down coats. I select two, clearly geared towards women with body concerns, with tags proclaiming "lose 10 lbs in 10 seconds!" I locate the nearest fitting room, nestled in the junior's dress department. Early teen-aged girls laden with bright, short dresses stand in line, or pop out of the dressing room. Several moms line the wall, arms filled with rejects.

I am the same age as these moms.

As I struggle into the miraclesuit (it takes longer than 10 seconds to squeeze into the super-spandex fabric suit), I listen to the girls talk about the dresses, their voices a mingling of English and Hmong.

I peel the suit off, and reassemble my professional attire. I buy the suit.

I drive home, calling G to make dinner plans. As I pass several small-town high schools, I look for bright lights and crowds; I listen for cheering and a smart cadence. Dark and quiet, it must be an away game.

I remember moments I've forgotten: sipping scalding watery hot cocoa to warm up at those late season games, stuffing my hands in the pockets of my unzipped jacket. A heart full of longing for a boyfriend, for a date to a dance, for a pretty dress, for a glimmer of popularity. A self blessed with smart, kind, positive friends; a loving, stable, supportive family; a mind eager to absorb, learn, grow; and dreams of endless possibility.

A block away from home, I spot the bright porch light, welcoming me home. Upstairs, hot pizza and a swell guy await. I'll put on my new dress and twirl.

Friday night...so full of lights.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

daily bliss: list o' dreams

Image from the Ayurvedic Nonsurgical Facelift Massage Website

Tonight I'm inspired by G, who sent me a list of writing prompts because I'm sniffling and sleepy and...stuck. And my students, who boldly blogged about their "bucket lists." (note: i don't like that title. i prefer list o' dreams.) I offer you five things I would love to do intend to do in my lifetime:

1. become a certified yoga instructor, going through an intense, spiritually focused program, perhaps jivamukti.

2. suffer the pain and beauty of a small, tiny...tattoo (don't freak out, mom) of a lotus flower or an om symbol on the small of my back, off to the side. Or maybe both, intertwined!

3. marry the love of my life at a lake michigan beach wedding, in front of our family and friends.

4. publish a work of creative non-fiction (or fiction. or poetry. but probably creative non-fiction) in a non-academic medium.

5. attend a writing retreat, complete with small cabins and woods and water, devoid of technology and distractions.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

daily bliss: kindness

It's 10:32. I'm sitting on the loveseat wrapped in my favorite fleece blanket, having just finished grading last week's blogs from two of my classes (total entries: 48). I switch to my personal blogger account on one tab, open facebook on another. I check facebook first. A colleague is challenging one of my favorite quotes on someone else's page. Something about kindness. How can you be against kindness as a philosophy? My internal reaction is anything but kind. (clearly, I need to revisit Buddhism 101). I reach for a tissue, but my timing is off, and my rhinovirus infested nose drips onto my laptop keys. I click over to blogger. Finally, my time to write after spending hours today responding to others' writing, leading them through other pieces of writing, and writing responses to explain their grades. My computer battery temporarily dies. It's time to reconnect to the power source.

Today I need that power source—that magical cord that refills the depleted energy. I want my creativity and words to spill forth on the page. I want my NaBloPoMo experience this month not to devolve into daily mediocrity. I want to work on the stories and poems shimmer in the corners of my mind. I want to be the enthusiasm for myself that I am for my students. I want to save some of that energy for these evenings at home, when G and I tap laptop keys side by side, discuss the magic of writing.

I know that once the rhinovirus departs my energy and optimism will return. But the overwhelming take home work will also return, from time to time.

How can I keep feeding my own creative writing spirit?

I will begin with kindness.

Always, be kind.

Somedays I need a reminder.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

haiku: early fall

eight o'clock darkness
dipping temperatures
clouds of foggy breath

Monday, September 13, 2010

daily bliss: summer fun

breakfast on the farm, june 2010

summerfest, june 2010

meet the parents and siblings party, june 2010

fourth of july, july 2010


beach day, july 2010


finding balance, august 2010


copper falls state park, july 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

daily bliss: football dip and desolation



Today was a special day for one half of this household: the First Football Sunday. G is a huge NFL fan (and, incidentally, a blog post of his about the Detroit Lions endeared me to him before I ever met him).

To celebrate, I made a layered Mexican dip, to be scooped up with crunchy, thick Frontera chips. The dip resembles other taco dips, but includes a few flavor enhancers. It was a small consolation for the horrible call that snatched the Lions' victory away.

Layered Mexican Dip
layer one: black beans
I saute one clove garlic, perhaps some garlic, and cumin seeds in a bit of olive oil. When they're softened, I add black beans—about a cup and a half—and, if they're homemade, their liquid. If from a can, a bit of water as necessary. Sprinkle with chipotle powder and chili powder, and mash with a fork until they're the desired consistency. Remove from heat, spread in the bottom of a glass dish, and refrigerate.

layer two: guacamole
Roast two cloves of garlic, and split one avocado. Mash the fruit with a fork, then add the garlic. Squeeze the juice of one lime or lemon and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mash until well blended. Spread over the black beans.

layer three: sour cream
I prefer daisy light sour cream. Layer over guacamole.

layer four: cheese
Today I shredded some of the sharp cheddar I bought at the local dairy. Sprinkle over sour cream.

layer five: salsa
I often use bottled salsa, and then chunk up peppers and onion. With an abundance of farm fresh produce, I made my own pico de gallo. I diced three heirloom tomatoes, two peppers, two green onions. I chopped a handful of cilantro. I juiced one lime. I added salt and pepper. The fresh salsa was bright and fresh. Spoon over the cheese, draining off the excess liquid.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

daily bliss: remembering

Low-key, calm Saturdays are rare these days, and their infrequency makes them all the more dear. Today I read the first set of rough drafts from my writing students, and dozed on the loveseat. I rested, and watched the fog dissipate, the rain dry up, and the horizon reappear as the gloomy day lifted. A single male cardinal landed on the wet, white porch railing, a spark of heat. Later, a fat robin perched on the shed roof, alone.

On 9.11.2001, I was alone, in Alabama, 900 miles away from my family. It was at that moment that I started dreaming of a way to be closer to home. I had nightmares about national chaos, and being stranded from my family.

Today, I read Meg Cabot's story of 9.11 for the first time. I cried.

G and I shared our where were you stories. I clung to him, remembering. I clung to him, glad to not be alone, to have someone to share my daily life with.

Love. Compassion. Remembering. Peace.

Friday, September 10, 2010

100 words: compost

I'm participating in a weekly writing challenge: 100 words. Each week, Velvet Verbosity posts a prompt, and participants write 100 words, in any form, that evoke the word. This week's word: rotten

Compost

rotten: bruised peaches dried coffee grounds blackened banana peels green grass clippings cracked egg shells twisted tree branches yellowed corn husks moldy bread spent tea bags squeezed lemons giant summer squashes horse dung carved pumpkins golden straw wrinkled apples multicolored leaves cow manure melon rinds flowering weeds sad tomatoes chicken shit blighted berries greening potatoes shredded carrots
flourishing microorganisms: fast fungi beneficial bacteria miracle microbes
turning turning turning: sifting lifting pitchforking
small scraps large pile hot core
worms: detritus digesting skin casting
feeding: rich soil prolific garden velvet lawn
transformation: making abundant life out of so much death and decay.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

daily bliss: poaching and sipping and brainstorming



Tonight, the house smells like warm sangria. I heated a bottle of Black Swan Shiraz with sugar and citrus zest, then gently simmered five farmers' market pears in the ruby liquid. Tomorrow, I'll make a pistachio pastry cream, and a sweet buttery tart crust. I'll assemble a rosy and green tinged tart, a work of art in itself, to take to wine club. We'll be drinking Riesling. Mmmm.

Now, I'm sipping tea—Margaret's Hope Darjeeling, my favorite—and mulling over a new writing project. I've been searching for a topic to write for Wake, a journal of Great Lakes thought and culture. And tonight, a topic, touching on both sides of the Lake, appeared in the way great ideas often do: in a random moment, spurred by one image or word.

I'm inspired.

And tranquil.

And...sleepy.