photo friday: state and monroe

11 Aug

20170803_163605_Burst01Monroe and State.

State and Monroe.

An underground picture to complement the above-ground picture I snapped oh so many years ago.

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things i’ve been meaning to tell you: august 2017

10 Aug

One: Have you ever noticed that the women on the storytelling shows on NPR all sound the same? I’m sure that they’re all different people, and not just one woman who has lived a thousand lives and has the stories to show it. At least I’m pretty sure.

They all have a mildly self-deprecating tone when they share their stories, as if they’re not sure they should be telling a story, even though they think they should be telling a story, and their voices always have just a bit of scratch to them, as if they’re getting over a cold. And when they laugh it’s never an outright laugh, but more of a held-in, half-laugh-is-the-audience-laughing? kind of laugh. Their creaking-door voices and half-chuckles all blend together to my ears, I cannot tell them apart.

I don’t know if the same holds true about the male storytellers. I don’t know that I’ve heard enough of them on storytelling shows, to be honest. But I’ll keep my ears open.

Two: As I’ve expressed to one and all, I love the Great British Bake Off. Love it. I was talking with a colleague recently, who said she thought it was kind of cheesy, and that the drama over the baking was a bit silly. Which kind of befuddled me, because you guys, that drama is baking itself! Baking is Dramatic! Especially in a tent!

But I realized something: what makes the GBBO so alluring and enthralling is it speaks to my perfectionist side. (And yes, I have a perfectionist side.) (It’s not my best side, to be honest.) (Which drives its perfectionist self absolutely nuts.) To enjoy baking, or even just watching the baking process, you have to have at least a sliver of perfectionism in you. It’s too precise a process not to. And that’s why the natural drama of baking plays out so well on this show for its bakers and fans alike. (You don’t need manufactured drama. All you need is the nail-biting moments of contestants crouched in front of their ovens, counting seconds that could make or break their bake.) If you don’t have a bit of perfectionism in you, or if you don’t allow it to show its face and shake your hand every once in awhile, then I can understand why it all might seem silly. I don’t agree, but I can understand.

Three: During Amazon Prime days in July, I scored a Kindle Fire for $30, because my old, regular kindle crapped out on me after four years. I didn’t particularly want a Fire, because let’s be honest, the last thing I or the world needs is another device that links me to the distraction that is the Interwebs, but I did particularly want to not pay a lot of dough. And a regular, just-for-reading Kindle was like, $100.

ANYWAY, along with my Fire came a renewed subscription to the Washington Post—because this is a Jeff Bezos world and we’re just living in it. I had, for reasons unbeknownst to me, let my WaPo digital subscription lapse, and now, with this renewed access, I’m remembering how absolutely wonderful this newspaper is, and how much I absolutely adore reading their food section, particularly their Free Range On Food weekly live chats.

Their food section and staff are inspiring! And it makes me nostalgic for cooking dinner for myself, my friends, and eventually my Swede in my little apartment on Connecticut Avenue, with its two inches of counter space. And simultaneously makes me appreciate my current kitchen, with is six inches of counter space and a dishwasher.

Four: There’s a sign at my library underneath the directory that reads simply, Welcome Home.

Nailed it.

Thank you, sign designer.

 

photo friday: on the southside

4 Aug

Well south of Chicago’s Loop, past Soldier Field, past McCormick Place, the lakefront trail stretches out for miles. The crowds of bikers and hikers and rollerbladers (there seems to be a resurgence lately!) thin considerably, and if you know where to look, you find an unpaved nature trail that leads to some amazing, almost-untouched views of Lake Michigan, making you realize for certain that it’s not just good, it really is a Great Lake. Lakefront Trail

cherry picking > blueberry picking

2 Aug

It’s summertime, in case you haven’t noticed, and that means fruit is literally ripe for the picking. In the past month, Swede and I have twice thrown the baby in the Bjorn and set off for the fields, on the hunt first for blueberries, and then for tart cherries.

Our reasons for choosing these fruit are twofold: A) Blueberries are delicious, and 2) Tart cherries are the key ingredient in making cherry bounce.

Further-fold, we live not far from the states of Michigan and Indiana, where blueberries and cherries abound, which makes crossing the border all the more interesting, because doing so just for cheap cigarettes and gas gets old after awhile.

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You’d be surprised at how necessary this sign is. 

Right before the 4th of July we made our way to a blueberry patch (field? What’s the correct term here?). We spent two hours picking, and came away with approximately three pounds of blueberries. At the end of July we hit up a cherry orchard (orchard, right? I know nothing about horticulture) (are orchards and things even considered horticulture?) and spent another two hours picking, and came away with 43 pounds of tart cherries.

That is approximately 14 times more cherries than blueberries.

14!!

How, what, why is this possible, you ask? And why the hell are you even picking 43 pounds of cherries?
To answer your second question first, I refer you to the number 2 point in our fold.

To answer your first question, I shall tell you:

  1. We were to damn excited about the blueberries. The blueberry….pafield?…where we went had just started seeing blueberries on their bushes. Which is a nice way of saying we jumped the gun. Picking blueberries at the point we’d gone meant teeny-tiny clusters that had to be plucked delicately. Had we waited about a week or so, the bushes would have had blueberries all over the damn place. We could have swanned through the aisles of blueberry bushes and brushed 12 pounds into our buckets with the slightest sweep of our hands.
  2. It was hotter than balls out the day we went blueberry picking.
  3. Being hotter than balls, Baby McSwedolish was sweating through the Bjorn and becoming quite agitated about it, probably because he takes after his mother and detests being sweaty when it’s uncalled for.
  4. Being agitated for being in his Bjorn, I took one for the team and whisked Baby McSwedolish off to the shade where he could crawl around in the dirt and attempt to eat each blade of grass and/or twig every time I took my eyes off him long enough to blink.
  5. Alternatively, when we went to pick cherries, we somehow managed to nail the timing, and the cherry trees were positively dripping with fruit.
  6. It was not hot as balls.
  7. Seriously, I could have just shaken the branches a bit and a one million twelve pounds of cherries would come tumbling down into my bucket.
  8. Cherry trees are taller than blueberry bushes, and thus provide shade. Which means I didn’t get nearly as uncalled-for sweaty, and thus did not spend two hours cursing inanimate fruit, the state of Michigan, or anything else except bees. Because there did seem to be a lot of bees, and I really don’t like bees.

So remember, if ever you’re inclined to go out and pick some fruit, pick cherries, not blueberries. But also know this: But whether you’re picking cherries or blueberries, one thing is for certain—either is way the hell better and easier than picking strawberries.

 

checking in

12 Jul

It’s July, which by my math and calendar* means we are more than halfway through the year. Which means that seven months ago we all lolled about on our couches in a fog of cheese and leftover cookies and made a bunch of promises to ourselves, the universe, and our dog that we vaguely intended to keep, though in the far corner of our brains knew would be packed away like so many boughs of holly by February 5.

So! How are those New Year’s Goals** working out for you? Has anybody actually tackled any? Have any actually lasted beyond Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday?

Ahem.

waves raised hand wildly

Yes, actually, I have. And yes, actually, they have.

And yes, I’m totally tooting my own horn.

(toot! toot!)

How can I not? It’s not every year—or any year, for that matter—that I can actually say I have successfully completed or am successfully in the process of completing my New Year’s Goals. Or completing anything, really. (What? Mine is a world of inspired intentions.) So I’m going to celebrate the shit out of these.

Goal 1: Make one new ice cream flavor a month

What’s the point of having an ice cream maker if you don’t actually use it? Ever since I received this kitchen appliance two Christmases ago, I’ve had a steady stream of homemade ice cream go through my kitchen, much to Swede’s happiness. But this year I felt like I needed to expand my ice cream horizons, and put some of my Pinterest pins to the test.

And now this poor ice cream maker doesn’t know what’s hit it. Entirely possible I may blow out the motor by August.

I’ve made seven new flavors so far this year (I made two in March, because it was my birthday month and…well, it was my birthday month is the best reasoning I can come up with) (then again, do I really need a reason to make two new ice cream flavors in one month?). Some were better than others, but even the ones that were only meh were still good.

January: Red velvet ice cream with a cream cheese swirl

February: Brown sugar bourbon ice cream

March: Creamsicle ice cream; lemon mascarpone ice cream

April: Baklava ice cream

May: Mint chocolate chip (such a classic flavor, yet one I’d never actually made)

June: White chocolate blackberry

Our favorite has been the brown sugar bourbon flavor, with the lemon mascarpone a very close second. Tell your friends.

 

Goal 2:

<crickets>

<twiddles thumbs>

Huh.

Totally thought I had accomplished one of the other goals on my list.

No?

Okay! Just the one goal then. But! That’s one more thing I’ve done/am doing. Let me just extend my Go Go Gadget arms and pat myself on the back again.

Well done, me.

 

So as to be completely transparent, you should know that for this one goal I can claim as successful (so far), there are at least 63 that have been failed somewhat and terribly.

Write how many words a month on the novel I’ve been thinking about for 10 years? Okay, I’ve written some. I’ll give myself partial credit.

Exercise how often? Huh. Not so much.

Make fresh pasta using the pasta maker we were given at our wedding shower two years ago? Actually, I attempted that one, only to have the motor on our KitchenAid mixer burn out. We have the parts to fix it, we just…have yet to fix it.

But that one! That one goal! I’m totally making it on my ice cream goal!

I encourage you all to look back at your own statements of intent, your New Year’s Goals, or whatever you want to call them. Did they fall by the wayside? Are they even valuable or interesting goals to you anymore? If they are, restart them. Give them a go. See how far you get. If they’re not, screw ‘em. Don’t waste your time busting your ass toward a goal you couldn’t give a hoot about. What’s the point in that? If there’s something more intriguing you want to work toward, why aren’t you doing it? Do it! Do it now! Because that’s the thing—no one says your yearly or monthly or daily goals have to start the first of the year. There are 365 days in a year, you guys,*** and any day, any day at all, is a good day to start.

*You may want to double-check me on that one. Math and calendars have never been my strong suit.

**I call them goals because resolutions are just asking to be broken.

***Seriously, check me on that one.

photo friday: in the future

9 Jun

 

City 2Someday, possibly someday soon, we will have to move from our bootbox of a condo, when sharing the space becomes completely untenable* for two large humans, a smaller human, a dog, and two cats.

And someday, possibly someday soon, we will also have to leave our little neighborhood, because more space in this now-fancy set of streets costs more than we want to spend, and is out of our price range altogether if we want more space to also include a few blades of grass to call our own.

But that someday is not today, so today I will, as I do on the daily, enjoy this little neighborhood for all it’s worth and say thank you to God that I get to live where I do.

 

*Right now we’re at semi-untenable status.

things i’ve been meaning to tell you: june 2017

7 Jun

One: I’ve come to the conclusion that 87% of children’s books are F’d. Up. I’ve already mentioned the fact that Jamberry? Motherf-ers had to be hiiiiigh when they wrote that shit. And now, I have to say I take umbrage with the book Frederick.

Do you know the story? A little family of field mice, getting ready for winter, and while most of them are running around collecting wheat and corn there’s little Frederick, collecting words and colors.

Words and colors.

Words and colors aren’t going to feed you and keep you warm in the winter, dammit!

Please don’t misunderstand me. Whether you can tell or not, I’m a writer. Words are incredibly important to me. Colors, too. But you know what? I’m pretty sure that I could gather some words and colors at the same time I was gathering some of the harvest for our winter hibernation. It’s called multi-tasking, Frederick.

Two: The other day my gym was celebrating its 12th anniversary. There were balloons! And free giveaway things! And food! And booze! And all I have to say about that is if my gym gave away food and booze regularly I would go there a hell of a lot more often.

Three: There has been a significant lack of learning in my life. Sure, sure, I know what you’re thinking: Every DAY is a new learning experience. And it’s true! It is! And that’s great!

But I still want to learn things.

So I signed up for a cake decorating class.

All About Buttercream!

If that’s not a class description that will lure you in, then I’m not sure you and I should speak anymore. That would be like turning your nose up at a class called, “Let’s Eat All The Melted Cheese.” If you can’t get behind that then you and I will have to relegate ourselves to curt nods in passing when we see each other.

I said good day.

Anyway, I’ve picked up quite a lot in this short, four-week class. I can make rosettes! And roses! And primroses! And daffodils! I can make all the flowers! And swag-things that go around the edges of a cake! And shell-borders!

20170527_124904

Making buttercream roses? Surprisingly easier than I anticipated. I’m going to flower the hell out of all the cupcakes near and far.

But you know what I haven’t yet learned?

How to straight up frost a g-d cake.

And so I continue with the learning.

Four: I went for a massage last week and it was wonderful. But there’s always that strange moment when the massage therapist leaves the room, you get undressed and get on the massage table, and then the therapist knocks to come back in. At that point—when she or he knocks—what am I supposed to say? “I’m ready”? Or perhaps, “Come in”? I feel the same way when I’m at the doctor’s office, sitting in my paper gown, waiting for the physician to enter.

Neither of those phrases seems right to me. “I’m ready” sounds oddly bizarre, when you think about the after part of that statement. “I’m ready…for you to start digging your elbows into my back!” Or, “I’m ready…for you to palpate my stomach to make sure there are no foreign objects lingering about.”

“Come in!” doesn’t seem right either. It’s not my home, for God’s sake. It’s a massage studio. Or a women’s clinic. I’m not about to serve my massage therapist tea, or offer my midwife cookies.

Maybe I should go with, “Door’s open!”
What say you, Interwebs?