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2013 May

Adventures in Cleveland

West Side MarketHurray, a blog post not about tea and tissues! They are still very much a part of my life, but I feel good enough to venture into new territory. I have some fun Oberlin posts coming, but we just got a scanner, so I want to wait until I can scan some old college pics for extra fun. While we were in Ohio, Eric and I also had a bit of time to spend in some cool Cleveland neighborhoods. This is the West Side Market, glorious place full of deliciousness.

West Side MarketWe haven’t seen such beautiful meat…maybe ever, and this pasta was very tempting too.

West Side MarketAlso, I very much appreciated the comfort station. A 1912 classic.

Ohio CityThe market is in the historic neighborhood of Ohio City, where we wandered around a bit in the cold. It was freezing, but it was such a welcome relief from the SoCal heat.

Literary ProfessorIn the afternoon we headed over to Tremont, where I found myself standing right at the corner of Literary and Professor. Too good to be true.

Bike!And then we found this old school bike sculpture, and I talked Eric into climbing on up onto it. He’s the best.

Christmas Story houseAnd finally, we popped over to the Christmas Story house. You’ll shoot your eye out!

ClevelandThe whole weekend was so weird and wonderful from the moment we stepped off the plane. I kept surprising myself with the things I did and didn’t remember, but there were some things that were so simple and ubiquitous that it was hard to put into words. I finally figured out, for instance, that it was the low curbs and high streetlights that made the streets feel so wide to me, and the little awnings on all the houses that struck a chord with my memory. I had no recollection of the airport at all, but I did remember the way to turn to get to Oberlin from there. These memories, the ones that live deep inside our minds, asking nothing of us but turning right up when they are needed, delight me to no end. More to come soon.

Tales from Sickland

Color TherapyUgh. Still in the thick of it over here. But there’s a good handful of things that are making me smile. I took the picture above, featuring a handful of my most prized plastic baubles, to cheer myself last time I was sick. Color therapy!

Here’s what I’ve been doing, not that it’s really very interesting:
*Reading The Brothers Karamazov. This is oddly very soothing, as I had forgotten how funny Dostoevsky is. People never seem to believe me when I say that, but it’s true.
*Watching this new National Geographic documentary series on a polygamist community in Utah. Interesting stuff, and really well done.
*Working a little, from bed, because it makes me feel like I’m part of the goings-on of the non-sick world.
*Drinking at least five cups of tea a day. It’s the only thing that helps.
*Making and eating my favorite sick-time spicy soup. I burned the onions a little bit, but ha, I can’t taste it anyway!
*Having text conversations like this one with Eric:
Me: Can you make me laugh?
(five-second interlude)
Eric: Sometimes.
Bwahaha! Nothing makes me laugh like meta-jokes.
*Writing the world’s most random blog posts. Back to regularly scheduled programming soon!

Sick Day

Sick DayI guess it was inevitable. All that running around in the cold. All that very little sleep. All that marvelous cramming of an entire semester’s worth of fun into one weekend. I came home in the warm effervescent glow that only an Oberlin reunion can bring, full of energy for getting back to work and catching up on a few things I’d fallen behind on. And then I realized I was sick. Like really miserable stay-in-bed-all-day sick. Ugh. It is officially my least favorite souvenir. On the bright side, I’ve got enough chamomile tea to last until 3013, the world’s comfiest bed to rest in, and a husband who buys me lemons and brown rice, so I can make the world’s spiciest get-better soup. In the meantime, if I owe you an email or a comment or a phone call, I’m so sorry. I hope I will be getting back to you very soon! Until then, I raise my mug to you and thank you for your sweet comments, emails, and friendship.

Oberlin: Illuminated

IlluminatedWe’re safely back from Ohio, and my heart is so full of happy memories. We were only there for the weekend, but somehow it seems much longer than that. (And, in true college fashion, there was far more to do and see than you could possibly cram into a day, I spent the whole weekend slightly bleary-eyed, and serendipitous rendezvouses were around every corner. In a word: perfect.) There were far too many highlights to put into just one post, but here are a few of them. On our first date, as Eric and I swapped stories about our undergrad days, it became apparent that we’d experienced a bit of disciplinary cross-pollination before we ever met: I’d taken an astronomy course at Oberlin, while he’d taken a Russian lit class at Harvard. Many brownie points were awarded, in both directions, and we loved having just that little bit of common ground. This weekend I got to take Eric up on to the roof of Peters, my favorite building on campus, where I’d go on windy frozen nights to look through the telescopes with my classmates. We made it up just in time to catch this gorgeous sunset. Worlds colliding, in the best possible way.

IlluminatedThis is Peters, beloved of my heart, and you can see the dome on top. I can’t tell you how awesome it was to learn and to teach Russian in that majestic castle.

IlluminatedOne of the things I was most looking forward to at the reunion was something I never got to experience myself: illumination. The night before graduation, the square is strung with bright Japanese lanterns, which are lit as dusk falls. There’s pie and ice cream and a jazz band and a steel drum performance. The weekend of my graduation…we were hit with a crazy storm/tornado. I was really heartbroken. I worked so hard in college (erm, probably too hard, if we’re being honest), and illumination and graduation were my prizes to be claimed. I dreamed of them on my many afternoons and evenings holed up in the library with my books. They still tried to hold illumination under a tent, but it was a muddy mess, and it made me so sad I couldn’t stay. Graduation took place in a sweltering gym. The commencement staff who made all the changes at the last minute deserve gold medals, but it just wasn’t the same for any of us. And so this year, illumination was really sweet and special.

IlluminatedOf course, this year there was a bittersweet note: not everyone was there. But Eric was. All during those crazy and hectic four years, I never imagined I’d be back with my husband, holding his hand under the moonlight. Having him there made me feel whole. Now he knows all of the places that made me who I am. And it was tremendously fun to catch up with my classmates who did make it to town.

IlluminatedAlso, I am not sure I have ever seen so much pie in my life: amazing! Eric and I had cherry vanilla and very berry. So delicious.

IlluminatedAs the daylight faded, it felt even more miraculous to run into people we knew. We spent most of the night exchanging dissertation horror stories (they’re funny now that they’re behind us!) with my friends Michael and Calvin, with the jazz band trumpeting away behind us. It was cold, and we wore our coats, and I loved every second of it.

IlluminatedI think this picture is the best. We took it to send to my dear friend Steve, who couldn’t be there. The gentleman on the right is my friend John, who we call Krang, for good reason, not to worry. He used to hang out with me while I laundered my many sweaters, and we played board games on Friday nights and bowled so very many games at our local college lanes. He was also one of my library buddies, and he could always be counted on to snap me out of it when I was taking myself too seriously. He and his girlfriend were at our wedding two years ago, dancing the night away. So this picture says it all: Krang was there, and Eric was there, and I was the happiest, the happiest.

Tips for Surviving a 6am Flight

Way Too EarlyYesterday Eric and I tried something totally new: a 6am flight. Sure, we’ve taken red eyes in our day, but never this crack-of-dawn stuff. Since we flew out of LAX, the airport shuttle picked us up at…3:30am. Which means that we got up at…3am. Although I might not go out of my way to do it again, it actually went really smoothly: huzzah! And so, for memory’s sake, here are my tips. Mostly to my future self, but offered humbly to anyone else who may be jumping on a plane before the sun comes up.

1. Take a shower the night before. There’s no way cleanliness will win over an extra fifteen minutes of sleep, and you’ll be so happy to have a fresh soapy scent on your side as you navigate the day’s travels.

2. When you have a 45-minute ride to the airport at 3:30am, repeat this mantra to yourself until you are effectively hypnotized by gratitude: “At least there won’t be any traffic, at least there won’t be any traffic, at least there won’t be any traffic.”

3. Travel with a sweet and selfless gentleman who will hoist your suitcase up onto the TSA screening belt for you, stand in an intensely long line to buy you a lemon poppy seed muffin at 4:45am, and lift your spirits by reminding you that you’re on a big fun adventure.

4. Do NOT forget your eyemask and earplugs…like I did.

5. If you do, pray for the majestic gift of sleep. Unbelievably, I woke up thinking up we had two and a half hours to go, and we were about to land. MIRACLE. Wishing you the same.

Returning to My Roots

On the Rainbow CouchesEarly this morning (so early this morning) we are leaving on a jet plane for my alma mater, Oberlin College. I haven’t been back since I graduated in 2004. This picture was taken during my graduation week in our main library. If they’ve gotten rid of these beloved rainbow couches in the intervening years, I will be devastated. They were the perfect nap/study/nap location. I am beyond excited to show Eric all the places I lived and worked and trudged through the snow and tried to overcome the fact that the brakes on my bike failed every time it rained (which was…quite often). Where I ate and cooked and met friends and saw the Big Dipper for the first time in my life. Where I first discovered that snowflakes actually do like like those cutouts children make in pre-school and hang in wintry windows. Where I discovered my passion for Russian and for teaching. Where I worked in my library study late every night until my friend Steve rode up on his skateboard and threw rocks at my window so I’d come home and watch tv and eat cookies with the roomies. I honestly anticipate that it is going to be really emotional to return to this place. But I can’t wait.

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Cake

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta CakeSome things are just meant to go together. Chocolate and peanut butter. Buster and Lucille Bluth. Blueberries and lemon. I had an awful lot of ricotta cheese on my hands after making my favorite vegetable tart, so I decided that it should be the vehicle for this delicious combination.

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta CakeI was making this cake for dinner with friends, one of whom is a real blueberry lover, so I poured them on extra thick. It’s funny–I don’t often buy blueberries, or even think about them at all, despite the fact that they are probably one of the best foods for you, or so they say. I am not sure if they’re too tart for me or if I’m really just a cherry girl at heart, but in any case, this cake was a delectable reminder to me to consider the humble yet succulent blueberry on my grocery list.

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta CakeIn other happy news, I am in love with the structure of this cake and have already adapted it (Lemon thyme apricot! Coming soon!). The bottom layer is a dense white cake spiked with lemon, the fruit provides the middle layer, and the top is a tart and creamy ricotta-based cheesecake. Perfection. I love how the fruit becomes unmoored from its place and floats to the top of the cake, making little blueberry clouds in a ricotta sky.

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta CakeBlueberry Lemon Ricotta Cake
Recipe from Kitchen Thymes

1 cup of Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of milk
1/4 cup of butter
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
zest from one small lemon
1 1/2 cups of fresh (or frozen) blueberries

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups of ricotta cheese
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
-Grease an 8 inch spring form pan.
-For the batter: In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk, butter, egg and vanilla, beating till smooth. Spoon the batter into a greased 8 inch pan. Sprinkle the blueberries over the batter.
-For the topping: In a small bowl, beat the eggs till frothy, then beat in the cheese, sugar and vanilla. Spread this mixture evenly over the blueberries.
-Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until it’s golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool to lukewarm before serving.

One Little Word: May

One Little Word: MayEven though I haven’t finished my April page, I fell in love with the May prompt in Ali Edwards’ One Little Word class and wanted to do it right away. The idea is to put down some positive messages that you have been hearing or thinking or feeling. Or even just ones that you want to emulate. I was really overjoyed when all of these came to me, in a snap. They’re aspirations as well as inspirations–these are the things I most want for my life, for my self. There are a few quotes here and there (Rumi mostly, who takes me back to my halcyon high school days, and still rings just as true today), but mostly these are things that are swimming around in my head, the answers that come when I ask myself, “What is really important?”

One Little Word: MayI loved painting the background for it. I did it with acrylics, but I love how the white blends with the colors to create the suggestion of oils. There is just something so wonderful about having a paintbrush in your hand. The edges of the page curled up, as expected, but that’s no problem, since I’m going to put it in plastic in my Project Life album.

One Little Word: MayI know it’s hard to see the messages in the picture above, so I’ll post them in close-up here. I kind of think I’m going to do something unprecedented and present them without comment. I like breaking up images with words, but these words, they speak for themselves.

One Little Word: May


One Little Word: May


One Little Word: May


One Little Word: May


One Little Word: May


One Little Word: May


One Little Word: MayThe funny thing is that I am usually fairly unmoved by quotes. But all of these just came spilling out of me, and writing them down felt like the happiest, quietest rush of some secret river. It surprised me. And delighted me. I hope that in future explorations I will be able to find it again.

Adventures in Dyeing Clothes

Dyed JeansSo, I have these jeans. I bought them in…2005? And they are still the comfiest jeans I own. The problem is, they are really faded. So pale that I don’t feel like they’re really up to public wearing. But I couldn’t pull the plug on them. RIT Dye to the rescue! I used denim blue, which seemed highly appropriate.

Jeans BeforeThis is what they looked like before (Also, who is this silly model frolicking through our set? Kids these days!)…

Dyed JeansAnd this is what they look like now! They really seem like new jeans to me. There was already a wear pattern, so the bottoms are darker than the top, but I don’t mind at all. I’m just really happy I don’t have to throw these guys into the Goodwill bag just yet.

Blue DressI also had this floral dress that I wasn’t sure what to do with. It fit pretty well, but the pattern was a little too busy for me. I decided to try to muddle it up a bit in the dye bath, and (Again with this silly model!)…

Blue DressIt worked! I like the print much better now that the color is more subdued. It’s nice and wrinkled here because I wore it to church before we took these pictures. Oh well. I was thinking when I first put it on that the collar was way too high–Eric laughs at me (with me?) because I cut the collars out of all my pj shirts: I don’t like to be strangled in my sleep! But after I wore it for a while, it felt pretty comfy, so I think I’ll leave it as is for now. Many thanks to my patient photographer, who puts up with all kinds of silliness, and, in fact, appears to enjoy it.:)

A Handful of Happy Things

JacarandaThese past few weeks have been really sweet. We’re oscillating between extreme heat and cool, breezy days, and I am appreciating them both. Mostly, I am just so happy to see everything in bloom. The jacarandas are filling the sky with their bright purple flowers. Gorgeous.

The AthLast week we unexpectedly got to have dinner with our awesome friend Kevin from Berkeley. We took him to the Ath, and much lobster was had by all. This is the chandelier in their outdoor dining room. It makes one feel downright glamorous, no?

40-Year CalendarThis week we got have dinner with our sweet friend Vasudha. I took her visit as an excuse to make my most favorite vegetable tart. And also chocolate peanut butter ice cream: success! It was a wonderful evening, and I sure wish we lived closer. Vasudha gave us this beautiful and totally rad 40-year calendar. Awesome!

Tea, Glorious Tea!I realize all these shots of my books and my tea are probably getting repetitive, but I am just so grateful for every day that I get to spend doing something I love. And the tea is an added bonus. This book has been tremendously helpful. Eric thinks I should put together a post about the books that have been most helpful re: publishing and writing. Would y’all like that? I aim to please! (Also, weird deja vu…have I asked this before? Or is it just that Eric and I keep talking about it?)

LibraryWhen I’m not at home or at Peet’s, I work in the campus libraries. I have a pretty view.

HappinessThe extra bonus of all of this is that I get to see Eric a lot more during the day.

Turtle PondAnd visit the turtle pond!

For OliverIn other work-related news, Eric’s office-mate and his wife just had a baby, so I got to pick out some cute things for him. Adorable!

Sun ShadeOn the hot days we are super grateful for this custom sun shade my dad gave us for Christmas. It has some kind of magic technology that seriously keeps the car cooler. Thumbs up! Thanks, Dad!

TacosI’ve been mimicking the weather with my cooking. I put so many red pepper flakes and chipotle peppers in these swiss chard tacos that it actually made Eric cough just to be in the kitchen. Rawr!

Frukty!Thankfully, we’ve got plenty of cherries and strawberries to cool us off. Thanks, early summer!

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