2012 Resolutions In Review

Oh right, last year’s resolutions.

1. Running faster in at least two half marathons plus the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.
Done. I PR’d in the Illinois half in April, taking 6:40 off my Detroit time. I missed a PR in the Monster Dash by 4 seconds. I also took 4:59 off my Cherry Blossom time.

2. Learn more about [my] DSLR.
Done. I took a DSLR workshop in May and feel like I have a somewhat better grasp on how my camera works – and then I broke my arm and couldn’t hold it properly for a few weeks, and then it started taking spirit photographs and spent 3 months in the shop. Whoops.

3. See [no] fewer than 12 movies in the theater.
Done. I saw: The Adventures of TintinMy Week With MarilynTinker, Tailor, Soldier, SpyThe ArtistThe Skin I Live InJoy Division with Le voyage dans le luneShameThe Cabin in the WoodsYour Sister’s SisterThe Hunger Games, Shut Up and Play the Hits, Moonrise Kingdom, Skyfall (x3), and Django Unchained.

4. Write at least one [letter] per week.
Done. I wrote 169 letters and postcards in 2012.

5. Find a job in Chicago.
Done! I’ve been at my job nine months, and while it isn’t my dream job, that has less to do with the job and more to do with my dreams.

6. [Bake] one pie per month.
I baked zero pies in 2012.

7. Master at least one new cocktail at home per month.
I mastered two cocktails: the manhattan, and the French gimlet.

8. More travel.
I didn’t leave the country despite my best attempts to walk to Mexico. I did leave the state more than a few times, though.
January: Carlsbad/San Diego, CA plus lots of back and forth to Chicago
February: back and forth to Chicago
March: Champaign for LEEP weekend, DC for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
April: southern Illinois with the GSLIS ladies, Champaign for the Illinois I-Challenge
May: Overnight to Indiana
June: weekend in A2, Anaheim/Imperial Beach, CA
July: nowhere because I had a goddamned broken arm
August: weekend in A2
September: nowhere
October: two weekends in Champaign, Charlottesville, VA for a conference
November: DC, Champaign
December: San Francisco, CA, weekend in A2

9. Read at least two books per month.
Nope. I read 17 books, quit one book club, and started another.

10. Learn to do alterations.
Nope. Maybe this year.

11. More feats of strength! More push-ups. More miles on Orange. And maybe, just maybe, a pull-up.
Done, sort of. Angie and Soy and I started the 100 pushups training program, and I was happy as long as I stayed ahead of the husbands. We had a push-up competition on our girls’ weekend (I won). And then I broke my arm. My strength is coming back, but a pull-up is still a long ways off.

I did, however, put a lot of dang miles on Orange, though I didn’t hit my arbitrary and late-established goal of 1,000 miles.

12. More time connecting with the important people in my life.
Done, though this looks dramatically different than it did last year.

Bourbon and Pants

That’s what I’m giving up for Lent: bourbon and pants.

Bourbon should be pretty straight-forward. I like it. I like it a lot. Bourbon and I got back together in 2011 after several years of separation and brutal hangovers. In previous years, the bourbon hangover tended to hit me about 16 hours after the actual consumption of bourbon, and felt a bit like someone is performing trepanation on my head. This past year, however, bourbon has come back into my life, particularly in the form of manhattans, and it has been my welcome companion at many a happy hour or party, particularly in the last few months. When I posted on Facebook that I’d be giving bourbon up for Lent, I was accused of contributing to the mass of lies already on the internet. I was also told that I was SO BRAVE. Regardless of your stance on this matter, I will be deprived of bourbon for 40 long days and nights.*

Prescription Julep
Miss you, Prescription Julep

Pants, on the other hand, might be the tougher challenge. Let me clarify that this means pants in the American sense, not the British sense. My stance on those pants is none of your business. My desire to give up pants is twofold. First, I have an awful lot of vintage dresses and skirts and knee socks and tights that I really should wear even more often. Second, I have a hell of a time buying pants, and the ones I do own no longer fit. I possess a body made for 40s house dresses, not for 21st century pants. I’m tall, which means that most pants are too short. I have runners’ legs, which means I can’t buy skinny jeans. I have a butt and a proportionally small waist, which means that pants that fit the former don’t fit the latter, and pants that would fit the latter won’t pull up over the former. I’ve resorted to adding extra buttons to my jeans, but even then, my pants are all doing this:

Dire pants situation
I’m not pregnant, and I’ll punch anyone who suggests that I might be.

The pants pictured above are freshly washed in hot water and dried, and yet I still have 1-2 inches of space between my waist and the waistband. My jeans are even worse. So to some extent, giving up pants is a no-brainer. They don’t fit. I live in Michigan, though, and walk most places, including the 3/4 mile to work every day. This sacrifice may require some sartorial creativity. If nothing else, it will guarantee that I finish out my time in my current job without ever having worn jeans to work. And that in and of itself is a success.**

So: bourbon and pants. I’ll miss you, but that will just make April all the more sweet.

* I haven’t yet decided if I’ll also be giving up rye, scotch, or other forms of whiskey. It seems like I should.
** Exemptions will be granted to pants necessary for exercise, so yoga pants and running tights are still OK. But, like leggings, they aren’t really pants that should be work in public anyway.

Mo-mo-more?

We’re in Rockford for the holiday, having moved the majority of our material possessions to Chicago three days ago. The last two days have been full of cookies and presents and traditions and relaxed family time. Max has been running around playing with trains and pointing at various delicious things and saying “mo-mo-more”, his voice lilting upward as he points at the object of his desire.

I mention this because as I look forward to 2012, what I want most is mo-mo-more. More time with friends and family. More travel. More flowers, more movies, and more amazing food. More miles. More love, more patience, and more connection in my relationships and with the world. So this post is me reaching my hands in the air and asking the universe for what I want in the next year:

  1. This year was about running further. 2012 will be about running faster in at least two half marathons plus the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.
  2. I want to take better photos of more than just food, though better food photos would also be progress. I want to take a class, read a book, participate in an online workshop – in general learn more about the fancy DSLR we bought almost three years ago. And then apply that knowledge for good, not for evil.
  3. I’m reasonably certain that the only movie I saw in the theater this year was the final Harry Potter installment. With two movie theaters within a mile of our new place, we should have no excuse – other than lousy offerings – to see fewer than 12 movies in the theater.
  4. I want to write more letters – at least one per week. Do you want to be my pen pal?
  5. I need to find a job in Chicago, as it will make many of these mores possible. More time with my family as they’ll be 75 minutes away instead of 5-7 hours. More time with many many Chicago friends (though less time with A2 friends). A new and exciting city life for the two of us. I’ve loved my MPub job, but I need to be in Chicago.
  6. I wanted to bake 24 unique loaves this year. We made significant changes in our diet over the summer, and I haven’t really baked since then. I think, however, that one pie per month is a reasonable goal.
  7. Bourbon and I got back together in 2012, but I need to have more in my cocktail repetoire than the trusty Manhattan. There will be many opportunities to drink fancy cocktails in our new ‘hood, but I want to master at least one new cocktail at home per month.
  8. We took a fun road trip vacation over the summer, and I took solo trips to Philly, DC, and New York for work, races, and fun. I would like more of the same this year, beginning with my birthday weekend in California and possibly including a trip to Europe after the semester wraps up.
  9. More books read: finish the 2/3 challenge, keep up with my book club, and hammer away at the To Read lists while reading at least two books per month.
  10. Step up my game and learn to do alterations so that I can finally finish all of the half projects in my closet.
  11. More feats of strength! More push-ups. More miles on Orange. And maybe, just maybe, a pull-up.
  12. And, most importantly, more time connecting with the important people in my life. I’m not sure how to quantify this other than to say that I want to fight my introvert nature and say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ for lunches with friends, dates with my husband, or visits to my family.

What will you do in the new year?

Madison Eats, part 2

Seriously, Madison has too much good food to limit it to just one post. Which isn’t to say that everything we ate was wonderful – we had some downright lousy coffee, for example, and tried to get drinks at a couple of places that turned out to be too upscale (while also smelling really weird) or too dive-y – but there were plenty of places that were just right.

Breakfast, day 2: Marigold Kitchen

Veggie Scrambler

French Toast

Photos by beautifulcataya

There are two things I would like you to notice in these photos: the breakfast potatoes in the first, and the exceptionally decadent French toast in the second. We ate all of these things. My scramble of the day was kind of wet and disappointing, but the incredibly flavorful breakfast potatoes more than made up for it. I don’t often want potatoes – they can be really hit or miss – but these were worth the risk: crispy and salty, fried up with onions and a lot of rosemary. Amazingly good. Shane had a different French toast than is pictured here, but it was no less wonderful.

Lunch, day 2: Chautara

Chautara - sunny spot on a cold day

Photo by humbletree

Tofu Buff at Chautara restaurant

Photo by John Kannenberg

Max had his first samosa, and I had the ridiculously flavorful seitan buff. I have fond memories of this place, even moreso now that I’ve shared it with Shane, Jenn, Bill, and Max.

Dinner, day 2: Natt Spil

lively up yo'self

Photo by mkebbe

We had planned on having a really nice dinner while in Madison, but neither of us were particularly hungry or decisive when it came to making a plan on our last night in town. While Shane moved the car, I decided on Natt Spil, which was supposed to be sort of dive-y and intimate while also having good food and music. The cuisine is somewhere between Chinese and Italian – really, I’m not sure what you’d call it. Not fusion, as that suggests a melding of the two flavor sets. Really, it’s a place where you can get dim sum and also pizza and also cocktails. I like all of those things. We were a little underwhelmed by the food and definitely by the service, but that didn’t stop us from devouring a small pizza and a plate of shrimp cakes. My cocktail was delicious, though I couldn’t tell you what it was. It seemed like the sort of place we’d definitely go with friends – like the Galaxy Hut, except completely different.

Drinks, day 2: Merchant Madison

Merchant cocktail list

Photo by jumbledpile

I spotted Merchant while we were walking around the first night in Madison. We didn’t love their food menu, but decided to stop in for a cocktail as a majorly scary storm rolled in over the lake. You’ve gotta love a cocktail bar where the menu is reputable enough that you’re happy to go with the “bartender’s choice” option. There were so many good things, but I’d already started down the bourbon road, so it seemed like folly to stray.

I was right. And the drink the bartender made me was even more right but unfortunately I will never know what it was because when I went to order another, he was gone! I know that it had at least five ingredients, one of them bourbon, another absinthe, and that I really shouldn’t have had another after that. I also know that Shane had two delicious cocktails, perhaps made with gin, perhaps citrussy? I don’t know.

What I do know is that we ordered toast with lardo – another good idea – and then I ate all of the toasts. OK, not all the toasts. But most of the toasts. And they were good.

Toast

Photo by jumbledpile

Summertime, kind of?

I haven’t been posting much lately. Frankly, I haven’t been cooking much lately, either. Our weekends have been busy with races and house guests and travel to celebrate family and friends, and the next two weeks promise more of the same.  The weather here also hasn’t felt particularly summery. OK, that’s not true – last week we had a few days in the 90s, but then it dipped back down to the 60s – so spring has come at last to Ann Arbor, albeit in the middle of June.

The net effect of this is that the first wave of summer cooking and garden bliss hasn’t hit yet. No trips to the u-pick for pounds and pounds of strawberries. No ecstatic first harvests or foraged berries. Just rain. And then heat. And then rain.

We made one of our first trips to the market for the season when Tina was here two weeks ago. It was already bustling with people, though most of the wares were plants rather than produce. I picked up wee zucchini for pre-race pasta, salad greens, eggs, and a bunch of rhubarb, intending to make these muffins for our post race brunch. Instead, the rhubarb sat in the fridge for ten days, getting ever so limp, until the other night, when I chopped it up and simmered it with water and sugar to make this intensely pink syrup for cocktails and Italian sodas. The pulpy leftovers will be spread on toast and spooned over yogurt as a rustic jam. Good stuff, and a good reminder that summer really is here. Well, kind of.

Rhubarb Syrup

Recipe:
Rhubarb syrup from The Kitchn

Like Fancy Ladies

Would you look at this fancy lady?

Birthday Sipes!

Jackie’s birthday fell on the first full day of ACRL, so after my early morning presentation and a day of conferencing, we were determined to find some sort of mischief befitting two fancy ladies celebrating a special occasion. That is how we found ourselves at Varga Bar, which not only caters to fancy ladies, but also features pictures of fancy ladies on the walls! Perfect. While the cocktail menu was somewhat uninspiring, we were overwhelmed with delicious choices for dinner, and ended up selecting four things, all of which were excellent.

First: the house pickles: cucumbers, carrots, squash, beets, onions, and artichokes, all lightly pickled and perfectly crunchy. Sorry, Mr. Pickle.

Mr P and Curcubit Cousins

Second: duck confit chicken wings – sweet, spicy, and savory in a pomegranate molasses glaze, and served with a blue cheese dipping sauce that could only spuriously be called a sauce. It would be more accurate to call it a wee cup of blue cheese. I don’t normally like chicken wings, but we ate these right up and asked for more blue cheese, which I shamelessly ate with my fork.

Third: the Varga salad: arugula, fava beans, fresh peas, grilled artichoke, shaved parmesan, and a light lemony vinaigrette – a crisp and fresh counterpoint to the delicious excess of the wings.

And finally: the best damned Brussels sprouts I’ve ever had. Now, I’m a fan of Brussels. You know that. I will eat them in just about any form, with just about anything, and without the slightest bit of provocation. But these sprouts? They were something else. Crispy and light, tossed with olive oil and parmesan, and bearing a more than suspicious resemblance to movie theater popcorn. That’s right: buttery, salty, delicious movie theater popcorn – except Brussels sprouts! I wish we’d ordered more, as they were the best part of the entire meal.

We thought about dessert, but really, who needs dessert when you’ve just had the most perfect Brussels sprouts of your life? Or, for that matter, when you have a librarian dance party to attend?

Mr P Takes the Decks

0930 Burgers and Sauce(d) in Atlanta

I’m in Atlanta for a few days for the LITA National Forum – my first opportunity for professional development since leaving GW more than a year ago.  It’s also my first time in Atlanta, so I’m hoping to see as much as I can during/around the conference sessions.

That said, I arrived with no actual plan, half a day to kill, and no lunch.  Fortunately Dawn, my Airbnb hostess, was similarly hungry, so after dropping my stuff and getting a tour, we grabbed a quick lunch at Grindhouse Killer Burgers, located in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Dawn’s vegetarian, so I was surprised that she recommended a burger joint, but I shouldn’t have been, given how damned good it was. It’s the rare burger place that does veggie options as well as they do the meat, but Grindhouse is apparently one of them. I had a turkey burger with mushrooms and Swiss and crinkle fries and both were so good – which was good, as I needed some quality fuel for the afternoon ahead of me.

Dawn sketched out a walking tour – 2-3 hours of wandering around the parts of the city where people actually live – including recommendations for places to stop for snacks or drinks as I needed refreshments.  2-3 hours turned into 5,punctuated by frozen yogurt, a knitting store, Little Five Points, and a camel-like stop at a drinking fountain on Freedom Parkway.  I walked up Peachtree and down 10th, stopping to chill out in Piedmont Park and to watch a marching band practice.  I hung a right on Highland and checked out a few cute boutiques, passed the King of Pops, and kept walking to Little 5.  And then, growing increasingly tired and famished, I wandered down Euclid, miraculously finding my way back to Dawn’s street with no map or internet-enabled phone to guide me.

My situation was getting desperate.  I passed up the bars and restaurants of Little 5, expecting to find something to eat closer to Dawn’s – and not realizing that a solidly residential area lay between the two.  I was delighted, then, to find myself at the doorstep of Sauced, a relatively new restaurant and cocktail spot on the edge of the Inman Park neighborhood.

Despite my pathetic bachelor eating when Shane’s away, I do genuinely enjoy going out to eat by myself.  I like people-watching or getting wrapped up in my book while eating at my own pace.  I like being in my own little bubble – solo, but not alone.  Tonight, though, I found myself making conversation at the bar – ranging from Italo Calvino to Chicago settlement houses – over a gin lime rickey and a plate of skewers and sauce.  I wish I could tell you about the sauces of the day, but I was too hungry to really take notes.  I know that one was a truffled mayo-aioli-type thing, and another was a peachy chili sauce, and I know that I sopped the sauces up with grilled veggies, sauteed asparagus, and tofu.  I know that the bartender toyed with majoring in the classics, and that my fellow bar diner was reading Ovid because of Calvino.  And I know that after a small but delicious dinner, I climbed the stairs to Dawn’s place and almost immediately passed out.

Miles walked: 8.75


If you go:

Grindhouse Killer Burgers
209 Edgewood Ave in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 522-3444

Sauced
753 Edgewood Ave
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 688-6554

The Haight, Sandwiches, and Farmer Brown

I’ll admit it: I was a wanna-be hippie in high school and college. I wore tie-dye and had Jim Morrison posters on my walls. I even have photos to prove it:

My First Dorm Room

Like every kid of my ilk, I had fantasies of packing it in and moving to the Haight, of bathing in patchouli and growing my hair long, of breezy sundresses and good vegetarian cooking. I’ve long since grown out of those dreams, discarded along with the ill fitting tie-dyed t-shirts, the books of Morrison’s poetry, and the nag champa incense (though I did buy A Whiter Shade of Pale on vinyl over the winter), so I’m not sure what I expected when we caught the bus from the Sutro Baths in the direction of the Haight. Lunch, I guess, and to see the sites that I’d imagined had held sway over me at 17.

These days the Haight is kind of like Disneyland for hippies: washed up, sold out, and packed with tourists. The streets are full of shops – ranging from cute boutiques selling lingerie and retro fashions to hip menswear stores to the obligatory headshops – and shoppers, all of whom moved at a glacial pace. We hit Amoeba Music, an epically huge record store near Golden Gate Park, and Shane had a tough time not buying records to bring home. I’m only being minorly hyperbolic when I say that they might have every album released ever. It was intense.

Equally intense the was the bar at The Alembic, our lunch destination, whose awesomeness was matched only by our hunger after a morning of hiking around.

The Alembic

Now THAT is a bar. I ordered a Corpse Reviver #2, partially because it sounded refreshing and partially because it’s what Foursquare told me to do. It did not steer me wrong. Shane ordered a beer which wasn’t memorable enough for me to remember it at the moment, but he enjoyed it. And then lunch: another epic sandwich and two kinds of tasty chips:

Mushroom Bánh mì

Mushroom bánh mì – spicy, nutty, complex flavors tucked in a perfectly crispy baguette – served with cassava chips, also subtly spicy. We neglected to notice that we’d be getting chips with our sandwich, and so shared sumac dusted potato chips with a zesty yogurt dip. San Francisco has seriously spoiled sandwiches for us. There’s not a chance we can go back to the occasional Five Dollar Footlong after this. Not a chance.

After a thoroughly satisfying lunch, we wandered around the Haight for a few hours, picking up a few gifts for ourselves and others, then continued in the direction of Toronado, in the Lower Haight. Shane had committed to at least two trips to Toronado, so this fulfilled the quota. Unfortunately this time it smelled terrible, and I was getting tired and cranky and definitely didn’t want beer – so while Shane got his beer and picked up a fantastic grilled sausage from Rosamunde Sausage Grill next door, I walked down the street for more lemon cookie ice cream from Three Twins.

By the time we finished our snacks, we were both wiped and not feeling motivated to find anything else to do, so we headed back to the hotel and the confines of our very comfortable bed. Shane perused the TV listings, all of which contained curiously concise and helpful descriptions (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “Boy wins tour”) for a while I napped a bit, waking up hungry at 8pm.

Our late dinner options were limited by the hour and the fact that it was a Sunday night before a Monday holiday, but fortunately Farmer Brown – recommended by Heather – was open and serving up pretty fantastic soul food just a few blocks from our hotel. After a day of walking and talking and shopping and snacking, it was nice to just take a corner table, share a thyme-infused lemon cocktail, and be quiet together. I was craving vegetables – sunny, light, delicious veg – and found them in the form of a summer vegetable succotash served over creamy polenta. Shane had some equally delicious pulled pork sliders on the house made biscuits. I hear their brunch is amazing, and I’d believe it based on the wonderful late night meal that we shared. Definitely one to check out next time we’re in town.


If you go:
The Alembic
1725 Haight St (between Cole & Shrader)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 666-0822

Do yourself a favor and get a cocktail. We split a sandwich, so I can’t vouch for the rest of the menu, but everything we had was delicious.

Amoeba Music
1855 Haight St (between Shrader & Stanyan)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 831-1200

All the records in the history of records. There’s another location in Oakland, I think.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill
545 Haight St (between Fillmore & Steiner)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 437-6851

Limited menu – sausages – but everything smelled amazing, and Shane’s weisswurst was outstanding. Buy a sausage here and take it to Toronado next door. You’ll thank me as long as you aren’t sitting somewhere stinky.

Farmer Brown
25 Mason St (at Market)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 409-3276

Seriously good soul food sandwiched between the Tenderloin and the Financial District. Don’t be skeeved out by the location at night. It was surprisingly delicious.

0818 Tom Collins: Official Drink of Knights of the West Side

Tom Collins
Photo by bichromephoto

I’ll be honest – I spent most of today looking forward to cocktails at the second meeting of the Knights of the West Side. I even did a little research as to what constitutes a classic cocktail, mostly to determine whether or not I should be able to order a Vesper martini. By the time we we got to Knight’s, though, I chickened out. I guess I didn’t want to have to explain a drink that I’d never had before? Either way, I had a dirty martini, while Shane and Matt had Tom Collinses (Toms Collins?), which I think is now the Official Drink of Knights of the West Side.

Side note: I’m still a little fuzzy on the punctuation of Knights of the West Side. Is it Knights, plural, because there’s more than one person going to Knight’s? Or is it Knight’s, with the same punctuation as the restaurant, which is named after the owner?  Regardless, we enjoyed our drinks and a quality old-timey steakhouse meal: pot roast, new potatoes and carrots, a salad, and gorgeous golden dinner rolls, so hot out of the warmer that we could barely tear them open.  We left full and happy – good food, and good friends.