Monday, August 22, 2005

Catching Up: Summer Books & Stuff

Of course, even though I've been on vacation, I've had my nose stuck in a book for a good part of it. Here's what I've found:
Mirror Mirror, by Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked. I enjoyed this very very much (last summer I enjoyed Wicked very very much--I think I wouldn't mind seeing the musical). At any rate, Mirror Mirror is absolutely fantastic because we meet a somewhat fictionalized Lucrezia Borgia, and because Italian Borgia politics are mixed in throughout. Also because Maguire is on top of his game creating a fantastic origin for the dwarves (all 8 of them). A fun, light read.
The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. Once again, Renaissance Italy comes into play--this time as an object of study. The book is a tight little mystery, almost suspenseful, with some good plot twists. Once again, a fun, light read--one that really left me wanting to go to Italy.
Nine Horses and Sailing Alone Around the Room, poetry by Billy Collins. I don't know that there is another poet like Billy Collins. He makes my soul fly and crash land in the same line. I smile and laugh and gasp, and my eyes grow big as saucers, and I read a poem over again (and even again) before moving on to the next one. I want to shout his poetry from the tops of mountains. Wow wow wow wow wow.
Dreams of My Russian Summers, by Andrei Makine, translated by Geoffrey Strachan. This book, set mostly in the Soviet Union, contains an intriguing look at the power of language and the effects of multilingualism. The protagonist's summers spent with his French grandmother on the Siberian tundra contrast starkly with his school years in a Russian city. It's a coming-of-age tale (and I admit to loving those), pitting realism and idealism against each other (of course)--I won't say outright which -ism wins, (but it is a Russian author writing a French novel).
Speaking of Russian writers, I admit I've been trying to get through Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov since spring. What a foul book. He should have just called it Perverted Pedophile and left it at that. Amilynne says I must read it before reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, but yuck! I don't know why they would want to read that book anywhere, much less in Tehran.
I must also comment on one disc: Absolution by Muse. Let me just say that if High Mass and Rock were wed, it would be this album. Fantastic.

Friday, August 19, 2005

100 Best Foods

While in Texas, my friends and I came up with a list of the 100 best foods, plus overflow. Since then, I have edited the list in order to bring to you the top 100. My apologies to any friend whose favorite food I have stricken from the list--please feel free to comment and put it back.

The foods are listed in no particular order.

homemade ravioli (spinach/pork/ricotta or pumpkin), fresh fresh fresh juicy small fruits (berries, cherries, plums, mandarin oranges) (especially the first strawberry of spring with cream), finest darkest chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, Don Pablo's chocolate volcano cake, big fat bacon cheeseburgers, saag paneer, pad thai, the basil noodle dish at Bangkok City, medium rare steak, garlic mashed potatoes, grilled pork chops, grilled corn on the cob, corn from the cornman in Oak Cliff, spinach, 4-cheese risotto, polenta with cinghiale (wild boar) sauce, meatloaf sandwiches, hot dogs at the ballpark, hot fudge sundaes, pesto on fresh noodles, butterkase cheese, parmigiano reggiano, vento d'estate cheese, shrimp scampi, crab legs w/drawn butter, hot fresh crusty bread, steamed broccoli, siopao filled with bbq pork, baklava, Alabama sausage, gelato (lemon and yogurt or chocolate/hazlenut), nutella, gooey brownies, Blue Bell homemade vanilla bean ice cream, rainbow sherbet, big honkin' humungous black olives, funnel cake, popcorn at the movies with extra butter, homemade grape or strawberry jam, tuna/tomato/fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil, chicken or lamb cooked with fresh rosemary, nachos, chopped brisket or pulled pork BBQ, homemade carmels, lemon truffles, lasagna, orange chicken, brown stew, dreamsicles/fudgesicles, grilled asparagus, gnocchi with red pepper sauce, grits/cream of wheat/germade, tortillas at Tia's Tex Mex w/butter or queso, chocolate cake at Macaroni Grill, sushi, Junior Mint cheesecake, chili relleno, homemade tamales, eggplant, pfo, homemade macaroni & cheese, beignets (especially at Cafe du Monde), Navajo tacos, glogg (the "o" should have a slash through it, but I couldn't find the code to make it), Norwegian waffles with jam and gjetost cheese, jarlsberg cheese, limonata, fajitas, focaccia di Recco, homemade chili, homemade clam chowder, homemade fudge, Indian curry, dutch oven potatoes, BLT, horchata, churrascaria, tom gai, buffalo wings, hot chocolate, cornbread, reuben sandwich, swiss cheese, pizza, crawfish, dirty rice, Philly cheesesteak, havarti with dill, gourmandise with walnut paste, grand bull sandwich, carne asada, waffles that Dad makes when I come home, shrimp po' boy sandwiches, banana splits, hummus and pita, flan, homemade lemon merengue pie that has been sitting in the fridge for a day or so until the lemon juice seeps out of the pudding and into the crust, mango sticky rice, white or yellow cake with icing, apples in caramel, and Italian sodas.
Eat your heart out.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

All in One Day

Things you get to read about in this posting:
Waking Up in the Mountains
Coming Home to Amilynne
Peterson Johnson, Silversmith Extraordinaire
Doober the Dirtbike Architect
Part I: Waking Up in the Mountains
Today I woke up and walked out on the most wonderful view: Mount Moran in the Teton Range. Wow. We camped there for four days and we really could have stayed twice that long before even wishing the tiniest bit to come home. I'm becoming Dad: more pictures of the Tetons in my photo album than I have of family and friends. They are just so beautiful, the way they change in every light and from every point of view. Grand Teton National Park is really my favorite place on Earth.
I must add quickly that Dad almost got into big trouble yesterday. We took the boat across Jenny Lake and I hiked up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, but before I left, Dad said "Be careful. There is one place where you will think you have arrived at Inspiration Point, but it's fake. You have to keep going until you see that the trail turns into Cascade Canyon." So up I hiked, and it was all pretty and everything, and I got to the place where I was sure that it was Inspiration Point, but I was curious about the canyon so I decided to hike in just a little. WOW. Cascade Canyon is so lush and wonderful, just a high mountain paradise. I went for a while, but knowing that Dad was waiting for me below, I reluctantly turned around. When I got back down to Dad, I told him that he was in trouble, because he hiked up there with the Kiddo and not with me. How could he take anyone but me up there? I'm the one who should see it! At any rate, I know where I am headed next summer. Let me also say that I would really love to take a glacier-fed lake home with me. After a long day on my feet teaching, I figure that wading in a glacier-fed lake would feel just as nice as it did after my walk up the canyon. I wonder how much it would take to ship that across the country.
Also, quickly I must add that the other night, Dad and I went to Bar J for dinner. It's a rollicking good time with great steaks and cowboy singing. We didn't get back to the campsite until after midnight. and what did we find at the campsite when we returned? Another car in our parking space. Squatters. We quickly found a flashlight, then Dad went down to the campsite, but saw no sign that they were there, so he came back up to the parking, and there were people asleep in the car. He knocked on the window with the flashlight, policeman style. "What are you doing in our campsite?" "This is your campsite?" "Yes. Get out of here now." My dad is so cool. Anyway, the guy finds his way back into the driver's seat and they went away. Too bad it was a rental car (Enterprise sticker on the back) but if I'll tell you my eyes were peeled for a blue minivan with Colorado plates for the rest of the trip. But I digress.
Part II: Coming Home to Amilynne
The reason leaving the Tetons was all right: Amilynne was waiting back at home. Hooray! The best weeks of the year are the ones spent with Amilynne and Dad. Dad called ahead and told her (jokingly) to make lunch, so she greeted us at the door with an assortment of sandwiches: ham, turkey, and PB&J--with strawberries. Amilynne has been busily cleaning out the parts of the house where we have tended to leave things behind in "storage," and she found what had to have been the very best toy ever. For just a couple of years, Fisher Price made the Woodsies, a family of little squirrels (which we now just call "woodsies") that squeak. The company's stupidest move was discontinuing them. Anyway, not knowing that Amilynne had been so busy excavating the basement, I picked up a squeaking squirrel for her in the Tetons. It is Godzilla-sized compared to the classic Woodsies, but they're all so cute together anyway.
Part III: Peterson Johnson, Silversmith Extraordinaire
After cleaning up from camping, Dad, Amilynne, and I took off for the Sho-Ban festival. Amilynne and I took money for jewelrey. Dad took money to feed us Indian tacos after we spent all of our money. So much jewelrey, and so pretty, but we were really looking for something that just stands out and there was a silversmith there who came to this festival for the first time this year. His name is Peterson Johnson, and his work, though still traditional, has a lightness to it that so many others just don't have. His signature style is flowers and leaves, and Amilynne and I just died. Completely. There was no way to choose what to get because it was all so beautiful across the board. There was not any "well, I like these things but those things aren't done well." No. All of it blew us away. We applauded Mr. Johnson and gushed over the pieces in an embarrassing manner. Amilynne chose a ring with an amber stone, and I got a pendant with turquoise. We floated away. The most incredible piece, really, but so far out of our league, was a squash blossom necklace. Amilynne and I have both always said that we would someday like to get squash blossom necklaces, but Mr. Johnson's squash blossom necklaces are so much more beautiful than any others we have seen. Simply breathtaking. Words cannot describe. Please see a sample of his work here.
Part IV: Doober the Dirtbike Architect
We got back in town after dark. Driving along downtown, we came to a right-hand turn, and on the corner was this guy sitting on a bike. I waited for him to see if he was going to cross the street, but he gave no indication of desiring to do so until I started forward. Then he lurched into the street. "What a Doober!" exclaimed Amilynne, and Doober he was. He had several tubes of something in his arms, and the bike he was riding would have fit a 10-year old kid. So rather than pedal, he tottered to and fro pushing himself along with his feet, weaving back and forth in what seemed a drunken reel. Doober finally got out of my lane (and into oncoming traffic), and as we drove away, Amilynne and I began to wonder aloud what he had been doing with all those tubes. "It was like blueprints!" - "Doober the Architect!" - "Doober the Dirtbike Architect!!!" - and by the next light we were laughing so hard that it's a good thing the light was red so I could re-compose myself for driving. So rediculous. Amilynne has graciously drawn a picture that I will scan and add when my vacation is over. It's actually an extremely accurate depiction.
So that's life as it stands at the moment. What a big, wonderful day. I wonder if I wouldn't just die of wonder if every day were like this one. But that's enough posting for now, because Amilynne and I have mischief to make. Or something. Have we outgrown mischief? I hope not. Although Amilynne's suggestion of TPing the neighbor's house just doesn't seem like the right kind of trouble to make...

As promised, Amilynne's illustration. (posted Aug 28) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


So many things to write about:
The Breeze
I am sitting next to an open window, and the most wonderful breeze is coming in to make things cool. No humidity, no heat, just a wonderful, cool breeze coming in through the window. This is heaven.
Must Hate Must Love Dogs
Of course since I am home and there is a film with the word dog in the title, off we went to see it. What an inane, cliche-driven, poorly written, mind-numbing, had-to-get-up-in-the-middle-to-re-butter-the-popcorn movie. With a cheesy horrid soundtrack. After the Kiddo leaned over to gesture to me that maybe going out for a smoke would be a good idea, I leaned back and promised him the soundtrack for Christmas. Thank heavens for Diet Coke and 3 Musketeers so my mind could be removed from the screen for brief moments. I give that film zero stars. Of all the films I haven't seen, that was not the one to watch.
We are leaving in about 6 hours to go camping! What a nice time I plan to have, in a wonderful piney forest in my mountains. Don't make me ever leave, please.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Fantastic Things to Love About Texas

Since the time has come to leave Texas again, I thought I would pinpoint some of the things that keep me coming back:
  • Most importantly, of course, my FANTASTIC, FABULOUS friends. No one could be blessed to know better people.
  • Chopped brisket BBQ.
  • The beauty of Texas hill country.
  • Watching King of the Hill and knowing you're here in the thick of it.
  • Restaraunts, restaraunts, restaraunts.
  • Bangkok City.
  • TexMex.
  • Grocery stores with fun imported cheeses.
  • Humidity low enough that you can take a walk outside even when the temperature is above 90.
  • My good friends.
  • The store in the Valley View Mall where I buy cheap little white gold earrings, and where they always act like they are giving you a great deal even though you know you're probably getting their actual regular price.
  • U-turns under the freeways for turning yourself around on the access roads. Brilliant.
  • Lots of movie theaters with stadium seating.
  • Six Flags over Texas.
  • The mix of cultures you meet as you move through town.
  • Gelato.
  • Still being able to give fairly reliable directions, even though I haven't lived here for a while.
  • My friends. 'Nuff said.