Hold Please

For the past two and a half years, I’ve been writing here at least three times a week about my life. And I’ve loved it, I really have, it’s been an important outlet for me. But the reality is that for the past couple months, it’s felt like a chore. Instead of being excited when I sit down to write here, I find myself mentally saying “ugh”. I don’t want to write in an “ugh” way. I was going to try dropping my posting frequency down over the next few months, but I find myself not wanting to write anything at all. So here’s the deal: this space is on hold indefinitely. If I want to write about something, I’ll drop in and write, and I hope that without the self-induced pressure of getting posts up, I’ll feel more inspired. But for now, I’ll be doing my writing at my book blog. Everything will remain up, and hopefully I’ll be back soon.

I Cooked: Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine

I’d actually had another recipe for the same thing pinned on Pinterest for a while…but then I started looking at the ingredient list and there was a LOT. More than I had interest in procuring. But I was definitely wanting to make it, so I started sniffing around for something a little simpler. And I found this recipe, and I was in business!

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2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch sea salt
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cups vegetable broth
7 oz butternut squash
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small yellow bell pepper, chopped
15 oz can chickpeas, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt

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Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion and garlic over a medium heat until the onions have started to soften. Add a pinch of salt and continue to cook on low heat until the onions have started to caramelize. This should take 8-10 minutes.

Now add the tomato and spices and continue to cook on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Next add the stock, squash, carrot, red and yellow peppers and the chickpeas. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lid and simmer for another 5-6 minutes until thickened.

Serve and enjoy!

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I served this over a bed of quinoa, and not only was it delicious when I made it, it refrigerated and reheated really well! It’s warm and tasty and that spice combo is super great. It’s a little heavier on prep than I usually like (slicing butternut squash makes me want to die a little), but pretty quick and easy once you get going!

I Ate: Blank Slate Creamery

After I got back downstate from the Upper Peninsula last year, I had one more day in Ann Arbor before I had to head back to Reno. I spent most of that day doing work in my dad’s basement, where nearly everything I owned when I first moved in Reno in July 2012 had gotten shoved for what was supposed to be a 4 month timespan. After those months became two years, my dad was rightfully pretty over having all my crap in his basement. So I combed through a lot of it, figured out what I didn’t really need anymore, and took BOXES UPON BOXES to the Salvation Army. After a long day’s work lugging that stuff up and down the stairs, I was ready to meet my sister to treat myself to a delicious ice cream. She suggested Blank Slate Creamery, which I’d never been to because it arrived after I left Ann Arbor. Obviously, I’m always into new ice cream, so off we went!

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It was a warm, lovely evening in July, so it was pretty busy in there. In order to keep the line moving, I didn’t necessarily feel like I got maybe as much time to study the menu as I might have otherwise wanted. That said, my salted caramel ice cream was good, but not as good as the salted caramel gelato from Coffeebar down the road here in Reno. Also, the line inside Blank Slate was confusing: you more or less tried to make eye contact with one of the employees, gave them your order, and then paid, waiting for your ice cream to appear. It moved smoothly enough, but didn’t feel organized to me. Also, the seating situation was not optimal…the indoor seating is very small and the outdoor doesn’t have enough space to accommodate everyone on a busy evening. While obviously not everyone lingers, that kind of bugged me. If I’m being completely honest, based on this experience, this is my least-preferred ice cream experience in Ann Arbor. Washtenaw Dairy and Stucchi’s are better for me.

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Blank Slate Creamery is located at 300 W. Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, MI. This is downtown Ann Arbor, just a few blocks away from my old apartment! I parked close to my old apartment, because the parking lot at Blank Slate is super small (fits maybe 6-8 cars) and I didn’t want to deal with it. Parking is always an issue in this part of Ann Arbor, though. They do close seasonally for the winter, so check their website before you go if you head over! Prices are a little high, but portions are very generous (I couldn’t finish my small, pictured above).

In Defense Of Finishing Books

I’m going to be upfront: this is straight-up an attempt to drive readership towards my book blog. Not as in a replacement, this space isn’t going anywhere (I am considering some changes, but I’m not sure yet), but if you like me writing about things here, you might also enjoy me writing about things there. It is a book blog, so it’s obviously mostly about books, but I structure my writing as a hybrid personal essay/book review, so it’s not like there’s nothing to get out of it if you haven’t read the books I write about. Anyways, as someone who reads an average of 50 books per year, I feel like I can safely call myself a dedicated reader. I feel like I’ve read a lot of pieces in the book blogosphere lately extolling the virtue of a DNF: Did Not Finish. And while we all have our own reading philosophies, I’m going to stake out some unpopular territory: in defense of finishing your books.

There are plenty of books that are hard to read: Russian literature springs immediately to mind. Books about slavery, about the Holocaust, about terrible things happening to children or animals. Books set in a time and place for which you don’t have the references to understand without having to look some stuff up. Books that touch on areas that have a personal meaning to you. It’s easy to put a book down and say “nope”! It starts to slow, it hurts too much, it’s too hard. Goodness knows I’ve felt that way myself, and if I’m being completely honest, there are some books that maybe it would have been better for me to not finish because I hated so much: Crime and Punishment and Don Quixote come immediately to mind. I did not remotely enjoy reading them and they were wastes of my time.

I get where the pro-DNF people are coming from, I do! I can’t tell you how tempted I was to just delete Don Quixote from my Kindle and never think about it again. Why waste finite, valuable reading time on something that doesn’t speak to you? Well, because sometimes things start slow or weird. If I’d deleted Moby-Dick at the beginning I’d have never read a justifiable classic. If I’d let myself get bogged down by the confusing names and circumstances that make up the beginning of Anna Karenina, I’d have never read what became one of my favorite novels. Just because something makes us bored or uncomfortable means that we have to work harder at it, but necessarily not that we should give up on it entirely. Reading Don Quixote helps you see chivalric romance for what it really is, and came in handy when reading deconstructions of Arthurian legend in Joseph Campbell’s Creative Mythology. Reading Crime and Punishment encouraged me to think about the nature of guilt and how it can be expurgated. Would I ever read either of those books again? Nope. Do I think it’s valuable to my continued intellectual development to read them at all? Yep! Thinking about why I didn’t connect to a particular story and what that means about me as a reader is always a good exercise, if there’s nothing else I gain from reading a book I didn’t care for. And that, along with my deep and real stubbornness, is why I will always finish what I started and actually entirely read my books.

Five For Friday: Beyonce Songs

I can still sing the super fast parts of “Say My Name”. And the regular speed parts, of course. But Beyonce has been a part of the pop culture landscape for as long as I can remember. I have actually not always been a sugar huge fan, but it’s the first entry in the list that converted me.

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  1. “7/11”: Before this song, I appreciated Beyonce, but I wasn’t like a FAN. But the video for this song made me look at her as someone with a sense of humor for the first time ever. Which actually changed my perspective on her. She seemed like someone who was having fun!
  2. “Formation”: MY JAM. I live for this song right now. It’s a woman at the top of her professional and personal game, using her incredible platform to speak to issues of racial inequality.
  3. “Crazy In Love”: That horn intro is just as anthemic as it was when this first came out more than a decade ago.
  4. “Irreplaceable”: To the left/To the left…and now this song is stuck in my head and probably yours. So catchy, such an awesome breakup anthem.
  5. “Love On Top (DJ Escape and Tony Coluccio Remix)”: The original is…fine. Whatever. I don’t hate it, But this remix turns it into the glittering, relentless disco anthem it was MEANT to be.

I Stayed: Brentwood Motor Inn

Drew was originally supposed to come on my trip to the Upper Peninsula with my dad last year, so when we planned it out, we figured on a stopover in Marquette. The reason was that Drew, who had never seen the UP, could see a bigger city. But I’d never seen Marquette either, and it’s where my dad was born and spent a few years in college before he transferred downstate, so we decided to keep the plans even after Drew wasn’t able to make it. My dad is a budget-conscious traveler, so he booked us rooms at the Brentwood Motor Inn at  for our short stay.

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And you know what? I like to give my dad a hard time about being cheap sometimes, but I was 100% down with the Brentwood. It’s clean, well-located, and when what you’re looking for is a place to drop your bags so you can explore the city for the rest of the day and only come back to sleep at night, it fits the bill perfectly. It’s very low-frills: a bed, a nook with chair and table, a desk, a mini-fridge, and a bathroom. But for a place where all I was doing was crawling into bed, watching a movie, and leaving the next morning, the decor being a little “mid-90s budget hotel” was just fine by me. Front desk staff was helpful and very friendly at check-in and check-out, which is the only time we needed them for anything. Oh, and the wireless is free and decent.

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The Brentwood Motor Inn is located at 2603 US Hwy 41 W, in Marquette, MI. It’s a clean, bedbug-free, basic budget hotel. So if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be happy here. If the word “luxe” appears anywhere in your description of desired accommodation, you’ll probably be happier elsewhere. Parking lot is smallish, but reasonable. We enjoyed our stay!

Right Now (The Third)

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Spring has sprung, y’all. We had some brisk weather again a few weeks ago and the mountains saw some major snow, but down here in the valley (still at over 4000 feet above sea level, so “down” is relative) we haven’t seen much moisture in a while. And it’s been in the upper 60s/lower 70s the past week…I’ve been walking Lord Stanley in a t-shirt after work!

  1. Reading: This expose came out recently, about a company running community living homes for the mentally ill and how not well that’s been working. What to do with people who suffer from mental illness to the point that they cannot live on their own consistently is a huge problem. My mother, who is a pharmacist, spent many years working in psych hospitals for the State of Michigan (as a single mother, she needed a 9-5 M-F job, which is essentially impossible to get in her field unless you work for the State), so the issues are familiar to me. I think that de-institutionalization was the right move, because I don’t think people should be locked up for life in all but the most serious cases, but I don’t know that anyone really thought it all the way through before instituting that approach. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that there must be a better one than we seem to currently have.
  2. Listening To: I actually intended this item, originally, to be for sharing new music that I love. There just hasn’t been anything that’s especially lit my world on fire lately. So another podcast it is! This time, Switched On Pop. As a person who is both nerdy and into music, this podcast, which breaks down popular music, is always a delight.
  3. Watching: We’re still devoted to The People v OJ Simpson. If Sarah Paulson doesn’t win an Emmy (and/or Golden Globe) for her incredible performance as Marcia Clark, it would be a travesty because she’s amazing. Haven’t started season 4 of The Wire yet, but hopefully soon.
  4. Looking Forward To: The end of March Madness. I don’t really care for basketball and I have been watching A LOT of it lately. I didn’t fill out a bracket this year, which is the only reason I usually care at all.
  5. Thinking About: How much I want to get into extended butterfly
  6. Coveting: This awesome shirt from one of my favorite stores in Ann Arbor! Two of my favorite things: Michigan and beer!
  7. Reminiscing About: Drew went out of town a few days last week for work, and is gone today through Thursday, so as I’ve been spending more time on my own I’m fondly remembering my single time in Ann Arbor. Not the being-a-lawyer part, which definitely sucked, but living by myself and how nice it can be to be in complete control of my environment for a little while. Listen to and watch what I want, when I want, without having to work around what someone else wants to hear/see? Not too bad.

I Cooked: Quinoa With Roasted Red Pepper Chili

I’ve never considered myself an especially big chili fan, but for some reason I’ve ended up making a few different ones this winter. And looking around, I find myself wondering if this recipe might have been my last winter chili…not just because I’ve had just about enough chili for one season, but because winter is seemingly coming to an end. It’s going to be in the upper 60s and lower 70s this weekend! Not exactly chili weather.

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1/2 jar roasted bell peppers
1 can green chilies
1 large white onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted if available)
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water

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In a large pot over medium heat, place the olive oil, onions, jalapeno and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes then add the cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Next add the roasted peppers, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, quinoa, water, and beans. Bring to a bowl, then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes until the quinoa is fully cooked.

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How did this turn out? If I’m being honest (and I try to be), it wasn’t the best chili I’ve made this winter. I think I’ve finally managed to learn my lesson about quinoa that “cooks in with the recipe”…no, it doesn’t. The quinoa never really cooked through, which gave this a crunchier quality than it was meant to have. Cook your quinoa separately. Other than that, though, this was pretty tasty…I ate the leftovers three days after I made it. It’s a good basic level recipe, but given that I’ve made better this winter, it won’t likely be my standby.

I Ate: Konteka

I made my first trip to the Upper Peninsula when I was a kid, probably about 9 or 10. I don’t remember much about that trip, honestly, just a two things that made a big impression on me: shooting rifles out at Grandpa’s deer camp, and the restaurant with the bears. Grandpa’s deer camp is still a thing even if taking the whole crew out there to shoot off guns really isn’t anymore, but more importantly, the Konteka is too! Konteka, as I’m sure you’ve been able to surmise, is the restaurant with the bears.

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We’re a large family, so we requested their private room, which managed to accommodate our whole giant crew. They helpfully had a fan on in there, which made sure that it didn’t get too sweltering with a bunch of people crammed into a confined space during a hot and humid summer day. Service was great, we had a big and noisy group and every got their food timely and correctly. I had the Vegetarian Pasta Bowl, which was pretty much my only option (it’s a small town in the Upper Peninsula, I’m not surprised or complaining about that) and was very decent, to boot. Everyone else enjoyed their food as well…we wouldn’t keep going back year after year if we didn’t enjoy ourselves!

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The Konteka is located at 400 Main Street, Mineral Circle Plaza, in White Pine, MI (about 20 minutes away from Ontonagon). They actually have a whole bunch of stuff besides just the restaurant (motel, convenience store, gas station, etc), so if you’re in the far Western UP, it’s a great one-stop shop. Lots of parking, friendly service, and bears!

D+G: 3 Months To Go

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With the venue situation having just gotten sorted out, I’m finding myself with all these other details to finally get to! And how are there only three months left? It feels like the time is passing in the blink of an eye.

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Alterations: My dress thankfully only needed to be shortened, and I used Mia’s Professional Cleaners to do the work. Mia is wonderful (I take my usual dry cleaning to her) and I highly recommend her.

Invites ordered: Like my other stationery, I used Wedding Paper Divas, and I love the invites we (read: I) picked out! They’re letterpress, and I’m a stationery nerd, so that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Plus, we ordered during the 30% off anniversary sale, so we got them for a pretty reasonable price. They should be here in a few weeks, and then it’s time to get them stuffed and addressed and off into the world!

TO DO

Room block: We need to follow up with the El Dorado to get this set up. The rooms will actually be at the Silver Legacy, but the two casinos are owned by the same people and connected, so that’ll be fine.

Cake tasting: This I am really looking forward to. CAKE! We’ll be using the in-house bakery at the El Dorado, which is reputed to be one of the best bakeries in town for this kind of thing.