Friday, December 31, 2021

Highlights of the Year

Happy New Year 2022 to all my blog friends!

2021: The year of Brood X Seventeen-year Cicadas! Here: cicadas on a kitchen towel.

Also this year: more vegan and vegetarian cooking.
Here: potatoes, cauliflower, and peas in vendaloo sauce.

I hope your year in 2022 will be better than the end of 2021. If you celebrate New Year's Eve, I hope you have some lucky foods like Hoppin John (lucky in the South) and herring (lucky in Norther Europe, which is what we had a year ago). For more info on this, see my post from last year: "What to Eat for New Year's Good Luck."

The year 2021 was much more varied than our locked-down 2020. We started going places as soon as we were double-vaccinated in March. Here are some highlights of year, with the emphasis on our travels and our favorite food experiences.

January, 2021: Michigan

Curbside pickup from the great store By the Pound -- how we lived during the long Covid lockdown.
We hope things don't get that bad again, but who knows?

February, 2021: Michigan

In February, I researched "The English Breakfast" for an article that
was published this fall. Here are Sherlock Holmes, Watson, and a client
about to eat a breakfast of curried chicken and ham and eggs.
Illustration by Sidney Paget (1860-1908).

March, 2021: Fairfax, Virginia.

Finally: we left Michigan! In Fairfax, Alice and Evelyn made TikTok pasta: Feta cheese and
cherry tomatoes to celebrate our first trip after receiving our second Covid vaccine.
The dish was very famous for just over 15 minutes!

April, 2021: West Lafayette, Indiana

We finally got to see Elaine and Larry. She made one of her divine apple pies for us.

May, 2021: Birding in Southern Arizona

We loved the Mexican food, as well as the birds, during our birding trip in southern Arizona.

June, 2021: Fairfax, Virginia

Back in Fairfax for Alice's high-school graduation. We celebrated with a barbecue.

July, 2021: Iceland

After a long, cold ride in a Zodiac boat, we were served hot chocolate by some "Vikings."
One of many food highlights on our circumnavigation on the National Geographic Explorer.

August, 2021: Bar Harbor, Maine

Which Maine specialty is more photogenic -- blueberries or lobster?
We ate lots of both on our 10 days in Bar Harbor.

September, 2021: Michigan

We didn't go far in September, but Elaine and Larry came to visit us, and she brought the ingredients for
another fabulous apple pie.

October, 2021: Oregon, Washington, Idaho

Traveling on the National Geographic Quest, we saw the beautiful Columbia and Snake Rivers
of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. On our last full day we visited some Idaho wineries.

November, 2021: Thanksgiving in Fairfax

Duck, dressing, gravy, squash bread, cranberries, vegetables, red wine!

It’s been a year with some great apple pies!
Thanksgiving dessert was Alsatian Apple Tart.

December, 2021: a month at home

The day before Christmas: Eggs Benedict by Miriam, Alice, Evelyn, and Tom.

Update: Our New Year's Eve dinner: vegan Hoppin John with cornbread for luck in the new year.

Happy New Year! As Dave Barry says: "Nobody knows what 2022 will bring. Will it suck as much as this year? Will it suck more? Or will it suck a LOT more? These appear to be our choices." (source)

Blog post © 2021, mae sander.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

“Black Water Lilies”

Michel Bussi’s detective novel Black Water Lilies is such an ingenious tale that even labeling it would give away too much. Is it psychological fiction? A police procedural? Historical fiction? A study of art history? A suspense story? Or some other genre?

Monet's Water Lily paintings are mentioned often.

Black Water Lilies takes place in Giverny, in the immediate vicinity of Monet’s famous water lily gardens, where tourists overwhelm the local scene because they are so numerous. The town also has a history of hosting other artists who were attracted by Monet’s powerful presence. However, the characters in the novel are all local: the rich doctor who is the murder victim found right at the beginning, a child who wants to paint her own water lilies, the local schoolteacher whose husband is a suspect, a very old woman who tells the story, the local police who investigate the crime, some art experts in neighboring towns where there are museums dedicated to the Impressionists, and various other characters. Everyone, in one way or another, is obsessed or becomes obsessed with Monet and his garden.

From the start of the book, the elderly narrator gives clues, but I never guessed what she meant:

“I know it may seem strange to you, two funerals happening in the same cemetery, and not that far apart. Does the coincidence seem disturbing to you? A bit too much? Be sure of one thing, then, and one alone: nothing is a coincidence in this scenario. Nothing is left to chance—quite the contrary. Each element is in its proper place, at exactly the right moment. Each piece in this criminal chain of events has been cleverly arranged, and believe me, I swear on my husband’s grave, nothing’s going to put a stop to it.” (p. 69)

That’s all I’m going to say about the plot and the murders in the novel. It’s too weird. I’ll just illustrate the weirdness with one passage including a very strange word, fugicarnophile, which the author seems to have invented. It’s a conversation between two police detectives:

“There must be several thousand fugicarnophiles in the world…” 

Laurenç Sérénac bends down and rubs his knee. “Fugi-whatsit means ‘collector of barbecues,’ I suppose?” 

“Well, I’m not absolutely sure it’s in the dictionary. I’m just an amateur, but there’s a man in Argentina who has almost three hundred barbecues from a hundred and forty-three different countries, the oldest of which dates back to twelve hundred years BC.” 

Sérénac is rubbing his painful elbows. “Are you pulling my leg?” 

“You’re getting to know me, Chief; do you think I’d make up something like that? You know, everywhere in the world, since fire was discovered, men have eaten cooked meat. There is no practice more universal, or that provides a greater link to our ancestors, than the barbecue.”

Let's put it this way: it's a very strange and clever book.

Review © 2021 mae sander for mae's food blog.

Monet’s water lilies from Wikipedia. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A Spirit Doll

My blog friend Nicole makes and sells beautiful spirit dolls on her website, Beadwright. I'm a great lover of dolls. Nicole's spirit dolls are made from hand-formed faces, sticks, fabric, and leather, cloth, and bead embellishments. They really appealed to me, so I ordered one from the website. Amazingly, the package from Nicole arrived from her home in Oregon in just two days, right before Christmas.

What a lovely doll! She's on display on my living room wall, along with a number of masks from a variety of cultures. I feel a sense of identity in all these masks also, and I think the doll is very compatible with them.

Nicole wrote me that she particularly made this doll to inspire balance, and to help to balance the life of its owner: me! "Balance is a tricky thing," Nicole says. "Just when we think we have it, life throws something else at us. Be it big or small. Look for the balance, the yin and yang, the hot and cold, the go and stop of it all." I feel this balance in the doll. I think she's beautiful. Nicole says "there is so much positive energy and love in her." Yes.

Masks that we've had for several years. The one on the left is Yupik from Alaska, the next two are African,
the next two are from a village in the upper Amazon and Costa Rica, and the far right one is from New Guinea.
We have a number of other masks and carvings as well.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The End!

Miriam left first. The wonderful Christmas visit is over.

Tom, Evelyn, and Alice left a little while ago.
We miss them all already!

Dinner last night was from the most famous Ann Arbor eatery:
Zingerman's Deli.

Delicious sandwiches!
Of course it's all take-out at the moment.

We had a great meal to end the visit.

We feel lucky that we managed to have our family here for this week -- in a bubble -- as the pandemic is surging again, and we wonder when travel will again be possible. We think we will now have to be much more careful as case numbers are rising. I hope all my blog friends had a good Christmas too.

Blog post and photos © 2021 mae sander.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Christmas Movie Watching

“No Time to Die”

A few days ago, we watched “No Time To Die,” the very recently released James Bond movie, and supposedly the last to feature James Bond himself. I remember seeing the very first one with Sean Connery, and I’ve always been a fan, though I liked some better than others. This one has some good chase scenes, as well as references to many of the classic James Bond cliches.

We are being very cautious, so all our watching is at home — it’s sad that we can’t go to a movie theater as people used to do during Christmas celebrations. 

In “No Time to Die” Bond is true to form in every way.
He even orders his classic vodka martini, shaken and not stirred.

Bond’s vodka martini recipe was actually invented by. Ian Fleming,
who created the character in a series of books published in the 1950s.

Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond is as cool as Bond ever was!

“The French Dispatch”

On Christmas we watched Wes Anderson’s new movie “The French Dispatch.” As a long-time reader of the New Yorker magazine, I appreciated the way it was a send-up of what I’ve always referred to as “endless New Yorker articles.”

James Bond is the epitome of one type of cool — the very cool super masculine man (perhaps he’s so super masculine they have to retire him).   “The French Dispatch” is the epitome of another type of cool — the cool of Paris, being in Paris, the eternal Paris. The legend of the 1920s expatriates in Paris drives much of the material in “The French Dispatch.” However, Wes Anderson extends, distorts, satirizes, spoofs, over acts, and otherwise works on this cool image. 

Wes Anderson is very special, and I haven’t any hope of really explaining or describing the essence of this fun film. All I can say is that it’s visually amazing because of all the stylized scenes, especially of Paris streets.

The family is also watching the Frankie Drake mystery series. 

And we rewatched an old Miyazaki favorite: Porco Rosso

ONE MORE added Monday! The Big Lebowski. 

Now that's a classic.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Goodbye to Movie Theaters?

 In March 2020, when everything changed and contact with other people — especially crowds — became unsafe, we stopped going to movie theaters. As people became more confident in 2021, thanks to the Covid vaccine, some began going to theaters again — we didn’t. We weren’t alone: the theater business is very bad, and I think one of the big multiplex theaters in our town has gone out of business. Further, many new films are being released for one or another type of streaming viewers much earlier than they used to be. 

A few years ago, I wrote about my childhood movie memories, and I thought that would be a timely repeat today, for the end of the year and maybe the end of an era.

When we wanted to see a movie, we had to go to a movie theater. We could only choose from a few movies that were playing at the time.

There were two theaters near our house. They were named "The Varsity" and "The Tivoli." Some kids went to see a movie program every Saturday afternoon. Sometimes kids had birthday parties at the movie theater. Even Evelyn once had a movie birthday party, so this was a custom that lasted a long time.

The inside of the neighborhood movie theaters was pretty plain. The lobby had a big faded carpet, and a few glass cases of very expensive snacks. There was a big popcorn machine that tossed the popcorn around, and a soft-drink dispenser, but it wasn't fancy at all. Some kids liked popcorn, but my favorite snack at the movies was Junior Mints.

Downtown theaters showed new movies. These theaters were very, very fancy. The outsides sometimes had spotlights playing on the front. The marquee, which gave the name of the movie was also very impressive. To get to these theaters you had to take a long car ride or bus ride, so we hardly ever went to them.

Inside, the downtown theaters were like palaces. They had glass chandeliers and plush velvet seats. The lobbies where you entered had enormous staircases to go up to the balcony of the theater.

The railings were painted gold. The theater that I remember best had a small fish pond at the bottom of the stairs. Lenny reminded me that it was called "The Ambassador." It was alredy an old theater when I was a little girl. The two old postcards show the Ambassador.

Aunt Sadie took me, my cousin Marcia, Elaine, and other children to that theater to see Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland when it was a new movie. There were big cardboard cutouts of the characters standing in the lobby, but it was the fish pond in the lobby that impressed me the most. Besides candy and popcorn, they sold toys and things to do with the movie. Aunt Sadie bought us each a record of some of the songs from Alice. Instead of being black, these records were bright yellow, and we played them often after we came home.

Some of the palace-like movie theaters were restored and returned to use a number of years ago, and I don’t know what’s happening to them in these new and difficult times.

Blog post © 2006, 2021 mae sander.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

Christmas breakfast: cinnamon rolls and Swedish cardamom knots, baked by Len.

Our kind neighbor brought us two plates of her cookie assortment.

Mediterranean style Christmas lunch:  stuffed grape leaves, cucumbers, eggplant, olives, and more.

Christmas Dinner: Focaccia from The Great British Baking Show Cookbook.
We also ate roasted salmon and snap peas with mushrooms.

trim.26C0F8A4-C377-41B8-AF47-553529EAB387Finally: an aerial view of our neighbors' Christmas lighting extravaganza, taken on Christmas Eve with Len's drone.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Visitors

At the Botanical Garden in front of a sculpture made of wood.

Evelyn, Tom, Miriam, and Alice are visiting us for the holidays. We are almost in a bubble, but. not as much as last year! We all had plans for different travel than this, and it’s been a roller coaster of changing conditions — we’re glad that we ended up being able to get together. We aren’t going out much but we managed to visit our favorite local spot: the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

Pizza Dinner

Eggs Benedict for Breakfast

Alice and Tom assembled the muffins, vegetables, eggs, and sauce.

Miriam and Evelyn poached the eggs.

Blog post and photos © 2021 mae sander.