Peacock Dreams

Is it a joke or a concept?

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Of teaching and gardening and glittery boots...
(Insert all usual apologies for taking so long in between real updates here.)

The first two weeks of teaching are history now for both me and Geography Teacher, and we celebrated surviving the first week last Friday night by going out to Luigi's on the lake, so we could relax with a drink and some yummy Italian food and enjoy a sunset so gorgeous that it looked like it had been painted in the sky. Luigi's is one of my favorite places; it's tiny and dark and unpretentious and comfortingly old and crammed full of happy boaters, and the food is obscenely yummy. And needless to say, the company was second to none. ;-)

Aside from the standard sort of start-of-semester bobbles and irritants, it's all gone VERY well. I am pleased! The retirement of one particularly grumpy and toxic colleague has had a positive impact on the entire department, or so it feels, and this year's crop of new grad students includes some very cool, funny, intelligent, promising souls. I also baked a bunch of different varieties of cookies before start-up week, so that both Geography Teacher and I could bring in some treats for the long-suffering admins (the first weeks of the semester are always brutal on them, and we'd be lost without them), and those seem to have gone over well. (Maybe a bit too well! The admins gave me a card and a gift certificate for a local funky jewelry/clothing boutique, which is incredibly kind of them, but also not at all expected. How do you respond when somebody gives you a thank you gift for your thank you gift?)

It also feels like I have some very good groups this year. That is, of course, based on the early days, and time will tell, but... yes. Good. I am happiest that I was able to very successfully incorporate an episode of Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy into some of the intro lectures! I wanted to get students, especially new students and non-English majors, to think about interpreting/analyzing art, and letting go of the idea of there being one single right answer, and of the way even artists can be surprised to discover what's embedded in their own work, and the ways in which art comes to life when we interact with it, and... well, I don't need to explain it to all of you; you know. *g* It inspired a lot of laughter, a LOT of good thinking and discussion (which has carried through to the following classes), and a little bit of uneasiness, which is I think exactly what I'd hoped for. It was really not what they expected, which I think can only be counted as a success. Whether the lessons stick remains to be seen, but I feel like it was an effective primer for the sort of thinking I want to encourage (that is, don't be afraid of the weird stuff, keep an open mind, just dig in and give it a try), and it definitely encouraged more widespread participation and discussion.

So that's good. The whole summer was good, too. The longest, hottest, driest, sunniest summer I can remember in a very long time--but packed with good things.

The garden has bloomed gorgeously and profusely. The intense heat and sunshine of the summer means that most of the residents of the Garden of Misfit Plants flourished and bloomed in a very impressive way. The petunias are winding down now, but since they ended up a foot tall, with blooms several inches across, I don't think I can really complain. Likewise, the basket of Thousand Bells is probably nearing retirement, but only after its tendrils reached an impressive 2 and a half to 3 feet, blooming all the way. Almost everything else should keep going well into the autumn: purple-black-magenta Black Dragon Coleus, blue-violet verbena, lime and scarlet and cream and splatter-painted Wizard Mix Coleus, yellow and burgundy and cheerful pink dahlias, the tuberous begonia in all its sherbety orange-salmon-pink-coral glory. The split-off hosta that I transplanted at the start of summer has taken to the spot so well that it's actually produced a plume of new leaves and filled out the space--and for those resurrective qualities, I think it's earned the name Sherlock. ;-) (His partner, of course, is John.) It turns out that Sherlock also brought some English ivy with him, and that is also doing well. Not enough to be trellised this year, of course, but next year...

I've also made good food and eaten at great restaurants and had good times with family and friends this summer--most notably with Geography Teacher (the trip to Frankenmuth was a delight from start to finish), but with lost of other treasured people, too, which has been a joy. I had a completely delightful Fangirl Friday lunch-on-the-lake at Fishbones with clairvoyant, who is as wonderful as ever, and despite the fact that it's a New Orleans-inspired restaurant, we spent three hours nibbling sushi (I couldn't resist ordering something named the "Boom Boom Roll", for the name alone--Luxury Comedy fans will probably know why), sipping some wonderful fruity Hurricane-esque cocktails, and talking about everything. These lunches are always several hours of solid delight, and this was no exception. :D

And of course, there's been ice cream. I've made lots of ice cream for people, got lots of good feedback on it (and demand for it!), and have had a ton of fun experimenting. I made a special 13th Hour Coffee-Stout ice cream for Bluey Dad's birthday, infused with Kona coffee and swirled with a deep, spicy Imperial-style stout, and for Geography Teacher's birthday, I made a deep, deep truffley sort of dark chocolate ice cream infused with peppermint oil, like the darkest and most intense Thin Mint ever. Both were well received by the respective birthday boys!

And there have been other experiments, too, guided by the advice of the Jeni's book, and the produce available, and my own tastes and curiosity. I've made a Banana Pudding ice cream (a custardy base redolent of bananas and vanilla, layered with crumbled shortbread cookies), a Baked Peach Crumble ice cream (fresh peaches baked with brown sugar and nutmeg, then pureed and swirled into ice cream with buttermilk and Amaretto, with a ribbon of homemade oatmeal-brown sugar crisp), and a Roasted Black Cherry and Buttermilk ice cream--with fresh Michigan cherries, obviously. I've also made a chocolate, kulfi-style ice cream with toasted coconut, curry powder, and cashews folded in. (Verdict: thumbs up, even from Geography Teacher, who was equal parts intrigued and terrified by the idea. He takes the sanctity of chocolate very seriously.) And this weekend, for the Labor Day BBQ, I'm making Gravel Road ice cream, which is a salted caramel ice cream layered with smoked almonds.

The ice cream also lead to an interesting... concept, I suppose that we've been toying with. It's really just a germ of a thought right now. But it came to pass after another amazing dinner with Geography Teacher at The Union Woodshop, which has kind of become our place, despite the fact that it's a bit of a drive and often requires a two-hour wait for a table. (It's got more popularity than it can really handle, since being featured on the Food Network, but it's worth every minute of the wait for the food, service, and distinctively funky, unpretentious atmosphere--and besides, there's a bar and lounge upstairs, and a main street full of shops and Victorian-era houses to stroll.) The restaurant itself is stupendously stylish and tasty and resolutely weird; the only thing it takes seriously is the quality of food and service. (To give you an idea: dinners are served in prison-style aluminum trays, there's a quote from the Simpsons about the pig being a "magical animal" etched into a wall-sized mirror, and the last time we went there, our server was wearing a mechanic's shirt that informed us that his name was Nacho.) Everything is local and from-scratch, and they even have excellent vegetarian selections on the menu, which is a major achievement for a barbecue joint.

So we love the place and have never been less than thrilled with it, and it was no different on this night that I'm telling you about. On that particular night, we decided to try the Ice Cream Sandwich Tray for dessert, because that's the sort of thing that rotates depending on what experiments they're trying out on any given day; you never know what you'll get, so it's an adventure. That night, we got chocolate chip cookies sandwiching maple-bacon ice cream and peanut butter cookies sandwiching chocolate malt ice cream. (I'm technically allergic to peanut butter and not supposed to ever ever eat it, but I can have a little bit every now and then, shhhh, don't tell my immunologist.) They were both really delicious and clearly homemade in every respect, but I have to admit that as I was eating it, I had the thought: My ice cream is better. Creamier, silkier, more intensely flavorful, with better body. And then I felt like an idiot for thinking it, but of course it is natural to compare your own stuff against the pros; it's how you figure out how far you have to go.

I might not have ever given that a second thought, except that, as we were leaving, Geography Teacher leaned down and whispered in my ear, "Your ice cream is better."

Well. That's a bit different. And that sparked a thought, on the walk back to the car. And the thought sparked a bunch of "what ifs" and a conversation on the drive home. GT pointed out that there really is no indie ice cream shop in the area, and it's true; there's nothing else that comes even close to filling that sort of niche, even though the interest in artisanal food is extremely strong here, and there are a number of areas in Metro Detroit where that sort of shop would fit well and have a strong potential audience...

I don't know. I don't know. It's not going to happen today or anything; it's the sort of thing that requires a lot of time and thought and research and commitment in order to be successful. But it is also an idea that feels worth pursuing further, and I think I just might. It's an exciting and scary sort of thought. But it was also really, really wonderful to be able to talk about a fantasy like that with another person, and talk about ways in which we might be able to make it more than just a fantasy, and feel like it was valid and possible and real and supported and maybe even inspired. It's hard to share the scraps of your dreams with other people, but it feels so good to do it and get good feedback. It feels good to have your trust honored and rewarded. &hearts

So yeah, there's that.

Hmm, what else? In matters peacocky, I have come to that time where I have to groom my feathers, so to speak, because some of my old favorite standbys are at the point where they have to (very reluctantly) be pitched. I always develop an emotional attachment to clothes and accessories, and I tend to want to wear my favorite pieces until they are very literally full of holes and falling apart--and that's happened with a few things lately! This is always a bit sad, but at the same time, I'm looking at it as an opportunity to add some new things and refresh my look, and that is fun and exciting.

So I've lost some beloved shoes and boots, but that means I'm making way for these and these and these (in the grey and pink) and these, right? ;)

~whistles "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"~

Right, now we're off for shopping for provisions for the weekend and the upcoming holiday BBQ, which has now been moved from Monday to tomorrow, in deference to the oncoming hurricane fallout. There will be eleventy billion things to do before then, I'm sure. Hope you're all doing well, and for those of you who are going through some rough times right now--and I know there are a number of you--please know that I am thinking about you and holding you in my heart and sending all the virtual hugs and love I have to offer.

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I LOVE YOU, TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And yes, somebody you will come here and I will introduce you to Sherlock and John and Howard and Vince and Remus and Severus. And we'll have cookies or something. :D

And thank you thank you thank you. He is fantastic. He actually is. I feel very lucky and very happy.

A good start to the school year is pretty much priceless. Somehow, the years when the start is shaky... it can feel like a marathon slog.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

God, Bluey, you are KILLING me. I want ALL your ice cream. At once. (That chocolate kulfi, omg). I want your gray and pink boots. I want the snakeskin boots (or whatever skin it is. I want it.) I want Michigan Cherry Chicken at Luigi's. I want cherry pork salad and butterscotch pudding at Union Whatever.

I'm channeling my inner Veruca Salt -- "don't care how, I want it NOW." NOW, do you hear me? Open that ice cream shop. I will work weekends if you pay me in ice cream.

Sorry to kill you, Kelly! Believe me, I'd happily take you to dinner at Luigi's and the Union Woodshop. (The butterscotch pudding IS good. And Geography Teacher had the Michigan Cherry Chicken, as it happens, so I can vouch for the yumminess of that, too.) I'd be happy to make ice cream for you, too. You're going to have to fight me for the boots, though. ;-)

And when that ice cream store opens, you'll be the first to know...

I will fly to your town just to have your ice cream from your ice cream shop. Call me when the Kickstarter is up! :-)

And, unf, those shoes. Love the sparkly ankle boots! I've been wanting some Docs for a while now, but agghhh the price...

Whee, I will! Tonksie, I would be DELIGHTED to have you there. :D

Glad you like the shoes! The glittery boots are like a dream come true for me. I've resisted Docs for a long time, because ugh, yeah, the price, but this is the design that I couldn't resist, and I know they'll last.

Yeeaaah, I might need those Princess Vera Wang boots too.

It's been quite a summer, hasn't it?!

Yeah, I had a feeling you might be interested in those, too. ;-)

It really has! I can hardly believe it, when I look back at the last several months. With everything that's happened, it feels like it must have been a lot longer than it really was.

Wonderful update. As for the ice cream thing...you can start small, from your home. Bring to school for food days, bring to family things, when people ask if they can buy some, sell it to them!

Word of mouth is a powerful thing.

Before you know it, you'll be needing more space, more ice cream makers, and you'll be on your way.

Oh, and don't forget how much mail order business you would do, ahem.

Thank you! And that is very, very good advice, so thank you again--and for the encouragement, too. &hearts

Word of mouth IS powerful, and I think that in this day and age, a friendly, approachable, fun social media presence is also a key to building to business smartly. They work hand in hand, because that way, when somebody recommends you, the other person can go and look you up and find out more about you and your products. It give you a digital identity--a sort of face. So that's another thing I'm thinking about.

And yes, I've thought about mail order business! You know, you inspired that line of thought. So if it works, I'm going to have to come up with a flavor just for you...

You bring the same creativity to your ice cream as you do to your writing - that much is clear.

Geography Teacher is now a firm favourite of mine.

The western boots are lovely. I'd crave a pair, but for the fact I can't wear heels and I have fat calves. So I shall have to live vicariously through you.

Oh, Dicky. ~blushes~ Thank you. I am finding the ice cream to be a wonderful outlet for creativity, as well as a stimulator of it.

I'm glad you like him, because I'm very partial to him, too. ;-)

I'm much more comfortable in heels than in flat shoes, so I admit that's part of the appeal of Western boots for me, but they are not always forgiving of muscular calves. (Mine aren't skinny, either--too many years of dancing.) These are generous enough to work for me, but I also noticed that there are a LOT of modified Western boots out this season, cut much lower, so that they're more akin to ankle boots or shoe boots, but still with an unmistakable Western aesthetic.

SHOOOOOOES! Serious and intense and absolutely massive WANT for those last boots you linked to. Yum.

Your garden sounds like a gorgeous free spirit. Please tell me you've been taking pictures, I'd love to see all that growth in action!

Right. I really hope this doesn't sound egotastic, but from a certain level of passion and creativity on it's absolutely natural -- to be expected, even -- that you compare your stuff to the pros'. It's the perfect way to put your own flair to the test. Besides, pro doesn't mean better than, so why not gauge exactly that. *g* Really, when it sparks what-ifs that unfurl into what-ifs of their own, you know you're on to something. Keep sketching it out in your mind, because I'm sure your subconscious will use that as fuel to inspire you and make it happen. ♥

Glad you enjoyed all the shooooooooooes! I can never get enough of looking at shoes. Or wearing them. I am more than a bit in love with the not-snakeskin boots, though; they had my name on them from the instant I saw them. ;-)

I have taken pictures of the garden, I promise! I especially took a lot of them in July, when the easter and asiatic and day lilies and daisies were blooming, too, but I've been having issues withe my camera and computers and getting the pictures to upload, so it might be a bit before I figure out how best to get them posted. But I definitely did take pictures.

And no, no, it doesn't sound egotastic. It's wonderful and encouraging advice, so thank you! ~hugs~ You hit the nail on the head, too: it doesn't feel scary (well, okay, a little) so much as exciting, and my brain has exploded with inspiration and possibilities for experiments ever since that discussion. That has to be a good thing. &hearts

My girlfriend's sister makes homemade icecream and sells it at events as a part time thing and has apparently been quite successful... And there's a really popular spot near UCLA that just sells cookies and icecream and you can pick any two cookies and ice cream flavor... And on our cruise, my sister wanted to visit all different places from our last trip but I demanded (not that she put up a fight), that we head to the rum cake store we visited two years earlier and the ice cream parlor next door that uses their rum cake as a mix in! So many possibilities!

~squees and love you for this comment~

These are wonderful, wonderful, encouraging things to know! You're so right: there's no one way of approaching it, and there are a LOT of exciting possibilities to explore! I don't need to be the next Ben and Jerry's or Cold Stone; that's totally not what I'm interested in or after. But if I can do something with this that other people enjoy, then that would be a dream come true. :D

Your icecream is better.

I bet it is.

It reminds me of the moment when my friends said: "Your stew is better than Nandron's" and that sparked a thought...

~grins and hugs you~

Thank you. Thank you for that. That is very, VERY encouraging to know! If it had only ever been in my own head, I think it might have stayed there. But knowing that other people--people I trust--think the same thing? That's powerful.

Can I just say I'd love to have you as a lecturer? If any of my prospective future lecturers referenced LuxCom I'd probably hit the roof!

If you do open that ice cream shop I will fly over for opening day because dear god my brain is melting just reading some of those flavours. Ironically I'm going to an ice-cream festival today at King's Cross so I'll do some scoffing at the 'adventurous flavours' on your behalf ;)

Also hooray for your fabulous Fandom Garden and the beautiful shoes (my stepbrother has those Doc Martens so I can testify to their gorgeousness.)

Aww, thank you! I think I'd love to have you as a student. :D It was exciting to see that in just about every group, there were one or two people who would sort of instantly perk up when they heard the title, before I even showed them, and they'd be smiling and sort of amazed. You could tell that they were fans, and they couldn't believe a TEACHER would be a fan, too.

And aw again, because if/when I do open that ice cream shop, I'd be DELIGHTED and honored to have you there. I hope the ice cream festival was yummy, though, even if it wasn't adventurous.

Good to know about the shoes! I've had my eye on them for a while, and they're too cool to resist.

Sweetie, many admins are underappreciated, so they were probably overwhelmed by your kindness. A little nice recognition goes a long way. They will be in thrall to you for a while yet, ha ha!

Awww. Admins are most definitely underappreciated, sadly, often by the people who take the most advantage of their expertise. (I'd just love to see how some of the faculty would cope with having to do all these things themselves. It would be a disaster!) So I wanted to thank them and try to make a very stressful time for them... maybe not less stressful, but at least there were some treats in there to sweeten the deal.

Besides, I love baking for our admin crew. They give great feedback, and I always know they appreciate it. If I ever do get a shop of my own, it'll be because they encouraged me and gave good advice.

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