Thing #27 – Quebec City

Most mornings we walk past our neighborhood bakery and I say, “Mmmm, smells like a train station!” Fresh bread floating in the morning air gives me memories of filling my purse with pastries in Munich.

The smell of a bakery instantly whooshes you into a memory. And it’s personal for everyone. Bakers have the magic power to transport you. And the stories behind their recipes are often rooted in something deeper than we realize. This is why I initially started my blog, after all.

I was reminded of this in Quebec City when I went into a bakery for a baguette and left with an education on French literature.

At Le Paingrüel, we had the treat of talking with the baker of arguably the best artisanal breads in town. He uses traditional baking practices and has committed to studying and perfecting them.

During our visit, we got a crash course on baguettes and learned the Swiss-style baguette was discovered as a result of a mistake. (A delicious one, incidentally.)

He stood alongside a rack … Read the rest

Thing #26 – Bagels

There wasn’t a day in Quebec where we didn’t eat french fries for at least one meal. And I indulged in so many buttery pastries that I had to delete some of my photos because my greasy fingerprints made the camera lens too blurry.

But this is what vacation is for. Tasting all the flavors, walking all the miles and sleeping all the hours without setting an alarm. (I can easily go uninterrupted for 11 hours.)

It’s no secret that the province of Quebec has the charm of Europe with a fraction of the travel time. It’s one of the reasons we visited. But more importantly, I went for the bagels.

There’s a longstanding rivalry between New York and Montreal bagels. Moreso, there’s a rivalry between two bagel shops in Montreal. We hit up Fairmount and St. Viateur back-to-back on Thursday morning to see what the fuss was about.

Both stores were small and understated. Get in, get bagels, leave. Maybe they have napkins, maybe not. This is because Montreal bagels are all about the … Read the rest

Thing #25 – Wine Bread

I didn’t go to church on Easter. I never go to church on Easter. I never go to church, period. My grandmothers probably wouldn’t be pumped to learn this. However, I hope they would be pleased to know I found a different way to maintain Easter traditions. I baked what we call “wine bread” in our family. It’s a filled Danish-style pastry, and has nothing to do with wine. I don’t know why it has that name. Grandma’s recipe was titled, “Kringle” but had a handwritten note in the corner indicating it’s for winebread.

As everyone knows, Kringle is the magical ring of pastry deliciousness from Racine, Wisconsin. I assume you know this. Or maybe it was a fact tossed into the fourth-grade Wisconsin history curriculum, like those about cranberry bogs, glaciers and French explorers. Remember that class? Marquette and Joliet? I remember virtually nothing I learned in school, except from this class 30 years ago.

My grandmothers were both spectacular women. And I wish they were still here to talk to. I’d love … Read the rest

Thing #24 – Other’s Day

I remember the Mother’s Day after my first miscarriage. I went about my usual Sunday routine – morning walk, yoga, coffee, writing. I sat in the coffeeshop, watching men my age maneuver strollers through the door, instructing their sticky toddlers pick out the perfect scones to “bring home to mommy.” Some loitered around the coffeeshop for an extra half hour to grant their wives a small dose of Mother’s Day alone time.

I felt angry and resentful that day, thinking about the injustice of my situation and how this was also supposed to be my day of celebration. Nonetheless, I smugly left the coffeeshop knowing I had more than 30 short minutes of disposable time that day to do whatever the hell I wanted. In silence. And non-stickiness.

The Mother’s Day after my second loss wasn’t much better. One thing I’ve learned is that grief is sneaky. I recall being in Target looking at Mother’s Day cards. I got so angry I left the store without anything. Which honestly, is a pretty astonishing feat at … Read the rest

Thing #23 – Priorities

Yes, I know I haven’t written in like six weeks. Yes, I know I have sixteen more things to write in just a few months. Lay off me, I’ve done the math.

I’ve always been particularly adept at handling multiple priorities at once, but the past month has taught me an important lesson: I can’t do everything.

This was a news flash for someone who’s historically been successful at doing all the things at once, and stubborn in my pursuit of doing them.

As you know, I’ve spent the past eight weeks completing yoga teacher training. It required focus, and I wanted to honor the investment and immerse myself fully in the experience. Between the physical practice and the personal development, it was an exhausting and wildly rewarding adventure.

On top of this, it’s also my most demanding time of year at work. I was unusually busy planning a huge fundraising event, hosting board meetings, staying on top of deadlines and generally trying to be a medium-good leader.

Oh, and then there’s being a friend/daughter/sister/wife. … Read the rest

Thing #22 – Juicy Memories

I don’t know if you heard, but the first day of spring happened.

Whenever the seasons shift, I get a feeling in my stomach I can only describe as “restless itchiness.” It’s the product of a long string of memories from that respective season.

I’ve long held a practice of reflecting on, “what was I doing last year at this time?” This practice is especially potent during changes in season. I’ve done this for so many years that I’ve formed a capsule inside me with layers of memories, each holding stories like a tree’s rings.

The most influential layers of spring memories began in high school – the first Cranberries album, rides in Trav’s Mustang with the windows down, and the smell of thawing fields. In college, I added layers of frisbee in James Madison Park, inventing stories about strangers on State Street, jacketless walks home from campus, and Women’s Studies projects. Into adulthood, the layers deepen – dance rehearsals, work events, concerts at First Avenue, and walking down city streets with men whose hands … Read the rest