The TBR List: Slack

Chicago clouds

Happy Saturday! I usually post my TBR List on Fridays, as you know, but this week was really busy and I decided to cut myself some slack. Ever since I started doing that, blogging has transformed back to pleasurable hobby from stress-inducing obligation. It's all about the mindset, amirite?

I'm not doing much this weekend, beyond taking care of some life stuff I put off before vacation and spending time with family. How about you?

- Love this roundup of mocktail recipes.

- Pollock- and Monet-focused cookbooks.

- Do you think toddlers need food magazines?

- A 124-year-old cooking club.

All The Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer for fiction! I loved it. Here's my review.

- Reasonable guidelines for healthy eating.

- IKEA's vision of a kitchen of the future is bizarre.


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Two days in Cappadocia

It's hard to believe we were in Cappadocia a week ago — only a week ago! A whole week ago! The side trip there was my idea. I wanted to see a place outside the main city of Istanbul, to get a taste of non-urban life in the most East-meets-West country in the world, to ride in a hot air balloon at sunrise. 

Well, two of those three wishes came true. Bad weather thwarted our hot air ballooning plans, but I say that gives us a great excuse to go back someday. 

Cappadocia is a fascinating region. It's located in central Turkey, on a plateau 1,000 meters above sea level. Thousands of years ago, several volcanoes erupted, burying the area in material that would be eroded into strange and wondrous configurations over the centuries. We stayed in Goreme, one of the region's main cities, which is home to or near many of the sites worth visiting.

I do hope to someday return to Cappadocia, if not for the sunrise hot air balloon rides, then to explore more of its beautiful valleys, to better experience its food offerings, and to stay again at the lovely Osmanli Manor Hotel. I wouldn't normally mention where we stayed, but this lovely family-owned hotel and its staff were a huge part of the reason we enjoyed our time there.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip, in the order I took them. I hope you enjoy. Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the pictures or the trip!

The breakfast spread at Osmanli Manor Hotel.

The breakfast spread at Osmanli Manor Hotel.

Every morning, we had breads, cheese and olive. I became somewhat addicted to the sesame bread.

Every morning, we had breads, cheese and olive. I became somewhat addicted to the sesame bread.

The terrace at Osmanli Manor Hotel in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey. | www.paperplatesblog.com
A view of the Red Valley plateau in Cappadocia, Turkey. | www.paperplatesblog.com


Goreme is full of all sorts of unusual rock formations.

Goreme is full of all sorts of unusual rock formations.

Clay pottery in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey. | www.paperplatesblog.com
The area surrounding the Goreme Open Air Museum.

The area surrounding the Goreme Open Air Museum.

Walking in and out of the many cave churches (some of which date back to the 11th century) at the Goreme Open Air Museum is spooky and amazing.

Walking in and out of the many cave churches (some of which date back to the 11th century) at the Goreme Open Air Museum is spooky and amazing.

Centuries ago, many Cappadocians lived in caves carved out of the rock. Some are so high up you wonder how anyone reached them.

Centuries ago, many Cappadocians lived in caves carved out of the rock. Some are so high up you wonder how anyone reached them.

Trail markers indicating two of Cappadocia's famous valleys.

Trail markers indicating two of Cappadocia's famous valleys.

Apple tea was basically invented for tourists, I know, but it's still perfect for a cold afternoon.

Apple tea was basically invented for tourists, I know, but it's still perfect for a cold afternoon.

Traditional clay pottery beef stew — I cracked this container open with a dagger!

Traditional clay pottery beef stew — I cracked this container open with a dagger!

A friend who accompanied us on our horseback riding adventure.

A friend who accompanied us on our horseback riding adventure.

Exploring Cappadocia's vast and varied valleys on horseback was a great way to see a lot in relatively little time.

Exploring Cappadocia's vast and varied valleys on horseback was a great way to see a lot in relatively little time.

Vegetable fritters as part of a homecooked meal at Osmanli Manor Hotel. I forgot to photograph the main course.

Vegetable fritters as part of a homecooked meal at Osmanli Manor Hotel. I forgot to photograph the main course.

A selection of desserts at our romantic dinner for two. We had the whole terrace level of the hotel to ourselves. Please ignore the crumbs.

A selection of desserts at our romantic dinner for two. We had the whole terrace level of the hotel to ourselves. Please ignore the crumbs.

These little arrows — often faded and hard to spot — are the only indicators that you're still on the trail.

These little arrows — often faded and hard to spot — are the only indicators that you're still on the trail.

Love Valley is home to some pretty remarkable rock formations.

Love Valley is home to some pretty remarkable rock formations.

I think this is what people are thinking of when they call Cappadocia "otherworldly."

I think this is what people are thinking of when they call Cappadocia "otherworldly."

Winding paths in Love Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey. | www.paperplatesblog.com
Everywhere I looked, I spotted new textures. I was, and still am, amazed that there could be so much variety in one place.

Everywhere I looked, I spotted new textures. I was, and still am, amazed that there could be so much variety in one place.

Love Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey | www.paperplatesblog.com
I spy Uchisar Castle in the distance. I wasn't excited by the prospect of more climbing after our hike, but the view from up there was worth it.

I spy Uchisar Castle in the distance. I wasn't excited by the prospect of more climbing after our hike, but the view from up there was worth it.

The village of Uchisar, Cappadocia, Turkey | www.paperplatesblog.com
As we searched for a quick way to the top, a friendly man offered to show us a shortcut. Before leaving us, he warned, "Don't fall in the holes." Thanks for the warning, dude.

As we searched for a quick way to the top, a friendly man offered to show us a shortcut. Before leaving us, he warned, "Don't fall in the holes." Thanks for the warning, dude.

Uchisar Castle.

Uchisar Castle.

Goreme at dusk.

Goreme at dusk.

The Red Valley plateau glowed at sunset for a few brief minutes. A breathtaking cap to our short trip to Cappadocia.

The Red Valley plateau glowed at sunset for a few brief minutes. A breathtaking cap to our short trip to Cappadocia.


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"Bark" by Lorrie Moore & blackberry french toast casserole

Each of Lorrie Moore’s short stories in Bark is a perfect encapsulation of a time and place, as each character struggles to orient themselves to the changing world around them. Each story reads like a meditation, roaming purposefully over the ups and downs of each brief slice of life, turning over ordinary moments for inspection like precious jewels.

The lives of the inhabitants of each story cannot be described as happy, but Moore’s acerbic observations and self-depreciating inner monologues keep the stories from dipping from meditative to bleak.

We’re used to the story of young characters searching for themselves and their place in the world, but Moore’s characters are in their middle-years and onto a different sort of challenge. They’ve already defined themselves and are now facing a different discomfort as the world continues to barrel ahead, irreverent to the individual’s personal history, changing in sometimes alarming and disheartening ways.

The closest thing to a title story is “Debarking,” a story about a recently divorced man who is dating a woman he’s frightened of at times but can’t bring himself to give up, against the backdrop of his post-divorce loneliness and unease about the 2003 bombings in Iraq.

In “Wings,” singer KC’s band has fizzled, and she and her boyfriend/previous bandmate, Dench, are subletting in an idyllic town as they try to figure out what to do next. KC takes daily walks to the coffee shop and begins to befriend an elderly man on the next block. KC struggles to define her motivations in befriending the wealthy, lonely man, while trying to piece together some understanding of Dench and their drifting relationship: “She had given up trying to determine his facetiousness level. She suspected it was all just habit and his true intent was unknown even to himself."

"Bark" by Lorrie Moore & blackberry french toast casserole | www.paperplatesblog.com

As someone who is still making the migration from youth to middle-age, moments of each story in Bark shine as experiences that may one day be familiar to me — a series of authentic truths that are still my could bes. For that reason, the recipe I chose is blackberry french toast — something that makes me think of lazy Sunday mornings spent with family. It’s not a thought from my past, but who’s to say it’s not another one of those could bes from my future?

"Bark" by Lorrie Moore & blackberry french toast casserole | www.paperplatesblog.com

BLACKBERRY FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions:

Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1 cup blackberries over the cream cheese, and top with remaining bread cubes.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and syrup. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.

In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blackberries. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter, and pour over the baked French toast.


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