Hello! How are you doing? It seems like a year and a day have passed since I last had a chance to visit Tollipop. My mind is terribly cluttered these days as I try to keep track of schedules, try to catch up with things around the house, try to gear up for our next excursion.
Two weeks ago Sophie and I took a trip to Bloomington, Indiana. This is only my second visit to the midwestern United States and may I say again: what a lovely place and what a lovely people.
It would take ages to articulate exactly what I mean by that...I think you have to spend the bulk of your time in a bigger, faster, newer, more transient town which thrives on morally reprobate industries and then you will know what I'm talking about.
Which is not to say Las Vegas doesn't have its redeeming qualities, because it does. But if a place like Las Vegas is your norm then you better get ready for a place like Bloomington to charm your socks off.
Please do not make me defend my thoughts beyond this point. I'm sure there's an exception to everything I just said.
There always is.
One of the best parts about visiting Indiana? Getting a chance to see my sister who lives in Chicago. She drove five hours to spend a few days with us, and on the first night we stayed up until 3:00 in the morning, whispering beneath the covers.
No one was the boss of us!
She really is the most beautiful, fabulous, talented girl you could ever imagine, and has always been so. It was wonderful to see her.
While Sophie slaved away in her grueling volleyball camp, Julianna and I criss-crossed the town, making sure we ate as much food as we possibly could. We met this fine fellow at a culinary shop aptly named Goods for Cooks. His name is Martin and he gave me permission to make this brief introduction. I knew he was possibly the coolest guy in the world when he recommended a bleu cheese which was one of his "top five favorite bleu cheeses in the world."
Any guy who can name five varieties of bleu cheese off the top of his head is golden, I'm telling you. Even if you would rather stick your head down a toilet than eat bleu cheese. Listen, this has nothing to do with cheese whatsoever, but someone with that kind of knowledge has got the goods. He's going to be interesting for life.
And Martin did not disappoint. For example he can tell you, in intimate detail, the process of turning a cacao bean into chocolate.
Yeah. Like that.
He blogs infrequently at martinfood, so you should leave him a comment encouraging him to write more often, because anyone who can write about bok choy as if it should be taken home and tenderly caressed should make his other affairs less of a priority.
Martin, the world will not be a better place until your complete list of bleu cheeses is revealed.
Here are a few places he recommended and which I am passing along to you, in case you are ever lucky enough to become a Hoosier.
I seriously wanted to super size this morsel. It was good beyond any goodness you could ever hope to experience.
Mother Bear's Pizza. Voted the 4th best pizzeria in the entire country. Not county. Country. Also the reason you have no right to go home and squint at the scale, questioning the audacity of those extra five pounds.
The Runcible Spoon. Martin said get the corned beef hash and boy, did we ever! We didn't even know what hash was until they served it to us in all its buttery, mashed potatoey, corned beef glory. Additional perks include all the Owl and the Pussycat paraphernalia a person could possibly hope to encounter in a lifetime.
Indiana University was amazing. The sense of history there is profound, something which filled me with a sense of longing. There's a certain joke around Las Vegas that when a building gets to be fifty years old, it's time to blow it up and build again.
I always feel a bit sad when I hear it.
This place, on game night, must be electrifying. The athletic programs at this school are on the scale of something I've never imagined. They are enormous, state of the art, focused on character, steeped in values and tradition. And the friendliness, the camaraderie between the staff and athletes of all the programs is easy and genuine.
So many perfect trees to climb. I climbed this one in my head.
Best of all, how lovely to have this girl to share the experience with. She's growing up so quickly, looking forward and never looking back.
Sophie has always been this way: on her very first day of school she jumped out of the car and took off down the sidewalk as I struggled to get Isabella out of her carseat. I called to Sophie in a clingy sort of panic. She stopped and turned around, her eyes shining. "Oh, Mom," she said, "I just can't wait to see what's ahead!"
I can wait, but time doesn't seem to allow for that luxury. So I try to keep up, try to be the parent, while wondering at it all. My dear little Sophie, whose name means wisdom which she quietly has in spades.
How good it is to be a part of her world.