2.10.2017

Recipe Test: Absinthe Cake

David Lebovitz is one of my favorite original food bloggers. Many of the recipes he posts have some charming tidbit about life in France, the people he encounters, the restaurants and cafe culture, and the funny things he's learned through missteps and language fails, both confirming and debunking various stereotypes we have about the French. This is all distilled into his book The Sweet Life in Paris. I bought it before my first trip to Paris as a culture guide as much as a treasure trove of recipes.

I'd kind of forgotten I had it until a recent bookshelf purge. As often happens when I flip through these kinds of books, I'm reminded of why I have it in the first place because my brain lights up with all the possibilities of things I could and should make. The absinthe cake was the first thing I wanted to try, if only because it required a trip to Total Wine where we like to ogle at all the specialty liqueurs that we will never buy.

In fact, we didn't even buy the absinthe, because when it comes to anise-flavored liqueur, we enjoy a cheaper variety of pastis called Prado...so we bought that instead. So, I should confess at the outset, this is not actually an absinthe cake, but a pastis cake. Nevertheless, it's seriously boozy and covered in a sugary crust, brightened with orange zest, studded with crushed anise seeds and utterly decadent for something that looks so plain. (BTW, if you don't like licorice or anise flavors, don't make this cake. Not a problem at this house.)



Gâteau a L'Absinthe (ou Gâteau au Pastis!)
adapted from David Lebovitz

-Makes one 9-inch loaf cake-

For cake:
3/4 tsp. anise seeds, crushed with mortar/pestle or hammered in a Ziploc
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. almond flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1/4 c. whole milk, not super cold
1/4 c. booze (absinthe or pastis)
Zest of one orange

For glaze:
3 T. sugar
1/4 c. booze (absinthe or pastis)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan, lining the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together the crushed anise seeds with the flours, baking powder and salt.

3. Cream butter and sugar together in an electric mixer for a few minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition.

4. Combine the milk and the booze, along with the orange zest.

5. Stir half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add the milk and booze. With the mixer on low, stir the remaining dry ingredients until just incorporated.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean.

7. Remove cake from the oven and let cool in the pan for 30 minutes.

8. With a long toothpick or skewer, poke 50 holes into the cake. Combine sugar and booze for the glaze in a small bowl, but don't let the sugar dissolve.

9. Remove cake from the pan and set it on a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Baste the cake with the glaze on the top and sides until the glaze is all used up.



2.04.2017

7 links + 1 recipe for the weekend


A collection of things I read this past week that were worthwhile.

1. Looking for a break from the doom and gloom, I googled Positive News and found this delightful publication from the UK.

2. I just wish Carl Sagan was still around to tell me all the answers.

3. The case for living a less structured life. Improvise more!

4. Beautiful: Shadow work is active.

5. I am guilty of #3 during work meetings. Words and phrases to ban from your vocabulary.

6. This sounds about right.

7. My former art professor is currently using his blog to examine our current political climate through art, which is how I came across this link. Amazing how a cardboard box company could employ such an inspiring, daring and controversial method of advertising that is more about the art and a greater message.


From my cookbook archives: "You can serve sunshine - in salad," this Better Homes and Gardens book begins. Published in 1958, it is predictably filled with tragically lit photography of molded gelatin, processed cheese and stuffed orifices.

The actual best part of the book, though, is the section on salad dressings. I made this tangy French dressing to top my usual salad (romaine and chopped veggies) and quite enjoyed it. My favorite method to dress a salad is to place all the vegetables in the bowl, toss with the dressing to marinate until you're ready for dinner, and then add the salad greens and toss (by hand is best). A great trick I learned from Mom.

Tangy French Dressing

2/3 c. salad oil (I used olive oil but a more neutral oil would probably be better)
2/3 c. vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1/3 c. water
2 T. chopped chives or green onion
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk together, shake well before using. Serve over greens. Makes 1 3/4 cups.

(And if you want to make scones for breakfast as in the photo above, my favorite recipe is in this post.)


2.03.2017

Morsels

Happy February! I always rejoice inside when the calendar flips to this short month. It's Friday morning and the snow just started. By Sunday it should be rainy. Other things the weekend brings: a visit from Joel's sister, drinks with my girlfriends (in lieu of the Super Bowl), and baking something for breakfast.  

This week, at long last, I made Dorie Greenspan's World Peace cookies. Even she admits that they're not consistent in the way they turn out - I was expecting them to be a bit bigger - but the taste is tremendous. They're my least favorite type of cookie to make, the kind where you must smoosh a very crumbly dough into a log, chill, and then hope it doesn't all fall apart when you slice them for baking. In this case it was worth the effort.

My challenge this week was to take a CreativeBug class. I don't feel like I really fulfilled it, but it did get me to do some pencil drawing throughout the week. It made me look at objects differently as I considered how to draw them. I'm still lousy at it, but I enjoyed it.


Joel took this one and I like it. This is a corner of our kitchen counter that tends to be dramatically lit this time of year around 3:30 p.m. 


The campus coffee shop on the last day of Jan Term.

Greenhouses. Nice to know something's growing down there.

The campus dining hall in early-morning glory. I've been really grateful for the sun this week.


Poor bike.


I tried a new recipe for Sticky Malaysian Chicken with Pineapple Salad on Wednesday. Fun, cheap and easy!

This one just 'cause her birthday is next week. Photo taken last week before she headed back to Boise.

1.21.2017

A bit of January











So far, it's been a good January. The sun has come out, I've gotten to spend some quality time with my parents in Spokane, and for the most part, I've found myself in a fairly good mood - perhaps better than most Januaries. I've stopped being complacent about the things that matter to me, and I'm taking time to do things I don't normally do.

On the eve of the new year I read a friend’s blog post that mentioned something she and her husband did this past year in which they focused on one thing for a week at a time to help them develop healthy lifestyle habits. Inspired to try it for myself, I came up with 29 different challenges I thought were doable for a week (hoping to come up with more!), and I wrote them on slips of paper that I can draw on an assigned date. For now I’m selecting one each or every other Friday to begin on Sunday.

I’ve now completed three. Week one was drinking tea instead of coffee. Week two was learning a new word each day. This past week I gave something away each day. I’m learning interesting things about myself, such as the fact that I actually don’t really like coffee as much as I thought I did. As for learning new words, I’m looking forward to a moment when I can use “willowwacks” without skipping a beat. And I happily gave away photos (to people who'd appreciate them), books, half a bundt cake and jars of cherry preserves, and collected an assortment of things I will drop off at Goodwill ASAP.

This week I’m sending snail mail. It seemed like a nice way to keep up the momentum of sharing love and encouragement especially after the reality of the presidency hit on Friday.

As for the other visionary resolutions of 2017, I appreciated Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word guide this year to help me develop a motivating phrase to push me through this year’s challenges. I'm holding it close to my heart for now, though I hope sometime I will be ready to share more about it. And the other resolutions are goals for travel, my job, health, and a good smattering of goals for stretching myself, some of which are encouraged through those weekly challenges.

When horrible, difficult, or tragic things happen, I've often returned to that quote from Fred Rodgers that encourages us to look for the people who are helping. This weekend, I looked for the people who were marching and found they were literally everywhere. May I never forget what that feels like to be part of something so strikingly inspiring.

12.18.2016

A Little Christmas Music

Sometime before Thanksgiving I was driving around and listening to classical music on public radio. They started playing a bright, brassy number with fast vibrato – probably something by a British brass band - and all at once, gosh darn it, I felt the spirit of Christmas move in my weary soul. The piece was not a Christmas hymn or anything explicitly written for the holiday, yet I found myself waiting at the traffic light, reflecting on my feelings and letting the music transport me to Christmases past.

My mind took me to when I was about 6 or 7: Pulling peppermints off of the advent calendar hanging on the door in the kitchen; unpacking the odd boxes that held the ornaments; the smell of candles, freshly snuffed; a package of Schwarzbrot from the Timmermann Bakery and rock-hard Haribo gummy bears; and brass music, compliments of my oldest brother, Rich. It was then that it hit me how much that brother was so entwined with my more visceral memories of Christmas.

Rich was about to graduate from high school when I was born, so Christmas and summer - his breaks from college - were really the only times I got to spend any amount of time with him as a kid. I remember feeling shy around him because I had to get reacquainted with him each time, but it helped that he brought me music, books, and once, a pencil case from New York City that was long a prized possession. Our house had a different energy when he was home – my other two siblings were around a bit more, too, along with my Oma, and sometimes my Uncle Art and Aunt Alice. While the house at other times of the year felt more like a kid’s domain (to me, at least), at Christmas, everything suddenly felt that much more adult. And thus I remember trying to act a little more like an adult, too – eating things I didn’t care much for because I knew they were special (like that Schwarzbrot), sitting at the table while the adults conversed, not always knowing what they were talking about but waiting for a moment that I understood or could insert a joke or make a funny face. I remember my brothers watching movies in the family room (Dad usually gave us sets of Laserdiscs for Christmas) while I played with my new toys in the living room, and hearing them laugh heartily. And at some point during his visit, Rich would inevitably turn on a cassette tape that featured one or several of his performances at school. Our parents listened with great interest and pride. I found it rather boring and couldn't wait to put on the fun records again.

One year Rich gave my parents a copy of the King’s Singers “A Little Christmas Music.” Not surprisingly, I didn’t like it one bit the first few times we played it – too stuffy-sounding, sometimes weird, what’s with men singing with high voices, anyway? – but it was on repeat long enough that the next year and in the years that have followed, it doesn’t feel like Christmas without it. Today when I listen to my favorite “Ding dong! Merrily on High” I feel a certain nostalgia toward that punchy brass. Those men in falsetto have even been known to prompt a tear if I'm not on guard. May the music always remind me of the joy of the anticipation of being reunited with family. Christmas is here.

Rich on the left, me with the stuffed animal abundance, Dad on the right

12.03.2016

Holiday tonic

A number of fun, important things happened at our house in recent days. One was Thanksgiving, our first time ever to host, and the first time ever to seat more than 8 people around our table (a total of 11). Another was getting our parents (Joel’s and mine) in the same place long enough to share a meal and get to know each other in person for the first time in 8 years. It was a sweet evening that meant a lot to us. And another was paying our first sizable vet bill after our very playful cat accidentally - I'm being gracious here - snagged our sweet, trouble-avoidant dog, right on the eyelid. That doesn't really fit in the "fun" or "important" category, but it happened when everything else did. After some stitching and dental work while they were at it, she’s OK now, off drugs and no longer wearing the cone of shame.

But I'm still basking in the afterglow of those first two things. The Thanksgiving menu was something we planned for at least a month. As soon as we knew we were hosting, Joel got on a jag of thinking outside the turkey. At first I resisted (my one chance to roast an entire turkey!), but then I realized it might be kind of fun. So, for instance, instead of preparing a whole bird, we opted for several boneless breasts which we slow-roasted and glazed using this recipe. Instead of mashed potatoes, Joel whipped up one of our now-favorite risottos with caramelized fennel and onion. There were more traditional pairings in the mix, too, including these rolls, and though we worried there wouldn't be enough food, or that people would be disappointed that there were no sweet potatoes on their plate, everything turned out just fine, and I'd be happy to do it all over again. Thinking back on all of the planning, I already have sweet memories of the occasional argument over whether or not we should have potatoes, and the moment we discovered that slow-cooked onions just kind of taste like bland onions, and the feeling of being a good team in the kitchen. 

But what I'm here to tell you about now is drinking, of the somewhat healthy but festive variety. In the midst of dreaming and scheming our Thanksgiving plans, I came across an article in Rodale's Organic Life about fall shrubs. This has nothing to do with the plant variety, but the ultra-trendy, hipster tonic variety. I committed myself to making the apple shrub on a Saturday, which was simply a matter of slicing several pounds of Granny Smiths, covering them in brown sugar and cinnamon, refrigerating them for several days, stirring them each day, then straining on a Monday and mixing with apple cider vinegar. Best part, you can then snack on the apples or use them to bake into a quick dessert! The article described handing these refreshing apple shrubs to guests as they came in from the cold, either mixed with sparkling water or bourbon…or both. 

Unfortunately, a week later, this cozy image was quickly forgotten on Thanksgiving after we’d decided cranberry mimosas would be a festive morning drink for everyone. Oops. But who can go wrong with a festive mimosa?

Not to worry, though! Snow is in the forecast and I'm coming in from the cold each day and can mix up one of these refreshing tonics for myself. Depending on the hour, bourbon is added. And/or ginger ale. This sounds good. Experiment with your own, or come over and help me drink mine.

To our health!

Apple Shrub
from Rodale's Organic Life

9 Granny Smiths, washed and sliced into 8 slices each
4 c. loosely packed brown sugar
2 T. ground cinnamon
1 c. apple cider vinegar

Place all ingredients except the vinegar in a very large bowl or container. Stir for 5 minutes, then cover and place in the fridge. Stir the mixture again the next day, and one more day after that. After that (the third day), get your biggest strainer or colander and dump the mixture into it over another large bowl. You'll probably find some large gloopy chunks. Take a fine strainer and strain those out. Place the apples aside for snacking (I did this for about 3 days) or put into a baking dish and sprinkle your favorite topping over it and bake for dessert. Pour the apple cider vinegar in the strained liquid and stir to combine. Place in a jar and store in the fridge for up to a month.

10.14.2016

Book Report the Fourth



Thanks to Facebook for reminding me that I do this book report every October.

Year 1 | Year 2 | Year 3

Apparently this past year has been a big year for books for me. I had a good dose of fiction, non-fiction, self-help, classics, and super-trendies. Some good, some garbage, some good garbage. So, without further ado, all the books I read in the last 12 months and what I thought of them.

1. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marsha Pessl - This one just sort of fell into my lap with no introduction, but within a couple pages I was hooked. The plot centers on a teenage girl named Blue who is brilliant and clever and fills the story with who knows how many cultural and intellectual references. The plot kept me on my toes as Blue figures out what is going on in the life of the hippest albeit inappropriate film-studies teacher at the high school, and what led to her demise. It's dark with death and mystery and heartbreak, and a few rich-kid characters that made me glad I grew up in southern Idaho. A delightful surprise of a read.

2. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough - I read this wishing I had more time to read about history. I feel about these kinds of books the way I feel about watching multi-part documentaries on PBS. I know I'd love to learn about important historical stuff that sheds light on our society or our world, but isn't there something else I should be doing right now? I know, it's terrible. Accordingly, I slogged through this one. That says nothing about how much I did actually enjoy reading this fascinating story of how these two dedicated bike-mechanic brothers put their lives in jeopardy, in miserable conditions, in order to travel by air. And the drama (and tragedy) that came with trying to be the ones to do it the longest and farthest. If biographies are your thing, definitely read this one.

3. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff - This was compared by many to Gone Girl, and I couldn't disagree more, aside from the fact that it was a story told through two spouses. Far fewer thrills in this one, but the beauty was in the play between the passionate and the subtle. I wasn't expecting to read through so many sex scenes, to be honest, so know what you're getting into. As I predicted after finishing it just before Christmas, it's one of those books I've mostly forgotten by now, though at the time I thoroughly enjoyed it.

4. Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart - I was really excited about this one as it's based on the true story of Constance Kopp, the first female sheriff in the U.S. The first few pages were written with an ease of wit and humor that I found delightful. Unfortunately the humor that captured me tapered off a bit as the plot thickened. Still, it was a charming bit of historical fiction. A few loose ends were left in the end, and I can only assume that these things will be addressed in the sequel, which I may or may not read.

5. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - Of this list of books, this ranks toward the top. If you want to read a really engaging, thought-provoking book, read this. The main character dies at birth in chapter one but lives in chapter two, only to die again. Each chapter explores the lives of those around her and her effect on their outcomes, depending on her fate, ultimately spanning the two world wars.

6. Yes Please by Amy Poehler - This memoir is exactly what you would expect. It's full of tangential humor and you can hear Amy through it very clearly. I enjoy indulging in this stuff as a palate cleanser between big, heavy books. Plus, I've really come to love Amy over the years after initially being skeptical of her when she first joined SNL. It was inspiring to read about her work ethic and about being a woman in comedy - all the now-famous people she started out with, her friendship with Tina Fey, her work with the Upright Citizens Brigade, etc. It wasn't a memoir that featured some big life tragedy or epiphany, as memoirs often have. It was more of a happy childhood followed by taking risks, making connections, being real about life and how it sucks, and being alive during an exciting era in comedy. So, good job, Amy Poehler. Fun photos, too.

7. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker - A sweet story that was made less sweet by the daughter character. I wanted to slap her. How a man like her father raised such an ingrate (though her character is redeemed later) is beyond me. Otherwise it's a wonderful love story set in Burma in the 1950s. 

8. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo - There's a real industry for getting us to think about our stuff. From minimalism to zero-waste homes, I get at once enthralled and repulsed. I think this book was a little bit of fresh air because it wasn't so much about getting rid of the stuff you don't need, but appreciating the things that bring you great joy, and filling your home with only those things. I've only gotten as far as the clothes part (and it's something I assess on a regular basis), and they're all still folded in my drawers in need little rectangles. It brings intentionality to homemaking rather than the "get organized" or "de-clutter" mentality. It also honors those things that may once have had meaning in your life, but no longer do. If you hear me whispering "thank you" while standing over old high school papers in the recycling bin, it's because of Marie Kondo.

9. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - Dear everyone in America: PLEASEREADTHISBOOK. Thanks.

10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - God bless my high school friend Robin who keeps me true to the sensibilities of High School Liz, a girl characterized by her love of all things nostalgic, dreamy and old-fashioned, because she loaned me this book and I felt parts of my brain light up that had been dark since the last time I read Anne of Green Gables. Dodie Smith is better known for having written The Hundred and One Dalmations, but more should know about this one. I at once identified with the main character Cassandra and her penchant for journal-writing, along with her wittiness and self deprecation. Her journal is where she "captures" scenes from her daily life, which is lived in a dilapidated castle and surrounding area of a small village in England with her eccentric family. It's hilarious, sweet, tragic, and strikes my heart-strings just right.

11. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - I wanted to read something that everyone was talking about, and this one happened to be available at the library. The only thing I really took away from it was a heightened appreciation for things I take for granted in everyday transportation that quadriplegics and their care-givers have to plan for in great detail. The love story felt thin and unrealistic, and I felt my eyes rolling one-too-many times. Somehow, I finished it. I decided I didn't want to see the movie, or read the sequel.

12. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - This would be another book near the top of the list this year, but proceed thoughtfully if you decide to check it out. It will be gut-wrenching, and you need to be prepared that there are some horrible scenes - not just in a bruised-and-bloody, physical sense, but emotionally as well. I couldn't hold back the tears after feeling immense hopelessness for one of the main characters, in a way that made me think in new ways about friendship, love, family, and accountability. One of many great quotes: "[T]he only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well."

13. The Course of Love by Alain de Botton - I have loved de Botton for years, ever since I was introduced to How Proust Can Change Your Life. He's my favorite explainer of philosophy, and in the last few years he's developed The School of Life and its online partner, The Book of Life, which applies much of his philosophical explanations into digestible lessons (with fun videos) about how to live, love, and work, among other things. This book felt like an extension of that project, and it was a quick read filled with epiphanies related to the particular tendencies of humans in relationships. I loved his suggestion that your partner should consider your act of moping as a compliment, because it implies that you believe he knows you so deeply that of course he'd understand why you are so upset. It's the perfect book for people who don't take self-help books too seriously but still love reading them (hello). This is one I'll revisit every few years, I'm sure.

14. The Solace of Stones: Finding a Way Through Wilderness by Julie Riddle - It's a crazy feeling to read a memoir written by your coworker because you come back to work each day after reading the night before and are like, WHOA. I've always known she is a gifted writer, but getting this intimate glimpse into a friend and colleague's life is an unusual, humbling honor. I am proud to know the woman behind the words, whose life experiences are surely making other women feel less alone.

15. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler - In the months leading up to summer I felt this strong urge to spend the hot months reading noir. Instead, I spent the summer trying to fall asleep at night. Reading something called The Big Sleep during the wee hours when I couldn't sleep was a cruel irony. Of course, the book had nothing to do with sleep, and everything to do with darkness. Certain passages were so delicious that if Joel was still awake, I would read them aloud. Ahem: "It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars." How does that not strike one's fancy?

16. Say Goodnight to Insomnia by Gregg D. Jacobs, Ph.D. - This book saved me. I came across it through NPR (which made me feel a little better about Jacobs' credibility), and it was like a light that took me through a dark, two-month-long tunnel of insomnia. I'm sure I will continue to experience nights like the ones I experienced this past summer, but I feel incredibly empowered with what I learned in this book through its principles of cognitive behavioral therapy. Jacobs takes you through the facts - how our minds and bodies rest, what sleep does for us, and how sleeping pills are only treating symptoms and often do more harm than good. He also debunks the myth that we need eight hours of sleep, and how the stress of believing we need a solid eight hours is actually making things worse for insomniacs like me. Turns out, a five-and-a-half hour night is all our brains need to fully recharge. Six hours is better, and seven is optimal. Eight hours or more can actually start to do damage. From there, it's all about achieving 90% sleep efficiency (i.e., insomnia is defined by sleep efficiency, i.e., the time spent in bed not sleeping vs. sleeping - you want to spend more time in bed actually sleeping, obviously), which happens through sleep scheduling and sleep hygiene. This meant that for a couple weeks, I stayed up past 11 p.m. or close to midnight to pressure my body into sleep mode, and then gradually went to bed earlier as my sleep efficiency increased. And if I lay awake longer than 20 minutes, I would go into another room and read for about a half hour, then go back to bed and try again (you repeat this pattern until you fall asleep). It took about six or seven weeks before I started going back to bed at my normal time and falling asleep within 20 minutes (the goal). I now average about six and a half hours of sleep each night, which is enough for me to feel refreshed and like myself. This whole process also brought a more regular practice of mindful meditation into my life. It wasn't the most fun read, but it was the most important one.

17. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers - This was perfectly enjoyable. Call me a Dave Eggers fan, because I've liked everything I've read from him. It's a book that makes a statement, but not always in the way you might think. Because I knew of the movie adaptation first, I couldn't help but picture the main character as Tom Hanks, but it was a wonderful casting choice. If you don't feel like reading the book, go ahead and watch the movie because it followed the book well.

18. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce - If you love stories about old British people coming to terms with their past, this is the book for you. I found it begging to be made into a movie starring Jim Broadbent. The premise is an endearing one: a man sets out to say his final goodbye to a former coworker, whose hospice is on the opposite tip of England, bringing nothing but the clothes on his back and unsuitable boating shoes on his feet - not even a cell phone. You don't know why he feels the need to say goodbye in person, but as the pilgrimage continues, you learn about the years since he last saw her, and the wife he's grown apart from. Great book club material.

19. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy - There are two phrases that keep getting stuck in my head as a result of this book: "There ain't no haints in Detroit," and "There truly ain't no party like a Turner house party." Beautifully written fiction about the life of a family in Detroit: how they got there, the ways they try to escape, and the ghosts they must reckon with in order to live a fulfilled life. You should read it, if only to give me someone to talk about it with.