The cats and I met my Mom and her dogs Up North for the first part of Spring Break*. “Up North” is the all-encompassing term for parts of Michigan and Wisconsin north of, say, Midland… or Milwaukee. Sometimes includes parts more southerly such as Saugatuck
or even “Michiana,” that tourist haven on the border of Michigan and Indiana. (my friend who actually grew up in Michiana corrected me on this point– only FILPs call Michiana “Up North” and they actually say “Michigan.” Ask me in person what a FILP is. Heh).
To me, Up North refers to the pinkie finger of Michigan. To understand what I’m referring to, hold your right hand in front of you, palm facing you. That’s the state of Michigan. Point to your pinkie finger. That’s where I am right now. Clever? Yes.
My ‘Up North’ conjures the feel of sand dunes between your toes, the smell of pine forest, and the taste of ripe sweet cherries. When I was a kid, my family simply referred to this magical place as “Michigan,” as if the entire state had these same characteristics (give us a break, I grew up in Chicago).
When I started school at another entity referred to simply as “Michigan,” we had to clarify so that people wouldn’t get the impression that I spent every day on an idyllic beach in perpetual summertime. And so, we adopted the term used by all Michiganders and Wisonsionites to talk about their ‘summer cabins’: Up North.
Maybe I’m lying. All of my family probably still just say “Michigan” to refer to the dunes, forest, lake, and cherries and then quickly correct themselves if I’m in earshot. For the first two years at UM, I found myself facing looks of ridicule when I made the very same mistake. I still have to explain my nostalgia for the State of Michigan to people. I grew up with “Michigan” referring to Childhood Summer, not just some location on a map (or a school).
Now that I own a car, and live a mere 5 hours from “Michigan” (my family seems to think that I live much closer than I previously did, which is false. Chicago is 6 hours from Up North. The way I drive + traffic in Flint means I now live about 5 hours away) I go Up North more frequently. Mostly because I have a car now. Plus, there are fewer tourists in the non-summer, making everything that much more peaceful.
People ask ‘what do you do Up North?’ Well… mostly, lately, it’s just relaxing. And of course, it depends on the season. In the summertime, my activities are completely different. I present here some of the highlights of this (wintry) trip:
1) Red Wine. My mom brought red wine that is not 3-buck-Chuck, thus making it “good” in my mind. Occasionally, she brings real Good red wine, though I still cannot differentiate between it and “good” red wine… I suppose I need to drink more. Sadly, the local wineries are closed during the weeks in the winter, otherwise we’d go local.
I am drinking a glass now, which is why it is the first item to occur to me.
2) Brie. Let me be more specific: warm brie with blueberry preserves and crackers. This is consumed with “good” red wine. Also, currently being consumed.
3) Molten Chocolate Cake. I hadn’t made these in a while, and we ate them warm with vanilla ice cream. Mmmm. (substitute cake flour for regular, and SIFT!)
4) Mindless television. The above (3) were eaten while watching the Oscars. I had actually seen two of the movies up for Best Picture, and heard of one other! I think I will see another later this week… I am trying to be positive about the mindless TV. It reminds me of why I am glad I don’t have a TV… and I guess it is nice to space out for a little bit every once in a while.
5) Novels. I am currently reading Inés of My Soul and have been since I bought it over Winter (semester, holiday) break. My attention span is getting shorter and shorter, and it’s taking me longer and longer to read even fiction. I will finish it this week! Dammit.
My mom usually brings an art project to work on, but this time she is also reading 🙂 I brought my camera, but it has stayed in its case the whole time. I am, however, thinking about projects.
6) Cauliflower soup. A friend of mine happened to have an orange cauliflower, and gave it to me because she was going out of town and didn’t have time to eat it. So, I made it into this soup. I didn’t have basil, or cilantro, sadly. But I threw in two tablespoons of white vinegar, which really rounded out the flavors. 🙂
7) Sleeping late. Really late. 10 am. Woo!
8 ) Baked oatmeal. Sorry, no recipe for this one… my mom got it from a friend of hers, and it has become our official Special Occasion breakfast. We had it for Christmas Morning too, and it is very tasty. Basically, you soak some oatmeal in a milky-brown sugary-buttery mixture overnight (in a casserole dish) and then bake it in the morning. She threw in some granola this time, along with the oats. Mmmm.
9) Window shopping. We went into Traverse City today and did a brisk walk-by of most of the stores, stopping briefly in two. One was a gallery, which had work by this artist that I had seen before but never really appreciated. My parents have two of his prints in their bathroom. Basically, he has these quirky-abstract wood cutout people (or printed people) painted in bright-ish colors, with a little saying. Three of the sayings really struck me this time.
This one got me choked up for some reason, and I felt really silly, and I couldn’t put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s just a nice thought, or perhaps it made me sentimental:
I once read that the ancient Egyptians had 50 words for sand, and that the Eskimos have 100 words for snow[**]. I wish that there were a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep. And there are no words for that.”
This one’s perhaps not so optimistic:
He loved her for almost everything she was. And she decided that was enough, and let him stay for a very long time.”
But this one is happy again 🙂 :
Sometimes we do things because they feel right & they make no sense & they make no money & maybe that’s the reason we’re here: to love each other & eat each other’s cooking and to say that it’s good.”
Then we went to lunch (split a chicken-spinach salad and each had a cup of asparagus- Parmesan soup) and sat and read in Borders for a while. Like I said, relaxation 🙂
10) Coffee. As much as I want, without really needing it. Which means I actually enjoy it, rather than just settling for burned, weak, cheap swill that is really just caffeinated water. In particular, this coffee is delicious and locally-roasted. We walk into town with our books and sit and drink coffee for a while, then walk home. Today we walked in with the dogs, so didn’t stick around to read. Still delicious coffee.
And that is how I spent the first half of my Spring Break*. There are other highlights to, like hiking/snowshoeing, taking pictures, not showering, more hiking… but I thought I should keep it to an even 10.
The second half will involve much less relaxation, and much more cleaning, organizing, and catching up on work I should have managed during the first half of the semester. But that’s okay.
*Excuse me, I meant “Winter Break.” To stave off complaints from the U community, the administration reminds us that we are, in fact, in the midst of winter semester, not “spring” semester. Therefore, we are on Winter Break. This somehow explains having our weeklong vacation at the end of February, long before the snow melts and the sun appears in Michigan. Not that I’m complaining that we have a week-long break in the middle of the semester! If we didn’t, I’d be petitioning for mental health leave, let me tell you.
**Yes, I know the thing about Eskimo words for snow is a misconception. It’s still a nice thought, and I liked it.