Good Years

Today is my 30th birthday!

I'm grateful for:

  • Parents who are loving, supportive, and committed to education.
  • The lessons I continue to learn from my confident, feminist Mom and my active, outdoorsy Dad.
  • A smart and sweet brother who is one of my best friends.
  • Nick, for sharing adventures with me and always being excited to learn something new.
  • Friends, old and new, who bring joy to my days. Especially the brilliant and gifted-advice-giver Eileen.
  • My health, mobility, and energy.
  • How fortunate I have been to see so much of the world and meet so many amazing people.
19841019 Gemma on the Jefferson Porch

Things that are making me happy: -Being a student again. -Fall bike rides with fellow library school students. -This song that I have been listening to all morning. -Seeing bylines and photo credits for dear friends in fancy publications. -Ordering a pretty dress that I've had my eye on. -Apples and tawny port -Visiting Detroit and seeing the Smashing Pumpkins in a few weeks (Thanks Nick!) -Learning more about my camera in my photography class. -Excuses to buy new books. -Perfect running weather. -Feeling healthier than I did at 25.

I'm a lucky lady. I'll be back with a recipe soon. Cheers!

Strawberry Shortcake

This has been the first summer that has really felt like summer to me in a long time. Soaring temperatures, breezy bike rides, patio drinking, vacations, great food, old friends, new friends, grad school classes, and barely a moment to sit still - just the way I like it.

Summer Dinner Party 23

I've been fortunate to spend a lot of time with my family this summer and we recently had a large reunion for my father's side of the family. My grandparents had six children and - counting spouses and great grandchildren - there are about 40 of us now. We are lucky to be so close-knit for a large family, especially considering that we are spread throughout the country and the world.

Grandpa Then Grandpa Now

The driving force behind this family reunion was to celebrate my grandfather's 90th birthday. That's the two of us in 1986 and again just recently. We spent three days in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin dining, going through old photos, and enjoying my grandfather's land. I'm hoping I inherited some of my grandparent's good genes - they are both in excellent shape. In fact, my grandfather's birthday gift was a new chainsaw and he and my father are out at the land clearing away fallen trees from the most recent storm as I write this.

It's hard to believe it is already August. I've started to frantically make all of the summer dishes that I know I will miss when late September rolls around. Growing up, strawberry shortcake usually included store bought angel food cake. While I still have a special place in my heart for that distinctive flavor, you can't beat the real thing. The shortcakes in this recipe are easy to make and it's worth turning on the oven for in the hot August heat.

Strawberry Shortcake Serves 10

For the shortcakes:


4 C all-purpose flour
2 Tbl baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
6 Tbl sugar
1 ½ sticks (12 Tbl) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ C cold heavy cream


I use Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Tender Shortcakes, which you can find here.

For the strawberries and cream:


2 lb fresh strawberries, rinsed 2 Tbl sugar 1 ½ C cold heavy cream


Thinly slice the strawberries. Add to a medium bowl and add the sugar. Gently toss the strawberries to coat and let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, periodically stirring to distribute the sugar. Refrigerate until you are ready to use the mixture.

Just before you are ready to serve the strawberry shortcakes, add the heavy cream to medium bowl and whip with a hand mixer until light and airy. Don't over mix.

To serve, place a shortcake on a plate (you can gently slice them in half if you'd like, but I leave them whole), top with a few dallops of whipped cream and a few spoonfuls of strawberries.

Lemon & Tahini Peas

I spent a busy Father's Day weekend between Chicago and northern Illinois. My mother is renting a fantastic apartment in a high-rise near Millennium Park this summer. I spent some time enjoying the view with her on Friday, followed by a fantastic dinner at Province with Nick.

Father's Day Weekend 4

Saturday and Sunday I spent at home with my parents, and in Lake Geneva with my Grandparents. We had a picnic at my Grandparent's land for Father's Day and enjoyed an excited hail storm that evening.

Father's Day Weekend 14

My brother came into Chicago for work on Monday evening and my father and I met him for dinner on the Small Bar patio in Logan Square. It was odd being there now that neither of us live in the neighborhood. It was a busy weekend, but I am glad I was able to visit with so many people.

I catch the train to New Orleans this evening for the American Library Association Conference. Feel free to share any recommendations you have for my stay!

Father's Day Weekend 2

Summer has officially arrived and I've been keeping cool with recipes that require very little heat to prepare. (Sometimes, I just eat an entire melon for a meal.) This recipe for peas in a flavorful lemon and tahini dressing is great on its own, or served with toasted pita.

Lemon & Tahini Peas


2 C frozen peas
1/4 C plain yogurt
2 Tbl tahini
2 Tbl red onion, finely diced
2 Tbl lemon zest
1 Tbl water
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt


Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the frozen peas for a minute or two -- just until they turn bright green. Remove from the heat, drain, and run cold water over them. You don't want the peas to cook, just to thoroughly thaw.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the other ingredients and mix well. Add another tablespoon or two of water if the consistency of the dressing seems too thick.

Add the peas, tossing to coat. With a fork or a potato masher, gently crush some of the peas. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Seattle Road Trip

My brother recently moved from Chicago to Seattle, and thanks to the flexible schedule of grad school, I was able to take a few days off to accompany him and his two cats, Sprout and Turnip, on the three-day drive. Evan is my only sibling and our family is very close, the two of us even lived together last year. It's been hard to adjust to having him so far away, but I'm excited for his new adventure and I'm grateful we were able to spend this time together.

Fargo Flooding

We stopped in St. Cloud, Minnesota to see Evan's friend Sten and grab dinner at the White Horse, a nice bar in the charming old downtown area. We spent our first night in Fargo, North Dakota. The next morning as we left town, we watched the floods rise to meet the expressway. Had we left a few hours later, we would have been stuck. It was eerily beautiful in the early morning light, but it was clear that the families who owned the farm fields we passed would be facing a hard year without their crops.


Sprout and Turnip are young cats and they did amazingly well with the drive. We were able to let them out of their crate for most of the trip and enjoyed watching them peer out the windows or find sunny spots to sleep. We drove all day and made a quick stop for dinner at the excellent Montana Ale Works in Bozeman, Montana. Thanks to many family trips to National Parks growing up, Evan and I share a deep love for Montana. Bozeman was a gorgeous spot to stop and enjoy the sunset behind the mountain range.

Hob Nob

We stayed in Missoula, Montana that evening and had breakfast at the Hob Nob, a fantastic diner recommended by my friend Angela. Their menu included pancakes made with 100 year-old sourdough starter from Red Lodge. I'm normally a savory breakfast type, but I couldn't resist a legacy like that and they were delicious.

Road Trip

Our third day of driving was our shortest. The state seems to have a bit of an image problem, but for those of you that haven't had the pleasure of visiting Idaho, I think the beauty of the northern portion is one of the best kept secrets in the U.S.

Sprout & Turnip

On the afternoon of an uncharacteristically sunny April day, we made our way along the Puget Sound and into Seattle. We stayed at a lovely place in the Fremont neighborhood and set to work trying to find Evan an apartment. The cats were pretty thrilled to be out of the car, as were we.

Veggie Burger at Julia's

Apartment hunting might not sound like a great way to spend a vacation, but it was actually really wonderful to be outside all day, getting to know different neighborhoods, and sampling the local fare. I went to school in Portland, Oregon and visited Seattle a few times, but I never got a great sense of the city before.


We spent the majority of our time in Fremont, Capitol Hill and Queen Anne. Rent rates weren't as bad as we had been expecting, but nearly every place in Seattle appears to have carpeted floors and electric stoves. It was a rough transition from the hardwood and high ceilings that seem plentiful in Chicago. Ultimately, we did find a nice spot in our favorite neighborhood.


I have two great friends who live in Seattle, Tara from high school and Jen from college. It was really fun to finally get out to see them and I'm looking forward to more frequent visits. They took us to some excellent local establishments and helped us get a better sense of the housing market.


Seattle is a beautiful city, full of interesting people and lush landscapes. The air feels amazing, their produce beats Chicago's nearly all year round, and the opportunities for outdoor activities are endless. I've really missed the northwest since I moved away years ago. It is nice to know that I will have a good excuse to get reacquainted.


I'm really excited for Evan. It's hard to move away from home, but I know he is going to have an incredible time in his new home. It was so hard to say goodbye at the airport. And even harder during a few idle hours in Chicago last weekend when I went to give him a call, and had to remind myself that he wasn't in Logan Square anymore. He's one of my best friends and I already miss him a ton. I'm so grateful we were able to take this trip together.