SYTYCD Season X – The Top 20 Perform

Erica: So it appears that we will be voting for one guy and one girl winner this year again. I want to disapprove of this choice, but I think it’s a response to the fact that the girls are consistently better, overall, than the guys, but don’t get the votes the guys do. So fine.

Kate: I think the guys are way better this season so far! Are they doing the same elimination style again?

Erica: That is a mystery to me.

Opening Number – Hip-hop: “Puttin’ On The Ritz” by Herb Alpert feat. Lani Hall; choreo by NappyTabs:

Kate: This was so adorable I couldn’t even stand it.

Erica: It was so adorable I wanted to be dismissive of it, then it came back around and won me over.

Kate: I loved seeing the choreographer cameos – especially my choreographer love Travis Wall.

Erica: Forget choreographers; I LOVE seeing Nigel and Mary dance. Especially Mary. Just to remind you that actually yes, these people do have business judging a dancing competition. These were just cameos, of course, but remember this? Nigel choreographed it. And this? Talk about hot tamales.

Cat Deely’s Outfit

Kate: I love that pink, and she finally has some decent makeup and I like her hair straight, but are those shoulder pads? Also the neck is a little too high.

Erica: I love the outfit and the hair, but it looked super-weird against the orange background for the first part of the show. And for the first time I am starting to feel she’s too tan.

Mariah & Carlos – Jive: “Get It Right” by Fantasia; choreo by Jason Gilkison

Kate: He was cute in this, but she was not ready at all.

Erica: Really? I continue to like her.

Kate: The lifts looked very uncomfortable.

Erica: Yeah but isn’t that his fault?

Kate: No she looked uncomfortable, like she didn’t trust him and like she did not want to be lifted whatsoever. That’s a hip-hop dancer for you.

Erica: I continue to love it when Mary gets all technical about the ballroom.

Jasmine M. & Alan – Contemporary: “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Ingrid Michaelson; choreo by Travis Wall

Kate: Well, how can you go wrong with Travvy?!

Erica: You can’t. Well, you can, but these two really, really didn’t. Although the Jewish mother in me thought the blindfolds were a TERRIBLE idea, and the snarky crank in me thought they were gimmicky, in the actual routine, it was just beautiful, smooth perfection. I also appreciate – and I have to assume Travis Wall himself has something to do with this, because the same is not true for every dance – that the whole thing is beautifully designed. The backdrops and costumes blend seamlessly into the choreography.

Kate: Yes I found myself liking the costumes a lot, and usually I think they are absurd. I love this version of this song, it’s just sooooooo romantic. As was the dancing, I thought.

Erica: Yeah, ditto on the song. Loved it. And Wayne Brady was right, you didn’t worry about them once they took the stage with the blindfolds. She continues to be a favorite for me. Erica: Just a note – I stressed last week that they had four ballroomers and none of them seemed to be either Utahan or Russian. But he’s Russian. Not recently, judging from the very light accent, but Russian. So my world is righted again.

Malece & Jade – Jazz: “Silver Screen (Shower Scene” by Felix da Housecat; choreo by Travis Wall

Kate: They were great together!

Erica: Yes. They were. I’ve always liked her and he didn’t do anything to piss me off.

Kate: I thought I would once again hate the animator because he wouldn’t really be able to do the other stuff but we’d just keep him on anyway, but I genuinely believe hie is talented and dedicated to picking up other styles. Quickly.

Erica: Yes. But. I hated this routine.

Kate: WHY!

Erica: I know, I know, Travis Wall can do no wrong. But. A) I hate the black and white shit; it was so gimmicky. And b) what the fuck was that at the end? Was he supposed to be so domineering and mean throughout the dance that we supported her being violent to him? And even if he had been domineering and mean, why does this show keep supporting routines in which it’s supposed to be cute and empowering when women do violent things to men?

Kate: Er. It’s dancing. They performed a dance well.

Erica: Well, I’m not just judging the dancers; I’m judging the show as a whole. And I wish they would stop doing that. I’m not blaming Malece and Jade for it.

Kate: Ugh, Cat just said “Gatsby” because Malece looks like Carey Mulligan.

Erica: Yeah. They do that a lot, too.

Jenna & Tucker – Broadway: “That’s All” by Kevin Spacey (Beyond the Sea soundtrack); choreo by Tasty Oreo

Kate: Kevin Spacey????

Erica: Well, he was in that biopic about Bobby Darrin, right? Weird song choice, though, I agree. Or, weird version of that song choice.

Kate: This was kind of boring? I think I don’t like her. Or maybe I don’t like Broadway as a genre on this show.

Erica: I’m neutral about her (although I’m thinking – three dancing sisters, maybe she is Utahan?). I like him. I thought this routine was super-cheesy, but I can’t decide if it was cheesy-adorable or cheesy-boring. I’m leaning toward the latter.

Kate: Was he the guy with the annoying mom at auditions who kept screaming “ay papi”? If so, he has much more potential which was not shown in that dance.

Erica: I think that was the other one. Nico.

Brittany & BluPrint – African Jazz: “Drumming Circle” by Professor Trance and The Energizers; choreo by Sean Cheesman

Kate: Actually . . . This was SUPER fun!

Erica: Ugh. I hate “Afro-Jazz”. I don’t understand how it’s not racist to have them in “primitive” garb and sniffing the ground like animals and calling it “African,” even if it is choreographed by a black man. And then they do the “Oh, my God, Brittany, you’re a contemporary dancer! (read: white!) And you danced like an Afro-Jazz dancer! (read: black!) Just, ugh. Also, Sean Cheesman’s pecs continue to haunt my nightmares.

Kate: Yes, Nigel made some in appropriate comments about that, but African (calling it “Afro” doesn’t help!) Jazz is an actual genre and awesome type of dance to learn/do. I think as the dance went on, the choreography got better and the dancers clearly got more comfortable. My dislike for Sean Cheesman is still there, FYI.

Erica: I thought the lifts looked very labored. And even Cat and Wayne were making fun of the choreo. I will say, I loved the face paint.

Kate: They weren’t making fun! They are right about what they said in Vegas, though – he needs more/better facial expressions. I used to HATE people telling me that, so I know how he feels.

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Erica: Is this prancing . . . a thing? Also does Nigel know it makes him look WORSE to whine about the prancing nonsense than to just do it with a smile?

Kate: Yea it’s a viral video thing, I haven’t seen it but I heard about it. I can’t believe we paused a live national competition reality television show to display funny videos, but there you have it.

Alexis & Nico – Hip-hop: “Last Time (Knife Party Remis” by Labrinth; choreo by Christopher Scott

Kate: Ah, this is the guy with the annoying mom.

Erica: Right.

Kate: I feel like she should have been good at hip-hop and she most certainly is not; meanwhile he was pretty impressive.

Erica: I liked the routine, except for the part where they went into their own styles. I understand why he did that; I just thought it was dumb.

Kate: I disagree with Nigel, at least in terms of Nico. I think he did great with the hip-hop style of movements, even if he didn’t perfect the attitude.

Erica: I also think this is kind of a problem they bring upon themselves by choosing such a young cast. Just about everyone here is between 18-21, with, like, one 23-year-old and one 24- or 25-year-old. They don’t have the maturity to understand what makes their style their style, or to fully throw themselves into the potentially embarrassing act of code-switching. I think they should actively be looking for more dancers in the 24-29 age group.

Makenzie & Paul – Viennese Waltz: “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne; choreo by Jason Gilkison

Kate: Odd waltz song choice.

Erica: I did not know this song was by Avril Lavigne.

Kate: It’s not, like, a particularly happy song, so why are they smiling so goofily?

Erica: Well, because he’s her perfect dream man and she’s having an enjoyable dream. I think it’s a problem of the song not matching the storyline, not their faces not matching the dance.

Kate: Fair enough. He is maybe a weeeeee bit too feminine? She is just lovely. Very smooth performance overall.

Erica: It was a good performance. She continues to read to me like a very show-biz kid. It feels to me like she never actually allows herself an honest moment of feeling, because she’s too busy worrying about how to portray herself.

Kate: WHAT WAS AUDREY-ESQUE/VERY ROMAN HOLIDAY ABOUT THAT, CAT!? Nigel, you too!? It’s a conspiracy!

Erica: Hee hee. I knew you’d flip your lid over that.

Kate: I mean, it was good, but I HATE when other women are compared to Audrey Hepburn. THERE IS NO COMPARISON.

Jasmine H. & Aaron – Jazz: “Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae; choreo by Sonya Tayeh

Kate: He needs to work on his arms. Not the muscles, but the movement. Her legs are absolutely insane.

Erica: Yes. Holy lord. Loved her.

Kate: Also, cool song.

Erica: Very.

Hayley & Curtis – Hip-hop: “Go” by Delilah; choreo by Christopher Scott

Kate: Is she the one we are going to constantly mix up with Makenzie?

Erica: I’m going to mix her up with Brittany and maybe Jenna, too. Makenzie is standing out to me for her gorgeousness and her show-biz pathology. Amy is going to stand out to me for being awesome. But the other three brunettes, I’ll never keep them straight. (I’d include Alexis, but we won’t be seeing her much longer.)

Kate: Also, are we short on choreographers? They used three of them twice already.

Erica: No, that’s normal. Most of the time in a given show, each choreographer presents two pieces, unless there’s a reason.

Kate: I actually really liked him during auditions, he has a lot of potential. They matched up great here, and she was surprisingly good at “hip-hop” (I use quotes because it was an odd definition of the genre).

Erica: Yeah. I hated this. Again. Because IT IS NOT CUTE OR EMPOWERING FOR WOMEN TO PERFORM VIOLENCE ON MEN! It is not feminist to think it is! STOP DOING THAT!

Amy & Fik-shun – Contemporary: “Elsa” by The Valerie Project; choreo by Sonya Tayeh

Kate: Make that four choreographers used twice. What the H?

Erica: I’m telling you, it’s normal. I’m sure it’s contractual. That way, the choreographers can work on their other stuff on the weeks they aren’t on.

Kate: I just want some more NappyTabs and Stacey Tooky and Mandy Moore in my life. Awesome tricks, though. They are very strong together. But there were more tricks than dancing, no?

Erica: Well, yes, but that’s Sonya. I want to hate Fik-shun because of the way they’re promoting him, but . . . dude can dance.

Kate: Dude can’t dance as well as Jade and BluPrint, if we are comparing him to the other, in Nigel’s words, “non-trained” dancers.

Erica: I have yet to make a judgement on that.

Kate: That does it for the top 20, tune in next week for the first elimination!

Erica: Presumably.

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SYTYCD X – Meet the Top Twenty!

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Erica: It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The time when Kate and I blog about SYTYCD! Are you excited?! We are!

Kate: Few things in television make me happier than this.

Erica: So today we’ll just be reviewing the dances we saw, not recapping the reveal of the Top Twenty. I watched the auditions only sporadically this year and have only dim ideas of who these people are.

Kate: Whereas I watched every single audition episode and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, especially because they had funny parents and cute children (yes, even I thought they were cute) dancing with the auditioners.

Erica: I usually love auditions; I’ve just been bouncing around so much, and when I do get to watch TV, it’s catching up on “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men”. So let’s get this started!

Cat Deely’s outfit:

Erica: I mean, look. She’s tall and blonde and thin and gorgeous and seems genuinely nice. But. She was wearing a glittery jumper. That’s weird.

Kate: Yes, I am finally coming around to your idea that shorts as formal wear is, in fact, atrocious. Also, she wears too much makeup for being so tan. A tan is natural makeup, you know?

Fik-Shun and Mariah – Hip-hop: “Ball” by T.I. feat. Li’l Wayne; choreo by Luther Brown

Erica: So Luther Brown is the guy who choreographed the diaper pants dance for Witney and Twitch last season. I am still in favor of his choreo.

Kate: Already off to a bad start with the judges because I thought he blew her out of the water in this one. She looked cute and bouncy and hip-hoppy, but he was so much better.

Erica: I disagree; I thought she was better. Sharper and more swaggy. Though he’ll be good in NappyTabs routines. She does look like Miley Cyrus, though, right?

Kate: Didn’t notice because I was barely looking at her.

Makenzie, Tucker, Nico, and Jasmine 1 – Contemporary: “Goes On and On” by Sleeping At Last; choreo by Stacey Tookey

Erica: Zoe was the best one.

Kate: Isn’t she always?

Erica: She heard this song and decided she needed to dance to it. Four times. And she was really good! As expected, really. Who can flail melodramatically better than Zoe?

Kate: Not many people.

Erica: Anyway. Of this group I think Makenzie is standing out because she is absolutely gorgeous, and is also a born-and-raised show-biz kid, with the slightly sociopathic qualities that entails. I know I said we wouldn’t be commenting on this, but I especially liked when, while she was waiting to be called in, she claimed that she was going to cry, and then said she doesn’t really cry, and then when they called her she did her absolute best to approximate what a human might be feeling at this moment.

Kate: Yes, she’s very pretty, and I thought she was great in this. Better than the other girl, whose limbs kind of bother me.

Aaron, Alexis, and Curtis – Tap: “You Really Did It” by Jason Mraz; choreo by some dude whose name I couldn’t catch

Erica: Again, Zoe was the best one.

Kate: Wait, so who was the Emilio guy who dropped out of the top 20 allowing Aaron to be in the competition?

Erica: Was Emilio the guy who was supposed to be in the first hip-hop routine? If so, then yes.

Kate: Oh, poo, I am confused. Whatever, it’s just tap.

Erica: I will say, tap is usually a solo operation, but the choreo here was good and they stayed in sync with each other really well.

Kate: Yes, but I don’t like tap on this show. The taps are always competing with the music and vice versa.

Blueprint and Jade – “Animation”: “Trigger” by Kezwick feat. Mel Presson; choreo by Christopher Scott

Erica: I am impressed by Christopher Scott.

Kate: Yes, I don’t know if I liked him last year, but this was FANTASTIC.

Erica: I also kind of wonder if they put Jade in because you don’t say no to Mia Michaels, but actually Nigel is going to be gunning for the kid because of his height. And whichever girl gets paired with him is going to pretend REALLY, REALLY hard that it’s not a problem that he’s waltzing with her boobs. Okay. Now I’m hoping he gets paired with Makenzie.

Kate: But — and I don’t like agreeing with Mia Michaels — if a choreographer can’t work with a height difference, what are they doing on the show?!

Hayley, Malece, and Carlos – Contemporary: “Stay” by Rihanna feat. Mikky Ekko; choreo by Mia Michaels

Erica: See, Kate, you get on me because I often blame bad choreography for a bad dance rather than bad dancing, but here I’ll say that the choreo was great, and that the dancers – except, sometimes, for Malece – kind of failed it.

Kate: See, Erica, you are wrong. This was fab. u. lous.

Erica: Malese more frequently understood that Mia Michaels was looking for a sharpness matching the beat to the movement; the other two flowed when they should have jerked.

Kate: Nope, wrong, loved it.

Alan, Brittany, Jenna and Paul – Ballroom: “Wings” by Little Mix; choreo by Louis van Amstel

Erica: None of these people is from Utah. Or Russia. Right? That’s confusing.

Kate: Oh I didn’t like this, and I think it was the fault of choreography rather than the dancing. When I see ballroom I want to see CRAZY lifts and tricks, and this just had a lot of flipping fluffy skirts around. The little man ballroom dancer, though, is much better than the other 3.

Erica: Agreed. Choreo was boring. And when you’ve got four, you should be able to do something fun. Okay, I’m going to mix these two up with Hayley a lot. Hopefully we cull some taut, smiley brunettes early.

Amy and Jasmine 2 – Contemporary: “Enjoy” by Bjork; choreo by Sonya Tayeh

Erica: Amy, too. Going to mix her up with the others.

Kate: I missed this one 😦 Only caught the very end.

Erica: No one is emerging as a strong favorite for me so far, but Jasmine 2 comes the closest. Also, side note, is the talon the thing now in nail shape? Because I totes hate it.

Kate: It probably is in Sonya’s mind.

Top Ten Boys – “Sand” by Nathan Lanier feat. Karen Whipple; choreo by Christopher Scott

Erica: I continue to be impressed by Christopher Scott. This was gimmicky, with the little piles of sand they played with during a song called “Sand,” and “brilliant” in that undergrad performance art way, but also really cool.

Kate: Anch’io (that’s me too, in Italian). I loved this.

Top Ten Girls – Jazz: “Let’s Have a Kiki” by Fanny Pak & District 73; choreo by Ray Leeper

Erica: District 78! They’re back!

Kate: Naturalmente (that’s naturally, in Italian). But I did not love this. Chris Scott did a better job of showing off all the styles, where as stupid Leeper (I don’t think I like him?) only did jazz, which only one top ten girl can do. Right?

Erica: I dunno. I still don’t really understand what “jazz” is. I liked the outfits here. Mod by way of an expensive L.A. brothel. Cool.

Kate: And the dancing?!

Erica: Zoe was dancing, too, so I didn’t really pay attention to this one. It looked fun.

Top Twenty – “Ghosts of Sky (Epic Dub)” by Steel Lord; choreo by Sonya Tayeh

Erica: Sonya Tayeh is full-on apocalyptic this season, isn’t she?

Kate: When is she not? This was cool, but I didn’t like it as much as the boys’ routine.

Erica: You know what else is going to make me nuts this season? Everyone crossing their arms in an X to indicate that it’s Season 10. I mean, it’d be cute if they thought it was funny, but they seem to think it’s deeply meaningful. It’s annoying.

Kate: I didn’t even notice that!

Erica: Tune in next Tuesday at 8/7 central for the official start of the season 10 top 20 competition!

Kate: WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

My Trip to Door County, or, A Dissertation on the Cherry

Jason and I went up to Door County, WI this weekend. It was the first trip we’ve taken alone since Zoe was born and actually only the third trip we’ve ever taken just the two of us, which sounds completely ridiculous and unbelievable considering that we’ve been together for thirteen and a half years, but it’s true.

Some of my readership (Dad, Uncle Mark, Lisa – so, like, a third of my readership? Uncle Mark, do you in fact read this site?) has already seen Jason’s e-mails about this, but I’ll tell it from my perspective, too.

For those of you who don’t know, Door County, Wisconsin is the county that covers that peninsula sticking into the top of Lake Michigan.

door county map

It’s a resort-ish collection of towns, with adorable little downtowns that have adorable tchotchke shops (and I have to ask – how do people who don’t know Yiddish describe stores like the ones in resort towns all over the country?) and places where you can rent boats or bikes or mopeds or go parasailing or fishing or play golf or, you know, do vacation-y things.

It is also the home of the cherry.

And whitefish. Lots of whitefish. But more cherries.

Day Zero

So Wednesday Jason took Zoe to his parents’ house when he got home from work. I had to run out of the house, too, and because we’ve been on the move constantly, I hadn’t really realized that once I left the house, I wouldn’t see Zoe for FIVE WHOLE DAYS. So then I got all sad and choked up and she was being the sweetest little girl ever, saying good-bye so nicely, and she’d miss me for 100,000. (This is a thing now.) And giving me lots of kisses while also being totally cool about it, because she was SUPER-EXCITED to stay at her grandparents’ for five days.

Then on my way home there was a major thunderstorm. So that was cool.

Jason and I had intended to be ready to go so that we could just roll out of bed and into the car and get passed Milwaukee before rush hour.

That did not happen.

You guys, we’re kind of tired. We’ve been travelling a lot.

So Jason brought me Yu’s from Schaumburg around 9 o’clock. We watched an episode of “Mad Men” (I am so in favor of Peggy banging Stan, btw. I mean, if she’s looking to me for approval, she’s got it.) and went to bed, and then packed in the morning. Which meant we didn’t leave until basically after rush hour was over. Which is also fine.

Day One

We arrived in Door County in mid-afternoon and checked in to our hotel, The Coachlite Inn, in Sister Bay. It had a giant rainbow flag outside, as did a lot of places, and I have to say, I’m not totally sure if Door County is especially gay-friendly, or if it’s so rural and innocent that they don’t know what the rainbow flag means and just use it to help you spot the driveways. But the hotel was nice. Big jacuzzi in the bathroom. Clean. Friendly. Free, unpassworded wifi. Which would turn out to be important because our service sucked everywhere that was not our hotel room.

Anyway, after settling in a bit, we headed over to Fish Creek, which has the highest concentration of adorableness on one strip of road. The road being 42, which is what all things are on. Want to go to Fish Creek? Head south from Sister Bay on 42. Want to go to Washington Island? Head north on 42 until it goes into the water. The ferry will be on your left. Want to go to the movies? Keep going south on 42 until you see a movie theater. It’s convenient.

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So we shopped in Fish Creek. Got some cherry fudge. Looked at tchotchkes. There was this one store with lots of leather jackets and furniture made from branches and real hide rugs and stuff. There was this hooded poncho made of strips of fur that I thought was hilarious. I loved the wood furniture with the legs all twisted branches and the surfaces like you’d just taken a slice of tree. There was also this really cool piece made of different colored stone to look like a rapids across the table top.

Jason fell in love with these Australian opal-and-amethyst rings and decided Zoe needed one.

I ask you.

She’s going to be demanding, like, a Dior prom dress and he’s just going to go, “But she’ll like it so much!”

Anyway, I also went into the Alexander Noble Home. Alexander Noble was one of the earliest settlers of Fish Creek and his home was designed more or less by his oldest daughter – they had a copy of the plan she gave the carpenter and everything. She made her bedroom the biggest. The house actually stayed in the family until 1995, which is pretty impressive. And the house was showing all sorts of Victorian (and later) wedding things, which was neat. I had a nice chat with the guide about my wedding and also the morals of young kids these days, and I learned some things. That device that someone had given to Zoe’s preschool that I couldn’t figure out? Coffee grinder. They had one, too. Victorian ladies used to make jewelry out of their hair. Oh, and my favorite thing – they would have a cake for the general guests, then a groom’s cake, and then also a lady’s cake, for the bridesmaids. And they’d have ribbons on the bridesmaids’ cake that the bridesmaid would pull out and at the end there’d be a little favor for her! Like a ring or a pin or something! Isn’t that cute?

After we finished shopping we wanted dinner. Jason chose the place with cherry barbecue ribs on the menu, even though I thought it looked a little too corporate. And it was. But cherry barbecue sauce is a good idea and I got some cherry jam so I could try it this summer, and I had a drink of cherry brandy, honey-jalepeno syrup, and club soda that was pretty good and would be better if the ratio were a little less club-soda-skewed.

There was a mini-golf place right next to our hotel so we went there that evening. I had been avoiding playing mini-golf with Jason because I have memories of sucking at it and I thought he’d make fun of me and I would lose and hold everyone up and it would be awful. But he really wanted to play so I said okay, I’ll play.

And you know what? I didn’t suck. I was fine. Not good or anything. But fine. He only beat me by 3 points, and we were neck and neck most of the time. So that felt good. Healed some childhood trauma for me.

Day Two

We wanted to bike on Washington Island, which is the island off the tip of the peninsula there.

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So after some cereal at the hotel, we drove up 42 until we got to the ferry. Well, at one point we almost took a different ferry, but in the end we sorted ourselves out and got on the boat.

We were crossing the little bit of water that gives the county its name. See, some time ago, the Potawami tribe occupied Door County. Then the Winnebago tribe (Yeah, it’s a tribe, not just an RV company. I learn something new every day.) went on a murderous rampage and took the peninsula by force. The Potawami who survived escaped to Washington Island. The Winnebago decided to pursue them there, but as their best warriors headed in their canoes across the 6-mile passage, a storm kicked up and dashed the warriors on the rocks, killing them all. That passage – which was entirely peaceful when we headed across it – became known as “Death’s Door.”

Jason crossing Death's Door. Does he look scared?

Jason crossing Death’s Door. Does he look scared?

So we headed across the door of death to Washington Island, and got on our bikes. We biked through a couple of miles of nothing – including four pieces of waterfront property for sale; I thought we could maybe buy them all and open a sleep-away camp or maybe a luxury resort. Then we turned on the Main Road, which the map I had seemed to indicate would have some cutesiness on it. But you know what Washington Island has on it?

Not much.

We pulled over where the “cherry train” trolley tour had stopped, at a general store – not a cutesy one – and a book store which was not open for business yet. Whether for the day or for the summer was difficult to tell. The non-cutesy general store also did not have both the gold and the red verjus (and not green and gold, like Jason indicated in his e-mails) that was made on the island, and which I need to make virtually anything from my Shakespeare’s Kitchen cookbook, so we moved on.

We biked all the way up Main Road, which continued to host farms and little else, and then turned in to go to Schoolhouse Beach. Schoolhouse Beach is one of only five beaches in the world that has limestone rocks instead of sand. It was the most awesome place I’ve ever seen, except the Negev desert. It was small, surrounded by cedars, and entirely made up of these perfect, smooth limestone rocks. Which had spiders living under them. And the forest was full of mosquitos. But it was truly beautiful.

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And then we looked up and saw a sun halo!

See the mosquitoes?

See the mosquitoes?

Only we didn’t know it was a sun halo! Because we didn’t have any service of any kind for our iPhones! So I thought maybe it was the end of the world. But a beautiful end.

We biked back down Main Road and stopped at the one cafe we saw, which happened to also be the one cafe I’d picked out in the guide book as the one I wanted to go to. It was called Bread + Water cafe, and it was a restaurant, bakery, kayak shop and museum, possibly the center of some sort of community service project, AND had free Wifi. That was when we looked up the sun halo thing and reassured ourselves that the end was NOT nigh. But it was the most adorable place.

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Kind of Jesus-y. You could request a prayer along with your not-from-powder lemonade. And the woman who sat us and seemed to manage or possibly own the place seemed very surprised when we walked in and wanted to order a meal. I got the impression that she usually knew personally the people who came in. She seemed to know everyone else there. And by everyone else, I mean the two waiters, who were young teenagers and may have been part of this community outreach program, their family members who were in the restaurant sitting with the proprietress when we walked in, and maybe three others, at least one of which I thought probably had an intimate relationship with marijuana. Jason had a very delicious-looking ham-and-cheese sandwich with homemade slaw, and I had them combine the two salads on the menu so that mine had spinach AND apples AND bacon AND almonds AND feta AND – naturally – cherries. It was really good. I wasn’t expecting much when I saw how low-rent an operation this was, but it was a damn good salad.

And we finally had a slice of cherry pie. Thank God. They were going to kick us out of Door County any second.

See that plate with the flowers? I think my great-aunts had those plates.

See that plate with the flowers? I think my great-aunts had those plates.

And I got my verjus at the grocery store across the street, along with some chocolate-covered dried cherries. So that was good.

We made the 2 o’clock ferry back and then went back to refresh ourselves and then had dinner at a family-owned diner in Sister Bay called Grasse’s, where I had some truly excellent white fish. And we had some cherry ice cream, too. We took a walk on the pier and then returned home for the night. The biking had wiped us out pretty good.

Day Three

I had been told of Al Johnson’s, the Door County institution with live goats on its roof, and it was right there in Sister Bay, so we went for breakfast. It’s a Swedish establishment with a “butik” that was apparently the first store in Door County to sell, in 1974, bikinis. Scandalous.

See? Goats. It's hard to make this shit up.

See? Goats. It’s hard to make this shit up.

It’s a family-owned place – Al Johnson himself only died three years ago; his widow still owns it; one of his sons sat us and the other apparently cooked our food. Jason had eggs Benedict and I had Swedish pancakes – thin, almost crepe-like, and, at Al Johnson’s, rectangular – with lingonberries and a side of Swedish meatballs, which were good, but honestly, the ones I made a few months ago were a little better. We got Zoe a stuffed goat and me a cookbook of Swedish cookies and stuff, and also some limpa bread, which I brought home and haven’t eaten yet.

Then we were determined to get to Sweetie Pie’s, the best place, we were told, for cherry pie, before it closed. It was in Fish Creek but down 42 a ways from where the main shops are.

It was really cute. It was, like, a normal kitchen, not even a double oven or anything, and a few varieties of pies, and they offered “crust cookies” when we came in. We got one big cherry pie to share with Jason’s parents when we got back, one little cherry pie for Jason’s co-worker, and two little pies – a chocolate pecan and an apple – for us. Then we walked around the shopping area where Sweetie Pie’s was located and had a lovely conversation with the owner of the alpaca store, who was also an alpaca farmer. One of the first in the United States! And she had a farm on Washington Island but that was being taken over by her nephew, who liked the property because he could put a deer stand out there. And me, being from a family like mine, was like, “What’s a deer stand?” So I got a lovely lesson in that, too.

20121121_deer-stand1_33

By then it was raining. I had wanted to go to the Fyr Ball festival in Ephraim, which was my favorite town so far because in addition to the cuteness, it looked like the kind of town people actually lived in, with a Village Hall/Library, and a Wilson’s Soda Shop, and all these cool flags for the Fyr Ball.

Fyr Bal

But obviously it wasn’t going to be fun in a thunderstorm, so we decided to drive all the way to Sturgeon Bay – which kind of lacks cutesiness and is really where people actually live – to go to the one regular movie theater in all of Door County to see Man of Steel. (There’s a drive-in, and we wanted to go, but they were showing Iron Man 3 and Fast and Furious 6. You guys, I totally missed Fast and Furious 5! I can’t see 6!)

None of those muscles are created by the suit, by the way.

None of those muscles are created by the suit, by the way.

I did not much care for Man of Steel. Jason liked it. I did not.

I do not want to spoil it for anyone, or make much of a discussion of it on this particular blog post, so if you want to discuss with me the merits and de-merits of Man of Steel, please feel free to e-mail, call, or message me. Or take it to the comments and we can have it out there. But I just did not care for it. And I will say this one thing – I am too damn old for shaky-cam 3D. I was even too damn old on Saturday, and that was before I turned 32!

So once we got out the rain had cleared. We stopped at a wine-tasting place and tasted – and then bought – some wine, and then tasted – and bought – a whole bunch of cheese. At least two of the wines we bought and at least four of the ones we tasted involved cherries somehow. None of the cheeses we tasted did but I think the cheese place had at least one cheese that involved cherries.

We also stopped in Fish Creek to have dinner at the fancy place I’d picked out our first night but didn’t feel appropriately dressed for. I had made us reservations and we were supposed to come back later that night, after I had changed and put on my nice shoes, but Jason was hungry now, so we decided to have dinner early.

It was at Whistling Swan, which is a great name, and their whole look – I was just totally enamored. Very neutral, pale colors, dark woods, metal and stone bird statues and black and tan pebbles on the table, stacks of birch wood and gunmetal light fixtures. I know I tend to favor a lot of color in my decor scheme but sometimes I want to wipe it all out and do this style instead.

And the meal was VERY good. I had the wine the waitress recommended, which was sort of herby and delicious. They gave us a cucumber basil gazpacho as an amuse bouche which was creamy and had a real kick. Then we shared a pork belly taco with jalepeno-tomato jam and picked red onion, and a sort of pate thing (‘nduja) with mascarpone on toast and chervil. I don’t always like chervil but this was really good. I also ordered a tomato salad with mustard greens, pesto, and house-made ricotta, and Jason was all, “Eh, I don’t think we need a salad,” and ate half of it. Because it was delicious. And because of course he did. Then he got a perfectly cooked flat-iron steak with veal reduction, haricots verts, carrots, mushroom (trumpet? What’s the kind that’s got a thicker stem than cap?) and mashed potatoes, and I got duck breast with peas, new potatoes, carrots, and a beet puree. Everything was excellent. Then some good Chai (but not as good as yours, Shobhit!) and a chocolate fudge cake which was way more fudge than cake (which is an EXCELLENT thing) with honey ice cream, crushed pistachios, and salted caramel. And THEN they brought us two tiny, tiny spoons with that caramel, covered over in amaranth seeds, which are sort of corn-like.

Anyway. It was delicious, the room was beautiful, and we were very happy.

By the time we got to Ephraim the Fyr Ball was more or less over, although there was a really good band playing covers of ’80s songs in the Village Hall. We didn’t stay for the bonfire (bonfyr?) or the little girls in Swedish outfits dancing, which I was sort of disappointed about, but we had been out all day and Jason was tired and wanted to go home. So we did. I soaked in the tub for a while, wrote, and eventually we broke out the chocolate pecan pie which was DELICIOUS.

Day Four

Time to go home. We got up and got packed. Jason observed that I hadn’t had any of the Scotch we brought up with us, so he insisted that I have a sip before we put it in the trunk. So mark your calendars, folks – my descent into depravity started on my 32nd birthday, when I had Scotch before 9 am.

We had intended to go to the landmark White Gull Inn in Fish Creek for their famous Door County Cherry French Toast, but when we got there we discovered that we would not be seated for an hour, so Jason said forget it. We went down the street to The Cookery, which is where I’d wanted to have dinner that first night. And when we walked in, I said hi to the guy who’d been manning the desk at Whistling Swan the night before, and was now having breakfast with his parents. I think it gave Jason a pause that I could greet familiarly a handsome and bearded young man, but you know. I’m a man magnet. He’s just gotta deal.

The restaurant was very good. It was owned by a couple who bought the place on their honeymoon (I mean, it wasn’t a total whim; they had met in a kitchen and were looking to open a restaurant together), and they still operate it, along with their daughters. Very dedicated to homemade, locally sourced, etc. Jason had more eggs Benedict on their homemade biscuits and I had fried eggs over the biscuits served with their whitefish chowder. AND of course Jason had a lemonade spiked with their house-made cherry syrup, and I had their house-made ginger ale spiked with their house-made cherry syrup. The refills were supposed to be sans cherry syrup, but they gave us more anyway, which was nice.

And then we got some more cherry fudge – they had dark chocolate this time! – before getting in the car and heading home. Well, to my in-laws’, where Zoe was.

My favorite thing on the ride home? We passed a couple on a motorcycle. Jason wanted to chastise them for their lack of helmets. Then we pulled up closer and saw that the woman on the back of the bike was reading! Just chillin’ with her paperback on the back of a motorcycle! Girl after my own heart.

So we got to my in-laws in the mid-afternoon. I had been feeling really good about Zoe being there because we Facetimed with her every night, and whenever we did she was really happy to see us, told us she loved us a million times, gave us lots of kisses through the phone, and then would be like, “Okay, I gotta go watch Powerpuff Girls, bye!” And I thought, wow, what a terrific job I’m doing as a parent. My kid, she’s secure enough that she can be someplace without us and still be happy to see us but not desperate or sad or anything. I get an A+ for the Emotional Health class at Child-Rearing School.

But when my daughter, the love of my life, the light of my soul, my own little mouse who I love the most in the whole world, saw me walk through the door – she burst into tears. “I don’t want to leave!” she complained.

Thanks, kid.

We had dinner with my in-laws – more Yu’s, because it was my birthday and I always want more Yu’s – and then had the cherry pie. We decided the filling was better but the crust not quite as good as the Door County cherry pie we get from Wildfire when it’s in season.

And that was our trip! Thanks for listening! Tune in some time in the near future for this season of SYTYCD!