Friday, July 31, 2009

Apparently, you can make purslane pesto!

I am going to try this and all my problems will be over!

Cooling off

Portland seems to finally be cooling off. I wouldn't say that it's returned to normal, because it's still in the 90's and it's predicted to be in the high 80's for awhile. From what I understand, this is about 10 degrees hotter than normal Portland summer weather. I'm hoping to have more energy and actually cross some things off my to-do list, now that I won't find myself taking huge naps every evening. (The first of the 100+ days, I sat down to look at my shopping list before I went to the store, and woke up an hour later. Yesterday, I put cleaner in the toilet bowl, sat down to read for the ten minutes recommended on the bottle, and woke up two hours later.)

Today is the four-week mark of my move to Portland. I suppose this calls for some kind of "month in review." Really, it means I need to get moving on my "To Write About" list. I have one on a post-it note on my desktop that only covers stuff that's happened in Portland. I have barely written about the road trip that got me here! Sadly, I haven't written much in my paper journal, either, so if I don't watch out, I am going to forget everything.

I'm planning to stay in tonight and work on some of my projects--writing, learning to play guitar (since I insisted on bringing a guitar all the way from NJ EVEN THOUGH I left my scanner, bug net, and embroidery patterns behind! and useful things like tweezers and a second set of sheets!), possibly the sweater I've been knitting for several months now, and sewing some sundresses. I got a sewing machine and fabric last week; every night I did something toward the goal of sewing new dresses, and then this week, with the heat, I fell off the wagon.

I also want to write about some of the stuff I've been making in the kitchen. (Cooking is not an appropriate word.) My goals have lately been to use up what's in the house and keep it somewhat simple. Although I've been buying weird produce so I don't know how simple things are. The problem is--as usual--that even at the farmers market, nothing is sold in portions small enough for a single person. I've told my roommate she can use what she wants of what I've bought, but I don't blame her for not wanting to use any of my purslane or sea beans, because what the hell are those? The sea beans are almost gone--I got them fresh enough to eat uncooked in salads--but I still have a TON of purslane left.

So, dear Internet, help. What can I do with all this purslane? How long is it going to keep? I bought a bunch of it for $2.50 last week and I still have...the hugest bunch of purslane I've ever seen in my life. I've made salads. I've put it on sandwiches (which I don't like...so far.) I cooked it with eggs and potatoes and ramp bulbs and sea beans. What else can I do? Can one make purslane pesto?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Look out, it's a field scientist!!!!!

Field work makes my metabolism CRAZY. I've always been kind of a good eater, but all this working outside has made it crazy how much I can eat. I'll come home and just start inhaling food. How did this entire loaf of bread, purchased on Monday, already disappear? Because someone doing field work saw it and metabolized it just by laying eyes on it. It is because of this that, at the places we stop for dinner after long field days, I find I can eat things like...chicken fried steak. Huge portions of it.
And in fact, found myself on multiple occasions this week musing--ALOUD--about the wonders of chicken fried steak. To an audience! In public! To other people! Talking about chicken fried steak!

I once said that "fried" is only one letter away from "friend." Mmm.

Oh, and one of the high school interns today made it clear that she associates Carl's Jr. with me. Sigh...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hot Weekend

Portland is having a ridiculously hot summer. We seem to be in the midst of a crazy heat wave--potentially the first of its kind in forty years (or since the forties) from what I've overheard. It was in the high 90's today, and it will be the same tomorrow, and then for the next three days or so, it will be around 100 degrees.
On the bright side, it won't be 100 degrees with 85% humidity. (Looking at you, NJ!)
Still, it is HOT. It is tank top hot. It is deodorant-doesn't-work hot. It is stick-your-head-in-the-freezer hot.
This weekend was crazily eventful. I have a lot of stories to write here--I'm keeping a list--but I'm going to skip ahead chronologically and write about this weekend.
On Friday, I went to Mt. Hood for work. It was fantastic and beautiful and worth describing. It was full of things that are why I moved to Portland--shade and forest and the smell of pine trees* and unfamiliar, beautiful wildflowers and mushrooms, intricate lichen hanging delicately from low-hanging branches, snow-covered pointy mountains, and a beach by an ice-cold mountain river. (Probably Hood River?)
Then I came home and was exhausted and loafed around, doing productive things around the house but mostly loafing.
Saturday morning, I made the mistake of looking at old files on my computer, watched some videos of a party from my old old apartment in New Brunswick, and started to feel homesick--for people, not the place. I rode on the bus to the farmers market feeling lonely--admiring my sunny, beautiful city with its charming neighborhoods and cute families on bikes--but feeling a little sad, wishing I knew more people here, wishing I could magically bring my friends from NJ here to share this all with them.
Then I went to the farmers market. Then I went back home, and then to a work function--a potluck picnic. I noticed on the way back, driving over the Ross Island Bridge, that it was so hazy I could not see Mt. Hood. I always look for Mt. Hood when I'm driving home. I can't see it from my bedroom or anything, but I can see it from my bus stop and the Ross Island Bridge and the whole route home from work. I look at it, rising up pointily on the horizon, the way I used to look for the coppery red and green-roofed church steeple that loomed above my old New Brunswick home. It was so hazy...and the heat--still in the 90s-- was all around. The car and the windows and the steering wheel and the Ross Island Bridge and the Willamette and the hazy sunset and my hair all burned.
After this, my weekend continued to be eventful. I met up with a friend from NJ who is in town. I went to PDX Pop Now. I got flashed by a creepy guy. I went to a Meetup.com event and saw Harold and Maude. I cried in public--just teary at the end of the movie--but I had to really hold back bawling, ugly cry. The combination of the movie and the actor's face and Cat Stevens and how so many of my favorite people are thousands of miles away and my future is uncertain...well, it was a bit much. Floodgates were sustained, however. I had coffee with some nice ladies. Then I got lost, as usual, in Portland, and a really friendly, helpful stranger coordinated with a bus driver to make sure I got to my destination. I went shopping in the Hawthorne neighborhood. I ate dinner alone at a burrito place. I finally bought a map and navigated myself back to Division Street through a neighborhood of colorful houses with vibrant gardens--most containing shrub-sized lavender and purple sage. I saw an attractive guy teaching two adorable children how to juggle while we all waited in the boiling sun--a bank tower in front of us informing us that it was, at 8pm, 97 degrees--for the #4. And then finally, I came home.
Now I'm doing laundry--the excitement just doesn't end.

* I know a lot of them are fir and spruce. Read this as "in the order Pinales," botanists.

Sometimes I wish I were a boy

Not that life isn't as scary and threatening for boys, either. Not that crazy people don't attack boys, either. But I bet they are less frequently targets. I mean, they probably don't have encounters EVERY DAY where they have to think, "Is this safe? Should I be doing this? Don't forget to be aware of your surroundings, have your keys ready, walk confidently so you don't look like an easy target, have your cell phone ready to call someone but don't look distracted talking on your cell phone, keep your hair tied up and don't wear long earrings because attackers can pull those..."
I don't verbally have these thoughts every day, but I think I am in a situation at least once a day where there's this low-level awareness and I think most women feel that way. Do you? How frequently do men think this, I wonder? (I mean, maybe I'm being unfair.) It's like being a paranoid animal...like a dog who's been beaten or a cat walking around with its hair standing up ready to hiss and pounce on things before it can get them first.
Anyway...I forgot where I was going with this. Oh. Well, I mean, people tell you, oh just be smart and stay out of bad situations. But if you are to do that, you can't live your life. I mean, you can't even stay home to stay out of trouble, because a Woman Living Alone could also be a target. I have a roommate now, but she's been gone a few days and it's brought back the anxieties I would sometimes have, living alone at my former apartment. Lately, what will happen is I'll hear a bunch of noise and think, "Oh my God! Is that someone at my door! Is that someone trying to open our back door!?" And realize it's just the neighbors...going into their own home.
What brought all this on is that while I was waiting for a bus last night, there was a man standing at the opposite corner. He stood there a long time. I didn't really think much of it; he looked like some scraggly goth leftover from the late 90's, but I figured he had every right to be on Hawthorne as I did. It's not like the city was dead at this time of night. Cars went down the street with normal-looking people in them. Every once in awhile cops would come by, sometimes parking for a bit before moving on to something more interesting. Frequently, young, normal-looking people would zoom by on their bikes. But no bus came. Because the bus had stopped running. I did not know this, because I am from a place where you can't fathom that there is not 24-hour public transportation of some kind. That just doesn't make sense. I have not yet adapted to a place where things close at 6pm on weekdays (but that's when I get home from work!? What do you mean I have to go on the weekend!?) and people do not keep crazy late hours.
Anyway, crazy man made some faces and gestures and I'll write about it at more at length when enough time has passed that this has become funny--but anyway, it was definitely directed at me and meant to get my attention and whether it was just exhibitionism or a threat, I do not know. I just acted like I didn't notice, or didn't care, and turned and walked in the opposite direction, praying that the next street over (and there was only one street between me and the Williamette River so I didn't have many options here) would have more signs of life and a phone book or something with phone numbers of cab companies. It was maybe five minutes before I found a cab, but it felt so much longer, and a very pleasant cab driver took me home for half the price of my two-week bus pass...which was still cheaper than a night out in New York. Once I got home, I realized that this incident was scary and maybe I should have called the police.
Anyway, my point is that I did not plan to be out by myself late at night. I know that's the big No-No, the thing with which every woman gets indoctrinated. Don't be out by yourself after dark. (Well, what are you supposed to do if you want to buy groceries at 8pm?) I planned to take a bus, with people on it, to a show, with people at it, and then take a bus home--with people on it--to a stop that's only a block from my apartment. Other than not leaving one's home after dark, there's just no way to guarantee that you don't sometimes, by accident, end up on a potentially unsafe (and let's face it, they're ALL potentially unsafe) street by yourself. And if you don't find yourself alone on the street late at night, you could be home alone late at night, vulnerable to a break-in. So!
I guess the only solution is to get married and start making babies like a respectable girl.
It is high time I stop getting myself in situations where I am "almost" attacked.
Although maybe it's not my fault; maybe it's just the world.
I never wrote here about the time I was almost attacked on the Navajo reservation. It's turned into a funny story--because it was rather ridiculous. I guess "threatened" is more accurate than "almost attacked."
Later I will write about tonight's events. It was kind of funny in that, at the time, I didn't have the sense to be scared and just thought, "Oh please, I'm not impressed. You're a loser."
But why was I in that situation in the first place? You think I'd learn!!!!!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Three Weeks

Yesterday marked three weeks since I arrived in Portland. Three weeks ago today was my first full day in Portland--July 4th. I thought, cheesily, that it was potentially meaningful that this was Independence Day.
(Also, my last day of work, June 12th, just happened to be the anniversary of my arrival in Portland in 2008.)
In just three weeks, Portland feels like home. Just as much as did my little ghetto apartment (in which I wrote this post about being happy) in New Brunswick where I lived with two of my most favorite people in the world.

I don't know what's going to happen in the next three months or even the next three weeks. I just hope this happy feeling lasts. I think it will!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Confession

For two weeks, I pronounced "Willamette" incorrectly.

Worse still, for one week, I thought it was "Williamette."

What else would you expect from someone who moves to Portland with neither a bike nor an umbrella?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NY calling

I just got a phone call from the East Coast. I answered, and my friend said, skeptically, "HeLLO?" "Yeah, hello!" "What are you DOing?" "It's only 10:30 out here." "No it isn't, shut up!"

(I've totally done that--called people in California in the middle of the night, my time, and said, "Oh, I'm sorry, it must be EVEN LATER there!")

I want to stay in Portland

I know that moving back to New Jersey will not be a horrible fate. New Jersey is awesome. I'll get to eat Jersey Fresh tomatoes, be within 150 miles of about 90% of my friends, and take trains to a place where they understand the concept of a MetroCard and where museums say "Suggested Donation" and are worth like, a million dollars of donations. I'm talking about my love, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (I went to the Portland Museum of Art today--it was cool, but not my beloved Met. Though I do love Northwest Native American art.)
Anyway. After two weeks and two days, I think this is a great city. I think this is a great part of the country, too, and I want to really explore it. If I don't find a job at the end of my internship, I think I won't leave right away. I want to travel around this area a bit. I want to see all the national parks in Oregon and Washington. I want to go back to British Columbia even, and I want to go back to Boise. In general, I'd like to see more of Idaho. I want to see the Siskiyou diversity hot spot. I want to go to California, I guess.
So, I hope I can live here a little longer. It's only been two weeks so of course opportunities have not yet presented themselves. Therefore, I'm trying not to panic. Though I daydream about miraculously finding some non-expensive way of enrolling in a program at PSU or OSU (which is kinda far from Portland so maybe not OSU) or finding a job that doesn't suck, or just bumming around letting my savings dwindle...

Rejected via CC and My Starchy Love--Two Sunday Stories

Story #1
I have not really written about this, so I will now announce this, once and for all, on my blog. I have been Internet dating. What a shocker. As few as six months ago, I thought this was a horrible fate. Ignoring the fact that many of my friends have met their soul mates or at least their current significant others from dating websites, and the fact that in a world where normal face-to-face contact is becoming rarer and rarer, meeting people online is NORMAL--I just wrote the whole thing off as weird. Or for desperate people who can't meet anyone in real life. Also, I was kind of worried that putting oneself on a dating website is like false advertising if you're me--the men on there would be looking for wives or one-night stands. Neither of which describes what I'm looking to be. I'm not even looking for a soul mate; I'm just looking to get out of the house.
Anyway, disclaimers aside. So shortly after making a profile, I decided this thing was FUN. I'm very sociable. I like to meet people and chat and get out of the house and discover new places and learn new things and even the weirdos I've met, well, that just makes a good story!
So the story today. This morning, I saw in my inbox an e-mail from a man with whom I'd exchanged sporadic e-mails. However, it was not to me. I was merely CC'ed on it, along with two other women. The fourth addressee was the one to whom the greeting was addressed.
It was an e-mail letting her know that he had met someone else and no longer wanted to pursue communication with her. Or, I guess, with the rest of us, since we were CC'ed. But we didn't get our own personal e-mails. Oh, I should mention that, I'm pretty sure one of the CC recipients WAS the girl--the someone else he's met and fallen for. At least, they have the same first name.
How do I know this? Because the e-mail did not merely say, "I've met someone else." It detailed their entire date, plus lots of facts about this wonderwoman, and...well, I don't really know what to say. Except I'm not quite sure I was privy to this much information. And someone else's public rejection. But also my own (and at least one other woman's) rejection...not via e-mail, but via CC. AND! this was not a new e-mail, but a reply to their previous correspondence...meaning that not only did I get this random e-mail addressed to this poor woman, but also, I got forwarded a bunch of e-mails she'd exchanged with this guy. Maybe she wanted those to be private--certainly not shared with strangers! Where are people's boundaries!?!?!
(Clearly, I'm not concerned or hurt--just amazed. And amused.)

* * *

Story #2

For dinner, I ate a cold twice-baked stuffed potato. It was delicious. Heavenly. Maybe this is what happens to women who are single too long but I don't care. I think it's a symptom of road-tripping, too--this acquired taste for cold leftovers of just about everything. And a symptom of working at a place where I frequently felt the need to hide in the public library to eat lunch--therefore I needed to pack cold, portable lunch. (Sorry, previous co-workers to whom I gave this blog address. I am not talking about you. I liked eating lunch with all of you. Sometimes I just wanted to check my e-mail or get some Focus-on-Japan-free space to eat in.) Anyway, I love cold pasta. All of it. Cold potatoes. Yum!
Is this normal?
Why is cold starch so delicious!?
Cold starch with fat....
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Minor Scare

I recently opened a Chase checking account, since Chase is now a national bank and I need some kind of bank account that I can access wherever I am. My regular bank is ONLY in the Northeast and that does not help me right now.
I'm kind of not used to this bank account's existence, so when I opened my Chase.com page to pay my credit card bill, I totally freaked out because I read my ACCOUNT BALANCE as my CREDIT CARD balance. I thought what I had was what I OWED. Yikes!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Irrationally Afraid of Portland, Part Two

I've always been kinda of afraid of heights and bridges, though I try to work on it by doing things like climbing to the tops of large cathedrals in Europe, driving over the Mackinaw Bridge, and driving daily over the Willamette River (though, since that's the way to work, I guess I have no choice.) Field work frequently takes me cliff-y parts of Mount Hood National Forest.
Which raises a question. Why can I crouch around looking at plants (and flinging stinging ants off myself) or taking photos on a cliff, and that's not scary, but the pedestrian bridge over Division Street is scary?

Irrationally Afraid of Stuff in Portland

My roommate and I have decided that the scary spider cowering where my ceiling meets my wall is larger than 10-15mm and is therefore not a hobo spider. Therefore, we can go to bed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oregon To Do List?

I'm going to try to keep track of the things people have told me to do or try before I move somewhere that isn't Portland (whenever that is) and the things that I know I want to do. Places in Oregon and Washington to visit, mostly.

1. Go to Seattle (this is mine)
2. Go to Crater Lake (mine)
3. Go to national parks in Washington like Mount Rainier.
4. Go to museums or something. The Portland Art Museum is free next Sunday, so I'll probably go there.
The rest are other people's recommendations:
5. Go to Bend, OR.
6. Go to Sisters, OR.
7. Go to Burgerville.

Oh, and someone was telling me about a small town's museum that has all kinds of Americana...stuff from the village from the past century or so, and also has an intact Conestoga wagon and an old jail. Actually, I think I might be confusing a couple of museums, here.

Oh I totally forgot that "Go to the Oregon Coast" is on my list and I think I'd like to see the Siskiyou diversity hotbed...though I'm not 100% sure where that is other than "near California."

For some reason, I don't care if I go to actual California or not. Though I have a lot of friends who are currently, or will soon be, in San Francisco, so I certainly have a reason to go there.

This list will be added to and updated throughout the next couple of months (or longer!)
Any suggestions?
So far I've been to Mount Hood, Eugene (sort of), Umpqua National Forest, and various places in Portland. I have eaten at two McMenamin'ses (Kennedy School and a train station in Roseburg) and I've been to Powell's bookstore TWICE. And bought stuff TWICE.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A recipe - Farmers Market Summer Squash in Yogurt "Sauce"

The summer squash concoction I just made was so good that I need to write down the recipe, and why not share it? I am sure part of its success was the quality of the summer squash. I kept eating pieces of it raw while I was waiting for there to be room in the frying pan.
While at the farmers market, I believed that I had read, back in NJ, a food blog with a recipe for yellow summer squash in a slightly sour cream sauce with cilantro. I can only imagine that I was thinking of this recipe for Buttermilk Summer Squash Soup. Well, I did not want to make soup, so here's what I made.

I used the following:

1 medium-sized + 1 small yellow summer squash; cut into thin (1/8-1/4") coins. I don't know the variety but they had not-too-thin (but not tough, either) dark yellow skin. I would estimate that it was 3/4 lb.
1 large and 1 small ramp bulb (shallots, a small amount of onion, or scallion would do fine); chopped
1 clove of garlic; chopped
2 dried tepin chili peppers; crushed with your fingers or a mortar and pestle (any would do, including pre-ground cayenne pepper)
olive oil (unmeasured)
Trader Joe's "European-style" whole milk yogurt - the key is yogurt with some fat, and the only reason I'm listing what kind of yogurt I used is that this yogurt was very sour. I think I used about 1/2 a cup.
Cilantro; roughly chopped - 2 or 3 tsp
A very small amount of lemon zest--maybe 1 tsp or so?
Sea salt, to taste

Cooking stuff needed:
A good skillet (mine is cast iron)
A bowl that can have hot things put in it (ceramic, glass, metal)
Knives
A spoon
A spatula



What I did:
I heated a small amount of olive oil in the skillet. When it was heated, I added 1 crushed chili pepper, a little bit of sea salt, and the chopped ramps, and spread everything out in the pan so it would cook evenly. After 3-5 minutes, I added the chopped garlic and gave everything a good stir. I threw in a generous pinch of lemon zest. I cooked these until the garlic and ramps were partially browned. While this was happening, I sliced the yellow squash (skin on.) Once everything in the pan was done cooking, I dumped everything--including most of the olive oil--into a ceramic bowl.
The remainder of the cooking process is simply pan-frying the yellow squash to desired brownness. After a few minutes, when the ramps/garlic/olive oil/etc. weren't too hot, I added to the ceramic bowl some yogurt, the chopped cilantro, another crushed chili pepper, and the remaining lemon zest. I mixed it all together and let it sit for awhile.
Since you probably can't fit all the yellow squash pieces in one pan, a good way to test the yogurt sauce is to dip pieces of uncooked squash into it, like chips. Adjust the seasonings--add more salt, chili pepper, maybe even garlic (I'm not too sure about that though) or lemon or cilantro.
Have a plate or bowl or something ready for the squash pieces. Once they are done cooking and aren't too hot, mix them into the yogurt combination. Eat. Yum.

I bet this would be good with rice or pasta. All of the sour tastes (lemon, yogurt, cilantro) work really well with the squash, especially the fried pieces. Actually, what this tastes like to me is...strangely...these cilantro-flavored snacks that Angela and I found next to potato chips at a Subzi Mandi. Except healthier, I think.

I think this yogurt sauce would probably be a good vegetable or chip dip for parties.

Serves: Could probably serve 2, but I just ate the whole thing myself

Next:
I plan to try making this recipe for Fresh Pea and Mint Pesto--or just tossing the peas in olive oil with mint leaves and cacao nibs because I have this strange idea that peas, mint, and chocolate will be good together--and making cilantro pesto with my remaining cilantro. I also plan on cooking the small amount of rhubarb I bought with some chopped red onion.

Sunday

So far, this weekend has been everything a weekend should be--in terms of relaxing at least. Yesterday, I spent a huge amount of time lounging, a good amount of time taking care of things on my to-do list, and I also had time to explore a new part of Portland. Today, I plan to continue in this pattern.
Some things I did include going to Fred Meyers for the first time--and I kind of liked it, because after going to Albertson's AND Rite Aid (and looking in Target and Safeway last week), Fred Meyers was the only store that had remotely what I was looking for.
If you care, it was Parissa Body Sugar (or whatever it's called.) Now, the last time I wrote about Parissa, someone from Parissa.com commented on my blog and told me where to find that product in the NYC area. However, I am now far, far away from NYC and its Duane Reades, so Parissa Person, if you're out there, reading my blog--where can I find the Body Sugar in the Portland Metro Area? I mean Portland, Oregon, not Portland, Maine. And what is this warming pan thing, because I do not have a microwave? Anyway, I settled for the hot wax, which you can heat on the stove and which also doesn't have yucky petroleum-derived stuff in it so that might be just as useful. Maybe I'll give my blog readers the full report later this week.

OK, so I visited the Portland staple, Fred Meyers. More on that later. I went to the bank. There, I cashed a check and had a lengthy conversation with the teller. I love that people out here are so friendly, they don't mind if I tell them my life story and they tell me theirs, too.* Not only am I not a weirdo, I'm not alone! I did some house-stuff that is boring to blog about. (I cleaned the BATHROOM! WOW.) I had a battle with contact paper. More on THAT later too I bet. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, like I'm doing now, because I think I was going through withdrawal. We only just got Internet on Thursday. I have a lot of blog-reading to catch up on.

I also went downtown to the PSU Farmers Market. I will write about that at length, as well. Since I drove there and had to pay for a whole day of parking, I decided to get my money's worth (by spending more money?) and walk down to Powell's City of Books. On my wandering way back to my car (yep, I got lost) I stopped at a yarn store. I didn't buy anything, but it was nice to look.

There are so many yarn stores in Portland. Another reason for the thing in my *footnote.

Powell's did not have the Streetwise map of Portland. However, all this lost-getting is helping me learn my way around; maybe I won't need it.

I still have an irrational fear of taking the bus and getting myself horribly lost. ("Tigard? How did I end up here?") I might get a bus pass for August (it's too late for July) because I realized that, although the $86 would not cover the cost of every time I take the bus, it probably WOULD come out in my favor if I factored in the cost of PARKING. Plus the cost of driving itself--at $0.55 a mile, the federal standard. Yes, I should probably get a bus pass and give Stella a break.

Why don't I just buy individual bus tickets? Because I want a MetroCard. They do not have them here. I want a pre-paid card that I can swipe. I don't want to worry about carrying cash. The New York way of doing things is implanted in my brain. I'm sorry. However, Portland does not have MetroCards. Get over it, Jersey Girl.

Anyway, I wanted to list the things I bought at the farmers market, because I plan on blogging about my cooking adventures. Although I am still reading food blogs and cookbooks and plan to try other people's recipes, I'm attempting to maintain a minimalist kitchen while it's still uncertain if I'll have a job in Portland in the fall.

Here's what I got:
Sugar snap peas (end of the season, I think)
End-of-the-season strawberries
Rainier cherries
[I bypassed the beautiful blueberries, raspberries, and marionberries. Dumb.]
Last-chance end-of-the-season ramps
[Do you notice a theme here?]
A large bunch of cilantro
A tiny piece of rhubarb
3 heirloom tomatoes
A small bunch of organic mint (only $1!!!!)
2 yellow summer squash
A bag of "rainbow" new potatoes (white, red, and purple)

I'm also reading a lot. Currently, the book I am reading is On Beauty by Zadie Smith. I read Howard's End last year so it's interesting to note the similarities. I am reading my usual blogs, but have also started reading the archives at dooce.com. I got sucked in fast. Suddenly, I would think, "Ok, I'll get up and eat lunch AFTER I've gotten to the end of this month," or "When I get to the next 'How to Annoy Me,' then I'll go to the grocery store," or "I have to pee but let me at least get to the post where she gets Dooced!" (I have to say, after learning that Asian Database Administrator was her friend AND seeing how, other than using her own full name, she didn't use the company or anyone else's real names, I'm surprised she got fired! Especially without being given the chance to just take down the offensive material. I personally believe that jobs have way too much freedom to interfere with people's personal lives.)

Another blog whose archives I've been reading, though not as avidly right now, is Vespa Vagabond. It's by the same woman who does the Daily Coyote blog, and it hasn't been updated in something like two years. It's a chronicle of her cross-country road trip on a Vespa. You know I love road trip travel writing...

And that's pretty much what's going on. A perfect weekend. The kind where I can sit in my pajamas until 2pm drinking Snob Coffee (we have a French press! I learned how to use it today!) and reading the New York Times online.

More later!

* I have drunken the Portland Kool-Aid. The East Coast might never get me back. You have been warned.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The sagebrush is greener...

Now that I'm in Portland, I keep daydreaming about Wyoming.

[I feel obligated to note, since I have posted three times today and all things with a melancholy air, that I am quite happy in Portland. More on that later! In fact, I had a lovely time downtown today...maybe that will be tomorrow's post.]
I haven't written yet about the events leading up to my departure from New Jersey.
Since today, I got what I think was my very last fuck-you from New Jersey, I guess it seems appropriate/safe to start writing about it. (I tend to believe I can only blog about topics with tension, that involve other people, when time has elapsed.)
Where does it all begin? I once said that after my 24th birthday, things got crazy. At one point, while being melodramatic right before my 25th birthday, I said that I "wasted" my 24th year. (Or would it be my 25th? I don't know.) That I just made a lot of bad decisions and should have known better.
I do remember that, on my 24th birthday, I sat down and made a list of things I wanted to accomplish and made this very organized, very anal retentive plan of how I would spend my days to accomplish these things. The plan included suggestions like, "Spend 15 minutes a day reviewing notes for all classes, instead of stressing out and spending an entire evening on one class." and "Spend 15 minutes a day on a craft project." This wasn't just for fun; this was things like, "Make that purse that you've had the pattern for since 2005, for Jamie's next birthday." (Sorry Jamie. Now you know you're getting a purse someday.) This was a time when I was setting the oven timer for myself so I would switch between tasks. I actually work well with that kind of structure, but this was a little too much.
It was never to be, in any case. Two days after my 24th birthday, I went for a walk in the woods with someone who'd live in Portland for a good chunk of his twenties* and maybe things began then, because I think that conversation sort of let me think about what I really wanted in life...at least the "twenties" part of my life...and here I am, fifteen months later, in Portland. With the future really, really uncertain.
At the end of May, with a graduation I did not attend (I went to work instead...let's reflect on that later) in the past, I set out on my first cross-country road trip. The trip of which I had been dreaming for ten years. Since 13, I had wanted to drive across the country. I would try to enlist my friends, suggesting dates like "when we graduate high school." So, my idea of traveling companions may have changed; the milestone may have changed, but the dream persisted. And so I found myself, two months after my 24th birthday, driving across the desert with a broken heart.
Actually I spent a lot of time debating that one. Some days I would say, "I feel GREAT and it's too bad because 'with a broken heart' would really make this a good story!" And some days...really nights...I would stare out the window and think how the road, especially the desert at night (I'm looking at YOU, Arizona east of Holbrook on I-40), was such a lonely place.
My heart ached for a lot of things over the next year; frequently it was a home. The idea of home and the home I left behind when Mary and I backed down the steep driveway of 59 Suydam Street, New Brunswick, waved goodbye to my roommate, and headed West.
I had a lot of good parties in the little house where I lived by myself in the town whose working title, for now, will be Pretentiousville or The Fakest Place Ever**, but none of it compares to how much love and life I poured into--or experienced--while living at 59 Suydam Street. Maybe this is because I half-assed a lot of things in Pretentiousville. I think there was a point where I gave up on it being home. I think this actually made me happier, because I stopped trying and longing for something that wasn't going to be.
Anyway, I say "left behind" because when I returned from the West, the home was completely changed. It wasn't a home anymore. (But I think even in that shabby state, even with the pouting and conflict that would ensue over the remaining summer months, it was still more home than Pretentiousville.) Maybe that's when things changed.
I could go chronologically, and I could talk about how the first week back from the road, I had to pretty much fight with work for the ability to take time off--unpaid--to go to a conference and present my research poster. Which had been nominated for an award. It's not like I was begging time off to go sit on a beach and get drunk. I could talk about how after getting that award, I was treated infinitely better and began to think this was the place I belonged. I think I can finally talk about my last weeks in New Brunswick without feeling that terrible, tearing feeling that would come back to me, as fresh as if it were a new wound, each time I revisited those events and feelings. How between Thanksgiving and New Year's, I really believed I was home (and this is when I went shopping with wild abandon, stocking up on large amounts of pantry staples.) And then right after New Year's, being a spectator to a sexual assault trial took me out of my own life and I was able to see it from another perspective. I really think that's when I saw what was wrong. It was like waking up from a dream.
But this is probably a good place to end for now. I think the story should come out in pieces, not all at once.
Now I have been thinking about home--what defines a home? I think one thing's for sure--a place isn't home if people rip up your pansies! (No, I'm not being figurative.)


*This is standing in for "a few more than a few...five? a number of...no that sounds like ten or more...eight? seven? ????? years."
** Yes, it contained some fake people, snobbery, and pretention. But take this title with a grain of salt; I'm just bitter at this moment.

Missing Monarda

This photo of bee balm in NJ makes me a little homesick.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Road

First a quick note--we have a table! Last night, my roommate and I put together the Ikea table and we also have chairs now, too, so no more having to stand up or sit on the floor to eat! Portland is feeling more like a home than it did on Sunday. (It didn't feel like NOT a home--just not like home yet.)

Anyway. I recently completed my second cross-country road trip (and I realize that technically, I drove across the United States twice during the last trip--there and back--so this would be my third time crossing the continent) and I think it is something worth writing about. First, here's a little summary; for record-keeping purposes I want to keep track of all the places we stopped, stayed, ate, sight-saw.

Day One: We left my parents' house in New Jersey around 11AM and took Mohawk-Andover Road to 206S to I-80W. We drove across Pennsylvania and Ohio, and around sunset, crossed into Indiana, which was my first new state. We actually made it to our ambitious goal of South Bend, IN, and spent the night there.

Day Two: We finished driving across Indiana and said goodbye to the Eastern Time Zone. We got to Illinois (my second new state), had lunch at a Flying-J in Lasalle, and moved on to Iowa. This was a new state for both of us, and we were strangely excited about Iowa, so it deserves a whole post of its own. We almost made it to the Nebraska border, but opted to stay about 60 miles east of Omaha in a town called Walnut, IA. It was all you'd expect from a town called Walnut (aside from lacking actual walnuts AND a Wal-mart.)

Day Three: In the morning, we crossed the Missouri River and into Omaha, Nebraska--my fourth new state. We were also excited about Nebraska. This did not last long. Nebraska took all day. Around 11AM, we stopped in Minden to see Pioneer Village. And then we drove, and drove, and drove, crossed into the Mountain Time Zone, diverted from I-80 onto I-76 a little west of Ogalalla, and a few minutes later, were in Colorado. (Colorful Colorado, as the sign told me.) We got to Denver as the daylight was fading and spent the night at a Comfort Inn.

Day Four: We did not cover many miles, as we had a lot of sightseeing to do. We saw some stuff in Denver (more on that later) and then hit the road for Rocky Mountain National Park. On the way, we stopped for lunch in Boulder. I think it was around 3PM when we got to Rocky Mountain National Park. We didn't have time to explore too much of the park, but we saw enough to be happy. And we bought souvenirs. Then we continued on I-25 N to Wyoming. We drove through Cheyenne and stopped for dinner in Laramie. This had been our goal for the evening, but as the sun was only just setting as we were paying our check, we decided to keep going on. Forgetting how vast and empty Wyoming is. At 11PM, exhausted, we arrived at a Comfort Inn in Rawlins (or something like that--I'm actually blanking on the name) which was one of the only places with hotels for miles, and they were all nearly full as a result, and they could charge a lot of money for those last two beds in town. (But the hotel was much nicer than any other we had stayed in so far.)

Day Five: We left Rawlins early and continued west on I-80 to Rock Springs, where we wandered around some stores. We stopped at a rest area in Evanston (more on that later) for lunch and wildlife viewing, near the Utah border. We said a sad goodbye to Wyoming. Then we crossed into Utah and were much sadder. I liked Southern Utah when I was there last year. I did not like the part of Utah through which I-80 and I-84 run. It was ugly and crowded, at least to me. But it was over relatively quickly and we were soon in Idaho. We stopped to see Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls and then--at this point kind of possessed with the desire to get to Portland (or at least I was)--kept driving to Boise. We walked around a bit and had dinner at Gernika, a Basque pub, in Boise. (More on that later.) We then kept driving and finally stopped for the evening just over the state line in Ontario, OR.

Day Six: We ate breakfast at a nice place in Ontario (more on that later.) We then headed west on I-84, crossing into the Pacific Time Zone, and by mid-afternoon, arrived in Portland, OR. And then we went to Vancouver, WA, to get my key. And then we went back to Portland. Before dinnertime, I was home! Then we went to Carl's Jr.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Scary West Coast

This morning, for the first time since this whole process began (deciding to move, actually driving my car and my stuff from NJ to OR, and arriving in Portland) I was seized with panic and the feeling of, "Why did I move to this scary new place?"
It took me an hour to leave my apartment to go to Panera--the first item on the day's To Do List, because I needed breakfast (grocery shopping is also on my to-do list) and needed their free Internet (Google Maps) to accomplish other items on the to do list. I kept putting off leaving because I would have to...for the first time...drive in Portland...ALONE.
Nevermind that driving in Portland is maybe 10% as scary and maybe 30% as confusing as driving in New Jersey. In fact, I would say that driving in Portland as someone who just moved here is 40% as confusing as driving in New Jersey as someone who lived in New Jersey for 25 years.
Anyway, as I was driving on Scary 122nd Ave with its Scary Lack of Traffic and Scary Two Straight Clearly-Marked Lanes and Scary Gas Stations and Scary Safeway I saw...a fabric store! I looked it up and saw that it is a rather large store that carries fashion fabric (not just upholstery fabric) and it is open today!
Suddenly, Portland does not seem Scary.

Yesterday was my first full day in Portland. It was Independence Day; I could write all kinds of cheesy things about that. In fact, I could write a lot of cliche (and actually interesting) things about this whole big weird series of events that began in May 2008. But I will do that later. I'll just quickly sum it up as--a year ago, I was living in New Brunswick, in that apartment that I irrationally loved, having just completed driving across the country, not knowing where I'd live in September, believing I would not be able to drive across the country for at least another decade, feeling conflicted because I liked certain aspects of my job but because I was told I was not allowed to go to graduate school (!!! more on THAT later, I'm sure) feeling distraught that I was postponing my real dream (a PhD/research)...I forgot where this sentence was going. But since then and now, I found an apartment in Morristown and moved out of it, quit my first Real Job, and many other Important Things. I began to feel settled and at home in my new apartment and job, and just as quickly felt like it could never be home. (Does that means home is 3,000 miles away? I don't know.) I also drove across the country a second time. A year ago, I spent a significant amount of time staring at photos of the Rocky Mountains (and probably also the Alps, because they kinda look alike) and photos of redwoods in the Pacific Northwest, pining.
And then yesterday, I saw/walked among/hugged redwoods.

It was so strange to be back in places I was last summer, when I could not have imagined I would be back only 13 months later.

Anyway, I've done some Portland-centric sightseeing. I've seen Multnomah Falls, the Japanese Garden at Washington Park, the Rose Garden and Hoyt Arboretum again, the Portland Saturday Market (which might be called something else), the gigantic bookstore, and I had dinner at the Kennedy School. Today, I am going to actually unpack and clean and drive to work so I don't get lost tomorrow morning.

Once I have regular Internet, I'll write about interesting things that happened while I lived in Morristown, interesting things that happened on the road (such as The Indiana Travel Center Incident), and more. One event in particular, which has been scrawled on a napkin in my purse for weeks, can pretty much be summed up by its title: The Time I Gave Someone a Used Toothbrush as a Birthday Gift.

Friday, July 03, 2009

End of the road

I am writing this from Portland, OR. I am tired and don't yet have Internet at home, so more later including stories from the road.
My new home is a block or so from a busy street lined with fast food chains and the like. It looks like NJ and it makes me feel at home. I found a great burger place only half a mile away! It's called Carl's Jr!!!!!
OK, time to go to Safeway!