Monday, November 30, 2009

Migraines and Claritin-D

This is one of those times I'm blogging about something because I was trying to find it on Google. Like the time I blogged about my slow Linux laptop. This is a disclaimer to tell you that this may be a really boring post.
I didn't get much done today because I had a horrible headache, probably a migraine. I haven't had a migraine in three years!
To sum this up in three to five sentences, I took Claritin-D for what I believed to be a sinus/allergy-related headache. I take Claritin-D maybe five times a year, on the rare occasions that I have an allergy/sinus problem that's ruining my day. It usually works, but today, within an hour of taking the Claritin-D, I went from having a slight headache to having all of the symptoms of a migraine (except light sensitivity)--horrible pain in my head, nausea, etc. I just did some Internet research, which showed that while some people take Claritin-D to treat migraines, the "D" part, the pseudoephedrine, is a vasoconstrictor. Vasoconstriction causes migraines, so in summary, I think the Claritin-D made my not-sinus headache turn into a migraine, but since it helps me on the five days a year I have allergy symptoms, I'm still going to take it.
I just wish I hadn't taken a 24-hour dose! I hope the migraine stays away and that I have a more productive day tomorrow. It wasn't totally fruitless (and here, the post stays boring, just in a different way). I took my mom's car to the inspection station, got a lot of grocery shopping done, and made vegetable broth.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eventual Favorites List

I should just post a Favorites List like Heidi Swanson. (Side note: When I was a little kid, I had several imaginary friends which were all based on cartoon characters. If I were to lose my mind as a twenty-something, my imaginary friends would probably include Heidi Swanson and Clotilde Dusoulier. They would be my Kitchen Friends. Then I would have some people from the first three seasons of Project Runway as my Sewing Friends.)
An item I plan to blog about is a place in Portland that's becoming one of my favorites. It is called Toast. Their website is here. I'm not sure why this of Portland's multitude of brunch places is becoming a favorite. (I also like Genie's and Screen Door.) I think it's the centerpieces. On each table rests a small glass vase or bottle holding a simple yet creative arrangement. On some tables, I've seen three sticks of dried teasel. On others, I've seen clematis, which is, at this time of year, vines of whispery, spidery fuzz. Not only are these centerpieces seasonal, I'm pretty sure they're collected near the restaurant--from what I've seen just walking to Toast.

Bridge Kitchenware

is a magical place.
I might have written about them before; I'll have to look.
Anyway, they've moved since I visited them in June. They are now located at 563 Eagle Rock Ave., Roseland, NJ. It's just a little further east (I think it's east?) of their June 13th location, which was on the same road but in East Hanover, just past the intersection with Ridgedale Ave. The store is larger now and better organized. They didn't have any pressure canners, but that's probably for the best because how would I ship a thing like that to Oregon?
My only complaint is that they don't list their prices on the items themselves. Their prices are great, of course, it's just that they range from 50 cents for a mustard spoon to way out of my budget. Everything looks like good quality to me, so I have no idea which is $5 and which is $50. (They have a quiche pan I am eyeing up that looks much nicer than the one I bought at Target--the one I hold responsible for this disaster--for half the price.) Anyway, they're not snobby, so I don't mind identifying myself as a hobbyist and not a real chef who either a) automatically knows which pans are $5 and which are $50 or b) doesn't care how much she pays for quality. I just ask.
Also, they have photos on the wall of Julia Child shopping at Bridge Kitchenware. I heard other customers exclaim, "It's Julia!" as if she were a friend. I think she kind of is everyone's friend.

I'll write more later. My mother needs help knitting a Mobius and my father is conversing with the Roomba.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Almost Thirty

Sometimes people meddle because they care.

Last night, someone told me I was "almost thirty," listing this as a reason that I should hurry up finding a husband and getting pregnant.
I'm about four months shy of twenty-six. Since when is that "almost thirty"?
- - - - -

Earlier in the evening, I had said, "Let me tell you about all the great guys I've been meeting!" and was met with the following:
"Don't tell us about the guys. Talk to me when you find The Guy."
"I am not looking for The Guy right now."

- - - - -

Later, the married couples were discussing when they plan to have children. That's when I was told to hurry up. I think I was starting to list the reasons why I will not hurry up when my age was (inaccurately, hyperbolically) pointed out.
"Don't you want our kids to be able to play together?" I was asked.
"Your kids can babysit my kids," I responded.

- - - - -

Tonight, someone reminded me of a saying I had last year. I'd nearly forgotten it. When going to holiday parties, I had trouble getting there with everything put together: my appearance, my food, my timely arrival. It would be so nice, I thought, if there was someone else here to watch the oven while I write down the Google Maps directions or vice versa. It would be nice to have someone read the directions to me.
When I did succeed in getting it all together and out the door, the damn cakes always slid around in the car. Everything is at an angle in the Sunfire, and normal driving activities--turning, merging onto a highway, stopping at a traffic light--all caused any objects on the front seat or the floor to sail toward the windshield. I need a boyfriend, I used to think, just to hold the cake in the car!.
Someone told me I set back feminism twenty years every time I said this, but I disagree. If he's holding the cake in the passenger seat, then who's driving the car?

- - - - -

I realized recently that whenever I hear that someone's gotten their Masters degree and they are my age or--gasp--a year younger, I get a little sad. I haven't even started on my Masters degree yet. I know that I shouldn't live someone else's life, but it makes me a little sad because I used to think it would be my life, to do everything possible for an early start on a brilliant career. Now I hope to begin a PhD program before I'm thirty--which apparently I'm almost.
Some women get upset when they see, on Facebook for example, that someone their age (or younger!) has gotten married and/or had a baby. That's how I feel when I see that someone else has completed a graduate program.

What am I doing with my life now, working towards neither career nor family? I'm making myself useful, I'm not hurting anyone, and I'm enjoying my life. I haven't neglected my goals; I'm just not rushing headlong toward them. In fact, I am working towards my career in science, just in a slower, less orderly fashion than I'd once imagined. It is the "casual dating" approach to a career, as opposed to the "married at twenty-two" approach.
And I was never working towards a family; I only want that for about five minutes a month if, during the week I'm ovulating, I see a cute baby on the bus.
I'm not sure how many people understand this; they either don't understand why I'm taking a meandering, leisurely path towards my PhD, or they never understood why that was my goal in the first place.
They worry because they care--every single one of these people. I have to keep in mind that it comes from a good place.

No one in Oregon questions my choices; maybe they just don't know me well enough to be concerned with how I manage my life. Maybe they will grow to care, and pretty soon I'll have a whole new batch of people telling me whom to date and which career to pursue. All I know is that in Oregon, I've never once worried about who would carry the cake in the car.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Best Thanksgiving Post Ever

Not mine. Someone else's.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!

The original is available courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine.

How to fish for long fat eel.

Planning for Christmas Dinner

We were anticipating a slightly uncomfortable Thanksgiving. To everyone's surprise, we had a great Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone was in a good mood. I made a drinking game beforehand, to aid in digestion of comments like, "I wish I were dead," "Why you no get married?", "Stupid Americans!", and "You put on weight!" And then...none of these things were said.

Anyway, I get to be sort of in charge of Christmas dinner. Any suggestions? I want to make things that are in season and interesting. However, I have a bunch of picky eaters to deal with. Here's a list of things that various members of my family claim not to like:

1) Beans (but some people like them)
2) Cinnamon
3) Sage
4) Too many exotic spices
5) Cranberries
6) Cauliflower
7) Spinach
8) Squash--most of the time
9) Sweet potatoes (but some people love them)
10) Ginger

I'll add to this later....basically, every time I look at a recipe there's some major component of it that makes me say, "Oh wait! Soandso really hates one of those things!" Sometimes, I sneak it in anyway (maybe in a smaller amount), or just make it for the other people at the table.

Here's what everyone does seem to like:

1) Bacon
2) Brussels sprouts
3) Beets

Well, at least #1 and #2 go together.

Anyway, I just want to make some interesting desserts and a bunch of vegetable dishes. Maybe something with grains isn't a bad idea either. I think I'll try the Autumn Potato Salad recently posted on 101cookbooks.com (with some other roasted fall vegetables) and some kind of soup. I currently have from the library Love Soup, and I made Beet Soup with Ginger from the Holiday Soups section of the book. (I didn't make the vegetable stock the way she does--I just steeped some celery and thyme in water while the rest of the stuff was in the oven. Instead of just boiling the vegetables--including those I use to make stock--I roasted them in a cast iron skillet in the oven (with about two tablespoons of olive oil.) (A parsnip, a carrot, an onion, and a huge beet. And some brussels sprouts, because I forgot to buy cabbage for the soup.) This is not only a good way to make soup if you're lazy; everything gets a nice caramelized flavor. The hot water I used to clean the pan was added to the soup.

I also made roasted brussels sprouts (normally I pan-fry them and grate cheese over the top of them.) They were okay. I overcooked them and they reheated poorly.

I made a cranberry sauce recipe from Rachel Ray. It was a big hit (with the people who actually eat cranberry sauce.) I will make that again next year; why mess with a good thing?

I'll probably test recipes each week (since I like to cook and have all this free time). I kind of want to try the Persimmon Soup next.
I've been told that I definitely have to make brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner, and I plan to make them with bacon and--if I can find decent dried ones--figs.
I plan to make all the pie crusts from scratch, all whipped cream from scratch, and some type of ice cream (from scratch!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NJ/OR (#1)

Today I got re-adjusted to Jersey Driving (I'm ashamed I had to write that sentence--that on Sunday I found myself actually paying attention to Yield signs, wondering what all that honking was about, obeying the speed limit, etc etc etc. Oh, and I keep wanting to answer my phone when I'm driving. Thanks, Oregon!). I took my mom's car for a repair, went food shopping, and did some pre-cooking for Thanksgiving dinner. All of these things reminded me of stuff I love about NJ which are different from Oregon. I'll be posting about such differences again, I'm sure. Here's what I can think of at the moment:

1. I love driving in NJ and not feeling lost all the time, as I do 80% of the time in Portland, where one wrong turn puts me in the maze of dead-end avenues and lanes that mysteriously deposit me onto I-5. Also, something about Portland--the fact that navigating in Portland relies heavily on cardinal directions, thus giving Portland drivers an innate sense of North, South, East, West--has made me feel less lost in NJ, even when I find myself on an unfamiliar road. I can just sort of tell if I'm heading east or not.
(Of course, I drove in a circle today, on two separate occasions, just trying to find Route 46. One of these occasions was in a parking lot.)

2. I love the landscape here. LOVE IT. Even in the most built-up, North Jersey, ugly strip mall highway area, a wrong turn will take you into a beautiful neighborhood with old houses whose yards are currently covered with brown leaves, glittering bronze and copper in the sunlight, and tall black trees reaching toward the sky, their bare branches arched dramatically. I like the conifers of the Northwest a lot. (Ok, I love them too!) But I do not love them more than the trees of NJ. I know that our winters are brown, not green. That's okay.

3. I like the way our sticks of butter are shaped better than Western sticks of butter. No one knows what I'm talking about when I mention this, so I'll have to take pictures of sticks of butter!

4. Yuengling. I missed Yuengling.

5. People here don't think I talk funny.

(There have also been moments this week where I've missed Portland. Already.)

I am happy that I get to have both places--my old home and my new home--for now at least. In fact, I think I'm happy with all aspects of my life right now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

OkCupid Archaeological Dig

Stuck on West Coast time, I'm looking for something to do. I decided to clean out my inbox on the dating website. Here's one of the gems I found:

Hi, if your pic is real, then I like you. You look like someone I should get to know. Im not the type of guy who is into games. I know what I want and I am not afraid to take it. If you think you can handle a challenge and youre ready for an adventure, email me to begin.

Note: My pic is the same as my Blogger profile picture. Not like...a picture of a model in a bikini.
Note #2: I did not e-mail him to begin the challenging adventure.

Feminist in the making

It all started because I was talking to my parents about one of the men I'm dating in Portland. I had been telling him about a time when there was a girl at a party that was much prettier than me, and I said something about her getting more attention than me. He said something like the following:
"I don't know how that could be! You're so funny!" I think he said I was smart, too.
Naturally, I was flattered. Some dude thinks I'm interesting.
Naturally, my parents thought this was a reason to tease me.
"Did you tell him about your beauty?"
"No."
"Did you tell him about that time you got in a fight with that girl?"
"Uh...I don't know?"
"In preschool! At ballet class!"
"What?"
"You know, that girl!"
"When was that? Nineteen-eighty...TWO?" (I sputtered out the "two" because I was trying to remember in what year I was two. Ok, that explanation doesn't make the statement any less stupid.)
"You weren't born yet in 1982. Anyway, it was when you were in preschool, and that little girl asked what you wanted to be when you grew up."
"Oh, I remember that. That had nothing to do with 'my beauty.'"
The next part of the conversation I'm not proud of. I was insistent that the girl from the story was a friend I had growing up through high school, Kristina. My mother told me several times that NO, it was a different girl who had been adopted from Korea. Someone I never saw again after preschool. I guess I always just replaced that mystery girl in my memory with Kristina, the only adopted-from-Korea girl I remember from my childhood.
Anyway, here is the story. When this girl who was NOT Kristina asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I replied, "I am going to be a queen when I grow up."
"You can't be a queen!"
"Yes I can! I can be a queen if I want!"
"No you can't! You can be a lot of other things, like a policewoman..."
I remember that part distinctly, because I thought, "WHO wants to be a policewoman?"
"Well, I am going to be a queen!"
"You don't have a crown!"
"I'll get one."

Apparently, at this point the little girl who was not Kristina announced, "I'm going to be a pediatric surgeon when I grow up!"
"I'm going to be a queen."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Where is my life going?

I just heard myself saying on the phone to, of all people, my dad, the following:

"I don't get Bella! I don't know why she likes Edward! Jacob just--he just seems to have a lot more going on!"

So much for NaBloPoMo

I am overwhelmed as I write this.
I'm packing to go back to NJ for a bit and it is making me crazy. Since I'll be away from Portland for awhile, there are all sorts of things I won't get to do and wish I could do and of course, I couldn't cram everything in.
For example, I wanted to get my film developed. Fred Meyer has 1 hour photo; however, it's cheaper to get lots of rolls of film developed at once (if you put them on one CD like I do) and so I've been saving film for awhile. Then it doesn't take an hour anymore; it takes about a day. (Which is still great.) Going to Fred Meyer and dropping off my film (filling out something like fifteen envelopes) and then making time to go tomorrow, before going to the airport--that had to get crossed off the list.
(Arrangements to move into a new place...again...such as changing my address with various accounts and things like that...also took a lot of time. The past two weeks have been filled with a lot of waiting on line and waiting on hold.)
Anyway, writing every day was something I had to cross off the list to keep from getting overwhelmed.

I had a realization yesterday that despite being an overwhelming week, this week was something else rare.................................DRAMA FREE.

Yes, that's right. It was a week of no drama.

Last week was pretty low-drama too. It was just dealing with residual drama from something else.

What did I do during my week of no drama?
On Sunday, my roommate and I went to a friend's for brunch. Our friend made pancakes and I made hash browns. My roommate helped. (She always says that she can't cook, but she helps.) Afterwards, something else good happened but I can't remember! The day ended with the two of us going to a friend's house for dinner. It was a very large, relaxed dinner party. On Monday, we went out for drinks in the evening--happy hour at a dive-y bar we'd never been to before--with a bunch of our friends, plus some guy I was meeting for a blind date. That could have been disastrous, I know, but it was not. Everyone had fun. Then we got DECENT PIZZA; then three of us went to a coffeehouse which shall not be named because I had crappy coffee and we had terrible service. The waitress was so bitchy that it was funny. On Tuesday I had a lunch date. On Wednesday, I had another date. Then one of my friends came over, we ran some errands together, I made dinner, and finally, the evening ended with a Stitch and Bitch at my new favorite knitting store, Happy Knits. (After saying the name several times, I realized it sounds like "HappyNESS." Oooohhhhhhh.) It reminds me a lot of Down Cellar in Basking Ridge, NJ. Friendly, helpful staff; great selection; minimum of weirdos or knitting snobs.
On Thursday, my roommate and I got brunch at Toast, a place in SE Portland we'd heard a lot about. It was great! I put in a couple of hours volunteering at the botanical garden where I worked this summer, and then in the evening, we went to the Lloyd Center Mall. The purpose of this trip was to see the midnight showing of the new Twilight movie.
What?! Yeah, I know, not something I would normally do. But it was fun!
Today I am supposed to be Christmas shopping and packing and getting stuff done; we're going out tonight for my "last hurrah" (even though I am coming back to Portland); and finally, tomorrow, I am taking a guy out to lunch (because he's taken me out to some nice places, so I decided it's my turn!) and then finally, in the early evening, my roommate is taking me to the airport. I have an overnight flight to Newark.

(In between all the social activities has been errands and other To Do List items; for example, I've been sort of arranging the dates to be in parts of town where I needed to go to pick things up. Maybe I should just start taking dates to Fred Meyer and the post office.)

So, no drama, but now you see why there's been no writing, either.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Walk

My new roommate and I were walking home from brunch today--a scenic walk past colorful houses and gardens--and encountered two men working on a car. We said hello and how are you as we approached them. The older (grandpa-aged) of the two looked up from his work and said, "When I saw green coming this way, I thought, 'Girl Scouts!'"
(We were both wearing green jackets.)
He continued, "But you're too old to be Girl Scouts!"
We laughed, saying things like, "Yup, we're not Girl Scouts."
He said, "No, not Girl Scouts, just a couple of Oregon girls!"
We waited until we were a few houses away to both whisper excitedly:
"I'm so glad he called us that!"
"He called us Oregon girls!"

(It was our first time!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Geographical differences (unedited)

Tonight, someone told me that the weather in Alaska is more bearable (cold-wise) than the weather in Montana and the Dakotas. Interesting. Maybe I should reconsider my crackpot dream of moving to Montana if things don't work out in New Jersey. (This is similar to the dream I had last year of moving to Portland if things didn't work out in New Jersey.)

[This was almost the end of my post. I needed to post one more time tonight to be caught up for my NaBloPoMo goal--if not posting every day, then a post for every day since I started--and I almost had no ideas except that line about Alaska.]

Today, I realized another reason I am happy here.
I'm not sure what to call it or what exactly the "reason" is, just something that happened made me think, "This is place is different in a way that's important."

Maybe it could be summed up in one or two lines--maybe this story illustrates some fundamental difference between where I live now and where I used to live--but I'm not sure so I'll just tell the story.

I may not have written about this last year, for fear of offending anyone, but parties that I attended last year sometimes made me miserable.

The men would be in one room and the women would be in another. Or if we were out to eat, the men would sit at one end of the table and the women would sit at another. Couples would sit in the middle so that sometimes the men and women would be in some kind of couples conversation, but either party could also lean over and join the conversation of their appropriate group at either time.

Even after I caught on to what was happening, I'd sometimes inadvertently find myself in the women's room.

I hated the women's room.

The conversation was, in a word, insipid. It was mainly about babies and rings. Babies and rings, babies and rings. It wasn't just that women would talk about their own babies or show off their own rings; other women who were not present would be under scrutiny. At one party, people went on the Internet to look at pictures of the engagement ring of some girl they didn't like so that they could pick on it/her. Wedding ceremonies were discussed--and don't get me wrong, I would tell complete strangers about the 1920's-speakeasy-themed wedding that I was going to be in--but sometimes it seemed that the discussion leaned toward the extravagance of the ceremony and reception. How much a fancy hall cost, how much flower arrangements that only flower arrangers would appreciate cost, how much each plate cost, etc.

Once I was annoyed and announced that I never wanted a diamond engagement ring since diamonds are linked to environmentally unsound mining practices and human rights violations, and furthermore I think the money could be better spent on something else. If I were ever to get engaged, maybe I'd tell him to donate the engagement ring money to some cause. (Actually, that would be awesome.) I wasn't doing it to be nasty; I was being honest.

At one of these parties, a friend turned to me in desperation and said, "Tell me what's going on with your life! Have you read any good books lately?!" We muttered--trying to be quiet so as not to be heard and offend anyone, "Don't these women have anything better to talk about? There's so much happening in the world today! We just elected the first black president, for one thing!"

I also met a lot of women back home who were basing their lives around their husband's ideas and careers. Where they were living was determined by where it was convenient for their husband to live. Where they worked or went to school--what types of opportunities they pursued--depended on their husband. It seemed to me that these women were not merely compromising, but following, giving everything, as though they had no dreams or goals of their own. In my mind, these things--women shaping their identity to their husbands and the party conversation topic of women--were related. NJ just seemed so damn old-fashioned. This is what I wanted to get away from; I wanted to leave before this became my life.

- - - - - -

I always imagined that the men were having fascinating conversation in their room, even if all they were talking about was their careers.

One time, I purposely sat at the men's end of the table. I awaited the fascinating conversation.
I was totally ignored. This wasn't sexism; if I'd had something to contribute to the conversation, I'm sure the men would have welcomed it. I just had nothing to say about football, baseball, comic book characters, or action movies. Or action movies based off of comic book characters.
I laughed at myself when I realized that this was what I'd been missing! I brought this up with a male friend later, and he laughed, too. I think we concluded that the different and interesting conversation came up when the men and women were talking together.

So why did so many parties split into men's rooms and women's rooms?

- - - - -

I don't know, but I realized tonight that in Portland, I haven't been to a single party like that. At a party tonight, men and women were in the same room. Sports were on TV; some women watched it, some men watched it, others didn't. Everyone talked.

- - - - -

However, not too long ago, my friends and I went to a women's meetup and with one exception, the married women at the table talked about nothing but their marriages and their husbands. Mainly their husbands. What their husbands did. It was like they defined themselves by their husbands. (There was one married woman at the table who didn't talk like that. She was fun and friendly.)

If this exists in Portland, then maybe what I have in Portland which I value so much exists in New Jersey, too, and I was just looking in the wrong places. Maybe I can find it anywhere.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tip #1 - Tote Bags

This tip applies to solo road tripping as well, now that I think about it, as a way to keep the car organized.

My first tip for women (or anyone!) who want to re-invent themselves by making a long-distance move on their own* is to bring a lot of tote bags. This is a good tip for busy people in general, I guess, but I've found it especially useful of late.

Even if you don't bring a lot of stuff with you, you'll accumulate stuff. You'll find that it's hard to live out of suitcases, without furniture, with a mattress on the floor, and without basics that you either forgot or felt you didn't need or thought you could just buy when you got there...but then once you got there, didn't want to buy all at once because holy crap is moving expensive!

Furniture, especially things with drawers, helps keep you organized. But it's expensive! It's large and difficult to move! When you first get there (wherever There is), you might be in a temporary apartment. You don't want to buy furniture that you'll have to move again!

Unless your suitcases are better than mine and have lots of little compartments, living out of a suitcase is not sustainable in the long term. It will make you batty. At least, it made me batty.

It did not have separate compartments for undergarments, socks, and other clothing. I could only layer things. And you know what, some mornings, sorting through each layer trying to find underwear, pants/skirt, a matching top, and socks is absolutely maddening. Because to get to what you want, you have to sort through each little layer after layer. If you're in a hurry, you'll end up removing things from the suitcase not so carefully. Then you'll have a mess and you'll never find that underwear easily again.

Use #1 for Tote Bags - Organize the stuff you already have.

Why can't I just use plastic grocery bags? you may say. After all, they are free!

Because they flop over. Tote bags stand up.

Another benefit of tote bags is that they are open at the top, enabling you to see inside them and know just what you have.

Use #2 for Tote Bags - Hide your mess.

While you don't have a lot of furniture and places to store things, you may find that your stuff ends up in massive, crazy piles. And then you want to have someone over to visit. Or just you want to have clear floor space so you can THINK (or walk.)
It's good to have a few free tote bags to just throw everything in. A tote bag for Miscellaneous or Etc. or To Be Sorted Later. Sometimes you just don't have time to sort and put everything away! It's okay! You're too busy working at your new job to earn money for furniture, going on blind dates or to Meetups to make friends, or exploring your new place, or going to cafes to work on your novel/resume. That's what you should be doing, not spending your whole life organizing your stuff.

Use #3 - Similar to #1 and #2, with a touch of drama.

If you ever have to move out of a place in a hurry, because it feels unsafe or you're not on a legal lease or BOTH of these things, you can throw all your stuff in tote bags like #2. And then when you're unpacking, trying to sort through this chaotic mess of stuff, the tote bags can be used to sort things, since you don't have time to put everything away all at once.
You are busy looking for work, going to Meetups and making friends, going on blind dates, going to cafes to work on your novel/resume, or exploring your new neighborhood. You don't have time to spend the one sunny day this week** unpacking and putting away everything you own. And you don't have to!

You can have a tote bag reserved for out-of-season clothing (to be put away later.) You have a tote bag reserved for in-season clothing (to be hung up later.) You can have a tote bag reserved for craft project supplies, for Things that Go in the Bathroom When I Have Time to Go in There and Arrange Things Nicely, for Things that Go in the Kitchen, for Things that Go Back in the Car, and for Things I Don't Know What to do With Yet (aka Etc/Miscellaneous/To Be Sorted Later.)

- - - -

Another good thing to have is Decorative Fabric. This can be one of those wall hanging/couch cover pieces of hippie fabric from the college decor section of a store, a tablecloth, a lovely blanket, or just a random piece of fabric. You can stack your tote bags, boxes, or just piles of crap, and cover them with "decorative fabric." That is a good way to hide mess when guests come over. They don't even look at it, unless you say to them, "Don't look under that decorative fabric!" And why would anyone say that? Because I have a big mouth and a faulty inner censor.


* Boy, I need to find a way to shorten this!
** Which may be the last sunny day in Portland until June!

Thursday of Phone Calls

I'm trying to catch up where I left off writing.
All week, I was trying to take care of some phone calls which would determine pretty much everything else I need to get done before I go to New Jersey. They would determine if I could sign a lease where I'm living now, which would determine if I need to find out how to register my car in Oregon and things like that. I am looking for work in New Jersey and in Oregon, since I have places to live in both states, but I think Oregon is where I'm more likely to find some kind of work, even part time, in what I do. (Also I hear that NJ is expected to recover from the recession after Oregon.) If nothing else, I can work at an outdoors store.
A year or even three months ago, I would have thought that last sentence was depressing. But out here, as I'm settling in and making friends, I'm learning how to not define myself by work alone. I'm learning how to relax.
I don't want to do absolutely nothing toward my goals, because I think my brain will rot and I'll ultimately be unhappy. However, I see that graduate school, full time, right now, is not the only option. I'm not saying I don't want to do it or that I'm not considering it for Fall 2010; I'm just not ruling out other things.
While I'm looking for work, I'm volunteering at two botanical gardens. Not very actively--I've only going to a luncheon and a training program for one garden--and I've gone in to volunteer for the Seed Bank for Rare and Endangered Plants of the Pacific Northwest exactly once so far. I would like to make time for it this week.
I feel that volunteering will be a good networking opportunity for jobs and/or graduate programs, or at least allow me to stay involved in what I'm passionate about.
Even though my last two blog posts included extensive details about trees, I don't need to devote my entire life to plants. I like going out, making friends, exploring the city, exploring my other interests, having time to read books, and keeping in touch with family and friends back East.
This is the happiness I sought, and didn't have, a year ago.
I suspect that what's making me happy is not just Portland, the place, or the things that I'm doing. It's the process and the fact that I am able to--that I have to--do things for myself out here. Sometimes it's frustrating--like when I had to put my own dresser together, or figure out--if I get a bed frame--how to move it into my apartment. The process, more than the results, is what is rewarding. I feel in control of my own life and no longer trapped.

I keep saying that I want to write up my tips and suggestions for women who want to travel solo and/or go on road trips. I think I might also post my tips and suggestions, at some point, for women (or anyone!) who want to move far away and start a life on their own.

Oh, with respect to the title of this post, the Thursday of Phone Calls yielded a positive result. Tomorrow is Monday of Packing and Phone Calls.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Three days overdue

I meant to write on Wednesday.
I went to a cafe that supposedly had wireless, and when they didn't, I just mapped out a blog post while drinking some coffee. (I looooooove Stumptown coffee. So much that I think I'm going to buy a pound to bring back with me for the holidays. I don't know if I can live without it for that long.)
Anyway, I was drafting a post in my head as I walked home, planning to write as soon as I got in the door and to an Internet connection.
But then my friend called, and my roommate came home, and I was making soup. We ate dinner together, then we walked to a neighborhood bar we've been meaning to check out, then some people invited us to hang out with them...and that was the end of my good record with NaBloPoMo.
I took a lot of photos on my walk on Wednesday. When it got too dark for my camera, I tried to take notes in my head of what I was seeing. Mostly fall foliage. What's nice is that in these neighborhoods in Portland, what people plant is so varied. This makes the fall color varied, too. Not that I mind the Northeast with its rows of street trees. What reminded me of that was a patch of gingko. Just a patch. The entire street wasn't lined with gingkos. There was just grouping of four--three in a row, separated by a telephone pole (with branches leaning against it from a large yard tree, creating the illusion that the telephone pole IS a tree), and then a fourth on its own.
I love gingko trees. I love them because they are taxonomically interesting (pre-flowering; a monotypic genus; unique leaf shape) and because they are beautiful to me. I don't care if they are common. I don't care if they are thin little things lining an ugly city street (or a nice one, in Portland's case) or if they are giants in a botanical garden. I love them! I like the way their leaves travel along the branches and bunch up at the end--on the skinny street trees, at least. They look like children's fists, holding toys or beach sand or something. In the fall they are so yellow!
In Portland, the nights can be very blue. The sky is dark blue and because of all the clouds, I never see any stars. There are always lights though--from businesses, from streetlights, from cars. (That's when I remember I live in a city.) The leaves of the gingko are lit up, this bright, glowing YELLOW against the dark blue darkness. I love it!

More later.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dear Unemployment Office

I would be able to seek work much more actively if I wasn't wasting my life on the phone with you!

(Or rather, on the phone with your busy signal.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Tuesday Tuesday

Currently, it is rainy and dark, the way I was told Portland in the fall/winter would be. However, most of the day it was beautiful. Sunny, blue sky, brilliant fall colors and still-flowering gardens everywhere. I rode the bus downtown and the bus driver was so jolly. He was patient--actually keeping the bus stopped until everyone had a chance to sit down--and friendly. As he was chatting with people, I watched the colors of the houses and gardens and trees pass by, as we headed over the bridge and toward the western side of Portland, the West Hills--a mass of green from the conifers now mottled with yellow and orange--ahead.
I love looking at the West Hills in the fall. (I say this as though I've had many falls in which to experience this.)
I had lunch at Laughing Planet--it was a date and that's all I'll say on that topic--so there's another place I can cross off my To Try in Portland list. I had a giant burrito that was only about $6, which overflowed everywhere. I saw a friendly acquaintance--someone I'm getting to know who will probably become a friend--getting lunch on her way to work, and that was a pleasant surprise.
After lunch, we walked through a park and past nice houses and nice gardens in Northwest Portland. I kept noticing (and commenting) on all the different Japanese maples. Some had completely shed their leaves, but that only made their branch architecture more noticeable; some were blazing red; some were mild yellow. Some were surrounded, at the bases, by low-growing ericaceous shrubs and giant ferns.
- - - -
Prior to that, some crummy stuff happened today. I'm trying to figure out what's going on with my unemployment claim. My first check, according to their automated claims information system when I called on 10/30, was issued a week before Halloween, and I don't know when it was mailed. When I went to pick up my mail on Monday, there was no check. I've been calling and calling (because I was unable to file last week--problems with the website, and now to find out what happened to that check) and just getting busy signals. Finally, I got the automated claims system (not a person, but better than nothing) and when I entered my information, it said I had a balance remaining, but also told me NO checks had been issued. HUH? What happened to that other check!? Where's my money? Am I getting any money?
Oh, and when I pressed "0" to speak to a real person, the computer told me that all lines were busy and hung up on me.
So today I walked around, after it was too late to call any more offices, wondering if this meant I was getting no money. I have to wait until 7am EST (yes, that is 4am PST) to call. I hate this waiting. I hate the idea of getting up at 4am tomorrow to listen to a busy signal!
As soon as I got home from my date, I turned on my laptop to see if I could get some more information from the New Jersey government website.
My laptop would not boot. It kept going to a weird screen. It kept trying to run maintenance things that would fail.
In short, I thought it had crashed. I thought, "Great! I might be getting no money and my laptop might have crashed!"
My computer did some stuff to itself, and now it works. (Linux is great. Would a Windows machine fix itself like that?) Maybe this is a sign--that when I call the Re-Employment Center at 4am tomorrow, they will not only answer the phone, they will tell me that the worst case scenario is not the case, that my check is...somewhere...and I'm still getting money. Then I can sign a lease at the place I'm living, unpack my bags, and actually be settled somewhere. (I feel like I've been moving, running around, living out of suitcases, since the middle of 2008.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Life as a Human Magnet for Dysfunctional People

Someone suggested that as the title for my memoirs.
Once, I started writing about things that happened to me (planning to eventually turn it into fiction) under the title The Sidekick's Guide to Suburban Survival. This was because I felt that I was constantly the "sidekick" to someone with a dramatic life, someone outgoing, an attention-getter. I'm not sure when it was that I started having adventures of my own.
If it weren't for NaBloPoMo, I would totally be in bed right now, snuggled up with the not-so-snuggly The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
I have this thing I started writing about public bathrooms at restaurants, but that can wait. Instead, I'll give you the text of the blog post I started writing on November 1st, which got interrupted by some unexpected drama. There was going to be a sort-of recipe at the end.

- - - - - - - -
Title: Brassica, bacon, and something sweet.

I am settling in very well on the West Coast these days. As I'm planning to be away from it for awhile. First, I'm flying to Honolulu tomorrow morning. Now that it's here, I'm excited. I tend to not get pre-excited about things the way a lot of people seem to do. My brain sort of works in compartments--last week, for example, I was in the Portland Compartment and Hawaii was as far away to me then as it was when I booked the flight in September. Also, I tend to be content wherever I am (as long as I don't feel trapped), which I think is a good thing. I am not sure if these two things are related (compartments and contentment).
The other big trip is to New Jersey. Awhile ago, I flirted with the idea of putting my stuff in storage and, when I got back from Hawaii, flying back to NJ for the rest of 2009 to figure stuff out. OR ship my stuff back to NJ...basically, I was thinking of leaving the West Coast. I have stopped considering this.
[Then there was an outline of what I was going to write about. I never got around to it but here's the outline.]
- PhD programs etc
- Brussels sprouts and figs and bacon
- kale/collards and grapes and bacon

the main point- i love the west coast because i can lounge until noon on a sunday and not feel guilty.

- - - - - - - -

So anyway, I'll semi-finish the post.
That Sunday, I was lounging in my pajamas until noon, because although I had a lot of errands and packing to do, my errands revolved around places that didn't open until noon.
When I first moved out here from New Jersey, it drove me crazy that so many places kept old-fashioned hours. This excludes my boyfriend Fred Meyer, whose store is open from 7am-11pm. My bank was only open until 7pm. The library was open till 8...only two nights a week. Things didn't open until noon on weekends. Old Navy is open till 10 back home; here, it closes at 9.
Then one day, with a long To Do list, I went to the bank located in a Fred Meyer. I thought it would open at noon on Sunday.
It would not. It would never open on Sunday. The bank was closed on Sunday. Just like in the old days!
Instead of being angry, I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I don't have to go to the bank today!
That's how I look at it now. These shorter hours give me time to rest.
(My post also notes that I have more things to blog about re: differences between East and West coast.)

So last Sunday, I was adapting very well to not-till-noon Sunday. Thoughts about "Phd programs" can wait. The "recipe" and the title of the post I will sum up briefly.
Two weeks ago, I bought some bacon at Trader Joe's. I kept seeing bacon-y recipes that I wanted to try. I planned on using smoked paprika and olive oil as a substitute, but then I broke down and just bought the damn bacon.
What I made was this recipe from Mark Bittman. Brussels sprouts, bacon, and figs. With a splash of balsamic vinegar. It was autumnal perfection. I made it twice. (I used fresh figs both times.)
Then, looking at what else was in my fridge, I decided to see if it would work with other fruits and vegetables.
What I made the same idea--a brassica, bacon, and something sweet, cooked in the same pan. With some acid thrown in at the end. This isn't a recipe but more of an ingredients list with no helpful measurements:
- Chopped bacon, cooked in the pan so that the vegetables can be cooked in the bacon grease
- Kale and/or collard greens thinly sliced
- Concord grapes, cut in half (other delicious grapes work, too)
- 1/2 clove of garlic, chopped
- A splash of lime juice or similar acid
- Salt and black pepper

Directions: Cook the bacon in the pan. Once it's cooked, take it out of the pan and save it for later. Add the thinly sliced collard/kale/both, the garlic, and the grapes to the pan. Cook in the bacon grease until they are the way you want to eat them. Add salt and black pepper to taste, if you want. Once everything's cooked, put it in a bowl. Oh wait, I think I added water to the pan, too. Maybe you should just look at Mark Bittman's recipe. Add the bacon back to the mixture when ready to serve. Add a splash of lime juice. Enjoy!

- - - - - -

In other news, Portland is rainy. It was sunny when I left, okay!? Today I went to the post office to take care of some things (boring) and drove around in circles trying to find it, and then trying to find parking. After that, I booked my holiday plane tickets. Then I ate lunch. Then I tried to call the Unemployment office, to no avail. Later in the day, I had coffee with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile in a great place in Northeast Portland. I'd never been there before, but the coffee was great, in a pretty orange mug, with the first refill free, and a nice atmosphere.
Then I saw Whip It with my Midwestern friend. We both really liked it; I definitely recommend that movie. The theater had a special price on Monday nights--a pleasant surprise! They also had hot cocoa, which was great because we got rained on.

More tomorrow! Tomorrow I'm going to call the unemployment office again and have lunch with someone. It's only supposed to rain for part of the day. Wonderful!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I thought of something funny

So, I ended up leaving my apartment and packing for Hawaii in a hurry. Fortunately, I'd pre-packed a lot for Hawaii back in September. When it started getting cold and I was swapping sundresses for sweaters, I put a few sundresses and corresponding shows in a small suitcase.
Anyway, as a result of the hurry, the remainder of my packing was kind of erratic. I ended up bringing to Hawaii:

1 GPS (with no chargers)
2 laptops (not just one, or even none)
3 more pairs of underwear than necessary

I ended up NOT bringing to Hawaii:
A toothbrush
Toothpaste (aka baking soda)
Shampoo
Conditioner
Soap
More than one pair of socks
Regular hiking tank tops
A razor for shaving
Film for my camera
A book to read
Not even a magazine

The toothbrush was the worst thing to not have. All other toiletries I could share with my parents. So early in the trip, my parents and I went down to the ABC Store (I thought it would be like Hawaii's Fred Meyer, but it's about a tenth of the size. However, I think ABC may in fact carry as much crap as Fred Meyer...in a tenth of the space. It's kind of awesome.) to get Maui Onion potato chips, film, and a toothbrush. There was an entire wall of toothbrushes.

Children's toothbrushes.

I picked the one I could find without a Disney Princess-shaped handle.

When I took it out of the package, I realized it was tiny. It was a Crayola toothbrush.

Later, I realized that there was a GAME in the handle. Not a princess, but a game--a little plastic maze with tiny plastic beads rolling around.

So now I was thousands of miles from home with no socks, limited clothing, and a tiny toothbrush with game in the handle.

I guess I could have played with that instead of buying a book to read.

Just writing to say...

that I REFUSE to fall off the NaBloPoMo wagon this easily!
I am exhausted. I have nothing to write about. But it's too early to fail!
I will certainly write about Hawaii--probably when I get my pictures back.
I actually stopped writing in the middle of a post yesterday, because some drama occurred. I pride myself on the fact that I can handle threatening or otherwise upsetting situations calmly--that I don't "lose my shit" (as someone once put it) and rationally think of a way to get out of the situation. Yesterday, I was just so tired and my nerves were so frazzled that I was starting to lose my sense of calm and jump to conclusions, thinking that one bad thing was going to lead to all sorts of disaster. I envisioned myself living in my car parked in the PDX parking lot, in hiding, until I could hop a plane back to Jersey.
I went shopping. That helped.
You see, flying makes me nervous. Not the actual flight. There's just something about going to the airport; I've realized that every time I am supposed to fly somewhere, I start to feel anxious the day of. I think it's this idea that a big plane is leaving at X o'clock and THAT'S IT. I imagine things that will get in the way and keep me from getting on the plane in time. In short, I have an irrational fear of missing flights. I try to remind myself that missing a flight is not a big deal. Then I am okay.
So, I had two things to be nervous about, and instead of being 2(nervous) it was (nervous)^2. I was at my gate two hours before boarding time, and still nervous. So nervous I couldn't eat. Yes, I missed out on Wailana Coffeehouse's macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup because of nerves! (and the belief that I will return, someday, to Waikiki.)
I knew I was going to need food for my five hour flight from Kauai to San Francisco, so I looked for something that would still taste good cold as well as be filling. This was at Honolulu, where I had two hours to spare. I started out on the line at Burger King (it's familiar) but it was too long. I stared at the nearly empty Lahaina Chicken (or whatever it's called) and migrated over. I do not know why they have a Hawaiian name. There was no Kalua pork to be found. I ordered some greasy fried chicken and cole slaw. I have a secret love of cold fried chicken, especially when traveling. When I was a kid, my parents and I would go to Disney World all the time, always a road trip, and we'd stop at Roy Rogers on the highway. (I don't know if they still exist.) I loved getting the Roy Rogers fried chicken, eating some, putting the rest in the cooler, and eating it cold for breakfast in the morning.
(I am certain that these Disney World car trips are what led to my obsession with road trips as an adult.)
Anyway, yesterday convinced me that retail therapy is real. Just buying small items--the process of picking things out, deciding what to buy, and then staring at the glossy new item in its little plastic bag--it's very nice. The Hawaiian Airlines terminal in Honolulu has a very nice bookstore. I couldn't decide between Twilight or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I decided I could get Twilight from the library and read it in one day.
Then I ended up taking the complimentary in-flight magazine from Hawaiian Airlines. It had just as much cheesy advertising material as other in-flight magazines, but all of the articles were about Hawaii and it was just fascinating. I wanted it.
I also had a copy of The Honolulu Advertiser, slipped under my hotel room door that morning.
And a copy of People from my mother. Fortunately, it had minimal mention of the Gosselin family. (I get sucked into their story all too easily.) I boarded my first flight reading an article about Tracy Morgan.
Today is another post breaking my rules about editing and brevity. I am not going to go over this post and ask, "What is the purpose of this post, and of each paragraph? Can this point be summed up in three sentences or less?" I am too tired. The ramble about reading material came from me writing about how I intended to write more yesterday.
In any case, I'm exhausted, but optimistic. I am about 150 pages into The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and looking forward to going to bed and reading it now. And falling asleep with my reading lamp on.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

NaBloPoMo

I'm just going to post some thoughts while I'm waiting for a shuttle to take me to the airport.
I don't have to be outside waiting for the shuttle for another hour. I have another hour in Honolulu, but I don't want to go anywhere because I will get stressed out about not getting back in time. There's so much to see--just standing on the street in this city is nice--but I can see that from the window of my airport shuttle. Besides, I'm coming back here someday.
I actually didn't see much of Honolulu's sights. We rented a car almost every day, so we actually saw more of the rest of the island than Honolulu itself. We never quite adjusted to Hawaiian time; we would wake up around 5 or 6 in the morning, eat breakfast as soon as IHOP opened, rent a car at about 7, and then drive somewhere. The car had to be back at 7pm, so we'd come back to Honolulu to return the car, eat dinner, and be asleep between 9 and 10. Basically, we were active during the daylight hours. Sometimes I think that is my ideal schedule. I used to wake up very early. For years, I would regularly wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning and be very active. I am not sure when I started running on an 8am-midnight schedule, but I miss the mornings.
So anyway, because there's still so much to see in Honolulu alone, I want to come back to Oahu. A lot of people told me that this was the lame Hawaiian island, I guess because it's so developed, so a lot of what you see is the same as any American city. You don't get to see the exotic, wild Hawaii that people imagine. But when the plane landed and I saw the skyline stretching right out to a beautiful beach with unbelievably blue water, green mountains in the background and drifting, misty clouds (because I landed in the rain), I was happy. People describe the less developed areas as "real Hawaii," but the busy city, where most residents of Hawaii currently live--isn't that real Hawaii too? It is to me!

- - - - - - -

So, I titled this "NaBloPoMo" and haven't yet explained what that is. I wrote previously about National Novel Writing Month. Yesterday I learned that November is also National Blog Posting Month. Since I've been in Hawaii as of November 2nd, and since November 1st wasn't the tranquil day I had planned, I wouldn't say I've fallen off the NaNoWriMo wagon. I never really got on. Also, I didn't want to write a novel; I just wanted to write. Is a set number of words necessary? No! I really wanted to get back in the habit of writing things down, but also editing them. I didn't want to shoot for maximum words. I am wordy enough. My goal is to go through everything I write (stories, blog posts, and e-mails) and edit them down. This post is not an example of that. But in general, I've started going through most of the things I write and asking myself, "Is all of this necessary?" I ask, "What is the purpose of this paragraph?" and then "Is that purpose clear?" If it were on paper, I would underline all of the words that contribute to that purpose. If too much fluff is left, I start cutting things out.

I've always had a thing for clarity--for getting people to understand exactly what I am trying to tell them. Since misunderstandings can lead to such trouble. I think I became such a wordy person because I was always trying to get my precise meaning out. I finally realized, maybe a couple of years ago, that all those extra words don't contribute to my meaning because no one hears them. They either tune out what I'm writing/saying, or all those extra words just create more things for people to misinterpret.

So if I'm trying to get a point across, not necessarily tell a story in sequential order, I say, "Can this be said in three sentences or less?"

- - - - - - -

Anyway, my plan for "NaNoWriMo" was to just write the stories/thoughts I've been planning to write about for awhile. I have a list on my computer (not just on paper) of Things to Write/Blog About. I guess I was going to aim for the word count, or something. NaBloPoMo fits so much better with this. Plus, I don't have to go to meetings with people writing fan fiction. I might still go to write-ins and not tell anyone I'm really doing NaBloPoMo...the OTHER writing month.

Anyway, time to catch my plane!