Sunday, February 28, 2010
For the past eight months, I've kept a list in my head of Things That Are Different About Oregon and New Jersey. None of the items seemed long enough for a post of its own. I was waiting until I had enough material for one long post on Differences Between the Northeast and the Northwest. This morning, however, while making breakfast, I realized that I was being silly. A blog is not a novel. In addition to a person's writing, it shows the evolution of thoughts, ideas, and events. The medium isn't free from the necessity of editing, but posts don't have to be like short stories-with a clear plot or focus. There doesn't have to be a beginning, middle, end - a resolution and a denouement. There can just be short posts. A few lines. One idea.
I am aware that I just wrote an introduction that will be longer than the post itself.
One of the first things I noticed when I moved out here was the butter. This still comes up from time to time. But before I get to that, I will write about something I didn't discover until I'd been here a few weeks, yet it is something with which I find myself constantly confronted. Tap water. Portland tap water does not need to be filtered. It is safe to drink it as is, and depending on where you live, it sometimes even tastes good that way. This morning, as I was measuring four cups of water to cook steel-cut oats, and then another cup to boil water for coffee, I thought, "This is one of the things that's nicer about Portland. You don't have to fuss with filtering the tap water. If you want to make oatmeal and coffee, you don't have to worry that you forgot to fill the Brita. You don't have to wait for five cups to filter."
On the other hand, there's the butter.
What is she talking about? you must be thinking. What fault could she find with West Coast butter? You must be thinking, in a city of foodies (also, I hate the word "foodie" as do so many of us who meet that description), the butter, if different at all, must be extraordinarily good! Maybe Sarah even has access to local butter, or raw milk, or, or, or...!
It has nothing to do with the taste or even the dairy components of the butter. It's the shape.
East Coast butter sticks and West Coast butter sticks are of equal mass - a quarter of a pound. On the butter sticks of both regions, one can find eight tablespoons clearly marked. But on East Coast butter, the teaspoons in between the tablespoons are also clearly marked. This is very convenient! Especially when you want something like 5 2/3 tablespoons of butter. On West Coast butter, the tablespoons are not marked. Because West Coast butter is too fat. Short and fat.
Top: Fred Meyer unsalted butter, typical West Coast-shaped.
Bottom: Mysteriously East Coast-shaped butter without teaspoon markings.
Before realizing that we had some sticks of butter of East Coast proportions already in the fridge, I asked my mother (in New Jersey) to measure some butter for me. She sent me the following instant message: 4 5/8 X 1 1/4 HOTEL BAR. By contrast, the Fred Meyer butter in that photo is 3 1/8" x 1 5/8".
You can see how this is confusing when all one has in the house is short sticks of butter. Their greater height and width, the 1 5/8" vs. 1 1/4", is not so obvious, is it? More than one East Coast transplant has confessed that they too, like me in the beginning, would miscalculate how much butter they were cutting from the stick for toast or for frying eggs. We East Coasters would go through butter like nobody's business.
And that is why this morning, I nearly ate decadent oatmeal for breakfast. I nearly stirred three tablespoons, not three teaspoons, of butter into my oatmeal.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Recently, I've had conversations with two friends about stress dreams. A friend used the term and it's the first time I've really heard these kind of dreams categorized. Suffocating dreams, late to an important meeting dreams, and some others. (I may fill this in later.) At that moment, I realized that I have suffocating dreams all the time! but never thought of them as such. It's usually when I fall asleep in the middle of the day or when it's morning and sometime close to the time I should be awake. I dream that I am trying to wake up but I can't move. There's a weight on me that's keeping me from getting up and doing the things I need to do. This is one of those weird dreams where the dream life and reality intersect. Sometimes, in the dream, my thoughts are a list of things I need to do in real life. Sometimes when I am having these dreams, I believe I am awake and it is very hard for me to believe that I'm not. It's when I try to move and nothing happens that I tell myself, "This is a dream. It's that heavy weight dream again. Stop trying to fight it. Just try to sleep and you'll be able to wake up."
When my friend listed the stress dreams, I said that I'd been having them too, but that I wasn't stressed out about anything! She told me that yes I was, and what I realized in that moment was that these stress dreams are the way that stress manifests itself when you are trying to ignore it. In real life you--well, here I mean me and not you. In real life, I will act happy and try to be loud and funny; I will either ignore stress or, when I bring it up, I will turn it into a joke. In dreams, the real stress comes out.
Tonight, I was driving to a movie in North Portland. As an aside, North Portland used to confuse the heck out of me. My understanding of Portland geography was that the city was divided into four quadrants - NW and SW on one side of the Willamette (where "downtown" is), and NE and SE across that river. When I heard, "North Portland," I thought it meant "NE or NW" and did not realize it was its own fifth section of the city. To be honest, North Portland still confuses me, because I am used to navigating the city based on the numbered avenues. I know which cardinal direction I am facing based on whether or not I am on a numbered street. I know how far I need to go based on that numbered street. In North Portland, the streets all have "N" in front of them and they all have a word name, not a number name. I've been in Portland long enough to feel that a word-name street should always intersect with a number-name-avenue.
Anyway, I had to take I-5 to get to North Portland, and this reminded me of the other type of stress dream. This is definitely a category of stress dream for me. Does anyone else have these? Are they common, or am I weird?
In Portland, I-5 hugs the Willamette River. Even if you don't have to cross it on one of those dreadfully high bridges, you will probably find yourself, at some point, in a high place looking down at water. It's quite beautiful actually - the water reflecting the dark sky and the dark buildings speckled with lit-up windows like the stars the clouds hide from us. Whenever I go near the river at night, I look across at the city and get a little excited. Portland is a small city, compared to what I'm used to (New York) and on my side of the river, it hardly looks like a city at all. But the West side is exciting! When I see its lights, I think, "This is a real city, and I live here!"
Anyway, because of my slightly irrational fear of bridges, those high-up over-water entrance and exit ramps to I's 5 and 84 scare the crap out of me. I drive irritatingly slow over them. And then I realize that the slower I drive, the more time I have to spend in this scary place, so I speed up. New Jersey, be thankful I changed my plates, so that I am not giving you a bad name. Tonight, merging from the Morrison Bridge onto I-5, I remembered my other stress dream - more frequent and more terrifying than the Suffocating Nap dream. I frequently dream that I am driving the wrong way on an exit or entrance ramp from a highway. Usually it's NJ-15, the highway closest to where I grew up. Sometimes it's I-80 in New Jersey. Since I've moved to Portland, I-5 has joined in the mix. Driving the wrong way on a highway ramp over a river.
The funny thing is that there are never other cars in this dream. There is never any real danger, just the thought of it.
Does anyone else have this dream? Or--here's where I reveal my true craziness--does anyone else, when merging onto an unfamiliar highway, experience a fleeting concern that they've just gotten onto the ramp the wrong way?
Lest you believe I am sitting here in the damp Northwest biting my nails, gritting my teeth, and typing away in the grip of incurable stress, I will tell you about a dream I had on Tuesday night.
Tuesday was the day of my job interview. In the nights leading up to Tuesday, I of course experienced stress dreams. Especially Monday night. I remember none of them, not even into which category they fell. But on Tuesday night, when I fell asleep on the couch watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show (more on that later), I sank into a long, peaceful sleep, and when I did dream, it was long, leisurely, and peaceful.
I dreamed about baking.
I dreamed I was making puff pastry for the first time. In the dream, I spent time fussing about whether or not I had used the whole wheat flour in our cabinet and the whole wheat pastry flour in the fridge, or if I had just gone out and bought Evil White Flour like a normal person. I wondered if Julia Child would approve of whole wheat pastry flour or not. I thought about Julia Child as I mixed dough, slowly, first with a wooden spoon in a heavy ceramic mixing bowl, and then with my hands. The last thoughts I had were about laying the dough on the counter, "careful to use the heels of your hands which create less heat than your palms...", as the dream ended, calmly making way for the sunny morning like waves departing from a beach's shore.
Garden and floral design - the aesthetic side of plants
Business - marketing, publicity, event planning, and managing people and money
Cooking and baking
Linux (there, I said it!)
I'll add to this as I think of things.
Monday, February 22, 2010
There's something I'd love to see. A revival of proper punctuation, as well as spelling and maybe even capitalization. (Actually, I'm okay with improper capitalization in texts, IMs, and Facebook messages. Improper capitalization does not impede the meaning of a sentence.)
Can't you just imagine it? After its apparent death in the late '00's, the 2010's see a resurgence in the popularity of proper grammar. Punctuation is IN again! Spelling is BACK!
Please, people. End questions with a question mark. (Example: "Want to get together this weekend?!") You know, that curvy thing you've been placing at the end of declaratives which, by the way, you shouldn't do. "I can't wait to see you?!" makes no sense. And while there are words toward which I, too, have a mental block (you should see me struggle to spell "license." Liscence? Lisence!?), we now have web browsers endowed with that red squiggly line which tells us when we have misspelled a word. Not only that, but if you right-click, your web browser will also provide you with the correct spelling of the misspelled word. You don't have to lift a finger to look it up! (Well, technically, you do have to lift a finger to right-click.) Therefore, there is
definitly definately defiantly definitely no longer an excuse for unclear and incorrect writing on the Internet.
Friday, February 19, 2010
What does one wear on a job interview for a production position at a nursery?
I have been getting a variety of answers from "a suit" to "jeans." Even though in the end I will probably just do whatever I want, I still want to know what other people think. Since I don't own a suit, I am leaning toward two nice outfits - and I will have my work boots in my briefcase and sloppy clothes in my car. In case the interview includes wandering the facilities. They'll need to see that I know how to dress for horticultural work. (Any former co-workers of mine reading this blog are probably laughing, since it was not uncommon for me to go to the Community Garden or lead a tour wearing a skirt and heels.)
So far, I'm planning on wearing nice black pants, a solid-colored shirt, and a black blazer...if I find a nice blazer this weekend. Or I'm going to finish sewing some botanical print skirts and wear one of those with a solid-colored top, nice shoes, and tasteful jewelry.
Dressing for this type of interview is always difficult. One doesn't want to look like a slob, but I have had one interview experience where the fact that I was "overdressed" indicated to the interviewers that I was uncomfortable with dirt and bugs. Even though I was a botany major. (And now I have a botany degree with some coursework in entomology!)
Kili pepper. Whole pods in a cute tin. 31g for $7. I will be sure to post about whatever I use this for. It's not at all related to Piper nigrum or Piper longum. Its scientific name is Xylopia aethiopica. Grains of Paradise are in the same genus; both are in the family Annonaceae. Annonaceae is one of those families toward which I have a mental block. I always forget what is in it, aside from some foods, and what it's related to. It's not connected to its botanical relatives in my mind, just "that family with some edible fruits in it."
I can't even tell you the name of the store where I made this purchase. I forgot. It was in Portland somewhere on the West side of the river!
A friend recently interjected, in the midst of one of my rants on Google Chat, that I should write a self-help book. I think he was joking. I've been thinking about it, and it would probably be a pretty short book. The title would be something like Don't Call Him!. The subtitle would either be, "Put that phone down!" or "I'm serious. Don't call him. No, that's not a good excuse. I don't care if you miss the sound of his voice. I don't care if you think he misses the sound of your voice. Are you listening to me?"
Let's pause to reflect on the fact that recently I was on the path to becoming a scientist. And now I am writing on the same topics as Glamour and Cosmopolitan. If it makes you feel any better, I still only subscribe to BUST.
The second chapter would be called, "I Have Other Plans." That is what you should say to him, when he calls you, if:
1) He's done something to you that isn't very nice, but you still want to give him a chance to make up for it.
2) It would be difficult to make room in your schedule for those plans - even if you are free at that very minute, you are otherwise busy that day/weekend/week.
3) You genuinely have pre-existing plans.
And then, just as you're worrying that I have descended from scientist to someone-who-sets-feminism-back*, I will present you with the next part of this chapter. The next piece of advice is crucial; Step One is useless without Step Two.
Step Two is as follows: Have Other Plans.
Make other plans! Have other interests! Act like you have things going on in your life besides your quest for a boyfriend and your adoration of this dude. Except it's not an act--once you start getting out of the house and becoming interested in other things, you will genuinely be interested in other things! Everyone's busy? Stay home and do something you like. Read a book. Write letters. Do your taxes. Or go someplace by yourself--a museum, a concert, a park, shopping.**
What if he decides I am too much effort? First of all, you are not. Look, do you want to be with someone who respects you as an individual with dignity, thoughts, and interests? Or do you want to be with someone who likes that you're someone who is always available and never gets offended?
What if I never find someone and I am alone!? You won't be, because you always have other plans. Would you rather be with someone who doesn't respect you, just to be with someone? That is wasting valuable time in which you could be pursuing things that are actually interesting, or spending time with people (dates or otherwise) who do respect you.
What if I am pushing 30 and my chances of having a child with birth defects are increasing every day and I'm running out of eggs HELP! What if I end up 30 and single!? No one will marry me once I turn 30! First of all, that is not true. You have just been conditioned to believe that you can't thrive without a husband and that at the age of 30, you're moved to life's clearance rack of outdated women. Nearly all of us have been subjected to, perhaps brainwashed to believe, this notion. It's bullshit. That's really all there is to say. Plus, being alone isn't so bad. It gives you time for all those plans and interests!
I'd like to conclude that this isn't playing games. This isn't ignoring someone or pretending to be interested in other things. This is being interested in other things, having other plans, and being interesting. It's not allowing oneself to be mistreated or undervalued. These rules (which are really suggestions) also apply to bad friends, such as chronic plan-cancelers.
* I call these women, "The Reason We Make 75 Cents on the Dollar!" Sometimes in front of them. Don't worry, they don't know what it means!
** My last canceled date resulted in a pair of shoes and a serving bowl for dinner parties. And several pounds of citrus.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Once again, I found myself there today. This time I did plan on buying citrus. I needed about 8 clementines and 10 kumquats for a salad, and I thought it would be fun to get a few different types of tangerines/mandarines. If I end up buying three pieces of citrus when I didn't intend to buy any, you can imagine what happened when I did plan on buying fruit. I have 9 tangerines/mandarines, plus two limes that do not look like limes; one is yellow and one is orange. But the most exciting thing is that, after years of wondering what they are like in a form other than Earl Grey tea, I found bergamot oranges. They were not cheap but I don't care. Also, they look like lemons. Now the question is, what does one do with fresh bergamot oranges? Do you eat them raw like a regular orange? Should they be cooked with? Can you drink the juice? Don't get me started on my ideas for the peel! I'm imagining bergamot zest (though I have no idea what I'll do with it) and drying the peel to make homemade Earl Grey tea.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
This is an ongoing process - learning to trust that gut. I think I'm now at the point where I listen to, or at least acknowledge that gut feeling, but I don't always follow its advice.
I had a conversation with a friend* yesterday about this. I came up with the reason that I have been ignoring my gut sometimes. "If I listened to my gut instinct all the time, I wouldn't be friends with anybody! My gut is mean!" It's true, my gut points me toward distrusting probably 75% of those with whom I come into contact. I don't mean dealbreaker distrust in all cases, but at the very least keep-at-a-distance distrust.
The conclusion of yesterday's conversation was that my mean gut is probably right.
I'm trying to paint this as a not necessarily pessimistic thing, but more of a positive thing like, "Your gut is right. Therefore, you are right. You can trust yourself and you can protect yourself from those who don't have your best interests in mind."
What do you all think of this? Do you find yourselves in similar situations?
* On an unrelated note, this friend came over to make dinner with me. But first we had wine and cake. I made an awesome cake this weekend and last night, we made awesome chili. I plan on writing one giant food/recipe post at some point this week, with my Crepes Suzette recipe as well as stuff about the cake and the chili. Who knew beets and chocolate belonged in good chili!?
I guess all that food stuff is related, since the title of this post is "Gut." A ha ha haha.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
1) My roommate and I have mice. The moment we discovered this is something to write about, as is the time I lived in an apartment that was infested with mice for seven months. When I tell people about it now, I realize how crazy it was. Now that two years have passed, it's crossing from "annoying thing" to "funny story" territory. With the mice in our apartment, I have been telling this story to almost anyone who'll listen. When our landlord came over yesterday to plug up a mouse hole (or what we think is the mouse hole) with steel wool, I stood behind him yapping away. "These mice haven't climbed onto the counters and ate our food yet, but they will! I lived in a place once where when we sealed all the food where the mice couldn't get to it, they ate through the wood of the cabinets to get into them! So I put metal containers on the bottom of the cabinets. And then they got into my roommate's dresser and started eating his clothes! And they started eating another roommate's mattress!"
I bet sounded a little crazy.
2) The thought of mice running around on my floor pushed me to finally get a bed frame. I've been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for the entire time I've been in Portland. Until this week. My bed won't get delivered until Tuesday, so in the meantime, I'm sleeping on the couch. The quest for a bed took me into Portland's Sea-Faring District and even to Sauvie Island. This story will appear later this week in a blog post called, "And Then I Drove to Sauvie Island By Mistake."
3) We have been having incredible weather. Some people tell me this is normal for winter, others tell me it is sunnier than usual, and still more people wish to defend the doom-and-gloom reputation of Portland winter weather, and they proclaim, "No! This not normal! Don't get used to it! One winter, February was gray EVERY DAY. There was no sunshine! No hope! No love! Not even on Valentine's Day! Children cried! Dogs did not run to greet you when you came home! Babies stopped laughing! The wind whispered words of discouragement! Cracks in the sidewalk spelled lines from Sylvia Plath poetry! The clouds frowned and for at least an hour a day, tears fell from the sky!"
4) Tuesday was a French holiday that is celebrated by making and flipping Crepes Suzette. I will post the recipe soon. My family always has a party in NJ, and since I couldn't be there, I had one here.
5) Back to the incredible weather. Shortly before embarking on my long NJ trip, I discovered Portland local news. After living in the NYC area (whose local news is broadcast all over the country, whether you like it or not) for so many years, the local news of a different part of the country is fascinating. Especially when it's home. In November, I watched with fascination in-depth coverage of snow in Government Camp. The weather seems fairly predictable here, and yet it is reported with just as much drama as weather in New York. "Wet weather in the valley; worse weather on the coast; SNOW in the mountains." No, really!? Snow in the Cascades!?
Anyway, it was watching that snowstorm coverage, back in November, that I learned what the hell snow chains are. Yes, the news team spent about twenty minutes interviewing people who were driving on Highway 26 in Government Camp and showing close-up footage of people putting snow chains on their cars.
The next night, they interviewed some paint while they watched it dry.
6) Oh, what I really meant to talk about was the recent weather reports. With our mostly-predictable weather, each slight variation seems to be big news. For the weather reporters on TV and for the Portlandic themselves. (Or should I say, "ourselves"?) I once put "weather in Portland" on a list of "topics that signal a first date is going irreversibly downhill" but perhaps that was premature. I am beginning to think that Portlanders love to talk about bad weather the way Los Angelenos love to talk about traffic. Anyway, thanks to the TV and New York's shared belief that New York is the center of the universe and everyone all over the world really cares about its subway delays, I've now seen, juxtaposed, dramatic coverage of an impending snowstorm in NY/NJ, and coverage of something the Oregonian newscaster called "sun breaks." Or is it "sunbreaks"? I am not sure, but I can tell you this - it is wonderful. And it brings me to #7.
7) This won't be a good story until I get the film developed. Thanks to the sunbreaks/sun-breaks/sun breaks, Friday got up to 60 degrees and a friend and I walked to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. To my surprise, there were rhododendrons already in bloom. So far, early February in Portland is early April in NJ. In addition to rhododendron, I saw tons of hellebores, one of my favorite plants.
8) Since being back, I've been introduced to some popular Portland businesses and now I love them too. On Tuesday, I went to Kitchen Kaboodle and got two ceramic quiche pans (one is small and shaped like a heart) and a French press. Finally, a French press. It is red. I love it. I also had brunch yesterday at Veritable Quandary and it was as amazing as the Yelp reviews describe it. And of course, my first day back in town, I went to my favorite place, Toast.
9) I'm not sure what to end with, so it may as well be food. This weekend I tried a recipe for olive oil and lemon cake, and I'm going to try icing it with a balsamic vinegar whipped cream icing. Then I might buy some fresh thyme to garnish the cake. What this cake really needs is bacon.
There you have it, nine things from my nine days back in Portland. Three of them are about weather. I guess this means I really belong here.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
From this interview, which is awesome because it is my two favorite bloggers in one place.
I think I am going to write that line on an index card and tape it about my desk: "People hate Shakespeare."
When I am being--let's be honest, an idiot--I worry that my life has been derailed from the track I wanted it to be on. I used to make fun of people like me. This is the life I used to ridicule. Well, maybe I was wrong.
When your life involves going on dates, going out with friends, exploring a city, and 3PM $1 PBR and Scrabble, your life is awesome. I mean, my life. I don't have to be superwoman all the time. I can have fun. When I was working (and even in college) I was a great money-saver. I hoarded every paycheck for traveling or for "adventure." (This included moving.) I have to keep reminding myself, "This is what you saved your money for."
The job search continues, too, at a pretty steady rate. I have had interviews and applied for jobs all over America. (I'm mostly applying for seasonal work outside of Portland, especially jobs with government housing available, since Portland seems like the place I want to settle in for my mid-to-late twenties.)
As I was writing this, I got a phone call about a new opportunity--just volunteering, nothing paid, but it sounds like it will be a good networking opportunity!
So, okay, I think we can all agree that I am not wasting my life. I am not a drain on society. It is time to get over my own belief that I am not contributing to society. I should be celebrating my life of freedom, comfort, small adventures, and healthy relationships--old and new; friendship, family, and otherwise. Other than a job, maybe I have everything that anyone could ever want.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
I read an article today that made me immediately want to contact you. It was an article about fungi, so it's pretty weird that it would make me want to contact you. Because wtf do you have to do with fungi?
Usually, these are letters one writes to someone from whom they're estranged and can't talk to again. (Such as an old boyfriend.) It's a common sanity preservation tactic of mine and one I recommend to others. Get those thoughts out and write a fake letter to that person. It doesn't work to just write a journal, or write the thoughts in an e-mail to another friend. It has to say, "Dear Ex-Boyfriend" or "Dear Ex-Friend" or something like that, or it doesn't work. Even though the letters never get sent, people who write them feel infinitely better.
What I have difficulty with is not just the emotional stuff, but the everyday. What I mean is, the things about which I would have communicated with that person on any old day, especially things that no one else will want to hear about or will understand in the same way. Something that relates to an inside joke. Information about a movie seen with that person. Recently, I wished I could have shared with a friend details of a recent date.* Anyway, sometimes I make a list of these things in my G-mail Drafts folder. (CDs that SoandSo would like; Articles to share with BlahBlahBlah if we are ever friends again...)
This was meant to be a post like, What happens if those "letters not to send" ever get sent? The list of everyday things or the emotional stuff? I think the emotional stuff is best left in one's own password-protected Drafts folder. Mostly. I would like to share this gem, which I dug up when trying to find a link to a scientific article in one of my E-mails Not To Send.
I am willing to be completely peaceful. I wouldn't even get drunk and say something snotty.
Wow, that's profound, Sarah of the Past!
Anyway, I like the idea of making a List of Everyday Stuff. I wonder if it's at all therapeutic to write fake e-mails to someone saying things like, "Yesterday I heard a CD you'd really like." If it's as helpful as, "Dear SoandSo, I know we can never see each other again and that you really hurt me but I have a secret: I miss you." Maybe that list of everyday things could be shared with someone else. Or maybe that list is just for the list-writer. Maybe the list-writer can enjoy it. I don't know. What do YOU think, readers? And I know I have more than one, because you talk to me about this blog in real life, so speak up!
* My Portlandic friends find it highly entertaining that within three days of getting into town, I went out with two different men.
Monday, February 01, 2010
SPEAKING of snowscapes, I just got my photos back from my train trip across America! Along with several rolls I found while going through my stuff in NJ. I found photos from my 2008 road trip and the long lost role from my crazy solo road trip to Montreal. Now I can finally blog about it. In general, when I get photos back, I post them on Facebook in chronological order with captions that, now that I think of it, are what I would write in my blog. Not everyone has Facebook and Facebook, with all of its revisions to itself, still has not yet evolved to a format where one doesn't have to scroll down to see the caption of a photo. So I am going to upload the photos to my little-used Flickr and post them here, illustrating the story. It may take some time.
Here's one more photo - I'll post one of Oregon since that seems appropriate. It was taken from Washington; the train runs on that side of the Columbia River until the very last minute--crossing from Vancouver to Portland--but you can see Oregon on the other side.