Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bad-tini? Not again!

Why does the world believe that women love sugary drinks with vodka in them? And if this is a stereotype that has a basis in fact, then women, why do you love sugary drinks with vodka in them?

(Well, everyone's entitled to like what they like.)

At lunch with a friend this week, we were given a martini menu which we would have ignored had the names of the beverages not caught our eye. They had names like, "Flirtini" and "Whispertini."

"Because women aren't supposed to take up too much space in the world!" I declared. "Or make too much noise!"

I'm surprised the menu didn't include - and I'm sure this already exists somewhere out there - a series of special martinis with artificially-sweetened zero-calorie mixers with names like, "Dietini," "Thintini," and "Teenytini."

"What is this Whispertini?" my friend remarked. "I need a Shoutini!"

"Yeah!" I agreed. "Give me a Loudtini! Or a Bitchini!"

"A Shrewtini!"

"A Nagtini!"

"Termagantini!"

What do you think the recipes for any of these drinks should include?

A Jersey Story: Directions

Among the friends I visited in NJ were the couple whose wedding I was a bridesmaid in the day before I moved across the country. I showed them the following video:

This launched into a conversation of how Jersey are the women in our lives - mainly our mothers. We're included in this too, although I should note that before I moved across the country, I did not hear my accent. I should also note that since Thanksgiving, my boyfriend thinks I have been imitating John Roberts' Mom character (whose name is Marge, by the way). One evening, I said the word "tree" in a story (which happens pretty often, since I work at a botanical garden), and he remarked, "You're always imitating that woman! That man! That man imitating his mom!"

This is because, at my 4th Portland Home, there was a cat whom I frequently told, "Get away from the tree! Get away from the tree, please."

I explained to him that it was no impression. "This is how I TAWK!"

Anyway. So last night, this couple starts to tell me a story about how my friend (the lady)'s mother is so Jersey, exhibited by this one time they were driving to a relative's house and they called her for directions.

"You want to turn onto Bah P'n Road," she said. "Bah P'n" is my best phonetic spelling.

What did she say? they thought. "Boppin' Road?"

An idiosyncrasy of the Jersey accent is that, like the French, we do not pronounce all of the letters that appear in the spelling of a word. Select vowels, consonants, and entire syllables get lost. Take the following well-known example: The city of Newark, Delaware is pronounced, "New Ark." The city of Newark, New Jersey is pronounced, "NEW irk," sometimes slurred together so that it sounds like, "Nork." The letters excluded from a word's pronunciation aren't really necessary to the listener's comprehension of the speaker's intended meaning, based on the multitude of context clues that have already been given. They're extraneous. You know, like turn signals.

"BAH PN. BAH PN," insisted my friend's mother.

There must be an "R" in there, my friend and her husband reasoned.

"Barpon Road?"

"Yes! BAH PN ROAD."

"Okay!"

They punched, "Barpon Road" into the GPS. Nothing came up. They tried alternate spellings. "Barpin." "Barrpen." "Bahrpon?"

Barton. It was Barton.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From the Snowpocalypse Zone - Some Favorite Places

Snow has me in the area a bit longer than planned, but still not long enough to make this anything but a "short trip."

I've been meaning for awhile to post about some of my favorite local businesses in Sussex County, and now I have time.

I haven't been here in awhile, but The Tea Hive is one of my favorite places to get lunch. It's a good place to go to catch up with friends. The location is great - an old house in the middle of rolling rural land - and so is the food and tea.

First there was The Yarn Loft, then there was the Yarn Depot, and now there is Yarn Boutique by Sarah to provide Sussex County with yarn that A. C. Moore doesn't carry. The owner is very nice and helpful and she carries really interesting stuff. Including some local yarn dyed with plants, spun by a woman who donates the profits (of at least some yarn, I'm fuzzy on the details) to animal-related charities.

P B and J has been around since before I moved, but I didn't know about it until my first trip back to the area. To put it simply, it's a boutique with high quality clothing, classics and things that will make you stand out in a crowd. This is where I buy Sternlein tights, and they are the first tights I've found that don't fall down. (This is a PROBLEM for me.) I have them in wool and cotton, in solids and stripes, in black and brown and now, navy blue. I've also gotten beautiful scarves here and one jacket.

Charm does not have a website, but they have a lot of nice things. They are also on Spring Street in Newton. If I had an apartment in New Jersey, I would probably not be able to restrain myself from buying things here, but since I have to think about moving everything, I've held back. I love the decorations, the antiques, the gifts, even the gift tags! I got the Violet Teapot Of My Dreams here two winter ago.

Cheddar Alley started out as a cheese shop in an alley, but now it's a big store and cafe on Spring Street. This was my favorite place to each lunch when I was on jury duty; for some reason it was always a Lawyer Free Zone. They make pizzas (some are what I would call "savory tarts") and paninis and salads that are all good. The store part is like a cheese shop you'd see in France, plus all kinds of other interesting/gourmet stuff. Today I bought myself a jar of local maple syrup to savor all Oregon winter long while I lament the lack of sugar maples and adequate maple sugaring temperatures in the Willamette Valley.

Goodnight! Maybe some time I will write about my favorite places in Central NJ/the New Brunswick area.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Highlights from the Blog Revision Project

Also known as "old posts that it's okay for my family and Tyler's family to read.
I am snowed in by the fireplace with dogs, cats, parents, Christmas leftovers, and beer. We were supposed to visit family today and could not because of the snow. It is pretty disappointing, and that's one of the reasons (I remember this now) that last year, I said I wanted to visit at every time of year except Christmas. Snowstorms always come at the most inconvenient times and ruin plans to see people that you won't get to see again for months.
I'm making the best of the built-in free time. I made some progress on revising the beginnings of this blog, which you will see as mostly un-publishing a bunch of stuff I found unfit for the public to read. I edited some posts to make them more readable, trying to preserve my 2006 writing style even if that meant leaving in the cringe-inducing excessive cussing or references to drinking that, in my early 20's, counted as humorous. A caricature of my 21-year-old blogging self would be this:

Despite this, a few good adventures and stories arose from the fog of cussing, digressing, stringy sentences, typos, and references to drinking.
Girls and boys
Homeland Security was originally written and saved as a draft at this time, and then published years later.
I added pictures to show you how I used to decorate - I even made a wreath for every holiday!
Girls and Boys Part 2
Cook College will retroactively rescind my botany degree if anyone sees this
Global Warming is Ruining Christmas
I've left off with the beginning of 2007 because it's time for a different project today and also, I'm not ready to be faced with 2007, my Annoyingly Eco Conscious summer. I can't bring myself to confront that 23-year-old (there was no posting in 2007 until about a month after my 23rd birthday) with her reuseable shopping bag, her compost pile, her Francophilia, and her verbosity. Not today.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A List Revisited

In the 2006 blog posts I'm currently editing, I found a life to-do list. I like to look back at these lists when I stumble across them and make written notes about what I've actually done, what I'd still like to do, and what no longer interests me on the list.

Things I Could Do To Improve My Life
As in, make it different, exciting, more interesting and theoretically, worthwhile.


1. Get information about and apply to programs to teach English in Berlin; live in and work in Berlin for a couple of years. Or another German city. I don't want to do this anymore.
2. Apply to Study Abroad in Delhi Never happened. Maybe I'll at least visit India someday.
3. Quit school, find a job and move outside of Jersey, like to Boston, one of the Carolinas, South Florida, or out West. Uh, I don't know about the "quit school" part, but at least I finished the last part.
4. Apply to the MFA program in Creative Writing at Iowa. And Sarah Lawrence, NYU, Emerson, and any other schools with a good reputation for their MFA program. Does MPA count?
5. Learn Spanish and apply to Teach for America in schools in the Southwest. Also not interested in this anymore.
6. Join Americorps and hope for a position with something environmental, preferably related to botany. Hmm...
7. Train and hike at least half of the Appalachian Trail. HMMM....
8. Run away to France, mooch off of my family and move from house to house as each cousin-once-removed gets sick of me, until I become fluent in French (right now I have a perfect accent, but weak vocabulary), get dual citizenship, find a job, and live in some remote countryside village, hiding from my old life and working on my writing. I hope I knew, even in 2006, that this was a bad idea.

But of course I am afraid to live so far away, worried about how much time learning Spanish would take away from my studies of botany, unsure if my German is good enough to live abroad, and unable to make the time to work on my portfolio. Oh, and #7--I currently walk half an hour on a sidewalk every day, and I've never gone backpacking. The last time I camped was in a tent with an electrical outlet and indoor plumbing.

The least I could do is some smaller version of these. There is no good reason behind me not making the time to:
1. Take a photography class at the community college. Never happened!
2. Take extra time at Rutgers getting a certificate in Medicinal and Economic Botany, since a lot of the courses would overlap with my major. Hooray! I did that!
3. See about getting certified through that German proficiency thing at RU...it may only be one or two extra classes, and it may help me in the future to have some official documentation that I can speak, read, and write in German. Hmm, maybe I could try to do this at PSU or something. I did look into it at Rutgers, but it required way too much coursework.
4. Take a not-for-credit creative writing workshop somewhere.
5. OR just work on my damn portfolio! How hard is it!?
6. Start listening to the Learn In Your Car Spanish CDs that the library has. I still have (perfectly legal) copies of them.
7. Improve my French (just find my old grammar books and skim them or something!) and visit my cousins-once-removed. I did this...in 2007.
8. Hike, in woods or at least hilly paved streets, after work. This is always my goal, to make daily walking a part of my routine. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. When I was unemployed, I frequently walked about three miles a day.

Update on Blog Revision

2005 consists of some pretty random stuff. At some point, I might migrate the best of my LiveJournal entries from that year over to Blogger.

2006 begins with this post, perhaps the first "story" that appeared on this blog, and it's just now been edited for clarity.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Editing Project: Imagist Poems

Did you know I used to write poetry? A lot of it? I once fancied "professional poet" as a potential career for myself. In fact, a creative writing teacher once told me that I was one of the best poets she'd ever taught, but I should "give up" on prose. Of course I didn't follow that last piece of advice.

I do not know when or why I stopped having time to write poetry. I don't feel that I really lost the inspiration, just that I stopped making time for it. I will always be creating something, and for the past four or five years, it's just been things other than poetry.

I found myself digging through my LiveJournal archives, and no, you can't have the link, trying to find some of the "imagist" poems I wrote for an advanced workshop in college with a professor who was somewhat famous.

As an aside, the icon of my LiveJournal is a picture of me taken at a toga party when I was 20. I was also three dress sizes smaller than I am now. In that photo, I am cute. But you know what? When I was 20, I was dumb, or at least my writing indicates as much. 20 sucked. Looking that cute but being that dumb is a state I'd never want to revisit. I hope I don't look back in six years and say the same thing about myself now.

Anyway. The second post in this blog described my first planned writing exercise, which I apparently did, but never posted.

Also this comp is weird and sometimes it stops displaying what I'm typing. So I jsut keep typing until I see the whole thing appear on teh screen, this is why i have so many typos and I'm sorry I am not going to go back and fix them all. Yo u know what it is supoposed to say. Look there it goes again. I can't see what I'm typing right now. [That explains the lack of editing!]

...

Since I left my Wild Mind book in New Brunswick and I am in [my hometown] now, I am making up an assignment. I want my prose to be funny, yes,but also poetic. My poetry when I actually write it, has always been complimented for its imagery and I think people when they read my pathetic prose like that it has pretty flowery detailed imagery. So, to work on this and to get back into hte habit of writing poems, I am going to use an assignment I had to do for my advanced workshop last semester--the professor had us write a series of short imagist poems, three to five lines, and I was actually really freaking good at it. I am going to, tomorrow, write a poem for every room or otherwise worthwhile location I am in. Even if it's something dumb, like the bathroom. Off the top of my head, I can write one for :
1) MY house in [my hometown] (will probably skip this bnecause I'll be toos tressed for final exam tomororw morning at 9 AM)
2) My car
3) Route 287 and other roads on wany to exam.
4) The Greenhouse where I am taking my exam
5) Every room in my apartment
6) Ooh! the nice walk from the greenhoues to the apartment (except I am driving since I'm getting some plants)
7) Route 1
8) Thai restuarant Angela and I are checking out tomorrow
[I remember this day! The Thai restaurant was CLOSED! As in, forever closed! It was Jasmine Thai on...?Church Street? or Paterson Street, for those of you who are interested.]9) Physics lecture hall for Physics exam review?
Maybe this isn't such a good idea. But you know what, you have to write crap in order to write good stuff.

When I read this, I thought, "That's right! I was really freaking good at those imagist poems. Where are they?"

They aren't on this computer. They're on my external hard drive IN PORTLAND. And you know how it is, when you have insomnia and are on the Internet. There's this immediacy to everything; you must have that piece of text RIGHTNOW. So I went back, back in time...to LiveJournal. I found a few!

November Poems

Sunday Morning

The forest is only one color:
that specific gray-brown.
The bark reflects the light,
the sun beats into the forest
uninhibited, unobstructed.
The dense heads of leaves now disintegrated,
floor of dry, fallen leaves looks
like copper, reflecting sunlight.

Only the walls of rock remain unchanged:
  still blanketed in thin green moss
illuminated now.

The forest invites me into its
enfoldings
but I must turn away.

It looks at me again, inviting;
I sadly decline.

Monday Afternoon

Alligator Mountain
looks like an old dog
—matted golden-red hair
patches missing.

Bloggy Musings

When I find a blog I like, I usually go back to the archives, to the very beginning, and make a point of reading several posts a day until I am caught up to the present.

Since moving to Oregon, I've found I have trouble making time for this. In my mind, Heather Armstrong's first child is still only one year old, and she only has one dog whose name is Chuck. Occasionally I click on her website and say, "Whoa! Leta aged! Who's that other kid? Who is Tyrant?"

Anyway, I sincerely hope that none of my readers, especially the new ones who started reading within the past six months (who are mostly relatives of mine and my boyfriend's), have done that.

This blog has gone through a lot of evolution since I started it in 2005. At that time, I was newly 21 and working as a document writer at a software company. I wanted to do something productive with my breaks and time waiting for someone to give me a new project. I think at this point, I'd already read the old documentation in its entirety and even corrected typos. I wanted to be a writer, had just changed my major to English (planning to take the seven classes I had left in one year, while writing my thesis, and then re-enroll in a different part of the school for a second undergraduate degree in Plant Science), and so I started the blog to "practice writing" for a novel I'd write "someday."

I was also most likely inspired by She Just Walks Around With It which I still read, and Crazy Aunt Purl which I still subscribe to, but I didn't read for about a month last winter and I got so overwhelmed trying to catch up that now I just read new posts and random old ones sporadically. This is a shame, because it's one of my favorite blogs. She's a talented writer, very easy to relate to, very funny, and from her writing, I just imagine her in real life to be really, really nice. If you've never heard of her before today, I encourage you to quit reading my blog right now and go read some of the archives of...well, either of the two I just linked to.

A little while ago, I was adding my blog to a list trying to get more readers who are strangers. I started to click on the "twenty-somethings" blogs listed, and some of them were just awful. And maybe they weren't trying to be that great. They consisted of either statements of emotion without any context, such as, "I am feeling so lonely today. I am sad. I want to be happy. I don't want to be lonely." and THAT'S IT! No story! No details of WHY the writer is lonely or sad! or they consisted of stories of events with so many specific identifying details left out that they were just boring. Such as, "This thing happened today, and it was near where I work, so I don't want to tell you exactly where cause I don't want to get fired, but this thing that happened was really awesome! There was this person, I can't tell you their name or even if it's a guy or a girl because I don't want them to read this and get mad, and he or she did a really awesome thing!"

This is what I imagine my older blog posts to be. Since last New Year's, I've had a plan, a project that's never been started, to go through and *edit* these posts, because some actually contain some interesting content. Some are fine the way they are, and all I want to do is add labels to them and maybe add them to the "My Favorite Posts" list. Some need to be edited, because in my early writing style (and who am I kidding? even now, when I don't go back and edit, this is what I do) I had a tendency toward lengthy aimless digression. Some need to just not exist in public anymore, and they will be unpublished.

For example, Big-Haired Jersey Girl did not get off to a very interesting or well-edited beginning:

Title:I really hope I can go back and change my blog title later [Why did I think self-deprecation was a good way to start!?]

Because I woke up in the middle of the night and for some reason can't focus on studying for finals, I decided to start a blog. I already have a live journal, which was started to practice my writing skills--I am "working" on a "novel" by writing out the interesting things that have happened in my own life and trying to make them funny. This post does not, I'm sure, do anything to convince you that I am funny. [Oh, the self-deprecation! The self-fulfilling prophecy! I cringe when I read this because LiveJournal is a proper noun and also there is no space! Aaah!!!! What kind of English major was I?]

Anyway, while packing to move home at the end of the semester, I came across a book: Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg. [OMG where are the italics!?] I decided I need to quit procrastinating and start working on my writing NOW! So this blog will be, at first, a place to post work on my writing, things that don't go in my Live Journal, and I figure I can start by doing exercises from the Natalie Goldberg book and just posting them here, hopefully getting some feedback and becoming a better writer and person :) [An emoticon? Seriously, Sarah?]

Also, I think it would be fun to have a place to post my ridiculous adventures and just the ridiculous outcomes of me pursuing hobbies that are strange for a 21-year-old, like knitting and cooking and sewing. (Note: I do things that are not domestic, too.) [Omg, NO ONE kits and cooks and sews!]

And of course, botany.

What, you may be asking yourself, is a botanylicious?
It is a joke. It is because I recognize that Plant Science is a weird major, that dedicating my life to the study of botany (fancy word for Plant Science) is weird.
[OMG, sooooooo weird!] It is the result of me trying to think of a funny new screen name like "Hot Scientist 69!" "Hot Bio Major!" "Sexy Science Girl!" but I would like to note that I still have not gotten the nerve to change my screen name to botanylicious because I'm afraid people won't get the joke, and think I am too crazy aout my plants. [A typo!? Aaahhh! Unless I really did mean "I am too crazy French-word-for-August my plants."]

It is also the product of me creating this thing at 5 AM, during final exams, on a night where I couldn't sleep. After a long whiney live journal post about how stressed out I am.

OK, the awkward first entry is over! Now that the sun is rising, maybe I can get some sleep.

Well! The first time is always awkward. Anyway, I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish by writing, five years later, a self-deprecating late night post about my first self-deprecating late night post. It's either meta or stupid.

But expect some more blasts from the past, this time with editing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wild Jersey

If I ever write a semi-autobiographical novel, I'd like the opening paragraphs to be about growing up in rural New Jersey.

Rural New Jersey sounds fictional, oxymoronic, like a joke I made up, to people who don't know much about this state. I bet most of the people I meet in Oregon think I am lying when I tell them that I'm from "rural New Jersey" and grew up learning how to navigate traffic-clogged highways AND windy mountain roads, becoming skilled at dodging both mad drivers and galloping deer that bolt from the darkness into one's lane of traffic without warning and with only seconds of braking time to spare.

When I'd travel between my apartment, which was in a city, and my parents' house in the country, I had the same late night getting-from-the-car-to-the-front-door ritual. The steps were the same, but the reasons were not. First, I would make sure, as I was getting closer to my destination, that I had everything ready to get out of my car as soon as I pulled in the driveway. No sitting in the car shuffling around to get my purse and anything that dumped out of it. At a stoplight, I'd reach for my purse with a free hand and keep it on my arm as I drove the rest of the way home.

As soon as I turned off the ignition, I'd jump out of the car and in the country (not the city, I didn't want my neighbors to hate me) I would SLAM the car door. Then, as I covered the distance between the car door to my front door, house key ready in my hand, I'd make a lot of noise. I'd stomp on the paved driveway of my city home and shuffle loudly on the gravel driveway of my parents' country home. I'd give a few shakes to the key ring so that it would jingle. The idea was to make noise that made my presence known to the people waiting for me inside, while getting into the house as quickly as possible. In the city, this was a precaution against being gotten by a criminal. In the country, it is a precaution against bears. Wild Jersey animals are becoming less afraid of people, but the ones that still are will be scared off by noise like a car door slamming.

Did I ever meet a bear in the driveway? No. The closest I got was one time, I parked on the street, and when I walked into the driveway I heard a sudden, startling noise; I looked and found myself just a few feet away, looking into the big black eyes of a gigantic....
...
...
...deer! That deer was as shocked as I was. We both jumped, and looked at each other for a few seconds like, "Please don't trample me!" and "Please don't shoot me and eat me for dinner and hang my antlers over your fireplace!" before taking off in opposite directions.

Did I ever encounter a CRIMINAL near my city home? Who knows? Maybe I properly convinced them all, with my stomping and key jangling, that I was not a sufficiently easy target. (It seems my strategy is to seem like a Pain In The Ass victim, to "ruin the fantasy." Maybe I should start talking loudly and nasally into my cell phone, too.)

The point of all this preamble/ramble is to share with you the first thing my parents told me last night, when they brought me from Newark Airport to the country home of my youth. "We have to tell you something, Sarah!" they announced.

"What is it!?" I thought.

"When you're coming home late at night, you have to be careful, because lately there's been--"

My mind moved quickly to fill in the blank. A rapist? A shooting? Hooligan kids breaking into unlocked cars and stealing people's emergency gas money out of the center console?

(That really happened in my town, when I was in my late teens or so. Around the same time someone snapped the sideview mirror off my car just for the hell of it. It was hanging by a string and the person who fixed it said it looked like it had been done by hand, not by a car. Maybe it wasn't done by hand, but by paw.)

My dad finished the sentence. "A mountain lion!"

"Really?" I said. "In our neighborhood now?"

Mountain lions started being seen in our part of Jersey a few years ago, but in places more forested and remote than my neighborhood.

There was then some discussion about whether this new threat was actually a mountain lion, a bobcat, a coyote, or what. It was something, something that had been prowling in people's yards at night, and this time it was NOT A BEAR. But we definitely still had those. And foxes too.

You know it's serious, because my parents have stopped letting the dogs in the backyard at night. They used to let them out after putting some lights on and looking out the windows. Now, they put them on the front deck only, and they still check first to make sure there are no big critters out there. And the cats do not, by any means, go outside anymore.

Oh, rural Jersey. Where big hair and big game coexist.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Christmas of No Cookies

About a week ago, I wanted to write a post about how it was the Christmas That Never Felt Like Christmas. Then suddenly - perhaps because we had a stretch of sunny, clear days where not only was it cold, but I could see (because there were no clouds in the way) the snowy Cascades, including Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood - the rain ceased to dim for me the glow of Christmas-light-covered houses.

However, it is the Christmas of No Cookies. I'm a bit bummed about this. For the first time since 2006, I won't be making my traditional unusual cookies to give out as Christmas gifts this year. No Very Ginger Cookies or Violet Cornmeal Macarons. No Hazelnut Black Pepper Sabl├ęs. No Jewel Cookies with homemade jam.

I hope to make and send out New Year's Cookies, or perhaps Martin Luther King Jr. Day Cookies, or Valentine's Day Cookies.

Many of the handmade gifts I envisioned giving out this year aren't happening either.

I've accepted that it was just a busy season, with a lot of changes such as preparing to start school and moving into a new place. It's hard to bake cookies when you are trying to keep your bakeware packed. I have two days left, and something tells me "unpacking boxes" and "packing for NJ" and even "going to work" are going to take precedence over cookie baking. Well, I can't do everything.

Great Day!

I actually wrote this on Friday but never published it.

1. Last night, I got a lot of stuff done that I had been feeling overwhelmed about. Specifically, I made some progress on difficult Christmas gifts and addressed about half of my Christmas cards.

2.My boyfriend and I traded presents this morning and I got a beautiful necklace from Block Party Press

3. I finally made it to the library before they closed, and picked up some holds I was looking forward to.

4. I get the keys to my new apartment tomorrow!

5. It was sunny and clear (but cold! but that's kind of what I consider a "proper" winter so I don't mind) and I could see snowy Mount Hood today.

6. I'm going to New Jersey in less than a week!

7. Things are moving along on my projects at work. I don't write too much about work on here, because I don't really want my work life linked up with this blog, but for my readers who don't know, I now have a job doing the same kind of work I did at my last job in New Jersey, except part time. The organization I work for now is different in many ways than the one I worked at in New Jersey. The environment is much better, much more supportive, but it does not have the money (at least not for my department) that my last job did. So, I only work half time instead of full time, and I have to be more creative. This means I have more responsibility than I did at the job in NJ; it's more challenging but also more interesting. It's less money (at least for now, and this is just because I work less hours), but more rewarding, and I think it will look very good on a resume because of the increased responsibility I have. Anyway, things are moving in a positive direction with my projects, and that makes me very happy.

8. This morning, my boyfriend and I finally used the canner we bought together. We canned hot spicy pickled carrots in the morning before we both went to work.

9. Also, I finished reading a good book yesterday. A replacement of my missing BUST October/November issue (the science issue!!!!) is being mailed to me. I finally went to Paradox in SE for breakfast, and because I signed up for their mailing list, I got a 20% coupon. I got a scramble with potatoes and lots of vegetables, an egg, and curry sauce. Yum!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gift Giving Guide for Grumps

Oh, did you hope I was going to write one for you? I wish I could. If someone could put together a Gift Giving Guide for Grumps, I'd be eternally grateful.

There are three people on my list to whom I must give gifts. Cash is not an option. Nothing seems to be an option.

The first level of gift-giving, in my opinion, is to give someone stuff. Thoughtful, nice, potentially useful but mostly decorative stuff that the recipient will like, will smile when they see, and best of all, would never have purchased for him or herself. Such as this camera lens mug or this mushroom plate. Or jewelry. Or clothing (as long as you're sure about their size.) Books. Movies. Music. Gadgets.

There are also gift recipients who only want something purely useful, such as a vacuum cleaner.

More and more, the recipients of my gifts have too much stuff. They are trying to de-clutter. They live in small spaces. They plan to move within the next twelve months. They don't have room for stuff. For these people, I usually give them something that will get used up. Again, it's great if this isn't something they'd normally get for themselves. When I'm giving gifts, this tends to be food. Homemade cookies. Non-perishable gourmet staples, like Oregon hazelnut oil or lavender honey. It's hard to go wrong with Subcategory: Booze. Here is where fancy wine and beer belong.

And finally, for people who have too much stuff, permanent or use-up-able, you can give the gift of an experience. A homemade "coupon" to go out to lunch together. This is my favorite: a membership to a local museum or botanical garden. This gift, however, is not a good idea for individuals who never leave the house, or at least only leave the house for outings that fit into a prescribed routine.

What gifts do you give to individuals who have a house full of stuff, have still not used the use-up-able stuff you've given them in the past*, and never leave the house outside of their prescribed routine -- would in fact be offended at the suggestion that they might enjoy themselves during a special outing.....What do you do!?


* Example A: The individuals have specifically instructed you, "Hey, stop giving us those little jars for Christmas!"
Example B: When you go to the liquor cabinet to refill the tabletop wine carafe from the Carlo Rossi jug, you notice dust-encrusted bottles lining the shelves, and recognize them as the same you bought for the last ten Christmases.

I invite you, my readers, to discuss. Are there any grumps to whom you must give gifts this year? What gifts have you given grumps in the past? Were your attempts successful or unsuccessful? Were you met with polite thanks or brazen ungratefulness? Discuss!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Vicarious Love

I mentioned on Monday that my boyfriend and I went to a wedding last weekend. The bride was my first friend in Portland; my boyfriend also met the couple shortly after he moved to Portland. We were later introduced through one of the bride's friends, who my boyfriend knew before moving to Portland, and attended the same parties or bar get-togethers for nine months or so without actually speaking. This includes a Super Bowl Party at which I was a Saints fan just so I could wear black and gold leggings, which was the night before I was snubbed by a guy I had been dating who has the same first name as my boyfriend. That could also be an entertaining story.

Anyway, nine months passed without us saying much more to each other than "hello." The night that we finally had our first conversation (that led to our first date) was the night that this couple, who got married last week, had invited all of their friends out to celebrate the engagement. That was a good night to begin things; everyone was so happy, just like at the wedding.

At the wedding, when people asked us how we knew the couple and how long we'd lived in Portland and where we moved from, we felt compelled to tell them that not only did we not know each other before moving from separate parts of the country, but that we'd also met because of the couple whose wedding we were all attending. As if that wasn't cute enough, we'd started talking at their engagement party.

"So," my boyfriend would say, "we're a couple vicariously through them!" Or some variation.

It registered in my mind that he was using a slightly wrong definition of "vicariously," which means "felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another" or "acting or serving in place of someone or something else; substituted." But no one seemed to notice or care, and I saw no reason to correct him, especially because I couldn't think of a way to explain what "vicariously" actually means without saying, "You know, like you 'live vicariously' through someone! You know? Like when you read a book or someone's Peace Corps blog or something!"

The night that I made the miso-braised greens and miso soup, after I kissed him on the cheek, he made a comment about having "miso face."

"What!?" I squawked, utterly perplexed.

"You know!" he said.

"No, I do not!" I cried in utter confusion.

"You know, you ate miso and then you kissed me and vicariously I have miso face."

I had to tell him.

"Darling, I have something to tell you," I announced.

He asked what it was; we faced one another with somber expressions, our eyes locked.

"Darling," I began. I took a deep breath and continued, "That's not what that word means."

"What?"

"Vicariously. You're using it wrong. I didn't want to tell you yesterday. That's not what it means."

But I couldn't tell him what it actually meant.

"It's like...you know...someone wants to 'live vicariously through' someone who can do something they can't? You know?"

No, he did not.

"Look it up on the dictionary!" and I pointed to his laptop on the coffee table.

Note that now we look things up on the dictionary, meaning a dictionary website, instead of looking it up in the dictionary, the book.

I saw his fingers move furiously across the keyboard; I saw him read, and then I saw his face darken.

"What?" I asked him, moving to see the screen.

"You were right, you're always right..."

"No, the dictionary is right," I corrected him snootily. But why did he look so sad? "It's not a big deal!" I tried to reassure him. "Everyone knew what you meant. I bet they didn't know you were using the word wrong. No one was thinking, 'That guy's dumb!'"

"Yeah!" said my roommate. "It's not like you said, 'I vicariously love this soup!'"

"Yeah, it's not a big deal!" I said.

"You know what this means?" he asked. "This means I've been using that word wrong my entire life. Or at least since I knew that word. I've been misusing the word 'vicariously' for years."

"So?"

His fingers began to move again on the keyboard. I watched him type a search phrase into Google, and I became filled with dismay when I saw him type, "Christmas poo." What on earth was he Googling?

"Look here!" he declared, clicking on a link.

"No! No! I don't need to see that!" I held my hands over my face, worried he was going to make me look at pictures of poop in a Santa hat.

"It's just text!" he said.

I unshielded my eyes to see him scrolling through the lyrics of the "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo" theme song. He stopped and highlighted the following:

Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo
He loves me, I love you
Therefore vicariously, he loves you.

"See?" he asked.

I saw. For years, my boyfriend had been misusing the word "vicariously" because of Christmas poop.

5 Things for Monday

1. Crafting like Crazy Now that my big embroidery gift project is done and given, I've moved on to Christmas Knitting. I'm very proud of the ribbon embroidery project I just completed and might post pictures on this blog of some of the flowers. It was a collection of cloth napkins (or tea towels) with native plants of the Pacific Northwest embroidered on them. I had some help from Deanna Hall West's books, but for the most part I made my own designs from pictures on USDA Plants and Pojar's Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast field guide. These were for a wedding gift for two friends who got married this weekend.

2. My First Wedding Out West My boyfriend and I went to the wedding of two of our friends this weekend. The bride was my first friend when I moved to Oregon, and also a co-worker at my first botanical job in Oregon. Also, MBF and I met each other through this couple and first started talking to each other the night we all were invited out to celebrate their engagement. The wedding was so different from most weddings I've been to back East, and it was really, really nice. Some of the family was Jewish so there were a lot of Jewish traditions reflected, such as smashing a glass at the end of the ceremony and a bunch of people being carried on chairs while everyone danced in a circle around them. It made me wish I was Jewish, instead of just looking Jewish. (Which reminds me of a funny story for another post.)

3. Moving Again I know, I know. This time, it's the studio of my dreams. It's very big for a studio, with a wood-burning fireplace and a balcony. The building is a hundred-year-old mansion. Much of the neighborhoods is Victorian mansions and old, moss-covered trees, some with forests of ferns growing out of the moss. I had just about given up on "old-fashioned" and "cute," since it is often accompanied by "poor insulation," "high heating bills," "mold," "mice," and "weird landlords." However, the landlord seems to be on top of things and utilities are included in the rent (which is still 1/3 lower than what I paid for my last apartment in New Jersey.) I won't have a huge garden, but I've kind of postponed that dream for whenever I own a house. I'll probably get a garden plot somewhere else, and I can do a little bit with the balcony, which has two big, built-in planters. Plus, there is a long window-box-like planter built in, running along the entire outside wall of the apartment. I can plant herbs (that will tolerate a northern exposure) outside my kitchen window!

(I just got distracted from writing this looking up small space organizing ideas on Apartment Therapy and other websites, and then looking at shelves on the IKEA website.)

4. Cooking. (As usual.) Since it's a busy time of year and I'm moving soon, I'm trying to avoid excessive grocery shopping and I've already packed up a lot of my kitchen things. When baking my Thanksgiving dessert contribution, this Concord Grape and Apple Pie, I rediscovered Not Eating Out in New York. I don't know why I forgot about this website, or why, in 2008, after making and loving the pie AND the concept behind this blog, I didn't look at the rest of it. There are so many interesting and simple recipes using inexpensive and/or in-season produce on this blog; the seasons of Portland and New York match up fairly well, although not exactly. I've made a version of these dijon beans with collard greens added and just last night, these very healthy miso-braised greens and mushroom soba soup using collards. I'd like to try some variation of beans baked in a pumpkin, and I'm especially intrigued by this salad which appears to use raw quince. I'd love to do a Not Eating Out in Portland version where tomatoes are a fall vegetable and go well with things like kale soup. But it's not easy to not eat out in Portland...

5. Some Places to Eat I've been meaning since Halloween weekend to write about Suzette, the interesting creperie MBF and I stopped at while out for a walk on a dreary fall day. Suzette combines the Portland food cart with the Portland cafe-in-a-cute-old-building. There's outdoor seating, but I've never been to Suzette when it's warm enough to sit there, and there's seating inside of a building that seems to be an old carriage house or something. The outside is painted a bright light blue. You walk down a little path (which makes me feel like I'm going to a secret garden) to order at the cart where I guess all the food is, since there's no kitchen inside the blue building, just coffee. After you order, you're directed by the friendly staff to sit inside where everything will be brought to you. Inside is an assortment of old-fashioned chairs and tables, a couch, and lots of artwork on the walls. I've never gotten one of their crepes, but both times I've gone, I've had their delicious homemade ice cream with a cup of coffee. Their wonderful ice cream, served in a chilled bowl, is perfect with a cup of coffee. I like to switch off between the two, eating and drinking slooooowly. The place has kind of a dreamy feel and dreamy lighting; it's great for a date and for coffee with a friend. The first time I went, I had the creme fraiche ice cream, and fell in love. I'd love to go there sometime for brunch.

Recently, I also went to Broder, which I've written about and posted pictures of before. I think Broder is my favorite place to eat in Portland. It's reliable; I know I will always get good food and good service there. No one will ever be rude to me, and I will like my brunch/dinner. The Friday night dinner was a bit more crowded than the last time I saw it, but there was no wait and I think even some empty tables. There's not much else to say. I love Broder, and if you're in the Portland area, go there!

We also ate brunch at Equinox, which was on my To-Try list, and the most interesting thing to say about that is that the toast appeared to come buttered with caramelized butter. It looked like normal butter, but tasted like browned butter.

The most exciting news of all is that MBF and I have found pizza in Portland that I'll eat, at Bella Faccia on Alberta. (I also like Hot Lips, but I've only had a squash sauce brie slice and that certainly doesn't satisfy the NJ pizza craving.) It tastes like good NY/NJ pizza, not quite like the best you've ever had, but good enough! Bella Faccia, thank you for existing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Naaaaaaahhh BloPoMo

After having novella-length posts written days ahead of time, I suddenly failed at NaBloPoMo.

On and off since I returned from New Jersey, I've been in a bit of a funk. Yesterday, I decided I wanted to focus on being positive - that even if there were reasons to be negative, it wasn't going to accomplish anything to dwell on them, so after a brief acknowledgement of them, I will endeavor to push aside the mass of minor annoyances piled on top of me, heavy as the layer of gray clouds currently suspended over the City of Portland, and focus on the good things. For example, although this time of year in Portland is damp and dark and it gets dark before 5PM but never truly gets light, at least I don't have to scrape ice off my car. When it snowed last week and I had to clean my car off two days in a row, it was kind of a novelty.

So anyway, the posting stopped because I was so darn cranky, and then it was Thanksgiving and I wasn't cranky, but I was busy, and then I was cranky again, and then it was December.

I'd like to start writing with some regularity, as I haven't yet run out of stories, but this month's theme, Zeitgeist, doesn't quite inspire me. So we'll see what happens.