Thursday, December 22, 2011

To wyome

Road trip ideas are probably similar to drunk ideas. Mine was that Wyoming is a present active participle form of the verb, "to wyome." This was probably around mile marker 445,000 in Montana. After a very long but lovely day on the road, I am happy to say that we have finally wyomed. That is to say, we have arrived at our hotel in Wyoming. Good night!

Road Trip Update #1

I'm writing to you from Idaho, from a town whose name I never pronounce properly. The town is called Couer d'Alene. So you might be thinking, well, that's French, like you. What do you mean you can't pronounce it?

And the answer is, do you think Idahoans really are going to say the name of their city with a French accent?

If you were to say that in French, it would be something like, "Kerhrhrhrhhr dah LENNN." (Rhrhrhrhrhr is my impression of the French "r" sound.) Idahoans, like HM (who was actually born in Idaho and therefore, is in some way as Idahoan as a delicious potato) call it "Core da LANE." I call it some weird hybrid, Kerr da Lean.

Anyway, it's time to hit the road, so I'll just end this update with a quick note - HM and I got robbed yesterday. In front our house. More on that next update!

Oh, and PS, there is SNOW here in Idaho. (But not falling on the roads or our route. Another quick note - we are taking a loooong way to Colorado to avoid a snowstorm in Utah and Western Wyoming.)

Next stop, beautiful Montana, the state that has enchanted me since I first saw it in 2008!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

When dreams resemble reality and reality is like a dream

Hello! Remember how I said I was going to write every other day this month?

There are several reasons I did not. Aside from the ones that fall under the category of "busy," there is one compelling reason, which is that my eyes (well, actually only one) were acting up and I was trying to limit computer time since I spend so much time on the computer between work and school.

The thing with my eyes. Well, it started in November. I was washing dishes late one night while HM was out somewhere. I was hoping he'd come home soon; I was starting to get antsy and paranoid about how if someone managed to break into our third-floor apartment (not likely) they might attack me with my own cast iron skillet or hot canning water or who knows what. (Anne of Green Gables fans might remember the Haunted Wood chapter--the moral of which is that imaginative people think of very imaginative creepy things.) Anyway, I was washing dishes when I saw, out of the corner of my left eye, a big giant FLASH. It looked like someone fired off a flashbulb right in my kitchen. I looked and saw nothing out of the ordinary. I turned back to my dishes. It happened again!!!!! I turned, looked out the window, and stared for awhile. Eventually I observed that my neighbors, about a block away (but visible because ours are the only buildings with third floors, so the shorter buildings in between do not block our view into each others' houses) were watching TV. Somehow, my eyes were interpreting the FLASH of the TV as something much greater and closer. That or I had been abducted by aliens and blocked out everything that truly happened between FLASHes, creating a false memory of continuing to wash dishes.

It happened again, a week or so later, on the plane to New Jersey. Handsome Man was sitting next to me watching a movie on his laptop. When his screen flashed, I saw a FLASH as though a big giant camera had gone off next to the airplane window. Since that is not possible, I knew for sure that something was wrong with my eyes.

When I got back to Portland, the big tree in Pioneer Square was already up and lit. The following is a picture found on Google Images:

As a side note, if you look up the Pioneer Square tree, much of what you'll find is a mug shot of a Somali-looking guy. I guess it's the guy who got arrested after not managing to bomb the Portland tree lighting. I mention this because to non-Portlanders, this is probably the only reason one might know what the Pioneer Square tree is.

Anyway. I chose this picture because it shows most accurately, of all the Google Images, what this tree really looks like, which is blue. Also, it has these GIANT FLASHING twinkle lights. Or...wait...are they really GIANT and FLASHING? Perhaps they are normal twinkle lights. But the first few weeks I was back in Portland, riding the MAX every weekday, watching that tree out of the corner of my eye for the five minutes that the MAX would wait at a stop near Pioneer Square, what I saw were a multitude of crazily huge bright FLASHes. That tree made me feel like I was losing my mind. Being on the MAX at Pioneer Square was like being in a surreal dream.

I have since seen a doctor and found that there is currently nothing seriously wrong with my eyes--just a pigment clump (but not a tear) on my left eye's retina. This and other things are being monitored, but for now my eyes are fine.

So, while reality has felt, because of these flashes, like a weird dream, my dreams resemble the most humdrum aspects of reality.

Yes, some of you may have guessed right. I am dreaming about work. And schoolwork. And housework.

Another co-worker has shared similar thoughts, so I don't feel like a huge nerd for admitting this. Sometimes I wake up in the morning thinking about file numbers. Sometimes my dreams are a certain screenshot of the esoteric program we use at work - the one that shows documents merging - and I am peacefully watching lots and lots of file numbers go by as the documents merge without any error messages. [Part of my job is being the IT lady, so if there are error messages, it's my problem to find out why.]

I've heard that some people get mad at their significant other because of dreams. Such as they dream that their significant other is cheating, and wake up mad. Usually, I do the opposite. Once HM and I got in a dramatic fight, then went to bed, and I dreamt about what a nice person he is. I dreamt that he was helping the less fortunate or something sappy like that. I woke up happy and had completely forgiven him.

The opposite happened this morning. This morning, HM awoke to find me in the kitchen, angrily, grouchily making a frittata. Angrily making us both breakfast, I barked at him to make coffee. After awhile, I realized why I was so angry at him (besides need for caffeine and low blood sugar.) I had dreamt last night that while I was asleep, he had snuck into the kitchen to "clean out" the freezer and started throwing out things I was saving. In the dream, I woke up and was frantically trying to rescue gallon bags of frozen peaches and my unhealthy frozen burrito's from WinCo.

This post (and its bad punctuation) brought to you by liquid Christmas tree, in a good way


Sunday, December 11, 2011


Perhaps the best people to test vegan recipes are non-vegans. These are people who have not forgotten what butter and bacon taste like. I'm not a vegan, but I'm cheap. I go through phases where cheapness beats my concern for the unethical treatment of animals, and I just buy cheap whatever. Usually the form my cheapness takes is to buy small amounts of animal products that I deem ethical (milk from pasture-raised cows, certified humane and/or pasture eggs) and find ways to make meals vegan the rest of the time. When I bake, I rarely use eggs, except in cases where eggs are essential to the recipe. I make salads with tofu or avocado instead of hard-boiled egg. I grind flax seeds and whisk them with water whenever I need an egg in a muffin recipe. It's extra work, but cage-free eggs are expensive in Portland, much moreso than in New Jersey.

If anyone wonders how I have time for this kind of thing when I work and go to graduate school, I would like to point out that we have no TV.. The entire triplex is without cable; it was never wired for it. I bet that has something to do with it.

Anyway, yesterday I bought Earth Balance. I have had an aversion to vegetarian or vegan foods that pretend to be their zoological equivalent, but I decided to give it a try. It may have been on sale.

I did not buy the butter-flavored kind, because that just seemed too artificial, even though the "earth" in the title suggests that this stuff is totally natural.

This is truly an unfair prejudice, as I myself have coated squares of tofu in asafetida and/or oil used to fry mustard seeds, to try to replicate the sulfurous taste of the hard-boiled egg I am sneakily replacing.

Oh, it gets worse! Now that I'm thinking about it, I've also removed 1/3 to 1/2 of the sulfurous-spice-coated tofu to a separate bowl, where I've mixed it with turmeric to make it look yellow, like egg yolks. (Remember, no TV.)

I decided to test the Earth Balance this morning by frying an egg. I removed it from its place on the second shelf of my fridge, which is where condiments that don't fit on the fridge door and "ingredients" that are neither fresh food or whole meals reside. This is where I keep things like pickles and cheese. I was so averse to the Earth Balance, apparently, that when I unloaded my groceries last night, I refused to put it on the door of the fridge with the butter.

When I opened the box, I was a little dismayed by the gold foil packaging. It reminded me too much of the disgusting margarine of my youth. When I unwrapped the foil packaging, I was a bit dismayed by the near-translucence of the white log I beheld. Well, I told myself, that's probably what you get for not buying the butter-flavored version with annatto seed for coloring.

I tasted a tiny bit raw. It tasted reminiscent of my homemade soy milk.

But then I fried my egg in it. It melted and coated the not-really-nonstick pan with so much ease, that I began to see its appeal. It did not pile in one place like butter or olive oil. What would have been not-quite-enough butter was more than enough Earth Balance. I began to think I may have found a new tool for specific kitchen functions. I also suspect that this will make pie and tart dough that forms easily and doesn't crumble or crack in the pan. I will let you know later this week, as I plan to try it.

Maybe I'll even give the butter-flavored Earth Balance a try.

Oh, and the egg tasted fine.

In conclusion, the doubtful non-vegan has had her mind changed about pretend butter.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Coming Soon: Adventures in Frugality

This is to stick with my every-other-day posting goal. I have drafted - on paper - a post about recent adventures that occurred because I was being frugal. These are not tips on being frugal. These are things that happened because I was being cheap, adventures that would not have taken place, but would have instead been ho-hum commonplace events, had I not gone out of my way to save/not waste money.

An adventure in anything but frugality is what I would have posted a picture of, had my camera phone not been too full. I got my Dream Couch today, a loveseat from Palace of Industry, which is a very unusual combination bar/vintage shop in North Portland. It was in October, or perhaps late September, when I first spotted the loveseat, and it was still there when I returned in late October for a drink (Lillet blanc--not that you care, just that I would like to proclaim happily, "THEY HAVE LILLET THERE," because it is so good). Rearranging my office for an $8 art deco vanity that never was--it was at Goodwill, and someone bought it shortly before I returned for it--I realized I had room for the Dream Couch. So I e-mailed the Palace and got it put on hold, and today it became mine. I finished the draft of my issue paper (which is due tomorrow, or you'd get my Frugality story) from this Dream Couch.

From the Dream Couch, I see my office, currently a messy junk repository with a desk in the corner and a very organized office-y wall above the desk, from a fresh new angle. I see new ways to organize. Not only have my office and I gained seating, but we have also gained a new perspective. When finals are over, I will make the office into my Dream Office and be totally ready for Winter term.

I couldn't provide a picture because my camera is full. When I empty it, I will post a picture.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Welcome home and Happy December

Yesterday morning, at 7:30, I called the TriMet automated phone system to check to see if the 7:35 bus was running on schedule or its usual three minutes late. This is the difference between a leisurely walk to the bus stop or a sprint. In horror, I listened as the automated man read off the name of a different bus arriving in eight minutes, and my bus arriving sometime after 7:40. There was no 7:35 bus. There had been a pre-7:30 bus! It seemed as though the bus schedule had changed without my knowledge. Even though I am signed up to receive e-mails from TriMet about that very thing.

The bus that was arriving after 7:40 was going to bring me to work too late. That's okay, though, because I have a car!

Portland winters do not usually bring freezing temperatures. We have rain, not ice. But on this atypical morning, my car was covered in ice. My nice ice scraper was either stolen in the Great Car Break-In of January, left in New Jersey, or misplaced somewhere in my apartment. It took me a long time to scrape off my windows, long enough for the car to warm up so that it would not stall on my way to work or fog up.

Before I started my drive, I realized I still could not see out of my back windshield. This has been a problem for some time; the back windshield takes a very long time to de-fog. I climbed into my backseat to wipe off the windshield with the tail of my scarf. But the visual obstruction was not liquid condensation, but a thick, unmoveable solid. It was ice.

I successfully removed the ice from the inside of my car, giving it even more time to warm up. Then I started to drive to work.

As I turned onto Broadway, a busy street with multiple lanes, of which I needed to be in the farthest from where I'd entered, necessitating the deft navigation through a sea of buses, cars, bikes, and pedestrians, a slow white fog began to build in the corners of my front windshield, passenger side windows, and rear windshield. I turned up the defroster and frantically started wiping down windows--within reach, at a stoplight only--from the inside. The fog crept back with renewed speed. I quickly turned off of Broadway, praying no pedestrians were crossing in the space obstructed by my foggy windows, and looked for a parking spot.

The defroster is totally shot. Except on sunny, dry days, my car is currently undriveable.

I walked home and woke up Handsome Man so that he could drive me to work, to which I arrived half an hour late, to discover immediately that the computer program I need to do most of my work duties was stuck, giving me nothing but an inscrutable error message that flashed angrily whenever I tried to close the program, open another copy of it, or restart my computer.

Welcome home, Sarah, and Happy December. The bus scheduled changed without you, your car isn't working, and your computer isn't either. Three bad things. I declared myself pre-disastered for the day, resolved that no further bad things would take place until at least December 2nd, and folded mail and stuck labels on things until tech support called to free me and my computer from the error message.

The call came, my computer and I were both set free to do our work together, I had Cafe Yumm for lunch, and walked to class and then home from the MAX station in a rain-free city without incident or disaster.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Daydreaming about the future

I look forward to the day when I can work in my office without hearing tantrums or sobbing below. In the meantime, I migrate from room to room while home, and use spare moments on my lunch break or on the bus.

Happy, happy day, in my future--I'm sorry to seem ungrateful, but it is after my fall class ends. But I will have opportunity to cherish the peace and quiet during winter term.

Final Day of NaBloPoMo

I did it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trying to post from my cell phone in traffic on the way to Newark Airport

i wrote a lengthier post about being stuck injtraffic on the way to EWR with a notjso smart phone and some thoughts on mobile web use in general. and ten my post disappeared like it had never existed. two more days.

Monday, November 28, 2011

5 Things About Reading and Writing

It was either this or posting my free-writing for my term paper as a blog post. Which could still happen at some point this week.

1. I'm reading Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. I am about halfway through. I inadvertently, reluctantly love it. I put myself on the hold list for the library's EPUB copy after reading something about it online. It might have been a New York Times review. It might have been a brief mention in a Mark Bittman column. Maybe it was a book review by Mark Bittman. Who knows? Anyway, I put myself on the hold list, and then it came in at the same time as three other holds, and then I accidentally had my default setting for EPUB checkouts as 7 days, so I ran out of time to read it. I put myself back on the hold list, and I got the e-mail while I was here in NJ that it was ready for me.

I was somehow reluctant to read it--something about the drawing of asparagus on the cover page with "human blood" listed as the medium, something about the first chapter documenting a lamb roast. I was mistakenly concerned there would be too much blood and bones in the book. (Mostly concerned with the former.) You know how some writers get a little showy and over-the-top with food-related gore? Well, that's not the case at all. It doesn't surprise me that Hamilton has a graduate degree from a writing program, from the Harvard of the Midwest. It is a well-written and enjoyable read.

2. Speaking of books I learned about from The New York Times and books that handled gore and violence in a tasteful manner, I am conflicted about the American movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I've heard from people whose opinions I respect that the trailer looks promising, perhaps even better than the Swedish version. But the Swedish version, in my opinion, is as good as a movie version of a lengthy book can be. I don't see how an American version is necessary. American movies tend not to tastefully handle gore and violence. You should know that this is progress for me; at one point in time, I would have refused to watch the American version or consider that it might be good, because that would be an act of disloyalty to the Swedish movies I originally liked. Now I know, yes, it's okay, you can like both.

3. Speaking of the book I am reading now, part of the reason I went to the trouble of putting it on my Nook is because I only brought one book with me on this trip, and I finished it on the plane. It was Radio On by Sarah Vowell. I was excited to read this after reading The Wordy Shipmates, my first ever Sarah Vowell book!, at the end of the summer. I was newly a fan of Sarah Vowell, and I am a longtime fan of radio. Long story short, I was disappointed with Radio On. I enjoyed reading it as a diversion from schoolwork, but when I got to the end I was like, "That's it?" I guess I was expecting more of a conclusion, more history, more analysis, something more in-depth like The Wordy Shipmates. Oh well. I still like Sarah Vowell.

4. Speaking of EPUBs from the library, my love for my Nook has been rekindled. Or I guess I should use a different verb. It has been renewed. After a few months in which Adobe Digital Editions was frustrating me to the point where I stopped trying to get library books on my Nook, I've gotten it to work. It was nice that I was able to check a book out of my Portland, Oregon library while I was on the other side of the continent.

5. Once NaBloPoMo is over, I am going to keep writing here regularly. I've found that my writing for school and other important things starts more easily and flows more naturally when I am blogging, because I am in the habit of writing regularly. It is as important as exercise, as important as the two miles I try to walk each weekday (and three on the weekend.) I will try to write every other day, not every day, because a) I'm too effing busy and b) writing every day, forcing it, can result in a bunch of garbage on this blog.

This was going to be a 10 things post, parallel to yesterday's 10, but I'm cutting it short as there is a show on TV right now that is entirely about gin!!!!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Jessica's latest post is just what I needed. I knew in advance that much of today would distance me from a laptop or any other means of blogging, and that I was at risk of blowing the blog-every-day goal with only a few days to go. Yet last night, awake at 3am for no good reason, and again this morning, in a few spare minutes before leaving for the train station, I sat in front of a blinking cursor on an otherwise blank page. I could not bring myself to post a bunch of garbage just to post something. My readers are not going to return to this page if there's a risk that they're going to get something like, "Today I am going to New York City. TTYL!" So I waited.

And here I am, again with no ideas of what to write. I have no pictures to even share, because I've been using film this trip and the pictures I took with my phone yesterday are kind of ugly--just blurry shots for documentation purposes, with museum signs and strangers' elbows intruding into the frame.

In what was really just a form of stalling, I went to my Google Reader feed, purportedly to look for some kind of inspiration. And I found it in Jessica's latest post! which directed me to a panoply of prompts on another website. Click the link above and see for yourself.

I like this one, which fits with the rushed nature of my day and my writing. (I only have forty-five minutes until I've blown it for the day, unless I decide to allow myself to post by midnight West Coast time.)

Write a 10-word sentence that sums up your day. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

This reminds me of an exercise assigned in an advanced poetry seminar I took at Rutgers. The assignment was to write "imagist" poems, short poems of some limited length (three lines? ### words? I'm not sure) and, for a wordy person, it was actually a blessing. Rather than try to fit every relevant idea into a poem, it forced me to focus intently on one detail. If I were to write a series of imagist poems about today, for example, I might focus only on the lights of Times Square and camera flashes all over the city.

(As a side note, these lights stand out to me because something weird is happening with my vision lately--I keep seeing bright flashing lights that aren't there. They are usually on the side of my vision. They seem to correspond with some actual light source, like a distant television in my neighbor's house that is nearly a block away. I am going to go to the eye doctor as soon as I can. Glaucoma runs in my family and maybe I can get a weed card! Or maybe I'm just tired, and maybe also I am spending too much time looking at computer screens.)

Today was flashing lights and wishing I had hand sanitizer. (10)

The Morris-Essex Line made me nostalgic, but not for TriMet. (10-a compound word is only one word.)

Why does the Metropolitan Museum of Art close so early? (10)

I wish I had one more day in New York. (10)

I found the cleanest public toilet ever in Central Park. (10 - prosaic, perhaps, but for some people this is a real concern!)

Not to end it on a toilet-related note (I mean, the entire post dedicated to that topic was enough for one person's blog!), I would like to tell you about the beer I had that was made with and tasted like sweet corn! I think that Heartland is a strange name and concept for a brewery in the middle of a city, in Times Square, no less (which--and I can't take credit for this as it was in fact said by a clever friend--is like walking through someone's bad MySpace page) (I couldn't seem to get a sentence about the down to less than eleven words), as opposed to being in an old farmhouse or something, but I'm limiting my criticizing because corn beer is a weird concept, too, and it was well done. When I got to Penn Station today, drinking corn beer in a bar decorated with chiefly rural Americana--in Times Square, no less--was not on the list of things I thought might happen. Well, New York is a surprising place.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saturday Morning Miscellany

The day we left Portland for our Thanksgiving trip, we used a Google Offer coupon to have breakfast at Radio Room on NE Alberta. I had never been there before. I had only been near it. It's right next to my former favorite bar, the Bye and Bye. (The Bye and Bye hasn't thrilled me for awhile because it got crowded and the last time I had its signature drink, it was too sweet. Perhaps fame has changed it or time has changed me. In any case, since the reason I don't like going there anymore is that it has become so popular--and Olive-Branch-on-$1-Yuengling-Night-Tuesday crowded--it clearly doesn't need my business or approval to thrive. It was an amicable separation.) Anyway, I never went to the Radio Room because I was under the impression that it was really pricey. Someone told me that, and I believed it. But then I got this coupon.

Long story short, I liked it. And it was so not pricey! The prices were normal. I thought my breakfast was a great value. Mostly, I just wanted to provide this illustration--the pesto scramble I ordered, called the Dr. Seuss, was literally...

green eggs and ham.

Speaking of food that sounds (and perhaps should be) fictional, this was in my parents' pantry.

I haven't tried any yet.

Finally, I found what I hope can be my outfit should we decide to send out Christmas cards again this year. The day we went to the airport, we had difficulty finding a ride. We also weren't that concerned, because we can walk to a MAX stop where one can catch the Red Line and be taken directly to PDX. But what we were not counting on was the volume of rain that would be pouring from the sky that day. Because in Portland, it usually doesn't pour. It sprinkles, mists, or rains lightly. That day, however, it was pouring.

This is not only what I wore to the airport, but also to merely take out the trash.

Note the DOUBLE layer of hooded jackets and the bell bottoms sticking out from under rain pants.

Writing about writing (other people's)

This is short because I am short on time, not because I am not excited about my friend Jessica's newest project, which she is attempting to fund with Kickstarter. She has already reached 25% of her goal. Please consider helping her get the remaining 75%.

I have known Jessica for close to a decade. I have been friends with her, and I have worked with her in groups and on projects. Jessica has two graduate degrees and although she works full time, every time I talk to her, I learn about some exciting creative project that she is pursuing. I have known her to be organized, driven, and creative. (As well as kind and fun, but that is perhaps not relevant to this project.) (Also, she is a fellow Oxford Comma fan.) What I am saying is that if Jessica sets a goal, I have no doubt that she will meet it. If Jessica is behind a project, I have faith in its success. I have faith that her efforts will yield not only success, but something original, interesting, perhaps revolutionary. That is why I am writing about her project, a new literary magazine, on my blog, and why I am a backer of her project. The link is here.

Also, on a completely unrelated note, if you enjoyed the Thanksgiving poems I linked to yesterday and shared previous Novembers, you will also enjoy my friend's blog The Lox of Knowledge. My friend (whose real name I am withholding, because I'm not sure if she uses it on her blog or not) is a teacher and in addition to blogging about education, she also includes (quite frequently of late), hilarious things her students say.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

An early holiday card

When I was a little girl, I learned from my teacher at the time the story of the pilgrims and the Mayflower in an account much more detailed than that we either learned or acted out in my previous preschool years.

Note: I am not sure, but this might have been the same teacher who gave the House Rules homework assignment.

Note #2: No, this was not the year we learned about smallpox blankets or wars or slavery or burning people at the stake or any of that.

What I do remember is that this was the year we learned that where the pilgrims landed was called Plymouth, Massachusetts, and that there was a big rock called Plymouth Rock. I'm pretty sure I imagined the ship sailing at top speed and crashing into this rock (but surprisingly not injuring anyone or causing alarm of any sort) and thought that the Mayflower was, as a result, a little too banged up to bring home to England, and that was why they couldn't just turn around and leave when they realized that East Coast winters suck and they were starving.

The story I learned was the standard Squanto-to-the-Rescue story. (Unfortunately not the version that involves beer.)

As a side note, the "acting out" of which I wrote above refers to a pageant performed for the parents in my preschool. I remember nothing of it except that I got assigned to be an Indian (which was appropriate, although it might have been based on which teacher I had and not because I had dark hair) and my friend Shannon, who was pale white with white-blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes, got to be a pilgrim, and I was really REALLY jealous. I guess four-year-olds weren't aware of the noble savage concept in 1988.

Anyway, the following day, which was Thanksgiving, we had dinner at my house with my grandparents (the French ones--and when I refer to these grandparents, I am actually referring to three people: my grandmere, my mom's stepfather Pierre aka Pipa, and my grandmere's mother, Suzanne aka Mima, fka Minou, who lives with them. Note the present tense. She is going to be 99 in a few weeks.)

This is turning into a longer post than I'd planned. Anyway, I call my great-grandmother Mima now, which is what everyone else in the family calls her - my mother, my mother's cousins, and my second cousins. When I was a little kid, I had trouble saying this, I guess, and I called her, "Minou." I was always surprised when I met French people who had cats named Minou. I would say, "That's funny! That's my great-grandmother's name." No one told me that Minou was a term of endearment for a cat. I made the switch to Mima in college. It was fortunately long before I learned that "minou" in French also has a dirty connotation. The first time I became acquainted with the term, "faire le minou," let's just say I was very distraught for my four-year-old self.

Anyway. So, in that lull between turkey gluttony and dessert, while the adults were either madly preparing dessert/cleaning dinner dishes/packing away leftovers in the kitchen or taking a nap, I was full of five-or-six-year-old energy. To keep out of everyone's way, I was channeling that energy into creativity. (I wasn't really a run-around-the-house-kid EVER, actually. I was pretty lazy sedentary).

Eager to show off my school lessons, I drew a picture of a giant shoe with a shattered toe and some lollipops with limbs and with buckles on their heads and a large gray blob and some other lollipops with rainbow-picket fences on their heads. My art skills then were as great as they are now. Over my pilgrims-landing-in-America + Mayflower-fender-bender masterpiece, I wished to provide some text. Since without that caption, no one would have any idea what the hell I had just drawn.

Pipa had dozed off in his chair at the dinner table. No one adults were around, except perhaps Mima, but she only speaks French. She would have been no help to me at this point. So I asked Pipa, the French immigrant, for help with my caption. I needed help spelling things, like "Plymouth."

And that was how I ended up handing my parents a Thanksgiving card that read, "Happy Thinksgiving from Planet Rock!"

I wonder what would have happened if I'd try to include, "Massachusetts."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thinksgiving from Planet Rock

I'm writing a quick post in between some Thanksgiving food prep. Again, I'm writing a short possibly-placeholder-post with a plan to, if possible, write more later. I should also note that the Internet is very spotty here. My parents need a new router.

We arrived safely in New Jersey, after walking to the MAX station in a downpour (no really, not an Oregon "it's more than sprinkling or misting" downpour, but a downpour even by my East Coast place-that-has-a-hurricane-season town-that-once-got-fourteen-inches-of-rain-in-one-day standards) with two large almost 50-pound suitcases. We survived that journey, crossing the 17th-Avenue river and the 9th-Avenue creek, and we survived the 6-hour-flight next to a flatulent smartphone addict. When we got safely to Jersey, we got to eat real pizza made by a real Jersey Italian (my mom.) This morning I got to have Taylor ham for breakfast. ShopRite brand!

That's all for now. I'm going to try to write more, with pictures, later.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My beautiful home

I'm going to be at the airport and on a plane most of today. I'm posting something now so that I don't miss out on my NaBloPoMo goal this close to the end of the month. There's a pretty good chance I won't have time to write later.

In lieu of a story, here are some pictures of the place I am going.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A very late correction

I have intended for over a year to write the following amended review of Bar Gernika in Boise, Idaho. Now that it looks like I might be passing through Boise during a meal time, the time has come.

I have not been back to Boise since 2009. But after I wrote this post that included a very detailed account of my negative dining experience, Gernika wrote to me. And I wrote back. What transpired changed my opinion.

Last November, I was attempting to satisfy the requirements of NaBloPoMo by writing the long-overdue account of the road trip that brought me to Portland to live. I don't get many comments on this blog, and when I saw in my inbox that Anonymous had commented on my latest post, I was so excited!!! Until I read the following:

Wow, I am so sorry that you had such a negative experience at our restaurant.It really affects me when I hear or read things like this. If you could tell me what night it was, I can check in with the server about his service. I am also dismayed that he didn't point out our many other Basque specialty dishes when you were ordering. We do run out of some of our more popular dishes sometimes. We prepare everything fresh every day, and it is sometimes difficult to determine how much to make for the day. Again, I am truly sorry about your visit with us, and I hope you give us another try. Please email me at Thank you!

I was so embarrassed. I had forgotten that, duh, this is the world wide web, and people read what you write, and people search for things, and people have Google Alerts set up...and people will find your obscure blog about a person from/living in two states that are both not Idaho, and they will read it, and have their feelings hurt. I suddenly looked at my review from the perspective of someone not familiar with my style of writing, and I realized where I might have sounded like one of those crazy people who writes reviews on Yelp accusing bartenders of starting fights with them or criticizing the paint choices of a restaurant or dropping a star from the rating because they have trouble eating with chopsticks or because the weather sucked the day they went or something else that is entirely not the restaurant's fault.

I wrote to them because I felt so contrite. Unless they totally hadn't been paying attention that this was a trip that happened a year in the past; I was also writing to kind of call them out on that, if that was the case. (The truth comes out!)

I wrote the following:

Dear Bar Gernika,

I apologize if anyone's feelings were hurt by my post in which I wrote about a bad time at Bar Gernika. I am impressed that you care about a visit that took place over a year ago by someone who lives pretty far from Boise. [...edited for brevity's sake...] I'd assume that I just had the rare bad experience, and that's what I've always thought about Bar Gernika. Most of my criticism was intended toward my travel guide, which only told us about *one* Basque restaurant in Boise. I provided a link to Bar Gernika in case any of my readers passing through Boise wanted to check it out, because even though we had a bad time, we still liked the food and cider! [...] I certainly don't want to get anyone in trouble; it's possible that July 2, 2009, was just an uncharacteristically bad night! Anyway, I've never made it back to Boise, but I enjoyed the time I spent in the city and have always wanted to return. I'd be happy to give Bar Gernika another chance. [...] Thank you for your interest in my long-ago visit.

Gernika wrote back! They really did care about what someone who is from two states, neither of which are Idaho, had to say about something that happened more than a year in the past!

(Oh, and I told them I was eventually going to post this email in a correction post, so I totally have permission to write this.)

Thanks so much for your response! [...edited for brevity...] Even though our little bar has been around for about 20 years now, there is always room for improvement and fine tuning. We have zero staff turnover at our place, and the schedule is pretty static, so it was easy to figure out who it was that was serving you. It is someone who, last summer, received several complaints on various websites and blogs. After getting to the bottom of his frustrations, we worked with him to try to get him to a point where he was happier with his situation. I am happy to say that he is still employed by us and doing great. He has been able to participate more in the business by designing and marketing our schwag(sp?). This has really improved his personal investment in our bar. Our staff is like family but bad service is intolerable so we were glad everything worked out. I am just sorry you were treated so poorly, that's just not okay. If you ever come back to Boise, I would absolutely love to buy you and your party a round[....]

Isn't that nice? Not only that they expressed genuine concern over my year-old review, but that this is an organization that works with staff to find ways they can best work for the organization, rather than merely terminating them (or allowing them to continue in a position where they are unhappy.) So, again, it was my fault I spilled Astarbe all over my clumsy self, and our non-paella food was great, and I'm impressed with this response.

Bad service is intolerable. In Portland, it is more common than it should be. The result is that good service (or even above-average) causes me to tip wildly high. (Maybe someday I will tell you my ultimate bad service in Portland story, except this time I will not name names.) Anyway, I wonder how many Portland restaurants would have responded this way. Before this turns into a rant about an unrelated topic, I will end this post about my long-ago trip to Idaho. In December, I will be passing through Idaho on my way to Colorado. We will probably go through Boise twice, so our chances of passing through at a mealtime are pretty high. I look forward to trying Gernika again!

Sunday of Errands

My apartment is a chaos zone, yet I am feeling calm. I just got a great haircut!
The roofers apparently took Sunday off, so even though the contents of our attic and our roof garden are taking up space in most of the apartment, it was not so stressful today as it was yesterday.
When I started packing for my Thanksgiving trip, I noticed that what was taking up space in my suitcase was some clothing I had been waiting to donate. There was a blue corduroy blazer that really doesn't fit me anymore, which I got for only $1 at a thrift store in the early 2000's; a black shawl (I don't wear shawls) which I think came with some dress I got at Joyce Leslie, also in the early 2000's; some other forgettable shirt; and a blue jean pencil skirt from Anthropologie. That one I had been holding onto for awhile. It was from a nice store and I paid $50 for it (on the clearance rack.) But it was a piece of garbage, a harbinger of the lesser-quality (yet still high-priced Anthro-wear to come.) The back seam kept ripping every time I walked in it.
Why have clothing makers started making pencil skirts with the slit in the back? I can't imagine what grown woman can wear these skirts without showing the world her panties!
For men, or for those who have a very flat bottom, let me explain.
Because the back of women (especially some women; I recognize that not all women are endowed with a convenient coffee cup shelf* like I am) tends to stick out more than the front, if there is not more fabric in the back than there is in the front, a short skirt will be shorter in the back than it is in the front.
Adding a slit to an already short back-of-the-skirt creates the danger of...well...obscenity.
What happened to side slits in pencil skirts? I'd much rather have someone see a little more of my thigh than my bottom. Doesn't this make sense? Perfect sense? Huh? Huh, OLD NAVY? and ANTHROPOLOGIE!?
Adding insult to injury, these slit seams tend to rip, creating a higher slit, when one engages in such activities other than sitting or standing still such as walking up a hill, walking briskly, or walking up stairs.
It may be the twenty-first century equivalent of all of those Victorian clothes that impeded the movement and respiration of nineteenth-century women. Now, perhaps modern-day women's attire does not pose a fire hazard, like a dozen layers of petticoats, but it does seem that a garment that rips if worn while simply walking might be designed the discourage the movement of women. Could we even say that there's a subtle message here, such as the discouraging of women's metaphorical movement up, where she might bump her pretty little head on some glass ceilings (and then break it), or maybe women's movement toward equality?
Um...really, I just want a pencil skirt that doesn't cause me to moon my co-workers and co-bus-riders. Can you make that happen, Old Navy?
So anyway, I had given up trying to sew and re-sew that Anthropologie skirt, and today I gave it to Goodwill (where it can aggravate some other woman. Or maybe find a good home with a woman who never climbs hills.) I stopped at Goodwill on my way to the mall, where I was going to buy a solid-colored shirt in a very specific color to go with a very specific outfit.
I found it at Goodwill. For $3.99.
The other errand I went on was finally, finally getting a haircut, and that is what I meant to write about. I already did, in fact. It's my second ever Yelp review. I forgot to mention in my review - Bishops is pretty cheap, too! I usually don't trust places with such consistent bad reviews, but I seriously do not know why Bishops has so many bad reviews. I am always happy when I go there.
So, that was my Sunday! Have a nice week, everyone!
* For explanation of the "coffee cup shelf" of which I speak, read here and here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I don't want to write anything today. Since 8:30 a.m. there have been workers on the roof of the building where I live. I live on the top floor. I think they are actually taking off the old roof and replacing it, piece by piece. It is cold in the apartment, I guess from the roof removal aspect, and it is loud. We tried to escape to run errands and to go out to brunch, but now I have things I need to do here, like laundry. It is driving us both slowly crazy. HM is more silly crazy, singing lots of songs, and I am irritably crazy.

Yesterday I accidentally prank called my friend in the blandest way possible. I was trying to call the credit union and track down what happened to my new credit card. In addition to noise in the house, we also haven't been getting our mail recently, and I had some theories for that but I actually saw the mail deliverer today and confirmed that it was because the roofers have been hurling things not just in the dumpster in the driveway, but on tarps that are near all entrances to the house. I don't really blame the mail lady for not wanting to get knocked in the head with a piece of our old roof.

Anyway, I was trying to make some calls to find out what happened to the credit card that I was supposed to be getting in the mail. I was directed to a different call center, and the phone rang, and a generic message telling me what number I'd reached, which I thought sounded like, "866" (like the toll free number I'd called), is what I heard, so I left a detailed message and my phone number and expected to hear back from the credit union tomorrow.

Except my cell phone is a piece of garbage. At first, it would just turn on and off in my purse. Maybe call the last person I'd called, if I didn't hit the lock button before I put it in my purse. Then it started unlocking itself, somehow, and calling the last people I'd called, the last people I'd texted, the first five people in my alphabetical contacts list (sorry Angela, Amanda, Alyssa, Alice, and AAA!), and also the number, "7777777777789213490132098132+++zqx."

Oh, and lately, every time I look at my phone, the background has changed and the clock has either disappeared or reappeared. It's not just purse-dialing, it's purse-rearranging-the-settings.

Last night, my phone entered a new level of strange behavior. Apparently, the generic voicemail I heard was actually my friend, but I didn't recognize his voice. Also, he wasn't saying "866," I guess. That or I did leave a message for the credit union, but also for my friend. According to my phone, I called both my friend and the credit union at the same time, for the same length of time.

Past butt-dialing, pocket-dialing, and purse-dialing, has my phone traveled to a new dimension of unwanted behavior--face dialing. The touch screen on my phone is now so sensitive that the side of my face causes it to call someone I had not called or texted recently, who was not one of the first five people in my alphabetical contacts list. After the side of my face called my friend, it also merged that call with my call to the credit union.

And that is how I left the longest, blandest prank voicemail in history. What should I do next? Call my grandmother to request reservations for a restaurant in SE tonight? Maybe on Monday, make an appointment with another friend to discuss my financial aid options for the Spring term?

Well, I guess I did end up writing about something. On the bright side, today is supposedly the last day that the roofers are scheduled to be here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Today's Prompt: What has been the happiest moment of your life thus far?

This seemed like one of those prompts it would be difficult to answer. I can't even pick a favorite ice cream flavor, let alone a moment of my life.

I'm a pretty happy person. Especially right now. I have a good life. I have reliable employment that I enjoy, I still get to go to school to work toward some future employment that is in line with my dreams, but I don't go to school so much that it stresses me out, I live in a nice city, I am able to stay in touch with faraway friends and family, I get to take mass transit to work, I get to go for walks every day, my roommate is my boyfriend and my best friend in this city is my neighbor. I get to regularly go to farmers' markets, and several nice grocery stores are a short walk away. I can also walk to lots of cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops.

People who know me in person, or who read this blog when Big-Mouthed Jersey Girl is posting, know that I complain a lot. Sometimes it is good-natured complaining, with a joke tied in, and sometimes it is just pure crankiness. Sometimes it is about big things (racism! inequality! injustice! pollution!) and sometimes it is about stupid little things (rude pedestrian/motorist/bicyclist! black tights with brown shoes!) Otherwise, I am happy with perhaps equal enthusiasm; my happiest moment might have just been five minutes ago, when the world felt like a wonderful, happy place, because the sun is shining out the window (for now-it's supposed to snow later) and the cottage cheese, satsuma, and sandwich I had for lunch seemed like the perfect lunch.

So this prompt is a hard question for me to answer.

Then I thought, well, how did I get here? Maybe the happiest moment of my life (or at least one of the top ten) had to do with that.

So, perhaps the best answer to this question is that the happiest moment of my life was when I got the job that took me to Portland.

The reasons why I was particularly sad and exhausted on this particular Wednesday aren't very interesting. (Believe me. I just wrote them out, and then erased it all because it was BO-RING.

And I just got a phone call, so I'll end this early!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

No time to write!

Yesterday, students occupied PSU. They planned a walkout to all demonstrate.

I'm a day late, but I'll be occupying PSU today. I will be occupying a classroom, learning about public policy and how to analyze, change, and implement policy.

I have no time to write more today, and I don't want to risk that I'll forget to write after class tonight. I have to spend the time I would normally be writing working on my presentation for class tonight. So I'd like to share with you someone else's writing. I read a great article for my class called, "Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?" It appears that the full text of it is available here as part of the Google Books preview.

The writer confesses to being an environmentalist, and I am too. But like this writer, I get frustrated with others who identify themselves as environmentalists, and think they are treating things the wrong way, being hypocritical in other ways (ex: my work doesn't directly pollute the environment like, say, spraying pesticides, but sitting in an office isn't really working closely with nature or benefiting nature), and maintaining the adversarial nature that is unfortunately (and unnecessarily) extant in discussions of environment and economy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quick note

Since I don't have much time today, I'll post a nice picture.

First, I would like to note that since writing yesterday's post and searching online for mail-order sources of Russian groceries, I am now getting ads on the websites I visit not for mortgages or shoes at Zappo's, but for online dating websites that specialize in matching one with Russian women. ARGH. I guess I could practice my Russian. "My name is Sarah. Ice cream! Paprika! Store! Halva!"

It's the John Day Fossil Beds! It's awfully rainy here today, which could make a person wish to be in the desert.

It's Sunrise Mountain!

The fabric of my dreams from Bolt on NE Alberta. I only got a small square and I made a belt that perfectly matches a pair of pants that I have and a cardigan that I have. I just need a berry-colored shirt to go with it, and I'd have the perfect outfit. Perfect for what? I don't know.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Going to the magazines

I drafted this post on Sunday, and unfortunately all I gave myself were very brief notes, some words in Russian (in the Cyrillic alphabet), and a transcription of a receipt. Believe it or not, this was not a clear reminder of what I intended to write on Sunday.

My notes began with the following: Hence the quest for tkemali. Also, Russian shopping and how I got to use my IFL 7th grade lessons in reading Cyrillic.

They continued with the following list:

What was I trying to tell myself and my readers?

Well, I do recall that this weekend, I went grocery shopping with a friend in East Portland. I mean outer East Portland, not close-in, like where I live now. Out where I used to live and work.

It all started on Friday, 11/11/11, when two of my co-workers began talking about beef stroganoff. I hadn't had beef stroganoff in years, since my mother used to make it, and come to think of it, I hadn't had Hungarian goulash in years, either, and my mother used to make that, too! By the time I left work on Friday, I wanted both.

My co-worker had been explaining how to make beef stroganoff, beginning with where the packet was at the store.

"Well," she paused, looking at me. "You would probably make it from scratch."

"I might not!" I said, defensively. "I use mixes!"

But then I did go home and make it from scratch, only because the recipe in Anya von Bremzen's Please to the Table was so easy. It really, really was. I made it with tempeh and dried mushrooms, because you can bet if I was too tired to go to the store to buy a packet of seasoning, I was too tired to go to the store to buy anything, and I just used what I had. It is basically a brown gravy with some spices that you add sour cream to, and then eat with egg noodles. I made Hungarian goulash last night - my mom's recipe - but also with tempeh - and it is basically a red sauce with spices that you add sour cream to. I am beginning to think anything can be made extra delicious if you just add sour cream to it.

Flipping through Please to the Table on a cold, dark, rainy night, in a warm house, with Regina Spektor singing sporadically in Russian on my stereo, Russian and Balkan and Central Asian recipes started to sound very appealing. Of course, Anya von Bremzen's writing could make anything sound appealing!

That is how the quest for tkemali plums got started. I don't actually need them to make any of the Georgian recipes in Please to the Table; Anya von Bremzen suggests plenty of substitutes. But she also writes that you may be able to find dried plums or "sour plum roll." A trip to the Russian store was overdue, anyway. I was out of $4 caviar.

The Roman Russian Market, at 110th and Division in SE Portland, has changed since my last trip, and seems to be equipped with even less signage in the Roman alphabet, let alone English. Fortunately, I took Russian in middle school. Not very much Russian. Just one quarter of seventh grade. So you can imagine it wasn't much of a language education. From that time, I retained the words, "library," "My name is Sarah," and "ice cream."

In my last year of college (the second time), I started a research project on Cakile, a genus of Brassicaceae, on which much of the most research was conducted during the Cold War by scientists in the Soviet Bloc.

A lot of Russian words are actually cognates--words that sound like English words. But they are just in a different alphabet.

So, my memory of the Cyrillic alphabet was put to the test again. I had it printed out and hung on my wall, next to my desk, while I was working on that project.

When I moved to outer East Portland, where lots of signs are in Russian, that knowledge was put to use again. And this is the case every time I visit the Roman Russian Market, perhaps more than ever on this particular trip. Because even less signs were in English than the last time I'd visited.

At first, it was like learning to read for the first time--sounding things out. But by the time we got to the second store, Imperial Euro Market at 110th and Powell, I was starting to pick out words more quickly. When I lived in that neighborhood, the Imperial Euro Market had as its only identifier a sign that said, "русский магазин." This was actually informative, because those are two more words I can read and remember from seventh grade. They sound like, "Roos-key magazine," but actually mean, "Russian store."

Whenever I see the phrase, "русский магазин," I note the location in my memory as a place where I may someday find tkemali plums, as well as my favorite Bulgarian feta, inexpensive cornichons, a variety of ajvar, double-smoked bacon, kasha, and beautiful cookies.

So, my memory of the Cyrillic alphabet is how I was able to find one of the things on my shopping list, паприка, aka paprika. Soon, I was reading the packets of spices, which are apparently all cognates, like a kid opening Christmas presents. "Car-da-MOM! Cardamom!"

I didn't find tkemali, not this time. But according to my receipt, I did pretty well. My receipt from the Roman Russian Market...well, it may as well be in Cyrllic. It reads as follows:
Artek Vafli
kornishony mini
Ajvar Kadushka
Taramosalata 8 oz.

Wow, that was informative!

What is potentially sad is that the last two items made perfect sense to me. Ajvar is a delicious red pepper dip, and taramosalata is my favorite $4 caviar.

There is no grand conclusion to this story. I'm still looking for those stupid tkemali. I'm making a chicken and quince dinner tomorrow, assuming I have the time and energy. I'll probably learn how to say "thank you," and "goodbye" to the clerks at the русский магазин.

Until tomorrow, до свидания!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Through Being Cool

Today's NaBloPoMo prompt is about overcoming fears. I'm not sure if today's topic quite fits, but it's about overcoming something.

When I started going back to school in January, I realized after a couple of weeks that everyone brings their laptops to school now. One of the results of that is that some professors now lecture much more quickly, too quickly to be faithfully transcribed by hand.

So I started bringing my laptop to class, and I upgraded from a purse to my "ladies' briefcase," a huge black purse with a matching laptop sleeve and lots of compartments and sections, ostensibly for files and folders and the like. Really, the compartment dividers weren't strong enough to stay in place, and it just created a huge mess that seemed to at that moment hide the specific items for which I was searching.

Then this happened. Allow me to refresh your memory, in case you do not recall the time I tried to fix a purse with electrical tape.

So then I tried using a different big purse that was open at the top, giving ample room for things to stick out. That was obviously a bad idea, especially for laptop storage, in a place where it rains a lot. I moved on to a larger bag with a zipper, which I found in storage during one of my trips to New Jersey. One of the seams broke from overuse, and I still haven't fixed it. So I switched to another bag found in storage in New Jersey, but the Velcro is shot and it keeps flapping open during my mile-and-a-half walk from work to school.

Plus, I was starting to realize that walking a mile and a half with a heavy shoulderbag is kind of uncomfortable! Yeah, it took me a long time to realize this.

So, after a series of stylish shoulderbags, I gave up. I gave up on style. I am using a backpack.

But, see, not a stylish backpack. Not even a school backpack. It's a hiking backpack. A Camelbak.

It's a great backpack! It's a special women's fit design, with extra straps so that you don't hurt your back carrying extra heavy things! But I'm not going hiking in it. I'm going to work and school.

I gave up and started carrying it not just on school days, but to work every day. Taking mass transit with a lunch bag and textbooks and emergency rainwear, it's just easier.

Then I realized that when I walk to the grocery store or farmers' market, which can be a mile or mile and a half each way, that shoulder bags and reusable grocery bags aren't really ideal, either.

I started carrying that backpack on my normal errand-running walks to Whole Foods or the library.

And then yesterday, the backpack stuffed to the brim, laden with a 5-lb. whole chicken, a metal tea tin, and other heavy items, I realized I was walking stooped forward, heading dangerously close to a right angle.

It was either my back or my status as a cool lady. And I'd already damaged the latter when I started carrying that backpack around town in the first place.

I clipped the extra support straps around my waist.

I wasn't at Stokes State Forest. I wasn't climbing Mount Hood. I was in my neighborhood.

It's over. All over. I have given up on being cool. At least I won't get a bad back.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The quest for tkemali plums

So far, I've discovered that when you Google search sources for mail-order Russian/Georgian/Eastern European groceries, what actually comes up are sources for mail-order brides.

My efforts to find the sour plums, fresh or dried, to make some recipes from Please to the Table, have been fruitless. Literally and figuratively.

Seen while shopping in Portland

Last week, Handsome Man needed to go to Pioneer Place, which, for non-Portlanders, is the name of the mall in downtown Portland. Parking is expensive and stupidly irritating downtown, but there is a MAX stop right at the mall. And we can walk from our home to another MAX stop. It is all in the Free Rail Zone, so the whole trip is free free free. No paying for gas, parking, or the bus.

But HM had never been to Pioneer Place before and had only ridden the MAX once in his life, so he wanted me to go with him. Like a nice girlfriend, I agreed to do this on my day off. (Yes, how magnanimous of me to agree to go to the mall.)

At one point, while he was waiting a long time for something, we agreed to split up. And so, I abandoned HM for H&M. When I first moved to Portland, the closest H&M store was in Seattle. I might have made the three-hour trip up there but for one thing: sales tax. Washington has sales tax. Oregon does not. New Jersey has sales tax, but not on clothing. Thus, I have a somewhat visceral reaction to paying sales tax on clothing.

By the time H&M opened in Portland, it was like the time I gave up chocolate for Lent. I had gone so long without it, that by the time Easter rolled around, I just didn't care about chocolate. And so, I didn't bother going to H&M (especially since I had a phobia of crossing the Willamette) until nearly a year after it opened. When I was visiting New Jersey, I had no reason to go to H&M, so I didn't.

That was how I managed to not step into an H&M for nearly three years.

And when I did last week, my brain nearly short-circuited. I was immediately overwhelmed with feelings of excitement and then euphoria. There were so many pretty things!!!!!

Then I saw this in the retro T-shirt section.

In that moment, I felt old.

And then, when HM was finished with his errand and found me in H&M, I was wandering around, lost, holding the only two items I was considering buying. A berry-colored long-sleeved shirt and a berry-colored tank top, to go with a specific pair of pants and belt and cardigan outfit I have and also just because they are good staples that go with a lot of the other clothing I own. Yup, I hadn't been to H&M for three years and all I could think of to buy were some practical things. I'm getting too old for H&M.

This weekend, I went to DSW with a friend who actually was looking for something. I just had a coupon and thought, "Maybe I'll replace my gray boots that are falling apart, or get another pair of flats."

I own four pairs of the Rocket Dog "Marilyn" flats, plus one pair of the high-heeled style. I know what I like!

From what I could tell, the styles this fall occupy opposite ends of the spectrum, as exhibited in the picture I took of the two pairs of shoes I tried on.

With no in between, it seems women's shoe choices this fall are Blingtacular and Sweaters For Your Feet.

The following is from the nail polish aisle at Fred Meyer, and it speaks for itself.

Friday, November 11, 2011


This is totally one of those, "I'm writing because I said I would when I signed up for NaBloPoMo." My writing time today is going to be taken up by writing a letter to TriMet. I think it's important to criticize even the organizations one usually supports, because it's important to hold them accountable. That's why I wrote a critical letter to OPB in September...but that's a story for another time. What happened with TriMet is also a story for another time. And my readers and Facebook friends may be aware of how, since June, my love for TriMet came into being and has been growing. But my love is not so great as to blind me to its flaws. In short, I witnessed something last night on the MAX that I thought was very unfair. I'm writing a complaint not necessarily to complain about the employee involved in the incident, but to defend the rider who was treated unfairly and accused of having a bad attitude. And then kicked off the train. With his small daughter. After dark. On a cold night. In North Portland. (Which is up-and-coming, but has some sketchy parts.)

I promise that this whole month is not just going to be, "Big-Mouthed Jersey Girl and her Multitudinous Opinions." I'll go back to pictures of food and flowers and cute stories soon enough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I have lot more to say but not a lot of time

I recently read this article in Newsweek and it made me cranky.

I am pretty sure his pieces in Newsweek always irritate me. It's not that I always disagree with him; however, even where I agree in part, I find his presentation to be irritating. I don't have much time to blog today, so I am not getting into it.

Ok, I will a little. The whole metaphor about apps and viruses and rebooting the system was kind of cheesy, in my opinion. It's like that other article in Newsweek by someone else comparing Steve Jobs to Harry Potter. It's a matter of taste, I guess. It's just not to mine.

There are two things that stood out to me when I read the article. One is the way that Ferguson laments the lack of scientific education/knowledge of America's teenagers. In the concluding paragraphs, he decries, "the politically correct pseudosciences and soft subjects that deflect good students away from hard science". His choice of language makes me want to ask, "What the f?" (Or, more appropriately in response to an article titled, "America's 'Oh Sh*t!' Moment," I guess I should ask, "What the f*ck?!?") This isn't the first time I've read this kind of point, however. There are some who practically lament the lack of America's budding young scientists. This is the first time, I think, I've read such language condemning the "soft subjects," and I'm a little surprised. Really, Mr. Ferguson? Are English majors ruining America? And if that's not what you're saying, what are you saying?

I would just like to say as someone who values science, who has been described in the past as a "scientist," but also as someone with degrees and knowledge in the "soft subjects," that I think this is a bunch of crap. (Note: I am writing pre-coffee and pre-7 am.) Why do people think our students need more science, or I guess what I am asking, more accurately, is why do people place such a high value on "hard" science not coupled with "soft subjects." This was a subject--the assumed dichotomy between the two--that was near and dear to my heart as a college student working toward two degrees, a B.A. and a B.S. I didn't expect, at the time, this argument would have any serious ramifications, nothing beyond me feeling, at times, like an oddball among my peers in one program or the other. To keep this already lengthy post from dragging on and on, I would just like to say that I think the non-scientific arts, or the softer sciences, have plenty of value. In fact, I would say that one set of subjects informs the other. Learning how to read and write, for example, is learning how to think, how to uncover facts, how to build and argument, and eventually, how to approach and solve difficult problems. The work I do every day, in any type of job I've had, has been informed by the time I spent deciphering things like Victorian novels. The skills I acquired analyzing George Eliot do translate, I argue, into skills that could be used to do something like ameliorate climate change or save a rare species from extinction. I have found, in my working, post-college life, that the more I read and write, the better I think.

I'd also argue that too much evidence on "hard" subjects, shifting the balance, is bad news! It could overemphasize certain types of thinking and skills over the other. Moreover, I'm concerned that there's a correlation between "hard" science and truth. Even though scientists should know that our data does not reflect "truth," but rather a piece of truth, and that science is something that has to be interpreted just like an abstruse Victorian novel, there are constantly assertions in the media, often by non-scientists but sometimes by scientists, that something is hard, factual, definite, truth. Maybe this is a big leap in logic, but I worry that overemphasizing science education might lead to inflexible understanding and interpretations of facts.

I've gone on a little longer than intended, and I still need to eat breakfast! I would just like to touch on the other concern I had, reading Mr. Ferguson's article. Of America's "killer apps" that he listed, I think he left out the most important: FREEDOM!

I'm being silly. But I'm not totally kidding. Perhaps I was just pumped full of propaganda in elementary and high school, but I was taught that one reason the Industrial Revolution was more successful in America than in England was because of America's culture of equality. And considering the crap that came out of 19th century America that passed for equality, that's really saying something. Arguably, we do not have freedom and equality even now. But we're working on it. (The things I linked to were just the first examples that came to mind. I mean, what also came out of the nineteenth century was this beautiful amendment.)

All I will say is this. I read, sometimes in the same magazines, articles about China's prosperity and articles about China's human rights abuses. (For example.) But they are never in the same article. They are never in the same discussion. Why? What impact will one have on the other? Will the public, in a growing economy, finally demand some basic civil liberties along with their cars, flat-screen TVs, and air conditioners? What role do civil rights have in economy?

No, I'm really asking. Because, like I tell my classmates, I'm just a plant geek. This is somewhat new to me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Prompt of the Day

When was the first time that you realized that your home was not like other people’s homes?

For this, I have two stories. I am not sure if either was the first time I realized that my home was not like other homes; if not, they were at least reminders.

The first was when I was in first or second grade. Our teacher assigned the class as homework to come back the next day with a list of our family's official House Rules. I was a bit perplexed, because I didn't know of any official rules in my house. We all just did what we were supposed to, for the most part. We didn't have a list posted on the refrigerator (which is what I imagined most houses with House Rules had.) So I went home and asked my parents. Specifically, I asked my father. It is worth noting, however, that my mother concurred with his response.

The next day, I went to school with a list of the house rules. It was perhaps the first time I ever got in trouble for not doing my homework, but I became so upset that my teacher soon realized that this tearful overachiever child wasn't lying. Can you blame her? This was the list I brought into school.

1. No watching bowling on TV.
2. No watching baseball on TV.
3. No country music.

- - -

The next occasion occurred sometime when I was in high school. My friend CC had come over one weekend morning. The two of us had some kind of plans, probably picking a random country road and driving around taking pictures, and then stopping at a small-town cafe to eat lunch and take some portraits of us eating in our fabulous[ly weird] outfits, talking about Art and Life and such all the way.

But before that, we lingered in my parents' kitchen, probably grabbing a snack or drinking tea, talking to my mom. My father was upstairs in their bedroom, which was a loft type thing. The house is small, with one main floor, a basement, and the loft bedroom. It is possible to be heard at all points in the house, if you yell. And that is what my mom did.


He responded, "ARE YOU CRAZY!?" He added, calmly, "We don't have any limeade!"

It was not, I must point out, this incident that made me realize my home was not like other homes. I thought the incident was fairly normal. It was CC's response. For he told that story to much of our acquaintance, in days and years to come, and he still tells that story, to this day, to new people that we meet, to the people to whom he introduces me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tuesday thought

I think someone should propose legislation that defines and asserts the personhood of grown women. Or just women in general.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Monday thoughts

The passion with which I dislike Daylight Savings Time is equal to the passion with which I defend and love the Oxford Comma.

It is still dark when I wake up in the morning. At least the heat was on. (I think someone changed the settings last week so that it would come on later, around the time I am leaving for work as opposed to when I am getting up for work. I haven't been able to figure out how to fix it, mostly because I'm always in a hurry, but if it stays an hour behind, that's fine with me.

It was very light when I left for work, and it wasn't as cold when I waited for the bus. This made me more disoriented than happy.

Because it will just go back to being dark when I leave for work in the morning.

And it will be dark when I get home from work. I do not work late.

On the bright side, I found out today that some construction will be completed in March that will enable me to take the MAX and the streetcar to work. If this is all in the Free Rail Zone, then I won't have to pay to take mass transit to work. Which means mass transit will be cheaper than driving. Yay!!!!!!

There was something else, but I forgot. I'm tired. It is a tired hour-off post-crazy-weekend house-is-messy no-food-for-the-week-got-made kind of Monday.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Weekend of Not According to Plan

Walking to dinner, I realized I had not posted yet today! I feel the need to note that the timing on my blog sometimes is set to Eastern time, and sometimes makes it look like I posted a day late when I did not!!!!!

So anyway, here's a quick post before Blogger says I posted on Monday and not Sunday.

The weekend did not go according to plan. At. All. I figured I would get some errands done, relax, get some housework done, and do most, if not all, of my reading for Thursday night's class.

The errands I had planned were not so ambitious that they should have detracted from my ability to do housework and homework and relax.

And there was even talk of going to Hood River with Handsome Man, which would have been a day trip, and STILL having enough time for all of these things I had planned. And relaxing.

Ha ha HA.

On Friday, Handsome Man and I went out to dinner for his birthday. More on that later. I had planned that, when we got home, I would get some stock fixin's in the crock pot for the soup I planned to make for dinner on Saturday night. But we got home late and I was too tired, so that didn't happen.

I arose on Saturday bright and early! I got up and industriously made tea and ate a breakfast muffin. And then...I don't know what happened. Suddenly it was two hours later. I was still in pajamas with messy hair. Nothing was in the crock pot. No laundry was sorted, let alone started. No textbooks were read.

A little later than planned, I was off to the farmers' market! Fortunately, this was late enough that it had stopped raining and my friend and I were able to walk there. We walked a mile and a half to the farmers' market. Then we walked to Trader Joe's. Then we walked to a bakery where we ate delicious buttery sugary pastries, because we had earned them! Then we walked another mile and a half home.

It was just after 12:30, so I threw my bags of food on the kitchen floor, thinking it was cold enough in the house and I wouldn't be gone that long because the credit union closes at 1 anyway, and I grabbed my purse making sure I had two forms of ID and my keys and my phone, and I ran to the credit union to open an account.

I did not know it was Move Your Money Day.

I was at the credit union for over an hour. With no knitting, no book, no homework, nothing to write on, and a not-so-smart phone that was out of battery.

I spent a really long time carefully reading the credit card application. And, because I was growing hungry and sort of low on blood sugar, I spent much longer than someone with two and a quarter degrees ought to, miscalculating my monthly income.

An hour and change later, I was walking home, not quite crashing from low blood sugar, my spirits and sanity buoyed by the joy of joining the credit union. There were people complaining about their stupid big banks and people wearing signs that said, "99." I was not wearing a sign like that.

Then some drama happened that I shouldn't talk about for awhile, but I promise to tell you someday.

So then I was MAD. and CRANKY. And TIRED. AND HUNGRY. The problem with low blood sugar is that you become too tired and cranky and disoriented to effectively complete simple tasks like reheating soup. (Note: I do not have a microwave.) So after an hour or so (I may have had the pan on the wrong burner for 45 minutes while I typed crankily vague things on Facebook), I ate soup and tried to get things done!

But I had the beginnings of a bad cold! (Yeah, I know...first the flu, now a cold. Well, it's November.)

Today was similar. Long story short, we did not make it to Hood River. We did make it to the mall, however. We rode the MAX, which has not yet lost its novelty for me. Being crowded into a car with booze-smelling people and smokey-smelling people ranting loudly into phone (or worse, into thin air) has not yet made me lose my delight at living in a place where I can take mass transit downtown...for FREE.

(Non-Oregonians, the MAX is not always free. There is just this part of town where it is free. Sometimes, I walk very far (IN BROAD DAYLIGHT NOT AFTER DARK OR THROUGH BAD NEIGHBORHOODS, FAMILY MEMBERS WHO WORRY) to be able to take the MAX for free, instead of riding the bus.

Giving up on productivity, we did not make dinner at home. We ate a snack, and then split some happy hour stuff. Then we went to the BEST ICE CREAM PLACE IN OREGON if not THE WORLD, which I will also tell you about later.

I'm hoping to get my weekend chores done after work tomorrow. If not, well, at least there was ice cream.

The walls of the bathroom at the ice cream place were decorated with reproductions of postcard correspondence from about a hundred years ago. My favorite is the one with the cat and dog, that says something like, "Oh dear, I do wish he would go home."

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Possible stories to share

Now I present you with a completely unrelated picture of challah bread that I made a month or so ago. That black part in the corner isn't burned bread, it's where I got overzealous with poppy seeds.

Friday, November 04, 2011

It's official!

I signed up for NaBloPoMo!

That is not all I plan to say today. I just wanted to make this brief announcement!

NaBloPoMo 2011

I am trying to test this badge -it's not showing up in the sidebar for some reason!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Another sunny fall day

I prepared for rain today, but it's been mostly cloudy, at most. I had a story to write, but today I don't have time, so here are some pictures. Unfortunately, these have been the kind of hazy partly (or mostly) cloudy days that don't appear faithfully in pictures. A stunning sunset, sadly, looks like this:

Even when it's not cloudy, the haze can seriously impede the imposing nature of Mount Hood, which seemed to take up at least 75% of the sky in real life:

The following was bright and colorful in real life. Just trust me.

That is one of the views from The Grotto in NE Portland, a place worth visiting! It took me two years to get there, I'm happy I did, and I hope to go back.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Later fall mornings

Yesterday's pictures were not actually FROM November 1. They were from last week, one of the few days I went anywhere (since most of the week I was home with the flu.) On November 1, when I went to the bus stop, it was actually dark. Not quite pitch black, but dark blue with a misty fog that hung from the sky to the earth. In the time I have not been writing much here, I have come to really enjoy the view of the city, which now feels like my city, that I have during my morning commute. Even if sunrise was long past, there might still be pink and orange clouds to admire twice - in the sky and in the Willamette, as reflections, over which the many bridges stretch with winking, twinkling lights of their own amidst the steadier lights of cars crossing. More recently, it has been sunrise, or perhaps just before, when I get to witness this, and it is really, really beautiful, from the bus or from a car. When I drive to work, I get to see a slightly different view. I stand on my toes and look over the heads of strangers on the bus to see out the window, like a tourist.

I was almost disappointed on dark November 1st to see that I was going to miss the sunrise over the Willamette. Maybe it was just the fog's fault. In the dark, misty blue, all I could see were lights and faint outlines of bridges and buildings. No pink or orange clouds.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! In honor of this day, I present you and my readers with a bouquet of flowers!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall mornings

It's getting darker and darker when I wait for my bus in the mornings.

I saw this for the first time right after an e-mail exchange with a friend about the Oxford Comma. (I am pro, if you must know. Kind of rabidly pro, so more like PRO!) (My friend is, too. Though perhaps not as emphatically.) I took this picture mostly for her.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's been awhile!

I started a post last week, about how it's been sunny, and that doesn't happen very often here, so I've been busy enjoying the sun and not inside on the computer writing. I was going to include lots of pictures of ways I've been enjoying the sun. But the pictures weren't on my computer, and then I was very suddenly struck with the flu and did not have the energy to find and upload and organize the pictures.

I hadn't had the flu in years. Or maybe I have, but only for a day or so, and I've just mistaken a 24-hour bug for a really bad cold. I've had lots of bad colds. But it's been so long since I've had the flu - probably since high school - that I did not know what to expect. For example, I thought I could just stay home from work one day and then be rested and ready to go back into my routine a day later. HA HA HA. It is Day 6, and I'm still not well enough to do very much. I feel okay, as long as I'm just lounging around on the couch. It's driving me a little crazy, not being able to move around and be productive.

I'm debating signing up for NaBloPoMo in a couple of days, since this is the official blog-posting month, but that might be crazy, with a trip planned and some academic deadlines coming up. We'll see. But I will be writing more, about some of my adventures of the summer and whatever comes up this fall.

More later!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A few happy things

I came home from work today with dinner ready. My Handsome Roommate made these delicious rice paper rolls. They were delicious, filling, and I bet they were pretty healthy.

I went on a walk on my lunch break today. I haven't gone on a walk from work well, ever. I've only walked to PSU after work, but I've never walked around the neighborhood. It was like discovering a new world. I had never gone farther, in one direction, than the end of our block, so I imagined just a black hole after that block, or maybe the edge of the world where, if you kept going, you'd fall off and hopefully land on the back of a giant turtle. When my co-workers talked about a great coffeeshop, better than the one next door, just a few blocks down in that direction, I would just blink uncomprehendingly at them. So then my image switched from a black hole of nothingness to a black hole with a magical coffeeshop in the midst of it. Like there was nothingness, and suspended in mid-nothingness-air was a tiny sliver of sidewalk upon which was perched a coffeeshop with beams of rainbow light radiating all around it.

I found the magical coffeeshop, although I didn't go in this time (too hot), and also LOTS AND LOTS OF HILLS.

This is exciting because I have upped my goal of a 1/2 hour+ walk each day to a 1/2 hour+ walk each day that includes at least one hill. When I'm pressed for time, which has been the norm lately, I just go straight up one street by my house to the top of a hill and turn around and go home. No time for sightseeing. Now, it's getting dark so much earlier that it's hard for me to even fit in my quick hill walk.

And now I have my new work lunch break hill walk. With many, many hills for me to explore, instead of just one. I am so excited.

And finally, I walked to Safeway to get some bus tickets. All summer, I'd been able to use a student bus pass, but it expired on the 31st and the new one won't be available until the 12th. (Dumb.) I've been either scraping together change, because TriMet only accepts exact change, or driving to work when I want an extra twenty minutes in bed and/or can't find any change. (I actually hoarded change when I lived in my other apartment, sorted it by type into empty film canisters, and even divided up a few film canisters' worth of bus fare, all ready to go.) Traffic has been stupid. And hot. I don't want to sit in Friday rush hour tomorrow. Rush hour today was so hot and stupid that I finally got up the ambition to walk to Safeway and buy bus passes.

There was no one at customer service for a good ten minutes, and a bum cut in front of me on line, and a guy was rude to me because it apparently was taking me too long to buy my tickets, but other than that, it was a successful trip because I got a book of ten. (More than I need, but they don't expire.)

The Safeway only had one-zone tickets. I thought, "Well, actually, I do live in Zone One, don't I, because the bus driver never makes any announcement about changing zones, and I have been riding the bus for months now without hearing it."

The Safeway employees insisted I needed two-zone tickets. They were sure I was traveling in two zones. I said, "Aren't we in Zone 1 right now?" "I don't know, I drive now!" said one. Another said, "Yeah, Zone 2 doesn't start for (another twenty or thirty blocks in the direction opposite of that which I travel to work.)

Still, two of the three insisted I needed a two-zone ticket. What should have tipped me off is that when I said I got on the bus at a specific numbered avenue and Broadway, the street that Safeway is on, they looked at me like I had ten heads. As they were repeating to me slowly yet kindly, as though I were a likeable imbecile, the impatient man behind me called out, "Well, I'd like a book of 10 one-zone tickets!"

I didn't realize he was actually cutting in front of me until he reached around me to swipe his card through the credit card machine.

One of the kind Safeway ladies said, "You know what you can do, you can buy these tickets and then just add a nickel when you get on the bus for a two-zone ticket. They'll let you do that!" She beamed at me, and so did her co-worker.

"Okay," I said slowly, tiredly. I was confused because I was pretty darn sure I live and work in Zone 1. Also, it was hot. Also, if I really needed to add a nickel, then I was in trouble because the whole reason I was buying tickets at Safeway in the first place was because I had been failing to locate any nickels each morning.

"Okay? So you just add a nickel when you get on the bus," one of the ladies repeated.

"Yeah! What a brilliant concept!" said the impatient man snarkily, as he grabbed his tickets and dashed out of the store.

The heat had made me so tired, it was not until a few minutes later that I slowly formed the thought, "Was that man being rude?"

I should have known. It's Thursday. I have not finished telling you why yet, but a month ago I discovered that I need to stop running errands on Thursdays.

Anyway, long story short--or at least, less long--on my way home I decided to walk past my bus stop and look at the signs posted.

It is in Zone 1.

I went home and decided to check, just to be sure, that the stop by my office is also in Zone 1.

It is in Zone 1!

So, I don't know what the Safeway ladies were talking about, and I could be disappointed that I have been overpaying by a whole nickel every time I've taken the bus all of the times I didn't have a bus pass, but instead I am thrilled that not only will my book of tickets work, but I also get to save a nickel now every time I take the bus! Hooray!