Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Multi-tasking

On Monday night, I painted my nails for the first time in at least two years. I decided last week that I really wanted to paint my nails and I was hoping to paint them gray. I searched all over Portland (well, Fred Meyer) before finding at WinCo some "dries in a New York minute" cheapy stuff in the color I wanted. It's called sidewalk or pavement or something. It is sidewalk-colored and I love it.

It really does dry fast. But in case you don't have that New York minute stuff, or if a New York minute isn't fast enough, there's a kitchen appliance that may come to your aid.

From Miscellaneous

If you were ever on the fence about getting a food dehydrator, or if you'd like to be able to dry tomatoes and blueberries and strawberries and cherries (and make your own jerky! which I'm kind of afraid to do!), I'd like to tell you about another use for this wonderful appliance. While it's drying whatever you've placed inside its flying-saucer-like interior, its low-heat dry air radiates and if you're not careful, will heat up or dry out anything within a few-inches radius.

So, I have some great news. The food dehydrator is also an excellent nail dryer!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Response to comments (on flares, getting old, and getting flares at Old Navy)

First of all, in case someone doing environmental scanning for Old Navy stumbles across yesterday's post and is annoyed at my use of their image, I would like to note that I am thrilled that Old Navy is selling flares and that they were on sale up to and including this weekend, so that the jeans that were marked $36.94 were actually $19.50 and because I had a $10 coupon, I got them for $9.50.

Because today Portland is behaving like it's not really August--the high is 68 today, and I have seen it warmer here in February--I wore my Hi-Rise Retro Flares to work today. I had an urge to pair it with a scarf wrapped around my hair, like Rhoda Morgenstern, but I resisted. These jeans are so comfortable. I have worn them for at least part of every day since I purchased them. I bought them on Saturday and wore them to opening night of the 15th Ave Hop House. Then I wore them on Sunday's shopping excursion. Then I wore them after work yesterday to go for my evening walk. Today, they make their first appearance in the office, along with my new flats and new gray nail polish. This is the first time I have worn nail polish in at least two years. More on that topic later.

I have always loved flares, and I hope they are here to stay. Boot cut just wasn't ever enough for me. And skinny jeans, too! I love them worn under boots!

Ellen wrote: Now I'm trying to imagine skinny jeans going out, coming back...it's too weird.

I'm sure that will happen someday, but I wish it would not. I for one am thrilled to be living in a world where flares and skinny jeans coexist. Where stonewashed denim is acceptable and so are jeans that might actually be bell bottoms. Where bright colors are okay, too! Happy happy happy!

Elena wrote (and yes, it is not lost on me that my two commenters have similar names.): Flares always annoyed me because they suck for things like hiking where the bottoms of the jeans can be in mud or water.

Elena, you are right. On that note, I would like to point out that flare jeans, as I learned the hard way on Sunday's shopping excursion, are not the appropriate jeans to wear to the bottle return at WinCo. There are some things worse than mud or water into which the bottoms of your flare jeans can drag.

Monday, August 29, 2011

On aging

A few weeks ago, Old Navy sent me an e-mail advertising their upcoming denim sale. What caught my attention was the wording on the following graphic:
You might have to click for that to be legible, but what it says is, "Featuring The New Flares"!!!!!!!!
Does anyone else born in the early-to-mid-80's understand why this was surprising to me? Because since when are flares new!?
Flares were popular for most of my fashion-conscious years. I believe I was in sixth grade when they were first considered in style. This was the same year that "the Rachel" hairstyle was cool. Well, flared jeans outlived the Rachel and claw/butterfly hairclips that were so fashionable in 1996, and their heyday continued through my middle school years, into and to the end of my high school years, and even well into my college years--both times I went to college. It was not until I was near the completion of my second degree that flares gave way to skinny jeans.
Flares had gone beyond being merely "in." They had become the norm. They were as jeans themselves--always cool and simply basic.
I believe there was a time when flares coexisted with skinny jeans, or this may have been after they had shrunken down to "boot cut"'s.
Well, now they're back. Apparently.
I can't say I'm disappointed. They are comfortable and, on hourglass or other wide-hipped figures, flattering.
I took advantage of that denim sale and a $10 coupon and I bought a pair of "new" flares this weekend. These were new-old flares. Old Navy calls them, "Hi-Rise Retro Flare Jeans." They are probably not far from bell bottoms.
But I have to note that I have now lived to see something come into style, be REALLY REALLY in style, go out, and come back again. I think this is a sign of getting old. Moreso than learning to drive a car, or renting one's first apartment, or even working at one's first full-time job or graduating with an advanced degree or marriage or kids or owning a home, it is when you have lived to see (and wear) a type of clothing come into, go out of, and come back into style, that you are truly an adult.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The end of summer?

After all that complaining about the heat, it seems that tomorrow the weather will return to Portland summer cool temperatures. The high for Wednesday is only 68, and it will be under 80 most of the week. I am not complaining! Especially as long as it stays sunny.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A happy summer

Despite all of the "opinions" I have been writing lately, it has been a happy summer break. I would like to note that my summer vacation only started about a week and a half ago, so that's what I am talking about.

Since turning in my last assignment, I have been able to spend time on the things I like. I have been able to at least partially organize my office - you can now move around in it, and if you can't find something, there are rationally-thrown-together piles in which you can look. (A pile of clothing, a pile of things to sew, a pile of papers, a few boxes of stuff that are organized (such as box of wires), and a few boxes of "unsorted stuff that isn't papers or clothing or office supplies or belongs in the kitchen or bathroom."

I have had time to read on the bus, even though some days my brain is so tired that all I can comprehend are cookbooks and my free magazines from Oregon's tourism board (or whatever they call it.)

Since summer classes ended, I have been working five days a week and starting earlier, which means I am on a different bus route. My morning bus driver is so friendly, I wrote a note to TriMet to tell them about it. It's not just that it's nice to have someone say, "Good morning" to you, it's that it's nice to hear that person be sincerely friendly to other people. I think it puts most of the passengers in a good mood, which makes the ride more enjoyable for all of us.

Going to work an hour earlier wouldn't usually make me tired, if I hadn't been working on projects so much when I got home. Sometimes, my new roommate and I undertake organization or cleaning projects, assembling things from IKEA and then filling them with the contents of our box city. Other times, I or we are spending a lot of time cooking, but then we have leftovers later in the week. Other other times, we are canning and preserving. We have canned marionberry salsa, marionberry chipotle sauce, sour cherry pickles, and tomato salsa.

I keep walking away from the computer in the middle of typing this. Since I started writing, I have taken a shower, eaten breakfast, gone to the farmers market, made several phone calls to New Jersey checking on the status of Hurricane Irene, picked most of the tomatoes off of the dehydrator trays, and eaten lunch. So I am going to wrap this up.

The tomatoes can be a good thing to talk about, briefly, as a small sample of my (potentially our) happiness. We have made so many good salads. We have dehydrated all that our dehydrator could hold. (We have not canned any whole or frozen any, not yet. We need another box.) The best two salads have been a vegan version of my grandmere's tomato and egg salad (subbing avocado for some of the egg and soft tofu lightly sauteed in canola oil with asafoetida and mustard seed for the rest of the egg - some people thought it WAS hardboiled egg whites) and #15 of Mark Bittman's summer salads from two years ago. Cut cherry or grape tomatoes in half; toss with soy sauce, a bit of dark sesame oil and basil or cilantro. I love this — the tomato juice-soy thing is incredible. I have been on a toasted sesame oil kick this summer, and I ran out. So I toasted some sesame seeds and mixed them with cheap-o Hy-Top brand canola oil. Guess what? It worked! We had cilantro from WinCo (not only is it $0.38, but it lasts forever. Why is this? Is WinCo cilantro radioactive or something?) and Thai basil in the roof garden.

Another small thing that represents all of my big happiness is that Thai basil. This is the first summer that I have managed to plant Thai basil and actually get it to grow. I have a large plant. And now that I have so much of it, I am overwhelmed. I am at a loss for what to do with it. Aside from making a big Thai feast, or tossing it into small salads, I don't know what to do with it besides admire its purple and green beauty.

I am reading good books, but more on that later.

Friday, August 26, 2011

HOT

is what Portland is right now. HOT. And for Portland, that is not a common state.

What's more uncommon, and what's made the heat somewhat unpleasant, is that it's muggy.

I thought I was losing my mind. Or that perhaps so many summer weeks below 80 degrees had turned me into a baby, had made me lose my East Coast tolerance for heat. You see, typically Portland summers are a pleasant 75-83 with occasional 90's and a very brief spell in the 100's, but typically Portland summers are also our dry season, without humidity and therefore such high temperatures are tolerable.

The one note I will make, however, is that the sun is very intense in a dry climate. I don't know what it is, but in very sunny places on summer days, even when it is not quite 80 degrees, I feel like I am baking, like the sun is chasing me, and because I am not used to dry heat, I get very dehydrated.

The past few days, it has been in the upper 80's, which would be miserable in humid New Jersey, where I've always felt that once you hit a certain threshold temperature, like 86, it was all the same. 86, 96, and 106 in New Jersey are just hot, sticky, and uncomfortable. Typically, I wouldn't even think that the upper 80's were hot in Portland, not unless I was in a car oven or in a place with a lot of hot, black pavement and not a lot of trees.

I could not figure out why I have been so hot. I thought perhaps our apartment just has that oven effect like a car would have. Or that maybe it's because I wait for my bus in the afternoons on a bench in the middle of some highway interchanges, so there is a lot of blacktop and not a lot of shade.

I drink water constantly, but every day headaches have plagued me and I am starting to think it is from dehydration.

A friend inquired yesterday, was it just her? had she become intolerant to the heat? and my boyfriend responded, "It's been muggy, too."

Muggy! The quality that makes upper 80's heat unpleasant or even unbearable. Of course!

The three of us all said YEAH! IT HAS BEEN MUGGY. It was as though I had been refusing to acknowledge this because my little brain couldn't fathom that summer in Portland could be hot AND humid. My brain had previously been limited to the belief that in Portland, humidity only comes with the rain or with the morning marine clouds and can not coexist with the sun.

It has been the kind of hot in which no deodorant, no end of reapplications thereof, is at all effective. It is a great equalizer; we all stink. Rich, poor, homeless, jobless, well-dressed commuter whose ID tag, hanging from the same lanyard as their transit pass, reads, "Head of _______ Department." The city buses are traveling bins of B.O. rolling through the streets of Portland. It's okay, though, because everyone's noses have adapted. The extremely smelly people now blend into the wave of sweat stench hanging in the air above the city sidewalks and are for once indistinct from the crowd.

It is so hot that when I come home to find the air conditioner left on when my boyfriend went to work, I do not say, "Why does Handsome Man hate the Earth?" but instead, "That wonderful Handsome Man wanted me to come home to a cool bedroom."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Long tired day

I feel like its biggest accomplishment was the purchase of a muffin tin for $1.99 at Goodwill.

Still responding to comments

Last week, Ellen commented on my post about cooking Rocky Mountain yak oysters. She wrote, "As always I love your cooking posts the best." Ellen has expressed such sentiments before, but I always forget. My posts about cooking, especially when they don't include a silly mishap, are usually my filler posts. When I have nothing else to write about, or only things to write about that will take more time than I have, the one creative outlet to which I consistently have access, is cooking, and so I default to writing about that. It is nice to know that readers like those at all, especially "the best"! Also, Ellen, I enjoy all of your posts, and it makes me happy, when I look at my blog statistics, and I see that one reader from Macedonia and I know who exactly who it is.

Between the Facebook comments, blog comments, and e-mails, you have all convinced me that while the skins of tomatoes will not poison anyone, it's better not to include them in my canning, and it's not even a big deal to remove them (as my handsome roommate had me believe.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Canning tomatoes: Do I really have to peel them!?

That's all I have to say for today. I pose this question to the blogging world. I got a great deal on a big box of tomatoes at the market on Saturday, and I want to preserve some of them before their delicious peak-ripeness caves to rot and mold. I would love to can them as plain old summer tomatoes, not mask their delicious flavor with spices to turn them into salsa or something like that. But all of the recipes, and people we know, say that one must must MUST peel the tomatoes to can them.

Why?

All I can find is that is has something to do with texture. I never peel or seed tomatoes when I am told to do so. I don't see the point. I like them.

But before we go messing with this, I wanted to make sure that canned tomato skins don't do something horrible like grow a hateful soul and taint the cans with the taste of rotten eggs, or give everyone Zombie Botulism.

What do you think, bloggers and canners?

What character would you want to have over for dinner and what would you cook?

The title is today's prompt from NaBloPoMo. My answer is Anne Shirley and an Indian curry (mild, with hot sauce on the side, for the late nineteenth century palate) with all the appropriate first courses and sides. Because it would blow her mind, and then she'd have a really great way of describing it. I'd love to hear her "poetical" description of dal.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A correction!

So, it turns out that Trader Joe's refused to sign the agreement, but that doesn't mean it's supporting unethical tomato growers. They released a statement which seems perfectly reasonable to me, explaining what they actually do in terms of tomato purchases, and why they will not sign an agreement that they describe as, "overreaching, ambiguous and improper." Thank you for your transparency, Trader Joe's!

(I think I might change my "rant" label to just "opinion.")

Continuation of yesterday's comments

I was originally planning to continue to write about how there is no cruelty-free diet, because even in the production of plant-based foods, animals die. We can only do our best. We can't be perfect.

More importantly and more immediately, there's cruelty in our diets from the vegetables we eat that I find difficult to ignore, and that's cruelty to humans. I have a vague anxiety whenever I consider buying conventional tomatoes from Mexico in the wintertime, ever since I read The Death of Ramon Gonzalez by Angus Wright for an ecology class in college. I recall either from the book or from the class discussions that followed, hearing that the tomato fields of California aren't that much better. Laws exist in the United States, but they are broken and not enforced. I hadn't thought much about Florida.

I listen to The Splendid Table when I clean or cook, when I want background noise that is calm and pleasant and not going to cause me anxiety like the news might. However, I had to stop listening in the middle of this week's podcast because of the first topic--winter tomatoes from Florida. At first, I was cleaning, thinking, "Yeah, I know, cardboard, blah blah blah." Then came the discussion of pesticides. Not exactly pleasant or calming, but I thought I knew what I was going to hear. And then I heard the account of three pregnant women who were forced to work in the fields, where laws regarding pesticides and human workers are consistently broken, or they would lose their homes. All three women gave birth to children with awful birth defects; one died.

That's the real cost of winter tomatoes. While the cost of organic vegetables seems outrageous, I think that human cost is what's really outrageous.

But let's be realistic. Most people can not pay that former outrageous price. They are stuck with the latter. And this doesn't just come up with respect to cardboard-tasting fresh tomatoes in winter, something we can arguably live without. The circumstances are not always identical, but choices between cash costs and ethical costs arise with food besides animals and tomatoes, perhaps all of our food. To choose not to support such practices costs more money than a lot of Americans can afford to spend on food. That's a battle that's worth fighting--making a less cruel diet accessible to people who want to make that choice, regardless of income.

"Grow your own and then can it" is not the answer. For many people, that's not a viable choice, either. I'm tired of hearing that argument.

So, back to The Splendid Table. After the report of pesticides and the three pregnant women, I got to the part about slavery. That's when I had to hit pause, because this podcast was neither calming nor pleasant! I definitely didn't know about modern day slavery, in America, as a widespread factor in the production of winter tomatoes. Tomatoes definitely aren't worth that!

Before I wrote about it, I decided to do a little research so I could provide you with some text. Here's something brief from NPR. What I learned from that link is that McDonald's and Burger King have signed an agreement not to work with "growers that support serious worker abuses" and even better, to pay an amount of money for their tomatoes that will enable growers to pay the workers a living wage. I think that is great!

But Trader Joe's won't sign that agreement.

Trader Joe's, I am very disappointed in you. I feel let down. I've always admired you for making ethical food choices available to people who aren't wealthy (or in their twenties with low expenses and/or parental subsidies.) You were my favorite grocery store. I don't care if Whole Foods charges more for the same exact tempeh that you sell, Trader Joe's. I'm going to think twice about buying your tempeh if you continue to support slavery. Whole Foods signed that agreement! Please prove me wrong, and go back to being my favorite store, and sign that agreement! Those tomatoes taste like cardboard, anyway!

Instead of boycotting Trader Joe's, maybe I'll bring them one of the letters you can print out from this website. Maybe I'll bring one to Fred Meyer, too, to get the message to Kroger (who has not refused to sign the agreement, by the way. They just haven't yet.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Comments on Y is for/nose-to-tail and the book I finished yesterday

I intend to write a short post today. I'm writing now, before I start my weekend chores, because if I wait too long I might forget and ruin the whole NaBloPoMo thing, and because I've noticed from monitoring my pageviews that no one really reads blogs that much on the weekend. Even though that's when I have the most time to write something lengthy (and that tends to be when I catch up on blogs), it's when people have better things to do. In fact, so do I. Now that school is really over for the summer (coinciding with back-to-school sales and everyone everywhere except Portland writing about how "summer is over") I have hikes to take and bread to bake and piles of junk to unmake. (Those first two rhymes were unintentional, but then when I noticed they rhymed, I thought, "instead of 'crap to unpack,' why not keep the whimsy going?"

I intended to just tell you, sticking with the fiction theme of NaBloPoMo for this month, about the book I finished reading on the bus yesterday. But I got some comments on yesterday's post, and I want to address those, too. And talk more about the last book I read. (Which was actually nonfiction.)

One friend commented that she is eating more vegetarian lately, which I did not know. She wrote, "I think I worry most about my meal living a miserable life; I'd almost be happier eating an animal that enjoyed its life!" The "almost" is what got me thinking. Most people don't say that; most people just preach about the wonders of eating happy animals. Which brings up question that not many people ask. Except maybe my mother, who won't buy meat at the farmers' market because they always include photographs of the happy little cute piglets and how can you buy bacon when you are looking that cute little piglet in the face!? Pine Mountain Ranch does not do any such thing. It's just coolers and text. GOOD.

That question is, "If the animal is so happy, why is it humane to slaughter and eat it?" Why not just leave it alone?

It's worth interjecting right here that there is no cruelty-free way to eat and therefore, live. Even if you are vegan. Lots of living things die in the production of your plant-based diet; even organic isn't pesticide/killing free. (Which is why I think the no honey rule of being vegan is kind of BS. JUST THE HONEY PART. Not all vegan things.)

Oops. It's time for me to clean the kitchen now. I guess I'll finish this thought tomorrow. Now I know what I'm going to write about tomorrow! So I'll end on that contentious note in which I might piss off the vegans who probably aren't reading my blog on a Saturday anyway, and tomorrow I'll pick up on the cruelty-free eating/meat topic and also respond to another comment. And also tell you about the latest book I read, In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan, which I finished on the TriMet bus yesterday.

I also want to tell you that I had a bad dream last night that instead of merely writing about my experience cooking yak testicles, I also wrote a lot about human testicles, including lots of over-the-top crude humor and maybe some personal details, and it was only after some family members read it that I realized my horrible mistake. I woke up with a slight feeling of dread, and when I read your comments, Meg and Ellen, and realized I'd only written about yaks, I was quite relieved.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Y is for...

Today's NaBloPoMo prompt is, "Do you like paper books or e-readers?" My answer is, "Yes!"

It was the answer to yesterday's prompt that led to the incident about which I am going to write today. Yesterday's prompt was, "What was the last book you read?" and my answer was The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. As I mentioned yesterday, Kimball's writings on fresh, local food, and the at times joyous preparation of it, had me dreamily picking up bundles and bags of all kinds of unplanned things at three farmers' markets last weekend. I erroneously wrote yesterday that we'd made a stir fry with yam leaves. I did buy yam leaves, but I completely forgot to use them in the stir fry. What we actually stir-fried the other night was half a bunch of lamb's quarters that I'd forgotten I'd bought. When I was searching for greens to complement the purslane in the fattoush I was making last night, I thought, "It's weird that these yam leaves have flower buds on them that kind of look more like amaranth flowers than anything else." And then I realized there was another, larger bundle of greens at the bottom of the crisper drawer, hiding under the celery. Oops.

I told you that I'd purchased two three letter words that begin with "y-a" at the farmers' market that weekend. Yam leaves (which we still haven't eaten) and the second was to be a surprise.

Pine Mountain Ranch has a table at our local farmers market. It was from them that I bought the chicken about which I raved back in the fall. They also sell beef and meat from a variety of other animals such as bison and yak.

In addition to waxing poetic on the pleasures of eating pasture-raised meat, Kristin Kimball also writes, in a short section of The Dirty Life, about her forays into nose-to-tail cookery, making it sound more pleasant than you'd expect. She writes particularly complimentary things about Rocky Mountain oysters made at home. Her description of that experience made it sound, to someone who has had that dish at a restaurant only, kind of like an appealing adventure. It was with this in my head that I approached the Pine Mountain Ranch table last Sunday, originally planning to only buy a steak.

Yup.

I hadn't actually planned on buying them. I just commented on their presence on the price list, and the girl said, "Oh yeah! we have those!" and grabbed them out of the cooler, an innocuous-looking package that belied the blood and flesh within. She plopped them next to the package of skirt steak I'd already picked out. The white paper of the package was stamped with the word, "YAK," below which was written in neat black Sharpie, "testicles."

Nose-to-tail cuisine appeals to me in theory. It's something I've tried to get myself to toughen up and start doing. It's one thing to eat organs and such; it's quite another to make them yourself. It's not the amount of blood in the package, but the appearance of the meat itself, looking less like a steak and more like a disembodied fragment of something that was once alive, that makes this act feel a bit strange. Even though, I tell myself, it should not be strange. What is really strange, I say, is not acknowledging that the thing you are eating is a formerly living animal. That disconnect is strange, and the reconnection is what is truly normal. Yeah. In theory.

I talked about my yak ball ambitions throughout the week; I may have even boasted about them. Until Wednesday night, after a discussion with Handsome Man in which we decided we'd have them for dinner tomorrow along with the fattoush (Lebanese purslane and pita salad) I'd planned to make. At this point, I started to get a little nervous about our planned dinner adventure, and thought I'd better do some research and perhaps find a recipe. This blog post, reporting on how, of all the balls you can eat, yak balls are the greatest!, alleviated my concerns a little bit.

Then I opened the package. [Note: I made the picture extra small, since most people don't want to look at pictures of raw animal junk. But if you're reading this for some information on cooking this very thing, then go ahead and click the picture or the link for some pictures. So you know what to expect.]

From Yak balls

I'll spare you most of the details, but I will tell you that, based on what I remember from having Rocky Mountain oysters at a restaurant, I sliced them. Which was weird. I made a simple batter out of flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, a beaten egg, and--when I realized that you're supposed to dip the thing you're frying into the egg and then the flour, not make one cement-like batter -- I added yogurt whey to the batter to make it thinner. This is not because I have an affinity for yogurt whey. It is because we are out of milk, cream, soy milk, almond milk, or anything faintly resembling milk other than the watery whey that had separated from the rest of the contents of a Brown Cow container. Then, I fried them in canola oil.

They were delicious.

We are going to ask the farmers' market staff for advice - such as if I was really supposed to skin and slice them - and we are going to make them again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The last book I read

Today's prompt is, "What was the last book you read?" Funny you should ask that, NaBloPoMo, because that is relevant to what I planned to write about this week. The last book I read was The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, a memoir by a city-girl-turned-farmer (to oversimplify things) about her first year with her now husband, starting a community-supported full food farm in upstate New York.

The book describes, along with the trials and tribulations of farming in the 21st century, the wealth of delicious food that comes with a lifestyle that in all other respects would be viewed as anything but wealthy, and the accompanying joy the preparation of that food brings. These descriptions are probably what inspired my crazy farmers market shopping spree last weekend. We have been enjoying the benefits (and work!) from that all week. In some ways, we are rushing to prepare it all before it goes bad. With farmers market produce, you never know if it's going to last a really really really long time, because it's so fresh, or if it's going to go bad in a day, because it is some special variety that maybe tastes great but doesn't last long and also it was picked at the peak of ripeness and then rode in a truck and then sat in the hot sun and then bounced around in my market bag all the way home. At least, this is my experience.

The book made the preparation of such food for someone you love seem like such a joyous act. It made me want to do that very thing! So I bought some grass-fed steak. More on that later.

When I go to these markets, I also impulsively purchase things I've never heard of before, especially if they are only $2, whether the farmer tells me it's something wonderful and special or even if the farmer (who is really a hired market helper) tells me, "I have no idea if that's any good. I've never had it before." In that category this week, I have two kinds of greens--bietola, an Italian green, and yam leaves, about which all I currently know is, "Use them in stir fries."

Last night we had the yam leaves. They were good! That's all I can tell you today, because I have another writing project to work on. But I can tell you that my next adventure, which I expect to report back to you in tomorrow's post, was inspired by the last book I read, involves something purchased over the weekend at the farmers market, and it begins with the same letters as the thing I just told you about (yam leaves). See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Correction on French Cuisine and TriMet

Earlier this month, I wrote about and posted my grandmere's recipe for clafoutis. The translated version I had was from my mother, and it was incomplete. My mother wrote to include the previously omitted details, and now I am sharing them with you.

Below is the revised Recette de Clafoutis:

CLAFOUTI-MIMA's

10 TBSP FLOUR
8 TBSP SUGAR
6 TBSP MILK
4 TSP OIL
2-3 EGGS
1 TBSP
BAKING POWDER
VANILLA
And according to Grandmere the most important ingredient, a pinch of salt!

MIX AND ADD FRUIT.
COOK IN A PIE PLATE AT I don't have that. oops.Temp 450 degrees for 15 mins and then 325 for 45 mins to 1 hour or when cooked.

If you cannot stomach the pits of cherries, other fruit works well in this recipe. My mother recommends pears. Peaches also work.

Also, I spoke too soon about the bus. Perhaps not my recent praise of TriMet, but my evaluation of my new bus route and driver was premature. The same driver took me home yesterday, and he was neither as friendly or as calm as he'd been the day before. He scrutinized my bus pass (which bus drivers never do; you could show them a credit card or a post it note and they'd probably still let you on) and then, as I walked to my seat, called me back so he could see it AGAIN. Dude, you saw it yesterday! It wasn't a problem yesterday, was it? And I know I made myself memorable, because I have big hair and crazy boots, I was running, and I am the only person at this stop! After that, the driver who had such steadiness and serenity the previous afternoon became possessed by a fever of brake slamming. Even after the passenger who reeked of his own urine left the seat next to me and the bus altogether, I felt dangerously nauseous due to the the constant jerky brake-slamming. I never get carsick. Very little reading of months-old Newsweek got accomplished during that bus ride.

Today's prompt is: Talk about your favourite bookstore. I wish I had a good answer for this. I just don't have one. The closest thing I have to a favorite bookstore is the Multnomah County Library. Of course, like any book-loving Portlander, I like Powell's. I like the Hawthorne location, because it's smaller, more manageable, with a great selection of postcards and locally-designed greeting cards. I rarely leave that store without making an unplanned purchase.

Right after I got my drivers license, I liked going to the Montclair Book Center, a huuuuuuuuge store on Glenridge Ave with lots and lots and lots of used book center. Before I had a drivers license, my bookstore of choice was the small store in my hometown. Every summer after I turned fourteen, I would bring to the store a typed copy of my resume (which at that time consisted of things like, "4.0 GPA" and "Youngest assistant editor of SHS Art and Literary Magazine since 1979"). Every summer, they would politely tell me that they did not have any openings, and I would wonder, why!? couldn't they just give me a few hours a week anyway!? Because I knew nothing about business. Not until I was sixteen and started running my own. And even then, when I had a successful piano teaching business, I would still bring my resume to the Sparta Book Shop at the beginning of every summer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

5 Things for Tuesday


1. NaBloPoMo Daily Prompt Today's prompt is: Do you prefer to own books or borrow them from a friend or the library? My answer is that of those three things, I least prefer to borrow books from a friend. I am too afraid of damaging them. Why I do not have this fear when it comes to library books (other than the fact that those books are usually hardcover and plastic-wrapped) is a mystery. Maybe it's because I can hide behind the semi-anonymity of a many-digit library card number. I don't mind owning books, especially e-books, but because I have moved so much in the last two years, I try not to acquire too much bulky stuff.

2. More Love for TriMet My new hours at work have me taking the bus at different times. So far, the morning and afternoon bus drivers are friendly and polite. No break-slamming pedestrian-narrowly-missing crazies. You know what I'm talking about, if you've ever taken TriMet (and probably other city buses will give you the same experience.) The bus drivers that are drunk with their newfound power and seem to relish barking at riders to get behind the yellow line, if they take too long fumbling for their bus fare; and shaking the head, with a smile, as they close the door in the face of a running would-be passenger. The ones that, if you pull the yellow cord too late, say, "Sorry, I can't turn back time!" Um...anyway. None of those on my route. The nice thing about the earlier times, too, is that there are seats on the bus, both ways, so I can read my outdated Newsweeks. I just read an article about how Osama bin Laden was still at large.

3. More Nonfiction Another of my odd choices of bus time reading is travel magazines. Except not the ones you pay for. The free ones that some Oregon agency puts together and has out at rest areas. I always have collected them (recycling them at appropriate times, not hoarding them) and on our last Southern Oregon Adventure (to be documented in full shortly), I actually read some of them and they came in handy. That was how we learned about things to do in and around Klamath Falls and that was how we learned about Newberry Volcanic National Monument. It finally dawned on me that this knowledge will be of more use to me if I have it before we set out on, or even start planning trips, instead of while we're on the road and short on time. At first, I thought it might be too dorky to read these touristy things on the bus, but then I thought, "Who cares?" People bring trash bags full of recycling onto the bus. Yesterday I saw a guy with a huge container of animal crackers. There is a guy who wears pink and pigtails, and I saw him again wearing a fashionable combat boots and green jacket ensemble. (I wanted to tell him that his eye makeup looked great, and that I thought he looked good, like some male rock stars, but something tells me, based on the previous pink and pigtail outfit, that he might not have found that last part to be a compliment. Well, the outfit worked, is my point, but that doesn't mean everyone thinks so, or that people won't stare.) My point is, there are plenty of odd things for people to look at besides my dorky guide to Central Oregon that is full of ads for resorts and expensive stuff in Sunriver.

4. This morning, someone asked me if I lost weight. I think this was the first time someone asked, and I said, happily, YES!!!!

5. Experiment in Baguette Baking I'm warning you now, you might not want to look at the picture. I tried to make buckwheat baguettes, and not the recipe from Local Breads that so many food bloggers have raved about. (That was all that came up when I searched for a recipe.) So, I used my best judgment and the notes on my baguette recipe for "adding up to 1/3 of an alternate flour."

First of all, they didn't rise, after I'd rolled them out. For some reason, I rolled them really long and thin, and they were too long for my pan. I tried to braid or roll them, but I was too rushed to do so carefully. Also, buckwheat flour is a dark gray, almost black.

The result is not quite aesthetically pleasing. And one final warning, the first thought that came in my head when I saw them was, "These baguettes look obscene!" I feel like certain judges would express disapproval, if they saw them. Perhaps because they reminded me of a prompt for drawing that I once saw in a party game ("Squiggly lines having sex"), the first words that popped into my head were, "Condemnation of these baguettes has ancient roots. Thirteen states have prohibited these baguettes, and four enforce prohibition against these baguettes." So, now that you have been warned, scroll down IF YOU DARE.



Here is a picture of my new kitchen as a buffer:


AAAHHHH!!!!!

But they tasted good!

TriMet + Sarah = BFFs

Today's NaBloPoMo prompt is, "What is your favourite place to read?" (Yes, it's spelled the British way.) I had to think about this, because lately I grab my time to read in short bursts. I read before I fall asleep at night. Sometimes, I read on my lunch break, so the place would be the break room. Neither of these are my favorite, but are rather the places I read out of necessity. I'd love to say that I read in the park, and provide both a poetic description and sunlit, green photos of that park, but it doesn't exist. I can't recall the last time I read in a park. Unless the Park Blocks at PSU count. And then usually I decide it's quiet and less filled with panhandlers to just go inside the Student Union Building.

My favorite place, at least for now, to grab a few minutes to read a few pages in between tasks and places, is the bus.

For the first three months of my job, I drove. It didn't occur to me to take the bus, because the only bus stops near work, of which I was aware, were for lines that don't run within a mile of my house, or they were on the other side of a highway that would be treacherous, if not impossible, to cross.

Then my car started stalling. First, it stalled downtown, near campus, when I was trying to find a parking spot. I kept driving it. My worst nightmare, I told everyone, was that it would stall on the upper level of the Marquam Bridge in Friday rush hour, in the traffic backup where people are entering the freeway from I-84 at the same time other people are trying to exit I-5 for I-84. And then someone would rear-end my car and it would go flying over the guard rail and into the Willamette River.

And then all of that happened, except the car accident. It stalled on that bridge, in that spot in rush hour traffic. The only certified place I could take it was in Beaverton. So, for about a week, I went without my car. I borrowed Handsome Man's a few times, and I also learned how to take the bus.

I'd taken TriMet plenty of times, and often found it a hassle. But not anymore. It turns out there it a stop only a few blocks from where I work, on a line that stops only a few blocks from home. I have to leave my house half an hour earlier than I would if I drove, and I get home as much as an hour later than I would if I drove, but to not have to concentrate on traffic and to be able to read, it's worth it.

I read, this weekend, in She Just Walks Around With It, the following:

I started my own, totally independent work life and public-transit commute in a city that was no longer a strange place to me. I can't even begin to express how oddly validating of my new life it was to take a city bus to get to work.

I had been thinking that for a few months now, but not until I read that did I realize this was something people thought. As she notes in the same post, people say that it takes two years of living in a place for it to feel settled, for the place to feel more like where you live and less unfamiliar. I've heard that a few times in the last year. Now that I am barely past my two-year mark, I can say that it is also true for me. And it was around that time that I started taking that city bus.

I used to malign your twenty minutes between buses, and your lack of north-south lines on the East side, but TriMet, I was wrong. You and I belong together. You take me to work and you take me home. Even on days that maybe aren't your best, you provide me with stories to tell. (I'm talking about crazy drivers and crazier passengers. Did I ever tell you about the time I saw some kids lighting stuff on fire on the back of an 8 bus? And the busdriver didn't even bat an eye?) Best of all, TriMet, thanks to you I can finally read. I am getting caught on magazines that I've had since 2009. I actually read more than just the cover of my library books now. I get to use my Nook. Now that school is over, I may become so caught up on my Newsweeks that I read them during the actual week that they are mailed to my house!

Thank you, TriMet.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Time Running Errands

It is summer at the farmers markets now, too, even though it is a lovely, cool 68F right now. Farmers market season is when I become happily overwhelmed, with the potential of making myself miserably overwhelmed if and when things start to wilt in my refrigerator. My Newest Neighbor and I walked to two different farmers markets today. That made three farmers markets this weekend, making up for all of the weeks this summer I was not able go to any.

But yeah, overwhelming....For example, as soon as I stop typing this post (which is short, and may not be the only thing I post today), I am going to get up and make bread from scratch. Which would be enough for one Sunday for some people. But I am going to try to make two kinds of bread--pita, and baguettes. And then I am going to try to prep some other food for the week, and also organize the parts of our apartment that are still Land of Dangerous Box Stacks and Mysterious Piles and oh yeah, I have to finish the draft of a grant application, too...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

With three minutes to spare...

We have shelves in the kitchen now!

And a garden hose that connects to the sink!

We got shelves for the bathroom too!

And lots of great vegetables at the farmers market!

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!! Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wild time running errands

My grandmother has a rule. You might call it more of a superstition. I've always made fun of her for this rule. It is, "Never cut fabric on a Friday." For some time, I believed this rule was universally French. Or perhaps a universal superstition of seamstresses. A few years ago, I learned that it was only my grandmother's rule.

My grandmother has had this rule since she was a child. She was riding her bike one day, wearing a newly homemade dress for the first time. She fell off her bike, which caught on her dress, tearing it beyond repair. The fabric used to make that dress was first cut on a Friday, and it is because of this incident that my grandmother believes it is bad luck to cut the fabric to sew any garment on a Friday.

I used to laugh at my grandmere's Friday rule, but now I have my own similar Thursday rule. Yesterday, I decided I am not going to run errands after work on Thursdays anymore. The day seems to be cursed for me. I'll tell you later about what happened yesterday, but first, I want to tell you about my Wild Time Running Errands two weeks ago.

I left work at 3pm to run an errand for my upcoming move. I first stopped at Fred Meyer to pick up a few things.I expected it to be a quick, uneventful trip.

I stopped at a specific Fred Meyer, one that is closer to work than home, for two reasons. This particular Fred Meyer always has a giant bin of free boxes by the cash registers. The other reason was to return some specific ginger ale bottles to the bottle return at that Fred Meyer, because the machine at my home Fred Meyer didn't accept them, but I know I had purchased that four-pack of ginger ale at this specific Fred Meyer. [A note for my readers in NJ and other places without a bottle deposit law: In Oregon, you can only return bottles to a store that sells that exact item. It doesn't have to be the store where you bought that item, but they have to carry the same brand and type of soda, beer, whatever. The corollary to this is that stores are required to take back containers if they charged you the deposit. I guess if they don't have a machine, you have to return it to someone by hand. I don't know. I'm still learning.]

Of five bottle return machines at the Fred Meyer, four were broken.

Had this been all, today's post could have been a post about the bottle deposit, how this was only my second trip to the bottle return in more than two years of living in Oregon, how Oregon pioneered the Bottle Deposit Law, and bottle deposits and their consequent quirks are something I am still getting used to. In Oregon, machines exist for the express purpose of counting your bottles, cans, and plastic containers. They have computers in them that scan the labels. Most people I know never get their deposit back; their $6.99 six-pack of beer really costs $7.29. Most people just sort their bottles and cans with the rest of their recycling and put it out on trash night. That explains the existence of what I consider a quirk of living in Portland; every week, on trash night, a group of people go up and down your street going through everyone's recycling. Frequently, the same people visit the same neighborhoods each week, so you'll start to recognize the characters. For example, on my street, there is a woman in a motorized cart who wears what appears to be a child's hat with Eeyore ears.

Oregon is very proud of having pioneered bottle deposits, and I have been told that I will get kicked out of the state if the wrong person hears me say the following: I hate the bottle deposit. I am sure it made sense at some point. But now people recycle their bottles willingly, without the monetary incentive. Where I am from, people recycle their bottles even though no one pays them to do it. That's why the people who go through trash cans on trash night make enough money to justify the time they spend doing it. I heard a guy once bought a car with the money he'd saved over the years collecting and cashing in other people's bottles.

So anyway, two Thursdays ago, I waited with my cans and bottles with a crowd of people. Most of them seemed to be the type who had collected their containers from other people's recycling bins. All of them were very agitated. They were angry that four of the five machines were broken. Three had broken all at once, so all three had lines of people waiting for them. They were angry that only one person was there to try to fix the machines. They were angry at each other, for those who were lucky enough to be in the line for the one machine that was still working were not offering their spaces to people in the other lines who had been waiting, in futility, first.

The people around me yelled at each other and at Ivan, the employee who had been sent out to try to fix the machines, their faces twisting in rage and impatience. My initial reaction was that they all seemed totally crazy, and I reminded myself that they are people, just like me, and I should try to consider things from their perspective. It was hot outside. They had gone to the trouble of bringing shopping carts and black trash bags full of containers to Fred Meyer. They felt that they had done their part, and now they were not getting money in return.

Meanwhile, Ivan was trying several different things at each machine, systematically going through some procedure. After he had tried so many things on a machine, he could give up and start collecting and scanning people's containers by hand.

The machine I was waiting for started working. A woman from the line next to me had been eying me dangerously while Ivan was fixing the machine. My initial thought was that this was a reason not to let her have my space on the line. My second thought was to honor the fact that she'd been waiting for the machines longer than I had. When I asked her if she'd like to go ahead of me, her demeanor changed. As Ivan went through the last steps to fix the machine, the woman, with a huge smile, began to show me some of the bottles she had in her cart and tell me about where she had collected them.

"This one's from my daughter," she'd say. Proudly, she showed me a special edition Rogue beer bottle. "I found this one in an alley!" She laughed with incredulity, as though we both were thinking, "Who would throw something like that in an alley!?"

The woman was able to put two containers into the machine before it spit out a receipt for $0.10 and shut down. But because it had been working, technically, Ivan couldn't start hand scanning her containers without going through the exact same series of attempts to fix the machine.

At some point, a woman with a large bag of bottles and a child in a stroller approached. She looked young, maybe my age. She was wearing a beat-up straw hat. She did not have a full command of English, as she kept pointing to the machine that takes cans, reading, "CANS", and pointing to people's cans as if to say, "Why don't you use this machine so we can all get out of here?"

I tried to explain to her that the machine wasn't working. Obviously, she couldn't read the sign. Everyone else, however, started yelling at the woman all at once. It was a cacophony of, "IT DOESN'T WORK, DUMMY!" and "IT SAYS 'OUT OF ORDER'" and "IT'S OUT. OF. ORDER!!!!"

I waited at least half an hour for that machine. When it was my turn, I deposited my first container. The machine spit out a receipt for five cents. Ivan had disappeared into the store. I pressed the button to call him. The phone rang and rang. Everyone began yelling, at each other, at the machines, at the woman who could not speak English (but would occasionally sound out what the signs said, trying out the words that she could not yet comprehend), and at the absent Ivan. Even I had begun to raise my voice. After a half hour standing with the heat and frustration, I had become one of them. The people I had thought were so strange to be so angry; now I understood. I, too, was asking, "Where's Ivan!?" and angrily showing people my $0.05 receipt. When my father called my cell phone, I told him, "You're lucky you live in New Jersey where you can just recycle your bottles LIKE NORMAL!"

The machine, when Ivan got it working, still did not take my bottles of Reed's ginger ale. I thought, "Maybe there actually isn't a deposit on these!" My receipt from what the machine did accept was for a mere $1.50. Guess I won't be buying any cars with that.

I then went inside the Fred Meyer store to finish my errands. After waiting so long in the heat, I was thirsty. I bought another Reed's ginger ale for $1.24.

---

Later, I approached the checkout lanes, ready to make my purchases. The three express lanes had very long lines. So, I went to the closest available non-express lane, where the checker was halfway through checking out only one person with a very full shopping cart.

Have I ever explained to you my Supermarket Theory? My theory is that what takes the most time at the checkout lane is not the scanning of groceries, but the payment, especially with coupons and with the various types of cards and various scanners that all work different ways and with the customers objecting to something about their bill. So, my Supermarket Theory is that the express lane is not fast if it is crowded. If many people are waiting in that lane, it will not be a fast wait. The corollary to my Supermarket Theory is that if there is only one person in a regular lane, no matter how many groceries they have, it is faster to get in line behind them, if there are two or more people waiting on the express lane.

Occasionally, when I try to act in accordance with that theory, the cashier will stop in the middle of checking out the other person's groceries, eye up my handful of twelve or less items, and suggest I go into the express lane. They look at me like I am an alien when I say, "No, that's okay," or "No, there was a long line and I think this will be faster." But that's all they do.

Not this time. This time, the cashier actually stopped to get my attention. Whatever he said, it startled me to the point that I thought maybe he was trying to close or something. "No, I'm open," he replied testily. "But there are a bunch of express lanes open!"

"Oh," I replied, "They all have long lines. I think this will be--"

But he cut me off, perturbed. With condescension in his voice, he said, "Sweetheart, Lanes 2, 3, and 4 are all express lanes. It will be a LOT faster."

It was rude in the way I hate most, which is rudeness that hides behind a friendly and helpful mask. If I had been my normal self, I would have stood my ground by staying in the line. I probably would also have calmly said, "Please do not talk to me that way or call me sweetheart. I don't know you." But the experience at the bottle return had me too beaten down. Meekly, I moved into the express lane, from which I could see the rude cashier finish checking out the next customer in line before I had even made it to the register on the express lane.

The bin of boxes by the cash registers was empty.

The same Fred Meyer that won't take back my bottles of Reed's Ginger Beer charged me a 5-cent deposit on the bottle I purchased that day.

---

I left Fred Meyer, hot and dejected. My car had turned into an oven in the parking lot. I was too low on gas; I didn't want to risk turning on the air conditioner. It was now rush hour. Traffic was slow, and it was awhile before I got to the gas station.

Later, waiting to pull out of the gas station and onto Broadway, I saw a three people, two men and a woman, walking down the street together, toward my car. They looked around my age. I have no reason to believe they were homeless or mentally ill. But something about the purpose with which they were walking and the way they were staring into my open car window gave me a slight sense of dread. I dismissed this as silly.

From the events at Fred Meyer and the long car ride in the heat, I was tired and my defenses were down, when the approaching men and woman stopped by my car and one of the men yelled into my window, some incomprehensible gibberish about the Blind Onion pizza place (which is also on Broadway). I was too exhausted to respond. They kept walking behind my car, where they could see through the rear windshield my old license plate which I have retained as a decoration. Spying this, the second man yelled, "JERSEY SUCKS!"

The day had beaten all the Jersey out of me. I should have put the car in park and leaned out the window to yell something stereotypically Jersey, but I could think of nothing to say except, quietly, only to myself, "It doesn't...."

One think I can say about Jersey is that in Jersey, you never have to wait half an hour only to find that the store won't let you cash in your ginger ale bottles.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New masthead! And more!

Today's prompt is: Unpack the statement: truth is stranger than fiction.

I'm not sure I can unpack it, but I could provide plenty of examples. This seems like a good day to tell you about my Wild Time Running Errands, but I have to get ready for work. Maybe I will write it on lunch and post it by this evening. In the meantime, my new masthead is now here!

It was made by My Handsome Roommate with photographs he's taken in Oregon. He took the photo of Crater Lake and all of the things floating in front of Crater Lake. He added my friends and me swimming in Crater Lake. We were really swimming in a different lake.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New things coming soon

My new roommate is working on a new blog masthead for me. For months, I had a boring, weird, depressing picture of a January sunset in Eastern Montana. It had nothing to do with big hair, Jersey girls, or Oregon. My favorite is probably Summer 2010's (that lasted until winter), in which I gigantically loomed over Trillium Lake at Mount Hood with a big smile, a sparkler, and a flag painted on my arm. But that is too much ME ME ME. So I switched back to the first ever Big-Haired Jersey Girl in Oregon masthead, which you see right now.

He started making it with a picture of me that he thinks his very pretty. He combined it with a picture that he took of Crater Lake, which is also pretty. That seemed to be it. I thought it was too pretty.

"Where's the big hair? I know you think I am pretty, but that's not what Big-Haired Jersey Girl is about! It's about...you know! that time we went camping and had to carry those burning logs and the tent almost blew away and I thought a crazy person was going to come get us! Tripping and falling down! Things like that! And also traveling and plants and big hair!"

I drifted off to sleep and woke up seeing something more promising. But he left before I could upload it. Plus, I have work to do. (This is just a short break.)

Today, before the whiteboard got totally erased, I finally transcribed a list of "Things to Write About" from March or April. So those might be coming soon. It includes such topics as "Anacardiace-cake" and "Lively Art of Writing/Portland-NJ." In my drafts folder on blogger, the two most recent incomplete posts are titled, "Life-changing cake" and "Wild time running errands."

Just so you have something to look forward to.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What do you think about white lies?

That is today's prompt from NaBloPoMo. This month's theme is fiction, and while today's prompt takes a turn from last week's book-themed prompts, I can see how this relates to "fiction." Unlike the book-themed questions, I actually have an answer for this one.

I've been described by some as a Rules Person. My new roommate likes to tease me for refusing to jaywalk. I describe myself as pedantic when it comes to rules. It may seem incongruous with the above to announce that I think white lies, and even lies that aren't white, are at times perfectly justified.

The logic behind my pedantry, when it comes to rules, ethics, and morality, is somewhat deductive. It starts from a broad premise and then works its way down. If there is some other broad moral premise before you get to the question, "Do I tell the truth or lie?", I believe that this broad moral premise overrides the moral statement, "Lying is wrong."

The example that comes up most often in my life and my advice to others is privacy. You have a right to privacy. I have a right to privacy. The First Amendment even protects that right! (Sorry, school is in my head too much lately.) If someone is asking you to tell you something that is none of their business, it is not immoral to answer them with a lie, white or otherwise. Because the overriding moral here is your right to privacy, and the fact that certain things are none of anyone's business unless you deem it to be so.

If my phone battery hadn't used itself up calling people from my purse yesterday, I could have ended this with a picture of some hydrangeas in my neighborhood that are so blue, it seems surreal.

What do you think about white lies?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

I've picked the song for my next big karaoke performance

A few clarifications from yesterday's post. First of all, I did not intend to suggest that anyone I know falls particularly into that category of global-warming-believers or pro-or-anti-abortion-rights who is more interested in their own ego or their own affiliation with a group, than they are in the actual cause. So, do not read that and think I am talking about you. I'm probably not. I do not read your writings about global warming and roll my eyes.

A second clarification is to give credit to the Multnomah County Library where that credit is due. Though it won't get my anti-feminist book for me so that I don't have to pay (aside from taxes) to read it, it is in most respects a wonderful library system. (So are New Jersey libraries, so I've been pretty spoiled.) Anyway, I can't criticize you too much, Multnomah County Library, because you got me Iggy Pop CDs.

It all started because I was listening to David Bowie a lot. Thanks to the Multnomah County Library, again, for supplementing my current option of Aladdin Sane with a two-disc collection the name of which I have forgotten at the moment. What started that, most likely, was a party that The Roommate fka Handsome Man and I attended in late April. It was David Bowie themed. I dressed as Sarah from the Labyrinth. Why, yes, there are pictures! I look like a marshmallow in them. (And I can't find any on my computer, so I'll have to get them from TRfkaHM before I can share them with you.) Anyway, listening to the CD from the library, I stopped one day and thought, "Wow, I forgot about these songs! I really like them!" One in particular was "China Girl." I became interested in the lyrics, to which I'd been only half-listening. From the depths of what I heard as, "blahblahblahblah little China Girl, blahblahblahblah," some words stood out and grabbed my attention.

As a side note, I still hear the song (both versions--but I'll get to that later) as something like this:

I hhmm hmm blah bmhmhmhmm, Little China Girl.
La la doo doo la la hmmm hmm, Little China Girl.
I hear her heart beating, LOUD as THUNDER!
[note: maybe neither Bowie nor Pop emphasizes that line so much--but I do. When I sing in the car.]
Hrrrm crashing hrrrmmmmm.
I stumble into town, just like a sacred cow, visions of swastikas
-Wait, WHAT? What about swastikas!? blah blha blha BLAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH BLAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Hmm hmmm hmm China Girl, you shouldn't mess with me.
I'll ruin everything you AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRREEEEEEEE.
Blah blah blah blah RULE THE WORLD! blah blah blah blah China Girl
Blah blah blah blah SHHHHHHHHHHH.
SHHHHHHHHHHH.

One day, in between packing, avoiding reading judicial opinions, and a few drinks*, I thought, "What the hell is this song about? Ruling the world? Swastikas? Cows? or is it Clowns?! WHAT?"

*Actually, in between the consumption of the one beer it now takes to get me tipsy.

The Wikipedia entry told me nothing, except that the song was actually co-written by Iggy Pop, and then I was like, "That's right! I used to listen to Iggy Pop! I love Iggy Pop! AND David Bowie! I used to have Lust for Life and Raw Power. OMG they aren't on this computer!"

Multnomah County Library to the rescue. This Saturday, I marched to the library quite purposefully at quarter to 6, scooting in the door at about five of, and from the holds shelf obtained both Lust for Life and Raw Power, and I'd already gotten The Idiot a week previously.

And that is why I had three Iggy Pop albums to listen to while unpacking and organizing my office this weekend. Thank you, Multnomah County Library.

Sunday Thoughts

I have started reading books with which I think I will fundamentally disagree.

I've been kind of busy, so I haven't gotten very far on this project. When the library refused to get The Flipside of Feminism from Interlibrary Loan based on their rule that they do not get books published in the same year as the interlibrary loan request (note: What the hell!? Thanks a lot, Multnomah County Library! Like I'm going to have an easy time convincing Portland libraries to purchase a book subtitled What Smart Women Know and Men Can't Say on some editions and on other editions, the "Smart" is swapped out for "Conservative"), I mulled over whether or not I would want to pay money for such a book, and only got as far as reading the free sample for my Nook.

I came up with this theory awhile ago, probably a revival of something I started thinking as early as high school, that much of the disagreements about politics, economics, all that "how stuff works and how it should work and what should happen" kind of stuff, is based in semantics. For example, Group A and Group B are arguing about Topic C, and Group A is dead set on Solution A; Group B is dead set on Solution B. They all agree that Solution A and Solution B are fundamentally opposed, because one is called A and one is called B and B basically means, "Not A"! But if both groups sat down and started listing the characteristics of Solution A and Not A/Solution B, they might find that there is a lot of common ground. Or they might find that Solution A and Solution B are exactly the same thing.

I have been thinking about this quite a bit, especially now that I am in Government School (aka The Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. From now on, I will refer to it as "Government School.") (This is partially because I keep having to double check if Mr. Hatfield's name is spelled "Mark" or "Marc.")

I think that's where I'll end for today. Otherwise, this could turn into a full-blown rant. Not just Rant with a capital R, but a RANT. Because my views on this matter are not all touchy-feely we-all-are-the-same-on-the-inside we-can-all-just-get-along. One thing I feel very strongly about is that the reasons for all of this, disagreeing based on semantics--what you want to call an issue--and not on the actual issue, are in fact selfish and narrow-minded. It has to do with people's tendency to classify others as The Other, and to dislike that Other, and to be very dismissive of that Other. I started writing about this with a friend because I read this NYT piece by Nicholas Kristof. One thing the article discusses is how religious people and non-religious (potentially anti-religious) people work toward the same issues, but will not work together. Mr. Kristof sums it up better than I do, writing, "Because religious people and secular people alike do fantastic work on humanitarian issues — but they often don’t work together because of mutual suspicions. If we could bridge this “God gulf,” we would make far more progress on the world’s ills."

His term for it, "mutual suspicion," is a lot nicer sounding than my choice of words like "selfish" and "narrow-minded."

My friend, CC, wrote in response to my e-mail (including the link to the Nicholas Kristof article), "A few years ago it struck me that there were many parallels between Christian-community groups rejecting consumerism and corporatism, and the very similar mindset of hardcore-punk kids. Of course, the two groups regard each other as opposite poles... up to a point where they converge."

There are cases in which Solution A and Solution B are actually exactly the same, or at least, there's a 90% overlap. I also think there are cases where Solution B really is Not Solution A, but up to a certain point, Group A and Group B can find something to agree on.

An example of the latter is people who are really really really opposed to abortion (Group A, although I suppose Group Not A would be a more appropriate abbreviation) and people who feel that abortion should never, ever be illegal (Group B). With maybe a few crazies who are the exception (like people who believe in eugenics or forced sterilizations), no one in either Group A or Group B thinks abortions are great. Most people in Group B think it must be an option, but not something you want to get to go through in your life. No one is going to get pregnant just to have an abortion. It's not on anyone's life To Do list. Ok, I think I've made my point, and I can move on.

I think it would be great if Group A and Group B could set aside their differences, could put down their signs and their graphic pictures of aborted fetuses and e-mail forwards from the point of view of an unborn child saying, "Why doesn't Mommy love me? I only wanted to live!"...whoops, I got carried away again. Anyway, I think it would be great if these two groups could get together and say, let's brainstorm some solutions we can both agree on. Like, how about, let's come up with ways that help prevent individuals from being in the situation to make that choice.

That wouldn't exactly be easy, of course. You could very quickly get into an argument about the morality of birth control. Or the effectiveness of abstinence-only education. Or that the "adoption" choice results in overpopulation. The environmental impact of overpopulation (to which I'd say, "Sorry, I think that's only a few steps removed from arguments in favor of forced sterilization and eugenics.")

Or maybe everyone would, once they started talking, stop hating each other, stop deciding they are in favor of Solution B simply because of their affiliation with Group B and that such an affiliation means Hating Group A Just Because Of Who They Are.) Maybe a few people would say, let's find something we can agree on, like some community improvement of which we all approve that indirectly relates to our purpose because it makes the community a nicer place to bring children into.

From Kittatinny Valley State Park

Here is a completely unrelated photo of Asplenium rhizophyllum to distract you from this controversial issue.

Another issue that I get all fired up about, because of this very same issue (Group B opting to be Group Not A), is global warming. Have you noticed that you pretty much never read those words on this blog, unless I am making a joke about something? That is because I am actually quite enthusiastically annoyed about the way in which people with whom I otherwise agree on environmental issues, insist on using that term and on arguing with people over the existence of global warming. And then other people are like, "blah blah blah, global warming is madeup." "Look at the data! If you think that even looking at this data, you're an idiot!" "No, you're an idiot, you stupid hippie!" Who cares what you want to call it? We can all agree on certain man-made environmental ills. Let's talk about those, and try to address those together. The term "global warming" is polarizing. There is a time and a place for it. There is also a time and a place for just agreeing to disagree about that term, and focusing instead on something like air pollution or the finite supply of nonrenewable resources. (I first read something to this effect in No Impact Man, but it was so long ago that I do not know in which post he wrote it.)

This got way off track from what I originally wanted to write about, which was comments I've been hearing about free birth control. Since it would involve looking up some quotations and citing sources, I'll save that topic for another time. We have a whole long blogging-every-day month ahead of us!

I have started reading books which with I think I will fundamentally disagree, because I am looking for the things with which I can agree. I am looking for the buried meaning hidden under all of those labels, under the semantics. At some later time, I will write about my initial thoughts on the free sample intro of The Flipside of Feminism, and if I can convince the Multnomah County Library to get it, I will read it and write my thoughts about the whole book!

Here is an unrelated picture of water lilies:

From Kittatinny Valley State Park

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Saturday thoughts

I missed the bus again yesterday. When I got my bus pass, I vowed to use it enough to get my money's worth. This was about 7 bus rides a week, so if I took the bus four out of five weekdays, I would come out ahead.

Well, these past two weeks of moving and settling in are probably the reason that I only took the bus a handful of times. I think I drove to work every day that I went to work. Oh well. It's nice to break up routine once in awhile, to sit in traffic that's getting worse every week, but to only have to travel five miles in it; to listen to my own music; and to have an extra twenty minutes or so at home in the morning. As a side note, even with the extra driving these past two weeks, I have only put four hundred miles in my car since my last oil change. Which was on May 11th.

Anyway, as I was driving home yesterday, stuck sitting still in traffic atop the Marquam Bridge, I could see Mount Saint Helens faintly to the northeast through hazy clouds, and I could see Mount Hood to the southeast through some kind of grating on the side of the bridge. In that moment, I felt not stuck or hot or impatient but lucky. I get to see these beautiful mountains from something as prosaic as Friday evening rush hour. It is also not lost on me that I am extremely lucky to live so close to where I work. I am lucky that, when I miss the bus, I have a car to take to work, and I feel the most lucky that I live on a bus line that goes right to work. No transfers!

I came home to a big package of toilet paper and a bouquet of flowers that My Roommate fka Handsome Man picked up while I was at work!

Then I got to make dinner, which was something I actually wanted to do. It was the first time for two weeks I'd been able to make dinner without feeling rushed. I made a variation of this with vegetables from our gardens. I used Swiss chard, really strong bolted arugula leaves, chives instead of scallions, carrots (from a five-pound lasts-six-months bag from Winco, not from anything remotely homegrown or fresh), and snap peas instead of sprouts. I added garlic and ginger and chile powder, and served it with some sriracha-ish hot sauce we got from a guy in NJ who makes it himself.

While the sesame noodles were chilling, I went for my evening walk around the neighborhood and the adjacent hilly neighborhood of mansions near us. That's where I saw these interesting flowers.

I have no idea what those are. Except some kind of aroids.

[UPDATE: Thanks to my friend and former housemate Allie Z, we now know that these are Zantedeschia albomaculata. The spathes, with the deep purple toward the base, also remind me of Zantedeschia 'Picasso.' For more info and pictures, check out this page about Zantedeschia.]

Some places in Portland don't feel like a city at all. Some spots in the city feel like the Northeast forests I used to wander in when I was a kid, which I used to pretend were enchanted forests. Some spots in the city feel like enchanted forests, like this tunnel of gardens (if you ignore that the path is actually a sidewalk.)

It is blurry. I will have to try taking that picture before 8pm sometime. (Note to family members on the East Coast who worry about me-we are further north here and it gets dark pretty late in the summer, like after 9!)

One final picture of the lovely flowers to which I came home.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Clafoutis Made Vegan

NOTE: Google tells me that, in the last four years, many people have come to this blog looking for a vegan clafoutis recipe.  I imagine that the post that follows, a part two of something that is more of a story than a recipe, is quite frustrating.  So, if you are looking for the vegan clafoutis recipe, the place you want to go is here.

Since the recipe only calls for 6 TBSP MILK and 2-3 EGGS, it's pretty easy to make this dessert vegan. Except I'd never tried to replace milk in a recipe where I couldn't just use coconut milk. While I'm sure it would be delicious, I didn't want to make a coconut cherry clafoutis. Thanks to Google, I learned that soy milk is the best, and almond milk is a close second. I was worried that the soy milk might impart a funny flavor to a dessert like clafoutis, with such little added flavoring in the dough. Also, I didn't have time to make a fresh batch. What truly pushed me in the direction of using almond milk was botany. Cherries and almonds are botanically related. They are both Prunus. A slight almond flavor would not overwhelm a cherry dessert.
Now I can't stop drinking almond milk. I wonder if it's easy to make. If so, Bag of Almonds from the WinCo Bulk Bin Flopping Around in the Freezer, I've got plans for you.
Replacing the eggs was easy. I did what I always do, grind flax seeds and whisk them with water like I'm making mayonnaise, until they start acting like egg whites. The Post Punk Kitchen explains it well!
It was delicious.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Thoughts on French Cuisine

NOTE: Google tells me that, in the last four years, many people have come to this blog looking for a vegan clafoutis recipe.  I imagine that the post that follows, something that is more of a story than a recipe, is quite frustrating.  So, if you are looking for the vegan clafoutis recipe, the place you want to go is here.


In particular, these are thoughts on French recipes.
I have not used enough French cookbooks to have a basis for comparison, although I have noticed that the Provencale cookbook I purchased in France shares with my family's recipes the quality I am about to describe for you. In short, French recipes are extremely precise on certain points, and incredibly vague when it comes to others.
Summer 2007 139
Take, for example, my mother's cousin's recipe for the pickled cherries written about here. The recipe states how much vinegar to use, how much and exactly what type of sugar to use, that exactly three pinches of cinnamon must go into the pickling solution, and exactly how many days the jars must sit "dans le noir" (in total darkness.) It even cautions you that the pickles, once the jar is opened, will be very strong, "like a new pot of mustard." But the recipe fails to include a detail that, by some standards,is vital.
Nowhere does the recipe tell you how many cherries to use.
My family's recipe for vin de cerisier or pechier (cherry-leaf or peachtree-leaf wine) is similarly composed. I don't have it on hand, but I do recall that it says to pluck exactly sixty leaves from your desired tree in the month of September only!!!!! (However I have witnessed my mother's other cousin picking cherry tree leaves for this recipe in October. October!!!!!)
Now, I turn to my family recipe for clafoutis, also spelled clafouti, pronounced by my family as "cleff-foo-TEA" but pronounced by the Barefoot Contessa as "claFOOty." I think of it is as a light, cake-y dessert with lots of fruit and less cake. Mark Bittman described it in How to Cook Everything as like a giant pancake baked in the oven with fruit. Either way, it's delicious. It can be made with pretty much any fruit. It's usually made with cherries, sour cherries (or as you Oregonians call them, "pie cherries"), and one distinguishing characteristic of clafoutis made with cherries is that you do not remove the pits from the cherries. It would change the way the dessert bakes. Or something. I don't know. I have had it both ways, and personally, I like it the old-fashioned way. It helps the fruit retain its structure and prevents the dessert from turning into messy pink mush.
Once pie cherries (oops, I mean, sour cherries!) came into season and were available at my local Whole Foods, I planned to make clafoutis. The recipe is not, as I suspected, on my computer. I've had my grandmere recite it to me over the phone before, but sometimes she changes her version over the phone. I wanted to find the original, as written and retyped into Gmail by my mother. Trying both spellings, I finally stumbled across the following. You will note that it shares with the other French recipes mentioned in this writing a strange lack of detail with reference to how much fruit you are supposed to use. But it was the last part of the recipe that had me the most dismayed.
CLAFOUTI-MIMA's


10 TBSP FLOUR
8 TBSP SUGAR
6 TBSP MILK
4 TSP OIL
2-3 EGGS
1 TBSP BAKING POWDER
VANILLA

MIX AND ADD FRUIT.
COOK IN A PIE PLATE AT I don't have that. oops.
[Updated Friday morning to include a picture of the finished product ready to be baked!]

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Miscellaneous photographs from recent adventures

As my final week of summer classes keeps me busy, I will be posting photographs of things I've seen recently, and some from the traveling I've done, but barely documented in words, since last spring.

Today, I am going to share with you one of my favorite places in the world, Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, New Jersey. A short drive west will take you to Willowwood Arboretum in Pottersville, NJ, another beautiful and peaceful place to spend time.


An insect I am no longer able to identify, hanging out on an iris.


Adiantum pedatum and other ferns, not so restrained as yesterday's fern baby.


Taken from the ground, looking up through the leaves of some kind of begonia.

Here is where my camera went wacky. The camera I bought last February has some kind of film transport issue which the camera store has been unable to fix.


The witch-hat-shaped insect leaf gall that gives witch hazels their name, with a gate from Willowwood superimposed over half of the picture.

The result of my broken camera is that while it sometimes operates just fine, it also sometimes gives me pictures like the following:


Gate and flowers at Willowwood Arboretum.

Well, I will save more of Willowwood Arboretum and other adventures for another day.

By the way, today's NaBloPoMo prompt was, "Have you ever wished you could enter a book?"

I'm afraid my answer to that question is a very uninteresting, "NO!" I am too pragmatic. Much as I would like to have the opportunity to befriend Anne Shirley, to have her confirm my suspicions that I am a kindred spirit, and as much as I would love to see the wild places of 19th-century Prince Edward Island with my own eyes, I wouldn't want to hang out there very long. I'd start to miss things like indoor plumbing, my e-mail, and readily-available ethnic food. This may explain why books and movies about characters who inadvertently get trapped in their favorite stories have always made me very anxious. I am ashamed to tell you how much time I spent, while watching Lost in Austen, thinking, "Yeah, she gets to smooch Mr. Darcy, but doesn't she miss flush toilets and hot showers?" (How did I get from pictures of beautiful gardens to THIS?)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Who is your favorite author? Lights on or off?

Today's prompt from NaBloPoMo is, "What's your favorite author?"

I answer this question similarly to yesterday's question. How can I have a favorite author!? That's like choosing a favorite flower!

(I wonder if psychologists have a name for people who can't choose a favorite anything.)

Some writers I did not mention yesterday are Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. I can't really be sure that Jane Eyre is my favorite book, however, and none of Jane Austen's stand out as my favorite.

Does anyone remember those "get to know your friends" e-mail surveys that used to go around? There was one in particular that I would get every six months or so. This was the pre-Facebook Internet time-waster in which, like Facebook, you got to talk about yourself and share that information with your Internet friends. Sandwiched in between innocuous questions such as, "What is your favorite author?" "What is your favorite color?" were oddly placed questions about one's sex life. Sometimes they weren't so explicit as to be obvious, questions such as, "What's your number?" could naively be answered with one's lucky number or phone number. "Lights on or off?" would just confuse the survey taker, but once they got to "Shirt on or off?", they might have started to catch on.

Anyway, when I took those surveys, I usually answered, "What's your favorite book?" or "What's your favorite author?" with whatever I was reading at the time, if I liked it, and if not, I'd answer with the most recent book I'd read and enjoyed. Come to think of it, I did this on Facebook, too, when I kept that part of my profile regularly updated. (Before things like Facebook Photos and the status update were around to occupy my wasted time.)

Currently, I am reading a lot of Supreme Court stuff and some books on grant-writing. The last book I started reading was My Antonia by Willa Cather. The last (and only) time I read that book was in tenth grade. I certainly appreciate it more now than I did as a sixteen-year-old, although at that age, while I felt that the book was slow enough to be dry and a bit too sad, I did notice that the imagery was wonderful, written in beautiful language. Now, I understand why my tenth grade teacher read My Antonia herself, every spring, and why it was her favorite book. The language is not only beautiful, but it is also original. Willa Cather's similes and metaphors are so, so, clever, in a way I've never seen before. Perhaps later, I will type up a few examples to share on this blog.

In a few weeks, summer classes will be over, and perhaps I can pick up My Antonia again. And then, I will read through the other twenty-four novels in the 99-cent collection of classics I bought for my Nook one late, sleepless night. (This is a benefit of the Nook 3G as compared to the Wi-fi-only Nook.) Or perhaps I will seek out some Willa Cather that is new to me, something other than My Antonia or O Pioneers! (which, despite a title that sounds like a parody of Boring Stuff You're Forced To Read In High School, my tenth-grade self enjoyed much more than My Antonia.)

For the record, My Antonia is still sad to me, even when I know what is going to happen. (I have forgotten much of it, including the ending, so this isn't quite a spoiler. I forgot if the ending is sad. There are just sad things that happen in the book.) One thing it makes me think about now, which I didn't consider as a tenth grader, is the issue of immigration. The Bohemian and Scandinavian immigrants in the nineteenth century Midwest seemed strange to the more established Americans in My Antonia, even though they themselves descended from immigrants who could not possibly have come to the United States very long before their own lifetimes. The prejudice they exhibit toward their new neighbors is ridiculous, and I think it says something about issues this country faces today. European immigrants would not face the same negative treatment today as do the characters in My Antonia, yet immigrants from other parts of the world do. Someday, those prejudices will seem pretty ridiculous.

And now, here is a picture that is completely unrelated to anything in this post, but it was just something in the "to blog about" pile.

Not only did I think the fern was nice, since I have a thing for ferns, but what really led me to take the picture was when my friend, E, remarked, "That's the only baby you want!" At the moment, that's true!

Who is your favorite author? What are you reading now?