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.