Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Si se puede!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hot, but not like burn-down-the-neighborhood hot.

So, if you're following things on Twitter, you know that I made some outstanding brownies yesterday. I've been on a roll when it comes to cooking this weekend, in fact.

But as good as everything has been, these brownies take the cake.

I got the recipe from my new favorite cooking blog, SmittenKitchen.

What makes them so good? The slow, subtle chipotle burn.

These aren't your average bake-sale brownies. Spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and chipotle, they are complex, rich, and delicious. And I'm not really a huge brownie fan.

Here's a link to the recipe. I'd hoard it all to myself, but it's already on the internet, so it's not much of a secret: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/09/the-baked-brownie-spiced-up/

I promise that they're awesome, that you may want a glass of milk or scoop of vanilla ice cream nearby when you eat them, and that they weren't the cause of all this last night.

In other cooking news, I've been creative in the kitchen this weekend.
On Friday night, I threw together a really flavorful and easy corn and black bean salad/salsa (see description and ingredients below) which we had with cornbread for dinner. It was so good, we finished it off Saturday night on some awesome chipotle-lime chicken tacos.

Then, last night, knowing Charlie isn't a huge cheesy-foods fan, I devised a simple recipe for Spinach, Italian Sausage, and Parmesan raviolis. Holy YUM.

Without further delay, here are the basics:

Sweet corn and black bean salad:

(Note: in the photo above, I'd cooked the beans a little on the long side, so they disintegrated a little. It was still delicious, though not as picturesque as I'd like. This was also after we'd devoured half the bowl. I figured I'd better get a shot before it was all gone!)

2 cobs of fresh, sweet corn (not frozen corn, it just doesn't cut it)
1 can black beans
1/2 C diced tomatoes
Chipotle chile powder, blended chilies in adobro sauce, or a chipotle sauce of some sort
1/4 C of your favorite salsa (I had Mrs. Renfro's mild salsa on hand, can use fresh tomatoes instead)
about 1/2- 1/3 C minced yellow onion (use red onion if yellow is too strong, can add more or less depending on personal tastes)
1/4-1/3 C mined cilantro (again, adjust to your personal taste)
1 diced medium red bell pepper
1 diced medium avocado
Juice from 1/2 a large lime

Boil corn on cob for just the briefest amount of time--enough to slightly heat through. Remove corn from heat, and let cool.

Meanwhile, heat beans in saucepan over medium heat with diced tomatoes, chipotle, and a little salt and pepper to taste. Add Chipotle according to your heat preference.

When beans are warmed, and flavors are all mixy and tasty, remove from heat.

Cut corn kernels from cobs.

Combine all ingredients except lime in large mixing bowl. Squeeze lime over the top. Refrigerate to cool, or serve warm.

We ate this with cornbread and a simple green salad, and it was AMAZING.

If you're nice, I'll post the ravioli recipe later. :)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Politcial moment:

My new favorite things.

This, from John Stewart: Sarah Palin and the Gender Card

This, from the Associated Press and Yahoo News: Republican Convention Fact Check

This, from Gloria Steinem and the LA Times: Op Ed piece

And finally, the term: G.I. John and his running mate Caribou Barbie.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Because we've had a couple phone calls....

No, we were not anywhere near the fire that ripped through the SE Boise suburbs on Monday night. It was pretty awful, though. Nine houses were destroyed, and another one was damaged. A very popular linguistics and English professor at Boise State University was killed.

Remember just a few posts ago, where I was saying how I'm not used to living in a place where people's houses catch on fire and burn to the ground? Yeah. THAT. It was interesting watching the news--it's so much like the California fires. People saying: I left my home to go and see how close the fire was, and by the time I turned around to go back in and gather belongings, the house was already burning. People were caught without their SHOES, even. Gosh.

Fortunately, for all you worriers, Charlie and I are living near the heart of the city--very close to downtown and to the capitol building. There are blocks and blocks of houses between us and any sage brush or cheat grass.

In other news, I found out today that I type 77 words per minute! Wow! I'm impressed with myself. Goooooo TEAM! (To any potential employers reading: think of what this will do to your bottom line! Think how fast I can send out those memos!)

Other, other news. Charlie and I are getting ready for an awesome feast of a dinner tonight. My new favorite cooking blog, Smitten Kitchen, has recently posted a few recipes that I'm going to lump together into an awesome feast.

On tonight's menu:

Crisp Rosemary Flatbread
Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs
Lime Meltaways

I know you're supposed to serve mint and lamb together, and the recipe has instructions for making a yogurt-garlic-mint sauce... but I'm just not a huge mint fan. I'm wondering if it would be good with a garlic-dill-yogurt sauce instead? Perhaps I'll make both and see which we like better.

Anyhow, who's coming over? When can I expect you? Got your plane tickets? :)

I'll let you know how they all turn out.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Spider update:

Total count so far: 5

4 nasty Hobo spiders
1 funny little crab-like spider (he was cute and non-GUUUH!!!!! inspiring, with his little legs up in the air like a warning)

Locations of Hobo spiders: Kitchen sink (2), living room wall (1), spare room (1)
Location of funny little crab-like spider: IN MY BED ON MY ARM (1)

Body count: 4 Hobo spiders (shoe [2], flush [1], garbage disposal [1])

8/20/08 update:

Total count so far: 7
6 nasty Hobo spiders
1 little crab spider

Locations of 2 most recent Hobo spiders: Kitchen floor (1), living room floor(1).
Body count: 6 Hobo spiders (Boise Weekly Newspaper [1], shoe [3], flush [1], garbage disposal [1]).

8/27/08 update:

Total count so far: 8
7 nasty Hobo spiders
1 little crab spider

Locations of most recent Hobo spider: Entry way wall(1).
Body count: 7 Hobo spiders (Boise Weekly Newspaper [1], shoe [3], flush [2], garbage disposal [1]).

Friday, August 8, 2008

More things I'm getting used to.

We're heading camping this weekend up in the mountains near Stanley, ID. Charlie's parents are in town, and we've planned this with some of their family friends for several months now. Yet, there are certain perils that I'm coming to terms with as far as things like camping in Idaho are concerned. Example: thunderstorms and flash floods! Of course it's just a warning, but some thunderstorms are predicted to move through the area this evening, and there are flash flood watch warnings for the area to which we're headed this evening. Holy moley!

Also new: living in a place where brush fires and forest fires can happen almost within city limits. Yesterday, some oily rags on a guy's back porch spontaneously combusted (!!!!) and set the foothills just outside of town on fire. It ballooned into a 30-acre wildfire before the BLM and the fire department got it under control. No houses were compromised, but it came very close. Maybe I was just fortunate, but I can't really recall that ever happening near Seattle or Portland. You were lucky if you could get your firewood to cure enough over the summer so that it would light come fall--forget "spontaneous combustion."

Finally, spiiiiiiders. I like to think I'm a pretty tough nut. I get dirty, I hang out in the woods, and I can deal with stinky things, gross things, and dead things. I was the "Brunhilda" of a house of post-college roomates because I was the only one not too completely grossed-out to clean the dead mice out of the mousetraps. Come to think of it, I've cleaned up a lot of dead things that the people around me were too afraid to get near.* But I don't like spiders. I heard recently somewhere (from some news source) that phobias can be hereditary. If that's the case, that I know precisely where mine came from. My mom and I have identical reactions to a spider on the wall (KILL KILL KILL), or on our clothes/body ("Huuuuruahaaddhdahsjshjdkahdlkajsdhak!!!!"). Anyhow, I've discovered that in Idaho (and in my HOUSE) there are such nasty things as HOBO SPIDERS. I've disposed of two of them already. One, normal spider-size, the other GIANT LIKE THE TOP OF A POP CAN. Guuuuuuhhhhhhhhh.... I did a little spider research on-line, and came across this GEM of a quote telling you how horrid these spiders are: "A male Hobo Spider is identified by it's genitalia, which look like boxing gloves and are often confused as fangs." That's right. Boxing glove FANG balls. The big one I squished definitely had these. Their bites also cause to flesh to turn black, necrotic and DIE. So charming.

UPDATE: All it took was the phrase "And then your flesh turns black and DIES" to convince Charlie to abandon his Siddhartha-like ways as far as Hobo spiders are concerned and join me in Arachni-cide.

Guess what Idaho ALSO has: Black Widow spiders and Rattlesnakes. GREAT. Haven't seen those yet. Don't want to.

In good news, one little culture shock thing keeps amazing me in a GOOD way: I can wash clothes, hang them on a hanger, and three hours later they're completely dry. UNBELIEVABLE. I can't quite get over it.

(*working at a strip-mall retail shoe store job while in college my co-worker found a dead sparrow outside and, with West Nile in the news, panicked and thought we should call animal control. She was sure that the customers would freak out, and that it would all spiral downhill from there. I told her not to worry, grabbed a tissue, picked up the poor little bird (it had obviously hit the big windows and died) and took it around back for an ignoble burial in the dumpster.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

People Otto has licked.


Devon's friend Rhonda
Devon's friend Katherine

Our landlord
The electrician that RMS sent to fix the light in Portland
The Qwest phone guy

Charlie's mom
Ariel's mom
Devon's mom


If our cat has licked you and I've somehow missed mentioning it here, please e-mail me and I'll remedy it, or post it in the comments.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My kind of activism.

Sorry, I try not to post videos on here, but this is awesome.
I've got to get more than just herbs going in my containers on the porch.

This is my kind of activism. GROW!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Funny story.

(If you're also reading Spudward on occasion, you'll notice this is a double- or cross-post. I thought it was appropriate to share it in both places. Sorry if this annoys anyone.)

So, this story is a little belated timeline-wise. But I wanted to wait until things were all wrapped up with our property management company back in Portland before exposing this story to the world (internet). For those of you that haven't heard it yet, it's a doozy.

About a month ago (actually, exactly a month ago yesterday) Devon and I were working hard to complete the final scrub-down of our house in Portland. Everything was packed up and crammed into cars and moving vans, and the house was looking good. As we sweated and scrubbed in the 90 degree heat, we ticked off rooms: bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, living room--DONE! We had the kitchen left to scrub, and a final zoom through with the vacuum. Devon was scrubbing the kitchen, and I was touching up a little paint damage we'd managed to do to the baseboards around the house.

Let me advise you right now, NEVER do baseboard touch-up work in a house that you are about an hour away from being DONE with. NEVER AGAIN.

I was in one of the bedrooms, scootching my way around the floor of the room on my butt, filling the little dark spots where the paint had been chipped off. Let me add, the baseboards in our house were white, so I had a can of white paint I was carrying around with me. Paint can in hand, I stood up to take a look at how things were going, and promptly stubbed my toe on the carpet and tripped. The paint can flew out of my hands, and paint exploded across the BROWN carpet and onto the tan walls. There was paint EVERYWHERE.

Based on the speed at which Devon made it into the room, the tone of my voice when I howled "OH NO, DEVON!!!!" must have been a pretty good indicator of my emotion: panic. We grabbed as many towels as we could find and started frantically sopping up paint. What in the HELL were we going to do? Not only was our deposit as good as gone, we were probably going to have to pay to have the whole damn room re-carpeted--maybe even the whole HOUSE.

We had been probably TWO hours from being done with the house, and still hadn't had dinner. The frantic brainstorming started. I encouraged Devon to start helping with the carpet rather than the walls (we had matching paint for the walls, we could touch that up later). Thinking back to what had worked best as far as getting the paint brushes clean, I told Devon we HAD to keep the paint wet. If we let it dry, there was no hope left. I grabbed a water bottle and then a bucket and started pouring water directly on the carpet. Then came the dish soap. It had worked for getting the paint out of the brushes, why not the carpet? So, with a sponge mop, a bucket of water, rags and a bottle of dishsoap, we went to work. And believe it or not, it started to come up.

We managed to get about 1/2 of the paint out that way, I think (or maybe it was just more spread out?). Devon started thinking, and remembered that she'd seen carpet cleaners for rent at Fred Meyer. At this point, it couldn't hurt. She jumped in the car, and drove out to the store to see about renting one. Sure enough, they had them. Unfortunately, they required photo ID to rent one. And hers was locked in her office at work (oh, the coincidence). She blasted home, tossed me her car keys (mine was packed with plants--no room for a steam cleaner), and I went and grabbed the machine.

I cannot BELIEVE how well it worked. It was outstanding. Emily, David, and their friend Allen came by to pick up Flymo (our hovercraft lawnmower) as I was sucking up the last of it and drying out the carpet. By that point, aside from my frazzled appearance, they swore you couldn't tell there'd been a bucket of paint spilled all over the carpet. The other awesome thing about the cleaner, is that it sucked up all the water we'd dumped on the carpet trying to prevent the paint from drying.

Devon stopped by the next day to check on things, and she said there was no sign of the disaster. Sure enough, we got our deposit back from the management company today, and it was the entire thing.

Good grief.

The moral of this story is: don't play with paint in rental houses.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The weather, among other things.

In the Pacific Northwest, the air feels thick. It's thick with moisture and damp air. It's wet and heavy and it smells clean. Like the atmosphere just after a good rain: even though it's dense with moisture it feels healthy.

Here the air is dry. It has the texture of cardboard--almost scratchy. But it's also thick. Thick with particulate material and ozone. If you've read this blog before, you know that the weather intrigues me. The weather in Boise is so different (just beyond the obvious temperature difference) than in Portland. I pity the forecasters and meteorologists here: there's not much to report on any given day. When they pull up the illustration of the 7-day forecast, it's more of a polka-dotted line; sun's all across. Sometimes there's a cloud or the word "haze" written across the sun, or sometimes it gets down into the 80's (how we rejoice!), but so far that's been about it. You certainly don't get the surprise and variety I'm used to from Seattle and Portland.

There is one little thing that they regularly broadcast here that we didn't have in Portland: the AQI. Apparently Charlie even received e-mails at work notifying him on today's AQI status. What is it? The Air Quality Index. Remember I mentioned the raspy air with particulate and ozone? Boise is in a valley, sandwiched between two sets of mountains. As a result, we hang onto the same cruddy air for days at a time. The hotter it gets, the worse the air gets. Some days are so bad, you can barely see the foothills from downtown (it would be like not being able to see Mt. Tabor). It's like the backwash of air. So, every day we get an update on what tomorrow's predicted AQI is going to be: if it's green, we rejoice (probably means it'll also be breezy and in the 80's, too!), if it's orange, we sulk and try not to hang out too much outside (orange = unhealthy). Mostly, since we've been here it's been yellow.

It's the little things like that which make you realize that you're somewhere new. The weather report with seven looming suns. The AQI report. The fact that when I reach for a sponge to wipe down the counter, I have to run some water on it first to moisten it (otherwise it's a hard, dried-out brick). The lack of hipsters walking down the street (some might argue that this is a distinct benefit).

There are things that I really like about being here, but I think I'm still kind of in the "denial" of actually living here phase. The job market here is terrible (for me at least), and it's hard to even find things that look appealing and pay reasonably well, let along get called back for an interview. Challenging. I'm also starting to miss my little communities back home--I'm hesitant to start any volunteer opportunities here until I nail down a job for fear that my schedule won't allow me to continue. I'd rather hold out for now, rather than be a flake.

In the meantime, I'm trying to focus on the positive: I've read more of my New Yorkers than ever before, there's plenty of time to read and to internet (now that we have it!), and I've been able to spend lots of time cooking and making delicious things for us to snack on. That said, I'm ready for my purpose now, Mr. DeMille... time for a job, please. I'm hoping that will help to make Boise feel a little more like home.

Friday, June 20, 2008

::Brevity interlude::

It's been pretty heavy around here lately.

So I have two things to share.

The first is a link to Otto's new fame and fortune. He's a model. I wish he'd tell me he's doing these things, though--I'd get him some quality representation (an agent).
Famous kitteh.

I guess at some point you just have to let them live their own lives.

That said, I think the small-time has gone to his head a little. He's never been quite the brightest bulb, but he's starting to show some disturbing tendencies toward visitors. Perhaps he's stressed by the move and is hoping that someone else can take him home? And here I thought he liked us.

Devon told me this story around lunch time. We had to have a maintenance guy out to do some work on the lights in our rental house today. She got a call from the property management company, that he was on his way over. When she got to our house he was already there, and in my room working on the light.

She said that she was so embarrassed when she saw what was happening. Here was the maintenance guy (hopefully in his socks if he was standing on my bed!) in shorts, fixing the overhead light. Meanwhile Otto is going CRAZY licking his leg. And when that cat gets a'licking, he really does it like he means it--we're talking deep, fleshy, "I love you and I want to cleeeeaaaaaaan you" sort of licks. His eyes half-close, and he gets into a rhythm--almost as if it's a meditative state for him.

I can picture their exchange.

"Hi, I'm Devon; I live here. And this is our cat Otto. Obviously you've met. He's not especially shy."

Fortunately the maintenance man was quite accepting of the whole thing--he told Devon that it was ok, he had three cats at home.

Nonethless, it sounds like we need to have a conversation with Otto about Stranger Danger--he must have misheard us when we said it the first time: "No, Otto, it's stranger DANGER, not stranger FLAVOR."

And thus begin the goodbyes.

Last night D., Charlie and I had a nice final hurrah BBQ with David and Emily out on our back patio/slab.

The weather was beautiful, E & D brought Mr. Bingley (their dog), and we had a fantastic spread of barbecue foods: grilled portabella mushrooms, fruit salad, garden burgers, grilled asparagus, red potatoes, a lovely vegetable salad, a divine sangria, and cupcakes for dessert. There was more food that we knew what to do with. The conversation was light, and the company was tremendous.

The only thing that was less than perfect was the elephant sitting just to the left of the slab with the big "last hurrah with D & E before Boise" placard hung around his neck. We did a pretty good job of ignoring him until it was time to say goodbye for the evening. I gave everyone hugs and said we'd be back to visit soon, and then, promptly, after they headed out the door started leaking big alligator tears.

Let me refer back to some previous blog postings for a moment, and remind you that my mom repeatedly points out that I can have quite a flair for the dramatic. I think this is fairly accurate, but that said, I think this was an alligator-tear worthy event. I'd prefer to think that, rather than drama, I have a knack for letting myself feel things deeply--especially when those things involve big life changes or things that directly affect my own little life.

Anyhow, the fact that we're going to be moving to another city, and that the threads that make up my Portland tapestry are starting to knot off at the ends, is finally becoming a little bit real. It's not such a bad thing--in fact, I'm excited to head east. I'm excited about Boise, and I'm excited about being there with Charlie. There are so many things that I'm going to miss about here though.

I suppose the best way to deal with that missing, is to find new things to be excited about in Boise--and I know those things will make themselves apparent in a short amount of time. It's kind of scary, though, getting ready to move and knowing yet what those things are.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feeling bike-crazy this morning.

The other day I heard a news story covering a recent study that indicated bumper stickers can help identify a driver prone to road rage. The research claimed that people who put bumper stickers on their cars tend to be more “territorial” about their space/possessions, and thus are more likely to have a strong reaction when they feel those things are threatened.

Well, I have bumper stickers on my car and on my bike and I don’t think I am prone to road rage? I didn’t think so, that is, until my bike ride in to work this morning. (Actually, in retrospect, I think this is more a case of “smugness,” feeling holier than thou, and reveling in my own “rightness”—not road rage, but also not very admirable qualities. I’m working on it.)

It was the perfect Portland morning for riding my bike to work: cool, sunny, and the traffic lights were all going my way. Another biker gave me a friendly hello as I pulled up to a stoplight with her, and all was well in the world. Birdsong, bumblebees, and singing children.

But those darn stoplights—they always ruin things, don’t they? If there’s one thing that makes me feel absolutely batty when I’m riding my bike, it’s the people who somehow think they’re so above the rules that they can blow through red lights. We don’t live in Idaho, people. Red lights in Portland mean STOP until the light turns green (unless you’re making a right-hand turn).

I pull up to a stop light—and granted, the road to the right was closed to all but MAX light rail, but that’s no excuse!—and a cyclist draws up behind me, barely slows, and zips past on my right, blowing the red light. I wanted to blow a raspberry at him. I was willing to not feel annoyed, though, because of the road closure.

My light turns green moments later (oh, the irony), and I follow him up to the next light. Which he blows through. No forgiveness for you now, my son. He gets a little ahead, and predictably, my light turns green moments later.

Now comes the part that I’m not especially proud of, but it made me feel sooo good. Here I am, wearing my work clothes, on my squeaky, rickety bike. I’m wearing sandals, and I know that I often get passed by people just because I look like I’m the type who’s not serious and is going to just slowly mosey along. And—at least in my mind—Mr. Stoplight-blower with his shorts and his mountain bike had that same impression when he decided he couldn’t wait behind me at a light.

I get in gear to cruise down the ramp to the Steel Bridge, and lo and behold, I’m right behind Speedy McImpatientson. With my rattle-y bike going clank-clank-clank on every bump, and my squeaky pedals going “reeeeeee-reeeeeee-reeeeeee” every third revolution or so, it would be hard not to know I was behind you. (It’s not an especially quiet bike. Rocinante, as I’ve chosen to call it, needs a tune-up.)

Squeeee-squeeee behind him on the Steel Bridge, and then ZOOM, as soon as we hit the Waterfront I’m off! I fly past him, and zip off on my way to work.

I never thought of myself as the competitive type, but under these circumstances, it felt so great to pass him. (I also came up on a person today who’d been at a light with me, and then took an illegal short cut—it was also great to pass her and know that my legal route was actually just as fast.) Then again, all that, and I still got to work 5 minutes late. Roh-well. They probably got there ten minutes late. OH SNAP!

Anyhow. That is my mostly unflattering bike gloat of the day. Yes, I am small and petty just like everyone else.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The worry monster.

It wasn’t until recently that I became the kind of person who worries. Fancy-free, things will work out as they’re supposed to… blah, blah, blah. It seems like all of a sudden, though, someone has infected me with the stress and worry virus—because it seems like that’s all I can do! (Of course, my mother will beg to differ on my assessment of my degree of “worry”—perhaps I’m just not admitting to myself what it actually is I’m experiencing.)

Holy moly this move to Idaho is bringing out the worst of my “worrier” tendencies.

“OMG CHARLIE! What if we don’t find a place to live??” (We found a lovely place to live.)

“OMG CHARLIE! What is they don’t allow Otto?” (He’s fine with a reasonable, refundable pet deposit)

“OMG CHARLIE! What if the woman we’re leasing from doesn’t send us the lease agreement and we turn down our ‘back up’ place and then we don’t have a place to LIVE!?” (She sent it, it’s fine.)

“OMG CHARLIE! The lease agreement says that we have to have a phone on the premises—what if they make us buy a land line??” (They didn’t. Cell phones are fine.)

“OMG CHARLIE! We need to buy a new couch! What if we move to Idaho and we’ve unpacked our moving van and there’s no COUCH to sit on??” (Still working on that one, but I think it will be resolved soon.)

“OMG CHARLIE! We don’t have dressers or a table or a coffee table!?” (Working on those too.)

“OMG CHARLIE! WHAT IF I CAN’T FIND A JOB SOON HOW WILL WE PAY MY COBRA INSURANCE!?” (Fair enough, this one is still out there, but I’ve applied to three jobs that I think I’m well-qualified for.)

Thank goodness for a sweet and understanding person in my life who will listen to these worries calmly and not treat me like I’m going insane.

I’m starting to learn that moving to a new state with no job lined up yet can make a person feel a little insane.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Big news.

As if moving across state lines wasn't enough of a change for us (not to mention finally moving in together), there's more exciting news brewing in my little world.

That's right, Charlie and I are making it official--sometime in 2009 we are going to join the realm of the blissfully wedded.

We're both so excited about it (as you can imagine), and our families are thrilled as well.

We've not really started much of the planning process (aside from the occasional "WOULDN'T IT BE AWESOME IF WE MADE EVERYONE DRESS IN SILVER LAMÉ AND WEAR HAIR HATS??" thought). As we've told a few people (it's turning out to be an exceptionally convenient excuse!), once we get through the move to Boise, then we can turn our thoughts to figuring out how to throw a wedding. AAA! A WEDDING!

One funny engagement-related story to share... they had an end-of-the-year party at the Homework Helper program where I volunteered this year, and Charlie tagged along. The population I worked with there was primarily Somali, and most of them were recent immigrants (refugees to be more specific) from Africa. Most of the girls came up to us and wanted to know who Charlie was.
"Is he your boyfriend?"
"No, he's my fiancé."
"What's that?"
"Well, it means we're going to get married. He's not my boyfriend any more, but he's not my husband yet either."
"So he's your husband?"
"Not yet."
"So he's your boyfriend, then...."

Fiancé was somewhat of a lost point.

Another amusing moment came when I told one of the girls that I wouldn't be able to come back next year because I was moving to Idaho. First she was so excited, "Idaho! We're going to Idaho!"
Then, not so much.
"You're moving away to Idaho?"
"Idaho is poo. It's where all the dogs and cats go to go poo. The dogs and cats all poo on Idaho."
(Thinking to myself: That explains why it's so brown!)
"Oh no! Well what am I doing to do there, then?"
"You're gonna have ta clean it all up." (scowling)

All in all, it was actually pretty sweet of her. :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh, the silence.

Boy, quiet around here lately, no?

Things have been busy and have been happening. Like what? Like C. job hunting and me trying to remain relaxed and calm-acting when really all I want to say is: "WHERE DID YOU APPLY TODAY? SEND ME YOUR UPDATED LIST? WHAT CAN I DO ASIDE FROM WAIT?" I couldn't say these things because of course C. the whole time is thinking things like, "It's two am. I'm not sleeping. I should be working on another application. I should get up and fill out another one. I should be working on my cover letters." So, any additional pressure from me? Not helpful. I've been trying to keep my anxiety over the whole process to a minimum and hide if from the rest of the world: SECRET STRESS. If you ask me, I've done a pretty bang-up job all things considered.

Anyhow, that part of the process is all over now so I can share all these things with you. C. found a job. It's in Boise, ID. In a little over a month, we'll be packing up all our things and hitting the road for Idaho. HUH. I'm actually pretty excited about the change. Of course, it will be like tearing off the world's stickiest bandaid (the kind that you wear in hot weather so the glue kind of melts around the hairs on your arm?) when we leave Portland. We may even scream out loud a little. This has been a great little home.

I've been pondering what to do with this blog--it IS named "Portlandiaquill" after all. Lot of good THAT will do me in Idaho.

I think I'll probably keep it, though, because--like it or not--once you've lived in a place, you absorb quite a bit of it (maybe that's what the whole osmosis thing is all about?). It adjusts the way you think, the way you understand, and the way you walk down the street. I'd say Portland has had an effect on all of those things for me.

More on these things (and the things I will and already miss about Portland) in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, you can check out C. and my thoughts on Idaho at our new home-away-from-home: Spudward.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Writing family narrative is more difficult than it seems.

At first blush, writing family narrative should be easy. It's confessional, it's personal, and it's a topic that's close to your heart. What to tell and what not to tell, how long to keep it and how short to make it all end up cramping things a little. Especially when it's written for a class.

I'm not especially proud of this, and it's too cheesy to be profound, but it's a first go and I feel like I need to air it somewhere so that it can dry out and get a little crackled around the edges before I give it another go.

The assignment: Find a family heirloom or personal artifact and try to obtain its story from an interview. You can tape record or make notes or, in the manner of oral tradition just remember it. Bring the story and the heirloom (or representation of it) to class.

So, I'm excited about being in a class. I'm excited to do readings. I'm so excited to be sitting in a room with students and a professor listening to lectures that it's all I can do not to be THAT kid who arrives 20 minutes early and reviews all their notes on the readings, then waves their arms about wildly when the instructor asks a question. That said, I'm not sure I understand the point of this assignment. There must be one. Will it relate to the long, toothy piece on generative and iconic metaphors we read from our course reader? By sharing these stories with the class will we get to experience how difficult it is to impart knowledge we know deeply and intimately, with only a limited opportunity to give supporting contexts? Hopefully that's the point of the exercise. Otherwise, it starts to smack of show-and-tell.

Not that show-and-tell is altogether bad. Essentially that's what teaching and even basic communication are about, right? But it feels a little like secondary school, you know?

On a pessimistic note, if it is more of just a "sharing" exercise, then I think I can even take a "teaching" lesson from that--what a student hands in is, in someways limited by what the assignment requests. Mass is conserved or transferred; you get out what you put in.

So, without further adieu, a little "drying out."

(If all goes as plans, and my next big life project pans out, you may see more of these family histories (and a re-worked version of this one!) in the future.)

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Sometimes an heirloom comes in the form of a physical object, other times this "artifact" takes the form of a family tradition, or location. Like an "heirloom vegetable" or "heirloom quilt pattern" often it's the seed, or idea that's really the most important component.

In the case of my family, the story of such an heirloom "seed" begins with my great-grandmother, passes through three generations, and lands, finally, in my hands. The tradition in question is that of travel—particularly, travel to Hawaii. On January 15, 2008, I interviewed my mother about how this tradition developed, and how the heirloom “trip” was handed down through the generations.

The story begins with Grandma Sue, my great-grandmother. In the 40’s and 50’s, Grandma Sue worked as a typist at the county courthouse in Tacoma, Washington. She grew up during the Great Depression, and was quite frugal by nature. Her husband, Joe, an employee at a worker-owned furniture factory, was still a young man when he died in a collision with a train. Grandma Sue found herself left alone, on a limited salary, trying to make ends meet, and raising a young son (my Grandpa Bob).

Grandpa Bob was a talented guitarist from an early age. Grandma Sue enrolled him in music lessons, and he began to learn some of the Hawaiian-style songs that were all the rage at that moment in time. This landed him a spot on a local radio program, playing jingles for a music studio. Whether sparked by her son's music, the exotic, Hollywood cache of Hawaii, or the opportunity to escape her daily grind, Grandma Sue fell in love with the idea of Hawaii. As fate would have it, right around this time (probably in her 40's or 50's) she received the opportunity to take a tour of the Hawaiian islands with a group of co-workers form the courthouse. She jumped on the opportunity. Somewhere, there are family photos of a young, smiling, Grandma Sue descending the stairs of a small, island-hopper plane and walking out across the tarmack.

One trip led to another, and as the years went by, Grandma Sue saved all her extra money for a Hawaiian vacation once every few years. Even though she was by all accounts a frugal woman in her normal life (saving twist ties, foil scraps, and envelopes for blank “scratch” paper), when on vacation Grandma Sue always stayed in the top-notch hotels, and ate at the most sought-after restaurants.

From an early age, Grandma Sue was a sickly child. Ill-treated by her parents for not possessing the vitality of her siblings, she suffered for years with a dysfunctional kidney. The excess toxins in her system frequently made her ill, and never allowed her to feel particularly healthy. Traveling to Hawaii, she found, eased those problems, and made her feel significantly better--even if only in a psychosomatic way). On these early trips she vacationed with work friends, and with her eventual daughter-in-law’s mother (my other great-grandmother, Sadie). Even so, a single woman glamorously jet-setting around the Pacific must have made quite a stir.

When her first grandchildren were born, Grandma Sue's Hawaii trips made the leap from indulgence to “heirloom.” Beginning with my mother (oldest of 7 children), she turned her grandchildren into her traveling partners. When they turned 11 or 12, she’d whisk them off on a whirlwind trip through palm trees, ocean beaches, guava juice, and plumeria blooms. These trips became an eagerly-awaited indication of “growing up” in the family.

In the years that followed, as the grandchildren grew up, married, and took their own trips, many gravitated back toward Hawaii. But whether it was for a honeymoon or just a vacation, they’d always remember to bring back mementos for Grandma Sue—leis, mugs, fresh flowers. I remember visiting her as a child and how her house was always filled with "Hawaii" things. After all her "grandchild trips" wrapped up, it wasn't long before her great-grandchildren began to arrive. As we became old enough, Grandma Sue decided to extend the tradition to yet another generation. First trips on airplanes, pictures with floral leis, memories of humid air and sweet guava juice--she brought all those things to the next "tier" of her family. Unfortunately, she only made it through the oldest two great-grandchildren, before her health worsened and she could no longer travel. I was the second and last great-grandchild to make the trip. My mother believes that this was also her final trip to the islands.

While the "gift of Hawaii" wasn't exactly a physical "heirloom" from Grandma Sue, she did pass down a tradition of travel and exploration. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren have nurtured this seed of adventure and have gone on to travel the world, collectively exploring 6 of the 7 continents. Many of her great-grandchildren born after she died have since accompanied their parents to the islands. Though not "handed down" in the most literal sense, a trip to Maui or Oahu has become an "heirloom" that each of her 7 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren can all share.

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(postscript: it definitely ended up just being show-and-tell. We placed our objects on desks around the room, and set the little write-up we'd done next to them--mine was by far the longest--and then walked around the room looking at what other people had brought. Criticisms: it wasn't quite apparent how this related to the goals of the course, and we didn't get to know one another better as a result--you weren't standing by your object, you were wandering the room, so there was no face-to-name-to-story element. Oh well. Refer back to that part about ultimately getting out of an assignment that which you put in.)

Variations on clouds: 3.