Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm A Queen!

Because I'm getting a crown.

I think I've written about this before but whenever there's something wrong with my car and I have to take it in, I always expect it to cost $600. That way if it's $600 then I can think: I knew it! And if it's more, say $800, well, that's not too much more than I expected. And if it's less then I can think: whew! at least it isn't $600.

This is exactly what I was thinking as the dentist ground up my old broken tooth and fitted me with a temporary. So when I found out that after insurance I would probably owe $450 (due now), I thought whew!
Today Is the First Day
Today's my first day of being fabulously organized and focused for writing and so far I'm failing spectacularly. Also, I just broke a tooth.

I'm attempting to systematically eliminate distractions. Last night I deleted several series recordings from my TV shows and cleaned out my Google Reader. There are a lot of sites that I enjoy, like the Slog but every time I log on there are a million posts and it wastes too much time. Good-bye Slog.

I'm still subscribed to all my regular real people blogs. I told angelawd I was going to update my links soon and soon is probably not anytime soon. I don't know. If I can master this fabulously organized and focused thing, maybe soon.

I also deleted my Usenet reader. I've read alt.gossip.celebrities for such a long time I'm too embarrassed to name the date. I've tried to quit twice before but I think this one will stick. Do they make a patch for that?

We had a fabulous weekend in Seattle and I'll write more about it when I get the photos organized. There aren't a lot of photos because we took Bob's camera and he got to hold it so I didn't get to capture every interesting crack in the sidewalk like I usually do.

A few last quick notes: I had to scrape ice off my car this morning and there was no traffic on the way in. I guess Washington is on Spring Break this week.

And finally, there were some young people on the radio talking about going to an Eighties party and what to wear and what their research uncovered. ("They wore Izod shirts in different colors and … ") I have never felt older.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Photo: My First Easter

In my head I always think that the computer is what sucks up most of my free time so two days of computer-free would translate into piles of time to get to those long ignored projects. HA HA.

Friday I did errands and made the brownies and thought I'd clean out my kitchen cupboards. You know where you take everything out and wipe them out and find all sorts of treasures like dried up macaroni and measuring spoons you thought you lost? I got less than halfway through and had to run off to an appointment and by the time I got home I had time for a snack and then we got ready to go over to Priscilla's to have dinner with Steve and look at photos.

Saturday I read a little bit and got organized for the writers meeting, then the gang arrived and when we were finished I took advantage of the sunshine to weed and rake and clean up in the yard. Then it was time to get cleaned up and go to Priscilla's again for more time to visit with Steve and look at more photos.

Now I'm sitting at the computer not sure what to do with myself.

By popular demand: here's more info on my buttermilk bread from an earlier post. (Here, if you missed it.)

This probably isn't a good recipe if you're new to bread baking. If you've never made bread but want to try, it's never going to get easier than the no knead bread recipe.

If you want to learn more about bread baking, I recommend The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book by Laurel Robertson. It's the perfect beginner book and she explains a lot of these steps in great detail.

Laurel's Buttermilk Bread

2 t. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water

3/4 cup very hot water
1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cup cold buttermilk

5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 t. salt

2 to 4 T butter

Dissolve yeast in the warm water.

Mix together the hot water and honey (I never measure, I just squish a bunch in) and add the buttermilk. It should be slightly warm.

Stir the flour and salt together and make a well in the center and then pour in the liquid ingredients and stir from the center outward, incorporating all the flour. The bread is lightest if the dough is slightly soft. (I wish I could annotate this direction, but honestly, all dough seems soft to me.)

Kneed about 20 minutes adding the butter in cold bits at the end of the kneading time. (I've done this with and without the beloved Kitchen Aid. The machine is easier, in case there was any doubt in your mind. When I did the bread making class the teacher had a cool way of kneading, he did a sort of wrist flip and swung the dough around so it slapped on the counter, as if you were trying to smack the water out of a pair of heavy socks. He made it look like poetry. I flipped my wrist and had to pick up my dough from the floor.)

Form the dough into a ball and place it smooth side up in the bowl. Cover and keep in warm place. After 1.5 hours gently poke the center of the dough about 1/2 inch deep with your wet finger. If the hole doesn't fill up or if the dough sighs, it's ready.

Press flat, then form into a smooth ball and let it rise like before except check it after 45 minutes. If you use quick-rise yeast, cut these times in half. Ideally, you're moving from step to step by the way the dough feels and looks. I'm not that talented and usually just hope for the best.

Press the dough flat and divide in two. Round it and let it rest until relaxed. (I'm not sure how to tell the dough is relaxed. Maybe after it finishes its cocktail and cigarette?) I let it rest for 15 minutes. You can shape for loaf pans, or even better, shape into round balls and put it in greased pie plates and they make the cute loaves from the photo.

Preheat the oven to 325 while you do the final rise. Set the loaves in a warm place until the dough slowly returns a fingerprint. Bake 45-60 minutes.

This bread tastes fabulous cut into thick slices and spread with cashew butter and Nutella. One time I ate almost half a loaf fresh from the oven with butter. Then I couldn't eat my dinner.

This last time I misjudged my timing (and probably several other steps) and had to pull it out of the oven a tad early so it ended up damp and heavy.

Even goofed up homemade bread is better than store bought so I keep trying.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

 Computer Free
This evening we went to the grocery store. Neither of us wore a coat into the store and it was monsooning when we were done. We ran across the parking lot in a gusting downpour, drop-kicked our groceries into the trunk and were in the car buckled-up in record time.

I had a recipe I was thinking of making for Easter. We don't really celebrate Easter but I thought I might make a nice dinner. When I clipped the recipe I thought it was a "toss in slow cooker and forget it" type of recipe and as I was writing down what I needed I noticed there was stuff about browning and setting aside and a bunch of steps with aluminum foil on and then off and then a reduction sauce and I could sense that this wasn't the type of recipe I was up for so it was abandoned and I'm guessing now we'll have frozen pizza and salad.

We'll see how I feel.

I did a lot of computer work at the office this week and my neck, shoulders, back, arms and dried little eyeballs are telling me that they would like a break so I'm going to be on a severe computer reduction diet for the next couple of days.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Downtown Portland

My Favorite Things to do in Portland
Last month it was 16 years since I started working in Downtown Portland and I still love it. When the weather is good and even when it's bad, I walk all over town to get fresh air, take care of banking, have my delicious Alexis fried cheese fix, try on wool pants, or have my favorite sausage sandwich from the midweek downtown farmer's market.

 When were down at the old office I would walk by the river almost every day in good weather. Like a regularly scheduled break, every day around 2p or 3p, I'd head out and walk by the river to clear my head for the last couple hours of the work day. I usually walk on the west side of the river but Eastbank Esplanade is nice too and it makes a big loop. I've gotten out of the habit at the new office but if it ever stops raining, I'm going to get back to that.

For one of the best birthdays I ever had, besides the one in Germany, we got a room at the Paramount Hotel and spent the afternoon hanging out downtown. We went to the Fox Tower cinemas to see a Wes Anderson movie, I think it was The Royal Tennenbaums, and then went to late night happy hour at Dragonfish for snacks and exotic drinks.

Whenever the family is town we always make a trek to Powell's books. Go there first and pick up a handy walking map. Lucky for me I can go on my lunch hour. It's a long walk, but do-able. I need to go this week because last time I was there I bought a book I already have and need to trade it for one I need.

Hawthorne Bridge Lift

One of my favorite downtown meals is paella at Southpark. They also have fabulous fish specials. Mother's Bistro is also yummy for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner but really busy so you have to plan ahead. Bob and my new favorite dinner spot is West Café which is a couple blocks north of the museums and Schnitzer and where we go on our lecture night.

Bob and I are both museum nerds and belong to the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society. Every once in a while I go to the museum on my lunch hour. It's enough time to peek at the special exhibit or do a lap in the
Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Center for Native American Art.

Farmers Market

I haven't been in years but Saturday Market is a good spot for visitors. Lots to eat, look at and buy. Easy access to river walk and light rail. Voodoo Doughnut isn't too far from the market, either. I also haven't seen the Rose Garden in Washington Park in a long time but it's a lovely spot to visit.

Portland OR 01.23.07

My friend Tonya and I used to meet for walks in Forest Park which is really nice. We haven't managed to synch up our schedules since she became a successful independent businesswoman.

Bob and I sometimes drive over to Portland on Saturday mornings for the Farmers Market at Portland State. Actually, Bob more than I. He discovered that some of our favorite vendors from the Vancouver Farmers Market have switched to Portland. Tons of great stuff to eat even if you're not taking a fruit and vegetable stash home.

A fun day trip is to drive out into the Columbia River Gorge and check out Multnomah Falls and then on the way back stop at McMenamins Edgefield for some food and a beer and a walk around to check out what's going on there.
I've always wanted to do the Shanghai Tunnel tour and I never have but a woman in my writers group has done it twice and says it's really cool. I've also never been on the Portland Spirit because I'm not really into boats, but I walk by it all the time and it looks fun for people who like boats.

If you like wandering around looking in shops and grabbing random snacks, downtown is perfect for that or the Pearl which is where you find yourself if you go to Powell's.

On the other side of the river is Hawthorne which is my favorite. There are also shops and stuff on Broadway around the Lloyd Center and out on Alberta.

Friday, March 14, 2008

In Box
The Dream Police They Live Inside of My Head
Man, there is just too much heavy stuff going on right now. Can't write about it all.

The attorneys I work for have both been out of the office most of the last several weeks. Either I deal with stuff on my end or things pile up until they get back in the office.

This is co-worker's in box.

Not scary you say?


Well, this is his desk. We're trying to keep it all reeled in with the crises on the top of the pile. This week there are an unusual number of crises.

I have never been so grateful for a day off as I was today. I expected to have more time to dink around but it's been more putting things back together. Cleaning out the fridge and buying food; catching up on email and trying to fix a situation (long sob story omitted); figuring out where things are at with the checkbook. You know, that daily living type stuff.

Uncouth Heathen asked about my favorite things to do in Portland and ALL WEEK I kept a file open on my desktop so every time I thought of something I would make a note and track down a URL so I could whip my post together this weekend. Left it on the office computer. doo-doo. It's coming someday ...


Last night we went out to a 10 star fantastic dinner for my sweetheart's birthday and I have to confess I was a weary and using all my efforts just to sit up straight.

Since I wasn't in the mood for wine, I ordered a fancy fruity soda thing. It was bright pink and very sweet and delicious and I had two giant swigs before I noticed that it has caffeine. I don't do caffeine, ever. But especially not in the evenings. Who adds caffeine to a pink girly drink?

I drank enough to make it hard to fall asleep. Nothing like being dead tired but laying there in the dark with your eyes open. Then it was my big morning to sleep in and I woke up at 6:30a. I closed my eyes right away and thought, "No! no!' But yes. I was awake.

New Camera
I got my sweetheart a surprise for his birthday. When I bought my new camera I bought this for him. He's a fabulous photographer and a descendant of a fabulous photographer. I thought he'd enjoy having a something of his own to carry around.

I gave it to him last weekend since we were doing the big family thing. I said, "I got you a surprise for your birthday and thought you might like to play with it this weekend. Would you like to open it now?"

He saw the box and looked like a kid at Xmas and said, "Is this what I think it is?"

Then he opened it and made a funny face and said, "What is this?"

It's not like he was disappointed, it just wasn't what he thought it was. He thought it was Berlin Alexanderplatz an epically long movie that he says saved his life. I bought him that to open on his actual birthday which means he is the luckiest man alive.

Here's his first photo set.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Post Party
Excellent weekend. Really spectacular. The party went great and everyone seemed to have a good time. I have tons of pictures which I will organize as soon as I can but probably not until the end of the week.

Yesterday I took the folks on a Powell's run and it was the perfect day, sunny and nice without a coat even though I had a hangover so bad I wanted to die.

My dear husband wrote an item about his music selections for the party here. And he was quite a prince this weekend helping keep things organized, running around with last minute errands and picking up the slack when I was hobbling around yesterday.

Last night Mom and Dad and Priscilla came over for leftovers at our house and then Mom and Dad went off to the motel with the park & fly and they should be sitting in a plane right now getting ready to take off for Hawaii. Lucky.

I had trouble falling asleep last night and woke up a bunch of times, so still not quite feeling like my sparkling self yet. And of course I waltzed into my office to find a couple of forest fires so no slacking for me.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Difference Between My Sister and Me

 The difference between my sister and me is that I go drama queen in situations where she appears to be barely ruffled.

Many eons ago when we were in college we were on some sort of road trip. I can't remember where we were going but we were in her car, which was originally my car, which was a 1972 Plymouth Duster that had once been owned by our grandparents. I could probably get at least a half dozen good blog posts out of that car. I'll have to see if there's a good photo somewhere.

Anyway, on this particular trip we were low on gas and this was the kind of car that went from a quarter tank to stuttering on fumes in a heartbeat. Knowing this, we took an unknown exit which led to the backroads and not a strip of gas stations and chunk chunk. We were out of gas. I immediately went into freak-out mode convinced that our very lives were at risk and days later people would find our bodies in a ditch.

My sister calmly told me to get out of the car. She locked it and grabbed the gas can (out of gas, not an uncommon occurrence) and off we went, no civilization in sight. Within minutes a car filled with strangers pulled up and offered us a ride. As I protested, "How do we know they aren't blood-thirsty murderers?" my sister calmly ordered me to get into the car.

The world's nicest people took us to the gas station and back to our car.

We lived on into middle age. So far.

I bring this up because she's on her way here right now and just phoned because she got mixed up and went over a bridge she shouldn't have. When I first moved to Portland I was perpetually lost. It took months before I didn't cry when I ended up driving over a bridge I shouldn't have. I was panicking for her, thinking "Oh no, how will she find her way?"

She phoned us from the car, completely calm. "What do I do next?"

And she's good at fixing things. Why didn't I inherit those genes?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Attack of the Monster Cereal

I didn't mention it earlier but I made rice crispy treats on Saturday morning. I had leftover crispy cereal (not Rice Krispies, I bought the generic version) from the white bark balls I made last month. Crispy rice cereal only comes in luggage-size boxes. The box was so big I couldn't fit it in any of my kitchen cupboards and had to put on top of the filing cabinet in the laundry room.

I haven't made them in eons and now I remember why. The bag of marshmallows instructions used the microwave but I wanted to do it on the stovetop and after a half hour the effing marshmallows still weren't melted so I had to transfer to the microwave.

Once melted, I scraped the world's stickiest substance into a giant bowl with the cereal and tried to mix it together. I wasn't getting far with my spoon and since I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty so I plunged them in which didn't seem to accomplish anything except to spread the world's stickiest substance all over my hands. Then the cereal stuck to my hands and would not come off and the more I tried to scrape it off, the more that stuck to me until I had these giant marshmallow-cereal gloves on my hands. I knew that on some level this was funny and we should probably get photos except I was not humored in the least and sort-of panicked (ah! I'm going to die stuck in a giant web of marshmallow and cereal) and super irritated because my quick little project to get rid of my barrel of cereal was resulting in a mess and frustration.

Some warm sudsy water and my hands were clean. I buttered some aluminum foil and mashed the mixture into the buttered pan and let them cool and everybody loved them. I brought the leftovers for the lunchroom.

Meanwhile, I haven't slept through the night for 6 straight nights and just out of curiosity I checked and last March I had doodoo sleep as well so I guess it really is a seasonal thing, not that I'm any less sleepy for the realization.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Secret Productivity

One thing about my lazy days is that I always really want them to be productive but the rule of what constitutes valid productivity is a secret, even from me, thus I am never satisfied no matter what I do.
I woke at a decent hour and read Temeraire: Throne of Jade for a couple hours. There are about 100 pages in the first 150 which have woefully little Temeraire (a dragon) which is the only reason to show up for the book and was causing me some dismay. But he got more active and I would have liked to read longer but the secret productivity called.

I put on my yoga clothes and then sat in front of the computer (one of my fitness secrets) and caught up on email and RSS feeds. Bob said he wanted to go for a walk so I changed into walking clothes. It was sunny and in my head I was thinking it was nice and warm out there and it was barely over 40 degrees so we kept a brisk pace.

When we got home I put on yardwork clothes and worked out front in the sun (now more than 50 degrees) and raked and whacked rose bushes and pulled weeds and destroyed some prime slug habitat. My arms turned to noodles in a few hours so I didn't finish but then finishing yardwork tasks is not one of my superpowers.

Now I'm sleepy and looking at the papers on my desk that I not-so-affectionately refer to as "my pile" and I'm wishing I would have dealt with them earlier. I'll have to shuffle and make sure there isn't anything time sensitive and they will have to sit for awhile longer.

Tonight on Masterpiece Theatre: Emma. Yay.