Aug 31, 2006

The Oregon State Fair

There were lots of rides. Lots and lots of rides. All hosted by "Funtastic". One gets the feeling that Funtastic ought to use a little more elbow grease cleaning all those rides. The feeling comes from touching them and experiencing a kind of sticky grime. Really, I'm not germphobic.

This poor wee goat complained a lot about the bath he was getting. Maybe he just didn't want an audience. His cries were piercing and heart-rending. We couldn't help but say "awwww" and laugh simultaneously. This little goat got so clean that a really gross person could have eaten off it's back and not got sick.

Justify FullLots and Lots and Lots of rides. The kids mostly loved the rides.

Highlights from the Oregon State Fair in Salem (Lisa and I took the kids):

  • Undoubtedly the kids will tell you that the best part was the rides, because it wouldn't be cool to admit that they really enjoyed the animals.

  • People watching. Carnies in general, and some carnies in particular. One ride operator dazzled me with her aviator glasses, masculine helmet style haircut, an orange doo-hickey prominently poised on her tongue, and with her shirt being tucked into tight black spandex pants, I really found it difficult to look anywhere else. And wouldn't you know it, the boys had to take this ride, like, five times. My eyes were burning.

  • The food selection was sensationally vibrant...there were two or three selections that weren't corn dogs and french fries, but all the booths looked exactly the same to me, a giant sea of beige food options liberally slathered in grease. (I actually had a halfway decent baked potato, but the butter they drenched it in tasted like coconut, that slightly nauseating fake butter flavor.)

  • Watching cows get milked is riveting. I sound sarcastic, but I tell you, it's true. Once your eyes are fixed on a set of bursting udders getting attatched to little octopus suction cups sucking the milk into clear tubes that deposit it in a big clear plastic holding container, you will not be able to blink. The veins on the udders are pretty distressing to see if you are a woman and have ever had breasts too full of milk. I have brand new respect for the cows that give me milk.

  • Lots of fun was had watching a huge work-horse getting groomed. I overheard a conversation between Rex and Max while they were staring (transfixed) at the horse's huge penis: Rex "Hey Max, do you see that big thing hanging down under him?" Max "Yeah." Rex "What do you suppose it is?" Max "I don't know" big silence as both of them continue to stare at the horse's penis until the horse began to pee (an operation that can last up to five minutes and cause a river to flood all nearby feet). Both the boys and Elena thought this was the best entertainment ever and refused to move on to the pigs until the horse was done.

  • The pigs were impressive. The pink ones look naked. I had the urge to make them little (big) outfits. I prefered the black and pink ones and confess to developing brief fantasies in which I get myself a pet pig and then spend the rest of my life dedicated to feeding it and cleaning up after it. Pigs are big and even though these were farm pigs, I made eye contact with one pig named Susy who I swear had the wild light of a boar in her eyes and if I had been in her pen she might have mauled me. Lisa and I really enjoyed the pigs.

  • There weren't a lot of chickens in the poultry shed, but strangely...the ones that were there were either little tiny English birds that looked so cute you could carry them around in your pocket like a chihuahua (only nicer), or they were giant Buff Orpingtons. Cora (the wonderful big hen that got us in trouble) was a Buff Orpington, but these guys were like Cora on steroids. I wonder if they check for steroids at these events? Cause these guys were the biggest chickens I have ever laid eyes on. I was a little worried about them. There wasn't a normal sized chicken in sight.

  • The amount of trash for sale was astonishing. Booth after booth of the same damn crap that our kids wanted because kids always want what there is to want. (Perhaps this is a part of our gathering instincts?) I always feel exploited and also dirtied by the garbage they inspire Max to pine for. Giant blow up hammers. Who the hell thinks this stuff up?

  • The noise at fairs like this is insidious. It crawls deep into your ear drums and doesn't leave for hours. If it was up to me, I would get rid of the whole creepy loud carnival aspect of the fair. Why aren't the animals enough? And why can't there be better food, It could still be fattening, but why can't it be better quality and taste better? Lord knows the icky stuff isn't cheap. I imagine that whoever owns Funtastic is a real character themselves.

  • The kids had a great time, so even though I really dislike the whole carnival part, it was enjoyable to see the kids all so excited about the rides and the snowcones. There's nothing so cool, as a parent, than to see your kid(s) really explore the underbelly of life on earth,
    then to snatch them away and bring them home where everybody starts each day with a clean pair of pants and wholesome food, and where they are relatively safe.
The First Egg

This is the first egg laid yesterday by our new flock. It's always a puzzle figuring out which hen has been getting busy in the henhouse, unless you can sit and watch them all day. This egg comes with a clue in the form of an auburn feather, which means it could belong to Pinny, Henna, or Pearl. I put my money on Pearl because she has mellowed in the way that pullets do when they're about to become hens. They don't run away from you quite as much, and of course, there's always the mating pose that can give a bird's reproductive maturity away. However, I haven't actually witnessed my girls doing this yet. (A posture they will immediately assume if you reach out for them, wings slightly askew, knees slightly bent, in readiness for the attentions of a rooster.)

Having fresh laid eggs is one of those things that makes your life feel blessed with abundance and rich quality. I was giving the girls some fresh water before coming to work this morning and there was a breeze whipping through my yard that smelled of distant ice floes. Absolutely autumnal. I saw that my butternuts are quite large and tan, almost ready. The vines are dying back. The tomatoes are showing signs of petering out. The dahlias are only now budding out. I feel so sad for them, blossoming just as the icy winds start tearing through town. Next year I will have all my dahlias in early. The nip in the air made me feel excited for the winter plannning of next year's garden. I know so much more now that I've been through the summer in this new yard. Next year will be one of more careful plantings.

Most people get sad when the taste of fall comes. I relish it. I like to feel it on my skin, the bite of arctic whipping through an otherwise warm day. Harbinger of warm interiors and frigid landscapes. Hot soup. Sweaters and hats. A pulling in of forces, reserves of energy stored against sleet and snow. I will miss the fresh vegetables in my own garden. I will miss the farmer's market (not done for this whole month, luckily).

I hope all the hens start laying before the winter really settles in because when the daylight hours are really short they'll stop laying anyway. I'd like to see all of them lay a couple of eggs before shutting down for winter. (I could use artificial light to force them to keep laying, but doing this will burn them out younger.) My girls are almost all grown up!

As I was cycling to work I heard some hens squawking in that delightful way they do when they are laying. Somewhere between eighth and ninth on Birch. It made me so happy! (I don't risk getting anyone in trouble mentioning the location because hens are LEGAL here.) I am tempted to bombard my old chicken-hating-neighbors (they know who they are) with chicken information and news about mine. I want to send them charts that show all the cities, big and small, that allow people to keep chickens. But I remind myself that trying to make them feel uncomfortable about their strange aversion to poultry I will not be acting in a gracious manner. It will put me at a disadvantage in the end. So I'll refrain, and instead I'll be super happy for all of us who keep hens and hope that anyone who would like to have them is able to.

Aug 29, 2006

Style Philosophy Of The Thick And Richly Padded

I'm not sure it's entirely decent for a thirty six year old to wear striped ankle socks with mary janes. But if it weren't for my shoes and socks I would no longer recognize myself. Plus, they make me really happy.

Which you would never guess based on this photo taken yesterday to show off my new bob. That's right, I did the ol' chop chop. Good haircut by Carmen, but if she's reading this: Carmen, I can't put my fingers through my own time go easy on the products!) This picture is proof that I am still BOTOX FREE (Is it just totally unbelievable that I actually really like this picture of myself in spite of the bags drooping low? Jesus, I really am a grown up WOMAN and aging every day in body though my spirit feels as though it will never have any age at all. When I get all enthusiastic and spazzy about the things that make me happy and excited, I forget that this is what people actually see...a grown up woman in her late thirties babbling like a fifteen year old who just got her first tube of lipstick. No wonder people look at me like I crawled out of their closets drooling and cackling!)

I am going to avoid the subject of calories and exercise and instead conduct a little style quiz. There are a lot of philosophies about how to dress a large lady. Most of them revolve around the effort to reduce the appearance of girth, the effort to fool everyone into thinking you actually need to bulk up a little bit because you're looking so fashionably gaunt...Come On People! I can tell you that nothing I wear will make me look like I'm not the big person I am right now. The best I can hope for is to minimise how ridiculous I look trying to be fashionale. (Avoiding a the return of the tight leggings and big sweater look is a good start.)

I've been watching the movie "Beauty Shop" with Queen Latifah and Alfre Woodard for two days, over and over and I just can't get over how amazingly sexy and stylish those two women are. Neither of them can be called "thin" exactly, and Latifah can be said to have queenly proportions...yet neither of them are gorgeous "for their size" or stylish "for their size". They just are gorgeous and stylish, period. So how come I can't achieve that?

It's been pointed out by both Dominique and Philip that those ladies have stylists attending them all the time and a lot of money to spend on clothes that actually look great on them. I have no stylist and I can afford to shop at Ross and J.C. Penny's. I have had to also point out that Latifah and Woodard both have large breasts which make a large ass seem perfect and proportionate. I'm one of those unfortunate pear shapes which makes me look like I was pieced together from two seperate bodies like an impulsively built frankenstein.

I was trying to design a pinafore last night for the "Tie One On" apron challenge hosted by Angry Chicken (see my links). I was trying to come up with one that wouldn't make me look ridiculous while watching Latifah sashaying her sexy sizeable ass around and I was realizing that I'm just going to have to be my own stylist and designer. It's time to bring Headless Helen home to fit some garments on. But what will my design philosophy be? Tell me which rules for dressing large ladies you all think are actually important? (You should know that as a thin person I routinely broke the rules of good taste because so many of them are patently stupid.)

The Rules For Dressing Large Ladies:

1. Always wear black.

2. Never wear bright patterns.

3. Never wear big patterns.

4. Always wear monochromatic color schemes.

5. Wear really baggy shirts and super tight leggings with white sneakers.

6. Wear shirts that show off your bosom but disguise your protruding belly.

7. Always wear mu-mus like Mrs. Roper.

8. Don't wear layers.

9. Wear garments that cling to your figure without being tight.

1o. Wear padded bras to look like you're meant to be large.

11. Wear midriff-baring tops and low rider jeans to show you're not ashamed of all the rolls
hanging out.

12. Wear everything two sizes too small so that you will actually appear two sizes smaller.
(Yeah, that one fools me every time.)

13. Don't dress like Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Anyone who knows me knows that I ALWAYS want
to dress like her. Weren't there fat girls back then? C'mon, wouldn't I look chic back in my
boots and a pioneer gown with a little modern Comme Des Garcons touch added?)

14. Say: "Fu*k you! I'm going all bright and obnoxious and if you think I'm an object of ridicule
at least I won't look like I was dressed by Barbara Bush!!@^%*&^&#^&"

Tell me what you think. I will probably disagree...but I really want to know. Which numbers do you think large ladies are best off following? I'm honestly thinking of doing a Regency/Comme Des Garcons/Angelina type hybrid of black layers and textures, avant garde cuts and boots. Yep, some confection that will make me look like a huge walking floaty fabric oragami big-chick. What do you all think? I especailly hope to hear from Autumn....

Dominique ait fait le confiture de cassis (le premier fois)
(je m'excuse, je n'ai dire Francaise il ya six ans!)

Since it took me fifteen minutes to construct one very poorly written sentence in French, we will proceed in English. Dominique is reviewing the Ball Blue Book (nearly everyone's first canning book. Notice how happy she looks?

Black currents make a beautiful sauce. I want lipstick in that color.

Max over-sees the out door canning facility and amuses Dominique who looks so damn cute in this outfit I would be seething with green envy if it weren't for the fact that she's also such a fun and sweet friend. Instead of being jealous, I've decided to enjoy her outfit vicariously! I'm not sure why but she reminds me of Sophia Lauren in "It Started In Naples".

I love these steamy shots because they really capture the nature of all canning projects conducted in the summer (which most are): hot, sweaty, steamy, and hard (work). It sounds so dirty, huh? This was a g-rated event, folks!

Though this was Dominique's first canning adventure, she looks like she's been doing it for her whole life. Yep, like Lisa-she's a natural.

Dominique made twenty one jars of black currant sauce. The most irresistable part of canning is the moment you load these jars into your pantry. You have proof of your productiveness, you have the means to prevent scurvy in the coming winter months (always a major plus!), and when your husband announces (without prior warning) that his boss is coming to dinner with the missus and you need to impress them in order for his career to can whip out a jar of your gorgeous currant sauce and serve it in a fancy dish to be spooned over baguettes with creme fraiche. Voila! Steven not only doesn't get fired, he gets invited to play golf with the chosen few at Hearst Berry Farms. Plus, he realizes how having Dominique stay home makes his life so much lusher than those men whose wives are never home because they're running Fortune 500 companies. is no substitution for home canned black currant sauce.

(Note to "Swifty": c'mon, admit it, your bachelor friends never thought marriage was any great shakes til they saw you living the lush life with Dominique making you comfortable at home and keeping your house lucky bastard!)

The hardest part of making the currant sauce was de-stemming the berries. You have to remove both the stems and the blossom end. These berries are small. It took us about three hours to de-stem sixteen cups of them. Dominique felt a little guilty because she imagined I felt burdened by the work when in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed myself! It's great to sit around for three hours getting your hands dirty talking to a good friend. No really, any one else who's done this knows I speak the truth. It's as good as a quilting circle. (How would I know anyway, I've never been part of a sewing circle? If it wasn't fun and satisfying then people would never have done them, right?)

The rest of the process was pretty straight forward. When I moved here I was worried I wasn't going to have a canning friend and I was really sad to have left behind my two super close canning pals; Chelsea and Sharon. While no one can replace the friends I now live twelve hours away from...I'm so happy that I have two really good friends to can with here!

Next up on the canning front: PICKLING!

(seriously, how do I get the spell check function to work while writing in Blogger? I click on the icon and nothing happens.)

Aug 28, 2006

Urban Homesteading

Urban homesteading is all about doing for one’s self the things we no longer have to do, but which are useful survival skills and activities. It’s empowering to eat tomatoes in the winter that you grew in the summer. To need a quilt and be able to make one. To want a special bread for dinner and be able to make a loaf materialize out of a few raw ingredients. It’s about not losing our grasp on the thin thread of survival that has run through the story of mankind since we were first making fires to keep warm and cook food.

You can laugh all you want at the inane image of June Cleaver holding out her delicious meat-loaf for her family to eat and say that the housewife is a damned creature that should fade with the past. You can say that she is outmoded, that she is worthless in this new age of equal rights and feminism. But that would be stupid. Housewives through the ages have kept very important knowledge and skills close to us. She has mended, dyed fabric, made remedies against illness, grown food, and reared her children with her own hands.

Any woman who thinks that doing these activities is somehow less important than the work a man does ought to also remember that men have historically done all these things too. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what gender does them, the point is, someone has always needed to until recent history. Now we have Chinese factories and Mexican laborers to do it all for us. We have nannies and daycare, we have superstores and Heinz, we have Macy’s and unfortunately for all of mankind: we also have Walmart to do for us what we all used to have to do for ourselves.

It’s important that humans never forget how to grow their own food without the aid of gasoline, manufactured pesticides, and electricity. I am not against machines, power, or progress. I thoroughly appreciate my plumbing, electricity, my coffee maker, and my vehicles. But I also know that if deprived of all of these luxuries, I might have a chance of surviving. That’s potent.

“Urban” homesteading simply refers to the fact that homesteading doesn’t have to be about being a farmer, or cultivating wild land, or conquering some western frontier. Homesteading can be practiced by anyone, anywhere. People can raise chickens in Manhattan (true fact), they can buy ripe berries from the closest farms and make jam in their own kitchens whether they are in the suburbs, cities, or the country. They can knit sweaters, they can make quilts, they can grow herbs and preserve them. Everyone can carry the torch of artful survival. Everyone can be part of this great chain of knowledge that has carried humans into the twenty first century.

Aug 25, 2006

The Hypochondriac Chronicles

Yesterday evening Max suddenly complained that his stomach hurt, his head hurt, and his throat hurt. We thought this was him expressing how bad he felt for screaming at Philip for not washing his hair correctly. We shrugged it off, tucked him into bed, and figured he was fine. Less than an hour later he called to us for water. His feet were as hot as tin plates left out in the sun. The whole night he woke up periodically to complain about various things such as how upsetting he found it to wake up with his light off (he won’t go to sleep with his light on), to complain about how Ozark (the grumpy old cat) wasn’t snuggling in an approved position, or that he just didn’t understand how come he ever has to go to school again.

In the morning his whole body was hot to the touch and a thermometer confirmed that he had a fever (of 102.9 degrees F.). So he stayed home from school. There is nothing extraordinary about all this that I’m relating to you. All kids get sick with colds, flus, and sometimes the occasional strep throat. I have to confess that having a sick child is one of the most nerve-racking aspects of parenthood for me. This is partly because I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder which makes each cold appear to be the precursor to Leukemia or some as-yet-undiscovered deadly disease that will be named “The Max Syndrome” after it has carried my boy away. Partly it’s just because I love my boy so much it makes me crazy to see him feeling bad and not be able to make it go away right now.

Until the week before we moved here Max never complained about sore throats. He either never got them with his colds (lucky monkey!) or they just weren’t bad enough for him to comment on (believe me, Max feels no need to spare us complaints about absolutely everything that displeases him in life). The week before we moved he came down with strep throat. It was so bad he was drooling and panicking because it hurt him to breath. We took him to the ER where the doctors took a strep culture (which came back positive) and started him on penicillin. Two weeks after we moved he got a really horrible sore throat again and a throat culture once again pointed it’s evil fingers at strep. Had he never fully got rid of it we wondered? A week after that he was still in tremendous pain, but this time the culture came back clean of strep.

He recovered. But then two weeks later he got another sore throat, this time accompanied by clear white spots on his tonsils which, as every parent knows, is a red flag for strep. By this time, I was really feeling panicky. Why was my boy, who never got a sore throat in the first five years of his life, suddenly getting sick with them every couple of weeks? I have learned, as an unfortunate recipient of excess anxiety, to calm the panic that readily rips through my chest every time I, or any loved one, has an unexplained and suspicious illness. I have learned to sit back and talk myself through it. I know that just because a sore throat is unexplained doesn’t automatically mean it’s cancer. And a sore that doesn’t heal as fast as expected doesn’t mean I have Aids. This last time it turned out that Max had a virus that was imitating strep symptoms. Isn’t that kind of strange?

Medical mysteries are the worst thing for my “heart condition” (in itself a medical mystery that the cardiologists I visited were neither especially alarmed about, nor particularly comfortable with. Ironic, no?) One of the ways I work through this tendency to stress over physical ailments is to use cognitive behavioral therapy on myself. Basically I approach the whole issue with an eye to separating rational fears from the irrational ones. But let me ask you: isn’t the recurrence of maladies not usual in a patient the benchmark of ailments to be concerned about? At what point do you say to your doctor “I think you need to dig deeper because my gut says there’s more to this than you’re seeing.”? I am always wary of revealing my fears to doctors because I don’t want to get the dreaded label “hypochondriac” on my medical files, once there, no doctor will ever take me seriously again.

So yesterday I experienced a low-but-constant level of stress over the fact that my boy had tonsils the size of golf balls (again). I was itching to make a doctor appointment. But why bother? It’s expensive and five times already the doctors brushed off Max’s recurrent sore throats as nothing. Today Max had no fever, his throat seemed to be back to normal, so we sent him off to school. Two possibilities continue to crowd themselves into my already crowded brain: The first is that Max will turn out to actually have something serious that we won’t find out about until it’s advanced to an untreatable stage and I will be hating myself for the rest of my life for caring whether or not the doctors stamp my medical files “HYPOCHONDRIAC” in bright red, or the second possibility is that Max will grow up to be healthy and normal and I will die young of a heart attack from all the strain that worrying about my boy has put on the lower chamber of my heart which the cardiologist is worried about but can’t tell me why.

Being mentally ill sucks.

Aug 23, 2006

Sorry I haven't called...

I've been a little busy. Making pesto. This is what I love about cooking, you take a bunch of raw ingredients,

you process them in a specific way,

and you end up with something totally different than what you started with.

You're wondering how pesto fits into my calorie counting aren't you? You think I just gave up, huh? Just so you know, I was too hungry to photograph my own plate which featured a smaller portion (but not tiny) and about half the tomatoes (which is stupid because they are so good, and healthy, and LOW CALORIE. I can't believe I let Philip have any of the sungolds.

I've also been working on new things for the store, such as these magic wands.

This is my Christmas ornament production line. If I don't get a bunch of stuff made now, I will be kicking myself later.

This is the only finished one. I need to place another order from Blumchen to make the rest of them. This was my pilot.

I also cut out enough insulation circles for 95 pot holders. Then I basted maybe forty of them together. Then I basted the bias binding on about twenty of them (this takes me through a whole season of Friends episodes.) I stayed up late last night and will again tonight.

They look super good. We put all the ones I finished today in the store. So if any of you ever buy one of my pot holders, I hope you will feel that it is money well spent. And you can think of me hunched over my machine in the wee hours making it. There are some brand new fabrics here too...come in and see them all up close and personal!

As far as the goals I set for myself...I've kept to my calorie allowance, which is not at all impressive since it's only been two days and I haven't had dinner with Lisa and Mark yet this week. I think I will succeed again today. (Evening is when most of my calories are packed on, so I won't know for sure until I hop in bed if I've done well.) I only managed to do the crunches and lunges on Monday. And my walks with Chick were not as long as aimed for the last two days...but we went on an hour walk just a little while ago, so that counts. I'm not disappointed in myself which is good. I'm working towards a more longterm goal of regular exercise and a reasonable (rather than extravagant) daily caloric consumption. The idea is to become fit, not fat. To become healthier.

Well, the potholder project is far from over. While I've filled the shop, I have to prep a ton more while I'm on a role so that I can whip them out fast when there is demand. I have so many store projects lined up to work on. A little daunting. That's how Philip is feeling about "stocking" the webstore (taking all the pictures, uploading them, assigning them sku numbers). He's gotten all the Ahava loaded up, and today he got all of the Landmade bath products in the webstore. He has a lot more to do, but I think we're still going to have it all up by Septemeber first. (Fingers crossed please.)

I hope you're all having a great week filled with good food. There's something wrong if you're not eating good food in August!

Aug 20, 2006

Some Simple Goals For This Week:

(inspired by songbird, tiggerlane, Kelly, Autumn, and Dominique, all of whom have left me encouraging comments to posts concerning my weight issues. Thanks ladies!)

  1. I will count calories for the next five days and eat 2200 calories or less each day. (which indicates to you that I must be consuming WAY more than that if 2200 is the dieting calorie allowance. But I’m not going to tell you exactly how much I consume normally per day, because I don’t want to.)

  1. I will wake up at six am every morning for five mornings and take Chick on at least a 45 minute walk, or more if I don’t die first.

  1. Then I will do fifty crunches, fifty push-ups (the sissie kind, in case anyone was wondering), and forty-eight lunges.

  1. I will go to bed by 10:30pm each night (to help facilitate the early rising time).

  1. I will erase every unkind thought about myself from my brain as they pop up and remember that, against all likelihood-and who knows why, I have quite a few incredible friends who seem to love me even when I’m shaped like the Michelin Man.

Why only five days? Because it’s doubtful I’ll even make it that far. But if I do, then I’ll do another five days after one day free of counting calories. Ultimate goal? Well, I weigh 210 whopping pounds. I want to weigh 160 pounds. (I actually want to weigh 150 pounds, but it’s unlikely I’d be able to maintain that weight if I managed to reach it.) I’ll be happy to be 160. Not thin, but able to buy regular clothes from regular stores and not feel like Harry Potter’s bloated floating Aunt.

The truth? I did it before. I can do it again.

Important Lessons Learned From Gossip Rags

A lot of people think gossip rags are total trash and contribute to the dereliction of our culture. This simply isn’t true. I learn lots of important lessons from them:

  1. Before dating a man, always make sure he hasn’t dated Paris Hilton first. (Because she’s dated a significant portion of the population, chances are pretty good he has.)

  1. Never talk about how your marriage is rock-solid. It is almost guaranteed that if you do, your marriage will fall apart in four months.

  1. If you haven’t got an empire which includes your own perfume line, clothing line, and a huge licensing franchise, then you just aren’t cool.

  1. Never say in an interview that what makes everyone beautiful is their individuality (and that women should learn to love themselves as they are), and then one month later get the number one most popular nose job in the country. This can make you appear to be a lying sack of shit.

  1. Dating your best friend’s husband will put a strain on your friendship. (But go ahead and marry him, just because he cheated on her with you doesn’t mean he’ll cheat on you with someone else.)

  1. When in doubt, have a baby.

  1. Before dating a man, always make sure he hasn’t dated Lindsey Lohan first. (Because she’s dated most of the same people that Paris has, and hasn’t sworn off sex, there’s an even better chance your prospective boyfriend has gone out with her too, or will in the near future.)

  1. If you don’t want to be photographed by the press, don’t go to celebrity-infested nightclubs every night of the week. Also don’t hang out in a posse.

  1. If your marriage is on the rocks- immediately get pregnant because there’s nothing a man loves more than a woman with a breast pump, intense mood swings, and a crying baby. All the stress will melt away and he’ll transform himself from the gambling skirt-chasing jerk he used to be into the ideal doting husband.

  1. The best way to get taken seriously as an actor is to develop a really predictable singing career.

See what I mean? Those rags are full of rich pointers on how to live life well and avoid the common pitfalls of success, family, and marriage.

No One Has Ever Called Me A Diva (To My Face)

'Swiss Miss' unloads her Philip Morris Smokes to the trash compactor, for the hundredth time. (She will continue to unload them for years to come in noble attempts to avoid lung cancer.)

This is how I wish to be remembered, both now, and when I'm gone. Spiritually speaking, this is what I will look like for all time. If I come back as a ghost, this is what frightened little girls will see come out of their closets.

I have returned to the big important dilemma of what to do with my hair. I desperately need a haircut (or trim) and my eye brows are now taking over my forehead, so a visit to the salon is necessary. I was going to grow my hair out to just past my shoulders, but now I think maybe I just want to return to the simple state of the bob. Bobs are good. Anyway, I was digging through old photos looking for examples of my hair long, and short, for a little unscientific study. The problem with using old photos is that I was thin then. I'm not now. You can't really compare the two and come up with an intelligent opinion. The only thing I know everyone would agree on is: GET THAT FOREST OFF YOUR FACE!

I have grown my hair out long (down to my ass once) many times and so this dilemma periodically tortures me. Looking at these pictures doesn't really make me nostalgic...OK, I was trying on that lie for size, but it doesn't fit. I DO feel nostalgic looking at those pictures because I was able to wear whatever I wanted, and consequently, I put my best truest self forward. Now I can only fit into really boring big clothes, the kind that one gets at Ross when one is lucky. Big people fashions. BORING. (I realize there are companies out there that make pretty nice almost stylish clothes for the large lady, but I can't afford to buy those clothes. When I was thinner and poor, I could find all kinds of cool cheap clothes used, and I could make myself cool clothes.) Unfortunately, I find it terribly disheartening to try to make myself clothes right now when nothing makes me look less like a potato sack.

I should view these photos as inspiration. I've mostly decided I'm going to get a bob, wax the brows into submission, and then this week (when all the relatives are gone) I'm going to attempt to get up early and take Chick for an hour walk every morning. Early. Which means I'll have to set the alarm. And go to bed early. Which means less time for beer.

I am heaving a huge sigh here...I guess I better also start counting the damn calories again until this big sack of a body starts to shape up. It's effective. And then I might be able to wear my tiara again by christmas without looking ridiculous.

It's time for me to hop into my K-Mart mom uniform and get ready to look really boring for work. But I'll be imagining I'm wearing a dirndle and aprons again. I'll be dreaming of when I can open up my old wardrobe like it's brand new and dress appropriately for my personality.

*By the way, I keep trying to use the spell check feature when composing in blogspot, but it won't work for me. If you know the trick please tell me. In the mean time, if you observe a ton of spelling errors, then you know I didn't compose it in word. Please forgive the errors!

Aug 18, 2006

My clock was ticking, so I set the timer and got Max

I did not have a child so that I could see myself and Philip reflected back at us every day. I did not have a child because I wanted to be around babies. Nor did I have a baby to fulfill some ideal of the perfect life as handed to me by someone else. I had a baby because my hormones started telling me that's what I needed to do. It amounted to a kind of ache in the uterous, a kind of irrational emotional magnetic pull towards all things babies. A thickening in the blood. Does that sound cold and unromantic? I don't care, it's the truth. And as far as I can tell that's why most people really want babies, but no one wants to say they just had a strong urge becuase that doesn't sound like the kind of thing modern intelligent adults and good prospective parents would do. It sounds too primal.

Before I am a parent, wife, daughter, sister, or friend, I am a primal being. I am an animal who still functions largely on instinct. The further away from instinct I travel, the messier my life becomes, the less the life I live makes any sense. I can give you all kinds of reasonable explanations for why I wear the clothes I do, why I eat hearty meals, why I persue the interests I do, but underneath it all I am operating on a whole lot of instinct that isn't romantic, or cool, or necessarily intelligent. But it ensures I will survive. It ensures that if I don't survive, my DNA will be preserved in my offspring. Even though perhaps my DNA isn't the most top quality anyway.

I am supposed to say how wonderful it is to be a parent. I am supposed to selectively forget all of the moments of terror being a parent brings. I am supposed to shrug off the enormous responsibility that bringing a whole seperate person into existence entails. I am supposed to be starry eyed and shine in the glory of fulfilling my ultimate roll as mother. And I constantly disappoint all of those around me. Constantly. I will tell you that being a parent has made me see all the worst in myself through a powerful magnifying lens. It has shamed me, made me more exhausted than I ever thought I could be and still get up tomorrow again. It has filled me with a new level of horror at the bad things out there, the bad things that now can happen not only to myself, but to this person I put on earth with me, and am responsible for. It has filled me with the gravest sense of what it means to create, in a few moments of sexual gratification, a person who will now have to face about a million trials, only one thousand of which I can actually prepare him for.

I have lived with my capacity to disappoint those around me my whole life. I just don't tow the line like I'm supposed to. I don't say things that make anyone comfortable. I'm sometimes surprised I have any friends at all. I'm a great one for saying the diplomatic thing when asked to soothe another human being. But if you ask me for my opinion, if you remove the social handcuffs for even a second, I am sure to tell you what I really think. And what I really think aobut everything is generally unsettling for almost everyone. I am really tired of parents everywhere not saying how tired they really are. Give me your raw experience, stop trying to make it sound like one big fuzzy love fest. Having children is an intense experience.

It's possible that it isn't particularly intense for other parents. I'm saying this to be politic. I can see it in most parents' eyes. I can see them go through the same moments with their children that I go through with mine, and ten minutes later they have erased the most feral moments from their memory. I was about to say I wish I had this capacity, but in reality I cannot say I wish to erase it. I am not ready to cop out of being who I am just to help other people be comfortable.

So should I not have had a child? Do you think that if I don't have starry mother eyes I should have not answered nature's imperative call? I am first an animal. I do most of what I do by instinct. I use my intellect to explain my instinct. I love my child fiercely. Unfortunately for him, he's a lot like me. He's not going to make very many people comfortable with themselves or with him. If I didn't love him so much it would be easier for me to not feel myself rip apart every time someone hurts his feelings, or belittles him with careless things they've said. If I loved him less I would not feel the dangers he faces every day so close to my skin, leaking into every dream, making me panic that I will never see him become a man. If I loved him less I would be able to shrug it off every time my five year old tells me he wants to kill himself.

But I do love him that much. Life is messy. Life is full of tough choices, tough situations. I made a human being and am charged with helping him grow into a person who can survive cut-throat competition, hardship, betrayal, work, love, death, and maybe someday new life. He's no little darling. Most children aren't. They are immature people. Not little angels. They are at least half as "innocent" as most adults want to believe they are. They won't make you younger. They won't become who you wanted to become but failed. They don't fix relationships. They don't mend broken hearts or fill empty holes in your spirit. And I think it's dreadfully selfish for parents to expect children to bring them joy, to heal them, to make them better people. Children are our offspring and the world we bring our kids into is no less rough than the world cheetahs bring up their cubs in.

So why have a child? Because we are animals and procreation is a primal part of keeping the human race going. It's that simple.

You are wondering now if there's anything I like about being a parent? You are wondering how I can be so dire, so negative about this joyful step in a couple's life?

What I love about being Max's mom:

1. I love snuggling in bed with him at night talking about whatever comes to his mind.

2. I love holding him and kissing him. More than that I love it when he comes to me with hugs
and kisses I haven't asked for, it's magic.

3. I love to hear his laugh. I love to make him laugh. I love the moments when we can be silly
together and forget all his and my troubles.

4. Max has his own way of looking at the world, I love that I am one of the first people to hear
his ideas about how the world works, how he figures it went wrong, and what he'll do to fix it
when he's in charge.

5. I love the spontaneous moments of family life that having Max has brought to us. The kind
that happen when we're all hanging out and suddenly we're all goofing off together and
having a good time. Being in a group is soothing to most humans. I like that Max has made
us into a group, even if it is a small one.

6. I love to watch him shine. He's one hell of a kid.

I love being a family. There is joy in it, but it isn't quantifiable. Go ahead, have babies. Have as many as you wish. Just don't look for any stars in my eyes. I don't have any. Motherhood is way harder than any other job I will ever have in my life, and while I don't find it's filled with soft sweetness, I am happy I had my boy. Having Max has satisfied my need to parent. Having Max has allowed me to complete the circle of life that almost all people have the desire to complete. I know things about life I never would have known without him. Have your babies, you'll grow, you'll learn, you'll love, you'll anguish, you'll laugh, and you'll turn off the clock.

Aug 16, 2006

Store Update

We are now selling sun hats. I am getting some millinery supplies in to decorate some of them with.

I don't have a picture of the popular chicken print apron, because it keeps selling, which is great! Sadly, I can no longer get that print. So everyone needs to learn to love the cowgirls as much as I do while I search for new chicken fabrics.

I've got more manly aprons in the works.

For a while it didn't seem like my potholders were selling, then a rash of people bought them and suddenly I find I need to sew more of them. This is not annoying, this is great!

This is a relatively new item I've been making. I love them. I will also be making dinner napkins. I don't really use napkins too much while eating because I'm a filthy heathen, but it's my plan to start only using cloth napkins with Max and on those occasions when I feel like being civilized. Just one more small thing I can do to reduce my family's waste. Plus, cloth napkins are WAY cuter than paper.

These are my manly sachets. They are filled with cedar chips and sprinkled with sandalwood oil to repel moths in the closet, or your drawers.

*The on-line store should be open by September first (Philip is working hard to photograph everything while Northwest Online finishes building the site.)

*We are on the look out for a better location. We've gotten tons of great feedback from customers here in McMinnville, but being in the building we're in will bury us. We need a space further down third street with windows, natural light, and foot traffic. There isn't a lot available, but a few possibilities are being explored.

*I just recieved some new fabrics from Michael Miller, so I will be sewing up some new aprons and potholders in the next couple of weeks. I will also be going to the seattle fabric trade show and hopefully will order a few more fabrics there as well.

*On the advice of one of our best customers, Erin Bowman, I am going to start working on some fun skirts for little girls. Erin is an entrepreneur who started two sucessful stores here in McMinn. that she sold and are still going strong in the hands of new owners. That's a person you want to listen to! She has lots of great ideas for our store. Thanks Erin!

*We have started a mailing list, so if you come into our store, please be sure to put your name and address down in it to recieve store updates on promotions and new merchandise. Also, it just makes us feel happy to see names in the book because we have, like, all of three people in it so far.

I look forward to seeing you in the shop!

Aug 14, 2006

Moonlight Canning

Twenty one half pints in one day is not too shabby

Lisa is removing the last batch just as all the children begin to fall apart

philip inspects the canning facility with a flashlight to ensure top quality

Because my new canning pot is so big, it doesn't fit on my stove. So the canning operation was moved to the grill. Canning can be a little more dangerous by moonlight.

Lisa, all the kids, and I went to a top secret blackberry picking site yesterday that yielded the most abundant, juiciest, and tasty berries. I found out about it through an aquaintence of mine who has lived here in McMinnville her whole life. This site is located at a place she used to work at. It looks pretty unpreposessing at first because the blackberries are growing to the side of a huge metal building in which some manufacturing occurs during the week. The parking lot and the ground along the side yard is littered with bits of foam, rusty metal stakes, and other mysterious debris. My aquaintence had told me it was alright for us to pick there, she even said she'd call the owner and let him know we wanted to pick and see if it was alright. That was a couple of weeks ago. I admit that when we first spilled out of the van and had a look around I was a tiny bit spooked, I half suspected a pack of wild dogs might come around the corner and maul us. Or to not hear the squad car coming towards us in its usual Sunday blackberry stealing sting operation.

None of this happened obviously. Since I know what is being manufactured in the buildings I can also promise that the berries have not grown to such lushness through injudicious spilling of toxic waste on the site. The next time we pick there I may take photos...but only if I can be sure you won't know where it is, these sources must be protected.

I'm going to record the results of our three batches here on the blog so that we can find the information easily next year. We definitely made jam this time. As my cousin Carrie mentioned to me on the phone last week, it takes several times making a recipe to tweak it to perfection. She was speaking the gospel truth! We used the Ball Blue Book berry jam recipe. Here's exactly what we did:

Batch #1: Washed berries. Measured nine cups of blackberries. Milled them. Put them in a pot with six cups of sugar, and then brought them to a boil. We proceeded to boil the shit out of that batch because I am so rusty at this recipe I was waiting for the jam to visibly thicken in the pot. I neglected to do the gel test in the fridge. So it probably boiled for forty five minutes. By the time we processed them, and the jam cooled, it was as stiff as cheese. It also has a more cooked flavor. It's missing the ephemeral magical wild berry taste that less cooking captures.

Batch #2: Washed berries. Measured nine cups of berries. Milled them. Put them in the pot with the six cups of sugar, and then brought them to a boil. We timed the cooking time to exactly half an hour after it came to boiling point. We put some aside to see how it did. We processed them. The results: ever so slightly less stiff, still lost that fresh berry flavor we love. Good jam, but not the best we could do.

Batch #3: Did not wash the berries (to reduce the water content).* Measured nine cups of berries. Milled them. Put them in the pot with the six cups of sugar. Brought to a boil and cooked for exactly twenty minutes. Lisa performed multiple gelling point tests. (At this point we are becoming lab technicians in the kitchen which is always fun). This batch, once processed, was not particularly stiff. In fact, this morning you can tip the jars and the jam will slide around. So it's stiffer than sauce and thinner than jam. It's possible that twenty five minutes is the perfect cooking time. The flavor? Oh yeah, this one gets it. This one preserves that fleeting delicate wild taste of summer that I have always associated with blackberries.

There are still other things to try. I would like to get it perfect with a cup less sugar. I would like to try mixing the berries and suar and leaving overnight to macerate as my friend Chelsea has done and had success with.

*It is essential to wash the berries if ants are present. Unless you enjoy the peppery Je-ne-sais-quoi that they bring to all recipes.

Aug 13, 2006

Lisa's Produce Makes Excellent Dinner

A couple of nights ago we had dinner at Lisa and Mark's house and I have to say it was pretty stellar. We roasted Japanese eggplants and zucchinis from both her garden and ours. She aslo roasted a fine red onion which neither of us grew...but which made the sandwiches we put together on ciabatta bread absolutely memorable. The trick is to brush the bread with olive oil and basil and put a layer of each vegetable, top it with mozarella cheese (we had fresh this time which was wonderful!), then wrap them in tin foil and return to the grill until the cheese melts.

That tomato is a "German Johnson". I find it difficult to say that. When you cut a German Johnson from the vine it's difficult not to feel a little sadistic. It was pretty good, but we decided in an impromptu taste test that the "Caspian Pink" from my garden was the best for plain fresh eating. I wish I had taken pictures of the sandwiches.

I better go get ready, we're off to pick more blackberries to make more jam.

Aug 9, 2006

Oregon Vs. California, A Comparative Study

Let the duel begin!

Before I make any comparisons between my birth state and my adoptive state, I think it’s important to make something clear: for the sake of my integrity as a writer I refuse to make any effort to placate the vanities of either Californians or Oregonians. I have learned to love and appreciate my birth state, though that love took a long time to nurture. My love for Oregon was instinctual and immediate when my parents moved me to Ashland from the East Bay in California, and my anger at being forced to return to the Bay Area took many years to overcome. There is room for appreciation of both these states in my life, even if this isn’t true for others. However, it is irresistible to compare the two.

Here is what I wrote shortly after we decided to head north:

“Leaving this house and this neighborhood feels like a divorce. But in the end it’s just one of millions of neighborhoods filled with cool people all across the country. People come and go all the time, we’re not the first and there will never be a last. Philip Glass could make a super boring movie about the flow of people in and out of neighborhoods, frame by tedious frame.

The truth is that I feel like I just might finally be returning home. The call of the north has been in me for as long as I can remember. An inexplicable pulling that seems to reverberate all the way down to cell level. I have wanted to go north like geese do every single spring. Like baby turtles find the ocean. Like monarch butterflies find milkweed. I have needed to fly north. To find the cold. And whatever else lies there.”

  1. There are fewer teeth per capita in Oregon. (This is good for me since I’m pretty sure I will lose all of mine before I’m forty, so I’ll fit right in.)

  1. People drive the speed limit here. I really appreciate this fact, but I have to admit that I find it difficult not to speed because I’m so used to having cars constantly riding my ass in California.

  1. The pace is slower in Oregon. Californians are generally desperate to get where they’re going two seconds faster than is humanly possible. Consequently, they spend a pretty large proportion of their time frustrated and angry at their fellow Californians for not getting the hell out of their way. Oregonians, for the most part, seem a lot less obsessed with their schedules.

  1. There are a lot more churches here in Oregon than anywhere in California I’ve ever been to, and it seems that most Oregonians actually attend. This is awkward for heathens like us who prefer to visit churches for their potential beauty, not to congregate and say amen. Interestingly, there seem to be fewer zealots floating around here (this may be a misconception that time will repair).

  1. Trains still run here. I mean, they come through town carrying goods several times a day and unlike most train-tracks in California that are silent and dusty with disuse and perfectly safe to walk along, people actually get killed here sometimes by injudiciously crossing the tracks at the wrong moment. (I assume you have to be pretty drunk to cross tracks without noticing the loud freight cars charging towards you at eight miles per hour) I love the sound of trains.

  1. Most Californians seem to belong roughly to two main groups: Sophisticates or Rednecks. Oregonians seem to be a more complex mixture of the two. There is a strange blend of traditionalism and rebelliousness that makes me feel right at home. I can enjoy listening to Schubert without compromising my passion for hanging out with poultry.

  1. Sadly, I have yet to taste a stellar Oregon-grown tomato. Here we are in the middle of tomato season and the only one I’ve had that really compared to the summer tomatoes of California was one from my own garden called “Siletz”.

  1. On the other hand, there is no berry in California that can come close to the incredible quality and flavor of all the berries here in Oregon. I have been dreaming of Oregon blackberries for twenty one years, and I felt sure that my memories of them must be much better than the reality of them. I’ve been deliriously happy to find my memory was absolutely holding onto the truth. Hallelujah!

  1. California is a nightmare of red tape and intricately choreographed bureaucracy. All aspects of life in the sunshine state get regularly mired in misinformation circulated (seemingly on purpose) in every large office and organization forcing you to fill out stacks of paperwork just to get to the heart of the organization in question, only to find out that they don’t actually regulate the business you are attempting to take care of. Oregon, by comparison, is refreshingly light handed in its use of red tape. So much so that you might almost say it’s lax to the point of irresponsibility. But I wouldn’t say that. I say it’s wonderful to be allowed to take care of business with the minimum of fuss and get on with living life.

  1. There are fewer surgically enhanced women here. This may be related to the reason there are fewer teeth. (Economics) Or it may be because women here are too busy getting tattoos to get face-lifts and nose jobs. To be honest, I much prefer to see an ocean of tattooed limbs than to see so many faces develop that strange inbred sameness that nose-jobs and injections seem to create.

Aug 8, 2006

What I Have Learned About Dogs From Chick

This is Chick, the first dog I've ever had.

This is Chick as a puppy, she looked more like a pit then, less like a lab. That's why we chose her. This was long before she fulfilled her destiny as cat poop detective.

Max with Chick before the exhausting squabbling began. Soon scientists are going to discover that a puppy's DNA is almost identical to human children's DNA, which will explain a lot.

What I learned About Dogs From Chick

  1. That true joy is just a roll-in-a-rotten-duck-egg away.

2. That people aren’t a whole lot smarter than dogs: when I say to someone “My dog
isn’t friendly, don’t touch her” people think I’m really saying “Please try to become
my dog’s best friend”

  1. To keep people from touching a timid dog it is necessary to be emphatic: “My dogis part pit bull and may, without warning, rip you apart from limb to limb even though all other dogs on the planet love you. She has already mauled your neighbor.” This approach, I have found, doesn’t really work either. Like I said, people aren’t a whole lot smarter than dogs.

  1. Cat poop is to dogs what truffles are to pigs. When in the presence of such a deli-cacy it is difficult for dogs to decide whether it would be better to eat it or roll in it.

  1. Though dogs particularly love to eat other animals’ poop, they will eat absolutelyanything, and generally: everything.

  1. Raising a dog is EXACTLY like adopting a child into your family. Except that it’san animal that will develop very sharp K-9 teeth and has to be trained to poop outside and will never go to college.

7. Dogs, when they are not rolling in revolting substances have a natural grace of limb which is a beautiful thing to watch.

8. That I have a lot in common with dogs is both surprising (as a life-long cat person)
and a bit humbling. (I am incorrigibly curious, I judge most people first with my
nose, I need a very firm routine to feel comfortable, and I don’t like people getting
overly familiar or physical with me until we get to know each other, but happily this never entails me sniffing their bottoms.)

  1. In spite of my newfound appreciation for dogs, having one has confirmed what Ihave always known: dogs are not smarter than cats. Trainability is NOT synony-mous with intelligence.

  1. Some dogs have skill in food preservation: just like people have buried fish and leftThem to ferment into ripe carcasses, some dogs have learned the art of burying bones and anything else they scavenge and retrieving them only after they have developed a patina and scent that only a dog-and some Norwegian’s-can love. (There’s just such a blackened gem floating around my house even as I write this.)

Aug 7, 2006

My girls, Dot, Flower-bud, Henna, Pinny, and Pearl.

Max and Philip in the snow near Klammoth Falls.

Max at the county fair, two days ago.

Every one of these vegetables were grown in our own yard. Yum.

Chick, the scary Lab-Pit-Bull Mastiff-mix dog who is an artisan raw-hide fermenter (She buries her raw-hide and NEVER forgets where it is, and only recovers the goods when they are fully ripe with blackened stinky goodness.) She should teach a class to other dogs. She's that good.

And Now, With More Grace

Sometimes you have to get words out of your head in order to sleep better at night, understand yourself better, piss your enemies off, or to lay them to rest (the words, not your enemies). My last post was good for me, though probably not so good for anyone else. Today I am looking back at that rant and realizing that while all of what I wrote is truly how I feel, it’s important to pull something a little less panicky out of it.

Sometimes you have to give yourself the advice you find yourself giving to others, and to follow it to the letter. I am constantly telling Philip, who gets very angry about current political situations, that he can only change himself and make choices he feels good about in his own life. You have to start with yourself. I am always telling him that we can be the antithesis to war and political extremism in our own lives by building things instead of tearing them down, by planting things, by learning to understand the people that make us angry and work at not inadvertently turning into them. We can nurture all that is worthy and thoughtful inside ourselves and in our own lives.

It doesn’t always feel like doing these things is enough, but it’s the only place to begin. You can’t work outward until you are free of potent anger, self righteousness, self pity, hopelessness, and fear. When you have worked these things out inside yourself you will reflect that out into the world in everything you do, and onto everyone you know. You will be able to inspire others only when they can see that you have achieved something good in your own life.

There are still so many changes I can make in my own life to help change the ever increasing tide of human waste, to help foster understanding between different people (but does this mean I actually have to stop wishing Bush and his clan would become dirt poor for the rest of their lives? It was progress to stop wishing bodily harm on him and his clan, but maybe poverty isn’t a worthy wish for anyone either. More thought is needed on this point.) You see, there’s so much work to do on myself. Those people out there who don’t see why they shouldn’t indulge themselves in a Hummer aren’t going to suddenly see it because I’m out on the street yelling at them. (Just for the record, I have never done this.)

It’s time, I think, to revisit an old hero. Ghandi. I have not forgotten him. Seeing the movie about his life always fills me with the most contradictory feelings: of total darkness and despair that people are such awful creatures, and the most complete hope that all of us have the capacity to affect change without hatred, that all of us have an amazing capacity to shine. That man achieved grace. Yet he was no superhuman being, he made mistakes, he stumbled, just like we all do.

I never feel quite so good as when I have cleaned my house, gotten a shit-load of exercise, and can sit down for a few quiet moments (like right now, while my boys are out) and reflect on all the things that make my life so rich and enjoyable. I am posting a couple of pictures of those things. There is no panic in my chest right now. I’m not going to read any magazines or newspapers for a while. I’m not going to worry about what anyone else is or isn’t doing to change the world. I’m going to sit here and think about how I might come one step closer to grace in my own small life.