Mar 31, 2008

News From The Moving Trenches

There are a few people who need to be immediately deeply thanked for their incredible help in getting our furniture and a thousand annoying belongings moved this week-end:

Lawrence, Lisa, April, Brian, Stephen, Dominique, my mother, Vic, Beth, and my very own husband Philip!!!!

Obviously they will all get something more than just the thank-yous I showered them with in person. We had three days to pack before moving and our kid was home on spring break which means that almost nothing got done. To answer a question- we didn't technically have to move this week-end. We have not yet put our old house up for sale. This is the only time we've done it this way and it's generally (in a failing economy) not a smart thing to do. However, there were factors that made this the only way to do it. The first being that no matter what I knew we needed to live in the farmhouse. It wasn't a question of "Well, I want it if we can sell this one...". I needed to get out of the current house.

Secondly, in spite of a tanking economy and real estate being rather depressed already for a while, Oregon is one of the states the least effected by the crumbling real estate market. It is still (very slowly) slogging along almost as normal. That doesn't mean no risk. In fact, I'm very keenly aware of the risks and am hoping to god we can sell our house within two months. We have a couple of factors in our favor: the size of our old house (especially the fact that it includes five bedrooms, there are a lot of large families in our area), and the lot size which as some of you know is almost a third of an acre.

Wish us luck!!

So, the move was gruesome. In spite of so much help. There is nothing like a move to find out who your friends are. Friends like ours deserve the very best treatment. I'm quite sure that there are a lot of sore backs today besides ours. We still have quite a lot of pesky little stuff and most of my studio stuff at the old house. I am hoping to wrap it up this week so that we can get it cleaned and put up for sale by next week. Moving sucks. It really really really sucks.

I feel relieved to have most of it done though. There's a ton to unpack and the fun has begun. A new chapter has opened. We removed all of the Dustpan Alley things from the storage unit. It depressed Philip to look at the shelves of things that no one bought. A reminder of a failed venture. How to really close the book on the store? I don't know. We have a lot of stuff in our garage. Like I've mentioned before, I may donate a lot of it to charities for auction fodder. Closing the storage means almost a hundred dollars less we need to spend a month. So that's great.

I've been without Internet for three days. So if you've been waiting for an e-mail or anything- please forgive me. We might not be connected up again until this week-end. I've been having some major Internet withdrawals. So I'm at a local cafe that has wireless. Writing this post. Sadly, no pictures. I love pictures. I am using my old camera that I gave to Max (it is not so great but does in a pinch- but right now I can't download any pictures, soon though...)

I love my new house. I LOVE IT!!

There is that period of discovery that is inevitable with any move, the time you discover the things you don't like about your new house. I hate our stove. It's one of those smooth top electric numbers. Electric stoves are already not my favorite but those smooth tops are THE WORST. I can learn to live with it for a while but clearly I will be trolling Craig's List in the nearish future for a cheap but good stove. Our new shower has blessedly hot water which is really great because I haven't had a really satisfying hot shower for two years, but the nozzle is really high up and can only aim straight at the shower door so it's really only perfect for Philip who is 6'2" tall and can benefit from such a high spray of water. This is a fairly easy fix though.

Aside from these little details I have to say that I am in a state of wonder. And relief. And excitement. I cannot wait to get everything unpacked and organized and begin making raised beds. And sewing things for my house. I can't wait to finish my two quilts; plant my antique roses, make slip covers, clothes for my trip, arrange china, fill book shelves, cook food and not eat out again for a long time, set up my pantry (which is now just shelves in the garage not an actual pantry) and clean out crap. Yes, I want to continue my quest to clean my life of the dirty detritus and useless junk that we have accumulated. Let our house have no piles of stuff that has no purpose or designation besides "that stuff we're afraid to get rid of".

Here are some highlights from this week-end:

  • Chick catching sight of one of our mysterious neighbors and running at top speed straight at the fence and hurling herself over it to the great surprise and slight alarm of said mysterious neighbor who claimed not to be afraid in spite of the flying black beast now circling her in a very impressive impression of a mean dog. Next week-end an extra fence will have to be constructed.

  • Chick meeting the pit bull and the Rottweiler who live on the other side of the fence which entailed a whole lot of barking snarling and big dog noses sniffing at each other through a small knot hole in the wood between them. Much wet nose sniffing. Not sure if they all want to kill each other or play.

  • We almost lost two friends to the crushing weight of our piano which I suddenly wondering if we really needed. You do not, as a rule, express such thoughts out loud when three men (one of whom you love, and two of whose cheerful company you hope to enjoy in the coming years) whose feet are being crushed under your six hundred pound whim. I don't play any more. I've forgotten all that Bach and Beethoven I could play as a child. I was going to be a concert pianist. Philip asked me before the move if we really needed it. I gave serious thought to the idea of giving it away. In the end though, I couldn't bear to part with it. I think I will one day take lessons again and play. Besides, what if we had the extreme good luck to have someone at our house who knows how to play? There are few things as wonderful as good live piano music filling a house. We keep the piano for the chance that this will happen.
  • We've had snow almost every day for at least two minutes. In between weird flurries of snow or delicate dry tiny drifts of it, there's been warm sunny weather, torrential rains, frigid air, black clouds, hard hail, blue skies, and giant white billowing clouds. It's been a schizophrenic atmosphere out there. As weird as it was, it was nice that at least it didn't pour nonstop for the last three days which would have made moving so much harder. Spring is magnificent in Oregon!

  • Chick discovering the fetid algae filled swamp water that is our new pond and immediately leaping into it at full speed which is the only speed our dear dog knows. It's funny how many of these highlights are about Chick. She sure can get in a lot of trouble in a short period of time.

  • A dubious "oreo" pie that Max desperately wanted to try that I knew he wouldn't like. It was less like pie and more like wet grey pudding. I anticipated that it wasn't going to be stellar and bought some actual Oreo cookies for him to eat as soon as he discovered that cream pies are not for him. We meant to share this pie with friends and family but I completely forgot about it until everyone was gone. I'm kind of relieved we didn't offer it around now. I would have been a little embarrassed.

  • The only pants I brought to the new house are a pair that are too small for me so I am stuffed into them hoping that no one thinks I'm a ho-bag trying to impress everyone with my butt sausage act. People are rarely impressed by it, but you never know. Sadly, I only have two pairs of pants that fit right now and I don't know where the non-filthy pair are. And our washer and dryer may not be functional for a while.

Egads! I must go back to the house and unpack. I'm supposed to go out with two friends from my Master Gardening class tomorrow night and I just hope I can get a hold of them today (meaning I hope my phone becomes functional at the new house) because I am really looking forward to seeing them.

Oh crap!!! A woman just came in with the most incredibly weird hair I've ever seen- it's all fluffy and feathered back and really long and STIFF. She smiled at me (because I smiled at her first-but not meanly) and either she has braces or she has a lot of blackened holes in her teeth. Oh, and I just wanted to say that in case I never said so before...I think mullets are fully as bad on women as they are on men. Just for the record.

So much to do. So look my friends, I will not have a chance to catch up on all of your blogs for probably the rest of this week. I have not forgotten about you all and I'll do some catching up (hopefully) next week. I will try to come down here to the cafe to post, if not every day, at least a couple more times this week.

Bye for now!

Mar 28, 2008

Welcome To The Asylum
(well, I can't name it "rose cottage" can I?)

Philip doesn't think "The Rose And Thorn Farmhouse" is a good name for a house. So I suggested "The Sanatorium" and he's actually thinking that one over.* Though, truth be told, he's not too keen to name our house at all. He said "Why can't we just call it 'The Farmhouse'?" and I promptly told him it didn't sound enough like a special place that someone might write a book about.

This is a picture of our front porch. It faces the back yard. It's big and will be hung with Chinese lanterns I think. There will be a table and chairs to sit at and drink coffee plus pretty pots of growing things to welcome the weary (us).

I love lilacs. The French name is so much prettier: syringa. I have wanted lilacs in my yard for years. It was the lilac that first made me understand the deep satisfaction in picking a glorious vase of flowers to scent and decorate the house. My mother gave me huge bunches of them from her lilac tree when we all lived in Petaluma together. They grow wonderfully well up here and are all over town.

I had planned on planting one in my current garden but would have had to remove some giant rhododendrons to do it and risk getting reported to the local garden club tribunal for my rhodie crime. At the farmhouse garden there are six of them already planted!! Two are purple, two are white, and two are a mystery as yet to unfold with spring.

This one is a total mystery. The actual size of these leaves and buds are under half an inch. I have no idea what it is.

A pretty camellia. Although I doubt I would ever plant a ton of them, we do love camellias and this one has grown on me quite a bit in the time we've been purchasing the house. Something else I'm very excited about is the Viburnum by the porch: a snowball tree!!!!! Ooh, I've been wanting one of those for so long!! What luck to have one already established. There are also two giant hydrangeas in the garden but I think they're the lace cap kind and I like the classic pom-pom kind.

This is the the landing of the staircase. What pretty light comes in.

The front of the house. As seen from the garden. A ubiquitous Japanese maple is in the foreground trying to lay low because it knows I will dig it up. Don't worry, it will find a good home. They are extremely well loved in this town.

The dining room built ins. Lots and lots of kitchen and dining room cabinets and drawers. Closets are a small sickly affair in this house, but there is no shortage of storage space for kitchen and dining things. The furniture is not ours. The sellers staged the house for selling.

A view I will see a thousand times a year or more. How pretty! Kitchen window; like looking out through the soul of the house.

Well, it's time to bath and get packing again. I got a start yesterday but not a very big start. The new house is only about a mile from our current house so I think we will not pack things in a careful meticulous fashion but in a haphazard quick way. Why hasn't someone developed a teleporter for moving yet? Whoever does it will make their fortune.

*He immediately rejected "The Rose And Thorn Sanatorium". What's he got against roses and thorns and thistles anyway? I'd love to call our house "Thornyfield Sanatorium" but I suppose he wouldn't go for that either. I'm rewatching the 1970's Jane Eyre production with Timothy Dalton in it who I normally dislike but who is the only actor I've so far seen who can play that character. I've read the book many times too. I love it. The reason I thought up sanatorium in the first place is that in the old days sanatoriums were not only places where crazy people were stored, it was where people went for rests to prevent them from completely losing their nuts all over the place and killing relatives. I have, since I was a very young teen, fantasized about going to an asylum to rest. Although, real asylums are not restful peaceful pretty places. I mean, if there were any actual asylums left, which there aren't I think. The modern asylum is the city street.

Hey, how about "Thornyfield Asylum"?!!!! A good mix of hard modern with Gothic romance.

Mar 27, 2008

My Blue Heaven

Papers have been signed in dizzying masses with fresh blood from the turnips that have come to stand in place of an income. Promises have been made, barters with the heavens have been forged and redemption has been temporarily issued. The gates of heaven await only the key. The key won't come to us until tomorrow. (Though we can go through the side gate and peer into the windows of our blue farmhouse nest.)

It has been hectic. It has not all gone as planned. Will it be worth it? Will we regret it? Will a brand new cycle of doom and fear and shit luck trail around at our heels like a determined hound from hell setting fire to a half a lifetime of hard work and wholesome dreams? I don't know all the answers.

This is what I know: This house is my idea of heaven and I can't wait to get my life settled into it.

The ultimate sign that this was the right house (besides the fact that it tied it's spiritual apron strings around my waist the minute I entered) was the discovery of the custom made spice rack. I've seen a lot of houses and these are rare finds. Three out of four houses we've bought had them. Perfect custom made spice racks. A spice rack is something I consult almost every single day and so few things in my home have the power to please me so constantly with their utility, beauty, convenience, and good design.

What's really weird to me is that I have had to temporarily resurrect the business to get this all to go through. I never officially closed it down. People have been ordering from the website even though we took the store feature down. They've been getting to the products by way of links. There's life there. And then I was realizing that maybe I'm not quite finished with it yet. Maybe with some love and using only what I already have on hand I can rebuild. Rebuild what I want to and discard the rest.

The book "A Is For Aprons" in which one of my apron patterns appears is coming out in May. I had planned on completing the instructions for one of my patterns to put up for sale when the book came out. I might still do it. I understand that I am THMR* so it would be with no expectations and almost no investment capitol which means I would produce it one at a time in a fashion I could afford to do in. My pattern work is excellent though (one of the few things I feel confident about) and I enjoy doing it. So who knows, maybe this new homestead is what I needed to clear out my head. We'll see.

Queer, isn't it?

The main thing is the nest. The farmhouse. Can I give it a ridiculously pompous moniker? Such as "Thistle Lodge Park"? Or how about "The Williamson Sanatorium"? Or how about "The Rose And Thistle Farmhouse"...just like a pub. I love pubs.

I haven't packed a box. Not a single box. We're moving in two days.

But I'm not worried. I'm going to take a lukewarm bath and then I'm going to pack like I've got fire ants in my pants. I'll leave you with that charming image.

*The Human Money Repellent. I say this with fondness now. I've embraced it and the sting is gone. Whether or not it continues to be true, it still amuses me.

Mar 26, 2008

The Future Just Called
and it wants it's promise back

I like to say "Houseleek" because it sounds wet and sharp and pungent. This plant goes by other names as well but I don't know any of them except it's Latin name: Sempervivum Tectorum. Houseleeks can be used the same way the Aloe Vera can, sharing many of the same cooling and astringent properties, as a poultice for burns. They can also be applied to the forehead for migraines and feverish headaches. They are growing in the future for me where this snap shot was taken. Aloe Vera doesn't grow outside here so this is a great alternative.

I don't know how often I'll find myself grinding up the leaves for cold poultices, but I know I'll be saying it's name all the time, just for the keen satisfaction of hearing it ring around in my head. Some words are like that. I like how it could be misheard as "How Sleek". Or as "house leak" which is so much more calamitous than thinking of mild onions and succulent cool crushable leaves.

There is a cornucopia of wonderfully fragrant and amusing plant names in my Culpepper Herbal such as: Hound's Tongue, Goutweed, Dropwort, Clown's Woundwort*, Root Of Scarcity**, and Scurvy Grass. I could say those names all day. How excellent to let the names of things say something solid about their usefulness.

Today I deliver tax papers. Papers I labored over all night. I hate doing taxes. It forces me to look at how bad I am at organizing my life, at sorting and dealing with the incessant paperwork that living guarantees us in this country. Especially if you have your own business. I shake the depressing aura by saying "Houseleek" over and over and over.

The good thing is that I can now move on to the next thing. The next segment of the immediate future that I'm allowed to step into just as it becomes the present. I am living day to day right now. It's a little tense around here. Things haven't gone quite as planned so our comfort level has been reduced quite a lot, quite suddenly. Still, I have the sense that it's all going to come out right in the end. I hope I'm not horribly mistaken. I've been horribly mistaken before.

The kittens are getting bigger in their confinement. The bare patches on Penny's face are filling in with new whiskers and fur. Her scabs are gone. She doesn't purr as much as Pippa does. Penny is more like Max, a bit wild and frisky and funny. Last night she purred for me and it was so wonderful to see her face looking so bright and clean and healthy and to hear her motor kick in. It took all my strength not to nuzzle up to her. Pippa is clearly going to be my forever baby. She purrs the minute she sees me and would obviously prefer to snuggle up than to play- so it's making me crazy not to be able to indulge her sweet sweet nature and snuggle. Penny will hunt and get rodents and Pippa will hunt and bring us earth worms. I can tell already.

We had another good day yesterday- in spite of all the chaos around here and my stress- Max got to go to another friend's house to play for a few hours and got lots of fresh air and fun. Then Max and I went out to dinner just the two of us and drew pictures and chatted. Then we snuggled while watching some Poirot. Then I put in a few hours of work on taxes. That was not fun. But I was satisfied that my boy didn't spend all day playing video games.

It's raining and I'm still in my pyjamas. I am going to go crawl into bed with Max for a little snuggle before taking a bath and getting on with the day which must include a lot of boxes and crap. I'll take this quiet moment to snuggle in. How about you?

*Really? Clown's have their own special healing plant? Does it remove their awful awful awful make-up? Does it magically transform them into something less depressing?

**Otherwise known as the Mangel beet which my book considers only fit for feeding to livestock which I find fascinating since it is enjoying a renaissance as a gourmet vegetable right now.

Mar 25, 2008

Without My Eyes

More outdoor kitty pictures

Checking out the world from under the BBQ

Max is small, Pippa is smallest.

Yesterday turned out to be a stellar day. Other than my back hurting. Max played with the kids across the street, OUTSIDE. Chick got to romp around with their gorgeous pit bull named Pepper. And I got to hang out with their parents who are our only immediate neighbors that we have anything in common with. In fact, we really like them and have been wanting to have them over and then get all weirdly shy. So stupid of us! They are one of the other few nonreligious families in town.

That was really great. Then we went to Dundee with my friend Nicole to pick more nettles, hunt down poisonous plants as well as edible wild vegetation (such as the Indian Plum leaves which taste like cucumber- WHICH MAX TASTED AND LIKED!!!!!) and it turned out to be one of the most wonderful woodsy experiences. Of course Max had his spy and warrior equipment like his enormous bright plastic nerf gun. And of course he didn't want to come in the first place. But he ended up being our path leader and it was one of those great unexpected moments in life with kid that has the low potential to turn out well, but does, just to spite my expectations. I would go on such walks with Max all the time if I could budge him more often from his comfortable well worn spot in front of the play station.

For a lot of parents it boils down to insistence and power-housing their kids to do what they want them to do. Or they just have great easy going kids who go along with any plans on offer and if you have such a kid- keep your mouth glued shut please. I choose not to live with constant royal battles because Max is a master at giving them without my precipitating my own all the time.

Part of what made it fun for him was that we took some samples of the interesting plants we were finding. Nothing major, so no conservationists need be alarmed, just a wild strawberry leaf, the leaf of a baneberry plant, and some balm of Gilead (the resinous buds discarded by the Poplar trees in the park that smell wonderful).

Philip processed the nettles I brought home so none of them would go to waste this time. After the walk in the woods I really had to rest and heat my back. So I watched North And South (again) while sorting through tax papers and then looking through my rose encyclopedia. I can't wait to be surrounded by roses of my choice. I got the roses from my Pickering order and since I can't plant them yet in their real spots I need to get them into some sandy soil just to keep them healthy until I can get them into more permanent places. They're bare roots. I'm so excited about all the roses I have now. I've always wanted to get some moss roses and I ordered two of them.

I'd love to have taken pictures of our nature walk and of my nettles. But with a broken camera I am a blind writer. That's another thing I absolutely adore about blogs- we can all show each other what we're up to all the time which is like having a real visit with each other.

I love literature which has relied on words instead of pictures to show and tell for as long as humans have been writing. I have a deep respect for story telling without pictures. But that doesn't mean that I think blogs are an inferior trashy cousin to fine literature. I have read some amazing writing on blogs with pictures. The writing becomes more personal and poignant at times with the aid of pictures. The journey is different but not lesser. I have read some posts on blogs that could stand up to the test of time in a book, that could rival the finest authors out there, and have reverberated in my head and heart with the same potency as J.D. Salinger's work.

I must solve this camera issue soon.

On the homestead front, I want to say that now is a great time to be checking on your perennial herbs, if you have any, to see what kind of growth they're putting on. Especially if you live in a fairly mild climate. Early spring is when the sap of nature starts to flow. In the milder winter areas your herbs should be starting to put on new growth which means that it will be time to trim them and dry what you trim. I have just trimmed my marjoram which survived the winter (it doesn't always, here) and put on some fresh growth. I also trimmed my thyme and chives. Though I must say I don't think the flavor of chives is preserved well by drying, so I won't do that again.

You can usually get two solid harvests from your perennial herbs: spring and fall. You always want to trim them before they flower. I can usually keep myself in home grown dried thyme, oregano, and marjoram by harvesting twice a year. I use a lot of these herbs. More than any other (besides salt and pepper). If your plants don't yet have enough new growth for a harvest, just be sure to keep your eye on them over the course of the next three weeks.

Today is all about tax preparation. I am totally stressed out about it because I didn't take a final inventory before closing the store. ACK. Luckily I diligently recorded our sales in a book so I won't have to go through five thousand individual receipts to figure out what the store made while it was open. At least I did something right there.

I am having fun figuring out what souvenirs I might bring back from Scotland which is my favorite place in the world besides Oregon. I try to be careful about how much shopping I do when abroad. I often end up buying really useful things like sweaters and cookbooks or wool socks. Things I can really use when I come home too. I was thinking this time I might go to some thrift stores in Glasgow and find a few pieces of china. You probably know that I lost a good percentage of my great grandmother's china in our attic fire. We salvaged what we could. I decided it was a perfect opportunity to create a mismatched set. I love china and I love the enormous varieties of it that you can find out in the world. I thought it would make a great souvenir item that would also be useful.

Other things I was thinking about- whiskey for Philip, a glass or two for Max (he likes having his very own things), maybe a cookbook. Although a cook book would be very funny since Scotland is all about fish and meat and isn't exactly the vegetarian capital of the world. Their idea of a vegetarian soup sometimes includes chicken. !?. It must be noted, though, that the secret of eating well in Scotland (if you're me) is to eat a hell of a lot of potatoes and pub soups. Provided you specify that you don't eat fish or birds, often there really is a superb meatless soup on offer and some of the finest I've had were in pubs. I've actually had better soups in Scotland and in Paris than anywhere else I've been.

I don't actually think Americans are the best soup makers in the world.

Well, I am, but that's just another one of those things I try not to talk about too often so as not to make the rest of you feel self conscious.

Just to take my pride down a notch...I have to say that I am feeling very uncomfortable with my body right now. I mean, I have been for the last couple of years, but I'm going to my dad's wedding there with my sister and (hopefully) my brother, and it will be all these non-fat people and my brother and dad haven't seen me in two years and don't know what an enormous tub of a person I have become. I'm already embarrassed enough thinking about what my sister must think of me in my present state, but at least she won't be shocked. I know they all love me anyway. I do. I really do know that. And I've been working on losing weight (I've lost nine pounds so far) but there's no way I'll be able to lose a significant amount by May so I have to go in mostly the shape I'm in.

If I'm diligent I can probably lose another ten pounds. But even so...jesus! I don't know how to look nice as I am. You know what's even worse than caring what my family thinks of my size? Worrying about what Scotland will think of my size. Yes, the country. The land. The air. The first time I set foot on Scottish soil I knew I had come home. The air, the mountains, the slate, and the soil all embraced me. It was love. Not just me loving it, but I felt loved in return. Now I worry that it will reject me.

Yeah. A whole country.

You thought it was just houses I was nutty about.

Anyway. I will do what I can but it's really only five weeks away. How will I impress my family and my spiritual homeland if I come as I am? Will a snazzy haircut and make-up do the trick? What style of clothes should I wear? What style of clothes will be most flattering on a body like mine? There is the whole garden lady linen look with big earrings and great hats to make up for loose flowing linen clothes. Las Manos style, for those of you who have spent time in Marin or Sonoma. Earthy lady clothes. But would dressing like that make me look like an old lady?

Or should I wear all black with form fitting styles that pretend I don't have a large stomach roll?
I won't have time to sew things for myself so I am also at the mercy of large lady fashions I can find around here. VERY LIMITING.

It's a nasty dilemma. I wouldn't even air that here because I've been trying not to mention my body issues here as much. I created a special place for talk about that journey with some friends. But it's really really worrying me. Maybe even more than taxes are. I want to be stylish and pretty for my dad's wedding and for hanging out with my stylish wonderful siblings.

The day I got my passport picture taken a young (large like me) goth girl blurted out that I was very pretty. It totally took me by surprise. I have to say it really was nice to hear from a total stranger.

I am not looking for compliments from you, by the way. I want solutions. What to do? ACK!

Well, it's time to go through nasty paperwork. It's time to drink more coffee and attend to the request from Max that I spend some time drawing with him. Something he almost never wants to do with me. (Can't miss such a golden opportunity!) I hope you all have a good and peaceful Tuesday. I hope you all have already put your tax crap behind you.

Mar 24, 2008

Food Related Gift Contest Winner

we run on Angelina time around here

Remember how I was going to give this lovely gift ensemble to someone who commented on my Food Related Gifts post? That was way back in December when we all still cherished bright hopes for the new year. I promised three winners. I don't break my promises. That's why I don't go around promising to swallow disturbing substances to impress people. So, I have drawn a winner for this particular gift and sometime in the near-ish future I will draw two more names just as soon as I figure out what the prizes will be.

The winner is: CAPELLO!!

Capello from "No Appropriate Behavior" who just recently survived a trip to visit relatives in Michigan. Capello, who is fabulously caustic. I love her because she says all the things I have lurking in my brain but am too afraid to say. She's an excellent writer, mother, and she has great teeth. I'm so happy I pulled your name!

Now...on to other matters. My camera is not working again. Dammit. I think the work that was done on it is under warranty still but what a pain in the ass. I really love my camera too. It's small but takes some great macro shots. I'm looking on Ebay for used Canon Rebel SLRs because there's one low end model that was almost the same price as my Powershot SD850. What I want to know is if it really makes so much of a difference? Everyone is crazy for the SLRs but I'm not sure what the rage is all about. I am looking at cameras because I'm thinking I need a back up camera.

I love the Powershot because it fits in almost any pocket. It's inconspicuous and takes really great pictures. If any of you have thoughts on cameras, do share. I can't afford a high end SLR and I should also mention that I particularly like Canons because I've been happy with the ones I've had.

I have an impossible to do list right now. I have to admit that I am really feeling stressed.

One nice thing is that I made some nettle soup and it was really good. I have to admit that it has a slight seaweed taste which is really borderline edible for me. If it was any stronger I'd find it unpalatable. So the trick for me is to not use a ton of nettle at a time. I'd show you a picture but my camera won't focus well.

Max is home on spring break. During a week I have a thousand things to do, none of which are fun kid activities which means he'll spend lots of time on the play station. His eyes will be blood shot all week and I'll have to wear the scarlet letters BM.


Spring break is stupid. Week ends are plenty of break for my kid.

I tried playing Monopoly with my men-folk last night. I really did. I hate that game. I've hated it my whole life. See, I want to be a good mom. I do. A neighbor once told me that if Max wanted to watch foot ball on the weekends I would watch it with him just to spend time with him. She felt so sure this would be true. She wasn't accounting for the fact that the sound of football games on a Sunday afternoon make me want to swallow poison. It's so kind when people give me the benefit of the doubt and it doubles the guilt I feel knowing how wrong they are. Everyone knows I hate board games and some friends (WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS) have accused me of enjoying being a person who hates games and who maybe is a little dramatic about it.

The thing is...they make me feel like my insides are crawling with worms and I'm being eaten alive by the discomfort of having to be in mean competition with people I like. I hate competition. I really do. I hate seeing people get really into games where they all want to win really bad. Philip becomes a seven year old when he plays board games and he's not the only one this happens to; the immaturity that board games seem to engender in most people is something I loath to see or hear or be a part of.

So hand over the letters dammit, because I am BAD MOMMY.

So there's nothing my boy and I like to do together. I don't like board games or playing Bionicles, or playing spies...he doesn't like cooking or reading with me or gardening or walking or bicycling. It's distressing. And we have a week to spend together where I will get to feel super guilty for not knowing what the hell to do with my boy that doesn't involve letting him play video games the whole time.

Plus there's the tax preparation that must happen today and tomorrow, more papers to sign with title companies (hopefully), and a whole lot of other stuff I am not yet at liberty to openly discuss. Monday feels a little draining to me already.

Mar 22, 2008

This Cute Could Kill You

The vet says TWO MORE WEEKS OF QUARANTINE. The ring worm is almost gone but almost isn't good enough to set these babies free in the house. He did say, however, that on a warm sunny day like this we could let them play outside for a little while. He just doesn't think it's wise to risk infected hairs dropping all over inside where we are most likely going to come into contact with them with our skin. So, they got to romp out in our back yard for a little while.

Their cuteness very nearly killed me. What kept me hanging on was the arrival of my "North and South" DVD. I finally got to see the proposal scene and I have to say that the train scene is still the best of all time. However...back to the cuteness factor...

The vet says they are doing way better than when they first came in two weeks ago. They do have a trace of the round worm left so obviously they still have a couple of issues. But their big bellies are just good old fashioned fat baby bellies and not distended at all. Their eyes are clear (no conjunctivitis) and they are spunky and did I mention the cute.

You know what's not cute though? Full grown women who wear candy scented perfume. I don't think it's cute when women try to smell like bubble gum or icing. Now, I am sure that there are some of you out there who like to wear food type scents and while I think that's just fine (because who the hell am I anyway?!) I just needed to say that it isn't cute and it kind of weirds me out. Especially when women wear a perfume called "Child".

So, yes, I'm talking about both the Simpson sisters now. What's up with them and their little girl obsession? I wonder if either of them have ever thought of growing some vegetables? Or some herbs? Do you think they grow tomatoes every summer?

Now I have to add that their father, Joe Simpson, gives me the ever-lovin-creeps and I wouldn't let him near a daughter of mine if I had one. Especially not if she had some boobage and was teen-aged. The man is a total pimp to his own daughters and it really freaks me out.

OK. You know what's sad? This is all old news. I didn't just read a gossip magazine. I did, however, just flip through the first fashion magazine I've looked at in two months. I have a bunch of them stacked up, waiting. I haven't wanted to look. Normally, no matter how unfashionable and frumpy I am I still love to look at fashion. I suppose I had the Simpsons on my mind because there was something about Ashlee's favorite things. One of them being a perfume called "Child" that she wears when she goes out and wants to feel sassy. Dudes: that's SICK.

My In Style is coming up for a subscription renewal and I kind of think I'm not going to renew. I love that magazine but my heart's not in it right now. I wanted to reduce the number of magazines I get anyway. I have been subscribing to four. I only want to renew Elle because it has the most relevant and interesting fashion coverage (more indie designers featured, more ecological talk, better writing, plus the good horoscopes.)

I don't really know what's going on but I guess it's a new chapter in more ways than I realized. I am much more interested in having great garden and herb books. I'd much rather bury my nose in books about roses and cooking. I'm sure if there was a magazine devoted to what celebrities are making meaningful ecological choices and which ones are growing their own (I mean- and getting their own hands dirty doing it) then I'd be pretty interested in reading about it.

It's gorgeous outside but I need to rest my back and do a small amount of cooking. So I'm not going to garden out there. I would like to start some lettuce and cilantro seeds. I'm dying for cilantro. As it turns out, it doesn't freeze all that well. It's OK. There's nothing like a big lush fresh bunch of cilantro to perk up almost anything. Yum. Wow, this post has become incredibly random. I was just going to post about the cuteness that is killing me over here. Here I am wanting to tell you all (because I know you want to know) that I want to try pressure canning some corn this year.

I kind of wish I had something scintillating to say.

Well, I hope you all have a great Saturday and if it's sunny for you? Good God! Get off the damn computer and go enjoy it!!!
Spring Opens With Pink

Many things seem to be coming to a head right now. My Master Gardening course is complete and now I have to put in volunteer hours (if I want my certification). I did learn quite a lot in the class but I suppose I expected the class to be less about answering people's garden questions and more about answering my own. I wish that it had been less academic and more practical. Mostly the class was about using resources to find answers. (Like books, the Internet, and OSU publications.) Ah well. I did learn some botany that is not necessarily important to gardening (you could garden successfully for a hundred years without knowing exactly how the xylem works) but is never the less quite interesting.

Yesterday we finally signed our refinance papers. It is a week later than it should have been and until it funds I'm not going to discuss what's next or anything like that for fear of toppling my very fragile house of cards. Let's just say that we have been holding our breath around here.

I actually went to the gym this week for the first time in five months. And almost immediately felt my back going out. I haven't actually been laid up...but the threat is real. This ALWAYS happens. Either my back goes out or my ankle flares up (a medical mystery). Still, it felt good to go and put in some time.

The kittens seem to be improving. I say "seem" because they have lots of little bare spots (Pippa's whole chest is bare of fur- poor baby!) and Penny's stomach is still distended though they are both playful, have big appetites, and the bare parts of Penny's face have started to fill in with fur again so it seems that even if the ring worm isn't completely cleared yet, it's got it's marching orders at last. We take them in this morning to get the official word on their progress from the vet. Hopefully he'll tell us we can play with them soon because it's killing us all to not be able to interact much with them. They are terribly irresistible and the sooner we can ease into the whole dog introduction the better.

Spring is definitely here now. Officially. But I didn't need the official word to know it. When spring is officially here McMinnville turns pink. First with the ornamental (and fruiting) plum trees. Then with the pink dogwoods trees (one of the only planting trends around here that I can get on board with) and then with the ornamental cherries. It snows pink blossoms and is just gorgeous.

I have to confess that the only non-fruiting tree I am tempted to plant is a pink dogwood. Mostly because I would like to be able to cut branches of them for vases in my house. I can't go around cutting up other people's trees so it makes sense to have my own. I don't like using up precious space that could be growing things I can eat, but I may make an exception in this case. Plus, dogwoods always remind me of my mom and the things I love about her. I don't think the pink ones are necessarily what she would choose. She planted a pretty dogwood in our garden in Ashland and it had delicate whitish green flowers. Still, for me it's got to be the pink ones.

The daffodils are all out now, plastering the landscape in bright yellow points of light. Wonderful! I've never lived in a place so widely and generously planted in spring bulbs.

I'm thinking that the next time I paint a living room I want to paint it red. I've never had a red room.* We haven't had lots of success with blues. I like greens a lot. We've had a Dustpan Alley turquoise blue for a kitchen and I might repeat that one. But I like warm colors. I like yellow but have only done a bedroom in it. I do love the orange I did my studio in and might repeat that at some point. But the living room...I keep thinking of a rich color, but fresh cut flowers have to look good against it. I can always do green. But I feel like breaking out a little with something new.

This is where my thoughts are. The near future. It is near impossible to focus on the present.

Time to drink more coffee and write to a friend.
I hope you all have a wonderful Saturday!

*We've had a red ceiling before.

Mar 20, 2008

The Sting

Friends walk through midnight together where the witch's broom gathers all the light into switches meant to hold hope close to the bosom of the future. Granting a pass through to a second sight only acquired once our eyes have closed themselves against poison. Here are wood flowers blooming against the dark as though the sun never shone brighter and the Balm Of Gilead wafts through the rushes on the ground like fragrant whispers into a vibrant collective memory. It smells delicately of fresh clothes and clean floral skin softened in baths of petals.

Here in the woods, clinging to the muddy banks of a stream there are clusters of stinging nettles, fresh green and tender in their early season nestled amongst the wild brambles ready to catch the unwary in their double hell of thorns and poison stings.

Reconstruct the actions of the past and you reconstruct the future.

Follow with your hands the motions of our history and you will find it living wild in yourself like a yeast looking for a lush grain mash in which to land. It becomes music in your bones, like voices that you've heard before in dreams and know intimately there but can scarcely recall in daylight. You will remember. You will cultivate the memory and cause it to rise like bread from an oven of stone and fire.


Stinging nettles smell green like spring. Like all nourishing plants of slightly bitter disposition that rise from the banks of streams and boggy places tender in their youth and fibrous as they ascend to positions of greater light and stature. They come by their name most honestly. I went nettle hunting with my friend Nicole this afternoon, I won't tell you where lest you be an official charged with ferreting out those rascals (such as us) who come to wild harvest herbs from public spaces, and I got my share of stings in spite of wearing thick gloves.

Think of it as our punishment if you like.

How is it that a plant so poisonous is also so healthful for the human body? It has mechanisms to discourage the largest beast from it's ravage. Because, in case you don't know for yourself, the sting is ferocious. The hairs of the stinging nettles inject a small amount of poison into your skin causing it to welt up like a bug bite in white poison bumps full of pain and irritation which can last for quite some time.

I can attest to this personally.

I don't like pain at all.

But it seems a just price for harvesting such a useful and ancient spring tonic against a winter diet. My skin is still smarting, four hours later, from the sting.

It was good to walk by the stream. I learned from Nicole what Trillium are and saw their milky faces glow in the afternoon glade, eagerly waiting for a dapple of light to illuminate their petals and photosynthesize their souls. I feared the mossy rocks because I know what it feels like to break a hip. I smelled the poplar sap on the air, but only when it was pointed out to me in the quiet and I thought how like fresh laundry it smelled. Small beautiful light purple flowers speckled the undergrowth whose names I have shamelessly already forgotten.

I realize that wild harvesting herbs can cause some dangers of extinction for some herbs but I would contest that to prohibit people from collecting herbs and plants in the wild will diminish our knowledge of them all. There was a time when life depended on us knowing which mushrooms we could eat and which would kill us. There was a time when finding greens in the wild to sustain us was tantamount to survival. Even if we need never depend on the wild in such a way again, we must never lose this knowledge.

Today I felt myself tied to all of you in ways you may or may not be aware of in your conscious lives. But I know that you would recognize me in your the streams, avoiding the sting, gathering light against a midnight lake of past springs.

Mar 19, 2008

Move Over Heather Bailey!
The next design star has finally arrived.

Now, I've just done an exhaustive two page google search on my newest multi-dollar idea to make sure that no one has already stolen it. So far it seems that everyone has come dangerously close to good clothespin ideas and then totally missed the mark by doing clothespin magnets (which are cool, of course, but really don't compare) or clothespin dolls which are cute and folksy but when what you want is cutting edge? Not so much.

True genius lies in a clever use of cheap materials that take a minimum of labor to transform our perceptions of them from mundane to cutting edge design. I think I can safely say that with the clothespin hair accessory I have climbed new heights of sartorial domination and glory. Heather Bailey may come up with glamorous accessories that everyone wants, and she may have a face that is softer and dewier than a baby's bottom, but I, the great single monikered designer-ANGELINA, have done what everyone dreams of doing: come up with a trademark so complicated to keep track of and so clever that it will take years for anyone to figure it out and at that moment my posse of lawyers will descend on the unwary lesser "designers" like a pack of unfed wolves and make me a billionaire with the resulting lawsuits.

No, but seriously...It's time to get serious. This is the face I wear when I start talking earnestly about HOPE IN AMERICA on national television. A face that is properly concerned and serious while conveying a kind of honest yearning in the heart for a better world for future generations conveyed to you by the far off gaze that I achieve when thinking about how much I love cheese and how serious it would be if I could never eat it again.

I wonder if Max would get sent to the principle's office if he revealed his thoughts about President Bush. He may say things like: people in a story book the teacher has just read to the class "should all just go kill themselves", and by doing so effectively ruin the lives of all the kids he's in class with, but I wonder how much worse it might be if he was to tell his thoughts about the mighty evil Michael Vick who we all think should be mauled by dogs or, as Max likes to suggest: that he "be thrown in a jail cell filled with dog fur for the rest of his life?" Or how he would throw Bush in jail if he was in charge. The nice thing about my kid is that he's still on the good guy's side. Mostly. I wonder, if he blurted something out about God that no one in class agrees with would he get sent to the principle's office?*

I see the greatest misstep of Max's "incident" in school was that he spoke without raising his hand and didn't say anything that really had to do with the characters, exactly. I don't think what he said was so terrible. I think his teacher knew I wasn't on the same page of horror as she was. I am 95% sure I have been a nonstop disappointment to her as a parent which you should know has not made me feel the least bit bad about myself so much as it makes me acutely aware of what a disconnect there obviously is between her life experiences and mine.

I think I should flash her my HOPE IN AMERICA look more often to give her some reassurance. Then I should give her one of my clothespin hair accessories and later on nail her with a well timed lawsuit. Then I can afford to get Max a private tutor who will teach him how to fight with a sword, write secret notes in invisible ink to very important people, and strategize like a general while thinking creatively like a genius.

I can almost hear your awe for me growing in the space between us. I have that effect on people sometimes so I won't let it distract me.

You see what happens when I get gussied up for a passport photo? I get all self portrait obsessed and start morphing into the next Heather Bailey.

*He exited class the other day being lectured to by a little girl who was saying to him "Don't believe the creations, believe the creator." When I asked him what she meant he said they were talking about god and that he had said that there's proof of evolution and that this little girl is always saying this same thing to him. You know what that means? He's engaging in a lot of arguments about god at school. When pressed, he admitted that he kind of likes arguing about it.

Mar 18, 2008

Saag Paneer Goes Local
(overcoming specificity)

I am a very specific person. In every way. In every facet of life. There is no corner in my brain that doesn't have very specific guidelines for existing, for processing thought, for storing memory, or for experiencing life. This is why you will never find the word "relaxed" as a descriptor of my personality. When I get an idea for something I want to cook, therefore, it is always very specific. I am often trying to reproduce in my kitchen fond memories of food I've had out in the world. I don't want something "similar", I want the real McCoy.

I have always loved Indian food, though I have taken very long breaks from it at times, and there are some dishes that every good Indian restaurant serves that I want to be able to make at home. Saag Paneer is one of them. Palak Paneer is another one. My friend Chelsea loves Indian food more than I do and is on a long journey of discovery with variations on many dishes in her own kitchen. Lately she's got me hankering for a little Indian food. In McMinnville, if you want something as exotic as this it is best to make it at home.

I have a great Madhur Jaffrey book that Chelsea gave me with a recipe for Saag Paneer. I happened to have a ton of fresh local gorgeous spinach that it would have been a food crime to waste. But being in the middle of a lot of change prevents me from getting my elbows whey deep in cheese making so where the hell could I come up with some Paneer which is a kind of farmer's cheese? No where, that's where. So I channeled my many resourceful friends' spirits for the answer. It was happily right under my nose at the Hillsdale farmer's market this week end. The price was high enough to scare the pants off of Vincent Price.

We'll call it a splurge. Fresh mozzarella. This stuff is amazing. It isn't like that really spongy wet stuff that floats in water. It's more like feta curds, a little salty, and tasting like the kind of slightly more aged mozzarella that is actually my preference*. It has the texture of a farmer's cheese. Voila! There was my answer.

The recipe also called for slightly more spinach than I had, dried fenugreek leaves, and a fresh chili none of which my kitchen could furnish. No fears! I just used a jar of my home canned diced tomatoes, more onion than the recipe called for, and left out the pepper. (I didn't feel like defrosting one of my roasted frozen ones.)

The other major issue is rice. Although I have a very small amount of rice left and could have used it for this recipe. I wanted to see what it would be like to go way off the Indian map and serve this dish on polenta.

It was superb! With a little cayenne and a lot of ginger it was warming (we've got a chill back in the air here) and filling. The cheese was perfect- it didn't melt but added the perfect mellow foil to the spicy spinach. The spinach was like butter and now I'm craving a bucket-full of this dish. I restrained myself to just one serving, but I could easily have inhaled the whole mess of it. I feel totally rewarded in my efforts to be less specific when it comes to recreating something that lives in my taste bud hall of fame.

Baby update: they are both doing quite well. Very spunky and now that Pippa is a whole week and a half older than she was when we got her- she's playing with Penny and watching them leap around on each other is so cute I could just cry. They are (sadly) still continuing to show more bald spots. Penny's stomach is still distended which worries me but not the vet.

We have moved them out of the tub and into our other bathroom. The problem with this is that now we open the door and they bolt out in hopes of exploring. Chick is often camped out at the bathroom door and sometimes lunges at it with snarls. Then licks her chops. So obviously I'm concerned about the eventual introduction of kittens to dog. Such meetings will obviously be heavily supervised for quite some time.

Here's something that makes every day a pleasure: every time Pippa sees me come in she cranks up her purr machine immediately.

These are some busy times for us. Cooking really good food when you're overloaded with things to take care of can seem impossible and yet there's never a time when it's more important to have home cooked food. I find it relaxing and soothing to cook. It stresses me out to not have any time to do it. I actually made some potatoes that would have been fabulous if it hadn't been for the fact that they got burnt due to my washing the kittens and not turning off the oven first. No worries though. Apparently Philip likes to eat burnt bits. I ate the good stuff. They were Greek potatoes with lemon juice, olive oil, and oregano. The lemon juice came from my friend in California. If we hadn't been able to eat those potatoes I would have been devastated by the waste of such a precious commodity.

We have lots of papers to sign, babies to care for, and a boy who's gotten his first note sent to the principle by his teacher. To be honest, I don't think this punishment is deserved for his crime which was one of blurting out something apparently shocking to the class. He didn't use swear words and I think it really boils down to the fact that us Williamsons lead a much less gentle existence than many other people do. What Max blurted out wasn't directed to anyone in the class and so I have a hard time understanding why it wasn't enough to punish him with one lost recess instead of a string of them.

In fact, my boy is feeling very out of place at school. He's been complaining of being made fun of for his name. He doesn't take teasing in stride. (I'm trying to use this fact to help him understand how others might feel when he teases them). This is the part I didn't think through when deciding to have a baby. That I would have to watch him go through all the stupid awful crap I went through as a kid. Misfits generally give birth to more misfits and it is awfully difficult for Max to really hear us when we tell him how it's often the misfits who achieve the most amazing things in life and end up having the best friends and that some day he'll be glad to be who he is.

Today I have to complete my Master Gardening final exam because tomorrow is the last class. My friend Nicole is putting together a local food group for our county and I'm going to a meeting for that tonight. So much to do! I also have to fill out papers to renew my passport because in May I'm going to go to my dad's wedding in Scotland! Right now I'm trying to think of what articles I might be able to pitch to magazines to make good use of the trip and what magazines?

I was thinking about doing a piece on eating vegetarian in Scotland. (Potatoes and beer is where it's at! Ha! Oh, but also the pub soups...often there is a meatless choice and I've had some excellent ones.) Scotland is my favorite place on earth besides Oregon. Not surprising since they are a lot alike. Especially climate wise. I've never been to Scotland in the spring, only the winter which is when I generally prefer to travel. Maybe I'll get to see some roses?!

Oh my god. I just realized that there must be some public access historical gardens I could see. OH what a dream that would be!!! Oooh, I wonder if there are any monastery gardens there to see? Clearly research is called for. But I don't have time for that yet. I also have to prepare my taxes and I don't even know where to begin with that this year. What a mess!

*The stuff being sold as "fresh" that's soft and spongy is not my favorite. Sometimes if it is stored in oil with herbs it can be delicious but generally I find fresh mozzarella to be lacking in flavor or character. This is why I will never be considered a true epicurean. That and the fact that I don't eat any goat or sheep's cheese.

Shush. I heard you gasp in the back row!!

Mar 17, 2008

The Growing Challenge
In which I am mostly waiting and dreaming

My kiwi vines are ready to be planted. I can't oblige them yet. Like all plant geeks I find the minute details of growing plants as enchanting as watching babies take their first tentative steps. This fuzzy kiwi has the prettiest pink down and I almost can't believe that nature makes such delicate beauty in food plants. You couldn't make a maiden blush like that.

We are in a holding pattern. I have just finished a job and for the first time in weeks can look around me and see what's going on under my nose.* Well, for one thing, as I mentioned already my spring plant purchases are all wearing the impatient look of beings who have been waiting in line in the social security office for too long. They aren't looking at me with a great deal of charity when I say "Oh little kiwi, I will plant you soon! I promise!"

For another, there are stacks of dishes and crap strewn all over the place. Laundry is the same as always at least. Which is to say that I'm behind on it, Philip barely has enough underwear and socks, and the clean stuff is busy getting dirty in piles where the black dog sleeps.

Still, I am with the growing challenge in spirit and an enormous part of me is focused on medicinal herbs and which ones I want to grow this year. These thoughts took an interesting (to me) turn after the lecture on weeds in my Master Gardening class. I ended up buying a very expensive field guide full of glossy pictures called "Weeds Of The West" on a hunch that it would also make a great field guide to spotting medicinal herbs in the garden and in the wild. I was not wrong at all.

During the same week I bought that weed book I bought a book I have coveted for months called "Culpepper's Color Herbal". Culpepper was a medical doctor from the sixteen hundreds who cataloged all of the herbs and plants used medicinally in his time. Nicholas (as I like to call him in my familiar American style) had one of the earlier mullets seen in fashion. In most cases I find it impossible to look beyond a mullet for the gem of a person beyond the hair because I think there are few hairdos more distracting. However, in Nicholas's case I feel I must look beyond his unfortunate personal style. He is a person after my own heart.

He studied to be a traditional medic but became disillusioned with the elitist nature of his medical peers and was apparently disgusted with their habit of treating people for things they didn't have and charging them for remedies they couldn't afford. So he dropped out to become an herbalist to the common people. Although he came from pretty well off people, he set himself down amongst the people who needed him most. He made it a practice to use only the common names of herbs so as to not alienate his patients and only prescribed what he thought they actually needed and when possible, told his patients where they could find the herbs they needed for themselves in the wild and what to do with them.

The man was amazing!

To be honest, I don't think I'd care to have him treat me medically though. I mean, I'd be concerned a little because of his happy use of certain poisonous plants like Lily Of The Valley. Here's what he says about this plant:

"The spirit of the flowers distilled in wine, restores speech."

But here's what's fascinating me: my weeds book is absolutely filled with traditional medicinal herbs. Which means that out there in your garden you are most likely able to find quite a few natural remedies if only you knew how to use them! One of the ones that surprises me the most is the weed called "Cleavers", though you are more likely to know it as "Catchweed" or "Bedstraw". I used to pull this sticky stuff up with loud curses because it clings to absolutely everything with the vigor of a two year old in a violent tantrum whose arms seem to be everywhere at once.

Yet this very obnoxious garden weed is apparently the path to my body resculpting plan. This is what Culpepper has to say about it:

"It is familiarly taken in broth, to keep them lean and lank that are apt to grow fat."

The real question is- will this work on them that has already become fat?

Happily, my Culpepper book, though full of his original descriptions of the plants and their uses and his opinions, is also edited to include the modern herbal uses of the plants and as it turns out, Catchweed is an important remedy in modern practice as a soothing, relaxing diuretic as well as being used to treat skin diseases internally such as psoriasis and eczema.

Which? I have.

The irony here is that since moving to Oregon I haven't been accosted by this weed at all.

I feel I should say here that I pull anything out of my garden that I don't want in it. Even if it has great medicinal purposes. I only have a small plot of my own earth to work with and I'll be damned if I let things grow in it just because they have some value to the bugs and possibly me unless I really want them there. However, if I know that dandelions can be made into an excellent** wine, I just might uproot them and make them into wine instead of adding them to the compost heap. Or if I'm digging up some Catchweed, knowing it could be valuable medicinally, I just might learn to make a tincture of it to add to my medicine stores.

What amazes me most about my weeds book is how many of the plants listed there are ones I have planted on purpose in my own yard or am planning on planting: sunflowers, cornflower, wormwood (my mom doesn't think this is a great one to plant, but doesn't it sound medieval?), burdock, yarrow, poison hemlock (oh, don't pee your pants, I'm just kidding!), foxglove, mullein, toadflax, and violet.

That is only a sampling.

I could get all riled up and incensed that sunflowers are included in a book of weeds. I like to take the alternative route, however. Often we speak of weeds as a negative thing in the landscape and calling something a weed is meant to cast it into the undesirable class of plant. Really, though, it is just as easy to change how we see weeds. Weeds seem to simply be plants who have the superior ability to thrive and flourish in a multitude of conditions, making it hardy and reliable. Generally weeds also have superior (and sometimes completely surprising) methods of reproduction so that they multiply rapidly. These are traits they share with humans, incidentally. In humans we admire vigor. We admire vigor in plants we think of as ornamental but not so much in the plants we have no room for in our gardens.

I'm not going to get mad that foxglove is considered a weed. (I know I sounded like I was going to in a previous post, but I've now given this much greater consideration.) I am going to think of weeds as a generally wonderful and useful group of vigorous plants that may fill up my medicine cabinet on occasion and may possibly land in some broth as well. I will happily uproot them from my garden when they annoy me as they most certainly will.

This week I am going nettle hunting with a friend.
Soon I will have growing challenge posts that actually include some growing action.

As a totally random unrelated note:
last night I had a dream that was filled with chickens, night walks with Philip, Ewan McGregor, his wife, and their grown up daughter (they have small daughters only), and Max learning to cook in school. Plus some disgusting bugs about to hatch. Isn't the subconscious a wild place? I think Ewan's wife would enjoy knowing that for once a woman dreamt about her husband without ravishing him.*** In fact, Ewan and his wife did an annoying amount of kissing in front of me in my own dream which I think was slightly disrespectful. But we were all great friends so I put up with their shameless PDAs. No swinging occurred. You must know how I feel about that already.

*This job didn't actually take up a lot of time so much as having a deadline hanging over my head made every minute I wasn't working on it feel like stolen time and I don't have a head that weathers that sort of thing well. You know, because I'm such a delicate flower.

**Has anyone out there had dandelion wine? Because I really want to know how it's possible to make an enjoyable beverage from them. If you have some, can we do a trade of some kind so I can taste this mythical drink? I have deep doubts about it but endless curiosity.

***Jesus! What the hell is wrong with me?!!

Mar 16, 2008


It was after this picture was taken that I realized how wrong it is to tuck t-shirts into pants of any kind. At least for us short waisted pear shaped people it is. This is one of my favorite pictures of me, my sister Tara, and my brother Zeke. Incidentally, I have just remembered a friend objecting to white tights. Hmm. I will stand firm on the tights issue. I wouldn't wear them now for fear of looking like an enormous cloud drift, but back then when I had a waist and thinner legs? I still think they look fine. This same (very dear) friend of mine also objected to my white sunglasses.

Cam- what's up with your objections to white accessories?

Part of why I love this picture is that in our adult lives we have all lived so distantly from each other and this picture reminds me of how much a part of who I am is also a part of who they are. I feel confident in saying that we all have very strong personalities and when we walk into a room the air moves around us and people notice. Partly people notice us because I used to tuck my t-shirts in but mostly it's because we (as a group) look a lot like each other and my brother is a babe magnet in spite of his extremely blunt personality and my sister has big blue orbs for eyes with long lashes and an intriguing habit of being all at once super-mellow-girl and impossibly uptight which creates a great deal of fascination for me and everyone else around her.

I like being reminded that we all belong in each other's lives because I have often looked at them as being somehow separated from me by a glass barrier. I look at them and have a thousand opinions (many of them wrong, I'm sure!) about who they are but I have often felt invisible to them. Not because they ignore me, because they don't. Well, Zeke does generally, but he ignores everyone so it hardly signifies. Who do they think I am? I know they love me but I don't know how they see me.

And, of course, they're probably wrong anyway.

(Just amusing myself there.)

I feel a great deal of love for my siblings. Both of them have matured so much and come so far and lately I've been feeling more pride for them than ever before.

Zeke is an incredible artist and has been working really hard to pull his growing body of work into a show and his work almost makes me cry it's so poignant and so perfect a way for him to express the world he sees and to put beauty side by side with the very brutal nature of life in run down urban settings. Zeke is a tough character with a chivalrous side that has been known to land him in jail for a night. He's straightforward, totally honest, argumentative, handsome, stubborn, weirdly conservative, restless, a loyal friend, a much loved uncle, and in spite of his gruff nature, is a caring and kind person.

I don't even know how to begin a description of Tara. I first realized what an incredible person she was when she made me a little book in school when she was a young teen. This book was so sweet and made me realize how much I had overlooked her and spent too much time resenting her as a kid. I experience a great deal of guilt over our early years but I've reconciled that guilt in my heart. I changed her diapers, I helped feed her, I baby-sat her. But I didn't really see her until she was a teen and she went to live with our dad and I lived with our mom after they divorced. She's an excellent letter writer, scholar, and is beginning a career as a therapist in a social work environment which I think she'll be excellent at doing. She's working on her second master and there's so much I want to say about her all at once that my head becomes a jumble.

Tara is easily as contrary a person as I am. (Though I don't know if she fully realizes this yet?). She is honest, sweet, warm, impatient with people's annoying foibles, she's sometimes blunt, she is gorgeous, smart, a loyal friend and sister, her nephew wants to live with her instead of me*, she's funny, she's brave, she's an extremely hard worker, she's indecisive, she's a worrier, she is dutiful when it's important, she's independent, she's completely liberal, she has a bottomless conscience, she's earthy, she's sharp, she is stubborn, argumentative (see a familial trend there?), she can't resist a cat's charm, she's restless, she hates a lot of the same films I do, she's going to marry Luke Wilson some day, she is a lot of fun to hang out with, and she's going to keep getting better and better.

Both of them have been known to drive me crazy at times.

If they weren't already my siblings I would wish they were. I don't think a person needs to have siblings to have a great sense of family, I think if you don't have them you find them amongst your friends. I know that I have friends I consider my sisters in spirit.

But if you have siblings, it's wonderful when they're the kind of people you'd choose to be friends with if you hadn't already spent your childhood bickering endlessly with them about who gets the last peanut butter ball or who gets to sit facing forward in the family van or who is just plain wrong.

*That's because he doesn't know how strict she'll be!!!

Mar 15, 2008

Is This Still A Freudian World?
(plus a pretty picture of liquid sunshine)

What my friend Lisa B. says is true. I worry altogether too much that I'm going to alienate people. It's a funny juxtaposition to be in: desperate need to shake uncomfortable thoughts from myself like water from a dog's back but to constantly fear the consequences of where the water will land. People have a lot of layers and I would say, from experience, that we generally hide more than we show. Not to be sneaky and deceitful but to be self protective. I have some childish aspects to my personality and as Lisa also pointed out, so does she. While not everyone is going to admit that (and thank you, my friend, for fessing up!) I think many people do.

Another very old friend of mine, Carrie, suggested that my initial feelings about people having more babies probably stems from being five and dealing with my feelings about having siblings. This is probably true and tiresomely common of me to be holding onto feelings left over from being five. I could lay on the psychologist's couch now and feel confident that I am bringing with me classic childhood issues. I don't like it when the past makes crank calls on the present.

I have arrogantly believed that I no longer have issues rooted in the past; that I am now only dealing with my mental illness in the present; feelings and issues that have sprouted fresh from the soil of my current life. After all, there's plenty of fodder for psychological fun in the here and now, why go digging for it?

Why is it that the past seems to answer so many questions? I am annoyed with the past. Let go already! Leave me be! I want to be moving forward in a fluid motion, with grace, with elegant disregard for the lanky echoes from other rooms.

What if I turned out to be nothing more than a classic Freudian sample of a human being when I have liked to think I am a new breed of nutty person. I have liked to think I have some measure of originality in my mental chaos.

What if, in the end, all that's really wrong with me is that I secretly wish I had a penis?

Truthfully though, I think I can safely say that even when I was a teen and was surrounded with gender bending people and I myself would sometimes dress in men's suits from the Goodwill I never really wanted to be a boy so much as I didn't particularly wish to be a girl.

I got over that just like I got over a lot of things like seven bouts of tonsillitis and listening to The Cure which, even now, depresses the flipping pants off of me to hear. There's no happy nostalgia in listening to: The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus, The Psychedelic Furs, or Tones On Tail. When I hear any of those bands it reminds me of one of the very worst moments in my entire life.

Curious how some music, played during the same period, has come through time without wearing the taint of bad times. I can always listen to David Bowie, especially his albums "Young Americans" and "Ziggy Stardust" and the music has always served (and still does) as a padded cell for the mind. The music itself is like a buffer, a soft surface against which to fall, or rest. I can always listen to Cat Stevens (who cares if he's Muslim now?), Cab Calloway, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Tina Turner, and Madonna.

It is really stupid, but I believe that my worries about alienating people with my opinions and thoughts comes straight from the past as well. How tedious of me. I don't know how it is that I don't actually alienate people very often, I'm not sure what magic is afoot in this, but in the past I have done some great work making people edge away from me at parties or hurting other people by sharing (apparently injudiciously) my thoughts about things. I have driven people from me with frankness. I have driven them from me with honesty, which, in spite of protestations to the contrary, is not necessarily what every friend and family member pines for. Honesty, if it is to be appreciated, must always come suitably coated in democratic language for it to not sting the recipient.

The writing life has always suited me because a page is a perfect sponge for truth. Ink is a whip easily tempered by the endless empty fibers. When you've had enough of it you can close the pages with satisfying smack! Blogs are a little different, obviously. They are a living book. A moving journal that grows every week and collects and drops readers along it's path. If my blog was a book you would read it and either you would hate it and tell everyone you know how much you hate it and why, or you would enjoy it and share it with friends. But for the most part you would not know me, unless you knew me.

But because this is a living thing, with a person at the helm every day, a person who communicates directly with you (the readers), you are more likely to be personally hurt if I put what's on my mind out here. Friends and family come here and read. People who will become friends come here to read. So I am not presenting to you a tome which you may open and close and feel safely at a distance from the author enough to not be offended by his/her audacious opinions. We are constantly engaging in an open conversation.

So I worry more about hurting feelings and being misunderstood by people I've come to care about. But I am still, as a writer, constrained to tell the truth. Which is often awkward. Or unfortunate. Certainly subjective. And changing all the time.

Usually the goal for every writer is to publish their own book. I can never wrap myself around that concept. I always assumed I would write one when I started writing at ten years of age. I spent many hours at my desk "seriously" writing stories that sucked so royally I would shrivel up in mortification if you ever got your mitts on one of them now and read what I thought of as the beginning of my serious writing career. I also wrote soap operas (yes, because I LOVE them. I don't think a lot of you actually know that because I don't have television and can't indulge.) I tried so hard to write good fiction. I'm not a fiction writer.

I am a poet, though. But not a very good one.

So what would a book of mine be filled with and why would anyone buy it? A book must have a central theme, does it not? The beauty of my blog is that I can write what interests me today. And tomorrow what interests me may be extremely different because I had an intense nightmare the night before and I can write about that. When I asked why everyone comes here to read, I think I wondered what subjects you found the most interesting. The central reason that most people (according to yourselves) come back here again and again, is for the honesty. But not necessarily for any particular subject. Most blogs have a specific focus.

I suppose my focus is life itself and all it's vagaries.

And that would make great copy, right? Yeah, I'm not so sure. Does a serious writer have to publish a book to be taken seriously? In writing a book I could possibly be freer to not worry about alienating people (at least not right away) but I often wonder if my blog isn't the perfect writing medium for me. I don't think I have a great American novel in me, just a whole lot of volatile chatter.

I wonder what kind of value there is in books that you can't get in a blog. Permanence? If I ever wrote a book it would probably be like my blog and how would a bookstore classify that? Part memoir (I am so tediously common today), part cookbook, part satire, part political essayist, part gardening...

These are idle thoughts. I am waiting for a fresh pot of coffee, and must return to my technical writing job which has a rather urgent deadline.