Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You Know It's Love When....

I got home from the library today and found the Cabelas catalog on my desk with this item circled and an exclamation point. How sweet is that?!

High heels? Can’t wear ‘em.

Fancy clothes? Nowhere to go.

Spa treatments? Borriinnggg

But a handgun? Who doesn’t want that?! And in pink!

If that's not enough he wouldn't need to spend any cash for it- he'd use points earned on his Cabela's credit card.

Back off, ladies, he's all mine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Adventure- Rose City Book Fair

It’s no secret I’m a book freak. In my younger days when I lived on the east coast I spent many a weekend going to rare book fairs or estate sales across New York and even into Ohio and Canada looking for first editions of authors I collected. It was a bona fide passion so when I saw that there was a book fair coming to Portland I knew I had to go.

Crucial tool of the trade- I'm no amateur!

Except….remember the first time you tried a Twinkie as an adult and realized they were creepy? Which isn’t to say you stopped eating it but it didn’t taste as good as you remembered. Or you had the chance to visit the house you grew up in and it was so small it doesn’t seem possible your whole family fit in there? That whole you-can’t-go-back thing. I haven’t been to a book fair in almost 20 years. Don’t get me wrong, they’re never glamorous events. There is no swag (but there could be a door prize if you hang out long enough), no refreshments (hello- do you want cocktails and canapés around rare books?), and the venue is usually pretty downscale. Even by those standards this was like a wedding held in a church basement- it should be a happy event but the crepe paper flowers don’t disguise the fact that it’s a basement and there’s no open bar.

The particular setting for this event was a Masonic ‘friendship’ lodge (I don’t even know what that means). This was a bit freaky in and of itself. I was torn between looking at books and wondering which of the unmarked doors led to the human sacrifice room. Or if I could find the lost symbol in the tapestry on the wall. Plus there was this funky musty smell which may have been the venue but could have been the vendors and attendees, of which I was among the youngest. The good news is that the older ones look like your grandparents. The bad news is the younger ones are downright scary. Like the one with hair to his waist who was only interested in satanic ritual books as he’s writing a paper on black masses (do not make eye contact).

There were highlights. If you’re a collector or even interested in children’s books a book fair is a goldmine. I was happily immersed in the memory of how I came to love books by seeing old classics like Black Beauty, Nancy Drew, and books by Lois Lowry and Madeleine L’Engle.

I also came across this signed first edition of Salmon Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet for $25. I should have bought it but didn’t (I have no line item in my budget for rare books).

There was also a first of William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner for $60 but the price had been clipped out which is a big no-no.

The highlights aside I had walked the entire fair 3 times, browsed the paperbacks for 1.00, and pretended great interest in Pacific Northwest railroad history in less than 30 minutes. Unheard of and depressing. So my love of book sales was not rekindled but was it the event or was it me?

There was a time when I had a passion for collecting. I loved matchbooks, teapots, and first editions. It seemed like a grown-up thing to do, to have an interest that you pursued. Almost a way of defining yourself outside of work.

Then came the time when I stopped wanting to own so much. Part of it was practicality- I paid to move 17 cartons of books from Denver to SLC- but it was larger than that. What was going to happen to all these things I thought were so precious when I died? They had meaning and value for me but what was the likelihood they would for the people left behind? They’d become more stuff cramming a Goodwill store or buried in a landfill. I wanted to leave less of a mark not more- at least as far as possessions go. Slowly the purchasing has stopped and by and large I’m fine with that.

Still, it felt odd to be back in that world. I could still relate; I still LOVE the smell of old paper and the feel of a genuine leather book cover softened by age but I am no longer compelled. Or so I say- I’m still regretting not buying the Rushdie.

Do you collect? Or do you believe less is more?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Big Smile- Published!

OK, OK, not paid for and not in print but a book review I wrote was published by Reading is Fashionable, a blog that focuses solely on books, authors, and reviews AND has the cutest illustrations. Plus she has oodles more followers than I do and it links back to this blog.

There may be lots of ways to get cynical about this but I am pure joy right now.

I'm so FREAKIN' HAPPY!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Calm Down- I Made Dinner

From my posts you’ve probably gotten a sense of how good a cook J is. That, combined with my naturally lazy disposition, means he has become almost solely responsible for my dietary needs. Things reached a head the last time he traveled, when for 4 days I ate cereal, toast, fast food, leftovers, any food item containing sugar, and Lean Cuisines.

This is especially appalling as I am a good cook! I lived alone until my late 30s and managed to produce balanced interesting meals for every one of those dinners (excluding the ones that were alcohol only- but, hey, I poured it). I LOVE food but I don’t find food preparation to be as zen inducing as he does. It may have to do with the clean-up afterwards. If I’ve taken the time to make a fresh healthy meal from scratch I want to sit down, relax, and enjoy said meal. Afterwards, I want to watch bad TV. I do not want to stand at the sink for 20 minutes in rubber gloves scraping plates and scouring pans.

When I realized J would be out of town for the next 3 days I knew the time had come to stop acting like a college student and grow up. And as shown in the picture below I have done just that. Oh yes I did! I rocked it- crusting, searing, hot pans in the oven and all. OK, Ina rocked it with this awesome recipe for salmon but the broccoli with lemon juice and pepper flakes and brown rice is all me. Let this stand as proof that while I do have my poor husband enslaved to my culinary needs when push comes to shove I can feed myself. And I did buy him a cashmere chair so back off.

Next up? I’m going back to what I know best: dark chocolate salted caramel brownies. In case you’re wondering they’ll be the entrée for tomorrow’s dinner. Honestly, I can only change so much.

It's a little dark but I like crispy breadcrumbs!

Panko-Crusted Salmon

2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
4 (6- to 8-ounce) salmon fillets, skin on
2 tablespoons Dijon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425F.
Combine the panko, parsley, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Add the olive oil and stir to combine thoroughly. Set aside.
Place the salmon fillets, skin side down, on a board. Brush the top of the fillets with mustard. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the panko mixture, pressing so that it adheres to the mustard.
Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or large heavy, ovenproof pan. When the oil is very hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and sear for 3 to 4 minutes, without turning, to brown the skin.
Take the pan off the stove and transfer to the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the salmon is almost cooked and the panko is browned. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the salmon hot or at room temperature with lemon wedges.

(From Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That? )

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I Love This Week

This lovely baroque (not an art major so don’t call me out on that) painting was purchased by me many years ago at this fabulous interior design warehouse called DeCondes. Seriously, this was the ONLY place in Salt Lake City, UT where you could walk in on a Saturday morning and be offered champagne with cheese and crackers. Which if you think about it is a very savvy business strategy because the line between $10s and $100s can get a bit blurry after two glasses of champers on a virtually empty stomach. What feels like a finely honed artistic sensibility is actually a good buzz.

The alcohol is aided by the fact that these people had some pretty amazing and unusual art and such a huge amount of it. It’s an old warehouse with tiny rooms, cavernous rooms, and even hidden rooms, each decorated in a different period and style. They cover it all, from fabrics to crystal to pens, statuary, furniture, wall art, you name it. At the very least it was an incredibly fun way to spend an afternoon.

Anyway, on one of these sprees (we only made two after I bought J a cashmere upholstered office chair that looks like a throne and promptly realized we were out of control and I can buy my own champagne) I saw this little gem hanging on the wall and fell in love. I immediately thought of Marie Antoinette or some other woman of nobility. A woman who lounged. Who slept in silk negligees and drank chocolat in bed before her maid came in to dress her. So romantic! Of course, the wildly ornate frame helped sustain the fantasy.

It now hangs in a perfect alcove in our bedroom directly above my vanity ( because it can’t all be fancy and period). It even has a spotlight which I often turn on in the early evening so I see the painting in the dark when I come to bed. All that is missing now is the perfect high backed chair upholstered in the same raspberry velvet as in the painting. Won’t that be lovely?! For now I use a ratty kitchen chair because I am willing to suffer until I find this grail and complete my feminine lost-in-time tableau.

Do you get like that when decorating? When you see so clearly in your mind’s eye what you want and how it will look that you simply cannot compromise? And on a more practical note- any ideas on how to clean a gilded (I think that’s what it is) frame? A bit of grime is authentic but we’re moving past that stage and I’m not sure what to do.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Unemployment Diaries- Love/Hate

Oh, the conundrum. I love to write. I hate to write. How can this be?  

This blog brings me great joy despite the fact that it is read only by a very select, highly evolved group of readers. I have no dearth of ideas and even though it is not easy (I need new words to describe food as my repertoire seems to end at yummy and delicious) it brings me joy when I get it right. Yes. JOY. Which is saying a lot for someone who is fairly cynical.  Didn’t someone famous say that cynics are simply hopeless romantics who have been disappointed too often? If not, I claim it!

How much more then does unemployment SUCK for making me hate something I love? When I think of writing in terms of getting a job, I begin to clench my jaw and my shoulders move up to my ears. Have you written over 75 cover letters in 4 months? For different jobs? In different industries? At different skill levels? Probably not. Am I starting to sound bitchy and you’re thinking maybe you should move on to another blog because you’re more than a little afraid I might come right through your screen and hurt you? 

You might be thinking (fear aside) that I’m making too much out of it. Any number of these letters are for jobs I have no hope of getting but must apply for in order to satisfy requirements of the state of Oregon (DO NOT get me started on that) so why not use the same letter over and over- remembering only to change the date, job title, and company name. Because I am constitutionally unable to- that’s why I was a goddamn English major and I can no more send out a shitty cover letter than I can ignore a piece of chocolate. Each one must be written as if I really and truly want the job. And just to make sure we’re jumping into the deep end of my psychological pool it’s the same rationale that flourished during much of my dating life- you must like me even though I don’t like you.

The good news is that love is going to win out in this case. Love and years and years of professional counseling and pharmaceutical upkeep. I have no control over my employment situation and it brings me nothing but bad feelings and stress. I have to find a j-o-b, no way around it, but writing for this blog has only reaffirmed my belief that, readers or not, writing is something I am meant to do. Will I ever earn a living at it? Doubtful but I can try. And I can love every minute.

“There is one choice possible, and the test of whether one has chosen rightly can never be made by considering what is best, only by whether one has rightly judged what made one happy…” Isak Dinesen

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All That and He Vacuums?! (David Beckham)

After my not-so-fun previous post I felt that anyone who ventured back into Inside Out territory deserved a little respite (i.e. eye candy) and reward. I didn’t have to look too far to come up with David Beckham.

I know, I know, you’re saying this is so cheesy because you can google David Beckham and come up with over 13,984 HOT photos (some of which were more racy than I wanted to post here) on your own but because I do care so much about my readers I’m going to give you something even better about the man. Ready? Read it and weep (and curse that sullen wraith of a woman he calls wife):

1. He vacuums. Not the housekeepers. NO. They don’t do it the way he wants which is in straight lines.
2. He color codes the food in the fridge for freshness.
3. Has his own bathroom because thinks Victoria is too messy

Seriously, if he cleaned said bathroom I’d be stalking him right now.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Again

It’s back. Why? He’s gone.

He was gone before I even knew it. Gone before he knew it. Coming off the lake after a perfect day of fishing with his best friends. Did he have even a moment to know what his death would do? What sorrow, pain, chaos, and disorder it would bring? I hope not and yet, being the man he was, I think as the last synapse fired he felt worry knowing what he was leaving behind and that none of his children were prepared to handle it. He would never have wished for such a burden to fall to us just as it should never have fallen to him. But it did. To all of us.

So we were left. All our lives turned inside out by such a train wreck as we could not imagine. By the time my life was my own again it was too late to grieve. Only one person got to grieve and they used up all the grief in the room.

Instead of grief I am left with some awful permutation of sorrow and rage. The horrible aftermath crowds my mind until he is a bit player in his own death. I know I have to find my way back but until that time I’ll just focus very hard and write five things about him I know to be true and that made him the man I called Dad. How I wish I could call him now.

©     Never met a bowl of popcorn he didn’t like
©     He believed I could do or be whatever I set my mind to (gave me a copy of Zig Ziglar’s See You at the Top when I finished college)
©     Was universally respected by the people he worked with and for- even when they didn’t agree
©     Was one of the best extemporaneous speakers I’ve ever heard. Weddings, funerals- he hit the perfect note every time (despite referring to me as the Edsel at our rehearsal dinner)
©     Made sure that we had a family vacation every summer

Friday, June 17, 2011

What I Love This Week- Massage

After being diagnosed with MS I began investigating complementary medicine. I felt that if I accepted the western medicine ‘solution’ (painful injections w/ side effects every other day- no cure) then I was free to get as ‘out there’ as I wanted with other sources of healing. In that journey I discovered crystals, Ayurveda, yoga, Deepak Chopra, chanting my chakras, and aromatherapy. I also discovered the healing power of deep tissue massage and that is where my gratitude lies this week.

Massage is such an intimate act so having a good therapist is paramount and why it took me so long to get a massage in Portland. My Utah therapist was amazing and ended up becoming a good friend.  I hoped for the same situation when I was referred to Carole and once again, I’ve been blessed. She works out of a room in her home where you are surrounded by the art and jewelry she creates. Her table is large and comfortable and once you lie down she begins to cover you with heated blankets (even wrapping one around your feet) making you feel warm and safe. She leaves a music choice up to you (lately I’ve been very into hearing an hour of the Dalai Lama chanting the Gayatri Mantra!). The massage itself is largely deep tissue with the addition of hot stones- a wonderful way to add pressure and heat to release especially tense muscles.

Just as important as how she makes me feel physically, Carole is an incredibly intuitive person. There is not only the physical aspect of the massage, there is energy work. For some this may sound too new agey and weird but I believe we are largely ignorant creatures unaware of what is going on around us and even in us. Our bodies know what they need and a person with a natural gift and training can ferret this out. Carole has both. Generally I walk into a session and unless I have a pressing problem (stiff neck usually) I tell her “Whatever my body says, go with it”. We may talk a bit about what’s going on in my life and then it’s time for 60 minutes of blissed out relaxation. I leave feeling renewed and relaxed. Both my mind and body are quiet which is no small feat.

With the employment change I can only go once a month but I am grateful for even that. Thank you Carole for all you do!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What I Need Now

At some point in your adult life you may have been witness to the depression era mentality in your grandparents. In my family this manifested itself in my grandmother bring every uneaten roll and pat of butter back from the dining hall at their retirement home and putting it in the freezer just in case. After my grandfather died we discovered a shoebox of pencil stubs- not even stubs as there was NO pencil left just the ferrule (had to look that up!- the metal part that holds the eraser) and the smallest speck of eraser. There was also a filing cabinet drawer filled with nothing but the cardboard backs to notepaper pads. None of these things had any use but to my grandparents they were a mental buffer against impending doom. A way of feeling safe.

We in America are fortunate that the majority of us have not grown up with that kind of fear. In fact, some younger generations have grown up with so much that possessions have no meaning and entitlement is the prevailing emotion (but that’s a whole other post). Still, for most of us there are situations that can agitate our primal mind, create fear, and evoke the feeling of want or lack. For most there is an anecdote. For some it’s dangerous- booze, pills, other drugs. For most it’s more innocuous. And because it’s all about me I’ll share mine.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Being Crafty

I wish I was crafty. Not in the sneaky-not-necessarily-trustworthy way but in the look-what-I-just-did-with-twine-glue-and-a-blow-dryer way. It never used to bother me but as I have become more and more of a blog reader (more on that another time) I see all kinds of stuff like this

found on ehow- google it if you MUST make these but don't come back and brag about it

 and this

 I don’t know about you but for me it brings on one of my Oprah moments- the ones where I am simultaneously depressed and ready for a nap. I wish I saw possibility in every item around me but for me it's just a toothpick, kleenex box, cheese grater.

The only time I avoid this is when it comes to art. Namely because I have already proven myself as an artist and chose writing instead. So when I saw these charming, whimsical votives I knew I had to share.

It helps that I think Michelle Armas is wonderfully talented and I wish I had a job so I could buy a piece of her work. And she is damn funny so, really I should hate her. Plus, she’s young. Seriously…why don’t I hate her?

Maybe because she can do this...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Adventure- Portland Japanese Garden

Yes, it’s another garden adventure. You may be well and truly tired of them but the beautiful flowers, trees, and shrubs are the hard won results of all the blasted rain we live through for 8 months of the year so you’ll have to suffer a bit longer.

I, for one, still revel in the greenity (it’s a word now)
after a decade of living in the rocky, arid, brown that is Utah.

green, green, and more green. A canopy through

The Portland Japanese Garden was created through collaboration with Japan and designed by a Japanese professor, Takuma Tono. There are 5 gardens set on 5.5 acres and they’ve been open to the public since 1967. Unlike the Lan Su Chinese Garden the focus here is solely on nature with little or no architectural enhancement; the exception being an authentic Japanese teahouse.

I had a perfectly sunny day in the gardens which, while it is always appreciated in Portland, actually makes outdoor photography more difficult- unless you’re at a level using filters, shades etc (which I am not). I got a couple of unusual shots of sunshine on water but overall the colors are a bit more bleached out than I would prefer. Still, it is a gorgeous, contemplative space where you can walk or sit in complete solitude. A highly recommended moving meditation.

I loved the play of sunshine on water here. The rocks w/ moss almost look fake.

Not surprisingly the Japanese maples are all beautifully shaped.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

photo by Michelle Stiles

Hello Sunday afternoon! What better time to bake something yummy, feel virtuous, and spend the rest of the afternoon recuperating (and eating said fab cookies).

I can't take any credit for these delicious morsels. I came across the recipe  at a blog I read regularly- The Beauty of Life. I like Michelle's writing, her recipes are unusual, and her photos- well, they inspire and embarrass me (hence I'm using her photo of the cookie as opposed to the funky crumpled one I took).

I would call these grown-up chocolate chip cookies. The whole wheat flour, dark chocolate chips, coconut, and hint of molasses mean they are not your usual chocolate chip cookies. They're something different- less sweet, more complex, As in, I want a glass of good red wine to drink with one not  glass of cold milk. OK, cold milk still works but you get what I mean.

Practical tips- putting the dough in the fridge overnight is a great tip for crispy outside soft inside cookies but it does mean you'll have to put some muscle behind scooping out the portions. And use your hands to shape the dough a bit as it gets a little crumbly. I'm not sure I used 3T per cookie so that's up to you but I did make the executive decision that, as the only sweets fiend in the house, I didn't want to bake everything today so 1/3 of the dough was wrapped up and stored in the freezer. Meaning I can indulge myself with minimal effort in the future!

I would write more but another pan is ready to come out of the oven and I am a firm believer in quality control- one cookie from each pan must be tasted. This is NOT why I bake on mini pans, all right?!

Toasted Coconut Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce
Yield: about 20 cookies

I like my cookies a bit thick rather than thin. I made half a batch straight from the mixer to the oven and they were nice and crisp, the second go around sat in the fridge for about a day and were baked cold producing a thicker cookie. I enjoyed the latter with a chewy interior and crisp edges.

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. molasses
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup toasted coconut
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into ¼- and ½-inch pieces, or bittersweet chips

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  On one baking sheet, spread out shredded coconut.  Toast coconut for about 6 minutes, until browned and fragrant.  Remove from the oven, place in a small bowl and let cool.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk to blend.

Put the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and molasses. Add the flour mixture to the bowl, and blend on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate and coconut, mix on low speed until evenly combined. (If you have no stand mixer, you can do all of this with handheld electric beaters and/or a large, sturdy spoon.) Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and then use your hands to turn and gently massage the dough, making sure all the flour is absorbed.

Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly browned. Transfer the cookies, still on parchment, to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beauty- Elizabeth Taylor

I know Elizabeth Taylor’s death isn’t news anymore but when I came across this photo by Richard Avedon in this month’s Vanity Fair I was reminded of what an incredible beauty she was. In this day and age, violet eyes and a prodigious bosom are not anything unusual- either you paid for them or they’ve been photoshopped onto your picture. On her every bit of it was REAL.


Friday, June 10, 2011

What I Love This Week- Postcard

Such a little thing and yet it’s not. I remember going on vacation as a kid and buying a postcard every place we stopped, writing on them each night and mailing them off to my friends. I’m not sure when I lost the habit but the advent of the internet didn’t help.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this charming reminder of past etiquette and friendship arrived in my mail this week. It actually took me a moment to know what it was, which is so sad if you think about it.

Here is the god Neptune in all his glory atop a fountain in Bologna, Italy. My friend Sue (who also writes a great blog about vintage clothes & jewelry, wine, and travel AND is a librarian too!) was there for ten days and took the time to find a postcard, write it, find a stamp, and then get it mailed. I know Italy is not the third world but finding a post office is not easy or fun while on vacation nor is international postage inexpensive. All of these things touched me deeply and made me smile. What a kind person to think of others (stuck at home with no hope of travel this summer- sigh). And what a lovely way to share with someone the marvelous sights you are seeing. Thank you, Sue!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Marital Compromises

Marriage has so many potential pitfalls, some of them larger than others. Toothpaste tube squeeze- middle, end, don’t care? Bed etiquette- made every morning or why bother? Meal clean-up- dishes left in sink or immediately into the dishwasher?

Here’s one that has recently reared its ugly (and I do mean ugly) head. Sartorial choices. Does your loved one have some item of clothing that makes you cringe? That you swear he cannot be allowed to wear out in public? That you’ve threatened to toss, burn, or otherwise eliminate from the face of the earth? Just as importantly, do you have any such items?

When I’m home in the summertime (by which I mean the 5 days in August when Portland goes above 70 degrees) I like to wear comfortable shorts. Not anything I would wear in public (the grocery store does not count as public). When we first got married they were a pair of cutoff bleached out jeans aka Daisy Dukes. Yes, I was that young and foolish. As time has passed they have morphed into a pair of grey knit drawstring lovelies that come to mid-thigh. They may also have bleach stains on them but let’s not get fussy, shall we? They are so comfy and they come up to my waist, none of this low rise BS that means I’m constantly tugging and adjusting. Needless to say, J despises these shorts and as we neared last weekend and its promise of 85°, and I sighed about getting them out, he made comments about them ‘not being around anymore’ or me not being able to find them.

Would he have dared? The man who still has the same pair of Birkenstocks he wore 20 years ago (yes, I went ahead and married a man who owns Birkenstocks)? Who sometimes wore them with socks around the house? If he had trespassed into my clothing we were going to have a war of the roses level altercation only not so nice.

Thankfully (for his sake), when I unpacked my summer clothes my faves were there, freshly laundered and so soft I was immediately happy. I put them on and went into the garage to prance around in front of hubby. He only smiled a nasty little smile and said, “It’s a reprieve and nothing more. At any minute….”

Here they are- inoffensive, delightfully soft, comfortable shorts. What's not to like?!

Do you own anything that your loved one wishes would quietly go away? Is anything of his cringeworthy?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday Adventure- Powell's Books

The pillar of books outside Powell's entrance. Seize the book, indeed!

The only surprising thing about this place is that it’s taken me so long to share them with you! Powell’s is one of the largest independent new and used booksellers in the U.S. They’re the antithesis of Amazon- a family owned business that’s been around for 40 years and is still run by a father and daughter (how cool is that?!).

Here is the first thing you need to know: this place is so gargantuan that you need a map to navigate it (which is almost as great as being told you have 2 hours to take anything you want out of the Vogue style closets). At 3 floors the rooms are color coded to help those for whom maps are difficult (

Which way to go? So many choices!

In case you can't think of anything to read- they have plenty of ideas

This is not a Barnes & Noble/Borders kind of place- bright, shiny, with a coffee shop in case you desperately need an espresso while looking at books- which you should not be allowed to do anyway (yes, I am THAT kind of librarian). It has shelves that reach to the ceiling, long narrow aisles, spotty lighting, and sales help that, while really nice once you do talk to them, can look a little freaky. In short, it is the perfect place to amble, browse, get lost, and thoroughly enjoy yourself. Not sit down, read a book or magazine with your greasy paws for several hours, then put it back on the shelf (not cool). I know, I have a real attitude about big box retailers.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Unemployment Diaries- Identity Theft

What happens when you’re a woman without children and you lose your job? With what identity are you left? For me it feels like precious little. I don’t want to inflame or malign women who have children but societally it is the ultimate get out of jail free card. No matter how little else you achieve in life if you’ve procreated you’ve done something good in your life and everything else is gravy. If you haven’t but have a career you’re still stigmatized (don’t kid yourself- you are) but at least you’re contributing.

When the job goes so does the identity. I may be a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend but those are labels not identities. I have always had a career and it is only as the kids thing became a permanent non-issue (no pun intended although that is freakin’ clever) that it became more important. It is who I am. To follow this logic through to the extreme- without a job I am nothing.

I’m not at that stage- although concerns about my value on the planet have started to manifest themselves in tension filled awkward dreams that are not technically nightmares but involve me being unable to do even the most basic of tasks, wearing shoes that don't match, and feeling useless in a job.

This is all compounded by the age factor. Never, in even my worst-case pessimistic musings about my future, did I see myself unemployed at this stage of my life. Nope, by now I was supposed to be Anna Wintour (but likable) or a published author. Fantasies aside, I did believe I would be an established professional in my field because I have always worked hard and excelled at my job. Knowing that I’m not alone in my economic situation (thank you subprime mortgage lenders and Wall Street financiers) doesn’t help. This is go-round number two for me (laid off and unemployed from 2007-2008).

So I’ve lost the identity I worked so hard to create. If I were following the Buddhist precepts I learned after my MS diagnosis I would accept that it is being not doing that is important to life. That what is truly me has nothing to do with what I do. Much easier said than done, as evidenced by one of the first questions we ask each new person we meet- “so what do you do?” It also doesn’t take into consideration the mortgage and healthcare costs which are very real concerns.

If the being belief won’t work for me at this stage I’m left to wonder if there’s a lesson to be learned?

The best I can come up with is that the lesson may be the elusive nature of identity and for those of us who don’t have one that can’t be taken away there is a different process. A matter of slipping out of (or being removed from) one identity and forced to find another. A challenge at any age but at an age when you’re supposed to be settling into the rewards earned by hard work it’s terrifying.

But here it is. I can fight or I can embrace it (or some combination of both with lots of whining and wine-ing thrown in). When I took the time to be still and breathe deeply my mind went to two women I admire who changed their lives later in life and it not only consoled me, it gave me a little bit of hope. Funny what will come to you if you simply quiet your mind and take a breath!

I’m stepping back and trying to let go and maybe, cut myself some slack (at which I am notoriously bad). Not surprisingly, I’m following my tried and true path of reading and learning to find inspiration and maybe even guidance. I’ll leave you with my reading list and will be back in the coming weeks with more thoughts.

My Life in France by Julia Child

I’d love to hear from any second lifers out there!  And to all, any women who have guided or inspired you when you were faced with big decisions? Or have you always gone it alone?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Eye Eyes

All right, I’m not going to head into the weekend leaving you with such a whiny baby bitchfest of a post. Instead, here’s something a little less serious and hopefully more useful. I can’t necessarily say these are two things I love but I like them a lot- especially for women of a certain age (like me).

First, there often comes a point in a woman’s life when years of over plucking her eyebrows leaves her with a gap or space in a brow or even brows that stop growing midway over the eye. Why this doesn’t happen to the bikini area which is abused so much more frequently and viciously with everything from Nair to razors to lasers, I don’t know. One more of those indignities only we women suffer from.

Anyway, I saw this online and while I AM NOT A DOCTOR (that’s the disclaimer so you don’t sue my ass) it worked for me. If your brows have stopped growing it may be possible to get regrowth using minoxidil (the stuff men use for baldness). I bought the generic extra strength version at Target (don’t pay for the brand!). Using a Q-tip apply a few drops directly to the area where you want growth. Obviously, you want to be careful about this because a) you don’t want it in your eyes and b) you don’t want to grow a unibrow. Do this twice a day and in about a month you will have new hairs. The only caveat is that they may be baby fine and if the follicle is dead (not sure the scientific term for that) you won’t get anything at all.

I did this and it worked. No side effects and the growth will stop if you stop using the minoxidil but the Target version gives you 3 bottles which will last for a long time (I still haven’t run out after over a year). And you can get your brows back.

The Unemployment Diaries- No Love This Week

I cannot believe I am going to be so feeble and pathetic but might as well fess up to it, right?

I’ve been thinking about this post and browsing my photos for 2 hours and I cannot find any happy, cheerful thoughts. Of course, I have things I love in my life- and more importantly people I love- but I can’t muster the gratitude right now.

Instead my pea-sized primordial brain is seized up like an engine with no oil- grinding away on the same series of thoughts:

  1. Unemployment rate is rising again.
  2. New jobs data is GRIM
  3. Portland may be fun but has almost no economy
  4. My chosen career is fading into obsolescence
  5. I’m too old to find a job but too young (and poor) to retire
  6. I could maybe find a job somewhere else in the U.S. but it would mean selling our house at a loss and ending up back in an apartment thus marking yet another step on my downward mobility trend.

To change metaphors these thoughts begin to spiral until I’ve moved from concern to full blown panic attack. Which is not fun or interesting for anyone so I’ll stop now.

I’m sure this will pass and I’ll get my blogging groove back on so don’t give up on me! Oh, and no need to send happy thoughts or positive reinforcement- my mother is saying novenas and has lit candles so, according to her, it's all taken care of.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Official Geekdom Achieved

Sometimes when you need a lift the universe will supply one. Today did not start out well and I’m sliding further into the unemployment blues so even volunteering at the library did not feel as great as it usually does. Until…

One of the librarians came by with news about the adult reading summer program. No, it is not a porn club (or my husband would know about it). It is a contest for grown-ups along the lines of the kids reading programs. I read 8-10 books a month so I will rock this one and kick some ass. I can hardly wait until my shift is over before running upstairs and signing up. When I do I get this cute free bag with a zipper on top (which has real meaning when you’re leaving the library with an armload of books in the midst of one of Portland’s downpours). But I’m not finished. I’ve signed up and gotten my little passport (travel theme this year) when the librarian says, “You can also get started by choosing a free book from the cart over there.” Book? Free? To keep? I know how tight money is at the library (or they wouldn’t need so many volunteers to get everything done) so I’m guessing these are really old beat-up books. I walk over and what do I see? TIM. GUNN. My hero. The only man I would let see me in my underwear because he would then take me shopping and my whole life would change. I ADORE Tim Gunn!!!!! I am so happy I practically skip out of the library but manage some semblance of calm until I get home. Then I start jumping around (literally) in my husband’s office squealing about ‘a reading club, free cute bag, Tim Gunn’. Thankfully, we’ve been married for over a decade so he just sits there and smiles rather than calling the psych squad. He even agrees that this is, indeed, a huge day.

There you have it. My sad little geek flag is flying all over the place right now. If you had any doubts about me they’re gone. I’m a zoomer, nerd, weirdo who thinks reading is the best thing ever and getting library swag is almost as good as getting free make-up or jewelry.

And because I am a library fool you should check yours out. Lots of them do this sort of thing in the summer and…they need your support. Public libraries are the lowest rung on the food chain of government funding. One more thing that people really like but don’t want to pay for and if you have to choose between police protection or access to free computers and all the books/DVDs/CDs you want, the library usually loses. Which is just not right. They’re both important.

Can’t write anymore. Have to go stare at my TIM GUNN book.

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