Saturday, July 30, 2011

Writing Spaces

If you’re a believer that one’s surroundings impact their state of mind then this space explains a lot. I don’t have an office in our house. I have a lovely little room that is a sanctuary for reading but it’s so small there is no room for a desk. Thus, the dining room table is my writing space. Oddly, I’m not bothered by this. I face our small front porch which allows me to see the Japanese maple on our front lawn dancing when the wind blows but also lets me indulge the Mrs. Kravitz side of my personality by keeping track of all the goings-on in our neighborhood (and there are plenty, let me tell you).

Here are some marvelously divergent places that would be wonderful for different kinds of writing.

Modern non-fiction

Chris Bohjalian type New England stories

Great dramas with a focus on the structure

Gothic, horror, tragedy -what else?!

British literature, dahling

Forget writing- I want to live here

I’d like to hear where you write. Is it in your home? Is it a wide open space? A kitchen table? Pristine? Cluttered? Do you sit inside or outside? Do you do best with visual stimulation or prefer a blank wall? Share please!

Friday, July 29, 2011

What I Love This Week- Zest Crepes

On Monday I shared with you the gorgeousness that is the Beaverton Farmers’ Market but I held a little something back. I’m bad that way. Today I’m ready to share!

Flashback: As J continues to shop I decide that while all this produce profusion is grand it’s time to get to the real reason I come to the farmers’ market. Zest Crepes. I didn’t knock over any senior citizens in my haste to get to their booth but I did exhibit the speed and agility that only surfaces when my stomach is involved. Or when something I’ve been pining for finally goes on sale and is an extra percent off (at which point I will knock over anyone in my way).

There’s no line at the booth which I take to be a sign from the food gods. It is not unusual to wait in line with these folks because they offer such a great array of crepes and each one is D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.

I try not to dance around like a 4 year old who needs to go to the bathroom but it has been over 9 months since I’ve had a Zest crepe. They're only open at the farmers’ market so I suffer in sullen, crepe-less gloom until May of each year. Now, I’m back and ready to order! I stick with the breakfast classic, the eponymous Zest crepe. An egg, spinach, ham, cheese, tomatoes, and vinaigrette all rolled up in the loveliest crepe ever created. This is sunshine on a plate; each bite the perfect combination of egg, ham, and spinach with a fresh hint of lemon in the vinaigrette. All ingredients purchased from local farmers at the market- it doesn't get any better than that.

The magic begins

That's what I'm talking about

NIRVANA. Seriously, the only thing needed to complement the perfect crepe is an icy cold Diet Coke. This is 4 Star cuisine on a paper plate.

First of all, you're lucky I was able to stop my inhalation of this piece of heaven but I'm all about suffering for my art. Look at the layers of flavor, people!

Why I decided to write this post in the morning I have no idea because now I'm starting to salivate and my stomach is growling....


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Unemployment Diaries- To Everything There is a Season

In my post Identity Theft I dealt with the topic of losing a job and its impact on the sense of self in middle aged women without children. An interesting subject (to which I’ll return in another post) and one that engendered a lot of response from readers. I tried to end on an upbeat note by saying that there are any number of women out there who took a leap of faith and created amazing lives after 40 and that I would attempt to take the same approach.

Here’s the problem with that. I’ve worked since I finished college. I’ve done everything you’re supposed to do- started at the bottom (sales associate in a dept store for $3.75 an hour), did the jobs no-one wanted at the office, volunteered for extra assignments, got promoted, got a master’s degree, started all over in a new field, worked from the bottom up again, kept advancing my skills and knowledge to keep abreast of technology, took on additional responsibilities in my job to stay valuable, and… got laid off. At 49. I don’t want to plant anymore. That season is past and I’m supposed to be reaping. This is the time in life when you’re established in a career, earning good money, comfortable in life and looking forward to retirement. That’s not going to happen. Or, should I say, I may be in retirement now because the odds of my finding another job in field in Portland are slim to none, but it’s not happy retirement. It’s ‘am I going to end up as a greeter at Walmart?’ retirement.

I’m a damn hard worker but I am not the same employee that I was at 25, 30, or even 35. I HATE the word entitled but, in this case, I own it. I have paid my dues. I have dealt with violent harassing bosses, insane hours, low pay, office politics, and questionable ethics to get ahead. I understood that was the game. But now? Now I don’t want to work for an hourly wage and no benefits. I’m not looking to replace the boss, knife someone in the back to get ahead, dine out on a corporate credit card, or earn big bucks. I want to do work I love, be reasonably compensated, and not have to worry about health insurance. Is that so unreasonable?

Apparently, in America and the U.K. (the only areas I have any knowledge about), in 2011, it is. I know I’m not alone in this bitchfest and I sincerely wish someone in a similar situation would read this and comment because I KNOW you’re out there. I read the business news and there are hundreds of thousands of us. We’ve worked hard our whole lives in a corporate world with no ‘cradle to grave’ security (pension? please, not a concept I recognize) but there was still some expectation that we would be employed, in our field, at this age. Now even that is a sick joke.

When I look forward there are no golden years. No golf, tennis, vacation home, and jokingly complaining about ‘having the husband around all the time’.  I look behind me and see the hordes of young hungry twenty-somethings who have just graduated and are desperate to start real life, who don’t have mortgages, health issues, and can relocate on a whim. They have the seeds and the energy. They are ready to plant.

I want only to reap.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Write on Wednesday- Portal

I'm really enjoying the writing prompts from different sites. Here is one from inkpaperpen.

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 7 - Sit under a tree and write: Find yourself a quiet spot. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Take a look at Kristy's Tree Photo. Write the first words that come into your head. Keep writing whatever comes into your head. Stop when the buzzer rings.

Kristy from House of Prowse

She’d read all the books- Lion Witch & the Wardrobe, the Hobbit, so she knew trees like this were not as they seemed. They were, what was the word? Portals!  OK, so a wardrobe was not a tree but who the heck had wardrobes anymore? A tree like this must be something more. Must be something to take her away.

She laid a tentative hand against its smooth bark. Nothing. Maybe both hands and little bit of pressure? Still nothing. Close eyes and relax. No change. She leaned her head against the trunk. Please, something has to get me out of this bullshit situation. Away from these stupid people who took pride in never reading, who didn’t even know what the SATs were because they were going to work on their family farms after high-school. People who acted friendly one day and turned on you the next. She didn’t fit in and never would. Only another place, even one peopled with fantasy creatures, would help.

“Please, open up and take me away. Please”, she whispered.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Christmas in July

For J the holiday season was ushered in this weekend when the smoker he ordered for himself using his Cabela’s credit card points (yes, he has a Cabela’s VISA card and no, I’m not going to say anymore about it) arrived. Does anyone else have a man in their life who buys what he wants when he wants it and then says, “I don’t want anything for my birthday”. Well, no shit, you’ve bought everything you want!

That’s the only complaint you’ll hear from me because this is another toy of his from which I directly benefit. He’s already smoked a chicken and a pork shoulder so you can color me dumb, fat, and happy.

For me, the big day has yet to arrive but I can no longer wait to start screaming about it and jumping up and down (yes, very much like the David Cassidy days).

They’ve kept me hanging for 9 months, 6 of which have been unemployed which feels especially cruel, but Tim and Heidi return this Thursday on Lifetime. Yes, I am THAT excited. And not just because the last 3 winners were from the Portland area because I disliked Gretchen and her sour, negative, bullying, whiny personality. Not to mention her horrendous taste in color. No, it is simply my favorite television show. Fun, fashion, bitchiness, without being total trash- what more could you ask for?

I’ll stop now but this theme will return. Only TWO MORE DAYS!!!!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekly Adventure- Beaverton Farmers' Market

The markets have been open since late May but this is the first weekend I’ve gone. What fun! Blue sky, warm temperatures, happy relaxed crowds of people, great food, live music- everything you could possibly want in a Saturday. This is why we live in Portland. Why we put up with 6 months of rain and grey skies and, until recently, temperatures that clung to the 50s. Why we try and stay when there are no jobs and the economy is getting worse not better. Because it feels like a community. Because the rain and weather lead to a bounty of the most amazing, luscious produce I’ve ever seen.

I imagine it is the case with most farmers’ markets but the ones in Oregon are very stringent about only allowing local farmers to sell. It means you know that what you’re buying came from somewhere nearby and, more than likely, you’re talking to the person who produced it. A nice feeling.

Here are just a few pictures (OK, more than a few but, honestly, I couldn't help myself!). If you’ve got a farmers’ market in your area, get out and enjoy and support your farming community!

So sweet- I eat them like candy

Tastebud Farm bagels- woodfired not boiled and a normal size instead of the gigundo ones you see at other shops. Very tasty!

So gorgeous it's almost decorative

The best lettuce you'll ever eat and the only kind J will buy. 

The owner of Baird Farms- best salesman ever! You WILL try one of his peaches and then you'll stand in line to buy them because they are that good

Nonnas Noodles- homemade pasta in so many wonderful flavors and colors you'll never buy from the grocery store again

I know it's an onion but when they're this beautiful you want to bite into like a piece of fruit. Or split them in half and throw on the grill- yum!

Color, color everywhere

Every summer adventure should end with a juicy piece of watermelon. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lesson Learned

I am not a high maintenance creature. I have shown you unconditional love since the first moment we met even though you told my foster parent that you preferred a calico and a female (yes, I heard that).  

Despite my inherent nature I learned to fetch a rubber ball and even came to enjoy it; almost as much as you did.

I let you vacuum me and clip my nails (the cat treats helped).

I did my best to understand when you realized I wasn’t supposed to get a cup of food twice a day but only a half a cup and cut me back (but the damage was done and you would forever tell people that I was ‘big boned’ when they said fat).

Even though you were crying you still put me on a plane by myself in that cold dark place and while I made sure to cry and mewl so piteously at the baggage claim that several passengers wanted to call the ASPCA, I stopped the minute I saw you.

As fierce as I am, I could strip your flesh to the bone and inflict permanent damage on your being but I never put my claws out when we played (you’re welcome).

I clasped my front paws around your face and licked your nose when you came home every night.

You allowed an 8 month old cocker spaniel with no bladder control into our space for 3 days and rather than throw a fit and sulk under the bed, I attempted to play with him (not my fault he was too stupid).

I appreciated your un-evolved attempts to talk to me and responded as best I could so you would feel like we were having a conversation. I even let you use baby talk to me even though you told people you didn’t.

I licked your tears when you were sad (and it’s NOT just a salt thing).

So, if you leave me for a week with a 14 year old girl who used to like me but has now discovered boys, and she shows up once a day not twice and won’t play with me but talks on the phone and uses your make-up, I will shred the hot pink Nicole Miller double breasted blazer dress you planned on wearing to your brother’s wedding.  

Lesson learned.

This post is in response to the RemembeRED prompt:
Write a post that either starts or ends with the words "Lesson learned." Word limit: 400 words.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What I Love This Week- Our Garden

When we lived in Utah summer felt not so much like vacation and good times as a fiery inferno from which your only hope was to burrow down into the earth as far as you could or retreat into your home and watch your a/c bill climb into the triple digits.

Is it any wonder then that I am so enamored of and grateful for the lovely greenness that is summer in Portland? Granted, it is almost the other extreme in that I haven’t worn a sleeveless top in two years (and the timeline for being able to do so is shrinking rapidly) and we’ve yet to hit 80° for more than 2 days. The weather we’re in is a perpetual spring but nature continues to surprise and delight with more color, more produce, more surprises in our garden every day; giving me so much to appreciate.

This won't make it into Outdoor Photography magazine but for something shot through a glass window w/ a basic camera I was pretty excited. Mostly because the bee balm has become a hummingbird magnet!

Coreopsis- my new favorite perennial. Low maintenance, cheerful, and blooms all summer long. Even the bees are happy!

This guy makes it in for sheer tenacity. You already know I'm a huge fan of CostCo but their bulbs do not do well in this more humid climate. I planted 20 of these lilies and after 2 years he's the only survivor. Extra points for color audacity.

This is lemon lime heuchera- a prolific perennial in the PNW but ours has taken multi-tasking to new levels with these tiny pink flowers shooting off long green stalks. Stay tuned!

Last year we had jasmine on our trellis and the scent was divine but it did not survive the winter fo we opted for the more opulent but scentless clematis (which should survive)

If you have a garden, what are you loving right now? If not, what makes your summer shine?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fantasy Shopping

Not shopping for fantasies, you lowbrows! No, it’s almost as sad. I’ve been a good girl in the face of my economic downturn and have given up shopping completely. For the most part I don’t miss it because, really, when you sit around the house or volunteer in a library your wardrobe needs are pretty minimal. Jeans, sweat pants, knit tops, socks, practical flat shoes.

This weekend I needed double stick tape for a project and upon realizing we had none knew I would have to go to Office Max to buy some. I GOT EXCITED ABOUT IT, telling myself I could look at organizers, folders, storage bins. I could take my time and walk up and down the aisles- looking at all the STUFF knowing that I wouldn’t spend more than $3.00 (or whatever a roll of tape costs). It was then I knew I’d hit the wall on shopping deprivation and drastic measures were needed.

I turned off all my internal money sensors, poured a glass of wine, and spent several hours online ‘buying’ a number of things for me and for our house. Oddly, enough I felt better- which could have been looking at pretty things or that third glass of wine but why quibble?

Here then are the results of my first ever fantasy shopping trip and this time you can interpret that as these are things I fantasize about (don’t tell me you don’t- I know better).  

Our poor old furniture is from the days of beloved scratching cat and really needs an upgrade. I'm thinking neutral, comfy sectional

punched up with bright pillows in Indian patterns or

made from this marvelous Martyn Lawrence Bullard fabric (the green/terracotta on the right is my favorite).

love this chair but would want a deep sage-y green to go with the rest of the room

Marriage means you have to have a certain amount of restraint in your color/pattern choices or your husband will freak. This Ralph Lauren duvet and sheet set is a serious step up from the mix and match sheets from BB&B we currently have. Still, it's not girly, right?

Enough with the house- I WANT this gorgeous, bright silk maxi dress from Stella McCartney ($2695). It could be my screw-you-father-time 50th birthday dress!

Love orange and either of these shoes would be fabulous w/ the dress. The Jimmy Choos on the left are more elegant but the Stella McCartneys on the right are SO cute and fun!

A girl's got to accessorize! Not all at once, though. I'd either do the Badgley Mischka cuff (top left, $350), or the Trina Turk coral bracelet (top right), or the Padma gold/turquoise hoop earrings.

Aaaahhhhhh.....that was fun!

If you were budget-free what would be your shopping indulgence?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekly Adventure- Cascade Streamwatch Trail

Before we get started I need to come clean with my kind readers. Need to, because if I don’t my husband (who has suddenly gotten all ethical) has stated that he will hack into my blog and denounce me as a fraud. This is interesting coming from a guy who a) doesn’t even know the name of my blog and b) lies to our neighbors. Anyway, here it is: this adventure took place on Saturday. And others may take place on days that are not technically Monday hence the title change.

On to better, more interesting things.

Saturday we decided to get out of the house and out of Portland and head to one of the biggest tourist attractions in Oregon- Mount Hood. It’s a bit embarrassing that we’ve yet to go as it’s no more than an 45 minutes from our house but neither of us ski (or do anything remotely athletic) so the motivation hasn’t been there.

We decided to go to the Wildwood Recreation Center which is home to the Cacade Streamwatch Trail. A lovely paved trail meanders along the Salmon River and even has an underground observatory that allows you to watch young salmon and trout in their natural environment. Outdoorsy and educational!

It’s a little hard for me to write about as I don’t feel I have the skill to truly describe what such a forest is like. As you drive in you feel the energy shift- out of man’s world into nature. Even though you’re in a car and moving at 55 mph as you look out the window the sheer greenness holds the eye and draws you in. This is not a wall of trees along the highway with meadows beyond. This is forest primeval and it exudes a majesty and mystery that, for me, is both intoxicating and soothing. You pass small unmarked unpaved roads (leading where?) that themselves seem to disappear into the deep sylvan darkness. What is up there? Even the roads that are paved only have signs with numbers- Road 9. I’ve lived on a country road with a number designation but it was flat and wide open. These almost feel like magical portals to another time and place, as if choosing one could take you into another world (and not in that creepy Deliverance kind of way, OK?).

By the time we arrive it is raining in earnest but we are now habituated to such things and both have our hooded rain gear. As I stand in the almost empty parking lot I begin to feel a softening inside. The air, with the rain and river, feels like water. Not wet, heavy, or oppressive but so clean you almost feel as if you’re absorbing it through your pores. Deep breaths are effortless and calming.

We begin our walk and are soon in the midst of such lush verdant greenness it would be overwhelming except for its depth. It’s not sharp or glaring it is soft and enveloping. Even the tree trunks are coated with layers of filmy moss. It’s everywhere, even hanging like fringe from protruding branches.

It’s comforting, despite the grandeur and the fact that the sky is almost hidden by branches. There is the sense that you could easily disappear and become a part of it, which is probably what I like. I don’t want to climb or scale or conquer nature. I want to slow and stand and shrink. I want to stop breathing so I can hear only what is around me not what is inside me. The current of the river, the whisper of tree limbs in the wind, the sharp plink of rain dropping from one leaf to the next.

Soon we come to the river. There are wide rocky shores and the water itself is lovely- sandy brown eddying to deeper pools of green- which, according to J, is where the fish lie out of the current waiting for something yummy to go by. I am so mesmerized by the rhythm and sound of the current that I don’t realize I am leaning forward until J decides it would be hilarious to push me (and grab my arms at the same time so there was no chance of falling). My shriek seems to moves him to tears of laughter. Guys. Childish behavior aside he, too, is drawn in by all this. He’s a fly fisherman but for various reasons has not gone since we moved here.

We continue our exploration moving between river and forest, reveling in the silence of civilization and noise of nature. I could rhapsodize for pages and still not convey what a couple hours in this kind of nature does for me. Nourish feels like too small a word.

On the way home I marveled to J about the dirt roads leading off the highway and what it would be like to live out here with few modern conveniences. I said, “I can’t imagine what it would be like.” Without missing a beat, he said, “I could. I would love it.” Hhhhmmmmm.

What lies beyond?

If you were to consider a life away from the city/town what would be your must-have modern convenience?
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