Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday Afternoon in NW Portland

It’s Monday but Sunday is already missed so here’s a brief recap of why it was such a lovely day for me.

I went to see my hair stylist in NW Portland. She’s 7 months pregnant, this is her second child and she’s not coming back after the baby is born. I’m not going to dwell on the shocking selfishness of this decision but, really? Do you know how hard it is to find a good stylist? That you like to talk to? She knows enough about me at this point to turn me over to the Feds and now she’s jumping ship. Rude.

OK, we’re not going there. NW is an older neighborhood full of charming tree lined streets and lovely little surprises like this tree which looks like a combination of bonsai and flower arrangement. 23 Avenue is the main shopping street; chock full of all sorts of delights.  I initially wrote about it when my friend visited and we spent an afternoon exploring. Yesterday I went to a bookstore I’d heard a lot about called the New Renaissance Bookshop. It is a new age spiritual store with everything you can imagine for your emotional and spiritual well being; one of those places where you walk in and immediately feel relaxed. In fact, I began looking around for some small hidden nook where I could live for the next several months.

I just re-watched the Ram Dass documentary Fierce Grace and remembered how much I loved his works so was looking for his first book Be Here Now. It was published in 1978 so I thought the odds were against me but I found it. Found it and decided it was a bit too out there for me (sorry, I’m just not evolved enough yet). Instead I settled on a set of CDs called A Spiritual Journey also by Ram Dass. Having found what I wanted I wandered, ambled, took notes and explored. This is an amazing store and I can’t believe I’d not visited before. It reminded me of the time in my life when I was more attuned to my inner self and made me realize I need to find that center again as the path I’m on is not a healthful one.

Mission accomplished (and soothed on chimes and incense), I was headed back to my car when I spied a shop called Salt & Straw. No clue what they sold but it looked foodie so I went in. Another venture guided by the universe because they make homemade baked goods and…wait for it…ice cream. Ice cream that makes Baskin-Robbins look like the chemical slop it is. All natural and freshly made with flavors like Blu Cheese and Pear and Honey Lemon w/ Ricotta this is not ice cream for the faint of heart but for those willing to step out of their comfort zone it’s a revelation.

I immediately decided that despite having had no breakfast this was going to be my lunch (because I’m mature that way). I opted for a scoop of sea salt ice cream w/ caramel ribbons and another of chocolate w/ gooey brownies (a bit more classic but chocolate cannot be refused). I paid, I left, I tasted, I swooned. How can the mind be wrapped around the taste of sweet ice cream while at the same time there is unapologetic salt? It doesn’t compute and unless you’re a savant like me your head will probably explode. This is what ice cream should be: fresh, rich without being overwhelming or cloying, and an unexpected explosion of flavor- flavor that confuses your mind because it doesn’t equate to ice cream. If you’re within 200 miles of Portland you need to visit these people.

An idyllic Sunday.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Anger Management? Maybe Not

The last 16 months have not been easy for but I take pride in the fact that a trained mental health professional recently pronounced, “You’re doing really well. I thought you’d be bat shit by now.” High praise indeed. I’ve: meditated, networked, revised, reviewed, connected, stayed open, looked on the situation as an opportunity not a problem, finessed, listened, updated, smiled, made calls, joined groups, breathed deeply, believed. Unfortunately, the veneer is wearing thin as evidenced in some of my recent posts. I’m afraid I’m backsliding into emotions that should have come and gone by now, namely anger. Lots of it. 

How is it manifesting? Initially, against inanimate objects. Showering apparently has a lot of anger triggers. For instance, aside from ripping me off, why is this Dove bath wash designed in such a way that it cannot be rested upside down to get to the majority of body wash for which you friggin’ paid? And Vaseline Intensive Care? You are working my last nerve. This bottle is half full but the whole tube/pump concept is bullshit. It rests on the bottom in one location and once it can no longer get lotion in that ONE spot it ceases to function. And just like Dove it is designed in such a way that you can’t rest it upside down to get to the lotion. Honestly, personal care product manufacturers, why are you f’ing with us? It cannot require an advanced degree to make containers that allow the consumer to get every drop of the product they purchased.  Do the right thing before someone gets hurt.

Driving. Apparently, the rest of humanity has evolved to the point that they have telepathy and so the majority of drivers don’t need to use their turn signals because everyone knows what they’re going to do. I’m not evolved and so will honk and flip you off when you stop dead in front of me to make a left turn across a double yellow line. I may even follow you to your house and beat you with tire iron. How’s that for evolved? And if for some reason you’re so special that you can park your car over the white parking lines, not between them, then you need to know that I’m so special you may come out to your car to find You Suck keyed on the side of your vehicle. Could happen.

The animal world. This overlaps with driving in that I used to b a compassionate person with a natural aversion to hitting any creature frozen in the road. I’m still there but if you, Mr. Squirrel, decide to run halfway across the road and then stop to look at me as if remembering that you really wanted to be back on the other side, I will flatten you. And crows? No deals there. I drive directly at them. They’re Satan with wings.

As you’re probably dialing the Portland animal safety and DMV hotlines by now I’ll stop. Also because I’m pretty sure I’m about to burst a blood vessel in my forehead. And I’m not even warmed up.

Anything yanking your chain right now? Vent!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Man Has Got Me All Figured Out

My husband cautions me on how much data I feed into the beast via social media and online shopping to which I respond that, with my allergies, I’ve left enough DNA in used tissues in wastebaskets across the United States that it’s a moot point. The Man has got a complete genetic profile on me and can figure out my shopping habits from that. In a dingy lab somewhere someone is cloning me and not for the greater good.

However, without any involvement on my part it feels likes advertisers are getting ever closer to matching television viewing patterns to human behavior. There’s some serious and not always nice profiling going here.  It used to be soft drinks and smiling happy people living better lives but now a lot of ads seem to have abandoned the ‘this product will make your life better’ approach for the ‘this is who you really are and we’re going to work it’ attitude.

Case in point: During a one hour episode of any of the Real Housewives there will be not one but TWO ads for liposuction. OK, that’s almost a given considering that there’s more plastic in these women then in your local landfill but it still seems crass.

Here’s one that delights. TBS airs Seinfeld from 11-12 every night. In this time slot you will see Chili’s, Fabreze and beer ads. Odd combo until you think about it. If you watch Seinfeld late at night you must be the type of person who wants a 48oz steak marinated AND then grilled in butter and no vegetables. Then you take your fat ass home and plant it once again on your couch with an icy cold beer (which you will spill) from which you don’t move until you’re ready to hit Chili’s again for another saturated fat transfusion thereby requiring massive amounts of Fabreze for your couch to mask the excreted odors of your decaying body. Really? This is the Seinfeld demographic? Not even a pretense of a happy active lifestyle. Instead, it would seem that Madison Avenue has read the Surgeon General’s latest report and decided to go with it as a marketing plan. You’re fat, you’re lazy, you’re probably drunk so here’s ways you can perpetuate that lifestyle.

I’d get more worked up but if I don’t leave now I’ll miss the free sundae with a steak dinner at Chili’s.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I can’t claim to be a wine expert but I’ve drunk my fair share of it (almost always responsibly) and I know what I like. I’ve been very fortunate to have, at times some amazingly fine wines. When my father passed away my brothers and I split his wine collection and since then we have opened a bottle for when we’re together or for special occasions. These are the kind of wines where you understand what sommeliers mean when they talk about notes of leather, red currant, cinnamon etc. Wines you savor.

However, just because I’m economizing doesn’t mean I’m going to give up my wine. I’m just being frugal about it. And frugal doesn’t mean Boones Farm or wine in a box. There are plenty of good-to-very-good wines out there for under (dare I say it) $10.00. YES there are!

For me, I am put off by wines that are heavy on the vanilla or are thin and acidic. Unfortunately, these are both qualities of many inexpensive wines. Also, I’m a red drinker almost exclusively and have learned that red varietals like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon don’t come off as well at the lower price points. You have to be realistic and a blend is usually your best bet. Mixing grape varieties enhances the good qualities of each and softens the bad.

Here then are some of my favorites.

From Portugal: Casa Santos Lima’s Bons Ventos 2009 and Espiga. Bons Ventos is a bit richer and the Espiga sharper but at under $8 they’re eminently enjoyable.

From California: Cupcake Vineyards’s Red Velvet- available at CostCo for $8. Important note- this is the only one of their varietals that works for me. The Merlot and Shiraz are dreadful.

From Washington State: 14 Hands’ Hot to Trot. This is at the high end of my inexpensive wines, coming at $9.99. Which is why when I find it on sale I buy several bottles. A great rich red blend.

When the weather warms up (July!) I do like a white now and then but am not a fan of the basics- chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. I love Viognier but they are usually pricey. Again, blends come to the rescue and this California white from Hashi is a beautiful blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. It’s often served in Japanese restaurants as it is a wonderful accompaniment to sushi. The only place I’ve found it in Portland is at Uwajimaya, the premier Asian market in the PNW.

The other white I always enjoy is a Portuguese wine called Vinho Verde. It is crisp, fresh and has the slightest hint of effervescence. A perfect summer wine. I've bought it from several different wineries and never been disappointed.

If you like wine but are not a subscriber of Wine Spectator (dahling) what are your favorite every day choices?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Unemployment Diaries: Changing Perceptions

When you’re unemployed for long enough you will end up in one statistical category or another. As I’ve been dragged through this journey there was one I hadn’t ever quite understood- in talking about changes to the unemployment rate analysts refer to a subset of long term unemployment: those who have given up. I would read that and think ‘How can that be? You can’t give up; you have to find a job’. How cute and naïve is that?

There are a lot of explanations behind this phenomena but here’s the one showing up in my life: a loss of belief in one’s own judgment. Last month I applied for a job where I did not meet one of the minimum requirements. I didn’t do this to fill my quota; I firmly believed that the rest of my experience might make up for this lack. Or, so I believed until I made it to the third round of interviews where I sat, looking outwardly poised but inwardly looking for the exit, and listened to one of the key managers describe their expectations- none of which had anything to do with my skills or background. How was it I knew I could not possibly do this job but they did not?

The flip side came last week when I applied for a job on Craigslist. By and large it was a customer service position but with a thin patina of ‘writing’ added which is what piqued my interest. Less than one day after the interview the hiring manager sent me an email outlining the comp package. He’s loving me, right? You don’t send that to every candidate. He asked me back for a single afternoon“trial run” of the job. Odd but…all right. I spent the afternoon performing customer support duties and realized I was over-qualified for the job only to be told today that they had hired someone else with “more experience”.

On the one hand, I’m not qualified but the employer pursues me and on the other, I’m over-qualified, the employer acts like he loves me but then rejects me. This is messed up in a way that reminds me of a guy I dated all through college. He was a serial philanderer and his psychological M.O. was to blame me because I didn’t ‘trust’ him which caused him to cheat. Twisted, yes, but he was my first love and I was young and stupid. What he left me with (which is making itself apparent again 30 years later) is an inability to trust myself. The way I perceive things is inaccurate. I don’t feel as if I know any longer how to interpret people’s words and actions. As I step forward, what I believe is ground may be thin air.
If I can no longer trust myself how can I project confidence when and if I get an interview? How much longer do I want to put myself out there in a situation that causes me nothing but pain? How high a price should anyone pay to get a job? I’m reverting to a self I fought for years to overcome and rather than do so may join the 14.5% of unemployed Americans who have “given up”.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fashion Mind Games

Here’s my happy place this week:

Spring luxury (Brahmin bag, $295). Would scream 'spring', but in a subtle ladylike way and would last forever.

Spring affordable (H&M, $49.95). Pseudo-Chanel vibe with a yummy boucle texture. Would be adorable over tees or a white blouse.

The mind game part and why this works for me right now (because I'm not spending money)? The bag is sold out and the jacket isn’t carried at the H & M in Portland. So, I get the thrill of desire without the reality of opening my wallet. And, twisted as it is, it works for me.

Anything you lust after but would never really buy? C'mon you can tell me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Decision-Making. No? Yes. What?

Some people enjoy making decisions. Weighing options, reviewing choices, lingering in the excitement of what might be. I’d rather give myself a tracheotomy with a Bic pen. I can make decisions (both good and bad) but for me the rush comes when the decision is made. When I announce: Let’s make an offer on the house, or chirp: Yes, I will have a second glass of Pinot Noir, or assert: I don’t need these stilettos but I want them. All good times.

One of the reasons that options and the time to mull them doesn’t work for me is that I have the same brain as HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you should not be here. Seriously, it’s a classic- watch it). I can come up with permutations the average (non-delusional) person would never even contemplate. You see a lovely wooded area by the side of the road and I’m calculating the odds that there’s a body in there somewhere. There are no innocuous wood flooring creaks in the bedroom at night- it’s something evil and paranormal and your ignorance is likely to get you killed. The person who died at a neighbor’s house was the victim of a satanic cult ritual not just the grandfather of one of the owners.
Crazy talk aside (or right-thinking as I like to call it), there is the basic psychological issue: some people revel in the feeling of endless opportunity and potential and therefore prolong attaching themselves to one outcome while others, like me, are happiest when things are nailed down, concrete, finalized.  Today’s world seems to be better suited for the free-as-the-wind folks but if you are not so inclined how do you cope? For me, there is the option of acceptance (which I’ve discussed before). I’m not always great at it but sometimes it suits like a cold glass of water when you’re thirsty- nothing else will do. It gives the emotional relief of a decision when really you are simply ceding to circumstances. So, I’ve made some ‘decisions’ recently and while I’m not quite ready to spill on what they are they’ve changed my perception of my life and situation in a way that is sweet relief. Will I be a Mach 10 freakout headcase in 6 months? Most likely but let’s not look that far ahead, all right?

Source: via Catherine on Pinterest

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I have a long and checkered past as one of those people who cannot (will not?) learn the lesson Never Say Never (and not just in regards to appearing in James Bond movies to jump start your movie career). Here then is a partial list of various life decisions that were preceded by the staunch belief that I WOULD NEVER:

  • Date a guy who cheated on me
  • Vacation in Florida
  • Leave the house in sweat pants
  • Be foolish enough to mix beer, wine and liquor (it was called my 21st birthday, all right?!)
  • Marry a divorced guy
  • Marry a divorced guy with a kid
  • Marry a divorced guy with a kid who lives in Utah
  • Marry a divorced Mormon guy with a kid who lives in Utah
  • Take any substance that must be injected
  • Join Facebook
  • Write a blog

Apparently, this is one of the greatest life lessons I refuse to learn which means I likely have some really unpleasant experiences ahead of me but that’s the not the point. The point is that another ‘never’ has fallen. I used to believe I had nothing to say but then I joined Facebook and well, that wasn’t so bad. I could post or not and I was able to get back in touch with a lot of old friends even if we didn’t really stay in touch once we’d gotten caught up. Then I was desperate for a creative outlet but didn’t seem to have the wherewithal to channel it into a novel so started a blog. Turns out I still have nothing to say but now I firmly believe everyone needs to know which is why I’ve succumbed to...Twitter. Yes, it’s embarrassing but if you think about it, it’s just an instagram of the blog. More of what’s inside my head but in smaller, more manageable bits. See? I’m just trying to help you out. And really, it’s like the Borg- resistance is futile.

If you’re even remotely interested you have the option to follow me on the right. It’s fashion, books, food, Portland; a dazzling panoply of joy. You’re welcome.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Books I Love: Rules of Civility

It is a rare occasion when the title of a book not only hints at the plot but perfectly describes the stylistic tone as well. The Rules of Civility is just such a book and it is a grand first effort for author Amor Towles.

Towles takes us into Manhattan in 1938. Wealthy Manhattan, where what is said and seen on the surface is often not what is happening underneath. Through a series of seemingly coincidental meetings Katey and her friend Eve find themselves socializing with the young privileged elite. This despite Katey being from Brooklyn (definitely the wrong side of the tracks). For a time their path converges with an elusive bachelor and his circle of friends but while Eve schemes personally, Katey focuses on getting out of the secretarial pool and into the world of publishing. We follow all three throughout the book but only Katey is true to herself. She gives back as good as she gets, if not better, and unlike her wealthier compatriots, conquers Manhattan without being conquered.

Towles’s prose is as silken and smooth as the gin martinis his characters endlessly imbibe. But unlike their attitudes, it’s not glib or slick, although some of the dialogue gets a bit clichéd. Instead, he uses words sparingly and with precision which imbues the reader with a feeling of being enveloped in a different era.

This is not a classic but, like much of Fitzgerald’s work, Towles captures the nuances of time and place in every sentence. Not easy to do but his words move as lightly along the surface as do the lives of his characters and the reader feels they are in the midst of the story. Bottom line? This book encompasses everything that makes me love reading: marvelous prose and a protagonist I want to know more about.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Point of Still

There is a place. Between the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale. In breathwork we are often told to pause there. It is my favorite place because there is no thought. It is as dark, quiet and still as a cool lake at the bottom of a cave. With breath my brain is ceaseless, full and noisy. Without it I am still full, even more so. I am everywhere. It is the most me there is but I cannot stay. I must always leave too soon.
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