Sunday, August 29, 2010


With the exception of thickening up the sauce a bit (one can of organic tomato paste), the use of Dave's Killer Bread crumbs, and a small sprinkle of cheese, John and I made an eggplant (almost)parmesan entirely with ingredients from the CSA and our garden! Eggplant, an insane variety of tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic... all grown within 50 miles of here (or less). A wild, wild weekend night, I know - but delicious!

This brings me to thinking about using food as a reward -- in a healthy way. I have a terrible, terrible lifelong habit of using food to reward myself. Been a long day? Get takeout. Been a failure of responsibilities at work? Get a milkshake at lunch. Achieved a great goal? Pizza! Need to celebrate a birthday or accomplishment (of mine, or a friend's)? You get it.

So the CSA cooking was a reward for a long week spent out of the house every night for work... use the summer abundance to reward myself for staying in. But I think I'm figuring out how to make that reward a little healthier. We joined a CSI this year too: Community Supported ICE cream. (I said a little!)

A tiny, local, amazing chocolatier here in town wanted to buy a fancy European ice cream making machine, but didn't have the money. So they got 30 people to pay $150 to get ice cream every other week for a year. Money up front for them, and a year of ice cream for us. You pick from chocolate, vanilla or a seasonal fruit sorbet, and pick up to 4 mix-ins from their list... Marcona almonds, brownie bits, candied ginger, etc... and pick it up the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month.

Now, I do not need decadent ice cream every other Saturday, clearly. So we split it with some very good friends; ice cream once a month? Perfect! And the pint is ideal: enough to last 10 days or so, enough to be excited waiting for the next month's installment, enough to keep the ice cream special. We think about it a bit, order it by the deadline, go pick it up on one day a month, and savor it. It's made by a local business and feels like a one-of-a-kind treat.

Could I never buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's again? I'm thinking about it. It falls into a food rule I love: if you want to eat it, eat it. But you have to make it. No drive-thru fried chicken. No Burgerville milkshake. No PastaWorks pasta.

I'm not committing; I'm just thinking about it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taking Calls.

As Jen says, when life gets full, the blog gets empty. I'm going to make it up to you as we close out summer - the unofficial end of summer, anyhow.

I don't write very often about work, but this week, there was a significant article written in The Gray Lady about my boss. It was a complex piece of op-ed journalism about the federal budget that dared to touch on the third rail: Social Security.

All seemed well in the office for the next 36 hours, until a progressive group that I've supported in the past jumped on it, sent out an email to a few million e-subscribers, and asked them to call in and tell us how they feel. Their email also contained a blatant lie, and I'm not sure yet how they get away with it; will they have to retract it? Anyhow... in the meantime...

Away we go with the phones! It was just like the days before the health reform bill passed. Call after call after call... and of course each and every constituent has a right to express their opinion... but it did mean I was unable to help an 18 year old who needs to prove his citizenship and is lost in a paperwork maze (he has to wait till Monday) and unable to help a constituent whose property outside the U.S. has been siezed by local authorities.

Instead, I spoke with 8 or 10 folks about their thoughts on the article. Except... not ONE had read it. They'd all read the incorrect, inflammatory and 100-word e-blast. But none had clicked on the link and read the source material. They vehemently asked for cuts in defense spending and ag subsidies instead... which I softly pointed out the source article showed the boss is in major favor of. "Oh. Really?" And then, "Yes," I'd say. "If you have the time and access to the internet, I recommend reading the article. There's a link at the bottom of your email, and it is quite an interesting article."

So, some days I'm impressed with the dedication of people around my community.

And some days I want to say, oh you impressive elecorate, picking up the phone with no knowledge but lots of feelings! Go, you! Asshats.

My favorite person said, "Well, yeah, I started to read it, but I just didn't have the time!" I know the feeling, dude. I was also hoping to get back to my actual work.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It feels like this.

When I was a nanny... four separate times, for four separate infants... I was awed by every tiny developmental step. I could tell the difference between starting to roll over and moments from rolling over. I could tell the difference between a first pincer-grasp and a second pincer-grasp on a Cheerio. And of all the wonderful things nannying brought to my life, the glimpse into how fascinating a baby can be each day, each moment, was one of the most wonderful.

So I've made a second blog friend and she lives in Costa Rica at the moment, working as an au pair, where she made a video of "her" baby, the very one that I knew when *I* lived and worked in Costa Rica (when said baby was in utero and then a blinky, sleepy little newborn). Her blog is a light, bright and friendly exploration of food (no better blog topic!) and you can check the whole thing out here... but it was a recent post with a video of the not-really-a-baby-but-now-a-toddler that got me remembering...

The video (in this post here) captures exactly how it feels to take care of someone's child many hours a week. It's not that you feel the love of a parent, because that love is unique and encompassing, and was/is out of my league to comprehend. But it is a powerful, powerful love that combines pride in your work with pride in a growing little person, bursting with personality, with pride in knowing you are making an impact, no matter how unconscious. The video captures just what it feels like to do this noble work, and reminds me how people used to ask, "Oh, are you babysitting again today?" and I would - mood depending - laugh, snicker, snort, scoff or tsk in great offense, and say, "Babysitting? No. I'm going to work, as a nanny, today. Yes, I'm doing that." This was usually followed by an attempt to explain that no, I was not raising someone's child for them, and yes, it was a job that required real skills and experience. So thanks, L, for reminding me what that -- ALL of that -- feels like. It's important.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh, this is why!

Tonight, for the very first time, I took my book and a glass of wine and some snacks out in the backyard, and enjoyed an extremely quiet evening in the cool evening breeze. It had a smidgen of a vacation feel to it, and I thought... oh yeah! This is why I wanted to buy a house! I need to do this more before the rains return.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

An Affirmation.

With summer construction and befuddled drivers, with Portland's unique take on what constitutes good service by a waiter/tress, with emailing older folks who have no sense of emotion translated into writing... it's easy to identify incompetency all around.

And there is almost nothing I hold more dear than competency. It's the thing upon which I base my self-image, it's the thing I value in a person that will make me forget their politics, their sexism, (almost) any bad trait.

So this morning's Jack Handey-like daily affirmation is an appreciation for competency wherever it is found.

And as small as it sounds, the woman at HomeGoods who helped me with the new rug on Sunday was not only cheerful and polite - she was genuinely helpful and incredibly competent at packing up, carrying and loading the rug into my car all on her own. She was efficient and professional and a true antidote to the bad customer service I may or may not have experienced elsewhere last week. And I'm sure she disposed of my rug, hung another one, and never gave our interaction another thought. But she made my day, and I will pass that on this week with all the competence I can muster for the various tasks at work on the docket... which include maybe driving a rental van, taking my boss' bicycle measurements, explaining a 214(b) visa denial (again) and writing to no less than three U.S. embassies with new requests.

Accomplishment with competency, here I come!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

From the Annals of (New) Homeownership:

Things built or put together this weekend:
- 3 curtain rods (2 for curtains, 1 for displaying an antique quilt)
- industrial strength garage shelves; 3 shelves, roughly 6 feet high by 6 feet wide and the most glorious example of organization I have ever assisted in constructing
- 1 dimmer switch
- 1 bookshelf-from-a-box

Things gotten rid of this weekend:
- all the weird mish-mash of plants in the front yard (remaining? a great lavendar, a great rosemary and a mysterious but adorable shrub)
- all the boxes from moving
- spider webs from all around the eaves and front door

Things given to us for free by neighbors this weekend:
- 2 very large bottles of beer
- the salad greens for dinner, rinsed and sitting in the colander right now

And now the real accounting... things bought this weekend:
- 1 large living room rug
- 1 large rug pad
- 1 chocolate brown cozy living room chair
- 1 delicate pink throw that the guest room NEEDED
- all the parts needed for constructing the aforementioned garage shelves
- 2 throw pillows that will be returned (probably)
- 1 bookshelf-in-a-box
- 18 other necessary items, ahem, from Home Depot

Meals bought at a restaurant (take out) this weekend:
1 lunch, 1 dinner

Meals cooked at home this weekend:
1 dinner, 2 breakfasts

Meals eaten at someone else's house this weekend:
1 dinner

The best part of the weekend is that we put the boxes on Craiglist for free, and shoved 'em to the end of the driveway. Two minutes later, one of our very nice and friendly neighbors asked if he could have them... and took about 90%. Then he brought us two large beers as thanks! Quoth John, "He took away the boxes AND gave us beer? Now that's a win win."