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July 24, 2008

Dos Pictoras

See how fast I'm learning Spanish? Muy caliente! Train de la ligne roja!

Anyway.

Here are some treats for your retinal enjoyment:

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These are some scary vegetables I picked up at the Farmers' Market this Saturday. On the left we have what I'd like to call the "fractal fruit" (even though it's clearly a vegetable). On the right we have some gigantic string beans. I forget what their name is, but I feel like I thought of Hannibal Lecter when I saw the sign, so I'm going to guess they're fava beans. In the middle we have some de-pod-ed fava beans birthed from a pod as long as my forearm.

Having never seen their like in real life nor the Food Network, I was forced to postulate as to their prepration. I decided to steam them and afterwards coat them with butter, salt and pepper as if they were succulent ears of corn. The fractal fruit tasted like a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower, so I'm going to guess that's what it was. I liked. I don't think the fava beans steamed long enough, and they were rather chewy and mealy rather than crisp (like a pea), so I was not a fan.

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It's Windchill! Just kidding. This little critter is parked on the sidewalk across the street from my new office. When my coworker and I were on our way to lunch on my first day I guffawed and pointed, and she informed me that this was part of a public art project that we had funded in all probability.

I guess this stuff is what they mean with the ubiquitous bumper sticker encouraging locals to "Keep Portland Weird." I also guess I'm going to have to start "getting" art real soon here...

July 20, 2008

Cooktress, meet Technology

I've had nothing but free time this past week, since the job I secured on Monday doesn't start until tomorrow. I've spent nearly all of that time cooking, cleaning/laundering, reading about Sylvia Plath or watching episodes of AMC's Mad Men . In other words, I am learning to become a housewife straight out of the early 1960s-- albeit under the tutelage of Ms. Plath, one with rather consuming emotional problems.

I mean, after doing laundry I ROYGBIV'd the boyfriend's tshirts, for god's sake.

In an effort to get back to the culinary ascendancy I achieved in college, I've been busting out all the old standbys: orzo with roasted vegetables, curried chicken salad, zesty tomato soup and black bean soup. I've been getting creative with leftovers, too, taking the ingredients Ma bought for a salade nicoise when she was here and turning them into mashed potatoes with a mushroom-shallot sauce and avocado-feta paninis.

Creating a dish last night, however, threw this cooktress for a loop. We were invited to a vegan potluck. I can do meatless dishes no sweat, but no butter? no eggs? no milk? That eliminates nearly everything from my canon of cookery. I finally settled upon a dish of yams and broccoli and nearly sliced my phillanges off trying to cut through those blasted roots. I wasn't confident in the vittles' quality, and made sure to tell my host.

My related my tale of the futile search to a fellow guest.

"I near tore apart my cookbooks looking for something to bring!" I said.
"Do you have the Internet?" she asked.

Oh, snap.

July 14, 2008

You should all move to Portland

I've just finished a whirlwind week of moseying westward, settling into my new abode and sightseeing-- Holy Hannah, did we sight-see. I've said it before, but this time I mean it. I friggin love it here. This is a first-blush kind of love, where I look past all the area's faults (such as its seeming moratorium on employing me) and turn them into pluses (such as the fact that being a bum gives me more time to explore).

In my five days of being an Oregonian, here's what has made me kvell about the place:

Getting around: Oh, public transit, I love you I love you I love you. I prefer to travel by train, and the ones I've been on thus far have been clean, swift and decorated with quirky lines of poetry. There's a "fareless square" downtown where, you guessed it, you don't have to pay a fare to travel. The highways bear good signage, so me and Sir Lostalot have been able to navigate the city a few times without ending up 40 miles from where we wanted to be. And the drivers are so NICE. A few days ago the boyf needed to make a right turn into a left turning lane and a car in that lane waved him in in front of him. Amazing.

Occupying ourselves: Every weekend there are two huge markets-- the Portland Market for your organic produce needs and the Saturday Market (also on Sundays) for all your artsy fartsy homemade wares needs. We went to both yesterday, and I was in hog heaven. Supposedly the farmer's market goes all the way to December. Ma picked me up some medicinal honey to help cure my horrific allergies. I had some on my toast this morning and have been more congestion-free than I've been all week.

Great outdoors: This place has it all. Mountains to the east, ocean to the west, plenty of parks and waterfalls in between. I'm an indoors kind of gal, but I've enthusiastically embraced all Mother Nature has to offer here.

OK. Come see me now.

July 7, 2008

On the Oregon Trail, Part 1

Yesterday the gent and I left our dear Minnesota to go Westward, ho! We spent a nearly unbearable nine hours getting from there to here (which would be Dickinson, ND, natch) with nary an incident beyond a speeding ticket and a North Dakota rain storm so fierce I feared for my life. But we survived the brutal river fordings and cholera epidemics, and for that we must be grateful.

(Aside: I just discovered iTunes U and I'm totally in love. Yesterday we listened to an Australian university's lecture on Harry Potter and the Holocaust and a Stanford lecture about the rise of French awesomeness. Last night we went a little nuts on the downloading (they're free!) and got podcasts on everything from Bob Woodward discussing the media's impact on politics to the art of reading a poem. Sigh... I love getting learned real good.)

We made our home last night at a bed and breakfast, a type of lodging which is quickly becoming an obsession of mine. Hey-- they're often cheaper than regular hotels, the rooms are nicer, the owners are always quirky and you get a lovely and filling breakfast.

When we arrived at this one the owner, Quinta, greeted us at the door, which opened upon her handmade jewelry shop. Sparkly. Then she led us through the house, where we saw the fancy library:

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The lovely dining room:

 border=Our room's mini keg (it's the German Room and all Germans have mini kegs-- didn't you know?):

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Discuss.

July 5, 2008

Tech-splosion

I smell like stale coffee shop. I have for three and a half days now, ever since the possibilities of my world became limitless with the addition of portable electronics to my life.

I've always been kind of slow to catch on to technology trends. I didn't own a cell phone until the beginning of my sophomore year of college, when the fad had trickled down to become the latest necessity of the middle school set. My first mp3 player came two years later, but I wasn't ready for the status that came with an iPod's white earbuds. Instead I got a matchbook-size player that could hold six albums, play the radio, record weird conversations on the bus and my boss' cackle and hook onto my jeans pocket with a handy clip.

On Wednesday everything changed. Ma got me a MacBook for my birthday, and it came with a free (after rebate) iPod Touch. I used a birthday giftcard from Pa to get cases for both at Best Buy, as well as $40 of iTunes gift cards. iLoggedOn. iBrowsed. iBought.

Suddenly my 25-hour car ride to Oregon is looking much less bleak, because I have several episodes of Gossip Girl and conversational French podcasts to keep me company. I can finally listen to the Jenny Owen Youngs cd I've searched for in vain at every music store I've visited for the past year. And I can update you, dear readers, on the sometimes-boring minutiae of my life whenever and wherever (as long as there's free wifi).

July 3, 2008

The events of July 2, 2008

1.
I'm at the dentist for what feels like the bazillionth time in the span of a month. The dentist comes in and sighs his customary "Oh, [Nugget]." He has another dentist come in to use a different anesthetic technique since I had so much trouble with what he'd given me the last time. As Dentist 2 shoots it in my jaw, my heart starts racing. A few minutes later, and the poison has yet to deaden me. Dentist 1 sighs again and shoots me with another needleful, and it feels like the needle is tearing tissue. Finally I can feel the telltale signs of Novocain, but my lip doesn't go numb. The numbed area includes my left cheek and eye, though. Dentist 1 decides this is good enough.

As he begins his work, tears start streaming out of my left eye. He asks if he's hurting me. I tell him I'm just having a lot of trouble closing my eye. He and his assistant emit sounds of surprise and concern. "That's why I don't use Dentist 1's technique," he sighs. "It seems he's paralyzed your facial nerve. But don't worry; it will go away. And if it doesn't, you just call me right up!" This is not comforting.

Because I'm not numbed in the right place, the drilling he's doing hurts. A lot. Tears start to stream out of my right eye as well, and Dentist has to keep pausing to daub my eyes with my paper bib. He does a hasty job on the filling, and when taking out a spring-loading instrument from my mouth, it pops into my afflicted eye. "Oh, my God. I want to go home just as much as she does," he says. "I wouldn't be surprised if you never come back to the dentist." I try to keep the blubbering to a minimum, but can't contain myself when seeing my gentleman caller in the waiting room. He, who has never had a cavity, takes one look at my face and resolves to start flossing five times a day.

2.
I'm boxing up my earthly possessions in advance of the big move Out West. The GC tapes 'em up and drives away with 'em so his mom can ship 'em with her mega-discount from UPS. After he's left I realize I have approximately three outfits to last me until the boxes and I meet again. Five if you count my prom dresses.

3.
Ma Nuggs and I head to Barnes and Noble to test drive my brand-new MacBook and brand-new iPod Touch (free with rebate!). Bro Nuggs helps me discover the wonders of video chat. Aside: Ma has been destitute since last Friday because all four of her chitlins were scattered to the exotic locales of Japan, Missoula, Tucson and Shokoppee. The prospect of being with yours truly whilst video chatting with her firstborn was a joyous one indeed.

Ma isn't used to this fancy technology. She talks WAY more loudly than is necessary, so all 20 patrons of B and N's cafe discovered that my mom won't be able to stay at my aunt's house in Seattle "BECAUSE THEY ONLY HAVE ONE TOILET IN SERVICE!" Bro further exacerbates the situation by slowly leaning toward the camera so that his eyeball, nose or mouth take up the entire screen. Ma guffaws till the cows come home. I cower.

4.
While out with some (now former) co-workers, we decide to move from an Irish pub to a sports bar near the paper. As I'm driving along downtown's main drag, I hear a woman shouting. Then I see a man with blood all over his face putting a woman in a stranglehold. A second woman is shouting, "He cut me! He cut me!" Another man, who I don't think is involved in the situation, shouts at the first man to let the woman go. I come to the conclusion that the first man has a knife and is about to slit the woman's throat. Since I am now merely a Samaritan (temporarily on leave from ink-stained-wretchhood), I call 911 and tell them what I saw.

I get to the bar and ask my co-workers if they'd seen what I had. They hadn't, and the city hall reporter decided it was breaking news and rushes out to cover it. Our higher ed reporter follows suit, removing her heels to run the few blocks barefoot. When they return they say one of the women had been performing sex acts on the man, expecting a $20 payment for her services. When he reneged a scuffle ensued, and he started biting her.

Back at the bar, we sing and dance to classics like "Like a Prayer," "Toxic" and "Hit Me Baby One More Time." During the latter we discover City Hall Reporter is a human version of those nylon blow-up men frequently seen at car dealerships.

5.
I'm extra careful to drive exactly the speed limit on the way home in Ma's dented minivan. Nevertheless, a state trooper turns his lights on and pulls me over once I've gotten off the highway. This is my first pullover experience, and yet I'm eerily calm. I fish my drivers license out of my purse and sit very still in the car's blinding search light.

He approaches and asks for my license. "What seems to be the trouble, sir?" I ask as innocently as possible. He tells me the light above my back license plate has gone out. Seriously? They stop people for that?