Sunday, November 28

A Baker’s Dozen of Grateful-For Things

Another Thanksgiving has filled my belly...and my heart.


Here’s a baker’s dozen of the good stuff for which I give thanks:
1. Opening my parents’* front door Wednesday night to the smells of turkey in the oven, apple pie resting on the stove top and homemade Chex mix on the kitchen table. Bliss.

2. My new job and how much I like it. Like any good thing in one’s life, it makes all the other good things even better.

3. Being able to spend the whole holiday weekend with my family. (I wasn’t sure what the paid holiday situation would be at the new job so I was thrilled to learn it was Thursday and Friday.)

4. My mother-in-law’s good health...and her incredible scalloped corn.

5. My mom getting in the kitchen to bake her Cream Cheese Pumpkin Roll. What a surprise treat! You can see it’s half gone in the forefront of the photo.

6. My sister- and mother-in-law hosting the holiday as usual and cooking a delicious spread.

7. How funny people in my family are - they had me laughing to tears.

8. My brother suggesting breakfast Saturday morning.

9. My dear husband, the whipped cream on my life.

10. Shopping at dawn on Black Friday with my dad and B and getting all new socks and a gorgeous, soft scarf I wore all day.

11. Running into old friends and family during that cold, dark morning and enjoying the conversations more than the door busters. What I went for turned out to not be on sale anyway!

12. Equally enjoyable was eating my second turkey dinner, napping and then spending the rest of the evening on the couch watching TV with my parents and B.

13. All the barriers that have been torn asunder this year. Doors I kept pushing on gave way and then others popped open surprisingly - maybe because they finally realized it was a better state of being: open.

I hope your Thanksgiving was a filling as mine.

*My parents just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Cheers, Mom and Dad!

Monday, July 5

Floating on the Fourth

The fireworks vibrated our foot pegs as B and I floated on the river. We had the best seats by far.

Tuesday, June 8

The Second Best Sandwich in the Country


Another moment in Seattle: The day before we leave for Seattle, B calls out from the living room that there is this sandwich we’ve got to try while we’re there. It is on one of those Travel/Food Network shows, and Paseo’s Cuban Roast is in the number two slot of some ever popular top whatever list. We are a bit giddy to fulfill a silly goal: to travel to some place to eat what we saw on TV.

Saturday, May 15, turns out to be the day. Paseo’s has a couple locations, and we decide we’ll go to Fremont, a cool, artsy in the let’s-build-a-giant-troll-under-the-bridge-sort-of-way suburb. We know we’ve found the place not only by the blue dot on the Google map, but by the meandering line up the sidewalk. There is no sign. The place is clad in aluminum, has glass front doors and is about 10 feet wide. Okay, maybe 15. We take our place, jaw a bit with some other folks who are here on the same quest and play on our iPhones - the device that makes waiting completely painless. A sign informs us that due to the rising cost of corn a side of it will be extra instead of coming with the sandwich. B deducts that they put it with the sandwich for a reason so he orders two Cuban Roasts with corn. Once his name is called and a heavy bag of roast pork sandwiches is in hand, we head off to a park I located on the phone while we waited.

There are maybe six places to sit in tiny Paseo’s, and unless you enjoy wild-eyed, pork-leering people streaming past as you eat, I highly recommend taking your lunch to nearby Green Lake Park.

We park the rental, locate a spot at the edge of a tree’s shadow overlooking the pretty glacially-formed lake and open the bag. This sandwich is big like a sub on the tastiest crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bread. We both sit straddling the large white squares of meat-packing paper in which our sandwiches rest. The pork is tender and plain. This is not a saucy sandwich, but the juice makes it a drippy, sit-down meal. On top of the pork are super-thick onions. You know when you have a giant onion ring and the whole thing comes sliding out of the crust all in one piece? About 10 of those succulent monsters glisten on each sandwich. Finally, there’s a surprisingly light layer of mayonnaise dotted generously with sliced jalapeƱos. This pork-and-onion-loving, mayo-despising, might-shy-from-jalapeƱos gal absolutely loves it. We deem the Paseo Cuban Roast worthy of the wait in line to get it. Heck, it’s worthy of the flight.

We are in a happy stupor afterward, watching people bike, stroll, run and roll by on the paved loop. We do a lot of fun things this week in Seattle, but this is one of my favorite moments, laying back on raincoats for blankets in the grass, bellies full of yum and hearts full of happy as we lay side-by-side.

Since I know you are not content with that ending, still yearning to learn about America’s number one sandwich, I give you this.

Monday, June 7

Bruce and Brandon Six Feet From the Living

Another moment in Seattle: Bruce and Brandon Lee lay below our feet. It’s completely surreal. Way back in the day B and I loved martial arts and actually met in a class; we still enjoy watching Kung Fu movies as much as ever. Bruce’s stone looks just like I’ve seen in pictures, but we are surprised to find Brandon right next to him. Brandon’s stone is designed with a space sliced down its middle; I touch it and imagine when it rains that it pours out each side making two little fountains. I remember later that I didn’t touch Bruce’s stone. I have lived three years longer than this man, but he lived so much more intensely.



We took pause reading the too-true inscription on Brandon’s stone: “Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times. And a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seem limitless.” - For Brandon and Eliza, Ever Joined in True Love’s Beauty

Sunday, June 6

Top Pot

Intro: I’ve been meaning to put up a nice post about our May vacation in Seattle. Instead, I am going to write tiny posts of excellent moments B and I had over those glorious, rain-free seven days*.


I type Top Pot Doughnuts into my phone just to see if we’re close, and find we’re within a mile of one. It’s our last day in Seattle, and we’re spending it consulting our mishmash list of possible things to see and do. We’ve just left Bruce and Brandon Lee’s graves, and I tell B, “We’re just minutes away from Top Pot. Shall we go?” He says, “Sure," and makes the turn.

We’ve had no dinner and decide a doughnut will hold us over. This is vacation-think and wouldn’t happen in real life. Maybe it is partially inspired by the too true life-is-short sentiment on Brandon Lee’s grave.** We park on the side of street and stroll down to yet another establishment with an awesome neon sign. The Seattle area has a high-concentration of fantastic neon signs, but that is a post for another day.

In true vacationer style, we tell the fellow behind the counter that we’ve come here just to try these doughnuts and learn that we are standing in the original Top Pot without even trying. The Pink Feather Boa is not to be found in the glass case - which we’ve seen promoted in magazines - but coconut and frosting would not be my first choice anyway. I am ecstatic to see a glaze-free cruller and then ask Pleasant Counter Guy what his favorite is. At his mention, I look down and spot it: the fattest Bavarian cream donut I have every been in the presence of. I order one of each and a glazed blueberry for the next morning - fuel for our 6:00 a.m. flight home.***

It turns out Top Pot’s hand-forged cruller is just a fry cake with ridges - not the airy, eggy donut that I love. Undeterred, I cast the remains of it back into it’s cute little sack and bring out the Bavarian. O. M. G. At roughly 3” high, this is the thickest Bavarian cream donut I’ve ever held, and is there just a dollop of ooey goodness inside? No, it is a filled from edge to edge: yummy, puddin’ deliciousness in every bite with a light, sweet-but-not-too-sweet dough all around covered in delicious chocolate fudge - not that crusty, glazey ick you get at most chain donut stores. From the window counter seat, I sit looking at a strange van that has seen better days and probably many adventures. I lick my fingers and wonder if it belongs to Pleasant Counter Guy as I finish the best doughnut I have ever had.

*Also known as summer in Seattle.

**I’ll share this in another post, I promise.

***The later flight was hundreds more, and I squished my face in disgust as I chose the 6:00 a.m. return knowing that would mean a 3:30 a.m. wake time.

Sunday, May 2

Tri-ing is Fun!

Last Saturday my alarm was set for 4:30 a.m., and I stand by that being the most extreme part of doing a mini-triathlon. 4:30 a.m! Saturday! Way nuttier than any amount of human-powered travel.

When I heard my city was having a race-filled weekend, I was intrigued. When I learned the swimming was replaced with kayaking, I was hitting send on my application.* This was February I think. I hit send knowing full well it could be snowing on April 24. I also made a deal with myself to call it money well wasted to be safe and warm inside instead of risking a dunk in the icy Genesee.

April 24th brought a frigid morning that would warm to the sixties. I couldn’t wait to start running! The 3.1 mile route was absolutely gorgeous on footpaths along the Genesee River near the U of R campus as we crisscrossed over the water on arched pedestrian bridges. I run hills mostly never, but these little bridges offered short little oh-hello-theres to my calves. 28 minutes (and change) later I was on my bike into 20 miles of countryside. This is the event I am least trained for, it’s my third bike ride of the year and the farthest I’ve been on my bike...ever. But to me, this is the spirit of events like this - to see if I can. I don’t visit the course when I do races. Not for half marathons, not for full marathons, not for the one duathlon I did and not for 5Ks. I glance at map for location, usually make sure the course is flat** and just decide I can do it.

Me and a friend of my husband’s*** wish each other well as we head out, him mentioning there are some nice hills on the one road. Hills? Oh, I did not prepare for this, but I am having fun. Glasses and helmet donned, I throw a leg over my mountain bike**** and away I go. I ride like the witch from Wizard of Oz (cue song.) Much less fit looking people with snacks hanging out of their pockets are passing me. The bottom line - mountain bike tires are slooooooooow on the road plus I am not an excellent cyclist, though a road bike would have helped immensely. I suck so much in this section of the race that I don’t get back to the staging area for one hour and thirty-eight minutes. Gah! It was an absolutely gorgeous ride with everything in bloom and entertaining as well as I was being passed by a guy grumbling, “I am never doing this again.” I told him, “Wait until you finish.” That is a fine, fine flavor to have a taste of.

With the bike stowed back on the rack and pulling my long-sleeve Under Armor top off over my head as I run (feels like giving birth to yourself), I complete the 100 yard dash to my kayak. It appears to be the only boat left. I am undeterred. I am thrilled to have finished the biking and be on to my favorite event. The awesome folks who I rented my race boat from put my paddle together and boat in the water as I pull on my new short-sleeve neoprene top and pants. It’s not snowing, but it is guaranteed that the Genesee is freezing. I race downstream and hit my rhythm. Yes, this is the best part. I start actually eyeing people downstream to pick off and power past. This is the first time I’ve been in a kayak this year, but my summer racing makes it feel like yesterday. Thoughts like, 'Sure you can bike better, but you can’t paddle for...' go through my mind as I pass another racer. Hey, it’s motivating and it’s true. I suck at biking, but I don’t suck at this. One guy exclaims to his girl, “Look, she’s got a motor on that boat!” Yes, this part is really fun. I cruise to finish the three miles in 38 minutes.

video

But it’s not over yet.

Two men warn me that they are going to pull me out of my boat and lift me like they do this every day. One grabs my paddle, they deposit me on my feet and tell me to run for the finish. With my bright yellow PFD flapping, I cross the line about 200 yards away, arms up and exuberant as if I have just won. I always do this; it’s spontaneous and I have won something: the right to stop. This is the most dangerous part because I want and need to keep walking. They make me stop to take off my ankle chip. Has anyone every grabbed your inner thigh just above the knee and squeezed? Have they ever done both at the same time? Holy crap, I can hardly walk and my dear husband asks me where my paddle is. So he can get it. Because he is kind. And I couldn’t care less if it has gone down river and over the falls. This is saying something because I love my paddle. I am anxiously searching out a banana where containers of carrots and cookies sit. Carrots?! I walk aimlessly, mumbling a bit incoherently until mercifully those muscles relax instantly and in unison about three minutes later. And that was the most intense part of the race, but getting up at 4:30 a.m. was still the worst of it.

When the race began at 7:30 a.m., I had three goals:
1. Finish
2. Finish in 3 hours or less
3. Do not got for a swim

I sat in the grass eating my free veggie burger, salt-n-vinegar chips and water, happy to have accomplished all three. I can’t wait to tri again.



*I can and love to swim, but how long I can do it remains to be seen. Actual training would be required here to feel confident in an open water swim. It’s not out of the question one day.

**Uh, usually,...but not this time.

***He has been spinning all winter and this will be a cake walk for him.

****I’m really comfortable on my mountain bike and spring roads are pretty much like off-road - that was my logic in leaving Old Red, my 23-year-old Schwinn with rabbit-ear gear shifting, home.

Saturday, April 10

Oh Happy Day

It is beautiful today albeit a bit cool. The sky is cloudless. My daffodils are nodding their approval as the wind pushes past.

Have you ever wondered what the weather was like the day your mom was born? Did my gram grab her winter coat or need no coat at all? Maybe there wasn’t time to even think about a coat! It is odd to know so little about the day the person who would be your own mom arrived on the planet. I hope it was as lovely as today. Happy birthday, Mom!

Friday, March 12

Pecking Away

My updated resolution list is getting some things crossed off. The bold items are next up, but I’m pecking away at this. I have all year right? How are your resolutions coming?

1. Focus (There are things I think I should do. So I’ve got to pick a thing, focus and do it.)
2. Get Adobe Certified - in anything (That’s one of the things I think I should do.)
3. Make time spent on the computer more productive
4. Tour a real, medieval castle, preferably with a moat (I’d put a moat around my house if it were allowed. They are just cool.)
5. Go to New York with my friend V Trip booked!
6. Surf again
7. Hike to Machu Picchu
8. Get paid for this clean living (My health care plan offers $500 cash back for doing healthy things) Almost halfway there.
9. Go to Hawaii again
10. Visit Venice
11. Be better
12. Be better to my houseplants My houseplants are looking fabulous; I’m checking this off.
13. Move on and forward
14. Snowboard in Utah or Colorado
15. Go on a insanely inexpensive trip to an incredible locale
16. Read more design books
17. Melt glass into beads that I am absolutely pleased with
18. Add something new and interesting to my hobby of doing new and interesting things
19. Get great new glasses to give my eyes a break from contacts
20. Take advantage of Lynda.com
21. Knit a pair of socks
22. Print this list and post it in plain sight

Tuesday, February 23

Words to Eat By

As I drove past the Third Pounder billboard featuring McDonald’s newest sandwich offering I thought to myself, “I will never eat anything with the word pounder in it.”

Then I began to think of all the words that I will not eat.* Here’s a list with their translations.
Crunchy = Fried
Crispy = Fried (unless it refers to lettuce)
Creamy = Fat
Cheesy = Fat
Melt = Fat
Big = Lots of what you don’t need
Double = Twice what you don’t need
Triple = Three times what you don’t need
Pounder = Seriously?
Liver = It’s an organ - the organ that is a filter. Ick - and I can say that because I have tried it. I like to say, “Ick!” with authority.


*Disclaimer: I love ice cream, and I will have it when I want it. Also, while I have never eaten an order of fast food fries, I love fresh cut curly fries floating (I do not exaggerate) in vinegar from vendors at summer fairs. I’m salivating at the thought.

Saturday, February 13

Remembering Chevettes and Fig Newtons

I have procrastinated all morning to not clean my house, but finally I’m sweeping my bathroom floor and listening to Debbie Millman’s Design Matters podcast. She remarks that her favorite question to ask her guests is, “What is your first creative memory?” One time after the show a guest asked her, “What is your first memory?” She thought about it for days.

As I fluffed my couch pillows (I go all over the house when I clean) and straightened the slipcover on the first piece of furniture we ever owned with cushions, I started thinking about what my first memory could be. Debbie talked about wonderful times spent with her grandparents. Some of my earliest memories are ones with my Gram as well. She lived in an apartment in a small city, and it had a porch off the back that pigeons would come to. I’m sure they were viewed as pests, but I remember loving seeing them and listening to their cooing. There are morning doves in the countryside where I grew up, but you rarely see a pigeon. City birds, I guess. I remember riding to town with my dad on a sun-drenched summer day in one of our long line of Chevettes - one of which would become my first car. I can remember looking out the window as we rode past the farm where we would get our milk in a glass jug we’d bring to the milk house, everything was green in the fields, and I love the memory for the stillness of myself in the passenger seat utterly content as the world whirrs past the window. Riding in the front seat with my dad was a great treat. I’m pretty sure seat belts didn’t exist yet, and I hadn’t a care in the world.

Those memories are before I was eight, and I’m trying to travel back farther. My mom took tons of photos of my childhood - well, my whole life up to present - and one of my favorite things to do as a kid was pull out all her wonderful photo albums, flipping pages and asking questions. It is hard to differentiate memories from memories of photos. Oh, here’s one though: My other grandmother used to give me Fig Newtons. There is no picture of that. I don’t even like Fig Newtons, but I would always take one and eat it. What a strange, rectangular, gelatinous-filled cookie. Maybe because it was peculiar I found some enjoyment in it. Maybe it was just following her down the hallway to the closet where they were kept.

I’m procrastinating again, and it’s time to go clean some more. I’ll keep thinking.

Tuesday, January 26

Oblique Thoughts

As I was choosing a font the other day, I started thinking about oblique, Helvetica Oblique to be exact. Any font with oblique after the name gives you italics. “Why isn’t the font called Helvetica Italics or Helvetica Slanted,” I wondered.

I Googled oblique to find such adjectives as slanting, skew, indirect, sloping, slant, devious, sidelong, awry, circuitous, roundabout, inclined and the definitions of the word:
1. If you describe a statement as oblique, you mean that is not expressed directly or openly, making it difficult to understand.

2. An oblique line is a straight line that is not horizontal or vertical. An oblique angle is any angle other than a right angle.

Fascinating. Then I thought I’d rather like it if the font were called Helvetica Devious.

Finally, I pondered my abs. Yes, those oblique muscles on the sides of the torso that, it turns out, lay on a slant. Huh. Those are a lot of oblique thoughts I was having that are now perfectly clear to me.

Saturday, January 23

Resolution #19

Meet my pretty new glasses! Yes, that is bright pink you see racing around the inside. It is a pleasure to wear them this Saturday morning and allow my eyes to wake up before putting in my contacts. After roughly five years of constant contacts, it’s amazing what I forgot about being Four-Eyes: I must move my head to see beyond the edges of the frame (glancing downward/upward/sideways with clarity does not happen for the nearsighted eyeglass wearer) and trying on turtlenecks is a pain, but it’s fun to wear them out and about and catch a glimpse of studious-me reflected in a window. Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come.

Saturday, January 16

Progress Report

I could wait until I’ve really made a dent in this list, but it gets done bit by bit so I’ve bolded what is in progress and crossed out goals already attained. What’s on your 2010 list? Take action on a bit of it today.

1. Focus (There are things I think I should do. So I’ve got to pick a thing, focus and do it.)
2. Get Adobe Certified - in anything (That’s one of the things I think I should do.)
3. Make time spent on the computer more productive
4. Tour a real, medieval castle, preferably with a moat (I’d put a moat around my house if it were allowed. They are just cool.)
5. Go to New York with my friend V
6. Surf again
7. Hike to Machu Picchu
8. Get paid for this clean living (My health care plan offers $500 cash back for doing healthy things; I’ve earned 1/5 so far!)
9. Go to Hawaii again
10. Visit Venice
11. Be better
12. Be better to my houseplants (This is an ongoing goal so time will tell. I’m just about to water them.)
13. Move on and forward
14. Snowboard in Utah or Colorado
15. Go on a insanely inexpensive trip to an incredible locale
16. Read more design books
17. Melt glass into beads that I am absolutely pleased with
18. Add something new and interesting to my hobby of doing new and interesting things
19. Get great new glasses to give my eyes a break from contacts*
20. Take advantage of Lynda.com
21. Knit a pair of socks
22. Print this list and post it in plain sight

*I’m so excited about my new glasses! I’ve worn contacts for the last five years or so, but my over-a-decade-old backup glasses were just good enough for me to drive in in the event of a contact lens emergency. Last week my eyes were feeling kind of dry and crappy with my lenses in and even scratchier with them out. If you Google that sort of thing, horrifying things come up. Don’t they always for any minute medical thing you might wonder about? This made the timing extra good to go get my eyes checked since it was on my list anyway, and since there was a cancelation, I was able to get in the next day! My worries of giant papillary conjunctivitis (google that and click images - yikes!) were unfounded. Besides the ever present near-sightedness I’ve had since third grade, the doctor deemed my eyes perfectly healthy.

Now the fun began! I looked at frames all week at three different places. Two are known for fun and funky (expensive) frames, and the third was right at my eye doctor’s office. I took pictures of myself with my iPhone to show prospective choices to my coworkers and was choosing better looking frames as the week went on. Finally B and I went frame shopping together as I value his opinion most. Even when I put on my old glasses that were deemed by a coworker to look like ones Mrs. Claus* - yes, Santa’s wife - would wear, he said, “Aw, there’s my love” as he fell in love with me when I was wearing big, red, circa 1980’s plastic frames day in and day out. This guy loves me in glasses or not. In the end the key was for me to shop in the kid section. I have a small head; I have a small body to go with it so that’s good, but adult-size eyeglass frames stick out way too far on the sides. After a half hour of pondering, there were two pair I could have been extremely happy with - one matte metal in dark brown with these cool beetle-green nose pad connectors and hinge screws (mature with personality), the other triple-layer plastic in dark brown outside, a thin layer of fuchsia and then very light pink on the inside in a stylish rectangular shape with an almost optimistic upward arc (professional and fun). I was 60/40 for the metal frames when I spotted a woman behind the desk. “I need your expert opinion,” I said. People love to help and she was no different nor was she wishy-washy. She asked me to switch them back and forth a couple of times and decidedly wholeheartedly on the plastic frame. I concurred. This frame made me smile when I had it on. It was also $200 dollars cheaper as I would have had to pay extra to get super thin lenses to fit the thin metal frame. That made me smile even more.

Oh, you want to see them? I’m making everyone wait until next week when I pick them up and that includes you.

*Gold, oval, wire-rimmed frames - she is absolutely right.

Sunday, January 10

I Wish

Ten days into this new year I’m going to do it. I resolve to make that resolution/wish list.

I resolve/wish to:
1. Focus (There are things I think I should do. So I’ve got to pick a thing, focus and do it.)
2. Get Adobe Certified - in anything (That’s one of the things I think I should do.)
3. Make time spent on the computer more productive
4. Tour a real, medieval castle, preferably with a moat (I’d put a moat around my house if it were allowed. They are just cool.)
5. Go to New York with my friend V
6. Surf again
7. Hike to Machu Picchu
8. Get paid for this clean living (My health care plan offers $500 cash back for doing healthy things.)
9. Go to Hawaii again
10. Visit Venice
11. Be better
12. Be better to my houseplants
13. Move on and forward
14. Snowboard in Utah or Colorado
15. Go on a insanely inexpensive trip to an incredible locale
16. Read more design books
17. Melt glass into beads that I am absolutely pleased with
18. Add something new and interesting to my hobby of doing new and interesting things
19. Get great new glasses to give my eyes a break from contacts
20. Take advantage of Lynda.com
21. Knit a pair of socks
22. Print this list and post it in plain sight

Saturday, January 2

01-02-2010

Last New Year’s Eve Rick and I were in New York City having dinner at a French restaurant with friends. This year we watched the Food Network all evening, ate plates piled high with carrots, celery, clementines, thin-sliced peppered salame and white cheddar cheese with chipotle peppers and cranberries throughout. This after a gourmet dinner of Cream of Wheat. We like Cream of Wheat and are notoriously lazy about having a New Year’s Eve plan. At midnight we called friends and family, sleeping or not. Those who get woken up by calls from people like me will be delighted to learn I got payback when my brother called early the next morning to send well-wishes. We spent 01-01-10 lazing around, happy that we were, went out for Chinese and then watched Julie & Julia (where we enjoyed watching French food being cooked).

Was last year a much more exciting start to the New Year? Yes, but I was still just as happy as it started off exactly the same way as it has for the last seventeen years - with my favorite person by my side who is the bread to my low-fat butter.*

*That’ll make more sense when you see the movie.