Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I made my bed with great care and attention to detail, which is a departure from the slapdash job I typically do.

I have a quilt from my grandmother on the top, having given up bedspreads ages ago.

The quilt is enormous and made up of blocks embroidered flowers, on a field of white. 

Each block was made during the war, by one of my grandmother's sisters, or sister-in-law, or aunt. 

There is a block for each member of the family, including the children, and I suspect it was made as a gift to my great-grandmother Anna.

In those days most women had some degree of handwork skills.

You can tell the ones that were not enthusiastic, or gifted.

The daisy people.

Then there are the strongly gifted like my grandmother, with more intricate designs, done in a traditional palette of color, deftly sewn, with fancy flourishes and French knots. 

On the other end of the spectrum there is my Aunt Alice, baby sister of the family, the sweet one, who elected to embroider pineapples and hibiscus, despite being in Idaho. 

And finally, the rebel, with garish burgundy, done in a sloppy hand.

In addition to the flowers and cones and occasional pineapple, there are names on each block.

My Aunt Mable cheated and did one block for both children, with a Tommy & Sherri, crowded into the corner.



I can imagine my grandmother sighing at both her eldest sister's burgundy rose, and her middle sister- the good looking one- and her double name block.

There would have been a certain resignation and vague disapproval. 

When I was a child I loved to hear my grandmother's stories. 

I sat upon her draped like a cat, around her neck and asked her 10,0000 questions. 

This was one of the few times you would find my grandmother inactive. 

She was a powerful woman that had many things to do, and limited leisure time, but we would sit and watch Perry Mason at noon and I would chatter in her ear and she would tell me stories of the farm, or her harsh, alien childhood, and her courtship with my grandfather.

All of the names, of the colorful cast of characters, where represented on the quilt, which would much later wind up on my bed.

At four I was scandalized by the block with the mysterious Viola embroidered in black, with a blue heart basket, filled with tiny forget me nots.

"Her name was VIOLA?!"  

Her name was Viola and she was Grandpa Jesse's first wife.

I was from an old fashioned family, where people had one wife, and one only, so this was doubly fascinating to me.

I would make my grandmother tell me how everyone died, and how many children they had, whether they were beautiful, ambitious, homely, or shiftless, who could bake a decent pie, who bought store brought bread, and never swept up properly.

I knew my grandmother's aunt Effie had eleven children, and was loving and kind to every, single, one (something her own mother was not.)

I knew that Alice was the pie baker, and my grandmother's specialty was cake, and that her mother would pull them out of school at harvest time, to cook for the threshing teams.

My grandparents lived in a sort of time capsule, with wood heat, and a wringer washing machine, and home grown vegetables.

While other children were charmed by shows like The Waltons, my family lived it. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Max and the Zacks went over to Zak L's place after band practice.

I can host practice, but the over night thing is not my favorite, Zak's parents have a bigger house and a rec room.

When he came home this morning he said that they had taken the dog for a walk around 11:30, and run into  a man beating up a woman at Richmond park.

When the boys walked up the man ran away.

The woman said she didn't want them to call the cops and that she would be ok. 

They walk on, but as they were coming around the other side of the block, they saw the guy chasing the woman down the block, so they rant after them.

The man turned and yelled at the boys, that he was a Crip and some other slurry nonsense, and Max said that while he wasn't afraid that a gang of Crips would come, he was concerned about the guy being armed and extremely unstable.

He said right at the moment they were going to call 911, a cop walked out of the cafe across from Village Merchants, so they told him about the couple and the cop jumped in his car and drove off toward the park, where they were last seen.

He was a little shaken up, as we don't have a lot of violence and drama in our lives (thank goodness) and he has certainly never seen a man punching a woman in the face before.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Last night I went to bed very late, because I knew I didn't have to get up for work.

As I was falling asleep, I heard a scratching, coming from the built in cupboard, next to my bed.

Our house was build in 1916, and at some point someone finished the tallest parts of the attic and put in this chest of drawers and two cupboards right into the wall. 

Good concept, poor execution, because they didn't finish the back. 

The cupboard, is deep and opens right into the wings of the attic; you can see the roof, and a little bit of daylight, where the insulation ends.

I asked Mark to check.

He went downstairs and got an oven-mitten and a flashlight and slowly opened the cupboard door. 

There was nothing there.

We went to sleep, only to be awakened again at 3:00am and 4:45. 

I banged on the door, and barricaded it shut with my sewing machine and the trash can.

At first I was thinking rat, which was horrifying, but then I changed my mind to squirrel, because of the nature of the scratching.

When I worked for the yogic school we had a squirrel problem in the house where the nuns lived.

They were horrible pests, running through the walls and on one occasions busting through into the kindergarten room.

One tiny paw, sticking through the plaster, in a black power style salute.

This morning I asked Mark to look again and he said there was no poop (which rules out rats!), but there was the beginning of a nest, with pieces of insulation.

My plan is to blow dry the insulation back out of the cupboard, to create a hostile environment, then trap the squirrel, using the trap my neighbor lent me this morning.

I can then drive the squirrel five miles away, and release her.

I can't do any of this until this stupid snow melts, because driving is currently impossible. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Snow Day

The snow started falling during naptime.

I didn't notice, because I had all the shades drawn and the blackout curtains pulled, so the children would sleep as long as possible.

Ms. Theresa and I were hopping around settling restless children and cleaning the bathroom, when one of the dads burst into the room at 2:30.

I gave him my usual, I know you did not just walk into a roomful of sleeping preschoolers, look, but I could tell from the snow on his feet that is must have gotten bad, since we pulled the drapes at 12:30 for story.

He did a pretty decent job of picking up his sleeping child silently, while I rooted around in the giant pile of coats and boots for her pink snow pants and mittens.

We suited her up and sent them off into a Christmas card looking flurry.

My Facebook friend Kirkwhousedtobeinthenavyandknowsaboutweatherpatterns had said that this snow would be dry and the wind blustery and that it most likely would not stick, so I was feeling sort of ok about it.

Another parent texted me that she would be there in ten minutes, so I got her child up and dressed and seated on the shoe bench with a cracker.

When she arrived she said the traffic was bad, so I woke up the rest of the children, and got Theresa to help speed clean up the beds and get snack served, so she could get going home to NW.

Portland is just not set up to deal with snow and ice.

It is always a big mess.

It just is.

Best not to be out in it.

At 4:20 I was worried, but then my last little girl exclaimed that she saw her mom in the driveway, which eased my mind.

I cleaned up the last little bits and bobs and got the hell out, just as the snow was starting to pack down on the secluded side streets, in the sleepy neighborhood where the preschool lives, just over the Multnomah county line, and a little rural and not well traveled.

I slide a little as I pulled onto 72nd, behind a long line of stopped cars, but after crawling a few blocks, I noticed it was because there was a stalled car with it's flashers on.  We all drove around it carefully and were back in business by the time we passed Duke.

All the way home, uneventfully along 72nd, past Woodstock, Foster, Holgate, headed toward Powell, I felt profoundly grateful that my parents all picked up in daylight.

I have been working in child care since 1986 on and off and over the years I have been stuck closing many times with children that had parents that simply could not get to them.

The first time it happened was the winter of 1988, while I was working at a Montessori school downtown.

I met Rolf there that spring, and by winter we were already best friends.

We both lived downtown, he and his wife right next to Safeway on 10th and me a little further out on Broadway Drive, just at the base of the hill going up to Counsel Crest.

I was working and going to PSU and Rolf was finishing his PhD at the chemistry department and his wife was finishing hers remotely, which was harder back then than it is now with the internet.

They had a little girl that was in my class at the Montessori school.

The snow was falling and the city was shutting and all the children had been picked up.

Rolf had picked up Johanna and was waiting to walk home with me, but I had one baby left, Camden, a bald blue eyed beauty that I babysat frequently.

Camden's mother loved me.

She loved me because I knew a lot about taking care of babies, even though I was only 20.

She was a very nervous lady, a lawyer.

A teeny, tiny, nervous lawyer lady that didn't know anything about babies.

I can't remember what his father did, but he was gone often and was named Michael.

They lived up the hill from me in a very fancy house, that was minimally furnished with great intention.

My grandmother would have thought they were too poor for furniture, but they wanted it that way.

I often babysat for them over the weekends in that emptyish house.

I loved that baby fiercely, as I would many of the babies I cared for over the years.

So when the snow started falling and the children started leaving, and no one had come for Camden Brown, my boss came to tell me his parents were stuck in Salem and that they wondered if I could take him home with me, it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do.

So I packed up his bag, and set off in the snow, up the park blocks and onto Broadway.

I borrowed a stroller from the school and put the baby bags and my basket in it (in those days I carried all my school gear around in an absurd market basket),and put Camden in one of those old Gerry back packs that were in fashion then.

Rolf carried baby Johanna on his shoulders, she hung onto his long hair like the reigns of a horse, shrieking and laughing.

I was wearing my wooden Swedish clogs, the green leather ones that I got at a garage sale for .90, black cotton tights and long peasant skirt, with a motor cycle jacket, that I thought made me look like Patti Smith, and Rolf was wearing black leather boots that made it clear he was German.  I had my beret on my head and Rolf had wrapped the baby's sweater on his, tying the sleeves under his chin.

We slipped and slid along, until we hit Broadway, with all the awnings and made pretty good speed.

The plan was that we would walk along and at some point meet up with Rolf's wife in the car, but we wound up walking all the way to my house, with both both babies, our gear and the stroller.

When we got there my housemate and her girlfriend were home.

Rolf's wife made it a little later, having ditched their car, a 1968 Corolla at the bottom of my hill.

We all ate lentil soup and bread and played records and looked at the Christmas tree.

We played Scrabble and cooed at the babies.

Rolf and his wife and Johanna went home in the dark, walking through the park blocks to their tiny apartment,(a corner of the Simon Benson house, that would later be restored and moved onto the PSU campus).

Camden and I curled up with my poodle Teddy Braun, in my big antique bed, with all the blankets I could find, and Denise and Jackie, my roomates, slept on the floor with us, because there was only heat in the one room of that house.

The next afternoon the parents arrived to pick up their baby and paid me, for something I would have done for free.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Friday I drove to Carson, Washington and did a soak and wrap at Carson hot springs.

The Carson bathhouse a 1900 hotel in the middle of no where in the Columbia gorge. 

The place is shabby and smells like boiled eggs, but the mineral water is amazing and makes you forget about the yucky spots on the cast iron tubs, where the enamel has worn away.

You soak for a half hour and then you lie on a little lawn chairesque lounge, and a nice lady wraps you up in warm sheets and blankets, where you lie for another half hour. There is also a sauna, but I hate saunas so I didn't use it.

I was fully pain free for the rest of the day and night, after the soak. 

It is a peaceful place with no cell coverage, so perfect for a bit of mind clearing.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Apple pie, pumpkin pie, pear gingerbread tart tatin, and Karen's almond rocca cookies

My friend Tamara, who is always inexplicably delighted to see me and most kind

Ham and turkey
All the usual suspects, or most anyway, I made four fewer dishes this year in some kind of austerity measure, that didn't entirely make sense.  We still had too much food.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Yesterday I worked at the cart, and it was moderately busy.


It was fine, I was working with the sullen young man, that broods silently about whatever it is that fills his mighty mind, and keeps mostly to himself.

While this is not my most favorite model of work, he and I get a lot done and are typically quite successful.

He thinks I am old and resents me not allowing him to play his electronic music, and I find him insufferably young and cranky and am happy that I can play the old lady card and nix the music.

It is a delicate balance, but we make it work for five hours a week.

Yesterday, we were dealing with a new system of take out, a new venture by Uber, where you order food online and an Uber driver picks it up and drives it to you.

You can eat out while in your pajamas.


People have been doing this for decades with pizza and Chinese, but this is branching out to all the foods in the whole wide world.

It is a terrific concept, but it was new to us, and new to the drivers and there was this chirping and chiming ipad to contend with, rather than real people calling in their orders.

All the while our regulars, in all their hungover glory,
all the families with hungry children
young people in love,
elderly picky eaters,
each and every one, kept right on coming, all through the dinging and chiming.

 All through the chirping and tweeting, time marched on and the tickets piled up and the people had ten thousand questions, and we lovingly answered every single one, because that is what we do, we cook and serve with

l o v e.    

We remember who likes extra syrup, and who adds bacon to the sausage and who likes their things extra crispy.  

Then the new guy let the bacon run out, and surly dude and I gritted our teeth and steeled our nerves and worked through it.

"I was thinking you made those preemptive eggs too early, but they are almost gone"  

Is the closest thing to a compliment he said to me all day. 

And at some point there was a fellow named Kyle that ordered online and his driver was a little confused and needed to use the restroom, and I was feeling very nervous because I had made Kyle the most beautiful, breathtakingly gorgeous sweet treat in universe with whipped cream and berries and I just could not square that with the restroom, but there it was. I suggested he leave the bag, or better yet RUSH the food to it's recipient, pronto, and the hint was received.

My blood pressure rose and rose as I watched the driver wander around and around and eventually tramp off into the fog.

Naturally there was nothing I could do, but it disturbed me greatly.

My November dinner was a Mexican theme.

I made a Oaxacan salad with chili peanuts and pomegranate seeds , a pork and sweet potato mole, and goat cheese and mashed potato stuffed poblano peppers, friends brought salsa, a green mole with prawns and a corn and kale salad
 I also made margaritas and sangria

Everyone was shellshocked after the elections and a few guests cancelled but we managed to rally and have a nice time.

*photo credit to Ms. Dianna

charing peppers 

In other festive November news, I scored big at the Twilight Rummage Sale.

TLRS is a monthly gathering of pickers and junk hounds, at the Eagles Lodge on Hawthorne.

It is a last vestige of old Portland, with little old ladies and punk rockers and weirdos of every stripe, gathering to look at treasures, records, books, toys, and works of art and sometimes complete garbage, heaped upon  folding tables.

The Eagles have a bar and little diner in one corner, where there members gab, as shoppers shop and sometimes mix.

I scored this fabulous teensy cuckoo clock for ten dollars.

It has it's key and works, beautifully.

Freyja and I go faithfully each month, in hopes of catching artist Alicia Justus of Redstar art, because every single thing she makes is pure magic.

We collect a series of felt mice that she hand sews, as well as her little grab bags of vintage dodads and googas that one most certainly cannot do without. We also love the work of Kimi Boylan, who transforms found objects into amazing tiny shrines.  

Much more mice. 

A print of a painting by Alicia Justice, of  Ruth Gordon, from a 1940's movie magazine.

I had this perfect little leather frame lying around, so it was clearly meant to be, since I am a Ruth Gordon superfan.