Sunday, May 31, 2009

movies and books

we now have NETFLIX, which is soooo much cooler than Blockbuster
(BB you totally suck and we hate you)
since they rarely had the good cable shows in and there is there really weird guy that works there and always picks a fight with Mark each time he went to rent a movie.

Last night we watched "Miller's crossing", and LOVED it all over again.
Gabriel Byrne is super cool and the whole mob theme is right up our alley.

We have been trying to watch the first season of "In Treatment" with Gabriel Byrne- which everyone on the PLANET loves, but I happen to hate. I don't know why, since the acting is really good, the writing is good...

I just can't stand it though.

I am just cracking a novel called "Lullabies for Little Criminals"
so far it is blowing my mind. I hope it keeps up. hope, hope.

I am also in the middle of "my life at first try"
by Mark Budman, which is awesome.
I love any story set in Siberia, but this one is especially touching and harsh and good, and moving and funny. I can't do it justice, just pick it up!

the artist as a young man with salsa

I just can't get enough of salsas... so here we have mango! salsa cruda, tomatilla green, chipoltle peppers in adobo sauce, and some paper thin daikon, with rice vinegar, cilantro and oil.
Those veggies are headed for the grill. I very well may be spelling all of those things wrong, and I am willing to live with it, so there!

In the spirit of not being able to leave well enough alone, I have added this piece of fabric to the black side of the new fridge.

Black is just not the right thing for this old funky kitchen.

I LOVE "Modern", as in mid-century, or Danish Modern, but I can't stand contemporary, or minimalist, and that my friends is what a black rectangle reminded me of.

So there you have it.

I added the "dutch master's" print, that I bought 18 years ago at Daisy Kingdom, when we lived in NW. My dining room chairs are covered with it, and I had this big extra piece that I was just waiting for some special project to use it for.

So now I have used it, and I think it works well.
I hemmed up all sides, and attached with with adhesive Velcro, top and bottom.

Maxwell is busy studying a monologue for a play he is trying out for. He has chosen a comedy piece from a book of monologues for children (who knew?).

He has done a lot of "play-labs" at the theatre school, but he wants to try out for a real play, which involves a 1 minute monologue, as well as a song. He is going to sing "consider yourself" from "Oliver", which I happen to remember the lyrics to (form 7th grade choir).

S C A R Y !

Mark is coordinating all of this theatre business, with the help of his father, who happens to be a theatre professor at a university, so I hope it turns out well.

It all makes me really nervous, so I am trying to stay detached from the project.

He is hoping to get a part in "Narnia", but when you audition, you audition for the whole season, so he could get into a play that is not his first choice.

It is all very nerve wracking.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

a good way to ruin your manicure

We have a lot of cardoons in our yard.

Rolf loves them.

They are giant thistles, closely related to the artichoke, and they require very little water or care. They grow to be about 8" in summer, and look really lovely,

b u t

Rolf has this bad habit of planting things in poorly thought out places, and they can become problematic.

In this case he planted the cardoon, right next to a stump, and too close to the deck.

It made lawn mowing a total hassle.

For eleven years I would run over the outer leaves of his plant, and he would get angry at me.
So today, on the heels of my exciting evening out, and my lively breakfast with Freyja, I said

"why don't we cut out that stupid stump, and put some pavers around the cardoon! Mark is taking the kids to gymnastics and the library, so we have about two hours free to get things DONE"

So in the half cocked manner that we do most things, we set off excavating the soil around the plant, hacking the stump with an axe, and digging it out, and inserting pavers- all with our bare hands.

The plant looks really nice now, but in the process, I ripped off all ten nails, and gouged my leg on the stump, and was attacked by angry, biting ants.

I will not be getting that hand model gig anytime soon.

super fan stays up late

I am a teensy bit groggy this morning, having stayed up past midnight last night, which is not something I do, usually, since Freyja wakes up at the crack of dawn, regardless of how late she goes to bed.

Rolf babysat her, so the trade off to going out, was coming home at 11:00 to a rampaging Freyja, having consumed bubble gum, lime soda and the better part of a loaf of white bread.

We went to see Anthony Bourdain last night, and it was every bit as exciting as I had hoped. The crowd was rowdy and bawdy, and I was so excited to have been out of the house and having fun, that I went a little nuts and stayed up another hour chatting Rolf up.

Anthony (I feel that my deep love for him gives me the right to be on a first name basis) talked about all my favorite subjects, made fun of Alice Waters and organic food fascists, and was unabashedly gushy & sentimental about his toddler.

The lecture was held at the Civic auditorium, rather that the Schintzer theatre (which I hate because the rows are too close together. That squished feeling spoils the whole evening.)

The Q&A portion of the talk was a little too long, and some of the folks asking questions were rambling and a little boring, but all and all it was one of the best things I have ever done, ranking right up there with a lecture from Kurt Vonnegut, that I attended in the late 80's- and you know how dearly I love Kurt, so there you are.

Freyja woke me up at 6:30am demanding to go to "the big red mill" (Bob's Red Mill), for breakfast. She, Rolf and I snuck out and let Mark sleep a bit longer.
It is amazing how restorative having a bit of fun can be!

Despite being tired as hell, I feel remarkably good! So good in fact, that I am off to Home Depot, to by bricks to make a border around our cardoon.

Does it get any better than that?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

keep your fork! There's PIE!

When life gives you a broken refrigerator and a pile of frozen fruit,
you make PIE!

the new phone books are here, the new phonebooks are here!

The mood in the finc household last night was just like the phonebook scene out of the Jerk!

The night before our long ailing fridge finally bit the dust, and we set off to purchase a new one.

Buying a new anything is a very big deal in our house, since we are super bit cheapskates, and we have this commitment to by debt free, so we never buy anything without a lot of hand wringing and saving up.

Thank goodness for all of that saving up, we were able to go straight out and buy a new one for cash. I even got to have a stainless steel door, which makes me really happy!


The old fridge had been going steadily downhill for about 2 years.

It would drip water into the crisper and freeze up, so that once a week Rolf and I would have to take everything out and defrost it- even though it was a frost free model.
It kind of sucked, ruined a lot of produce, and generally made everyone irritated.

So this was a very big deal, which involved Freyja, sobbing that she would miss the old fridge, and demanding to pick out the new one.

Before everything was all cleaned up, there was this big pile of crap on the counter, from all the stuff that was in the fridge. Who knew so much could fit into one refrigerator?

YIKES! We do enjoy our condiments.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

fanicful fairies

I finished up this sweet little fairy, and started on another.

I will make some little pillow cases out of them, later.

Embroidery is one of those focused activities that feels really satisfying, when I am feeling melancholy and meaningless.
Machine sewing doesn't really do it for me, since i am not skilled enough for it to be fun, but this- I do it well, so I feel accomplished at the end.
I was delighted to find the perfect embroidery basket, with a close fitting lid, at Goodwill recently.
I am not very neat with my supplies and having them sitting out in the open, is like a red flag for both Moonshadow and Freyja to ransack the stuff, and throw needles and thread all over the place, which is never a good idea.

I am really proud of having mastered the French knot, finally.
The fairy dust was like French knot boot camp, and I passed with flying colors! I don't know what compelled me to put that one blue star in there.
It always happens to me- I always have to throw in some out of line thing.

There is this little voice in me that drives me on to do something off color or experimental... and there it is one blue star wrecking an almost perfect piece of work.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

two projects for today

We have another child birthday party to attend- this one is for Freyja's best friend, who happens to like pirates, so I made her this pirate vest, copied from the red one below, which I made for a ballet recital that Maxwell was in when he was four.

The original is slightly nicer, since I used a wool felt, and the trim is a lot nicer, than rick rack, but I think the blue one looks pretty snazzy too. Somewhere around here in the dress up trunk, there is a cool cumberbun made from grosgrain ribbon, that I made to go with the vest. It was a very nice costume if I do say so myself.

The skirt is for Miss F. She is refusing to wear anything but skirts these days, and when I was buying the felt for the vest I fell in love with that pear fabric.
I love anything with a pear motif... lots of pears in our house.

The whole thing took a lot longer than necessary, due to the fact that the tension on my machine was all screwed up, and every inch or so, the thread would break. That really put me in a bad mood, but I am happy with the final results.

Friday, May 22, 2009

returning victorious!

Enjoying the some home cooking, after the Camp out.

Maxwell and Mark have been away this week for a school nature camp.

We are not an outdoorsy family, even a little bit.
We don't even like going outside of the city limits, so this was a very big deal.

To live without real coffee and cigarettes for days was huge for Mark, and he did it!
The biggest problem, aside from the concept of sleeping on a wooden slab, and going without a shower for more than a day, was that we don't own any of the thousands of pieces of camping gear the OMSI folks demand that your bring with you.

The only sleeping bag we have, for instance, is a Scooby Do toddler model given to Maxwell by one of our neighbors.

Air mattress, rain pants, woolen underwear (seriously!), hiking boots, oh the list went on and on, and we had NOTHING.

Thank god Mark's sister married one of those camping types last year and he was able to prevent us having to go into bankruptcy over this one trip.

They had a really nice time checking out the end of the Lewis & Clark trail, eating smores and spending time together, but they were happy to be home.
Freyja and I were happy to have them home. With Rolf gone too, I was left to sleep with the animals (otherwise the poodle howls in the middle of the night from loneliness).

Freyja was totally unwilling to sleep upstairs alone, so I wound up with a giant cat, Miss F, and the poodle in Rolf's double bed.
It was not relaxing to say the least!
Rolf is a lovely person, a brilliant person, but a terrible housekeeper and his room is packed floor to ceiling with books and old newspapers, cat hair and dust, so in addition to not having extremely fresh air to breath, each time I shifted in bed, a stack of papers would crash over.
Like I said, not relaxing.
Maxwell will be back on dog duty tonight!

Friday, May 15, 2009

poor old doggie

Rolf is away on a business trip for two weeks.
He left last Sunday, and both Freyja and the dog are bedside themselves over it.
Last night he phoned, and I put the receiver to Ripley's ear, and as soon as he heard Rolf's voice is jumped down and ran to the door!

He was so disappointed when his master didn't walk in.

Maxwell is dog sitting and doing a fairly decent job of caring for the dog in the over the top manner he is used to (although he has not been eating his meals at the table, like he does when Rolf is around to hold him on his lap.)

This is Freyja's dramatic & lengthy g o o d b y e !
She is being bribed with that lolipop, to let go of Rolf's neck (by him not me)

Let them eat cupcakes!

I promised to make some cupcakes for a fundraiser a friend is doing for a woman with cancer.
I always forget how fickle my ancient oven can be, making baking a bit of a crapshoot.
About eight years ago, while I was broiling something, there was this
sound and a big FLASH of light.

The top element had, in a sort of reverse welding, come detached from the oven and has been out of commission since.
It scared the hell out of me, at the time.
Rolf was coming around the corner and said he saw my shadow on the wall and then the big flash! It scared him badly too. It was not a good thing to have happen in your kitchen.
Shortly after that, the smaller oven on the left died.

So I am limited to baking in one tiny substandard oven.

It hasn't caused too many problems though... filo dough will not crisp up well, but other than that things are pretty ok.

Pulling the pocket stove out and replacing it would be a whole kitchen remodel, which we don't have the money for, so there you are. We make do.

One of the wacky things I always have to take into account when baking is that the left side of the oven cooks about 25 degrees hotter than the right.

Which means a lot of rotating of pans.
Today I spaced that out and burned 9 devil's food cupcakes.

Maxwell was happy to eat the burned ones, so it worked out ok.
Here I am about half way through the process.
These are my signature devil's food, with chocolate frosting (from Joy of cooking) and a basic GĂ©noise Cake that I added orange, lemon and pineapple juice to, the frosting is powdered sugar, mixed with coconut cream, and they are topped with coconut.
The devil's food is topped with sprinkles.
I also made a ginger/applesauce bunt cake, that I cello wrapped and I hope it will get sold whole, because it looks pretty that way. I bought some pastry boxes for transportation.

some have butter cream frosting (the plain ones) some have a glossier icing made with the coconut milk, that is sort of drizzled on (the sprinkled ones) .

Monday, May 11, 2009

big stack of books

Mark and the kids got me a big stack of paperbacks for Mother's Day.

Snow Flower and the secret Fan

I started on this one by Lisa See, it is pretty good so far, but I was feeling a little woozley yesterday, and had to put it down because the chapter where the foot binding starts was just too gross, and too intense to take. I find this period of Chinese history really fascinating, so I am exciting to have this book.

I am also reading body of lies , which I am not in love with so far.
The story is ok, but not well written enough to really suck me in, in a big way- this one will take a long time to get through.
I suspect I will slog though it though, just because I am a sucker for spy stories.

Speaking of spys, I am also reading the last supper by Charles Mccarry. This is the story of how our spy hero Paul Christopher got into the business. I love the series and I love this book too, just for fun. McCarry knows how to write a good spy story and throw in a lot of historical facts that make it interesting and informative at the same time.

and last but not least, I started the man in the white sharkskin suit, a memoir about a Jewish Egyptian family, told by the youngest child. I just read the first chapter, but I think it will be an interesting story. I wasn't blow away, or anything, but the subject matter was unique enough to make me want to know more.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

pork and cougars

My husband has a work party to attend tonight.
We don't have childcare, so I am staying home, which is fine enough with me, since people I don't know make me nervous.

This morning he told me in passing that the party had a theme of "food on a stick", and that he needed to bring something.

"I think I will pick up some fruit bars from Trader Joe's on my way."


you are taking Popsicles to a party?

Are you

They will
melt, and besides, people will think you have a bad wife.

"no one will think that. Why would anyone think that?"

That is just the kind of thing people think, when they see a guy, alone, with a box of Popsicles at a party.

Or worse, NO WIFE.

Besides, I have all these mangoes that Rolf bought on sale. I could make...

" These people are all meat and potato- they are not going to appreciate some vegan mango dish, trust me."

Then I will cook something meaty!

" This is veering in to cougar diorama territory isn't it? "

Yes, it possibly is, a little bit.

When Maxwell was in kindergarten he woke up at 10:00pm, to inform me that he had a cougar diorama due for a science fair in the morning.

I had a new baby and I was very disorganized, and I was working and had no knowledge of the science fair, or of cougars, BUT I stayed up very late building a very fine diorama, that didn't win a prize, but it should have.

Now normally, I would not do my child's homework for him (that is not entirely true), but at this time Maxwell was attending a magnet school, full of stay at home mothers that literally stayed at the school all day with their children!

These folks volunteered all day long and cheerfully put on all kinds of bake sales, art demonstrations and planned endless field trips, while I dropped my child off at 8:45 and picked him up again at 3:00pm and did my one volunteer shift per week, by helping the librarian.

I am not a bad mom, but I do work and I did have this newborn, and the whole thing (the school, not the newborn) was really taxing (we have since left for a more normal school, where the parents treat their children with a proper level of indifference.)

Now for most people this would not have been that big of a deal, but I am a worrier.

I am a big, nervous worrier and a perfectionist too, so having things undone or half done, or poorly done, just sends me right over the edge.
One of my biggest flaws is my over concern with what people think of me, and I spend a good deal of my childhood not having what I need, or not having the right thing at the right time. The idea of my child not having everything he needs, and it not being perfect, is enough to send me right over the edge, so naturally I needed to make the cougar habitat, and naturally, I needed to make some pork kabobs for tonight.

It really is that simple.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mushroom pate

My children are gonna hate me for it, but we are having mushroom pate for dinner.
Add Image
Saute mushrooms, onions and garlic in olive oil or butter, salt & pepper

grind it up with cream cheese or sour cream

sunflower seeds
and fresh dill

chill well

serve with rustic bread or rye crackers
and some raw vegetables or other salads, like beets or egg salad.

pretend you are in Minsk.
a rousing game of hand over hand slapping game with no name but everyone knows.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

is it all relative?

My new mother's helper is a women's studies major at PSU.


She is training to work for the same shelter I worked for.


We have a lot to chat about while we fold socks.

Seeing someone so excited about university life, makes me feel very old, and tired and over the hill.

Like most conversations between people who have women's studies backgrounds a lot of our conversation revolves around class, oppression and privilege.

We had a little debate about the merits of Marxist feminism.

Me in favor,
she feeling that Marx was too limited,
in the early part of the conversation
and eventually that Marx was passe.
She was dissing Marx, right in my kitchen.

I had to pull myself out of my cotton-wool-headed, stupor and come up with some intelligent comebacks and quick.

Intellectual issues don't come up often in my everyday life, that is for certain.

Is Marx passe, because he puts class ahead of race or gender?
Or are things more relative to time and place and circumstance?

Shouldn't we cut Marx some slack for living in the time and place that he did?

She said that Marxist think that the root of all the world's problems are that we are oppressed.

Well aren't we ?

(I imagine a classroom full of young earnest women, hearing the word "oppression" and having it sound like Jan Brady saying "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha")

She told me that, no the problem is that we are unhappy.

You mean like the Buddhists,?
That life is suffering?
That kind of fundamental "unhappiness"?
If so isn't that a result of oppression?

No, it is really our lack of community that creates inequality.

So, It is disenfranchisement, that creates unhappiness. *edited to add that this last sentence is totally my interpretation of the conversation- the notion of disenfranchisement leading to fundamental unhappiness and isolation. Geesh, even the notion of isolation is coming from my point of view. See, I cannot help myself, I just always have to put my own interpretation onto what others say- it is a disease, I tell you. I swear I was trying to be a good listener.

Is that not oppression, in it's purest form?
I argued
Isn't that the very essence of not owning the "means of production", perhaps not strictly in a economic sense but the means of producing meaningful community, and in the end one's own sense of happiness and meanifullness in the community?

She suggested I read Bell Hooks,

I assured her I had, but I am happy to take a second look.

I suggested she think of relativism & context and how class impacts everyone regardless of race and gender, and how classist, hierarchical systems develop in all sub sets and sub classes, how Americans are controlled by the notion of upward mobility... etc. I used organized crime as an example. Her partner is interested in true crime and organized crime, like Mark. I told her that we had recently rewatched the film "casino" and that the film is a great allegory for class and oppression issues. It was an interesting conversation.

I will take a second look at the community issue.

I get beaten up with the word "community" so much in my work, that the very sound of the word kind of makes me want to vomit, but I didn't say that.

I like this gal, and I am so dang happy to have someone come during a time that works well for me. I am even happy to be challenged about Marx- what the hell!

It is good to be young.

It is hard to be old and tired, and to struggle to put two sentences together to form a semi-meaningful dialogue.

It is hard to be bored with your life and to find meaning in folding socks.

It is good to be right & righteous, which is almost always how I feel about my ideals.
I am happy not to have lost that along with most everything else that was attractive about me.

It is good to have a mother's helper to help fold the socks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

just for decoration

Miss F- "why do girls have nee nees?"

Me- "to feed their babies, when they grow up"

Miss F- "why do boys have them?"

Me- "I don't know"

Miss F- "just for decoration."

Me- "that sounds like a good answer"

Miss F- "but they don't have vaginas, even for decoration."

No, no they don't.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Mark just came home from the library with a really big stack, so I am feeling hopeful.

I am currently reading "the good wife", by Stewart O'Nan. It is ok. It is about a blue collar couple. The husband gets drunk and commits a bone headed crime, and the wife is left, pregnant, to deal with the aftermath.

The story is interesting and compelling, but I am always a little turned off by folks writing about the blue collar experience, when their writing seems less than sincere.

Something is a little off, I don't know if it is because a man is writing from the perspective of a pregnant woman, or if it is a class issue.

I have issues with class issues, so there you go.

I recently read "a simple plan", and I felt like the author was able to nail that small town blue collar perspective perfectly, so it isn't like I am totally off the charts picky.

We are watching season two of The Riches, and I continue to love it. Minnie Driver just nails the role as the trashy, traveler mother. Despite the fact that she is a low life, drug addled criminal, you love her and feel her love for her children. The show is over the top and far fetched in many respects, but the relationship between the children and the mom is touching and authentic.

birthday cake

for some reason the photos upload backward from the order I select.

Here is the birthday cake the children and I made for Mark today.

It was a good project to kill some time early Sunday morning, and to let Mark have some peace and quiet.

He likes coconut a lot, so we made a basic yellow cake, with coconut milk, and it is frosted with apricot preserves thinned out with more coconut milk.

Those shockingly bright daisies are from a bouquet of dyed daisies (purple, blue and orange!) that Freyja picked out for me, when she and Mark brought me flowers for our wedding anniversary last Wednesday. We have now been married for ten years.
We did not, however party like it's 1999.
I just had to use that line, sorry.
The children and Rolf are listening to the magic bells sequence , in the Magic Flute, while the cake bakes.
Maxwell made the observation that his D&D story has a magic dance, that people can only stop dancing when they do the right steps, and I said, I think that is a pretty common theme, and Rolf gave the example of the magic bells... so it goes.

Freyja, and my faithful Sunbeam mixer, that I bought at an estate sale 20 years ago, for $5.

I love that it is big and yellow.


Mark's birthday is on Monday, but we are had a special dinner on Saturday.

He loves Austro-Hungarian food (or German, depending on who you ask) so Rolf & I made kase spaetzle, for dinner. Spaetzle is a hot food right now, I see it turning up all kinds of chichi menus, as well as featured in gourmet cooking magazines.

We find that pretty funny, considering it is one of the cheapest things to produce, second only to regular pasta, that doesn't contain eggs.

There are lots of recipes, but we use, just eggs and flour.

The key is to beat the hell out of it, so that it becomes very elastic, and we do it by hand, which is why it is a two man job.

You can make it just fine by pressing the batter through a colander, but we use a "spaetzle machine" which gives the signature teardrop shape, that most people are familiar with.

You can find all you ever wanted to know about spaetzle here.
The classic southern German dish is served with Swiss cheese and caramelized onions.

The onions stink the house up really badly- so much that we have considered buying a electric skillet so that we could cook the onions outside on the deck.
This is a terrible, unflattering photo of me, in which you can almost smell that stinky onion oil, that is clinging to my clothing and skin. Ewwww.

I am pressing the batter through the holes of the machine, with a little shuttle.

This is dangerous work- a few years ago, the shuttle slide off and I plunged my arm up to the elbow into the boiling water. Not good, I am more slow and cautious these days!

Rolf taking over, because I am wimpy and cannot pour the heavy batter.
and finally, making the cucumber salad, with the razor sharp slicer- like a fool that has never had her finger tip cut off (I have) I am not using the little protector device, because it gets in the way.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Maypole dance

Last night was the big Maypole shindig!
above is our gardener putting together the big flower wreath that goes on top of the Maypole, you can see the Cob house in the background.
Freyja was super excited. Her class baked bread for the event, and I made two cakes, so there was a lot of anticipation.

In the end she was not brave enough to do the dance without Mark, so for the second year, Mark danced the Maypole dance.

Maxwell was a great sport and wore a crown of flowers!

Here I am with my boss, and another colleague, setting up.

There were about 200 people, and the event turned out really well, the only glitch was some not very finger friendly food, but people wound up eating it all anyway- with their hands!