Sunday, February 24, 2013

Porkchops with mushrooms and tomato, polenta in the yellow dish

Roasted veggies
I impose my healthful food on the family fairly often, but every once in a while they win; tonight Mark requested porkchops, with polenta and I obliged with the caveat that a pan of roasted mix vegetables go along side.  I find polenta cumbersome to cook, when stirring it for ever on the stovetop, so I opt for the quick and easy method of baking in the oven (2 cups polenta, 8 cups water, salt, seasoning, and half a stick of butter of fake butter of your preference. Bake in a preheated oven <350> for about an hour, stir once mid way through).  If you are really lazy, you can throw raw veggies in and let it all cook together.  If you really dig the rubbery texture, let this polenta cool over night, then cut into squares and saute in olive oil the next day.  For the chops, I seared them, then braised with chopped tomatoes, shallots, mushrooms, basil, oregano, garlic, olives.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

everything changes

I got a call from my friend Joe today, a voicemail that said "I am sorry about your grandfather passing and about the house, it was a gem."  Joe grew up down the street from my grandparents and his parents sold their place about 10 years ago when his dad got Parkinson's disease.  Their house was not bulldozed, as far as I know, but it was hard.  Joe had done a lot of lovely brick patio work that I think was done in by the new owners.  I can't even make myself drive out there to see the bulldozed place, it makes me a little sick inside.  Joe said "I hope you are coping." He knows me well, even though we haven't been close since I got married.  We were very close when in my late teens and through my 20's. 
Joe is a collector of antiques and a picker, making his living picking up junk and reselling it as treasure.  He has collected since childhood.  We have that and reading in common.  He loves beautiful things.  In high school, before he realized he was gay, he would tell me, you are so beautiful, you stop traffic.  He was and remained a big cheerleader of mine, even when I felt like something the cat dragged in. I loved spending time with him, because he loved all thing domestic and was full of praise for bean soup and embroidered pot holders and noticed the littlest details of how I might have changed my hair.  We lived in the same building on Broadway Drive, in the late 80's, a ramshackle mess of a duplex, me upstairs and Joe down, without a bathroom sink.  He would come up to wash his hair.  I have a photo someplace with Joe in his pajamas with a towel turban on his head, standing in my kitchen.
That duplex has been bulldozed too.  It deserved it though, it was a firetrap, with gaping spaces between the siding that let the wind blow through the house.  Rolf remembered, just today, the ice in the toilet bowl one February. 
That was the year I got Teddy Braun.  There was snow on the steps and the poodle blended in perfectly.
Joe introduced me to Jackie, who would become my roommate.  Jackie was a painter that wore jackboots and her coat inside all the time.  She loved the poodle, so I was sold, despite her rough exterior. 
She drove a mid 70's Camero, that had belonged to her mother.  It suited her mother more than it suited her.  She was the only person that was more neurotic about cleaning than me, so made a perfect roommate.  She used to jog, and paint and I would cook and work and go to school and we would have dinners with themes.  It was an exceptionally lovely time in my life.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

It has been a hotbed of activity around here today; we finished a plaster repair job that we started last week, which was one of those really dirty, yucky jobs that makes you wish you had a landlord to do.  We had a leak in the fall, that was repair, but the leak caused a lot of plaster damage and water stains, in the landing area going into Freyja's bedroom.  I peeled and peeled and in the end it required pulling out all the original plaster all the way down to the lathe, then filling it in (in this case with newspaper, then covering it up with this handy sticky metal plate thing, and finally with even handier gauzy tape stuff, then finishing the whole thing off with a nice layer of new plaster.  Some people (like my husband) find this type of job intimidating, but they, unlike me, have not lived in a lot of crappy old falling down, OLD houses that are made of plaster and lathe, rather than wallboard and drywall!  I have done this repair a million times and am pretty darn good, if I do say do myself.  Today we sanded it down, and sanded down an ugly old repair job, someone less talented than I did, before we moved in.  I also primed the wall, so next week I can paint! Woo hoo.
Since we were vacuuming and sanding and dusting stuff, I ask Mark to vacuum our room, which is one of those slanty roof jobs, that are pretty easy to vacuum, if you are just a little bit taller than I happen to be. Somehow in the course of all that cleaning he broke the floor lamp that lights my sewing area, and the chair where he reads to Freyja at night, so I was required to make an emergency trip to Ikea, to purchase a lampshade, to fit onto an Ikea hanging lamp/cord combo deal I got out of their "as is" section about five years ago, and had stashed in the closet. So pictured above is my sewing area with a nice new lamp, which looks a lot better in person that it does in that photo.  And feel free to admire the custom made slipcover on that old Naugahyde chair, that I made without the benefit of a pattern, when Maxwell was a baby.  The photo is rotten and doesn't show that those windows are floor to ceiling and about five feet tall, and there is a little triangle above them where I have a very silly collection of vintage Steiff animals.

While all of the home improving was going on Freyja and her friend were having a gay old time with Rosie, pushing her all around the neighborhood in a doll stroller.
Freyja wants me to add that Rolf's girlfriend made her the lovely mouse shadow box pictured above.

Friday, February 15, 2013

this is as good as it's going to get

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, which is always a little hard for me, because it reminds me of my friend Leo's suicide, and who wants to feel festive  while thinking of that?

I told Mark not to worry about trying to pull something together (but didn't mention the whole depressing suicide part) because Thursday is a really busy day for us, and it would have just been one more thing

I finished work a little earlier than I expected to, so I set the table and cleaned up and bought two gigantic T-Bone steaks for Mark and the kids, since they like that sort of thing, and some tulips for myself and some organic salad, because I like that sort of thing, and made a custard tart with insanely expensive out of season berries, because that is how I roll, and I listened to this record in Leo's honor. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Creative is as creative does

I started this quilt of teeny, tiny strips of cast off clothing and bargain bin fabrics, when I was nine and I worked on it for a YEAR.  I finished it the spring after I turned ten, and gave it, in all it's cacophonous colors, and king size, to my mother, as a birthday gift.  The blocks are machine sewn, but it is hand finished all around, in neat and tidy little stitches in orange thread.  I didn't notice that the sheet I bought for the back was a fitted sheet, so I had to cut out the elastic corners and inset a sort of matching fabric to make it square. It has been used pretty much constantly for the past 35 years and has held up beautifully.  The color scheme horrifies my adult sensibility, but I admire my tenacity.  Both of my children slept under it with me every night until they were five and sometimes after.  

this is a little edited out piece, I noticed of myself, in the big mirror in Don's studio, taken, as I was making photos of him for his blog.  I like the way my finger is bent.  I LOVE my IPhone for photos, I just do...

kale, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry salad with cilantro and cider vinaigrette, quinoa with sweet potato in the background 

Freyja and I on her birthday
I often get frustrated with all of the projects Freyja has going ALL the time, in every corner of our house. 
I went to pick her up today from my mother's house and I found my mother and Freyja seated in the middle of the livingroom with glitter coating most surfaces, and bits and bobs of stuff everywhere. 

My stepfather silently running the fancy vacuum cleaner over the expensive carpets, not a drop of annoyance to be found.  He is pleased when my mother is pleased and she is pleased when things are busy and chaotic.  when there is LIFE being LIVED in the house, amid the knick knacks and shiny things.

The house felt a little like you imagine Santa's workshop to feel.  My mother gleefully gluing felt on a Valentine box, that I would have not had the patience not, to correct or improve

Isn't it a beauty! Freyja did it all herself, I am just finishing up the bottom! 

My mother is not artistic or so she would say, so she has said my whole life, although she makes remarkable embroidery and has made both of my children amazing wall hangings featuring "the little prince" and "my father's dragon", that made from fabric, pieced together perfectly.

When I was a child we were poorest of poor, but I was provided with all the art supplies any child could wish for, when I was ten my grandparents and my mother bought me a real sewing machine, because I sat around hand sewing Barbie clothes and other projects compulsively, as if driven by some mad sweat shop owner.

I crocheted poorly but with gusto, which many years latter I would parlay into a mediocre knitting habit, before it was hip to knit in SE Portland, dressing my baby boy in ugly sweaters until he finally begged me to stop at age five. 

When I was seven I wanted to cook, and was allowed to dabble in the kitchen in a manner that I would never permit, either of my children or even my husband to do, to this day. I am frequently my mother's harshest critic, but when I think of the width and breath of experiment allow me, I know that the result is who I am today. It is highly unlikely that I will ever lighten up and allow my children the space and room for experimentation, art and craft that I had as a child, but I do recognize it and admire it from a distance.

Learning to live with it

The house feels insanely crowded, with three animals and all of Freyja's art supplies covering every inch of every room. 
Last night Rosie, the black dog inexplicably peed in my room for good measure. 
I suppose just to remind me that there isn't a single inch of space that I can call my own. 
We also have this piano now, which I am trying hard to get used to. 
It has displaced my little orange settee, that I love, so I am a little cranky. 
I agreed to the piano, because I think that Freyja will do well with lessons, but I do have some lingering resentments around my general lack of space.
I have recently had fantasies of renting a truck, filling it with the contents of our house and taking the lot to the dump.
The cat and the black dog have also shredded the sofa with their sharp claws, so it feels like every where I turn everything is a shambles no matter how hard I try to keep thing neat.
I don't remember feeling this way about Maxwell.  He never covered the house with his belongings, or crept into my personal spaces and he most certainly has never thumb tacked anything to the wall.  I don't remember feeling this way about Teddy Braun, while he did like to bite people, he never scratched up the furniture.  I knew cats were trouble and I never wanted one, this one is a fine cat, for a cat, but in the end I am a poodle person, pretty much. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Watch this film

Not that he needs my help, but everyone should see my friend Brian's film Alien Boy
and here is a Twitter thingy about it.

Techno peasant

Technology is so tricky. 
I went to my friend Don's studio yesterday to help him set up his webpage, but then neither one of us could even log on, so it was kind of a bust. 
I helped him set up a blog like this one, which I like because it links to all the other Google features, that I find handy like the calendar. 
That calendar really saves my life a lot of the time.
Another friend of his had set up the domain name which was all fine and good except for the fact that Don is even less savvy than I am and that is saying a lot, so it really wasn't helpful.
We talked about how if you have a tool that you don't know how to use and therefore don't wind  up using it, then it really isn't very helpful, where as if we set up a simple blog, and he uses it often, then it is a good thing. 
He didn't require a lot of convincing.
I am trading him help for bass lessons for Maxwell. 
I am actually trading him dinner once a week for bass lessons, and then I felt guilty and told him I would help him with his computer stuff. 
I don't know why I felt guilty, because we have been friends for 21 years and I have definitely done enough to earn some bass lessons, but it is my nature to worry about these kinds of things. 
So I have provided some pretty good meals for the past three weeks and now a little tech assistance, so I am feeling like I am not beholden, which is my objective.

My work week shook out so I had Friday off this week, which makes me really happy.  I was fine working Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but when I was needed on Thursday, it pleased me a lot. 
Having some flexibility has been really lovely.  I wish I could lighten up and enjoy it more, but there is this residual guilt that I should be checking my e-mail or phone constantly, like I used to have to do.  In a staff meeting on Wednesday my boss told me categorically that I was forbidden to work on my off hours (ok, I sort of asked to to forbid me, after she said it nicely a couple of times, because I am not used to people being very nice to me). Anyway, the point is that I had Friday off, so I was able to do a lot of cleaning up, so I am more free over the weekend to be with Mark and the kids without feeling like I have to mop the floor, which is always nice.
I think I will meet with Don again next week to fill out his blog a little more and to set him up on Twitter.  I think Twitter is perfect for him, actually, maybe better than Facebook even. I am exciting to have this project. 
I have set myself up on Twitter mostly to practice, since it seems to be a requirement for lots of jobs theses days. 
It isn't really a good platform for me, because I tend to be wordy. 
In fact I enjoy being wordy, it sort of defines my style. 
Yes, I am unapologetically wordy and I like it that way! (I am channeling Lady redundant Woman, from the PBS series WORD GIRL!)
I also hate all those little time saving devices like U, instead of youMan, do I ever hate those a lot
I love Facebook though, because you can prattle on and be a wordy as you want to be. 
That works well for me. 
I have a number of penpals- that is how  I think of friends I only know from Facebook, that I really enjoy, so for me Facebook is a real lifesaver, being someone that is somewhat isolated in real life.
Mark, who does not use Facebook, because he talks to people all the damn time in real life and wants a little peace and quiet in his private life, thinks I am insane. 
He does use Twitter though, mostly to forward things other people say to friends.  He is in a big rush all the time, and not at all wordy, so it works well. 
I find that rushed curt style of Twitter kind of rude. 
All the left off punctuation kind of offends me, even though it shouldn't. 
I am a little bit of a ninny in that way and in other ways too I suppose.