Sunday, January 26, 2014

Goating around

I met a friend at the Belmont Goat herd today, to view the goats.  My friend is a kind older gentleman that sits through coffee hours without blinking or showing much judgment on my mile a minute chatter.  He is making me a goat themed lino-cut print, which is turning out to be a pain in the neck.  Leave it to me to desire something terribly weird and complicated.  I am fortunate to know so many talented artists.  I am shameless enough to ask for pieces of their work.  HA!

My friends Rachael and Amber recently started what they are referring to as the "goatoff" on my Facebook page, seeing which one could post a cuter goat picture for me.  A third gal, friends with them, not me, got involved and started a goat page, called "GOATOFF!" to which I invite this goat loving friend and another woman that I know who raises goats in her back yard.  I am mostly interested in cute pictures of goats and puns, to be perfectly honest.  I can't see myself wanting to work hard enough to actually have goats of my own. They are fairly high maintenance animals.

So when he invited me to come down and see the goats with  him, I figured "why not?" which was a good response, since it was a beautiful day and I had nothing better to do.

I had been admiring Chester, the big white fellow, from afar for a long time. 

The goats live in the lot that used to house and Italian restaurant I was very fond of, one of those old school red gravy places that don't exist in Portland any more. 
They cut their pizza into squares instead of slices, like they do in Rome. 
I used to go there with an old boyfriend, that was a picky eater. 
He always got pizza.  I think I chose eggplant. 
They gave you spumoni after your meal. 
You never see spumoni any more.

So I drive by this empty lot on Belmont often and think, I really miss that restaurant, and the way Portland used to be before it was all hipsters and condos, but the goats have been a good addition.  The goats may stay.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Don't call what your wearin' an outfit

I think I have lauded The Drive By Truckers before. 
I love the lyrics to many of their songs. 
This one, "outfit" is one of my favorites, it reminds me of my grandparents. 
Advice a father is giving his son, particularly the line "don't ever say your car is broke." I remember my grandfather and mother both telling me something like that on separate occasions.  You never want to let on that you don't know, at least a little, what's wrong, was the gist.
I'm happy that I know my way around the car, at least superficially and that I don't feel like I get took very often, by repair people.

Love the bass on Paul Simon's "I know what I know"

It comes from having dated a bass player for many years. 

I hear bass lines now, all the time, thick, fat, juicy, slap bass lines. 

I also hear certain kinds of drum beats for the same reason. 

Before, in my early 20's, when I had not spend significant amounts of time with musicians, I only heard words, perhaps a tiny bit of melody. 

I could pick out a twelve string guitar from a six string, but it was mostly all words for me. 

For the most part I am still fond of words in music. 

I hear them first. 

I am most impacted by good, clever or evocative words. 

I am irritated by guitar solos. 

I am irritated by opera and long stretches of chanting, classical religious music and most classical music. 

I am a bit of a peasant in that respect and I am fine with that. 

I have no desire to learn to appreciate opera at this stage of my life.

Maxwell often beats our drum beats on his belly, or chest, which I find deeply annoying.  I am not a fan of African drumming, or hippie drumming. 
One of my teachers at the preschool recently introduced a bongo drum into the classroom and my jaws clenched at the very thought of it. A jam band makes me want to scream, although I enjoy a number of Grateful Dead songs, but I like the recorded versions, and would never chose to listen to the long live recordings.

Friday, January 17, 2014

My kingdom for an endtable

"Shall I send her birthday card to the shitbox?" was what my friend L's e-mail said this morning.
She wanted to send Freyja a card, in the mail.
She is old fashioned like that.
It made me laugh out loud, because the little rental house could be much worse, the supremely bizarre lack of furnishings does not endear it to anyone. 
L came over the other evening to bring me a lovely little gift and I offered her a glass of water, which she spent the balance of the evening balancing on her lap, or competing for space on the micro table with the kids as they ate in shifts.

The electric and plumbing inspections passed, which is fantastic, excellent, outstanding.
I was sure they wouldn't.
Nothing usually goes well for us.
It is our thing to suffer, to be complicated, to problem solve and wonder about the future. 
To be drained of all of our meager funds by unexpected expenses.

Since following my gut, and choosing Ben, the contractor I trust and like, despite his Minnesota accent and understated way, things have gone well.

We got a card in the mail.  It's time for Mark's check up with his cancer doctor.  It's been two years.  My fingers are crossed.  This is going to go well, I can just feel it. That is how things are going to go for us now.  We are on the Minnesota positive plan now.
We laugh about stuff now.
We don't give a shit about the lack of side tables, we are way beyond all that stuff.  We are beating cancer.  We are winning.  We are passing our inspections. We laugh at things that might kill us.  That is how we are going to be.

Today the drywall went up.

I am pleased to see walls again, rough as they are.

I hope there is taping and mud on the agenda for tomorrow.

I'm sleeping here, at home, for the cat, and because the shitbox is noisy and bright, makes it hard to sleep, because my cat needs me.  The cat is not hep to the Minnesota plan. 

One of our doorways, the one between the old kitchen and the dining room, has changed, widened a tiny bit and shifted over a foot or so.

I asked Ben to turn it into an archway, rather than putting the heavy, dark door back on.

The house is full of arches, some wide, some narrow.

I love them.

It is the second reason I bought the house.

The first thing that sold the house was the sunroom, the second was the arches. 

Right now this archway is "roughed in", and the opening is about 4'6"- Ben will cut out the curve soon, for the time being the drywall has created a low opening, just low enough for me to forget about and walk straight into, at a good clip.

"You are always in a hurry, always rushing and running around!" Mark chastises me often.

True to form, I was running through the kitchen into the dining-room to deal with the cat, and clotheslined myself soundly on that drywall, rang my bell, left myself wondering if my nose would bleed, and my neck all whacked out.
I am all alone with a smashed nose, a crinkled up neck and a ringing in my ears.
The cat is no comfort.
That cat is as selfish as they come.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ginger pie and Oatstraw tea

I correspond in writing with my friend D.

We talk about all manner of things, most frequently the conversation rolls around to cooking. 

I cook,

he cooks. 

I share, he shares. 

I am bossy,

so I also suggest.

You may want to make a cabbage strudel, 
or perhaps a mushroom,
 or something with a bit of farmer cheese and dill... 

Recently I lauded Harold and Maude, as I do often, early and often, because I love it so.

He reminded me of the ginger pie and oatsraw tea. 

As a teen I often drank oatsraw tea in homage to the film, because I did such things then. 

I was very heavy on homage, possibly light on substance, no one will bear witness, though, so the truth will most likely never come out.

The past  weekend was absurd. 

I felt unloved and unlovable, as I often do, for no good reason. 

Sitting alone in my house, my things stacked to the ceiling, dust a quart inch thick coating absolutely everything. 

People had sent flowers, it was my birthday, but not a square inch to set anything down, made me want to throw things,  I am not one for disorder.

In the midst of all that disorder, comes a question about ginger pie.

Well since you asked, I would not put a 1/3 cup of chopped ginger into a custard pie.  
Not on a bet.  
It will spoil the texture for sure.

Over the course of a day, and then an evening, I find myself talked down over a custard.  
Over a silly pie, and the love of a beautiful film.  
I feel less guilty over the flowers and a lack of place to set them down.  
I think of the scene in the cemetery, where Maude shows Harold the daisy, and when the camera pans out it reveals thousands of them surrounding graves. 

There is nothing profound here.  In reality I am not particularly stressed or bothered by the remodel, I was stressed and bothered by the notion of not being able to be properly appreciative  of flowers, sent to me, with the best intentions.  
I felt mildly guilty for not being able to type properly on my phone, to reply thoughtfully to my friend's question about the pie.  

I wonder why any of that makes me nervous, none of it really matters.  

I love the film, because it has such a strong message of redemption and love, which I am not truely able to embrace in myself. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I will officially turn 46 at 5:35am in the morning, tomorrow.  I have been identifying as 46 for months and months.  I have always felt older than my chronological age, though.

My whole life has been lived in fast forward.

Mark asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said 

"I want my grandmothers." 

which was dirty trick, since I am already challenging for him to buy for.  I will confess to being a rather difficult person to do nice things for, since I fancy myself the doing of nice things, not the receiver of nice things.  It has been a life long issue.  I once had a boyfriend that was excellent at doing nice things. He was a good gift giver and setter upper of good times.  It was one relationship where I was good at accepting, but I blew it up anyway, and have not felt comfortable with gifts since.  That was 1988, so it's clearly an old  habit of mine to be difficult.

If I could have my wish and have my grandmothers for my birthday, my grandma Betty would ask me "what is your birthday order?" and I would tell her, what I told her my whole life, that all I want is for her to make me stew and dumplings and stewed tomatoes, and home canned green beans, and a chocolate pie, with whipped cream. She would put the home canned tomatoes in a custard cup, that had belonged to her mother, a tiny, apricot, ceramic cup, with embossed with flowers.  My birthday is in January, but my grandmother would have quarts and quarts of Oregon Giant and Blue Lake green beans canned from my grandfather's garden, pints of tomatoes, completely unseasoned, except for a bit of salt. Every trace of skin, painstakingly removed, sometimes with my help. Those tomatoes grown with such love and devotion taste like tomatoes, a tomatoness you don't find any more, very often.  I was fond of them hot or cold, but mostly cold, in that particular cup, and as a birthday gift so specific and unreproducible today that it makes me cry a little thinking of it.  The strew was thick and homely, with carrot and celery, the dumplings steamed on top, sticky and a bit brain-like in appearance.
From my other grandmother, who I just called Grandma, I would request biscuits and gravy, peppery and made with milk.  Her biscuits were light and fluffy and golden and crusty- she had a hand for baking that I didn't inherit.  
She learned to bake literally as a child, when her own mother would pull her out of school to cook for the threshing teams.  She and her sister turning out huge meals for a group of men.  "Alice was the pie baker and I always made the cakes."  She made a decent pie, but it's true,  her cakes were wondrous, she could whip up a "crazy cake" from memory, and roll out yards of biscuits without paying much attention. Flour floating in the air, using a water glass to cut the pastry into rounds.  
Homemade noodles were the thing that she was stingy with.  You had to catch her in just the right mood, to get her to make those work intensive treats, which she would boil in chicken broth which turned to gravy, from the flour the noodles were dusted with.  My grandfather hated noodles in all forms, so it had to be a special occasion, like a birthday, to get those creamy, thick, hand cut,delicious noodles. 
Unlike my paternal grandmother, with her canned fruits and vegetables in neat rows, on shelves on the deck,  Grandma's fruitroom, was a dark and mysterious place, in a cobwebbed section of the basement, so creepy that not even the bravest cousin would chose it for hiding during hide and seek
The fruitroom was cold storage for canned goods and dry goods like 50# of carrots, potatoes and onions. Home canned pickles of all varieties, green tomato relish, pickled beets, applesauce, prunes, green beans, corn, tomatoes, berries, jam, jelly, and concord grape juice.  All grown, processed and canned by my grandparents, side by side, typically silently, in the tiny crooked kitchen, then stashed, by my grandfather in the basement, to be retrieved by terrified children for meals, months and sometimes years later.   
 I spent much of my childhood with these grandparents, and I was unabashedly the favorite, and I will confess to seldom getting called upon to fetch items from the fruitroom for dinner. I stuck to my grandmother like glue and it was much more likely for me to help her cook, than to be called away from play on an errand.  Grandma almost always wore an apron at home, the kind that ties around the waist and at the neck, and I literally clung to her apron strings until I was too old for such foolishness, standing right beside her as she worked.  When I cook now, I often feel the memory of her, as I move, throwing things into the pots without measure, although I am very neat, which was never her style.
I will go to dinner tonight, with my husband and I will eat something fancy and no doubt quite good, but nothing will ever say birthday to me quite like the special food I grew up with.  When my kitchen is finally finished, I will fry cabbage and onions, and make gravies, and lopsided cakes and pies with crooked lattice tops, that bubble up and spoil the tidiness of my oven.  I will put bubbling hot soup in that tiny custard cup and eat it with a worn out silver spoon and that will taste like home.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

At long last

We moved into out teeny, tiny rental yesterday.

Boy are we spoiled brats, with our sturdy furniture and thick plaster walls, not to mention SPACE.

The kids both commented something to the effect of
"do people really live in tiny flimsy houses like this?"

Yes, my darlings, yes they do.

So we are firmly ensconsed in a little crackerbox of a house south of Powell. The dogs stashed at much classier addresses, the cat roughing it out at home, with all the crashing and banging.

Ben ripped out the cabinets today, had a hell of a time doing it too, they were solid pine, build in place and required a good deal of sledgehammering to remove.

Behind the backsplash we discovered some charming 1930's decals, of girls with fruits and vegetables.  I wish I could save them, but they are no doubt glued on with aebestos glue and god only knows what else that is liable to kill me.

This evening, after a particularly trying and tiresome day at work and kid picking up, I attempted to prepare dinner in the tiny kitchen, and discovered that there was not a single serving bowl.

The night before I was vexed by the carpeted entry.

Yes, the owner, that requested no shoes on in the house, had installed white carpet, cheapass white carpet right up to the threshold, with nary a bench or chair to sit and remove your shoes.

Mark made quite a sight, hopping around on one foot, on the tiny welcome mat, eventually lobbing his sneakers to me, across the small living-room for stashing in the closet.  Maxwell was pulled into the room, by the lapels, me firmly placing him on a brown paper bag, to remove his giant size 11 Docs, without toppling over.

The lack of a salad bowl pushed me right over the edge to that place where I either yell or write something, so I opted to write a frank, but heartfelt e-mail full of useful feedback to the owner of the cottage.

Dear Friend, dear, dear, earnest, Volkswagon driving hippie kid, with the sweet baby in the paisley sling~
  1. If you want people to take off their shoes, provide an entry space, free of carpet,  in the absence of that, a bench or a chair, and a rack to stow the shoes, neatly.
  2. If you advertise your home as having "everything you need", then provide a measuring cup, a small serving bowl, more than three plates.
  3. If you want your beautiful stainless steel cooktop to remain beautiful, provide a lid to the frying pan, to prevent grease build up.
  4. Speaking of frying pans, if yours happens to be teflon, don't provide a metal pancake turner, that friend is a big NO, NO! 
  5. While I am giving good advice, a hook for one's used bath towel would be delightful, and cut down on the eventuality that your shower curtain rod will fall over under the weight of four wet towel.  Unless you think running the washer daily is a good use of resources. 
  6. While we are on resources, you might consider a dish drainer, unless, again, we are to run the dishwasher each time the three plates get soiled (the fourth member of our family is just shit out of luck, she or he can just eat off a corner of a cereal box).