Friday, January 29, 2010

My worst date story: a tale of 80's awkwardness

Oh the memories of high school
Going to a high school dance with a friend. This would be great. We were friends, right? Buddies. Arm punches, friendly joking. Easy, no pressure. I said yes to my friend Steven when he asked me to the dance sophomore year in high school. In fact, I don’t think he even asked me. I think we were probably just hangin’ out, both talked about it and decided yeah, that’s cool, we’ll go to the dance together.

Insert the daunting sound here. Actually enter the smooth crooning of Lionel Richie and you have foreshadowing to my most uncomfortable date ever.

We all have them. Dates gone horribly wrong. And while this tale of mismatched love comes from the 80’s, it never ceases to reduce the level of discomfort I have in recalling it.

The first sign that this was a night gone awry was walking into my house and finding my father sitting uncomfortably in the living room, jumping up with a way-too friendly “there she is!” hop and a smile when I walked in. Coming from a piano rehearsal, I knew I’d have a small window of time to get ready for this evening’s dance with my friend Steven, but I knew how to weld that bottle of Sebastian’s Sphrtiz Forte and hairdryer like no other and could whip my bangs to great height with speed if need be.

But this was not what I had expected. He was way early to pick me up, and sitting in my living room was my friend, along with his mother and adult sister. Formally. Sitting together. With my father. Steven had brought me a corsage. “Now why would he do that?” I thought. “We’re just buddies going to the dance together.” But one look at his mother’s face as she looked at me as a doting mother-in-law might, and I knew this was not going to be what I had thought it would be. This was a date. A real date. And there were parents involved.

Curses. I did not have time to coax my hair with Sebastian hairspray but I’m sure I quickly spritzed some Poison perfume and changed into an outfit from Contempo Casuals. It most likely included pegged pants, and perhaps chambray. “Let’s do this,” I said to myself in the mirror, and out I walked into the temperate Southern California night and into the back of the Toyota, while Steven opened the door for me.

As we drove to the dance, it was now I realized why the adult sister was brought along. To sit in the front passenger seat while mom drove, so that the “lovebirds” could sit together in the back. Oh Steven. I didn’t want to hurt him, and I certainly hadn’t seen this coming.

The dance was a blur: hanging out with friends, which was exactly what I had hoped for and expected. But then the dreaded time came. The dance was over. And there in the parking lot was the Toyota with mom at the wheel. As we drove away, Steven asked her to turn the music up, and as he faked a stretch, he put his arm around me. What was going to happen next? Oh dear lord, I thought. Please don’t try to kiss me in front of your mom. Speaking of kissing. Is he going to kiss me goodnight? What am I going to do? How can I handle this gracefully? A million things rushed through my mind. But soon they were shushed by the music in the backseat of that Toyota.

“You are the sun, you are the rain. That makes my life this foolish game.”

It was the smooth stylings of Lionel Richie. I hated Lionel Richie. Hearing Lionel’s voice was not helping the awkwardness of the moment. But it was about to get worse.

“You need to know, I love you so. And I’d do it all again and again.”

It wasn’t only Lionel’s voice I was hearing. It was my date’s voice. As he sung along with Mr. Ritchie, while gazing deep into my eyes. He was singing to me. I couldn’t move, and I certainly couldn’t sing along. I couldn’t stare back into those FRIENDLY brown eyes. I lost myself in the music and told myself I’d soon be home.

I said goodbye to my not-future-mother-in-law and sure enough, an awkward moment at the door followed. Goodnight. Goodnight.

As I lay in bed that night, Lionel Richie and his sunglasses sang to me, and I vowed to hate his music for the rest of my life.

“I know you know the way I feel. And I need your love for always. Cause when I’m with you, I fall in love. Again and again and again, Baby.”

This post is to not only share with you one of my most painfully awkward dates, but to let you know that 8 people are going to stand on a stage with a microphone on Thursday, February 4th, at Portland's Bagdad Theater, and tell you their true stories of bad dates. I've heard their stories, and they're funny. And horrible...
Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County Commissioner
Tara Dublin, fabulous gal about town
Jimmy Radosta, essayist
Courtenay Hameister, host of Live Wire and True Stories
Mark Wiener, political consultant
Aaron Mesh, film critic for Willamette Week
Caryn Brooks, Portland writer, critic, kvetcher
Roey Thorpe, political activist

This is a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon: doors open at 6pm, show starts at 7pm. I’ll be there, along with Karol Collymore to emcee the event, and I hope you will come! Especially you blog lurkers! Full information here.

Yes, the picture with this post is of me at a dance in high school, but not this dance or the date described above. And yes, that is Sphritz Forte at work on those bangs: you're welcome.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dark days of winter

Not too many words for you right now, so images will have to suffice. We are in the thick of the dark days of the year, and I'm going into them eyes wide open.

The tree that hugs itself:
tree in winter

Self portrait:
watch it. i have a knife

No title:
baby haunting

Someone's been stalking me: is it you?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Proof of jam: Lady Marmalade

I told you in my previous post I had a challenge with the Blood Orange Marmalade. Well, reports are coming in that agree with me it's a fabulous syrup for use with booze, and I'm told it's even better with gin. But I realize I hadn't shared my other exploration with citrus, and that occurred with a few big Texas grapefruit.

Pink grapefruit + vanilla bean jam

I followed this approach, from the lovely Nigella Lawson. The difference is that I tucked in a few vanilla pods I brought back with me from Mexico last year, and I cut the fruit into big chunks. This is a big chunky fruit marmalade and thus, the name.

Lady Marmalade jam!

You know what comes next, right? I suggest you turn the volume up. I am.

Is anyone else concerned about the amount of soundtracks I'm putting to my blog posts? I'd suggest you turn the volume up a little higher: I love those ladies!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The best instructional cooking movie ever. No seriously, EVER.

Instead of making a pie for National Pie Day, I hope you'll join me in making this Heritage Loaf.

Hat tip to KriSwa for sending this on to me!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Warning: this post is going to kick you in the gut

Witch hazel blooms in winter

Oh for the love of an early spring. I've been smelling it. Yes, smelling it. I first noticed it on Monday. Something was blooming. I sniffed around like the child catcher on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

I was certain there was a plant close by that was blooming. I didn't tap my nose quite so menacingly as the child catcher there, but I knew that scent. I sniffed, and sniffed. And then AdRi found it.

An early early sign

Oh sweetness, a viburnum blooming its sweet little self at the back of a border. That gentle pink color. Delicate. Pink. Pastel. And then today I stepped outside and it was practically balmy here in Portland. It might have even hit 60 degrees. And I smelled it again. Plants. Blooms. Things are waking up.

(insert sound of needle on a record player tearing across the record)
It's January 21st!

It is not spring. It is not close to spring. It is still winter and people, it will be cold and rainy for months. Don't be fooled by this. (Especially you, gentle fruit trees: do not begin to bud or bloom yet, because I want cherries!)

And you gardeners thinking of planting your tomatoes? Keep in mind that Portland's last "safe" frost date is April 26th. That's about three months from now. Don't pack those coats quite yet. And definitely don't fall into the trap of thinking it's spring. I told you this post was going to kick you in the gut!

Tough love, tough love.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shine on

shine on
And we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun

Well, we all shine on

Everyone, c'mon

Instant Karma's gonna get you

Gonna knock you off your feet

Better recognise your brothers

Everyone you meet

Why in the world are we here?
Surely not to live in pain and fear

Why on Earth are you there

When you're everywhere

Gonna get your share

Well, we all shine on

Like the moon and the stars and the sun

Yeah, we all shine on

C'mon and on and on, on, on

(thanks to the wonderful John Lennon for these lyrics)
Thinking about my words for the year, I've been percolating on this. Shine. Shine on. Shine that light. Shine. My word for 2010. Lots of meaning there. Allowing myself to shine, to polish the gifts I have, to shine a light on others, to go towards the light, to shine when it's dark around me, even if the shine is a little one, I'm committing to shine in 2010. And if my shine is big, you best be getting out your sunglasses.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fighting Portland's winter gloom: citrus, products and booze

If you market a wintertime mood picker-upper and you do so via scent? I'm your target market. I've been dousing myself in Origin's Grapefruit Gloomaway and spending my allotted 30 minutes in front of the light box every morning in order to keep the wintertime blues away. There's not much sun in Portland this time of year, the days are short and the rain can be relentless. This Southern California girl has lived here for 18 years, but the winters can get to me if I'm not careful.

So this morning while I sprayed Grapefruit Gloomaway over my entire body and gave an extra boost even to my hair, I realized it's high season for citrus in Southern California. And I thought of my smuggling of kumquats and limoncello making. And I filled an order for canning labels for a woman who inspired me, making grapefruit marmalade in Texas.

And then? Then I marched my ass to my local New Season's market to peruse the citrus available. So many different kinds. But in the end? The best looking jumped into my bag, and that was pink Texas grapefruit and blood oranges. I was going to can, dammit, and the wintertime SAD's could kiss my California ass. (I'd like to insert a karate kick right here, you feelin' it?)

Oh blood oranges. You are the naughty fruit of the orange family, aren't you? Look at that deep pink color.

Blood oranges

I zested and peeled and juiced and the whole kitchen smelled like a citrus factory. Wait, wait. A blood orange citrus grove! Not a factory. And as the juice of the blood oranges dripped through my fingers, I realized this was so much better than any Origin's Grapefruit Gloomaway. I mean, that stuff is good, I totally love it. But this complete sensory immersion? It was citrus bliss.

But then it happened. Wait, wait. It didn't happen. The marmalade didn't gel. Well, I'll tell you a secret. I think I put the sugar in too early. Or something. But in the end? It didn't gel. And I still canned it. I processed it and hoped it would become a thick, sticky mess of a gel. And I was wrong. And because my glass is half full? I determined this blood orange concoction would be perfect with whiskey and sweet vermouth. Also known as the perfect addition to my wintertime Manhattan.

A Manhattan is much better with blood orange syrup

The Manhattan is a classic. Whiskey, vermouth and bitters. I've been working on my Manhattan, partially inspired by Mad Men. So what if my blood orange jam wouldn't do what I wanted? If it's going to stay liquefied, I'll still drink you. And I'll give you as gifts to my boozy friends. Take that!

And can I say? It makes the Manhattan a much better drink. Yes it does.

So in the end? I have fought off the SADs and I have made a classic drink better, and this evening's stir fry was made better with a blood orange glaze on the chicken. And booze. Boozy citrus. I can make it through this winter, right? I said, RIGHT?! Right. Now I'm off to check flights to Mexico, or at least San Diego. What? A girl can check, right?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Peek into my studio

In December I mentioned here we were doing an office remodel. Well, it's done. And I'm absolutely loving the new space. I thought I owed you a look at it since I had posted some photos of it in progress.

The goal of the remodel was to maximize space, as my 3-year-old design/consulting business was growing by leaps and bounds, and I needed space to store my tools, samples, and the books from my many interests were overflowing their shelves. Most of all, I needed surface space. Space to lay out print outs, to write at, to work at, and space to post and view work in process. I also really needed a longer space to accommodate my two large screens, and less depth in that space than I had before. Screens are now flat, and don't require big depth areas for the TUBES in them. I also just needed something more cheery. The space before was dark on purpose: it had been painted deep plum to provide a cozy tv lounge area previously, and while it was great then, it just soaked up all of the light in the room.

So you ready for the tour? I thought so.

Remember I said maximize space, right? Built ins run from floor to ceiling now.
studio remodel; primary work area
maximizing space around the windows
Lots of surface space with my 1950s table (so cheery!) and the long, dark wood desk. The desk is actually a console table. It's the perfect depth for my flat screens.
my workspace
More surface space, and an area to post works in process, or inspirations. I'm changing the board pretty frequently. The open shelving has supports that are the same shape as supports in the kitchen. I wanted the remodel to be cohesive to other areas of the house, and to look original to the 100-year old house as much as possible.
workspace changes daily
I share this space with pets, and they needed space, too. If I don't provide it, they'll take it. Plus it's fun to have them nearby. Thus, pet beds.
built ins around the window
This wall of bookcases includes use of original moulding to the house, as well as cupboard doors we saved from a kitchen remodel.
some old some new in this built in
I love their imperfection, and the years they served in the house are reflected in their dings and nicks.
recycled cupboard doors
The drapes I made from fabric at Bolt. I think they still need some finish trim on them, but in the meantime, they're working fine. And finally, I have my pens and tools close at hand. Especially my Liberace pen.
view from worktable
For more photos, including the before and after and some detail info from me, here's a full set for you.
Special thanks to Kaya, who once again, came through for us and did a great job.

It's a whole new year, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bring it on: a chant for snow

"Do you think we're going to have any more snow?" she asked. I looked at her and pondered a bit, then responded "I sure hope so." We had a surprise snow at the end of December, but it wasn't really much. Proof:
Give me some "real" snow
But it was enough to immobilize the city and keep AdRi at work overnight. It doesn't take much to shut Portland down people, stop laughing. But I want a real snow storm...
One that brings big fluffy snowflakes, piling one on top of another.
A storm that makes walking down the sidewalk a slip sliding affair.
A storm to build snowmen and snow to send my dog off bounding like a bunny in.
A snow storm that leaves it so eerily quiet out, except for the geese flying from the Columbia to the Willamette, and I directly underneath their flight path.
A snow storm that brings out the cross country skiiers and urban snowshoers and even a few snow mobilers.
A snow storm that closes the school and fills the park with shrieking laughing kids making snow angels and throwing snowballs.
And inevitably a snow storm everyone will complain about.
And I will think back to my snow chant, rub my hands together, and ponder the powers of the snow chant.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


100 things we love
Thank you for the kinds words FoodDay: I'm honored to be on the list with so many great things.

If you've landed here because of the article in FoodDay, you can get to my labels on Etsy here.

i made the list!
And can I just say? You food preservers who are ordering these custom labels amaze me with your products. From pickles to spiked caramel sauce to fruit concoctions that blow me away: keep on cannin', keep on cannin'.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Being open to surprises

Ralph the Sacred New Year's Rooster
One of my oldest and bestest of friends sent this photo to me. She says:
This is Ralph the Sacred New Year's Rooster. He showed up on our lawn New Year's Eve morning and has been our alarm clock for the past 4 days. Roosters are honored in most cultures and represent vigilance, protection, fortune, luck and a call to morning prayer. They symbolize sexuality, watchfulness, enthusiasm and a sense of optimism. The Rooster totem is about great power and mystery with ties to the ancient past and it is the enemy of evil spirits. So we figure that we have a sacred rooster in our yard. He says that you can pay homage to him with money and jewels and he will grant you fame and fortune in 2010.
How lucky is she to have Ralph the Sacred New Year's Rooster?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Stepping into a new year: symbolism and reflection

Letting go to love
The beginning of a new year isn't really a time of resolutions for me. It's more of a time of reflection, planning and hope. Perhaps that's resolutions, but for me, it's a special gift of a time to celebrate, symbolize, and step into a new year.

I have this voice in my head that drives me forward but can easily overlook and drown out the amazing things I accomplish. When I look back at 2009, and the list of professional accomplishment, I'm blown away. It was a very good year and I'm so grateful for the many opportunities that found me and I them. I'm looking forward to continuing the momentum in 2010 and to continue to strive for balance, goodness, simplicity, authenticity and clarity of my own voice.

So a little symbolism was in order. First off, a meal of black eyed peas and collard greens.

Black eyed peas

The peas symbolize coins, the greens dollar bills. They are said to bring good luck in a new year. I've recently become a fan of eating greens. So easy, yum and deliciously good for you. Here we were eating collard greens.


You cut out the center stem, slice the thick leaves into long pieces, saute in a soup pot along with onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, then add a few cups of water or chicken stock, and cook for 45 minutes, covered. Season with salt and pepper, a dash of vinegar as a finish, and you have a bowl of vitamin-rich goodness. For the peas, I followed this lovely recipe.Um, yum.

Next up? Letting go of things from 2009. That voice that drives me also is too loud about the negative things that show up in my life. There have been a few, and I'm not carrying them into the new year. So onto little slips of paper, we wrote those things we're giving away to love (thus, the pink candle and symbolism: thank you Dougggie for that tip). There was also a message in there I burned for a friend a long ways away.

Things I'm letting go from 2009


I wore my especially witchy cape, lit some symbolic cinnamon incense, and let the glow of the fire warm my face on this cold, grey day. Afterward, I smelled like a bonfire, but felt lighter and in a better place for the new year.

It's going to be a very, very good new year.

Happy new year to you!