Hello Medlar

March 9th, 2015

Funny day–I’m supposed to be at work right now, but I’m not in the system yet. The woman at badging said she saw all my other previous logins, but of course she could not reactivate those. This is my fifth go-round at this company, which I kind of cannot believe. I was sent home without being able to bill for any time. It took a while for my contact to collect me from the lobby where I waited, badgeless, and I had a moment where I wondered if there had been some big misunderstanding and I thought I had a job, but I actually didn’t?

Horace abed Saturday

I know this is a crazy thing to think, but I had those kind of nightmares all night where I was fighting with friends for no apparent reason, embarrassing myself with foot-in-mouth disease, and was many places I shouldn’t have been. P. had nightmares all night too–said he was stressed out by the time change.

I kind of hate waiting in the lobbies of these buildings because pretty much the only people who use them are people waiting to be interviewed, so there’s this thick tension-funk in the air and everyone is sitting up too straight. Then someone comes into the lobby, scanning the hopeful faces and calling out a name. Everyone slumps a little when it is not them. You will not be adopted today, eager puppy. The person who is plucked out of the riff raff immediately goes into showtime mode; they are on and will be for the next 4-5 hours in their bid to become an FTE. “I’M SUPER, HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY? TRAFFIC WAS FINE!!!” I do like criticizing sartorial choices and seeing who is rude to the front desk admins, though.

Normal dog for comparison

So I woke up after sleeping fitfully, discovered my period had started, and then was sent home. I have a slow cooker on the counter making ropa vieja right now, which is kind of awesome. I didn’t want to cancel Monday night dinner with my sister even though it’s my first day back, so I decided to make it easy.

Did I build a beehive this weekend? No I did not. I forgot to have the plans printed out. Ha! I ended up walking about 3 hours around and near Greenlake, and did some gardening. I took the dogs to the local nursery and bought some decorative plant things. I am the houseplant/flower person around here, and P. usually does more practical things like mows and grows food. My department is aesthetics.

I have killed some more house plants (sigh) and wanted to replace them. My next victim is club moss, which is supposed to be fairly hearty. I predict it will have a nice summer and then commit suicide in February or so. Who could blame it? This house can feel dark. P. reassures me that a thing on his list after the bedroom creation/remodel is those little tube skylights.

It was a nice mound when I bought it, but I split it up after being instructed to by the nice lady in the houseplant section. She said some stress to the roots will make it denser and mound better and faster than waiting for it to spread and fill the pot on its own.

It looks a little better from farther away, but I never mind some wabi-sabi. I also got something I had researched called a ZZ plant, which apparently tolerates low light well, and then I couldn’t bring myself to sentence it to my bathroom after the lady said it would “get leggy.” It’s so nice looking as it is. I love soaking down there, but I don’t think I would want to live in that room with the lights off. I got a pothos that I will have no such compunctions about. They are the pigeons of the houseplants world.

I got a flat of alyssum relatives/lookalikes from the clearance rack. I always like to plant sweet little flowers like this beneath roses. I bought one of those flower mixes that you sprinkle everywhere. I planted some giant sunflowers as well. I bought a couple of odd pansies and a ranunculus to spruce up my pots that were all scented geraniums last year. I am still way into scented geraniums but I need some variety this time out. I cut back the roses in the front that were a disaster when we bought the place. We are chipping away at the benign neglect that has been inflicted on this yard. It was nice to wander around and see the changes. The quince is leafing out and the leaves are so velvety, just like the fruit. Maybe this will be the year we get a couple of blooms. We walked around and looked at everything–the cherries, hazelnuts, and kiwis are budding, and someday we will be able to gorge ourselves out of the yard.

I had the yard all to myself yesterday and was puttering to my heart’s content, which is rare, because usually P. is out doing something on a nice weekend. He has been tiring himself out framing on the evenings and weekends, so he decided to give himself the day off yesterday now that the framing is done.

He’s been going slooooowly but it’s not laziness at all. When we got back from HI last year, the bathroom was being wrapped up for another month, and then I was ill all summer. He’s really only been hitting it hard recently, now that I am predictable and reliable again.

It was exciting to see the walk-in closet framed out. When the drywall’s up, I’m going to start looking for a chevron rug and a small Venus de Milo statue. I may have mentioned that I am turning my closet into The Black Lodge.

I’d like to get paid today and rip off the first day Bandaid, but I also feel like I’ve been given some kind of temporary reprieve. Maybe this makes up for the time change on Sunday? As soon as I got to work I saw an email that said my medlar tree was being delivered today, from a nursery that is located on a Butts Road (enjoyable) so I will be here to greet the tree, I suppose.

“…And a pot of coffee just like I like my women.”

March 4th, 2015

Oh man. It is so gorgeous here I cannot even tell you. Weather in the 50s. Sunny errr day. It’s really hard to sit down and write ANYTHING, let alone DEAR MF DIARY stuffs. But if I don’t capture this, it will be gone. I feel a little more (self) pressure because apparently the post-holiday tech contract lull has ended and I am back behind a desk on Monday for a very short three week stint. I am replacing a replacement person basically. I like the short term stuff. My headhunter is urging me to turn my new resume back around to her immediately as soon as I know what my job duties are because stuff is cooking. This may slow down my career change, but will not kill it. I still have nights and weekends to work on my stuff. I’m in a tech math class and I have to be done by July, which I will be.

Let us rewind 3 weeks or so backwards to Valentine’s Day. I was interested in going out and doing an early prix fixe thing with the girls and all, but a place I thought was okay for that (dedicated gluten-free menu, extensive discussion with the server) made me ill recently, so I kind of gave up on the notion of returning anytime soon.

Naturally I decided to make an eight-course meal at home.

I wrote the menu on our chalk board both to pretend I was a little pop up bistro, but also because I knew my family would be asking me about the menu ALL. DAY. LONG. Especially La Dwarf, who is going through another accelerated phase of “mouth works faster than brain.” It is my very informal observation that kids get really rough sometimes after their half year and tend to improve after their birthdays (she is turning ten this month, WHEW).

It was fun, but tiring. I always say after my Victorian year, nothing seems too challenging at this point. I estimated it would take me about 4 hours to prepare and assemble everything, but that was dumb. In the past I would have purchased things like creme fraiche–but now I make things like that. I cooked for about eight hours. I’ve been exercising so much that I wasn’t that tired or sore really. I am sad I am going back to a desk. The company where I am working seems to have a trick of deferring contractor requests for standing desks until your contract expires. They don’t actually say no, they just delay it. This is a short one, though.

ANYWAY, food. I will try to be brief. First course was an amuse bouche.

“Caviar”, smoked salmon, potato cakes, dill, lemon zest, and vegan sour cream.

Franny was late due to shenanigans involving not catching the bus on time. She was out with her boyfriend. I told her SIX SHARP! No soup for you! Actually I think she arrived during the soup.

I made little mashed potato cakes and then stamped them with my heart cutter set. It’s hard to see them on the spoons above but they are nestled as a base under the seafood.

This is as smooth as I could get my “sour cream.”

Vegan subs are weird. You know you’re not eating dairy, but it’s…close enough? Kind of acts as a place holder. I couldn’t see doing an amuse like this without dairylike product.

Course two was steak tartare with homemade potato chips.

This was probably the most popular course. I am accustomed to eating it with toast, but I actually preferred this. Weirdly, doing it this way reminded me of getting burgers and fries, in a really good way. Yes, the meat is molded into a heart shape. I used a nice half-pound tenderloin.

Course three was a pink cauliflower soup.

I am just getting into cauliflower. I never liked it when I was a kid, I think because it came out of a bag in frozen florets and was boiled into moosh. Now I am all about roasting it, which, duh.

This was a vegan recipe I will not link, because frankly it was not that flavorful. I will use the excuse that I am still a little new at this veggie to make up for my poor choice of recipe. I had homemade chicken/random animal bits that made it into my freezer broth in the fridge already so I used that instead of veg broth, of course.

This may be a funny place to say this, in the middle of describing a very frivolous and indulgent meal, but since I’ve been out of work I’ve made using up every leftover I can into an avocation. I tease P. about being “Depression Era Dan” with his string- and twist tie-hoarding ways but I was really going for it. Going for it like, giving him shit about throwing out an orphaned tablespoon of lamb or something. So when I realized I had leftover whole roasted beets in the fridge, I knew they would be great for this meal.

I sent one of my cutters right down the middle of each beet and linked some of the courses together with beet heart coins. I also used one to dye the soup. The soup called for purple cauliflower, but it was expensive and looked pretty sad/brown in the store when I was shopping for everything. Far better to buy a nice-looking white one.

Each serving got dill arrow, negative beet heart cut outs, and a “sour cream” heart. It was edible. I will say now that this is the only leftover that didn’t get completely finished.

Courses four and five were a shaved fennel, blood orange, and golden and red beet salad, and a heart-shaped tomato aspic.

I’d had an individual serving of tomato aspic, I think from Mastering the Art of French Cooking at a Julie and Julia dinner party? Doesn’t that sound so 2009? I liked it a lot. Mostly that course was for me, so I bought it out with the salad.

I sort of made it up. It was some of my broth, plus spices and herbs, plus pureed tomatoes. And a buttload of gelatin. DONE. We just kind of sliced into it.

Course six was some gluten-free gnocchi. It was pretty good. It called for mochiko, which opened me up to the world of mochi style desserts (so easy). You can maybe tell from the picture they were a wee bit sticky or something but edible.

They did not want to hold their cute little fork dents per usual. I made a bog standard pesto, but with nooch instead of cheese. I vowed to serve small servings of everything, but this is where we tripped up. Course seven was taking longer than anticipated and we had a moment of weakness–Franny, Strudel, and I had seconds. Then the PAIN started. We were getting full! Crap!

Course seven is not pictured here. I made glazed five spice lamb chops and baby bok choi with forbidden (black) rice on the side. In my impending food coma I forgot to snap it. Let’s pretend it looked like this since it was based off that. Lollipops are like 4 million dollars right now so I bought loin chops. YUMM.

Finally I made a lava cake with raspberry sauce. I wish I had a picture of it “erupting” but I flinched and overcooked it (this was my first time doing a gluten free/vegan one).

It was good, though, and tasted like “flourless” chocolate cake. And that was the end and we were bursting at the seams. We spontaneously decided to teetotal that night, since it was Saturday and we wanted to not have a food AND champagne hangover on Sunday. This was a wise decision.

Here is the part like in the 80s movie when they do “Where are they now?” Everything got used up! (Except the boring soup.) On Sunday morning I woke up and gently panfried/scrambled the tartare and then cooked it into scrambled eggs. Wow that was fucking amazing and I recommend it. I don’t worry about saving raw meat/raw eggs combo if I’m going to cook it into something else in ~12 hours. Everything else just kind of got eaten.

Next up: Christmas pics from 2013. KIDDING. Hopefully next up is some beehive woodworky pics this weekend!!

Before the cream sits out too long (you must whip it), Or, Letter From Butthole Acres

February 26th, 2015

I’ve been listening to Devo while running. The current generation has Disney furdom to cause early sexual dysfunction, sorry, awakening, we had Devo and Videodrome. A friend got me onto the idea of a 5K in April and I think I am shooting for that now. I should be up to a 5K well before the day.

So yeah, running again. Something weird there too. I’ve never been able to run without cramping and stitches. Now, miraculously, I have nothing. I can’t run very far or fast yet, but cramps will no longer stop me. I always admired distance runners for being able to get past that, and it didn’t occur to me that some people don’t experience this, or rarely. Now I feel like I could run forever. I feel like I have more lung capacity than I used to as well.

Speaking of which…it’s been a year since I got really sick. There’s not much to say about that, except that I am doing the right things now to the best of my ability, and I feel about ten years younger. Except I think I didn’t really feel this great when I was 27. I have more hair. I’ve cut it into a shortish bob now that the shaved bits have grown out and it spends most of its time sticking up now, like a crazy person’s hair. I easily have twice as much hair coming in than I did for years. It was getting quite thin and flat. I also have this sprout of silver coming in at my part near my face. I am getting older and younger at the same time.

Franny and P. are totally on board with our continued dietary changes. At this point, it’s not really changes, it’s the new normal now. I may have mentioned this but P.’s lost about 10-15 pounds without much effort (other than not eating things that disagree with him) over the past year. Franny has also slimmed down. For the past few years she would come back from her father’s house with a bloated stomach that was noticeable on a growing kid with a slim frame. But she just looks less bloated overall. As we all do.

I’m struggling with Strudel. Or maybe I should say she’s struggling with herself. She keeps coming to me with mysterious lesions/rashes and other issues. For a while I wracked my brain to figure out where she was getting “poisoned” and then I’ve discovered it’s mostly self-inflicted. I’ve been finding corn syrup-based candy wrappers in her laundry and last night she was in her room eating a “Baby Bottle Pop” before dinner. It wasn’t acceptable to eat random candy before dinner before we realized we had dietary restrictions, so I’m not sure what crack she was smoking.

Fortunately, corn is not even close to an anaphylactic shock situation, but it does cause a lot of disruption. She gets sores/rashes, joint pain, anger and mood problems, and almost the worst thing is the sleeplessness it induces. She and I can both be up til 3 a.m., hearts pounding, if we have any, so I can’t imagine the kind of night she had last night after eating a whole container of candy. I know she’s getting less than eight hours of sleep right now–she seems out of it, has dark circles under her eyes, looks terrible. Her attitude has been kind of weird, and we were puzzling over that, too. We’re a very sarcastic, jokey house, but she’s been curt and smartaleky beyond that.

I don’t know what to do, besides talk to her about how I think she’s affecting her health. We have “safe” dessert and/or chips on the weekends. Last weekend I made a big pan of chi chi dango with baking chocolate added so it tasted like brownies. On Monday I made a special pan of cherry crumble bars since my sister and I have started Twin Peaks again (it is February, after all, and she wants to compete in the trivia contest at the fest this summer). I don’t think it’s a case of crunchy granola perfect eating all day every day oppression. I think I’m just going to have to wait for her to decide what’s important. Kids like consuming copious amounts of sugar, and there is a convenience store a couple of blocks from her school. I get it. In the meantime, I need to brace myself for a tired, cranky kid.

I have about 4 grillion pictures that I would like to post, and I will, I just decided to pagebarf today since it’s been a while. Time’s been flying. I’m experiencing a lot of really nice domestic moments. That sounds so fucking stupid. But I am mostly enjoying myself now all of the time. P. sometimes sees me for the first time on any given day in the afternoon and says, “You look happy,” and I am, for no reason really.

I made an eight-course meal for Valentine’s Day for my family. (I have pictures of that as well.) It came off very well, but I was knackered. I am embarrassed to say I cooked for eight hours, because how is that fun, really? But it was. I thought it was going to take half the time it did. I made small portions but even so we were like the sad dog who steals a pie and then lays around howling afterwards. I was literally on the floor rolling around. I don’t overeat like I used to, so that was a weird night.

The next day I did what I think of as “pre-gardening”–cleaning up some of my pots and getting things ready for spring flowers. I brought some mint home because this winter has been so freaking mild. P. was more athletic and planted a persimmon and dwarf crab apple with Strudel’s help. We are slowly chipping away at the trees we don’t really like. There’s an ornamental cherry in the front bed next to the sidewalk that was allowed to grow out of control. Eventually we will cut it down as the crab apple gets bigger. I had P. take out a holly tree out front that was doing not much except providing sharp things for us to step on in the summer as we weed the roses or pick blueberries and raspberries. I like a lot of the established flowering ornamentals, like rhodies, that this house came with, but a lot of trees and bushes, I say if it doesn’t make any fruit, PULL IT.

So the minifarm is coming along. I am down to seven chickens, now, sadly. I was in the kitchen cooking on Monday afternoon and I went out to get some sage leaves and saw that Goethe was staring at something in the corner of the yard. She turned her head as I approached and her eyes were like saucers. I looked beyond her and saw a pile of feathers kind of exploded, and then Death Ray laying in the middle. I didn’t think she’d come to a bad end wandering the yard alone, because it is a pretty standard-sized lot in a residential part of the city, and she always squeezed through the fence by dusk to put herself away with the other chooks who cannot fit through the fence.

The only thing I can think of that happened is that a raccoon came out in broad daylight and attacked her, but got spooked before taking her off. She was a Silkie, and very tiny. She had a bit of blood at the back of her neck, which I assume was broken. It was hard to tell because she had stiffened so her neck didn’t flop. The dogs followed me out after I spent a couple of minutes looking up into the firs and bushes to see if I could spot a horrible little face, and I realized they hadn’t been out or involved at all. They were smelling, smelling, smelling the ground all around where Death Ray was. Horace chased the chickens when he was small, but I trained him not to, and Edith pretty much followed suit. The chickens are not afraid of the dogs. The chickens pretty much ignore them, as they do my cats.

I turned my head to look in the pen where the remaining chickens are and it was quiet and there was not a chicken in sight. Shit! Would there be more deaths? Would they be chased off somewhere over the fence into the neighborhood? It was so weird, because I had heard absolutely nothing and I was in the kitchen right off the patio. I found most of the chickens cowering in the corner of their pen and Molokai was hiding in the coop. So something weird certainly went down.

Death Ray lived through so much bullshit and this was her third house. She was part of my first batch, the first summer I got chickens again after my divorce, when we lived in the duplex by the Zoo (2008). I never dreamed she would have made it this long. On one hand I am glad that she enjoyed her “retirement” out on the lawn where the younger, stronger chickens could not peck at her, but I know it caused her demise. If they were all in a clump I don’t think a raccoon would have messed with her.

I’m finally going to start my beehive this weekend–I decided on a set of plans. P. says he will help me build it, which is a relief, but he doesn’t want to take point on it as a project. I totally understand that feeling–he’s still got the basement coming along slowly but steadily for someone who works full time. It’s a lot easier now that I am well 99% of the time and he doesn’t have to drop everything and take over making dinner or run an errand that I was supposed to do.

I’m excited about this because I’ve wanted a hive for a long time and we haven’t worked on a little project like this since we built the coop together. When it’s done, I’m going to order a batch of bees and they should be here in April. I am read up on Seattle law about where hives can be sited and whatnot so I don’t think the neighbors can formally complain. We are not putting it close to anyone, because I don’t want to provoke anyone, anyway. My street was closed recently for construction and I parked in front of the neighbor’s house behind me, and she came out and yelled at me for parking on the street in front of her house (parking is not tight in this neighborhood, nor does she have a lot of visitors). I was holding Nordstrom bags and wearing interview clothes, not flipping a switchblade or something. I told her I was her neighbor and that both streets next to my house were closed and her response was to slam the door. I shrugged and moved the car–it’s not worth it. So it’s good to know I am surrounded by old cranks!

My last bit of news is that I cannot stand being miserable doing what I am doing anymore, nor can I see spending the next ten years complaining about it (and as I bragged recently my student loans are paid off after ten years), so I am in progress with making a career change. It should happen pretty quickly, in the next 2-3 months, but I don’t want to say what I am up to til then. Nothing earthshattering! I just need to do something new. And now I can, because my brain and body is working…I don’t need to be trapped behind a desk for all time. Hooray!

You can’t go home again…but you sure as hell can’t stay here either

February 2nd, 2015

1. Cat Update

Goethe is doing well! She went into surgery on Friday early in the morning. They warned me in the estimate that they may find unexpected things, like a broken jaw or other problems. It turns out some of her incisors were cracked/smashed as well, so they had to come out. No broken jaw, but her lip was slightly ripped and had to be repaired. They also cleaned her teeth while they were in there.

Pictures of pictures, sorry, but I thought it was cool that they discharged her with pictures of the work. There were also xrays and after pictures. The vet tech was a really kick ass lady and I was happy Gert was her only patient that day (as she told me). I had not been fishing around in her mouth at all because I knew it would do no good, so it was neat to see these pictures.

I think she’s in decent spirits. She looks kind of funny face-on. I cannot tell if it’s a scab on her lip or if the change is permanent yet. Her face looks kind of elongated now, and she reminds me more of how her sister Matilda looked (left) before she vanished.

She kind of has a lisp when she purrs now. She’s been doing a surprising amount of purring as she sleeps on my stomach or feet at night. And she is eating an ungodly amount of wet food, which I had to buy special. I have also set up a spare litterbox at the bottom of the stairs. Usually one is sufficient since they go in and out, but of course Gertie is on house arrest right now.

We had a bonus incident on Friday when Gert was in surgery. I had the cat flap locked when she was home, but as I left to drop her off for surgery, I opened it to swing freely so the spaniels could let themselves in and out all day. I took the girls to an art museum while we waited to get the call about Gert (the girls had the day off as a between-semesters day).

For some reason (*cough* TINY BRAINS) the spaniels assumed they were locked in and did not even try the flap. They spent the day pissing on a bag that was in the downstairs bathroom, which we did not discover until bedtime Friday night. It was really a bummer because there has not been an accident in the house for over a year, when Edith first came home and was being trained. I know some little dogs can be nightmares about potty training but these two are great (Friday excepted).

“A LAKE of pee,” P. kept repeating gloomily as I mopped. My own personal sweet Eeyore who knows that when it rains, it sometimes golden showers.

Our first thought was that Mere was pissed off (ho ho pun). But we quickly realized it didn’t have that death ammonia cat smell, thank god, and then we realized it was our poor dumb dogs. Little animals cannot change routine well. We have been keeping the bathroom door closed post-cleaning and have been letting the uninjured animals out FREQUENTLY. We have the flap set to “in only” so they can let themselves back in when they are ready.

Between cat surgery and the hot water heater dying, January was an expensive month!

2. Not Yo Cheese

Second, thank you for indulging my Xtreme (90s style) whining the other day. I don’t want to make glib remarks about the scale of human suffering, but yeah, I am pretty low on it. Like I have said, I think this will all kind of inadvertently save my life. Except, you know, I am being advertent about it.

Today I found out that “advertent” is a word. I NEVER, EVER hear anyone saying it. I thought maybe it didn’t have a buddy, like “untoward.” WELL, you learn something new every day. And then forget it by 5 p.m. or so.

Speaking of things I never thought I’d advertent, I made…wait for it…vegan nacho cheese. AKA, “Just fucking kill yourself already.”

It was pretty fun. Start with a shit ton of oil, which sounds like cheese already.

Then add various aromatics and spices. Then cashews (and potatoes), which if you know anything about vegan recipe land, you know that cashews are kind of a staple in sauces and gravies. I always feel for the people in the comments who are like “I am allergic to nuts and three other ingredients in this five-ingredient recipe. What should I sub?” Um, here’s a carrot. Good luck. :(

Finally you add almond milk and some water and simmer everything until it’s tender. And then whirl it for a long time in your food processor.

The result is a lot like that classic mac and cheese made from a bechamel base. To be honest, I was never super keen on this particular “mother sauce.” I like the texture and adding things to it, but I don’t mind a vegan replacement one bit. I’m more about broth-based sauces or a nice hollandaise.

I made them to order. Ready, this is like a really boring story problem (oxymoron?): An asshole wants to make seafood mac and cheese. Strudel will not eat bay scallops, but loves crab. Her father will eat bay scallops but NOT crab. Franny and SJ are winners and will eat everything. What time will the trains collide and derail? A: Make four separate bowls with tin foil labels. I assembled the noodles, seafood, and sauce, and gave it a quick blast so everything was nice and toasty but not dry.

3. Boyfriend

I think it could have been a little better if I hadn’t held supper for so long for my dawdling daughter, who was downtown with her boyfriend. I think the two of them got together around Thanksgiving but he was a mysterious secret who I was not allowed to meet until Saturday. I think she was getting used to the idea she was having a boyfriend at all. At first, questions resulted in “MoooOOOOOoooooOOOOM” until she unclenched a little.

I, Nosyface, pelted her with questions from the get-go: what is his last name? (“Ummm…” She knows it now.) How old is he? (“Uh, 15 I think?”) So he’s a sophomore? (“Uhh yeah, is that tenth grade?”) It turns out he is sixteen and a junior. She knows many facts about him now. I forgot that when you’re a kid and this is new you don’t immediately need someone’s entire dossier–you just like someone.

I had the world’s most awkward talk recently while I was making dinner about not doing things she’s not ready for. “Like, um, sex stuff,” I said. Klunk. “Because it’s important to feel ready and like it’s the right person.”

“I know, Mom. He’s not like that.”

“And you can talk to me or your aunt if you need anything or have questions. And if you do decide to have sex, you can stop anytime. You can’t revirginize or anything, but you can stop and you don’t have to have sex with every next person. It’s a choice every single time.”

“Okay, okay.”

(It is important to pause here and note that Franny REGULARLY mocks me with this line, but I think she appreciates the check-ins.)

After meeting the boyfriend, I feel less worried. He seems like a very calm and friendly sixteen, with none of that oozing Lothario quality I used to go for. His mom dropped him off and she was nice too.

In failure news, I also decided to try making tamarind candy at home. Rather than using pods, I bought blocks of paste. My one regret is that I added the citric acid the recipe called for optionally, for “extra pucker.” It was TOO pucker. I had a couple of pieces last night, one sweet and one spicy, and it made my teeth flare up into sensitivity again.

It was a good reminder that I need to get a fucking grip (like always) because I was like ACK ACK ACK I am falling apart again!! And then in the next beat I remembered the citric acid and switched off my electric toothbrush to a regular one for last night.

Next time I will just have one! Tamarind may have replaced bergamot in my heart, now that they have long since stopped making bergamot gum.

Put your back into it

January 29th, 2015

Kind of rattling around in my house today, making sure Gert doesn’t get into trouble and counting job rejection emails (or just the silences, same thing) as they roll in. I’ve been out walking almost daily for a couple of hours at a time so if she started vomiting suddenly or took a turn I feel like that would be too long. I always take to walking when I am unemployed longer than I like.

I had a funny experience last night being out at the emergency vet. Once we checked her in, one of the front desk ladies said, “There’s coffee and hot cocoa in the waiting area.” We walked over to hang out uselessly, as you do when a little creature or child you care about is in the back room and there is nothing to do but wait.

I took in the coffee machine–it was one of those big jobs that makes one cup at a time to your specs. It spat out hot cocoa as well, which is that powdered stuff sweetened with corn syrup and probably augmented with dairy. Does it come out of the same tube as the coffee? I have no idea. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee anyway. It was eight o’clock at night and I was exhausted.

I took in the sheer array of accouterments up on their coffee prep counter. There were huge pump bottles.

“Is that…ketchup?” I said stupidly, looking around for…a hot dog machine? No, it was giant pump bottles of artificial creamer. I did not know they come in gallon bottles now. Better than the wee cups I suppose, in terms of trash. There was a vending machine next to the coffee station. The top half was a typical assortment of processed junk food–candy, crackers, chips, gum. The lower half was all soda.

P. watched me look at the machines and took a cursory glance himself. “You can’t eat anything in this building,” he said.


“Well, it’s true.”

On the way home when Gert McDirt was doped up out of her teeny walnut we stopped at Albertson’s to get wet cat food for her sore mouth and an urge struck me–I was overtired, as I mentioned earlier today, and stressed out.

“I wonder if I can eat anything here,” I said. I am unhappy to admit that I used to stress eat sometimes when things were really bad. Skittles were absolutely my Achilles heel.

I looked in the candy section…no “hippy” candy. I looked in the tiny, quarter aisle gluten-free section.

“Hmm, nothing here either, unless I want to eat a bag of date sugar,” I said.

“You may have fruit,” said P.


I love fruit, but that has never been my go-to stress snack. I suspect if it was, I would have a very different-looking hind quarter. I ended up buying a bottle of wine, poured myself a glass, crawled into bed with a book, had literally one sip, and then abandoned it when I realized I was still pretty full from dinner and had already brushed my teeth anyway before I found Goethe in trouble.

“If I ever can’t have wine,” I told P., “I am going to, like, start taking ecstasy every day. Because I cannot have anything fun anymore.”

“If you take ecstasy every day, I am going to kick you out,” he replied. This, of course, is the correct response. He thought a bit. “You’d be screwed in the apocalypse, eh? Wait, maybe not, because people would be farming and stuff….” Sigh. I think I could hang on feeling crappy and working my way through the remaining processed food until we all started farming again.

I know there’s fat vegans and fat celiacs and fat all kinds of people, regardless of how “healthy” their diet is, but I’m losing weight. (Point being you can eat too much of a “healthy” diet even.) I’m sad that this is “what it took” but at the same time hooray for living longer? (Maybe?) I was on this cycle of feeling like shit, eating the wrong things constantly (i.e. almost any processed foods), having pain and not being able to exercise. So after my diet was forced to change it just didn’t sound fun anymore to eat too much. I’m sure someone like this is out there, but I don’t really know people who put on a movie at night and snack on sweet potatoes and steak. Just saying….

Well. I realized recently that since all my weird exercise hindrances (joint pain, muscle aches, random body parts popping in and out of joint) are completely gone I might as well step it up. So in addition to my doggy death marches I am back to yoga, dancing, stretching, all kinds of stuff. Let’s see how fit I can get, eh? Every night now and I am sore and it’s all good soreness.

After all this thought about comfort foods and big grocery stores and waiting rooms I found this Superbowl commercial today about how wussy being “afraid” of gluten is. When I first was diagnosed this kind of stuff used to really dismay me because I thought “Man we’re never going to get any respect from Big Food or ‘the public’ or even servers at restaurants….” And this commercial did super irritate me today, not going to lie. I can’t really get mad at Nick Offerman, because he’s riding the anti-intellectual American Fuck Yeah money train all the way to the bank. I saw him live a year or so ago and it was pretty terrible and I realized that thinking isn’t really in his job description. And if Nascar wanted to to hire me to mock, I dunno, otters or something, I probably would. Not gonna lie.

But I have come to realize that while I appreciate all the people who are working to not make gluten a punchline, I’m really outside the conversation. It doesn’t matter if restaurant servers and chefs “believe” me or not. I don’t really belong in their restaurants in the first place. It doesn’t matter if big grocery stories have a gluten free section or not, since what I need to get from there is whole foods only. No food is really marketed to me (when’s the last time you saw an ad for carrots?). I’m not going to stop taking care of myself and my family, but I am coming to grips with the fact that I often feel like some kind of tourist or observer everywhere I go that offers food.

I love food a lot and I miss having the choice of eating poorly, honestly. I don’t have religion. I’m not super serious about politics. “Having a career” doesn’t excite me. Food (trying new things and restaurants, doing things like mastering weird pastry) was my big hobby. Now I am trying to mourn for that and find new conversations I can be part of.

In Sickness and in Hairballs; Or, My Harballz Will Go On

January 29th, 2015

Poor little Goethe! We think she fell off the roof last night. She lost three canines and cut her lip up pretty badly. The emergency vet thought it was a fall in part because she has “front claw trauma”–probably trying to scrabble for a hold before eating cement.

She was swirling around my legs around 5 like she does and then disappeared–the cats usually disappear around dinnertime, probably because of all the noisy flurry of people activity in the dining room and kitchen. Dinner took a long time because like a dummy I was trying to make french fries again. Of course half the fries disintegrated in the boiling water and then the oil boiled over…I really suck at them.

“You should get a Cornballer, Mom,” Franny said. (I have just introduced her to Arrested Development, because she obviously needs more sarcasm in her arsenal.)

I think I will get a Cornballer. I miss greasy fries.

So at 7:30 I retreated to the bedroom to put on comfy pants. I was really sore because I took the dogs on another death march yesterday, all the way to a Jewish cemetery hidden in Shoreline and back. I super wanted to lay down and hopefully be asleep by 8:30 or so, for serious. My sleep schedule has been weird because of my unemployed hobo lifestyle right now. Then I saw Goethe on the bed, panting and with a bloody mouth.

Anyway, Gert’s doped out of her mind now on some kind of “opioid” substance that we squirt on her gums. The e-vet said our regular vet would probably want to remove the canine roots, and that will be that. I will have a kitty that will no longer be able to behead birds and leave them in the laundry room (silver lining). Of course being a cat, she will still probably kill them slowly in the yard anyway.

My cat flap is locked to “in only” this morning for Goethe’s safety right now, and her mother is being a huge tool about it, per usual. She will scratch the flap and meow, an activity that is very popular with her. I let her out into the backyard, making sure her injured daughter isn’t going to try to make a break for it, and Mere comes back in about 10 seconds. Then she goes back into her “I DEMAND TO SEE MY LAWYER” routine. SO TEDIOUS. There is a litterbox downstairs, lady.

Mere does this scratching routine pretty much every night on Strudel’s door. She has bonded with Strudel, of all people, who calls her “MYYY CAT.” (Just like Goethe is MYYY cat, which is why I think she retreated to my bed when she was hurt.)

I’m off to the vet in about an hour. We’ve been really lucky for the past few years. All the animals are pretty young, so the vet bills have been low.

I thought she was geeking out on this outlet in my dining room after I drugged her again (“I can see the music, man”) but then I realized the attraction was probably the sunbeam.

“Cut his hair and watch it grow”

January 23rd, 2015

“But Sidley Park is already a picture, and a most amiable picture too. The slopes are green and gentle. The trees are companionably grouped at intervals that show them to advantage. The rill is a serpentine ribbon unwound from the lake peaceably contained by meadows on which the right amount of sheep are tastefully arranged – in short, it is nature as God intended, and I can say with the painter, ‘Et in Arcadia ego ‘Here I am in Arcadia,’ Thomasina.”

–Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

Like 99 percent of the Northern hemisphere, as I mentioned I had a couple of colds during November and December. My lingering cough stopped sometimes after New Year’s, and loosey goose that I am right now, I realized I could take some of the pot if I wanted to. Ever since it was legalized here I’ve been mentally bemoaning my lack of time and energy for it. Not a huge thing, but I was like, wow, I am now such a boring adult I am too busy and tired to do this thing that was once (briefly) a pretty major part of my life.

I was making pot brownies for a hot minute in the spring just to get to sleep, and would sleep through most of the experience. I would take a little chunk before bed and it seemed to help put me to sleep and keep me that way. If I did wake up to pee at 2 a.m. I would realize I was high as a kite, stumble to the bathroom, and then put myself back to bed quickly. I woke up refreshed and not groggy or spacey. I abandoned this as soon as I found out that making up for missing vitamins and minerals in my diet would do the same thing and even better.

Recently I decided it might be fun to spend part of the afternoon stoned. I had maybe two hits and went back indoors, and I felt it coming on. Well. I had kind of a terrible afternoon. I was high for a while and felt okay. I don’t smoke myself to puddle-on-the-floor incapacitation levels anymore–again with the lack of time and energy and really, interest.

When I was a kid all that was available was weak ditchweed. I’m sure they were already doing interesting things with cross-breeding for potency in California, but not with the scrag I was getting in the Midwest. You could maybe bet that you’d be kind of giggly for about a half hour, and then would be kind of tired and would need a bottle of mango Snapple, STAT. It’s a commitment now. As a friend of mine once said, “new” pot is like a couple of steps away from acid. So I stop with a small hit or two.

I had a realization the other day, though, and I felt kind of silly about it. Once the high had kind of died down, what I was left with was mental fuzziness. The “brain fog” that I had been experiencing from food on a regular basis for the past five years or so. I never minded it before, because I was always fuzzy, and didn’t notice additional fuzz. But since I am clear most of the time now, this was intrusive and unwanted. I felt like the stereotype of the dumb cartoon giant or troll. Mad, but confused, and not sure where the arrows are coming from. I kind of stomped around my house for a while, crushing villagers in my mind, and then had a lie down.

So I think I am done with jazz cigarettes, at least for now. Maybe at some point the memories of the brain fog will fade, and I will want to be altered like that, but for now I am enjoying the clarity I have most of the time. Now that I feel this chapter closing, I am inspired to write another of my pointless series on my history with pot and some things that happened when I was stoned or trying to get there.


I had my camera on some weird setting that made everything a little blurry in the dim lights of my living room last night…

Twelve down, eight more to go

Kennel up!

About a week ago, Death Ray the silkie discovered that she could squeeze herself through the gap in the chicken fence. The other girls are too fatty von fat fat hens to fit, which was the point of the design. Death Ray is now about 6 years old and has survived many chicken incidents and a small handful of drive by raccoonings.

She has greatly outlived all of her peers that I purchased with her and at this point she doesn’t really fit into the pecking order at all. She completely stays away from the other hens, which started about three years ago. I have wondered if she would develop more homies if I got some more silkie chicks, but I am currently at the legal limit of hens. Also, every winter now we assume it’s her last…but nope. She lives through everything somehow. She sleeps in the egg laying box presumably since she is so old and creaky, and even survived when Strudel left the egg-retrieving flap open a couple of years ago. That really should not have happened since the flap opens into her bed directly.

Anyway, I figure she has earned her retirement and a respite away from the other hens, who often peck her if they remember she exists. Poor little pariah. I like to look up and see her noodling around on the lawn all day though.

A Series of Small Controlled Disasters.

January 20th, 2015

About to change my Yelp review for my jam service

When we last spoke, I was actually on my second full day of having no hot water. I hit “post” and was like OH YEAH, I knew I forgot something. I brought a basket of laundry downstairs on Wednesday and stepped in a massive puddle that had been sopped up by all my rando IKEA rugs that I keep in the very unfinished furnace room so it’s not completely dire to walk through. They also keep the kitty litter contained to that one room. My first thought was that the terrible plumber had done something stupid (again) a year ago during the basement bathroom remodel. I saw that water was dripping out of the bottom of the heater, so that answered the question of where the water was coming from.

I shut off the water supply to the water heater, and then shut off the breaker. Then there was the fun process of pulling up the rugs and mopping, and I set up a fan to finish drying the floor.

P. came home about an hour later. “Hey homeowner who doesn’t have to pay excessive rent or deal with landlords or anything,” I said by way of greeting.

“What happened?” he asked.

We set up a new water heater delivery and install that night, but they couldn’t come until Saturday. I knew my interview was on Friday, and I needed to be clean and presentable then. I took a cold shower on Thursday night and it was fine. My hair actually looked better than usual.

Here I am gussied up and spackled (pre-lip gloss and HIRE ME face). My “style” “inspirations” for the past year have been Jane Fonda in 9 to 5 and Lydia Rodate-Quayle from Breaking Bad. So, a lot of jackets with pussy bows and vintage brooches. Bonkers patterns. I really gave up on my hair on Friday. It’s a pretty decent length bob now, which wear loose pretty often, but the front still has a lot of damaged hair from when I was going red all the time a year ago, and that’s the first thing people see. I have the twitching hands of wanting to cut it so badly, but I want to grow it out. So, that thing.

The interview itself was kind of terrible. I think I was in denial about what I was in for. I had a phone screen, fine, normal for a contract. Then they asked to do a second screen with a second person. THEN they asked me to come in for a two-hour loop with four people. If there is a way to tell your interviewers that their process is above your pay grade and position as a feckless contractor, I have not discovered it. I got the full-court press as if I was interviewing for an FTE postion. One person looked over my resume and expressed confusion about my “career.” He read off it: “Uhhh, marketing, taxonomist, content analyst/xquery, writing, editing…” He did not know what to do with it. I refused to explain myself. I have learned to say, “I like a fast pace and the challenge of a variety of tasks” rather than “I get bored easily behind a desk and corporate life in particular bores the shit out of me. May I have a job at your Business Factory?” They are doing this to two other poor contractors so I won’t hear until the end of the week. I got this exact same job in the same department five years ago with a 40 minute phone screen and a writing sample. ANYWAY.

But enough about my TERRIBLE ATTITUDE. We had hot water again by Saturday night, which was great. Then I woke up a 2 a.m. on Sunday morning to the sound of really loud pops, like fireworks, amidst the sounds of a heavy windstorm. It turns out it was transformers blowing and the power in my house was dead. I got out of bed and threw on my coat and boots and went out the front door and I could see downed power lines leading straight to the ground. I called the po-pos and reported it, and a fire truck came out. Two guys jumped out and one said “Hi” to me as I stood on the edge of the lawn with a flashlight. Then they left. A couple of cars came and went down my street, trying to get through, and in their headlights I could see that a tree was completely blocking the road.

I pulled P. out of bed to come look as well. There wasn’t much to see other than a giant tree in the dark. The sky was beautiful and for once you could see every star. Orion was on his side, which is the best, because then he turns into Burt Reynolds. Another neighbor was out and he said “watch out for the low wires.” We ducked under and got close to the tree. I could see that most of my street had power except our end.

That giant Narnia-looking hedge motherfucker is actually the tree and is where cars are supposed to go. The police closed my street and they left when the power company came. For hours it was just guard trucks on either end of the street. I got a message on my dying phone that power would be restored by 1 p.m. so we went for a huge walk because we were bored and kind of weirdly anxious about first having no hot water and then no power. It made for a crap weekend.

We had the neighborhood to ourselves since apparently a football game was happening. I love walking on football days. We encountered some people getting into a car and they declared, “Wow, the only people in the city not watching the Seahawks!”

“Our power’s out,” we explained, so we would not be shot on sight or citizens’ arrested.

Taking the dogs out to a nearby park and back was a bit of a mistake since they were caked in mud when we came home. I washed them with some of the hot water we had left, but couldn’t blow dry them as usual. Horace followed me around with his confused face on until I bundled them up in the living room, where we had a fire going most of the day. They shivered a little and fell asleep. Later Horace spent a lot of time staring at the kitchen vent, which was not giving up the warm blowy goods at all.

I should say that overall this was a very minor inconvenience. It has been reaching almost 50F here during the day, and is sunny as hell today (I went out hiking for two hours earlier, listening to the newest Extra Hot Great). We still had the stove top, which could be lit with a match, so I kept mint tea going all day. After our walk we sat by the fire and read.

The sun started setting before five and a bucket truck appeared on our street. Strudel and I cheered and jumped around. I busted out all my candles and started making dinner. Chicken, veg, and yellow split pea soup.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this. This is awesome,” P. said. We talked about going to dinner, but knew we would just have to come back to our sad cold dark house. I carried a taper around with me to the pantry and to look in the fridge, and even knocked it over and spilt wax on my pants and floor. What a clumsy early Victorian I would have been. While I cooked, Strudel put on her boots and went out and spied on the grownup talk on the street. She came back in triumphant: “They say two more hours!”

It was less time than that. About three minutes before my soup was ready, the microwave and various other devices awakened with beeps and boops. I blew out my candles and cursed the darkness.

Other business:

I lost access to my old Twitter account (long story involving me being stupid) so I started a new one a couple of months ago at @theiasshole. I wanted to give it some time to see if I would get back into it, and I have been wading back in slowly after being a heavy user a few years ago. And then I got sick and went into Greta Garbo hermit mode, but I am climbing out again. I am even getting used to socializing a little again. I don’t have palpitations every time some emails me anymore. Sigh. Anyway follow along if you are a twitter type person or not. I am trying to refollow people I used to follow as they pop up and whatnot.

Batman’s to the left of me

January 16th, 2015

So, Franny hath peaced out for this long holiday weekend, and her dad will pick her up after school tonight. SeaFed got a bug up his butt in December and decided we HAD to go to conferences with her main advisor this month and emailed me to that effect, saying I could go with him or separately, but he was going to schedule something. About once a year he comes out of the woodwork to do some kind of Parenting Action. This is fine. Basically this meeting is just a once-a-year check in that has a more flexible timeline than the structured “conference week” for youngsters like Strudel.

I replied to him, okay, my contract ends December 22nd, any time after that would be great. Maybe early January? I sent him another email last week to follow up–“Any word on conference times?” He replied and said “Franny was supposed to text me dates that worked for her teacher.” I asked her about this when she came home that night. “Yeah, I was supposed to text him but I’m still mad at him.” (This is about the whole “if she in ungrateful about treats that may make her sick, then let her not eat any cake, including cakes she could eat safely”).

She revealed a little more of her fury to me when I took her jeans shopping recently. I cannot overstate the value of taking your teenager out alone in a car to someplace like the mall. It’s like you bought the golden ticket to being unloaded upon, which is invaluable really. She said she’s overheard her stepmother doing the whole “We don’t even know if she HAS Celiac disease” loudwhisper [tm Grima Wormtongue] at SeaFed when she thinks Franny is out of earshot. To be fair I did have her tested after she had balked and was refusing to eat wheat and was already feeling better. Strangely I could not get either of my children to ingest wheat to do the test “properly”…. It’s like my whole household has this weird bias against explosive diarrhea.

But back to the matter at hand. Okay, first of all, you do not leave conference-arranging up to your fourteen year old, unless she is Rory Gilmore or Tracy Flick. Uh. I guess I don’t have a second point. Except to say that I think I am going back to work soon, so who knows when or if I can meet with this advisor. Also that I am a little disappointed that she is handling this passive-aggressively, but I know from experience that handling things aggressively with him kind of bounces off. She’s entitled to be pissed off. I printed off a few things about cross-contamination for her to give to them over there when she gets back.

While I wish I could be a fly on the wall for this conference (or attend, time allowing), I am tempted to just let it happen. I always feel that the more people who discover what he is like the better. Also I am super, super not worried about Franny’s progress at school in any way, nor do I have any questions really. We show up for events and she shows me her homework and she seems happy. She’s recently taken off on her DJ slot that she has on Wednesday afternoons, which is adorable. (“I played Nick Cave AND Roy G Biv by TMBG today!”) I am just happy to see her excited about art and music and her friends AND doing her algebra homework. He can go tick off the conference box. And he can deal with how mad she is at him right now…but realistically, he probably won’t figure it out.

What is the difference between jelly and jam

January 13th, 2015

Dorty goes outside; attempts to come back in; discovers: CATBLOCK!

For a while I thought this was general cat obtuseness, but it happens far, far too often for it to be a coincidence. The view out the catflap isn’t even that good. It’s partly obscured from the leavings of slobbery faces and the view is pretty much Porch and Bush. We have many many other windows that show other views like Road or Birdbath. Hell, Nightmere can GO OUTSIDE and view everything up close and personal-like. This is deliberate griefing.

Thing two is this problem:

I have discovered I have opened the LAST jar of strawberry jam, and it is from 2012. That’s fine, it’s still good and all, but there are no REAL flavors left after this. P. kept not making jam because we “had so much left from previous years.” LOOK AT WHAT IS LEFT. And there are MULTIPLE JARS of this nonsense–this is just a sampling. This is like saying, we don’t need guest pillows, there’s loads of cow plops around. WHAT.

Review of remaining jams.

Currant: Delicious but weirdly gelatinous, due to high quantity of naturally occurring pectin in currants. Best melted with wine as a glaze for meat, or diluted with vinegar and used as a mint sauce for lamb. I will commit to this, but it does not solve my peanut butter problems.

Rhubarb: Rhubarb is a devil invention and only fit for doomed livestock that has broken out of its paddock. The only allowable thing that starts inedible and gets WOW with a fuckity load of sugar is cranberries. Related point: where are thou cranjam?

Blk sauce: No, this is not dark matter squeezins, it is blackberry sauce. Delicious, but not blackberry jam or jelly, which we were out of before frost kissed the lawn. As a show of goodwill I vow to use this once we run out of our open container of maple syrup for anything I would put maple syrup on (pancakes, porridge, second-degree burns).

Kiwii: An attempt at fooling me into thinking this is some kind of Hawaiian or Japanese concoction. We all know this is KIWI. A thing that should not be jammed, but only occurring as wheels in fruit salad or eaten out of hand. It should be noted that the creator of this abomination also eats kiwis whole without peeling them. Nice try at fitting in on Earth, Ford Prefect.

Plum: Plum jam tastes okay, and you cannot swing an ikat infinity scarf around here without hitting an Italian plum tree that is usually overladen with fruits and an owner saying, “Dear god, please take some.” One year we got something like fifteen pounds of plums from Plum Tree Park alone. So kudos for thrift and creating what I think of as a Seattle classic, but there is something about these plums…they form a grey scum at the top which makes it difficult to get through the first half of the jar. It’s really daunting for the children, especially. No one wants to open this five years old jam.

Quince: I LOVE quinces in desserts, but this is a similar problem to currants. It is not so great with peanut butter, imo. I used to eat it with cheese, but now cheese is out and so is quince! I will make a note to glaze a turkey breast with it or something.

In conclusion, we are out of jam. Yours in ingratitude, SJ