28 February 2008


Our friends Jen and Drew were here last weekend. This is what it looks like when they, or some of our other WELL pals, visit.

Jen's daughter Laura is a Reedie, and had a major role in a theatrical experience, a senior thesis project involving the Cinderella story played out in the rave scene. Prince Charming was DJ Strange Boy, and there was a reason, pharmacologically speaking, why they stayed up way, way, way past midnight (in this household we call it "Pumpkin Time"). Parts of the production worked surprisingly well.

Speaking of wired, I've been remarkably industrious the last couple of days. Yesterday I scrubbed down the little deck off the kitchen, railings and floor. It made some difference, but a coat or two of paint would really help. This morning, I polished several pair of silver earrings, then brushed varnish on the badly-neglected kitchen picture-window-sill, lemon-oiled the table, and made a preliminary effort to clean the hardware on the Hoosier cabinet. Tomorrow, if I still feel like it, I'll wash down the wood and then apply some lemon oil. I've been a total slug about housecleaning all winter, but now I've got the bit between my teeth, as the expression goes.

Before I got heavily into the cleaning jag this morning, Jer and I walked to Sellwood to check out the Garden State food cart. Nice guy, tasty vittles. For various reasons he was out of the two items I really wanted to try, the arancine and the grilled chicken, but the chick pea/squash sandwich was tastier than it sounds. I'd call it not worth a detour in the Michelin sense, but worth keeping in mind if you're in the nabe and hungry.

27 February 2008

Happy Meal

Chef Jerub takes his breakfast seriously. But how can you not smile at such a cheerful-looking meal?

26 February 2008

Out of one, many

I mentioned my good deal at the garden show -- a deceptively top-heavy aloe vera for $12.95. Aloe is an amazing plant; pinch off a portion of a leaf, spread the gel on your owie (it's especially good for kitchen burns), and you heal, miraculously, sans blisters or terminal bleeding.

Today I separated and repotted the monster plant. When I bought it, it was in one of those tall black plastic (half-gallon, maybe?) pots, and incredibly root-bound. I now have thirteen pots-full of aloe vera. Want one?

21 February 2008

Lunar Eclipse

I thought we'd miss it -- the high probability of cloudy skies, plus we had a 7:30 theater curtain, and by the time we parked and all... But then Jer suggested leaving a bit early so we could get a bite to eat before the play, and we ended up at PCS a few minutes before 7. There was a small crowd at the corner, which turned out to be, mostly, a photography class from the Portland Art Institute, across the street from the theater. The view from there was perfect. I hung out while Jer went inside, ordered a sandwich and brought back a glass of red wine to share. We watched through totality.

Note: This isn't my shot. The photo credit imported with Flickr's "Blog This" doesn't show up in all browsers, apparently. It was originally uploaded by A new opportunity of life / Arturo Andrade as Eclipse Feb 2008

The last lunar eclipse I recall seeing was during our time at Sea Ranch, where someone set up a huge telescope at the end of their cul de sac. The sky was a lot darker there, and the orange glow more brilliant. But the terra cotta disk juxtaposed against the brickwork of the old Armory was quite a picture; I hope some of the students thought to include a slice of the building, for context.

There's a primitive and, to me, deeply satisfying charge in the fact that people will still stop on the street to marvel at something gone strange in the cosmos.

18 February 2008

Spring Tease

I see signs of spring everywhere. Chalk art on the sidewalk. My colorful sock drawer. Even the compost bucket looked particularly beguiling this morning. It's supposed to start raining again tomorrow, but this weekend has been glorious.

Friday morning Jer and I went to the yard and garden show at the Convention Center. Our official mission was to scope out deck builders and get answers to a few existential questions, e.g., which comes first, the hot tub or the lumber. My own sekrit, stealth mission, though, was to score some plants. We were successful on both fronts, though I'll poke around some more in Angie's List for contractor recommendations.

I found primo specimens of all three of the plants that I wanted, including an aloe vera for kitchen emergencies (I brought several from California, where they thrived, but all of them mysteriously turned to slime in Portland); a tiny witch hazel with adorably weird winter-blooming whirly-birdy flowers (I'd noticed a couple around the 'hood in the past few weeks and was completely taken with them); and, eternal optimist that I am, a Meyer lemon. It has two ripe lemons on it already, so even if the tree-ette doesn't make it, we'll still have had a crop. At $22.50 per lemon.

Saturday I pruned the "big" rose bed, which I didn't get to last weekend, and yesterday I spent a couple of hours on the stepladder, loppers in hand, trying to tame the out-of-control climbing-rose arbor on the east side of the house. It's President's Day weekend and I got the roses pruned; I feel like part of some vast and ancient tradition.

Today I planted the little witch hazel (shown here on the kitchen table). I'll probably try the lemon in a container, at least for this season; I have a beautiful pot that's just the right size. The aloe is top-heavy; it desperately needs dividing and repotting -- I got my money's worth on that one -- but another day. I also cleaned the grill and the grill cover, which has been off most of the winter because, duh, the grill was too greasy to put it on. One small gesture in the face of entropy.

Another highlight of the weekend was hearing the great Michael Smith in a small venue up by Ladd's Addition. He's a low-key yet utterly compelling performer. If you like singer-songwriter-type stuff and don't know Michael's work, you're missing some wonderful music. (note: He's Michael Peter Smith, not to be confused with the "Christian music" Michael Smith.)

10 February 2008

New camera; please bear with me

After months of research, dithering, and soul-searching, I gave in and bought a new digital camera. It's a Canon Powershot S5 IS. My old one's a Powershot also, and served me well for six or seven years. But I kept bumping up against its limitations, especially zoom-wise. Also, I knew that my low-light photos and less-than-steady hand would benefit from image stabilization, which is fairly standard in today's generation of cameras but wasn't even a gleam in the eye of Canon's R&D department when my S20 came out. And... I'll stop rationalizing now. I love this camera.

I took it on its first outing, with a couple of birding friends, to the Crystal Springs Rhody Garden, and put the zoom through its paces. The great blue heron was all the way across the lake. The squirrel was maybe 20 feet up a tree, the wood duck about as far away. The cormorant on the pilings and the crows perched overhead, I know from previous futile efforts, would have been nearly invisible without whatever fraction of the 12x zoom I deployed to frame them. I love the feeling of-lots-more-zoom-if-I-need-it; I can actually pull back and hold some in reserve. Yowzah. I admit it; I'm a zoom slut.

At the other end of the focal length, the macro's pretty impressive, too. I know nothing about image stabilization technology, but it seems to kick in, like Superman, wherever it senses it's needed. I got totally into this gorgeous red amaryllis. Literally. Must avoid getting pollen on lens in the future.

Adorable-cat portraits, a significant portion of my repertoire, have turned out fine so far. Note Abbie's festive bandage. A little late for the holidays, alas; he had an ingrown claw extracted from his paw-pad, poor baby, and managed to tolerate the Santa-hat sock dealie long enough for a couple of humiliating photographs.

So. This is the last big-ticket solely-for-my-own pleasure item I'm going to buy this year. Stop looking at me like that, China Rose.

Just one nice day

Local lore dictates that Presidents' Day weekend -- a mashup holiday, you young'uns, created many years ago from Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays -- is the time to prune roses in Portland. I'd been hoping for a few hours of sunshine, or at least not-rain, to get a start on the job, and yesterday, after what seemed like weeks of unrelenting cold and wet, the window of opportunity opened.

The entire neighborhood seemed to have gotten the "Yardwork!" message. I chatted with neighbors I hadn't seen outdoors in months. The little girls from next door hauled over their miniature gardening tools and helped me for a while, though with one tiny glove between them, I had to direct their efforts away from the roses and toward the ongoing chore of picking up those obnoxious sweetgum seed pods, aka sticky balls.

Pruning is a satisfying task, deciding as you snip what stays, what goes, where to make the cut. I have only a vague notion of how it's supposed to be done, but the roses have always tolerated, or worked around, my efforts.

The afternoon went by quickly. I filled three large bags, plus the yard debris can. Just as I finished the row of miniatures by the driveway, the sky turned hazy and the temperature dropped. It was a good stopping point.

I was hoping for another break in the weather today, so I could attack the roses on the other side of the house, but it doesn't look like we're going to get one. No worries; it's still a week til Presidents' Day.

04 February 2008

Tripping out

A couple of people have asked, and I realized that I haven't blogged about our quick trip to Seattle last month to get a second opinion on Jerry's prostate treatment options. Basically, the doc we consulted there agreed with the conclusions we'd reached based on our own research and the advice of Jer's local practitioner. So it'll be several months of hormone treatment, which Jer just started, followed by brachytherapy, the implantation of radioactive seeds. As formidable as that sounds, it's an outpatient procedure that can readily be done here in Portland. That'll simplify our lives a bit. Side effects, immediate and long-term, are the big unknown, and freakier to contemplate than the procedure itself. We keep reminding ourselves that the outlook, given Jer's overall health and physical condition, is very good.

I was fantasizing about a stellar restaurant meal while we were in Seattle. I have fond memories, from many years ago, of Wild Ginger and the Dahlia Lounge. But, given Jer's need to prep for his exam, we settled for a simple but tasty stir-fry lunch at a hole-in-the-wall near our hotel, with leftovers and room service for dinner. My one touristic activity was taking in the dramatic new(ish) Rem Koolhaas-designed main library building. Very cool structure, inside and out. I wish I'd had time to take a guided tour.

My other January excursion was a weekend visit to the Bay Area. I had a use-it-or-lose-it freebie on Southwest, and could have gone someplace more exotic, but just wasn't up for the logistics of a more elaborate trip or, to be honest, the time away. It did my heart good to hang out with friends, and to reconnect with Berkeley, my other home town. I didn't take many photos there (I'm not a tourist in Berkeley), but here's what one pal ordered for breakfast that Sunday at the Sunny Side Cafe on Solano. If I recall correctly, this was eggs benedict between two slices of French toast, doused in Hollandaise. Of course the orange twist totally neutralizes the cholesterol.