saturday in the hood

Dinner & a movie @ St. John's Pub w/my sweetie. Life is good.

smeagol is freeeee!

So my hatewatch of the Twilight franchise is officially over and I no longer have to march in the Zombie Shame Parade. When the credits were mostly done, ProcrastiGirl and I turned to each other and said, "Well, we survived it!", then broke down in giggles. There may have been a tinge of hysteria.

This last one was definitely better than the others, in much the same way the first circle of hell is better than the seventh. Although I admit I have a bit of affection for the first movie, just for its endearingly earnest awfulness and for all the hilarity that ensued when ProcrastiGirl first realized that the sparklepires don't have fangs. I seriously haven't laughed like that during a movie in a long time.

The main reason this one was better is because for about 10 or 15 minutes near the end, the movie showed the possibility of what this story could've been, as if the screenwriter snuck in a great big FU as a major plot twist. Before the reveal of the twist, I was suddenly all, "WHAT WHAT WHAAAAAAT THIS IS THE GREATEST THING THAT COULD HAVE POSSIBILY HAPPENED IF THIS IS REAL I AM GOING TO OWN THIS MOVIE AND JUST PLAY THIS PART OVER AND OVER AND OVER."

And then there was the reveal of the twist and I was suddenly ::sadface:: because seriously, that brief glimpse of kickassery made me long to live in the alternate universe where that's how the Twilight saga really ended. (Although let's be honest: in said alternate universe, Edward would've gotten the beatdown for being an abusive hosebag and Jacob would've gotten kicked in the nutsack when he assaulted Bella and Bella would've realized that they were creepers who didn't deserve the time of day, then focused on her studies and gone off to college and gotten a degree in literature and her happy ending would be teaching classic romances from a feminist perspective by day and staking vampires by night. In that alternate universe? I would've read the shit out of the Twilight books.)


breathing a sigh of relief

includes the simplest, humblest annotation: "thank you"

So a week ago today, we breathed a sigh of relief that the crazies had not successfully taken over the asylum.

Which isn't to say that things are all perfect now. It is, after all, still an asylum.

But things are better than they were, and there's hope that things will continue to get better. Maybe not in all the ways we want, nor as quickly as we want. But considering the alternative? That was very, very bad for anyone who wasn't a rich, white, Christian American man?

Yes, things are better.

Thank you, Mr. President.

lunch, deli club:

  • imitation crab
  • molded egg
  • green beans
  • peas & carrots
  • Starkrimson pear with cashews for gap fillers

your perfect chaos is a perfect fit

Today is a post of odds and ends, wee tales of empowerment, quirkiness, and adorableness. Also, food.

A Tale In Which Our Heroine Gets A Sign From the Universe. Literally.

On the way to the store a few weeks ago, there was a handmade sign stapled to a lightpole saying "Go Brittney Go!" An unexpected exhortation to hurry, hurry to the store? Words of encouragement for braving the hordes in the produce section when I got there?

No, just a remnant from the Portland Marathon a few days before (the route brings participants across the bridge and down Willamette, which is the street I was on), one of many homemade signs of cheer and support along the route. This one was on neon pink posterboard and featured stars and glitter.

A little further on, another sign: "Brittney You Go Girl!" I grinned and said to myself, "Yes, Brittney, you go girl!" And then after that, "YOU ROCK BRITTNEY GO GO GO!" I nodded and pumped my fist a little, "Yes, Brittney, you do rock! Go, go, go!"

It was the most empowering trip to the grocery store I've ever had.

A Tale of What Makes This City Uniquely Fabulous

On the way home from that same trip to the store, I saw what would've been the most awesome thing that day, if I hadn't already taken the grocery store errand of champions just before.

In the bike lane on the opposite side of the street, a cyclist caught my attention from a few blocks away, which is saying something, since cyclists are ubiquitous in this city of that's a haven for bike lovers. It wasn't that he was an older man, nor that he was riding an older-style bike that forced him to sit more upright, nor even that he was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt instead of sporting the hipster-biker and/or Serious Biking Enthusiast gear that's more common. No, it wasn't any of those things, because you get used to seeing all types when bikes make up as much traffic as cars do.

What caught my eye was the white fur stole wrapped around the man's neck and shoulders. I kept staring as I got closer, trying to puzzle out this unusual fashion choice. Was it for warmth? It was a gorgeous 70 degree autumn day, so that seemed unlikely. And fur-anything is a rare sight here, the headquarters of Liberal and Vegan and Environmentally And Socially Conscious.

It wasn't until I passed him that I finally realized that it wasn't a fur at all.

It was his beard.

Parted in the middle and thrown over each shoulder.

I wish every trip to the grocery store was that awesome.

A Tale of What's Red and Black and Adorable All Over

Sister reported the following conversation between her and the Fabulous Miss M regarding favorite colors:

Miss M: And Aunt Bitty's favorite color is purple, like me!

Sister: Yes, and yellow.

Miss M: Mommy, what's Uncle Sal's favorite color?

Sister: I think he likes black. And red.

(I was impressed that she remembered that, by the way.)

Miss M: Uncle Sal is a Ladybug Man!

(And now you know why we spoil her rotten. When you're that adorable, it's a requirement.)

A Tale of Bento Catch Up

But not bento ketchup. Although that would be rad.

Super behind on posting bento pics, but there were too many good ones not to feature them here, and also, NEW BENTO BOX WOOT WOOT! In my search for non-plastic boxes, I've finally added a glasslock box called a Wean Green, which is a pyrex type of glass with a locking plastic sealed lid. This one is square and holds 490 mL, so it's a good in-between size with a nice depth. (For the locals: New Seasons sells them alongside the Lunchbots.)

10/15/12 lunch -- Ms. Bento

  • chicken noodle soup made by Chef Sal
  • carrot sticks
  • green beans
  • Cox's Orange Pippin apple with cashews as gap fillers
  • chocolate pudding

10/16/12 breakfast -- pink WeanGreen

  • molded egg
  • cashews
  • Honeycrisp apple
  • cheese cubes


10/16/12 lunch -- bento colors purple

  • King David apple with cashews as gap fillers
  • chicken teriyaki meatballs
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks with honey peanut butter for dipping


10/18/12 lunch -- pink Natural Lunch

  • chicken teriyaki meatballs
  • steamed carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • molded egg half
  • Anjou pear


10/22/12 lunch -- french bistro

  • crab
  • peas and carrots
  • King David apple with cashews as gap fillers


title from "Get On the Road" by Tired Pony



I have the crud and want to do nothing more than lay in bed and watch movies. It started with a scratchy throat Tuesday night that hasn't gone away, then achiness and stuffiness Wednesday night, then congestion yesterday, and by last night, was a full-blown cold.

It's supposed to be beautiful and warm this weekend, when I could be doing any number of fun and glorious things. But I won't be doing fun and glorious things, I will be dealing with the crud, holing up like a wounded animal and subsisting on soup and juice and NyQuil.

Feh. Feh, I say.

yesterday's lunch, Paris slimline

  • chicken teriyaki meatballs
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks
  • cucumber slices
  • cashews and dried cherries

yesterday's snack, cute animals sidecar

  • hard boiled egg
  • carrot sticks
  • almond butter for dipping

in which we try to save our souls with a good deed

As of approximately 10 PM Saturday night, I'm pretty sure that Sal, Sister, Guy, and I are all going to hell.

We spent four hours playing Cards Against Humanity* (link may be NSFW) and laughed so hard that our faces hurt, our ribs ached, and there were multiple near-choking incidents. This game is seriously demented and wickedly awesome and so very, very wrong. Like, you-need-to-take-a-Silkwood-shower-afterward wrong. We realized within the first hour that A) there's no one else we could play this game with, and B) it will feature regularly in Hall-Smiley family get-togethers.

*(If you haven't heard about it, it's basically Apples-to-Apples, if it had been created by an unemployed alcoholic uncle with a penchant for raunchy, politically incorrect jokes. Apples-to-Apples wishes it were this much fun.)

Aside from playing horrifyingly inappropriate and evil card games until the wee hours of the morning, we also took the Fabulous Miss M to her first-ever movie at a theater. I'd originally wanted to take her in June so her first theater movie would be Brave, but after seeing it, worried it might be a little too intense and scary for her, especially for a first-time theater experience. Luckily, Finding Nemo was just re-released in theaters, which she's seen dozens of times on DVD so I thought that would be perfect since the whole theater-going experience was going to be pretty overwhelming on its own.

We got popcorn with extra butter and introduced her to Reese's Pieces and plenty of sugary drink to wash it all down, because hello, Aunt Bitty and Uncle Sal are the awesomest. (You're welcome, Sister.) She sat wide-eyed from start to finish, enthralled by the huge screen and stereo sound and trailers for movies that aren't even out yet.

So we had a ridiculously fun time and Sister and Guy got a couple of hours of free time. Which would ordinarily earn a nice bit of good karma. I'm afraid, however, that after Saturday night, our karmic debt looks like the Greek government's balance sheet.

lunch, blue bunny & moons

  • stir fry (chicken, onion, garlic, leek, rainbow chard, baby bok choi, orange sweet pepper, fennel, broccoli, corn, secret sauce) with sesame seeds for garnish
  • jasmine rice with carrot hearts for garnish
  • Bartlett pear half and cashews
  • dried cherries

ace of cakes

So...this is a thing that happened today. Sal said, "Yeah, I thought we were doing serious faces...".


(Duff is here for Feast Portland this weekend and needed a kitchen for prepping a few things. Of course he came to OCI, because OCI is home of the Kitchen Ninja. I MEAN REALLY DUH.)


give us this day, our daily bread

We returned Sunday from a 4 day trip to northern Washington, where Sal attended a work-related conference and I tagged along, because hey, why not. More specificially, he attended Kneading Conference West, the purpose of which is "to inspire and educate novice and professional bakers, grain growers, millers, wheat breeders, wood-fired oven enthusiasts, food entrepreneurs, food writers, and anyone who loves to eat hand-crafted breads."

So basically, three straight days of talking about bread, literally morning, noon, and night, and Sal could not have been happier if he had been baked right into a loaf of artisan bread. He was so gleeful at the end of every day that he probably could've powered the entire city of Las Vegas with his excitement. And now there is talk of milling our own flour and (finally) building that earth oven we've been talking about for years.

While he spent his days at the conference, I spent my days writing and exploring the area around Mount Vernon. The last time we were there was with the Albino and Mr. T for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, (hence the picture up top). Even without the fields of rainbow flowers, the area is actually quite lovely and the little downtown area is also very charming. On one of my driveabouts, I ended at Bay View State Park, and another, discovered a really great park on a hillside overlooking the valley and enjoyed a wee picnic of cheeses and crackers while reading a book. Not quite the excitement of a conference about bread and baking, perhaps, but a lovely few days of R&R. I can do with a little less excitement at the moment, anyway.

Super behind on bento postings, but here are the last few. The rest are on the daily bento page, as always. (I just realized that I've had pretty much the same lunch for the last several meals. Hmmm, perhaps time to change things up.

9/6 lunch, Lunchbot Duo

  • herb roasted turkey breast
  • steamed broccoli
  • Jazz apple slices
  • cucumber slices
  • carrot sticks
  • strawberry
  • sunflower seeds

9/6 snacks, Lunchbot Pico

  • Jazz apple slices, cashews (morning snack)
  • hardboiled egg, carrot sticks, cucumber slices (afternoon snack)

9/10 lunch, pink Natural Lunch

  • herb roasted turkey breast
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks
  • pear slices

9/18 lunch, origami squares

  • herb roasted turkey breast
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks
  • Honeycrisp apple slices
  • dried cherries

there's a reason her secret service codename is renaissance

"If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire, if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores, if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote, if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time, if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream, and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love… then surely… surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream."

-- Michelle Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention




laptop recovery: boom roasted

I have officially survived Computer Apocalypse 2012. With aplomb, even. Hard drive successfully replaced and formatted? Check. All software, plug-ins, drivers, applications, and miscellaneous desirable (as opposed to undesirable) bells and whistles successfully installed and calibrated? Check. Over 67.5 GB of data successfully restored from the online backup? Check.

Laptop recovery: BOOM ROASTED.

And now my laptop is all shiny. It's like a little reward for all the sturm und drang of a computer meltdown. I am now in I Have My Shit Together mode, empowered to clean and reorganize and generally fix all the things. This will last approximately 2.5 weeks, and then I will be back to Have You Seen My Shit? I Think I Lost It Somewhere Near Albuquerque mode.

lunch, bento colors purple

  • grilled Thai peanut chicken
  • peas
  • cucumbers
  • carrots
  • strawberries
  • Honeycrisp apple

snacks, bento colors mini

  • morning snack: Honeycrisp apple & cashews
  • afternoon snack: hard boiled egg, cucumbers, carrots

the gerbils have gone on strike

<-- So that's pretty much been my life in the two weeks since I first started writing this post, except without the adorableness. The gerbils who make my computer go are way meaner and far less eager to help than kittens.

The good thing is that my problem (hard drive failure in my laptop) happened in slow motion, which gave me time while I waited for a new drive to get here to double and triple check my backups, make a list of programs I'd need to reinstall, copy critical files to a flash drive so I could use other computers (i.e., Sal's) while mine was down, and all the other things that make starting over much easier. I'm the most prepared I think I've ever been for an imminent hardware crash.

But oh, how much it sucks nonetheless. Even though I knew it was coming and had time to prepare, and have a second computer at my disposal and a smartphone to keep me connected to email, just the thought of the hours of reinstalling the OS and software, swapping out disks through endless reboots, the inevitable glitches and unexpected errors, etc. etc. etc. made my stomach churn, nevermind actually having to suffer through all that. Pile on the fact that it requires hours I really, really don't have right now, that I was up against a deadline for getting everything up and running again due to work and my website business, and most importantly, my book was being threatened in whatever minuscule way...well, let's just say I have morphed into a female Bruce Banner, on the verge of hulking out at any moment.

When you're tech savvy, I think people assume that these kinds of things don't faze you. But I can tell you that when you're trying to resurrect what is essentially your day-to-day life in a fancy metal box and you're only a blue screen of death away from utter devastation, you're just as liable to commit ritual seppuku as a less tech savvy person. You'll probably just do it in a really geeky way.

Anyway, I'm still here, I've successfully avoided hulksmashing anything (yet), and I seem to be reaping the benefits of all that preparedness, since the transition has been relatively smooth thus far. (With the exception of about 30 heart-stopping minutes very late Monday night, when I thought I had accidentally overwritten my backup. Sal happened to call in the middle of my building freakout to tell me he was on his way home, and I'm pretty sure nothing I said was coherent, but I don't know for certain because I've blacked it all out.)

Since I had a post mostly written before my laptop started bidding adieu to this mortal coil, I'll just quote it below. More for me than for you, if only to remind myself that we had a life before the gerbils went on strike, and we will again soon. (Also, I won't try to post makeup listings of my bentos in that time, but you can see them all here.)

(post originally written on August 14th, 2012)

Sal did the Bridge Pedal Sunday, riding his bike on a route that crossed all 10 city bridges. It's about 35 miles altogether, plus the 18 miles he rode to and from the race start/finish. Whew! We met up for lunch and drinks when he was finished, which is proof that I'm way smarter, since I skipped right to the good part with none of that silly bike-riding nonsense.

Sunday was officially hot enough that we set up the bed on the back porch and have been sleeping out there since. It's supposed to be even hotter later this week, so we're going to be out there for a week or more. [ETA: And so we did, for a full week, and it was glorious.]

Getting to sleep outside is pretty much the only upside when it gets hot. It's like camping, sort of! We camped all the time when I was growing up -- the really real kind of camping, where you hike into remote areas and cook your food over a firepit you dug yourself and the nearest bathroom is a good 20 miles away -- and I miss that kind of summer getaway sometimes.

It always takes a couple of nights to get used to the change and remember the details of sleeping outside: the rustling of the raccoons on their nightly sojourn through the backyard, the scritchy screetchy sounds the possum family makes as they shuffle under the porch and around the side the house, the occasional mortar round sound of an apple falling onto the porch roof.

Or, I should say, it always takes me a couple of nights to get used to those details. Sal sleeps like a damn rock, and whether it's the creaking sound of a floorboard that may or may not be the footfall of an axe murderer, or the unidentified but very clear sound of something rustling about under the apple and maple trees where it's too dark to see, he sleeps blissfully on.

I've gotten used to the nighttime sounds of our neighborhood wildlife, and with the exception of the apples, no longer shoot bolt upright in bed every time there's a new sound in the dark outside our screened-in porch. In fact, I've even been able to enjoy my current reading material -- a book about the zombie apocalypse -- in this setting, read under the covers with a flashlight*. Without nightmares! I think I'm officially a Big Kid now.

*(I have read many a book with a flashlight, snugged down inside a sleeping bag out in the middle the damn wilderness, but it's been a long while. It's kind of made me all nostalgic. )


and only the stormy hearts know what it says

While the rest of the PNW was suffering its first hot temperatures of the summer this weekend, we were literally basking in the glory of a beautific summer day on the Oregon Coast.

The timing was strictly a stroke of luck. We scheduled this bonus weekend at the end of June, when the proprietors of the cabins we frequent offered us first dibs on a cancellation for this weekend. The perks of being a regular.

So instead of sweltering in 102 degree heat in our non-air conditioned house, we were stretched out on the sand on a perfectly perfect 80 degree day under ridiculous blue sky.

And we remembered the sunscreen! And the sunglasses! So we weren't burnt to human-shaped crisps! Nor were our eyeballs broiled in their sockets! Hurray for responsibility!

A tempered victory, though. We have a standing Oregon Coast Checklist to help us remember the things we need/want/might bring. It's rare that we bring most or even half of the items, but it's indispensable in helping us remember everything for each trip. In our haste to get out the door, I didn't bother pulling up the list. We've made this trip dozens of times, surely we'd remember what we needed. And we were traveling especially light this time. Most of the list wouldn't apply.

Oh, nay nay.

Throughout the weekend, one of us would suddenly name a thing we realized we'd forgotten, accompanied by a facepalm. "Camera!" "Chairs!" "Butter!" Whoops. Lesson learned: always leave a note check the list.

Sunday was nearly as hot in Portland as Saturday, but in Oceanside, we had fog and cloud cover so heavy it was as if the sky was only a hundred feet high. No wind, no sun, and just the right combination of cool and temperate. It was goddamn glorious. Sal and I did not a single damn thing all day except relax and read and nap.

An hour or so before sunset, we changed to warmer clothes, filled a small cooler with ingredients for a campfire meal (hot dogs, buns, marshmallows, carrot sticks, etc.), and claimed a spot on the beach for building a fire. This is a pretty regular thing on Oregon beaches, so it's easy to find a ring of rocks and remnants of a previous fire someone else built. The sophistication of the firepits will vary, but it's rare that you have to build one from scratch.

We managed to snag a good one, complete with two big driftwood logs for seating, and only had to build a second ring on top of the first to make it deeper. Our luck ended there, though. We'd bought a small bundle of wood (with the heat, the beach was crazy-crowded, which means there was not a stick of small driftwood to be found) but didn't realize until we were trying to get a fire going that it wasn't seasoned and there were no pieces that were really kindling-sized.

We'd almost burnt through all of our paper trying to get the fire going and were about to admit defeat when a guy came down the hillside, saw that our fire, you know, wasn't, and offered to bring some kindling from his van. WAY too good to be true, this guy. It could've been a candy-from-strangers situation, but he was just a nice guy with good timing doing a nice thing.

A really nice thing, actually, since he didn't actually have kindling in his van, he had wood in his van, which he then chopped into a big bundle of kindling and hauled back down the hillside to us. And single-handedly saved our much-anticipated beachside picnic in the process. Then politely refused any offer to share in our fire or food, just left with a handshake and a smile. Faith in humanity: restored.

So we enjoyed our cookout and our fire until well past dark, ocean rumbling nearby, fog bank keeping the air cool and still, the smell of woodsmoke bringing back too many memories to count.


title taken from "Young Sea" by Carl Sandburg, which contains one of my all-time favorite lines:  "I am the last word/ And I tell/ Where storms and stars come from."


this is like the great lentil miasma of aught three

You have to really enjoy drinking tea to order it in two pound batches. The school recently chose a new local organic tea supplier, and Sal had the opportunity to buy from their ginormous selection. The only catch was that they sell it in two pound batches, so whatever we picked had to be something we'd really want to drink. A lot.

Since Sal was opting for a black tea, I decided to choose an herbal. Apple-cinnamon tea sweetened with a bit of honey is one of my favoritest things in the fall and winter (second only to orange-spice tea), which means I go through it like crazy, so that seemed like the logical choice for ordering two pounds. While we waited for the order to arrive, I entertained lovely-cozy apple-cinnamon tinged fantasies of curling up in the library with a book, of our quiet Saturday mornings with the NPR lineup in the background and rainy gray outside the window, of day-long writing binges fueled soley by cup after cup of hot tea and a plate of something freshly baked by Sal.

Be careful what you wish for.

Because despite being double-bagged in heavyweight plastic, it turns out that two pounds of apple-cinnamon tea smells strong enough to give you a headache if you're within ten feet of it, and will probably knock you out cold after more than fifteen minutes of exposure. I had to shut it up in the kitchen cupboard before bed the night Sal brought it home to get a relief from the intensity.

Or so I thought. I woke up that morning -- UPSTAIRS AND ON THE OPPOSITE END OF THE HOUSE -- to that smell, and not in a good, "oh, what a lovely, cozy way to wake up" kind of way but more like a "ye gods and little fishes the smell is so strong that it's moved past any semblance of apple or cinnamon and moved into cologne of Hades territory". Down the stairs, the smell intensified. Open the door to the side of the house where the kitchen is, and it was like being punched in the face by a meth-addled Johnny Appleseed.

It was The Lentil Incident all over again.

When I got home from work that night, the smell had taken on a physical presence, infusing every room in the house. Opening all the windows couldn't air it out fast enough and the only way to get relief was to take the tea out of the cupboard (still in its double bags!) and set it out on the porch until we could transfer it to a more impenetrable container. Just the sight of the bag through the back door window gave me a headache.

The tea o'doom has since been divided amongst sturdy, sealed containers and no longer threatens nostrils within a one mile vicinty. Dividing it into smaller quanities seems to have cut its potency to more tolerable levels, eliciting something akin to the lovely-cozy apple-cinnamon fantasies I'd originally entertained. Cranked up to 11, but at least that's still within human survival limits.

The irony in all this? Sal's been so stuffed up with hayfever that he can't smell any of it.

lunch, Origami Squares

  • teryaki chicken meatballs
  • green beans and caramelized onions (both from the garden, woot woot!)
  • cucumbers
  • carrots
  • cubed egg (as in, an egg molded into the shape of a cube, because my husband is delightful and sweet and got me an egg cuber for an anniversary present; he also got me "All the President's Men for an anniversary present, but that has nothing to do with bento, so)

lunch (last Thursday), Fit 'n Fresh

  • red leaf lettuce green beans, sunflower seeds
  • carrots, cucumbers, fresh peas
  • tomatoes (from the garden!)
  • boiled egg
  • Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Bento: ranch dressing to top what became a hella big salad

goonies never say die

Friday, we celebrated our 16th anniversary.

We actually celebrated all weekend. Friday was dinner in Astoria at a favorite restaurant on the water, then to our hotel with a lovely view of Youngs Bay. Saturday, a leisurely start of late morning coffee and pastries at a hole-in-the-wall cafe, a bit of shopping, a visit to Fort Clatsop. Then a pretty drive over to Fort Stevens, where we picnicked on the beach and read and sketched for a few hours. The day was dry and temperate despite a fog that hung heavy and low, which made the whole day feel deliciously still, as if everything had just sort of...paused for a little while. Sunday morning, brunch and a stroll through my favorite art gallery before leaving for home.

At the last minute on our way out of town, and despite a soaking drizzle, we acted on impulse and took a quick detour to drive by The Goonies house.

The Goonies, you see, are part of the reason I fell in love with Sal. On our second date, when I sheepishly confessed a secret wish to live in Astoria someday because I loved The Goonies and maybe kind of hoped I'd discover my own well-creased map that led to adventure and treasure and pirate ships, Sal didn't laugh. He squeezed my hand and confessed he maybe kind of had the same secret wish.

A month before our big move to Portland, we came out for the first time to register Sal for culinary school, look for a job, and find an apartment. We had five days to accomplish everything, and a budget so tight that two loaves of bread, a package of deli turkey, a handful of apples, and small jars of peanut butter and jelly had to stretch for a week's meals. Sal's admissions coordinator tipped us off to a small local motel that was clean and quiet and affordable. We walked a lot.

Sure that we were in over our heads, we were country mice in the big city, just trying to keep from being run over. But being terrified can be good for you, and it was incredibly good for us, that terrifying and terrifically exciting adventure, that leap from the safe to the absolutely unknown. Our lives were never the same, in all the best possible ways.

The last day of that exploratory trip before we had to drive home was our fourth anniversary. Sal was officially registered for culinary school, the beginning realization of a lifelong dream. No job or place to live yet, but I had completed the registration process with a temp agency, and we were hoping to hear we'd gotten the apartment we wanted. We'd survived the city all on our own, and we were making it happen, this intrepid new future of ours. We'd managed to set aside a little bit of money to splurge on something more than PB&J for our anniversary and we had lots of reasons to celebrate. So that afternoon, we headed west on Sunset Highway for a late afternoon lunch in Astoria.

We had only just gotten the hang of two of the main freeways and the streets immediately around our hotel. Driving west, to parts even more unknown, felt like we were driving to the edge of the world. As if we might go flying right off into the starry black if we drove too fast. On our map, I wrote, "Here there be dragons."

But the edge of the world, we discovered, wasn't an abyss stretching boundless past a sharp cliff of earth. It was an ancient sea breaking on verdant mountains, breathtaking and serene. No pirate ships, but no dragons, either.

We were still trying to absorb this monumental change we were undertaking. For a week, we had ridden a fine edge between elation and outright terror, both of us wondering at times if this dream was too big for us, too much for us to hold. But on that anniversary, as we stood along a dock railing watching ships bigger than buildings slide through the water like glaciers, deep blue sky overhead and deeper blue water below, our hands clasped tightly, if only to anchor ourselves to the ground, the realization hit more viscerally than ever before: together, we could face anything. Even flying off the edge of the world.

We've been looking back a lot recently. Marveling at how far we've come, how much more we became because of the leaps we took, the chances and the risks gambled to turn our dreams into this life, this wonderful life. So there was something neatly, perfectly circular about celebrating our anniversary in Astoria this year, in our special together place, our edge-of-the-world place, our we-can-accomplish-anything place.

The place that we discovered adventure and treasure with a well-creased map.


in which i let my inner fandom nerd off the chain

Lunch first, then geekery...

lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • Thai peanut chicken (grilled on skewers)
  • couscous with caramelized onions, green beans, and sesame seeds
  • sugar snap peas
  • cherries
  • raspberries (from our yard!)
  • chocolate-covered candied almonds**

**Okay, so this is pretty much the best thing ever, made by Sal, of course. They're almonds that have been roasted with a caramelized coating, cooled, then rolled in dark chocolate cocoa powder. They're totally cracktastic, and no matter how big the batch, it never lasts long.

On to the squee! This is a quick rundown of all of the non-TV geekery in which I have engaged in the last few months, and my ratings thereof:


  • The Hunger Games: A -- Loved it, despite the changes. When the countdown started in the arena, I damn near had a panic attack of OH NO THEY'RE REALLY GOING TO DO THIS NOW I AM NOT READY.
  • Cabin in the Woods: A-  -- So thoroughly and hilariously Jossian that there was no way I wasn't going to enjoy this. Plus, Chris Hemsworth, freshly post-George Kirk, so cute. And Topher!
  • AVENGERS OMG: A -- Who would have ever thougt that the Hulk would steal the show? I have never cared about the Hulk in any incarnation ever. Holy crap, Bruce Banner, you win the universe. (Thank you, Mark Ruffalo.) Plus, Bruce Banner and Tony Stark as nerdy genius buddy cops! Being all science-y and stuff! And Natasha and Maria Hill, not objectified or fridged! And Thor, Thor, Thor, Thor, Thor! (WHAT THE HELL CHRIS HEMSWORTH YOU ARE NOT EVEN REAL YOU ARE A PHOTOSHOPPED VERSION OF A HUMAN MALE.) And again, Joss' fingerprints were everywhere (for good and bad). Speaking of Joss, I had one GIGANTIC issue with this movie, the same one that someone else already tackled much better than I could have, so go read that instead.
  • Snow White and the Huntsman: B -- Kristen Stewart cannot act for shit, and there were some plot gaps that were ridiculously lol-worthy, but it was fun and pretty and also Chris Hemsworth, which is all that needs to be said, really.

(It was a seriously Chris Hemsworth-y run, there. Thank you, movie people, for the 1-2-3 punch of hotness.)

  • Brave: A++++++++++ -- OMG I LOVE EVERYTHING THIS MOVIE CHOOSES TO BE. A central character who's a girl! With agency! Who saves herself! And a mom who isn't evil! Or dead! And a story about a mother and daughter and how that relationship is complicated and hard and wonderful and also did I mention this story is set in Scotland and also that every detail of this movie was made specifically for me?
  • The Amazing Spiderman: B+ -- Wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. I have no particular loyalty to the previous franchise, but was kind of mystified about why they were rebooting so soon. But wow, that was fun. I see from various reports that there was a lot of butchery done to the script due to studio politics stuff behind-the-scenes, which would explain some big gaps that I was wondering about, as well as the lull in the middle. But despite those problems, I still enjoyed it more than the Tobey MacGuire version, which I didn't not like, so my reaction was a surprise.


  • Waaay back in May, ProcrastiGirl and I saw Snow Patrol in concert, and I died of ecstasy. I was maybe 20 feet from Gary Lightbody. He was just, you know, there, right up there, just being adorable and Irish and amazing. And Nathan and Johnny and Tom and Pablo, all of them just kicking ass like it's a regular thing that normal people do, which it totally is not. And I heard my all-time favorite, favorite song* live, and they played for 2 hours and came out for 2 encores, and Gary's voice was gorgeous from start to finish, and everyone who said they are incredible live was so totally right. Setlist:  "Berlin (Remix)", "Hands Open", "Take Back The City", "I'll Never Let Go", "Run", "Hands Open", "This Isn't Everything You Are", "Crack the Shutters", "New York", "Set the Fire to the Third Bar", "Shut Your Eyes", "Chasing Cars", "Chocolate", "You're All I Have", "Called Out in the Dark", "Fallen Empires", Encores: "Lifening", "Just Say Yes"

*Arguably. I have so many favorites, it's like picking a favorite kid. But "Run" appears in almost every playlist I make, so.

I also just finished reading The House of Leaves, so my cult-pop geek cred is restored. Wow, that book was like putting your brain in a blender and hitting puree.  I haven't worked so hard to read a text since my engineering days (I'm looking at you, Differential Equations II). I know I probably didn't even catch half the embedded codes and riddles and cannot wrap my brain around the idea that a single person wrote that book. Mind officially blown.


we are human beings, not human doings

contemplations on life, the universe, and everything, from under the apple tree on a perfect summer eveningAutumn is my season, but I seem to develop amnesia about summer. I enjoy summer, too, but I tend to remember the hot days and sweaty nights more than I do the heartachingly gorgeous days of just-the-right temperature, maybe a lilt of breeze to make the windchimes sing a little, a bit of smoke from the coals in the grill, and a whole day to just be. Perhaps I forget so I can have the joy of rediscovery every year, a gift to myself that reminds me about blessing and peace and abundance. A reminder about my cup, so full.

Our long vacation endI come home from the beach each time with rocks and shells stashed in pockets. I tuck them around the yard in little collections like this, under fern fronds and other secret green places to remind me of the ocean. Sal calls them Bitty Vignettes.ed with the holiday last week, but I've been determined to carry over a piece of it into my every day. Trying to leave the office earlier than I have been lately, spending time on the patio and the front porch and the back porch, reading for a bit during the daylight instead of only at bedtime. Setting aside some daily burdens for another day, trimming that to-do list to the essentials, and then trimming some more.

We've been spending our weekend days in a similar routine: breakfast on the back porch, our weekend NPR shows in the background, cats demanding scritches behind the ears and good morning wake-up snuggles. Then to the patio at some point for most of the day, and to the front porch sometime after dinner to enjoy the last sunlight turning the bridge gold, and to the back porch when the bugs finally drive us to the protection of screens. We read, we sketch, we write, we grill, we talk, we putter in the yard, we sit idly by. Such a luxury in lives that are harried and hurried, too much of both. It's good, all this just being time.

I always think of summer as the season of going and doing, and I love going and doing. But there are also the lazy days, the sit-back-and-enjoy days, the I-think-I'll-take-a-nap-in-the-shade days. I needed the reminder.

lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • Thai peanut chicken (grilled on skewers)
  • fried rice
  • carrot sticks
  • sesame green beans
  • cherries

it takes an ocean not to break

I think sometimes I was a mermaid in a mythic former life, beginning to shrivel and die a little inside when I'm too long away from water. I live within sight of a river, which helps, and cross a mighty bridge almost daily that soars so high, high in the air that some days the clouds sit low beneath it, and it's very possible that what lies on the other side is a secret city in the sky. Which means I might also be a bird or a seraph (though more of the "burning one" species than the angelic sort).

But even wide rivers across the feet of verdant hills and secret cities in the sky lose their appeal for a mermaid after awhile, and eventually, the sea is the only thing that will do.

The unintended hiatus of the last few months is an indication of how much has been going on, this thing and that thing, a teetering stack, everything piling on to a heap that would crush even the strongest person after a while. Haven't we all known that mountain that can only be carried, not climbed? We identify with Atlas for a reason.

So the salve for such heart weariness is those sacred places that refill us, let us set aside that damnable mountain for awhile and just rest and rejuvenate and remember what it means to be light and airy (and fishy, if you're a mermaid). And my sacred place -- one of many, truth be told, because a person can't have too many sanctuaries, really -- is a wide expanse of mercurial sea hidden at the end of a secret road and marked by the gravestones of three long-dead giants.

We arrived just after a storm had swept through (and indeed, had swept over us an hour before as we wound through mountain passes), sky clear and blue, the air warming and calm. We paused just long enough to unload our stuff and throw together a quick little lunch wrapped in dishcloths, then headed straight for the sand. And for the next few hours, we did nothing but sit in the sun with our tiny feast and spend a whole lot of time just watching. Watching the waves, the birds, the clouds, the people, each other.

And after, we sat on the little porch of our little cabin, drinks in hand and books in laps -- books that never quite got opened as long as the sun was still sinking to the horizon -- and we watched some more. Talked about this life, this wonderful life, what it took to get here and could we even believe it and how we are defined by the places that nurture us.

Then it was time for feasting. An easy accomplishment at the coast, really -- with a good view, even a bowl of cereal could be called a feast. What, then, to call our meal, with its varieties of meats and sausages and cheeses, crusty-soft baguette and sesame-encrusted loaf of Sicilian, fresh mushrooms and carrots, and juicy grapes so sweet we rethink our commitment to chocolate, all with the ocean waves rolling on soft sand a couple hundred feet from our door?

We usually stay longer during our summer break, but this trip was no less regenerative for being shorter. We had warm and cool, sunny and rainy, cloudy and clear, but not a lick of wind through any of it, which makes just about any weather bearable, if you ask me. (The only time I like wind is if it's positively gale force while I am safely ensconced inside someplace cozy and warm with a book and a good light and hot chocolate at hand.) We saw seals in the water and slept in a bed beneath an open window, had blueberry pancakes for breakfast and took pictures of pretty-colored rocks.

Mermaids love pretty-colored rocks.

And bless the dear folks who own and run the cabins where we stay, who call us family and treat us that way, always making sure we get our reservations (even when we're a little tardy in scheduling them) and give us first dibs on our favorite cabins. When we're there, they let us know about cancellations during the busy season, in case we want to snatch up a last-minute getaway, because even though we try to come out every three months or so, we'll never pass up a chance to visit more.

The cynical person would say it's good business to treat your regulars well, but I like to think they recognize a mermaid when they see one.

title taken from "Terrible Love" by The National


light and dark

An impending storm hanging over Forest Park and the setting sun turning everything to gold. Can't believe we get to live here.

weebles wobble, but they don't fall down

Although they have been known to spontaneously combust.

Man, getting ready for vacation takes a ridiculous amount of work. I'm not even talking about trip prep, which is a whole other raft of crazy. Just taking care of responsibilities so you can be carefree for a brief period of time. Job stuff, mostly, but even just trying to get the house in order so we're not spending our vacation cleaning is like trying to put out a forest fire with a cup of water.

We're both busy, it's no mystery why the house can so easily go from untidy to chaos in a matter of days...logically, I know these things. But after days of too little sleep and WAY too much stress, my reasonableness meter redlines and I'm all, "HOW CAN TWO ADULTS POSSIBLY HAVE THIS MUCH LAUNDRY WE DON'T EVEN HAVE THIS MANY CLOTHES WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US I VOTE WE CHUCK EVERYTHING AND JUST WEAR UNIFORMS ALL THE TIME." Pile onto that the aforementioned pre-vacation job stuff and my inner overachiever coming out to play, and reasonableness leaves me to stay with its mother for a few days.

Which is why Sal's perfectly normal, "How was your day?" was met with a hyperbolic, overzealous, and borderline hysterical freakout on Thursday night. Only one more day before vacation commenced and it felt like it was never going to get here. There were no tears or anything, but something about the crazed look in my eyes must've tipped Sal off that countermeasures were in order. He offered to give me a foot massage and secured his title as Prince Among Men for another year.

So our vacation has officially begun and we are gleeful. Gleeful, I say! We have plans for around-the-house stuff and not-around-the-house stuff and lots of sleep and time together and kitty snuggling and movie watching and book reading. There will be absolutely nothing that resembles work of any kind. There will be beer brewing, of course, and writing, of course, and bike riding and meandering through the stacks at Powell's.

And probably more foot massages because those are totally the greatest.


on the nature of the unintended hiatus

You know how you get behind on something, and then you finally get a minute to do that thing, but you're so behind that you don't know where to start so you don't? And then you just get more behind and it seems like too much to even begin, and the whole thing just kind of snowballs into a big icy ball of Do Not Want?

Welcome to the last two months of website non-updateyness.

We have been busy, yes, but not significantly more than our usual Hamster Wheel O'Crazy, so it's not attributable to some new escalation. And some of those busy things have included many fun and exciting things. Things which include adventures and hilarity and sometimes even photographic evidence! Things that are, in short, terrific website fodder. The radio silence is therefore also not attributable to a lack of material about which to post.

So we will chalk it up to a case of needing to cut something out for awhile in order to maintain sanity. Also: laziness.

In any case...hello! I have many things to tell you about! I will probably tell you about most of them! If I feel like it! I will probably forget something I meant to tell you about! I will include pictures! If it's not too much work! It will probably be too much work! Because I am lazy, as previously established! Some of the topics I plan to tell you about if I'm not overcome by an overpowering desire to do something else:

  • The Great Gallstone Adventure of 2012!
  • Why family is totes the best!
  • Sal's birthday!
  • All of the many movies we have seen recently! See also: geeks are the greatest.
  • That time I was 20 feet from Gary Lightbody and totally didn't lose my shit! Except for maybe a little bit!
  • Girls' Road Trip!
  • Girls' Art Weekend! Launched with an actual Mad Hatters' Party! Because I am the raddest.

So, you know. Those things might be stuff to look forward to hearing about. Although that really puts a lot of pressure on me to make them interesting, and I don't need the stress (see also: gallstones), so I make no promises. Also, vacation starts in two weeks so I am a kitten distracted by shiny objects right now.