Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunset saved me!

Ebey's Landing c. 1997
Oh thank GOD my Sunset mag finally arrived!  I was feeling so lost without it! I had completely frozen up in confusion and indecision: What should I plant this spring?  What wine should I drink?  Oh... dear god... if you love me at all pleasepleaseplease make Sunset arrive!  I'm a lost wretch without it.  I need Sunset, my life depends on it, to tell me what to do, to try, to eat and where to go.  I can't figure it out on my own!  Oh!  Help me!  oh god....

Sunset's calling is to tell us all what is hip and how to be hip. That they ever mention anything specific in Portland baffles me. All they need to say is "Portland." Check out this Portland cupcake nook in Portland. This Portland store has the Portlandiest aprons.  I feel so Portlandy in these recycled underroos.  Portland is so Portland that the last time I was there (less than a year ago)  I ended up at a nudist co-op, hot-tubbing under the stars, in the middle of the city.  And that's only because the Queer Square-dancing was cancelled (queer: in ALL it's possible meanings), so my host jogged us a few blocks over for relaxation among strangers-in-the-buff.

In this issue, Sunset dictates to me that they've, "Found your new hometown!"  Oh yes! Yes!  Did you find me a job there too? Or are you saying they've got a tiptop homeless shelter? They also have a series of stereotyped "Westerners" in cartoon format, unironically called "rugged individuals".  Fleece vest, black lab, designer kicks.  Thanks.  We're all just caricatures now.

St. Edwards State Park grotto
My loathing for Sunset is also about how they reveal all my sacred spaces to the world.  It feels as if this beautiful glossy rag shows up, you open it, and some how it's all close-ups of your vj.  It feels invasive, shocking, insulting.  St. Edwards State Park (where we had our unofficiated, unrehersed, unplanned, improper unwedding), Ebey's Landing, Taft Beach, and Ainsworth Hot Springs.  I'll never get a good room there now!  It's disgusting. All the Northwest secrets spots, EXPOSED. Is nothing sacred?

But here's my favorite: "5 Sparkling Wine Customs That Must Die".  Coming in at Number Five is this very helpful hint:   "The mason jar: serving sparklers in canning jars was fun for five minutes in the '80's. Get over it."  Sweet!  Personally, canning jars are kinda expensive and I would never risk chipping one in the hum drum daily grind of champagne quaffing, not when I can get perfectly good glasses for $.50 at Goodwill.  But snarky Sunset!  shit!  And that comment comes after a little montage of readers' favorite things about the Northwest including: no one cares who your Daddy and Mummy were, people who don't worry about ironing their clothes, friendly people who make eye contact and positive attitudes, and ALSO people who are very concerned and critical about how others drink their bubbly.  Yes, my favorite thing about the Northwest is that I have Sunset to save me from my quirky self by telling me just what not to drink out of. Where once I was lost, now I am found, twas Sunset that saved a wretch like me.

Wedding cake with shaggy friends
Why do I get Sunset?  It was a gift I requested: Gardening Porn.  That's the main point.

With fashion magazines, I'm impervious to the usual, well-researched malaise and self-loathing that most women experience after their first five minutes of perusal.  I had this experience when I was a teen where I was looking for an article in my stack of Seventeen's.  After an hour, I hadn't found the article, but I did have an entire page listing beauty products I absolutely MUST HAVE.  After criticizing myself in the mirror for a while, I suddenly realized that before I read those magazines I felt okay.  And the only thing possibly responsible for the shift was the magazines.  They are advertisements designed to make you unsatisfied with life as it is and, like all good proselytizing, they then have a handy solution for the problem they just manifested.  Just $10 for the right mascara!  After that, I regarded them as a nuisance or a joke.  And they have little to no affect on me...I think...for the most part...except they're part of this larger cultural thing that does affect me.

Taft Beach (that's my sister; I'm taking the photo)
Sunset does too. It deals in envy. After just 15 minutes of gazing at orderly walkways, burgeoning flower gardens, ecstatic garden art, impossibly kept vegetable rows, I can get really down on my weedy plot of chaos, my less than organized house, my un-white walls, my un-crisp lines.  A mowed weave through the weeds is my path.  Just like the before/after photoshop pictures of models circulating these days, I'd like to see before Sunset-photo-set-up-crew photos too.  These gardens can't be pristine 365 days a year, right?

How about this article? How Does a Family Manage to Produce Only Two Handfuls of Trash Per Year?
Answer: by being insane and lying and then making you feel like a hog who wantonly lets their children use our world's precious resources to make ART, of all the useless things.

Sunset's Next crass exposure: Cashmere
I actually do like their loco-vore angle.  And how they make superstars out of sustainability and DIY foodiness.  Their healthy, quick recipes are good for a spin and I can usually find one vegetarian/gluten free thing in each issue that replaces a worn out regular on our menu.

Sunset: I love you.  I hate you.  You are a hot mess, as they say.  But you can't save me from myself.  I'm going to have some beyond-Portland homemade hard cider in a mason jar now, just to watch you freak with envy and angst.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Can Can

Huck's been out of town and it's given me a chance to appreciate my friends who have kept me company, stepped in to help with child care, and hosted us for good times.  And you all seem to enjoy my canned goods, too. What more can a girl want?

Canned goods are subject to a wide array of responses and as an avid canner, there's only one response I like.

Huck thought to honor my 2011 collection with a photo
"OH.  Home made pickles.  John, look.  Sarajoy brought us Home Made Botulism! How thoughtful!"  "John" takes jar in latex-gloved hand directly to garbage. His face says he wishes the toxic waste disposal station was open at these kinds of hours, in these kinds of crises. End Scene.

Botulism happens.  Obviously.  And I'd like to point out to "John" that that's how I got the name Botulism Mom.  That's how I roll.  I feed my kids homegrown hospitalization on a regular basis.  What about tubes down the throat isn't healthy for kids?  9-1-1 is on my speed dial.  And I consider a weekly chat with my local EMT squad an essential part of The Good Life.

But if "John" dear insists on the "safety" of the global food system which hasn't ever produced a death (except for ecoli spinach, crazy cantaloupes, etc), what can I say?  I'll just keep my canned goods to myself or circulate them among people who can (harhar) appreciate that I planted, fertilized and weeded every damn strawberry, cucumber, beet and ALL the salsa ingredients.  I picked, stemmed and washed them.  I made jam and salsa and then processed these things in jars I pre-sterilized.  Maybe I am crazy.

I've been canning low risk, high acid foods for 10 years.  I use the most recent USDA recipes and recommendations. And I'm not canning meat or beans or bathtub hooch.  Yes, I was taught canning by a nearly homeless man with Hep C back in my Seattle Daze.  He also taught me how to make pumpkin pie from scratch and he was the original guerrilla gardener, before it became hip.  So he was a bit hygienically challenged, but when your salsa is made with the world's best disinfectant (vinegar) and boils for 30 minutes before you seal it up in 20 minutes of boiling water, you've kinda covered your bases.

Coyote '05: my commitment to a sanitary conditions is unquestionable
While cooking, I try to conjure up a feeling of love for the eaters of these dishes.  Or I used to.  I'm getting a little sick of the parental cooking grind and so I've backed off on trying so hard with the love in the dishes because that's just too much effort and intention for three meals a day with a hefty side of complaints.  But when I "can", there is no love left.  All the love went out the open windows long ago.  It's usually a hot August day and instead of lounging beach-side with a Pina Colada watching the life guard watching my kids, I've CHOSEN to hole myself up with two pots of boiling jam, vinegar, or salsa, and two larger pots of boiling water.  I have spent hours already assembling and prepping ingredients and disinfecting my kitchen before I even start this process.  And now I am, damn it, going to effing can until midnight.  I Pump Up the energy and Jam with some '80's pop,  but all too soon my pizzazz turns dark and I begin cursing.  "Those effers better LOVE this shit!  I hope they taste the sweat of my brow in every goll dern bite. Why the hell do I do this to myself?"  My enraged insanity is probably the most dangerous ingredient in this stuff.

A friend suggested we "can" together and I could show her the ropes. But I'm not sure our friendship could survive it.  I barely do.  However, I'm still enjoying my 5 1/2 gallons of green tomato salsa (you gotta build your unripe tomato recipe repertoire in this climate).  My pickles are inconsistent, but when you hit a good jar it's like heaven/orgasm.  And my strawberry jam tastes like you've gotten distracted on a warm summer day and are laying down between the rows of strawberries,  sniffing their sweet scent, staring up at the imaginative clouds, listening to the ecstatic hymns of birds, and occasionally sitting up to eat berries by the handful out of the bucket you were supposed to bring back to the house to make jam out of.

So a big thank you to all of my brave and wonderful friends who bravely try and seem to enjoy my canned goods.  Never mind that bitter taste, it's so full of good that you should survive psychically unscathed by that last push to preserve the holy revelations of our good earth.

In addition to canning, I do make my own cheese and yogurt and sometimes icecream and butter.  I also grow and wild harvest then dry a ton of herbs and mix them into yummy teas (that my kids prefer over any other kind) specific to whatever we need: immunity boosts, stomach calming, anxiety relief, cough, fever, migraines, afternoon with friends, etc, etc.  I was making tea for a friend I'd known a few years and she wandered in to the kitchen at the moment I was opening my herb cupboard and she stood in awe of my collection of medicinal herbs.  And she asked, "How come I never knew you did this too?" I don't know.  I just never comes up.  So, now you know.   I have a lot of cupboard space devoted to the glass jars and parts of my basement look like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Some herbs in my basement 2011
The high school I attended (for the first two years) in Bellingham was close to "down town" where I had a job at Bellingham's first espresso place (pure conjecture... I can't prove it... but I'm pretty sure that it was) called The Cookie Cafe.  My dad took me to The Cookie Cafe once when I was about 8 or 9 and I immediately went home to journal about how much I wanted to work there when I was a teenager.  I did not remember that until a month ago when Blue and I found and read that journal together.  And I said, "OH MY GOD! I DID work there!"  ...for a totally lecherous boss who later lost the business to a class action sexual harassment lawsuit (that's what I heard anyway and I believe it).  But the point is that between school letting out and my shift starting at the cafe, I'd have some time to wander around and one day I wOndered into Wonderland Teas, an herbal apothecary, and I was hooked.  I fell hard.  I visited often.  I tried many of their teas.  And herbs have been an essential and evermore potent part of my life lo these 21 years since.

I felt obligated to tell you that so that you'll never be able to say to me: Why didn't I ever know that was such a big part of Sarajoy's life?  How come she never told ME about it!?   I told you. So now you know: I'm a crazy DYI home maker.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sell me Something Good

Actually, I'm not done talking about Christmas.

Let's talk about Christmas shopping, shall we?

I know my face doesn't announce money.  You can tell I've had no work done (See prior blog post), the hallmark of wealth apparently.  I'm sure I've benefited from lookism at some time or another, but I don't notice those times.  I just notice the times when some one looks at me, assesses my monetary status and then ignores me, pecuniary lookism.  In ye old '94 Oldsmobile, I experience a lot of income-profiling.  Pulled over 'cuz my blinker seemed a little weak.  In largely white communities, white privilege doesn't exist.  Income is the thing.  Imbeciles turn to money to judge a person, because judging must be done, right?  How else can you tell the right people from the wrong people?

I've been told the income of my youth and my current bank statement are written all over my face for those fluent in that language.  We poor folks have an openness, an innocence, a void where presumptuous superiority should go.  And somehow these shop keepers can see that.

Another job in sales: 3yrs at Seattle Farmers Markets.  I'm now gluten-intolerant
The Kitchen Engine, is repeat offender number one.  I've been in there frequently enough to know this ain't no accident.  The first two times, I gave the benefit of the doubt.  But the last three can't possibly be a mistake.  Here's how it goes: I walk in and set to browsing or looking for that thing I need.  And no one says a thing, no howdy, no can I help you find something, nothing.  And that's fine, at least they're not shadowing me around the store making sure I don't pick anything up.  The problem begins when I hear the click click click of high heels enter the store.  And here comes a fancy looking lady, a RICH lady.  And suddenly all three staff members surround her and ask her what she's looking for, they offer her coffee, they beg to help her.  And so that is why I resolve to buy all my specialty kitchen gear on line now, where people can't tell how much money I have and they don't care.  No, I am not looking for an expensive knife set and I no longer want fancy pie plates because I just can't handle the pain when they break.

My revenge is that these high-heeled prissy pants are a pain in the ass to help.  Inevitably, they have no idea what they are looking for and whatever is offered isn't quite it.  It really tickles me to see them give the staff such a hard time... because they can.

And that's what befuddles me.  We're talking STAFF.  Not owners.  Not investors.  We're talking non-commission employees who are snooty to people who are a lot like them.  It doesn't make any sense, to violate your own good sense of equality, your own "class," for the sake of the shop owner, who enjoys fine cognac in her hot tub thanks to the sales you make. You say to the world, these people and me too, our class is not worthy.  Anyway, I can't imagine sales can improve over cherry picking customers, worshiping some and making others feels like shit.

At "Van Cleef and Arpels" Cozumel.  I am the white girl.
 I was a commission-only jewelry sales girl on an island off Mexico.  And I wasn't snooty to anyone, and kept open mind.  And thus got my biggest sale ever.  Among the crowds of super-sized cruise-ship tourists sorting through their multiple maxed-out credit cards for one that would take (seriously skewing my coworkers' perspective of Americans), wandered in a little old Mexican lady in Keds knock-offs.  Her sales girl quickly ditched her, saying "Quien es la Ultima?"  Who's the last in line?  Because she wanted to queue up for another customer, a better one.  I was at my station among the diamond bracelets and noticed this little old lady wandering around, abandoned. In my best Spanish, which I'd picked up in two months (two years of high school Spanish did NOT help, but hindered and was best forgotten.  The best way to learn a foreign language is to have your life depend on it and to get drunk so you can loose your inhibitions.  Drinking makes speaking foreign languages - among many other things - a lot easier.)  She had some nieces, see, who were graduating and she needed to get them identical items.  I showed her our cheapest rings.  No, she said, something more expensive....something very nice.  Incredulously, I worked us up to the diamond tennis bracelets, worth thousands and thousands.  Those would do.  I'll take four.  Really?!  Really?!  Yes! Because this was apparently one of the wealthiest women in Mexico, on vacation from Mexico City where she owned several fancy girls' schools.  She complimented my Spanish and my kindness and left me with a commission nearly large enough to pay for a plane ticket home.

After she left, a melee broke out with the first sales girl claiming I'd stolen her customer and all her Mexican comrades lining up behind her in solidarity  -- just like a greedy American to STEAL a rich customer.  And in my favorite Spanish tirade of all time (mixed in with some Mayan cussing I'd learned from my roommates), I let fly.  Excuse me!  But who here heard her say "Quien es la Ultima?"  when that lady was still in the store?  Everyone heard.  But still...I'd stolen the highest paying customer they'd had all season. Buoyed by the bracelet-buyers compliments, I went on: just because I'm white and I don't speak Spanish as well as the rest of you, you think I don't know the rules.  You think I can't understand the rules.  You think I can't understand what you're saying.  You think you can change the rules because I'm a foreigner, I'm just a stupid greedy white girl.  But that's racist.  Are you going to have one set of rules for Mexican employees and another for Americans?  Everyone heard her say "Quien es la Ultima."  And I found this lady wandering around without anyone even watching her...  Their mouths were agape.  The tide turned.  Everyone was mad at the other girl for being so stupid... and slightly racist herself both against me, the white girl, and the Mexican woman.... everyone knows Mexicans don't have any money, right.

A later Mexico trip: camping/hitchhiking Baja with Huck and Blue
Not that I'm about to buy 12 sets of $1000 pots and pans.  It's just a stupid idea to judge people by their looks and to treat anyone as "less-than" for any reason, money, color, gender, et al.. Judging them once you know something about them is called exercising good judgment.  Good judgement doesn't have anything to do with money or the appearance of having it.  I know you already knew that, or else you wouldn't be reading my blog.  Only people with good and fair judgement read my blog.  You could be reading some shallow blog about giving liposuction vouchers to your seven year old so that they too can avoid the cold shoulders of idiotic classist sales people. But instead, you are here.

Also, I need to update you on my picky-eater's latest issue.  I get crap for Coyote's choosiness, like it's my fault.  He's choosy, for guy with NO access to white bread or American cheese.  He eats most fruit, many non-green vegetables and a good assortment of whole grains and cheeses and beans... as long as it's all separate.  Blue picks salads for her Birthday dinners.  She loves cooked greens.  And eats her crusts first.  Thank god we had a second, very different kid, or we'd think that was all our doing.  Coyote's just picky and that's all.  He's got hallmarks of a super-taster, as do I.  He once told me that (lets see how I can say this without making it sound like that's all we give him....) he could taste sugar in some potato chips and so he wouldn't eat them.  Incredulous, I read the ingredients and he was right.  So at his class holiday party, they were to make Reindeer sandwiches and eat them.  Believe me, I asked a lot of questions and I'm still not clear on how a sandwich turns into a reindeer.  At any rate, it involved something called Easy Cheese, like cheese wizz, but newer.  And Coyote asked: if he made the sandwich, would he HAVE to use Easy Cheese?  For some incomprehensible reason the answer was yes.  And would he have to EAT said sandwich? Yes again.  Coyote then decided that instead of participating in the party at all and being forced to eat Easy Cheese, he would rather read in the corner by himself.  And so he did.  That, my dear readers, is the right kind of picky eater.   That boy can tell the good from the bad.  He is a boy of good judgement.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Winter Dreams

What could be more exciting than a January showing of Cows on Ice?

Let us review our thrilling Christmas adventures.

Finally time to wake up!
1) the Great Christmas Chicken Die off of 2011 will go down as one of Lucky Farm's more gruesome Christmas surprises.  Chicken number 1 was eventually butchered, our neighbors tell us.  Two of my remaining three chickens also came down with the mystery illness.  A bazillion phone trees later I discovered that the cure for most chicken ailments is called: buying new ones in the spring.  No one could figure out what was wrong with them. The state Avian office offered a necropsy on those already dead.  All I had to do was OVERNIGHT the corpse of Goldilocks to Puyallup and for an additional $40, they'd do an autopsy.  It left me with many questions chief of which was: it's legal to mail dead chickens?  feces, diseases and all?  I ended up spoon feeding my sick chickens antibiotics and vitamins.  One made it and the other died quicker than expected.  My neighbors visited on Christmas Eve to show me how to butcher my chicken.  But when we grabbed her, she was already dead. "Thanks for coming by.  Some other time maybe." And so I bagged her up and put her in the garbage can where she was festively buried under Christmas wrapping paper and then toted to the curb.

Christmas sunrise
The only chicken that didn't fall ill was my scrawny one, the one that lost feathers two years ago in an unfortunate molting and never grew them back.  All farm visitors eventually say something like, "My GOD! What's wrong with that chicken?"  My response now is "Who the hell cares?  She not sick and she lays a good egg."

This whole affair required Huck and I to spend half a day sterilizing the coop in a memorable holiday family project.

2) Christmas morning began at 2 am, when footsteps on the stairs interrupted one of the worst possible uses of the dreaming subconscious known to man.  It was a test dream.  But it wasn't a paper test.  I was standing in front of the kitchen drainboard being timed on how fast I could name each odd object in it and state where it went in the kitchen.  This was followed by a test on the brands and uses of all my boxes of plastic wrap, aluminum foil, sandwhich bags, etc. I could be having sex with movie stars.  I could be flying over the plains of Africa.  I could be socializing with meteors on the Kuiper Belt (a dream still in my top 10),  I could be chasing green snakes around the church sanctuary of my youth.  But instead I was enduring a high pressure grilling on kitchen implements.

After intercepting the kids and putting a timer on them I went back to bed, but I refused to go back to sleep.  If that's the kind of shlock my brain thinks up, I'm not doing it.  At five I hadn't heard the kids yet, so I snuck up stairs and turned off the timer, only to hear a sharp. "Mom! What are you doing!"
YES! A digital dictionary! Geek Blue

3) In Huck's stocking he got a white chocolate candy bar and broke off a generous hunk for me.  Which sent me in to immediate, debilitating and burning hives.  I took a non-drowsy antihistamine and then endured my typical response to uppers of nausea and shaking.  Merry Christmas.  I went back to bed.

I've had low-grade abdominal hives for over a month.  I think I'm allergic to "pea soup fog." Or Winter Solstice.  Or underwear.  

4) My parents and sister bravely trekked across miles of highway in my dad's seat-heated Audi.  God bless their warm buns. With my family here an insane amount of dishes are dirtied and washed.  They do almost all of the cleaning, but SOMEONE has to put them all away.  The key is to keep on the drain board.  And so it's like this Perfection Game (Watch the 1992 Ad!), the timer ticking and I have to get all the pieces in their slots before the next meal, where is all will explode in my face if it's not done.  And if someone should try to help, I will have to describe the place where those skewers go, the tea strainer, the bottle opener: cupboard, drawer, left, right, up, down, corner, left of the sink, right of the oven, under the fridge. How do you describe a location on a Lazy Susan?

Opa shelving Cosmos
5) My dad bought Coyote a remote controlled helicopter.  Needing more space then even our cavernous basement contains, my father took Coyote and the helicopter "Hank" out for a spin, despite 276 warnings on the box alone (not to mention the directions no one read) that it was an indoor toy ONLY.  A few spins in the sun, and suddenly Hank was wanting his freedom.  He shot up two hundred feet, changed direction, and headed straight to the airport: ten miles away. You can see the tower from our house. One wonders what the air traffic controllers thought as a minor helicopter spent the days after Christmas ramming against their window, perhaps one among a swarm of Christmas copters.  Incredulous and sheepish, the whirly birders returned.  Opa finally read the directions.  The throttle on the thing is infra-red controlled and the sun has a lot of infra-red energy to command the copter.  Also, the FAA won't let it have a closed channel, so once at 200 feet, Hank was taking directions from anyone he chose.  And he chose the airport.

Women need power drills.
Also this January, I've been attracted to a book about autopsies.  It's part text book, part "Real world CSI- behind the scenes."  It's terribly written but the information is utterly enticing.  It's my bedtime reading in hopes of preventing any more kitchen crap tests.

                 Happy New Year!


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