18 October 2010

What Blog?

Oh, right. This one.

I am indeed alive. I am indeed still in Seattle, steeling myself for the imminent seven to eight months of light rainy mist without sun. I am brainstorming ways to insulate this apartment, which has no insulation in the roof or the walls--thanks, 1907 home builders of Seattle--and currently those plans include that window-sealing stuff, hanging curtains and quilts strategically, and not being at home. Being at home last winter was a mistake, a horrible mistake, when there are something like six coffee/tea/chocolate/vegan doughnut shops within a half-mile radius of my house.

Seattle is a beautiful place that I am very much coming to love, though I miss insulated homes, sharp seasonal weather changes, a lower cost of living, and hills with less than 20% grade roads.

What have I been up to? Editing, entertaining various beloved houseguests, dealing with the aftermath of the death of two loved ones, traveling to the Midwest for a very hectic almost three weeks--during which I realized that I now live in a heaven of vegetarian food offerings, but I did not grow up in one or go to college in one.

Writing? Yarn dyeing? Huh? Soon.

12 May 2010

Sick Girl Eats Beans, Lives

Getting better. A little bit. Currently not so much better. But, damn it, I am going to meet up with the knitters tonight. I am. They're meeting at a chocolate shop, for god's sake. I've missed them for two weeks, which means my face-to-face social contact has been 1) Noah, 2) Noah's company party, complete with 1.5 hours of swing dancing (which I paid for with exhaustion), 3) A Mariners game with some friends, with the best seats ever, and sadly a 0-8 score, and 4) clerks at grocery stores and the yarn store where I bought wool wash.

Made a giant pot of beans yesterday. Was so excited. I cannot overstate my love of beans and crock pots.


4-6 servings, with lots of liquid--quasi-soup, quasi-consistency of canned beans. I put them over brown rice as they are. But you could eat them as thick soup. Or use a slotted spoon to get them out.

Day before:
Soak 2 cups of dry black beans. Sort before soaking.

Day of:
Drain beans. Rinse.

Put beans in large crock pot. Add 8 c. water. Add 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped bell pepper, 1/2 c. tomatoes (sauce, diced, whatever), 1/2 t. cumin, 1-2 chopped jalapenos or chipotles in adobo sauce. Or something else hot--seriously, people, this is a giant vat of beans. You can do this. Stir it.

Cook on high 4-6 hours.

Add 1-2 T. red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Add at least 1 t. salt. Maybe more. Salt to taste, is what I mean, and keep in mind there is no other salt in this recipe so far.

Eat it, because nothing else could possibly be as easy or delicious or cheap or nutritionally sound.

Top with cheddar cheese, or goat cheese--goat would be awesome. Or don't top it. Or top it with a drizzle of olive oil.

(No crock pot? Do the same thing, but put it in a big pot instead. Bring to a boil on the stove, cover, simmer for 2 hours.)

25 April 2010

In Which This Blog Returns to A Sole Focus on Illness

Shingles. Really? Shingles? Really. Not only did I have lice for the second time when I was 21, I now get chickenpox for the second time at age 26. (I know lice doesn't work like a dormant virus. I do know that. But it's the spirit of the thing, and the bizarre fact that I apparently got lice from riding the bus in Champaign, with my super long hair at the time.)

Anyway. The shingles has decided to take over the right side of my upper body, especially the neck, shoulder, upper chest, and right arm. Which is also where the damage from my repetitive stress injury is greatest, which is making for some weird perceptions of pain and numbness. Really weird. I had soreness in my neck and shoulder a week ago but didn't think anything of it--I am often sore there. I am getting intermittent stabbing, burning pain in my right arm--which is also not that new, just now has a new cause. And today, I woke up after 12 hours of sleep (plus a three-hour nap and 12 hours of sleep yesterday) feeling ... weak. And numb. Weak and numb enough that I asked Noah to bring me food to eat before I left the bed (yay oatmeal and blueberries!). I felt a little better then, and got out of bed, and have made it to the couch with the lappy, where I expect to hang out until I nap again and go to bed again, while taking 400 mg of an antiviral drug at four-hour intervals, five times a day.

So, knitting! Right? Not the lace knitting I've been doing, not the sock knitting either, but knitting with some bulky CashSoft I dyed for my uncle with the goal of making him mitts to wear while he does his woodworking business.

Knitting with hand-dyed bulky yarn in an easy pattern is definitely the thing for sick people to do. I mean, 3 stitches in stockinette to an inch. Really. I made one mitt over like three hours of knitting. Yay, size 10 bamboo double-pointed needles, and a nearby man-sized hand model to try them on (Noah).

Complications of shingles: inability to do anything except sit upright, sleep, and maybe knit with bulky yarn. And maybe read online. Also: contagious to pregnant women, young children, and people who haven't had chicken pox. So, now, before people come to our apartment, I ask them if they've had chicken pox. What an ice breaker. Also: Noah's company is hosting a cocktail party with jazz on Saturday, which I am/was excited to attend with him--fancy and dancing! Whee! Problem: crusted-over or weeping sores on neck, upper body, and arms, which is, you know, the realm of the cocktail dress. I'm working on that. I am hoping to feel better enough then to go. But that may not happen either.

Um, I'm going to put my head back down now.

15 April 2010

House Tour, Or, Why I Feel Like I Live on a Farm

Welcome to our home.

I thought you might need some photographic evidence of our urban-farm life.

"When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd ... "

And maybe you've never seen a chicken before?

This is a loud, angry chicken.

Angry because I wouldn't let her out in the yard to roam, catch worms, and take dust baths.

But she laid me an egg anyway. At this point, it is still warm. Like body temperature warm.

Anyway, what else have I been up to?

Dyeing yarn.

Making wild-yeast-only whole wheat sourdough baguettes.

And generally hanging out in the kitchen.

What about you?

13 April 2010

A Cautionary Tale

Looking for an (apparently) surefire way to trigger all your latent/not so latent repetitive stress injuries? Here you go.

Day 1: do yoga, including one downward dog pose (as in, put most your body's weight on your hands and bent wrists) and a few triangle poses.
Day 2: do yoga again, including one downward dog and a few modified cobra poses. Continue to do lots of dishes, yank at your sourdough starter, browse the internet, type a little, then manhandle two of the giant (3' by 2', maybe), badly made plywood drawers in your kitchen which are currently full of your heaviest pots and pans. Don't think, "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't pull on this so hard; maybe I shouldn't lift this entire plywood box of a drawer full of heavy things out." Instead, think, "It is so important that I do this right now! So important! Keep going." Reach in an odd way with your left arm. Trigger giant throbbing pain shooting out of your neck, into your shoulder, down your bicep, and down your forearm. Try again with your right arm, because you are that dumb. Trigger pain again in right arm. Breathe through it, try again, reach and fix the thing you wanted to fix, then lift the drawer back into the slot mostly with your knees (it was a weird maneuver). Collapse a bit, realize you are now in great pain in both arms. Realize the pain is getting worse.

Make a brief list of the things you can do without using your arms. Jump into a hot bath with epsom salts. Watch Project Runway. Vow to not be so dumb. Stop typing.

08 April 2010

Don't Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

Or wear high-heeled boots to the farm, or make a sourdough starter the week before Passover, et cetera.

Welp, nobody bought yarn at the thing I went to last night. The yarn was petted by many people, however (good job, merino/silk blend!), and the colors were admired by many people, too. It became clear once I got there, though, that everyone else was selling yarn from their own stashes, yarns that were maybe 10-20 years old, commercially spun and dyed, weird old yarns, for very cheap. The woman closest to me was selling for $1 a ball. A DOLLAR.

I was not selling my yarn for a dollar. I was selling it for, you know, a real price that reflected the quality of the base yarn and my time in dyeing it by hand. So, no sales. No takers for my business cards, either.

But I will not lose hope! Okay, last night, I kind of did. But mostly because I'm not used to failure (how conceited does that sound? Goodness.) because of ... the perfectionism. I just don't do things I won't do well. Honestly. I'm working on it. I'm ready to no longer be a person who says, "I'm afraid to do that one thing I love (job, whatever it is) because I love it so much and I might not be good at it/it might not work out." I have been that person for a long time, and I feel pretty dumb about it. I mean, how much longer am I going to make myself wait before I do things, make things, try things that I want? A year? Ten years? Never?

And how much more of life is there? Segue: morbid thoughts. People die, people get hurt, people develop diseases, other life-altering things happen, and suddenly, there is no chance, there is no time, no money, no arm strength left to chop onions for dinner (remember that one last year? good times), and ... nothing to show for it.

So, new strategy: rely on the fact that I am smart enough to learn how to do whatever I want to do, stubborn enough to set my mind on a giant goal and make it happen (see: senior art show of 80 ceramic tiles made in three weeks, fired [without a bisque firing, which is beyond flirting with disaster] two days before the show opened), and good enough at translating the images in my mind to objects or words that, eventually, I can make things look how I want them to look ... that I can learn to ask for help, learn to listen to my body's limitations, learn to try and fail and try again.

Whew, that kind of turned into a manifesto. And, in the spirit of manifestos:

"Come, my friends!" I said. "Let us go! At last Mythology and the mystic cult of the ideal have been left behind. We are going to be present at the birth of the centaur and we shall soon see the first angels fly! We must break down the gates of life to test the bolts and the padlocks! Let us go! Here is they very first sunrise on earth! Nothing equals the splendor of its red sword which strikes for the first time in our millennial darkness."

We went up to the three snorting machines to caress their breasts. I lay along mine like a corpse on its bier, but I suddenly revived again beneath the steering wheel — a guillotine knife — which threatened my stomach. A great sweep of madness brought us sharply back to ourselves and drove us through the streets, steep and deep, like dried up torrents. Here and there unhappy lamps in the windows taught us to despise our mathematical eyes. "Smell," I exclaimed, "smell is good enough for wild beasts!"

(Just ignore the parts about war forever, getting rid of feminism, and hating on museums.)

05 April 2010

Now, Put Together a Business in Three Days

Wednesday night will be the first chance I have to sell my hand-dyed yarns in person, to people I don't know, and specifically to a group of enthusiastic local knitters. I completely forgot the Seattle Knitters Guild was hosting this "fiber frenzy" event, but they are, and since I'm a member, I can sell there.

But, but, but. I only have seven skeins that I've dyed on hand. If I count literally everything, I have six skeins of undyed yarn on hand. I don't have hang tags, I don't have an etsy shop up and running, and while I've claimed a blog for the yarn company, I don't have any posts on it either. And, of course, I have some freelance editing to do today.

Essentially I am completely overwhelmed and scatterbrained and trying really hard to focus on some very important editing work, when really, I would like to be making hang tags, reskeining things I've dyed, skeining out things I haven't dyed, creating blog posts, creating an etsy shop, applying for a business license, and generally already having all of this together. But no! Instead, everything is exactly as organized as it usually is in my life, and I am working at the pace I always work out when it comes to creative work--long contemplation period, short frenetic working period.

Thank goodness we have leftovers galore, from the seder and from a giant vat of lentil soup I made last week. Expect photos. And think diligent thoughts for me.

04 April 2010

Seder and Table Complete

I thought you should see this.

The table and benches are done. The seder was fun, delicious, full of remembrance.

And now, back to the relaxing.

01 April 2010

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Edging Tool

So, I'm about to (try to) finish painting our kitchen white. I'm not working on the should-be-black-but-is-actually-purple trim. I'm not working on the cabinets, which also need new paint, but maybe on the back splashes.

But I really want to be painting and stenciling our bathroom. Like this, vaguely. I have mid-tone blue paint, the bathroom has black/purple trim that I'll paint new black, we have weird white half-tiled walls on the bottom ... I don't know if I'll actually make it to stenciling, though. I keep thinking there must be some easy negative stencil to use, since the walls are already white, that I could put up and then roll blue over ... but ... that sounds hard. And like I'd have to make my own stencil. And maybe just painting it blue would be enough. Then I would hang art/posters in there and be happy sitting in my giant clawfoot tub. Right? Maybe.

Yesterday I finished sealing the table and benches. I am exhausted. But I am ambitious! There is more to do before the seder on Saturday! Cooking, cleaning, painting, cooking. We aren't even cooking that much; I just haven't started, so I feel behind--stock, matzo balls, hummus, beef (that's Noah), chilled citrus-broccoli salad, fro yo, chocolate matzo crunch, roasted rhubarb citrus compote.

Maybe I will also plant succulent cuttings from the front yard in the kitchen windowbox. Surely I will need to go outside for some fresh air at some point, though we do have the zero-VOC paint, so it doesn't give me an immediate migraine.

Also, I still haven't made yogurt successfully since moving to Seattle. What happened? At least the chickens love eating yogurt. Seriously.

And we bought new napkins yesterday, and I am so happy, because they are one of my favorite blues and one of my favorite greens.

So, what does painting mean? It means listening to This American Life and Mates of State on repeat.

25 March 2010


At least that's what they say on qwantz.com. And I've always wanted to be as cool as those dinosaurs.

Guess where I was headed, here?

The grocery store, five blocks away.

Since it hurts to lug things with my arms, I carry them on my back. And since the best bag I have for back-carrying is my internal frame pack from Arc'teryx, the one I bought in the Tetons and promptly carried 30 pounds in for 15 miles, 8 miles of that with a twisted ankle ... I used that. And of course I wore my only waterproof hooded coat. Which I also bought in the Tetons, on sale, in florescent yellow and puce. (No one has run me over yet, while wearing that coat.) And the hat because I get cold ...

The cashier at the grocery store asked me, with a smile, if I needed a bag, and if I was going hiking. I was suddenly self-conscious and told him my apartment was just hard to get to.

Anyway, moving on. There has been lots of editing over here, some two-day migraines, some more bread-baking that we ate before I took a picture (I am so not used to this "camera" device), some knitting, some more knitting, and yarn-dyeing plans. Solar ovens! Wholesale orders! Acid dyes manufactured without heavy metals! The possibility of finding locally produced wool, hand-spun by local people! Business license thoughts, colorway thoughts, viral marketing thoughts.

All this makes it difficult to actually edit. But edit I do, I do. I'm mellowing a bit in my old-editing-age. I'm more willing to accept that some people don't follow any citation style at all, that some people don't notice how many spaces appear between sentences, and some other people revise their own writing amazingly well. That is why I love repeat clients--improvement.

Meanwhile, we have decided to host a Passover seder. If you've been to one, you know the gluttony involved, and if you've been to one of ours, you know that we abscond with tradition and replace it with horseradish-eating contents. This year, we will be hosting a mix of Jews, Messianic Jews, Christians, and a few whose beliefs I'm not familiar with. The wine and the matzo smooth it all out. Four prescribed cups of wine, people. If you are invited to a seder, bring wine! You will drink a bottle of it!

And yet ... we have no dining table. Or chairs.

So we are building one, with the help of Noah's aunt and uncle, who run a woodworking business. And have a shipping container full of lumber that Noah's grandfather milled himself. Pretty great. Pictures on facebook.

And me? I am all right. I am ready to dye a lot of yarn and sell it. Almost.

I looked out the window of this office room, this back room with three windows, and realized our cherry tree finally bloomed. Wowza. Like one day nothing, then fully bloomed.

How are all of you?

16 March 2010

Whole Wheat and Sprouted Quinoa Bread with Raisins

RECIPE! This takes 2 days.

Day 1:
Soak 3/4 c. quinoa in 1-1/2 c. warm water in a lidded container, room temperature, overnight.

Make biga:
1-3/4 c. ww flour
1/4 t. instant yeast
3/4 c. warm water

Mix, knead until it all comes together. Put in covered bowl/container and stick in fridge overnight.

Day 2:
Remove biga from fridge; let warm up at room temp. for 2 hours.

Drain water off quinoa. Check out the sprouts! Place drained sprouted quinoa in food processor; grind to a mash if possible.

(I use a stand mixer for all my mixing and kneading, so my method goes like this.)

Put ground sprouted quinoa in mixing bowl.

Put biga on floured surface; chop into 12 mixes. Dust pieces with ww flour so they don't all stick together immediately.

Put chopped biga into same mixing bowl.

Add to bowl:
7 T. ww flour
1 t. salt
2-1/4 t. instant yeast
1/4 c. water, room temp./warm
3-1/2 t. honey
1 T. vegetable oil or unsalted butter, melted
2 T. vital wheat gluten (optional, but I used it and it helped, I think)

Begin mixing with dough hook at medium-low speed until it comes together, then low speed. At this point, I added several more handfuls of ww flour--not sure how many. Add flour until the dough comes together in a ball. It should be soft and slightly sticky. (You can also use the mixer to bring it together, add raisins, and then knead by hand for 5 min.)

Add a handful of raisins. Keep mixing with dough hook to assimilate.

Let dough rest 5 min.; then knead 1-2 min. more. Add any necessary water or flour for final adjustments.

Place in oiled bowl and let rise 45-60 min., until 1-1/2 times original size. (I always let my dough rise inside my oven, with no heat on--my house is really cold, but my pilot light keeps the oven warm.)

Shape dough on floured surface: either a sandwich loaf in a pan, or a freestanding ball or torpedo shape. For a batard/torpedo like mine: flatten dough into a rectangle shape. Fold top half down to middle of dough; seal seam with finger pressure. Fold bottom half up to middle of dough; seal seam. Then, fold the current top of the loaf to the current bottom of the loaf; seal seam. Rotate loaf so seamed edge is on bottom. Smush ends in a little, pinching closed if needed. Dust with flour. Place on proofing sheet (I use the back of a cookie sheet dusted liberally with flour).

Let loaf rise 45-60 min.

Prepare oven for baking. If sandwich loaf: just turn on to 425. If baking a freestanding loaf: Place baking stone in oven, with a steam pan below it. Turn on to 425. Let preheat at least 20 min.

Cut shallow slashes in top of loaf while the oven preheats--3 diagonal, 1 long slash, whatever.

For sandwich loaf: put in oven; turn oven down to 350. Bake 20 min., rotate loaf 180 degrees, and bake 20-30 min. more until loaf registers 200 degrees and sounds hollow when thumped.

For hearth loaf: slide/lift loaf onto baking stone (if it's going badly, try using a spatula to help get it off the sheet pan. If it's going really badly, leave it on the sheet pan, put the pan on top of the baking stone, and after 20 min., try lifting the loaf off the stone with oven mitts, then putting it on the stone and taking the pan out of the oven.) Add 1 c. hot water to steam pan; don't burn yourself! Wear oven mitts! Close door quickly. Turn down to 350. Bake 20 min., rotate loaf 180 degrees, and bake 20-30 min. more until loaf registers 200 degrees and sounds hollow when thumped.

Let cool one hour.


15 March 2010

Yarn dyeing pictures!

Oh dear ones. I've had a flood of editing come in, hooray hooray, and have been a bit focused on that and not on blogging. Moving on, a recap:

Yarn dyeing!

And more yarn dyeing and attempts to improve my photography skills.

Also, a fierce bread bake-off in which I determine which whole wheat bread is tastiest (Peter Reinhart is winning that one), I cook a lot of dry beans, we eat a lot of food, we decide to build ourselves a farmhouse table because we don't have one and I fell in love with them because of this video but, you know, don't have 1K to spend on a table. And we still don't have a table to eat at. We have our military boxes serving as a coffee table. And Passover is coming, and the promise of a wonderful seder ...

So, more editing is on the way for me. But I am also working out the details of buying a whole lot of yarn, undyed, then dyeing it after developing my own colorways, and making an etsy shop (I do think I'm going with Nomenclature Yarns, because creating is like naming, and naming colors is especially odd, and I am Swedish and so is Carl Linnaeus).

Urbana folks, I want to tell you, the other night, Noah and I bought some Bandit in a box. And I was full of nostalgia.

What are you all up to?

22 February 2010

Sunlight and Visuality

What's it like to be a writer again? Is it anything like this sudden desire to photograph, which I really am terrible at doing, or to explain? Does it have to do with how sunny Seattle has been since I got back--this feeling that I can actually see things, they glow somehow, the moss is so green and the dusky sky so clouded and mute-blue?

Of course, I am freakishly cold right now. The apartment isn't cold, but I am. So it goes. But cold sharpens things ... no, probably not. It probably distracts things.

Yarn is more expensive than I want it to be. I'm investigating the prices of blank yarns per 100 g skein, and man oh man, are yarn-sellers an unorganized bunch. No pictures? Pictures and now no way to buy online from you? Why do you have a website that showcases your goods and yet has no way to sell them to me? And WHY OH WHY do you not list the AMOUNT of the thing you are selling? I can buy "quantity 1" and pay a million dollars and you don't tell me how many grams of yarn it is ... Is that a winning strategy? No, it is not. I am a crabby online shopper who is used to Amazon, and I like my websites easy to use. (Why do people still list a limited number of items on a page? I can scroll ... at least give me an option to view all ... )

Whatever. All of this is really here only to say that things look more beautiful to me than they have in a while, in a way that is difficult to pin down, and may have everything to do, literally, with sunlight and visuality. And that I'm ready to buy a whole lot of yarn, like $300 of yarn, and play with it. And sell it to you. But I want to be certain I'm getting the best deal first.

Quest #2: Which whole-wheat bread recipe is easiest and best-tasting? Trial and error. This recipe from cook for good is pretty tasty, but this recipe from Bob's Red Mill is also really tasty, and today I put together Peter Reinhart's basic whole wheat bread recipe from Whole Grains, and it is really tasty, as well. I am a bit worried that Peter's recipe might bring about the death of my KitchenAid mixer, because it requires a lot of kneading some really tough doughs together, which I am not about to do with my hands. Full disclosure: I did try kneading some bread together yesterday, and it was perhaps the stupidest thing that I've done since I was injured. No idea what I was thinking. It hurt a lot, and my elbows are mad at me, and my left hand is mad at me, in a way that I don't remember feeling before -- probably because I haven't been this stupid before.

And perhaps you are interested in the black bean chili recipe which features bourbon, which I mentioned elsewhere online? I will get it up here soon enough.

Be well, friends. Do not be stupid.

17 February 2010

Eating Really, Really Well

It's been a while since I talked extensively about food, and me, and us over here. And since it crossed my mind the other day that some of you may be eating bland, unwholesome, or expensive food, I want to share my current meal plan. And yes, I'm making meal plans now, and our grocery bill and our diet is much better for it.

I started following the cookforgood.com plan, and while I love the idea and the woman has some great recipes, I'm not enthused about following it exactly. Okay, I'm not enthused about following it exactly at all. I don't want to eat three dishes based on black beans in one week, once for dinner and the next day for lunch. I don't want to eat pasta every other day. And I hate making side dishes. I like eating them, but I run out of drive when it comes to making them. I just end up looking at the head of broccoli and thinking, Why am I cooking you again? I don't want to. I just want to eat my bowl of vegetable-filled legumes and whole grains.

What follows is a list of 17 vegetarian meals I wrote down off the top of my head, with this week's meal plan at the end. I'd be happy to share recipes; just ask. They come from many sources, so I won't bother listing them. They're roughly sorted by shared ingredients.

Thai peanut noodles with cabbage, carrots, and broccoli
Pasta with tomatoes and kale

White beans with cabbage and parmesan
White bean stew with tomatoes and garlic

Pizza with parsley pesto and mozzarella

Black bean chili
Black bean soup with corn
Cuban black beans
Black bean and vegetable soup
Black beans with salsa, rice or tortillas

Garbanzos in curry (chana masala)
Garbanzos with quinoa, green something, and garlic-tahini dressing

Lentils with kale and roasted tomatoes (really good with polenta)

Hoppin' John
Baked BBQ black-eyed peas

Green soup with ginger

... and for dinner/lunch next day this week:

Black beans with salsa, brown rice
Black bean soup with corn, brown rice
Pasta with tomatoes and kale
White beans with cabbage, roasted potato wedges
Thai peanut noodles
Butternut squash soup, garlicky greens, something bready
Pizza with parsley pesto and mozz.

What are you eating these days? Hmmm? Is it as bad as I imagine?

14 February 2010

My Grandmother is Not Dead

She lives! We spoke on the phone once, she didn't return my call after that, she did return my brother's call, and somehow, we don't know how for sure, she went to a doctor's appointment despite snow and winter, which were previous excuses for not going to the doctor, and is apparently kind of stable. Stable for her condition? Stable really? Not sure on that one.

Folks, we are playing it by ear. And I am back in Seattle.

Land of Noah, land of humidity, land of green moss everywhere, and even sunshine greeting me on this fine V-Day. There are roses (I think) blooming in my yard. BLOOMING. Because I live in a temperate rainforest. The more I remind myself of that, the easier it is to accept that I've traded snow (which I had today, in St. Louis) for green things. Not a terrible trade.

But there was lots of excellent family visiting, lots of cooking good food, lots of throwing things out of my parents' pantry and fridge that have expired. Examples: dried black beans from 2002. But the worst: just-add-water cocoa mix from 2000.

All this death watch business comes down to ... improvement in her condition, more time, a chance to let her know I do care about her, and let her do with that what she will. So far, that means not returning my calls. It feels like my evil grandmother has either decided she is a) totally done with me and most of my family, b) pushing us away to see if we stay away, or if we run in to save her and prove our love, or c) resolved to die alone, not in a sinister way, but in a kind of surrender. All of this is uncertain.

One certain thing: I went to the Fremont farmer's market today and bought maple syrup from a guy who is a grad student at UW, whose family makes it in Vermont, who takes off spring quarter to go make syrup, then brings it back and sells it to ... me. A delicious certainty. On waffles.

01 February 2010

Reminder: Keep Breathing

Sunshine, sunshine, snow, days of fires in the old stone fireplace that nearly fell on the neighbor's house and had to be mudjacked back into place. Days of babysitting Amelia, helping her in and out of her new pink princess dress with the flower crown and wand and a choice of either a pink sash or a silver sequin sash. I've watched Mulan and the Lady and the Tramp so many times that I think I could sing them all to you. I keep humming "A Girl Worth Fighting For," and since my mom teared up once at the end of Mulan, where the emperor bows to her, I keep tearing up no matter how many times we've watched it that day, and my brother said that he does, too, that it's the kind of movie that can take your emotions and run with them, if you let them.

My grandmother received 5 units of blood and 4 of platelets in her 9-day hospital stay, then was discharged home. Her doctor said he'd never written the order for "placement" and that he didn't think she'd comply if he did write it. My brother and I tried to reason/argue with her that she needed to move into assisted living (Zak, serious: "Nancy, you're straight f*cked." Nancy: giggles), and she tried convincing us that since she won't receive any more chemo (because she has permanent kidney damage from losing so much blood a month ago), she would feel "better," be able to organize her hoarder's hellhole of an apartment (literally boxes to the walls, covering all the floor, with a cot and one chair in the kitchen and some room on the floor to lay down and watch TV), and then, "I can't think of anything better than to lay down on my bed at home one day, go to sleep, and never wake up."

Of course, someone else in her position might say "hospice" at this point, but no, she is too deep in her manipulation games of controlling people to do that. I am pretty certain that right now, what she wants more than anything is for both 1) everyone to leave her alone and let her die in peace and 2) for all of us to rush in and save her somehow. I suspect she's waiting for things to get bad enough that my mom demands she move in with my mom--which would be an emotional disaster and a physical disaster, since my mom couldn't take care of her needs at all, as my mom can't cook, clean much, or help someone else move around. So, these goals are incompatible, and I have a feeling the dying will happen first.

The lesson? Crazy people are always crazy. They die crazy. It is ugly for everyone.

I called her yesterday and didn't hear back; she had a doctor's appointment today that she rescheduled for Wednesday. I'm sure she rescheduled because she feels bad, which would be a good reason to see a doctor, especially if you spent the last nine days in the hospital receiving a unit or two of blood and platelets every other day. So, will my grandmother (Nancy, I don't call her grandmother, per her request when I was an infant and she said, "I'm too young to be a grandmother" even though my mom was 30) die at home in the next two days? Will she call us? Will she call an ambulance? Will my deeply embedded feelings of hyperresponsibility take over, guide me to drive to her apartment and drag her back to the hospital? Or will I let her be responsible for her own bizarre, deluded, totally crazy decisions?

I have no idea. I have a feeling the end of her life is right here, that we are all staring at it, and that she is still playing games to ensure that people do what she wants. I have a feeling that I was right to pack funeral clothes.

A nice thing: being with my family. My dad's mom (who is Grandma) is coming to visit next week, mostly because I'm here and our timing lined up nicely. She is so wonderful to be around, lots of reading, sleeping, talking, coffee-drinking. We had a big family dinner last night with my brother, his wife Lucy, and their girl Amelia--pulled pork, baked bbq black-eyed peas, and the best collards ever: collards with garlic, raisins, and orange juice. Amazing. And cornbread. Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen is wonderful; the collards and peas recipes are his.

I read The Road in two nights. I, um, I'm working on my post-apocalypse skills. I'm glad the boy made it through. And I learned that even after the apocalypse, one must be concerned about the safety of consuming home-canned vegetables. Good lord, Cormac McCarthy can write a lyric. Can't believe I hadn't read him before. The plot would get so bleak and terrifying that I only kept reading for the lyric. And the subplot of "is this boy a god or not."

So, keep breathing, little girl. Your skin and hair are drying out in this familiar Midwest winter air, so drink more water and less coffee. Be wary of old canned goods.

23 January 2010

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

When you were young, you were the king of carrot flowers ... No idea why this album is the one to listen to right now. But there it is.

I am flying to Saint Louis on Tuesday to be with my family. The impetus is my grandmother's illness, dying, hospital stay, stage four cancer in July, remission in December, five units of blood in the hospital in December, three units of blood and two of platelets now, in a reverse isolation room, with an order for "discharge with placement" which means assisted living or custodial or something. Not that she's at all ready for discharge yet.

She's 72? 73? Her mother lived to 98.

This woman ... I told my dad this summer that she is the most evil person I know, and I am sticking by it. Loads of abuse, alcoholism, irresponsibility, denial, crazymaking, paranoia, and, to top it off, she really hates people. She was close to one of her cousins for decades and broke off their friendship because her cousin talked about her grandson a lot, and it annoyed my grandmother. Also the most bizarre person I know.

So, sadness, well. Let's not address that. I've written poems and essays about this woman because she is that kind of negative muse, you know?

But I want to be with my family, with my mom, and right now I can be. So I will be.

Of course, I'm just settling into Seattle, into my apartment with the working heater and bathroom light, into baking bread at home, cooking the best pizza I've ever made (whole-wheat crust with an overnight rise, parsley pesto for sauce, whole-milk mozzarella shredded on top), being with Noah. Waltz lessons. Ice cream at Molly Moon's afterward.

I'll come back, though. Sometime. Maybe in a week or two. I didn't buy a return ticket.

18 January 2010

Sunny, and a Petition for Comments

Where are you, people? Here I am talking into the ether, and you refuse to comment. A right I also enjoy, I occasionally refuse to comment on your blogs, your links, reddit.com's links, Facebook status updates, et al. But you could at least say hello.

So shall I say, hello.

Our bathroom's ceiling light fixture stopped working (at midnight, of course--headlamp to the rescue); now it works again. Thank you, Dave the handyman. Thank you for working hard and sighing and asking to borrow my laptop so you could look up what the hell was going on. Apparently, the wiring comes from the main box to the light switch with an outlet which is seated outside the bathroom, then to the light fixture and exhaust fan in the ceiling, then back down to an outlet with no switch by the sink inside the bathroom. No power leaves the outlet in the hall. And when something is plugged into the outlet by the sink, A SERIES CIRCUIT IS COMPLETED, and, without turning the hall switch for the light/fan on, the light and fan come on dimly. Because the bathroom is wired like old Christmas lights. And it is obviously a code violation.

And the other handyman is coming by tomorrow morning to take down the leaky bathroom ceiling, which maybe will help the wiring situation.

And he's going to look at the heater which should be working--not the boat heater, the house heater.

After all this apartment drama, this code-violation-tragicomedy, Noah and I look at each other and say, You know, there are lots of things I don't like about this apartment ... but I hate moving. And it is cheap. And it is in a great neighborhood, and there are chickens, and gardens, and basement storage, and it is painted in colors we like, and it's big enough ... So we might be here a while.

Yarn, right? And writing? And this editing? And on and on. Whatever. It is sunny out. You have no idea how rare that is.

11 January 2010

On Marriage

Oh, and I've been married for five years now. To Noah. He was 16 when we started dating; I was 17.

And it is awesome. Don't want to go on and on, but it is. Could not do life without you, Noah. Could not do it. Would not want to try.

To celebrate, we walked down the street to Sutra, a vegan supper club kind of place, which starts each seating by ringing a gong and thanking the farmers who grew the meal's ingredients. (Neither of us are vegan; I'm still vegetarian (a year now! longest ever so far!) but Noah loves steak and bacon.) We sat at the bar, facing our dreadlocked sous chef, talking about the kombucha we were having with the first course (they offer a n/a pairing along with a wine pairing, and we both were feeling the n/a--an option I'm really pleased they had). Kombucha, or, as we proceeded to call it, the Booch.

I wanted to share the menu with you. There are few menus these days that I read and say, I don't know how to cook that. This menu, I read and thought, I don't want to try. I just want them to feed me. How often does someone else feed me top-notch vegan food? Dream away:

First Course

Celery Root, Leek, Tarragon Soup served with a Sorrel-Cara Cara Orange-Black Radish Salad and finished with a Sesame Seed Crisp

Second Course

Sunchoke, Smoked Beluga Lentil Cake, with a Honey Crisp Apple-D’anjou Pear–Yellow Beet–Chile Compote Finished with a Balsamic Reduction and Truffle Oil

Third Course

Hedgehog-Trumpet Mushroom, Roasted Cauliflower, Tonnemaker Pumpkin and Basil Mung Been Crepes served with a Roasted White Carrots, Steamed Lacinato Kale, and a Porcini-Almond-Marjoram Sauce

Fourth Course

Chocolate Ganache Torte with a Crystallized Ginger, Raw Cacao, Pistachio Crust with a Wild Foraged Blackberry Glaze

The torte was INCREDIBLE. I will be trying to recreate it for sure. Giant vegan ganache on top of all that, with a blackberry glaze? Amazing.

And then we listened to the mix CD we made for our wedding guests, as a favor, and danced in our living room.

Or, The Lack of a Christmas Miracle (in Regards to Heat)

No heat yet. So that is that. Of course, it is 49 degrees out, right now, so the need for heat is not the same as it was. Still, it is cold inside. I'm wearing two hoodies right now. No joke: a microfleece hoodie of mine and a giant cotton sweatshirt hoodie of Noah's.

Also I have worn through the sole of one of my down booties, and broken up the elastic tie that closes them at the ankles, and so I am contemplating getting new booties. I'm on pair 3; that would make new ones pair 4. Of the last nine years. I wore through pair 1 quickly, but they were more decorative than hard-working; pair 2 was lost, at the same time that I lost a knee-length wool coat; and here we are with pair 3.

I recently asked some folks via Facebook for book recommendations; you all delivered. I thank and thank you.

I am editing; I am editing in a blitz of editing. I took on two clients each with a 200-page manuscript due at approximately the same time, though the times have staggered a bit now. Then I had no usable computer for editing with Dragon. Then I had another solution with no internet access. Then I had a final solution, a new PC, but no Windows 7 (for a few days). Then I had them all but was quite ill with the Winter Cold of Aught Nine, as it will go down; the cold I had then the cold Noah brought back then the cold we shared between us for two weeks.

Now I am better and editing, editing. I feel smarter, having not done any editing for a while (since May for freelance and August for the job)--like my brain is turned back on. And though I am good at it, I keep thinking, man, I don't love doing this. I do not love it. I don't hate it, really, but ... fixing citations, converting citation styles, weighing in on others' arguments, looking up whether "at risk youth" or "at-risk youth" is more commonly used (go with the hyphen, btw) ... fixing someone else's writing tics ... part of the frustration definitely comes with needing to do a lot of editing quickly, but well. Doing a lot slowly is better, since my brain just falls out of my head at some point and I end up having trouble using keyboard shortcuts for italics (this happened last night: I ended up highlighting text and aiming for ctrl+I, but hitting shift+I instead, and wondering, where did my text go and why is a capital I here instead?).

However, I am a great editor. A GREAT editor. But I was a good teacher too. And I'm a good artist. And, for the record, I was all right as a violist. A good baker and cook too. But what do I love to do? What would I choose to do? Here in the free world of near-limitless choices, here in Seattle, the land of rain?

I'll think it over as I finish a chapter today.