Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Entering into the surreal

I've entered into the world of the surreal, more or less.  A few weeks ago it was announced at my place of work that jobs were going to be outsourced.  They actually didn't use that particular word - they used something a tad more doublespeakish - but it was the same meaning.  Some of us would no longer have our jobs, not because of lay offs - but because the job would be now done by someone half a world away.

There was outrage, there was bitterness, a sense of betrayal, and for some there was the understanding that this is a global economy and times have changed.  I have to admit I was in nearly all those camps.  I understood the business reasons behind it, but I still felt hurt that our company would do something like this.

To put things into perspective - I am into my 17th year with my company - and in company terms I'm a youngster.  There are people I work with who have been with this company for 20 - 30 years or more.  There's a loyalty that is rare in this profession.

Years ago the company would give all the employees a gift certificate for a free turkey.  After a while as we grew a tad larger the free turkey became a gift card to a department store, then a day off, then a half day off.  Then, well...

But people stayed.  in fact some people would leave only to return.  Again how often does that happen?

And so the years went by and there were good times and bad.  We had layoffs, and we had hirings.  We had holiday parties and summer picnics and we had pay freezes and bonuses.

Today I was talking with a co-worker - I'd known him since I started work at the company.  We were admiring the sunrise - it was beautiful and quite a surprise.  The dark Pacific Northwest clouds were suddenly aglow with vibrant pinks.    It was probably one of the most beautiful winter sunrises i've seen.

Then my boss came over and asked to see me in his office.  I knew what was coming.  What I work on can easily be done by someone else. I followed him in to his office and he closed the door.  The HR person was there.  They were sorry, I could see it in their faces, they didn't like doing this.  But they had to.

And so begins my journey into the surreal. I'm a dead person walking.  I'll stay at my job until May or June getting things up to speed and maybe even training the people who will be doing my job now.  After that I'll get a severance package.

For nearly 17 years I've gone to work knowing I have  job, now starting tomorrow, I'll be just keeping the seat warm  for my replacement.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

thank you

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month the war that was to end all wars finally came to its own tired, blood drenched end.  At that 11th hour on that 11th day in that 11th month a piece of paper was signed and the world was changed forever.  Innocence was lost, a generation of young men were lost, sons, and fathers were lost.   And we all know to well it did not end all wars.

Today on this 11th day of the 11th month we stand as one and thank those living and dead for their sacrafice.  Those of us who have never gone to war have no idea of its scope.  Those who have gone to war to protect us know it only too well.

 And may I just say that it is my most heartfelt wish that someday we will no longer have to pause and reflect on this 11th day of the 11th month.  It is my heartfelt wish that someday we will no longer have veterans day for we will no longer have veterans, and we will no longer have wars.

But until such a day.  I stand and salute you, you who have given yourselves to protect us.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

1 year anniversary

One year ago -  or thereabouts - I'd bought a new digital camera and was thinking about taking a class at Clark College's Adult Education for digital photography.  While looking at the offerings I noticed an intriguing title. Novel Writing Boot Camp.  Hmm.  I read more and watched the video that the instructor Carolyn J Rose had on the site. It sounded interesting and something inside me stirred. It hadn't stirred for a very long time.  And so I signed up.  Not for Boot Camp I but for the Combo Boot: Camp I and II - in for a penny in for a pound.

I almost didn't go when the day came. I sat at home my stomach in knots of nervousness and ...well..fear.  I'm a shy person and going to a new place with new people is one of the hardest things I can do.  But this day I went.  And it's no exaggeration when I say it changed my life.

I began to write again, first with the exercises in class, then on a novel that I had in mind.  By the end of Boot Camp I was several pages into my "novel" and couldn't wait for Boot Camp II to start.  It was all thanks to Carolyn and her fun and firm teaching style.  I thought I'd die having to read my work out in front of the class.  And I'm sure I was probably a speed reader those first few times, but the criticism I got from her and the rest of the class made me feel...ok...I just might be able to do this.

All too soon class ended, but Carolyn had mentioned a writer's mixer that met at Cover to Cover Books in downtown Vancouver.  Once again I had to face the shy demon, but I was supported by the fact that Carolyn would be there and introduce me to some people.

The people turned out to be Melanie Sherman and Carol Doane.  They had also gone through the boot camp and  with several members of their classmate had formed a critique group.  They were kind enough to give me an audition and soon I was adopted.

The things I've learned in this year are amazing and the people I've met are so fantastic.  So with this one year anniversary of my starting writing again I give my thanks to Carolyn, Melanie, Carol, Pam, and Peggy, Lisa and Ginger for all the great critiques and I can't wait for more.

And as this writer thing has taken off I've now come into contact (thank you twitter) with so many other fantastic writers who've made this year a great one.  Tawna FenskeCynthia ReeseLinda GrimesSaycaity,  Bill CameronSqueakattack, and Jenku.  Thank you all for the witty repartee in 140 characters or less.

I can't wait to see what this next year holds!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm of two brains

There's brain 1 - the work brain and there's brain 2 the writer brain.  Sadly the two rarely meet or play nice.  Usually it's brain 1 taking brain 2 in a half nelson, whirling around and then sending brain 2 into the stands where it lays there feebly whimpering.

Work brain is the analytical/logical/non-creative brain.  It's much more interested in coding and unit testing and coding some more and for fun it loves to kick back and relax with some analysis.  JOY.

The problem is work brain is really selfish and takes over to the point where writer brain -- well yeah feebly lying in the stands whimpering.  Which doesn't help when my WIP is historical fiction so I'm doing research which work brain dearly loves.

The one thing I've tried to do is to give myself some weekend writing time, but even then sometimes work brain has pummeled writer brain so much that all it can muster is a weak...yeah I WANT to do this but..ya know the compound fractures and the contusions make it kind of hard to help you out today kiddo.  Sorry.

So here's my question to those of you who read this blog.  How do you cope with two brains?  Especially when one brain tends to bully the other one into giving over its lunch money, milk money, mutual funds and trust funds?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Greenie Goodness

  As most of you know I have two dogs.

This is Bear 

And this is Boo

They're 6 year old Lhasa Apsos.  I love to see them happy but there are times... where they look more like:

They both have allergies especially food allergies.  They both eat a prescription dog food and we have to be pretty careful on what they eat.  Special treats

Now there are times when they need allergy pills and oh boy what a joy THAT is.  We've tried everything.  Hiding it in a bit of wet dog food usually resulted in a very soggy pill resting either in their food dish or on the floor.  Trying to force it down...um no that did not work either.

And then one day I saw that GREENIES had made pill pockets!  Ok, for those not quite sure what I'm talking about.  It's simple and it's fantastic.   Insert pill into pill pocket, squeeze the opening shut and feed to fido.  Great idea, right?  Only they came in Beef and Chicken flavors - neither of which would work for the dogs.

Then, a while back Greenies twittered about their new allergy formula pill pockets and wanted to know if there were anyone folks in the twitterverse with dogs that had food allergies.  YES!  I cried...ok tweeted.  And they were nice enough to send me a sample!

It took a little while, but I finally was able to use the sample pockets.  NICE!  Very nice.  The pocket is nice and soft.  The opening is wide enough for you to drop the pill in without much problem and they seal up nicely.  Basically when you're done putting the pill in and sealing it up you have what looks like a little round meat ball.  

I had the dogs sit and gave them their "treat" and they..no pun intended.. wolfed them down without leaving me a present of a soggy pill.

Now I will say Boo did have a bit of an upset tummy after taking his pills in the pocket for a couple days, but I honestly think it was more the pill then the pocket.  Bear had no issues what so ever, and this is the dog that gets ear infections if he so much looks at a chicken or a slice of beef.

So - bottom line  - I really did like these.  I liked how the dogs loved them and really seemed to like the taste, I like NOT having to worry about spat out pills.. and then the joy of trying to figure out who did the spitting out.  

Will I buy them? Yes.  I'm all for an easy and dare I say tasteful way of giving my dogs pills, when they need them.  

Saturday, May 1, 2010

50 Followers baking

Charity Bradford hit 50 followers on her blog and decided to have a blog fest! The criteria your main character has to bake....now see I read bake and thought cook..so um... my MC is cooking not baking.  Sorry about that.  But here it is!

Josiah Davis was a wonder to behold in the kitchen.  He moved with a ballet dancer’s fluidity and grace as he went from the cutting board to the stove and dropped whatever it was he’d just chopped into a skillet and then pirouetted towards the table to grab a spatula and arabesque back to the stove to stir.  The air was at once filled with a frantic sizzle and the scent of sautéing onions. 

It was here in his kitchen that his mastery was truly displayed, not in the cramped closet that pretended to be the bbq’s kitchen. There he was relegated to chopping greens with his elbows pressed tightly against his side, his knife movement short sounding like a wood pecker on an oak Ta tat a ta.

 Here though he could relax, expand. He’d rolled the greens into a tight tube. And sliced them into thin shreds;   the knife made gliding motions over them like a world cup yacht cutting through a swell.  .  Chiffonade was the culinary term.  In the South they were merely rolled greens and the bbq they were just sliced and stewed.

He spun towards the stove, grabbed the handle of the skillet and gave it two quick thrusts, at the last second of each he snapped his wrist causing the sautéing onions to leap up into the air like tribal dancers before falling back into the pan.

Nearly all the recipes dictated the greens be boiled in a pot with ham hock and lots of water until they were the consistency of pond scum and all the life had been sucked out of them and into brackish greenish pot liquor that glisten with oily fat.  That was how he had to cook them at the bbq – but he was in his own kitchen.

 He glanced at the onions – they were coming along nicely.  He moved to the refrigerator, opened the door and took out a small bundle wrapped in stark white butcher paper.  He placed it on a cutting board and un-wrapped it, slowly, lovingly until the paper lay like petals around the red and white spiral center that was pancetta.

                  With the knife he used only for meats he began to cut it into small cubes.  He sighed as the scent of the meat engulfed him, the earthy nutmeg, the grassy fennel, the pungent garlic all melded in an aroma that was intoxicating.

                  He twirled away from the counter, cutting board in hand and dumped its contents into the skillet.  The sizzling intensified and now the kitchen had another smell, cooking pork belly.  Again he popped the skillet and now more dancers leapt into the air.  He was patient, and waited while the fat was rendered from the meat, leaving bits of crunchy pork while the onions were now being bathed in spice infused pork fat. 

                  He turned and grabbed the greens in both hands, spun back to the skillet and dropped them in.  He leaned over and grasped a pair of tongs and began to work the greens, picking them up with the tongs and dropping them back into the pan, moving them around so that each individual strand was mixed with the onions and pancetta bits.  For a moment he placed the tongs down and grabbed a large wooden pepper mill.  Three sharp turns sent a rain of black and white particles onto the bright green strands.  Down went the mill and up came the tongs, once more the strands danced in the air before going back into the pan.  He cocked his head to the side glancing at them gauging their color.  He reached out and let one of the stands fall on his outstretched fingers and brought it up to his mouth.  He paused for a moment, blowing softly on the green before opening his mouth and letting it drop on his tongue.

Perfect!  The sweet of the sautéed onions, the still slight crispness to the greens, the lingering after taste of salty pork and the sharp bite of the pepper that seemed to linger on the tip of his tongue long after the other flavors had vanished.  One more graceful turn, as he took the skillet from the stove and with the tongs carefully plated the greens on a simple white plate.

                  Tomorrow he’d be back at the bbq, back making the greens in huge pots with hocks that had more fat then meat on them.  But tonight he was home.  With fluid strides he made his way towards the table with his dinner.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Body Langauge Blogfest

OK - Melanie got me into this - sorry I'm a tad late on it but malicious microbes were visiting.  Anyway I stole this from Melanie's blog  to explain a what this is about:

 Harley D. Palmer over at Labotomy of a Writer (click on this to see the other entries) was talking with Ashelynn and came up with the idea for a blogfest for a scene where there is conversation, but without any dialog at all...whatsoever. Just body language.

So - here's my stab at it.  GULP - my first attempt please be kind.

Muto was THE up and coming new age spa resort.  There were three Muto spas already one in Taos, one in Beverly Hills, and a third in Jackson Hole. The latest one was going to be opening in the Columbia River Gorge to much fanfare and as part of the celebration local chefs were invited to create a signature dish.  If the head chef liked it, it would be added to the gala celebration dinner menu. And here she was - Kate Cameron – culinary school drop out about to try her best to have her quinoa salad become part of that menu. 

            Kate followed the directions she’d been e-mailed and parked and headed towards the kitchen.  One thing puzzled her, no sound.  Well no human sound that is.  She could hear birds chirping and cars passing by on I-84 but no voices.  She attributed it to the fact that Muto hadn’t opened yet and probably had just a skeletal staff at the moment.

            She walked in; the place was swank that’s for sure.  Her eyes caressed the marble floors, the mahogany paneled walls, the teak furniture that looked sleek and elegant and no doubt had been imported from Denmark just as the crystal chandeliers had been imported from Germany. 

She caught sight of two women dressed in what appeared to be Muto staff uniforms.  Kate approached them smiling, they smiled back but when Kate opened her mouth to speak their smiles vanished in an instant, their eyes flew wide, their hands flew to their mouths and they rapidly rushed past her, one of them casting a nervous glance back.  Odd that, she thought, but with a shrug she headed off in the direction of the kitchens.

            There was only the sound of her footsteps clicking against the marble floors, echoing in the stillness of the vast area that was Muto.  She found the kitchen, opened the door and peeked in.  There, standing by the prep table was a very tall, very thin, very stern looking woman dressed in chef whites.  She glanced at Kate then cast her glance down to her watch then back at Kate.  Feeling her face starting to burn with embarrassment, Kate smiled sheepishly and entered the kitchen.  She was about to apologize when she saw the sign.  No Talking.  It said in large type.  NO EXCEPTIONS.  No talking?  NO TALKING?  Really?  Then she’d remembered what Irene, her friend, had told her.  Muto was the latest thing in spas.  They tried to create a monastic feeling where guests become in tune with their other senses and contemplate their inner self all in TOTAL SILENCE.

            The head chef crossed her arms in front of her chest and peered down her long nose at Kate.  Kate smiled half-heartedly.  The woman stepped back her gaze falling on the prep table.  Kate glanced around nervously, nonplussed at the utter silence.  Then she saw the ingredients for the salad in a small cluster at the end of the table.  She straightened her shoulders, tugged on the hem of her chef’s jacket, looked the head chef in the eyes and nodded.  The woman made a sweeping gesture with her hand towards the table.  Kate nodded curtly and strode over and began to prep. 

The salad was simple, quinoa, roasted peppers, black beans, raisins, slivered almonds, in a light tahini dressing.  Simple.  She unrolled her knife bag and took out her favorite santoku.  The head chef glanced down at the knife then back at Kate.  Kate set the knife down slowly and placed both hands on her hips looked at the woman and arched an eyebrow.  The head chef smiled raised her hands and took a few steps back. 

            It took a little less then an hour for her to assemble the salad and plate it.  She’d topped the salad with some toasted almonds.  Muto’s head chef turned the plate examining Kate’s creation.  She glanced at the almonds and frowned.  She took a fork and started to remove them from the top of the salad.  Kate glared at her and pulled the salad plate away.  The chef blinked at Kate, her brow furrowed then she smiled, put down the fork and nodded.   Kate pushed the plate back over to her.  The chef picked the fork up and glanced at Kate.  Kate grinned a Cheshire grin and bowed low rolling her hand out in front of her chest with her left foot forward.  The chef took a bite of her salad and a genuine smile lit up her face, her eyes twinkled and her nose scrunched up. She placed the fork down, wiped her mouth with a napkin, turned and bowed to Kate.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Is it better now...or now?

Ok I need to warn you this is a venting rant. If you do not wish to read then might I suggest the following blogs to help you allude the ranting vent that will follow Melanie Sherman's humorous look at life the pearl of Carol is always a great read mynorthwestexperience is always a tasty experience I dare you NOT to laugh at Tawna Fenske's blog.

Ok - still here.  Cause honest I told you it's going to be a rant and a vent... I suppose that would be a rent or a vant.

Anyway ... here's the tale.

Lately I've been having headaches at the back of the eye.  I suspected my glasses.  There's an odd film on them I can't get off and when I wear my contacts I don't get the headache.  Only problem with wearing the contacts is that they're mono-vision and I have migraines.  I get a migraine - mono vision goes boom!  So, no contacts.

I call the ophthalmologist - this guy is an MD he's been to college, medical school and then specialized in all things eyes so I'm figuring he can help.

I get to the eye place, fill out the form.  Why am I there...HEADACHES followed by new contacts.  Sue me I like contacts.  A few minutes later I'm called in.  This is not the Dr.  this is an assistant.  She's going to do the checking of my vision.  Hmmm...ok.  I guess that's cool.  I tell her, I'm having headaches,  can't wear the contacts due to migraines, I think there's a film on my glasses - etc.  She does the usual - which is clearer - one or two... two or three..blah blah blah.  She then has me read the oh so familiar chart on the wall.  Ok - left eye not much difference, right eye - yeah there's a difference from before.  Could this be the reason for my headaches?  yes probably - she says.  She dilates my eyes and then off she goes, reassuring me the doctor will be with me shortly.

Shortly must mean something different to some doctors, because shortly was NOT shortly.  Finally he rushes in.  He shakes my hand as he's moving towards the desk.  This guy is ALL motion.  Ok, so I wanted contacts...well yes, but.....and what contacts did I have before...um I couldn't remember mono-visions - ok not a problem we can call where you got them before.  Um..ok.  Let's look at the eyes.  Ok.  Now he gets out the thing that makes it feel like a klieg light is shining in my dilated eyes.  No... what it will be bright, no sorry this might be bright.  Nope - look here, here, here, here, and here.  I'm not sure he's even looking because he's having me look up down right left so fast.

"Have you ever had a glaucoma test?" Ummm...have I?  I can't remember.  I did something years back but was that a glaucoma test?
"no." I reply and he starts off to do something else. Then it dawns on me.  The eyes.  So I tell him

"By the way, my mother and I have this odd genetic thing with our eyes, it looks like we have the early stages of glaucoma."

"I'd like you to take the test."  Um...ok what part of genetic thing didn't you understand?

Ok we're done.  Done?  Wait...um headaches..what I wrote down.  What about my headaches.  He assures me they'll call the place where I got my contacts and find out what I had so they can give me something different.  Ok, but headaches.  You know...why I came in?

He's escorting me out the door when I mention the glasses.  OH!  Yeah he forgot to give me the prescription.  So again I ask...um will this help my headaches.  He's scribbling.  Um, you know I get headaches when I look at the computer all day...I work on a computer all day and I get headaches I think from these glasses.  Scribble.  Will this prescription help with the headaches?

"No it's not much different then your old one."
"but the headaches."
"You're 47...I'll up the reading portion of your prescription."

That was it.  What was I thinking. I mean did I really expect to have him sit down and us chat about my headaches? Did I really expect him to brainstorm with me WHY I could be getting them?  Light at my desk, closeness of the computer monitor, etc.  Did I really expect him to act like he was LISTENING to a SINGLE WORD I SAID?

Frankly, yes.  Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Being told where to go

The first GPS I ever met was the one in my parent's Buick Lucerne, it came as part of their navigation package. I nicknamed it Sarah after the smart house in the series Eureka.  Sarah is very nice and has a very pleasant voice.  I can picture her, a fresh faced young woman in her mid -twenties, sitting in front of a very modern looking desk, a map of the world on the wall behind her, a sleek computer with an even sleeker monitor resting on the desk.  Perhaps there's a cup of herbal tea steaming beside her.  When ever my folks enter a destination I can picture her fingers flying furiously over the keyboard locating the quickest way to get there and speaking into a slim headset in a lilting melodic voice - "In 3/4 of a mile turn right."  If my parents miss the turn or decide to go a way she hasn't recommended I picture taking in a deep breath and exhaling softly and quickly finding an alternate route.  No doubt when she's not called upon she does yoga.

When I got my GPS for my car I was expecting Sarah's sister.  What I got instead was MAUDE.  I picture Maude being in her late 50's, her hair dyed a very unnatural red.  She's dressed in a leopard skin house coat and chain smokes unfiltered Camels.  There's a bottle of old graddad sitting next to a pot of coffee.  Her desk is an old battered contraption that you can hardly see for all the clutter and dogeared maps and atlases covering it.  In stead of a lilting melodic voice she has an accent that's a mixture of the Bronx and Brooklyn that's somewhat grating due to the number of cigarettes she plows through, not to mention the juice glass of cheap bourbon she's knocks back.

When I ask Maude for directions I get no eager to please response, I get a surly and snarky "In 3/4 of a mile turn right." she doesn't say it but the "You moron!" is implied.  And lord help me if I don't follow her exact directions.  "Recalculating..." she says with such venom that I picture her lighting a new cigarette with the end of the old one, grabbing an Rand McNally Road Atlas circa 1975, flinging the pages one after another  and no doubt muttering curses as she does it.

I suppose I could replace her, find a new GPS that is more kinder and gentler one - maybe not as sweet as Sarah but not as well frightening as Maude. Somewhere in between.  But I hesitate...I mean..after all...Maude knows where i live!

Friday, March 19, 2010

My meeting with Five Guys

When I saw the coming soon sign my heart with a twitter.  Friends in Texas had spoken of this place in hushed and reverent tones.  I doubted it would ever get to my neck of the woods, but there it was in all its red and white checkered glory.  Five Guys Burgers and Fries!  And like their name suggests that's what they do - burgers, fries, hot dogs and grilled cheese but that's it. Nothing else.

I had been planning to pay it a visit but first I wanted to let the lines die down.  In the early days I passed the place at 2 o'clock in the afternoon (well after lunch time) and it was packed with a line snaking towards the door.  Finally I noticed the lines were dying down at the 2 o'clock hour.  And so yesterday I decided to try it.

I walked in and suddenly I hear someone yelling "ONE IN THE DOOR!"  Followed by some mumbled replies and what sounded like "I'm ON it!"  Anyway I made my way over to the counter and was greeted very cheerfully by the man behind the counter.  Upon learning this was my first time at Five Guys he explained the menu.  Two kinds of burgers regular and little - regular are 2 1/4 pound patties, little is one 1/4 pound pattie.  All orders are made to order and all toppings are free.  Fries come two ways cajun and regular. 

Ok - so I ordered two regulars cheese burgers (one for me and Dad) with mayo relish tomato lettuce grilled onions and grilled mushrooms and two regular fries.  The man tells me that a large will easily feed two people.  So I make it one large fry.  I get my number and wait.

Now remember it's 2 o'clock in the afternoon - not usually the time people grab dinner or lunch.  It's that in between zone.  But this place had people in it - not packed, but there are probably 4 - 5 tables filled with people.  And while I was waiting another couple came in "TWO IN THE DOOR!". 

The kitchen was open (when have you ever seen THAT in a fast food restaurant!) and immaculate.  I watched them grill the burgers on a flat top and then build them OMG!  Finally my order is called and I rush over.  The same man that waited on me hands me my bag - all their burgers are packaged to go.  He tells me NOT to roll the bag top down - that will make the fries soggy.  Nice touch I thought.

I head home and unwrap my burger - wow, big the patties are thick and I can see the lettuce and tomato and I can smell the mushrooms and onions.  I take a bite, juice runs down my chin and down my shirt leaving bits of grilled onion and mushrooms in its wake.  Oh well it was worth it!  The burger is GOOD.  Have I had better?  Yes - Lappelah's burger is fantastic but it's also $10 bucks - my 5 guys burger was half that price.  I try the fries - they're fired in peanut oil and boy do they impart a great flavor!  They were just right for me, but I'm not a crispy fry person.  I like mine a little limp but with a bit of snap - these did not disappoint.  But I will state that if you like crispy fries you might not be too keen on these.  It could also have been the batch I had - and yes I DID keep the bag open.

So bottom line:  Very very good burgers best fast food ones I've had bar none.  I love the fact you can get custom toppings like mushrooms and grilled onions and its all free.  The fries had a great taste - not too salty not too blah.  I would recommend five guys to anyone in need of a good burger fast!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

a day without internet is like a day without...

I got hit with two bits of news yesterday morning as I stumbled down the stairs, news bit one - one of the dogs had decided to use the kitchen floor as a personal bathroom.  news bit two - the internet was out.  Now let me explain a little bit about my morning routine.  I wake up, get up, get ready, rush downstairs, pet da boyz, then dive into the car so that I can be at work at 5:30ish AM.  No I'm not on shift work, I do it to avoid Vancouver to Portland traffic - which rivals LA traffic at times.

I mention this becuase usually I'm half alseep as I stumble though the house towards the car, don't worry by the time I hit the freeway I'm only a quarter asleep. So the two bits of news hit the dull wall of my waking brain.  The dog present had already been cleaned up.  Yea!  The internet - not much I could do but I did manage to mumble.  Did you reboot? -Answer YES  Did you turn off the wireless router wait and then turn it back on? - YES.  Ok - those were my two computer professional thoughts and what I usually did when we'd loose internet.  So I stated there was nothing I could do about it right then as I hoped it would come back on its own accord - like a wandering cat that decides to go on walk about.

I came home - first question - first answer.  Internet up? No.  Crap!  This meant one thing and one thing only - a call to the ISP something I loath and dread with every fiber of my being.  I have nothing against the nice people there, it's just I know the talk track they'll have me follow - most of which I'd already done.  But, no internet meant no e-mail several other things.  YES I have an iphone with 3G but honestly I couldn't see myself trying to answer e-mails, check twitter and facebook and do some reasearch on the web via that little guy.

I called the ISP.  Went through the telephonic gynnastics I needed to get to a live person.  NO I did NOT want to take a survey after I was done with the call - thank you robot voice lady.  Finally I got a real person.  I told him my internet was dead and I blurted out quickly - hoping it would get him past the talk track bits I'd already done.  "I've rebooted several times and I've turned off the router as well.  Nothing."

He was a nice man.  I didn't have to go through that bit again.  He did have me undo the coxaial cables and plug them in again.  Nothing on his end.  Nothing on my end.  The router did it's best to show some weakly flickering lights trying it's best to prove it was still capable, but it was clear to the tech and to me that it just didn't have it anymore.  We needed to go to the bull pen for a new pitcher..I mean server.

The nice man told me to take my router to the nearest office and return it for a brand new one...or at least brand new to me.  OK.  I said and so happily did I head off to get said new router with the old one, no doubt glumly, resting next to me.  I go to the office and see the mass of people waiting, take my number, and wait.  It wasn't too long of a wait and next thing I'm sitting in front of a nice lady shoving my router across the table.

"Um." she says.  I hate when they say Um..it usually means something not good is coming. It wasn't. "I'm sorry, but this router requires a tech to come to your house to replace.  It's secured.  The tech on the phone should have known this.  I'm giving you a $20 credit for your time.  When would you like the tech to come?"

WHAT!  No Internet? No internet ALL NIGHT!  I mean..NO INTERNET!  We set a time and off I go, no doubt the router is now smirking at my misfortune.  I head home.  I made dinner (roasted chicken stuffed with orange and rosemary and new potatoes green beans and mushrooms simmered in a soy broth).  I petted the pups, I groomed the pups (ok brushed), I did check e-mails on my iphone but that was it.  I went to bed.  I read.  I...I...I actually started to remember a time when there was no internet, there was no wireless, no facebook or twitter.  I started to remember  when I wasn't sitting in front of my laptop surfing the net.  It was almost....almost...nice.  Thank the internet gods the tech comes today!  I mean one more day of not having internet and I mightdo something crazy like...like...totally give it up!  WHEW!  That was a close one.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What dreams may come

It all began on Friday morning.  My usual schlep into the office takes place in the dark most people are not awake and are driving on autopilot. Which is why I should have been expecting the near accident I witnessed.  I was in the left lane, the red mustang was a good car and a half length ahead of me, which is how I like it.  The van came on and proceeded to glide from the right lane to the middle lane, and then..to my shock and horror...from the middle lane to the left.  All would have been well except the red mustang happened to be in the left lane!  The mustang's driver now had to move onto the shoulder. Now mind this is all happening at about 60+ mph!  The van NOW realizes what it has done and tries to move back to the middle, can't.. another car is now there!  So it stays in the left lane, the mustang guns it and rides the shoulder until he can get back in in front of the van, and my heart is pounding a latin beat.

No doubt this incident triggered the dream I had that night.  Accidents, near accidents, all in that twisted odd world that is our dreams.  Saturday morning I woke thinking how our daily life affects our dreams.  I told my dream to Mom who agreed that Friday's incident had impacted my dreams.

Then we went shopping.  I'd gotten my hair cut, finally, and I had yet to go to the store to get something for dinner.  We got into her car and headed off.  We saw our first near accident not long after.  As we were coming to a red light someone pulled out ....slowly..from a parking lot right in front of the car in front of us.  He threw on his breaks, we did the same.  And we muttered about idgit people.  Then we shopped and left the grocery store.  As we were heading out of the parking lot a car filled with - what looked like teenagers or twenty somethings, flies around the corner and turns into the parking lot.  They cut it short...very short...very very short.  Mom throws on the breaks, we pitch forward and we hear the groceries in the back end go flying.  The car with the kids misses the front end by inches.  If Mom had not thrown on the breaks they'd have clipped us. OY.  I'm starting to think maybe my dream wasn't such a dream after all.

Back on the freeway we go and another near incident do we see.  There is a part of the freeway that goes from 3 lanes to 2 lanes, now for some reason the people that built the freeway decided the LEFT lane should go and not the right.  So usually you have a lot of people in the left lane TRYING to fly past everyone else and switch back in before their lane runs out.  Not a problem...usually...an bother...yeah...but not a problem.  Unless you happen to have an insanely huge RV that decides to go from the right lane into the middle lane RIGHT at the spot where the left lane merges in.  We start slowing ready to witness the mangling of metal.  Luckily the RV realizes his mistake and swings back into his original lane.  Whew.

Off the freeway - YES.  But are we free?  NO.  There are two lanes that exit and can turn left.  We're in the inner lane. A car from Alaska is in the outter lane, I suppose he realized he wanted to go back on the freeway, which means he had to cross into the outter lane. Which he did... Directly in front of us!  Again the hard break, the pitch forward, and yet more groceries sound like they're scattered across teh entire back end.  The Alaksa driver is totally oblivious in his quest to get back on the freeway.

By now I'm exhausted.  We've had to pair drive!  Mom steering and me being on the look out for any and all drivers!  We're on the home stretch...not far to the house.  But oh no we're not done yet.   We come up to a light...green...it's a green light...the person at the green light is not moving the cars in front of us...yup you guessed it...break light city..including ours.

Finally FINALLY we got home and crawled out of the car to kiss the concrete of the garage floor. The dogs raced out to greet us as soon as Dad opened the garage door.  I petted them and thought how lucky I was to be able to do it.  I went in, curled into a little ball and whimpered softly.  No No NO NO going out!  Not at least until the morning.

This will teach me to not heed my dreams!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The better butter battle

Apologies to Dr. Seuss for the title.  But I MADE BUTTER!!!  I MADE BUTTER!!! Did I mention I made butter?  It is SO EASY!

And no you don't need one of those.

All you need is

You need heavy cream

And a food processor 

Then you turn it on and wait....

and wait...

and wait....

And then when you're JUST about to throw in the towel....

Yes that is freshly "churned" butter.  The taste...oh my gosh so good.  Now I must bake some bread to go with it!  I will add home made butter is less calories and fat then the stuff I bought at the store.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The deed is done

I'm not sure how good it is, I'm not sure if the synopsis is right, I'm not sure about a lot of things.  What I am sure about is that I have 3 copies in a large envelope ready to be mailed to the PNWA literary contest tomorrow - it's due on Friday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Comfort food

As some of you know I've been a tad sickly the past month.  I finally broke down and went to the doctor and found out I had walking pneumonia - which is an odd name since I so did not want to walk.  All I wanted to do was lay on the sofa with the dogs and watch food shows.

So as I'm laying there letting the antibiotics do their work I start having cravings for things I haven't had in a very VERY long time.  I will say the craving for Chef Boyardee ravioli was partly due to the food show I watched about canned foods and all, but the other cravings were not TV inspired.

Fish sticks.  I can't tell you the last time I had them.  But I was now craving those battered bits of fish and tater tots.  Ore Ida tater tots.  Again can't remember the last time I had them but I needed them  NOW, pronto stat!!!

Then I got to thinking about it, those are the things I loved as a kid.  They were my kiddie comfort food.  Mom use to make fish stick sandwiches with cheddar cheese and mayo and sweet pickle relish on hamburger buns.  Tater tots baked in the toaster oven until they were sizzling bits of tater goodness.

I'm sure if I could have found Franco American spaghetti I would have wanted that too.  Another childhood comfort food.   We never ate it warm, I didn't even know you were suppose to heat it up until much later.  I have fond memories of eating those thin ropes of pasta and thinking nothing of how unnatural the orange sauce was.

A trip to the grocery store and I was back with my childhood memories -somewhat.  The fish sticks were slices of halibut and not the mince that I remembered, but the tater tots were like old times.  Ok I did use malt vinegar on the fish sticks but ketchup was the dip of the day for the tots just like when I was a kid.  And like when I was a kid I would pick up a tot with my fingers and plunge it into the red pool of vinegary tomatoey goodness.

Now that I'm on the mend I have to think that maybe reliving my childhood comfort food helped as much as the antibiotics.  At least that's what I'm going to keep thinking.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

honesty not sure if it's the best policy


Melanie - a member of the Dead Bunny Club wrote 10 honest things about herself and then listed me as one of the people to do the same.  It's kind of like a blog chain letter.  So here goes.

1. I am shy - really.  Very very shy.  So why do I write a blog?  Who knows.

2. I've always been tall.  When I was a girl scout there was not a uniform in all of Southern California that would fit me.  I had to make do with some green cords and a yellow blouse with green flowers I'd borrowed from my Mom.  I have to admit though -girl scout uniforms in the 70's were HOR-RI-BLE!  Pea soup polyester!  Yeesh I still shudder at the very thought of them

3. I hate being late so I usually arrive way too early and sit in my car reading a book on the Kindle app on my iPhone.  Even if I know how long it will take me I still leave so I have a 10 minute cushion

4. I've eaten Haggis

5. I use to not always cook.  I liked weird foods, but cooking didn't happen until my mid-30's

6.  I'm a sixth generation Texan but don't sound it.  Moving a lot tends to do that

7.  I love football

8. I use to love baseball back when I use to play softball.

9. I tend to like dogs better then people

10.  I don't have 7 people to send this out to.

Gah all done.  OY!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why do we write?

I've been agonizing over my submission to the PNWA literary contest.  Is the synopsis alright, what about the submission piece?  What'll I do when I get the critiques back - knowing me I'll probably curl up into the fetal position and stare at the envelope alternating between whimpering and babbling nonsensical things.  Although anyone (all 10 of you) who read this blog know I'm apt to do that without the presence of a critique letter in my midst.

So it got me to thinking, why do we do this?  Why do we write, books, short stories, blogs, tweets?  Not everyone does.  There are people perfectly happy NOT writing.  There are people that are walking around at this very minute that do not share their waking time with fictional characters..ok maybe there are a few but they have medication for that.

Why do we feel this need, this compulsion, this obsession to write?  Why do we feel the need to tell the world a story - especially those of us with day jobs.  In olden days  writers had patrons - if you were lucky enough to bag one you were, more often then not, set for life.  That is unless you some how lost favor with said patron and then you'd be back with the rest of the rabble.

But even then...even back to hell..prehistoric times... why did some people feel the need to tell stories and why do we today?

I've always been puzzled by this...drive..compulsion..ok obsession to write... and, frankly, I've been plagued by it since I can remember.  I have a distinct memory of being in 4th grade and saying I wanted to be a writer.  And like most I became something totally NOT what I said I'd be.  Although I suppose writing computer programs CAN be a form of writing.

IF (i == Friends || i == Romans || i ==Countrymen)
printf("lend me your ears /n");
x+ = bury;
Um yeah.  * disclaimer  programmer folks, it's been YEARS since I programmed in C so yeah my syntax might be wrong *disclaimer

But the need to tell a story, and the living with characters that, at times, seem real.  Why?

Why do we write?  I wish I could say.  But I my protagonist is pounding in my head to get to this next chapter so I'd better do what she says.  I don't want to make her angry - you wouldn't like her when she's angry.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Great Herring Experiment

Jenku70 my twitter friend told me about herring with caviar.  OOOOOOO I had to try!  So I did!  Of course I had to make my own since we don't tend to sell herring a lot in this states, but lucky for me Whole Foods had just want I needed.

And so began the great herring experiment

First - the herring

Then the Caviar -

Then mix together

And serve on rye crisps

Conclusion?  OUTSTANDING for a thrown together attempt.  Now time to eat!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Breakfast...why always eggs?

Everyone knows I'm a tad odd, in more ways then one.  I'll eat chicken butts and like it, I go gaga over things that most people think of as garbage - chicken gizzards anyone?  And I don't like a typical breakfast.  I don't.  Honestly, I never have.  For example, my most favorite "breakfast" dish is a sausage and rice casserole that my Mom makes on my birthday.  It's based on a recipe in a cookbook my Great Aunt Tarncey's ladies auxillary put out.  The original recipe called for beef and chicken and stars soup and rice and I can't remember what all.  And I can't remember when Mom modified that recipe into the thing of beauty it is today.  But I know I always want it on my birthday.

Another one of my favorite breakfasts - a nice oozy brie cheese with crackers.  My favorite is a small brie from Willamette Valley creamery.  It's a nice size round bit of cheesy goodness, that by the time I commute and get going at the office is warm enough to ooze out when I cut into it.  Oh bliss.

Beans on Toast - OMG - need I say more.  Beans - Heinz beans (the UK version only - snob...maybe) and buttered toast.  Goodly goodness.

Bacon sandwich - ok ANYTHING with bacon is good but a bacon sandwich is fantastic.  Of course the bacon canNOT be crisp - chewy bacon a must.  Which, for me, is OK.  I've never been a lover of crisp bacon. I get this from my grandfather - a chewy fatty bacon lover from long back.

Cold pizza - many a college student's breakfast.  Mine still.

When I don't have anything then I will be somewhat traditional with a breakfast burrito - hey it's got eggs and bacon or sausage and hash browns.  Best one I EVER had was at the grill at Richland College in Dallas.

So yeah, I'm odd to some.  But hey, I'm still eating the most important meal of the day!  Just maybe a tad differently then most.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Feeling the Nostrana love

If you have a chance check out mynorthwestexperience blog on Nostrana.  He's got pictures and everything!  I shall not have pictures, but  they are there in my head, but honestly you do not want to go crawling around in my head it's a very scary place in there.  Very scary.  But I digress - what else is new.

Nostrana.  We went for a team lunch today - it was January Birthday lunch day.  About 8 of us made our way in the rain and disgusting weather that seems to hit the greater Portland area around this time.  First off I have to say I was surprised to fine Nostrana in a strip mall.  A very nice strip mall with a good amount of parking.  Believe me in Portland that is a plus.

The place was pretty empty when we got there..ok very empty.  We were the only group there for a while. But as soon as you walk in the door you know you're in for a treat. First there's the soft scent of wood smoke, not over powering, just enough to let you know that there is a wood oven in the area.  You don't have to look too far to find it.  Mynorthwestexperience has a nice picture of it on his blog.  A beautiful fire was blazing away in the brick oven which helped to banish away the winter chill.  We looked at the menu  - since this was lunch it's main thrust was pizza, but there was a ravioli with cod, a pork burger (panini) and fettucini with gorgonzola sauce.  I'd been pondering what to get but I finally decided on the Fughi pizza which had  shitake mushrooms, bacon, fontina and parmigano.

But before that came out we had the bread and the olive oil.  Now I love good bread and olive oil although usually the olive oil is well -eh.  Not much flavor.  Lots of times places will give you some balsamic vinegar to spice up the oil.  This oil need no help it was beautiful and flavorful and the bread was so light it was perfect.  I probably ate more then I should have but I couldn't get enough.

Then I had my pizza.  OMG!  First it's not sliced, you do it yourself with scissors which I loved, actually, I could cut as large or small of a slice as I wanted.  And the flavors, strong mushroom but not over powering, it melded well the cubes of bacon and the cheeses. The crust was out of this world, thin, very thin and flavorful.  I have to say, I ate the entire pizza by myself.  I couldn't let it go.

Since I had had my pizza...all of it...dessert was out of the question, but coffee sounded good.  Once again Nostrana did not disappoint.  Others got dessert so I was able to see and it sounds like you don't have to worry about lack luster desserts there either.  Of course they have tiramasu, but this one is made with grappa and gelato which is homemade.

So bottom line?  GO!!!  The pizza's run around 12 dollars but two people can probably eat off of one especially with a side salad.  Their dinner menu is much more complete and I'll have to make a run there some time.  But it will NOT disappoint!

Oh yeah, I am felling the Nostrana love!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Herring Herring we gots our Herring right here!

My twitter bud @jenuku70 and I were discussing...well..food.  We's Swedish and during a twitter-conversation we got onto the subject of herring.  I like herring, actually I don't think there's a food I've ever NOT liked which accounts for my somewhat zaftig build.  I also blame my German Haus Frau ancestors...I'm sure I had one!

But onto the herring.  In the US as most folks know herring is ...well...not really that well received.  I'm not sure why, ok maybe it's because they look like bait fish, maybe.


 But, as I've said, I've always liked herring.  I like it in cream sauce and wine sauce.  A friend of mine at work made picked herring and brought it into the office - I was over the moon!

So jenku and I were chatting and he tells me that in Sweden there are all sorts of flavors of herring, mustard, curry and one he called Archipelago.  Ok this sounds interesting...what is it exactly?

Herring in cream sauce with caviar!  Already my taste buds are doing the happy dance.  He checked with a friend in Portland there might be a deli that might carry it.  Sadly the Ikea only carries ligonberry tortes and swedish meatballs.

 Now I'm thinking I CAN try to mimic this easily by getting a jar of herring in cream sauce and adding some lumpfish caviar to it.  But Jenku was sweet enough to actual find a recipe on google and translate it to English.  He left the metric amounts, I can't blame him. His poor wife had a fit trying to figure out the amounts in the beet stew I had posted.

So - without further adieu - courtesy of Jenku70 on twitter ( I left his notes they're very funny!) -

Archipelago Herring à la Feldt
10-12 pc Feldt, salt herring fillets, Art No. 8111/8142

Sillage (that's not a word = pickelage...haha...)

2 dl vinegar
4 dl sugar
6 dl water
10 pieces crushed pimento grains
1-2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 Each of the red onion slices

Dilute herring with plenty of water for 12 hours.
Boil together spices, sugar and water.Allow to cool for a while and add vinegar.
Alternating herring and onions turn on the cold, the law (haha again, they want you to add the "pickelage" and put it in the fridge) and leave 2-3 days.

Make the sauce.Season with s & p.


1 dl lumpfish roe caviar, red alt Cavi-Art red, art No 8232/8260 (use whatever caviar you can find!!)
5 dl mayonnaise
5 dl creme fraiche
2 pcs red onion, finely chopped (about 250g)
1 dl chopped dill & 1 dl chives, cut.
S & P

Let herring run off (don't! just take it out of the "pickelage" and put in in the sauce!), cut it into pieces and mix it into the sauce.
Let ripen in fridge one day.  

I think I'm first going to try the quick and dirty way - cream sauce herring with a jar of caviar.  Then I'll hunt down a fishmonger that has some herring and will try it the Swedish way!

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Commuter Peeves

I commute.  I usually get into the office by 5:30 AM because if I don't a 20 minute commute turns into a 45 minute to an hour commute in and worse going home.  I usually eat at my desk so I don't take an official lunch so I can leave 8 hours after I arrive.  This is in part to sneak in under the HOV lane activation time - which happens at 3.  I've been commuting nearly all my working life - there was a time I lived in downtown Portland in an apartment within walking distance of the office.  My commute was 10 minutes through a nice park.  But I digress, or regress.  Anyway on to my peeves.

1.  Left Lane Laggards:  You know who you are!  You get over in the left lane and then go slower then most people in the right lane!  Ok ok fine you don't like having people merging in, I understand, and you don't like being in the middle lane..ok.  But BUT..when you have a line of cars behind you, and people are whipping around you and cutting back in a scant centimeter in front of your plate .. wouldn't you THINK maybe about moving over, letting people pass, and then moving back over?  I mean it's not like you won't be able to get back over, all the cars will have passed you within seconds!

2.  Cell Crawlers: Not quite like the Laggards but close.   People, people people.  First of all, it's against the law in both Oregon and Washington to talk on a cell phone while driving unless it's hands free.  And, take my advice, if you have to sloooow down to a crawl so that you can talk then maybe you shouldn't have a phone at all?  Why does slowing down make it easier for you to talk?  That's kind of like turning down the radio when you're lost?  If you can't drive and talk then take the bus!  They'll drive for you!  And actually hey Laggards that goes for you too!

3. Truck Trauma:  I get it. Trucks are big, they have a lot of wheels and in Oregon they can be LONG loads (a semi pulling a trailer followed by a trailer followed by a trailer - how many wheels is that?)  Anyway, yes I understand they can be scary, but here's the deal you're prolonging the fear factor by staying side by side with said monster truck!  MOVE!  Get around them and then get over happy in the fact you've bested the monster.

4. Butt Bashers:  You guys are almost as bad as the laggards.  Yes I know you want to get where you want to get as fast as possible.  Yes I understand that, no really I do.  I'm with you on that one, just maybe not in such the rush that you are.  But let's think about this for just a second.  I have a car in front of me, I have a car beside me, I CANNOT GO ANYWHERE so why do you feel the need to nearly bash my butt?  Can you not see that I have no place to go?  

5. You're not Exiting a head of me: Sorry I couldn't think of any good alliteration for this commuter.  Let's talk for a moment shall we?  I'm not making rude comments about you, I'm not trying to defame your name, I'm not doing anything but trying to 1) get in the lane 2) merge with traffic 3) merge off the f-ing freeway.  I have given you my signal so you know this to be the case, so why do you suddenly decide that NONE SHALL PASS and you gun the engine and fly up just so I cannot do what I'm suppose to do?  This goes for you too you Yes, I know you're having to exit in the same lane I use to get on the freeway but I won't let you get a head of me - people.

Oh there are so many others, signal senile (the clicking sound is your TURN SIGNAL not the back beat to the song you're listening too), Telepathic Traveler (you know you should know I want over without me having to give a signal), and of course Last Minute Larry (No, you shouldn't have to cross 5 lanes of traffic in a single shot to get to your exit NOR should you wait until you GET to the closed lane to move over)

I could continue but I won't.  I know it's little use to rant like this because those people will never see this and if they do they'll look at it with a quizzical expression unsure what this all means - no doubt while going 20 in the left lane on the free way while talking to Uncle Mo who's front seat is in the back seat of the car in front of him while his signal blinker blinks.

Oh well.  At least I'm home, and don't have to worry about this....until tomorrow.