Monday, December 31, 2007

Feliz ano nuevo!

A quick post to wish you all a Happy New Year! I also wanted to thank everyone in my life, a few of whom read my lil' blog, for all your support, encouragement, drinks, recipes, wacky websites, and for sharing your own human experience with me. I have strong hermit tendencies, but you all remind me that the true richness of daily life is in the human contact that I'm occasionally smart enough to seek out but usually find thrust upon me, usually to my surprise and delight.

I'll also take this occasion, with only hours to spare, the Center for Disease Control's Fruit/Veggie of the Month: root vegetables! I have not yet experienced for myself what magic lies in the rutabaga, parsnip, or turnip, but if you've got a recipe to convert me, please share! But beets....ahhhh beets. I doubt I fully enjoyed a beet until adulthood, but now I'm hooked. And of course, they're good for you. Anything that stains your cutting board like that has got to have lots of cancer-fighting something in it. And since few people around me like them, I usually get to keep them all to myself.

Feliz ano nuevo, everyone! Let's work for peace, health, and other stuff that we believe in this year.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Death and pizza

I love those moments to dip a toe into the colorful, quirky cultures that surround us. I'm crazy about bars & diners in bowling alleys, ethnic markets, and bingo parlors. National observances are the informational subset of these side trips, deliberately highlighting what we're inclined to overlook in our environmental scans. This month's observances include International Drum Month (I hope that doesn't include air drumming), National Roasting Month, and National Peanut Butter Lovers Month (even though they're just fronts for retail promotion).

But it is utterly without mockery and kookiness that I stop to recognize National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. OK, before you click away thinking "ugh, death, depressing", hear me out. Death holds special interest for me, but not in a morbid train-wreck-voyeur kind of way, but instead, as a place where we're called to rethink life and what it means to be human, compassionate, and present. I was raised by an oncology social worker, who for years supported people who faced death, many of whom lived to tell about it. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a household name. I daily heard stories of how instructive patients and their families were to my mother. I also heard of medical professionals' wildly varying capacities for caring for dying patients with compassion and justice. Mom's retired now and channeling her considerable energies into art, but she continues to embody the values of her profession.

There are some wonderful documentaries and resources that take on the task of demystifying this universal experience of all living things:
OK, now, on to National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day (if you're not going to eat those anchovies, give them to me!)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Technology time capsule

In the spirit of What's in Your Bag?, I offer this snapshot of the physical technologies that I use regularly. What will we be using 10 years from now? What were we using 10 years ago?

When my father-in-law equivalent gave me this Canon PowerShot S30 in 2002, it was pretty high-end for the amateur digital camera enthusiast. It still serves me very well, although it weighs in at 11 oz. with a 1 1/2 in. display. The model I've been eyeing lately weights 4.41 oz with a 2 1/2 in. display. But it aint broke, so I'm holding on to it, even though my friends make fun of me.

I had a sweet, slick little cell phone until a schmuck stole it from me at a craft fair, so I bought this refurbished phone that was a hot item way back in 2004. But considering that I couldn't be dragged into cell phone culture until this year, I suppose it's still progress.

One of my favorite gadgets is my Creative Zen Micro MP3 player, a gift from Greg (a chronic early adopter) in 2003. We bucked the iPod trend, in part, because I wanted a radio tuner. I love this thing, in spite of the nightmarish workarounds for those of us locked out of iTunes. But it satisfies my need for constant news, podcasts, and lots of Bach, Bjork, Beck, and Bartok.

Cue the 2001 theme song: my tower. Also a gift from the father-in-law, this screamer boasts 768mb RAM, 40 gig hard drive, and is close to the size of a 20-gallon aquarium. The white noise of the fan shunning cat hair soothes me as I work.

Other technologies of which I'm fond: pencils, Flickr, cash, manual transmission, toilets, library cards, turntables, Firefox, and our water filtration system.

What's in your bag?

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Announcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vegetable of the Month:

A few fun facts about greens, some of which are sure to be asked during the Jeopardy episode in which you are a contestant:

  • Greens, such as collards and kale, are spookily cabbage-like, yet they are distinct members of the Brassica Oleracea family in that they do not form a compact head, as do cabbages and people.
  • If you'd prefer not to get cancer, eat a lot collard greens, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard and broccoli rabe. They're loaded with antioxidants, which, according to the National Cancer Institutue, "may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals", and such damage may lead to cancer.
  • Eating Black-eyed Peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring good luck. Eating collard greens are believed to bring wealth.

I have an unnatural fondness for "X of the Month"-type observances, the sillier or more obscure the better. PR professionals across the for- and non-profit spectrum don't hesitate to abscond with some week or month to remind us that their disease, foodstuff, or potential hazard should be foremost in our minds, at least for that prescribed period of time. I like to do my part to support their efforts. Watch this space for updates on other important agricultural products, maladies, and hobbies of which you should be aware.

For more fun, compelling information about leafy greens, check out these resources:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What I did on my summer vacation

Before my memory fails, I offer a compendium of random pictures and commentary from our fabulous, fun-filled, fancy and mostly free trip to New York and New Jersey.

New York reminded me how a highly accessible, extensive public transit system can transform one from a car slug to totally mobile urban animal. I miss that. Growing up in Kansas, I was legion among the few, mainly the poor and developmentally disabled, who used public transportation (in part, because of my brother's refusal to drive me to school in effusive snowstorms. Way to go with the tough love, Kevin). Moving to Boston was a revelation, making a large city small. Today in Seattle, we're still waiting for our light rail, bitterly wistful for the monorail we voted for and didn't get, while driving to the ball park we voted down, but got anyway.

Other highlights:

*Arriving at Penn Station in New York City at 5pm. People literally ran to their trains through labyrinthine underground stations, swiftly and efficiently, without collisions, swearing, or stalling. To translate for Seattleites, it was the opposite of Bumershoot.

*The cozy, dreamy Brooklyn home of our generous hosts, Michael and Celena. I decided that we have East and West coast parallel lives, each of us with two cats, a pug, a musician, and a Latina.

*Lunch at the Oyster Bar with Greg and Celena, after a tour of the United Nations.

*Chinatown and Little Italy. Lots of foodie eye candy, knock-off handbags, tchochkes, and colorful characters.

*New York Public Library. (dorky librarian note: you can take advantage of NYPL's collections, even if you don't live there, via their fabulous digital library).

*Central Park and the Museum of the City of New York. We learned about the days when the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants dominated baseball, and how one of the world's richest city is founded on beaver pelts.

*The Richard Serra exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Watch the video showing how they got huge slabs of steel in there. Note: visiting a major museum on the last days of a special exhibit is similar to the Penn Station at rush hour, but with Bumbershoot thrown in.

*The Mastrull/Greco/Sinibaldi family reunion in New Jersey. What stereotypes do you hold about New Jersey Italian-American families? Loud, ball-busting bocce players with thick accents and big appetites? Yep, and proud of it, thank you very much. They're also warm, generous, welcoming, funny as hell, and serve up large volumes of damn good food.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hot dog!

Only a few more days to blow your diet during National Hot Dog Month! A few factoids about America's favorite refrigerated processed meat:

In 2006, more than 730 million packages of hot dogs were sold at retail stores (oh, but that doesn't include Wal-Mart, which doesn't report sales data). Good golly!

In 2004, the Mad Cow scare prompted the USDA to prohibit the use of mechanically separated meat (MSM). Now what on earth is MSM? It's paste-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. But don't worry about mechanically separated pork or poultry...they're perfectly safe, and a great source of calcium!

Now if you really want to start drolling, take a peek at the menu at Pink's, the world-famous dog joint in Los Angeles. And don't miss the Martha Stewart dog, a full 10 incher with relish, onions, bacon, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut & sour cream.

I can hear you asking, "aren't there alternatives to mass-produced franks, made from factory-farmed animals, packed with nitrates, binders, and fillers?". Yee-haw, you bet! Small family farms all around the country are raising beef and pork organically, humanely, and sustainably, and making tasty sausages that you can order direct from the farm. Check out these resources for sniffing out family farms, markets, and restaurants for sustainable, healthy food in your region:

Local Harvest
The New Farm

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and fam, I've been thinking more about eating seasonally, locally, and thereby, more healthfully and flavorfully. We're already living rather simply, but sometimes I cut corners in ways that compromise the quality of our meals. We're not eating packaged ramen or mac & cheaze, but the wine has been getting cheaper and I occasionally venture into Grocery Outlet for whatever good stuff I can find on the cheap (recent finds include frozen edamame originally from Whole Foods and anchovies for .99/tin).

But Kingsolver and her co-authors helped me rethink my notion of organic, local eating as an elite luxury for those with excess discretionary income. They demonstrate that making one's own bread and cheese isn't out of reach to everyone but Martha, and that buying seasonally at farmer's market can bring gems of the garden even with my cheap-o spending habits.

So today I took a pleasant walk to our neighborhood's farmers' market and brought home a few budget goodies. One of these days, I'm going to bring home a bushel of something and preserve it for culinary luxury into fall (likely, tomatoes, basil, or something else that's overpriced and underflavored at the grocery store). Next, my plan is to experiment with making my own sandwich bread, tortillas, and queso blanco. I started with the tortillas, the least demanding of the three.

This pleasant labor threw me back to when I was a kid, helping my Grandma Cabrales make tortillas back in Augusta, Kansas. Her movements were second-nature, swift, and gentle. She would roll the soft dough into little balls, quickly knead them with her thumbs to form little discs, roll them out thin, then pat them back and forth between her hands before slapping them on the griddle. My method wasn't so well-practiced, my rolling pin too big, and my dough too glutinous. I wish could consult her, or at least watch her at this task that she likely performed most of her adult days.

What's Cooking Grandma? is an online video project where you can upload video of your grandmother making your favorite recipes to preserve the moment, method, recipe, and memories. I wish I had such a document of my grandmother making tortillas, sopa, tripe. What do you wish you could see your grandmother making?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Inspiration for a cynic

Recently, I read that one only need scratch the surface of a cynic to find the wounded idealist underneath. How true for me. Somedays, ok, MOST days, the cynic is my dominant voice. But occasionally, the idealist struggles through the sticky, slimely viscera, like Ripley writhing around in Alien Resurrection, breaking through, giddy and cheerful. A few things that elicited recent emergences:

Remembering, even in grief, a great artist who's touched me can bring out my idealist. Beverly Sills died a few weeks ago, a rare classical musician well-known by the general public. I first remember hearing Sills in duet with Miss Piggy on the Muppet show, and the last time I saw her was as emcee for the Metropolitan Opera's movie theater simulcast of Tan Dun's world premier, The First Emperor. In both instances, she was smart, witty, accessible. She'll also be remembered as a staunch advocate for the arts. Listen to her recent commentary on NPR's Marketplace, where she explained to corporate donors, "I'm not just asking for your money, I want your body too".

Another favorite witty woman with a sweet, sharp tongue, the recently departed Julia Child. After reading, My Life in France by Ms. Child, and Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, I had to get my hands on The French Chef, her TV show for WGBH in Boston, 1963-1973, (Emeril and Rachel, bow down in humility and gratitude). I can hardly count the laughing-out-loud moments watching Julia edify me with her passion, skill, and experience. Last night's episodes included a graphic description of the various types of tripe, and the sad but probably very tasty demise of a 20 lb. lobster named Big Bertha. At one point in her show on potatoes, she got a bit overheated, grabbed a handful of paper towels and vigorously wiped down her face as if she was an NBA star (I'm sure she could have dunked). I love her!

A few other random things that perk me up when I'm feeling goopy:

Artist's dates
The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington never fails to surprise, interest, and inspire me. And this summer, admission is free all the time for everyone, June15-Labor Day.

My animals
The felines (Jackson, left, and Bob), posing here as bad-asses, have surprisingly little baggage for their age. And they keep the canine in line.

Happy hour
Need I say more?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fremont Fair

C'mon down and join the wackiness af the 36th annual Fremont Fair. Not your usual meandering crowds, what with all the art cars and naked cyclists. A couple of tips for maximum solstice pleasure:
  • Take the bus: Fremont isn't a fun parking neighborhood even without a parade and 50,000 people descending upon a few unzoned parking spots. Besides, part of the fun of Seattle fairs is riding the bus with the good-natured, motley crowds with whom you're about to meander and eat funnel cakes.
  • Contribute: bring a few extra bucks, if you've got them. Donations go to Solid Ground, a local organization working to eradicate poverty. Meander with a cause.
  • Snack smart: partake of kettle korn with kaution. That stuff is like krack.
  • Wear layers: bring sunscreen, rain jacket, and a down parka . You might need any or all at any given time. Seriously, it's going to be a beautiful weekend (please, oh please).
  • Meet and greet: lots of civic organizations will be participating in the fair, and they'd love to chat with you about their missons and programs. They're so enthusiastic and inspiring, you might even consider volunteering for one of them! A few of my favorites that'll be on hand: Literacy Source, Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project, ACLU of Washington, Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, Habitat for Humanity, and Amnesty International.
  • Listen up: check out the music schedule and dance with abandon. A couple of groups that that I'm looking forward to: Cherry Cherry (Neil Diamond tribute); Purty Mouth, (gay country); Ibrahima Camara and Safal (sambar music of Senegal).
I'll see you there! Look for me on the far west end of N. Canal Street, conveniently located near a beer garden and the Waterfront stage.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Junk trek

I like junk. My special affinity is for rusty old washers. They call to me from gutters and parking lots. I bring them home to my little studio where I clean them up and pair them with a handcrafted chain of glass beads and copper. The graphic shapes, the heaviness and patina juxtapose beautifully with gleaming, brightly colored glass.

But unlike other jewelry-making supplies, I can't order rusty washers online. Their bright shiny cousins are cheap and in great supply at the hardware store, but like an unripe banana or a young bottle of wine, they don't have the same rich flavor or history. I find them one at a time in my daily wanderings, but as the selling season accelerates, I need to stock up. Occasionally, Greg and I trek out to search for supplies at a railyard or parking lot in an industrial area. This week, we chose the rainiest day in recent memory, bundled up in Goretex, and set out to hunt for booty.

In spite of the mud and rain, our search was fruitful, yielding a critical mass of rusty washers, an easily repaired handtruck, and $.43 in pocket change. Greg suggested that I experiment with ways to integrate cigarette butts into my jewelry. These expeditions for precious junk do make me a little nervous, though. I worry that police will inquire why we're wandering, heads-down, along a railroad or abandoned building. I worry that we'll inadvertently interrupt the displaced as we cheerfully look for trinkets in hidden spots that people use for eating, drinking, or shelter, their detritus signaling their activities long after their departure.

After a long, wet afternoon, we stumbled upon the best find of the day, Andy's Diner, a restaraunt comprised of old railroad cars. Its charming wood-panelled walls, long-narrow dining rooms, and cozy booths set the stage for a wonderfully conventional menu. The next time we have something to celebrate, such as it's Tuesday, I want to dress up and go to Andy's, find a romantic corner in the Sidetrack Room (I love anyplace that has a separate name for its cocktail bar) and order a Manhattan, prime rib and baked potato. OK, so I'm a vegetarian and have never liked steak, but it just seems like the thing to do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Crafting and canopies

One year ago, I joined throngs of crafters who started small businesses to escape the 9-5 grind and share our crafty goods with the world. In addition to making pretty things, I’ve spent the past year learning about marketing, production, sales, and budgets, which I’ve actually found interesting and challenging. After a long winter hiatus, I returned to selling my jewelry last weekend at the kick-off event for Seattle’s festival season, the University District Street Fair.

Whether in ignorance or denial, I didn’t let the volatile, unpredictable May weather dampen my anticipation for the start of the busy selling season. But this weekend’s weather was trying even for this Kansas native. Day one brought winds gusting up to 24 mph, pummeling my canopy to the brink of collapse. Even in clement weather, there’s plenty of work just maintaining the display and chatting it up with customers, but the stress of pending burial beneath yards of polyester was a strain. At the start of day two, my canopy was still standing in spite of enduring a long night of wind and rain. Hoping it would shelter me one more day, I bolstered it with an ingenious mechanism involving a dismembered Swiffer pole and lots of duct tape. But Sunday’s challenge wasn’t wind, but rain. “What next?”, I wondered. Locusts?

The canopy limped through the day, valiantly keeping me dry, if not warm. What was more astonishing were the thousands who joined the festivities in the full-on, unrelenting rain. Who ARE these people? On Saturday, a friendly group of tourists from Thailand stopped to ask what we were celebrating at this festival. “Capitalism”, I thought to myself. But Sunday showed me that we were actually celebrating spring, whatever it might bring: rain, shine, or both. Seattleites spend several months a year in GoreTex, and by May, we defiantly get out whether the weather cooperates or not.

At the end of a taxing, but fun, weekend, I wrung out my clothes and jumped into a hot shower with a martini (yes, I can drink in the shower). With aching feet, I sat down to a hot bowl of chili and Greg’s corn bread to reflect on the first show of the year. In spite of the weather, I pulled out a profit, most of which will go into a new canopy. Several of my loyal supporters stopped by to cheer me on. I even made a few new friends in my eclectic block of non-profit organizations (special thanks to Richard from the Mountaineers and the woman in leather from the King County Republicans who bought a necklace for a friend). And I managed to restrain myself from consuming an unreasonable about of Kettle Korn, the crack (or krack) of street fairs.

Stop by and visit me at the Fremont Fair, June 16-17. And look for me at Fremont Sunday Market, but not until it’s clear, warm, and dry.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

La Boheme

Earlier this week, Greg took me to see Puccini's La Boheme at the Seattle Opera. First, the important details: Greg scored free parking; I wore a little brown wrap dress with big white polka dots that I found for $25 last fall (think Minnie Mouse with cleavage); and Greg was dashing in a cool charcoal knit coat, a recent thrifty find.

McCaw Hall, recently rennovated, is a lovely space that greets its audience gently, neither too ornate nor overly stark. We checked out the art that adorns the lobby, including a large Mark Tobey collage, and my favorite, a Sarah Sze sculpture hanging in the atrium. We admired the Sze work from all angles: afar, underneath, and up-close as we ascended to the upper levels. From a distance, the geometric shapes combine into a delicate tornado. Up-close, you see that the structure is ornamented with measuring tapes, water bottles, carpenters' levels, extension cords, and plastic plants.

La Boheme is a great introduction to opera. It's light and funny, requiring little suspension of disbelief while carrying the audience through a romantic story to the heroine's imminent death. In a nutshell: poet meets crafter, they fall in love, and enjoy Bohemian Paris in a killer loft with great light. Mimi, the crafter, gets sick. Rodolfo, the poet, pushes her away so that she can hook up with a wealthier suitor to pay for her prescriptions. As Mimi gets sicker, she chucks her sugar daddy to return to her true love. Mimi dies, audience cries.

A timeless tale of the lack of access to health care and meager support for the arts. Beautifully performed with impressive sets. Now we just have to figure out how to get tickets for more performances next season. And try not to get tuberculosis.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A trip to the library

Recently, Greg and I traveled to a branch of King County Public Library to do some research and enjoy one of the last vestiges of socialism in the US. Greg had legitimate research for an ongoing project on the human impact of war. I just went along for the ride because there's always something fun to see and do at the library.

I hit the magazine racks for eye candy, inspiration, and to admire the collection's scope and coverage in this well-endowed library system. But a dark side lurks in the stacks of this cozy suburb. In place of a number of notable titles, I noticed laminated signs alerting patrons that subscriptions to those particular magazines would be terminated if issues continued to go missing. What do these patrons need so badly that they're willing to break the public trust to steal from a revered public institution? Cosmopolitan, ESPN Magazine, Martha (gasp) Stewart Living. A few years ago, The American Library Association surveyed libraries to determine which items were most often stolen. Among them, police officer examination study guides. So much for socialism.

Sheep were my next stop. In spite of the fact that I only recently verified that lambs are baby sheep, I have a recurrent fantasy of living on a little farm to raise sheep. Our bucolic weekend on Lopez Island rekindled the dream, where I spotted three lambs frolicking in a field, bucking like tiny, white, fluffy broncos, bringing me to giddy squeals. Hoping to look further into a possible career in agriculture, and find some more baby lamb porn, I found a helpful primer, “Small Scale Sheep Keeping for Pleasure and Profit”. A few tidbits I learned:

  • Lambs’ tails are usually docked to avoid disease and soakage in urine and feces. This is accomplished by placing a tight band around the tail. It hurts until their tail goes numb and eventually falls off. A friend who used to work on a farm told me that she would find lamb tails laying around in the field. I'm pretty sure I would faint.

  • Donkeys are great for guarding the flock. Llamas are even better. Somehow I don't think the pug would be particularly effective.

  • Lamb is in high demand during particular times on various religious calendars. I think I'd stick to milk or wool. If I couldn't handle lamb tail detritus, slaughter might be out of the question.

Further research is in order. In the mean time, I'm looking forward to attending the Wild-N-Wooly sheep shearing fest in Bellevue later this month. And another trip to the library.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I hadn't planned on an exciting day, but as I reflect, I see a chilly gray day filled with a few of my favorite things. I rode the bus downtown to tutor Leonardo at the jail, had lunch with Greg, and visited an Asian grocery in the International District. Along the way, I gathered a few useful tidbits to share with you:

  • For you vegetarians who have been craving organ meats, you'll find vegetarian kidney at Viet Wah Super Market. Other sweet and savory treats: frozen dade (some kind of larvae. If you know what kind or how to cook it, do tell), big pomelos, cow penis and uterus (the yin and yang of beef offal), pretty little black sesame candies, cuttlefish balls, veggie chicken ham, cream puffs, and dried mussels.
  • Crafty upcycling ideas from jail (via Leonardo):
    • If the correctional officers take away your playing cards, make new ones out of milk cartons.
    • No mirror? Make one from the reflective insides of a potato chip bag.
    • Sculpt decorative flowers from toilet paper. Great Mother's Day gift.
  • Miscellaneous:
    • The formula for simple interest is i=prt, where p is the principle, r is the rate, and t is time.
    • The deadline for King County Metro's Poetry on Buses contest is April 30, 2007.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Being here

Yesterday was sunny, warm, and dry. The cherry blossoms and daffodils blared with color, and we opened the sunroof as we drove home from brunch. I think ahead to spring, when we'll take in our vitamin D the natural way, and shed layers of fleece and Gore-Tex for a few unreasonably perfect months. This is only a teaser and we still have chilly rains to endure, but I'm dreaming about those sunny days I'll spend in the backyard making jewelry and listening to podcasts while Lupita suns on her stoop.

As idyllic as that sounds, I want to break this habit of always looking ahead, always thinking about what's to come, rather than where I am. I'm learning the cost to the present when I continually focus on the future. I often feel I'm in a prelude, a preparation for the real fun and authentic experience that lies ahead. If we're headed to lunch, I'm thinking about what we might have for dinner. If I'm reading blogs, I'm thinking of the posts I'll write someday. If I'm laying around reading a book, I'm easily distracted by dreams of future travels and adventures that I'll take once I'm really living.

One crafty side effect of this habit is cleverly disguised as lifelong learning via a steady stream of 'how-to's'. Before doing something I've never done, I tend to plan and prepare so that I might eventually do X the RIGHT way. How to cook. How to blog. How to make a pincushion. How to patch that gaping hole in your heart that makes you hungry for some unknown invisible experience that will make everything else make sense.

During our sunny drive, Greg said "I like our life". Later that day, Robin, whose wisdom and empathy is second only to my mother's, reminded me to "cultivate joy and gratitude". As I look back on the weekend, I see my rich and filling life, not a ramp-up to the real thing, but the real thing itself. One evening, baby Sam slept, wriggled, and cooed in my arms for two whole hours while Greg and I enjoyed Ria's company, a great dinner, and a very nice glass of wine. The next afternoon, we lunched at a sports bar to watch basketball and indulge in a favorite treat, beer during daylight. That evening, I spent an evening with a wacky group of crafting librarians, noshing and sharing ideas and inspiration. By the end of the weekend, I was full, a little hungover, and kind of smelly, as if I'd just returned from a weekend of camping. I had dug around in a fragrant, mossy heap of companionship, love, food & beverage, and emerged rich, spent, and content, not at all concerned with what Monday might bring.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Smarty Pants

Today I had lunch with my dear friend, Steve. We've been friends since I was his RA at the dorms at Wichita State. He's from Conway Springs, a small farming community west of Wichita, the thriving metropolis where I grew up. Seattle is home to many former Kansans. Tip: when meeting someone from Kansas, reconsider your inclination to whip out the Wizard of Oz allusions. We've heard them.

Back to lunch. I've noticed a dearth of good sandwiches in Seattle (also a glut of teriyaki. Coincidence?). And clearly my expectation of finding a decent vegetarian sandwich is unreasonable. But today I have new hope.

Steve took me to a new favorite in Georgetown, Smarty Pants. At our server's suggestion, I ordered today's special, a West Coast Brat, a reuben-esque sandwich grilled up with Field Roast, swiss cheese, and cole slaw on marbled rye. It was [insert your favorite synonym for yummy here]. Grilled but not greasy, saucy but not goopy, fresh, savory, and good. While most of the sandwiches on the menu are meaty, patrons can substitute Field Roast on any sandwich.

But wait, there's more. Full bar. Yes, it's true. A really good sandwich place with lots of options for everyone, and beer and booze if you like (and I do). What else could I want? Friendly service? Yep. Laid back, hip but not pretentious? Uh-huh. I'm going to start getting out more.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bread and blogging

My partner, Greg, is quite a good cook (although getting him to cook can be challenging). Yesterday, our friends Mark, Erin and baby Maia asked us over for dinner, inspiring Greg to make this beautiful French bread.

Mark asked us to bring a salad or vegetable, so I pulled out my favorite roasted cauliflower recipe. Greg didn't mention that Mark would also be making a simple pasta dish to go with the salmon, so we showed up with our contributions to a nearly all-white dinner! Atkins notwithstanding, it was a yummy dinner and we had a fun evening chatting, eating, and playing with Maia. We also learned how to play Quiddler (Erin kicked everyone's ass), Erin made me my first salty dog, and shared her recipe for honey whole wheat bread.

Our evening brought me to a new perspective about this whole blogging thing. Instead of openly embracing this blogging urge, I keep ruminating over the 'why?' and 'what?'. Does the world need another blogger bearing her soul? Can I really just write this stuff without any planning, sense of scope, or single unifying theme? Like little Maia, I study situations closely, considering my options before taking my own tentative leaps. But I can take other lessons from her as well. When the music plays, just start dancing. And when dinner is all white, enjoy it along with the good company that you keep.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Tutoring at the jail

I always notice the walruses on the Arctic Hotel in downtown Seattle, near the King County Jail where I tutor students once a week. Of all the things I do in my daily life, this is the most rewarding, life-affirming, and compelling. It's trite to say, but I surely get at least as much out of the experience as do my students.

Students taking GED classes at the jail can request a tutor to support their learning in the classroom. The wide range of skill levels in the classroom makes it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the needs of each student who may have dropped out of school in 8th grade or 11th grade, may have a learning disability, or may not be a native English speaker.

As we reviewed algebra and geometry topics this week, my current student, Leonardo (not his real name), exclaimed that he had a formula to share with me. He then proceeded to teach me the Pythagorean theorem. He even spelled 'Pythagorean' without a hitch. Leonardo is also a gifted poet and prolific reader, curious about spirituality, psychology, and African-American history. As a librarian, I also work with community college students, and have worked with a rather entitled, self-assured lot at the University of Washington. But I have never met more earnest, hard-working, and curious students as those I have had the honor to work with at the jail.

I volunteer through Literacy Source, a wonderful organization in Seattle that serves adult learners in a variety of ways. As you might imagine, the demand for tutors is larger than the supply. Those of us in the blogosphere are blessed with abilities than we might take for granted, but with a relatively small time commitment, we can share our blessings with others and have impacts that we can only begin to imagine. If you're even remotely interested in learning more, please contact Literacy Source or your local literacy organization.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


I don't intend to fawn over my pets on my blog on a regular basis, but I'm pretty sure it's going to happen anyway. I only hope that other people out there trawling about for pug porn might find mine (my pug, that is) entertaining. I certainly do.

Lupita Bragiole Sinibaldi Keller, or Lupe, is our five year-old pug. This is my first dog, always having thought myself a cat person. Lupita has shown me the joys of the dark side, to the chagrin of the cats. It's like living with a cartoon. She not the most sociable dog you've ever met, although her face makes everyone want to be her friend, and then they're disappointed, hurt, or offended when she's shy. I'm sure that's our fault somehow. But for those with enough patience to hang out for a while, they're rewarded with a 20 lb. pile on their lap, depositing fur and giving kisses, wanted or otherwise. I'm amazed at the fortitude of our male friends who endure her trapsing about on their laps.

Stay tuned for future pug posts, though I promise to resist pug cult tendencies.

Accidental blog

I witnessed a terrible car accident the other day. It was very dramatic and upsetting, although I don't know what really happened or whether everyone was alright. I wanted to tell a bunch of people, mainly for my own selfish catharsis. So I'm starting a blog.

A car was moving at high speed perpendicular to the oncoming traffic. It crossed five lanes of traffic, from the left to right. I was 3-4 car lengths back in the far right-hand lane. The car slammed into the guardrail, metal flying in the air. A hawk that had been in the ravine squirted into the air, as if flying backwards, but straight up. I could feel my mind trying to make sense of the picture. Was it a head? A baby? A part of the car? No, a hawk, and so close up. A much better view than I usually get of the dozen or so I see on my commute.

At that point, I had to pay attention to my own ass. The driver in front of me veered slightly right, and I had a split second to check my side mirror to ensure that it would be safe for me to veer slightly left to avoid the car in front. Then I pulled safely onto the shoulder and called 911, my hands and voice shaking. I just got a cell phone, and now I had a legitimate occasion to use it.

The dispatcher asked me where the car in question was now. I couldn't see it. I saw other cars on both shoulders, but not that one. Did it go over the guardrail down into the steep ravine? Oh God, please no. I had no idea. Traffic was crawling by, so I couldn't see where it ended up. Down in Boeing Field somewhere? She took my sketchy info, told me I could leave, so I clutched the steering wheel, still weeping quietly, and drove away. There's the car over there on the left shoulder. Someone is leaning into the driver's side window. It couldn't have been good.