Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Joy of Pancakes

People, I love my food. I always have, and to a fault for most of my life. It's taken me decades to learn how to manage my hunger/emotional eating. Luckily I'm tall which helps balance out any excess weight, but if I'm not really careful it will shoot up and take forever to bring down again.

When I went vegetarian, it was easier. At that time I was also a workout fanatic and a runner, clocking in five miles a day, followed by weights and long stretching sessions. Ahhh, those were the days. Working out like that, sweating like crazy and then showering was one of the things that helped me get through being a new mother, and being stuck in Eugene for way too long. I wasn't depressed, I was healthy and happy with all that physical activity.

Then...the old back broke. When I couldn't run anymore, or even workout much, I was forced to confront my diet. If I didn't do something I would hit the old middle age slippery slope and get fat and sick. So I went vegan. That did the trick. 22 pounds lost, energy up, never sick, looked better in clothes, felt great. And so it went for many more years until the back broke a little bit more. :(

I'll never eat another way, I'm sure, back or no back. The fact that I never get sick, no colds, no flu, no nothing, is reason enough. The weight thing is another. Add in the fact that I don't kill any animals, well there's the best bonus in the world.

So all that said, I do indulge from time to time and last Sunday we ate these decadent, delicious, and totally vegan pancakes for brunch. Give yourself a body/animal/world-friendly treat and try them yourself. You won't miss a thing but heart disease. xoxo

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Yogurt Coconut Cream frosting
Allergen Information: Free of Dairy, egg, soy, yeast. Can be made gluten-free.
Makes 6 pancakes
Ingredients: 1/4 c walnuts
1/2 tsp oil
1 Tbsp sugar or finely ground sweetener
1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, clove powder and a pinch of nutmeg

Pancake Batter:
1 1/4 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
1 Tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger powder
a generous pinch of clove and nutmeg powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp maple.syrup
1/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
my less-beautiful, but equally-as-delicious results

Yogurt Coconut Cream Frosting:
1/4 cup non dairy yogurt (I used So Delicious Vanilla coconut milk yogurt) or vegan cream cheese
1/3 cup coconut cream (the thick cream that settles on the top of the can after refrigerating for a few hours) or cashew cream
1 Tbsp coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup ground raw sugar or other sweetener of choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp or more lemon juice
1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Grate the carrots, or pulse in a blender/food processor to a coarse shred. Pulse the walnuts to small pieces. I used my blendtec. (total 1.25 cups of grated carrots and chopped walnuts).
In a pan, add oil and heat at medium. Add the carrot walnut mixture and roast for 3 minutes. Add the sugar and spices. Mix and cook for another 4 minutes. Reserve a Tbsp of the mixture to top the pancakes.

In a bowl, whisk the dry ingredients of the pancake mix. Add the spices and mix. Add all the wet ingredients to the dry and mix to combine. Add more water if needed. Keep the batter thicker than usual so it can hold a lot of carrots.
Add the carrot walnut mixture and mix to combine. 
Make 4-5 pancakes. Heat a pan on medium heat. Drizzle a few drops of oil. when the pan is hot, Spread the batter to form same size circles. The batter will be thicker than usual pancake batter, so use a spoon to shape. 
Cook 4-6 minutes each side. 

Make the frosting: Combine everything under frosting in a bowl. Taste and adjust sour and sugar. Spread a Tablespoon or more frosting between each pancake to bring out the sweetness. 
Drizzle the frosting on the stacked pancakes or apply evenly with a spatula. 
Sprinkle the roasted carrot walnut mixture on top and serve.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sarah the Magnificent

Lancashire as Caroline in Last Tango in Halifax
I have a new favorite actress. Or actor, for that matter. I am so in love with Sarah Lancashire's singular style of acting, I can hardly stop watching her in everything I can find. I first discovered her for myself in the BBC miniseries "Last Tango in Halifax" where she plays Caroline, the PHD-in-chemistry-holding headmistress of a distinguished school who has separated from her husband of 18 years because he'd had an affair, and who, once her marriage was over, realizes that she is gay. Despite the fact that there are two other acting greats in the series, namely the amazing Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi, it was Sarah who grabbed my attention and held it.

Since then I found Sarah again in the INCREDIBLE netflix series "Happy Valley". Seriously, one of the best shows I've seen in years. A few years older now she plays 47 year-old Sargent Catherine Cawood, one of the best female roles I've EVER seen. (And hope to see a lot more of in the future, people! I mean, women make the best characters! Written well they have so much more to say than men, usually. Much more dimensional, nuanced, and more powerfully restrained emotion! This is a direct challenge to all writers, everywhere! Give women their due! They'll take the story to a whole other level of brilliance, believe me!) Sarah Lancashire does all that, and more. She is brutally honest in her portrayal of Sergant Cawood and does a beautifully fleshed-out-kind-of-justice to Cawood's strengths and personal conflicts. You'll never see a better cop than her, one that is more dedicated and fearless and just totally capable. An interesting side note: her sister is played by Siobhan Finneran, aka O'BRIEN! From Downtown Abbey! She was wonderful in the role. Sarah Lancashire is also absolutely hilarious. A very funny actress. In most of her roles she finds a way to be sharply witty without being overbearing or crude. She is wry, she is coy, and whatever she says, she is usually right.

 Because of my love affair with these two roles, I searched her out on youtube and found a never-before-heard-about-by-americans gem. A series called "Rose and Maloney". Produced from 2002 - 2005 she plays a younger character but still a cop (of sorts). Rose works for the fictitious CJRA or the Criminal Justice Review Agency, an organization that seeks out miscarriages of justice. Rose is an energetic, chaotic, diabetic smoker that doesn't work well with groups. When a coworker asks her to describe herself Rose puts it this way: "A single woman, 39 years old, multiple failed relationships, no man, no savings, no place of her own to live, and good at her job. Correction: very good at her job."


Her partner Maloney is played by Phil Davis, and it's the best thing I've ever seen him do (most lately he played the cabby assassin in Sherlock). Maloney is the perfect foil for Rose, being an organized by the book kind of guy, with a heart of gold. His more passive bearing sets off her own sailing wit and intelligence to a "T". The performances are great and the writing is very good. The only thing you might have to tolerate is the rather late-90's production level, suits, and hairstyles. But beyond that, it's a surprisingly great show!

Also during my youtube explorations I found out that Lancashire is also a musical theater actress! She sings! She dances! There is nothing she can't do!

I recently found this wonderful article written by June Thomas on Slate.com. about the phenomenon that is Sarah Lancashire. Thomas ends her article referencing a line spoken by Lancashire's character Caroline's partner, Kate in Last Tango in Halifax. "She is magnificent."

And I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Zen of Kittens

Well, we only get to say this once every twenty years or so, but... WE HAVE A NEW KITTEN!

Welcome little...Chakra? That's what happens when the teenager names the cat. It's all tapestries and groovy insense in that cluttered little room of hers, so no wonder her new furry roommate is named Chakra. I guess I'm just glad she didn't name it Patchouli.

The little baby is sooo sweet. Such a happy go lucky guy who is all purrs and little piping mews. He is chock full of energy (chakra-full of energy?) and if you've ever had a kitten you know how they suddenly explode, zipping across the room, veering crazily here and there for no apparent reason, other than they are filled with kitten rocket fuel and just can't contain it!  Hilarious!!!

It's all the more note-worthy that this baby is such a happy boy because of where he came from. My daughter found him and his brother, trapped in a shopping cart on the street. There was a cardboard "lid" over the shopping cart creating kind of a squalid cage where the poor babies were crouched, filthy and scared. My brave girl and her BFF took the kittens out and brought them to the friends' house. Then we got The Call asking "can we keep him?"

We said yes. His brother was adopted out to another friend, the kittens were bathed and welcomed into their new warm, clean, loving, fun, happy households. And ours is made all the happier by his hilarious, adorable little presence. 

Pets are a blessing. Their innocent, trusting souls give us just as much as we give them. Thier unasuming company demands nothing more than respect and love (and lots of Fancy Feast). We in turn get emotional support, entertainment, excersize, and a different way of looking at the world, with no technology involved to get in the way of a real, honest experience.

Guess our chakras are all in line 'cause we are feeling the zen love. Of kittens.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Holy Halston!

Wow, check this out...Halston is on the Love Boat! Surrounded by a bevy of disco divas, no less. And he plays himself, because let's face it, Halston is no actor. But I guess that that could be said about a lot of Love Boat passengers. One notable exception is Anne Baxter who is also inexplicably aboard. (Anne-freaking-Baxter!! Eve! Eve is on the Love Boat!)

It's a fashion-face-off-kind-of-cruise with several other top designers of the day such as Gloria Vanderbuilt, Geoffrey Beene and Bob Mackie on board! There's even a runway show around the pool!

Hm, let's see. What could possibly be missing from this 80's dream-cruise? Oh, that's right. Mclean Stevenson??!!!

And look who I found on a different cruise! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Welcome Back Thomas Haden Church

Recently I re-watched the film "Sideways" and enjoyed it even more than the first time I saw it. It is Paul Giamatti in one of his best roles, and a fantastic (and sadly, unique) vehicle for the many charms of Thomas Haden Church. As I watched the movie again I delighted in Church's easygoing, laid-back, non-ego-driven performance. What a great guy! I kept thinking. Such a perfect role for him, I wold love to see more of him. Where has he been? Someone ought to give THC his own show.

Fast forward to 2013 and the incredible movie "Whitewash." Just out on netflix it is the film where THC finally gets his due.

Although some might say this film is reminiscent of other recent set-in-the-snow thrillers such as FX's "Fargo", or Adrian Brody's great turn in "Wrecked", I say this film stands out -- in any crowd. Although his character is a different man than the sunny, sexy best-friend-on-a-bender he played in Sideways, you could still say this guy has a lot in common with that guy. This guy is that guy with a few bad choices under his belt. Church's same laid-back, endearing qualities come through in this role, even though the circumstances are extremely dire, making him the kind of "villain" you root for.

A fantastic screenplay and great direction, full of surprising twists and creative character development. Plus, it's as suspenseful as it gets.

So glad to see THC back in the biz, older, craggier, but better than ever!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Horizontal View

With the two or three years that have slipped by since I've blogged regularly I hope my perspective hasn't changed too much. I hope I haven't aged so much in those few years that the blog has become less of a "life enthusiast" account and more of a "cranky old lady bitches and moans" type of blog. Though things have changed in that time, both externally and internally I am still relatively young at 48, fer cryin' out loud, and I do still have LOTS of enthusiasm and joy. It just gets a bit more selective as you go along.

However, there is one staring, glaring, cranky old lady issue that needs to be addressed before I can continue on to the joy part. A very few of you know that for the last year and a half I have been stricken with severe back pain, and have been mostly confined to bed. Since my last "episode" a year and a half ago (an episode for those of you lucky enough to never have had one is where the back twinges so badly you fall down and then can't move an inch for hours, not even to get to the bathroom,) since then I've been in pain every day, and unable to walk, or sit, or drive or carry anything. It has completely changed my life, from an active person who rode their bike 8 miles a day, ran up and down stairs easily and walked the dog for miles across town, to someone who can barely move without terrible pain.

I haven't talked much about it because...well, it's depressing, and shocking, and a bit...well horrible. And it's private, you know. Facebook is not where I want to talk about my back pain. It's also very confusing and maddening because nobody knows exactly what it is. I have been to several doctors, back specialists, three PT's, a chiropractor, a shiatsu practitioner, a rolfer, a nutritionist, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist...and now I don't know who is left to see. I add that I am better than I was a year and a half ago. I can get about a bit better, walk a little farther, lift a little tiny bit. Then I have to rest, and I still spend most of my time in bed, laying on my stomach which is the least painful way to exist. I have ice packs handy at all times, night and day, and I'm still taking a small amount of pain medication.

I thank the gods of health every single day that I can at least get around better than I could a year and a half ago, and I beg them not to let that worst kind of pain happen to me again. I do worry that it will because it's not like our bodies actually rejuvenate with age, do they? It's sort of a downhill slope really, isn't it? And so I ask the gods to at least allow me to maintain the mobility that I have now. We'll see what they say.

I am glad to write about this condition on my blog, at least this one time anyway, because I did not find enough out there about back pain during my own search for answers. And it is very helpful to hear someone else's story. Little clues from other people can help you track your own condition. As it turns out, everyone is so different that back pain cannot be measured by any consistent scale. What one person barely feels for another person is torture. I am one of those strange cases that is seriously immobilized by pain, but nothing wrong shows up on the x-rays, or the MRI's. No visible impingement, vertebrae or disc issues, arthritis...nothing. But sometimes I can barely walk without a cane.

I continued searching on the web for answers and I have decided that what I suffer from is some kind of sciatic nerve impingement with severe radiating sciatic pain. (Nothing old-lady about that!)

I also found out some extremely important information about a very unassuming vitamin it turns out I was totally deficient in. VITAMIN B-12. The only medical person that mentioned my possible deficiency in this supplement was my nutritionist. Turns out that you can only get B-12 from animal products, so vegans and vegetarians HAVE to take a B-12 supplement or they risk SEVERE NERVE DAMAGE. What?! Why didn't the doctors catch this when I told each of them that I was a vegan, and had been for 12 years. I had no idea I needed this supplement and that it had such serious consequences if I didn't get it.

 So I had some B-12 shots and now I take a supplement (along with folic acid to help with absorption) every day, and I actually feel better. So word to the wise, even if you're not a vegan, make sure you get your B-12 supplement. There is all kinds of new data coming out on the importance of this vitamin.

Having been so handicapped for so long I have a much more horizontal perspective on the world. I have taken up meditation, which is brilliant. I recommend it to everyone. I have also become quite the film critic, having a LOT of time on my hands to binge watch HBO and netflix. Stay tuned to this blog for some film and television reviews coming your way. I have a lot to say on the subject!

I also have a new love for puffy recliners. Whereas I used to see them as hideous, hopelessly out-dated monstrosities, I now see them as my dear, dear friends. I also have a new soft spot for expensive mattresses and rubber-soled shoes. (No old lady, here, nope siree!) Right this very minute I am typing on my "bed desk" --  a wonderful invention for people who have to work on their back. I just got it from Amazon, and it is AWESOME! It takes all the weight of the laptop off of my body and allows me to work easier, type better, and even draw.

So, I enter this fall slightly more optimistic than last fall. I am looking forward to a few autumnal activities that I missed out on last year, and plan on giving some big thanks this thanksgiving for the small improvement I've seen. Fingers crossed that it keeps getting better, however slowly.

Ok, that's it for the blog post about back pain. (Boring, Sidney!) Just wanted you all to be up to date.

Now, on to the joy.   xoxoxo

footnote: On Tumblr I found this post about disability in medieval England.

"In medieval England, the 'lepre', the 'blynde', the 'dumbe', the 'deaff', the 'natural fool', the 'creple', the 'lame' and the 'lunatick' were a highly visible presence in everyday life. People could be born with a disability, or were disabled by diseases such as leprosy, or years of backbreaking work.
Attitudes to disability were mixed. People thought it was a punishment for sin, or the result of being born under the hostile influence of the planet Saturn. Others believed that disabled people were closer to God - they were suffering purgatory on earth rather than after death and would get to heaven sooner."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sublime Sundays

Portland is a lot of things. Stunningly beautiful, for one. It's like a jewel city twinkling with craftsman architecture, lacy Victorian homes and old stone churches. Its overall colors are green, from the lush layer of trees that gracefully cover the city, and grey from the changing sky, dramatic clouds and the rivers that reflect them. Portland dangles on a necklace of waterfalls between the snow-capped Mount Hood and the Oregon coast. It's kind of like paradise, in some ways.

Unfortunately it's also JAM PACKED with people. And growing every day. When we arrived almost nine years ago, it was crowded, but not unmanageable. If you got out early enough and didn't have the highest expectations, you usually did pretty good and could even have a relaxing time at certain events. Not so now. The seams of the city are busting. The influx of out-of-staters looking for that WEIRD Portland experience is truly sweeping through the city like a wave, with condos going up everywhere you turn. Everywhere are lines of people, lines of cars, great herds of bicycles all competing aggressively with each other, great hoards of clueless pedestrians, jumping into traffic, or shoving their baby strollers in front of oncoming cars because they heard that "in Portland the cars have to stop for you!" It'll make you rip your hair out, just driving the ten blocks to Freddy's on 39th and Hawthorne. Just like that terrible old Bad Religion song, those people are "playing frogger with their lives!" Or in this case with their babies' lives. It's totally nuts!

Very few people on the beach or the river on a Sunday morning. Just us and the birds!

Add to all this the never-ending, quirky EVENTS that occur every weekend of the year in this town, and the party never ends. You've got your street fairs, your rummage sales, your record swaps, your naked bike rides, your family bike rides, your cancer bike rides, your marathons, your blues festivals, your farmers markets...you get the idea. Sure it sounds wholesome (except for the naked bike ride) and fabulous, in theory. But in practice it is a kind of living hell. Noise, yelling, motorcycles, buses, construction, drunk people, fireworks, it's like Apocolypse Now outside our house sometimes. The only relief is when it happens to rain really hard and dampens it all down a bit. Global warming unfortunately means that it rains a lot less here than it used to, and the loud people clearly are multiplying.

So...Greg and Faye and I, who do need our peace and quiet, have taken to claiming early Sunday mornings as our own. Before 9am on a Sunday is the very best time all week to explore and enjoy Portland. Somehow, almost miraculously, the streets are clean at that hour. Where squalor and idiocy reigned supreme only hours before is now practically free of cigarette butts, and actually smells nice!

Sunday morning is when we put Faye in the car and drive to more out-of-the-way neighborhoods. Deep into northwest Portland we'll go, or over Mt. Tabor to the Montavilla neighborhood, or to the marina in southwest, or down to the river in Sellwood. Peaceful, fresh, sublime. The city on a Sunday morning is like the best church in the world. You can feel the goodness of nature and lovely architecture coming together without the frantic chaos of humans struggling to get through their day.

Sunday morning you can hear the birds more clearly than anything else, and they seem riotous with joy at their freedom from the week's oppressive chaos.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lament of an Aged Rocker

I don't go to rock shows anymore. I stopped going a long time ago actually, but I was still in a rock band at the time, so I had to go to the ones I was playing. That lasted a decade or so, and then I just quit the entire endeavor altogether. Shows are just too late, too dirty, too drunk, too cigarette-y, and too dominated by bearded kids to bear anymore. Although I still have dreams of recording music in a cozy studio on a weekend afternoon, I do not attend rock music events as a rule. One of the last straws for me was a Pierced Arrows show at Backspace that held one of the most ridiculously pretentious audiences I've ever seen, with a few of the worst parents that ever birthed a child, combined with aged rockers that deserve better and Old Town Portland at its worst, full of loud posers and drunk homeless. Yuck. Or Fuck, to be more exact.

After that I truly felt too old to be at a show, too irritated, too un-drunk, and too totally turned off by the music scene in general to bother. Don't get me wrong, I still love rock and roll. In the snarky words of some bitchy girl in Bratmobile who once said about me, "She's kind of a rocker." Snarky or not, she was right. Nailed it actually. I am kind of a rocker, I just can't help it. Though fairly prim and proper most times, I just can't seem to help but bang my head when Sabbath comes on the radio, I feel transported with real joy when Led Zeppelin reaches those screaming, bombastic crescendos, and yes, I actually cry a little when doing the dishes to Queen's clear, perfectly-produced rock and roll operatics blasting full volume. I love the rock so much that at age 46 after watching an amazing three piece metal band (of teenagers) play in the parking lot down the street I emailed my friend Joe to see if he would start a metal band with me immediately. The next day I came back to my senses, but for a 12 hour period I was totally ready to do it. Yes, Allison I am kind of a rocker.

It's quite possible that, being as aged as I am, and my youth having been spent in the 80's and 90's which was a totally different world, I am stuck somewhat in the past. I seem to love classic rock mostly these days, it's the stuff that still delivers. I will always love the revolutionary punk rock greats from the past, but I've heard it so much, that I can't listen to it anymore. (Ok, a little Bad Brains now and then, somehow that never gets old) But I can't listen to the Wipers, the Ramones, the Clash, Crackerbash, Oswald or any of that stuff anymore. Sadly, old punk rock reminds me of commercials now, of the new Disney, of celebrities who don't know anything about the Cramps but wear the shirt to be cool, of babies dressed in Ramones onesies by their aging rocker parents. It's lost its tooth, a bit, it's very long tooth at this point.

These days I don't know of  many bands that can really write GREAT songs. Nothing has any balls anymore, or real song writing skills. Or they have one mediocre hook that they repeat over and over until they pretend to go "crazy" at the end and kick over their drums. Yawn. Been there, done that. In the words of John Lydon, "That's boring Sidney."

It's also quite certain that, being as aged as I am, and never going to rock shows anymore, that I am just simply OUT OF THE LOOP. Perhaps there are great bands out there full of young people with brains and balls and great song writing capabilities. But I'm not so sure. I hear bands that others recommend and it's all....gimmick. It's the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome, in my opinion. Everyone says they're great, so they must be great. I saw someone on some late night show recently who is a nw darling with a reknowned guitar player who hangs out at the coffee shop down the street, and it was....so boring. Just a lot of posturing in flannel shirts and hats, with rugs on the floor and a lamp onstage to make it "homey" cool. It was bad!!! BAD! The Emperor is Naked! The Emperor is Naked!!!

Ironically, I would still love the chance to write and record music again someday, (and not go to rock shows). As stated in my previous post I am otherwise involved at the moment, so it would have to be in the future, but I can't deny that it would be really fun to find a soundproofed studio, write some songs, and just...ROCK. I have dreams of buying an electric guitar and amp and taking a few lessons so I could really shred instead of being just the rhythm guitarist or bass player. Maybe when I'm 50 I can find a couple of buddies to help me make a great rock album. Rob Jones are you listening? Joe Preston? Dan McClure? Nick Tucker? My top four dudes, fer sure! I'll let you know if I get that guitar when I'm 50, you let me know if you want to start a metal band. XOXO

Friday, September 12, 2014


My goodness, where to begin?

Bless me bloggers, for I have sinned. It's been over two years since my last post. I have no idea how to do a Hail Mary so this post will have to be my penance and retribution, combined.

Can I just say, HELLO DARLINGS! It is so nice to be writing non-fiction for a change. This past two years I have been doing nothing but writing the novel. And writing the novel is hard. And engrossing, and completely demanding of all of my creative attention, for years! Almost three years, to be exact. Happily, I am nearly at the end. Well, let's say three quarters of the way through, because "the end" is a gigantic, mountainous, Everest-ian  piece of writing with lots of beginnings, mixed in. (There is a sequel in my mind...) So it is no small matter to "be in the home stretch" as they say because whatever "home" they are refering to is a three-story log mansion with endless rooms, attics, stairways and parapets. And it ain't on easy street either.

So...onward I wrote, ignoring all other siren calls from the likes of art, music, or any other kind of writing. I had a rather intense affair with facebook, but now I believe I have FINALLY quit him, So, after swearing off all others and declaring myself siren-free, what could possibly have made me pick up this long-stale, broken train of thought called MY BLOG again?

It is this. I've come to the conclusion that in addition to my main project of the day (ie: the book, or the art, and in the past, the band) I  need a little world of my own to decorate. Like a shop window or a studio apartment, or even just a shelf that nobody else uses, I need a place to tidy, to spruce, to bring shiny things in and arrange them in a pleasing manner in my nest. Like a crow.

Facebook definitely does not work for this. The perfect little world you try to create is instantly inundated and polluted with all sorts of terrible, jarring, downright shocking and JUST PLAIN DRAB random posts. Truthfully, I did enjoy it, for some time. It provided a place to connect with other communities without all the trouble of moving one's body around town, finding parking, sweating, back hurting, clothes bunching, and attending a meeting (oh the horror). It's also a fab window into my friend's lives, and they have some reeeeallly cute kids. On facebook I could also do a lot of activism. Click and share has never done so much good for the world before! Endless petitions and emails to send here and there, to do one's best to stop the deadly corporate predators and save the world.

But....try as you might to rearrange all the shiny things in the facebook nest, you can never achieve the perfect world you seek. The dreaded "feed" --  the river of this and that -- the tsunami of triviality and horrific cruelty (with islands of cute kids and animals) -- consumes the fragile thing you have put forth and swallows it whole. And replaces it with something else that might be so ugly or hateful that you can never forget it. This will just not do. The mind is nervous enough without relentless little shocks, all day long. It makes the crow inside me very anxious. It needs a place to rest, and to decorate a little.

And so...I have returned to the blog. Hello little blog. Kiss.
Mon chere Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.

Here is where I can rearrange the shiny pieces to my heart's content, and it will look exactly the same when I return. Here is where I can shamelessly write for anyone who enjoys reading more than 125 characters at a time. This is my room, my window, my nest.

So welcome to my nest. Or welcome back, as the case may be. Enjoy yourself, sit down, pull up a tufted cushion and have a plate of vegan cookies. I'll get the coffee going. It's going to be A KICK ASS DAY. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Your Pink Bear must be out of order," said the Wizard: "for, this time at least, his machinery has caused him to make an untrue statement." -- from "The Lost Princess of Oz

As a child I almost literally devoured books. I read them all day if I could get away with it, and often while eating. From ages eight through fourteen or so I read with as much enthusiasm as I gave to playing, sleeping or to eating.

I really seemed to need to read, and still do. I was a fast reader, and I still am, and burned my way through a book a day. I thought it was great if a book was really thick, and might last a whole week. Being the child of bohemian parents I was not allowed to watch much television, and of course there were no computers or cell phones to distract me.

When I was little I lived with my mother in my stepfather's wooden house truck that he built by hand. We drove all over the United States, stopping at craft fairs and Renaissance art fairs throughout the country. We traveled from the west coast to the east coast, from Mexico to Canada, crawling over mountains and rolling over vast deserts, all in the 51-foot housetruck my stepfather had built.

To make money my parents sold their handmade jewelry (stepdad) and clothing (mom) to tourists, and I didn't go to school. I had a lot of time on my hands and usually spent them exploring whatever town, or forest, or river we happened to be camping next to, and by reading.

My stepfather is a collector. Our house was a handcrafted rolling museum of his collections, which were many. Turn of the century brass fittings, crystal bud vases, art nouveau glass kerosine lamps, colored glass automotive dashboard parts, leaded glass windows, antique glass beaded curtains, and even a cast iron pot-bellied stove that glowed red hot in the winter. It was a beautiful home, cozy and artful. In it were also his collection of  L.Frank Baum's wonderful Oz books.

Those twelve or so books, all very early hard-bound editions, became my best friends during the three years we lived in the house truck. I read and re-read them at least six times each. Dorothy and Ozma, Betsy and Trot and I were all fast friends, and went on adventures together, even though I was alone in the house truck. J.R. Niell's fantastic, amazing, delightful illustrations took me away to an elegant, art-nouveau world of magic and chivalry and where sweetness always beat out the dark forces. Funny, brave, and endlessly creative, these stories from 1908 are a gentle voice from another world, and helped me cope with our own real-life journey into the unknown.

Dorothy's adventurous journeys weren't the only thing I shared with the books. Strangely enough, although I was living in a time 150 years later my own home closely resembled that of the time period. My stepfather and mother's taste ran to the Victorian, and I read these beautiful books actually sitting on vintage velvet cushions by the light of stained glass kerosine lamps. When it was time for bed, I crawled up the little oak steps trimmed with brass fittings into my little wooden loft. I slept under a patchwork quilt and had a large skylight just above my head. I would lay there listening to the night that was right outside my little loft, and dream of meeting Ozma.

When I grew up, the books were sold. I was saddened by this, but then I got a job at one of the most wonderful bookstores in the world, Powell's Books. In those magical, hallowed halls I had access to the most obscure and interesting out-of-print used books anywhere on the globe.

Over the next three years I kept a close eye on the "Middle Readers 'B'" section in the children's room. There, L.Frank Baum's (and later Ruth Plumly Thompson's) books were shelved, and once in a while a slightly battered early edition like the ones in the house truck would appear. I never appreciated my employee's discount more than when I could use it to rebuild the collection. Now my own bookshelves proudly display my own collection of these magical books.

I am still soothed by the graceful illustrations of JR Neil, and the echoes of the voices of L.Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson. I pull these books out often and re read them, while having lunch at the kitchen table. I find new things in them all the time, and with my own maturing and new perspective I appreciate more and and more each time I read one. It makes me want to thank the author and the illustrator again and again. May their spirits be touched by the heartfelt gratitude of all of the children they have comforted and inspired.


Monday, October 8, 2012

A Virtual Stroll

Is it laziness, is it boredom, is it simply evolution? I seem to have given up good ol' blogspot.com like I gave up dairy products ten years ago. Effortlessly, shamelessly.
But it does needle me at times, remembering this once-fun and now-neglected forum, and I think, what's your problem, girl? Get off your ass and write!

But I do write, of course, just elsewhere. I am writing a book, as a matter of fact.
I have spent five and half years blogging here, and now my attention is distracted by the likes of tumblr, pinterest, and of course facebook. It doesn't help that these things are a large part of my job, promoting the fabulous boutique Melange that I work for. It's also very addictive, like this blog used to be, the social network sites have become the greatest way to self-publish as well as self-worship. Remember "Desktop Publishing" where you learned how to xerox things, and cut and paste? Now you can create your own gorgeous online magazine with a few clicks and downloads. You can film an award-winning documentary on your phone! You can record an album on your laptop, make cover art, and publish it all by yourself. Crazy!

Whether I'm deluding myself that I'm riding the wave of the future, or whether writing in smaller sound bites is just plain easier, I'm obviously not here very often. Please DO visit me, however at my new favorite virtual place, tumblr, and check out my job's blog "me in melange" which I write along with my coworkers.

I will still post on this blog, however sporadically, so keep it bookmarked just for a lark!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The REAL Dowager Countess

 May I present Lady Ruca Rios.
 Do not look her directly in the eye, for though she is covered in fluffy fur, she has a spine of steel and teeth like needles.
21 years old and still able to rip open the skin of your hand if you deign to pet her in the wrong way.
Over the last two decades my husband and I have nearly perfected the art of petting her ladyship, and it is a rare day now that we shed any blood.

Amazingly, I first got Ruca in 1991 when she was only 6 weeks old, and I was a mere lass of 26. Some punker I knew had a mama cat with kittens that needed a home. There were 3 left if I wanted one. When I got to his punker pad, it was a total mess. Broken glass on the floor, dirty mattresses, beer cans and cigarette butts, etc. It was a really tough choice, not wanting to leave any of the cats in that bad place, but I was assured that all of the kittens and the mama had adoptions pending. So....I chose the tiny, fluffy tabby kitten with big green eyes. I chose Ruca. And she has been my best friend ever since!

Ruca is a spanish slang word from the mexican barrio meaning "bad ass chica". And she has lived up to that name. Ruca is a one-person cat, very shy around others, except for Greg. He finally won her over after about 15 years of relentless wooing. She is an extremely picky cat, about everything. I love her dearly, savage quirks and all, and we've both been fortunate that she has never been sick, and still shows no signs of slowing down! 

Ruca has moved with me many times, and suffered the indignities of having to share her house with another cat (truly the finest lady I've ever met, Miss Lulu), and three dogs over the years. Dizzy the Darling Hound, Emma the obsessive-compulsive Border Collie, and now Faye, idiot savante with an angel face. But also a cat-killer.

Faye, though a sleepy-eyed darling dodo with velvety lips, will also snatch a cat quicker than you can say RUN CAT, and shake it like a rag doll. This has happened twice while on walks. I watched helplessly in sheer horror, screaming to DROP IT FAYE as she snatched two cats from the bushes and shook them so hard, I was convinced they would be dead, or mortally injured. But happily, miraculously, they were neither. Both cats seemed perfectly fine after this brutal treatment, and both ran away, hissing in the most pissed-off way (and who could blame them) over their shoulders. Completely traumatizing for me.

However, Faye would never dare attack Ruca. The Grand Dame can make Faye cower with one penetrating glare. If Ruca evens looks fixedly in Faye's direction the dog will instantly turn her cheek, and politely pretend that she does not notice. Ruca will then walk by, swishing her glamorous tail like a fan snapping in Faye's face, and Faye will blink benignly at the wall, not noticing.

And that is as it should be I suppose. Forget Frank Sinatra, it's really Ruca's world, and we just live in it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Urbi et Orbi

sunset over Disneyland
 "Urbi et Orbi" is Latin for "to the city and to the world" which was the title for the Pope's Christmas message this year. On this ever-shrinking planet I think it is an apt title for communication in general. A single tweet is global, no? This little blog may be one person's perspective, but putting it on the web is a message to the world.

We Rioses got out of town this Christmas. We are fresh back from our holiday exploring some urbi and some orbi, Palm Springs and Disneyland in particular. And, may I say that a healthy dose of California desert certainly does a body good!

Not to say that we didn't get our fill of the Northwest Christmas thing before we left. Christmas just doesn't seem like christmas without frosty pine trees and cozy white lights, hot toddies and dinner at the Sapphire Hotel. We just did all that a bit early. Personally, I began the xmas season in October. I don't really care for halloween, (so tacky!), so I pretty much ignored it and decorated the house for "fall" instead. No cheesy gourds or corn stalks here, however, Cora and I made copper candle lanterns (see previous post), and gathered acorns. We cued up Pandora with the "Bing Crosby Holiday" station, and got our yule on before thanksgiving even hit the stands.

I love Oregon during the holidays, and this fall was particularly spectacular. There were plenty of sunny, frosty walks to be had throughout November! Faye and I soaked it all up, walking miles over Mt. Tabor, and throughout southeast Portland with Bing and Frank crooning away in our ears.

Merry Christmas!

view from atop Big Pink
December was just as beautiful as November, serene even. This neighborhood is beyond lovely with its huge old homes and giant leafy trees that are the perfect backdrop to a cozy holiday season.

This year Greg, Cora and I had a special dinner on the top of the Big Pink "skyscraper", 30 floors up, looking out over Portland. We saw the pink sunset turn to indigo, and all the lights of the city come on. We could even see the fanciful fairytale tents of Cavalia under the Fremont Bridge. When Christmas proper did actually roll around, I'd had my fill of a northwest holiday, and was ready to head south, to the desert...and to Disneyland!

I know it's strange, but I love to pack. Traveling for me is serious business. I could never be someone who throws things in a bag and runs out the door. Once a long time ago when Greg and I were dating he brought a paper grocery bag as a carry-on. Um, no.
Vacation Vision

No, my vacation begins with packing. Every necessary item is carefully arranged, including the ten pounds of fashion magazines which are my flight anxiety medication.

Because this is my blog and I can talk about whatever I want, and because I love fashion, I will describe my going-home flight outfit. Think 1970's California vacation girl. Faye Dunnaway on a weekend in Malibu. I wore dark wash, wide leg, high-waisted jeans, heeled brown boots, a light-wash chambray denim shirt, hair parted in center, straightened, and a long gold chain necklace, and blue eye shadow. I looked and felt like a Charlie's Angel. It was awesome.

Rollerskating Disneyland Snowflake Girls
But I digress. Ok. Disneyland. I have a thing about Disneyland. I've been going there since I was a kid, but it wasn't until I was in my 30's that I really fell for it. Which is ironic because I'm not one for overly-commercial themes, and expensive crowded events. And of course all of those things describe Disneyland. But it's not the whole story. For me, the lure is NOSTALGIA. That's why it's got to be Disneyland in Anaheim, not Epcot Center or Disneyworld in Florida. The one in California is the one that Walt Disney himself spent the night at in an apartment over the fire station on Main Street. The rides there are the REAL DEAL. Mary Blair's original It's a Small World is there. The Sherman Brother's Tiki Room is there! The amazing Abraham Lincoln theater is there, with the awe-inspiring animatronic 1960's Lincoln figure himself! And the train, and the monorail, and the freaking Matterhorn! All original. I love it.

Hotel Lobby

our cozy beds with good lighting
looking down to the lobby
I especially love it when we can spend the night there. As a kid I never spent the night because we lived nearby in Santa Monica. We would top off an exhausting day with a grueling drive home on the freeway.

We decided to live out a dream and cough up the (many) sheckles it takes to book a room at a Disneyland hotel, knowing full well that we were entering a land of corporate consumerism masked as childhood happiness on a level that was too profound to comprehend, and....we had a great time.

We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel, a place I've dreamed of staying since I first glimpsed it from the monorail about a decade ago. A huge, Arts and Crafts-style lodge situated just along the park, it's gorgeous from afar. The massive beamed architecture landscaped with pine trees ironically reminds me of home. It's like Timberline Lodge, but 20 times bigger! And weirdly new! The moment you enter the hotel your breath is taken away by the scale of the lobby. Giant boulders surround a cozy fireplace nook that seats at least ten. Towering wooden pillars support the ceiling six floors above. And it was decorated for Christmas! There's an 80-foot christmas tree covered in glittering gold and red gifts, sparkling acorns, red flowers and ribbon. There is pine garland everywhere, festooned with white lights and sparkling glass balls. It's incredible. Our room is great, the beds are like magical cozy ships with good lighting. Everything is so damned tasteful, I'm freaking out! A tasteful attack! Ok, get a grip. Hard though it is to drag ourselves away from this magic hotel palace, Disneyland awaits! Onward!

Tarzan's tree, my next home
about to get soaked
  It was a day of great fun and of lower back pain. The first thing I did was ride Splash Mountain, which is the greatest ride in the park, but I got completely soaked. I mean, completely. Hair-mashed-and-dripping-sitting-in-a-pool-jeans-stuck-to-skin-shoes-full-of-water-soaked.And it was the very first ride I went on. So I was wet all day and looked like shit, but I still had fun! I got separated from Greg and Cora for awhile when they stood in line for the Matterhorn, so I paddled around Tom Sawyer's island with the canoe guy and a bunch of strangers. I found the art gallery with Mary Blair's art in it, and I watched the Abraham Lincoln presentation for the first time. I fought the urge to wave back at Mary Poppins when she walked by with Burt. I just love her. Also, I decided to model my next home on Tarzan's tree.

Disneyland palm trees in the morning
view from the back of the canoe

We braved the crowds, (lots of family men with HUGE tattoos on their necks. Gang dudes on family holiday. And lots of smoking. Wait a minute -- smoking in Disneyland?! Wtf?!) and we made it to all of the things on our list. We saw the holiday parade which was cheesy, not at ALL like the excellent Lion King parade I saw there like 15 years ago (ouch I'm old!).

Later, after I'd retired to the loving arms of my magical hotel bed, Greg and Cora stayed up late to see the lightshow. Evidently it climaxes by having a giant dragon set the entire lake on fire. When Greg told me this I wondered, "what about the ducks?" There are a lot of ducks on that lake by day! How can you set the whole lake on fire and not even singe one duck? Hmmm...neck tatoos, smoking, and duck singing at Disneyland.

A word of warning: it's all fun and joy the day of your arrival, but the morning you check out of a Disneyland hotel you feel a bit deflated. Once you leave that driveway, the magic is abruptly over and the real freeway is just outside the gate.

We were heading south on Christmas Eve, Hurtling down the I-10 toward Palm Springs. Cruising through Riverside, through the soft, tufted desert hills, past the eerie wind mills dwarfing the surrounding homes, but being dwarfed themselves by the rising mountains. It's a beautiful landscape, and desolate. It doesn't really feel like humans should be there, it's very alien, and VERY hot, but it also feels full of life. Ancient, hardy plants and small animals rule the landscape just beyond the reach of the sprinklers.

I do love the desert and this was a great time to go. As different from our northwest pine trees and rain forest as you get, it is a welcome change to the spirit to see forests of palm trees and cactus, feel warm sunshine and smell the fresh december desert breezes. A different place altogether in December than in July!

We spent Christmas with my dear mother-in-law, Ida at her house. We had a really lovely time being together, eating christmas dinner next to a crackling fire on the heated patio of a nice restaurant, tasty lemon-creme salmon and tangy white wine on our lips as we toasted the season. Giving so much thanks.

The next day we took a wonderful tour of the Moorten Botanical Gardens. I do love a good Botanical Garden, I must say. And this one was all cactus! Enormous prehistoric monster-cactus. Tiny, fuzzy hilarious little cactus. Mean, evil super-spiky-I-gonna'-kill-you cactus! And one cactus that had a female-like form that was almost indecent. (see below.)

It was very interesting. Evidently the fellow that started the gardens was a friend of Walt Disney himself! He acted as a consultant for "Frontierland" at Disneyland! It's a Small World, indeed!

someone get her a robe!
Our time was up. So, I packed again. Re-packing to return home is not nearly as exciting as packing to go, but you still try to be thoughtful so security goes smoothly at the airport. As previously described, I was feeling particularly glamorous in my Charlie's Angel on the weekend travel outfit, and comfortably passed three hours in the zoo that is gates 30-34 by reading fashion mags. (And tuning out that one shrieking little child beast.)

Sadly for me, the flight home was especially bumpy. I get pretty freaked out by flying, and though I can distract myself with magazines, beer, and thoughts of celebrity get-aways, if there's enough turbulence, I sometimes quietly cry. It is so embarrassing! A few tears leaked out during our dramatic descent, but thank god we landed safely. One eccentric cab driver later, we were collapsing into our dear Faye's excited kisses and tail wags, and locking the door behind us.

Urbi et Orbi. And home again.  xo