Wednesday, December 26, 2007


2007 has been a lovely year - so much happier than 2006. As I sit typing, flanked by Lily on my left and Baxter on my right, I feel pretty content. The past week or so has been hectic, but only because life is filled with more friends (of both the furry and non-furry variety!), a more challenging job and a holiday to enjoy the fruits of both and more festivities to come. Today is a day of rest. Today life is good. Today I have time to share some odds and ends from the past few days.

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve did not go at all as planned. Originally, the plan was to go to Bridgeport for the candlelight service. Despite my conflicted feelings about churches in general, this service remains my favorite of the year, because of the moment where the lights go down and we all light our candles to sing Dona Nobis Pacem (which reminds me that the Lumiere String Quartet's version is lovely, peaceful and well worth the .99 cent download from iTunes). In that moment, despite all of the things that are wrong with the world, I always feel that maybe there really is hope that one day it will be set aright.

But this year, it just wasn't in the cards. The early stages of dinner preparation were interrupted when my mom spotted a homeless man wandering the street with a shopping cart, searching for cans. It didn't take long for us to decide to give him the mountain of them we've been saving to take back to the store, so I went out to call him back. When he saw the little recycling bin we had, he was happy. When he saw that I had a whole trash can full to give him, he almost cried. He kept thanking me for giving him his Christmas present and blowing me kisses.

Honestly, it made me feel completely inadequate and somehow ashamed that I couldn't do more for him. He actually hugged me. To be worshipped for a few tin cans when I have a regular, warm place to sleep and he doesn't was embarassing. We talked for a while and I learned that he did (at least for now) have someplace to sleep. He has a sister in the area and she is letting him stay with her. Judging by her location, I don't think she had much either, but it made me feel better that he had somewhere to go. He left smiling, happy and blowing me kisses.

Dinner was late, but whatever - the traditional holiday nachos and creme de menthe cupcakes could wait. I know it sounds crazy, huh? If there's one time when it seems l ike you should do something special, it seems like holidays should be it. And we were planning to have an extravagent Christmas Eve dinner, but decided at the grocery store that our Christmas gift to ourselves would be not having to cook. (Besides, the cupcakes were already made, and they were DELICIOUS.) So, we dined on a buffet of organic corn chips blanketed in black beans, shredded beef, tomato, cheese, and avocado. But I am not ashamed. It tasted so good that I'm sure Mary and Joseph would have dined thusly, had there only been a microwave in the stable.

Then, just as we were about to leave, an elderly friend of my mom's called, so we didn't make it out the door on time. But, you know what? Even if I didn't get to sing by candlelight, I got my "Dona Nobis Pacem" just by being able to do a kindness for someone else and being able to enjoy a relaxed dinner with my family (aka my mom), whom I kinda love, even if she did renege on her promise to make up for making us late by being such a long-winded yappy yapperson on the phone by singing with me later.

We actually had SNOW on Christmas day! If anyone had told me it was coming, I would have laughed. It seemed way too warm, but for a few lovely moments while I was wrapping presents, I could hear the beginnings of Vivaldi's Winter falling from the sky. I always hear the Four Seasons in my head when it starts to snow. This may be an omen that I need to learn to play it (and find an incredibly forgiving and non-mocking orchestra to accompany me!).

Presents wrapped, we headed a couple of miles East to spend Christmas with our friends, Jenny and Jesus and their family. That's right people. I had Christmas dinner with Jesus. The thing I LOVE about their gatherings is that they are so huge. I come from a small family unit, so when she tells me "oh, it's not many people - just family" it cracks me all the way up. "Just family" for her is upwards of 30 people. It was really crowded in her aunt's small home, but it was also a blast. We had ham, turkey with mole (so good!), and a ton of other foods. There was singing, playing with the kids (so many kids - you couldn't spit without hitting a baby - not that I would. I come down as firmly against spitting at babies!), conversation, and a LOT of noise (albeit unequivocally joyful).

All in all a great evening and a great Christmas! I hope yours was that way too! Even if I do have some misgivings about religion, one thing I do know is that the point of all of this life stuff is those moments of goodness, kindness and joy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Carol

Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O, weary, weary is the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O, stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart
His hair was like a fire.
(O, weary, weary is the world
But here the world's desire.)
The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.
- G K Chesterton

Happy Christmas Eve!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Most Roads Lead Home

It all started one day last week when my department at work knocked off early for it annual Christmas luncheon. We usually make it a very late lunch (around 3 or so) and then just go home when we're done. This year we went to Claim Jumper, which is near Bridgeport Village but far away from my usual stomping grounds.

For the first time in a few years, we didn't have to treat ourselves to lunch, because we were given a budget (rock on, new CEO - Mission Employee Satisfaction under way!) AND I got to have their delicious Grilled Cobb Sandwich, which I love because it features a palate pleasing triumverate of avocado, blue cheese and garlic. It is also great, because there is always a 1/2 a sandwich to spare for late night snacking at home, which saves me having to take time out of my busy loafing schedule to make dinner.

Afterwards, we all split a piece of cake that was bigger than my head, leaving enough leftovers for four of us to take a little piece home. In case you were wondering if anyone ever comes in alone and orders a slice of cake, the answer is no. I know, because I asked. I had to. Even with CJ's traditionally gigantic portion sizes, this cake was freakishly large and as a socially aware citizen I was concerned about the size of America's already large ass.

I tell you about my culinary adventures in a strange part of town to set the stage for the real purpose of this post, which is to announce that I not only possess great theater parking karma, but also its spiritual sister of intuitive navigation! Sure, my gut sometimes navigates me to snyper hotels in Yuba City or through a series of bad turns leading to the heart of Compton, but that's California for you. Besides, I always make it home sooner or later!

This time was no exception. Filled with food and holiday cheer, I headed out of the restaurant, promptly merging into the wrong lane to make the turn back onto the freeway. It really wasn't my fault. Anyone who knows the clusterfuck that is traffic getting onto I-5 at that intersection at rush hour will understand. Once in the wrong lane I was doomed. Doomed I tell you! There would be no going back without inducing a serious case of road rage in one of my fellow commuters and that's not what I'm about. As we all know, I'm all about the love, baby! (Besides, I was too busy singing and getting my holiday groove on to "Santa's Doin' the Mambo" to be bothered with cutting anyone off.)

So, I looked at the road ahead and thought to myself "This kinda goes in the direction I ultimately want," and forged on. I know I could have consulted a map, but here's the thing: Maps are for suckers! They rob all the fun from the game. Besides, as I know from first hand experience, maps can be deceiving.

For example, Compton is not nearly as far from the Harbor Freeway as it looks on the map. One miscalculation plus a shady looking orange seller milling around the middle of the road right at the instersection and the next thing you know, you've made a pre-emptive right turn into no u-turn land and you're going in the opposite direction from the bookstore you're trying to find. Pretty soon, already defeated and ready to cry, you hit a pothole on the 405 and blow a tire. Next thing you know, you're somewhere in Long Beach with a busted emergency spare and sitting in the back seat of a police car (in case you were contemplating a life of crime, by the way, I can tell you a little secret: police cars - not that comfortable!) where an officer has kindly allowed you to get out of the rain while she waits with you for the tow truck to come. I'm telling, you maps aren't everything!

Anyway, as it turned out, I was headed for Lake Oswego. It's not exactly the 'hood. The worst thing that might happen to me there is being shunned by a gang of wealthy soccer moms or a ejection from the city limits by a group of hippie hating yuppies. But that is not my point. My point is that through a roundabout series of turns, I actually made my way back to familiar territory without having to backtrack!

Buoyed by navigational success plus my recent good parking karma, my mission in life becomes clearer to me. Not only does God want me to go to the theater more often, but He thinks I should dine out as part of the deal. I hear you, Big Guy. Thy will be done! Sounds like the makings of a good New Year's resolution to me!

P.s. In a piece of unrelated (but much more exciting) news, Baxter now has a girlfriend. He got her as an early birthday present. (If you want to send gifts, he will be another year older on Boxing Day.) Is she not the most adorable thing EVER?????

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Saturday morning was one of those rare weekend days when I was actually kind of excited to get up early, for it was the day when all the Santas flock to downtown Portland for Santacon. Ever since I moved back to Portland and read Chuck Palahniuk's Fugitives & Refugees I have wanted to know more about this event, so I made it my business to be shopping at Saturday Market at the time appointed for Santa to meet at Skidmore Fountain. This year I only watched, took some pictures, and collected some swag (a stuffed santa, candy), but I can already tell that next year will I feel the need to amass some cohorts and procure a wintery red dress with some leopardy muppet fur trim!

The truth is that I am completely taken with the concept and LOVE that there are people in the world who feel compelled to organize such outings. The event (which apparently attracts 100's of Santas) is basically a day long bar crawl interspersed with breaks for activities like Santa Tug-o-War. If nothing else, it is an awesome visual, but more than that, it just looks so FUN. As someone who could use more fun in her life, I say "Yeah, PDX Cacophany Society!" (and thank you to the Santa who gave me the little chocolate bottle filled with Southern Comfort - you didn't know it, but I actually do have a soft spot for a little bourbon now and then!).

But the weekend wasn't only about Santa. I also enjoyed visiting Saturday Market for the first time in a while AND managed hear some really awesome blues AND got the bulk of my Christmas shopping done in the process. I am really pleased to say that most of this year's Christmas gifts will NOT involve big chain stores or mass producers of merchandise. It is such a small thing, but it feels really good to support local businesses and artisans.

Because it was also the day my kicker check arrived and I was feeling cheery and generous, I treated my mom to lunch at the Oyster Bar. And who should be sitting there at the bar when we walked in but Santa(s)? One of my big memories of childhood is having lunch there with my mother whenever we went to the market. She would have oysters and I would have scallops. The place was much as I remembered it, but different too. I'm not sure if it's my age or if I just didn't notice when I was a kid, but it seemed a little nicer than it does in my memory.

Mostly, I remember the Oyster Bar of my youth as a place with a neverending bounty of free crackers on the table and where the waitresses were all old, called me "honey" and looked like they should have diner names like "Vi" and "Flo". They still have the same glass containers of oyster crackers and the decor is about the same, but the waitresses are younger and the menu a little more evolved with salads less iceberg and thousand island oriented (which is fine with me, since I personally think that if gack were a dressing, it would be thousand island).

Either way, it was good and I enjoyed going back. It was a lovely day that wasn't even thwarted by the abyssmally poor service we received by from the customer service grinch in the plumbing department at the True Value Hardware on Sandy in Parkrose on the way home. If you passed not even remotely helpful and travelled another thousand miles, you'd be at about his level of customer service. On the other hand, if you ever have a leak and are hoping that someone will suggest when go looking for a part that you hire someone to fix it (ostensibly because you are just a silly girl, who could never understand the intricacies of plumbing), that's your place to shop.

So, in conclusion: Huzzah, Santa, Blues & Oysters! Boo and a stocking full of coal to all misogynistic hardware store dweebs! I may be a stupid girl, but that won't stop me from ripping your arm off and beating you with it! (Being a passive-aggressive pacifist is what stops me from doing that, even if it doesn't stop me from making snarky references to you in blog posts and giving you the stink eye when you're not looking...)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Gripping Conclusion (Purple Monkey R.I.P.)

Remember the compelling saga of Baxter and his sockmonkeys? Alas, Baxter and Purple Monkey were not able to resolve their differences. This is how it ends:

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Babes of Camelot

How many times have you been sitting around, wondering how to creatively pack a gift for special friend with a quirky family geneology that claims she can trace her lineage back to Merlin? Suddenly, you remember the cool art book you have checked out from the library AND an old, but little used tarot deck on your bookshelf. And VOILA, the Babes of Camelot gift bag is born. I think we've all been there.

Inspired by the fun projects in Suzanne Samanaitis' richly illustrated Kaleidoscope: Ideas and Projects to Spark Your Creativity, my usually non-crafty self was jonesing to make something, so I set about putting together the perfect project for my low craft attention span. All it takes is a deck of cards, some packing tape (I think clear contact paper would work nicely too), a pair of scissors and whatever other paper or embellishments strike your fancy for decoration. Suzanne's version was a cool black and white bag made out of playing cards, but, really, any type of deck or design on heavy card stock will work.

I made mine out of part of an old Arthurian tarot deck. It was perfect for my purposes, because of not only my friend's lineage (hee!), but also because of a certain cheesetastic geezers of rock factor in some of the artwork. While I thought the deck was awesomely mythical and mystical at the time of purchase (I wish I could blame it on drugs, but alas...), I now realize that females in the illustrations look like they were pulled out of a Heart video and many of the males appear to have been plucked straight out of a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert then dressed in pseudo-medieval garb. But through the magic of Merlin, it all works out, because nothing says birthday mirth like a King Arthur who looks like he could break into his rendition of "Free Bird" at any moment. Put it all together and it is not only functional, but mockably fabulous. A total win win!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ramblings from a Winter Wonderland

As much as I love my city, Portland is one odd duck of a town when it comes to snow. A few little white flakes, and news crews are on location with advice on everything from navigating slushy sidewalks to how many days worth of groceries to hoard for the oncoming blizzard that could result in a 1-2" accumulation of snow. In our defense, we're just not used to the kind of winter weather that hits cooler climes. It's part of why we get so excited any time the snow begins to fall. No matter how old you are, there is something magical in the first few flakes of snow. I think it must hearken back to childhood and the possibility of the most hallowed winter day of youth (except for Christmas) - the snow day.

So, yesterday morning when it did start to snow, I secretly got a little excited too, even though I am too cool to admit it and also knew it was way too warm to stick. Somehow it made it feel like the holidays. So, I took advantage of the good cheer by doing some Christmas shopping with my mom. We bought gifts for each other, for friends and I found two adorable little cat tents for $6.95 at Ikea. The cats, of course, already have them.

I'm not sure what causes it, but on years when we exchange gifts (we don't always, some years we just donate to charity) I am genetically incapable of keeping a gift for a family member secret (or in my possession) until the holiday, if I buy it too early. I blame it on my mother. If it weren't for her whole hearted agreement in years when we opt not to buy presents, I'd think it was all part of her master scheme to program me to buy her more gifts. When I was a kid, we opened presents on the 24th, because that is the German way. Eventually, she and I started sneaking around, opening one gift even earlier. Now that my dad is gone, we have no self-control whatsoever when it comes to keeping gift-oriented secrets. I can't tell you how many times I've proactively bought an early Christmas or birthday present for her, gotten impatient waiting for the holiday to come, then caved and given to it to her early, forcing me to go out and buy a new present, so she'd at least have some suprise on the actual day. In the end, we have so much fun together that I don't think it really matters when or even if we exchange gifts.

Anyway, this is a year where we have decided to make presents part of our family celebration. I think it will be a nice holiday. I know someone who feels that the holidays will be ruined (seriously!) if Gene Autry's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is not the first Christmas song she hears. She gets mad at me when I tell her that she needs a real problem, if she's going to let something like that ruin her life. As for me, right now (in great contrast to this time last year when I would have been quite happy not only to disregard the holidays all together, but buy them a one-way bus ticket to Saskatchewan and tell them never to come back) I can't think of anything that could ruin them as long as I get to spend them with people I love. In the end, that is really what is important.

P.s. The first Christmas song I heard was Cartman singing O Holy Night and it makes me laugh every time. I'm not one to mix my animated characters, but if laughter is a sign for the coming holidays, then everything is indeed comin' up Millhouse.