Sunday, April 27, 2008

Letters from a Not-So-Young Narcoleptic

This is about how everyone at my house has looked this weekend! No, not gackingly adorable, but TIRED. I don't know why my problem is, but my body feels like the city has started piping in valerian root through the tap water. On Friday, I thought I was getting sick, because I was feeling all pooped and headachey, so I stayed home from work. The headachey part went away by evening, but the sleepy part still has not gone away.

Yesterday, for a brief hypochondriacal moment, I began to wonder if I didn't have chronic fatigue syndrome. Thankfully, that theory petered out after the 2% of my brain that is not clinically insane again took the reigns and decided that you probably have to have something for more than a day for it to be considered chronic. So, instead of lazing about all weekend, I adopted a Squirrel Nut Zippers, La Grippa approach and told myself that I must go out and dance around (or just clean out my spare bedroom and get some grocery shopping done) before I could allow myself to succumb to narcolepsy and sleep the sleep of the really tired.

I am a little divided on the cause for all this sleepiness. Even when I am tired, I have never been a big napper. For me as desire to nap usually means one of two things: I am getting sick or I am trying to put off doing something I really don't want to do. As it turns out, this weekend had some work that didn't thrill me on the the horizon.

I've often talked here about my "roomening" (a term that encompasses all things involved in making a living space fabulous - everything from mundane straightening up to painting to furniture rearranging to totally redecorating) project. As you may have noticed, it has turned out to be the slowest redecorating in the history of man. In the time since I started, avocado colored appliances have gone out, wood panelling is passé, and the room has actually changed in function from being a bedroom (my bedroom) to becoming a communal space-to-be for writing, sewing, crafting, t.v. watching, etc. While I love the planning and coordinating colors phase of the operations, I am a bit less motivated when it comes to the actual execution part. Worst of all, I am starting to suspect that my hope that magic decorator gnomes will sneak into my house to complete the actual work portion of the festivities while I'm sleeping may not pan out. As you can imagine, this has created tensions between myself and the greater gnome community.

One of the things slowing me down the most is that I have vowed that the roomening will not be complete until I have gotten rid of all of my unnecessary crap and found a perfect spot for holding my necessary crap. I don't know about you, but getting rid of things is really difficult for me. I know that the thing is not the memory, but I can find story/sentimental reason to not get rid of just about any thing I pick up. I try to be tough on myself, but then end up with an inner dialogue featuring arguments like this:

"That crappy notebook with transparencies? Throw that away? You must be crazy! Those are the materials from the last literary translation class I ever taught ten years ago! I might need them some day!"

"What do you mean I don't need that tattered bookmark somebody I don't remember bought me when I was 9? Are you kidding me? Look at that acrylic yarn tassel! Why it's barely frayed!"

"How could you say I don't need a postcard advertising an early 90's production of Blutiger Honig: Das Bienenmusical (Bloody Honey: The Bee Musical)? You make me sick! I thought you supported the arts!"

Ok, I actually am not only keeping that last one, but also planning to frame it. How could I throw away something so fantastic? The play, which was a political satire told via a doomed romance between a wasp and an Eintagsfliege (some sort of fly that only has a 24 hour life span) was so weirdly compelling, so vee vill break zee sird vall! The audience was all seated at little tables lit by candlight and at one point the actors (all wearing bug costumes) came out and yelled at us, while swatting our candles out with fly swatters. How could I not want a memento of that?

At the same time, I have also hit that age where I don't want to be encumbered by stuff. Not that I will probably ever do it, but I would like to know that if I ever wanted to spontaneously hop a boat to China to teach English or plan an extended visit to the Congo or even just have to go underground for a while as the result of my part of some sort of caper (I've always wanted to be involved in a caper, haven't you?), I could do so without having to spend weeks figuring out the logistics of what to do with all my shit while I was gone.

The other tough part about roomening is that you find things that really do have sentimental value - like finding my first musical composition (if you're wondering, it was a waltz - I was a weird kid!) or the box with my dad's baby book in it (complete with a little flaxen lock of baby Dad hair tied with a now 79 year old ribbon) or the German dictionary he bought in the 60's in order to ineptly translate what may have been one of the sweetest attempts ever at writing a love letter. He wrote it in English, then used the dictionary to translate it (quite literally) into German. The result (which my mom still holds among her things) was so goofily endearing that I could cry at how much he loved her. Those aren't the sorts of things one just throws away.

Of course, they make up only a fraction of the things one (especially a packratty one) finds while roomening. So, yes, I probably WILL donate the battered ca. 1990 used copies of Ursela Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy to Goodwill (not because I don't like them, but because I have a job and am trying to talk myself into not feeling guilty about wanting to have nicer copies) just as I will probably donate my high school German dictionary and release my college copy of Janssen Art History into the wild. Yes, the same copy I bought at the Title Wave after returning my original newer, nicer version of it to the campus bookstore just after mid-terms in exchange for shoe money. Man, those were cute shoes!

But, see, maybe I am slowly reforming. A year ago, I would have kept the book, but who needs it when I still have the shoes? Ok, not really. At least I don't think so, but you never know. They could be in one of the boxes in the garage that I have yet to go through, but I don't even want to get into them. I think Johnny Cash may have written "I've Been Everywhere" about one of those boxes. Some of them haven't been unpacked since two moves ago! Meanwhile, I think it's time for a little siesta.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

O April!

Pink Martini 2
Originally uploaded by Martina

One of my goals for the Driven to Completion project I embarked on with Anne back in January was to see at least one show or attend one event each month. So far, I've been doing well. Some months have even been pretty busy (March, you were great! Corteo! Ladysmith Black Mambazo! Barack Obama!) and the fates have even vindicated my quest with good parking/max karma. Clearly, my divine mission is to be a theater/concert/inspiring speech attendee! But here April is half over and do I have tickets for anything? NO!

I did go to an elephant birthday party over the weekend, which was sort of an event, but I'm not sure if that really counts. Of course, the good thing about having a high comfort level with making up rules as I go along is that if I decide it counts, it counts. That is the beauty of the Martinaverse.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Haaapy Biiiiiiiirthday, dear Paaaaaaaaaacky (and son Rama)...

September 07 031
Originally uploaded by Martina
Have you ever been to the zoo with a three year old? If you haven't, I am here to tell you that it is FUN! Everything is filled with razzle dazzle when you're three. Passing a yellow truck on the freeway? Exciting! Paper elephant ears? Exciting! Actual elephants? Super exciting (especially to 3-years olds vying for the position of High Priest of the Church of Babar)! Seeing an actual elephant on its birthday? More exciting than finding a perfectly burned image of the Virgin Mary on your bread when it pops out of the toaster. Some of that excitement is bound to rub off - even on those of us who are ten times that age. (If I haven't mentioned it, I've started counting backwards. Backwards counting + my gross lack of understanding of new math puts me at about 30.)

And it was a lovely, summery weekend here in Portland to be 30 again. I can't wait until the end of the summer when I will finally be back to a perennial 29. The weather yesterday couldn't have been better for a stroll around the zoo. Warm and sunny, but still cool enough for a pleasant walk. It is again overcast but those two days of eating dinner on the back deck and having zoo picnics were still enough to boost the spirit. What is not as spirit boosting are men from the land of the giants who insist on crowding their way to the front to take pictures when there are hoards of short children around who are very excited about seeing an elephant eat birthday cake, children who become very disappointed when all they can see is the back of a giant asshat's fat head.

Luckily, three year olds are really easily distracted. Elephant Ears (the pastry) coupled with the opportunity to get sprayed by the "geyser" at Stellar Cove are apparently a panacea for all. If only we could allow life to be so simple as adults!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

You Too Can Have Back!

Is it just me or do other people also hear "ass effects" every time that aciphex commercial airs on t.v.? It always makes me think it's some kind of booty boosting drug for people who don't want to mess with painful butt implant surgery, but are no longer content with feeling left out whenever they hear "Baby Got Back".

The thing is that surgery and even drugs are extreme, especially when you can be blowing up your bubble the way God intended - by eating copious amounts of delicious food! We know a little a something about food at my house. With spring birthdays, Easter, and my moon being in a decidedly non-hermit-like place (Dear Tarot, Why do you not have a card called "The Party Giver"? If you ever do, please let me know, so I can use it to illustrate this post. Love, Martina). I have been looking for excuses to have people over, so there has been a LOT of cooking and entertaining going on lately.

As a result, we have been revisiting a lot of old favorite recipes:
Killer Noodle Salad
Pear Crisp (pictured above)

And also trying a lot of new ones:

Sweet Potatoes baked with Apples and Plantains
(from Vegetarian Times - Dec. 2003)

How weird is this? About 6 weeks into my non-meat eating, I was rooting around a box in the garage looking for an old cookbook that I wanted to use for my birthday party and I found a stash of Veg Times. Apparently someone in my house had a subscription a few years back - yet none of us remember actually subscribing to it. I'm guessing it was a free trial that came with some other purchase, but the part of me that enjoys a good conspiracy, likes to attribute it to the stealth work of PETA operatives...or maybe gnomes (but not underpants gnomes). Anyway, here is the recipe along with some things that Veg Times won't tell you:

2 very ripe, blackened plantains
1 large sweet potato, peeled
3 Granny Smith apples, diced
3 T soy margarine, melted
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and chop the plantains (1/2-inch pieces), cut potato into 1/4-inch pieces, chop up the apples. Put all three in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine everything else. Toss the sweet potato mixture with the brown sugar mixture and place in an oven proof dish. Bake for 20 minutes.

That's a paraphrase of the basic orginal recipe. Here are my additional notes:

1-Believe them when they say BLACKENED, kind of mottled with black = hard and not very sweet. I know! Who knew? (Probably everyone but me!)

2-Consider boiling the potato a bit to soften it up a bit, because it does NOT cook in the time given on the recipe. My friend Mexican Jenny (ever a big help) informed after they'd been baking for an eternity and were still crisp that she could have told me it wouldn't cook in that time and suggested the step of boiling them a bit first.

3- Apples: I used two granny smith and 1 golden delicious, because I already had it at home. No one vomited, and as far as I can see, the world IS still spinning on its axis

4-I added chopped, candied ginger to the brown sugar mixture too, because it's good and I happened to have some leftover that I'd made for another dish

5 - All this talk of plantains is reminding me of Sweetwater's Jam House. Portland people, do you remember Sweetwater's Jam House? I sure miss their coconut curry rice. I would sell any one of you for the recipe, so watch your backs!

Between the plantains and the half-raw sweet potatoes, this recipe was not exactly delicious when it debuted at my birthday party (it was more of the "interesting" and "oddly crunchy" variety), BUT when reheated so the potatoes cooked through, it was pretty good and easily possible to imagine how great it would taste with plantains that were actually ripe.

Chorizo and Cactus Leaf Tostadas

Chorizo came into my life last summer. I went through about a two week period where I ate chorizo and eggs with toast and coffee (I know! Coffee - I usually don't even like coffee!) almost every day. It got to the point where I got really sick of chorizo. For a while chorizo and I were on a break. In the end, I just couldn't stay away. But then, I started on this no meat thing and kind of had to. What would happen? Would our love affair die? Would chorizo and I go our separate ways like two ships passing in the night?

Would we?


No! Because I discovered that Food4Less (of all places!) actually stocks a really spicey vegetarian chorizo, which excites me, because I have learned (again from Mexican Jenny) that chorizo also tastes awesome with chopped cactus leaves, which Food4Less also regularly stocks. Apparently, they can also be purchased by the pound, peeled (I guess the peeling part is a pain in the ass) and chopped from a guy at a place, which I will report as soon as Mexican Jenny gives me some less vague details.

Ultimately, it would be really great, if I could get my friend to give me a chorizo and cactus tutorial, but the gist of the recipe is that the cactus leaves are boiled with onions and garlic, then added to a skillet with the chorizo and cooked together. They're then served on a tostada with refried beans, Mexican cheese, and crema and eaten by the platefuls, because they taste so good!

Mandarin Avocado Salad

One of my favorite things to make are interesting salads. This one is slightly modified from how it appears (and how it was served at my dinner party) in the Smuckers recipe it came from:

Here's what you need: A bag of greens, an orange sectioned and cut into bit sized pieces (mandarin oranges from a can work ok too in a pinch), sliced avocado, some chopped cashews, some yogurt covered raisins, dressing (recipe below)

Plate the greens on a serving platter or individual plates.

Sprinkle with orange pieces and raisins, then artistically arrange avocado slices in a pleasing pattern (because we love presentation!).

Drizzle with salad dressing and garnish with chopped cashews.

Dressing (my favorite part of this recipe, because I can see other uses for it):

1/2 cup orange marmalade
Juice of a lemon (about 1/3 c)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 c oil
1/3 c nonfat sour cream or plain yogurt
2 T white vinegar

I missed this part of the recipe and things still turned out ok, but heat marmalade and lemon juice in the microwave for a couple minutes or on the stove top over medium heat to melt the marmelade before mixing with the other dressing ingredients, then chill before serving. If you do not choose to do this God will still be in his heaven and all will be right with the world - you will just need to spend a little more time mixing the dressing.

P.s. I suspect you could get a similar dressing by just using plain old orange juice - you'd just have to play with the amounts a little to get the right consistency/flavor.