Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Boxing Day!

Christmas was a little odd this year. Not only did we decide in our immediate family to not to exchange gifts (we sometimes do this in favor of donating somewhere), but we were also too snowed in to go to the grocery store before Christmas. In a cruel twist, the fates made the packed snow and ice on our street driveable without chains in time for Christmas, but not in time for the grocery store to still be open. This meant that Christmas dinner was cobbled together from the remnants we had hanging around in our pantry.

Still, I managed to put together a pretty decent meal of mango chicken, sweet potato (only one) with brown sugar, butter and oatmeal topping, and pasta. An orange tapioca pudding was even managed for dessert. It was a little gacky having been made from over sugared juice box juice, but you do what you can. I am telling you people, I am a culinary MacGyver! The good news is that Christmas wasn't really cancelled, just postponed until Sunday when there will be turkey and presents for all!

The even better news is that it was a really nice, restful day. I spent the day with my mother, each of us doing the things we like best in between just hanging out, giggling and chatting. I took a long, hot bath, read a whole Deborah Grabien ghosty mystery novel (The Weaver and the Factory Maid - so good!), lounged around, and even wrote and roomened a little. She played games online, puttered around outside, and watched t.v. We have a lot of really nice friends and heard from just about all of them on Christmas itself. And, in the end, I'm glad for my non-traditional Christmas, because it included all the things that are important: laughter, family, togetherness, even a little joy. And I hope yours did too!

P.s. It is not only Boxing Day, but Baxter's birthday, hence the picture in his honor. Doesn't the green remind you of summer?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Arctic Blast '08: Welcome to Snowmageddon!

Toby and Lily when the snow was not deep enough for Lily to get lost in it (as has befallen their gnome friend in the background).

One of my favorite things about Portland are the local winter weather reports. I have friends who play Storm Watch Bingo, so I know I am not alone in this. We Portlanders choose to contrast our many other stellar qualities by being total drama queens about winter weather. Our local news crews sometimes seem to want so fervently for some weather related news that they're all too ready to start warning about an impending snowpocalypse every time we get a 1/4" of snow. So, last week when they started talking about "Arctic Blast 2008", I didn't pay that much attention. I enjoyed the opportunity to telecommute and work in my penguin pajama bottoms and old school grey hoodie when my office closed (0h home officing, after a week working from home, how I covet thee!), but I didn't pay that much attention.

A week and a few feet of snow later and Mother Nature has my attention. It is cold and my car is stuck behind a small snow drift, but it is utterly gorgeous outside and I love it, especially now that I am officially on vacation! The only thing that keeps me from loving the snow enough to marry it is that knowing I can't stray far from home gives me nagging feelings like "I must find a way to get to the store for I am completely out of bobby pins!" Never mind that I don't actually use bobby pins. Or that if it were a normal day I probably wouldn't want to go anywhere. It's the not being able to go out if I happened to want to that creates the sense of urgency. As a long-term couple, snow and I were never meant to be. Sure, we'd put up with each other for a while, but eventually there'd be recriminations and hard feelings and our love would melt. For now, though, it makes an awfully nice Christmas fling.
More to come...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Stories

Growing up, my favorite fairy tale was "The Snow Queen". My favorite passage was the one in which she first appears to little Kai:

A few flakes of snow were falling, and one of them, rather larger than the rest, alighted on the edge of one of the flower boxes. This snow-flake grew larger and larger, till at last it became the figure of a woman, dressed in garments of white gauze, which looked like millions of starry snowflakes linked together. She was fair and beautiful, but made of ice - shining and glittering ice. Still she was alive and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, but there was neither peace nor rest in their glance.
(Translation is from Lily Owens' The Complete Hans
Christian Andersen Fairy Tales
and not the link above)

The story goes on to describe how Kai is lured away by this horrible, beautiful creature (who was, by the way, very obviously an inspiration for C.S. Lewis' White Witch of Narnia fame). Ultimately, he is rescued by his irrepressible, true friend, Gerda, but it was always really the queen who drew me in. She fascinated me in the same way Rilke's proclamation

For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains to destroy us.

from the first stanza of his Duino Elegies has always spoken to me. It is the blurred border lands the make the line between beauty and horror or the fantastic and reality that have always intrigued me. That is where all the interesting stories lie.

And so, long before I would have explained my interests in such terms, The Snow Queen was one of my early favorites. As luck would have it, over the weekend, Portland was treated to its first winter snow, which makes it the perfect time to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and maybe some chocolate and reread the story.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Greetings from the Archangel Gimpiel!

The El Tapatio on 82nd Ave is, despite its less than picturesque surroundings, becoming one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. Last night after a delicious early dinner there, my mom, Mexican Jenny and I decided to take Jenny's son Antonio, who could not take his eyes off the lit Christmas tree in the corner, to the Oregon Zoo's Zoolights to ride the train. At three years old, trains are, thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine, second only to elephants in the competition for the nexus of Antonio's attention and pretty much the high point of civilization as we know it. So you can see how it might have occurred to us that he would be thrilled at the prospect of not only visiting the zoo's new baby elephant, Samudra, but also riding an illuminated train through the zoo.

Never having been too Zoolights before, I was delighted by how lovely the zoo looks illuminated for the holidays. There were (of course) light up animals and even scenes from The Wizard of Oz, complete with tornado, witch and flying monkeys. I didn't even mind that all the walking made my still weak foot hurt a bit. What I did mind was when a strange boy, who had apparently forgotten to take his Ritalin, ended some scuffling and general rough housing by falling on my foot and bending it in an unnatural direction that made me cry. Actually, I didn't even mind that as much as the fact that the whole incident didn't really seem to phase his parents much at all.

I am a grown woman. Except for weddings, funerals, sad movies, semi-sad movies, commencement ceremonies, and national anthems (any - it doesn't have to be mine, I am equal opportunity) I don't often cry in public. I probably would not have even cried then, had my foot not already been sore and weak from a ligament injury sustained a month or so before. Maybe it's just me, but if your kid injures an adult to the point where she cries, maybe more than a cursory "oops, sorry" followed by allowing the boy to continue tearing about the area as though nothing had happened is in order. Sometimes you really have to wonder what is wrong with people.

It also pretty much darkened the rest of my night, even though I tried not to show it. I had had plans to go to my friend Jeff's book signing. It was pretty clear after the incident I would not be able to go, which depressed me. Antonio, however, noticed I was down and took my hand as I was grimacing and limping my way toward the stairs that lead to the neverending inclining path toward the zoo store and exit to sweet freedom and informed that I should just "be patient", because that when a tiger bites me, I will need to be even more patient. It is sound advice, I suppose.

P.s. After a night of dull, throbbing foot ache my mom pressured me into going to urgent care today by offering to buy me lunch if I went. As a result, I have a belly full of Captain Neon Boca Burger and, despite feeling like an old, lumbering, lame frankenstein, know that I have no broken bones. I have also been given official license to lounge about on the couch with my foot elevated and am the proud wearer of an air cast, which if you ask me, sounds like an imaginary device given to hypochondriacs. "No, really, it's an air cast. Don't you remember when we mimed putting it on you? You can't see it, but it will totally keep you from putting too much weight on your "injured" foot! "

Monday, December 01, 2008

I am not dead yet!

Some of you may have been thinking to yourselves, "Where has that delightful Martina person gone? Was she abducted by aliens? Turned into a zombie while visiting Nice and the Isle of Greece while she sipped champagne on a yacht? Did a vampire bite her while she was moving like Harlowe in Monte Carlo? Or was she perhaps sent Istanbul on top secret mission involving a a blind clown and a box of turkish delight?" Or maybe you those of you who think I have (like the thankfully averted Sarah Palin) gone rogue theorize "she's always seemed a little shady to me. I bet she's in prison. I just knew that 'death before dishonor' tattoo on her left bicep was bad news!" Those of you with kinder thoughts might think "She always seemed plucky to me. That girl has moxie! I bet she's gone off and joined the circus as an acrobat! I do hope she will send me a postcard chronicling her fabulous adventures". To all of these questions and more, I say: "Maybe." I say this because I am mysterious (no, really!), and because all of these options are far more interesting than the truth. As any good postmodernist (or press secretary) knows, truth is but a construct, a matter of spin, so I say "yes" and maybe "no" to all!

The important thing is that I am here now and I have brought back with me gifts. And just in time for the holidays! So, in celebration of December, here are four things you will love, if you are not crazy. If it turns out that you are crazy, do not worry, I will probably still love you! Probably...

1. Pioneer Woman's Whiskey Glazed Carrots. I don't even like cooked carrots. The truth is that I usually hate them! When I was a kid, my grandmother always had to mash them in with the potatoes and then further hide them from me with a healthy slathering of gravy, thereby teaching me early in life that everything tastes better with gravy. The thing is that these carrots were so delicious that I want to eat them every day. I suspect that may be because, in the absence of gravy, everything tastes better with booze.

2. This recipe for Sour Cream Apple Pie. It is the first and only fruit pie I have ever made. It is so good that I see no need to make any other. I'm not saying I won't eat other pie (that would just be rash and stupid!), but I will not make any other. So great my devotion to the Cult of Sour Cream Apple! The best part is that the recipe fills two regular sized pie shells. You could make one deep dish pie, but why do that when you could have TWO pies! You hear me, people? TWO pies! The only thing better would be two pies with bourbon in them!

3. Loreena McKennitt's Christmas cd, A Midwinter Night's Dream. It is such a lovely offering. I am especially taken with the Eastern inspired arrangements. My favorite piece on the cd is the North African inspired “Noël Nouvelet!,” because 1) you have to appreciate a woman who sings a carol in not just French, but Old French, and 2) its rhythms make me feel like I should be sitting in front of a bonfire after a long, hard day of travel across the desert with the rest of my camel caravan. They also remind me of the time my friend, MQ and I took a belly dancing class and that makes me laugh, because I may well be the worst belly dancer ever in the whole history of belly dancing.

4. W.S. Merwin. He read from his new collection The Shadow of Sirus at one of the pre-Wordstock readings here in Portland this year and he is such a charming gentleman in addition to being a brilliant poet and translator. I always knew that I liked him, but now I have heard him in person, I have a complete old guy crush on him. If you are not familiar with his work, it is well worth checking out. My favorite of his pre-Shadow poems can be found in this post.

You can thank me later!