Friday, May 31, 2013

May summary

Well, this makes 25 posts in the month of May. Not bad! I didn't do this for a particular reason - I thought it would be nice to blog a little bit more often. I didn't have so very much to say, it turns out, but I like taking the time to think for a minute and see if there is something I want to share with the blogosphere.

I don't know how full time bloggers do it, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Portland evening

My sister and I went to monthly-occurring street festival tonight. It was fun, though we foolishly (cleverly?) ate dinner in advance and carried no cash. Still there was a lot of food, art, craft, and people to check out.

This event has been going in for years, but has been something of a victim of its popularity, with sometimes-unruly crowds and disenchanted neighbors. People seemed pretty mellow tonight, but I was taken aback to see a guy with a bandana obscuring his face. During the Occupy months in Oakland, that was a nearly-sure sign that anarchy (read: vandalism) was on the agenda, so I tensed up a bit...til I realized he was an artist trying not to too badly fry his brains on spray paint.

On the way home we saw people playing unicycle polo. Pretty awesome.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Final rhubarb update

Remember the pickled rhubarb that turned out kind of gross?

It's now been pureed:

And I tried it on toast with some turkey on top:
 It was pretty tasty! I don't know that I'd deliberately do it again, but it's way better than it was.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A most peculiar veg

Have you ever heard of garlic spears? Me neither, but my sister saw some, was curious, bought them and found a recipe. Like so many things: toss with oil, salt & pepper, roast at ~400.

I wouldn't seek them out, but they were worth it for the novelty factor.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Waiting for an epiphany

Last spring when I was traveling in Europe, I remember very clearly having an epiphany while in Amsterdam (no drugs involved!). I was reflecting on a conversation I'd had with someone back home in the Bay Area, who had just returned from six months of continuous travel. I expressed some puzzlement over how he managed to do it, and he said: you just have to set up your life so you can travel!

In other words, decide what you want and make it happen. Thinking about that conversation, and in the middle of a fifteen-day European trip, I realized that what I wanted most was not to travel for months at a stretch, but to make my home in Portland. That was the ONE BIG THING I wanted.

That epiphany was the beginning of a chain of events that resulted in just that, and I'm grateful and amazed every day that I figured out what I wanted and I made it happen.

Is it selfish to ask for more? Like so many others I know, I'm wrestling with the work question. There was one time in my life when I was passionate about my job, but it was over a decade ago, and it was the first time I'd found a job that really tapped a lot of my skills AND let me work with fun people. I know if I were still there I would be far far over it by now.

Now here I am, with about 20 years of work behind me and facing the next 20, and I can't figure out what exactly I am looking for. It's frustrating. Don't get me wrong, I'm asking from a very positive space, and know I'm lucky to feel like I'm appreciated and my skills get used on a daily basis. So maybe I just won't ever be super stoked about work, but it seems like that would be oh so nice to have.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pickle news

Remember those rhubarb pickles I made earlier this month? I brought them to a book group meeting last night to try them out.

Ooh boy. The good news is, the flavor was quite nice. Unfortunately the texture was very very very bad. I guess processing them in boiling water cooked any trace of crispness out of them - they were somewhere between limp and mushy. Yuk.

I'll puree them and call it a savory sandwich spread (it would be quite nice with chicken or turkey!), and if I see rhubarb the next time I'm at the store, I will try making a batch of refrigerator pickles in hopes of maintaining any level of crunch.

I haven't tried the asparagus pickles yet but am rather gloomily expecting they'll be equally bad. I don't think I really want pureed pickled asparagus for my sandwiches, though. Ah well, live and learn!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New booze

Well! I had a terrific summer drink last night at local fave the Tin Shed. This lovely goodness was cucumber-infused gin + limeade, over a lot of ice, in a pint glass. So now I'm on a rampage to find out how to make it myself.

Okay, that's not exactly true: I googled 'cucumber infused gin recipe' and found out it's... gin, plus some cucumber. Sure, people have shaken it up some (ha!) by slicing, or peeling, or mashing, but basically  you combine the two in a jar for a couple of days, taste it to see how you like it, and strain out the cukes when you're satisfied. It takes very little time.

All I have to do now is pick the gin; I emailed a gin-loving friend to get tips on the most cucumber-friendly option. Another friend and I are each going to try a different type of gin and compare notes/get sozzled in the quest for Knowledge. 

It won't be all that warm here this weekend, but I recommend it to anyone expecting a gorgeous three-day weekend!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Easy rhubarb custard

I missed blogging yesterday but shall make it up to you with a recipe.

I made a terrific rhubarb dessert yesterday, and it was SO easy, really, anyone could do this. Here is the recipe:

My only variation was that instead of a blender, I made the custard in a large measuring cup, and used an immersion blender. Mine made 5 ramekins and a small glass dish-full.

The result is both sweet and tart, with a smooth not-too-eggy custard holding it together. Alas, I only have a midpoint photo, but I'm definitely adding this to my spring rotation.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Service with a smile

One of my San Francisco friends was visiting me last night, so we were looking for a good place to eat. She's recently stopped eating gluten, and was happy to find a great online resource, Gluten Free PDX. (pdx is the airport code for Portland, and is often used as shorthand around here)

We decided to go to Tasty n Sons, which is one of many highly-regarded spots in town. I ate there once this winter, so I was glad to be able to vouch for the place. They serve their food in small plates style, with the intent that the diners share their food. When we got there, my friend asked the hostess if they had a gluten-free list of foods, and what happened next was amazing - the hostess grabbed a pencil and proceeded to mark up the menu for my friend's use. She slashed out the items that relied on gluten (like pasta, for example), starred the items that were naturally gluten-free (polenta, steak), and then wrote "w/o" next to all the items that could be made gluten-free (by omitting croutons, crackers, bread crumbs, etc.).

It made SUCH a great experience for both of us, as otherwise ordering can feel pretty stressful when there are food considerations in play.

I didn't take pictures of the food, but we got:
a green salad (a very generously-sized bowl); roasted asparagus with a farm-fresh egg served sunnyside up atop some bacon; shakshuka, which is a baked egg-and-tomato dish; and steak frites. WOW was that steak amazing. It was pretty small, but a nice finish to our meal. We ordered it medium and it was a lot more red than I'd expect, but I loved it. The fries were the way I like them - thin and very crispy - but I was too full to eat very many.

It felt like a  nice contrast to the Bay Area that we could walk into a hip restaurant at 7pm on a Thursday and were offered a few seating options. Granted if we were a party of more than two, we'd have had to wait, but it worked out great for us.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

yeah, I'm not 20 anymore

Last night I decided to get wild and go to a double feature: Star Trek, and the new Star Trek: Into Darkness.

The first movie started at 9, the second some time after midnight (as only then was it the official opening day). The movie ended at 2:32am, and I was home and in bed 20 minutes later. The movie was good, but I think a second more-alert viewing is in order, perhaps when it comes to the second-run theater in a few months.

And man.. I am TIRED. I have some social things to do this evening, and I hope I manage to keep my face out of my dinner plate.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Diversification checkin

A little more than a year ago, I came up with a diversification plan for my retirement accounts. The plan was:

Large cap/broad market: 40%
Small cap: 10% 
International: 25%  
Bond: 15%
Reit: 10%

Let's check in, shall we?

Percentage increase in my accounts from March 2012 to May 2013: 34.8 %. Granted that includes my contributions, but excuse me while I say DAMN.

Well, I don't know what I'm doing, really, so I'm going to leave those alone and not do any rebalancing. Now that I have a mortgage to pay (notice I don't say I OWN a home...), I'm less worried about having money in a REIT.

The run-up in the market has been pretty sweet lately; I wish I knew some clever way to lock in my gains. But, I'll just keep on saving like I do.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I've been running a list of the plants I want for my yard: blueberries, daphne, lavender, sage, and rosemary. There are probably other things (such as ground cover that doesn't need mowing or weeding!) but those were tops.

A few weeks ago, I bought sage and rosemary - or so I thought! The rosemary looked like it was doing well, but it looked...funny. It was more green than I expected, and its needles were softer and longer than typical. Today I realized it's blooming...and that it's actually lavender! It even says so on the tag - oops! Fortunately it's in an acceptable location.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tee Vee

For the first time in my entire life, I'm paying for cable tv. This is because my employer pays for my Internet/land line, and I pay the 1/3 of the package that is cable. Best of all, I now have a DVR! I'm still totally disinterested in scheduling my life around a show's airtime, but if I can watch it later - genius!

At first I was recording a lot of Big Bang Theory, but it got overwhelming - though it's still the rare show that can make me laugh aloud. I also was saving lots of How I Met Your Mother, but it, too, seems to air non-stop.

Now I'm getting Doctor Who (though this season has been quite disappointing; I think I really don't like the new companion and the lame stories they've had), Mad Men (SO great, especially with the insightful commentary from - which seriously is the first thing I look for on Monday and Wednesday mornings), and Orphan Black (omg trippy and riveting and great).

What else am I missing?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Weekend warrior

What a weekend! On top of yesterday's busy-ness, today I went on two bike rides! The first one was a 20-mile loop and I felt terrific, even pulling my usually-much-faster friend for a chunk of it. (My pulling isn't literal, but it means she was riding directly behind me tucked into my slipstream. This is called drafting, can save the rear rider 30% of her effort, and can easily go awry. No drafting with strangers!)

Then I got home, ate egg salad and rice cakes, and went on another ride with a different friend! We went about 17 miles, and since my friend's bike is a heavy model, we went a ton slower than I'd have gone riding solo. We also got a bit lost! But we sorted it out in the end - I even got to rely on some of my seven-years-rusty mental maps of the bike routes out by I-205.

So, 6-mile hike yesterday and 37-mile ride today. I think I'll sleep well!

Photos from the hike:

Saturday, May 11, 2013


I almost missed a post, since today has been a lovely (busy!) day. I went for a six-mile hike in Forest Park, ran a couple of errands, mowed the lawn, introduced myself to a neighbor, made granola (which came out well, though surprisingly banana-flavored), showered, napped, THEN went to see some bluegrass.

It was a good show and a great audience - the musicians seemed to really appreciate the engaged energy in the house.

Friday, May 10, 2013


My sister has been making lots of granola while staying with me, and I think the absolute best ingredient we've discovered is millet. It's a tiny round grain that adds a really nice crunch. It's easy to buy from the bulk section in the grocery stores here:
Tonight it's my turn to make the granola! I'll be making up my own recipe, borrowing liberally from others on the internet:

I'm intrigued at the idea of adding quinoa, and I like the idea of using fruit puree instead of lots of oil. I also like the flavors of coconut and nuts and some spices. I think I'm going to try:

2 cups oats
1/2 cup millet
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup wheat germ 
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup nuts (half walnuts, half pecans, is what is currently on hand)
1 pureed banana
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey, if the banana isn't very sweet
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt

Toast at 300 for ~30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to get it crispy, but not burned. 

We'll see a) how well I stick to the recipe and b) how it comes out.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

knitted goodness!

This hat was my first real foray into colorwork, and man, it was killing me. First of all, I foolishly took the advice of another knitter who used that pattern and my yarn, and used very small needles. When I followed her example, the hat was far too tiny to wear! Then when I finally got the needle size down, I had trouble with the floats, resulting in a puckery hat:
It's very  hard to get a picture of one's head...

Anyway, I finally finished the project and I'm happy with it!
I actually ran out of the blue, so finished the itty bitty top bit with green. You can sort of spot it in this picture:

Yay hat! Too bad it's feeling like summer most days here! But with any luck we'll get some more chilly/rainy days so I can bust out my springy goodness.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In which I bike

Yesterday a friend called to see if I could use a free ticket to a lecture by a visiting author, and naturally I said yes! Yesterday continued the string of amazing weather, so I decided to ride my bike downtown. The venue was 5 miles from my door, right in the center of the city.

It was so fun observing the change as I rode - first, the quiet, even suburban-feeling streets in my neighborhood, then the busier bike-laned road conducting me into the center of town, then the semi-busy bridge over the river into town, followed finally by riding along a main artery in downtown. I felt invigorated and so glad I rode.

That was nothing on my return commute! On my way home I was riding with my friend, so we rode straight down to the river, over a bridge, and headed north on the Eastbank Esplanade. The Esplanade is a loop that allows users to bike, run, or walk along one bank of the Willamette River, then cross a bridge, travel along the opposite bank, and complete the loop by crossing another bridge. It was a genius idea, has been universally loved, and it's been at least seven years since I last rode it. It was such a treat to glide along at water level, looking at the lights of the city and nodding to other cyclists and runners - even at 9pm or so it was pretty well trafficked. I felt really really happy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


About five weeks ago, a friend and I bookmarked this past Sunday for some kitchen fun - little did we know it was going to be a gorgeous day! That's okay, though, as it didn't take too long and we had a really fun time.

One thing we took a stab at was doing some pickling. I did a little bit of picklework a few years ago, but it's never been my favorite food format so I didn't get into it very deeply. However, she really wanted to pickle some rhubarb, so I decided we should throw some asparagus into the mix for fun.

We actually got so enthused that we made a mid-brine run to the grocery store to get more rhubarb! The pickles look pretty good, though maybe we should have packed the jars tighter. They SEEMED full at the time, but clearly there's a lot of room for more vegetables in there:

I'm really looking forward to comparing them in a couple of weeks.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Heat wave!

I missed two sets of lovely Portland weather when I was out of town earlier this spring (in Hawaii, then in San Francisco.. I'm not really complaining!), but I've been able to soak up the latest series of warm days! Being totally warm always feels like a minor miracle after months of being chilly...but of course ungrateful me, I start feeling a bit sticky and fretful after a while.

We've had perhaps four or five days of high 70s (which is perfect, in my opinion), veering into mid-80s (which is a bit too much of a good thing). Tonight I think I'm going to go to a movie, soak in some air conditioning, and maybe even seek out some ice cream!

Sunday, May 5, 2013


My friend and I had a few very productive kitchen hours, making all the things I mentioned on Friday. It'll be a few weeks before I can review the pickled rhubarb (we also did asparagus for fun), but I hope to try the jam and syrup soon.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Today I'm going to see a friend's daughter make her First Communion. I don't have buckets of memories, but I do remember my communion - I was the only girl in a veil, and only one boy wore a white suit, so of course comments were made about us being the bride and groom! I was not amused. I also remember the necklace I got, isn't that an odd thing to recall?

I didn't think to get a gift for today's girl - oops.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Yes, I can!

I'm getting back on the canning wagon this weekend - ironically, it will be amazing out! Fortunately my friend and I are keeping it pretty simple:

Rhubarb-infused simple syrup for cocktails
Rhubarb-rosemary jam
Pickled rhubarb

I'd initially proposed also pickling asparagus, but it is going to be an AMAZING weekend and I think we'll be inclined to get out of the kitchen (and, perhaps, on to the cocktails).

I shall try to remember to take pictures - I have to say, using my phone's camera has me taking many more pictures. I'm not so diligent about tagging them, though I'm trying to get better.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Home ownership, four months in

 It's been just about four months since I moved into my house. I'm mostly unpacked, though there are some random boxes in several closets. I could really use a dresser or two, and my office has a desk but that's about it in terms of organization. I just tell myself it would be boring if I were 100% settled in already!
One of ten buds on my rose bush...
 I'm wrapping my head around mowing the lawn regularly, and while I don't love that task, it IS satisfying when it's all tidy and mowed. If I only had a weed whacker I could REALLY make it look good... but for now, mowed is good enough. It has been fun finding out what colors the things in my yard are when they bloom.

I still look at real estate postings on a regular basis, and I wonder if this is like someone in a new relationship who is still habitually checking out other people (either online or in person). Maybe I just haven't settled into this new state of mind? I do wish I could date like I house-shopped: I was ON it, churning through 25 houses (and four offers) in under three months. If I dated like that I imagine I would not be single!

Anyway, I've only had one stress dream about the house and haven't had any catastrophes yet. Three payments down, 357 to go! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's all about time

I'm going to do a blog challenge and update every day this month. Readers, take note!

Since it's May first I flipped my homemade calendar to a new month. The picture from this month is from the world's largest cuckoo clock, in Triberg, Germany. Triberg is in the southern part of Germany  known as the Black Forest, about an hour or so north of the border with Switzerland.

This particular attraction is along the road as you head into town, and we pulled in JUST before noon, as you can see on the clock face. It cost a few euros to go inside and get access to the yard, so we stood around in major anticipation of the cuckoo doing its glorious call.

Friends, that cuckoo was the most raggedy-ass thing you've ever seen. It emerged slowly from its door, then emitted twelve exhausted "coo...koo" calls. It didn't bounce in and out between cries, just sorta sighed on the end of its perch. Wretched.

Fortunately, we found it absolutely hilarious. I hope we didn't hurt the feelings of the woman inside, whose father created the clock, but I imagine she contented herself with our euros!