Monday, September 28, 2009

My "Day Off"

I took today off in an attempt to get some stuff done around the house. But I have a major meeting that I'm organizing tomorrow which meant that I spent most of the day tethered to my computer frantically trying to coordinate things even though the entire office was out.

I went to Ikea to measure their bathroom vanities. Oddly enough they have 15 huge ones and 2 tiny ones. You'd think that a place dedicated to apartment living would have a few more. I was really good though and didn't buy anything. Including their lovely wooden blinds because I can't find the size that I need. This would be a perfect item to be able to order off their website but nope, they don't have that available on line.

I stopped at Fairway to get some grocery shopping done but got seduced by the lobster rolls and beautiful weather out back. I enjoyed my lobster roll but totally forgot to get groceries.

One my way home I decided to stop by the Chelsea Garden Center to see what fall plants they had out. I usually shop at the lesbian overpriced organic small selection shop in Gowanus but thought I'd check it out. I had always avoided it because 1) It looked expensive 2) It was named after a place in Manhattan which guaranteed it to be expensive. Not surprising, it was in no way or shape expensive and the owner was very helpful with my microclimate window boxes and neighborhood vandals.

I should admit something. Everything is dead. All my window boxes, all my pots, everything died over the vacation. I had a few boxes down stairs that survived the heat and vandals (damn you kids!) and it was a bit embarrassing and I needed a refresh right quick. So the downstairs stoop got almost all new plants and two of my window boxes got a thorough reboot. I'm moving the downstairs boxes that are hanging on the railing up to our floor (someone just keeps walking by, pulling out plants and putting them back down).







One of these is obviously a "before" picture. Can you guess which one?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Colorado Pictures

Just in case you think I left my brain in Colorado, here are a few beautiful pictures to reassure that my brain might be there but at least its happy looking at the pretty pretty sky.





Marni took me to Colorado National Monument early in the morning (before it got too hot). She used to work there and kept teasing me with little nooks and crannies making me wish (more than I already was) that I could stay there for a month, snuggle with her dog, and be her nanny for the upcoming Meyorac bundle of joy.



Here's Marni all adorably knocked up!




And in case you're not jealous of Marni's town of residence, here is her kick ass dog (who doesn't attack people like her last one) who's only flaw is her attempt to smoother you with love and the great cowgirl sheets you get to sleep on in her guest room!

I then drove to Basalt to have lunch with Casady, another good friend from undergrad. All I can say is that it amazes me how close I can still be to people even if I haven't seen them in 10 years. The drive, as always, was spectacular and I highly recommend it if you're looking for a place to spend a few days in a car.




After lunch, I stopped in at Glenwood Springs to soak in the giant hotsprings. The summer rush was over and I just laid around, napping, soaking, napping, getting a pedicure, and soaking some more. I always get out of that place like a wet noodle. If you've never been imagine 3 olympic sized pools put together and filled with 100 degree mineral water. Its heaven.

Next stop, Ben's place in Vail.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Colorado Vacation

I've been hesitant to write about my Colorado adventures. When people asked me about my vacation I tell them that it was "rejuvinating" and that is very true. It was incredibly invigorating but it was also emotional. I went to undergrad in Colorado (Go Tigers!) and hopping in my car and driving the long stretches of mountainous highways was my escape from the laughably ridiculously easy life of an undergraduate student. Those years were some of the hardest of my life and criss crossing the state, driving 70 miles an hour while singing at the top of my lungs has always been cathatric and inspirational. Its hard to make your emotions the center of the universe when staring at 14K mountains, faults, and breathtaking ravines. I always feel a bit like I'm tumbling to the center of the earth and feeling small and tiny in the universe is almost always a cure for what ales me.

I needed this. I needed time alone, in a car, Bon Jovi and Kenny Rogers in the CD player, singing, wind in my hair, feeling like I was being sucked down into geological time to begin to confront all that has happened in the past two years. The death, the life, the changes, all of it and after a relaxing week of vacation in Seattle, it weighed down on me like never before. And I cried, howled, yelled, and belted my heart out from Grand Junction to Denver and arrived, at the end of my week raw and exposed but feeling more like myself than I had in fifteen months. And that is exactly why I went there. I also can't really tell how but I know that I've been profoundly changed by all of this but in a way, feel that those changes have made me more mellow, less judgmental, and completely unable to process negative things that happen around me.

After my Colorado vacation, I arrived home very excited about my life. Completely and totally in love with my husband, very thankful for my family, and very appreciative of my friends. I've been excited to exercise again (after about a year of being a lazy bum) and impatient with myself for not replacing our stove earlier so that I can get back to cooking. All of this new found energy makes me excited to be alive, grateful for those around me, and so goddamn pissed off that I can't share it with two people who meant so much to me. Yup, the highs are high, the lows are low, but the middle has smoothed out considerably.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Colorado

Haven't written up the colorado portion of my trip but there are lots of pics up on my flickr account, just in case you're wondering.

Screw the Tesla

I'm buying myself one of these for my birthday. When I was in Denver last January, I decided to rent a GPS system for the car and now on this trip I've gotten one for our Seattle and Colorado rental cars. They are awesome and take the guess work out of navigating a new place. May I also recommend the british lady as your guide, the American voices are both very judgemental and the australian is totally garbled and not at all kicky and spunky like I was hoping for. The British lady, she sure knows how to give directions and she says "Recalculating" in the sweetest voice that assures you "I will get you where you need to know despite the fact that you do not know your left from your right."

Happy 3rd Anniversary!

Seattle Continued




That night we head over to Tom and Marisa's house for a dinner party. It was one of those dinner parties you fantasized about when you thought of your early 30's: fascinating people, great food, plenty of wine, and that warm, glowing feeling of just enjoying your new friends. It turns out that Marisa grew up around the block from us and frequently visits her mom so there is hope we may get to see this lovely couple again!

For our last day in Seattle, I met my sorority sister for breakfast and once again thanked a higher power for such incredible people in my life. Ashley was close friends with Adam, my friend who died in January, and once discussed him, we slipped back into old times. She too is a science teacher and a professional singer on the side.

I should write a whole post about how incredible it is to reconnect with old friends. It makes me tear up just thinking about how much it means to me to know that my relationships with these people are just as they once were. They are uniformly exactly the same as before but have aged and matured into even more interesting, caring people.

So after breakfast, we head back over to the farmers market to grab provisions for the evening and then hustle to a 1:30 showing of District 9. See it, its awesome!



The four of us make a feast and enjoy the lobster mushroom crostinis again. I bake some peaches and introduce them to the wonders of baked stone fruit with vanilla ice cream and a balsamic reduction. And we just sit back and wait for the evening.

After dinner, we run across the street to Bliss Soaps, a kooky, crazy store that specialized is bath products. I'm not one for perfumed soaps but it was worth it to meet the shop keeper, a kooky, crazy guy who seems to be a bit of a Seattle icon. We bought a few things for ourselves and stashed the rest of the goods throughout Jon and Malory's apartment with little thank you notes.

I had a 7am flight so went to bed, sad to see my time in Seattle over. Next stop, Colorado.

Seattle

I've been stalking the city of Seattle for a few years now. When I was still considering academia I thought of doing a postdoc with a favorite researcher out there and have always been fascinated with the city. I also read their alternative weekly paper The Stranger in the form of the Slog for the best arts coverage I've found anywhere. I know all about Seattle's mayoral primaries, book stores, snow storms, traffic woes and neighborhoods (creepy, I know) but had never been. So here's a quick summary of our trip:

Our good friends run the Puget Sound Aikaiki and the husband was excited about taking an aikido class the first morning we were there. The dojo is right across the canal from Freemont so I wandered around the bike path down there, watched the bridge go up and down, and wandered the streets of Freemont.





After the classes we joined the group for a nice dinner at a Belgian Beer Hall across the bridge. Apparently our friends were a bit worried that we wouldn't fit in with their closeknit group (mostly coders for microsoft) but I embarrassed myself immediately by referencing a Stargate episode and out dorked the dorks. I sometimes forget that my type of dork (science) isn't the only type of dork out there so I spent the rest of the evening saying vapid things about Lady Gaga and Ted Kennedy.

The next morning I met a friend from grad school for an early breakfast at Volunteer Park Cafe at 17th and Galer. Totally unbeknownst to me I had to walk right by Dan Savage's house (the writer who lives in Seattle) in order to get to where I was going.



This required me to walk through the Capitol Hill neighborhood, one of the most architechtually interesting places I've ever been.

After breakfast, we loaded up a picnic and headed to the beach. Now its not a swimming beach but people just kind of hang around on the rocky sand and do stuff. At this point I've just accepted that every time I open my eyes I will see a stunning incredible view of Seattle but here are some pictures to show you:




We also saw the most rediculous hipster that has ever burned my eyeballs. He was fishing in a 1920s style onesie bathing suit. The suit was bright red stripe with a green butt flap and fanny pack. It was an incredible specimen and blew the Brooklyn hipsters out of the water. Pick it up Brooklyn!

I'm not sure what we did for the remainder of the afternoon but I can assure you it probably consisted of hanging out, having interesting conversations and just generally basking in the warmth of our friendships.

I believe it was that evening when we went to Poppy, a relatively new restaurant on Broadway and Roy. Here's their website They set up a series of tastes, think little ramikens on a round tray, and you order one of 4 or 5 of the selections. Mine had little pickles, string beans and shallots, a lobster mushroom lasagna, a beet salad, some icky tomatoes, and the best gosh darn thing I've ever tasted (sorry roasted cauliflower soup from Blue Hill) a sweet corn soup with lemon and thyme. It was a perfect blend of sweet and savory with a really smooth consistency. I really wanted to order more of it for dessert. We rolled out of there so happy and stuffed with a couple of new tastes for us to think about.

Out of respect for my marriage I will not post pictures of what we did the next day but it was silly and rediculous. Malory suggested that we head out to a 13th Century village living museum complete with costumes from her friend Staci. So we pile in the car (with Jonathan dressed half in his version of 13th C clothing and half as a samurai) and don Staci's renaissance/elizabethan/ye olde oldey timey costumes. Malory and I are both in complete head to toe and Peter has thrown on a pirate tunic and large floppy hat complete with giant feather. Staci, the master of this plan, decides she's not going to dress up but throws on a very silly red wig and informs us that this really isn't a festival like we originally thought but just a place where they show you with it is like at that time period. No one but the people who work there will be in costume, including her.



So we get in the car, drive there and wander around in the rain. We have a quick and surprisingly good meal, a few glasses of mead and spiced wine and talk to the "villagers" about their crafts. It wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without the mead or costumes though I have to say I was really happy to get that corset and 20 yards of wet velvet off my body.

To Good Friends We've Lost Along the Way

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Not Too Shabby




An outside shot of the cottage and the view from the front yard

Spidey Sense

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our little cottage


Thursday, September 3, 2009

We Finally Do Something, but Not Really



Yesterday we drove through Moran State Park and up to the top of Mount Constitution. It was rainy with the road haunted by clouds that made me sure that no view waited for us at the top. When we reached the top, we were greeted by a warm and cozy gift shop, a 1933 WPA look out tower and a beautiful misty view of Mt. Baker, the Twin Sisters, and promises that Canada lay to the west even if it was obscured by thick clouds. It was one of the more beautiful vistas I’ve seen (aren’t they all though?). There is a certain generic quality to everything here: pine trees piercing the misty, haunting clouds, jet black water swirling among the intricately shaped islands, dots of white sails making they way through the archeapelago. It reminds me of the Met’s impression gallery where I spent many hours wandering around, shrugging my shoulders and just accepting that through the painters eyes, everything is routinely and uniformly beautiful.

We did just enough hiking for me (and my flipflops) and drove back down though the clouds and intermittent rain. We once again, stopped in Eastsound and drove back home to our books, and dinner of steak, potatoes, and roasted beets and a bottle of Chimay we picked up in town. It continued to rain through the evening though we were treated to a beautiful sunset. Its quite chilly and we bundled up against the cold and as usual, headed to bed around 9.

Wearing a hole in my sweatpants




I’m always a bit embarrassed when I return from this type of vacation and admit to my friends that I did absolutely nothing. In case you are caught in judgment consider that it has been quite chilly (low 60s) and rainy the past two days and even in the best of weather there isn’t a lot to do around here. We could kayak, rent a sail boat, or go whale watching but all of those things sound either cold or guaranteed to make me puke (don’t think I don’t remember those Montauk whale watching ‘be sure to puke through the scupper’ trips as a child”). We could also hike but don’t have the right gear.

To be honest, this part of vacation was designed to do nothing, to sit on the porch or lounge around in bed reading, sitting tea, and refilling the bathtub with more hot water when it cooled too much. It’s been a long time since our last vacation and we need 4 days of sweatpants, noses in books, and lazy all day meals. If I feel adventurous I can just sit up and look at the silly honking burrows, toss the ball to Quincy (who is a terrible partner at fetch since he doesn’t understand “drop it”) or occasionally meander outside to take obsessive photos of the lichens or flowers that grace our front porch.

Each day, around 1, we’ve gotten up and drove to Eastsound, a town of about 20 shops on the other side of the island to grab lunch, pick up some provisions, and download the NY Times to my phone and let Peter check his work email. We are blissfully without cell or internet service.

Lobster Mushroom Crostini

We had grand plans for dinner, a mushroom crostini, large salad, pickled cucumbers, and a nice grass-fed steak that we picked up at the Farmers market in Seattle but it was derailed by these absolutely perfect mushrooms.

I know very little about mushrooms and asked the farmer at the market to recommend his favorite. He had obviously been asked that question before and replied, “What do you like to cook?” I had improvised a mushroom puff pastry before and explained what I was thinking about and he steered me towards these grotesque, bright red lobster mushrooms. They look like giant tumors, only more so and he explained that they weren’t mushrooms but fungi that grew on mushrooms. He also explained that they had a fishy (ugh!) odor and when we sniffed them I recoiled in agreement. He also pulled out a recipe sheet and explained that if we were to buy them we had to buy a small piece of cheese from the guy at the next booth. This type of salesmanship is right up Peter’s ally and I think he shouted ‘Sold” and looked at me expectantly. In a show of good faith, and to make up for my years of proclaiming that I didn’t like avacados, salsa, shrimp, fish, and “sauses”, I bought them and the cheese and hurried my way.

Now that we were locked in a small cabin 20 minutes from the nearest food store I was faced with the fishy parasitic mushrooms. I prepped them, Peter sautéed them, and we devoured every last bite (including the bits I dropped on the grass) while watching the sunset over the mountain, warming ourselves on the rocks and their last bit of daytime heat, and laughing at ourselves.

After the sun finally set, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees and we hustled inside to make out steak. We were so full we skipped the steak and ate just a small salad with bacon, eggs, and the bits of fried garlic generated from the garlic oil that graced the lobster mushrooms.

Lobster Mushroom Crostini

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

½ lb Lobster mushrooms, cleaned and diced
½ a baguette, sliced horizontally, with some of the bread hollowed out
4 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
Enough seastack cheese sliced thin to cover about ½ of the break

Add the pressed garlic and olive oil to a cold pan. Turn the heat on to medium, occasionally stirring to break up the garlic until it turns a dark golden color. Strain the garlic and catch the oil.

Brush the baguette slices with 2 tbs of the garlic oil and toast in the oven until they are golden brown. Wipe out the sauté pan and add the remaining tbs to the pan and heat over medium. Add the diced mushrooms and sauté until soft. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Slice the cheese and lay on the bread, allowing it to melt a bit. Spoon on the mushroom mix.

If I were to make this again I would most likely dice the cheese and mix it thoroughly with the mushrooms to ensure an even mix in each bite. Peter thought there was too much cheese and I thought there was too little.

I’m not sure what Seastack cheese it other than a soft ripened pasteurized cow’s milk. It has an ash layer under its rind. I suspect this would work just as well with a mild goat cheese.

That is All

Peter thinks they sound like donkeys, I think they sound like alien war birds.

Murders of Crows

The rest of the day wasn’t half bad either. We laid around reading until about 10am when we got up and I made some steak and egg sandwiches with the most wonderful toasted brioche rolls I bought at the famers market in Seattle. I contemplated going down to the harbor to rent some kayaks but got seduced by the relaxation.



We did venture into Eastsound where sat on the water and ate a lunch of questionable provenance. I guess this part of the island is known for its crows and we were constantly circled by the ominiously named “murder” of crows through lunch. After lunch we picked up more provisions (there is nothing on our harbor) and took the long route home over Crow Valley Road. The island has obvious agrigrarian roots and much of the interior valley land is still employed. There are sheep, goats, and horses all over the place and it feels primordial like Muir Woods.

We got back, took a nap, and have been sitting out on our little front deck drinking wine and reading for a few hours. I tried to sneak up on the donkeys to scare them into braying but had no luck. I’m not sure whether the owner wants us over there but I’m certain he doesn’t want anyone harassing the donkeys, especially the one that’s wound too tight.

Day Two- F$%king Donkeys



Day two started off with a starling reminder as to why chickens and sleeping late don’t go together. The rooster started at 5:30. Luckily I went to bed around 9pm and was ready to get back to reading in a vain attempt to go back to sleep. While the chickens roused me from my sleep, it was the booming otherworldly bray of the resident burrows that scared the shit out of me and shocked my system full of adrelenin. I’ve heard donkeys bray, it’s a funny, odd sound. But this was the noise that sound editors choose when they want to convey a creature so terrifying that it would make you pop your cyanided pill. (Not sure if you saw “Contact” but there is a scene where they give Jodie Foster’s character a cyanide capsule for those terrifying alien torture methods us earthlings can’t imagine”. And by the way, those terrifying aliens would sound like these burrows. One makes a sort of sad squeaky bed spring noise but the other is a deafening resonating honk with slo-mo, high pitched squeeking and squeeling.



I should also note that the one that makes the horrible noise is kind of a jerk, kicks the other one and is a hunchback. Their life is pretty boring, they stand around and eat grass with the occasional human, dog, fox or snake to bray at. My guess, the quiet one has normal donkey intelligence and the jerky has superdonkey intelligence, and his cry is a reaction to his sad life as a hunchback donkey.


Once we acclimated to the noise, I got out of bed, made some coffee and sat outside to watch the sun rise. The owner was out working (feeding the fucking donkeys) and let Quincy out. Quincy and I bonded yesterday and he immediately curled up around my bare feet, let out the most content doggy sigh, and watched the sky color with the morning.

Day One - not edited for grammar





Day 1 did not start out well. We managed to get ourselves to the airport by 5:30am only to find that Peter had an assigned seat but that I did not. As a seasoned (but usually lucky) traveler, I knew that this was trouble and in my early morning stupor I predicted that this would ruin our vacation. We had some really bad luck on our last vacation and once we hit this little hiccup, I was sure our bad luck would be revisited.

But the good luck held and I was assigned a seat about 2 minutes before boarding was to start. The flight was unexciting, though I did enjoy a rewatch of Star Trek, and we disembarked in Seattle. Once we got our sattelite navigation system (which took a few laps around the airport to kick in), we were on our way to a quick luck with Jon and Mallory.

I choose Seattle because I had never been here but actually more because I wanted to spend time with Jon and Mallory. They are actually Peter’s friends but I just adore them. We stayed with them in Paris a few years ago and adding them to our vacation was just about as much of a guarantee that one could ask for.

I wasn’t until we arrived at their house and were seated at their table that I finally believed that this vacation was going to happen. See my last vacation, 4 days in Spain with Abby, was cancelled by work and I guess I’ve gotten a bit gun shy about taking time off.

Anywho, lunch was great, a quick homemade pasta sauce with Italian sausage faux tofu and beers for the non-drivers. Jon suggested we pick up some supplies at the farmers market and I knew that I was in heaven. We picked up the usual suspects of veggies, greens, and berries with a flank steak, some heavely bread, cheese, and a lobster mushroom. Jon and I discussed the Seattle style of farmers market chic (a large handled basket) vs Brooklyn style graphic bags as I emptied my wallet and filled my bags.

We said goodbye (for now) to Seattle and made our way up Route 5 to Anacortes ferry terminal. Our ferry was 2 hours late so we had some time to kill. At first blush the ferry terminal is quaint but after about 10 minutes the shine is off the apple and it is quite obviously the Port Authority Bus Terminal of ferry terminals. It functional, outdated, and would be described as “quaint and charming” by a real estate listing. But the locals obviously knew how to enjoy themselves and pulled out folding chairs, blankets, beers and sandwiches and picnicked on the strips of grass and asphalt overlooking the Sound.

To amuse ourselves (since we didn’t have anything but raw meat and produce and a Volvo) we wandered into the little café and some bad sandwiches and enjoyed, in my opinion, two of the best mini cookies I have ever eaten.

The ferry ride was smooth and as Peter enjoyed his hard earned beer, I wandered the decks trying to stay out of the biting wind and get some pictures. This is exactly what I imagined it to look like, craggy islands spiked with pine trees, sail boats cutting across the water, and a few dramatic, snow capped peaks reminding me that it had been a wise choice not to bring anything sturdier than a running shoe. I’ll just say this and be clear, I really don’t like hiking uphill or actually doing anything uphill so just having running shoes means that I can’t get talked into hiking and that, to me, is a wise strategic choice.

The ferry takes about an hour and dropped us off in Orcas, which is a ferry terminal, small shop, and that’s about it. The drive to our cottage took us along the water, winding through small farmsteads, and through a few tiny marinas. This place isn’t remote or rural, its just very sparsly populated. We had lost cell service about 30 minutes into the ferry ride but Peter kept announcing the magical appearance and reappearance of the 3G network, which wouldn’t connect him with his email but would let him make a few phone calls.

After driving by our cottage a few times (hey look at those tourists in that giant white Volvo) we pulled in to discover a sincerely charming cottage on about 5 acres with a few other buildings, a view of the water, and a house dog (available for petting and catch whenever I have the time) name Quincy. I’m sure there will be many many pictures of Quincy.

I also noted that there were chickens. I actually squealed “Chickens” and Peter, being the one with a keener sense of how these things play out, sneared “chickens” and I think “you just wait”. That’s for day 2 though.

We got back in the car and headed to Eastsound, a town of about 10 shops all of which were charming, quaint, and overpriced and managed to grab a few essentials like olive oil, beer, and wine. My friend, who stayed her a few weeks ago told me that there were provisions on the island but I’m here to tell you, they are meager though their wine selection was plentiful and beer selection generously tilted towards local beers.

We finished the evening with a giant salad on our little deck, a glass of wine, and an early bedtime after a long day of traveling.

Just in case you think this is all a fairy tale, let me remind you of the chickens and, as an added bonus, randy burrows who seem to honk and bray in an attempt to tell the rooster “hey, its 5:30am give us a break”.