Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cooking With Jayne

I never learned how to cook when I was growing up. I wanted to learn, but my Mom shooed me out of the kitchen every time I asked to help. Mamaw, my paternal grandmother, would let me mix things if I asked, but it didn't really teach me anything about cooking. There was no Internet - for me, anyway - and I didn't dare just start messing around in the kitchen, for fear of setting the house on fire.

At university, I could make mac and cheese, or frozen pizza, or a bowl of cereal. Otherwise, I ate out at a school cafeteria (or, if I was really lucky, Taco Bell!). It wasn't so bad - I lost 25 pounds my freshman year, mostly because I was getting exercise for the first time in my life (walking up and down the highest point in central Kentucky 2 - 4 times a day) and because I couldn't afford to eat more than one real meal a day. After university, living on my own, I made anything out of a box that had explicit directions on the box and didn't require anything more than pouring one thing into another thing and cooking it on a burner for a few minutes (and I still managed to screw it up half the time) - or spaghetti. 

The first thing I ever really cooked was a turkey for a Thanksgiving with friends. I have no idea why I decided to do it, but I did, and the directions on the package, and the Internet, were explicit: it came out perfect, and I made a turkey almost every year after that, even if it was just me. Given how easy I discovered Stove Top stuffing was to make, and how much I love it, I was content to eat turkey and stuffing for a week.

In my late 20s, I complained in a rare phone call with my mother about my lack of cooking skills, noting that I have no idea what it really means to even sauté something, how I don't know how to buy fish, let alone cook it, and on and on. She said I should buy Betty Crocker's Cookbook. She ended up buying it for me for Christmas or my birthday (probably for both, since they are just three weeks apart). And she was right: it was the perfect book to use to learn to cook. At 30, I moved to Austin and it became my cooking bible. It still is - I use it not only for meal ideas, but also with other cookbooks, when those others don't provide enough detail on how to prepare something (for instance, when the direction is "roast the such-and-such before mixing", I had no idea what they meant by "roasting").

I didn't get a microwave until I was in my 30s - another gift from my Mom. And I rarely used it. I used it for popcorn, for the most part. I think I was afraid if I started using the microwave to cook, I'd never stop - and never learn to really cook. 

While I was in Austin, I got the best cooking advice ever while having lunch with a woman I was woo'ing to give my project money; in her spare time, she taught cooking classes, and her favorite was a class that catered to divorced and widowed men. I told her I had no idea what to cook, that I looked at recipes and they just seemed completely overwhelming. We were eating at one of my favorite restaurants, Mother's -- which is also one of only two vegetarian restaurants I've ever liked -- and she pointed to my plate and said, "You like to eat. Start with just two things you like to eat together, and make that. Keep it simple." And she was right: you don't need to make a five course dinner - a two course dinner can be just dandy if it's prepared well.

Once I figured out how easy it was to steam veggies, I steamed my favorite vegetables two or three times a week. The microwave started getting used more - for re-heating leftovers, which I always had, cooking for one. 

In Germany, I was introduced by the man that became my husband to Maggi, a German brand of dried spices that you combine with cream and pour over meat, potatoes or noodles. Maggi is to German cooking as Campbell's cream-of-whatever soups are to Southern and Midwestern working class cooking: fantastic short-cuts to more-than-decent meals. I realize that last sentence makes the heads of foodies explode, but there it is. Throw in some green beans and or onions and or mushrooms during the baking process and it's even better.  

I definitely prefer baking meat and steaming veggies - or throwing everything into a crock pot - than any other form of cooking. It wasn't until 2004 that I learned how to cook brown rice properly (thank you, Internet), and I still get any kind of rice correctly made only about 50% of the time. Frying is too hard. I have yet to fry anything properly and have pretty much given up on it. I also can't fry fish - I have messed it up three times now, so I bake it, period. I can sauté meat and veggies in a sauce, but almost always end up over-cooking one or the other. I leave the grilling to Stefan, though I torment him with new ideas and food he doesn't like ("Here, honey, grill this egg plant for me.") Even with my various cookbooks, I couldn't cook at all without the Internet - I often have my laptop in the kitchen while I cook, for easier referral.

I don't cook at all like my mother or grandparents, except when it comes to a Sunday roast. I don't know how to fry chicken (and my husband doesn't like such anyway - he doesn't like anything still on the bone - but he does really like Shake and Bake!) and I don't know how to cook chicken and dumplings (he doesn't like that either, actually). I use various herbs and spices when I cook, something my mother or grandmothers never do, as they flavor everything with pork or other meat (and I don't eat pork). I love things in a cream sauce, something I never grew up with. I love trying to cook Asian food, and my resolution for 2013 is to try to cook some Middle Eastern food. Unlike when I was growing up, I don't have meat at every meal - and as a result, meat has become a more special event than it was when I was growing up, helping with my budget and health, and also making me really enjoy a meal with meat more than I ever did before.

Another thing that has helped me become a better cook has been cooking while camping. We camp while motorcycle touring, and cook via a one-burner back packing stove that has two settings: high and off. Being able to cook on that has made me a far better cook at home. It's super easy to sauté veggies - yes, we eat veggies while camping. I don't at all understand why people buy those crap MRTE (meals ready to eat) at REI or Bass Pro Shops or wherever for camping. Instead, just buy some Farm House flavored rice or pasta, particularly the ones that don't need milk (although, if you have a cooler bag, you're all set to have some milk), take some oil to substitute for the butter, and you can buy the ones that are in a cream sauce as well. Buy a can of tomatoes or green beans at a gas station convenience store when you stop for gas and throw that in there as well. Or buy the fried chicken breast at the same gas station convenience store, take off the skin (and, if you're me, eat it while you cook), take the meat off the bone, cut it up and throw that in there as well. Learning just how easy it is to have a good meal while camping - not that we don't still sometimes just buy a couple of cans of ravioli - has made me a much better cook at home.

What I still don't know how to do: to easily cook any kind of burrito or enchilada. I can cook those things, and they are really good, if I do say so myself, but they are sooooooo complicated - I really don't like using four pans to cook something, but I can't seem to find any other way to do it. I also don't know how to cook a really great homemade pizza. What I make I like okay, but it's not anything I crave - I cook it more as part of an ongoing quest to try and try again.

I'm not a great cook. I think Anthony Bourdain or Gordon Ramsay would run screaming from my house if they were served a meal here. I get it wrong - a lot. But at 46, I can, at last, walk to cabinet and the fridge, and pull together a meal that has at least three food groups in it and that's more than edible. And that's a huge accomplishment.

Also see:

Jayne's crockpot pumpkin soup

Crockpot garlic veggies - something missing?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Evolve or become irrelevant

A followup to my blog the day after the election, will the GOP wake up now?, where I noted how extreme Republicans have become, so much so that people like Dick Lugar aren't welcomed in it anymore:

There are so many topics that I cannot understand for the life of me why they have been branded left-wing. All of the following should never have become politicized in the sense of one party saying such is "good" and the other saying such are "evil socialist plots." These are the kind of topics that everyone except the most extremist among us should be supporting, in principle (I understand approaches can vary):
  • science 
  • fossils 
  • bicycling 
  • solar power 
  • the right to choose an abortion OR to carry a pregnancy to term without the government interfering in either of those choices 
  • birth control use and access
  • public school funding and the vital importance of quality public education
  • public university funding
  • wanting clean air and water for *everyone*
  • growing food in your yard
  • climate change is happening and is exacerbated by human activities
  • access to affordable, basic health care, particularly preventive care
  • Pell grants
  • equal pay for equal work
  • consenting adults having sex
  • adults forming families
  • social security
I get why various aspects of foreign policy, labor relations, trade, how to structure social security and taxation are politicized, I do. But the aforementioned? I don't get it at all. Being against those things is... well, it's ridiculous. Really, it goes against what the GOP says it's about. How can you be the party that is against government interference, but want the government to decide when a woman should or should not carry a pregnancy to term? Or want the government decide which adults may, and may not, get married and form families? How can you be the party of personal responsibility but think access to affordable, basic health care, particularly preventive care is socialism? How can you be the party of business and innovation and be against SCIENCE?!?

Ben Stein was on CBS This Morning last Sunday, was doubling down on the Republican Party stance, saying it's just that the Republicans need to do a better job of selling their "values" to Latinos, blacks and women in order to get back in power. You would think the extremists in his party calling him too "moderate" would have gotten his attention, but, apparently, he still doesn't get it. So let me try:

Dude, you are never, ever going to convince women that they should allow the government to limit their access to birth control or abortion. Never. You are never going to convince women that the government shouldn't be working to ensure equal pay for equal work. Never. You are never going to convince women to support a party where your rock stars call them "sluts." Never. You are never going to convince most 20 and 30 somethings that they should stop caring about the environment, stop supporting gay marriage and stop taking Pell grants. Ever. You are never going to get back into the White House if you stay so freakin' anti-science, denying the age and origin of fossils, plate tectonics, and evolutionary biology - and saying things like "legitimate rape" doesn't cause pregnancy, or that pregnancy resulting from rape is actually a "gift from God."

I dig your rhetoric about personal responsibility and working hard in order to get wealth - but when I see massive tax breaks for extremely rich people and companies that are making record-breaking profits, when I see CEOs getting payoffs for leaving a company while the pensions of the rank and file are called "excessive", when I see that the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in the USA is health care costs, it's really hard for me - and millions of other voters - to take your rhetoric seriously. You need to be walking your talk. 

Republicans, you can be conservative without being stupid. Read up on Eisenhower, at the very least. Try some Barry Goldwater as well.  

Moderate Republicans - you have just got to be out there, surely. Take your party back! Talk about how you do support science, you do not believe that President Obama is a Muslim nor a socialist, you believe the government should stay out of bedrooms and women's medical decisions, and you want to see public schools succeed - and then offer fiscally-conservative ideas about taxation and conservative ideas about foreign policy (which would lead to LESS wars, not more of them).   

Also see white guy Eric Garland's excellent letter-to-a-future-republican-strategist-regarding-white-people.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jayne's Crockpot Pumpkin Soup


2-3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled and diced
2 cups fresh pumpkin  (the smaller the pumpkin, the better the taste)
1 tablespoon sage leaf
2 celery sticks, diced
3 cups chicken stock
salt & freshly ground black pepper

up to 1 cup cream (I think just 1/2 is really all you need if you want to use cream at all)
2 teaspoon thyme
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoons minced garlic


Scrub whole pumpkin under water, removing all dirt.  

Cut up the whole pumpkin into pieces that will fit into your steamer pot. Using a spoon or an ice-cream scooper, take out all the seeds and stringy insides. Separate seeds for roasting later.

Rinse pumpkin pieces under running water, and then place into your steamer pot.

Steam pumpkin pieces for 20-25 minutes.

Remove pieces and let them cool for 10 minutes (otherwise, you will burn yourself). Remove skin, or, scoop out softened pumpkin innards (these should scoop out very, very easily after steaming). Puree.  Empty into a large bowl. Use 1 cup of chicken broth to rinse out residue from blender and pour into same bowl. Put aside.

Dice and steam carrots, celery and apple together, about 15 minutes. Puree together. Add to bowl with pumpkin. Use 1 cup of chicken broth to rinse out residue from blender and pour into same bowl or crock pot.

Melt butter and saute onion together, about 8 minutes. Puree. Use 1 cup of chicken broth to rinse out residue from blender and pour into same bowl or crock pot. 

Pour all ingredients, including herbs, but NOT the cream, into the crock pot. Stir. Cook on high for two hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Pour in cream, change temp to low, cook for one more hour.

Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Divide soup among 4 soup bowls and serve immediately.

Kinda based on this non-crock pot recipe and many others.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Will the GOP Wake Up Now?

It's hard to believe that, back in the 1990s, when I was volunteering with the California Abortion Rights Action League, that we used to talk about supporting Pro-Choice Republican candidates. It's hard to believe because, now, they don't seem to exist.

In 1992, I was preparing to vote for my first Republican ever: Tom Campbell, who was running for Senate. I decided that it was more important to put a Pro-Choice Republican in the Senate than it was to vote for my party, because I was seeing a disturbing new trend in the GOP, one I wanted to nip in the bud. I thought he would represent California well on other issues too, and be a darn fine Senator. But I never got to vote for Campbell, because instead, the GOP chose extremist Bruce Herschensohn - and so, when the election came around, myself and many others voted for Barbara Boxer, who remains in the Senate to this day.

As I posted to Facebook last night, when the GOP leadership decided John Huntsman, Orrin Hatch, Ben Stein, Christie Todd Whitman, Dick Lugar and the like were all too "left wing" or "cooperative," they doomed the Republican party to failure. Don't get me wrong: I've had some choice words for Ben Stein when he comes on TV, especially when he says things like that people who are unemployed just aren't trying hard enough. But I respect his economic expertise, and the others have been statesmen and Americans before they've been Republicans, and I have really, really liked that.

I actually WANT a viable second, even third party - I might not ever vote for such, but I know such would make Democratic proposals better, and would introduce ideas that would give the American people even more options for success. Our country needs a diversity of ideas!

But, instead, the GOP is the anti-women party, the everyone-that-disagrees-with-me-is-a-socialist party. Instead of focusing on proposals that would improve our education system, the GOP works to defund it and calls the teacher's union a terrorist organization. Instead of focusing on jobs, they work to keep women from having access to contraception and gay people from forming legal families. Instead of saying, "Here's some proposals to make health care reform better," they say, "Let's dump it!"

David Horsey in The Los Angeles Times nails it in this commentary today:

A pragmatic fiscal conservative with an enlightened view of immigration and a tolerant attitude on social issues could do quite well... All the obstructionism and all the weird rhetoric about rape and birth control and birth certificates ultimately hurt the Republican cause. 

Wake up, GOP. Dump the rhetoric of fear and hate. Stop being the party that is against science. Stop being the party against infrastructure. Stop being the party of anti-government paranoia. Stop being the party against women. Stop being the party that believes the more wealthy people are at the top of the economic scale, the better off everyone is. Stop trying to take away women's access to birth control.

Right now, there is NO welcome mat in the GOP for single women, college-educated people, gay people, Atheists, people who aren't white, people under 40... as said, "Obama was reelected by a coalition representing what the United States is becoming." And you are ignoring many of the people that make up that coalition. You are marginalizing yourselves. You are making yourselves irrelevant. 

You are the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Act like it, and a future election could be yours.

Update: Meghan McCain @McCainBlogette just tweeted: "Keep calling people like me RINO's and see how many elections we keep winning.” She said in less than 140 characters what I tried to say in my blog. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Donate cash NOT "stuff" following Sandy

I hear that a certain GOP candidate that touts himself as a management expert is holding a rally where people are supposed to "donate items" to disaster relief for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

As any person who actually works in disaster relief will tell you, this is a BAD idea: people tend to donate broken, torn or unusable items, it takes a great deal of time and effort to go through all the donated items to find what is actually usable, it takes a lot of time and money to store and transport the items, and it's extremely difficult to distribute the items to people who might need them - especially as many people are displaced and are hard to find, never mind how hard it is for them to have any way to store such items. Often, all of the items end up being thrown away.

I would expect any person that wants to be PRESIDENT would know that it's money that's needed most, so that relief agencies can purchase and transport what's needed MOST.

Here is more about the realities of donating things instead of cash (and why it's a bad idea regarding disaster response). 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Portlandia is real

Five of us schlepped up from Canby to have dinner in Portland - specifically, to Tanuki, a restaurant on Stark Street that had gotten a glowing review in Portland Monthly for its Korean and Japanese cuisine. We were excited to get out of rural Oregon and have supper in the "big city." 

The outside of Tanuki is a lot of "NO" signs - "No Sushi" and "No Children" and "No Minors." As someone who is not at all fond of children in restaurants, you would think I would have been happy at at least 2 of those 3 signs. But all those signs made Tanuki look like HOUSE OF NO.

We stepped inside, to a quite dark, stark, unattractive interior, with about 1/3 of the chairs empty. A woman slowly walked up to us, looked us over and up and down, and sniffed,

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, there's five of youuuuuuu..."

She turned to glance behind her and then back to us, saying in that oh-so-Portland nasal style of disenchantment,

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, I don't have seating for five."

Long pause.

A member of our party said, "Well, what about this big empty area here. Couldn't we eat here?"

The server slowly glanced over at the completely empty area at the front of the restaurant - a couch and chair surrounding a small table.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, we don't really allow eating in the waiting area."

The waiting area? Isn't this place where we're STANDING, and WAITING, the waiting area?

Another member of our party said, "Um... what about moving that table there with that table there?"

The server turned a bit in the direction of the tables, then back to us.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, I don't think so. We're really not supposed to move those particular tables."

Long pause.

Another member of our party tried.

"Well, that table there seats four. We could just pull another chair up to it."

The server turned a bit as though to see where she was pointing, but never really did, and then pivoted back to us.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, the chef wouldn't allow that."

Long pause.

The server spoke at last.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, see those people there, they juuuuuuust came in and sat down, like, 5 minutes ago? If they hadn't, maybe I could have pushed that table with that table? But since they are in that place, I can't. So, like, the wait for yoooooou is going to be about an hour."

We all continued just to stand there. Were we really getting refused service at a restaurant because they didn't have room for us? The place had empty chairs everywhere!

Then I checked out the other diners - all young, mostly in black, except for a few guys in the requisite bowling shirt and hipster hat. Was this actually a we-don't-serve-middle-aged-suburbanites thing?

I spoke at last. "Um, we drove all the way up from Canby. It's a really long drive. We came to Portland specifically for this restaurant."

The server sighed.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, I'll talk to the chef."

She disappeared and, after several minutes, another woman emerged. Same disenchanted look and tone.

"Yeah, we just really can't seat five people. All of our literature clearly states that we do not seat large parties."

And I had had enough.

"Hey, I think it's time to go. Let's go to a restaurant that would actually like us to be there. This clearly isn't it."

We walked back out to the rainy Portland night (is there any other kind?), and started to laugh. It was the quintessential Portland experience. It's so representative of what it's like EVERY time I go into that city. How could we not laugh? We'd just been in an episode of Portlandia.

Later, at the delightful Ya Hala, a friendly, well-lit Lebanese restaurant just a few doors down that serves AWESOME food - and has enough lighting for you to actually see the food, a member of our party pulled out a flyer for Tanuki, and started reading over its long list of rules. No where on the "literature" did it say they didn't serve large parties, but at the bottom of one side, it did say a hefty gratuity is automatically "added to parties of five or more." That just made us laugh that much harder.

So we're now calling Tanuki "Snooty's on Stark." The name so fits.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's a basic right, not a "special" one

I have a friend I'm going to call Carl. He has made me laugh a million times. He has a story about meeting Diana Ross that I could hear 100 times and never get tired of. When we worked together back in the 1990s, I couldn't wait to get to the office every day because I loved working with him so much.

Carl has a long list of health problems, and I've no doubt he would be dead from such were it not for his being covered by the healthcare plan of his partner, whom I'll call Joe. It is only because Joe works for a company that allows domestic partners to be covered under the company's health insurance that Carl has the medical treatment he desperately needs.

No matter how many legal documents Carl and Joe might have drawn up by a lawyer, any hospital can prevent Joe from visiting Carl if he's hospitalized - and Mitt Romney wants to make sure that right is protected. And, Zeus forbid it, if Carl were to die, any funeral home could prevent Joe from making any arrangements regarding the service or Carl's final resting place, per the wishes of Carl's sibling, his closest blood relative and with whom Carl doesn't speak to for months at a time. Mitt Romney wants to make sure that practice stands as well.

If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are telling my friend Carl and millions like him: tough luck if you die. I love the health benefits I can give to/get from my committed partner, but I do NOT want you to have the same.

It doesn't matter how many legal documents this couple draws up - this couple that's been together longer than many of the straight married people I've known - because, as their union, their family, does not have to be legally recognized by the government.

It's happened in Florida. It's happened in Nevada. And while the spouse of every astronaut that dies receives benefits to take care of her for the rest of her life, the long-time partner of astronaut Sally Ride will not. It's happening all over the USA.  

If you are against gay marriage, you never have to attend a gay wedding. You can choose a community of faith (church, mosque, temple, whatever) that will never host a gay marriage (there are also still churches that refuse to marry what they consider an interracial couple, or people from different religions - take your pick!). You can refuse to invite any gay couple to your pool party. You can refuse to call someone a wife or husband. You get to keep all those rights.

But if you are voting for Mitt Romney, then you are denying basic human rights to millions of Americans that you yourself get to enjoy. Don't you DARE say to any of your gay friends, "Hey, it's nothing personal." It's absolutely personal. You can't participate in the denial of a person's basic civil rights and make it all better with a smile. You need to own what you are doing, completely, utterly, instead of being a coward and trying to sugar-coat your bigotry. You should post to your Facebook status update:

I don't want gay people to be able to visit their partners in the hospital, nor to allow a gay person to be covered under his or her partner's health care plan, nor to allow gay partners to receive the kinds of benefits a straight widow or widower would receive. I want you, a gay person, to sit alone while your partner's estranged family gets to make all funeral arrangements and take away his or her belongings. That's what denying gay marriage means, and I fully embrace and own that meaning.

Another friend of mine posted this to his status update today, and it's what inspired my own blog now:

If you plan on voting for Romney, then - in essence – you are voting against my civil rights as a person. There is no cherry picking around this. You can’t get just get one small slice of the Romney/Ryan pie – you must eat – Every. Last. Crumb. Of. It. 

I own my beliefs. I dare you to do the same.

Also see: Please De-Friend Me.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

House hunting

We moved to Oregon in September 2009. We've now been here three years. As you all know, moving back to the USA hasn't worked out quite the way we had planned. In addition to my not being able to find a full-time, permanent job, we've had a lot of difficulty finding a place to call "home." And Portland hasn't at all lived up to its hype, which has been quite disappointing.

We know Oregon better than most Oregonians, thanks to our explorations by motorcycle. And while Portland has left us disappointed, Oregon has grown on us. We like it. We have even found towns in Oregon where we would be happy to live, were we able to find jobs there: Silverton, Salem, Corvalis, Bend, Ashland, Oregon City, Newberg, Troutdale, West Lynn... but none so much that we're wanting and willing to move there without jobs, and hope something happens.

Stefan has a job now at the Beaverton-Portland border. It's a good job. It's a job where he'd like to stay for a few years. And everything is telling us that it would make sound financial sense to buy a house now. All of those Oregon towns I've mentioned are too far too commute for Stefan's job -- including the town where we live now, in Canby -- so we have been trying to find a community nearer to his work where we'd want to buy a house - a home. To invest in.

We've zeroed in on Forest Grove, Oregon. It's still far from Portland, but it's closer than where we live now - Canby - and unlike where we live now, the local fire department in Forest Grove really does want volunteer firefighters (do NOT be fooled by the sign outside of the Canby fire station - volunteers might be needed, but not wanted!). Also unlike Canby, Forest Grove has a gorgeous historic downtown neighborhood, and a downtown of businesses that don't all close at 7 p.m. There's a college there - Pacific University, which began as a United Church of Christ institution (and while it's not anymore, any thing that has it's roots in the UCC can't be bad - said the Atheist) - and I always have a preference for college towns, as long as I don't live next to a party house. It also has more regular mass transit service to Portland - we're *really* like to stay a one-car family. 

We've looked at around 30 houses in Forest Grove. 30! And it's so... disappointing. Not that we haven't seen lovely houses, not that our real estate agent isn't trying to help us and being super patient and laughing at all my jokes. But every house has a deal-breaker:
  • the cheap or affordable house would require at least $50,000 of work just to move in, and then lots more work to make it where we want to live
  • it would take too long to be move-in ready after we bought it (we can budget renting our current place two months into owning a home - that's it)
  • it has no space to add a garage if it doesn't have one already
  • the driveway has a 25% grade (been there, done that, never doing it again)
  • it's too small, and would take too long to build on to/expand
  • the expensive house needs at least another $50,000 worth of work 
  • it's three stories and I'd have to go up and down those steps three or four times EVERY day
  • it's too far from downtown (we want to be able to walk or ride bikes to downtown)
  • the house is heated by heating oil, and we're not sure it wouldn't be crazy expensive and complicated to upgrade it to gas - and there's a pool, and how expensive would that be to maintain?! And it's got a weird layout...
  • the back yard would have no privacy or peace because two story houses look down on it or the neighbor's house - with several children - is right up against it (we live that now - no thanks)
  • it has no yard - we want a space for me to garden, for us to play cornhole, and for Stefan's weekend night fire
  • the neighbors scare us
  • there's no place downstairs for me to have an office (and for Albi, or future dogs, to sleep comfortably in the night, feeling like it was truly her/their space)
And then there's the couple of houses that don't have any of these problems - but, for some reason, we're just not that into them - neither of us look at it and see "home." Neither of us want to marry it. I'd be willing to buy a house that Stefan wanted to marry, and I think he'd be willing to do the same for me. But neither of us have had that moment of "I want to marry this house!" without one of those deal-breakers being present.

And... there's really no point to this blog other than to say that, wow, this is really hard, and I'm getting depressed over this process.

I will say that cheap, well-built houses near downtown are on the market for just a few days now - there's no question the economy is getting better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Crockpot garlic veggies - something missing?

I'm trying to find a vegetarian recipe that Stefan likes - not just tolerates, because I've worked on it, but wants to eat. He doesn't have to love it - I just want to hear, "Yeah, that's good" when he finishes, and he'll like it enough to get seconds.

He claims that he can be satisfied with a meatless meal - even though he never has been satisfied with a meatless meal. He'll eat them, but no matter what the meal is, he will say, "Something missing." I'll respond, Meat? He'll assure me that it's not meat, but it is something

Here was my latest attempt to create a really hearty vegetarian meal. I based it on a chicken dish I make that is my current signature dish. I thought I had hit it out of the ballpark - it's the best vegetarian dish I have EVER prepared, and I couldn't get enough of it. I thought it was absolutely delicious. I thought I'd finally made that meatless meal Stefan would like. 

But Stefan again said, "Something's missing." And he ate just one, modest serving.

Crockpot garlic veggies, to be served over rice or noodles
Feeds 4-6 people

Ingredients:2 yellow squash, sliced
1 can green beans
1-2 onions (to taste), sliced or cut in rings
2 yellow or red peppers, sliced or cut in rings
200 g sliced mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1 cup dry white wine
2 can tomatoes in juice
1 tbsp olive oil 

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
1/2 cup sliced pitted black olives  
1/2 cup sliced pitted green olives  
Finely chopped Italian flat-leafed parsley
1-2 bay leafs

Optional pre-cooking
Stir fry onions on medium, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, peppercorns, wine and cook about 1 minute. Put aside.

Arrange all veggies and mushrooms over bottom of slow cooker and cover with everything else (or sauce you've pre-cooked). Cover crackpot and cook on low for 7 hours or on high for 3 hours. Discard bay leaf.

Serve over rice or noodles
Feeds 4-6 people

Note: May not be salty enough for everyone's tastes. Encourage guests to salt to taste. 

So, other than maybe substituting chicken or beef bouillon - which will mean it's no longer vegetarian, but it's close - what could I do to make a meat love like this, without actually adding meat? BTW, he does not like egg plant. 

October 3 update:
Stefan says adding hot sauce made it much better, in his opinion. But he still isn't crazy about it (he'll eat it, but not ask for seconds). 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

two-week motorcycle trip in CA, NV & OR

We traveled down through Oregon, down through Northern California, over and up through Nevada, back into Oregon and home during our epic 2446 miles / 3914 km two-week motorcycle journey this month. And this time, I wrote a full, proper travelogue about the trip in detail.

We encountered lots of lava, Wild West buildings, wild turkeys, incredible views, deer, antelope, a whore house, a poker game, a man with an eye patch, desert lobsters, coyotes, a plane landing in the desert, and so much more... and you can read all about it here.

Don't miss the photo of Stefan wearing a cowboy hat at the American Legion! 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Your imaginary world is a scary place

He shuffled into the tiny Fields, Oregon cafe and, after a few minutes at the counter, announced that the USA ambassador in "Lebanon" had been dragged through the streets and executed. He later expressed surprise that we had been near Yosemite because "they closed that park, because of the plague."

Of course, almost all of this is inaccurate: the ambassador had been in Libya, not Lebanon, and was carried through the streets by people trying to save him after he was attacked in the consulate. And Yosemite was never closed - there aren't even camping restrictions.

So, really, should it have been any surprise when he started ranting about President Obama visiting Colorado after the horrific fires, saying that the visit had prevented people from receiving help? Or when he said he wished the President had died in a plane crash because "he apologizes to foreigners"?

People that live in their own fantasy worlds, where their religion is the only "right" one, where the entire world is against them and their "values," where the President is a socialist Kenyan Muslim, where everything Fox News and Rush Limbaugh say is gospel, where their response to a challenge to a statement is, "You know I'm right. That's why you don't want to listen", would be fascinating if they were so freakin' scary. 

I walked out of the restaurant after asking the man to please stop saying he'd like for the President to be killed in a plane crash. The owner and other patrons said nothing. Silence means approval. At least this time, I wasn't thrown out.

Monday, August 27, 2012

White Water Rafting!

We have finally been white water rafting! I'm so embarrassed that I waited this long to do it. We'd seen the Big Sky Rafting blue rafts while motorcycle riding through Mt. Hood National Forest, and I looked them up on the Interwebs and booked an afternoon journey.

We're shooting the rapids!
We wanted something that was challenging - we didn't want to just float - but we didn't want to be so overwhelmed that we didn't enjoy it. We also wanted an experience that was so much fun we would want to go again. We got EXACTLY all of that. We will definitely do this again - maybe even an all day thing!

We didn't know the other people in our boat before the trip - they turned out to be very nice and game for whatever the day was going to bring. The guy to my right (in the ball cap) even jumped off a small cliff at one point (no, I did NOT, no thank you, not for me).

Getting Stefan Dietz to emote is not an easy thing. Big credit to Big Sky Rafting (and the Clackamas River) for getting so many expressions out of him and capturing it on film! 

WHEW!! Action shot!!! Yeah, we got wet. A lot. Long before we actually fell off the boat near the end of the trip, we were pretty much soaked. But we didn't fall out here, in this photo, believe it or not.

The water was not that cold, surprisingly enough, even though I think most of it is snow melt. But it's been warm in Oregon for sooo long - until this weekend, actually - and I think that it took away that really hard chill that mountain water can have.

Not that I didn't get cold - after it was all over and we'd gotten to land and I was standing next to the car in wet clothes, I did finally get really, really cold - and was cold for probably three hours after.

All the photos of us rafting.

That evening - oye, we were SO SORE. We limped around the house like old people. 'Cause we are old people. But the next day, with the help of a couple of Advil, I was fine.

So, if you come visit us any time other than the Winter, we'll take you to do this, or help you book! Because it's awesome!!

More about our travels

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What we've been up to, August 2012 edition

Our first summer in the Pacific Northwest was the tail end of a drought - everything was brown. Last year, the sun didn't come out until the second week of August.

This year, the weather has been awesome! Which makes me feel guilty since the rest of the country is frying...

What we've been up to, in photos and visuals:
Next up - two week trip, mostly in Northern California. I'll be tweeting from the road, which you can follow on Twitter or follow by liking this Facebook page (tweets are automatically posted there; it's *not* my Facebook page but, rather my Facebook "fan" page, just for Twitter postings).

Oh and, yes, I'm still working part-time for TechSoup.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012

(#Motorcycle #travel, #camping in WA 2day)Around mt. Adams. Me on klr, stefan on honda africa twin. Say hi!
(2day practice #motorcycle gravel riding)Stefan said i cooked best camping breakfast ever: fried eggs & turkey bacon & tomatoes.
(fri nite @ moss creek NF campground.)Near willard, WA. Met kayaking kiwis. Did 119 miles. Went round mt. Hood. Great weather.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Eastern Oregon Motorcycle Trip 2012

We took mostly back roads on our motorcycles last weekend, through Redmond, Antelope, Fossil, Condon, Heppner, Ukiah (Oregon) and back. Almost 700 miles. And oh the travel blog I have written.... it features a cult, conspiracy theories, owls, three guys in super cars including one nicknamed Captain Slow, free steak, a rant about those that criticize my boots, and the Google Streetview car! It also includes some awesome photos...

Sorry that the tweets to my blog suddenly stopped Friday - my battery died. It's just two years old. Dang.

Friday, May 18, 2012

(Camping in antelope OR. Owls overhead.)Hope owls eat mice b4 mice eat my new boots. Can't believe cell phone signal here!
(c 2 #motorcycles & tent in Antelope OR?)It's me & @coyotetrips (stefan). This was town bagwan cult took over in 80s. Cafe owner here knows all.
(Saw #googlestreetview car in Madrass OR)Would love 2 have taken a photo but too much traffic to turn around.
(1st 2012 #motorcycle #camping trip! )Lunch in Sweethome, #Oregon. Met people from Swedon.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Motorcycle ride reports 2012 (so far)

Jayne with Mt. Adams
How about some motorcycle ride reports?

Here's all of them for 2012 so far, with links to photos (when we bothered to take such). Nothing too long, since we've yet to take an overnight trip on the bikes.

May 12, 2012, hwys 141 & 142 in Washington State (through Trout Lake)

May 2, 2012, Oregon City (& the challenges of city riding)

May 1, 2012, transition to a dual sport continues

April 29, 2012, Motorcycle Trials!

April 18, 2012, Mt. Hood & WA Hwy 14 

The oh-so-humiliating April 7 "Alley Sweeper" ride - Portland, Oregon 

March 5, 2012, Covered Bridges in Oregon 

February 2012, another benefit of panniers 

February 17, 2012 SUNNY Feb. Oregon ride (to the coast and back)

January 12, 2012 Jan 2012 ride in Oregon 

January 2012 We want to ride 

January 1, 2012 New Year's Day Ride in Oregon

I've ridden almost 2200 miles on my KLR (bought in October last year), and more than 13000 since I started riding motorcycles in 2009!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Civil Rights & Why I'm Annoying

When I was in junior high and high school, I was learning about various historical events for the first time, and I was riveted. I couldn't get to history classes fast enough.

As I read about the events that lead up to the Trail of Tears, the enslavement of Africans in the USA, the Holocaust in Germany, the mass killings under Stalin, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the worker's rights movements between the World Wars, and the various attempts for women's equality since the founding of the USA, I thought: 

well, had I been alive at any of those times, I would have been on the front lines fighting. I would have stood up for the rights of all people. I would have been on the right side of history, even if it meant I would be imprisoned, even killed.

But some time at university, I started to think something else:  

I will never know what I would have done in those times. Maybe I wouldn't have spoken out, out of fear, out of cowardice, even out of prejudice. Maybe I would have thought Oh, it's God's will or There's nothing I could do or It's not my fight or Let things evolve naturally, don't force things on people, just let it be.

I don't think I would have been an active oppressor, but maybe I would have rationalized not participating, the way so many other people did when faced when those moments. 

It's really convenient and easy to stay silent in the face of injustice. Even if you aren't facing death or imprisonment by speaking out, you may be facing tiresome sighs, being hidden or unfriended on Facebook, or called things like un-American, un-Patriotic, or insensitive to religion/culture. You might make people uncomfortable. You might be considered annoying.

But social change doesn't come from gentle, friendly persuasion. It comes from messy, uncomfortable challenges and debate. And it's never, ever easy.

I decided that, while I can't ever know what I would have done had I been alive during a different time in history, that I can't do anything about the past, I can do something about the present. I decided that if I was ever given the opportunity to speak out when I witnessed someone being discriminated against, I was going to take that opportunity, and face the consequences - people have met fire hoses and batons and imprisonment for speaking out, surely I can face some eye-rolling.

And in 20 years, when my nieces say, "Aunt Jayne, back in the old days, did you speak out when gay people couldn't get married in the USA?" I'm going to be able to say, "Yes I did. Yes, I most certainly did."

Monday, April 30, 2012

Albi in Spring

We're nearing the ninth anniversary of our "gotcha" day with Albi, the day we adopted her from a dog / animal shelter in Bonn, Germany. She's more than 15 years old (we mark her birthday at Christmas) and doing amazingly well.

I really don't understand why people are so adverse to adopting mature dogs. Albi was 6 1/2 when we got her, and though there were some rough patches at first, she's been about as low-maintenance of a dog as they come, even now.

Albi went blind a few months ago. But we still walk every morning and every evening. She still sometimes picks up a toy and wants to play for just a few, brief minutes (a very gentle form of tug-o-war). I'm stunned at how easy having a blind dog has been for us. I credit some of that to us being very in tune with what she needs - we know our dog, and that knowledge is paying off now that she needs us to be her seeing-eyed-people.

Her day goes like this: she wakes up anytime between 7 and 9 a.m., though sometimes I have to go back to our bedroom and wake her up. When I hear her in the hallway, I walk back to her and guide her to the back door of our house and then out into the backyard, and then watch her while she empties her bladder and does a bit of exploring. Then I guide her back inside, usually to her water bowl. And from there, I leave her alone - she can wander around well enough to decide what she where she wants to go - which is usually the living room, to sleep for a while more until I'm ready to take her for a morning walk.

Albi's not that interested in other dogs that approach her. She knows all the dogs in the neighborhood from her seeing days, and is her usual, patient/uninterested self around them. She still doesn't tolerate dogs in her house - she snapped at sweet Brandy, the boxer from across the street I dog sat one weekend, when I dared to let her in the house with us. Brandy, being such a sweetie, still greets Albi when we're out and about like it's the greatest thing EVER that she's meeting up with us.

After about half a mile of walking, where I steer her away from stop sign poles and other hazards, we head back home, where Albi is in such a rush to get to the kitchen to eat that she'll bang into everything on the way if I don't hold her back. You know that scene from The Miracle Worker when Annie Sullivan puts the plate of food under Helen's nose and Helen becomes totally focused on such? That's what meal time is like with Albi - very intense, with a nose in the air that shall NOT be denied.

After she finishes her meal, I drop three or four dog treat pieces around the kitchen, and Albi spends a few minutes desperately trying to find them. I know that sounds cruel, but it's actually fabulous mental stimulation for her. She's soooo food focused now, something she's never ever been, and when I'm cooking in the kitchen, she channels Buster and is continually underfoot, trying to find anything that might drop. She's never been this way! The upside is that I no longer have to mix anything in with her dry food, and I don't have to buy her the ultra expensive special order dog food she ate exclusively for so long - she devours each meal regardless of what it is.

During the day, she sleeps in different places in the house. We keep all the bedroom and bathroom doors closed, because she has gotten lost a few times. Sometimes I have to lead her to her day bed here in the living room, because she can't find it. I turn the radio on before I leave to go anywhere - sometimes, it keeps her from knowing I've left, but mostly, I've noticed she really does prefer some noise happening somewhere.

At around 8 p.m., she stands up and... just stands there. It's the take-me-to-bed-now stand. So Stefan or I lead her to her water bowl, swishing the water around so she can hear it, and saying, "Wasser, wasser" (German word for water). And after about 100 laps (not kidding), one of us walks her to our bedroom, to her bed there. And she pretty much sleeps through the night, though sometimes, she wakes up and pants for a bit. If she doesn't do the take-me-to-bed stand, then we go to bed without her, and almost always, I get woken up by the sound of clickity-clack on the floors - she knows her walking will wake me up and I'll come get her.

We've had four bathroom incidents in the last four months - I won't get into details, but all were my fault because I wasn't paying attention well enough during our walks and to the schedule she needs. That's been remedied, and there's been no problems since I started being more mindful.

Yes, we leave her alone for the day. She seems to be just fine with that. We have a motorcycle camping trip planned for May, and it's going to require three visits from a dog sitter each day, rather than two - but the visits will be MUCH shorter, since the walks are so much shorter, and she doesn't have to have her food prepared in any special way anymore. I worry only about the night - I know she likes hearing us and smelling us, and I wonder what that will be like for two nights without us. I'm just glad I have a really great neighbor across the street that I know will check on her each night. 

Soooo glad we don't have stairs....

Monday, March 26, 2012

email from my brother-in-law

I just got an email from my brother-in-law (my sister's husband). He is almost as big a fan of the original Star Wars series as me. I have been bugging him for a while now - when will his daughter, my niece, be introduced to Star Wars?! This has been a major discussion point for me regarding the raising of my nieces. My nephew, the son of my brother, was a Star Wars fan long before he was in double digits (I wasn't, because the movie didn't come out until I was 12).

Here's the email, with my niece's name redacted, and my brother-in-law's name altered, so as to give my sister peace-of-mind:


Big News at the Richard House.

Your niece watched Episode IV with me Saturday. She enjoyed it enough that she wanted to watch it yesterday as well.

While watching, she brought up some questions that I did not know the answer to:
  1. Princess Leia was held in the Death Star, but in the getaway scene she had pretty cheek makeup on. When did she do her makeup?
  2. Who did Princess Leia's pony tail for her at the end?
  3. Who was that big hairy cat walking around? I actually explained this one to her, but the name didn't stick, he was still a cat.
  4. She asked several times throughout the movie if Luke was still sore from getting beat up by the sand people.
  5. How did they clean Artoo up so quickly at the end after being fried in the trench run?

Since this was the first viewing, I catered more towards answering these questions, than actual teaching. I figured I would explain the Han shot first concept and Darth being Luke's father later. I will probably never force her to watch Episode 1, I don't want to subject her to unnecessary Jar Jar pain and suffering.



Sunday, March 25, 2012

March Madness

Ayoibi Handicraft Store 10You may remember that, when I lived in Kabul, Afghanistan, I visited a leather shop and had a purse custom made to my specifications. My office mate went on to form a partnership with the owner and now helps him design and sell gorgeous bags, other leather goods and other handicrafts. By buying from Gundara, you not only get a unique, gorgeous item, you help support local people in Afghanistan. And a big thank you to my friends who have bought items from Gundara already!

If you are in Kabul, the shop is in the plaza across from the India Embassy.

* * *
I want to do this motorcycle trip in Africa to see the work of Riders for Health so badly my heart hurts.

* * *
Han Solo is watching me?Han Solo is watching me... This is what I look like in my home office. Always under the watchful eye of Han Solo. And Agent Mulder (can you see him there? he's there...). And Shrek and Fiona. I'm a geek.

I'm going to buy a toy tiara and start wearing it every day around the house, particularly during video conference calls for work. Because I can.

* * *
Want to make a Kentucky Atheist angry? Show up at my door to proselytize during March Madness. WWJD? Not do that.

Senior Citizen UK FanThis is not one of my grandmothers. But this IS one of the residents of the apartment complex for seniors where they live in Henderson, Kentucky. I try to explain to people that it's just NOT a retirement home in the way you might think a retirement home is, and people don't believe me. Maybe this photo will explain it. It will at least explain what March Madness is like in Kentucky. GO BIG BLUE!!!!

FYI, two players from the greater Portland metropolitan area are on Kentucky's team. I never, ever would have thought of this area as a basketball recruiting ground. They just aren't that into basketball around here. And while football is popular here, you just do not see anywhere near the craziness and devotion to teams the way you do in the South or Midwest.

And on a related note: wonder what Prime Minister Cameron thought of that WKU game that kicked off March Madness... and wonder what he thought of Big Red?

* * *
Check out the VERY scary malware Stefan had on his computer. Note that this attempt to compromise his account happened AFTER he logged in to check his bank account balance! I'm really ticked off that his employer's IT department didn't do any research, just immediately claimed it was the bank that had been compromised, not Stefan's lap top. I did an Internet search and found out the truth. I really do not like doing other people's jobs...

* * *
Don Julio González Estrada, creator and founder of Tequila Don Julio passed away. I will never forget the bottle of Don Julio my friends Sharron and Ron brought us for our wedding, schlepping it all the way from Texas to Germany. Oh how we enjoyed that.... glad the tequila will live on.

* * *
Last week, the cooking expert on Portland local TV just said "Add Qweso."

* * *
This year - last week, in fact -- is the anniversary of the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was published in 1852. I never read it in school or at university - I read I just a few years ago, in fact. And it was nothing at all like I thought it would be.

* * *
Tweet from Will Ferrell / @RealFerrellWill :

I live n a country where a chick that threw flour on Kim Kardashian was arrested on site But the man who KILLED Trayvon Martin is still free

If you know me, you know that I don't like teenagers. I fear them. No matter the color, no matter the gender, hoodie or not. I've had teens - and pre-teens - start saying the most awful things to me for no reason other than I happened to be standing near them or walking by. I've had them grab me - my breasts, my ass - and I've had them do that one-foot-forward-stomp, like they are going to come after me. But when I see a teen in my neighborhood, hoodie or not, I do not freakin' jump in my car and follow him or her! I don't walk behind him/her/them and confront him/her/them; I look out the window and give a very suspicious look ala Gladys Kravitz. If I was really scared or worried, I'd call the police - but I'd stay in my car or my house. Whether or not this was a case of racism, it was most certainly a case of stupidity on the shooter's part, a criminal case of extreme over-reaction - and warranted way, WAY more investigation on the part of the police.

And, for the record, I'm working on trying to not pre-judge teens, despite so many bad experiences with them. I've noticed they become very disarmed when I look them right in the eye and say, in a loud voice, "Good morning!" And most of them have been really, really wonderful when I'm walking a dog or two.

But they still need to stay off my lawn.

* * *
5 of the Top 6 Porn Consuming Red States Have Voted For Rick Santorum. So Santorum voters in the South are both hypocrites and women-haters.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Big Fat User Error

I need to repartition your hard drive" said Rob, at the Apple Store genius bar. "Have you backed up your data?"

"Yes I have!" I said, proudly, full of confidence.

And later, Stefan and I left and ate kimchi quesadillas.

And I had, indeed, backed up all of my data.

Except for email. Which I found out later had not been backed up in 2 years because I hadn't configured all my backups correctly.

So please email me if you are friend or family, so I have your email address.

And send me kimchi quesadillas.

(why did I need to go to the Apple genius bar? Because I tried to upgrade my OS and, long story short, I messed it up. Because I'm a big fat walking user error)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

a question for Joss Whedon

On Twitter, @RoadtripNation asked for questions to ask Joss Whedon at SXSW 2012. I submitted a question, one that I've wanted to ask for oh-so-long. @RoadtripNation then tweeted this. Squeeeeeee!

question to joss whedon

I've always wanted know why he picked Jayne, specifically, as a name, and why he chose to spell it with a y.

Of course, I would rather be in Austin myself to ask it, in-person... and to eat at Magnolia Cafe...

March always makes me homesick for Austin, Texas - SXSW is such a wonderful experience. I love the trade show, I love the music, I love the people, I love the food, I love the vibe... the weather is usually great and, when it's not, you don't care, because you are at SXSW!

Some day, I'm going to have a job and be able to afford to go again... until then, I'll just read tweets tagged SXSW and sigh....

Friday, February 24, 2012


I mocked a friend for always saying she wanted to visit me but, in the 24 years since I left Kentucky, she's only managed to once. She shot back that I've said I wanted to own a house for oh-so-many years - where is my house?

There's a disconnect between what most people say are their priorities, and what their priorities really are. Myself included.

Make a list of what your priorities are - in general, in life, for the future, however you want to frame it. Name just 5 - 10. And then look at your life. Look at how you spend time every day, every week. If you say your family is a priority, how much time have you spent with your family doing something this week - watching TV together NEVER counts, by the way. Don't be surprised if it turns out watching Netflix or playing on Facebook turn out to be the biggest priorities in your life. If you haven't done something every day or every week toward what you say is your priority, it's not really a priority.

My priorities right now are
  • my marriage
  • my dog
  • finding a job
  • making money despite not having a job, so that I can pay part of the family bills, pay into my retirement funds, not further deplete my savings and, most importantly, NOT go into debt
  • NOT touching my retirement funds
  • finding & making the time and money for travel

How I spend my day and weeks proves that those are my priorities. I look back on my day as I lay in bed at night and think about what I've done to contribute to those priorities. Sometimes, I realize I haven't gotten it right, and adjustments must be made. It's an ongoing exercise, truly.

There are your priorities, and then there are the things you dream about doing - but don't make a priority. If I had a dollar for every time I've said or written that I want to lose weight, I'd be a stick. But I never made it a priority. After YEARS of whining about it, I finally made losing weight a priority last year, and in six months, lost 30 pounds. Then I injured my shoulder. No more weight loss - but, hurrah, no weight gain. My shoulder is now well enough for me to work out. Time will tell if I make losing weight a priority again. It's up to me - no one else.

Since the 1990s, I've longed for a house. I have thought about what my front and back porches will look like, what my book shelves will look like, what my rainwater-catching system will look like, what my gardens will look like... but it wasn't a priority for many years. Then, in 1998, a couple of years after turning 30, I tried to make it a priority - and I started with my debt. I made getting rid of my debt a priority. I developed a five year savings plan. I changed how I lived and how I spent. The debt started shrinking. I was on my way. And then, I got a dream job - a job that changed everything. It moved me to Germany. I sold or gave away a lot of my things, put everything else in storage, severely downsized my home life, and lived car-less. And for the first time in my life, I earned a REAL income, in a job with REAL benefits. My debt was gone in a year, and for the next six years, I saved like a maniac, intent on buying a house when I moved back to the USA. I paid to attend graduate school, got my Master's degree, traveled around Europe with my boyfriend, got married, and still was able to save enough money to move back to the USA eventually, have a downpayment on a 15 year mortgage, and pay my expenses for six months while looking for a job. Buying a house was, at last, a real priority! It would happen as soon as I moved back to the USA!

Then two problems came up: I didn't know where I wanted to move in the USA, and work completely dried up. I didn't panic for the first year. I got a little worried the second year, but didn't let it change my priorities. I moved back to the USA with my husband, and still felt confident that we would find a place where we would want to live, we would get jobs, and at long last, I WOULD BUY A HOUSE.

It's three years after moving to the USA - and almost five years that I've been looking for full-time work. My husband did find full-time work once we moved to the USA - that's kept us paying bills and out of debt. But my house savings are gone. All gone.

But it's not just the money that's kept us out of a house of our own; we haven't found a home, a city or town where we want to live for several years. Despite that being a priority, no place has said, "Yes, here, this is where you need to live." And the result is that I'm 46 years old, and I'm still a renter, despite making having a house a priority for quite some time.

Where is my house... after making it a priority, and then failing to make it happen, that friend's comment makes me realize that maybe it's time to forget it. It's not going to happen. I have my doubts about ever working full-time again. And I have my doubts about the USA really being the place I need to live. The upside of the time that I really did make having a home a priority is that I got out of debt and I created a financial cushion that's helped me survive this long. Had I not made buying a house a priority, had I not gotten rid of my debt and saved up so much money, I would be in dire straits now.

When I start thinking of abandoning the dream of home ownership, a different idea emerges: maybe my husband should stay at his job for another year, I should keep my priorities as I have them, and maybe when my lovely senior dog passes away, probably in the next two years, we should sell or give away everything we can, like I did in 2000 - downsize to a small storage space - and then use our savings to take off on our motorcycles and realize our dream of long-term travel through the Americas, from Alaska to Southern Chile. And after a couple of years, go back to Germany - where no one will ever hire me, but I can use lots of completely valid excuses for no longer working, like, "I don't speak German" or "I'm too old to be hired as a new employee in Germany" (it's true - if you are looking for a job in Germany at 50, you are SO screwed). I'm sure I'd still find plenty to do. Indeed, ALL of the consulting work I've been able to cobble together since I returned could be done from Germany.

Maybe it's time for a new priority.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunny February in Oregon?!

The wacky new weather global patterns have brought us a dry Oregon February so far, and dry weather always means the same thing: motorcycle riding!

The weather forecasters had said it would be a great weekend for several days, but we've had our hearts broken so many, many times by Oregon weather forecasters. We hoped for the best, planned a route - but were ready for disappointment. Kind of like how my love life was before I met Stefan...

Stefan planned the route, which took us to the coast and back. Riding the coast is fun, but we like back roads riding through mountains, forests and fields even more. This ride had all that.

Pacific Coast in Feb. 2012

And at by the middle of the ride, I saw a sunny Oregon coast for the first time since we moved West 2 1/2 years ago. This is the view from one of the lookout points at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint. The parking lot was full - but we were the only bikers! I still cannot get over that. A day like this and so few motorcyclists?! Unfortunately, the lighthouse here was closed for winter - so I guess we'll just have to go back again. Although I can't imagine how insane it must be on a summer day on the weekend...

Before we got here, we stopped for lunch in Forest Grove, a city that has let ugly business development run wild. It seems to be a place of just ugly strip malls, national chain restaurants and pawn shops, but head to the downtown - yes, there is one. It's next to Pacific University, and it's actually quite pretty.

Little Monkey Deli in Forest Grove, Oregon

We stopped at the Little Monkey Deli, and liked it VERY much. The owner/manager, from Laos, is a delight. Stefan loved his pulled pork "burrito"/wrap, and I liked my turkey panini (lots of artichoke hearts!). The manager seemed particularly happy that we were bikers - sorry that are bikes parked out front didn't bring in more bikers for her that day. I remain stunned at how few motorcyclists we saw out and about on this incredibly perfect day for riding!

I really love my motorcycle boxes (my Christmas 2011/Birthday 2012 present from Stefan - buy some for yourself!) - as well as my motorcycle. I was really ticked off at the guy who told me in front of this cafe, "That bike seems a bit too high for you. You should lower the back wheel." I was ticked off because 1) a KLR cannot be lowered more than an inch and a half without then dragging the center stand every time you turn, something we learned the hard way right after we bought it and lowered it more than that, and 2) I hate being short! I want to ride a KLR! Bite me!

But, really, I got over it. I love the KLR. I don't care how klutzy I look getting on and off it. It's so much lighter than my Nighthawk, and I feel more in control of it. I'm still getting used to the thumping sound though.

Since I bought the KLR, I think I have ridden more than 700 miles - my goal was to have ridden at least 500 by May. My next goal is to find a class or a tutor regarding the basics of riding in dirt and gravel. The two classes nearest me that would be perfect are BOTH the first weekend in June - right when Stefan's parents arrive from Germany. And, really, I don't want to wait until June. So I'm going to go visit the dirt bike shop here in Canby and hope the owner takes me seriously when I ask him for recommendations (it's not always easy to be taken seriously when you are a middle-aged woman on a dual sport).

A beautiful ride - and yet another time when I wish so much I had started riding a motorcycle in my 30s. It's never too late to start, true - but, wow, I love this!

Also see:

A Broad Abroad
Resources & Inspiration For Women Who Travel
(or Want to!)


For Women Who Travel By Motorcycle (or want to)


Suggested short motorcycle routes in Oregon and Washington state (from an hour to all-day; many can be linked together to create longer trips).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stuff My Mamaw Says

My paternal grandmother, Mamaw, is 94. My maternal grandmother, Mama Cym, just turned 96. They both live in the same retirement apartment complex, in their own apartments. It's wonderful that they can still live in their own individual spaces.

But Mamaw needs care here and there throughout the day, because she's quite blind and almost deaf (though her hearing aids make a HUGE difference). She needs someone to fix her meals, pick out her clothes (though she can dress herself), giver her the pills she needs to take daily, take her blood sugar levels and blood pressure and wash her dishes every day. She also needs someone to help her shower, do her laundry and clean her apartment twice a week. It's too much for any one family member to do - my sister and sister-in-laws would prefer to spend their time with Mamaw taking her out to breakfast or lunch, taking her to special events, taking her shopping, getting her together with her great-grandchildren and other fun stuff. Having caregivers gives family more time to do all those social things with Mamaw that are just as important and necessary as the daily grind stuff. We have one caregiver to do the daily things and one to do the weekly things.

But our daily caregiver had surgery and needed a couple of weeks off. My brother and sister-in-law came to our hometown to take care of Mamaw for the first week, and I've been here for a week. I stayed right here in her apartment. My siblings and I have grown up with Mamaw being a HUGE part of our lives, and I'm glad to give back just a tiny bit of what she's given me.

But this week has also been a fascinating learning experience for me. It's something I think every adult should do at least once - spend one week taking care of someone elderly. I thought I really knew a lot about aging issues; I learned there's so much still to know.

One thing I learned was just how many people here are on the Internet. There's anywhere from a dozen to two dozen networks showing at any given time. Why this place doesn't have a Facebook page with all of its events posted, or a Google calendar with all the events posted, I do not know. Yes, I've suggested it. It would make it easy not only for all those Internet connected folks here, but also, for their relatives to see what's going on (there are almost daily events down in the common area).

Mamaw in the snowBut the best thing about this week is enjoying Mamaw's perspective on the world. She often had to curb her silly side over the years, as a preacher's wife. But now, she doesn't hold back at all, and it's incredibly fun to hear her perspective on everything. So I decided to post updates to Facebook about our time together. And she turned out to be a HUGE hit on Facebook! I haven't had so many likes for most of the things I post:

* * *
Mamaw comment for today (actually said last night): "I'm content to just sit here. I'm content like a cow.

* * *
In response to "How are you today," Mamaw's response was "Fat and Sassy!"
Coolest. 94-year-old. Eva.

* * *
After burping several times in one minute, Mamaw says: "you outta find a way to put all this in a can. Then you could run your car on it."

* * *
Mamaw likes to have her hair brushed, because she likes her "scalp woke up."

Mamaw and Jayne
* * *
My grandmother just asked me where I parked my motorcycle outside. Yes, Mamaw, I road it from Oregon to Kentucky. In 12 hours. She either thinks I am the most badass motorcycle rider EVER, or she forgot I live in the other state. Or maybe both?

Emma washing in the 1930s* * *
Mamaw needs an iPhone with REALLY loud volume and on and off buttons that can be distinguished easily just by feeling them - so she can talk with Siri all day. She has a million questions, and Siri could answer them, some of them more than once!

* * *
Here at my grandmothers' retirement home, someone has named their Internet connection "WildTurkey", and another person has named their Internet connection "FreeSpirit." I think there are more things going on here than you might think just by visiting the lobby.

* * *
Mamaw likes to sing in the morning. The correct lyrics to the hymn are "Turn your lights down low, And listen to the master's radio" but she changed it to "Turn your lights down low, and then give a big hug to your beau..." And then she laughed and laughed.

* * *
Mamaw, after getting mad at me for not letting her lick the chicken salad off the bread instead of also eating the bread : "I wish I could be around when YOU'RE in your 90s and see how YOU act." I'm learning a LOT about how to act being around all these folks at Pleasant Point, lemme tell ya! (she's diabetic - we have to really monitor her regarding her food)

Mamaw and HER doggies* * *
I once asked her if she could have been a preacher. She was washing dishes. She whirled around and said, "Yes! I could have been a preacher! I know how to preach!" I said, yes, but Mamaw, Paul said that women should stay silent in church. She made a face and said, "Paul hated women. Some woman broke his heart and we've been paying for it ever since."

* * *
In addition to taking care of my paternal grandmother (Mamaw) this week, I'm also spending time with my maternal grandmother (Mama Cym), who tells me FANTASTIC family stories. Yesterday, she talked about her grandmother, who was forced to go live with a cousin when his wife died, to take care of him and his children, and then pretty much forced to marry him (and he was MUCH older). Before you tut tut other countries with different religions for their attitudes re: women, remember that it was just as bad here not too long ago!

* * *
Decided to spot clean Mamaw's carpet. While I was down scrubbing at stains, she said, "Look at you, down there on your knees. If you're gonna be down there on your knees, you might as well pray." This was followed by a song she made up right then and there about praying while cleaning carpets. I apologize for not remembering the lyrics.

* * *
Took Mamaw out for Chinese Food after a funeral. Her fortune cookie said, "Someone is interested in you." She was absolutely delighted to know this. I said, "There's a man standing over there by the register. He might be the one interested in you." She said, "Well, it could be. But if he spent any time with me and had to fuss with me, he might not be interested in me any more." The guy just shook his head and laughed.

* * *
This morning's singalong was "Life Is like A Mountain Railroad." Mamaw can harmonize to anything. We also tried "Your Cheaten' Heart." Being a good Christian girl from Spottsville, Kentucky, she only knew the chorus and the melody. OF COURSE she does NOT know the words. Only Honky Tonk girl in this apartment is ME.

* * *
Me: "Mamaw, I'm going to take a shower now. Will you be okay?"
Mamaw: "Yes, sweetie, I'll be fine."
Me: "Don't you have a party while I'm taking a shower."
Mamaw: "What?! But I wanted to have my boyfriend over!"

* * *
Saturday, as I drove past the municipal golf course.
Me: "Mamaw, there are people playing golf today! Even in this cold weather!"
Mamaw (in super pitiful voice): "Poor little ball, just gettin' smacked around ever' where. Didn't do nothin' to nobody. Gettin' lost in the weeds. Gettin' left out in the cold." (Laughs)

* * *
And last, but not least: I recorded her singing and uploaded it here. These are all really short - each less than four minutes:

Really wished I had gotten her singing "He's got the whole world in his hands" and "This land is your land" and "You are my sunshine" as well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Still Lovin' the Bard

My blog Lovin' the Bard has been the most popular personal blog I've ever written, per getting tweeted by a very influential friend in the theater world and then getting re-tweeted by about half-a-dozen high school drama teachers.

A followup to that blog: for the last 12 months, I've been trying not to buy any books - I'm reading only what's already on my bookshelves. It's both to save money and to remind me that books are meant to be read, not stuck on shelves for years and years only as ornaments. And given how much I still have to read - either because I never read this or that book, or because I want to re-read this or that - it looks like I could go another 12 months.

The last four things I've read have been Shakespeare plays. First, I read A Midsummer Night's Dream, which I first saw in the magical 1935 movie production when I was probably 14, and then as live theater at Hartford Stage in 1988, in a magical production no one who saw it will ever forget. I love the play so much I can quote from it - but as I'd never read it, I thought it would be a good first choice. It was a very satisfying read.

Next, I read Twelfth Night, which, as I mentioned in that previous and very popular blog , was the first live Shakespeare I ever saw, in a production at the University of Evansville. I saw it again in 1987, in a production in London, directed by a young and up-and-coming director called Kenneth Branagh, with original music by Paul McCartney. Don't ask me which production was better - they were both exceptional.

Then I read Taming of the Shrew. Which I did not enjoy nearly so much as the Zeffirelli's movie, though reading it provided a lot of food for thought (and the discovery that it's a play within a play - I had no idea!).

Last night, I finished The Merchant of Venice. I wondered if, without the benefit of seeing it ever or having lots of footnotes explaining this or that or having a teacher guiding me, I would understand it, let alone enjoy it. It turned out to be the best read so far. The story is magnificent. Portia is an absolutely delicious role. And I came away with a very sympathetic view of Shylock. I think the play is both a reflection of the time regarding how British Christians viewed Jews, but I also think Shakespeare was being critical of their treatment - that's what the words say to me. YMMV. It breaks my heart to know shortly after Kristallnacht in 1938, this masterpiece was broadcast as anti-Semitic propaganda on German radio.

What's next? Either King Lear or The Tempest.