scarlettina: (Airplane)
We had lunch on Friday at a pub called O’Neill’s just outside of Trinity College. The place had a sign out front that said, “Good times are coming, no matter how far away.” I took that as a good sign. I had the beef and Guinness stew. The respite was needed; we’d been on our feet a while, and it was nice to sit and eat and mull over the exhibit.

Now, it should be noted that a number of people had suggested that, while we were in Dublin, we should do the Guinness tour. I wasn’t particularly excited by this idea because I’ve never been a Guinness drinker. When E heard this, she insisted I take a sip of her Guinness. Much to my surprise, I found it smooth and soft, not bitter and very tasty. Really, it was a serious surprise indeed. I liked it! We didn't take the tour, but more Guinness drinking would ensue.

Cathedrals
Our next stop was Christ Church Cathedral. A location of worship nearly 1,000 years old, the Gothic structure that sits there now is somewhere around 700 years old. The grounds are beautiful, with sculptures and ruins that highlight both the faith and the history of the site. I was struck by the blocky flying buttresses and the ruins of the original chapter house, open for viewing on the grounds outside the church. I was also struck by a sculpture of a hooded man curled on a bench. His feet showed wounds characteristic of the traditional portrayal of the crucifixion. I’m virtually certain the sculpture is intended to make the visitor think twice about their treatment of the homeless. We strolled the grounds and went inside, but we were greeted with an immediate demand for an entry fee. The sounds of a concert floated out from the main sanctuary, and for some reason the whole thing just repelled us. We took pictures of the stained glass that was visible from where we stood, but we decided to head out to another destination; somehow the experience just struck us the wrong way.

Stranger on a bench

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

We walked to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The building feels blockier and more imposing than Christ Church. There, we paid the entry fee and took a tour of the building, learning some of its history. We also got to see memorials to Jonathan Swift,  author of Gulliver's Travels, who was dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745. The tour guide told us that Swift was notorious for his epic sermons lasting as much as three hours and often descending into harangues of the congregation. Still, he apparently benefited the church and did serious benevolent work on behalf of the poor. He wrote his own epitaph, having his own way until the very end. The cathedral is beautiful, with its choir space hung with banners and mounted with the helmets of associated knights. Statues line either side of the sanctuary, and the floor is inlaid with beautiful tile featuring loose Celtic knotwork and vines and flowers. The columns are made from Connemara rose marble--rare and beautiful.

City impressions
After our visit to the cathedrals, we decided to head back to the hotel for a bit. We were both tired and wanted a break. One thing that struck me as we walked--all the time we were in the city, really--is how close to the surface the Viking heritage of Ireland still lives. We saw a ribbon mural featuring a Viking ship and depictions of the perils of the sea. The city offers an attraction called Dublinia that purports to recreate Dublin of the Viking era. We didn’t go in; the place was swarming with students, and the crowd just repelled us. But it’s there beneath the surface; we were never not aware of it.

Observations
The toilet in our room is interesting. You have to pump the handle up and down a couple of times to flush it. Weirdly, I enjoyed the exercise.

Salt and pepper shakers in Ireland are reversed from how I grew up with them: Salt is in the shaker with only one hole; pepper is in the shaker with many. Odd, at least to me.

Dinner
We had asked around about what we ought to do in the evening. Everyone we asked told us to go to Temple Bar, which is a lively district not at all far from where we were staying. As it turned out, the restaurant that [livejournal.com profile] akirlu recommended to E is located near there, a place called The Quays, so we went there for dinner. We were seated by a window with a view out to the street. I had the fish and chips, and I ordered a Guinness for myself. It was as good as I remembered from lunchtime—I was a convert! Dinner overall, in fact, was good, so thanks to [livejournal.com profile] akirlu for the heads-up!

Halfway through dinner, there was a clamor on the street. It seems someone had won a football (read "soccer") game and there was much rejoicing. There were also a couple of spectacles going on: how long can you stay pulled up on a pull-up bar, that kind of thing. When we were done with dinner, we navigated this wild crowd. It was clear, though, that "party" is this neighborhood’s nickname and nature, and we could hear music from every pub we passed. We stopped outside of one to listen to some traditional music (too crowded and loud to go inside), and then headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before our first full day on the road.
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
Food
So yesterday was a better food day. I ate a variety of things in a variety of colors. I watched the nutrition counter in MyFitnessPal carefully so that I didn't overdo it on the carbs as I had the day before and stayed relatively balanced. I made a point to get out of the house and take a walk along the canal, which was lovely and restorative. I need to do that more often. And I stayed hydrated. All in all, I felt better and I slept well last night. We do these things one day at a time.

The house
Stage one of the bathroom renovation pretty much ended yesterday. It really is a different room. That was the point, of course, but the contrast is striking. As is to be expected, now I want to do the rest of the house right this minute! My finances, however, need some time to recuperate. But with the need to get the glass installed and the upcoming trip to Ireland, recovery is going to take some time. But I digress. Yesterday, the project manager replaced the toilet, installed the new heater in the wall, and showed me how the clasps in the medicine cabinet door hinges work so I can remove them if necessary. The tile guy came and finished the tiling in the shower shampoo cubby; it looks beautiful.

But when they both left, two things were apparent: they had forgotten to rehang the door to the room and they had left me with no extra tiles for repair should it become necessary. Now, I knew for a fact that there was at least a sheet of the fancy blue Tantrum sliver tiles left, as well as a number of the floor tiles. So there were phone calls and negotiations and explanations. Suffice it to say that the project manager will be back today to clean the room and deliver the leftover tiles (which, it turns out, I hadn't paid for, but which they were going to just trash--which makes no sense to me when they might be useful in the future).

On to stage two of the project: I need to arrange for the glass surround in the shower to be installed and to get new mirrors for the medicine cabinets. Stage 3 will be me prepping and painting the room. I've already picked up some paint chips and am thinking hard about how much white and how much blue the room will have. We shall see.

Beading
Last night, in the wake of all this, I had a class at Fusion Beads in a technique I've heard a lot about but never tried: right-angle weave. It's actually very simple and makes a lot of sense. It also produces a beautiful effect. Lastly, it lays the foundation for other techniques I want to learn. It was nice to be somewhere where I could wholly focus on producing art. The last time I did that was at Rainforest which, while ideally about wholly focusing on art, is always an alloyed experience. Last night was perfect, and I'll end up with a beautiful product, too.
scarlettina: (Fork You Back)
Me and food
I've been doing a lot of self medicating with food lately. I realized yesterday that most of what I ate had been bread of some kind. I didn't leave the house. I napped for three hours after work and then didn't fall properly asleep until past 1 AM. My body felt like stale pita. I was sluggish and unhappy. I had stopped tracking my food via MyFitnessPal and had just gotten really complacent. Yesterday was a low; last night was ridiculous. This morning, I got up, had a measured breakfast--cereal, soy milk, cantaloupe--and logged the meal. I have to work at home again today: the renovation is rapidly coming to the close of the first stage and I need to be here. I have promised myself that at lunchtime, I'm going to get out and take a walk in the sunshine.

And in only a related food note, I had exactly one strawberry on my balcony strawberry plant yesterday. One. I got up this morning, having planned to have it at breakfast, only to have discovered that some thief of a squirrel stole it. :: sigh :: How do you know when it's time to pick a strawberry? Maybe I just left it on there too long.

Renovation
The renovation work continues apace. Yesterday, the project manager reattached the linen closet door, newly refinished, and attached the medicine cabinet doors. He also mounted the new shower head and control. What remains at this point is the grouting of the bullnose along the floor, the tiling and grouting of the shower shampoo cubby and the replacement of the toilet. A last payment is due when the work is complete. And then I still have to get the glass people in to finish up installing the shower surround and the mirrors on the medicine cabinet doors. And I have to paint. I'm concerned about the glass people. They have not been impressive about keeping in touch. I dropped them email last night to get the estimate that they had promised to send me and didn't. Today I call them.

Holiday cooking

Fri, Dec. 25th, 2015 11:42 am
scarlettina: (Fork You Back)
Every year, I make an apple-crusted sweet potato casserole (actually it's an apple-crusted yam casserole) for the holidays. This year, I made peanut butter blossoms as well. I love these cookies and have had the recipe for years, but never made it until yesterday. I just got it into my head to make cookies. They turned out to be as delicious as I remembered. So I'll be sharing cookies as well as the casserole today and tomorrow.

I don't have a lot of confidence about myself as a cook. This year that has changed somewhat. I'm pleased and practicing.

Here are pix of the holiday goods:



Meat

Sat, Dec. 19th, 2015 10:40 am
scarlettina: (Fork You Back)
I am an unrepentant carnivore. (Well, sometimes I repent, but not enough to stop.) I am in Portland, Oregon this weekend, visiting with all my best beloveds here in town. Last night a subset of that group went to dinner at Brazil Grill, a Brazilian steakhouse that gives new meaning to "all you can eat" because it's very, very good indeed, and you want to eat more not because you can but because it's all so delicious you can't help yourself.

We were seated at our table promptly upon arrival. A server gave us the rundown: we can go get salad at the salad bar. And then he pointed out a red coaster on the table. He told us that when we were ready for meat, we should turn it over; the other side is green. As [livejournal.com profile] daviddlevine put it, that turns on the meat spigot. Servers come by with swords pierced through queues of meat of many different kinds and preparations. They will slice off as much or as little as you'd like. When we returned from the salad bar, we found garlic rolls and fried polenta sticks on the table. And then the meat started coming: tri-tip beef, mustard beef, bacon-wrapped filet, linguica, shrimp, ham, chicken hearts, chicken legs, chili-lime pork. And it went on from there. Truly, it was remarkable and all very well prepared. And the meat stops coming only when you turn the coaster to red again.

Toward the latter part of the meal, they asked us if we would help them reorganize tables a bit because they had a large group come in. For our trouble, they treated us to dessert. I had the Brazilian chocolate cake, which may be the Platonic ideal of chocolate cake.

The only complaint I might have is that I thought the wine list was somewhat limited. (You can see it on the website.) Nevertheless, we had a delicious red Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon that complimented the meal well.

If you're in Portland and you have the chance, I recommend Brazil Grill without reservation (except that having a reservation will be a good idea). Don't eat too much earlier in the day; you'll want to try everything on offer. It's completely worth it.
scarlettina: (Happy Birthday)
It was awesome.

OK. Wait. That doesn't actually constitute a full and accurate description. Strike that. Let's begin again.

I had a couple of goals for the day: 1) See friends. 2) Do whatever I want.

See friends
I started the day with breakfast at Icon Grill in the company of EB and MO-K. I chose this location because the food is flat-out terrific and because I love the environment. I've purchased art off of its very walls and I love seeing what else might be available. I chose the company because it was bound to be fine, and it was. I had pancakes with strawberries and blueberries. It came with white-chocolate syrup, but I chose not to partake of that particular indulgence--too much, too sweet, too early. There was bacon. There was an egg. There was a mimosa. There was tea. There was excellent conversation. I left happy.

Do whatever I want
The heatwave that has been baking Seattle to a crisp finally broke on Thursday, which meant that I could finally enjoy my balcony a bit. I spent the next couple of hours sitting on said balcony on my folding beach chaise with a book and cats. Lovely, relaxing, good.

The afternoon, I spent at Apollo Nail Spa at the top of Queen Anne getting a mani-pedi in the company of, again, EB and MO-K. I chose my favorite neutral for my fingertips, mainly because it has a shimmery quality that I like and because if it chips, it's not crazy-obvious. For my toes, I picked a metal-flecked gold. My toenails look like they've been touched by King Midas. :-)

I had dinner at Roti with [livejournal.com profile] suricattus, whom I haven't seen in far too long. We talked books, books, books, and then headed over to this week's Clarion West party. A great many good folks were in attendance, too many to name check here, but enough of the local sf-f literati to make it a pleasant literary group. We decamped a little earlier than I would have preferred--but it was probably the better part of valor.

Sadly, I didn't sleep very well, with neighbors coming and going at all hours, and cats being, well, cats, it was a night of constantly interrupted sleep. There may be a nap later today. In fact, I'm pretty sure there will be.

All in all, though, it was a fine way to close out kind of a tough year and to open a new chapter. We'll see what this new one has in store.
scarlettina: (Fork You Back)
In the car on the way home from work (I don't usually drive, but I left too late to catch the bus and still get to work on time), I found myself with a craving to make meatloaf. Not necessarily to eat it, mind you, just to make it (though I did eat it when it was done). I haven't had meatloaf in decades, but I remember my mother making it when I was a kid. I know that my brother makes her recipe every now and then. He's got her recipe card; I don't have a copy of it and have no recipe of my own. So on my way home, I stopped at the grocery store, picked up the stuff I thought I might need (ground beef, an onion; I had other ingredients at home already) then came home and went to work on theory and memory, not going to the internets for help. I wanted to see what would happen if I just winged it. This is what I did:

1.25 lbs ground beef (90% lean)
1/2 onion chopped fine
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg
garlic salt to taste (I went light with it)
1/2 cup DiParma Classico Four Cheese Pasta Sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Except for the pasta sauce, mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl, then stuff into a meatloaf pan. Bake for 40 minutes. In the meanwhile, heat up the pasta sauce. When the timer goes off, pour the pasta sauce over the meatloaf, then bake another 20 minutes, then serve.

I served it with a brown rice medley and steamed carrots.

I ended up adding a little more salt for taste. Salt wasn't what I wanted, but it was a quick solution because I needed to add something more for flavor, I think; I wanted more flavor than I got. More onion may help, or maybe adding paprika. (Paprika! Yes!) I had forgotten than I have some sun-dried tomatoes in the house and I should, perhaps, add some of those next time I try this (or the next time I heat up what I've still got in the refrigerator).

I think, the next time I make the rice, I'll add a little more salt there, too, and maybe some sauteed onion.

After I completed the experiment, I decided to hunt down recipes on the internet and found that in its simplicity, the recipe I put together was pretty accurate to what I found online. The big difference was that most recipes called for ketchup rather than pasta sauce. Ketchup, which absolutely has its place in the kitchen, would have seemed too aggressive to me, though. I'm pleased with what I did.

I made enough for at least three servings, more properly four. I'm not sure that meatloaf is something I'd make for company; it feels like family food, being hearty and unshowy. But now I know I can do it in a pinch. I don't know why I felt the urge.
scarlettina: (Fork You Back)
After weeks of planning, a group of us converged on [livejournal.com profile] ebourne's home and, as previously discussed, recreated King Midas' funerary feast. Elizabeth and Jeffrey L. invited 10 friends to share in this culinary adventure, and some of us tried our hands at making the food for the event (myself included, again, as previously mentioned). Some of the folks at the event were people from an entirely separate social circle, and I was delighted to discover, in essence, old friends that I never knew I had--people with whom I could converse without hesitation, as if we'd simply picked up a conversation left off at some unremembered time--lovely folks with whom I hope to spend more time in the future.

In keeping with the theme, I wore gold (or goldish) jewelry: my mother's beautiful costume choker, gold earrings, a gold-beaded bracelet).

Elizabeth set a beautiful, golden table, with flowers and pretty glassware. Our menu (recipes here) was as follows:

Dried Apricots with Nutty Sheepsmilk Cheese
Garbanzo and Olive Spread with pita
Turkish Mezze Salad
Lamb Stew with Lentils and Rice
Midas Touch Ale

My understanding is that we were supposed to have Carmelized Fennel Tarts for dessert but some culinary disaster preempted that addition to the menu, alas.

There were other additions to the menu that weren't quite period: the pomegranate molasses, for example, on the salad that was certainly in the spirit of the event, and that was remarkable for its symphony of flavors on the tongue. And I need to get the recipe for the lentil side dish that Jeffrey made. I could eat that stuff all day. But it was all delicious. That lamb stew was out of this world, and the dried apricot appetizer would be apropos at any party at all.

The Midas Touch Ale was a kind of cross between beer and mead, light and not too sweet, a lovely summer beverage. It was a molecular recreation of the ancient brew from Dog Fish Brewery, which apparently has a whole line of recreated ancient ales. I'd love to try more of them, but apparently the Midas Touch is the only one in regular production at the moment. I could have finished every bottle on the table if I'd had my druthers.

The Flickr set for the event includes pictures of every dish we made, as well as of some of the guests and the commemorative tee shirts that Elizabeth and Jay F. created for the event. What a perfectly lovely Friday night. There's nothing quite like a community-created dinner party for a lovely evening!

Jeff's Facebook post about the event offers more details )

Positively golden

Thu, Apr. 24th, 2014 10:17 pm
scarlettina: (Fork You Back)
My dear and slightly mad friend [livejournal.com profile] ebourne recently discovered that King Midas, he of song and story, was buried with the remains of his funereal feast. Some enterprising researchers recreated the recipes of the delicacies served at the meal and have posted said recipes to the web. Here's where the slightly mad part comes in: she decided that a delightful Friday night might be spent trying to recreate this feast with a dozen or so friends nearly as mad as she is.

I found this idea completely awesome. Apparently, I am mad as well.

The feast is tomorrow night (or, rather, by the time anyone reads this, tonight). I spent this evening creating my contribution to the feast: a garbanzo and olive spread, otherwise known as hummus (the olives are a garnish to be used on the side--they are optional). I have never made hummus before. I've always purchased it at the grocery store. Hummus-lover that I am, I thought I ought to give it a try. Here are some things I learned:

1. Tahini is hard to find in Seattle. I hit three grocery stores before I found it. (I found it at Ballard Market, if you're local and you're wondering. I tried QFC and Trader Joe's first.)

2. I never bothered to investigate what tahini was made of before; I'd never tasted it by itself, always with something else. The tahini called for in the recipe is sesame tahini--it's basically sesame butter, the peanut butter of the seed world. I saw garlic tahini in the store also but didn't puchase any.

3. Making hummus is messy: tahini, olive oil, lemon juice (freshly squeezed, I might add)--this stuff gets everywhere, no matter how careful you are, or how out of the way the cats stay. (I think they disappeared when the blender began to buzz.)

4. A blender is not an optimal food processor but it will do in a pinch. As [livejournal.com profile] jackwilliambell told me, Uncle Alton Brown says that no tool in your kitchen should be a one-use tool, and so my blender, usually used for making fruit smoothies, tonight doubled as a food processor. It served well enough but, again, messy. And the olive oil seep through even the best rubber gasket.

5. This recipe calls for preserving the liquid from the garbanzo beans to use as the spread blends (actually, purees), but I didn't need it. I liked the thickness of my resulting spread without it, and there was so much lemon juice (I beat those things--wait for it!--to a pulp!) that it wasn't necessary.

6. With a blender as a food processor, it would take hours to get a truly smooth spread. I don't have hours to blend. Mine is a little lumpy. I figure that in ancient days, they didn't have food processors; chances are that their hummus wasn't smooth either. It's authentic. Yeah. Authentic. :-)

7. This last isn't a learning; I knew it already. It's a reminder: Windex is an awesome cleaning agent when you're done with your work. It busts oil and grease. It leaves surfaces squeaky clean. I'm a fan.

The finished bowl of spread sits covered securely in my fridge. I'll take it with me to work tomorrow in an insulated container, keep it in the office fridge, and then take it off to our feast. I'm so looking forward to our culinary adventure--our Midas feast--tomorrow evening. I shall make a report anon. And if I have brains enough to remember to take my camera, there will be pictures.
scarlettina: (Angel)
A week ago, I was in sunny Florida, where the weather was averaging in the low 80s and the sun shone merrily over the theme-park world in which I'd spent my week. This morning, it's dark and overcast in Seattle, and there are about 2 inches of snow blanketing the still-sleeping world. What a difference a longitude makes.

I didn't write a trip report about the visit to Orlando, mainly because first I had post-trip house guests, and then because I swung right into the work week and, without realizing it, was dealing with jet lag. What else besides the latter would explain my getting up at 5 AM and going to bed at 9:30? (Well, Ezekiel, I suppose, but not in this case.) My original plans was to mark down the highlights of the trip, since a blow-by-blow report seemed unlikely. Then I realized that I had the schedule that David put together, and it helped me remember details that I would have otherwise lost. This trip report will span several entries, I suspect.

First, there was traveling with [livejournal.com profile] kateyule and [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine. They are crazy-good trip planners (there were spreadsheets, people) and excellent traveling companions. We did very well together, sharing a hotel room for a week. We managed our space and our needs and had nothing but a congenial time throughout.

Second, there was the ongoing sunshine. Temperatures, as noted above, averaged in the low 80s almost the whole time we were there, and so summer wear was the order of the day. It was lovely to have a taste of the sun in the midst of what is otherwise the darkest time of the year, especially for Seattlites (with sunset around 4 PM and sunrise typically not until 7:30-8ish in the winter).

Third, there was our destination: Disney World. David has wanted to get me to Disney World specifically for Animal Kingdom for the last few years; this trip was the culmination of that desire. And it was quite a bit of fun. But I get ahead of myself.

Port Orleans French Quarter Resort: We stayed on property at this resort, which was very nice, pretty quiet, pleasantly atmospheric without being overwhelming. The grounds were beautifully landscaped, and every now and then a horse pulling a carriage would slowly clip-clop by in the evenings. The doorman at the front entrance to the main building wore a purple suit and top hat set off with extravagant feathers, his coat festooned with braiding; he was a lovely fellow, passing out plastic Mardi Gras bullion and staffing the door with great good cheer. Our room was just big enough for our purposes, and we started our trip with breakfast at the resort-themed cafeteria with the required Mickey-shaped waffles, because one must eat the Mouse whenever one can.

RideMax: As their website says, "RideMax is a planning tool designed to help you spend less time in line at Disneyland and Walt Disney World." And boy, howdy, does it work! All those aforementioned spreadsheets totally paid off. David used them to load our preferences into RideMax, which created a schedule for us that had us waiting no more than 5 minutes for any ride we took, and oftentimes much, much less. Now, it helped that we visited the park at the lowest-traffic time of the year--but I can still see how this kind of planning made our trip far more fun and functional, and how all that planning paid off. I'll never visit a Disney property again without this kind of planning.

Longish report, Day 1, beneath the cut )

More to come as time allows, though it promises to be a busy few days. I had planned to travel to Portland this weekend to visit [livejournal.com profile] jaylake. With snow on the ground, I'm examining my travel options, as I really don't want to cancel but am reluctant to even take my car out of the carport, given that I'm at the top of a hill, the roads are frozen, and my luck with cars the last few years has been, well, not good. I don't want to tempt fate. I'll figure it out.

So yes, more to come, on several fronts.

Thanksgivukkah 2

Fri, Nov. 29th, 2013 08:47 am
scarlettina: (Jewish: Little Dreidel)
Had a perfectly lovely Thanksgiving with J&KG at their place with the usual suspects and with the usual fantastic feast--turkey by our hosts, sides and desserts by the guests. I contributed my apple-crusted sweet-potato casserole, but the traditional turkey was also accompanied by mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, two kinds of dressing, mushrooms, green beans, delicious dinner rolls, salad, and several kinds of wine. Dessert was cheesecake, pumpkin pie and apple pie (I had only the apple; I was thoroughly well fed); vanilla bean ice cream was available as a pi accompaniment. And more wine because . . . wine. Conversation was excellent as always, the most contentious subject perhaps having been opinions about the quality of Star Trek: Into Darkness. I love my friends and so I will not judge them by their taste in this matter. :-)

Today's pledge of rededication is a promise to myself to take better care of myself. I have let my vigilance about food and exercise slip (evidence of which is already becoming clear to me). Other kinds of self care must become a priority as well: dental care, vision care. If I am to be a good friend, sibling, companion to my cats, I must attend to myself so that I can be present and available for everyone else.
scarlettina: (Rainy Day)
Apparently yesterday's weather has made national news. And it's supposed to continue today.

I'm fine: warm and dry and up far too early (thanks, Ezekiel). Haven't lost power.

Yes, the rains have been astonishing the last day or so. It rains in Seattle but never like this. My home is at the top of an incline so flooding isn't quite the concern for me that it is for others. I did, however, spend all of yesterday indoors (except for dinner time--a magnificent meal at Tanglewood Supreme in the company of [livejournal.com profile] calendula_witch, [livejournal.com profile] markferrari and EB--apparently we arranged our dinner engagement at just the right time; the rain was soft and the winds were relatively low for a brief period, anyway). But I watched the storms from my windows. I've never seen standing water like that on my balcony before, and while I've seen the big fir trees in my neighbor's yard bend and sway before, yesterday it looked like they were pitching a fit.

Weirdly, when I was roused from bed by cats this morning (at 5:45), light was streaming into my living room window--from the moon, peeking through a break in the clouds, a break which has since closed up pretty thoroughly. It's still pretty windy out there. As the sun rises, I can see thick clouds marching across the sky, apparently lining up for another day of high-volume precipitation.

I need to go out for groceries, but I'm going to watch the weather carefully before I do anything. It may be a day of leftovers and improvisation.

Here's what the forecast map looks like from USAToday. That little black pin in the map there pinpoints my neighborhood. Looks like an invasion, doesn't it? Reminds me of the motion sensor maps in the movie "Aliens." I brace myself for the onslaught.
Rain
scarlettina: (Angel)
Matt's death kinda threw all of our thinking about my visit to my brother's place into disarray, hence the lack of blogging for the rest of the trip. Here's a summary of the week in bullet points, because at 6 AM, that seems to be all I'm capable of.

Shopping: Once a funeral became part of our plans, I had to find something to wear. My sister-in-law took me shopping, and I found a top, slacks and shoes for the event. I wasn't planning to come home from the trip with new, work-appropriate clothes, but there you are.

Fire: That evening, my brother built a fire in the firepit in the backyard. We sat around the fire, toasted marshamllows, made 'smores, and tried to relax--which I think we did. My niece brought her hermit crabs down from her bedroom in a large cardboard box and we had crab races. I ate one too many 'smores. We did a little stargazing. It was a pleasant, quiet evening, and just what was needed.

Memorial: It's a two hour trip from my brother's place on the Island to the uptown Manhattan location of the funeral home where the memorial service was held. We traveled into town with a friend of the family and her daughter. They took my niece for the day while we headed to the service. I'd already been in touch with my aunt, whom I haven't spoken to in longer than I'd prefer to admit, so going into the side room where she, my cousin, and their family members waited before the ceremony was a little stressful, but ultimately to the good. It was a good reunion under terrible circumstances. We promised we'd see each other after the service. The chapel where the service was held was enormous, and filled to the rafters. I saw several publishing associates I hadn't seen since I left New York. The tributes to my cousin were eloquent and evocative--but that's what happens when your social circle is full of actors and publishing types. Everyone speaks well and writes beautifully. I don't think we could have given Matt a better send-off if we'd tried.

Post-memorial: After the service, we went to my cousin's widow's home. It's an apartment in a circa-1920s building with Tiffany stained glass illuminated in the building foyer. The apartment itself was large and beautifully appointed, with gorgeous architectural detail--crown moldings and arched entries and large windows--where we spent most of our time catching up with family we haven't seen in a very long time. We spent a couple of hours there, confirmed contact information and then, when the crowd got to be a little too much for me, finally departed. We had an excellent lunch at a restaurant recommended by Yelp! called Henry's, and then headed back to Penn Station for the long ride home. As planned we eventually rendezvoused with the family friend and my niece; I don't remember all the details. I was terrifically tired. We finally got to bed close to midnight.

Out east: Part of my hopes for the trip included going to the beach, as one does on Long Island. Island beaches are great--fine sand, crashing waves, good sun--unlike much of what's available in the Puget Sound region. My brother indulged me on Saturday, and we drove south and east to the Hamptons to Cupsogue Beach, one of the few public beaches on the east end of the Island. To get there, you drive through the colony of mansions and beach homes that have proliferated. Some of these houses--and they are mansions--are beautiful; some of architectural monstrosities, probably partly designed by owners. It was fun and interesting to peek past the tall shrubs lining the roads to get glimpses of these spectacular homes and their fantasy cars--Maseratis were common--and then to see the places even closer to the water, large enough to house 20 people, much less a family of four.

Beach: Cupsogue is a family-friendly beach, uncrowded even at the height of the beach day. It offers a snack-and-drink hut with picnic benches and table service if you want it, and live bands on summer weekends (but not so loud as to be intrusive on the beach itself). It's not a "scene;" it's a hang-out-and-have-fun beach, which is exactly what we did. I built a lumpy-but-nevertheless-awesome sand castle with my niece. We walked along the strand; I dipped myself thigh-deep in the water. We sunned ourselves. It was a lovely day. We ended it by driving out to Southampton for dinner and to stroll the astonishing shopping strip, filled with places I could never afford, the streets lined with BMWs, Lexuses, Cadillacs, Audis, and the occasional Maserati. We had a tasty dinner at The Driver's Seat, strolled a little more, and then headed west. We did stop for a little ice cream on the way, at the New York Stuffed Cone Co., which my niece really wanted me to experience, and then we headed home.

Pre-flight brekkies: We had pre-flight brekkies at a place called Toast in Port Jefferson, where the food was hearty, tasty, and well-served. And then we hit the road for the airport. My niece begged me, in her quiet way, not to leave. When I asked her who would take care of my kitties, she said, "Magic robot Janna." Can't fault a kid for trying.

Regrets: I think my biggest regret of the trip is that I didn't get to see two of my niece's cousins. There's some family stuff going on that interfered with our hopes of getting together. We tried to negotiate some kind of compromise, but finally--with the news of Matt's death--I just gave up trying. I'd traveled across the country to see everyone, and got tired of trying to accommodate the family drama. I respect my brother and sister-in-law's position in the affair, but I dislike that the conflict got in the way of my seeing the cousins, who had nothing to do with the business and wanted to see me when I came out. I hate having disappointed them, and I myself am disappointed as well.

In the end, it was a good trip and I'm enormously glad that I went. I'm not really ready to go back to day-to-day living, but the calendar ticks on. And, it being September, it appears that the rains have returned.
scarlettina: (Happy birthday cupcake!)
Tuesday night, the evening before my birthday, SA invited me as his plus-one to attend the press screening of Pacific Rim. My feeling? Make no mistake: this is a big, dumb movie with mechs and monsters by Guillermo Del Toro. It's got awesomely alien creatures, amazing giant robots, and some awfully fun performances by the supporting cast. What's not to love? Well, as one friend said, that St. Crispin's Day speech for one thing--not exactly inspiring; and the film's treatment of its one female character wasn't really up to snuff.... But still, it had Ron Perlman being all bad-ass in those amazing shoes. And MONSTERS! ROBOTS! So, yeah: good dinner, good company, fun, stupid movie. Not a bad way to get things rolling.

Last Saturday, my friends Harold and Eve threw a birthday deck party for Harold (July 12) and me attended by many of the usual suspects, which was quite lovely indeed, with most delicious food made by their own four hands.

And tonight, I got together with someone I knew years ago at Wizards--he and his wife took me to Chinook's for seafood. His birthday was the 8th, hers the 9th, and mine the 10th, so it was another mutual birthday celebration, and quite pleasant.

And tonight starts my long weekend, to which I've really been looking forward.

I wanted it to be a quiet birthday and, in its way, it has been. There's been celebration, but it hasn't been a big deal and I've quite enjoyed that, especially the walk in the woods on my actual day. It's been, as we say, a goodness.
scarlettina: (Independence Day)
Apparently I celebrate all holidays the same way: Chinese food and a movie.

In what has become an annual July 4th tradition, [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden picked me up and we met a group of friends at Jumbo's for dim sum. The food was delicious and the group was, as ever, congenial, funny, and full of good feeling. I made a date with some of the folks there for an evening at Banya 5 spa later next week. We had an excellent time.

Celebrating my independence from work for the day, when I got home I read the internets, played with the cats, and took a nap.

I then woke up, got on a bus, and headed over to meet [livejournal.com profile] varina8 for a burger and a viewing of The Audience at SIFF. Helen Mirren really is a national treasure of the British theater. Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth is just marvelous and the script is wonderful. If you have an opportunity to see this film of the stage production, I highly recommend it.

I got home about a half hour before the fireworks at Lake Union got started, and stayed indoors to be with the kitties. For those of you who don't know, Lake Union is four blocks from my house, and the Lake Union show is the big, municipal celebration. It always sounds like there's combat going on in the streets outside my building. It was Zeke's first Independence Day, and I had no idea how he'd deal with the noise. Well, he didn't like it very much at all. He huddled under the bed, growling. Sophie cuddled up on the bed with me. We all survived and are fine this morning. I'm glad the fireworks are only once a year.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love fireworks--but my kitties don't, and since they have no understanding of what's going on, I feel like I should be here, that maybe it will make them feel safer. I don't know that it does (see above re: Zeke's behavior) but we do what we can. There will always be other opportunities to see fireworks. In the meanwhile, things at Boom Boom Central have quieted down and we can now get back to the business of watching birds from the balcony, harassing me for food, doing gravity experiments and, in general, being cats and living with cats again.
scarlettina: (Portlandia)
Left Thursday afternoon to head south for a weekend in Portland. [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and [livejournal.com profile] kateyule met me at the train station and we were off to dinner and the theater. We saw Clybourne Park at Portland Center Stage, an excellent production of a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play. We attended both the talk before the show, from which we got some background about the play and some insight into how the production was designed and created, as well as the post-show discussion with a couple of the actors. The production itself was excellent--from the sets to the performances, it was a top-notch experience.

Friday I spent the day at the Portland headquarters of my new employer, lovely, spacious offices in a downtown tower with spectacular views. I admit I was a little envious. I wanted to meet as many of the Portland team as I could and I got some good work done while I was there as well. Friday evening, David barbecued some salmon and asparagus, and Kate made tabouleh and a delicious fruit salad, and we stayed in to watch the Ian McKellan Richard III, which I'd never seen.

Saturday, we went to the Oregon Potter's Association's Ceramics Showcase at the Oregon Convention Center, where we saw a fantastic display of the potter's art. Kate bought a lovely little bowl. I was tempted by several things, but was disciplined about not buying . . . until we went to another event at the convention center, A Gathering of the Guilds, which included vendor/members of the Portland Bead Society, and I was doomed. I bought some lovely art beads that are destined for pieces to be created later this spring, I suspect. (Also showing at the event were members of the Creative Metal Arts Guild, Oregon Glass Guild, Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Northwest Fine Woodworkers Guild, and the Portland Handweavers Guild. My goodness, we saw some beautiful things!) David split off from Kate and I to spend some time at the Stumptown Comics Fest, from which he brought back some very cool books. We had dinner with D and B at Bar Dobre, where the food was American and Polish and all delicious. (Go to the site and just look at the menu!) All of us had a hard time choosing food; in the end we each got something different and shared tastes with each other. I particularly enjoyed the chicken liver pate and the potato pancakes, but it was all good and I recommend the place without reservation.

This morning, well, I'll cover the news I received this morning in a separate post; suffice it to say it was the hardest kind of news to receive, a death in the family. And with that news tucked away, we went off to The Original for brunch with [livejournal.com profile] jaylake and [livejournal.com profile] radiantlisa. It was another excellent meal, with a menu that can't be beat. I was astonished by the creme brulee French toast and quite enjoyed the wild mushroom and chevre omelet. Also tasty was the candied bacon. I had little bites of other things too; it was all marvelous, and the company quite fine. I was glad that Jay and Lisa could make time for us. With everything going on, I know that their time is at a premium.

After a brief walk around downtown, David and Kate dropped me at the train station and I headed back to Seattle. I'm not ready for the week ahead. There's too much going on and not enough time to unwind and assimilate everything that happened this weekend--and I have a lot to think about. One hour at a time, I guess. It was, on balance, a lovely weekend away, even with the tough stuff that surrounded it. I'm glad I took the trip.
scarlettina: (Five)
1) The Bus and Books: With the new commute--a bus and the streetcar into downtown Seattle, and then a bus home--I'm getting a lot of reading done. And my reading pattern is becoming more what it was like back in New York, which is to say that I have a commuting book and a bedtime book--back to reading two at a time. I feel more like myself. My last two books were Redshirts by John Scalzi and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. My current two books are Murder in the Marais by Cara Black and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. (Yes, I'm preparing for the release of "Catching Fire" in the theaters this summer. We're all allowed our lighter fare.) In the background, I'm still reading, a couple of pages at a time, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It's so dense and delicious that I need to parse it out, which means it's going to take forever to read. I don't care. John Adams took forever to read (except when I'd devote entire Saturdays to making substantial headway) and I enjoyed every moment of it. Same thing with the Goodwin. I read slower than I used to, probably because I'm using bifocals now, so there's no insanely impressive reading list as I've seen on some of my friends' LJs--but a bit at a time is still progress and pleasure. Good enough for me.

2) The New Job: The new job is going pretty well. I'm getting along well with my coworkers and I'm beginning to receive more challenging assignments and more responsibility. I'm having to learn more quickly and, also, having to be patient when someone assumes I don't know something that I know very well. It's a balancing act. But it's good. I wish I enjoyed the commute more. Even with the reading, I'm not entirely happy with walking to the bus in the pouring-down rain. Must take advantage of telecommuting a little more.

3) Zeke: Getting bigger; almost as big as Sophie, but still lean and rangy in an adolescent-cat sort of way. Plays fetch at his own instigation. Hasn't broken anything lately. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

4) Good company on Pi Day: Had a wonderful sushi dinner last night with [livejournal.com profile] markferrari and [livejournal.com profile] calendula_witch at Chiso in downtown Fremont. Lovely atmosphere, and with only one exception, everything was superior, from drinks to dessert. (And the exception wasn't dramatic; it was still delicious, just not up to the standards of the rest of the meal.) Highly recommended. Of course, it was Pi Day, and so we walked across the street to a tiny bakery called "Pie" where we hoped to observe the day's required ritual. Alas, a sign in the window said, "Due to the craziness of Pi Day, Pie will be closing early, at 8 PM." And sure enough, the doors were locked. We went away heartsore and yearning for sweetness. Mark consoled himself with ice cream. Shannon and I suffered in silence. ::sigh:: But dinner itself? Delicious. And the company was quite, quite fine.

5) Another carless weekend: And so begins a second carless weekend. I'm actually looking forward to it. Learning to be resourceful about my transportation is good for me, I think, and I'm getting a lot of walking done. I'm still waiting for my ZipCar card to arrive, and now more so than ever since I need to take Sophie to the vet. But like all things in life, it will come with time. One way or another.
scarlettina: (Five)
1) Feeling remarkably fragile after a week that included the car accident and all its attendant mishegos (the car is being totaled ::sigh::) and the start of the new job among other things. Though my Sunday morning writing group is gathering to write this morning, I may yet just stay home and get things done away from the clatter and chatter of a Seattle coffee shop on the weekend.

2) Spent yesterday afternoon seeing the Oscar-nominated animated short films with a group not unlike the group that's meeting this morning. All the shorts were worth seeing, all remarkable examples of the animator's art, and they're all available free on the web at the links that follow. For my money, either Paperman or Head Over Heels should get the award, with The Gruffalo's Child coming up a close third. Adam and Dog is pretty but predictable, and Fresh Guacamole is clever and interesting, kind of animation image jazz, but it's not really about anything at all.

3) Had a great time at [livejournal.com profile] jaylake's group dinner last night at Maggiano's Little Italy in Bellevue, with a group of the usual crew that gathers around our host in these parts. We were more than 16, a group so large that we overflowed to another restaurant. As I said on Facebook, there was more delicious food than we could possibly eat and not nearly enough time to enjoy the company. The menu included two different kinds of salad, pork and potatoes, green beans, asparagus, lasagna, chicken parmesan, fettucini alfredo, delicious Italian bread, and plenty of wine. Dessert was a choice of either tiramisu or apple crostada with vanilla bean ice cream (the later of which was to die for).
Maggianos

4) The new job has started pretty well, despite some initial confusion about my commute route. I've toured the facility and the neighborhood, and they've started me on a 101-level project that I'm pretty sure I can whip out by the end of tomorrow. I like the people I'm working with; they seem smart and on the ball. I'm struck by how many and how often people work from home or elsewhere; the office was pretty empty during my first three days. We'll see how that progresses over time.

5) The house is a ridiculous mess and I really want to pick it up. That was part of the plan for last weekend. Perhaps I can make a dent today.
scarlettina: (Geek Crossing)
Yesterday was both my last day at Microsoft and my first day at Foolscap/Potlatch. I wrote a little bit of reflection about work on Thursday night, but before I get into the convention report, I want to write a little more about the last day of work.

Sentimental about work )

And then I was off to Redmond Town Center for Foolscap/Potlatch. I have said for years that when I go to a convention, I can't walk ten steps into the hotel without seeing someone I know. That was true yesterday. Ten steps in, who do I see but PRS, an East Coast friend whom I had no idea would be attending. I was delighted to see her. We set up dinner, and then went our separate ways.

I attended readings by Vonda McIntyre and Mark Ferrari. Vonda read three short pieces of fiction, one of which was published in Nature, a bleak, dystopian future piece about a post-natural world. The second was a story about the future of pet cloning that was both funny and true. The third was a partial, the first thousand words of a new story about extreme body modification that had a sense of humor about it amidst the macabre descriptions. Mark read a chapter from his new novel. I've heard other bits from this book. Someone needs to buy and publish this thing now. Between the two readings, I had drinks with Vonda, Eileen Gunn, John Berry, Folly Blaine, and a couple of other people. A group of us--PRS and her friend Dawn, [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine, [livejournal.com profile] kateyule, [livejournal.com profile] calendula_witch, and [livejournal.com profile] markferrari--went to dinner at a very new restaurant in Redmond called Hugo's, where the menu is organic, gluten-free, whole foods, and all delicious. I had the chicken marsala--very flavorful. PRS had the mac-and-cheese, which had a tinge of smoky mesquite to it that was fascinating. Other folks reported that the pork scallopini was delicious. Must go back again . . . whenever it is that I'm in Redmond again.

We returned to the hotel for the annual chocolate social, where I got to meet and chat with Nancy Pearl. She remembered me from our meeting when she interviewed [livejournal.com profile] papersky at the University Bookstore. We all attended the briefest of brief opening ceremonies, and then adjourned to the evening's panel. It was me, Nancy, Tom Whitmore, and [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine discussing "Where Lieth the Line Between Science Fiction and Fantasy?" The conversation was wide-ranging and quite dynamic. Whitmore's perspective is always fascinating; he's got an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre and its history, and was both erudite and entertaining on the subject. He and David bounced off of each other about history, and David talked about what such lines meant to him from a writer's perspective. Nancy talked about what such differences meant to recommending books to readers. I talked about my experience as a college student taking a class on same, and about the question from a business perspective a bit. I think it was a well-balanced discussion and people did seem to enjoy it. I certainly did.

At that point it was 10 PM and I had to hit the road. I'm not staying at the hotel and, with its impeccable timing, the city of Seattle has chosen this weekend to close one of the two main bridges between Seattle and the Eastside for the weekend at 11 PM, so I wanted to travel before that happened. The bridge is now closed for the duration, which means I'll be commuting the Long Way to the convention today and tomorrow. It was that, or spend more than $200 on lodging at a time when I'm ever-so-briefly between jobs and just returned from a trip. The gas and energy for commuting are cheaper than a hotel room so driving is my solution for the weekend. As for sleep, well, I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Other brief notes:
--The Freddie Baer Potlatch T-shirt is gorgeous this year. I wasn't a fan of last year's design, but this year? Oh yeah.
--I may be reading poetry tonight as part of Eileen Gunn's poetry program at the convention. Guess I oughtta print out some stuff to take with me.
--Zeke's chosen form of destruction last night was to disrupt my sleep every two hours or so. What a delight it is to have a kitten. ::sigh::
scarlettina: (DrWho: End of the World)
So, if you believe some (mathematically and culturally-challenged) people, tomorrow the world ends. Over on Facebook, Jeff VanderMeer proposes that "Mayan Apocalypse" sounds like the name of a cocktail. So what, exactly, would be in the Mayan Apocalypse cocktail? Something citrusy with spice? Maybe a chocolate, cinnamon and spicy martini? Now that I'm thinking about this, I want this drink! So you tell me: what's in a Mayan Apocalypse? Let's make a new cocktail!

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