Tuesday, June 28, 2005

First of all… look!

Look -- 'maters!

Little baby tomatoes! Aren't they cute? They're even cuter because they belong to a plant named "Sweet Baby Girl" cherry tomatoes. Gertrude loves this plant the best, and every morning she asks if we can go check on how Sweet Girl is doing.

What makes their appearance even more astonishing is the poor (actually, lack of) planning that went into this strip of garden. In fact, if my garden were a city, the zoning commissioner would have been fired. Or shot.

On the outskirts of the city is where we have the high-crime district:


Cucumbers bordering one edge and string beans against the fence invite bunnies by the thousands to nibble at low-growing leaves. The bean population was all but decimated, necessitating the erection of a protective wire barrier. It hasn't stopped the violence, but it's slowed enough to permit some rehabbing and rebuilding of the community.

In the heart of the city, we see all the symptoms of overcrowding and poverty unleashed on this blended tomato/cucumber neighborhood:

'maters and cucumbers

Positioned too close to our next-door ornamental plant garden, the tomato population feels suffocated and undervalued, sometimes lashing out against its oppressive cucumber neighbors.

Where the line of cucumbers ends, the tomatoes have established a harmonious suburb, with rows of free-standing cages and little competition for resources from surrounding plants. Sweet Baby Girl counts herself lucky to have been planted in this area of relative prosperity.

And then, we have an incidence of urban sprall, where a homogenous community of hot peppers has trended away from the inner city and invested in new housing developments:

hot peppers

At least something's growing, that's all I've got to say.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A few years ago, my boss had everyone over for a winter holiday party, and she served a pasta dish that we affectionately named after her.

Served warm, it's a wonderfully comforting blend of melty cheeses, aromas, and flavors. Cold, it makes an excellent pasta salad that's just right for, say, a summer barbecue. There is no skill involved, and you can (in fact, should) make it a day ahead. Need I say more?

Pasta Sharona

1 lb box bow tie pasta
1 block fontinella cheese, cubed small
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 boxes cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil

Dump all ingredients EXCEPT pasta and cheeses into a large zip-top bag that seals securely. Shake to mix and let this sit in your refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Before serving, boil and drain the pasta, and combine everything in a big serving bowl. Serves 6-8 (or if you need more servings, just add another box of pasta – you'll have plenty of marinade).

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Want to see a really blurry picture of me in the new summery sweater I finally finished knitting?

Well okay! Here you go:

Caliente top

I finished it at about 6:57 this morning and was so excited to wear it and post a picture that I used my little camera phone, which normally takes much better pictures than this. But hey, it was early and little camera phones need to wake up slowly and perhaps have a cup of black coffee and a banana before they can be expected to perform.

I'm calling it "Caliente" because all the best knitting patterns have exotic names, and this one is knit with a yarn color called Fiesta so it clearly wants to party with the Mariachis.

Hey, chica – do you recognize it? This was one of the skeins of yarn you gave me on my birthday! I liked it so much I bought three more skeins.

And then I found myself on a blisteringly hot school bus filled with fourth-graders on their way to an Art Museum field trip, seated next to one of those sticky, needy kids who gloms onto parents and pummels them with anecdotes. It was either listen to this kid drone on about her pet hamster for 45 minutes or quickly devise an escape via yarn. Thus was born the idea to cast on 200 stitches and simply start knitting.

I posted a pattern for it over at Craftster because obviously I have too much time on my hands.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day at my house went very well, with the girls bestowing handmade cards and electronics upon Dad (the electronics were store-bought).

Father's Day with my family of origin, however, as with any other Hallmark holiday, has always been marked by potato salad and drama. And more drama.

I was not a drama-loving kid, so I usually started working on a new ulcer several weeks beforehand.

First, you'd take a stab at mind reading: What does my father/mother/grandma/grandpa/sibling/etc. want or expect from this day?

Then you'd add a personal touch: How best to solidify this nebulous concept of "appreciation" into a gift or action that would be looked upon as worthy repayment for the past year of sacrifice and apparent misery of serving as my father/mother/grandma/grandpa/sibling/etc.?

I never got it right, expectations were always blown and feelings were hurt. But did we discuss the apparent malfunctions and try to avoid a repeat? Ha. No. Patch everything up and hunker down for next year's crossfire.

It's kind of a relief to see that the same thing goes on even without me playing any role in the chaos. I called my dad, we had a nice conversation, we expressed mutual affection and I promised him a lemon pie next time I came over. He and my mom had argued, but that had nothing to do with me, of course. I listened sympathetically and offered affirmations. I hung up feeling like everything was fine, in fact possibly the best Happy Father's Day exchange ever.

Four hours later, my mom called. "I think your dad is having a nervous breakdown."

"Huh? I just talked to him."

"Will you come over and see if you can calm him down?"

"How am I going to calm him down?"

"He's just going nuts. I'm afraid he's going to give Grandma a heart attack. I think your presence will be calming. It's Father's Day, he just needs to have a fuss made over him."

Okay, I should clarify that no one is allowed to be angry at or near my mother, and if you are, it will make her angry, thereby making the whole thing your fault. Stifling emotions until you explode is quite normal.

But on the other hand, I think I'm over that. Or at least I recognize that it's okay to express anger if you're angry. In theory, anyway.

I said, "I really don't think my coming over there will do any good. He's just upset. He'll calm down."

In the silence on her end of the phone, I heard myself morphing into the Bad Daughter.

"I guess I'll try to make him some potato salad," said my mom after the silence. "I'll see if your brother will come over here and talk to him." Click.

This whole idea of "your dad needs to have a fuss made over him or else" leaves me cold. When I was about 13, I spent the morning making my dad a card for Father's Day, meticulously cutting and gluing, composing a message that struck the right balance between humor and sentiment.

The day exploded as usual, devolving into slammed doors and raised voices. Later, I retreated to my room and found the card I'd given to Dad crumpled up and left on my bed. "Garbage," it seemed to say.

Days later, Dad brought me a red rose and apologized. That was nice, but I think after that I avoided putting anything of myself into these holidays. At least wherever it has the potential to be judged and discarded. I'm almost 30 years old, and I'm tired of hiding under my bed.

Pie, anyone?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Sometimes a day ends like that final lap on the track in P.E. class, where you come limping in behind the people who could actually run, gasping pathetically, stitch burning in your side. Coach Jim is hollering at you to walk it off with your hands up behind your head so you can get plenty of oxygen.

It's like that moment just before you step off the track into the grassy field, bend over, and hurl in front of the cute boys.

And then for the rest of the year you're The Girl Who Puked in P.E.

Some days are like that. If you see me leaving the office with my hands behind my head, that's why.

Monday, June 13, 2005

My ballerina shoes

my ballerina shoes
Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

Ooh, I forgot one!

What I'm wearing: Ballerina shoes! Aren't we exceptionally en pointe today?

A brief and thoroughly uninspired update:

What I'm doing right this minute: Preparing to route brochure copy by stapling a little white "routing slip" to printouts of my draft for everyone to initial and write comments about how brilliant I am. Or not.

What I had for lunch: this was actually the highlight of my day. Gary recently invented this really amazing blackened chicken cream sauce with penne pasta that is equally as delightful reheated as leftovers the next day. And the next. And possibly the next if I can keep from being a pig about it. And I had yogurt, because yogurt is my latest miracle food. Plus an apple.

What I'm tired of: This nagging, hacking, mucus-generating throat virus. Either make me sick enough to stay home from work or don't bother me.

What I'm knitting: A Monk's Travel Satchel -- careful, that's a PDF you're about to click on. It's from the book Folk Bags which I do not own but would very much like to someday.

What I'm looking forward to: Matilda's year-end Musical Theater performance of West Side Story selections tomorrow night. A little blonde-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian nine-year-old trying to be a Hispanic teenager, now that's entertainment!

Monday, June 06, 2005

You know it's going to be a rough Monday when you start up your computer and realize you've forgotten your network login.

I also had a bad habit of forgetting my locker combination minutes before the homeroom bell was going to ring.

I'm sunburned and sore, and slightly depressed because we went into gun-ho landscaping mode over the weekend and took down a plum tree. I'm completely glad we did, but still a little weirded out.

The arguments against the tree were entirely logical. It interfered with the DirectTV dish (shut up, this is important!). It hogged sunlight from my garden. It was too close to the house and was effing up the gutters. It regularly dropped an assload of stupid green plums all over the yard that had to be picked up. The dog compulsively ate the green plums and vomited, cheerleader style. And don't even get me started about the ripe plums that squished and rotted everywhere.

It was 100% logical for the conversation to move from "We need to trim that damn thing," to "We need to cut that thing down while we still can!"

In the span of an afternoon (and with the help of a neighbor's chainsaw) (and after a brief conversation about how "kickback" is so much more than political posturing) Gary had dismantled the entire tree into a stack of branches, leaves, and unripened plums.

Gazing at the newly opened-up space, I think we both felt an odd mixture of relief and "hey… where's the tree??"

Adding to my spiritual angst, we discovered a bird's nest in one of the branches.

Man…You stake out what would appear to be the ideal nesting spot, surrounded by an endless supply of ripening fruit and shade for your babies, located in a fenced yard well protected from predators… Everything seems to be going well, and then wowza, some assholes come along with a chainsaw and ruin everything.

There are no guarantees, just brief pockets of happiness.

As it turns out, my string beans got their first real taste of full sunlight, and they were entirely content.

Friday, June 03, 2005

I came into work this morning and realized that the tables had turned.

We used to be a department made up entirely of girls. We openly discussed menstruation, breast exams, pregnancy, and leg hair at our weekly meetings.

But now we are five boys and nine girls. And although the occasional placenta discussion still comes up, the boys have staked out their own obnoxious territory.

On the departmental dry-erase board, I saw this message: "Farting is the most fun you can have with your own butt."

A girl did not write that. I'm sure of it.