Spring Arrives (sorta)

CherrySnowCherry snow in WallingfordHi everyone. Another very occasional post by me. Above and below are photos from a walk taken in Wallingford during a recent swing through Seattle. Just like here, signs of Spring are everywhere, though we then worry about those tender buds getting hit again with frigid temperatures and biting rain. The roller coaster weather continues.

SpaceFlowersWallingford Space FlowersSpring finds me still here and deeply immersed in building my business up. I’m enrolled in a 12-week business coaching program that has been so great for me. I realize how passive I’ve been in my business, really letting it take its own course over the years and never actively directing it to be what I wanted it to be. I feel incredibly empowered now that I’m figuring stuff out that can help me to create exactly the company I want to have. Stay tuned.

BikeRideA great bike ride on The Hot DayHere’s some stuff I’ve been up to:

  • business thinking and writing
  • networking and talking with local business people, designers, marketers, and anyone else I can bribe with a cup of coffee
  • reading (mostly) business books (see recommendations on my FB Business page)
  • visits from my dear Seattle friends (thank you!) and Island vacations with others!
  • trying more interesting restaurants*
  • activities: Guiding Lights 2012; TedX Portland (theme: Becoming Extraordinary, so, did that); Oregon Single-Payer Healthcare fundraiser; Portland Farmers Market; Tulip fields!!
  • bike riding and walks
  • learning to cook Indian food! (thanks Madhur Jaffrey – so good!)
  • visiting and hanging with my girl, Lilly
  • knitting a baby gift that – God willing – will be completed before said baby is in college
  • uh, a little TV viewing** (you can’t NOT while living where I’m living :-))

*More restaurants worth trying:

  • Petite Provence: reliably yummy French breakfasts & lunches — 2 stores!
  • Dick’s Kitchen: healthy diner food. In addition to burgers, chili and the like, they serve cultured veggies, kale salads and sweet potato “not” fries that are delish!
  • Elephant’s Deli: Giant deli with great sandwiches, entrees, and baked goods. Free parking 1 block off NW 23rd!
  • Cabezon: Great little neighborhood spot with one of the best deals in town – $13 for a giant bowl of moules frite: mussels in a delicious broth with chorizo topped with fries. Mmmm. Perfect late night with a drinky!

**Great TV worth watching:

  • Girls (HBO – Lena Dunham!!)
  • Madmen (must-see TV for designer types)
  • The Killing (dark, very dark)
  • Portlandia reruns
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Pitch (AMC – more crack for designers/ad folks)

Happy Spring to All!! xoxo

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Must-See Art

Yesterday I took advantage of Portland Art Museum’s Free Fourth Friday and went to the museum. I saw two shows that were outstanding, and one of them just blew me away altogether.

The first one was a Mark Rothko mini-retrospective with paintings that spanned the years of his life and represented at least three major stylistic shifts. I was really enamored of his work from the 40s and 50s that was abstract but not as 2-dimensional and single-themed as his later work that we’re all much more familiar with.

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I love those paintings, too, but the earlier ones were a total surprise for me. I really love his color sense which seemed unusual and at times, brave — I just don’t know what else to call it. Then there are maybe a dozen or so of his famous color studies featuring rectangular patches of color on different colored fields. Simple yet somehow engrossing, I love these paintings, too.

The standout show, however, was the work of an artist named John Frame. Someone I’d never heard of before. He’s a California artist, age around 60, and he creates tiny fantastical sculptures and environments and contraptions that are just amazing to behold. The exhibit is really beautifully done: the gallery rooms are dark and the work is all spot-lit, so the effect is very dramatic. These works are like tiny jewels boxes in the level of intricate detail — you just can’t believe the skill and artistry that went into each tiny detail. The carved wood, fabric, mechanical devices, props; each tableau is a tiny stage-set and you long to know the story behind them all. In fact, he is now working on a film entitled “The Tale of the Crippled Boy” in which all of these works feature. You can watch some of it on his website.

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This picture doesn’t quite capture it. You simply have to see it with your own eyes.

Fortunately, both these shows will be up through May 27th. Definitely worth a trip to Portland to see.

Excellent

OK, so, let’s just say it: I am a horrible blogger. I know, I know, but I find myself in that endless stretch of winter where the sky permanently looks like this:

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And one begins to wonder about the meaning of life and why change is sometimes (now) so slow. S.A.D. has settled in for the winter and I struggle to find one single thing to say about my life that could be even mildly entertaining. But things do happen and I do have a ton of thoughts, rest assured. And I need to get them down on virtual paper. Hence, this entry.

My Dad just turned me on to a comic who said the following: “They say life begins at 50. So, I’m like ‘what was all that bullshit?'” Honestly, where would we be if we couldn’t laugh at ourselves and, at times, the situations we unexpectedly find ourselves in?

One thing I’ve been doing a lot of this winter is reading and I just finished the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. I highly recommend it not because it was such great writing but because you can’t help but be inspired (and also a little horrified) by the uniquely driven person Steve Jobs was. (YOU’RE ALL IDIOTS AND ALL YOUR IDEAS SUCK!!!—way to motivate!)

It’s made me think a lot about “Excellence” and what it means. As I’ve matured and become a seasoned designer, I have to confess that I’ve found myself operating a fair amount of the time on autopilot. Hardly pushing the envelope, but more feeling, “close enough for government work.” At the same time, I always take care to provide a “quality” product and experience, but not necessarily an outstanding one. Reading the Jobs biography made me want to change that. It’s kind of a given that you aren’t going to care equally about each and every project, but maybe that’s wrong. Maybe you could if you pushed yourself to produce ideas with audacity or at least more originality or fun in them, and then mustered the courage to present them with the confidence required to sell them. It can be scary. You risk humiliation and rejection. But reading about Jobs in action made me realize that if your eye is always on making a difference, then you just do it because you aren’t thinking about humiliation and rejection. You’re not giving a s**t what people think of you at all. And, to me, that doesn’t mean you have to hurt people, as he did. There’s really no reason you can’t be forceful without being insulting. But I do respect that person who is able to say, once a project is virtually complete: No, we’re starting over because it’s not right yet. Anyone who’s had a job knows that hardly ever happens.

I guess we’ll see how long this new feeling in me will last, but I’m grateful for it now at least and eager to see what I can make of it.

Promising to write more often… stay tuned!

Going Gluten-free (again)

So, I got a complimentary check up at a holistic wellness center which involved “muscle-testing” where the doc pushes down on your outstretched arm while you try pushing it up. While he’s doing this, he has you hold a succession of vials containing substances, or whole boxes of little vials and then he detects differences in your strength. It was hard to take it very seriously (kept thinking of what my dad would say ;-)) but at the end he informed me that I should avoid gluten and corn and that I may have a heavy metal problem (never have liked heavy metal much…). And the thing he said that convinced me I should try it again (I’ve been gluten free before for long stretches) was that gluten can have a deleterious effect on sleep! This I’ve never heard before, and since I struggle a lot with sleep, I thought it was worth a try.

Plus, my sister Sarah has just gone gluten free, so it’s a good show of solidarity and shared suffering! Happily, Portland is all over the gluten free trend. They have more GF bakeries than I could have imagined, and very good ones at that, and, a large numer of restaurants have whole gluten free menus you can request. They’re way ahead of other cities, even Seattle, in embracing this growing trend.

So, I’m experimenting with gluten free recipes and also getting out and trying some of the bakeries in town. Below is a cupcake from New Cascadia Bakery in southeast which my neice, Julia, and I visited recently. This very pretty cupcake is a “Lady Grey” that had a hint of lemon to it (but not so much bergamot). The cake was a little tougher than a traditional cupcake, but still fairly tender, and the frosting was good tho’ I couldn’t detect any butter flavor even though this one wasn’t labeled “vegan” something that very often seems to go hand-in-hand with gluten free baked goods, and that I’m not a fan of. I believe butter and cheese can be part of a healthy diet, and I have no plans to give them up. While there, we also sampled a toasted bagel and a brownie and they were both good enough to warrant more visits!

GF-cupcakeLady Gray cupcake. Photo by Julia… you can tell ’cause it’s not blurry!

More Food

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More from the Israeli cookbook: tahini cookies, which I spiked with cumin and crystallized ginger. These were sort of Russian teacake-like, dusted in powdered sugar, but the tahini is almost on the savory side, so adds a little interest. I want to keep experimenting with these — found a dozen other recipes some of which have you rolling the balls in sesame seed… mmmm.

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Then I tried some meatballs called Albondigas, a Sephardic recipe from Jerusalem, which seemed to me to be a hybrid of a meatball and a latke: grated potato and onion mixed with ground chicken, bread crumbs and some spices and served in a very tasty tomato sauce. Although these looked delish, there was a texture problem as they were very, very soft, almost slimy in texture, so rather unpleasant, and the taste was curiously unlike a latke OR a meatball. Go figure. So far, I’m giving these recipes a 60/40 rating (a tahini spread I made was super delicious, as was the zhug.)

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Another thing I’m doing is pickling and canning. (I know, I know, Portlandia fans: “I can pickle that!”) This is a photo — again, horribly styled — of a batch of pickled apples I made which are quite delicious but, for me, too sweet and not quite tart enough. I need to tweak this recipe. But served with a smear of mascarpone, they are heavenly! My other foray into canning was doing some spiced, pickled pears, also very tasty, but too sweet for me and too soft. The apples were put into the jar raw and covered with the hot brine while the pears actually cooked in the briny syrup first. Learning…

Food Experiments

I have been cooking A LOT since I’ve been here, and have meant to record some of my successes on this blog. But, as you know, the road from Hell… blah, blah. So for Hanukkah, I got a coveted Israeli cookbook from my dear daughter and this is the first thing I’ve cooked from it. Hariri: a Moroccan lamb & chickpea stew. Please forgive the very poor food “styling,” – I’ll try to get better at that. What’s really great about this stew, which is extremely tasty itself, is the toppings. There are two: a sage, lemon, garlic gremolata which is my recipe and obviously not called for by this recipe, and something called “Zhug.” Zhug is a hot relish that I remember well from my time living in Israel. It is from Yemen or Morocco, I believe and is hot and delicious and goes with almost anything. I put both of these toppings on the stew and it was off the hook: spicy, a little bit hot and subtly delicious. I also added the cauliflower which is not called for but great nonetheless. The spicing of the stew is very understated. Turmeric is used a lot in spicing all kinds of things in Middle Eastern cuisine, but frequently is the dominant spice in a soup or stew as it is here. It’s so subtle but it lends a buttery depth that is very good. I’ll be eating this, happyily, for many days.

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Keepin’ on Keepin’ on

It’s the beginning of Week Two of 2010 and here’s what life looks like: I spent New Years Eve with my One Portland Friend, Ada Garcia at a place called the Radio Room. Ada is a Cuban who arrived in Portland almost a year ago. She lives with her parents a few miles away and is patiently (or not) awaiting the one-year-mark of her residency so that she can legally work. We comically find ourselves in similar situations: very grown up and living once again with parents, and both in need of work. It’s such a strange place to be in one’s life that it’s great to know someone else who’s doing it, too. (Plus, I have a secret fantasy that Ada may help me to improve my mostly non-existent Spanish.)

AdaAtradioroom

The Radio Room is a converted gas station in Northeast that is funky but with modern touches, two outdoor fire pits and a tiny stage and even tinier dance floor. Ada and I spent the evening listening to an R&B band (with one inexplicable tie-dyed hippie attached to them – see photo) and just before midnight crowded onto the dance floor to boogie in the New Year. It was a sweet, low-key evening and start to a new page.

Since then I’ve been getting more serious about my job search: I now follow up every online application with an in-person visit wherein I hand over an artfully packaged resumé, effusive cover letter and a jar of homemade chutney. I ask you: how can they resist my charms?! Alas, at this writing, they mostly have. But I’m in it for the long haul and plan to keep at it and one of them will simply have to crack!

Meanwhile, I walk the dog (endlessly), explore the city, get lost, and enjoy my family. I’m working on that “patience” thingy we all have. Trying to tame the urge (need?) to “accomplish.” Is that human nature or is it a construct we’ve learned to measure our own worth? Interesting to contemplate, for sure.

End of Year Wrap-up

2011 is coming skidding to a close and amazingly, I’ve now lived here for nearly 3 months! I haven’t been as good at recording all of the experiences I’ve had here as I had hoped, so I want to do a recap of some things I’ve discovered that I really love about Portland so far.

IMG_0189Inside the bathroom at the Powell’s café on Hawthorne.

Apart from specific things, Portland just has so much fun eye-candy all around. Anyone who’s visited here knows that there seem to be endless small-scale neighborhood commercial centers that are full of a kind of old-fashioned, humble character, and before I lived here, I couldn’t really tell them apart, but now I can and they each have their own particular array of charms. I just feel there is a always such a feast for my eyes everywhere I go and very little of it seems slick or calculated; it mostly appears to have grown out of the ground into its current state.

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Then there are all of the taste experiences I’ve had, both simple and elaborate. Despite my thin wallet, I’ve managed to sample a healthy roster of local restaurants, many that I hope to return to and some, not. I continue to be awed by Portland’s great food — seemingly more varied and appealing than Seattle’s — or perhaps just in my price range. Seattle’s great places mostly seemed out of my reach which was a constant frustration. Whatever it is, Portland’s scene is, for me, just right, and there are months and years worth of places I still long to try.

A few places I’ve been I cannot give a credible “review” to because I haven’t tried enough of their food. These include Olympic Provisions (homemade charcuterie and inventive yet homey food in a cool warehouse space); Ken’s Artisan Pizza (and Bakery at another location); Bijou Café (one pretty good breakfast but warrants a few more visits, and same with Toast, a cozy, grandmotherly place with very good breakfasts; Evoo, the small open kitchen abutting Pastaworks, a wonderful specialty grocery I’d like to work in. But here’s a few other places, food and not, that I really love:

Little T Bakery

Little T’s is pretty widely known around here. A lot of restaurants and stores have their bread or partries supplied by them, so I’ve been able to sample quite a bit of their food, and almost everything I’ve tried has been sublime.

Pear-crumbcakePear crumbcake… mmmm.

IMG_0176‘The little t’ artisan salamis on seeded hoagie.

IMG_0177Roasted winter veggies on house loaf, aka focaccia

Ford Food + Drink

I love this big café that manages to be designy and garage-saley at the same time. It’s a great place to hang out and study or take a big group for a very decent sandwich or an inspired salad. Or just a cuppa coffee. Open late night, too.

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Other Stuff I Love in Portland That’s Not Food

Believe it or not, there is other stuff to love — lots of it! A few of my favorite things:

The Aladdin Theatre

The Aladdin is an adorable old theatre that has great music practically every night of the week. Since I’ve been here they’ve had Richard Thompson, The Klezmatics, John Wesley Harding, and Nick Lowe, to name a few. The prices are very affordable, and if you have to go alone, it’s okay because it’s likely your seat neighbor will be so friendly you’ll feel as if you went with a friend.

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$5 Zumba at East Portland Community Center

Thanks to Lilly for finding this great place with unbeatable cheap drop-in rates for all manner of fitness classes (Zumba, Nia, yoga, and lots more) and excellent facilities. They have a gorgeous pool, a spacious weight room, numerous classrooms and activity spaces and all of it for $3.50 to $5 a visit. Can you say ‘buns of steel’?

The Living Room Theatre

Foreign and Indie films are on offer here at The Living Room every night of the week, but on Tuesdays, it’s just $5. You can order food and drinks and take ’em in to ingest while you watch. All in an ultra-modern sleek setting that still manages to be warm and welcoming.

IMG_0207The Living Room

So, you can see I’ve been busy, verrrry busy drinking it all in and trying as much of it as I can. One other big thing I’ve been doing is teaching myself about cheese. I’ve been reading a couple of very thick books on the subject and sampling and asking lots of questions. My goal is to bring some deeper knowledge to my future job in whatever store that may be. My current faves are an aged gouda called Robusto and a Spanish (Basque, actually) smoked sheep cheese, Idiazabal.

Speaking of cheese, I want to wish all of you a very Happy New Year and thank you for bothering to read my infrequent posts! May 2012 bring you much happiness and don’t forget to give a holla if you’re down this way. Lots of love to all!!

-Deb

Getting real

Okay, so my first month and a little here was spent in a kind of la-la land; I was cushioned from the reality of having moved to a NEW PLACE by the fact that I had family all around me and more than enough to do. There have been countless outings and get-togethers, venturing out and getting lost more times than I can count; reincarnating my business and tending to all of the details that accompany establishing oneself in a new city.

However, when my roommates, Dad and Chris, up and left for sunny California for the winter last week, leaving me in charge of their home and their pets, reality began to set in. I have to find some peeps that are not my immediate family while living a good distance from the heart of the action… and, well, how do you DO that anyway… I mean, HOW?!

People might be surprised to hear me describe myself as shy, but it’s true. It’s not easy for me to put myself out there so I really have to force myself. I find myself experiencing a roller coaster of emotions around this. It’s always hard to “start over,” but I think it’s more so the older one gets. So I have to try extra hard to not retreat and stay in… I have to push myself to look for jobs… every single thing that needs to be present in order to have a full and enriching life, I have to try to create for myself from the beginning. It’s a journey and sometimes also an effort to stay positive.

I’ve joined a buncha meetup groups and have eagerly attended every single thing I’ve been invited to, but still at times there seems to be an echo the size of the Grand Canyon.

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Tonight I made myself to go to a networking event downtown called Schmooze. It turned out to be a massively well-attended cocktail hour and although it wasn’t easy, I was glad I went. First of course, I had to get totally lost, driving all the way in the TOTALLY wrong direction to Lake Oswego, just for the hell of it! But stifling the urge to scream and swerve into oncoming traffic, I finally arrived. Since my new business cards aren’t quite ready yet, I made some little souvenirs to pass out—little antique keys with labels attached that have my biz info on them. I only gave out a few, but got kudos for having something a little different to hand out. Had a couple of interesting convos and a glass of wine, and, as has been my uniform experience here, I felt like people were pretty open and warm, wanting to connect. Then, predictably, to paraphrase the immortal Niles Crane, I tired early under the pressure to be interesting.

But I decided tonight: One Year. I’m gonna give myself one year to sink in here before I succumb to feeling desperate. Wish me luck.