Saturday, January 9, 2016

Seeing Everything As Art

"Riverbank, Winter," 2016

A gloriously larkspur blue afternoon turned into a clear starry evening, warm enough that I barely needed my scarf on the walk across the Hawthorne Bridge last night, a breath of spring to tantalize us after the snow and ice that started the week. There's a Maxfield Parrish work currently on exhibit as part of "Seeing Nature" at the Portland Art Museum (it's the last weekend, so go if you haven't; there are some very nice works and the main-floor installation of Paradise by Fallen Fruit is worth seeing as well) and this view of the Willamette River brought it to mind, mostly for the colors and the glints of gold in the leaves, though neither really came out in this photo. But I'm posting it anyway.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Cheer 2015

Wishing my family and friends both near and far the happiest of holidays! XOXO Elizabeth

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Even In This City

The morning of September 11, 2001, I was watching the news as I got ready to go to work in downtown Portland. All that day, and for weeks thereafter, I got very nervous when I saw an airplane flying overhead, especially if it was (from my perspective anyway) approaching a building. I'm not nervous about that any more - haven't been for years, as it quickly became obvious that the chances of my dying in a terrorist attack were about the same as being attacked by a shark in the Willamette River: not out of the realm of possibility, but extremely unlikely. That's why I don't understand America's obsession with that date, or those events (unless they have a direct personal connection), or our continuing willingness to put up with security theatre that has proven to do more harm than good. Not to mention bombing the hell out of innocent civilians in other countries, but that's not the topic of this post.

The topic of this post is security, and fear, and the need for protection, perceived or real. Specifically, how that plays out in our daily lives. And when I say "our" I'm not talking about people who are required to put themselves in dangerous situations, like police officers or soldiers. I'm talking about Jane and Joe A. Merican, living their lives in any of the fifty states, going to work, coming home tired, taking the kids out to the movies, walking the dog, going to the local shopping mall as I did this morning to pick up things like coat hangers and push pins. Why do they feel the need to carry guns around with them, openly or not, while doing those boringly safe things every day? Will a gun do anything against a suicide bomber? Well-armed US soldiers serving in the Middle East have been killed by such methods by the dozens (if not more) and all their guns did, I imagine, was add to the explosion. "But what about the deranged person who comes in with guns and starts shooting the place up?" I hear you asking. And here's my answer:

If the gun laws in this country were not so ludicrously lax, that deranged person would not have been allowed to buy those guns in the first place.

Before we get into the "responsible people don't" and "hunting puts food on my table" and "my family grew up with guns and we've never shot each other" arguments that get rolled out in these conversations - though strangely enough statistics such as the 10,000 children who are killed or injured by guns every year in the USA rarely come up - let me tell you what happened this morning on the way to the shopping mall. I was walking down 82nd Avenue, enjoying the breezy sunshine, when I happened to notice a car stopped on its way out of a store's parking lot, and a man standing at the driver's side, engaged in what, from my position across the street, looked like a heated argument with the person(s) inside the car. I slowed down, then stopped, then turned around and went back to the previous cross street and went west to 80th Avenue, so that I didn't have to walk past them, even separated by five lanes of pavement. And do you know why?

Not because I was afraid of getting into the middle of a fistfight. I could have run fast enough to avoid that, if a physical fight had broken out and somehow carried on across the street.

Not because I was afraid of being hurt by knives or broken bottles or baseball bats or dead cats, had those been used, for the same reason - I was across the street, after all.

Not because I was worried that I'd be run over in the unlikely event of a car chase, as I could have done exactly what I did do, only more quickly.

I crossed the street because there was absolutely no way I could have avoided stray bullets, if someone had pulled a gun and started shooting. Perhaps I could have made myself thin behind the telephone pole at the end of the block, if there was one (I don't even remember), and even protected a small child if there had been one next to me, but there was no other place to duck for shelter, especially not in the milliseconds it takes for a bullet to travel a few dozen feet.

Now please explain to me why easy access to guns is not the one factor in this morning's scenario that made me so nervous. And please explain this, as well, if you are in the pro-gun and especially the pro-carry camp: why are you voting, organizing, protesting against stricter gun control? As far as I can tell, the only thing that most people are advocating for right now is better oversight and making it harder for people who could pose a danger to others get access to guns and ammunition. Reinstating the Federal Assault Weapons Ban would be nice, as I can't imagine why anyone other than soldiers on active duty would need automatic rifles, but hey, if you can't shoot an elk without arming yourself like Rambo first, that's not my problem. At least not as long as I stay out of the woods during elk season. But taking that weapon to the local shopping mall? What purpose would that serve?

And if you aren't confident that you'd be able to keep your guns under any new legislation because you can't prove that you're responsible, not deranged, will keep your guns locked up away from children, and will use them appropriately, then maybe you shouldn't own those guns.

The bottom line is that so far I have heard no good reason why nearly-unrestricted access to more firearms than currently exist in most countries with active war zones is making me, or my fellow citizens, safer and less nervous. As far as I can tell, it's not making me any safer, and it's definitely making me more nervous. Even in this city.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Of Course There Was Pie

This is the dessert that turned out well, a cranberry-currant pie with cognac, based on David Lebovitz's Cranberry Raisin Pie recipe. I used currants instead of cranberries, and soaked them in the juice of two oranges instead of water, and didn't squeeze out the extra liquid because there wasn't a lot of it, and I wanted the orange flavor. I used cognac instead of the orange liqueur, from a small bottle shaped like the Eiffel Tower that I got in the duty-free shop at Charles de Gaulle, la dernière goutte de ma vie française, hélas. And instead of the cup of sugar, I drizzled in a tablespoon of raw honey that I'd gotten at the farmer's market on Wednesday. Oh, and I only had gluten-free pie crust for the bottom, so had to put a sheet of foil over the top of the pie during the last half of the baking so it didn't dry out. I liked it. I also had some of Mom's green tomato mincemeat pie, but couldn't taste Ben's pumpkin pie or his double-crusted apple pie, both of which got buried under avalanches of whipped cream when Morgan and Leah served themselves. And there was ice cream and coconut-based whipped topping as well, plus eggnog and maple syrup for the French toast this morning, and all in all I had more sugar this weekend than I think I ate in the entire month of October, when I started my elimination diet. Which I am going back to, for the most part, and so no more desserts (or at least not in that quantity), any time soon. I'll make that cranberry-currant pie again, though. Just as soon as I go back to France for more cognac.

The Other Side Of The Mountains

It was a frosty morning in Portland when we left on Thursday morning to head east over the Cascades, but once we got to Sunriver it was a new level of frosty, down below zero most nights and not much higher the rest of the time. Beautiful, though - clear and blue, with the ice crystals that formed overnight on the treetops dusting down in a rain of glittering sparks throughout the day. Mom and I went on a walk with Daisy the dog on Friday afternoon while everyone else was out watching football. We walked on the road that loops past and over the canal off the Deschutes River, which itself loops back and forth across the flat high desert. Daisy bounded off through the drifts, body-surfing in the powder. The skiing was probably amazing on Mt Bachelor this weekend.

Sunriver itself is not a place I'm familiar with, although I did get over there once the spring before I left for France. And Mom reminded me that we went there once when we lived in Ashland, where we learned to cross-country ski. Other than that I never really went farther east than Breitenbush, mostly, although Bend is only about 3 hours away from Portland. It was nice crunching around in the snow, though, and I wouldn't mind visiting more often in the winter.

Yesterday we visited a great thrift store where I finally found a dress black Ralph Lauren skirt that I can wear for work and a pair of Eddie Bauer fleece-lined boots, plus a nice scarf and two bowls for the kitchen, all for under 40 dollars. John scored with a merino wool sweater and another in cashmere for half that. If it weren't 3 hours away I would shop at that thrift store every week. Then we went to the craft fair at the Sunriver Resort, and took a short walk along the path by the golf course, where Daisy tore around madly some more, enjoying the snow.

Mom had prepared Thanksgiving dinner, with ham that John had smoked himself, and a grilled ling cod that they caught off the coast at Gold Beach, plus green beans and rice salad and carrots and homemade cranberry mustard. Friday I put in about 6 hours of freelance work in the morning, and then baked two desserts after Mom and I got back from our walk. One turned out very oddly - that was the experimental recipe I'd had in mind, and reminded me of why I don't bake more often. Too much measuring. The other turned out well, though. More freelance work that evening while Kate and Ben and Morgan taught Mom how to play Texas Hold'em, and Leah chatted to her boyfriend on Skype. After a late lunch at a local restaurant on Saturday, we were content to graze on leftovers last night, and had just enough to make sack lunches for our respective drives home to Carpenterville (Mom and John), Corvallis (Morgan), and Portland.

The roads were much less icy on the drive back, and it was a quicker drive. It got warmer as we went west, and by the time we came over the crest of the mountains it was up above freezing again, though I was glad enough to turn the heat on in the house before I unpacked, and I don't have my bedroom window cracked open as I generally do, to get the fresh air. It's a little too fresh out there right now. Though perhaps I should go out and enjoy the clear cold skies while they're here - the weather will change tomorrow, and instead of sun we'll be back to rain for the foreseeable future. But I'm grateful for the good weather over Thanksgiving, and the chance to share it with my family again. Now if only Ian and Corey and Vanessa could have been there ...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Canard Rôti

I'd already planned on roasting a chicken for this week's meals ($2.99/lb for the organic fryers at New Seasons) but when we walked by the Cerigioli Gardens stand at the Montavilla Farmers Market this morning and saw the sign reading "fresh duck," Quyen and I both swerved over and asked to see what they had. The vendor opened the cooler lid and we stepped back in shock at the monster poultry lurking inside. But then he said those were the turkeys, and pulled out a smaller bird from underneath.

The chicken was roasted as planned, but early enough in the day that I could let it cool and take it apart into legs in one container and the breast meat in another, covered with the juices from the pan to keep it moist. The carrots that roasted underneath the chicken and the two heads of garlic I put in the pan are ready to add in at lunch or dinner. Quyen and I ate the hot salty roasted chicken skin from the breast; I put the carcass into the freezer for stock.

The duck roasted at 425F for 50 minutes on top of celery stalks, then I flipped it over and roasted it for another 50 minutes. We were supposed to wait 15 minutes before carving it but only made it to 10 before tearing into the meat, which looked overcooked to the eye but ended up being amazingly tender, even the legs. Quyen's making soup out of the bones, which is pretty much all that was left. It was a very good dinner.

fresh watercress in mustard vinaigrette | wild rice blend cooked and mixed with sauteed chard, shallots, and fish sauce