Wednesday, June 20, 2012

oh, portland

Ha! Yesterday in Portland it was 64 degrees and raining. A warm, sunny 81 degrees today and tomorrow; forecast for Friday of 61 again.

Nothing like a 20-degree jump (or two) to really help you appreciate the sunshine!:)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

bird lovelies:)

Outside our bathroom window, there's a sporadic cheeping, high and light enough that I might not even hear if I weren't paying attention. Every so often, the tiniest of birds darts up into our tree with a wee bit of something in its beak--string, fern, needle. In a miraculous display of dexterity, especially for me so dependent on fingers and opposable digits, it places the something just so, re-tweaks the other somethings around it, wiggles around, shapes the emerging nest with the whole of its bitty body before darting off for more.

Two bushtits have been making this nest for at least the last three days. That's when I first noticed, anyway, but if the next few days' worth of progress were any indication it was already pretty far along when I first saw it. If I remember correctly, it can take them up to two weeks to complete a whole nest, which looks sort of like a hanging sock when it's done and is held together primarily by--ready for this? It's held together primarily by spiderwebs.

Since I don't want to bother them--especially in the first stages of nest-building, many birds will abandon their work if they're disturbed--I've been doing a lot of peering through our bathroom and bedroom windows. With my binoculars. Hopefully not in a manner which will be misconstrued by our neighbors. It may be a little ridiculous how much time I've dedicated to watching this nest develop, but how often do you get to see this kind of thing?

On the other side of the house, there's a pair of crows engaged in much the same task. Again, for the last few days, there's been a constant back-and-forth to the top of the biggest tree out the front window. Being larger, the crows are carrying sticks instead of pieces of string and moss. They'll weave them all together into a much more pokey sort of nest than the bushtits' soft sock. But the outward process seems the same. Fetch, return, place, fetch, return, place, again and again and again with infinite patience.

I love the feeling of being surrounded by nest-building. Though the weather may not feel like it, the birds know that spring is here, and they're settling in around us. I love that we can share our space with them:)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

two blogs is weird

Back in the day, I decided that I wasn't going to use this blog anymore, because I was going to start a new, more thematic one:

Well, over time I guess it's morphed into me using two blogs, this one for more life-and-times kind of stuff, and carfreerambles for more bikey kind of stuff. Which is weird sometimes. What if bikey stuff is also life-and-timesy? What if life-and-timesy is about my bike? Oh the dilemma.

Sometimes, it means I post the same thing on both, but that seems dumb. Why have two blogs if you post the same thing on both of them? Which is why I was going to stop writing on this one in the first place...

heh. All that to say that I've been on a bike adventure! But I'll post about it over on carfreerambles. And probably not tonight. But soon:)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

variety is the spice of life

I think the biggest reason I'm so happy is variety. I know this doesn't work for everyone, but endless monotony of schedule, of obligations, of routine makes me a crazy person--so now that my time is not necessarily less regimented but is less structuredly regimented, I'm a very happy stasia.

I'm thinking about variety this morning because I'm at our house working on a spattering of different things, feeling good about getting productive shit done but thoroughly enjoying not having to leave for work at the zoo until noon. Yesterday, just as it will tomorrow, work started much earlier. Of course, some days, "work" is the zoo and some days it's the Community Cycling Center. And even within those two organizations the actual stuff I do changes all the time. Add to that some classes--PSU or Master Gardening--and the work involved in those, and add some volunteer commitments as well, and you have the varied life I love. It is so important to me to not be doing the same task over and over, to not even be doing different tasks at the same time over and over. It's so important to me to have choice in what I'm doing, when.

Of course, a relatively fluid structure works for me because I'm pretty good at doing (most:) stuff that I think needs to be done, even without an enforced deadline. I'm pretty self-directed: if I don't have to be at work until noon, I'm still going to get up relatively early and do other stuff that I think is important. Variety works for me because I legitimately crave it, and because I legitimately want to be doing all these different things and constantly figuring out how to fit them all together.

When I think of my teaching schedule a few years ago, it makes me kind of tired. Getting up at the same time very single day, making the same commute and going through the same bell schedule and having the same weekends...sure, the stuff within each day changed (teaching is nothing if not ever-changing), but rigid external structures like that make me nuts. [yes, I suppose you could argue that the very nature of time is a rigid structure, but I'm not going to go that far:)]

I'm so, so glad that life looks the way it does right now.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Randonneur-ing: a new love:)

Today was a first for me: a 100k "populaire," a ride put on by the Oregon Randonneurs.

Randonneuring is actually something that I can't believe I didn't know about until recently. Randonneurs USA (RUSA) defines it as "long-distance unsupported endurance cycling [that is] non-competitive in nature, and self-sufficiency is paramount." This is just the thing for a crazy person like me who loves to ride as far as possible on her own power but doesn't necessarily care about going faster than other people.

It turns out it's pretty amazing. I showed up tired and bleary-eyed at the 7:30 registration this morning, after having gotten up at 5:30 to eat breakfast and make my bike/MAX combo commute out to where it started in Hillsboro. After getting over my initial shyness at not knowing anyone, intensified a bit by the fact that I found myself one of maybe three women in a sea of spandexed men, I got my randonneuring card and my cue sheet. The cue sheet lists out all the turns and streets for the route; the card is something you carry and have people sign at various check points--the "controls." That way, even though it's unsupported and you do it on your own speed, there's a mechanism for making sure that people did the whole route. It sort of makes it feel like a treasure hunt, actually, since every so often you have to stop and have someone sign your card, or answer a secret question like what color the flags on a certain road sign you go past are.

The riding itself is amazing. Since there aren't so many people who do it (especially compared to many of the summer organized rides in Portland), it feels much more spread out, like you're just out in the countryside taking a joyride. You can ride with other people, of course, and I did for portions of the route, but it doesn't feel like the bike-traffic-fest that some rides do. Though some people do try to complete the route in under a certain time, it's not a race, and everyone I ran into was super nice.

After about 4 and a half hours of riding on amazing country roads, with showers and sun and showers and sun and a huge puddle up almost to my knees that I had to bike through, I made it back to the start and turned in my completed card. I'm not sure what happens to it now, but I guess it's the way they keep track of who finished and in how long. I was the first woman to come in (heh--out of, oh, three;), though instead of hanging around at the pub (convenient ending location, no?) with the other people who'd finished, I opted to get my wet, cold, but thoroughly invigorated self back on my bike and head home. At the end of the day, I think it ended up being about 80 miles of riding--not bad:)

It turns out there are all sorts of different categories of randonneuring--populaire, brevet, permanent, and probably some others--and they come in different length varieties: 100k, 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k... I don't really know yet how that all works and what the different distinctions mean, but I'm psyched to get into it. I feel like I've found a style of riding that plays to what I like in a bike ride, and a community of people who also like what I like in a bike ride.

And maybe I can get some other women to come with me. We've got to represent:)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

man oh man

Have I mentioned recently that I'm the luckiest stasia in the world?

I haven't? Well, pardon this self-indulgent post;)

Despite the glorious sunshine that kicked this week off, I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow--nothing stuck to the roads, but a lovely covering on the grass, neighbor's roofs, some trees. As James and I biked to PSU together, him for work and me for my geography class, the sun was starting to shine, and we could see the West Hills all sparkly with snow between the gleaming buildings of downtown Portland. Our breath was billowy and white around our heads, and we wore our biggest snow gloves; the cold made me feel alive and alert.

After class, I usually go straight to work at the zoo. But this week our old roommate is in town, and he wanted to see the Japanese garden. Since I go right past it on my way up the hill, since I'm a member and can get him in for free, since I love the Japanese garden, since my work time at the zoo is somewhat flexible, I met him up there after class and we got a rare treat of seeing the garden under snow. The sun out was melting it quickly and it fell around us like rain. Despite being nearly frozen stiff by the time we left, it was amazing.

And then, the zoo, the loveliest job in the world, working with awesome teens, teaching little kids about nature, getting to do awesome things like go out and collect all kinds of winter twigs to bring to classes so kids can learn about buds and what plants do in the winter... Have I mentioned I love this job? And even better, when I leave it now, even at 6, it's not dark out yet. Every day is a little bit lighter, a little bit more springy. It's still a ways away yet, but I've got the taste of long summer evenings, of riding my bike into the never-ending evening, of being outside as much as humanely possible...

Life in Portland is so good, and I'm so grateful.

Friday, February 24, 2012

future fresh veggies!

After having talked about it for several years now, James and I finally joined a CSA this year!

What that means, for you noninitiated, is that we joined something called Community Supported Agriculture: we sent a check to Love Farm Organics, a cute little farm not too far away in Forest Grove, and in return, during the harvest season, we can expect 24 weeks of fresh veggie and fruit baskets delivered to a pickup location not four blocks from our house.

Our upfront check, several months before we actually see any food, allows the farm some initial cash with which to start their crops; then, as the crops are ready, everyone who put up money at the beginning shares in the harvest. It's a way to spread the risk and benefits of farming out amongst many people, so that it's not just the little bitty farmer who gets screwed if the weather is bad this year. It also lets them know, should they end up with tons of produce, that they already have a home for it.

We've never tried it before because we kind of like choosing the different vegetables and fruits we want every week instead of just trying to figure out how to use what happened to be picked by one particular farm--but I think it's time to try it out. This will be the quintessential experiment in eating exactly what's ripe in our climate in any given week. I'm excited!

And I'm excited to help support a farm that's only about 35 miles away from our house, run by people who sounded oh so cute over the phone. I think this is going to be good:)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

quite right

I just finished Island, by Aldous Huxley (yep, that's right, the Brave New World fellow), and can't help but share a little gem of it.

The book is about an island, Pala, that has remained separate from the rest of the industrializing/globalizing world, and in doing so has followed a different path that leads to a basically utopian society. It's pretty good. But I loved this (come on, read it for real. I know people skip over quotes, but this one is good, I promise!):

"You [the people of Pala] seemed to have solved your economic problems pretty successfully."

"Solving them wasn't difficult. To begin with, we never allowed ourselves to produce more children than we could feed, clothe, house, and educate into something like full humanity. Not being overpopulated, we have plenty. But, although we have plenty, we've managed to resist the temptation that the West has now succumbed to--the temptation to overconsume. We don't give ourselves coronaries by guzzling six times as much saturated fat as we need. We don't hypnotize ourselves into believing that two television sets will make us twice as happy as one television set. And finally we don't spend a quarter of the gross national product preparing for World War III or even World War's baby brother, Local War MMMCCCXXXIII. Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence--those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you'd collapse."

Let's keep in mind that this was written in 1962. This is something I've been thinking a lot about because of the geography class I'm taking right now too: it's absolutely nuts how much the problems we talk about now are the SAME EXACT problems people were talking about decades ago. You'd think we'd get somewhere on them.

But problems of society aside, it's a pretty rad book. And nice to read something that, though an indictment of Western society, also presents the possibility of a positive alternative for once, doesn't just leave us with all doom and gloom. Nice job, Mr Huxley!:)

Monday, January 30, 2012

let the rain fall down

I may appreciate this more today because it's actually sunny, but I'm getting a huge kick out of this song:

Portlandtown USA

Check it out! Maybe I won't be the only one with it stuck in my head:)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Non-objective reasons why you should not shop at Whole Foods

Aside from being one of my favorite places in the world, the Hollywood Farmers Market is also objectively (really, objectively:) a really good thing to have in this world. Every week during most of the year, and now every other week in winter, it brings in fresh produce from farms near Portland and makes it available for purchase--good for farmers; good for urban shoppers. It has a Fresh Funds matching program so that people dependent on food stamps can double their purchasing power for fresh fruits and veggies. It brings the community together through volunteer labor, since the success of every market depends on people helping set it up, break it down, and take care of it while it's running. It truly brings the neighborhood together, in one of the most wholesome ways I can think of.

And then there's Whole Foods. There's a big one that opened down the street from us a few years ago, which brought with it what we thought might be some pretty cool options. Since Whole Foods purports to "care about our communities" as well as provide the "highest quality natural and organic products available" (that's what their website "values" section says, anyway), it seems like a good partnership, right? We have some similar stated values about natural products, one of our bigger farmers even sells to Whole Foods during the summer...we could certainly form some kind of mutually beneficial partnership, right?

We've advanced many opportunities over the last few years. The biggest one I worked on was composting, trying to get them to take the compost we generate during 5 hours a week of market time and then putting up signs thanking them for it, or whatever they thought was appropriate. (Since we don't have a permanent market site, we don't have our own site for compost collection, thus putting us in a weird position of having to depend on other people for it.) But we've tried many other tacks as well: perhaps they could help support our Fresh Funds program. Perhaps we could both put up signs on the produce we share, "available during the week at Whole Foods" and "find us at the Hollywood Farmers Market on Saturdays." There's a whole list of ways we tried to engage Whole Foods in some form of collective community-building and collaboration.

We went back and forth with them for a l.o.n.g time about collaborating, and essentially got the giant run-around. "Oh, we have to check with our team." "Oh, I don't know, we have to see if it fits into our values." "Oh, I don't know if we have the capacity." "Oh, I don't know, you'll have to ask this other person." "Oh, I don't know if that's a good fit for us right now." And on and on and on, for anything we thought to ever talk to them about.

Until now, when Whole Foods is suddenly trying to develop their own market on Saturdays. Now, all of a sudden, our customer base is valuable to them. Now, all of a sudden, they care about the community because it's full of potential shoppers that we can help get in their doors. Now, they want to help us with composting and give us more vendor stall space near their store because now, it will help them make more money. Now that they want to make their own market, they want to be our friend.

It makes me perhaps irrationally angry, mostly because it strikes me as so counterfeit. I mean, I know that if you're a business, you generally do what seems best for you, and that includes doing the things that can make you more money. But I can't help but feel that relationship-building is a large part of that. You can't just treat someone like shit for the whole time you've been around, then suddenly turn around a try to be nice when you need something. And you especially can't do that under the guise of trying to build community, when really what you're trying to build is your own bottom line.

In the meantime, Grocery Outlet, with very few (if any) ulterior motives, lets us use their parking lot every single week to house our market, takes our trash for us every single week, even puts happy little signs about us on their marquee, without us asking. They do it because they're wonderful people and they care about their neighborhood, even if our market surveys show that very few people who shop at the market go to Grocery Outlet on market day. They're just nice, and they're willing to share their extra space, or their extra garbage capacity, in a way that is apparently totally alien to Whole Foods.

So yeah. None of these are objective reasons why you should avoid Whole Foods (though I could find those too--the money doesn't stay in the community, they're hugely anti-union, they don't really support small farmers like they pretend to, their management won't acknowledge the possibility of global climate change, etc. etc). But it's just one more reason I personally plan to avoid them. Plus, in a city with a whole bunch of other great grocery options, why would I support a store where the profit goes back to Texas? Or a store who jerks around small nonprofits like the farmers market for their own benefit? Not that I went to Whole Foods that much anyway, but now I'm definitely done.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012. And books.

While I firmly believe that 2012 is going to be a great year, it's gotten off to a somewhat rocky start. Or maybe an ambivalent start, in the sense of encompassing both one thing and its opposite.

On the one hand, I am SO CRAZY EXCITED for all the stuff I'm starting out with: my job at the zoo, which is fantastic, both the Master Gardening class and a geography class at PSU that I think is going to be great, and volunteering with my lovely friend in his 7th grade classroom. Not to mention all the other great things about life, like living in Portland, life-sharing with James, more bike clubs coming up in the spring, and on and on.

On the other hand, since James and I got back from Honduras, I've been sick not once but twice, which puts quite a damper on my general enjoyment of life. I hate being sick! Argh! I hate being cooped up in our house, I hate sleeping all day, I do love soup but only to a point. Most of all, I hate how it challenges my self-perception of being a robust and healthy human being. heh. How can I be smugly self-satisfied about how healthy I am if I keep fricken getting sick?

Of course, even that has a silver lining, which is that I've had a whooooole lot of time to read. A good thing, since I'm woefully behind on reading 100 books in a year. It's hard reading two books a week! I should, according to the totally arbitrary confines I've set for myself, be finishing my 30th book this week, though I just now finished my 25th... Eh, I guess that's not woefully behind. And, whatever, like I said, it's a totally arbitrary and self-imposed thing that I won't stress out too much about. But it's still so satisfying to knock out a bunch of books quickly, especially when there's not much else you're doing with your life at the moment except for napping on the couch and dousing your forehead with wet washrags.

Anyway. Does anyone have any great recommendations for classics to read? I will definitely read something by John Steinbeck in the near future, but any other thoughts? That's the category I'm having the hardest time with.

Again, if you want to see the books I've got going so far, you can scope out my goodreads page. I think you can see it without being a friend or whatever they call it there, though let me know if not. And give me some thoughts about classics!:) It's not like I'm doing anything else over here at the moment:)

Friday, January 6, 2012


I started a new project last week: master gardening! It's going to be an 11-week class from the Oregon State University extension service in which I learn a humongous amount about horticulture--botany, plant propagation, water and soil quality, vegetable gardening, houseplants, landscape plants, pest management and mitigating plant disease, basic entomology, sustainable weed management, stuff about pesticides and herbicides and on and on and on. It's going to be amazing.

But the best part about it isn't even the knowledge I'm sure will be forthcoming. It's the system in which that knowledge is shared, a system much like the one in which I got all that amazing naturalist training last year. It works like this: people spend a lot of time teaching you a whole bunch about something, with the understanding that then you'll put into practice what you've learned and help teach it to others. You get the training in return for future volunteering you promise to do, sort of like paying your new knowledge forward.

I'm so into this kind of thing. For one, it makes learning tangible. You learn something, then you do it; I get trained as a naturalist, then I work as a naturalist, I get gardening knowledge, then I use gardening knowledge. Also, I like the idea of service as a replacement for money. I do have to pay for this Master Gardening class, but it's half the price if you do the volunteer internship afterward. And I didn't have to pay for the naturalist training at all, at least not in terms of money. I love the idea of removing knowledge from the realm of dollars--it makes it something I can acquire through service and giving back to my community, not something that comes as a privilege of my paycheck.

I guess this is all part of a larger love of volunteering, of coming together with people in my community to create something that wasn't there before...but more about that another time:) For now, bring on the gardening!:)

Friday, December 9, 2011


So, as some of you may know, I recently went to Poland with my mom, my brother, and my brother's godfather. Actually, I guess we didn't all go together (in fact, we all got there on different days), but we met up there, and spent a week together exploring Krakow in the south, Gdynia and Gdansk in the north, Lodz (where Alex had a speaking engagement) in the middle.

Being November, and given that it turns out Poland is pretty far north, it was quite cold. And it got dark rather early (think 3:30 or so). BUT the treat for me was that at least it wasn't raining like I'm used to in Portland, AND it was pretty sweet to play in a whole new country. Even if I didn't understand anything going on around me (actually, I kind of like that, just in the sense that it reminds me that my little comfortable Portland slice of the world is such a tiny, tiny portion of reality).

It's funny, too, to be somewhere where history is so... historical. I mean, nowhere in the US can you walk into a cathedral that's been standing since the 1300s. We've got our own kind of history, but it was fun in Poland to, say, go see the college where Copernicus went to school:

And the hotel we stayed at in Krakow was just a ten-minute walk from the old Wawel Castle (which apparently is worthy of nighttime illumination):

Anyway. For more pictures and ridiculous captions, feel free to check out the new Poland album on my Picasa page (for that matter, check out any other pictures you want, too:)

In just a few days, James and I are off to Honduras for a cousin's wedding, too--so stay tuned for more travel! Yay!:)

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Vegan thanksgiving at our house!!

For real Thanksgiving, we were in Sacramento with our families, but now that we're back in Portland, we hosted a super rad post-thanksgiving thanksgiving at our house. It gave us an excuse not only to make a whole bunch of vegan holidayish food, something we've been fantasizing about, but also to hang out with a whole bunch of our favorite people (something else we've been fantasizing about:)

Best idea ever! We cooked up a veritable feast of pot pie, stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted veggies, mashed potatoes (both purple and white potatoes, swirled together in James' artistic potato yin-yang creation), fudge, and pumpkin pie bites--all vegan and made from scratch, mind you, though we didn't make our own bread for the stuffing, and I guess we cheated by using canned pumpkin instead of real. But it was all pretty fricken delicious, and with the addition of gravy that my boss made from mushrooms she picked herself, to pie and brussels sprouts and various beverages from other lovely guests, we had a pretty classy feast.

The best part, though, was all the people. I sometimes feel like I've collected friends from so many different parts of life that I don't really have a real group of them anymore. Or rather, even though I know a lot of really awesome people, since most of them don't know each other I lack that sort of group-friend-collective that you have when your friends are also friends with each other. I'm not really sure how to explain it, but there's something about knowing that your friends' lives are all intertwined, that you can talk to one friend and know it'll get around to your other friends as well since they're part of this meshed-up web around you.

My web is much more like a lot of exclusive relationships: I may have a lot of lines radiating outward from me, but they don't intersect with each other. (Man, if I could just draw this out instead of type it, it would be a lot easier.) But this weekend was awesome because it threw a whole bunch of people from different parts of my life together and mixed them up in a way that made me feel much more coherent. Looking around the room, I could see James, of course, and some old co-workers from my teaching days (heh), and some co-workers from the Community Cycling Center, my boss from the zoo, a woman I know from my naturalist volunteering, some running buddies, some dear friends from college, and old roommate... all sorts of random people, but most of my favorite random people. And putting them all together in a room (with some delicious vegan food) just reinforced to me how amazing all these people are, and how crazy lucky I am to have them all in my life.

My world is full of lovely people, and this weekend, we had about twenty of them in our house. With food. Getting along with each other and chatting like they were old friends. How much better than that can you get? :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book #6

Just a little gem from one of my literary wanderings:

Consider four of the most enduring intellects to have worked and written in the English language: Abraham Lincoln, Fredrick Douglass, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. They were all educated similarly, but perhaps not how you'd think. Each received little or no formal schooling. Essentially self-educated in an era when self-education meant reading, they rose to eminence by virtue of the skills and knowledge their private reading taught them.

I am not suggesting that their educations provide a model of what education should be. Still, they remind us of the almost unlimited capacity of diligent reading to teach. For all four of these exceptional people and many others, "mere" reading was sufficient to foster and develop rare genius. And as for the rest of us, we are all self-educated, to some degree or another, by virtue of the reading we have done.

-Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion

Regardless of whether Lincoln, Douglass, Austen, and Dickens are really the four most enduring intellectuals of the English language, the part about self-education wrought of reading made me smile. Man, I'm going to be so smart by the end of this hundred-book year! heh.

(ps: again, find more books and thoughts about books on Goodreads. And keep those recommendations coming!:)