Sunday, October 31, 2010

I was surprised the other day, when I was reading "Disintegrated," by Eugene Robinson, to see Soledad O'Brien matter-of-factly described as "black." Or maybe he said, "African-American." It was a couple of weeks ago that I read the book, and I've forgotten the exact term he used.

I never thought of Soledad O'Brien as black, more as a brunette. Exotic, maybe. I looked her up on IMDB-- she's the daughter of a Cuban mother and an Irish father. Except that my mom was from Puerto Rico, she's just like me. I thought maybe that Robinson, coming from the Jim Crow South, adheres strictly to the "one-drop rule." Here in California, I thought, we go more on what a person looks like. Ancestry matters less than whether a person looks better in pink or in yellow.

Tonight, Lawrence O'Donnell, on his show, described the Democratic candidate for Attorney General here in California, Kamala Harris, as potentially "the first woman and the first African-American" to hold the office. Now, Lawrence is a white guy (Irish-American, if I may guess, based on his name), who was born in Boston and currently lives in LA, so my guesses about Gene Robinson wouldn't apply to him at all. I couldn't find any information about Ms. Harris's background, but she's the same color I am.

Funny, I've always self-identified as "Latina." Now, in my 50s, the categories seem to be shifting. I'm becoming black.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

After spending all day yesterday at an "entrepreneurship" seminar, telling everyone that my restaurant is a sure thing because I'm such a great cook, I came home and burned a dish so badly that the residue left in the pan after most of it boiled over burst into flame when I removed the lid. I think the pan may be ruined. C'est la guerre.

I enjoyed the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally today. There was lots of good music and comedy. The political content that all the pundits feared so much was nonexistent. My only complaint was that they dissed Keith Olbermann in the video montage at the end. As I tweeted to Keith, "I love Jon, but I love you more."

And, I'm happily knitting away on another rayon summer top. Like that's what I really need.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Boy, have I gotten behind on my blogging!

I spent three days in San Simeon. It rained the day before, and the day after, but the weather was postcard-perfect while I was there. Tuesday I saw a flock ( at least 30) of long-billed curlews, and another (about 20) of royal terns on the beach. Wednesday I saw an otter in the kelp, and a dozen zebra in the cow pasture. Good times.

Thursday, I finished the purple/gold sock, the second, so now I have a pair. Today, I attended an all-day seminar on "entrepreneurship" (if that's even a word!), which brings us to the present.

Although the weather has turned cool, and is likely to remain cool until I move to Oregon (where it's cool all the time, except when it's cold), I want to knit another sleeveless rayon top. This time of year, a wool sweater would be more useful, doncha think?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I should also note that I finished a sock yesterday. I should note that, because otherwise it makes no sense that I cast on the second sock today, and knit a good 1/4 of it. I made an error early on in the pattern, but I told myself, it's a sock. No one will see the error, when it's in its natural habitat: on a foot. It was either that, or frog it back to the toe, and I didn't want to do that.

As is usual for me, the second sock is likely to take much less time than the first. I started this pair, what, in August? Well, September at the latest. I had it with me when I went to Oregon, last time, which was the end of September, beginning of October. I'm likely to finish the second sock this week. Funny thing-- most people get tired of their socks when they're on the second. I find the prospect of New Socks! gives me the motivation to get through the second without interruption. I've occasionally taken months to get through a first sock, because I've stopped to, oh, knit a couple of blankets and a sweater. That's not hyperbole; I did that last winter, in the middle of my first colorwork sock.

We now interrupt this knitting blog to bring you this important historical lesson:

There is a bit of history, and interpretation of history, that I've known for as long as I can remember. It is directly relevant to the world today, but has not been noted in the mass media, ever. I don't know why I know this. It may be, because I've grown up in California (which was once part of Spain), or it may be because my mother was an educated woman from Latin America herself. It may be because my mother went back to school when I was a kid, first to pick up a second Bachelor's degree (this time in Spanish), and then to get a Master's (also in Spanish). I don't think it's because I took four years of Spanish in high school, and another year in college, because then I wouldn't have had this knowledge when I was a child.

Spain took a lot of gold and silver out of the Americas, back in the day. Everybody knows this. Spain is also a poor country, now, and has been for a long time. The gold and silver Spain took out of the Americas when it was a colonial power didn't stay in Spain, because they didn't make the things they wanted to buy in their own country. The gold and silver flowed from the Americas to Spain, and thence to Belgium and Holland, where the luxury goods the rich Spaniards wanted were manufactured. Belgium and Holland are not poor countries. They got to keep the Spaniard's stolen gold.

If the US doesn't get back to manufacturing, in a big way, all our money will eventually flow into the countries that do continue to make things. Pushing figures around on a computer screen is not a way to build wealth, even though it has been an effective way to concentrate (for now!) wealth in the hands of a few figure-pushers.

When I first heard that pet food from China was killing American dogs and cats, I though it was a hoax. When the stories turned out to be true, and related to contaminated wheat gluten, I wondered, why are we buying wheat products from China? We grow wheat here. Then it was baby formula, and candy, both made with milk. Why are we buying dairy products from China? We have dairy farms here.

We need to be more self-reliant, both as a nation, and as individuals. The opposite of self-reliance is poverty.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Most of the day was fine. Waking up at 4 am? Tolerable. Driving to San Simeon, mostly in the dark, part of it in drizzle and fog? Meh. Hanging out with the other docents, chatting between lectures, and knitting through them? Downright enjoyable. Grabbing a veggie burrito at Pancho Villa's on the way home? It's what I live for.

Getting home, to find that a neighbor has cleared ten feet on my side of the property line? I don't want to speak to anyone. I want to move away.

I know the neighbor meant well. Most of what he cut was dead, victim of neglect and water restrictions, but he also removed a live rosebush that climbed over the roof of the aviary, a walnut tree, and 1/3 of a mature lemon tree, all well within my property. I'm livid.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I didn't want to knit all day on one color, so I thought I'd mix things up by altering the yoke on a rayon top I knit last year. It is-- or was-- really pretty, a mix of peach, beige, and khaki, in the same sort of shiny boucle I've been using all summer. Antique buttons, too. I've only worn it once, because the yoke provided insufficient coverage to wear it with a regular bra, and I find strapless bras fiendishly uncomfortable.

As it turned out, since I had knit it from the top down, I couldn't get it to separate where I wanted it to, so I frogged the whole thing and turned it back into balls of yarn. Yep, that was a real quick re-do.

I'm within a few rows of finishing the teal top, and will probably finish today. According to the local weather forecast, it'll be a week before it'll be warm enough to wear it. I can wait.

I decided not to go to the Boxer/Obama rally today, because I'm averse to crowds, and a well-publicized public appearance by the Pres would certainly draw a crowd. I've been trying to follow it on TV, changing from channel to channel as news gave way to soap operas, but the rally has been bumped, in part, by a fatal shark attack north of Santa Barbara. Yikes.

Maybe it's not so bad that I hardly ever swim in the ocean, as much as I enjoy it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

That poor Keira Knightley needs to put on some weight. She's a good actress, and, with a little more flesh on her bones, would be a very lovely young woman, but, as she is now, my first reaction to photos of her is pity. Would someone get that girl a hamburger?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We had another drizzly one today. I celebrated by making soup for lunch, and fried chicken for dinner. The cat celebrated by dumping a pint of ice water into my lap, but made up for it by spending the whole day barfing in the living room.

I had a panicky moment, late in the evening, when I remembered that I had had an appointment with the pain doc, today. Tom, who remembers such things, reminded me that, while my appointment had originally been for today, I had changed it to last week in case I got stuck on jury duty. Whew.

I'm on the home stretch, making the last rayon top of summer. What's it been now, a month? I'm getting tired of stockinette stitch, especially as the weather seems to have switched into winter mode already, and I won't get to wear it for a while. I'm getting into the mood to knit myself some nice hats and scarves.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We had a lovely, rainy day today, and I spent most of it cooking. I made sweet potato pudding, banana nut muffins, roast pork, and sour cream gnocchi. A fine time was had by all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I did my civic duty today; I reported for jury duty. I wasn't seated on a jury. It seems no one wants a retired nurse on the jury for a civil case regarding injury. In retrospect, being a nurse was a good choice, if only because it keeps me off juries.

The case in question was a doozy. The plaintiff claims that the defendant, a stripper, was drunk, and fell on him while giving him a lap dance, causing serious damage to his penis. Worse, there will be at least 4 television writers on the jury (I would have been an alternate, so I was there through the whole process of jury selection), who will hear all the embarrassing evidence.

If it were me? I'd find the trial a lot more painful than the original injury.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tom and I took in "Red" today. It's a fun movie. I was reluctant to see it, as I mistook it, based on the trailers, for a conventional spy thriller. No, it was a comic book movie, and I do like comic book movies. Better, it had the best cast assembled for any one movie since "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." I mean, c'mon. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, *and* Helen Mirrin? A cast so stellar that it has Richard Dreyfuss doing a bit part?

I won't go into any great detail, since the movie just opened, and it's likely that any readers (yeah, right) won't have had a chance to see it yet, but I will say it's a good way to spend $10 and half an afternoon. If there were an Oscar category for best explosions, this movie would have a lock on it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Today, just for fun, I took Sharon on a tour of a local strip mall. Not interesting? This particular strip mall has an Armenian bakery, a British butcher shop, an Italian grocer/bakery/sandwich shop, and an international (mostly Persian) grocer. We bought a little of this, and a little of that, and made a real nice picnic of it all.

That's the sort of thing I'll miss, if I were to move full-time to Astoria. Astoria has a very diverse population, in that it has Swedes AND Norwegians AND Finns, AND Irish AND English. I'd have to go to Portland to buy so much as couscous.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thank God for boba. I was feeling kinda poorly today, until I talked Tom into buying me a delicious Thai iced coffee with boba. That fixed me right up. Corrected my caffeine-and-sugar deficiency, doncha know.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tom and I had a lovely day at Disney's California Adventure, even though we didn't do any of the things we most like to do at DCA.

Since it was a school day, and overcast most of the day, it wasn't too crowded. It wasn't deserted, either, but populated with moms and dads and their kids who were either home schooled or too young for school. There were lots of infants and toddlers around, and I don't think Tom terribly hated all the young mothers walking around in their summer clothes.

About half of the attractions were closed for replacement or refurbishment. I was very disappointed to learn that the mosaic at the entrance to the park is being removed; it's a masterpiece, and represented years of work for some very talented artists. As it was huge, thousands of square feet, and curved, it seems unlikely that it will be reinstalled somewhere else, but I have to hope that Disney will, at least, store it for reuse. Hey, it'd be great at the Studio, in Orlando, where they try to evoke Hollywood.

Anyway, we walked all around the park, taking in a couple of 3-D movies, riding on some lame rides, reluctantly passing the cool ones as the lines were prohibitively long, and reluctantly deciding not to stay for the World of Color show. We were told that the show was only really visible from one side of the lagoon (we thought it would be visible from all around the lagoon: our mistake), and tickets, already out for the day, were needed to stand in the best viewing spot. We had finished seeing all we wanted to see two hours before the show commenced, and didn't want to wait that long in order to see the back side of water (that's a Disney joke).

In spite of that disappointment, it was nice just to hang out with my guy for a day, walking around and having fun. Since we have annual passes, going to Disneyland comes under the classification of "cheap date," something I've always liked.

Maybe I can get him to take me to the Griffith Park Observatory later this week. That was my favorite cheap date for decades, from high school until they closed it for refurbishment. It was closed for a long time-- four years?-- and I got out of the habit of going. It has been open for years, but the City dicked around with parking and expensive buses for long enough to nearly kill off the Angeleno custom of visiting the Observatory for fun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It was too hot to work in the yard today, so I didn't do much of anything.

I did make some dynamite cashew brittle, again using Bruce Weinstein's recipe for Southern Peanut Brittle, and substituting cashews for peanuts. It is very difficult to walk past it without breaking off a piece. If I do open a restaurant, I'll put homemade candy on front of the customers before they leave, so they'll always come back.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I went back to school to become a nurse because my family needed the income. When I married Tom, years later, we didn't need a second income, so I happily hung up my nursing shoes.

Now, Tom's severance pay has run out, after several months of unemployment, and money has become a worry. We won't run out any time soon, but we will run out eventually, if neither of us brings any in.

I now have an updated, active California RN license in my possession (that's why I took that course in natural medicine a few weeks ago, to refresh my license), but don't want to go back to work. Besides inertia, I'd hate to give up the ability to keep up two houses, and two gardens, in different states. Tom has opened up the possibility of my running a restaurant, as I've been daydreaming about for years. I have the skills; I have the ability. Do I have the will?

I don't have to decide today. I have jury duty next week, and a volunteer shift in San Simeon the week after that. Maybe, by the time I get back from that, I'll have a better idea of what I want to do with my life-- or what I want to be when I grow up, as we say.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My next door neighbor has a cow.

This is a "Mr. Ed" neighborhood, with normal-looking suburban homes hiding large lots and agricultural zoning. Most of the neighbors have chickens; some have pigs or goats, but this is only the second cow I've seen or heard in 12 years living here.

Ten gallons of milk/day is a lot, for one family. It may be a big, extended family involving cousins and grandchildren, but ten gallons of milk is still a lot.

I wonder whether they'll be making cheese? That would use up a lot of milk.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Early last spring, I took some friends to a nearby Cuban restaurant, in response to a glowing review in The Times. The food there was good, but they were so swamped with business (it was the day after the review had been published) that the service was abominable. One member of our party never even got served! Since the food had been good, we decided to give them another chance, a few months later. The building had been boarded up, a chain link fence erected around it, and a "For Lease" sign placed in the window. Sigh.

Not wanting to repeat that mistake, I waited a while before visiting the Puerto Rican restaurant The Times featured a little later. Today, I announced to Tom that he was taking me out for Puerto Rican food. The place was Mofongo, in North Hollywood.

My mom came here from Puerto Rico when she was in her 20s, but she hadn't learned to cook, yet, when she arrived. She never did learn to cook her native cuisine, but raised us kids on soul food; she had been stationed in Virginia during the war, and apparently learned to cook there. She told us about the foods she had been raised on, but, other than arroz con pollo, she wasn't able to give us any samples.

There aren't many Puerto Ricans in California, so there aren't many Puerto Rican restaurants here, either. I was excited to hear about this place, not so far from my home, which boasts delicacies I had heard about, either from my mom, or from the likes of Tony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. The waitress didn't look like me, but Puerto Ricans come in many faces and many colors, which I love. She and I easily slipped back and forth between Spanish and English as we discussed the menu, something I also loved. I ordered two pasteles to share with Tom, one chicken, one pork, and shrimp mofongo for myself. Tom ordered the grilled chicken breast.

The first pastel, the chicken, was delicious. The second, the pork, made me squeal with pleasure. The mofongo was... Have you seen the scene in "Ratatouille," in which the food critic tastes the ratatoulle, and is transported back to childhood? It was like that, although it was the first time I had ever tasted this dish. Call it race memory, call it whatever you will, but it was a near-religious experience. I told the waitress that I felt like I had gone to Puerto Rico to visit my cousins. That pleased her.

If you happen to be in LA, Mofongos is at 5757 Lankershim Blvd., in North Hollywood. It is open from 10a to 10p every day, and the prices are very reasonable. The shrimp mofongo is the most expensive thing on the menu, and it's only $12.50.

This morning, I tried the aqua top on, seamed the shoulders, wove in the ends, tried it on again, and was completely pleased. I'm glad I redid it, as I hadn't been satisfied at all with its earlier incarnation. It is now three inches longer, with a garter stitch yoke in a dark teal that coordinates nicely with the aqua. Victory is mine.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Gorgeous sunset tonight. I was driving south along the coast. The whole sky was pink, with threads of brighter pink cloud, over a sea of pink mercury, with a thumbnail sliver of moon over the Channel Islands.

Nevertheless, I've driven way too much-- 2,000 miles in the last five days, which includes two days in which I didn't get near a car. You wouldn't believe how much my butt hurts.

I did finish the knitting on the aqua top I was knitting on yesterday, while sitting through a seven-hour class (the object of today's long drive, and the source of some of my butt-agony). All that remains is to try it on, and seam the shoulders.

I was faced with a temptation. One of the other students in the class, seeing me knitting, asked whether I spin. It seems that she has two pet alpacas, doesn't spin, and has 13 pounds of alpaca fleece that she's letting go for $100. I love knitting with alpaca, but I don't want to start spinning. Since the hours in a day are finite, time spent spinning would be time I'd have to take away from my knitting.

Friday, October 08, 2010

I shouldn't have been surprised that the new dishwasher is much smaller on the inside than the old one was, seeing how it took a lot of searching to find one that was small enough on the outside to be installed without completely remodeling the kitchen. It's faster and quieter than the old one was, too, and it has the added benefits that it gets the dishes clean, and doesn't smell like rats.

The aqua top I finished a few weeks ago, I unfinished. It didn't cover my bra sufficiently, and I'm built in a way that makes a bra essential. I pulled the straps out, reknit the bodice part so it'd be a few inches longer, and am currently knitting new shoulders out of a coordinating yarn. It'll be nice, when it's done. I'll be in class all day tomorrow, so it'll be Sunday before I finish it. Not that I'm adverse to knitting in class, but I'm almost done with the knitting, and I would want to try it on before seaming the shoulders. I don't think that'd go over well.

It seems increasingly unlikely that I'll finish the teal top before the weather turns pleasant for the winter. That's okay; it'll be hot again next year. Maybe then I can get started on scarves, shawls, and hats for winter.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I'm back from Oregon. If I had had a computer and Internet access while I was gone, I could have posted a pithy remark or two every day, but those would have lost their punch by now.

I did take the 395 north, enjoying the scenery all the way. I swung past Tahoe, which was beautiful as always, and spent the night in a small town south of Lassen. Drove through Lassen the next day, and continued on the 89 to the 5, south of Mt. Shasta. By that time, I wanted to make some miles, so I stayed on the 5 until it was time to get on the 26 to the coast. For those unfamiliar with this route, the above means that I spent the first day and a half of my trip among rugged mountains and forest, most of the rest driving through picturesque farmlands, and ended in more forests, but in mountains less rugged. Near Tahoe, and along the 26, there was some show of fall colors.

Once I was home in Astoria, I spent a couple of days doing stuff to fix up the house, but mostly drove around admiring the weather and the scenery. I spoke with Tom daily, who reported on the continuing miserable heat, and the failure of the air conditioning as well. I had decided before I left how long I could stay, so it was a coincidence that I came back only after the weather in LA had turned cool and rainy. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The high point of the trip: I participated in the Great Columbia Crossing, a 10 K race over the Astoria-Meglar Bridge. It's the only day on which it is legal to cross that bridge on foot, which I had wanted to do since I first laid eyes on it five years ago. I finished near the back of the pack, but, since my only goal was to finish ahead of the sweeper bus, I was satisfied.

The low point of the trip: While at the Oregon Coast Aquarium on my way home, I was bitten or stung by some unknown insect. Although I took two Benadryl as soon as I could, the swollen area is still the size of a quarter, two days later. Without the Benadryl, it'd probably be the size of a grapefruit.

That's enough for now. If I think of anything clever, I'll post it later.