Thursday, April 30, 2009

Diving into the Wreck

As many of you may or may not know, SSG has a degree in English.  You can imagine how handy that is at her job as a FINANCIAL ANALYST.  

(Though she does frequently get compliments on how easy her reports are to read.)

A poem I studied in one of my classes years ago has been bubbling to the surface over the last couple of months.  Adrienne Rich's poem Diving into the Wreck, is what I've affectionately deemed this spring cleaning 2009 extravaganza.

You can read the text version here or if you dig on the spoken word, check it here.

I started cleaning my garage this past weekend.  Perhaps you've heard SSG has been spring cleaning?  I haven't mentioned it much.  Kind of like when I went to France last year (SSG tends to throw her whole self into things).

My garage looks incredible.  And after a few more rounds with the recycling and trash, all that will be left in there will be my car, trash cans and some holiday decorations in those stackable plastic bins.  I smile every time I walk in there or open the garage door when I get home.

I think it's part of a process of letting my old stuff go.

The last couple of years I've spent diving into the wreck that was my mind--a tangled mess of tragedy, denial, self protection and utter drive to create a life of my choosing--to go to college, move cities, excel at jobs, buy a house, forge and maintain friendships, go on dates and ultimately experience all that this life has to offer.  

But I was doing it all from a dingy.  While hanging out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  

I was floating on the surface.  But I just wasn't going anywhere.  Life was all around me.  But I was stuck.  Solo.  And my boat was starting to feel way too small.

As I was sifting through the contents of my garage, I realized everything was from 2006.  

Three years ago.  

The year I broke my elbow, lost both of my grandparents, had my book turned down by a publisher after their initial interest, put my cat to sleep when he got cancer, worked 60 hour work weeks with a boss so bad we deemed him the Seagull because of his penchant to shit all over everything.   And at the end of the year, my mother.  Oh ... my mother ... threw out a very generous life raft that looked like it was the solution to all of my problems, only to yank it away just as I was about to grab it.

Mah boat had sprung a leak.  And I was drowning.  

At the time, I couldn't see any of it.  Instead, I was beating myself up in my journal about why I couldn't pull myself out of bed and how come I hadn't gone to the grocery store and GAH are you EVER going to get your shit together, woman?  And WHY DO YOU CRY when you lay down at yoga class?  What's the matter with you?

I couldn't even carry things into the house that year.  Everything was left in the garage.

Last weekend, I sat on my garage floor shaking my head as I looked over my life that year.   

Bit by bit, and with a TON of compassion, I dealt with everything I came across.

Most of it was finally thrown away.
Many items were donated to those who I know will happen upon them at the exact moment the need arises.
Others were recycled ... ready to become something new.

As Adrienne Rich wrote ...

I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail ...

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck

I am almost ready to come back to the surface ...

Just right after I clean my damn office.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not So Mellow This Yellow

It started when this jumped into my hands without warning.  

Begging, nay, DEMANDING to be purchased.

A couple of days later, I picked this up.   Something bright to throw on over my jammies before padding down to the kitchen for coffee (SSG is TOTALLY that tan too).

And I realized it's probably because I'm desperately seeking this ...

So last week I braved wearing an outfit similar to this to work on a gray Portland day.  Only the yellow was ... ahem ... slightly bolder.

I sat down at my desk waiting for the snark from the dudes to pour in.  They don't stray far from the white, gray or blue button downs.

But I got nothing.  

I tapped away on my computer, silently congratulating myself on bringing them around to girly fashion.  To color.  To trusting SSG's instincts.

And right during that moment of smugness, Quiet Guy came into my cube to ask a question.

So what's the big deal?


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Denial Was Probably Better

I have lived in my house for four years.  

Please tell SSG why she JUST noticed this. 

Should I have been taking them for mammograms?
Providing bras?

Coming up this weekend:  SSG shops for new light fixtures.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bitches & Hose

I brought Fisher home when she was six weeks old.  

I made it a point to take her for rides in the car, introduce her to babies and cats in an effort to put her at ease as an adult dog ... a semi adult dog.  Because homegirl is still a PUPPY in many ways.  

Sometimes however, she'll catch me off guard and completely freak out over something unexpected.  Like any guy walking down the street wearing a winter coat (Which is a little problematic, as you might imagine seeing as we LIVE IN THE NORTHWEST) or the nice older German lady who is very hunchbacked that lives down the street (whose name is NO JOKE ... Broomhilda).

I don wan 2 talks abowt dos guyz.

So early Saturday morning, the Fish, SSG and a box of Kleenex went to Lowe's to get some new flowers for these pots.

Everything was fine.  For a while anyway.  Fisher hung out in the garage while I swept and replanted.  I chatted with the neighbors, including this neighbor (which um CUTE, GAH) and this neighbor (which um alcoholic, GAH).

Then SSG started watering the newly planted pots.  And that's when things went downhill.

Because Fisher decided to JUMP IN THEM.

She LOVES water so I kept pushing her out of them, saying "DUDE!  You can't have the water!"  Meanwhile water and dirt were flying everywhere except IN the pots.  Where both belonged.  But couldn't be because my 40 pound dog was there instead.

"DUDE!"  I was laughing and yelling and sniffling because um, SSG has a little cold.  And that's when I realized she wasn't trying to get at the water.  She was trying to get away from something.

Something had made my fiercely protective dog tremble.  "What's the matter?"  I asked her as she bent in half looking behind her while trying to hide in the flower pots.

And that's when I saw the culprit ...

I don yikez dat ting.

It's okay, Fishy.  

But I think the hose might have a cookie for you.

U haz mai atenshunz.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Are You My (Italian Grand) Mother?

Don't get SSG wrong.  She loves her grandmothers.

One had mad skillz in spreading peanut butter and jelly on graham crackers and would let little SSG trip upstairs to the neighbors so SSG could indulge on the neigbors' candy dish full of lemon drops.  (And you wonder why SSG loves Grey Goose Lemon Drops so much.)

The other grandmother had a penchant for a nightly glass of "Chablis" and baguettes slathered in butter.

Lately however, SSG has been lamenting the fact that she doesn't have an ITALIAN grandmother in her family tree.  Not only because that might make tanning this pasty British/German/Northwest skin of hers a little easier, but also because SSG has become fixated on finding a good spaghetti and meatballs recipe.   The kind she imagines an Italian grandmother would have in her repertoire.  The kind that simmers on the stove for hours.  The kind that everyone can't wait to get their paws on.  

So while SSG was hunkered down on the couch yesterday afternoon nursing a little cold and recuperating from a rare but nonetheless spectacularly craptastic week at work, she wondered if she could adopt an Italian grandmother.  One who would come over to SSG's house wearing an apron to cook from recipes so entrenched in family history that they aren't even written down but cooked straight from memory ... and heart.

And Italian Grandma ... if you're out there, could you give SSG a recipe for Chicken Parmesan and Baked Ziti while you're at it?  


(Photo from  Who SSG just discovered and might have a little girl crush on.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not Talking is the New Black

Remember Starey Guy?

He's still around.  

And ... staring.  

We haven't talked since he came over and introduced himself.  But he still looks.  Like obviously looks.  So much so that last week one of my co-workers was like "dude, that guy is TOTALLY checking you out."  

Usually I see Starey Guy at lunch, but this week Work BFF and I saw him in Starbucks.

BFF:  Dude, your boyfriend just walked in.
SSG:  WHAT?!  Is he looking at me?  Wait, don't tell me.  Dude, DON'T LOOK AT HIM!
BFF:  Dude.  How am I supposed to tell you if he's looking at you?
SSG:  Ohhh!  Check his outfit.  I like the black shirt and gray flat front pants.  V.V. Banana Republic.
BFF:  Are you going to say anything to him?
BFF:  Come on then, let's go back to work.
SSG:  Fine.  But I hope that guy appreciates how much time I spend NOT talking to him.
BFF:  I can guarantee you, he works three times as hard.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Until We Meet Again

Oh San Francisco ... you had to do it, didn't you?

Spoil SSG with your sun and gorgeous bay.  With your good food and energy.  With your bridges and trees.  Oh yes and your WINE (the ones that didn't taste barnyard-ey).

But most of all with the PEOPLE.

You've definitely got some of SSG's favorites.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Ladieth Weekend Day Two Part Um ... Two

It started innocently enough ... this talk of pizza.  At noon.  A few glasses of wine into the Urban Wine Tasting 'Hood or Hawt Extravaganza.  We were hungry.  And maybe a bit hung over.  Everyone was having a good time.  Shouldn't we move this on into the evening?  A little dinner?  How about some pizza?  We could pick up a pie at Patxi?  Or wait!  What about Little Star?

And before SSG knew it, the gloves had COME OFF peeps.

A full on debate over which place had THE BEST Chicago style pizza west of ... Chicago.  Or let's just say in the city of San Francisco.  Because by the time hint of a head to head taste test started picking up some steam we were getting weigh ins from people not even in our group.  What about Cheeseboard?  No, no!  That was East Bay.  And if you're going to do East Bay then you'd have to consider ... some name SSG can't remember.  But WAIT!  That's New York Style!  Patxi and Little Star are Chicago Style, shouldn't we keep it the same STYLE?  

BW was vigorously pulling up text messages on her phone--modern day evidence of what pizza Bree Mastaa hinted at liking best a few weeks earlier.

Could there be a bias?  
Would this really be a competition if everyone already had a clear favorite?

And that's when SSG did it.  

She suggested a BLIND Chicago Stye Patxi vs. Little Star straight up pizza SMACKDOWN the likes of which have never before been attempted ... we think.  

BW's eyes bugged out of here head "You're like BLOWING MY MIND right now."

(SSG swears no one was high in this reenactment.)

By the end of the day we had a plan.  Three groups.  D Mac was on the wine (What? You think we'd stop?).  SSG, Digs and Spleen would hit up Little Star.  BW, The Shoe and Bree Mastaa would pick up Patxi and we'd meet at Bree Mastaa's place where her hubby and some of his friends would join us after a day of golfing.  Everyone peeled out of the parking lot with their charge.

There was a slight hiccup when "pepp" was misinterpreted as peppers instead of the intended pepperoni and Patxi wouldn't change the order less than 2 minutes later.  F-ERS.  But the ladies were resourceful.  Our car received a text message "We're back on track!  I repeat, back on track!  Third pizza ordered!"  

Less than an hour later we pulled up to Bree Mastaa's penthouse.

SSG was distracted momentarily by the VIEW.

Hello gorgeous!

How you doin' fog rollin' in on the San Francisco Bay and covering up the Golden Gate Bridge ... you bastard.

Hi Digs!

The bad part about having a blog is no one wants to look at you when you have a camera in your hands.



(Actually that's SSG, Spleen and Digs from left to right.  SSG doesn't like to get in photos either.  And UH, what the San Francisco humidity does to SSG's "let's pretend our hair isn't curly straight hair."  So TOTALLY kidding.  That's not SSG at all.  Don't let that bossy finger pointing fool you.)

Moving on ...

It was decided that D Mac and SSG would be the "platers" as neither had eaten at Patxi or Little Star.

Categories were determined. 
  • Crust
  • Sauce
  • Toppings
  • Overall Score
We decided against presentation when we hacked the ginormous slices up into twee little smackdown sized slices.

Pizzeria One was on the left, Pizzeria Two on the right.

Things around the table were serious folks.

There was much tasting of the cheese and each individual sauce--was it too oregano-ey?  Is there such a thing?  Is this crust undercooked?  Or is that crust OVERcooked?  Could people use decimal points?  Did anyone know which pizza was which?  Who, going into the smackdown, had a clear favorite?

After the second round of tasting, and before SSG knew it, she was deemed "moderator" (perhaps because she's boss ... er, opinionated).

Everyone had a chance to weigh in but a clear favorite prevailed.

Patxi took it.  

Hands down.

Don't worry if you don't understand SSG's score card.  She didn't either.  But she does know THIS ...

If you're ever in San Francisco, hit up Patxi.  And tell them the Pizza Smackdown 2009 sent you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Ladieth Weekend Day Two

When one thinks about wine tasting in Northern California, this is probably what comes to mind.

Not this ...

One guess which route we chose ...

Digs' sister Bree Mastaa works at a wine magazine in San Francisco.  We met up with two of her coworkers (and friends!) and a BOY who braved the six of us ladies for the ENTIRE DAY!  Special shout out to BW, The Shoe and D Mac!

SSG knew she was in for a good time when BW showed up wearing a shirt that said I Heart Boxed Wine.

We kicked it old school and went Urban Wine Tasting in Oakland of all places, yo.

It was SUPER high class.

It was a gorgeous, warm morning and apart from a minor hot flash that SSG went through due to temps being higher than 40 degrees (and maybe wine at 11 a.m. after a lot of wine at 11 p.m. the night before) we were rolling right along.

My favorite stop was at JC Cellars.  The owner and winemaker, Jeff Cohn, joined us for our tasting and was as lively as his wine.  The guy's passion is tangible and you get swept up in his energy.  It was the only stop where we all purchased wine.

I'd say we got the star treatment since we were with some of the magazine peeps, but I honestly think JC Cellars is that welcoming with everyone.  

We were taken on a spin around the place.  Check that monster egg.  It's the latest thang--they're keeping some wine in cement since it's porous and can BREATHE.  Because wine needs AIR.  Since it's LIVING.  Or something ... 


Jeff could explain it better than SSG.

Hi Jeff!  Jeff's on the left who ... wait a second ... he gets to be at work all day drinking wine.  Can SSG have that job?  He is supervising BW as she checks the place out.  Earlier I took a picture of them pretending to be handcuffed to each other, to which everyone shouted "June 2009 cover!"  SSG is waiting for the call because she's SURE with photography like this it will get picked up in a heartbeat.

We started to wind down and went to one other winery.  Which SSG won't mention.  Because after the first sip she and BW looked at each other.

BW:  Does this taste like 1980's perm solution to you?
SSG:  I was thinking more along the lines of manure.
BW:  Ah yes, in the industry they call that "barnyard."
SSG:  Seriously?  Maybe I'll just go ahead and rinse out my glass.

We wrapped up shortly thereafter as earlier in the day pizza had been mentioned.  The debate of which pizza place we should go to had quickly snowballed into a vigorous debate.  The results of which, frankly, are going to blow your mind.

Coming up Tomorrow on SSG:  The 2009 San Francisco Pizza Smackdown

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ladieth Weekend Day One

Well hello peeps!  SSG just came back from San Francisco and seeing her college roomies (and friends!) for the weekend.

This was what Portland looked like when I left on Friday morning.  

The shuttle driver from airport parking to the terminal was ALMOST as cheery.

SSG:  Good Morning!
Shuttle Driver:  Did you know it's a proven fact that people in the Northwest don't get enough Vitamin D?
SSG:  Oh?
SD:  It's from a lack of sun.
SSG:  Hm ...
SD:  Contributes to Alzheimer's.
SSG:  Um ...
SD:  Worst disease in the world.  No dignity.
SSG:  Awesome!  So I'll be taking Southwest Airlines this morning.

But then SSG flew into this ...

And I think Spleen and Digs wondered what aliens had taken over SSG because all morning she was all: "Isn't the sun THE MOST GORGEOUS THING YOU'VE EVER SEEN?!"  And like: "Look what it does to the SKY!  What COLOR is that?  So THAT'S what BLUE looks like?!  Wow.  Amazing."  

This is the same SSG who, while living in San Diego, listened to Pearl Jam 24/7, wore Doc Martens with baby doll dresses and couldn't WAIT to move to Seattle where GAH!  There were SEASONS ALREADY.  Because like, the sun?  All year?  TOTALLY over.

Much to her dismay, SSG DID end up having to Stripper Suit Up so the ladies and I could meet up with Digs' sistAH, Bree Mastaa at this really pretty reservoir.  Perhaps Digs could leave a comment and let you fine peeps know where this place is.  SSG was too busy hanging her head out the car window trying to soak up every ray of sunshine to notice.

It turned out to be perfect ...

We walked and chatted ... and I'm pretty sure disrupted everyone's serious exercise regime by giggling and taking up the whole path by walking in one line or waving our arms around in animated story telling and stopping every few minutes so SSG could take pictures like this California poppy or the boat house above with paddle boats.  PADDLE BOATS people.  You can actually be out on the water at this time of year and NOT have to worry about hypothermia.  A marvel.  Truly.

After our stroll around the reservoir, we figured we'd get some lunch and take it to this cute little park by Digs' place.

And by lunch I mean burritos so big one had a blow out.  

But we had just walked a few miles so that totally balances out any calories or whatever.  Especially if you order them with Diet Cokes.

Not that any of us did.  

Anyhoo ...

After our walk we went back to Digs' place to relax and shower before our busy evening of COOKING RIBS peeps.

Wait ... did we go to Digs?  Or ACCIDENTALLY WALK INTO A MODEL HOME?

Look!  The model even comes with a Spleendawg!  (Spleen, that's MY corner.)

I'm volunteering Digs to give SSG readers free decorating lessons for whoever wants them (that's okay, right Digs?).  But you're going to have to wait until Spleen and I are done with her.  And since we're talking about Chez SSG, Digs should be done sometime around 2011.

So after showers and SSG sitting in the sun surrounded by the smell of blossoms on the Meyer Lemon tree, she was FINALLY lured inside by this.

And martinis.

The ribs had been cooking low and slow all afternoon and were served with loaded baked potatoes and a roasted broccoli salad that WAS HEAVEN.

And SSG totally would have taken pictures of the ribs. 

But by that time she had a few grapefruit and elderflower martinis and then had moved onto wine and story telling.  And really?  I'm afraid if you saw how the four of us tore through those ribs you'd wonder about us being ladies at all.

And if you heard the stories that were told at that table? 

Well then you'd know for sure.

(Tomorrow on SSG:  The Laideth Weekend Day Two: Urban Wine Tasting.  'Hood or Hawt?)

Friday, April 17, 2009

And She's Off Again!

SSG is heading to San Francisco for the weekend!

I was talking to Digs the other week about how I'm organizing my recipes ... perhaps you've heard SSG has been cleaning lately?  

Anyhoo ... I mentioned that I had an inordinate amount of recipes for RIBS.  SSG has never made ribs in her life but if she ever chooses to do so she has about 100 options.  Apparently that's what looks good to her every single time she runs across a recipe.  Ribs and anything with the word "braise" in the title.  Oh and cupcakes.  

So Digs sent me this picture of her fridge last night:

All I have to say to that is mmmmmm!

I hope you guys have equally delicious weekends ahead! 


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The (Sometimes!) Serendipitous Kitchen

SSG THINKS she might have used her kitchen for cooking once.  Long ago.  

Lately however, it has seen the same flurry of activity the rest of her house has.  Mad cleaning, purging, rearranging and standing back to hmmmm and haaaaa and hmmmmm again before moving furniture around.  Over.  And over. And then?  Over again.  Which begs the question, how much furniture can a person can have in her kitchen?  Please don't make SSG tell you.

The cleaning crazies are ALMOST done.  Interrupted only by a very much needed trip to San Francisco this weekend.  After which she comes back to finish up the garage and her MOTHER F-ING office.  GOOD THING SSG saved the the spaces that constantly give her trouble for last.

She wants to pull the blankets over her head just thinking about it.

So she e-mailed Digs telling her she might never leave.  And then asked Spleen if she had room for SSG in her carryon luggage in case Digs kicked her out.  Because the beaches of San Diego?  Calling to SSG right now.  Same with the garlic pizza from The Venetian.  Oh and the breakfast burritos from ... anywhere with a Mexican name ending in -erto's.

But I digress ... 

I can tell that some inspiration is starting to rise to the surface.  Bits and pieces here and there.  And so I give you dear readers, a few things that are giving SSG the warm fuzzies right now.

Stacked White Dishes

I love them.  So much so that a girl I work with has a little white ceramic pot on her desk that I think about stealing.  Daily.  I'm pretty sure it probably cost $1.99 at IKEA.  But. Still. SSG. Wants.

Five Ingredient Fix

This is a new show on the Food Network where each recipe has only ... wait for it ... FIVE (!) ingredients.  Has anyone caught it?  The food is right up SSG's alley.  Simple.  Seasonal.  And readers, please.  Homegirl busted out a layered shortbread, carmel and chocolate cookie using ONLY FIVE INGREDIENTS.  SSG almost licked the screen a little.

(P.S. Don't hold the kitchen above against her, that's not what the show's set looks like.)

Check it out here: 5 Ingredient Fix.

This Piece of Food Writing From ...

Don't get SSG wrong.  She loves food blogs.  But somehow they're all starting to look and sound the same.  As if they're all reading the same manual.
  • Get an SLR camera.  
  • Make something from a recent issue of Bon Appetite, Gourmet or Saveur.  
  • Take a picture of the food as close up as possible.  
  • Explain all of the ways you tweaked the recipe.  
  • Have 100 commenters say only "YUM" or some variation thereof.
They're just not ... pardon the pun ... feeding SSG like they used to.  

But then I read this post from Chocolate & Zucchini and my hope was renewed.  It tells a little story about a French mother, her college daughters, a road trip to the French countryside and a pot that has been waiting patiently for a couple of years before finally being put to work.

SSG thinks the pots in her kitchen know the feeling ... as they sit, waiting just as patiently, for their moment in the oven.  

If SSG would just get her ASS in the kitchen already.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Do Not Disturb

When SSG has trouble sleeping, she lays back, turns on some music and puts herself in a different place.  Sometimes it's a major city like Paris or New York.  Other times it's near the ocean where she can drive in a convertible while wearing gigantic sunglasses and a scarf.

But right now? 

SSG can't get the thought of her own farm out of her head ...

There would be a red barn.

And a swimming hole with a rope swing ...

And a farm house ... maybe a little less Gone With the Wind-y but SSG LOVES that tree lined drive.

Of course Fisher would need some play mates ...

There would be a peach orchard for homemade peach cobbler ...

And a twee little apple orchard where SSG would pick apples while wearing a sundress, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat (SSG often considers her wardrobe in daydreams.)

She'd drive her 1950's red Ford truck into town to get fresh baked croissants and coffee.

Ice cream is mandatory.

There would be a proper (ish) cottage garden ... sans one thatch roof.

And an herb garden too ...

How else would SSG snip off some fresh mint for her lemonade which she'll need for ...

... quality time on the porch swing ...

... while holding hands with her Sometimes Serendipitous Guy and watching the sun go down.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

See?  Works every time.