Cardboard Labyrinth

This past Saturday Tavish helped us (and by “us” I mean primarily Nathan) manhandle all of our stuff out of the trailer, into a U-haul, back out of the U-haul, and into our new apartment- an apartment that hit most of our requirements, the only major flaw being the carpeting.  Shag, if you can believe it (didn’t we learn our lesson in the 70s, people?!) and I hate it more with each passing day.  But it’s a live-able flaw when held up against perks such as a dishwasher, in-unit washer/dryer, and its extreme proximity to my workplace (less than two miles- woo!).

Anyway, that means we’ve had our stuff in this place for over 48 hours, but you wouldn’t know it to look around this cardboard labyrinth.  Usually when I move into a place I’m a whirlwind of nesting until it’s presentable, but circumstances have not allowed me that luxury, and so the place is… well, it’s better than it was.  Most of the major pieces of furniture are more or less where we want them, and there are walk-able paths into every room, which there were not as of yesterday.  We ordered a new couch cover (deep red, because lord knows this beige box needs some freaking color) so that brought with it a certain sense of accomplishment…

The reason I haven’t been able to devote every waking moment to the gussying up of our place is because I started my new job this morning.  So far, so good, although I know it will take a while before I feel truly settled in.  I spent much of today getting rid of un-necessary paperwork… and, of course, performing such essential tasks as getting a wallpaper off National Geographic and putting up my photo of Nate and I.

And so our PNW lives are starting to take shape, and so far we are both quite pleased with the resulting form (rhombus, perhaps?).  Once we get everything out of boxes and arranged we can think about what colors to paint which walls… and also maybe about getting me a bicycle….

(In other exciting news, Nathan got a lot of photos processed today, so hopefully I’ll be able to put up the travelogue sometime this week.)


The Adventures of Massaman and Pudding Girl

For those of you who don't already know, we are staying with a couple of friends (the Fishies) while we get the proverbial Ducks in something resembling a Row.  And part of the deal was that we would show Papa Fishie how to cook with curry (this was arranged on his behalf by Mama Fishie- smart woman, that).  What I did not bother to explain ahead of time (because I am, if nothing else, exceptionally good at working things to my best advantage) is that cooking with curry is basically just like cooking with any other spice(s)- you add it to whatever it is you're cooking and it's awesome.  We have a couple of dishes we do on a regular basis for ourselves, but for tonight we thought we'd do something a little special and try our hand at massaman curry.

I know, I know- it's one of the cardinal rules of cooking that you don't try something for the first time for an "occasion", which this sort of was.  But we're nothing if not brave, gentle readers!  Some might say foolhardy...

Since all of our cookbooks are still packed up, we browsed the internet until we found a likely-looking recipe, went out and bought the requisite ingredients, and got to work.

We ran up against a problem almost immediately- the problem of Rice.  See, Nathan and I have a most excellent rice cooker (courtesy of my brother circa Christmas 2008), which is the way that we know how to prepare rice.  So I bought our jasmine rice in bulk with every intention of making it in our friends' rice cooker... which they don't actually have.

No problem! says I.  I'll just put it in some water and it'll be fiiiine...

Only apparently rice, unlike noodles, has to be cooked in the proper ratio of water.  Because if you use too much water, do you know what you get?  Yeah, you get pudding.  Proto-pudding, really.  And then you run back out to the store and buy rice-in-a-bag (how I used to make rice before the ERC) because dinner needs to happen sooner rather than later.

In the meantime there was massaman simmering on the stove (under Nathan's watchful eye), making everything smell like curried-heaven.  We'd started off by abandoning the recipe (which called for chicken) and stewing up some beef in coconut milk- but after that we more or less followed it.  Which meant that by the time we added the potatoes (one less than called for) we were surprised that there was obviously not enough liquid to actually boil them.  Since we didn't have any more coconut milk we substituted water (liquid is liquid, right?) and then reduce as much as we could.

Anyway it came out quite good in spite of the dilution, but also quite a bit more spicy than anticipated (which is what one gets for not making one's own curry but I will say that a yellow curry paste is supposed to be mild, damn it), and we spent much of the meal discussing how we would modify the recipe for our next endeavor.  For starters we realized we need at least half-again as much coconut milk, and I'd probably double the amount of cashew butter, as well (recipe called for peanut butter, but we all know what that does to my system- substitutions must be made!).  Furthermore we'd use about 1/3 less of that particular brand of curry, rein in the ginger (I used more than what was called for... usually it works out for the better but not in this instance) and add green onions for garnish.

(Oh, and we'd make certain- ahead of time- that there was a rice cooker available...)

So I was kind of disappointed that we didn't produce the mind-blowing meal we were hoping to, but on the other hand I'm glad that it was at least edible, which was not entirely guaranteed (proto-pudding, people: it was scary).  Guess we'll just have tinker with it some more...

In other news, I am once again a full-time employee (woo hoo!) with benefits to resume by May.  Furthermore we are (theoretically) taking possession of our new apartment tomorrow, and moving all our stuff in on Saturday (thanks in advance to Tavish and HopperGrass).  Saturday is also Pie Day, when Papa Fishie will take us under his pie-making wing (apparently they're flying fishies?) and reveal to us Secrets of the Universe.  I think it shall be Most Excellent.  Expect photos...



(This was for an assignment for my writer's group, for which stories are theoretically supposed to be about 500 words.  I almost never stay even close to that- I'm doing well to keep it below 1000, to tell you the truth.  And my first attempt at writing this was actually abandoned about 700 words in because I had not gotten nearly far enough with the narrative- so please forgive me if this seems a bit stunted.)

(It sprang up from an story seed I had regarding the other half of the rainbow being in the underworld, and I will most likely expand it one of these days...)


Once when I was a child I decided to follow the rainbow to its end.  It was further away than I’d expected, and it was only after several hours of chasing that I was able to track it down to a little canyon I’d never encountered before.  I saw the rainbow had come to rest between two boulders, and was so excited by the prospect of finally dancing at its end that I forgot to take care with my footing, and so tumbled to the ravine floor, smashing my left arm into a rock on the way down.

I lay there for several minutes, dazzled with pain and wondering how I’d be able to climb back up, before I noticed that I’d landed right next to the two boulders I’d spied from above.  Sure enough, the rainbow swept down between them, but now that I was so close I could see that it did not end there, but in fact had slipped into a crack in the earth.

The crack was too small for any adult to get through, but for a child of my size it was more than large enough.  And since I could not go up, I decided I might go down, holding my left arm awkwardly in my right.

It was fortunate that the rainbow was giving off a faint glow, because the interior of that crack was as dark as- well, as the underside of a rock.  But the further into the dark I went, the stranger the colors of the rainbow became- it was almost as though they were inverting themselves, or becoming their own shadows.  Whatever it was, within thirty yards of the crack, the rainbow had become colors I had no words for, colors that I had never seen before, nor since.

I began to grow uneasy, and glanced back over my shoulder to reassure myself with a glimpse of daylight.  Surely no harm could come to me so long as I could see my way back out.  As I was thinking this, I ran into someone, jarring my wounded arm in a way that made me feel nauseated.

I let out a cry of pain and collapsed at the pale feet of the other person.

“Oh!” the voice was sweet, but strangely hollow sounding- almost like wind across a large reed.  The young woman crouched down next to me, and I saw by the quality of her garment and the purity of her skin that she must be nobility.

“You feel pain,” she said it as though surprised, and reached out a hand as if to touch me.  She stopped just short of my shoulder, however, and I was glad of it.

“Yes, Lady,” I panted.  “I fell from the cliff and I think I may have broken my arm.”

“You are far from home, I think,”

“Yes Lady.  The rainbow led me here.”

She shook her head.  “This place is not for you.  If you had gone just a few steps further you would have lost sight of the light, and you would not have been able to go home at all.”  I felt a shiver that distracted me from the pain.

“Lady, the truth is that I don’t know that I’ll be able to go home, light or no.  I’m not sure where I am- and even if I was, I can’t climb back out again.”

She looked at me with dark eyes that reflected the strange inverted colors of the rainbow, and I thought she looked terribly sad.

“Perhaps this place is for you, after all,” she said.  I felt a tightening in my throat and knew that tears could not be far behind.  She sighed, and it was like the wind again- but this time like the wind through a pile of fallen leaves.

“But no,” she continued, as though to herself, “you can still feel pain- and the light is still within your reach.  I think I can send you back, this time.”

“But Lady, the canyon walls-“

“Are of no concern.  Close your eyes and do not open them until my messenger tells you that you may.”

I closed my eyes and felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around me.  Their touch did not hurt me, not even against my arm- they were warm and comforting as sunshine on a spring day.  Somehow I knew they were not the arms of the Lady: her arms surely would be cold as her breath upon my ear as she whispered,

“Good bye, mortal child.  We will meet again.”  And she kissed my cheek.

The arms tightened and I squeezed my eyes tighter, determined not to disobey the Lady.  But I must have slept, for the next thing I knew a voice soft as rain was saying, “Wake up,” and I was in my own bed, arm covered in plaster.

Later my mother would say it had only been a fever dream- that some of the men had found me at the base of a cliff not half an hour from our house, and had brought me back and dressed my wounds.  And I might have believed her but for one thing- to this day there is still a place on my cheekbone that is cooler than the surrounding skin: an area the exact size and shape of a pair of lips.


Neither Over the Hill Nor Under It

It’s my birthday!  And I’m 30.  And I’m pretty good with that.

We’ve been back in the Portland area for about three full days now, two of which were devoted almost solely to apartment hunting (bleh) and one of which has been devoted primarily to editing the travelogue (to be posted as soon as Nate finishes processing the photos) and talking on the phone to well-wishers (so nice to be internationally loved!)  I don’t know that I’ll be doing anything to rival last year’s Skateboarding Incident, but hey- the night is still young.

We really enjoyed our Road Trip (although that did not keep us from really enjoying it being over), and one thing that I found particularly valuable was the trip up the California coast- valuable to my story, that is, since the female protagonist travels through similar geography, and now I have a lot more detail I can add to the story.  Always a good thing.  Not to mention I’ve had at least three other Story Seeds spring up, which I will probably detail in the near future.  I’m anxious for us to get settled, because I want to get back into my Routine, which will include the first rewrite of the novel.  Oh rewrite, I dread you so- but you are so very desperately needed, and I think enough time has gone by that I can actually do a decent job at it.

We went to a wonderful party last night at a dear friend’s house, full of wonderful people (but then I guess that’s generally what makes a wonderful party).  There was good food and good drinks (Kraken black spiced rum was new to me, but I don’t intend to let it remain a stranger) and good conversation about passions, and of course the all-important dancing.  I look forward to re-establishing a community up here, and it’s heartening to have so quickly made some new friends to go along with the beloved old friends.  Joy joy joy…

Speaking of which, I have a job interview in the morning.  It’s in downtown Vancouver, and I’m feeling pretty positive about it, so fingers crossed that I will soon be once again gainfully employed.  Full-time, I mean.  With benefits.  Oh, wonderful benefits…