October 28, 2010

late fall in the garden


nearly november in the garden. in a funny turn of events, my garden has gone from being the smallest, wimpiest one in relation to its neighbors to the loveliest, best-groomed and best-tended. for unknown reasons, most of my fellow gardeners have let their tomatoes ripen and rot on the vines; there are errant squash everywhere. why work so hard all summer only to let it all waste away? I admit somewhat shamefully to harvesting some tomatoes from my neighbor's plot, although I feel almost no remorse. all the other tomatoes in their plot have plopped from the vine onto our walkway. I've seen them just once all summer.

what's left in my garden: herbs (rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, catnip and chives); a great forest of brussels sprouts, currently beginning their brussels sprouting; various salad greens; one lone bolted broccoli (I didn't harvest it in time); one lone beet (the others didn't grow); tiny parsnips; a few remaining walla walla onions; kale & chard.

THE KALE. sweet lord in heaven, I will never eat all the kale. because I am occasionally well-meaning but not very bright, in a garden-related conversation with a coworker the other day, I offered to trade her lettuce for kale. her greens didn't grow very well, and I somehow suffered momentary amnesia and forgot that I had a shit ton of kale in the garden. an all-you-can-eat kale buffet. I kept thinking for absolutely no reason whatsoever that she would bring me curly kale, which I have but a limited quantity of in my own garden. instead, she brought me russian red kale, which was the main seed in my mesclun mix, and which I've been eating in large quantities all summer (it's the big leaf in the basket pictured above). I am, of course, very grateful to her, and also glad to pass on one of the giant lettuce heads. but there's only so much you can do with several pounds of kale. it's enough kale to completely cover my kitchen table. remember my gigantic radicchio? yeah, like that.

fortunately I am stubborn as a mule, stingy with my grocery money, and in full-on fall hibernation mode. so on the docket for this week's cooking: roasted kale, kale & bean soup, sweet & savory kale. plus kale in my omelets, and in my salad. and a certain someone will probably also get his own healthy supply. we're full up on vitamin K around these parts. I will never bruise again.

other things I harvested yesterday include more green peppers than I know what to do with, some herbs for lelo's delicious-looking roasted tomato soup (using the rest of the tomatoes from the garden), tiny green onions thinned from my walla walla patch (to allow the others to grow to full size), lemon cucumbers (! in the fall -- they were confused), and the tops of the mostly bolted broccoli. the bees love the broccoli flowers, so I left the rest of it standing. I harvested the basil plant and chopped/pureed most of it for storage in the freezer. the rest is either drying, being used in basil vinaigrette, or is starring in cinnamon basil ice cream, which I made yesterday.

for the spring, there are queen of the night tulips, grand perfection tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses planted. I had grand ideas of pretty, color-coordinated tulip beds, but then I forgot what everything looked like and I pretty much planted it all in a big clump. none of it will match, it will probably all be garish, but since it's my first stab at bulb planting, I'll be happy just to see it shoot up. also, BLACK TULIPS. love.

I've also planted two different varieties of garlic. you guys, I have learned so much from gardening. I had no idea that what you plant to grow garlic ... is garlic. no special seeds, no plant starts; nothing like onions or beets. I got to the nursery the other day, saw the garlic, and thought, 'wait, that?' each clove is a BULB! lightbulb moment! no wonder all my flower bulb packages say "do not eat ornamental bulbs." so hopefully next year there will be 17 heads of nootka rose or spanish roja garlic.

a cover crop of austrian peas & fall cereal rye are spread on the two sections of the garden that are currently dormant. with luck, I can plant cover crop on a third bed (the lettuce bed) before it's too late to put the seed down. of course, that involves another few weeks of intense lettuce eating. fortunately, I've gotten rather used to my daily salad trough, so much so that I'm not certain what I'll do once the salad greens are gone for the season. turn to kale, I guess.

October 21, 2010

rehearsal notes, etc.

serious issues discussed in the production meeting for hansel & gretel
the relative size and color of cuckoo feathers versus partridge feathers
bubbling sinks
the logistics of getting crew members to physically hold up a set wall mid-show

things I've discovered my cats eating, chewing, or otherwise destroying in the past week
my bike tires
my bike pedals
thumbtacks off the wall
the carpet
the fuzzy throw on my futon

ways I was a big girl on my 30-mile bike ride yesterday, because sometimes you have to celebrate small milestones
I rode on the street
I remembered how to ride no-hands
I crossed several major streets without falling off my bike or getting run over
I rode on a really big street. with cars!
I lost my way 3 times, biked off onto 3 small adventures, and then resumed my journey

oh by the way
I forgot to tell you I bought a bike back in September.

bike bike bike

Portland is simultaneously the nicest place to bike -- because it's so bike-friendly -- and the scariest, because everybody and their grandma is a cyclist and I haven't been on a bike in 5 years. Of course there's that stupid tired old cliche about how you never forget, and while that's true in the vague sense, you sure do forget how to turn properly, steer, or angle your pelvis so your butt doesn't turn to hamburger. Fortunately I remembered how to do these things now, mostly.

excerpts from the rehearsal notes from hansel & gretel
"could the jello be taller?"

"thanks for the beads today -- they saved rehearsal. thankfully, no one tried to eat them."

"Super Maggie is the cake car driver."

"The cake car makes horrible squealing sounds when rolling around."

"Could we try 2 nasal aspirators full of glitter?"

"Please ADD a child's head in a plastic bag for the Act 3 refrigerator dressing."

"One of the kids is dropped to the ground by the Witch. This explains some of the previously existing dents."

"Please give the lard some weight."

"The hand with the removable finger has broken."

maybe the best rehearsal note ever, from our 2005 Tosca:
"The main curtain was blowing upstage, hitting the writing desk at the end of act II, the desk in act III, and causing the dead Cavaradossi to come alive to pull his arm upstage before the final curtain hit."

what stress can do for you
last Thursday (day 29) I ran a 6:46 mile. (no. 16). I wasn't even trying.

October 11, 2010

bread crumbs

gingerbread zombie army

I walked in to this late last week.


they're the gingerbread children for hansel & gretel, which began rehearsals today. that's right -- gingerbread children. not how you used to bake them, are they? I like to just call them "the children." I love how perfectly horrifying they are.

help us

it's been a tough time for me in opera land. the parts for the opera are in our library, but although I knew they were heavily marked and quite old, I had no idea the extent of the damage they have taken over the years. we have not done this opera since 1992, but it looks as though the parts have been rented out since then and were last used in some sort of excerpt concert.


each part had about 25 cuts marked, all of them in heavy pencil.


some of them in red pencil, which we only use when we don't want something to be easily eraseable. the edges of many parts were yellowed with age. the piccolo part had sustained water damage.

even in its original state, the music must have left much to be desired. the oboe part was clearly photocopied from an original master by the publisher:

photocopied from the original plates

and contrary to the norm, the parts that were in the worst shape were the wind parts. usually it's the strings you have to contend with; they are constantly marked and erased as bowings are added or modified, and so the paper takes a beating, and sometimes the ink does too. however, for no obvious reason, our wind parts were just awful. they were marked to the hilt, and in many cases -- piccolo, horn iv, trombones, timpani, & harp were the worst -- the ink job had faded to an unacceptable degree. like, the staff lines were missing.

where are you, staff lines?

there's no glare on that photo. the staff lines in the harp part were virtually non-existent. I could have ordered new versions of these parts (and in fact in two cases I will) but because I have no intention of keeping the set, there's no use in buying a smattering of wind parts. what do you do instead? you take a ruler and a pen -- ballpoint in this case, because all your nicer ink runs on this paper -- and you re-ink.


doesn't that look like fun.

the parts were just set out this morning, a week beyond when I normally set them out. the orchestra, accustomed to having their music three weeks before their first rehearsal, began frothing at the mouth sometime around tuesday afternoon and badgered me so persistently that I refused to answer my phone on wednesday, knowing that if I answered every call that came in I very sincerely would probably spend at least an hour on the phone. a precious hour of marking bowings and re-inking music. needless to say, they're happy to be picking their parts up today, and I am happy to have them out, although I still have 6 parts to mark: I ran out of time and opted to give two of the string sections practice parts until I could finish their "real" ones.

did you know that a very real hazard of doing nothing but pencilling and erasing parts for 2-3 weeks is that you vaguely lose feeling in your fingertips from holding the pencil for so long? I am not kidding.


October 4, 2010

"Gate C-22," Ellen Bass

At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he'd just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she'd been released at least from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching--
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn't look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after-- if she beat you or left you or
you're lonely now-- you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman's middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

October 1, 2010

when the saddle fits

I have replaced my horse with a shiny new one. don't worry: it's the same mare. I can't get over what's happening, though. it was a very light summer for riding, for a lot of reasons, and I'm only now getting back to it in earnest. it was hard to return to it, mostly because I feared that she'd have turned a little feral and we'd have a few awful rodeo days. nobody likes getting thrown from their horse. so it's been kind of an emotional battle to get back to the barn and ride. when I finally did, on saturday, I truly expected to have a huge battle: to have a spooky, attitude-y horse who didn't want to listen to me or go in a straight line or speed up/slow down on command. I showed up early to turn her loose in the arena, so she could burn off some steam, and she ran laps for ten minutes straight. I thought, well, here we go.

but then! I have decided officially to stop using my saddle, because it has not fit her for a long time, and therefore doesn't fit me either -- it's too narrow for her, particularly in the shoulder, and so it slants backwards slightly, putting me in the wrong position. I decided it would not do us any more good to hold onto it, even if I can't afford a new saddle, so I'm selling it and borrowing one of the lesson saddles until I can get another one. the saddle I'm currently using is a battered old low-end saddle, too big for me but PERFECT for cookie. perfect. it makes me wonder how I ever thought my saddle fit her. so that's what we rode in on saturday. it has a very narrow twist (the "twist" refers to the surface area of what the rider sits on) and the seat is as hard as a rock, so it's very much like riding a 2 x 4. no joke. my tailbone was sore for days afterwards.

but that mare. loves. it. instead of being thrown, I was given one of the best rides in our two-year history together. I am humbled. that horse deserves so much more gratitude than I give her. she's clearly dealt for two years with a saddle that doesn't fit, and therefore doesn't let her move freely and might even hurt. and aside from some light head-tossing and the occasional inability to travel in a straight line, she's given me no indication that she's suffering. the longer we work together, the more I realize what a wonderfully forgiving, willing animal she is. she just wants to please. I need to remember it more.

I would have considered saturday a one-off if we hadn't had exactly the same experience wednesday night. (including the sore tailbone). "who is this horse?" I asked my instructor. she couldn't get over it either. that mare, who sometimes careens around the arena with her head at giraffe height, instead held the perfect head position through the whole afternoon, never throwing it up once. she did everything I asked without complaint. all this time, the answer was so simple. none of us gave her enough credit. it's a great relief, but it also makes me want to cry. the things she has done for me.