Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hoppy Holidays-- There's Beerly any 2007 Left

If you are wondering what we are liking during the cold times, here's a little list of quaffable selections. Very succinctly:

Staight-Ahead Good Winter Beers: Alaskan Winter Ale (notes of spruce and slightly sweet); Bridgeport's Ebenezer; Big Sky Brewing's Powder Hound; Dick's Double Diamond Winter Ale;Anderson Valley Brewing's Winter Solstice(warm with notes of Sarsparilla).

Lazy Boy Brewing out of Seattle has a great one with the name of Mistletoe something or other (I'm so bad for not paying attention, but how many beers have mistletoe in their names?) that I got to try one of the first pints of on tap at Belmont Station a few weeks ago. Today we visited there and had a great stout and barleywine, but for the life of us can't remember which breweries produced them. Not because we drank too much, but because we had a very busy little boy on our hands! I'll try to keep pen and paper around to keep better track of our beer selections. We did, however, get in a couple hands of cribbage, Joe took the first and I the second. And I did have a killer hummus plate with lots of hot peppers, so I was very satisfied.

We also tried a great barleywine a week or so ago called "100" by a Swedish brewery. Amazing stuff. And Schmaltz's "He'Brew" label makes some great beers. We liked their Jewbalation beer ("it goes to 11"--I like anything with a Spinal Tap reference) brewed with "11 hops and 11 malts"-- a very nice seasonal. Their Lenny R.I.P.A Imperial IPA with Rye was pretty amazing, a great strong beer.

I'll do my best to keep up on this, for those of you who like a good beer now and again. As the SNOB (Support Native Oregon Beer) teeshirts say, "Life's too Short to Drink Bad Beer"!

Our Funky Mellow Christmas

It's been a few days since we celebrated the Christmas holiday, but in case anyone was wondering how we spent it, here's a recap that hits the highlights.

On Christmas Eve we were invited to an open house hosted by Mark and Parni, former coworkers of Joe's. Their son Max is six and really into Star Wars, so he demonstrated his prowess with a plastic light saber and dug into the sweets while the adults hung out. Parni has a one-of-a-kind light-up display of Bedford Falls, Jimmy Stewart's hometown in "It's A Wonderful Life"...ah, if it hadn't been for him, it would've been Pottersville! This is the second year I've attended their open house and I'm getting to know the regulars. It will be interesting to see where they're all at next year.

After enjoying the yummy nibbles, we headed back to our neck of the woods for our tradition of strolling down Peacock Lane, Portland's premier street of Christmas Lights. Every year we bring a flask of something warming to take a few swigs of before braving the crowds on the sidewalk. There are always one or two people who are far more amusing than the displays on the lawns and in the picture windows, and this year was no exception. On our way walking down on side of the street, we were behind Japanese tourists and in front of some, I believe, Middle-Eastern fellows who had a bit to say (judging from the tone, not entirely complimentary) about the goings-on they were witnessing. On our return trip up the street, we were stuck behind a woman and her dog who took up 90% of the space on the sidewalk. This wasn't too bad, except that she stopped several times and tried to make her dog "look" at the light displays, holding his head and turning it to the attractions. C-R-A-Z-Y.

We made it home in plenty of time to hang out and groove to the festive sounds of James Brown's "Funky Christmas" album. Each of us opened a present and relaxed before heading up to bed.

The next morning was also very mellow. Life with baby is a bit more regimented and so there's a lot to do before opening presents. In fact, we started getting Christmas calls before we'd ripped the wrapping paper. Joaquin was more interested in scooting around on his belly and playing with ribbons than with any toys he received. Joe surprised me with a cd of ELO's greatest hits. (I'm sure this dates me far more than I would care to admit, but I was eight when I was running to turn up the radio every time "Sweet Talking Woman" came on, so I'm not that old.) There was also a lot of chocolate under the wrapping paper...yummayumyum. I made up some scrambled eggs and leftover roasted veggies, and coffee and we spent the morning returning calls, smiling at each other, and heading outside to walk in the snow...which, in Portland, is a Christmas miracle in itself as the White Christmas is like Sasquatch around here, rumored to exist, but seen by few.

In these days that have followed, I've loved having Joe home some of the time. And below, in our next installment, I'll have more of the holiday beers to report. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Havin' Ourselves a Merry Little Solstice

Well, a few days ago we said hello to the light as the Winter Solstice officially marked the beginning of longer days. It's hard to believe that, as winter really begins, that the days are becoming more lengthy instead of shorter. Thank goodness we have all these holidays to look forward to.

Friday night we lit candles in honor of that change and came together with friends. Saturday afternoon our friends Maarit and Aaron and their daughter Milena invited us over for some Finnish pastries and glugg, a warm spiced wine. The star-shaped puff pastry was filled with warm plum preserves and the homemade cookie sandwiches with raspberry filling coated with superfine sugar were excellent. As I get to know Maarit more, I'm convinced that there's an untapped wealth delicacies that the Finns have hidden up their sleeves. Yum.

Today was quieter. We're watching the third in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, in short episodes while Joaquin is sleeping. I'm somewhat wary of letting the baby watch the violent goings-on these fantasy movies seem to have endless supply of. We are happy to take it slow.

Tonight, I've rented one of my favorite "Christmas" movies--Ernst Lubitch's "The Shop Around the Corner". I say "Christmas" because part of the movie takes place during the holidays and I just love watching it this time of year. Jimmy Stewart is great as the unsuspecting young salesman who, unbeknownst to his own self, is carrying on a romance with the pert saleswoman at his shop who seems to annoy him most. Very sweet in the way only old movies can be.

I must go--my coyote boy howls. Have happy days and fall in love with your holiday traditions, be they lighting candles to celebrate the light, or getting your Nog on before fillin' up stockings. Merry Solstice, Christmas and the whole nine yards!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rippin' on Rudolph

A few nights ago, we got cozy and watched the broadcast of the classic Rankin and Bass "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". Poor Rudy--if he thought the other reindeer were giving him a hard time, I'm glad he couldn't hear us. We cracked wise and laughed our heads off. Here are some of our observations, in chronological order. Mind you, we came in a little late...

1. Digitally enhanced snow. Do they have to mess with everything?

2. During the song "We Are Santa's Elves" I thought for certain that with all those elves standing so close together, and those sharp pointy ears, someone was going to get their face impaled.

3. Head Elf seems very down on the idea of Herbie becoming a dentist. I'm unsure why that is; if he's against elves having medical and dental benefits or what.

4.Can you tell me which scene featured the song "Christmas Party Hop" in the background? Extra bonus points if you do!

5. I can see why those reindeer did call Rudolph names. They regularly laugh at failure. "Coach" Reindeer not setting such a good example.

6. The whole "romance" end of things: okay, folks, there seems to be some pressure for these deer to mate rather early in life. No horns, but already acting, uh, horny. And Felice, my dear, what freaking deer wears mascara? Obviously not a "true story".

7. Santa seemed to have an uncalled-for reaction to Rudolph being, ahem, shall we say different. Makes you wonder if Santa might have a hidden prejudicial streak, which raises the question, can he be trusted to distribute toys with equity?

8. I love the whole "Felice wants Rudolph to walk her home" sort of thing. Kind of reminiscent of that whole 60's "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" biracial couple sort of thing. Red Nose+Black Nose=True Love Forever. But then she ruins it by singing that horridly mushy "There's Always Tomorrow". Then, to make matters worse for poor Rudy, Felice's dad appears to be afflicted with the same prejudice that's taken hold of the rest of the North Pole. Who knew Santa's little world was so hateful?

9. Herbie and Rudy pair up over their misfit status. In the 80's they would have become Goths or D&D players and bonded over Bauhaus or 7-sided dice. But it's the 1960's, so off they go into the snow and catch sight of the Abominable Snowman, which, if you ask me, is far more interesting than sitting around your parent's basement listing to "Bela Lugosi's Dead".

10. Burl Ives gives us a break, singing "Silver and Gold", during which we see a nest of newly hatched chicks surviving in the sub-zero weather. The North Pole is truly a magical land!

11. Our main misfits meet up with Yukon Cornelius, a liar and a fool. After a showdown with Abominable, Yukon sets them "free" to escape on an ice floe to nowhere. Thanks buddy! Joe notes that the Abominable "looks like Chris Elliot".

12. Donner takes off alone to find Rudolph, telling Mrs. Donner that searching for their son is "Man's work", as apparently alienating and humiliating their son also was. Great job, dad! Fortunately, Felice and Mrs Donner head out to find Rudy, who I'm sure would much rather see them than the guy who made him feel like crap.

13. Maudlin loserfest on the Island of Misfit Toys. Apparently they still have a dysfunctional relationship with Santa, who has declared them "unworthy". They think Christmas is wonderful even if they can't participate. It's akin to being wildly unpopular with bad skin and worshipping prom---mass-o-kiss-stick!

14.That night Rudy decides to strike out on his own and leaves the door open "and they all froze to death" said Joe.

15. Rudy travels through the land of polar bears and though it's cold and they have no food, they do not eat him. A Christmas miracle indeed.

16.So he returns(he's 18 now!or the deer equivalent); cue more digitally enhanced snow and igloo blowing over. Rudy finds mom and girlfriend about to become Abominable's puu puu platter. Yukon arrives in the nick of time and gives Abominable a concussion. Then Herbie practises unlicensed dentistry and removes the monster's teeth, which will eventually leave him to starve to death as I don't think Santa's dropping off an Osterizer to puree his prey. Yukon practices a mercy killing by running Abominable off a cliff before starvation sets in.

17. Herbie returns to discover that Union Leader Elf will allow a dental practice, which is good since apparently he's been snacking on too much Christmas candy.

18. In light of a storm, Santa reassesses his "different is bad" theory and decides that Rudy's halogen nose will save Christmas. Hooray! The End! (also hooray!)

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Longest Day and A-Rod

The longest day of my year. I am the happy but exhausted mother of a baby who decided, today, that naps are for other babies. To be honest, he's slept for an hour and twenty minutes today (10 minutes this morning, 30 minutes at 2 and 40 minutes just a bit ago, and it's now 6:45 and he's awake again.) but that's about half of what he gets, at the very least. And he's been unsettled, so I've stayed home from my evening water aerobics class. Earlier today, after he didn't go to sleep after an hour-long walk, I threatened to go home and have a beer. I settled for some soy nog and cheese and crackers, so I guess I get a gold star in the "Good Mama" chart for the day. But I'm gonna have a beer now, because hey, it's after 7 and I've got a feeling we're in for a long night.

Speaking of gold stars, I just wanted to give a shout-out to Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. (Who will never ever read this, but still...) Last week, when the nasty list of names of doping players was being read on the news, I actually held my breath, hoping your name wasn't uttered. And it wasn't. I'm not a big sports fan, but have always rooted for the Yankees. It might sound silly, but when I was twelve I learned Mickey Mantle and I shared the same birthday. Thus, my October 20th connection with the switch-hitter sealed the deal. Joe (my fella)being a Yankees fan, being from New York, also encouraged my passing interest. But here's the thing: I know that Joaquin, even though he's only 8 months old now, will grow up watching Yankees games on tv with his father. I want my son to have good examples and positive role models to look up to, and Alex, I think that if he ends up interested in you and your career, a fan, well, I think that's just fine. I'm glad you've chosen to pursue athletic success au naturel, without hormones or forearms that look like tree trunks. Thanks for keeping the old school honor and traditions of baseball alive, for keeping it a fair game, and for giving kids a winner they can look up to. A lot of kids were disappointed and ashamed last week when they discovered their heroes were frauds. You're the real thing, Rodriguez, and I just want to say Thanks.

And now, I'm back up to the baby, who I love to pieces. And who will be grounded for life if he ever takes steroids. Goodness. What a world.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Big Disclaimer

I wanted to be lofty. To find the treasures and beauty in life. That was the original hope for this blog. And that's the attitude you'll find at the top of the page.

I wanted to excel in thinking more poetically about life. To be more, um, positive.
I really hoped to bring a balanced and wise voice to this page. I guess my ambitions got the better of me.

Perhaps it's because it's been raining and cold lately and the cabin fever hits and all I can think is "Pizza and Beer and dvd...NOW!".

Perhaps it's because life hasn't been terrifically easy. Life is messy and real. I'd like to be as transcendent as a monk. Then again, monks don't have babies and if you louse up the job, there's a whole crew of the High-Minded Saffron Robed to bail your ass out. Unless it's one of those solo-trekking monks, then I guess, you might be screwed. But I'm really thinking of the communal living, chanting "om" in incense filled halls sort of monks. I'm sure this vision has something to do with having watched too many Kung-fu movies.

So, anyway, if you are disappointed that my posts aren't addressing the big questions, please keep in mind that my life has lately been filled with loads of the little questions, such as "When was the last time his diaper was changed?" and "Did you feed the cat?" and "What do we need at the store?" Not lofty questions, to be sure, but they keep us fresh as a daisy, unclawed, and fed.

This just goes to show you that when one starts a blog as an escape pod of sorts, the pod usually returns to the mothership. Boomerang mentality. You can never escape who you are or what your life is.

Hey, I think that might have just been a Big Thought....

SuperCute Baby To The Rescue

Can I just tell ya'll how darn cute my baby is?

His powers of cuteness are so amazing. The pure distraction is a blessing.

Now, anyone who knows me KNOWS of my rather curmudgeounous ways. And to be fair, I am somewhat of a "Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud--Just Keep Looking" sort of person. In fact, this post was originally going to be titled "Crappity-Crap-Crap".
And with good cause.

I've had a hell of a weekend. Got something wicked nasty bad wrong on Friday night--we're still unsure if it was food poisoning or just your garden-variety gastritis. The soup was tasty, but was the seafood in it tainted, or was it the fact that the hot-and-sour flavor disguised the chicken broth? (Not so good on a seven-year vegetarian stomach) Or was it that I whined at Joe to get the soup when he might have already had enough on his plate and it feels a little like Instant Karma come and got me? So many questions I won't ever really know the answers to, except for the last one: I should have just been happy with my frozen burrito and quit my kvetching.

But let's not get mired down, no, let's get back to the cuteness. I've felt crappy all weekend but I've had a very cute little boy to keep me distracted and get my head outside myself. Can't just be miserable when you've got a drooly cutie smiling at you, wanting to sit in your lap, wanting milk. Or what about the fact that I've got a little buddy to nap with? And how can I feel like the universe is spitting at me when, in my hour of need, after a week of horrible sleeping, Joaquin's sleeping is so much better? We slept from 11-9 last night, and with only two interruptions, a far cry from the nights before. I tell you, I'm one lucky mama. Imagine being sick and having a baby as fussy and miserable as myself. "Good God--NOOOOO!"

So, SuperCute Baby, worthy of the cape, tights, and all that jazz. He has healing powers, that baby does. I feel better already.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Music, Together

Today is one of those quintessential winter Sundays in Portland. To be precise, rain, rain, followed by wind and more rain. Yesterday we ran all of our weekend errands and now it's noon and we are still in our pajamas. Joaquin's taking a morning nap. This kid loves to nurse to sleep, holding my hands. It's a very warm and cozy feeling for such a cold miserable out-of-doors day.

Last night we headed out to It's A Beautiful Pizza to see our friends play in their band, The Sons of Bernard (otherwise known as the SOBs). I love taking Joaquin to see live music, if it isn't too loud, and the SOBs were wonderful. Lots of 60's and 70's covers from names you've probably heard before and some you might not have. (Van Morrison, Neil Young, the Grateful Dead... as well as a lot of stuff I was pleasantly unfamiliar with) No covers of "Brown Eyed Girl" or "Casey Jones" or any of the typical cover-band stuff, most of the songs played last night were not hits off the classic rock station. And they were all well-delivered, the band was tight and the harmonies were wonderful. Guest musicians featured a gentleman on flute and then saxophone and a fellow playing a mean fiddle. We loved it.

I'm not sure what Joaquin likes the most, but I have a feeling it was being in a sea of new sounds and new, smiling faces. This kid really likes a crowd, especially one that makes big happy faces at him and loves to coo over him. As his parent, I feel fortunate to know so many genuinely nice people. And it was great to reconnect last night with some folks I literally hadn't seen in years. Good folk gather to support their friends and last night, with the music area packed, it really showed.

As someone who has done hard time working for years at a record store, music is something I hope Joaquin develops an appreciative ear for. I never played an instrument, but love to sing. Joe played flute in school. And we both like a wide variety of artists. Around the house, I'm especially partial to old-school jazz like jump, stride, trad and bebob and swing; or rock and pop, but could never confine myself to one or two genres. Joe loves ambient music, garage rock from the 60's and beyond, and so much more. Joaquin's first concert was seeing Patti Smith at the Bite this August. When Patti's teenage son got onstage and played guitar with Lenny and the band, all I could hope for was that perhaps we as a family will continue to enjoy music together when Joaquin is older. And after laughingly admitting to each other a few days ago that "Mary J Blige is really good...I kinda like her!", I think Joe and I are up to the task of being parents that keep an open mind about new music.

Speaking of Music Together, we were fortunate enough to be gifted with two Music Together cd's from former client Susan. Her children listened to them and have probably outgrown them in favor of something a little more sophisticated. (If anyone has invented "Pirate Rock" or "Hamster Love Songs" I'm sure that Max and Emma are all over that, respectively.) If you are unfamiliar with Music Together, they are wonderful music classes that focus on creating, recalling and changing rhythm patterns, singing, and in my opinion, developing a child's ear for all sorts of music. The rhythms and music explored on the cds are sophisticated, and the music has obviously been created and chosen by folks who have a well-developed ear and true love for music. I love that the cd's treat the children as people: the voices on a MT disc aren't the cloying, high-pitched homogenized voices one all-to-often finds on kid cds. Rather, they are trained, 'real' voices that sound more like a campfire song circle than a Disney show. In a world of very affected little teenybopper performers all sounding like each other, it's important for children to hear the real voices of children, adults and older adults to form a realistic impression and assessment of what it is to sing. I also like that the songs are about things relevant to children, like hiding and rolling and jumping. There's a certain joy in this kids music that love songs and opera (however cultured and exciting it may be) and rock-n-roll just can't deliver. It's genuine and simple and I love it.

I'm sure the little guy's naptime is almost over, and anyways, I'm hungry for a bowl of that soup I made a couple days ago. Ah, yes, music and soup and bread and naps and hugs and cribbage (and later, I'm sure, a beer) on a cold late-autumn day. Throw in a Miss Marple mystery on dvd, and you have perfection.