Monday, July 30, 2007

But My Garden is Nice

My blog game is off. I can't seem to recapture it at the moment. Everything seems so significant. Until I sit down to write about it. And if I think too much about that, about how writing completely eludes me right now, my funk will grow and sit on my shoulders heavily until I'm able to will it back down to a manageable nag; a faint, distant pull.

I've shut down creative sources because I'm dead exhausted by the idea of working so hard to squeeze it in. I've banned baking so I can shed the 8 pounds contributed to that hobby. The big-ass painting that I started a while ago rots on the patio -- The canvas has unlodged itself from the frame and what seemed like such a strong piece becomes less and less important as the layers of dirt collect on it. Files and files of stories yellow in my drawer. All my creative promise becomes more languid and slippery with every passing week, year. I can't even confirm if 2007 had a June or July. I don't remember them clearly.

Very late at night, I'll stand on my deck barefoot and in my underwear after the house is shut down and dark. Everyone is asleep. I'll look at the sea-marined sky silhouetted with palm trees and my initial gush has been that of doom. Death and earthquakes. Loss. Panic. I shove and push in thoughts of gratitude as remedy. "My life is rich and wonderful." I beg the doom is not instinctual. And I then shut the dark thoughts down and spackle them over with easy wishes. Back to day dreaming about the lottery and my next tattoo and for a more leisurely life where I have time to flow, where the creativity doesn't back up and fester into a toxic cloud that I keep pushing back down into a tight, dormant geyser.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The New Piece; Part of My Coming of Age

It took 10 hours total; 3 hours two weeks ago and 7 straight on Saturday. We muscled through, me and my number one tat guy, Tim McEvoy. I gotta say, it wasn't that bad pain-wise. It just took a long time because of how many colors he used.
I love it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Catching Up

Let's see,

I've been craving iceberg lettuce lately. Is that a dehydration thing? I can't shake the idea of the cold, crispy, juicy crunchiness. I bought my first head of iceberg in years, wedged it up and futzed around with a vegan ranch dressing recipe. Man, the combo was good. Below is the recipe I ended up with that I thought was pretty damn good. Husband thought it was ok and Mina poo-poo'ed it. Then I found out she just didn't like the iceberg. What's that Mina? You only want spinach and darker leafy greens, you say? Well ok.

Madness Vegan Ranch Dressing Recipe:
1/2 c. light soy milk
1/2 c. veganaisse or fav. vegan mayonnaise
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 TBSP fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper to taste
Couple pinches of guar gum to thicken (optional)

Pour apple vinegar in soy milk and let sit for a minute until curdled. Then blend it and everything else up in the blender. Kind of on the garlic side which I dig.

I've decided I'm not baking for a month though I did perfect the chocolate chip cookie days before the self-inflicted hiatus. I'm not kidding. I nailed that mother. But people, I need a rest from so much deliciousness. After much thought, I'm pretty sure I can earn my fortune by creating a video that instructs one how to exercise while baking. Many, many problems will be solved when I figure this out. Here's the recipe. You enjoy while I abstain for 4 long weeks.

Madness' ForgetAboutIt CC Cookies

2 1/4 c. unbleached all-purp flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 c. (2 sticks) Earth Balance
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. maple sugar, packed - found in most health food stores; this is the secret, key ingredient
1 tsp vanilla
Egg Replacer, enough for 2 eggs
1 c. vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped raw walnuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, salt in a small bowl. Beat Earth Balance, granulated, brown and maple sugars and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix together the Egg Replacer in a small bowl and gradually add to the butter mixture. Mix until well combined. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in chips. If this is a bit dry, add a splash or two of soy milk and mix thoroughly. Spoon drop on an ungreased cookie sheet, or on parchment paper, and bake for 9-12 minutes until golden brown on edges. Let cool 2 minutes on sheet then place cookies on a wire rack (if you have) to cool the rest of the time. Makes about 2 dozen; more if you don't dip into the dough as much as I do. These are ridiculous.

This particular cookie caused my 19 year old neighbor, Lucy, to go vegan. No joke. She had been flirting with the idea, reading and getting anxiously sparked -- unbeknownst to me -- when I had Maya bring her a plateful of the above cookie. She said to Maya, "If these are vegan, I'm sold" which we took in jest. A week later, she emailed me a bunch of questions and took the plunge. She hasn't looked back.

Carmen got stung in the face by a bee over the weekend. I heard Mina scream-crying from the bathroom on Saturday and the only word I could decipher was Carmen. I really thought the worst. But I heard Carmen trotting my way and Mina screaming behind her, "FIX CARMEN, MAMI. WHAT'S WRONG WITH CARMEN. HELP HER MAMI, HELP CARMEN." Carmen's face was swollen to the brink of explosion. It scared the shit out of me. It was just so odd and wrong. Here was my immediate and fearful diagnosis: Carmen's been poisoned. Yes, she's rubbed up on a poisonous plant and she will explode soon. Acting on this calm and thoughtful conclusion aided by the screams of a scared child, I threw Carmen in the bath tub and doused her completely. As cold water splashed on me too, I came to my senses and realized she'd probably been stung. I fumbled for an emergency vet number and then decided to run down to our resident dog expert two doors down. Keelie fosters rescues from time to time and we all ask her anything dog related. She checked Carmen's breathing, her tongue, told me to watch her for the next 20 minutes. In 20 minutes, the swelling had gone down considerably. Fyi, Keelie's tip of the month: A little canned pumpkin helps doggie diarrhea. Mina felt better though she kept a close eye on Carmen and had visions of attacking bees for the rest of the day- and night. The sight of my little girl night-sneaking in my room with her pillow and blanket and curl up on the floor next to me stabbed my heart. I whispered, "Mina, go to bed, mama. That's not comfortable down there." She whispered loudly, "It is comfortable, Mami. I hear buzzing in my room. I don't want the doggies getting stung." I couldn't send her back to the swarming bee room.

I put Mina on a plane last night to Las Vegas. She's visiting Maya and the extended family there. I welcome the break, frankly, and I’m too warmed by our village situation to go into a lonely slump. Besides, she'll be back on Friday with Maya who will be visiting for the weekend. Hooray. When I know both girls will be gone for a few days, I make tremendous plans. I think, I'll do double workouts and clean out ignored closets and go to this restaurant and see this movie. The second Mina stepped on the plane out of my sight, I realized I was so exhausted that I dreaded the drive home from the airport. At home, I controlled the TV remote for the first time in ages and ate a bowl of soy dream vanilla-mango sorbet with Cherrios sprinkled on top. PMS much?

Every single neighbor in my apartment building is fantastic. How does that happen? We’re all enjoying the summer love fest. We travel from apartment to apartment to say hi, bring food, and admire new work done in the place. We co-mingle our dogs in the courtyard, drinking and talking. The neighbors that have moved here from out of state say they’ve never had such a situation, excect the neighbor from Idaho who said her upbringing was similar. I tell them I’ve lived in Cali my whole life and never have experienced this either. We keep our doors open to catch the ocean breeze traveling from just a couple miles away. Sherrie downstairs teaches piano from her apartment and sometimes she herself plays and lets loose waves of classical pieces that swirl the courtyard. We’ll take out Claire’s trash and we’ll check in on Leonard; both of whom are in their 80’s and have lived in their apartments over thirty-five years. I’ll poke my head in on Molly to see what she’s cooking and we’ll watch the rest of an Iron Chef Challenge. Once, I found the girls sprawled on Molly’s living room floor watching a cake-decorating show while Molly was experimenting with something in the kitchen. During BBQ’s, we’ll all tell our best Uras stories. The residents that have lived here over ten years have the best ones: Holes left in ceilings for months, electrical cross wiring where a light goes on in one room and out in another, many, many accounts of unintelligible conversations where Uras talks in circles and says nothing. He once told me that I have Aztec in my eyes. I said, Huh? “Yes, you look Aztec deep in eyes. I see it!” I didn’t even know how to counter that conversation. Currently he's fixing the stairs. He's brought in his son Linus for the job who's free from college on summer break. Uras has taught his son the ins and outs of contruction with wire, duct tape and pick axes. The stair job was started a week ago and Husband and I bet the over-under on when it would get finished. I bet over a month.

One last recipe for the road. Here’s a coconut-cashew rice adapted from the new VegNews that I cooked for Lucy and Sherrie’s daughter, Lina, who is coming back to veganism after a frustrating first year in college:

Coconut Cashew Rice
1 TBSPS sesame oil
½ yellow onion, minced or chopped well
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ c. red bell peppers, cut in strips or chopped if you like
1 TSBSP fresh grated ginger
Two 14oz cans of unsweetened, light coconut milk
1 ½ c of brown rice
Sea salt to taste
¼ c.. shredded, unsweetened coconut (optional)
¼ c.chopped cashews

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is softened, about 5 mins. Add ginger and cook another couple minutes. Stir in coconut milk and rice; add salt to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, add red bell pepper, over and cook until rice is tender, about 20 more minutes. Put in serving dish and sprinkle with shredded coconut and cashews.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

But The Good News Is

We revamped our apartment.

Last year we moved into our place only a day after the old tenants moved out. This left sprucing up things to us. Husband and I have threatened to paint since we moved in, and last week we finally did it. We picked colors by the seat of our pants without too much agonizing over swatches -- there was some agonizing, but way less than expected -- and we plunged in our brushes and were off. Mid-roll during our first day of painting, Husband said, "Hey, today is our year anniversary living here." This place has been our dream apartment and the paint job was a good anniversary gift to her, to us.

A few months ago, my oven died. Our building's handyman Uras yanked out the avocado-green, two-tiered stove circa 1976 with a crow bar and a lot of ol' eastern block muscle. He left us this:
We call Uras The Great Starter because finishing a job holds far less importance to him. Six weeks after he roughly pried the old stove from our wall, he returned to lay tile behind the new stove. He brought basic white tiles and six tiles with brightly-colored fish painted on them. I said, "What are you doing with the fish tiles?" He said, "I put them behind stove." I said, "Oh no you're not." I told him I'd get tile for him and I bought hand-painted talavera tiles instead, which delayed the project another two weeks. When they arrived in the mail, I held a putty knife to Uras until he finally finished grouted them to the wall, poorly. I love them. (Look, there's one of my new stainless-steel pots showing off on the stove.)
I painted the kitchen a deep coral. The color is called Pepperberry and I breathe in deeply every time I look at it. I consider the kitchen all mine and I didn't consult anyone about the color; just did it when Husband went to work.
I picked up a few new tinned mirrors on Olvera Street and hung them sweetly. The Italian utensil holder I bought a few years ago and it's my secret pride of the kitchen. I'm embarrassed about how much I paid for it, but lord I love it so.
On Olvera St. I also found this tin of St. Francis de Assisi. It's small and tremendously precious. Having the saint to animals hang in my kitchen seems perfect.
Here's a before picture of our little staircase. The previous color was a Uras Special; he had custom mixed the color and had made only enough to paint the walls leaving us unable to match the exact color again for touch ups. We called the color Uras Pasty Celery.
Here's the after in a deep french blue called Bleached Denim.
Here's another before picture -- Oh, by the way, I have a leather couch. (I'm just guilt-blurting.) We bought it many years ago before I was vegan. I've thought about replacing it many times, but I've decided to keep it until it breaks down. Philosophically I obviously would prefer not to have a leather couch now, but I also don't want to replace and discard things that work well. I contributed to cruelty before I knew better, but I really don't want to double up and contribute to wastefulness too. I can't afford it either.

Before, in the hall which was an institutional yellow. It wasn't terrible.
But the light moss color called Scotland Road beats it with a stick. Note the molding at the base and around the door that Husband did. Ooo his handiness is sexy. All our neighbors have now confessed to Molding Envy. The framed painting is a sumi piece my mother did for me. It means my children are my treasure. I won't go into the ironies of this. I'll just love it for what it is.
Here's the dining room wall in the Scotland Road color. I love paint names.
That's it for now. We plan to take on the bedrooms and bathrooms soon too. The girls' room is next; it's in total disarray, shit every where coming out of everything as only a kid room knows how to do. Until I tackle that, I'll enjoy the dreaminess of what we've done so far.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Wash

Maya's gone. She left last week for her six-week summer stay with her BD & Sanne. I'm ok, but I caught a case of the blahs when she got on that plane. I've been trying to pretend that I feel fine, but haven't shaken the blues yet.

Mina took Maya's departure hard this summer. It took her a few days to feel better. One night last week she sat on the stoop of our apartment and didn't scooter around the courtyard like I had suggested. Our neighbor John came home and I heard Mina say to him, "Hi John. Maya's gone." He said, "I'm sorry, Mina." She said nothing more.

She and I rode our bikes down to the beach as soon as I got off work today. Mina's mastering her $10 garage-sale bike. She held it down on the sidewalk, hair flowing out the sides of her helmet. She looked at me and squealed and flashed face-full smiles. And I felt like I was running an old film reel of our memories as it was happening. Slow-motion, my baby girl mastering her bike, Summer 2007. We locked our bikes on the bluffs and trekked down the Montana stairs; strode across the parking lot and quietly, simultaneously kicked off our shoes at the edge of the sand. We wove around sea gull tracks and squinted against the six o'clock glare on the water. The tide came up and buried our feet. We let it splash all up on our clothes and held hands.