Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Snake's got nothing on

The Snake has a pretty bad rap, what with tempting Eve and all. But you know, he's pretty innocent compared to Have you ever checke out that site? It's like pet porn! I just spent half an hour snivelling over bunnies and kitties and birds, and now I'm a miserable shell of a woman. It's all their fault.

Actually, it might be the Fred Meyer Pigeon's fault. Today, John and I braved the elements to go find Fiona some Christmas presents. (No "inclement weather event" is going to wreck my baby's Christams, darn it!) And in the foyer of the Foster Fred Meyer, this adorable cocoa-and-white pigeon had snuck in and started roosting! She was beautiful and obviously very smart. If I had a box in the back of the car, I probably would have tried luring her down from her perch and into my life.

Needless to say, the thought of an adorable bird pet led to online searching, and next thing you know, I'm preparing to lie to my landlord and send my child to live with my relatives so I can adopt Dusty the Ragdoll Cat, who can not live with dogs, cats or children. But she's gorgeous.
Eve, put down the apple.

Whew. I think I'll just go put a fresh layer of paper in the worm bin and try to be thankful for what I have. If only Fiona would purr when I scratched her under the chin ...

Monday, December 08, 2008

I am Pandora's bitch

Maybe in response to one month of extremely restricted musical selections--I made one playlist of downer tunes and listened to it non-stop all of November--I am now obsessed with Pandora radio. There is nothing like a blast of music you've never heard before to clear the cobwebs out of your brainpan.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tamora Pierce: An Homage

More than twenty years ago (!) I picked this book off the Bookmobile's shelves, and it was the book that set the course of my life. I think I was eight years old. I know that the person I am today is the summation of a hundred thousand small events, thousands of stories and hundreds of relationships, but that one book took all the previous experiences and condensed them into one searchlight that lit up all the rest that followed.

Alanna was the first book I had ever read where the perspective switched between two characters. I remember turning the page and then flipping back and forth, so confused, and then, so excited! I didn't know books could do that. It was absolute magic to my young mind. I had never known that there was more than one way to write stories, and from that time on, I payed attention to how a story unfolded, not just its unfolding.
And what a story! Here was a young, powerful heroine, daring to defy her family to follow her dreams, even if it means pretending to be a boy. Here was a girl with purple eyes and guts and a strong sword arm. She lived in a pretty amazing place, too--a place with Thief Kings and nobility and plotting mages, dangerous deserts and slave-trading neighbors. Reading that place sealed my heart to Fantasy for all time.
I have just written the first draft of my third novel. I have just finished reading my fourteenth novel by Tamora Pierce. It was just as good as the first one (and yes, I must admit, better than some of the ones in between). I have many false starts of books piled up in my mind and in my desk drawer, and probably ten of those false starts are born from Tamora Pierce's writing. My first finished book has a character named for one of her's. It's pretty clear to me that this woman is important in my world, my mind, my life.
I am so glad that she is out there, writing these books. Not only did she make me want to be a writer, she made me want to be the kind of woman she writes about: tough, smart, moral. My interest in martial arts and sword-fighting was fueled by the adventures she created. My love of justice was always slaked by her writing. And no one else has written talking animals with quite the same tough love that Tamora Pierce manages.
Tamora Pierce, thank you. You are my favorite author.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Super Turkey!


I made Bryanna Grogan's Seitan & Soy Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and after giving it some sweet upgrades (like adding a little applesauce to wet ingredients and apple juice to basting liquid, as well as following a different baking technique recommended by another food blogger), the beast turned out unbelievable. [I thought about inserting the f*bomb in between the syllables of 'be' and 'li', just to underscore the amazing goodness of this protein loaf.] I would double-dog dare Tofurkey to make a better dish.

Also AMAZING was the pear-cranberry crumble. The crumble itself was just tasty, but the combination of the pecans in the streuselly topping and the cararmel sauce (and ice cream) we spooned over the top created a magical pecan pie + fruity goodness experience that blew me away.

Combined with a wonderful hike in the Audubon Nature Sanctuary and a full day of bonding with my cool niece, this was a Thanksgiving I don't think I'll ever forget.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


See the updated image over there? I'm going to spend Thanksgiving partying!

No work until MONDAY! Yeee-hawwww!

Monday, November 24, 2008


I was just putting books on hold at the library for Fiona and I realized just how very innocent she is. I wante d to get information about presidents, because the idea is very nebulous and confusing for her, and because I think she should know a bit about them, and also, I want to share the momentousness of Obama's inauguration in January. And I realized that she would have no clue why it's so amazing and fantastic that this man could be elected by a majority of American citizens to lead us. She has no idea that 140 years ago, someone who looked like our future president could be bought and sold like toilet paper.

And the thought just sort of hit me hard. I know I'm tired and a little overwrought from a hard month's soul-scraping. But I'm sitting here, sniffling, just thinking about it.

I'm off to take a hot bath, letting my word count for the day stay at 2,000 words. And I'll leave you with this:

Our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

It just seems a little more true today than it did in history class. Blessed be, Mr. Lincoln. You've waited a long time to see another Illinois senator follow you into the White House.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fun stuff--and fitting!

Wendy Noel Wagner's Dewey Decimal Section:
184 Platonic philosophy
Wendy Noel Wagner's birthday: 12/06/1978 = 1206+1978 = 3184

100 Philosophy & Psychology

Books on metaphysics, logic, ethics and philosophy.

What it says about you:
You're a careful thinker, but your life can be complicated and hard for others to understand at times. You try to explain things and strive to express yourself.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Friday, November 21, 2008

36,000 words

I am embarassed to admit that the last two or three days have produced very little in the word count department. However, today I went to the food co-op and picked up some veggie jerkey. And then promptly chomped out 1700 words of fun craft. Also, I organized the next couple of days work so I can crank out some serious product.

Veggie jerky. How did I ever function without it? May the gods shower blessings upon Kt, who introduced me to the stuff!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yes, I'm still alive!

But barely, barely mind you. I'm pushing all the me-ish-ness out of my head to clear space for my characters!

I'm half-way there! Wish me luck! GO NANOWRIMO!

Friday, November 07, 2008

I am a femme fatale!

This headline takes a little explaining. It begins close to eleven years ago, a time when the nation was rocked by the exploits of a young White House intern in a blue dress. A time when a fellow classmate turned to meand said, "Wow! You look just like Monica Lewinski!" And other people agreed.

It was a very dark moment in my life that led to an extreme haircut and new clothes.
I thought I'd left that experience behind me, but Wednesday night, I couldn't help but remember it. My delightful friend Katie joined me in the weekly trip to the market to pick up my produce from my marvelous farmer. We waited patiently as a young man in biking gear bought some appealing broccoli, and then I stepped up and began chatting with Lyle (the farmer). Hearing my voice, the bicyclist turned his head and stared. "Are you trying to do a Sarah Palin impression?"

He looked a little flustered when Lyle assured him that I was just a naturally cheerful person, and my stunned (and grumpy) "No! That's just how I normally sound!" probably didn't help either.

So now I know. I have the voice of Sarah Palin in Monica Lewinksi's body. I could bring down the entire political system!

Monday, November 03, 2008

I'm in love ...

... with Google Docs!

After the file-tastic chaos of last year's Nanowrimo writing explosion, I am really wracking my brains to keep track of all the notes and chapter files I generate in an all-out draft creation. Plus that, I need safe back-up space for all of that, and you don't know how good I am at getting all those files mixed up all over the place. I think I can Google Docs like a giant virtual filing cabinet for all that back-up goodness.


Yeah, Google might be taking over the world. But I don't see why more companies aren't jumping on their bandwagon. Their ideas are SMART.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My name is Albus Dumbledore, and I approve this message.

Tonight my mom floored me. She said she wants to vote for Sarah Palin, because "that woman is a breath of fresh air." I actually feel in a kind of mourning.

The McCain/Palin ticket isn't a breath of fresh air. It's drumming up support by pounding the same platform of hatred the Republican party has relied upon the last 20 years: anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, pro-war, pro-guns.

Barack Obama has gone out on a limb--you can read it in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention--to reach out to people on both sides of these divisive issues. He has tried to connect people, shining a light on the things we have in common, no matter how we stand on issues like this.

Everybody gets fired up about these issues because we have deep commitments to our moral codes, moral codes that we interpret in ways that give us very different perspectives on issues like abortion, gay marriage and sending people to war.

Republicans prosper when we hate each other for those different perspectives. Some Democrats prosper, too. But Obama is the first politician I have ever seen raising himself above the election-winning tactic of stirring up hatred.

He is a voice of love.

I don't know if I like Barack Obama. He is a cautious, career politician who is difficult to read, restrained, and unemotional. It's hard to love a man like that. But I believe that in these times--with terrorism on all our minds, with war and atrocity across the globe, with global economic devastation, with our own nation wracked by its own ideological schisms--that the only weapon we have is love. It is the only way we are going to fight through these perilous times.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Damn straight, I'm an Oregonian!

I finally have a raincoat!

Okay, so it's not Goretex, but it is still lovely and it is waterproof. It's blue and cute. I can totally fit a sweater under it without looking like a marshmallow.

It was really time to do it. The other day I had to use an ... uggh ... umbrella.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Reading and writing

We have cable internet! How exciting! Wheee!

Other than that, just hanging out, reading and editing the old book, gearing up for Nanowrimo. And baking Gingerbread Pumpkin Muffins!

Monday, October 20, 2008

David Lynch in a Tux

I was just trying to post this recipe on the Nanowrimo forum, because we ate a lot of it last November. Quinoa is full of protein and calcium, and it cooks in about 15 minutes.

We were inspired to create this recipe from the special features on the Inland Empire DVD. I remember watching it at a friend's house and then *immediately* demanding we go to Fred Meyer and pick up quinoa. It is definitely worth watching Mr. Lynch make this dish, because he tells the most wonderful stories while he's cooking. And he manages to smoke several cigarettes.

David Lynch in a Tux
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 C quinoa
2 C water, boiling
1/2 Tb Better than Bouillon Vegetable Soup base -- or 2 cubes veggie bouillon
2 C broccoli florets
Fun veggie additions:
sliced mushrooms, jarred pimentos, fresh basil, corn (any or all)
walnuts or pine nuts
French fried onions (I like Trader Joe's brand)

Heat olive oil in 1 quart saucepan over medium heat until shimmery. Add garlic, cook until fragrant, then stir in quinoa. Toast about 2 minutes so it can soak up garlicy oil. Add water, bring to a boil while stirring, then reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer about 7 minutes. Stir in bouillon, and if there is still liquid present, cover and simmer another 3-5 minutes. When water is absorbed, stir in broccoli and other vegetables. Remove from heat and keep covered for at least 3 minutes. Top with nuts and onions when serving.

Serves 2 hungry grown-ups and 1 not-too-picky kid. If you use prepped veggies and garlic from a jar, this will take about 15 minutes to prepare and cook.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tasty eats

The focus of the food world here in Chez Kazwagner has definitely began to change to a healthier front. After a whole summer of pie, cookies and donuts, I found myself eating a tofu taco this morning for breakfast, downed with a kale-and-strawberry smoothie (with an added tablespoon of "Green Power" to really kick it up a notch).

It's fall.

When it's fall, it's important to kick up the fire in your belly and eat less yin foods. Eat more orange foods, more quality proteins, less dairy, wheat and sugar. And crank up the heat with spices.

Here's a tasty, tangy dessert shake that fit the bill the other night:

I'm Spicayy Pumpkin Shake
3/4 C pumpkin puree (mine was from a can)
1 6 oz container vanilla soy yogurt
1 Tb molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
dash of fresh, finely ground pepper, if you're into spicy
1 C apple cider
1 scoop vanilla ice cream, dairy or not, to taste/health OR 1/2 a frozen banana

Put pumkin, yogurt, molasses and spices in blender and blend on low to combine. Add cider and ice cream (or banana, if you prefer) and blend on high till fluffy. Taste--might need a dash of honey or sugar, depending on the sugar content of the yogurt.

We had ours with a dollop of whipped topping, so it looked very decadent and yummy.

Does anybody else remember that "I'm spicaayyy" Burger Kinger ad? I still love that line!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oregon City is romantic take your dates down by the river and smooch!

That's what John and I did on Saturday, while our dear daughter enjoyed birthday party extravaganza with her cousin. It was SO nice to have a date day. We just about floated off the Willamette Falls viewpoint.

And I'm not kidding--Oregon City is a really cute little town. It also has this bizarre, retro-future (think Jetsons) elevator that goes from the riverside to the top of a bluff. There's a big viewing platform at the top and a bizarre art project--holographic historical photographs!--to enjoy. Plus, there's a pizzeria with awesome salad!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Crazy cool weekend

So my brother came to visit! And Fiona spent the night at her cousin's house, so brother, John, and my eldest sister all hung out playing crazy games (after we enjoyed hearty eats at Dot's Cafe. Which has amazing vegan options.).

Anyway, back to the party...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cream of Broccoli Soup

I have gotten out of the habit of posting on Blogger. It's easy; on my Myspace blog, I get instant feedback from the folks who always read, but my lone Blogger reader signed up to be a sailor until November, so I gave up a little. But November is almost upon us, and let's not forget--there's a link to my Blog on my Nanowrimo profile. I could have readers!

Tonight I made a delicious Cream of Broccoli Soup with Edamame and Corn. It was so beautiful in the bowl! We gobbled it up with kaiser rolls from New Seasons. Wow!

We are almost settled into the new kindergarten routine. It has been hard for me. There's a lot more to do and coordinate I have really been wallowing in chaos. I had visions of all the wonderful free time that would come with my new work schedule, but honestly? Fiona has needed so much more Mom time that I feel more exhausted and get less done than ever.

It's all very, very ugghy. But my soup was good.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Great day!

Today, I got to hang out with my cute nephews and niece, went to the new ice cream shop on Division, AND I finished the poem about dinosaurs. What a great day! If I could have spent an hour with my brother, who turned 21 today, it would have been perfect!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Weddings and craziness!

This weekend was wedding #2, and this one was much more lovely than the last. The first was swanky; this one was Martha-Stewart-picture-perfect. There was canoeing on a lake, swings on the shore, caterers circulating with hors d'oeuvres. The bride was astonishingly beautiful. Everything was ... lovely.

It was the kind of wedding that I would probably want if I had $20,000 to throw away on a wedding. Needless to say, I am happy that I got to visit that wedding and will feel no sorrow that I will not have that wedding myself. (That was a terrible sentence--did any of you follow that?)

I'm actually pretty happy that I don't feel obligated to have a perfect wedding like these folks. After all, at this perfect wedding, the guests got to enjoy a quality meal, catered by a top-notch outfit, with delicious side dishes, chicken or salmon. Or both, since it was a buffet. Everyone said the salmon was wonderful. The bride and groom, who are both vegetarians, got to eat side dishes.

I am NOT eating side dishes at my own wedding. Also, I am not going to wear a super-freaking-fancy dress that I wouldn't feel comfortable eating in. I am a Wagner, after all. A party isn't a party unless everyone leaves in a food coma.

Not that I'm getting married any time soon. But you know. You get thinking about this stuff.

After the wedding, we drove down the gorge and pitched a tent (in the dark!). And Monday morning we went hiking. It rocked.

Is there something wrong with that picture, or what?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weddings ...

On Saturday, I went to a wedding, and this Sunday, I'll be going to another. (It's a pretty good excuse for eating sweets!) I have one good friend getting ready for a wedding, and John and I keep muttering about one. Weddings are in the air!

So the wedding I went to on Saturday was very enjoyable. It was at Wieden and Kennedy, which is an awfully appealing space for the offices of an advertising agency. The champagne was exceptional, and the food was acceptable--the coconut cream cake was a real standout, although somehow the lemon bars tasted like soap. I was very inspired, at least on the food side of the party equation.

Most weddings involve dancing, and this one was no exception. But the remarkable thing was that my friends Molly and Steve tried to teach me some swing dancing moves, and Steve said that I have a natural talent. He said I should take lessons. He said this twice! Wow. The nicest thing anyone has ever said about my dancing was "stop." I feel like a new woman.

John has heard me boasting about my natural talent at seven times now. And he hasn't hit me over the head yet!

Monday, July 21, 2008

10 years ago

So I saw this on Shayna's blog, and who can resist this kind of thing?

Compare your life now to what you thought it would be ten years ago:
Ten years ago, I was just beginning my senior year of college (a melodramatic and ridiculous time in my life!). I imagined that I would have gone to school for a degree in Literature and become a professor at some tiny liberal arts school in a petite college town. Or maybe gotten a degree in ESL teaching and gone to work for an ESL department in a tiny liberal arts school. I would write in my free time and travel on school holidays. I would have had several heart-wrenching romances, and of course my students would secretly pine for me, but I would remain free and single, removed from it all.

Nowadays, I live with a man I love and, like my left leg or liver, couldn't imagine being without. We are raising my 5-year-old daughter (my big oops and life-shaking event), who predates the arrival of the true love. I work at a job I sincerely enjoy and will probably keep for many years, without interest in promotion or change, because it is handy, fun, and doesn't expect too much for me. Oddly enough, it is at a children's museum, a place I wouldn't have set foot in for less than $20 in my previous ten-year-plan. I garden a lot, but my big joy is writing. I have written two novels, each lying around in half-edited chunks, and I have a handful of short stories and poems sitting on editors' desks around the country. Wish them luck for me, okay?

In the next ten years, I would sincerely like to live in the country with two or three alpacas, a dog, some chickens, bees, and lots of compost. I would like to be able to grow all the vegetables and fruit that I eat in a year. I would also really like writing to be my day job and market gardening be my part-time love. Also in ten years, I would really like to be surviving Fiona's teen years without too much pain and insanity.

Hey, I dream big!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Family Friday movie night

What does it say about me that I can't watch Pocohontas without crying?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Peanut Butter Brownies

I made Peanut Butter Brownies the other day. I have now eaten approximately 3000 calories worth--just today. I'm glad I sent a bunch home with Erin, or I might triple in size. Which brings me to the question: Why the heck are home-baked goods so darn tasty? Seriously, when I make something myself, I can barely stop myself from eating it. Is it because I am a genius cook? Or is it a weird psychological compulsion?

I better turn my family loose on those things tonight and hope they can save me from myself!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fine Dining!

Last night, I had a truly remarkable experience: one of my friends took us to the restaurant where he recently started as the pastry chef (Genoa, on Portland's SE Belmont St). It's the first time I have ever enjoyed a multi-course, prix fixe dinner, and we spent *4* hours working our way through the magnificent experience. Each course was a jewel of flavor and visual appeal. It was lovely.

Today, my stomach is in rebellion, since we enjoyed the cheese course heartily--and then the guys in the kitchen brought out dessert. All the desserts, just for fun. It was the first time Daniel (the pastry chef) had gotten to see his work in action, and he was just so very happy. We had to try all seven of them, and then nibble on our favorites. Which was probably a little too much dessert, but what the heck! After a couple glasses of wine and some port, what's a little too much dessert?

The best thing was seeing this incredible staff working together with such enjoyment and respect. Since we were with Daniel, we got to meet everybody, and they were all really nice guys, and all very proud of their work. It just made me smile.

What was the best? Hmmn. . . the melon & mint sorbet amuse bouche was perfection, the carrot soup with cumin and creme fraiche was stellar, the morel mushroom risotto took speech away (and the fennel salad garnish with that dish was particularly breath-taking), but the clear winners were the carmelized onion and gorgonzola ravioli (WOW!) and the basil and black pepper tartoufe. (Daniel helped make both of those dishes.) Wow. Wow. Wow!

Monday, June 30, 2008

For Kt, who doesn't have Myspace

Walking home after work last week, I had an epiphany. If you know me—and if you're reading this, I imagine you do—then you know that every two weeks, I find another dream job that I'm going to pursue. And it's always some cool great thing that I would probably be very good at, and you, my friends and family, say nice, supportive things, and then in a few days, I've changed my mind.

So then I had the epiphany.

I am never going to be anything besides a writer.

That might mean that I have crap jobs, like working at the museum, for the rest of my life. And it doesn't mean I'm going to be a good writer, or a successful writer. It just means that I'm going to write, and everything else I'm interested in is probably just fodder for writing.

Whew. I'm also giving myself permission to explore all those really cool things that interest me—without saying they're my dream job. Because, hey—art classes and yoga classes and whatever other weird junk I get into all give me something to write about. And a girl's got to have that.

It feels good getting it all off my chest.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Working hard!

While I haven't made anything very delicious to eat--although my friend Sue gave me some delicious rhubarb-strawberry compote--I have been doing some pretty cool stuff lately. I've started a short story, begun brainstorming the background for the next book (hey, November's coming up fast!), and am beginning the rewrite for my Cinderella-novel. Also, I have done a few other things, but I'm keeping them under my hat for a while. . .

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The pot roils

Tonight was the first time in weeks that I made Indian-spiced food! I have been in cumin-withdrawal! I was planning to just make some curried split pea soup, but then I found myself making a delicious pilau (my favorite plain pilau recipe from the Vegetarian Epicure, book 2), yummy curried split peas with spinach and cabbage, and really delicious marinated tofu browned with cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Yummmmmmmmm.

If you're wondering why there are no pictures of this attractive meal, it's because we have a new camera that take humongous pictures, and I still haven't worked out how to cut them down to Blogger size. Don't hold your breath.

So much new and exciting stuff I can't quite wrap my brain around it. I think I'll just focus on two big, silly events. Tomorrow is the museum's big fundraiser, and almost everybody is coming as a volunteer to staff the event. All my pals will be getting dressed up in their finest duds and hanging out with the idle rich! And best of all, I have cute shoes to wear! Whoo-hoo! Also great: on Saturday, my sister-sin-law and I are going to see the Sex and the City movie! Double whoo-hoo! I was watching to the show tributes on the last-season-bonus-disc, and if you think I didn't get teary eyed, you are nuts.

All right. Time to help a midget brush her teeth!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Healthy eats

I'm all for healthy eats, but I draw the line at spinach in my waffles!

The things you read about on the fatfreevegan discussion board ...

On the plus side, we did make a delicious sorbet last night for dessert. It featured a lot of frozen strawberries, pineapple (crushed from a can) and a banana--upon tasting, I added a little agave nectar to boost the flavors. The fiber from the banana and pineapple gave it a soft, sherbet-y texture that was really lovely.

I am trying to cut down on wheat again. After a lot of fun noshing at work, I have gained a couple of pounds, and I am back to drinking two or three cups of coffee every day. How delightful to surf the ups-and-downs of my two favorite addictions--caffeine and wheat. You should see me try to fight off a toast craving! It's like watching a smoker or a junkie try to resist their favorite drug. Apparently this is not a surprise. A lot of people who have wheat issues (I don't know that I have a wheat issue, but I do know that if I eat more than about 2 servings in one day, I feel weird and have truly repugnant gas--sorry about the TMI) crave wheat desperately. Because of the trauma going on in the gut, your body starts to pump out endorphins, creating a morphine-like high. Goody. Morphine. Thank goodness for rice cakes!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Food woes

So I hate to admit it, but I have not been in the cooking mode lately. Seriously, the most delicious things I have eaten lately are chili-mac, dressed-up top ramen, and guacamole/sauerkraut on an onion bagel. If you have not tried topping an onion bagel with guacamole (spicy) and sauerkraut (my new favorite, wine kraut), then you are missing, missing out. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Oh. And I also made a pretty tasty vegan-ized spinach-artichoke dip the other day, which because deliriously delicious with honey-mustard stirred into it the next day.

If you're noticing that everything I've been eating lately is junk food, you might be right.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Arrghh! May 20th is coming!

I'm sitting here, surfing the campaign sites for Hillary and Barack, trying to prepare myself for our primary in May. It's nice reading. It's hard to not to be pleased when both of the candidates in front of me are progressive-minded, intelligent people with a track record of good works. If only one of them was ugly or really old, with a heart condition (oh wait, that's Cheney), or particularly evil (they are pretty equal, I think, adjusting for age). Maybe I should just flip a coin, or perhaps vote for the one who has raised the most money. . .

Actually, deep down, I know who I will vote for. I have had my mind made up all along, but I am trying to be open-minded and see how things develop. No matter who wins, it will be a historic election!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Someone lovely is gone

Most of you out there don't know him, but on Saturday a noble gentleman died: Paw Paw. He was Martha Stewart's dog and for many years now I have been reading about his exploits and watching him age, all on the pages of the magazine and web page. I never met this fella, but I felt as if I knew him, and I admit I got misty-eyed when I read Martha's blog post.

How strange it is to feel such a connection to someone I have only read about! It is as if one of my favorite literary characters was killed in a story, like the moment Sirius walks through that arch. But at least this dog star led a long and happy life, and died of old age.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

AWE: Alpaca Western Extravaganza!

Last night, John told me that he would take us to a surprise outing, and that the doors opened at 9 am. I interrogated him as best as I could, but this morning I still totally clueless when we drove up to the Portland Expo and saw the signs: Alpaca check-in, this way. Alpacas!!!!! I am of the firm belief that the alpaca is the hands-down cutest animal on the planet, and a giant exposition hall full of them only cemented that belief.

The thing that is the most amazing about alpacas isn't their funny hoof-paws. It isn't their 6 inch long second set of eyelashes. It isn't their super-soft, deliciously colored fleece (oddly enough, alpacas seem to come almost entirely in dessert colors--creamy whites, browns, cocoas and lavender-gray). It's the fact that 9 alpacas out of 10 stop what they're doing to look you over when you walk by, and their huge brown eyes are friendly and curious, like a dog's. And then they want to sniff you! I really wanted to pet every single one that put its head out of its pen to check me out, but I also didn't want to mess up their hair. This event is one of the most important shows in the country for alpaca breeders, and ribbon at it would add extra zeroes to a winner's selling price. But eventually I did succumb and put my face up close to a couple of extra friendly sniffers. They actually put their nose right up against my face to give me good sniffing! It was like an alpaca kiss! (Their lips are pretty whiskery.)

So I have been kissed by an alpaca! I am so happy!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sick, again!

This time, it's Fiona. She's been sick all week--fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, the whole nine yards. She's been pretty miserable. Staying home with her has been sad.

On the plus, it's given me lots of time to write. I am cruising along. It feels wonderful. The house is a disaster but I don't care! I am busting out the words.

Christ, it feels good!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour was great!

We spent two hours in the dark last night, enjoying a candle-lit meal and a board game with my wonderful sister. It was great. Maybe we should do Earth Hour once a month, just because it's lovely.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Honoring our ancestors

Taking a break from the rigors of being sick (I've pretty much been in bed since Thursday, although I did make it in to work for a couple of hours today), I made a little green dinner for St. Patrick's Day.

Now, St. Patrick's has always been one of my favorite holidays. I've always loved the fun of wearing green (and pinching those who forgot). Food, of course, in our family really makes or breaks a holiday, and I have fond memories of two favorite foods my mom would treat us to, every year: Green SnoBalls and Corned Beef & Cabbage. Corned Beef has to be one of the all-time greatest foods known to mankind. There's nothing better than biting into a salty pink chunk of goodness and letting the greasy brine drip down your chin. I love to get a thick slice with a nice fatty rim and frost it with a tasty mixture of mustard and horseradish. Wow. And the heavenly marriage of fat, salt and cabbage! The sweetness of the vegetable comes through, mellow and heady.

However, as a vegetarian, the spotlight has shifted a little. No dead animal parts means no corned beef and no marshmallows. But in some ways, it's nice. I can remember why St Patrick's Day really means so much to me. It's because most of us are the descendants of people from far distant countries, who worked hard to come here. March 17th is a holiday created by one group of folks to remember those ancestors. In this modern era, that's a pretty rare thing.

So tonight I made us a mess o'pottage--a stew of split peas and vegetables--with rye bread, saurkraut and hot mustard as accompaniment. Dried peas were one of the primary foodstuffs of the Northern Europeans, long before the beans of the Americas arrived, or before the lentils and garbanzos of the Middle East had caught on. Rye is one of the hardiest grains, far more cold tolerant than wheat. And cabbage is the quintessential food of the poor. I tried to honor the ancestors of my little family, a mess of Scots, German, Irish, English and Polish farmers.

Sometimes changing your food habit lets you change your feelings about a holiday. And sometimes it lets you see it in a whole new, beautiful light.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sour Kale

With nobody feeling 100%, we haven't been doing a great deal of good cooking around this place, and let's face it, nobody wants to hear about boxed soup and orange juice. So yesterday marked my first good and healthy meal in about a week and a half.

It was pretty simple. I just marinated some cubed tofu (in pineapple juice, Bragg's amino acids, two pressed garlic cloves, a tablespoon of tomato paste and sherry) overnight and then baked it about 40 minutes. Then I quickly steamed a bunch of kale with about a cup of leftover sauerkraut and salt & pepper. All of that together over rice, with a little green onion sprinkled over the top for that crunchy touch.

But wow! Who knew sauerkraut could take kale such new and fantastic places? It was zippy, zesty, cheerful, and tummy tingling. And super energy-filled, too. The tofu-marinade, which reduced as the tofu baked, was a sweet sauce that harmonized with the sour really well.

Sometimes, even when you're lazy, you get lucky.

Friday, March 07, 2008

So many great thoughts ...

... so little posting.

Sorry there's been a bit of a drought on this site. Unfortunately, Wednesday afternoon I pulled a muscle in my neck and typing makes it even worse. You should have seen me leading kids' yoga that day ... "Bendy Wendy," my butt!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Cauliflower is cool!

Tonight I made pasta with a creamy sauce made from mashed cauliflower and white beans, with some vegan mozzarella, lots of garlic, and some chopped spinach for color. Yum! Who knew cauliflower could impersonate junk food?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What a beautiful morning!

In an attempt to cut down on our car usage, I have been getting up early and walking down to the train station instead of mooching a ride off John on Sundays. I've always felt a little guilty about the extra car trip, and now that I'm trying to get more exercise, this is the perfect opportunity. Oddly enough, I find myself really excited about it. I'll wake up, bouncing around, ready to go, go, go, go!

This morning waking up early was a little tough, but completely worth it. There was a wispy fog all over the city and the birds were talking their little lungs out. Just as I turned the corner on Ivon, I saw a hump-backed shadow stalking across the street. It snuffled back and forth, stopping on the sidwalk to watch me approach. A raccoon! It waited until I was within about 6 feet of it, then disappeared into the grass and the fog.

Sometimes we forget that nature isn't just out there, somewhere. Even the city is nature.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sick kid

One week later, the midget is still a little under the weather. She's had a bit of an earache and her nose just doesn't stop running. She says her ear doesn't hurt today, but that may be because I had John give her a classic ear ache treatment: a hot onion in a sock, pressed to the ear.

We're just enjoying the beautiful weather and trying to nurse our little loveling back to health. It's been a quiet week!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No-Bake Vegan Cheesecake (Creamy Meyer Lemon Pie)

I made this for John's birthday last week. I wanted to make a raw cheesecake in a graham cracker crust (John loves graham crackers), but the raw cheesecake recipes all sounded too fatty, so I compromised and used a container of soy yogurt to reduce the fat content. The results were amazing--creamy, tangy, delicious, with the solidity of a good New York Cheesecake. The raspberry sauce on top elevated it to celebration status!
No-Bake Vegan Cheesecake (aka Creamy Meyer Lemon Pie)
If you substituted rice yogurt for soy yogurt, this could easily be made soy-free. It's very important to use organic lemons, because the skin of citrus fruits really soaks up pesticides. Make sure you wash them well to remove any wax, or all the flavor will not come through.
1 prepared 9-in graham cracker crust (see Better-For-Ya Graham Cracker Crust, bottom)
zest, pulp, and juice of 1 1/2 lemons (I used Meyer lemons, because they are in season)
6 oz container of vanilla soy yogurt
2 C raw cashews, ground to a fine powder (I used a coffee grinder)
1/4 C coconut oil
dash of salt
3 Tb agave nectar (or sugar or lightly colored honey)
Pour the lemon zest, pulp and juice into a blender and add the yogurt. Blend on low to combine. In three batches, add the cashew powder. When combined, add the coconut oil, salt and sugar. The mixture should be quite thick. Pour mixture into prepared graham cracker crust, cover tightly, and refrigerate two to three hours until firm. Serve with fresh fruit or Raspberry Glaze.
Raspberry Glaze
1 1/4 C frozen raspberries
3 Tb sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Stir all ingredients together in a small saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until sauce coats a spoon. Thoroughly cool before using, but do not refrigerate, or it will not spread nicely over the cheesecake.
Better For Ya Graham Cracker Crust
Sometimes you just want a graham cracker crust, but when you read the recipe, your arteries begin crying. This is the fix for you. It is particularly thick and hearty, with a tasty, grahamy flavor.
1 Tb ground flax seeds
1/4 C water
1/2 tsp corn or sunflower oil
1/4 tsp salt
10 crushed graham crackers (they should be about the texture of sand)
2 Tb brown rice syrup, at room temperature
Mix the ground flax seeds with the water and let it rest while you crush the graham crackers. The flax seeds should turn into a thick and gooey paste. Stir in the oil. In a large bowl, sprinkle the salt over the crushed graham crackers, then stir in the flax seeds. Add the brown rice syrup. Stir until the brown rice syrup is evenly distributed and the mixture begins to come together in one big lump. Put the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan or springform and pat into place. Bake at 325 degrees until browned and firm, about 12 minutes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Old favorites, new colors

Today was a great day in Garden Club. We played a smelling game where everybody sniffed different samples of food with their eyes closed and then had to guess what the food was. All the kids were astounded when they saw the blood oranges--their noses had the thing pegged, but their eyeballs were confused.

We had the same experience for dinner. When Fi and I were at New Seasons, they had a beautiful arrangement of cauliflowers in white, orange and purple. Fiona really wanted to try the purple kind. She actually begged for it, and since I'm a sucker for kids who beg for veggies, I totally bought a head. Tonight I decided to cook it up.

We had an Indian-themed dinner, with rice and lentils, and then I toasted some cumin seeds in a dab of olive oil (a lot more than I usually cook with, but I had a hunch the cauliflower would appreciate it), with a little salt and a dash of curry powder. The cauliflower soaked up the delicious cumin flavor as I tossed it around in the pan, and the curry powder gave it a well-rounded flavor profile. The best thing, and the thing I'd been most nervous about, is that the cauliflower stayed purple when cooked! I was very, very pleased, since I thought I remembered that purple cauliflower cooked to green. Maybe that's broccoli ...

As a little accompaniment to the cauliflower, I tried a veggie mentioned in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian (which is probably my favorite cookbook for its treatment of vegetables, including many obscure varieties of veggies I can't wait to dig into): garbanzo fronds. To prepare for this experiment, I began growing some garbanzo plants in January. They are very beautiful plants, and I got a little teary-eyed cuttng them for dinner. I don't know if I could have done it I hadn't just planted some more out in the garden this afternoon! I cut back the entire plant, which was still very young and tender, and quickly stir-fried it in a little garlic, olive oil, and salt. Wow! They have a flavor reminiscent of asparagus, and were tender and lovely. Wow. Run out and buy some dried garbanzo beans today so you can try the fronds soon!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cuminy Greens and Tofu (Vegan Saag Paneer)

I made this one night when I was craving saag paneer. It recreates some of my favorite elements of the dish--mellow cuminy spinach goodness--without the dairy and long-term commitment of traditional recipes. I can't say it's an exact match, but when I found myself craving it today at work, I knew I'd done something good. We were too hungry to find the camera and take a picture--you'll have to picture the beautiful greens and little tofu cubes.

Cuminy Greens and Tofu (evocative of Saag Paneer)
1 package firm tofu
1/2 C kombucha (or 2 Tb apple cider vinegar with enough apple juice to make 1/2C)
1 tsp miso soup base (I used yellow)

1 tsp olive oil
1 Tb cumin seeds, whole
2 tsp coriander seeds, whole
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 box of frozen spinach, thawed
2 1/2 C shredded cabbage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 carrot, shredded

Press tofu for 10-20 minutes. While pressing, stir together miso and kombucha (1/2 an inch of grated ginger would be a nice addition here). Cut tofu into cubes and toss with marinade. Allow to sit as long as you can.

Rub olive oil all over a non-stick pan; bring pan to medium-high heat. Add seeds and allow to toast about thirty seconds, or until they start smelling good. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and cook until onions are translucent. Add the tofu and garlic.

When the tofu is beginning to get golden, add remaining ingredients and cook until cabbage is tender. Serve over rice.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bird brained

I needed a little adventure today, and since I've been really interested in birds lately, I took Fiona to the Portland Audubon Society. They have a really beautiful visitors' center with a wildlife health care center, and there is beautiful hiking to enjoy in the surrounding sancturary.

Today was great. There were volunteers taking the education birds around to visit with people. We got to meet Julio, a great horned owl, and Finnegan, a peregrine falcon. They are both unable to live in the wild and make the wildlife care center their full-time home. It feels really special to get up close to these really quite dangerous predators and see them moving. Hear them talking. Even just watching them blink is pretty darn cool.

Another really cool thing about the care center is that the hospital window is mostly glass on one side, so you can watch the volunteers at work. They had a number of birds resting in cages and aquariums, including a robin snuggled up in a towel and a little brown bird pecking at some seeds. These guys were so close to the viewing window that I could see the glass fogging up as the robin breathed in and out!

After we saw all the creatures, we hiked down the Macleay trail, following Balch Creek down into the city. It was a truly lovely day, warm and sunny, the perfect day to be out enjoying the forest and the water. The kind of day that makes you glad to be alive!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hot, hot vegetable love!

Around our house, Valentine's Day is practically forgotten. You see, my sweetie-pie's birthday happens to fall on February 14th, changing the day from a pink-and-red holiday to "Let's Celebrate John!" day. (And have I mentioned that he hates chocolate?) I don't really mind. It's still romantic and loving to celebrate my guy.

The Fatfree Vegan blog is holding a recipe contest for Valentine's Day called Vegetable Love. Since I was already planning to make John a super-healthy and romantic sort of dinner, I thought I'd go the extra mile and make an entry for Vegetable Love.
I thought long and hard about what I'd make. It needed to be comforting and rich. It needed to be earthy, but still vibrant and flavorful. And since it was for John, it needed to have a spicy component--he loves spicy food, and let's face it: he's a hot guy. I spent the last couple of days wracking my brain and tried a glamorous take on mashed potatoes and gravy, with herbs and sherry and shallots. It should have been good.

Ummn. No. I learned something in the process though--I don't like tarragon nearly as much as I thought I did. And I also learned that sometimes mysterious magic happens in the kitchen. I just happened to throw this carrot dish together as a side dish, and it turned out delicious, spicy, tangy, sweet, rich. John really liked it! So here's my tribute to love this February:

Hot Love Carrots

3 large carrots, cut in matchsticks (about 2 cups)
3/4 C orange juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tb pepper jelly*

Scrub carrots and remove tops. Cut into matchsticks and place in saucepan with orange juice and salt. Cover and simmer until tender. Remove cover and allow orange juice to reduce by half. Stir in pepper jelly.

*Obviously different brands of pepper are spicier than others. Use one you like, and if it's not spicy enough for your hot love, give it a sexy swirl of Rooster sauce!
Sorry the photo is grainy--I have no idea why, but Blogger keeps making all my pictures funky!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Uno & Jerusalem artichokes

Sorry the last couple of days have been so quiet, but my brother has been in town, and I've been busy playing Uno like a fiend. Uno is a great family game--we play it with evil rules when we play at night, and easy rules when we play with Fi. She's getting pretty good at it, too!

It's pretty hard to get worked up about gardening while it's pouring torrentially, but I found some Jerusalem artichokes at New Seasons the other day, and I am going to plant them tomorrow. I tried in the fall, but something kept digging them up, and then one day they were just gone. Darn squirrels! I hope these do a little better, because Jerusalem artichokes are pretty tasty in their own weird way.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes!

Let me preface this story by explaining that in our house, when you pee, you use a toilet hankie instead of toilet paper. They're reusable fabric wipies that are really handy for a kid who's just learning to wipe. We just toss them in a bin under the sink and throw them in the washing machine when we are doing laundry.


Last night Fiona's cousin Amelia came over for a sleep-over. Fiona was instructing Amelia in the fine art of toilet hankie usage, and she said, "the great thing about toilet hankies is that you don't waste trees."

What a great kid!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Closing the loop

Today it was time to transplant my baby garbonzo bean plants out of their egg shells. (We save the halves of our egg shells and put them back in the egg carton to make a no-mess seed starting pot. It beats the heck out of those peat pellets, which are environmental nightmares!) It's too cold to put their fragile selves outside, so I just took a couple of Trader Joe's Graham Cracker boxes, filled them with potting soil and a special amendment, and then popped the little egg cups full of baby plants into the dirt. Okay, first I squeezed the egg shells so they would be full of cracks and holes at the bottom, giving the plants' roots plenty of places to creep out and find their new soil.

That special amendment? Worm castings! I finally got enough worms out of one end of the bin to harvest the castings today. I've been feeding only the front end for about three weeks now, just waiting until I needed some delicious compost. It looked like pipe tobacco, a rich warm brown, and smelled nice, very earthy. Not stinky at all! Then I threw down some more bedding and rotated the bin. I'll be ready to collect the next half in a couple of weeks, and then I'll let it hang out for a few months, building up matter.

I love my worms!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


So another goal for this blog is to post regular ecotips, with labels, so they are findable.

Right now I am happy to say we are the proud non-owners of plastic wrap. During the Christmas season, I used the last of the roll that we brought when we moved into this apartment, and now we have NO PLASTIC WRAP. It's a good, but challenging situation. I find myself saving the plastic bags that tortillas and tempeh come in and reusing them. That's a good feeling. But my main tip is: you can use a plate to cover bowls of leftovers, just like your mom (or grandmother) did in the 50s! It works fine, although for the bigger bowls in my house, I had to use an inverted aluminum pie plate.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Simple food, simply great!

So here we go. New look, new focus, new Opera Buffo. I'm pretty excited, although I have a feeling the picture of the squirrel won't last long. The biggest excitement is the labels. They matter because I plan to finally post recipes here, and the labels will let you find something good to eat! Let me know how it works for you.

A lot of the food projects that I will be posting will be easy, easy weekday recipes, and they should all be vegan. It's fun to share the mad brainstorming that can happen in the kitchen when you just throw together a meal, and I really want to help more people tap into that. I keep meeting people who only cook from recipes and it blows my mind. Recipes are fun, but it's like following a paint-by-numbers kit: confining and style-less.

So let's jump in! Here's the bare bones of a great soup that you can tinker with by adding or subtracting spicy elements and crunchy toppings.

Corn Chowder

This recipe is modified from a chowder recipe in Ani's Raw Food Kitchen, and it just doesn't get easier than this.
Basic soup recipe:
2-3 cups corn; if using frozen, run under warm water to thaw
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
3-5 cups hot water (3 cups to start, add water if you prefer a thinner soup)
Bells & whistles (optional):
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp ground cumin
1 chipotle chile and 1 tsp adobo sauce (more to taste)
Handful of cilantro leaves
1 or 2 chopped green onions

Place all the basic soup ingredients in a blender. Add as many or few optional ingredients. Blend on medium until smooth.

Top with any of the following ingredients:
Black beans
Avocados, sliced
Green onions
Corn chips


Friday, January 25, 2008

The times, they are a-changin'!

Prepare to see a new look coming to this blog! I've gotten a little bored with the look and content of Opera Buffo and I hope to do a little bit of remodeling.

See ya soon!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Seed Catalog

It's officially seed catalog season, friends! I keep finding myself going through mine, over and over, visualizing this year's garden. Could I really put in enough stakes and strings to support all those beans? And how much space does a zucchini plant need, really? Visions of weird lettuces and obscure herbs are dancing in my head.

I can't wait to get planting! In fact, now that I know that Everybody's Garden Center has moved, and is now only ten blocks from my house, I just might pick up some grow lights and start spring early!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sleep is good food

Okay, that is a nonsensical title if ever there was one. But it is amazing how much better the brain works when you've had a little extra sleep. Instead of struggling for words and logic, I'm actually putting ideas together with ease and facility. Or at least I sound like English is my native tongue.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Eat to live

So I started reading a book called Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman, MD. Susan, over on, has mentioned his stuff a number of times, and her recipes often draw on his work. I finally broke down and got the book from the library.

The funny thing about this book is that all the nutritional information lines up with a book I read last year called The Sun Food Diet Success System, by David Wolfe. Now this was one of the most fascinating book I have ever read. A combination of in-depth nutritional research, surfer/hippy stories, bizarre spiritual poems and recipes, all combined in the ugliest design you'll see on a book shelf (although the new edition looks pretty, the old one was green with Greek-ish clip art). Fuhrman bills himself as a mainstream weight-loss and heart health guy; Wolfe presents himself as a far-out guru.

But their information is fascinating and I think accurate. They are both advising to people to make raw greens the majority of their diet, because that is the best way to get your protein, vitamins and minerals. Yes, that's right: protein. For every 100 calories of romaine lettuce, you get 11.6 grams of protein. For every 100 calories of top sirloin, 5.4. Of course, 100 calories of romaine is like an entire pound of romaine, but that's an entirely different story...

Well, I just realized that bedtime is calling and I didn't do an of the "real" work I planned to do tonight. You know, that real writing stuff I try to squeeze in around my glamorous regular life. Crap. But what the heck--at least I started my third novel today!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Happy freakin' New Year

After six days without service, I finally have a dial tone. And if you don't think I've missed the Internet, then you are craaaazy.

See, a month ago I paid my phone bill. And those charming people at Qwest applied my payment to the account of the person who used to have my phone number. I know, because they told me today. They couldn't figure it out when I first called, December 14th. Or the second time, December 28th. Even the nice lady I talked to on January 3rd--after my phone was disconnected--didn't understand it. But they could see that I had made a payment. They just couldn't tell my account that I had. And apparently knowing that you made a payment isn't reason enough to actually fix your f*cking phone.

Needless to say, I don't have a lot of good to say about the phone company right now. In fact, if you ask me, having spent one month, five phone calls, and almost two hours of hold time, I think we're switching providers. They didn't even offer me any discounts for not being able to use my service for a *week*.