Sunday, December 30, 2007


I've never really thought of myself as a puzzle person. But if other people are doing puzzles, I can get sucked in pretty easily, which is what happened when I went to the Sylvia Beach hotel with Carmen and Traci. So when Jess and I saw this puzzle in the gift shop at Crater Lake, we thought it would be fun to invite Carmen over and have a puzzle day, which is just what we did today.

There was guacamole and chips, tea and good conversation and catching up. Jess didn't like working upside down so I took the top spot and worked on the clouds. The two of them poured over colors but colors were useless to me in the cloud section. I became obsessed with memorizing shapes, which is my preferred puzzle methodology. Once I had an image of some distinctive feature, I could often be heard muttering "two bumps, two bumps, two bumps," or some other reminder chant. This always caused the others to make fun of me, but they couldn't argue with the effectiveness of my methods. This was definitely one of the most challenging puzzles I've encountered, with odd curves to the pieces and no clear lines. Often pieces would clearly fit together, but not hold together on their own until a third or fourth piece was found to hold them fast. When I solved one of these, I would declare, "Security! We have security!"

There were two edge pieces that we didn't find until late in the game. Whenever a piece proved particularly wily, Jess would exclaim, "I think there are pieces missing!" even though we'd just cracked open the sealed wrapper. Sensing an opportunity, I told her she had to give me a dollar for every time she said it. A quick and easy $20 for me if only she would pay up...

Sadly Carmen had to leave before we were quite finished. Jess and I spent another hour or so and it was a battle to the end, but oh so satisfying.

I could see myself becoming a puzzle person.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Let the Resolutions Begin!

I wanted to write more, so here we go. I've just signed on for this:

Join me (Cortney Erskine) & many others in this New Year’s Invitation on behalf of Studio PA-CO!

~ 365 Degrees ~

Make one piece of art EVERYDAY starting January 1st, 2008 thru 12/31/08. Whatever medium you desire.

We will meet to discuss experiences and share monthly at Studio PA-CO every Last Thursday of the month at 6 PM.

Come January ‘09 a group show is planned & potential publishing of artists work by Alberta Street Small Press.

Everyday. Overwhelming, but I think I can do it. What have you committed to in 2008?

Holidaze Pt 1 - Christmas Eve

Well I made it through my first mom-less holiday season more or less intact. Some extra moodiness for sure, but all in all it went much better than I would've thought. I think it was helped by the fact that I've long been over the hype that is Christmas and have been striving for low-key traditions for years.

I spent the days enjoying the family I have left, which is considerable, and enjoying quiet (blessedly quiet) times with Jess.

Christmas eve we went to my dad's annual dinner, which includes fifty or so of our closest family, friends and probably a few folks who heard there was a good meal to be had and showed up. There's always a core group that I knew and recognize and then a much larger percentage of folks that I only see once a year and wouldn't recognize on the street if I saw them again. My strategy is to hug everyone who hugs me and it seems to work out well. I warned Jess not to expect introductions.

Jess came down with a cold that included a four day sinus headache so she was even less prepared than usual to deal with the madness that is large numbers of my family combined in a small space, but she was a trooper. Walking into the house was like walking into a wall of sound, such as you might find in a football stadium. No one's ever heard of an inside voice and the volume just escalates as people try to out shout each other to be heard. The children are quiet by comparison, though most of them are relegated to the basement game room. Even I was overwhelmed, and I grew up with it.

Jess forgot her lactose pills (there's no hope of avoiding dairy and we gave up trying until '08) so she ran back home to get them. Meanwhile, I found happiness in a bowl of sausage dip. Living with a vegetarian has definitely given me a greater appreciate of well prepared meat, since I rarely bother to cook it at home. I barely managed to tear myself away from the dip, but I didn't want to fill up completely before dinner.

When the time came to eat, we managed to squeeze everyone into the main room for prayer. I always marvel that we all fit, it reminds me of the time I saw a six foot tall Yoga master squeeze himself into a three foot square box on That's Incredible.

Then my dad's wife announced the rules for the food line; people 40 and over first, followed by people with children under the age of 10.

What? I felt betrayed. I was suddenly glad for all that dip I'd eaten. I couldn't bare to stand around and watch the line crawl by, so Jess I retired to the quietest room, one just off the kitchen while we waited for people to get through. We ended up at the back of the line, something that's never happened to me at a family gathering.

You know those people who wait for someone else to go first in line, or cut the first piece of dessert? I'm not that person. In fact, I feel it's my sworn duty to help those people by being the first in line so they can feel free and unencumbered about getting their food.

The line at least moved quickly, but as we got into the kitchen and started to see the food choices awaiting us, it became clear that Jess's options weren't just limited, they were non-existent. Every vegetable dish was filled with meat--hamhocks flavoring the greens, bacon floating in the cabbage. There wasn't even any mac and cheese in sight. There was potato salad but Jess hates potato salad as much as mom did.

Luckily she's learned never to go to my dad's house hungry. She'd eaten some not long before we left so she wasn't starving. As they saw her approaching the table, the servers realized the situation and Faye took control. "Hang on a few minutes, Jess I'm going to make you something." She wouldn't hear any protesting from Jess, who looked to me for help. I just shrugged. "They have to feed people, it's what they do," I said. In due course, Faye brought over some Uncle Ben's wild rice with vegetables.

We sat in our 'quiet' room with some cousins, visiting, eating and eventually sampling desserts, before making a fairly early exit. I heard the final count was sixty-six people.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


It was in this super-dork configuration of gear that I headed out into the muck for what I didn't know then would be five hours of running around. First stop Kinkos, where of course they screwed up my order. Just like old times. Once they got it right, I said I'd go next door and come back in ten minutes to pick it up. And of course it wasn't ready when I came back. You really do have to stand there and watch to get anything done. I didn't get mad, because I remember how it is to work there and I'm just glad to have escaped.

I killed the (apparently useless) waiting time at the Mountain Shop next door, looking at snowboarding jackets. I've been making noise about going snowboarding again, despite dubious results the previous two times. I know if I could go more than once a year, I could greatly improve my learning curve.

From there it was downtown to the central library to pick up Blue Screen by Robert Parker, so I could return the copy I bought at Powells. I It was supposed to be a gift for Traci but of course she's read every Parker novel that's been out more than five minutes. Not sure how she managed that in the middle of her first term of law school but I gave up and just got her a gift card because I don't care what Liz Pulliam Weston says. I'm certainly not anti-present, but I never look a gift card in the mouth and neither does Traci. Anything that equates to her spending someone else's money is fine with her. And she proceeded to find a stack of books I never would've thought to get her so all's well that ends well.

So I read the latest novel, Now and Then, picked up Blue Screen at the library and then returned both to the store today. Powells was a MADHOUSE, which wasn't really a surprise. There was literally a guy who's only job was to stand at the end of the line holding a sign that said, "End of the fastest line in town." And I have to admit, I waited less then five minutes to get to the counter, even through the line was just shy of bursting out of the Orange room entirely.

On my way to Powells, I suddenly remembered that I was back in Cacao territory and almost did a little dance of joy on my bike. So after Powells, I headed right over and indulged in a 4 oz cinnamon drinking chocolate, an earl grey truffle and a couple of salted caramels. That place will ruin you for other chocolate. Since I discovered the truffles, my average spend there has gone from $5 to $10 dollars. It's really good I don't live close to it, but it's really bad that I seem to be down there a lot lately. Even bad weather isn't keeping me away.

Next stop was Trader Joes for some frozen mangoes. I'm newly addicted to mango smoothies in the morning. A nice change from strawberry and blueberry. And finally, back over the bridge towards home. My last planned stop was New Seasons but at the last minute I turned up Mississippi to hit up Grand Central Bakery on Fremont. I've been craving some potato bread from that shop for a while and since I was planning to make soup for dinner, it seemed a good reward for going up the big hill. The problem with that Mississippi hill is that it doesn't seem so bad, but then just when you think it's over, it goes on for another two blocks and gets steeper. The thought literally went like this: Hey, that wasn't so ba--holy crap this is steep!

But I made it and rewarded myself with potato bread, and continued on to the madhouse that was New Seasons. I didn't care though because the first thing I saw when I walked in the door was this: An olive oil smorgasborg. I used extreme self control and limited myself to seven or eight samples, including the $30 bottle from Australia. Tasty, but way out of my budget. I did however, fall prey to the grapefruit sample lady. She was giving out the fresh squeezed juice and I can honestly say, I've never tasted anything grapefruit-related that was so naturally sweet. I bought two to put through the inherited juicer lounging in the garage.

Riding home from the store, the sky was amazing...inky black, and foreboding in one direction and clear and moonlit in the other. I was very glad I'd taken to the streets under my own power for the day so I could enjoy it.

The evening was spent making a rutabaga and leek chowder that was a smashing success. This was my first year experiencing the rutabaga and I've been quite pleased. The soup was easy to make, took under an hour, was creamy, yet dairy-free, with a good flavor and was quite filling to boot. I'll post the recipe if requested.

We're between Dexter DVDs from Netflix right now, so we finished up with some Playstation snowboarding. I really need to practice my tricks, Jess stomped all over me in freestyle.

I think I'm finally getting into this vacation thing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


My mom created and ran the library at Self Enhancement Inc for nine years, and passed her love of reading on to countless kids in the process.

This coming Monday, December 17th, The SEI library will be formally dedicated, the Genia Adair Memorial Library. It just seems right that someone who loved reading so much, and shared that with so many others should have a great tribute like this.

The ceremony is open to the community and will be held in the gymnasium of the SEI building and will include remarks from CEO Tony Hopson, SEI students and others.

Monday Dec 17th
3920 North Kerby Ave

It's a bit fuzzy due to having to convert the format, but she's reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. While hiking. Cuz that's just how she rolled.

Two funny videos

Because I can never get too many good laughs this year. Shamelessly stolen from Kelli because she stole it from someone else so it wasn't hers anyway:

Please don't play this for my cat, she might get ideas. Thanks to the deeply disturbed cyclists of the Ironclad cycling team.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Just took my last final. As of 11:12pm I can now resume attending normal life. That means I might actually post some stuff. Soon.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


It's been a good day so far. We pondered getting up and doing the weekly Sorella team ride this morning, but Jess only has one day off this weekend and I have just been tired. Instead we slept in and barely hauled ourselves out of bed around 10am. After smoothies and scrambled eggs, we decided we'd better get outside after all. Today was bright and sunny with temps in the low 40's. Not exactly warm, but for December, it's pretty darn good and days like this don't come around very much.

Jess pumped up the tires on the roadies and then came the agonizing about what to wear. I went with wool socks, shoe covers, shorts, tights, arm warmers, long sleeve jersey, wind vest and wind-proof shell, topped up with my Smartwool beanie. My smart wool gloves with mountain bike gloves over them have been working better than I ever expected. I knew I'd probably be a little cold, but bulky gloves and road bikes don't go very well together.

Jess's Sugoi hooded jersey was in the wash, so I loaned her my short sleeve wool jersey and she put tank top base layer, long sleeve shirt and wind vest, along with shorts and full length leg warmers. It was a full hour between having the idea and getting out the door, but we finally hit the road shortly before 1:00.

It was chilly, but the sun helped and I was pretty happy with my clothing choices. My hands were cold immediately, but a few windmills with my arms at stop lights and they revived. Jess was not so fortunate. I swear all the blood in her body just stops at her shoulders and thighs. I'm not against keeping the core warm, but share the love for crying out loud. Growing up in Wisconsin, I'm still not sure how she survived to adulthood.

We headed south from our house, down Interstate to the Esplanade and then east on Hawthorne to Harrison and up to Mt Tabor. Jess wanted to snack after we climbed Mt Tabor, but I suggested doing it before so we wouldn't climb and get all sweaty, and then stand around in the shade just before making a frigid decent. My plan sort of worked, but we weren't counting on the steady headwinds from the north. We were assaulted pretty much constantly and the whole second half of the ride we were pretty much frozen.

We came down Mt Tabor and headed north and through the golf course with a stop at one of our favorite little shops just off Sandy. We stayed there long enough to partially thaw out but the rest of the trip was pretty chilly for both of us.

Still, I was really glad to get out for a long ride, something I haven't done since the end of September. I was in serious danger of spending the entire day in a somewhat zombified state. The ride woke me up and got my blood moving, although now I'm really tired and sore. Out of shape much?

As soon as we got home, we peeled off our layers with frozen fingers. I headed straight for the shower, but Jess had to thaw her hands and feet some before subjecting them to hot water.

Shortly, we're headed out to a party at my long lost cousin's house. It will be good to see some family all together. I suspect it will be loud.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cyclocross madness

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

The last cyclocross race of the season was out at PIR the first weekend of December. That's about a 10 minute bike ride from our house so we ventured out into the muck to watch the insanity. The rain was epic, and the temperature was in the 30's and yet we saw guys in the elite men's race wearing what I would consider summer race-wear; shorts, short sleeve jersey, short fingered gloves, or in some cases no gloves at all. There we were bundled in many layers and waterproof shells and I just could not fathom how they did it. My capacity for suffering will never be that high. But it's sure fun to watch them slide around.

We mostly watched on a muddy hill that most riders started out riding up but as the laps went on you could see how much more effort it took and more of them got off and ran. There were also more wipe outs.

We didn't even last the whole hour to see the end of the men's race. We got too cold and baring our hands to unlock our bikes was the final straw. It was then that I discovered that they way to get Jess to ride faster is to freeze her. In an effort to get feeling back to her extremeties, she left me in the dust getting out of there. We stopped at Fred Meyer on the way home and I locked her bike up for her so she could go straight inside and warm up. All part of the service.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Back to Church

I started my own church. I'm not particularly religious, but a few years ago, when my mom was bugging me about going to church with her, I decided I'd just start my own Sunday tradition. Also, I'd just been dumped and I needed something more productive to do than sit around at home alone feeling sorry for myself.

Thus, the Church of Waffles was born. Most of my friends are of similar secular bent as myself, but as it turns out, we could all get behind (or outside of) a good waffle.

At the time, I was living with my old roommate Carrie, in a big house with a wood stove. Saturdays I would clean and Sunday mornings I would get up early, start a big fire in the wood stove and start cooking. In addition to waffles, I would usually make veggie and regular sausage or bacon, and some kind of egg dish. I finally learned to make and grew to love frittatas but sometimes I'd do a big scramble or once, an omelet bar. I'm really good at omelets. Juice, coffee and tea would round out the menu.

I did this, just about every Sunday, from December 2005 to March 2006. The last one I pulled out all the stops and asked Stephanie to come and play, which she did. It was fabulous.

Most weeks, I provided all the food and didn't ask for contributions. Sometimes I'd have people bring fruit or juice. People often brought things without my asking but always there was a good feast and anywhere from 6-20 of my friends to enjoy it with. In January I met and started dating Jess, and C.O.W. became a great way for her to meet my friends.

In this way a lot of my friends got to meet and connect with each other which was really cool. And when mom got sick, it was a lot of the people I'd fed all winter who stepped up to the plate to make our lives easier in whatever ways they could, which was a lot.

Today was the revival of C.O.W. It was our first one since moving into our new house. There was still a fire, though I flipped a switch to light it instead of chopping wood (which, with the weather the way it has been, was quite a relief!). It's been raining--no, pouring--all day and we weren't sure if folks would actually leave their houses to come see us...but ten people showed up which turned out to be the perfect number. It was great to see some people I've lost touch with during my year of hell, and just hang out laughing and talking about stupid names for towns--like the one in Indiana called Gnaw Bone--but pronounced gah-naw-bunny. It makes a great interjection in the middle of a conversation. Try it.

Several friends ran into my Dad this week and excitedly asked "Are you coming to brunch?" Which could have been akward since I hadn't exactly extended an invitation--not because I didn't want him there, but mainly I didn't invite any family members who I know are usually in traditional churches between ten and noon on Sundays.

To the suggestion that perhaps the name of our shindig could be considered sacrilegious, Danette replied, "No, it's SACRILICIOUS!"

I think I'll use that on next month's invitation.