Winter Rain

For all those people who live far away from Portland and visit only in the magical months of July, August and September, I bring you a visual of the flip side of Portland life: October-June. This nine month period consists of the dreaded “winter” which, while it doesn’t bring much snow, does bring unrelenting rain and cold. Sometimes, we get periods of rain so lengthy and intense that the grass ceases to grow and instead becomes large mud puddles, as seen in the above picture. If you decide to move here, be ready to enjoy this weather, too.

Poem for February: Oranges

This is still probably under copyright, so read it by clicking (

Though this is not the Gary Soto poem I was looking for, it does have a lot of nice imagery easily accessible to the middle school population. This is why, of course, it is assigned by so many middle school teachers.

Back in January, I lamented the lack of poems coming into my life. At the time, I was “reading” three poems a night from a poetry anthology. As the quotes around the word reading indicate, I wasn’t actually doing that. I needed to find time for poetry every day, but where?

A few things happened at once, in the way that life goes. First off, I started eating breakfast at home again. I had been bringing my breakfast to work and eating at my desk. I realized I was eating 80% of my food at work, sitting in front of my computer and decided to cut back that practice. I had to cut out the morning meditation, but it is so pleasant to now eat two meals at a table that I think the trade off was worth it.

Next, the newspaper started to arrive very late. The paper is supposed to get here by six o’clock on weekdays and my paper guy was not meeting the cut most days. So I had nothing to read while eating my breakfast. A-ha! An opening for more poetry! I got two anthologies and a book by a single author. I rotate through them as I eat my breakfast, which is delightful. Although sometimes not if a poem is particularly graphic or disturbing. Though that is rare and mostly, it is wonderful.

Now I have more poems coming into my life, which means it is easier to find poems to memorize.

Books read in February

Good YA books this month, a book club book finished and an atrocious add-on to a classic book.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
John Green & David Levithan
I found David Levithan’s depressed/unable-to-capitalize-words Will Grayson off putting and annoying at first, but warmed to him as the book went on. I completely loved John Green’s Will Grayson from the first page. John Green’s Will Grayson has the advantage of having one of the best larger-than-life sidekicks named Tiny Cooper whose antics had me snorting with laughter. There are some great memorable and moving moments within this book: observations about a girl you want to be in a relationship with; Will Grayson’s coming out to his mother; the tryouts for the musical Tiny Dancer: The The Life and Times of Tiny Cooper. The performance of the musical was funny too. The ending got a little too tie-it-up for me, but the middle of the book gave me that “squee” feeling of happiness.

The Other Wes Moore
Wes Moore
I figured the trajectory of the two Wes Moore’s stories before I started to read this book. One was a Rhodes Scholar etc. etc. etc. so he clearly had the stable-er home life and the loving-er family and on and on. The other is serving life in prison for a robbery/murder and he clearly had the less stable home life, inattentive family etc, etc. I knew there would be a clear line drawn and errors pointing, one to the life of the “good” Wes Moore and one to the life of the “bad” Wes Moore.

Once I started the book I realized I was wrong. This cognitive dissonance is, of course, the book’s success. If the path to the good Wes Moore life was that obvious, it never would have been published. My take away from this book is not to decide that an “if only” would have saved the life-in-prison Wes Moore. My take away is to look at every child, even the ones that seem to be on the “bad Wes Moore” path and expect of them that they finish school, procreate responsibly, find work that suits them and live a happy life. To expect less is to give in to the throwaway society we have created for a large subset of our children.

Mocking Jay
Suzanne Collins
This is a rip-roaring finale to the Hunger Games series. There is more strife, more fighting, more indecision, more propaganda, and an ending that is devastating and hopeful. Are you telling me you still haven’t started reading this series? What are you waiting for?

Why I Wake Early
Mary Oliver
I like Mary Oliver’s poems, but something was brought into focus while I was reading this book. I am a city girl. I was raised in a city (albeit a small one) by parents who were themselves raised in cities (also small ones.) We did not hike on the weekends, we camped sparingly. I rarely, if ever, wandered through any “wild” area. None of this is bad, but it did shape me. To this day I enjoy walking about my neighborhood more than driving to some wilderness to “hike.” Urban environments grow and change just as natural ones do.

So after reading poem after poem about birds and fields and puddles and what have you, I realized that something inside of me was crying out, “Where are the buildings? Where are the cars? Where are the other people?” I’m happy that Mary Oliver gets so much from her wilderness and I’m happy that so many people enjoy her poems she writes. I am also happy to realize that for me, Mary Oliver’s poems are best enjoyed in small doses.

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet
Colleen McCullough
The review I mentally wrote while halfway through this novel was much more scathing than the review I am writing now that I have finished the book. I enjoyed rejoining the Bennet family twenty years later, but I thought the characterizations of Mr. Darcy were too harsh and I found the main plot to be entirely preposterous. McCullough manages to tie things up rather neatly, even for Miss Caroline Bingly, but the fact that I sputtered through most of the story doesn’t really bode well for this book.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares
Cohen & Levithan
Though this book did not pack the heat that Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist did, I enjoyed it just as much in different ways. The concept of the dares (which were very clever, in of themselves) was a lot of fun and seeing how Dash and Lily, two very opposite people, react to each other via paper was enjoyable and at times hilarious. Set at Christmas in New York City, this would be a fun book to read in early December, just to set a good Christmas Mood. Or to set an anti-Christmas mood, if you are more like Dash.

Started, but did not finish.
Ship Breaker
Paolo Bacigalupi
This won the Printz award this year and people have raved about it, but I have read many too many tense YA novels in the last three months. My nerves couldn’t deal with Nailer’s conundrum.

We finally get invited to the snow party.

We had a little bit (a smattering, really) of snow in November and then nothing. As we have watched story after story about everyone else in the country getting hammered by yet another “worst storm ever!” we Portlanders continued slogging through our endless winter rains with no flake in sight (though many predicted.) “It’s like everyone has been invited to the snow party but us!” wailed one commenter on a local blog. By February 1, I had given up on there being a Portland-based snow party this year. But then near the end of the month: snow!
I would say it was entirely unexpected, except that the weather people started predicting it more than a week early. Snow was “certain” they said as I harrumphed through their forecasts. In Portland, when snow is forecast all anyone anywhere can talk about is the impending snow. When will it happen? How much will we get? Will I need to stock up my pantry?*
Growing up, I lived in a place it did snow and life just went on. In fact, my school district never had a snow day until my sophomore year of high school, that’s how much life ground on. I am in full support of the city screeching to a halt once the snow arrives, but I cannot stand everyone making plans for the snow day that is most likely not going to occur.
Today’s “certain” snow did arrive, a fact that surprised me. But it wasn’t the seven inches forecast a week earlier. It wasn’t the “several inches” forecast a few days before. It didn’t start at 4:00 pm and snow heavily through the night with major accumulation on the valley floor as they predicted the day of. At 5:00 in the morning there was a half inch of snow outside my North Portland home and the roads were fine. I went for a lovely walk figuring that, at best, the west side schools might have a two hour delay, but that everyone else would have school as usual. I arrived home to the happy news that there would be no school in any Portland Public Schools on this snow day.

The sun came out, the snow melted and the day went on. But I got my snow day, my walk in the newly fallen snow and a long morning nap buried under layers of covers. It was heavenly.

*The answer to the “stock up your pantry?” question is most likely “no.” When it snows in Portland it inconveniences people for a day usually, maybe two. Do you need to rush to the store and snap up enough food for three weeks? No, no and no.

Sun in the morning.

Every day I catch the 7:08 at Kenton and for the past few months it has been dark when I got on the train. But we’ve reached that magical time of year when light returns to the morning. Here’s Paul at 7:00 on a clear winter morning. A month before, he would have only appeared dimly through the darkness. I’m trying not to get too attached to the morning sun, as daylight saving time is coming soon and will plunge me back into darkness again.

Rain and Trimet’s inefficient shelters.

Hey look! It’s torrentially raining at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. Too bad our “shelters” have a flat top which enables that 45 degree rain to come right into the shelter and onto us. I wonder how Trimet could have designed the shelters differently? Hmmmmm and hmmmmmm.

ps. That guy with the umbrella has very good boots for the amount of rain that is occurring. Well done, random passerby.

Egg Puff

Of late, I’ve been eating this delightful concoction for dinner. It is essentially the same ingredients as scrambled eggs (3 eggs scrambled, a bit of fat for the pan and some salt and pepper) but tastes so very, very different.
Here’s what I do: I scramble the eggs, salt and pepper together while my smallest cast iron skillet is heating on the stove. Then I add some fat (I’m currently partial to sesame oil) to the pan and swirl it around and let it heat for a bit. Then I add the eggs. I don’t stir the eggs, but instead rotate the pan after a bit because my burner doesn’t cook evenly. Often this is a time for me to pine for a gas stove. After it looks like the bottom is set (but not burnt! Burnt eggs are dreadful!) I take the pan over to the toaster oven, set it to broil and let it get to broiling.

Even when I make this for more than one dinner in a row, I can never remember how long it takes to broil. Here’s what happens. The egg mixture will puff and brown on top and I think it is done and pull it out because of my fear of burnt eggs. Then I notice there is still a lot of liquid egg on top under the brown part, sigh, reset the broiler and put the pan back in. When the egg is puffy and nothing moves–meaning I’ve got a solid now, not any liquid left–I take it out, admire how pretty it is, invert it on a plate, cut it into sixths (my Pizza Hut training comes in handy here) and eat it with some rice and vegetables. So good and delicious!
Of course, if I fried up some potatoes before adding the egg mixture, or put some greens in there I would have a fritatta, but that is somehow not as transcendent as three eggs scrambled, then puffed.

Freegal rocks

Like, really rocks. The library has this new service where you get to download three songs per week for free and keep them forever. I (and you if you are a Multnomah County Library patron) can chose from Sony Music’s entire catalog. Just now, I downloaded three Elvis songs. Amazing!

Yep, it’s Sunday night

Grumpy feeling that the math homework isn’t done? Check.

Annoyance that I still have to rummage up some food for at least the next two days? Check.

Irritated that I didn’t have enough time to work on the blogs this weekend? Check.

Irked that my evenings this week will once again be more busy than I would like? Check.

Bothered by the fact that I can’t have as much time doing the things I want to do as I want, or the things I have to do will never get done? Check.

It’s no wonder I’m never excited for the end of the weekend.