I don’t think there is a more pure form of happiness than the glee that comes from a piece of fabric. It makes a child so sublimely happy. The swirl, swish, or clunk of the fabric seems to have magical affects on kids. I know that when I was a child I loved to twirl. I would put on this baby blue dress that I wore at my brother’s wedding and stand in front of the mirror and spin and spin. So much so, that I would get dizzy and fall down on the tile. But that was part of the fun. Spin, spin, spin, spin, fall, pause, and get up again. Over and over. I would watch the way the sunlight poured through the lace of the dress and feel beautiful in the way that children do. I would feel special, because this was a special dress that had been worn on a special occasion. In wearing it again I was getting an opportunity to relive that moment.
For this Easter I dressed my viking up in a tutu made of all the colors of the rainbow. She is too young to get the full affect of wearing a giant tutu. But I caught her out of the corner of my eye discovering the joy of spinning around in a skirt and the glee that would come from it. For me that was so much better than all the candy and eggs I could have had. I will continue to buy her things that make her smile: Costumes, skirts, aprons, whatever. Girl/boy clothes whatever she wants to wear. If it brings her those moments of standing in front of a mirror giggling, spinning, and falling on the floor she can have it.
I heard a very wise person once say, you should not buy any clothing that doesn’t make you want to twirl in front of a mirror, even as an adult. Since then I have bought 3 fringe shawls. Fringe I have discovered makes me want to twirl.
As experiences go, this one was a biggie for me. Watching my viking twirl for a moment and giggle was awesome.
My daughter is “allergic” to sleep. Note the quotes, she is not actually allergic but it just seems that way. She wakes up at the same times, every single night. 11:30 and 2:30. I have no idea why. Both her father and I have sleep problems, he has narcolepsy and I have adult onset night-terrors and insomnia. It has been a rough ride for the both of us where sleep is concerned. Now it seems like The Viking has inherited this problem. This shit cannot stand.
I took The Viking to the doctor two days ago to get a checkup. She is doing great, and I mentioned the getting up twice a night to her wonderful doctor. She said that it was time to let her cry it out again or Ferberize. Sounds like some sort of disinfectant. We tried this before when she was younger and it worked great. Then her crying was hardly anything. A slight complaint, easy to tune out. After a few days, she got into a great sleeping pattern and I got to rest. Unlike most couples with children, I am the only one of capable of getting up at night to attend to the viking. So the rest was most welcome. About a month ago, The Viking came down with roseola. This threw her sleeping off kilter and since then she has been getting up twice a night. Waking up twice a night turns both of us into assholes. It is fun for no one. So time to Ferberize. I mentioned to the doctor that her crying sounded different, it is a scream cry instead of just a small complaint. Her doctor smiled at us knowingly and basically said, “Your daughter is very smart and is playing you. She knows you come running for that cry. She is getting what she wants.” Oh god we are getting trolled by a 1 year old. To make this whole situation even better, The Viking has taught herself to throw up to get attention. She screams, gags herself, and pukes. We are so screwed.
At 2 am last night, I heard the tell tale scream of my daughter. Not the complaining or “bitching” cry that she used to do. This was a full on scream. The kind in which I would leap over alligators, feed myself to zombies, and set those who stand between myself and my daughter on fire to get to her. I watched her on the monitor and had to lay in bed and listen to it.
This sucks. It feels like a giant is beating some drum inside me. With every cry it pulls me towards her. 45 mins of intermittent crying later it puttered off to a whimper then a snore. If I had gone to her and scooped her up in my arms and told her that everything was fine, it would have been for me not her. I don’t want that. I want her to sleep well and solidly. To be so unlike her parents who struggle every night. In the end the drums inside myself quieted, she started sucking her thumb and we lived to try another night. I think this definitely counts as an experience. Not my normal fare, but being a Mommy is hard and not going to her is a hurdle I crossed. It counts.
After three months, gaining ten pounds, and twelve ass gropes (groping of my ass, not me assaulting Italians); I start the journey home. I am reminded of one of the great movies of modern cinema. Homeward Bound – The Incredible Journey
I had an absolutely wonderful time at the villa. I learned a great deal about Roman architecture and got an opportunity to sketch great Italian masterworks, both new and old. I would say that traveling to Europe was the greatest event of my college career aside from graduating, but I was happy to be going home.
I realized the day that I needed to leave that I had made a terrible mistake. As a side note, it seems that in my life I tend to miss important details. Especially if there is excitement involved. If there is excitement. I could be naked and covered in eels and I probably wouldn’t notice. The way that it worked out was I gave my presentation that I had been working on for a month to all the students and faculty. Sat down for a moment to take a breather and overheard a conversation.
“What time is your plane?”
“8 am, what time is yours?”
“3 in the afternoon, you know the trains don’t run till 9 and you have a 4 hour train ride ahead of you”
Oh holy shit. Oh bullocks. Oh fudge. oh damn… oh shite. I haven’t packed and my flight leaves a 7 am. IN MILAN! Which means dear reader, that I need to be on a train within an hour with all of my crap from my journey here plus: six bottles of wine, a bottle of olive oil, a new purse, rolls of parchment drawings, a painting, a agate stone, a new glass necklace, and a glass statue. Seriously I bought a glass statue in Venice. I am of the “It’s awesome, I’ll figure it out later,” variety. This also meant that I had no where to sleep tonight. If all else fails, I can create a fort out of my luggage on the side of the road and huddle inside.
Commence packing. Actually no, that is not an accurate description of what happened. Commence the fastest packing in the history of all packing. Commence chucking multiple things that I did not use this summer. Hair dryer, who was I kidding. Swim suit, I will buy another. Toiletries, I will stink. I shoved, I pulled, I sang lullabies to those bags till they closed. And close they did with the help of some duck tape.
I realized a small snag in my victory. What do I do with all the wine, olive oil, and sculpture? I bought them, I will steadfastly carry it across my chest like some deranged wine bomb. Wine is not heavy at all! (I should have just drank the damn wine, all six bottles, and they could Medivac me to Milan.) We pile into the car. My instructor looks at my wine bomb sideways.. I smile the smile of desperation and glee. My roommate had to fit the clown car with all of their luggage as well so she sat on my lap with her face pressed against the windshield, like a mime that is saying, “help me, we need a bigger car.”
We arrived down the hill at breakneck speed. Our combined weight, plus that of the luggage allowed the car to be pulled down the hill. I doubt the instructor had to even put it into gear. We landed with a squeal and smoking tires at our stop just as the sun was setting. It was picturesque. Trash blowing in the wind and then getting caught on my luggage. The smell of urine and bougainvillea wafting by. A lowly mosquito landing on my arm and receiving a just death. Ahhhh Italy. How I will miss thee. I want to point out that Italy is a beautiful country full of wonderful people, but this train station smells like pee and has bums everywhere.
We hop on to the night train heading for Genova.
The train ride to Genova was blissfully quiet and empty. The air conditioner was on and it was wonderful. I created a fort of luggage around me and put my feet up. I dared anyone to say anything by sporting a manic look, and twitching a bit. I only wanted to set fire to my luggage once at this point. From there, we took another train to Milan. Again uneventful save for dragging it through the huge terminals. At this point I have bruises on my shoulders from my “wine bomb” across my chest.
We hop on the train from Genova to Milan, then take a bus and arrive around midnight. Nothing is open. Of course we are all starving. I have learned to use the Euro, and I want to use it to buy some damn food. My flight does not leave for 6 hours. I am exhausted and have not slept in 30 hours. I pulled an all nighter the night before working on my final project. So I am slap happy. I try to play cards, but I cannot focus on anything. I go hunting for a place to wall myself up in. Low and behold I spy a space behind the elevators. My roommate and I make a wall of luggage blocking off us from view, curl into a little ball on the dirty linoleum and sleep the sleep of a child on Tylenol.
I wake up four hours later and wipe the gravel and drool off of my left cheek. It was wonderful. When you are that tired, any sleep is welcome. Even if it is behind a elevator shaft that infrequently gets cleaned. I turn my luggage in to the counter, I almost want to draw faces on the individual pieces of luggage and name them. They have been my constant companion on this voyage home. Sort of like Tom Hanks with “Wilson.” Except mine would be, “Samsoniteeeeee!” Or Sami for short. We don’t stand for formality.
I trudge onto the plane. I smell amazing, and I pity my seat companions. The plane takes off and I leave my second home. It was the grandest adventure of my life up until that point and life changing. I will always remember the good and bad of Italy and be thankful that I took the chance offered to me to travel in college. It has shaped so many aspects of who I am now as an adult in my thirties, and I think I am better for it.
Things I learned on my Voyage home:
I am not carrying anything to Europe. I’ll stuff cash and my passport into my bra.
Every place I pass that has food, I am going to purchase some. I am not going to starve and live off of airline food.
All joking aside, I am serious about the passport and my bra. Screw luggage.
“Hey, people who travel with their bed pillow. You look insane. ” – Jim Gaffigan
I was a terrible packer and a worse traveler. That is to say, I didn’t know a damn thing about how to travel or what I was in for. All I knew was that I needed my hair dryer, curling iron, bed pillow, and a selection of hardback books. Yes. Hardback. I was flying to Italy via New Jersey, and somehow I was going to make it from where I landed, Milan, to a small Italian hill town in northwestern Italy with all of my luggage. Which included a very large very heavy rolling bag, a second large and very heavy rolling bag, a backpack, shoulder bag, purse, and bedroll. Someone at sometime was going to meet me at the airport and guide me to my new home for the next three months. I had no idea who or when they where and when they where going to show up. I had no idea how to use the euro, or exchange rates or any damn thing. I was a traveling idiot.
After 12 hours of flying and many time zones, I arrive at my destination. Only to sit for six hours on pins and needles waiting for someone to come get me. I finally see one of my instructors arrive off of a bus. He is carrying a single bag and looks like an avid traveler. When he sees me, he pauses. “is this your luggage?” I reply with an enthusiastic, “yes!” He sighs. He knows he is going to have to help me carry my plethora of bags across Roman-dom. (Get it. Instead of Christendom. Dumb joke, moving on.) Now in my very USA mentality, I am thinking we are going to pop into a mini-van and be at our destination in an hour. No problem. At this point I have been traveling for 18 hours straight. I was blessed with many useful abilities, sleeping in public a la plane was not one of them. So I am slap happy making dumb jokes. I look like a complete tool ready for excitement. So I grab my nearest bag, all 60 pounds of it and start to drag it to destinations unknown. Squeak squeak. Also, I might add that I have not eaten anything in 6 hours except for a Nutragrain bar I surreptitiously packed because I have no idea how to use the money.
We walk out of the airport and I am surrounded by very chic Italians going places in their Manolos. I am rocking some Nike’s and my camera. I am oblivious, and frankly I am starting to sweat. Milan is hot, I also didn’t check the weather, Sticky horrible hot. My teacher leads me over to a large bus. We have to take a bus to a train station on the other side of Milan. I lumber over, dragging my luggage. Beads of sweat are starting to rain down upon the baking pavement. I load the luggage into the bus and get on. It is a non-air conditioned bus. I have now entered the seventh circle of sweaty hell. Me being me I try to look out the window and see some of the sites of Milan. There are lots of multi-colored flags hanging out windows that say “Pace.” I had no idea what that means and I have other problems. Namely the pool of sweat I am sitting in.
Aside from that, the bus trip is uneventful. Busses seem to be the same where ever you travel to. Kinda scary, but mostly safe. No seat belts. We arrive at the train station and it is HUGE bustling place. I have never seen anything like it in the states. We just don’t use trains like this. Squeak, squeak, drag, drag, sweat, sweat. Our train is on the other side of the train station and it is packed. So carrying 200 lbs. of luggage, and bumping into the odd Genovian, I make my way to the train. Which is of course totally crowded, I died a little bit inside. At this point I really wanted to set my luggage on fire and damn the consequences. “Excuse me, Excuse me. Pardon me, lady with luggage coming through.” This train does not have air conditioning either, but thankfully it does have open windows. Thank god. I stick my face out of it like a German Shepard and wait for whatever is going to happen next. I am enjoying the sticky breeze, when an older Italian woman starts yelling at me in Italian about rolling up the window. I whimper and roll up the window. I am now her bitch. I should have told her to shove it, but I did not want to seem like an asshole American. I ride the train for 3 hours. Eventually I get a seat, which is a godsend. I also had one of the coolest moments of my life. Going through a very long tunnel with the windows open and no lights. I thought I knew what dark was until I was in the middle of that tunnel. The coolness and darkness was such a relief I could have cried.
I arrive at Genoa where we are to switch trains, again. This time it is a much smaller train. Squeak ,squeak, drag, drag, sweat, sweat. I lumber on like Sisyphus with his stone. This one does have air conditioning and I am eternally grateful. We ride this train for another hour and arrive at a train station that is out in the boonies. At this point I have not eaten. I have no idea how to procure food. I am starting to get ravenous, and thinking what my instructor would taste like with bbq sauce. Either I eat him or I am going to eat my luggage. I follow my instructor around the back of the train station and he takes me to a minivan! No just kidding. He takes me to a clown car that is the smallest car I have ever seen. I laugh uncontrollably and scarily at this point. My luggage weighs more than this car.
I need to preface the next part of this journey with, I am 6′ tall and a rather large person. So I laugh hysterically. My instructor looks at me with concern. We pack the back of the car, Jenga style with my luggage and start the final leg of our journey. Loaded down the car can’t go over thirty miles an hour and we have a big hill to climb to the villa. A really big hill. 15 mins later traveling up the shoulder we arrive at the final destination. We unload everything and I head to my room. My instructor takes pity on me and feeds me a bowl of soup and a glass of wine. Which was ambrosia. It could have been boiled horse ass and I would have slurped it up with bread. I head into my room where my cot awaits and sleep for 15 hours.
Things I have learned on the first leg of this journey:
I am not traveling to Europe again with more than a paper lunch bag sized purse. Thats it. Screw it. I’ll buy clothes when I get there.
I am going to learn how to use money from a youtube video beforehand.
I am going to understand where I am going.
I am still going to wear tennis shoes.
Soon!! “It all Began with a Clown Car – The Voyage home.”
I have never broken a bone. I always wondered if it was because I was ultra careful as a child or rather boring. I have sprained every joint in the body, so I suppose that is something. Ever sprain your jaw? Good times to be had for all. I never broke something til yesterday evening.
I suppose it was bound to happen. I have two baby gates up in my home in an attempt to forestall my child’s rampage throughout the house. I have whacked the shit out of my toes numerous times trying to get my leg over while carrying laundry and/or toddler. But last night was special. I stepped over the gate and brought the toes of my left foot down upon the gate with the force of Thor slamming Mjolinir with righteous indignation. Ow.
I didn’t know till the next morning that I had actually broken my toe. I woke up with a black toe and pink nail polish. Quite the combination. The hospital confirms. They also think it is a smashing combination. This is not necessarily a goal or accomplishment. Maybe a milestone or just something that finally happened. Either way, this little piggy is getting awful comfy with another toe vis-a-vie medical tape. I would post my toe for the world to see, but there is enough stuff you can find on the internet like that. So here is a picture of a puppy instead.
Redwoods are really gigantic trees that are not found anywhere in the desert I grew up in. I looked. All we have is Joshua trees, and they lack the oomph that redwoods have. They only get to be about twenty feet and can look rather alien-ish scary. Imagine a field of fuzzy things from “mars” all raising their arms at you.
This is my childhood, with the occasional jaunts to Mt. Charleston for some.. gasp.. pine trees. Mt. Charleston is lovely, but it isn’t the grand arboreal forests I have heard of in California. Places with trees so large that to hug one, it would take you and six friends. I love the landscape. Desert, forest, or arctic tundra. But for some reason, I was particularly entranced and interested in this one type of tree. Call it part novelty and part appreciation.
A very good friend of my, more like a sister really, is from behind the “The Redwood Curtain.” Basically as you can guess it is a barrier of these giant trees that cuts off parts of California. No pipes, or utilities can cut through. Her and I went on a road trip a few years ago to visit with her family and I got to see these giant trees first hand.
I got out of the car and Stood surveying the prospective candidates. My friend was like, ‘What the hell?” then, “Yea yea pick that one.” The one I picked looked particularly snide and rough. Maybe he was having a bad eon or something. I walked over to him and hugged him. I hugged him with everything in me. I hugged him with all the magic I was hoping there was in the world brought on from a childhood reading science fiction and fantasy.
Nothing happened. What should have happened is a damn Treant comes to life and takes me on a grand adventure to save the forests or something. Instead, I came away a little sticky with a few spiderwebs stuck to my shirt. The tree may or may not have appreciated being singled out and given some hugs. Either way, I felt better. The tree was beautiful and I was so lucky to have finally witnessed first hand.
This will be a very “listy” post. For obvious reasons, see title. I thought it would be a good idea to get some of my goals and stuff up and crossed off. I know, super long list and it is constantly getting updated. This is by no means all of them. But a good start and I plan on writing posts about them:
I always wondered what the magical fascination was about San Francisco. California’s great “northern” city that is actually located more or less in the middle of the state. I was so perplexed by the fascination that I purposefully skipped visiting San Francisco five or six times as I drove the length of California to my home in Oregon. It was too much of a pain in the ass to have to deal with the traffic, hills, and the expense. Let’s just say that I am more inclined to drive two hours out of my way to see The Jelly Belly Factory (I have a weird fetish for Jelly Bellies) than to visit the great city of fog and hills.
That being said, I had an opportunity to stay at a fancy schmancy hotel in downtown San Francisco while my husband was there on a business trip, so I took it. I lived THE life on the 26th floor over looking the plebs for an entire week.
I was alone for the first few days of the trip and my folks later joined us. I have found that the best way to embrace and/or experience a new city is to do it alone and on foot. We as a viewer miss so much of the richness of a city when we do it from the protected vantage point of a moving car. The sites, smells and sounds are muted. With this in mind, I tend to take things one step further and I try and get lost. It is a lot less scary than it sounds. Especially in the day and age of google maps and Uber. Yes, on my lost adventure I accidentally ended up at a gay/bondage book/fetish shop that was loudly and very unabashedly playing bondage gay porn on a 10′ by 10′ screen hanging in the air. The patron of the shop gladly pointed me to the right direction, I got a great story and a visual that will stay glued in my head for all eternity. Nothin says lovin like a man named Bernie wearing a studded collar, and green latex hot pants.
As you know if you have been following this blog at all, I have a weird fascination with lists and I found this one. The Best Dim Sum Restaurants in San Francisco Oh sweet jumpin jesus on a pogo stick I love dim sum. To me dim sum is Chinese for “way the hell too much food. Roll me out of here like Violet Beauregard.”
You are totally singing the Oompa Loompa song now aren’t you. C’mon admit it.
I knew on this particular trip I couldn’t possibly get to all the dim sum places on the list, that would be ridiculous and something I will totally do on another trip. My husband and I decided on Yak Sing. Both because of the nearness in location and because the menu looked amazing. This is the moment when I was introduced to the soup dumpling, and my life has never been the same. Have you ever loved something so much that you want to roll around in a pile of them like a golden retriever. No? umm, yea me neither. Moving on.
Yak Sing is world famous for their dumplings. I don’t think I will ever be able to recreate this recipe. It is insanely complicated and frankly, I just would rather have someone one feed me them while fanning me with palm fronds. Here is the recipe for it in case you are feeling really creative.
A 1″-diameter wooden dowel, a bench scraper, a ruler (optional); a bamboo steamer
ACTIVE: 3 HRSTOTAL: 4 HR 30 MIN
Place pork skin in a small stockpot or large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil; drain and rinse with cold water. Slice skin lengthwise into 1″-wide strips, trimming any fat, then slice strips crosswise into about ¼”-wide pieces. Return skin to same stockpot and add bones, foot, scallions, ginger, wine, and 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, skim surface of any foam, and reduce heat. Simmer, skimming often, until liquid is almost opaque and reduced to 2 cups, 60−75 minutes.
Strain liquid into a 13×9″ baking dish; discard solids. Season with salt and chill until set, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. If making ahead, cover soup with plastic wrap once jelled.
Mix ground pork, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, salt, wine, sugar, oil, ginger, and pepper with chopsticks in a medium bowl, stirring in one direction until it all comes together and a light film forms on the sides of bowl, about 20 seconds.
Cut a fine crosshatch pattern in jelled soup to create very small pieces (about ⅛” squares). Scrape into bowl with filling and mix to combine. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Place 3 cups flour in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in 1 cup very hot tap water, mixing constantly with chopsticks or a fork, until dough starts to hold together in shaggy pieces. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes (this allows flour to hydrate).
Add oil and mix until dough comes together and forms a shaggy ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking, until dough is very soft, smooth, supple, and just a little bit tacky, about 10 minutes. Dust dough lightly with flour and wrap in plastic. Let rest 1 hour.
Mix scallions, ginger, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside.
Place several large cabbage leaves in steamer, leaving about a 1″ border around the sides for steam to travel through. Lightly coat cabbage with nonstick spray (a dumpling that sticks is a dumpling that tears) and set steamer next to work station.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping other pieces covered with plastic wrap, roll out dough with your palms to make 12″-long ropes.
Cut each rope into twelve 1″-pieces with bench scraper. Using a ruler as a guide means all your pieces will be the same size, resulting in uniform dumplings. You’ll look like a pro!
Working with 1 piece of dough at a time and keeping other pieces covered in plastic wrap (it’s important to keep the dough covered while you work because it dries out very easily), press your thumb into cut side of dough to flatten.
Dust very lightly with flour and use dowel to roll out into thin rounds, about 4″ in diameter—work from the center moving outward, applying slightly more pressure as you reach the edges to make them a little thinner. Cover with plastic.
Lay a wrapper across the upper part of your palm and bottom half of the fingers of your nondominant hand. Spoon 1 Tbsp. filling into wrapper, making sure to get some pieces of jelled soup.
Lightly spread out filling with the back of the spoon, leaving at least a ½” border. Spoon a couple more pieces of jelled soup into center of filling. Slightly cup your palm around dumpling and gently grasp edge of wrapper between your thumb and index finger. Position your other thumb and index finger ½” away in the same fashion.
Using fingertips on one hand, gently pull and stretch wrapper outward before bringing it in to meet opposite fingers. Carefully fold stretched area in on itself, creating a pleat. Pinch to seal.
Rotating dumpling as you work, repeat process to create a series of 18 pleats, leaving a small hole in the center. You’ll probably get only 10 or 12 pleats the first few times you do this; as your skill increases, so will your folds.
Cradle dumpling in your palm, gently rotating it and working filling upward so dumpling is shaped like a fig. This step elongates the dumpling, eliminating air between wrapper and filling.
Pinch edges together and gently twist to seal. Place dumpling in prepared steamer and cover with plastic wrap.
Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Work relatively quickly to keep edges of wrappers from drying out while you work.
Remove plastic wrap. Place steamer over a large skillet of rapidly boiling water, making sure water doesn’t touch steamer, and cover. Steam dumplings 8 minutes (10 if frozen). Serve directly from steamer with reserved dipping sauce alongside.
Do Ahead: Make and freeze dumplings 1 month ahead. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets that have been coated with nonstick spray. Cover with plastic wrap lightly coated with nonstick spray and freeze solid. Transfer to resealable plastic freezer bags. Steam directly from freezer.
Life list item achieved – Best dim Sum in San Francisco