Monday, April 13, 2009

Gertrude Hawk Smidgens.

Now, I know that I moved so far away from my family of my own choice, so it is unfair of me to whine about it, yet that doesn't change the fact that I really want to most of the time, particularly around holidays. It is hard, for instance, to hear all of my co-workers over the weekend talking about having Easter dinners with their family as if it was no big deal/almost annoying, when I of course would lovelovelove to have had Easter dinner with my family. Living far from Pennsylvania means I don't get to meet my siblings' new significant others, or see my cousin's kids growing up, or listen to my aunt's political ramblings, or hang out with my awesome cousins, and a whole variety of other things. But, there are just a few good things about the distance. One being that it makes you appreciate all of those things much more. The other, of course, is getting packages from your mommy.

I received one last week and bless my mom, it was filled with Gertrude Hawk Smidgens for Easter! Gertrude Hawk is a chocolate company based out of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, with stores only in the PA/New York/New Jersey area. However, growing up, I had no idea about this and thought people could get Smidgens everywhere around the nation. How tragic it was to learn I was wrong, because Smidgens are DELICIOUS. They're just little chocolates filled with caramel or peanut butter, and there are probably more varieties but caramel or peanut butter are the only ones that matter because they are obviously the best. At Easter the Smidgens are shaped like bunnies and at Christmas they're shaped like little Santas, and being that Christmas always somehow evokes the strongest memories, I remember eating so many of those little chocolate Santas at my grandma's house every Christmas Eve. The bunnies, though, are good too.

Kathy often likes to remind me of the one and only time I spent some time around Christmas in North Carolina with her family, and brought her parents two boxes of Smidgens as a gift. Which I then proceeded to eat almost all of over the few days I was in their house. I don't think her parents hold it against me, but I swear I am usually not that bad of a gift giver. Lesson learned: I cannot be trusted to give food as gifts. Especially when it's Gertrude Hawk Smidgens.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gossip Girl.

This is the best guilty pleasure I have ever had. We just finished the first season on DVD and I cannot tell you how much I loved it. There's sex, there's drugs, there's lots of bitchiness, lots of really bad parenting, fashion, really attractive people, and class wars! What else do you need? This show is excellent at creating characters you really, really hate one moment and really, really like the next. I tend to enjoy characters such as these - if they evoke such strong feelings of dislike/like on a consistent basis, the writers must be doing something right. The show is also completely made by Kristen Bell's voiceovers as Gossip Girl, in which she always says really ridiculous things, and which said by anyone else would make the whole show silly and ridiculous (okay, it's those things anyway) but said by her, just makes it amazing. Her sassiness and the smart, sharp writing brings a little bit of Veronica Mars back into my life, a show which is on my list of Shows Which Were Much Beloved by Critics and Zealous Fans Yet Were Inexplicably Cancelled, and I can always use a little bit of Veronica Mars in my life. Except as opposed to Veronica Mars, which was very California, Gossip Girl takes place on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I feel this is also an important key to the show; NYC makes it more gritty and fascinating somehow, whereas if all this upper class bitchiness were happening in Beverly Hills it would probably just be somewhat typical and boring. I found the sequence of events in the last episode of the first season exceedingly frustrating, just as I found Jenny's storyline throughout most of the season exceedingly frustrating, but that is, of course, how they reel you in. Curse you, Gossip Girl, I need to know what happens next!

You know you love me.
Gossip Girl.

(This makes us giggle everytime.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

One Shining Moment.


2) We played against Michigan State in Detroit, who was a number 2 seed who had previously beat two 1 seeds in a row to make it to the national championship game, and about whom there was much fanfare about being a 'team of destiny' and how wonderful it was to give the city of Detroit, much beleagured by our current economy, something to be excited about. This obviously made me feel somewhat bad to root against, being that I love a good uplifting underdog story such as that, but much more than that I increasingly felt as the game progressed that the whole media uproar about it put unfair pressure on the Michigan State team, that it was their duty to uplift a whole region of the country. It made me feel bad for them. But,

3) Really Carolina has been the team of destiny, ever since Tyler Hansbrough was a freshman, since we lost to Georgetown two years ago, since we had that absolutely devastating loss to Kansas last year in the Final Four, which almost made me stomp out of the room and turn off the TV, ever since Hansbrough and Green and Lawson and Ellington and everyone came back for this year when they could have made millions going to the NBA, JUST for this moment, & they achieved it, and deserved it. We almost started bawling with one minute left when all the scrubs came in and got to play in a championship game and Hansbrough attacked all the people on the bench with his mouth-wide-open happiness.

4) My absolute favorite thing about March Madness is One Shining Moment, the musical collage played at the end of every national championship game. Apparently the person whose idea it was to include this as part of the tradition died this year, which also made me cry a lot. But it's performed by Luther Vandross and is pretty much the cheesiest song you have ever heard but that is what makes it so great. They play it to a clipshow of a bunch of the tournament's overall good plays/moments and from the first cheesy brass notes in the beginning it makes me cry and it is just REALLY GREAT. So you can hear it yourself, this is 2005's, the last time UNC won the championship. Man it is so cheesy! And so good!

The ball is tipped
and there you are
you're running for your life
you're a shooting star..

And when it's done
win or lose
you always did your best
'cause inside you knew...
In one shining moment, you reached down inside
In one shining moment, you knew you were alive

Feel the beat of your heart
feel the wind in your face
it's more than a contest
it's more than a race...

In one shining moment, you reached for the sky
In one shining moment, you were willing to try
One shining moment...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Cat's Meow.

The Cat's Meow is going out of business and we are devastated. When we came to visit Zoe way back when and walked down Hawthorne for the first time, it was one of the first stores we went into, and it remains one of our favorite stores in Portland. Who wouldn't want to go into a store completely full of crap for/about cats? There was some good stuff in there, including two really fluffy cats whose picture I actually saw in the paper today in an article about it, where I learned they're sisters, Sterling & Willow. They were cute. And really fluffy. A large majority of the things in the store were useless crap - cat tshirts, cat mugs, cat ornaments, cat pillows, etc but it was fun crap. And stores full of useless but fun crap are what make America great. The Cat's Meow was a landmark of Portland to me, and it's just one of a number of small business on Hawthorne which have shut down just in the two years I've been here, largely due to increasing rent on the ever-hip and popular street. Like that deli across the street from the Cat's Meow where I had one super delicious sandwich, which is now replaced by another chain store. I mean, I love going to the Coldstone Creamery on Hawthorne, but I could also go to Coldstone Creamery at a hundred other locations. The Cat's Meow? Only on Hawthorne.

I know there are complex things going on with the economy which I will never be able to understand, no matter how much I read about it. Stocks, huge insurance companies on Wall Street, bailouts, etc...but to me, stores like this shutting down after 23 years stinks the most. There's probably a more eloquent way to say that, but for now, I'm sticking with that. It really, really stinks.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Early signs of spring: daffodils and hyacinths.

I grew up around a master-of-a-gardener mother, and since moving to Oregon, I have been doing my best to make her proud. Well, okay. We rent an apartment in a triplex with a little area to garden, and also recently my budget doesn't even include hardly enough money for food and bills. So as much as I'd really love to go to the lovely gardening center which taunts me by being almost directly across the street from us, and spend lots of money on bulbs and shrubs and seeds, I really can't at the moment. So essentially - we do what we can. But we had some mild successes last year, from tulips to sunflowers to tomatoes, which was pretty remarkable to us after five years of living either in dorms or apartment buildings in Boston which didn't grant us even a thought of planting our own flowers. Like, in the ground, in dirt, where we lived. Weird concept.

As spring slowly (very, very slowly) creeps around the corner, I am feeling ever optimistic about our second growing season here in Southeast Portland, and already have been surprised by rewards such as these daffodils and hyacinths. I planted both last year, and being that they are perennials, here's the thing: they just came up again this year! Without me doing a thing! One morning I woke up after months of reading books inside and there were green shoots coming out of the ground! I don't know about you, but I think this is pretty amazing. It makes me wonder why people go through the hassle of planting annuals at all. Although I know that you can presumably save their seeds and re-plant them the next year so that they, too, can be remarkably sustainable. But still. Perennials, man. I am hooked on this gardening thing.

A note about hyacinths: They are really pretty (although this picture above isn't the greatest), but all of mine seem to droop over on their sides as soon as they get enough blooms to look full and bright, which leaves them/my little gardening space in the back looking overall kind of goofy. I'm not sure if there is a way to remedy this.
A note about daffodils: They are everywhere here. Holy crap. I mean maybe they are everywhere well, everywhere, being that they are seemingly easy to grow in most temperate climates, but when we walk Toby in the mornings around our neighborhood it's almost overwhelming, all that yellow. Even Powell, our not-necessarily-so-glamorous main street near our apartment, looks freshened up by rows of them. Which Toby, as much as we try to pull him away, loves to pee and poop on. I'm sorry, daffodils on Powell. We hope you can forgive us.