Friday, September 30, 2011

The Queens Kickshaw.

Truth: I have been incredibly busy since getting back from vacation earlier this month. At first it was just a really stupid busy where I was working almost every hour of the day until 2/3 AM every night. It's progressed into a busy where I'm actually getting a lot of worthwhile things done that I'm feeling really good about in regards to my professional future and my life in general. That really boring sentence over with, even with all that, I still have yet to recover enough time for myself to do things like blog, and this makes me really emotionally angsty in the most loser-ish of ways. Especially when I have so many things I want to write about! But I don't have enough time to write a really well thought out entry! So I'm going to start where I can--with grilled cheese! 

I alluded to this vacation we took being somewhat of a Big Deal in my last entry, and while pretty much all of it was extremely important and wonderful and Big Deal-ish, the portion that in the end has been the most momentous in a way was our time in New York. We did so many amazing things and hung out with so many amazing people in the brief time we were there, but strangely, the overall feeling I had about everything seems wrapped up in a grilled cheese sandwich in Queens. 

This grilled cheese is from The Queens Kickshaw, located in Astoria at Broadway and Steinway, off the Broadway stop on the E, M or R. Our friend Stacy had recommended it (since it almost hides on the street, otherwise we never would have found it) and we stopped by after visiting the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image. It was actually a somewhat strange mid-afternoon time and we'd already had lunch, but we really can never say no to the prospect of a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. So we just got one sandwich to share, which was the gouda.

The gouda was what Stacy recommended, and in addition to the gouda, it had black bean hummus, guava jam, and pickled jalapenos. AND IT WAS SO GOOD WE KEPT DREAMING ABOUT IT AND TALKING ABOUT IT FOR DAYS AFTERWARDS. I feel like this is the kind of hyperbolic statement I would make about something I really liked, but this time it's actually true--we literally couldn't stop talking  and thinking about it. The bread was perfect and crunchy while still being a little soft but without being too greasy. The too-greasy factor can really ruin a good grilled cheese. I mean, when you're making a nice and greasy grilled cheese for yourself at home to go with some Campbell's tomato soup that's another story, but when you're paying almost ten buckaroos for a grilled cheese, you want that bread to be perfect. And it was. And something about the guava jam that gave it a little punch of sweetness...bam. Beautiful. Looking at their menu, they have a blue cheese one that, just based on the gouda one, makes me almost drool in delicious anticipation of how good THAT would be all up in here in my mouth. So, you know. Obviously, we have to go back.

Oh, and they also have delicious local beer. Which, as you should know by now, is always a draw for Kathy and I. After a few years of living in Oregon, it's basically like the need for delicious local beer runs in your bloodstream, and I was excited to get to try out some good NYC stuff for the first time. The price difference for good beer in Portland and in NYC is still a little painful (meaning, $6 for a glass is "cheap"), but we were grudgingly adjusting to it.

A trip to New York, while exciting, always carries a certain amount of stress, too. Aside from simply being one of the most intense cities in the world to be in, we know so many people living in the city now that we had almost over-packed our schedule with friends we wanted to see and things that we wanted to do. There were confusing subway stations to navigate, time frames to work out, budgets which were quickly being destroyed by those NYC prices I just mentioned, and there were definitely moments of, oh my God, this place is exhausting. 

But I loved the vibe of the Queens Kickshaw as soon as we got there, and we both actually just loved the vibe of Queens itself. The girl working the counter was a definite Cool New York Person with a Cool New York Haircut and Cool New York Clothes, but she was also overwhelmingly nice and laughed at my jokes about being poor, and it felt distinctly less annoying and homier than going to a similar place in Williamsburg in Brooklyn (Where the Hipsters Go). As we sat eating our grilled cheese and drinking our beer in a  New York neighborhood where we felt Real People actually lived--not just the hipsters, not just the fancy businesspeople of Manhattan, but an authentic cacophony of Real People--for one of the first times since we'd been there, I felt every bone in my body relax and just felt genuinely, truly happy.

So next time, alluring blue cheese sandwich, and/or gouda which I may have to just get again--it's you and me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

That ridiculously awesome vacation we just went on.

Most of the time, by the time you finish a long vacation, you are sad to see it go but also secretly happy to return to home. Because let's be honest, vacation can be exhausting most of the time. A good kind, but still exhausting, and distance makes your heart grow fond of the little things that make up your boring regular life. There is a little piece inside of you that sighs a happy sigh once you set your suitcase down in your bedroom and you can say, Ah, yes. This is my life. That is my bed. And I am glad.

However, this last vacation to the East Coast Kathy and I just returned from was so awesome that I haven't felt that feeling to the extent that I normally do. I, in fact, literally did not want to leave and felt ambivalent at best about returning to Portland. I am fully aware of my ability to over-sentimentalize things immediately once they're gone, but still, I want to take the time to let things from this vacation really settle in to my head. This vacation was so big that I really want to say big dramatic things about it like, "This trip changed everything." But that would be dramatic! 

In any case, I have been dealing with my return to Oregon life in somewhat manic-depressive fits and starts since we've been back. But I think a lot of it follows a pretty normal post-vacation pattern for me. And hence, I thought I would share:

Jill's Guide to Awesome-Vacation-Withdrawal*

* This just means I'm going to tell you about my week.

Day One:
  • You have been spending so much money while on vacation on eating out that you actually feel excited to make food for yourself at home. You then realize that you have no food. You then realize that you have no money to go to the grocery store because you spent all of it on eating out when you were on vacation. Damnit.
  • So excited to be with your animals! Although half of them are acting kind of stand-off-ish. Give them time, they'll come around. I mean what did you expect? You left them for nine days, AND you just moved around some furniture and moved their litter box, all at once, you asshole. Also, Toby is an old man and just woke up from what was probably a ten hour nap when you walked in the door, so he's a little confused, okay.
  • All of the bills you need to pay and pretty much all of the money for everything that you need, which you don't have, which you have been ignoring for nine days, comes crashing down on you. This feels crappy. In fact crappy really doesn't even begin to cover it, let's be honest here.
  • HOWEVER, in the time away from home, and during all that time you were stuck in that airplane, you have had some serious time to get back to who you are and who you want to be. You have made resolutions in your head of things you want to do with your life and how you're going to be better at certain things and really just BE BETTER. RAH RAH YAY!
  • The utmost most important thing in life is uploading pictures from your camera onto your computer and then onto Facebook. This is a kind of big task, since you took almost 500 pictures, but going through them is important because it makes you feel like you are still on vacation.
  • While you feel somewhat discombobulated as you get around your new/old town, the first ten seconds of driving your own car feels AWESOME, and you feel like your car is better than all the other cars. The first ten seconds of riding your bike again also feels as fun as a carnival ride.
Day Two:
  • You return to work. You feel kind of pumped about stuff for the first few hours, because you have not been there in nine days. After four hours, however, you remember that work in fact just makes you tired. You attempt to tell some excited-about-my-vacation stories to co-workers, before you realize that they don't really care.
  • After those first four hours, you start having a slight existential crisis about why you're not further professionally in your life when all of the friends and family you just saw on the East Coast all seem to have their shit together more than you do and are all doing cool things and making way more money while they do the cool things. Why are you not more motivated to be a real person? Let's be honest, you know you should be trying harder in the education sphere than you are. Are you just scared? I mean, you are actually pretty content doing what you're doing, but in your heart of hearts you know what you really want to be doing is somehow working with books. Why are you not working with books? 
  • You unpack most of your suitcase but don't have the energy to take all the crap out of the closet to fit it back in there again. Don't worry, it'll sit in your bedroom for at least a week. Feel depressed about all the laundry you suddenly have to do.
  • Realize that after nine days of being together at all times, you and your girlfriend are back to working opposite schedules and hardly ever seeing each other. Feel that this is really, really stupid.
  • People comment funny things on your funny Facebook photos! Haha, it's like we're still there.
  • Girlfriend reads a local newspaper while waiting to get her hair cut and alerts you to an awesome-looking Gay & Lesbian Film Festival coming up soon, among other awesome things that are happening in town, and you start to remember, hey, we do live in a pretty cool place. Start to think about going to Seattle soon. Start moving more towards living in the near future instead of the near past. Slowly, slowly start to feel more Pacific Northwest-y.
  • And anyway, the beer is cheaper here.
Day Three:
  • One full day of productivity has suddenly exhausted you. In the morning, before you have to go to work in the afternoon, you have a whole bunch of work to do. (Oh! I should maybe explain that I currently have three or four jobs, whatever.) You have deadlines. But you feel sleepy and weird and out-of-it, and after sitting at the computer for awhile, you simply can't do it. You lay down. You cuddle with your cats. You read a book. You feel better. But only better in the laying-motionless-in-bed kind of way, which is never really the best kind of better. You normally feel better when you actually get up. When you do get up, all you want to do is eat a box of mac & cheese, which you do.
  • You think about how you wish you had time to blog because there are lots of things you want to blog about. Feel depressed that you will probably only ever blog about a quarter of them.
  • You then take a shower, which actually does help you feel better.
  • Work is busy and goes fast. Your existential crisis has subsided a little. Calm down, man: you are doing fine.
  • All those resolutions you made for yourself on the plane are already starting to fade away, to be replaced by mundane things that are already starting to pile up in your brain like wanting to just clip all those dead roses off your rose bush and finally finish the book you've been reading for two months. RAH RAH--eh.
  • Also, all of a sudden, it is fall. It is gray and rainy and chilly outside, people are busting out cute sweaters and feeling excited about pumpkin-related stuff. You feel slightly bitter about this because  it makes you want to cuddle but you do not have time to cuddle. Okay, so you cuddled with your cats just this morning, but that was actually really irresponsible. Fall is your favorite season but you haven't had time to adjust to it and really feel it yet but everyone else apparently has and you feel kind of pissed off about it.
  • You feel excited about TV shows coming back even though you don't really have time to watch any of them.
Day Four:
  • Stop feeling one way or the other about work. It's just like, you're there. Whatever.
  • However, you work with a co-worker who is rather fun and who knows some stuff about the East Coast and at least appears to want to hear some of your stories. So you tell a whole bunch of them, even though you feel slightly annoying as you always do when you start talking a lot!
  • You remember how much you like the radio stations here.
  • You have been staying up late and working pretty much all hours of the day and are feeling really exhausted and pretty awful and sometimes it feels like your brain stops working. But you know you have a few days off coming up and things will be better then.
  • You feel happy that you still have more pictures to post on Facebook. And did you already mention you get to go to Seattle soon?
  • Instead of working on a thing that has a deadline of like really soon, you make a weird blog post that was meant to be funny in your head, but instead just came out kind of weird. You blame it on the copious amounts of Adele you listened to at the beginning of writing it.
Better posts about fun things, not written while exhausted and drinking beer, will hopefully be written soon! Love to all the people we got to see on our vacation, and love to the people we didn't. I hope to see ALL of you again, soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September Goals.

By the time we get back from the trip we're taking to the East Coast this week, it'll be halfway through September already. And lord knows I won't be practicing most of these goals while we're hanging out with peeps in New York, Connecticut, and Boston, so most of these goals will just apply from the 15th through the end of the month. So I better be productive once we get back to PDX!

+ Not go TOO over-budget on vacation. Get to hang out with everyone we want to see!

+ Get back on the Spanish train, hardcore. Do something involving Spanish practice EVERY DAY, even if that involves just opening up one of my books and reading a few words in espanol for five seconds.

+ I feel like I was only a half-assed PDX biker in August, so I want to get more disciplined this month. So: I'm only allowed to drive to work ONCE a week, every other day I should be biking. And each week I go to the library to volunteer, I should either be biking or taking the bus.

+ Save $1,000 towards the wedding. This is a big goal, and will probably require me to be a transcribing fiend once we get back. Also, do all those wedding things I said I'd do last month: website, save the dates, dress stuff, etc. Also, after visiting Boston--get our ceremony site nailed down.

+ Stretch more. Once a day.

+ Be better with what I shove in my face at work. This will probably be the hardest one of all because my tolerance to say no to things when it comes to food and drink is at a real big low. Working at Starbucks is not necessarily the best thing health wise. This is pretty much what happens on a daily basis: Oh hey, that lemon pound cake looks real good. LET'S BREAK IT AND EAT IT. Oh hey, this frappuccino I just made actually looks really good, let's pour the leftover dregs from the blender pitcher into a sample cup and pour it down my throat (ten times a shift). The Target where my Starbucks is also just went through a remodel where they got a bunch more food stuff, and accordingly they always have a bunch of new food items sampled out for employees in the back room. So anytime I go to the back room, this happens: OH HEY COOKIES! GIMME GIMME GIMME! I also, even though this never happened during the three years I worked for Starbucks in undergrad, think I'm starting to be addicted to coffee. Which is weird, for me. I am really not one for diets or anything, but basically what I'm saying is, Target is going to kill me.

Anyway, long boring story short, here are the actual goals: I can only drink water or unsweetened iced tea during my shifts. No bringing expired pastries home. Bring and eat own snacks on breaks. Keep frappuccino sampling to the bare minimum.

+ Read three children's/young adult books.

+ Start planning something fun for both my birthday in October and our anniversary in November.

+ Go see the swifts! For maybe the last time. :\

+ Hopefully get to hang out with Kim & Cliff when they move back to Oregon!

+ Make three new meals.

August Goals: Review.

+ Mark a big item off of my bucket list: participate in the Portland Bridge Pedal.
I did, and I even blogged about it! Whoa!

+ Buy new things (jeans, bras, shoes) that I need to replace old things that are all hole-y, falling apart, stinky, and embarrassing. Basically.
Shockingly, yes to the jeans and bras, no to the shoes. In fact, before we went shopping, Kathy and I spent a while trying to figure out our actual bra size. These are the kinds of things you get to do in a lesbian relationship! Don't be jealous. I still desperately need any kind of sneaker, but it just wasn't in the budget this month.

+ To congratulate myself when my final class is done, I plan to..dun dun dun...BUY MYSELF A BOOKSHELF! YAYYYY NERD
Ellie donated her old one to us since she's moving! I am PUMPED! So, sad about Ellie moving, obviously, but pumped about the free bookshelf. I would post a picture but it's not all set up yet, tragically.

+ WEDDING GOALS: This month, I/we will: make a wedding website, send dress ideas to my mom, actually email that wedding planner chick Marriott provides us with, and order Save the Dates.
What a wedding fail! The only thing I did was email the wedding planner. Which took two seconds. What a wedding loser! I want to make our own funky website instead of using one of the boring stock ones everyone uses, but then I set high expectations for myself and then I never actually have time to accomplish them.

+ Take the Toyota to the shop. I have been dreading this, but it has to happen.
Again, not in the budget, at all. And the car's been working fine, it's just still worrisome, and still has to happen at some point this fall.

The car.
The Toyota, hanging out in Wyoming.

+ AND THEN, once we know the car is a-okay, take Toby on a yurting trip to the coast! Yayyyyy!
Booooo! Didn't happen, obviously.

We'll take you camping one day, buddy!
+ ALSO: take my bike to a bike shop to fix the shifting gears problem it's been having, so I can stop having to grit my teeth and mutter crazily to myself, "Jesus, even my BIKE doesn't work!" 
I took it to the shop and they looked at it quickly without charging me (again, yay free!) and adjusted it ever so slightly and basically said everything looked fine. Kathy also de-greased my chains before the Bridge Pedal for me. And after doing some reading, I think part of the problem probably also has to do with how I shift, so I'm trying to be better with that. Overall, while I think it still shifts kind of funky sometimes, I feel good knowing that any big problem was basically all in my head. Yay for being crazy!

+ Finish The Omnivore's Dilemma. Start Shame of the Nation.
OKAY GOD I AM EMBARRASED OKAY. I feel like I've been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma for my entire life (if my entire life were a month and a half) and I'm still not done, although I am very close to the end. I've decided to wait on Shame of the Nation for a little while because there are so many fiction books I want to partake in for now.

+ Go berry picking at Sauvie Island.
We didn't go berry picking at Sauvie Island, but we DID go blackberry picking along the Springwater Trail with Scott and Kelly. This was free and gave us an abundant amount of blackberries. And we got to hang out with two of my favorite dogs, ever. So, win!

+ Call some good peeps I haven't called in way too long. This list of peeps could be potentially long, but I'm narrowing it down just for now to: Allie, Zoe, and Sam.
Feel pretty ashamed to say I failed at this one. I talked to Sam the other day on her birthday, which was technically September, and I left Zoe a voicemail on her birthday; never called Allie. Thank goodness we get to hang out with Allie in person soon!

 + Cut down on beer. :\
I didn't make any specific goals or routines for this one, but in general, I think I did. If anything just because we realized it's not really in our budget to always have a six-pack of microbrews in the fridge. Devastatingly.

Uncle Chip at the beer festival last month. Hard to say no to that face.
+ Get our trip to the great Northeast for Greg and Andrea's wedding in September all purchased and finalized.
Yes! Leaving on Tuesday! Have very little time to get stuff done before then! FREAKING OUT! My internal dialogue for the last week: STRESS STRESS EXCITEMENT STRESS.

+ Hopefully, kick ass at my second interview at Campfire.
I knew making this goal would be embarrassing by the end of the month. I was nervous as hell and think I did okay but not necessarily up to "kick ass" type of level, and I didn't get the position. They did offer me a substitute position with them however, so hopefully I may still be able to see some Lane kids once in a while this upcoming school year. Which would be nice, since as we've plunged into the back-to-school season, I've found myself having some serious and unexpected heart-pangs for them and the classroom. I just want to know how they're doing. :\

+ Make FOUR new meals.
Yeah! This was actually a pretty good cooking month.

#1: Kung pao chicken. This recipe was real good, but the prep work was such a pain in the ass for me. This is especially ridiculous because we live near a pretty big Asian population center of PDX, and are surrounded by little Asian markets, but yet it was an adventure trying to find a bottle of sambal. (Embarrassingly ended up finding it at my Target, of all places.) And then when I thought I was all prepared to finally make it, I confused rice wine (which I didn't have) for rice vinegar (which I do have). So then I had to go out and find rice wine, where I was informed by the kind Asian ladies at the market that there are different kinds of rice wine, for cooking and drinking. Dumb white girl, right here! Anyway, so I now have a big ol' bottle of cooking rice wine in my fridge that I may or may not ever use again. I believe this is what one would term a "first world problem."

#2: Summer vegetable tian. I had never heard of a tian before. This month was full of learning experiences! This was an exceedingly simple but delicious recipe: slice up some vegetables, rest them on top of some chopped onions and garlic, sprinkle with herbs and cheese, bake. The best part was that everything except the cheese in this recipe was essentially healthy good for you stuff, but it still tasted REALLY GOOD. Like, sometimes when I make healthy recipes I pretend that they taste better than they actually do. But this actually tasted great, and filled up both Kathy and I, which I also didn't expect. My vegetables didn't fill a whole pan though, and I also felt somewhat guilty because even though this was supposed to utilize in-season "summer vegetables," squash definitely aren't in season in August, at least in the Northwest. So these squash were from Mexico, I think. (Sorry, sustainable food movement!) But seriously, let's talk about how squash is THE BEST.

#3: Dutch potatoes. Okay, I don't know if this actually counts as a "meal," since it's basically just mashed potatoes with carrots. But it made a good lunch. And I'm pretty much just always proud when I make myself something to eat that isn't mac & cheese. True fact.

#4: Skillet lasagna. So Kathy said this was one of the "best things I've ever made," and I'd have to agree--probably because it's one of those Joy-of-Cooking, comfort-food type of meals where almost everything in it is bad for you. Yay! The only redeeming thing in it was the spinach. But this is basically just all the stuff that's in lasagna, mixed up in the skillet and served sloppy. (And I used egg noodles instead of lasagna noodles as she suggested which worked out great.) Reasons why this is better than lasagne: 1) you don't have to do all the annoying layering and then all the time baking, 2) I hate when you try to cut through lasagne and all the filling farts out. Right? This meal, on the other hand, is all gooey and cheesy and meat-y and delicious. And another big factor to the winning meal was the sausage we got from New Seasons, which was SO GOOD.

I also made a fifth meal, pizzadillas, which I made whilst we watched the VMAs, and somehow in the excitement of all the horrible and painful awkwardness that is the VMAs, I forgot to take any pictures. Curses! But they were also relatively easy, and delicious. And the recipe for the pizza dipping sauce made a TON of sauce, which I froze and will hopefully use on an actual home-made pizza. I've never made a home-made pizza before, but I know it won't be as good as all the pizzas Ellie & Matt have made us throughout the past few years. We'll miss you guys (and your pizzas).