Tuesday, July 29, 2014

MJ&K Explore PDX 2014: June & July.

Since last updating da blog back in June, I was really hoping to write more posts other than JUST documenting the food that Manda, Kathy, and I have eaten. BUT THEN, this summer went and blew up in my face. IT BLEW RIGHT UP, I TELL YOU, making focusing on non-essential real-life things very hard. In fact, I should very much not even be writing this, because I have so much other adulting I should be doing like, right now. But whatever. Sometimes you just have to write about the food you ate.

June: The Grilled Cheese Grill Double-Decker Bus!; SE 28th

Holy crap, was this one of the most Portland-y experiences I've had in a while. (Which is not a negative statement, by the way!) The Grilled Cheese Grill is a thing I've wanted to visit forevah, because hello, who wouldn't want to eat grilled cheese on a school bus-turned-restaurant? While the original is on Alberta, we opted to visit a closer-to-us location off of Burnside and 28th, where there is a DOUBLE DECKER GRILLED CHEESE BUS. To be clear, they actually make the grilled cheeses in a separate, actual-food-cart type space, and you just have the option of eating it on the bus. BUT WHY WOULDN'T YOU EAT IT ON THE BUS.

The front of said double decker grilled cheese bus.
There are so many reasons to like this place before you even eat there, starting with their website, where they list these reasons as why you should, in fact, eat there:
  1. With a full menu of cheeses, breads, and other good stuff, we make sandwiches that range from Saturday morning cartoon worthy, all the way up to Jeopardy-level sophisticated. We're just that versatile.
  2. It's an anecdotally-proven fact that food always tastes better when somebody else makes it, and usually even better if Mom made it.  Well if you can't get your mom to make you a grilled cheese right now, we'll be your mom.  A couple of bearded dudes in a food cart will be your mom.  
 3. You know you don't feel like cooking anyway.
UGH, I really don't! Thank you, beard dude moms!

The double decker is very much a legit old bus that shakes when people move around in it, and while you can eat on the first or second floor, if you want to eat on the second floor, there are some pluses and minuses. Plus: You can stare at people down below you from UP HIGH, which is always SUPER FUN.

So here, you just see bikes, but you get the idea.
As you can see in this picture, the tables are also covered in hee-larious childhood photos of what I'm pretty sure are the owners, possibly plus some other poor souls they immortalized underneath heavy plastic. Big plus! Also, to keep track of orders, you get assigned some random celebrity face on a stick. We got Mr. T. Meaning that when our grilled cheeses were ready, they called "Mr. T!" out through a loudspeaker into the bus and across the whole food cart pod. Pretty special.

Minuses of sitting on the top of the double decker bus: If you want a space where you can stand up fully, this is NOT THE SPACE FOR YOU. Here is a photo of Manda and Kathy, sitting, with the roof directly over their heads, looking happy and sexy:

Now here is a photo of me, standing closer to the stairs where you can actually stand straight up, but still suddenly having an anxiety attack over the small space, saying, we have to go, we have to go, we have to go right now. I become increasingly claustrophobic as time goes by these days, because oh god getting older is so weird:

Anyway, it's amazing I've talked this long without actually mentioning the food, isn't it? THE FOOD WAS GOOD! How could it not be! It's grilled cheese!

I got The Kelsey with ham, which includes Tillamook cheddar and basil pesto. Pesto + ham + cheese = YEP.

Kathy got the BLT GC, and Manda got The Gabby, which is a grilled cheese with ALL THE CHEESES, plus bacon! In addition to these fancy-ish grilled cheeses, you can get "The Cheesus," which is a cheeseburger squeezed between two grilled cheese sandwiches in lieu of a regular bun. Haha. Hahahahaha. God bless America.

I also really want to return if just to try their dessert grilled cheese concoctions. Dessert grilled cheese!

July: Gold Dust Meridian; Hawthorne

Okay, so this one wasn't completely, completely new to all three of us, because I had been there before, a long long time ago, when my cousin Meg lived here (*wipes away tear about recent return to the Coast of the East*) and had a genius tradition called Cocktail Club. I went to a Cocktail Club meeting once here, and arrived very late, and maybe, if anything, had a single beer. So let's be honest, it doesn't really count.

However, Manda and Kathy had never been, and when, on the fly, we decided to get celebratory drinks last night, I recalled that this bar had good looking drinks and a long lasting happy hour, so we went. We also got food--I had deviled eggs and a barbecue chicken flatbread pizza thing--and they were both really good. But I didn't take any photos of the food, I think because I was too busy being mesmerized by how pretty the drinks were.

We were celebrating because I got a job, a job I've wanted for a long time, and one that might sort of change our lives a lot for the better, and one that I am simultaneously thrilled and scared as hell about. I have a month before I actually start to let the reality of it sink in, and maybe eventually I'll be writing about it.

Anyway, in less vague and dramatic terms, the job is at a public school, which means I will probably have to start being slightly more careful about what I publish online. Which bums me out on the one hand but I know it will probably make my life easier on the other. Dear parents or administrators who may Google me and find lots of profanity in things I've published on the Interwebs and that I can't take back: I'm a very nice person, I swear, and I care about your students very deeply.

I WILL, however, never stop writing about food. Just with less cursing...I guess. (Or maybe I could just make up words to take the place of Bad Words I Want to Use When I Am Really Really Excited or Alternately Really Really Angry About Something. Like a-bing-bang-boom! Or gosh-golly-gossamer! Or coswallop-ahoy! I don't know. I'll work on it.) 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

MJ&K Explore PDX 2014: January-May.

First of all, let's have a little talk about 2014 thus far, and why I haven't (really) written anything in this here blog since January. And even the posts I made in January were all about summarizing 2013, so essentially, we can all agree that 2014 has been non-existent on this blog thus far. 2014 has been blog-ily invisible. It has been unblogged. It is a blog-able ghost. It has been--okay, you get it.

The reason for that isn't because I don't want to have a personal blog anymore, or because I have run out of things that I, Jill, like (puh-lease), but because since almost the moment 2014 started, I have been working really hard at being a Real Adult Person trying to Make It in the World of Education. I know, being a Real Adult Person is the boringest, but for the most part it has been rewarding. And also very exhausting. And sometimes cynicism-inducing. Working with kids is hard. Through a combination of substituting and finishing work on a second endorsement/masters, almost every Monday through Friday I have been bouncing around between a variety of elementary, middle, and high schools. And I feel (mostly) good about what I've done.

The only downside of this is that, while I never lose the desire to write, I often lose the 1) time 2) headspace 3) strength to do it while rocking the Real Adult Person thing. (Well, I don't know if "rocking" is an adequate verb there. "Attempting," maybe.) But lately I've been craving a space to get back to myself and back to writing. I've still been writing for AfterEllen (and very occasionally, the Riots), but I want to get back to this--to the very exciting world of documenting the food I eat and the hikes I go on and the music I listen to and all the other shit I've been documenting for myself since I was 10.

So now that I've over-explained that, I can get to what this first-real-blog-post-of-2014 is actually about! *CHEERS FROM THE AUDIENCE*

2014 also marks the first full year that our best buddy Manda, recently imported from Connecticut, can officially call Oregon home. There are lots of pluses about having fresh faces in town; mainly, you get to see their faces! But also, they insert slightly fresher lenses into your eyeballs, inspiring you to see your familiar surroundings in a newer, more exciting way. So to make the most out of Manda being in Portland and all three of us being alive and mobile, we've made a pact to once a month either 1) eat at a new restaurant or food cart that none of us have been to before, or 2) do a new thing of some sort. We've stuck to it so far--obviously, mainly with the food thing--but I've been bad at documenting these new experiences as I hoped. It's kind of similar to how Kathy and I made a pact to visit (and document) one new food cart in PDX a month back in 2011, which we almost did for a whole year but then kind of puttered out on. But THIS TIME, we WILL NOT putter! We will have a whole year of new things! WE WILL!

So now let me shut up and start documenting the things.

January: PBJ's Grilled; Hawthorne

This is a peanut butter and jelly food cart. HOWEVER, just calling their sandwiches peanut butter and jelly is like calling the David a cool statue. In other words, these are some fancypants peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and not all of them have peanut butter, and not all of them have jelly, but most of them have some semblance of the gist of those things.

Kathy and Manda both had the hearty but messy Good Morning with egg, a hella intense breakfast sandwich, whereas I opted for the Oregonian. The Oregonian includes this seemingly strange variety of things stuffed between challah bread: hazelnut butter, Rogue Creamery blue cheese, and marionberry jam. Maybe this sounds as gross to you as it sounded to my dad when I tried to explain it to him. It also does not photograph particularly well! But it was dee-licious. And as Oregon is the nation's leading producer of hazelnuts and blackberries (of which the marionberry is an Oregon-specific type), very Oregonian indeed. (I don't think the Beaver State necessarily holds a monopoly over blue cheese, but we like it an awful lot.)

PBJ's has two locations, one of which is in the Cartopia food cart pod on the corner of 12th and Hawthorne, one of the oldest and most-established food cart pods on the East Side. But the news on the street is that the pod will soon be razed in favor of some type of overpriced apartment building. Because heaven knows, the one thing the East Side needs is LESS funky culture that drove people to the city in the first place, and MORE condos/overpriced apartments that are pricing everyone OUT of it! AMIRITE!

February: Little Big Burger; Division

Little Big Burger is a recent, rapidly-expanding Portland chain that takes on the In-N-Out philosophy of an exceedingly simple menu: cheeseburgers, fries, floats. And the bright red and white design scheme is appealing. Now, is this close to the thrill of In-N-Out? No, although I don't think it necessarily desires to be anyway; that was just a flawed comparison I pulled out of nowhere. BUT, is it a dang tasty burger for under $5? You bet your butt it is! My favorite thing about this place, actually, was that you could choose ANY cheese for your cheeseburger, including blue cheese, all at the same charge (a quarter). That's a heck of a deal! The bun is also delicious, and of course everything is local, yadda yadda, down to the ketchup. Solid.

March: Tortalandia!; Foster-Powell

Tortalandia is a Mexican restaurant I've been meaning to check out forever, because it's located in our hood, and we love supporting independent business in our hood. This is located right off of Foster, but is slightly hidden on a weird little corner of 60th. They specialize in margaritas and tortas (duh), which is a type of Mexican-style sandwich, although we actually went there for brunch. Brunch with margaritas. I'm pretty sure I got the chorizo con huevos, because I am drawn to any menu item that has chorizo almost as much as I am drawn to any menu item that has blue cheese. It was huge and I couldn't finish it, although this is maybe also due to the fact that we also got sweet potato fries and I got a fried cauliflower thing that was a special side of the day. It seems like they have lots of specials, and a lot of unique stuff that sets them apart from just a typical Mexican restaurant. The margaritas, also wonderful. The space itself is really interesting but neat--I think it used to be an old auto shop, or something of the sort. Anyway, this is in walking distance from me, and goddammit but I really want to walk there right now.

April: Cheese Bar; Belmont

I was really excited about this place, because HELLO. CHEESE. QUESO. FORMAGGIO. JOY. REASONS FOR LIVING. But I've decided that maybe places like this are only truly enjoyable if you are an actual cheese aficionado. And I am not. A cheese lover, yes. A food lover, yes. But will I ever actually be a foodie? Will I ever understand half the words on the menu at places like this, or know which cheese comes from which animal, or which cheese to pair with which beer? No. I will not.

That said, man, do I always love the stylish hunks of wood that meat and cheese plates are so often presented so beautifully on in the Northwest.

Other than cheese and meat plates, they also have a small food menu, and Kathy and Manda both got the mac and cheese, with they both reported to be somewhat underwhelming. But I got a sandwich that, even with my whining about the fanciness of the place, was really, really tasty. The things I recognize that were on it: pimento cheese and greens. The things that were on it that I do not understand, but that tasted good: mortadella? Giardiniera? And the bread was called Levain? It was good. The beer I got was good. But, we'll probably leave this one to the foodies.

May: El Cubo de Cuba; Hawthorne

Yet another food-cart-turned-brick-and-mortar success story, El Cubo de Cuba recently took over the adorable aquamarine storefront on Hawthorne that used to be a Taco del Mar. Both the decor and the food are full of color and flavor, yet I don't think I took any photos. Clearly there was something wrong with me that day. Anyway, the idea of Cuban food has haunted me ever since a particularly memorable hole in the wall Cuban restaurant in Miami that I visited with my dad when I was in middle school, where I had the best black bean soup and Cuban sandwich that I will probably ever have. This memory is both delicious and painful, because any time I've tried Cuban food since then, it's failed to live up to the hole in the wall restaurant in Miami. Which makes sense. A hole in the wall restaurant in Miami is like the pinnacle of Cuban food, the gold medal, the home run. But ugh, the disappointment that follows hitting the home run on your first go!

So I obviously had the Cuban sandwich here, which had been well-touted by reviewers, and it was good. It was very good. But here's what I really want with a Cuban sandwich. I want the pork to be sliced just as thinly as the ham (or as close to it as you can), and the cheese as melty and the bread as pressed but crispy as possible, so that it all just kind of melts together in your mouth. This, and other Cubans I've tried, have thick slabs of pork that fall out of the sandwich and necessitate more chewing and less melting-in-your-mouth-iness. And I know that the pork Cubo de Cuba uses is really good local pork! But sigh, I dunno.

On the plus side, though, there were PLANTAINS! So many plantains! Fuck I love plantains! Kathy and Manda and our friend Becky all got a variety of the bowls they offer, and I think when I go back I'll get one of those. And I have to go back because I didn't even get to try a mojito. Also, I need more plantains.

So that was January through May, and now that I've typed it all up, I'm proud of ourselves, and also really hungry. I'll try to post the rest of our adventures in shorter, more current updates. Because if anyone actually read all the way through this, well, thanks for loving me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yes, All Women. Including me.

Last week, a really complicated and horrifying mass murder occurred in Santa Barbara, and one of the things that came out of it is #YesAllWomen, a hashtag that was initially in response to the murderer's online women-hating manifesto.Women talked about personal experiences with violence and abuse they've had when they refused men in the past, and about the culture that allows these things to continue happening. It's swirled into its own feminist movement that's both unrelated and completely related to the murders in Santa Barbara. Mostly, it's become a safe space for women to talk about things, things that are painful and true. I have not seen one woman say anything bad about #YesAllWomen. I have seen a lot of men say a lot of bad things about it, and about the women who participate in it, such vitriol that I refrained from actively writing my own #YesAllWomen tweets because I just didn't have the strength for it that these women did. Because trolls end up taking up way more space in my brainwaves than they deserve.

And I wasn't going to write about it anywhere else, because everyone is writing about it, and I understand very well the fatigue that comes with reading about the same thing over and over. But then I also saw people complain that #YesAllWomen is just another wave of online activism that is meaningless and not actually what we should be focusing on in regards to the murders, and something about this swift and easy dismissal of so many women's painful, hard truths and emotions just changed something in me. So this is all an awkward build up to what I'm about to say.

I was sexually assaulted, once. Luckily, only once.

It shouldn't be surprising that I was. When you're in a crowded room, there's a good chance that half of the women with you have been sexually assaulted. It doesn't mean that there aren't men in the room who are hurting, too. All it means is that half of the women around you have been sexually assaulted. A lot of them will never talk about it.

I don't talk about it a lot because I don't think about it a lot, both because I was lucky enough that the violation of my body wasn't violent enough that I have to think about it everyday, and also because whenever my mind does flicker on it, it feels like mentally picking up a hot coal and I drop that shit like it's hot and move on to other subjects. But sometimes when I do think about it, I think about the fact that everyone in my writing class that semester in college knew about it but my family still doesn't. And how that's the way I want it, but is that weird? (It wasn't until I read Roxane Gay's post yesterday that I realized this might be common.)

I don't talk about it a lot because I still have a lot of shame attached to how the whole weird night went down. I have a lot of shame attached to the uncomfortable visit to Planned Parenthood the next day, sitting on the T surrounded by wonderful women who I will always be grateful for, but still wanting nothing more than to disappear. Because I think the small percentage of people who know about it feel bad and I don't want them to feel bad anymore because they're the only part I don't have shame about. Because the only people who did anything wrong stole my passport and live in another country now, so what's even the use? (I know, it sounds so scandalous. But it only feels weird and awful.) I felt a lot of shame and confusion for a long time as to what to even CALL it. WAS it sexual assault? (Yes. Yes. Absolutely.) I feel enough shame that I used the word "lucky" twice just now in describing it. I will feel shame and regret as soon as I publish this post.

The system that still fails me in making me feel shamed about how much I drank that night is the same system that failed Elliot Rodger and the people he murdered, that allowed him to post a violent and women-hating manifesto online and then have the police consider him a nice white boy later, that tells women they are worthless if they aren't loved and men they are worthless if they can't find a woman to sleep with them, and the hyper-sexualization of women in that statement alone, that shuts down the pain of men as unwanted and the pain of women as irrational, that is full of poor health care but lots of fire arms, that uses "lesbian" as the ultimate insult against a woman who speaks up for herself because the idea of a woman who doesn't need a man is the most threatening and repulsive idea some dudes can think of, that allows people to believe they have the right to talk about issues that aren't theirs. It's all the same system. You can selectively focus on what you want to in that system, but it's all part of the same sexist, violent, unstable machine.

But every time people are slaughtered, and we rally for health care, and we rally for gun control, nothing ever happens. Nothing ever fucking happens. But listening to the people speaking up in #YesAllWomen makes me feel better. Listening to Melissa Harris-Perry so brilliantly and bravely bringing almost every conversation at her table back to women's rights makes me feel better. Feminism makes me feel better. And at least that feels like something. And I think that's what a lot of "online activism" is about. Just making us feel a little fucking better.

Maybe the connection between Elliot Rodger and me feeling the need to talk about my sexual assault isn't clear to a lot of people. But a lot of women this weekend have felt the same exact thing.

So dismiss #YesAllWomen, if you want. Just be clear that when you do, you are dismissing me.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

10 Favorite Recipes of 2013.

I know everyone is moving on from 2013 lists and looking onwards into the new year and everything at this point, but apparently I just can't let go. There's still a lot of stuff I want to talk about, like pop culture and food. Let's start with food.

I've actually had the idea to make a list of my favorite recipes I made last year since December, to think about which ones I might like to remake in the future. And then when I looked for photos I'd taken of my food last year--something I've always been notorious for doing way too often--I actually couldn't find as many as I thought. So maybe Lesson Number One in doing this is that I actually didn't cook that as many new meals as I thought, or if I did I didn't document them, which has inspired me to GET ON THAT SHIT this year.

1) Spinach Feta Grilled Cheese: I almost never make more lunch-ish recipes like sandwiches or salads or basically anything that isn't a hearty casserole-ish dish that will produce leftovers. Because I'm A) lazy and B) poor, and it seems like all the work and ingredients that go into these simpler things isn't worth it. But I want to get better at some of the things I used to shy away from this year. Because these grilled cheeses were excellent. These types of things often also photograph WAY PRETTIER. Which has NOTHING to do with my desire to do more of it.

2) Apple Chicken Chili: Creamy, sweet and savory. Comfort food like whoa.

3) Chorizo Sweet Potato Chili: This seems like my greatest accomplishment this year, since I took this to a chili cook-off and WON, which was funny because it took hardly any time to make at all. I also substituted yams for the sweet potato because I couldn't find any good sweet potatoes at the store, and I feel like people looked at my "yam and chorizo" label next to my pot at the cook-off, next to all the other normalish chilis and were like, uhh, whut. Anyway, I feel like I've said this before somewhere, but the key really is to GET GOOD CHORIZO. Chorizo from the deli at New Seasons is the shit.

4) Chili Cornbread Skillet: 1) I didn't actually make this in a skillet because I don't own a skillet. I have learned that cooking is a never-ending list of new things you have to buy. IT'S ALL A ROUSE, I TELL YOU. Anyway, I baked this basically just like a casserole and it worked just fine. 2) I had a similar recipe to this I used to make that basically just combined a bunch of beans and cornbread and cheese, and it was always good because all those ingredients are good but it was always a little dry. Anyway, this recipe is a hundred percent better. That was a boring story, wasn't it. 3) This also marked the first time I actually made cornbread from scratch, as opposed to just making a box of Jiffy, and I think I did a pretty good job.

5) Corn and Bacon Pie: Corn and bacon pie. Duh. This was also one of the first times I made my own crust. I did a semi-decent job, emphasis on semi.

6) Sweet Chili Chicken Bowls: I bought a Crockpot this year and was real excited about it, but I have to say that most of the things I made in it were sort of disappointments. I clearly haven't found my slow cooker mojo yet--cooking in it can make things super tender, but it can also seep a lot of the flavor out. This recipe though was the best one by far. Probably because you can never go wrong with a recipe that includes the words "sweet chili."

7) BBQ Black Bean Pizzas: So simple but so good because BARBECUE SAUCE.

8) Curried Sweet Potato Quesadillas: I had some great times with sweet potatoes this fall, including these quesadillas. Thanks for the good times, sweet potatoes.

9) Mac & Cheese Shepherd's Pie: This is one of my new favorites that I've made twice this year since discovering it in the fall. I mean, mac and cheese + barbecue sauce = OKAY! This may or may not just be a fancy Hamburger Helper, but whatevs.

10) Mole Chicken + Sweet Potatoes: This was my first slow cooker recipe I tried, and to be honest, the chicken didn't actually taste that mole-ish: I would've added a lot more chocolate and spice, and wish the sauce was thicker. But it still tasted good, and what really made it good was the combo with the sweet potatoes, which I added some brown sugar to. A satisfying hearty meal, and being that it's probably the only recipe on here that didn't include wheat/flour or cheese, probably the healthiest one, too.

All right, so here we go, Jill: Cook more! Take more pictures of it! Learn new fancy cooking words and ingredients! Write more about eating! EAT!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Reading Recap 2013.

As I did last year, I'm going to post my stats from 2012 in italics next to the numbers for 2013, just for my own extremely nerdy comparison purposes!

Total Books Read: (54) 72. Although Goodreads originally had my count for 2013 at 58. And then halfway into doing this reading recap, I realized that a bunch of my books didn't have the "date read" set to anything, which is why it looked like I hardly ready any more books than last year, and why it also looked like I hadn't met my Goodreads 2013 Reading Goal when I TOTALLY HAD. My numbers from 2012 are probably likewise off, making most of these comparisons meaningless. I think this is a phenomenon that happens when I add books on my phone, because the Goodreads app is the worst. UGH. #GOODREADSPROBLEMS, am I right?

Within Those Books:

- Children's or Young Adult Fiction: (34) 46.

- Picture Books: (0) 0 :( :( :(

- Queer Lit (YA or adult): (30) 34. Getting more and more gay each year!

- "Adult" Books: (10) 26. Becoming ever-increasingly adult through the influences of Book Riot and running the AfterEllen book club. Although I mean, considering I still read 20 more kid/teen novels, clearly I'm not TOO MUCH of an adult. Thank God.

- Graphic Novels (YA or adult): (11) 14. Still want this number to be higher. Official goal for next year: 20 graphic novels!

- "Classics": (2) 3. Although one (A Christmas Carol) was a read-aloud with a group, and the two others are queer lit classics that I'm counting, although I'm sure they're not included in the hetero world's canon (The Price of Salt and Stone Butch Blues). Unsure about whether I should include Strangers in Paradise too, as both a queer classic and also a graphic novel classic, although I only read the measly first volume anyway. The point is, I need to read more classics, and the second point is, the whole "classics" title is problematic.

- Nonfiction (YA or adult): (5) 9. Still want this number to be higher, too.

And I'm adding a new category this year because I want to:

- Poetry: 2.

Some Highlights:

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green. DUH.

Bomb, Steve Sheinkin. This is youth nonfiction, a category which is almost always awesome and also extremely overlooked. But whether it's written for youth or not, I was totally enraptured by this entire story. I wanted to talk about it for weeks. Worthy of those gazillion awards adorning its cover.

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell. This book wound its way into the most sacred of my Warmest, Happiest, Most Romantic heart parts, and it did it almost from the first page.

Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, Leigh Bardugo. I got totally wrapped into this world, dark and enchanting. Can't wait for the conclusion. I have lots of Feelings about the Darkling.

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki. No other novel this year made me laugh so much--the first line is "Hi!"--while being so heartbreaking at the same time. While I found Nao's story more engaging, I also loved the atmosphere of Ruth's British Columbian island town. The quantum physics stuff went straight over my head, but overall, just really lovely.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Without a doubt, my favorite queer YA read of my year. Fantastic.

The Heroes of Olympus series, Rick Riordan. This was the year I became obsessed with Rick Riordan books again, an obsession I am totally proud of. And that has also helped me answer many a trivia question about Greek and Roman gods.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz. Oh, OK, so when I just said a second ago that Beautiful Music was "without a doubt" my favorite queer YA read of the year, I guess my doubts are more fickle than I anticipated, because I also really, really, really loved this one. Quiet and beautiful.

The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan. J. Courtney Sullivan is a characters master. I love characters masters. (Supposedly Reese Witherspoon has picked up the movie rights to this? We'll see.)

Bird and Squirrel, James Burks. Lolz, my favorite kids book I read this year. Bird and Squirrel are amazing.

Drama, Raina Telgemeier. I am a sucker for stories about middle school/high school stage crew anyway, and then Raina Telgemeier goes ahead and makes it 100% adorable while also being way inclusive. Thumbs up.

Rapture Practice, Aaron Hartzler. A really well done memoir written for youth, a category I've rarely read before. The best part of it is that it shows a view of people who are so easy to hate, and their evil deeds aren't hidden, but they're examined the way a son can examine them: with empathy and love.

Proxy, Alex London. This was the best dystopian YA I've read since Hunger Games or Divergent, yet I feel like hardly anyone talked about it. On top of a non-stop action-filled plot, the main character is queer AND a person of color. Read Proxy, people!

Other thoughts:

Overall, while this was a great reading year, it also feels like I inadvertently had a very white reading year. A Tale for the Time Being is the one book that stands out as focusing on a culture that was different from my own, along with Aristotle and Dante and Proxy. A lot of the books I read had a culturally diverse cast (the Rick Riordan books, Drama, and Park Sheridan, of course), but, I dunno. I want to make it a point to read more books written by and about people of color this year, including YA and adult.

Another goal for 2014: read more of the books that are actually already on my shelves, in addition to being more up on current releases.

*rolls up sleeves* *jumps into piles of books**swims*

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Writing Log: December.

December wasn't necessarily the most productive writing month of my life, but I'm telling myself it's okay because I actually spent a good portion of the month teaching in middle school classrooms, much of which was unexpected and stressful and I may have cried a little and was tired a lot. So just the fact that I kept up with my TV recaps for AfterEllen (although just barely) felt like a triumph. 

Writing the recaps during that time also felt like falling back into how writing often used to feel: a pleasant escape, a way to get swallowed up in my own brain again when my brain was normally too busy being swallowed up by the world. In other words, it was a nice reminder that even when the real world is getting me down, writing can still bring me back to me. Even if it's just recapping what happened in a TV show.

So, those recaps: 

The Good Wife: 5.10.
Generation Cryo: 1.21.3, 1.41.5.
Last Tango in Halifax:

The last Last Tango recap has close to 100 comments on it now, which is maybe the most I've ever gotten on a recap. Which, admittedly, has 99% to do with the fact that it's a good show, while being only 1% related to me, but, still, it's fun.

I also got back in the swing of things with the AE book club, and wrote a 2013 Lesbian/Queer Books Year in Review.

At the Riots:

Another pathetic month at the Riots for me. The only thing I wrote for Food Riot was a review of what was in my fridge, which I wrote when I was hilariously exhausted and my fridge was hilariously empty. But this hasn't actually posted yet, so my presence as a food writer this month was pretty nonexistent.

And the only thing I wrote for Book Riot was a Harry Potter Holiday Gift Guide. Which was amazing for obvious reasons. But still. I didn't even participate in their massive and impressive Best Books of the Year post, because we couldn't do repeats, and any book I read and loved that was released in 2013 was already nabbed by somebody else. Working for them has definitely inspired me to read MOAR and also to READ MOAR NEW BOOKS. We'll see how that works out for me in 2014.

However, my article about bookstores in strange places--Boats, Trains, and Barns, specifically--got re-run for the Best of Book Riot, which they do during holidays, and it tickles my fancy to have something I wrote be chosen for it. And a lot of people passed it around in the Twitterverse, which also makes me happy.

Oh, oh, and I DID do a SUPER NERDY thing with other Rioters, although it didn't involve writing anything, but it DID involve reading portions of A Christmas Carol out loud via Google Hangout while downing three Bud Light Cranberritas. Although the close placement and angle of my laptop to my face along with my rather poor living room lighting situation makes this an extremely unfortunate event to be available on the Internet, probably.

Group posts:

I don't know if I even participated in many AE huddles other than the one about our 2014 resolutions, my participation in which was like a line long and full of pretty generic things, but I still think it's a good sentence full of good things.

Other writing:

Not a lot. Didn't write in here at all, which is disappointing, and didn't write much elsewhere or otherwise. Overall, looking back at November, my December was somewhat pathetic. And in end-of-the-year roundup news, I only updated this blog 34 times in 2013, the least I ever have since its inception.

But who cares? December is a too-fast, often too-hard month, always, as much as it can also be a so-happy month. It's January now--month of being inspired and getting off butts and making shit happen. Right? RIGHT!

*shouts motivating messages to self, twirls hands in the air, runs off into distance through field of writing dreams*

Some Top Moments of 2013.

1) Seeing Michael Chabon & Sherman Alexie at the Search for Meaning Book Festival in Seattle. This is a festival I never would have attended otherwise, but it ended up being so wonderful and inspiring and heartwarming. I would go back each year if I could. I also love both of these men so, so much and together they were just a dream. And going to Seattle anytime to see Ashley and Jennie is also a dream. Shopping, eating Mexican food, getting Indian food delivery, and then there was also that time that we watched the Duke-UNC game at a gay sports bar. Yes yes yes. Going up later in the year for the MS Walk was also a great, if more somber, occasion.

2) Taking Toby to the beach for the last time. When Manda visited in January, Toby was already on his downward decline, but he tagged along for a day trip to the coast, and seemed more alert and happy than he had in a while. I like to think this, along with getting to eat a cheeseburger during his last week, made his last few months on earth better.

3) Starting to go to trivia at Cruzroom in addition to Bare Bones. Although our schedule has been so crazy lately that it's rare we actually go to both nights each week, we started going to trivia on Tuesday nights with Becky in addition to our old standard from last year, Bare Bones on Thursdays with Erica and Paul. Because we are obsessed, severely dorky people. Anyway, Becky is hilarious and Cruzroom has amazing hipster tacos, and it makes us get to Alberta more often, which is really nice. And this is probably a supremely uninteresting paragraph to anyone but me.

4) JP. We knew from the moment we saw her at the Humane Society that she was the one. While there are obviously many differences between her and Toby, and some things we're still getting used to and working on with her, she has been on runs and hikes with me, walked down the street to get breakfast with us, gone to Pride with us, and kept me company while I worked from home for a large portion of the year. I love her.

5) Hiking at Silver Falls State Park with both my mom and dad. I went on the same hike twice at different parts of the year, once with my mom and then with my dad, and both times were some of the happiest hours I've ever spent in the woods, and I felt grateful that I got to enjoy it with each of them. I hope to return to this place many more times. It is magical.

6) BABIES. Felt so fortunate to be with Beesie Tiede on her 1st birthday and to FaceTime with Evan Guccini for his, and to meet little Desi Lewis and Kate Trout and, right at the end of the year, Hudson Tiede. BABIES!

7) Connecticut and New York trip. We ate New Haven pizza, saw dinosaurs, played with beluga whales, went to a bookstore in a barn, ate ice cream, went bowling, ate breakfast in Harlem, saw Wicked on Broadway with my mom, and ate lots of Shake Shack. The perfect vacation.

8) University of Portland soccer and the Dahlia Festival when Kathy's parents visited. Women's sports, snow cones, and flowers the size of your head! Among many other fun things that week.

9) Boston for Ave's 60th Birthday. My mom bought tickets for us to come to Boston this summer for my aunt's 60th birthday, which was amazing. We got to hang with family and friends and walk around all my favorite spots of nostalgia, including dinner in the North End and brunch at Zaftig's and a last lunch at Anna's. There also may have been some Whitney dance-athons.

10) The coast for our one year wedding anniversary, and Leavenworth, Washington for my birthday. Both were weird and hilarious and amazing in their own ways, as trips with Kathy always are. Trips with Kathy are my very favorite things.

11) Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania. The first holiday I've spent in my hometown in a long time, and some of the most time we've ever gotten to spend with my nephew, including an epic game of bowling, along with some hanging in Philly with Sara and Dave.

12) Manda moving to Portland. One of our bestest friends, Manda & her wonderful cat Georgia moved to Portland this fall from Connecticut. She's already inspired us to do lots of new things we hadn't done before, including hanging out at the superb and trashy bar across the street. And I know she hates picture of herself being on the Internet, so I'll include just one.

Other fun and happy things:
- Cheering the Portland Thorns champion lady soccer stars home
- Coffee dates with Scott and Kelly at Bipartisan Cafe
- Seeing Ivan Coyote at the Reed Chapel
- Hiking and eating with Evan this summer when they visited
- Meeting Kathy's Aunt Kathy and Blaine for the first time, simultaneously eating a Killer Burger for the first time, both fantastic experiences
- Hikes on Powell Butte
- Getting drunk for free at Kathy's work parties; getting to know her amazing co-workers better
- Karaoke at Chopsticks III
- Literally watching TV and drinking all day in Eugene for Arrested Development
- Watching Kim paddle around a lake in a giant pumpkin
- Hiking on Mt. Hood with Kathy and JP
- Spending a lot of time with Kathy's family in Michigan, even if it was for a sad reason
- Another merry and successful Christmas in Portland.

And there was a lot of other stuff, but these are the main super-fantastic things. Thanks, 2013, and everyone who helped make all the super-fantastic happen. Bring it, 2014.