Monday, February 28, 2011

How the Carbon Footprint Reduction Initiative is Going

I walked two and a half hours yesterday!

My sweetheart walked me to church -- one hour -- then he took the bus home.

After church, I took the #13, then walked the remaining 30 minutes home.

My sweetheart came at 2:15, and we walked 30 minutes to the church at SPU to hear the wonderful Orchestra Seattle concert. Then walked back.

Then went out to Lake Forest Park for the night, sweetheart driving.

He dropped me at Third Place Books this morning at 8:55, as he headed north to work, I south and home. My #372 was due at 9:02, and then again at 9:27. (So which of those is the bus I actually boarded at 9:15?)

I got off 35 minutes later at the last stop, in the U District, and walked 40 minutes home. I could have transferred to a #44, and I'll probably try it next time, but I don't think it will save me much time.

So it's two hours, portal to portal, on the bus from Fremont to Lake Forest Park?

I guess the good news is, it's still an hour by bike.

I'll just have to get used to biking it in the dark and cold.

One thing is certain: I gotta fix that flat.

My Blogaganza: Did You Notice?

It's February 28, the last day of the month in which I vowed to blog every day. I'd been slacking off bigtime.

January: 1 post.

February: 30 posts, before this one goes up.

True, I chose the shortest month of the year in which to post daily. Not even a leap year. Still, I was proud.

Until I missed yesterday. I didn't even realize it until, oh, probably 4 am when I awoke momentarily.

"Blame it on your boyfriend," he said at breakfast.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

You Make People Feel Interesting

"You make people feel interesting," my sweetheart said to me on Monday, after a big birthday party Sunday night full of people I don't (yet) know.

I've been saying it over to myself all week. Have I ever had a nicer compliment?

Friday, February 25, 2011

What I'm Reading

I'm on page 322 of this novel that started to get really interesting at about page 200, not that it was dull before that.

See, it's about a turn-of-the-19th-century woman sold to a Japanese monastery where the nuns are babymakers for the monks who use the babies for...   and about the men who love her and try to free her, while she, no dummy, is doing her own strategizing.

Wow! Sounds tacky, hey? But no, it's David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. It was on a bunch of "best" lists for 2010. Beyond the thrilling plot, sentences like this are no doubt why: "Fishermen's voices travel through the warm and salty night," just a bit of routine description from page 109.

I'm loving it. Sure wish it would snow about 10 inches pronto so I could stay home and read instead of going out and enjoying this sunny, freezing Seattle day with a hike at Discovery Park with my beloved.

The single life. C'est la vie.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who You're Going to Be

One of the ideas behind St Paul's free meal program, the Fatted Calf Cafe (last Tuesday of the month, 5 pm, 1st and Roy in Lower Queen Anne) was that we'd share the tables with our down-and-out dinner guests.

That turned out to be one of the best parts. Like Eugene, who wasn't there, most of our guests were articulate, some voluble; one produced a musical flow of dark political free verse.

I sat across the table from Jeff, better known as Flipper, he said, because of his work on saving dolphins during the Alaskan oil spill.

I can't think what I asked to elicit this, but he told me it was making bad choices that had resulted in his present way of life. He's one of six kids from a prosperous Coast Guard family, and the only one who went wrong. He said his sibs fooled around with cocaine too, but he was the only addict.

I said, "Is that the choice you mean, choosing to take drugs?"

"My first bad choice," he said, "was the friends I chose. Everything started right there. Nobody tells you your friends will make all the difference. They ought to teach that in school."

My sister Marty and her husband Bart did teach their kids that, but I agree with Flipper that it's rare.

My brother-in-law, Bart Campolo, has been involved in urban ministry his entire career. He told me that many years ago, he and his friend Bruce Main, director of Urban Promise in Wilmington, DE, got together to discuss how they were going to teach the young people they worked with to stand up to peer pressure.

"But nobody stands up to peer pressure," Bart said to me. "So what you have to do is choose the right peers. Who you're going to be is who you're going to be around.

"So as youth workers, we consciously engineered groups with good values."

I really like this idea. Not to make everything about me, but I'm thinking it's a good idea all your life, even for people who are sixty and single and moving to Seattle, or some other new place for a new adventure.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Never Say Die

I planned to hear Susan Jacoby, author of Never Say Die, discuss "New Myths about Old Age" at Town Hall last night. I figured she'd be talking about botox and yoga, and how not even measures like those could keep us looking young forever.

In the morning, as I drove home from getting my car smogged, I heard she was going to be on the radio talking about baby-boomer aging denial. "Call in," the announcer said.

"What do you mean we're in denial about old age?" I thought of saying. "Things really have changed. I celebrated my 62nd birthday on a 600 mi bike trip; Mom didn't do that." I didn't call, partly because I couldn't keep the number in my brain long enough to pull over and dial.

Then off I went to cook for the homeless for four hours on a concrete floor. As dinner hour drew near, college student Elissa and I hurried over to Center House, where we'd been told we might find some more customers for our free food.

I haven't walked with a 20-year-old lately. They walk different. They don't think about where their feet will land. I myself take advantage of curb cutouts rather than making that big step to the street. Over in Seattle Center, a circular plaza around the fountain sinks 16 inches into the ground, right through the middle of the field we were crossing. Elissa stepped down into it without a hitch. I gratefully spotted a tallish garbage can to cling to as I lowered myself.

Anyway, by the time our Fatted Calf Cafe dinner wrapped up last night, I was too tired to go hear Ms Jacoby tell me I was in denial about the ravages of aging. But that's okay. I'm not in denial anymore.

"I'm taking an ibuprofen to put by the bed," I say to my sweetheart. We're at his house. We just got home from a couple of hours of dancing.

"Why don't you just go ahead and take one?" he says. He's reading the newspaper.

"I did," I say. "I want another one by the bed in case I wake up in the night."

"Mmm hm," he says.

"I just want you to know I'm taking your ibuprofen. Because I'm old," I sort of spit out the words.

"I'm well aware of your age," he says. Keeps reading.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Fatted Calf Cafe

My church, St Paul's in Lower Queen Anne, begins a new venture tonight. Where we're located, it's not unusual to pick empty beer cans out of our landscaping, to step around broken bottles in the blocks I walk from the bus to the church, to encounter some dirty, smelly, bag-laden folks around the pleasant cafes and restaurants and the good used bookstores. We want to help.

The Fatted Calf Cafe -- you know, from the parable of the prodigal son -- is Brad's idea. He wants to invite inside anyone who wants to come, and to serve them a good meal, family style, at tables with tablecloths, and us sitting down together to eat. It's not about anybody shuffling humbly through a line.

I'm going in at 2, as sous-chef. We're serving chicken and rice and green beans, salad, brownies.

When I was a college freshman, after a summer job cooking for as many as a hundred at our church camp, I got a day job as cook at the Youngstown, Ohio, rescue mission. I went to college at night.

I carried a "church key" bottle opener in my hand for safety as I walked through what we then called 'Skid Row.' I cooked chicken cacciatore, for example. Ed, who worked with me in the kitchen, had come from the streets himself some years before. He taught me the foundational skill of cooking: the use of a good chef's knife. He told me not to get married until I could afford one. I complied.

Once my purse was stolen, including the paint-box-style makeup set my sister Deb had got me for Christmas. And I was poor myself.

I'm nervous about tonight. I don't know how it's going to go. Maybe a lot of these folks actually would rather have a handout than a hand. Eugene, even.

I met Eugene a couple of months ago at the bus stop at Aurora and Mercer. You come out of the underpass and around a sharp corner to get to the stop, so you can't see what buses you may have just missed.

I saw a tall, lean black guy in gray sweats sitting on a short concrete wall, the only place to sit on the long waits for Sunday buses. I asked if I'd missed the 5; he said no. I went over to read the published schedule on the pole (for a chuckle).

A bike stood there. I went back to the guy and said, "This your bike?" and asked him about his cycling life, which turned out to be vehicular rather than recreational.

Eventually he said, "My name is Eugene," and I told him mine. "You have no idea what this means," he said, "that you would come and talk to me.

"I don't know if it's the color of my skin," he went on, "but people act like they're afraid of me."

"It might be that beer you're drinking here at a bus stop at just about noon," I thought, but did not say.

Anyway, we talked the whole time, even after we got on the bus. He was articulate. I liked him. I look for his face now in Queen Anne. I don't know if he'd even recognize me, but it would be fun if he did.

Maybe tonight, at dinner.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What He Said

So we're sitting in Pagliacci's Pizza, Lower Queen Anne, eating a slice apiece and sharing a salad for lunch, my sweetheart and I. I'm chewing every bite 50 times, as usual, and he's still eating. I said, "Have you always been a slow eater, like me?"

"Maybe you've speeded up since you met me," he said.

"I don't think so."

"Well, there once was a time," he said, "when you thought you were never gonna find a man who can shovel compost as fast as you, eat as slow, or dance as sweet -- and make you laugh to boot.

"You were so wrong, babe."

That's what he said.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

He's Ignoring Me

It's late Sunday evening, after a busy weekend of the bike flat and staying in together on Friday evening, a drive to Snoqualmie Pass on Saturday for a gorgeous couple of hours on snowshoes, under sunny blue skies with no wind and temperatures just below freezing keeping the snow frozen and lovely, then dance last night, breakfast this morning with family visiting from Philadelphia, church for me, a Cajun birthday party for a friend, then a big family party to celebrate my sweetheart's sister's 70th birthday.

All good, but I'm so tired, and so ready to -- be alone.

And my sweetheart is here, and completely ignoring me, reading the Atlantic, making himself some herbal tea, and hurray! I must say it again, completely ignoring me in the nicest way.

I'm happy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


So, I set out last night at 4:50 on my bike. Fifty blocks on and about a fourth of the way to G's, I felt a ba-bump, ba-bump. Another flat. It was getting too late to deal with it on the street, so I called G, walked a couple blocks up to Greenwood Av, and waited for the #5 bus. G met me at Northgate, and took me home.

So, the good news is, my carbon footprint is still looking good. He's doing a lot of driving though.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Okay, I just got home from my Group Health appointment (I'm fine, thank you) and tea with a friend after. The #8 bus was about 20 minutes late, an interesting achievement for a bus that runs every 15 minutes. I guess I just missed the #5 I was transferring to. In short, it took me an hour to get home from Capitol Hill. Now it's 4:25 pm, I'm going to my sweetheart's in Lake Forest Park for dinner, then to Third Place Books to hear music and maybe dance, which starts at 7:30. I'd like to bus to G's, but it would take 90 minutes. I can bike, in an hour, but I'm kind of tired. Then, after dinner, it would be great to walk to TPB, since it's 1 3/4 mi from G's, and I am trying hard to do those trips carless, but there's just no way then to fit in dinner.

Unless I find my tire is flat, I'm biking. Because of all the not-quite perfect options, getting into my car sounds least appealing. Maybe I'm not even much of an environmental activist. Maybe I just really hate driving.

But, hey -- whatever works, right?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Circumference of Home

Two days ago, I finished reading Kurt Hoelting's wonderful book, The Circumference of Home, about the year he went carless and adventured within 100 km of his Whidbey Island home, in response to climate change . He writes:
I am no longer willing to live at such a bizarre distance from what I know to be true. This much is clear to me. If I can't change my own life in response to the greatest challenge now facing our human family, who can? And if I won't make the effort to try, why should anyone else? So I've decided to start at home, and begin with myself. The question is no longer whether I must respond. The question is whether I can turn my response into an adventure.

The whole time I was reading, over about 10 days, I was committed to my own climate change initiatives. It was in my mind, background to everything.

Now, just two days past the end of the book, I can already feel my urgency slacken. What a pathetic race we humans are.

On the other hand, I'm wearing a long-sleeve tee shirt, a zip-up fleece, and a zip-up fleece vest, and I just finished doing a set of reps with my four-pound dumbbells, to try to warm up in my 64 degree house. I took one of those personal carbon footprint calculator quizzes on line the other day, but I'd already done everything, and so have you: Changed out your incandescent bulbs for CFCs, lowered the thermostat, turned down the water heater, plugged everything into power strips.

Could we add this: Don't drive more than 55 mph? In the Carter administration, during that energy crisis, it was the law, to save gasoline.

And another thing: since a third of automotive emissions are produced by car trips of three miles or less, let's do our best to consolidate our errands and/or walk, bike, and bus to get them done.

Are you with me?

And remind me, will you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Learning with Seniors

My sweetheart and I are learning to play bridge. No, wait. He already knows how; played it in middle school. As for me, I'm not so much learning to play it as I am taking a class in it. It's complicated. Today was Class 7, and our teacher began at last to explain scoring.

My take on it? Bridge was obviously invented by one of those pain-in-the-neck kids who always changed the rules as soon as it looked like the opponents might become a threat.

But I like my classmates. We're all part of the Lifetime Learning Center at Greenlake, which means we're all kind of old. G and I get a lot of admiration from the others when we arrive on our bikes. One lady told us today how "cute" we are, which I now know is simply the result of being an affectionate couple at our advanced age. Originally from Holland, she introduced herself this way: "Liesel, rhymes with diesel." She was married for more than 30 years, then divorced her husband, who, like her, has never remarried. They see each other almost every day.

Last week we met a woman with a radiant smile and robust physique; truly, she glows. She was born in Poland and survived five years in labor camps, before coming to the United States with her husband. She told us how poor they had been as they worked their way through university and got a start in life. "And that's why I don't feel sorry for poor people," she said. I said, "You mean, because they have so much fun?" "Yes!"

Was being poor more fun in the old days, or do people today just not have what it takes? Or does it take more than it used to?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

About that flat...

You know that bike tire that flatted on Sunday? I was too busy enjoying Valentine's Day yesterday to tackle it, but I fixed it this morning before I headed out on foot for my day

Actually, I fixed it twice this morning. First one hole, then the next one.

I did a thorough job, too, of using my eyes and my fingers to try to probe my tire for the material that made the holes. If the thorn or the glass is still in the tire, it will puncture the tube again. I found a little slit; must be something had cut through and fallen out.

Pumped up the tube, and actually got the tire back on the rim without too much trouble -- always a physical challenge to pop that baby on. And proudly I set off on my day. But not on my bike. I wouldn't need the bike until bridge class on Wednesday morning. I thought I'd better just check to make sure my tire was still holding air before I fixed dinner.

Nope. Flat. Fixed it again. What I think is, on the second try I found the original puncture, which caused so much air to leak out before I realized I was flatting on Sunday that I got a pinch flat.

Then I made dinner and ate it. Just before my post-prandial stroll to the library, I checked it once more.

Still up.

But you know what? I'm kind of getting into fixing it. The worst thing -- and the best -- about bike flats is that they're mercifully rare, so each time one presents itself, I learn to repair it all over again. I forgot on Sunday everything I learned with my last flat, which is why I didn't even see, for example, the surgical gloves I cleverly decided in August to keep in my pack so I wouldn't get so filthy. At first, I wasn't sure what to do with the new-fangled tool I found in my pack, which turns out to make popping a stiff tire back on the rim an easy job, without risk to the tube.

I hope that tire is inflated tomorrow morning. But if not, I think I'll set a timer, and see how fast I can fix it, now that I've had all this practice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Best Valentine's Day Ever? Quite possibly so...

I thought if I was going to claim this is the best Valentine's Day ever, I'd better look back to last year's blog, and see what I wrote. Hmm. I like the post, but it says nothing about what I was actually doing on February 14, 2010.

Here was the plan for 2011. I would make dinner for my sweetheart at my place Sunday night. Then he would take me to breakfast this morning.

I took a bike ride late yesterday afternoon, stopping on the way home for a Rocky chicken to pan roast with lemon and garlic, potatoes to slice thin, toss with olive oil and garlic, and crisp up, the way he likes them, and chard to saute. I squeezed my stuff into my backpack and went out to start the ride up the Fremont hill loaded down with groceries.

Flat tire.

I like to feel competent, and I was in a covered spot, not getting rained upon, so I started in on my tire. As I worked, I was thinking about what it means to have somebody in my life with not only a Subaru stationwagon, but also the will to help me get home, if I need it.
Unfortunately -- is it me, or my pump? -- I couldn't replace the tube. He came and got me. I was mighty thankful.

So I made dinner, and we drank champagne, and walked down the hill in the rain after to Simply Desserts, since I hadn't had time to make any, but it was closed, so we went to PCC and each chose a posh dessert and ate them at the tables there. Surprisingly romantic.

Then this morning, we showered, meditated, shared a grapefruit, and jumped on the #44, then the #43, to Capitol Hill and Cafe Presse. He had the mushroom omelette, I the pain au chocolat a l'Ancienne -- warm baguette with lots of dark chocolate melted inside it. Another couple nearby gave us a spoonful of their chocolat chaud with whipped cream: it's supposedly hot chocolate, but so thick it's almost pudding.

We talked about the homes we grew up in. Unconditional love is what he got, he says. I get that now, but I don't think I did then. When my sibs and I were little, our parents still had an idea of original sin that meant we needed to be whipped into shape, for our own good. Like that idea that unless your kids learn absolute, instant obedience, they're at risk for getting run over by cars.

I said to G, How do you teach a kid to do the right stuff unless you're obviously disapproving at the wrong?

I wrote it down, what he said: "Of course, there are consequences for bad behavior, but withdrawal of love isn't one of them."

Then we put up our umbrella and walked over to nearby Seattle U to visit the beautiful chapel, then to Third Av to catch the bus home.

My sweetheart gave me a Valentine card he bought fifteen years ago. He said he's waited that long to find somebody to give it to. No, I won't tell you what it says. I think you can tell I'm in very good hands, though.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yes, I'm still single, and I still have a sweetheart...

Weird. One of my sisters, a friend from Portland, and even my sweetheart himself have picked up on a new zestful tone in my February blogging that's making them wonder if I'm still seeing my sweetheart and how it's working for me. (Well, obviously G knows I'm still seeing him, but he did comment on the particular enthusiasm for life of my recent posts.)

I think what you're noticing, you who are, is simply that I am writing again. I didn't ever stop going to author events, or hanging out in the city with friends, or buying massive quantities of vegetables to eat all by myself, just because I also do a lot with my sweetheart.

I will admit, however, that combining the life I love on my own, with the life I enjoy with my sweetheart, has challenges. One thing: I realized I prefer to go to Town Hall lectures all by myself. Why? Now that I'm asking myself, I think it's because it seems stupid, financially, to pay $9 for round-trip bus rides for two when the trip is less than four miles and when G is so good at finding free parking and incorporating an excitingly urban walk into the trip. But I LOVE MY BUSES! I'd rather go alone than give up my bus ride. But he likes buses. He's suggested that we take buses to our Valentine's breakfast date tomorrow morning in Capitol Hill. And he can afford bus fare, as can I, and now, with my new determination to do something about climate change, I have plenty of reasons to support my basic decision here, which is to do what pleases me.

As I read that last phrase, "to do what pleases me," I'm thinking I probably should explain that, even though I'm technically single -- but "going steady," let's call it -- my goal for me and my sweetheart is that we continue to do what pleases us and hope/expect that enough of it continues to please each other, and we'll see where all that leads.

And I'm simultaneously uncomfortable revealing so much, and aware that single folks everywhere are grappling with similar issues, and eager for true-life adventures, which is why I share mine here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I hereby resolve...

I read an inspiring blogpost today about resolutions, and how helpful it is to preface them with the "whereas" clauses, the reasons you're making them.

Partly because I'm single, I'm getting too loosy-goosy about keeping my place clean. There's nobody to complain if I don't do my share, while the delights and obligations of my relationship with my sweetheart mean I'm often on the run, dropping off this, grabbing up that, things gradually piling up all around. Ugh. I don't like it.

So on this day, Saturday, February 12,

Whereas, a tidy home is like a deep healing breath to me, and
Whereas, clean sheets on my own bed are like a stay at a luxury hotel, and
Whereas, a neat stack of all nine of my best girlie underpants in the drawer makes me feel ready for any contingency,
I resolve therefore to clean my house, change my sheets, and do my laundry every Monday (except maybe on an acknowledged holiday, possibly including St Valentine's Day, which I will plan for by designating another cleaning day).

Cleaning Up in Egypt

There's just something so moving about all those front-page photos today in the New York Times of volunteers cleaning up Tahrir Square and even reassembling the cobblestones there! So reassuring that they figured out, despite the lack of obvious leadership, how to keep it peaceful. I see wisdom and responsibility. I see what humanity is capable of.

For Egypt I want to pray that bit from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: Shield the joyous.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Environmental Responsibility

I'm really being affected by reading Kurt Hoelting's Circumference of Home. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he raises the idea of the moral and psychological sickness (my term) that results from knowing we're ruining the Earth we love, while failing to take action in response. Denial, is what it is.

I'm halfway through his book. Denial is losing its hold, and as it goes, pain grows. As I bussed in yesterday to meet my friend at the ferry, I crossed the Aurora Bridge, with its breathtaking views of our two snow-covered mountain ranges, the Olympics and the Cascades. And I almost cried. In my short remaining lifetime, the snow on those mountains, already shrinking, may disappear entirely. And it will be our fault. My fault.

He cites Mother Teresa's famous lines, "We are not called to be successful, but faithful." It's so easy to do nothing, because the little we can do makes no visible difference. If I take a train to Mom's in Michigan this year, instead of flying as usual, will my mountains have an extra day of snow cover? Unlikely.

But if I fly, knowing what I know, who am I?

I have an idea. Isn't there a way to create an internet log, where people can first take their carbon footprint tallies, and log in their personal estimate, then choose however much or little they're willing to vow to change it, and log that in on a change meter. So that even if all you can commit to is substituting one bus trip a week for a car trip, at least you could see how that might begin to add up with everybody else's little changes. Is this sort of communal action happening anywhere? Tell me where to sign up.

If it's not happening, but could, can you help me set it up? Can we do it together?

Because if we don't do something soon, the opportunities of future generations to be sixty and single in Seattle are severely limited. And this life has a lot going for it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Holiday in Seattle

Yes, sunshine in Seattle and a couple of mature single women out for a good time. My friend Ann came over from Bainbridge on the ferry, and we made our desultory way to The Tamarind Tree Vietnamese restaurant in the international district for lunch.

On the way, we stopped at Grand Central Bakery, just to take a gander, then bought books and cards at The Globe Bookstore, and wandered into one of the temporary artist boutiques Seattle made available to fill otherwise-empty storefronts until renters could be found: Ann bought lots here.

We saw this stunning phonebooth in the square, enjoyed the flowers in the posh gallery flower boxes,then poked into Caffe Umbria.

With assorted other diversions, it took us two hours to get to the Tamarind Tree, and two more hours to eat our wonderful lunches in this beautiful spot. We ordered three of their $5, five-year-anniversary special luncheon dishes to split. Including tip and two pots of tea, our lunch was $10 apiece.

As we headed back to the ferry, we stopped in Chinatown's Pea Patch; nothing much coming up yet, but lots of remnants of last summer's crops, a sort of template of what's to come.

We stopped back at Grand Central for dessert. We split a Boozy Sweetie Pie, a rich chocolate tart on a cookie crust with two little heart cookies on top: moaningly delicious. After three, what's left in the dessert case is half-price with coffee.

So I say, who needs to burn all that carbon to take a vacation? At the rate we're going, we'll be years getting to the bottom of Seattle.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fearless Writing...and other fearless stuff

I'm hoping I can take Crescent Dragonwagon's Fearless Writing workshop when she brings it to Seattle the first weekend of March. But I have to admit, the little video pitch she posted on Facebook spoke immediately to other, larger parts of my life.

She said something like this. She said we'd be crazy not to be afraid at all. But the trick with fear is not to pretend it isn't there or, on the other hand, to let it run the show. Instead, she said, Invite fear to the party. Let it engage you. Let it give you its gifts.

I needed that, for all the little fearful bits of my determinedly courageous life. I think they say about courage, It's not that you're not scared. It's that you do it anyway.

How the Polenta Turned Out

I say it turned out really well, even, dare I say? better than what I had at Cafe Presse!

Also, I should add to what I wrote about yesterday's grocery shopping trip, on behalf of all of us sixty-in-Seattle folks, Fred Meyer's discounts their home brands, including all the stuff I buy in bulk foods for making my bread and granola, on the first Tuesday of the month. In fact, you only have to be 55. And of course, you don't have to be single, but, if you were looking, wouldn't it be a good time and place to meet a mature, thrifty, home cook?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SEO, I mean....

Well, that's embarrassing. Wrote that post about optimizing SOEs, and really I can't even call them the right name! It's Search Engine Optimization, SEO, for heaven's sake!

Bringing Home the Brussels Sprouts

Usually I hate to go grocery shopping, but today -- maybe it's because the sun is out? -- I had a fine time. I pulled into the lot at Fred Meyer, and the guys standing there started telling me I have the best car ever, and never to sell it. And I said, Yes, I well know that my 1996 white Toyota Corolla is the best car ever, and that's how long I plan to keep it.

So, that was a friendly start.

Then I proceeded to buy my usual ice cream, Breyer's Natural Vanilla, plus pounds and pounds of vegetables. The checker said, Wow! That's a big squash! Six and a half pounds of butternut. And I'm single, I said proudly.

I bought two and a half pounds of brussels sprouts, two pounds of asparagus, one bunch each of white chard and purple kale, and a three-pound head of cabbage. Three onions. A parsnip. Two sweet potatoes.

So now I need to write down some meal ideas, for those moments when I stare into the bulging refrigerator and can't think of a thing to cook.

Last night I shredded half a cabbage and four little carrots, pressure-cooked them for five minutes, then stirred in a couple of handfuls of cooked ziti from the freezer, and a handful of grated white cheddar, also from the freezer. Boy, was it good!

Last Saturday I had lunch at Cafe Presse near Seattle U, and I talked them into selling me a side order of creamy polenta with a fried egg to go on top. As I ate, I thought, This would make the best meal with roasted asparagus alongside. So I'm planning on that this week.

The New York Times has been running a recipe for slow-cooked limas with kale; I'll do that too. I like my chard with feta on brown rice, toasted pecans on top. The sweet parsnip is so good roasted with brussels sprouts and my last organic Granny Smith apple from last fall.

Looks like a good week for eating.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spiritual Book Fair at Seattle U

I spent all day yesterday at Seattle U's Search for Meaning spiritual book fair. I heard Anne Lamott speak, and Tariq Ramadan. I attended three other sessions where authors spoke about their books and their writing process. I wanted two books. I came home with one, in hard-cover, which cost $25 plus tax. You know it must look good, given my thrifty ways.

The author is Whidbey Islander Kurt Hoelting. I have the idea that The Circumference of Home is his first book, but it doesn't read that way. He writes like a poet.
A sea of clouds far below in the murky December light is my only clue that I am flying over the center of the Greenland ice cap. My wife Sally and I are on a crowded commercial flight crossing the polar route from Oslo to Seattle, ten days before the winter solstice. From thirty-nine thousand feet, the last sliver of Arctic winter sun is hanging low on the western horizon as we chase its descent through a perpetual sunset, slowly losing ground to the turning of the earth.

His book is the record of the year he spent car-free within a 100 kilometer circumference of his home. He told us he'd been experiencing depression, in part because he felt powerless to shift even his own life to sustainability. When the idea for his car-free year came to him, in the same moment he knew he had to do it. What happens to us, he asked, when we believe the world is ruining, but we act as if we don't? What prevents our acting? How can we turn the necessary action into adventure?

He decided to explore his home territory on foot, by bike, and by kayak. He wanted to slow to where the speed of his mind and his senses were the same.

I was inspired. I want to ask, How are you different today?

The other book I want is The Butterfly Mosque, a memoir by G. Willow Wilson. She's a young American who converted to Islam and went to Cairo to live, where she met and married her Muslim husband. I wish I could convey her dignity and clarity. Tell the truth, she said. Don't be afraid to admit to the places of uncertainty. Uncertainty is not rare, but hidden.

And this: "The temptation to separate people who will hurt each other is perhaps noble, but not sustainable.

I want to say this about Anne Lamott. Before she spoke, I filled out an index card that we were provided for writing questions she might answer after she spoke. I wrote, "When you get so much mileage out of your flaws and mistakes, is it hard to move toward maturity?" Because I've often felt like she's saying the same thing and doing the same dumb things today that she's been saying and doing for decades.

By the time she finished speaking, I was praying they wouldn't ask her my mean question. She is mature. She still screws up, just like we all do until our cakes are fully baked, at which point we are eaten. I'm sorry for my snotty thoughts.

She told us her purpose is to be a resurrection story here on earth. It's a good purpose, and a good story.

Trying to Learn about SOE

Which, if you didn't know, means Search Engine Optimization, which I guess all us bloggers oughta realize. Maybe I've been too wallflower-ish about blogging. But I like having readers. I want to get me some more. Thus the SOE business.

I read an article about it I found on Google. Then I thought, what if I try changing some headlines and posts and see if putting more definite words in instead of more artsy, clever stylings will actually bring up my stuff when you search for it.

So, instead of Good Cheap Opera Now as a headline, I would make sure to include the title, Lakme. Apparently, it didn't help. I looked all the way through six pages of Google search results and, nothing.

Another thing I did was look at how people who are grownups and thinking of moving to cities might find my blog. If you search for Sixty and Single in Seattle, I come right up. If you search for sixty and single in the city, I'm on page two. If you search Sixty and Single, you just get dating sites.

Hello? You can be a mature person in a city and not have your chief interest be dating!

Got any ideas for me, readers? Don't you think there are lots of folks like us out there, who'd be interested in sharing an adventurous urban life, with its Town Hall lectures, dance nights, bicycle routes, and comfortable underpants?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Good Cheap Opera Now: Lakme in Bellevue and Green Lake

So we went to see/hear Puget Sound Concert Opera's Lakme in Bellevue, which we wouldn't have known about had we not read the Seattle Times Friday. (Thank you, Seattle Times.) We loved this opera -- so lyrical, and even the lyrics, unusually in my experience of opera, were poetic and lovely.

It's playing once more in Seattle, and apparently it's on Sunday at Greenlake. Do go. $15 general, $10 seniors.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Events Calendar

My family, which has been dragged along, can tell you I'm famous for combing newspaper arts sections for free and cheap culture. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune when I was a student in Minnesota, The New York Times on vacations, where I'd discover those free recitals at the 92nd Street Y and performances of, oh, Antigone, say, in somebody's attic.

But when I got to Seattle, I was in the internet age. I needed a website for cultural Seattle. Unfortunately, the sites I've found so far list thousands of events, far too many to search.

So imagine my delight at discovering at last the ideal Seattle resource for weekend entertainment: The Friday Seattle Times. In print.

My sweetheart and I walked over this morning in the blowing spitting rain to Herkimer Coffee on Greenwood. Herkimer's is as much an anachronism as a newspaper: They don't take credit cards. The staff is invariably warm and personable, at the Greenwood and the University Av locations. The coffee is really good, which is saying something lately, when most of what I drink strikes me as kind of burnt-tasting. The cinnamon-raisin brioche is a dangerous discovery. And the music doesn't blast you out.

Anyway, somebody left a Seattle Times at the table where we sat. There we discovered chamber opera at a church in Bellevue tonight at 7, tomorrow at 5; it's Delibes' Lakme. A couple of other affordable opera events in Tacoma, a place I'm longing to visit. TC Boyle is coming to Seattle in March. Sarah McLachlan is at the Paramount tonight. Who knew?

Funny, just this week I was thinking about what to do with the change that accumulates in my parka pockets. Now I know: Friday mornings, 75 cents, Seattle Times.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Biking Away from SAD

This was supposed to be my year to get back into cross country skiing, which I haven't done since the '70s. But once the holidays were over and my attention turned to the outdoors, it started melting. Every Friday when my sweetheart and I talk about skiing, it starts raining up at the pass.

A couple weeks ago I decided, if I couldn't ski, I had to bike. Or kill myself. It was warm -- maybe low 50s. But it was raining all the time. Still, I got on the bike, and I started feeling better right away. Wet, but better.

Then it got cold. I've always had a mental standard that biking when it's less than 50 is just too cold, especially when you factor in the wind chill you create zipping down the hills.

But having gotten back on my bike, I couldn't stop. Last Friday night, I biked over to my sweetheart's in Lake Forest Park when it was 37 degrees!

And it wasn't too bad. I like that frozen-cheeks feeling; when else are you so aware of your facial sensations?

So I'm back on my bike for 2011; my season has begun. I biked to my Scrabble game this afternoon. This is what retired people consider to be commuter cycling.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Anniversary Day II

I really want to think and write about what two years of being sixty(ish) and single in Seattle have meant to me. One year in, I did this.

But the truth is, I'm busy. I biked over to my beginning bridge class this morning at 9 am, then biked on around Seward Park afterwards. Got home at 1:30 for lunch, showered, napped, and met a friend to walk down to Simply Desserts in Fremont for coffees and some of their fabulous desserts -- I'm partial to the espresso chocolate chip cookie myself. Then to PCC for chard, the library to pick up two books I'd reserved, then walking home. I have a few minutes now until time to make dinner, then I meet up with a friend in my condo to talk about how small bakeries do things, then off to Conor Byrne for the first Wednesdays free blues jam and some good dancing.

So, yeah, I need to go deeper than this, but I'd say the move to Seattle is working out for me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

36 Arguments for the Existence of God

The sun is shining in Seattle! If I'm not in fact going to get my laundry done and my bathroom sink cleaned, I could at least be out riding my bike.

But no. I had to stay in and finish reading Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's funny, smart, and compassionate novel about the God debate, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God.

Here's a good review from the Washington Post.

Now I'm going out into the sun.

How about those Egyptians?

Not to make light of things with that smart-alecky headline, but wow! Egypt! You gotta be holding them in your hearts all day and all night, right? And hoping our government does no wrong things. Which essentially means, doesn't it, that we support democratic movements? When I read David Brooks' New York Times column this morning, it led me to a list of steps the US oughta take, prepared by some think tank. For some reason, the load kept flickering -- I hope it's because so many people in a position to do something are reading it along with me. I'm always reassured to learn that people who study these things are on top of it.

But it's sort of like how excited I was when I saw that Thomas Friedman, among others, has the energy-education-employment thing all figured out. I figured I'd see action within days, as soon as the President and his people read their NYT.

But of course, I haven't seen that. Still, I'm hoping big for the Middle East. And what are we to make of the news that China is stifling the internet so its people won't get too excited about the news?

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies