About Will Craft For Food

I make stuff. Oh, I also play well with others.

My Standards For Choosing A Pet And Photographer Are The Same

Like some sort of bipedal gopher, most of my childhood was spent moving one pile of earth from a primary location to a secondary one.  My parents claimed that I was helping them dig their version of a Cambodian villager’s garden, right in the heart of a famously tropical land called Texas.  This garden’s main purpose was to cultivate plants previously only seen in their native land.  And perhaps, the airport’s customs trash bin labeled “invasive species.” I harbored doubts, though.  I just figured we were digging our way back to the motherland.  Like every child who’s raised in the “migrant working conditions” method, breaks were only given to do homework, and to feed the animals which constituted our backyard version of Noah’s Ark.  Peeing and bathing were considered leisure activities and saved for three-day weekends.

Since my parents are loyal subscribers to the idea of raising children in the ways of the old country, we were regularly gifted a seemingly endless supply of pet fowls to feed, chase after and subsequently pretend we didn’t eat.  A covey of quails was the fowl du jour in the summer of ’96.  They promptly vanished and left us with a disappearance mystery unheard of since The Lost Colony of Roanoke.  Chickens and ducks came clucking into our hearts and ultimately our stomachs.  But the most memorable pet fowls were the roosters.  For many years, in the late 90s, our roosters were the unofficial assholes of our neighborhood.  And the adjacent neighborhood, as well, come to think of it.  Like clockwork, those birds were up at dawn and on a mission to awaken the dead, or at the very least, the sleep deprived.  

Like our pet roosters, of yesteryear, I am a creature of habit.  I walk the same route, in the morning, for coffee with the same dog and the same husband.  My order rarely varies from my usual 16-ounce coffee with skim.  If I’m drinking something different, it’s because the barista messed up.  It’s hard to mess up a cup of coffee with a splash of skim, but she’s a woman of many talents.  Pouring liquid caffeine into a paper cup just isn’t one of them. 

The car radio’s volume is always set at an even number, or one that is divisible by the number five.  Sometimes, enterprising individuals attempt a game of “Amateur DJ Hour” with my vehicle’s volume levels, but they’re usually never heard from again.  Once I find an equation that works, I keep repeating it like a Taylor Swift song on FM radio.  

I have a set of life equations, that I pull off from my dusty thinking shelf; and put to use, from time to time.  Like Nutella, I’ve used these life equations on almost everything (bread lubricant, wall caulk, crafting adhesive; just to name a few).  For instance, I have a dog. She is absolutely perfect.  And more importantly, the dog fulfills a set of very low standards, I’ve preset for a pet.  I used a similar set of standards to figure out my love life. In this case, I also inserted a clause of “by hook or by crook.”  And finally, the set of standards proved helpful in finding a wedding photographer.  

During a wedding show called Weddings in Woodinville, we met our photographer.  His name is Shane Macomber.  He was rather difficult to spot, at first, amidst a sea of future brides (and ten accompanying bridesmaids) killing each other over free crab cakes and wedding directory handouts.  It was like a Battle of the Bulge, but with three times the heels and half the bulge.  But he was perfect for the job.  His photography is beyond beautiful, and we’re really lucky to have found him.

Here’s my guideline for finding a photographer/partner/dog that’s right for you (but mainly, me), followed by our engagement photos done by Shane Macomber.

Is he/she available?

  • Photographer: Make sure your photographer has your wedding date open.
  • Partner: Make sure your partner isn’t married to a wife, his mom or himself.
  • Pet: Make sure your dream dog isn’t microchipped to the address, down the street. The house with the greener grass.  I think their name is Jones.

Is he/she dependable?

  • Photographer: Does your photographer call when he says he will?  Does he show up to appointments on time?
  • Partner: Can you depend on your partner to show up to his wedding to you?
  • Pet: Comes when called.  Shits in designated areas.  Can solve differential equations, when given a calculator and three Milkbones.

Can he/she give you what you want?

  • Photographer: Typically, a photographer who has built a career out of photographing babies sleeping inside giant vegetables, personally grown by Jolly the Green Giant in collaboration with Monsanto, isn’t going to be wedding material.  Know what you want to see in photos, and compare that to what they have to offer.
  • Partner: I wanted a man who didn’t mess with my radio volumes.  John satisfies those desires.  He’s a keeper.  He can stay.
  • Pet: This is also called ‘fetching.’

Can you bring her/him around your friends and family?

  • Photographer: Make sure your photographer isn’t creepy.  I attended a wedding, when I was 15, and the middle-aged photographer kept pestering for my phone number.  Presumably, this was so that he could call me about modeling opportunities, done in the comfort of his basement dungeon, and then circulated to an underground network of prison inmates.
  • Partner: Example, partner does not sleep with wedding guests.  This is non-negotiable.
  • Pet: Example, dog does not sleep with wedding guests.  This is negotiable.

Where do you see him/her, in relation to you, in five years?

  • Photographer: Can you call them up in five years and say, “Hey!  Can you do maternity pics too?  Or do I have to call that lady with the giant lettuce props?”
  • Partner: Do you see your partner there for you, in five years?  After all of your terrible vegan jokes and annoying habit of sleeping on 75% of the bed, 100% of the time, even though you’re 50% his size?
  • Pet: The answer better be “with me.”  Please don’t be an asshole and give away your dog just because he/she considered your garbage bin as an All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet.  You weren’t going to eat it.  Might as well share the wealth.

How much is he and can you afford that amount?

  • Photographer: You don’t want to remortgage your mom’s home or sell a kidney to finance your wedding photos.  Some people negotiate the price.  I didn’t negotiate with our photographer, since I do think he was worth every penny, and probably more.  They spend countless hours acting like as if they enjoy being around your drunken wedding guests.  And then they go home, only to spend countless more hours on Photoshop, to make you look like a decent human being. 
  • Partner: He shouldn’t cost anything.  The ones who do are called gigolos or deuce bigalows.  One of those.
  • Pet: Cheaper than therapy.  More expensive than alcohol.  More legal than most drugs.

Samna_John Esession_0346 Samna_John Esession_0396 Samna_John Esession_0439-2 Samna_John Esession_0056 Samna_John Esession_0462 Samna_John Esession_0490 Samna_John Esession_0332 Samna_John Esession_0082 Samna_John Esession_0142 Samna_John Esession_0548 Samna_John Esession_0157 Samna_John Esession_0586 Samna_John Esession_0568 Samna_John Esession_0628 Samna_John Esession_0620 Samna_John Esession_0637-2 Samna_John Esession_0610 Samna_John Esession_0693 Samna_John Esession_0679 Samna_John Esession_0761 Samna_John Esession_0715 Samna_John Esession_0778 Samna_John Esession_0869 Samna_John Esession_0871-2 Samna_John Esession_0876 Samna_John Esession_0976 Samna_John Esession_1044 Samna_John Esession_1019-2 Samna_John Esession_1038 Samna_John Esession_1069 Samna_John Esession_1061 Samna_John Esession_1068 Samna_John Esession_1176 Samna_John Esession_1072

When To Share One’s Underwear

My sister and I used to look alike.  Back when all Asians looked alike and dinosaurs roamed Earth.  That was in the early 90s, and George Senior was the reigning president. But now, with the spread of diversity and enough Asians telling non-Asians, “No, we don’t all look alike” my sister and I look, well, only somewhat alike.  In summary, we are virtually identical from the forehead, up.

Once a year, my sister and I take that somewhat likeness show on the road.  We call this our “Sista Sista Trip!”  Oftentimes, a location is determined using a precise algorithm which involves: number of coffee shops per square inch, dog population in relation to human population and absence of chain link fences.  It is an exact science that involves no scientists, whatsoever.

In preparation for this trip, my sister will undoubtedly remember to forget her underwear and toothbrush.  Upon arrival, she will unpack her luggage that’s been filled with every magazine that LaGuardia’s Hudson News, in Terminal B, has to offer.  Then she will announce that she’s forgotten those pesky little fabric pieces for one’s “down under” and that stick instrument that aids in cavity prevention.  If her Tumi had a life story, it would be titled When One Packs Nothing At All.  And thus begins, the one-sided sharing of underwear and toothbrush.

Our last sisters’ trip was to Austin, Texas.  This wonderful southern city is the home of many barbecue pits.  It also serves as the final resting place of thousands more pigs and cows. There’s a special sacrificial offering that the locals like to perform, during the hot summer months.  We believe that this is to appease the angry sun gods, while seeking favor from the rain gods.  A fire pit is built, usually in some sort of black altar fashioned out of metal. The locals refer to this as a ‘grill’.  Marinated flanks of meat are tossed into the fire, after being massaged with seasoning.  We have been told that this is solely to add flavor. Note to self: pagan gods love flavor.

Austin holds a special place in our frigidly cold hearts.  It was home to both of us, for many years, and we absolutely loved it.  Back in the olden days, South Congress was where people would go to score drugs and have their shoes stolen, right from under them.  Or trade in their shoes for some drugs.  You walked home barefoot, either way.  It was a neighborhood of shoeless people, back in its heyday.  Now, non-druggy people go there to people-watch other non-druggy people people-watch.  And they all wear shoes.  Oh, how the times have changed.

It’s rather nice to take a trip with your sibling; I highly recommend it.  It resembles a romantic vacation, but you aren’t expected to put out at the end of the night.  Or in the morning.  Or ever.  With a sibling, one can share the same bed, skip hand-in-hand and tell the hostess that you’d like a “table for two” in the coziest corner they have to offer.  When you’re finally seated at a 6-top, by the bathroom, with a panoramic view of the bussers’ station; you’ll have the rest of the night to compliment one another over your shared (and obviously, superior) genes.  It’s great.

Here are a few photos (with accompanying commentary) I took, from our 2014 Sista Sista Trip! to Austin, Texas.

IMG_4024

Hotel San Jose on South Congress. My favorite hotel, next to the Ace Hotel in Portland. They both offer typewriter rentals, just in case you forget to bring your own and have to travel back in time to retrieve it.

IMG_4045

Austin’s Tourism Committee must’ve paid off Al Roker and/or The Weather Channel. The temperature they cited was high 80s. It felt more like 106 degrees with a side of sunstroke.

IMG_4005

Quote of the trip: “We’ll be back!” and The Petition Signature Gatherer tells us “That’s what my daddy said, and he ain’t ever come back.”

IMG_4017

Is it creepy to take pictures outside of people’s windows? I sure hope so

IMG_4021

IMG_4236

My sister, on her way to borrow my toothbrush.

IMG_4147

Beds feel better when someone else makes them.

IMG_4166

The hotel leaves you cryptic poems in your room. I interpreted this one as “You should eat more chicken”.

IMG_4179

Bottled rainwater. Next up, prepackaged snow.

IMG_4276

Drinking coffee and thinking about how the Aztec pattern, on my hotel robe, brings out the brown in my eyes.

IMG_4080

IMG_4128

TOMS makes coffee now. From shoes to coffee. They really do know their way into the hipster heart. One might assume that they’ll give you half a cup of coffee and the other half to a kid in a coffee-poor society. But no, they give you a full serving of roasted goodness.

IMG_4110

Austin is like Pinterest, but in city-form.

IMG_4289

Trying on shoes made by kids in Guatemala. Not the sweatshop kind. The “Make us one pair, and we’ll let you make yourself your own pair to wear (even though you’d rather have a Nike)” type shop.

IMG_4293

 

IMG_4303

Skirts & Stairs.

Pennybacker Bridge.

Pennybacker Bridge.

 

IMG_4470

Texas sunset during our drive to the hotel. My sister drove the car like the rental that it is. Windows rolled down and music up, like high schoolers on a Friday night.

 

IMG_4657

Museum that used to be an artist’s home. And every artist’s home needs a moat, a turret and a few grave sites underneath the oak grove.

IMG_4644

Trying to order something from a vintage Sears catalog. Maybe some hardtack and a tin of blackstrap molasses. Oh, and a typewriter. Just in case the one at Hotel San Jose doesn’t work properly.

IMG_4678

My sister showing me the proper way to sit, like a lady.

IMG_4691

Bangles, all day.

IMG_4723

Acting our age. Obviously.

IMG_4828

Having a romantic dinner with my sister at a farm/restaurant-ish. The kind of place where you can pet your chicken before you eat it.

IMG_4737

One word comes to mind and that is ‘Windex.’

IMG_4733

Airstream/Funhouse mirror.

IMG_4742

Some people use lights to decorate their garden. Others use it to grow their pot farm in the attic.

IMG_4792

Chandelier on a tree. Where it belongs.

IMG_4803

Our bartender in the airstream, serving up free (FREE!) Deep Eddy booze. Somebody definitely secured his golden ticket into heaven.

IMG_4842

Austin summarized in one photo: plaid, red cooler, deer head and airstream bar.

IMG_4846

A lesson in font or a farm stand menu. Depends on your perspective.

IMG_4848

Mood lighting over the sink, for when you want to sensually wash your hands. It’s fantastic.

IMG_4852

Looking into the farmhouse, from outside. It’s exactly how I envisioned a gentrified farmhouse to look like. Low on produce, high on gently weathered decor.

IMG_4853

Herb picking by the glow of her iPhone. Just like the days of yore.

IMG_4865

Going up the stairs of Mount Bonnell. My sister ran up the stairs; I just shimmied myself up the rail, as evidenced by my position in this photo.

IMG_4878

Rose petals strewn on the limestone path. I hope she said yes or else that would’ve been an awkward walk back down the stairs.

IMG_4908

Some men get t-shirts, as a souvenir, for when their woman returns back home from a trip. John gets tomatoes and fresh tortillas.

IMG_4911

Tomatoes on a window sill, hoping to end up on top of a grilled pizza with some basil and fresh milk mozzarella made in someone’s urban bathtub. Because ending your tomato life in a pasta dish is so last year.

IMG_4920

Tomatoes, side by side. Just hanging out.

IMG_4939

Chairs everywhere.

IMG_4951

Geraldine the Rainey Street Guinea Fowl. She was the neighborhood’s famous feral fowl, until her hit and run death awhile back. Fowl play is suspected.

IMG_4968

My sister, in East Austin, taking pictures with a giant flying piece of toast. We couldn’t find anyone to take a photo of the both of us. The only person around was a man, who was too busy stealing someone’s stereo, to lend us a hand.

 

 

Stupid Invitations

Ever since I was old enough to help my dad clean a carburetor (age, 5), he told me, “You can be whatever you want in life, you just can’t be stupid.”  I wasn’t expected to become a doctor.  Or even a magician on the side of an infrequently traveled road.  I was given free range to become anything in life, except for stupid.  Speaking from personal experience, that request is harder than it initially sounds.

Me: “Why can’t I be one?”

Dad: “Cause that career has already been taken by too many people.”

Me: “What’s stupid?”

Dad: “Those kids down the street who spend their entire day watching the MTV and painting fake moles above their lips.  That’s stupid.  Pass me my cigarette, will you?  Don’t smoke, either.  That’s stupid, too.”

Like tofu, his definition of ‘stupid’ was never a solid one.  He molded and seasoned it to fit whatever life-learning situation was present.  His recipe for disaster consisted of: 1 part smart and 1 part stupid equals all stupid.  Like SARS, my dad warned us that stupidity was a highly infectious disease that was transmitted when stupid people opened their mouths.

In his eyes, his three children were never stupid.  But some of us toed the line, from time to time, which he was always quick to point out.  In ’96, when I came home crying, because I lost out to a fifth grader at the area spelling bee competition by misspelling ‘insomnia'; he calmly explained to me that the word itself is stupid anyway.  When I had my first serious breakup, he told me the guy was too stupid for us Chhengs and would’ve dumbed down the family line.  And besides, he had stupid looking hair.  But the biggest act of stupidity was paying full price, for anything; especially wedding invitations.

Wedding invitations are a necessary evil.  Little squares and rectangles, usually ranging in price from “too much” to “way too much”; will be stamped, sealed by spit and sent out to wedding-worn guests.  Then into the trash bin, they go. A very popular paper company in Seattle quoted the paper costs for our 50-guest wedding to be in the range of $1,500 to $3,000.  It included Save-the-Dates, invitations with one too many envelopes to lick, RSVP cards that no one ever returns and Thank You cards that the bride and groom dread having to fill and send out.  After fainting from the quote, I realized that what I needed was a No Thank You card to send out to this company.  Like Google Maps, I began searching for alternate routes for invites and other wedding items that involved paper and ink.

For our Save-the-Dates, I was on a time crunch.  The holiday season was fast approaching, and I was having a difficult time locating a living “Dr. Seuss-esque” type Christmas tree for our living room.  We settled on a Nootka cypress, by the way.

Luckily, Minted.com had a 15% discount for Save-the-Dates.  So, I jumped onto a comfortable spot on the bandwagon and ordered 40 cards for about $55, addressed enveloped included.  The design I ordered was a library card look with an engagement photo shot by Shane Macomber.  It’s my favorite photo of the two of us.

IMG_4870

Clockwise, from top: Unlined envelopes from minted.com, library card styled Save-The-Dates, pages torn from a book and lichen covered twigs. Not sure why the twigs are there. I collected them, during a walk, and thought they looked Save-the-Date-ish.

The Save-the-Dates came out okay.  I regret not designing it myself, but I did manage to sneak in some personal touches.  I glued lining to each envelope, using pages torn out of old books.  The books I used were from Girl With a Pearl Earring and A Beautiful Mind. The ones I owned were torn already, so it wasn’t a big deal to rip them apart.

IMG_4931

Vintage paper-cutter I bought for $8.99, years ago, in anticipation of cutting my own wedding invites. Books to weigh the glued envelopes down, while drying. No bubbling, that way. Coffee to drink and then spill onto said envelopes. Personalized stamps for your envelopes, cause nothing says “I’m getting married” like a $50 stamp from Paper Source. Bird’s nest, for no reason at all.

For our invitations, I spent $35.  I know, I was tempted to marry myself after scoring that deal.  What I did was design my own invites.  I wanted a vintage botanical look.  Simple and pretty.

IMG_9473

Drawing of a blueberry sprig. We pick a lot of blueberries. I later added blueberries to my wedding flowers.

For the invitation itself, I started off by sketching a blueberry sprig.  Then I photographed and adjusted it via Lightroom.  After that, I downloaded (for free) Inkscape.  Using Inskcape, I turned the sketch into a vector image.  Then, I added a free font called “Dearest Script” for a handwritten look.  It was finally sent to smartpress.com for printing.

IMG_9476

Vector rendered and ready for application.

The invitations were printed on an ivory card, but I wanted a thicker look since nothing screams ‘fancy’ like some 222 pound card stock.  So, I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and bought a bunch of thick linen-type scrapbook paper in light grey.  I cut the grey paper down to invitation-size and glued it to the back.  While drying, the cards were held down with book stacks, for an even finish.

IMG_0392

Thick scrapbook paper (the kind with a rough edge surface, like linen), semi-finished (I guess that’s called unfinished. But semi-finished sounds so much more optimistic, doesn’t it?) invites and paper stamp cutter thing.

I wasn’t going to send out RSVP cards, since no one except unmarried great aunts with multiple poodles, return them anyway.  But after cutting up all of the scrapbook paper, I had a ton left.  So, I made personalized cards with the guests’ names on it.  It’s not useful, but I thought it was cute.  And besides, I had time on my glue-stained hands.  Long ago, I bought a Martha Stewart paper cutout stamp thing from TJMaxx for an amount between pennies and “not much.” I finally put it to good use for the wedding.  I stamped out a bird design on leftover ivory scrapbook paper. Then, I did a backing of grey.  On the grey side, I sketched out ferns and the recipients’ names, with a grey calligraphy pen.

IMG_0410

Finished cards, addressed envelopes and invitations.

 

For the envelopes, I considered outsourcing it to a professional calligrapher and then I thought, “Screw it. I got an A in penmanship, back in the second grade.  I’ll write it out myself.”  So I did.

In all, my Save-the-Dates and invitations totaled a paltry $100.  Pretty good for not being stupid.  Things to make a father proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wikipedia Wedding

IMG_0236

Foraged goods. Clockwise, from left: bunchberries, red elderberries, black huckleberries, chicken of the woods, something we have yet to identify (and is collecting its own fungus while sitting in the fridge) and porcini.

“So, how does it feel to be married?”  Apparently, this is what the masses want to know; after two people kiss in front of a gathering of well-wishers, at the conclusion of an exchanging of rings.  Well, I now have a husband.  Just one.  I know.  There was no BOGO sale with this deal.  And, his name is John.  Not that John, the other one.  The John who is a forager and full-time vegan.  Not to be confused with part-time vegans.  Those are the ones who are vegan, until mealtime, that is.  So, I married a “foraging vegan”; two words that strike fear in the bleeding hearts of artichokes, all over the world.  And this John is a proud Wikipediaphile.  But we’ll get to that last made-up-word, later.

Marrying a forager pretty much guarantees that you get nowhere fast, for the rest of your married life.  There are apple trees to shake the shizzle out of, chestnut trees to terrorize for ripe nuts, and your wife’s patience to test.  So much to pick, so little time.

What I’ve come to realize is that I’ve essentially married a squirrel.  John treats the summer months in Seattle as a time to collect nuts and berries.  He then squirrels them away for a very long, harsh winter; with no hope for a return of spring. In our fridge, there are huckleberries of every variety, picked at various elevations.  Aronia berries that taste like UPS packing peanuts, dipped in Pantone’s “Color of the Year”, from five years ago. Currants that are black, currants that are red and currants with “stink” in its name. Personally, I consider any aggregate with a warning in its name unfit for consumption.  My husband disagrees.  Nuts are lined up like sacrificial lemmings, to be cracked and slaughtered, into nut butter.  At this rate, John has enough fruit and nuts to start his own Harry & David Fruit-of-the-Month club.  He just needs to send out his own colorful ten-page flyers.

When he’s not busy harvesting, John occupies himself with trying to convince me that the radiation-orange mushrooms, picked last weekend, taste “just like chicken!”  I will admit, though.  They do taste like chicken, if chicken tasted like mushrooms.

Aside from the fact that John will pick and eat anything without a face, I’m not too worried about my husband poisoning himself.  He’s pretty smart.  I’d even describe him as somewhat of a genius.  But then again, he thinks I’m one, as well.  In the back of our minds we realize that we’re both, more than quite possibly, terribly wrong.  I, for one, have yet to figure out how to parallel park, even with a backup camera.  Or park, in a regular parking spot, for that matter.  When presented with the task of maneuvering my Subaru between two solid white lines, I end up with a moment that includes a shrug of the shoulders and a look that reads Well, I tried my best.  The end result is that I park my car like a pair of shoes at a sample sale: askew.

So, when it came time for us to set up a wedding website, we knew we wanted something that reflected our personalities.  Something that said, “Love is when you show someone your secret mushroom patch in the woods.”  Or, at the very least, “Hold my drink while I tend to my kombucha batch.”  John is forever on Wikipedia, researching things from twinberries to projectile trajectory.  I am also always on Wikipedia.  But my searches are usually for ‘penguins’, ‘puffins’ and ‘keeping penguins and puffins as pets.”  It was one year and one month, since our engagement, and we still didn’t have a wedding site.  Just a fridge full of nuts and vegan cheese.

One early November morning at 3AM, as a result of the glow of my then-fiancé’s MacBook, I woke up.  I looked over and saw that John was reading a Wikipedia page composed of equations that involved too many letters from the Greek alphabet.  The last time I saw so many gammas and rhos was in college.  And they were on t-shirts combined with other words like ‘rush’ and ‘bid’.  Looking at his page of physics equations put me back to sleep.

Sometime between then and now, we decided that our site will be styled a la Wikipedia. John was busy saving the world, one Amazon web service page at a time, so the technologically inept person (that’s me!) was left to code the page. Here’s what I ended up with: samnaandjohn.com.  The links to “Mo” and “Hotels, Things to See, People to Do…” also work and are sort of worth the extra click.

Our wedding page is what happens when Wikipedia-loving boy marries a girl who likes to write about the boy’s love for looking up wild edibles on Wikipedia. It’s perfect. For us.

Kale Is Dead

I wanted to give you the news first, so that you won’t have to read about it in a yuppie lifestyle magazine that’s based out of Brooklyn.  THIS JUST IN: Kale is no longer the new spinach.  Kale is not even the beets of 2010.  Kale is now iceberg lettuce.  It was last spotted at an Olive Garden, hiding beneath xanthan gum based dressing, like some sort of victim under witness protection. Can you even imagine? The horror of it all.

Hang onto your Calamine lotion people, it’s all about attacking edible foliage, nowadays. Stinging nettle is THE new kale.  You can’t find it at normal grocery stores, unless your normal grocery store employs hippies-without-kids to forage for these emerald gems, full-time.  And besides, stinging nettle is far too superior to be hanging out besides limp shredded carrots, in a salad bin, at a Whore Foods near you.  Rev up your Subarus and leave your dog behind, there are nettles in the moist areas near you to be collected, blanched and eaten, after being Instagrammed under the double hashtag #KALEISDEAD and #NETTLESMAKEMEFEELSOALIVE.  Okay, so you don’t have to do the second hashtag, but it does make you sound edgy when talking wild produce.

At 5:55PM yesterday, my fiancé rushed out of work, leaving behind a few sev 2s.  We had some exciting things planned that involved acting poor.  I packed a few plastic bags, two pairs of thick gloves and scissors.  Seattle has a ban on plastic bags.  I get mine from the Asian grocery stores.  The law doesn’t seem to apply there.  It’s like culinary anarchy.

6:20PM:  We are knee deep in blackberry brambles, and my lovely man is talking non-stop about all of the health benefits of stinging nettle.  Namely, that it increases egg production in hens and milk production in cows.  I inform him that I am not currently looking to boost my edible egg or milk production, but he will be the first to know of it when I do.

6:30PM:  Fellow Seattlelite with two dogs stops to ask us what we are foraging for.  She lights up when we tell her stinging nettle.  Then she gives us recipes and techniques.  We love this city.  Interesting/weird/crazy people are everywhere.

6:35PM:  We pick two bags of nettle and a handful of wild daffodils.  Then we walk home in the rain.  We secretly enjoy the drizzle.  Dinner tastes better when there is quiet suffering involved.

6:50PM:  I fill a bowl with water and a splash of white vinegar to clean the greens.  I rinse a few times and blanch in boiling water.  Then I made pesto.  Then we ate it.  It was amazing.

In case you are the type to enjoy photos, here are some from our evening of foraging fun.

Image

Nettles field. Apple tree to the left (fruits are ready in the fall) and blackberry brambles to the right (summertime picking). Stinging nettles seem to enjoy the same areas that blackberries do.

Image

Stinging nettles hiding under blackberry brambles.

Image

Our loot: Two bags of nettle and a small bunch of wild daffodils.

Image

Rinse the nettle in cold water, plus white vinegar. Don’t touch it. Use tongs or chopsticks. My fiancé’s chopstickery skills are insane, as you can see.

Image

When blanched, the greens can be handled with bare hands and are ready to be added to soups, salads and sauces.

Image

I never use a recipe for pesto, but it’s basically a few handfuls of blanched nettle (or spinach), fresh basil, a few cloves of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts and nutritional yeast (if made vegan) or grated hard cheese (if not). Salt and pepper to taste.

Image

Pesto! With portobello mushrooms. It’s the direct flight route to a vegan man’s heart.

 

 

I Flu American Airlines

I don’t often think about dying.  But when I do, it’s usually at the gym or during holiday travel.  The first time I thought that death was closer to me than a Starbucks drive-thru was during my initial spin class.  This membership-paid torture session was run by a woman who clearly subsisted on a cocktail diet of caffeine, mixed with other people’s sweat and tears.  And to top it off, she had Britney Spears on loop.  I can’t be certain though.  I suspect she also threw in some Christina, for variety.  Until this day, I can’t bear to listen to a song by Kevin Federline’s ex without experiencing phantom posterior aching.  It is awful.

But on that day, I foolishly chose a bike in the front row, thinking I’d look more like the next Tour de France winner if I rode in front of the pack.  But I ended up looking more like a rodeo clown falling off of a unicycle than a doped up cyclist.  Ever wonder if time stands still?  The answer is “Yes, during spin class”.   I’m sure there’s a group of physicists already making their way to the nearest spin class, as I type.

After an hour of mentally writing my will while spinning, it occurred to me that whoever invented the stationary bike might also enjoy poking their eyeballs with sharp rusted objects.  It was like self-torture, but stationary.  Afterward, fellow spin victims asked me, “How was your first spin class?” to which I responded, “I don’t know how to describe it, but for some reason the term ‘actively dying’ comes to mind”.

And then, every year after Christmas, I contract the flu.  I’m not quite sure which strain I spent the first two weeks of January dying… I mean, recovering from.  But I’m sure it’s the one that sounds like a chemical compound used to fuel large objects shot into outer space.  This was all after waiting half a day at the doctor’s office, to be weighed, poked at with vaccination needles and told to come back the following year.  All so that I can spend another half day reading through the office’s dog-eared selection of Parenting, Motherhood, and Good Housekeeping magazines.

My flu experience started on December 28th of 2013.  I was to take an American Airlines flight from the center of the universe (Texas) to Seattle (2,100 miles northwest from the center of the universe).  We arrived two hours early, because somehow I knew that we’d have to stand in the longest short line, to ever be in existence.  We were traveling with our dog and forced to stand in a check-in counter line along with other pet owners, minors traveling without their parent and old people who refuse to believe in self check-in kiosks, smartphones or neighborhood kids “on my goddamn lawn!”  There were three miserable travelers in front of us.  And three employees were behind the counter, trying their best to act like as if they were on vacation, somewhere in the south of someplace.  It was a 50-minute wait for us to get to the counter.

At some point between the time it took for me to tell the ticket counter guy that “You are an asshole, I am not checking in my wedding dress”, and the time it took for us to land, I contracted the flu.  My wedding dress was in a cardboard box that he was eyeing with gold dollar signs.  It fulfilled American Airlines’ check-in bag requirements but not the mental requirements of a man clearly descended from the inventor of the spin bike.   I won but not for long.

It may not have been the fault of the ticket counter guy (aka Satan’s Little Helper).  It may have been the fact that I was on a four-hour long flight that was being pumped with the recycled air of over a hundred fellow passengers, sharing tiny droplets of sweat, tears and disease.  Either way, I woke up the next morning with a sore throat and an intense need to assign blame.  The first face to come to mind was Satan’s Little Helper.

You know how you learned all about drugs in Health class?  “This is your brain on drugs”?  “This is your brain on alcohol”?  Well, here’s a Gchat snippet of what I’ll label as “This is your brain on the flu”.

Monday, December 30, 2013 12:58 PM

Me

I need to go to church. Nyquil isn’t working. 12:58 PM

Only the D-O-double G can save me now. 12:59 PM

Fiancé

Oh honey.  You know Snoop Dogg changed his name.  It’s Snoop Lion now.12:59 PM

Me

Either way, our lovely dog is already sleeping in my spot on the bed. She knows that the end is near for me. 12:59 PM

Fiancé

Do you want to go to the doctor? 12:59 PM

Me

No, they’ll just laugh at my symptoms and charge me co-pay. 1:00 PM

Fiancé

They’re trained not to laugh. 1:00 PM

That’s what they spend most of their time studying. 1:01 PM

And you don’t have co-pay. 1:01 PM

Me

My eyeballs are burning.  They feel like two free-range eggs frying on the hood of a black car…in Phoenix, Arizona…during a summer drought.  I take that back.  On Mercury.  My two organic eggs are frying on the hood of a Nissan Altima on Mercury. 1:01 PM

And my back feels like little blue people are rubbing tiny little emery boards all over it, out of spite. 1:01 PM

Fiancé

Sounds like the flu. 1:01 PM

Me

I don’t know if a doctor will say it’s the flu after hearing about free-range eggs and Nissans.  They’ll think I’m hosting some sort of Smurf-themed carwash/brunch. 1:02 PM

It’s ok.  If you find me at home, dead from the flu, just make sure not to move me until the paramedics get here. You don’t want to tamper with the scene of the crime. 1:03 PM

I’ve prepared a special pill jar for you.  You know, just in case you decide to join me on the other side of the lucky rainbow. It’s not expected, but it sure might be nice to have some company. 1:04 PM

Fiancé

I’ll try to leave early and pick up some flu medication. Any requests?1:04 PM

Me

Is Bartell’s selling morphine, nowadays? I’ll have two of those and maybe a York peppermint patty. 1:05 PM

Kidding about the York peppermint patty. 1:05 PM

Um, honey?  You still there? 1:32 PM

And that is the brain with the flu.

IMG_6872

Waiting at the airport. Some people buy the flight+hotel+rental car package. We signed up for the flight+flu deal.

Image

How sick people entertain themselves: knit cold weather accessories for the dog. Sleeping cap with attached ear flaps, made by my fiancé. Sad face made by Mo (the dog).

Growing Up With An Original Hipster

Cheap people have the best ideas.  Just ask my mom.  She’s been cheap before it was cool to be cheap.  The cool kids call it “Going Green” now.  But if you were to tell my mom that she was going green, she’d probably think that she had gangrene.

Hand her a plastic bag with a scallion bunch, held together by a rubber band, and she’s in her element.  First, she’ll cut the roots off of each stalk and replant those in her garden. Once cut, she’ll toss the remaining leafy section of the scallions into a pot.  Rubber bands will go into a bag full of others that she’s collected since the Nixon days.  They’re so old, they snap in half when you tug on them.  I think she’s secretly planning on using them to build some sort of rubber band bomb shelter, in the event of a third world war.  And then the plastic bag is used to hold all of the extra money she’s been saving.

She jangles this bag from time to time when she thinks her spendthrift children are exhibiting extravagant spending behavior.  Like buying bottled water and not repurposing the plastic as a planter.  Or not collecting rainwater, to use as irrigation.  Can’t finish your rice?  Use it as an adhesive.  I used to have a pen pal in Africa who received letters from me, sent in homemade envelopes held together by leftover rice.  Some people guilt-trip their children into finishing their meals because there are “starving children in Africa”.  I literally sent my leftovers to Africa.

For most of my childhood, we kept pet chickens.  Well, they were pets until they would inevitably become “missing”.  These suspicious disappearances would often coincide with my mom cheerfully announcing to the family that the “chicken soup is ready!”  This usually happened a few hours after we had called off the search for the missing fowl.  As a child, I often thought that there was a chicknapper in the neighborhood with a voracious appetite for poultry dishes.  It worried me that someone like that was on the loose, and I thought it was my civic responsibility to bring this to the public’s attention.  Instead of posting up pictures of our missing chickens on the side of milk cartons, I suggested to my mom that we have chicken nugget boxes printed with a colored photo of our missing fowl friend, to alert the neighborhood.  She just laughed and told me to finish my chicken soup cause, unlike rice, it’s no good as an adhesive alternative.

Having a pet chicken is only fun in theory.  They poop.  A lot.  They poop while running away from you.  They poop while they eat.  They poop while you’re petting them.  And you can only pet them in one direction, if you want to avoid ruffling their feathers.  Then you feel guilty when you crave chicken nuggets after playing with them.

Besides, no matter how good your pet chicken is, it will always run away from you.  Nothing is more traumatizing than being thirteen years of age, and running down a busy road, trying to unsuccessfully lure your pet chicken home, with a limp piece of lettuce. To make matters worse, our house was near several schools, so if it was during peak traffic hours, your chicken run performance was guaranteed to have a fellow classmate in the audience.  If you’re wondering, chickens don’t respond to its name or commands.  It’s not like searching for a dog and all you have to say is “Hello Pet Dog, are you hungry?  Please come to me if you are.”  Chickens aren’t stupid but they are technically birdbrained.  To catch a chicken on the lam, all you can do is hope that it’ll run into a wall or wide pole so that you can swoop in and carry it home, underneath your shirt.

Fast forward to a year ago.  During a visit to Portland, I came across a booth advertising “urban homesteading” services to the general public.  This phrase was new to me but when I read the bullet points of what constitutes urban homesteading e.g. edible landscaping, pickling, raising farm animals; it was like reading an exalted description of my childhood.

I picked up the phone and called my mom.  “Mom!  Remember how I used to complain about gathering chicken shit to use as fertilizer?  How, every time I drop off the dog with you, I’m a bit surprised that you haven’t attached a yoke and plow to her back and implemented her as a beast of burden?  I take it all back.  You’re cooler than 95% of America now.  The word to describe you is ‘hipster’ and you being cheap is called “urban homesteading’”.  There was a bit of silence on the phone and she finally replied, “You’re speaking with too many English words, I couldn’t understand a word you said.  Are you trying to tell me that I need my hips replaced?”  Oh mom, you’re so cool, you don’t even know it.  And that’s what every hipster strives to be.  That, and have good hair.

So, it probably comes as no surprise that I chose to forage and thrift my way into making bridesmaids gifts.  I even added chicken wire as a sort of tribute to all of my past chicken friends/dinners.  Here’s how I made everything:

Step 1:  Walk outside.  Collect some rocks.  Walk back inside and take a nap.  You’ll need it for your Goodwill trip, later in the day.  I think Goodwill is one of the rare places where you routinely hear, over the intercom, “Will the parents of the two year old, who’s currently filling his basket with toys, please come and claim him before CPS does?”  But that’s where I found the lace (99 cents apiece), blueish grey teacups ($1.99 each) and blank cards + envelopes ($1.99).  I then stopped by Jo-Ann Fabric to see what else I could find. I left with these chicken wire boxes, which were $3 each, after being marked down at 70% off.  I don’t remember how much the scrapbooking paper was but it was probably under 70 cents apiece.

IMG_4477

Step 2:  Cut out the scrapbook paper in fancy shapes and glue it onto the blank cards. Write on top of it, let it dry and glue on the lace fabric.  You’ll probably mess up a few times.  I sure did.

IMG_4482

Step 3:  Paint the copper colored chicken wire box with off white paint.  I deliberately left some areas “distressed” to make it look like as if it had been pecked at by a bunch of hungry chickens.  Then, line the box, with the rest of the scrapbook paper, to give it that “sophisticated henpecked” look.

IMG_4499

Step 4:  While the box dries off, tear out some pages from a book and glue it onto the insides of the envelopes.  I used a book that was falling apart, but you can use whatever book you’re not reading.  Just scan the page before glueing it on.  You don’t want to be sending your grandma steamy scenes from a grocery aisle novel.  Unless she was the one who gave you the book in the first place.  While the glue dries, I took embroidering thread and sewed on a border to my cards.

IMG_4505

IMG_4567

Step 5:  Put on some pants and go back outside to collect some branches.  I got these off of the beach.  Then I burned the wedding date into each piece.  I also wrote the names of each bridesmaid with white ink because nothing impresses people more than their names written on random objects.

IMG_4514

Step 6:  Cut out a piece of sponge and glue it onto the bottom of each teacup.  You’ll want to make sure that the sponge is dry and the teacup is clean, when you adhere the two together.

IMG_4516

Step 7:  There’s a lot of moss in Seattle.  It grows everywhere.  Roof tops, abandoned cars, sidewalk cracks.  So, I gathered some while on a walk with the dog.  It was growing on the sidewalk.  I thought about sending a bill for “moss removal services” to the CIty of Seattle but that requires too much effort.  But use whatever is abundant, around you.

IMG_4525

Step 8:  Water the moss and fashion some tags out of the scrapbook paper you’ve been cutting off of.  I wrote down the city where the wedding will take place at.

IMG_4528

Step 9:  Add something sweet.  I baked some sugar cookies.  Then I ate half.  But six remained.  Oh, I cut them out in the shapes of each bridesmaids’ state of residence.  For some reason, I had a Texas shaped cookie cutter.  For Arizona and New York, I cut the shapes out, freehand.  The first picture is unfrosted and the second is frosted, even though you can barely tell.  I would’ve re-frosted them in a darker color but after eating a dozen of them, it kind of grew on me. So I left them, as is.

IMG_4592IMG_4594

Finished!

IMG_4618