Friday, May 30, 2008

Some family photos

My grandmother and my aunt Carol, hiding behind the rhubarb leaves

One thing I always do when visiting my grandparents is pore through all the family albums. It's just a more elaborate kind of narcissism, I suppose, but I've always been somewhat soothed by looking at these sort of reflections out into the past.

It seems to soothe my grandma, too. She's in the early stages of dementia, and is often scared or sad, but I brought in some albums yesterday, and she and I had a lot of fun talking about her mom and dad, and her uncle Bruno (a dentist who made a set of bridgework for his elderly beagle), and the long hair my uncle Brian sported for "just a short while" in the 1970's, and how my dad's bedroom was filled with so many gadgets that it was hard to find the bed (note to grandma: nothing's changed on that front).

I've been taking pictures of some of the photos I especially like with my cell phone camera. I feel like a bit of a sneak thief, but I actually really like the look of these snapshots-of-snapshots.

Grandma in hat, on boat. My aunt Carol's there in the background.

My grandparents on the steps at camp, sometime in the late 60's. My great grandmother Erna Heininger next to my grandma. That's the top of my great-uncle Clem's head there in front of my grandpa.

Me and my dad, circa 1982 (ish?).

My sister and me. Mary's on the porch at camp. I'm smack dab in the middle of the awkward stage.

My grandma with her mother.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Smallness and Bigness

I'm in Vancouver, visiting my grandmother, who's in the hospital. It's been making for strange, tiring days that I'm going to have to sit on for a bit before I try to write for public consumption. This is a piece about my grandma that I wrote for her birthday last year. I found it tonight whilst rooting around in my grandmother's mementos looking for things to bring in to the hospital with me tomorrow.

“Grandmama Erika weighs less than nothing,” my sister told me once when we were little. “Literally.” And while that’s not entirely accurate, one could be forgiven for thinking it’s true. Granddaddy Alan once told me she that the only way that Grandmama could top one hundred pounds would be for her to put on all her winter clothes at once and dunk herself in the lake. I’ve been taller than she is forever now -- a giantess enfolding her small shoulders in my large and unwieldy arms every time we meet. My grandmother seems made of smallness.

You’d be wrong, however, to assume a corresponding fragility. Soon after Brian and I first moved to San Francisco, we headed up to Vancouver for an American Thanksgiving in Canada. Grandmama Erika had just entered her eighties, older than she’d ever been before (which is the way that these things work, I suppose), and on the flight up I was afraid that she’d be ancient. I was afraid I’d find her reduced somehow.

I needn’t have worried. Grandmama was the same as ever, guiding us on walks through the neighborhood and rooting out family photos and other artifacts for me to examine. By the time Brian and I tottered down to breakfast in the mornings, she would have already attended an exercise class, or met with some social group or other. Coffee would be percolating on the stove, and bowls with whole grain cereal and a banana on the side would be set out on the table.

Many of my memories of Grandmama’s house involve food: sitting in the morning sun at breakfast; lunches of walnut bread and soup and tofu; the three of us – Grandmama, Brian and I -- watching a coyote poke through the backyard as we clear up our dishes.

Grandmama’s kitchen is a warm room, built to suit its cook perfectly, with workspaces and cabinets and sinks exactly where you’d want them. There’s an appreciation for food here, both for the way it tastes and the nutrients it contains. Meals with Grandmama incorporate every food group, and ingredients in their most natural state, unprocessed feasts imparting energy rather than lassitude.

And so we were perpetually up for adventure, for walks in the park and all around Vancouver. At the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, she entertained Brian and me with anecdotes about the construction of the museum and the artists that she and granddaddy had known. Outside, she blazed trails through overgrowth and up hillsides as we investigated the Haida House complex. Standing by an eroded memorial pole, I turned to watch Brian and Grandmama as they walked around a large structure. Eagles were circling overhead in the large overcast sky, and Grandmama’s red coat stood out sharply against the gray clouds, small but bright.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Toons for Tuesday

Ok, so it's not exactly Tuesday. And this isn't exactly a cartoon. And I haven't exactly been regular about posting cartoons, either. But look! I made this! On me tablet.

I'm glad to be using the tablet again. Because it was my last big purchase before New College stopped paying me, my relationship with it has been a little fraught these past few months: a constant cycle of guilt-and-non-use. Luckily, it's a fun toy, and now that we've broken that cycle, I forsee many happily wasted hours spent doodling on the laptop. Hurrah!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Obama: For the Birds

Or rather, the birds are for Obama.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I'm tired of talking about myself. That's the hazard of freelancing: I sit around all day in my own company, then go out into the world armed with nothing but anecdotes about myself and my own little adventures. I am my own crazy co-worker, my own flaky boss. I find myself wondering: could I give up the first-person pronoun for a week, converse soley about other people's thoughts and the world of abstract ideas?

Would it be really annoying if I tried? Or would it be the best thing, ever?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cream of Asparagus Soup, used three ways

Even though I'm a vegetarian, I've always liked the idea of using the whole buffalo. So I'm always inordinately proud when I manage to use something in it's entirety, or make something from scratch, using only the materials at hand. And both, well, both is the coup de gras.

So, last night, Brian and I had been working in his studio all day, which means that I'd had Brian's special lunch for lunch: to wit, pasta and red sauce, served in a tupperware bucket. Seriously, he makes up a batch a week.

Anyway, so I wanted something veggie heavy to go with our regular Thursday night viewing schedule (Supernatural and Lost). My body was craving the vitamins, and besides, the use-it-or-lose-it drawer* in the fridge was close to overflowing.

In the freezer, I had a some frozen leftovers from a batch of cream of asparagus soup I made earlier in the week (substitute veggie broth for chicken and leave out the melon balls and you've got my recipe).

In need of some heartier veggie fare than just some more soup, I threw together some mushrooms, root veggies and greens in a pot, cooked them with a bit of flour and leftover creamy soup, then plopped an undifferentiated mass of biscuit dough on top and baked it in the oven, making a sort of vegetable pot pie. It was yum.

*< heloise > Readers: Have you ever had this happen? Your CSA sends kale three weeks running, and now your refrigerator's got more greens than the Ralph Nader fan club. Next thing you know, the veggie bin's packed, and there's three-week old kale rotting at the bottom. What to do?

One solution is to designate one crisper drawer for 'this weeks delivery.' Ours is the one on the left. Each week, new veggies go in the 'this week' bin, and leftovers from the previous week are moved over into the 'lose it or lose it' drawer. Make an effort to use the older veggies first, composting or freezing veggies that are at or close to expiring. < /heloise >