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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Powering through

The end of my summer course is coming up very shortly, and the project I've taken on (let's call it "thesis in disguise") is demanding some long hours.

The scope of it has turned out to be too large for the length of this mini-semester -- no surprise, given the amount of material I started with -- but whatever I turn in to my professor on Sunday won't be the end of the work. Just a "here's how far I got" submission. I'm hoping, after that, to keep going with this research into the fall so that it might help generate the writing I wasn't able to accomplish in the spring. So far, it's already done that -- just a few paragraphs, nothing huge. But they feel solid, and that is huge to me.

I'm wary. I feel like I'm emerging from a hole or a cave or somebody's badly ventilated basement. I'm afraid of things that will send me back to that place. My parents are coming to visit in exactly two weeks. And I think, if you've been following along, you know how much of an impact they can have on me, despite my best efforts.

The parents Troubadour love their food -- love eating it, planning where they'll get it next, taking special trips just to enjoy rarer forms of it, talking about it ad nauseum. An extended visit from them means their food obsession, among other delightful traits of theirs, will be unavoidable. For me and my food anxieties, this is suboptimal. Issues of control and neglect that have entangled us since we became a family get exacerbated, which either leads to ugly confrontations or one or more of us stuffing our emotions away because that's just how we've survived with one another.

Obviously, stuffing how I feel into the equivalent of a mental basement doesn't make for progress on my writing since my writing is about how I feel ...

So I'm putting some professional backup in place. First, the nutrition guru I found a month ago. Secondly, the counselor she recommended for the other work -- beyond just food -- that has to go hand-in-hand with the work I'm doing with her. I've started seeing the new counselor in the last few weeks, and I feel much more at ease with her than with the previous guy. So they're my go-to peeps for the twelve days in August during which D and I will be playing hosts (and afterward too).

In the meantime, we're preparing the house. We've had boxes in the hall since our guest room painting project began, and they've needed a place to go. There's no basement here, but we do have a garage, which Marketing Sis helped me paint last summer.

So last week, D and I finally got around to this:


What is it? Well, let's try a different view:


No? All right, then; how about this:


Yes, we put up shelves! And I learned how to wield this:


My parents, and all the insecurities they revive in me, may be looming in my future, but for a few days last week, I got some major !!! from revving that drill.

Now if we can just get everything sorted onto the shelves before my folks arrive ...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

As promised


Here's what we did to make our upside-down cake, modified from the original version in yesterday's post to make it Troubadour-friendly.


Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, August 2008

Ingredients
  • 5 1/2 oz. (1 stick plus 3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup erythritol* sugar substitute
  • 1/2 cup Splenda granular, divided
  • 4 medium ripe peaches, skins on, pitted, and cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup Carbalose flour**
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried lavender
  • 1 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt 3 tbsp. butter in a 12-inch skillet (ours was stainless steel, works as well as cast iron) over medium heat, using a pastry brush to coat sides with butter as it melts. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Splenda evenly over bottom of skillet, and cook until Splenda starts to form a crunchy skin (will not caramelize), about 3 minutes. Arrange peaches in a circle at edge of skillet, on top of Splenda. Arrange the remaining wedges in the center to fill. Reduce heat to low, and cook until juices are bubbling and peaches begin to soften, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Whisk cornmeal, Carbalose, baking powder, lavender, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat remaining stick of butter and erythritol with a mixer on high speed, until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in remaining 1/4 cup Splenda, vanilla and cream. Reduce speed to low, and beat in cornmeal mixture in two additions.

3. Drop large spoonfuls of batter over peaches, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Transfer skillet to a wire rack, and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around edge of cake. Quickly invert cake onto a cutting board. Tap bottom of skillet to release peaches, and carefully remove skillet. Reposition peach slices on top of cake as needed. Let cool slightly before serving.

* This creams WAY better than Splenda but lacks sweetness, hence the use of both in our substitutions.

** When using Carbalose, a general rule of thumb is to lower baking temperature by 25 degrees, double the rising agent, and increase baking time by at least 5 minutes (can be more, depending on the oven and the recipe). All adjustments have already been made here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Upside down

Cake, that is. I'd found yet another recipe in the inspirational binder to try, but I needed some help because (a) I'm allergic to raw stone fruits and (b) a 12-inch skillet is hard to flip when every bit of it is oven-hot.

So D rescued me. He peeled the peaches from the farmer's market and sliced them into a pile of juicy, golden wedges so I wouldn't get hives all over my hands. And when the cake came out of the oven, he gamely clapped a chopping board over the pan, palmed it with ease, and inverted the whole mess with a daredevil grin. I loved him for it.



In the past, I counted on him to be that rescuer for bigger things, things with greater emotional stakes -- family and all its traps, especially. I leaned on him because I (understandably) couldn't lean on myself. Then our own problems began to emerge, and I was alone, still unpracticed at being there just for me. We learned to avoid conflict -- easier to step around each other, swallowing our frustrations so as not to have those all-out fights, ones that would leave me waiting for him to patch me back up.

It's not sustainable, that dynamic. And I've known it for a while but haven't had the resources within to draw upon. But I'm working on that now, relearning, in a topsy-turvy way, how to repair myself.

I won't lie: it sucks. On many days, I'm not sure which end is up, and figuring it out leaves me spent and spread-eagled. And let's not forget afraid -- I fear that after so many months of emotional wreckage, D will have reached his limits. He has reached his limits. I've felt his patience wear long past thin, and it's terrified me. I can't learn quickly enough.

But he's still there, waiting, willing to offer a hand if I really need it. I think we both sense there's a new equilibrium to be gained for me and for us.

For that, I can only be grateful.


For the original recipe, click here. Modified recipe to come.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Still scattered

Post-vacation brain fog continues to dog me. A new week is in progress but I'm somehow still standing at the starting line. Am I losing the ability to focus? Or maybe it's all the change in general that's been going on around here. Transitions mean feeling like I have two left feet. Not especially effective for maintaining a straight trajectory ...

But, in taking stock, I can say that by the end of last week, I did turn in a 30-page chunk of work to my independent study advisor. Not the same advisor directing my thesis, but another professor on my committee who happens to be supervising some summer research I've been doing on the side. It's thesis-related, just not formally so. The work is quite different from the kind of writing I've been trying to do, so much so that it almost feels like a completely separate discipline. But it examines the same material -- family -- and I've needed a new angle from which to examine the past: one less fraught. My instincts tell me to keep going even though the other part of me, the one having fits that I've written so little on the actual thesis, is sighing and wringing her hands. "This is just procrastination! You'll never finish if you get sidetracked so easily!" she says.

Well, 30 pages, whatever they're about, is 30 pages more than I ever got staring at the thesis file for the last two months.

In between sessions with the research, there have been other happenings afoot. Or shall I say, not-happenings. I took this shot while waiting to get on the highway, going home from my counselor's office.


After telling him that I didn't want to continue with him anymore.

Okay, I didn't say it quite like that -- I said I needed a break of indeterminate length. I couldn't, for my own sake, truly abandon the work I've done with him by closing the door for good, so it's there, in storage. But the end result is the same: no more awkward silences in his office when I've run out of things to say, waiting for feedback from him that almost never comes. I was dreading the conversation because of that very silence I was sure I'd be met with, but I got through it. And he seemed to understand.

Just in case things ended up going particularly badly, though, I reminded myself right before my appointment that I had this waiting for me at home:


She was originally our latest foster, but after a week, I knew she was the perfect kitty for both me and D. We have slightly different tastes in cat personalities -- he favors the enthusiastically playful ones; I like the mellow ones who will cuddle -- and this little lady has both traits in abundance. Not a typical combination, in our experience! So we made her an official part of the family Troubadour right before we left for Victoria.

She says hi. When she's chosen a name for herself, I'll post it (yes, even kitty gets a pseudonym). But for now, she wants to go back to enjoying my lap, which she just discovered as a prime napping spot. I was afraid she'd never try it out, but today -- !!!


For more !!!, check out the Intentional Happiness project here and here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A return to ordinary

Sometimes after a trip, I welcome that. Home, with its familiar spaces and smells and schedules, can be a relief after living out of a suitcase, not knowing what time the next meal will be.

Then there’s post-trip disorientation. What was the plan for the day after the return? Oh, right -- there wasn’t one. But there’s laundry and mail to sort and groceries to buy and the rhythms of the week to relearn.

Monday was one of those days-after where I couldn’t get my bearings.

Trip photos! Let’s look at those, said one voice.

Deadline coming up for thesis work, said another. You haven’t touched your writing since early last week.

Anniversary !!! -- don’t let that evaporate, a third voice chimed in. Blog already, before the high is too far into the past. Not that you won’t have fond memories of it all, but writing about it won’t be the same.

What are you making for dinner, asked a fourth. Ugh, there’s nothing in the fridge, and D’s going to be home in a little while, and then you’ll have to go to the store, and you’ve done nothing all day.

Shut UP, I wanted to say.

Ultimately, I’m glad I saved the details of the weekend getaway for a separate post -- I think I need the boost to help me through the wall of current reality. (Have I really done nothing but laundry this week? No, but that’s all that really feels like a measurable accomplishment!) So, a virtual escape is in order. To ...


Victoria! Specifically, Butchart Gardens. This was one of our few planned destinations for the trip. To give ourselves maximum exploration time, we left Seattle at noon on Friday and arrived for a mid-evening dinner (after a little bit of driving and two ferry rides). Which allowed us to get to the gardens early Saturday morning.

It was, as you can see, VERY sunny. It was pleasant in the shade with a breeze, but wandering the big open beds left us quite warm.

The enclosed butterfly garden down the street was amazingly cooler, despite the temperature and humidity that have to be maintained for its winged tenants. We managed to snap some pictures of several beauties that posed for us. An identification guide is available here.






We had trouble capturing the elusive Blue Morpho –- the brilliant sapphire color on its wings is only visible when they’re open, and this species tends to keep them folded while feeding. (These guys below are licking up some tasty banana juices.) But D managed to sneak a peek at an angle.


And this one, newly hatched from its chrysalis, had to let its wings dry -- so it couldn’t fly away.


After a day of flora and fauna, we were ready for dinner at a darling spot in old town Victoria. Bonus !!! –- a corner booth that gave us extra privacy (see, that’s the corner):


And from another angle:


To the left, you can see part of the beautiful antique door that was repurposed as a wall to enclose the bench seat. I thought it made for a special little nook.

The next morning was an early one, as we wanted to fit in a bit more sightseeing before catching the ferry back home. Major !!! for my own personal pot of coffee at the hotel restaurant:


Properly caffeinated, we set off on a tour of the harbor via one of these cute little pickle boats.


They have impressive maneuverability –- so much so that the captains perform a “water ballet” with them, set to the Blue Danube waltz, on Sunday mornings. Naturally, we timed our tour to end just before the performance so we could watch. (I did get video -- but the patience to edit it requires some sleep first.)

Then it was off to a nearby castle for some history on a man who came to Victoria as an indentured miner and died the richest man in British Columbia. (The photos on the website are better than any I could take in the lighting there.)

And finally, on our way to the ferry, a side jaunt to the Fisgard lighthouse.


I figured I’d gotten to see a lighthouse on the eastern coast of Canada exactly a year ago, but (very sadly) without D -- why not make up for it with one on the west?

Now I’m home, and the week is nearly over. Still dealing with post-vacation inertia? Oh, yes. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. We actually did quite a lot in those 48 hours away -- all very much worth it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Busy, but still !!!

So the first week of July was quite packed. There was the long holiday weekend with company in town and then a quick getaway trip just for us the next weekend. As a result, I’m behind again here.

But I’ve been keeping track of things. The camera’s been with me for much of the time, so what’s better than a little !!! to help with catching up?

If you live anywhere nearby, you know we had a bit of a heat wave last week. In a house without central air, that means retreating to the one room with climate control or putting together alternate cooling aids. Straight from the inspirational binder, I present:


Why all the excitement about watermelon? Because it’s been soaked in a tequila-based marinade with orange zest and some other tasty additions. For the recipe, click here. (We didn’t have Triple Sec, hence the addition of the orange zest. We also substituted Splenda for regular sweetener to make it blood-sugar friendly.)

Also excellent for bringing the temperature to more manageable levels:


I actually put this on to add a little color to my otherwise naked face (I’m not a frequent makeup user). I was headed out in the middle of one of the hottest afternoons and swiped some on my lips without thinking about much -- except how I wished it were ten degrees cooler. And suddenly, it was! For my mouth, at least, and the rest of me followed somewhat for a little while. Yay, peppermint oil! (Hey, I’ll do anything to feel more comfortable without having to pay the power company.)

Which brings me to another heat-busting option:


Yes, that is Canada. Or the gates to the ferry that took us to Canada for our wedding anniversary. More on that trip in a separate post -- it didn’t actually turn out to be that much cooler, but the idea of a cooler destination (no matter how small the temperature decrease) was extremely !!! by Friday morning.

Believe it or not, I still have some !!! shots (specific to our getaway), but I’ll sprinkle them into the larger story later this week. That’s fair, right? I figure it’s a good thing if an anniversary gives you things to be happy about even after it’s passed ...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

This !!! project

I first saw something about this at The Kitchen Witch, a blog (and blogger) I've loved since I started visiting her place last fall. At least, I think it was last fall. 2009 is kind of a blur.

The actual project originates with Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments. I love the idea: Intentional Happiness, or seeking out and documenting the things that put the !!! in your day. So I'm finally joining in after locating some index cards -- essential to making this work.

What's been the !!! in my week?

Well, to some degree, it started off last week after I'd picked up some of this


and this


which Marketing Sis encouraged me to try during my visit. Skin problems, hair problems; I was feeling pretty down about how I looked after several months of feeling pretty down. "Use my stuff while you're here," Marketing Sis said. "If it helps, great! And if it doesn't, you won't be out the cost of the whole product."

Both products seemed to help -- at least, they worked better than what I'd been using. So off to Target I went.

I looked in the mirror this week and someone with a bit more life in her face looked back at me. Maybe it was just the act of doing something a little special for myself. Or maybe it was feeling the moment of connection to my sister. Either way, I'm grateful -- !!! grateful.

Then there was this:


I've had a subscription to Living for a few years but the back issues have been collecting dust in a bookcase -- not a great use for the ideas in there and definitely not a good use of shelf space. So I decided several weeks ago to collate the recipes that were appealing (and adaptable to the Troubadour diet) into one binder, a project I finally finished this week.

I know, I know; why not just use the online archives? Because I'm tactile. I like to get my cooking inspiration by flipping through pictures of tasty food, serendipitously falling upon a recipe for celery root and apple salad while searching for a way to braise a roast. D and I have been trying out new recipes in the last few days, a refreshing change from some of our weeknight standards. (Sometimes habit gets the better of us during weekly meal planning.)

But the topper to it all? This:


I went outlet shopping on a whim Wednesday, not knowing what I'd find. Lo and behold, a Le Creuset store with a sale on already discounted merchandise! D and I had just been talking about how half the recipes we wanted to try requested a Dutch oven. So I called him up and told him about the deal. Was he interested enough to jump on the promotion?

I have a feeling the recipe binder is going to get a lot of use in the coming weeks ...

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Powering through

The end of my summer course is coming up very shortly, and the project I've taken on (let's call it "thesis in disguise") is demanding some long hours.

The scope of it has turned out to be too large for the length of this mini-semester -- no surprise, given the amount of material I started with -- but whatever I turn in to my professor on Sunday won't be the end of the work. Just a "here's how far I got" submission. I'm hoping, after that, to keep going with this research into the fall so that it might help generate the writing I wasn't able to accomplish in the spring. So far, it's already done that -- just a few paragraphs, nothing huge. But they feel solid, and that is huge to me.

I'm wary. I feel like I'm emerging from a hole or a cave or somebody's badly ventilated basement. I'm afraid of things that will send me back to that place. My parents are coming to visit in exactly two weeks. And I think, if you've been following along, you know how much of an impact they can have on me, despite my best efforts.

The parents Troubadour love their food -- love eating it, planning where they'll get it next, taking special trips just to enjoy rarer forms of it, talking about it ad nauseum. An extended visit from them means their food obsession, among other delightful traits of theirs, will be unavoidable. For me and my food anxieties, this is suboptimal. Issues of control and neglect that have entangled us since we became a family get exacerbated, which either leads to ugly confrontations or one or more of us stuffing our emotions away because that's just how we've survived with one another.

Obviously, stuffing how I feel into the equivalent of a mental basement doesn't make for progress on my writing since my writing is about how I feel ...

So I'm putting some professional backup in place. First, the nutrition guru I found a month ago. Secondly, the counselor she recommended for the other work -- beyond just food -- that has to go hand-in-hand with the work I'm doing with her. I've started seeing the new counselor in the last few weeks, and I feel much more at ease with her than with the previous guy. So they're my go-to peeps for the twelve days in August during which D and I will be playing hosts (and afterward too).

In the meantime, we're preparing the house. We've had boxes in the hall since our guest room painting project began, and they've needed a place to go. There's no basement here, but we do have a garage, which Marketing Sis helped me paint last summer.

So last week, D and I finally got around to this:


What is it? Well, let's try a different view:


No? All right, then; how about this:


Yes, we put up shelves! And I learned how to wield this:


My parents, and all the insecurities they revive in me, may be looming in my future, but for a few days last week, I got some major !!! from revving that drill.

Now if we can just get everything sorted onto the shelves before my folks arrive ...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

As promised


Here's what we did to make our upside-down cake, modified from the original version in yesterday's post to make it Troubadour-friendly.


Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, August 2008

Ingredients
  • 5 1/2 oz. (1 stick plus 3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup erythritol* sugar substitute
  • 1/2 cup Splenda granular, divided
  • 4 medium ripe peaches, skins on, pitted, and cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup Carbalose flour**
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried lavender
  • 1 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt 3 tbsp. butter in a 12-inch skillet (ours was stainless steel, works as well as cast iron) over medium heat, using a pastry brush to coat sides with butter as it melts. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Splenda evenly over bottom of skillet, and cook until Splenda starts to form a crunchy skin (will not caramelize), about 3 minutes. Arrange peaches in a circle at edge of skillet, on top of Splenda. Arrange the remaining wedges in the center to fill. Reduce heat to low, and cook until juices are bubbling and peaches begin to soften, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Whisk cornmeal, Carbalose, baking powder, lavender, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat remaining stick of butter and erythritol with a mixer on high speed, until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in remaining 1/4 cup Splenda, vanilla and cream. Reduce speed to low, and beat in cornmeal mixture in two additions.

3. Drop large spoonfuls of batter over peaches, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Transfer skillet to a wire rack, and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around edge of cake. Quickly invert cake onto a cutting board. Tap bottom of skillet to release peaches, and carefully remove skillet. Reposition peach slices on top of cake as needed. Let cool slightly before serving.

* This creams WAY better than Splenda but lacks sweetness, hence the use of both in our substitutions.

** When using Carbalose, a general rule of thumb is to lower baking temperature by 25 degrees, double the rising agent, and increase baking time by at least 5 minutes (can be more, depending on the oven and the recipe). All adjustments have already been made here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Upside down

Cake, that is. I'd found yet another recipe in the inspirational binder to try, but I needed some help because (a) I'm allergic to raw stone fruits and (b) a 12-inch skillet is hard to flip when every bit of it is oven-hot.

So D rescued me. He peeled the peaches from the farmer's market and sliced them into a pile of juicy, golden wedges so I wouldn't get hives all over my hands. And when the cake came out of the oven, he gamely clapped a chopping board over the pan, palmed it with ease, and inverted the whole mess with a daredevil grin. I loved him for it.



In the past, I counted on him to be that rescuer for bigger things, things with greater emotional stakes -- family and all its traps, especially. I leaned on him because I (understandably) couldn't lean on myself. Then our own problems began to emerge, and I was alone, still unpracticed at being there just for me. We learned to avoid conflict -- easier to step around each other, swallowing our frustrations so as not to have those all-out fights, ones that would leave me waiting for him to patch me back up.

It's not sustainable, that dynamic. And I've known it for a while but haven't had the resources within to draw upon. But I'm working on that now, relearning, in a topsy-turvy way, how to repair myself.

I won't lie: it sucks. On many days, I'm not sure which end is up, and figuring it out leaves me spent and spread-eagled. And let's not forget afraid -- I fear that after so many months of emotional wreckage, D will have reached his limits. He has reached his limits. I've felt his patience wear long past thin, and it's terrified me. I can't learn quickly enough.

But he's still there, waiting, willing to offer a hand if I really need it. I think we both sense there's a new equilibrium to be gained for me and for us.

For that, I can only be grateful.


For the original recipe, click here. Modified recipe to come.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Still scattered

Post-vacation brain fog continues to dog me. A new week is in progress but I'm somehow still standing at the starting line. Am I losing the ability to focus? Or maybe it's all the change in general that's been going on around here. Transitions mean feeling like I have two left feet. Not especially effective for maintaining a straight trajectory ...

But, in taking stock, I can say that by the end of last week, I did turn in a 30-page chunk of work to my independent study advisor. Not the same advisor directing my thesis, but another professor on my committee who happens to be supervising some summer research I've been doing on the side. It's thesis-related, just not formally so. The work is quite different from the kind of writing I've been trying to do, so much so that it almost feels like a completely separate discipline. But it examines the same material -- family -- and I've needed a new angle from which to examine the past: one less fraught. My instincts tell me to keep going even though the other part of me, the one having fits that I've written so little on the actual thesis, is sighing and wringing her hands. "This is just procrastination! You'll never finish if you get sidetracked so easily!" she says.

Well, 30 pages, whatever they're about, is 30 pages more than I ever got staring at the thesis file for the last two months.

In between sessions with the research, there have been other happenings afoot. Or shall I say, not-happenings. I took this shot while waiting to get on the highway, going home from my counselor's office.


After telling him that I didn't want to continue with him anymore.

Okay, I didn't say it quite like that -- I said I needed a break of indeterminate length. I couldn't, for my own sake, truly abandon the work I've done with him by closing the door for good, so it's there, in storage. But the end result is the same: no more awkward silences in his office when I've run out of things to say, waiting for feedback from him that almost never comes. I was dreading the conversation because of that very silence I was sure I'd be met with, but I got through it. And he seemed to understand.

Just in case things ended up going particularly badly, though, I reminded myself right before my appointment that I had this waiting for me at home:


She was originally our latest foster, but after a week, I knew she was the perfect kitty for both me and D. We have slightly different tastes in cat personalities -- he favors the enthusiastically playful ones; I like the mellow ones who will cuddle -- and this little lady has both traits in abundance. Not a typical combination, in our experience! So we made her an official part of the family Troubadour right before we left for Victoria.

She says hi. When she's chosen a name for herself, I'll post it (yes, even kitty gets a pseudonym). But for now, she wants to go back to enjoying my lap, which she just discovered as a prime napping spot. I was afraid she'd never try it out, but today -- !!!


For more !!!, check out the Intentional Happiness project here and here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A return to ordinary

Sometimes after a trip, I welcome that. Home, with its familiar spaces and smells and schedules, can be a relief after living out of a suitcase, not knowing what time the next meal will be.

Then there’s post-trip disorientation. What was the plan for the day after the return? Oh, right -- there wasn’t one. But there’s laundry and mail to sort and groceries to buy and the rhythms of the week to relearn.

Monday was one of those days-after where I couldn’t get my bearings.

Trip photos! Let’s look at those, said one voice.

Deadline coming up for thesis work, said another. You haven’t touched your writing since early last week.

Anniversary !!! -- don’t let that evaporate, a third voice chimed in. Blog already, before the high is too far into the past. Not that you won’t have fond memories of it all, but writing about it won’t be the same.

What are you making for dinner, asked a fourth. Ugh, there’s nothing in the fridge, and D’s going to be home in a little while, and then you’ll have to go to the store, and you’ve done nothing all day.

Shut UP, I wanted to say.

Ultimately, I’m glad I saved the details of the weekend getaway for a separate post -- I think I need the boost to help me through the wall of current reality. (Have I really done nothing but laundry this week? No, but that’s all that really feels like a measurable accomplishment!) So, a virtual escape is in order. To ...


Victoria! Specifically, Butchart Gardens. This was one of our few planned destinations for the trip. To give ourselves maximum exploration time, we left Seattle at noon on Friday and arrived for a mid-evening dinner (after a little bit of driving and two ferry rides). Which allowed us to get to the gardens early Saturday morning.

It was, as you can see, VERY sunny. It was pleasant in the shade with a breeze, but wandering the big open beds left us quite warm.

The enclosed butterfly garden down the street was amazingly cooler, despite the temperature and humidity that have to be maintained for its winged tenants. We managed to snap some pictures of several beauties that posed for us. An identification guide is available here.






We had trouble capturing the elusive Blue Morpho –- the brilliant sapphire color on its wings is only visible when they’re open, and this species tends to keep them folded while feeding. (These guys below are licking up some tasty banana juices.) But D managed to sneak a peek at an angle.


And this one, newly hatched from its chrysalis, had to let its wings dry -- so it couldn’t fly away.


After a day of flora and fauna, we were ready for dinner at a darling spot in old town Victoria. Bonus !!! –- a corner booth that gave us extra privacy (see, that’s the corner):


And from another angle:


To the left, you can see part of the beautiful antique door that was repurposed as a wall to enclose the bench seat. I thought it made for a special little nook.

The next morning was an early one, as we wanted to fit in a bit more sightseeing before catching the ferry back home. Major !!! for my own personal pot of coffee at the hotel restaurant:


Properly caffeinated, we set off on a tour of the harbor via one of these cute little pickle boats.


They have impressive maneuverability –- so much so that the captains perform a “water ballet” with them, set to the Blue Danube waltz, on Sunday mornings. Naturally, we timed our tour to end just before the performance so we could watch. (I did get video -- but the patience to edit it requires some sleep first.)

Then it was off to a nearby castle for some history on a man who came to Victoria as an indentured miner and died the richest man in British Columbia. (The photos on the website are better than any I could take in the lighting there.)

And finally, on our way to the ferry, a side jaunt to the Fisgard lighthouse.


I figured I’d gotten to see a lighthouse on the eastern coast of Canada exactly a year ago, but (very sadly) without D -- why not make up for it with one on the west?

Now I’m home, and the week is nearly over. Still dealing with post-vacation inertia? Oh, yes. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. We actually did quite a lot in those 48 hours away -- all very much worth it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Busy, but still !!!

So the first week of July was quite packed. There was the long holiday weekend with company in town and then a quick getaway trip just for us the next weekend. As a result, I’m behind again here.

But I’ve been keeping track of things. The camera’s been with me for much of the time, so what’s better than a little !!! to help with catching up?

If you live anywhere nearby, you know we had a bit of a heat wave last week. In a house without central air, that means retreating to the one room with climate control or putting together alternate cooling aids. Straight from the inspirational binder, I present:


Why all the excitement about watermelon? Because it’s been soaked in a tequila-based marinade with orange zest and some other tasty additions. For the recipe, click here. (We didn’t have Triple Sec, hence the addition of the orange zest. We also substituted Splenda for regular sweetener to make it blood-sugar friendly.)

Also excellent for bringing the temperature to more manageable levels:


I actually put this on to add a little color to my otherwise naked face (I’m not a frequent makeup user). I was headed out in the middle of one of the hottest afternoons and swiped some on my lips without thinking about much -- except how I wished it were ten degrees cooler. And suddenly, it was! For my mouth, at least, and the rest of me followed somewhat for a little while. Yay, peppermint oil! (Hey, I’ll do anything to feel more comfortable without having to pay the power company.)

Which brings me to another heat-busting option:


Yes, that is Canada. Or the gates to the ferry that took us to Canada for our wedding anniversary. More on that trip in a separate post -- it didn’t actually turn out to be that much cooler, but the idea of a cooler destination (no matter how small the temperature decrease) was extremely !!! by Friday morning.

Believe it or not, I still have some !!! shots (specific to our getaway), but I’ll sprinkle them into the larger story later this week. That’s fair, right? I figure it’s a good thing if an anniversary gives you things to be happy about even after it’s passed ...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

This !!! project

I first saw something about this at The Kitchen Witch, a blog (and blogger) I've loved since I started visiting her place last fall. At least, I think it was last fall. 2009 is kind of a blur.

The actual project originates with Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments. I love the idea: Intentional Happiness, or seeking out and documenting the things that put the !!! in your day. So I'm finally joining in after locating some index cards -- essential to making this work.

What's been the !!! in my week?

Well, to some degree, it started off last week after I'd picked up some of this


and this


which Marketing Sis encouraged me to try during my visit. Skin problems, hair problems; I was feeling pretty down about how I looked after several months of feeling pretty down. "Use my stuff while you're here," Marketing Sis said. "If it helps, great! And if it doesn't, you won't be out the cost of the whole product."

Both products seemed to help -- at least, they worked better than what I'd been using. So off to Target I went.

I looked in the mirror this week and someone with a bit more life in her face looked back at me. Maybe it was just the act of doing something a little special for myself. Or maybe it was feeling the moment of connection to my sister. Either way, I'm grateful -- !!! grateful.

Then there was this:


I've had a subscription to Living for a few years but the back issues have been collecting dust in a bookcase -- not a great use for the ideas in there and definitely not a good use of shelf space. So I decided several weeks ago to collate the recipes that were appealing (and adaptable to the Troubadour diet) into one binder, a project I finally finished this week.

I know, I know; why not just use the online archives? Because I'm tactile. I like to get my cooking inspiration by flipping through pictures of tasty food, serendipitously falling upon a recipe for celery root and apple salad while searching for a way to braise a roast. D and I have been trying out new recipes in the last few days, a refreshing change from some of our weeknight standards. (Sometimes habit gets the better of us during weekly meal planning.)

But the topper to it all? This:


I went outlet shopping on a whim Wednesday, not knowing what I'd find. Lo and behold, a Le Creuset store with a sale on already discounted merchandise! D and I had just been talking about how half the recipes we wanted to try requested a Dutch oven. So I called him up and told him about the deal. Was he interested enough to jump on the promotion?

I have a feeling the recipe binder is going to get a lot of use in the coming weeks ...