Squashimi's Adventures in California

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We are "Those People"

OK, it's been another month. And yes, we are now "those people" who are puppy parents. We think our chickpea the cutest thing on the planet, I'm taking up knitting to maker her a sweater, we call ourselves a family, and we know her potty schedule better than our own. But I am proud to say that I've been more social since she's been around, and we even managed to put together a bike race!

Pictures first:

Puppy rain jacket for rainy San Francisco winter! Yes, those are ducky buttons. Shut up.

I wish I could find a cute human rain jacket with ducky buttons and a ducky lining that fit over my cute human fisherman's sweater!

chickpea wishes I was the one wearing the sweater. It's so cold sometimes, though!

Lounging at home...

She loves to lay with her butt in the sun. Wouldn't we all, if we could lay around all day?

"Yes, I have sloppy chocolate lips. It make me the cutest ever, so just accept it."

"I have the longest legs in the whooooole wooooorld!"

Frog Dog!

"pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease! look at how cute I am, how could you let me sit on this floor?!"

chickpea likes to be on both of us at the same time. She won our hearts at the puppy slammer when she stretched out over our laps and gave a big, contented sigh. When we go out to eat, she sits in my lap and puts one paw on Vanessa's knee!

Yes, I love the skinny redheads with freckles!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Is Anybody Still Here?

It's been a while again.. Just been busy with everyday life, and not doing anything fun enough to write about. This week, though, gave me a couple reasons to post again:

1. End of the school year means free work schedule until August! YAAYYY!
2. We got a dog! YAAYYY!
3. My new home state legalized gay marriage! YAAYYY!
4. It's actually reached 90 degrees in San Francisco! BOOOOOO!

So, let me get down to the details...

She's been called Tippy (Toes), (Pupper)Muffin(Maker), Schmoo, Sprout, Scrappy, Cuddlebutt, Chickpea, and multitudes of other names that only get used once. Poor thing! You'd think that after a week we could settle on a name. It doesn't help that she responds to anything, so there's really been no need to decide yet. She is a pint-sized, long-legged awkward lap cat of a dog, and we love her to BITS!!!

She fits into a cat bed just so...

...and knows how to use her puppy tools to melt human hearts. Who could resist those ears?
Feel free to suggest a name if something grabs you.. we're set on nicknames (in no short supply) but it'd be nice to have something to put on her collar and to sign letters with.

So, gay marriage! Whoo! But boy, oh boy is there some backlash going on, at least in online news sites' reader comments. I'm truly terrified of the ignorant, intolerant and simply false and hateful things people have posted. Besides all the religious nuts who interpret the Bible in their own special way (and conveniently fail to be as scrupulous in judging their own lives [Leviticus says No Eating Bacon!]), the "logic" that some people use to oppose gay marriage is shocking. Well, now that I'm reading The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby, I shouldn't be so surprised. Two arguments have dominated the non-religious oppositional comments: One, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and it simply can't exist in any other fashion; Two, that marriage is about producing children, so if there can't be any children, there shouldn't be marriage.

So these people would nullify marriages between people who cannot or don't wish to have children, or who have lost their children? And all those single moms and dads out there are working hard for no reason.. their kids are ruined already!

Well, instead of rehashing what's already in the public sphere, I'll use my space to air out my views. "Marriage" can mean many things: it legitimizes a relationship, it satisfies expectations of adulthood, it bestows benefits within governmental and bureaucratic systems (hospitals, etc.). These things are cultural and specific to the policies made by governments and bureaucracies. They have nothing to do with what happens between the two people in the "marriage". There's a lot of cultural rhetoric about "marriage" and that creates a pressure to conform. America's current statistics about divorce and domestic violence clearly show that men and women are entering marriages for reasons that don't, shall we say, enhance their own lives.

My own conception of what marriage means is based on the cliché that we use to explain relational subjects: "When two people really love each other...." It really is as simple as that. But "love" has seemingly been lost in the fog of pressures to conform and legitimize romantic relationships. What is love, anyway? I always wish that my language had more words to capture nuances that are completely sidelined to general terms; I remember being awed when I learned that there were different words in Latin to refer to the love between lovers, love between parents and children, love between friends, love of objects, love of activities, etc. And the degeneration of the English language in mass media is so powerful that even more terms and concepts are crammed into even fewer words, and people are left to interpret the meaning, if they think about it at all.

But back to "When two people really love each other...." Regardless of language, we all know somewhere inside what that means. People are hard-wired for love. And does it really matter SO MUCH who it is that we love? Isn't it more important that we love truly? That we don't empty love of its meaning and power by simply conforming to cultural expectations?

There is obviously a great divide between those who believe in the traditional family structure and those who place their values elsewhere. Just like many other issues, there will always be a divide. But what I argue against is the need to legislate (indeed, to dictate) others' lives. Who has a right to tell me who I can and cannot spend my life with and share the benefits of that recognition? And in the end, to me, marriage is about formalizing and bonding love. If that's why people want to get married, why does it matter what gender they are? All of those "family values" that conservatives scream about are founded on the idea of loving relationships, aren't they? I guess the problem is that they don't understand, or refuse to recognize, that people who aren't exactly like them can also love. Oh, and probably that we're incapable of being normal people. How fucked up is that?!

I know that there are nutcases out there who still believe that non-heterosexual people spend their entire lives having degenerate sex. The lion's share of why they think this is such a bad thing, I concede, will most likely never change in their minds. And there are all kinds of homos, just like there are all kinds of straight people, and all kinds of white and brown and black people. Why, why WHY is our country so unable to deal with difference in a realistic way? WHY is it so hard to recognize that while there are basic things that tie humans together, there are also mostly insignificant things that make us different? For all of the rhetoric about melting pots and tolerance, our affluence and ability to travel the world, the media-exposed environment we exist in, we have, as a whole, very little to show for it. Lip service can only carry one so far, and America has been hitting the wall of reality with every civil rights issue in the popular sphere.

I grew up in a society that condemns racism, yet it's open for debate whether our country is "ready" to elect a black president, and there is a vast misunderstanding of Muslim culture and Islamic practices which fuel our never-ending war on "terror". I grew up in a society that encouraged tolerance and diversity, and slogged through my fair share of institutional activities
targeted at increasing those values. Yet those schools, from pre-K to college, were overwhelmingly caucasian. And a shocking number of states voted to ban gay marriage last election season.

Those of you reading this who might be saying, "But I'M tolerant, in fact I embrace diversity, and I'm DEFINITELY not a racist!" -- think for a minute about why you claim that, and how it came to be so. I suspect, just like myself, that this attitude was cultivated as a response to avoid being labeled intolerant or racist, not because we had positive experiences with people who were so different from us. That's the really important thing at play here in so many of the issues that dog us. We're not learning from actual experiences. How do we change that? Well, I won't claim to have the magic answer. But I know that it's *so important* to get out of your context, especially in non-urban areas, to see that your way of life isn't the only way and that people do get by, perhaps as well as, or even better than, you do. And I know that media representations are very important in our society. I mean, everyone in the media is a caricature of sorts, but stereotypes need to be thrown out. I'm sick of seeing flaming homos on tv, disappointed that lesbians only ever look like straight women, and wondering where the trans folks are (besides Rupaul, god bless her!) With all of these "edgy" tv programs being broadcast these days, I'd like to know where the real homos are. One compliment I'll bestow is on Six Feet Under -- the character David was a "real" person who was also gay in that series.

Can I also take a moment to spotlight the fact that homos are now the only people it's okay to denegrate in the media? I can't even enumerate the amount of slander, outrageously stereotyped or perverted characters, and anti-homo-tension situations I've seen just in the last year. You can't make fun of black or brown people, nor Jews or even Muslims in the media, but it's perfectly okay to mock gay people. WHAT! THE! FUCK! If you haven't noticed this, just pay a little more attention next time you watch tv or a movie. It's in the asides, the sarcastic comments, all the way up to the freaky predatory homo character, to the entire theme of the movie (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry).

At least I'm glad that the California Supreme Court judges drew on their landmark decision from the 1940's to allow interracial marriage. I've always thought that gay marriage is a very similar social issue, one that has its proof of harmlessness in the pudding, as it were. It took the rest of the country twenty years to follow suit with interracial marriages.. hopefully it won't take that long for gay marriage to be legalized elsewhere, but the social and legal climate does seem to be very similar to that era.

Oh, and speaking of the race thing -- Barack and Hillary have disappointed me so profoundly by playing it safe and suggesting that they support equal rights for everyone, and they support civil unions for non-heterosexual couples. HELLO! No, really -- excuse me, HELLO!!!! Does this remind anyone else of the separate but equal doctrine in our sad history? Civil unions are not the answer, and politicians who claim to make a difference should not support them.

Well, to wrap it up.. I know this is a long post, and I haven't even addressed half of what bothers me.... Gay marriage is really not such a terrible thing, especially in our shallow, materialistic culture. In fact, I'm surprised that there's such an outcry against it when we all know that those finnicky, fashion-obsessed gay men will spend BILLIONS to have the perfect wedding.. isn't money the be-all, end-all in America? Or are we now actually turning inward and evaluating the meaning of our lives?


Thursday, April 17, 2008


I just have to take this moment to give a shout out to San Francisco. It's sunny, the seasonal trees are getting their leaves back, and the birds are all sorts of twitterpated and filling the air with impassioned riffs and color shows. The breeze does that wonderfully moist and cool morning thing that makes you feel really alive when you breathe. It's great to sit here with the windows open and feel like I'm in paradise.

Have you bought your plane ticket yet? Erin and Amos are coming soon..!

The last two nights at work, both lecturers have begun their talks with comments on how lucky we are to live here and how glad they are to see some green. One was from Chicago, the other staying (I think) in New York.

But -- don't get too bitter, now. The gale-force wind off the ocean from Alaska makes most evenings COLD and biking has been something of a challenge, being tossed hither and thither in our narrow lanes alongside traffic.. and this weekend is supposed to be gray and windy. Soon, the weather in Chicago will ripen and we'll be lamenting those warm nights spent riding around, totally carefree, in air the temperature of bathwater. Vanessa is mad that she has to wear Smartwool socks every day. So am I. That was the whole point of moving.

At least the greenery and the birds and the air (when it's calm) and the nearly daily sunshine outweigh the less-than-perfect elements. We're just plain spoiled now.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Ok, ok. Maybe some of you out there hate these things. But I laughed, so I'm posting this in case it makes you laugh, too. Add your own in the comments!


1. Grachki (grach'-key): Chicagoese for 'garage key' as in, 'Yo, Theresa, waja do wit da grachki? How my supposta cut da grass if I don't git intada grach?'

2. Sammich: Chicagoese for sandwich. When made with sausage, it's a sassage sammich; when made with shredded beef, it's an Italian Beef sammich, a local delicacy consisting of piles of spicy meat in a perilously soggy bun.

3. Da: This article is a key part of Chicago speech, as in 'Da Bears' or 'Da Mare' -- the latter denoting Richard M. Daley, or Richie, as he's often called.

4. Jewels: Not family heirlooms or a tender body region, but a popular name for one of the region's dominant grocery store chains. 'I'm goin' to the Jewels to pick up some sassage.'

5. Field's: Marshall Field, a prominent Chicago department store. Also
Carson Pirie Scott, another major department store chain, is simply called ' Carson's.'
Edit: RIP!!! I will forever call Macy's 'Field's'. Carson's is gone now, too, right?

6. Tree: The number between two and four. 'We were lucky dat we only got tree inches of snow da udder night.'

7. Over by dere: Translates to 'over by there,' a way of emphasizing a site presumed familiar to the listener. As in, 'I got the sassage at the Jewels down on Kedzie, over by dere.'

8. Kaminski Park : The mispronounced name of the ballpark where the Chicago White Sox (da Sox) play baseball. Comiskey Park was renamed U.S. Cellular Field (da Cell)

9. Frunchroom: As in, 'Get outta da frunchroom wit dose muddy shoes.' It's not the 'parlor.' It's not the 'living room.' In the land of the bungalow, it's the 'frunchroom,' a named derived, linguists believe, from 'front room.'

10. Use: Not the verb, but the plural pronoun 'you!' 'Where use goin'?'

11. Downtown: Anywhere near The Lake, south of The Zoo (Lincoln Park Zoo) and north of Soldier Field.

12. The Lake : Lake Michigan . (What other lake is there?) It's often used by local weathermen, 'cooler by The Lake.'

14. Braht: Short for Bratwurst. 'Gimme a braht wit kraut.'

15. Goes: Past or present tense of the verb 'say.' For example, 'Den he goes, 'I like dis place'!'

16. Guys: Used when addressing two or more people, regardless of each individual's gender.

17. Pop: A soft drink. Don't say 'soda' in this town. 'Do ya wanna canna pop?'

18 Sliders: Nickname for hamburgers from White Castle , a popular Midwestern burger chain. 'Dose sliders I had last night gave me da runs'

19. The Taste: The Taste of Chicago Festival, a huge extravaganza in Grant Park featuring samples of Chicagoland cuisine which takes place each year around the Fourth of July holiday.

20. 'Jeetyet?': Translates to, 'Did you eat yet?'

21. Winter and Construction: Punch line to the joke, 'What are the two seasons in Chicago?'

22. Cuppa Too-Tree: is Chicagoese for 'a couple, two, three' which really means 'a few.' For example, 'Hey Mike, dere any beerz left in da cooler over by dere?' 'Yeh, a cuppa too-tree.'

23. 588-2300: Everyone in Chicago knows this commercial jingle and the
carpet company you'll get if you call that number -- Empire!

24. Junk Dror: You will usually find the 'junk drawer' in the kitchen filled to the brim with miscellaneous, but very important, junk.

25. Southern Illinois : Anything south of I-80. This is where Smothers' is from....

26. Expressways: The Interstates in the immediate Chicagoland area are
usually known just by their 'name' and not their Interstate number: the Dan Ryan ('da Ryan'), the Stevenson, the Kennedy (da 'Kennedy'), the Eisenhower (da 'Ike'), and the Edens (just 'Edens' but Da Edens' is acceptable).

27. Gym Shoes: The rest of the country may refer to them as sneakers or running shoes but Chicagoans will always call them gym shoes!

This is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Chicago..

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you live in Chicago .

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in Chicago

If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in Chicago.

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you live in Chicago.

If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of I-80 for the weekend, you live in Chicago.

If you measure distance in hours, you live in Chicago.

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again, you live in Chicago.

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in Chicago.

If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you live in Chicago.

If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you live in Chicago.

If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph -- you're going 80 and everybody is passing you, you live in Chicago

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you live in Chicago.

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you live in Chicago.

If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you live in Chicago.

If you find 10 degrees 'a little chilly', you live in Chicago.

If you actually understand these jokes, and forward them to all your Chicago friends & others, you live or have lived in Chicago.



This weekend was fairly low-key.. Vanessa got sick AGAIN and the weather was rather glum, so we stayed in for the most part. Saturday morning was fun, though -- we rode over to the Alemany Farmer's Market and reveled in the diversity of the people and produce there. Hari Krishnas offering up wedges of orange, mellow guitar and vocals, and free meditation sessions? Check. Sizeable Asian crowds and mysterious produce stands? Check. Pastries, oysters, tamales, samosas, shea butter, african drums and coffee? Check. Amazing orchids? Check. All of these combine with the seasonal produce stands and the fresh morning air to make an exciting trip.

We came home with two panniers' worth of food...
...sweet pea shoots, a bag of mandarins, homemade oil-cured olives, baby potatoes, eggplant, red bell pepper, baby beets, asparagus, bok choy, ginger, baby carrots, strawberries, snow peas, a loaf of sourdough bread, a blueberry danish, and a chocolate croissant.

Oh! And a bunch of aromatic Thai basil!

While Vanessa chilled out and tried to fight off her cold, I whipped up lots of goodies in the kitchen...

Fennel and beet salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette

Pickled carrots!

Gougeres (savory pastry puffs with thyme, black pepper and Gruyere)
I took a break for dinner: Roasted baby potatoes with rosemary, a Gougere and sautéed greens from our garden, and spinach soup with white beans. Mmmmmmmm.......
Then for the finale, I made two types of cookies! One recipe used egg whites, and the other used the yolks, so I was completely justified.

Almond Rochers (they look like the book photo!)
This morning I finished up the Cinnamon Walnut Slices (inspiring name, eh?) after they chilled overnight:
...the dough was a log that was rolled in granulated sugar, and I did the ends of the logs, too!

Oh, and I can't forget to add the yummy lemon cupcakes that Vanessa made last week and topped with toasted coconut.. SO GOOD.

Don't think we eat this grandly all the time... we try, but we're only humans with full-time jobs, too. Add the hopeful inclusion of a pup to our home, and we might be eating ramen four nights a week! Anyway, if you're interested in any of the recipes, drop a line in the comments. I kind of made up the fennel salad recipe, but used the pickling formula in Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food." It's a nice, herb-y, tangy, slightly spicy recipe that would work with pretty much any veggie. The gougeres and cookies came from the Tartine Bakery cookbook.

Next on my list of things to try is this recipe for Black Bean Brownies -- no shit!

And finally, here is a link to a sobering opinion article about the soaring price of food in the New York Times from today: Paul Krugman's 'Grains Gone Wild'

I also submitted a comment to Erin's blog with statistics from the Harper's Index about food spending.. as of this moment she hasn't approved it yet, but it should be up soon. She wrote about keeping track of the money they spend, and discovered they spend LOT$$ on food. Well, so do we.. it costs a lot to eat responsibly.

Oh, and speaking of -- here's an interesting chart that Erin sent my way this morning. Do corporate and organic mix well?

Last Weekend

Last weekend our neighbor Caty sneakily followed us to Animal Care and helped us cheer up after looking for a pup of our own. We went to Flower Craft, the affordable plant nursery, where we stocked up on more lettuces and some new greens. We also spent some time Flora Grubb, the not-so-affordable but totally amazing and inspiring retail plant shop, and at the community garden on the border of the Mission and Potrero Hill (where I am now DYING to get a plot!). Finally, we rounded the day out with a visit to an old military building that's been turned into artist studios on the Bay, and a late lunch at Chez Maman in Potrero Hill. FUN!

I was thinking of all of you in Chicago, so I made sure to snap plenty of great flower pictures at Flora Grubb.. hopefully the greenery will be emerging there soon!

Freesia from Caty's garden plot.. sooo yummy and beautiful

Erin, these placemats reminded me of the work of that paper artist you sent to me ages ago

we couldn't resist bringing two of these home!

this is a crazy kind of palm tree.. i think it's bare now from winter, but the trunk has all of these spikes on it.

on the roof...there are some cool old buildings in this particular area...we picked up a nice big house plant at Flower Craft!
basil and rosemary last weekend.......one week later!