Sunday, November 29, 2009

Warning: Weird Dream

If reading about other people's dreams bores you, this is your official notice to go do something else for a while.

Anyway, last night--or, rather, sometime this morning--I had a whole series of bizarre and vivid dreams, possibly due to having taken allergy medicine before bed last night. Strangely, most of them were like one long dream continuous in terms of LOCATION, but the people I was with kept changing. I was in a shopping mall type of place in Sacramento--odd in itself since I hate the mall and I only make it to Sacramento every couple of months or so. I was in the food court and we were with our friends Ross and Jay, and we were wending our way to the opposite end of the gigantic food court in order to find a specific chicken restaurant.

Then, suddenly, Rob and I were sitting down at one of the food court tables--it was a very LONG food court that had the different food stalls/restaurants on either side and then a section with tables and booths down the middle. Everything was very crowded. Now, instead of being with Ross and Jay, we were with a different friend, Travis, and we were ordering beers from a chain microbrewery. I had been hesitant to sit at the table because someone had piled a bunch of backpacks in between the table we wanted and the adjoining one, on the benchlike seat, and I wasn't sure if that meant they'd claimed both tables, but we sat down anyway. I ordered the seasonal beer which was supposed to be a Hood River summer brew, but they'd already switched to the fall beer, some kind of ale, which Rob and I both ordered.

Then the dream changed a bit, and although I was still in the weird Sacramento mall, I was with my mother, and my (in real life, deceased) maternal grandparents. I had to drag them along with me on a visit to my publisher, who for some reason had a Sacramento office attached to the mall. They had asked me to come in and take a grammar test. I was somewhat frustrated at having to drag half of my family to the meeting, but had resigned myself to having to introduce them to my editor.

I went into the front part of the offices, which had several shelves of their titles which you could purchase, along with a reception desk and a few stools where we sat to wait. As I waited for someone from the back offices to come retrieve me, I noticed several strange things. One, it seemed like almost everything in the shop area was either white or red, and very modern/Ikea-looking with stark and simple design. Two, I realized that maybe I wouldn't want to actually introduce my editor (if he was here) to my grandfather, since my grandfather wasn't really alive any more.

When I woke up, it occurred to me that SEVERAL things about this were weird. For one thing, in the dream, I realized my grandfather was dead, but NOT my grandmother, although in reality she is equally dead. Another weird thing is that they were both there in the dream, when in life they had divorced in, like, the 1950s. Also, I don't know why I dreamed about my grandmother since we weren't at all close, though that could explain why my grandmother was almost totally silent in the dream (which I don't think was characteristic of her). I do dream about my grandfather somewhat regularly; though he died when I was 20, he was a major part of my life growing up and we lived with him for several years after my parents divorced.

Now that I think about it a little more, grandparents might have showed up in the dream because I started reading The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam (by Ann Marie Fleming) before going to bed--it's a memoir of the author finding out about the life of her great-grandfather. It is most excellent so far, and might be the source of the inexplicable dream grandparents.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday Chemistry

It always amazes me how much baking is about chemistry. (And yes, I'm just starting right in without any rationalization of my long absence, and no, there's not gonna be one, so there.) I set out to make my first lemon meringue pie today, which I'm going to serve tomorrow evening to Rob and our friend Fumi. I was daunted by the intimidatingly lengthy instructions in the Joy of Cooking, which included a lot of finicky specifications for timing, temperature, and the interactions of both. But I'm not a bad baker, on the whole, so I thought I'd try it, despite only having semi-success with meringue cookies in the past. Apparently I learned from my mistakes, since the photo above depicts my good(-looking, at least) pie. What remains to be seen is whether the bottom of the meringue is, as the cookbook put it, "slippery" or if it's nice and set. I have to say the lemon curd part tasted awesome. I'm not entirely sure about the crust, either, which I prepared using a different method ("pat in the pan") than I normally do. I just didn't feel motivated to slave over a bowl with the pastry cutter. We'll have to see how that went. I'm hoping good ingredients help--organic local eggs and Meyer lemons.

Even though we're not having our big dinner with all the trimmings until tomorrow--or the family dinner with my in-laws, which is Saturday--I still feel the holiday spirit. (How can I not, with that pie staring at me?) I called my mom. I called my dad. I even called my aunt & uncle, and had a chance to talk to my cousins (and put up--hopefully relatively gracefully--with my aunt pestering me about babies). This is a lot of phone calls for me. Making phone calls to multiple relatives always says "holidays." Also, I haven't done a lick of "real work" since midafternoon, which is pretty good for me these days. Instead, I started playing Twilight Princess on the Wii, made a pie, and continued labeling photos from our trip. It's going to take ages to actually sort everything and upload a good selection, but for now, you can check out Day One in Rome. If the chemistry continues to be right--and I'm adding a little red wine to the mix--tonight will hopefully be relaxing, tomorrow should be a tasty food extravaganza with a roast duck, and Saturday...well, there will be hyperactive nephews aged 2 and 4, but plenty of turkey and thankfulness, if I may indulge in a sappy moment for a moment.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Our Fall Vacation: The Strange Minutiae

Tarragona ArenaSo I've been collecting some random, odd details of our trip in a notebook so that I could share them here--strange little things I've noticed, or weird (but non-earth-shattering) things that have happened to us while we've trekked around Italy and Spain. This is the post I've been planning for a while--not an informative and useful day-to-day account like Rob's been posting (and yeah, I'm kinda jealous), but bits and pieces, along with a few more photos. Hope you enjoy.

  • In both Italy and Spain, we often found rather surprising numbers of cats--semi-tame, I suppose--living in public monuments like Rome's Sacred Area or wandering around Montserrat or gathering around plastic water containers left for them at Tarragona's under-construction Roman amphitheater.
  • Speaking of cats, when we were in Montserrat on a rather steep (but still paved) hiking trail up to a small historic chapel, we saw a young woman who had brought her cat along on a hike. Of course, a cat's not going to follow in quite the same way as a dog; she occasionally had to stop and call it coaxingly, at which point it would come trotting leisurely along. While she checked out the interior of the chapel, it waited patiently for her outside. I'm pretty sure our cats wouldn't go for that kind of thing.
  • Parrots (I think) in Gaudi's Parc Guell
  • Speaking of animals, we saw flocks of green birds that appeared to be small parrots flying around both Parc Guell in Barcelona and in the gardens of the Real Alcazar in Seville. A bit unexpected, but very cool.
  • Speaking of animals again, we discovered that there are fish living in the various canals of Venice, something we hadn't seen during our 2007 trip there--and these fish are lurking under just about every boat if you check the less-busy canals.
  • In Spain, a "Ferreteria" is a hardware store (attributable, I imagine, to the Latin word for iron). However, I keep thinking it might be a good place to buy ferrets and ferret supplies.
  • Gaudi's Casa Batllo, Barcelona
  • In Barcelona, we somehow spent an inordinate amount of time searching for our evening meals. We started to joke about how we had to spend at least 45 minutes walking around before we could actually find a place to eat. This was sometimes due to misremembering where a restaurant was that we'd seen earlier (thus prompting some wandering in order to find it) or sometimes because we just couldn't settle on a place we liked. Pretty silly. However, this hasn't been the case in Seville or Madrid.
  • There are a lot of Roma (Gypsy) in Spain, especially in the South. I actually often wasn't sure who might be Roma and who might be South Asian, since there are plenty of both in Italy and Spain. It occurred to me that that's yet another ethnicity I could probably pass as; since the Roma did originate in South Asia, it's not farfetched. Sadly, the situation of many Roma seems to be quite poor and disadvantaged, and they appear to have been extremely ghettoized in Granada, where there's a large Roma population.
  • Real Alcazar, Seville
  • You can still smoke in most bars and restaurants in Spain, much to my minor annoyance. My sinuses do not like it. Fortunately, we seem to have chosen reasonably well-ventilated eating situations--I remember one really stuffy restaurant in Shanghai where I felt almost too sick to eat, it was so smoke-filled.
  • English-language 80s music is very popular in Spain, at least in public places like restaurants and on buses. On the bus from Barcelona to L'Escala, we heard "Private Eyes" by Hall and Oates, and on the way to Ronda from Seville, we heard "Man-Eater" (again by Hall and Oates) as well as 70s mega-hit "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart. Tonight in our restaurant in Madrid, La Casa del Abuelo, we heard "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna and "Maniac" by Michael Sembello (the song from the Flashdance movie). It's a little hilarious.

That's it for random observations for tonight. You can check out a few more photos at my flickr page.