Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer is Here!

After the 40 days and nights of gloom, greyness, and rain, Portland has some sunshine! I am excited beyond description: I want to camp, I want to run, I want to bike, I want to live!

After all the rain, the slugs have been popping up like mushrooms... after rain. It seems like every time I come outside in the evening, there is an awful monster, getting ready to strike at me, should I step in his (or her) way to my daisies. I have seen slugs that most of you only dream about! Well, hopefully your dreams are more pleasant than those of ugly slugs, but the point is that I have encountered some very interesting and intimidating slugs lately.

So I have been slug hunting after dark, armed with a flashlight and enough salt to pickle 20 big barrels of tomatoes (yes, I like pickled tomatoes). The ones I see at night are usually your common garden variety brown, boring slugs. The one that traumatized me appeared in the day light, which I thought was strange.

It was approximately six inches long and about an inch in diameter, with a very peculiar color pattern. Well, you can see in the picture above, which I took of him before his demise. I think it was the Slug King himself. Don't you? I mean, look at him! Or maybe it was their Queen... I don't know. How does one tell what gender this piece of rubbery slime is? Really, if you know, please tell me. Do they even have genders?

But I digress. After measuring and documenting my find, I emptied a lot of salt on it. I was told that all it needed was a sprinkle of salt, but I was skeptical of that advice. The King/Queen looked far too intimidating and aggressive for only a sprinkle. Well... It is gone now. Rest in Peace, slug royalty.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What to make of it all...

I run up the dimly lit stairs, past the mail boxes on my right, to the second floor. I pause in front of the leather encased door to flat No. 12 and with a sinking feeling in my stomach listen for any sounds. All is quiet. I open the door and step into a long corridor with very high ceiling. The telephone on a hanging shelf on my right, coat closet on the left; splatters of dried blood on the old wood floor and on the white door to a bedroom.

I carefully step past that, trying not to make any noise, and go into my bedroom, which is a large room, rounded on one end, with a big west facing window. The window is open and evening summer air is filling my lungs. The room is empty. Only movement is the reddish orange squares of the sunset lit window reflecting on a beige wall.

I go to the window and look outside. Two giant birch trees stand still. The metro station is also silent. There are no people outside. The orange city buses are not moving. I smell the musty wood floors and hear them whine under my feet as I shift my weight. I suddenly realize that I am alone. There is no wind, no birds, no people, no bugs, and there is no God. The silence is pressing on me, the weight of it is becoming unbearable and I want to cry.

“Ok, Natasha… Time to turn over…” I hear my massage therapist, and am grateful to feel human hands on my back. And I'm ok again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What's the deal with make up?

It has been a while since I have last written here. I was going through a transition of sorts, and was mildly disoriented and not in the mood to share my thoughts. Something did happen, however, and yesterday I woke up with a determination to start using make up!

Yes, I know... Most women use make up, but I have never used it before for some reason. As I mentioned before, I am not a hippie: I do all the other womanly things, like shave my legs, pluck my eyebrows and take care of my finger nails and, on occasion, even toe nails. Make up was just not on that list, but now I was bursting with desire to make myself pretty.

I told my husband that I will get hussied up and then he will take me out. While it made him laugh, he didn't like the expression "hussied up". He said that it has a negative connotation and that I should not use it. Internet to the rescue! I looked the expression up and Wikionary (which we all know is reliable) states the following:

"This term is used almost exclusively with regards to women. It is also often used with an air of moral superiority, insinuating that the fact that the person being referred to is inferior for dressing in the way that they do. It is also commonly used when the manner of dressing is a recent change in their normal behavior."

Since it is a change in my normal behavior, I could freely use that term. And I did.

I have encountered a problem: I don't own any make up. That means shopping. I am not a traditional shopper in that I don't necessarily enjoy browsing stores endlessly looking for some unidentified object to buy. So I have identified objects that I needed to buy, which were foundation (it's not for houses anymore), mascara, and lipstick. Now I can go shopping.

I went to a nearby cosmetics store to obtain the magical items that would make me instantly pretty. I walked in, looked at rows of beautifying items and began my search. There was liquid foundation, powder foundation, foundation on a stick, fair foundation, fairly fair foundation, brown foundation. There was mascara of all sorts: black, blackest black, jet black, blue black, brown black, brown brown, mascara for volume, mascara for length, waterproof mascara, definition mascara... I did not name them all. I was getting ready to cry when some kind soul who worked at the store looked at my disoriented face and took pity on me.

I ended up with Bare Minerals fair foundation, brown black mascara, and some lipstick. Now I need to learn how to apply those. I don't want to end up looking as a brightly colored parrot or Mimi from the Drew Carey show.
I will let you know how my experiment goes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On a Rainy Day

I recently discovered my homemaking side. I started knitting. And even though my niece says that I am doing that sixty years too early, I find it enjoyable and relaxing. I frequently will spin my recumbent bike, listen to an audiobook, and knit at the same time. Windows 7, eat your heart out!

Once in a while, when I feel the need for peripheral human interaction, I will go to a local Starbucks with my knitting, have some coffee, and watch unruly children run around and scream, all the while their parents are talking about the evils of capitalism amongst themselves.

Call me antisocial all you want, but to prove this accusation baseless, I will tell you that I made a friend! Her name is Wanda. Wanda is an elderly thin woman in her early 70s, who always sits by the fireplace at the above mentioned Starbucks and knits prayer shawls for a local hospital's chapel. I have always thought that it is very altruistic of her to donate her skills and time like that. Wanda has another talent: she makes my day a little more surreal every time I speak to her.

Today was one of those days when I was feeling a bit lonely and wanted to be among people. I took a shower, got dressed and drove 4 minutes downhill to reach the coffee shop. I walked in, put my laptop on a very comfortable armchair by the huge fireplace with a stone hearth and went to get my tall, extra hot, double cupped, one pump vanilla, light caramel caramel macchiato. My friend Wanda was already there, knitting as usual. I got my drink, which, by the way, was NOT extra hot, sat down and took out my unfinished black sock.

-Hi Wanda!
-Oh, hello, hello! Did you bring your homework today? (I am not sure what she is talking about).
-No, not today, just knitting.
-Is that cashmere? (feeling my knitting with her fingers)
-No, Wanda, it's alpaca.
-Alpaca? that's a good choice.
-Uh huh, it's soft and wears nicely.
-Such nice cashmere.
-It's alpaca.
-Oh, alpaca!
-Yes, Wanda, I bought it from a guy who has a herd of them near Salem.
-That is such nice cashmere... (still holding my knitting). Well, I will let you get back to your homework. (I still don't know what she is talking about.)

And so I started knitting... These will be awesome socks. From alpaca.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sir Winston Churchill Speech - We shall fight them on the be

We will fight them on the beaches...

I am in a strange mood today: contemplative and a bit nostalgic. I was reminiscing about my growing up in the streets of Kiev, terrorizing the neighborhood kids. Growing up there is inseparable from the World War II. You are reminded of it everywhere: street names, countless monuments to soldiers, frequently unknown, and the people themselves. The horrors of WWII live in the people, there is not a single person who somehow hasn't been affected by it.

What does one do when they are in a mood such as this? They go on YouTube to look for videos and music to nurture their mental state. As did I. I went on YouTube. There I found videos about that war, I also found Winston Churchill's famous speech, now known as "We will fight them on the beaches..." Wow, what a guy! It gave me shivers and inspired me. It also saddened me.

Where are Winston Churchills of today? Today, when we have our President bowing down to every third world nation leader? When we cannot name things by their true names. Today, when our soldiers cannot fight without being persecuted for doing their job?

Will we ever be able to fight for our existence again? Will we ever stand up and fight them in the hills? We will fight them on the beaches...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Flowers are Pretty

I had an interesting day yesterday. Well, interesting is an overstatement, it actually ranged somewhere between amusing and appalling. Let's start with interesting.

I love gardening. Our house, however, takes up most of our huge 5,000 sq ft yard, and leaves very little place to actually plant things. In addition, where that little piece of useable space is mostly shaded and the drainage sucks, so whatever I plant just dies, but I persist. Even my back lawn is completely dead right now. It's a sad little patch of brown and grey with a few tiny islands of green grass fighting for life. Hmm... Maybe it's me, but we'll come back to that.

I went to Home Depot to buy my gardening supplies. I bought (and loaded in the car myself!) a huge 50lb bag of potting soil, some pretty flowers, lawn seed, and organic fertilizer. Yes, organic... Don't judge me please. I am not a hippy, I don't wear hemp dresses, birkenstocks and am allergic to patchouli oil, but I like organic things. Who knows why.

I pierced the bag of soil with my little soil scoop and threw it in my pots and watered it. I had some river rocks laying by one container, which got some water on them and were glistening. After some deliberation, I decided to remove those and make my back patio nice and uncluttered. I bent down to pick up the rocks. I picked one, then next one... Then I noticed a particularly shiny medium sized rock and thought that it was aesthetically pleasing. I reached for it and picked it up and jumped with terror. It felt firm, but with some give, springy and very, very slimy. I threw it on the ground and by then it stopped the charade and showed it's true face. It was an ugly giant slug! I ran into the house to scrub my hands. Then I thought, "Should I kill the slug? Is it too ugly to live?" The decision has been made. I grabbed my container of iodized salt, I am not sure of iodine significance in terms of slug murder, but I grabbed it anyway.

When I got to the back yard, the slug has crawled about half a foot away! That's extremely fast for a slug. He was a champion. But I showed no mercy. I poured my iodized salt over it and turned away to avoid watching it die. And so it did. It died a silent death. I felt bad afterwards: guilty and even a little sad. I got over it. Now I look at every little rock with suspicion. Oh well, maybe I will get over that too some day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Global warming and Intimate products

So I had a hand surgery three weeks ago, nothing super terrible, but rather painful and inconvenient. You can see on the picture my dressing and sausage fingers. I also insisted on writing "NO" on the unaffected side, to prevent the well meaning surgeon from amputating the wrong hand.

Since I did not have to slave for my food after the repair, my circadian rhythm reverted back to my normal one, and I became a nocturnal animal: much like a raccoon, except I didn't dig in the garbage. Yet.

So, it's 3AM, I had enough of my internet buddies and was on my couch, half asleep, watching reruns of Married with Children. That's a great show, Al Bundy was the last American male, a true man's man. But I digress. Just as Al got his newpaper rolled up under his arm and was heading upstairs to do his business, a commercial came on. It was for Al Gore's (no relation to Al Bundy) global warming movie. Inconvenient something or the other. Right after that, a "instantly warming intimate gel" was advertised. I can't quite recall who makes it, but I thought, wouldn't that be great if Al Gore came up with "Al Gore's Global Warming Gel" for all your intimate needs?

I don't know if anyone else will find it funny, but it amused me. So I laughed at my own thoughts and dragged myself upstairs to brush my teeth, snuggle up to the fuzzy creature in my bed (AKA my husband), and get my 12 hours of beauty sleep.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I am not a huge fan of pizza. It doesn't mean that I don't like it, but I wouldn't kill for a slice of Dominos or Pizza Hut. To be honest, I don't enjoy ordering, waiting, and getting room temperature pizza at my door, AND having to tip for it! Yes, I sound cheap, but only because I am.

So the other day I was driving, singing along with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and it occured to me: make your own pizza! And so I did. I started with the dough, which, of course, is necessary for the crust. I bought some bread flour at New Seasons, threw that in my breadmaker. Then I added a couple of table spoons of wheat gluten flour, salt, and yeast. Kneaded it all with some filtered water and put it an oiled glass bowl to rise. About 40 minutes later, I folded the dough. It felt so good: light, fluffy, yet strong and stretchy at the same time. In another 40 minutes, I folded it again. Then stretched it threw on some pizza sauce with fresh basil and garlic, shredded mozarella, roasted garlic, and some fresh yummy tomatoes.

While the dough is doing it's rising and developing gluten, I preheated my oven to 500F, which, by the way, is VERY hot (I learned that when I opened the oven door and accidentally brushed against the inside of the oven. So, don't stick your hands into a very hot oven.

When the pizza had it's toppings, in the oven it went. After the first 10 minutes of baking, I rotated it and let it sit there for another 10 minutes. It turned out amazing! The crust was light, with a gazillion of huge bubbles. It was stretchy and crusty at the same time!

I forgot to mention that if you attempt that at home, you should either clean your oven before heating it that hot, or disable your smoke detectors... Mine went off about 6 times, but, strangely enough, my neighbors didn't complain.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make a pizza at home.