Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

Gaga for fava beans

July 27, 2010

Maybe you’ve heard of them.

Perchance you have made a joke about eating them with a nice Chianti and your victim’s liver.

But it is likely you’ve never come across them in your neighborhood grocery store in Salem — until last week, when you stopped by E.Z. Orchards for a  mixed berry shortcake the size of a 6-year-old’s head and happened upon them, hanging out conspicuously with the green beans and the potatoes.

They are fava beans and they are going to break you.

Favas are all about process. They are not the stuff of 30-minute meals — they are laborious, delicious, buttery little beasts that come wrapped in pods that look like Frankenstein’s fingers, all gnarly knuckles and spindly fingernails.

Buy enough of them and you could spend the better part of an afternoon shelling, blanching, shelling, cooking and eating.

Here is a great tutorial on how to handle your favas.

When you open the seed pod you will find as many as half a dozen, or as few as one, glorious alien seed sacks.

You will remove the seeds and blanch them in boiling water for a minute. Then you remove the meaty part of the seed from the alien-looking casing. Think of this as freeing all those little Neos from the Matrix.

My husband has likened the fava to the lima bean, but that does the fava a disservice. They are buttery kernels, slightly nutty, smooth like a good pinot. I sauteed these favas with half an onion and some fennel, added some fresh dill and half a cup of chicken stock. We ate them with couscous.

Is it worth all that time and effort?

I would just as easily ask you if it is worth it to wait for a wine to ripen. Or a novel to be written. Or a John Cage song to be performed.

I like seeing the hours pile up on the plate.


About that estate sale you missed today

July 25, 2010


Well, you missed it. You decided to take a bike ride, or go to the coast, or pick some blueberries. You missed the tiny placard at the bottom of a traffic sign on South Commercial, or you saw it and never imagined that treasures could be so modestly advertised. You drove on by. You missed out. On… the… chance… to…

Comb through the accumulation of a life!

We were late to this party ourselves. By the time we arrived at the estate sale of a former Willamette music professor, who had worked at the university for four decades, there wasn’t  much left — just enough to hint at what this sale might have looked like when it opened on Friday.

This man, who clearly had lifelong fascinations with art and objects and music, was a collector — pipes, rubbings, old Playboys, photography materials, carved wooden objects, tools, 50’s-era Christmas decorations (see above), antique toys and trains, costume jewelry, hats, phonographs, old LP’s,  music instruments — whew!

I picked up:

Chenille tablecloth
Gingham tablecloth
Wooden marble ramp
Carved tobacco pipe
Four fuzzy Christmas reindeer
Box of roughly 3,567 toothpicks
Halloween basket
Swiss Army knife
Bag of 14 rolls of ribbons

For just $38, I’m ready for the holidays.

Estate sales can be sad affairs. But not this one. This one was a celebration of the curatorial spirit! A grand explosion of a life accumulated in madeline tins, antique cuckoo clocks and a single pair of lederhosen (actually, add that to the list above)!

This is how people live — in a mess of items bought one-by-one over a century. You can’t get this aesthetic in a catlog.

How do you find out about good estate sales in Salem?

Make new FRIENDS at the Salem Saturday Market

July 3, 2010

There comes a time in many a young woman’s life when she decides that she had better start putting her money where her heart is. For me, that means, for one, finally donating some money to This American Life, which we did last month.

It also means becoming a friend of the Salem Saturday Market.

I’ve got two words for how this fateful event has come about:

Baby goats.

It turns out that one of the best ways to get to know the valley– and maybe get to see some baby goats in the process —  is by joining the Friends of Salem Saturday Market and accompanying them on one of their many field trips.

Picture it — no bus, no jerk in the seat behind you sticking gum in your hair, no tuna salad sandwich that goes bad on the journey — just your own family in a car meeting up with others to tour the facilities of a food producer in the Willamette Valley.

Say, one that makes goat cheese, such as Fairview Farm Dairy.

I need two hands at this point to count the number of people who have talked to me about the storied baby goats of Fairview. The achy green monster inside of me is long past slumbering on this one.

So last week, I sent my check in. Okay, it was only for 10 bucks, but I’m a member now and I’m not going to let another Sunday trip to a goat farm slip me by. A win for this cause is also a win for cuteness.

But really, isn’t it a shame that it took some baby goats to get me to join? I’m already addicted to $6 a carton XL eggs from Terra Vita (and the farm’s swarthy proprietor, Art).

I’ll say it again: Baby goats. Shout it out!

Trader Joe’s debacle — Salem’s the punchline

June 20, 2010

I remember the first time I walked into my first Trader Joe’s in Tyson’s Corner, VA. It was 2003, the signs were hand-written, the shirts were Hawaiian, the wine was cheap, and the brands were unrecognizable. Seven years later and Trader Joe’s is almost as ubiquitous as Bed Bath & Beyond and Joe might as well be my uncle.

Well, almost.

Kelly Williams Brown has a funny fake musical script over at the Statesman Journal this morning lampooning the silly sign snafu that happened last week, when a signmaker “accidentally” put up a sign for some businesses that aren’t to be found in the Keizer Station concrete shopping district, including Trader Joe’s.  The error was a slap in the face to many Salemites who have been dreaming of access to cheap specialty foods and trips to TJ’s that don’t take minutes to get there.

I’ve been one of those people campaigning for a Trader Joe’s here in Salem. I too go over the moon for mini toasts, gaga for whoe grain , somewhat batty for baby beets. But as I was driving past the one off of I-5 last night on my way home from Seattle, I couldn’t help but be struck by how easy it is to get some of the many Trader Joe-like products here in Salem already.

And so, some consolation:

  • Life Source and Fred Meyer both carry the brand of stone ground oats I buy — stuff so good you can eat it for dinner.
  • If you want boiled beets you can do them yourself. And I do.
  • Olive oil is available in every sexy virgin non-virgin category under the sun these days.
  • E.Z. Orchards carry’s a 20-year balsamic that is younger and wiser than I.
  • If you really like wine, you probably can’t stand Two Buck Chuck.
  • Israeli coucous is seasonal at TJ. You can get it every day in the bulk bins at Fred Meyer.
  • Speaking of bulk. Why buy dried blueberries in a package when you can customize the amount at the bulk bins?
  • TJ hummus, as most packaged hummuses, tastes as if it were churned by feet.
  • Jarred marinara is jarred marinara is jarred marinara.

I would like to end by saying that I love paying for brie that costs $2.65 for a wedge, but I know that it comes at another price. But cheese is the one area where I will maintain that Trader Joe’s has everyone beat in terms of price and variety.

I cringe to pay $4.99 for a chevre log at Safeway when I can pay the same and get a log three times as long at TJ’s. But I really shouldn’t be driving 35 miles each way for cheese. And I really shouldn’t be eating a whole log of chevre now, should I?

I can only speak for my own consuming habits. What’s the real draw for people other than cheap specialty foods?

Score One for Salem

March 9, 2010

I’ve been talking to some of my young mother friends, and we’ve stumbled upon a tired family truism that, like all parenting discoveries,  may be old news to you but revelatory to the new parent:

A new couch improves your life by 150%.

We finally found said new couch in Salem, but before I get to that, let me tell you about our old couch.

Our old couch came from a second-hand store in Iowa City and, at just two seats wide, was small enough to fit in a tiny student apartment. You might call that a love seat, but when it’s all you’ve got, you, too, might couch your phrasing a little differently. Ours was grey and lovingly cat-proof and it got us through six seasons of LOST. But there wasn’t a whole lotta lovin’ going on there.

Old Grey Couch couldn’t stand up to late nights with the baby, though. After two months of periodically sleeping on the couch with our little lamb, my husband and I started to look a little crumpled, so we went looking for a replacement at our usual stops for consignment furniture, including Encore Consignment in Salem.

Adam fell in love with a couch there. It was purple and plush and probably would have taken up our entire living room. He  named it “Grimace” and was sure we’d catch it when its price dropped to 250 bucks two days later.

On the day we went to pick Grimace up, he was gone — snatched up by a lady who had arrived an hour before the store opened.

For the next few weeks, we made some sad trips to Portland, where we connived with lesser couches and were lured, however fleetingly, but the prospects of a new couch. And Adam continued to talk about the fabled purple Couch That Got Away.

A new couch! We haven’t bought anything but mattresses new… but considering the beating our old grey couch took in the four years that we had her, we began to consider the idea more and more. It would be our first major furniture purchase as a married couple.

Being stingy recyclers, we were feeling kind of torn, so we started to tell ourselves stories about why one might settle for something new.

There was that time when we pulled grey couch out of storage and found a dead mouse under a cushion…

So yes, we found a couch.  We found it on sale 55% off! — at Kuebler’s in downtown Salem. It’s a Broyhill, it’s firm and plush and perfect and supportive.

It’s the midnight parenting  these young parents needed — and it was totally worth it.

****By the way, Adam has the baby on his head because this is a proven position to combat the Dreadful Wails.***

Holiday Gift Guides and Eating Through Salem

December 2, 2009

Happy Salemversary to me!

One year ago yesterday, my husband and I headed out of Idaho Falls, racing along 84 and down I-5 to make it to Salem at 3:43 p.m. on the afternoon of December 1.

We celebrated in true Salem fashion — we worked late, cooked at home, and watched Jon Stewart before collapsing in our bed.

I’ve been frantically putting together gift baskets based on Salem-area edibles for the past two days while trying to finish up the semester at the University of Oregon, finish some work projects, decorate the house, and not succumb to the nesting instinct that is taking over my mind more every day.

I wrote about these baskets, and the idea of exporting Salem, in my column this month, which lists a few of the area treasures I’ve scoured up over the past months, but it struck me that there aren’t any embedded links on my December column at Salem Monthly, so here’s the good stuff with links to the producers.

  • A bag of Gnome Hazelnut Factory hazelnuts – with the hope that they might entice people to come walk with me among our area’s gorgeous hazelnut groves in the new year.
  • A 3/4 pound bag of Hairbender coffee from Salem’s Latte, the only place in town that carries Stumptown coffee.
  • Oregon White Truffle Oil for the foodies in the family, the only real American truffle oil in existence, hand-infused by Jack Czarnecki of the Joel Palmer House, who actually unearths all of those truffles himself.
  • E.Z. Orchards Marionberry syrup, with a gift card carrying my favorite of Chris Rock’s jokes about former D.C. mayor Marion Berry.
  • One resin wine stopper (pic above), designed to look like a 19th century Victorian doorbell, by, a preservation site run by my neighbor.
  • Silver Falls Creamery Goat cheese, a chevre so mind-bogglingly good my husband and I have a song we sing about it.
  • A bottle of Eola Hills 2008 pinot noir to tie it all together.
  • To clean up afterward, one bar of S.L.A.B. soap with a holiday-friendly Douglas Fir or Frankincense Myrrh scent profile.

That’s just my list. What do you put in your local gift baskets? What is Salem’s most exportable good?

Christmas Trees in the Land of the Doug Fir

November 30, 2009

Last year, Adam convinced me that we didn’t need to get a Christmas tree.

We were shuffling between an apartment in West Salem and our current abode in Northeast Salem and were waiting for our moving truck to arrive between December 1 and 10th. It didn’t come until the 18th, and we were unpacking through the New Year.

I’m still holding a grudge.

For even if we had just hung up a branch of greens and strung some popcorn on it, it would have made me feel a little less alone in our new city at the holidays.

This year, I claimed, would be different. This year, I would get my first-ever family-appropriate Christmas tree and heavy its limbs with ornaments. This year, I would have a tree by the beginning of December.

Now I’m sure you’ve seen the trees lining the makeshift tree lots in parking lots all over town by now. They are a decent way to get your hands on a tree.

But the truly Oregonian way is to do it like my friend Jan and her family does it — make a trip out to the Willamette National Forest and cut one down yourself.

This is a legal program run by the U.S. Forest Service. If you don’t include the cost of gas to Detroit, Ore., this tree will also run you a pleasing $5 permit fee and a little back and arm labor.

But I fear my husband’s conspicuous modesty, one of his most darling traits, has won out yet again. For we have decided to accept a dear little throwaway tree from our new Salem friends, who spent the weekend landsculpting their new backyard in a 1950s Salem neighborhood.

Adam picked this tiny Tannenbaum out, repotted him, shaped him as if he were the most prized bonsai, and stuck him in the corner, on top of an antique end table that houses many of my old paperbacks. We strung him with LED bulbs and ornaments I picked up in Germany.  After Christmas, we’re planting him in the yard.

The only drawback of choosing such small shrubbery is that he doesn’t exactly fill the room with the crisp scent of Christmas. But I guess that’s why I picked up that fir-scented candle back in October.

I’m already in love with this tree. We really only needed a little Christmas, right this very minute, and that’s what we’ve got.

Pregnant Pauses in Salem

November 24, 2009

It’s no secret that I’m pushing nine months pregnant. This isn’t a mommy blog, and thus I haven’t made its readers privy to all of the regular annoyances of the gestational cycle.

But it should be clear by now that being pregnant in Salem changes things. I’m no longer the spry, energetic blogger I once was, posting nearly every day, extending my circle far and wide, traveling nearly every weekend.

In fact, these days I’m pretty much a Weeble.

The biggest surprise of pregnancy for me is how small it has made my world. I’m still desperately seeking salem, but my consumer habits have changed remarkably over the past two or three months, and so has my energy level.

So I will make this one post on pregnant Salem with the hopes that you pregnant women, or once pregnant women, or husbands of pregnant women, or friends of pregnant women will find some value in it.

Best pickles: Auntie Becky’s dill pickles, made right here in town, have won the top prize at the Oregon State Fair. You can buy them at Roth’s — and if you were lucky enough to be  there last weekend, you might have even met Auntie Becky herself.

Best hungry pregnant woman dinner: The avocado burger at Rockin’ Rogers on Market Street NE. As an added bonus, you can giggle over the Saturday Evening Post advertisements on the tables.

Best place to geek out on baby stuff: Baby Depot at Burlington Coat Factory. I have never bought anything there, but it’s wonderful eye candy for when the womb takes over.

Best second-hand baby store: Reruns for Kids on S. Commercial.

Best retail baby stores: T.J. Maxx. I bought this Small Paul snuggly sweater the other day — probably my biggest baby splurge so far.

Best maternity wear, retail: Burlington Coat Factory. As my belly (and, erm, the rest of me) has grown, I’ve been buying size 14 Calvin Klein dresses there for far less than most maternity wear costs.

Best maternity wear, second-hand: My husband’s closet. Outside of my home, Value Village. I’ve heard Goodwill has a pretty good selection as well.

Nicest people to pregnant people: E.Z. Orchards’ staff. It must be the abundance of produce and the donuts at the door.

Any I have missed? I still have about four weeks left and haven’t ruled out taking  many more trips outside before settling in for winter.

Zombies Welcome in Salem

November 2, 2009

EmilyZombie 003

Were you one of the estimated 1.597 million people in Salem who decided to go to Value Village last Saturday at 2:00 p.m. to see what the second-hand retailer had in stock for Halloween? I was. It was a mistake I won’t make again.

We were actually looking for some furniture, but got distracted by all of the 1960s loungewear and gold facepaint and all of the people walking around dressed like [insert favorite cartoon character here].

My ability to walk straight down an aisle of clothing is inversely proportional to the number of people in said aisle, so it wasn’t long before we threw up our hands in exasperation and screamed “Screw it!” let’s just find something at home.

And that’s how Adam ended up a Devil’s Advocate — easy, all you need is some horns and lawyer’s garb — and I made good on my promise to be a Zombie Emily Dickinson.

You know, a dead poet. They have societies for these things.

Sadly, no one at the Halloween party we attended recognized Ms. Dickinson, perhaps because she so staunchly refused to be a part of the public eye. Seriously, what did her diary read like?

Woke up this morning. Wore white. Wrote some poems.

The party guests did reconize me as that pus-spewing little girl from The Exorcist, though, so I walked around yelling obscenities and trying to make my head spin.


I’m still thinking about them.

I had a plan to write November’s Desperately Seeking Salem column about something kind of altruistic and Thanksgiving-y that I’ve been doing here in Salem, but I couldn’t help myself. Zombies are an image that fits well with what I see as the hunger for cultural products in Salem.

And I’ve been pretty excited to see what Salem’s Culture Shock Community Project has cooked up with zombies over the past month. Those guys deserve some recognition.

Their brains taste good.

Final Puzzle Pieces

October 9, 2009


We arrived in Salem with enough stuff to fill our small house, except for maybe an old couch.  We’ve acquired little things here and there to make this Salem cottage a home, but have been waiting for that extra special living room carpet to seal the deal.

Perhaps because it was the last thing we really needed — and I say need because I don’t want any babies crawling around on hardwoods exclusively — we put off the purchase. We looked around, we saw some really ugly, grandma’s attic carpets, we scoffed and turned away and put it off for another day.

And then we went to Tuesday Morning a few weeks ago and happened upon this strange carpet. I both love and hate the thing. It’s a little Christmas-y for my taste, but I found myself drawn to its hexagonal patterns and color palette, which seemed so much Midwest meets Pacific Northwest.

So we got it. And have been living with it for almost a month.

And that’s when it struck us. We didn’t buy a carpet, we actually bought a Settler’s game board in carpet form.

I’ll trade two wheat for three brick!

Settlers of Catan