Next session of free classes at Clockworks

July 1, 2010

Mark your calendars. Clockworks Cafe has put out its roster of classes (PDF) for its free summer session.

I’ve had a lot of interest in my blogging class — we’ll be doing the same intro to blogging at the cafe on July 12 at 6:00 p.m.

See you there!

Just to be clear, I won’t be there to walk you through the nitty gritty of working with WordPress or blogger. This class is all about engaging an audience and conceiving a successful blog project. If there is enough interest, I’ll likely be offering a four-week class on the same subject next fall (for a fee, of course).

Now that I’m done with self-promotion, time to rant. I’ve been hearing through some sources that some of these free classes have been woefully under-attended.

How under-attended?

Some classes have had zero people show up.


Now, you can look at this a few ways. You could blame the gorgeous sunny weather for enticing people to barbecues and late days at the pool with the kids. You could say you didn’t know — but then, if you’re reading this, you probably did. You could also guess that in the marketplace of ideas, not all of the classes are as in-demand as others.

Or, you could be as cynical and say, as we heard last night, “That place might actually be too cool to fly in Salem.”

So I’d like to suggest something. If there is something you want to learn — say, SEO, from Rob McGuire! — get in touch with the people at Clockworks and let them know where your interest lies. That way, the class offerings can be more market-driven and we can have a packed cultural center.

In other words, Blogging: Yes! Kazoos… maybe not?

Lots of expertise in Salem, but there’s no need to be an autodidact.


Strawberry Season in Salem

June 29, 2010

These June weeks have been drab and grey, overcast and a tad glum until the sun hit hard and strong at the end of last week, leaving our love for summer in Oregon more than a little rekindled. All that unusual coolness has translated to a late season at area strawberry farms.

Am I wrong to believe that Oregon’s weather has conspired to save for me the most wonderful treats of the season — strawberries so beautiful, so ephemeral, so special that if you don’t do something with them right away, they’ll just waste away in front of you? Yes, they have come late this year, but for me, they are just in time.

We headed to Olson’s earlier last week knowing we wouldn’t have time to process more than a few pounds and spent the morning atop a hill overlooking the Willamette Valley, the din of I-5 masked by the crunch of straw and a crisp breeze. Yes, I know you can get U-pick strawberries for a little less per pound at farms in West Salem, but I’ll pay a few bucks more for the premium view.

Strawberries! Shout it out!

This is our first season of berry-picking with our own strawbaby — probably the first event of many in which we force him to do something together with us that he just doesn’t care for…– but he handled being strapped to my husband’s back pretty well.

But just like babyhood, everything beautiful doesn’t last, and neither do strawberries, especially local ones. The pickings were sparse that day, but I am hearing that those berries up there on the hill are warming under green cover into a delightful hue of red. Get them before they’re gone!

But what to do with all of these strawberries when they are the May flies of fruit, living for a day and then dying a glorious death? (I know this because no fewer than 10 of my perfect strawberries were already moldering by the end of the day I picked them).

Last year I made strawberry jam in an effort to share the taste of Oregon with my family members back East and in the Midwest. This year I’m being a little lazier and a lot more selfish and am working through my favorite new book, Rustic Fruit Desserts by Julie Richardson and Cory Schreiber. It focuses on fruits that grow rampant in the Pacific Northwest  including, yes, strawberries.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

On the docket we have Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie with Fresh Strawberries and Fresh Strawberry and Ricotta Tart. You may have to process these strawberries quickly, but my experience is that the pies are gone even faster.

What I learned from my own Salem blogging class

June 22, 2010

The drive to become better at what you do is an amazing thing.

 Take the free blogging class I offered yesterday at Clockworks Cafe and Cultural Center. I went into it hoping that it wouldn’t fall completely flat and I left feeling the amazing power of being surrounded by people intent on focusing and developing their craft.

If you offer a free blogging class, chances are good that some already excellent bloggers are going to show up. Indeed, the room was filled to capacity (read: everyone got a chair) by people who have much to teach ME:

Jessica Ramey of Northwest Nest
Rob McGuire (once Salem’s top Tweeter until he closed his account, who knows enough about WordPress to identify my blog design by name)
Salem Man of Eatsalem and Salemites fame
Christy Hey (okay, not yet blogging, but she teaches music for tots!)
K. Williams Brown, the Statesman Journal’s oh-so-adorble entertainment columnist

We also had a great showing among people who are active on Twitter and Facebook but who have been looking for the right project to turn into a blog. Lots of would-be writers looking to make the leap towards self-publication in the blog form.

I think it went pretty well, but I’ll have to make it explicit that my class is a blog WRITING class and that we won’t be getting into the specifics of setting up a blog, making a post, etc., at least from the technical side of things. I’ll be giving the same class on July 12 at 6:00 p.m. at Clockworks.

Finally, I’ll leave you with an image: Me,  getting hoodooed by a guy with a mini production studio who sets his stuff up right next to me and announces that he’ll be recording the free class for his website. 

How can you say no don’t record me in a course focused on citizen journalism empowerment and new media creation? Sigh. Kind of impressed by the boldness of the enterprise, but it really does challange the intimacy of a setting…

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?

My column cut from Salem Weekly

June 18, 2010

Here’s some news for anyone who reads my column in the Salem Every-0ther-Weekly. My column, Desperately Seeking Salem, has been cut from the paper. I got the message this afternoon from the paper’s new editor, Shawn Estes, who replaced Eric Howald, the guy who turned the paper around and brought me on last year.

I wish I could say that after much discussion, I have decided to stop doing the column, but that just isn’t the case.  As Shawn told me this afternoon, it just doesn’t fit with the current direction of the Every-other-Weekly.

Gotta say I completely agree with that.

For those of you who have read and loved the column, thank you. For my trolls, I love you, too! Thanks for being the bees in my bonnet!

It was a good run.

With no Salem Every-other-weekly column to write, I can write more for the blog. I guess it’s time to start taking ads.

UPDATE: Added an old Emily: Angry! pic for good measure. No worries, I’m not angry. I’d like to announce that I’m spending more time with my family (as if anyone can spend any more time with family when she’s at home with a 5-month-old).

Take my blogging course at C4 Academy

June 16, 2010

Hot off the presses: the C4 Academy downtown at Clockworks Cafe and Cultural Center just published its first-ever  Brochure of classes. Among the list of classes you’ll find there — all of which are free to the community in June and July — is a blogging basics course by yours truly.

A blog is just a vomitorium for navel-gazers and diarists with a penchant to overshare, right? Well, sometimes. Hundreds of millions of blogs have been launched. Very few survive in perpetuity (if that’s even possible).

This course is one for would-be writers interested in the blog form.

I’m not going to teach you how to set up a blog on WordPress or blogger in my class; it’s not really about the technical aspects of blogging. But I will teach you how to write a blog and craft a message through online media.

Blogging basics is for people with a story to tell, perhaps a product to sell,  looking for way to do it well.  I’m beta testing this course here in Salem before I pitch it to my colleagues at the University of Oregon, where I teach magazine writing, so you can bet it will be a step above your average free course.

Questions? Email me at Interest? I’ll see you there!

Update: Some have been asking when the course is taking place. I am offering the same intro course on June 21 and July 12 at 6:00 p.m. at Clockworks Cafe.

Five Guys comes to Salem

June 6, 2010

Good news for people who like bad news. Five Guys just opened a location on Lancaster Drive, in the same strip mall where Borders is located. We saw the sign go up a few weeks ago and new there would be trouble. Why? Let me tell you the states I haven‘t eaten Five Guys in…

To date I’ve been okay with the occasional stop at the Beaverton Five Guys, which like the new Salem location, is located in a nasty strip mall and often has a line out the door preceding the counter, where you can see a team of far more than five guys assembling burgers and artfully placing pickles.

Okay, so they are not that artful. What you get is a big, delicious, messy, meaty, gloriously topped burger — and you eat it in a packed, red-and-white-themed setting that might as well be called a “corral.”

As I told the people who were still deciding whether to line up, people wait for Five Guys because dudes can really make a burger and you are gaurenteed to get at least a dozen perfectly fried in peanut oil French fries in your mammoth tub of taters.

Some advice: even if you have a big eater, a small fry is probably all you need. If you’re a lady or have a smaller appetite, for God’s sake, get the Little Cheeseburger, it’s big enough. And if you’re staying there to eat, obviously you should get a small drink to share, since it’s your job to fill up your soda cup.

Five Guys is great. But if you really want Salem’s best burger, try Rock-N- Rogers.

I Promise You a Rose Garden

June 4, 2010

The woman who lived in our house before us loved roses and planted eight of them on our property. Every day when my husband comes home from work, he picks one and brings it to me.

Adam’s a plant guy, and he has spent the past two weeks potting succulents, the only plants our cat won’t eat. He’s not big on flowers and last night I found out why.

“Look at those poppies on the table,” he said, pointing to the orange poppies he recently picked from a ditch here in town. “They look so happy. They don’t even know that they are dying.”

I’ve always kind of felt that way about roses. They are so Miss Havisham.

Even growing up in Pennsylvania’s Red Rose City, I always knew that their beauty was lost on me.

But not here!

The roses in our neighborhood here in Salem are heavy with blossoms at this point — droopy heads bending over to reach the grass. But all across the micro-hood we call home, roses are doing their languid burlesque.

My neighbor has a red rose growing on her front wall, the Ingrid Bergman rose, that has blooms larger than my baby’s head. We have roses woven through the fence in our back patio that bloom and rebloom for several weeks each summer — sure puts those ideas about temporality to shame. And now I’ve discovered this rose, which reminds me of an 1980s dress one might wear while roller skating, at the Portland International Rose Test Garden.

Even if you don’t love roses. Even if you think that the scent of a rose reminds you of the toilette of an 115-year-old woman. Even if No rose has ever smelled as sweet. It is almost impossible not to be happy when you’re surrounded by these gently unfolding pink ladies.

Photo finish

May 25, 2010

If you find a bill for $3.00 on your credit card statement and it says it’s from “Fantasy Photos” and offers you an 888 number to call, don’t punch your partner in the gut.

It’s from the time you stopped by that photo booth at the Salem Center mall downtown.

I’ve always been a sucker for photo booths, but I never imagined how difficult it would be to harange a husband and baby into the booth and try to get all of our faces in the shot. Who can think of smiling when you’re so worried about composition?

Ours turned out like our lives: messy, frantic-looking, glazy-eyed, and yes, deliriously happy.

This isn’t your most user-friendly of photo booths. You have to wade through about 356 backdrop images of “Hot Stuff” or “Gangsta” themes in order to get a classy black strip.

Also, this isn’t one of those booths that spill out gorgeous, perfectly colored and developed prints. They are glossy and blurry. But at least they give you two strips of them. Perfect for two 12-year-olds I guess.

We don’t go to the mall much. Seriously, we go so seldom it’s worth documenting.

Welcome to the Secret Society

May 21, 2010

I had to giggle a bit a while back when I got lumped into Salem’s new creative class, but that got me thinking. An influx of new creative folks into Salem’s affordable, sometimes charming, often grubby Northeast city section? Is there any legitimacy to that?

There is!

I’ve always held that stuff happens in Salem — it’s just laughlingly under-the-radar. Well… something is definitely afoot in the Northeast Salem neighborhoods.

All it took was one party at my friend the poet’s house (also in NE Salem) to determine that there are a lot of us small-housers out here milking the city for its historic properties and living large on a tiny footprint. In addition to me, my sculptor of a husband and my baby Dash, a.k.a. The Next Alexander Calder, we have:

Michael Chasar, a Poet with an Penchant for Pop

Stephanie Lenox, editor of Blood Orange Review, a well-received online literary mag

William Bragg, photographer – or you might know him as a champion for the underpriveleged

Jonathan Bucci, multimedia artist, and his writer wife, Rachel Bucci

Any more you can think of? Whom have I forgotten? Whom haven’t I met yet?

As far as I know, all of the people listed here have been in Salem for five years or less. Yay for new blood — and for E.B. White quotes that can lend themselves to cities other than New York.