Saturday, June 27, 2009

Our Anniversary

10 years? Already? I can't believe Paul and I have been married for 10 years. Usually we just enjoy a quiet dinner to celebrate our anniversary, but since this is our 10th we're taking a trip through the wine country as our gift to each other (we're leaving the first week of July).

Last night we stopped at Tacoma Wine Merchant to pick up our wine club selection and purchase a few additional bottles. Afterwards we headed next door to Enoteca for a glass or two and a cheese plate before dinner. Bill gave us a glass of champagne (on the house) to start the evening off right. Such a sweet gesture.

Next we were off to Europa for dinner. The tables outside were open so we snagged one. I love sidewalk dining -- reminds me of Europe (and Seattle for that matter). Paul and I changed seats halfway through the meal so our faces would roast evenly as the sun went down. I have to say the food was a bit disappointing, but not the company. It was a lovely meal.

We stopped at home long enough to let the dogs out, put away the leftovers, and then we went for a short bike ride. We rode to the middle of Skyline Bridge to watch the sun as it set over the Narrows. It was a bit cloudy, but we could still enjoy the lovely pink and gold sky.

It was a perfect end to a lovely day that celebrates a wonderful marriage. I can't say it enough Paul -- I love you. Thanks for marrying me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Mom the Enviromentalist

This weekend Paul and I drove with my mom to Sequim to visit my brother and his family. Long story short some one needed a drink of water and my mom whipped out her water bottle -- a metal water bottle. I congratulated her on it, she said well of course I'm not using a plastic bottle, and then she proceeded to lecture me about the evils of plastic bottles, overflowing landfills, and such.

My mom has always reused, renewed, and recycled way before it was hip -- it was just a way of life for her. When she was growing up there was no curbside trash collection in Japan (or electricity, or running water). Trash had to be burned, buried or turned into compost. I remember splitting the raw and cooked food into two containers, raw for the compost heap, and cooked to be disposed of as trash. The cooked food was drained and then whirled in the blender with some water. Then mom would strain the mixture and the liquid went down the sink. Whatever was collected in the sieve was then dumped in the trashcan. No packaging escaped compaction . Pop cans were smashed and saved in bags to take back to the plant for whatever pittance they were offering then. Milk cartons (paper or plastic) squished, and metal cans smashed flat (with the tops and bottoms inside) before they were thrown out. Newspaper was rolled into "logs", tied off with string and burned in our fireplace to help stretch out our supply of Duraflame logs.

It was all very tedious and time consuming, and instead of continuing to practise them I turned them into examples of how far we'd come in our world of convenience. Now that I'm (finally) starting a compost pile I have a lovely ceramic piece in the shape of a trashcan that sits on my counter top, with a charcoal filter in the lid to keep the smells at bay (my mom used an old coffee can with the plastic lid, or an old mixing bowl). My scraps are patiently waiting in the freezer to be dumped into the fancy two compartment compost box with a shared platform that my husband is building for me (my mom just dumped things in a pile in the backyard and staked chicken wire to keep it at bay). All this renewed interest in recycling, gardening, and urban chickens amuses my mom. Metal water containers, rain barrels, composting aren't new she reminds me, and laughs that she's lived long enough to see practices she once thought of as old-fashioned being introduced as new ideas today.

A Visit to Sequim

My brother and his family live in Sequim and we don't get over there as often as we'd like or should. Last Saturday we drove with mom to see Stephanie's perform in a dance recital (she's taking lessons in jazz and tap).

On the way to the recital we stopped at the middle school to see some art. Brandon graduated from the 5th grade this year, and his school has a tradition that I think is awesome. The graduating class gets to leave their mark on the school by painting a "tile". Then on the last day the entire school lines up around the corridors, and the 5th graders march around the corridors receiving high fives from the whole school. How cool is that?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yum, Hummus

I love, love, love hummus. I used to make it all the time when the kids were younger. It was always good, but I made it in a blender and it was such a hassle I just starting buying the Costco stuff. After throwing away yet another half eaten container of soupy, tasteless hummus I decided to start making my own again only this time I have a food processor which makes it so easy!! I cook my own beans (if time allows). Why use cooked beans over canned? Well, they taste better, and it helps you control your salt intake. Of course it takes a lot more time, and it's messy removing the skins after cooking. Kat wanted the recipe (which I've adapted from the Barefoot Contessa) so here it is!

Paul's Hummus

5-6 cloves roasted garlic (you can use fresh garlic, but I'd cut it down to 3-4 cloves)
5-6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (the juice of two lemons)
3 cups cooked garbanzo beans (you can substitute with two 14 oz cans, rinsed)
1/3 cup Tahini (probably best to start with 1/4 cup and then add to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)
Roasted sweet red peppers (add to taste)
2-3 Tbsp water (optional)

Quarter the cloves of garlic and then put in the food processor and pulse until minced. Add lemon juice, garbanzo beans, and Tahini and process. Add thin strips of roasted sweet red peppers and process. I probably add about half a pepper -- just add to taste. You can use fresh sweet peppers, but it's not as good. Salt to taste. If the hummus is too pasty or dry add a few tablespoon or so of water to loosen. The water usually isn't needed unless you omit the red pepper.

Roasted Red Peppers
Brush liberally with vegetable oil. Place on baking sheet under broiler and turn as they skin starts to boil and blacken. I've never timed the process but it'll probably take about 30 minutes. You don't have to watch constantly, but do keep a mindful eye 'cause they can burn quickly. When finished place in Pyrex (or equivalent) container and cover tightly with Saran Wrap and let set for about 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle pull off skin, remove core, open pepper and scrape out seeds. Cut into strips and store in container with olive oil and chopped garlic.

Roasted Garlic
Remove loose paper covering from a head of garlic. Cut off the top of the head just enough to expose the cloves (about 1/2 inch). Place on aluminum foil, drizzle liberally with olive oil and wrap tightly. Place in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the delicious aroma of roasted garlic fills the kitchen. Let cool, and pop clove from the skin. Store in container, drizzled lightly with olive oil.

Cauliflower, Cabbage Worms and Chili Juice

The holes in the cauliflower leaves can no longer be ignored. For the last few days I've been pulling an average of five cabbage worms a day. Well, pulling isn't exactly the right term. As most of you know I hate bugs (just writing about them I have to pause every few seconds to itch my scalp and arms) and cannot stomach the thought of touching them. So I have a spoon that I use to scoop up the worms and hurl them over the side of the deck. (Bye-bye worms!)

Yesterday after my morning scoop and toss I noticed down in the folds, way down, down in the center of the plant were these bumps. Bumps? Hmm...upon closer examination I saw they were teeny-weeny worms. Okay, time to change plans. I'm using the recipie from the DIY site which is 1/2 cup chili flakes and one pint water, strain the chili flakes and spray on leaves. The treatment calls for two spray sessions two to three days apart, and I hope it helps because as you can see the cauliflower is starting to appear!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Going Home

Today Paul and I went to mom's house to check out her old compost tumbler. I saw it last somewhere in the early '90s in the back yard. Mom wasn't sure what condition it was in, but it was ours if we wanted it. I hadn't been in the back yard since my son was little. After dad died we didn't barbecue much, the grandkids were too old for Easter egg hunts, and there just wasn't much reason to go out the back door anymore. Mom warned us that it was a mess. She hasn't been able to keep up like she used to, and everything was overgrown. I know her kids have tried for years to offer help, but she's a stubborn one -- wants to do it all herself. The shed is falling down, the trees need to be cut back, the ivy is slowly overtaking the spot where her cherry tree used to be but we know better than to insist too much. When mom says no, she means no.

As we walked down the deck steps I noticed she was right -- everything was overgrown, and it was beautiful, magical even. The overgrown trees with their unchecked canopy shaded the yard, plants and bushes sent their scraggly branches in a desperate search for the the sun, and the lawn reduced to a mowed path that encircled the garden. Even the weeds were luscious and green. We stood in the garden for a good while pointing out trees, bushes and plants to Paul telling stories of where and when, and remembering.

I wouldn't change one thing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

One Man's Trash?

The house was so warm when I woke up this morning (72 degrees inside and 62 degrees outside). After opening up some of the windows, closing shades on the others, and turning on the fans I was too jittery to sit so I cleaned the kitchen. Did the dishes, cleaned the counter, and wiped down the ledge above the kitchen sink. This is no small task because I have it covered with knick-knacks, clutter, whatever you want to call them. My dad called them dust collectors and they are. They may be a jumbled assortment of odds and ends to other people (you couldn't call it a collection really) but they are really reminders of people and places that are important to me. There's an amber glass that sat on the kitchen window ledge at my mother-in-law's house in Spokane. Rose has been gone almost two years now, and when I look at the glass I can picture her kitchen with the green and white wallpaper and the border of cafe scenes done in pink and green. I can imagine the smell of rising heat and pine sap from the back yard. I have a small Sea World mug that Lisa bought on the trip she took to California with Anne and her grandma and grandpa. I had given the girls matching backpacks to take on their trip filled with lip gloss, fingernail polish, and some spending money. There's a ceramic owl that belonged to Jean, my sister-in-law's mom who died from cancer almost ten years ago. The owl sits on the tin Paul and I purchased in San Francisco. The tin is packed with almost every slip of paper we've removed from a fortune cookie. I have little "presents" stored in a bowl: Pat's lost marble, Kevin's arrowhead, the glass beads that Lisa made me, and the crystal stopper from a bottle of Austrian wine that so fascinated Paul (there was no cork, just the stopper). The Asian spoon that holds my ring while I do the dishes. The glass heart bought on our trip to Canon Beach where we celebrated my 40th birthday. The bottle opener Paul won at The Red Hot. The button I wore as a delegate during the 2008 State Democratic Convention.

Knick-knacks, clutter, dust collectors, whatever you want to call them they are certainly not junk. They're reminders that I've lived a good life, I've known good people, and every day I remember.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Local Milk

I saw a post on Facebook (I think from Whitney) that Metro Market had milk in glass bottles from a dairy in Lynden, Twin Brook Creamery. I was surprised to find it cost less (even with the deposit) than the Organic Valley milk I buy at Fred's, and it tastes better. This week they were out of 2% so I tried the 1% -- delicious and still creamy! The half and half works nicely to wean myself from the nasty vanilla flavored fake creamer.

Hard to believe I'm this excited about milk, but you really need to try it!