Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

I love Labor Day.  It means that fall is on the way! The air smells more crisp and the mornings creep in more gently.  Soon it will be days of soup and hearty bread, staying in and maybe evening turning on the heat someday.  I can dream.

With fall comes a motivation for me to settle in for a long winter's nap.  To do that, I have decided this is the year of canning. So far, G just loves the blueberry jams I make him.  My sister keeps him supplied with strawberry jam from her garden, so this year I went up to Leavenworth to pick organic blueberries and put in some preserves for him.  That's another post and you can check it out here.

I visited my sister Patti last week (she lives West of me) and my sister Mickie a few weeks before that (she lives on the eastern edge of the state. Truly I'm in the center of the state. From my visit east I got two boxes of apples (which I've previously written about), and my visit west yielded 4 zucchinis, or 20 lbs. And here at home I've been growing a little patch of basil.

First was the supposedly easy work of making apple jelly. I couldn't get that stuff to come out right. It made lots of jelly, but even after a second round of boiling and extra pectin, it's just on the jelly side. In hot weather it's syrup.

Mint extract from my garden. I murdered two grown mint plants for this.

Eventually it thickened up, just not a whole lot.
At least there's lots of it. Like a six pints and a dozen 4 oz jars.

Then it was on to today's adventure.  First up: Pesto.

My thought was to make and can some pesto.  We don't have a big freezer, though I'd like one (hint, hint).  So I thought I'd freeze some pesto and can the rest in a water bath.  I've been anticipating this for a long while, and today was the day of THE GREAT BASIL HARVEST OF 2014!
Yeah, that's some basil!
G graciously helped me to pick all the leaves from the stems.  There were no bugs; mostly because there aren't many bugs in our town but also because it's basil.

I have so much basil that there are still plants outside.  They will be used...
What would I even use leftover basil for? Glad you asked! 
Our dinner the other night was caprese with homegrown basil. The tomatoes and cukes are local and it was delicious! 

The result

I don't have a recipe, just ingredients.  Have I mentioned that I love my food processor?  Yes, yes I do. Just basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil and a little lemon until it tastes right.

Here's the thing though.  I looked online and you shouldn't can pesto.

All of it is in the freezer. Mr. G isn't really happy about that part, but it's not like he doesn't get to eat it! I think he will live.

Then it was on to virgin territory.
 My sister Patti grows zucchini and lots of other veggies at her house.  It's easy to deal with all the fresh food and she cans a lot of stuff.... pickles, jams, relishes and jellies. You wouldn't believe how much food grows in her garden.  Sometimes I think her motto is:

Anyway, if you look at the picture above, you'll see three of the four monsters she sent home. They total about 20 pounds of zucchini.  I'm sure she'll get another 100 lbs AT LEAST from her garden this year.  But what to do with all that zucchini (besides give it away!)? 

She got a recipe from Food 52 for zucchini butter. I didn't follow it exactly but it worked pretty well. If you try this recipe, just remember to take the seeds out. They don't say to but it's a good idea.  I used more butter and fried it a bit more. I used shallots and salt and pepper.  And did I mention how much I love my food processor? I do. Thanks again for getting us one, G. 
The hardest part truly was just in wringing out the grated stuff. I put it in cheese cloth and squeezed the bag. I ended up having to lean on it over the sink.

One of several pans full

I ended up with 5 pints of butter (which is much more like relish) for 10 lbs of my zucchini.  I like it. I can eat it on toast or by itself.  Pretty good stuff. But it took forever, so long that I only used half of my zucchinis.  Clean up was a pain!  I'll do the rest another day.

I love that these few things aren't commercially raised and that I know their sources- my garden, my sister's garden, an apple tree in Eastern Washington. It makes me feel more connected to my family.

I'm going to break down and buy some apples this week.  I know, I know, but I want apple butter and I'm running out of trees to raid! Also, G is working his way through the blueberry jam. I'm going to hit up Leavenworth one more time and make him a second batch.  Confession: I love that jam almost as much as he does.

So happy Labor Day, friends. And happy beginning of Autumn. I'm so excited for cooler weather and sleeping more soundly.

What's your favorite thing about Fall?
Maybe that's another post entirely...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Will Live Long Enough To Wear Me

I've been wanting to write lately and find myself drawing back from the keyboard.  I don't want to turn off my readers. I'll just apologize in advance for some things I've been carrying around on my chest. I'm going to make myself ill if I don't write it out.

There is so much going on in the world and little of the news is good. The events unfolding in Ferguson, MO are awful. For the first time, Amnesty International has sent human rights advocates to a U.S. location. There are riots and at least two dead now, with people and journalists being gassed and first amendment rights violated.  Schools are closed.

Last week, an environmentalist used the word "Fucked" to describe how much trouble we'll be in
“If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere.."

There were 20 earthquakes in Oklahoma today. We're heading for another dust bowl.

And Mork from Ork died.

A little girl, age 8, was tased in South Dakota.  Police say it was justified because she had a paring knife.

Water is becoming dangerously scarce. 

And the middle east is all up in crazy, dangerous arms.

Ten miles from here are wildfires that have burned over 12,000 acres. They're contained but won't be out until the heavier fall rains.

ISIS is dangerous, and we need to help people that they've cut off in a canyon and who ISIS are trying to starve out. And ISIS is beheading people. Find your own link on that one. I just can't.

Putin is making power plays and land grabs and I'm not sure if he is following the will of the people or if they want to join him and I'm not sure it's all black and white but I'm pretty sure he isn't so hot on human rights issues either.

Mostly I want to curl up in my bed and pull the covers over my head and wait for all of this to be over.  Maybe breathe into a paper bag for awhile.

I have rage fatigue. As someone who devotes her life to educating others and caring about issues of equity and social justice, I am exhausted. As a white person who would like to be a better ally, I'm out of ideas. I'm blue in the face from talking about white privilege to people who simply do not believe in their privilege and who think the people of Ferguson, and all of those other non-white people shot and killed or harassed or otherwise harmed by a system of oppression, should just "get over it". We shouldn't get over it.  We should deal with it, white people.

Anyway, I'm all worked up; verklempt, to borrow a yiddish word.

And that's just the stuff outside of my personal life.

So I need a moment, an interlude, to focus on something positive.  Human rights and human suffering matter. They matter a lot.  But I need to concentrate for a minute on my own mental health before I go on with the fight.  Which means one thing:

Gratutide list.

Just a list of 20 things I'm grateful for today. Hey, it's what I've got.

1. G. En toto. He makes an ordinary day awesome and the bad times bearable.
2. My old cat is still kicking. She's responded well to my adjustments to her medicine and is doing great.
3.  We have a roof over our heads and food in the fridge.
4. Canning.  I do love making jams and jellies.
5. The hot summer is almost over! Bring on the 80 degree days.
6. That means fall is coming.
7. Went to the doctor today. I'm going to live.
8. My asthma isn't terrible. Even with awful wildfires, I've still been able to breathe.
9. I get to walk to work
10. Lunch with G at least once a week.
11. I woke up yesterday. I was going to write more than that, but that'll do.
12.  Yesterday when I woke up, I had a cute little kitty all snuggled up with me with her head on top of my head.  Of course, today when I woke up, she'd turned around and repeated.
13. Air conditioning. We have a little window unit upstairs.
14. Books.  My book order is coming for my fall classes. I can't wait.
15. I was stuck in I-5 traffic around 4:15 today and a nice man let me merge ahead of him.
16. I gave a homeless lady a few dollars today and she called me "sister".  I nodded my head in agreement.
17. Sitting on the front porch and talking while a cool, lazy breeze plays with my hair.
18. Living in a town where it's safe to walk places alone.
19. Good friends to talk to. Old friends and new ones and friends I only know online. Some friends I'm even related to by blood.
20. I'll probably wake up tomorrow, and I probably won't get shot at, and I will probably have clean drinking water. And I will most likely have clean clothes to wear too.
21. Teachers in Ferguson are taking to the streets to help clean up. Community members are feeding the kids who normally get free and reduced lunches. After a night of looting, all seems quiet in Ferguson (as of ten minutes ago, anyway). And G was really nice and gave me over a thousand songs for my phone, so all the way to Seattle and back, I listened to the Rolling Stone's "You Can't Always Get What You Want".

Ok, that's more than 20. I feel better. I'm not letting any of that stuff go, mind you, but I do feel better.  I may have to do this tomorrow too.

I am reminded of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, called "Arabic Coffee".  I find it comforting, the way she writes and how she makes something outside of my personal experience feel like home. There is comfort there, but also hope. 

Arabic Coffee
It was never too strong for us:
make it blacker, Papa,
thick in the bottom,
tell again how the years will gather
in small white cups,
how luck lives in a spot of grounds.
Leaning over the stove, he let it
boil to the top, and down again.
Two times. No sugar in his pot.
And the place where men and women
break off from one another
was not present in that room.
The hundred disappointments,
fire swallowing olive-wood beads
at the warehouse, and the dreams
tucked like pocket handkerchiefs
into each day, took their places
on the table, near the half-empty
dish of corn. And none was
more important than the others,
and all were guests. When
he carried the tray into the room,
high and balanced in his hands,
it was an offering to all of them,
stay, be seated, follow the talk
wherever it goes. The coffee was
the center of the flower.
Like clothes on a line saying
you will live long enough to wear me,
a motion of faith. There is this,
and there is more.

(from Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature, Columbia University Press, 1992)

I'll leave you with that thought tonight... a motion of faith.  I like that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer Adventures

I've been a traveling, working, fruit picking fool of late.
I have so much to catch up on that I'll first write a bit, then just splash in a BUNCH of pictures.

Last weekend (not this last one but the one before) G and I went on one of our hikes.  I'd bought a new book on Pacific Northwest berries and was eager to see what was out there for us to pick and prepare. Canning season is upon us, after all, and even though it's much more common to just buy a jar of jam at the store, I get a kick out of picking and canning my own stuff.  I can also control what goes into it.

I filled a little pack full of tart summer apples and used some mint from my garden to check out one of the recipes. The neat thing about my berry book is that it works in small batches.  A cup of this, a cup of that, and a cup of this makes about a pint of this... that sort of thing. I love the mint apple jelly I made. I'm going to have to make some more.  Oh, don't worry, there's lots of apples out there for the stealing gleaning. 

Fresh Mint

tart summer apples

Not a lot of juice, but they were free..

The ingredients

Ta da!

Last Friday, I went to Leavenworth with my good friend Joy.  I love my women friends! I am lucky to be surrounded by women who support me and who let me support and build them up too.  Anyway, Joy and I went up to Leavenworth and picked blueberries at a small farm called Roots. Nice people. Their son owns J5 Coffee downtown. We got almost 14 lbs before the heat drove us out. Less than 10 miles away is the Carlton Complex fire, so there was a heavy scent of smoke in the air. We still enjoyed ourselves and walked around their flower gardens too.  The owner said that if there was an award for most determined pickers, it would be us! 
Smoke from the Carlton Complex fire

Flower garden

See the bee?

Joy and me!
Those mountains are usually stark and clear

Berry fields

Half the haul

Dem blueberries tho!

That afternoon, I headed for Dayton, Wa to help my sister move. G stayed home because he worked on Friday and because Eleanor is so old and she needs medicines twice daily that we can't easily find a sitter for her.  I know, I know.  But what are you going to do? 

My sister's daughter is 3 now, and really chatting up a storm. She has great manners, saying please and thank you with no reminding.  She goes to daycare where she has learned to count and say ALL of her colors in Spanish.  I am over the moon about it.  I love how she doesn't even really try hard to recall the names. Pretty awesome.

Moving is hot and dusty work. I'm a bit bruised and there may still be an antique bedspring stuck in a spiral staircase. But the rest is moved out. I bet I could've gotten that rail off but it was over 100 degrees and people don't tend to have air conditioning here.

Anyhoo, after the work came the good stuff: visiting. I love visiting my relatives. There are quite a few as my Grandfather's Grandfather, Christopher Marll, homesteaded in Columbia.  Grandpa had 6 siblings and Grandma had 9.  Yeah, lots of relatives.  You have to do a genealogical chart before you get a date in Dayton.  If you're me that is.  Reason 6,748 that I married G. Yes, this reason isn't even in the top 1,000, but I still enjoy it. My aunt and uncle live at my grandparents house now that they have both passed on. They completely remodeled- something that was long overdue.  It looks wonderful and homey and they retained all of the touches that remind any family member who has a memory of before just who lived here and how much love lived and still lives in this place.  Uncle Steve is farming and Aunt Karla is quite busy keeping him in line and keeping them afloat. I saw four different relatives just in a short stop out to their place. Neatest five acres in Columbia County.

My uncle also has this old brown Ford that was my grandpas.  I keep trying to get him to sell it to me and this time we pinky swore that when he was done with it, I could buy the old thing.  Shhhhh!  Don't tell my husband.  That thing guzzles gas.
Wheat for miles. This is during a little storm

Out Patit Road

After the storm

He looks more like my grandpa every time I see him.

As I often do when I'm in Dayton, I snagged my old friend Orinda and we went to coffee.  We went to school together, 6-12 grades, though she's been in Dayton since she was born.  Ori is the heart of the class of 1991.  I think people just sort of fly into town, find Orinda to say hello, and then go about their business.  She's neat, too. One of those people who just makes you feel happy from hanging around them. Like she's made of love and it floats around in a little halo around her head.
We were "dragging the gut" and ran into Del and Krystle Avery. Del went to school with us and he and Krystle got married a few weeks after graduation.  They're a neat, fun couple and have two awesome kids.  Carrie- on the left- is Del's "little sister", and she happened to be visiting from Alaska.  Mini-reunion!

I couldn't leave town without snagging some apples. I can't sleep worth a crap when I'm away from G, and in general I've got some pretty bad insomnia, so after 5 hours of sleep, I got up on Sunday morning and zoomed over to my cousin's house.  With another relative (we're not that stealthy, nor am I unwanted, I just wanted to be considerate) I picked all the good apples I could reach from an old golden delicious and scooped the rest from the lawn into the trash.  My cousin doesn't like doing that part so that's the courtesy I extend for stealing his apples! I sent him a text too, that said 'Please don't shoot me! I'm in your yard picking apples! Let me know when you get up."  I think he got a kick out of that.  But seriously, let country people know it's you before you go fruit picking on their property.  Good advice right there.


Amber waves of grain

I was happy to see everyone and happy to come home to my husband and cat.
He makes me want to sing Pharrells "Happy"

There are wildfires about 15 miles from Ellensburg, and the smoke is faint because the wind is blowing it away from us. For now.  But I still had a happy reunion and was back to work this morning.

This week? Maybe I'll get some blueberry jam made. Maybe a little apple butter, though golden delicious aren't the best for it.  I'll take some pictures for y'all. :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Root Canal




This story is not for the faint of heart. So my dear MIL should not read on as it involves dentists, pain, and not a lot of happiness. 

I had a root canal today.  In January, I had a crown put on a tooth on the bottom left side of my mouth.  The tooth was cracked. 

All went well. The dentist quickly realized that I need extra numbing stuff because I have a larger than normal nerve system in my face.  Make of that what you will.  When I went in to get the permanent crown, they thought they'd just pop it on there.  Wrong. I'm sensitive. So the highly thoughtless dental hygienist gave me a shot without using Lidocaine. No numbing agent for a mouth shot. Are you kidding me?! Then she got irritated when I squirmed.  I was fuming by the time I left. The pain was so intense that tears squeezed out of my eyes and filled my ears.

Fast foward to June and my tooth still hurts.  It's sensitive to hot and cold and I haven't chewed on the left side since December. I don't want to go back there. But I can't drink without pain and sometimes get a little dehydrated unless I get stuff room temperature. So I go back.

The dentist was surprised I made it that long.  He gave me an antibiotic and scheduled the root canal.

I took the antibiotic.  It made me sick. I called for another one. It made me sick too.  I took it for awhile anyway. 

Today I went in and advocated for myself.  I was really polite but also firm.  I shouldn't have to take Valium or Halcion just to get a shot in the mouth. So the dentist did the shots this time.  The dental assistant gave me two different swabs with the Lidocaine.  He was as careful as he could be, but the shots still hurt.  And they didn't work.  So two more. It worked. I did this:

I put my earbuds in and listened to some french electronica. Very soothing.  Until he struck that nerve.

OWWWW.  Cuss word, cuss word, dirty word!! I threw in a few personal insults about his mother.  All muffled by the dental dam and an inability to speak well. I jerked and raised my left hand.  He stopped, puzzled. 

"Oh", he said. He looked at the assistant.  "She has a hot tooth."

What the hell is a hot tooth?

It's an infected tooth, one that antibiotics won't help since it's encapsulated.  And since the infection is acidic, the nerve-blocking and basic Novocaine didn't get through it.

In other words, they were drilling a live nerve.

Wanna know what he had to do next?

Seriously, if you're my mother-in-law, you may not want to read this. 

He had to inject Novocaine directly into the nerve. I had to hold still while he did it.  That made me a sweaty, heaving, crying, mess of a woman with uncontrollable shakes. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I've broken bones before without as much pain as I've felt in the dentist's office in the last 6 months.  But after 15 long seconds in absolute hell, my tooth finally went dead. I still felt a little pain, but it was nothing like what it was.

After the drilling, I saw the dentist sticking first needles into the canals of my tooth, then pins.  The pins, he explained to my giant eyebrows, were attached to a sonar to tell him how deep the nerve canals went.  Like a fish depth finder, only inside of my jaw.  Gross.  Fascinating.

Then out came tiny drills to dig out the nerves in the canals.  It was a little freaky to see inch-long drills being put into my mouth and then come out again.

It got weirder. It's never good when a mechanic, a plumber, or a dentist are in the middle of something and you hear them go "huh".  Kind of like "I didn't expect that", only with one syllable.  It's never a good sound. It's usually an expensive sound, or in my case, a painful one.

My eyebrows asked the question for me.

"Oh, you have four root canals instead of the regular three." He went back to work. My jaw started aching from being propped open for so long. 

I asked him about that when he was done. He'd only seen that a few times in the 30 years he's been in practice.  But he said he thought it went along with me having all those extra sensitive nerve endings in my mouth.

By this time, there were some little medicine-filled sticks in each of the canals.  I had to excuse myself for a minute and looked at them in the bathroom mirror.  It looked like someone shoved four
matchsticks into one tooth and left them hanging out.  They smelled like clover. 

I asked the assistant about the clover, because she's much better at guessing what people are saying.  She had the dentist explain. The clover is part of what they shoved in there because it's a natural anti-bacterial. 

They ended up just cutting off the ends of the sticks and putting a temporary cap on the tooth. The dentist was very sympathetic when it was over.  I think he saw the tears rolling out of my eyes from under the heavy sunglasses they give you to protect you from flying debris. "When you come back in for the permanent filling, we won't need to give you anymore shots.  All those nerves are dead and gone. I drilled them out." 

I said "Thank you", but I'm sure my eyes said "we'll see". 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Hike at Umtanum Ridge

Today is a stay-at-home, take care of myself day.  It started wonderfully, with a short walk with my friend Kim to get some coffee.  We're going to a movie later.  And of course, G is invited. He's friends with Kim too. She's been so busy lately that it's a welcome surprise to find she can hang out and just have some down time. I miss her!

First, gentle face washing, then I put on some Elmer's glue for about 5 minutes. Doesn't take long to dry in this heat/0 humidity. When you peel it off, the junk stuck in your face comes off too.
Then I got out this beauty:
Collagen is good. 
The mask itself is white and looks like Hannibal Lector when you put it on.  Fifteen minutes later, my face is wrinkle free. I took a picture of the right side of my face, which has a few dark patches.  The women in my family get blotchy dark skin when we get out in the sun.  You can barely tell. No makeup, no filter. It's so dry here that when my skin isn't dry, it's cause for celebration.

I took the 15 minutes to put on lotion, put super softening gunk on my feet and meditate. I went bounding in to see G, who was listening to some smooth jazz.
"Oh my gosh. Look at my skin." He barely glances.
"You look nice."
"No, no. I just got done with an AMAZING mask."
"Yeah, I saw it."
"No. You saw the Elmer's glue. Touch my face!"
"Kinda feels soft and fishy. But you're beautiful. I love you." He gently wipes his fingers off on his jeans.

Men don't understand beauty at all.

I really needed a bit of time to take care of myself.  I'm sore! Between working out at the gym and all the hiking and moving around G and I do, I'm a little pooped.


Anyway, it was a great weekend. We went hiking up at Untamum Ridge. You can learn more about the ridge here and here.

If you click on the topomap, you will see that Umtanum is south and west of Manastash Ridge, which is the other steep altitude hike we've taken. We drove out a ways on Canyon Road in Ellensburg and parked on Bureau of Land Management land.  Since it was the 4th of July, lots of floaters and flotillas were passing lazy time going down the Yakima River. That's the river snaking North/South through the topopmap.  It wasn't actually a long hike, but we originally took the right fork through the canyon floor.  We saw a cleared area that's been overgrown for 50+ years with apple trees growing wild now. Obviously, someone homesteaded this canyon and/or cultivated it.  Good apples, just small. There were also the remains of a livestock fence.
It's overgrown, but it's an apple tree.  And Gs butt.

And another- only with reddish apples

And another

Love those high canyon walls

A little creek meandered down to the Yakima

They'll get bigger, later in summer
I was wearing shorts, so about a mile in we had to turn around.  The grass was really high and some brush kept scratching my legs.  Also, we encountered a couple of snakes. I am still training myself not to have a jumpy fear response, but every once in awhile I do sort of dance backwards.  I didn't get any pictures of the snakes. I fear that my readers might give up on reading if I did. Here are some flower pictures instead.

I altered this a little, but not much. 

And a little video.


On the way in, we saw a couple of big horn sheep, and on the way out, I got video of them.

And a couple of good photos.

They knew we were there, and at times moved off a bit. They weren't scared so probably they know that BLM land is closed to hunters.

We went back to the trailhead and began the ascent.
This part of the ridge went south, whereas the other canyon went west. It went up and up and up.  Here's a couple of those photos. I had to stop every 25 yards to catch my breath.  Asthma sucks.

Steep and rocky.  Joy.

Glad I did all those squats this week. 

This is a natural little bridge between the canton walls. Wildlife use it frequently from what I can tell of the trails.

Another view of the land bridge 

I think this looks like a French impressionist painting.

We didn't go much farther after I shot this video:


Think I'm going to need another hit from the inhaler.

We saw an outcropping with what looks like a small wild animal's den.  Being as many of those little critters, bobcats, skunks, cougars, and the like are nocturnal, we decided to turn around.  Besides, we hit a brushy patch and my legs were getting scratched.

On the way back down, G fell off the mountain.  That sounds way better than that he lost his footing and fell onto the mountain.  Guess it depends on how you look at it.  He's ok, but he is taking it easy.  I thought for sure he'd break his wrist or his tailbone because he hit hard and because I'm really sympathetic to people getting hurt.  A little limping down the mountain- we still had a mile to go- and he made it to the car.  Still limping two days later but this could have been much worse.  I had joked earlier in the day about having to shoot him if he broke his leg.  I shouldn't make jokes. There must be a thing called karma. We were cooling out tootsies in the Yakima river on the way back to the car.  It's nice to step into 12 degree water after a hot couple of hours tromping around in the bush.  I leaned over to move a river rock and PLUNK! My phone hit the water.  And sunk.
I put in rice, and the pictures and video transferred over to the iCloud. That's how I have access to them. Woohoo! But booooooo for my phone. I'm not sure if it's alright. We'll give it a few days.

G is really an optimist though, and the rest of the day was spent resting, popping ibuprofen, and watching distant fireworks as our nation celebrated so many years of independence from English rule by lighting things and watching them explode.

More adventures soon- where shall we go hike next? I'm open to suggestions!