Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Artsy Friend

Yes, I'm alive. But it has been so long since I've written that I'm not sure I remember how. Consider this a practice run and a chance to share my friend's artsy gifts with you. Jennevieve is giving away some of her really fun gift tags through her blog.

You can also view, and purchase, her fun and funky work in her Etsy shop, Raven Meets Crow. Her ornaments are darling and unique; you'll adore the way their legs dangle and swing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Remembering Reininger

Sometime last year, Rick, Justin, and I attended a great wine dinner (at Il Fiasco, one of our favorite local restaurants) that showcased Reininger wines. The food and wines were amazing and the wine rep was knowledgeable and fun. We bought some wine and promptly drank it all over the next few months. I kind of forgot how amazing their wines are until last night. We had some friends over for dinner and they brought a well cellared bottle of 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Ash Hollow Vineyard. We had already decanted a "weekday" bottle of wine, so we finished that before starting the Reininger. Wow! It was amazing. Too bad I got the end of the bottle short pour. I'm looking forward to tracking down another bottle and being able to describe it properly. If you see a bottle, snag it! I doubt you'll be disappointed, especially if you share with me! ;)


Today was the first day of the season for the Broadway Farmers Market. I was hesitant to attend, because of my former association with the market, but I really couldn't stay away. I did tag along with Ann; I knew she'd protect if necessary.

I'm so glad that I went. I got hugs and updates from my vendor friends, and ran into the beautiful manager of the Proctor Farmer's Market, who I adore. I also got a hug from my smartest best girlfriend and was able to momentarily (and unintentionally) render Marty Campbell speechless by my vow to talk shit about his opponent in the City Council election all over town. I might have said shit a little too loudly. Oops.

In addition to scoring half a dozen hugs and making a fool of myself, I also snagged some great produce and starts. Rick made a quick run to the Proctor Market on Saturday and got some great stuff, but there is really nothing like shopping for yourself on a beautiful spring day like today. Ann took a bunch of pictures, so I'm sure she will post a lovely blog about the opening.

When I got home, I put the starts in some dirt alongside the starts from the Proctor Market and Watson's. Now I just need to figure out how, exactly, I'm going to use my food purchases over this long weekend. It is so nice to contemplate spending the long weekend at home, relaxing,working and eating with my sweetheart. Life doesn't get any better than this!

So....rhubarb, green garlic, spinach, kale, asparagus, smoked salmon, red pepper goat cheese, and bok choy. And in already the fridge, needing to be used: cottage cheese, beautiful fresh local eggs, and lettuce from my garden. Mmm, mm. There will be good eatin' in this home this weekend!

On an entirely unrelated, but highly necessary side note, my neighbor ROCKS. Not only did he clear the weeds from our parking strip, he took a few minutes to chat with me about his family and remind me to "clutch" my husband "close."
Thank you, Bob!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jam and Bread

The Ravenous Book Club met last week to talk about Plenty, Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon. The discussion was good and centered around what local eating would look like for Tacomans. Would a person want to define the area geographically, as in west of the mountains and east of the Sound? Or would a 100 mile diet be appropriate, which would include, just barely, Yakima and all of the goodness of the arid central WA climate? Or would a statewide limit work? That would allow us to get flour from Bluebird Farms in NE Washington.
As much as I'm beginning to believe in the merits of local eating, I think I'd have trouble excluding Tillamook on the Central Oregon coast. Mmmm, butter, cheddar cheese, yogurt, and sour cream. But who am I kidding? I'm just starting to get used to the concepts of eating local and am definitely not ready to commit to restrictions. One of the ladies at the book club meeting asked if anyone was going to commit to a local diet for a few months or a year and if we'd like to start a support group. I was honest, at least, when I said, maybe next year. I'm doing the best that I can to change my ways, but it is a gradual process.

But for now, here is a glimpse of a breakfast of which I refuse to be ashamed!

Leftover homemade cornbread (sure the cornmeal, flour, and sugar are from mystery locations distributed by mega-corporations, and don't even get me started on the baking soda and salt! But the egg is from our CSA!) The jam is homemade, made from local raspberries last summer by my dear friend, Whitney. Yum!

My daily coffee is another compromise. The coffee is Tully's fair trade french roast. Tully's is/was a Seattle based company and is now (partially?) owned by a socially responsible company, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and I like the coffee (especially for the sale price at the local grocery). But the creamer*, oh dear, I don't even want to know it's ingredients! Let's not talk about it right now. Actually, I kind of wish I hadn't looked at the labels on all of my baking ingredients. I can't believe we have cornmeal in the cupboard distributed by Nestle. I guess the best we can do is use what we have and then pay more attention to future purchases. I know I can at least do better with the cornmeal and flour! Even if the products at Bob's Red Mill aren't grown locally, at least I'm not supporting an evil mega-corporation.

*The actual (delicious!!!) creamer may not be healthy (water, sugar, palm oil, corn syrup are the top four ingredients), but a little research on the corporation is making me feel a little better. International Delight is owned by White Wave Foods, which actually has won at least one award for multiple years from the EPA for their efforts to use green power.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Barons V 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley

With last night's spaghetti, we opened a bottle of Barons Cab that we won in the Tacoma Wine Classic on Saturday night. Rick bid on a mixed case of wine that was donated by a friend's boss. On Sunday, we went through the case and researched value and reviews. This bottle of Barons remained somewhat of a mystery. It was produced and bottled by Vine & Sun, LLC Woodinville, WA. Their first vintage was 2001, so we didn't expect much from the 2002. Reviewers on gave it 4.25 wine glasses, but the value was listed at $6.95. So, I marked the bottle with a question mark. I also made some notes under the back label that the '03 got 89 points (from somewhere) and sells for $48. The '05 sells for $65. However, last night, when we were looking for a good Monday night wine, I only saw the question mark, so I decanted it to drink with our spaghetti.

It was very dark in the decanter; completely opaque and a slightly brown shade of deep red. After my first few sips, I knew this was a wine that should be shared, so I poured a glass and walked it up to my friend and neighbor, who is a fan of big non-fruity reds. She had a large piece of leftover Metropolitan Market chocolate cake that she traded for it. Oh my. I thought the wine was good with the spaghetti, but it was divine with that dark chocolate cake.

I'm just learning to describe wines, and I'm not sure where to start with this one. I didn't get much on the nose. My husband and neighbor both described it as oaky. On my first taste, I thought spice, but it was not peppery. I also thought leather and, then, this tastes like we shouldn't be drinking it on a week night. This is a substantial wine, perhaps too big to drink without food although it did get smoother throughout the evening as it got some air. It could never be described as fruity.

If you see this wine for $6.95, buy a case, or two, bake a few dark chocolate cakes and host a big party.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Plans for the Front Garden

Oh my. Susan, our local landscape designer, came by with the plans for our front yard. She lives just up the street; I met her after she and her partner moved into and completely transformed the house on the beginning of our street. The design is really good. But not what we were expecting.

When I talked to Susan a few weeks ago and asked her to put together a design for us, I talked a lot about bamboo. I told her that I knew she specialized in native plants, and that I knew we probably should plant natives, but that we really like the look of grasses and bamboo. So, last night, when she showed us the plan, sans bamboo, I was surprised. However...the design is pretty awesome. It makes sense and we can see that it will be stunning and fairly low maintenance. Plus, using some native plants is more environmentally responsible and the plants she chose are stunning. She utilized beautiful colors and textures. The shades of green (with some black and yellow culms) bamboo and variegated (white, green and yellow) grasses that we had envisioned sound kind of blah now.

Right now, our front yard is a mud mound, anchored by a scattering of weeds. We stripped everything from the front when we did the remodel so that we could work with a clean slate. I'm still a little sad about some of the plants that got torn out, but none of them were healthy so they had to go. The huge spruce had a split top so it was the first to be removed. After it was gone, the smaller plants quickly went downhill in their new full southwest sun exposure, not that they were in fabulous shape before then!

George will be building our front step this weekend and we will be renting a small bobcat to eradicate a ton of bad soil and rock from the front and side yards. We aren't exactly sure what we want to the south of the driveway, but we will remove some dirt and put down crushed gravel to start. We can park the truck there until we get the garage cleaned out and maybe later we can put some vegetable garden boxes on top of the gravel to take advantage of the full afternoon sun that our back yard lacks.

After the dirt is removed, we can start working on the hardscape elements of Susan's plan: two screens, continuation of the fence on the north side, lots of pavers, and some gravel. So, we have some time to think about the plant choices.

Susan's plant list:

1. Blue Oat Grass (4)

2. Heuchera "Silver Scrolls" (11)

3. Lemon Beauty Box Leaf Honeysuckle (2)

4. Dwarf Mugo Pine (1)

5. Elegantissima Red Twig Dogwood (4)

6. Japanese Stewartia (1)

7. Spring Bouquet Viburnum (2)

8. Mops Goldthread Dwarf Cypress (1)

9. Red Edge Hebe (3)

10. Coral Bark Maple (1)

11. Ogon Japanese Sweetflag (7)

12. Slender Hinoki Cypress (1)

13. Summer Ice Daphne (2)

14. Vine Maple (1)

15. Japanese Pieris (2)

16. Limemound Spirea (1)

17. Pinocchio Variegated Hebe (1)

I have admired many of these plants over the years. A few of them are new to me. Not a single bamboo in sight. Rick and I discussed using bamboo in the back instead and that is a viable option.
What do you think? Should we stick to our original grass and bamboo plan, or use Susan's plant list?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Steps in the Right Direction #1

Part 1 in a Series

Reducing Water Consumption

When I start the water for the shower, I put a pitcher under the spout until the warm water gets there. I use the water for my houseplants and the dog's bowl. The pitcher is ugly, but it is what we had on hand and it works.

Last summer we installed a rain barrel that collects rainwater from one of our rain spouts. We use the water on the lawn and in the vegetable garden. The rain barrel was made here in Tacoma by Dan Borba from a recycled food container. We need to put a few more blocks under it, as originally recommended by Dan, to increase the flow when the water gets low.

Steps in the Right Direction

This week, I posted a link on my Facebook page about livestock farming's effect on our environment. The article was interesting and I wanted to share it with my friends. I've been trying to eat less meat, both for my health and for our environment, but, honestly, it isn't my highest priority. We had flank steak for dinner on Sunday and I bought deli roast beef for sandwiches this week. When I go to a restaurant, I do look at the vegetarian selections first and quite often I order one of them. Eating increasingly less meat is on my list of small steps in the right direction.

So, when one of my favorite professors and friend (who rarely comments on Facebook) commented back, "Need any more reasons to stop eating meat, especially cows? Here's a message from a friend working at the FAO in Rome studying animal production and global warming:Jeremy Rifkin nicely articulates the livestock GHG problem - he gets his most of his numbers from the FAO study that we are doing a follow up on: video. This, sadly, applies to cheese, milk, etc,. as well...." I went into a little funk. I was thinking about all of the things I learned in his classes about poverty and development around the world and how the choices we make have effects around the world. I thought about how he rode the bus and his bike from his home on Capitol Hill to teach in Tacoma. I thought of some of my former classmates who purposely do not own cars because of their negative impact on the environment.

I'd started reading Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes, by Mark Bittman, last week and decided to pick it up again. He advocates cutting back on meat and meat products, and provides recipes in the process. Reading Bittman's words, I started feeling better and started thinking about all of the things that I am doing to improve my impact on the planet.

Last week, I finished reading Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet, by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. It really stuck with me how well they described the difficulty of balancing reality with idealism. They were already practically vegetarians when they started their local eating project; they were focused on eating healthy meals using products grown within 100 miles. This was not an easy task. When they finished the year, even as idealistic and dedicated as they are, they admitted that they would go back to getting a few items from outside their local area. So, with this in mind, and trying not to be snarky, I commented back to my friend, "Great. Well, I haven't had any meat for the last few days. One day at a time I guess. I'll just have to apply my "cutting back is a good start" philosophy until I'm ready to take the next step. We have been trying to eat mostly local meat and cheese, at least, of which we know the farms. And just soy milk. Made it through the last year only using biodiesel in my car, but definitely need to self ambulate more. Anyway. Thanks for your comment and the link...."

Today, I was still thinking about this, and still feeling guilty about some less than environmentally friendly choices I'd made lately, so I decided that I would start posting short blogs about what I am doing right. I'll write about the efforts that I'm making that I believe are steps in the right direction. Because I think that if we can each take a step in the right direction, acclimate, and then make another adjustment in our lifestyles, collectively we can make a difference. I am that idealistic.

As I was writing this blog, I went to Facebook to make sure that I quoted correctly. Lo and behold, my friend had added another comment, "I still buy a little prosciutto now and then. It's the Mark Bittman approach to reducing meat consumption." I almost teared up.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I need to clarify something.

In my previous post, about Grandma Dot, I mentioned that I have richer childhood memories of her than my grandparents. I phrased this very carefully, but on review, I don't think it is clear enough. I have wonderful memories of my grandparents on both sides of my family. I don't have many memories from my childhood though because of the 3000 mile distance between us when I was growing up. BUT, I have really terrific memories of times spent with my paternal grandparents as an adult and we are building those every year, the best we can. I'll write more about my Ming and Pop when I have more time; I just wanted to clarify that statement right away. I have less memories with my maternal grandparents, Gramps and Grammie, but I spent some quality time with my Gramps last weekend and I'll share about that too.


I'm having a tough day in a tough week. But my friends, well, they are the best in the world. I don't know how I got so lucky.

Yesterday, one of my friends took me to dinner and drinks at Pour at Four followed by a fun presentation on food blogs at the local library.

Today, another friend dropped off flowers and cupcakes at my door, with the sweetest little card attached.
It says, "You don't have to share"

Then, a third friend told me to get my butt to The Rosewood (where nobody, including her, really cares if I've showered) for a bite, some company, and to support Dine Out for Life. I'm going to eat some leftover pizza at home because it is so delicious and I'm still feeling anti-social. But I am going to head to Rosewood at 6:00 for dessert and glass of wine.

Yes, that means I'll have had like three desserts today. You got a problem with that?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Simple Sunshine

The skies are splotchy gray now and spitting small drops of water, but there was sunshine this morning and it made me smile. Well, the sunshine and the act of pouring Organic Pulp Free Orange Juice (not from concentrate!) into my new New Belgium glass.

To combat the gray skies, I'm eating a slice of toast smothered in Whitney's homemade peach jam. Maybe smothered isn't a strong enough word. It is so delicious, I just couldn't stop adding more jam!

Sometimes it is the simple things that make life worthwhile.

Grandma Dot - Part 1

On another blog that I'm writing with a friend, I started to write about my grandmother's chickens. Memories of Grandma Dot started flooding my mind and I decided to write about her here.

If I were challenged to list the top 5 people in my life that I feel love(d) me unconditionally, Grandma Dot would definitely make the list. And it is funny, because she was in no way related to me - technically. My real grandmother, Ming, was adopted by Great-Grandpa Adams (Theodore Roosevelt Adams, isn't that a great name?!) and Great-Grandma Dot was his third wife. And yet, my childhood memories of Grandma Dot are richer than those of my grandparents. The main reason is that when I was 7, my parents, my little brother, and I moved from San Diego (home to both of my sets of grandparents) to Polk, PA. Don't know where that is? No worries... just think rural Western Pennsylvania. I think the population of Polk, in 1976, was somewhere around 3000, half of whom were residents at the state mental institution. We lived in the house that my Grandpa Adams built by hand with Grandpa and Grandma for a few months while my parents picked out a single-wide trailer to install on the 3 rods Grandpa gave them in the hay field up on the hill, 1/4 mile up a gravel road. I experienced my first summer of thunderstorms in that house, safe under Grandma's blankets.

Grandma let us help her in the garden and didn't mind when we wandered over to the rope swing hanging from the nearby cherry tree. I don't remember what she grew in that garden, although I have a vague recollection of bushels and bushels of zucchini.

Grandpa and Grandma also had a goat, on a chain. Somehow, this goat would escape regularly. As I remember it, the goat chewed through the chain. Could this be possible? I do know that it ate anything, including tin cans and cigarette butts. But I'm vague about the purpose of the goat. No one milked it, that I know of - I think it was a boy, come to think of it. Or maybe Grandpa just called it "that son of a bitch goat" enough that I got the impression it was a male. Although...Grandpa didn't let the gender of his animals effect his name calling; he named a new bull after me shortly after our arrival.

Since long posts can be tedious, I'm going to continue this train of memories later and maybe I'll find a moral to this story, or at least a theme, by then. And wouldn't it be super cool if I could somehow get some old pictures from my parents and scan them?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Local Dinner (almost)

We have made it to the Proctor Farmers' Market once this year, so far, and picked up some pork from Cheryl The Pig Lady, along with some other yummy items. For dinner tonight, my sweet hubby grilled some of Cheryl's pork steaks and I picked some lettuce from the garden for a simple salad. I bought some lettuce, spinach, and kale starts from L'Arche last fall and the lettuce over-wintered really well. It is perfect for eating now. The kale and spinach is going to seed already though. I'm going to go ahead and let them flower since I've heard that the blossoms attract beneficial bugs. The only other items in the garden box, so far, are 6 pea plants, so there is no harm in leaving them in place until we get some other starts. Or maybe I'll get some seeds germinating soon. But, anyway, back to dinner! It was delicious and local, except for the organic basmati rice, which came all the way from India (gulp). I really crave plain basmati rice sometimes. The pork was lean and had great flavor. The steaks have bones, so I ended up eating mine by hand, just like my grandmother taught me. When you grow up on the farm in Pennsylvania, like she did, you learn to get every last bit of meat off that bone!

We paired our simple dinner with a Winter's Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that Bill at Tacoma Wine Merchants recommended. It was a good price for a weeknight wine and it tastes, well, it is unique. In a good way, I think. It is pale, even for a pinot noir, but sweeter than I expected. Kind of tastes like a SweetTart, now that I think about it. I didn't get anything on the nose, but with all the pollen in the air right now, it isn't any wonder. It may taste better as it opens over the course of the evening; we probably should have opened it sooner and maybe decanted. But, honestly, for the price, it is pretty good.

This afternoon, we cleared a space on the sunny side of our garage and set up a shelf for some tomato plants in pots. Last year our tomatoes just didn't get enough sun, so we are trying a new spot, and using pots so that I can move them around to . I'm already looking forward to some plump, warm off the vine, four months that is.

I heart The Red Hot

I have approximately half of a growler of The Dissident in my fridge. I'm trying to pace myself, but this fabulous sunny weather is making it really difficult!

Chris scored the last keg of last year's The Dissident from Dechutes Brewery and sent out an e-mail early Sunday morning to let his fans know about it. My sweet hubby and I decided to reward ourselves for finishing some chores by having a late Sunday lunch at The Red Hot. Nothing like a hot dog, some filthy nachos, and a cold beer on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to make this girl happy. Since The Dissident is one of my top 3 favorite beers in the world and not often available, I brought home my first growler. I didn't know that it would call my name all day long!

I have to admit that a glass (or more) of The Dissident a day has made this a pretty sweet week so far! I think it will be gone by tomorrow evening, just in time for another trip to TRH to win that bike in the window.
P.S. Is it legal to drink a sour from a Guinness glass?