Friday, September 30, 2011

born to be wild

This is what seven pounds of feral plums look like. There is a small tree wedged between the back of my shed and the cyclone fence. I love Italian prune plums, not only are they delicious for fresh eating, and trouble free to grow, but they are a snap to process for freezing: cut in half, push pit away, set on cookie sheet... Once frozen, they can be stored for future cooking or thawed and processed for shelf stable jam, sweet or savory sauce, or whatever you like. Not sure what these will eventually become, other than that there is a shortage of plum sauce* on the pantry shelves, and I also hear a crisp calling, maybe mixed in with the last three Akane apples, now that would be a most seasonal treat!

*"plum sauce" is not like applesauce, but more like a homemade version of Hoisin Sauce, being thick and brown and full of spicy garlicky salty savory sweet delectable flavor!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

(hot)pepper sauce to the rescue

in which our plucky heroine swears: "this cold willn't get the better of me..."

As part of my arsenal, I now have added this brilliant orange sauce. There are Nardello peppers growing in the side yard here; planted this year, they have actually grown to maturity, and now are ready to give their lives to the cause!

This was a fairly easy recipe to make, took a bit of time but made far more than what I would call "two servings", I put half the sauce in the freezer and still had enough left to serve several more folks. The immersion stick-blender worked just fine, yielding a sauce with just a bit of texture. Rather than over pasta, a bowlful of roasted cauliflower worked well. It might be interesting to make this sauce with some added sausage crumbles, and without hot pepper, for a different flavor profile, one of the sweeter apple chicken ones might really bring out the sweetness in the peppers.

Changes I made from the original recipe: left out the oregano (I pretty much always do that, not a happy flavor for me), and substituted cayenne for pepper flakes. Next time I make this, I'll be careful to add just a pinch of cayenne, I was a little more enthusiastic this time, and it came out pretty spicy! All to the good though, I have been chasing the rhino(virus) with hot pepper in my soup, rhinos hates hot pepper, so a spicy sauce is just the thing...

Monday, September 26, 2011

mucky Monday, with music

In which our plucky heroine is laid low, and rambles with only minimal coherence...

Alas, I am now down with a cold... and it is a turrible awful one! I tend to catch viruses when there is an overload of unavoidable stress in my life. My take on it is that when the season changes, it adds additional stress to our body; it's gotta be hard on the system to keep jumping from mid-80's to low 60's so suddenly. Goodness knows that there has been stress aplenty currently. Mostly counterbalanced and antidoted by Good Things, for which I'm extremely grateful. But still, stress aplenty, enough to keep me from sleeping some nights, which makes it much more likely that fighting off a dread rhinovirus will not be as easy.

I do have hope of finding a new doctor (after the debacle of last month) but the effort involved in sorting through the lists of theoretical options is grueling. Lots of calls end in finding out that they do not, in fact, accept OHP Standard. Have finally found a few clinics that do, but how to make a reasoned choice of the potential actual doctors??? I'd not take a road trip with someone, or hire an employee, or start a new job, without some kind of mutual interviewing process to see if working together was feasible. Why then is it expected to allow someone access to the inside of our bodies on strictly a piece of paper and if lucky a website blurb? (sorry, I would prefer to be living in the best of all possible worlds, which is currently fragmented and this kind of sensible option is only available to those with far more dosh than I) It should not be unreasonable to want to have the person on the other end of the speculum and the scalpel be someone who is willing to accept me as a partner in my healthcare. (end of grumpful rant)

Grateful for cooler damp weather, the heat and humidity on Saturday darn near did me in... if there is a break in the rain this week, will try to snag some of the remaining plums, have lost most of them to squirrels. The kale and chard are still looking good though, and there are still three apples left on the Akane. Also grateful for the fairly well stashed pantry; I have been living on chicken broth in a box, mixed with awesome sauce (chili jam). thinking about getting some ginger, and cilantro, and lime, and maybe some noodles, could make a Thai style soup... hmmm use up some of the older cans of cocoanut milk in storage, and some of the dried mushrooms, and a box of tofu... this is a great opportunity to come up with creative and tasty pantry meals. I do want to get some polenta chubs, and maybe some of the pre-cooked rice, to add to the earthquake shelf. Am also grateful to be currently on hiatus from work, so that being sick is not causing me to lose otherwise essential income. The universe is telling me to rest now, so I will do that, and trust that the turn of the wheel will bring both healing and help as needed...

"The Wheel"

"A Place in the World for a Gambler"

̿ ̿ ̿̿'̿̿\̵͇̿̿\=[^_^]=/̵͇̿̿/̿̿'̿ ̿ ̿
dog is dreaming,
sleeping barks sound as whimpers;
the hunt goes on

Sunday, September 25, 2011

event-full weekend

On Saturday, Valentina Corva and I traveled to be present to see my dear friend (and former apprentice) Svava and her husband Ref step up become the first Baron and Baroness of the newly created Barony of Dragon's Mist. Hard sometimes to remember that I have been involved in the SCA for almost twenty years - what a long strange trip it's been...
Svava and Ref swearing the oath of investiture,
King Thorin and Queen Dagmaer - AS 46

Sunday, B returned from his trip to Arizona; on the way back from the airport, S and he picked me up on their way home. (The Steampunk Picnic was another inspired idea from the creative head of S) We had fun dressing up, and having tea and talk and playtime at Cathedral Park, underneath the St Johns Bridge. The dicey weather was cooperative, and while there were a few sprinkles of rain, we were safely ensconced under a helpful alder tree, and simply covered the tea sandwiches (salmon, and cucumber, and peach jam) with a cloth till the sunlight returned. V had cleverly brought with her a lovely red umbrella, so was quite prepared for any eventuality.

Somehow, after our picnic, and the inevitable picture-taking afterwards, we ended up playing tag-you're-it. I daren't actually calculate how many years it has been since last your plucky heroine ran madly around on a grassy lawn with her pals; 'tis good to know that there is life in the old dame yet!

started our picnic while waiting for more friends to arrive

R and B looking demure and dapper

after teatime it is time for playtime

a delightful afternoon was had by all...

Friday, September 23, 2011

saffron rice is nice

I never tasted saffron as a child. It has a flavor unlike anything else, strange and warm and medicinal/aromatic (in a good way). Despite it being the most expensive flavoring spice in the world, it is readily available, in small quantities, (and probably not the best of quality) at any Trader Joe's store. 'Tis likely that it would grow well here in the Northwest , since it prefers a "Mediterranean climate": damp winter/spring and then dry summers. It has even been grown in Great Britain; the town of Saffron Walden is named for the plant, which was widely grown there in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

One easy way to enjoy the flavor of saffron is to make
Saffron Rice:

½C dried currants
¼C brandy
¼C oil or butter
1½C white rice
2T minced green onion
2 mince garlic cloves
2½C chicken stock
1/8tsp saffron
3T butter
salt and pepper
soak currants in brandy for at least an hour
moisten saffron in a small amount of stock
melt butter in large pan, medium heat
add rice, green onion, and garlic,
...stir and cook ≈ 2 to 3 min
add saffron/stock and rest of chicken stock
...boil, then cover and simmer 'till tender
add marinated currants, and butter
...let sit, covered to absorb all liquid
add salt and pepper to taste

There are mail order places to purchase saffron for planting: White Flower Farm, or Wayside Gardens and a few of the more local nurserys, One Green World sells corms in bundles of five, and Raintree sells single potted saffron. Perhaps next year I will order corms and plant them, adding another flavor to the herbs that grow here at Acorn Cottage

̿ ̿ ̿̿'̿̿\̵͇̿̿\=[^_^]=/̵͇̿̿/'̿̿ ̿ ̿ ̿
dog is hunting,
out on the trail
hopeful for success

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

random Tuesdays tidbits

in which the resiliency rangers run off on a road trip, and our plucky heroine speaks up at the union hall...

We did it! This lovely sunshiney morning, my two fearless cohorts in cookie-baking and I took seven plates full of dozens of home-baked cookies* to the ILWU hall up in Longview. The folks at Local 21 seemed to be quite appreciative of both the cookies and of the sentiment behind our efforts, and were a bit surprised to hear that we had driven all the way up there from Portland just to bring them cookies (and our support).

Certainly made my day a lot brighter, even if S pointed out on the way home that I'd blushed bright pink after explaining why we were there. (sometimes my old shyness come creeping back)
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink.
~ Suzuki

and with that in mind, I strive to live fully in the present; to do as much that allows joy a place to live in my life, and in the lives around me. Don't always succeed, of course, but it is a goal. Has been for a long time.

My favorite Akita friend,
his "akita-talk" always makes me laugh...

~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Four weeks after surgery: I've started cooking, (and riding my bike) ... am being very very careful. It feels good to do simple things, even if cautiously. I plan on canning some things later this year, once the hand is strong enough to deal with the process. I've plums and jars of tomato puree, in the freezer, waiting to become asian plum sauce and ketchup. And out in the yard, the feral plum tree has fruit that is almost ripe, I shall try to pick some, using the fruit picker; I love the European prune plums so much, they are good fresh eating, freeze easily, and are a great ingredient in crisp or jam or sauce.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Still seeking a doctor/clinic for the further care that I need. Yesterday, after much frustration, a different approach to the online database of providers called up additional possibilities, so hope has not yet been abandoned. This process reminds me a bit of back when I was in college and organising independent study contract work; I had not only to actually do the work, but also to generate my own curriculum and locate faculty and support folks to sign off on my learning. Twice as much work as most students want to do, but was worth it in the end, I learned things that still resonate in my daily life years later. Of course, my life and health were not on the line back then as they are now, but fortunately my determination (okay... stubbornness) is still strong. Which is good, since this is only the very beginning of a whole new set of hoops.

... ̿ ̿ ̿̿'̿̿\̵͇̿̿\=[^_^]=/̵͇̿̿/'̿̿ ̿ ̿ ̿ ...

dog is restless, keeps pacing back and forth

* I baked chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and iced lemon rounds (make vanilla icebox cookies with extra lemon rind and use lemon extract instead of vanilla, ice with lemon icing)

Monday, September 19, 2011

on substitution...

in which our plucky heroine learns that substitution only sometimes works, and that sometimes the best thing you can do is switch to plan B...

There were guests this weekend at Acorn Cottage: B and K, plus teenage C and D. I like to make more interesting things for company breakfasts than my usual egg with broth or steamed veggies - and D is a 15 year old boy, tall as an adult, with the kind of appetite only a teener can have...

On Sunday morning I decided to make Brigid's tasty-sounding Crispy Cornbread Waffles*. In doing this, I violated several rules of successful cookery... I had not tried out the recipe myself before attempting to make it for company. I did not have all the ingredients that were called for in the recipe, so decided to substitute diluted yoghurt for the kefir. Bad idea, they are not at all the same thing, as I found out later. Not sure if substituting sugar for honey made much of a difference, since the quantity is very small. But the worst error was in not trying out the new/used waffle iron ahead of time...

You see, there once was most wonderful countertop waffle iron that made delightful waffles without trouble. It went away several house moves ago, and recently I decided to replace it, and not finding anything appealing in the stores, waited till something similar showed up at the local Goodwill. I carefully cleaned it, and it appeared to be working properly....

Alas, only the appearance was similar, this appliance was under a curse, which is probably why it ended up there in the first place. When the batter was baked in the carefully greased iron, no matter how long I let it cook for, it persisted in sticking to the metal and tearing into shredded pieces. I am not pleased at all. And just to make certain that it was in fact the waffle iron and not the batter, I tried again tonight after acquiring the necessary kefir and honey. The batter had a much different texture, but the results in the waffle iron are the same!

This morning the hens had a great treat of the two torn-to-shreds waffles, and I used the rest of the batter to make delightfully crispy pancakes instead. There are another two torn-to-shred waffles for the hens tomorrow morning, from this evenings experiment...

Not sure if it would be a good idea to send the waffle iron back to Goodwill, and let some other unsuspecting soul take it home. Of course, there is another option: I could simply put it out of its misery...

* I am certain that the waffles, made in a proper waffle iron, are completely and totally delightful. I intend to try them again using the big non-electric cast iron waffle maker. That one has mostly been used over a campfire; using it on the stovetop will make the kitchen here at Acorn Cottage very warm indeed, so the experiment will have to wait 'till the weather had cooled down enough that extra heat will be pleasant.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

on sea vegetables

I mentioned yesterday that, while no shellfish were foraged on our trip to the coast, we did find edible seaweeds washed up on the beach, and brought some home... Up 'till this point, my experience with "sea vegetables" has been limited to Japanese food, either at home or in restaurants: sushi nori, hijiki snacks, and adding kombu when cooking sushi rice at home.

The two foraged types that we could readily identify on the beach, and gathered some to take home, were "sea lettuce" (one of the Ulva species) and "bladderwrack" (one of the Fucus species). It seemed the next useful step was to thouroughly wash the foraged greens, as there was rather a lot of sand that had been transported as well...

bladderwrack .
bladderwrack . . . . & . . . . . . sea lettuce

The sea lettuce seems to have somehow encased small amounts of sand in "pockets" in the foliage; S and I decided, after attempting to clean it, that it was just not possible to remove all the sand, despite repeated washing. Not enjoying the crunch of grit between teeth, the small amount of sea lettuce is destined to become part of the Acorn Cottage compost. (we tried offering it to the hens, but they prefer tasty bugs, and kale, to this unknown new greenery)

The bladderwrack, on the other hand, cleaned up nicely. We divided it up, once it had been washed, and I had to figure out what to do with my share of the bounty. Since I didn't think that a bowlful of crunchy and slightly mucilaganeous greens was particularly appealing, I decided to dry the seaweed, for future use as a soup additive. (Miso soup, with tofu, sea and land vegetables, and mushrooms, is a tasty wintertime breakfast.) Of course, this attempt to sun-dry something would happen on the days when our unseasonable hot sunny weather had just come to an end...

"Endeavor to persevere" - despite the delightfully cooler weather, the clusters of seaweed were pinned out on the clothesline in the side yard to dry. My hope is that the now gentle September sunshine, and the breezy air, will let them dry down enough to be stored away for future use. In a world of abundance, where I had resources to acquire additional useful devices, my choice would be to have an Excalibur food dehydrator, the friends I know that have one of these are very happy with how well they work, (unlike the cheaper round dehydrators) There had been talk of the resilience rangers making up some solar dehydrators this year, but I fear that we have missed the seasonal window for suchlike. Maybe next year...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

sand in my shoes

there had been talk about a trip to the coast for a while, somehow the stars aligned in a perfect aspect yesterday afternoon, and four of us were on the road west...

as resiliency rangers, we are all working to learn additional useful skills, including identifying and foraging for various kinds of wild foods; even now, there is much to be found in the Pacific NW whether you look around the city, in the woods, or on the coast. The plan was to see what could be found on some of the local beaches, such as shellfish or sea vegetables, and if possible, S also intended to bring home seawater to boil down and make salt...

We live a fair distance from the western sea (I always remember my late friend G, who when asked for directions to his home, would say "head west, and when you reach the ocean, turn left...") Did just that, following the road that parallels the Columbia River, and by the time our plucky band reached Astoria, it was long past lunchtime; while the renowned fish-n-chips boat was closed, we found a funky snack shack instead...
halibut, and clam strips, and frozen custard

look how faraway the other shore is...

Astoria has the last bridge across the Columbia before the coast. (I drove across it in 2009, while sightseeing when my mom came to visit.) This time, south along the coast instead... Another stop for necessary and useful information, S and B got shellfish licenses, and a "clam gun", and we headed further south to the next county, for legal foraging. Rather than drive all the way to Tillamook Bay, we stopped somewhere round about Nehalem;

on a grey Monday afternoon,
there were not a lot of other folks at the beach

down near the waterline,
S and B look for clams

S and V confer,
there are no clams to be found

Despite not finding any clams, we had a great time mucking about on shore anyway, and did find some edible seaweed (I still need to retrieve my share later today, to photograph and write about)... then back to the van, and northwards a bit to Arcadia, where our intrepid rangers ended their day with a picnic supper on the beach. The light was almost gone, and the air was filling with misty moisture as we clambered down steps and scrambled down to the soft sand below.

By the time we were settled in, and a fire lit, it was full dark, and a storybook moment indeed, with good friends and good talk...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

making the best of it...

in which our plucky heroine attempts to keep cool by applying distraction...

Still very hot here, not like two years ago, but not pleasant. I am grateful for the porch roof, and for the additional two years growth on the frontyard trees.

Tonight the moon was an amazing, almost copper red. There is wildfire smoke in the air, we cannot really smell it here, but it changes the color of the moon. As always, I foolishly tried to take a picture of it, shining through the branches in front of V's house, and as always, I got an image of a black rectangle with a bright spot in the middle...

Remember CatFish and OwlDog? from the weekend of the Art Party? They are much more colorful now!

This afternoon got a chance to go hang out with my Resiliency Ranger pals, who were headed over to V's house for a work party. Stopped off at Uwajimaya on the way for an assortment of random asian snackage. Much to my unexpected delight, the house is running air-conditioning!! SInce the hand is not much use yet*, I didn't have a chance to help with the touch-up painting:

I did have a chance to say hello to the three resident cat folk, Dante, Fizzgig, and Pip. This is Fizzgig:

V is one of those folks who has mad skills in multiple directions, and where she lives, has the option to follow through on many of them. This is a field of flax, with some of the harvested flax in the foreground:
* "You're not useless, you're convalescing. You're pupating to become a firestorm of awesome resilience and grace" - - - thus wrote my RR pal B, reminding me that this oh so frustrating time is actually both necessary and useful

Thursday, September 8, 2011

hrmph, but scattered with stars...

bright stars:

Whilst downtown exchanging the WrongSocks at REI, I took a different transit pathway home, that had me right next to the Keen flagship store. On a whim, I went in and asked them about suggestions for what to do about the wearing-through of the wee bungee laces. Oh, no problem, let me get you some replacement parts and the instruction sheet. No charge. no fuss, and that will allow a bit more use from the current shoes, not quite wornout after two years of hard use.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

CatFish had an interesting time with my gouache paints. Today it will be OwlDog's turn to have a decorative outer layer applied. Is much fun without being too strenuous.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Stitches came out today, huzzah! All looks and functions well, considering that surgery was a bit more than two weeks ago. Not cleared for takeoff yet, not for a while, but will begin the slow ramp back up to speed.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~


Latelatelate last night a call to let me know that there is a union action called for sometime before morning in Longview. Once off the phone, and now thoroughly awake, I hit the internet to figure out what that was about - oh my! So much happens that it is hard to keep track of it all. I remember learning in highschool, (though it surely is no longer taught) in theory, reported news picks certain parts of information to share - it is another thing entirely to watch it being done while it happens... We are so very fortunate to have the ability, through electronic media, to find various sources. It was not surprising to me, to see what vital information is being left out of most mentions of this particular issue. The common news primarily makes it sound like union workers running amok. Only a few mention the fact that this union had a standing contract in place since 1934, ignored by the multinational EGT, that is at the heart of this dispute. An early-early morning call let me know that all was well, much to my relief!

~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Got a call from the bad doctor office wanting to schedule surgery. Simply told the scheduler I was taking my patronage elsewhere and could they please remove me from their list. Then got another call from the actual bad doc himself, all defensive and patronising yet again, and while he refused my offer of sending him a written statement about why I was not returning, he then informed me of what I was troubled about?!? (wrong guess entirely) and made disturbing/threatening statements about how since I was an OHP patient I would not be able to be seen in hospital if needed, and that (only) their office could make "special arrangements" to deal with that...

Basically, if you want to find out what my concerns are - be willing to listen to me. If you refuse to do that, and assume that you already know, then it is yet an additional example of NotPayingAttention. No one who is NotPayingAttention will be allowed anywhere near my body with a scalpel, thank you very much...

Great frustration with the system in general, that after waiting on a lottery for five years, finally managing to acquire the "prize" of joining the OHP system (for which I do pay monthly premiums), that said membership doesn't actually cover much save emergency room and some minimal preventative care (not to say that I am not grateful for even that much). It took a long time and a lot of struggle to arrange for a simple 16 minute surgery to prevent my hand from becoming completely dysfunctional and atrophied. And OHP only paid part of the cost. I do fear that further essential medical care will require even more strenuous self-advocacy to get the kind of basic care that those with insurance can access with relative ease.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

there and back again

A long planned adventure over the three day weekend was tiring but good. G and I went to September Crown, and despite the location in an unshaded pasture, despite qualms of my surgeon, despite unrelentingly sunshiney and hot hot hot weather, had a very pleasant event.
Was my first time back in over two years, and was very glad to find out that I have not become irrelevant in the interim. Was kind of a survey course of SCA weekend, with many delightful visual images in memory, the mounted warrior that rode down the pathway towards the eric, the torchlight on the Royal feast seen through gaps in the tent, our noble Majesties sitting under the canvas roof during the Laurel's meeting, the many circles of song and story in the starlight...

Was such a pleasure to see familiar faces once again, however briefly. Had the weather not been quite so extreme, there would have been, perhaps, less exhaustion. Am very grateful that G hitched up the wagon and brought the entire house to the event: having a roof, and screened cross ventilation, meant that I could hide in the shade during the worst of the heat. Having a real kitchen meant that we could feed not only ourselves, but also invite others to share a meal, and extend the noble virtue of Hospitality.

While it was frustrating to not be able to actually do anything at all, G did a splendid job of keeping me from overdoing it; time spent idle now will allow for all the more time spent active later.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

be prepared which our plucky heroine discusses an option for securing shelf-storage

When first we moved to Acorn Cottage, to my great delight, just outside the tiny kitchen was a floor-to-ceiling pantry cupboard... but fortune was not such as to allow me that delight for long.

First came the initial plumbing failure flood, which necessitated cutting away the back of the pantry to access pipes buried in the wall. Then, months later, the rogue water from that flood rotted the floor, which gave Demolition Boy (cursed be he) a free hand with destroying the entire thing. (I still do not understand why taking out the floor entailed also removing the pantry and laundry cupboards and their ceilings!)

Ikea is my friend, 'specially the as-is room. A combination of GORM shelving and assorted anchoring hardware from Winks was turned into a sturdy replacement for the now defunct pantry. But for those of us who live on the Ring of Fire, possible earthshaking is never far from mind. I grew up for about half my childhood in LA, and have vivid memories of earthquakes, not to mention the results from the Nisqually quake more recently, when I was living in Olympia. Open shelving is not a secure home for what it contains, should the earth move.
pantry shelves, now with slotted railings

Having little in the way of ready dosh, adding solid doors to GORM, while perhaps ideal, was not a current option. Instead, several slatted shelves from as-is were cut in half, and attached with giant ball-bungee elastics from Harbor Freight, looped through the convenient adjustment holes in the uprights. This creates a kind of railing (to keep the pantry goods from falling off the front of the shelves to smash on the concrete floor below) while allowing relatively easy access. The sides and backs of GORM have been neatly wrapped in extra heavy-duty plastic mesh, stapled in place, which being indoors, will not suffer any UV degradation.
a closer view of a fastening bungee

The original pantry was much more "elegant" a structure, but making do with what comes to hand is a useful frame of mind to cultivate. 'Tis better, I think, to come up with a creative, if kludge-y workaround, than to not move forward. I feel much better knowing that my home-canned jam, and other pantry goods will stay put in the next quake, than if, in waiting for a "better" storage solution, everything was lost.

"perfect is the enemy of good"

̿ ̿ ̿̿'̿̿\̵͇̿̿\=[^_^]=/̵͇̿̿/'̿̿ ̿ ̿ ̿
dog is sniffing the air, calmer today