Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Finding Nemo...or Not

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the waste water treatment plant in Vancouver, WA. For most of my life, I have lived in houses with sewer systems. Since moving to WA, we are now proud owners of a septic system; we try to respect our bacteria, and not overwhelm them. Seeing as it's just the two of us, our flushes, washing machine discharge, etc are much less than ever. Now that we don't have swim towels and multiple changes of clothing to deal with, we keep our impact low. But in a 'big city' like Vancouver, what happens between your toilet/sink/tub and the Columbia River????

Enter the Water Resources Education Center. There is a display area where you can learn all about the environment, and how important the water is. We joined our guide who took us through all the buildings that process the various stages of making the water clean enough to go back into the river. Some areas were more pungent that others, but none were any worse than running the HASH in Lagos, Nigeria along open sewers, or Bourbon Street after a wild Saturday night, never mind Mardi Gras. As for poor little Nemo, he never would have survived the straining process that takes insolubles out of the waste water.

My favorite was the area where the water is treated with UV light. The eerie green light was very cool. You can see my feet at the bottom of the picture.

I also liked the patterns of the water where the microbes worked their magic. The still water has microbes getting their mojo on. The aerated section is where they work their magic.

After the water is cleaned up, it goes back to the Columbia via wetlands that surround the center. 

Our outside guide Bev is a veteran of education programs with the school kids of Vancouver. Well, the ones whose schools still have money for field trips...This used to be a school education trip for all grade school kids. The Water Resources Education Center built their program to mesh with the school district's science curriculum. Now, cash strapped schools can't take advantage of this fabulous resource. This really needs to change.This area in the picture to the right is where they take kids to do water quality sampling. I hear they love stepping into the mucky water and overflowing their boots...Thanks to the Agriculture and Rural Caucus of the WA State Dems for organizing this. I learn so much from their events. Which reminds me, I must write up the Wolf Sanctuary tour from Sept!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Life, Football Playoffs, and Clam Dip

For Christmas in 1980 I bought my sweetie a cookbook full of clam recipes. It is one of the few cookbooks of the MANY I have owned that I still keep and use, a well worn copy of The Clam Lover's Cookbook by William Flagg. My chowder guide is in here, as is my favorite clam dip recipe. Which was devoured yesterday in a futile effort to help Tom Brady rescue the Patriots. Alas, the mile high broncs prevailed, but for fellow New Englander Julie Blenn, who did her darnedest to catch up to us in dip consumption, here is the recipe for Clam Dip 1 (yes, there is Clam Dip 2 as well as two more):

2 packages cream cheese (3 oz each)   note: I use one neufchatel 8 oz package
1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp Horseradish (shameless plug for our local Pacific Crest Pub horseradish, which may or may not still exist since the Pacific Crest Pub is now under new name and new ownership...research due)
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp minced onion
3 drops Tabasco sauce (or more)
2 Tbsp clam juice (reserved from canned clams)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can minced clams, liquid reserved
1 tsp chopped chives

Place all through Tabasco into mixing bowl. Use electric mixer at low speed until blended. Add clam juice and mix. Add sour cream, mix until consistency of whipped cream. Add clams, blend at low speed. Add chives, blend only until mixed. Pour into serving dish and mound up. Chill half hour. Sprinkle with paprika. Garnish with chives, parsley, pimento, sliced onion or small whole clams. I sprinkle paprika and call it good.

Serve with potato chips. Recipe says saltines or potato chips, but who are we kidding? Hell, I can eat this with a spoon. Forget the chips!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy New Year!

Mom celebrating her new hip on Xmas Eve
Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I just needed a break. Life got busy, my attention span got stuck in short mode, and I ignored the blog and my 3 followers. It happens every couple of years or so. Hey, I didn't even get my Christmas cards out yet!

But I got a nudge, and I will start off 2014 with good intentions. I've had an infusion of Boston energy after a month's visit to help Mom recover from hip replacement surgery. She's 86, and has had trouble walking since Dad entered his end zone 3 years ago. She finally had enough. She missed her mobility, driving her car, visiting friends, and the walls were closing in. I am happy to say she sailed through the surgery, and is working on walking with a cane with her visiting PT. When the weather becomes more cooperative in Boston, I am sure she'll be out and about in no time.

So the next few posts will catch you up on a just few significant events of the last 6 months.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Too Close

Today's news out of Boston hit my heart. A 24 year old young woman's body was found dead, stabbed, in Hyde Park's Stony Brook Reservation. She was kidnapped from her South Boston apartment, and forced to make ATM withdrawals. Later today, there were surveillance camera shots of her at ATMs. I cannot imagine the threats made to her, to force her to do this. I cannot imagine her realization that they were not going to let her go.

Most of all, I cannot imagine the pain of her parents. I have a 24 year old daughter who lives in Boston. I worry when I don't hear from her. I try to remember when I was her age, younger actually, living in Boston. I hardly ever called home. I lived in an apartment building next to the Green Line tracks where one of the Boston Strangler's victims was found. Stuff happens. Most of the time, it doesn't. You don't dwell on the bad stuff. You keep your city smarts in mind. And you live your life.

When bad stuff does happen, it is incomprehensible. And painful. I hurt tonight for the family and friends of Amy Lord. I send a big hug to my daughter over our emotional airways. Stay safe, sweetie.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All Politics Is Local

From Wikipedia: 
Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the science of influencing other people on a civic or individual level.
We have a primary ballot dropping this weekend. On it are two things: a vote for County Clerk and a vote for a levy to fund a new Emergency Services District. The County Clerk vote is to fill a one year unexpired term, between two Republicans. All I really need to find out about that one is which is the Tea Party candidate and which is the normal garden variety Republican. Clear choice. Maybe.

The EMS District would combine the ambulance services of our two county hospital districts, saving money on administration and funding the service so that the two hospitals don't continue bleeding red ink. It will replace a current levy on our side of the county with a lower one, so it should be a no brainer for Hospital District 2. For folks in Hospital District 1, it will be a new levy. But their hospital cannot continue to absorb the costs of their ambulance. They have already reduced services to stay afloat. But it is also in a very red part of the county, where taxes are a bad word. Even if your life depends on getting you to the hospital or stabilizing you after an injury, heart attack or stroke. This levy means $30 a YEAR on property valued at $100,000. For us, it means about $80 a year. Money well spent, I'd say. It's 40% less than we are paying for our library levy, and the library can't try to save my life in an emergency!

The levy is new, so it faces hurdles. Such as, 60 percent of the voters in Nov 2012 election must turn in their ballots. Some 10,000 plus people voted in that presidential election out of the 12,000 plus voters registered. Which means we need  6,000 plus people to vote. Of those, we need 40% to vote YES!, some 2,500 people.

There is a group of people from both sides of the county who have formed YES! EMS! There's a Facebook page.There are signs. There are buttons. There are flyers. I sat with a table at our town's July 4th festivities, with a friend from Goldendale for part of the time, educating people on the issue and urging them to vote and to tell their friends, families and neighbors to vote. Some people had no idea what it was. Some knew and just wanted a sign, or to check when the ballots were coming. I even got two people to register to vote. The effort has been totally nonpartisan. Everyone is working together. But we're running out of time to educate and engage people face to face.

I was thinking it would be a great idea to bring information and buttons to the weekly farmer's market here in town. They had a fire district education booth. And a hospital sponsored kid's area. I had materials left from the 4th. So since we have a couple of weeks in a last push, I planned to spend my Tuesday afternoons hanging out at the market. Good thing Lloyd suggested that contact the organizer to be sure it was okay. Shouldn't be a problem. It's a local community nonpartisan issue. Am I right?

Well, no. Dang, I'd better quit thinking!!! Turns out they don't want ANY political activity at the market. While I understand people's aversion to 'politics', politics is how we elect our leaders, make our rules, and make decisions about public policy. Politics isn't required to be the ugly thing that goes on in the Other Washington. In its purest form, to me, it's about taking care of our community and its people. To completely eliminate 'politics' from our daily lives is to invite Idiocracy.

People running for office generally hit the summer fairs and festivals to be where the people are, to meet people, shake hands, talk about what concerns them. Putting a personal connection into our one step removed lives. Would that be verboten? I doubt if our representative or one of our congresswomen or our governor showed up, they'd be turned away for being politicians.

I get that sometimes the outside funded efforts (like the anti coal effort that is busy here in the Gorge) can sometimes turn people off. I personally don't see educating people on issues is a bad, as long as people get comprehensive information, not just the emotional pitches. We SHOULD be thinking about these things. But this EMS effort is grass roots LOCAL politics. Your friends and neighbors who want to spread the word about something important to the community. And advising people to vote no matter what their view. How is this a bad thing????

Fenway Faithful West Coast

Last Thursday we were out of the house at 7 am, heading north to Seattle's Safeco Field to watch the scrappy Mariners play the Red Sox. I'd been there a month earlier with my long time buddy Karen (I refuse to call her an Old Friend) after we finished our week long Inside Passage cruise. We just had to stay an extra night to see the Mariners and Yankees. Those Mariners hung in that time, made it a game to the end, but lost by a run. It was easy to root for the Mariners that day. We even got seats in the Kings Court, yellow Tshirts and K cards to be part of the 'fans who go wild when Hernandez strikes someone out'. Now here I was, on my way to a showdown between my life long team of my heart, and the adopted state rivals.

We decided to avoid the parking insanity near Safeco, particularly since there were two Gold Cup soccer games immediately following the baseball game. With the parking lot full at the Tukwila light rail station (near SeaTac airport), we roamed the neighborhoods nearby until we found a spot. Got our tickets just in time to run up the escalator and catch the 11:03 train. After walking the few blocks to the park, and strolling all the way around the perimeter, we arrived at Home Plate about 15 minutes before our scheduled meet up with Sal, our teacher buddy from Lagos days, who had our tickets.

And what great seats they were (thank you very much, JS)! It was a beautiful day for a ballgame, sunny, blue skies with a few puff balls, great skyline behind the outfield walls. A little chilly, as we were on the shady side. Dilemma: wear the hoodie or use it as a lap blanket for my goosebumped, shorts clad legs? Legs won. I wore a more discreet shirt than my bright red official Red Sox shirt, which also is short sleeved. I did see a ton of red shirts in the crowd, almost as many Bosox shirts as Mariners shirts! Today called for the 100 years Fenway shirt, navy blue with LONG sleeves. And the big red B on the back...

We joked about seeing 3 games: the hitters innings, the middle relief pitchers' duel, and extra innings. The outcome? Red Sox on top by 1 in the 10th. A long game by Safeco standards, it was after 5 pm when the crowd began to leave. We loaded up with coffee in Tukwila before heading south on I-5 for the long long long drive home. Rolled in at 10 pm.

Note to self: Trips to Seattle require at least ONE overnight. And always meet up with Sal for a game when the Red Sox are in town!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bye Bye Miss American Pie

There are so many things I would LIKE to write about today. But they are all exhausting, and have sapped my energy for a couple of days now. Some were good, some so disappointing I can't believe people vote for leaders who are intent on returning to the 18th century (or worse).

 In search of joy, short of ordering a certain pair of pink tennis shoes, I immersed myself in nature yesterday afternoon, and dealt with the bounty today. Sometimes getting outside and climbing trees is all you can do to save your sanity.

You might not have heard, but the NW Cherry Crop is in danger of exploding, so to speak. We all look forward to this time of year. There's nothing like fresh cherries in July. But when Mother Nature decides to send monsoon rains, well, it puts a damper on the harvest.

Split Cherry
I was wasting time getting myself all riled up about lying cheating Texas Legislators, activist Supreme Court Judges, and the idiot governor of a certain state I twice lived in. Not to mention a WA State second session that was resembling its namesake on the other coast a little too much. My friend Rosemary called and woke me from my overload stupor. THE CHERRIES ARE BURSTING! You see, she has a small orchard of bing and pie cherries that are ripe and ready. If I wanted, I could bring my cooler and fill it up with cherries before they became red stains and bird food. So I jumped into my trusty Subaru and headed to Old Hwy 8 in Lyle. Cherries quickly replaced the evil in my mind.

Bing Cherries
After a couple of hours, I had plenty of each to take home and decide what to do with...but it was Marimba Night so that meant a quick sanitizing soak and drying on towels til I got home.

Pie Cherries
 Good, grief, I needed to find a cherry pitter. A quick stop at dreaded Walmart, with an entire aisle of kitchen gadgets, yielded nothing. Nada. Zilch. Jeez, this is Hood River Walmart, in the middle of cherry country, and you only carry your cherry pitters ONLINE to be delivered sometime NEXT WEEK if I go on line right now and order one???? You're missing the boat, Walmart. I personally know about half a dozen people looking for cherry pitters right now. I'll figure something out.

So I got home, pitter-less, and it was too late to do anything with them. Besides John Oliver was coming on and I did not want to miss what he was going to do with those evil things that were in my mind earlier. Note: He did not disappoint. So they waited until this morning.

I looked up cherry pitters and found- on Huff-Po no less- alternative solutions to cherry pitter gadgets, including smacking them with a chef knife so they split and you can take out the pit, using a hairpin, bending a paper clip to make a scoop, bending fork tines to make a scoop, and the winner (at least for me, I just couldn't deform a fork for life)...Cake Decorator Tips!!!
Pie cherry being impaled upon small star decorator tip, with bloody, I mean juicy, bing sized large tip in background
 My cherries were two sizes so I used two different star tips. Perfecto!!! In two hours I'd pitted enough for 2 pies and filled 5 trays of the dehydrator. I finished pitting the pie cherries, and froze the last pie's worth for future deliciousness.

Dehydrator humming away (Thanks Ann)
That's the good news. The bad news is, I still have a load of bings in the fridge. They'll have to wait until Saturday. I'm about cherried out of time...I need to go to water aerobics tonight to work off that piece of almond crumb topped cherry pie I'm gonna eat later on! Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Boston Proud

Have I mentioned, I am so loving the 2013 Red Sox and Manager John Farrell.

From The Boston Globe today:
Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman threw out a first pitch before tonight’s game at Fenway Park, along with Carlos Arredondo, who is credited with saving Bauman’s life after the attacks. Then they went past the Red Sox dugout, where players waited to shake their hands.

Very much prefer to keep this image in my head, rather than the one where these two men first encountered each other. 

Sun Break in Margaritaville

It's been raining pretty much nonstop since we got back from Austin. Not that I am complaining...all my little vegetables and sprouting radishes and spinach are happy and weren't dried out when I got home. But it has been more like 'almost' Junuary. I'm still in my fleece sweater as I type...

This afternoon, the sun peaked out. Mt. Hood appeared. Hurray, it's still there!!!

And Lloyd came home from town with a couple of pints of fresh strawberries that his buddy Steve had picked up in Portland today. You know the kind...they don't look like much but boy do they taste good! I haven't tasted strawberries this sweet since Ponchatoula...

So, what to do with those less attractive but totally delicious gems? Jimmy Buffett would be proud.

Thanks, Steve. Cheers!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Eyes of Texas Were Upon Us

We are now the proud parents of a Texas Ex, a Master of Education, Higher Ed Administration.

We didn't quite get enough Austin in March, so we flew back down for Keara's graduation. To her great relief, we did not camp in the driveway this time, rather, we arranged a stay via Airbnb with a wonderful couple about 4 miles across town. We had comfy beds, and were able to come and go with use of the Kia.

In our 5 days there we managed to
  • dine very well, with great eats at El Chile, Magnolia Cafe, Buenos Aires Cafe (sangria below), The White Horse (ahhh, brews), Kirby Lane, Eastside Cafe, Red's Roof, Amy's Ice Cream, Uchiko, and Flat Top Burger Shop.
  • walk from our bnb to the trail around Lady Bird Lake, to Barton Springs and back
  •  See some lovely blooming cacti (that I didn't see in Death Valley!), and other wildflowers

  • enjoy meeting the people in Keara's department, her partner in crime, Bianca, and the lovely Dean Lilly, in whose Dean of Students office they both worked the last 2 years
  • survive both the early morning Masters Convocation in the concert hall, and the main graduation event at the Tower that night. Not having my morning coffee for the former was almost a disaster. But seeing Keara dance happily across the stage was worth it. 
  • get plenty of exercise walking back and forth to Campus from Keara's house, and along S. Congress Street, including this fabulous candy store...when was the last time you saw Turkish Taffy????
  • get in a nice hike at Hamilton Pool before going to the airport. This time we got to take the trail to the Pedernales River (it was closed last time Keara took me there).
Letting the credit card cool off for a bit...but not too long...the next adventure is coming up the end of the week, when I head to Seattle to meet Karen for our adventure to ALASKA! Stay tuned.

UPDATE: I forgot one BIG thing:
  • seeing the new Star Trek movie at the IMAX in stunning 3D. Don't miss it!