Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Emma and I went to Kennewick, Washington this weekend, for our annual post-Christmas "Girls' Weekend Out".  We stay in a hotel (with a pool and hot tub!), go to our favorite craft stores, restaurants, and thrift stores. This is the third year that we've done this, and it's apparently now ~~A Tradition~~.  It's a fun time and we both enjoy it.  We did have a bit of a rough patch this year at the pet store, because they had kittens up for adoption, but we got through it.

This year, in addition to the usual thrift store haul of basically an entire wardrobe for Emma for less than $30 (will she ever stop growing??!), I scored two cool kitchen items:

Thrift store finds: $1 each

My mom had several CorningWare casseroles like this, and it makes me all nostalgic to have one too.

The teapot is great, holds 32 ounces, and is a beautiful cobalt blue.  It also has a strainer insert for loose tea leaves that has largish holes but works well for large-leaf teas.  Plus it's so very teapot-shaped!

There are no scratches, dings, or chips on either the casserole or the teapot.  The best part?  Each one was only $1!  I love thrift stores.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I ordered this tea for myself last week and it arrived yesterday.  I love it.

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

I will freely admit that I ordered it solely for the tin.  I mean yes, Earl Grey is one of my favorite teas, but DID YOU SEE THE TIN???

It's official Starfleet-issue Earl Grey tea.  How could I not get this.

The brewing instructions are hilarious.

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

The tin was the main reason for the purchase, but the tea inside is a nice bonus.  I think it's Adagio Earl Grey Bravo.  A very strong Earl Grey blend with orange rind and blue cornflowers in addition to the regular black tea and bergamot.  It's powerful but yummy.  (Rather like Jean-Luc.)

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

And, since it's November 23, 2013 and a very special day in the Doctor Who universe, I have been sipping it all day in my Doctor Who mug.  Even though I don't have cable and won't see the 50th anniversary special today, I stand with my fandom.

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Pardon me, I think my geek is showing...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Emma surprised me with breakfast in bed this morning.  She made me waffles from scratch!

Surprise breakfast in bed, courtesy of my girl

I love my big growing-up girl.

Big girl!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

I present a photo:

In the garage.

This picture is significant for two reasons:

Item #1. My car is in my garage. It has been in the garage for the past two weeks, and though we have had frosty nights and snow, I have not had to scrape my windshield once. I love having my car covered.

Item #2. This evening I popped the hood (in the garage!) and successfully figured out how to replace a burned out bulb in my front headlight.

All by myself! Well, with the manual. Still, I rock.


Monday, October 14, 2013

I am on a slow-moving carousel of dire frustration, gnashing of teeth, and simmering anger.

Item #1:
I have an ex-husband who STILL has not cleaned all his stuff out of my garage (Shall we recap? He moved out two and a half years ago, divorce was final more than four months ago...) and has been saying that he will "take care of it" this weekend...next week...after he gets paid...when he gets back from vacation...when he's not feeling ill...insert ProcrastinationTimeframeOfChoice.

Item #2:
I have a daughter who was all fired up to rearrange her room last week, and currently has the contents of her bookcases all over the floor, half her furniture and other movables piled in the loom room, and apparently zero desire to finish the job.

I hereby announce to the world that I am done being "nice".  By this weekend, I will be able to park in my garage and warp my loom.

BAM.  How about that.

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Friday.  I have had a low-grade cold lingering for a week.  Not bad enough to justify actually staying home, just bad enough to make work a miserable five day marathon of don't-want-to-be-here-only-want-to-take-a-nap.  Hack, hack, sniff, ugh.

Had a massage this afternoon.  Massages are the best.

Emma goes to her dad's tonight, therefore I'm thinking Nutella on toast and a mug of chamomile tea is a perfectly legitimate dinner.

Netflix and my blankie.  Possibly bed by 7:30.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

A couple days ago, I put a request out on my local Freecycle website to see if anyone had herbs in their garden that they weren't going to use before everything froze.

Today, I got a response.  "Come on over," she said, "I have some parsley and maybe some oregano."


Freecycle SCORE!

That, my friends, is a pound of oregano, a pound and a half of parsley, three and a half pounds of dill (OMG so much dill!), a pile of cucumbers, a zucchini, some peppers, two eggplants, and a handful of basil.

I didn't even know herbs could be measured in pounds.  Both dehydrators are full and I haven't even gotten to the parsley yet.

I love Freecycle.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

We had our first frost last night and I had to scrape my windshield before we left for work/school this morning. Temperature outside was 34 degrees at 7:30 am and the world was sparkly.  Temperature inside the house was 56 degrees. Emma brushed her hair while wrapped up in the quilt off her bed. 

I finally caved and turned on the furnace for the first time this fall. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ta Da!!  My new dehydrator came on Thursday, and it is so cool.


It's an Excaliber 9-tray model.  Look at all this space!


I love that there's no hole in the middle of each tray.
I love that I can check the trays without unstacking and restacking the whole darn thing.

I don't love that it has a larger footprint than the Nesco dehydrator, but I do love that it's shorter than the Nesco 12-tray stack.  There's a perfect spot on top of my washing machine where it can live permanently.

Excaliber and Nesco comparison

The capacity of the Excaliber is actually only half a square foot larger than the Nesco with all 12 trays stacked.  However, when the Nesco is fully loaded, it takes FOREVER to dry, and I have to rotate the trays top to bottom multiple times to ensure that everything dries evenly. Plus, filling the square trays is so much easier than filling the round trays (no center hole!).

So here's the first couple batches out of the Excaliber:

Stocking up

This is...
  • 5 pounds of shredded potatoes
  • 2 pounds of dry raw black beans, soaked and cooked
  • 1 pound of dry raw garbanzo beans, soaked and cooked
  • 1 1/3 pounds of fresh carrots, shredded
  • 2/3 pound of fresh carrots, sliced
  • 1 bunch of celery, sliced
I think this may possibly be the first time in my entire life that I've used up a whole bunch of celery before it went bad!

The reason I cooked the beans even though they were already dried and very store-able, was so I can use them in camping meals or quick soups.  Now they just have to be rehydrated by adding boiling water, rather than cooking for an hour.

I currently have a gigantic 100-ounce jar of spaghetti sauce on 7 trays, merrily dehydrating away.

Oh, yes.  I am indeed having fun.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been having fun with dehydrating.  These are the results from the past couple weekends:

Dehydrating fun
Left to right, this is:
  • tomatoes (about 5 each fresh red and yellow tomatoes, chopped and drained)
  • peas 'n' carrots (2 pounds frozen)
  • green beans (2 pounds frozen)
  • peaches (15 pounds fresh)
  • black beans (two 15 ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
  • ground beef (3 pounds when raw, thoroughly cooked and drained)
  • brown rice (1.5 cups raw rice, cooked)
  • peas (3 pounds frozen)
  • sweet corn (4 pounds frozen)
  • green peppers (10 large fresh)
  • apples (10 large fresh)

Except for the peaches, which were dried in August, all that was done in the past three weeks.  Of course the dried fruit is a favorite, and I must always have dried apples on hand.  In addition, I've also made a couple recipes for lightweight dehydrated hiking food (beef, rice and veggie variants) and they've been great.  Even approved by Emma!

I really like dehydrating.  I sometimes have a problem with not using up fresh produce in time, and it kills me to throw out food that spoiled.  I buy produce with great intentions, but then I'm too tired to cook, and I end up never making whatever it was I bought that great bunch of beets for.

Over the years I've learned that I do better with frozen veggies, since they have a longer lifespan.  I'm not much of a fan of canned veggies, except for navy and other shelled beans and corn and tomatoes.  Canned green beans and peas?  Ick.  Frozen, however, is usually almost as tasty as fresh.

The problem is that I have very limited freezer space.  Just the one on top of my fridge, and a small chest freezer (five cubic feet).  That space gets filled up fast when frozen veggies or meat go on sale.  Right now, most of my refrigerator's freezer is taken up with frozen cherries and peaches from July.  The chest freezer is mostly full of blueberries, chicken, and pork that were on sale last month.  Freezers run on electricity so I really don't want to buy a bigger one.

Dehydrating not only solves the spoilage issue, it solves the space issue.  And there is no energy cost associated with storing this food, other than the initial electricity to run the dehydrator.  The jars just sit on the shelf.  That big bag of frozen corn (not to mention the rest of that pile of veggies) would not have fit in my available freezer space.  Now that four pounds of corn fits in a single quart mason jar.  Huge space savings!  And since I discovered yesterday that the corn rehydrates beautifully, I feel great about that purchase. 

My summer adventures in dehydrating more than fruit started out as a way to make lightweight hiking and camping food rather than buying the pricy (and tasteless/salty/chemically) commercial freeze-dried meals, but I think it may morph into a more everyday thing as well.  Dehydrated food obviously doesn't always have the same texture as fresh, especially for fruits, but it's great as long as you pick the right recipe.  I would never expect a dried cherry to be the same experience as a fresh one, or even a frozen one, but dried cherries are better in oatmeal.

Anyway, I think there will be much more dehydrating in my future.  Coincidentally, I may or may not have bought myself a super-fabulous dehydrator on Sunday... Stay tuned...

Monday, September 23, 2013

I tried something new this weekend: dehydrating corn.  It couldn't be easier, just empty a bag of frozen corn onto the dehydrator trays, and let it go at 135°F overnight.  Easy peasy.  However, I was somewhat skeptical that the rehydrated product would be edible.  The dried corn resembled brittle yellow rocks, and looked suspiciously like birdseed.  I had a feeling it would be unbearably chewy and flavorless.

So I tried some corn chowder for dinner tonight, as an experiment.

Corn chowder from dehydrated corn

Holy SMOKES it was good.  The corn came back to exactly the way it was before, sweet and flavorful.  I was quite pleasantly surprised and happy to be wrong.

The recipe is one I cobbled together from several websites - cooking as well as food-storage sites.


Dehydrated Corn Chowder
4 servings

1/2 cup dehydrated sweet corn
1 1/2 cups water
4 strips bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped fairly fine
2 cups water
1 medium potato, diced in 1/2 inch chunks
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups nonfat dry milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds of black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley

Rehydrate corn in 1 1/2 cups of water for at least 20 minutes. (I let it go an hour and a half because that was how long it was until I got home.)

Brown bacon in a large pot until crisp. Remove and drain. Saute onion in bacon fat until tender and remove to the bowl with the bacon.

Remove all bacon fat except for 2 tablespoons or less. Place the rehydrated corn and any leftover soaking water into the same pot used to cook the bacon and onions. Add two more cups of water. Boil for about 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary.  (I only had to boil it about 10 minutes since I soaked the dry corn so long.  The point is to make sure the corn is fully rehydrated and cooked.)

Add diced potato and cook until tender (took less than 10 minutes with 1/2" dice). Combine dry milk, flour, salt and pepper with 2-1/2 cups water and mix well. Add milk mixture to the pot and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add onions, bacon and dry parsley. Stir well and simmer for 5 minutes or so to thicken slightly.

Serve and watch it disappear!


Emma and I split a drained 6.5 ounce can of clams between our bowls when we went back for seconds.  It was awesome, and crab, lobster, scallops, or chicken would also be delicious.  Chowder is very flexible.  Next time, I think I would increase the amount of dry corn to 3/4 cup or even 1 cup, for even more corny goodness.  The critical ratio of corn to soaking water seems to be 1:3, though it probably doesn't matter as much for a soup.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I had a very fun day yesterday, surveying for bull trout in the Lostine River. This is part of a US Fish and Wildlife effort, and it's the third year I've helped out.  Bull trout are a protected species, listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and these surveys provide data to aid their recovery.

We saw more bull trout yesterday than I've ever seen before, which was very cool. We counted the number of fish we saw, estimated their size, and counted and measured all the redds (nests) we saw. It's still early in the spawning season and many of the redds had fish still in them, actively spawning.

Like this:

Bull trout

I had my waterproof phone case along again, and managed a couple underwater pictures.

Bull trout

It's amazing to see these rare fish in the wild, doing what they do, as they've been doing it for centuries. Any day you see a protected species is a good day. This is what makes my job satisfying.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Peaches.  Is there anything more quintessentially summery?


I bought 20 pounds of peaches when I was over in Kimberly, Oregon visiting a job site last Tuesday, and today they were perfectly ripe and ready to be processed.

This is the third box of peaches I've gotten this summer.  I froze the first 20 pounds and dried the second 20 pounds.  This batch, I canned.

Peaches look like summer.

Canned peaches just look like summer, all golden and radiant in their jars.

My mom used to can peaches every year, and I loved having a little dish of them for dessert in the middle of winter.  I suspect I wasn't always a willing helper back then, but I did love the end result.  These are my mom's canning jars, and it makes me so happy to be using them.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Another great hike this weekend.  Today, we climbed Mt. Ireland, in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest south of La Grande.  Are you seeing a theme here?  The Wallowa Whitman National Forest is amazingly awesome.

Anyway, here's the view of Mt. Ireland, from about a half mile up the trail from the trailhead.  We climbed ALL THE WAY UP THERE!

Mt. Ireland

It was about three and a half miles from the car to the peak, and it was such a glorious day to be hiking.  Sunny and about 75 degrees, and the vegetation is just starting to look like fall.  The views were amazing.

On the way up to Mt. Ireland

Plus, this was also a geocaching adventure, and I found my 500th cache!

Geocache #500!

There's a fire tower at the top of the mountain, and we had a nice visit with Andy, the lookout this year.  He's up there all alone all summer, with only the occasional random visitor climbing up the mountain.  Talk about solitude.

Mt. Ireland fire lookout tower

But can you imagine having this view for three months?  This picture was taken looking north from the fire tower to Baldy Lake and the North Fork John Day Wilderness.

Baldy Lake and the North Fork John Day Wilderness Area

It was a somewhat hard hike, gaining 2,300 feet in elevation over three and a half miles.  It took us right around 6 hours round trip, including almost an hour at the top of the mountain.

view from the south slope of Mt. Ireland

What an amazing place.  What an amazing day.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Last Thursday's mail brought me a new toy: a tent!  I've wanted a light tent for ages, one that I could use for backpacking as opposed to just car-camping.  I have a tent, but it weighs seven pounds.

new tent!!!

This is a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2, and it only weighs 3.4 pounds!  That might not sound like much of a difference, but trust me, when it's on your back and the campsite is a mile or more away, it is huge.

So my new tent (and also new trekking poles) precipitated an adventure yesterday.  My friend Anne has also gotten some new gear recently, so we went backpacking!

Here I am all geared up and ready to hike.

ready to hike!

I haven't used this backpack or been backpacking for years.  Probably 15 years.  And you know what?  I did it!  I carried everything I needed for an overnight camping trip on my back.  Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, stove and fuel, cook kit, water filter, everything.  And Anne carried all her stuff.

I'm quite proud of us.

We hiked in to Crawfish Lake, in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest near where we went on our last big hike.  It was only 1.3 miles in from the southern trailhead, but it was mainly uphill to get to the lake.  It took us an hour to hike it.

It was worth it.  It's a lovely spot.

view from the campsite

The new tent (shown here before I put on the rainfly) snuggled into the edge of the woods perfectly.  Set up was easy and quick, and I like how much mesh there is on the top of the tent.  I got the two-person model rather than the one-person so that Emma and I will be able to use it together, and it felt cavernous with just me in it last night.  Tons of room for one person.

at home in the woods

Since yesterday was a work day for me, we didn't start hiking until fairly late.  We set up our tents and cooked dinner right away when we got to the lake.  There was a convenient log in front of the tents that served as a bench.


By the time we were done with dinner and a mug of hot tea (tea in the woods is the BEST), it was starting to get dark, so we hung our food from a bear line and settled down to watch the bats and stars come out.

sunset panorama

It was wonderful.  I headed to bed about 9:30, and slept great all the way until 6:30 this morning.  I love camping.

Forest path

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Last weekend, Emma and I went over to Portland. It was a Friday through Sunday just-for-fun trip to get out of La Grande, go to thrift stores, and find a good hike.

We did our shopping on Saturday morning/afternoon, and we even braved downtown Portland to go to Powell's Books.  I'm not a city person, so this was a Big Deal.  I've never been to Powell's, and holy cow, they have a lot of books! 

After escaping with what was left of my bank account, we also fled the city and went to do some geocaching.  Our target for the day was the Original Stash cache, at the site of the very first geocache that was ever placed.

original geocache

Got it!

On Sunday, we headed back to La Grande, stopping along the way in the Columbia Gorge to hike.  I picked the Horsetail Falls and Oneonta Gorge trails.  As, apparently, did everyone else in the greater Portland metro area.  I guess that's to be expected on a sunny summer Sunday.  I've been spoiled by living on the east side of the state, which is much less populated.

We started off at Horsetail Falls:

Horsetail Falls

and then hiked upstream to just before Ponytail Falls, where a side trail split off and went up, up, up to the top of the mountain and an amazing view of the Columbia River Gorge.

This is looking east, upstream along the Columbia River.  Oregon is the near side of the river and Washington is the far side.  The visible highway is the Historic Columbia River Highway, and I-84 is in the line of trees next to the river.

tip top

We didn't find the geocache at the top of the mountain, which was frustrating because it was a steep and hard hike, but the view was worth it and Emma was a trooper on the difficult trail.

On the way back down, she said "Mom, I just love the magical green glowing light when the sun shines through the trees.  It looks like it can bring worn-out things back to life."

I couldn't agree more.

green glow

After we got back to the main trail, we continued up and around Ponytail Falls.  The cave behind the falls was fun.

Ponytail Falls

Then a couple more miles winding through the woods to Middle Oneonta Falls, across the footbridge, and back along the trail to the road and our car.

Oneonta Falls

Other than the swarms of people, it was a great hike.  I'd like to go back when it's not so crowded.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Have you ever seen a freshwater mussel?  Back in North Carolina, oh so many years ago, I did my Master's thesis project on mussels and did surveys for them during a couple later jobs.  Freshwater mussels are very cool and I'm always on the lookout for them when I'm in a river or lake.

Last week I spent a day with various agency folks at a mussel workshop here in the Grande Ronde River in La Grande.  It was really great to hang out with mussel folks again.

We suited up in drysuits and spent a couple hours snorkeling in the river, seeing what we could see.  It was great.  We saw tons of Western pearlshells, Margaritifera falcata.

Westerm pearlmussel (Margaritifera falcata)

It's one thing to go to the river and walk along the bank.  Finding shells on shore is fun, even swimming in the river and finding live mussels is cool.  But to put on a mask and actually see the river system from below the surface is like nothing else.  You slide into a different world, where the fish are darting around in their three-dimensional space, the mussels are open and siphoning, the caddisfly larvae and snails are crawling around on the rocks, and a garter snake startles you as it weaves through the boulders as it crosses the river.  It's an entirely different perspective.

One of the most fun parts was that I recently got a waterproof case for my iPhone (a Lifeproof Fre case).  Yes, that picture up there was taken with an iPhone, underwater!

It was an act of faith, dunking my phone in the water that first time when I tested the case at home.  I had tried the case without the phone first and knew it was waterproof, but still...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I am behind in posting the posts I wanted to post, because apparently when I get home from work, all I can handle is sitting down in My Comfy Chair and watching Netflix, putting my brain in neutral, and/or falling asleep for an hour at 7pm, after which I find it impossible to get to sleep for real until 2am.  Then I wake up tired, drag through the day, and repeat.

Anyway, fun stuff has happened.  Two weekends ago, my geocaching buddy Anne and I went for a walk in the mountains. We did a loop around the Anthony Lake basin, in the Elkhorn Mountains of the Wallowa Whitman National Forest, about 25 miles south of where I live. 

We started out on the Elkhorn Crest Trail, passing Lilypad Lake (Gunsight Butte in the background).


What a great day for a hike!

great day for a hike

One of the geocaches was at the tippity top of a peak above Angell Pass.  It was quite a climb up from the trail: a roughly 400-foot vertical gain in a 600-foot horizontal distance.  Very nearly straight up!

The view from the top was spectacular. This is looking northeast, back the way we came.  On the left side of this picture you can see pointy Gunsight Butte (we started hiking on the other side of this peak) and Van Patten Peak on the right.

amazing view

This is looking west, off the other side of the peak where the geocache was, toward Crawfish Meadow.

at the top

And this is looking south off the geocache peak, toward Dutch Flat Saddle.  Quite a drop off!

at the top

This is why I love geocaching.  I'm quite sure I would never have attempted the climb up that impossibly steep slope to get to this spot on my own.  Geocaching brought me here.

After we scrambled back down to the trail, we continued over Angell Pass, across Dutch Flat Saddle, and turned off on to the Crawfish Lake Trail.

This picture is looking east from the Crawfish Lake Trail toward Crawfish Meadow.  The very pointy peak at the far end of the ridge on the right is Lakes Lookout Peak.  Our trail curved over the far flank of this mountain before descending back into the Anthony Lakes Basin.

view of Crawfish Meadow

It was a splendid time to be on the trail in eastern Oregon.

Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers

Asters and other pretty wildflowers

This is a fritillary of some sort, just hangin' out on the sagebrush.  There are several species of Speyeria that are confusingly similar.

A fritillary butterfly (Speyeria sp.)

Once we got around the Lakes Lookout Peak, we dropped down to the Hoffer Lake Trail within the larger Anthony Lake Basin.  The ridge of peaks in this picture is the one that we just walked along the other side of.

meadow above Hoffer Lake

Hoffer Lake was picture-perfect, but we didn't pause too long.  There was a thunderstorm brewing, and we wanted to get off the mountain and out of the trees.

Hoffer Lake

The trail was a bit more than 9 miles, including our side trips to a couple geocaches.  What a great day.