Friday, May 29, 2009

Day Trip to Astoria

On Memorial Day we headed down to Astoria, OR to meet up with a couple friends, fellow Tucson-transplants Andy and Chiara. Nico was excited to make the pilgrimmage to the town where much of The Goonies was filmed. I was just happy to cross another thing off the to-see list and hang out in the sun with friends.

The first thing we did was head on over to Fort George Brewery for lunch and a couple beer samplers. We got to try each of the beers on tap and were most impressed by the Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale, the Nut Red Ale, and a seasonal brew, the Illuminator Doppelbock. Tasty beers, nice atmosphere, less tasty fish tacos. But I'd eat there again in a heartbeat.

Next we went up to the roof of the Hotel Elliott for one of the best views of the city. The Hotel Elliott is a renovated 1920's hotel and they keep their rooftop open to the public. Made me wish we'd driven to town the day before so we could've spent the night there. Here are some views:

After that we wandered around downtown for a while before walking over to the Captain George Flavel House Museum (with a quick stop in front of the Goonies-featured County Jail so Nico could take some pictures). The Flavel House was built in 1885 for one of the richest and most-respected families in coastal OR at the time. The grounds have been renovated and most of the house has been renovated as well. We took the tour and then relaxed for a while on a stone bench beneath one of the large old trees.

Then we drove out to one of the beaches closer to the mouth of the Columbia before heading over that rediculously long bridge to the WA side of the river, then on into Longview for some surprisingly good Thai food.

And no matter what you may hear, I really didn't get that sunburnt.

Mostly it was just a great day of exploring and catching up with friends. A little beer, a little sun, a little history. An adventure. The good kind.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Something Old (warning: soppy)

I've been giving some thought to buying myself a nice handmade hankie off etsy for the wedding. I have a soft-spot for quaint old-timey things and I figured if there was ever a time I could justify buying a lacy hankie, this might be it.

While I was browsing the myriad of handkerchiefs etsy has to offer I stumbled over a few that had been stitched into baby bonnets. Wait a minute, I thought. I HAVE one of those.

So I dug through my old trunk and I found my baptismal gown from when I was a wee one. And with it I found this strange little baby bonnet that I knew I had seen before, covered with lace and ribbons:

And with it there was a card with a hand-written poem. The hand-writing is, I believe, my mom's. Or possibly my grandma's. Neither of them are with us anymore. The poem itself was written by god knows who, as it is the same poem that accompanied the hankie-bonnets on etsy:

I'm just a little hankie
As square as square can be
But with a stitch or two
They make a bonnet out of me.
I'll be worn from the hospital
Or on the Christening Day
Then I'll be carefully pressed
And neatly put away.
Then on the Wedding Day
So, I've always been told
Every well dressed bride
Must have that something old.
So what would be more fitting
Then to find little old me,
With a few stitches snipped
A wedding hankie I will be.

When my mom packed this little bonnet away for me almost 29 years ago I'm sure she thought that someday, when the time came, she'd be the one to dig it back out for me. She didn't know that she wouldn't be around when that day came. She just tucked it away, a good wish for the future.

And now I'm the one who's remembered it and found it and snipped away the complicated little stitches. I have my wedding hankie, I have my Something Old, and I have the quiet little wishes my mom pressed and set aside for me all those years ago.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The arithmetic of the damned

8 hours of sleep + 2 hours of getting ready in the morning + 1 hour commuting + 8.5 hours of work + 1 hour commuting = 3.5 hours in which to have an actual life and fulfilling relationships each day.

Not enough time.

What's your damnable arithmetic?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Things that make me feel at home

1. Wearing flip-flops all weekend
2. Iced coffee
3. Breakfast taco
4. Having friends over for dinner
5. Cab Calloway songs
6. Whiskey drinks
7. Having breakfast outside
8. When the apartment is clean
9. Hot sauce
10. Growing chiles
11. Mexican candy
12. Squeezing limes over my food
13. Leisurely trips to the bookstore
14. Knitting
15. Target
16. Plant nurseries in the spring
17. Coffee shops
18. Hot sunny days
19. Singing in the car
20. Talking about college
21. Hearing my nieces and nephews
22. Recipes that involve rhubarb
23. My grandma's farm
24. Ceviche
25. Swimming pools
26. Cicada songs


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Garden In

I thought I would be smart this year and get my garden started early. Last summer my chiles never ripened, but I thought that was because I didn't plant them until late June. What I didn't understand is that, really, in Western WA spring is too cold and summer is too short for chiles. Or so I'm told. This year I've got 3 tomato plants, 3 chile plants, mint, basil, cilantro and hops. The hops haven't come up yet, but everything else is lookin' gardeny!

Sprouting basil and cilantro:

Mint for the mojitos (everybody needs a mojito garden):

I've got a lovely pequin chile plant that I'm hoping to overwinter in doors this year. I grew one of these from seed once in Tucson:

And finally I've got a thai chile, 3 tomato plants, and an Anaheim chile. Yeah:

They may not look like much now, but check out the Russian red kale my neighbor planted for me. That's shoulder-high:


So. How's your garden growing?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rhubarb Cobbler & Crazy Pie

Now that it's really and truly spring I've been feeling so rejuvenated. I feel happier and more energetic, more like my old self. And I have to admit that I've been having certain... cravings. Fruit cravings. I noticed that rhubarb was on sale at the grocery, and I still have some raspberries in the freezer from last summer so yesterday I made a raspberry-rhubarb cobbler.

It's my first cobbler but it turned out pretty good. Cobbler is, to me, sort of mythical and intimidating partly because I didn't really grow up eating it and partly because it requires making a dough. And that makes me think of pie dough, which is fussy and time consuming and sort of, well, formal. In the world of down-home baked goods nothing is more formal than a pie. But cobblers, oh! I am now a cobbler convert. Not only is the dough much faster and easier to make but it was also tastier. And the fruit part was simple too. All in all it took less than an hour. And it's F'ing delicious. Cobbler > Pie. And more fun to say.

I've managed to do a little gardening this week. I planted half my cilantro and basil seeds, and I planted the two Cascade hops rhizomes I ordered. Everything got lots of rain yesterday and it's all getting plenty of sun today, so that's a great start. When the night time temperatures get a little warmer I'll plant some chiles and tomatoes from the farmer's market. I can't wait. Anyone else gardening?

Now, the crazy pie. Yes, I've been partaking of the crazy pie recently. It helped me make this:

Yes, folks, that's a whole bunch of yarn that I spun and plied on a drop spindle. For those of you keeping track at home, drop spindles are ancient tools and they are slow. And that's a lotta yarn. But that's how I did it. And I've started spinning even more yarn on the drop spindle. More crazy pie? Yes, please.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mr. T Enchiladas

Why Mr. T Enchiladas? Well, we know that Mr. T is a paragon of wisdom and inspiration. He's tough but compassionate; kind to women and children but not afraid to pity a fool who deserves it. We could use more role models like Mr. T. And enchiladas are like Mr. T for the soul.

What we have here are two basic themes for Mr. T Enchiladas: with meat and without. You can make them exactly as the recipe states, or you can get a little creative and improvise. As Mr. T probably never said, I pity the fool who follows the rules all the time.

We'll start with the sauce, which is the same whether or not you're using meat.
You'll need:
3 cups water
6 oz. tomato paste
3 jalapeno peppers, minced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, minced (can be omitted if you're dealing with an onion allergy)
about a teaspoon each of: oregano, cumin, salt, chile powder of your choice
about a half cup of fresh chopped cilantro

What you'll do:
Place all of the sauce ingredients in a sauce pot and slowly bring to a boil, stirring as needed to achieve an even consistency. Once it comes to a boil reduce the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

The vegetarian enchiladas are called the Mr. T Stay In School Enchiladas. Why? Because a lot of us try vegetarianism for the first time when we're in college. Like staying in school, being a vegetarian can sometimes require a little encouragement and these enchiladas can do both.
You'll need:
burrito-size tortillas
shredded cheese
3 cans of black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 an onion, finely chopped (can be omitted for those pesky onion allergies)
salt and pepper to taste

What you'll do:
Combine the beans, tomato, onion, salt and pepper and about 1 cup of the cheese in a bowl and gently toss until evenly mixed. Wow, that was easy. You're ready to begin assembling your enchiladas!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a ladle, spoon enough enchilada sauce into a cake or lasagna pan to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Take a tortilla and spoon some of the bean mixture into it, then ladle some sauce over the filling, maybe about 3-4 tablespoons worth. Roll the tortilla up and place in the pan. Do this until your pan is full of filled enchiladas and you have no bean filling left over. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and finish with 3-4 handfuls of the shredded cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Pity some fools.

The non-vegetarian enchiladas are called the Mr. T Get a Mortgage Enchiladas. Like getting a mortgage, making them requires a little foresight and planning, but is well worth it in the end.
You'll need:
Burrito-size tortillas
shredded cheese
about 4 lbs. pork shoulder (I haven't tried it with beef yet, but I'm sure it works just the same)
2 teaspoons each of the following: kosher salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken or beef broth

What you'll do:
Wash the pork shoulder and pat it dry with paper towels. Combine all the spices except the bay leaves in a little bowl, then carefully rub the spice mixture onto the pork shoulder, coating it completely. Place the bay leaves and any leftover spices in the bottom of a crockpot, put the pork shoulder on top, then carefully add the broth, being sure not to rinse the spice mixture off of the meat. Cook on low setting for 5-7 hours, or all day. Halfway through use a pair of tongs to turn the meat.
Once the meat is cooked and tender transfer it to a platter and use a couple of forks to completely shred it. Use the cooking liquid to moisten the meat as necessary. If you're extra fancy you can also replace about a cup of the water in your sauce with a cup of the cooking liquid from the meat. You're ready to begin assembling your enchiladas!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a ladle, spoon enough enchilada sauce into a cake or lasagna pan to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Take a tortilla and spoon some of the shredded meat into it, then ladle some sauce over the filling, maybe about 3-4 tablespoons worth. Roll the tortilla up and place in the pan. Do this until your pan is full of filled enchiladas and you have no meat left over. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and finish with 3-4 handfuls of the shredded cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Pity some fools.