Monday, January 24, 2011

Here I am, and here I'll stay.

I'm happy here.

I do have productive hours. I've spent many, actually, grading assignments and making sure that I know enough about soil fertility to answer any questions that arise from my students. I also took resumes to a couple of nurseries last week in the hopes that they'll start hiring to support the spring gardening rush. Sure, I spend a good portion of my day being less-than-productive and wishing I had something to keep me more occupied, but I deal with those hours and find things to occupy myself with.

For example, I've been going to the beach. Clam Beach is about 7.5 miles north of here, near McKinleyville. It's a short, rather pleasant drive on the 101, that drops you right along the Pacific for some great wave watching. The weather has been around sixty degrees during the day for about a week now, which may not seem warm considering I much prefer 75+, but when the sun is shining, it sure feels amazing. I took the opportunity to break out my new macro lens and try to master it.

As you can see, I haven't used it for many true macro shots yet. But it's a great lens, so I've been using it for everything!

It was incredibly sunny the first day I went to the beach, which is how I got the photo below. Sometimes good things do happen when you shoot straight into the sun.

Here, as in the first photo, you can see where someone rode a horse across the sand. So jealous.

And I've done a teeny tiny bit of cooking. Michael and I were going to make this Mushroom Barley Soup for a potluck last weekend, but ended up running out of time. Still having all the ingredients on hand, I decided to make it a few days later.

You start by boiling 1 cup of barley in in 4 cups of water, letting it cook until the barley is tender. While that's cooking away, chop and saute one onion with two minced cloves of garlic. I did this in the bottom of my big soup pot. Then add about two carrots, peeled and diced. After the carrots had a few minutes to soften up I added the mushrooms. It's supposed to be about 8 ounces, but I just used what I had left in the fridge.
And I got these great green prep bowls as a birthday present from my mom, and you bet I'm going to use them!

To the veggie mixture I added about 4 cups of broth (I think the recipe called for more). You then add the barley and give everything a few minutes for the flavors to cook together. Spices like thyme and bay leaves are also called for, but my kitchen is sorely lacking in spices right now. 

After the soup, which Michael and my roommate Mary both deemed was made better with the addition of hot sauce, I needed something a little sweet. I cut up a couple of apples, sprinkled some brown sugar over the top of them, and put them in the microwave until everything was hot and softened. Very quick, very tasty.

I feel like I should also mention the great amount of reading I've been doing--more than I can remember having the time for in years. On Friday morning I started reading Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen, and finished it Saturday morning. It just sucked me in! The fact that the plot revolves around a horse and the family farm is definitely what did it, and I thoroughly enjoyed that book!

On Sunday morning I unpacked a bit more and uncovered my Anne of Green Gables set. I've now started (and gotten more than half way through) the first book. The last time I read the series was in fifth grade--children's books, right? But no, it was written for readers of all ages, and this time around I have so much more appreciation for the beautiful language that L.M. Montgomery uses. Here are some of the quotes I've made note of so far:

Anne, on her way to Green Gables after being picked up at the train station, pointedly asks Matthew what color her hair is. When he responds "It's red, ain't it?" she launches into a sad reflection on having red hair. "Now you see why I can't be perfectly happy. Nobody could who had red hair." And a few sentences later, when she's talking of imagining away her flaws, but not being able to imagine her hair differently, "But all the time I know it is just plain red, and it breaks my heart. It will be my lifelong sorrow." It made me chuckle to myself, because when is red hair plain!?

We also learn about one of Anne's quirks--naming anything and everything--when Marilla asks with exasperation why Anne needed to name the geranium in the windowsill. Anne gives a great response of "How do you know but that it hurts a geranium's feelings just to be called a geranium and nothing else?" It's cute. I think this may be where I got the idea that everything needed a name. For awhile I gave my plants and cars names, though right now I don't have any plants, and my car remains unnamed!

And I just love the imagery. All of it. "Excitement hung around Anne like a garment, shone in her eyes, kindled in every feature. She had come dancing up the lane, like a wind-blown sprite, through the mellow sunshine and lazy shadows of the August evening."

In closing, here are a couple of photos from our trip to the beach on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Humboldt Weekend

This weekend was full of meeting new people and fun new adventures. On Saturday the sun was shining and it felt like summer outside, so we decided to make a trip to the mountains, where on a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean. We drove east from Arcata on the 299, turned onto a logging road, and drove until the road was blocked by snow. Everyone was excited to see the snow and we had a great time playing in it. Funny thing was, none of us were really expecting it to be there. I'm not sure how no one reached the conclusion that mountains=snow at this time of year, but let's just say we weren't all dressed accordingly. We made another trip up yesterday, much more prepared this time, and enjoyed what was left of the snow. It's so much easier to enjoy the snow when it's nearly fifty degrees outside instead of thirty!

The Trinity Alps

While I was looking online for jobs on Sunday I stumbled across a listing for a volunteer project working with native plants that afternoon. I decided it was probably good to get out and start doing things, so I donned my work jeans, boots, and fleeced, and headed out to the dunes. The project was with an organization called Friends of the Dunes, at the site they're building an interpretive center on. Our task for the afternoon was to dig up native plants from an area that is going to be greatly impacted during the final stages of construction this month, and relocate them to the newly-constructed parking lot. Most of what we took out was beach buckwheat and goldenrod. By the end of the afternoon the islands in the parking lot and the banks around it were looking very good, and hopefully our transplants will grow up and cover the area.

Lichen from our mountain trek

Yesterday evening Michael and his roommates hosted a potluck as kind of the final hurrah before classes started this morning. Just before the guests were supposed to arrive, the power went out. We were suddenly reminded of just how much we rely on electricity when food needed to be cooked but couldn't, and there wasn't a way to play any music. We ended up eating by candlelight the warm dishes that people brought over, and rounded out the evening listening to someone play guitar.  Luckiliy, the power didn't stay out all night and those who needed to were able to get online to check class schedules so they could get to where they needed to be this morning!

Guitar by candlelight

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hello California!

I have safely made it to Humboldt County! The drive was actually quite pleasant, and Michael and I were good about trading off every few hours so that neither of us got too bored or tired. We ended up leaving a day earlier than planned to avoid any weather complications from the snow the meterologists were forecasting for the Seattle area. As it turned out, the storm wasn't that bad, and we could have stayed, but it has been nice to have additional time to get settled in here.  Driving through Oregon was SO beautiful at times. We saw a lot of "lichen trees" as I started calling them--deciduous trees totally covered in lichen, so much so that they looked like evergreens from a distance. It was so cool. We also drove through a lot of Willamette farmland, which was pretty neat. There was one field that had a bunch of sheep and little tiny lambs in it! The final leg of the drive, along the 101 from Crescent City down to Arcata, was really pretty, too. There are some stunning views of the ocean, and much of the landscape was shrouded in fog. There is one area that is home to a large elk population (just north of Orick, I think), and one part of the herd was right at the edge of the roadway. We were sure to slow down to avoid any possible collisions--those are pretty big animals!

Yesterday Humboldt County welcomed me with its amazing weather--drizzle and rain all day long. There were some tentative plans to go camping that got called off because of this excessive precipitation, but it did give us plenty of time to run errands and grocery shop in Eureka. On our way to WinCo Michael took a wrong turn that routed us to the south end of Eureka (not quite where we were aiming for), but it was a great scenic detour to see some farms.

Today I went to campus to get things sorted out for the class that I will be the TA for. Lectures will be online from WSU, and lab will be in person here in Arcata. There have been a lot of difficulties getting the Humboldt students access into the WSU system, but hopefully we've gotten closer to solving those problems. Everyone I met today in my quest to fill out paperwork and get myself established was very excited to get this project up and running, though they all acknowledge that it's a very novel situation and may be quite difficult. But I'm prepared for that! I now have a copier code, and keys to my office, and lab scheduled for Tuesday afternoon!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vegetarian Pot Stickers!

Whenever I go out for Thai food, I have to order spring rolls. Wanting to avoid the amount of oil that is required for frying spring rolls, I decided to try and make pot stickers. All of my internet searches led me to one recipe from Alton Brown's show Good Eats. The recipe is courtesey of Ming Tsai.  Katie, one of my oldest friends, was excited to try the recipe with me, so we set up a day just before Christmas to do a little cooking together. It's definitely faster to stuff those gyoza wrappers when you have two people working on them instead of just one!

1 red onion sliced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup white cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup chopped garlic chives or chives
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 package gyoza wrappers

You start by sauteing the onions, ginger, and mushrooms. Then add the carrots and chives. When everything has softened up, cool the mixture before adding cilantro and sesame oil.

About 1 tablespoon of the veggie mix goes into each gyoza skin.

Dab some water on the edge of the skin, fold in half, and press sides together. The bottom should stay flat so that they'll stand up during cooking. At this point, the pot stickers can be cooked, or frozen on a cookie sheet and bagged when solid.

I just put a thin coating of oil on the bottom of a saute pan, and let the bottoms of the pot stickers get brown. Then add about 1/4 cup of water, and put a lit on the pot. Steam until done, and the bottoms are again crispy and sticking to the pan.

They were pretty good! I still have few frozen ones, and they're super easy to whip out of the freezer and steam up for a quick lunch! I still need to work on thinking about things as complete meals, because a little bit of added rice and veggies would make them stick with you longer. And I have to say, the ginger totally makes them. It is not a spice I am usually fond of, but without it, they would have been nothing.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy holiday season! Now that things are calming down I have a bit of time to write about my happy holidays. I've spent more time with my extended family in the past couple of weeks than I had in the last three years, and it has been nice! Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spent at my Grandma's house, and we've made a number of other trips down there, too.

Mom, Mel, and me on Christmas Eve.
All the holidays have come at once! Which sounds silly, I know, but along with Christmas and New Year's Eve, we just celebrated graduation and my birthday! And to top it all off, Michael arrived in Seattle at 10:45 on New Year's Eve, just in time to ring in 2011!
Graduation cake. :)

Birthday cake! This one's from Dairy Queen--best ice cream cakes around!
I've greatly augmented my cooking tools--a rice cooker and mandolin slicer for Christmas, beautiful saute pan, graduated mixing bowls, and new utensils for graduation, and bamboo tools and a cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, for my birthday! The only conundrum is how I'll fit it all into my car to move next week, but I'm sure I'll figure it out!

For dinner tonight we went to A Terrible Beauty, an Irish Pub in downtown Renton. The food was WONDERFUL! Both Mel and I ordered Death by Mac 'n Cheese, Mom had corned beef and cabbage, and Michael had a shepherd's pie.

This macaroni and cheese was incredibly rich. It was made with Dubliner, mozzarella, meunster, and parmesan cheeses, along with some garlic cream. It was fantastic.

Michael's shepherd's pie, which apparently contained a ton of meat in the bottom layer, along with the veggies.

and here we are, happy diners!
And, if I can get my act together, there will soon be posts about the vegetarian pot stickers my friend Katie and I made a couple of weeks ago, and my family's adventure to Poulsbo to document the farm records kept by my great-great grandfather.