Field Trips – Mixed Greens Blog Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 17 Nov 2016 02:01:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 With a Cooler & a Coleman Stove Thu, 04 Jun 2015 15:41:59 +0000 Cooking and eating outdoors.

I just returned from a hiking-biking-camping trip to southeastern Utah – yes, the SUN still shines somewhere – so camp cooking came up during our meeting. I like to eat as well as possible no matter where I am so I’m motivated to arrange for a decent meal even via a cooler and an ancient Coleman stove. In a recent conversation, Poppy and I wondered about experimenting with similar meals when we camp out this summer on her Orcas Island property, I in my tent, she in her tiny cabin. Not there to mess around, but to work and plan. Seriously. No, seriously. No messing around.

Camping, picnicking, road tripping . . . what’s the food that’s good and makes sense? And let me be clear, this was a car camping trip. Back packing meals are another story.

(This is a repost from several years ago. On the cusp of another summer, seems like a good time to revisit the culinary side of this Utah camping trip. In whichever ways you celebrate summer, eat outdoors whenever you can. The porch steps will do.)

Here are a few ideas that worked for us in Utah. We hiked and biked all day long, poked into every nook and cranny, I swear, sunscreen and tank tops, a lot of sweat and wiped out in a good way at the end of the day. A tasty meal was important, but putting a lot of time and effort into making it wasn’t. Most meals were made in one pan, cast iron with a lid that could be used when we needed it. The thing is that we stocked up and planned in advance for five dinners for two – increase quantities for more people but the ease of preparation still fits – so we didn’t have to wonder what we were eating each night. There was a plan. Leftovers expanded those five meals to seven and we ate out two nights.

Dessert. Every single night we had a few bites of the rhubarb sauce made and frozen before leaving home, sometimes with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a cookie. Also, the need for s’mores never dies, there might be a campfire, so pack accordingly.

In addition to the basics, here are a few things that were indispensable: our Coleman stove, a beloved hand-me-down; a cast iron skillet with a lid (in our case the lid was a metal plate that fit); a thermos for making coffee; a good quality large cooler with room for 2 quarts of yogurt, 2 small Greek yogurts, a cube of butter, mayo, mustard, milk, half & half, Parmesan cheese, 2 quarts of frozen rhubarb from home, washed lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cilantro (rinsed, wrapped in a paper towel and a wax paper bag), salad dressing, sour cream, Gorgonzola cheese, one frozen chicken breast, one package frozen Italian sausage, a dozen eggs plus a half dozen hard boiled. We normally don’t eat so many eggs, but this was the perfect week for it. Mid-week we resupplied salad greens, avocado, a red pepper, milk and juice. Before heading out I washed and packaged all produce.

A large plastic storage bin was a great camping pantry for staples like granola, onions, potatoes, ground coffee, a package of pre-cooked brown rice (which I’d never heard of before, from PCC market), a packet of Tika Marsala sauce also from PCC, 1 cup green lentils and 1 cup of rice packaged together at home (they both take 25 – 30 minutes to cook so they can be cooked together); cookies, chocolate, a loaf of Dave’s bread which, astonishingly, was good for the entire week; tortillas, tuna fish, salsa and chips, a tiny container of Italian herbs from home. A couple of bottles of wine and some beer, sent to the cooler a bottle or two at a time as there was room.

Some meals required a little chopping. Other than that it was cook and assemble in thirty minutes, often less. Each of the meals mentioned below were cooked in one pan, almost always the cast iron skillet. And with camp food, people are more easily satisfied – it doesn’t have to be an exquisite culinary home run every night, though you might come close.

Several camp meals worth considering (also great in the backyard):

Chicken Tika Marsala with pre-cooked brown rice. Never had tried pre-cooked rice before or a packaged tika marsala sauce, never thought I would, but for camping it was perfect. Leftovers the next night wrapped in tortillas with sour cream, avocado and cilantro.

Directions were on the Marsala packet. I sauteed onion, red pepper and bite-sized pieces of chicken for a few minutes, then added the packet of marsala sauce and some water. Put a lid on, let it simmer for 20 minutes stirred it occasionally. Then a bit of cream, reheat slightly and spoon over the brown rice. It was fabulous. The leftovers in the tortilla wraps were equally delicious.

This one was a long shot, we virtually never buy packets of ‘flavor’, but this was the deal for a fast meal. And . . . a person could easily discover the key flavors in tika marsala, package it in a jar or a zip lock, probably dried herbs, and save yourself from the processed packet. Even better.

Italian sausage ragu with cheese ravioli. Leftovers for lunch. This was done in one pan, an experiment that worked.

Ingredients and directions: Saute’ whole sausage in olive oil, add chopped onion and red pepper on the side, cook it all together for 7 – 10 minutes. Remove sausage, slice into bite-sized pieces and put it back in the pan. Add a jar of tomatoes or a marinara sauce. I used Cucina Fresca’s smoked tomato sauce. Bring it all to a simmer, adding a bit of water as needed. Add fresh raviolis, again Cucina Fresca’s (a fine local business) to the pan, stir to cover with the sauce. Put a lid on this or not. Fresh ravioli, not dried, will cook in the simmering sauce in about 5 minutes. Dish it onto the plate and enjoy. Breadsticks are a fine accompaniment.

A big green salad with hard-boiled eggs, tuna, asparagus, avocado a delicious dressing . . . and bread sticks.

Angel hair pasta with plenty of cheese. One night it got late and meal plans went south.

Directions: Unintentionally, we concocted a whirlwind, but delicious Mac & Cheese. Cook a big handful of angel hair pasta (enough for two in our case) 4 minutes give or take, drain all but about 1/3 cup of pasta water; add half & half (1/4 – 1/3 C or so), salt & pepper and reheat very gently and briefly. If you have herbs and spices on hand, add a pinch of chipotle pepper. Off heat add grated Parmesan, any cheesy leftovers, like a piece of Gorgonzola or some grated cheddar, whatever’s on hand. Stir it thoroughly, add more cheese, more liquid? Maybe reheat. Whadyaknow, Mac ‘n cheese. Don’t all culinary roads lead in that direction? Carrots on the side, late in the day, sun setting, we’re dead tired. Perfection. One pan, two plates, two forks, two wine glasses.

One note. This would have been even better with another pasta, but cooking time would increase dramatically.

Clam Pasta. Almost the same as above, but with some onion, herbs and clams.

clam pasta

Directions: Two pans needed, one the boiling water for angel hair pasta (which will cook in under 5 minutes), and a pan for everything else. Chop and saute’ half of a medium sized onion, 2 cloves of garlic until they’re soft, (and a small can of drained pimentos are a colorful addition if you have them). Add a tablespoon of Italian seasonings or just some oregano. Stir. Add the juice of two cans of canned clams (a splash of white wine if you have it) and simmer/reduce for 3 or 4 minutes. While the angel hair pasta cooks, add clams to the simmering sauce, cook for just a couple of minutes. Serve with a little grated parmesan and a glass of that white wine.

Basic frittata with 5 eggs, potatoes, onions, cheese and a few bits of Italian sausage from a previous meal.

Ingredients & Directions: Finely chop 1/2 onion and 2 potatoes/ Add 2 T butter and 1 T olive oil to skillet/ Add onion and potato to piping hot skillet/ Turn the heat down a bit, saute’ and stir until potatoes are tender, 10 – 15 minutes/ This would be the time to add other ingredients as you wish, like broccoli, fresh herbs, mushrooms/ When potatoes are tender, stir in the mixture of 5 beaten eggs and 1/4 C milk or cream/ Salt & pepper/ Stir constantly until eggs are done enough and not overcooked – the key to a frittata, any egg for that matter, is to not overcook it/ Each serving can be embellished with sour cream, avocado, a grating of cheese. Whatever. It’s a good meal.

Spanish Omelet from a previous post would be good camp fare.

Steamed eggs with spinach and breadcrumbs. A few gratings of parm, a small packet of bread crumbs brought from home and sprinkled over the eggs and spinach before serving provided a salty and buttery crunch, the kicker for these ordinary ingredients. For breakfast or dinner, so good. Again, one pan, one lid.

Ingredients & directions for two servings: Saute’ 5 – 6 C uncooked spinach and 1 finely minced clove of garlic in plenty of olive oil/ Stirring often, lid on or off, this will take 4 – 5 minutes/ Remove spinach to plates, wipe pan and add 1 T butter/ When butter is sizzling crack and gently add 4 eggs to the pan/ Salt & pepper/ Add a smidge of water to the skillet, put a lid on, turn heat down a bit and allow to steam for 3 or 4 minutes or until they are done to your liking/ Place eggs on servings of spinach, sprinkle with herbed bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese and have at it. If you have leftover cooked potatoes use them too.

The meal that didn’t happen. One of our favorites, but it turned out we didn’t need it. Lentils & rice with caramelized onions and yogurt/sour cream. This one requires two pans. Cook the rice and lentils together, 1 C rice, 1/2 C lentils in 3 – 3 1/2 cups of seasoned water or broth for 25 – 30 minutes. Add more water if it becomes too dry. While that’s happening slice one or two onions and saute’ with olive oil and butter until tender and golden. When all is done cover the rice and beans with a big scoop of onions and yogurt or sour cream. A universal combination, great for camping.

So, we didn’t starve. We returned home with a nearly empty cooler and pantry, bought a little fresh produce in Moab, enjoyed good food and didn’t spend much time at all preparing it. Dinner out a couple of nights helped.

And no kids along, which is a different story, but these meals would serve. Increase quantities, same meals but use two burners and two skillets. The kids’ help could be a significant contribution if they’re not too distracted by creating hideouts, stone building or squirrel sighting. With two of us making the meal there were moments of down time when either of us could have been on kid duty. It helps to give kids of any age the same task at each meal to be in charge of, they become the master of something like setting up chairs, creating a seating arrangement, setting the table, organizing and serving a simple dessert, keeping the pantry neatly packed after each meal, chopping and cleaning up when appropriate. In an ideal world.

We ate well. The tent thing, sleeping well? Somebody help me with that.

And Poppy, you ready to hit the road again this summer, cook outdoors, mix a cocktail, make plans?

Desert in bloom, sunshine, distant storms, mountain biking, hikes and meals outdoors were all part of our May trip to southeastern Utah. The landscape is otherworldly beautiful and the warm sunshine a respite for webbed feet and brain.

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Botanical Alchemy with India Flint Mon, 30 Sep 2013 00:00:05 +0000 Naturally Dyed Fabric Samples

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking an awe-inspiring natural dye workshop with Australian textile artist, India Flint who describes herself as a “maker of marks, forest wanderer & tumbleweed, stargazer & stitcher, botanical alchemist & string twiner, working traveler, dreamer, writer.” That description alone was all the encouragement I needed to sign up and keep my fingers crossed that I would make it to the top of a long waiting list.

India has combined a deep respect for the environment with her unique art form. Every step of her dye process from start to finish is ecologically sustainable. This is no easy task considering the textile dyeing industry is considered among the worst polluters and water wasters. If you’d like to know more about her work and process, I can highly recommend her book, Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles.

Patsy's Garden Shed

I’d like to tell you about the major points India made throughout the three day workshop but first I wanted to show you the perfectly gorgeous location on Lopez Island. In my mind, it’s inseparable from the whole experience. Our instruction took place in and around this lovely building referred to as “Patsy’s garden shed” but to me it immediately became “Poppy’s dream studio.”  As a matter of fact, put a woodstove in and I could practically live here.

Patsy's Garden    Patsy's Garden Shed

The only reason I can think of to call it a garden shed is that it’s right in the center of the most amazing garden. Here you can see the group of 12 of us happily working around several long tables surrounded by every fall blossom you can imagine right outside the door. The garden, as well as the forest surrounding, provided much of the plant material we used for dyes.

India Flint's Principles

India gave us lots to ponder including her guidelines, the first of which was “know your plants.” She talked to us about the value of learning about the native plants from your area and which ones can safely be used for dyes. Windfall is far preferable to harvesting plants for many reasons. She obviously doesn’t want you out stripping leaves off plants in the arboretum. Surprisingly, plants that have turned colors (even brown!) and fallen can produce a better dye and impression than green ones can. Our native salal has such a tough umbrella-like upper surface that we had to “rough it up” with stones, sandpaper or wood to penetrate the surface and release the dye.

Salal leaves for dyeing

Every part of the Madrona tree ended up in a dye bath — leaves, fallen bark and berries. If you don’t happen to live near the forest, there are lists of noxious weeds in your county that are threatening to crowd out native plants. In the San Juan Islands, two of these — scotch broom and tansy ragwort have been used successfully as natural dyes. It’s almost your civil duty to pull out these plants wherever you see them and throw them into a dye pot.

Madrona Bark Dye Bath

Plant material is wrapped into natural fiber fabric and tied with string into bundles. Some are wrapped around stones, pieces of rusted metal or copper pipe. India reminded us that even though we’re not using nasty chemicals, go to the thrift store and buy some dedicated dye pots — if you’ve stopped cooking with aluminum, you may already have what you need.  If the odor given off by a plant smells toxic, trust your nose and don’t use that plant.

Madrona Dyed Fabric Bundles    India Flint's Hands over Dye Pot

“Time is your friend” means that the longer you let the fabric sit in the pot, the more interesting the dye and impression will be. Taking time to let the magic occur is a great lesson for all of us impatient types. The most exciting part of the workshop for me was unwrapping my bundles and hanging them on the line with all the rest, each one so unique and beautiful in it’s own way. (The string gets dyed too so be sure to save it for stitching or wrapping gifts).

India Flint    Natural Dyed Fabric Samples

Naturally Dyed Fabric Samples    India Flint Teaching

Speaking of impatience, somehow I got so excited about the forest wandering, etc. that I completely read over the hand-stitching part of the course description.  When I realized I was in a group of women, many of whom hand-stitch for fun, I was immediately filled with performance anxiety. Luckily India made the time go by quickly telling us her family stories and jokes while we stitched. My rustic running stitch became more natural as it fell into the rhythm of her voice and those chatting around me.

Plant dyed fabic squares

From what I’ve read on Facebook and in her blog, I think the Lopezians may have won India over and hopefully she’ll return again soon. Personally, I’d love to go back and do it all over again.





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A Beloved Brownie Lives On Mon, 08 Oct 2012 08:37:06 +0000 We visited Desolation Sound again last week and among the many pleasures of the early fall vacation there was remembering my mother and father-in-law, their connection with this place, and how they brought us to it. Perfect weather, kayaking, picnics, hot tubbing, family lore, sleep, reading, good food. There’s no running to the grocery store, this place is accessible only by boat, so you bring in every sprinkle of what you need, though herbs in the garden there were lovely. We packed the bittersweet squares of chocolate for making Bert’s brownies, a Desolation Sound ritual.

This repost from September 28, 2009 tells the story, presidential debate notwithstanding this time around – which we streamed online via wifi that was barely accessible on the cove below the cabin. With all due respect to presidential debates, the sunset and emerging stars that evening stole the show.

Follow me and I’ll take you to Bert’s Brownies – it might be a circuitous route. Roberta’s hugs were never obligatory or cavalier. She would take hold of you, look you in the eye with a smile and go in for the real deal, a long lasting embrace including whispered words of affection. For that moment you were the world to her. And that’s how I held our Desolation Sound vacation last week. I opened up my arms, grabbed hold and savored a long repose that went on for seven days and nights.



desolation-sound-color-white-1 desolation-sound-earth-colors-6



There was intention to this trip. We love the place, have sailed here many summers, and wanted to return on our own behalf, and we had Roberta’s ashes with us, my mother-in-law, to place in a tool shed on the dock with others of her generation. Her dearest friends, including Ben, her husband. They had all loved the place together every summer for twenty-odd years. So the week was filled with our own exploration and adventure while we reminisced about her – that she and Ben first brought us to this place, that friends made there are like family now, that she, among a few others, led us to loving the wild B.C. coast, sailing, skinny dipping, conversation and good food.

desolation-sound-earth-colors-8 mink-is-1desolation-sound-earth-colors-13


Which brings us to the brownies. Her vacation menus were thoughtfully planned in advance of each month-long trip, lovingly prepared with a cocktail hour and something for dessert. Salad, while usually delicious, would sometimes include a few lettuce leaves past their prime – she hated throwing those only half rotten bits away. But, if you were lucky she’d have made a batch of brownies. Bert’s Brownies.

So, while we were there we forced ourselves – it was rough, but somebody had to do it – to also be thoughtful about skinny-dipping, bird watching, conversation, the cocktail hour, appetizers, homemade bread, cinnamon toast in the morning (another ode to Bert), dessert, and especially her brownies. Two batches made last week for after dinner and a bite with coffee in the mornings. It was a long hug in her honor, our week in Desolation Sound.

Bert’s Brownies Recipe

1/2 C butter

3 squares unsweetened chocolate

4 eggs

2 C sugar

1 C flour

1/2 t salt

1 t baking powder

1 t vanilla

This can easily be mixed by hand. Slowly melt butter and chocolate together in a saucepan, stirring occasionally/ Allow to cool a few minutes/ Beat eggs and sugar until well blended/Add vanilla/ While stirring, slowly add chocolate and mix thoroughly/ Stir in dry ingredients/ Add 1/2 C or more of chopped nuts if desired/ A 13″ x 9″ x 2″ pan is ideal, but anything close to that will work. I used a larger pan while on vacation and the brownies were a little flatter than usual, but fine/ Butter and lightly flour pan, bake in a 350º oven for 25 – 30 minutes.


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Headin’ Home from Montana Sat, 17 Jul 2010 14:35:02 +0000 We’ve just completed a 3-day intensive photo workshop on a GORGEOUS farm just outside Hamilton, MT. When they say Big Sky, it’s the truth. Free-spirited, fun, talented, organized – yeah, all that – Australian photographer Barb Uil, JinkyArt, inspired participants with her own take on photographing children while nudging us toward developing our own style.

Heading home now, the road’s still beautiful, we’re still happy companions but looking forward to sleeping in our own beds. And then there’s the catching up with stuff back home.

A few more snapshots from the road, Idaho and Montana.

Back Road Big Sky

Country road outside Hamilton, MT, site of our workshop.

Clearwater River

Clearwater River (Hwy 12) lunch stop and foot spa.

Lunchtime at the river

Downtown Missoula, MT

Downtown Missoula at sunset and dinner at Pearl Cafe & Bakery (good!), also my mother’s middle name so it was a must.

Red's Bar, Missoula MT Cafe sign

Missoula Club

Lowell, ID

This sign speaks for itself.

Diner countertop

BLT’s from Ryan’s Wilderness Inn (Lowell, ID) made a fine picnic lunch on the Clearwater River.

Little cowgirl

Bicycle on Country Road

A couple of the many kids we met and photographed this week, each doing their own thing.

On the Road, the Palouse to the Snake Wed, 14 Jul 2010 16:17:46 +0000 We’re having a great time, wish you were here. Yesterday we drove sporadically, due to the call of irresistible landscape, from Walla Walla, through Colfax and Pullman, to Lewiston, ID and on to Orofino where we spent the night serenaded by the Clearwater River just outside.

On the road, the Palouse, WA

Stopping for another quick pic.

Grape vines

Over 160 vineyards in the Walla Walla neighborhood. This is one not far from town.

Young grapes on the vine


Barn in Palouse

Grain silos punctuate Palouse wheat fields.

Wheat fields, Palouse, WA

The road to Lewiston, ID, early evening.

Next stop Hamilton, MT and an intensive photo workshop. Now things get serious.

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MixedGreens Road Trip Day 1 Tue, 13 Jul 2010 17:22:32 +0000

We spent yesterday traveling through the state from Seattle to the Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and finally dinner in Waitsburg, WA. Winery stops, picnic lunch and stunning scenery along the way. Cool drinks at hand and a fine cocktail at day’s end. Couldn’t have been sweeter.

View at Kiona Vineyard

Sagelands near Ellensburg, WA.

corn field

Cornfields now on what was once Sally’s family land. Through cornstalks, Mt. Adams in the distance.

Hops Fields

Hops outside Toppenish, WA. That cold brew you keep in the fridge . . . hops are involved.

wheat field

Wheat fields on the road from Walla Walla to Waitsburg, WA. 6:30 in the evening, beauteous land and light beginning to soften.

wheat field up close

grain silo

Flashy grain silo and an old barn across the road from each other.


On the way to Waitsburg

On a side road exploration we found this gorgeous meadow with its tiny cabin.

jimgermanbar Waitsburg

JimGermanBar in Waitsburg, WA. At the end of our first day, so worth the wait.

Jim German Bar

Through more Palouse country, Pullman and then on towards Montana today.

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PC Fast Food @ Burgerville Sun, 13 Jun 2010 08:00:00 +0000 The concepts of political correctness and a cheeseboiga don’t seem compatible. Oxymoronish maybe. But then there’s Burgerville, a fast food joint with sustainability at its heart. Go figure. And there are quite a few to choose from along the I-5 corridor from soutwestern Washington through central/southern Oregon.a mix - - - Oct- 08 43

A quote from Burgerville’s website: “When you choose Burgerville, satisfying your craving isn’t the only good thing that happens. You’re also contributing to the health of the region by supporting the use of fresh ingredients, local ranchers and farmers and sustainable business practices.”

a mix - - - Oct- 08 40

If you’re traveling the I-5 corridor between Centralia, Washington and Albany, Oregon (also east on I-84) you can treat yourself to fast food that’s appropriately decadent, delicious and prepared with the environment and your body’s health in mind.

On trips to and from Oregon we, and everybody in our extended family, now eat I-5 on-the-road meals at Burgerville: cheeseburgers, sweet potato fries and espresso-mocha shakes. Food’s good and the setting fits the image of an efficient, tidy FF joint with competitive prices, fast service, and play areas for kids. The comparison with other fast food restaurants ends there.

Signs outside and inside proclaim Burgerville’s intention; straws, cups, utensils are biodegradable; meat and produce are purchased locally; fries are cooked in trans fat free canola oil; attendants whisk away trash and separate carefully for composting and recycling; tent cards on tables describe what’s on the menu that’s seasonal.

a mix - - - Oct- 08 44

Local/seasonal fast food is unique, but there are more and more sustainably-oriented restaurants around. We posted a piece about Elliot Bay Brew Pub and their attention to sustainable practices in their two bustling restaurants (check out their website); and more recently Mashiko’s Sushi Bar/Restaurant. If fast food, pubs and sushi restaurants can do it maybe others will follow. In the meantime, the small action we consumers can take is to spend our money there. Once in a while.

]]> 3 Travel bug bites, volcanic ash stings, we hit the road Mon, 24 May 2010 01:11:36 +0000 Volcanoes blow, plans change, an officious French Air France agent, Marie, pulled strings and somehow we got to Italy and back as planned, with Paris for a few days at the end. You return reflecting about it all, knowing that travel is not an especially sustainable act, and you want to feel that it means something. It’s expensive and thrilling, sometimes uncomfortable. But we’re human and there’s a timeless urge to know what’s around the bend, for seeing and meeting fellow humans who are on the planet with us at this moment in time – like this munchkin soccer player on the piazza in Montepulciano who’d been kicking the ball with his papa and decided to take a little break.

Our usual travels tend to be more of rivers, mountains and seashore. A sailboat, kayaks, bikes and boots. But life moves on, sailboat’s gone, and a husband who had never been to Europe had the urge and I was more than ready to return. A trip back to Italy and France after many years sounded fine, and it was our 23rd wedding anniversary. Plus, my new lens was burning for some photographic action.

little soccer player

Cafe' table with flower

Shutters on a Siennese wall, IT

Home just a few days, I’ve been dreaming of our trip all week long: mazes, narrow streets, arches, mosaics, the stone and gold – they’ve come together as impressions in my sleep, a jumble of the countryside, hill towns, museums and cities. Dizzying, absolutely incredible and at the same time too much. The arrangement of pictures here reflects that, Italy all mixed up with Paris and visa versa.

cafe' table and bicycle, Paris

street bikes, Paris Sidewalk with bikes, Paris

Statues on the lawn, the Louvre

The Seine River at dusk, Paris.

Profoundly different than my four months in Europe thirty years ago. Well, O.K., I’m older. Hordes more people, my sensibilities have matured and now there’s the euro. Language barriers subdue travelers’ bluster. I felt less than myself at times, not quite whole in the face of trying to communicate, which was to not communicate, in another language. The beauty was that I tried and so did they, both Italians and the French (though yes, they were a little less forthcoming in that regard) and we found our way to each other with moments of comprehension, humor and warmth; and with that I felt compassion for immigrants who lose themselves to language for a few months, or years or a lifetime. Language holds our character, our sense of humor, sense of self . . . all of it. It was humbling to lose that edge, even for a small time.

Tuscan sunset

Vegetables, Venice, IT A Tuscan Lunch

The food. One big burp might suffice – that’s considered polite recommendation in some cultures. I ate pasta every single day for three weeks, every dish of it fabulous; along with a bunch of whatever local wine was there; fresh-squeezed blood orange juice nearly every morning, which we often prepared ourselves along with espresso and a croissant or biscotti; cheese and bread for breakfast, num;  locally ripened asparagus, artichokes, tomatoes, locally produced proscuitto, pecorino, parmesan . . . chocolate mousse in Paris that almost killed me. Enough already. I’ve come home with the urge to make crepes – anybody out there know how? – which were made on the street in both Italy and France; to make Montepulciano’s handmade pasta, Pici; and a big bowl of the killer chocolate mousse.  I’ll keep you posted.

Art everywhere in landscapes, architecture, people, museums, galleries, food. As a painter in training I swooned and Paris was almost too much. Serendipity is a sweet thing. Our nephew’s show at a gallery in Rome happened during our four days there. His work and that of his colleagues, followed by our celebratory meal together made our trip to hectic Rome worthwhile. As did the Caravaggio exhibit.

Hey, did you hear about the heist that just happened in Paris? Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, right out the window? I swear, in every museum we visited the art caper flicks went through my mind – even if we haven’t actually been to the Louvre, we’ve been there in a caper flick. With guards and glass and a rope literally surrounding the Mona Lisa at the Louvre you could hardly see it let alone fathom taking it away. But somebody pulled it off just a couple of days ago at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. It’ll be a movie.

Cortona, IT Sienna Cathedral

Clothes on the line, Venice, IT

Venetian window sill wooden artists mannequin in a shop window

Ancient loggia, Padua, IT

I snapped pictures from Venice to Rome to southern Tuscany, Florence and Paris. All mixed up here as one big happy photo family, which is what we are, or aspire to be.  an ice cream cone break

More travel pics in the gallery before long.

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Tame Some Nettles: Make Pesto Wed, 07 Apr 2010 20:07:06 +0000 Nettle Pesto

Last weekend on Orcas Island, just as I was settling in by the wood stove after a long hike for what I thought was cocktail hour, my brother suggested we all go out to gather some nettles for dinner. Couldn’t pass that up so it was back on with my boots, grabbed my camera and a double layer of latex gloves — my sister-in-law’s brilliant new discovery that makes nettle picking much easier and safer than relying on gardening gloves. I could pinch off the tender nettle tops between snapping photos without ever removing my gloves.

Nettles Nettles

Anyone who’s spent much time in the woods in the Northwest knows they aren’t called Stinging Nettles for nothing. Brush up against one with bare skin — which by the way, is hard to avoid when you’re walking along an abandoned road in shorts. You’ll feel it for anywhere from a couple of hours to several days. Where you find nettles, you can be sure the soil is very fertile and has been disturbed. The plants contain loads of nitrogen and are an excellent compost activator. They’re also very good for you to eat — rich in iron, calcium, protein, vitamins A & C and minerals. Simmered in vinegar, the leaves make an excellent hair tonic. You’ll find nettles listed as an ingredient in several natural shampoos.


Because of an early spring, the nettles we found were well on their way but there’s still time to eat the tender tops before the plants begin to flower and become bitter and tough. First step is to soak them in a big bowl of cold water. Using tongs, lightly submerge the leaves and leave for half an hour or so to clean and remove any little bugs brave enough to have made this prickly plant their place to hang out. The leaves can then be rinsed and put in a salad spinner to dry. Keep those tongs in your hand at all times and don’t pick up your cocktail until the nettles are safely in the steamer. Most recipes say to steam for a minute or so but I prefer at least 5 minutes. Cooking will remove the sting so you can do a taste test. I can feel a fuzzy sensation in my throat when they’re not completely cooked so I like to be on the safe side. Steamed, then topped with butter, salt & pepper is the most simple way to go and is perfectly delicious. The best description I can think of for the flavor is a cross between spinach and asparagus but there’s no way to do justice to how healthy I feel eating them.

Steamed Nettles

Don’t forget to save the liquid from the steamer. It makes an excellent, though admittedly intense tea or tonic. It could also be saved for soup stock or hair rinse as I mentioned above.

Nettle Tea

I made pesto from the large ziplock bagful of nettles I brought home from my weekend on Orcas. If you don’t have access to the wild ones yourself, you can buy them at the farmers market from the Found and Foraged folks, who by the way, have opened a new restaurant on Eastlake appropriately called Nettletown.

I used Langdon Cook, our favorite forager’s nettle pesto recipe as my inspiration. It turns out, nettle pesto is not only flavorful but mild enough for kids to enjoy. In some ways I like it as well as pesto made with basil. The next time I’ll make a bigger batch and freeze some in an ice cube tray to use later.

Pasta with Nettle Pesto

Nettle Pesto

2 cups stinging nettle leaves, steamed for 5 minutes (I used a large ziplock full and didn’t measure but this seems about right)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted — pine nuts are traditional but more expensive, hazelnuts are a good local choice

3-4 large garlic cloves

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except olive oil in food processor and pulse several times to finely chop. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream until completely incorporated.

Serve on your favorite pasta, crackers or bread or drop a spoonful on a steamy bowl of bean soup.

Bean Soup with Nettle Pesto

We’ve written about nettles on earlier posts — check out my recipe for creamed nettles or Sally’s nettle tea.

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Explore the International District Wed, 14 Oct 2009 19:48:15 +0000 internationaldistrict75 of 108 Sally’s latest post gave you a first taste of our desire to expand our understanding of what it means to live locally. Eating local foods is an important part of that but so is taking the time to explore and appreciate the place we call home. I wanted to give you a closer look at our stroll through the International District in case you might be inspired to try it on your own. Having a camera in hand, even if you don’t consider yourself a photographer, helps you take the time to slow down and look — really look at things you might normally walk right past. Having a friend along, while not essential, makes everything more compelling and a lot more fun.

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Where to park? Going east on Jackson, the parking is free for two hours right under the freeway where you’re surrounded by brightly painted red and yellow columns decorated with carp and dragonflies . From there we headed down Jackson meandering past curious little shops and intriguing doorways on side streets, letting our eyes lead the way.

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We took a peek into the Wing Luke Museum. Definitely a place I’d like to come back to and spend more time. It gives a much needed voice to Asian American art, culture and history.

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From there we passed through Hing Hay Park. “The park for pleasurable gatherings” is a Seattle city park in the heart of the district and is a popular meeting spot for families and friends.

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Winding our way down the streets, we took a brief look around Uwajimaya. I could spend hours here in the chili aisle alone. Unfortunately, we were asked not to take photographs but luckily I had already gotten a few.

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Fifth Ave. marks the western border between the International District and Pioneer Square. From there you can see the Chinatown gate and head back up Jackson.

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Turn left on 6th into what is known as Japantown and you’ll pass the Maneki Restaurant which serves authentic Japanese home-style food. They will reserve tatami rooms for 4-10 people but are open only in the evening. We weren’t able to see much from the street but I made a mental note for future birthday celebrations.

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Turn east on Main St. and you’re right at the historic Panama Hotel and Tea House. We enjoyed a delicious mug of lemongrass infusion tea and a sesame cookie while we spent time looking back over our photos ( and taking a few more).

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Across the street and up the hillside is the Danny Woo Community Garden. It has over 100 plots that are used primarily by the elderly low-income residents of the International District. Wandering through the garden you’ll see vegetables you don’t normally see at the average pea-patch. It has a decidedly Asian feel.

Places we love in the International District:

Wing Luke Museum

Hing Hay Park


Panama Hotel & Tea House

Danny Woo Community Garden

Then there’s always karaoke, bubble tea and dim sum………

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