Thursday, September 16, 2010

African Basket Giveaway

A new blog covering Kitsap events, communities, and businesses, Kitsap Daily, is doing a giveaway featuring an African basket from my li'l store.  Check out their website for details.  The baskets are similar to this one, but come in a multitude of colors and patterns.  We are also now offering free shipping on orders over $100 throughout the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.

I don't want to use this blog much to promote my business (I will return to gardening and life in general soon and thus will actually have something to write about), but I just wanted to get this out there because I really like the Kitsap Daily and I think this is a pretty cool little contest.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Love My Town

After work The Husband and I swiftly trotted off to The Filling Station for food and beer, where we enjoyed a view of the Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier from the deck.  After such a dismal May and June it felt almost decadent to be all hot and sweaty.  We then took a walk around town and snapped these pictures.  I had forgotten how much I love little Kingston.  I just needed the sun to come out to remember.  Probably the frosty Stella helped too, but anyway, it really is a lovely and completely unpretentious place.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I've been working day and night the last few weeks starting up a new business, Tango Zulu Imports, selling handcrafted goods from (mostly) West Africa as well as Nepal & Tibet.  Between that and training for the marathon the garden is a little neglected, but it seems to be muddling through.  The chard and kale are pretty delighted with the cool spring we're having but I am despairing of ever getting my tomato seedlings out of my bathroom.

Anyway...I have leased a 147 year old house in Port Gamble, Washington, as my base of operations. Retail shop downstairs and internet operations upstairs.  I have always loved Port Gamble, which is a bit of an anomaly out here in the Pacific Northwest.  It's a true company town, built in the mid-19th century to house lumber workers (my place used to belong to the doctor and it had rooms for patients, so it's pretty big.)  The lumber company was from Maine, and the houses were built accordingly, in a northeast style you don't often see here.   A lovely place to go to work, and it's only 10 minutes from my house, AND backs up to the trails I like to run on.  It couldn't be better.  By the end of next week I expect to be open for business, both in the store and on the web, doing something I've always wanted to do.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

Here are a few signs from recent travels that amused me.  One is from China, where apparently I had no business being on the ropeway (tram).  The others are unusually morbid ones, by U.S. standards, from the Grand Canyon.  I especially liked the one of the guy puking. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quick Trip to the Desert

Drew and I spent a few days in Phoenix last week to watch some Mariners spring training and dry out after the wet Northwest winter.  Highlights of the first leg were the Desert Botanical Garden, our lovely Seattle Mariners, and of course, the warm and dry weather.  From there we drove north to Flagstaff and the glorious Grand Canyon, where there was still plenty of snow on the ground but clear and sunny skies.  I got all fired up about making plans to hike rim to rim through the canyon next year, but after getting home and researching it I was a little dismayed by all the gruesome ways hikers have died there.  Breaking a leg and then drowning in a flash flood!  Drinking tea brewed from poisonous flowers!  Heat stroke! Dehydration!  Hypothermia!  Lightning!  I would need a companion, (Drew already says hell no), and some experience with desert hiking.  Maybe it will be a 2011 adventure. For now, I'm just relaxed and happy after a week of sunshine, baseball, and gorgeous scenery.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Taking Inventory

It's a beautiful day in Kitsap County.  I wandered outside this morning and snapped these pictures of  pear blossoms and the anemones that are are inter-planted with the strawberries. The snow peas are up and looking strong.  The lettuce and spinach are just getting going, and the daikon radishes are growing briskly on the topside, but Lord knows what is going on underground.   Likewise with the garlic and shallots.  I still have three kale plants from last year, and the rhubarb is growing briskly.

The fruit trees all seem happy, and I have tons of flowers blooming throughout the property.  It really seems like spring now.

Inside the house, even the cat (Cloud Bai-Yun, who shares the house with us and his sister/lover Ginger Root Six Nipples), was gardening his little patch of oat grass this morning.  Cherry and regular tomatoes are sharing my master bath with fish peppers.  I've potted on the tomatoes so they are taking up a lot of space, but the peppers are still in their peat pots, growing slow as dirt.  The room has a lot of glass, which is odd for a bathroom, but it makes for a nice little greenhouse, especially with a space heater cranked up a couple of hours a day.  And yes, I have other bathrooms, so I'll still be showering over the next couple of months as the seedlings grow.  In case anyone was concerned.  In a cooler spot I have some broccoli and napa cabbage humming along, and I'm growing cilantro inside this year, hoping for better results than I've had with it outdoors.  So far, so good.

We still have some cleanup from a nasty windstorm that came through earlier this week, but generally I feel like things are in pretty good shape and that all is well here in Zhutopia.

Happy weekend to all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Must be Here?

We've had freezing temperatures, wind, rain, and a bit of snow this past week; but also some signs of spring.  My rhubarb plants are rearing their wrinkled heads, and of course the daffodils have been going for a few weeks, and the crocuses are mostly gone already. I keep early spring flowers in the rhubarb patch for a little color early in the year before the rhubarb wakes up.  By the time the rhubarb is full-sized the flowers will have died back, and the rhubarb leaves will cover the dead foliage.  It is all very clever of me.

I love rhubarb raw with salt, cooked in a crumble, stewed and served over vanilla ice-cream, and any number of other ways.  And bless it for being a perennial, not to mention high in fiber and vitamin K.

Flo's Boiled Cookies

My Granny used to make these cookies for the grandchildren all the time.  They're not much to look at, but are so...very...tasty.  I'm chomping one now, as my nephew Max would say.  Granny got the recipe from her neighbor Flo, and even when she passed a hand-written copy along to me she was careful to give Flo credit.

The beauty of this recipe is that you don't need to preheat an oven, dirty a bowl, or even use a cooling rack.  The ingredients are mixed in a pan, boiled on a stove, and dropped onto tin foil or wax paper.  They take about five minutes to make and ten minutes to cool.   If there is a faster way to make cookies, I'd love to know about it.


•       1 C white sugar
•       1 C brown sugar
•       4 T cocoa
•       ¼ C butter or margarine
•       ½ C milk
•       2 t vanilla
•       ½ C peanut butter
•       3 C quick oatmeal
•       coconut if desired

1.      Combine sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk in saucepan
2.      Bring to full boil, keep at rolling boil for one minute, while stirring.  The key to getting the right consistency is to keep boiling for a minute AFTER the butter has melted and the mixture is at a full boil.
3.      Remove from heat.
4.      Add vanilla, peanut butter, and oats
5.      Stir until it starts to thicken
6.      Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper or tin foil and allow to cool.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Heritage Park

North Kitsap recently gained another park, Heritage Park,  and the main entrance is just two miles from our house.   Just after it opened in January, Drew and I hiked a few miles into it and along the way saw this old car.  I'd love to know how it got all the way in there.  I went back in February with my cousin Liz and took this very Western Washington-y shot of mushrooms and moss on a tree. 

This is a nice addition to our park system, and I'm pleased to have more trails to run on.


I'll get back to garden stuff any day now.  However, I've just committed to running in the North Olympic Discovery Marathon in June, and I'm so excited I may fall out of my chair.  I've never run in an event longer than 5k, so this is a big step up, but I begin running regularly last year, and in spite of a ridiculous assortment of injuries, none of which were running-related, I've stretched my mileage out quite a bit.  I ran from my house up to Twin Spits in Hansville last Friday, which is eleven miles with a lot of hills, and I felt great the next day.  I'm up to about fifteen miles on flatter terrain, so I think this is doable, especially if I start to focus now.  So I probably shouldn't be having wine and a cheese stick for dinner, but oh well.  Tomorrow I'll begin living a more wholesome life.

Hopefully in three months I'll glide across the finish line, looking just as fresh and cheerful as the girl in the picture!  And doing that cool hula thing with my hands.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

From Whence I Came IV

This is one of the first photographs I ever took, circa 1980, on the Idaho farm I grew up on.  Those good dogs are Blue and Biscuit, and that's my grandfather's truck.  Drew and I have been without a dog for a year and a half now, and seeing this picture makes me sorely miss having one around.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chinese Workers

Just a few more pictures from China and I'll get back to the garden.  I got some shots of workers along the way, doing tough jobs without much in the way of worker protections or pay.  The fellow in the yellow is a park worker in Huangshan talking on his mobile during a break, sitting on a granite outcrop overlooking a drop of several hundred feet.

The next guy is a porter delivering goods to the hotels in those same mountains. 

Last but not least is the utility worker in Shanghai.

Now I feel like a pansy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hainan Island

Hainan Island was everything Huangshan wasn't.  We were warm, comfortable, well-fed, and unambitious.  We stayed in a beautiful resort (albeit with a weird Aztec theme), along with a slew of Koreans and Russians escaping the harsh winter back home.  Because of my ankle, the most I exerted myself was paddling about in the South China Sea in between stints in the cabana.  I was pleased not to have to sleep in my clothes for warmth or slug beer for carbs because of being low on food.  And since at that point I never cared to see another hiking trail again, I was quite happy to share golf cart rides to the beach with well-oiled Russians.

I'd love to report on something of cultural interest here, but this is all I have to offer:

First, the buffet at the resort.  Maybe it shows the degree of my shallowness to remember such a thing so fondly, but please, hear me out.  For the equivalent of about $20 USD per person, which is actually pretty expensive by Chinese standards, we ate piles of local seafood, Korean barbecue, Russian pastries, anything you could want in kabob form, various south Chinese delicacies, and random things like bread pudding and pizza.  And it was all good.  And then there was the beer, fresh brewed right there in the room and included in the price.  Who gives Russian tourists unlimited beer?  Once we watched a Korean woman and her son, who looked to be about ten, take their frosty mugs to the one of the giant kegs.  The mother expertly drew her beer and returned to her table, but the son struggled with the tap.  I saw a waiter rush over, and I thought for sure he would tell the boy he was too young for alcohol.  Instead, he helped him draw a nice mug of beer, and the boy sat down with his mom and drank it.  I watched him,  It wasn't for anyone else.  I was too busy ravishing plate loads of fresh shrimp to be troubled much.

The second thing that struck me was the difference in beach behavior among the various groups.  The Russians, men and women both, wore the tiniest swimwear possible, regardless of their physique.  Some of the women in bikini bottoms would roll up the back and stuff it in their cracks to make an improvised thong before taking a stroll across the beach.  The Koreans came ready for sport, and made the most of the sand and water before them.  For example, the only tourists I saw in scuba gear the entire time I was there were Koreans. The young Chinese couples favored matching Hawaiian outfits or 1950's style swimwear, and mostly took pictures of each other while strictly avoiding the key elements of the beach: sun and water. They didn't seem to be having much fun, but maybe the Russians and Koreans had enough fun for everyone.    Drew and I just lounged around and waited for the buffet.  A sampling of Chinese and Russian beach fashion is below.

After our all too brief time on the island came to an end, we flew back up to Shanghai, where I'd planned to end my trip in a glorious explosion of shopping.  Instead, I came down with the swine flu and was bed-ridden the entire time.  After 3 1/2 weeks abroad, I flew home with a blackened ankle and infested lungs and begin the process of recovering from my vacation.

Uh Oh!

Joan from the excellent Pacific Northwest Gardening blog I'm in the Garden Today notified me (via the fabulous UK garden blog  Simon's Allotment ) that the comments function on my blog hasn't been working.  I've fixed the problem, but I apologize if anyone wasn't able to get through.  If so, please try again!   I love comments!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day #3 in the Yellow Mountains, and Back to Hangzhou

The next morning we awoke again at 5:00 and decided we were too sore and tired to attempt the 500 meter climb to see the sunrise.  We slept a couple more hours and finally got ourselves together for the two hour hike down to the cable car.  It was painful to walk, but we saw some of the best views yet.

From the base of the mountain we took a taxi to the edge of the park, where we transferred to another cab that took us back to Huangshan City.  From there we collected our bags and made our way to the bus station, and then rolled on to Hangzhou.  Two hours later while walking down the steps at the Hangzhou bus station I took a bad step while trying to adjust my luggage and sprained my ankle.  I immediately dropped to the ground and there I sat for a few minutes until I was sure it wasn't broken.  Drew got me into a cab and we went to our hotel, where the bellboy took me across the street to a clinic.  I had done a lot of hiking on treacherous paths on this trip, even before the Huangshan trip, without even a minor injury, and now this.  I've done a lot of traveling over the past twenty years, and only one other time did I need medical attention - and that was when I fell ill in Hangzhou back in 2001.   I love Hangzhou, but clearly she doesn't love me.

We spent the next day struggling around Hangzhou as best our sore muscles and my ankle would allow - visiting the ancient silk market, the garment district, the art street, and of course West Lake, but we didn't enjoy it much.  The following day we flew down to Hainan Island, where things went considerably better.

Day #2 in the Yellow Mountains

The next morning we arose at about 5:00, hoping to catch the sunrise.  We got outside and saw it was too foggy to see squat, so we went back in and slept awhile longer.  We ventured out a couple hours later to find the fog still lying very heavy on the mountain, and a thick coat of frost blanketing the landscape.  We elected to hike to the Western Sea, which should have taken us around five hours.  We didn't start out at our best, as we hadn't eaten enough the night before and had very little for breakfast, and our legs were weary and sore from the previous day's hike.  However, we decided not to bring food with us, figuring it was early enough that we could soldier through our hike in time to catch lunch at the cafeteria.  The first hour or so was a bit scary.  We couldn't see far through the fog, and the path was slick with frost.  The wind gusts were strong enough at times that we had to huddle against large rocks until they passed.  Gradually, however, the fog begin to lift, and as we descended, the frost disappeared and the wind died down.  Soon we could catch glimpses of peaks, and as we begin to appreciate our surroundings and felt more sure-footed, we started to enjoy the hike.  Not the least because we were blessedly free of the ubiquitous Chinese tour groups, with their crowding and spitting and shouting.
The trail as it transverses the Xihai Grand Canyon.  This is one of the few stretches with handrails.

 The Fairy Bridge

A few hours into it, however, it became clear that we'd taken a wrong turn.  We should have been looping back to the hotel, but we were still heading down the mountain.  We decided to keep going rather than turn around, because the map showed a food stand near the bottom.  After about four hours we were at the foot of the mountain, the food stand was nowhere to be found (we eventually came across it - it was marked incorrectly on the map, and was closed anyway), we were hungry and tired, and knowing the only way back up was to walk.   We'd come about seven miles down the steps, and our legs ached and were extremely fatigued.  Not having food was a real problem, because we  felt like we were out of glycogen.  Looking up that mountain and knowing how tough the descent was, it seemed impossible to walk back UP it in our condition.  We also knew that running out of daylight on the trail would be dangerous, between the bitter cold and the drop offs. We poked around a little, hoping for a stroke of luck, and we found it.   A sign pointed to a construction area and warned us not to enter, but we could see a little mud house beyond the sign.  We approached it, Drew called out, and the next thing we knew, the couple who lived there ushered us in and made us noodle soup.  The husband was employed by the park as a carpenter, and he worked on wooden rails in the same room we ate in, as tasty-looking chickens wandered about.  I know it sounds clich├ęd, but that soup tasted as good as anything I'd ever eaten.  We couldn't stay long, so we paid them handsomely for the food - not that they asked for it or expected it, they were just good people. 

That bit of nourishment and rest was enough.  We headed back up by a different route that was longer but less steep and better maintained than the way we came down.  We stopped as little as possible because we were still seeing very few other people and didn't want to be stuck on the trail in the dark.   I got through it by counting 100 steps and then starting over, and over, and over.  We managed to reach our hotel in another four hours or so, about half an hour before sunset.  All in all it was about fifteen miles in eight hours.  Climbing up the stairs to our hotel room was almost more than I could do.   We showered, put our clothes back on for warmth, and lay in bed eating crackers, drinking beer and watching BBC.  That was the most brutal hike I've even done, partly because of our own mistakes, but also the most beautiful.  .

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day #1 in the Yellow Mountains

A few hotels are scattered near the base of the Huangshan mountains, but they are far away from the prime hiking areas.  To get the most out of the hiking, it's necessary to use one of the hotels near the top, which are reachable through a combination of cable car and hiking (or you can hike all the way up, if you're tough enough and have the time.)  We chose a hotel high in the mountains, and thus left most of our luggage back at the hotel in Huangshan City, only bringing enough to get us through the next few days.  We went by taxi from our hotel into the park, where we switched to a different cab (only official park vehicles are allowed inside) to the cable car station.  The two cab rides totaled about an hour.  We then traveled up the mountain via Austrian-made cable car, which was another ten or so harrowing minutes.  The scenery was breath-taking, the swaying of the car nauseating.  I actually had to stop eating my potato chips, something I don't do lightly, for fear I would spew them on Drew.  We disembarked and begin a rigorous two-hour hike to our hotel.  Anyone who has done much hiking in China is familiar with the infernal little steps they cut into hillsides, most of which are made for people with feet smaller than mine.  It makes hiking much more difficult than it is on the trails of home, where I can use my natural stride instead of mincing and crab-walking up and down mountains.  We were both tired and hungry by the item we got to our hotel, where had to walk up an additional four flights of stairs to get to our frigid room.

Hello, hello.  I'm at place called vertigo.

Our hotel was very pleased with itself for providing geothermal heat, whereas most of the hotels in the mountains offer no heat at all.  It was below freezing the entire time we were there, so I was grateful for any heat, but it only came on for a few hours at night, and heated the room perhaps to the low 50s F.  We dropped our bags and went to assess the food situations, which was grim.  There was an over-priced and filthy restaurant in the hotel; and a cafeteria on the grounds with nasty food, somewhat better prices and cleanliness, but very limited hours.  We arrived a the end of lunch time and got a bit of stringy chicken in us.  We had brought some provisions from Huangshan City in expectation of a situation like this, but because we had to pack sparingly we hadn't brought much.  If I did it again, I would have brought more food even if it meant a  more arduous hike in.  The one bright spot was a tiny convenience store run by a couple of women in parkas, which ended up as our main food source for the duration.  We were able to get tea eggs, jerky, and ice-cold beer right off the shelf - no refrigeration needed.

Feeling moderately well fed, we set off on a three hour hike of great rigor and glorious beauty.  We walked through miles of steep granite formations, twisted pine trees, and mist; feeling wonder and pain and vertigo all at once.  The same wind that frightened us in the cable car kept up for most of our stay, adding to a feeling of precariousness.  We're in good physical condition and hike a fair amount, but we found this one to be grueling.  Just leaving our hotel to get to the main paths necessitated a steep five-hundred meter climb, and every day we were there we passed many tourists sitting by the side of the stairs, unable to even get that past that first leg without giving in to exhaustion.  Of course, many of them had dressed wildly inappropriately for hiking, as the Chinese are prone to do.  There is no occasion too rugged to deter some Chinese from wearing dress shoes.  We got back to our cold room just before sunset, tired and hungry, and confronted the reality that there was absolutely nothing to do at the hotel except sit in our plain little room and read.  And eat our little snacks and drink our frosty beer.  In bed, fully clothed, because it was so cold.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Huangshan City

After leaving Hangzhou last fall, we went by bus to the mountain city of Huangshan, the gateway to the park containing the famous mountains so often depicted in Chinese art.  I fell asleep soon after the bus pulled out, with my face on my knees, and awoke a couple hours later in Huangshan City, feeling refreshed and looking rather crumpled.  The crisp, cool air was welcome after the sticky heat of Lishui and Hangzhou, and the city was largely free of the grime and pollution that afflicts much of China.  We dropped our bags at the hotel, and spent a very pleasant evening in Tunxi, the ancient city center, with well-preserved architecture dating from the Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties.  It was filled with shops selling antique art, art supplies, inkwells and other items made from local black granite, ginger candy, and woven cloth.  It was the only stop on this trip where there seemed to be a lot of dogs kept as pets, instead of  for, you know....  It was nice to see the many dogs, mostly resembling chows and pekingeses, lounging around the shops and walking with their owners.

When I return to the area, which I plan to do in the next few years, I'll spend a little more time in Huangshan City and the surrounding villages, which include some that have changed very little for centuries.  This time, however, we were focused on getting into the mountains, located about an hour away from the city.

Well, it wasn't easy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

From Whence I Came III

Recently my mother sent this email to my sisters and me, reminiscing about some of the bucolic joys of farm life.

Besides the cows, horses, and kids, I forgot about Junior, the bane of my existence. Junior was Katy's bull calf from the previous year, possibly the ugliest and most obnoxious animal we ever owned. He was of mixed Jersey, Tarantais, and Shorthorn lineage, with the worst traits of all. Red coat, both brindle-striped and roan, crooked horns, Jersey eye-rings,  sleigh feet and ham-hocked.

 I wound up in the hospital overnight with an intestinal problem and had told Granny, when I dumped you kids on her at 5:00 am, to call Lee to look after the livestock, since he knew the routine.

At the time there was a California doctor who had a herd of registered Hereford cows pastured across the road by Coffey's barn. The next morning I was much recovered and wondering if I could parlay the hospital stay into another day of R&R when Lee came in, glared at me and said "I'm gonna kill that Junior, he was down there bulling in the doctor's cows." Junior had squat-jumped our five foot fence, got in with the registered Herefords, and, well, you can imagine. Lee and Mike Baker had spent a good part of the day getting him out, and they were both sore at me, as well as him. Anyway, I freaked out, jumped out of bed in my hospital gown (to Lee's maidenly distress) got dressed and signed myself out of the hospital. So much for R&R. Junior was safely in the freezer by the time the doctor moved his cows, but I always wondered how his calves turned out.Lots of hybrid vigor, no doubt.

Later, Mom sent an addendum.

Speaking of Mike, he had a real grudge against Junior, so when we had him butchered and the slaughterman asked me if I wanted the testes dressed out ("It's a real delicacy" he said) I said No at first and then Yes indeed, and duly presented them to Mike. He was pleased and said they were excellent.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Well, it seems I have a little catching up to do on my posts.  And here I go.

Back to last fall's trip to China:  from Lishui, we traveled via bus to one of my favorite cities, romantic and lovely Hangzhou.  We couldn't stay long, but we had time to track down two of the city's culinary specialties, Dong Po Pork and You Zha Gui, both favorites of mine. Yes, that's a cube of pork belly you see there.  As for the rest of our stopover in Hangzhou, Drew wrote a nice account of it here, so who am I to reinvent the wheel?

Speaking of the bus, I need to give a quick shout-out to China's emerging mass-transit systems. I found it had improved dramatically since I was last on the mainland, in 2001; at least on the east coast.  We traveled several times by bus on this trip, and they were all clean, comfortable, and free of cigarette smoke.  After a week and a half in Lishui, where men interrupt their smoking only to spit and sleep, the clean air and phlegm-free floor of the bus seemed like heaven.  Better yet, the government is busily laying down some 16,000 miles of high-speed rail, which it aims to complete by 2020.  Newsweek ran an interesting article on it last fall.   In just two years, if all goes as planned, it will take only five hours by train to get from Shanghai to Beijing, faster than flying.