Memoirs Archives

September 9, 2009

Confession of a Fussy Eater - Milk


Have you ever thought about what you eat today compared with what you ate growing up? I do. I'm a child of the '50s - you know those times? Exciting new food came from the latest box or packaged food. Processed and packaged food were what successful homemaker served her family. It was the time of TV Dinners and those crazy aluminum fold-up TV tables. I've been thinking about what I eat today compared with what my mother served when I was growing up. It is so different. Some of it was what my mother chose to serve and some of it was because I was a fussy eater. I thought I'd would write a couple of posts about how my diet has changed from what I ate when I was growing up to what I eat today.

Milk - I did not drink milk when I was growing up. Or eat cheese. Or butter.In fact I ate very few milk products or savory dishes made with milk products. I'm not certain how it started but I remember growing up 'allergic' to milk. I'm not certain why but my parents always told me I was allergic to milk. I think I had a reaction when I was being bottle fed as a baby and the doctor told my mother I was allergic to milk.She switched me to formula and that started my milk-free childhood.

My dad also did not drink milk or eat cheese. So it became a thing in our house not drink milk. Cheese was avoided. My dad would always be concerned when we went out or ate at a relatives house. "It doesn't have cheese in it?" he would always ask. We did eat a few cream sauces especially creamed onions. We always had creamed onions when we had baked ham.

But we did not have any problems eating milk based sweets. My mother loved to make homemade milkshakes when she got her first Oster blender. There was nothing better late on a hot summer night than having a homemade milkshake made with vanilla ice cream, Hershey's chocolate syrup and cold whole milk. Whip that up in the blender, pour it in a tall glass and then float another scoop of ice cream on the top.

My mother also made fresh whipped cream as topping for cakes and pies. It was a favorite at Thanksgiving. We never had that funny whipping cream that squirted out of a can or the fake greasy Cool Whip. She would whip a pint with a couple of spoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. I always got to lick the beaters which were the best part of making whipping cream.

But we ate fake butter. We had margarine on the table instead of butter. Parkay was our brand. My uncle's family used butter and we thought it tasted funny. I won't touch margarine today.

Slowly I learned to drink milk and eat cheese a big part to the introduction of ethnic food when I was a teenager. Pizza became the rage in high school and my best friend had a killer recipe for cheesy enchiladas. Next came cheesecake. But it still took many years until I started to eat yogurt and other types of cheese beyond cheddar and Monterey Jack.

Now I love cheese, yogurt and butter. I rarely drink milk but I love to cook with it - cream sauces and soups. Today, my refrigerator typically has 3 or 4 types of cheese. Many of these are cheese I never saw or even knew existed when I was growing up.

Did you eat cheese and drink milk growing up?

September 11, 2009

Confession of a Fussy Eater - Meat

Dinner meals I ate growing up centered around meat. Each meal consisted of four items - a meat entree, a starch which was typically potato, a vegetable and a salad. I can not remember a meal where we did not have some type of meat or fish. The meat of choice was predominantly beef.

We shopped mostly at our local grocery store. It was 3 blocks away. It had a butcher shop and none of the meat was pre-wrapped. The butcher became a friend. You would order by the pound or point out a specific piece that you wanted to buy. He would weigh it, wrap it in white butcher paper and write the price with a black grease pencil. Hamburger was purchased by the cut - ground chuck or ground round. Chuck had more fat but was much more flavorful - and cheaper.

My mother made a wide variety of beef dishes. We would have the occasional steak night - mostly rib eye cut but occasionally New York or a sirloin. We did not eat round steak very often because my mother felt it was too tough. Sometimes she would take a chuck or other less expensive cut of beef and pound it with the edge of a saucer, flour it and fry it for chicken fried steak. Large chuck roasts became pot roasts - braised and slow cooked in the oven.

We also had different types of casseroles especially when it became popular to make them with a can of mushroom soup. She would flour and fry pieces of meat and then cover them with Campbell soup thinned with some beef broth and bake. Or make fry some meatballs and cover them in mushroom soup for 'Swedish Meatballs'. These were great over noodles. Another favorite was to take a flank steak, cover with stuffing, roll up and bake. Meatloaf was made with Wheaties cereal. It was one of my Dad's favorites. Ground beef also made it into spaghetti sauce. We always had corned beef on St. Patrick's Day.

My sister lived with us in the mid-60's. Her husband was in the Navy on a ship in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. Her and her family lived in our remodeled basement which had a full kitchen and three bedrooms. She would shop at the commissary and get great deals on meat. The roasts she could get on the base were wonderful.

Pork chops and ham were popular in our house. Ham was almost always the one that came out of a can surrounded with gelatin although occasionally we did have a lovely bone-in ham roast. We also loved lamb. Chicken was mostly fried. I loved the drumsticks.

Probably one of the weirdest meals that I loved was creamed chipped beef. I completely forgot about it. You could buy the dried beef slices in a glass jar with a top that you had to remove with a bottle opener. We would save the glass jars and use them as juice glasses. The dried beef was usually very salty. My mother would make a milk sauce and then add the rinsed beef slices. I used to love the salty creamy taste. My parents would eat it on toast but I loved mixing peas in with the cream sauce.

Today - I rarely cook this style of meal. G has been vegetarian for over 15 years. I will occasionally cook beef or chicken for myself if I get the craving for meat. When the fall days shorten and the air gets cooler, the craving get stronger. There is something warm and comforting about a lovely stew or pot roast cooking on the stove. Okay... I'm getting hungry now.

Related Posts:

Confession of a Fuzzy Eater - Milk

October 29, 2009

Confessions of a Fussy Eater - Vegetables

Canned Vegetables

The seasons are changing. We are moving into Fall and I have started cooking fall themed meals. I picked up some broccoli this week and smiled when I remembered this was a vegetable I detested when I was growing up.

I was so fussy with the vegetables that I would eat when I was growing up. My earliest memories are of nothing but canned. Yes, that is right - we ate mainly canned vegetables. Our house was build around 1920 and we had built in cabinets in the kitchen. These were stocked with canned food. It was a quartet of 4 main vegetables; peas, corn, green beans, and carrots. Peas were pretty straightforward but the canned corn came in a wide variation of styles. Yellow, White which was called shoepeg, creamed and mexi-corn. Creamed was one of our favorites. I have no idea exactly how it was made but I suspect it was really crushed corn and no cream was to be found. I remember visiting one of my aunts one summer in Oregon and she served real creamed corn and I was amazed. We all lapped it up. Here is a recipe from Mark Bitten for real creamed corn.

Green beans were usually cut or french style green beans. I loved the french style green beans. Sometimes my mother would cook up some bacon and combine it with the green beans. Canned carrots were pretty straightforward. I remember they later introduced 'crinkle cut' carrots but it really wasn't anything different from the standard sliced carrots.

It was in the mid-60's that our family discovered frozen vegetable. Wow - what a change from the mushy salty canned vegetables. Peas were so different and frozen peas quickly came a favorite over canned. We also really liked the Birds Eye rice dishes. They had these different frozen rice dishes in pouches that you would boil and serve. They were very tasty. We eventually moved mostly to frozen vegetables.

But we rarely ate fresh vegetables beyond lettuce. I know a lot had to do with my refusing to eat other types of vegetables. My mother would cook asparagus, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower but I refused to eat them. They were mostly boiled but a few she would cook up in a sauce with cheese - I still wouldn't eat them. It was a shame because I grew up near the best location for fresh asparagus. Every spring my parents friends and neighbors would bring crates of beautiful fresh asparagus. My parents would eat it boiled up and served with a dollop of mayonnaise. I hated it - or thought I did. My mother would even blanche it and freeze it so she would have it later in the season. Today I will love to get a crate of fresh asparagus from the California central valley,

Corn on the cob was one vegetable that we ate fresh. I loved it and ate lots in the summer. It was very inexpensive in the central valley of California and had it at least once a week. We also occasionally had fresh carrots. There was one different vegetable that I would eat - turnips! My mother would peel, slice and boil them. I love turnips - even raw. I especially love them boiled with slabs of butter or in a beef stew. I rarely eat them now. I need to put them on my grocery list because they are a great vegetable for fall and winter.

When I married G, I learned that he mostly ate salads. He occasionally ate similar canned vegetables but nothing different. But one day, he brought home some broccoli from a botany class and wanted me to cook it. Eek! I had no idea what to do. I think I boiled it and we both discovered it wasn't that bad. Soon we were having broccoli.

Now, we love most vegetables. I discovered fresh green beans in college and sugar snap peas when we started our first vegetable garden. I have rarely purchased canned vegetables in the past 20 years. Majority is always fresh and if possible purchased from local farmers.

There are a few that I still struggle eating. I don't like cooked leaf vegetables - spinach, swiss chard, kale. G likes them but I still just gag....

December 31, 2009

A Decade of Travel

Decade of Travel

We renewed our passports this year. Flipping though the pages, I realized I was holding a decade of travel in my hands. Looking back I saw many new places I had visited and dramatic change in how I planned and traveled.

We went to New Zealand in November 1999. Okay.. I know... that is the previous decade but I'm going to start with the New Zealand trip. It was the first trip that I really used the internet for planning. We found a lovely B&B in Auckland - the Great Ponsonby B&B. I exchanged several emails with the owner before reserving a room. Previously, we never made reservations and usually visited the tourism office as soon as we arrived. Even on this trip - we only reserved the first night. We found hotels the other nights by using the old traditional method of reading a travel guide book like The Rough Guide or visiting the local tourism office where they would book a room for us in the next city.

I got the idea of the trip from Fodor's New Zealand guidebook where they had a section on gardens to visit. I used Yahoo and Google to research other gardens and discovered several sites devoted to gardens. I printed out the information and we had a wonderful trip wandering the gardens of the North Island. It was the dawning of the age of travel research on the web for me.

In 2000, I was dreaming of France. We visited the Maritime Alps above Nice on a trip in 1996. I had been working for two months in Den Haag Netherlands and used a Carlson Wagonlit travel agent in Den Haag to plan our trip. We looked at glossy travel brochures and selected the hotels and apartment in Corsica for them to book. We had a great time in France but the accommodations were not very good. It did not give me a good feeling about using travel agents. It was the last time I used travel agents to book our accommodations.

I was surfing the web looking for pictures and information on Parc Mercantour when I stumbled upon a Portland hiking company website, Mountain Hiking Holidays. They offered several hiking trips in Europe including one to the Maritime Alps. I really like their philosophy of staying in one town for several nights and doing day hikes. G did not want to go because he was busy at work but he encouraged me to go by myself. I was a little scared because I had never traveled solo internationally. But going with a group would be a perfect way to do my first solo international trip. I booked the trip via email and had a wonderful time. I gained a lot of confidence by doing the solo trip.

Later in 2000, I had an opportunity to do a solo business trip to Asia and Australia. Thank goodness I had traveled to France by myself a couple of months earlier. It was daunting enough trying to figure out how to get around in Tokyo. My first time in Asia which was very exciting. Tokyo seemed like a blur since I was only there two days but I had a great weekend in Singapore. I also visited Melbourne and used the internet to take a day tour of the wineries and research places to eat. I was starting to get the hang of using the internet for travel.

In 2001, we traveled for the time to Italy. We had seen "Stealing Beauty" and thought it would be a lot of fun to get a rental in Tuscany. I found Parker Company on the web. They had a great website that allowed me to see the location of the rental, wonderful pictures and good details on the rentals. But I wondered about renting from the Parker company and searched for reviews of the company. I discovered Slow Travel. I lurked for several months digging through the information about where to eat, supermarkets, where to park in Siena, and what to do in Chianti. What a treasure trove of information and a helpful, sharing community. I didn't join the forum until we returned from our trip. I wanted to give back by sharing my experiences. I also found Judy the "Diva" at Divina Cucina website. I did not have time to take a class but it was wealth of information on food in Tuscany and Florence. We went shortly after 9/11. I was able to find information on what it was like to travel those first few weeks after the attack and we decided that we did not want to cancel our trip. I still have memories of reading the headlines everywhere we went.

2001 was also my 30th high school reunion and I attended for the first time. They planned it using Classmates and it sounded like a lot of fun. And it was. Many of us continue to keep in contact but now we use Facebook.

In 2002, I convinced George to go back to Italy and do a hiking trip with Mountain Hiking Holidays. Staying in one location for several days and doing day hikes was a fabulous way to travel. We had a great adventure climbing the via ferrata and craggy trails of the Dolomites. We moved on to Venice after the tour and met up with some good friends. I found an apartment using Slow Travel and it was perfect. I was getting the hang of traveling slowly.

2003 was a milestone birthday for G and I. He decided he wanted to challenge himself and climb Rainier. He wanted to wish me a happy birthday in July from the summit. Using the web, he booked with Rainier Mountaineering Guide Service and we started training. I was definitely sold on traveling slowly so I found a cabin to rent just outside of Mt. Rainier National Park. Rainier Summit Climb 2004 We invited his parents to join us while he did his climb. We also needed to document this achievement so we got our first digital camera. Later in 2003, we traveled for the first time to South America. We spent 3 weeks in Chile traveling from high in the altiplano with Barbara from Alto Andino Nature Tours. We saw some amazing and unusual plants in the high mountain plateaus. Next we flew down the long thin country to hike in the Lake District and on further to Patagonia. Another long time travel dream was full-filled when we hiked part of the W trail in Patagonia with Cascada Expediciones, another great tour company I found on the web. I started my blog to journal our travels on-line.

In 2004, it was my turn to summit a peak over 14,000. We used the internet to get our permits for climbing Mt Whitney. I started training even harder hiking almost every week. I also found the Whitney Portal store forum which provided lots of first hand details on on the climb. It was wealth of information on the best places to stay, eat, where to get water on the trail, the latest conditions and timings. We stayed at an apartment at Mammoth while we adjusted to the high altitude. I found lots of good trip reports on trails in the area that we used for our final conditioning. I also made two trips to New York City and met several people that I had gotten to know on the internet through Slow Travel.

In 2005, we took the plunge and visited South Africa. It was our first trip to Africa and a place we long had dreamed of visiting. G had grown succulents from South Africa for over 20 years. Okondeka waterhole I spent days researching floral areas in the Western Cape. Through the web, we found interesting places to explore, a wonderful guide to take us to Richtersveld, a chance to meet with conservationist and farmer Neil MacGregor, flower shows in small towns and wonderful homestays. We celebrated our anniversary at Bushmans Kloof and rented a self-catering cottage near Capetown. We couldn't do a trip to Africa and not make a special effort to see animals. We decided to extend our trip to four weeks and spent the extra week in Namibia to visit Etosha. All the arrangement but air was done over the web.

In 2006, we struggled deciding where to go. The trip to Africa was so fantastic we had no ideas on where to go... until G realized that we had been to 4 of the 5 Mediterranean plant biomes. Western Australia was the only Mediterranean plant region that we had not visited. It was June but in short time with the aid of the internet, I worked up an itinerary of floral hotspots that we could visit in September. I used Google and Australia based Whereis maps to plot our driving routes and times. The Wildflower Society of Australia website gave me road names of places to visit and with a little bit of detective work - I found the roads on google maps. We found excellent self-catering apartments in the SW using the Western Australia tourism sites including a romantic Hilltop Studio in Margaret River.

In 2007, I decided it was my turn to full-fill a life long dream. On my flight back from France in 2000, I read an article in the Delta Sky Magazine on an intensive language school in Villefranche sur Mer France. I dreamed of spending 4 weeks in France at the school and I decided to do it. I spent 5 weeks solo in Villefranche sur Mer challenged but slowly learning French at Institut de Français. I loved it. G met me at the end of the classes and we spent a week in a rental in Menton and another week in a rental in the Luberon. It was also the first time that I traveled with a cellphone and ipod with speakers but still no laptop. I was moving towards being a connected traveler.

In 2008, the exchange rate and price of gas was astronomical. G's niece arranged a family camping get together in Eastern California and invited us to join. We decided to do a road trip to California. I found the directions on the web to Costco gas along the way so we could save a bit from the $5.00 a gallon gas. We still managed to squeeze in a bit of slow travel. We had rentals in Mammoth which gave us the flexibility to do fun hikes and crash at the end of the day. We also rented a beautiful zen cottage near the beach in Fort Bragg where we relaxed and visited gardens.

Rafflesia In 2009, I was unemployed and starting my search for part time work. We wanted to visit somewhere warm in February but it also had to be not terribly expensive. Europe was too cold and dark. New Zealand and Australia was too expensive. I went back to planning using travel guide books and started to research Thailand. I went to the library to get some books on Thailand and also brought home a Lonely Planet guide book for Borneo. An exotic island that always seemed too remote, expensive and hard to get to. A few searches on Kayak airfare website and we learned that it was not expensive and not difficult to get to. Images on Google Earth showed us it would be easy to drive and a couple of search on Flickr showed us the modern cities and well developed hotels of Sabah and Sarawak. It was the first time I bought international air tickets on the web. Using email, it was easy to arrange for a car rental, a special 3 day trip into the dense jungle, hotels and even accommodations at National Parks. It wasn't slow travel but it was very easy to do. The exotic land, food and wonderful people made it another special trip. We have now been to 6 of the 7 continents of the world.

But we were not done yet, one more trip. We grabbed a couple of low cost airfares and found a cute inexpensive studio on Oahu on the web and we were off to a week in Hawaii. I had a netbook and a cellphone so we were connected the whole trip. Time on the beach, trekking through the mud to jungle waterfalls, exploring lovely gardens, watching surfers tackle the monster waves and meeting up with an internet friend made for a lovely way to close out the decade of travel.

I wonder where the next decade will lead us? And what technological changes will take us there?

April 1, 2010

Music of my mind

I grew up in the '60s. It was in a mid-sized town in California central valley. Our city had a distinct racial mix. The northern side of town was primarily white. The southern side was primarily Afro-American, Hispanic and Asian. It was almost split right down the middle. Cross over Main Street and the racial population changed.

I grew up on the south side. This radically influenced the music that I listened to. The first 45 I purchased was "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles. But as the '60's progressed, the music I listened to changed. It was not the typical top 40 of the day but the Soul Train sounds played on the stations in Oakland. Motown, Philly, Atlantic. Those were my tunes. Slow dancing to The Dells 6 minute single - "Stay in My Corner" or Smokey Robinson "Tracks of My Tears".

The Psychedelic or folk sound of San Francisco may have played on the radio in the day but it was Wolfman crackling in at night that I loved. It was not until I got to college in the early '70s that I started to listen to bands like Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Michell, Quicksilver Messenger Band, The Eagles, The Dobbie Brothers.

But I never listened much to Bob Dylan. I found his voice harsh and never really understood him. Last year we saw the movie "I'm Not There" which is great both in the unique approach to a biography and the music. My mind opened to his sound. G brought home the sound track this week from the library. It has been fun to listen to the covers and realize the large number of songs that have ended up being a quilt of my generation. I have been listening to some of his original songs on You Tube along with the covers. It led me to find a great cover by Joni Mitchell of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue". She recorded it in the early '90s so it is similar to much of the music she recorded in the late '80s and early '90s. I love this sound from her. And it is so different from the original I didn't recognize it.

And Dylan's original

June 3, 2010

Return to Camping

Memorial Day Camping

I started camping in high school. My family only took vacation to visit relatives and the most adventurous thing we ever did was go horseback riding. One of my high school teachers also taught in Outward Bound and started a club for students which was called The Alpine Club. He introduced many of us to camping, rock climbing, hiking, skiing and the love of the outdoors.

I have fond memories of several overnight camping trips we did in my Senior year. These were two day overnight trips within 2 hour drive of the Central Valley. There were usually around 12 students in the group and three teachers who would drive. None of us had tents or camp stoves so we would all sleep under the stars and cook over an open fire. We'd also go on hikes in the area. We did overnights to Big Sur, Pinnacles, Mendocino and Yosemite. I loved it.

G and my first date was actually a double date with our good friend from high school. We went camping in Yosemite Valley. G's friend brought a huge military tent and we found a spot along the Merced River. We spent the evening around the campfire getting to know each other.

Camping became an inexpensive way of vacation during our early years after we married. We bought tent, camp stove, pads, new sleeping bag for G and spent several weekends exploring Washington State. We also did two great road trip camping vacations. We went north into Canada exploring Jasper, Banff and Glacier Parks. The next year we went south and visited Yellowstone, Teton, Bryce and the Grand Canyon. We also did a coastal camp trip.

We also started backpacking and did less car camping. As we got older, we discovered the joys of international travel and staying in rentals. Our camping gear fell by the wayside. Our last camping trip was to Death Valley in 2005. We mainly camped because we couldn't get reservations at the motel in Death Valley and we didn't want to stay at the more upscale Furnace Inn.

I think my backpacking days are over. It would take a significant effort to build up the strength to carry 30lbs again. But I do miss being out under the stars. We decided to do more car camping this year.

The first step was to purchase a new tent. We still have the original tent that we bought 30 years ago. It is fine but a little small. I went to REI during their members sale in March and took a look at the tents. We would only be car camping so we could consider a bigger tent. They had several 4 man tents set up. You could stand up in them and they were big enough to even fit a cot. Hmmm.. now we're talking.

We purchased a Big Agnes Big House 4. I liked the roomy interior and the great ventilation. We pulled out the rest of our gear. Our camp stove stopped working several years ago but we still had our single burner backpacking stove. The rest of our gear was in pretty good shape other than maybe a little smelly.

We finally had a chance to try it out last weekend. Washington State has a good on-line reservation system for the State Parks. We checked mid-May and there were a few sites still available for a couple of the park not far from here on Whidbey Island. We reserved a spot for one night at South Whidbey State Park. It would give us a chance to try out the new and old gear.

It was a good test. The weather turned ugly for Memorial Day weekend but there was a small break on Sunday. You can get to Whidbey Island either via a ferry or by driving an extra 30 miles up to Anacortes and back down the island. We decided to be cheap and drive around. It was not too bad of a drive on Sunday although the weather was off and on drizzle.

We couldn't check into our site until 2:30pm so we went to Ebey Landing and did a bluff hike. It was great until it started to rain. I was so grumpy and worried about having to spend the night in a tent damp and wet. Fortunately, it didn't rain hard enough to soak us and we dried off before we got to camp.

The tent was a breeze to set up. Our site was a little sheltered so we had an area to cook that was out of the drizzle. The campground was not too busy either since many parties had decided to stay home. I brought along some pre-cooked vegetarian chili and warmed some tortillas which were easy to prepare. We will want to get a different stove just to have two burners. Our backpacking stove uses white gas so it is a little bit of a pain to use. We want to switch to the newer stoves that use propane canisters. G also brought along some dry wood and he was able to start a campfire with one match! Even in the rain.

It was early to bed for us. Surprisingly we were able to sleep pretty well. I did wake up once or twice from sleeping on the hard ground but did not have any aches and pains the next day. The tent kept us dry although we could tell that there may be one area that will be trouble in heavier rain. It also gave a chance to figure out how to stake down the fly.

We are also looking at other items to bring such as a 'blue tarp'. Blue tarps are traditional here in the NW as a rain shelter. You string them up between the trees at your site. We also want to get some folding chairs.

We hope to spend a couple of weekends camping in different areas and we may make a longer trip in September/October. Maybe even back to Yosemite where it all began.

Memorial Day Camping
Setting up the tent

Memorial Day Camping
What it looks like before putting on the rain fly

Memorial Day Camping
View out the back of the tent - better than TV!

Memorial Day Camping
Window in rainfly so we can watch the rain. It is rather noisy since it is a heavier plastic

Memorial Day Camping
Our camp visitor

Memorial Day Camping
Trail from campground down to the beach at South Whidbey St Park

Memorial Day Camping
The beach is rather small and narrow. I think we got there near high tide

Memorial Day Camping
Stairs to the beach

July 20, 2010

Sewing Project - Chair Cushions

Sewing Project - Chair Cushions

I started sewing in junior high school.I took Home Ec in the 8th grade and my first sewing project was a lovely shift dress. It was sleeveless and form fitted with darts. Remember those! The style is very classic and has recently returned. It was simple, with no fancy sleeves or collars. But you had to learn how to do darts along with doing neat neck and armholes. Does anyone remember what those pieces used to line the neckline and armhole were called? They were so tricky to get smooth and lay flat around the curve.

My mother was a great seamstress. We spent many hours during high school and college sewing my wardrobe. We made skirts, dresses, pants and several coats and coatsuits. I even made the suit that I got married in. I loved trying new challenges. One I remember was a box pleated skirt in a plaid. Man was that hard. I also made a Betsy Johnson sundress with spaghetti straps. Sewing and turning those narrow strips of fabric was a nightmare. I got into bound button holes, padded suits, linings.

I continued sewing into the '80s. The styles started to change and there were more knits which I did not like to sew. It just became much easier to purchase clothing. We did not have any children which would have given me another reason to continue to sew. I think I made my last item in 1988. The sewing machine was packed up and put away.

I had several goals on my list when I was laid off in 2008. One of them was to start sewing again. I had in mind to make a cool sleeveless sundress. I went to Joann's Fabric and was totally turned off by the selection of fabric. It was basically knit/polyester, shiny satin which would make a great sari, children and quilting fabric. I had in mind a cool modern print but I couldn't really find something I liked. But I went ahead and looked at the patterns. It was sticker shock time. I had no idea at the cost of patterns today. They were around $15.00. Add the cost of fabric, zipper, etc. This was going to be an expensive project. It was so much cheaper to purchase an inexpensive dress made in China. The project went by the wayside.

A month or so ago, I was looking at the Company Store Catalog and noticed these interesting Adirondack Cushions. Hmmm... I thought about doing a sewing project again.

I didn't want to tackle piping or a fitted cushion for my first project so I turned to the web to see if I could find something a bit easier. I found these easy looking cushions on Sewing 4 Home. I could handle that.

I asked G to get out sewing machine. It was stored away in the crawlspace. I dusted it off. Thank god I had left it threaded. I don't have a manual and would have had no idea how to thread it. As it was, I wasn't certain how to wind a bobbin. I turned to the web again and found a video out on YouTube of someone demonstrating how to wind a bobbin on a Kenmore sewing machine.

I wasn't happy with the fabric at Joann's so I looked to see if there were any other fabric stores in Seattle. I found out that Hancock Fabrics still had a store in the area and dropped by after work. Oh so much better. They had a much better selection of fabric and they also had a sale on outdoor canvas. I was able to find a nice piece of stripped outdoor fabric for about $4.00/yard.

The next challenge was the foam. The web pattern called for cutting your own foam. I decided instead to use a smaller pre-cut Nu-Foam pillow. I did like working with the Nu-Foam. It did not have the ugly polyurethane foam smell. I had a couple of coupons for Joann's so I dropped by and got the pre-cut Nu-Foam.

I had a little trepidation when I did my first cut. I made certain that I lined up the pattern pieces so the strips would match. I had to re-thread the machine and wind a new bobbin. It was like getting back on a bicycle. I instinctually knew what to do. The cushion went together smoothly. I made just one mistake by reversing one of the back pieces. But it was easy to rip out the seam and correct.

The inserts fit very snugly with the dimensions in the pattern. There is no give so they will buckle a little at first but the fabric will stretch and mold to the insert. I am very happy with the project. I probably should have made a bigger cushion for the Adirondack chairs. I adjusted the dimensions down to fit the smaller pre-cut foam and I think the original dimensions would have been better. It is a little short so the pillow doesn't cover the curve of the seat. But I succeeded! And they only cost me about $20 for two cushions.

Sewing Project - Chair Cushions
Laying out the pattern

Sewing Project - Chair Cushions
My Kenmore sewing machine circa 1960's

Sewing Project - Chair Cushions
Of course, Cassie had to check it out

Sewing Project - Chair Cushions

Sewing Project - Chair Cushions
Close up of the back closing.

August 9, 2010


I'm just back from Newport Oregon where I spent 5 days with some good girl friends. Our last get together was 12 years ago - or at least that is what we think. We are getting to the age now that we can't remember.

November 18, 2010

The saga of the stolen truck


We have always been a two vehicle family. My parents bought me a car when I was in college. It was a beautiful new blue Chevy Nova. It provided transportation back and forth to college and became our primary car when after we married and moved to Seattle.

When we dated, G had an Oldsmobile Cutlass. I remember riding in it to SF to see the ballet and traveling around the valley. But someone ran a stop sign, t-boned it. G was fine but the car was totaled. He bought a used Chevy Vega that was nothing but headaches. The aluminum engine had warped and burned oil like crazy. Fortunately we were able to get a new engine on warranty but it was never a great car. But he was able to use it to go to work between Seattle and Mukilteo when he worked at a nursery on Whidbey Island.

We traded these cars in the early 80's for a Honda Accord and a Toyota pickup. The Accord was great. We kept it for almost 20 years and got over 200,000 miles on it before bought our current Honda Civic Hybrid.

The Vega was traded in for the Toyota truck which has been G's main vehicle since the early '80s. What memories. It was our main hiking vehicle in many years. I remember taking it backpacking. We did one backpacking trip with some good friends. They rode in the back of the truck before it was illegal and we didn't know better. It was summer and the temperatures got almost to 100 degrees. What we did when we were young!

Later in the late '90s, it was G's main vehicle for his business. He had a small backyard nursery. He built sides for the bed and transported plants to farmers markets and plant sales for almost 10 years before deciding to close the nursery. Recently, hd has been using it mainly to transport soil and to drive to work. We have recently talked about getting a new one. It isn't used a lot and it has been hard to justify especially since we have both been working part time or have been unemployed.

We went down to Cali in late September for a family visit. We always take the cheap early flights and left about 4:30am in the morning. Normally we stop the mail and paper. I asked G if he was going to but he said... "It's only a few days". Our pet sitter was coming by every few days to feed the cat and would pick up the mail and paper.

We had a good trip. It was hot but we had a great time visiting our family and friends. We came back late at night. We noticed our neighbor had been working on a structure he was building and had moved some of the pieces of the building. It was dark and really didn't notice anything else. I do remember thinking something was off but couldn't pin point it. We were tired, unpacked and headed to bed.

The next morning, we decided to go to Costco. We were just about to head out when G said "Wait a minute...." and ran to the window. "My truck is gone!" What! It was gone. It had been stolen while we were out of town. We went out and checked where it had been parked but there was no broken glass. We talked to the neighbors. One had noticed that it was not there on Sunday - three days after we had left. We called the sheriff and insurance company. The Sheriff had told us that the incidents of stolen vehicles were up because people needed them for transportation. We agreed to pay any towing, etc. Got an incident number and they would call us if it was found.

So what do you do when your car is stolen? We called our parents and talked to others. Have you reported it to the police? Insurance? Yes. But what else? Basically nothing. We read that chances of it being found are best within the first few hours. Unfortunately we were not able to report it missing until 2-3 days after it was taken. Everytime we passed a parking lot, we could not resist scanning to see if it was in the lot. We also started going through the 'What ifs.." What if it is found wrecked and can't be driven? What if it is trashed? What if they have an accident with it? G watched Craigslist to see if it would show up.

Days went by but it still haunted us. The first few days we made certain we always had the cell phone on. What happened to it? Maybe someone took it to Mexico. Maybe it was chopped and sold for parts. But it haunted us. What happened to it?

After a month, we started to try to move on and figure it was gone. Fortunately he isn't working right now. We discussed if he really needed a truck or would it be better to get another car? He felt he had always had a truck and wanted one. G started to look at new trucks. We would give it a bit more and when we got back from Hawaii we would go and test drive a few trucks.

The phone rang yesterday evening. It was the Sheriff. The truck had been found in North Seattle. It was drivable and being towed to the impound lot in No. Seattle. We called the towing company and they told us we could come pick it up. Off we went. We did not know what to expect. The tow company was located next to a pawn shop. It was dark but fortunately not rainy. The clerk sat behind the glass and we told him we were here to pick a stolen vehicle. We gave him a license and he told us we could walk out to the lot to check it out. He buzzed the door. The lot was dirt and located downhill, no lights, a tow truck was dropping off another car. Somewhat surreal - "The land of dead cars" G said. We dodged the large puddles. There in the distance, we saw it sitting between two mangled cars.

We did a quick walk around. Looking good. No new dents. G got in and tried to start it. Nothing. He popped the hood and as he expected, the battery was missing. But everything else looked okay. So we went back to the office, picked up our license and off we went to buy a new battery.

It was still rush hour and we crawled along to the nearest auto parts store. We found the cheapest battery and returned back to the dark land of dead cars. This time we took a flashlight. We attached the battery, got in and turned the ignition. Yeah! the truck started. We went back to pay our impound charge which actually wasn't too bad since it hadn't been stored - less than $100.

We left the lot - I followed G just in case. He had to pull off to get some gas. The truck had had a full tank of gas and they used it until it ran out of gas. We discovered then that they had crow-barred off the locked gas cap but he was able to gas it up. I guess they did not want to add any more gas and just left it at the end of dead end road next to a wooded park when it ran out of gas.

This morning we looked it over. It was covered with pine needles and leaves. There was a broken down twin bed frame in the back but no damage. G pulled it into the garage to inspect it some more. A window had been left open and rain had gotten in. There was mildew inside so he put a fan in the cab to help dry it out. He gave it a hand washing - the first in probably over a year to remove the dirt and algae that was on the truck even before it was taken.

He was so happy. His ride was home and we did not have to worry that it might be found at some strange location or wrecked. We are so glad also that it was found when we were home and not while we were away in Hawaii. We would have had to pay for them to store it until we got back from Hawaii. But most importantly - we have it back.


October 7, 2011

A decade of travel

I have been listening to the news reports this evening. It is the 10th anniversary of the US fight in Afghanistan. It has also brought a lot of memories back for me. 10 years ago we took our first trip to Italy. It was also the beginning of my association with Slow Travel.

We had decided to rent a house in Italy in 2001. I had used the internet to research our trip to New Zealand in 1999 and it turned out wonderful. It was such a kick to be able to email half way around the world and arrange an airport pick up and place to stay. We found the Great Ponsonby B&B and it is still one of our favorite places to stay. We were able to plan our trip around the North Island visiting gardens and attending the Ellerslie

In 2000, I traveled solo to Nice France to join up with Walking Softly Adventures (now Mountain Hiking Trips) and hiked the wonderful maritime Alps of France. It affirmed my love of this area where we would return in 2007.

In 2001, we decided to go to Italy. We wanted to rent a place to stay for a week. I turned to the web again and found Parker Villa. I wondered if there were any reviews for rentals and searched the web. I found Pauline Kenny's website Slow Travel. I looked over the website and knew I found the perfect place. I had spent 2 months in the Netherlands and remembered how important it was to understand both the difference in culture and simple difference living in an European country. It was her pages on how to run an Italian washing machine that won me over.

We sent off our reservation in June for an apartment outside Castellina in Chianti and started planning. I poured over the forums learning about the difficulties of driving through Siena and where to park. I discovered the beautiful La Foce gardens.

The September 11th occurred. All flights were canceled. Our parents asked us - "Are you still going?". We answered "Why not?" After two weeks, flights resumed. And early October we were on our way.

We landed in Milan and spent the night. Next we were off via train to Florence where we spent two nights at Dei Mori B&B. It was at breakfast the next morning we learned that we had sent troops to Afghanistan. We stopped at every newsstand during the day to find the latest headline. We ran into many other Americans during our two weeks - often at the newsstands. We would share stories and wonder what repercussions we would have during our travels. The Italians were so helpful and sympathetic. There was a sense of brotherhood as we started to absorb fully that the world would never be the same.

I can not help but start to compare the 10 years in Afghanistan with Vietnam. Growing up in the 60's so much of my teenage years were molded by the Vietnam war. I remember my brother-in-law shipping out to the Gulf of Tonkin around 1965; the protests across the campus culminating at the horrible killings at Kent State and so many of my friends and schoolmates facing the draft. The nightly broadcasts and the protest. So different from today. Officially the Vietnam war was one of the longest US wars but it felt shorter than 10 years. It gives me shivers to realize that we have been in Afghanistan potentially longer. The body count does not compare - but the cost to our economy does not even compare.

November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving memories


We went out for a walk before the next rain storm arrived and thought about the Thanksgivings in our past. I remember the grammar school days of paper turkeys out of brown craft paper and black and white pilgrim hats. We always had Thanksgiving at my parents house and occasionally my half brother or sister's family join us. The meal was almost always the same.

Roast Turkey with a bread stuffing in the bird was the centerpiece of the meal. The day before my mother would do the initial prep work for the stuffing. We always had stuffing made of ground bread instead of the bread cubes. She would take a loaf of white bread and toast the slices in the oven until they were light brown. We had a metal food grinder that would clamp on the counters. We would break up the bread and grind it the food grinder for a course breadcrumb . The food grinder looked a lot like the one on this page.

Next she would take the turkey neck, wings along with vegetables and make broth. She would also saute onions and celery which she would mix with the breadcrumbs, moisten with broth and add spices. I remember sage was very important. We always had to taste it to see if it had enough sage or salt. She would then add an egg which would give it a rich flavor and then stuff it into the turkey. We never worried about food poisoning. She would start the turkey usually about 9 am so we could eat in the late afternoon.

We never had the famous green bean casserole at Thanksgiving. I don't think I really had it until I left home. I don't know why we didn't especially since it was common in our house to have casseroles made with cream of mushroom soup. Our sides were usually lots of mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, a baked yam for my Dad, a green salad, a fruit salad and jelled cranberry sauce. We might have also had canned green beans.

Our fruit salad was interesting. My mother made a cooked dressing. I never got the exact recipe for the salad dressing but I remember it had pineapple juice, flour and egg. It was actually quite good. The fruit was always the same, apple, banana and pineapple with small marshmallows.

For dessert, it was always pumpkin pie. We would usually make three and they didn't last long. Our recipe was from a cookbook that my mother got when she married her first husband back in the '30's. She would vary a little from the recipe because she didn't like as much ginger and cloves but otherwise always the same. Not too far from the recipe on the Libby Pumpkin Pie can - pumpkin, evaporated milk, brown sugar, eggs and spices.

Today, my Thanksgiving is different. G does not eat meat but I wanted to have Turkey. I'm certain it was a subconscious thing reading all the recipes for Thanksgiving. So instead I took a boned Turkey breast and thigh, pounded them flat, spread my Mom's dressing over the meat and rolled. I baked it for about 2 hours at 325. Fresh mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and homemade vanilla ice cream and pears for dessert. I realize I actually don't miss the large spread. We enjoy the smaller dinner and are thankful for the bounty and freshness.

I look back over the past year and I am so thankful for having good health, wonderful family, friends and the opportunity to travel. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Now don't eat too much!

April 30, 2012

Windy Monday

Clouds and Trees

I went for a walk to the park today. It was windy. The sun was playing hide and seek behind dark clouds. I got to thinking about the wind. I have a love-hate relationship with it. It all goes back to the Columbus Day storm of October 1963.

I grew up in a two story house that was build around 1920. It had high beamed ceilings, craftsman style wainscoting and built in cabinets. Over the years, the original wood had been painted over but my mother painted the beams brown.

The upstairs had two bedrooms. My bedroom was in the rear of the house. It was a large bedroom, actually two rooms. The second room was a sun room that had been built out beyond the original house. One summer my mother remodeled the room. She painted it a cheery yellow, purchased some multicolor yellow, gold and white shag carpeting and hung royal blue narrow single wale corduroy café curtains. I never realized until later that I grew with the colors of Provence.

The sun room portion was lined with large casement windows that opened out. It was lovely sleeping in the room in the spring. The summer was also beautiful because you could open the windows and the delta breeze would gently blow the blue curtains.

But room was also the source of many nighttime terrors. If I left the curtains open, I would often imagine faces in the windows. There was a door leading down stairs to the basement. I would imagine hearing footsteps coming up the stairs and imagine monsters.

It was the night of the Columbus Day storm that resulted in my fear of the wind. The storm had been building during the evening and the wind was increasing when I went to bed. Outside the windows on one side of the house was a large pepper tree. It curved at the top and the long narrow leaves would look like fingers or witches hair in the wind.

The casement windows swelled over the years and became hard to completely close and latch. We would latch them with one of those hooks that were used on screen doors. Wind would blow and rattle the windows until they would fly open. It was 1am and my parents were fast asleep. I laid there watching the curtains blow and whip in the wind. The tree was backlit by the lightening. I had to will myself to get up and close the windows. They were waist high and I had to bend out to reach the windows to pull them close. The wind blowing and rainy, I found it so scary leaning out the second story window to close it.

I would get them closed and tuck myself back into bed, my ears straining to hear every sound, and they would blow open again. I gathered my courage again and got up to turn on the light. Just as it went on, a clap of thunder broke and the light flashed off. I was back in the dark. I needed to close the windows from the wind and rain so I walked over, leaned out and just as I touched the windows, lightening struck behind the house. The thunder crashed, I jumped and I ran to the living room. I hovered in the corner of the couch not wanting to move. But my parents heard me and came to my rescue. My mother pulled the windows shut and latched them. I finally crawled back into bed .

To this day, windy days do bring back the memory of fear from that night. I wouldn’t walk in the wind for many years. One year we went to Costa Rica and a wind storm came in early in the afternoon. The group had planned a walk that night to find turtles. It was possible to see these huge turtle coming ashore to lay their eggs. I couldn’t get myself to go. I stayed back in the room while G and the others went out by flashlight. I hovered in the bed as the wind came in under the door wondering and worrying. For G, it was one of the highlights of his life. They saw a leather back turtle come ashore and lay her eggs in a sandy hole before crawling back to the sea. The wonder of survival and I missed it due to the fear.

More and more, I have gotten over the fear. Now I find it exciting and invigorating. I feel full of life standing in a blustery wind storm. But deep down, that night still haunts me.

November 12, 2012

Confessions of a Fussy Eater - Ethnic Food

Chow Mein

Growing up in a German-Irish 3rd generation household in the fifties, our menus were mainly made up of meat, potato and a vegetable. Ethic food was nothing that my mother learned to cook. I remember her drawer of cookbooks. It was mainly cookbooks she received or purchased just after she first married in 1930. She had a Rumford Baking Powder cookbook and another one that I don’t remember who published.

But living in the Central Valley in California, there were multi-cultural groups all around. I remember lots of ‘chop suey’ cafes along the main streets. Most of the dishes were Cantonese. One of our favorite fancy restaurants was On Lock Sam’s where you could go for chow mein, egg foo young, stir fried beef and broccoli and other dishes. Steam table restaurants also became popular including Sampan where it was all you could eat. But my mother never made any of these dishes at home.

Italian was also very popular. There were several Italian restaurants where you could get spaghetti, ravioli, soup and meat main dish. Pesto was unknown. My mother only made one pasta dish. It was a tomato spaghetti dish that I remember having American cheese melted in it. And yes, the green Kraft can of parmesan had a place on the refrigerator shelf.

Things started to change in the Sixties. Maybe it was the influence of cooks like Julia Child or it came from the friends I made in school. Once I entered junior high school, most of my friends were Asian, Mexican or Italian. At our slumber parties, the mothers made fried rice and ramen for breakfast. At parties, there would be teriyaki chicken and pancit. Pizza parlors became our favorite hangouts. My dad loved Mexican food and we would get take out tamales and enchiladas.

My mother also started trying new dishes at home. One of my classmate’s Mexican boyfriend gave her a recipe for enchiladas and she shared it with my mother. It soon became one of our favorites. It used canned Las Palmas enchilada sauce which is still a very good off-the-shelf brand. The process of how to assemble the enchiladas by frying in oil, dipping in the sauce, filling with a mixture of beef, onion, olives, rolling and baking was classic.

I also discovered the public library as a source for cookbooks. I would bring home a wide variety of different cookbooks. I later purchased several to take with me to college and they are still classics in my collection; James Beard's American Cooking, Better Homes & Garden Cookbook, McCall’s Cookbook, Craig Claiborne’s New York Time Cookbook. Their focus was Americana cooking but all had a good mix of different culture dishes. Slowly we expanded our menu.

My mother’s repertoire did not change much. But mine has expanded greatly. In fact, I rarely cook many of the dishes I grew up with. I think it has been over 20 years since I cooked fried chicken. Today my repertoire has a lot of emphasis on Mexican, Italian and some Asian. And there is lots to explore in the future including cuisines of India, Japan and Korea.

What are your memories of food growing up?

Here are a couple of my previous posts on food I ate growing up:

November 29, 2012

In memory of Cassie


It has been a year since our kitty Cassie was put down. We got her originally in 1996 with sister Mina. They were born on a farm from dumped cats. She was the 'beauty queen' compared to her runty sister. She had a mellow temperament and took all kinds of abuse from her jealous sister. And she took over the house after Mina.

She was my garden kitty. She loved to join me while I worked in the garden, lying in the sun and following me around. She started getting sick at the beginning of 2011. Old age was taking its toll; hyper-thyroid, bad teeth and eventually a tumor in one eye. We made her last year as good as possible but we finally had to put her down shortly after Thanksgiving. We have grieved many months for her.

Cassie - we miss you so much and you will always be in our hearts.

July 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Dad!

August 1968 - one of my favorite photos. I took this with my first camera - a Kodak Instamatic. It was taken at Monterey on a drive down Highway 1 to visit my sister in Oxnard.

Today is my fathers birthday. He would have been one hundred years old today. It is hard for me to comprehend.

I really know so little of his early life. He married late in life and those first forty years I only know by oral history . He was born in Colorado. He was the third of four children. They were poor and my grandfather worked in the mines. My father only had a eighth grad education. He left school to help with odd jobs. He helped in the boarding house that my aunt ran for miners bringing coal for the stoves and sold extra to the working girls. Eventually he followed my grandfather and worked in the local mine but the family left Colorado for California with the waves of Okies in the early 30s. They settled in the Auburn area where he could find work in the gold mines.

The war was coming and opportunity was happening at a mine in eastern California. Union carbide was hiring men for their things tungsten mine high in the eastern Sierra . He drove over in the winter with a girl friend and joined the crew. He had a heart murmur and never went to war.

He met my mother after the war. She owned a bar that the miners frequented and met my dad. She was married with children but divorced her husband to marry my dad and start over.

They moved to the Central Valley with the idea of working on the Folsom dam project but ended up in Stockton with my uncle running a blacksmith shop. I was born and he followed my uncle to work for the city as an auto serviceman.

He retired after 15 years. He stayed active in volunteering and doing odd job. But his life long habit of smoking caught up with him in his late 70s and he passed away 15 years ago at 85.

I often wonder what he would have thought of the rapid changes since then. Machine fascinated him and I wonder if he would have ever used a computer.

Celebrating your memory and everything you did for me and all the things you did for me -- miss you so much.

I looked through the pictures that I collected from my mother. I have so few of him. We did not have a camera when I grew up and relied upon the occasional picture from a neighbor. I also have few pictures of him before he married my mother. But here are a few over the years.

The sisters and brothers in Colorado. He must have been around 5 or 6 years old. He is the 2nd from the left. Starting on the left, Leo, my dad, Cleo and Dorthea. He was already wearing a hat.

A crumpled picture that must have come from his wallet. No idea on the date although I am guessing it is the probably around 1936. My uncle is on the left, my aunt is in the middle and my dad on the right.

Age 25 - at the Auburn Chicago Mine in Penryn California 1938. He is in the first row - fifth from the left - notice the cigarette. He smoked until he was over 65.

Bishop January 1941 I found an old postcard showing the main street of Bishop and this picture looks very similar. It was sent by 'Doris' to my grandmother telling her that they had arrived in Bishop and it had been a hard drive from Auburn to Bishop with lots of snow and ice over the Sierras. I suspect 'Doris' was Dad's girlfriend at the time but never heard any stories about her.

Here he is with a group outside a bar - no idea where or what date. Judging by the amount of hair - I'm guessing in the 40's

Photos of my Dad and Mom just after they had married in Nevada.

Here were are as a family in Stockton after I was born. I'm guessing I might be about 2 or 3 years old.

September 1959 - 6 years old. I loved this dress with the rick-rack that my mother made. My dad in his typical stance - hands half in his dungaree pockets, cigarette and hat pushed back.

This is probably 1961 when I was in the 3rd grade.

August 1982 Seattle. Their last visit to the Pacific NW.

Dad and Mom some time in the 1980's.

One of my last photos of Dad celebrating his 80th birthday in 1993.

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