Monthly Archives: September 2013

Inclement weather

This past weekend our little family set out to uncover the majesty of the Wenatchee National Forrest. Neither of us had any experience with this stretch of woods, but since it is now the nearest forrest to where we live we were determined to familiarize ourselves with our camping and hiking options. We used our a brand new, but already well-trusted Forrest Service map, selected a stretch of road that appeared heavily populated with campgrounds and trailheads, and headed out for a long weekend beneath the pines. Well, it was meant to be a long weekend, as you’ll see.

Winding our way up through the Icicle Gorge area we ‘discovered’ some really great campgrounds–beachfront on the rugged river, spacious and thick massive trees, and best of all: almost completely devoid of any other human beings. We knew that this privacy was due to the lateness of the season and the unwelcoming weather, but we boldly assumed that four years of camping on the rainy Oregon coast would have uniquely prepared us for any unwanted precipitation.

View from under the Superbrella.

View from under the Superbrella.

It started raining soon after we selected a most premier campsite, but we remained calm, set up our Superbrella, and made a fire. Everyone we’ve talked to has been cheerfully adamant that the weather in Central Washington is much more sunny and dry than what we were accustomed to in Portland, so we remained confident that the “showers” would pass, if not by nightfall then certainly by morning, and we would be able to enjoy our planned hikes the following day. I settled into my camp chair beneath the encompassing Superbrella with a novel and a glass of cheap red wine, ready to wait it out.

 

Boy were we wrong. It rained and it poured all night long. And it persisted on into the morning. We woke up to this:

And we promptly decamped, tossing our drenched tent, tarp, and Superbrella helter-skelter into the back of the car and tearing away down the mountain. We managed to somewhat relieve our disappointment at having our first ever Central Washington camping trip rained out by stopping at the Fred Meyer in Wenatchee (I do SO miss my good old friend FM…) and treating ourselves to coffee and maple bars. I’m not saying that the maple bars made up for the lost hours that were meant to be spent hiking along scenic gorges and camping beneath towering trees, but they certainly helped.

I believe a good maple bar can go quite some way in assuaging many of life’s upsets.

WEEDS

Now, just so we’re clear, this post will NOT be regarding the popular television drama, nor will it address a more-popular recreational substance. No, this is about a different type of weeds. The kind that insidiously spread through a backyard, slowly but insistently converting acreage of fescue into fields of dandelions and clover. I expressly name dandelion and clover here because they have become two of my worst enemies, combining with their compatriot crab grass to form an arch-nemesis trifecta that haunts my mornings.

dandelions

They may look innocent enough, to some, perhaps, they look like the tender makings of a foraged dinner salad. But to me, a renter who lease specifically states that lawn care will be “at the sole expense of the tenant”, these dandelions are a waving banner of war.

Let me give a little background, set the stage to help you all understand how a nature-loving, live-and-let-live person like myself has been transformed into an Ortho-Max yielding maniac. When we moved in to our new place we noted the presence of some weeds and, thinking it only typical in any lawn as large as the one we had just assumed responsibility for, didn’t think of it again. (For those of who who haven’t heard my pitiful moanings of complaint or seen the atrocity with your own eyes–this yard is a literal acre…of nothing but grass.) As the days passed a transformation began taking place before our eyes: the weeds were growing, spreading, threatening our sanity and our reputation with the neighbors. Trevor suggested that we purchase 50 million bags of “feed and weed” and spread it the poison over the entire lawn. I gasped at the expense and instead took it upon myself to visit revenge upon these weeds with a sprayer, insisting that I had the time and the determination to kill each one.

Ahem. After 6 hours of porting around a 2 gallon sprayer (which needed frequent refilling from the deadly-smelling concentrate in the garage) in the baking Central Washington summer sun the weeds seemed as heart and endless as ever and I was beat. I admitted defeat to my husband, begging for the quick and universal application of the “feed and weed” and consumed with bitterness over the futility of my attempts.

So, now you know why I hate weeds. On a lighter note, I harvested several cups of unbelievably sweet and juicy grapes from our neighbor’s vine this morning. She assured us that we were welcome to collect anything growing  on our side of the fence and I took her word for it.

photo (1)It seems that this fertile land and sun-soaked climate are good for growing ANYTHING–both succulent grapes and maddening weeds. Perhaps I should have called this post “Pros and Cons”.

My first cheese-baby

As a serious cheese lover I have long aspired to try my own hand at home cheese-making. Cheese, being everything wonderful that it is, seemed like a worthy, yet considerably intimidating goal, which is why up until last week I had shied away from any home-dairy experiments.

But now everything has changed. I found the courage to try this recipe for homemade whole-milk ricotta cheese from Annie’s Eats (one of my favorite recipe resources–www.annies-eats.com) and friends, let me tell you, it was easy to make and all-too-easy to enjoy.

My first ever cheese-baby served us in a variety of delicious ways over the weekend:

First, as a topping on a homemade whole wheat pizza dough. Topping pizza with fresh ricotta is one component of my eternal quest to find a satisfactory copycat recipe for my all-time favorite pizza which is no longer available at what used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Portland. (They obviously are not any longer, ever since they struck my favorite pizza from their menu.)

Next, it starred in two quick and easy pasta dishes for a Saturday night after-a-movie dinner. His was a baked pasta with whole wheat penne, pre-made tomato sauce from a jar (he swears that he actually likes it), homemade ricotta, and shredded mozzarella. Hers was an AMAZING recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen (my other favorite recipe resource–www.smittenkitchen.com) that showcased the ricotta in a whole wheat pasta dish with snow peas, freshly squeezed lemon, mint plucked from my patio, and grated parmesan.

You may have noticed that both the pizzas and the pasta dishes were customized; his and hers. If you continue to follow this blog you will notice that this is not a rare occurrence. Whenever it’s possible to do a construct-your-own dinner, I do it. It’s absolutely worth the peace and contentment that comes with both of us getting to personalize our meal.

You may have also noticed that my food photography leaves much to be desired. I know it and I regret it. That’s pretty much the extent of my phone camera’s capacity, though I will endeavor to make the arrangements more appealing as I learn.

My whole experience with cheese-making did leave me with one pressing question: can cheese cloth be reused? If yes, then making ricotta at home is not only tasty, but also budget-friendly. If no, then having to purchase a fresh $5.60 cheese cloth for each batch may relegate this recipe to special occasions only. I would greatly appreciate information from anyone who knows about this, especially the particulars on how to properly cleanse the cloth for future use.

And now, a small town living anecdote, repeated here to satisfy my mother: Trevor and I went to the movies on Saturday night to escape thinking about a fresh crop of car troubles that are plaguing our ever-untrusty volvo. Let me put it simply; the $14 admission for two was wonderful, but our theater event was just not the cinetopia experience we had grown accustomed to in the city. For those of you who don’t know, cinetopia is like the first class of movie theaters–wide, reclining leather seats with personal ottomans, state of the art technology, and beer and wine delivered directly to your seat. Our Saturday night at the movies was more of a ride in coach, in an old plane that smelled of crushed-velvet must and stale popcorn butter. I’m trying to chalk it all up to small town “charm”.

As promised

Image

When I first began spreading the word that the next four years of our lives would find us living in a small, agriculture-centric town in rural Central Washington our friends and family responded with great enthusiasm: “what an adventure!”, they said. Several people insisted that I should begin a blog to chronicle these “adventures” with the dual purposes of providing a means of stay in touch and giving my suddenly endless quantities of free time some meaningful structure (more on that later).

Now, I will confess (as I do intend for this blog to be built on honesty) that my level of excitement about the prospect of our our move was considerably less than that of friends, family, and my husband. I dreaded moving to what felt like the ‘middle of nowhere’, a place far from any comrades or kin, a place without a Target! But, we’re here now and I’m working diligently on becoming acclimated to the cultural climate. Since I do regard myself as a person of my word, here, as promised, is my first attempt at blogging.

Here’s what can be anticipated:

  • Commentary, comparisons, and confessions about life in a small town
  • Anecdotes about our “adventures” here and abroad
  • Reports on our progress with a new level adulthood, such as successful recipes, worthwhile projects, etc
  • Etc.

Now for a bit of an update, which is what the majority of you are here for anyway. We moved here at the start of August and have been (very) busily settling in to our (very) large house and yard. Transitioning from a 900 square foot townhouse in the city to a full-sized grown-up house with an acre of grass to nurture has been quite an adjustment. We are working hard to make this big house homey and to not have the ugliest lawn in the neighborhood.

Trevor began work in the third week of August and since that time I have been trying out a new occupation: housewifery. Some of you might object to this enterprise, pointing out that it seems wasteful to acquire a Masters degree and then let it sit gathering dust. I would have to agree, but I assure you my foray into “homemaking” is not fully by choice and I desperately hope it to be a temporary position. You see, opportunities are a bit limited here in my field, but have no fear, I am steadily developing ideas and prospects for gainful employment. In the meantime, I am enjoying, yes enjoying, the freedom to read, experiment in the kitchen, and become accustomed to our new environment.

I hope you’ll have as much fun following along with this new adventure as I hope to in having it,

Kylie

*A note on the name for this blog: Naming a blog is harder than naming a baby. Okay, it’s true that I have never named a baby, but I did find the forced commitment to an enduring name for this project very difficult. I meant to begin this project concurrently with out move (more than a month ago) and post ideas have been obnoxiously racing around in my mind for weeks, but my momentum was forestalled by the necessary first step of choosing a name. Many ideas were brainstormed on road trips with my husband, cute titles having to do with country roads and rows of corn, but I was troubled by the thought that the name would become obsolete with the termination of our four year term here; and what if I had enjoyed this undertaking enough to want to continue? Then it came to me in a flash of inspiration, though we will almost certainly move from this place in four years, we will almost as certainly continue to live somewhere in the great and beautiful Northwest. (If life makes a liar out of me, I hope I have the grace not to be too bitter). Thus the name, ourNWlife.