Friday, April 27, 2007

Vegetable Soup

We joined a local CSA run by Tolstoy Farm a few years back. It was, and continues to be, a great way to make sure that you're buying the freshest local organic produce possible, supporting local farmers, etc. Notice I didn't say "eating," because the year we joined happened to be a bad year for farming. Except for beets. It was apparently the best year for beets EVER.

I hate beets.

Oh, I tried, to be certain. I pored over my copy of Greene on Greens. We had them roasted, grilled, borscht-ed, cold, hot, smothered in butter, swimming in sour cream. It doesn't matter. To my palate, beets = spicy dirt.

We finally admitted defeat and ended our CSA membership. We bought organic produce at the grocery store, and tried to remember to hit the Farmer's Market in the summer. Happily, there's now a better option.

Fresh Abundance delivers a box of organic produce to our doorstep every other Thursday. If there's something available from local farmers, it's in the box. If the box isn't well-rounded enough with the local produce, then organic produce from further afield is added. It strikes a neat balance between my desire for the freshest produce available, and my need to not be faced with a carton of beets.

Oh, and that's the best part. If you're a delivery customer, and you're getting the pre-built boxes, you can specify three kinds of produce you'd just as soon not see in your box. I have to admit to a maniacal cackle or two as I typed in "1. Beets 2. Beets 3. BEEEEETS."

Cats: Our Elegant Companions.

If by elegant, of course, you mean drooly.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Garbage Goat

GarbageGoat The Spokane Department of Parks and Recreation does a pretty good job of keeping Riverfront Park (and the other Spokane parks) clean. But no area of Riverfront Park is as clean as the 50 yards or so around the Garbage Goat.

Built for the '74 World's Fair, the Garbage Goat is a kid magnet. Finding themselves with an empty mini-donuts bag, parents bring their kids to the goat, hit the button and SNORT the bag is sucked up the goat's mouth and nose. Very young kids react with fright. A little older, and it is a frenzy of "What else will it eat!" Leaves? Yep. Stray drink lids found on the ground? Yep. Ticket stubs? Receipts from mom's purse? Dollar bills? Dirt? Small rocks? Timmy! Don't pull that out of the garbage can!? Yep, yep and yep.

And if you hang out around it for any amount of time, don't be surprised when you see a woman in a business suit slip the goat an apple core or a retiree feed the goat a plastic bag or three. There's something about shop-vac technology and a friendly goat that brings out the kid in everyone.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Now that you mention it....

Matt, whispering to me during the offertory at church today:

"Should the pianist really be playing the theme music from 'The Sting' during this?"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Oldest House in Spokane

It's amazing how often it happens. A perfect stranger walks up to us in the grocery store, at Miller's Hardware, or in the park and says "You're those people! With that house!"

It's true. We are the people with that house. That house on the corner that you've driven by a million times, the house that you've always wondered what it's like inside, the house that looks like someone's fixing it up (very slowly).

The fun part of the conversation is what inevitably comes next, though. The "I heard..." part of the conversation. Because the Charming Wreck is so visible, stories have sprung up around it like bindweed. Total strangers have pulled into our driveway to tell us what we should know about our house. Like that it was the first house in Spokane with electricity. (It wasn't.) Or that there's a secret room in the basement. (There isn't.)

Today, though, we heard a new one. "You're the people! With that house! I heard it's the oldest house in Spokane!" Whoa. Since the Spokane House trading post was built in 1810, and the Charming Wreck was built in 1922, we really can't lay claim to that particular superlative.

This is going to be a hard rumor to quash, though. Apparently, the people who asked us heard it from their kids, who attend the elementary school across the street. I just know that there are groups of kids at recess telling the younger ones hair-raising tales of the old house ("The Oldest!") built on a Indian burial ground ("For reals!") haunted by a crazy old lady ("like, two hundred years old!") who eats kids.

Probably explains why we never get any trick-or-treaters.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Recently Obsessed

I love luxury yarns, merino and mohair and silk and cashmere. I browse in my yarn shop for hours, petting the lovely, expensive skeins.

And then I buy Lily Sugar and Cream worsted cotton, and crochet dishcloths. Something about their cheerful utility appeals to me. That, and I can finish one during a night of television watching.

I have skeins and skeins of the good stuff, the pricey stuff patiently waiting for me to be finished with my dishrag fling. Maybe after just one more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Using Nearly-Dead Bananas

We belong to Fresh Abundance, which delivers a box of organic produce every other week. Often, there are bananas. Mostly, they get ignored until they're jam in a banana skin.

At that point, it's either throw them out or make a banana cake. Throwing them out would be boring to write about, so cake it is. I really like the "Banana Coffee Cake" from Beth Hensperger's The Best Quick Breads. I've made a few adaptations, because a) the original recipe calls for nuts, and nothing ruins a cake for Matt like nuts and b) I am categorically incapable of using a recipe as printed.

Banana Coffee Cake

3/4 cup room temperature butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag chocolate chips
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan, or a "fluted tube pan" if you fear trademark infringement. If you are a crazy person like me and inexplicably want to take a picture of all your ingredients gathered together, now would be the time.

2.Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the sour cream, bananas, and vanilla, and beat until just smooth.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and soda. Gradually add the mixture to the banana goo and beat well until the batter is fluffy and thick, with no lumps or dry spots. Stir in about half of the bag of chocolate chips.

4. Combine half of the remaining chocolate chips with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour about half of the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with half of the chocolate chip mixture. Spoon the remaining batter into the pan, and then sprinkle the top with the remaining chocolate chip mix.

5. Bake for 55 - 60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake stand in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool.

6. When cool, melt remaining chocolate chips with a tablespoon or two of butter, and drizzle over the top of the cake.

If you're not in the mood for chocolate -- I do not pretend to understand this, but apparently this is a state that exists -- replace the chocolate chips with coarsely chopped dried apricots, the vanilla with finely grated lemon zest, and glaze the cake with 2 cups of powdered sugar with enough lemon juice stirred in to make a runny icing.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Road Trip!

One of my favorite ways to spend a long Spring weekend is by driving over to Seattle. As much as I love living in Spokane, there are some things that you just can't get here, like good Italian food and Beecher's macaroni and cheese and movies at the Cinerama and $24 parking.

As road trips go, it's not terribly arduous - four to five hours, depending on traffic, weather, etc. And it's a beautiful drive, passing through basalt rock formations; sagebrush deserts; fields of canola, potatoes, wheat, oats, barley, and peppermint; and finally through the heart of the Cascade mountains.

The drive home never seems quite as scenic - maybe the subtle beauty of the Columbia plateau suffers when you've just left the nigh-garish spectacle of snowy peaks meeting blue ocean. Or maybe we're just tired from all the walking and eating and shopping and eating. Regardless, the rest stop at the Ryegrass summit always seems lovely to me, because it means that we are halfway home.

Ginkgo Watch

Ginkgo Watch April 9My favorite kind of tree is the Ginkgo. Someday, I will have one in my backyard. Perhaps with some bamboo friends to keep it company while I am at work (bamboo being my favorite woody perennial evergreen plant in the true grass family (thank you Wikipedia)).

Late last year, I discovered a Ginkgo in Riverfront Park. It is now my very bestest secret tree friend. Or, at the very least, a tree I say hi to whenever I walk by. It is only just starting to show green leaf buds right now, but I'll save that for a later ginkgo update (as none of the pictures I took today were worth publishing).

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Joint Craft Project

For Easter gifts for our nieblings, Matt and I made animals from Aranzi Aronzo's The Cute Book. (Matt made all the little animals, and I hid their nakey-ness with crocheted scarves.)

Here they are, taking a moment to run in slow-motion through the violets before they have to climb into Easter baskets.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate, and Happy Spring to everyone!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Miller's Hardware

Terry Pratchett writes about L-space, the ability of books in large quantity to warp time and space around themselves. If you've ever spent time in a sufficiently old used bookshop, you'll be familiar with the phenomenon of the shop that appears tiny from the outside, and yet seems to have miles upon miles of bookshelves inside.

Miller's Hardware, on 29th and Regal, seems to operate under a similar loosening of the normal time-space rules. It is small and dark and cluttered, without the 20-foot ceilings and rows of shopping carts that most of us expect when we walk in a big box home store. And yet, whenever we need something for the Charming Wreck, Miller's has it. Doesn't matter what we ask for - parts for our old stove, fuses, an angle grinder, galvanized boot trays, replacement Christmas tree light bulbs, vacuum bags. Miller's has it. What's more, they employ people who know where the stock is, and better, know what it's all for. As a bonus, they know people. People who do esoteric things, like sharpen mower blades or work on old hot water heating systems or fix snowblowers. If you're not wired into the network of wily old guys who know how to do stuff, shopping at Miller's is the next best thing.