August 29, 2013

Learning to eat

It's been hard for me to post this week and last because we're doing full-time childcare for our little grandson until his daycare center space opens up next week. Even though he's a happy baby most of the time, it's still exhausting and time-consuming to look after him. (Have you ever noticed how a lot of people stop blogging after the birth of a baby?) He's been coming at 7:45 a.m. and leaving sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. and by the time we've had dinner, I'm too tired to move a finger other than the one that controls the TV remote. It's all I can do to catch an episode of HGTV.

The little munchkin's favorite time of the day is when he's eating lunch. In the photo above, you can see him sampling lettuce and kale from my garden.

He'll eat most anything, but his favorite food seems to be peaches, and he will eat an entire large peach, leaving behind just the skin. He also loves the blueberry muffins I baked for him. At seven months old, he's not being spoon fed, but rather, is allowed to experience all the food first hand, so to speak. If you have a little one, what approach are you taking to feeding? Do you use a spoon? Self-feeding?

Here's what happens post-lunch. He's so disgusting that it seems only fitting that he goes into the sink. Of course, he loves this, too.

Last weekend I was treated to a barbecue at the little guy's house, and it was fantastic. All the vegetables came from his parents' garden. I love fresh food cooked on the grill so much. We also had quinoa salad, tofu, and a chocolate cream pie made by me, that I'll blog about during MOFO.

MOFO starts next week. Are you joining in? As a blogger? As a reader?

Got to go feed the baby!

August 23, 2013

What we did on Whidbey Island (besides eat)

Although today's post isn't all about food, I have to at least start out with the breakfast we enjoyed at Someday Farm Vegan Bed and Breakfast on our second morning. (If you missed the first B & B post you can find it here.) Jill must have read my mind when she prepared the delicious meal — I love polenta and roasted vegetables, and could eat these foods every day. There was also a yummy vegetable and bean dish, and, in the baking dish on the right, an amazing gluten-free cinnamon coffee cake that we devoured. Plus, there were fresh pear and kiwi slices.

This is how my plate looked just before I stuffed myself. There's nothing like a wonderful breakfast to make you feel special.

But I must stop thinking about food and backtrack a little to fill in the gaps of our relaxing little vacation on Whidbey Island. There's more to do there than just eat, though just eating isn't so bad. Whidbey Island, the largest island in Puget Sound, is approximately 45 miles long, 10 miles across at its widest point and one-and-a half miles at its narrowest. The island has a total area of 235 square miles and has five state parks, eight large lakes and 200 miles of shoreline. It's the second largest island in the continental U.S.

According to, "For thousands of years, the only occupants of the Pacific Northwest were Indians who lived in large communal longhouses subsisting on fish, shellfish, wild game as well as roots and berries. Whidbey and Camano Islands, as well as the San Juan Islands were occupied by several groups of Coast Salish Indians including Skagit, Snohomish, and a small number  of Clallam. With the exception of periodic wars with other Indian tribes, life was relatively quiet for many centuries. In the late 1700s and early 1800s the Indian population was decimated by disease transmitted through contact with white explorers. In some areas diphtheria, smallpox, and measles killed 90 percent of the Indians. By the time white settlers arrived, some local tribes had populations of only a few hundred and were so depleted they could not effectively resist the intruders."

Late Tuesday morning we drove to the ferry dock in Mukilteo and, in a feat of unplanned perfect timing, drove right onto the ferry. Barely 20 minutes later, we were driving off the ferry and heading to Freeland, the small town where Someday Farm is located. It's interesting to note that present day Freeland had its origins an a socialist commune in the 1900s.

Our host, Jill, met us at the B & B, which is a separate structure located away from the main house, gave us the scoop, and was off to her recycling business in town, leaving us to settle in, and explore. I neglected to photograph the building, so have stolen a photo from the Someday Farm Web site.  (My apologies, Jill.) The guest room is on the second floor.

We ate the lunch we'd brought with us, then set out to meet the many resident animals, before hiking one of the trails on the property. Before we knew it, the day was gone, and it was time to pick kale from the garden and cook a simple supper. After dinner we headed to Double Bluff Beach to watch the sunset.

We took a long walk on the beach, enjoying the evening air, and the many driftwood structures and sculptures that lined the shore. There were tons of large pieces of driftwood as well as interesting rocks, and it was pretty hard not to snatch a few souvenirs.

Though not quite as spectacular as we'd hoped, we enjoyed the serenity of the sunset before heading back to our room.

 The next morning, after a sumptuous breakfast, we drove to Earth Sanctuary.
clockwise from top left: altar, stone stack (cairn), altar, labyrinth.

According to the Earth Sanctuary Web page, their mission is to "combine exemplary ecology with art and spirit to create a sanctuary for birds and wildlife and a peaceful place for personal renewal and spiritual connection."

We didn't see much wildlife, but there were lots of meditative opportunities for the spiritually inclined.

"Chuck Pettis—visionary, designer, author, monument-builder, and eco-artist—is the founder of Earth Sanctuary, and is author of the book, "Secrets of Sacred Space: Discover and Create Places of Power." Pettis was recognized in the September 2008 issue of Science of Mind magazine as one of 12 people making a difference in the world."
Clockwise from top left: stone circle, Tibetan medicine wheel, prayer flags.

"Over the past 40+ years, Chuck has built numerous sacred spaces and environmental artworks, among them labyrinths; stone circles; geodesic domes, zomes and inflatables; a dolmen; a medicine wheel; and, most recently, a Buddhist stupa. In 1977 he built the Ellis Hollow Stone Circle, the first energetically and astronomically aligned stone circle in the United States. In 1987 Pettis created the “Seattle Ley-Line Map,” utilizing a grant that The Geo Group won from the Seattle Arts Commission."
(quotes from Earth Sanctuary Web page.)

View from the labyrinth.

The sanctuary was a beautiful place to hike.

We spent a few hours there exploring the woods, and spending time in the various sacred spaces.

I'm glad I followed the advice on the Web site and wore my hiking boots!

Our plan had been to eat lunch after leaving the sanctuary, then go hiking in South Whidbey Island State Park, which boasts an old growth forest that I wanted to experience. However, we weren't hungry, we were tired of hiking, and decided to drive to the small city of Langley instead, to tour the town and visit a few resale shops.

Langley is a charming waterfront arts community with fine artists, theater groups, music, and crafts. We wandered through the downtown area, visiting many of the shops and galleries. There's also a elevated walk along the waterfront, so, of course we walked it. Then we headed to at least three of the resale shops in the area. We had a great time rummaging around, admiring the great selections, and even buying a couple of items. By the time we got back to the B & B for a rather late lunch, lethargy was starting to set in, and we no longer had the ambition necessary to lace on hiking boots and head to the state park.

We decided to explore the barn, instead. It was looming not far from our accommodation, and Jill had hinted it might be worth seeing. She was right. On the first floor, where the light was dim, the barn was packed with restored versions of the junk cars that decorated the grounds.

Some were even stacked two-high. The flashy cars were surrounded by lots of other old stuff in various stages of decay. We searched all over the place to find a staircase to the second floor, and when I finally found it, OMG...

It was like entering a museum filled with antiques.

Each area was more mind boggling than the next. There was even an area set up like a living room, with a sleeping area nearby.

The doll collection was . . . interesting, and perhaps a little creepy. There were a couple of dolls that were, shall we say, unusual.

To say we were taken aback by the contents of the barn was an understatement. There were so many things there I loved, including some perfectly speckled marbles.

Wednesday evening after dinner, we watched Peaceable Kingdom, which I mentioned in my previous post.

Thursday was our check-out day, and we were so relaxed (lazy) that any remaining will to exert ourselves had totally dissipated, and we dawdled over breakfast (see beginning of post) vaguely considering our options. Once again the state park was ruled out, and following a suggestion by Jill, we fed our leftovers from Wednesday's breakfast to our new best friends, the goats and donkeys. Then we packed up and took off to find the closest beach on which to ramble. The day was bleak, but the beach was still a pleasant place to while away some of our remaining island time. Then it was time to go home.

As we drove through town on our way to the ferry, we stopped at an antique store we'd been noticing. It was spectacular, and we ended up purchasing a wonderful old framed beach photograph, and an unusual glass bottle. While in the shop, a young woman and her mother stopped us to say they had seen us on Double Bluff Beach the other evening, which lead to a conversation about old family photographs, and whether or not it was sad to find them in antique stores. What a friendly place — after only two days, we were already being recognized by the locals! (Maybe they remembered us hauling off the piece of driftwood!)

We had a wonderful time on Whidbey Island, but I was getting anxious to see my baby dog, Callie, so we headed to the ferry for the short trip home.

August 18, 2013

Two nights at Someday Farm Vegan Bed and Breakfast

Yes, the muffins are gluten-free. I had to ask though, because I couldn't believe it.

It was almost 10 a.m. in Seattle and no one had brought me a breakfast tray of delicious vegan food. It's amazing how fast one can become accustomed to being treated like royalty, and I wasn't ready to go back to real life yet. Let me explain. For two nights we were enjoying a mini-vacation at Someday Farm vegan bed and breakfast on Whidbey Island, and it was hard to come back to reality. For two days, Jill, the co-owner of the wonderful property where we were enjoying our getaway, showed up at 9 a.m. bearing a large tray filled with fabulous breakfast foods.

This was our tray on morning number one — tofu quiche, roasted potatoes, fresh-baked muffins, fresh fruit, and little cubes of agar agar jell (I think). Not only was it all delicious, it was also gluten-free. We had enough food to stuff ourselves for breakfast and enjoy again for lunch. We actually had some quiche left for dinner but were ultimately unable to finish it all. The goats and donkeys got the leftovers, and they couldn't have been more thrilled.

Not only was the breakfast ample, but the refrigerator and cupboards were stocked with a variety of easy-to-prepare foods that Jill encouraged us to use — plus we could gather veggies from the garden.

When we first entered the dwelling, I think I let out a little squeal of delight at the large size, extreme charm and comfort of the place.

And it was sparkling clean.

Everything exuded quirky charm and coziness, from the uniquely painted kitchen cupbords

to the items and collections inside the cupboards, and the objects on the counter tops.

Although the appliances and facilities were immaculate, modern and up to date, things like dishes, telephone and breadbox were a bit 'collectable'. Speaking of the breadbox — it was filled with a bag of wonderful chips, and an assortment of energy bars, which came in very handy. In addition to easy-to-prepare foods, there were also spices, teas, coffee, and everything you might need to throw a snack or meal together. Frankly, though, we were so stuffed from breakfast, food wasn't much on our minds.

Everywhere we turned there were shelves filled with books, magazines and DVDs to keep us occupied when we we weren't out hiking or exploring the towns. The one DVD we watched was Peaceable Kingdom, which I recommend if you are on the edge of deciding whether or not to embrace a vegan diet. It's not horrifically graphic, but "a riveting story of transformation and healing, Peaceable Kingdom explores the awakening conscience of several people who grew up in traditional farming culture and who have now come to question the basic assumptions of their way of life." * You will also appreciate the video if you're looking for ways to talk to friends and acquaintances who question your vegan choices.

View of the vegetable garden and aviary as seen from our front door.

The B&B is situated on 70 beautiful acres including wooded hiking trails, and a large area with friendly resident animals such as goats, donkeys, and ponies. There are also chickens, rabbits and a gaggle of somewhat alarming geese.

Typical view of one of the ponies when saying hello.

I thought I had taken lots of photos of the animals but apparently not. Probably while I thought I was taking pictures, instead I was interacting with them and offering handfuls of delicious grass (which was clearly far more delicious than the grass on their side of the fence), or stroking heads and noses, and I couldn't do two things at once. The animals get up close and personal and it's easy to get caught up in the moment.

I became kind of attached to the donkeys and was dismayed to see I didn't have any images of them — I'll have to be more mindful next time we stay there.

I mentioned earlier that there were collectables inside the apartment, but the collections weren't limited to the inside spaces. Nope — there were interesting, and dare I say artful, displays everywhere we looked outdoors, too.

For example, we could see an unusual vehicle just across the lawn from our front door. When I asked Jill what it was, she explained it was an old bus converted to a bunkhouse.

She cautioned us use the rear door if we wanted to look inside because the front door didn't work well.

As you can see, it is a bunkhouse. Yikes.

Not all the collections of items were currently being put to use, other than as sculptural art objects, but there were countless decrepit (though not without charm) old vehicles throughout the property.

Some more forlorn than others.

And not just cars. There were lots of metal objects and machinery.

Lots. Not to mention evidence of more arriving. Lucky there are 70 acres and a huge barn to make the collection seem smaller than it is. Kind of. Being a (reformed) collector myself, I found all the 'stuff' rather exciting.

Jill and her husband run a recycling business in town, and are gone most of the day, so guests pretty much have the farm to themselves, and are free to wander about to enjoy the sights and sounds undeterred.

I've shown you around the property a bit (there's more coming) and described one of the breakfasts Jill brought us. In my next post I'll give you an idea what we did while on Whidbey Island, and what was on breakfast tray number two. In the meantime, book yourself a few days respite at Someday Farm — if you can find some available dates! Have you ever stayed in a vegan establishment like this?

* Quoted from the Peaceable Kingdom Web site.

August 11, 2013

Quinoa salad with creamy lemon-basil dressing

August 6 was National Night Out, and our block had its annual pot luck dinner to mark the event. It's really called the National Night Out Against Crime, although I didn't realize it until just now when I looked it up. It makes a lot of sense to have block parties to help deter crime, because the better neighbors get to know one another, the more likely they are to watch out for each other. I got to meet both new and old neighbors and had a great time at our party. I thought it was a huge success, but I couldn't help but wonder what was going on at the block behind ours — lots of loud party noises coming from that block long into the night. Loud and raucous laughing and shrieking. Am I living on the wrong block?

I always have a hard time trying to think of something to make for a potluck, but my husband suggested quinoa salad, and considering the ingredients we had on hand, it seemed like a perfect idea. I cooked the quinoa with vegetable stock to give it an extra flavor boost, and combined it with cucumber, grape tomatoes, green onions, kalamata olives, toasted chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, and salad mix that was half baby spinach and half baby spring mix. When I'm making quinoa I wash it and drain it well, then add it to boiling water, turn the heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook it for 10 minutes. Then I turn off the heat and let the quinoa steam for another 10 minutes or so without removing the lid. Fluff the grain with a fork and either use it hot or let it cool to room temperature. You can also refrigerate it to use the next day. For the potluck salad, I used one cup of quinoa and two cups of stock.

Leftover dressing. The jar holds a total of 24 ounces.

The real point of writing the post isn't to describe the salad, it's to describe the salad dressing. The dressing was, in my humble opinion, exquisite — so creamy and luxe, with the perfect balance of herbs and citrus. It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but since I wasn't using a recipe, and was just adding things as I thought of them, it came together quickly— and the taste was fantastic. I'm so glad I wrote the ingredients down so I can make it again. The recipe makes a lot — enough for one really big salad and a few smaller ones. I've been drizzling it on regular green salads, and it's scrumptious. I chose the herbs I used to go with the basil because they're growing in my garden.**

Creamy lemon-basil dressing
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 soft dates, split and pitted
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • two or three sprigs of fresh rosemary (remove leaves from woody stems.)
  • handful fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped* 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Chop the garlic and let it sit on the cutting board.*
  2. With a knife or vegetable peeler, peel the yellow skin off the lemon half but leave the white part on. Remove the seeds, and cut the lemon into pieces.
  3. Add the lemon and water to a high speed blender and purée.
  4. Add the pine nuts, and dates and blend smooth.
  5. Add the basil, rosemary, parsley, yeast flakes, garlic and salt, and blend until smooth. 
  6. With the blender running, drizzle in the olive oil. The dressing should become thick and creamy. 
Someone will probably ask me if you have to add the oil. The oil thickens the dressing and adds to the flavor, but of course you don't have to add oil. You could try using less water or more pine nuts, or even adding some chia to the blender. I'm sure if you follow an oil-free diet, you'll know what to do. I eat a diet that's pretty low in added oils, but I do use some.

I got the idea for adding the lemon (instead of just the juice) from a smoothie book I recently reviewed. You can read the review and find a link to a recipe, here.

* Last weekend my friend Brenda told me she had read that garlic needs to be chopped and allowed to sit in the air for 10 minutes to make all of its healthful benefits available to our bodies. I googled it and found quite a few articles supporting this information. I chose one article to link to, but feel free to do further research or ignore the whole issue. I don't know if it's true or not, but I think it's true, and am going to do this from now on. You can read more about unlocking garlic's amazing benefits here.
The recipe for creamy basil dressing is being shared on Wellness Weekend.

** Here's a hint for next year, unless you live somewhere with an endless summer and can plant things whenever you want. If you have a sunny, or mostly sunny spot outdoors you can grow herbs in large pots. I bought a basil plant at Trader Joe's for $2.99, and it's acting like growing in a pot is the best thing in the world. Last year I tried growing basil in the ground, and it completely failed, but this year in a pot next to my house, it's growing like a weed. I used to grow ridiculous amounts of basil in the ground in my Wisconsin garden, but here in Seattle, where the summer isn't quite warm enough, my herbs in pots are doing better than my herbs in the ground.

Found on the cutting board when I cleaned up!

August 06, 2013

Resale sundae

The glasses sitting upside down in the cupboard.

I love resale shops, estate sales, garage sales, Goodwill, Craigslist etc. When I look around my house and my closet, large amounts of what I see came from these sources — not junk, mind you, but genuine finds of great stuff. I like both saving money, and recycling. Plus, adding previously well-loved pieces to my household makes me feel like I'm part of a continuum. I hope the things I no longer need or want find their way into the hands of someone who cares for them as much as I did. At this point, having been collecting for so long, I'm pretty discriminating, and buy very little of what I see, because I don't have much room to add possessions. Still, that doesn't keep me from 'looking', and selecting a few things here and there.

There's one phenomenon that strikes me as humorous — and potentially dangerous for a restrained collector — and it happens whenever I see something that I covetously desired at an earlier time in my life, but no longer need or want. I'll see the object, experience the thrill of a great find, then suddenly remind myself I no longer want it — like a round oak table, for example. There was a time in my life when I coveted an antique round oak dining table, but was foiled in my desire by parents who moved to another state, and wanted me to take their beloved mahogany dining table because it wouldn't fit into their new condo. I didn't want it, but we actually drove it 900 miles in a U-haul to our house, to make my parents happy. And dragged it along every time we moved, except the last time to Seattle. I no longer want a round oak table, but every so often when I see a particularly fetching one, there's a moment when I forget.

They are cute, aren't they?

This is what must have happened when I was in a resale shop last year, and spied a set of fluted sundae glasses. "Oh, I've always wanted a set of these," I thought. "Wouldn't it be fun to serve ice cream sundaes in 'real' sundae glasses." The size was just perfect, too — petite. Never mind that I never serve ice cream sundaes, and have never actually been in a situation where I wished I had sundae glasses. Still, they had been on my wish list at one time. But I came to my senses, and left the shop without them. The shop's sales support cancer research (good reason to buy stuff, right?), and a friend of mine was managing the shop at the time, and I mentioned to her my misplaced desire for the glasses. Every time I saw her I asked if they were still there.

One day I walked into the shop, and the glasses were on the reduced rack, having been there such a long time, because, obviously, no one needs sundae glasses. The price was so low I finally succumbed and bought them — and my friend wrapped them up and gave them to me as a gift. I had a high, empty cupboard shelf in the kitchen, and the glasses fit in perfectly. And they sat there.

Until now. I finally served ice cream sundaes at a family dinner! Layers of dairy-free ice cream, fresh sliced strawberries, and chocolate ganache. Oo la la!

Are you a resale shopper? Do you strictly limit what you buy? Do you have moments where you stop yourself before buying a coveted item?

August 02, 2013

Craving pancakes

I let a little too much time slip by before I got to my typical morning smoothie; it was getting late, and suddenly I was starving and craving pancakes. I tried to dissuade myself but it was no use — PANCAKES was all I could think about. It probably had something to do with the small, round waffle iron ($4!) I didn't buy at a recent estate sale, and a pancake craving was how my brain was handling the decision not to acquire another kitchen plaything. If you can't have waffles, then pancakes are the next best thing. And they would be gluten-free pancakes — without xanthan gum.

I set about cooking like I often do, without bothering to look up a recipe, which isn't always the best plan when using gluten-free flour. Lucky for me, it worked. I used approximately 1-1/4 cups of Bob's Red Mill GF Baking Mix, plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder, a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt for the dry mix, and two tablespoons of chia seeds plus four tablespoons of hemp seeds blended with a cup of water in the VitaMix, for the liquid. I happen to have black chia because that's what was inside the bag I got at Costco, so the liquid was an alarming shade of grey. It was OK, though, because the pancakes came out looking like whole wheat, not a scary grey color. When I mixed the batter, I ended up adding extra water because it was too thick, as I expected it would probably be. I also added a little vanilla extract and about a teaspoon of canola oil.

The pancakes were cooked on a hot, cast iron griddle (lightly oiled for the first batch) and they didn't stick at all, which surprised me. I thought they were delicious, but maybe a little too hemp-y for some people who may not be used to the flavor of hemp. Maybe even too hemp-y for me. (My husband loved them, and he never eats hemp, so I could be wrong about that.) I would use almond milk next time, and possibly add just one tablespoon of hemp — like I do when making smoothies. Otherwise, with some maple syrup, the pancakes were great. Playing in the kitchen is fun.

I just wish I'd bought the waffle iron . . .