Category Archives: Uncategorized

Introducing Gertrude

As you know, we have a plethora of fauna in our front yard. There’s Potter the otter (and Sons, his baby otters), Scooter the sea lion, Scampers the harbor seal, and the newest member of the cast – Gertrude the elephant seal!

She’s big, she’s clumsy, and she huffs and puffs back and forth in the water. She’s a real character, and the largest pinniped we’ve ever seen in the wild (I may or may not like to pretend that it’s a walrus). I don’t have any photos of her, but here’s one I found on the interwebs of a female elephant seal.

kevincole

Photo by kevincole

Isn’t she pretty? The boys are the ones with the big, ugly elephanty noses.

The other day while Caleb and I were watching some boats go by, none other but Gertrude popped up and started huffing and puffing on by. Then naught but a moment later we saw Scampers poke his little head up! He just hung out, staring at us. The pinnipeds seem to like to come out when the water is especially choppy.

I learned through the grapevine that there have been quite a few transient orca whale sightings around the island, but Caleb and I haven’t seen anything. Though my tally of seeing whales from the water taxi is now up to two! And I haven’t even been riding the boat for a year.

Not to brag or anything, but the Puget Sound is awesome.

View from the Ferry

View of Vashon from the state ferry

Kiva Microfinance

A few years ago I happened upon Kiva, an organization that makes small loans to low-income individuals around the world. It’s a teach-a-man-to-fish sort of thing, instead of just giving money to these people, with the goal of both aiding their livelihood and the economy around them. It’s an involved process, so here’s the short version.

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The long explanation can be found here.

Since I joined, I have made loans to a group of women in Ghana so they could buy supplies to make and sell clothing, a man in Kenya to buy products for his store and another man in Kenya who owns a butcher shop (his loan was for 3 bulls). Of all the loans I have made, only one ended in a loss. Yes, a loss (of maybe a penny). Losses happen (usually due to exchange rates changing), but as far as I can tell they are very small. When you make a loan they tell you a ton of information about the lending institution and the percent of loans at risk.

Now I didn’t fund all of my loans in full. Each loan is funded by a random group of people, whoever chose to donate to that particular need. I merely donated $25 here and there. I’ve been using the same $50 to fund about 3-4 loans/year. Once each loan is repaid, I donate the money again. It’s a happy circle of self-perpetuating microfinancing.

I really enjoy the site, and it’s very easy to use. They have an awesome loan sorting system. You can sort loans by country, type of need, how much time is left for their loan to be funded, male/female and so forth. It’s up to you where you want your money to go.

Right now Kiva is providing (through an anonymous sponsor) free $25 trials, which is why I have gathered you here today. There are a limited number of these free trials, so they might be all gone already. No matter,  you can still join the site for free and take a look around if you wish.

Now full disclosure, the free $25 can only be used to make one loan. This money won’t be paid back to you. However, whatever money you add will be paid back to you.

I’m not trying to pressure anyone into the site, I just want to share the knowledge as I think it’s a great system. I don’t get anything for referrals or whatnot, but if you’re interested in it, now is a good time to join. 🙂

 

Whales

I’ve seen whales. During my regular daily commute. WHALES.

Get me my harpoon!

I joke, I kid.

Last Friday on my way to work, trolling along at a nice clip on the Melissa Ann, I saw a pod of orcas. We were less than 10 minutes into our 22 minute trip and the boat slowed way down, interrupting my reading. I looked up just as Captain Dan came on the intercom and announced that there was a pod of orcas off of the bow (side note: I now know where the bow is).

Commence everyone crowding to the front of the boat. Behold, there were whales. Just swimmin’ along, minding their business. We stuck around for a few minutes. Honestly, who cares about being late to work when there are whales to watch?

Not me, that’s who. I actually almost missed my bus, but all was well.

If you haven’t guessed already, all I can seem to talk about now is Vashon. If you lived here you would understand. When I’m not luxuriating on my floating rock, I am otherwise working at my new job, which I am really enjoying.

This last weekend my brother-in-law stayed over. It was a grand time. On Saturday morning I made this crepe recipe, filling some of the crepes with raspberry jam and other with a blueberry coulis. I really recommend this crepe recipe, it’s practically fool-proof. I even made it using my cast iron skillet and coconut oil, which worked beautifully. Letting it sit for an hour at room temperature is important, don’t skip that step!

In the future I’d like to try some savory crepes. Caleb and I used to frequent a place on Queen Anne (Citizen Cafe) that makes really yummy savory crepes. I hope I can imitate them.

As for the next time I make sweet crepes, I am going to fill them with strawberries and nutella. The day I moved out of my college dorm, Caleb brought me one. It was very sweet of him. 😉

Freezer Friendly

 Since I have started a new job and have a longer commute, I have less time to make dinner every day. I’ve started putting together dinner components to make the process go faster, sort of like Once a Month Cooking and Dream Dinners, but on a much smaller scale. I fry bacon and freeze it for baked potatoes and omelets. I freeze chicken legs in marinades of soy sauce and garlic. I make pizza dough and toss it in the freezer after its rise, which is one of my favorite time-savers.

The pizza dough recipe I have been using is basic, found on Eat, Live, Run because I have a lot of whole wheat flour right now. But I really like the Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pizza Crust (really the trick is just to let the dough “age” before baking). They both freeze beautifully. Usually I’ll make a batch (both recipes make enough for two pizzas) and use one for dinner that night (usually a weekend) and freeze the other (wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap and storing in a freezer bag. To defrost I take it out the night before and put it in the fridge, then take it out and leave it on the counter for at least 20 minutes while I prep the toppings. Getting it to as close to room temperature as possible is important, as the dough won’t stay stretched out very well if it’s too cold. Pizza dough that keeps snapping back is so awfully frustrating.

I’m really not fancy with toppings, I  just use whatever I have. The pizza above was a blend of bell peppers, bacon (previously frozen), garlic, chopped onion, mozzarella, parmesan and spices (sea salt and rosemary). The cheese comes from Grocery Outlet, they always have goat cheese and fresh mozzarella for significantly cheaper than anywhere else. I really like fresh mozzarella too, it just gets so much more melty than pre-shredded.

You may notice that there is no sauce. I never use sauce on my pizzas. Though sometimes I’ll use a thin layer of raspberry jam as it’s really quite good with mozzarella, pepperoni and goat cheese. Really! Well, at least Caleb likes it. I think it’s pretty tasty too.

I also started sprinkling the pan with cornmeal. It works a thousand times better at preventing the evils of baked-on crust than a smear of olive oil.

For my next trick I’d like to try baking a pizza in my cast iron pan. I’ve seen it around on a few other blogs and it looks awful purdy. But soon I am also going to try freezing biscuits after they rise. I always make drop biscuits, but I’d like to take the time to roll them and cut them out properly. Seems like I should be able to do that, freeze them on a cookie sheet then pop them into a freezer bag. Defrost and bake when needed.

Other meals I have waiting for me in the freezer are gyros (chicken pieces marinating in tzatiki, which will be combined with some frozen pitas), pre-cooked brown rice (just reheat in the microwave) and lots of various chicken parts marinating in a variety of sauces. But tonight I think we’ll be having another pizza. I’ll need to replenish the freezer with more dough soon!

P.S. Thanks MIL for the inspiration from Dream Dinners! 

Why do You Have a Blog?

How many times have you asked yourself that? How many times have you considered deleting your blog? How many times have you really put thought into the direction and niche of your blog?

I’m not a food blogger, though I like to share recipes. I’m not a mommy blogger, because I’m not a mom. I’m not a deal or money blog, because I’m not an expert.

I’m a memoirist (a la Jo-Lynne from Musings of a Housewife). I treat my blog as a public journal, if you will. One that I purposefully post publically so as to share with family, friends, and passersby. A blog used to meet other bloggers and to find dialogues and experiences I might not otherwise encounter. It’s a channel of communication that I enjoy keeping open.

It means I don’t concern myself with Google Analytics, sidebar ads, or reviews. If I wish to review something, it’s because it’s a product I think is smack-dab-awesome. If a company approaches me to review their product and it falls under the smack-dab-awesome category, then I’ll share it with those who read my blog.

If I had a great weekend in the San Juan Islands, I’ll share that on my blog. It means I can share all of my stories with those I love that I don’t see often. Stories that they might not otherwise hear.

Ultimately, this  is a place of record. An online book that I can flip through and enjoy the memories and anecdotes I scribbled in digital ink.

I will not feel guilt for a dry spell in posting. I will not feel pressure to increase my readership. I will treat my blog as a personal newspaper to share with family, a journal to record rememberies (totally a word), and a means by which I meet others with similar interests.

Why do you have a blog?