Wednesday, December 30, 2009


With over 1,600 pages stacked on the coffee table, I'm putting one book down and starting the next.
I've been hearing such good reviews about Under the Dome, it's been calling me and I can wait no more. Those last few short stories in Just After Sunset are going to have to wait a little longer before they're read. Look out Chester's Mill, I'm coming in . . .

Sunday, December 27, 2009

German Pink Tomatoes

My son shared these tomato seeds with me. They're German Pinks harvested from tomatoes he grew last season in his own garden. He received his supply of German Pink tomato seeds the year before from a neighbor that harvests his own seeds too - from tomatoes started with seeds originally brought to this country from Germany by his relatives nearly 100 years ago. Given the fact that these tomatoes have passed country to country, generation to generation, neighbor to neighbor and now, son to mother, I think they're pretty special seeds, and I'm certainly looking forward to growing them in my own garden.Meanwhile, lots of seed catalogs have been filling my mailbox lately, and one of particular interest to me is this beautiful catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Looking through their catalog, I couldn't help but see what a wonderful assortment of unusual, hard-to-find heirloom seeds they have available. What a beautiful catalog it is too. Many of their photos are so lovely, they're practically suitable for framing.What I felt was really the coolest thing about the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog, though, was that they carry German Pink tomato seeds.
Since I have always gone to a nursery to purchase tomato starts for my gardens over the years, I have never started my own tomato plants from seed before, so this will be an especially fun gardening and learning experience for me. After finding the German Pink tomatoes in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog, I decided a good place for me to start would be their website - - but all I found was a basic planting guide. These are some pretty special seeds I have here, I felt I needed more information than just a "basic" planting guide.
What I really wanted was a planting guide specific to the German Pink tomato, so I searched for other heirloom seed suppliers and found that Reimer Seeds also carries the German Pink tomato seeds. And, linked directly from where you can purchase your own supply of German Pink tomato seeds, they have what appears to be very thorough information available on how to start your own tomato plants. It's all found on their website - here.
Here's a sampling of the 2010 seed catalogs that have been arriving in my mailbox, along with my favorite gardening magazine, the Mother Earth News.

What seed catalogs have been filling your mailbox?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Model House

Pulling out the model house he received from the architect after we had walked around the piles of dirt in his yard, Barry explained that he was still waiting on inspectors from the Whatcom County Planning Department and Lummi Nation Planning and Development to work out the final details of his building permit before he can actually start construction.
Another view. And yet another view.
Meanwhile, Barry and his dog eye the dirt work he completed with his Kubota tractor in anticipation of the permit.
There's a nice view of the Lummi Island Ferry Dock from on top of this pile of dirt.
His house will sit here.
Update February 11, 2010: Barry telephoned indicating that the permitting was finalized and the foundation is finished. I'll be there tomorrow taking some progress photos before the framing begins. Let's hope for clear skies so we can capture some of the beautiful view of Hales Passage.

Osage Oranges

Curious as I spotted the yellow fruits on a bush along the wetlands of the frozen lakes near Rock Island, WA, my son said he didn't know what they were called, but remembered having seen baskets full of them in the fall markets when he was a student at Iowa State University - with a sign indicating they would ward off spiders. Up close, the bush turned out to be more of a thicket comprised of many bushes rather than one stand-alone bush, and every branch was covered with long, wicked-looking thorns. Some of the fruits still hung on the bush, yet others had fallen to the ground along with its leaves.In the middle of a deep freeze with afternoon temperatures reaching barely into the mid teens, they were all frozen solid. Even though frozen, they were still slightly sticky when I picked one up and had just a hint of a fragrance that reminded me slightly of pine, yet was a bit different. We examined them more closely out in the field as my son broke one of the frozen fruits open. Inside was a round of seeds about the size of sunflower seeds surrounded by segments of a rather fiberous material. Placing one of the frozen fruits into my pocket so I could study it more closely later, he told me that he had also gathered a few for himself BEFORE the big freeze and would show me once we got back home.
By the time we got back to his kitchen, my frozen specimen was beginning to thaw and become slightly soggy, but we were still able to cut it open to get a good look inside. Then I had to find out more. Using what few hints we had, I went to Google Images and typed in "orange fruit spider repellent", and instantly gained access to the entire history of the Osage orange, aka horse-apple, hedge apple, Bois D'Arc, or Bodark, Maclura pomifera, monkey brains, and a multitude of other names. Turns out they're originally native to the Osage Nation area of Texas and Oklahoma, the Osage Indians found the wood of the Osage orange tree made the best bows and the fruits were indeed used as a spider repellent. The bush was spread throughout our country by farmers before the invention of barbed wire because it thrived in hedge rows around pastures and worked well to fence in cattle.
More pics of the Osage oranges we found.

Definitely NOT a fan of spiders in my home NOR harsh chemicals, now that I know where there is a supply of a "natural" spider repellent, next year I'll make it a point to gather a small basket of Osage oranges in the early fall - before the fruits have frozen on the vine.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Black Hole Chocolate Cake

Imagine three dense bittersweet chocolate layers of cake with a creamy chocolate truffle filling between each. Then imagine that cake iced with more whipped chocolate. And then a thick dark chocolate glaze poured over until it had drizzled down on all sides. That's the Black Hole Chocolate Cake! It is rich, very rich, and sure to satisfy any desires for chocolate. My copy of the recipe, requested recently by my son, was clipped out of a local newspaper many years ago.
Originally found in the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts, this cake is definitely one of our favorites. Sometimes I've made it just because it sounded good, other times because we were, quite honestly, craving chocolate, and several times I've baked it for special occasions. Follow this link - Black Hole Chocolate Cake - for the recipe so you can make it yourself.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kristi's Birthday

It's always fun to celebrate with friends and a happy 49th birthday celebration for Kristi was our fun for the day. Here Kristi and hubby Keith pose just after the happy birthday song.
Kriss and Kristi share smiles.
What is interesting about this picture is not the fact that Fred is on the phone, but that Steve's coat is visible in the very lower left corner of the photo. Ducking out of camera view each time a picture was taken, perhaps he was a little concerned about being caught out celebrating with friends on an afternoon when he was supposed to be at work.
Meanwhile, back on topic, happy birthday Kristi!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Frozen Lakes

Having recently spent several days out of town, we traveled over Steven's Pass and through the Wenatchee Valley for a visit with my son in Rock Island, Washington. It was cold there. The temps dipped into the 7 to 9 degrees fahreinheit range at night, and it didn't feel much warmer during the days. Not scared off by the cold temperatures, my son and I took advantage of the blue sky by taking our dogs out for a run around the lakes near his home. Here's my son walking on the ice on one of those frozen lakes.Maybee, Brian's high-energy puppy, runs circles around everyone. It was difficult to catch her with my camera as she is so very FAST. Speed jumping, she soared over the grasses in the wetlands.
More people and pets out enjoying the sun and ice.
Later, I checked out the Columbia River from the new boat launch at the Riverfront Park in Wenatchee.
More pics . . .

I had to chuckle just a little once I had returned home. Even though I'd been over a mountain pass and into Eastern Washington, I had not encountered any accumulation of snow on the roads during the entire trip - that is, until I made the final turn back into my own driveway at the end of the trip.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Steven's Pass

A popular winter recreation area for those from both the coast and the east side of the North Cascade Mountain Range in Washington State, one of my favorite parts of the Highway 2 drive is Steven's Pass. In this photo, one of the several chair lifts is visible behind the top of this row of ski busses parked at the Steven's Pass Resort.Even though it is early in the season and the roads were clear of ice and snow as I drove, in some places the snow piled along the side of the road was already higher than I am tall. Passing a snow plow on my drive up to the summit, I was reminded of how the Washington State Department of Transportation road crews work hard to keep Highway 2 clear and do their best to control the dangers of avalanche.
I love this view from the top!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gingerbread and Magic

At the Port of Bellingham's annual gingerbread contest this year, there were several entries in honor of Whatcom Middle School depicting the huge fire that destroyed the building just a few weeks ago. I counted four Whatcom Middle Schools made of gingerbread. One as it now sits without its roof, another with fire fighters and their trucks trying to gain control of the wind-fueled blaze, and two others representing the school BEFORE the fire.
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My favorite was not one of the replicas of Whatcom Middle School, however. Although they were current to our local culture and certainly very clever, the gingerbread Whatcom Museum was by far my personal favorite. Originally built as the City Hall for Bellingham, the building has housed our local museum since well before I was a child. A regular visitor to the museum since I was young, I worked there during my high school days. I love that building and know it well - both inside and out, upstairs and down. Check out these photos. First, the Museum building in gingerbread.

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Then, this picture I snapped of our real museum!

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That gingerbread mueum, a pretty good replica! Here are more pictures from the holiday festivities sponsored by the Port of Bellingham at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

Then it was off to the 10th annual John Walton Holiday Magic Show at the Mount Baker Theatre! The younger children were handed booster seats and I thought Tyson looked a little like he was heading off on a vacation as he entered the theatre. He's a good little traveler!

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More pics of the Mount Baker Theatre and the magic show.

Don't let the blue skies you see in those few outdoor photos fool you, our high was 17 degrees that day and with near constant, gusty winds a rather uncomfortable wind chill was added to the air. Brrrrrrrr.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

From Ice Circles to Rest Stops to Beer

Lured to my garden this afternoon by blue skies (finally!), after such heavy rains and strong winds for almost the entire month of November, I was almost surprised to see that my fencing and posts were actually still standing.Since the water supply for the garden is shut off from the first of October through the first of March, I had left a bucket filled with water sitting in my garden - just in case. Turns out it's not necessary to keep a reserve of water on hand because we tend to get so much rain, but I did at least get a chuckle out of the quarter inch layer of ice on the top of that water. It was cold last night!
I checked on the carrots that I had planted in the late summer and they looked great. They are getting big and I almost pulled some to add to the tray of roasted vegetables that I prepared later in the day and shared at the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) holiday potluck dinner/December meeting. I remembered that I still had some organic carrots at home, so it looks like I'll have a good excuse to go to my garden again very soon so that I can harvest my own carrot crop. I'm not certain if I can leave them in the ground for much longer without the frost damaging them, and they're those fancy yellow, white and purple carrots, so I sure wouldn't want to miss out on them.
My tray of roasted vegetables seemed to go over very well at the potluck as the pan was empty when it came time to pick things up. I had simply tossed together a mixture of the vegetables that I had on hand - carrot chunks, cubes of peeled butternut squash, quartered giant mushrooms, broccoli flowerettes, lots of big cloves of garlic and then I stirred in some sundried tomatoes. After coating them with a few dashes of olive oil, I simply roasted them in a very hot oven until they were tender and browned. They smelled so good in my car as I drove to the party and because I lived nearby, they were still piping hot when I put the pan down at the potluck. So good, so easy, I'm sure I'll be making them again very soon.
My gift received during our holiday party White Seal gift exchange - chocolates and tea. Yum!
It was announced during our WMMSN meeting tonight that we've got two fun things coming up this winter for fundraising. First, we have permission from the Washington State Department of Transportation to host the coffee and goodies at a very busy rest stop (near a truck scales south of Bellingham on Interstate 5) for a weekend. We'll be staffing the rest stop from Friday night through Sunday - 24 hours a day - and we are hopeful that we can raise lots of much-needed funds to help support our not-for-profit organization during that weekend as we'll be there just a few days before the Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver, British Columbia. There should be lots and lots of extra traffic heading north, so if you know anyone heading to the Olympics via Interstate 5, please tell them to stop in and say "hi"!
Second, Boundary Bay Brewery will sponsor us for a Saturday evening fundraising event. Boundary Bay is a major hot spot in downtown Bellingham and it's always crowded in there. I think we're calling our fundraiser "Marine Mammal Mania", so if you like our locally brewed beers and want to help support the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network, this would be a great night (I'll let you know the exact date later!) to come out and join us for some fun.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Fred

Happy birthday celebrations with friends and family today were for Fred. My favorite pic of the day, the birthday boy posing with his grandson, son and daughter.
More pics from today's birthday celebrations.

Kristi's birthday's next!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alternative Holiday Market

A big "THANK YOU" goes out to the many friends of the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) that helped support us by stopping by our booth at the 2nd Annual Multi-Faith Alternative Holiday Market! The table that we filled with fun, educational opportunities for children in our booth was an absolute success.On one side of the kids table, I helped provide general information about WMMSN and on the other side, there was a table where visitors could view a filmstrip showing the recent rehabilitated harbor seal release by Wolf Hollow, purchase WMMSN T-shirts or make donations.
As an "alternative" holiday market, all the booths were reserved for not-for-profit agencies and the entire event appeared to be a total success as crowds of visitors filled the Community Room at Bloedel Donovan Park from the time the event opened right up until it closed - all showing support for our local agencies as the Bellingham Community Chorus performed in the background. Admission to the alternative holiday market, a jar of baby food for donation to the Bellingham Food Bank.
Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if more people decided to give to not-for-profit and charity agencies rather than getting sucked up into all that commercial holiday hype centered around a glittery mall and shiney merchandise.
More pictures from an afternoon at the Alternative Holiday Market.

Because it's been raining for what feels like the entire month of November, there is standing water almost everywhere. I had to take a second look in order to tell exactly where the pavement at the public boat launch ended and Lake Whatcom began.