Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Top 10 of 2015

In 2015 I wrote less on this blog than any other year since I started it in 2007. I have good excuses: I write full time! And I am working on a side writing project! But there were great things that happened last year that I want to share--better late than never. Here's a quick rundown of some of my favorite moments.

10. Spring trip to Mexico
My phone disappeared while in Mexico, and I lost almost all of my photos from that trip. But otherwise it was an amazing time-- I got to volunteer for a UN food security organization in the rural mountainous region of northern Puebla, and then attend the wedding of a dear friend.
Church in Ahuacatlan, Sierra Norte de Puebla

Traditional dress wedding
Boda de traje tipico

9. Visiting Denali National Park, Alaska
I was 100 miles back in the park, staying in a cabin, with opportunities to hike, bike, and canoe practically out the front door. Early in the week I had my first handful of grizzly bear sighting from afar, and later in the week almost walked into one. My friend and I were hiking, talking, and watching our feet, and by the time we saw the bear through the blueberry bushes, we were about 30 feet away. It was absolutely terrifying for a moment, but clearly I lived to tell the tale.
View from Polychrome Pass
A rare, clear view of the mountain

8. Hanging with nieces and nephews
I now have 7 nieces, 3 nephews, and 2 more on the way. They are all ridiculously sweet and fun kids, from the oldest who is almost 15 to the youngest who just turned 1.

7. Sister's Wedding
Besides the wedding in Mexico, I went to two in Washington and one in California. The first was my older sister's in Bellingham. This one was unique because in addition to making the bouquets, it was my first time officiating! I became a "reverend" online about eight years ago, but haven't had the chance to officiate yet. It was really special for me to play that role for my sister and awesome brother-in-law.

6. Cousin's Wedding
The next wedding was my cousin's out at Seabrook on the Washington coast. It's basically a small manufactured village, and a great spot for big family gatherings. We walked to other relative's houses, rode bikes, went to the park, played on the beach, cooked big meals together, and generally had a blast.
Playing with nieces on the beach
Putting together the bridal bouquet. Photo by Lisa S.
Thriller dance at the reception. Photo by Lisa S.

5. Friend's Wedding
Bless California, where you can have completely outdoor weddings and dance well into the night with the addition of a light sweater. I spent three days at the wedding venue in a neat ranch-turned-resort outside of Ukiah.
Outdoor reception set up

Day after the wedding to relax
4. Backpacking with Mom
This was our second annual mother-daughter backpacking trip. For almost never having backpacked, my mom is an awesome buddy. She's easy-going, appreciative of little things, not picky, and really loves being outside. This new tradition is going to continue as long as humanly possible.

View of Mount Baker from tarn below Park Butte

3. Three Fingers Lookout
I did a lot of hiking this year, but the highlight was in October when I did Three Fingers. You know it's serious trail when you have to bike 10 miles just to get to the trailhead, then hike, cross a glacier, scramble, and climb vertical ladders.
See the white speck up there on the middle peak?
Yeah, that's the lookout.
Sunrise from the lookout.
3 ladders at the end to reach the lookout.
Just a 1,000 foot drop to the glacier below.

2. The 10-Week Challenge
During the fall I did a 10-week fitness program offered through a local gym. It consisted of:

- Doing 50 workouts in 10 weeks
- Following meal guidelines and tracking everything I ate in an online tracker, in general cutting out sugar, alcohol, fruit, and wheat
- Doing fitness tests and body composition check at the beginning and end of the program

It was truly life changing. I got stronger, fitter, and just felt better. I thought that I already had pretty healthy eating habits, but this took my awareness to a whole new level of committing to cooking whole foods, at home, from scratch, for every meal.
After a bootcamp class

1. A personal writing project
I have been busy writing on a side project. I'm keeping the details under wraps for now, but I'm really excited about it and excited to share later this year.
Writing retreat on San Juan Island

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Figgy Pudding

Years back it struck me how demanding the last verse is in "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." They are adamant about getting figgy pudding and are not leaving until they get some.

Earlier in December, a coworker sent an email alerting us of traffic closures downtown due to the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition. It wasn't until that moment that I consciously realized that I had no idea what figgy pudding was. Not long after, NPR echoed the thought in this article from The Salt, 'Oh, Bring Us Some ... ' Wait. What Is Figgy Pudding?

I decided it was high time I made some. While the article shares a recipe that looks pretty traditional, I wasn't excited that it called for mutton fat, raisins, lighting the cake on fire, or aging it for weeks. So I kept searching, and came across this recipe for Warm Sticky Figgy Pudding and liked the look of it better.

Photo from Food Network recipe
I'm happy to report it was delicious. It calls for baking in ramekins which worked great, though you might be able to bake it in a cake pan and cut into squares for easier serving. It's called "pudding" in the British sense, meaning dessert, and it's really more of a sweet bread. The dates make it really moist, and it would be fabulous in a loaf pan and sliced, as you would zucchini or banana bread.

But the warm sauce and whipped cream elevate it to a decadent place fit for holiday indulgence. The only adjustment I would recommend would be to half the sauce recipe. It's pretty sweet so a little bit goes a long way, and there is no way you would use all the sauce for that amount of cake. Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Fall Mushroom Hunting

I have always wanted to learn more about mushrooms and do my own foraging. I'm out tromping around in the woods most autumn weekends anyway, so I figure if I can find some delicious wild food, all the better. This year, that dream started to materialize when I hiked with a knowledgeable buddy and then took a class.

It started in the North Cascades. We were on a long, rainy hike when we stumbled upon a lion's mane mushroom-- huge, toothy, firm, and heavy from the downpour. It smelled like a mix of sweet cream and the forest floor. It was the size of my head and just finding one felt like a jackpot. But then we started seeing more, and couldn't resist hauling out several.
That night we cooked some of the lion's mane with dinner, adding it to lamb carnitas. The rest of the week I was on a serious mission to use them up: sautéed with bacon, added into lasagna, folded into a frittata, and simmered in Tom Kha soup.
A couple weeks later, in the central Cascades on another hike, we found chanterelles and hedgehogs. The hedgehogs don't have gills but rather little teeth under the cap. It might not come as a surprise that they are in the same family as the lion's mane with all their glorious toothiness.
And what better way to round out October than to go to a Halloween party and find a couple dressed as mushrooms? My ID skills are limited, but between my burgeoning familiarity and their meticulous costuming, I had no doubt: "You guys are chanterelles!"
In November I took my mushroom studies indoors to an all-day class offered by the Puget Sound Mycological Society. Their Mushroom Hunting 101 class covered ID skills, foraging best practices, toxicology, cooking with mushrooms, and non-edible mushroom uses. It was a really comprehensive course that I would recommend to anyone. Of course, there is so much to learn that we barely scratched the surface, but I think it gave me a good foundation.

Huge array of local mushrooms
brought in by the students
In the recent NY Time article Sex, Death and Mushrooms, the author talks about finding the elusive Cauliflower mushroom. Right around the same time, my friend found one locally and shared the bounty. It looks similar in size to the lion's mane, but with thicker waves that make it resemble egg noodles or coral.
Cauliflower mushroom. Image from here.
I had no idea what to do with it, but a quick Google search revealed that it could indeed be treated just like egg noodles. So I followed this chili garlic egg noodles recipe, sautéing the mushroom instead of boiling noodles, and ate the whole mushroom in one tasty sitting.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Willing to Slow it Down

It was a busy spring. I was working full-time, going to school (evening certificate program), volunteering several places, plus I moved into a new place and went to Mexico in the same month. I love having a full life, but I don't like always being busy.

Hanging on Lake Washington

I've come across articles about our cultural obsession with being busy and wearing it like a badge of honor, such Busy is a sickness and Disease of being busy. In the latter, author Omid Safi writes, "Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence."

Sometime I feel too much like a human doing. A big part of that was being in school, and always having classes and homework. I loved the editing certificate program, but man! it's great to be done.
Homemade cake for our last day of editing class

Cocktail: Rye with- wait for it- reduced Rainier beer
simple syrup. Weird, but delicious.
I haven't had any epic adventures yet this summer, but that's okay with me. Bigger trips are coming up (very!) soon, and so far it's been rejuvenating to have the time to hang with family, especially my nieces and nephews, cook meals from scratch, and get good sleep.
Don't get me wrong-- I've been doing more than just hanging out. I've been playing outside, but just trying not to over-plan or rush from one thing to another.

Bike ride and golden raspberries
Downtown view from the Seattle Great Wheel
Hiking Mailbox Peak
Evening sailing, cider, and swimming in Lake Union
Niece helps me water my deck plants 

Friend's family goats. I really want goats.
How do you find the balance between exploring all the wonderful things there are to do in this world, and not overdoing it?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Beacon Food Forest: 2015 So Far

What has Seattle's Beacon Food Forest been up to in the first half of 2015? A lot! We continue to maintain the trees, shrubs, and perennials already in place, and plant new annuals in the veggie beds. The monthly work parties are going strong, in addition to smaller work parties, classes, tours, and community dinners. I haven't been taking many pictures lately, but luckily a fellow volunteer has. Big thanks to Jonathan for sharing beautiful photos.

Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Mixing cement
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Releasing lady bugs
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Work party morning stretch
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Early spring seed exchange
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Watering starts
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Me teaching a compost workshop
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Making seed balls
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Spring planting
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Chard harvest
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //
Planting in the Common Thread garden
for sharing with the local community
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Evening fire at the BFF
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Taking a tour of the site
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Jonathan H. Lee //

Arbor entryway
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //