Ah, the joys of foraging for food. It does my heart good whenever I can get something to eat for only the cost of a little bit of labor. Twice I've found apples on neglected apple trees - enough to juice, making into apple crisp and freeze for pies in the winter. With my limited freezer space now that we've downsized this is a challenge, but I'm rising to it, squishing things ever which way into the bottom of my new fridge, which I hate. I think we're going to actually buy a tiny freezer chest meant for boats from our neighbor and stick it in our closet. (Hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.) But, back to the foraging. Yesterday my friend Kathy and I went into the deep dark woods in search of Chanterelle mushrooms. These things are costly (currently $12.99 a pound), so finding them is like finding gold.
They are costly in other ways, too. I always forget in between seasons how filthy I get wading through ferns and climbing over fallen branches. Appropriate 'shrooming attire is old jeans, flannel shirts and ran coats and sturdy shoes. I wore my workout pants, which, sadly don't cover the bottom of my legs. And I paid dearly for my lapse. As we were forging a path out of the woods we traipsed through a patch of ferns. And let me tell you, I traipsed fearlessly. It was only when we were three-quarters of the way through that I realized I was also going through stinging nettles. I'm sure you can guess how I figured this out. Yow!
One remedy for stinging nettles is to rub the underside of a fern on the affected area. I enlisted the aid of several ferns and thought I had the problem licked ... until I was in the car on the way home and then my legs began stinging like crazy.
And I almost went crazy trying to fix the problem. Calamine lotion didn't really do it so I tried Noxema (my go-to recipe for sunburn). That didn't help. Then I read on line about using duct tape or masking tape to get the little stickies off. That, I think would have worked much better if I hadn't previously coated my legs with lotion.
Ah, well. The stinging finally subsided by bedtime and today I'm enjoying my mushroom harvest. Can hardly wait to go again. But next time I'm wearing the proper uniform.
Labor Day weekend is Blackberry festival weekend in Bremerton, WA. In spite of all the fun we were having at the ocean we decided to return in time to experience it.
And experience it we did! We enjoyed the band that was playing, wandered among the booths, mouths watering at the huge variety of food available. I even saw people wandering around tearing into giant barbecued turkey legs.
I held out against the deep fried Twinkies, the corn dogs, and the glazed nuts, but I couldn't resist stopping at a booth where a local artisan was selling hand-painted glassware. It was so gorgeous I couldn't resist asking her to paint me some daisy glasses to go with my vintage Vernonware. It's hard to find glasses with daisies on them and one of my old ones has already gone missing. (How can you lose a glass in a condo?!)
We also ran into people we knew, which made the experience all the more fun. I am enjoying small town life. Living here is almost as good as living in Icicle Falls.
I'm getting to know my new town of Bremerton, WA, and thought maybe you might like to get to know it right along with me? Why? Well, because this is rather an interesting town. When people think of Bremerton they usually think of a naval town that houses a huge shipyard, but there's more to it, and Bremtonians are working hard to make this town the kind of place someone nice like you might want to come visit... or even move to.
As Gerhardt and I wandered around a couple of weeks ago, I discovered all kinds of interesting shops run by people who want to make a difference. F.R.O.G. Soap is one such shop. Owned by Laura Kneib, this little shop offers soaps and creams made from recycled oil. And let me tell you, their foot cream smells fabulous.
Laura opened her business in 2012. She says she was at a local restaurant and saw a man emptying his French fry deep fryer and thought, "I could make some soap from that." And lo and behold, a business was born. It took reading some chemistry books and doing a lot of experimentation before she had a product worthy of consumer dollars. Laura says early batches of soap looked like "demented oatmeal" but she persisted, and now her business is a finalist in Kitsap Bank's edg3 FUND competition (finalist takes away $20,000).
So, where does Laura get the oil for her soap? From local restaurants, including the one at Bremerton's historic Admiral Theater. The theater is a non-profit and housing oil and then paying someone to haul it away cut into profits. Giving their oil to Laura is a win-win for everyone. And a win for our environment. One bar of soap equals a quarter pound. Think of 1 bar of soap getting used in every house in Kitsap County - that's tons of oil saved from the landfill. Laura also uses recycled cardboard for wrapping her soap and shredded paper for her gift baskets. Go Laura!
I'm happy I had a chance to meet this nice lady who's doing her part to make a difference in her community. Bremerton is the place to be.
I am quickly falling in love with my new digs and my new town. Bremerton, WA is a place just waiting to happen, with lovely downtown parks and a growing supply of restaurants. A lovely ferry ride from Seattle, it has potential for great tourist fun. And if you're military or have a military background you'll want to visit the waterfront and tour the historic Turner Joy, which is docked on the waterfront.
With our longtime pals Jan and Dave, we enjoyed the waterfront park and prowled the waterfront this Sunday and took advantage of the farmers market by the ferry dock. The market was here in the late forties and fifties, but this particular incarnation is the brain baby of Kathleen Puls, a creative entrepreneur who sells all manner of oils and goodies at her booth (you can see Jan inspecting them in the gallery below). "It's all about craft here, and the individual," said Kathleen. It sure was - a lovely mix of artisans and farmers. They could use more though, so if you have something to sell you might consider checking it out.
One woman I really enjoyed talking to owns a shop in town called F.R.O.G. Soap. She uses recycled oils to make her soaps and foot creams and they smell yummy! Who'd a thunk it? I hope to interview her soon, along with some of the other shop owners in this interesting town on the rise. Many of the shops support good causes and I find this fascinating. I hope you all will, too.
Downsizing is not for sissies... or pack rats ... or people who would prefer not to get hernias. But we did it! And lived to tell the tale. We have the strained muscles to prove it. There were times when I wondered what I was thinking when I let Gerhardt lure me to an open house at a condo. I took one look at the view and all my brains fell out. The condo itself was new and pretty with hardwood floors and plenty of kitchen storage. And who wouldn't fall in love with the view of Puget Sound - ferries going back and forth, aircraft carriers passing by, gulls swooping, the tide gently whooshing. Oh yes, I was in love. We came back a second time to measure and see where we could put our furniture and I discovered that, in my absence, the place had shrunk. But by now there was no turning back.
So, in we moved and the whining began. I don't like my gas oven. Ick! My fridge beeps at me if I leave it open too long and it has the poorest excuse for a freezer I've ever seen. And, speaking of, there's no room for my freezer! Where am I supposed to put my winter stock of berries and mushrooms? Sigh. And all my husband's stuff? Well, it's taken over many areas. The old furniture had to go and we're waiting to get dollhouse furniture to put in the postage stamp that passes for our living room.
Having said all that... here are the up sides:
No more weeding. Yay!!! My gardening now consists of pots on the balcony. I brought kale with me and I've planted spinach, which has already come up. The strawberries and rhubarb made the transition just fine.
Travel is sooo easy. We walk the couple of blocks to the ferry with our carry-on, hop on the boat and once we hit the city take the light rail to the airport. No more airport parking. Yay! Hopping on the boat is my new favorite activity. It's fun to take a ferry into Seattle and just kick around.
Fun activities are within walking distance. Our little town is in the process of transforming itself into a liveable, fun place, and one of the things they're offering is a concert on Friday nights. Last night we walked the couple of blocks to participate in "Rock the Dock" and enjoy a free concert and fun family atmosphere. (See pictures below - is that baby the cutest thing you've ever seen or what? She was the friendliest baby ever. I'm sure she'll grow up to be in public relations.)
We've also discovered that we've bought into a very nice community. I've already found a book club and one kind lady took me in when I found myself locked outside my condo. "You learn to take your keys everywhere," she informed me. Lesson learned. I didn't think I'd need them since Gerhardt was inside. But he'd fallen asleep and didn't hear me banging on the door. I'm sure everyone else did!
Needless to say, we're settling in. I'm getting used to life without a house and a freezer (adapt or die, baby), and life is good. I've done some exploring of our little town and have found some very interesting shops - some of which donate proceeds to good causes. Hope to blog about them soon.
So, for those of you who moved this summer... I feel your muscle pain. For those of you contemplating downsizing... you can do it!
Yesterday I took a break from settling into the new place to go berry picking with the girls. Since we were after more exotic berries then the simple blackberry that we all find in our back yards and local parks, this involved an expedition to the town of Sequim, WA. For those of you who've never heard of Sequim, they're famous for their lavender festival (the only one larger is in France).
It's a great place, full of gentleman farmers, tons of lavender farms. And a huge berry farm that offers U-Pick for everything from strawberries to Marion berries. After all that work picking berries of course we needed sustenance, which took us to the Highway 101 Diner for the best Cobb salad I've ever had and an amazing Orange Creamsicle shake.
Then, since Sequim has so many cute shops, well, we had to check them out. One of the places we stopped was the gift shop at the Jarden du Soleil lavender farm where we were tempted to spend money on everything from fresh lavender and lavender soap to tea towel and gorgeous little bits of home decor. Since I'm downsizing I resisted temptation. But then my pal Theresia got me an adorable ceramic magnet with lavender on it so, of course, I had to be polite and accept it. It looks great on my fridge. While we were there the owner was distilling lavender to make lavender oil, and that was fascinating. Nothing goes to waste on a farm, and he told me that after the oils have been steamed out of the lavender it either goes in the compost or gets used as bedding for the chickens. It all looked so idyllic. For a millisecond I thought it would be really cool to have a lavender farm and have a garden plot again. And chickens. Then I remembered I'm downsizing and pulled away from the ledge. I think, when it comes right down to it, I'd rather visit a lavender farm than work on one.
That wasn't the only farm we visited. We also went to a small dairy farm that sells raw milk, where my friends stocked up. I settled for petting the baby cows.
Our adventure lasted all day and I've got to say I sure slept well last night. :)
This morning my boysenberries got turned into jam and frozen for pie this winter. And I even managed to make a small batch of syrup. This, by the way, is easy to do. Mash a few berries through a sieve and mix in some water, then add simple syrup and boil it down until it starts to thicken. Don't do this for too long. I turned my syrup into gel and had to add more water and reheat the whole mess. The taste didn't suffer any and I'm planning on serving pancakes to my overnight company this weekend.
And how about you? Do you go berry picking? Tis the season!
In the midst of moving, Gerhardt and I took time to roar off to San Antonio for the annual Romance Writers of America convention. Some of you may be wondering what goes on at one of these gatherings (although most of you probably could care less!). Well, let me tell you, there's much squealing and hugging as women who haven't seen each other all year convene to share their latest writing adventures and encourage each other in a rewarding, frustrating, difficult profession that, I've concluded, you have to be a little bit crazy to choose. And I must admit, I did some squealing myself, like when I discovered my latest book advertised on one of the Marriott Hotel's elevators. There I was, right along with my buddy SUSAN WIGGS. What a memorable moment!
I not only met up with old friends, I made some new ones. And I made a fool of myself gushing over SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS and KRISTAN HIGGINS, two authors I've admired for some time and never had the chance to meet - both are lovely ladies and I suspect I made a fool of myself germing all over them. (By the way, if you're wondering what a germ is, that's Nashville speak for a ridiculously gushy fan. It's pronounced with a hard "g" as in gush. And that was me!)
This is a conference where hopes soar and dreams can come true. Writers learn more about both the business and the craft of writing. When it comes to writing, I don't know if a girl ever "arrives." I, for one, am always learning, and the RWA is famous for how much information and help the romance community gives each other.
Gerhardt came along with me to keep me out of trouble and we enjoyed seeing the Alamo and checking out the River Walk. (The heat down there almost did me in though. All you Texans... how do you stand it?!) I had a great time catching up with my writing buddies, did a bunch of business, had some very productive meetings and enjoyed the getaway, but I was very happy to return to the Pacific Northwest. We're having a hot summer up here but it's nothing like what you folks are going through down there!
Anyway, the party's over and now it's back to unpacking boxes and trying to make room for us in a new and much smaller place. (An extreme challenge for my pack rat husband! Wish us luck.
We've decided to downsize. I'm wondering why. I think moving is a lot like childbirth. It starts with twinkle in your eye and then, next thing you know, you're in the birthing room in pain and it's too late to go back - the only way is forward.
We'd only been at our little lake house about six years. I love it out here. Love the lake, love the neighbors, love my little fruit trees and berry bushes and veggie garden. So, why am I moving? Good question. I came to realize I didn't love being out in our double lot, constantly weeding. I didn't love being snowed in during winter, waiting for the snowplows to come dig us out. And I had visions of one of us slipping on our steep driveway once we got older and breaking something.
Still, now that it's time to leave I'm sad. We probably wouldn't have fallen. The house was big enough that when we got old we had a whole section we could reserve for a live-in caregiver. There's no room for a freezer in the new condo and I'm going to have to leave behind my wood stove. Although I'll also leave behind the mess and the hassle of bringing in wood. (Ah, the mixed emotions that come with change.)
I'm trading one lovely view for another, so that's not a bad deal. And there's something to be said for the convenience of living in town, near all the amenities, being able to walk to local shops and restaurants. Gerhardt is so excited I can hardly stand it. So, when I'm not sad about leaving, I'm excited.
Mostly though, I'm pooped. Those of you who have moved know what I'm talking about. The whole thing is exhausting - the packing, the hurking boxes, the shedding of excess stuff no longer needed (I've lost count of how many trips we've made to Goodwill!)
Official moving day is tomorrow and, bless his heart, Gerhardt is sending me off to the ocean with my buddy Jill Barnett to Sheila-sit me. He'll remain behind to supervise the movers, get the cable hooked up and play with setting up the sound system and his man cave (which has shrunk considerably). The end is almost here. The baby is almost down the birth canal. I just have to hang in there a little longer. Soon it will be worth all the hassle and hard work. Wish me luck!
The last few months have been filled with stress, so it was really nice to take some time to enjoy ourselves. One thing I always enjoy is the sand castle carving contest at Ocean Shores, WA. Artists, amateurs and families all come to compete in various categories. This year everyone had to play beat the clock as they rushed to complete their projects before the tide came in. Nonetheless, a good time was had by all. I don't have the gift of being able to work with my hands and create something out of nothing but sand, and I couldn't help but marvel at what people were able to do.
Over the Fourth of July, like most Americans, we celebrated, enjoying picnics, time with friends, and fireworks. People out on our little lake go crazy and it's like living in a war zone. We're in the process of downsizing and getting ready to move to a condo, and I must say, one of the few things I won't miss is the noise on the Fourth. Good heavens! Some of those babies people are letting off can't be legal. But I was still happy. We had family time, games, chicken and potato salad... and shrimp dip (thanks to my daughter), so life was good.
In fact, life in the U.S.A. is pretty darned good most of the time for most of us. And if you doubt that, you need to travel more, especially to third world countries. We may not always agree but we're free to express ourselves when we disagree. We may find ourselves unhappy with our job but we can go get a different job or start our own company. We may not be happy with what's going on in Washington, but we can vote and "throw the bums out." This is not a perfect country, but it's a good country, full of generous, hard-working people. And there's nowhere else in the world I'd rather be.