Sunday, July 29, 2012

Foraging for Freezer Jam

Though Isaac and I drool over farms and gardens on our drives in the countryside (and imagine we were actually capable of maintaining that type of thing), we love cities and will probably live in a city-ish area for a long time/forever. At the same time, We're becoming more aware of how separated our lifestyles are from the natural world, and how weird that is. For example, I was eating lunchmeat the other day and realized that the thin circle of pink stuff I put on my bread came from an actual bird (more or less--maybe lunchmeat isn't actually even meat anymore). Isn't there something wrong with going most of my life not even thinking about that? And shouldn't it make me nervous that my shampoo has a million chemicals in it that I've never heard of? Or that every product in the grocery store has corn in it? It's sort of shocking to think about how blindly we (I!) go about buying things off shelves--mostly I just make sure things don't have corn syrup in them and then don't worry about much else.

We're not necessarily buying into the whole "organic"/"eco-friendly" fad, and we certainly can't afford to do all our shopping at co-ops and farmers' markets, but we're starting to shift our thinking from being passive about all the degrees of separation between us and our planet to making efforts to come back to the way God intended things--taking care of his creation (including ourselves) in the ways we can.

I'm reading this book called The Urban Homesteader which has some pretty encouraging and practical ways to live naturally in a city. One thing they mention, for example, is that you really can find bits of land to grow things, if you look hard enough (our building has a weedy front lawn and a scary upstairs covered patio thing!). I'm also interested in the cleaning products section. Vinegar and baking soda are miracles.

Along with that, we're also curious about what grows on its own in Spokane. We love free things. We found an apricot tree in a public parking lot and helped ourselves to a bunch of them. OK, so yes, we went at night and knocked them out with a soccer ball...but they were going untouched and just dying on the pavement! I made some freezer jam out of them. Why have I never made freezer jam before? There are so many things that are easy/cheap to make--and best of all, I know exactly what's in them.

I got the Ball brand no-sugar needed fruit pectin and followed a recipe inside the box.
 So the apricots got a bit smooshed...

Ta-da! Three jars for the price of a third of a jar! 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

More Camping Pictures

This past week, we met up with some of Isaac's friends in the Wenatchee National Forest to go camping. Mike is a friend from the Army, and the trip was a surprise for him--his wife planned it and we surprised him at the campground. It was fun and we had some good conversations. Washington continues to amaze me with how beautiful it is. Our drive west from Spokane along Highway 2 takes us through wheat fields and small towns, along the Columbia River through all these canyon/valley things, past Wenatchee, which is dry but full of orchards, and into the Cascade Mountains. I love the Northwest.

Next trip is a drive to Minnesota at the beginning of August. Rather than taking a straight shot through the most boring land the country has to offer (i.e. eastern Montana and North Dakota), we'll take a more southern route, through Wyoming and South Dakota, and camp a couple nights along the way. We plan stop at Mount Rushmore--we're suckers for tourist traps (NOT! But it's still something you have to see once in your life) and stay in the Badlands. SO excited!

Click here for Pictures

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hot Weather

As I think about what to write about the hot weather, I'm aware that probably everyone reading this is also suffering from hot weather. There's no reason for the heat to feel so specific to us, so dramatic, but it does feel that way.  Every summer I think, wow, it couldn't possibly be hotter anywhere in the world, ever. Though I'd take heat over cold in a second.

Here's our version of 100-degree life.

River swimming. We live just a couple blocks from the Spokane River, and we've got a favorite swimming spot which includes a little beach area, a wonderful climbing tree, and rarely any other people. To be perfectly honest, it's part of a sort of creepy park known for sex offenders, people camping out, and nudies (hey, it sounds like Pa'ia!).... BUT it's pretty, and there are plenty of people tubing and kayaking down the river, so it feels safe. We go with some friends from our church/neighborhood/block, a couple of whom are only 21 and always up for having fun. :)

I love seeing Isaac playing in water--climbing into absolutely the highest branch and back-flipping off without any hesitation. He's like a dog (in the BEST possible way), totally beside himself with joy and completely adorable. My earliest memory of Isaac: We're on a hike with mutual friends. He's wearing leaves wrapped around his head and is pretending to be an ancient Hawaiian king. He climbs up a vine into a tree and flips off--never just jumps--into a waterfall pool. So much of our lives has changed since we first met, but in this way he's still the same, and it's fun to see him find his old self again. I also love seeing how impressed our friends are, without fail. ;)

House sitting. Our friends Niels and Karly were gone for a week, so we got to stay at their house, which has AC! It was glorious. I don't think we realized quite how glorious it was until we got back to our 90-degree apartment and spent the next several hours (until about midnight) trying to stay cool. The trick is keeping the windows and curtains closed during the day and opening them all up at night, but still it's approximately the same temp inside as it is out. We sleep on the living room futon under the fan, all the windows open, listening to a fun group of people sing (shout? howl? yodel?) across the street.

Working. This past week the Global Neighborhood staff have been on vacation (it's a couple who runs the nonprofit), so Isaac has been managing their thrift store. We get to experience for the first time what it would be like if one of us had a 9-5 sort of job, and it makes me appreciate how much time we actually do get to spend together, even if during the school year it mostly revolved around homework. I think he's really enjoying interning with GN. He developed a business model thing for selling merchandise online, and he's training a couple refugees who work there how to do it. He gets to do two things he's really good at: look for the value/profit in things and work with people.

My job at the Writers' Center is super minimal, only 8 hours a week. It's pretty dead for the summer. I'm trying to figure out how to gracefully transition from being the graduate assistant (20 hours a week in what was essentially an assistant director position) to being a Responder (their word for tutor) with only a few hours a week to get stuff done. I'm working at passing off projects to other people, but it seems impossible for anything to get done with a bunch of staff and no point person (especially when I used to be the point person). It's a weird situation, and I still feel like I'm doing a lot more than my coworkers, to the point of being kind of panicky about getting things done, at times. But really, for $20 an hour, I'd rather be working hard than just sitting around waiting for students to come in!

Also, I love being on a college campus during the summer! It's so quiet, the staff and faculty are more relaxed, and all the fun little reading nooks are free. Ahhh.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Camping, Bean Salad, and Full Circle

I guess the title of this post gives it all away. I've never been very good at titles, even in poetry.

We went camping in Idaho last weekend with some of our friends. Click here for pictures.

We made an enormous four-bean quinoa salad. Quinoa, black beans, kidney beans, edimame, cannelloni, cilantro, green onions, grape tomatoes, and an olive oil and lime dressing. So freaking good, and super easy too. Should last us a while.

We bought a Groupon for two Full Circle boxes of veggies and got our first batch delivered lettuce, spinach, apriums, grapes, mushrooms, and avocados. Typically, each box would be about $22, but thanks to Groupon they were each $3.50 :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012


We've started making snack plates for lunches and random snacks:

This one features a red pepper, a slice of leftover pizza, a plum, and a few wedges of brie. Another one had an apple, slices of cheddar, crackers, baby carrots, and part of a chocolate bar.

I love bite-sized things. :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Back to Blogging

I'm going to try blogging again.

Last week I finished my last class, submitted my thesis (a 56-page poetry manuscript), and read at the graduate reading (in lieu of walking in the graduation ceremony). I'm done with the MFA program, fairly well settled into marriage and Spokane, and ready to start some new things. Some of those new things:
  • Working full time. Ideally, I'd like to keep working part-time at the Writers' Center at Eastern and do part-time freelance editing. Ideally. I'm not sure how quickly I'll be able to get into the editing scene, but I hope to start making connections this summer. Working doesn't sound too appealing to me at the moment, but I'm very aware of how necessary it is.
  • Reading for fun. Oh, how I've missed fiction. Right now I've got a couple novels by Laura Kasischke, one of my favorite poets, and I like the first one quite a bit so far. I started a Goodreads account to keep track of what I'm reading. Isaac and I went to the library the other day as well, and I grabbed a bunch of magazines to peruse (Utne, Poets and Writers, The Herb Companion, Islands, and Real Simple). I think grad school just made me more excited about reading/learning, rather than burning me out. 
  • Exploring more organic/natural/DIY options. I made my own muesli (oats, wheat flakes, coconut flakes, flax seed, almonds, sunflower seeds, brown sugar, and all-natural craisins). So yummy. Also, as of today, we have a little herb garden on this weird ledge thing outside and to the left of one of our living room windows. We've got sweet basil, Spanish mint, and rosemary. I can't tell you how excited we were when we realized we had the little ledge thing. We heard that growing indoors during the summer can attract bugs, but the plants would probably get stolen if we put them on our front lawn.
  • Figuring out cheap but meals. For the rest of this month, we're down to about $15 for groceries. How to make $15 last for 8 days? Tonight we're doing a simple pasta sauce with canned tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms from our stash of dried ones, leftover brats from a barbecue, garlic and shallots, and fresh basil :)
It feels good to turn a new page. I'm really grateful for my time in grad school--this last quarter especially I had great classes and enjoyed the work I was doing--and I plan to continue writing regularly, but I don't feel sad at all to move on to the next thing.

And an update on Isaac: He'll be done with his BS in Economics at Gonzaga U. in December. After that, we'll probably stay here until the following summer and then possibly move somewhere else for him to go to grad school. He's planning on getting his MBA, but that will be dependent on how he does on the GMAT this summer (he wants to go to a good school). I'm glad we'll be in Spokane for another year or so, but we're excited to try someplace else out too!