29 August 2015

Starting August right

August started with a fun visit from Jill, Mark, & Sadie. We were fortunate to host Sadie's 9th birthday celebration at our house, eat good food, do some fun stuff and generally hang out. Kind of how summer should be. We never see enough of these dear people, but hopefully since they are now living in Bozeman, Montana, we will find a way to connect more often. Can't wait to visit their new home, hear about life in Big Sky country, and meet the weasels, deer, and black bears they share their 20 acres with.

24 August 2015

Urban Hike: Carkeek Park via Clay Pit Trail & South Bluff Trail

On the weekend, we made an afternoon of it and set out for a hike in Carkeek Park . . . from home.  We packed a lunch and headed for the park, making a scavenger hunt of it . . . looking for all manner of cat-related statues, signs, and real pets along our way.  After powering up with iced coffees at Swanson's Seasons Cafe (15 minutes in), we picked up the pace and headed down 13th Street to Woodbine Way at which point we saw yet another cat-related land mark -- a sure sign the trail head was close.

We scrambled down the hill on a small path just beyond the fat cat, discovered some blackberries to nibble on, and then headed straight down hill into Carkeek Park on the Clay Pit Trail, arriving in the wetlands meadow.  Wyatt advocated for continuing to the beach to eat the lunch -- pb&js on cinnamon waffles, pop chips, and fresh veggies (what can I say, it's all we had around).

The air quality wasn't great with all the wildfire smoke and haze that has been hovering over Seattle.  But despite the haze, the day was hot with little wind.  No views of the mountains or the blue sky for us, unfortunately.  After lunch and some wandering around the park, we headed home on a different route -- the South Bluff Trail.  This trail climbs more steeply and has a lot of stairs.  We walked right along the Western bluff of the park, high above the train track, resting often so Wyatt could make it under his own power.  The peekaboo views through the trees were nice, and we saw lots of floating seagulls and boats, even if we couldn't spot much else.

We made it back up to Woodbine Way and headed west, weaving back home by way of neighborhood streets in the Blue Ridge neighborhood.  Overall, we hiked for about three and a half hours, and covered a bit over five miles.  I'm proud to say Wyatt hiked all but about a half mile, himself.

20 August 2015

Turning 91

Around here, June and July were super full of new schedules, new camps, and new work opportunities for all of us. With all the happenings, I haven't found time to post about it here yet.

June gave us an opportunity to celebrate Grandpa Herman's 91st birthday, which we did with a small party in the newly finished front yard patio.  Neighbors on our street were invited for Byron's homemade vanilla ice cream and strawberries (mostly from our own garden).

Herman may be the only 91 year old to get a Fitbit for his birthday.  But that's what we got him.  With two walks a day, Herman puts most of us to shame with his regular exercise.  Now he can see his totals: he often walks 17,000 steps in a day -- and 25+ miles a week. Seriously.

Kid-approved camping food

As has become our custom, this summer we enjoyed a long weekend at Ohanapecosh campground in the Mt. Rainier National Park.  We seem to find a way to camp there each summer with a small group of friends whom we've known since our children were tiny.  Over the three years we've done this, we have developed some terrific meal plans and recipes that are easy to make at the campsite and popular with the under-five crowd as well as the grown ups.

Our custom is to share the planning and prep for meals when we camp together.  Each family does a breakfast and a dinner with lunches on our own (which generally means everything gets shared when we eat on the trail).  This year we were able to have a campfire only one night due to a high fire danger, and we felt lucky to get the s'mores in that night.  Aside from that tradition, here are a few other recipes that make repeat appearances -- or will next year.

Can Opener Chili
Our friends Jenny and Mike annually provide this make-ahead vegetarian chili for the arrival night of our camp out.   

Saute together in a pot large enough to hold the chili:
1 bag vegetarian burger crumbles (usually frozen)
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced

Once the onion and pepper soften, add the spices:
1 teaspoon of chipotle powder or adobo sauce (from canned chipotles)
Spice packet (not the cayenne) from Carroll Shelby's Chili Kit

When the crumbles have browned and onion and pepper are softened, start opening cans and add everything to the pot:

2-3 cans beans (a combination of pinto and black beans is my favorite), drained and rinsed
1 large can of chopped tomatoes in juice
1-2 Tbs. tomato paste
A bit of water

Stir together and let it heat through.  Finish by stirring in:
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons cider vinegar close to the end

Adjust the salt and spiciness to your liking.
Serve with toppings like chopped scallions, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Skillet Pizzas

These are popular with everyone.  Our friends Mark and Carol introduced us to the idea -- top a pita with sauce and toppings of your choice and then heat it in a skillet on the camping stove (covered works best) until it is warm and melty. 

This year, we served these alongside a platter of fresh veggies for a filling and somewhat healthy group dinner.  Here's a list of our ingredients:
  • whole pitas or mini naan breads (we used the Stonefire brand small naan breads that come in an 18-pack at Costco)
  • pizza sauce
  • sliced black olives
  • fresh mushrooms
  • pineapple pieces
  • pepperoni
  • feta cheese
  • veggie sausages crumbled or sliced
  • sliced fresh tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • shredded mozzarella (even better if you mix in a bag of shredded Parmesan and Romano)

Orzo salad with lots of veggies
Our friends Courtney and Blake introduced us to this salad, which has "little surfboard noodles," herbs, and crunchy veggies.  It was a perfect accompaniment to a dinner of felafel with tahini sauce, cucumber, and tomato in pita breads.

1 pound orzo
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large)
1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
lemon zest from one lemon
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the orzo, drain, rinse in cool water and drain again.  In a large bowl, toss orzo together with all the ingredients, adjust the seasonings and serve.

Spelt pancakes topped with "Ohanapecosh spread"

These are a riff on pancakes from a Marion Cunningham recipe that Byron and Wyatt make all the time at home.  Although you have to do more than add water, they are sooooo much better than a mix.  For camping, we measured the dry ingredients for a double recipe at home, brought eggs, butter, and buttermilk along, and voila! 

We spread the pancakes with peanut butter and drizzle real maple syrup on top -- a.k.a.  Ohanapecosh Spread.  We always bring along yogurt and fresh fruit as an option too. 

For a single recipe (makes a dozen)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 T granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
4 Tbs. melted unsalted butter

Add the wet to the dry and stir until combined but still a tad lumpy.  Fry on a griddle and enjoy.