Denis Johnson’s Already Dead

A friend of mine in Seattle sent me this from Denis Johnson’s novel Already Dead, sayingthe opening passage seemed very appropriate for you.” The main character is on a road trip from Seattle to Mendocino county. How familiar…

“Van Ness felt a gladness and wonder as he drove past the small isolated towns along US 101 in Northern California, a certain interest, a yearning, because he sensed they were places a person could disappear into. They felt like little naps you might never wake up from — you might throw a tire and hike to a gas station and stumble unexpectedly onto the rest of your life, the people who would finally mean something to you, a woman, an immortal friend, a saving fellowship in the religion of some obscure church.”
This passage illustrates my own sentiments beautifully, and I’m grateful that my friend thought to share it. I read Already Dead years ago and had mixed feelings. Seems like time to revisit this one with fresh eyes!

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Ukiah Haiku festival

Haiku has long been my favorite type of poem. I write them all the time, and for my 30th birthday I asked people to write a haiku for me. Imagine my delight when I discovered that Ukiah is home to an international festival of this Japanese style of poetry!

The Ukiah Haiku festival was held this afternoon at SPACE, which Carson and I attended. I entered a few haiku but didn’t win, which I was actually sort of excited about. I liked my entries but if they weren’t selected, that must mean there were some really stellar haiku!

I had high hopes, but I left disappointed. According to the program, there were 1,023 haiku entered across all categories and age groups. I loved a lot of the haiku that were chosen and I’m glad I purchased the booklet with all the winning poems.  However, the same woman won in both adult categories, and one man was chosen three times – including as the grand prize winner in the international category. I actually liked two of his haiku, but his international win was suspicious. What are the odds that with entries coming in as far as New Zealand, a Ukian would win? I could see it happening (I assume the majority of entrants were from the area), except that the winning haiku wasn’t particularly compelling.

Also, there is a Spanish language category, which is awesome and appropriate considering the area’s population. However, the winning Spanish poem for kids under 18 was identical to the winning poem for grades K-3, just a translated version of it. That struck me as both unfair and contrary to the point of a separate Spanish category.

I’ll enter again next year and I’m sure I’ll attend as well, but some of the romance of this little festival has definitely worn off.

Here’s one I wrote for the “About Ukiah” category. Although I know it doesn’t fit the typical nature theme of haiku, it sweetly and simply expresses how I ended up in this area of the world:

little valley town
I found you on a road trip
never drove away

p.s. Did you notice that haiku is Ukiah spelled backwards?

Not Potato Hashbrowns

I’ve been doing a low-carb diet with pretty great results. It consists of meat, a ton of vegetables, and a little bit of dairy. I don’t have to give up caffeine so the only real sacrifices are sugar and grain, both of which I can re-incorporate in small doses once I’ve reached my goal weight. Since I mostly eat vegetables anyway this hasn’t been too challenging, and I’ve come up with lots of tasty substitutions for my favorite foods.

One HUGE missing piece are potatoes. They are high in carbs as vegetables go, so they are off-limits for the time being. <<sad face>> My ideal breakfast includes hashbrowns or oven roasted potatoes or yams with fried eggs on top. Possibly my favorite food sensation is warm yolk over a crisp root vegetable.

One day I was really missing hashbrowns, so I decided to get creative. What did I have that could substitute? I opened the fridge and found some listless broccoli stems (I refuse to throw them out). Aha! I thought. Those are firm enough to behave like root veggies. I shredded them (you can use a blender with a shredder attachment or a cheese grater) and tossed them in a frying pan with some oil, salt and pepper, oregano, and garlic. They didn’t take very long to cook and soon I was enjoying faux hashbrowns with fried eggs. It was tastier than I thought possible.

What else could I make into hash, I wondered? So far my favorite and easiest substitute hash veggie is cabbage, but I’ve also used zucchini.

broccoli hash

Broccoli hash with turmeric fried eggs

Here’s how I do it.

Ingredients:

  • Shredded broccoli stems or zucchini, or thinly-sliced cabbage
  • Onion and/or bell pepper, shredded or finely sliced (optional)
  • Any seasonings you use on hash browns (salt, pepper, Italian spices, garlic, Creole or other spicy seasoning, etc.)
  • Butter or olive oil

Throw everything together into a large frying pan over medium or medium-high heat and mix well. Note that broccoli stems will cook faster and burn easier.

If you’re cooking broccoli stems or cabbage, stir frequently (I do this by picking up the whole pan and jostling it like chefs do.) With zucchini, resist the urge to stir or flip (overstirring means they won’t get crispy – also true with potatoes). Let cook for 3-4 minutes (note that potatoes take way longer) before flipping as evenly as possible to cook the other side.

Fry eggs in a separate pan in butter or oil. I like mine overeasy so I don’t start them until the hash is almost done. I sprinkle a little turmeric over my eggs for flavor and health benefits.

Put everything on a plate and enjoy a delicious, low-carb breakfast!

For another potato substitute, I can’t wait to try this whipped cauliflower recipe from my friend over at  Paleo Jake.

Boontling and more from Boonville

My love for where I live extends beyond Ukiah. The entire county of Mendocino has captured my heart, and the local language of nearby Boonville in Anderson Valley is a perfect illustration of why this particular place in the world has my very high esteem. I can’t seem to embed the video, so click here to watch – it’s short and worth your while, I promise!

A few other Anderson Valley highlights:

  • Boonville is home to the annual Not So Simple Living Fair, which I attended last year and plan to go to again this year. It’s a magical weekend of DIY meets sustainable living. If you want to know more, click here to read about my experience last year.
  • If you love beer, the famous Anderson Valley Brewing Company is just around the corner from Boonville, and there are world-class wineries all around the valley.
  • The Anderson Valley Grange is the first solar-powered grange in the country and hosts a variety of fun and charitable events.
  • The book Boonville is a decent and funny if not stereotypical read.

I’m so grateful that Boonville is just 45 minutes away on a beautiful drive, a perfect stopping point halfway to the always breathtaking Mendocino coast.

highway 128

The road from Ukiah to Boonville: highway 253.

Marin Headlands Wedding

Last weekend Carson and I went to the wedding of a college friend of mine. They couldn’t have gotten better weather or a more perfect venue – the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin near Sausalito. I was so impressed by the food (Katie Powers catering) and the wedding planner (Be Hitched in the Bay area) that I wrote them both glowing reviews.

Some of our friends drove down from Seattle and we had quite the reunion, drinking and dancing the night away. We actually had more fun than anticipated… instead of driving back we decided to stay, party, and sleep in my car! (Classy I know.)

Golden Gate bridge

Golden Gate bridge on the drive to the headlands

Eli and Carson Marin wedding

Just before the ceremony

Eli champagne

A man of many talents… Carson helped put together my outfit, recommending the brown belt to match my brown heels and also to “define my figure.” He kills me.

wedding table

From left: Aaron, Jen, Sean, Mark, and Carson. We were at the “fun table” with some of Lauren’s friends. (Aka the table in the corner… I wonder if they expected us to get rowdy?)

happy couple and scenery

They had plenty of scenic backdrops to choose from for photos. Here John holds Lauren’s train (adorable).

flip cup

That’s right… the after party featured flip cup!

hangover beach

Headlands beach the next morning… at least one of us was hung over (hint: it was me).

Everlasting Spring

I have never experienced such a long spring before. Every time I think the blooms will stop, something else bursts open. The roses are all about to pop, and in the meantime I’ve been enjoying the zillions of dogwoods, lilacs, and Lady Banksia that fill Ukiah’s streets. (Not to mention all the bright orange California poppies and about 20 other plants and trees currently in bloom.)

Jones St dogwoods

Jones street alone has more than a dozen dogwoods.

Gardens Dogwood

So poetic… a rose dogwood on the corner of Gardens and Mendocino.

Oak Park dogwoods

Dogwoods on Oak Park street

Lady Banksia

Ours are relatively small… some of these Lady Banksia cover entire oak trees.

cut Lady Banksia

They lasted surprisingly long inside, and filled the kitchen with a lovely scent.

lilac

Aren’t lilacs the most precious flowers? We have a white one in our yard.

 

Hand Printed Gifts

A few years ago, I got it in my head that I’d hand-print napkins for Christmas presents (despite my dismal crafting track record). I enrolled my friend Katie and we cleaned the Seattle Goodwill out of every natural-fiber napkin they had (about 60 if I remember correctly). It took several sessions to brainstorm and practice our approach, print the napkins, and then finish them with 60 seconds under a hot iron, but the results were charming, thoughtful, and well-received gifts.

first napkins

The printing project that started it all.

We did napkins, but there’s pretty much nothing you can’t print on – it even works on synthetics. These prints wash beautifully over and over again, and the ink or paint is inexpensive and non-toxic.

Plus, it’s REALLY FUN.

baby tees

Two-tone nature stamps for a baby gift. The red and yellow circle is a lemon. It works best with an older lemon or one that has dried out overnight; this gives it more definition, and the acidic juice from a wet lemon turns the ink brown.

I recently recruited Caitlin to print with me. We both have weddings coming up, so I got us some lovely white hemstitch napkins, place mats (or tea towels if the recipient prefers), and table runners – perfect wedding gifts and great printing candidates.

Katie and I originally carved stamps into potatoes. Mine were pretty basic, but she came up with clever designs like these owls:

potato owls

I prefer nature prints for their ease and beauty. Caitlin and I went on a nature walk to gather materials and spent some time experimenting with colors and prints (not everything stamps well, like the long grass I tried so hard to make work).

Soon, Caitlin started on a set of “practice” napkins (five navy blue linen napkins that Carson found at the Hospice thrift store down the street for a buck). Her napkins were lovely and it wasn’t long before she moved on to the whites.

Caitlin's products

Caitlin’s first printing experience was a resounding success!

Caitlin had a theme – two plants that represented the bride and groom (so personal and thoughtful). Not knowing what plants represented my couples, I was just looking for pretty motifs. I especially love the teal leaf patterns and very seriously considered keeping them for myself.

leaves and ferns

Teal leaves and black ferns.

I’m always pleasantly surprised by just how beautiful these turn out, even the ones that get a little messed up. Like Caitlin and I were joking, “The imperfections make them perfect!”

Interested? Here’s how to do  your own hand printing.

1) Pick out your materials. You can print on literally anything that can be ironed. I recommend ironing them first so you don’t print over any wrinkles.

2) Buy textile or fabric ink or paint. I use both Jacquard textile paint and Versatex screen printing ink. (Note: the “ink” is the right consistency, but if you buy paint you’ll need to mix it with a little water. It should be fairly runny.) I have a few colors that I mix together to make other shades.  You will also want some paintbrushes (they don’t have to be fancy).

3) Gather your “stamps.” You can carve anything into a potato, but make sure the relief is fairly deep or else the stamp won’t come out clearly. I prefer nature stamps. Ferns work very well. In general, the more firm a plant is, the better it will print. You can use the same nature stamp about 10 times before you need a new one. You can also paint directly on the fabric, but I’m not quite that talented.

4) Cover your workspace with brown paper (I cut open bags). This is both your table protector and your practice area. Paper doesn’t print exactly like fabric, but if it looks good on paper it’ll definitely look good on fabric. Paint a thin layer of paint on your stamp (you can get creative with two-tone stamps), gently set it on the paper, and then press down firmly on top of it with another piece of paper (so you don’t get any potential paint from your fingers on the stamp area). If you’re using a potato, just press down firmly. You might consider blotting the stamp a little first before doing the actual printing; I personally think prints with less paint look nicer.

stamp space

Work space

5) Once you’re satisfied with your paper prints, put fresh paper down and start stamping the fabric! Once stamped, lay it somewhere to dry. To finish, iron over the now-dry stamped area for 60 seconds (I avoid burning it by constantly moving the iron over the area). VOILA!

I have only ever had to do this once, BUT if you find that your stamp is awful, you can quickly wash it out with cold water and soap, let it dry, iron it, and try again.

Caitlin stamps

Caitlin enjoys the process

Eli stamps

Stamping a “flower” crafted out of leaves taped together.

If this seems complicated or you have questions, please ask me! Bear in mind that I am not a particularly crafty person, but I’ve never made a print that wasn’t cool (though some are undeniably cooler than others).