November 9: Eat dinner, drink wine, support gardens

I’ve been doing a lot of work in the garden community here. Did you know that Mendocino County is the only place in the whole country that has a garden at each public school?

Here are two articles I’ve written about the school gardens:

We’ve been brainstorming about how to fund these gardens, and after I shared one of these articles with my friend Sarah of Eat Mendocino, she was moved to dedicate the next farm-to-table dinner to supporting garden-enhanced nutrition education (GENE).

If you’re free next Saturday and in the Ukiah area, please join us! If you don’t have $50 but still want to participate, we need volunteers. Contact Sarah directly to get involved: eatmendocino[at]gmail.com.

Nov9_dinner copy

See you there!

 

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My Ukiah Anniversary and Summer Recap

Today is my one-year anniversary of being in Ukiah, and specifically of living in our cozy little house downtown (I spent last summer in Redwood Valley). I’m still just as in love with Ukiah and Mendocino county as the day I discovered this magical place.

It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed, but when I look back at all that has happened I can see that I packed a lot in to the last 12 months. Specifically, SO MANY THINGS HAPPENED THIS SUMMER. I didn’t get around to blogging about them all, so here’s a quick digest of the things I missed.

Concert in the Park Series

Every year, Ukiah hosts the most incredible concert series – six free shows in Todd Grove Park performed by outstanding groups. The entire community comes from near and far to pull up some grass, drink wine and beer, eat food, and dance our pants off. I went to five of the six concerts, missing just one because I was in Seattle. We always had a blanket, a cooler, and a good group of friends, and one day we even set up croquet. Good times.

CitP

Final Concert in the Park

Movies in the Park

Movies are shown at dusk at Alex Thomas Plaza throughout the summer, which is RIGHT by our house. I only went to one, and I went alone, but it was awesome: they showed The Sandlot, which never gets old. Just one of many examples of the great and FREE things to do all summer in Ukiah.

BBQS

There were a lot of them. We had at least one. I think Susan had two or three, as did Addison and Caitlin, the original Miles (for Natalie’s going-away party… sad), young Miles and Zach, one at our community garden, and probably another one or twelve I’m forgetting. I ate a lot of meat and drank a lot of summer bounce at these puppies.

Susan BBQ

M and Z BBQ

Friday Nights at Rivino

Every Friday night, Rivino – a local winery – has live (and free!) music in their beautiful outdoor setting. The wine is priced right, you can bring a picnic, and the misters saved us from many a sweaty night. Fridays at Rivino became a pretty standard way to kick off the summer weekends; I can always reliably find a friendly face or two if I decided to go at the last minute. These concerts last until the rains start in October, so you still have a chance to go!

Rivino friends

Rivino view

A Day at Lake Sonoma

One day in July, Susan and I decided to have an adventure. We piled into my car and drove south, stopping in Cloverdale long enough to take pictures with this strange street sculpture and get some treasures at the Methodist thrift store.

Susan Cloverdale

From there we continued on to Lake Sonoma. Neither of us had ever been and we were surprised to see on a map just how big it is. It was formed by flooding the narrow valleys between mountains, so it has tons of fingers and very steep edges. Despite its size, we figured we’d wing it.

Our first stop was the marina to rent kayaks, but after waiting 20 minutes for someone to even acknowledge us we talked ourselves out of it – there was strong wind and not many good, accessible beaches within kayak distance, plus we didn’t have waterproof bags to take with us. We’ll just find a little private beach to chill, we thought.

Turns out, no such beach exists! After many false starts, including about a mile of up-and-down walking in two different locations laden with all our gear, we threw in the towel and headed back to the public beach. There are NO other beaches accessible by roads; you have to take a boat to them, which to me seemed very elitist. (Note: if we had been on the other side of the lake apparently we could have gone to Yorty beach, which is supposed to be cool. Next time…)

Susan Lake Sonoma

Getting frustrated, but in good spirits

Eli Lake Sonoma

We were a scene straight out of the 70s in our getups

We hung out at the public beach for awhile, which was like a highway for boats and didn’t have a pleasant view or a particularly nice place to sit. After a picnic, a swim, and a sunbathe, we packed it in and headed north to a very private and wonderful river spot.

We never got upset and laughed through the whole day. It was memorable to say the least (especially since I think it was partially the lake’s fault that led to my head-to-toe hives a few days later).

Whirlwind Seattleite Invasion

My fashion designer friend Casey and his friend Katy went on a six-day kamikaze road trip to Los Angeles to buy fabric. They stopped over in Ukiah on the way down, catching the end of the final Concert in the Park after 13 hours in the car. On their way back from LA they stopped again, this time for a leisurely 36 hours. We draped ourselves in their luxurious fabric, went wine tasting at Barra, and swam at the sweet river spot that Susan and I found on that fateful Lake Sonoma day.

Casey and Katy

Casey and Katy river

No hives this time, but unfortunately the yellow jackets found us and cut our beach time short.

They were so much fun to have and I wish they could have stayed longer!

Whirlwind Seattleite Invasion, Part II

My friend Robyn and her boyfriend Gus came for a wine country and San Francisco weekend, and spent about eight hours enjoying what Mendocino has to offer. We went wine tasting at Rivino (I was there three times that week), and then spent several hours by a friend’s pool before eating tacos at Chavez Market and hitting a surprise birthday party. I gave them a driving tour of Ukiah and they agreed – of course – that it’s the cutest town ever. Hopefully next time they stay long enough for me to show them some other local gems like Anderson Valley and Montgomery Woods.

RB and Gus

En Fin, and Cucumbers

I did a lot of other things but I mostly blogged about them, I think (plus I have a few pending blogs about specific events, specifically the Kinetic Carnivale and Sharing the Bounty). If you remember anything else awesome we did that I’ve left out, please let me know.

This summer has been a pleasure from start to finish, but I’m ready for the fall to set in. Specifically, I’m ready to stop harvesting cucumbers… Carson tells me I can pull the plants but but they’re still so productive it seems like a crime. If you live near Ukiah, PLEASE COME GET CUCUMBERS. They are the tastiest and most beautiful cukes I have ever grown.

My absence explained: vacation!

After Carson came home from the hospital, he had exactly one week to recover before my parents came to visit. The first few days were rough but he turned a corner on day four and was almost totally back to his normal self by the time my parents rolled up. We were their last leg on a two-week road trip through California. They spent a weekend with us, which was lovely, and then I hopped in the car with them and we drove to Seattle via the Oregon coast. I spent eight days in Seattle before flying home three days ago, which is why I haven’t been posting. I mostly stayed hidden inside my parents’ house, working for two big clients, making major progress on my Gramma’s life story book (thanks Dad!), eating great food (thanks Mom!), and relaxing with some quality HGTV. Other than a BBQ I hardly saw anyone, so if you didn’t know I was in Seattle please don’t be offended. It’s hard to see everyone, every time.

Enough words. Here’s what I did in photos!

Rivino 1

Gathered friends at Rivino on my parents’ first night in Ukiah for some knee-slapping twangy music, bright glasses of Chardonnay, and a picnic.

Rivino 2

Mary Anne with my parents Mike and Mary

Carson fair

Went to the Redwood Empire Fair, where Carson’s 4H bee club had a first-prize booth.

Tractor pull

Watched the tractor pull at the fair. Three hours of hilarious entertainment!

Salsa

Carson and my mom made salsa using tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro from the garden. It was muy delicioso.

Florence

Stopped in Florence, Oregon on our way up the coast to Seattle. We stayed at a sweet little hotel right on the river.

sand dunes 1

Went for a dune buggy ride in Florence. It was like a roller coaster! (We’re in the back row.)

sand dunes 2

The sand dunes are huge – miles and miles of rolling, sandy hills with scrubby brush. The day started foggy…

sand dunes 3

…but by the end of the hour-long ride the fog was lifting.

Tillamook

Had lunch at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. You can tell by our oversized smiles that we’re starting to crack after so much time in the car.

Amber planetarium

Once in Seattle, I went on a lovely date with Amber. We hit up the PhinneyWood Summer Days festival where a store hosted the UW’s giant inflatable planetarium. We watched an informative 15 minute show.

Eli Vietnamese

After the Summer Days fair we headed to Broadway, got lucky with a parking spot, and devoured bowls of Vietnamese food. Here I am, post-“bun” (my favorite – a cold noodle salad with meat).

Amber vertical garden

We walked around Capitol Hill and noticed this beautiful mural – which Amber’s friend painted! – along with a newly installed vertical garden with rain gutters to water it. Sometimes I forget how cool Seattle is.

Archers arching

Had a family BBQ in which my brother brought a bow he MADE. My mom was a pretty good shot. (You know, just a bunch of Archers being Archers.)

BBQ 1

Had a friend BBQ hosted by Jacob and Abby at their West Seattle home. The weather was perfect, the grill plentiful, and the company pleasant (and, at times, raucous).

BBQ 2

Jacob the grill master at work, with a view that won’t quit behind him.

Edmonds lunch

Enjoyed a patio lunch with longtime family friend Barb and my mom at my favorite Edmonds waterfront restaurant, Anthony’s Beach Cafe. (Also spent an afternoon with the Sweeneys – more family friends – but alas, took no pictures.)

KMJ 1

Wrapped up my trip with a dinner and overnight at KMJ’s home. Here’s Jacob eagerly awaiting dinner.

KMJ 2

Nothing like ending a Seattle trip at one of my Seattle homes! Plus they’re close to the airport so I don’t feel like too much of a burden when I need a ride.

Life throws a curveball, or: When your boyfriend says he has internal bleeding, don’t roll your eyes

**Warning: for those of you familiar with my old blog, the length of this post is very much a throwback. Feel free to skim.**

The boy who didn’t cry wolf

When Carson got home from his fire shift on Monday morning, he was looking a little pale and said he didn’t feel well, which he attributed to having spent so many hours in a bumpy engine (Humboldt to Fresno and back in 36 hours – yeesh). He spent the rest of Monday and most of Tuesday in a flu-like state with a decent fever. He was lightheaded and his lower abdomen really hurt, but he had a vigorous appetite and managed to change a flat tire (his, not mine – I told him to call AAA!) so I figured it was a flu/sore-muscles-from-bumpy-ride combo. “Maybe I have internal bleeding,” he weakly suggested all day on Tuesday, followed by bouts of gentle moaning. “You’re fine,” I kept telling him, possibly with a few eye rolls. “It’s the flu.”

It’s not the flu

About 4 pm, he was doubled over in pain and his face was screwed up in what seemed to be a permanent grimace. I called the local urgent care center. “What’s his pain on a scale of 1-10?” asked the nurse I spoke with. “Four…” he mumbled. “Four?!?” I replied, not kindly. “We’re calling urgent care for a FOUR? Look at you. You’re like an eight.” The nurse advised we go to the ER, so I packed some snacks and a book and sweatshirts – knowing the hospital would be highly air conditioned – and away we went.

The triage nurse saw us at 4:30. By 5:00, he’d had blood drawn and an IV put in for fluids due to his high fever.

first IV

Carson’s first-ever IV

By 5:30, we knew his white cell count was high and he needed a CAT scan. By 6:30, we knew the results. The ER doctor was nice but spoke important things in a rushed way that made it hard to grasp, so when he walked in the words were already out of his mouth and we had to ask him to repeat himself. “You have acute appendicitis,” he said again. “You’re having surgery tonight.”

“What??” I exclaimed, raising my eyebrows and giggling in Carson’s direction, who was having a similar reaction. “That’s crazy!” I blurted out. “Way to keep calm for the patient,” the doctor scolded me. “Huh?” I replied, taken aback and embarrassed. “Oh, I mean, he’s… it’s fine. He knows what I mean.” And he did, of course, because it’s Carson and it’s hard to get him whipped up about anything. We’d been calm all day and we were still calm… we were just both so surprised! One of his first reactions was to say, “Well, at least it’s not a problem I’ll ever have again.” Then a much more ridiculous thing came out of my mouth: “It’s our first medical emergency as a couple!” It was Carson’s turn to roll his eyes.

Within 10 minutes the surgeon came in, then the anesthesiologist,  and 30 minutes later he was being wheeled away, so that a mere four hours after stepping foot into the ER Carson had his appendix removed. Later, the surgeon told me his appendix was twice the size of what they consider acute, and it had probably burst days ago. The operation didn’t take more than an hour, and they let me in to see him in recovery. From there I drove to Mary Anne and Howie’s to drop off a gluten-free peach cobbler I’d made for them earlier that day, the irony being that the glutenous one I made was special for Carson and now he wouldn’t get to eat any of it. I went back to the hospital an hour later to drop off some things. He was in his room and alert but sleepy, so I left him to rest.

Day Two: Under Pressure

The next day I spent 12 hours in his hospital room. Luckily the hospital has internet so I was able to work (because naturally this happened during my busiest work week yet as a freelancer). “Sorry I’m not paying much attention to you,” I told him after a few hours. “It’s okay, I’m not paying much attention to you, either,” he replied. We laughed. He was just happy to have me there, and I was happy to be there for him.

Unfortunately, his pain worsened throughout the day. As is common with most surgeries (or so I’m told), the air they fill the body cavity with builds in pressure until it finds some way to escape. Nothing we or the doctors or nurses did would relieve the pressure. When I finally left after 10 pm he was still trying desperately to work it out of his system.

Up Until the Wee Hours

When we’d left for the hospital on Tuesday I was in the middle of processing eight quarts of whole tomatoes. I had them all stewed, peeled, and packed, so I put them in the fridge until I could waterbath them. Wednesday night seemed like the time to do it (yes, at 10:30 pm), except I forgot that tomatoes take 45 minutes to process and I had to do it in two batches. It was a pain, but I always think preserving food is worth it, even when it keeps you up until 2:00 am. Turns out Carson was up most of the night, too. Hospital rest isn’t easy.

late night canning

I did at least use the waterbath time wisely, taking the opportunity to cook the chicken we had marinated for Tuesday’s dinner, make three quarts of pickles from our cucumber bounty (since, hell, the water bath was already going), write most of this and two other blogs, clean the kitchen, and take an oatmeal bath. Why the bath? Oh, didn’t I  mention that part? I’m covered in hives from head to toe.

hives

Unfortunately they got worse from here.

When we went to the ER on Tuesday we both agreed it was ironic that we were there for him and not me. I really am a pathetic sight – the hives have grown so that many of them look like superhives, and the one on my face is especially attractive. (Note to self: SHOWER IMMEDIATELY after a long day of hiking in hot weather, sweating, swimming in lakes and rivers, and repeatedly applying sunscreen. This is not the first time I’ve done this to myself.)

Day 3: On the Mend

I spent 15 hours by Carson’s side on Thursday, watching TV and working. It was a strange time vacuum, but it’s always nice to be there for the ones you love when they need you. Plus it was a good excuse to avoid social interaction and give my hives time to heal. When I got there in the morning he looked a thousand times better, and he got up frequently to wander the hospital halls in the hopes of relieving some of that ever-present pressure, occasionally joking that he was “plotting his escape.” They wanted to keep him one more night, though, so I went home around midnight and told him to call me when they were ready to release him the next day.

Day 4: Home Again, Home Again

The doctor decided to release him at 6:30 am – love that early morning wake-up call! – and he’s now in his own bed, semi-comfortably resting. I took a picture of him as he was leaving the hospital but he wasn’t very happy about that, so I’m not going to post it here. (I guess some memories don’t need to be cataloged?)

I’m having to dig down deep to find my nurturing side (my family is not comprised of the most patient caregivers [no offense, Mom]) but he’s an easy and grateful ward, and when he’s sleeping I can steal his narcotics so it’s not without recompense. (Kidding!!) He’ll have to take a few weeks off work but it’s nothing compared to what would have happened if we’d waited much longer to get it checked out; I shudder to think how quickly he would have turned septic. Here’s to a healthy and speedy recovery!

Shout Out to Ukiah’s Awesome Hospital

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the quality of service and treatment Carson received at the Ukiah Valley Medical Center. It really is a wonderful hospital. I was amazed at how quickly everything happened in the ER, and the doctors and nurses were all extremely helpful and accommodating (though the doctors tended to talk too fast). Also, all the rooms are private, with private bathrooms and windows that open onto a grassy courtyard. The cafeteria serves pretty amazing food – dinner on Wednesday was a variety of Asian-inspired dishes, and Thursday offered authentic Mexican food including an incredible pozole – and I’m told the chef sources as many ingredients locally as possible. (Oh, Mendocino. Never change.) Also, the total bill seemed relatively affordable compared to what I think a CAT scan, surgery, and three-night hospital stay would be in San Francisco, for instance. Over the course of my life I haven’t had to spend much time in hospitals – happily – but I’m relieved to know that my local hospital is such a good one.

If you’re around and want to stop by, Carson will be a captive audience for a few days!

I’m on the front page!

Sometimes I write articles about local community issues and send them to Mendocino media outlets to run. On Thursday I got my first-ever front page billing, for “School gardens in crisis.” Check it out:

UDJ front page

To read the article, you can click here. It’s about  the loss of funding for school gardens, and how nutrition education and growing food has a huge impact on students. I think it’s a pretty important issue, especially if you live in Mendocino.

Thanks, Ukiah Daily Journal!

4th of July at the Ukiah Speedway

I grew up with what can only be described as a pyromaniac brother. As a kid, the 4th of July meant long weekends at our family friends’ cabin on Lake Tapps, firework trips to the nearby Indian reservation, a front-row seat to the local show via their boat, and then our own private show on the dock. Such happy memories… To this day, my brother Eric puts on an elaborate 4th of July show at his house, so imagine my dismay when last 4th of July – my first in Mendocino – I didn’t hear or see a SINGLE FIREWORK. I had a few sparklers that we lit and overall the day was fun, but it wasn’t the same. This year I resolved to get my firework fix.

On the Saturday before the 4th, Carson and I headed to the Ukiah Speedway. For $14 each we were treated to six different races and a fantastic firework show, not to mention excellent people watching. I really can’t say enough good things about the people there – we may not run in the same circles but they were friendly as could be.

The most exciting race was actually the very first one, which were “Jammer” class cars – they had the most crashes and the closest finish. However, the second race was a close second: it was the “Legends,” which can only be described as a live-action cartoon. These tiny, custom-made cars are fast and noisy, and when they crash they literally jump off the ground. Even better, the tow truck lowers a grabber-like claw, picks them up from the roof, and drives off the course with them dangling behind them! I never imagined such a spectacle.

Legends

As for the fireworks show… wow. So much better than I expected! It was set up in the middle of the track and was really low, so they exploded directly above our heads. It was pretty long with a good variety, and the best were these small golden cracklers that seemed to explode by the thousands over the course of two or three minutes. I kept smacking Carson’s arm (I think he was more entertained by my reaction than the show itself) and I couldn’t stop smiling.

We very nearly went to the Lakeport races the following Saturday for an encore, but ultimately decided one show was enough. I know where I’m spending my next 4th of July, though!

Speedway us

Showing my favorite people my favorite places

I haven’t blogged in a while, but I have a good excuse: out of town visitors! My dear friend Katie and her son Jacob were in town. I  lived with Katie and her partner Martin when she was pregnant, and I had the privilege of being like a second mom to Jacob during his infancy and for most of his young life.

I was worried that going from seeing me daily to seeing me twice a year would affect our relationship, but Jacob was so excited to see me (and I him, of course!) and our bond was none the worse for wear.

Katie brings the rain everywhere she goes, and a freak three-day June gloom settled over us. We enjoyed ourselves despite Mother Nature, braving the weather for a wet walk through downtown and an hour at Todd Grove playground. Carson and Jacob had so much fun together.

Rainy playground

On the third day the sun decided to shine in the afternoon and we headed back to Todd Grove to hit the playground and swim in the public pool. The weather had kept most people away so we had it largely to ourselves, which was nice.  We also picked plums at Caitlin and Addison’s house.

Plum pickin

The sun finally came out in the morning on their last day here, and we took full advantage by going swimming at Cow Mountain as well as Lake Mendocino. We also ran through the sprinkler in my backyard.

Cow mountain

sprinkler

From here Katie and Jacob went to Lake Tahoe to visit more friends, and then came back a few days later to Mendocino to camp in Hendy Woods for the 4th of July. Her brother and sister-in-law and their 2-year-old met us, as well as some friends of hers and their 6-year-old, all from the Bay area. Yes- I was the only one without a kid. A few years ago that would have been torture, but I’ve cultivated patience and a slow lifestyle so it was actually pretty fun.

Campground hand holding

Jacob was so sweet with his little cousin!

Speaking of rain – a freak thunderstorm came out of NOWHERE on Wednesday night! We’d been seeing flashes of light in the trees and speculated on its origin – flash photography? fireworks? aliens?? Finally we heard some low rumbles and realized it was heat lightning (it was 111 degrees when I left Ukiah that afternoon, and still about 100 in Anderson Valley 45 minutes away). “There’s no way it’ll rain,” I assured them. Except, it did. Bright lightning and ground-shaking thunder was accompanied by a veritable DUMP of rain that lasted from 11 pm to about 6 the next morning. Yeesh. A woman told Katie that in 21 years of camping at Hendy on the 4th, it had never once rained.

Thursday morning was the 4th and we headed north to the town of Mendocino to catch the quirky parade and spend some time on the beach. Unfortunately it’s hard to wrangle three young kids so we missed most of the parade, but the weather was perfect and we spent a lot of time relaxing on the beach. Caitlin drove from Ukiah and spent the day with us.

IMG_1570

Dino face

Free face painting at the parade.

 

Beach kite

 

Sandy Jacob

That night everyone left but Katie, Jacob, and me, and the next day they headed north to Bend, the last stop on their road trip before heading home to Seattle. I followed them to Fort Bragg so we could stop at Glass Beach, a famous landmark that I love to visit. I will never visit the coast on the 4th weekend again! It was overrun with tourists, and what is usually a private activity was jam-packed with people filling bags of glass to take home and likely shove in a closet, which is sad because eventually Glass beach won’t have any glass left. Alas…

They managed to make it the 10 hours to Bend in one day (a feat for anyone, let alone a 4-year-old). I miss them already but we all had a wonderful time and we plan to make this an annual trip. Luckily I’ll be in Seattle for a few days in August, so I’ll get to see them again soon!

Group shot

Friends and wildflowers in Fort Bragg