Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Garden

So you want to see how my garden is doing too? I spent quite a bit of time out there last night checking every part of my drip system and repairing parts that needed it. By the time I was done, a big full moon was rising over the hills, and I was so dirty that I had to get a shower before I could touch any furniture.

When you check the drip system, it has to be on, and that means you get watered along with the plants. I have drippers on each of my 30 tomato plants. I have soaker hoses on some beds, and other beds do better with little circular sprayers. They not only wet the whole bed, they reach the the paths around the bed. I wish that didn't happen, because it waters any weeds that want to grow in the path, but I put up with it because it works best in my garden. You see, my garden is on the south side of our shop, where it is hot and dry. The tomatoes thrive here, and other things do quite well, as long as they have enough water.


I've made cages for my tomatoes out of field fence. I put the narrow openings on the ground and the big openings up high, so when the tomatoes are ready I can easily reach them. We have high winds at our house quite often. As you can see we are on a ridge, out in the open where the wind blows free. I have too carefully anchor the tomato cages or they blow over. This has been a learning process over time. I used to use the flimsy little cages you can buy at the garden store, but my tomatoes grow so large here, that the store cages were soon dwarfed. Also the store cages break quickly. I stager my tomatoes in kind of a rick rack pattern, if you know what I mean. Then when I put the cages over them, they are also in a zig zag pattern. I then take plastic covered metal poles, that you can find in garden stores and weave them between the a joining cages and push them into the ground as far as they will go. The bamboo poles aren't usually stoat enough. This triangular pattern makes the joined cages very sturdy. I used to put them in a rectangular pattern and when the wind blew the whole bed full of cages would blow over. It was not a good thing , nor was it easy to rescue the poor tomato plants. Last year they didn't blow over one time.

I'm excited because I' ve got some Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes already blooming. You can see them in the photo above. I get so excited when I think of eating ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden.

Later on this summer I show you how big the tomato plants get here. And no, we don't live in Texas.


The potatoes and cabbage are doing well. This year we have purple cabbage at Forest's request. I don't know how it will do, because I've avoided too many plants from the cabbage family, because we have some many cabbage butterflies. But I'm willing to try. I have some more natural stuff from Garden's Alive to try and spray on them, in hopes we can keep the caterpillars at bay. We've got a few volunteer red potatoes in this bed. I have some seed potatoes that I want to put in cages similar to my tomaotes, but the cages will be filled with soil. You are supposed to get a huge crop of potatoes. On Sunday I am going to try to get them set up.
My broccoli is doing well. It should be ready to pick soon. I have some eggplant in this bed, and some cayenne chili peppers. There is also the end of the lettuce in this bed. It is getting too hot for lettuce.

In the garden I've also got basil, okra, more varieties of peppers, cucumbers, purslane, New Zealand Spinach, strawberries, kale and leeks. And up in some bare spots in my flower garden I have some squash, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew planted. That is also a new experiement. There just isn't enough room in my garden boxes for large vining plants.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ham Test

I found out I don't have to take the ham test this week. Yea! I have one more week to study, or should I say put off studying. I think I'll go out and check on the garden right now. ; )

Black Beetles

We have some new pets. Forest found them in the yard. They are small black beetles. They like to eat apples.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Studying for the Test

I've been attending the amateur radio class my husband has been teaching all this quarter. There is one class left, tonight. Then next Thursday will be the technician level exam. Yikes. The material in the class still makes my mind turn off and wander to greener pastures. I know my husband would be so happy if I had my license, so I don't have the heart to just quit, even though every Thursday I can think of many other things that I could be doing instead of attending class. And up until this morning I haven't studied outside of class at all. I am really struggling inside of myself over this. I probably should be studying. So this morning instead of spending much time blogging, I went to a site that gives practice tests so you can see if you are ready for the real test. Surprisingly I passed the first one I took. So I took another one, which I didn't pass. I made myself take four tests altogether, and I passed half of them. So I have a 50/50 chance of passing a real test. There are 35 questions on a test, and I have to pass at 75%. The questions come from a question pool with around 600 multiple choice questions in it. I realized that there is some knowledge I am missing that wouldn't be hard to learn. So I figure that I'd better go ahead and read through the study book we have on my own before next Thursday, so I've been exposed to all the possible information, Then even if I don't know the frequencies I can operate on by heart, and everything there is to know about watts, voltage and Single Side Band, I should still pass. At least I hope I pass.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wildflower Embroidery

I know that some of my readers are wildflower lovers. If that is you, you may want to take a peek at my friend, La Tea Dah's blog, Gracious Hospitality. Her friend Fay has been making some lovely wildflower stitching patterns that come with a watercolor print of the same wildflower. You just have to go look and see.

Seven Random Facts About Me

Carrie at Organized Chaos has tagged me. And since it appears I am one of her two faithful commenters, I'd better go ahead and do my assignment. According to Carrie, here are the rules "in a nutshell : *7 random facts/habits, *post these rules, *tag 7 other people, *leave them a comment that they are tagged.

1. I rarely eat a "normal" breakfast. If I eat cereal, it is cooked. Right now I am eating my breakfast salad, a green one with lots of veggies and covered with tahini, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. I know I'm nuts, but I feel really good and energetic when I eat this way, even though I drink no coffee. If I don't have a salad for breakfast, I have a green smoothie, or some fruit, or a fruit salad. Occasionly we fix a breakfast like I showed you for Mother's Day

2. I'm only 4 feet 8 inches tall. Probably the shortest person you know, but I don't have dwarfism issues. I'm just short.

3. I'd love to be a homebirth midwife. I gave birth to my children at home, and then was an assistant for my midwife for a while. Being with newborns in such a positive environment really energizes me.

4. I had an insect collection that I started in 7th grade. They were eaten by other insects by the time I was finished with college, so alas, I don't have an insect collection anymore.

5. I love pretty china plates and dishes. I love to serve food on pretty dishes. I especially like the ones that have wildflowers, leaves, pine cones or other things from nature on them. I'd buy them all, but I restrain myself, when I think about the small amount of space I have to display them.

6. Besides singing, I play the guitar, piano (some), ukulele, autoharp, and tenor recorder. I want to learn to play the Celtic harp next. I have composed music in the past with my guitar, but have a hard time writing it out with more then guitar chords. When first coming to college my high school voice teacher encouraged me to join a competition for a $200 scholarship. I can't believe I won. She had me sing a classical piece that I think was something about "lavender in her hair." I think they were hoping that I'd become a music major. Maybe I should have, because I'm not using the education major I acquired, at least for pay.

7. I've tried to sell different things before, but discovered that it is not the job for me. I hate to ask someone to buy something that they can't afford, or don't need. When I sold rubber stamps, I was always telling my customers how to do stamping in the cheapest way and still come out with nice results.

I think that is enough. Glad they didn't ask for 10 things. I can't think of anymore.

I'm going to break the rules now and not tag anyone specifically. If you are reading my blog, and want to be tagged, I hear by tag you.

Three Little Froggies




We don't have any pet snakes in the house, but we do have some pet frogs. Three to be exact. The first one was given to Forest by his friend Julianna, who also adores all God's little creatures. She has a wonderful collection of "pets" found in the forest about her home. The frog she gave him was a real croaker at first, too much of a croaker for their house, so it came to our house. Thankfully, our house is bigger then theirs, and his croaking didn't last too many nights. He was really quite cute when he croaked. His little white throat would puff out like a balloon.

Since then Forest has found two new froggie buddies on our property, and they joined "Croaker" in a larger tank. The tank has a rock, some moss, a floating boat, a stick going up, and a cardboard balcony that the kids wedged in between the two sides of glass. Amazingly, the frogs really like the balcony, and often one of the three will be sitting up there.

When Forest catches a fly for them, things get really exciting in the tank. He slips it in and quickly slams down the lid, lest a frog hop all the way out when he is jumping after a fly. As soon as the fly starts buzzing inside all three frogs are instantly alert. And within seconds one of them has propelled himself through the air and caught it before it even knew where it was. It is amazing how quick they are, quicker then the average house fly, which I think is incredibly quick. But then Forest is quicker then the average house fly now too, because he is catching quite a few every day to feed his hungry charges.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Messiah's Mansion

Last week we got to take a homeschool field trip through a full scale model of the sanctuary God told Moses to make out in the desert. Someone read the Biblical descriptions and made this full walk through model. Now it travels around the country to different places, and college students give tours through it, so you can see what it was probably like in the time of the Children of Israel. The walk through model is called Messiah's Mansion.

The purpose of the Sanctuary in the desert was to point the people to Jesus Christ as the one who separates sin from the sinner. Even though Jesus had not come to earth to die for our sins, every part of the sanctuary service beautifully points to Him, and God's plan of salvation. Walking through the model was a wonderful way to make history and the Bible and God's love for sinners come alive. The people before Jesus died on the cross were not without a Savior.




Each lamb sacrificed in the courtyard represented "The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." The blood of Christ paid for the sins of all those believers also. It is so exciting to me to find God's love in all parts of the Bible, including the Old Testament. Some feel the Old Testament is only about the law of God and punishment for law breakers, but in the Sanctuary service you can also find God's grace and love in beautiful proportions. A sinner wasn't the one who was killed when they sinned, even though they deserved to die. They placed their hands on the perfect lamb and confessed their sins. The sins were transfered to the lamb. The sinner was forgiven and walked away forgiven. The lamb took the punishment. So also, when we sin, we confess our sins to God, our sins are transfered to the Lamb of God, Jesus. He takes the punishment, death, for our sins, and we walk away forgiven. Praise God.


In the Holy Place was the seven branched candlestick which represents God's Spirit ever burning with us. The bread represents Jesus the Bread of Life.

The alter of incense, represents our prayers ever going up before the Father.


In the Most Holy Place was a special box called The Ark of the Covenant. On top were two figures of angels, with one wing pointing up and one wing pointing down. Inside the box was the copy of the ten commandments written by the finger of God.

Aaron's budding almond branch, and some of the manna God gave the people to eat in the desert. Above The Ark of the Covenant was God's presence in the form of a cloud or fire.



There was a High Priest, the first one was Aaron, Moses' brother, who performed special parts of the service in the temple. He went into the Most Holy Place once a year, interceding for the people before the Heavenly Father. Now Jesus is our High Priest in the Heavenly Sanctuary, as it is written in the book of Hebrews. He is ministering in the true sanctuary of which the sanctuary in the desert was only a copy. A sanctuary on earth is no longer needed, because the services were fullfilled when Jesus died on the cross, and yet their meanings are still so very rich to believers today, because they all point to Jesus and what He did and is doing for us. When Jesus died the curtain to the Most Holy Place was ripped from top to bottom by an unseen hand, symbolizing that we can now come boldly before God ourself and be separated from our sins. 1 Corinthians says our bodies are also a temple of God, a special place for God to dwell. Isn't it true that God asks us to give Him our hearts? He wants to live in us. Isn't that wonderful!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sulpher Lupines and Mountain Goldenbanner

The most noticeable flowers on our walk this weekend was the Sulphur Lupine Lupinus sulphureus that you can see in the foreground of the first photo. Most of of us think of blue when when we think of lupines, but where we live there are some lovely yellow ones too.


These flowers grow in dense spikes and are a pale sulfur yellow. The leaves are divided palmately (like fingers on the palm of a hand) into 9 to 15 pointed leaflets. The stems and leaves are covered with fine hair.

But there was another yellow flower on the mountain from the same family, the pea family. It is call Mountain Goldenbanner Thermopsis rhombifolia and you can see it in the photos above and below. I think many people could confuse the Mountain Goldenbanner with the Sulpher lupine, but they are not the same plant. The leaves are similar to clovers with three parts. The flowers are large and bright yellow held on a spike above the leaves. The plant is hairless. My guidebook, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, says it is inedible to grazing animals.


And the amazing thing I just heard from a friend who lives at this elevation is that is was snowing huge snowflakes for hours this morning on these very flowers. Who would have guessed this would happen?

Garage Sale Quilt Find

On Friday morning we went out to garage sales. We don't do this all the time, but it seems that in the spring, there can be some especially nice ones. I've always wanted to find a quilt at a garage sale. I have friends who have found wonderful ones for almost nothing. Well, this Friday was my turn.

I found a lovely hand pieced quilt top for $1. I couldn't believe it! It was carefully hand pieced, hand appliqu├ęd, and hand embroidered. It had some small browns stains throughout, but I had a feeling that an Oxy - clean soak would take most if not all the dots away. I didn't think to do a before photo. What you see above is what it looked like after it came out of the wash machine, while it was drying on the couch. The quilt was much improved. The white was whiter, no colors were running, and the dots were almost all gone. It needs some ironing, but that will come next.


In this close up you can see a couple of the darkest dots up to the right of the right antenna of the butterfly. They are there, but they aren't strongly noticeable.

My plans are to find a backing for it, layer in come cotton batting, bind and tie it. I would love to hand quilt it, but I'm afraid it wouldn't be finished until I was too old to use it.

If anyone has a good idea of something else to try to completely remove the brown dots, without harming the fabric, let me know

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Rubber Boa in the Path

This weekend we went hiking again in the area of the secret waterfall. A squeal from one of the ladies with us brought to our attention that there was a snake in the path. The biologist in the group told us that it is a rubber boa, a gentle, docile, harmless snake that lives in this area. The coloring is very plain and his actions were very slow. I did a web search and found they like to eat mice. So if you find one on your property, be sure to let him or her continue to live there. Even though the sight of a snake makes my heart pound, and generally makes me jump back, this is not one to be afraid of. It is really a friend.

My son really enjoyed holding for him for a while. They seemed to get along really well. He has a cute little tongue. He wanted me to be sure to post these photos on my blog, even though snakes are not what I usually blog about. You can learn more about rubber boas here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Math-U-See Success

I wanted to write and tell you a little bit how math has gone in our homeschool this year. When we first started homeschooling, I used Saxon math. It came highly recommended by people I respect. We tried it, but it wasn't a good fit for my daughter. We tried to use it for three years, but it was too repetitious for her creativity, even when I skipped as much as I could. She started shutting down, and fighting against math. So I started looking for something better. I tried Miquin, but she wasn't sold on the change, neither was I. So I decided to try Math-U-See for 4th grade. But I started her in the second grade book because I really thought she needed to learn some important things that she had missed.

At the end of her fourth grade year, which is where we are right now, I have to say that the experiment was a great success. She has completed 3 years worth of books, and is now in the beginning of the 5th grade book. I'm so happy with her progress!

Each book has 30 lessons in it, enough for one year if you do one lesson a week. Each lesson has a DVD lesson to watch taught by an excellent math teacher that is easy to listen to, and has a touch of humor about him. He will often have a "trick" to teach the kids to make it easier, and my daughter really likes this. After watching the lesson, there are three similar pages of the lesson. If my child completes the first page at 90% or better, she doesn't have to do the next two. Then there are three similar pages of review. If she does the first page at 90% or better, she doesn't have to do those remaining two pages either. This really motivates her to put her heart into her work. She rarely has to do a second page, unless it is a more difficult concept like long division, etc. It is really nice for me to be out of the teacher role in math, and more in a tutor role now. Also, I have to say that the teacher knows much better ways of teaching the math concepts then I ever learned, even when I was in college taking classes to prepare me to teach math in the elementary school. I'm thrilled with how he is teaching fractions in the book she is in now. I have never seen it taught this way. He has some manipulatives called Fraction Overlays that help illustrate the concepts of even adding fractions with uneven denominators very clearly.

My son is in first grade. He hasn't moved quite as fast as my daughter, but he has completed the first grade book and is the second one. He is catching on quite quickly, and can now insert the DVD in the computer himself and do his math almost independently. He only needs me for the part that involves reading words.

Now if I could find curriculum that teaches English like this I would be really excited!

About Me

Peggy at HomemadeSimplicity made up this list of questions for us. I thought I give it a try for fun. If you do it on your blog, she just asks that you tell your readers where it came from.

Lace or Ribbon? Lace curtains
Mountain or Beach? Moutain wildflowers and sea shells at the beach
Reading or Writing? Reading stories to children and writing memories daily
Cookie or Cake? cookies
Baked or Mashed Potato? Baked with cashew gravy on top
Side or Back? side
Shrimp or Steak? never
Scrambled or Fried? scrambled tofu
Orange or Apple? fruit salad
Spring or Fall? Spring!
Roller Skating or Bowling? Too klutzy
DVD or Theater movies? DVD
Wood or Glass? Wood
Blue or Green? forest green, grass green, mint green, sea green, dark green, any green
Chocolate or Vanilla? dark chocolate
Quilt or Knit? Quilt
Early Morning or Late Night? Morning, of course, or you'd miss the sunrise
Coffee or Tea? tea
Watermelon or Strawberry? strawberries in spring, watermelon in the summer
Lunch or Dinner? lunch
Cold Cereal or Oatmeal? smoothie
Song or Dance? song
Carpet or Hardwood Floor? plush warm carpet or cool tile
Red or Pink? deep red
Cat or Dog? cat
Pretzels or Chips? corn chips
Iced Tea or Lemonade? limeade
Non-Fiction or Fiction? non-fiction
Rose or Daisy? wildflowers
Sunrise or Sunset? sunrise and sunset
Comb or Brush? brush
Pottery or Basket? pottery
Bracelet or Necklace? neither
Pen or Pencil? pen
Couch or Chair? couch
Country or Victorian? country garden or northwoods
Farm or Ranch? farm
Braid or Ponytail? braid
Cash or Check? cash
Chocolate Bar or Jelly Bean? dark chocolate bar
Coke or Pepsi? water
Hot Dog or Cheeseburger? tofu sprout burger
Blinds or Curtains? curtains
Dress or Pants? dress
Sun or Moon? sun
Adventure or Comedy? adventure, probably, but I really prefer sweet stories that make you cry
Cloud or Star? watercolored sunset clouds
Lake or River? lake
Half Full or Half Empty? half full
Truck or Car? car
Bath or Shower? hot tub and then shower
Clothesline or Clothes Dryer? clothes dryer, but I'd like a clothes line
New or Second Hand? second hand
Gum or Lifesaver? haven't had either in years
Email or Handwritten? handwritten
July or October? October
Barefoot or Shoes? slippers

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mother's Day

I did want to write and say that I am thankful for my kids. They are the reason I had a wonderful Mother's Day. Without them, I wouldn't be a mother. This is the second year in a row that I didn't have to fix breakfast. My 10 year old daughter took charge and made a lovely breakfast for all of us, without help. She made some "fried" potatoes, cooked without oil, and seasoned nicely. She made scrambled tofu, just the way I like it. And she cut up a pineapple all by herself, and this I didn't not know she could do. There were also apple pieces. She served the meal out on the deck in the lovely morning sunshine.



My sister was visiting this weekend and had taken the kids out to the store the night before to find some gifts for me. Her son went too and found something to surprise her with. There were gift bags on the table for both of us. My daughter gave me a vanilla scented candle, a small notebook with a kitten on it and a swirl notepad in a rainbow of colors. She also wrote me a very sweet note.

My son purchased a planter box, and three blooming plants. He put them in the planter for me and put it by the chair where I usually sit for morning devotions. This is the first year he wrote a note for me, on his own, without copying a single word. I'm really proud of that. Both of the notes are going in my notebook so I can look back and remember this nice day in the future.

Online videos by Dr. T. Colin Campbell

If you would like to hear a couple lectures by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, I have good news. I found two of them at google video.

And the exciting thing is listening to them is free, if your internet connection can handle it. Mine can't quite load fast enough. There are some breaks in the speech. So I get it started. Then I press pause. It keeps loading. You can tell because a little bar keeps moving to the right below the video screen. Once it is loaded a good portion of the way, then I start it again, and it has much fewer breaks in the speech.

Lecture one - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-847196066367535747&q=T.+Colin+Campbell

Lecture two -
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1719204869171202407&q=T.+Colin+Campbell

Also his book, The China Study, is really worth reading. You might be able to find a copy at your library. It presents the research, but it is easy enough to read with out having your own Ph.d.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pure and Simple Cookbook






















I just checked my friend's website, and discovered that since last night they have set it up so you can order their cookbook online, right there at their web site. I know there is no other place to get it right now, so don't try to search. It is brand new, with the first books being printed just last week. The price is $15.95, and it contains around 200 pages. There are a few pictures inside, but not very many. Even so, the recipes are good, being used in the Benton home all the time. They are completely MSG free, vegan and almost all gluten free.

If you want to order the cook book, you can go to http://bentonhealthpromotions.com/cookbook.html

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Guests come for Dinner

The reason I was cleaning like crazy was because we were having a very special guest for lunch on Saturday. Dr. T. Colin Campbell author of the important book, "The China Study" was going to be speaking in our town on Saturday and Sunday. I was asked if we could prepare lunch for him and his wife and another couple. I was a little scared, but what an honor. We have people over sometimes, but they are usually other families with kids, or people more like us. I've never cooked and cleaned for such a famous person before.

As it turned out, Dr. and Mrs. Campbell are wonderful people. The are small town people, just like us. They were easy to talk with, and easy to be around. I think everyone one present instantly felt at ease.













For the meal I served a lentil loaf out of my friend's just published cookbook, Pure and Simple by Tami Benton. She just sold out of them last night at Dr. Campbell's meetings, so as soon as more are ready, I'll let you know where to get them. It is a cook book featuring plant based foods that are gluten free, and MSG free. Just to get you interested, Tami gave me permission to share a couple recipes.

Tomato Herb Lentil Loaf
By Tami A. Benton

*Cook the lentils and rice ahead. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
1 cup cooked brown lentils
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup ground raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup tomato, chopped
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup celery, finely chopped
5 T tomato paste or 1/2 of a 6 oz. can of tomato paste
2 T salt
1/8 t sage
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
dash cayenne (careful, not too much)
dash rosemary
dash thyme
dash basil

Press into an oiled 4" by 8" loaf pan. Bake 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until brown. Allow pan to cool. Decorate a platter with lettuce leaves and place loaf in the middle. Or place directly on the serving platter and drizzle cashew gravy over the top.

It does freeze nicely.

My Notes: Make sure your lentils have as much liquid drained off of them as possible before measuring or your loaf ends up a little too wet. The loaf does come out of the pan easier after it is cooled. If you loaf does not come out in one piece, like mine did, then all is not lost. Just take a spoon and mound and smooth the sides. It still turns out pretty. I added cooked carrots around the edge of mine for decoration.













For the salad, never settle for a just lettuce and a few token tomatoes. Salad can be so pretty! Make it one of the most beautiful things on the table.

I almost always use romaine lettus, sliced or torn thinly. This salad contains:
tomato
yellow and red pepper
cucumber,
sweet salad onions (use green onions)
slivered red cabage
grated carrot

The salad dressing is out of Tami Benton's cookbook. Her recipe is a good place to start. I make about the same thing most days, but I find I vary the amount of seasons to my taste and desires that day. I've had many people get so excited about how yummy this kind of dressing is. And I have to say it is easy to make, you just have to have a good blender.

Ranch Dressing
by Tami A. Benton

1 cup raw cashews
1 t salt
1 T onion powder
1 T garlic powder
1/4 t thyme
1/4 t rosemary
1/4 t basil
1 T fresh lemon or lime juice
1 cup water
1 T dill (after blending)

Put all the ingredients except dill in the blender and blend until very smooth. At the end add the 1 T dill and stir in or pulse blender just once or twice on a slow speed.

My notes: Experiment with the amount of seasonings. You are competing with the flavor enhancer MSG when you serve homemade ranch dressing, so it helps to put in a lot of herbal flavor. I don't usually put in only about 1 t garlic powder and 2 t onion powder and I usually add more basil, maybe 1 t. I also like to add 1 t of ground mustard powder. And because my kids aren't crazy about that much dill, I add only about half of what is in the recipe. But I have to say that any variation is good. Fresh herbs are also wonderful, if you have some out in your garden, put some in. Add more water if you want it more pourable. Figure out what works well for your family.













Baked potatoes are easy to prepare. I had them in the oven early in the morning with time back set, so I didn't have to remember when to turn them on. I used Yukon Gold potatoes, because they are naturally a little yellow, and are delicious without any margarine. Instead of margarine, I serve a cashew gravy. This time I used Tami's recipe again. It is a really good one.

Onion Gravy
By Tami A. Benton

Saute onions until soft:
1 large onion

Blend until smooth:
3 cups of water
2 T rice flour
3/4 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 t salt
1/8 t garlic powder

Add blended mixture to the onions and simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.




























I included in the meal with a platter of fresh, local asparagus, and a pitcher of lemon water. For dessert we had a platter of fruit. It was a vegan, gluten free meal that any one could enjoy.

Cleaning the Kitchen

I spent Thursday and Friday cleaning. It is amazing what preparing for a guest will do to me. I found myself dusting the wires that come out of the back of the stereo cabinet. Seriously now, only my husband's engineering students would ever get a tour of the wires at our house, but I dusted some anyway, just in case. I started straighteneing one shelf in the kitchen, and before I knew it I was doing spring cleaning, only I didn't get to the cupboard doors where we have a finger print collection. I moved the baking pans to the top shelf, because I don't make pies or cupcakes very often. I moved the heavy glass salad and mixing bowls from the high shelves to the lower shelf, so even the kids can get them out put them away. And then I can too, with out using as stool, as I'm not very tall myself. I found two boxes worth of kitchen things that I think I'll give away.

Over the last few months I've been decreasing our microwave use, trying to use the stove top when ever I can. So I decided to see if we could live without it completely, so it got moved out to the shop. That microwave wasn't very big, but it was very heavy. To get it out of the kitchen, I set it on my wheeled computer chair. Then I drove it to the front door where I had my son waiting with his wagon so he could pull it out to the shop for storage. I'll leave it there for a little while, just in case we find we really need it afterall. But I know it is so heavy, that I'm not going to be very motivated to move the thing again. I guess if someone really wants to heat up something in the microwave, they can run out to the shop. There are plug-in's out there too.













And just so you can see how deep I was in the mess, my daughter took a photo to prove that I really did it all and survived. The kitchen is tidy once again.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Secret Waterfall
















I have lived in the area quite a long while, and I never knew there was a waterfall nearby. There is Palouse Falls a ways away, out in the middle of the desert, as far as I knew that was our closest waterfall, but I was wrong. East of town, on private property, there is a 90 foot seasonal waterfall. When the snow is melting, it is pretty enough to be in the Columbia River Gorge, over by where I grew up. Last weekend we got invited up to see it.

It is a bit of a hike to get there. Part of it is on a trail of sorts, the rest of it is across a meadow, down into a valley, and then follow the creek to it's source. You would never know it was there.















There is moss growing on the rock walls of the cliff the waterfall goes over. There are little ferns and saxifridge growing on the rock wall, truly amazing in such a dry area.

The pool at the bottom is inviting, but it wasn't quite hot enough to jump in. And when it does get hot enough, the water will be dried up, as all the snow will be melted.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The State Boundary

Usually when we cross the border into another state, we are greeted by a giant sign bidding us farewell and to come again and another welcoming us to the new state. When you hike the abandoned roads of America things are different. You can cross the state boarder and not even know it. Sometimes the signs seem as remote as the countryside. Here is one I saw not long ago on a hike. There was nothing on the other side of the fence about Oregon.

Glacier Lilies


Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) are one of my favorites in the spring. They are a delicate flower grown from a bulb, about 6 to 12 inches tall. They grow from low elevations, such as in the Columbia George, up to high elevations. They are common at alpine and sub alpine elevations, but can also be found among sagebrush. As spring progresses you will find them higher and higher up the mountain side. Right now they are about done blooming at 3500 feet in Eastern Washington and Oregon. One year we went to Glacier National Park in Montana, and found them blooming near the end of July at the highest point along the "Going-to-the-Sun" Road, near Logan Pass. The whole meadow was covered with them.

Serious Cleaning

Today I am doing serious cleaning at our house. Last night I steam cleaned the carpet. Yesterday I cleaned out some kitchen cupboards and filled a couple boxes for a garage sale. This Saturday, a famous cancer researcher/author/speaker, will come to our lowly house for lunch along with some other guests. I usually have the kids cleaning along with me, but it seems like messes start happening faster then I clean. And I also have to deal with reluctant cleaners, which slows down the process. So today, the cleaner helpers are on vacation. They get to be down in their rooms or outside. They will pick up meals, at the kitchen door, as if it was a fast food restaurant. Then they can eat on the deck or picnic on the lawn. They are quite excited about mom's funny idea. Speaking of which, I'd better get to work while they are still happy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Jumping Juniper

A couple weekends ago we joined another homeschooling family in celebrating their son's birthday. He wanted to go to some sand dunes and go jumping. Juniper Dunes is quite a drive and you have to know where you are going or you will get lost. There are no signs directing you there. Because it is surrounded by private lands, and access is through private land, it is only open three months of the year, March, April and May. That is probably the most pleasant time to be there, weather wise. It would be too hot in the summer and too windy in the winter. As it turned out for us, it was over cast, but not more then a couple drips of rain, no wind, and the temperature was pleasant.

The kids had a great time running and jumping off the edge. The landing is soft, so you don't have to worry about much more then getting sand in your eyes. The adults enjoyed the jumps too. I'd post a photo of them all jumping together, but I'm not sure that all would enjoy the world seeing them involved in such an activity. Still, I have to say the group jump was pretty spectacular.
When the kids got tired of jumping and climbing back up the hill, there was a giant sand box to dig in to their hearts content. The holes went deep, but no one struck oil or found the subterranean way to China.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Iris, Tea and a Picnic

The iris are in full bloom at my house right now. I am really enjoying them as I do every year. Every time they bloom, I feel thankful for the people who planted them long before we bought this house.

Yesterday I got to meet one of my blogging friends in person for the first time. We met together for tea at the local tea room. (Visiting the tea room was also a first for me.) La Tea Dah enjoys tea, gardening, nature and other pretty things. I was pleased to discover that she was as beautiful in person as I guessed she might be from reading her blog. I look forward to when we can meet again. Another lady joined us, Toshiko, who I have known about on line for the last year. She was in town visiting her daughter, which provided the perfect opportunity for the three of us to meet together. We had a lovely time sipping tea and getting acquainted for a couple hours.

My husband allowed our children to come to his office during that time. The three of them walked to a local park and had a picnic together. Then he did some reading while they played on the toys. It seems everyone had a nice time.

Camas

I found this lovely Camas Lily on a hike this weekend. The meadow on the hillside was covered with them. These flowers show the beautiful symmetry of the lily family. The flowers parts are arranged in multiples of three. I think I am so sentimental about the flower because I grew up in a town named after the flower, Camas, Washington. It was a lovely town to live in as a child. Our house was right across from LaCamas Lake. And though the house is torn down now, I still enjoy going back to that part of the state. To find out more about my hometown you can look here. To learn more about Camas Lilies you can look here.


Monday, May 7, 2007

More About Durian

One of my favorite fruits is Durian. It is so creamy and sweet, kind of like custard in a shell. I had my first taste when I lived in Thailand. People had told me that you either love it or hate it. I had decided that I would be neutral, so I could be polite, but I wouldn't have to go out and buy some myself. The first taste was ok. The smell is strong, but I had been told to not smell when I tasted, and so that first bite got down ok. I was able to finish the serving I was given and say a polite "Thank you."

The second time I was offered some went about the same. I was able to get it down without a problem, but didn't think much about it.

The third time is when problems started. When I took a taste, I knew I was in trouble. I was no longer neutral. I couldn't wait to take another bite. I eagerly ate my serving and accepted an offer for seconds. I was hooked. I loved the stinkiest fruit in the world. This is when I started asking lots of questions. How does durian grow? How do you buy durian? How do you open a durian if you buy one? Would you like to know too?

Durian grows on very tall trees. Their size reminds me of pine trees, but the trees have leaves and not needles. There are many durian trees in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, but the best durian grows in Thailand. It is famous around the world. The favored variety is called "Golden Pillow". It is the least strongly scented, and has the most creamy, sweet texture. It is the kind that is often sold frozen in the USA at oriental type stores.

The durian grows high up in the branches. They have spikes on the outside of the shell. They are very large and heavy, at least as big as a football, but often much bigger then basket balls. You would never want to be walking under the tree when one of them fall.

Thankfully, I didn't have to find a durian tree and climb it to find durian when I was in Thailand, I could simply go to the local market and ask them to pick one out for me. Yum. There is nothing more delicious. Now days I place an order at our local Asian store and get it when the monthly order comes in. It is frozen, so I can keep it until we are ready to enjoy our treat. It is around $3 a pound, which seems expensive, until you compare it to a bag of your favorite junk food. Then you know you are getting a good deal, because the nutrition in durian per pound far exceeds any junk food.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Emily Rose is Blogging

I promised my daughter that when she started writing blog worthy entries in her journal, that I would let her have her own blog. Well, she has done that, making good progress in her abilities to express herself in writing this year. So I am pleased to announce that she has a blog of her own now. Please stop by and welcome Emily Rose to blogging. www.homeschoolblogger.com/akidslife

Attempting Something New

I'm experimenting with the idea of moving my blog to blogger.com. I'm still working with the template to see if I like the change. I am finding that blogger is much easier to work with then homeschoolblogger.com. Though I have really enjoyed homeschoolblogger and glad they helped me get started blogging. I wouldn't have started as soon without them.