Friday, June 22, 2012

Goodbye Spring

Happy Solstice everyone! My season-changing festivities mostly took place last weekend, going to the Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade. The highlight of the Parade is of course the naked bike ride, where hundreds of painted cyclist kick off the parade. Luckily for them and all of us spectators it was a warm, dry day.

I'm really excited for the upcoming summer but it's been an awesome and productive spring. The last few months I've been working full-time, and also took a Master Composter training, went morel hunting near Leavenworth, started keeping bees, took an aerial arts class, helped in community gardens, went to concerts, visited friends in Portland, went to Breitenbush hot springs, and started dating a really sweet man. I ate out at some great restaurants in Seattle, like Delancy and Blind Pig Bistro. I also ate a lot of good home-cooked meals, like nettle pesto which was my kick off to spring, and more recently salmon with nectarines in one of our houses first outdoor meals of the year.

And I tried to get out into the backyard garden as much as possible. There is always so much more I want to or should do, but I suppose gardens always feel that way. The solstice harvest was kale, spinach, snap peas, and strawberries so I'm just going to be happy with that and not think about all the other things that could be growing. Luckily, there is still the whole summer to do work in the garden!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

SWS Cooking Program

As the school year winds down, so did the after-school cooking program I've been volunteering with since September. It was an awesome program on Friday afternoons for middle and high school students from the Seattle World School. The SWS is a unique educational setting through the Seattle school district where recently immigrated youth can work on their English, get accustomed to the US, meet with mentors in their native language, and in general just be in a supportive environment for 1-3 semesters before going to a regular public school. Currently, most of the students are from Mexico, Vietnam, Mongolia, Somalia, Ethiopia, and China.

The class was held next-door to their school at the Miller Community Center on Capitol Hill, and it was there that Full-Circle Farm would drop off two boxes of organic produce and then the madness would commence. Sometime the menu was planned ahead of time; sometimes it was created on the spot based on what was in the produce boxes. Here were the main goals of the program:

* Work on English vocabulary! We would cover the names the of fruits and veggies before using them. Many foods I'm sure would have been new to a US-born student of the same age, such as kale, kohlrabi, and chard.

* Use proper kitchen etiquette and knife-handling techniques.

* Practice making vegetable-based, from-scratch meals. We wanted to students to realize that just because they were now living in America doesn't mean it's okay to eat primarily packaged or fast-food. We occasionally used flour, pasta, and meat, but for the most part meals consisted of fruit, veggies, whole grains, and legumes.

* Spend some time in the garden, identifying plants and seeing what they look like when growing. Luckily, there was a community garden right there at Miller Community Center that we partnered with. We would harvest foods such as beets, carrots, and spinach, and help students become familiar with using foods in the the kitchen straight from the garden.

* Encourage students to share recipes from their home country. Most students come from rich culinary traditions using local, whole ingredients, and especially the females have been cooking with their families since they were little girls. They had an incredible amount of comfort, intuition, and experience in the kitchen- a level that I personally probably didn't reach until the end of college. One week one student showed us how to make sambusas, and she had an expert proficiency at making dough and also how much filling was needed for the number of people.

* Let students get creative, even if the ingredients or dish is not something they are familiar with. They were always so enthusiastic and willing to just jump in. Of course this sometimes ended up with uncored apples in a fruit salad, or raw zucchini in a green salad, or lettuce on pizza, or a bit too much salt on roasted potatoes. But we let students experiment within reason.

* Just enjoy hanging out, cooking, and eating good food. I really loved being in the kitchen with all the students, and I think they did too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

House Dating

This post is a little late in coming, as I've been in my new house for a couple months already. But I have to write something, because house hunting for a rental in Seattle was quite an interesting process.

I had decided months back that I was ready to stay in the city for awhile, but wasn't really looking forward to the legwork of finding a place. See, in over a decade of paying rent, I've lived in a good variety of homes. I've lived in houses with anywhere from 2 to 5 roommates. I've house sat a cabin with a huge garden and two arthritic dogs. I've lived in an off-grid yurt in the woods with an outdoor kitchen. I've lived in trailer on on farm hidden under kiwi vines, in a friend's basement, and in a studio apartment in South Korea. I've lived on a sailboat in winter where we had to keep heaters on all day for it to get tolerably warm, then had to open the windows at night for ventilation for the alcohol stove.

Needless to say, I had a pretty clear idea of what I was looking for- a house so there would be yard/garden space, no more than 3 roommates, bedroom not near the kitchen, clean and tidy, bike storage, and in the Greenlake/Wallingford/Ravenna area. I was most drawn to Wallingford with its great location, cute houses, and solid commercial district. Then I remembered that I was born in a house in Wallingford, and maybe I was unconsciously trying to come full-circle in my life for my Saturn Return. How fitting would it be to have lived in so many places, only to move back to Seattle a mile from where I was born?

I started doing the Craigslist scouting, and over a couple months saw about 8 houses. There was always something that wasn't quite right. Maybe the house was beautiful but too expensive. Or there was garden space but the kitchen was a sickly green and the flat-screen TV was right next to the bedroom. Or the house was great but the roommates seemed odd. Or the roommates were nice and there was a hot tub but it felt too much like a college house. Several times I debated if I'd be comfortable living with the homeowner.

It was fascinating to see little glimpses into all these strangers' lives- but also tiring to not find what I was looking for. Then it hit me: finding the right house was a lot like dating, with roommate posts being like life personal ads! We are trying to match up the right age, lifestyle, hobbies, ideals, budget, and aesthetic appeal. In a way, looking for a house was even more intimate than dating, because how often in the first half hour of meeting someone do you directly ask them specifics about their hobbies, job, diet, sleeping habits, relationship status, and how much furniture they own? Then I realized that if you are incredibly drawn to a house post, you might be drawn to one of the roommates. I looked at one house that was awesome, but I just knew it wasn't right to move in. Turns out one of the roommates and I had a crush on each other, and started dating! It was sort of funny when people asked us how we met. Awhile later, I was at a house party and started talking to this cute guy. He said I looked familiar, so for about 10 minutes we did the name game of listing places we had lived, things we do, and people we know. Finally he goes, "Wait! You interviewed for a room in our house a couple months ago!" I ended up getting his number but we never went out. Maybe he was still miffed that I had decided not to move in.

In March I saw a post for a 4-bedroom house in Phinney Ridge. It had hardwood floors, lots of sunlight, roommates about my age who were into the outdoors, lots of basement storage, and was on a double lot so the backyard was big. They already had chickens, a garden, and a giant trampoline. Sounded great, so I went to check it out.

I walked up the stairs of a well-kept yard and knocked on the front door. A small sliding window on the door opened and a suspicious looking elderly woman glared out at me.

"Uh... I'm..." I stepped back to double-check the house number. "I'm here about the room... the Craigslist ad." My hopes of a wonderful house were fading fast.

"One block down!" she motioned with a jerk of her head and slammed the window shut.

Turns out that in some poor city planning, there are two houses a block apart with the same house and street number, the only difference being that the street changes from N to NW. I hoped for better luck the second try. I walked into the house, where 3 friendly faces greeted me. They gave me a tour of the house, then we sat in the living room to chat. The weird thing is, I already felt like I was at home. The house was definitely mostly what I was looking for, though not perfect. But for some reason, because I knew the house was a good fit overall, the minor details didn't bother me. This is also like dating, being able to overlook imperfections when you know you have something great. And so I'm now in a committed relationship with my home, falling in love more every day as I garden in the backyard, take care of the chickens, and hang with awesome roommates.