Winter bouquets – lovely looking, not so lovely smelling

We visited Seattle over the Thanksgiving holidays. My daughter, Erin, prepared a great feast and we joined in with the American custom of stuffing ourselves to the point of uncomfortableness. So many good dishes, including the best mashed potatoes with roasted garlic we’ve ever eaten, and a salted caramel banana cream pie that will certainly become a family tradition.

We were staying downtown near Pike’s Place market, and took a walk to the Market early morning both days.

Great place to visit. I drooled at the fish market displays.

But what I really went back for on our last morning were bouquets of flowers. I love fresh flowers, but am not usually willing to pay for them. Pike’s Place Market is the place to go for people like me. If you aren’t willing to pay for the flowers at this place, you’ll never buy flowers anywhere. So, I browsed the selections and chose arrangements for both Erin and me. Mine is on the left, and Erin’s is on the right.

So pretty – using flowering cabbages and purple kale as floral arrangements! Or pretty until I realized in the car that they also really smelled like cabbage – not in a good way but in a “cooked cabbage in a kitchen without good ventilation fans” sort of way. Ewww. It seemed like the purple ones were the smelly ones. Erin’s bouquet only had the white/ pink ones, so I hope her apartment is not stinking from the flowers. My bouquet included a very smelly purple winter cabbage that I finally put outside today- gracing our wintery snow covered backyard with it’s beauty.

Perhaps instead I should bring indoors our very pleasant smelling wreath!

Let’s start the celebrations!

We’re approaching Thanksgiving, so it’s the start of the winter holidays. I’m not much for the Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving, but otherwise really like visits with family and cooking great feasts for sharing and all the other parts of this season. Except, I’m just not that good at decorating. I love cooking, but crafts type activities aren’t my thing. Oh, I love other people’s crafts. My sister Becky is particularly good at “making magic”. I seem to be particularly gifted at “making messes”. Or so it always seems. But Dave pointed out an interesting article in the most recent issue of Sunset magazine on making wreaths from fresh, foraged native materials. He thought we should give it a try, as we had many of the plant materials mentioned in our yard or house. He gathered up juniper branches with berries, arborvitae leaves, rosemary, lavender, and succulents.

Our morning walk was a trip to our local hardware store to buy some florists wire to tie up the bundles of foilage. And I already had the wreath form. So we clipped branches and twisted wire and did out best.

OK. Maybe not quite yet Sunset magazine material, but we were pleased with our native wreath. Festive wishes to you across the miles!

FDA – bully or friend?

I read a lot of articles related to the food industry. It’s my business, and I find it interesting. My chain of reasoning is along the line of “I like to eat, so of course I want to know what I’m eating”.

Some recent stories in the news have got me thinking, and while I know what my opinion is, I realize it’s not shared by all. But I still want to share “where I’m coming from”.

Along with the interest in “eating locally” (something I support), there has also been a surge of “artisinal” food producers. A small, speciality cheese producer in Washington state has recently come under government scrutiny. The FDA found potentially harmful bacteria during multiple inspections, and has put a hold on sales of their cheese.

And this action has sent many people into an uproar of indignation. “Why, how dare the government try to protect the health of the citizens.” This seems to be what I’m hearing. Well, actually the way it’s phrased is more along the line of “small farms shouldn’t be subjected to the same kind of food safety rules at those big, giant (evil) corporate food processors. They’re owned and run by really nice people and wouldn’t ever do anything deliberately to hurt you. And they really make yummy food. And something really yummy can’t be bad, can it? Besides, shouldn’t it be MY choice whether I want to take the risk of getting sick?”

Do we really have to wait for a food producer to harm someone before taking action? I know very well what a two edged sword public opinion holds. If the FDA steps in to shut down a small operation because of unsafe conditions, it’s somehow unfair. But if the FDA takes no action, and people end up harmed, I know there would be an ever greater cry of “how come the government didn’t keep us safe? Isn’t that what food safety laws are about?” This is a big debate currently in Congress on the Food Safety Enhancement Act, which attempts to give the Food and Drug Administration more strength in enacting food laws. The Food Safety Enhancement Act would require companies to develop and implement written food safety plans. They would include developing procedures for conducting hazard analysis, instituting preventive controls and taking corrective action, including recalls. These records would be accessible to the government in an emergency. The FDA would get the power to require product recalls. And the secretary of health and human services would be required to create a food-tracing system, which would make it easier to find sources of contamination.

You’ve got to decide what’s important. I remain on the side of food safety. And yes, I work for one of those “big” (ha ha) food companies and know what it’s like to follow these kind of rules. Hard work, but worth it to be able to sleep at night. End of rant. Time for bed.

Wild Horse wind farm

Our weekend meandering took us on a drive east, with our planned destination a visit to Gingko State Park. The park has a nice walking trail that leads past large petrified logs.

The logs are left where they were originally found, but due to vandalism concerns are now enclosed in metal cages, somewhat marring the effect.

We took the interpretative walk, then headed to a nearby location where the visitor center is located. Alas, it was closed, but the gem shop next door was open for business so we stopped there. The store had lots of huge petrified logs out front, along with an interesting and rather jarring collection of dinosaur models.

Very interesting inside. Junky tourist stuff among really wonderful and interesting fossil rocks. I seriously debated spending some serious money for some, but decided to wait.

We decided to take the “back road” home, instead of the interstate highway. As we headed toward home, we noticed lots of wind turbines, and then a sign for the Wild Horse Wind and Solar facility, letting us know that the visitor interpretive center was open. We turned off the highway and followed signs that brought us over 3 miles of roads, climbing to the top of the ridge.

I’m impressed. Seeing this large array of wind turbines, and a smaller array of solar panels, up close, with an visitor center to explain things, was worth the drive.

Puts a whole different image of being a farmer, doesn’t it?

And oh, we did see one gingko tree, changing color and dropping it’s leaves at the state park. You would think there would be more since that’s what the park has in it’s name.