Archive for September, 2008

Plastic in the Kitchen

I’m convinced that everything I wear, eat, and sit on will eventually be determined to be carcinogenic, cause diabetes, or give me wrinkles. Trying to avoid one chemical just sends you into the loving arms of another. I don’t use disposable bottled water bottles because they fill up landfills. But the big 5-gallon jugs for our water coolers are polycarbonate made with bisphenol A. OK, I’ve mostly switched to using the filtered water from my refrigerator at home. Next, I am sure to find that the filter may contain toxins. And I’m sure the water reservoir for my two Keurig coffeemakers is made of polycarbonate.

If I stop using Stretch-Tite wrap or Costco’s re-branding of it because it is made of PVC, will I then find the replacement is just as bad? I recall being told not to cover food in the microwave with a paper towel because of dioxins in the paper towels!

For what it’s worth, here is the Green Guide on Plastic Containers, with their current take on what to avoid and what to use instead. At least my Baggies are still thought to be “safer.” I guess it’s all like “safer sex.”

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Preserving the Tomatoes

I am finally getting more tomatoes than I can use immediately from my tomato plants and the CSA farm. Like a good friend, I gave some to Will, who doesn’t have any patio tomatoes this year but shared his with me the past two years. I prefer freezing to canning. I have far too many memories of canning all during the hot summer in our house that had no air conditioning. No thanks! Meanwhile, I have enough freezer space now to handle some produce.

My usual tomato sauce relies on canned tomato sauce and pesto. This year I’m making and freezing my own pesto batch by batch. But I am starting to get concerned over bisphenol A in the lining of canned food cans. I can avoid that by having more of my own frozen tomatoes and tomato sauce.

A quick glance at the internets shows that freezing tomatoes is simple. No blanching is required. You just freeze them whole, halved or chopped. If you freeze them whole, the skin will pop off when you thaw them.

But I also want to make batches of slow roasted tomatoes with herbs, as that sounds like the best precursor to spaghetti sauce. You just roast them slowly at low temperature in the oven all day, then freeze them.

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Local Art

Our house is a gigantic blank canvas for art and decor. We decided to live with things in a simple state until we had been here for over six months before doing any major decorating. We brought with us one large Thomas Kincaid print that hung over the mantle at the old house, and was immediately ensconced in the same position in the new house. I wanted to do a fun medieval thing with the bedroom, and found an inexpensive rendition of one of the Unicorn tapestries. That was it until May.

In May, I saw a painting I liked at Anne Amie winery and took down the artist’s name, Terry Peasley. I checked his web site and discovered a couple of paintings that suited our style and evoked for me the feeling of the Oregon wine country (his prints of Erath and of Mt. Hood Festival of Wine). I emailed, we talked, and in just a couple of weeks I had two framed prints on the wall – one in the dining room and one in the Great Room. Terry works part-time as a medical technologist, which is coincindentally my profession and that of my husband. He has created wine labels in addition to his watercolors. It suited my newfound locavore philosophy that my art should be local as well. I love the prints and I love having met and supported the artist.

My husband was browsing through the Street of Dreams when a print caught his eye. It was also a watercolor of a forest. He noted the artist’s name, Jan Barba Horn of Myrtle Creek, Oregon and soon was in contact. When the unframed print arrived, I agreed with his selection. It is now at the framers. It gives me great satisfaction to gaze on lovely art and at the same time know that I am supporting a local person to do what they love to do.

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Pico de Gallo

The tomatoes are coming on strong. My CSA actually has a full box of green tomatoes that says “please take a bagful!” I’ve discovered that they redden up nicely in just a few days. Meanwhile, my tomato plants are bearing steadily.

My favorite salsa is fresh pico de gallo. Now that I am rich with tomatoes, I looked up the recipe and was very pleased that it is simply tomatoes, onions, chili and cilantro. My pepper plant is giving me chilies, as is my CSA, so I was in business. I had onions and cilantro from the farmers market. Into the mini-food processor, salt to taste, and it was fantastic. We made soft tacos and it was a heavenly meal. We’ll repeat that tonight.

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Green Houses

When we went house shopping last year, we were not focused on “green” construction. Location, location, location and items such as a 3-car garage and jet tub factored more into the equation. This is where we plan to live until forced into a skilled care facility. But “green” is the new black. We visited the Clark County Parade of Homes in the Moongate development in Felida, next to Vancouver Lake. The emphasis was on green construction for homes in the $850,000 plus category. That still buys a lot of house here in Vancouver, Washington. Of the houses, there were only two that I would consider living in. The first was The Cottage. I love the French farmhouse exterior. This was also the only house that had a garden area – raised beds along the side of the house. I also loved the reclaimed farm timber flooring. The green features were in the insulation and durability of the building materials. But at 2 1/2 times the price tag of our house for less than 600 more square feet, it’s no bargain. It had a decent-sized covered patio for outside cooking, but not what I’d want for the pricetag.

The second house, the Hannah Marie, had the decor we loved – “Old World theme interior decor.” Medieval, actually, and we loved it. But the hand-scraped hickory flooring was a bit too rough hewn for my taste. And there was one element that was a deal-killer: the covered deck off the kitchen and master suite faced the street. All of your neighbors would be in on your outdoor entertaining. It is a very unfortunate part of the design. There is another patio in back, but it was off of two of the other bedrooms without any real access from the kitchen. My take home from this is the name of the designer, I may contact her to spice up our fireside room and master suite.

The Northwest Haven home looked a lot like Skamania Lodge. It had a wonderful private back patio with a terrible design flaw – it was effectively uncovered. While there were some slight overhangs and one tall overhang, it was easy to see that there was nowhere on that patio that would be shielded from the rain.

The Green Haus was built to be LEED certified. But it was obviously designed for people who mostly eat out. The kitchen was small and strangely designed, and it had only a small eating nook and no formal dining room.

The New Castle home had the best outdoor living space – a large covered patio with fireplace just off the kitchen. You could definitely have a wonderful outdoor kitchen and lounging area out of the elements. The master suite had a “Master Spa” attached. I found the layout of the spa area to be cumbersome. You have to weave around the vanities all the way to the back to get to the gigantic walk-in closet room. The closet room was gi-normous, but it was inconveniently located.

While Moongate touts its views of Vancouver Lake and “Oregon hills,” none of these homes had a view except a slight one from some of the upstairs small bedrooms. I am happy we decided not to buy in the Felida area as it is just a little too far off the beaten path. My commute would still be under 10 miles, and Rich could still catch the Pill Hill Express a couple miles away. But it is a long walk to any real grocery store. I enjoyed myself yesterday by walking the 1 mile walk to Winco to buy bread and tortillas. That is plenty far to go on foot for essentials.

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Walkies

I planned my weekend walks around the local farmers markets. I needed to meet up with Kari from our Portland to Coast walking team to get the gear back from her. We met at the Beaverton Farmer’s Market. She lives nearby, but like many people she doesn’t get to it as often as she would like. I love the variety there. I bought red peppers, lettuce, cilantro, basil and beets. We walked for an hour.

On Sunday, my walking buddy Will and I wanted to visit the Hillsdale Farmers Market and to finally ride the OHSU Tram. We parked at the farmers market two hours before opening time. We went through the neighborhood to Terwilliger and encountered the the Oregon Trout City of Portland Triathlon bike leg. As we walked the three miles along Terwilliger, we were passed by a stream of 300 bicyclists. Some were all geared up with fancy bikes with aerobars, disk wheels, and streamlined helmets. That was a happy surprise. As we passed by OHSU, Will preferred that we ride it up from the South Waterfront. We picked our way down to Moody street by a route that was probably not the best (although probably the shortest possible). Once there, however, we discovered the sad truth that the tram doesn’t run until 1 pm on Sunday. The pretty much torpedoes any future plan to combine it with a trip to the Hillsdale Farmers Market. Sigh.

But even more sigh – by this time we had already walked about six miles and would now have to climb back up to Hillsdale on muscle power. We are both familiar with taking Corbett south and steeply up, then crossing I-5 on the Briar Place overpass, then back up Terwilliger to Hillsdale. Along the way, we encountered a fellow volksmarcher who said she had moved to a condo at South Waterfront and was loving it. It will be a very nice area, with the streetcar and tram for easy transport. There are more and more restaurants and shops in the bottom floor of the buildings. But on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, everything was closed and we had to beg forgiveness of a construction crew to use their portajohn.

I enjoyed the huff and puff of the climb up Corbett and noted a couple of new houses since we last trudged up this hill over a year ago. The John’s Landing neighborhood is definitely a nice place to live close-in, especially for those who work at the VA or OHSU. While South Waterfront is all about tower living, John’s Landing has single-family homes and row townhouses. I prefer the latter sort of neighborhood. Both have great access to the Riverfront Trail along the Willamette River, and the nice greenspace of Willamette Park. John’s Landing has plenty of fun restaurants and one full-scale grocery store, plus a Fred Meyers up on Barbur Blvd.

After we reached Barbur Blvd., I joked to Will that we had only 500 more feet to climb. That is only a very slight exaggeration. But the Hillsdale Farmers Market had everything I wanted at the end of this exhausting hike. I bought bacon from Sweet Briar Farms for my BLT sandwiches, local pasta and cilantro pesto. It was a great challenging walk.

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