Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We allowed as how they could be "VISHUS"

Our room at the Grand Canyon was in the Thunderbird Lodge (more about that in my next post). The room was clean & cheery - had TV, excellent cell phone reception, etc. and a whole lotta "outside staff".

We came out of the restaurant in the Bright Angel Lodge only to find the lawns of the lodge areas being grazed by deer and elk. Right there, munching on the lawn and any other tasty vegetation they could find!

Now, our friend Rascal worries about Vishus Deer and often gets concerned about Neelix and the Vishus Sheep . Well, he'd have been VERY concerned when he saw me pull out my camera - "Here, nice elk, don't attack me and push me off the edge (which was only about 35 feet away)" We got back to our room safely, and I got my (barely discernable) picture of a really big elk.

But not as REALLY BIG as this guy who is giving John the laser eye - he had plopped himself down in the middle of the driveway of the El Tovar Hotel with sort of an "As a matter of fact, I do own the road" attitude. If you click on the picture to biggify it, you'll see that his rack of horns extends waaaayyyyy up - The Shepherd figured they were at least 6 feet up from the grass - and that is on top of an elk that is standing six feet tall at the shoulder. I'm glad I was back in the room, safe from this critter!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Oh, My Goodness! I almost missed a stop!

Well, back to "What we did on our vacation" - Flagstaff, full steam ahead...

My "local friends" are amazed at the number of "blogger friends" that I have made. They were even more amazed when we announced that we were going to VISIT one of these blogger friends - and going so far to do it! Well, it wasn't exactly like we were going to visit strangers - after all, Kathy & I have been friends for over a year (at least) and she does raise Shetland Sheep, so she couldn't be all bad, right?

Like my sisters, Kat checked on me nearly every day last winter when John was hurting and Michelle from Boulderneigh and I waited on pins and needles to hear how her surgery turned out last summer - so we had a little bit of history here. But, to some extent, it was a leap of faith on both our parts.

Anyhow, we got kind of a late start out of Tucson, and it is a good 5 hour drive to Flagstaff under the best of circumstances. Count in lunch and a couple of rest stop stops and you have about 5 in the evening - almost dark - but there was time to freshen up at our hotel and head out to "Sheep Thrills Farm" to meet the Shepherds and the sheep. This is Skittles - He sent John a get well card last winter and John has wanted to meet him ever since. (Were Kathy & Ralph just and ends towards a means? I wonder)

We visited for a bit at their house, then headed into town for a delicious feast at the local "Outback Steakhouse". Pickin's on the flights down the day before had been pretty slim (granola bar, peanut butter crackers or ginger cookie - Delta Airlines doesn't skimp on the snacks - ha, ha) so I was really hungry - and the Outback Steakhouse is a good place to solve that problem - Yum...

We were up and att'm at the crack of dawn the next morning though - rather than just drive straight north to the Canyon, John took his favorite route a little to the east, past the lava fields and Sunset Crater (who'd have thought there would be lava fields in Arizona?) and mountains of black pumice - amazing!

We drove through the tribal lands - and miles and miles of pinyon and juniper -

Miles and miles and miles -

Our first stop of the day was the Wupatki National Monument - the pueblos that are preserved at Wupatki National Monument were constructed in the years following the eruption of nearby Sunset Crater, sometime between 1040 and 1100. Daytime summer temperatures hover around 100 degrees in
this area of the Colorado Plateau. Volcanic ash, deposited in thin layers, retained moisture and improved farming for an increased population at Wupatki.
(Info from National Park Service web site)
It was a little bit of a walk from the park center out to the ruins - John took these pictures - I shopped...
Kathy and Ralph had told us about a great place to have lunch in Cameron - there is a HUGE trading post (aka -tourist trap) there - every type of Arizona Curios that you could ever want - but in the back is a dining room decorated in the most beautiful Navajo rugs you have ever seen, serving some of the best food you'll have while you are in AZ. John had Navajo stew - it came with a plate size piece of fry bread - I had a Navajo taco - it came ON a plate size piece of fry bread - and the cool thing was it was not just the tourists eating there - there were a lot of locals - generally a very good sign for good food - I have a story about THAT (ie - lots of locals indicating a good restaurant) for later in our trip.

The thing about driving up to the Grand Canyon this way is you get the teaser of the Little Colorado Canyon - beautiful in it's own right.

Next up? The BIG Kahuna - The GRAND Canyon.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Get Well, Our Dear Miss Peach

We have found out that a friend of ours, Dear Miss Peach is not doing too well. But she has the entire Cat Blogosphere purring and purraying for her, so we hope she will rally and stay with us for a while longer. Miss Peach is a year younger than Sinda. So we are sending you our love, Miss Peach, from Sinda, Neelix and all the critters on the farm.

Thank you to MontyQ cat for the nice get well card for our friend.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

We interrupt our previously scheduled programming

Today was the NW Washington Shetland Sheep Breeders meeting. We gathered at Chris & Jerry's beautiful Whoamule Farm on Whidbey Island. In attendance were Molly from BlackberryMoon Farm and Wendy from Ylletroja Farm, both also from Whidbey Island, Donna & Tom of Schoonover Farm in Sedro Woolley, Sally from Sleepy Hollow Sheep Dogs in Granite Falls, Franna from EverRanch in Auburn and of course, The Shepherd and myself.

Chris & Jerry's pastures come right up to their home - so the sheep are never far away.

I think their young ram flock was hoping for some cookies. Sorry boys, not today.

Before lunch, the group went out and took some halter lessons -

Oh, oh, it looks like The Shepherd has a flopper...

Here we go - this looks much better - all hooves on deck.

We had a delicious potluck lunch - (oops, lunch, but that's the wrong group - ha, ha)

After lunch we checked out several web sites and talked about how to best market our little short sheep and their products. We came up with some great ideas - I'll keep you posted.

We will definately be doing the Skagit fair as a group again in 2008, and hope that more Shetland breeders will be able to join in the "fun" of taking sheep to the fair. We had three this year and hope to have 4 or 5 more farms show next summer.

We all brought a little gift to exchange - I picked this cute little bag - it was full of mohair (something new to spin!) and three cute little sheep Christmas ornaments. I thought that the saying printed on the bag was very appropriate for the day.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful...


There is NOTHING darker than a motel bathroom at night and the Hampton Inn on Grant Street in Tucson, AZ has the BEST idea that has hit motel bathrooms in decades:

Just a plain old night light! All it takes is a 20 watt bulb (or so) that is behind this little 5 or 6" grate...keeps the bathroom just light enough so you can see where the potty is in the middle of the night. They have my business forever!

The Hampton Inns also have the best complimentary breakfast - nothing "continental" about it either - a hot dish (sausage, ham, gravy, scrambled eggs, etc. - there was something different every day), with fluffy biscuits - warm pastrys, all sorts of breads, bagles, & muffins, fresh fruit, cut up fruit bowl, yogurt, cereal, coffee, tea, 3 different kinds of juices (are you ready to make your room reservations yet?) in a bright and cheery room with a BIG screen TV with the morning show on. Such a deal.

Now, this was REALLY good - it was the cheesy spinach & corn dip that we had at Buster's in Flagstaff. (Kathy, I'm working on the recipe - I'll let you know as soon as I have it perfected! )

THE BAD: Knowing that some yahoo had been through your suitcase as you started your journey. Did it make it better that they left a little note - not really -

We noticed that they didn't bother to go through our suitcases on the way back - way too may dirty clothes - or maybe it was all those little plastic baggies full of wool that Kathy sent back with me from her stash.

and, finally THE BEAUTIFUL - how can you help but not have a great vacation when you have scenery like this?

Next on the itinerary? Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

First Stop - Tucson

The Mission San Xavier (pronounced as "hauv-e-air") del Bac is one of the most famous missions in the Southwest US. It is also one of The Shephard's favorite places in the whole world. Originally built near a Pima Indian village in 1783, the Mission had fallen into disrepair until the late 1800's when the gold rush brought more people to the area. A new priest was brought in and a school was eventually established.

Although there is no record of the architect or the artists who painted the interior and almost every available space is painted. The accoustics are incredible and they generally have recordings of monks chanting playing during the day. It is very cool and restful inside, despite the huge numbers of tourists who visit.

They still have services twice a day.

They were in the middle of renovation to the main dome, but you can see how beautiful it is by the surrounding buildings.

That night we went to El Minuto Cafe for great Mexican food with John's old friend Mary and her partner Steve. We haven't seen them in just about 10 years, but it was almost like we were just there last week. Such nice people

We had an appetizer called a Cheese Crispi, with green chilis - they aren't common here in B'ham town - so I wasn't sure what to expect - YUM - it was like a huge open faced faced quesadilla - and the green chilis were fresh not those slimy canned ones that I was expecting. Good choice, Steve!

We also spend some time visinting John's parent's gravesite. The town has changed a fair amount in the last ten years, but old Mr. "compass head" was able to find his way around quite nicely. If we hadn't been so tightly scheduled for the rest of the trip, I think we would have liked to have spent more time there - next time it won't be such a long interval.

So with the hills in the distance beckoning us, we head off north towards Flagstaff -

Nwxt I'll tell you about the good parts and the bad parts of traveling in today's post "911" era.

We're off to see Skittles and his friends.

There and back again

Yup, we went to Airy Zona - more to follow...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm gonna sit here and wait...

I think I heard mom tell someone on the telephone that they were going to
Airy Zona. Where do you suppose that is? And who's this Skittles guy she
keeps talking about?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blog Action Day - Oct. 15, 2007

"What would happen if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day? One issue. One day. Thousands of voices. "

On October 15th - Blog Action Day, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone's mind. In its inaugural year, Blog Action Day will be co-ordinating bloggers to tackle the issue of the environment. Blog Action Day is and will ever be, simply a vehicle for bloggers to work together to create a better world. The Organizers of Blog Action Day were inspired by one member's Baha'i belief's in the unity of humanity.

I am inspired by their willingness to try to mobilize the thousands of blogs and millions of readers. Stir the proverbial pot - it causes change.

I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up on this farm in North Central Washington. My father was tethered to the environment in a way that most fathers these days don't understand - he was a farmer. Everything he did on a day to day basis depended upon, effected, relyed upon - the land.

My grandparents homesteaded this land in 1907 - for one hundred years a Thomsen has owned this property. Even though I have not lived there since 1970, the "ranch" as we call it, is still "home" - to this day, the smell of sage brings back memories of warm summer days - the sagebrush and the grasses heated thru by the sun - the acrid smell permeating the air.

As children, my sister and I roamed these fields and hills - the butte in the farground we called "The Cliffs"

"Mom, we're going up on the cliff" - we'd call out - and be gone for hours - walking, wandering, looking for wildflowers in the spring, picking through the piles of stuff and junk (in those days there were no landfills - you made your own) to see if we could find any "treasures" to take home for our play house - old plates, maybe a chipped cup or a bent spoon. Maybe that is where my younger sister developed her love for antiques...

If you look closely at this picture (it won't biggify because I cropped the original - oh, well) - you will see the rows and rows of electrical towers that march through the landscape - I think their journey either starts at Chief Joseph Dam in Bridgeport or maybe at Grand Coulee. I used to think they looked like iron maidens, marching through our fields. What would the aliens think when they landed on our plateau? Would they think these were the inhabitants - chained together with wire - marching off to some unknown place?

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the glaciers pushed their way down into the area now owned by my sisters and I. When the glaciers melted, (dare I ask - was that caused by the last episode of global warming?) they did the biggest environmental litter-bug job in the world - they dropped all these big rocks - right where they stopped - in our front yard, and our back yard, you get the picture.

But, from atop those rocks, you can see for miles and miles (- clear to the edge of the world, I used to think - it's amazing the things we think when we are children)

The "environment" is so much more than a cause - it determines how one looks at the world - and how the world looks at us.

Sometimes, it is discouraging. We do what we can, recycle this or that - only to learn that sometimes "it" ends up in a landfill anyhow. We change the type of lightbulb we buy, only to learn that the new types of compact flourescent bulbs contain mercury and require special handling to dispose of.

I'll just say that all in all, it's a beautiful world. I am hugely excited about getting to finally see the Grand Canyon and grateful that it was preserved as a National Park, and not allowed to be filled in like one giant landfill - (I'm sure there are those who would have tried )

So, I challenge you - get involved - add your voice to the thousands - let me know what YOU think.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

OK, where did the time go?

Two years ago - first of October found us in California's Sequoia National Park - this year's vacation will take us to the Grand Canyon and to visit Kathy & Ralph at Sheep Thrills farm. I am starting to get excited.

Last year first of October - the sunflowers lasted a lot longer - this year's are all gone - knocked over by the wind- eaten by the very happy/hungry finches.

This year first of October - this picture is looking the other direction in our yard from the picture I posted the other day. It's just a riot of color around here right now.

The sunflowers may be gone, but the zinnias are still blooming, aren't they Sinda.

Anatomy of a Recipe

I first met my friend Greg Atkinson many (maybe 25?) years ago when we both were working at a Mexican restaurant in Bellingham’s Fairhaven district called “Dos Padres”. He was a line cook and I was the house musician on Sunday nights. Most of the time, I would zone out and sing the same songs week after week – and spend my time watching the cooks (as they cooked the same thing, week after week) through the service window. Sometimes they would sing along with me – but most times it was simply the strange percussion of the kitchen that would echo along with my songs – and if they weren’t too busy, they would fix me something special (ie, not on the menu) for dinner.

Greg & I became fast friends – although we haven’t seen much of each other in the last 15 years, he has moved on to much bigger and better things – and successively more responsible jobs – one of his last full time “chef” jobs was as the executive chef at the Canlis Restaurant (a classic & celebrated restaurant since 1950) in Seattle. He now teaches cooking classes, and regularly appears on the local Public Television station as a regular Guest Host on their specials – “KCTS Chefs” AND has his own Culinary Consulting business. He writes a weekly article called “Taste” for the Seattle Times/PI Weekend Magazine, AND he also has written some great cookbooks.

I love reading his articles – I can almost hear his “voice” reading aloud to me. I also love reading his cookbooks – I admire how he can “craft” a recipe that, in the end, tastes divine.

Well, I consider myself to be a better than average cook. I have made dinners for as many as 90 people at our church auctions (with rave reviews, I might add) and I sold Pampered Chef Kitchen Tools for 3 or 4 years – so, I generally have the right tool for the task at hand.

I also love cookbooks – or rather I LOVE cookbooks – but strangely enough, the one I generally reach for first is my Grandma’s Betty Crocker cookbook – circa 1960’s. I make most meals from scratch – why buy Hamburger Helper Stroganoff mix, loaded with salt and monosodium glutamate and countless other things you can’t pronounce, when all you have to do is chop up an onion and ½# of mushrooms to brown with your ground beef. Add a little flour, a can of beef broth and a pint of sour cream – there you have it – easier than a Rachel Ray “30 Minute Meal”

Frequently I will “throw” some ingredients together and it will be a hit with The Shepherd. “Is this from a recipe?” he’ll ask… “Well, kind of…” I’ll respond. Often, he’ll say “this is a keeper, jot down your notes” – that is what happened with the following recipe – Turkey Shepherd’s Pie – Ground turkey is so much better for you than ground beef (but you can substitute ground beef if you want. – change your soup to Cream of Mushroom and use brown gravy mix) It’s not as polished as some of Greg’s recipes, it’s kind of like one of those recipes that your mom used to make – the one that only she knew the ingredients for. I bake it up in my Pampered Chef 9x13” baking dish – it is deep like a lasagna pan, so there is lots of room for LOTS of mashed potatoes.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 6
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 ¼ pound ground turkey (Jennie-O "Turkey Store" ground turkey is what I’ve used – it comes in a 20 oz package)
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (to keep the turkey from burning)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped fine
¼ pound mushrooms, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1 can Campbells Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup
plus 1 can of water
1 packet of Turkey Gravy mix
1# package of frozen Mixed Vegetables
Salt, pepper, herbs & spices of your choice – I like to use ½ tsp of Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

2-3 # of potatoes peeled or scrubbed.
(I use Yukon gold) (By the way - make sure there is no green skin on your potatoes – Did you know---Potatoes exposed to bright light develop green patches. This green skin contains the toxin 'solanine' which can cause cramps, headache, diarrhea, and fever. The solution is simple. Don't eat the green skin - simply remove it - the solanine is only present in the green skin and any discoloration underneath it - the rest of the potato is completely safe to eat.)

½ to 1 cup of milk
2-4 tablespoons butter
½ cup sour cream
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Peel your potatoes & cut them in 1” (or so) cubes – cook in boiling water or steam – however you like – until they are tender. Mash them with enough milk to make them creamy, but you don’t want them too thin because they will be the topping on your turkey & vegetables. Stir in the butter, sour cream, shredded cheese & salt & pepper to taste.

While the potatoes are cooking, chop the onion, mushrooms, & celery. In a 10-12 inch frying pan brown your ground turkey, over medium heat and add the chopped veggies. Cook for a few minutes until they are limp. Add the frozen mixed vegetables and cook for a few minutes until they are thawed. Add the can of soup, a can of water and the gravy mix. Cook until the soup and gravy have combined and thickened and the whole thing is bubbling. Remove from heat and pour into a 9”x13” baking dish. Spoon your mashed potatoes (I like to use my 4 oz scoop – that way it is uniform) on top of your ground turkey & vegetable mixture. Spread the mashed potatoes out over the whole dish, making sure to seal them up to the edge of your baking dish. Make some “vents” in the middle so the gravy will have someplace to escape to (and not over the edge and down onto the floor of your oven).

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until the gravy starts to bubble up in those vents. It’s pure comfort food. Hope you enjoy it – we do.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A wet rainy sort of day

and the pond is full of katsura leaves -

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The end of summer, "fall clothes" and good 'nip

Quoting an article from MSNBC: "In dozens of randomized, controlled experiments, people who focused on the things they were grateful for were happier, healthier and more successful. In her new book, “Thank You Power” (Thomas Nelson), TV journalist and author Deborah Norville marshals this research to advance the argument that a simple but consistent expression of gratitude can carry us a long way down the road to happiness."

I didn't have time today to really study this article but I've got it printed out and I'll report on it here soon. I do believe that gratitude is good for the heart and soul and finding Three Beautiful Things about your day can certainly make that trip down the road to happiness a lot shorter. I have been neglecting that in my life lately - sigh - so much to do, so little time...but here are my three beautiful things for this week.

We had a small patch of tomatoes this summer - they are shaped like Roma's but they are little - arent these green ones pretty?

The ripe ones were very tasty - and not a one made it to the house - well, I actually only got 5 ripes ones and the temp is supposed to dip into the 30's tonight, so I suppose the plants will all be done for tomorrow. Next year I'll have The Shepherd put them where they will get more sun.

John's bonsai collection is beginning to put on it's fall clothes. He tucked this oak into the greenhouse to delay the inevitable - it is just gorgeous.

Neelix & Sinda found the 'nip bag that I got them last spring - if Sinda isn't sleeping on it (sort of like some kind of aroma therapy) Neelix is licking it. They have definately been two happy cats this week.