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Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

I actually have an appointment this morning. I know! My appointment book has been as chaste as a novitiate for weeks. Today I am to have allergy testing. I’d be lying if I didn’t insert here that going outside in the big bad world feels a little off putting. My instructions were to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. K. Yesterday I cranked up my car and drove it for a bit both to remind myself driving was part of my routine and to give my car a chance to recharge it’s battery. When I came back I dragged the industrial size bag of potting soil I purchased several months ago around to the front yard and worked in the dirt for a couple of hours. People walked by and stopped to say hello or waved while I was out there and it felt less isolating and more like being part of a community.

While outside beneath the massive trees lining my property (well, mine as long as I deposit a rent check) I was serenaded by the sad song of a mourning dove. Movement on one of the branches overhead drew my eye to where I could see a dove perched on a large nest in the crook of a limb. Mom, or so I called her, I’m not clearly versed on how one goes about telling the difference in doves and wasn’t formally introduced, remained on the nest while her partner flew back and forth to the ground or to other trees gathering whatever he was bringing to the table. Soon I could see three dear little feathery heads pointed towards the sky beaks open so I’m assuming dad had been tasked with providing lunch. A friend called so I stopped for a moment and went in the house to take a break. Telling her of my sweet birds (yes, yes I realize they are of the earth and not actually mine but they are on my property so for now I shall lay claim to them), she said doves were a sign of peace and restoration. Boy, could we use that right now. She went on to suggest I purchase food and a feeder for the birds and then they would remain in my yard and make it their home. What a lovely thought. I do love birds and all creatures. However, after spending $8.99 for eggs yesterday and $12.99 for instant decaf coffee I am hesitant to take on the feeding responsibilities for other living things beyond Boo and myself.  Nonetheless I ordered both food and a feeder before I had time to talk myself out of it. C’est la vie.

dove mourning nesting protection camouflage to protect them from predators

Going back outside to finish my potting I was pleasantly surprised how peaceful it made me to know the little family was settled in above me. Our world is populated with such incredibly beautiful and interesting wildlife. I never stop marveling at the vast selection of creatures provided for us to share space with and enjoy. When I was little my grandfather enrolled me in a course through the Audubon Society. Birds were a particular love for both him and my grandmother and this they shared with me. He and I would sit in his cozy den and study the different species of birds and their habitats. It was always special for me to spend time with the first important man in my life. Sadly we would only have seven years together before he passed away. My grandmother too was a bird fancier. Many of her knick knacks, which were plentiful, were decorated with birds.  When fall arrived I can remember walking behind my grandmother while she carried the red vinyl step stool to one of the huge trees shading our back yard. My job was to carry the net bag of suet which was going to be hung off a limb to feed the birds prolific in the trees where we lived.  Suet, for those of unfamiliar with the term is a mixture of fats and grains. From what I have read, it actually serves to keep the birds warm. In Nova Scotia this would be a plus in any form. Once the bag was suspended we would watch the birds from the dining room window as they circled down to pick pieces of the mixture out from between the holes in the netting. Funny, how some memories just stick like glue to your insides and remain there always.

Birds are interesting little beings with definite personalities, at least the domesticated variety. My friend Carol had a bird named Wilbur. Wilbur was a lovebird by description who shared a cage with his “wife”. I do not remember the female’s name but lovebirds, appropriately named, mate for life. The two were inseparable. Wilbur wiled away his days attending to his lady love while singing happily in his cage. The wife died unexpectedly one day leaving poor Wilbur devastated by her loss. They purchased another mate for him but he never warmed up to his new “wife” with anything near the fervor he had loved the first. The heart wants what the heart wants I guess spans all species.

I too have always considered myself a nester. My ex father-in-law told me once if he gave me a cardboard box and a ball of twine somehow I’d come up with a home. Home has always been a bit of an elusive commodity for me. Truth is I’ve never let a lot of grass grow under my feet. Having counted thirty-nine moves in my life hasn’t left much time for establishing deep roots.  That being said, it has been necessary to create “home” at whatever location I currently found myself in.

Longview-WA

While living in Longview, Washington with my ex husband home at the time was a motel room. Working a construction job at the lumber mill we knew on arrival our stay in the glorious northwest would most likely last under a year. To lease a place to hang our hat would most likely have required a one year commitment, not doable in our case. Also, with our household goods taking up space in a storage unit in the Bay Area we had nothing to furnish it with. So, we opted to stay with other construction types at a local motel catering to nomads such as ourselves. There were two rooms plus a bathroom in each generous sized “suite”. Ours was on the second floor overlooking the pool. Each unit had a sliding glass door leading out to the balcony which gave it more of an apartment vibe. There was a small refrigerator in the room off the bedroom/sitting room which comfortably held a sandwich and a quart of milk before feeling crowded. Since we would be there months rather than days I began to look for options for cooking in place and storing food as going out to dinner or picking something up every night was both expensive and is definitely not the healthiest option.

Having no utensils or cooking implements posed a problem. Someone suggested thrift shops. Up until then I had never stepped foot in one. What wonderful places to forage in. For a five dollar bill you could get a whole bag of mismatched silverware. Who knew such riches existed at the Salvation Army? I asked my husband to construct a makeshift three shelf unit with bricks and planks on an empty wall in our room. I filled the shelves with the mish mash of well loved pots and pans purchased with my bag of silver leaving the remaining shelves for food storage. After speaking to the motel owners about wanting to cook in the room they provided me with two two-burner hot plates to cook on.  This still left me with little room to store fresh items so once again I found myself standing in the motel office asking about refrigerator options. As miracles do, one showed up to help. The owner had an apartment size refrigerator in storage. The next day it was hooked up in our “spare” room. Yay. Before long I was cooking all all burners if you will. We made some great meals in that little room that year. My ex was an excellent cook. Hailing from southern Texas he made some delicious pots of gumbo or etoufee which we shared with neighbors who regularly followed the enticing smell to our door.

All in all it was an interesting experience that I will file in my memory book under “innovation”.

 

 

 

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There’s something comforting to me about the rain, although after this weekends storm even I am tired of the dark skies. Perhaps it has to do with growing up on the east coast of Canada, or maybe it’s just part of my soul. I’ve lived in the state of Washington twice during my lifetime, in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle, and in Longview, a lumber mill town on the Washington/Oregon border. Rain in Washington is like pornography on the Internet, more often than not you’ll find it. From what I’ve heard, although don’t nail me to a board on this, Washington state has one of the highest suicide rates in the continental U.S. because of the weather. I loved it there. When the sun deigned to shine, the Puget Sound would come alive like a pop-up greeting card, as though every sailboat owner hoisted their sails in unison before the sun once again ducked behind the clouds.

It was difficult for those living there at that time. Lockheed was going through mammoth layoffs and the economic pinch was impacting most of the inhabitants. Signs advertising  “free stereos” and “no deposits” were posted by landlords trying to entice tenants to move into their half empty apartment complexes, and it rained and rained and rained some more. Noah would have been sighted often at the lumber yard often during those days. On that stay I brought with me my young family. When I boarded the plane from Southern California for Seattle my son was just six weeks old and my daughter just a month past her first birthday. Their dad had taken a job offer in Bellevue in my sixth month of pregnancy. I had an obstetrician in place and it wasn’t a good time to move my growing body so he went on ahead of us to find us an apartment and start his new job. My mother and my step-father offered my daughter and I their spare room until the baby was born.

In spite of the precipitation, I found the area surrounding Seattle as well as the city itself had much to offer. Weather permitting, we took many day trips on the weekends.  The “underground city” of Seattle is truly worth your time if you’re there on a visit. An entire city essentially buried beneath the thriving metropolis above. I took the tour and found myself stepping back into an eerie moment of frozen history.

Bainbridge Island was a half hour ferry trip from Seattle.  From the back of the ferry the Seattle skyline was highlighted across the sky and in front the bow of the boat rose and fell as it cut through the white-capped blue waters.  The island itself was populated with lovely homes, many sporting docks housing the owner’s boats.  The downtown area  was bustling with touristy shops lurking behind colorful gingerbread facades as well as a surprising variety of intimate restaurants.  Our favorite place to eat sat at the top of  an old dock with a large outdoor eating area.  One of their specialties was stuffed baked potatoes with a variety of seafood fillings that were out of this world. Gulls hovered close by perched on rotting timbers or strutting on the boards below waiting  to grab a piece of bread or potato skin left by departing diners.  On the weekends  local jazz performers filled the cozy inside dining room with music that I could have listened to for hours, and often did.  I would  have moved there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the fact that most of the lovely homes with their panoramic ocean views were far and away out of reach of the bottom line numbers reflected in our checkbook.

Our only social contacts in the beginning were my husband’s coworkers, as I had my hands full with an infant and a toddler at home.  My mother suggested we contact a friend of hers and her husband who owned an oyster farm on one of the outlying islands.  After a brief conversation with them, we were invited, and readily agreed, to come out for a weekend visit.  The gentleman of the house picked us up at the dock in a fishing boat,  their only transportation to and from the mainland, and we sped across the waves to the island. Their house sat up on a rock strewn hill, and was circled with decks on all sides.  With more windows than lumber used in its construction it provided a picture perfect display of the water surrounding it as you moved from room to room.  Our hostess was a gifted cook so we ate well, drank some fine wine from their extensive collection in the cellar, and generally enjoyed their company and the accommodations to the fullest.  Apparently, oyster farming can be quite a lucrative endeavor if you know what you’re doing, which I had not one single idea what that would be.  Fortunately, our host was most knowledgeable and kindly gave us an informational tour discussing  the rearing and harvesting of the oysters along with a brief visit to the farm itself.  This was the best part of the trip for me. 

After six months and just starting to get settled my husband’s company began issuing layoff slips with one with his name on it.  Packing up once again, we headed to Northern California.  I’ve had the opportunity to visit Washington many times since, both on business as well as pleasure, and lived there one again in the early 1990’s as I mentioned in Longview.   Always, it’s been a great place to be.

Spicy Shrimp Stuffed Potatoes

4 large baking potatoes, cleaned and scrubbed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
garlic salt
2 Tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium green or red pepper, or a mix, seeded and chopped fine
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 lb. small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Dash of Tabasco sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt. Pierce with fork. Bake for 1 hour or until well cooked. Turn off oven and leave potatoes inside while preparing the shrimp.

In large skillet melt butter over low heat. Add celery, onions, green pepper and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato sauce and seasonings. Heat for 5 mins. Remove potatoes from oven. Gently roll between a clean dish towel. Cut an “x” in the top of each and push in ends to open potato. Add shrimp to sauce mix and cook turning frequently until they turn pink (about 3 mins.). Do not overcook, or shrimp will be tough. Remove from heat.  Add Tabasco to taste.

 Divide sauce between potatoes. Serves 4.

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