My Mid-19th Century Chinese Silk Tapestry of Birds
Here are some pictures of a 19th Century Silk Chinese Tapestry that was given to my grandmother by her employer who was an herb doctor in San Francisco. I thought it would be nice to share this family heirloom with you. I hope you enjoy it.
Below are some pictures of individual parts of the tapestry. There is some incredibly intricate stitching in this tapestry. I’ve had a number of people ask me whether or not I have the tapestry displayed at home. Unfortunately, I keep it locked away because it’s too delicate to hang and several preservationists have told me that UV light will fade the brilliant colors. For now, I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Visual Thesaurus – The Ultimate Site for “Word Nerds”
Not long ago one of my ESL students asked me if dictionaries and thesauruses were going the way of the dinosaurs. After all, almost every other reference/learning tool we “old-timers” used when we were growing up can be found on-line. I think the answer is yes and no. Sure, you can always go on-line, click “dictionary” and find an on-line version of Webster’s English dictionary or other site. They are quite fast and useful.
Where they fall short is in helping the user think more deeply about the etymology or relationship of a word in a larger context. Also, as an educator I would like to be able to compile information about a word or put the word in a list that I can talk about with my students during a class or at a later date. I’m quite visual and I also like to see words in a broader context.
Well, for those of you who are “word nerds” I have found and incredibly useful and addictive on-line site: visualthesaurus.com. For anyone who teaches English or simply loves words, this is an incredibly powerful learning tool. I must warn you…..it’s really, really addictive.
The site has a huge number of useful tools for educators and learners. You can drag words from the page into word lists. You can email words. There is even a tool called VocabGrabber which allows you to cut and paste a document into a window, click a button and have the site analyze all the words in the text according to frequency, type or importance. How cool is that? Below I’ve placed the Declaration of Independence into the “vocabgrabber” according to relevance. If your an educator and you want to create a word list for your learners, there’s a function on the page for that.
I highly recommend you all take a look at this great learning resource! For $19.95 per year this is worth the investment. You can also set up a group subscription ($10 more per subscriber above the basic rate) and tie your students or family into the program.
Cherry Blossoms Explode, The Sun Shines, A Glorious Day in Seattle!
Today I took two of my English Students (Italians) out for lunch and then we went to the University of Washington to witness the annual cherry blossom explosion. Fortunately, we have had several days of absolutely spectacular weather here in the Seattle area. Today it was sunny and almost 70 degrees! You can tell that there was a huge crowd at the university “quad” to enjoy the blossoms. There isn’t a more beautiful place than Seattle when the weather is like this. I’ve lived here since 1986 and I’m still amazed at how wonderful it can be here.
FIRST – PINK FLAMINGOS
I suspect one of my neighbors lost a bet in connection with the Seattle Seahawks vs Atlanta Falcons game yesterday. I must admit that pulling out of my driveway today and being confronted by “the flock” was a bit of a surprise. I wonder if my two cats, Silvio and Cordelia were wondering what was going on with all the pink birds:
Cats Contemplating Flamingos
ENGLISH CHRISTMAS PUDDING
OK, I’ve finally gotten around to reviewing some pictures from Christmas dinner. I have to tell you, for the last 3 years I’ve made a traditional English Christmas pudding for my friend Joycelyn who tells me I make this dessert as well as anyone in her homeland!!!!(I’m sure she’s being nice.) I’m including a picture of the pudding as Virginia and I still have a little of it left in our refrigerator. It’s one of the few things that lingers for me about the year 2012. I have to say, I’m kind of glad to see 2012 gone and a new year beginning. It was a good year, but I’m sensing big, positive changes in 2013.
Here’s My Capzles Presentation of Our Subscription Farm Produce
For the last 3 years, I’ve been using Capzles to put together a nice presentation that exhibits all of the wonderful produce we have received from our farm subscription with Growing Washington. Please take a look through all the pictures. We ate some good food this summer. It’s interesting to note that each season brings all sorts of challenges to the farmers. This year, for example, tomatoes weren’t the best vegetables to order. The good thing about Growing Washington is that we could choose from a huge number of products each week. If we felt that the weather had been unkind to tomatoes or the delicate lettuces, we chose something else. No problem. I hope you enjoy the Capzles presentation. Also, make sure you turn the music on!!!
Here is one of those precious artifacts from WWII that my father kept and that I read every year for Veteran’s Day. This is a MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF OF STAFF (General George C. Marshall). One of the best passages:
“Start being a leader as soon as you put on your civilian clothes. If you see intolerance and hate, speak out against them. Make your individual voices heard, not for selfish things, but for honor and decency among men, for the rights of all people.”
The Last “Official Summer Season” Box of Organic Food
This is the final week of our “summer food box” share of organic food from Growing Washington. This is the third year running that we have been involved in community supported agriculture and we continue to be very satisfied customers. This year we ordered a 20 week share in this wonderful subscription farm plus we added the five week Autumn delivery. The Small Vegetable Box provides a choice of eight vegetables per week from what is coming out of the fields. The Small Veggie Box costs $24 per week or $432 for the eighteen-week season. The summer season this year ran from June 13 to today. We will now continue to receive organic food from our extended share for the next 5 weeks.
Organic Food Rocks……..Week 20
I was really excited to receive our vegetables this week. I ordered a variety of potatoes and I also ordered escarole which I’ll describe more below. You know, it’s hard to describe the various earthy smells that come off these organic vegetables when we put them on the counter. You don’t get the same whiff of earthiness when you buy food at the grocery store. Not even the organic food at the grocery store is the same. Here’s the list of this week’s vegetables:
- Gala Apples – The first Gala apple tree was one of many seedlings resulting from a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Kidd’s Orange Red planted in New Zealand in the 1930s. Gala apples are small and are usually red with a portion being greenish or yellow-green, vertically striped. Gala apples are fairly resistant to bruising and are sweet, grainy, with a mild flavor and a thinner skin than most apples. Quality indices include firmness, crispness, and sweetness. (citation from Wikipedia)
- Escarole – Escarole is a variety of endive whose leaves are broader, paler and less bitter than other members of the endive family. In taste — but not color — it is almost indistinguishable from radicchio. Like radicchio, kale and chard, escarole is a hearty green that thrives late into the growing season. The heart of an escarole head is less bitter because the leaves haven’t gotten as much sunlight. (from Cookthink.com)
- Swiss Chard – Swiss Chard is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat. I simply saute the chopped-up leaves and stems with olive oil, garlic, hot pepper flakes and splash the saute with wine or stock as the leaves cook. Here’s a great site that explains why chard is so nutritious: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=16
- Braising Mix – I prepare this mix of various leafy greens in much the same way I prepare chard.
- Spicy Greens Mix – This mix of lettuces, arugula and spicy mustard greens is a delicious combination of flavors that goes well with a lot of dishes. I particularly like to toss these greens with a sweet vinaigrette, put it on the serving plate and then place a piece of grilled or sauteed piece of salmon on top of it…..yummy!
- Russet Potatoes – We received 2 large russets and a slew of smaller potatoes…….
- Yukon Gold Potatoes – Oh my, there’s nothing better than making mashed potatoes with Yukon Golds. Rich, creamy and delicious they are truly one of the best tasting potatoes in the world.
- Carrots – The carrots we receive from Growing Washington are so sweet and tender that I simply rinse them off and start eating. I don’t even bother peeling them….
- Beets – One advantage of receiving beets from an organic farm is that they always come with the tops (greens). In actuality, beets are two vegetables in one: the beet root and the beet greens. I cook both. I generally roast the beet roots in the oven for an hour (or more). I saute the greens in much the same way I prepare all the other greens. Beet greens are delicious!
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Gala Apples, Chard, Carrots, Spicy Greens
Some Classic Autumnal Organic Food Arrived Today
We are nearing the end of real summer vegetables (local organic food in particular). This week the only “summery” vegetables I ordered were the mixed hot peppers because they will soon be unavailable and I wanted to spice up some dishes this week! In fact, I used one of the small Serranos this evening by sauteing it with garlic and mixed greens. Oh that was tasty! This week we received some real classics for this time of year:
- Shelling Beans – I intend using these shelling beans for a nice soup later this week. I just made a large batch of chicken stock which I’ll use for the soup base
- Bush Delicata winter squash – These are delicious little winter squash that I like to cut in half, roast and serve in their skins like baked potatoes. Some butter and a pinch of salt……..heaven.
- Banana Fingerling potatoes – These are incredibly versatile potatoes. I’ve baked them, roasted them, mashed them and they cook very quickly in the microwave. When I roast fingerlings, I’ll cut them length-wise, toss them in olive oil and a couple of whole garlic cloves and sprinkle them with kosher salt.
- German Butterball potatoes – These are uber-delicious as mashed potatoes.
- Red Cabbage – Cabbage is of the most economical of the organic foods we receive from our subscription farm. Head cabbage (green, savoy, red) can be stuffed, sauteed or made into a delicious soup (as I recently did with the large Savoy cabbage we received from the farm.) Oh, I forgot that I like home made coleslaw!
- Fennel – I’m often asked what to do with fennel bulbs (often misnamed in grocery stores as “anise”….a totally different plant). In the summer I’ll quickly blanch the bulb, cut it in half, toss it with a high-flash-point oil and then grill it. I like to julienne a bulb along with a leek and a carrot then saute them together in butter and then garnish a piece of white fish with mixture. Raw fennel goes great in salads. It adds a wonderfully gentle liquorice flavor to all sorts of dishes.
- Fuji Apples – I love Fujis because the taste like apples dipped in caramel without the calories! Notice how beautiful these Fujis are!
- Purple Winterbor Kale – As always, I’m going to add this deep-purple kale to all sorts of dishes this week. I have leftover cabbage soup that I’ll add it to. I’ll do a nice saute with garlic and another hot pepper and probably add a few leaves to the bean soup I’m going to make.
A Note about Storing Organic Food (especially produce)
I wanted to mention something about the shelf life of the organic food we receive from Growing Washington. Believe it or not, we don’t always get to all the vegetables we receive in the course of a week. We make a point of eating all the highly perishable fruits and vegetables first. What’s amazing is how long some of these foods will last if kept in the refrigerator or in our pantry. Many of the hearty greens such as kale, mixed braising greens and the root vegetables will last a long time in the refrigerator. Cabbages will literally last for weeks.
Rhubarb Crisp – Easy to Make and Yummy to Eat!
A couple of weeks ago we received rhubarb in our weekly Organic Food Box from Growing Washington. At that time I promised to make a rhubarb crisp. Well, I finally had a few extra moments yesterday and I baked up a delicious crisp. The recipe is from a wonderful book, ” Pacific Northwest Palate” by Susan Bradley. I purchased this book back in 1989 when I was still working in the restaurant business and I’ve been using Bradley’s recipe for rhubarb crisp ever since. I like this recipe because it’s incredibly simple. So what follows is a down-and-dirty demonstration of how to make rhubarb crisp:
First Take the Rhubarb
These were the rhubarb stalks we received. You should always trim away the woody bottoms and any portions of the tops that are part of the leaf structure of the plant (these are poisonous). For this recipe you’re going to dice 3 cups of rhubarb. You are going to add the three cups of rhubarb to a binding mixture composed of: 1 egg, 4 tsp flour and 1 cup of sugar. The mess will look like this:
Spread the mixture into a 9×9 inch baking dish. Next you’re going to make the crisp topping. You’re going to mix 1/4 cup each brown sugar, flour, oatmeal and chopped walnuts along with 1 tsp of baking powder and 2 tablespoons of butter. It looks like this:
Sprinkle the crisp over the rhubarb mixture. Bake in a 350º oven for 40 minutes……..It will look like this:
Oh my, rhubarb crisp is best served warm with a nice BIG dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream…..but we love to just eat it plain.