Mornings with Asian family

Are the very best way to start the day.

My phone fell out of my pocket while biking to work on Friday. Before I could retrieve it, a construction truck rolled by and crunched it. The guts still work so I hear buzzing every time I get a message, but the screen’s kaputt. So I know messages are there, but can’t see them. It’s a funny metaphor for how communication goes between people sometimes.

Last night, I got an email from my Jieh telling me that baby eagles are called eaglets (something we’d been trying to remember on our Sunday ride out onĀ Harsen’s Island). In the morning, there was another note telling me to come over for breakfast early because Jieh had made the most delicious rhubarb blackberry buttermilk cake and I should have some.

A little after seven, post a.m. ablutions and some puttering about, I biked over with boiled eggs and strawberries and a tube of sunscreen to stash in Jieh’s car for our adventure.

I arranged cake on Jieh’s pretty ceramic plates and halved the eggs and sprinkled them with special soy; we made coffee and poured ourselves mango lassi and went outside to the deck. It was sunny and fresh and dewy and we ate our breakfast and talked about our day and upcoming travel. Jieh’s Asian hubby (the other essential member of our little clan) came down from his apartment with adorable bed head and drip coffee and we enjoyed each others company til it was time for me to go and start my day in earnest.

I miss my Daniels and the Chan Clan, and I feel so blessed to have found my way into our little family here in Detroit. It means a lot to belong.

Photo of Harsen’s Island by mdprovost

May 14, 2012   No Comments

Highlights since that last post on May 15…

JUNE

  • Ag of the Middle Briefing
  • Meeting karl kupers!
  • Meeting kathleen merrigan!
  • Bates byebye BBQ bash
  • NSAC goodbye lunch at White Tiger
  • Beck, cam, and marianne’s graduation party
  • Beach house for Becky’s birthday & next day’s breakfast
  • Weddings!
  • Grandma Evie, Grandad Tom, Grandma Sharon, Kong Kong Ron, Ah-Man, Kong Kong, all my aunties, Christina, Greg, Laura, Jen Jen, and all my other awesome awesome awesome friends.
  • Submitting AFRI grant proposal

JULY

  • 4th of july
  • Roadtripping with my mum
  • Missouri cousins
  • Iowa with Jerry — ATVs and tractors!
  • Madison with Kara
  • Arriving in Detroit
  • Roy Ayers up front!
  • Lots of thrift stores and craigslist fun
  • Cooking for friends
  • Brother Nature + The Pink FlaminGO
  • Canoeing

AUGUST

  • Blueberry picking & swimming in our underwear
  • Lots of hanging out with new Detroit friends
  • Yo Yo Ma!
  • Preserving foods
  • E. Market Welcome Center
  • Noodle commences
  • Korean BBQ party
  • Swimming in the lake

SEPTEMBER

  • More noodle and noodle and noodle
  • Awesome new Lansing crew
  • Spring Green for Labor Day: camping, crackers, pizza, drama, farmers
  • Classes! Reading! Thinking! Talking!
  • Dally.
  • Chopping things in the big farm kitchen at Harvest Gathering
  • lots and lots of heirloom tomatoes
  • First CARRS potluck success

and more to come!

September 26, 2010   No Comments

Yoga pose personalities

I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately. There’s a studio called Yoga District right down First Street just a few blocks from my house. It’s simple, spacious, unpretentious, affordable. There’s a place to leave your mat and the same folks come around again and again so that you get to know faces. People ride their bikes and walk to class. “Interns” from the community help clean the place and sign people in, in exchange for free classes. The whole ethos of the place manifests most clearly in the studio’s outreach arm, YogaActivist.org, which helps bring yoga into communities that might not otherwise experience it.

I love this place. It’s kept me grounded over the past few months, and I’m going to be sad to leave it.

I’ve heretofore been a little skeptical of yoga. Classes I’d taken in San Francisco left me feeling self conscious, like I didn’t fit in among the lululemons and raw foodists. A friend took me to a bikram class in Orange County where a wiry black haired Chinese goddess barked at a room of slick, dripping, bendy people as they twisted and pressed and squeezed every last toxin from deep inside out their pores. It was an experience, but not of calm.

The classes I’ve come to love at this place are athletic. I move and bend and sweat. It’s not easy, but it feels really really good, and by the end, my body feels at once relaxed and also tighter, my mind is open and I’m ready to take life in stride.

Just yesterday I did a headstand on my own for the first time since I was a kid. I’d tried a few times against the wall, or with a spot from a kind instructor, but yesterday I felt courageous and powerful so I nestled the crown of my head between my palms, walked my feet up towards my face till I was on my tippy tip toes, and then gave a slight -push- and bent my knees and then I was up.

Judge not… but sometimes I’m curious when I twist around in some funny pose and see the full room behind me. I’m curious whether people’s posture in yoga belies something deeper about them. The ones that get me most are slouchers, people who turn languidly and poke their arms in the air halfheartedly at the beginning of each sun salute. I wonder if these people would make good coworkers.

Or the overachievers (who, me?) who lunge much deeper than is necessary and push and strive and breathe too loud and glance at their neighbors (I try hard to resist). But the people I want to be friends with (and strive to be more like) are the people who are strong, but calm. Straight, but contained. They sometimes shake, they sometimes fall, but always with grace.

May 12, 2010   1 Comment

Cali, schoolroom, here I come!

I left the island today in the wee hours of morning. It was dark, but not too cold, as I hurried downstairs to put my last pot of water on to boil for tea and took out my last trash and stuffed my jar of kombucha (yes, really) and raincoat and hiking boots in the back of my car.

Packing turned the watertower into a maelstrom for the past few days and I’ve had no time to cook, and only a few hours of work on the farm — just to help out with the harvest.


Instead, I spent all my free time saying goodbyes and preparing my 7-day itinerary for the drive home. I’m stopping at five universities to talk with ten or so professors in Sustainable MBA programs and MS/PhD programs related to food systems, sustainability and business.

Day One: UBC

It went well, but I’m too exhausted now to go into the details. Tomorrow, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, where they actually offer a food industry focus. Amazing. I cannot wait to chat with the folks there and with the alum who’s offered to meet with me.

Here I go, back to school…

September 17, 2009   4 Comments

Last night, I fell into a pond in a dark gully.

Last night around 10:30, Pritha and Adam picked me up and we headed over to our friend Sarah’s house on the north side of the island. She was hosting a fire in the little gully where she lives.

We drove through dark tunnels of trees with eerie Swedish ambient music lulling us into just the right mood for a lowkey little campfire in the middle of nowhere.

Eventually we found the deadend turnoff, and headed up a hill until a sign advertising “Bullfrog Ln.” seemed to point us off into a huge field. No ATV, so we decided maybe it was a case of bad sign placement and kept on straight, winding down a dirt path scrunched up between tall dark forest, until Pritha decided we had gone too far. We went just a little bit further, saw the sign for “Mystic Way” and we had arrived.

We parked the car with the keys still in and made our way through the brambles and over a couple of bridges to the campfire where a dozen or so friends were lounging in a quiet, post-grilling, sated, happy glow.

I got a tour of Sarah’s home, glowing in the light of her one propane lantern. Herbs drying from the ceiling, jars and brik-a-brak scattered around, a bottle of cod-liver-oil on the kitchen counter next to a number of beautiful ceramic bowls, ribbons decorating the eaves of the loft, and a beautiful, smooth, wooden ladder heading up to her bed. No refrigeration, no running water, no electricity at all. An rustic, but pretty darn idyllic island retreat — one of the homiest homes I’ve seen.

Some of the sated glowing fire friends were headed back to the farm, so I decided to manage risk and spare Adam and Pritha the extra trip, what with the gas tank on empty, and head back with the earlier crowd.

On the way out, half a dozen tromped on ahead, and I followed up in the rear, trying to squint to use what I could of the headlamps and flashlights bouncing ahead. I hadn’t walked 20 steps when I took a step and suddenly felt like I was falling. I could see lights way down below, and I was falling and giving out a little yelp, gasp…. and then I hit the water. And the mud.

I mostly felt relief as I my immediate sensation told me I was going to fall and fall and fall. And then there was the unavoidable flood of embarrassment, and then shivering.

Yes, there was total submersion. Head to toe.

Doesn’t actually look that bad, but my clothes weighed a ton.
Just like after a long hike in the rain. Squelch, squelch, squelch.

May 31, 2009   6 Comments

Tasty Tuesdays on Jackson Beach

Tuesdays are harvest days and it’s only fitting that in the evenings, there’s a standing celebration down at Jackson Beach.

Heavy rain was in the prediction, but both times, the rain gods were thwarted by the rarely seen, but heartily worshiped sun.

This week, I rode out the 5 or so miles to Jackson Beach with the intention of riding back before dark, but what with volleyball, hummus, a bonfire, and the famous “Chili Willy” playing his charango, I couldn’t tear myself away.

Showing off our mad volleyball skills
Not being able to tear myself away


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in a larger map

May 21, 2009   6 Comments

Diatoms at U-Dub

Today Pritha and I went by University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Marine Station Labs to check out the open house.

We got to hear a rockin’ presentation on the effects of CO2 on ocean pH and the role of phytoplankton in carbon sequestration. We got free popcorn and we got to pet a sea cucumber. But the best part was checking out the diatoms in the room with the microscope.

These two guys were unstoppable. They showed us baby clams, baby jellyfish, copepods of all sizes, crazy worms; swimmers, floaters, predators, prey, and the prettiest of all, the amazing pillbox-shaped diatoms. Diatoms alone, diatoms in crazy stacks just like in the cartoons when someone piles up ice cream scoops to the sky.

They captivated the little girl below in the lifevest and it made me remember the day when I first unwrapped my microscope when I was 9 or 10, and looked at a drop of water from my grandma’s fishpond.

Sometimes I wish I was a scientist.


May 16, 2009   No Comments

Looking glass, croquet, and repurposed potatoes

Last night we hosted an Alice-in-Wonderland extravaganza in honor of Colin’s birthday. There were well-planned costumes, croquet, and foods that were very small.

The crew waiting for the potluck to appear

Cheshire cats (birthday boy on right)

Mad Hatter and the March Hare

There was also an impromptu dance party and staying up too late which meant that I was very very tired today when I had to get up to go to work.

I’m usually up by 6:30 or 7 at the latest, and out and about by 8; but today, it was a struggle to crawl down the stairs of the watertower at 8:15. I grabbed some rye toast, rubbed my eyes, and trudged out to water the sheep.

It was a hot day and I was tired. In the morning, I shoveled, carted and spread a little over 2 tons of compost to mulch 4 beds, then cleaned and stored drip irrigation from 4 overgrown greenhouses. So I don’t feel too guilty about sighing when I saw the pot of leftover spinach soup in my refrigerator at lunchtime. “I don’t want to waste, but I don’t really want to eat that either.”

So instead, I strained the soupy party out, kept the potatoes, and fried them up (no oil added, just some cumin & curry powder), and fried up two eggs over-easy to lay over the top.


I love how you can so quickly change the texture of a food and add a little spice, and make it into a different experience.

That, plus milk tea and couple cookies from our baking extravaganza last night, and I was ready to face the afternoon.

May 2, 2009   No Comments

The makings of lunch

The other night, I made Goi Cuon (or fresh summer roll) — bean sprouts, fried tofu, cucumber, carrot, mint, rolled up in a lettuce leaf in a thin rice wrapper. I didn’t have any cellophane noodles, so I skipped that part and skipped the basil add-in because I could really only afford either the organic basil or the mint at nearly $5 for a box (ours isn’t up yet in the garden).

With it, I threw together a quick improv peanut sauce, much simpler than your usual ingredient-intensive Malay or Indonesian sauce. I didn’t have hoisin, so I couldn’t do a Vietnamese peanut-hoisin sauce either, but it still turned out yummy — recipe down below.

But anyway, the Goi Cuon meant that today at lunch I opened the fridge to take stock and the first thing I saw was the leftover julienned carrots, cucumbers, and nicely washed & separated mint leaves. The little container of veggies sat right next to the fresh batch of yogurt, set just last night. Add the farm-fresh salad mix on the bottom shelf ($6/half-pound!), some raisins from my 5 lb bag, a bit of tuna, and a few slices from the rye batard I baked in the morning… Salad and toast. Voila!

The yogurt made a yummy dressing with just a bit of fixing up — some kind of North African/Mediterranean inspired dressing to go with the mint and the raisins. The tuna was a little funny in the salad, but I was craving protein. Some shredded lamb, a boiled egg or some nuts probably would have gone over better.

Not the best picture, but you’ll have to excuse it… the camera was out in the barn.

Ginger-Cumin Yogurt Dressing
1/2 cup fresh yogurt (mine was pretty thin)
1 tsp white vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp grated ginger
water (optional)

Mix everything together well by shaking in a jar or whisking. Add some water if your yogurt is especially thick — add only a very small amount at a time and taste — you don’t want to dilulte it too much. Serve over greens. Especially good with mint! Yum.

Simple Peanut Ginger Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup natural peanut butter*, well mixed (I used MaraNatha Organic, no salt added)
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 slices ginger root (peeled, 1/4” thick)
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup water
salt to taste

Add your peanut butter to a pan over medium heat. Stir as the peanut butter heats up and thins out. When the peanut butter loses its body and spreads over the bottom of the pan, add your coconut milk and stir well. once combined, add in your soy sauce and ginger. Be sure to stir well so your peanut butter doesn’t stick to the bottom. Add water, stir, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add salt to taste — if you’re using salted peanut butter, you may not need to add any. Remove ginger pieces and discard.

* natural peanut butter has a very different consistency and taste than traditional brands. You could try this with something like Skippy or Jiffy, but I would leave out the sugar at first, and maybe add some oil and possible extra water.

April 29, 2009   No Comments

Lights Out

Tonight the lights went out around 7. Not just on San Juan Island, but on Orcas, Lopez, Shaw… We’re still not sure what happened, but we surmise it has something to do with a main cable coming from the mainland.

Apparently a few winters back, the power went out completely for 5 days, which meant no heat, no water (the pump requires electricity), no lights, no indoors stove. It would be a little easier to imagine doing this right now. It will probably only drop to 30 F tonight, so toilet stops in the forest, outdoor cooking with propane… all that doesn’t sound too bad. But when it’s 15 below, Yuck!

Colin and I celebrated the 2 hours with take-out pizza (my first time eating out since coming to the island!) and a game of candlelight scrabble.

April 24, 2009   2 Comments