Pomegranate Obessions

Such a controversy swirling about the best method for removing the seeds from a pomegranate. The water method is so clean that I let my three year grandson do it by himself without worry. The spoon method is definitely quick, but messy. What to do?

Water method:

Spoon method:

Best method:

Well, of course, the answer is to combine the two. Fill a large bowl half full of water. Cut the pomegranate along the equator, pull apart. Hold one half down low above the waterline and smack the skin side with a wooden spoon until all the arils fall into the water. The pith will float to the top; scoop it out. Dump the whole thing through a colander and you're done in less than one minute.


Weather's a Comin' In

On my walk along the trail yesterday, I encountered an old man, who said to me, "Weather's a comin' in." It charmed me in it's simplicity and truth. We've reached the end of the fall, the trees have changed and the colder storms are approaching. Now it the time to consider what we can do to make the chillier months more cozy and comfortable.

As someone who spent the first 10 years of my marriage as a struggling student, married to a struggling contractor, in the coldest spot in the nation (hello, Truckee), I thought I knew a thing or two about staying warm in a cold climate and feeding ourselves well, but cheaply. Today I fell down the rabbit hole of endless websites and have learned so much more.

It started with an article on The Kitchn, about Marissa Miller, a chef who lost her job and needed to feed her family on what she could scrounge up, be it from the discount bins or the food bank. She had the knowledge and the skills to pull it off. She says to concentrate on the most nutritional dense foods and be okay with imperfection.

Reading the comments lead to A Girl Called Jack, a blog by Jack Monroe, a woman living in a draughty house in England. Honestly, the coldest I have ever been was in Wales in April. I had never experienced damp like that. The comments here are a treasure trove of good ideas. The tips on keeping warm taught me so many things:

Bed warmers--old pillowcase, filled with grains (from the bulk section of the grocery). Heat in microwave and slide into the bed about an hour before you get in.

Put a robe or sweat pants at the foot of your bed also, to warm for morning rising.

Spread a wool blanket over your duvet, and tuck it in under the mattress--no drafts!

Thin layers of silk, cotton, or wool-- long johns, vests, neck scarves, fingerless gloves, hats (even indoors).

My personal favorite: Drink a cup of warm blackcurrant juice. (why have I never thought of that?)

My husband, Brad was intrigued when I showed him this video of a way to warm a small space cheaply. We gathered all the supplies and lit up our little heater in his office yesterday. It WORKED! Hallelujah! No more freezing fingers and toes as we take care of business in there.


What's for Dinner?

Since we started eating more veggie-based, almost all of our meals now are bowl meals. We almost never eat "meat and two veg" style anymore. You can round out any meal by adding a whole steamed artichoke, an ear of corn, a baked sweet potato, or a side salad, if you feel it needs more.

So many things accommodate this kind of eating:

rice or noodle bowls
polenta with toppings
taco or enchilada

Try to experiment and mix it up to your own taste. I might read something that pushes me in a certain direction, but I will mess around with it as much as I can. I will think of a general dish and wonder, "What can I add (or take away)?" Start with the vegetables. I might decide that we will have carrots, or sweet potatoes, or green beans, and then start looking through the refrigerator and pantry to see what's available. Then I'll think of a direction to go with it--Mexican, Asian, Indian, Thai, Italian. Use it as a jumping off place, but make your own.

To get you started, some easy things to eat for dinner (or lunch):

Tacos--Soak some walnuts for 2 hours and drain. Put in food processor with taco seasoning, use for tacos or taco salad. Top with tomatoes, salsa, onions, shredded lettuce or cabbage or kale, avocado, cheese, etc.

Another taco--smear inside of a warm tortilla with avocado, use cooked butternut and black beans mixed with taco seasoning, top with shredded cabbage.

Butternut Turnovers--Use puff pastry to make pockets of cooked butternut, walnuts, thyme, jack cheese. Brush with egg white and cook at 350 degrees until nicely browned.

Noodle bowls--soba or other noodle (even spaghetti works), in a clear veg broth with ginger, sesame oil, lemongrass and garlic. Top with chopped or shredded carrots, celery, bean sprouts, cilantro, peanuts.

Enchilada bowls--simmer beans and rice in enchilada sauce, top with corn, red bell peppers, green chilies, avocado, onions, a little cheese. Serve warm.

Pasta with green veggies--boil and drain any type of pasta, keep warm. Melt a generous amount butter and/or olive oil in a large pan. Add chopped garlic, just warm through (do NOT let it brown). Add all the green veg that you can find--asparagus, edamame, peas, snow peas, green beans, spinach or kale, etc. After you take it off the heat, add basil and Parmesan.

Manicotti--use crepes to wrap around a mixture of ricotta, chopped spinach, basil, Parmesan, and garlic. Cook in marinara sauce topped with a little mozzarella.

Stuffed sweet potatoes--cook clean sweet potatoes in 350 degree oven until tender. Top with black beans, mozzarella, and chili powder.

Calazones--use pizza dough to wrap around ricotta, bell peppers, olives, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, sauteed fennel, onions, mushrooms, etc. (You can add a tablespoon of pizza sauce, but no more, it will make it soggy). Cook in a 450 degree oven until well browned.

Greek Stuffed Peppers--mix cooked quinoa (or other grain) with kalamata olives, feta, diced zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, Greek seasoning, fresh basil or oregano. Stuff inside a steamed and gutted bell pepper, top with a bit of cheese and cook in 350 degree oven until brown and bubbly.

Yellow Indian Curry--saute a mixture of of vegetables, like diced potatoes, little corns, butternut, garbanzo beans, carrots, kale, red bell pepper, fennel. Top with packet or jar of yellow curry sauce and simmer until cooked through. Serve over brown rice.

Mexican casserole--cook a meaty bean (we use scarlet runner beans) by boiling them in a pot of water until cooked through. Mix them with sun-dried tomatoes, cooked butternut, and a jar of salsa. Top with a layer of polenta and a little shredded cheese. Cook in the oven at 350 degrees until cooked through.


Things I Never Want to Forget about Germany

 The entire Albert family was so incredibly generous to us. They welcomed us into their homes, provided for every need, fed us, bought us presents, drove us everywhere, gave us hugs and lots of laughs.

 Brad and his best childhood friend, Richard, reunited in Einsidelerhof. This is the lake where they went camping and chasing girls.

Brad was very excited to show me where they used to play in the woods, the bomb holes left from WWII, the castle ruins. Also where the gypsy camp was and where the "Strasse Queens" would stand and tease the boys as they walked by.

 Rhein in Flammen! A festival of beer, bratwurst, pretzels! They have neuer wein (new wine), which has not been fermented yet. It tastes like grape juice and is seriously potent.

The river boats coming from upstream would slam on their brakes, and let the back end of the boat flip 180 degrees by the current until they could move into position facing back upstream.

Live music with Richard's friends' singing, "Country Roads." (The Germans can turn any song into a beer drinking song). Fireworks over the river, shooting out of the castles on the hills, and for a finale -- waterfalls of fire coming over the castle walls.

Driving home at 2AM, we ran out of gas on the Autobahn. As we coasted slower and slower, Brad asked Guenter, "Was ist los?" And Guenter quietly replied, "Der Auto ist kaput." Had to wait over an hour for a tow truck, then had to fit 10 people in the cab of the tow truck. So much laughter.

Maria lit a candle for Jennifer and I at the church.

Hearing the church bells ring out every day.

Buying a paper cone of fresh apricots from the farmers market.

They have bakery trucks for home delivery.

 Each city has it's own symbol. This fish is for Kaiserslautern. They decorate the manholes with them.

On Friday night we sat outside a cafe on the cobbled street, talking with everyone, while Brad and Richard drank meter bier (literally, a meter of beer). Out of the corner of my eye I saw some more of the family coming to join us. I felt so much a part of the family and fun.

Spending time with Richard's girlfriend, Jennifer, a genuine person with a warm heart.

Brad told Maria that riding on the badly paved streets was a "German massage." She thought it was funny.


 A day on the Mosel River--a dream come true. Lunch on a deck overlooking the view as the sun came out. Riesling wine for lunch. Meandering the old cobbled streets of Bernkastel.

 Sunday lunch outside at St Martin beside the fountain. Chicken, wrapped in bacon, with wine sauce and grapes and a side of rosemary potatoes. A meal never to be forgotten.

Tasted little Mirabellen, tiny golden plums.

One night for dinner we had cheesecake, plum tart, and strudel. The next morning for breakfast we had cheesecake with jam. They seem to eat nothing but schnitzel, bratwurst, ice cream and pastries.

Advice from Richard: If a wild boar chases you, run downhill. Their legs are too short in the front to run downhill.


Preparing for Safari--Part 2

There are just a few more things that I want to say about traveling to Africa. Now that I've been there and realize all the things that we did wrong, hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. My earlier packing list is here: Prepping for Safari

One of our fellow travelers only has one eye, so logically, he only needed a monocular, instead of binoculars. He let me give it a go and I loved it! So much easier to focus and track the animals. I highly recommend it. He said he bought it on Amazon for about $60.

I lost my hair conditioner in Amsterdam, so I spent the entire 12 days in the dry air of Tanzania with hair like straw. You cannot buy normal cosmetics there. I would also bring a rich lotion, eye wash, and saline nasal spray. I have heard of a new product, which is a nasal gel, called Ayr. I haven't tried it yet, but since I live in a dry desert climate, I'm going to find some.

My little insect bite relief stick was a popular item. It immediately stopped the itching and swelling of bug bites. So small and so helpful to have. At the end of the trip, I gifted to one of our drivers. I hope he uses it often.

You definitely want a nice camera. I rented a 400mm lens from LensRentals.com to put on the body of my Canon Rebel and I was so happy with my photos. I was the only one in our group with a "real" camera. I am happy to share all my photos with everyone, but I feel like they missed out on taking their own pictures. Also a lens brush is great for keeping the dust off. Three sets of batteries for each camera worked out just right. One set charging, one set in the camera, and one set in my pocket to reload. Each night I rotated through them.

Lingerie bags (in addition to the cubes) were great for holding smaller items inside the duffle bag. I would bring several with me.

I wish that I had a watch with me. Without my phone, I never knew what time it was. Normally that doesn't bother me, but on this type of tour they are constantly saying, "Meet at 5:30 for breakfast, meet back at the jeeps at 1:30, etc." I was always asking someone what time it was.

I also wish that I had brought warmer clothes. I didn't believe them when they said it was winter there  in June and cold. We were at a high elevation and I was much colder than I thought I would be.

Brad's doctor very wisely prescribed Diphen/Atrop (a generic of Lomotil) before we left. I had a very odd illness where waves of nausea would sweep over me and this stopped it within half a hour. It was a life saver for me.


Things I Never Want to Forget About Tanzania

Shanga--Kindness is a language which blind people see and deaf people hear.

Salum--Deo--Joseph, our fearless drivers

A bathroom is a choo. If you want to go, you need to visit The Happy Place. Men go out to "kick a bush" while drivers go out to "check the tire pressure." Once, we really had a flat tire!

The lodges were elegant and luxurious, with laundry service, beautiful swimming pools, wi-fi. We were escorted to and from our rooms by Maasi. At Tlomo Lodge they have an extensive organic vegetable garden and a coffee farm.

Getting an "African Massage" on the long, bumpy, dusty roads.

The average life expectancy is 54 years old.

"I had an farm in Africa"--Jane

The glass door to the bathroom in my mom and Ceil's room.

Baobab trees are "The Upside-down Tree" because their branches look like roots in the dry season.

The main crops are corn, sesame, sunflower, and cotton.

Baboons attacked Georgie 2, they wanted her food.

It was quite cold there, most of the time. It only sprinkled a bit.

Tanzanite is a rare gem of beautiful shades of blue and violet. It is only found in the foothills of Kilimanjaro.

Maasi can walk 20-30 miles a day. They aren't going anywhere, just walking.

The goat boys--4 or 5 years old--no defense against hyenas or lions, except a stick.

Male ostriches necks turn red when they are ready to mate. They share egg sitting duties, the brown female sits on them during the day, while the black males sit during the night.

Waiting in bed to hear "Jambo-Jambo" wake up call at 5:30AM, when they brought hot water for washing.

50% of Maasi are Christian and 50% are Muslim.

They really walk with amazing things piled on their heads.

Listening to the guides speaking Swahili over the radio and trying to guess what they are talking about.

Dik-dik are smaller and faster than you think.

Watching a bull elephant charge the vehicle that my mom was riding in.

Termite mounds are the same size under the ground as above. The queen can live for 80 years. They grow fungus for food.

A Maasi family lives in a boma, a small group of huts within a fenced area. The first and biggest hut is for the first wife. She chooses the second and subsequent wives. The man rotates through the wives' huts. The women do all the work. They are trying to eliminate female circumcision. The chief we visited had four wives and 24 children.

The government mandates that all children must go to school at age 7. They take a national exam at age 15. If they pass, they can continue their education. If not, they go to work for the family or go to a trade school.

The Maasi believe that all the cattle in the world were given to them by God. Every once in awhile they go out to collect "their" cattle from other people.

A pretty girl can be worth 50 cattle dowry.

While visiting the Maasi, we did a wild dance that involved using your shoulders to make your collar bounce and jumping up and down. Then you sort of shimmy over to a person of the opposite sex and bump shoulders. This causes lots of blushing and laughing.

Four nights at a tent camp in the Serengeti. Brad and I could share one bucket of warm water for a shower. A toilet inside a wooden box. They move every 2-3 months for sanitary reasons. They are not allowed to grade the land, so all the beds are on a slant. The kitchen was surrounded by thorn branches to keep the hyenas out.

They burn the grasslands every year at this time to rejuvenate the nutrients in the grass. Also, they can flush out the poachers.

The Serengeti National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, funded to preserve the natural setting. They can never pave the roads. It cost us $1400 to get 3 Land Rovers, 17 guests, and 3 drivers into the park for 4 days.

Nothing will eat a dead hyena, except another hyena. A lion will kill a hyena to eliminate the competition, but they won't eat it.

"Prepare your machine." -- Deo (meaning "get your camera ready, there's something ahead").

There are 124 tribes in Tanzania. They each have their own mother language, which all the children learned. The government has deemed Swahili the national language, so they can communicate throughout the whole country. Every child learns Swahili in school. Then they learn English. Our drivers could also speak Spanish, French and Italian. They are encouraged to marry outside of their own tribe, so at home they speak Swahili and their children's first language is Swahili, not a mother language.

Improved Bull Washing Bar (????)

Hillary Clinton Shop

Promised....not guaranteed.

Elephants eat up to 500 lbs a day.

Honey badgers smell bad! The work in tandem with a Honey Guide bird, which lead them to the bees' nest. The badger sprays the nest and kills the bees and the badger and the bird share the honey.

Thompson Gazelles are abundant. They are called "The Flower of the Serengeti."

"I saw that gazelle yesterday."--Bobbie

We were in the middle of a mini zebra stampede.

We also visited the Iraqw tribe. They are farmers, but in the dry season, they make bricks. Each family is responsible for making its own bricks. They only have one wife and they don't have divorce. They sang a traditional song for us and fed us corn on the cob.

We saw a lioness attacking a hippo. That hippo ran fast! The lioness gave up, so we didn't see a kill. We also watched a cheetah chasing a gazelle, but it didn't catch that either. There was a zebra stuck in the mud. It was still struggling but the guides said that he wouldn't make it. If a crocodile didn't eat him, a hyena surely would.

The open air market was a fascinating experience. They were butchering cows, cooking on open fires, selling all kinds of fruits, vegetables, sardines. A cow sells for about $300 and a goat about $50.

Final count:
Cerval cats--2
Varieties of Birds--over 50
zebra, wildebeest, cape buffalo, gazelle, elephant--endless
Flat Tires--3


Some Things I Learned in Amsterdam

On the way to Tanzania, we stopped in Amsterdam for two nights. I wanted to show Brad this city that I loved so much the last time I was there. It was well worth it to rest up and wander the city. We did the guide-led walking tour and learned so much that I didn't know. A short list:

Bicycles rule here--There are 800,000 residents and 860,000 bikes. Every year between 12,000 to 15,000 bikes are removed from the canals. The saying goes, "Hear a bell, run like HELL." Pedestrians better stay out of their path.

The wonky houses lean forward on purpose, to make hauling their goods to the attic easier with a rope and the hook at the roof line. They also lean sideways, but not on purpose. They were built on wooden piling several hundred years ago so it is rotting and giving way.

Waffelstoopen are wonderful waffle-shaped cookies with caramel inside. I wish I would have known that earlier.

There is a "Cannabis College" to educate people on the uses and growing techniques of marijuana.

In the red light district, there are "safe child" signs, with hours that you can bring your children. There is an 84 year old sex worker still active. She has a two week waiting list!