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July 2006

July 29, 2006

wcb: adorable kitten needs home

Clare and Kiri from eat stuff organize weekend cat blogging to provide us with an excuse to bring on the cute...and we're all happy to oblige...

little Grayling in a little box

Take us in, we have rode the Orphan Train
Take us in, we need a home, we need a name
Take us in, oh won't you be our kin
We are looking for someone to take us in

              from Orphan Train (Utah Phillips)

Poor little grayling! He's all packed up and ready to be sent out on his own. Not exactly an orphan, and I doubt it will involve trains, but he is looking for someone to take him in. (Either that or we will, as we've been joking, end up with five kittens!)

Did you know that there were actual orphan trains in the United States?

Started by the Children's Aid Society of New York after the civil war, the orphan trains relocated somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 children from the east coast to parts further west. (Like in times of war, exact numbers are hard to come by, as I was typing this, someoneElse asked, "Isn't it closer to 350,000?") Unlike the cities of the eastern US, the west had the space for more children and they were wanted by many families, even if only to work as farm hands.

While a lot of these children were, in fact, orphans this was not the case for all of the children; a number of them came from families who simply couldn't afford to care for them or had parents that were deemed "unfit." Siblings were often separated, never to see each other again. The trains operated from the 1850s to the 1930s, paralleling the expansion of the railroad tracks, stopping at each town on the westward journey, described here by Utah Phillips:

The farmers and their families they came from miles around
We lined up on the platform of the station in each town
And one by one we parted like some living lost-and-found
And one by one we all were taken in

In any case, many of the orphan train children were destined not for adoption but for indenture. Yes, you read that right: indenture.

For a country just ending slavery yet needing to fuel a massive westward expansion, the attitude — and legal reality —  that children were property made them a handy source of unpaid labor. Children of the orphan trains often discovered that they weren't legally part of what was sometimes the only family they had ever known at the death of a parent, when they discovered they were cut out of inheriting a portion of the farm they worked as a child. (since I learned this, the verse above evokes a slave auction...)

Other bits of the Orphan Train history shed light on some of the more shameful and tragic aspects of the program: children as young as five being arrested and thrown in with adult prisoners before being sent west; beggar children, referred to as "street Arabs" or "city Arabs" were sent west to "good Christian families"; reports of some girls ending up as child brides, sometimes to much older men.

I find it fascinating that so few people know of the Orphan Trains — even though admittedly I first heard of them maybe a decade ago when someone played the song at a "hoot" — since it seems like something we should have been taught in school. Perhaps it's just one of those oh so awkward moments in history that we'd rather just forget about.

Maybe the Internet will help change that: The Orphan Train Riders have a site, PBS did an American Experience on the topic, a museum (The National Orphan Train Complex)  opened recently, and there's even an Orphan Train movie. (which reinforces my point, the only comment includes "...I didn't know...these orphan trains were something that really happened.") The last of the Orphan Train riders are getting well along in years, if we don't hear their stories now, it may well be too late.

July 24, 2006

Dish up literacy!

Remember the old line: Reading is fundamental? Seems that the idea of literacy as a foundation for life in a post-industrial society has been losing ground since they (whoever "they" are) decided that kids need Ritalin and Game Boys rather than books, so I really have to applaud any group that's still working on literacy as if it mattered.

As you might imagine, I was delighted to hear about Dish Up Literacy, a project of Page Ahead, a children's literacy group in Seattle, which offers one of the most pleasant ways of giving to a good cause: go out for a meal. Food+books, what could be better?

On August 3rd, a range of restaurants in six Washington counties, all corporate-owned Denny's in Washington will donate a portion of their sales to Page Ahead, which will distribute books to school-age children with the proceeds. You can choose anything from a nice dinner to a quick lunch, or maybe both!

Unfortunately for me, no restaurants down my way are participating, so I am counting on my readers in the state to go out to dinner for me. Call it a favor to me if you need the excuse. Your assignment: eat at a participating restaurant on August 3, 2006. Tough job, I know, but I think you can handle it.

July 22, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging: Vanilla

Weekend Herb Blogging is Kalyn's weekly venture into the land of herbs and always offers a collection of international food writers weighing in with delightful ideas for using the goodness that is fresh herbs. This week's edition of Weekend Herb Blogging is being guest-hosted at The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz, where Paz kicks it off in style with a Chickpea Feta Coriander Salad from Falling Cloudberries.

Vanillaoffering_1 Vanilla. Plain old vanilla. People say it like it's a bad thing, a word that's meant to conjure a flavor barely worthy of mention. Bland. Boring. Vanilla.  Pat Boone has described hiimself as a "vanilla sounding artist." Bland. Boring. White bread. Heck, if white bread had a flavor besides white it would be vanilla. There's vanilla computer configurations, which are boring and basic, there's even vanilla sex. Well, I guess that last is not so far off; the very word vanilla is derived from the Latin for vagina. (file under: odd facts I learned today)

Our last house was painted a warm off-cream color called Pudding, the vanilla pudding was implied, but it was clearly the intent of the name. It was a color you would be happy to see in a vanilla custard; opaquely thick, barely off-white with the merest hint of color from beaten in egg yolks. It wasn't chocolate pudding, or butterscotch, or even banana. Had the paint manufacturer been smarter, they would have been direct and called it Vanilla — which is ever so much lusher than "pudding" and probably worth an extra buck a gallon.

Anyone with a wee bit of search skills can turn up some "vanilla" things that are anything but bland, boring, vanilla. Case in point: The Vanilla Tapes. Not exactly bland and boring. Neither is real vanilla.

Continue reading "Weekend Herb Blogging: Vanilla" »

July 16, 2006

wcb: toddler kittens

Clare and Kiri from eat stuff organize weekend cat blogging to provide us with an excuse to bring on the cute...and we're all happy to oblige...

People talk about dog years, but what about cat years. I'm not sure how long a cat year is, but I can tell you one thing: six week old kittens are the same as human toddlers, about 18-20 months old, if my memory of the theKid is right. Everything fragile that I care about is packed (or sitting on a tabletop, well, mostly sitting on a tabletop), the house is thrashed, kitty detrius is strewn down the hallway, and a few times an hour I hear the thump of a head hitting hardwood and wince, waiting for the following whine.

Personalities are emerging, to the extent that we can guess which kitten is connected to which noise, and, more often than not, why. If there's a sudden lonely cry, it means T3 just realized she's all by herself and wants attention. A pained yowl means theFluffling has forgotten the size difference between himself and the "three babies"...again. (resulting in an introduction to gravity — wherein he is gently dangled upside down for 15 seconds while being talked to in theBadVoice — then someoneElse holds fruffleFace in his lap, while tenderly stroking the his face and saying, "you have to be gentle with the babies" repeatedly while I dissolve in laughter.)


Then there are days like today. I sat down on the floor with a camera while the kittens romped on a sunlit patch of floor. Adorable kittens playing in gorgeous natural lighting and space for about 170 pictures on my CF card, what could go wrong...go wrong...go wrong.

Perhaps there will be more pictures this week. Perhaps not. Perhaps if there are more, they will be of kittens that are in playing in natural light rather than kittens who are climbing on me in natural shadow. Perhaps not.

July 14, 2006

just in time for bbq season

Let's call this Friday night fun after a day on which I took 300 photos of kittens to get a decent one for weekend cat blogging and got about four that aren't simply the blur of six week old kittens. But that's not why we're here. We're here because it's summer and you need this anatomically correct (and not work friendly) bbq tool. I'm only surprised McAuliflower didn't find it first.

July 11, 2006

awesomeGrrl bakes Pie Cookies with Aunt Marcella


Contrary to what the corporate media would have you think, not all kids grow up without a clue about cooking, some even get lots of hands-on time early on. I was one of those lucky ones, as is the monstrrr in these pictures. Let's call her awesomeGrrl, because she is awesome (the kid speaks three languages already...oh, and American Sign Language...geez!) and she's learning all about being an awesome cook and baker from a very young age. She makes a mean salad, is learning how to bake and has even had "Baker Ben" visit from England to teach her about bread baking. And she's not even three yet!

(Did I mention that one of those languages is Mandarin Chinese? I suppose that's not so intimidating to some of you, but I am amazed by her language skills. One day recently, when she was not quite 2.5 years old, I asked her to count to ten in Mandarin. She hopped from foot to foot while saying words in Chinese in a sing-song voice. I sat in rapt attention, hoping to catch a single word well enough to repeat it back — and not liking my chances —  as she pranced around the room counting. After a minute, her mom burst into laughter and said, "Those aren't numbers, she's just messing with you!" Oh my, such sarcasm at two and a half, awesomeGrrl's going to be fun as she grows up. )

Piecookies1 awesomeGrrl's Aunt Marcella came to visit recently and they baked Marcella's Pie Cookies. These cookies are the cupcake of pies: tender sour cream pastry and a rich date filling shaped into tiny little puffed flowers. In the family since the turn of the last century, the recipe for these cookies was passed to Marcella when she was about nine years old, which would have been quite a few years ago, since Marcella celebrated her 80th birthday a while back by throwing herself out of a perfectly good airplane, but that's another story. As you might guess, Marcella is a bit of an awesomeGrrl herself; more than a few of women in the family point to her as who they want to be like when they are 80.

Continue reading "awesomeGrrl bakes Pie Cookies with Aunt Marcella" »

July 08, 2006

wcb: four kittens and the outside adventure

Clare and Kiri from eat stuff organize weekend cat blogging to provide us with an excuse to bring on the cute...and we're all happy to oblige...

t3basket This week starts with a basket of cute. Three tiny (well, not quite so tiny any more) kittens stuffed in a basket that's barely large enough for two. This may be why you can only see two of them, the third is being squished — rather like a bug  — underneath these two.

That bright little face, btw, belongs to T3 who is one of the two kittens available for adoption. How could you not love that little face? And if you're a real softie, her grandmother Tux is also available. She's a real sweetie too.

Anyway, it's a good thing that they all got some rest too because the next thing on the big kitten agenda was outside! While the fruffleThing used to be an outside kitten before she came to us — mom was a stray who moved in at my friend's bed and breakfast — the other three had no clue. 

Continue reading "wcb: four kittens and the outside adventure " »

July 07, 2006

But enough about food, let's talk about you

Swiping a meme here and warping it. I've seen it at a variety of places, seems all the popular kids are doing it, or will be soon. It's sort of an instantTag meme, since I get to ask the questions and you get to answer them in comments. This will either be enlightening as I discover more about you all or embarassing as I discover how few people read this thing...or both.

I'm not much for forced, or even peer-pressured, disclosure of personal data so I had to come up with a set of questions that I'd be comfortable answering. Seems only fair. Accordingly, I've collected a variety of versions from Sarah, Jen, Nanners, and Ali, picked some I liked and added some of my own. So here are my questions for you:

What's the smallest town you've ever lived in? (Give me a feel for it if you can; evenTinierTown is sooooo tiny that it impacts daily life in a lot of interesting and unexpected ways that are perhaps unique to tiny towns.)

Are there dishes you want to make but don't because they intimidate you somehow?

What is your proudest kitchen accomplishment?

Bread or chocolate?

If you could ask me to make any one food and blog about it, what would it be?

(...and the seemingly obligatory musical question)
Who is your favorite undiscovered singer/group? (Mine is someoneElse, who plays amazing guitar and has a couple of songs here... who knows, maybe someone will see this and discover him...)

So, who's first?

July 05, 2006

New blogger in the 'hood

When you live in a place like evenTinierTown, you get used to being the only person around doing a particular thing. After all, if there are only 200 people in town, there are only going to be a few folk who bake bread, for example, or have blogs. Very few.

So you might imagine my delight at discovering a new food blog that is, if not in evenTinierTown, just upriver a bit. In a town that's close enough that she might even have heard of evenTinierTown. Now to get to her quickly and swear her to's not like the identity of the place is secret, it's more Voldemort (Where-That-Will-Not-Be-Named) than CIA (If I tell you, I have to kill you).

Experimentation Of Taste is chrispy's space to explore what to do with the bounty from her CSA. So far, she's explored chard and kale (neither of which I've seen in my CSA box, are we on different growing seasons?) Plus, she seems to have a turtle. Pretty cool.

July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day to the US

4thjulymarshmallow012 Marshmallow, meet the first amendment. First amendment, meet a marshmallow (homemade  raspberry marshmallows with a layer of bittersweet chocolate in the middle, to be precise).

That thing in the background, btw, is my old military insignia, from when I swore to protect and defend the Constitution (of which the 1st amendment is perhaps my favorite part) from all enemies foreign and domestic.  Nobody said a thing about protecting flags from flames and graham crackers.

Don't blame me, she started it!

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