Tuesday, July 7, 2015

50 Shades of Green

Seattle Summers, there is no more magnificent place to be. Sunshine drying out the rain that  has been falling for the last nine months and perfect temperatures that range from 70 to 85 in the heat of the day. The sky is brilliant blue with the occasional white fluffy cloud that looks like a giant popcorn kernel and there is a light breeze keeping the air fresh and clean. Looking south east over the Puget Sound you can clearly see Mt. Rainier in the distance sparkling in the sunshine like a giant pointed ice cube. Everywhere you look is greenery. My friend Connie on her last visit stated that she had never seen so many colors of green.
The neighbors have ended their winter hibernation and are out walking around town. The lawnmower army is marching around every lawn on the street and all is good with the world once again. Here in Burien, about ten minutes south of Seattle it is now the most bustling time of the year. Activities abound all over this quaint small town that features a glorious Puget Sound shoreline and the quiet pleasures of small town living. Summer brings about all kinds of activities to enjoy in the great weather, from outdoor concerts and festivals to the annual Fathers Day Car Show that takes over the entire downtown area.
My personal favorite summer event is the weekly farmers markets. When you think of Seattle, the Pike Public Market is one of the first things that visitors want to see. It is spectacular and the seafood and produce are unmatched anywhere. All of the very top restaurants in the area shop the market daily.And it is the only place that I have ever found fresh monkfish.  The entertainment value of the fish mongers tossing the giant salmons and the street entertainers make it a very full day to stroll through the market area. And of course the original location of a mega giant coffee chain that will remain un-named is right outside of the market.
That takes care of the tourist experience. For everyday living there is no match for the local weekly farmers markets. Every corner of the metro Seattle area has one. In Burien, Thursday is our day. From 11AM until 6PM the Town Square Park is filled with all sorts of vendors and treats. The array of organic and pesticide free fruits and vegetables is amazing. Peaches that are so sweet and juicy that they drip down your arm as you try to eat them, crisp Washington apples of a million varieties and every sort of vegetable that you can think of and some that are new and surprising. Like my new favorite, Kohlrabi.
You will also find an array of flower vendors. Forget about the flimsy bunches of flowers that you find at your grocery store. For five or ten dollars you can get a huge bouquet of just cut flowers of some very unique varieties. I especially enjoy the few weeks that the peonies are in bloom. I had never seen such large and beautiful bouquets as you will find in Seattle at the farmers markets!
One of my must haves from the Burien weekly market is the marinades and Balsamic Vinegar from one of the vendors. A company called OMG sells a barrel aged balsamic that is the best I've ever had. Grouped with the fresh tomatoes, basil and some fresh buffalo mozzarella, you end up with a Caprese Salad to die for.
Down the road in idyllic seaside Des Moines (Washington, not Iowa) in a park right at the marina is their weekly market held on Saturdays. It's not only a huge market complete with food trucks and entertainment, but a beautiful setting as well. As you stroll along the boardwalk and gather your produce and all other sorts of merchandise including a wine tasting booth with the sea breeze to cool you off, you'll find a nice place to sit and watch the weekly entertainment and see the yachts come in and out of the harbor. It's a fantastic way to spend a Saturday.
Cherries and more cherries!
These bouquets were $5.00 each
Lots of yummy eats and treats
You can get more information on the neighborhood markets at www.seattlefarmersmarket.org

Monday, July 6, 2015

Small Town Fourth of July

There is nothing like the Independence Day celebrations in a small town. From community picnics in the town square and baseball games down at the ball field, small town America really steps out on the 4th. Houses strung with bunting and flags waving in the breeze, it's a sight to see. Here in my town of Burien, Washington we take the holiday very seriously. In the Three Tree Point neighborhood, they get started early with a community pancake breakfast and a flag raising ceremony near the beach. The neighborhood celebrates the Fourth with a fun, kid-friendly parade featuring funky homemade floats and stars-and-stripes costumery. The kids decorate their bikes and scooters and lead a parade down the beach road.  We opted to stroll into town for the morning cycling races, the 40th Annual Joe Matava Memorial Classic takes over downtown Burien in the morning hours of the 4th. Since the streets are already blocked off for the big Independence Day Parade, it makes a great cycling course. The races speed along a flat four corner route that is about a mile long. The racing goes from about 7AM and ends just before the parade lines up at 3PM. When they get to the Pro Classes it gets very exciting to watch.
It was a glorious sunny day for a parade. A bit warm though for these parts, in the 90's towards the heat of the day but dry. We found an empty sidewalk table at a new in town restaurant the Kayak Bar and Grill and enjoyed an ice cold beer in the shade as the parade got going. Also a great vantage point to snap some photos. Our parade, like the ones going on in small towns all over the country consists of the high school marching band and the boy scout troop, the police and fire departments, clowns and politicians and to cap it off the Seafair Pirates to close the show. All in all it runs for about an hour and everyone in town has come to line the streets.
DSC00370 DSC00375 DSC00379DSC00363
Then it's back home for a little Bar-B-Que. A nice marinated London Broil with some potato salad and other side dishes and a cold beverage or two to enjoy the evening before the fireworks started. We have the perfect vantage point for that on our elevated back porch. Our closest fireworks exhibition was only about two blocks away in back of us at Lake Burien. No traffic to deal with and we could put our feet up and enjoy the show. A great day to celebrate the freedoms that usually get taken for granted the rest of the year. I hope your day was as great as ours!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"The United States is not a country, it's a business. So pay me!" Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly

The above quote is no more telling than in the recent vote in Washington State on Proposition 522. A measure that would require labeling on products that contain genetically modified ingredients (GMO's).  There was more money pumped into this issue than any in the states history, mostly in the against camp. 
gm dangers

Genetically engineered food crops have been around since the 1990s, and they took off rapidly across the United States. Now certain American crops are almost universally GMO: more than 90 percent of soy and sugar beets, and 88 percent of corn, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Modifications are done at the genetic level, often to make a crop resistant to a particular pest or herbicide. The FDA regularly approves new GMO plants—and soon, an animal: GMO salmon are on their way.

Franz Family Bakeries offers a "100% Natural, 100% Whole Grain" loaf of bread, touting its "premium Northwest grown & milled ingredients" and lack of high-fructose corn syrup. When asked  about GMOs in their bread, and they "do use cornmeal, soybean oil and canola oil in our products, and most of the corn, soybeans, and sources of canola oil are GMO, so most certainly these ingredients would be genetically modified."

A vast majority of the American public supports labeling foods with GMO ingredients. A 2010 NPR/Thomson Reuters poll found that 93 percent of Americans were on board. Worldwide, more than 60 countries already label foods with GMO ingredients, including members of the European Union, China, Japan, and India. A recent Seattle poll showed that 88 percent of those surveyed wanted to know if their food contained genetically modified ingredients. So it would seem that something as simple as labeling would be a slam dunk, right?  WRONG!  The measure did not pass.  And I for one am flabbergasted by the result of this vote.  I had faith in the State of Washington as a health conscience and progressive state.  Legalizing same sex marriage and recreational pot use as just an example.

So what happened to Prop 522?  That's the easiest part of this story, what happened was money.  The giant corporate farming money from companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical.  They poured tens of millions of dollars into advertising in the state of Washington, Record amounts of money warning us of the high prices of food on the horizon for us if we require GMO labeling. 

I have researched the top contributors to the No on 522 campaign and vow to withhold any future purchases from these companies. The first one hurts me and was one of the largest contributor, Pepsi Cola spent 1.6 million. It surprised me until I remembered that one of the chief ingredients in both Pepsi and Coke is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Remember that 88% of all corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Coca Cola is also on the list running a close second with over a million dollars in spending.

Nestle USA and Hershey have also given large amounts of money to defend their plantations of GMO Sugar Cane.

General Mills, the makers of cereals you may have even grown to love and trust, along with Kellogg Co. have donated more than three quarters of a million dollars together to try to defeat 522 under the ‘protection’ of the “Defense of Brands Strategic Account” fund set up by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Obviously the big players here are Conagra, Dow Chemical and Cargill the big corporate farmers. Monsanto spent over four million dollars to defeat Prop 522.  Conagra is the parent company of brands like Hunts, Banquet, Rotel, Davids Seeds, Slim Jim, Marie Callender, Healthy Choice, Reddi Whip, Chef Boyardee, Pam, La Choy, Egg Beaters, Orville Reddinbacher, Wolf Brand Chili and etc. Go to conagrafoods.com to see all of the brands that they have gobbled up and are infusing with genetically modified foods.

Cargill is a company that many of you will be dealing with soon and their biggest retail season as the parent of Honeysuckle White Turkeys and poultry products. But mostly they are a food ingredient supplier. From the feed for your livestock to the malt that goes into your beer. Every aspect of your diet has a genetically modified ingredient from Cargill.

And then there is Dow Chemical.  They put chemistry into your diet and frankly, after doing this research I don't think I can eat anything that is not a local produce or home grown for awhile. Some of their products include:
Methocel Food Gums- Help enhance the structure and texture of foods and beverages.
Amberlite and Dowex food grade ion exchange resins and adsorbants-Ion exchange resins and polymeric adsorbents for use in food processing including sweeteners, beverages, and nutritional products.
Fortefiber-Offers a simple, cost-effective and convenient way for people to increase their fiber intake.
And there are more frightening ingredients that they offer to chemically enhance our food supply.

Some of the other companies that have aligned their selves with this list : Bimbo Bakeries parent company to Orowheat, Sara Lee and Ballpark.
Land O'Lakes, Del Monte and Campbell Soup.

Their scare tactics have scared the people of Washington but I will fight them back with my wallet.  None of these companies will get a dime form me in the future.  And I encourage you to do the same until they agree to inform us as to what they are feeding us.

The most telling part of the election was on election night when the results came in. They showed the pro-522 camp with all of their supporters at election headquarters. Hundreds of people, disappointed with the results. Waving banners. The concession speech relaying the thought that if conversation started the loss was not in vain.

Cut away to the victory announcement at the anti-522 winning presser.  The spokeswoman at the podium in the usual hotel ballroom set aside for election night.  However there were no citizen supporters in the audience for her written and recited comments. I don't mean a sparse crowd. There was not one single person there! Nobody. It just put a spotlight on the fact that there were no citizen supporters of this campaign it was 100 percent corporate.  An entirely empty room with one woman giving victory remarks.

How did they scare the public? By telling us that labeling regulations would dramatically increase the price of our food. We were scared into submission and confused about the issue.

What difference does it make?
Chinese researcher shave found small pieces of rice ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to receptors in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood.
The type of RNA in question is called microRNA due to its small size. MiRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been implicated as players in several human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. They usually function by turning down or shutting down certain genes. The Chinese research provides the first in vivo example of ingested plant miRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function in this way.

This study had nothing to do with genetically modified (GM) food, but it could have implications on that front. The work shows a pathway by which new food products, such as GM foods, could influence human health in previously unanticipated ways.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine does not think that GMO's are safe.
" Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods.

So the bottom line is, if this issue comes up on your ballot, do you want to know what you're eating?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

This Is Not a Tourist Event by Jen Graves

This Is Not a Tourist Event by Jen Graves is one of the best articles that I have read on the Canoe Journeys.  Instead of writing about this years event, I would like to share her article with you as I couldn't come close to the insight that she has given to this wonderful cultural journey undertaken each year by the Native American peoples of the Pacific Northwest.  The article was originally published in the Stranger.

This Is Not a Tourist Event

Ten Thousand People, a Dangerous Canoe Journey, and the Spectacular Endurance of the Tribes the American Government Has Tried to Kill

This Is Not a Tourist Event
Photos by Matika Wilbur
TRIBAL CANOE JOURNEY The Salish Sea is not for amateurs.

DANCING, DRUMMING, STORYTELLING The tent is large enough to house a football field.
"Seattle—I always say it's the epicenter of the Indian movement right now," says Caleb Dunlap. "I can't remember where I heard that. Maybe it was just inside of me. But it said, 'Go to Seattle if you want to be part of change in what we call Indian Country.'"
It's Friday, August 2, 2013, and Dunlap is sitting on the bumper of a red pickup truck parked on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He's Ojibwe, of the Minnesota Chippewa, but today he's in Quinault country, in the town of Taholah in Grays County, 150 miles west of Seattle. He moved to Seattle last year from Los Angeles, and he manages the programs at the Chief Seattle Club downtown. Dunlap dresses preppy. He wears stylish eyeglasses. He's queer and out. All these same traits apply to his twin brother—they jokingly refer to themselves as the Nerdy Natives. They're two of the thousands of people who have pitched tents on this cliff and in these forests for the first week of August. All these people are here to celebrate the endurance of the tribes the American government has tried to kill.

         "The change," Caleb explains, "is to acknowledge that we are a people still."
I've come not knowing what I'm getting into. I'm ostensibly following Matika Wilbur, an artist of Swinomish and Tulalip descent who has shown at Seattle Art Museum, among other places. She recently gave a TEDx talk about her crowdfunded Project 562: her solo journey visiting and photographing all of the 562 federally recognized tribes in the United States. This has included, among many other adventures into Native America, a trip by Natives-only helicopter to visit the Havasupai on a remote outcropping in the Grand Canyon. (Tourists are forbidden to take photographs of the Havasupai people.) Wilbur deserves, and will soon get, her own story in this newspaper. But through her, I witnessed an entire world that rises up every summer in the form of the Tribal Canoe Journey. If you are not Native, this display is not for you. This is not a tourist event. But if you are a respectful guest, you'll be honored and welcomed no matter who you are—even if you have no idea what you're about to see.
This is the biggest event of the local Native year. If you had visited every reservation between Vancouver Island and Olympia during the first week of August, you'd basically have found them empty: Folks were in Quinault. Each year, a different tribe hosts the journey. And each year, the journey—a variant on ancient traditions, revived in 1989—grows bigger. This year, there were nearly 100 canoes pulled by representatives from more than 75 tribes. Almost all the tribes are from the Salish Sea, but some came from as far away as Hawaii, New Zealand, and New York. An estimated 10,000 people celebrated.
Golf carts and shuttle school buses ran up and down between the coast towns of Ocean Shores and Moclips and Seabrook to bring guests. The gas station in Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen was so unprepared for the onslaught of travelers that by Friday night, when the celebration wasn't even halfway through, the regular-grade gas had already run out. You had to buy premium if you wanted gas. Likewise, the staff of the little visitors' center for the Olympic National Forest in the town of Quinault—which is not, incidentally, where the reservation is located—was bewildered. "People just keep asking me where the canoe journey is, and I don't really know," says the older white woman working the desk. "I think it's in Taholah. At least that's what I heard, and I keep sending people there, and nobody's coming back."
I arrive on the Thursday afternoon the canoes are scheduled to land. They were supposed to come in at 11 a.m., but the waters were so choppy that they were turned away, some capsizing. It's a dangerous journey. The Salish Sea is not for amateurs. In 2006, a hereditary chief of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht tribe of Vancouver Island drowned and three people had to be hurried to the hospital when their canoe capsized in a storm west of Dungeness Spit during the journey. "Look at each leg of the journey as a journey in itself," warned this year's tip sheet for canoe families, as the teams are called. It's easy to get thirsty, sunburned, hungry, cold, and separated from your support boat. "A good rule to follow is to plan on being out 18 hours with only what you carry."
The canoe landing at Quinault could not have been more gorgeous. "Just look at our rez," a Quinault spokesman says. The beach is a long curve of stark, fog-coated shore shielded entirely by the high cliffs topped by green forest. Out among the breaking waves, monumental rocks hold their ground. The water stretches to the horizon line. Nothing besides nature is visible—usually. This is private land. No one is allowed here without express permission from the Quinault. On this particular Thursday, though, there's a crush of car and foot traffic on the beach.
Sometime in the late afternoon, the canoes begin coming in off the open water, escorted by two big old European-based ships meant to signify cooperation. Each canoe emerges from the fog like a spaceship reentering the atmosphere, passes by the tall ships, and approaches the beach, where a row of young female dancers wearing red and black regalia prepares the way. The travelers stop before they get to shore. One representative comes onto the beach to request permission to come ashore. Over a booming loudspeaker that sends the words all the way up into the trees on the cliffs, the words of response are given: "Welcome ashore. Welcome to the Great Quinault Nation." At this, the rest of the team steps out of the wooden canoe as one synchronized force. They bend down, hoist the canoe over their heads, and walk onto the land.
This is their final destination, and here they'll celebrate for five days straight, all through the nights and days, with breaks only for breakfasts and dinners provided by the Quinault. Lunches will be delivered in brown bags handed out to the assembled crowd inside the performance, or "protocol," tent, and all the elders will receive their lunch bags before anyone else is offered anything. Throughout the ceremonies, Wilbur will continuously ask her mother, her aunties, and any other women and men older than her whether they want a blanket, or some water, or a meal. Respect for elders happens simply and ubiquitously here.
"Protocol isn't going to start tonight," somebody says, and everybody begins passing around the word. Because the canoes had to arrive late, protocol will start Friday morning, after everyone has had one good night of rest. When Friday morning comes, hundreds and hundreds of people file into the white tent that's large enough to house a football field, and the dancing, drumming, singing, and storytelling begin. This tent is situated right next to another identical tent with endless rows inside it of white-plastic-covered tables for eating—hot breakfasts with eggs and fruit and breads, and feast dinners with crab and chicken and ribs and corn on the cob. These meals are free of charge for every comer.
I cannot pretend to have understood what I witnessed in those hours and hours of singing, dancing, and drumming. I was invited to dance by an old woman in a long braid and dress who grabbed my hand and held me through the whole dance. The elders sitting on the floor closest to the stage area shared stories with me that are sacred in their horror: of Joe Washington, a Lummi boy who was sent to a white boarding school and forbidden to speak Salish but who couldn't speak anything else. He was punished for his muteness by having his tongue pressed to a frozen pole and the flesh of it torn off, and then he was sent home anyway. He stopped speaking at all for years. "So when they say, 'Oh, you don't speak your language?' I go, 'No, my grandmother was too afraid to teach it to her son that he would be punished, so excuse me that I don't speak my language.'"
That's the voice of Nancy Wilbur, Matika's mother, whose life is a book waiting to be written. She marched as part of the American Indian Movement (one of the founder's teenage sons is here, sitting next to her), and she participated in the successful occupation of Discovery Park in Seattle in 1970. She was a Native history and culture college professor, then a lobbyist in Olympia. Her tribe, Swinomish, is 800 or 900 people today, on a reservation of five by seven miles in the Skagit Valley. She remembers a sign on a tavern in La Conner: "No dogs or Indians allowed."
The elders on the sidelines gave gifts freely. After I accidentally insulted another of Matika's relatives, Heather Gobin, by sitting down on a hand-woven cedar headpiece that she'd made and that I didn't see there, a few hours later she handed me a cedar rose. She'd woven it by hand; she is known as a master weaver. Her son, who couldn't have been more than 15 years old, was sitting behind us. He tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a tiny, perfect version of the same rose that he'd twisted together in his lap. He hadn't said anything to me up until then, but he witnessed the whole thing. When his mother was leaning away, he said to me, "Hold on to these as long as you can. They are special."
Down on the beach, the tide comes up so high that it's a gamble to car-camp even right up against the cliff, so when night falls, I find myself running across the beach in driving rain to rescue my minivan before it washes away. As I'm running, I have a mental picture of the van riding out into the water, this dumb-looking machine bobbing off, taking some of the unwanted conditions of my life with it. I think of another vessel, too: the Spanish boat that arrived here in 1775, carrying the first documented foreigners into what was later called Washington State. Rather than lose the van, I move it up to the cliff and sleep in it that night, and in the morning I return to the beach on foot. The Quinault allow me to dunk my naked self into this 50-degree water for as long as I can stand, which is not very long at all, and then I drive the van back to Seattle. recommended

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Congratulations Mrs. and Mrs. W!!!

I am so happy to celebrate the marriage of a very dear friend who I will call Mrs TW. Married recently at the San Diego Pride Festival. In the midst of the mayhem and carnival atmosphere that the Pride Festival brings with it, was a solemn and important ceremony that would finally make this loving and committed couple a real family in the eyes of the state of California and the Federal Government. Mrs. TW and her new wife Mrs. LW have been together for seven years and have a beautiful daughter together. I have known Mrs TW for many years and am pleased to say that she was a part of my own wedding ceremony and it thrills me completely that she has been able to consecrate her own relationship in the state of California. My most heartfelt congratulation T and L!

Thanks to the Supreme Court rulings of the recent past, now all loving families in California can experience the security and joy of marriage.  Not only does marriage give a family legal and financial security, but it also endows an emotional security that unmarried couples do not have. I lived with my husband for a number of years before we were married and although we have always had a strong bond and loving relationship, my feelings since we tied the knot are a much deeper and secure kind of love.  I feel a much greater peace in my heart now and am glad that my dear friends can now experience that peace as well.

Many naysayers claim that same sex marriage devalues the institution of traditional marriage. I for one think that is brainwashing BS and think that the opposite is true.  I know of many heterosexual married folks that do not respect the bonds and vows of marriage and their behavior and attitudes do not impact my marriage one bit. Other than to feel a sadness that they don't enjoy what I have, a lifelong love and commitment.  Then there are the celebrities that get married and divorced at the drop of a hat.  Todays hetero society views marriage as a more formal way to go steady for a little while and then break up and split up the assets. 

My LGBT friends on the other hand have fought long and hard for this basic human right and don't take marriage lightly. These families have a deep commitment to each other and their families that I truly admire.  Does it lessen my relationship?  On the contrary, seeing such loving families being made whole under the laws of the land strengthens my views of "traditional marriage".  Having this beautiful little girl grow up knowing the security of a whole family is a beautiful thing.  She now has the legal protection of her parents marriage and the emotional well being of legitimacy of family. I couldn't be happier for her and her Mommys. I hope that all of my loved ones in different states will get to know that same security in the near future!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Life in a Small Town

We have the best of both worlds here in B-Town. Only ten minutes from downtown Seattle, yet a world away.  Nestled on the shores of Puget Sound you will find Burien.  With its quaint main street and shopping area, it is like stepping into the past. We happen to live in Olde Burien, just a half block away from the popular eateries and pubs that line 152nd Street.

Summertime is by far the best time of year for small town living.  Especially in the cold and drizzly Pacific Northwest.  There are festivals and street fairs. The weekly farmers markets. And just about everyone is out walking and enjoying the sunshine. Trying to store up on vitamin D before the rain and gray come back in the fall. Not too many weeks ago we had our annual Wild Strawberry Festival and the Fathers Day car show in Downtown B-Town.  It includes a carnival and bazaar, live entertainment and events up and down the street.


Street Blocked off for the day

Git Hoan Native Dancers

Today is the Fourth of July and that means that B-Town is alive.  The most exciting day of the year in Burien, we have a full day of festivities on the slate. And although I miss living on Three Tree Point and the festivities we enjoyed there on the Fourth, the town is jammed packed with action on the holiday. The streets are blocked off starting at 6AM for a morning full of cycling races.  Then at 3PM it is time for the big 4th of July Parade through downtown Burien.  What a fun day to walk around town and enjoy the sunshine. We took Charlie out with us on the first stroll we took around town to see the races. And we made a trip through the weekly Farmers market, it's shaping up to be a glorious day!

Then it was back home for some brunch before we headed out for the afternoons festivities. Our plan was to stroll long the parade route in the opposite direction of the parade, stopping in for a cold beverage at the establishments along the way. Well that turned into a daylong pub crawl through every dive bar in Burien. I will give my reviews of the respective establishments in another blog post. We did happen to see the parade however in between beers from one place to the next.

The street was crowded with folks waiting for the big Parade!