Monday, June 28, 2010

Looking for Organic Beets

Today Dave and I went looking for organic beets. Sometimes I feel like I’m the “hunter/gatherer” in my quest to find healthful food for our family.

We are committed to eating as organically as possible and to that end try to buy from local farmers and organic stores and even have organic produce and dairy delivered to our home in Gig Harbor. We seldom/never shop at Whole Foods because of the attitude of CEO John Mackey who came out against health care reform. Yes, eating healthful food can help you stay healthy, but people get sick even if they exercise and eat right. My sister-in-law died young of pancreatic cancer despite years of eating organic and exercising. A coworker has been organic forever and a day and within weeks of retirement was diagnosed with breast cancer, so it happens. Mackey thinks were stupid if he thinks shopping at Whole Foods is better than health care reform.

On the Long Beach Peninsula, where our “someday retirement” home is, finding organic food is more problematic than at home in Pierce County. Still, it is possible. Today we set out and started with Green Angel Organic Farm on the back road. They sell to the little organic market in Long Beach, but I like to cut out the middle man if I can. We wanted beets, but got skunked and settled for summer squash instead. Next stop was the Organic Market where we found potatoes and hotdog buns.
Seeing how the mist seemed to have settled in hard enough to discourage yard work we decided to sneak over the bridge to Astoria and see the new digs for the Astoria Co-op Community Store. I liked their funky old store located in one of Astoria’s aged downtown buildings. Their new place is nice, slightly bigger and they have an eating area they didn’t have before. They don’t have a deli like Marlene’s in Tacoma, but they do have some packaged salads that can be purchased and consumed on site. During the 1970s my first husband and I joined a co-op that grew out of a play group our children participated in. We didn't have a store front, but took turns going to Seattle to the industrial area to pick up large quanities of food stuffs the members wanted, then took it back to Kirkland where we lived to be divided into orders for members. Getting healthful food without breaking the pocketbook has always been a problem. The agribusiness likes it that way. Thank goodness that there are getting to be more and more organic store fronts and that mainstream markets are carrying more and more organic products!

Because I have a guest coming early Wednesday morning for tea while her husband is down the road at physical therapy, I wanted scones to serve with the tea and so we stopped by The Blue Scorcher Organic Bakery where I bought hamburger buns, but no scones. I finally resorted to buying a scone mix and will brave my screwy oven that seems to run hotter all the time. Fingers crossed that I don’t scorch the scones!

A New Teacher Launches

One of the nice things about having a blog is sharing other interesting blogs. Recently I was turned onto the blog of a young woman who is just starting out in life and teaching for the first time. Sadie Newell is the daughter of a friend from my days as a Special Education paraeducator at Ocean Park Elementary School on the Long Beach Peninsula. Sadie was a toddler in those days. It is hard to believe that she’s all grown up.

Following graduation from the University of Washington Sadie was one of 8,000 accepted applicants, from 46,000 for the Teach For America program and will be spending two years in Tulsa, Oklahoma far from the beach community where she grew up or the Puget Sound Area where she attended college. Along the way she is doing training and teaching summer school to low income students in Phoenix, AZ. She’s keeping a blog that I’m sharing. What a wonderful thing this bright young woman is doing. Check out her blog and maybe drop a note of encouragement or teaching tip.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two Very Different Stories of Family


My Uncle Dick always said that the Ozark Mountains are the oldest mountains on Earth. The Internet says that geologists don’t know for sure, but nominate the Appalachians and Urals as possible candidates. I was never of a mind to argue with Uncle Dick. Besides, the Ozarks feel ancient—primordial. Human beings may have come out of Africa, but the Earth came out of the Ozarks. You can feel it.

Although I have never lived there I am of the Ozarks. Our people have been there since well before the Civil War. I study the Ozarks like it was a foreign country because for someone raised in the Pacific Northwest it is foreign. The food is different, the notion of time is different, the language is different. When I come upon something having to do with the Ozarks, specifically the Missouri Ozarks, I sit up and take notice. That’s why my summer reads have been Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell and The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. Both of these books are set in my father’s beloved Ozarks and are very, very, different books. I believe they show two different aspects of life in the Ozarks. Both authors were born and raised in the Ozarks, separated by 40 years. Both novels are about family and loyalty and tradition. These families face different challenges that they handle differently, but in the end it is that “blood is thicker than water” belief that draws them together.

The Moonflower Vine is a re-release of a novel first published in 1962, again in 1990 (don’t know how that slipped by me) and again in 2009. Set in the 1950s, it is the story of a family and their lives outside Renfo, MO. The adult daughters come home together in the summers although they are scattered as far as New York. The Ozarks call them back, not unlike they called my family back over and over. It’s a family you wouldn’t mind visiting, sitting on the porch and watching the moon flowers bloom. It has the heat and humidity of summers back there—those days that are two shower days, although the Soames don’t have indoor plumbing and in the summer bathe in the creek. By the 1950s my grandparents were living in Washington State, but the Soames are a family not unlike the Friezes—especially those relatives who remained there. Although Renfro is in Moniteau County, reading the Moonflower Vine is like a step back in time and south to Dade County. Jetta Carleton was born in Holden, Missouri, not far from Renfro.

Winter’s Bone is a contemporary novel about a family with problems that many Americans may believe are the province of big cities. In Woodrell’s Ozarks methamphetamine has replaced moonshine and fifteen year old Ree Dolly’s daddy is a crank cooker. Dad has put up the family farm as bond and disappeared. Ree needs to save the farm to care for her mother, who has escaped to more peaceful places in her mind, and her two younger brothers. Living in a holler that’s populated by family who are distrustful of the law at best and outlaws at worst, Ree’s world appears different as can be from that of the Soame’s in Moonflower. As the title suggests, it is set in the winter and the language is as jagged and raw as the winter wind. It bites at you. This is not my father’s Ozarks, but yet it is. We may or may not have had our moonshiners and outlaws, but the bond of blood was the same.

Winter’s Bone got the attention of director Debra Grankin as well as the Sun Dance Film Festival where the movie version (Ree is 17 in the movie) won Best Picture and Best Screen Play. Filmed in Taney County, my cousin predicted that anything filmed there was going to be a “yawn.” If the movie is anything like the book, it is anything but. It opens at the Grand in Tacoma on July 26th and I plan to be there.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Old Mother Frieze and the View from Her Cupboard

Gradually we have switched over to eating as much organic and local produce and meat as possible. The factory farms are the agricultural equivalent of BP. They are only interested in making money regardless of the risk of genetically engineered food, the chemicals used in processed food or the inhumane treatment of animals. You do away with all that by buying locally grown and organic food.

I wrote a blog about this on the Tacoma News Tribune blogspot “In Your Neighborhood” a couple of years ago and was accused of being un-American and seeking to bring down capitalism. Now this guy is a Rightwing wacko who likes his Big Macs and I know that. Buying meat from the farmer down the road if you can or organic meat at Costco or your local market, if you’re lucky enough, ensures that fewer animals are leading miserable lives. Cooking from scratch or at least finding organic versions of processed foods is the most healthful and humane thing to do. And it isn’t that hard.

Safeway and Fred Meyer carry organic products and the more people buy them the wider the variety is. For a mainstream store, Fred Meyer is the best with an extensive selection of organic product, even in bulk, at reasonable prices. They carry organic chicken and some beef, although organic beef is expensive. Some, but not all, of the Costcos carry organic meat. If you can find a local farmer who raises beef cattle at least you will know how the animal was treated. If you are in doubt as to who factory farms treat animals you can find videos of it on the Internet, but it’s not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach.

We are fortunate enough to get fresh organic produce delivered to our door by Terra Organics. They have farms all over. I have a friend who gets their produce down in CA. Smith Brothers Farms, based in Kent, WA, carries organic milk to our door, too. We shop at Marlene's Market in Tacoma where we enjoy meals in their deli while we shop the store. They make the best vegan chocolate cake you ever put in your mouth.

You can find coupons for organic foods on the Internet. Organic Valley has coupons for milk, butter, eggs, and other dairy products. If you visit the websites of organic products and email them how much you like their products you can get coupons for all sorts of things. I have received coupons for carrots, organic chips, dishwashing liquids, etc.

There are local health food stores and co-ops like PC in King County and Marlene’s in King and Pierce County. I don’t like Whole Foods because the CEO, John Mackey, is against health care reform. His opinion is that if you do your shopping at his store you won’t need health care. I have a sister-in-law who ate all organic and still got pancreatic cancer so you can still get sick, your chances are just less if you aren’t putting all the chemicals that come in factory farmed meat and produce and processed food into your body.

The best thing you can do for yourself and family is to cook from scratch and then sit down together. It does more for the body and spirit than anything else you can do. Yes, it takes a little longer, but it's worth it. That's the view from my broom and my cupboard.

Friday, June 4, 2010

First World Health Care?

I’m on a broom about health care in the United States. The only folks who are happy with our current system are the ones with Cadillac insurance policies, but for common men and women, especially the elderly and under insured, getting help is a nightmare. Families are expected to become impoverished and overworked to care for chronically ill family members which actually damages their health and therefore puts the family unit at even more risk. Caretakers are forced to extreme measures to get help from the medical community and Medicare.

I have a friend whose daughter has been battling chronic Lyme disease for more than a decade. This devastating illness has robbed the girl of her youth as well as her health. My friend has been unable to work as her daughter requires around the clock care and Medicare has ceased paying for a home health nurse, forcing mom to care for medical procedures that are out of a mother’s job description unless there’s an RN after her name. Because of the word “chronic” Medicare will also not pay for prescriptions that improve the quality of life for the daughter thereby increasing her symptoms and making a bad situation worse.

My 86 year old aunt has Lupus. As a result she suffers from water retention in her legs making it difficult and sometimes impossible for her to walk. Like the chicken and egg story, one thing just exacerbates the other setting up a cycle of downward spirling existence. Twice last year she was hospitalized when she became unable to walk and then sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation. Each time she got better, only to come home and have the situation recur. It happened a third time and when her daughter, who herself has Lupus, fibromyalgia, and emphysema, had her taken to the hospital following a fall, they refused to admit her because her malady is “chronic” and Medicare doesn’t pay for chronic conditions. With a cracked eye socket and swollen lip and face, my aunt was sent home (in an ambulance because she could not walk) where she was accidentally dropped in the yard by the firemen, bruising her bottom, and told that if she couldn’t walk to the bathroom, to put a commode by her recliner where she basically lives. Her world had shrunk to a few square feet.

When she could not even stand well enough to do that and her exhausted daughter could no longer change and care for her, my cousin called the Medics again and had her taken to the hospital. This time she resorted to something no family member should be forced to, she didn’t go to the hospital with my aunt. She was afraid that they would tell her to take her mother home and she couldn’t face it. I cannot imagine how my cousin felt at not being able to be in the ER with her mother nor how my aunt must have felt at being there alone, but my cousin saw no other way to get help. Without hospitalization my cousin could not get her mother into a rehab center and get help. Fortunately this time the ER doctor realized the truth of the situation and even apologized to my cousin when she finally went to the hospital.

So this is the glorious system the Rightwingers so vehemently want to protect. Some would even abolish Medicare, thereby depriving recipients of what little help they can now get. Is this how we treat the Greatest Generation and our fellow citizens? God help us all.

Ruminations on an Unknown Life

My car radio is on vacation. It does this every once in a while. I thought it was back this morning since it worked for about three minutes. My tachometer acts weird too, but I’ve learned to live with that. We tried to get the radio fixed, but there aren’t repair people in the world anymore. My appliance repair guy fixes things over the phone. Maybe I should call him. I don’t want to replace the entire unit because I love my four disk CD changer. It’s just right for the 150 mile trip to the beach I make every two weeks.

Anyway, once in a while the sound begins misbehaving so that there’s a few seconds of sound when you turn it on or start the car and then nothing which gives me plenty of time to ruminate these days. Recently, following my weekly trip to Goodwill, I ruminated on the clues we leave behind about our lives. We tend to think of archeology having to do with ancient civilizations, but I’m more contemporary in my digging.

Purple is my favorite color and when I’m shopping my eyes scan the goods for shades of purple. My eye lit on a photograph at Goodwill what either by age or design was purple. It wasn’t a very clear picture, almost Impressionistic in fuzziness. I turned it over to see if the photographer had signed it or if there was information about the picture where I found a handwritten statement: “Looking East toward the Med from Harry’s place in Fuengirola, Espana, 8 PM New Years Day. Taken with one minute time lapse” this explains the dreamlike quality of the picture. The handwriting speaks of another era. Taken in 1980 the photographer is most likely dead. It is a moment of at least two lives in a very pretty place.

Through the what I still consider the magic of the Internet I looked up Fuengirola. It’s beautiful and I thought of this moment of an unknown life captured forever. Was the photographer a man or a woman? Whoever it was had a friend named Harry who had a house in Spain and spent New Year’s with him in 1979. Harry is not a Spanish name so he was an expat of some variety, either an older American or a Brit? Having never gone anywhere of note and having no friends with homes on foreign shores, I find the whole thing rather romantic and certainly entertaining enough to get me from Goodwill the four miles home in a silent car.

Postscript: I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind so yesterday I returned to Goodwill and purchased the picture for $1.99.