Milk has more calories in California...

I was at my local Subway today, getting a sandwich for lunch. While I waited my turn, I read the nutrition poster. It's an occupational hazard for a technical writer, reading everything in sight (and if truth be told, looking for errors).

Today I zeroed in on the listing for 'white' milk (all milk is inheritently white, unless it's chocolate. Saying it's white is non-value added.) Then I noticed the calories:  'white' milk has 160* calories, except in California. What? Why?? Footnote: in California, milk has 190 calories.

Now I'm intrigued. Does California milk have some super-duper quality, some special processing that makes it richer and better while still retaining just 1% butterfat? We keep seeing commercials about cows wanting to go to California... maybe it's related. Or, is it just that the container is bigger in California?

If you buy 'white' milk at Subway in California, I'd love to know why the calorie count is higher there. Let me know...


Back on the trail

Yesterday I met a friend for a walk on the Soos Creek Trail. We hadn't seen each other for a while, so as we walked, we got caught up on family and vacations and her kids. Before we knew it, we'd walked 4.5 miles! It was a beautiful day, but you can sure tell it's autumn. It was 48 degrees when we started out, and 62 degrees when we got back to our cars.

So, thinking that this could be a great jump-start to a renewed habit, I headed out this morning for another walk. I took a shorter route today (I was sore after yesterday), but I walked the horse trail, which has great hills for conditioning.


Do bats ever go out of season?

This morning as I got my usual cup of coffee in the lunchroom, one of the shop guys said, "Hey look, Lissa's almost back in season!" I was tired, and admit it took me a second to realize what the heck he was talking about. He was talking about my Starbuck's travel mug, which is silver with lots of flying black bats all over it. I laughed, someone else commented about Halloween coming up, and that was that.

But it occurs to me that bats are universal, multi-seasonal creatures. The one time we had an unwelcome visitor in our house was in the spring. In summer, they dive-bomb us when we sit outside on the deck. We celebrate them in fall, as a symbol of Halloween, but they're night creatures, and all winter long I move about before daylight, and after dark.

Doesn't this make my favorite coffee mug in style, year round?


Farmhouse Violets

I've attempted to grow African violets before, with little succes. My house is full of windows, but none suitable on what I was told was the "right" side: the east. (Except in the basement, and I can't trust my cats that much!). But when I found these cute pottery flower pots, perfectly sized for violets, I decided to try again. To my surprise, they lived happily in the north windows of my kitchen, all summer long.

Now I'm on the hunt for the third pot in this series made by Shawnee in the last century... in sunny yellow with the same green saucer.


Main Street USA

They're new, the bright sandwich boards on street corners throughout Kent. These are reminders that Kent isn't just Kent Station, the fancy new shopping district on the north edge of town. To me, they're reminders that Kent is one of the lucky historic towns that still retains its original downtown. Follow the arrows and you'll discover tree-lined streets, corner benches, murals, and brick storefronts with restaurants and shops and antique stores.

As you walk the streets of Downtown Kent, you'll also discover hidden parks: we have a beautiful Japanese garden, a rose garden, and numerous pocket parks. My favorites are two brilliant green parks along the railroad tracks, across from the original train depot. I try to spend my lunch hours here. In all seasons, there are small things to enjoy. Roses in bloom, leaves turning fall colors, ducks and their babies enjoying the pond.

Like most towns these days, Kent is ringed by strip malls and freeways, fast food and car dealerships. It's sometimes hard to see past these distractions. But if you look closely, and take the time to follow the signs, you won't be disappointed.


Cheshire Moon

Rising in the east, over our little valley, and facing our bedroom windows... one of the prettiest sights you'll ever see: A bright sliver of a Cheshire moon, with a following star, in the dark blue sky of pre-dawn.


Hedge Wars

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. One of the previous owners of our house decided to plant a hedge of arborvitae shrubs along the pasture fence, screening the lawn from the pasture. Great idea, as long as you keep it pruned. They didn't. When we bought the place, pasture animals had eaten everything within reach, so the hedge was "bald" for about 3 feet above the fence, then green for another six+ feet above that. Funny-looking is an understatement. (I have a photo around here somewhere; if I find it, I'll scan and include it.)

One of the first things we did was take the chain saw to the hedge, and cut it down right at fence height (about 4.5 ft). Then we kept the green growth trimmed. It turned into a really nice hedge.

That, unfortunately, didn't last. (I now appreciate the trouble with hedges, believe me!) When our hedge gets too tall, it cuts off the light to our basement windows, and we lose our beautiful view across the pasture and the valley.

So. Time to fix the problem. This week I've got an extra hour each afternoon, and decided to spend it pruning. Just split the hedge into thirds, and tackle one third each day. The first day, no worries. I've kept this stretch pretty well pruned, so the trunks were small in diameter and easy to cut. One small pile of shrubs for the burn pile. The second day could have been worse. The middle section of hedge had grown unchecked for a decade. It was lush from the ground to about 15 feet in the air. Hmmm... need to bring out the big gun: the Saws-All. (I don't use the chain saw; too much to handle.) But this slick motorized reciprocating saw cut through the trunks like butter (well, maybe frozen butter), and was easy to handle. Only one mishap: a trunk that bounced off the ladder, did a 180, and landed on my forearm. Sore, but no bones broken.

Tonight, the last third of the hedge comes down. There's daylight in my daylight basement again, and I've got my view back. Life is good.


September... my favorite month

I've always loved autumn. Maybe it's because my birthday is in September, so I grew up with a sense of anticipation about the end of summer, the beginning of autumn. But there have been some other great "firsts" in September. It was when I "test drove" my first horse, a Thoroughbred named Deelee, and brought him home. My first three-day event was also in September a few years later, at Donida Farm in Auburn. But best of all, September was when we bought our little farm, where we live to this day.

I love how fall smells, that crispness to the air, especially in the morning, that you can literally drink in with each breath. Starting in mid-August, I test the air every day as I walk out of the house, and the smell of fall brings a smile to my face.

We're getting ready for winter now. I've been doing the fall pruning, and picking the last of the apples and plums. We've brought home truckloads of firewood from the cabin, and it's stacked in the barn. Soon Dave will clean chimneys, and we'll be ready to light the woodstove. I'm looking forward to packing away the shorts and tank tops, and bringing out my favorite sweaters and jackets. I'm also looking forward to having more time for indoor things, like quilting and sewing.

We're lucky to live in a place that has four distinct seasons, each with its own rhythm and beauty. Autumn in the Northwest brings shorter days, but it also brings color to the woods as the leaves turn red and orange and yellow, thick carpets of leaves to kick as I walk the trail, and more time to spend with friends and family.

Oh, and in case you were wondering... the umbrella lives just inside the front door, all year round.


Once We Were Mountain Bikers

Not that long ago, actually. We miss it, but have spent the past few years zoom-zooming in our MX-5 Miata, four wheels instead of two. We'll get back to it eventually...

These photos are from our second Moab trip, in 2005. We spent a week there with a group of friends, seven days of riding the slickrock and having a blast!


A table full of goodness

On my way home, I stopped at Carpenito Bros. for some fresh veggies for the long weekend. All this bounty cost a mere $20. I couldn't resist turning everything out onto the kitchen table and taking a photo.

Corn, celery, red peppers, garlic, red onions, Walla Walla sweet onions, pears, yellow and green zucchini, basil, Romaine, radishes, broccoli, and flat parsley.

Phone Charger

I spent my lunch hour sitting by the Asian garden in Kent, which is between the railroad tracks and the library. It's a peaceful spot, with the chance to do some people-watching while I eat. Often there's a group of kids who should be in school, taking up all the seats. Whenever this group is there, the Kent police always seem to show up. They smile, say hello, and innocently "police" the grounds, picking up trash. The kids just melt away without a word.

Today must have been Food Bank day. Lots of people walked through the park, towing wheeled shopping carts or lugging bags of food. One young couple paused to rest on a bench; the man pulled out a cell phone charger, plugged it into a weather-tight outlet at the base of a rock, and left his phone there to charge while he enjoyed the park. I don't think it would have occurred to me to look to my local park for charging my electronics, but why not?