Camping or should I say Glamping

 

In recent times, the term glamping has come into use in the U.S.  This is a combination of glamour and camping.  No more cooking over a fire (good most summers when there are severe fire restrictions, as right now).  No more sleeping with the slugs crawling over you.  No more freezing nights when you have to wear everything you brought with you in order to keep warm. No more going without washing for days on end.

I participated in all of this for years, dirty body, dirty clothes, half washed dishes if washed at all.  The dog can do a better job of washing the dishes than a paper towel any day and what do I do with the dirty paper towel, I have to carry it out.  I have slept on picnic tables to avoid rattlesnakes cuddling up with me for warmth, I have had my sleeping bag soaked and not drying for a week. I have had slugs sucking on my neck. Yuck!

I am now a glamper.  I think at seventy-one years old I have earned this right, paid my dues.  I also think that my age and my physical condition probably would be best camped a little closer to civilization rather in the hinterland somewhere.  I miss those wild, remote, private places, but I can still enjoy the fresh mountain air, the walks in the woods around the campground, and the smell of bacon cooking in the fresh morning air.

Yesterday nine deer walked up to the area where my travel trailer is sitting at Curlew Lake State Park in Eastern Washington State.  One of them even followed one of the other campers back to her rig, probably hoping for a handout. Today they have come down from the desert above to eat all the fallen leaves on the grass.  The park attendant will not have to rake leaves as they ate every one of them.  Cleaned it up beautifully. Perhaps there is a mineral or vitamin they lack in their usual environment.  I did notice that they do not eat the lush green grass around the campground, preferring the dry brush and grasses up the hill.

I have been painting crows recently and am looking to get more reference photos for my work.  Crows visit all campgrounds and there was a murder of crows consisting of fifteen sitting in the shade of one of the deciduous trees just up the hill. I try to entice them with the “old maids” from last night’s popcorn when I can snap a few photos.  They are very camera shy.

This campground seems devoid of chipmunks and squirrels, but the last one in the higher elevations had many gathering last minute foodstuffs for their winter’s sleep.  Fat and furry, they were almost ready as some areas have already had their first frosts.

Bears, rattlesnakes, poison sumac, ivy and oak are some of the hazards of camping, even at this easier form.  Bears are attracted to the goodies left around by careless campers and can ransack a sight while your back is turned, even in broad daylight.  Squirrels and crows can do almost as much damage as the bears.

In this area we have seen black bear and moose, both which you should avoid.  Haven’t seen any snakes as the nights are in the low 50’s and they are probably far outside the bustle of the campground.

Fishing is a big past time here, but we haven’t participated in that in recent years.  I used to be a worm dangler with a good book and my husband a fly fisherman, but our differing styles don’t make for compatible fishing.  Now I just like to watch the turtles sunning themselves on deadheads (floating dead trees in the water) in the lake.  Sometimes they come inland and you might scare them when walking through tall grass and mistake them for a rattler.

Glamping means I can cook in my usual style, which is gourmet extravagant.  With a three burner gas stove, oven, refer, and double sink, I can cook almost anything I can make at home.  I have a shower with hot and cold water.  Some glampers even have clothes washers and dryers, but that is a bit much for me.  I have a soft bed with real sheets.  I also have heat for the cold nights in the mountains.

Glamour camping, glamping, may have its drawbacks, it may seem extravagant, it probably seems silly to the hard core, but at my age I can still enjoy the scene and the wildlife around me without the hazards of needing to be airlifted out if I fall and break something.  I can still enjoy the great outdoors and be comfortable.

The New Polar North

img_3553I have an idea about global warming.  We are not seeing it so much here in the Puget Sound Basin.  We are having snow this morning, for the third time in a week.  It doesn’t stay long, but it is pretty, but it is also pretty cold.

This winter has been much colder than ones in recent times with temperatures in November/December in the 20s and the remaining since in the 30s with a high in the low 40s.  Usually it is around the mid 40s most of the winter, with rain.  We will have an occasional false spring where it might get up to 60 in January for a day.  We did have one day this January with a Chinook wind that was 58 degrees, but generally, this has been a cold winter.

I have decided that global warming isn’t really global warming, just warming in unusual areas, leaving those of us here in a general cooling spell.  My philosophy is that the poles have shifted and the Arctic and Antarctic are moving toward the area we would consider the equator and the Puget Sound Basin will become the new North Pole! Yes, I know that axis of the earth does shift and very gradually.  But it is beginning to feel like the polar north around here.

This winter we have had more days when it snowed than I can remember since I was a child, back in the dark ages.  But we also had snow for Halloween and Thanksgiving then.  We even had snow on April Fool’s day once.  The lowest temperature we have recorded here at our house was in 1978 at minus 10 degrees.  The pipes froze.  Luckily (?) this winter the lowest was 19 above.  Needless to say the fuchsias in the greenhouse won’t make it this year.

We live in a cabin in the woods, so the temperatures are tempered somewhat around us, cooler in summer and warmer in winter.  This morning it is three degrees warmer here in the woods than out in the open spaces.  We have natural air conditioning, keeping the house at least ten degrees cooler than the open spaces in the summer time.  It is great.

With a cooler winter this year, we are burning a lot more firewood to keep warm.  The woodstove is the primary heat in our house and I have to split and stack it every year.  Fortunately, this year we ordered extra and we still have reserves as we often need to heat until June.

When we had that Chinook day in January, a friend of mine was thinking of going out to plant her potatoes.  Washington’s Birthday is the traditional day to plant pod peas here.  If either of these activities happened, they are not going to make it.  Frozen potato sets do not produce potatoes. I am still looking at the seed catalogues, not having ordered at my usual time in January.  I need to get on my horse and get it done or they won’t be here if we have an early spring (please!).  I usually plant everything in May.  The plants are healthier and the peas come on the same time as those planted in February.

Well, so much for the morning snow gripe.  I am looking forward to a day indoors, painting a painting of an old truck that is in progress.  Hopefully I will have it finished by the end of the day.  Hope your day is one in which you can do something that you love too.

Culture and idiomatic English

This is a piece that I wrote for my memoir and I am sharing it with you today, timely as the Chinese Lunar New Year is just past.  It is sort of long and somewhat humorous.  I taught in Beijing in 2001 and 2002.  I am currently working on writing a book about the experiences.

 

Many of the students in China who wanted to perfect their conversations skills in various languages went to a place called English Corner, or French Corner, etc.  This was a street corner where, on certain days, all sorts of people met to speak the language of their choice.

My husband attended a couple of these and since he was a native English speaker, he became the focus of these sessions.  No longer were the attendees speaking in conversation to one another, but all were vying for Bob’s attention in order to practice with a real English speaking person. It was tedious and very tiring.

What could we do with our students that would help them improve their English speaking skills?  I used several methods, including debate, tour guides, plays, but the most popular by far was the soap opera.  I have to explain that in Beijing, soap operas are very popular, taking up a good percentage of broadcast time on many of the local television stations.  They are maudlin, with a good deal of intrigue to carry your interest to the next episode.

I used the soap opera was used in my classes for both semesters.  These performances were at the beginning of each class session; especially the ones after lunch, as it excited them and brought them fully awake from their postprandial stupor. I had noticed students in other classrooms sleeping after lunch.

When arriving in class, five students were told they were the stars for the day.  These five would go out in the hall to prepare for their performance.  They had ten minutes to work on their episode. Sometimes I would give a topic and sometimes I would allow them to carry on in their own way continuing the story from the day before.

I wish I had recorded these scenes as they continued to unfold over the term.  It was interesting to see what they would use for their own ideas, but also fun to see what they would do with the ones I presented them. Many had preconceived ideas of “the American Way” and it was interesting to see these ideas in play form.

One class originally started with a Chinese family that lived in the United States.  When I asked them to describe this family, they told me that they lived in a big house, had a red convertible.  This comes from watching too many American movies.  “Well what kind of family do they have?” I asked.  “Oh, Miss Deon, they will have twelve children,” they replied. My response to this was how do we fit them in the little red convertible when it is time to take them to the movies or school?  They hadn’t thought this through.  So in one episode, we went on to find an appropriate vehicle for this family, shopping for a vehicle for a large family.  (The large family is the Chinese couples dream as they have been so limited to one child for so long.)

After we had fashioned the U.S. family, we created a Chinese couple with a child who were coming to the U.S. to visit our newly created family. One episode included piling into the new fifteen passenger van the family had purchased (financing was never figured out) to meet the Chinese family at the airport.

We had engagement of oldest daughter, guys night at the bar watching football (read soccer), one child who wasn’t doing well enough at school, a neighbor whose daughter was pregnant out of wedlock, sightseeing to Yellowstone Park, Grandmother who gambled too much at mahjong, and many more.

After a while they became very talented in creating scenarios for these vignettes.  They were so comfortable doing this that I decided to occasionally throw in a monkey wrench to scenes.  During the one were the guys were in the bar watching football, I had arranged for one of the women in the class to enter the play and go up to her “husband” and say “Where have you been?  It is our anniversary and you promised to take me to dinner and here I find you playing with your friends at the tavern!”  You should have seen the actor’s faces.  They were mortified. The students in the audience already knew this was going to happen as I had arranged it while the actors were in the hallway working on the plot.  We all laughed hysterically.  If course, the carefully arranged plot needed to be modified and the rest of their play changed to an impromptu, extemporaneous skit.  They really had to think on their feet to finish their ten minutes of fame on stage.  I must say they managed to pull it off well.

Toward the end of the term, one group of actors, who now knew that I might throw in something anytime, arrange for a surprise of their own.  The pulled me into their plot from the audience.  I’m not sure they got the responses they wanted, because I made it more difficult for them to hold to the plot by playing around with their addition of me to the game.

Needless to say, this whole exercise really pushed them to learn casual conversation.  After the skit was over, we would talk about the cultural inaccuracies they had portrayed, like fitting fourteen people into a red convertible.  Since I was teaching Western Culture as well as idiomatic conversation, it was a learning curve all around.

My husband’s class decided to put on a play.  They chose, of all things, Snow White. Well, this seemed pretty straightforward and probably not too difficult.  They would practice their parts in class as well as in their dorms.  However, in China, all the important parts should be played by men.  Snow White is an important part; therefore, it should be played by a man.  Chinese men normally do not have much facial hair, if any, but the gentleman chosen to play Miss White had a full beard.

Well, if a man could play the main woman then women could play the men.  The whole play was done with cross dressing! All the dwarves were women dressed as men.  The wicked queen was a man, the prince (another important part) was the only part played without cross dressing.

So here is Snow White in a dress he borrowed from one of his classmates.  He is wearing Bermuda shorts underneath, thankfully, as he sits with his legs splayed in front of his audience,  the dress being hiked up to a level as to be too revealing. Well the whole play was a riot.  Though they practiced a great deal, the glitches, such as the queen tripping over the hem of his gown, and the dwarves singing “hi ho, hi ho” off-key, it was wonderful.  They invited all my students to come for the audience as his students all had parts and they needed an audience.

My students chose an abbreviated version of The Merchant of Venice, so abbreviated that it was a little hard to follow and the audience, Bob’s students, got a little bored with the whole thing. They had a good time doing it and developed elaborate costuming from their limited wardrobes, but they did get a chance to practice their English Conversation.

Needless to say, this was just a couple of more examples of my quirky way of teaching conversational English and Western Culture.

 

What do you eat?

What do you eat?

What kinds of food do you eat?  I was thinking about making dinner tonight and what I should make.  When I was thinking about that, I realized that the scenarios I went through were all “foreign” foods.  But really, what is American food?  Isn’t most of the foods we eat these days an amalgamation of many countries?

When I was in junior high, I was tutored for a whole summer in Hong Kong Chinese cooking.  When I lived in China in 2001 and 2002, I learned northern Chinese cooking and Szechuan and Hunan styles as well.  Hong Kong is more Cantonese or Southern and the dishes are sweeter.  Most of the early Chinese restaurants in the U.S. served southern style.  I also learned to make Dim Sum.

When I was in Mexico, I prepared Mexican dishes almost exclusively.  I have taught myself many other cuisines as well, French, German, Swedish and more.

I used to teach Greek cooking classes and prepared such things as domas (stuffed grape leaves), baklava (phyllo dough filled with nuts and honey), spanakopita (phyllo filled with spinach and feta cheese).  Later I taught Mexican, Italian, and foods from India.

When I think about what to eat, I usually think of something from another country.  Maybe it is because I am getting old and I crave strong, flavorful food.  Somehow a plain hamburger just doesn’t meet that need.  Cajun food does with its hot and spicy flavors, but it is really a combination of many cultures including French, African and American.  Their cornbread is not original to the U.S.  I ate corncakes for breakfast in China and they have been serving it since long before America existed as we know it today.  Cornbread (corncakes) is a staple in many countries around the world.

So what’s for dinner?  Chili Verde (pork in green chili sauce) with rice and black beans with fresh tortillas.  It is really cold, so this dish should warm our hearts and our taste buds. Since it takes a little while to cook, it will help warm the house too.  Sounds perfect for a twenty-five degree day.  Even better with eggs for breakfast burritos tomorrow morning.

Things that should be private

(note that this is a rant and slightly off color)(there will be no photos)

I guess I am old fashioned or maybe just stuffy, but why does half the female population in our part of the country need to show me their breasts?  I go to the drive in espresso window to purchase a latte—I live in Western Washington, obviously—and the barista makes my drink.  Since the stand’s window is a little above the window of my car, she bends over to give me my drink and show me her breasts, stomach and all the way to her belly button.  She may as well be bending over me naked.  We live in a cold climate and it is easy to tell that she is cold too, if you know what I mean. TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

It isn’t just baristas either.  I have seen eighty year old women with their wrinkled cleavage clearly on display, desiccated, overcooked and wrinkled.  What are they trying to advertise?  That they have a body that is definitely over the hill?  I think we should be proud of our bodies, no matter what age, but to whom are we advertising?

Whatever happened to stylish clothing?  Is the slutty look de rigueur today? Not only are clothes made poorly, thin and of cheap materials that don’t hold up, but every neckline is revealing, some even when standing perfectly straight.  Bending over tells all. Has good taste become a thing of the past? What happened to the air of mystery?

I continue to wear the same clothes I have had for eons, just because they are well made and don’t reveal my belly button and everything else through the neckline.  I can bend over comfortably without my personal en-tities on display.  This includes the crack that appears above the beltline on the backside.

Cracks, do we feel we need to reveal them to be popular?  It’s not just men bending over to choose something in the grocery and revealing their cracks and hairy butts, but many women as well, for instance, the one walking down the street ahead of me in leggings that barely covered other private parts, but definitely revealed her butt crack, her waistline bulging over the waistband.  I couldn’t stand the view, so I moved to the opposite side of the street.  Either she had never seen herself from the back or she was trying to tell the world something, though I am not sure what.

Recently a gentleman got out of his low slung car at the grocery and his low slung pants fell to the paving when he stood.  He just reached down and pulled them back up into their low slung position.  Give me a break.  He can’t keep his pants on even in the grocery store parking lot?  I found it hilarious.  Didn’t seem to faze him a bit.  Maybe he does it for entertainment value rather than as a fashion statement?

Well so much for the soapbox.  I will step down now.  Hopefully you will find this wanton display as preposterous as I do.  Just had to get it out.

Enjoying the Harvest

img_3498Being an avid vegetable gardener, I was very interested in a program that the local school district is doing to help children learn about food production and preparation.  It looks like it was a great success.  Go to  https://whidbeyschoolgardens.wordpress.com/ to see the results.

We did have a wonderful year for the vegetables.  We have been giving lots to the local foodbank and friends. The tomatoes were especially productive and we have definitely eaten our fill.  We also have several dozen bottles of various tomato products sitting in the root cellar shelves.  The Brussels Sprouts are just ready now as we have just had our first frost (a very late one this year) and now they will be sweeter to eat.  The leeks are wonderful too.  We will have those fresh all winter.

The gold nugget squashes are sitting safe from mice and rats and we can eat those for the entire winter.  They will probably be gone by spring and we must have had about fifty of them.  Gave quite a few away too.  We like these in particular as they are just the right size for two people.  Though I like baked squash, hubbards and their kind are just too big.  I have tried baking them and putting them in the freezer, but it is just too much, so we have settled on the gold nugget.  They are sweet, very yellow and are also suitable for making pies.  I cut them in half and fill with sausage or sausage and cornbread dressing, or just with butter and brown sugar. Yum.

Well the dark days of winter are here and some days I am not sure the sun has even come up.  Today we will have sunrise at 7:48 a.m. and sunset at 4:15 p.m.  Not a very long day, especially when you almost need flashlights during the day.  All the lights are on in the house just to help us stay awake.

I am on my way out to chop firewood again.  With this cold snowy weather, we have burned quite a bit of wood to keep warm.  Now it is time to warm myself working outdoors splitting it.  It is something I have written about previously in this blog and something I do enjoy.

Happy Holidays and keep warm!

 

A Frosty Morn

ringneck-doves

Just came in from feeding the animals.  It is cold again this morning.  It was colder yesterday morning at 22 degrees, which for Western Washington, is cold.  Since we have rather high humidity, the cold is more penetrating.  For those who live in the mid-west, they probably would consider these temps a heat wave. Ha!

Everything is frozen outside, so the first thing I had to do when getting suited up to meet the weather challenges was to fill a large bucket with very hot water.  The doves, the baby chicks and the molting old hens all need to have their waterers unfrozen.  I also filled the birdbaths with warm water as the poor wild birds have no place to drink.

We have one baby dove who is just now fending for himself and I was worried that he might not make it through this cold.  This morning he is huddled in a corner trying to keep warm as his mother has now abandoned him since he can feed himself.  He was fine and jumped right in when the feed was provided.

The ten chicks, which are now two months old, are very hardy, but today I gave them their first cracked corn, which helps warm the chickens from the inside out.  The also got fresh bread, which they chased all over their pen.  The cold doesn’t seem to faze them.

The old hens, however, felt the cold.  Why do they choose to molt just when the weather turns cold.  Molting, as I have mentioned in earlier pieces, is the process of losing all their feathers and growing a new set, which means they are not laying any eggs.  So we are between eggs with old ones molting and new ones too young yet.  I hate buying store eggs.

The plantings in the yard look sad, especially the rhododendrons that lower their leaves as though dead or dying.  This is the way they look in the heat of summer when they are in dire need of water.  I always hate the look of them in this cold.

I know when things thaw that there will be lots of mud because the frost has pushed up around the stones in all the pathways making crunching noises as I walk out to do the chores.

The advantage to all the trouble above is THE SUN IS SHINING. It is a trade off.  If we have sunshine, we have cold weather.  If it is in the 40s then it will rain and be grey.  Yesterday and this morning, we can bask in its warmth and enjoy the vitamins it gives to us, though begrudgingly in winter.  Makes me feel perkier already.  Amazing what a little sunshine can do for your mental health.

Guess I will go for a walk and enjoy it.  Never know how long it will last.