Thursday, September 30, 2010

4. Up at the dam. Down on the farm.

Sourdough, basil, red onion, heirloom tomatoes,
and Dubliner cheese. Dam in the background.

After our fossil excursion, Mom and I stopped at the Grand Coulee Dam (throw your hands up for the second largest concrete structure in the world!), where we received dining advice from one of the volunteers, but ultimately decided against Grand Coulee Thai food (in my book, a sketchy prospect) and ate some open face sandwiches in the parking lot. Those swell sandwiches were courtesy of me. We didn't stay for the laser show (again, against the volunteer's advice) mostly because I thought it sounded way lame. I mean, I've been wrong before but never about lasers.

From the GCD Visitor Center. Dam workers went down to the depths with these helmets.
The back is open--I assume for photo ops. Did I stick my head in there? No I did not. 

Here's my rundown of the Grand Coulee Dam. Yes, it's amazing. But you want to go on the tour. It's not as amazing if you just look at the spillway from the parking lot, or if you drive up to the tour station above the Third Power Plant expecting there to be a 5PM tour (like it said on the website) but find out that the last tour was at 4PM.  OK, so the website does have a small caveat about calling in advance to check the tour times. It's a volunteer-staffed deal, I get that. Still, going inside the Third Power Plant is like being inside The X-Files movie (which I didn't realize until my dear friend {ABBIE!} saw the connection). What diabolical scheme is being hatched beneath those turbine covers? And what exactly is the use of the world's largest crane? Something to do with alien-human-hybrid-worker-bee-clone-children? I have my suspicions. Yeah, the Grand Coulee Dam is exactly like that movie. (While we're on the subject of The X-Files: never ever watch the 2nd X-Files movie, X-Files: I Want to Believe, because it is exactly like stupid.) OK, now that that's taken care of...

The next morning, Mom and I headed to Green Bluff for apple and blackberry picking and to eat pie. Always pie. The morning was breezy. There was a slight drizzle. The cricket population was very vocal. Mom listened for a bit and then said, "Do you hear that?" 

The berries and boots were shiny.

Me: "The crickets?"  And then she said something to the effect of the hazy morning cricket activity reminding her of being on the farm as a child. Um...the moment was much sweeter than I've rendered it here. Yet more terrible evidence of my MFA credentials.

The entrance to all things apple.

Mom picked a bag-full.

Mom said these little flowers used to grow along the fields on the farm in Minnesota. It was a morning for memories.

This Gala is a twofer.

The flags fly over Walter's Fruit Ranch.

All in all it was a good visit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

3. Conifers, Gymnosperms, and Angiosperms.

 A fossil and pseudofossil miscellany.

Bits of shale with minerals.

Cercidiphyllum obtritum (from the Katsura family)
Lake bottom debris: Pinus (Pine), Picea wing seed, Sciadopitys (from the Umbrella pine family)

Dendrites (mineral stain on shale)
Bioturbation (worm burrows)

Metasequoia occidentalis
Dawn Redwood (from the Redwood subfamily)

Stonerose has a huge list of fossils that have been found on site, numbering around 148. Most fall under the conifer, gymnosperm (Gymnosperms, meaning naked seed {their seed forms outside the reproductive organs}, were the dominant land plant in the Jurassic and Cretaceous. You know what that means: herbivorous dinosaur food! Relatives of these gymnosperms survive today in members of the conifer, cycad, and gingko families.), and angiosperm categories (Angiosperms, meaning vessel seed, {their seed forms, not surprisingly, inside the ovary} are all flowering plants). Trace and pseudofossils are also found at Stonerose. Trace fossils, including things like tracks, burrows (like the worm burrows Mom found) and coprolites (fossilized poo), are the result of an animal's activity upon their environment; they have cool names like Locomotive Traces (tracks), Dwelling Traces (excavations), and Hiding Traces (shallow excavations). Pseudofossils are naturally-occurring, though inorganic, features in rocks that are often mistaken for fossils (like the mineral dendrites Mom found). Dendrites usually form a branch pattern, which is why they're often mistaken for plant fossils. While pseudofossils are not evidence of prehistoric life, they're still awesome!

More please!
Mom and I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that we were the first people to look at these fossils...ever. That we'd opened up the rock and exposed them to the first sunlight they had seen in over 40 million years. These plants grew and greened just as the first grasses, proto-dogs, deer, and pigs began to appear. Their fossils had existed, hidden, before horses and saber-tooth cats, before Australopithecus, before the flood basalts erupted in Washington and Oregon, and before the western edge of the continent had completely formed. The shale was cold when we pried it from the hillside, damp in places when we opened the halves like books. I looked and Mom looked and we want to do it again.
P.S. I rock hammered my left hand just a tiny bit. I have a bruise, which is very noticeable to me but doesn't really show up in pictures. You'll just have to trust me on this one.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2.5. We actually dig.

$6.00 gets you digging rights. 

My vintage Estwing rock pick. Yeah, we brought our own tools.

Mom scaled that shit. And believe me, shale is one slick (and sharp) rock.

Shale comes apart in flakes.

I perused our finds. It was evident that many intrepid fossil hunters had spent some time cracking rocks on this picnic table.

This caught my attention in the interpretive center's bathroom. Fossil hunting is a dusty business.
Our hands required several washings.

Next up: Fossil pics!

Monday, September 27, 2010

2. We drive. We dig.

What type of trees are these? Well, some of them are dead trees.
Republic, WA was the destination. For those not familiar: Republic is in the Northeastern area of Washington, around 130 miles from Spokane and 40 miles from British Columbia. We drove the Sherman Pass scenic byway (to the right), which features lovely trees, such as the Ponderosa Pine, the Douglas Fir, and the Western Larch ("No 1: The Larch. The. Larch." Monty Python's Flying Circus--anyone? Anyone?).

I purchased a postcard at the drugstore, and this postcard happened to feature a mural (I never actually saw the original) which informed me that Republic was "the most successful long term gold producing area in the State of Washington." Hmm. You know what else Republic has produced in the long term? Fossils! Yup, Mom and I took a journey through geologic time to visit Stonerose Interpretive Center and Eocene Fossil Site.

I found this chart for you! Hey, where are the eons?
And why 
does it list different times for the Eocene?
OK, I know there are a few problems, but just look
at all the colors! Trade off! 
Does this caption seem
Or are you not even reading it?

Now I'm going to nerd out for a second or two or three.

Background info:
The Eocene Epoch covers 58 m.y.a to 36 m.y.a (m.y.a = million years ago; b.y.a {not surprisingly} = billion years ago!). Geologic time is divided into Supereons, Eons, Eras, Periods, and finally Epochs. We're currently in the Phanerozoic Eon (which, I admit, I had to look up), in the Cenozoic Era, in the Quaternary Period, in the Holocene Epoch (I did not have to look those up. Nerd!). So we're talking post-dinosaur here. (Remember: dinosaurs died out about 65 m.y.a. Sad? Yes. No. Maybe.) During the Eocene, much of the Pacific Northwest was coming together--terranes (large assemblages of rock with roughly the same origin) were being dragged toward the continent and smashed up, down, and all around to form the North Cascades and so on.

OK, I'm really digressing. Back to Republic.

Republic is part of a horst and graben (it's pronounced "graw ben", Mom {German for ditch}) formation. It's basically a chunk of the crust that's dropped as a result of movement along faults. It looks sort of like this: \_/ With the back and forward slashes representing the fault lines and the underscore representing the graben. The horsts are the sections of crust that are higher relative to the surrounding sections. Can I find an illustration of this? I bet I can.

Horsts up. Grabens down.

Enough background. During much of the Eocene, Republic and the surrounding area was underwater, the floor of an ancient lake. Just think of all the crap that lives, dies, and happens to float or fall into lakes everywhere. Well, some of the crap that ended up on the bottom of the Republic lake was covered by lake sediment and volcanic ash. If the conditions are just right--i.e., deposition of sediment occurs quickly enough that the organic materials are not disturbed by currents or predators--the little leaves, insects and fishes can be preserved as a carbon imprint in the shale. And the conditions were just right in Republic. FOSSILS!

Except for Monday which was never good anyway.

I did this all weekend.

I saw some of these out the classroom window.

I should be reading this.

But I really want to lounge instead.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

1. Visitor comes a-visiting.

Mom visited this weekend! There was much activity, so I'll do this in parts.

Mom arrived and wandered around the Museum for a bit while I finished up work. My living room is still torn apart from the construction project (the wall has finally been built and covered in mud and must be sanded again and painted before things can return to normal--sigh), so everything was not perfect. I hate that.

Take forever!

But dinner, at Luna on Friday night, was perfect--Yukon Gold Potato Pizza and Pommes Frites. Two potato dishes? YES! It can and must be done (even though that lady at the German restaurant {at Freighthouse Square in Tacoma} told me that I could not have two potatoes: spaetzle and potato salad {I hate coleslaw! What other side could I choose?}). Of course, the food was ridiculously delicious. We took a spin over to Cliff Drive to look out on the city at night, which was lovely, except for the couple of sketchy hombres hanging out by the actual cliff. Drinking, I think. Always a good idea around cliffs. 

There be the beast!

Speaking of drinking...Spokane celebrated Oktoberfest in Riverfront Park this weekend (really? only a weekend? Munich's Oktoberfest goes from 18 September to 4 October. {THAT is a fest})--we thought about going, but the festivities ended at 8 PM. What?!  I think we (meaning the people of Spokane, or maybe just the Oktoberfest committee {something that must exist, right?}) don't understand the spirit of Oktoberfest.

So, Mom and I ended up at Auntie's bookstore where she told me a story about Jerry Seinfeld on The Today Show. Let's not go into that. What we should go into is this t-shirt I bought made by Out of Print Clothing. When you buy a shirt, Out of Print Clothing donates a book to Books For Africa.

Impress the Intergalactic Alliance!

 Hey, sisters, want L. Ron Hubbard t-shirts for Christmas? I know you do. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Keep it Secret. Keep it Safe.

Give me a hard time, why don't you? So what I have watched Fellowship of the Ring (twice), The Two Towers (one and one third time), and Return of the King all this week. That is what my lovely life looks like now. I think it's fine. Healthy if nothing else, why you may ask? Well, I shall share that with you my brother. First off, I naturally now lean toward having some sort of kinship(py) type of relationship with groups of people. Well, I suppose that isn't the best considering I have no friends out here and when I referenced the Lord of the Rings at work someone giggled and another smiled and said, ' I don't think I've seen it.' with an heir of confusion. That may not be the best part of me watching the series in extreme repetition, but the fact that I am knitting up a storm while doing it is awesome. Get it visa vi crafting, being productive, producing if you will(The fruits of these labors will be unveiled in a later blog. Just keep in mind that the tree is actually fruiting for once). I am going to stop there so I don't share too many secrets.
I just have one thing to add before I end my very first blog addition. I met Mr. T today. He called me friend and wished that God blessed me. I have to say that if you were God you would be a fool not to listen to Mr. T, so consider me blessed. He also said that the way I said I was from Washington was kind of scary, so yeah. And he presented upon me a gift; his key chain. It is one of the push a button and you will hear a Mr. T classic, such as "I pity the fool", " Quit your jibber jabber", " No more back talk" etc...

So he gives me his key chain (he actually had to take off his house key first before gifting it to me) and tells me that if guys are ever giving me a hard time I should push the button and they will think that he is there (I am sure he will feel so badly when I try that and get punched in the face, oh well).

He also shared that one night he was trying to unlock his door and accidentally pushed a button and heard his voice and it freaked him out like someone was there behind him. It made me think of sisters and their paranoia. Oh and I told him about the A-Team post card that Christine sent me and how beloved the show was to us and he got embarrassed and blushed a bit. All and all a lovely thing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I'm getting a visit from this lady tomorrow!

Yup, we love air shows.

You'll hear more about this later...

They'll raid us again!

Stock photo of Raccoon outside our bedroom window from April(ish)

Seriously, don't. Thursday night the tree fell, Saturday morning the window broke, and Tuesday morning (4:50 a.m.) a raccoon watched me sleep. I woke up because I heard noises. Most people probably wouldn't be surprised to read that. I'm always hearing noises and thinking that someone is going to do something to me or the house or my cats (cat murderers). I lay in bed awake for a minute. I could tell right away that the raccoons were on the roof again. We have a big pear tree next to the house and it reaches well above the second story where our bedroom is (see above). The raccoons climb this tree or the fir tree on the other side of the house and they run all over the roof. It causes quite a ruckus for just being raccoons. I roll over to the very edge of the bed, open my eyes, and I see 26 inches (I measured) away from my face a raccoon looking right at me! The window was open, so there was only a screen and the aforementioned 26 inches between me and what could have been an assault. I didn't scream. It was more of a whimper. I sat up and started to close the window. The raccoon scurried away when it saw me move, but as I was closing the window three raccoons came running at it!!! Three! Raccoons! The window shut and the raccoons started sniffing at the glass and standing up smell the air. It was freaky. Because of all the commotion, they went into hyper speed and really starting running around the roof. I was freaked out. I called Nick. I don't think he thought it was a big deal, but it really was.
A couple of things that make me think of movies from this incident/post.
1) Whenever I say "it really was" I think of Titanic and the part when old Rose says, "Titanic was called the ship of dreams, and it was. It really was." Don't ask me why.
2) Jurassic Park (JP for Nic). Two different scenes with raptors quickly came to mind during my battle. Both scenes took place in the kitchen with the raptors. The first one is when Lex was in the cabinet and she was trying to shut the door before the raptor ate her. Total parallelism. The second was when they needed to hold the door shut until the locks reactivated. Good stuff.
This also reminds me that the other night Christine text me something great.

Yeah, that happened!

3) Last movie connection, and it's probably the most important. Now I don't expect that everyone has seen Grey Gardens but everyone should. The most important things I learned about raccoons, I learned from Grey Gardens. I would so put that magnet on my fridge. A couple general rules to follow: don't feed them loaves of bread and don't let them steal books from your room because if you do they will eat your walls!

Great movie.

I think I hear them on the roof right now...sigh. At least I bought a flashlight.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sister weekend!

This all happened two or so weeks ago, but it's still worth documenting. Christine loves geology. Christine spent the weekend with me. I live by the Mima Mounds. Chaos ensues! Not really, but we did look at some mounds and take some pictures. What's better than an impromptu photo shoot in the wilderness? I belong to the club that believes the mounds are made by giant gophers. Did you know that a family of gophers can move 5 tons of soil in one year! I didn't until I looked it up.

Christine on a date with nature

My wood ring (made of nature) in nature!

And it all came tumbling down.

Last Thursday I had to call the cops. I've called a lot of police in my day, but this was my first Olympia 911 call. Around 11:00, I turned off the light and climbed into bed. I heard a little shuffle noise, but I thought it was just Genevieve (cat, duh) playing downstairs. Then the shuffling noise turned into the black smoke monster from Lost. The house shook. There was a crack. I got up, thought someone was breaking into the house (always thinking that), but when I looked outside I saw our tree was now in the road. The whole thing was annoying. I had to call the cops, they came, they called the fire dept., and they called the electrical company (there were wires in the tree). At 11:30 the fire department came, and at 11:40 they left. At 12:00 the electrical company came and inspected the wires, and then they left. At 1:00 a bulldozer showed up. A nice old man with the City of Olympia came and pushed the tree out of the road into our yard. He had to use a chainsaw and cut it into a couple pieces. It's very strange to hear a chainsaw at 2:15 a.m., but that's what happened. The next morning, the tree was in our lawn.

Tree down!

 Oh,  I left out a very important part. I stayed inside as much as possibly while all the tree wrangling business was going on. Nick and Nic (read Christine) were both encouraging me to go outside and get the 411 on tree happenings, but I didn't want to wander outside at 1:00 and be all "excuse me what's the tree progress?" I finally did, and you know what happened? I fell. I was standing on the wet steps with my flip flops. The cop had just returned for the third time. He had out his extra high beam flashlight and was all about shining things. He hadn't seen me yet, but he heard me fall, so he provided the spotlight to my fall and said, "you ok?" I acted like nothing happened and said something along the lines of, "...what oh yeah I'm is there anything I need to do with this tree?" There wasn't, and the fall hurt a lot.

My arm.

Friday morning the city came and cleaned up every piece of tree. They really did a smashing job, and I was done dealing with trees. I was able to get some sleep on Friday night, and everything was all peachy. It was all peachy until I got up Saturday morning and found problem number two for the week.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Out and about in Spokane

On Saturday Maya and I went to Green Bluff to pick berries. The raspberries weren't quite ready yet, but the blackberries were growing like gangbusters.  And they were a thornless variety, which for me and Maya (both from Western Washington and used to thorny berry situatons) was a treat....especially since we had the littlest berry picker along)! 

Bunches of berries at Knapp's Farm.

The littlest berry picker: Zoey!
These bees were quite sluggish.

We are convinced this is the best pie (huckleberry peach) and ice cream (vanilla)

Galas in the orchard at Walter's Fruit Ranch.

At Walter's Fruit Ranch (my new favorite place), we rode the Fruitloop Express to the orchard and were given instructions for picking by Mrs. Apple. Grasp the apple and then turn it upside down. It should pop right off--hopefully, with the stem intact (that helps it stay fresh longer). Maya and I picked apples and Zoey played in the dirt. Maybe when you come to visit I'll take you there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Weekend baking II (only 5 days late)

I committed myself to bringing a dessert to the zombie movie afternoon event with Aaron (which featured Night of the Creepstacos, and kittens!), so Sunday evening brought more baking. Until like 11:30 at night. Jeez.

This church was right across the street
from my grandma's house.
Sadly, it no longer exists. The church, that is.

When I need to bake something delicious, and I'm not really sure what that something is, I turn to my Centennial Cookbook, published by St. Peter's Catholic Church, Dumont, MN (1899-1999). I decided on peanut butter cookies because I didn't have any chocolate in the house, and then I realized I didn't have any peanut butter. OK, that's a lie. I did have peanut butter, but it had been in the waaaaaay back of the fridge and was all crusty and white, so I tossed it (wisely, I think). I did have a lovely jar of almond butter, safe and unopened in the cupboard. It seemed like fate.

For reals.

Peanut Butter Almond Butter Cookies
by Drusilla Friedly (seriously)

1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup almond butter
1 tsp. baking soda (dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water)
2 3/4 cup flour (or 1 cup, depending on how things are shaping up)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter and brown sugar. Mix in the white sugar and almond butter (or peanut butter if you have to). Dissolve the baking soda in hot water and add to the bowl. And you guessed it: mix that shit up. After all that mixing, you'll want to add the flour a cup or so at a time. Mix some more until everything is all mixed up. (Maybe take a little rest after that. You should probably also sample the dough. Heck, have a little more. By now it's almost midnight and everyone else is asleep, dreaming delicious dreams. Back to it.)

Imagine the perfect cookie dough and then
make that dream a reality.

The dough should be firm--I don't know how to describe it and Drusilla certainly doesn't provide any hints. You don't want it dry, but also not overly moist--that's where your reserve flour might come into play. (The original recipe calls for 3 cups. 3 whole cups? That's last resort flour right there. I find that less works best.) Shape the dough into little balls about the size of a walnut. Press them flat with a fork so it makes that nice peanut butter cookie lattice (the part I forgot). Bake at 350 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Be generous with your sampling.

Don't you bring that flat baby in here!

The end result is not actually that pretty...this time. I forgot to make the cross-hatch marks. I've only got one hatch and it's nowhere near crossed. And I'm quite aware the cookies came out looking like giant-eared, flat baby heads. I know! But they are very delicious, and the almond butter adds a subtly different flavor. Recommend.
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