We love the earthy, buttery flavor of chanterelles, but by this time of year, they’re long gone from our local woods. The question, then, is how to preserve the surplus from our occasional picking bonanza. Some people pickle ’em, others saute and freeze, but to my taste, the subtle flavors get lost in the processing. So we’ve resorted to dehydrating chanterelles, and accepting that the texture won’t be the same. But the flavors intensify, in much the way dried shiitake mushrooms have a stronger taste than fresh, making up for loss of texture. Finely ground or rehydrated and diced, dried chanterelles bring fantastic flavor to soups, sauces, gravy and stuffing.
After all the effort involved–from picking and cleaning to the depressing process of watching a huge bag of fresh mushrooms shrink to just a handful in the dehydrator–proper storage is key. And that means limiting the humidity inside the storage jars. But how to know if the humidity is right, other than watching and hoping mold doesn’t sprout? I hate mold.
That’s where the Hygrolid comes in. This cool product has a hygrometer to measure humidity built directly into a lid that fits standard mason jars. Hence the name. Put your precious dried goods (Seed keepers, cigar aficionados and other smokers will love this) and you can monitor the internal humidity at a glance. Awesome. Anyway, I’m not being paid to endorse this product, it’s just so excellent I thought anyone who preserves dried food might be interested. For more info or to buy, check out the Hygrolid website HERE.
Okay, I realize this is a bit off the stated subject matter for the blog, but I couldn’t resist. And, when I really thought about it, I couldn’t remember what the stated subject matter is actually supposed to be. So…say hello to Mochi, Skyla’s new kitty. Skyla has been cautiously asking for a cat for several years now, and demonstrating she was serious by volunteering at our local PAWS cat shelter (with my mom’s assistance) for her birthday.
So, for Christmas we gave her a cat bed, brush and toy, with a note saying she could pick out her own kitten from the shelter. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen her cry tears of joy. What a moment.
Little did we know kittens are only born during a certain time of year, and January is not it. After frantic phone calls to all animal agencies within striking distance, half a dozen trips to shelters here and in Silverdale and Bemerton, and with potential heartbreak looming, the kind woman at the Humane Society called to say they had a litter of three. One more mad dash to Silverdale, a gear-buying spree at Pet Smart and Mochi was on the way home with us. Skyla and Mochi have been inseparable ever since, and we’ve all been surprised at how much happiness he’s brought into our home.
What a great evening at the Olympia Timberland Library! Big thanks to the Sweeney family for a fantastic pre-event dinner, to Mary for putting the event together, and to Nikki McClure for drawing the crowd. We had a full room, good questions and conversation, and Nikki made fir-tip tea for everyone. Lots of fun. I felt lucky to be a part of it.
I have a number of local/regional events in the works coming up, and a potential East Coast tour later in the spring. Dates and locations aren’t locked in yet, but I will let you know as soon as they are. Stay tuned for details. Hope you are all well.
A couple weeks ago I read a story about these small library boxes people are putting up to share books around their neighborhoods. I thought it was such a great idea, I did a little more research and found out there’s actually an organization that helps people build and install the book boxes. And they feature a map where you can find Little Free Libraries anywhere in the world. Their website is HERE. The picture above is from a story about the rebuilding of a vandalized LFL on Inside Bainbridge.
Using the map, Skyla and I found a few “official” LFLs nearby, and also remembered the unofficial one that’s been up near Stacy’s parents’ house for years. So we decided to donate copies of Closer to the Ground to the Komedal Road, Shepard Path and Agate Loop “libraries.” I’ve heard there’s another one on the south end of the Island in Crystal Springs, but we couldn’t find it…if anyone has an address, let me know and we’ll drop off a book.
Here’s to a great idea and the hope that it keeps on growing.
What an honor to be appearing with Nikki McClure in her hometown of Olympia, WA. Nikki’s art, which graces the cover and eight chapter headings of Closer to the Ground, is flat-out gorgeous. She hand-cuts each illustration from a single sheet of black construction paper, using only an X-acto knife. Nikki’s bigtime, too: Her children’s books, calendars, cards, posters, t-shirts and fine art have a worldwide following, and the Bellevue Art Museum is currently showing a career retrospective of her work. So I was blown away when she agreed to work with me on Closer to the Ground, and her illustrations captured the spirit of the book better than I ever could have imagined.
And now, we’re doing an event together on Wednesday, January 23rd at 7:30pm at the Olympia Timberland Library. I’m stoked. If you’re anywhere in the area, come on down and check it out.