Masks and Filters and Such

In an attempt to a) keep friends, family, and folks in our community safe, and b) keep myself entertained and out of the pool hall during our shelter-in-place adventure, I’ve been making fabric masks with custom-made replaceable liners from blue shop towels.

Why blue shop towels?

A recent study found that of all the material likely to be available to home-grown mask makers, the blue shop towels had the highest performance of microbial filtration available (

Why custom-made to fit these particular masks?
Because trying to just shove a square of shop towel into the pocket results in an uncomfortable bunched-up mass of material in front of your nose and mouth that are hot and hard to breathe through.

Wearing masks is weird enough for most of us without making it more uncomfortable than it needs to be.

By cutting and sewing them into a shape that matches the exact contour of the mask, they fit smoothly and keep the structure of the curve snugged up tight to your nose for a better seal while giving you (literally) more breathing room.

Upside to the filters? Safer, more comfortable peeps.
Downside? They can be maddeningly fiddly to insert smoothly.

So, I made a quick video to show the easiest way to get the little buggers in. (Please pardon the accidental advertising for those amazing Persian pickled vegetables on the counter, although they are pretty darn tasty if you’re into pickled veggies.)

I also made a mask for Winston, who immediately had some thoughts he wanted to share on the subject.

On a final note, may I just say how much it sucks when your dog’s video is better than yours?


Yet Spring Persists

I was out picking up some of the larger sticks and boughs that had fallen into our yard lately. (Don’t worry, I left all the mulchy smaller stuff for the bees.)

I didn’t expect pink.

I’m not a very good “expressive” gardener, but I like to think I’m a decent “receptive” one.

As long as they show up on their own and agree that I’m not liable for preservation or maintenance of life, I agree to be a grateful audience to their beauty and grace.

There was also purple.

And more purple.

And then I forgot about the sticks.

It’s funny what you see when you suddenly wake up to where you are.

Plus smells. And sounds.

The black thing out there was one of several sea lions drafting by, flipper in the air in salute and barking a cheery “Hello! Hang in there!”

I don’t believe that herbs capable of overwintering and thriving on their own can be considered “gardening.”

Same with voluntary food. (Chives are a kind of  onion, right? Or maybe they’re technically aromatic grass? Either way, in my world they count as a vegetable, hence, a voluntary food. I rest my case.)

Honestly, I did try to get back to the sticks, but then…

Itty bitty BOOM!

I gave up and went for a walk in the woods with the dog.

Thank God for pink and sea lions and dogs and woods and light.

And you.

We are stronger together.

Stay well.



Assaggio, Seattle’s Best Italian Restaurant

*Oops… I started this post over a year ago when we visited Seattle for a major odometer-flip birthday. Better late than never, right? Especially since we’re planning on returning for dinner real soon…

Seattle’s outstanding Italian restaurant, Assaggio, just sort of snuck up on us. It turned out to be, by heaps and hounds, the highlight of our trip.

On our way to the Chihuly Glass Museum, we were reading menus posted outside restaurants, scouting out lunch options, when Amy appeared behind us, organizing something on the sidewalk.

Amy: Coming in for lunch?

Me: Well, we’re giving ‘er a think…

Amy: If you don’t see exactly what you want, we’re flexible.

This turned out to be both an understatement and a promise listed right on the menu.

We had no idea just how happy they would make us, but 2.5 fabulous hours later, we left very, very happy.

Amy turned out to be not only a psychic server, but also the most skilled, accessible and super friendly sommelier we’ve ever encountered.

It all started with the olive oil dipping sauce, stuffed with garlic, sundried tomatoes, capers, rosemary, and possibly heroin, given how mind-bendingly delicious and addictive it was.

Even though it’s served in a cute carafe that pours without dripping, they also provide a SPOON, so obviously we were intended to enjoy the goodies, right?

Amy refilled our olive oil and “goodies” three times. And this for people who “don’t eat carbs.”

Sometimes, you just need to know when to break the rules.

Once it became evident we had solidly marched into the “go big or go home” carb consumption zone, Rick asked Amy if they had any of the bread heels in the kitchen, since nothing, NOTHING, satisfied a carb-deprived palate like a basket of super-crusty fresh Italian bread.

She appeared moments later with ALL the ends, piled blissfully high in a basket, with our second refill of oil.

This is what I mean by Assaggio snuck up on us. I didn’t even realize I should have been taking pictures from the moment we entered. We had already eaten half the basket by the time I thought, “Hey! I think I may need to blog for the first time in forever about this!”

But photos don’t always capture what makes a lifetime-memory meal special. 

It was how Amy, Kelly the bartender, and entire kitchen staff made us feel like instant friends. We laughed, drank wine, sampled way too many fine Italian Amari (Rick and Kelly even created what we believe to be the world’s first “Sicilian Old Fashion”), talked politics, travel, and what it takes to become a master sommelier, and we ate.

Boy, did we eat. A year later, I still remember rolling out of the restaurant in the most delightful carb coma of my lifetime.

Amy and I have now been friends on Facebook for over a year. I snuck along with her amazing trip to Italy last May, commiserated over some distressing wind damage to a cherished tree in her front yard, and delighted in their recent adoption of the world’s most spunky rescue parrot, Miss Mel. So when I say that the “instant friends” experience was authentic, well… #word.

Write Where You Are

“It’s been so long since I’ve blogged,” I complained to the Muse as I flipped the slow bacon.

“Write,” she breathed.

“Write already.”

(She’s heard this sad refrain a lot lately. I understand her weariness, although that’s probably just projection on my part.)

There’s no sense whining to Her about not knowing where to begin when you’re stuck; you start where you stand.

For me, today, that means I write where I am, right where I am.

All right then… slow bacon it is.

Before Emily and Sara came to visit us a couple of summers ago, I had no idea that if you cook bacon on low and flip it regularly, the bacon cooks flat and the grease sizzles calmly in the pan, making splatter cleanup unnecessary and fryer wash up as slick as, um, bacon.

I now think of Em and Sara every time we cook “slow bacon,” which is every time we cook it.

Bacon has become a trigger for delicious Em-and-Sara gratitude waves, and it’s not even mostly about the bacon.

At the end of the counter sit our dining table candles, doubling as ziplock bag drying racks.

Why? The amount of plastic going into oceans and landfills these days is really starting to piss me off, so I’ve started to warm-soapy-water wash viable ziplock bags for re-use.

Baby steps…

I learned “conserve resources” over three decades ago from Adele Schmidt, who washed commercial bread bags for freezing her delicious homemade bread, and from my Granny Lever, who saved and re-used aluminum foil, a habit from her war-informed Great Depression days, and no doubt from my own Mom, in ways too numerous and close up to be visible (although something about twist ties floats in on the fog…).

I’m grateful for ziplock baggies, Adele and Florence and Jane, and our one, beautiful, irreplaceable planet.

Did you know you can control how quickly avocados ripen by regulating their surrounding temperature? This is important insight into a fruit that lives (and dies) by the motto I saw recently on a poster:

“Not yet…
Not yet…
Not yet…
Too late…
Signed, Avocado.”

Since we often buy them from Costco, it was a welcome epiphany that keeping avocados in the fridge will substantially delay their ripening, allow us to stagger their demise consumption by bringing them one or two at a time onto the window sill, where we allow them to die at a more dignified pace, rather than en mass in a green string bag.

Sort of figured that one out by myself, although I’m still very grateful for avocados in general.

This summer our friend, Al Linden, taught us there’s a way to defrost meat at max speed with no chance of a microwave-induced “Whoops! Hope there’s no botulism in that prematurely cooked bit at the end!” episode.

Remove the plastic and foam tray and set the icy goods directly on a metal cookie sheet.

The metal dissipates the cold, and you’ll be astounded at how quickly shrimp, scallops, chicken breasts, and, apparently, bratwurst will thaw. The bad boys above went from a solid block to bbq-ready in 1.5 hours.

We think of you, Al, every time we forget to pull something out for dinner.

I don’t know if this was helpful to you. It certainly was a good afternoon for me.

But maybe the next time you get stuck, you’ll remember to start right where you are. And maybe I will, too.


The Gift

“I need a day off,” I said.

So Good ‘Ol Saint Rick shouldered the list of all the town errands and drove off to brave the last-minute Christmas Costco gauntlet alone.

Winston assumed the seasonal pose. I didn’t have anything in particular to do, aside from a bit of gift wrapping and maybe making our traditional family recipe of sausage balls* (recipe below: it’s old school and OUTSTANDING) for Christmas Eve.

Well, that and all the other ordinary stuff a person has to do in a day, like walk the dog, make breakfast, clean the kitchen, throw some laundry in, shower and wash my hair, and so on.

And because these things happened on a “day off,” I didn’t feel like I was already behind and these tasks were standing between me and what I really should be doing.

I stood contentedly in the forest, listening to the birds and the rain-turning-to-snow sift through the monster cedars to splash onto the ferns by the path while I waited–again–for the dog to finally quit sniffing and pee.

I bonded with my fancy new flipper from What’s Cooking in Qualicum Beach as I fried two farm-fresh beauties for my stand-by “Fried Egg Sandwich With Ketchup” (no recipe needed: just fry an egg (break the yolk) on both sides, make a piece of toast, put the fried egg on the toast and apply as much ketchup as you can get away with). And then I ate the sandwich. And life was good.

[Editor: There will be no photo provided to illustrate the paragraph below. Instead, we offer you this somewhat random image of melting Brie. We’ll make it work.]

By the time I was sudsing up my hair with my favorite-scented shampoo (I go by smell) in a warm shower with great water pressure, gently stretching my neck muscles as I massaged my scalp, I was feeling like those actors in shampoo commercials who carry on like this shampoo experience is, bar none, the best friggin’ moment of their entire life, like melting Brie.

And that’s when it occurred to me that it hadn’t taken me any more time to walk the dog, cook and eat breakfast, or shower today than it does any other day. I just enjoyed each activity in the peaceful space that seemed to have opened up around them, moment by moment.

And then I thought, “Hey! Why not every day? What is stopping me from enjoying my shower as much on a work day as I am today? In fact, why not enjoy work itself this way?”

Why not, indeed?

We wish you all the merriest of seasonal joy and peace in ALL the moments.

Love, Kathy and Rick

Rick and Kathy’s Christmas Sausage Meatballs (as stolen verbatim from Kathy’s Mom’s recipe box)

l lb pork sausage
l slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup fine cracker crumbs
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp sage

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbls brown sugar
1 tbls vinegar
1 tbls soya sauce

Combine all meatball ingredients, beat at high speed for 5 min. Drop teaspoonsfull on a cookie sheet, cook @ 350 deg until brown (approx. 15 min). Mix all sauce ingredients, bring to a boil while stirring, remove from heat. Combine meatballs and sauce, keep warm in a chafing dish to serve.

[Note: if you don’t have a chafing dish or even know what one might be, you can use a small slow cooker or decorative serving pot on a kitchen warming pad to serve them with toothpicks at a party. Or you can just stand at the stovetop and eat the whole pot by yourself with a big spoon. Your choice.]

Hot Christmas Ideas

It’s too early for Christmas. I get it.

But the person who posted this on Facebook as a great idea for a stocking stuffer doesn’t play by the “Not A Word Until After American Thanksgiving” rule.

And I immediately thought of at least one person, very dear to my own heartbeat, who could really use a hot sauce keychain fob.

And he’s not easy to buy for.

So, not being one to let the Gift Muse go without a fight, I ignored the calendar and dug deeper.

And I discovered nothing says “I love you” more than the purity of a classic: Cholulua Hot Sauce.

Of course, “I love you more!” is Cholula Hot Sauce sold by the half gallon.

If you have someone on your gift list that resonates with the song, “One Scoville Over the Line,” it turns out there’s a whole swath of gift options for your hot sauce fans.

… like this 24-pack of 1/8 oz Mini Tabasco Original Pepper Sauce in real fancy little glass bottles.

Here’s what we’re talking about: critical mobility that no stinkin’ new smartphone is going to serve up.

If your blister-lipped lovely prefers to maybe not look like someone who has been saving up Denny’s serving-size condiments, an actual gift-boxed set might be more appropriate.

At this point, some of you may be thinking, “I don’t get it, Big Dan. What is it about busting a sweat, sneezing uncontrollably, becoming alarmingly red in the face, surreptitiously licking a napkin, and occasionally beating a swift beeline for a piece of unbuttered bread makes a meal more enjoyable?”

Don’t judge.

Observe the sommelier-like reverence reflected in the descriptions of the 4 sauces offered in the Ghost Pepper Habanero Hot Sauce Gift Box above:

Bhut Kisser – Award winning ghost pepper hot sauce. Fiery Food Challenge winner in the Ghost Pepper Category. 

Bee Sting – Bee Sting Ghost Pepper Honey Hot Sauce is very unique and very hot. An initial burst of sweetness from the honey followed by an incredibly intense ghost pepper heat. 

The Defibrillator – Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce. Ghost Peppers, Habanero, and Smoked Serrano. Slightly smokey and very hot. 

Habanero Head – Habanero hot sauce flavor with a hint of smokiness, garlic and intense habanero heat. 

This is love, people, even if you don’t get the appeal. Some of the best gifts ever come from a place of supporting the very places where we most differ.

Or perhaps you like to please your pepper popper AND inject a little family engagement into the Christmas festivities?

Gotcha covered with the always-a-hit Ass Kickin Hot Sauce Challenge Book of Pleasure and Pain. Fun for kids of all ages!

For those who like some crunch with the punch, these nuts are Da Bomb.

Or maybe you’re thinking, “Yes, but where’s the fire-breathing beef jerky?”

And even if everyone else in the house is on the trendy “Eat Bland and You’ll Be Grand!” diet, no one will fault your loved one for their adult beverage choice. This Bloody Mary lover’s gift set.

Honestly, at some point, my research led to increasingly sketchy outposts.

I had accidentally wandered into the corner of the store where only every third light was working, and some of those flickered dangerously in the murky, echoing aisle.

And then I made a mad dash towards the light before the dragon got me.

And now you’re on your own until after Thanksgiving.

Questions for Amazon customer service when you can’t find the answer online? Here’s the Amazon customer service phone number: 1-888-280-4331


There’s almost always food involved.

Scratch that… there is ALWAYS food and an adult beverage involved.

And giggles and snorts and the guarantee that you WILL NOT get away with even the slightest lapse of attention…

… or the teensiest error, like when you intend to call someone a “monkey” and it comes out “schmonkey.”

It’s all in gentle fun, of course, because… cousins.

It’s okay to screw up with these people.

When they look at you, they somehow recognize themselves, or their sister, or Grandma Daisy, and who could be genuinely nasty to Grandma Daisy?

We document our lives together…

… and are documented unto.

Cousins are dolphins who swim tight alongside when we need support in rough waters, and who take pictures and laugh with us when we’re sailing smooth.

Adopted cousins can marry in, too…

… although this means assuming some risks, naturally.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for risking the leap that landed you in this messy clan, and for so wholeheartedly adopting us into yours.

The laws of physics and economics dictate that it’s not always possible to live close enough to all your cousins on both sides of the aisle to know and enjoy them all equally, yet.

But we count on the reality that dolphins will be dolphins, wherever we sail.