Sunday, July 17, 2011

Birch Camp

There is a place I Love. It is called Birch Camp.

Back in 1998 I volunteered to be a camp counselor at a camp for families in the NYC area, coping with HIV and AIDS. Little did I know I would stumble upon a family that I didn't know I had. People from all walks of life, from all across the globe were there. Professionals, clinicians, students, families, children and people who were simply and perfectly people. Thirteen years later, though I've missed a handful of summers, I still consider camp my home.

Over the years I've been lucky to have friends from Birch visit me in various locations, a few times in my own city (SF Bay Area). With each encounter I become more thankful for the opportunity to say, l these people my friends, my family. I know without a doubt that I could send out a message, an SOS, and they would show up for me. Crossing vast distances with great leaps and hops, arms outstretched.

Birch Camp. 

I thought that I was volunteering to help others. I arrived expecting to be a support to those in need, to those that needed a safe space to collapse and become a puddle.  Instead, I found that I needed the safe space just as much as the next person. I needed the support, the safe space to puddle, to dance with joy, to cover myself with glitter, to melt with laughter as much as the next person. I found a family at Birch Camp. I found a home.

Thirteen years later I am still filled with gratitude for this place that lives within me.
Thank you Birch. Thank you Birch Family. (Megan, JeffCox, and multiple others: Just because your photo isn't on this post doesn't mean you're not included in this . . . xoxo)

To "Volunteer" visit the Birch Family Camp website:

Be sure to pack beads and glitter.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Contemplating Blog Topics

It's pretty obvious from my posting frequency that I tend to blog in fits and starts. Months will roll by without a word or photo, and then, WHA-BAM! A cold weekend afternoon provides me with the time and inspiration (or procrastination) to get chatty. Today is that cold weekend day.

Two plastic shirts, hooded sweatshirt with hood up, wool socks, slippers and peppermint tea. I'm sure part of the reason I'm cold is from sitting for hours, typing on the computer . . . but still, it's gross outside. (My Mom would agree with me and then she'd remind me the weather is exactly how it's supposed to be, it's my story about it that make me think it's gross. That's for you Mom.)

All this to say, I want to make myself a list of things I think I'd like to write about at some point. Even if I never blog with regularity or frequency there are things that I could go on and on about, which would entertain me a great deal, and maybe even some other people out there.

What's on your list of interests? 
What sparks your urge to read/write/create/contemplate?

Istanbul, Turkey

Stone Fruit Picking

June 11, 2011

Without trying very hard, Devo and I have managed to make a tradition of our annual trip to Brentwood to pick some tasty stone fruits (apparently also called "Drupe") This year we were a group of 7; Myself and Devin, Chris and Monah, and Jeremy, Elaine and Zack! Unfortunately Chris and Kate were out of town this time, but we'll probably still share some of our tasty harvest with them.

I think the tastiest pick of the bucket this year was the cherries, as the apricots weren't quite ripe and the nectarines and peaches were all but gone. We stopped and had a picnic in the cherry grove, and managed to find a couple of trees with ripe apricots at another farm. The best eating of all though was in downtown Brentwood at what is quickly becoming our traditional stop, La Fuente. Great outdoor seating, plenty of shade from the hot sunshine, and ginormous plates of yummy Mexican food after eating way too many sweet stone fruits.

Our harvest currently sits in our freezer awaiting me and my motivation to make jam (recipe below) or bake something "rustic" (that was for you Devin).

Alice Waters Apricot Jam from The Art of Simple Food
Makes 4 Cups

"Jam making doesn't always have to be a big production.  I sometimes make a small amounts and keep it in the refrigerator instead of canning it for unrefrigerated storage."

Put a small plate in the freezer for testing the jam later. Pit and cut up into 1/2-inch pieces:
2.5 lbs apricots (6 cups)
If you like, to give a bitter almond flavor to the jam, crack open apricot pits with a hammer and remove 4 kernels; set aside. Put the apricot chunks in a medium heavy bottomed nonreactive pot and stir in:
3.75 cups sugarBring the apricots and sugar to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and boil steadily stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. As the liquid thickens and the fruit becomes soft and translucent, start testing for consistency by putting a spoonful of jam on the chilled plate to cool down quickly. When the jam is the thickness you want, stir in:
Juice of one lemon
Allow the jam to cool, put in a container with an apricot pit in each one, and store in the refrigerator for up to a year.

(You can use this same recipe for long storage if you sterilize four 8-ounce canning jars...)

Book Club - June

Host: Kim Keogh
Date: June 26, 2011
Book: The Monsters of Templeton
Food Theme: Family Recipes

Once again I believe that most of the group read this book (except me). I discovered that it was cheaper to purchase the actual book instead of buying it for my Kindle . . . and proceeded to accidentally order it from England for $0.01. While it arrived in plenty of time for me to tuck into it, I let it languish on my bedside table and read this book instead.
Food was fantastic as usual, a smattering of guacamole (Teresa), a tasty green salad (Anna), the infamous Lusardi "Wine Cake" (Sarah), Quinoa Walnut Salad, Coleslaw and Curried Potato Salad (Whole Foods-Me), and artichoke tasty bites (HOMEMADE by Kimmy)! Unfortunately Jessie had to sit this book club out since she came down with a case of "the sickness" (really just a cold, but I want to call it "the sickness" because I believe it had her down for days!).

We talked book, pending travel (Kim to Thailand), happy jobs (Tree), potential moves (Me), babies (Anna), and the mystery of fantastic cake recipes (Sarah). A good time was had by all. (Photos added soon, again, stupid iPhoto . . .)

Next month:
July Book: The Island by Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop
Host: Jessie Murphy
Date: July 20, 2011 (Sarah's Birthday!)
Food Theme: Greek food (Duh.)

Book Club - May

May 26, 2011

Host: Sarah Lusardi
Book: Just Kids by Patti Smith
Food Theme: Favorite Musician's Favorite Food

Because I've been a bad blogger I can't even remember what we discussed at this book club. I think we ate many tasty things as usual . . .

Girls, feel free to comment and add who your musician was and what you brought:
Hayley: Andrew Bird / Olives (supplemented with crackers and cheese)
Kim: Brownies and Chocolate covered candies

I believe we all finished the book (?) and thought it was an interesting glimpse into the lives of musicians and artists in the 60's and 70's, especially the lives of Patty and Robert.
I had a hard time swallowing that anyone's life could be so amazing and so casually filled with such famous people. I don't doubt the truth of it, not in the least, it's just simply hard to imagine how many creative people there were coming together at that time in New York. It seems like it was such a rich time to have been alive and in that scene.

The only photo I managed to take. Dessert!
Browinies with "dust", Candy "Pills", and Boston Cream Pie in honor of my Birthday!

The June book is (or was):
Host: Kim Keogh
Date: June 29, 2011

Henry Coe Backpack

I'm a bit behind on my little blog, so I'm going to post a number of events which took place in April & May!

April 22 - 23, 2011
Henry Coe State Park, home to my first ever California backpack! It was an easy 2 night, 10 mile weekend, but it was LOVELY. The hills were lush and green, wildflowers were abundant and people were scarce! Devin and I chose to visit Henry Coe State park because of it's proximity to home. We left after work on a Friday, drove an hour and a half and hiked a short distance to our first camp before the sun set. 

The second day we awoke relatively late, ate some oatmeal and began a gentle climb up to a high ridge, we would follow this ridge for most of the day. The sun peeked in an out of clouds and fog throughout the day warming us just enough from the frequent breeze. Around 5:00, our legs and hips growing weary of the packs, we arrived at a wee lake and decided to call it a day. After deciding where we would pitch our tent we threw down all of our gear, pulled out our camp mats and sleeping bags and lay reading in the lush tall grass until the sun slipped behind the hills, allowing the fog to roll in and embrace us entirely.

The third day we awoke to what sounded like rain and stayed curled up in the tent hoping it would stop. After eating breakfast in the tent, we decided we might as well get going and we packed up our soggy gear and made our way out. The views this day were so different from the day before, the fog moving in and out, offering us only glimpses of the valley to our side, or a spot of sun off in the distance. The trail meandered through lush oak savannah, all the new growth glowing bright green. Our shoes squished with each step, sox saturated with water that was absorbed from the blades of tall grasses. Slowly we descended from the ridge until we reached the valley floor from which we started the day prior. The sun broke through the remaining fog that afternoon, shining on our backs as we completed the 10 mile hike. 

What I liked most about this trip was being up high for most of the trip, allowing us to see parts of the bay area we're not used to seeing. Once atop the ridge the we could see far east over hills that I've only seen when landing in an airplane, and to the west we saw the rich valley of the south bay where fields of garlic were growing.

There's a chance that Henry Coe State park may soon be closing due to the state budget crisis, which would be a huge shame. To donate to the park visit the park's website, it's well worth the donation to keep this park open and available to the public. How lucky we are to have so many verdant parks in the San Francisco bay area.

Above photos from here and here.
My own photos coming soon . . . iPhoto is being a real turd right now . . .

Thirty to the Three

May 21, 2011

Another year well spent, 32 you served me well, and now it's on to 33.
To celebrate another year of fantastic living a small group of friends joined me for a Birthday campfire and campout at Lake Chabot. Devo and I were the first to arrive so after finding our campsite and dropping off way too much gear for an overnight, we made our way down to the lake and took a look around. Lake Chabot is another fine example of how much the Bay Area has to offer in terms of nature and miles upon miles of trail.

As the rest of the crew trickled in we celebrated with Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer and munched on many tasty snacks. Devin whittled a stick.

Once everyone had arrived we got the fire going and cooked veggie brats, veggie burgers, and grilled vegetables. Once sufficiently stuffed, we continued to eat by indulging in S'mores as well as homemade vegan chocolate cake, compliments of Jeremy, Elaine and Zacky!

As the evening drew to a close, we scared off the bold raccoons, put most of our gear back in the cars, and pulled on our long-johns for a cool night's sleep. The morning brought 12 kinds of vegan cinnamon rolls, (Yea Cinnaholic!!) and three styles of coffee (again, WAY too much gear for an overnight).

Not to go unmentioned is the fact that this overnight was the Amazing Zacky's FIRST CAMPING TRIP! Yahoo!! He did wonderfully, despite having an upset tummy, and even was a trooper the next morning when we took him on a long hike on the other side of the lake! Yea Zacky!

A wonderful way to spend a birthday, if I do say so myself.
Thanks to my friends and family for all the love, presents, and presence.