“Is it me, or does that look like a lung?” Adventures in Kombucha

Okay, FINE. We’re making kombucha. We’ve joined the hipsters, and the state of the world is dire indeed.

Honestly, we  know lacto-bacteria is good for health – we were happily okay with fermented lemonade and ginger beer, but truly, the kombucha people are way too into their “mothers” and whatnot. Honestly? That scoby thing looks like a LUNG or something, and we are not even kidding. But – let us back up a titch.

T’s lovely autoimmune disorder is morphing into something new and annoying – gastroparesis. What we believed to be a stomach ‘flu this summer was not, and we’ve learned that few things settle her stomach better than something lacto-fermented. She believes it’s probably a placebo effect because she knows it’s good for her, but it’s also light and crisp and generally only slightly fizzy, which is generally why most nauseous people prefer something carbonated. At an airport a few weeks ago, T felt so bad she was desperate enough to try kombucha, because a shop had one with ginger… Aaaaand… the rest is history. We went home and found a store-bought bottle of organic raw kombucha with a little bit of blobby stuff on the bottom, and pulled out our fermentation crock to make our own.

Da Scoby, She Is No Pretty

The blobby bit on the bottom is a scoby – which is a 
Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. We put our unfiltered kombucha into our crock, fed it a cup of sweetened black tea, and left it alone for two weeks. The bacteria and yeast eat the sugar, just like it does in the yeast in bread, and creates more of itself, with a happy side-effect of mild carbonation. Kombucha is full of probiotics and things which our gut bacteria love which will make them love us. And, despite the lung-lookalike, with its rubbery slippery-ness and brown stringy bits, it isn’t actually that gross. Okay, no it is, but it doesn’t stink – it smells fresh and slightly sour – a little vinegary.  The weird bubbles and blobby bits are a good sign – (a bad sign, of course, would be anything black, moldy, or fuzzy green). It isn’t ever going to be …an attractive-looking process, but as we poked at the thing that looked very…organic and cellular, we reminded ourselves that it was For Our Health! For! Our! Health!

And we’d like it once before, right? Right.

We decanted our first bottle yesterday, made from a black pu’er tea (a fermented tea from the Yunnan province in China – aging and fermenting teas is also A Thing, and there are pu’er gambling rings in some places, because some people are highly motivated to get certain tea batches from certain years, like some people do with wines) and do you know what it tastes like? A much less sugary Mexican Senorial soda, sangria flavor. We have no idea how that happened – at all – but it’s really tasty… and organic-looking or not, it settles the stomach, and that’s good enough, for now.

Cheese Scones, Because…

One of the things we have left to us of our lives in Scotland is reading the Scottish papers. We still read the BBC News for Scotland, peruse The Herald, subscribe online to Bella Caladonia, and of course follow a number of Scots via social media. It’s always interesting to get a Scottish perspective on the world.

This week, however, the BBC reminded Scotland that it’s an English company, with a report most Scots saw as blatantly false. Scottish Twitter’s response to the various alarmist claims by English / Unionist media, about how the Scottish Nationalist Party is having a civil war, was swift. One would think the English would learn that the Scots will unite in the face of a common enemy…

So, of course D. had to go make cheese scones (properly pronounced with a short ŏ, as in BOND) in support of our dear friends currently suffering beneath the staggering peril of so much sarcasm in one place.

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-D & T

August 31, In Retrospect

In Retrospect posts are about looking at the pictures taken on a particular day of the year. Welcome to August 31, through the years.

2008, Glasgow Scotland. Definitely looking at all the architecture, walking everywhere, dragging the camera.

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2010, Glasgow Scotland. Photographing things through the window, overlooking the crescent park during the day and giving us great views of the moon, as well.

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2011, Hayford Mills Scotland. T. would watch as D. walked away to work, eeling his way along a narrow footpath, to cross the motorway, wending through neighborhoods, to eventually end up in a business park in Stirling.

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2017, Newark CA. We had been down here for just over a month, and were enjoying the summer fruit, much as we’ve been doing this summer.

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-D & T

August’s Bounty, Bittersweet

from E.B. White, CHARLOTTE’S WEB

The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone, over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.” A little maple tree heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.

The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into fall the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.

Everybody heard the song of the crickets. Avery and Fern Arable heard it as they walked the dusty road. They knew that school would soon begin again. The young geese heard it and knew that they would never be little goslings again. Charlotte heard it and knew that she hadn’t much time left. Mrs. Zuckerman, at work in the kitchen, heard the crickets, and a sadness came over her, too. “Another summer gone,” she sighed. Lurvy, at work building a crate for Wilbur, heard the song and knew it was time to dig potatoes.

“Summer is over and gone,” repeated the crickets. “How many nights till frost?” sang the crickets. “Good-bye, summer, good-bye, good-bye!”

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August already, and so much coming and going. We have now been in this little house for a whole year, whirling here on the winds of fires in the North Bay, and bracketed once again by smoky, hazy days which are beginning to be the mark of summer itself. Dust settles on every surface, egrets stalk up and down the slough, and housekeeping is a futile endeavor, chasing the dust bunnies from the daily wind storms and endless house refurbishments on the block. Summer in suburbia means that someone is always cutting tile, jackhammering driveways, trimming, mowing, blowing, digging. Through windows yawning wide to gather a cool breath to dispel the clinging humidity, we hear the electronic melodies of the neighborhood’s phones ring, and fumble after our own. Child voices raised in shrieking laughter and sobs echo through otherwise quiet corridors. Ah, summertime, and the living is… fraught. Everywhere is a focused intensity, as the community seems to teem with people trying to wring as much enjoyment as they can from these long, bright days… with the ironic result that everyone seems to be whirling along busily, faster and faster than before.

Roll Bikes 1

The busy whirl makes it difficult to remember that myriad people suffer from melancholia in the month of August. It’s a month where it feels like everything is winding down, yet nothing has gotten done, and decisions have yet to be made. “The summer is over, and we are not yet saved!” Many moneyed friends are away on holiday, yet we who want to be outside are prevented from spending time in the outdoors, whether it’s because it’s too hot, too smoky, or we just don’t have the time – yet we feel the clock ticking down to colder, greyer weather. People are drowning in nostalgia for the simplicity of back-to-school when all they have before them is more work – and then the holiday insanity – and too many people feel pushed just now about affording school for themselves, for their kids, uniforms, etc. etc. Check in with yourself and with your friends this month – it’s never not a good time to sure we fragile humans are okay, but it can be an especially good time now. August hits some people worse than February. There truly is such a thing as “summertime blues.”

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T is still a bit miffed that her “summertime blues” have been more tinged with green. She has had two weeks of off-and-on stomach ‘flu which, to her mind, came out of nowhere. She was minding her own business, studying her Dutch (and conjugating zeggen, weten, gaan, drenken, spreken and hebben are enough to make one want to lie down with nausea anyway), when wham – in the middle of making breakfast, it was all over. In the season of white peaches and sunshine, who is stuck in the house throwing up??? The ignominy! It’s mainly the peaches she’s mad about, to be honest. She was marveling over beginning her morning with eating the perfect peach… and then… um. Well. Anyway, D has brought her more peaches to make up for the ones she “lost…” but she’s still holding a grudge against the universe. Ahem.

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In other news, while now we’ve been back in the States now for six years, and a single year in this house, next month also marks the unofficial anniversary of twenty-four years of the D&T show. (And yes, to all of those wondering – the show began when we were in the sixth grade. Obviously.) Unofficial, because it’s an anniversary no one celebrates but the two of us – and sometimes even we forget. The world sneers at those of us who forget to be romantics… but perhaps the truest test of a love is knowing whether or not fuss and roses are happily received. T, who believes firmly in the truth of Cut Flowers Are Dead, has twice now gotten rose bushes – which are perfectly acceptable, as well as orchids, and untold air plants and saintpaulia, which are much more suitable. Meanwhile, D received cut flowers at work once, and has yet to live down the horror. And somehow, the show goes on…

Last guests will be arriving this week – D’s childhood friend from her house in Georgia, and a few in and out trips by other family members who happen to be in town. There are birthdays to be celebrated, and fairs and festivals to attend. The Chamber group kicked off their free community choir this past weekend with games and songs and a picnic – which we missed thanks to germs – but soon we’ll be neck deep in holiday music and preparing for our first show December first. The wheels never stop turning, but in the summertime, one can pretend, for a little while, that they’re not going anywhere in particular… but deadlines are looming, endings are approaching, and so much is on the horizon…including the last of the fresh corn fritters, zucchini crab cakes, more cake, and grilled pizza. (All the things you can find excuses to make when you have company.)

So, friends. How is it with you?

Echoes of Glasgow

Way back in 2008, we were dealing with a horrible neighbor in Glasgow who felt that he needed to bring the pub party back to his basement flat … beneath us. It was truly awful, and exhausting, dealing with police who wouldn’t take any action, and a pipsqueak of a neighbor who just couldn’t understand that we needed rest, even if he didn’t.

Fast forward to another flat, and 8 years later, when the neighbor upstairs (again in Glasgow) decided to put on an album … and promptly pass out, leaving us to endure horrible bass going all night long.

You can imagine our consternation when the bass started up last night, here in Newark. After a few hours of hoping and waiting, when 10 p.m. rolled around I phoned the police … who asked where we lived … and then told us they’d been getting calls since about 6 p.m. and there was nothing they could do about it.

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Above is a shot taken from our driveway, looking out towards the Dumbarton bridge. We’re perfectly situated for Shoreline Amphitheater to blast the bass all the way across the bay, directly towards us, and for us to have to endure some other city’s lack of noise ordinance. Grr.

-D

Midsummer

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And on the Fourth Day, there were Fireworks. And again on the Fifth Day. And also the Sixth. And then the Eighth. For behold, once begun, no one seemed to be able to figure out how to stop having Fireworks, but we’re about to hunt them down and help them


We are coming up on almost a year living in this little house. We arrived the last day of the month a year ago, to dirt and chaos. This month, we’re sorting closets as if we were moving again, winnowing all of our possessions in the yearly “why do we have so much STUFF!?” fit that T throws.

(But seriously: why do we have so much stuff??)

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Things are still lovely here in beautiful brown Newark. We still get weird bursts of humidity. The light is still way too bright. God’s AC still turns on faithfully at about half two in the afternoon, and the slough still provides us with an astonishing variety of weird smells and odd noises in the middle of the night. (It is disturbing to hear things swimming when one leaves the windows open.) The “bandit cats,” as D one day called raccoons when he couldn’t remember the name for them, continue to be huge and disturbing and stare fixedly at one from eerie, backlit eyes. The crow guard continues to be… nosy, and have taken to moving the patriotic pinwheel some realtor left in our yard from whichever planter we put it in. At least they’ve mostly been leaving the fountain alone…

The newest Wild Kingdom entertainment is that we have ground squirrels undermining the bank in the back of the house and watching hawks pounce and strike at them… and being startled and horrified watching an egret do the same thing. It is NOT nice to watch something with that long of a neck attempt to swallow… Ugh, never mind.
Nature, y’all.

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As delightful as all of that has been, we’ve been a bit restless. Several news agencies reported on the research behind a story run in the Guardian about how $117 thousand a year is “low income” in some places in California, and how ridiculous it all is to struggle so hard to make ends meet. We had hoped to stay in this area long enough to retire, but after our trip to the Netherlands and visiting with friends from other states, we are at long last taking a serious look at other options for a slower life. This doesn’t mean we’re giving up on our various projects. We’re working on media for next year’s season of our chamber group already, finding ourselves somehow involved in helping with graphic and website design. We’re still doing fermentation projects (Fermented green plum pickles = amazing), and not yet giving up our summertime joys of cycling and putzing around the Farmer’s Markets or wherever. We’re giving ourselves ’til August to get serious about thinking, but… the thoughts are already sneaking in.

For so long, we thought we should stay in California because there were more ethnically mixed families here, and some of the more painful, oblivious, and/or overtly malicious interactions one can experience being part of a mixed family were at a minimum here. But, as the world so handily proves these days, racists are everywhere. We may as well just say “forget it,” and take our chances elsewhere.

For a long time, we felt like we couldn’t leave our church community. That’s …changed, and not in a wholly negative way, but we’re in a weird middle ground where we don’t have kids, and find a lot of things are very families-with-kids oriented. We’re in that same weird liminal space that probably a lot of single people get lost in, the This Is Not About You But You’re Welcome To Sit Here Anyway place, which can feel a bit alienating.

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The thing about communities is that they aren’t static, and neither are we, and sometimes, what was a good fit doesn’t remain so. Currently the not-good-fit that many churchy people are experiencing is the cognitive dissonance of religious communities who remain utterly silent in the face of atrocious goings on in the nation. One can grow up on tales of bold apostles and a social justice God, yet see nothing of this echoed in the behaviors of modern day saints. What does one do, when one believes that truth doesn’t just set us free, but speaking our truth can set others free to articulate theirs? There has to be a way to …speak out to lift the burdens of injustice while also respecting a distinct separation of church and state. And so, we join many others who are now wandering to find that new middle ground. It’s something which feels a little risky, but things have already been lost in a very amicable way – so being intentional is probably the best way to go about things. Perhaps one should just take a plunge and let go.

This all feels very adolescent, this itch for risk and change and new challenges. Probably this is the point at which most people would have a baby or something – but we’re late bloomers on every level, as usual. Instead we’ll probably just get matching nose rings and take off for South America or something.

Or, you know, just donate a lot of our stuff and move. Again.

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At D’s office… put up anonymously.

Same Story, Different Day: A Sermonette

This is taken from Rabbi Ruttenberg’s Twitter feed. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is a writer and thinker T follows on Twitter.

We’ve seen this story before.
We seen this story before, when Pharaoh looked at the Israelite people and saw that they were “too numerous,” that they posed a demographic problem for his power, and decided that the solution was to oppress them.

We’ve seen this story before.

And, when even oppression didn’t work and he realized that the real way to terrorize a population was to go after their children. Yocheved hid the baby Moses from Pharoah’s army just as Jewish parents hid their children from the Gestapo, just as parents right now are hiding their children from ICE.

We’ve seen this story before.

We’ve seen this story before in this week’s Torah portion, when the Moabite king Balak saw the Israelites running fleeing persecution, saw them in the midbar–the wilderness, the liminal place–between danger and safety and he said, “they will lick us clean.” When he used dehumanizing language–they are so numerous that they “hide the earth from view” in order to justify what he was going to do next.

We’ve seen this story before.

So Balak goes to the seer, the prophet Balaam and demand that he curse the people. Balak doesn’t care what happens to them, he just wants them cursed, gone, no mater how they suffer. But after a series of surprising events, Balaam doesn’t curse the people Israel–he blesses them. And there’s this moment in the middle of all this blessing when he turns to face the wilderness, this limbo, this howling void between danger and safety.

He sees them camped in their tents. He probably sees families together, children and parents, maybe children playing, maybe groups of friends, maybe couples in love. He sees a people, vulnerable and frightened, yearning to breathe free. He sees them. The seeing and the blessing are intertwined. When he opens his eyes & heart to behold the Israelites’ beautiful, holy selves, created in the image of God, he is able to bless them. When we open our eyes to see the full humanity of others, we are able to bless them. And when we bless–when we give over of ourselves to others, when we offer something holy and true to another–we also expand our capacity to see them. When we look to see, we can bless. When we bless, we can better see.

This fight is going to be long.

We’ve seen this story before.

And we know that the Bible–regardless of what Jeff Sessions says–stands on the side of liberation. We know that the Bible stands on the side of the oppressed. We know that the Bible stands for safety and hope for all. And we know that the Bible demands that we take risks in the pursuit of justice.

This fight will demand a lot of different tactics.

The midwives–Shifrah & Puah–in Egypt engaged in strategic civil disobedience in order to protect oppressed human beings.

Pharaoh’s daughter leveraged her privilege & access in order to protect oppressed human beings.
God used God’s power and might in order to get the Israelites out of Egypt, in order to protect oppressed human beings.

And Balaam looked.

Balaam turned to see. He opened his eyes and his heart, accessed empathy, caring, concern in order to protect oppressed human beings.

We need to do all of these things.
The hour is upon us.
We need to be brave in our resistance.
We need to use all of our privilege and access.
We need to use all of our power and might.
And we need to open our eyes and hearts.

As we fight to create a world that is equitable and just, we must also create a world of caring and connection, of empathy and love. We must never forget to look, and to see.

We’ve seen the story of oppression before, but we’ve also seen the story of liberation before.

We’ve seen this story before.

And we know that we can create a world based on justice, and caring, and empathy, and liberation, and love.

Overcome evil with good… don’t let it drown you. You’ve seen this story before, and every time, good wins.

Plums Galore!

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Plums. They are … determined? Obstinate? Persistent? Annoying?

Yes.

We have several quarts of unripe plum paste. We have several gallons of unripe plum pickles. We have several more gallons of ripe plum paste. We. Are. Tired. Of. Plums.

We will, however, be making some plum pickles, and some plum jam, and maybe some other things. Made of plums. Lots and lots of Santa Rosa plums. Which keep falling off of the tree, and demanding to be picked up so as not to have wasps, etc.

Plums.