Monthly Archives: August 2013

Sane Health Care

Yesterday I planned to write today’s blog post, but instead I spent hours filling out an online survey for health care coverage. I am leaving my job in September in order to move to Wallowa County, Oregon, where my husband is now working. However, his job doesn’t provide health insurance, so we have to buy some.

We intend to take advantage of Oregon’s new health insurance (Cover Oregon), but it won’t kick in until January. So, I’m applying for a cheaper plan than my current employer provides (which I could elect to continue out-of-pocket), so we don’t spend quite so much on premiums for three months. This private company shall remain nameless, because I’m sure I’d have the same complaints regardless.

Filling in the application took forever! Not only do they want the basics (age, weight, etc.) there is a huge list of pre-existing conditions, when they’ve been treated, and what prescriptions were assigned. So much for privacy.

I don’t know about you, but I go to the doctor as little as possible and try to erase it from my memory as soon as I leave. I hate walking into any health care facility—I don’t care how tranquil they’ve attempted to make the waiting room. And how to dredge up prescriptions from five years ago? I did the best I could.

Then came the statements of exclusion. They spent way more time telling me what they wouldn’t cover than what they would. The list is impressive.

I went to the Health Care Marketplace website to get some background on the system going into effect January 1. These are just some of the practices the government is shutting down:

  • Being denied coverage, charged more, or having certain kinds of care limited or excluded if you have a pre-existing condition.
  • Women being charged more than men.
  • Plans excluding essential health benefits.

When I needed to buy health insurance in 2006, I had a more colorful five-year record—a couple surgeries and things. I figured the insurance would be more expensive—I had no idea they could choose not to offer it to me at all! But they sure did. “Too big of a financial risk,” the representative said as she showed me the door. If I got strep throat or wanted a wellness exam, tough.

If this same situation occurred in 2014, not only would I have coverage but my premium would be based on my income, so I could even afford it!

Bring on the new plans, I say. There are some things that should not be profit-driven, in my opinion, and basic-level health care is one of them.

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Moth Invasion!

Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.

In light of our impending move to Wallowa County, I have been scouring the house for things we no longer want or need for a yard sale. In the kitchen, I considered jars of wheat flour, corn meal and grits. I had written on the jars in Sharpie marker, which sticks to the glass really well and then comes off equally well, when it’s time to wash it, with the green scrubby part of a sponge.

I looked at those jars and realized I had filled and labeled them at the farm. So their contents were, at least, four years old. Dear god.

Meanwhile, I looked at bags of rice and beans that were not in jars. As I’ve documented in this blog, I’ve been ignoring the kitchen pretty much completely since we moved back to Portland. My husband has always been the main cook, but I’ve canned, made soup and baked some. And I’m sort of obsessive-compulsive about organizing the dry goods. At least, I used to be.

I could see that I’d been neglecting my duties here. There was no reason to keep four-year-old flour. Not that it had gone “bad” per se, but any flavor and nutritional value it once had would have faded by now. And here were these poor other dry goods, much fresher, languishing in their plastic bags.

I poured the rice into a jar, and as I did I watched a dark thing slide through. Unhulled rice? I stopped pouring, and the dark rice wiggled and—flew away! A pantry moth! There were moths in the rice! I realized that I had killed one the previous week and not thought anything of it. I should have known better. Because the moths lay eggs once they find their way in, there was nothing to do but compost the whole bag (if I had chickens, they would have gotten Rice with Protein Surprise).

It wouldn't sit still for a photo ...

It wouldn’t hold still for a photo …

Never store dry goods in the original packaging once you’ve opened it. You can tie it with a twist tie. You can wrap a rubber band around it a hundred times. Those moths will find a way in. I used to have “fashion” canisters that were square with rigid, plastic gaskets under the lids. Not good enough—moths found whatever tiny gaps were there.

I’ve never had to launch a full campaign against them, as described on this website. Removing the main food source has always sufficed (once, it was the dog food). My preferred storage is a large canning jar with a screw top or a rubber gasket and latch.
















You do need to keep the rims of the jars clean, as the moths can get under the jar rings and eat any residual grain, even lay eggs there if undisturbed for a period of time. Airtight storage also extends the longevity of your ingredients. But not four years!

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Spring Planting Update

You may recall that I decided to dip my toe back into the gardening water this spring. I thought I would give a quick update on the results.


I started a lot of seeds intending to raise two plants to maturity. It’s always hard to decide which seedlings to pinch off; I look for the weakest stems and try to favor one closest to the middle of the pot. I now have two plants; one in a big clay pot so I can take it with me when we move, and one in the ground. Because the soil of our rental home isn’t very good, even though I did plant it with some fertilizer, the one in the pot is doing better than the one in the ground.

I picked a bunch to dry; I like to shake dried parsley on my eggs in the morning (i.e. I am too lazy to go pick some and chop it up!)

I picked a bunch to dry; I like to shake dried parsley on my eggs in the morning (i.e. I am too lazy to go pick some and chop it up!)


Western Oregon has been unusually warm and dry this year, perfect for growing basil! Alas, I neglected these seedlings a bit too much for their taste, and then put them in this not-great soil, so they are alive but not thriving.

I got four leaves off the other day—made a yummy lunch with tomato and herbed mozzarella balls

I got four leaves off the other day—made a yummy lunch with tomato and herbed mozzarella balls


This is one of the heartiest strains of lettuce I’ve ever seen! The soil didn’t seem to bother it one bit, and since it’s been so dry the slug damage was minimal. With our warm weather I expected this lettuce to bolt months ago. It finally did, but only after providing many fresh salads.

I am leaving this to bolt so I can harvest the seeds

I am leaving this to bolt so I can harvest the seeds

The dill did not stand up to the poor soil quality and pressure from neighboring flowers. Sorry, dill—not your fault!

There you have it. Wallowa County, Oregon, where we’re moving, is 4,000 feet above sea level, so I’m not sure what can be grown up there. I will give a full report next spring!

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Walking Home From the Tavern

I’ve decided: Taverns are meant to be walked to.

Friday night, I went to a local public house to see some friends play music. Rather than drive or even ride my bike, I decided to walk. I highly recommend this. Thirty-seven blocks is a bit further than I would usually walk to get someplace, but then I travel a similar distance when I’m on a Walk for Fitness. On the way to the Jade Lounge, the sun was still up. Families cavorted in a park; bikers rode by; dogs barked at passersby. This particular route revealed a classic urban disparity: Walking down Yamhill near Sunnyside Park, I passed three down-on-their luck gentlemen trading stories and some kind of paper-bagged hooch on the steps of an abandoned entryway.

“Heeelllloooo,” one crooned as I passed. I made a mental note to take a different route on the way home and, turning a corner, was suddenly swept up in the hipster-mania of Belmont. Outfits. Facial hair. Shoes. Rushing past me to see and be seen. I was invisible, which suited me just fine.

A few blocks away, I entered Laurelhurst, one of Southeast Portland’s oldest and most expensive neighborhoods. The streets break from the regular grid layout, providing curved borders for immaculate lawns and landscaping that augment hulking early 20th-century estates. A crew of workers remained at 7 p.m., diligently mowing and clipping.

But the magic of walking to the bar isn’t the trip there—it’s the trip home. In contrast to the earlier bustle of the city, the street was dark and peaceful when I quit the Jade. This time I decided to go straight down Ankeny to 42nd. As I passed Laurelhurst Park, I heard voices and figured there were enough people for it to be safe for a lone pedestrian like myself. It appeared that a “movie in the park” night was breaking up; parents carried blankets, picnic baskets and drowsy children toward the edges of the park. I enjoyed the towering firs and cedars as I passed through.

Across all the thoroughfares and back in the neighborhood grid, I enjoyed the relative quiet, punctuated by an occasional car or bicycle passing.

Just a couple blocks from a busy arterial, the street is quiet

Just a couple blocks from a busy arterial, the street is quiet

On one block there were even crickets! This made me look forward even more to living in Wallowa County; I imagined looking up and seeing all the stars, not just the brightest hundred (or, in this case, clouds).

I was propelled from house to house by different scents … bark dust … jasmine in front of this house … roses here. I admired the well-lit porches, with strings of small lights, and not-so-well lit ones, with glaring “safety” lights.

Because I was walking, I had plenty of time to study the features of the homes and gardens I passed. I’d never noticed, for example, the amazing porch that wrapped all the way around a house on the bike lane because on my bike I’m always watching for traffic. And in my car I never take this street at all.

While driving home is more dangerous in many ways but maintains your own private comfort bubble, walking does open you up to the possibility of being accosted by other people. I came across only a few dog-walkers, a couple teenagers who were totally oblivious to anyone else, and a young man who asked if I had any “green weed.” This sent me in a reverie: Why green? Is there blue weed? Pink? I’m out of the weed loop these days …

When I finally got home, my head had cleared and I was ready for bed. I think we need a new national agenda: Taverns within walking distance for everyone!

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