Duck Duck Moose

where scat is not a four-letter word

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Fall Colors and Razor Clam Cakes

My reluctance to let summer end has been drenched by October rains. I’ve dug out my rain coat, my sweaters, and my fuzzy slippers. I dug up all the vegetables turned brown and squishy by the frost, and all the dead and brittle flowers that rattle in the wind. My camera has also been in my hands frequently to capture the amazing colors.


And of course, because it’s fall, I’ve dug into my freezer for pumpkin puree I made last year. You see, I have this rule I made up to keep my freezer from being overloaded by things I will never be able to cook my way through: I’m not allowed to plant pumpkins in the garden until all the previously stored pumpkin puree has been used up. There is nothing worse than looking into the chest freezer in the middle of winter, searching for something I can work into a weeknight meal and finding nothing but pumpkin and lamb livers.

The kids have a few seasonal favorites like pumpkin cranberry bars, and I do make the occasional pumpkin cheesecake, but the easiest is dark chocolate chip pumpkin cookies. These have become a regular lunch staple around here lately (so fluffy! I love these!).

Speaking of digging, I also found something we dug out of the sand last spring: Pacific Razor Clams.


For people on the west side of the state razor clamming is like going berry picking here in the Northwest; it’s a necessity at least a couple times a year. We’ve been lucky enough to have several friends take us out and show us how it’s done.

One of my favorite razor clam recipes, beyond creamy chowder, is clam cakes. A friend of ours introduced me to this variation on crab cakes a year ago, and it’s my favorite one when using up the steak portion of the clam (aka the siphon and flaps). When we process our razor clams, we usually split them into the feet (the digger) and the steaks. Feet are more tender and are typically what you use in clam chowder. The steaks are a bit more rubbery, similar to calamari. They can be breaded and fried and served like calamari, but that does not always go over well with the kids. I like this variation. Given the excited yells of “Ooooo, clam cakes!” I think the kiddos seem to agree with me.


Crystal’s Clam Cakes

(adapted from Paula Deen’s Crab Cake recipe)


1 pound clam meat, drained (steaks or feet will work)

2 packages Ritz crackers, crushed

3 green onions, finely chopped

14/ mayonnaise

1 egg

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon garlic

1 teaspoon salt

dash of cayenne pepper

olive oil for frying

tartar sauce or yogurt dill sauce for dipping

The Cooking Part

Place clam meat in the food processor and pulse several times. Add Ritz crackers, Worcestershire, dry mustard, salt, garlic, cayenne, and lemon juice. Mix until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and add mayo, egg, and green onions. If the mixture seems to watery add a few more Ritz crackers.

Heat oil in a pan, making sure the oil is about 1/4 inch deep. Form the clam mixture into small patties, about 2 1/2 inches across. Fry until golden brown on one side, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and fry the other side, about 4 minutes. Try not to flip more than once.

Serve with tartar sauce or yogurt with dill and a little lemon.


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More summer and Sausage quinoa-stuffed Zucchini, please

Today was the first day of school. The official end of summer. The end of setting our own schedule. The beginning of a new chapter for each kiddo—kindergarten and 5th grade. New teachers, new routines, new friends.



I don’t feel ready for the end of summer. I want more camping, more hikes, more lake swimming, more bike riding, more picnic lounging under the pines.

Likewise I am not ready for fall. I don’t want soups and stews, or roasts. This girl is so not ready for apples and pumpkins. More fresh garden veggies, please!

So, in the spirit of late summer vegetables I thought I would post this recipe we made up this summer. The sausage, quinoa, zucchini, onions, and peppers smell and taste of that golden glow of late summer when I want to cherish that last bit of warmth and summer flavor before the frost.

Just the thought of this recipe plants me firmly in my garden because I’ve grown all of these things in my garden in the last two years. (Well, minus the cheese and sausage that is…). Quinoa is fun to grow. Seriously, you should try it sometime if you have a garden.

Although it has sausage in it, this could easily be made into a vegetarian dish by increasing the amount of quinoa, adding some pine nuts and a few additional vegetables like sautéed zucchini and carrots. Oh, and maybe some shredded pepper jack cheese on top…hmm, I’m getting hungry so let’s get on to the recipe, shall we?


Sausage and Quinoa-stuffed Zucchini

1 package Jimmy Dean, or other ground sausage

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium red pepper, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 large zucchini, cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices (the one I used was about 4–5 inches thick)

Salt, garlic, cayenne pepper, and paprika to taste  (I hesitate to give measurements for spices because I spice things differently depending on who I am cooking for. I add more cayenne when it’s just Mr. A and me, less salt when my in-laws are visiting. Sometimes I throw in nutritional yeast as well.)

Shredded Monterey jack, or parmesan, or pepper jack, whatever strikes your fancy

Fresh parsley, finely chopped


In a large pan on medium heat, cook up the sausage. When it is just barely brown add the onions, peppers, and garlic. Once the sausage is cooked and the onions are translucent, reduce to low heat and add the quinoa and spices. Mix thoroughly.


I take the zucchini slices and hollow out the middle by making an “x” through the seeded part and then cutting out a circle.

Next, take parchment paper and cut out 5×5-inch squares. Place them on a cookie sheet and place one zucchini circle on each. Although it only shows 6 in the picture, I fit 8 onto the cookie sheet I used. (The parchment paper makes transferring the zucchini from cookie sheet to plate a less messy experience.)




Spoon the sausage quinoa mixture into the center of each zucchini. Broil the zucchini approximately 15 minutes on high (10 if you like your zucchini a little firmer). Remove from the oven and top with Monterey jack or parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley. Serve while enjoying the late afternoon sun🙂



Hikes I Like: Towell Falls

Last weekend we made our way out to Towell Falls, west of Spokane for some spring scabland hiking. Wildflowers around Spokane are in full force, and as we drove there we saw fields of lupine and arrowleaf balsamroot. So we were a little surprised when we didn’t see much at the trailhead and during the first part of the hike. Mr. A had to remind me that although the trail is on BLM land, it was formerly Escure Ranch. Decades of ranching change the land in many ways.

Family at Towell Falls, Escure Ranch, WA

It was windy heading in, but we had to stop and admire the balsamroot blanketing the hillsides.


There was a great overlook of the valley, so of course there was also an obligatory side kick photo (our Hapkido master jokes that any cliff with a great view demands it).

About a mile in we got out of the cold wind and began to see the fields of flowers and channeled scablands we had been waiting for.

I'm pretty sure this is Geranium viscosissimum, Sticky purple geranium. We also saw phlox, balsamroot, lupine, current bushes, and chokecherry.

I’m pretty sure this is Geranium viscosissimum, Sticky purple geranium. We also saw phlox, balsamroot, lupine, current bushes, and chokecherry.



What we did not realize (i.e., what I read on the hike description but somehow forgot) was that we would have to cross a creek to get to the area overlooking the falls. Yeah… let’s just say that what is probably a nice little rock hop later in the year is a bit more substantial during spring runoff. Like thigh-deep substantial. We hemmed and hawed and almost didn’t do it. But as we looked at the clock we figured we should at least give it a shot instead of hiking all that way and not seeing the falls up close. It was well worth it! Even when Sweet Bean slipped halfway across and got herself wet up to the waist🙂 There were some yells of outrage at first, but the rest of the crossing went without incident. With her pants drying on a tree branch, she (eventually) laughed with us and enjoyed lunch overlooking the falls.


It was nice to try something new and get the kids out in the scablands before the weather gets too hot. We have a lot of favorite easy day hikes around Spokane, and I think I might add this to the list.

For directions and current hiking conditions check out the entry for Towell Falls on the Washington Trail Association website.

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What to do when a boy snaps your bra

Yes, although I am actively cringing as I write this, my girl is entering the age of middle-school antics. Who likes who is a hot topic right now; girls are flexing their social muscles to determine who is the dominant hen in the flock; boys are posturing in their best tough guy I-can-insult-you-if-I-want-to manner. Heaven forbid anyone show any weakness.

I began to think about this a bit more seriously the other day when I read this article that was posted on Facebook: “The Reason Why My Daughter May Punch Your Son.”

Most of you know that we have a no-tolerance policy in our house for hitting and kicking. When both parents are black belts and our daughter has studied martial arts for almost five years, there is just too much damage that can be done. From my perspctive it blurs the line: if it’s ok to punch or get physically rough at home, then it becomes a habit. For us martial arts is about self-actualization, about becoming the best person you can be physically and mentally. That is a habit I want to cultivate; violence is not. My stance has been that if punching people is something we only do in the dojo or in rare cases of self-defense (i.e., situations that I teach them to avoid in the first place), then there can be no exceptions.

I am now beginning to rethink that rule.

Here is a basic recap of the article. The author talks about the lovely and difficult age of 12, and how her daughter often comes home with some difficult questions, which she has tried to be honest in answering. The question at hand today? What to do if a boy snaps your bra in class. The author then writes a mock letter to the parents of boys in her daughter’s class informing them of her answer, which they may want to be prepared for in case it ever happens: she should punch the boy in the throat.

I love how the author of this article makes it clear that she realizes the school will likely feel the need to discipline her daughter for this action, and that there may be little she as a parent can do about it. Actions have consequences after all. I also like how she makes it clear to her daughter that this is still the right thing to do.

I am teaching my children that we are not special snowflakes who are exceptions to the rules. […] I am also teaching them that defending themselves is a life skill no one can take away from them. If you have not invited another person to put their hands on your underwear, and they do it to embarrass you in public, then you need to shut that shit down.

I find I agree with her…pretty much completely. It is not that I approve of the violence part, but I do agree that my daughter has the right to assert herself in a direct manner when it comes to someone touching her body. Period.

There is another article circulating around the web about a U.K. mom who was called into school after her daughter bloodied a boy’s nose after he snapped her bra. Though likely anecdotal (Just because the teacher is so obviously in the wrong and the mom’s quick-witted responses are exactly what every mom wishes they would have thought to say in a moment like that), it makes a good point. Although everyone thinks of this behavior as typical of middle-schoolers it is still sexual misconduct. Pulling on someone’s underwear or bra, or exposing someone’s underwear, for the sole purpose of embarrassing them is not ok.

And every girl has a right to stand up for her privacy, and I want to teach my girl early that she is the one who has the final say in who may and may not touch her body.

Boys need to learn respect for girls; nuff said. But here is the clincher that no one is talking about. Boys also need be taught that its ok to stand up for themselves and their bodies too (because women are not the only victims of rape).

I expect my daughter to extend those boys the same respect, and not spend the day belittling growing men who themselves are struggling with what it means to mature in ungraceful and awkward moments.

Boys and girls are both struggling at this age to learn to love their awkward, ungraceful, and changing bodies. They also need to learn to be active, confident adults who are not afraid to say NO loud and clear when they are subjected to unwanted attention. Those hard and seemingly opposite tasks of respect and self-assertiveness come from the inner strength and will power it takes to extend kindness to others, while letting your inner dragon surface when others do not extend that kindness back. Because loving oneself at this age is often the hardest battle.


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Seeds are sprouting…

As a gardener and writer I always smile when I get to use the metaphor of seeds. Like planting an idea in someone’s head, or when a new idea takes root and begins to grow. Spring is always a time of growth, literally and figuratively it seems. For us, this spring has seen so many things grow and yet stay the same. Soccer practice is starting, which means the same old crazy schedule that makes me groan. And yet, there have been new opportunities for Sweet Bean and new faces that are making the game and its challenges new in many ways.


The world is finally coming into bloom…and half and hour drive away I can still ski. Spring is such a schizophrenic mistress.

Also sprouting are our plans to travel to Germany for  a month in May and June. This trip has been in the works for almost two years now and preparations are finally looking almost complete. When my grandparents travelled to Europe in the 1980s and 90s I remember being a teenager and teasing my Nana because she had their suitcases packed six weeks ahead of time. Those were of course the days when I was lucky if I packed the night before a trip. Now, I find myself counting down the days until that six-week mark when I can feel justified in packing and not jumping on that task too soon. (I did mention I am excited and have been researching and planning intensively for the last eight months, right?)

I know there is going to be a lot of eye-opening growth for both Sweet Bean and Lil’ Moose. I think there will be lessons for Mr. A and I as well in terms changing our travel pace—we’ve travelled quite a bit with the kids here in the US, but international travel is not something even we have done since our honeymoon 15 years ago.

And yet in spite of my daydreaming and thoughts of distant places, the pull from outside is very strong. Hiking trails are beginning to dry out and the sun this time of year always makes those of us here in the Northwest want to drop everything we are doing and head outdoors. There is still snow in the mountains (15 inches last Monday!) and good skiing to be had. And yet, with warmer temperatures my gardener’s thumb has begun to itch and the weeds are having a great time taking over any bare patch they can find as my fall mulch becomes a squishy, ineffective mess.

I have said that I am not planting much this year because of our travels…just flowers, and a few vegetables. (This is where everyone in my family looks at me, shaking their head, and says “Yeah, sure mom.”) I am trying to stick to my guns. We’ll see…🙂

Instead I am channeling all my energy into writing about gardening. Here is one of my recent articles for OutThere Monthly, and there is another one to come in April on urban gardening.

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As the snow drifts away…

It has been way too long since I have spent time in this space. Packing up the ski gear and some recent writing for a local publication made me want to sit down a reflect a bit on the fading winter white.

This was a great year for snow, but it was also the culmination of a longer journey. A journey to get myself outside more and to learn new skills that began four years ago when I taught myself how to cross-country ski pulling a toddler behind me. With time and space (where no one could see my gangling awkwardness) I gained a deep love skiing and gliding through forests blanketed in bright and glittering snow. However, this year I attempted something I swore I never wanted to—I learned to down hill ski. And that chapter of the story included conquering some of my deepest, long-held fears, namely a fear of heights and extreme cold.

In case it’s not obvious these are not assets when it comes to learning to downhill ski.

But it happened. And it was fun. Yes, there were a few tears (when no one was looking, of course) as I stood at the top of a steep run, the wind stinging my cheeks and stabbing through my jacket and base layers, the fog making in hard to see the edges of the run, let alone the bottom. The part I’m excited about is that I did it anyway. And in the end my daughter was able to show me a few new paths around the mountain, and I was able to ski all day with my son as he discovered the world of downhill skiing with me.

My love of cross country skiing has not diminished, but I think I may have found something else to challenge me as well. And what is life if we don’t seek out new challenges and aim to conquer them and the fears inside ourselves?

So, to wrap up here is an article I wrote for the January edition of OutThere Monthly (not exactly current but there is more to come, I promise🙂 )



Every Hero Has a Story

On the last leg of our trip to California to visit family and see the Redwoods, we brought home with us a very special member of our family – my Nana. She is amazing, as most everyone who knows her will testify. Since her husband passed away she has spent a large chunk of her time her with us in Spokane, often visiting for months at a time. I cannot tell you how many friends were excited to see her after a year-long absence. In the first three weeks she was here we had over 10 visitors stop by our house, just to see Nana.

Three weeks into her visit, and two days before she was scheduled to go home, Nana fell in our kitchen and fractured her tailbone, pelvis, and third lumbar vertebrae. What resulted was nothing short of terrifying as we sat beside with her at the nursing rehab center, and through multiple trips to the ER, all the time watching her endure an unreal amount of pain that affected her blood pressure, heart, and resulted in a TIA or mini-stroke.

This summer our library’s summer programs all revolved around the theme, “Every Hero Has a Story.” The events have ranged from music and cosplay (costume play) to movies, lego playtimes, and medieval knight reenactments. In the midst of medical worries, we have tried, in small moments, to find activities for the kiddos to let them have as many bits of summer and normal play as possible. Our wonderful friends and the people at our public library have really made that possible.

As I have watched Nana improve, and make progress in ways that have astounded the physical therapists, I began to think that every hero really does have a story. My mom’s favorite hobby is doing family genealogy and research. During her stay with us to help with Nana’s hospitalization, she and Sweet Bean got into many conversations. It was interesting to hear details I had never heard, or forgotten, about this wonderful woman and what she has lived through.


Betty was born in Quincy, Illinois in 1926, she has one older brother and a younger sister. Nana and her brother were known for making trouble—like driving the car through the neighbors henhouse at the ages of 5 and 6. She and her brother both have a tremendous amount of moxy. They are stubborn, tenacious, and adamant about preserving what is right and just; qualities that have earned them the respect of good friends… and made them both difficult to live with at times.🙂

“I’ve lived a long time. I may not have much time left, and I am not going to spend it sitting around doing nothing.” –Nana, this summer.

At the age of 12, Nana’s mother left them, running off with another man. This meant that Nana became the woman of the house, in charge of cooking, cleaning, and helping her dad look after her siblings. She talks about it very matter-of-factly. It was what it was and she dealt with it.

I’m not sure when Nana met the man that eventually became my Papa—I believe she told me she was about 16. His name was Doyle and he had an easy laugh and a hard work ethic. They got married in Tennessee not long after he enlisted and shortly before he left for the Pacific theater in WWII. She returned home and waited for his return, staying with her father and doing what she could. Two years later they were reunited, but Papa was sick with malaria and his recovery was slow. After many months of searching, Papa was unable to find a job and so they decided to move to the west coast. Nana’s mom was living with her new husband, and he said he could find them work. It was a big move, but a job was a job. They came west, bought a trailer and travelled up and down the west coast, from Washington to California, picking fruit and working in the packing sheds. When their only daughter was born, they were living in a trailer in Porterville, CA.

Many things have changed since then, and I have few friends who can imagine brining their newborn home to live in a trailer, with no permanent address. Yet when my daughter was four-months old, and I decided to take her out to Mr. A’s field site in rural Nevada, to live in a trailer with no running water in order to continue to help him trap and radio track sage grouse, Nana was one of the few who didn’t look at me as if I were crazy. She gave me solid advice about what to do when the baby got hot, and how to set up the trailer to best deal with a mobile infant.

Eventually, Nana and Papa settled in Sacramento. Papa took vocational education classes and became certified as an electrician. Once my mom began school, Nana worked for the state in Franchise tax department. She worked in city schools in the cafeteria for several years, and later she took a job at the Sacramento Union, a local newspaper where she was in charge of account payables. Never one to sit still, when the newspaper went out of business Nana decided to look for something to fill her time. She applied for a part-time position at the bank, not realizing the position was for a teller. The bank quickly realized during the interview that she was overqualified and gave her a position in their personnel department instead. Within two years she was vice president of the department.

I still remember the statue they gave her at her retirement party—it was a train, and at the base was an inscription that read, “Betty—To our Choo Choo, always making tracks.”

I still remember one afternoon as a kid, Nana and I went to the mall to get something. She was walking so fast that I had to run to match her pace. I like to joke that when she hit her 70s she finally slowed down enough that I could keep up.


Every hero has a story, and this summer I found that sometimes those heroes are closer to home than we think. The blessing is not just that I have had my Nana for nearly 40 years, but that my kids and my husband have been able to forge strong bonds with her as well. And she has been the same compassionate, sensitive, and strong-willed voice of guidance for them that she has always been for me. I don’t yet know how much this injury and its consequences will affect her body, but they do not seem to have an effect on her spirit. As she said the other day to the nurse, “I’ve lived a long time. I may not have much time left, and I am not going to spend it sitting around doing nothing.”