Christmas in July

by on Jul 3, 2014

The Fourth of July is the perfect holiday for all kinds of zesty and acidic foods–frosty lemonades, spicy barbecue sauces, zingy slaws and salsas. But if you’re on a low-acid and bland diet like I am, a table groaning with siren-song-singing goodies can be one heck of a depressing experience (as any dieter can attest). So what to do at a fun family gathering–other than wear a long face and hide in the corner?

Well, first of all, you always BYOT (Bring Your Own Treats). Fortunately I don’t have to bring all of them, though, because my sister always makes homemade sugar cookies. She makes them twice a year–once for our Christmas family party, and once for our Fourth of July party. I remember about ten years ago when she told me she really wanted to make them for our gathering.

“But it feels so weird making them on the Fourth of July,” she said.

“Are you kidding?” I said. “Bring it on!” Hey, star cookie cutters work just as well for the Fourth as they do on Christmas, right?

This year, I’m packing some drink ingredients along for myself so I don’t feel left out in the beverage department. One of the things I love the most about the recipe below is that I could alter it to my specifications…but other family members will easily be able to whip up the spicier, boozy version (I’m bringing along the habenero-flavored syrup as well as the heat-free version for myself). The honey-based simple syrup adds a very intriguing flavor to this drink, even if you’re not into spicy. (You can find awesome local honey, by the way, at the Yakima Farmer’s Market.)

The base of this ‘tini is one of Tree Top’s newer products, the Fruit Smoothie, which is low-acid enough for me to tolerate and it has a nice substantial mouth-feel. I used the mango version to make this drink (Tree Top makes a strawberry version as well), and I altered the recipe to my specifications. Hey, what’s a holiday without a little something special in your glass? As long as I have my drinks and my desserts covered, I’m a happy woman.

Mango smoothie

You can’t beat a little star anise along with a geranium blossom. (Note: Although some geranium varieties are edible, I’m not sure about the hardy Johnson’s Blue, which provided me with my garnish here. You have to admit it looks pretty, though.)

Sweet and Spicy (or not spicy) Fruit-Full Martini (or mocktini)


1 part Tree Top Fruit Full 100% Fruit Smoothie

1 part vodka

1 part Honey-Habanero Simple Syrup (recipe below)

1/2 part fresh orange or blood orange juice


Directions: Shake the ingredients together with ice, pour into a martini glass. You can shake the orange/blood orange juice into the drink or float it on top after you pour the mixed drink if you wish. The mango Fruit Full with a float of blood orange and the strawberry Fruit Full with a float of orange juice make beautiful colors! Garnish with fresh pineapple cubes and jalapeno slices that have been marinated in a little bit of the Honey-Habanero Simple Syrup and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Cheers!

Honey-Habanero Simple Syrup

1 cup honey

1 cup water

1 habanero pepper, poked ONE time with a knife

Directions: Bring the ingredients to a boil, remove from heat and let steep 1 hour. Want to make it a real eye-burner? Cut the habanero in half to really release the oil. Remove the habanero and refrigerate until needed, up to one week.

Recipe used with permission from the nice folks at Tree Top. Have a fun and safe Fourth, everyone! (And tell ‘em Elly said it was OK to BYOT.)


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Yakima Fashion Lights Up Seattle Magazine Covers…and Franklin Park

by on Jul 1, 2014

Yakima native Carly Holtzinger graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2010 with a degree in apparel design and business, and she’s been putting that degree to good use lately—both here in Yakima and in Seattle.

“My journey in fashion began in Yakima when I remade vintage garments into contemporary wears (outfits) during high school,” she said. She began the Fashion Front show as a senior project (a fundraising fashion show that’s being hosted this September by the Yakima Junior League).

As part of her new job in the development department at the Yakima Union Gospel Mission, Carly is organizing another fashion-themed fundraiser titled “A Proper Picnic in the Park” to raise funds for the mission that will be held on July 20 in Franklin Park. This Victorian-themed event will feature period music, food, clothing and lawn games. (Tickets and more information can be found here.) [EDITOR'S NOTE: "A Proper Picnic in the Park" has been canceled due to weather.]

Proper PicnicCarly has been busy in Seattle, too. Last year, she styled the wine awards feature for Seattle Magazine’s August cover, a shoot that was held at Gilbert Cellars’ orchards. “It was a beautiful backdrop,” Carly noted, adding that she was impressed with the attire for that shoot that she selected from Steve Goodwin the Haberdasher here in Yakima.

Seattle Magazine asked Carly to style their June cover this year, and she once again found herself selecting clothing from the Yakima area for that assignment. (Note: those of us here at Yakima Magazine have to admit we were thrilled when we realized Holtzinger had selected the same Garden Dance top that Alyssa Skiles from Patina selected for our wine-tasting fashion shoot earlier this year.)


Can you spot the Yakima fashion? Here’s the cover Carly styled for Seattle Magazine this year that used clothing pulled from Yakima-area clothiers. Used with permission.

Carly contacted the Yakima clothing stores that she worked with during the shoot to ask them why they felt it was important to have independent local clothing stores.

Michelle Wyles of Garden Dance told Carly: “This is my small town. I don’t want to live anywhere else…it supports small stores and budding entrepreneurs. Yakima is my sustenance, not only because of the community’s support but because of its beauty and inspiration.”

Kirsten Smith, the owner of Over the Hedge, said she aims to bring farm and fashion together in her equestrian, gift and clothing boutique. “I love Yakima and all that the valley bestows upon us,” she said.

Holly O’Donnell, store manager of the Yakima Macy’s, spoke to Carly on her own behalf when asked about Yakima fashion. “There are a lot of fashion-forward people in Yakima, and I’m a part of the fashion scene to give them the opportunity to find style here in their local town. My dream for the local retail industry is to compete with the metro market on a smaller scale–Yakima has so much to offer—people don’t know that it really is a hidden gem.”

Carly said she was thankful for how Yakima has supported her in her fashion projects, and noted that she felt it was important for people to support their local clothiers. “Not only do these stores dress our town in style, they are the forerunners for future businesses to come in and set up shop,” she said. “I look forward to seeing downtown Yakima bustling.”

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Summer Rolls Around

by on Jun 25, 2014

I had the bright idea this week of trying to make a treat I’ve had at several Thai places, but the first difficulty I had was nailing down what the dish is actually called.

It seems like this delicacy happens to be one of the foods that goes by a bunch of different names. That wouldn’t be such a problem if I’d made this dish a thousand times, but not knowing what a dish is called makes it a little tricky to Google for recipes.

Some people call these spring rolls, although I’ve also seen “spring rolls” that are fried, and the rolls I had in mind aren’t fried at all. Some folks call them “fresh rolls” or “summer rolls.” I finally found a recipe under “Vietnamese-style summer rolls” on

I was trying to explain what fresh rolls were to R, who had never had them before. “It’s like a little Vietnamese burrito,” I said (you’ll note the way I was using my trademark writerly description skills there).

I bought some rice paper wrappers at a Bed, Bath and Beyond store near the Southcenter Mall that I ran into to kill time while R. was agonizing over a guitar purchase at a nearby music store. We decided the summer roll project would be a good one to undertake while R’s daughter M. was visiting this week.

Rice wraps

I wish I’d taken a shot of one of these with the light shining through it…the wraps are translucent, and they have a beautiful checkered pattern when they’re dry. They only need a couple of seconds soaking in warm water to soften enough to work with.


R. chops some Thai basil. I’m growing Thai and regular sweet basil this year, but I far prefer the more complex and milder taste of the Thai variety. It’s usually called “spicy Thai basil,” but it tastes much milder to me than the sweet version.


While R. was prepping, daughter M. caught a few winks on the couch. She just had her wisdom teeth out a few days ago. Poor kid.

Lots of prep

Some of the filling ingredients (we got creative and went outside the bounds of the recipe) included chopped garlic, mushrooms, leftover chunked Copper River salmon, prawns, red pepper, basil, mint, green onions, bean sprouts and thin rice noodles. Although there isn’t any cooking involved (other than cooking your proteins) the prep does take a while. And be prepared to use every container you have in the house.

Cooking shrimp

Cooking the prawns

The rolls themselves (depending on what you put in them) can be a little on the bland side (summer rolls are mainly all about the fresh texture and crunch), so they’re the perfect vehicle to transport spicy/tangy/peanutty dipping sauces up to your mouth. We tried a couple of different sauce recipes with varying success. After much tasting and additions of sugar, I just couldn’t get a basic peanut sauce recipe to taste right. We weren’t using natural peanut butter, which the recipe suggested–I suspect it would have tasted better if we’d used the natural stuff.

But I thought a simple sweet and sour garlic sauce wound up tasting much better than the peanut sauce, which surprised me (the garlic sauce recipe is below). I know fish sauce sounds disgusting, but trust me… fish sauce is a magical ingredient. (I personally try not to even catch a whiff of fish sauce when I add it to things, because the smell grosses me out. But somehow the stuff makes sweet love to the little molecules of other ingredients and creates pure deliciousness).

Rolling it up

Tuck the ends in as you’re rolling, just like you would with a tortilla.


R works at getting the right amount of rice noodles on his wrap, while M. dips up a little peanut sauce. (She didn’t like the peanut sauce either.)

Fresh roll 1

The finished product lying on top of my handwritten recipe.  Yum!

I thought the prawns tasted a lot better than the salmon did in these, and I wish that we’d chopped up more basil.  I also have to admit that I pretty much gave up trying to roll them as neatly as R. and M. could, but rolling them up tightly not only enhances the dining experience (i.e., it keeps food out of your lap), but it keeps all the ingredients bound tightly together for maximum flavor. R. thought that maybe next time some shredded cabbage would also be a good thing to put in these.

We all agreed that fresh rolls are a fun summer meal. We could all tailor the rolls to our individual tastes, and they were nice and light to serve on a hot afternoon. We’ll definitely be making these again.

Ingredients for about 8 summer rolls (adapted from

  • thin rice noodles (cooked or soaked so they’re ready to eat)
  • bean sprouts
  • 8 large cooked shrimp, halved
  • 1-2 T. chopped Thai basil
  • 3 T. chopped mint
  • 3 T. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped into slivers (white and light green parts only)

After the ingredients for the inside of the wraps are all ready, put a clean wet kitchen towel on your work surface. Soften a rice wrap by placing it in a pan of warm water for about five seconds. Lay the wrap on the wet towel, and place the halved shrimp in a line in the middle of the wrap. Add other ingredients on top, and roll like you would a burrito (tucking the ends in). The wraps will be sticky, which is good (you want them to hold together) but if you can work quickly, the wraps will be easier to handle. It takes a little practice, but the end result is worth it.

If you have to store these prior to serving, you’ll want to take steps to keep the wraps from drying out (you can line a cake pan with damp paper towels, place the rolls on the towels, and cover tightly with plastic wrap). That’s a good way to plan ahead, since it seems like you can eat these a lot faster than you can make them.

And keep in mind that these ingredients are only a guideline. I’ve seen fresh rolls made with unchopped herbs in them…some restaurants will just lay the basil leaves flat inside the wrap. I was wondering what some black beans would taste like, and. R. floated the idea of trying slivered cucumbers and shredded cabbage next time.


  • 4 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1/4 c water
  • 2 T. fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 T. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic chili sauce

Mix together and let sit for a while before serving.

And if anyone can share a good peanut sauce recipe with me, I’d love to try it!

Happy summer.





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Toasted History

by on Jun 21, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to teach a personal history writing class at an apartment complex for retirees.  Even though I’ve taught quite a few composition classes, wrapping my head around the concept of writing a personal history was a daunting one for me. Don’t get me wrong: I love college students, and teaching young adults is invigorating in a way only college profs can really understand. But I knew I’d be talking to folks who’d lived through amazing transformations during their lifetimes. These are the people with truly amazing stories to tell.

Where does a person start writing a personal history, when they’ve lived through infections before antibiotics? A world war? The constant fear of contracting polio? Growing up in a one-room schoolhouse without electricity? The Depression?  

I spent some time last week talking to our obituary clerk here at the Herald last week about the importance of history before I went to teach the class. Simon is a thoughtful person, and I knew he’d be able to help me nail it down a little better.  He immediately brought up the same old quote that I’d been thinking about (“Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it”), but I persisted. “We can say that history gives us perspective, but what does that really mean?” I asked.  

So Simon came up with a great analogy (which I knew he would, which was why I was pestering him). “Well, you’d want an architect to know what all sides of a building will look like before they start to build it, right?” he said.

Yes indeed.

One of the things we really don’t talk about much is how history drives a sense of gratitude. If you think about it, gratitude almost always springs mainly from knowledge that widens our perspective. And has there ever been a time when gratitude has been such an absolute necessity?  Our culture’s current excesses are legendary. Americans feel pressured to consume, even if it means living on credit and ignoring what we’re doing to the environment. We stuff our landfills with perfectly good clothing and other items that our grandparents would have saved and reused many times over. We’re never satisfied with what we have…we always want more, more, more.

I remember some of my dad’s stories about growing up in rural western Kansas. They finally got a toaster (and electricity) when he was in high school. He recalls devouring entire loaves of bread; wolfing down piece after piece after piece of toast. Dad’s mom had died from a ruptured appendix when he was 12 years old, and he’d spent most of his adolescent years riding on a tractor and eating out of cans when he got hungry. I was shocked when I realized that something as ordinary as toast had been absolute ambrosia for him.   

Of course when I heard that story, I’d never really given our toaster a second thought. The toaster was, for me—a suburban kid of the 1970s—something that had just always been there on the kitchen counter.

Elly, toasted

The things I do for this blog. I do happen to love toast for breakfast, even though I’ve always taken it for granted. Sourdough with plenty of butter, thank you.

When I met the nice folks at Orchard Park last week, we talked about breaking up a life history into smaller chunks, and starting out with a story that was life-changing rather than starting out at the very beginning. “Think about it like a puzzle,” I said. “You can work on the individual pieces and then put it all together when you’ve finished…add more to pieces as you go along, and maybe take out some different parts.”

We also talked about the significance of having something to write about. “When you’re a writer, it’s best if you have something to say,” I told the group. “And you guys have a lot to say. ” And then I said (like a real idiot): “You know, sometimes I wish I had been a part of the last generation and lived through something big, like a world war.”

But I was driving home after the class, I thought about how easy it’s been for me to romanticize the past and gloss over the unpleasant parts. I thought about the hardships people in my parents’ and grandparents’ generation went through: burying a treasured young adult daughter during the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic; how my father’s favorite uncle had been lost in the WWII. My dad had something like 17 addresses growing up because Grandpa had to travel to find work during the Depression and the war. My mom remembers wearing dresses made out of flour sacks. And I thought about how easy I’ve had it my entire life, how many opportunities there have been, and how few worries.

So I’d do well to listen carefully to the stories from those who’ve been there, and have my perspective adjusted a bit.  History is, after all, a fabulous antidote for pure foolishness—like secretly wishing you’ve lived through harder times.  

Besides, I never would have been able to survive in a world without toast.


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Planting Inspiration

by on Jun 18, 2014

This is the time of year all gardeners need a little boost, and one of the most inspiring treats you can give yourself is a ticket to the annual Yakima Area Arboretum’s Garden Tour this weekend. We hear that several of the gardens will be also be featuring artists and plant and garden items for sale…so grab your hat and sunglasses (and your camera) and prepare to have your socks knocked off.

Tour tickets are just $20, and you can purchase a boxed lunch from Evie’s Catering for $10.  Check for more details (and how to order online) by clicking here. You can also get tickets from: Cowiche Creek Nursery, Garden Dance, Garden Girl, Inklings Bookshop, Selah’s Helms True Value Hardware and Stein’s ACE Hardware.

Garden tour

“Clark’s Park…” one of the featured gardens on the 2014 Garden Tour. Photo courtesy Yakima Area Arboretum.

The tour will be held both days this year (on both Saturday and Sunday) so you can take your time. One ticket is good for both days (10-4 on Saturday and 12-4 on Sunday) and don’t forget that the proceeds all go to an excellent cause—our fabulous arboretum!

Here are the featured gardens on this self-guided tour. I especially got a kick out of the “We support a 12-step program for rock addicts and plant lovers!” quote from Linda Knutson and Ron Sell. Sounds like I better make sure I meet them, because I have some of the same issues.

A Garden for Our Corvettes
Nancy exclaims, “Earl plants even and I plant ‘abstracts’ which I believe offers brilliant contrasts.”
Nancy & Earl Williams
12705 Douglas Road

 The Clark’s Park
“Way before the internet I would study garden design by bringing home stacks and stacks of books from the library,” states Patty.
Chris & Patty Clark
14771 Summitview Extention

The Knutson-Sell Garden
“We support a 12 step program for rock addicts and plant lovers!”
Linda Knutson & Ron Sell
15280 Douglas Road Yakima

Rocky Mountain High
“Rocks, rocks, rocks everywhere we put a shovel to the ground, more rocks!!”
Nelda & Keith Bruner
605 Pioneer Way

Barn Girls Garden
“Hot pepper flakes keep the cats out of our flower beds.”
Cheryl & Ron Miller
12307 Douglas Road


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