Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Make more friends, serve more cheese

Help! I need to impress my friends and look like I know something about cheese! What should I put on a cheese plate?

Not to worry, my dear. Putting out a good cheese plate is easy. Let me be of service and help demystify at trip to the cheese counter, or (heaven forbid) a trip to the specialty cheese case in the grocery store.

First, shop around. Every cheese counter and grocery store will have a different selection of cheese. Some will be better than others. Locally owned stores might have a few more locally produced products. I always start looking there. Don't be shy about asking for help. See if the person in charge of the cheese counter is available. I love asking for help. I want to know what's in peak form today. If everything is in shrink wrap, I want to see what's freshly cut. Cheese is a living food! It begins to break down and lose flavor the moment it is cut. If it has been enveloped in plastic for a month, even breathable plastic, it won't be very tasty. When I prepare to serve a cheese, I like to take a knife or a cheese plane and scrape the cut surface of the cheese. This takes away the dead, plastic-y taste and gives you a fresh surface to enjoy.

See if the store will cut you a fresh piece of cheese. Or see it they’ll open a package so you can taste the cheese. Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco is happy to let you try before you buy. That way you'll know how a cheese tastes. If you buy an artisan cheese regularly, you might begin to taste the seasonal variations. There is a huge difference between Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam made in the winter and a Mt. Tam produced in the summer. Eat more cheese and see for yourself!

How much to serve? It depends. Is this an appetizer course? Are other dishes being served? I figure an ounce of each cheese per person. Two ounces if it is the only thing being served.

Always serve aged cheeses at room temperature and each cheese should have its own knife or cheese plane.

When selecting cheeses for a party, I usually go for three or four cheeses. As a general rule of thumb, vary the milks and mix up the texures. Sometimes I'll go with a theme, like all cow's milk cheeses, or cheeses from Spain. But my favorite plate usually consists of a cow's milk cheese, a goat's milk cheese, and a sheep's milk cheese. If I'm feeling sporty, the fourth cheese will be either be a cheddar or a blue cheese.

For example, I might take a piece of Garrotxa, a Spanish goat cheese with a semi-soft, slightly chewy texture, match it with a buttery, French Triple Crème like Brillat-Savarin, and pick a sheep's milk cheese like Pecorino Foglie di Noce with walnut overtones. If I want to have the slam dunk crowd pleaser, I'd throw in a piece of Montgomery's Cheddar from Somerset, England. With this, I'd serve a full flavored honey; my favorite being a locally produced blackberry honey. A great cherry jam would work wonders, as well as some dried apricots and cranberries. Apple slices would be nice, too. I would serve everything with thin slices of a crusty, sweet, baguette and I'd call it complete.

Photo: Ticklemore Goat, aging to perfection

Other suggestions: A cheese plate of the British Isles, a.k.a. the Neal's Yard Dairy cheese plate. Cow's milk: Trethowan's Gorwydd Caerphilly, from Wales. Bright lemony flavors and beautiful layers as it ages. Goat's milk: Ticklemore Goat. Why? Because I worked there! And the semi-soft texture with the slightly salty, mushroomy bloomy rind is sublime. For a sheep's milk cheese, go for Berkswell. It can have toasted nutty notes with hints of pineapple. Then grab a piece of Harbourne Blue, a goat's milk blue and you've got a party.

Photo: Sierra Mountain Tomme from La Clarine Farm, Somerset, CA.

How about Spain? Go for Mahón (cow), Ibores (goat), Zamorano (sheep), and Valdeon (blue). I like Spanish cheeses, so here's another one for you, all goat: Nevat (semi-soft, bloomy rind with a light, creamy, and tangy), Pata Cabra (washed rind with a chewy open texture, can have green apple, fruity overtones), and Pau Sant Mateu (wash rind with a smooth paste that can be slightly strong and full flavored.)

American Artisan Plate sampler to die for: Mt. Tam (cow,) Humboldt Fog (goat,) and Nancy's Camembert (sheep.) All bloomy rinds, all creamy, all luscious, and all the trifecta of milks.

The California Plate: Harley Farm's Van Goat – fresh goat cheese with edible flowers or Elk Creamery's Goat Milk Camembert de Chevre, Rinconada Dairy's Pozo Tomme - a semi-firm sheep cheese from San Luis Obispo County, and Vella's Mezzo Secco or Cowgirl's St. Pat, finish with Pt. Reyes Original Blue.

Oregon Cheese Plate: Willamette Valley Cheese Company's Brindisi (cow), Rivers' Edge Chevre's St. Olga (washed rind goat), Ancient Heritage's Hannah Bridge (sheep), and Rogue Creamery's Echo Mountain (cow/goat blend blue).

Photo: A cheese plate from the Cheese School of San Francisco

If you're wonderinig about the cheeses that I'd always bring home without hesitation, here are a few--

Sarah's Personal Cheeseplate for Today: Cypress Grove's Midnight Moon (Goat Gouda), Cowgirl Creamery's Sir Francis Drake (cow, washed rind, triple crème), Jasper Hill Farm's Constant Bliss (cow, bloomy rind), La Clarine Farm's Sierra Mountain Tomme (goat), Abbaye de Belloc (sheep, French-Basque), Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (cow).

My absolute favorites will change every day, depending on my mood and the condition of the cheese at my local cheese counter. I might go in with a list, but I'll make substitutions if I have to.

There are no hard and fast rules, if you like one cheese, serve a big piece of it on a nice cheeseboard, and have a big knife next to it so that others can enjoy, too.

Now you will make friends at every party if you just grab a few well selected cheeses and a fresh baguette and share with your friends.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's like herding bats

Photo: Bats at dusk.

Crawled into bed at a late hour, tired from too much time spent in the car. While Jim was reading, I noticed something fluttering around the ceiling. Did a big moth fly in? Do we have a bird in the here? It fluttered closer. No. That's no bird. Nor is it a moth. That winged creature's a bat. "Jim! We've got a bat in here!" I cried. It darted across the room. "Really? Oh sh*t."

We jumped out of bed and tried to figure out what to do. No time to wonder how it arrived in our bedroom, just wanted it out. It flew into the bathroom. We closed the door and pried the screen off of the small window. Waving our arms furiously, we tried to shoo it out into the cool night air. It just flew around in circles, screeching with its high pitched voice. Flying around and around, wingbeats audible as it passed my ear, it didn't know where to go. Suddenly another bat appeared in the room. It flew in through the open window. Great! Now we had two freaked out bats flying around our heads. The new one must have heard the cries of the trapped bat and came through the window to investigate. Not too smart, neither one could figure out how to fly back out again. We shut the window and got them back into our bedroom. We have a sliding glass door that opens onto a small balcony. We opened the door and turned on the light outside, hoping they might head towards the light where tasty bugs were ready to be eaten. The bats just kept flying all around the room, swooping past our heads, skirting around the corners of the room, seeking a way to escape.

Photo: This is not my bat. It is only a photo of a bat.

I grabbed a sheet and Jim ran downstairs and grabbed an old fishing net. Together we tried to herd them outside, through the open door. I waved the sheet furiously, and Jim would swing the net, hoping to grab a bat in flight. One actually flew outside, only to return a moment later. Argh! Frustrated. The bats kept circling and circling. We kept chasing them and scaring them. Finally a bat flew out the door for good. One down, one to go.

The little brown bat (or was it a big brown bat?) was getting tired. Who knows how long it was in our house, trying to get out? Who knows how it got inside? I just wanted it gone. It kept trying to perch on our ceiling, but it couldn't get a grip. I flew into our closet trying to find a place to hide. We chased it and Jim caught it in his net. Only the net also caught one of my hairclips and the bat escaped. We were all getting tired at this point.

Jim and I switched weapons. I took up the fishing net, he grabbed the sheet. More circling ensued. I followed the creature into the closet a couple of times, narrowly missing it as it dodged the net. Then, as it was about to fly past me, I swung my arm and got it! I pressed the metal opening up against the wall of the closet and clasped my hand above the netted bat. Time to go outside! We took the frightened thing to the balcony and gently opened up the net. It was tangled and clinging on for dear life. We tried to unravel it, and left it so it could fly away.

Off to bed where we both saw imaginary bats flying past our heads as we drifted off to sleep.

In the morning I went back to the balcony. The bat was asleep, still in the net! It had a wing caught and couldn't fly away. I grabbed my garden gloves, scissors, and jacket and sat down to extricate the bat from the net. I woke it up and it tried to move away from me. It was trembling from fear or cold or both. I got a chance to get a good look at it. It had very soft, brown fur, tiny eyes, minuscule feet, and very delicate skin stretched across its bony fingers that formed its wings. It had its mouth open and I could see many sharp, tiny teeth, perfect for eating flying insects or biting me. It voiced it's complaint when I picked it up. I gently pulled the net away from the bat, making sure I didn't tear its wings. It kept a firm grasp on the net, making it very hard to remove. I ran inside and grabbed a silk wine bag. I figured I could get it to go into the dark bag, where it would feel safe and let it recuperate in a soft, dark, warm place. I snipped one thread on the net to free the caught wing. It started to come loose. I nudged the bat inside the silk bag and it grasped onto it. Eventually I was able to get the little thing into the bag. Success! I set it down on a corner of the balcony, with the top of the bag slightly open. I left it alone and went to eat breakfast. When I went back, about 45 minutes later, the bag was empty. Our little visitor had flow away!

Now we're trying to figure out what happened. How did it get in here? Will it return? I hope not.

Yes, I thought about rabies. Since it appeared to be a healthy bat, active at night, I'm not too worried. I wore gloves when I handled it. Plus, I was not scratched nor bitten. If it should happen again, I will keep the bat and have it tested. Calling all bats, consider this a warning!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wandering around Ilwaco, Washington

Photo: Chef Larry Piaskowy enjoying the local bounty. King Boletes a.k.a. porcini a.k.a. cepe mushrooms.

Jim's birthday was on Tuesday. To celebrate, we went to Ilwaco, Washington. My friends Larry and Jennifer own the Port Bistro at the Port of Ilwaco so we decided to let Larry cook Jim's birthday dinner and also explore the Long Beach peninsula in southwestern Washington.

Photo: Larry and Jennifer's restaurant, The Port Bistro in Ilwaco, WA

I used to work with Larry at Cowgirl Creamery. He's a chef by trade, having stood behind the stove at places like Indigo in San Francisco. He took several months off to learn more about the world of cheese. An opportunity came up to buy this restaurant and two years ago he and his partner Jennifer packed up a truck and left the wilds of the Bay Area and landed in Ilwaco. Jim's birthday was the first opportunity we've had to see Larry and Jenn in over two years.

The drive was easy and scenic. It took us 2 ½ hours to make it from Dundee to Ilwaco. We passed through miles of farmland, the pine and spruce forests of the Coast Range, and wound up at the Pacific Ocean near Seaside, Oregon. We drove north, hugging the coastline until we hit Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. A large, green steel bridge spans the river linking Oregon with Washington. Twenty minutes later we were in Ilwaco on the north side of mouth of the Columbia. The port is host to numerous fishing vessels, many anchored due to high fuel costs and a closed salmon season.

Photo: Jim checks out the wetlands at China Beach Retreat.

We stayed in the Lewis and Clark room at the China Beach Retreat, a B&B just outside of town. The room had a view that encompassed the river, marsh, wetlands, and Cape Disappointment. This is the westernmost point on Lewis and Clark's Journey of Discovery. They found a place where the Chinook Indians camped and traded with lots of Europeans via passing ships. Most of the inhabitants had moved inland by the time L&C showed up because winter was approaching and this place gets some fierce rain and winds. Every August there is a big Kite Festival in Long Beach because the wind is so reliable.

The weather was just like San Francisco. It was cold and foggy. When we arrived, we could barely see a quarter mile. It was damp and brisk. We didn't see the sun at all during our visit. We checked in and relaxed until our 7:00 dinner reservation.

The Port Bistro was bustling when we pulled up for dinner. Tuesdays are good nights for them. The tables were filled with locals and visitors. Jennifer greeted us with a big hug and sat us at table overlooking the harbor.

Photo: Clam Chowder at the Port Bistro.

With Larry at the stove and Jenn running the house we were prepared for a fun evening full of great food prepared with love. They didn't let us down. The staff was friendly and efficient. Our meal was superb. We were thrilled to find wild mushrooms incorporated into almost every menu option. Larry has gone to great lengths to find and cultivate close relationships with his food purveyors. He insists on only serving the highest quality ingredients so that he can coax the best flavors out of his dishes. His fish is all local, right off of the boats that you see bobbing in the harbor. The greens come from local growers, the beef comes from a co-op that inspects the restaurant before they agree to sell their beef to that restaurant. He bakes his own bread and makes his own desserts.

Larry makes a mean bowl of clam chowder. He uses fresh, local clams. Not a can in sight. This chowder is rich and explodes with flavor. It has been getting noticed, too. The steak that Larry prepared was perfectly seasoned and so tender that I could cut it with a fork. This steer did not die in vain. Jim's salmon was just as skillfully prepared. They treated us well and Jim had a fantastic birthday dinner. It was a thrill to eat at the Port Bistro.

We had the good fortune to meet Veronica, his mushroom forager. Larry and Jennifer joined us for breakfast on Wednesday at the Shelburne Inn. A woman came out of the kitchen with a basket of Porcini mushrooms. She was going a mile a minute and wanted to show off her morning's work. Larry and I went out to her car to see her efforts.

Photo: Veronica's mushrooms. Soon to be on the menu.

Her Mini was filled with crate of mushrooms. Lobsters, porcini, chanterelles, hedgehogs, hen of the woods, were all to be had, along with a bucket of huckleberries, and a big bag of pickleweed (Salicornia virginica.) I was in love. I want to be like this Gypsy senior citizen when I grow up. She was a riot.

Jim and I went to Jimella's Seafood Market and Community Store upon Larry's recommendation. Jimella and Nanci used to own The Ark (now closed,) a pioneering restaurant focusing on local, Northwest cuisine. Their oysters came from 50 yards away in Willapa Bay. We met Jimella, as Larry said we should. We talked about the local cheesemakers, mutual friends, and their upcoming plans to open their store up for evening dinners.

"No reservations!" she declared. "Just come in and grab a table. If you have to wait, grab a chair." She was fun to talk to. She called a local fellow, also named Larry. He has goats and used to work at Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy. He and his wife want to get licensed and make cheese, too. Nice how folks want to help us network.

Photo: Jimella's Seafood Market

We left Jimella's after eating some great clam chowder and headed up to Leadbetter Point State Park. "Mushroom heaven," Chef Larry declared. He wasn't kidding. There were mushrooms everywhere, growing under every huckleberry bush and Sitka spruce. We wandered along a narrow path and had lots of fun taking pictures and exploring the woods. We had been hiking for about twenty minutes when we both stopped suddenly. "Did you hear that?" Jim asked. "Yes, I did." I said nervously. A low, deep growl came from the bushes directly ahead of us. Hmmm. Bear? Cougar? Bobcat? Angry wood spirits? We turned around and walked quickly back the way we came. We tried to make lots of noise and I whistled Souza marches. Nothing would attack someone whistling a Souza March. No more growling beasts in the bushes, just lots of birds chirping and singing, and distant waves crashing on the shore.

Photo: Hikers proceed with caution.

We managed to catch Jimella's friend Larry later in the afternoon. He was in his garage, sanding part of a spar on a sailboat. He welcomed us with a big smile, and we chatted about goats, cheesemaking, organic gardening, and oyster farming. He was an oysterman for 25 years, providing oysters to many restaurants including the Ark. He also had a U-pick oyster operation. I'd love to pick my own from the oyster beds. You know its fresh! A very interesting guy.

We had another excellent meal at Pelicano, another harbor restaurant in Ilwaco. We had well prepared steaks and salmon and got to watch the boats in the harbor again. The evening wrapped up at the Raven and Finch, a wine bar and café down the block from Pelicano and the Port Bistro. Larry and Jenn joined us, and we sat and chatted over glasses of red wine. It was great seeing them again. Nice to see others following their hearts and living their dreams.

Photo: Larry and Jenn see us off.

Morning came far too quickly. Time to return to the farm. Our animals need us, animals=three cats and one dog. We quietly gathered our things together, ate breakfast, said our goodbyes, picked up a fresh albacore tuna loin from OleBob's Fish Market and returned to Dundee. We were home after lunch. That tuna grilled up nicely for supper.

This is Dundee. Not Crocodile Dundee.

Argh! Enough about me, here's more about the place we call home.

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Dundee, population 3100, 26 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon. It is a wide spot in the road on Highway 99W. There are a cluster of businesses that line the highway. I've visited the birdseed and outdoor statuary shop, but there's a bakery that is never open, a real estate office, an elementary school, a dentist office, a hair salon, and a few other small businesses.

There are several restaurants, mostly high-end places like Dundee Bistro, Tina's, and Red Hills Provincial Dining. Other options are Chan's Chinese Cuisine, a Teriyaki hut, Lumpy's Tavern, La Sierra Mexican Restaurant (quite good,) and Calamity Jane's, a burger joint and country-western bar. There's also the Riteway Meat Company, home of the five-foot long pepperoni, great beef jerky, and house-cured bacon. They sell only locally produced meat and provide mobile slaughtering services. Support your local farmers!

Other highlights of this place are the wineries. As I've mentioned in previous posts, Dundee is where the Oregon wine industry began in the late 60's and early 70's. David Lett, Jim Maresh, Dick Erath all planted grapes on this hill that I now call home. Who knew that I'd be the cheesemaker in the middle of all of this great wine? I'm happy to be of service to the folks who flock to the vineyards and wineries. You just gotta buy some fine, hand-crafted cheese to go with those wines, right? I can help anyone that wants to put together a great picnic lunch feature our cheese and their wines. Our neighbors are very happy we're going to be making cheese.

And we just discovered a local apple cider. The daughter of the winemakers at Bethel Heights Vineyard makes English style hard cider. It is called Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. I tried it at the Portland Farmer's Market on Saturday. It is as good as what I found in Somerset! I bought a bottle. Now I've got to get a piece of Montgomery's or Westcombe Cheddar, some Branston Pickle, crispy lettuce, tomato slices, and some crusty bread and I've got the perfect ploughman's lunch. I'm getting hungry.

Portlanders hate Dundee. It is home to a traffic light that can snarl traffic in two directions, slowing down everyone heading to or from the coast and the casino. If you tell someone around here that you're driving to the coast, often you'll be asked, "Which coast?" From Portland you can go one of two ways; North Coast or Central Coast. Cannon Beach or Lincoln City. We live on the route to Lincoln City, about an hour and 10 minutes away. It is an easy drive, through farmland and forest, hugging the Salmon River.

Dundee is also very close to Portland. We can make it to our friends' house in southwest Portland in 35 minutes, faster if no one is looking. Our place is just beyond the Urban Growth Boundary. That means that we live in scenic, rural splendor and have to drive through the sprawling suburbs to get into the city. That also means that we have to get into the car and drive everywhere we want to go. Not fun, but I can get into Portland faster than I could get into downtown San Francisco, or North Beach taking public transit from our old house in the Sunset District.

Oh! Our house sold very quickly, thank you very much! We're quite pleased. If you need a realtor in San Francisco, I highly recommend Danielle Lazier at Zephyr Real Estate. No, she did not ask me to write that. I am simply amazed with how well the deal went. She really helped guide us through what might have been a very stressful process.

The closest town to Dundee is Newberg, population of 20,000. It is about three miles away. We go shopping there, do our banking, and hit the Cameo Theater, a small, family-run movie house. They also own the 99W Drive In, also in Newberg. For most other services, we head south to McMinnville, about 12 miles away. There's a great farmer's market in McMinnville every Thursday that I try to attend. I've met some really nice people there, like Seth and Leslie from Figment Farm, and Katie and Casey from Oakhill Organics. We bought a lamb from Seth and Leslie. Tasty meat, raised about nine miles from here. I like McMinnville because it has a nice, small town feel to it. You still have a bakery, a health food store, several grocery stores, a liberal arts college (Linfield) and all of the service that one might need without having to drive into Portland. You can even visit the Spruce Goose!

Speaking of eating locally, we joined a CSA – community supported agriculture -- called Gaining Ground Farm outside of Yamhill. This means we bought a share in the crops grown on the farm. Every Tuesday for 20 weeks, we get a bag of produce often harvested that day. This keeps us going all week until we return to the farm and get a new bag. I'll be sad come November when the bounty is over. I wish it was a year-round CSA like Terra Firma Farms, the one we belonged to in San Francisco. Not too many growers sell produce year round around here. Such a shame. I'd support them. I know of only two year round farmer's markets, one in the Hillsdale neighborhood of Portland, and one in Salem. There is a local chapter of Slow Food. Perhaps I'll encourage our local members to seek more venues. If we build it they will come, right? Sure, it is cold and rainy for six months, but we still have to eat!

I cannot begin to add up how different this place is compared to the bubble I lived in, in San Francisco. For one thing, everyone is SO NICE. Sure, I might have very different political views, or spiritual beliefs from some of the people we meet around here. But I am always greeted with a warm, genuine smile and a hello. People look you in the eye and talk to you. They are interested in meeting you. At first I was very suspicious of this behavior. I'm used to brusque interaction, and an empty "Have a nice day!" And you never make eye contact or smile at a stranger! They might be crazy and start talking to you. I spent too many years riding on Muni in San Francisco. If you talk to your seat mate, everyone gets annoyed and shoots you mean looks. Chances are pretty good, there's a crazy person on the bus or train annoying everyone. Muni will make anyone bitter.

I'm not totally new to this thing called being nice to strangers. I've gotten into the Country Wave. That's where you wave at the driver of the car passing you in the opposite direction on a country road. Nothing too vigorous, just a casual lifting of four fingers off of the steering wheel when you're close enough for the other driver to see you. I use to do this in college when I drove around the backroads outside of Columbia, Missouri.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Photo: Our singlewide trailer. Soon to be replaced with our singlewide creamery.

Woke up at 5:00 AM this morning from a dream where I was misting the greens on some freshly harvested radishes and little purple scallions. The song "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream," was going through my head while I drifted back into the waking world. Hmmm. Life has seemed like a dream lately. Our little 12 acre plot in the Red Hills of Dundee is stunningly beautiful. I can just sit on the deck for hours and just watch the swifts dart overhead, eating invisible bugs, laugh at the hummingbirds fight over rightful ownership of the glass feeder, and yell at the fat squirrels, scampering across the castle-rock retaining wall, their cheeks protruding, stuffed full of our hazelnuts and seeking a safe place to store them. Haven't killed one yet, but I shoot them angry thoughts and evil looks.

Photo: Our potting shed. It's a two-holer!

I dream of building several raised beds. I want to have a big veggie and herb garden. The soil around here is bright red clay. Not easy to dig, but great for growing wine grapes. With raised beds, I hope to increase the likelihood that I'll actually eat what I plant, and have more food growing year round. Oregon's climate is mild enough to allow for year-round growing. I've been reading/watching Garden Girl online. I like her raised beds. They appear to be easy to cover should I want a small greenhouse, too. Plus, I can fit a Chicken Tractor over them!!!

This is all a dream, because once I'm up and running, making cheese, finding time to garden will be a luxury until I can build a staff of other cheesemakers and apprentices. Oh yes, I plan on sharing the love of cheesemaking. I believe in giving back, as others have given to me. There are very few secrets in cheesemaking. What makes a good cheese is good milk from happy animals, a talented cheesemaker, and a nurturing environment for aging cheese.

Photo: Big leaf maple and Douglas firs at our place.

We're slowly moving forward on our plans to build our cheese facility. I'm currently seeking a builder who can help us bring my dream into reality. Not an easy task. I wish I had the skills to do this thing myself. I'm sure I could saw, hammer, and glue things together, but I'm not too sure the structure would last more than a week. Jim's skills aren't much better. I know I need help.

Sometimes I look around this place and get overwhelmed. What the hell have I done? I'm not handy. I don't know how to string an electric fence, or repair a broken valve on the sprinkler system. What was I thinking? My parents didn't have those skills and there was no one around to teach me handy things. (Sorry Mom.) They believed in hiring skilled labor. I enjoy watching and learning. If someone is willing to show me how to do something, I'll give it a go. As my father always told me, I'm pretty mechanical. I'm also very visual; I can see spatial relationships. I can see how things go together and what will fit where. This makes me a master packer. If I had been in a touring band, I'd be given the task of packing the van. I can make stuff fit where other can't. Someday this skill might serve me well. I'm hoping it will help as I plan my cheese room and aging suite.

Being new to a community has forced me to challenge many of my fears and general way of existing. I have to ask strangers for advice. I don't have a network to lean upon. What vet do I use? What dentist do I trust? Where can I get a good burger? This move has shaken me to the core. I've got to build everything from the ground, up. I feel as if I'm becoming a new person. Perhaps I'm evolving in to what I was always supposed to be. Who knows? At the very least, I've found a pretty good spot where I can spread my wings.

For your listening pleasure, I heard this song on the radio a couple of days ago and can't get it of my head. Here's Paul Westerberg singing the folk song, "Mr. Rabbit" at Amoeba Records in Hollywood in '02. Thought I'd share: