GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN


It’s strange, but after a certain age people start worrying about who will inherit all the detritus they have accumulated during their life. What they should worry about is who the heck wants it anyway? By the time you are ready to get rid of it, any likely recipients already have a houseful of their own stuff, and none of it is part of the same era as ours. The sad thing is that sometimes the small things which are so important to us get lost in the shuffle.

jansport

A case in point is my purse. It is a prototype from Jansport which I have carried everywhere exclusively for twenty years. I carry this purse to the grocery store, to the beach, on vacation, out to dinner; you name it and it has been there. This may not seem amazing to you, but what else fits that description? It is canvas and leather, with pockets holding my life, and though I have a number of expensive designer type handbags in my closet, I opt to use this purse my daughter gave me twenty years ago.

In 1969, while at the University of Washington, our daughter met Skip Yowell, a fun loving and exciting young fellow who with his cousin had started a small backpacking company a couple of years before. People in Washington state are noted for loving the outdoors and finding out what is over the top of all those mountains. Skip Yowell and his cousin Murray Pletz, had an idea that they could make a better backpack than what was being used. Murray’s girlfriend Jan, used her sewing machine to stitch the canvas, and Murray told her if she married him, they would name the company after her. So three hippie kids with a great idea became Jansport, and the company grew into one of the largest outdoor gear companies in the country. Jansport gear has made it to the top of Mount Everest and its sister behemoths for so long now they should put a retail outlet on the top of the mountain.

I was often the lucky recipient of a prototype Jansport had made that year, and that was how I came by my very special purse.

Now that you know the story, you can see why it is important to me to know who will treasure this bit of corporate history. Antique Roadshow may someday feature it to the amazement of its future owner.

A TWISTED TALE (2)


french fries mcdon alds

If you’ve had fries at McDonald’s, you’ve likely eaten a relative of a Luther Burbank creation, a Russet potato he invented in the 1870’s. He was also working on another large scale project—the thornless blackberry.

He wanted to take the rough spots out of nature; kind of the parallel to his spineless cactus or his stonelesss plum.

Burbank traded seeds with fellow collectors all around the world. In a package from India, he found seeds for a huge blackberry with an even larger flavor. He named it the Himalayan Giant and it grew like nobody’s business–but only in temperate areas, like the Pacific Coast, and the area around Puget Sound was ideal. Our little farmhouse in Kirkland on the shores of Lake Washington was perfect for them.

Burbank’s business was thriving and he was hanging out with people like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. He had suddenly become an international celebrity. He was so successful at breeding plants that he became interested in applying the same principles–to people.

He started selling a new book that he’d written in his catalogs, “The Training of the Human Plant”. He considered the U.S. the perfect place to practice eugenics, because at the turn of the century there were immigrants coming from all over the world. Though he had no training in eugenics, he thought he could apply the same principles as in his plant breeding.

Burbanks’s theory of genetics was that an organism’s surroundings left an imprint that was passed on to future generations. For that reason he wrote that children should spend most of their time outdoors, communing with Nature. Perhaps that’s why a Mercer Island boarding school for troubled boys was named after him in 1931. Seattle boys running amok, were sent to the Luther Burbank School on the shores of Lake Washington where they learned to farm.

Today only the dormitory remains in what is now Luther Burbank Park. And the only thing running amok are the Himalayan blackberries that escaped those turn of the century berry farms and gardens.

Sasha Shaw, noxious weed expert with King County, “I mean there is not a part of western Washington that is not touched by this plant.” The Himalayan blackberry erodes soil and crowds out native plants and animals. “It can grow in dry soils, wet soils, and it grows into the forest. It grows in full sun. There’s not a place it can’t succeed.

Birds and other animals spread the seeds far and wide. Those seeds can live in the ground for years waiting to germinate. And once the plant is growing, when the tip of a vine touches the ground–it can create a new plant.

Luther Burbank never got around to breeding humans, but it appears that he may have introduced a master race—of blackberries.

Thanks to Ann Dornfeld for the reminder

THE NEWNESS NEVER WORE OUT Kate’s Journal


Episode 34 Kirkland 1969-1974

051 “Inuit Mother and Child” watercolor by kayti sweetlanhd rasmussen

There was some success selling my sculptures in Seattle, and a minor bit of chicanery. If someone doesn’t try to cheat you, you haven’t made an impression.

For our second Christmas in the Northwest, Dr. A with the aid of a large truck and a large friend, brought home an enormous tree which reached to the ceiling of the barn, and became home to a number of enormous papier mache elves, while several more elves, dressed in colorful velvet clothes, straddled the rafters. The California family arrived in full force. and audience participation prevailed while serving up the old Rasmussen Christmas breakfast, with a few aebleskivers thrown in.

We learned that a family isn’t complete without a new generation, and in 1973 our California daughter gave us what we knew to be the world’s smartest and cutest grandson. It was troubling that he lived in California while we presently lived in Washington.

The flu can make a wet dishrag out of you, and in the midst of feeling sick and sorry for myself, alone on Valentine’s Day, our youngest daughter announced that she wanted to get married on St. Patrick’s Day. Better than that, she wanted to get married in our barn. Dr. Advice was traveling two weeks out of every month, so he was slow in getting the news, good or not so good.

marvin Oiver Large print by Marvin Oliver, Professor of Indian Studies, University of Washington

It’s amazing how fast a wedding or a climatic catastrophe (there isn’t much difference between the two) can get you out of bed. The amount of time spent on wedding arrangements today can give you plenty of time to change your mind on the whole thing. We had a month, and our daughter was in the middle of finals.

Handmade invitations, wedding clothes and food appeared in the appropriate time with the help of friends including pickled oysters from the Hood Canal from Georgia and Emmett. When everything else was set, we needed someone to marry them, and believe me, it isn’t easy when you do it at your home cold turkey. After a number of rejections, including all the regular churches, someone had a relative who was an unemployed Mennonite minister who would come.

The day of the wedding gave a display of weather the Northwest is famous for; rain, snow, hail and brilliant sunshine, not necessarily in that order. The bride walked down through our meadow on the arm of her handsome father and into a warm and cozy barn with sunshine pouring down through a large window near the ceiling. The groom was a lapsed Catholic, the bride was unaffiliated, and we were just guests, and we built a chuppah which was covered with daffodils and daisies. The new grandson slept peacefully in my arms throughout the service, undisturbed by the festivities.

North Coast Shaman “North Coast Shaman” sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

We sent the new couple off with the bride carrying a small cage of crickets (don’t ask) and found that the Mennonite minister had not signed the wedding certificate. Ominous? Everything got straightened out eventually.

There are strange sights in the country which you don’t usually see in the suburbs, a lot of them involving animals. A small Shetland pony being led down our road at 5:30 Christmas morning would be one of them, an entire line of cars at morning commute time regularly stopping to let a row of ducks cross the road, a couple of escaped horses stomping through our newly planted lawn., and of course, the belching goat.

One of our friends was a weaver of lovely things, which led me to try my hand with the warp and woof, but without her expertise. It seemed a shame not to be able to even weave a reasonable set of place mats and napkins, but it was a nice feeling to sit and try on a rainy morning.

The barn allowed us to have more parties involving more than four people. On one such occasion, a woman guest left in a huff when her husband told a raunchy joke. She just didn’t fit in or got tired of her husband’s boorish behavior. At another party, planned to entertain guests from California, fell apart when the belly dancer planned for the entertainment, refused to come when she discovered one of the guests was Jewish. Later, when our house was for sale, she wanted to buy it to use the barn to teach belly dancing in. She couldn’t come up with the money.

Seattle is one of those places where float planes fly in and out to Lake Union, taking you to places further north, and if you want to, you can go even further north to see the Iditerod races, fishing and meet new friends.

A 12 pound turkey graced our table on our last Thanksgiving in Kirkland. Complete with all the trimmings; potatoes, gravy, dressing and pumpkin pie, it brought home the fact that we had a 12 pound grandson waiting in California. Not that he was eating all this stuff by then, but you couldn’t ignore the weight or cuteness similarity.

Dr. A had supervised the building of the Alaska pipeline, caught a respectable number of fish, and made a lot of new friends, so we semi-reluctantly pulled up stakes and headed back to California.

chilcat blanket

Addendum: This post was written without using the word “I” even once. In this day and age of people like Donald Trump who seems to have a monopoly on the word, and even nice people who don’t realize they are doing it, it seemed a good lesson.

LIFE CHANGES Kate’s Journal


Episode 30 1969–1974

Moving can enable the powers of uncertainty. The act of transporting oneself from one place to another is exciting because you don’t know what awaits on the other side. It’s like going through a door, or climbing a stairway you hadn’t noticed before.

stairase“Ascent” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Once we had decided to make the move to Seattle, the job of making it happen began. We were both active in the community, my display business had to be disposed of and I needed to quit my teaching job. And we needed to find a place to live. My partner Joan, wanted no part of JoKay Display, so we simply went out of business, the City shed no tears at my departure which left a quick visit to the Northwest to househunt.

Dr. Advice was in the best shape. The Company was moving us, he would take over the Seattle office plus have as his territory all of Alaska, and all of the northern states. Fish and the Great Outdoors were calling and he was ecstatic. Though he had traveled to the Pacific, to China and to the Philippines during the War, he had gone to very few other places, and I think he rather imagined himself as a self-sufficient Mountain Man.

Though moving from Oakland to Fremont had been tinged with regret, the death of the son of our close friends by suicide and the poison pen letters I had received plus the presence of a perverted flasher made it easier.

Our oldest daughter was living in the Sorority house at San Jose and engaged to be married, our youngest would join us at the end of summer before the start of the Fall session.

We had lost Hilda, the dachshund with abnormally long legs, at a ripe old age, and Mrs. Emma Peel came to live with us. Mrs. Peel was a sweet cuddly brown dachshund who spent a lot of time being groomed by Rudy, an independent grey and white cat who had arrived in my Christmas stocking. The small tan chihuahua with the unlikely name of Tuffy, made up the menagerie we would be transporting with us.

In clearing out one bedroom, I discovered all sorts of junk still under the bed of Janet, the friend who had lived with us during her last year of high school, when her parents moved to Jacksonville, Oregon. Janet had come equipped with a large Mercedes Benz and a flute, and a penchant for living in her coat. Now in my later years, I can see with more compassion how lonely she must have been. Janet stuffed all sorts of stuff under her bed including candy with wrappers, Coke cans, etc. I had respected her privacy and had never looked. As for the coat, I can understand that it was for protection from outside interference rather than from the cold. Much like me having changed my name at each school I went to. Taking yourself away from an unwanted situation.

In January, 1969, knowing absolutely nothing about the area, we drove to Seattle looking for a place to live. For those who are unfamiliar with the area it can be confusing, because there are so many wonderful choices other than the city itself and they are all beautiful and green. We eliminated Seattle as a possibility and decided a semi-rural location would be best. Someone from the Company kindly drove us around for a look-see. He lived on Mercer Island, which as it turned out, would have been perfect, but for some reason, he never showed it to us. Our youngest daughter after her marriage lived and raised her family there.

We drove through Kirkland, which is a small and delightful town on Lake Washington. I could see lots of small shops, a couple of galleries and restaurants though not as many as now that the town has become yuppie/gourmet. It is just across the bridge from Seattle giving us the feeling of the Bay Area only smaller.

Driving down the road we spotted a FOR SALE sign by a small red and white farmhouse with a white fence around it. It was located on a small lane and had trees–lots of them. It seemed perfect and they were willing to wait until June till we could move in. In fact, the realtors were glad it would be awhile because they were busy harvesting the raspberries and other fruit coming into season! As we flew home I felt that we too, were coming into a new season.

LIVIN’ THE GOOD LIFE Kate’s Journal


Episode 29 Fremont 1966-1969

The years after my Southwest odyssey were ripe with possibility. I had come away with a deep feeling of humility and admiration for these people who had so little and yet were so generous and had the gift of laughter and ingenuousness.

The window dressing business, was still going well, spreading our good will and fancy frippery from San Jose to Oakland, our daughters became young ladies and began their University lives, we continued our outdoor life camping, hiking, fishing in the Northwest and Canada, went often to the family cabin at the Russian River,and generally enjoyed life.

Russian River

As fascinated as I had become with seemingly endless native subject matter for my painting, the opportunity to paint closer to home arose.

Child

IMG_20160218_0001
Other People’s Children

The City Recreation Department, using a charming old building across the street from Mission San Jose, had a sculpture class, and I decided to take a class. The instructor left and I was asked to teach the class as well as begin a pottery class, and they would even pay me! I couldn’t believe it. I was so rusty at throwing pots, I went to a neighboring town’s recreation department to brush up. We had no pottery wheel, so we bought a hand-made wooden kick-wheel through the newspaper, which turned out to be so uncomfortable, prospective students were dropping out. After a few money-raising events, we bought the real McCoy and things picked up. City coffers are notoriously empty when you need them.

We had a few memorable parties in our Japanese garden, even digging a pit to roast a pig for one party. The pig was still squealing at midnight, so we ate chicken and shrimp. The infamous zucchini parties came in the summer.

Just before high school graduation, our youngest daughter and a large number of her girlfriends had a photo-op on our red arched Japanese bridge, which suffered loudly from the added weight. Unfortunately, no photo remains.

J Garden 4 (1)

We all seem to have a favorite car in our past, and mine was a yellow Karmann Ghia dubbed “Herman”. It was truly mine, but with two daughters, one at San Jose State U., one still in high school, I waited for my turn. Herman lived with us for 15 years or so, and when he had reached his doddering years, a young grandson sobbed that he had hoped to drive it when he went to college.

420px-MarignyMay07KarmannGhiaFrontSide

We found ourselves traveling to the Northwest, often as guests of Georgia and Emmett Oliver at their lovely home on the Hood Canal. Dr. Advice was an ardent fisherman, and Georgia and I had formed a strong bond during our summer in the Southwest. Emmett was introducing me more and more to Northcoast art and the country itself was beautiful. Our youngest daughter had been accepted at the University of Washington, and we began thinking seriously of moving to the Seattle area. Karma was right and it seemed to be the right thing to do.

AMAZING GRAZING~~~~Pineapple Pork Sweet and Sour


GUNG HAY FAT CHOY!!~ Happy Year of the Goatgoat

We went to our favorite local Chinese restaurant, only to find its doors locked and the restaurant idling away in sublime emptiness. The very nice gift card Dr. A had given me for Christmas sadly was now of use only to light the firecracker for Chinese New Year.

There are many good and some great Chinese restaurants in San Francisco and further north in Seattle and in Vancouver. One small restaurant in Vancouver had perfected Lemon Chicken to the extent that we often drove there from Seattle just to eat it. I have never been able to duplicate it, and possibly it now remains divine only in memory.

When growing up we made the mistake of believing that chop suey was an exotic Chinese dinner. Chinese cooking is not simple; but when the Chinese first came to this country they cooked peasant food–“chop-chop, eat it up.” Toss it around then became sweet and sour to give more flavor. Chinese restaurant cooking is quick, high heat cooking but not necessarily simple. Tiger shrimp braised in a clay pot, asparagus and taro, steamed Dover sole draped over cabbage, shreds of scallion and wisps of fried turnip or soft crumblings of pork, are the ingredients of fine Chinese cooking. Just to read the menu at a good Chinese restaurant makes one’s mouth water in anticipation.

My Tai Chi class used to meet each morning at Lake Elizabeth and I was the only Caucasian among people from both Taiwan and mainland China. Once a month we had a potluck luncheon under the trees where each of us brought a special dish. There I tasted chicken feet, many kinds of stuffed buns and jook, for which I inexplicably have the recipe someone kindly offered me. Tea was brought in huge containers with all the tea leaves floating in it. I usually took my famous chocolate cake back home with one piece missing—mine.

When we found our restaurant out of business, I came home and cooked an Anerican-Chinese style dinner. We drank cups of tea without leaves and wished each other Happy Chinese New Year.

Pineapple pork sweet and sour

PINEAPPLE PORK SWEET AND SOUR

1 pound raw lean pork cut into 3/4″ squares
1 egg, beaten
Coat pork by dipping in beaten egg.
In a pan or ziplock bag, place 1 cup flour. 1/2 tsp salt and the egg-coated pork. Toss it around.

In deep pan heat a couple cups of oil, not olive, to 350 degrees
Drop in pork a little at a time and fry 6-8 minutes or until browned and done.
Remove and keep warm.

Also have prepared 1 cup pineapple chunks, drained (reserve juice)
1 medium green pepper, cut in 1/2 inch pieces

In a wok or deep skillet place
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/c sugar
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup catsup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Blend all the ingredients well and bring to a boil.
Make a paste of 2 Tbs corn starch and 2 Tbs water, add gradually until sauce thickens
Add Pork, green pepper and pineapple.
Turn and mix rapidly for abut 5 minutes or until very hot. Serve with steamed rice.

A nice dish of steamed stir-fried vegetables would make a good meal. Don’t serve chocolate cake for dessert!