Ignore health officials, just say ‘yes’ to cookie dough

Ignore health officials, just say ‘yes’ to cookie dough

I was reminded recently how much I like cookie dough. Too much. My stomach ached afterward. I sprawled on the couch like a lump, of, well, cookie dough.

My mom shook her head. I refrained from telling her this was her fault even though she had not been home at the time of the overindulgence. (It was really bad because I made two batches of cookies, which I don’t usually do.)

Raw cookie dough is good no matter your age and no matter what the CDC says. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It was mom’s fault because she is the one who introduced me to cookie dough before I was big enough to operate a mixer or even measure ingredients. This was via licking the beaters.

This is a glorious rite of childhood—beater and spatula cleanup from cookie dough, brownies, cake mix, whatever the sweet concoction may be.

This clearly was not the first time I had a stomach ache after making cookies. Maybe if I made them more often I would eat less. Doubtful. Clearly, the problem is that I’m a slow learner without willpower.

My favorite part is before the dry ingredients have been added, so just the eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla. Oh, my, it really is mouthwatering yummy.

I don’t care that the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention says this habit of mine is horrible, even dangerous. I have never been sick from cookie dough other than an upset stomach from over doing it. So, I say phooey to what the CDC says.

And this is what the CDC says, “Raw and lightly cooked eggs can contain salmonella, a germ that causes food poisoning.”

I’ve known about the raw egg bit for eons. I don’t care. I’m going to keep eating cookie dough and Caesar salad dressing, which also has raw eggs.

What I didn’t know until writing this story is that flour is also a problem. I remember when mom making bread all the time when I was a kid. I would readily consume a small piece of dough. It had such a unique taste and texture. Not as good as cookie dough, but interesting enough to never say no when offered a nibble.

This is what the CDC says about flour: “Flour doesn’t look like a raw food, but most flour is raw. That means it hasn’t been treated to kill germs that cause food poisoning, such as E. coli. These harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or flour while it’s being made. Steps like grinding grain and bleaching flour don’t kill harmful germs—and these germs can end up in flour or baking mixes you buy at the store. You can get sick if you eat unbaked dough or batter made with flour containing germs. Germs are killed only when flour is baked or cooked.”

While the CDC says no to raw dough, I say yes.

Lake Oroville so full water being released

Lake Oroville so full water being released

From drought to floods. Such is the state of life in California.

There has been so much rain and snow this year that state officials on March 10 started releasing water via the Oroville Dam spillway; something that hasn’t happened since April 2019.

“Road closed” didn’t hinder us from our quest to see the water tumbling over the spillway.

We parked and started walking the nearly three-quarters of a mile before we could hear and see the roar of white water descending the concrete spillway on its way to the Feather River.

Near the bottom the churning water was like a boiling caldron—though this water was far from being hot.

Water descends the Oroville Dam spillway on March 18. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A light mist drifted our way. It was like being close to a thundering waterfall. Mom and I were there on March 18. That day the Department of Water Resources was releasing 35,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the Lake Oroville to the Feather River, with 23,000 cfs flowing through the low-flow channel within the city of Oroville.  On March 20 the flow from the spillway was reduced to 27,500 cfs, with 16,500 cfs flowing through the low-flow channel.

The state agency said, “These releases are being made in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and downstream water operators for flood control protection to surrounding communities. DWR continues to closely monitor lake inflow levels and will adjust releases accordingly.”

Lake Oroville is the largest State Water Project reservoir, which provides water for 27 million people along with various ag interests.

On March 17, the water level at the lake hit 867 feet. Full is considered 900 feet. On March 20 the lake was at 858 feet.

Department of Water Resources officials in their overbearing nanny state way decided to close Oro Dam Boulevard between Rusty Dusty Road and Canyon Drive because “higher releases from the main spillway cause excessive water spray across the road and reduce driver visibility. This section will remain closed to traffic until releases from the main spillway are reduced to a level that is safe for motorists.”

(Images: Kathryn Reed)

Oh my god, people, really? Like we haven’t been driving in rain here all winter. Like there isn’t fog to contend with in the valley. Like snow isn’t an issue for this region, too—really, there is snow close by. A little water spray is considered dangerous?

Now, I can see closing the road to deter looky-loos like me and mom. But be truthful DWR. You don’t want to deal with the traffic so some bogus reason for the road closure is the easy out.

The road did reopen March 21 after the flow was decreased and that dangerous mist went away.

The spillway really is something to see in person.

With wet weather in the forecast for the rest of this month and the snowpack so voluminous, this reservoir will be full.

Oroville Dam spillway

Water officials in California release water from Lake Oroville via the Oroville Dam spillway on March 18, 2023, to make room for more rain and snow melt. The release started March 10. (Video: Kathryn Reed)

Pandemic: Wondering what lessons have been learned in the last 3 years

Pandemic: Wondering what lessons have been learned in the last 3 years

Three years ago today the governor of California shutdown the state by issuing a stay at home order because of COVID-19.

Nearly every state issued such a mandate. The exceptions were Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Kentucky issued an advisory as did Massachusetts. Oklahoma issued a partial advisory. Regions of South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming issued advisories. Wisconsin’s order was declared unconstitutional six weeks after it was announced.

In one way or another we all have been changed because of the pandemic. Most affected are the families of the millions of people who died from the deadly virus. According to Worldometer, 6,819,416 people had died from COVID-19 as of March 19, 2023. Of those, 1,151,279 were residents of the United States.

That’s a whole lot of people.

Sure, some had underlying issues that were ultimately going to kill them. That’s why there are people who take issue with the number of deaths. But look at it this way, if a person had a terminal illness and died in a car accident, what is going to be listed as the cause of death? Injuries related to accident; not the terminal illness. Same goes with COVID. Cause of death is the last thing that struck you, so to speak.

We all know the federal response was a cluster. I want to believe the information coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the contradictory, ever-changing statements without explanation made it all feel so political. Politics should not be part of public heath decisions.

I believe in science. I know science changes as more information comes in. Research brings knowledge. It’s a basic fundamental of how science evolves.

I have said for a while now we are all involved a great scientific experiment—everyone—those who are vaccinated at some level, those like me who have received every available inoculation, and those who are adamant to never get that needle near them.

It still amazes me people are skeptical of the vaccine. The Messenger RNA, or mRNA, was discovered in the early 1960s. Want more info, John Hopkins is a good resource.

I realize we are still learning so much about this virus—the mutations, who is affected most, why some people like me have never had COVID, and why others get long COVID.

What I’m still wondering about is was shutting things down the best way to stop the spread. Maybe if it had been done universally and if everyone who could get vaccinated had (and still would), then the virus might have disappeared by now.

Let’s just say closing businesses and telling people to stay home were the best options. I maintain the government then is obligated to make people whole. Not by having business owners apply for loans (even if they are eventually forgiven), nor by sending stimulus checks, but by actually paying people their wages. This works for those (unlike me) who get a W2 form. It’s going to trickier for those of us who are self-employed, who are contract 1099 workers. But it could be done. That would have kept the economy going.

I am sure there are plenty of people who will say this is an oversimplistic solution and shoot holes in it. Well, what we did wasn’t so brilliant, so I hope the powers that be are looking for better outcomes for when the next global crisis hits.

This pandemic also exposed the fragility and inequities of so many systems—from schooling (how about all those kids that didn’t have internet access at home) to health care workers (why did medical personnel not have enough protective equipment?) to government ineptness (where was the plan for such a catastrophe?).

I was in Todos Santos, Mexico, when California shut down. I could tell it was only a matter of time before the same became true for Baja California Sur. I was on the road north by the end of March 2020.

But I never felt like my world truly shut down in South Lake Tahoe. I still snowshoed and hiked. We took more vehicles to the trailhead and we walked farther apart. But we were still in nature.

At first we played tennis with each player opening a can of balls. That was inefficient. We actually socialized more by staying after to have an adult beverage (we brought our own). Chairs were spaced out.

I have never been one who goes out a lot, so I wasn’t missing much. I found ways to see my friends. I was out on dog walks.

And then I headed back to Mexico in fall of 2020 until the following March. Life in Baja is lived outdoors even without a pandemic, so again, not much changed compared the previous two winters I had spent there.

Life is always about making adjustments, compromising and adapting.

I’m still cautious because of COVID, but I’m still living my life to the fullest.

But I wonder what could have been done so the 6.8 million people who have died from COVID and the ones who will die in the future didn’t have to. That’s the lesson I’m not sure we’ve learned. I don’t think we’ve learned what to do in the next pandemic or other crisis. That’s what scares me the most.

Book review: ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ a delicious read

Book review: ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ a delicious read

It’s rare for me to find a book where I like all of the characters. Well, I didn’t like them all in this particular book because some were just incredibly hateful people. But they had relevance to the story line. They weren’t thrown in in a nonsensical way. That’s why I liked all the characters.

The dog, Six-Thirty, is off the charts wonderful.

As most of you know, fiction is not a favorite genre of mine. But Lessons in Chemistry (Doubleday, 2022) by Bonnie Garmus reaffirms novels can be captivating, have a poignant message, and can be entertaining and captivating.

It was interesting listening to this book after finishing Gloria Steinem’s collection of works. This book by Garmus is about women’s rights in a similar, but different way—after all, it is fiction. It’s set in the early 1960s when there were few career options open for women.

Elizabeth Zott, the main character, is a chemist who finds one obstacle after another to realizing her intellectual potential. The early sexual assault is necessary. Push through it and the rest of the story is compelling.

Not only is the story line interesting, but the writing is great. It was definitely a book that I didn’t want to end.

A bonus to having listened to the book is there was an interview with the author at the end.

Saying goodbye before you want to

Saying goodbye before you want to

It had been a long time since I hugged so many people.

Reunions do that; they make you want to physically connect with people. Only this reunion was actually a celebration of life.

Kirsten Johnson Loy was 59 when she died last year. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of when she was first diagnosed with cancer.

That same month she started her blog, which she called Consider It Joy. Who titles it that when they are diagnosed with stage four cancer? Kirsten. That’s who.

She didn’t sugar coat her life, but she also kept much of the nitty gritty out of print. We knew of hard days, but only those who were there knew how hard they really were and how many there were.

Her love of family, friends and god sustained her all those years.

Kirsten Johnson Loy touched more lives than probably even she knew.

On her Instagram page her bio says, “Mom, writer, teacher, mentor, friend, wife, but to sum me up is to know I am a flawed woman who loves a flawless God.”

On Facebook she has 1,289 friends. My guess is they are all really friends.

After all, about 500 people were at her celebration of life on March 11. And it definitely was a celebration. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much at an occasion like this.

Kirsten would have loved it. Of course, she did orchestrate it all. Honestly. She readily admitted she was a control freak. She could laugh about it. But it didn’t temper the controlling.

The service was full of stories, some scripture, music, and more stories. It’s always hard to encapsulate a life in a short essay or a couple hours.

I knew Kirsten for nearly 50 years. Her younger sister is one of my dearest friends. I was instrumental in writing their dad’s obit; a bit daunting considering they are both terrific writers. Her mom is one of my mom’s best friends. We knew many of the same people from having grown up in Concord. Many of them were there on Saturday. It was a mini-reunion of sorts. Unfortunately, it’s deaths that now bring us together instead of weddings.

We really ought to plan a party so we can all be there.

Kirsten reached out to me and others a few years ago wanting help with writing a book about her journey with cancer. I don’t know where it stands now, but I hope one of her friends puts all the pieces together and gets it published. Kirsten was an inspiration. Her words should live on so more people can know her.

Changing seasons bring color and life to many landscapes

Changing seasons bring color and life to many landscapes

Flowers bloom between grape vines in Sonoma in early February. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The calendar says spring is going to arrive next week.

Depending on where you live it looks and feels a lot more like winter and that spring’s arrival will be in the distant future. That’s what happens when there is record snowfall, like what Tahoe has experienced this year.

Those in the flatlands, though, are already delighting in the green hills. Mustard and daffodils are a vibrant yellow, with some already running their course. The almond blossoms are past their peak and will soon be off the trees, ready for the nuts to take hold. Other trees are just beginning to bud.

Spring, outside of snow country, is about life, birth and new beginnings.

The spring equinox in March and autumn equinox in September are the only times when the Northern and Southern hemispheres have essentially equal amounts of day and night.

This is when the sun is directly over the equator, so the earth is not tilting toward or away from the sun.

And it’s the one day when the sunrise will be due east and the sunset due west.

The spring equinox is also known as the vernal equinox.

Kitchen gadgets simplify life for the home cook

Kitchen gadgets simplify life for the home cook

I would not call myself a minimalist, but I am also definitely not the person who needs the latest gizmo. I suppose this makes me much like most of the world where there are a few things I’ve acquired that make my life better, but I certainly could live without.

One of these items I bought in the last six months and the other I’ve had for several years. Both are used in the kitchen.

A tofu press makes a world of difference for getting all of the water out. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The newest item is a tofu press. It does just what its name implies—it presses tofu.

Tofu is packed full of water. To get the best results when cooking tofu one must remove as much water as possible. It browns better with less water, and in turn then absorbs other flavors more easily—which is what you want.

I finally got tired of going through so much paper towel or needing to put a kitchen towel in the wash after squeezing the tofu. Plus, it never felt like I got all the water out.

The contraption is simple in design. The hard plastic fits a normal size grocery store block of tofu. The tofu sits between two thin pieces of hard plastic with holes in them from which the water oozes out. Then a spring is attached to press the tofu. The liquid can then be poured out.

It’s best to start the process at the get-go of whatever you are making in order to release as much water as possible.

One use and I was convinced this was a smart purchase.

An immersion blender is a must for anyone who makes soups that need to be blended. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The other contraption I use is my immersion blender that I got as a gift several years ago. I use it for soups, but I’m sure it could have other applications.

Instead of pouring batches of soup into a regular blender, which can be a laborious process, the handheld immersion blender is used in the pot you are cooking in.

It is so, so easy to use.

If you blend any soups, you must get an immersion blender.

What gadgets make your life easier in the kitchen?

Drones changing how firms, agencies do business

Drones changing how firms, agencies do business

While pictures may be worth a thousand words, drone footage is practically making ordinary camera images seem antiquated.

Drones are redefining real estate videos by flying through houses. They are saving lives by reducing the time for search and rescues. They document capital improvement projects in ways standing on the ground with a traditional camera can’t. For some businesses they are saving time and money.

While the use of drones goes back to World War I, these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have come into their own in the last few years as the applications for them continue to grow.

“I think the future for drone photography is limitless. I think we are in the embryotic stages for what we can use it for,” Valerie Walston with the Napa Valley Transportation Authority Walston said. “When I first started looking for a drone photographer it was not easy to find one because most were focused on real estate and agriculture. I needed to find someone focused on construction.”

As the marketing and information specialist for the county transit agency, Walston is tasked with figuring out the best way to showcase infrastructure improvements from beginning to mid-construction to completion.

“These are projects that have three dimensional stories to tell. Without drone video, we would lack that important element,” Walston said. “Everyone appreciates the story being told in ways I cannot with a camera on the ground.”

Jake Bowman, founder and pilot of Napa-based Flutter Shot Media, uses drones in his work in a variety of ways. (Image: Jake Bowman)

Expanding drone uses

Jake Bowman, founder and pilot of Napa-based Flutter Shot Media, has traveled all over the state to help Bob Peralta document fire damage.

For years, Peralta of Bob Peralta Arbor Consulting in Napa walked endless miles to appraise the condition of trees following wildfires. The firm’s clients are often attorneys and insurance companies.

“I take his images and am able to do my work instead of walking 80 to 100 acres. This has only come about in the last couple years,” Peralta said. “It definitely changes my work. (Jake) has taken me out of the field. It saves me time. It’s probably changed 40%of the way we collect data. It’s pretty remarkable.”

What Peralta likes is that Bowman does not merely do a flyover. The flying cameras can zero in on fences, sewer lines, and septic systems.

Bowman creates an orthomosaic image, which is done by stitching together photos to create a seamless, larger detailed image.

“So, now when I’m in a meeting we incorporate ‘Do we need drone on it?’” Peralta explained. “I worked on the (2017) Tubbs Fire (in Sonoma County) and spent a ton of time in Paradise (after the 2018 Camp Fire), but didn’t have these tools back then and they would have been helpful.”

Drone use isn’t limited to things on land. Fishermen are also finding uses for them.

The Fisherman’s Marketing Association of Bodega Bay enlisted Jim Nevill Productions of Bodega to create a 10-minute video to educate people about Assembly Bill 534, the 2021 legislation that would have mandated ropeless fishing gear among other things.

In one day, drones swooped over 10 locations, mostly in the Bodega Bay area. Shots were preplanned to get sunrise and sunset images, the abundance of boats in the harbor, fisherman out at sea; all shown as the narrator tells the fishermen’s side of the story.

For law enforcement, drones are able to replace helicopters. They are quicker to deploy, go places helicopters can’t, and the expense of charging a battery is negligible compared to jet fuel.

Marin County sheriff’s deputies deployed one of their 11 drones in January to assess the flood damage along Highway 37. This was at the request of Caltrans and fire officials. Such mutual aid agreements are common.

Marin County Sheriff’s Office has been using drones since 2018, with the department having created a specific drone team. It was the first law enforcement agency in the county to create a UAV program.

Since the inception of the drone program, the sheriff’s office has acquired drones that are small enough to fly indoors. They would be used to fly inside buildings in which someone has taken hostages or has barricaded themselves.

“If a person can’t go in somewhere, we would not send a drone in there,” Sgt. Brenton Schneider, who runs the drone team, said.

Some drones have loudspeakers and spotlights attached to them. Other drones have infrared tools.

“Because our drones have thermal capabilities we are able to detect hot spots for the fire department,” Schneider said. “In the (2020) Woodward Fire we utilized a drone to get a look at how big the fire was. We could see where they could send resources. Anything we could do from a helicopter we could do from a drone.”

The thermal device is perfect when looking for lost hikers or even missing persons. Drones can cover a larger swath of land faster than people, so they are a vital tool in search and rescue missions.

Another marketing tool

Indoor footage is becoming more popular and almost the norm when it comes to real estate listings.

If you want to be a good agent for sellers, you need to add value and bring people in and I think drone video is a huge asset,” Dylon Baker, owner and Realtor at Baker Estates in Vacaville, said. “When it comes time to market a property its three-pronged: still photos showcase the house itself, your drone video that is a teaser trailer, and using drone video through the house on social media and other websites.”

Bowman, the drone pilot who shoots charred trees, spends 90% of his time on real estate work, with Baker being one of his clients.

He has specifically rigged the drones that he uses to fly indoors. The key he said is to have flawless video, so it’s like a person is walking through the home, not getting stuck somewhere—which can happen if a pilot isn’t well versed at his craft.

Randy Knight, who owns 5StarVR.com in Sebastopol, also needs to market real estate in an appealing matter. For him, it’s luring people to his vacation rentals.

Sometimes Knight does his own shoots, other times he hires people. He said the first drone he bought about seven years ago cost $1,700. The wind took it and it was never seen again. The last one he bought at Costco for about $400.

“The picture quality is incredible, it’s easy to use, small and compact,” Knight said. “It’s a wonderful thing to have. It displays properties in the best possible light. Photos say so much more than words in the world of vacation rentals.”

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the North Bay Business Journal.

Paradise embracing a future full of recreation in healthy forests

Paradise embracing a future full of recreation in healthy forests

Paradise Recreation and Park District has plans to increase opportunities throughout its jurisdiction. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Paradise is thriving. All one has to do is listen to Dan Efseaff to know this is true.

Efseaff, who has more than 20 years of experience as a restoration ecologist and land manager, is district manager for the Paradise Recreation and Park District. It’s a job he took about 16 months before the devastating 2018 Camp Fire that charred so much of the land that he oversees.

In January he led a group of curious people through several of the parks in his district. This was one of the field trips during the annual Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway. Most of us on the expedition were from Butte County, though one couple was from Davis and one woman was from the Bay Area.

Efseaff is a believer in defensible, saying that is why the Terry Ashe Recreation Center in the middle of town survived.

Dan Efseaff, who leads Paradise’s parks department, talks about improvements coming to Bille Park. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

As his department works on plans for what the park system will look like in the coming years, Efseaff wants to create “buffers” that will ideally lessen the impact of future fires. These can be hardscapes, and include ridding an area of flammable invasive plants as well as trimming up ladder fuels.

Fire management comes in many forms, with the rec department an advocate for using goats to munch down flammable flora. March 25 marks the second annual Paradise Grazing Festival.

A pavilion stands at Bille Park that during the Camp Fire became a shelter for about 100 people from the neighborhood. People eventually broke into the building where they were protected from the 50 mph winds, and 70 mph gusts.

“There are a lot of things we can do infrastructure-wise in the future. We need to think how else we would use buildings beyond their main purpose,” Efseaff said.

Bille Park in some ways is more like a traditional city park, though parts of it are rugged—because, well, that’s the natural landscape. By fall a new trail to a grotto should be finished. An ADA compliant trail will be built to a lookout over the canyon where a house once sat. The woman who lost her home left the parcel to the park district with the belief, according to Efseaff, that everyone should enjoy that view.

Coutolenc Park is ripe for opportunities for hikers and mountain bikers. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Paradise represents only 10 percent of the park district, according to Efseaff. His staff is responsible for 172 square miles, with acreage going almost to Stirling City, so it includes Magalia, out to Concow and borders Chico.

At the next stop we see an abundance of serpentine rock, California’s state rock. This is off Coutolenc Road. The green reminds me a bit of sandstone in color, but it’s nothing like it in composition.

We cross the street where we can see the Magalia Reservoir and dam. The goal is that Lake Ridge Park (the name may change) will be built in 2027-28. Plans are for it to have a ballpark, welcome center, bike course, ziplines, and more than 15 miles of trails that loop out to Paradise Lake.

Expansion of the old Butte County railway into a multi-use trail is on the district’s master plan.

The pavilion and adjacent building at Bille Park became a refuge for people during the 2018 Camp Fire. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Coutolenc Park is the largest undeveloped park the district manages. It’s just a bunch of trees, many of them burned. The potential for miles and miles of trails is intriguing. It might be worth coming back with a mountain bike, especially an e-bike.

The district owns this 330-acre park through a land patent with the Bureau of Land Management. This means the BLM retained the timber and mining rights. That in part is why it looks the way it does–like a ravaged, unkempt forest.

“They left us a mess,” Efseaff said. “We will clean it up. We will probably do a broadcast burn in the next year with torches. We need to get this burned and make it a healthy forest.” He was pointing to the growth of flammables like ceanothus and manzanita.

“I’d like to see it go from a conifer to an oak forest that is maintained by fire,” he said. “Within 20 years this could be a healthy forest, a park-like setting.”

Efseaff is a believer that fire is good. Just not fire that burns hot and out of control like the wildfires that have engulfed so much of the state in the last few years. Managed fire, that’s what his department embraces.

At Paradise Lake, not far up the road from Coutolenc Park, are more opportunities for the park district. It has only recently been responsible for recreation here.

Creating event camping and expanding kayaking opportunities are on the drawing board. The old caretaker’s house will be repurposed for public use.

Throughout the excursion Efseaff was always hopeful of what the charred and not burned lands will look like in the future. The array of planned trails should make any outdoor enthusiast ecstatic. It was encouraging to hear about a vision focused on the future and life after destruction.

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