Monday, June 27, 2016

help me, julia child!

today's stay-at-home vacation post brought to you by the wonderful world of french cooking.  only i'm doing it by myself. solo.  alone.  no teacher.  yikes!  i looked up some french cooking classes, but the one i wanted wasn't until july and so i decided to just go for it in my own kitchen.

the owner of northwest fresh seafood sold me two and a half pounds of fresh mussels rinsed and de-bearded (the strand mussels use to connect to other things in the ocean) and gave me this simple rule:  "closed before cooking:  good!  open after cooking:  good!" which i rehearsed...

...chopping the garlic, fennel, red onion, jalepeno, and basil...zesting the orange...putting the little still-alive bivalves into a towel-draped collander in the fridge to keep them happy...

...meanwhile i decided to make a chocolate cake.  this isn't just french, it's universal, except that i added in maybe a bit more dutch cocoa, espresso, and cayenne pepper than the recipe called for and made a coffee concentrate cream sauce topping just for fun. this satisfies the "sweet" portion of my "sweet & savory" french self-imposed guidelines.

today has been a mix of definitely most definitely following the important instructions of health & safety while going intuitive on the rest.  i would like to think that the spirit of julia child, who once dropped a chicken on the floor and kept on going, is with me--imperfections and all--that i'm trying and what more kitchen adventure could you ask for?  i'll let you know how it goes...

..(the next day) they were delicious!  definitely worth it and not as scary or hard to prepare as i thought.  if you make these, get a baguette to soak up all the extra sauce. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

summer market breakfast

what a great way to welcome summer...with a backyard breakfast!  i had just as much fun shopping and cooking for it as i did hosting a feast for 10.

gathering eggs and herbs from our yard , supporting local farmers and using only real milk, butter and creme fraiche (for which julia child would be proud!) i set to work.

the menu:  cold-brew coffee, citrus-mint water, linden flower wine, market potatoes with bacon & rosemary, three berry compote w/chia cream pudding, cinnamon & sugar challah bread, blueberry scones, and lentil & tomato basil salad.

i made conversation cards such as "if i could pass along one summer tradition from my childhood, it would be..." but people didn't need them!  a wide-range of ages, old friends connected and people made new friends, moving from the sun to the shade to continue their conversations.

a just-right morning of sun in the upper 70's when the earth and flowers are still fresh...i would definitely host this again!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

book detritus

i think a book's already been compiled about the stuff that people leave in novels?  if not, it would be highly entertaining.  consider what came tumbling out of my most recent library book:

a grocery list consisting of "max passes, milk, your milk, your cereal, dog food, bread (white), bleach (pink bottle)" and a post-it note which reads, "mild winters and long rainy spring is the perfect weather for growing pinot noir."

you don't have to be sherlock holmes to notice it's two completely different sets of handwriting.  the question remains, is it from the same household?  considering the clues, and the fact it was written on a Lakota Sioux Culture notepad, we can make the assumption that we have a carless, possibly lactose intolerant native american dog owner with a dream of grape growing on our hands here.

i could be wrong, but it's a distinct possibility.  (oh, i should mention it tumbled out of "oregon wine pioneers" by cila warncke, which seeing as i live in the dundee viticultural area, increases the chances that i am looking at a neighbor's shopping list.) people are so interesting.

this reminds me that one time i found a post-it in a book and i actually recognized not only the person's handwriting but also the name and number of the people they had written down to get together with, all friends of mine.  imagine their surprise when i asked them not only how they liked the book but how their coffee date had gone.

just call me watson.  what's the most interesting thing you've ever found in a book?

Monday, June 20, 2016

self-guided tour

i planned a local bike tour for myself through wine country today!  biking is a great speed for covering more distance than walking while being able to observe more than driving.  riding in the sharrow, i discovered two parks, a boat launch, and a new loop by the golf course.

stopping for lunch, i tried eastern european food for the first time served by an authentic russian woman and her daughter.  in addition to learning about white coffee beans, even though i've never been to russia, i feel like the dough stuffed with beef, jalapeno & ginger "sy sy" sauce and side of cabbage, tomatoes and cucumber gave me a genuine taste of what it would be like to eat there.

seafood market friends helped me with the price-per-pound of mussels (stay tuned for my french cooking day) before i biked on to more shops downtown.  while resting in an oak barrel chair with a fresh baguette sticking out of my panier, a local farmer walked by me and handed me a fresh bunch of lavender!  i felt like i was in a postcard as i pedaled home.

our natural world

there are great rewards waiting if we will only still our bodies and minds, take the focus off of ourselves and just sit...preferably outside.  i did this yesterday and, granted, i have a pretty special "backyard" acreage, but any green space will work.

in one sitting i saw:  hummingbird, baby chipmunks, dragonflies, bumble bees, large yellow butterfly, chickadees and a deer.  being father's day, i took my dad to the national wildlife refuge in tualatin where he first heard and correctly identified a nest of baby birds before we even saw them.  we spent the day noticing, listening and honing our observation skills.

we noted that animals have many of the same concerns that people do:  food, shelter, family, safety, communication. and we also realized you can walk the trail loud and uncuriously or quiet and receptively.  like robert frost's two paths diverging in the woods, we took the quiet way and received so much. tuning our senses in to the natural world is sheer gift.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


1859:  the year oregon became a state, the magazine of the same title, and also a time when a great poet walked the earth noticing things and writing them down.

that would be gerard.  gerard manley hopkins.  i've mentioned him before.  i'm pretty sure we would have been nature-loving friends.  i doubt he wondered too much if someone (me) would be reading what he wrote about the weather and how the clouds looked one particular day as she also looked out the window at her own particular cloud view.  he has something to "say" in response to the world around me that, in some ways, is still the same as it was in 1859.

my heart sank a week ago when neighbors were felling trees.  (i was relieved to find out that they were merely topping them to avoid breakage and that they would sprout from the trunk and grow again.) either way,  i couldn't imagine that section of driveway sky without the shimmering leaves in the breeze.  hopkins wrote a poem called "binsley poplars, felled 1879" in which he too laments, "O if we but knew what we do when we delve or hew--hack and rack the growing green! after-comers cannot guess the beauty been, rural scene, sweet especial rural scene."

when i find garbage on my morning loop or at the coast, lately the line that has been going through my mind is also from hopkins, this one from "God's grandeur" and somewhat more hopeful in the second part:  "And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell:  the soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.  And for all this, nature is never spent; there lives the dearest freshness deep down things!"

the near-full moon was shining in my window early this morning when i woke up to birdsong (4:37 am to be exact) and the sky was just tipping it's hat from star-brimmed to firstlight.  "look at the stars!  look, look up at the skies!  O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!" ("the starlight night").

157 years might technically separate us, but according to nature, i can't help but feel we're having timeless conversation.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

adventurer or thrill-seeker?

i would venture to say, as a species, we humans are fairly adaptable when it comes to stimulus.  too much and we seek solace, too little and we amp it up.  each individual has their own optimum range and things they do to keep them in the zone above "bored" but below "stressed" that varies from person to person. 

two basic camps beyond that emerge, that of adventuring vs. thrill-seeking.  i would consider myself an adventurer.  i love to get out and try new things; learn, taste, make and do but am also content to read at home for a couple of days without requiring outside people or events to entertain me.  i'm pretty internally-motivated when it comes to planning things to do and find a contented rhythm between going out and coming in, between socializing and solitude. 

thrill-seeking seems to me about adrenaline, chance and risk.  tempting fate, pushing the odds...i wonder where you find yourself on this scale...

-you find yourself with no plans for a couple of days.  do you panic or putter?
-would you rather kayak an unexplored lake or white-water raft a class V rapid river?
-for your birthday would you prefer to go sky diving or have a few friends over for a new cake recipe?
-your ideal weekend consists of rushing between ten small events you just heard about in rapid succession or savoring a couple of longer outings you've never done before?
-you're happy with a waterfall hike or you'd rather go bungee jumping?

of course, this is just my made up list, but are you more thrill-seeker or adventurer?

ten happy summer things

1.  east-facing light shining through the curtains
2. the feel of clean floorboards beneath bare feet
3.  berries straight from the bush
4.  time to get lost in an adventure story
5.  dutch baby pancakes with lingonberry sauce
6.  working in the garden first thing in the morning
7.  lowest tides at the beach
8.  farmer's market
9.  cold-brew coffee
10. spontaneous gatherings

Thursday, June 16, 2016


midsommar (midsummer) is celebrated in many parts of the world as the longest day of the year.  in northern parts of sweden, as i learned on my most recent trip to IKEA, the sun actually never sets and there is daylight both night and day.

the eve of this festival is an eating and drinking fest, usually featuring herring, sour cream with fresh chives and broiled fresh potatoes with dill. 

as we approach summer solstice june 21 and the first day of summer, what midsommar celebration ideas do you have? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

the rarest bird

i grabbed this book quickly from the new release section of the library as a "to kill time" filler before i got to my real pile of summer reading.  i sort of dismissed it as potentially boring, but the writing is beautiful!  the book is, "the rarest bird in the world:  the search for the nechisar nightjar".

while the portland "put a bird on it" phase has made them a bit kitschy, i do love birds.  i think it is because they are so free, so unrestrained.  flying is their superpower.  they are also unpretentious.  and, as a species, joyful--what other animals sing near-constantly? one of my first chores that i remember was cleaning grandpa's bird bath and filling it with fresh water.  my dad took me to audobon meetings and we drew them together.  i remember him saying he could never bear to see a bird caged and it stuck with me throughout the years.  i always hear canadian geese before i see their characteristic "V" in the sky.

bird types can tell you a lot about the health of the climate and what environment you are in.  one of the first things i did, for example, when helping to spruce up my friend's beach cabin, was to climb a bush to put suet in the feeder by the kitchen window and watch to see which birds would come to it. (blackbirds and a very greedy bluejay).

so, before you judge this book by the topic (bird watching) it is really about adventuring and journeys throughout the world.  the author, vernon head, was born in cape town, south africa and is an award-winning architect.  (i like that he has other professions and interests, he seems well-rounded and doesn't take himself too seriously).

consider his opening sentences (which i actually read slowly out loud to savor the consonants), "eyes are for searching, and sometimes the search is for eyes in the night.  i blinked, turning my cheeks to the dusty mud.  shapes slid before me, slicing like the shadows from a tent, stealing bits of shine."