Sunday, October 16, 2016
Sunday, September 18, 2016
|Hillsboro, OR, 4th of July Parade|
Monday, August 15, 2016
2-3 scallions, julienned (or thin-sliced sweet onions)
1 red pepper or carrot, julienned
1/2 cu white vinegar
1/2 cu sugar
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
Poppy seeds (optional)
Monday, July 18, 2016
Before I tell you about my adventure, I have to say that I'm not a good swimmer, I do not like to put my face in the water, and falling into a river scares the dickens out of me.
So why on earth did I agree when Mike suggested I join a bunch of old friends on a whitewater raft trip on the River of No Return? The River of No Return? The very name sent shudders up my spine, even though I knew it meant simply that once a boat had floated downriver, there was no getting it back upriver. Too many rapids, too steep a gradient, too much wilderness. And no roads, not along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, which was where the raft trip was to go. It's wilderness, preserved by governmental mandate.
For eight months after I sent in my deposit, I worked at convincing myself I wasn't totally insane, that I'd survive the trip, and even enjoy it. My son, who'd done a whitewater raft trip down an Oregon river, told me I'd probably never get wet, (He lied.) some of my friends assured me I'd love it, but others told me I was crazy to consider five nights in a tent in the wilderness. Sleeping on the ground, at that. (They were all correct.)
We'd been on the river less than an hour when I got wet the first time. And for the next five days, I was mostly wet from our morning launch until I changed into dry clothes in my tent in the late afternoon. I slathered on sunscreen every couple of hours, and still got browner by the day. I became clever at finding bushes/logs,/trees to hide behind (no, there are no convenient porta-potties in the wilderness). And I had a wonderful time.
There were twenty-three of us, including seven youngsters between ten and fourteen. Everyone was friendly, fun, just plain nice. Our guides (all seven of them) were experienced rivermen, superb cooks, and really nice guys. They took excellent care of us and fed us really, really well. They even pitched and took down our tents for us, which undoubtedly saved a lot of time, as well as making sleeping under a nylon dome in the wilderness a lot less daunting.
We saw wildlife: lots of birds; many, many bugs (some of which bit); a few snakes (Including one rattler); small critters which sometimes looked like chipmunks; Rocky Mountain Goats; and a Black Bear (which wasn't black, but sort of cinnamon colored). We saw small planes skimming the mountaintops, because the only way in to the remaining ranches (grandfathered when the area was declared a wilderness) is by air, but never heard a jet or saw a contrail until we neared the confluence of the Middle Fork with the main Salmon River.
There is no internet access in the wilderness. Nobody could text or email, make phone calls, or even play solitaire (unless he bought a deck of real playing cards, and I never saw any). We spent our evenings conversing, and mostly went to bed early because it gets really dark in the wilderness. And that meant that the night sky was fantastic. We forget, sometimes, how many stars we can see, because our city lights make all but the brightest invisible.
Here are the best of my photos. Click on each on for a short explanation.
A final note: my short paranormal Regency romance, Florentine Enchantment, will be released on 12 August. Read a short sample.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Keep Portland Weird.
I see that a lot, mostly on bumper stickers, but also here and there on signs, in windows, and on t-shirts.
Portlanders pride themselves of being a little out of step with the rest of the world. But we really aren't, or not as much as some would like to be. Yes, we have our Wesen population, but mostly they keep to themselves. And yes, Portland is supposed to be where twenty-somethings go to retire, but only if they are tech-gazillionaires.
It rains eight months of the year in Portland, but the good news is that it rarely freezes. When it does, it does so with a vengeance, though, especially coupled with rain. Snow is even more rare, although a snowstorm did drop a couple of feet just before Christmas a few years back. The whole town came to a dead halt, and a lot of folks were without power. But mostly, our winter rains are chilly, drizzly, and unrelenting.
The first winter I lived here, I was amazed to walk out of my office on a sunny January day (the temp was still below freezing) and see people sitting at sidewalk tables having lunch, mostly in their shirtsleeves. A few hardy--shirtless--souls were tossing a Frisbee in Waterfront Park. Now that was weird! Or so I believed then. Now it's just ordinary.
We've had a couple of heat waves already this year (global warming, everyone says). Both times, for three or four days, the daytime temps reached the mid-nineties (degrees Fahrenheit). Sun worshippers headed for the fountains, the rivers, the hills. The rest of us huddled inside our houses, shades drawn and air conditioners going at full blast. I had to shade my snow peas or they'd have cooked (and stopped bearing). When the forecast called for a week of showers and low temps, a, lot of us celebrated. That much sunshine, that much heat--it's just not natural.
But we can't control the weather, so those of us who work to keep Portland weird use other means. There's the Naked Bike Ride (honest!); the Belmont Goats (who were dispossessed of their home on Belmont St. so now they live out a ways from the downtown core, but they are still here and well loved); and the world's smallest park (492 sq in/0.292 m2), which is reputed to house the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.
We recycle with enthusiasm, because it's part of our lives. Fast food restaurants offer three or four bins in which to sort your hamburger wrapping, ketchup cup, straw and compostable soft drink cup. Yard debris (55 gallon/208 liter) bins are picked up weekly (we put our organic kitchen waste in them along with lawn clippings), but garbage cans only every other week. Urban gardening is big, and raised vegetable beds are beginning to replace front lawns all over town.
So what's weird about that? Maybe nothing, but I do know that in my admittedly infrequent travels, I've never seen so many tomato plants replacing landscape shrubs elsewhere.
The weirdest thing I've seen recently? Yesterday, on a nearby corner, in front of a building housing a strip joint, a Mom-and-Pop grocery and a recreational marijuana dispensary, I saw a young man wearing a tasteful tweed jacket, a white shirt, a colorful tie and dressy slacks. And bright red, patent-leather shoes. I found myself wondering why anyone would wear a jacket, tie and creased slacks on a balmy Sunday evening in June. Like I said. Weird.
My recipe recommendation this month is a chocolate cake for one: I made it with peanut butter instead of Nutella, and it was quite tasty. I didn't want to figure out how many calories were in it, because I made it for my own private birthday cake. It's not weird.
Last, but hopefully not least, I've got a new short Regency coming out in August. Florentine Enchantment. I'll tell you more next month.
Until then, read a book, eat chocolate, be a little weird.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
I went on a hike the other day.
I do that now and then, but usually I don't crow about it, because I'm not a vigorous hiker. I like level trails, cool weather, interesting scenery along the way, and not a lot of sweat. If the destination is pretty, that's a bonus, but as with so much of life, it's the journey, not the destination, that matters. After all, I might hike an hour or two, but I'm not usually going to spend that much time admiring the view at the destination, because I've either got to retrace my steps, or go nearly as far as I've come to get back to the starting point.
My hike the other day was not level (800-odd feet in less than a mile, up and then back down those 800 feet on the return--that's about 250 meters in a bit over a kilometer up and down). It got pretty warm before I made it back to my car, and I was damp with sweat. The scenery along the way was interesting, though. Plants. A waterfall. A Stellar's Jay, several bugs, a snake, and an unidentifiable, quickly moving critter that was bigger than a chipmunk but smaller than a squirrel. My kids called them "run-runs" because they usually scurried too fast to be identified.
The Columbia Gorge, just east of Portland, is a great place to hike, to see waterfalls, and to observe nature. It was carved through basalt and other hard stuff by a series of immense floods at the end of the last ice age that left souvenirs all along their route, like those rocks I talked about last month. They carved right through mountains, leaving steep cliffs. On the Oregon side of the Columbia River, more than ninety streams descend abruptly in often spectacular waterfalls. If you are interested, there are some lovely photos here.
The trails in the Gorge are not exactly level, and some of them are really challenging. The one I took is considered a moderate hike. Short, not impossibly steep, and with a waterfall to enjoy about halfway to the viewpoint at the top. There are around a dozen switchbacks, places where one can rest a moment while pretending to admire the scenery, and even a couple of benches on which to be honest about resting.
What I liked best, next to the flowers, of course, was the sound. Most of the time I could hear the waterfall splashing its way down the cliffs, the intermittent breeze rustling the leaves, and an occasional jay venting his irritation at someone. Since I-84 runs along the river, there was always the background roar of traffic, but somehow it was easy to ignore because the sounds of nature were right there, in my face (and my ears). When I did meet people, they were friendly, exchanging a word or two in passing (mostly they passed me), and going on their way. As I did, because we were all there to enjoy our hikes, not to socialize.
Perhaps I'll try a longer, or steeper trail next time. Or not. There are lots of choices in the Gorge, ranging from really easy to difficult (for the young and fit, but impossible for me, I think), and a bunch of them lead to or by waterfalls. In the meantime, I'm going to be working on building up some uphill muscles in my legs. It was embarrassing how often I had to stop and rest.
But remember, rests are as much part of the journey as walking.
This whole thing began as my "Now-and-Again, Low-Calorie newsletter." So yes, I have a recipe for you. Since my leeks are about ready to harvest, I've been looking for new ways to fix them. But first, here's my old standby, a recipe that's easy to tailor to however many will be there for dinner.
Remove the dark green tops and the root end of however many leeks you want to cook (1 or 2 per person, depending on what else is for dinner). Split lengthwise and rinse to get out any soil that's lurking between layers. Slice crosswise into finger-width pieces. Melt butter or heat good olive oil in a skillet, add the leek pieces and sprinkle them with a little salt (it helps with the caramelization). Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are brown and caramelized. That takes 20 to 30 minutes, but it'll be worth the wait.
I've served these alone because I really like the taste, but this morning I ran across a recipe where you serve them with pasta. Gonna try that one soon.
On 4 June I'll be appearing as a guest on Samantha Ann King's blog. My topic is "Deleted Scenes" and I'll be talking about why I sometimes take a perfectly good scene out of a book. Drop by on 4 June and say hello.
I'm on Facebook too. Love to see you there.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Back when we bought this house, I decided to get rid of the lawn—I have a philosophical prejudice against lawns because they consume fertilizer, water and time and are boring. Shrubs and flowers are prettier, can be way lees work, and are easy to ignore for weeks at a time (mostly...).. So I had the sod removed and hauled away and planted rhododendrons and day lilies and hostas and ferns and two wisteria
Anyhow, the rocks. My house is on the edge of a "lenticular gravel bar" left by the Missoula Floods that occurred at the end of the last Ice Age. Big floods that carved the Columbia Gorge and reshaped the topography of much of eastern Washington and the northern Willamette Valley. Each time I planted one of the twenty-seven rhodies I began with, I dug up rocks. In fact, I couldn't use a shovel to dig with; it took a 1-1/2-inch thick, pointed iron bar, because I was digging in gravel, with a little soil holding it together.
Those rocks, I thought, would make lovely borders for the rhodies, keeping out weeds and saving me having to lay down bark mulch. And they did, until plant debris and ants and other natural processes built up a layer of soil and compost on top of them, making a lovely home for weeds. Now, twenty-odd years later, the rocks are mostly buried. So I'm moving them out, to give the plants' roots more room, because some of my rhodies have died for lack of water—it runs right off the compacted rocks—from overcrowding—I got carried away when I planted them because I forgot that shrubs get bigger—and from several hot summers in a row—a pine tree just outside my lot that shaded three rhodies was cut down and now all three are gone, victims of too much sun.
But about the rocks. It's hard to resist looking at them as I dig them up. I've found granite that had to have come from Montana, piggy-backing on ice floes or tumbling in the floodwaters. Pitted black basalt that probably began its journey in the Columbia Plateau, a shard or two of limestone from somewhere east of here, and even some really pretty, nearly transparent quartz pebbles. Sometimes I wish I knew more geology, so I could know what each rock is and where it probably came from, but mostly I just enjoy knowing they've traveled a long way to end up in my garden.
I've finished planting my vegetables. In addition to all the onion-relatives that have been growing all winter, and the snow peas that are now nearly a foot tall, I have five tomato plants (two cherry, three big ones), and two different kinds of squash. Some nasturtium seeds are in the ground, but I haven't seen any sprouts yet. I hope they do grow. The leaves and flowers are both delicious.
And speaking of delicious, no I haven't forgotten to include a recipe. But this month it's really an ingredient suggestion instead of a full-blown recipe. Pea tips and pea sprouts. I'd heard about them a few years ago, but had never tried them until this spring when my snow peas needed thinning. They're quite tasty in salads, and they are good stir-fried too. So if you have some pea plants you can spare, Google "pea tips" and you'll find a whole bunch of ways you can use them. They may also be available in your local farmers market.Amazon and KOBO.
Now, I'm heading out to dig up more rocks.