Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Grumpy Gus

We drove out to Stub Stewart Park by Vernonia on Sunday evening to visit Bethany and Chris, who were camping with their neighbours. It had been excessively hot all day (the story of our life here in the Northwest this week) and Natalie was in the middle of a long meltdown.
She was grumpy and grubby and NOTHING would appease her.

These photos were taken AFTER she had calmed down.
I had forgotten how loud that baby can scream.

The kids made some yummy fajitas.
And then we went home.

Love of Africa

I acquired a new piece of African art at the fair last weekend.
Jeff just chuckled when I told him.
For some reason, I am drawn to this primitive style of art.

My Africa room is going to run out of wall space soon.

I am also reading the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.

It is a delightful series that describes Botswana and its people in intriguing detail. As I read, I can hear in my mind's ear the lilt of the African speech and visualize the landscape and the characters.
Read this paragraph and you will see why I love it:
Mma Ramotswe accepted her large slice of cake and looked at the rich fruit within it. There were at least seven hundred calories in that, she thought, but it did not matter; she was a traditionally built lady and she did not have to worry about such things.

The author lived in Botswana for a number of years and visits the country frequently. His love of the country and its people is apparent. I was doubtful that his facts were accurate, so glowing did they seem, but after consulting Wikipedia (the source of all truth) I am convinced.

I think that I shall go to Botswana. Not only is it one of the few democracies in Africa, but since its independence from Great Britain, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world. Its standard of living is improving. Not many African countries can lay claim to that.

Maybe the orangutans will have to wait.

But first, Kangaroo Island.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

More fireworks

Every year, on the last weekend of July, the city of Newberg puts on its Old Fashioned Festival. When we first moved here, I thought it was a very strange name, but I have become accustomed to it. We enjoy four days of live music, craft and vendor booths, an overpriced carnival, a parade, and FIREWORKS. It was very hot yesterday, but I knew if I chickened out and missed the fireworks I would regret it all year. I know of which I speak, because I have done it before. The July 4th fireworks in Astoria were nice but I love to lie down in the field and have the fireworks be directly overhead. I'm picky that way!
So, at about 8 o'clock, Jeff and I moseyed over to the old Renne field and found a spot next to friends and close to the Baby Boomers Band. Our kind of music.
And waited for Jon and Jenny and the boys to arrive. It was their first Old Fashioned Festival Fireworks.
Here they are, waiting for the show to begin.

I love the photo at the top of Jenny and Jeff. I caught them in the ambient light of the fireworks, no easy feat with the delay on my camera.
It was the best fireworks EVER.
Wait a minute, I say that every year.
But really, it was.

Earlier in the day, Jenny and the boys marched with me in the parade. Our friend, Rob Cornilles, has decided to challenge the long-incumbent Democrat, David Wu. He has a long and difficult row to hoe (farming metaphor there) so we marched to support him. It was my first time in the parade. Usually I sit on the sidelines with kids or grandkids and encourage them in their accumulation of candy. Snitching all of the good chocolate.

Jeff fell asleep towards the end of the parade. According to Jenny, the boys got up at 6am.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Veggie Love

Lots of vegetables from the farm this week.
Broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, green beans, zucchini (or courgettes, as my sister calls them), and bonus boysenberries.
I also picked 16lbs of blueberries.
Love summer in Oregon.
I have been roasting vegetables lately. Baby parsnips and carrots from my own garden and beets and cauliflower from the farm. We love them. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness, in case you didn't know. There have been beet converts among my beet-hating friends when they taste them roasted. Basically, you shake the veggies in a ziplock bag that contains olive oil and seasonings. Place them in a roasting pan and cook them at 350 to 400 degrees until they are tender.
If you're not adventurous that way, here is an actual recipe, courtesy of and Elise, who submitted this four years ago.

Roasted Cauliflower

• 1 head of cauliflower
• 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely minced
• Lemon juice (from 1/2 or a whole lemon)
• Olive oil
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Parmesan cheese
1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut cauliflower into florets and put in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish. Toss in the garlic. Squeeze lemon juice over cauliflower and drizzle each piece with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 2 Place casserole in the hot oven, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown. Test with a fork for desired doneness. Fork tines should be able to easily pierce the cauliflower. Remove from oven and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4.


Note to Jon:

Not one ellipsis.
Not one exclamation point.


...between Face Book and blog.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The battle of the blogs.... on.

The family that blogs together.....

Have you noticed the new blogs on my side bar?
The Good Life is Annie's blog.
Entomophilia is Jon's.
Which may need a name change.
He said he made up the word.
It means "love of bugs."
Unfortunately, some other people thought of it first.
In a not so nice way.
I don't recommend googling "entomophilia."
But check out their blogs.
Prepare to be entertained and informed.
Ignore my son's comments on my blog grammar.
Jon, this is for you.
the ellipsis is actually a rather subtle device.
So there!

Jon, amused.

Jon, contemplative.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rampant Garden II

I saved some kabocha squash seeds last year.
Farmer Brown tells me that they may not be true to type because of all of the different varieties of squash they grow at the Mustard Seed.
But so far, they're looking pretty true.
And huge.
This bed has two blueberry bushes, about ten apple cucumbers, and one GIGANTIC kabocha in it.

If you look really carefully, you can almost see the plants that are not kabocha.
It is also encroaching on the grape vines, which are over 5 feet tall.

This may not be the best idea I had all year.

On a happier note, my lemon tree is back from the dead.

I was sure that it had died in the cold spell over Christmas.
There was no sign of life at all.
But I kept it watered and sat it in the sun all spring, hoping against all hope that it would revive.
And darned if it didn't!
Jeff calls it my lemon bush.
Maybe next year it will give me lemons again.
If it survives another winter.


Remember the mice?
And the pile of rice?

Go here if you don't.

I'm hoping that the story is finally over.

I was searching in the toy box for Little People figures for Tommy and Jeffrey when I had them over last week. As I got close to the bottom of the box, I found a chewed up piece of stripy t-shirt fabric.
Hmmmm, I thought to myself.
What could this be?
I contemplated, then remembered that it used to be a bean bag.
Filled with.....RICE!!!!!!!
It was a rice bag.
So that's where that pile of rice came from.
It had bothered me ever since the mice incident.

I searched further and found....more chewed bean bags.
Only this time, the beans were still intact.
Apparently, mice don't like kidney beans.
Can't say that I blame them!

And, of course, the box had a healthy layer of mice turds all over the bottom of it.

The toy box is duly cleaned and disinfected.
The story is done.
I hope.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No-picture day.

Today, words will have to do.
I woke up early. Five-ish. It's been in the 90's but cooling down at night, so the sun was shining brightly and a cool breeze was blowing. Have to get up and get while then getting's good. We're having six people over for lunch tomorrow. Barbecue pizza cook-off. Need to clean the house and tidy the garden so that I can impress them. Ha! My house is always neat and tidy. My flowerbeds are always weed-free!
I made Jeff a breakfast sandwich. Ciabatta bread filled with egg, cheese and ham. Men work more willingly when their sweeties feed them well, don'tcha know? He headed over to Bethany and Chris's house to help Chris with his sprinkler system. They're doing a labour swap, my brilliant idea. Figure they'd both work harder and longer if they had help. Which will make Bethany and Sue happy.
Had two Lindor truffles for breakfast after Jeff left.
Then I spent, I swear, two hours working on hotels and flights for our Washington DC trip. What Washington DC trip, you ask? Oh, didn't I tell you about that? There is a Taxpayer Protest March on Capitol Hill on September 12th. Why don't you come too? It is the best-kept secret on conservative talk radio, so I hope the organizers get the participation they are expecting. So, after several hours of research on the net and talking to a very ditzy, myopic, self-absorbed, totally irrelevant travel agent who is supposedly helping people plan their trips (NOT!) we are good to go. Yeah, she was a sweetheart. Does anyone else miss the days when you just called a travel agent when you wanted to go somewhere and they let you know when a good deal turned up. It might have been a bit more expensive, but oh, so much more comforting. I get ulcers with all the decisions I have to make for a trip like this.
By the time that was all done, it was going on 10 o'clock, so I hurried outside and was a weeding, pruning, watering maniac for about three hours. My friend, Robyn, came to bring me some fresh zucchini bread while I was on my knees weeding under the cherry tree. She stood and watched me weed while we gossiped about our kids. It made the time go faster. And when I finally went in the house, sweaty and dehydrated, I ate most of that loaf with about half a gallon of orange juice.
Spent some time waterproofing the grout on the kitchen counter.
Took a much needed shower.
Except Jeff was home by then and decided he needed a nap too.

We got up in the late afternoon. Jeff vacuumed the house, swept the kitchen, and mowed the lawn. I finished the counters, swept again, and mopped the floor. We rode the Screamer to Quizno's and had two tasty torpedoes. Turkey club for Jeff, roast beef, bacon and cheese for me. Hold the veggies and mayo, thank you. Then we rode out to the Mustard Seed. Oh my, I was huffing and puffing up the hills. Jeff was the man. He put his thighs into high gear and talked me up those stinkin' hills. Not having the brake on helped a lot. That's for you, Ellen! We spent an hour weeding the onions, loaded up on orange cauliflower and striped beets, picked some big, juicy boysenberries, and headed home just as the sun was setting. Finally got to try out those nifty LED lights. They work very efficiently.
Stopped at Safeway on the way home for milk. Had to buy two gallons to get the good price and decided we couldn't ride the bike without tipping over. It's only half a mile or so to home, so we walked. The wind had really picked up by now and we were worried about the awning being out, so I told Jeff to go ahead and I would walk the bike. As he drew ahead of me, carrying a gallon of milk, I thought how it probably looked like we had had a lover's spat. He was pushing ahead in a snit and had left his woman pushing the big old bike. Funny.
I kind of like my life lately, although sometimes I think we work too hard.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Of abundance and deprivation

Last year, I joined a CSA for the summer.
Community Supported Agriculture.
I liked it for several reasons.
* We ate lots more vegetables than usual.
* We discovered some new favourites, like fava beans and fresh garbanzo beans.
* Jeff got to eat beets. Who even knew that he liked them?
* I got to share vegetables with my friends.
* The produce was organic.
* It felt good to be supporting a local farmer, as opposed to the giant subsidized conglomerates.
* It made me feel "green," and you all know how much I enjoy that! I practically oozed smugness.

(No big but jokes here please) was very expensive and I couldn't choose our week's portions.
Too many stinkin' beets.

So, this year I joined a local co-op farm.
The Mustard Seed, formerly of Newberg (to which we belonged one summer years ago) and now of St. Paul.
Only six miles away by Screamer.
Or Jeff's new Sebring.

For only $20 and 24 hours of work, we can take all the vegetables that we want.
Plus a smattering of select fruits.
Much more suited to my frugality.
The plan was that we would ride out to the farm on the Screamer every Saturday morning, put in an hour or two of work, and ride home with our bounty of fresh, organic vegetables. By the end of summer we would have hard, healthy, bodies and have so much energy that we wouldn't be able to stand ourselves.
We did ride the bike once.
Usually we're too tired from our other activities, or too short on time.
Then, the second time we went, we hoed beets for two hours.
The next day I was in agony.
I aggravated an elbow injury from falling off my bike last summer.
Now I have lateral epicondylitis.
Tennis elbow.
Last time I played tennis was almost 40 years ago.
Unfair, I cried, to no avail.
Physical therapy, here I come.

Jeff has become a fan of the farm.
While we work together, we discuss politics and other weighty topics.
Yesterday, I told Jeff my theory of how small, co-op farms might be the saving of America. Just think how much healthier people would be if they joined farms instead of getting food stamps. Helping themselves, instead of waiting for the government to take care of them. There are indications that this model of farming is growing in popularity, as young people feel a need to get back to the land. They are leading the quest for more sustainable farming practices and less contaminated food sources. Here is a good website if you want to read more on the topic.

My friends and I lamented the loss last year of Pihl Orchards in Dundee.
It was owned by an elderly Swedish (I think) couple who had been farming it for 20 years. We were taking our kids there to pick blueberries and peaches for almost as long. Arne Pihl was 90 last time we asked. Summer wasn't summer without at least a couple of trips to Pihls.
Last year, it was inexplicably gone.
No blue road sign: Pihl Orchards.
No hand-made sign on the corner: Peaches for sale.
I finally drove down the gravel road to try to solve the mystery.
The barn where Mrs. Pihl weighed the fruit and you could pour yourself a drink of ice cold water from the fridge was gone.
The house was spiffed up.
No "u-pick" sign.
I wanted to cry.
It took a year to ferret out the news.
Pihls had been bought out by the local land baron and the fruit was going to canneries.

Oregon is u-pick heaven.
Let's hope there are enough hard-working souls of the younger variety who will carry on the tradition.
Hats off to the farmers of the world!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Free Chocolate

Don't say I never tell you anything useful.
Go here every Friday morning until September 25th and you can register for a coupon for a free chocolate bar from Mars.
Registration begins at 9am et and they give away 250,000 coupons a week.
Hint: if you have more than one email address register more than once.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tuesday in the Park

Jeff and I were both tired on Tuesday night.
Long days for both of us.
He, in the trenches at Tyco, and me, teaching piano.
But we had A PLAN.
We rode the Screamer down to Quizno's (for some delicious torpedoes) and then to the park by the library for a free concert.
A blanket, a good book each, and our torpedoes.
We took off our shoes and chilled.
The band was average.
The temperature was balmy.

I think we both snoozed a little.
We'll be there most Tuesday evenings if you're looking for us.

One way to eat a cone

Jon and his family came over the other day. He works long graveyard shifts at Intel so we don't see them very often. It was a sunny afternoon so I fed them icecream. It was the first ever icecream cones for Tommy and Jeff.

Jeff wasn't quite sure how to eat his, he started from the side.

Tommy has an appetite like his Dad.
Almost non-existent.
But he made a fairly good job of polishing his off, after a rather hesitant start.

Jonnie preferred his in a bowl.

After I snapped this, he took a much worse photo of me with his phone.
Threatened to send it to people as yet un-named.


Strangely related to the last post is this little movie, courtesy of my friend Ellen's Facebook wall.
If you take the time to watch it, you will LOVE IT!

Go on, SMILE already!

On Artlessness

I was blessed with another Joshie day today.

I love all of my grandkids.
But there's something about having Josh for the day that tugs my heartstrings.
Bearing in mind that the reason he came over was that Bethany said she couldn't stand him for one more day!
I have decided that I love his artlessness.
Definition: lack of deceit, cunning, or craftiness. Naturalness, simplicity.
He is two, going on three, and you never have to wonder what Josh is thinking or feeling.
When he's mad, he glares at you or throws things or screams.
When he's happy, he grins gleefully, like this....

And when he is here on his own with me, he is happy 100% of the time.
Except for today; he refused to speak to me for the first 30 minutes.

My feelings for Josh and the identification of the reason for them have set me to examining my own attitudes towards emotional honesty.
I like to know what I'm getting.
No false compliments for me, please.
No insincere praise.
Tell it like it is.
Or don't say anything.

The English rarely indulge in gratuitous flattery and are suspicious of those who do. I lived there for my first eleven years, which was apparently long enough to imprint my psyche. It has been a bit of a social impediment for me in these United States, where I have observed that people like to be well thought of and will often say gracious things in order to be so. I, in contrast, find it physically impossible to say one thing while thinking the polar opposite. My facial expression betrays me.
I have been quite righteously proud of this trait in myself.
No hypocrisy here!
But over the years I have learned the value of being subtle.
You don't have to lie in order to be kind.
A few friendships would have suffered less had I learned that principle at an earlier age.
So, while total lack of artifice is still my ideal, it will be tempered with some attempts at delicacy.

I hope my American readers won't abandon me for these opinions.
It is my personal experience and may not be universal.
But as I think about it, I tend to surround myself with people who will be direct and honest with me. If you know me at all, I have probably asked you at some time for the unvarnished truth. So, if you're reading this, it probably doesn't apply to you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

S'Nooz of the day

A random sampling from today's newspaper:

There is no cure for cellulite.
And only women get it, due to their genetic makeup.
I quote: The connective tissue bands under men's skin are crisscrossed like a net, keeping their fat more EVENLY RESTRAINED. Women's tissue bands are organized in vertical columns, so fat may BULGE IRREGULARLY.
That's all I have to say about that.
At least we don't have prostates.

Wheat-gluten intolerance is skyrocketing.
Not just being diagnosed more often.
The incidence of celiac disease has increased from around one in over 600 fifty years ago to about one in 100 today. Some doctor saved over 9,000 blood samples from air force recruits between 1948 and 1954 and the study compared test results from these men with more than 12,000 taken from men recently. The question now is "Why?" Something to do with the immune system, or the food we eat, or other environmental factors?
It's strange that with all of the science and high technology in our lives, so many things are still inexplicable.

This from Dr. Oz:
Cook your fresh (and preferably organic) vegetables in the crock-pot, don't let the steam escape, drink the broth, and it's almost as good as eating them raw. Better in the case of veggies such as carrots, celery, broccoli, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Good news for a raw-veggie-phobe like me.

A travel tip from Ideal Bite (bite-sized ideas for light green living:
Take your own empty drink container on airplanes.
Save a plastic cup or two.
Brilliance in small ideas.

A photo of Mum and Natalie, who is in a rare state of cleanliness.
Natalie, not Mum.
Missing Mum a little.
Although I do love an empty house.
Jeff and I get along better.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Friday Night Patriots

I love old theatres.
The Cameo in Newberg is my favourite venue for movie-watching.

Chilly in the winter, hot in the summer.
But full of character and wonderful ornate details in the decorating.
Gotta love these light fixtures.

It is worth the extra dollar to sit in the loges.
Kick back and put your feet up.

We won't mention the archaic toilets.

Plus, you ALWAYS see someone you know.

On Friday night we went to a free 4th of July concert at the historic Liberty Theatre in downtown Astoria, courtesy of the North Coast Symphonic Band.
Do you get the feeling that EVERYTHING in Astoria is historic?
The Liberty is almost 100 years old and, like everything else in Astoria, has been the subject of restoration. The moldings inside are incredible. I'm not sure that these photos do it justice.

One of the best numbers of the evening was a medley of all of the songs of the armed forces. The announcer asked the families of members of each branch to stand as the anthem was played.

We stood for Edwin...Army Airborne.
Shout out to Edwin!

Then we stood for Charlie...Proud Marines!

And stayed standing for Jeff and the Coastguard.

Proud to be American and grateful to all those who made it possible.

A New Boy in Town

Move over, John Grisham.
I have seen the future and his name is Robert Rotenberg.
His FIRST fiction book, seen above, is a terrific read.
I can't believe it is his first.
His second had better be on its way, because he left some plot lines unresolved.
A dirty trick, that.
If you're a Grisham fan, or like a good forensic mystery, this the book for you.

For my squeamish readers, leave it alone.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Walking (yawn) Tour of Astoria

WARNING: If Victorian houses bore you, you will find this post SERIOUSLY tedious.

On Saturday, we awoke feeling severely-not-up-to-climbing-the-hill to the Astoria Column, which had been MY plan of the day.
So we had to resort to Plan #2 (Jeff's) to do the walking tour of historic Astoria.
There were, get this, 67 historic sites in the pamphlet.
All of which Jeff wanted to see.
That's a lot of walking and READING ALOUD FROM THE PAMPHLET.

Astoria is VERY HILLY.
In case you didn't know.
So off we went.
I have to admit that I was gradually won over.
How can you not love this....

...or this?

Most of these houses are 150 years old or more. They have been lovingly restored and DO NOT have double-glazed windows. Beautiful they might be, but you couldn't pay me to live there in Astoria's chilly winters.
The early pioneers of Astoria were a hardy bunch, building houses and rebuilding after fires and floods, and sometimes inexplicably moving houses just because they wanted to. I mean, actually MOVING the houses. How did they move houses this big, sometimes several blocks, in the beginning of the 20th century?

These two houses used to be one and were physically split in two by one of the owners. The one on the left holding up quite well. Not so the house on the right, which is dilapidated.

How would you like to have to climb all these stairs at the end of your day?

This one, just because I like it.

I like this solution to sharing the road.
Apparently, when cars came into vogue, the carriage drivers kicked up a fuss at having them on the road. So the city built a brick section down the middle of each road for the horses. The cars went left and right. Some sections are still visible.

Yes, we saw ALL 67 buildings.
And read every description in the pamphlet.