Saturday, July 31, 2010

The triathlon... which I did NOT compete.
It started out as an activity for the young men at church.
And it grew.
But not very big.
Technically, or so I am told, a sprint triathlon.
Eight lengths in the pool, 13 miles on a bike, and 3 miles running.
I was tempted.

I hemmed and hawed for weeks. But in the end I admitted to myself that I am not quite up to it yet. I could have done any of the events alone, but all three might just have killed me. Or crippled me. Or turned me into a sobbing heap of misery and woe. Any of which would not be a good thing.
So this morning I prepared the refreshments for the animalistic types who competed.
More up my alley anyway.

This is Jerry, who rode safety patrol for the biking and running routes.
I keep telling Jeff:
I love a man on a motorbike.
In leather.
But he doesn't listen to me.

Here are the animals.
Ready on three.
One, two, snap!
I caught Evan doing...something.

Next year, they'll need to find another refreshment girl.
'Cause I'm going to be one of the animals.

Now, I know you were all drooling over the bundt cake in the lower left corner.
Admit it, you know you were!
So, in honour of blueberry season, here is the recipe.
Slightly amended by moi.
Because I just can't help myself.

Blueberry Cake
1/2c butter
1/2c sugar
1/3c brown sugar
2 eggs
1c blueberry yogurt (I substituted kefir, which resulted in a slightly less sweet cake)
1 1/2c blueberries, drained if frozen
3c flour (I used half wheat flour from soft white wheat)
1/2 tsp B. soda
4 (yes, 4!) tsp baking powder
3/4c milk
1 tsp vanilla
Cream butter and sugars, add yogurt, vanilla, and eggs, then blueberries. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Place in a greased and floured (Pam, the magic helper) bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mins to an hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you want to gussy it up a bit.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Berries, spuds, kefir and chia

This time of year, for an Oregonian such as myself, is filled with bounty. Berries have just hit their stride, which means picking and freezing time. The grandchildren ate all of our raspberries, which is a fine thing because it saves me from having to be creative with them.
Blueberries are begging to be plucked from their bushes, so I have been obliging.
I went out Tuesday morning and picked 8 pounds with my friend Lori, for $1 a pound. Then I got word of a harvesting organization in Salem that donates half of the pick to food pantries and shelters. So another friend, Kathy, and I drove down last night and picked some more. I picked 18 pounds, a personal record, so I got another 9 pounds out of it and also the satisfaction of donating to others in need.
Golly, maybe that sainthood is pending, ya think?

One of my potato patches had died back and I feared that the crop was a goner. Then, a few nights ago, when I found I was a few potatoes short to accompany our teriyaki salmon, I decided to dig in the bed and just check if there were a  few lonely potatoes. Imagine my surprise when I found, not a huge amount, but enough for a couple of dinners anyway. I guess the greens had done their job and were following their natural course.

My new pet, of late, is my kefir grain. Go here if you want to do some extensive reading on kefir. The quick and dirty version is that kefir (pronounced kee-fer, emphasis on the first syllable, or, less commonly, ke-feer, emphasis on the second syllable) is an ancient culture that contains high amounts of good yeast and bacteria.  Another friend gave me a grain a few weeks ago and I've been making my own kefir every day and using it in smoothies and in every other way that I can conjure. Kefir also contains complete proteins, amino acids, calcium, magnesium, B and K vitamins, and phosphorus. It is a step above yogurt, containing more strains of healthy bacteria and actually colonizes the digestive tract, which yogurt is unable to do.
This is my healthy little grain that is gelatinous in nature and looks like a cauliflower floret. I add it to a jar of whole milk and a day later I have a finished product that looks like plain yogurt.

So, tell me, when I say "chia", what image springs to mind? 
One of those disgusting Obama clay heads that were so popular last year, with green grass growing out of the top? 
Am I right?
I know, it's enough to make you want to run, screaming, for the hills.
Me too.
I think I want to wash my eyes out and then my brain.

Here, for your edification, is a whole new twist on chia.
I'll send you here for information, because Wikipedia is about the only website that's not trying to sell the darn stuff. Basically, the seed is chock-a-block with good nutrition, including omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, antioxidants, and water-soluble fibre. You make a gel out of it by adding water. Keep a jar of this gel in the fridge and then add it to everything. Well, maybe not everything. I add it to smoothies and bread mostly, but I'm sure I will discover other possibilities.

Hoo-kay, did we learn anything today?
You can thank me later.
Chocolate's always good.
Balances out all the healthy stuff I've been ingesting lately.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Horsing around

We have some lovely friends at church who run Michael's Place, a non-profit organization that brings together miniature horses and developmentally disabled adults. Their clients come out to the farm to care for the animals during the week. Marvin and Kash created this place for their son Michael, who has Downs Syndrome. To quote their website, it is a work and recreation programme designed to help individuals grow in self-esteem, confidence, socialization, and acceptance, and become productive individuals recognized for their accomplishments.  Special People with Special Horses. I love it. If you could meet Marv and Kash and Michael, you would feel the love too!
On Monday, I took the local kids, grandkids, and Great Nana out to the farm. Marv and Kash had kindly invited us out to play. 
First we fed the horses a snack of sticky grain. 
A year ago, Kenzie would have freaked out, but she's been taking riding lessons and has become Braveheart.

Miniature horses have inordinately large nostrils for their size.
At least I think so.
Especially when they flare them from being so excited about snack.

Many of them got rambunctious at the sight of the grain bucket.
Little, but fierce.

Brave Kenzie, walking a horse.
The stable and arena are pristine and cool on a hot day.
Lovingly cared for by special people.

Everyone got a chance to lead a horse.
The more timid children were one person removed from the actual animal.
Here's Bethany, looking gorgeous with her newly permed hair and a tan.
With Natalie, who is leery.

Jonnie and Thomy. 

This adorable bundle of fluff is Joey, the resident Pom.

Michael himself, with little Jeff, who is looking delightfully nonchalant.
Natalie and Josh wouldn't ride with Michael.
Marv said I could drive.
So, after one solitary circuit to prove my mettle, here we go!
The hat kind of completes the picture, don't you think?

Josh and Natalie liked this horse best of all.

I am blown away by the love, time, energy, and resources that Marv and Kash put into Michael's Place. 
If sainthood is contagious, I think I'm half way to  Heaven just by knowing them.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bad Nana

One day last week, Jenny asked me if I would watch the boys while she kept an appointment.
What's more, she asked if they could stay until Papa got home, because the boys wanted to see him.
Now, you have to understand that this was a rare occasion, because Thomy and Jeff don't like to be away from their mother for very long, and she is always reluctant to leave them. 
So, of course, I said Yes.
While feeling quietly smug.
It only took two years to get here, folks!

We had a pretty good time, playing and eating rocket popsicles...

...for several hours.
Take note of their, as yet, unscathed appearance.

Then little Jeff fell down and bloodied his knee.
A Band-aid was adamantly refused.
Then, just as they were getting ready for Papa to drop them off at home, Thomy tripped and banged his face on a corner of the piano bench.

He said, through his tears, I think maybe I shouldn't have been here.
Which statement has not yet been processed by my feeble brain.
I have a feeling it may be a while before I am entrusted with my Peruvian boys again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vernal longings

Vernal is an adjective, meaning spring-like. In a small burst of irony, it can also mean belonging to or characteristic of youth. Considering the theme of the weekend, the name is appropriate.

After church on Sunday, which had a lovely theme of patriots and pioneers, we went back to the house for a rest and then over to our friend Debbie's for dinner. Barbecued pork chops as a special treat for Mark, who lives in an Arab state, if you remember. 
I ate two. 
And a bit.
Don't tell Debbie about my gluttony. 
I have a special fondness for pork chops.
Debbie was overcome with gladness to see us. I think maybe her life isn't exciting enough! But it was nice to see her again and to meet her family. They are close-knit and have a jolly time together. We had a good time reminiscing (there's that darn word again!) about our days at CCNZ.
Mark's favourite missionary companion lives in Vernal too, so Mark and Grace dropped me back at the house and went to visit him.

Monday morning we had a few hours free for sightseeing.
Sightseeing in Vernal, you ask?
You will be amazed.
In this land of Mormon pioneers, Boy Scout Eagle projects abound.
Here is the first one we saw. A gigantic flag, raised on a cliff.
The flag's dimensions are 15' x 25', made of double-ply polyester and is replaced four times a year. Each flag costs $500. Depending on the severity of the wind, a flag can last anywhere from three weeks to eleven months. The first flag was raised on a 12' flagpole in 1944 by Chellus and Ernest Caldwell. In 2000, Ivan Merrill raised a 40' flagpole for his Eagle project, where the American flag has flown ever since.
Next stop, the Sadie McConkie Ranch, for a look at some petroglyphs. 
Antlers line the driveway leading up to the trail head. This photo makes me want to break out in song, a la Gaston, in Beauty and the Beast. I use antlers in all of my dehhhhhhhhcorating!

The ranch has been the site of many Eagle projects, trail improvement etc.
Rocks have their own stark beauty.

And that which we had come to see, the amazing petroglyphs, which are, by all accounts, over 1,000 years old. This site has more easily-accessible glyphs than any other in Utah. The trail is a little rough, which was scary for me because I'm a tad paranoid about climbing over rocks, but I managed to get back down unscathed. I can just imagine the conversation with Jeff, had this not been the case.
You were hiking with who? 
Your old boyfriend? 
And you broke your leg again?
Yeah, that would have been swell.

It was getting mighty warm on the way back and lots of little lizards were basking in the sun.

On the way back to David's house, this enormous "Remember the Maine" and flag, first painted in 1944 and then repainted in 1997 for a couple of Eagle projects. The photos don't give you a very good idea of the scale, but the cliff is very high, I got vertigo just imagining how they managed to paint this.
A quick lunch of Cathy's delicious enchiladas, 
a bittersweet goodbye, 
and then I came home.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Taking time to smell the roses

In case you were wondering, the Utah story is not over, but I wanted to do an easy post today.
As in, mostly photos, not much writing.
Writing taxes my brain.
So here are photos from last Friday, when Mark, Grace, Mum, Kenzie, Thomy and I went up to the International Rose Test Garden in Portland. The roses are phenomenal this time of year and mine have been quite pitiful due to the rainy spring and my lack of diligence on the spraying end of things. So, my soul needed to see some gorgeous roses, to remind me of why I dedicate most of my flowerbeds to the dratted things.
Here is a picture of Mark and Grace, because I know you were curious.

Don't you love how the pink is reflected in Thomy's face?
Kids love to smell the roses.
So do Great-Nanas.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies.
Christopher Marlowe

You can complain because roses have thorns
or rejoice because thorns have roses.

When Robert Frost learned how many different species were in the rose family was he was moved to write a poem, which is one of my favourites of his because of its dry humour:

The Rose Family

The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple's a rose,
and the pear is, and so's 
The plum , I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose-
But were always a rose.