Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Come on in, the water's fine!

Well, okay, so I lied.

I adore the Oregon coast, but the water is usually too frigid to dip one's toes.
And the sneaker waves can kill.
Not to mention the logs that sometimes roll in the surf.
And kill.
And it's usually windy and/or foggy and cold.
But sometimes, ah, sometimes, the sun rules the sky and then it is bliss.

Truth be told, the best thing to do on Oregon beaches is not go in the water.
Which leaves walking, running, building sandcastles, collecting rocks and shells and driftwood, clamming, and photography.
Something for everyone.

On Friday, friend Karen and I went to spend the weekend at her beach house. Our husbands were running in the Hood to Coast relay, a huge annual event of which we steer clear. We visited the local art co-op and spent the rest of the night ensconced with our laptops, watching movies on Netflix.

I am newly addicted to Doc Martin, a BritCom set in Cornwall. I watched about dozen of them on Friday and Sunday and finished the series since I've been home.

Note to Karen: I've repented and have hereby quit pirating your Netflix account.
But not, I am ashamed to say, before I finished!

I've been thinking in a broad Cornish brogue since Friday.

On Saturday we started driving up the coast to pick up our spouses in Seaside.
We stopped in Bay City, just north of Tillamook, of Tillamook cheese fame, in my eternal search for the best clam chowder.

It was here....

...that I found Nirvana.

I was going to buy some of that fresh tuna, but it had all been pre-ordered.
Curse those pre-ordering people!

Karen enjoyed her boring salad. The lettuce was crisp with a nice poppyseed dressing and fresh shrimp.

We licked the platters clean.

But the chowder ruled the day, as we all agreed on the way back home when we treated our hubbies to dinner at the same restaurant.
Three hours later.

We waited for the van just south of Seaside and waved to all the vans that were heading home full of sweaty, tired runners. This is typical of the warped sense of humour of the teams.

There was a pirate van, flying the skull and crossbones from the back and "Free candy for boobies" written on the window, but I missed the shot.
Sorry, Pirate!

Finally, our boys showed up.

We drove back to the beach house.
The scenery en route was so-so.

This is the view from the house.

I'm so lucky to have generous friends that even act as if they like me.

In other news:
I bought a new camera. I think I love it. Nikon Coolpix S9100 with an 18X zoom and HD movie recording.
We leave for England in less than three weeks. Help! So much to do.
I think we had summer last week. Hope no one missed it!
My tomatoes are starting to ripen.
Jon and Jenny are buying a house. So excited for them.
Annie survived Hurricane Irene.

I'm sure there is more to tell, but I'm tired and must go to bed.
'Nighty night.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A memorial. Or, things that keep Nana awake at night

A little over a year ago, my Canadian friend, Mark, and I went on a trip to Vernal, Utah. Our primary purpose was to visit our mutual high school friend, Debbie, but it turned into a reunion with several old friends.

Last Thursday, Debbie passed away suddenly of a heart attack, leaving her beloved husband, four children, and several adored grandchildren. I cannot describe how bereft I feel. 

Two years ago, Debbie was just a distant memory. Then I got a message from her on an Old Friends website. To be honest, I was a little reluctant to respond, because our friendship as teenagers was, to put it nicely, volatile. We went through the usual stupid cliquey behaviour which is exhibited by most young girls. For a while, we were best of friends, but then loyalties shifted and we ended up on opposite sides of a rivalry. I remember being unkind to Debbie, although it might have been that I was only unkind in my head, because in our many subsequent conversations she only had good memories to share.

Ask me if I regret my infantile adolescent behaviour.

Oh yes, indeed I do.

The thing I have most enjoyed about getting to know Debbie again is her good, generous heart. 
The same heart that betrayed her last Thursday night.
She was so thrilled that Mark and I made the effort to visit her. I felt guilty all over again for my feelings of superiority towards her all those years ago. 
I loved watching Debbie and her sister, Becky, interact. They were best friends and, as Becky has told me, were always plotting and planning together. 
We have had many conversations online about our fears (her boy just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan) and joys. She adored her grandbabies and, like me, loved to plan outings with her friends and extended family. She kept promising that she and Wade would come to Oregon for a visit. 
This was supposed to be the year. 

Some things you should know about Debbie. She was an avid Utah Jazz fan and relished attending their games. She loved the Oakridge Boys. She was a woman of faith and intelligence and conservative politics. She was a patriot and a thinker. The week before her death she wrote this letter to the editor in the Vernal Express. She loved to garden.
Debbie was an avid reader of this blog, although she rarely managed to navigate Google sufficiently well to actually leave a comment. Many times she sent me a message on facebook with her thoughts about a post.

Which reminds me. Deb and I have very similar thoughts on death and dying. She left a comment as "anonymous" on this post. If you haven't read that post about death, I recommend it as one of my better ones. 
Becky informed me that Debbie wrote out instructions for her funeral several years ago. 
Kindred spirits.

I will miss Debbie's honest communication and her generous spirit. I wish we had been able to have more years of being friends. True friends of the mind, after all this time.

I've had trouble getting to sleep this week, thinking about her and her family.
And about Sam and Charlie. 
Charlie is off to Afghanistan this weekend and this mother's heart will know not a moment of peace until he is safely home again.
I can only imagine how Sam is feeling.
Prayers are appreciated.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

They Grew'pon me

Sorry, that's probably my worst post title ever.

On Tuesday, I took the local grandkids and their mothers on a Social Coupon Day Out.
It's my new invention.
For the uninitiated, social coupons are purchased from sites such as Groupon and Living Social. You sign up for their daily emails and they bombard you with good deals. 
What's not to like?
There are a few drawbacks. 
Por exemplo, I am signed up with four different companies and have coupons waiting to be used on three of them. They do have expiration dates, so if you don't have nerves of steel, this lifestyle may not be for you!
On the other hand, if you're willing to put the effort into keeping track of it all, you can have a whole lot of fun on not much money.
The outing to Masterpiece Art Studio  was a Groupon adventure. I saved half the cost of the projects, so the afternoon cost me a little over $30. 

Now, back to Tuesday.

We began the day with a visit to Pump It Up in Beaverton. I bought two Groupons for $10 each, which got six kids into the bounce house and two free passes back for another visit. 
The Osborne progeny totally ruled the gigantic slides.

Oh, and, um, the black skirted person sitting at the top of the slide with her heart in her mouth?
That would be moi.
In Kenzie's sweaty pink socks.
And yes, I did go down.
And gave myself an elbow burn.
Some day, I will learn.

After about an hour, the troops declared themselves to be hungry, so we traipsed outside to look for a suitable lunch venue.
Behold! Right across the parking lot was a stream and a waterfall and lush green grass and benches to sit upon. We thought it was made just for us!
Why do little boys always have to sit as close to the water as they possibly can?

We ate quickly and ran back inside the bounce house, where we stayed until we were about to get ousted in favour of a couple of busloads of kids from Kindercare.

Next on the menu, a short drive to the mall and Maggie Moo's.
I had purchased four Living Social coupons at $5 each. Each one was good for $10 worth of ice cream. We used three of them, so $15 for ice cream for nine people.
And it was yum!
Natalie, with her electric-blue-cotton-candy-waffle-cone-with-rainbow-sprinkles.

Josh and his dairy-free vanilla with rainbow sprinkles.
What, you thought I was going to do the multi-coloured thing again?
He relished every bite.

My Udderly Cream and Chocolate with Heath bits mixed in.

Next up was another visit to our friends with the miniature horses. Go here to read about their mission.
I love crazy horse portraits.

Daniel decided to be brave and walk one of the horses.

Marv hitched up the wagon and Michael drove the kidlets around the arena.

I have an unreasonable love for this photo.

I donated a little money to their feed bill, but other than that, this part of the day was free.
Total cost for about six hours of fun for nine people: $50.

And then, On Friday night, Jeff and I had a Groupon date.
Lucky for you, I forgot my camera!
First, two Quizno's regular sandwiches: $6.
I adore their chicken carbonara. If I was on death row, I would choose it for my last meal.
Next, the last Maggie Moo's coupon: $5.
Memo to self: $10 is too much ice cream for two people.
Last of all, Cowboys and Aliens with a Living Social Fandango code: $9.
Memo to self: next time we go to the movies it will be to one of my choice. I'm tired of gruesome, intense cowboy movies.

Total cost for our big date: $20.

Here are links to my favourite social coupon sites.

And here are a couple that have been recommended to me but I haven't tried them yet.

So go!
Have some fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How does your garden grow?

I didn't plant any potatoes this year.
So, small as it is, this crop is an unexpected bonus.

It made a lovely pot of smashed potatoes for dinner tonight.

In other, not-so-good news, I wish these would turn at least a light shade of pink.

Have you ever wondered what an asparagus forest looks like?
Wonder no more!

These are the seeds. You have to let the asparagus grow all season long so that it puts nutrients down to the roots. 
I had no idea that it would take over the garden bed like this!

Next year will be the third year for the asparagus, so I'm hoping for great things. Three is supposed to be the charm. Hopefully that will also be the year that both kiwi vines have flowers and produce some fruit.

Patience, patience, patience.

This gardening business is an exercise in delayed gratification.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Schizo Survivalist strikes again

Can I just say that I love my Food Saver vacuum sealing system?
I bought it at Costco some time ago when they were running a coupon. Then a few months later there was a deal on the internet that was way cheaper and I've been peeved ever since!
A couple of years ago, I was part of the Soldier's Angels baking team. I loved baking treats to send to our men and women in the Middle East, but I often anguished over whether they tasted any good when they were received a month later. A good vacuum sealer seemed to be the answer. 
I quit the baking team shortly after I got the sealer, but I've since used it to send goodies to my long-distance kids. And I will be keeping it busy once Charlie deploys. 
You know I will!

The dried cherries turned out quite nicely. Joshie and Natalie love them and would gobble them all up if I let them. I had a few things I've been waiting to seal so I finally dug the sealer out of its niche in the spare room.

When I say niche, I am being kind to myself.

This is the easiest way of packing food for long-term storage, although some foods work better than others. The bags are pretty spendy, so I look for Costco coupons or sales at retail stores. 

First, we create our own, custom-sized bag and seal up one end.

To seal up candy bars or the like, poke a hole in each individual package.
Pack as many as you can into the bag, allowing about three inches at the end for the seal.

Pop the open end of the bag into the sealer and watch the magic happen.
I love the way it shrinks up and molds around the food.

Then some dried apricots met the same shrivelly fate.

And now for the real magic.
I borrowed this attachment from a friend. It fits on top of any mason jar. I stuffed the jar full of cherries and placed the lid on top. Then I screwed on the ring and, hard as I tried, I couldn't get it to seal. After a bit of research (thank you Google) I realized that you don't need the ring.
So, back to the drawing board.
Sealer attachment. 
Vacuum hose from the base of the sealer firmly secured in the top.
A few seconds of vacuum-y noise and the magic is complete.

I do believe that I will have to buy me one of these attachments. The cost is minimal when you already have the jars and lids and I like that there is no plastic. 
I'm so excited about this discovery that I may have to be restrained from putting everything in my pantry in jars!

If you're local and want to come over and do some of your own jars, let me know.
And speaking of canning lids, I've ordered 1,500 Tattler lids, which should be here in a few days. I will probably have some extras, if anyone wants to try them. Tattler lids have been around for 30 years and their popularity has been gaining ground of late. I'll let you know how they work.

Wasn't that fun?

P.S. Not all the lids are for me. It's a group order. In case you were wondering if I've turned into a compulsive canner.

Thursday, August 11, 2011