Thursday, February 7, 2013

Frozen fog

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have some unique weather conditions. Because of the dampness, when it gets really cold we get some crazy things like freezing rain, which is a most treacherous weather condition. The raindrops freeze as soon as they touch a cold surface, such as a car, the road, or a path, resulting in a solid and slippery sheet of ice.
A more benign condition is freezing fog, which I observed for the first time one night a few years ago when my mum was staying with us. I went outside for some reason after dark, and in the light of the porch light the air was sparkling. All of the droplets of fog were frozen, still suspended in the air and reflecting the light. We all gathered out by the front door and it was quite magical.

A couple of weeks ago, I had spent the weekend out at Vista House with Jeff, along with several of the offspring and dogs. I hitched a ride home with Sam and Charlie, and when we left it was foggy and verrrry cold. Cold is a norm for that part of the country, but it is usually dry. The fog covered everything with white crystals.
A few miles later, the blue sky was starting to show through, but it still wasn't warm enough to melt the ice.

We stopped for gas and for Sam to buy some munchies, so I grabbed a quick snap of some bare branches.


The next morning, we had our own bit of freezing fog, and all the cobwebs had grown crystals.

The rhodies had a fine dusting too.

The poor roses were a little optimistic, weren't they?

It makes for some pretty photos, but I was almost thankful when the rain came back and the temperatures warmed up.

Remember how Jeff forgot our anniversary?
These arrived a couple of days later.
Not that there was anything to forgive.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Seriously scrumptious scones

Why I cannot resist alliteration, I do not know.

First of all, a shout-out to the shy readers who hit the "like" button at the bottom of my posts. I really blog for myself, but my little heart goes pitter-pat when I see those votes of confidence, so thank you!
And, of course, you commenters are awesome, even though I claim to have relinquished my emotional attachment to comments and stats.

I have been working at eating more healthily lately, and if you know me, you know I like my treats. I can only eat so many bowls of soup and soaked oatmeal and the like before I have to have a treat!
So I am going to post some recipes that I've enjoyed lately.
My main goal is to eat much less processed foods and more whole foods. This is a fairly attainable goal for me because I have always loved to cook and bake and experiment with recipes. My big disclaimer is that I rarely make a recipe the same way twice and so it's hard for me to give exact quantities. If you don't mind a bit of experimenting, come along for the ride.

The first recipe is a scone recipe that was already "healthied up" by another blogger. Her original version is here, but I chose to leave out the caramel topping (why go to all that trouble of cutting down on sugar then add caramel?) and it was still great.
If you want to check out the Oregon Cottage blog, she has many great recipes and craft and decorating ideas.

Now, isn't your mouth watering for that lovely dense, moist crumb?

Double Apple Scones
3 c whole wheat pastry flour (regular whole wheat won't give as tender a scone)
1/3 c brown sugar 
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs BP
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c cold butter, cut into little pieces
3/4 c peeled and grated apple
2 large eggs, preferably from somebody's happy hen
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c raisins
milk for brushing tops
cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Mix butter into first five ingredients as you would for pastry, then lightly mix in remaining ingredients.
I like to use a Silpat for patting out the scone dough and then I just lift it all onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle the Silpat lightly with flour first, as the dough is sticky. Pat or roll out the dough to fit the Silpat and lightly score into squares. Be careful not to cut into the mat. I ruined my first one this way!
Brush dough with milk, the creamier the better, and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar.
It's not a bad idea to cover and let the dough sit for a while at this point, as it makes a softer scone. 
When you're ready to bake them, do it for 20 minutes or so at 400 degrees, until the middle ones are cooked all the way through. Don't over-bake, as they will be dry.
Yucky. We don't want dry scones.
Eat as soon as you can, and share with a friend, or the choir, or the football team, as they are much better when fresh.

I made some pumpkin-chocolate chip scones using the same recipe, substituting 1 c pureed pumpkin or squash for the two kinds of apple and, of course, chocolate chips for the raisins.

Now, go make some of these and bring me some when you're done.
Thank you.

Next time: Irresistible Graham Crackers.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The sports fan

Our Josh is a true-blue sports fan.
He comes by the trait honestly, from his Dad.  The child has been keeping track of game scores for several years now, surprising us all with his affinity for numbers at an early age.
His birthday present from Nana and Papa this year was an outing with Papa to a Timbers' game in September.
Yep, running just a little behind in the journaling part of the blog. 
The Timbers are Portland's soccer players. I think soccer may be Josh's favourite game, so I went through all kinds of conniptions finding tickets on the secondary market, as all of the games were already sold out for the season. That's how fanatical Portlanders are about their Timbers!

I was very noble and let Jeff do the honours on this one.
Did you catch my sarcasm there? Because you know how I love sports!

I made the boy some oatmeal gf/df cookies to take for snacks, figuring there would be little that he could eat at the game.
Plus, I'm cheap like that.
And I made him a smoothie, which he didn't finish all the way so he took it with him to drink in the car.
I found it in Jeff's car in a curdled clump a few days later.
That boy!

Yep, there's that smoothie cup!

He is just as cute as can be, and gets so enthused about sports that I have to chuckle.

The seats were in the nosebleed section but the view was great and they took binoculars.

So much for my frugal leanings. Papa just had to buy him a Timbers hat that was a little on the side of large.
He looks as cool as a cucumber, doesn't he?

We love this boy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Alone again, naturally

Hands up if you remember Gilbert O'Sullivan, the Irish singer who was known for his gorgeous ballads.
His lyrics were expressive and his melodies were fluid and mellow. 
Unfortunately, as happened to so many musicians, his fame dwindled quickly. Although he still writes and performs, his star has never risen to its former heights.
This song, from 1972, takes me right back to my sixteen-year-old self.

I was rarely out of love in those days. If I had to count, I'd say I have loved deeply five times in my life. 
One was a whim: short-lived, passionate, and ill-considered.
One was unrequited but lasted for years, in between other romances.
Two were of relatively long duration and necessitated a similar recovery time.
Time when songs like this resonated with and validated my pain. 

But then, thirty-three years ago yesterday, I married my best love of all.
Being the advanced age of  twenty-three, I could hardly believe that I was finally getting married. I was just about the last of all my friends to achieve that desirable status, you see. In my disbelief, I found so many excuses to call Jeff on the morning of our marriage that he eventually got a bit annoyed with me.
True story.
But he still showed up to the wedding.

This Christmas, I was blown away by this gift.

It contains all of the letters I wrote to Mum in the first two years we were married. Bethany spent many hours scanning letters and photos and formatting the book, and the other kids contributed to the cost.
I have loved reading over the letters and reminiscing about those bitter-sweet days, when we were always money-poor but surrounded by love and, in quick succession, two wee babies. I had forgotten so much about my babies and the many hardships through which we clambered in our early days. I've been feeling a bit Alzheimer-ish, as my mind has been lingering in the genesis of our life together, colouring my "now" with shades of the past.

Just for a kick, and for your edification, I unearthed a few oldies-but-goodies and did a little creative editing to jazz them up.
Which reminds me, Bethany, the photo collection was a little slim. Are you the culprit?

Here we are, pre-marriage, on a hill in Auckland somewhere.
My sister probably took this photo.

Here we are with our first baby, Bethany, who was only a day old.

Wow, we were a lot prettier back then!

And then we were four.

And five. Little Charlie is not there yet, but our beloved Uncle (Grampa) Charlie is there instead.
And Nana.

On one of our weekend getaways, in Jacksonville.
The leggings are awesome, which is why I cropped them out.
Crop tool is my friend.

And here we all are with our first adored grandbaby, McKenzie!

We don't often dress up for Halloween, but I think we did ourselves proud in this one. I don't even remember where we were. Does anyone recognize the chandelier? 
Jeff looks quite dashing with a mo.
The Pirate and the Geisha.
Wait, that is Jeff, isn't it?

Just because I like this one.

On the Trail of the Couer d'Alenes.

Morning hike in the Redwoods, where it was dark enough to need a flash.
Which may explain our glazed expressions.

About halfway through the day yesterday I remembered that it was the 26th. 
I was leaving for a meeting, so as I kissed Jeff goodbye I said, Happy Anniversary dear!
Oh, right, I forgot. 
He seemed rather abashed.
He's never quite recovered from forgetting our 25th, when I had gone all out with a thoughtful present and nice dinner and he completely blew it. 
That's okay, I said. I know, let's buy a house for our anniversary!
Good idea, he said.
So we did!

And I am all alone again, naturally, as he is back in Central Oregon after a weekend at home.

P.S. I think maybe the Geisha was at a Bunco party at the B's. Feel free to confirm that fact if you know.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ring Out, Wild Bells!

There's a wad of undocumented Osborne shenanigans waiting for my attention. And because this is the record of my life, you will just have to soldier on. 
Or check out. 
I suppose you could do that. 
Just don't tell me, 'kay? I'm sensitive.

Jeff and I spent the weekend before New Year's Day house-hunting on the other side of Oregon, as previously told. On our way home, as we drove through such magical scenery as this,

I said to The Man, I think I need to throw a New Year's Eve party. 
Because, you see, other than the house search, which was very exciting, we had been quite bored. The temperatures had been too cold to do much outside exploring, so we were confined to the hotel for much of the time. And I didn't want to be bored any more!
So I did.

It was a small, eclectic group, and we ate delicacies and played a silly game and enjoyed each others' company.
Christie brought some penguin hors d'oeuvres that were the hit of the night. 
Olives, cream cheese, carrots, and pimientos, if I remember correctly.

And Ellen, who is getting to be quite famous for her decorated cookies, played to the theme of the evening.

The stalwarts lasted until 11:30 pm, which is almost a record.
Don't laugh. You will be old some day too!

The next day, Jon and his old bestie, Ryan, came over. The three boys played shoot-'em-up video games all day. It was nostalgic, because Jon and Ryan used to sit out in this room when it was Jon's bedroom (as well as the rec room) and play Star Wars card games, surrounded by Star Wars action figures and a large Yoda and with the movie playing on the old television. It was the ultimate Star Wars immersion and so cute you just wanted to freeze them in time forever.

Here they are from the front.

And here they are from the back.
And yes, there are two televisions in the action.

And that's pretty much all I saw of them till Ryan had to go home.

P.S. Do you see that old wooden chair that Jon is using? I have great plans for that chair and its partner, which I acquired on Freecycle. A bit of creative painting (I speak in hopeful terms here) and they will be spirited away to the new house. 

Day 25: You think you have problems?

I have noticed lately a phrase that has started cropping up in the written word and conversation: first world problems.
While it could get to be an overused and annoying phrase, I think it is worth examining.
Let's see. How about I gained ten pounds over the holidays and I can't seem to lose it.
First world problem.
Or My dishwasher broke and I don't have the money to fix it.
First world problem.
And I just can't find the perfect paint colour for my living room (fabric for my daughter's bedding, clock for my wall, dress for the prom, favours for my wedding reception).
First. World. Problem.

Just to be clear, I have friends that are dealing with terrible health issues or struggles like job loss, and I am not diminishing their plights at all. I am just attempting to put things into perspective.

Let me illustrate further, hoping that you will not hate me for my impatience with the attitude.

I have almost twenty-five darling piano students (ranging in age from 5 to 15) that visit me weekly. I am quietly amused by the trends that I observe as I interact with them every week. For a couple of years, every time they couldn't grasp a concept or a piece, they would claim (almost to a person) that it was "confusing". I finally lost patience with the word and pronounced a ban on using it, ever, during piano lessons.
This is not confusing, I would assert. It may be a little challenging, but all of the tools that you need are right on the page in front of your eyes. Or, if I suspected it to be the case, I would predict that the student had not given enough thought or practice time to the item in question. The response was inevitably a doleful look of accusation, and I am sure the student was wondering why this proclamation of "confusing" had not worked as an alibi, when it obviously worked so well everywhere else!

So "confusing" eventually became a non-issue in my music room.

This last week, apart from a couple of girls rolling their eyes at me, I have heard, twice, the announcement from piano students that something was "hard".
The second time, I snapped a little inside and I said No. Living in a shack in Haiti with a dirt floor and no blanket to sleep on and a tin roof that leaks water on you every time it rains and only eating once every two days is hard. 
This isn't hard. 
This is just a little challenging.
And, to their credit, the girls who were the recipients of this wee rant had the grace to look abashed and admit that it was true.

It's not the first time I have countered the word with the argument.
And it won't be the last.
So I apologize in advance for the next time.
And, just so you know, I have this conversation with myself all the time.
Oh, my arm (foot, hip, whatever) hurts so much today. 
You big baby, you. You could be living in Haiti in a shack.....

Today, I am so grateful for the circumstances of my life. There have been challenges, but nothing like those that are faced by so much of the world. I don't know why I am so lucky, whether it was chance or destiny or whether I earned it or was given it by grace. It is one of the mysteries of life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Day 24: New adventures

In keeping up the tradition of never having a dull moment, Jeff and Sue are about to embark on a new adventure. Jeff had accepted a job in Eastern Oregon, about three hours away from our present home on a good day. More like four when the passes are snowed in. 
We have decided to buy a second home and do the weekend thing, with Jeff making the drive most of the time and me going over there at least one long weekend a month. We are excited and a little terrified, but the way things have worked out we feel like it is what was meant to be.
Jeff has been seriously job searching for a year, with little success. He is in his late 50's and at the top of his field, so in this economy it has been a tough sell. The company he is joining wanted him badly and has gone many extra miles to entice him, so we are grateful for this new adventure. 
We spent the weekend in Redmond, looking for a house. We have always wanted some property over in the eastern part of the state, where nature is abundant and land is cheap. We were thinking a few acres on which to camp, but this spurred us to think more extravagantly.
We ended up in a development that our first realtor termed "zesty" but we thought was full of character, so we fired her and found one that was more in line with our way of thinking. We spent a day driving around, checking out houses that we thought might fit our budget and lifestyle, and narrowed it down to about eight that we wanted to tour. As we began our drive, we both noticed a very cute yellow house sitting on a slight rise. "I would love that house," said Jeff, and I agreed. We passed it again on our way out and I yelled,"Jeff, there's a For Sale sign!"
We couldn't believe it. I t was a little above our budget, but we picked up a flier and went back to the agent to give her our list.
The first house we saw the next day was this one.

We loved the wrap-around porch.

Jeff was immediately rapt with the gazebo.

The kitchen is serviceable, but not large.

Lots of light in the living room, although we couldn't figure out why the air conditioners were still in the windows when it was only twenty degrees outside.

This little mezzanine will be a perfect sleeping loft for the grandkids.

We saw other houses that day, but had trouble getting past the cute factor and panoramic mountain view of the first house. Plus, it is on one-and-a-half acres and across from a park and an undeveloped area of public land. Deer and rabbits roam freely about and the very reasonably priced home owner's association supports a swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, other sports fields, and the best golf course in central Oregon.
We optimistically made a fairly low offer on the house and 24 hours later, to our surprise, the offer was accepted. 
So, in about a month, if all goes well, we will inhabit this little bit of paradise. The house is small and the bedrooms are a bit narrow for my liking and the staircase takes up too much living room space, but Jeff can find no flaws with it and it will be his main residence, so I let him win. 
I am already giddy with happiness about getting rid of a lot of my surplus supplies and sending them to Vista House.
Yes, it has a name.
The progeny are already making prodigious plans for their visits to the wild side of the state.

We will be fifteen minutes from Smith Rock, a favourite spot for the athletically inclined amongst us.

I plan to hike that zig-zag as soon as the snow melts.

Life is charging along, and today I am enormously thankful for the challenge and adventure that awaits us.