Saturday, April 26, 2008

Signs of Spring in Manzanita

We were just treated to two beautiful days at the coast - sunny and warm. Beautiful walks on the beach, warm enough to sit on the front deck in short sleeves to read or nap. And, more signs of spring in our front garden.

Pieris Japonica.....

...and up close (note: these are new growth leaves, not the flowers, which will come later.)
Another favorite of mine in this garden - the contorted filbert with its new spring leaves
full view of the filbert

Of course, some members of the family preferred indoor activities much of the time.
like Miss Molly in her favorite corner and

the puzzlemaster

It was also a terrific seafood weekend - Oregon line-caught black rockfish that I cooked Friday night; then, Quinault, Washington razor clams and Columbia River salmon at Pirate's Cove restaurant on the way home today. All this great weather, food and relaxation helps make up for the return of the crappy weather forecast for the next several days. Already thinking ahead to our next trip to the beach.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Have to Admit I'm Hooked

to the Raptor Cam here in Portland. A pair of red-tailed hawks built a nest on the side of a building downtown. A news station and the Audubon Society set up a camera 15 feet above the nest, viewing through a fire escape. Three chicks hatched on April 16.

So, for the next 40 days or so, until they fledge, I have a convenient distraction. Times like this make me wish I was still a teacher.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

PSU Farmer's Market Returns

Well, I think it actually started up again a couple weeks ago, but today was the first time I had a chance to go and bring home a bag full of local produce, bread and cheese. We're set for this week with braising greens, lettuce, green onions (Gathering Together Farm), Yukon golds,and two other kinds of onions (Rick Steffen Farm), and some Hood River red pears. I brought home a Willamette Valley Farmstead Jalapeno Jack cheese and a multigrain batard which will make for a nice lunch.

These beauties went directly into a pie since the chief pie-maker of the family happened to be home and to have some free time. He made the crust while I put the filling together. We'll have some friends over to help eat it tomorrow night and Monday night. Rhubarb is one of my memories from Grandma Mik's garden up in Menominee, Michigan. I remember eating it there directly out of the garden, dipping in a bowl of sugar. And I remember rhubarb pies and compote. We will be growing some of our own soon, but, in the meantime, it just looked so beautiful at the market that I decided to bring some home.

Here is the result of Grady's and mine combined efforts today:

On an unrelated note, I finally made myself wrap up this little guy to put into the mail. He is for little Nathan, grandson of my good buddy, Judi. I had gone into a favorite baby store intent on finding something practical. But, once I saw this little chick, the shopping was over. Only problem is that, once I got him home, I have not wanted to send him off to Rochester. But, I bit the bullet and put him in the box today. I hope Nathan has fun with him.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Singing for Dummies

I started this blog because it was part of the deal with participation in the "Dark Days Eat Local Challenge" this past winter. But, I wanted to focus on more than that - especially since I am such a rookie, I didn't think I'd have enough to say about eating local foods. But, my interest in taking on the challenge is part of my new life after full time work in schools, a time when I can do a few things other than work. Hooray! So, I also started the blog to document my other new, or returning to, activities.

One of the items on my "things I want to do when I retire" list was to take vocal music lessons to improve my singing. So, last fall I enrolled in two classes at the Community Music Center - Voice Music Group Lessons, Level 1 and SightSinging. And, on Tuesday evenings, I join a small and eclectic group of budding singers with Anna, our instructor. I've done enough singing in choirs through high school, college and church choirs that some of what we work on is not new for me. But, there is so much for me to improve on that I feel it is well worth my time.

One of the great things about taking these classes is just being around all the other musicians. Our class is up there on the third floor in the back of the building - the same floor as the people learning piano and violin, so there is always music going on in the other rooms while we are waiting for our class to begin. And, on Tuesday evenings, the really good singers in the "Francis Street Singers" are rehearsing.

We started up the third term of the class last week. One of the songs we are working on this term is "Who will Buy?" from the musical, Oliver! Of course, I am already an expert on this son (!) because of my chorus role in the musical at Grant HS. That was in 1997, the year Aileen was a senior and played the role of Nancy. I know you're just loving this little trip down memory lane. But, I'll have to let it go at that for now. Maybe, we'll all get lucky and I will figure out how to include a sound file in my blog one of these days.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sarah's Garden

For the minions (all three of you) who read my blog and don't happen to know Sarah, I need to give a bit of background for this post.
Sarah Jean Creswell was a good friend of mine for close to 24 years. Until July 23, 2006 when she succumbed to a sudden and very unexpected illness. She was a beautiful person and I miss her dearly. Among her many talents was that she was the kind of teacher we all want our kids to have. She had spent many hours developing a grant proposal to develop a garden in the front of her school and was awarded the funding just a few months before her death. Sarah loved gardening and she believed firmly in the importance of taking her kindergarten students into the world outside the classroom. So, they were going to work on this project that fall. As a testimony to the wide-ranging impact she had on students and families, the parents of many of her her students carried on the garden project even though she was gone and completed it just recently. This past Saturday, they and some of the school staff held a dedication ceremony, honoring Sarah's legacy and celebrating the new welcoming addition to the school's front yard.
The Oregonian had a short feature article about it a couple days later: "Teacher's Magic Sows School's New Garden".

A large group of friends, family and Atkinson families and staff turned out to honor this wonderful teacher, my friend. Here are a few pictures from the dedication and the gathering with Jeff's family afterwards.

A couple of handsome cowpokes just off the range for the dedication of granny's garden.
Sarah's students - two years later - singing a song she taught them: "Inch by Inch"
Sarah's son with one of her grandsons. Easy to see why Uncle Joel is a favorite. (not to mention that he is in town for a short visit from grad school in Madison.)
Two dudes with the same profile. (Like father, like son?)
Aunt Katherine scores the red hat from one of the cowpokes.
The students made flags to celebrate the garden dedication. The garden has a clothesline for just this purpose.

Party after the ceremony at our house with all the family and those of us who qualify as "family". Here is Jeff with his mom, niece-in-law and daughter Katherine.

Attaining an even more elevated status in the eyes of the '4 and under' crowd was Joel's new girlfriend, Sybil.

Jennifer and Ian (parents of those cowpokes)
Not sure what Ian was so busy writing during the party - maybe composing another Portland song for his "One Year of Portland Songs Blog"?

Some party folks wear a lampshade to get into the spirit of things. Graham found that the nice bright red colander seemed to do the trick for him.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Highlghts of the North Hollywood/San Diego Trip

Great trip to southern California last week to see the kids.
Step one - have knee surgery and get this handy-dandy cooler with a rubber hose attached to your ice pack that wraps around the knee. Then, when you go on the trip and have to take it along, you fill up the cooler thingy with frozen homegrown loganberries and raspberries to take to your children, packed in the checked baggage.

We stayed with Kris for a few days first, seeing some of the city during the days while he was at work. These included the Getty Center Museum, the LA County Museum of Art, a walking tour of downtown, and a drive to the coast and through one of the canyons with a visit to see Traci. One of the days, Grady made a pie for Kris and his roommate with the loganberries and the pie plate we bought for him. I cooked dinner (halibut with pineapple sambal and an Asian pear slaw). On the downtown trip, we took the subway into the city and took Kris out to lunch, visiting him at his office afterwards. He introduced us to just about everyone who works at JETRO except for his boss who was the only one tied up in a meeting while we were there. Either they are all really polite or they think quite well of him.

On Saturday morning, we drove to Aileen's house in San Diego. She made pancakes for us with blueberries and added our homegrown raspberries that Grady had brought. We enjoyed seeing her photos from the most recent work in Antarctica (lots of dirty penguin chicks this time around) and her hiking trip to Patagonia. Had a delicious Thai dinner out one evening. Otherwise, we spent some time providing ground transportation - to grocery stores (stocking up since she had just returned a few days earlier) and to the nursery to stock up on supplies to get her garden started. Sunday afternoon, we all had lunch with Lisa, Phillippe, Emerson and Claire in Carlsbad. I hadn't seen my cousin in several years so it gave us a nice chance to catch up. Later in the evening, after Aileen made dinner for us, we headed back to LA with Kris. And more ground transportation - grocery store and Costco. Good thing we rented a hybrid for us visit to our carless kids.

So, I'm not too good with taking pictures along the way - not thinking ahead to wanting to have them to illustrate the blog post. But, here are a random few of the ones I took while we were down south:

Kris in his cube at JETRO. Yes, I do have a more serious picture of him there, but who needs that?
Every trip we take has to include some architectural sights. This is Grady checking out a sculpture at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A.
Lunch with the Peluso family in Carlsbad.
The requisite family photo after the lunch - getting Philippe to take the picture for us.

This one has nothing to do with our trip to California - it's just a bonus. A shot of Granddad and Liam at Easter dinner in our dining room.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge Final Update

In reading the last recap of the participating Dark Days Challenge folks on Urban Hennery I realized that we were at the end of the challenge period. This caught me by surprise because I don't think I ever really paid attention to the timeframe. I've just focused on finding ways to increase the relative proportion of local foods in our meals and not really paid attention to the details.

Unfortunately, I don't have a huge report to make for this last summary. A good portion of the time since the last wrap- up, I have been out of town or using up various things around the house. We did have a lovely, and not as traditional as usual, Easter dinner that included quite a bit of locally grown or sourced foods. The main course was a salmon fillet that our good friend Jeff prepared with soy sauce, fresh ginger and lemon. I made a cranberry bean gratin from The Art of Simple Food with local beans and vegetables. I also cooked nice local small red potatoes with chard. And Jeff braised some brussel sprouts in a way that caused me to re-evaluate my dislike of brussel sprouts. The one fairly traditional item on the menu that day was dessert. I made a white cake (1-2-3-4 Cake from The Art of Simple Food again) with an orange curd filling and frosting and decorated with coconut and jelly beans. Some traditions are better not to be messed with. Not many local ingredients in the Easter cake, though.

On some of our other meals while we were here at home, I was using up foods in the cupboard or freezer. One night, I made clam chowder using Grady's mom's old recipe. The clams were canned Atlantic clams, but all the remaning ingredients were local. And another night, I used some of the fish we have in the freezer which is, unfortunately, of unknown origin (sigh, long story). But, I was able to serve it with vegetables from the Co-op.

Then, right after Easter, I spent a couple days at the coast and then Grady and I flew to Southern California to see the kids. (more on that in the next post.) So, during that time, I had less control over the origins of what we were eating. Here in Portland, I have a pretty good list of restaurants which support area farmers. But, I haven't made an effort to always look for those when we are travelling.

So, it continues to be a challenge for me - breaking old habits of convenience, finding local sources for the variety of foods I like to cook and eat, and trying new kinds of vegetables that had not been in my repertoire. In the time since I signed on with the Dark Days Challenge in early November, I have made pretty good progress in finding local foods. I'd say it still is just about 2-3 meals/week that are significantly local at our house, but, that's been pretty steady and a big difference from previous practice of paying no attention whatsoever to the origins of what we were eating. I made regular trips to the Farmer's market in the fall and did my best to get to the year-round markets in the winter months. But, in reading the blogs of the other challenge participants and observing what is available during the winter months, it has become apparent to me that the best way to get through this next year will be to get back to some more preserving of fruits and vegetables when they are readily available in the summer and fall. So, more on those efforts in future posts.

I am very grateful to Laura (Urban Hennery) who started this challenge and to the other participants. They have been most gracious to include my small efforts in the regular reports from the group. And more important, I have learned a great deal in reading their blogs. After 30+ years in education, there are a lot of things I know and am good at doing. But, food responsibility and writing and not really among them. So, it has been a terrific learning experience so far and that is exactly what I was looking for as I moved into my semi-retirement. I am looking forward to getting better at this, at least the locavore efforts. (Not sure I have the patience to work on the craft of writing to show any improvement in that area.)