December 31, 2012

Skookumchuck Narrows

We went on nice 8k (round trip) hike to see the famous Skookumchuk Narrows. The colors in the forest were just unbelievable, with more shades of green than I ever remember seeing!


December 29, 2012

Lessons From a Two Year Old

Here I am with an entire blog and mission to find delight in everyday living...and I realized today I should be spending more time with Miss Mia.  It's easy to forget how a 2 year old views life through the lens of new discovery, and everything to them is wonderful and delightful! Who knew the joys of:
  • Seeing a cat.
  • Picking up a rock.
  • Sharing your rock with the cat.
  • Holding a nut.
  • Getting a cookie.
  • Sitting on the carpet in front of the fire.
  • Swimming!
  • A good drink of milk.
  • Holding a soft, pink blanket.
  • Playing with markers.
  • Seeing something blue.
  • Laying on the floor with your feet in the air.
We adults work too hard at life sometimes!  Bahahaha!

A cat on the back porch was so exciting.

December 28, 2012

Miss Mia

We've enjoyed checking out Sechelt. I located a bakery, which made my heart beat a little faster.

Miss Mia is the sweetest little pill ever!  Too bad I couldn't get pictures today at the indoor swim park.  She was thrilled!

December 27, 2012

Oh, Canada!

10 of us in a van, 15,394 hours of driving, and a new record for the number of cookies ingested = the beginning of an exciting vacation!  The border crossing was a bit slow, but we made it through in the nick of time, and headed off full speed to the ferry.

We miraculously made it to the ferry in time, but tickets were sold out hours before.  So we sat in the dark, all too familiar van for another 2.5 hours.  The rain was coming down and things started getting damp and stinky.  =)  Add in a 2 year old who enjoyed her new People-Jungle-Gym-In-a-Van and we had a whole new batch of memories!

We finally arrived at 10:33 pm.  We fell into bed and woke up in the morning to the view:  

December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

Tonight is Christmas Eve.  In my dreams I am completely prepared and well rested, the house is beautiful, traditional things have been planned, and I've done everything to create a lifetime of beautiful memories.

I learned of a man the other day who was happy to celebrate with a loved one, pineapple upside down cake, and Parcheesi.  Gotta love the simpleness.  Not such a bad idea!

My new prayer is that Christmas 2012 will be remembered as the year that was filled with wonder in spite of everything, including a tree that bravely stood only half decorated.

Christmas blessings to you all!


December 21, 2012

Putting It In Perspective

The unthinkable has happened.

4 days until our Christmas Eve celebration and the tree has lights only - no decorations!  The cookies aren't baked!  The presents haven't even been thought up yet!  Nothing is wrapped and under the tree!  No holiday meal plans!

Heavy sigh. 

This year I have sacrificed much for the sake of work.  I rest knowing that I provided a measure of comfort and joy to those who are dying.  For many, this is their last Christmas and no doubt they don't care about cookies and presents.

Time for more hugs.


December 19, 2012

School's Out

...and some things never change!  Teachers and their friends are now sleeping.  Ours should be waking up in a few days. =)






December 18, 2012

The Seventh Night Before Christmas

...When what to my wondering eyes should appear...
But a million white snowflakes to bring us good cheer!


December 14, 2012

A Lencan Memory

Today I wonder how she is, living up so high in the damp mountains.  Is she warm?  Does she have a dry shawl?  Does she have enough to eat?  


December 13, 2012

Fairy Tale Muffins

Once upon a time there was a beautiful and lovely queen who decided to bake up a storm in the royal kitchen.  She hoped to give treats to all her friends, using the cute little pumpkins that had grown in her garden.

So she washed those pumpkins. And cut and scooped and scraped and baked and baked some more and scooped and pureed those little pumpkins.

Then she measured and stirred and mixed and poured and put 27,496 pumpkin muffins into the oven. Some even had chocolate chip surprises in them!

But she did not know that pumpkins from the garden are much juicier than pumpkins from a can.  (My royal readers will know that juicy pumpkins make soupy batter, which is doomed for failure. )

As the queen swung open the oven door, she was met with the biggest disaster one could ever imagine! Alas! Those muffins were a gooey, sticky, runny, crunchy, messy, saggy, crumbly, forlorn mess.  It was a sad state of affairs.  They tasted just fine but they were the ugliest treats in all the land. She threw off her crown, shed golden tears of frustration, and was snappish even to her beloved King Bradley.  (He will report that this went on for some time.)

And then she remembered.

Within a fortnight, all of the grownup princes and princesses would be arriving back to the castle from their studies abroad.  She recalled how they loved to sit in the dark and watch the Christmas tree lights.  And stay up all night.

So she served them pumpkin treats on silver platters.  In the dark.

"Delicious!"  they exclaimed.
"Delightful!" they declared.
"Marvelous!" they professed.

The Queen smiled, thankful for yet another small Christmas miracle.

December 12, 2012

Tragedy

Today my heart goes out to the victims of the mall shooting.  And to the family of the shooter.  They are living a nightmare that won't end.

Time to text those who are far away and hug those who are near.  And be thankful for the life and breath we are so privileged to have.

UPDATE:  We learned that one of the men killed lived across the street from me when I was a child. He was best friends with a coworker's brother.  Such sadness.

December 11, 2012

Entropy in the Pantry

Entropy had it's full effect this fall.  But the long haul at work is over now, and holy cow, there is a lot around here that needs my attention!  

This weekend I pulled everything out of the pantry, wiped down the shelves, tossed the expired things, donated the useable stuff I'll never use in a million years, and reorganized every inch.  It's a good feeling to actually know what's in there.


December 7, 2012

On the Metra

I've only ridden the Metra alone once before, but I was up for the challenge.  Good practice for Europe, no? :)

The trick to not looking like a complete idiot is all about watching others.  So I watched where to buy tickets. I watched where others stood in line for the train, though I couldn't determine if the line was perpendicular or horizontal to the train.  As more business suits appeared, I finally decided it was really more of a "mob" lineup, with everyone politely crowding on. 

I hauled my rolling carry-on to my seat.  Right train, right time.  Small but pleasing accomplishments. Now where to put my ticket?  I watched others and saw they quickly put their's in the clips.  My error was that I didn't look closely enough, and try as I might, I could not get mine to stay.  Notice there are two layers on that clip, and the upper one is the wrong one!  Ha!

It was too dark outside to take pictures out the window.  Only reflections.  I have never seen so many mainstream, suited people in my life.  There were no tattoos, piercings, or alternative hair colors. Only one young man was wearing jeans, and he looked quite out of place. Goodness, I have lived around Portland so long that the lack of weirdness in another city caught me off guard.

Exiting the train was another challenge entirely.  Masses of people.  More business suits.  My carry-on was in the way, making it difficult to maneuver in the moving crowd.  And then I decided it was time to hold my head up and join the movement.  I moved forward like I had done it a million times before. Victory.

December 6, 2012

Chicago, Day and Night


This was the view from my Double Deluxe room by day

and by night!

Not too shabby!  Can't tell you how refreshing it was to get away.  It was food for my soul.  And it was great to come home when the adventure was over.  I think that's how travel should be. =)

December 3, 2012

Chicago!

So here I am in the outskirts of Chicago. There's nothing better than spending time with your sister...and brother-in-law, nephew, niece, and dog.  Today I got to hang out in Meg's 1st grade class, watch B's middle school basketball game, and play with M, who adores calling me the wrong name.  Two year olds can be that way.  :)

I have had some good reading times (still awake with the time change) and slept in late. And I have stuffed myself with way too much good food.  Last night we had oven roasted pork tenderloin with braised red cabbage and apples.  Tonight it was maple soy glazed salmon with braised leek and kale quinoa.  Not counting spices, there were 21 total ingredients.

I am not joking.

Obviously I inherited only the love for eating good food, not cooking it; truly, the genes passed me right by.  Sometime soon I will present my own method of cooking.  5 ingredients or less, my friends.

For now I revel in the wonder of it all.  Tomorrow brings new adventures in the city for work conferences, starting with an early morning train ride.  All good!


November 30, 2012

A Different Love Language

When Sir Bradley left this morning, he made sure there was enough wood easily accessible for me on the back porch.  He wanted to make sure it was an easy, warm day for me inside.

I admit that there are (rare) occasions when I would prefer a different love language, something that includes love notes, flowers, and maybe even perhaps a little something from Tiffany's (ha!).  But there are women all over the world who would kill for a man as thoughtful as this.  

They'll have to look elsewhere.  This one's taken.  =)

November 29, 2012

Candle Bobeches

Bobeche (boh-besh), noun:  a slightly cupped ring placed over the socket of a candleholder to catch the drippings of a candle.

These little evergreen bobeches are made of greenery, pine cones, and floral wire.  They will never grace the cover of a magazine, but I kinda like my own country version.  =)  



November 28, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Pie

Homemade chocolate pie.  Made from fresh eggs, cream, and the darkest, blackest cocoa available. Holy cow, it's hard to beat.

I admit the the crust was a bit, shall we say, sturdy.  But other than that, this was a 10!  If only there was some left in the fridge for breakfast.

9" pie crust, baked
(You're on your own!  I have yet to conquer pie crusts.)

Chocolate Pie Filling
1¼ c. sugar
½ c. dark cocoa
¼ c. cornstarch
¼ tsp sea salt
3 c. milk (half and half or cream)
3 egg yolks
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1½ tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt.  Slowly add milk.  Over medium heat and stirring constantly, bring to a boil x 1 min.  Turn off heat. Have egg yolks ready in separate measuring cup.  Carefully pour a thin stream of the boiling pudding into the eggs, stirring like mad so they don't instantly cook into hard boiled eggs!  Stop when you get to about ¼ c.  Turn heat back on, and stirring continuously, pour the egg mixture back into the full pan of pudding.  Return the mixture to a boil and cook another 2 mins.
Remove pan from stove.  Add butter and vanilla and stir until fully incorporated.
Pour mixture into pie crust.
Serve cold with fresh whipping cream.
Thank your lucky stars.

November 27, 2012

More Jar Lights

Candlelight is just so cheering - especially outside!  All it takes is a few more canning jars and tea candles.  I left out the epsom salts, as the rains are coming back. =)

November 26, 2012

Canning Jar Advent Candles

In a rare act of early holiday preparation, I decided it was time to get the advent candles ready.

This is an easy and fun project and it is most satisfying if you can make do with things around the house.  It feels right to keep the holiday a humble, yet beautiful, celebration. I did spend a few dollars on epsom salts but there is enough to use for more candles to give away and still plenty for next year. Supplies: wooden container or tray, 5 canning jars, ribbon, tea candles, epsom salts.

Tie jars with whatever ribbon you have.  I used red, but blue, silver, or gold would be just as gorgeous. Bows, rather than knots, would work well with thinner ribbon.
















Line them up.  I alternated the direction of the bows so everyone sitting at the table can enjoy seeing the "front".

The best part by far is adding the "snow"!  I had the brilliant idea of taking an action shot of the salts with one hand while pouring them into the container with the other.  Not one of my prouder moments!

Remove the little silver shell around the tea candles, and bury the candles in the salt so they are flush with the surface.  Add a variety of greenery, whatever you can cut in the yard.  I found some pine, hemlock, holly, and a few pinecones.

Advent officially starts next Sunday.

Traditionally, a candle is lit on December Sundays leading up to Christmas, and words are shared each week on the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love.  By Christmas all are lit, including the fifth candle celebrating the birth of the Christ Child.

November 21, 2012

Nine O'Clock

9 pm.  It's when I arrived home from work last night.  Late nights have been my way of life for months now, and this usual part-timer is ready to buy my ticket today.  Anywhere will do.  I think white sand and warm water could do wonders for me.

I have no plans for Thanksgiving food, baking, holiday arrangements, or even what we're eating for dinner tonight.

The kids are arriving soon and we'll be together, and really, nothing else matters.  =)

November 19, 2012

Fall Beauty

The sun popped out and the gorgeous red leaves on the Bloodgood Japanese Maple turned absolutely brilliant!  Holy cow, it took my breath away.


November 15, 2012

Sunrise

Sunrise is a concept more frequently envisioned in my head than seen with my eyes.  I daresay you'll find little on this blog about mornings!  But today was a real treat.  Love the fog.

November 14, 2012

Vacuums and Clean Carpets

The stinky, old, heavy, blue beast is finally being laid to rest.  It's time.

I'm thrilled to report we found a new vacuum that weighs practically nothing, doesn't spew dust, and sucks an embarrassing amount of dirt from what I thought were clean floors and carpets. The multiple font graphics could be better, but I try to turn a blind eye knowing that it is an acceptable trade-off for the very reasonable price.  =)

Sometimes now I vacuum for fun.

Truly, I need to get out more.


November 12, 2012

Frozen Scones!

I heard from a very reliable source that scones can be frozen and then baked without thawing. Even so, it was for me hard to justify a risky experiment like this, as baked goods of this caliber should never be wasted.

But in they went to the freezer late last night.


And clearly, defrosting never got checked off my summer list.


The baking results?  Beautiful!  And honestly, I think they're better done this way.   I'd wager a guess that it's the frozen pieces of butter that makes for a softer and more delicate crumb.

November 9, 2012

Beauty in an Improper Disease

Proper is the most descriptive adjective I can use.

Around retirement age, she is the epitome of everything perfectly proper.  Proper walk, proper clothing, proper speech,  proper mannerisms.  Addressing her by a nickname would be completely unacceptable.

But ALS is a very disrespectful and improper disease.  As we walked down the hall, I was quick to observe the changes.  It took her a bit more time and effort to maintain her balance and move her feet.  Her hands were becoming more paralyzed, no longer following her exact commands. Her weight was unchanged, but her figure showed the familiar drift, with the middle parts loosening up and sagging.

A feeding tube occupied one section of her belly and I set to work, knowing that the temporary pain I was causing would bring comfort and relief later on.  She tried to share her concerns but even my ears, acutely attuned to the slurring of ALS, couldn't make out a singe word.  All I could hear was a string of vowel sounds.  It's hard to be proper when you have no consonants.

I smiled at her husband, knowing that she probably would have chosen a different coat for him that didn't hang down so casually when unzipped.  But coat or no coat, I soon learned what a prince he was.

He winced when she winced, and he encouraged her with kind words.  He was her interpreter.  He went through a list of her needs and kept track of paperwork.  And when it was over, he wrapped his arms around her and gently adjusted her clothing in preparation to leave.  It was difficult to watch the ravages of the disease; it was not pretty, and she was not pretty.  I hoped for her sake the mirrors in her house had been removed.

And then in those moments when I saw them look at each other, time stood still.  He saw ugliness, but out of his deep and abiding love for her,  his eyes reflected only beauty.  He was her perfect mirror.

What a gift.

November 7, 2012

Dreaming

Nothing like a cute new magnet to express great truths... =)


November 6, 2012

Mark Your Ballots

And so today is Election Day.  It is a privilege to be able to discuss, disagree, express opinions, and vote.  My ballot is on it's way.

And now I would like to have a cup of tea, a ginger scone, and read a good book that has nothing to do with politics.


November 5, 2012

Web Patterns

There are so many patterns in a web that it's hard to wrap my mind around it.  To create something like that without the perspective of distance is really quite amazing.


November 1, 2012

Red Hills Market

We had a wonderful Sunday together during Parents' Weekend.  The girls were all great and after church we discovered a fun little market in Dundee where we all stuffed ourselves.  

This cinnamon roll held at least 14,397 calories.  Worth every bite.



Drinking glasses were canning jars.  And do you see the trays?

The miniature chalkboards were tempting, right along with Beekeeping.



Ahhh, the food trays, my new obsession.  I'm betting they're 1/4 size Chicago Metallic baking sheets. I'm on the hunt!!





October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat!

Oh, please, can someone help me??  The costume was not my idea.

Love,
Miss Elsie


October 26, 2012

No Pie Yet

And so I continue to work and work and work...

And there is no pie yet.

The little pie pumpkins have been moved from the front porch to the table.  We're getting closer to the goal.


October 25, 2012

Drying Pears

40 pounds of beautiful organic pears were carefully laid out to ripen.  At 98¢ a pound, we couldn't resist stocking up.

And then it happened.  The sea of pears all ripened on the same day.  Since then, it's been a frenzy of drying, baking, and eating pears.   Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Nothing beats a perfectly ripened, sweet, butter soft pear.

Rather than canning, we prefer drying as it is so much easier and the pears are then portable.  After trying several methods over the years, I found it quickest to halve the pears vertically, leaving the stem intact.  Taking a half, pull the stem down to remove part of the core.  Scoop out the rest of the core and stem in one quick scoop with a small spoon.  Turn over and cut in 3/8" slices.  

And into the food dehydrator they go.  These are about halfway there.  When they started they were completely touching all the way around.  This year the pears are so juicy that it's taking about 18 hours to dry.  

We now have a couple gallon bags of dried pears ready for hikes, snacks, lunches, and Christmas stocking treats.  We are rich!

October 24, 2012

Evening Fires

When the weather gets cold I never tire of watching a good fire.  And Sir Bradley is making some good ones these days.  =)  Hot, slow, and clean-burning, the flames move and roll in the most fascinating ways.  Best viewed in a dark room.

Miss Elsie is loving it, too.  Nothing like a good nap directly in front of the stove with your head on the warm bricks.  Those pheasant hunting expeditions are hard work and she has no problem enjoying complete and utter relaxation!


October 23, 2012

Turkish Tin

This is it, my favorite tin straight from Izmir, Turkey.  It originally came filled with dried figs, and now it holds my tea and treats at work.

Oh, what I'd give to book my tickets!


October 22, 2012

My Own Wellies

Sir Bradley has his muck boots and now it's my turn.  Time for cleaning the chicken coop in style - no brown boots for this girl!

Trying to lay on the ground to get a good shot involved a certain challenging, 4-legged creature.  Off, Elsie, off!  I managed to keep the lens clean at all costs.

The real question is, could I wear these wellies in England?