img_2738

Winter has arrived

Winter has arrived here in Western Oregon. Painfully short days, darkness starting so early and lasting so long. Cold rain. Ice. Damp chill.

What does it mean at our house?
* Going to the gym a lot to keep obesity at bay.
* A gorgeous Oregon-grown Noble fir tree with LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes, as my husband tells me often).

img_2724
* Lots of cookie baking.

img_2727img_2738img_2740img_2742
* Chili and curries and things in the crockpot.
* Planning our winter escape to Mexico.
* Some entertaining of friends and neighbors.
* Holiday parties.
* Eating cabbage and kale from the winter garden.
* A little volunteering at the warming centers that open for the unfortunate freezing unsheltered when temperatures drop below 30 overnight.
* Buying a couple kids’ coats at Old Navy and taking them to the family shelter.
* Overwhelming gratitude for what we have and deepening empathy for those who are suffering.

A cold dark time for sure, for me, missing my parents, thinking of holidays past and people who have passed. I’m doing my best to honor my mom’s memory with her cookie recipes. I’m doing my best to make my tiny sphere of influence a little bit brighter and kinder.

And I’m focusing on the warmth of Mexico we will be enjoying soon.

image

Kitchen Days

There are few things I like more than a kitchen day. Maybe champagne in bed day or hot air balloon over Goreme, Turkey day.  A day in the kitchen is pretty high on the list, though.  Here are some kitchen food preservation projects from a recent kitchen day:

– pickled jalepenos
– pickled garlic
– dilly beans
– whole plums in honey syrup
– grapes to raisins
– plums to prunes

image

imageimageimage

Continue reading

image

Garden update…and never look a gift box in the mouth

What’s going in the garden?

After a disappointing pea crop, we have had a good run of spring things.  Asparagus. Cabbage. Broccoli. Our tomato plants are the largest we have ever had; nothing ripe yet but I think there will be tons. Peppers look okay. We have had a few bells so far. Green beans are starting to produce. Love these beans, from seeds I purchased in Europe. Just put some leek starts in the ground for fall harvest. And our potatoes are almost ready to be dug.

Here are some of our first string beans on the grill with the almost-last broccoli, potatoes (from the store) and marinated tempeh skewers. Marinated tempeh because someone (was it you? If so, thanks) sent us a gift box from Try the World. The theme was Brazil and there were some Brazilian spices and BBQ sauce in there so I applied them to tempeh instead of their suggested beef and chicken. How lucky are we to get a mystery gift box?!

image

You are here.

Dutch oven mac and cheese

Another camping adventure.

We are getting our camping system down to a system — what to bring, how to set up and take down, cooking and dishes. Most recently, we headed out to a camp ground along the Pacific Crest Trail. Having the PCT there made for great hiking! The weather was clear and we saw lots of mountains. We camped next to a tiny lake. It was quiet, with only a few other camping parties.

image

Lakeside

image

A tidy camp is a happy camp

image

The SIsters

Cooking-wise, we tried out the dutch oven mac and cheese. It’s a keeper. We had a little miscommunication about the temperature for the dutch oven (my husband thought I wanted it as hot as for pizza, but alas, I only wanted 375 degrees). Luckily, the recipe calls for opening it and stirring after 30 minutes so were able to salvage our dinner. The burnt crust at the bottom was actually quite good too. I looked at a zillion recipes on the internet and zillion minus two all started with pre-cooked macaroni. Who wants to deal with that on a camping trip — either bringing cooked pasta with or cooking in camp? Not us. Continue reading

image

Travel Planning

The summer is all about gardening and hanging out in the Pacific NW. The Olympic track and field trials. A little camping. Bike rides. Ball games. Foster dogs from the shelter. Canning salsa. Golfing with friends. Drying apples. Making fig jam.

And travel planning.

Looks like we are going to spend two months in Mexico this winter and I can’t wait. It will be our longest trip to date. Yes, I get anxious leaving home for that long, but soon after the plane takes off, I put it behind me and turn toward the adventure. We are planning to start our trip near Ixtapa with some (scary for me) surfing lessons administered by an encouraging long-time seldom-seen friend. Following Ixtapa, we will take an 8-hour bus trip to Guadalajara to spend time in Ajijic, a town on Lake Chapala. That will be followed up with some more nights on Lake Chapala, either Chapala itself or Jojotepec, or the hot spring spa at San Juan de Cosala. After, we will board the bus to Puerto Vallarta and the boat to Yelapa.

Love that Yelapa place! I look forward to seeing friends, playing croquet, relaxing on the beach and eating well.  We will spend a month there and I will still be sad to leave.

After Yelapa, not sure, but likely a car rental and drive down to the Mayto/Tehuamixtle area for a few days of super-quiet remote beach time. Or a a spell in the mountains (via bus) in Mascota and Talpa. We will finish up the trip with some big-city activities in Vallarta and head home to springtime in Oregon.

It can be frustrating to try to figure out logistics — where to fly in, which places we can go by bus, what fits in before and after our Yelapa reservation, searching AirBnB and other lodging sites. It’s also fun and exciting. We enjoy our enjoy travel three ways: planning and anticipating, the trip itself, and then the memories. A way better payoff, to my thinking, than a buying a big screen TV or a fancy car or a bigger house or cable TV or more stuff.

Says the woman who bought a new dress last week …. (See prior post)…

image