Sunday, June 28, 2009

stop and smell the strawberries

Putting some of those local strawberries to good use, before they slip away, was top priority this weekend. After my friend Chris and I grabbed lunch at St. Honore, we drove out to Sauvie Island where there are plenty of U-pick farms offering up their fresh fruits. After taste testing several varieties, I settled on a flat of sweet berries at a small stand. No picking required.

Three things calling for strawberries were then created in my kitchen.

Freezer jam. After much trial and error, Sure Jell pectin wins hands down.


These delicious strawberry tarts (with a few blueberries thrown in)...


and a summer favorite around our house...


Strawberry tarts
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup cold butter
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, mix the flour and sugar. Add butter and blend for 10 seconds or so. The butter should be in small pea-sized pieces. In a separate bowl, mix together egg yolks, sour cream and ice water. Add egg yolk mixture into processor and blend just until a ball forms. Place the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Once the dough is chilled and easy to handle, divide it into 8 portions. Roll these out into 6 inch circles and place them on baking sheets. Silpats work great. Any baked on juices will easily wash off. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour
6-8 cups fresh fruit, slice and mix with 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons or so of the sugar and flour mixture on each pastry circle to within 1/2 inch of edges. Combine the fruit and 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar and mix gently. Place 3/4 to 1 cup of the fruit mixture onto the pastry. Fold up edges slightly. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Here's the tart making process, photographed in the wee hours of the night...








. . .

Thursday, June 25, 2009

signs of summer

Fresh Strawberries

Our week back in civilization has consisted of a broken toilet, burrowing moles, lawn mowing, angry chickens, laundry and more laundry. Bailey received a professional grooming. After a week in the desert, a total of 15 ticks had taken up residence on her body. Those as well as the imbedded cheat grass had to go.

I'm plugging along on the design of two web sites. As a print designer, this is a new challenge for me. Some differences include saturating the heck out of colors (which are now only made up of red, green and blue) and making decisions about what a link looks like when a cursor hovers over it versus what it looks like after its clicked on.

The garden is growing like crazy. Last night we had a huge salad with the two types of lettuce, cilantro, carrots and red potatoes. The potatoes are so yummy. I cut back the green stalks that were taking over the raised bed they're in and the potatoes are still growing under ground. Next year I'll be planting them somewhere else where they have more room to spread out... those are the best potatoes I've ever had! Even my daughter ate one on her salad!

While we were gone we almost missed the yummy Oregon strawberries that are the best thing to happen to June around here.

pick of the crop

. . .

Saturday, June 20, 2009

a day at Whisper Lake

When you hang with bat enthusiasts until the wee hours of the morning, you sleep the day away. I actually didn’t get myself out of bed until around 10 am every day this week.

I took a hike around Whisper Lake this afternoon.

The Mariposa Lilies are at their peak.

Sagebrush Mariposa Lily

Sagebrush Mariposa Lily

Sagebrush Mariposa Lily

as well as a few other flowers

yellow flowers

Bailey and I even found a little time to do some porch sitting...

sittin' on the porch

A simple day requires a simple supper... this soup recipe is super simple. It’s a super simple soup. I think that’s what I shall call it. Requires very little chopping. No pureeing. We can thank my sister-in-law Lorrie for this recipe. Thank you Lorrie for the oh so super simple soup supper!

simple soup

Lorrie's Super Simple Soup
1 box of Pacific Natural Foods buttery sweet corn soup
4 al fresco all natural roasted pepper and asiago chicken sausages, sliced
2 cans of whole black beans, drained
1 package frozen sweet corn
A few chunks of brie cheese
Put the first 4 ingredients in a large pot and heat until hot. Ladle into bowls and add a few small chunks of brie cheese.


Friday, June 19, 2009

more bats...

Day four of the bat excursion. Over ten miles on dusty, windy gravel roads. The scene out the windows was of a consistently desert-like landscape... sagebrush, basalt rock walls, and the same "motorcyclists use extreme caution" sign before each corner, give you the sense you're viewing a backdrop from an old movie repeating over and over. The arrival at the trail to our destination was not exactly a breathtaking experience, but more of the same. The group hauled copious amounts of gear through more sagebrush and dusty rattlesnake country surrounded by more basalt rock walls.

Don't get me wrong, I do very much love the desert. The simplicity of the scenery. The dry air. The quiet. There is a lack of visual stimulation that I find very calming. Small bursts of color here go a long way.

The trail led us to this extraordinarily beautiful oasis. A place called Dutch Henry Falls. More land owned by The Nature Conservancy.

Quite an amazing contrast to the surrounding desert landscape.


Very challenging for those who had to string nets...

Dutch Henry Falls

Dutch Henry Falls

The net stringers had slippery moss covered rocks that shift under foot to contend with. One wrong step and their chest high waders could be quickly filled with water.

We were very content to be spectators on this excursion.

Dutch Henry Falls


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


We’re traveling this week. Staying in a remote lodge in the middle of nowhere. 25 or so miles outside a small town called Ephrata in the state of Washington. The lodge, owned by The Nature Conservancy is located at Whisper Lake on many acres surrounded by large basalt rock walls, a lake, sagebrush, and lots of dry desert land. The lodge is quite nice with ten bedrooms, each with their own bathroom, a large shared living room, dining room, kitchen, TV room, pool table room, laundry room. In its former life it was a bed and breakfast. Still is, but now without the provided breakfast part. We are also the only guests staying here. We have the entire place to ourselves! That’s not taking into consideration the coyotes, marmots, badgers, porcupines, bobcats, deer, rattlesnakes, various rodents, birds, and other unseen wildlife who call the surrounding property home. This is now the Moses Coulee Field Station and it’s maintained for use by biologists doing field work in the area. We are here because M is doing field work with bats.

Our view from Whisper Lake lodge...

Whisper Lake

The most interesting bat research takes place after dark. Last night our location was over a small coulee just two miles away from the lodge. The moment we stepped out of the car, we were greeted by one of the local rattlesnakes, as well as one of the friendly bat biologists, who outfitted Iz and I with headlamps. Iz was also outfitted in waders and boots so she could help string nets in the stream. There were about ten students being trained on capturing, identifying and measuring bats who live in this area.

ready for bat work


Pat demonstrates the proper way to put up a net for bat capturing...

net instruction

Here's the official site where bats will later be brought for identifying...

bat crew

Once captured, the bats are weighed, measured, sexed, and identified by species before they are released. And this is the very visually cool part. You'll just have to imagine it for now. A glow stick is attached to the bat's chest using a temporary, non-toxic paste. This allows the researchers to properly point microphones and record the bat’s vocalization (ultrasonic call). For those of us spectators, it’s an amazing sight to see a bat traversing the moonless sky until you can no longer decipher it from the stars.

Iz was given the important job of tying and staking net poles to keep the nets from falling into the stream... She did a great job!

securing the poles

Here’s one of the bats that flew into one of the nets... Iz and I were not able to handle them since we don’t have rabies vaccines. This is a Myotis thysanodes... also knows as a Fringed Bat.

myotis Thysanodes

Isn't he the cutest little thing you've ever seen?


Thursday, June 4, 2009

comfort food


I’d like to come clean about something. We don’t always eat organic, healthy meals. Once in a while we like to eat in what some may actually call a greasy spoon. Okay, M and I have breakfast there on most Friday mornings. This neighborhood diner we frequent is aptly named, Fat City. It’s in the heart of Multnomah Village in Portland, Oregon. There is something so warm and welcoming about this little place. Like a favorite pair of jeans. A comfy pair of socks. It’s a place where everybody knows our names, and usually what we’ll be ordering. What’s not to love?

Our lovely waitress, Ruby, zips around the cafe at the speed of light. She never lets our tea get cold.




When you enter this old fashioned cafe, you’re transformed into another time and place. You could be in any small town USA. License plates and quirky signs cover most of the wall space. A long shelf lined with old beer cans sits above remnants of an old soda fountain, which unfortunately, is no longer in service. The local history here is as thick and rich as the homemade cinnamon rolls they dish out in droves on a daily basis.

A couple key events helped put Fat City on the map in Portland. In 1973, a Fat City customer known only as Bob, shot his lover Vivian in the restaurant when his love was not reciprocated. The bullet holes are still in the basement wall as proof of this event. In 1987, Portland’s Mayor, Bud Clark, met his Police Chief, Jim Davis, at the restaurant. Over breakfast, the mayor fired the police chief, saying, “Read my lips. You’re fired.” Signs next to this booth designate the positions of its prior occupants.

On a typical Friday morning, we can be found occupying one of the comfy booths at Fat City, sipping a cuppa hot tea and enjoying french toast, blueberry pancakes, or eggs and hash browns, maybe even a slice or two of crisp bacon. Fat City momentary brings our busy lives to a slower pace and takes us back to a simplier time. Isn’t that what comfort food is all about?


These people cannot possibly go in here...



Also a great place to plan your next vacation across Oregon.