Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Whine Time!

Here I am just over a week before I will need to let the movers know if I need to extend the moving date, and I find out that nothing has been happening on the mortgage!  The coordinator is now hustling, but my loan officer says the girl has been busy and just dropped the ball for awhile.  Arrrrggggggg!!!!!

She needed all kinds of info from my employer and landlord in Eugene, plus my current landlord, and I thought it was all done and off to the Rural Development underwriter.  WRONG !!  I finally contacted her this morning to see what was happening, and Diana (the loan officer) is glad I did.  I guess an urgent message from a customer carries a little more weight than from someone inside the bank.

I'm guessing my apartment manager in Eugene is on vacation this week, so that can't be done until next week.  Time is getting really, really, short and my stress level is getting really, really high.  I managed to get her the rest of the info she needed, or get it in action anyway.

I'm also guessing that I am going to have to extend the moving date by a week, because it seems unlikely that the underwriters will be able to turn it around in time for me to do anything else.  Then, of course, the paperwork all has to be mailed out here for me to sign.  I can't leave until that happens, or until I find out it's not going to happen.  Arrrrrrggggg!!!

OK.  I needed to vent. No more whining.  For now.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I wasn't thinking about Georgia when I clicked 'play' on Netflix this afternoon.  I was only thinking that the film wasn't going to be available for instant play after January 1st.  I've seen it countless times, of course, but it must have been awhile since the last time because I didn't really remember all those beautiful scenes on the Chatooga River.

I have to say, I am surprised by all the emotions raised during the movie, and they had nothing to do with the action of the actors.  My history with the Chatooga is almost as strong as my history with the Appalachian Trail.  I've hiked and backpacked over trails on both sides, and took my kayak down Section II once upon a time.  That's the tame one.  I've spent a lot of time in that little corner of Northeast Georgia -- drove up there regularly every weekend for several months and, in fact, that's where I spent my last night in Georgia.

A friend of mine has an old trailer on a five-acre parcel surrounded by National Forest Land, well above the city of Clayton and not far from the Chatooga.  We had a lot of good times up there, exploring the forests and just being.  He moved to the isolated spot 20-odd years ago, used to say (truthfully) that his was the last house in Northeast Georgia.  The dirt road went deeper into the woods, but nothing was up there other than a couple of cabins, no year-round residents.  Go a little bit north and you're into North Carolina, a little east and you hit the Chatooga.  We used to listen to the Whippoorwills at night.

This is where Deliverance was filmed.  Not in his area, but further downstream.  Being a curious sort, he had gotten to know the locals in Clayton and knew more trivia about the filming of this movie than anyone I've ever met.  Most of the mountain people featured in the film, including banjo boy, were local residents,  not Hollywood actors.  He knew their names, knew what had happened to them since the filming, knew so much. I was fascinated with the stories, but remember little. 

Not surprisingly, the movie was filmed on many different locations along the river, not in any linear trip as the movie depicted.  Some of the scenes showing the tamer, calmer river might have been filmed on Section II, which only has one Class II rapid, but the big rapids would have been on Sections III and IV, which I never dared try.  Class III and IV rapids abound here, and one Class V. I only know this from hearsay and photos, believe me! David could have told me exactly where each scene was filmed, I'm sure.

I do have personal familiarity with the big gorge at the end, where their canoe broke up and they got into all kinds of trouble.  Technically, this spot isn't even on the Chatooga.  The river flows into Tugaloo Lake, owned by Georgia Power.  This last huge rapid, which I think is called Tallulah Falls, is on the outflow from the dam, on the Tugaloo River. Every time I've seen it the Falls has been little more than a mere trickle.  For the movie, the power company increased the water flow for the first and I think only time in countless years.  I've been down into that gorge, which runs right along a highway.  A steep, rough trail descends from the highway to the river below. From there, you can follow the river and rock-hop as far as you like.  I went with a group of friends from the Georgia AT Club and can attest to the beauty, even if the river was tamed by the dam and (thankfully!) harmless.

I guess all the emotions arose because I thought I'd never see the Chatooga again, and now, with any luck, that will change.  I'd forgotten the sheer beauty of what is one of the few free-flowing Wild and Scenic rivers in the southern Appalachians.  I won't kayak it again, but I can still hike it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

One Year Later

When I posted my first entry on this blog, just shy of one year ago, I found myself wondering what I would find to write about.  I'll be the first to admit that many of the subsequent posts haven't been works of art, but I always seem to have something more to say.  :-)

This is where I share with friends. My other blogs, Tales of a Well-Lived Life and My Southern Oregon Coast each have some direction and hopefully, better and more focused writing.  The latter will soon be discontinued, of course, as my path takes me forward to Georgia.  I expect to begin a new one there, focusing on garden development and perhaps changes in the house as well.

Reading back over that first post, I find it interesting that in a way I've come full circle over this year.  Then, I wrote about plans to return to Georgia and all the reasons why.  A day or so later I decided to make an offer on a little house I'd been lusting over for awhile.  Nothing has changed, and yet, everything has changed.  That house deal just never was meant to be -- I loved it, but it had maintenance and condition issues, plus I suspected that the yard was much too shaded for any serious level of growing veggies.  I opted to go anyway -- even had an apartment waiting for me and a D-Day planned for May 1st.  Why am I not there now?

Well -- about three weeks before D-Day I had a truly overwhelming sense that I was doing the wrong thing, that I was not ready to leave Oregon or the West Coast in general.  I couldn't do it.  In one of my famous zigzags I drove down here to Brookings on Easter weekend to see this building, see if the town was as nice as I remembered, then went home and canceled the movers and the apartment in Georgia.

I needed these months here.  I needed to spend time walking beaches and trails and hugging redwoods.  I needed to see Crater Lake.  I needed a nice, long visit to San Francisco and the Bay Area. I needed a gentle separation from my buddy in Eugene. I needed to say goodbye to all that I love out here, to all that drew me to Oregon and its beautiful coast 14 years ago.

Quite frankly, I still have far too many emotions about leaving all of these, but I'm far more committed to moving than I was in April, and far more ready to do so.  I love Oregon, and I love the Pacific Northwest in general.  I could happily live here forever.  IF I could afford to buy a house here; IF I had a family or significant other; IF I had a hobby or job that filled the empty spaces.  IF any of those existed, I would not be moving. 

Unfortunately, none do exist and I need to go where I can make at least a few of them happen.  I'm just not ready for the rocking chair in front of the TV that seems to be the lot of so many of my neighbors here.  I'm still healthy, strong, energetic.  And lonely.  In Cedartown, at least I'll have genealogy contacts -- people with a common interest -- and a couple of relatives, plus I'll have the house and garden, plus the bike trail and the Appalachian Trail and genealogy and a dog or cat or both much I don't have here.  I'll have purpose, and that's what I need. I won't be doing any whitewater kayaking however -- that photo is from the past and will remain that way, as much as I loved it.  It was taken on the Etowah River, if I remember correctly, in North Georgia. 

I know I sound as if I'm not ready to go, or as if I have misgivings, but that's just sentiment talking.  I'd leave tomorrow, if I could.  I am SO ready to move forward beyond these days and weeks of waiting, SO ready to start the rather daunting work of turning 1/4 acre of grass into grass-less gardens, so ready to be in some place that will be mine, a home where the manager can't fuss at me for using the laundry too early in the morning. SO ready for the last part of my life to begin.  I may shed a tear or two, just as I did when I passed by an Appalachian Trail highway crossing the morning I left Georgia 14 years ago.  If I could leave my beloved AT behind, I can leave Oregon behind.

I'll miss these beaches and the lovely winter weather, but I'm ready to say goodbye.  More or less.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wild China, and Other Thoughts

Think National Geographic on video and you might understand what this BBC series has to offer.  I've had it on my mail disk queue for months now, but suddenly they were released for instant watching, and I didn't waste any time doing so, although it took two evenings to accomplish watching all six episodes.

As the name implies, this series explores China in a natural sense -- from the world's highest mountains, including Everest, to expansive deserts, raging rivers and a long coastline.  Focus is on the scenery, the flora and fauna and birdlife, and lots of history.  The cinematography is so good that the series is a visual feast from beginning to end.

I'm sure I'm not the only person fascinated with this vast country and its ancient history and diverse landscapes.  I'm pretty sure I'll never get there in this lifetime and even if I did, I'd never see the areas shown in this series.  Buddhist temples; remnants of the ancient 'silk road', silk processing from the time the worms gorge themselves then spin their cocoons to the spinning of the fine threads; ancient rice terraces; mountains that go on forever; and the indigenous people of the countryside.  Very little time is spent in any city or even on the famous wall.  If you get a chance, have a look at this.  Very worthwhile!

I had a fasting blood test to do this morning and our local lab doesn't open until 8am, so I was feeling a bit peckish by the time I left home.  We were right at freezing this morning, my windshields were covered with thick frost and I don't even have a scraper.  Fortunately, the car's defrost mechanisms worked quickly.  The reward for all this was a Mocha at the local Dutch Bros. and a chicken biscuit at McDonald's.  I feel much better now, although if the troubles I had navigating the drive-thru path at McDonald's were any indication, I may not be safe to drive 3100 miles to Georgia!  Let's put it down to hunger and leave it at that.

Cold or not, the day is sunny and bright and due to hit 55 or so today.  Once my breakfast settles a bit I have weight work to do.  Until then.....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Lovely Birthday!

I admit it -- as a 'Christmas' baby, I enjoy having my birthday remembered, and enjoy celebrating that day far more than I enjoy Christmas.  Some years I can get really depressed if I spend the day alone, or if nobody remembers. 

I think I've had more birthday cards this year than in total over the last 5 years.  They are coming out of the woodwork from fellow residents in this building, and one of my neighbors took me to lunch today to celebrate. Plus, my best buddy from Eugene called this morning to wish me a happy birthday and chat for awhile PLUS I just came downstairs from another stint on the treadmill and found these lovely flowers from him. I wouldn't have been much more surprised to see him standing on my doorstep. And you wonder why I'm going to miss him so much!

So, I'm a happy camper.

No progress on the house, that I know of.  It's a bad time of year to make anything happen!  There will still be time, so I'm not worried.  Just playing the waiting game, and working out as much as I can.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Morning Light -- A Tribute to Roy Disney

Pure coincidence led me to watch this documentary tonight -- it popped up on Netflix yesterday and I added it to my queue.  Until the film began and the credits rolled, I had no idea Roy Disney was behind it.  I also didn't know that he was a sailboat racer and that he'd won the TransPac twice. The film had caught my attention because of my own ancient history in sailboat racing, and my own history with this race.

What the man did was wonderful.  He took a boat -- a good boat -- and handed it over to a bunch of youngsters with varying amounts of sailing experience and no ocean racing experience, and let them race it 2225 miles from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

The boat is what in my time we would have called a 'sled' -- an ultralight, ultrafast, wide, flat racing machine.  From the type of the boat -- a TP52 -- I'm guessing it was designed specifically for the TransPac.  Whatever, it was a competitive boat, no slouch.  The crew were all young people, mostly 21-22 seemingly drawn from various college campuses around this country plus Australia.  They were raw.  Disney brought a bunch of them to Los Angeles for trials, where a smaller group was selected for several months of training in Hawaii.  He gave them coaches, put them through lots of safety trials, and basically honed them for the race.  Incredibly, this bunch went from raw slouches to seasoned sailors by the time the race began off Long Beach in 2007.

Not surprisingly (it is Disney, after all) the boat was equipped with lots of cameras and microphones and apparently, a chase boat for long shots (and probably safety).  For most of the trip, they were alone in the vast Pacific.  Then the only other boat like theirs appeared from the rear and stayed with them for several days, with the lead changing between the two.  The difference is that the other boat was brand new and crewed by professional sailors, not a rag-tag team of newbies.  In the end, the other boat finished first in class, but not all that far ahead.

"My" TransPac was 1971, when my friend Jim sailed his 33 foot Sandpiper (shown here on San Francisco Bay) in the race.  She was the smallest boat in the race and didn't win by any means, but she also didn't disgrace herself.  I flew down for the start, helped with the loading and packing of supplies, then went out on the press boat for the actual start (I was a legitimate member of the sailing press at the time).  After talking to a couple of guys for awhile, after the race started one of them looked at me and said 'can you say all that into a microphone?'.  I said yes, I supposed I could, so we did an interview of sorts and I told them all about Sandpiper and other things I knew about the race.  They were from one of the big all-news radio stations in LA, and as I drove a crew member's car back north I picked up pieces of the interview scattered over a couple of hours until I lost them.

A week or so later I was on an airplane headed to Honolulu.  United had promoted a 'TransPac' flight, for family members.  Once we reached the part of the Pacific where the boats were, the stewardesses rounded us all up and took us into first class, poured us some bubbly and one by one, radio contact was made with each boat and we had a chance to talk to our loved ones.  That was super. 

Each boat is assigned a local host/hostess, and when I landed in Honolulu I was met by Sandpiper's hosts with the words "we've got to hurry, Passage is about to finish off Diamond Head and we're going to sail out to watch".  We made a quick stop at my hotel so I could change clothes, and almost before I even knew I was in Hawaii, I found myself on a sailboat slicing through balmy waters in bright sunshine -- not what I was used to on San Francisco Bay!

Windward Passage (shown here on San Francisco Bay) finished first overall that year, and I can't even begin to go into the parties that began that evening and lasted for days, as each boat came in.  Suffice it to say that it was quite an experience for me and I loved every minute of it. After that first night, I spent most of my days on Blackfin, owned by Ken DeMeuse of San Francisco, who finished second overall.

But back to Morning Light.  Disney gave those kids something they will never forget, a life-changing experience that will stay with them throughout their years on this earth.  Granted, he got a documentary out of it, but I doubt if it made enough money to pay the production costs so I think it's safe to say that he did it for the right reasons.  After watching this, I have a whole new level of respect for the man.  Almost anybody can produce movies, especially if your name is Disney.  Not everybody who has the ability to do something like this for other people does it, however.

Fair winds, Roy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Julie & Julia - Encore

Since my birthday is in a couple of weeks, as is Christmas, and since I'm likely to spend both alone, I bought myself a birthday/Christmas present today.  God, how I hated hearing that when I was a child!  "Here's a present for your birthday and for Christmas, Kitty."  One present.  I was gypped, year after year.  But, that's another whine, one that I will get over once the dreaded, hated month of December is past.

I love this movie because 1) it's about food. Duh!  and 2) it's the ultimate feel-good movie and right now I need all the help I can get in feeling good.  It joins those rare few movies that I will watch again and again just because they make me feel good.  Escapism?  Perhaps,  but who cares.

Question is, if it makes me feel so all-fired good, why am I all weepy now that it's over?  Okay, so I'm just a bit extra prone to weepiness right now.  I don't remember being weepy when I first saw it, but then, that was in a big theater surrounded by strangers and it simply goes against my principles to weep in a movie theater.  At home, one has no such constraints.  I guess I'm weepy because it was such a happy movie with such a happy ending, and because it was such a wonderful love story -- two love stories, really. Could be I'm weepy because I weep a lot in December, just because it's such a lonely month for me.  I smiled all the way through the movie, however, weepy or not.

Incredible story, wonderful casting and acting.  And I don't think you have to be a total foodie to enjoy it.  I think I need to try Julia's Boeuf Bourgignon again, however, because mine didn't reach that orgasmic 'yum' that was implied here.  It was lovely, yes, but not 'yum'. And it was a lot of work.

As a side note and story, however, there was a passing reference to braised cucumber that really brought back some memories.  I don't know what Julia's recipe for braised cucumbers entails, but I can attest to the virtues of cooking cucumbers slowly in lots of butter. That is a definite 'yum'.  I know it sounds strange -- who cooks cucumbers?  When I was working at Beringer there was a fabulous restaurant in St. Helena called La Belle Helene.  In my job, I had the sad misfortune of being taken to lunch by various vendors on a regular basis at this and other local restaurants.  La Belle was my favorite, hands down.  I came away with a couple of recipe treasures, coaxed from the waiters.  One was a Creme de Laitue (lettuce soup, made of the outer leaves of butter lettuce, a little parsnip and lots of cream) that made me weep for joy.  The other, was the cucumbers in butter.  Were they braised in butter?  Perhaps -- certainly cooked at a low enough temp that it wasn't really sauteed.  (is that spelling right?).  You peel the cukes, halve them lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and then slice crosswise into little crescents about 1/2 inch thick.  Toss in a pan with lots of butter until they are warm and tender, and serve.  Wonderful -- and yet something I rarely remember to do.  Try it sometime.  I don't like raw cucumbers at all, but I love these.

Of course, the book was a constant reminder that I, too, have never really finished anything I started. That's not strictly true -- I've finished many things, but I certainly never lived up to my potential and I quit on some really important things and because of that I feel that I haven't finished things -- such as my life. I want to do that.  I want some big bang of a project that I can pour all my passion into and finish with a flourish.  What might that be?  I wish I had the answer.  The house and garden will certainly be a project, but I think I need more than that, just as Julie in the movie needed more than to simply cook every recipe in Julia's book.  She needed a deadline.  Hard to put a deadline on a house and garden, particularly when there is really no end game involved, and little money to pour into it.  But -- I need that before I die.  What will it be? And, do I have the energy left to do it?

Friday, December 11, 2009

On Tortes and Life and Love

This is all that's left.  A luscious chocolate torte to share with love and, at the same time, say goodbye. Not even a trace of fresh raspberry sauce remains to break the stark reality, to cover the blunt truth, disguise the sorrows beneath those last almost-24 hours of joy. It's possible we may meet again in this lifetime -- indeed, I need to hold onto that hope -- but much distance and newer lives for each of us will create a gap that may not be breachable.  We are, after all, no longer young and we must use our time and energies to reap the greatest joy we can from the lives we must now build so far apart.

Almost six years our lives have been indelibly intertwined.  Earlier today it occurred to me that in all my years, never has anyone -- anyone! -- been a part of my life in any deep way for so many of those years. Gratitude overwhelms even as sorrow rushes in.  Our lives never touched in the way I would have liked, or I would still be in Eugene, not traipsing off to Georgia.  But the essence of my spiritual beliefs tells me that this was not the reason we came into one another's lives.  Our purpose was to help one another heal, and I think it's safe to say we have accomplished that purpose and it is now time to let go, to move forward into new stages of our lives.  I don't like it. I don't want it.  But I recognize the truth, or at least the truth as I see it.

None of that makes this easy.  Watching him walk away after one last hug was something akin to tearing out a part of my soul.  Only now, a day later, are the tears coming as the reality hits.  I will never see him again.  He's gone. We'll talk, we'll write, we are friends for life, but will there ever be another hug? Another shared evening of food and wine and brandy and joy?  Probably not.  I knew this would be difficult, but it's beyond difficult.  It's heart-wrenching, even as I recognize the necessity and prepare to follow my own path onward to Georgia.

If all goes well with the house purchase I have 5 weeks remaining in Oregon.  Too long to begin packing and making final preparations, and yet little more remains.  I'm treading water, waiting for word that the house has appraised and that the deal is moving forward.  Outside my door, the weather is as blustery and unsettled as my emotions. And yet, all will clear. The sun will shine again, the rain will stop. And I will let go, move on, and be happy.

For you, my sweet, I wish nothing but the greatest of joy and love and happiness. And I am filled with gratitude for all that you have taught me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Crabs -- Finally!

 Being tagged prior to cooking. 
Remember back last summer when I tried my own hand at crabbing and failed miserably?  After losing my trap, I opted to not waste money on another.  The commercial Dungeness Crab season opened here a couple of days ago and thus far the catch is stupendous.  I'd read about a little crab shack down on the docks and today went in search -- thinking I was only scoping it out for next week, when a friend will be visiting.  Do you think I could walk away without one?  Forget that!

Even though she was just opening up, customers arrived right after I did and we all waited while she fished our orders from a live tank, weighed and tagged them prior to cooking.  I had thought to cook it myself, but these were HUGE crabs, also rather angry crabs who would have to be handled at some point in order to put into the cooking pot -- so I wimped out and let her cook and clean it for me.  My crab weighed around 2.5 pounds -- and they were all about the same.

Can't beat the price -- it would be twice that in Eugene, and not nearly as fresh.

While I waited for the crabs to cook, I wandered around the docks, fascinated as always by the boats and water.  The floating crab shack is in the background here.

This was, of course, the commercial dock, rather than the pleasure boat marina.  I love reflections of those tall arms in the water.  I was in Brookings for awhile before I realized that those arms are let out to the sides while fishing, only raised when in port.

The big boy, cooked and at home.

Half of him produced this luscious pile of fresh crabmeat.  I'll have the other half tomorrow. Life is good.

So now, my tummy sated, it's back to reading and resting, since Thursday has worked itself into being my weekly day of rest from physical activity.  I need that rest -- I've been pushing myself fairly hard, and my body just isn't as young as it used to be, as much as I try to deny that.  I'll be back to it tomorrow -- headed back into California to tackle the Boy Scout Tree Trail again.  This time, I called ahead and made certain the road was open! Our fabulous weather is also supposed to hold for a few more days.

Before that, however, is the BIG GAME tonight in Eugene!  Since I don't have a partner in crime, I guess there's no seedy bar and beer in store for me, but I'll keep my eye on the score, probably go upstairs to our recreation room and watch it for awhile.  My friend in Eugene said this morning that the city was abuzz, and having lived there on big game days (although never one quite this big!), I know what he means.  The town simply throbs.  I found a bit of football fever spreading through Brookings while I was out - U of O flags flying on cars, the bank all decorated (more or less evenly divided between the two schools).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Moon Set

About 5:30 this morning I picked up a wild hair to go chase the moon setting over the ocean.  I really didn't have to go very far, of course -- although the angle of the moon to the shore was a bit awkward and the scene changed completely after a few short moments.  It's not a prize-winner of a photo, but it served the purpose.  That bright light on the horizon is actually a boat not all that far away.  Crab season began  yesterday, and my understanding is that these guys are out all night, come back in at dawn with their catch.  There were plenty more outside camera range.

It's yet another gorgeous day here -- hard to believe it's actually December, with this weather.  Eugene was a too-cool 25 degrees this morning -- and it was around 40 here.  I did a lot of walking yesterday, have done my morning weight workout, and I'm a tad pooped, so I don't think I'll do a major outing today.  Still need my 10,000 footsteps, think I'll probably walk to the library later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Full Moon

There's this really bright light outside my window tonight -- but the man is missing.  Guess it's just too bright.

For those of you who may be wondering, the house is moving along quite swimmingly, although there's nothing to report on a daily basis.  Right now, we're waiting for the appraisal -- and I don't know when that will happen but it's been ordered. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Zoom Zoom

Went for a lovely drive and photo session with a neighbor today -- mostly reported on the Southern Oregon Coast blog.  We stopped at Pistol River to watch and photograph the sunset, which was colorful, but no clouds or other weather phenomena to make it spectacular.  I spotted this little arch in a big rock offshore and zoomed in on it -- the sun was shining almost directly through it.  Fun.

Full zoom on this one -- the sun way, way off on the horizon with a little reflection beneath.

As we left the sunset and turned around, this met us to the east. I couldn't resist, since I was in a zoom state of mind.  Hand held, and none too steadily at that, so it's not as tight a focus as I'd like, but that's my fault, not the camera's fault.

Lovely afternoon -- even if we never found the secret sea caves we were looking for.

And, as an amusing side note -- I've taken to wearing my odometer (better known as a pedometer) again in an effort to fight the quickly-encroaching middle age spread.  I began the day with 20 minutes on the treadmill, then when my friend suggested the drive I decided we probably wouldn't be doing much walking, so I walked to the library (clear at the other end of town) and by the time I arrived back home I had over 11,000 so I was set for the day.  Well -- his knee has healed since our last outing so we did a bit of walking after all.  I ended the day with 18,014 footsteps, a record for me when I've been wearing the thing.  I'm happy to report that I'm no worse for the wear, so tomorrow, we begin again. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Summer!

Another amazingly beautiful day here on the Southern Oregon Coast.  Warm, bright sunshine, everything sparkling, people in T-shirts, convertible tops down.  Summer.  Or so it seems.

I drove down into California and walked through some redwoods for awhile.  I need to soak those babies up as much as possible before I leave here, which, as someone reminded me this morning, is now only about 7 weeks away.  It seems like such a long time, when I'm trying to be patient -- but such a short time when I think about all I have to say goodbye to here.  Yes, I wrestled with all this last spring and, in the end, couldn't do it.  It still won't be easy, but after 6 months of intensely experiencing, appreciating and enjoying all the beauty this area has to offer, I CAN do it.  I have to admit that I felt more than a small twinge this morning walking through those trees in the quiet forest.  Let's face it -- at my age and financial circumstances, once I leave this part of the world it's highly unlikely I'll return.  But -- it's time for a new chapter and I have to believe that much good awaits me in Georgia.

I just got a nice Thanksgiving present from Nikon!  Overnight shipment, which is the first surprise.  I hadn't expected to see it until Friday, at the earliest.  And, it's a different model camera -- a P90 that's quite a bit more expensive and has lots of goodies like manual focus plus it's what's called an ultra-zoom, 24x.  Way to make an unhappy customer happy again, Nikon! It's still not a DSLR, but it's a nice toy nonetheless. Naturally, my batteries and new battery charger, and memory card, won't work with it, but I guess that's a small price to pay.  I just read a quick rating of it on-line, and while it doesn't get the best rating of its class, it didn't get the worst, either. It's also the lowest priced in the class and like the rest of them, many features rated higher or lower than others.  Worst was video, which I hardly use.  Now I need to get the battery charged and see if Fred Meyer carries a memory card for it, and I'll put it to use.  Lots of new toys to play with -- and much I don't understand but will figure out.  Can't do anything until the battery charges, so guess I'll take yet another walk down to Freddies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thank You, Nikon!

Hallelujah!  Nikon has decided to replace my camera, after 3 weeks on a parts hold.  The new one is shipping today and I should be back in business in a few days.  I can't tell you how wonderful that is.  I don't think I realized how much fun I had, exploring and photographing and sharing it all here.  I have to tell you, they were within a hair's breadth of losing me as a customer forever over this. After all, they 'broke' it when I sent it for the first repair.  It came back with a whole host of new problems.  Plus, it's not an expensive camera, so I'd think good PR on their part would tell them to just replace it. So -- congratulations, Nikon, for doing the right thing.  I was dreading the thought of getting the old one back and having still more problems with it.

I'm thinking about taking the real southern route - I-10 - when I travel, through San Antonio and New Orleans then cutting up to I-20.  Several reasons -- mostly change of scenery and a chance to see a part of the country I haven't seen before, or for a long time anyway.  I also have some good friends who live in the tiny town of Marathon, TX, which is a short hop off I-10, towards Big Bend National Park.  I think the odds that they will actually be in town in late January are pretty slim, but if they are, it would be great to stop and visit.  My friend Google Maps tells me the route (aside from any side trips) is only about 140 miles longer this way.  It won't be hurricane season, and there surely won't be any snow to deal with!

The first time I made this trip, back in 1986, I took I-20 and it was a terribly boring trip -- miles and miles of desert that seemed to take days to cross.  Texas really is a big state!  When I drove back west in 1996, I avoided Interstates, stuck with the Blue Highways, and cut high, along the Red River to Santa Fe.  That was a much more pleasant trip, but I had all the time in the world, no place to be or even a place to go.  I was a free spirit -- my cat and I traveled for about two months and about 13,000 miles before settling in Oregon.  I don't have that option this time.  I need to be there when my stuff arrives, and even more importantly, I want to see my new house.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stormy Weather

This about says it all -- supposedly taken during one of our recent storms in this area. Helluva photo, no matter where or when it was taken.  All to say that a big -- as in B-I-G -- storm is approaching offshore, due to arrive sometime before tomorrow morning.  Winds of 80 mph are forecast for the headlands.  Glad I'll be inside, safe and dry and warm.  I've lived on the coast during big storms before -- in Waldport, many years ago.  This place feels much sturdier than the place I lived in then. I remember one storm where I thought the building was just going to blow away! The storms are exciting -- the surf wonderful to watch.  They can cause a lot of damage, however.

I just went for a walk despite the forecast -- had to get out, needed to think about a lot of things.  No rain yet, just wind and gray skies. Walked down the street to the cliffs, watched the big breakers coming in for awhile, then walked downtown and ended up at the cattery, where I cuddled a few cats.  I felt a serious need to cuddle some cats and kittens.  They always make me feel better.  Harry is still there -- he's the one I fell in love with when I was helping clean.  It was mutual.  I've had serious thoughts of taking him with me to Georgia.  Still might, if he's still around when the time comes.

Storms have hit the home-buying process, too, although they are not totally destructive.  Yet.  Turns out the place is in a flood plain and I need flood insurance.  I was already on a high insurance rate because of the gas space heater, and this really boosted it up.  I can still afford the payments, although it's a lot more than I was expecting.  Somehow, the cash needed at closing has gone up to a point where I simply may not have enough to do it.  I'm not sure how it's happened -- has something to do with the hazard insurance, escrow amounts, etc.  I trust the banker and my real estate agent, so I know they are both doing the best they can.  For the moment, I had to put a stop to the process and give it some thought, figure out just how gutsy I am going to be in this process.  Going forward with the current estimates would have me arrive in Cedartown almost penniless.  Not a nice position to be in, but I've been there before.  I'd have my next social security payment about the time I arrive, no rent or house payment for February, and stand to get $5000 in stimulus money from the feds after I file my tax returns.  That's all great -- but still a scary place to be.  No wiggle room in there for unexpected expenses.  Or in case the final $$ amount on closing day is more than I have.  That would be a fine pickle!

On the positive side, the sellers have agreed to put gutters in.  They are doing all they can to make it work.  So is everyone else involved.  But I can't manufacture cash, and that's the sticking point.  I'm going to sleep on it, maybe even wait until Monday.  I have until the 29th to back out without penalty.

What to do, what to do?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Susan Hayward

OK. Time for a change of pace here.  Something more interesting than house hunting.

Tonight, courtesy of Netflix, I watched the movie "With A Song In My Heart" with Susan Hayward.  I first saw this movie when it was released in 1952 (in Cedartown) which would have made me just shy of 10 years old. Funny how things change.

I haven't seen it since then.  My memories were almost exclusively of the plane crash, which took, I don't know, a few seconds perhaps, of the entire 2-hour movie. Why do I remember the seeming importance of staying in your assigned seat?  Maybe because the person in Jane Froman's seat didn't survive the crash, whereas Jane did, having switched seats?  My second memory is of not liking Jane Froman's singing voice and my overall impression was a negative one that I nevertheless could not forget over all these years. Strange how the impressions of a 10-year-old still hold sway. I'm glad I got past that to order and see this film.

Susan Hayward was my idol in those days.  I wanted to BE her. I thought she was fabulous. I swooned over her, saw all of her movies. I was ten. My Uncle Ed laughed at me. I didn't care.  If you were to ask me today, I'd tell you that if I could choose some Hollywood star for reincarnation, it would be Rita Hayworth.  In those days, it was Susan.

Back to the movie.  I really, thoroughly enjoyed it.  I must say, it's a movie anyone could appreciate and its standings on Netflix reflect that.  The story before and after the plane crash is wonderful.  And, while Susan does a fabulous technical job of lip-synching to Jane Froman's voice, somehow that part just wasn't believable to me.  Perhaps that's because Jane's singing voice and Susan's speaking voice are so very different.  I loved the music (sorry, I was weaned on music of that era) but I have to admit, I still don't care for Jane's singing voice. Maybe the impressions of a 10-year-old are not that far off.

On the other hand, all that fuss and bother about a leg seems rather ridiculous in this day and age.  Not that I'd be happy to lose one of mine, but still -- after 40 years or more of maimed soldiers who would no doubt be happy to have only lost one leg, it seems a bit fussy.  I guess they didn't have the terrific prosthetics then that they have now.

Ahhhh -- Susan. She ended up marrying some dude from Warner Robins, Georgia and living out her life there.  And frankly, for her beauty and elegance and all the rest of it -- I still wouldn't mind being reincarnated as Susan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Step Two

Just got word from Georgia that I have an accepted offer.  Now, the inspector does his thing and we look at details.  I really don't expect to find anything -- this place has clearly been very well maintained -- but we have to look and be sure.  We have a 20-day period to get this done, will hopefully get it done sooner and then get on to step three -- appraisal.

I am surprisingly calm -- or is it sudden fear? :)  I think it's just acceptance that there is nothing more I can do from here.  I've been telling myself for a week now to just chill out, be patient.  Maybe that's working.  Or maybe I'm just in a state of shock.

Brookings is cool and damp today and, apparently, for the foreseeable future.  That pretty much means I won't be out and about doing anything interesting. My camera is still in the hands of Nikon, anyway (it's on 'parts hold'). It is, however, time for me to head upstairs and hit the treadmill. Yesterday I started my weight training routine again -- I stopped while I was doing yoga, but don't want to let it go too long.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Home Sweet Home?

I've been really quiet about this because I didn't want to jinx anything, but today I am making an offer on this little house in Cedartown. My realtor checked with the seller's daughter and she's sure her mother will accept the offer we outlined to them.  The bank has pre-qualified me. Now, it's just a matter of getting the paperwork to me and me getting it back to Georgia.  The place isn't fancy -- just a small older house -- but it's located right downtown Cedartown where I can walk everywhere PLUS the Silver Comet Trail is just a couple of blocks away.  The place is in immaculate condition inside and out, all appliances remain including washer and dryer, and all closing costs will be paid by the seller.  The Rural Development Loan is a no-down-payment loan, so the estimate is that I'll have to pay $45 at closing, plus my inspector, and that's it.  Not half bad for a poor person!

I love that big screened porch, will keep the swing if possible.  The lot is a little over 1/4 acre, level and not shaded except at the rear property line.  Lots of room for gardens and fruit trees and all kinds of good stuff.  A few laying hens, if the city allows that.  Most do, but I don't know for sure about this one.  The payment is really low -- much less than I would pay for rent anywhere that would be habitable.

It's just 4 rooms -- but all except the kitchen have this beautiful hardwood floor.  I love that big gas heater, too -- that thing will put out lots of heat for low cost.  Unfortunately, it's in front of the fireplace, but the fireplace might not be usable anyway PLUS there is also a fireplace in the front bedroom.

I like this big country kitchen, hope to be able to keep the table and chairs.  Will try to buy them at any rate.  I don't love that the washer and dryer are in here, but I can certainly live with it.  I'll switch out the electric range for a gas one at some point.  The door on the left is for a really large walk-in pantry, which is super.  Next to that is a back entrance.

Not fancy, but it has everything I need, and that's all I can ask.  Now I play the waiting game. And I'll probably end up moving sooner than February, alas.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Better Than a Treadmill.....

I used to run.  I loved to run.  Granted, it took awhile of forcing it before I learned to love it, but I did.  In Atlanta I ran lots of 5K races -- often every weekend,  between hikes and backpacks -- and the occasional 10K.  I'd run the wooded trails in a park near home before or after work, or along the road or sometimes, if forced, on a track.  Didn't matter.  I was training for a half marathon in 1993 when an auto accident ended my running career via a cervical injury.  Think 'paralyzed' if it had been any worse.  My orthopod was a dedicated runner, but he told me not to run. Not to take the chance of shifting something. Period.  Eventually, he thawed a bit, shook his head, and told me to try it, but stop if there was any pain.  I'd jog lightly around the blocks near my home in Grant Park, but yes, there would always be a bit of pain.  I couldn't do much at any rate so the fun went away, but I've missed it more than I can say.

Harris Beach back in May

Lately, I've been using the treadmill here in our building, and have done a little light jogging on that to test the waters, so to speak.  No problems.  Impact is the issue -- I can't do anything that will jar my spine.  Today, I was going to walk Harris Beach for a little exercise, but decided to try running barefoot in the wet sand and see what happened -- et voila!  I ran right at the water's edge, often getting my feet washed by the surf, and there was no impact because my heels sank slowly into that silken-soft wet sand, followed by the rest of the foot.  Deep into it -- a couple of inches, mostly -- but while it was soft, it was also firm enough to be supportive.  Perfect.  I ran south as far as the high tide would allow, turned around and ran back, and it felt wonderful!  I can tell this is my new obsession. Assuming there are no after-effects by morning.

Of course, it helps that this is one of those incredible sunny, warm, clear, sparkly days  here in Brookings.  The tide was also higher on the beach than I have ever seen it, effectively cutting off both ends of the areas I'm used to walking, but still leaving enough for a good run.  Spectacular to watch.  More than once, when I wasn't paying attention, the water swirled much higher up my legs which felt great, but left me with wet capris. A small price to pay.  The little rivulet that normally requires wading through is now flat sand, leveled by the high tides.  All the driftwood on this beach -- and others -- is washed high up at the base of the bluffs, far from the water.  I've often marveled at that, wondering how it got so far up.  I have a feeling I'll soon see the answer to that one, as the winter high tides come in with storms.  I'm guessing that one day I'll walk down the path to this beach and be faced with the ocean, right there in front of me.  No beach showing.  I look forward to that. Realistically, of course, that would be a really stormy day and I'd be home safe and warm, but still...

Another day when I craved my camera -- so totally beautiful out there.  But -- it's in my memory, and that is, perhaps, the best place for it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eugene and.....

Earlier this week I made a fast trip to Eugene, primarily for a doctor's appointment, but also to run a few errands, do some shopping I can't do anywhere near Brookings.  I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, as I always enjoy the drive up the coast and this time took a different road home, the Umpqua River  Road, or Highway 38, which runs from just south of Roseburg on I-5 to Reedsport on the coast.  All the reports and photos are on the Southern Oregon Coast blog.

Above is the Amazon Canal in Eugene, with the bike path alongside and some lovely, if fading, fall color.  The ducks were happy this early morning.  How I miss that bike path, which runs from downtown way out to the edge of Eugene, mostly along this canal and then through wetlands.  If I recall correctly, it's about a 16 mile round trip and I rode it as often as I could.  There is, of course, another bike path along both sides of the Willamette River through Eugene, but for the most part I avoided that one if I only had weekends to ride, because it tends to be overcrowded with families and kids and dogs taking up the entire path, leaving little room for bicycles.  I rode that one often, too, but made a point to be out early in the morning, or mid-week, or during colder weather, to avoid the crowds.

Had a wonderful visit with my friend -- a fine dinner at the new location of a Eugene landmark, the Cornucopia.  Hours of time to visit and enjoy.  I arose Wednesday morning feeling very dizzy, a sense that didn't go away completely all day.  Made for a tough doctor's visit, and a tougher drive home. Since it's likely I won't return to Eugene at all (if I decide to move to Georgia) I wanted to really see the areas I drove through, take the opportunity to see new places, so I actually did a good bit of hiking in loose sand once I found my way back to the coast.  I was pooped by the time I got home!  Still am not feeling up to par, but I'm sure that will right itself in time.

Nikon has 'recalled' my camera back to its service department, with a pre-paid UPS label.  The problems with the thing seemed to multiply like rabbits over the last week, particularly on the drive home from Eugene when I was using it a great deal.  So, I expect I am camera-less for another two weeks.  Alas.  I have no major uses for it in mind, yet with my tendency to 'go' at a whim, such a use could arise at any time.  I really want to return to the redwoods before I leave, in case I leave.  I want to go back to the Tall Trees Grove once more.  That's south and east of the redwoods we visited a week or so ago, and only a limited number of cars are allowed into that area per day.  You have to make a reservation, get a gate code number, at various forest service or national park stations on this part of the coast.  I visited twice back in the summer of 1996, and feel the need to go once more.  Hopefully, there will be some nice days to come in the next month or so, as it wouldn't be much fun in the rain and cold.

Our weather is still bouncing around -- today is cool and grey and rainy, yesterday was warm and sunny and clear as can be.  This has been the pattern for a few weeks now, so I expect it's likely to continue.  What will tomorrow bring?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cedartown Bound?

It's really not such an exciting place, any way you look at it.  Just a little town nestled in the rolling hills of north Georgia. I'm drawn back there for a myriad of reasons, the most tangible of which is this trail.  It is I believe the longest paved trail in the country, at about 100 miles total.  For a cyclist, this is paradise!

This photo takes me back deep into childhood.  When my father returned from the Army after WWII, I remember him working at this railroad station, loading big cotton bales into boxcars.  At least, I think that was his job.  I remember those big bales, at any rate, and seeing him out on the platform doing something.  I was maybe 3 or 4 years old.  Most of the trains that came through town were the big, black coal-fired steam engines, chug-chugging their way, smoke billowing, whistle blowing.  That was big entertainment for us kids back then.  I also rode the train from time to time and in fact remember several trips I took alone when I was 6 or 7, traveling back to Cedartown from Atlanta to visit my grandfather, aunt and cousins.  By then, my dad had been back in the Army for some time and was stationed at Fort McPherson -- I guess loading cotton bales wasn't too exciting.

If you're thinking all this means I'm going back, you would be correct.  At least, that's the current thinking after letting the idea settle and rest and percolate for a week or so.  As I say so often, one never knows what the next few months will bring, but all else being equal, I'll be driving south sometime in February.

Lots to do between now and then -- mostly, trying to earn some $$.  That's not as easy as it sounds, in this town, but I have to believe it's possible and if it's not, then we go with what we've got.

Whatever happens, I surely don't regret this layover in Brookings, costly though it was.  I really needed this time to transition away from all that I love out here.  When I was in San Francisco, I knew I was saying 'goodbye', although I didn't know why.  But I absorbed that fabulous city right back into my body, enough to keep me going without it another 20 or 25 years, surely.  Things happen the way they are meant to happen, I believe, and in the end all will be well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Brookings Bruin Fest

This has turned out to be a wonderful day. First of all, the weather is sunny, warm, clear and fantastic.  One of my neighbors invited me out to coffee at a favorite place of  hers, atop an art gallery on a deck overlooking the town and ocean. Actually, it's called the Snug and is depicted in the mural above. Lovely.  Then, when I got home my camera was waiting for me!  I have missed it more than I would believe possible.  Naturally, I had to go out and try it, see how it works after being repaired.  Besides, the weather won't last long.

We've had a bear invasion along the main drag of town so I walked the length of town on both sides of Highway 101 and tried to capture them with the camera. They really are lovely.  The one above is titled "Pierre Bear the Arteeste".

This guy is, naturally, the Pear Bear.

This fella is simply entitled "Dinner". 

There were lots more -- and I had a great time walking in the sunshine and checking them all out.  I'm not sure just what it's all about -- all I've learned is that they will be on display until January and that one of them will eventually be auctioned off with the proceeds going to a local food-share program.  Whatever their purpose, they are definitely fun!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Julia's Boeuf

Today, I made Julia Child's Boeuf Bourgignonne.  I am eating it as I write this, actually.  I've had the ingredients since my trip to Eureka to see "Julie & Julia" a couple of months ago -- mostly Eel River Organic Beef, which may be wasted in this recipe.  It's still healthy however -- as healthy as a recipe so loaded with fat could be at any rate.

How it is, you ask?  It's pretty good -- sauce is to die for.  Is it worth 4.5 hours of cooking and cleaning time?  I'm not so sure, but then, I've never been a big beef stew fan.  So now you ask, if I don't like beef stew, why did I cook this?  Reasonable question.  This recipe is featured strongly in the movie and I found myself swept away with the need to try it.  I'm glad I did, but doubt that I'll ever do it again.  Don't get me wrong -- it's really, really good, but also a lot of work.  Bacon to be boiled then sauteed, beef to brown, veggies to brown, and while all that is in the oven, small white onions to peel and boil in beef stock and red wine, a pound of mushrooms to quarter and saute in butter, sauce to boil down to the proper thickness after it comes from the oven,  and potatoes to boil.  Lots and lots of pots and pans to wash -- I even had to mop the floor because all the grease spatter from the browning process made it slippery.  A lot of work!

I can't believe I chose to prepare this while my camera was in the shop -- it really should have been documented -- but by the time I thought of that, it was too late so you will just have to use your imagination.

What I really need is some good french bread to sop up this sauce with!  And now, I am happily filled to the gills, sated and happy.  And there is plenty left for the freezer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Good Energy on the Beach

The nature gods smiled upon me today and presented me with a river otter.  I'm still trying to get out and enjoy this phenomenal weather while it lasts, without expending too much energy, so I went down to Harris Beach and walked a bit, but mostly sat in the warm sand against one of those big beach rocks, near the surf.  Nobody around -- just me and the gulls and pelicans.

Suddenly I spotted something in the surf not 20 feet away from me -- an otter, swimming in the shallow waves, disappearing when they rolled in, reappearing a bit further down the beach.  Then, he walked out of the water and sat in the sand, sunbathing perhaps.  A wave rolled over him, he rolled with it.  Walked around a bit more then walked up the beach nearer where I sat motionless, mesmerized by this apparition.  He went back into the surf, then emerged again almost in front of me but stayed close to the water's edge, a little further up the beach.  Finally, he headed across the sand inland, stopping often to look for danger this far from the water's safety.  Finally, one last quick scamper took him to the brush and wildness of the hillside. I didn't have my camera, of course, but found this photo on a National Park Service site.  The one I saw had a darker, reddish-brown coat, but it's the same critter. This was a first, for me.

What a treat!  Such a joyful, happy little critter.  A man I met as I was leaving the beach said that otters have a very good energy and a sighting is always a joyful occasion.  I have to agree.  He sure perked me up! I hope all that energy is a good omen, a good luck sign. It was certainly a gift, and I'm grateful.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Urban Gardening

It's been three weeks since the seeds were sown. Theoretically, within three more weeks I should be able to harvest. Looking at what is here, I can't help but wonder if I've overestimated just how many meals this will really provide, over the coming months. I had rather grandiose dreams of unlimited potential for harvest, all the fresh greens I want over the coming winter. And that may yet be true. Yesterday I gave them their first fertilizer since planting. Natural, fish emulsion, of course. Nothing but natural and organic here!

The spinach is definitely on the biggest roll, growth-wise. It popped up first and it's going gangbusters. I'm not sure how big this variety will become, but I generally eat my spinach in large handfuls, raw or wilted and generally young and tender. I may need to change those habits.

The lettuce is looking pretty good, too. It's starting to take on some tinges of red, but growing more slowly than I expected. On the other hand, I'm not an experienced lettuce grower, so it's probably right on schedule. I'm also wondering if I'll actually get a meal through thinning -- it might have to be a very small salad! Still, when thinned and grown, I expect the mature plants to provide plenty of large, outer leaves for harvest.

The chard is lagging pitifully behind. Last to sprout, slow to budge. That's no doubt simply its nature, nothing to worry about. No plans to harvest this young, so there should be plenty of mature leaves when the time comes, all winter long.

Hurry, please!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Senate Bean Soup

My one project for this lazy day was to make some Senate Bean Soup, from a recipe in my Rancho Gordo cookbook. I've made a couple of other recipes from this book, and both have been lovely. This one is, too.

The day began by soaking the Yellow Eye beans in cold water for about 4 hours. The book says 2-6 hours and I don't think it matters a great deal. Here, they have just been drained and are about to hit the cooking pot with a couple of ham hocks and some bay leaf.

After about an hour of steady simmering, I added the parsley, celery, onion and garlic, plus salt and pepper. From here, another hour or so of steady simmering produced tender beans and meat. Unfortunately, the ham bones didn't have much meat on them, but that's not the recipe's fault.

When I first tasted the soup, I wasn't impressed. But, after it cooled off and sat awhile, I heated a bowl up for dinner and it was luscious! I don't know if letting it sit helped the flavors meld, the soup thicken a bit, or what, but it's rich and flavorful and a keeper.

Doesn't exactly look like the soup in the book photo, but what the heck. I never claimed to be a food stylist.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fabulous Exploration!

Friday morning my neighbor and I left at 7am for the drive to Crater Lake. I was correct in my guesstimate of travel time -- we arrived right around noon. After gorging ourselves on the views of the lake from the visitor's center (and that took awhile), we began our clockwise trip around the lake. Hunger called, so at the first opportunity we stopped for a picnic. Hauling the cooler and paper bag of food up a hill was effort well spent -- we sat on a fallen stump in the shade overlooking the lake, and dined upon PB sandwiches, cheese, and cookies. My companion shot this photo of our picnic 'table' and a portion of the bounty. Simple food, but it served the purpose.

After packing back down to the car we continued our next five-hour (true!) journey around the 33 mile circumference of the lake. Obviously, we stopped often. In fact, not an opportunity to pull over and see what we could see was missed. I have a hard time even now believing we could have spent that much time driving 33 miles, but even if you include lunch in that time span, which I do, the fact remains that we arrived around noon and returned to the starting point around 5 or 5:30, utterly pooped.

Indefatigable photogs that we are, we'd planned to stay until sunset to catch that event, but that didn't happen. Somehow, with another couple of hours to go we couldn't envision either continuing to drive or just stopping to sit in the car until sundown, so we headed on down to our lodging an hour away. We were even so tired we decided we didn't need to return the following morning as planned, for that lovely morning light. After retiring to our rooms, we both crashed. I, of course, driven soul that I am, had to process my photos and upload to the Southern Oregon Coast blog. And somehow, as tired as I was and despite the comfortable bed, I didn't sleep much at all. Nonetheless, by morning we were refreshed enough to return to the lake, and I am SO glad we did! The public story is over there. Check it out. This angle of the story is for family.

Driving home was an interesting adventure. Hot, for one thing -- about 90-95 most of the time between Shady Cove and California, which was a couple of hours. And I was sleepy, for another. I'd put a few jazz CDs into the player and somewhere outside Grants Pass I asked Jack to pop those out and put in..... he finished the words for me.... Delbert McClinton. Loud and rowdy Texas blues guaranteed to wake anybody up! I turned the sound way up and we sang ourselves silly to this one, dancing in our seats. When that one finished he found some Hank Williams Jr. and when that was finished, yet another of the same ilk. We rocked and sang all the way into Brookings where it seemed only fitting to finish up the journey with a beer at a dive on the main drag. I enjoyed the entire trip, but these last couple of hours were certainly the most sheer fun of the whole time. And I was wide awake for the driving.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This is Getting to be a Habit

When we were tooling around the area on Monday looking for things to photograph, we found this neat little colony of 'cat houses' on the Rogue River Jetty in Gold Beach.  I thought about CNN's iReport as soon as I saw them.  A producer called Tuesday right after I posted them, and today they are marked with the coveted [by my ego] CNN logo.  I don't know where they were used, but here's the link to where they are if you wanna have a look. Update Sept 12:  The producer who contacted me has also used them in a blog post, here.

As usual, the resolution isn't all that great, but that's because of the round-about process I have to go to to copy my own photos off CNN.  By the time I get them through Print Screen and Paint, a lot of quality is lost.
My ego is smiling again.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Something rather profound happened overnight.  I don't know what it was or how it happened or what caused it, but there's a sea-change in attitude that's been obvious since I awoke this morning.

Last week, yesterday -- and if I want to be brutally honest, for the last two weeks since I returned from my California trip -- I've been lackadaisacal and withdrawn, with little interest or motivation to do much of anything.  Yes, I went to Eureka to see a movie, and I've done a few other things, but for the most part I just haven't been able to bring myself to do much of anything or be interested in anything.

What happened overnight to change that?  I have no clue.  It's nothing I did.  Although I haven't done much over these two weeks, I have certainly been introspective to a large degree.  Nothing formal, no meditations.  I've simply been very aware of my thoughts and probably most importantly, I've questioned, questioned, questioned.  Probed those thoughts to trace their origins and meanings.  Still, not much changed.

This morning, as soon as I climbed out of bed, I felt a difference.  I answered an email I've been putting off because I had no interest, didn't even want to think about it.  I did my Monday morning weight routine with gusto and interest and even power.  And it's not an easy routine.  Last week I barely finished -- not because my body was weak, but because my attitude was weak. The changes are subtle.  I'm not bouncing off the walls.  But the difference is readily apparent.

We all do what we want to do in life.  We make room for what is important to us.  Not much has been important to me for awhile now. Today, I am important to me, and that feels terrific.  I'm fully aware that it may all change in a day or an hour, but right now, I'm going with it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spring Lamb and Flageolets

At 4am this morning I was wide awake in bed running through mental images of a kitchen task I dread over most others: cutting carrots and celery into perfect little squares for the classic mirepoix. I've never had much success with this. I mean, how do those chefs turn cylindrical objects into perfectly uniform matchsticks, from whence comes those perfect little squares? I can only surmise that the samples they show us in photographs are what's left over after discarding the less than perfect ends and edges. Actually, I've seen it done and they just cut away the sides of a carrot, leaving a perfectly squared shape that can then be cut into neat slices. It's not that I don't know how it's supposed to be done, or that I don't have a good knife. I just can't do it that perfectly and I refuse to waste the trimmings. Alas.

After an hour of mentally running through this, I got up, had my coffee, played a couple of Mah Jongg games and finally gave it up. I hadn't planned to prepare the recipe this early, but really, it was the only way to stop those mental games. As with most things in life, I found that the doing wasn't nearly as hard as the worrying. Maybe all that mental practice helped. At any rate, I ended up with a product that if not perfect, was close enough for me. The onion and garlic were easy.

This whole thing started down in Napa when I bought all those wonderful Rancho Gordo beans. I think I told you that I chose them based on color as much as anything, although with these gorgeous flageolet beans I have to admit that I was equally drawn by their fame as the base of that difficult but delicious French classic, Cassoulet. I wasn't ready to attack that again, but still, I knew there must be other uses that would be equally good. I found this recipe on the Rancho Gordo website, but since it wasn't spring and I didn't have a source of natural local lamb, I opted to look for something else. Long story short, I ended up ordering the Rancho Gordo bean cookbook, Heirloom Beans because I am right now a bit obsessed. These beans are expensive, relatively, but not as expensive as other forms of good protein, and I want to build a good repertoire for the various varieties. Last week down in Eureka the natural foods store had some perfect bone-in local lamb leg chops and I jumped at the chance to use the flageolets. Last night I put the beans on to soak and took the lamb out of the freezer. I was committed. Hence the early morning mental activity.

First step was to brown those lamb chops in olive oil. Julia would have been proud of me as I meticulously mopped the moisture away, using the rare paper towel. They look wonderful and smelled even better. But my friends, this is $15 worth of local natural lamb, so it damned well better smell good and taste even better! So much for this being an economy recipe. Did I mention I was obsessed? In actuality, when you add that $15 to the $5.50 for the beans and divide by 6, which is the number of servings in the recipe, the cost per serving is just under $3.00, which isn't all that bad. I just cringe at that $15!

Then those veggies hit the oil and browned bits and ohhhhhhh -- I can't even begin to describe the aromas that filled my kitchen! I hated to put a stop to it, but eventually all those browned bits were scraped up and it was time to add the beans, their soaking liquid, and the browned lamb to the pot. Then wait.

All this was before breakfast of course, and after all those good aromas I was practically frothing at the mouth for something to satisfy my tummy. Somehow, my blueberry-cottage cheese smoothie didn't quite fit the bill emotionally after all that, but it filled the tummy.

The stew is meant to be served with Fay's Relish, which is mostly cilantro, along with garlic, shallot, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil.

As I said -- mostly cilantro.

Here it is, the finished product. Perfectly cooked, flavor-filled-delicious and yes, the relish adds a lot of dimension and layers. Since it's only about 10:15 it's a bit early for lunch so I only had a taste. Now I need to figure out how to divvy up and freeze 5 servings of the relish to go with the 5 servings of the beans. Not a bad problem to have.  On the other hand, I'm beginning to doubt that all of them will make it to the freezer.