Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sunshine, and the beauty of simple nature

Spectacularly bright and beautiful day at the ponds this morning. Not the first sunny day we've had, by any means, but the first day of any kind that I've felt like walking down there for about 6 weeks now. Whatever that virus was, it was a doozy. But I began to notice the return of energy and the departure of malaise and depression a couple of days ago, and it continues. My legs still feel weak, and I don't walk fast, and I begin to feel tired before I get home, but still..... progress! I'll take it. So soul-satisfying to be walking these favorite paths on such a beautiful day and not ONE human encounter the entire time. They will be out in droves as the sunny days progress, but this morning the ponds were all mine. Mine and the birds, that is. Lots of those, too!

Lupine blooming everywhere, in great clusters like this and swaths of sunny hillside. One of my favorite wildflowers.

Then there was this. Way over on the far side I noticed these tracks and scratches in the gravel. I put my foot in there intentionally, to show the size of that print. Could be a big dog, I guess -- a really big dog. There's a matching one in the shadows to the right. Seems like too much of an urban area for big cats, as in cougars, even with all the acres of wetland and nature. It also seems possible that the one nearest my foot could be a human hand, so maybe not so mysterious.

So -- a wonderful walk to start my day. I see more to come, as my body continues to recover from the onslaught.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The garden grows

My garden, taken yesterday afternoon. The peas are growing! Put the 4 new stakes in, but didn't get the supporting twine in place until today.

It's really looking good, though I noticed this afternoon that the chard is suffering from the mysterious leaf-wilting issue I've had before. Not sure what causes that. Planted some nasturtiums around the edge, and some creeping rosemary in the corner beside the regular rosemary. I hope it'll all cascade over the sides, though we're not allowed to let it go very far over the sides.

Temp got up to 90 today, and it was sunny all day until late afternoon. Gotta say, it was glorious. Repotted my orchids, outside. Hung around talking to people, or just walking around. Random and possible thunderstorms moving through tonight. Kind of odd, unpredictable spring weather, which includes cooling off a bit. And that's ok -- happy to have ONE really warm, sunny day, for now.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A walk in the park

Hard as it is to believe, it's been about 10 years since I last spent any quality time in this beautiful local park -- Hendricks Park, with its fabulous rhododendron garden. There was a time back in 2007, between jobs once, when I'd walk up here 2-3 times a week for a few weeks. From where I lived, downtown Eugene, it was about an hour's walk, largely uphill, to reach the park. Once here, I'd spend another hour walking the various paths, stopping to sit and enjoy some places I found particularly delightful. Then I'd walk an hour back home. These 3-hour walks are among my best lifetime memories. From start to finish, walking through campus and quiet neighborhoods and into the park and back home, it was one long, productive meditation. They were magical in a way I've never been able to re-create, anywhere. And I've tried!

This morning I was drawn by the promise of warm weather and sunshine, plus many local news reports that the rhodies are in full bloom at the moment. I found that to be not quite true -- many are in bloom, but many are also just budding out.  Sun was fleeting, at best, while I was there but it really doesn't matter. It's beautiful and peaceful and serene with our without sunshine.

The 'top' of the park. Parallel paths are terraced off to the left and right, with many smaller trails that connect and lead to hidden corners.

From the entrance I headed -- unerringly, as it turned out -- toward where my favorite little nook is. This fountain sits off the main trail and is a lovely place to just sit and contemplate. I was surprised, but not really surprised, that after 10 years I could still find this place so swiftly.

I didn't sit for long -- too anxious to wander all the trails and see the place once again. I've been up here at least once since my return to Eugene, but only for a few moments, never took the time to wander all the paths as I once did so regularly.

Another favorite 'off path' sitting spot, though this one is not so private as the first one.

This is -- or was -- another of my favorite places to sit. Looks as if some recent step construction has interfered with some of the old charm, but I suspect that'll return in time. Those big rocks in the foreground were home to many (and constantly changing) balanced pebble stacks and maybe a stray gnome or two. People leave little things all over the park, as gifts, and the maintenance people leave them be.

Rhodies aren't the only things blooming up here, ever.  Azaleas, too, plus lots of low-growing groundcover and trees of all kind. Dogwood is blooming up there at the moment, tho not in this photo.

So that was my walk. This entire property is maintained by volunteers, and they do a fabulous job of it. Some of you might remember that I went up there one day a couple of years ago to work with them, and it wore me out. I'd planned to become active regularly with the weekly maintenance, but that just didn't happen. I still love the place however, and still appreciate all the work done by others.

Hope you enjoyed this walk, too. I sure did!

By the way -- I guess I've officially entered the digital age. A few days ago on Woot! I saw some Amazon Fire kindles for $30 -- reconditioned, but in good shape. I couldn't resist. It arrived yesterday and I was instantly addicted. Spent many hours playing with it. Wi-fi enabled, so it works without a service fee. Worst thing about it is that I spent so many hours with it that my eyes hurt, and still hurt today. I have to say, I can understand why people are so easily addicted to these things. 😉

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fruit kimchi

Since the kimchi is doing my body so much good, and since I'm almost out of it, I started a new batch today.

While I was at it, I decided to try something new from the bible: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. This is a fruit kimchi. Half veggies, half fruit (pineapple and strawberry in this case).

It still has all the spiciness of regular kimchi -- lots of garlic, ginger, hot pepper flakes. It's also meant to be eaten young, rather than aged, while the sweetness of the fruit is still strong. Should be an interesting combination. After 3 days, I'll let you know.

Won't have much probiotic development after just 3 days, but that's ok. I'll let the main batch ferment for 3 weeks, so that all the good lactobacillus bacteria have a chance to develop. This was just an interesting experiment, a branching out, if you will. Trying new things.

Clearly, the old batch that's almost gone has done me a world of good. I feel better every day. Almost back to normal today, though I discovered yesterday that the body still isn't ready for the gym just yet. And that's ok. Still no word from the doc about what he found in my gut, but he did say that if they found anything bad they'd let me know, so if I didn't hear anything I could just assume it was a virus or something that the kimchi is already taking care of. I'm going to go with that.

All hail the power of probiotics, people! Never doubt it. Last week I thought I was going to end up in the hospital, but a little aged kimchi started taking care of the issue within a couple of hours. Went in there and gobbled up a lot of those bad bugs, whatever they were. That's what probiotics are for, and they do their job well. But you do have to eat them, not just look at them in the fridge.

We have at least 10 days of mostly sunshine in our future, so I removed the white netting from my garden bed today and cleaned the bed up a bit. So nice! I've been eating radishes, lettuce and parsley, and there should be enough swiss chard for a meal soon. I found some blossoms on the peas. The carrots are growing, if slowly.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New toys and record rains

Before I explain the photo, I have proof that my whining about rain this year has not been unfounded. Local TV station today tweeted out that since the rainy season began on October 1st, we've had 143 days where some rain was recorded. The previous record was 138 days, set in the 1920-1921 season! And it's still raining.

So there. I feel vindicated.

About the photo -- what I'm going to say is going to sound really weird. It sounds weird to me, but it's true.

I've needed a larger skillet (only a medium size cast iron one that wasn't good for all uses), and really wanted a good triple- or five-ply stainless. Only problem there was cost, of course. Sometime back in March, I think it was, this little jewel popped up on my favorite shopping site (Woot!) for $30. Triple-ply. Cuisinart. 12 inches. I felt a warm rush and ordered it immediately, because things come up there generally in limited quantities and if you snooze, you can lose.

When it arrived, I really thought it was much larger than 12 inches -- it's huge! But I measured it and yep, just a fraction over 12 inches. And heavy. I've used it for all kinds of things, and it never disappoints. I absolutely love this thing. 

If you know me, you know I have a soft spot for nice kitchen goodies -- including a few pieces of pricey Le Creuset which has previously been the stuff that made my heart twitter. But with all my moves I'd winnowed down to only the one skillet, plus my previous larger skillets were commercial aluminum, and like a lot of people, I'd opted against cooking with aluminum. Back to just one skillet. Limiting. With all the nice goodies I have or have had, this one is absolutely the best, far and away and I can't tell you how much I enjoy using it.  The insane pleasure I get from using it.

I used it today for the first time in almost 3 weeks (I've been sick!), and once again I got a warm rush of joy the entire time I was using it. I love it, love it, love it. For an inanimate object, it has a strange way of making me want to live just so I can keep using it. Not that I'm planning on checking out anytime soon, but an illness will make you start having thoughts like that, at this age.

So there -- weird. Unapologetically.  I think that's a word.

Finally went to the doc this morning -- after the worst of it has passed and I'm feeling better, of course. No word yet, just a raft of bloodwork and three different stool tests unlike any I've ever seen before. Something should show up for all of this!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Anybody living in the Pacific Northwest, including NorCal, should be overjoyed to see this graphic that just came to me via twitter. Can it be? A real respite from the constant rains? Oregonians are used to rain -- comes with the territory. But this year has brought much more than normal, more than most of us were happy to see. Some sunshine will be very welcome, indeed.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Battle Osprey vs. Eagle

Brian Davies does it again! There are not enough words to describe the photo envy I have when it comes to this man. This is a tweet from this morning. More photos here in Tuesday newspaper.

Bald eagle chasing an osprey 'over Eugene', determined to snatch the [very small] salmon from its talons. According to the newspaper article, the eagle eventually won.. But the photo is just awesome.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Osprey nest

Went for a walk down to the ponds yesterday and for the first time, noticed this platform on the side of the main road that holds an osprey nest. Not an unusual sight around here -- there are others along the river, including one that's close-by. I am curious, however, why I never noticed this one. I'm sure it's been here. I have a tendency to look down, rather than up, when I walk.  This time of year I find myself looking up, trying to spot nests for the eagles that I see flying about, as well as the herons and yes -- this platform that I initially saw from a distance, looking up.

I don't know if there are chicks in there, but when I walked past it I did hear a rather loud, rather insistent noise that sounded like a hungry raptor chick. Mom and dad were flying in and out of the nest from the river direction, presumably bringing fish to hungry gullets. I tried to get a cool photo of one of them taking off or landing, but the only opportunity I got came up so suddenly I didn't have time to react. I got this one:

Not the cool shot I wanted, but the best they were willing to offer while I waited on the sidewalk. This was just coming in for a landing.

I know where the herons nest, of course, and have heard that the eagles nest along the river, though I haven't seen them personally. Maybe it's time to go for another walk on the river path, see what I can see. They fly over the house, headed east for a short distance, though I'm not sure what's over there that draws them. The far end of the ponds? Grassland? Some of both over there. Nice to look out and catch that flash of white head and tail, the graceful flight, even for a few seconds.

The ponds were quiet and a bit dreary yesterday. I haven't been back to the gym yet, so felt a need to just get out for a short time and walk, regardless of weather.  It wasn't raining, just dreary.

Lots of mushrooms flourishing out there, too. Saw numerous patches like this one. Exciting, right?

A few wildflowers popping out, sun or no sun. But things are indeed getting green, and that's nice.

So, that's the excitement around here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Springtime in Eugene

Brian Davies wins the best photo of the day award again. Springtime in Eugene!

Storms blowing through, high wind gusts, downpours, with a lengthy sunshine break in between. And that was all this morning. During that break, he found this. Note all the little daffodils reflected in the raindrops. Guy's a genius with a camera.

Just after daylight this morning, during a period of strong winds, I began to wonder how the fabric 'wrapping' on my garden bed was holding up. The weather has been warm enough that while I've been putting the 'skirts' down every evening, I've done it loosely. So I went outside and sure enough, all the skirts were undone and the whole thing was blowing in the wind, attached to the tops of hoops by only a few clothespins. When I reached the garden, I could see that all the corner stakes had blown out, and that the bamboo hoops that are the framework were also bending badly and ready to follow the corner stakes.

So, with the wind still pretty strong, I started trying to bring some order to the chaos. It wasn't easy. Hard to even hold down one piece of it long enough to pin it down. But eventually I won, bit by bit, using all the extra clothespins I had out there, and all the hoop stakes along the sides. I still wasn't sure it was enough, so I decided to go back inside and get the rest of my clothespins.

While I was standing there contemplating this, I heard a loud crack and, knowing what it was, started toward the parking lot. A quick look told me that the tree was falling away from me, onto the roof of the apartment building on the other side of the fence. I think that's the 3rd one that's fallen into one of their buildings this spring. It didn't crash against the building, though, just rested gently. I went back inside, got the rest of the clothespins, made it all as secure as I could, and hustled back inside. There were no more trees within striking distance of me, but I was spooked enough not to want to take the chance. I was out there again a short while ago, and the skirts are all still tied down nicely and the sun is shining once more. Maybe we'll escape further harm around here, and power outages!

I spent all of yesterday cooking, which is of course fun, for me. Went back to baguette shapes for this batch of sourdough, but neglected to score the dough deeply enough to do the job. Those slits give the dough a place to expand as it rises. Two of them blew out the side at or near the seam, solving the problem for themselves.

This one was, I think, one-quarter whole wheat and while it's healthier and all that, I think I'm gonna go back to plain old unbleached white flour again. Because I want to taste the sour without having it clouded by tasting the whole grain.

Still, I was happy with the way the dough expanded nicely and how the loaves had a nice round shape, rather than the flatter ones I've tended to get in the past. I'm figuring this thing out, one batch of dough at a time.

I also made a wonderful Spanish paella yesterday, which I neglected to take a photo of. That's too bad, because it looked pretty good and I'll probably never make it again. Or, maybe I will, who knows! It was delicious, but a lot of work. However, if I left off the mussels and shrimp and just had chicken and some good Spanish chorizo in it, probably wouldn't be quite so bad. If I'm going to spend that much time cooking something at this stage in life, I want it to be something different -- not something I've done before.

I hurt my back in the gym last Friday, and though I rested some, I also have been following my usual treadmill schedule all week, which I think was not a good idea. Standing on my feet most of yesterday didn't help, either. So, with some wisdom and insight into the idea that I'm not as young as I like to think I am, I've opted to rest until the damn thing has time to heal.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Springtime in the garden

Not exactly my garden, but this is what it's like on the Oregon Coast today, in Newport. Alas! I really need to get over there soon, on a sunny day preferably.

The scene outside my living room window, reflections and all. The beautiful white clematis and the weeping cherry tree. Not bad -- especially with a little sunshine.

Took this of the clematis a couple of days ago, on a less-sunny day. Really pretty!

My little garden plot, real time. The sun is shining and I've raised the 'skirts' to let the sunshine and fresh air reach the plants. May well leave it this way all week, since we supposedly have a dry spell on tap.

I couldn't decide which of these to photos I liked best, so you get both. Clockwise from bottom center: sugar snap peas, radishes, romaine lettuce, swiss chard, rosemary, parsley, thyme. Tiny carrot sprouts in the center, little daikon radish transplants scattered around the parsley. Put those out yesterday from a pot of sprouts I bought to eat, was curious to see if they would grow. So far, they look  pretty good.

Below, a slightly different view that shows the tiny carrot sprouts a bit better, and the radishes, which are growing like crazy. The romaine is doing well, too. Much better than the chard. Pests got a couple of the seedlings, but that's ok.

Seedlings just in the ground, radishes already sprouting, March 1st. They've come a long way in a month!

So, that's what we have right now in the way of spring. Oh, there are flowers and fruit trees blooming all around, and there's a tinge of green showing in the hardwood trees here and there. But this may be the first day it really feels like spring to me. Funny how warm sunshine will do that!

Friday, March 24, 2017

An Oregon thing

Cutest thing outside my window late afternoon yesterday. A pair of Canadian geese calmly approached the curb on the other side of the street, near the crosswalk, and stepped out onto the pavement. At that point, the road has the equivalent of 4 traffic lanes and 2 bicycle lanes and is normally heavily traveled. But things were kind of quiet and as I watched, I hoped.

First car that came along stopped immediately, as the birds continued calmly walking. Then the first car traveling in the opposite direction stopped and then everything came to a standstill until the birds were safely out of reach of a car, and on the curb on this side of the street. I like that about Oregon.

This morning, I see one of them sitting calmly in the middle of the lawn as if nesting. For their sake, I hope that's not the case, because I don't think our lawn maintenance people would be inclined to work around them. And I don't like to think of them crossing that street, especially with babies following along, too often.

Other than that -- Oregon's men's basketball is headed for the Elite Eight. The women are playing their Sweet Sixteen on Saturday. Our men are good, but my casual observance from watching only the last couple of women's games is that the women are better. Maybe not better when all of our men are playing to their potential, but I don't think that's the case right now. I wish them all luck, anyway.

We've had a good amount of sunshine this week. More than predicted or expected. Raining again, but that's ok. It's Oregon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Italian comfort food -- my way

Oh, yum!

It is as good as it looks, probably better than it looks.

My Italian-based take on shrimp and grits: chicken and polenta. We made a version of this back in the day when I was cooking Italian food for a living. As I recall, that version used heavy cream. Not exactly diet food. Not that this is truly diet food, I don't suppose, but really, it's not all that bad. Within my calorie goals for the day, and healthy. Mostly.

I started with a shrimp and grits recipe from Bobby Flay, just substituted chicken for the shrimp and added mushrooms, omitted the cheese. I made myself be patient and allow the polenta to cook long enough to be really thick and creamy. Rendered a small amount of bacon, cooked the chicken (one boneless/skinless thigh) in the fat, added mushrooms, garlic, scallions and lemon juice to finish cooking. Added the crisp bacon back in. Topped with fresh parsley from the garden.  Again, yum!

It's not perfect, but it's damned good and I'm not sure quite what I'd change to make it 'better'. For me, polenta has become a real comfort food. I normally eat it on its own -- nothing added but salt and butter. I could eat tons of it -- these days, I need all the comfort I can find.

Our day here has turned sunny. At the moment. Not likely to last, but we'll happily take whatever sunshine we can get.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Healthy breakfast cake

Inspired by an article I read somewhere this morning -- either the local paper or the NYT, I decided to try making a 'healthy' breakfast cake instead of the usual smoothie.

Aside from the 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour, and leavenings, everything else in here would have gone into the smoothie, in the same quantities. A small banana, 3 lg strawberries, coconut oil, a raw egg (not always in smoothie, but sometimes), cinnamon, a drizzle of honey (maybe a teaspoon). That's it.

The flour added an extra 147 calories to my day, but I can easily work around that for the rest of the day's food.

The cake is light, and extremely moist because I used as little flour as possible, just enough to bind the other ingredients together. But it tastes wonderful and is a far, far more soul-satisfying addition to the day than a smoothie will ever be!

I can see that this will become a staple around here. Not daily, but often enough. And no guilt involved.

Brat Kat was posing ever so nicely yesterday, so I couldn't resist taking her portrait. Lighting not good, thus a little shaky on the focus end, but better than with the flash and I know that if I'd moved around too much to turn various lights on, she'd have moved.

She is still utterly spoiled, but also still very sweet and loving. Has taken to waking me up in the mornings if I manage to sleep past the time her internal clock says is the time I generally wake up. Does it sweetly, of course, but I'm still awake.

Due for a non-rainy day here, which is something of a rarity these days. Don't know about sunny, just not rainy. And most of us waterlogged Oregonians will be happy to see it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Heron -- and total photo envy!

Nope -- I did NOT take this one, though I wish I could say I did. Another beauty from our local newspaper photog, Brian Davies. Damn! Looks like the ponds down the street, too.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Another day, another lettuce wrap, a little snow

I had some fresh hummus leftover that I needed to use, and a hankering for some ground beef (normally enjoyed as a taco inside a tortilla with sauteed onions and red bell peppers).

But I'm still on this wrap gig, so I did a little perusing of other wrap recipes and ended up with my own version.

Mixed half an avocado with some of the hummus and spread it on three lettuce leaves, topped with little meatballs made with an easy, luscious Asian sauce.

Then I topped that with a mixture of raw veggies and mango tossed with lime juice. Topped it all off with a drizzle of sweet Thai chili sauce. Didn't really taste this much in the end product, so I should have used more but it's a new product to me and I didn't want to go overboard.

Gotta say, it was delicious. The Asian sauce was a mix of equal quantities of honey, fish sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil, added to the skillet about a minute before balls were ready to eat, then let the sauce form a glaze during that last minute.

Really nice, all in all, though I have to admit that while it looks like a lot of food, I do not feel full after eating it for some reason. Probably because I'm used to more filling, heavier foods. Still, there was a quarter pound of beef in there, plus the hummus and avocado and various veggies. An hour later, I'm still hungry. Of course, that could be because I spent 45 minutes on the cycle machine at the gym earlier and then went for a brisk 35 minute walk right after lunch. You think? Burning a lot of calories.

I took that walk because I wanted to get some photos of all the snow on the hills around here, and thought the bike bridge would be the best place to get them, since it's the highest point in these parts. Earlier, when I went to the gym around 8:30, the skies were clear enough that I could see the hills all around. By the time the sun began to shine, around noon when I headed out, the hills were mostly all clouded in. Bummer!

I took this photo because of the Frank Lloyd Wright quote: Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. Every sign has a quote on it, sometimes from people who surprise me.

At any rate. I've lived in Oregon for the better part of 15 years, all in all, so you'd think I'd know not to head out of the house in weather like this without a jacket or umbrella, but like a rookie I was fooled by a little sunshine. It was brisk, too, but I was more concerned about rain on my camera.

Wasn't long before I realized the mistake, but of course I wouldn't turn back. Just hustled down to the bridge.

Heavy use of telephoto over the top of car dealership. This is the southside, near where I lived for awhile.

It looked much better this morning, when it was clear and every rooftop stood out bright and white. But since I'd walked all the way down here.....

Looking back towards home, from the bridge. You can't see where I live from here, but it's around a couple more bends in the road right about where those apartment buildings on the right meet the road.

Notice the lowering, black clouds coming in.

Far in the distance, show on the Coburg hills. Yesterday when I drove to the gym, these hills were white from top to bottom, and of course, quite clearly so. Funny how that so rarely happens when I have the camera handy.

I made it about halfway home before the first wet stuff started coming down, but it only lasted a moment and by then I'd put the camera under my sweatshirt. I was also mentally making a list of the various shelters between there and home. A bus stop, the parking lot for pond viewing closest to home. But, though the rain was coming down it wasn't heavy and I didn't get soaked.