Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dreaming of warmer days

4:05 PM: Outside it is partially cloudy

So the calendar tells me that it is spring, and yesterday I even mowed the lawn for the first time this season, but today we have had bitter cold mixed with hail, periods of sun and then darkness and torrential rains. I wish that each type of weather would glump up together so we would have enough sunshine to work outside or go for a walk, and then enough rain/hail to justify indoor projects. Instead, on days like this Sam will go outside in the sun and have his tools ready for an outdoor project (currently building a deck) just in time for a rainy spell to chase him inside where he gets out the needed items for his indoor project (currently re-modeling the half-bathroom) and then the sun blasts through the window making us both feel guilty that we aren't outside taking advantage of the good weather.
And on and on it goes.
For months.

4:15 PM: I just looked out the window and it is snowing.

On a warm sunny day I can instantly forget what it is usually like in Oregon for 9 months of the year. I don't hold a grudge, I am happy to move on and live fully in the moment, when it is warm and sunny. On a cold, dark, wet day (i.e. November-May) I get irritable, depressed, resentful and often ask how anyone can live in this "god forsaken land." But then a sun break will tame me again. I have done this for 27 years now. My first winter in Oregon I could not believe that anyone would choose to stay in such a place. I had no doubt that my one-year experiment would end and soon be forgotten while I settled in a more habitable climate. But then the daffodils bloomed in February and I started to soften a bit. By April we occasionally had days warm enough to sunbathe, and by June it was hot, and for weeks the 10-day forecast showed nothing but full sun....I was hooked. By the time reality hit again I was commited to a job and it was too late to make other plans.
So, here I am.

4:17 PM: I just looked out the window and it is sunny with large patches of blue sky.

I have always been puzzled by the fact that weeds and grass grow year-round in Oregon. Well, as long as they get watered in the summer. How is it that we can have 9 months of rain, but if we don't start the sprinklers within a week of the rain stopping, the grass starts to die? It is the only place I know of where the grass needs to be mowed as early as February, but not in August because it is dead.

But it is beautiful here.
And so I stay.
For now.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No Time to Stop at the Market

If I lived in Barcelona I would go to the Boqueria Market on my way home from work each day, but Fred Meyer doesn't have the same pull on my soul, so I am getting pretty good at using up the food in the pantry and fridge.

My latest snack:

Mock Chips

Pre-heat oven with pizza stone to 400 degrees
Cut a whole wheat tortilla into chip-sized pieces
Spray pieces lightly with fat-free cooking spray (top only)
Sprinkle with Kosher salt
Put "chips" on pizza stone in oven
Cook for 8-10 minutes until chips are crisp
Serve warm with salsa, pico de gallo, hummus, or whatever is available


Protein-packed pasta
1/2 package whole wheat pasta (I prefer farfalle - bow-tie)
1/2 -3/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (preferably ones stored in olive oil)
1 cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup pine nuts
pepper flakes

Cook pasta -
While pasta is cooking mix cheese, sun dried tomatoes and black beans in deep serving bowl
Drain pasta and add to serving bowl
stir pasta until cheese is melting and other ingredients are mixed in
lightly toss in pine nuts and top with pepper flakes to taste

This also works well with left-over pasta

One more:

Moroccan chicken with a splash of peas
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, or 8-10 chicken thighs
1 can low-sodium garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
several carrots, peeled and chopped, or 10 baby carrots
1 can low-sodium diced tomatoes
hot sauce
frozen petite peas
olive oil

In a large skillet, cook chicken (if using a breast, slice into bite-size pieces) in small amount of olive oil
Once chicken is mostly cooked, add diced tomatoes - let simmer for 2 minutes
Microwave carrots in bowl of water on high for 2 minutes
Drain carrots and add to skillet
Cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes
Add garbanzo beans
season with cumin (1 teaspoon, or to taste)
generously add cinnamon (again, to taste, but I use 1-2 teaspoons)
Add hot sauce (about 1-2 teaspoons)
Cover and simmer for 2 minutes
Add 1/2 package of frozen peas on top and cover and let cook just until peas have warmed through (about 1-2 minutes)
Mix all together and serve with brown rice or couscous

Imagine how much fun I would have with the fresh veggies, spices and meats of the Boqueria!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Life, Death and Nutella

First, on Nutella...discovered today that there is a World Nutella Day!
The calendar has been marked so that this will not be overlooked next year. I have started making hot chocolate with Nutella - one heaping tablespoon stirred into 8 ounces of milk over direct heat...yum. For snacks I have switched from graham crackers to Wasa bread as the foundation for my Nutella, since Wasa bread is less fattening than graham crackers! Nutella is a good thing - always makes me happy. And it is gluten free, for those who wonder.

On death...I've been listening to John Denver lately while I run - his songs set a nice easy pace and the words and melodies are comforting. I wonder as I listen to "Poems, Prayers and Promises," if he had any feeling that he might not live to old age:

I've been lately thinking
About my life's time
All the things I've done

And how it's been

And I can't help believing

In my own mind

I know I'm gonna hate to see it end...
...And I have to say it now
It's been a good life all in all
It's really fine

To have a chance to hang around...

...The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long

And time around me whispers when it's cold

The changes somehow frighten me

Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life's been good to me
There's still so much to do

So many things my mind has never known...

I think that he would have been very sad to see the direction our country has taken and especially to see the anti-environmental policies that have dominated the past 8 years - he sings of West Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains in "Country Roads."

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains,
blowing like a breeze
...Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong

West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

According to Robert F Kennedy Jr last weekend, West Virginia's mountains are being mined to the point where they are becoming non-existent and look more like parking lots from the air - and the Shenandoah River has become a dumping ground for all types of waste. All practices protected by the Bush administration.

But more on death....the other night Sam was snugging in for the night when he asked me what I think it is like to die in your sleep. Hmmmm....I think it is something we all hope for (a longggg time from now!), but I never thought about what it is like. I suppose it isn't like anything. You go to sleep and you don't wake up. I said to him that it isn't like you'll wake up the next morning and think "Damn, I died in my sleep and I had so much to get done!"

You just stop.
And nothing matters to you anymore.

And now on life....well, that's what is happening. I seem much more aware than ever before of the passing of time. Each day I mark mentally as one more gone - I want to live in a way that doesn't just push the days aside trying to get to whatever is next.
This is it.
This is all I get.
If I am to spend my days where I am then I want them to count for something. We just don't know if "someday" is going to be there.


Saturday, March 7, 2009


Sam said that if I become fluent in Spanish (or Italian - we aren't picky), then we can move to the matching country! I regularly read two blogs, one written by Rebekah, who is from Pennsylvania and the other by her husband, Paddy, who is British, about their life in a tiny village on the Camino de Santiago in Spain:

They moved to Moratinos a couple years ago and their home is open to Pilgrims who need a place to stop while walking the Camino. Their lives sound lovely and they continue to remark that there is no place they would rather be. The other day Paddy commented on the fact that there is no class structure in the village and that he has no way of knowing (or caring) if they are the wealthiest, or the poorest, folks in town. That sounds so wonderful to me.

So as soon as I finish writing this I will start my Spanish lessons!

Last night we went to hear Robert F Kennedy Jr speak. He is an environmental advocate who has been at it for 25 years. His stamina and his optimism are inspiring. The revelations that he made about the truly evil and numerous illegal actions of the Bush administration were astounding - appalling, but in ways, not surprising. Nearly every word that came out of his mouth confirmed what I have always known (or suspected), but it was somehow enncouraging to hear someone give names, statistics, dates, etc. to confirm it all. For the sake of my reader(s) I won't go into depressing details, but his website tells much of it:

Here is the hopeful part....he assured us that the Obama administration GETS IT! The essential players understand the urgency and understand the steps necessary for solutions. They understand that you don't put someone in charge of a department that they have never believed in, but instead you find leaders who are ethical, honest, and truly commited to enforcing laws that protect the environment and to finding alternatives that will stop and reverse global warming. He talked about going to Europe with his father 40+ years ago and of the thousands of people who came to hear his father, waving tiny US flags - throught western and eastern Europe. People wanted to meet an American politician and they had hope in our leadership. He talked about the two weeks after 9/11 when hundreds or Muslims had candellight vigils in the streets of Tehran showing their love and support for the United States. But Bush destroyed all of that. We became the most hated and least repected country in the world. But RFK Jr was in Europe two weeks ago and he said that we are loved again. The world has so much hope for our new leadership and the wounds and scars of the past eight years are already healing.

Change of subject:
In 1973 there was a movie called "Sunshine" and in 1975 they made it into a television show that only ran for one season. I loved the movie and the show. I was 14 when the TV show was on and I immersed myself in it each week. The theme song was John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders," and I sang along...I wanted to be in the lives of the characters on the show. Here is the interesting part - the story was about a man named Sam, who's wife had died of cancer, and now he was raising her daughter (from a previous marriage) in the Pacific Northwest. hmmm...sounds at least vaguely familiar.

That is about all I have to tell today...

Monday, March 2, 2009

I love young adults!

Friday night we drove to Portland and picked up my nephew. My oldest brother, Brad has a 23 year old son, Eric. Eric was in Portland for work and graciously made time to spend with us. I hadn't seen him in several years and have only ever seen him several times. He is a delightful person. He is bright and articulate and confident and interesting and a great hugger! I wish so much that he lived nearby.

We took Eric to Lewis & Clark College to pick up Heather. They had not seen each other in years but the connection was instant. They walked all over campus and talked and talked. Eric shows such an interest in what others have to say - it is a gift to those around him. I wanted to join in but decided to hold back because I want the family members of their generation to have a relationship with each other. It was clear that Eric and Heather would be friends even if they were not cousins. I wish that Andrew could have been there because he and Eric share many qualities and interests.

We invited Heather's boyfriend, Seth to join us for dinner and I am so glad we did that. He is another bright, articulate, confident, interesting young man. The three kids hit it off well and talked easily and endlessly with each other. We went to the Corbett Fish House, a great little place that features gluten-free food. Heather and Seth are both Celiacs and it is a treat for them to have fish and chips and even gluten-free cake for dessert! We shared a dozen oyster shooters and it was fun watching Heather and Eric have their first raw oysters - the meal was really good, even for those of us who can have gluten!

The evening was a treat for all of us. Driving home Sam and I commented on how cool it is that we can spend a Friday evening with two twenty-year olds and a twenty-three year old and have as much fun as we would with our own peers.