Friday, September 9, 2016

Oregon's Early Fall Bounty

Within five miles of my home, I am blessed with at least four local produce stands and farms. It is one of my most favorite things in the world to take an hour or so and do my weekly shopping for fruit and veg while supporting my local community.

My first stop today was Oregon Heritage Farms where they have the BEST Honey Crisp apples in the world. And I am NOT exaggerating! I managed to resist their scrumptious homemade apple cider donuts! Oh my heavens, did they smell divine! My haul here included:
  • 5 pound bag of Honey Crisp apples
  • 2 mini spaghetti squashes
  • 2 small green bell peppers
  • 2 small cucumbers
  • 6 ears of corn on the cob
  • 1 huge squash (no clue on the variety but looked like fun)

Stop number two was Smith Berry Barn. Not only does this quaint little market have amazing produce, but they have a huge U-Pick area and an adorable gift shop and ice cream/espresso shop. Lots of goodies here:
  • 1 cantaloupe
  • 1 Walla Walla onion
  • 6 Maryhill peaches
  • 1 carton of multi-colored cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bag of multi-colored mini potatoes
  • 2 leeks
  • local honey
  • local grainy mustard

I have two other favorite farm stands that I frequent but I already blew my wad for today. Lolich's Family Farm (no website but they are located on Scholls Ferry Road) is definitely one of the best! They are such a friendly family and exceptionally proud of their top-quality produce. Another nearby treasure is Baggenstos Farm, known for their killer potatoes and pumpkins. Good stuff.  I still have some of their amazing Yukon Gold potatoes left over from last week. Lucky me!  

I will hit all of these lovely places frequently while I still can! They will close at the end of October which makes me pout for awhile. A long while, to be honest.

Yes, I could feed a small army with all of this goodness. Jim and I will definitely eat well this week, and some lucky dinner guests will get a feast tomorrow night at our table. Here are a few dishes that I have on deck for this week:
  • The beginning stage of German Potato Salad is in the crockpot right now. We will have that tonight with schnitzel sandwiches on homemade pretzel buns and a fresh cucumber tomato salad.
  • For our night of entertaining, we will have prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe for an appetizer, honey mustard salmon, corn on the cob, the above-mentioned mystery squash, and a peach crisp for dessert.
  • Potato leek soup with those yummy leeks, multi-colored potatoes and Walla Walla onion.
  • Caprese spaghetti squash bowls.
  • Egg scramble for breakfast with green bell pepper, Walla Walla onions and ham. Maybe I will add some roasted tomatoes too just because I can!
Happy Friday! I hope you get to spend some time this weekend finding yummy local produce and cooking up a storm! For those of you who are enjoying the labors of your garden...I am so jealous! No green thumbs here!! If you have too many tomatoes and zucchini, send them my way :) You might magically see them turned into a delicious treat on your doorstep :)

Caprese Spaghetti Squash Bowls

One of my earlier boxes during berry season.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Testing the Water

Yes, it has been awhile. Life just keeps rolling along and I haven't been very good about documenting it here on the old blog. We are still out and about, doing our "weekend warrior" thing to the extreme. Long story, short.... I am thinking of a new career idea and would love your input. I thought that working in education would be the right "midlife crisis" job for me, but I have learned that is not the case. Ultimately, food has always been my passion. I am happiest and at my best in the kitchen. While I am not a trained chef by any means, one of my proudest accomplishments is getting a tasty meal on the table each night. Simple, seasonal, usually pretty easy to prepare, using up ingredients in my stash...these are my strengths as a home cook.

So here is my idea, folks! Every Sunday in the local newspaper, one of my favorite grocery stores publishes their sale ad. Yesterday as I was sipping my coffee, I made a list of what I wanted to get for the week based on what was on special. I also made a weekly menu using these ingredients. Is there any interest in me sharing my list and menu with you? Would you consider joining a subscription service at a very minimal cost to receive my weekly shopping lists, menus and recipes? And for you locals, would you be interested in hiring me to do your shopping and cooking for the week? I would customize a plan and fee that would be affordable, and work with your palate and any special considerations. I would shop for your groceries, come in to your kitchen and prepare 4-5 yummy main dishes, prep the accompanying sides, clean up and leave you with simple, delicious food for the week.

Here is my weekly menu for dinners this week:

Grill: Turkey Burgers served with Bacon Asparagus Bundles and blueberries.

Crockpot (make into two meals): Pork Roast (half made into Carnitas Tacos with Peach Salsa and Guacamole; half made into Pulled Pork Sandwiches served with Apple Slaw and Watermelon)

Oven: Spicy Lemon Lime Shrimp served with brown rice and Greek Salad

Stovetop: Mango Chicken Sausages with Caramelized Walla Walla Onions and Bell Peppers served with Fruit Salad

With the subscription, I would provide the grocery list and all recipes (I will also provide a bonus dessert recipe!). With the cooking service, I would work with you to fine-tune the menu and do all the work!

Comments? Suggestions? I would love your input! Thanks so much!!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Flying High with Discover Paragliding

A year ago after we took our one-and-only daughter to college in Texas, we started out the whole "empty nest" thing with an eight-week sabbatical. That was pretty awesome. We had an excellent time traveling and had the extra time to try new stuff.  Jim has always had an interest in flying and has always wanted to try paragliding. He did his research and found a local company with a great safety record and top-notch qualifications: Discover Paragliding. They do towing tandem flights right off of the Oregon coast!

We did our first tandem flights almost exactly one year ago. Our lives have been changed forever...

Yes, even though I am pretty darn afraid of heights, I did a tandem flight too. Life on the edge, right??!! No regrets, baby!! Notice we are ABOVE the clouds! We topped out at about 3,000 feet above Sunset Beach near Gearhart, Oregon. Let's just say that JIM WAS HOOKED. 

Brad and Maren are the owners and instructors at Discover Paragliding. We are happy to now call them our friends. They are good people and very good at what they do. Since that first flight, Jim has worked very hard to earn his P2 Paragliding Certification. This meant countless trips to the beach for both flying and classroom time, as well as some mountain flying. The beach is my all-time favorite place on earth so I am quite happy to hang out and look for shells and do some rockhounding. So far, I have only done one weekend of ground-handling training. Still not sure paragliding is "my thing" or not but I sure do love watching and being part of a great bunch of folks. We have met some WONDERFUL new friends! I have also learned that as a driver for mountain flights, I am much appreciated.

Another perk of paragliding for me has been the development of a new love of photography. Don't get me wrong--I am not a skilled photographer by any means. I have no clue how Jim's fancy camera works and the "techy" stuff is definitely not my thing. But I am enjoying shooting the action and think that I have a pretty good eye for capturing the shot. Luckily, Jim handles all the "techy" parts and I get to do the fun part of pointing and shooting. He is also quite talented at the post-processing of the photos and I am grateful that he can clean up my work.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the past year....

Jim is an amazing photographer. I will be forever grateful for all of his priceless photos of Natalie growing up, especially of her riding horses. It is different for me to be on the other side of the camera, but now I am grateful that I can capture my husband doing what he loves.

I am also grateful for this crazy sport of paragliding in our new empty nest lives. It will be fun to see where this adventure takes us in the world. Here we go, ready or not!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Favorite Sleeps Around the Northwest

I just finished one of the most hellish weeks of my working career, and my husband is yet again working another weekend. Believe me, this is not how we like to do things. We pride ourselves on being weekend warriors. This work thing is cramping our style. I take comfort in knowing that we have some fun things ahead on the calendar, and that we have done some pretty awesome trips together these past 22+ years of living in Oregon. I thought I would share some of our favorite hotels and lodges from our past adventures! We like to stay at places with unique personality, history and charm if at all possible. If you get a chance, check 'em out!

Even when our daughter was a baby/toddler/youngin' we did not let that slow us down. We dragged that kid along everywhere! One of our first trips with her was to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada where we stayed at The Empress Hotel. The rooms were tiny (especially with a portable crib!) but what a view and what an experience. It is a stately hotel in the perfect location for exploring Victoria. Years later, we returned with the teenager version of Natalie and stayed at a luxury hotel across the harbor, Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Hotel. It was heavenly and we loved taking the water taxi to get to the downtown area. Victoria and Vancouver Island rock!

On that same trip, we passed through the Olympic Peninsula and stayed at the Lake Quinault Lodge. This place is off the grid, right on the lake, and a great place for families. To this day, I remember the dessert we had at the restaurant...Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Mousse. So much yum.

Jim and I returned to the Olympic National Park area on the motorcycle and stayed at the nearby Kalaloch Lodge. Well, actually we stayed in one of the little cabins there right on the beach. It was another scenic getaway with fun twisty roads and rainforest hikes. Of course, I also remember a rockin' breakfast! To this day I still try to recreate their Crunchy French Toast!

When Nat was four, we were lucky enough to travel a bit for Jim's first sabbatical. We started our adventure in Glacier National Park in Montana. During that trip, we stayed a night at the Glacier Park Lodge. Such a stunning setting!!!! The only drawback is that there is no AC and the train tracks are right out front. As with most historic lodges, they are creaky and noisy so bring your ear plugs! Definitely part of the charm!

On that same trip, we headed north to Banff and Lake Louise in Canada. Truly one of our favorite places on this earth. Someday we will spend the big bucks to stay at either the Chateau Lake Louise or the Post Hotel. We were in that neck of the woods again last fall and had a memorable, impeccably prepared dinner at the Post Hotel restaurant. We should probably dress up a bit more next time...they sat us in the very back of the house since we were in our finest hiking clothes after an all day trek. We sure did not feel guilty about having dessert and wine after that huge hike (see the pic of me and Jim at the top of my blog!).

In no particular order, let me hit a couple more favorites...

Thanks to grandparents watching our kiddo, we celebrated one of our past anniversaries at the Crater Lake Lodge in southern Oregon. What a treasure in our gorgeous state! I don't have any pics of the lodge, but what a view! Once again, the lodge restaurant did not disappoint. There is just something about national park lodge restaurants!

We were lucky to pass through here again a couple of years ago. Jim took this incredible shot. 

Not too long ago, we celebrated my birthday at The Lodge at Suttle Lake near Sisters, Oregon. What a cozy, quiet place to spend a winter weekend. We were hoping to snow shoe around the lake but Mother Nature did not cooperate. It was still a good little walk. Highly recommend the restaurant too! 

The quaint Maritime Inn in Gig Harbor, Washington has never disappointed us! Usually we stay with friends, but on special occasions we have splurged to stay in the Harbor. We adore Gig Harbor and love being steps away from the gorgeous waterfront, cute shops, Kelly's Cafe and the famous Tide's Tavern.

After years of living in Oregon and countless visits to see it, we finally stayed at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood last spring break when Natalie was home from college. Staying during the week was a smart plan. We scored a fairly good price and it was very quiet. Dinner and breakfast in the Cascade Dining Room did not disappoint and fueled us up for a day of snow shoe hiking!

While not exactly a hotel or lodge, we spent a cozy night in a funky treehouse!! Located outside of the Seattle area, be sure to check out Treehouse Point! We stayed in The Nest. Just too cool for words!!! It was amazing to watch the salmon running in the nearby river!! We packed a picnic dinner to enjoy every minute we had in our little treehouse. The gracious hosts also serve a lovely made-from-scratch breakfast in the morning. 

And now, the moment you have all been waiting for.....

Our all-time favorite spot to stay in the Pacific Northwest....

The Cannery Pier Hotel in Astoria, Oregon!! This place is spectacular and we keep returning. If we can't be in Hawaii, this is the place where we celebrate our anniversary. Where else can you see huge ships pass by your window and look out on a massive bridge over the mighty Columbia River, all in the comfort of a plush hotel room. And Astoria is just plain hip...great restaurants, hikes, historical museums, coffee shops. You name it, they have it. We just love it.

You can sign up for a ride to dinner in one of their vintage cars! Be sure to borrow a colorful bike to zip around the waterfront too!

Nothing beats this view at the end of the day...especially with the one you love.

We still have a bunch of places on our list. Hopefully we will visit Alderbrook Resort in Washington state this fall. We are definitely due for some R&R together. This place looks like it will fit the bill.