Memories in muddy pink shoes

IMG_5658 (1)JB: Flip flops just don’t cut it in Oregon’s rainy season, which may have really started this week (fingers crossed! I love the rain and am so ready for it).

With today’s showers, it’s back to warm wooly hand knit socks and real shoes.

But the shoes I wanted to wear today — sensible nonskid pink mary janes — still bear the mud from the last time I wore them back in February.

The pink shoes picked up that mud on a Yamhill County excursion that involved roadside photo opps of wintery hazelnut orchards, swampy fields and tall, colorless grasses standing along the sides of country roads. It included lunch in a wine country restaurant and photos of weathered rust and paint.

Peeling paint and rusting rust.
Peeling paint and rusting rust.

It also (here comes the mud) involved collecting moss-covered branches leftover from felled trees for a project-in-progress by one of us. To get to said branches involved stepping over and through the soft soil holding tiny streams of rainwater that raced toward a drainage ditch.

But what are friends for? We pulled over to the side of the road, scoped out the situation and gamely waded in to pull soggy, just-right, not-too-thick, not-too-long branches from piles of brush and hoisted them into the trunk. There was much laughing and considering and consulting over each branch, I will add, along with plenty of mud on the pink shoes.

Now some wearers of pink or any other colored shoes would have come right home and cleaned off the mud.

But not me. I figured I’d let it dry and then brush it off. But there were other shoes to wear. And then spring came and then summer and sandals and so the muddy pink shoes stayed, well, muddy.

Until this week, when I pulled them out and photographed them in tribute to a wonderful muddy and laughter-filled day.

Water Color Day…celebrating moisture with no rain in sight.

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It’s been a long, beautiful, but very dry summer in Oregon… The need for moisture is horribly apparent in our beloved PNW.  Wildfires are raging.  Homes are being destroyed with thousands upon thousands of acres flaming.    A longing for the misty, wet days of an Oregon fall and winter entered conversations weeks ago, so what to do?

We chose watercolor.  To be more specific, JoAnn conducted a mini-workshop introducing me to  the properties of rock salt placed on wet color.

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JoAnn brought her supplies ranging from a grade school color box to a professional grade assemblage of pigments, brushes, rock salt and a wide range of paper, including that intended for watercolor.  Barbara’s oversized sketch pad paper went into the pile as a possibility,  answering our persistent “What would happen if we used this?” question that always works its way into our artistic adventures.

The process is simple.  Taping down paper on foam core board was followed by making generous puddles of color on the palettes JoAnn provided.  Wetting the paper came next, then splashing the color wash with abandon.  Playing?  You bet.  Placing the salt crystals was arbitrary, or can be patterned.  We scattered, letting them land at will.  Then off the papers went to dry on the front steps in what has become this summer’s omnipresent sunshine.

Their drying time allowed us to dabble with other watercolor applications  (Barbara worked on that sketch pad paper),  a dreamy space with conversations and brushes flowing.

IMG_1549 JoAnn’s floral abstract utilized bold sweeps of red with washes adding depth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Barbara’s skyline came from her recent camping trip in the Oregon Cascades.

And the rock salt watercolors?   PS    Two days later…It’s raining.IMG_1542IMG_1541

Mad About Macaroons…a rainy day well spent

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I had a hankering for some old fashioned coconut macaroons so I made sure I brought home some coconut for when the baking bug bit.

It happened on a dreary, damp Oregon day, and since I was fully prepared, I hauled out a bowl, hit the internet for a recipe and threw the few ingredients together.

Mix and, with wet hands, rolled the dough into golf-ball sized balls, and popped them into the oven. The smell of baking filled the house and 25 minutes late I had my macaroons.

They were so pretty I just had to photograph them. On my new thrifted dinerware plate. On a vintage tablecloth.

Just great for a rainy June morning.

And taking only 35 minutes?  The rest of the day was mine.

The recipe I used is from http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Perfect-Coconut-Macaroons .  Without the chocolate.

Thrifting Together Can Be Dangerous.

A venerable rocker, blooms and mid-century sheet music ...vintage finds form a romantic vignette.

There’s nothing like going thrift shopping with a good friend who is also a big time enabler.  That would be BH.

“Oh, that’s for you,” she says, pointing at old books, faded rag rugs, vintage kitchenware, and weathered sheet music during an outing to the Goodwill bins just minutes from both of our houses.

Being in a recent cleaning out, clutter-elimination and tidying up phase, I managed to survive the adventure with only a couple of little things. But, BH snagged a wonderful old, weather-beaten rocking chair that warmed both our hearts and now graces her front porch and some other lovely things that fit beautifully in her eclectic house full of collected and hand-made goodies.

And, she shops for everyone in her family, too. Oh, C will love this. J can use this. I wonder if A would like that.

Classic songs that endure in their original sheet music form.

The SUV rattled home with some lovely finds — mostly BH’s. I’ll go thrift shopping with her anytime.

But I’ll rehearse saying “no” before I go.

Postscript…

It’s a day after posting Thrifting Together Can Be Dangerous and I find myself at a Goodwill.  JB just happened to mention that she saw some nice yarn at our local shop.  “Oh, I have errands in that neighborhood, so….” …un, huh.   The find?  Lovely Twisted Sisters cotton Daktari in solid colors, enough for a shawl with a wonderously colored skein of wool/silk blend as a companion.

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Enabling?

Sometimes a girl just can’t say no.

Frittata, a spring (and summer and fall and …) favorite

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Maud produces the green eggs at BH’s place.

Spring has arrived and the backyard hens are laying plenteously…current count has 17 eggs in the refrigerator with more promised daily.  Frittata season!

Come along as we enjoy the process and product for this crustless quiche.

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Well seasoned cast iron bake frittatas best.

Baked in the oven, cast iron is our utensil of choice, with fresh eggs from BH’s backyard flock.

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Osprey Farm vegetables dominate today’s frittata ingredients.

Much like soup that cleans out produce and leftovers, we celebrate frittatas as a way to use whatever is available.

Vegetables rule the day after inspection, most of them fresh from Osprey Farm (www.ospreyfarm.com), owned and operated by BH’s daughter Chloe and her partner Jesse.

We bake frittatas at 350 degrees…it’s easy to remember this temperature, although we find recipes that call for up to 400 degrees.  Squash Blossom and Baby Squash Frittata from the Smith and Hawken Gardeners’ Community Cookbook instructs you to place one under the broiler…sounds interesting.

There is a certain order, less formal than a recipe, to our creations.  BH tends to start with a generous dollop of olive oil and sliced onions.  JB: “Olive oil for me, too, with lots of garlic and onions, of course. My reward for all that chopping is the warm aroma of garlic.”

Various veggies follow the onions into the pan…mushrooms are a common pairing with the caramelized onions, followed by a free-for-all mélange of broccoli rapini, fresh purple scallions, carrots, garlic and a handful of herbs fresh picked from the flower border.

BH :  “I whisk eggs, and any cheese that is around in a bowl with salt and pepper, eyeing the size of the skillet to determine the number of eggs. Our 12″ pan demands 10 to 12 eggs for a frittata with substance.”  The amount of vegetables is a factor, too.  Explore!  A mountain of collard greens cooks down quickly.  “Herbs go in last.  I almost always put in oregano, thyme, and rosemary.  Sage is a close second, depending on whether there are potatoes in the mix.  My sister-in-law, Cathy, puts Cuban oregano in her frittatas for lots of zing.”

Any meat can be cooked aside and added to the sautéed vegetable before pouring the eggs over the lot.  Into the oven it goes for approximately 20 minutes…this, too, varies with the amount of ingredients and size of pan.

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Red bell peppers snuck into the mix of this savory lunch offering.

What do you put in your frittata?  Let us know!

Flying feathers: The great chicken escape

Eulalie is a picture perfect model. And most cooperative!
Eulalie is a picture perfect model. And most cooperative!

JB: Chasing chickens isn’t what I had in mind for a Wednesday morning, but you never know what you are going to get at BH’s house.

Yep. The topic of the day was chickens, eggs and frittatas, but we never got to the frittata part. We got hung up on a visit to BH’s girls — those beautiful, fluffy, feathered, cackling egg layers — who take any opportunity to escape the run and bask in the damp green grass of an Oregon April.

It took both of us — imagine two middle-aged, gray-haired mamas — to herd the girls back into the pen, with BH doing the chasing and me minding the gate and acting as a deterrent to forays into the world at large.

BH’s chickens are a beautiful sight in all of their featheriness and shimmer and color.

And, the eggs! Shades of pink and beige and blue-green and brown and speckles. Tucked into a vintage egg box and they look like a work of art, which, of course, they are.

We played with red-and-white gingham, antique egg cups, a grandma-era egg scale and a richly hued, wooly, hand-hooked, hen-inspired background rug for photo props and thought ourselves rather brilliant.

So much for the chickens and the eggs.

Next week: Frittatas!

Sweet Fanny Francis is perplexed by visitors to the chicken run.
Sweet Fanny Francis is perplexed by visitors to the chicken run.
Lucille had a few words for us.
Lucille had a few words for us.
Vintage box shows off  today's eggs.
Vintage box shows off today’s eggs.
Who needs to dye eggs when they comes this way naturally?
Who needs to dye eggs when they comes this way naturally?
Wooly rug-hooked chickens are a fine backdrop for these fresh eggs.
Wooly rug-hooked chickens are a fine backdrop for these fresh eggs.
Meanwhile, back on the home front, Al was taking care of business.
Meanwhile, back on the home front, Al was taking care of business.

Blooming Beautiful

 

 We’re not swearing….truly.  The British may have applied blooming as a euphemism for a stronger word, but we’re talking the real article today…blooms…blooms currently  beautiful in our corner of the world.

Cherry blossoms made an early appearance this season, brilliantly white against classically dark March skies.

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The magnolia tree in BH’s backyard splashed porcelain perfect petals against the sky and across the grass.

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Tulips edge sidewalks and are forever etched in concrete at the Wooden Shoe Tulip farm near Woodburn, Oregon.

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  Crocuses, purple or white, take our breath away….smallest packages can be best! IMG_4646 Oregon Grape, dandelions and mustard on the loose from farm fields edge the back roads in the Willamette Valley. IMG_4803

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Asparagus rules in a local community garden.

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Orchards are in early bloom…apples later.

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Vegetation gets healthy moisture in western Oregon with plenty of brilliant breaks in the clouds.

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This weathered old school house serves as a perfect backdrop for a spring favorite….flowering hawthorne.

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Friday, the 13th, a day to dye for…

Friday, the 13th….We planned it, to dye on this day… as in drench our fingertips in color. Specifically, we set ourselves the task of overdyeing yuggly flesh colored cotton yarn, hoping to transform it into strands of beautiful fiber suited to the most discriminating taste…ours.  IMG_9282

We added this  cotton/linen blend, to the schedule to explore what the dye colors would do on white. IMG_9285

Our process began winding the yarn into loose loops bound intermittently to keep the strands from tangling, then immersed it in a cold water bath laced with dish soap.

Why did we wet the yarn? It opens the fiber allowing the dye bath to fully saturate the yarn.  Syntrapol is a recommended wetting agent to add to a water bath, but we find that a good shot of dish washing liquid serves every bit as well.

JB selected Teal and Denim from RIT Dyes as her colors of choice.  Did we mention this was her first IMG_9286time dyeing outside  a brief foray with kool-aid dyeing year’s ago…another story.  The magic of the dye pot was a new experience.

Two cups of boiling water added to the dye packet in a pint jar stirred  briskly and we were in business.

We used a vintage electric frying pan, the old four legged variety that always seems to have simmer set a hair below boiling, setting the wetted yarn into half inch of water.

Cotton is a forgiving dye fiber, allowing for wandering attention spans.   Ours was divided since we decided to render onion skin dye at the same time, a stove top exploit that gave us six pints of onion skin dye as part of the festivities….yet another story.  Just glad to know you can get away boiling cotton without having it felt, as wool does.

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Working with two colors presents the challenge of placement and migrating color.  We opted to start with Denim over the IMG_9298white yarn. following with the teal.  Love the results!

Drying takes a bit of time, but cotton dries well on a rack in the dryer with all that warm air circulating…have done this on gentle dry with wool, too,

Winding the yarn into balls was a pleasure.  IMG_9311

Now, on to Ravelry, a knit and crochet heaven for yarn lovers, to find that perfect pattern….thinking a cowl….

Interested in getting started?  We find the following how-to-dye sites useful:

http://www.chocolatemintsinajar.com/craft/2012/05/hand-dyeing-cotton-yarn-an-adventurehttp://

http://www.dyeyouryarn.com/-and-a-tutorial/

Ravelry, be warned, is wonderful. http://www.ravelry.com/tour/getting-started

Destination Blue Goat…route taken…happiness

IMG_4504 Road trips are the best when taken with kindred spirits.   Down valley via the back roads we go, two generations, camera devices in hand, pulling over where a graveled shoulder allows barely enough room for the car, waving at the farmers passing by.  Road trip!

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It’s an early spring in Oregon…branches are fuzzy with new growth.  We share our mutual appreciation of the hazelnut orchards, attempting to capture the serenity of their branches embracing  blue skies.

photo (5)Venerable oak have early velvet .

The three of us, JB, myself and my daughter, Jess are in search of nothing more than to delight in the day and each other’s company as we travel western Oregon back roads to The Blue Goat.          IMG_4494

Pulling over to photograph last season’s grasses in a field bordering  an hazelnut orchard has us laughing at ourselves as we imagine what the locals are thinking as they pass, catching the three of us perched on the verge of a ditch, attempting to capture the patterns and mystery of this intricate world we pass by daily.

A quick stop at a thrift store, the Goodwill in McMinnville, is another shared delight as we rummage for treasures.   Chintz teapot and memories tucked carefully in the car, we head for Amity and The Blue Goat.IMG_8550

Amity is not a big town…current population hovers around 1600.  A lot of traffic flows down Oregon Higway 99W which serves as its main street.  The Blue Goat resides on the north side of 99 smack in the middle of the three block section that constitutes Amity’s downtown.  Unprepossessing as the location may seem, the food and service are superlative.                IMG_4498

Self billed as a rustic wood fired cookery, the daily menu changes are noted on this chalkboard.  IMG_4500

Aromas mingle from the baking bread and roasted salsa emanating from their hand crafted, wood fired, cob oven,

We ate and talked our way through a leisurely lunch…highly recommend the rockfish tacos garnished with the aforementioned wood fired salsa….so good.    IMG_4508

The piece d resistance was dessert…what else, but to sample all the menu had to offer?  The chocolate volcano cake, rich, gooey and deeply chocolate received rave reviews from all three… yes, we shared and wanted to lick the plates clean.

If you find yourself in western Oregon with a day on your hands, try winding down the back roads to Amity.. we found it a savory day all around.

The Blue Goat

http://www.amitybluegoat.com/

503-835-5170 — 506 S. Trade Street — Amity, Oregon 97101

Combating the winter blahs

 

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Winter blahs are not to be taken lightly.  Staying alert to any sign of spring in the grey of a Pacific Northwest February is a bright shaft of sunlight communicating there’s an awakening.

BH:

February is brutal.

We’ve weathered the rain and longed for the no-show snow…sorry eastern seaboard, but snow is still enchanting in our area.  The skies are not clearing.  Drizzle is the accepted weather forecast….discontent allows that a heavy rain would be preferable over this misty grey mess. Oppressive and no longer cozy, the winter blahs, wet and dreary, have hit,

Wait. What’s that green by the pump house in the side yard?  The dIMG_8500affodils are up?  Good grief, there’s already six inches of green showing…how did that escape notice?   This lures me into a rather soggy backyard looking for evidence that spring coming is not a myth.  The magnolia tree bears further evidence …buds are forming.  Hallelujah, I see dandelion greens emerging near the chicken coop…is this sad, or sweet, to celebrate emergence of this kin of Harry Hawkweed?…dandelions do not cause this kind of joy in August!

IMG_8503IMG_8499I’m smiling as I wipe the mud off my feet at the back door…have to remember to look down and around on these grey days…keeping awake to Spring on its way.

JB:

In spite of being the short month, my birthday month and the month containing Valentine’s Day, February tends to be a blah for me. Our beautiful Oregon autumn seems eons ago and spring is a fantasy.  If it weren’t for books, knitting and naps, I’m sure I would lose my mind.

IMG_4526 - Version 2Sometimes a simple walk in the garden helps. I greet the bedraggled chickens, admire the painfully confused camellias blooming pink and fuchsia and white, and the hellebores, grimy through they are. Buoyed by these signs of spring, I stomp through the warm gray drizzle and head inside for more tea, more reading and another sock on the needles.IMG_4530

Spring, call me when you get here!