Thursday, January 29, 2009

Enchanting Evening Sky

Quite the enchanting evening sky as the sun's last gasp attempts to break the barrier of the heavily-laden cover and cast its final shot across the valley's bow. . .

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Clean-up Begins

We came indoors a short while ago after doing some garden cleanup. Let's go out for just an hour, we say, and one turns into two into three then four. Is that not the way it goes when you are engaged in that which you enjoy?

Needless to say my date with the elliptical did not occur. Bending and stretching and walking and hauling for 3-4 hours in the garden has the ole body looking for the comfort of a warm shower, simple meal, glass of wine and a soft sofa.

Many cut back all their plants in the fall, but we generally choose to wait until the late January to February timeframe as the birds delight in the seeds throughout the winter and any snow or ice and wind and rain present seed heads and foliage in an interesting light.

So the past several days found us cutting back some of the ornamental grasses and clearing the vegetable garden of a few remaining plants and weeds. Yes, weeds! They are prolific despite the unseasonably cold and freezing temperature we have had. And now the veggie garden is ready for the load of beautiful and seasoned manure we had delivered last weekend.

On occasion we laugh and tell a story: years ago some friends of ours, two couples, came for dinner. One of them (Thomas and Madeline) seems to be rather well-to-do; she loves jewelry, and he seems to participate in that desire. While walking in the garden we approached a load of manure and he asked what that was for. My husband told him that was my wish for Mother's day. Thomas quickly turned and yelled to his wife who was in another section of the garden, look Madeline, she doesn't want jewelry! and at which there was robust laughter. And to this day my husband's favorite line is it doesn't take much to make her happy, just a little manure now and then.

So today was a perfect day for the garden: no wind and about 40 degrees. Believe it or not, it is quite comfortable. We will take one flower bed at a time and soon a transformation will occur. Already little bits of green are emerging from beneath the winter's surface.

Wait til I show what Spring brings forth!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rock Tumbling

As I wrote on the 6th of January, we traveled to the coast for the purpose of collecting rocks/stones along the beach. These are not those we brought back, but rather some that were in process, and this is the before photo.

Rock tumbling generally takes 4-5 weeks in a minimum 4-step process. Part of that procedure is wearing away the hard edges of a rock through continuous tumbling inside a rubber-lined barrel with water and a selection of abrasive grits. The final stages of the tumbling include a washing cycle, followed by one using a polishing powder and tiny plastic pellets.

Some rocks may not turn out so well due to their porosity and for other reasons unknown to me. For example, in the upper photo, the largest dark gray stone with a light gray band did not turn out as we expected. It may find its way back for another tumble.

We are in awe of the finished product, the beauty, color, and individuality of each, be it the translucent agates, jasper, a piece of polished petrified wood. . . as they are displayed on a round light-toned myrtle wood tray on the kitchen table or in a simple jar or shallow glass bowl. Friends have enjoyed the same as a gift from us, and several selected simply one to carry as a soothing stones.

And at some point I may take a few of my favorites and have them made into pendants. Do you see the agates?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eagle Has Landed

Incredible! We cannot believe what is outside my studio window at the moment. He appeared about 10 minutes ago, and our hope is he may like being here, for we certainly love looking at him.

Windows line the wall to the left and right of my computer monitor, so each day I am aware of much of the outside movement: wind and rain, the fog moving across the valley, cats prowling in the garden, birds foraging for food, large turkey buzzards riding the air currents. . . and for the last several weeks my husband and I have remarked that our hawk has not been around. Perhaps he has found better pickings elsewhere, we laughingly remark.

How very exciting to have seen wings flapping atop the Douglas fir. I hastily collected the binoculars to identify exactly what had chosen to visit us this day. To my husband (in the next room), I whispered loudly, Come here! Hurry! You won't believe this. There he sat, like a little man in a tuxedo. . . the best view in this theatre. (Please click on the photo to enlarge. . . rather comical.)

This is all so unbelievable! We have never seen an eagle around here. How very exciting to think he gave us so much pleasure. I do hope he feels our welcome.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


What a beautiful day we had yesterday as we were out and about running errands, and a nearly cloudless sky and temperature in the low 50's, found others behaving similarly. We had a few returns, then followed with some grocery shopping.

Wild Ahi: now that we could not refuse to put in our cart for it had been a while since we last enjoyed it. Already we envisioned a quickly pan-seared macadamia nut encrusted night's offering, a favorite salad, a glass of wine, and it doesn't get much better than that. . . simple and tasty.

Upon returning home we worked outside for a few hours, but as the sun found itself being tucked behind the hillside, the warmth of the day quickly succumbed some 10 degrees lower and offered a remarkable color in the sky to the west . . .

toward the south . . .

and to the east.

A wink and a nod, and I do believe she's smiling. . . the woman in the moon, that is.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

To The Coast

This afternoon my husband and I returned from having taken a few days off. Sunday we departed for the coast, only about an hours drive, but a couple hours in order to arrive at our final destination. Traffic in either direction, west and east, was minimal, but then really, how many people decide to go to the coast when it's 36 degrees and a forecast of wind and rain?"

As we often do, we traveled with some of our food and several nice bottles of wine, so our first evening meal was already established. Chinook salmon from the night before was not as exceptional as it was then, but nonetheless, still quite nice and tasty. Add to that some fresh steamed broccoli, a wedge of lettuce salad, and a Mirassou Pinot Noir (not a bad Pinot for under $9 dollars a bottle), and our evening was enjoyable and relaxing.

The howling wind, driving rain, and pounding surf interrupted our sleep throughout the night, but with that came anticipation of what tomorrow might bring, what lay beneath the sands surface and would be revealed from the nights turbulence. . . for the entire purpose of the trip was to collect stones and hopefully agates.

About a year ago our neighbors got us hooked; they had been collecting and tumbling and polishing with extraordinary results. To select a stone from the beach, and following a 3-5 week process, to have revealed a remarkably beautiful specimen with color and design. . . well, we bought a tumbler, the grit, collected our first stones and agates from the Pacific northwest beaches, and about all we can say is Wow! They are exceptionally beautiful and we enjoy them every day.

Monday morning: gusts of 15-30 mph were predicted, so we layered and climbed into our rain gear following breakfast, then headed off to our first destination just south of Beverly Beach. We parked along the highway and by 9 a.m. were walking down the path toward the water. (Be sure to click on the photos for a full view.)

The creek pouring into the ocean seemed promising as my husband worked that gravel bed, and I turned to explore the south portion of the beach.

Thankfully the wind gusts did not materialize, but neither did our expectation of finding those precious gems, but this shot was captivating.

And we did select more stones we thought might polish nicely and be additive to our collection, but we would now head north to Beverly Beach State Park.

As we walked along the coastline and through the beds, the rain and wind increased, yet it seemed not to be uncomfortable until a burst of water took up residence in my boots. Perhaps after several hours of walking this was a sign to take a break and change some socks, but first a glimpse of Yaquina lighthouse, south about 3 1/2 miles.

A blue sky emerged and as we ventured out again, the 48 degrees kept us warm, and yes, but very carefully, we descended these steps. An hour later, a few more stones, but still no agates, and it was time for lunch. Some friends had recommended the Starfish Grill; excellent I might add.

The afternoon found us at Agate Beach, a place we had visited with two of our grandchildren on several occasions, and after we walked and walked and walked, it was apparent that we should call it a day and return to our unit for another nice dinner and relaxing evening. For now the best we could do was be enamored by the wind's creativity.

As we were leaving, a lady who was walking her dog stopped to talk, and after discussing our current pittance, said, "This is the most sterile beach. The locals go south of here and down to about Seal Rock". She gave us directions to Wolf Creek, we thanked her, and all were on our way.

The 6 of January, a 7:54 a.m. sunrise, and we were traveling south and accompanied by light rain and fog. We stopped for a short while at Wolf Creek, we think (as it was unmarked), and then headed to Lost Creek State Park. As we stood on the cliff's edge overlooking the rushing water, several logs were being hurled against the hillside. Although high tide had occurred at 6:59 a.m., we decided to travel further south, and in about an hour the receding waters should allow for us to once again safely walk along the shoreline.

The dog lady had said last years storms produced all kinds of agates, and so far this year they are much harder to find. But we still had a great time and collected some more interesting stones for the tumbler. As we approached home, the sun shone brightly and the 54 degrees welcomed us.

Stay tuned, and we will soon show you some of earth's precious gifts.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Before the Sun

We stir before the bright of day. Only a tiny bird flits within the bush outside the kitchen window as we view the frozen countryside, and the city begins to emerge amidst the morning fog.

To the west: the valley floor and silent morn.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Day Meal

Yesterday, in lieu of our traditional New Year's Day meal of pork and sauerkraut, we decided to do something different. Why not mix it up a bit? We had a small rib roast in the freezer that needed our attention, so we opted for...

Rib roast, with small fresh garlic pieces inserted and peppery dry rub
Creamy horseradish sauce served on the side
Yorkshire pudding
Fresh steamed broccoli
Horseradish mashed potatoes

A simple wedge of iceberg lettuce was going to be added, but decided it would be too much.

Yorkshire pudding: several recipes are online, but this is what I did :

Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 3/4 cup of flour into 2 beaten eggs with 1 cup of milk; whisk together well, and store in the refrigerator for several hours. Rather than use meat dripping as was the tradition long ago, I used 2 tablespoons each of Canola oil and butter placed in the bottom of a round casserole dish. Heat the dish/pan for several minutes prior to pouring in the cold batter. Place it in the preheated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, and then turn the temperature down to 350 and continue to bake an additional 15-20 minutes. Note: Do not open the oven door during cooking.

A beautiful and golden large puff came from the oven and what a nice complement for the spicy rub on the roast.

We had been saving a fine bottle of wine for a special occasion, and this seemed the right time: a '97 Chalk Hill Peter's Vineyard Merlot. Simple, yet elegant, it was an oh so tasty meal.

Now that's the way to spend New Year's day. Oh yes, and we watched a beautiful win. . . USC over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Congratulations USC. . . you are number 1! And that has the PAC-10 standing at 5 and 0 for 2008.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009

. . . and Welcome 2009.

Yesterday afternoon my friend Ginny from Minnesota phoned with a warm message, and then my cousin Ellie called from the east coast as we watched the remaining 40 seconds of the Oregon State vs Pitt Sun bowl game. Oregon State squeaked out a win of 3-0 and now gives the PAC 10 a 4-0 standing thus far.

Later in the evening my brother phoned and emitted his warm and robust tenor... Ha'-ppy, ha'-ppy birth-day ba'-a-by, and we laughed and laughed as we always do. And just moments ago one of my sons from across the country called for wishes of a happy day, a wonderful gift.

Having a birthday on the first day of the year never seemed of much significance as it is today. People sometimes ask, were you the first to be born on that day, to which my reply is always, I don't know, for I was born at home... my grandmother and a nurse helped in that delivery. Then too when I was growing up, we didn't have much money to spend on lots of gifts, and with a birthday so close to Christmas, this one gift is for Christmas and your birthday, seemed okay by me.

That truly has served me well and been a philosophy in which I believe: it doesn't take a store bought present or a whole bunch of gifts to know you are loved or to celebrate a day. I relish not in more stuff that I don't need, but rather in hearing the voice of my family and friends, receiving their emails and cards, and enjoying this day with my husband and being special for one another.

So my wonderful sister called and sang the traditional Happy Birthday to you, and a second son and daughter-in-law called and bellowed a cacophonous rendition of the same, and we laughed and laughed as we always do. These are my gifts, my treasures.

The day is young and we anticipate what is ahead. Our wish is that this New Year be good for you, filled with joy, good health and prosperity and that you focus and savor in that which is important, the love of self, your family and friends.

T.S. Eliot wrote in the Little Gidding:

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."

Happy New Year.