Sunday, August 29, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad

We invited friends to join us for dinner last evening mainly because we wanted to share in an extraordinary event: we finally had picked our first 5 fresh and beautiful heirloom tomatoes - one 'Nile River' and the others, 'Ashleigh' - and a favourite salad would accompany our meal.

I started seeds in the spring and with the cold wet June, the larger tomatoes in the Pacific northwest simply have not produced until now... the last of August. We have had 'Sun Golds', the small sweet orange-colored cherry tomato and the red 'Sweet 100's' for most of the month, so we have not been totally void of tomatoes.

Heirloom Tomato Basil Mozzarella from Diana's kitchen
(Insalata Caprese)

Tomatoes, sliced
Fresh soft Mozzarella, sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic vinegar
Basil, lightly chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Alternately layer fresh sliced tomatoes with soft mozzarella. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a light sprinkling of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and the lightly chopped fresh basil, and you have a most delicious and simple summer salad. (cherry tomatoes in the center of the plate)

Although we had a NY strip steak with sauteed mushrooms and fresh grilled zucchini from the garden, this in itself would make a meal. Imagine a nice grilled crusty bread and a glass of wine... uhmm.

P.S. I have read that a true Caprese salad does not have vinegar, but don't tell our taste buds that. We love some balsamic along with the extra virgin olive oil.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday Evening Sky _ SkyWatch

There is nothing quite like the Pacific northwest evening sky...
drama, dimension, color illuminated, magnified.

For beautiful skies from around the world
be sure to visit SkyWatch Friday.

Seven fifty-nine p.m.

Eight twenty-seven p.m.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Van Morrison Concert, Windy Point Wind Farm, SkyWatch

For beautiful skies from around the world
be sure to visit SkyWatch Friday.

Van Morrison

Our dear friends invited us to join them for a trip to Quincy, WA and a concert at the Gorge Amphitheater this past Sunday. How could we not go? I love the music of Van Morrison and had never seen him in a live performance.

We left early Sunday morning and enjoyed every bit of the long drive north and along the phenomenally beautiful Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. A six o'clock p.m. performance left little time for photo ops, so I took advantage of what I could while riding.

Once we crossed the Columbia River and headed north into central Washington, the landscape began to change _ mountains and miles of rugged and arid wilderness, and like soldiers with flailing arms these stood as sentries atop the hillside.

As we approached our destination, the terrain changed again.

We arrived in plenty of time to check-in to our hotel ($165 US dollars), drive to the outdoor theater still 45 miles away and be at the gate by 4 pm (opening time) for a 6 pm performance... well, supposedly. We parked in VIP parking ($58 US) in order to exit more easily (not really), and we selected lawn seating ($50 each) so we could have a picnic prior to the main performance. After standing in a long line in the hot afternoon sun for 30-40 minutes, we were finally permitted to enter... but first we had to go through security.

Rules and regulations: No professional cameras (SLR or detachable lenses), digital cameras OK; no lounge and elevated chairs; factory sealed water bottles of normal size; food in clear plastic gallon bags allowed; no hard-shelled coolers; no beer or wine... oh, but you can smoke! As for the price of concessions, we were pleased we brought snacks, our water and dinner; although we did pay for a glass of wine. ouch!

Once the gate was opened, we passed through and stood in line again awaiting to be searched, belongings and a personal touch. Repeatedly the attendants were telling everyone, "You can have NO cameras or camera phones, and if one person photographs him (Van Morrison), he will walk off the stage. Really? One of the ladies even went so far as to say Van Morrison was shy and that was why he didn't want to have himself photographed, and to which I may have retorted to our friends... if we looked up hubris in the dictionary there would be a picture of Barack Obama, Bill O' Reilly, and Van Morrison.

I didn't bring my camera to photograph a 65-year-old overweight performer (whose music I love), but, as we are at one of the most beautiful spots on earth, I brought it so I could capture a piece of the phenomenal scenery. P.S. Alright, I will admit to not following the rules (this time); my camera was in the bottom of my bag and overlooked by the staff member and the photo was taken prior to any performers being on stage... so throw me out. They did make some folks take cameras back to their vehicles.

Look at this phenomenal place! And from where we sat my old eyes couldn't discern who or what was on the stage, but that did not deter from the complete enjoyment of the concert.

Around 7:30 pm, a helicopter flew in from the northeast and landed at the top of the hill behind us; subsequently a black car appeared below and pulled in behind the motor coach seen in the center of the photo. A man eventually emerged from the car carrying clothing; we waited and finally the black-suited Van the Man who was sporting dark sunglasses and a black fedora, joined his black-suited band members. Without a spoken word he immediately began to sing.

One song after another... wonderful... better than expected and with new arrangements of familiar songs to include his first major hit from 1967, Brown Eyed Girl... and the crowd cheered with excitement! I was hoping to hear two of my favourites, Moondance and Into The Mystic and sure enough they were sung loud and clear; the former had a new arrangement (I preferred the original) and the latter warmed my soul as I listened to the sax echo And when that fog horn blows... a far better arrangement than the original.

One of our friends aptly described Morrison's singing in prior performances as sounding as if he has a mouth full of marbles. (good description) As for Sunday night, his voice remains strong and amazingly clear. Many of the crowd were singing along, on their feet and dancing, (I danced sitting down); all were inspired and enthusiastic to being there listening to this genius. We enjoyed a wonderful mix of older songs, rock, jazz, a little R & B and with a group of amazing and talented musicians, from violinist, pianist, guitarist, sax... And I was quite surprised at how many much younger people were there outside our age group.

Toward the end of the evening, folks were using their phones to take photos and there were occasional flashes of light. My camera zoomed in to this extent and with no flash I was able to capture a few photos.

G–L–O–R–I–A roused the audience. Toward the end of the song the lights were flashing on stage and Van Morrison turned and simply walked off and into his waiting car without even a thank you to the audience, while his band continued to play. Interesting is that there was no acknowledgment of these extraordinary members of his band. He came on stage, sang and left! which had many looking at one another in amazement.

Summary: it was a rather expensive affair; we were a bit dismayed at what seemed to be arrogance on the part of this man; but despite that, it was a terrific concert from one of my favourite artists in this beautiful open air arena amidst this amazing Columbia Rilver Gorge; we were relaxed, entertained, and especially so, it was better than expected and enjoyed with our wonderful and dear friends.

Monday return trip: more views of Windy Point/Windy Flats Renewable Energy Farm in Washington... our federal stimulus money supplied to a CA company for California energy...

Notice the steps at the lower bottom left as to the scale of these and
you should hear the whoosh-ing sound they make.

Mt. Hood as seen across from the Wind Farm...
(enlarge to view the scale of the farm houses in the distance)

... a stop at Maryhill Winery, 2009 "Washington Winery of the Year",
(of course we bought some... hubby and I on the left)

a view of the Columbia River from the Washington side,
Mt. Hood and a beautiful trip home

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fog, Band-tailed Pigeons, July Harvest

This morning as the fog danced across the treetops,

the Band-tailed Pigeons roosted upon branches of the Madrone in the distance.

It feels like the beginning of fall to me. How can it be, for our summer has been so limited? May was cold and rainy as was the month of June, but July brought forth summertime.

Earlier in the year and for the first time, I saw these large birds descend upon the outlying and towering Douglas Firs on the neighbor's land, but in the past several weeks they have taken to swooping into our garden. In flocks they fly, descending upon the beech, resting, then come in for a quick drink of water at the bath, fly off, only to return somewhat later.

An interesting looking bird with yellow legs and feet and a yellow beak with a black tip. The adult has a white collar at the nape and below an iridescent green patch. Click to enlarge and view the lovely coloring: the soft gray, purplish head and underparts, and a lighter banded tail. I do believe he (or she) is quite handsome.

When I returned from the pool this morning and came up our driveway, I disrupted their sojourn at our pond... 15 or 20 of them. I may have to rethink how much I like them. (wink)


The garden continues to produce, and lovely is all the color.
The tomatoes are way behind, apparently due to the wet and colder than normal June, but all else does not disappoint.

July Harvest Total = 82.74 lbs
Year to date = 167.88 lbs

Asparagus 0.5 lb
Basil 0.25 lb
Beans Fin de Bagnol .6 lb
Beets Crapaudine 1.0 lb
Broccoli Packman & Piracicaba 3.75 lb
Broccoli Romanesco 0.6 lb
Cabbage Red Acre 2.2 lb
Cabbage Stonehead 11.33 lb
Carrots Nantes 3.11 lb
Carrots Purple Dragon 0.5 lb
Cauliflower Bishop 2.02 lb
Celery Giant Red 8.6 lb
Cilantro 1.0 lb
Garlic Chesnok Red 0.25 lb
Fennel 3.3 lb
Kale 2.9 lb
Leeks 0.5 lb
Lettuce 2.89 lb
Marionberries 21.95 lb
Potatoes Rose Finn 2.1 lb
Sugar Snap Peas 4.39 lb
Swiss Chard 3.55 lb
Tomatoes Stupice 2.2 lb
Onions Texas Sweets 2.0 lb
Onions Walla Walla 1.25 lb

I hope your harvests are bountiful.