That Expression!

Our two year old grandson came to visit this Christmas. He was intrigued by our German Christmas Pyramid, and he would ask me to light it several times a day.

One day, just before Christmas, he came to me and said, “Grandma, can we put the fire on the spin thing?” So, how does a Grandma say no to a request like that…not to mention I love taking pictures of all my grandchildren, and here was another perfect chance.

And how sweet is that picture…can you not just see the wonder in his eyes! Well, let me tell you the rest of the story. My camera caught that little boy at just the perfect moment. He was not at all enthralled by the “spin”. Not two seconds later, his real intention was as clear as the fire on the candle wicks…the real purpose was to light the “spin thing” so he could see how long it would take to blow out all those candles, and to display pride in his accomplishment. Unfortunately, my camera did not capture that expression, but it was equally endearing…because he is a lot like his Daddy.

These are the moments I treasure, my most beloved moments, supplied by family.

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Beloved

The Moon is Never Quite the Same

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I love to go out each night and look at the moon. Sometimes I take a photo, sometimes I note its place in the sky, many times I just look and wonder.

On January 31, the sight of the full moon should be something truly spectacular. It is the second full moon of January, called a blue moon. It is also a super moon, the last one we will see in 2018, and we will also see a lunar eclipse as the moon moves across the shadow of the Earth. Now I just have to hope it is a clear night.

As I think about January 31, I think of the many pictures I have taken of the moon, and its many moods…my variations on a theme

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Variations on a Theme

The Silence of Snow

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There is a very special stillness I have always felt in a snowy woods…

And,

There is a special, still silence that has always warmed my heart, as I have watched my children, one by one, walk out and about in this great big world.

In response to the Weelky Photo Challenge, Silence.

Weathered

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Just before Christmas I was “window” shopping at an antique store in St. Charles, Missouri with my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter.

The moment I saw this weathered old Adirondack chair…well, I had to have it. So much for just looking! My husband just looked at me when we went back to the store to purchase the chair…but he is a saint, he said very little…and took out his checkbook.

No one will ever sit in it, but treasures of the seasons will rest on it all year long. Right now it is sitting on our front porch as light snow gently falls in this mid-January.

When summer comes I will put it out on our patio where it will share the sunshine and moonlight, the rain and the wind, with flowers and summer greens.

I love lichen, and this old chair, sitting out in a field in Tennessee had a perfect surface on which lichen could grow as it lay in the elements for a very long time. The woman who saved it from the fire heap told me that the color of the lichen turns a vibrant, almost luminous, green when it gets wet. I can hardly wait! But for right now, I love how it looks right on my porch, in the snow, sharing space with the greens of winter.

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

Apostle Islands Ice Caves…and Wisconsin Cheese and Beer Soup

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Here in Missouri, it is cold…it is very cold. It is cold from the Midwest to the East Coast, all the way down to the Southeastern United States. It actually snowed in Florida last week. And as I sit here, awaiting the beginning of the freezing rain that has been forecast for later this morning, I think back to other experiences I have had with ice, some of them not such great memories. But then I remember Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the ice caves of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

In February of 2014, we traveled to Minneapolis to be present for the finalizing of our granddaughter’s adoption. What a special moment that was. There are no words that adequately describe how much joy that little girl has brought into our lives.

It was a snowy winter, and as we drove north from our home in Missouri, we never once lost sight of snow along the way.

After spending what is never enough time with our grandchild, we were getting ready to head back south, and home. As we watched the local and national news on our last evening in Minnesota, we saw stories highlighting the ice caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin, Jim and I glanced at each other, and knew exactly what we needed to do. Our son-in-law looked at us and said, “You are really going up there, aren’t you?” Well, of course we were!

The trip up to the northern reaches of Wisconsin was beautiful…very snowy the whole way.

When we arrived in Bayfield, a point from which we might access the national lakeshore and the caves, I felt as if I had walked into a Currier and Ives painting. The scenes of the town and Lake Superior are pictures that will live in my mind forever. Just walking through town would have satisfied me that we were right in traveling north instead of south toward home.

A view of Bayfield, Wisconsin I took while taking a walk on frozen Lake Superior.

Why, yes, that is a car driving on the lake. We actually saw semis on the lake, taking supplies to islands far from shore.

This boat will not be going anywhere for some time.

Bayfield was simply a winter wonderland!

Bayfield is very busy during ice cave season, (especially after being featured on the news), so if you ever decide to visit I would suggest you make better plans than we did. After searching for a room to stay in for some time, we finally found a condominium unit we were able to rent for one night. We made a quick trip to the grocery store, had some dinner, got some sleep, made a quick, but hearty, breakfast and headed out to the caves.

The caves were very busy, and cars were lined up for a very long way…forget anything like a parking lot. State patrolmen directed traffic, helping people find parking places, and we found ourselves parked on the side of a fairly narrow road hoping Jim’s door handle would remain attached to the door while we took our walk on the ice.

We walked about a mile to get to the official entrance to the caves (really happy we had that substantial breakfast) though some natives appeared to know short-cuts through the woods. But no matter the distance, or the cold, it was absolutely worth the time and effort.

I think the best way to describe the nature of an ice cave is to quote the FAQ page on the Apostle Island National Lakeshore website:

There are intricately carved sea caves in cliffs along the Mainland Unit of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. As ice was forming on Lake Superior, waves splashing against the rock began to freeze on the sandstone cliff. In addition, water seeping between sandstone rock layers froze to form a variety of features similar to limestone caves. There are large icicles and formations hanging off of the cliffs, curtains and columns of ice, and abundant ice crystals.

With that explanation, let me show you some of the magic that is the ice caves…

There were a lot of us all bundled up, walking on the lake under a sun-drenched sky.

Our first views of the ice were these frozen waves…

We saw icicle formations as we walked along…

all the time knowing that if we could just pass the cliff in front of us…

the real magic would begin, and we were right. The ice itself is amazing…

as it forms caves inside of caves, as it hangs overhead, lining the walls of rock with long icicles and new walls of ice, creating slippery floors, and magnificent ceilings.

All of us wanted to get inside of the caves…

and we wanted to play in the caves.

Jim took a picture of me doing what I love to do anywhere we go…taking a pictures.

Nor could we help staring from the outside…

The Apostle Island ice caves are amazing. If you would like to experience this magical world yourself, you can plan your trip by visiting the Apostle Island National Lakeshore website. I hope you do, I promise you will not regret it…the hardest thing is waiting for the ice to be thick enough for visitors to be allowed into this frozen wonderland.

Wisconsin Cheese and Beer Soup

Wisconsin Cheese Beer Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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A quick traditional Wisconsin soup to warm a cold day, or to enjoy while watching a football game.

Ingredients

  • 1 lg carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 med. stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 lg clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 c. beer
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • dash pepper
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 c. medium Cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Place the carrot, celery, onion and garlic into a food processor, and pulse into small bits. You may make them the size you wish, dependent on how long you pulse them.
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan, and add the chopped vegetables. Cook about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
  3. Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Add the milk, beer, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard powder, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in cheese just until melted.

We like to serve this soup with fresh soft pretzels torn to make croutons, and extra pretzels on the side. Enjoy!

One of my favorite pictures is this one of the bare rock face….it makes me feel like I am standing on the edge of a deep hole.

Waterfalls, a Snow Capped Mountain, the Columbia River Gorge…and Pacific Salmon Chowder

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The Columbia River Gorge

While visiting Portland, Oregon this summer with some of our family, we took a day to travel the beautiful Columbia River Highway, the first ever planned scenic highway in America. We made many spur of the moment stops for “Grandma has to take a picture”, before stopping at the our first “planned” photo op at Crown Point and the Vista House. The views here are spectacular, even in the foggy, early morning…

But, to be fair, there were simply no spots along this highway that were not amazing.

A view of the dome inside the Vista House.

The Vista House is probably one the most elaborate rest stops you will ever visit! It is a domed building constructed of gray sandstone with a tile roof, and sits 733 feet above the Columbia River. It was built to honor early pioneers to the area, as well as to serve as a comfort station along the highway, or what old-timers called “the $100,000 outhouse”.

As we continued the drive we arrived at the first of the waterfalls we were to visit on this trip, and waterfalls are one of my favorite things. Our first falls was Latourell Falls. Latourell Falls spills 249 feet off a columnar basalt cliff in a single stream that touches nothing on its way down.

Latourell Falls

And of course, if one can, one must get as close to the falls as possible!

Latourell Falls is beautiful, but for me, hailing from the “cave state” of limestone and sandstone, the basalt columns were simply amazing. I was so impressed, I purchased a book on the geology of the state of Oregon…trust me, no one saw that coming!

Basalt columns at Latourell Falls

Next, we stopped for a hike to Bridal Veil Falls, and it was along this trail that I first realized I was in a rain forest, the American northwest temperate rain forest. Sometimes the head knows things, yet the mind does not comprehend, and realizing where I truly was gave a whole new meaning to my entire trip.

I realized on the trail to Bridal Veil Falls that I was in a rain forest!

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is 120 feet tall, and cascades over a basalt cliff. The climb to the falls is beautiful, but a little steep.

We also visited Horsetail Falls, cascading 176 ft. over a cliff. It got its name because its shape is so reminiscent of a horse’s tail.

Horsetail Falls

The last falls on our tour was the grandest of them all, Multnomah Falls, the most visited natural recreation spot in the Pacific Northwest. Fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain, Multnomah pours ice cold water over the side of the cliff from 611 feet up. It is truly an amazing sight, and the sound of all that cascading water is equally amazing.

Multnomah Falls

It is so sad to have to mention that, until at least next spring or summer, none of these beautiful falls are open for visiting. A devastating fire, the Eagle Creek Fire, roared through the area, destroying huge areas of the forest. Even now, when the danger of fire is gone, lasting consequences will plague the area for a very long time. Remember those basalt columns that so interested me? Those columns are held together by moss, which serves as a natural glue. The fire burned and destroyed the beautiful mosses we saw everywhere. Without this “glue”, pieces of rock continue to fall, endangering the highway, the buildings, bridges, and also any people who might happen by. I hope nature will heal itself quickly, and we can all return to this most incredible place.

Many of the trees are gone, but I will always remember how huge they were, and I will always cherish the picture of my son and grandson hugging their favorite tree on our hikes up to the falls.

Everyone, especially our two grandchildren, enjoyed Lost Lake Campground, Resort, and Day Use Area beneath Mt. Hood. And people who have cameras should not be allowed to spend too much time there…I must have taken three dozen pictures of the view over the lake, toward Mt. Hood while the rest of the family ate a picnic lunch and played in the lake…thank goodness for digital cameras.

Mt. Hood is spectacular. It has an elevation of 11,250 ft. and is located in the Cascade Range Mountains. It is the tallest point in Oregon. It is also a volcano, having experienced its last eruption in 1907.

Mt. Hood

While at Lost Lake, we took time to eat, and just play for a time….

 

What a wonderful place the Columbia River Gorge is. I hope and trust that it will grow back, and that we might all be able to visit and experience its natural beauty once again and for many years to come. It is not only candy for the eyes, it is candy for the soul! I hope you get to visit it someday too!

Pacific Salmon Chowder

For centuries, salmon have fed the peoples that have gathered to live in the Pacific Northwest. This delightful and simple chowder would have been something Native Americans might have made long ago, and it is still absolutely delicious today. When I first came across this recipe, I wondered if it would not be even better if I added some corn, as appears in most chowders. But after doing some research, I discovered that the first people to live along the Columbia River did not participate in the activities associated with farming. These early Native Americans were hunters and gatherers. This chowder is so simple, with so few ingredients, yet it is now one of our favorite go-to meals. It is equally good the next day, maybe even better, as a nourishing lunch. I have adapted this recipe from Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking, written by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs. It is published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York.

Pacific Salmon Chowder

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced, about 3/4 cup
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. fresh dill weed, or to taste
  • 4 cups milk
  • 12 oz. fresh salmon, cut into chunks
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dill sprigs, for garnish

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the potatoes and green onions, and saute for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the milk and the dill weed.
  4. Simmer over low heat for 40 minutes.
  5. Add the fresh salmon and simmer for 10 minutes more.
  6. Season to taste.
  7. Serve in individual bowls garnished with a sprig of dill.

Enjoy!

Rounded By the Sea

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Though I live in the very middle the nation, I absolutely love the sea. And when I visit the sea, as when I visit any place else, I collect things. I collect anything I can get home in the car, or more often nowadays, on a plane, or a train.

As I collect items on the shore and in the sea, I am always drawn to appreciate the power of the sea. I am amazed at how it is able to work on the rock and shells to create, over time, their hard, sharp edges into round, smooth surfaces.

I have found many moon snail shells on the shoreline, and in the sea. They are incredible and intricate. Nature never ceases to make me feel humble…

Sand dollars are special sea creatures everyone loves to find, and finding one still in one piece is very special. Look at the smaller sand dollar…it has been worn down by the movement of the sea, becoming rounded, its imprint much lighter. Notice the small piece of driftwood behind the sand dollars. It, too, has been rounded by the sea…

I have been to the Atlantic coast many times, but this summer we had the opportunity to travel to the Pacific coast of Oregon…and it is amazing. We found many pieces of basalt on the edge of the sea. Many of them had holes bored into them, perfectly round holes. What could have done that, i wondered. Time to do some research. The perfectly bored holes are made by a bivalve mollusc called a piddock or angel wing. We found many basalt stones rounded by the sea with rounded piddock bored burrows.

The sea is beautiful, it has amazing power, and its action on everything around it helps make nature a most exciting and aesthetic place to find oneself!

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

Sky Glow

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Early in the morning, I look out my window as I read while enjoying my first cup of coffee. The glow of the morning sun is a welcome sight, and a look into the possibilities of a new day…

Some mornings bring fog, sometimes dense fog. But at some point that sun rising in the east cuts through, and gives a very special glow to the morning…

As I walk through the woods at a nearby nature trail, the glow of the sun is bright. But as it filters through the treetops, I can almost look right at it..

The glow of the full moon has always thrilled me, but sometimes that glow has to struggle to get through the cloud cover of a stormy night…

And then the next evening, when all the clouds have passed, the not quite full moon shines through with an almost magical glow…

Sky glow!

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

We Are Pedestrians In An Un-Pedestrian World

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To be a pedestrian is to walk, and to be pedestrian is to be ordinary, perhaps even boring.

While in Oregon this summer, we walked and walked and walked. We were pedestrians in a world we had never seen before. And as we moved along, we discovered, and we walked into, around, and through experiences we had previously only lived vicariously through videos and books, on-line shares from friends, and travelogues. It was a new world for us…and it was anything but pedestrian.

This post is in response to the Weekly Photos Challenge.

The City of Roses…and Sweet Cherry Caflouti

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It has been a busy summer, and as autumn begins, I once again have the opportunity  to return to my simple indoor pleasures. The garden has, for the most part, run its course, travel has slowed down (though it never really stops), and I can reflect on the places we have gone and the things we have seen.

We try, and always succeed, in seeing each of our five children scattered across the country at least once a year. This summer we joined our daughter’s family from Minnesota, and our son’s family from Maryland on the Oregon coast for a most fantastic vacation. My next several postings will be devoted to our trip and the many things we saw, and the many things we did.

Our first stop was Portland, “The City of Roses”. Our three families flew into Portland, where we spent several days exploring the city, getting a feel for its inhabitants, and relaxing in a small house, on a corner lot, in an old and historic neighborhood.

What a charming little place to spend time with family.

Portland is the largest city in Oregon. It is located at the foot of Mt. Hood, and at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

Before European settlement, many Native Americans of the Chinook made this area their home. The thousands of Chinook from the Clackimas and Multnomah bands made this area the most densely populated on the Pacific Coast.

When streams of settlers traveling the Oregon Trail began arriving on the west coast of the American Northwest, they could not help but notice the vast forests. Two of these settlers, William Overton and his friend, Asa Lovejoy staked out a claim, cleared many of the trees in a business venture, built roads, and erected the first buildings in the area. Eventually, Overton moved on, selling his share of the settlement to Francis Pettigrove. As the settlement grew and prospered, it was called  “The Clearing”, and “Stumptown”, but finally, in 1845 it was decided by virtue of a coin toss between Pettigrove and Overton, that the town would be called Portland.

Early settlers found vast forests in the area that now encompasses the city of Portland.

By 1850, Portland had approximately 800 residents, and the town was incorporated in 1851. Industry in the area was benefited by its location on the newly laid railroad. Workers in Portland made their living in lumber, fishing, growing wheat, and raising cattle. Over the years Portland has grown to be the second largest city in the Northwest.

A few scenes from Portland…

Our first big outing was to the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland’s Old Town…what an amazing place. We wandered around the garden for quite some time, marveling at the beautiful flowers and plants and enjoying the kids as they enjoyed the huge koi! But one of the best parts of this visit was our lunch at the Tea Room. We ordered several items and shared them all around.

Both the grandchildren enjoyed watching the fish in the pond…

and our granddaughter could have stayed right here for hours listening to the soothing, beautiful music…

Another day we traveled to the International Test Rose Garden in Washington Park. Pictures do a much better job than words ever could to describe this beautiful place…

We met friends of our son’s at Washington Park to give the children an opportunity to play on the  playground. While they played, and wore their parents out, I took a walk along one of the paths and realized for the first time that I was actually in the rain forest…

We wandered around Portland for several days, enjoying the sites using their mass transit. One of my favorite places to visit was Powell’s Books, the largest independent book store in the world. I cannot believe I did not take a picture…guess I was too busy buying books, and wondering how on earth I would get them all home in my luggage…on a plane with weight restrictions. I did it, but it wasn’t easy, and Jim’s luggage was suddenly heavier than he remembered it on the flight here. And to round out one very busy day, we stopped for some of Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnuts. Oh, how the two kids enjoyed those!

And on our way out of Portland, we stopped at another of their magnificent parks for a picnic lunch…as we headed to the coast, and a beach house on a hillside. But more about that in another post!

Tired kids, tired grandpa…on our way further west…

Sweet Cherries…Sweet Treat

Some of the best sweet cherries, known as Bing cherries, are grown in the American Northwest. Here is a slightly adapted recipe for a sweet cherry caflouti from the Portland Farmers Market. A caflouti is a custrdy cake which originated in Southern France…and it is really delicious.

Sweet Cherry Caflouti

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. milk, warmed just a bit
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. amaretto (optional; you may substitute 1 Tbsp. of pure almond extract)
  • 1 lb. of sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • a bit of confectioners sugar

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and make a well in the middle.
  2. Add the milk, eggs and amaretto.
  3. Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon until well combined. The batter will be similar to heavy cream.
  4. Butter the bottom of a cast iron frying pan with the butter, and cover evenly with the cherries.
  5. Pour the batter over the cherries and bake at 375 degrees on the middle rack of the oven until the clafouti is firm, about 35- 45 minutes.
  6. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  7. Dust with a bit of confectioners sugar. and serve warm.

Enjoy!