Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh, this was soooo good!

We haven't cooked for awhile, so I thought I'd share this fabulous recipe I made for the first time tonight.  It's one of those dishes that makes you go, "Mmmmmm," out loud when you take the first bite.  In fact, I think I did that three times during the course of my meal, and also complimented the cook (me) out loud a few times too!  I said things like, "This is as good as The Painted Lady."  "If I ate this in a nice restaurant, I would be just as impressed as I am now."  "This is unbelievable."  And nobody thought I was bragging because they were all agreeing and "mmmm"-ing and complimenting the cook too!

So what was the delicious dish?  It's called Salmon in Champagne Sauce.  I hope you like salmon.  I know instantly I lost about a third of you because chocolate wasn't on the menu!  But seriously, this is an excellent way to prepare salmon and actually not that difficult.  You will definitely impress your guests if you serve it!

When Jeff and I were at the Columbia Gorge Hotel last weekend celebrating our 25th Anniversary, in our room was a complimentary bottle of champagne.  Jeff was of the mind to leave it behind, but I knew better and packed it away with the apples, squash and cider donuts!  Then I went online and searched for champagne recipes.  This is the one that caught my has everything I love and sounded so rich and elegant.  Here it is, in all its glory:

Salmon in Champagne Sauce
6 shallots, sliced thin
1 lb. of mushrooms (I used cremini and baby portabellas)
4 T. butter
1 t. lemon juice
1 bottle of champagne
1 to 1-1/2 c. whipping cream
fresh herbs
salt and pepper
salmon fillet

Saute onions and mushrooms in butter until just soft.  Pour in champagne and lemon juice.  Place salmon in an oiled baking dish (Pam spray or olive oil).  Pour champagne mixture over salmon.  Bake uncovered for 45 min. at 375 (baste with juices if salmon looks like it is getting dry).  Strain liquid back into the saute pan and boil until reduced to 1/2 c.  Whisk in cream, fresh herbs (I used herbes de Provence) and salt and pepper.  Pour cream back over salmon and serve.

I served my salmon with jasmine rice and sauteed asparagus.  Add a beautiful salad and some artisan bread (and chocolate!) and you have a special-company dinner!  Bon appetite!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Popcorn and a Movie

I love popcorn.  It is my favorite snack...or maybe dinner!

I sort of like movies.  If they aren't silly, predictable, slapstick, unrealistic, sci-fi, horror, sports, or rated R.  (See why I only sort of like movies?)

Tonight is movie night.  It's pouring rain and dark outside, and all the kids are gone...yes, all gone at the very same time (that doesn't happen very often!).  So I am making a big bowl of popcorn in my special microwave bowl with a bit of butter/olive oil and sprinkled with brewer's yeast, and I am hauling out the ironing board and the ironing, some paperwork, and a project I'm working on for Kate in Bosnia.  I will do all those things while I watch the movie.  I have a very hard time justifying sitting in one place for 2 hours when there are so many things needing my attention.  But if I can settle down in front of the TV with a good project and great popcorn, I am content!

I also really dislike movie theaters.  Shall I name the ways?
- stuck in my seat for 2 hours without a project
- must listen to other people in the audience laugh when I don't think it's funny
- dangling feet because my feet don't touch the ground
- popcorn so salty it makes my lips pucker
- popcorn so buttery it makes my hands greasy and my stomach feel ill
- chilly movie theater
- can't curl up with a blanket
- must wear street clothes rather than slippers and sweats
- the cost

Home is the place for me...cozy in my favorite cushy chair in my comfy clothes with my own bowl of perfectly dressed popcorn on one side and a project on the other, watching a great movie that is suspenseful, makes me think, surprises me, has a little romance, makes the bad guy get it in the end, finishes strong and leaves me feeling good. (If you know a movie that fits that description, let me know!)

So that's Sunday night blog.  Jeff just turned on the TV and I've gotta get poppin'!!

I have this popcorn bowl as
well as a few others!
I LOVE popcorn!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Comfort Me With Apples

Jeff and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in August.  Our kids put together a slide show and they honored us at church and gave us a beautiful gift.  Then we went out for dinner at Oregon's only 5-star restaurant, The Painted Lady, which happens to be right in Newberg!  It was fabulous...more than just a meal...a culinary experience for all 5 senses.  We loved it.   Then, this weekend we went back to the Columbia Gorge Hotel, where we got engaged, spent our wedding night, and our 5th anniversary.  We plan to celebrate in some way each season of the year...thoroughly enjoying our anniversary and making it memorable.

Since we enjoy going to the Hood River Apple Festival, we thought we'd plan our fall celebration around that, since our engagement and wedding night hotel just so happens to be in Hood River.  The weather forecast wasn't in our favor, but somehow we danced around the rain the whole weekend!  The clouds parted for us as soon as we entered the gorge, and by the time we had checked into the hotel the sun was shining.  We took advantage of that and went for a walk through the beautiful and extensive gardens surrounding the hotel...and down to the waterfall where Jeff proposed more than 25 years ago.  It's still beautiful.  I think Jeff did an amazing job picking that spot...especially considering that "back in our day," big, spectacular proposals weren't the trend they are now.  (I actually feel sorry for young couples who have to bear the pressure of coming up with a bigger, better bang of a proposal because it has to be shared with 1000 of their Facebook friends and a million strangers on You Tube!  I was so not like that when I was 21.  In fact, after Jeff asked me to marry him but before he could kiss me, I made him walk with me away from the waterfall, which was the focal point for the diners in the hotel restaurant above us, because I didn't want my first kiss to be viewed by an audience of strangers!  But I guess things are different now!

After walking, we went for a delicious dinner and then the rain began to fall.  But that was actually quite nice, because our room had a fireplace.  So Jeff worked on his sermon and I read (I always bring a pile of projects to work on whenever I travel, but this time I caught up on pleasure reading!).  Then we ate popcorn and watched a movie in bed (which is something we can't and would never do at home because we don't and never will have a TV in our bedroom), and then we did what we always do before going to sleep...

We read our Bibles together.  Yep.  I'm totally serious.  How do you think you stay happily married for 25 years? 

I woke at 6:30 as usual.  I contemplated the luxury of sleeping in, but then I thought of all I wanted to do before check-out, so I slipped quietly out of bed, got dressed, grabbed my camera, and headed outside into the barely-dawn, fresh-washed morning...and was instantly glad I didn't sleep in.  By the time the sun had fully risen I was ready for breakfast.  So I went back to my room and made a pot of french-pressed coffee and ate yogurt, berries and granola.  Then, while Jeff headed out for his coffee (home-brewed is never good enough for him), I took a bubble bath in the big, deep, old-fashioned tub!  That is also something I never do.  And I set my laptop on the little marble side table and played soothing music, and I read!  I honestly can't remember the last time I did that...10 years?  After that long, luxurious bath there was still time to sit by the fire and read some more, although Jeff made me turn off my music when he returned.  He hates my soft, girlie, romantic music...almost as bad as Christmas music!  (See why we read our Bibles every night?  We just might argue over turning off the Christmas music if we don't!)

We checked out at 11 and took the beautiful scenic highway up the mountain and into the Hood River Valley.  We decided we should pick apples first, because the clouds were banking towards the south.  It was easy picking, but the fruit was cold and wet after a night of rain and my gloves were soon soaked.  But I ate one of those rain-washed, night-chilled apples right off the tree, and I honestly think it might have been the best apple I've ever eaten!  From there we drove over to the Apple Valley Country Store for some cherry-wood smoked ribs, truly fall-apart tender!  By this time a brisk breeze had started up.  Although it definitely made the air chilly, it also stirred up all the bright leaves and whirled them around us like colorful ticker-tape.  It was so quintessially fall!  We browsed the store to warm up and bought a marionberry hand-pie because we hadn't eaten enough lunch, and then drove all the way back into town and down to the river to the apple festival grounds where we searched to no avail for apple-cider donuts.  Disappointed, we got a coffee for the road and headed home as the first rain drops fell.  By the time we hit the highway, it was pouring.  We were pretty pleased with our timing!  As we were nearing home, I remembered a pumpkin patch I had visited once with my mom that served both apple-cider donuts and pumpkin-spice donuts, so we made a side-stop there and found sweet success!  And the rain let up just at that moment!  When we got home, it started pouring again...then hailing!  But now it felt great to be cozy in the house with a cup of tea and a box full of apples waiting to be sliced into pie.  We ate the warm donuts with the kids and settled comfortably back into routine.  Perfect fall day...perfect fall anniversary celebration!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Changing Seasons

We had a very long and lovely summer...pretty much 3-1/2 months without any measurable rain and day after day after day of warm sunshine and clear blue skies.  (I imagine that's what it must be like year-round in San Diego!)

Summer is my favorite season.  I am a sun-worshipper (and now have hyperpigmentation all over my face to prove it!).  I love weather in the 80s.  I love jogging very early on already bright, sunny mornings.  I love the continual fruit harvest of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches and blackberries.  I love eating my lunch on the patio.  I love making sun-tea.  I still love a good tan.  I love barbequeing (well, I love it when Jeff or the boys barbeque for us!).  I go crazy at the farmer's market.  I love the long hot days that slide like silk into warm, balmy evenings.  I love the sound of crickets chirping by moonlight.  And I love my air conditioning that makes the heat so bearable!!

This September was the driest on record.  And the first two weeks of October were also amazing.  I greedily soaked up every nice day, truly enjoying and savoring the seemingly endless summer.

Then the forecast gave us a 4-day warning that rain was coming in a 1-2-3 punch...storm #1 on Friday, storm #2 on Sunday and storm #3 on Monday.

Sometimes wishful thinking keeps us in denial, or sometimes we just procrastinate because we don't enjoy what's to come.  But I took the weatherman at his word and heeded the warning by putting away summer and taking out fall.  For the next three days after the storm was announced, I was in the yard as soon as my work shift ended.  I dug up the weeds, pruned the shrubs, pressure-washed the patio, packed up the cushions to the lawn furniture, cleaned the garage, covered the fire-pit, scrubbed down the grill, washed the sliding glass door, cleaned the leaves out of the vents, hosed down the garbage cans and put away the summer sports equipment.  Then, on the day the storm was to hit, I got up early to get in my run before the rain arrived.

I stepped outside ready to run but stopped, awed for a moment by what I saw...the sky was a swirl of colorful clouds, the rosy pink of sunrise colliding with the dark gray of the gathering storm.  I turned right around and ran inside to grab my camera and then ran quickly out of my neighborhood to the open field and trails where the view was better.  This is what surrounded me:

Fall was falling!  I was witnessing the very moment that summer ended.  Instead of the wistful feeling I expected, I felt privileged to watch the changing of the seasons.  Every season is beautiful and has its place...even the seasons of life.  Although our leaves are still mostly green, that definitive moment of the battle of Gray vs. Blue made summer's retreat and autumn's victory quite obvious. The first drops of rain hit my face as I finished my run and jogged up to my doorstep.  I showered and changed clothes and met a friend for some Stumptown at one of my favorite coffee shops.  As we walked outside, latte in hand, and breathed in that sweet, fresh, damp air, I remarked on the fall fragrance of rain and woodsmoke...and out of my own mouth came these words:  "I love it."

And then suddenly it was okay to bid summer goodbye and welcome autumn, with all it's own delicious, fragrant, and lovely gifts...the apples, cranberries and hazelnuts, yummy meals that simmer slowly, vibrantly colored leaves that sprinkle the sky with confetti and crunch so satisfyingly underfoot, a tart breeze that makes cozy clothes feel wonderful, fires and candles, rain on the rooftop, and something warm in my cup.

Welcome, Fall!  I've been waiting for you!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

To Blog or Not To Blog

That is the question.

Since my last post almost 2 months ago, my schedule has spun into high gear and I just haven't had the time to sit down, think, and write.

Today I felt like I was starting to catch up on life, so I thought I might blog something short and sweet.  But when I logged on and looked at my blog, I saw what they call "stats."  After almost  a year of blogging I only have 20 followers.  My last entry had only 30 readers.  So either I have to step it up and put in a whole lot more effort to be relevant, interesting and follower-worthy, or I have to give it up and say bye to the blog.  I certainly have more than enough projects to fill my days, so letting go wouldn't leave me lacking fulfilment in any way.  But I have to say that many times I really enjoyed blogging.  Sometimes my head would be filled with stories and anecdotes that I couldn't wait to share.  It was fun to see my life through the eyes of my readers...and insightful too.  I learned a bit about myself, and I learned a bit about others who chose to comment, compliment or commiserate when they could relate.

And thus the dilemma.

Maybe it's just called writer's blog (I mean, block!). Or maybe I need a blog with a better know, buttons to click, links to follow, gorgeous graphics, give-aways, video clips, music and reader interaction.  Or maybe I should forget the blog and write a technology needed there!

So what is the answer to my multiple-choice question?  Maybe I'll sleep on it...