Thursday, June 28, 2007

Another Seven

Pssst! Quick! While my captors aren't looking!

I've been ping'd by Richele at *richie designs* to tell you seven things you don't know about me... which works out great for you if you're short on sleep.

Here goes:

My earliest memory is realizing I just fell out of bed. I'm pretty sure I was three.

My hubby and I met on the first day of my first real job. By the middle of the "farewell" lunch for the girl I was replacing, I knew I would be with him for the rest of my life... though I felt horribly guilty thinking that since I was still in a very serious, four-year relationship. It took him a little longer to realize we were meant for each other, though he has said he shared my instantaneous attraction.

I think my guy looks especially hot when he's driving our little red tractor. Hubba Hubba!

I detest being startled by someone trying to be funny.

On my 30th birthday I won a Ouzo drinking contest and felt GREAT the next morning.

My favorite thing in all the world is snuggling up to my honey or my babies when they still smell like sleep.

A couple of years ago I left James and the girls at home and took a whirlwind, three-day "business" trip to Fairbanks, Alaska where I ate wild musk ox and loved it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Best of Seven

I'm being held hostage by radical deadlines!

In the mean time, here is some very cute filler:

WARNING: If you're allergic to, dislike,
or otherwise have no interest in cats, leave now!

This is Winky.

Don't tell my other cats, but she is my all-time favorite.

I love all seven with varying degrees of emotional attachment, but this one has stolen my heart.

I watched her come into the world. I snatched her from the jaws of death when, as the runt of six, she ended up needing to be fed with a syringe to survive.

She was so tiny and fragile I carted her around inside my shirt
to keep her warm and safe.

And now, at three and a half months old and still remarkably small, she is the most relaxed, sweetest and most tolerant cat I've ever seen.

These pictures show how stressed she was after having her nap distrurbed repeatedly by Grace's insistence on having Winky sleep on her lap... then she moved her to my lap... then I had to make dinner so I picked her up and she stretched out into the position you see here... and stayed that way through being moved yet again and bombarded by the cacophony of gaming noise and wiggly children.

Oh... my... GOODNESS!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Twisty People

My girls LOVE to go to the grocery store. Why?

Besides getting to pick juice box flavors and the unmatchable thrill they derive from watching that little vain pop out in my forehead when Grace gets REALLY EMPHATIC that she NEEDS a whole case of Smarties... the BIG excitement is the virtually inexhaustible supply of TWISTIES in the produce section.

They always make fun shapes to amuse themselves as we meander through the aisles, but this time, Anna came up with some extra cool art.

I think she's really looking forward to sparring, now that she has her green belt.

What do you think?

Lord of the Rings, or Zelda. You decide.

Twisty Grappling, anyone? (I don't think the guy on the right is doing so well.)

This was MY favorite part of the shopping. The bun is from Gabriel's Bakery, the beef is from my pasture, the bleu cheese INSIDE the burger is Italian, the Sour Cream and Dill Kettle Chips are from Eugene, and the Rosemont Shiraz/Cabernet is from Australia.

Whole Foods sure saved me a lot of running around for this meal! YUM!

Friday, June 22, 2007

"I'm a girl with cows, not a cowgirl" I said.

"You're a girl with cows. That MAKES you a cowgirl" said she.

Whomever is right. I FINALLY GOT MY APRON!

It was my birthday gift to myself and I love it.

My day was filled with fun and family and that's the best way I can think of to march headlong into a new decade.

It is my long-held belief that on one's birthday, the person who most deserves to be spoiled is your mom. SO, the girls and I picked up mine and went to a very lovely lunch at Orchards Bistro in Mac. The food was great, though the Mac and Cheese was a bit too fru fru for Grace and she elected, instead, to pilfer Thai noodles from her Grandma's plate.

After lunch we walked across the street to see Angelina and unite me with the object of my desire... that fabulous cowgirl apron from my June 12 post.

She carries lots of fun stuff that I usually cannot live without AND she's having a SALE to empty the store. I walked out with an arm-full! She's closing the brick-and-mortar store to concentrate on her true talents, designing and writing, but we're lucky enough that she's keeping her web store As soon as you're done here, go check it out.

After loading up with snazzy, nearly-half-price prizes, we four party girls headed back to Newberg for pedicures!

We picked up blended coffee drinks, well, smoothies for the littler girls, and plopped our fannies down in lovely massage chairs to receive the pampering we so desired and deserved.

Grace was not so sure about the whole arrangement, looking like she had somehow unexpectedly landed on Mars, but she adapted quickly and soon decided this pamper planet was well worth the visit!

Anna was on board from the moment I mentioned it and announced her eagerness about every half hour until we got there.

Three generations of beautiful toes.

The rest of the day was filled with strawberries and cream, T-bone steaks and potato salad, lots of good wine and seven of the dearest people in my life: my Mom and Tom, my in-laws and my hubby and girls.

We were joined later in the evening by Anna's piano teacher, Bethany, and her husband... I know that sounds weird, but she has been a breath of sweet, fresh air every Wednesday for the last two years and they are moving to Utah for his job. It was our last chance to see them... maybe forever... so I was quick to invite them for dinner.

I do that.

It makes me happy.

We played and laughed and talked by the outdoor fireplace until nearly midnight. Then, our guests went home and my tired little family and I retired to our beds and slept like well-fed, bliss-filled, rocks. In fact, I didn't move once in the night. At all. That's some seriously good sleep.

It says, "The Queen," in case you're wondering

I'm going to like my 40s. I can tell.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

10 Things I'm Sure of Now That I'm 40

Today is my 40th birthday and promises to be full of wonderful things to share in a future post, but in the mean time, here's a short list of stuff I've figured out so far... I think.

1. I'm not as fat as I think I am.

2. Be respectful and show gratitude to everyone: especially people who do the difficult, thankless, dirty jobs that make my life easier and better. That's a lot of people.

3. Gratitude is the key to sanity.

4. Digital meat thermometer probes won't survive the dishwasher... ever.

5. Digital meat thermometers don't survive very long, period.

6. Kids need a garden, mud, animals, bugs, good food, lots and LOTS of affection and grandparents.

7. I need to live in the country.

8. I need to visit the city regularly.

9. My husband loves me more than I realize or give him credit for.

10. Even on my worst day, my life is better than I ever dreamed it would be and I wouldn't change it for anything.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nothin' Say's "Happy Father's Day" Like Comfort Food and Mud Muffins

We started the weekend off with a BANG! Friday was Anna and Grace's last day of school, Anna tested for her Green Belt in Tae Kwon Do and we finished the day with a pre-Father's Day BBQ Bash with my dad and uncle, my in-laws and my older brother and sister-in-law.

James was the King of the Grill, as usual, and we 'cued up some very yummy bleu cheese-filled burgers topped with smoked cheddar on potato or onion rolls followed by, you guessed it, STRAWBERRY SHORT CAKE with real whipped cream (of course)! I was stuffed but couldn't resist taking it to a new level of discomfort in the presence of those juicy beauties so unexpectedly late in the season. It was worth the pain.

Unfortunately, I was so busy cooking (and eating) I didn't manage to get any pics of this lovely meal, but don't worry, you won't get out of this posting without some food photos!

Which brings us to Saturday:
I had promised James that his Father's Day weekend would be filled with comfort food and, come Sunday, I would not even turn on my computer... really.

Bring on the chicken and dumplings!

Sadly, once again, I was so busy scarfing it down when it was fresh and loaded with gravy I forgot to get out the camera. This picture is from my lunch the next day so all the juicy goodness had soaked into the dumpling. Mmmmmm... still yummy!

Sunday was all about a very big treat in my family: Kraut Brook.

You're right. You've never heard of it.

It was generally accepted in my family that this was a traditional German dish... though no German teacher I ever had knew of such a thing. It's not Russian, either. Since my German Great Grandparents actually grew up in Russia, I searched high and low through Russian cook books to find the recipe to no avail.

What I have come to believe is that likely Great Grandma Rueck was actually saying "Kraut Brot" (translation: cabbage bread) to her English-speaking children and neighbors with her Russian accent and it came out sounding like "Krowt Bedook." I will never know for sure, but they are some of the most delicious little packages of peasant food you'll ever eat!

Having not made them for a couple of years, I had to re-teach myself how to put these little hummers together. Mostly, making the bread dough is the biggest challenge. Who can't fry up some hamburger, cabbage and onions! (though, my Grannee did have a specific way she did it: burger first, set it aside, then fry the onion and cabbage in the drippings. Mix 'em together and let it cool.)

For the bread dough, I followed Betty Crocker's recipe for white bread (the book I have was my Grannee's and I treasure it... though I have covered it's pages with my own notes, too.) I always have to change things up a bit, though, so instead of water for the liquid, I used cultured cream (basically, really heavy buttermilk).

Ohhhh, Mama! It made absolutely PERFECT dough! Not sticky and not dry, deliciously elastic!

So, the next question was, did Grannee brush them with butter like the recipe says, or do I remember that she used an egg wash? Hmmm.


Egg Wash

Yep! I remembered right. She used an egg wash, and you can see why! What gorgeous color!

My only regret is that I didn't add just a little whole wheat flour to round out the flavor and texture like she did. Sometimes she'd even add a little rye flour.

I miss her... though, I'm pretty sure she was right there with me when I was kneading that dough. That was her form of therapy. I can see why. It's a great time to think and get out frustrations.

I need to make more bread.

So, at this point, you might be asking, "Now what were your kids doing all this time that you could make so much time-consuming, nutritious and delicious food?

Well, when I was rolling out bread dough, they were right there with me, rolling their own and turning it into little doughy rocks with all the extra flour. (We ended up boiling their creations in some chicken stock and they had noodle soup of their own making for lunch!)

When it came time to fill the little bundles, they lost interest and headed outside.

They were gone for quite a while.

I heard giggling so I wasn't worried.

I should have been.

Especially after I heard the splashing.

It didn't register on me for a little bit as I was still blissfully wallowing in my perfect-bread-dough moment...

...then, Anna showed up at the back door... covered in mud.

"Is your sister still wearing a dress?" I asked, already knowing what the answer was.



"Go back under the deck. I'll be right there."

I got my camera.

Mud Muffins anyone?

Well, you know, you can't do THIS kind of thing in the city. Not this WELL, anyway! I was too busy laughing and appreciating how much fun they were having to be mad that they had pretty much ruined their clothes.

There will be another red velvet dress, or something like it, in the next round of hand-me-down boxes. You only get to be a muddy little kid for a little while. Then you have to grow up and trade the mud for bread dough.

Not an entirely bad trade, though, if one must leave the mud.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Amazing Grace

Well, Folks, I have a new hero.

Last night at her preschool "graduation" my five-year-old daughter astounded me with a feat of bravery I have seldom seen out of grown men, let alone a small child.

Gracie is a force of nature. She is so full of life, personality and maturity it is often easy for me to forget, not only that she's five, but that she is also painfully shy. I don't mean "shy" like you try to talk to her and she looks the other way or doesn't talk back. I mean "shy" like hiding in my bedroom for the first half of Thanksgiving dinner because people other than her most immediate family were here... never mind that they were all relatives she has seen many times.

She requires warning and practice to get through an evening with Grandpa Doug and Uncle Monte simply because she doesn't see them on a daily basis. "I'll try" she says about coming out of the bedroom before the first hour of the visit has passed. When she does come out, she spends the next half hour glued to my side. By the end of the evening, she'll talk.

When she was really young, strangers would make her literally tremble and sob with fear.

There is no traumatic event to explain this behavior, it's just the way she was made.

She informed her teacher she would not be singing in the Preschool Christmas performance two weeks before it was scheduled to occur. She agreed to design the program, however. (Which turned out really cool, incidentally.)

All this is to explain what an amazing and impressive thing it was for her to walk with her classmates at her graduation last night.

She held back tears, though she looked as though she was about to explode. She sang and did sign language while she rocked side to side to comfort herself.

She was not coerced, bribed or threatened to do this. I was sitting in the second row where she could clearly see me. She knew she could bolt from the stage and curl up in my lap with her head in my chest without reproach...

But she didn't.

"And the Oscar goes to...!" She is smiling here because it is required when singing "When You're Happy And You Know It."

She powered through and made us all want to cry at the sight of such courage in the face of the biggest fear of her young little life.

When she was excused to come sit with her family, she sat down like a lady, though with a great deal of relief, she did not collapse into a weepy heap.

AND, when asked to re-join her teacher... BY HERSELF... at the front of the room, she looked at me, paused only a moment, then walked back up there in front of of everyone and LEAD THE PRAYER before refreshments!

To say I am proud of her would be a gross understatement. Knowing what torture being the center of attention has been for her, that was her equivalent of summiting Everest.

I strive to have that much courage when I grow up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

10 Reasons Why I Wear An Apron After 6:00

(This one isn't mine. I REALLY like it, though. Pretty sure I need it.)

1. It keeps stuff from splashing, smearing, splattering, exploding all over my clothes when I'm cooking and/or cleaning. Duh.

2. Angelina makes aprons so damned cute EVERYONE wants to wear 'em! I MEAN everyone! I actually witnessed a transexual purchase one to be altered for her specific measurements. Talk about your universal appeal! These things are H-O-T.

3. It makes me feel like (a much sassier) Betty Crocker.

4. I feel pretty and prepared and not like I'm just flying by the seat of my pants. (which I usually am.)

(Mine has this bitchin' pirate print on it! I ripped it right off of BBQ Sue's plaster fanny! Take THAT, you scurvy wench! ARRRRR!)

5. It forces me to switch gears from work to home and makes me less likely to slip back into the office while simultaneously making dinner. It's like my "At Home" uniform. I feel really WEIRD sitting in front of my machine in an apron. It's like sacrilege!*

6. I just can NOT keep from wiping my fingers on my pants when I'm cooking.

(Angelina is the sophisticated beauty on the left. BBQ Sue is the twiggy, pasty-complected girl on the right.)

7. I hate doing laundry.

8. It looks even cooler with katchup on it.

9. Did I mention it's sexy?

10. My Grannee always did and she totally rocked!

*Unless of course I'm looking up some exciting new recipe using as much beef as possible. With 430 pounds in my freezer, I need all the creativity I can get my hands on!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Because my mom told me to: A clarification under duress

My mom has some clarifications she would like to make on post #2... the one with the strawberries...

"Think (your blog is) great. However I noticed in the strawberry pictures, you didn't mention the who's that probably arranged them on the edge of your counter OR that historic piece of a tablecloth that adds still MORE interesting stuff to your beautiful butcher block both of which were found in the darkest regions of a dark, soot covered 85 yr. old basement in a trunk that must be at least 105+ yrs old. ( It HAS to be more than that come to think of it. My brother could probably fill you in on how old Grandpa was when he came to this country. But Aunt Katherine was either a baby or not born yet and she died 2 yrs ago at 100+. I know Grandma was PG when "the boat they sailed" but she also had a small child. Good stuff!!

Your Mom.
PS. You need to get together with my brother and Clarence and write a book!!! All of the family would buy one for sure!"


The strawberries in the pics on post #2 are from my garden and the "strawberry parade" was in fact assembled by my daughter Anna, who has a way of turning everything into art.

And for anyone who was concerned with what Petrich's store was called when my Grannee actually worked there... and every name in between... She has more to say.

"Hi. It's me again and I was just reading more of your blog as well as re-reading the first one and the butcher block and about Grannee working at Petriche's. I think for clarification for "The Family" need to state "Now known as Petriches, but she worked there when it was Potter, then Trask and finally Bernards before it was sold to Petriches. Or check with my brother, it may have been Trask/Potter. Not real sure of that transition. I remember both of them, but can't remember which came first. And...I think it's interesting that Uncle Luther cut meat on this in front of an open door, between the locker and feed warehouse, to the back yard where cats sat and waited for tidbits of meat, and the floor was an old wood floor! How did we ever survive??! Not one case of e-coli ever showed up! We were a hardy bunch!!"

I told her it was really more of a narrative of the differences between James and me and a chance to show off my new old butcher block to my girlfriends than, say, a historically accurate account... which I thought most non-relatives would find kinda boring.

She's so cute. I really think SHE needs a blog. Don't you?

Okay. I need to go feed my children... While I await mom's next email saying I should post pictures and a menu of what delicious, nutritious and well-prepared delicacies I served them... :)

Bring on the Chocolate Sundaes!

I'm Deanna Troi!

Thanks to Beth for this chuckle-inducing, completely frivolous waste of 10 minutes of my Sunday morning. What a riot!

(You'll need to scroll a while to get to the full test results, though...)

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by these results... If only I were as HOT as Deanna Troi! She is more "Rubinesque" than most so we do have THAT in common. Sweet! Now i just have to work on looking exotic, mysterious and pick up a nondescript accent to round out the package.

Hey! I've got my summer planned out! Woo hoo!

Your results:
You are Deanna Troi

Deanna Troi
Beverly Crusher
Jean-Luc Picard
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Geordi LaForge
Mr. Scott
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Will Riker
Mr. Sulu
You are a caring and loving individual.
You understand people's emotions and
you are able to comfort and counsel them.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

Thursday, June 7, 2007

What's not to love?

From Forgotten to FABULOUS!

When I arrived home from the Farm with this little beauty in the back of my truck, James was disgusted. “That thing is hideous!” he proclaimed.

“Are you KIDDING ME?! It’s BEAUTIFUL! It’s part of my history. It’s part of ALL of our history! This is the butcher block upon which my Great, GREAT Uncle Luther cut meat for the entire community of Scholls at Petrich’s Store!” I defended. “Grannee worked the front of the store and Grandad kept the refrigeration running. This is COOL!”

(A brief side note: My husband and I are what I like to call “balanced.” In addition to other opposing tastes and views, I love things that have a history: the older the better. He’s more of a black-lacquer-and-chrome kind of guy.)

He heaved a sigh of disdain and informed me I could just let it drop out of the back of the truck because the fall certainly couldn’t make it look any worse. “No, but it could leave a big ol’ crack in your garage floor. This thing is an actual tree trunk!” I replied.


He then dutifully rolled the top out of the truck and onto the driveway. It continued to roll across the gravel, with what seemed to be a sense of purpose, all the way to the steps of the deck.

“SEE!” I shouted triumphantly, “It KNOWS where it wants to live!”

I can be pretty sappy sometimes.

He rolled his eyes and strolled off to do something infinitely more important while I gleefully went to work on my new treasure. It didn’t need much more than a good washing, the legs reattached and to be stood up proudly in the corner of my deck!

I wasn’t about to trouble James with my little project any further and I was determined to handle it alone.

I got it all cleaned up and reassembled, I just needed to get it back up on all three legs and in the corner of my choice… Did I mention this thing is a 130-year-old tree trunk?

My friends, I discovered I have the ability to use the laws of physics to my personal advantage! I put the tip of each foot on the two bottom legs then grabbed the top and began gently rocking using my own weight to coax the behemoth to its feet. This is one time I was glad I’m not a twig!

After about ten tries, “Voila!” Success!

And here it sits, revived and happy, gracing its new home with charm and loveliness.

Upon seeing the final product of my vision, James has decided it “doesn’t suck.”

Temporal Beauty
A pictoral Ode to the Strawberry

Lastly, and not that it relates to anything in this post, but here's proof of what amazing sunsets we get here on the Ranch! The lightning storms don't suck, either.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

You knew it was coming, didn't you?

This is my inaugural blog so I ask that you please bear with my learning curve. Like how to get the spell check thing to work.

My friend, Angelina, and NO that isn't some hastily thought up alias, is quite an experienced and, might I just say, prolific, blogger who got me inspired. Like I need something else to distract me from my actual responsiblities!

Her blog is a guilty pleasure I look forward to on a daily basis. What I wasn't expecting was how much fun it is to get in on a sort of open dialog with so many interesting and different people. Sharing ideas. Getting different points of view.

Out here on the Ranch, I can be a little sheltered. Heck, I basically live and work in the Newberg version of the Kennedy Compound, sans the high, stone walls and, well, the money, so it's refreshing to hear voices from other places... like outside my own head.

I thought this could be a fun place for folks I know, and some I don't know yet, to pop in and share some thoughts.

What's on my mind today? The tragic shortness of the Oregon Strawberry season. We had such hot weather when they were just coming on that those succulent globes of nectar-filled goodness should be gone in a little over a week. This makes me sad. If you haven't had an Oregon Strawberry, you haven't had a strawberry.

It means I will spend the next seven to 10 days eating berries until I threaten my own physical wellbeing.

They are my favorite summertime treat... at least until peach season hits anyway.

Well, then there's blackberry season...