Visiting San Francisco Feb 2008:

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Thursday February 28, 2008

The first 3-4 days of our 2008 trip to Ripon’s Almond Blossom Festival were spent in San Francisco in the company of cousins Bruce & Kevin. They are fabulous hosts and fabulous chefs.
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On arrival in SF, however, we drove directly to the world famous Hunan Restaurant to satisfy the singular craving for world class Chinese Food we haven’t found since leaving the Bay Area 12 years ago. It was not fabulous! We left with portions of everything for Bruce’s apt about an hour later. This apartment, should Bruce ever give permission, is worth an entire published book on the contents of this collector. There’s music sections, library sections, a kitchen without an inch wasted, and miscellany that could keep you entertained for a long time:
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Or maybe in prayer, hah:
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Or maybe wondering about something about to happen somewhere?
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These boys kept us moving and busy for 3 days. First day was spent wandering around the piers, the Ferry Building which has been completely renovated and now encloses serious Boutique Gourmet Markets……We packed food outta there no matter the fact we were not staying longer than two nights.

We spent a healthy time in Golden Gate Park mainly to visit the fabulous new DeYoung Museum of Modern Art. This is a MUST see next time you’re there if nothing more than looking at the architecture:
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IF you care NOT to wander through the museum, you’ll experience grandeur just walking the grounds. Here’s a sampling of the sculptures near the DeYoung:
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and
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and
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and
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and the thinking man’s gay image, hah:
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and getting closer to the next eye-stopper these folks inhabit the lawns:
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This startling sculpture is solid stainless steel and captures some fantastic light reflections:
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a little closer:
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and on another corner:
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This all brings us closer to the simple and captivating Tourell Skyspace…..approaced completely unassuming little spot:
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See that bit of concrete ceiling just beyond the grass? Here’s another view:
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So you move around and walk through this door into a simple round concrete room:
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It has ONE small opening at the top looking outward to blue sky:
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It give wonderful angles for light:
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I believe I could be in serious meditation mode in here in about 5 minutes:
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Oh well……….it was a fabulous day in the park…………………..

We returned home to a fabulous home meal cooked by Bruce, we shopped, we heard many non-standard musical / video shows only Bruce knows to capture. Kevin and I discussed a lot of our common backgrounds….his family being from the south like mine was.

Sunday we muni’d under Market Street up to Noe Valley, ate a good lunch, visited a yarn shop, hiked up over the hill and down into the Castro Neighborhood to confirm once again, that the Castro is no longer a gay neighborhood. Still, it was fun. It has to be the ONLY neighborhood on the planet with an Ace Hardware carrying LOTS more than faucets and screws…..lots of home decor’ and an adjunct shop carrying draperies, glitter, wigs, drag costume……… I guess the “gay” ain’t gone too much. I walked into All American Boy just to glance up at the owner’s desk where Roger Case use to sit…..he was an old friend from Salt Lake City, a Vietnam Vet who died of Aids here in SF in the mid 80’s. He was a great guy, and I’ll NEVER forget his mother visiting SF from Utah, his giving her a magic brownie (she was unaware)….and our walking along the Sausalito Waterfront on the way to dinner as she softly cooed how beautiful the lights, the city, everything was, then stated she was HUNGRY……..classic moment.

I hated to leave, but on Monday we had to………………………We were headed for Alameda to visit Serafina and David. First we stopped on Treasure Island halfway across the bay on the way to Oakland………….and that’s another post…………………..

Food: Catch up on Cooking and…. Tamari Toasted Pumpkin Seeds – The Easy Recipe

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Thursday February 28, 2008

I thought I’d note just exactly WHAT foods it was that I craved upon returning home from a vacation. Here’s what’s just been finished today and is in the fridge waiting for snacks, lunches, etc. NO, not fancy food, comfort food.

Fried Chicken! and there ain’t much left already.
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Rodger made some Mac Salad:
macsalad

I Fired up some Broccolli w/almonds, soy, ginger & honey in the wok:
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Last time we were at Pause Restaurant, by FAR the most fabulous Bacon/Cheeseburger & Home-made Fried IN the entire Northwest, I tried South Afrikaner Chef Christian’s Meatloaf with Pancetta Gravy OVER his fries (& a salad of course, you’se guys with turned up eyebrows….his Caesar Salad’s the best in town). After gushing enough, he gave us a ingredient list of how to make it and we are learning. It involved roasting carrots, celery, a red pepper, onion, garlic….mixing those in with 3/4 beef 1/4 ground pork meat, seasoning, egg, etc….gently mix and bake at 350. It is delicious:

meatloaf

Yesterday….morning….I began making our normal 15-20 hour “No Knead Bread Recipe” BUT……………………..
***Thanks to Karen S, we now have a flourishing sourdough starter alive and well.
***Rather than using ANY yeast, I scooped out about a cup and a half of sourdough starter and used that as the ferment source.

I let the dough sit all day, all last night in the garage, and brought it in this morning, fluffed it a bit, and put it in a pan to see what would happen:
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Here it looked 5 hours later after a nice moderate bake *400* (I will bake it hotter next time for a browner crust…but this turned out to be MY first bread I truly consider tasting like sourdough. Fun.
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NOW. HERE is the REAL SNACK DISH FIXED this morning that’s new for us. Baird S “experiments” quite a bit and almost always produces something creative, healthy, fun, and tasty. This time, he produced something I can hardly resist.

Tamari Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

1 1/2 to 2 LBS RAW Pumpkin Seed:
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Tamari Soy Sauce (not your regular soy)
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And a bit of Olive Oil

That’s it! And now for the instructions:

Put enough Olive Oil in your wok, almost a quarter cup but probably not quite…….enough to coat your pumpkin seeds that you’ve thrown into the wok once the oil is hot….keep turning till all is coated and BEGINS to turn brown:

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Keep stirring this hot mix…..and add about a quarter cup of Tamari. Keep Stirring until the Tamari is absorbed…..and the seeds are really getting brown……turn down the heat and let things finish soaking up. Remove and place on a cookie sheet with a paper towel to soak up any excess liquid:

pmpkntoasted

Now. Once they’re cool, let me know how you like THAT snack!!!!!!!!!!

Bon Appetit.

NOW. Food’s ready, I have NO excuses left. I must begin to houseclean, look at the yard and begin fertilizing, composting, clean off all the dead mini-branches from winters storms, rake up needles, begin collecting coffee grounds and spread ‘em, cook more hummer food and put out 3 more feeders at house edges, run the dog, etc. There’s NO question, if it remains dry, it’s time for a trip to the horse Stables down the road for a couple truck loads of ……. don’t be squeamish you city folk, yes, composted Horse “stuff”.

There’s something afoot. Let me guess. I now have spring fever. Praise Mother Earth!

Mark

Dog Dressage

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday February 27, 2008

If you watch longer than 90 seconds, you’ll watch it all. From England’s Crufts Dog Show last year, it warmed my heart.

Tina Humphrey from Crufts 2007

So you think YOUR town is scary?

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday February 27, 2008

For some reason not to be explained here, I am still receiving a subscription to my old little desert Home Town’s weekly newspaper, “The Malheur Enterprise”. In THIS week’s “Sheriff’s Log”, I note these items:

12:52 p.m. Jan. 20: Caller advises that his girlfiend has sold some of his firearms without his permission.

1:38 p.m. Jan 22: Requests a deputy due to an ongoing dispute with a neighbor: dumping onion “trash” on his property.

2:00 p.m. Jan 26: 911 call reports onion storage shed is ablaze.

2:09 p.m. Jan. 25: Reports that a bull got away from the vet clinic and is heading toward town.

8:02 p.m. Jan 26: Caller from Logan’s Market reports a subject, very intoxicated, got into a pickup and drove off.

1:36 p.m. Feb 1: Caller advises the neighbor’s dog killed her chickens and then took the chickens home.
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There. This was not a joke. Aren’t you glad you live in safety of YOUR community? This is frightening stuff! I can only imagine what a novelist could make of this………Elissa ?
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Anna’s Hummingbirds return to hilltops for nesting!

Bloged in birding,Pacific Northwest by mark Tuesday February 26, 2008

How slow am I on the uptake here…… We’ve been feeding hummingbirds for 10 years, and pointing all our attention at our fine tiny Rufous Migrants that will begin arriving (and migrating on north at first) in a week or two, BUT the Northwest has year-round hummingbirds that leave the higher elevations in fall and winter in the valleys. They return in February and are nesting by the time Rufous kids arrive.

So. WHY have I ignored these Anna’s Hummingbirds all this time? They can be quite beautiful, and no, I haven’t gotten a picture yet, so this little male’s pic was taken in BC and is from the web:
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and feeding:
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The female’s of course, more camouflaged for nesting:
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SO I finally “got it!” Quite dense, I am. Just before we left for California, I put out two little feeders and asked Krysta to watch out for them. We left, and she began seeing a “bird” within a day. We came back Sunday, and by dusk, I’d noted a PAIR….both a male and female coming to the feeder regularly, and they are STILL coming regularly. TWO little birds have consumed about a cup of nectar, and I’m thrilled. I’m SURE these are a nesting pair…..in LATE FEBRUARY here! For 10 years I haven’t even watched for an arrival until early March.

I’ve alerted the neighbors, and we’re all going to try to build up our Anna population …..we’ve ALL put out a feeder or two so maybe by summer’s end, we’ll have a mini population boom! That means we will be enjoying the company of these fascinating birds long past the mid-August departure of the Rufous kids. Fabulous!

NOTE: I’m having a bit of a learning curve using Rodger’s MAC laptop to copy photos onto the CD and get over here to the PC……but hope to post some inneresting photos of our trip soon. Here’s an example found in Golden Gate Park by the spectacular new DeYoung Museum of Modern Art:
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That sculpture took a few solid minutes of my time to absorb………………………more later.
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***And now for something completely different. For Anyone who may read this blog post: I am copying our dear friend Nancy G’s comment INTO the post because there’s NO question it is the BEST part of this entry. NANCY IS the living expert on wildlife here, and as you will read, has easily clarified some of my nature entry on history, behavior. THANKS, NANCY! We WILL be seeing you very soon at Hardy Plant Sale….if not before? And Thanks for educating us once again, and maybe some Blog friends / / mark

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Mark,

You can relax and feel assured that you didn’t ignore the Anna’s. In the 15+ years I lived next door to you I only saw them a handful of times, and you know how many feeders I had out! Rufous have always “ruled the roost” in the higher elevations of Portland. And as you know, these birds are loyal to their birthplace, returning after the long trek south to the very spot they were born. So your population of Rufous has been cultivated/loved and expanded accordingly. Our lowlands in Lake Oswego aren’t good enough for the Rufous. They just snub us, if we see them, they maybe stay a day or two and then on to your higher elevation to nest! You lucky dogs!! Also, I don’t know if you saw on OBOL, but the Rufous have been seen on the Oregon coast so they are headed your way! Yippee :-)

As for the Anna’s, they were only first recorded seen in Oregon in 1958. A few sightings in 1966 and then increased in abundance and expanded their range rapidly in our area. I think the wintering over has also been a phenomenon in the past couple of decades.

My neighbor Dave said he has only seen the Anna’s probably the past 10 years around our neighborhood. As the Anna’s are highly dependent on feeders, the increase in feeders has allowed the population to increase. Five of my neighbors and myself with six feeders of my own have seen a nice expansion of our birds. And I do *LOVE* that I have a good population of hummingbirds year round.

I think my neighbor Dave e-mailed you that we have a pair of saw-whet owls in our trees that have been seen reliably. We are hoping they will nest. He is making more owl nesting boxes to put up in the neighborhood. Lastly, yesterday on my way to Tacoma, I saw a bald eagle swoop through a large pond by the side of the freeway flushing all the ducks up and into the air! A gorgeous sight on a sunny morning!

Sorry for the lengthy comment but the birds do make me want to share this wonderful part of our world!
Love
Nancy G

today postscript

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Thursday February 14, 2008

Continuing my spring observations:

**A beautiful little red-naped sapsucker has returned to the hilltop here for the summer. He was moving from tree to tree looking for bugs! Ah! Protein!

**One Mole caught, 39 to go.

**A HUGE flock of Canadian Geese flew over last night –in the dark– heading north. A good sign.

**TWO hummingbird feeders are up………………now we’ll SEE if an Anna or two ARE in the area………….the may still be in the valleys, but I suspect they’re moving up here with this 50 degree weather. We return from CA on the 24th. It is NOT out of the question that a Rufous will be passing through on his way to Canada or Alaska….here’s one from last year, I love these guys:
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Now we fly out to the bay area tomorrow packing shorts and short sleeved shirts. A return to old haunts…..San Francisco, and the entire BAY AREA is a Food Lovers Paradise, isn’t it? We will be returning to old favorites, and trying new joints. A Tour of the Scharfenberger Chocolate Factory is on Tuesday. That will be first. I can’t wait to see Ratto’s again…….That ancient place has spices from every piece of land in the world I think. A place so old they still do not have a website….even though they ARE near Silicon Valley.

Oh well……..I’m really wondering what I’ll miss in this little changing world of Portland spring being gone at THIS time of the year. Then again, as I’ve often said, SPRING IS the LONGEST season of the year here by months. It stretches from now well into June.. . . . .

New Hope … Postscript

Bloged in birding,General Home Life,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Tuesday February 12, 2008

Just to finish off my new hope, THIS morning, the big open field next door had, I swear, a FLOCK of robins! First time this year. Perhaps they migrate a bit in flocks, but you don’t see that once they begin settling in for family time. They’re OUT there this morning in the sunrise……for us, THAT is too a marker of spring.

Their cousins, the beautiful Varied Thrushes are eating constantly………I suppose in preparation for their soon departure to Canada and even Alaska! I can see at least …. let’s see, count ‘em, 9 right outside this window.

Nancy G reported in her comment yesterday she saw a pair of Anna’s hummingbirds doing a mating dance, so THEY too will be arriving soon. So here’s ANOTHER marker of a coming spring: I WILL TODAY mix up a bit of hummer food and hang two feeders out for what I think will soon be here: one or two Anna’s for nesting……. Their beautiful cousins, the Rufous of course aren’t due to barely BEGIN coming through for a 2-3 weeks.

I pruned back elderberry, hazelnut, butterfly bush branches in the front yard and had to take the jacket off! Hurray! I suppose I should fertilize this dead lawn before we leave for CA. I believe I have figured out what S.A.D. is, because I think I felt it in this long dark winter. But I’m awake now. Watch out.

Oh, I forgot………….the moles have returned to the surface with these temps, and yes, as I’ve been reminded by the naysayers, yes, them weeds is up too…………..

Hints of Things to Come

Bloged in General Home Life,Nature,Oregon,Pacific Northwest by mark Monday February 11, 2008

The end of winter seems to bring on a sigh of relief from every living thing. Cold frosts have finished killing off most of the tender plant life, the grass has been dormant so long, much of it’s tinged with brown, moss is growing where moisture has collected, small tree branch remains clutter the yards. Brown Dead leaves still cover much of the ground, but actually, beautifully on top of the garden spaces. We’ve been under La Nina rather dark very gray days without let up of moisture here and snow storms measured in arrivals by the foot, not inches, in the cascades. The somber cloud laden daylight often never seemed to quite wake up from the nights’ dark hours, setting by 4:30 pm and not even trying to lighten up until nearly 8:00 next morning. A few weeks of this weather and even the raccoons seem to have slowed down.

BUT that’s all changing. Well ahead of the official human marker for springs arrival, nature rolls along whether we feel it happening or just continue wondering why Democracy seems like such a distant concept. Our little Earths plants and animals know ahead of our noticing that it’s time to get ready for something new, for new life, for new hope, yes, REAL days with REAL light and finally a few dryer days coming.
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In just the last two days, we’ve noticed a few signs. That just MIGHT only be since the heavy thick clouds of storm after storm have left us alone for a few days. We actually had sun show up, we could clearly see what dark days have hidden. I noticed yesterday, the day began brighter and earlier than usual. At day’s end, the sun dipped below the coast range to the west yesterday at 5:30! Last night, owls were hoo hooing in several spots, calling out for love-making, to get those chicks of theirs born by the time thousands of song birds arrive and baby mice are out of the nests. The owls breeding time begins early. The Elk were bugling of the hill to our west about 10:30 last night! New grass blades are crawling higher, daffodils and other early bulbs have broken through the dirt. Elderberries, butterfly bush, hydrangeas are ALL budding. The temperature yesterday reached a whopping 50 degrees.

We’ve seen sparrows arrive at feeders, and despite their humble brown appearance, one can hear their melodious calling in the mornings. On getting the mail this morning, there were MORE birds singing than I would have expected. I obviously need to re-learn some songbird arrival times up here. Also, just today, I got up to see FOUR Mourning Doves at the feeder……For some years, a pair have always returned and nested, but last year, they seemed to really succeed with two clutches and maybe today’s sighting means we’ll have two pair nesting rather than one. Fabulous.

The sound of the fabulous pileated woodpecker was heard to our east down in the woods………

Yep, sights, sounds, warmer air, one can sense deeply within, new life has already begun. You only need to take a second to notice. Spring is absolutely my favorite time of year. I have NEW hope. Maybe with a little luck, less worrying, and a wink from Mom Nature, she’ll allow me to roll along on this little life adventure and get to experience life for at least ONE more of Earth’s lovely trip around the sun. I’ll be a very blessed little human if I can.

Wok Luk 2008

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Monday February 11, 2008

In what has become an annual event, the fabulous Smiths hosted yet another elegant Wok Luk experience last night. The annual gathering about 4:00 pm begins in the kitchen where ALL guests do a community slice & dice to prep their own and others dishes…. when all is prepped, we gather in the dining room, and each course is finalized in the kitchen by the one guest assigned to that course…..This meal lasts about 3 hours, and is one fine friend gathering, sharing, filling experience.

The kitchen looks a little frazzled since dishes, liquids, food items fill every space:
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People get busy quickly:
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Seth & Margaret considering the Hot & Sour Soup:
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This years menu:

**course 1**
Pu Ehr Tea
Swan La Tong: Hot & Sour Soup (Cooked by Seth & Margaret)
Jia Ting Ya: Peking Duck (prepped by Baird)

**course 2**
Fire and Ice Squid
Snow Pea Salad (cooked by Bob & Wendy)

**course 3**
Clams & Shanghai Noodles in Black Bean Sauce (Cooked by Bill & Nancy)
Ching Tsao Su Tsan: Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry (cooked by Baird)

**course 4**
Kung Bao Gee Ding: Chicken with Peanuts (cooked by Joy)
Yang Chow Fried Rice. (cooked by Mark)

**course 5**
Niu Ro Sheh Do: Beef with Snow Peas (cooked by Krysta)
Yeh Jiong Ga Li Har: Curried Shrimp ( cooked by Rodger )

**FInal**
Fruit & Pok Pok (Baird)
Ginger Moons (cooked by Nancy)

We are suggesting NEXT YEAR ALL courses remain FINGER FOODS so we don’t arrive back home SO very full ……………WHEW! What a night of fun and friendship.

And little Mac faithfully awaited his chance at the last of the Fried Rice when we got back home:
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You should try this where EVER you are. Gather some friends at the Chinese New Year and prepare a feast together. It’s fantastic sharing an evening working and dining.

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