Thursday, October 28, 2010

All the News That Is News. And Some That's Not...

A random list of random thoughts:

1. The Mighty Hunter (Neal) once again had a successful hunt; he got a nice bull elk the first morning of elk season.  He and his hunting partner then had to field dress, butcher and pack out all the meat five miles in the mountains back to camp. It took a day and a half to get it all out.

2. Guess what we'll be eating on Thanksgiving Day!

3. Mr. Dirtywrench headed out to elk camp tonight. I am officially off-duty for the next three days. Even though there are still three kids in the house that occasionally need to be fed, they will gladly (yea, enthusiastically) eat popcorn for dinner.  If I feel like lifting a finger in the kitchen it will be to make girl food which will not be eaten sitting at the dinner table. I have some puff pastry in the freezer that I am thinking of doing something phoofy with.

4. Does anyone have some good Netflix movies to recommend for me? Movie requirements for this weekend will be that they contain no gun fights or car chases. Yes, Chique Flique.

5. I am making and delivering my last ten dozen apple turnovers. Apple Turnover Season is officially over until next year.

6. Mt. St. Laundry has erupted. Recovery could take a while.

7. Why? Why? Why? do boys keep all their dirty socks under their bed? When I finally give in and buy them some new socks, because I am tired of seeing the same two and a half pairs of dingy, holey socks go through the laundry, I then find the other eight and a half pairs of dirty but decent socks under their bed.  I won't even talk about the underwear I find under there. Underwear under there. Heh.

8. I've been cleaning underneath boys' beds for twenty four years.

9. I shouldn't say all their socks are under their bed because there are at least four more pairs scattered around outside. On the porch. In the barn. In the garden. Backyard. Driveway.

10.  The internet is the best guitar resource on the planet. Every song in the world can be found on the internet. The lyrics, chords, tablature (which I cannot read anyway) and finger-picking demonstrations are all there for free. If this had been available to me thirty-five years ago, I'd be a much better guitar player today and I would have played more than the same six songs all this time.

11. I'm currently working on "Southland in the Springtime." Favorite line: when God made me a yankee He was teasin'.

12. We have five registered voters in our household. Five. Can anyone imagine the avalanche of election junk mail we get every flippin' day!?! What a waste of money! We don't even look at any of it! Stop! Please, for the love of Abe Lincoln! Stop!

13. Can I rant about the election poll phone calls we get every single day? Every hour?
I'm begging. Please. Stop.

14. I planted more tulips (double pinks that look like peonies) and nice tall allium (purple and white). I can't wait for spring!

15.  This weekend I have my first cake consultation with a bride and groom. Wedding Season 2011 has officially begun.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chewing the Fat

One of the biggest and most prevalent myths about food is that fat makes people fat. That butter, cream, lard and fatty, marbled meats are bad for you. That they raise your cholesterol and cause obesity. I have read many articles on this subject and there are several good books available that explain where this myth originated (some bad science is involved) and why it is still so prevalent (bottom line always: money of course). One book is Fat : An Appreciation of a Misunderstod Ingredient by Jennifer McLagan and another important book about cholesterol is The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov I say important because in America we have now come to a place where statin drugs to lower cholesterol are being given to children! What children really need is a more nutrient dense, whole food, unprocessed, high (good) fat diet like the one children ate a hundred years ago.

We only eat whole milk dairy products in our household. (Take a look at that photo on the sidebar of those seven kids and tell me if they look like they are suffering from a high fat diet.) When I read about the fact that the butter fat in dairy contains the necessary Vitamin A that facilitates the body in assimilating the mineral nutrients in dairy, we stopped bringing low-fat and non-fat dairy into our kitchen. A body cannot absorb all the calcium and vitamin D in milk without the fat and children need all the calcium and Vitamin D they can get while they are growing.

My daughter reintroduced me to the joys of cooking with lard when I stayed with her last summer. She had a ready supply of good quality lard and we used it for cooking things like potatoes. What an amazing flavor difference it made! And the potatoes got a beautiful brown crisp without burning. There is a reason it is the preferred cooking fat of French chefs everywhere!

If y'all think I'm talking out of my ear or that I'm a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket, check out any of these well written and documented articles at this link on the subject of fats for a healthy diet.

Also, check out this blog post by Stanley Fishman on Tender Grassfed Meat. It makes some great observations about the unnecessary fear of fat.

Here is an excerpt to peak your interest!

Fear of Fat Makes a Fortune for the Diet Industry

If you look at old photos of Americans at the beach taken during the early 20th century, you will be astonished at how fit almost everybody was. Obesity was very rare. Prior to the demonization of animal fat, most doctors had a simple and effective cure for overweight people who wanted to lose weight. Reduce the amounts of carbs and sugars, and eat a high-fat diet full of butter and other animal fats. These kinds of diets worked, because nothing satisfies like animal fat. There was no diet industry.

Once people became afraid of animal fat, these time-tested, high-fat diets went out the window, and the diet industry came to life. The diet industry has created a myriad of ways to lose weight, based on counting calories, eating a low-fat, nutrient-poor diet, and exhausting exercise. All of these programs are expensive. All of these programs are difficult to do, which allows the victim to be blamed when the program does not work. Typically, these programs work well for a few people, and some may lose a lot of weight on them, but the weight always comes back, and the victims end up fatter than ever, and are soon looking for a new diet program, which is always there. The severe malnutrition and exhaustion that many experience during such programs often leads to chronic illness, sometimes death.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Color My World

They didn't name this a "Burning Bush" for nothing!

This shrub is on fire!
I need to get some more of these amazing color bombs to cheer me when all the flowers are gone. Even on a rainy, gloomy day it is a bright spot.

This beauty is on view outside the dining room window. I never get tired of looking at it.

Musical Memories

On Saturday night, Samuel and I attended our local orchestra's fall concert.

It made me kinda nostalgic for the old days...

For many years classical music was a big part of our lives. It started when as a family we attended the community orchestra's free concerts. The performances inspired our children to take up instruments themselves. Katie played flute as well as piano, Seth and Alyssa played violin and piano. Neal was even recruited to play percussion for the junior orchestra for awhile. It was a time of running to music lessons, rehearsals, recitals and orchestra performances. Through my children's involvement in the music culture of our area, I was drawn in and had a secret dream come true. I didn't have much musical training except for a few years of piano lessons and music classes in school. I had always secretly wished I could play in an orchestra. Though I play several instruments I didn't think I was proficient enough on any of them to play with an orchestra. When Katie was a teenager she began playing flute in our local community orchestra and they were in need of a percussionist. I was recruited despite my  lack of formal training. They were desperate, weren't they? This began years of participation in the orchestra playing timpani (aka "kettle drums") and percussion instruments, essentially teaching myself how to read orchestral music, play the instruments and tune the timpanis. It was a period of musical growth and gains in musical maturity that I am so grateful to have had.

I continued with the orchestra for a number of years even after my kids all moved on to other places and other musical venues. I left the percussion section just a couple seasons ago because I simply had too many irons in the fire. Attending the concerts always makes me a little nostalgic for those days.

Here is a bit of one of the concerts where I had a complex part in a performance that was both challenging and fulfilling for me as a naive musician. This little clip is from a modern symphony that was based on Dante's Divine Comedy- The Inferno. I am on the far left playing timpani and Seth is in the violin section.

Seth had more involvement in orchestras than any others in our family. Besides being proficient on the violin he also played viola and dabbled with the cello for awhile. He played with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and we attended many concerts in the big city when he played.

A highlight of this time in our lives was when the orchestra traveled to Europe for a concert tour and Seth got to play in concerts at spectacular venues like this neo-classical hall in Tuscany. I'll never forget sitting under the starry sky with the other parents listening to this orchestra -made up of our own offspring, our little baby boys and girls- playing Greig. It was magical.

Those days were long ago and yet not, somehow...

...and that little boy is still playing music. He needs to get himself into an orchestra again though... (Seth!)
Because I need to attend more concerts and the little boys need more inspiration.

Samuel shows signs of carrying some of the same musical inclinations. He has already composed several pieces on the piano.

Maybe he is my hope for the future for more music in my life.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Come Fly With Me

My little brother, Tim, is an airplane pilot. He also has a business repairing and maintaining aircraft and doing inspections. There was never a doubt what my little brother Timmy would do with his life. His entire childhood was spent shooting rockets and flying remote control airplanes that he built himself. His bedroom was strewn with balsa wood scraps, tubes of airplane glue and jars of paint, wire and motors and tissue paper.

Tim spent about fifteen years restoring an historic aircraft called the Arctic Tern which he now flies for pleasure. That airplane was used in the 1950's by an explorer of the northern polar regions. Tim did extensive amounts of research while he was restoring the plane, collected the books written about the explorer and his adventures in the plane, and eventually had the privilege of meeting the man who flew the plane over the arctic circle.

It has been many years since I have flown with my little brother. Yesterday, for my birthday he took me on an aerial tour of our valley.

The first order of the day was to fuel up the airplane.

Dave the Fuel Guy told me that the Number 1 reason for airplane engine failure and crashes is... running out of fuel.  

Um. Hello?  Do pilots drive cars? Anyone who drives cars knows that you've got to have Degas to make the VanGogh.  It was shocking and appalling to hear that airplanes fall out of the sky mostly because the pilot didn't stop at the gas station before attempting to defy gravity with an airplane.

Thankfully baby brother Tim still has the brains his mother gave him and we were leaving the ground with a full fuel tank.

It was a perfect high pressure day for flying. Though the sun was high and I had to be aware of flare and glare on my camera I was able to take some fun photographs of the gorgeous area where I am blessed to live.

It was endlessly fascinating to see the places I am so familiar with on the ground from about 1500 feet above.
The orchards... neighborhood.... town...
This is the whole thing. Population 600.

...The valley stretching between mountain and gorge...

...Our mountain... which is a sleeping volcano.

The volcanic evidence could be clearly seen from the air. This is the lava flow from the last time Mt. Hood blew centuries ago. Scientists think that it erupted in the 1790's, just a few years before the arrival of Lewis and Clark.

The locals call this the Lava Beds and the area is only a few miles from my house.

I saw many other interesting topographical features from my aerial view, some of them naturally formed like this scar from a landslide...

...and some of them not natural.
This is a place where my big boys have spent many, many days of their lives.
It is the half pipe snowboard area at the mountain ski resort where they worked every winter of their high school years.

This is a crazy mountain logging road...
Talk about switchbacks!

This is evidence of a flooded area on one of the forks of the Hood River. All the trees are flattened, there are boulders and sandy silt areas. This natural devastation as well as the land slides occur during late winter  and early spring when we get heavy rainfall and snowmelt that sends water gushing off the mountain slopes.

Mount Hood has a number of glaciers. Right now there is very little snow on the mountain and the glaciers are laid bare. So amazing to see!

On the horizons both to the north and to the south we could see other mountains in the Cascade range. These are the Three Sisters on the middle left and Mt. Jefferson on the middle right.

To the north we could see Washington's mountain peaks: from the left Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Ranier and Mt. Adams.

Tim flew us around the peak of Mount Hood. A weather system is moving in this weekend and next week these rocky areas will probably be snow covered. The mountain is always changing its look; grey and rocky in late summer and early fall will change to snowcapped in the winter and spring.

Hundreds of climbers challenge Mount Hood every year. The majority of them succeed in reaching the summit. Some do not. Last  year there were three climbers who fell to their deaths. Their bodies were not found because the winter's snow fall made them impossible to bring down. Early this summer Tim was able to assist in the recovery of the bodies of those people when he received a request to fly with the sheriff to examine this area of the mountain where they suspected the climbers had fallen.

Tim's intestinal fortitude was tested when they flew the plane around that rocky peak known as Cathedral Rock (in the lower right quarter of the picture) so that the sheriff could photograph the slopes. The pay off occurred when just a few days later the bodies of the fallen climbers were found and brought down to their grieving families.

What an awesome flight we had on a gorgeous day that just happened to be my birthday.

I hope you've enjoyed this little aerial tour of our valley.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Birthday Dinner

It's my birthday.

And I'm launching into my fiftieth year on the planet. (Which means I'm still in my 40s!) So far that milestone year is starting out very well! I have plans for this year. Instead of wringing my hands and weeping over getting old(er), I am going to try to do things that make the year memorable and special and that give me something to look forward to besides simply summiting the mountain of life and facing the long decline.

Oh dear. Moving on....

My week began with a special dinner invitation.

A dinner invitation just by itself is special. We rarely get invited to dinner. Rarely. I don't understand it. We may sound like an army, but I swear we don't eat like one. We possess fairly decent table manners and we're not at all picky. Snobby maybe... but not picky.

The boys were so excited to be invited along and not left behind by Mom and Dad that they put on their cleanest dirty shirts. Samuel even combed his hair and wore his Christmas dress shoes!

They were thrilled to be given the chance to show off their maturity.

Our neighbor and dear friend, Karen, and her husband hosted us at their lovely garden home.
Karen is a very fine cook and she thoughtfully chose an Italian themed menu....

...that included a delicious salad with braised fennel, oranges and walnuts.
I love salad more than anything and this was so yummy.

What's an Italian menu without fresh bread, roasted garlic, tomatoes and basil?
It's not Italian, that's all.

I brought the last bottle of red wine hand carried by my oldest son from his last European excursion. The wine was....Italian of course. It was good! I'm keeping the empty bottle so I can occasionally read the label and practice my Italian pronunciation...
Cuz I'm crazy like that. And the older I get, the more acceptable it is for me to be, uh, eccentric- right?

I've heard it said that the abilities of a cook can be judged by how well he or she prepares the simplest of foods.
This birthday dinner was simply and elegantly delicious.

I was too busy eating to get a proper group picture of everyone but I did snap this to show my children displaying their fine table manners. Except for the elbow.

Dessert was ice cream, uh...gelato....with chocolate and espresso sauce.
Era squisito!

But that wasn't the end of the evening...
The birthday celebration was continued with the adults attending a concert by John McCutcheon.
Mr. Dirtywrench and I had seen him perform about twenty-five years ago in Michigan and we were very excited to enjoy his virtuosity once again. I admire the poetry of folk music and the ability of folk song writers to document our culture with song.

This was one of the favorite pieces of the evening. Mr. McCutcheon explained that this hammer dulcimer masterpiece called, "Leviathan," was inspired by one of his first visits to Oregon when he drove along the Oregon coast and saw the whales in migration for the first time.

Mr. McCutcheon proved that like fine wine, people also get better with age!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Groom's Cake

Being a lifelong Yankee, I had never heard of a groom's cake until I saw the movie Steel Magnolias and tried to understand the significance of a cake shaped like an armadillo for a wedding. I still didn't really get it. The first time I had a request from a client (from Tennessee) for a groom's cake, I had the actual concept of the extra cake explained to me. I know in certain areas of the country a wedding without a groom's cake is like Christmas without candy canes, but not in the Yankee states.

This week I tackled a difficult concept for a cake to honor a groom who likes to surf on the Oregon coast. Surfers on our coast have to wear a full wet suit in the cold waters.

The bride said, If I'm sitting on the beach, be sure and give me a book!

I used sugar to give the sand texture and added their initials.

Fondant cakes are not my specialty and I have never, ever sculpted people figures before so it was a challenge to make this cake. Underneath all that fondant is a moist fudge cake with chocolate icing. Shells around the bottom edge finished the ocean theme. I am pleased with the results!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reading is Fundamental

After twenty two years of homeschooling and after teaching all seven of our offspring to read (one of my greatest accomplishments) we only have two kids who are avid book readers- the girls. This was despite the fact that the boys all witnessed the example of their manly father devouring thousands of books during his leisure time. I also expected that spending countless hours listening to me read literature out loud to them instead of having an evening in front of a television set would instill a love of reading in every single one of them. That is what the pedagogy books said anyway. It didn't work out that way though and I blame our modern, fast-paced, distracting world. I'm not sure what else to blame. The big boys occasionally read books but not at the rate that their sisters do.

But I am still working on the last two boys. They are just now becoming proficient enough at reading to be able to read independently though there are still plenty of vocabulary questions along the way.

I recently purchased several more books in my quest to find things for the boys to read on their own. Two that I found are by one of our favorite publishers- Usborne Books.

Though they are non-fiction books they still serve the purpose of getting the boys to sink into reading. This young reading series has proved to be a winner. The boys have been eagerly reading these books and in record time too. They pause to talk about the facts that are presented and to ask questions.

The drawings are fun as they always are in the Usborne books and the information is presented in an interesting way. They are getting science and history lessons without even knowing it and I get to learn things too.

I could relate to this episode with Dr. Luigi Galvani making the frog leg jump with electricity.
Raise your hand if you've ever had a Galvanic treatment in a chiropractor's office.
{{raising hand}} warms my heart to see little boys reading books.

I will definitely look for some more books in this young reader series. These books are so packed with information that I think the boys will read them time and again and each time learn new things.

Tonight Samuel announced that the TGV train is the fastest passenger train in the world. He was thrilled to be reminded that he has ridden on one of these trains. That led to a recounting of the whole high-speed-train separation episode that is forever branded on this mother's heart. It's no wonder this child still has separation anxiety issues. If you have a strong constitution and want to read all about it, don't miss reading the conclusion to the story.