Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Satellite Image of Snow and Ice in the NW

Interesting perspective on our storm!

Mt. Hood is the white spot in the lower left corner, between the words Portland and Oregon.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Real and Sad Aftermath

Ten days ago I blogged about the winter storm we were having. My last post on Thursday the 19th was called "Aftermath" but it was misnamed. The storm wasn't over and there was much more aftermath to come.

The freezing rain continued for another day and two more terrifying nights. I say terrifying because the sounds of trees and limbs falling all around us kept everyone in the valley awake and alert and praying for a warm front to melt the ice and snow. It was emotionally stressful and devastating to think about the destruction the storm was causing.

Our neighbors left their house and their worst fears came true when a limb fell on their home. There were wide spread power outages up and down the Columbia Gorge in both Washington and Oregon. We were spared that inconvenience. Our power did go out about half a dozen times but only for an hour or so. Other people were without power for days as electricians worked around the clock to clear trees and restore power lines.

After another sleepless night of worry we were immensely relieved Saturday morning when the temperature had risen above 40 degrees and things began to thaw. The thumping and rattling sounds on the house were the clumps of snow and ice falling off the trees rather than their branches.

When we finally ventured out, the true aftermath became apparent.  The orchards with their carefully pruned trees were spared any damage but everywhere else, tall trees with straight boughs that had been bent over with the weight of snow and ice snapped off in the middle leaving debris along every road and in every yard.

I wonder what this tree will look like in summer with leaves only on the sides.

A beautiful birch in this yard will never be the same.

We've got lots of clean-up to do. That pile of branches from the Douglas fir was created when the top branches fell and took all the lower branches off on the way down. All the limbs on one side of the tree are gone.

The plum tree continued to go to pieces.

Though we have always been Do-It-Yourselfers for many types of jobs, we'll be hiring an arborist to tackle these dangerous dangling limbs.

On top of all this we still have frozen, crusty snow covering the ground, weighing down my ornamental shrubs and breaking my heart as well as their branches.

Spring will be an interesting time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lattice Pie Crust How-To

I made a lattice top blueberry pie for National Pie Day. I know that sometimes weaving dough strips into a lattice pie crust seems intimidating so I thought I'd share my easy method.

(Please pardon the focus problems with some of these photos. Between learning how to use the features of my new camera and my deteriorating eyesight my photos are not coming out the way I intend!)

It's a good thing to keep in mind that a lattice top pie, because of its open spaces, is more likely to have the filling bubble or leak out. Apple pie is an excellent filling for lattice top because it tends to be less juicy and runny. Sometimes. Though I knew this perfectly well, I still chose very juicy blueberries for my filling (because my freezer is full of them!)

For a blueberry pie I always squeeze the juice of one lemon over the berries to add some acidity for a bright flavor. Lots of good butter adds richness to the juices.

For the lattice strips I roll the top crust out as I would for a closed crust pie.

I cut the dough into strips. For this pie I varied the width of the strips, inspired by a pie design made by my daughter, Katie. Start the weaving of the lattice by taking two strips from the middle of the dough circle, they will be the longest length. The outer, shorter strips will be used for weaving the outer edges of the pie.

Lay them on the pie, crossing in the middle.

Fold back one side of the strip that is underneath the other. Take another strip of dough and lay that alongside the unfolded strip and perpendicular to the folded strip.

Lay the folded end back down in place. Lay another strip over it, alongside the other two.

Now the method here is to fold back one side of all the strips that are under other strips, lay a strip perpendicular to the folded strip and then lay the folded one back down over the new strip. The pie can be rotated to do each side, working from the center out, folding back "under" strips to lay new strips perpendicular to the folded ones. Does that make sense?

So here are all the "under" strips folded up. I'll lay another strip there, fold the strips back down flat and fold the next set of "under" strips up and repeat.

Please tell me if you feel like your head is about to explode.

When all the strips have been laid and woven the pie should look something like this. If it doesn't....so what. It's only pie and it will still taste great!

At this point I don't trim any of the ends off, I roll and shape them into a raised edge around the pie and then flute it. All that edging dough is needed to build up a dam that will keep those runny juices in the pie as much as possible. If there is an area that is a little short, pull off a bit of the longer, extra bits and transfer to the short part.

Just like any other pie, I brush the dough with an egg wash (a beaten egg with a tablespoon of water) and sprinkle with some sugar for a bit of sweet crunch.

My finished pie is a bit over-baked because I took a walk while it was in the oven and failed to return before it was finished. See- these things happen to experienced pie makers too.

Try a lattice top pie sometime. It's easier than it looks!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Let's Eat Pie!

Today, according to the American Pie Council, is National Pie Day. Therefore, I think it is fitting that I write a post about pie. And then make some pie. And then, of course....eat some pie!

Pie is a traditional food that has been around for centuries. Even millenia- some historians think that it goes back to the Greeks and Romans. Pie was certainly made in medieval Europe and colonial America and appears in many forms in other cultures around the world. The historical pie that I speak of is the classic two crust pie.

The crust of pie served an important purpose in the days before baking dishes and storage containers. The crust of old was very thick, one or two inches often, and was intended to completely encase and contain the contents for baking and for storage. It wasn't called a crust in those days but the coffyn. The pie could be baked without a pan and stored on a shelf for a future meal. The filling of the pie could be anything but was usually meat and even fish (or eel!). Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie? That was not as odd sounding when composed as it is today. Whole birds, feet and all, were often baked into a fancy crust for royalty. Pigeon pie was a popular dish of the elite because pigeons were scarce and could only be eaten by the privileged. It wasn't until later that fruit and sweet fillings began to be used in pies.

Pie was an early travel food in the form of hand pies and pasties. Immigrants from Cornwall brought their traditional food to northern Michigan with them. Cornish pasties, a hand pie filled with meat and vegetables was their daily lunch meal when they worked in the copper mines in the Upper Pennisula. Today there are restaurants and food stands that sell these Cornish pasties for a taste of the old days.

Sadly, today, the two crust traditional pie is not as ubiquitous in American kitchens. I believe this is because the technique of making a crust and forming a closed pie is not taught from generation to generation and is being forgotten. It is much easier to crush cookies and press them into a pie dish. Filling it with pudding and whipped cream doesn't need a teacher. That kind of pie is delicious and has its place in our food catalogue but it is a poor replacement for the traditional two crust pie. The prevalence of bland and bad tasting factory pie is erasing the memories of what pie should taste like.

So in honor of our American food heritage and National Pie Day, I am going to make pie today. How about you? If you need tips or tricks to help you with the challenge of making crust, check my posts under Pie in the sidebar. You will find recipes and links to help with the task. Your effort will be rewarded with not only a delicious, hand made dish, but in the satisfaction of participating in one of our longest held comfort food traditions.

And if you do make pie today, I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Freezing rain. All night.

Numerous times during the night I woke to the sound of gunshots, followed by the tinkling of fireworks.

Freezing rain has continued all day. We're afraid to go outside because the trees all around us at any moment will emit a loud crack followed by limbs raining to the ground in a puff of snow and ice. When the boys were out doing morning chores a branch came down near Samuel who came running into the house vowing to stay indoors all day.

This is one of our ancient plum trees. (The yellow plum, kids!)

Every upright bough of this old oak tree has been snapped off at the top.

We have a bit of clean-up to do. And it's only been one day. We fear there are more downfalls to come.

This is the branch of a big Douglas Fir where the kids had their swing. It was taken out by another falling limb.

I was sad to see my magnolia encased in ice. This tree was given to me by my late father-in-law many years ago when it was a tiny sapling. It was one of the first things I planted when we came to this property.

And I was too late. I should have knocked the snow off of it yesterday.
I'll have to do some significant pruning on it come spring.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Day

Winter Wonderland Part 2!

We woke up to even more snow this morning. A total of about two feet has blanketed our area.

Even our backyard, under the dense canopy of several tall spreading Douglas fir trees, has a covering. The branches of the firs are weighted heavily with the snow.

My car is in there somewhere.

Have you ever heard the ---swoosh, rumble, ffwwwumpfff---- of snow sliding off a metal roof?

Unfortunately, as often happens here in the Northwest the last few years, a warm front coming off the south Pacific followed the snow storm. The snowfall changed to misty rain and the forecast is for lots more rain for the next week. Our beautiful snow blanket turned into heavy wet snow.

Anticipating the snow cement to come we worked at clearing our way out.

This is the third time in twenty four hours that the driveway was plowed out and it was tough. Two vehicles had to be towed out of their snowbanks. With the snow clinging to every tree branch and twig the rain will cause a lot of damage as the wet snow pulls down limbs. We are expecting flooding, mud slides and land slides and possible power outages (we had a short one today.) In 1995 we had a similar weather pattern here. After several landslides that affected the highways we were cut off for a while from the outside world. Our water source on the mountain was damaged by a mud slide and we were even without water for several days.

We have plenty of firewood and food so we'll hunker down and see what happens!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Riding a Cold Wave

Even with the photo oriented correctly (heh heh) these are some craaazy icicles.

Cool! Huh?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Wonderland

Finally, on the 15th of January.... it happened.


There is nothing like the first winter wonderland of the season. It is always special.

By March or so, no one enjoys them as much as the first one.

My husband and I took a late night walk while the snow softly fell. We've done that many times but it has been quite a while since the last one.

In the morning I took my new camera out to get some shooting practice in the clean and sparkling air.  I took these photos around my neighborhood.

I love my rhodies. They are always ready for spring at a moment's notice.

Do you remember our  kitten? She's turning into a great mouser.

The boys are thrilled that there are about two more days of this in the forecast.