Monthly Archives: July 2008

Yes, I Can…

…of course most of you know that already.

With the weather cool this weekend and the young green beans available at the produce market, it was lthe perfect time to make Dilled Beans. Early Saturday we set out for a quick trip to Sauvie Island to get the beans, dill and peppers only to find that there were no peppers. No problem…we’ll stop at the store on our way home and pick up some serranos.

Picking up the box of beans I noticed some beautiful blueberries and luscious blackberries that were just begging to be cooked up into a nice jam. Mark and I decided we could easily make a couple batches after we finish with the beans so we grabbed blueberries and decided to head over the hill to another farm for the blackberries. We knew they’d have the sweeter variety we both love.

As we went to check out I noticed some nice plump boysenberries and the thought of pie came to mind. Don’t ask me why since I’ve never made a berry pie in my life but it just sounded delicious. Never shop when you’re hungry!

Once we acquired the blackberries, we stopped at the local grocery where no peppers were to be found at all. Talking to the produce clerk we were informed that all the peppers were pulled due to the salmonella scare. Duh! With 15 pounds of beans sitting in the car…

a lot o' beans

a lot o' beans

…we weren’t about to give up so off we went to the nearest Mexican grocery. On the way we passed a New Seasons store and since they buy local we stopped in to see what they had. Sure enough they did have some local jalapenos but no serranos. We bought some jalapenos as a back up but continued to the mercado where we were happy to find serranos and habaneros. Eureka!

After a quick lunch we finally arrived home around 1:00 in the afternoon and a bit tired from running all over town but we jumped right in and started prepping.

I’d forgotten how long it takes to trim all the beans and cut them to the perfect size and that doesn’t even include prepping the garlic, brine, peppers, jars, etc.

Every time I looked at the flats of berries waiting for us to finish with the beans I started cursing my earlier enthusiasm. The beans could have easily waited a day but the berries had to be cooked up today.

What's Mark stirring?

We pushed on and about 5:30 we were ready to move on to the berries. We made four batches of black and blue jam, one batch of raspberry, two of plain blackberry, and one blue raspberry before finishing up about 9:30 pm.



This was our final result.

Whew…what a long day! I really enjoy canning but this was far too much for one day and I still hadn’t made my pie.

Place your orders kids!

Place your orders kids!

Sunday afternoon I finally got around to the pie and was surprised at how well it turned out. For a first attempt at berry pie, it wasn’t too runny and the flavor was outstanding. I somehow guessed right on the sugar and the berries were perfect, not too sweet with just a hint of tartness. And…the vanilla ice cream was the perfect accessory to such a lovely dessert. Mark and I both pulled the co-dependent bit where you keep mentioning how you could easily have another piece hoping the other would say “what the hell…you only live once” but neither of us caved. We were able to go to bed content in not having overindulged but certain to dream about boysenberry pie a la mode.

Phun Photo Phriday

Dreamy Mac

Creepy Crawlies and Flying Things*

I was on the phone the other night when this giant wasp like creature came flying toward me. This bitch was BIG with an even bigger stinger and as I backed away she just kept coming at me. I ran into the bathroom screaming like a girl and shut the door hoping she couldn’t bore through it with that jack-hammer hanging off her abdomen.

A few minutes later I snuck out and found she’d landed on a window. I grabbed the closest thing I could find that would reach her, the chuckit, and smacked her lightly (I did want to get a picture after all) and she fell to the floor. I went to scoop her up and she started crawling up the speaker so I hit her again. I know…brutal…but I’m telling you…this is one scary insect.

I scooped up the corpse, dropped it on the table outside and after grabbing my camera returned to find her gone. This bug is not only scary and ugly but tough too! Finding her on the chair I bludgeoned her once more and waited to see if she moved. She didn’t. I put her back on the table and took this picture.

Mangled Ichneumon Wasp

I didn’t think to put anything in the picture to add perspective but I did measure her. Body – 1.25 inches, long frightening stinger thing – 1.5 inches, antennae – half an inch. Yep, more than three inches long and when flying toward your face nothing short of Mothra.

Of course now that I had a picture it was time to find out just what this thing is/was. It turns out this is an Ichneumon Wasp and that long frightening stinger thing isn’t a stinger at all. It’s an ovipositor and she uses it to deposit her eggs in larvae presently eating their way through our trees, or more likely the downed trees in the forest. Yikes!

So, it turns out I didn’t have to go running into the bathroom because this particular wasp is absolutely no threat to me. But this guy is lucky to be alive.

*This post is dedicated to my buddy Doug over at Gossamer Tapestry who could have stopped me from looking like such a sissy…but probably wouldn’t have. ; )

Phun Photo Phriday

We’d just finished an incredible lunch when 10 paces down the street I noticed this sign attached to the building immediately next door. A multiplex? What’s that…a rat condo? The droppings literally covering the sidewalk answered that question.

Believe it or not…I’d eat there again in a heartbeat…it was that good.

Northern Flicker

My favorite woodpecker, the Northern Flicker, makes regular visits to the suet feeder on the deck. I only wish I could catch a shot of him with his wings spread. They are a brilliant orange which you see hints of in his tail feathers.


Those of you who read Mark’s blog know we recently spotted an owl we hadn’t seen before and couldn’t identify. I was unable to get a picture as it flew off just seconds after I ran for the camera. We talked about what we saw, looked through all our birding books and checked the internet and are pretty certain it’s a Barred Owl. We’ve been watching the trees every night hoping to catch another glimpse of this bird so we can get a positive ID but it’s been very elusive.

Barred Owl - not my picture but I wish it were!

Last night I was manning the barbecue when I heard a loud ‘POP’ and looked up just in time to see the owl fly off into the forest with a screamimg squirrel in his grasp. Unfortunately, it all happened so quickly I still couldn’t get a positive ID but I now know his appearance last week wasn’t a random event. And…it looks like we’re on the same dining schedule.

So, I’ll be watching the trees at dinner hoping to get a better look at just who’s taking our squirrels. I also have a feeling this same bird is responsible for the lack of flying squirrels this year. We were seeing three or four a night earlier in the spring but now we have none.


The weather Saturday was really sucky and cool so I didn’t get the opportunity to work in the yard as I’d hoped. I really needed the distraction but that wasn’t going to happen so I started catching up on my blogroll and was inspired by a remark Homer made about making cupcakes to calm himself down. One great thing about cooking…it fulfills your needs…and since I needed a pick me up I decided to cook to cheer myself up.

Mark and I had stopped by New Season’s Market earlier in the day to participate in their weekly tasting which happened to be ice cream. Of course we had to bring some home and, well, since you can’t eat vanilla ice cream without chocolate cake (okay…berries would work but we didn’t have berries in the house) I decided to make a cake. After all…we had all the ingredients at hand and I don’t mean a box of cake mix either. Nope! I pulled out our ancient copy of The Joy of Cooking and found a ‘real’ recipe for Devil’s Food Cake. The recipe mentioned that during the war they would use cassava flour as a cake flour substitute.  Being that we’re at war I searched the kitchen and pantry for cassava flour but alas had to settle for cake flour.  Times have changed.

Next I needed to make a nice icing and I knew I wanted it to be chocolatey and gooey but not too rich so instead of a nice cream cheese frosting, I made a beautiful, shiny, butter icing. I know, butter is as full of fat as cream cheese but it only requires 3 tablespoons of butter as opposed to 3 ounces of cream cheese. Lees fat…more flavor! The main ingredients were chocolate, sugar and hot water, how simple is that?

And the finished product….

…no, it’s not gorgeous but it was made to eat and with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream it tasted like happiness!

A Rough Patch

A month ago my cousin was diagnosed with a very rare condition, transverse myelitis, and within an hour was paralyzed from the breastbone down. This happened so sudden and unexpectedly that we were all still reeling from it when my sister passed away a little over a week later. Needless to say, I’ve been a bit of a basket case.

I spent a week in California dealing with my sister’s belongings since my father, who turns 79 in August, is devastated. My sister moved in with my father about 8 years ago and although dad is completely independent, with the exception of driving, she had become a caretaker of sorts. That job now falls to me and since dad hates the weather in Oregon, I’ll have to handle his affairs from here. Fortunately, dad is adored in his community so he’ll be well looked after but I’ll need to monitor his business affairs and become a more constant presence in his life. After losing my mother at 52, another wife at 48, and now my sister at 53 he’s pretty beaten down, but he’s a survivor and I’m sure he’ll pull through.

There was a bright side to my trip though and that was the opportunity to stop in and see my cousin Bruce before returning home. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for him lying in a hospital bed all day with few distractions from his plight, but he’s in very good spirits and his therapy is coming along nicely. He’s been able to move his left foot, and lift his knee slightly and a few days before I arrived he started moving the toes on his right foot. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a complete recovery and looking forward to seeing him again when I head down to move Pops.

That pretty much sums up my lack of presence on this ol’ blog lately and also why I haven’t been around to read and comment on yours. I’m slowly working my way back into the swing though and hope to get back up to speed soon.

Many, many thanks to all of you who read Mark’s blog and sent kind thoughts and words my way. I felt the energy and it really made a difference.