To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Paddle Days

Pictures are very limited with this post as we had camera issues. My battery froze, B's exposure compensation was accidentally set to -4 and since he's no longer chimping, he didn't notice, and K didn't bring her camera at all.

My paddling buddies and I stumbled upon a sweet little treasure of a river two years ago and had a delightful experience. The same can be said for paddling a slightly different stretch this past Saturday. No one will let me name the river here until we've actually written about it (think, paddling book), so the best I can say is it's somewhere in Michigan. haha...that doesn't help at all, I know, because Michigan is full of rivers and lakes.

Saturday was crisp and cold, but clear skies and a bright sun had me convinced it should have been much warmer. Sunlight glinted off a thick layer of ice covering the trees and though I kept expecting the ice to melt, it did not as the temperature never rose above 28 degrees. I was ever so grateful for the extra layers of clothing I packed and I wore my winter coat on the water, which I typically don't do. Ice shelves lined many sections along the banks and on occasion, one would break free and crash into the river. Clusters of icicles and ice pendants dangled like jewelry from low hanging branches. So much ice. It felt like I was paddling through a crystal forest sometimes.
Very poor example of the ice crystals. In reality, some were so thick with hanging crystals they tinkled like wind chimes in the breeze.

Eagles and vultures, a hawk, Sandhill Cranes and Blue Heron, deer and muskrats, a mink and birds too numerous to name. Such a lovely way to spend my day.

The river was running high after the snow melt a week ago and the water flow moderately fast at times with enough riffles (and rocks) to keep it interesting. No one got wet except for the occasional splash over the cockpit rim as we dipped through waves. That said, the tips of my gloves were frozen ice and the drops of water that landed on my boat froze, as did parts of my paddle. This was a good day to stay on the dry side of the river.
Will you look at that blue sky? Not a cloud all day.
Ice ribbons - the many different layers and curves found along the edge of the river.
To me it looks like a dragonfly is stuck in the ice in the photo above.
The take out. I said my battery froze, and it did, so how could I get a picture of the end of our trip? I didn't. B and I had left earlier than B&K to look for photo ops and scout take out sites downstream of our launch site. I was immediately intrigued by how deep into the woods we were going to have to paddle to find dry land at the end of our float. I've been on many rivers over the years, but I have to say this has become my all time favorite take out because, on account of the high water and flooding, we were literally paddling through the woods and I've never experienced that before. It was surreal to be maneuvering between and around trees. So cool.

By the way, when we paddled this river two years ago I spied a red wooden stool stuck in the branches at the high water line. I managed to get the stool out of the tree and B carried it all the way downstream for me. I love that stool and it has a place of honor on my front porch. This has to be a fluke, but B found another matching yellow stool stuck in a brush pile at the high water line on Saturday. You know I went after it. It's now drying in my garage and it too will take it's place on the front porch. What are the chances?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Rogue

A beautiful day, a boat that's been dry far too long, friends eager to get outside...only one choice when you have a springtime trifecta. You load up the vehicles and head to the river.
I know I heard this Chick-a-dee say, "well, there you are, we've missed you." I've missed you too little bird.
"Follow us, we know where the fun is."
I've only seen mink twice on the Rogue, but perhaps that's an indication I need to paddle it more often. He wasn't the least bit shy with us. In fact, B stayed behind to take pictures and said the little guy kept popping out of his hole as if he were playing. I see a downed Sycamore in the background, one of my favorite trees because of the bark.
That's a heckuva tree for the beaver to be dropping, and it won't be fun to try to get around once it's in the water. Maybe they've become bored and won't drop it after all.

Yep, that's a very pleasant start to the new paddling season. Next up?

But wait, I had the oldest grandson say he didn't want to come along. What!?! I need to have a face-to-face with that child because I know he loves the outdoors. Must they grow up?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

That's been my mantra for years. It's how I've learned to take steps towards my own happiness and how I've made some pretty big decisions in my life. I still ask myself that question when I'm struggling with decisions. I will always ask myself that question when thoughts start swirling around my head and I start wringing my hands in angst. By asking the question, I come up with answers, which leads to options, which then allows me to come up with a plan for attaining the option I choose. It's always good to have options, to have choices. So I ask you, friends and family, what would you do if you weren't afraid?

Monday, March 7, 2011

What do you do...

when the cat decides that 5:54 a.m. is a great time to get up...on a Saturday morning? If you're me, you give up and get up and wander into the kitchen to see what sorts of messes can be made.

I started with this. Okay, I really started by making a pot of coffee because for me there is nothing like coffee on the weekends. I love that I get to keep refilling my cup and I can easily finish a whole pot throughout the day. To me it says 'nesting'. Then I raided the refrigerator and pantry and filled the kitchen counter with ingredients. By 6:30 I was cooking!
By 10 a.m. the squash above had been roasted and put in the freezer. A batch of Creamy Mushroom and Wild Rice soup had been made with both fresh mushrooms and dried shitake, and 4 jars were headed to the freezer for upcoming lunches. I even ate a bowl for my breakfast because, well, I could. I know, I've been making lots of different mushroom soups, but the mushrooms were on sale for $1.00 each so I stocked up. I'll share the recipe if you would like it, but it's from a cookbook so I wasn't comfortable posting it here. By the way, this is one cream soup that can be frozen because it's made with soy milk and doesn't separate like cow's milk does. If you aren't familiar with Asian markets, I suggest you go visit one and prowl the aisles. Everything is so cheap there, much cheaper than shopping your local grocery store. The shitake was outrageously expensive at Meijer, but a huge bag was just a couple dollars at A Dong Market. My pantry is full of foods from the Asian and Indian Markets.
I had a whole batch of confetti meatballs ready for the freezer. These are made with ground turkey and a broccoli slaw mix. The recipe comes from the back of the bag.
Mann's Confetti Meatballs
Number of Servings: 6
Ingredients:12 oz Mann's Broccoli Cole Slaw
12 oz lean ground beef or ground turkey
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
5 tsp grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp dry Italian seasoning
2 tsp garlic salt
2 eggs
Directions:Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bag of Mann's Broccoli Cole Slaw in microwave oven. Microwave onhigh for 4 min. (let Broccoli Cole Slaw cool before adding it to other ingredients). In a large bowl add all of the above indredients and mix until well combined. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Use a standrd ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup to make 12 meatballs and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes and serve. 

Next time I'll use fresh garlic rather than the dried garlic powder it called for, but still, these are delicious. The broccoli slaw was also on sale for $1 and now that I know how to use it in a recipe that's not loaded with calories...
Just after 10, the only thing left on the counter was this cup of coffee. I gave the cat a nice pat on the head and said, "thanks, that was a productive morning." He said, "my pleasure" with a little more smugness and pleasure to his voice than I would have liked, and then rubbed himself all over my legs in that catty, curvy, rubby way that cats do. I actually don't like it that he thinks I should get up so early on the weekend.
See these tools down below? Yeah, they're my favorite kitchen tools that I never want to live without. B gave me the scale about a year ago and I don't how know I lived without one for so long. I use it constantly when I'm cooking. It comes in real handy when weighing vegetables or converting metric to whatever it is we use here in the states. I use the kitchen shears for everything from cutting bones to mincing herbs. This time I used it to cut the broccoli slaw into smaller pieces and to cut up the rehydrated mushrooms so they were bite sized. And then there's the potato masher. I don't have a hand-held blender and with this masher, I don't really need one. It's perfect for mashing up soups and potatoes and squash and...oh, ever so handy.
And that, my friends, was only my Saturday morning. Do you have a favorite kitchen utensil I should know about?

Added: If I didn't exactly follow the recipe, changed amounts, substituted ingredients, etc., does that make the recipe my own and can I post it here? I'll reference the original recipe, but I didn't make it like the book said to.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mushroom Barley Soup

No picture and I'm real sorry about that. The problem is I'm too busy drooling over this soup while I'm preparing it and then I sort of gobble it up before I remember I should have taken a picture. This soup is thick and very flavorful, cooks up quickly and freezes well. What's not to love about it?

Mushroom Barley Soup

8 oz whole mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 bunches green onions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups Imagine Organic chicken broth
1 cup Chardonnay, use the cheap stuff, it's awesome in soup
2 medium carrots sliced into thin rounds
1/2 cup barley
1/4 teaspoon Savory
1/4 teaspoon Thyme
1/2 teaspoon Basil
olive oil

Toss mushrooms and green onions in a little bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine chicken broth and Chardonnay in a saucepan. Add sliced carrots, barley, savory, thyme and basil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until mushrooms and onions are roasted. Add these to the soup and continue simmering until carrots are crisp tender and barley is swollen., enjoy! This has become my new favorite soup.

Note: I roast the mushrooms and onions with lots of root vegetables so I make better use of the oven. I figure I'll eat the root vegetables with another meal.