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23 August 2009

Betty Crocker From Hell

'Tis the season. The season for Rhubarb, my all time favorite ingredient for pie. RP (Rhubarb Pie) - that's what my grandma called it. She knew just how much I loved RP. Everytime we came over to visit her, she'd say "Oh Sarah, come look. I made you 3 RP's". Rhubarb is an acquired tasted. Most people have one of two opinions about it - they love it or they think it's gross. As the former of the two, I lose no chance to take advantage of Rhubarb harvests.

This weekend, I was lounging out in the sun when I heard a chainsaw right behind me. I looked up to see the tree that is growing between my fence and my neighbors fence was being cut down. Holy sheeez, I thought, that's our 73-year old neighbor Jan with a chainsaw! I jumped up and grabbed Warren out of his peaceful mid-afternoon slumber. We had to go help her, not that she isn't quite the most bad-ass elderly woman I have ever encountered, she is. But she was going to need to some help. Luckily, her neice was there but still. So, we arrived at her house and began helping catch the branches she was sawing off, dragging them to the front and loading them in the truck. When we finished, Jan disappeared for a few minutes. She came back with an armload of freshly picked, you guessed it, Rhubarb for me. Now I love receiving locally farmed food as gifts, but Rhubarb was an extra-special blessed delight. As I proudly walked home I could almost taste the RP I was soon going to make.

I searched epicurious and found 2 good recipes for RP. I combined them and rearranged them to my liking and went to work cooking. The recipe - Strawberry, Raspberry Rhubarb Pie with cinammon and orange peel and a butter brown sugar crumbling topping. I meticulously followed my recipe, enjoying every moment as I chopped my precious Rhubarb. I displayed my masterpiece to Warren and put it in the oven to do it's magic.

About a half hour later, I checked my RP and saw that it was going to possibly bubble over a little and since our oven is pretty new, I didn't want to have a mess. I got out cookie pan to slide under it to catch any drips. As I began to slip the pan under the tilting pie dish, something happened. As I look back now, it had to have been a blip in my common sense. I should have been more careful. I mean this was RP. Somehow, don't ask me how, the pie flipped over in the middle of the oven and as it did I jumped in horror knocking the pie straight to the bottom of the oven burner and bumped the oven door which slammed closed on my finger. A bundle of expletives followed along with painful cries and a heart crushed. After I could breathe again, I tentatively opened the oven door. There was my beautiful half cooked pie smooshed all over the bottom of the oven with bits of berry and rhubarb mash hanging off the oven racks and burning into charcoal and smoke.

Warren came running to see what on earth I had done this time in the kitchen. He helped me clean up the sticky mess as he said, "Oh I am so sorry Sarah, your Rhubarb Pie, Oh I am soo sorry. " You know he was thanking the good lord above that he would now not have to endure a taste testing of my pie for he was not born a Rhubarb lover. After I got over the initial shock, embarrassment and pissed offness of losing my beloved Rhubarb Pie, I finally laughed and figured so much for trying to be little Miss Pie Cooker Homemaker. I am a Betty Crocker from hell. Instead, I think I will have a glass of wine and walk down to our local cafe and buy myself a slice of homemade RP, I mean, the worst that can happen is they won't have any right? Ok, let's not go there.

21 August 2009

So Done

I am so done.

This way of life is too pre-determined

It holds me to this track on which the expected way of life travels

I resist by jumping from the train cars

Smash landing into my own free will

Light and easy I frolic in my alternative existence.

But that train catches up with me, throws me back on, slapping an itinerary in hand

Temporarily stripped of my individuality and free-roaming thoughts,

I am bound for a course of destruction.

My spirit will not allow it.

I will play the game for you, but in this case I will cheat.

Parts of my star-like quality will leak out, spreading their infectious flashes of seemingly frivolous

Connections to something deeper, something more alive.

So I am done.

I will ride the train of rules but only when necessary.

I will dodge the well worn paths,

And take hidden trails,

slashing my way through a jungle less explored.

I'm not irresponsible,

I am accountable.

Accountable for keeping it real.

Fuck corporate culture.

I can do it myself!


After taking a much needed vacation break of 12 days, I woke up for my first work day on Wednesday - on time, too! I was well rested, my mind was calm, and I was eager to begin my regular routine again. Don't get me wrong, I would have been more than happy to extend my vacation indefinitely, but that just is not in my forecast for a while. Needless to say, everything soon caught up with me. Things began to return back to normal soon enough - not enough hours in the day to get my work done, tired when I get home, re-assuming routine responsibilities, wore me out by the 3rd day back. Now I don't have kids and can pretty much pick and choose when to relax but I do have a life. I had to get back in touch with friends, sisters, parents, my blog, bills, grocery shopping, watering the yard, and of course, my daily jogs with the dogs. Today is Friday and I am plum out of energy. The only way I can deal is to prepare myself a smashing double vodka and pomengranate juice cocktail. After two, I am feeling mighty warm and finally, yes, finally, relaxed. I made my list to do for the weekend, dividing it up so I am sure to have time to nap and lay out in the last of the summer sun. I really do not believe in working so hard that life passes me by. In fact, it would be much preferrable for me to work 3 days a week, volunteer 2 days a week and take the other two days to do whatever I please. But even though we live a meager way life, I still cannot afford to have that kind of a schedule. So, if I am going to have to work 5 days a week for 8 hours a day, I have to be willing to let things go. And most importantly, as I transition from the easiness of vacation life back to reality, I have to hold on to a piece of the alternative reality to keep me going. Life can be busy and consuming but only at times. I CAN choose to relax. As I transition from vacation mode to regular life, my weekend list to do is written but there is no use worrying about what needs to be done tomorrow because that is all in the future. And what I re-learn from each vacation is that now is most important. Vacations are all about now. Who cares what we are eating tonight, we will worry about that when it is time. Now is all I have. Now is more fun. With light preparations for the future, now is all that matters, now is all I have time for.

14 August 2009

Beach Cruisers

Diamond Lake was our vacation destination this summer. Two cars, one piled with kids and parents, the other with grandparents and Warren and I, we drove 4 hours through the southern Oregon forests until we arrived at the resort hidden carefully in the mountains. Our little cabins rested on the south lakefront overlooking the docks of boats and choppy waters. The lodge and general store lay just within a stone’s throw. Upon further exploration, Warren found a bike rental shop. Without hesitation, we rented two beach cruisers and set upon the 11 mile bike trail around the lake.

The trail first took us through the campground that had served as a 24 hour pit stop 7 years ago the night after our wedding. Then it veered off away from the lake and into the forest for a while. We peddled pretty hard up the slight inclines sometimes wishing the cruisers had gears. Suddenly we entered a clearing of tall grass shimmering in the sunlight. I wanted to rip off my clothes and dance through the meadow. I withheld though because there were other people using the trail. The beauty ended as the trail suddenly took a turn uphill. I pedaled with every ounce of strength I had left in my body. I could tell Warren was workin hard but he was getting way ahead of me. My thighs burned and I was positive my ass was going to be eternally numb. But no pain no gain right? Plus with my father n law’s cooking which entails three full meals a day, had me working hard to make room for his dinner when we returned. Just as I thought I could take no more, the trail began to slope downward. Now this was more like it. This was beach cruising. I could stop pedaling and started coasting as my bike flew downhill. My heartbeat began to return to normal and my breathing steadied. Soon we rounded a corner to find ourselves right back at the lodge. We’d made in just under an hour and enough time to return the bikes without extra charges.

Patting ourselves on the back, we made instant plans to ride it again the next day, and maybe this time, I’ll park the beach cruiser for a quick frolic in the tall grass another thigh burning adventure!

Maddie's Secret Recipe

Maddie is 6 and she knows everything. She also is the keeper of her very own, self-created, secret family recipe. She decided to share it with me and wrote it down as I spelled each ingredient for her. When everyone was busy preparing dinner, I gathered up the kids and walked them down to the neighborhood store to purchase the secret ingredients. Maddie proudly read her list to me as I put the items into a grocery bag. Colin paid the grocer and proudly stuff his change back into his wallet.

On our way home I pulled out one of the secret ingredients – whip cream. Oh my favorite! I shook it up, took off the lid and squirted about a cupful into each of our mouths as I promised them that after dinner we’d prepare the recipe. Before we knew it, dinner was over and Uncle Warren had a nice fire going out back. Maddie and I gathered the ingredients and layed them out on the picnic table. The kids went to town roasting those marshmallows. Warren helped them properly hold the skewers over the coals and blew out each marshmallow as it caught on fire. I think we went through a bag of them, all burnt to a crisp.

As the mallows cooled, we piled the ice cream, caramel, cherries, chocolate and whip cream in a bowl. Then we added the marshmallows. Now it was time to feast.

After they had stuffed themselves and their bellies were protruding, fingers sticky and faces charcoaled, they waved good bye as they left for their hotel. I said a silent prayer – Yes, the kids thought we were cool, but please, Oh please don’t let those kids get sick tonight, their parents would never forgive us.

Soggy Island

Berry pickin takes on a whole new meaning when lil kids are involved. We took Warren’s family, who by the way are in town visiting, down to Sauvie Island for an afternoon of berry pickin. Upon arrival we immediately hit the farmer’s store, full of freshly picked and rinsed produce from the grounds surrounding the store front. Admiring the bounty before us, we resisted and instead picked up our berry baskets and headed out towards the endless berry patches. But we detoured first to the local pig, obviously being fattened up for a winter’s worth of bacon breakfasts. After the excitement of Tilla the Ton wore off, we soon encountered a chicken and her baby chicks. We tried to get pictures as the kids eagerly ran up towards them, making them cluck and run for cover.

Just as we approached the berry patches, we were stalled yet again for sunscreen. Time to slather the kids up in SPF 30. But the protection devices didn’t stop there. The kids each put on a sunhat and sunglasses and then were deemed safe to begin picking. Well, ok, there was a photo session to capture their berry picking armor. It can be dangerous out there with those berry pickin fools from the city.

Many of the bushes were picked clean or dried up and everyone wandered farther away to try to find treasure. I stayed behind because I knew there were berries, I just had to look carefully. A bush that appeared to be bare was actually loaded with plump blueberries, subtly hidden in the innermost parts of the bush where no human hands had ventured. Soon I had filled up three pints and I couldn’t stop. Every time I tried to walk away, I saw another berry calling my name. The kids had wandered into a tire swing and were happily sailing through the air with intense smiles on their faces. Berry picking was all about finding a hidden playground for them.

Eventually we made our way back to the farm store and loaded our baskets with crème sodas, fresh ears of corn, and berries. The kids proudly declared that ‘Soggy Island’ was a success. We laughed to ourselves as we loaded everything into our cars and headed back home – soggy we were from hours in the hot sun chasing those kids.

05 August 2009

Change of Pace

I sit and think, what should I write about tonight. What was it about my day that inspired me? My day did start out on a good note - I got up almost on time. Miraculously, I pulled myself out of bed just a half hour after my alarm went off. That left me time to go for a jog with the dogs, leisurely sip my coffee and check the news. Getting up almost on time was inspiring.

At work I was able to be quite efficient, getting to piles and emails that needed attention. I had a free stamp on my coffee card so I got a coffee ice cream smoothie, extra large and with whip cream. The productivity and thrifty splurge was inspiring.

When I got home tonight, we threw out the week's menu and went to taco bell for dinner. After which I pulled weeds from the crevice between the sidewalk and the road in front of our house. It's Shark Week so I caught a new episode. I reminisced with Warren about big hair bands and listened to old albums. The endless heavy heat of late summer had finally dissapated and an ever so slight chilly breeze made me shiver.

That's what it was about today - the change of pace was inspiring. It's time to stir the pot.

Happy Dawgs

Happy Tahoe

Happy Huck

Happy Bettis

03 August 2009

Daring Rescues

If you haven't any compassion in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.
~Bob Hope

I don't know what it is but I have always been involved in pet rescues - mostly with dogs. They seem to gravitate toward me and even as an adult these instances have continued. I don't know, maybe I have a dog spirit or maybe it's karma from another life and dog spirits are naturally drawn towards me. Whatever it is, when I am presented with a case, you can count on me to help. I guess my earliest memories are as a child when my sisters and I found a lost little black spaniel that we proudly brought home and promptly named Cassie. We assured our parents that we would just keep it until it found a home - which our parents made sure was right away. Then we found a yellow lab named Major that after a few days in our backyard, we found out came with a $25 reward! Needless to say, the owner came and got him right away.

I can never let a wandering dog with no human at it's side to pass me by and neither can my husband, Warren. I will always stop and coax the dog over to see if it has a collar. I will be late to work if it means that I can rescue a lost dog. Once I was driving and I found a dog meandering all by it's proud self down the street, crossing back and forth without looking. I pulled over and called to him, but he ignored me and turned around and went down another street. I followed him for a while, with my passenger door open, beckoning him with treats. Eventually he stopped and stared at me as if to say, look lady, I'm not interested! Finally a woman stepped out of the house we were in front of and gave me a look of horror - like I was a dog napper. Then she called her dog over and told me that this was her dog and that I should leave it alone. I of course let her know right away that I thought it was lost because it did not have a collar and was cruising around the neighborhood alone. She gave me the evil eye and took her dog inside. Well, fine. Since then, I see that dog all the time, wandering alone. I
can't help myself. I stop and tell it to GET HOME! Dumb dog-owner.

Another time, I was walking all three of our dogs when a little black labbie came bounding over to us, wagging her tail. Again, no human in sight. I was able to manage to get a look at her collar and found out her name was Poppy and that she lived 3 houses down. I grabbed her collar along with our three and walked her home. No one answered so I put her in the backyard and told her to stay.

Other rescues have been more humorous. This one happened about 2 years ago. We had just woken up on a Saturday morning and were standing out on our front porch, half awake with our coffees and cigarettes. I happened to glance across the street to our new neighbors house when something moving on the roof caught my eye. I blinked and looked again. Holy cow, it was the neighbors dog and it was on the roof. I yelled to Warren, 'Dog on the roof' and ran inside to get my shoes. He grabbed the 6 foot ladder and we race
d across the street. We banged on their door but no one was home. Warren set up the ladder while I coaxed her to stay still with treats. Every time Warren got near her, she'd move to the other side of the roof. We caused such a commotion that a few neighbors came out to help along with a guy who pulled over when he saw our dilemma. Between all of us, we got her to one side where Warren lifted her off the roof and passed her on to another person down the ladder. We thanked everyone for their help as everyone dispersed and grabbed the ladder and started across the street. Just as we did, our new neighbors rounded the corner towards their house. The look on their face was classic - here we were leaving their house with a 6-foot ladder and their dog. We immediately started explaining what had just transpired. The story lives on and has been told many times. It gets funnier with every telling.

Our most recent daring rescue was just this last weekend. Again, it was early morning on Sunday. I was in the kitchen and happened to glance out of the window. I saw a little Collie sniffing around in the house across the street. I said to Warren, "I didn't know the new renters had a dog". Warren said, "They don't". Then we looked at each other - yes, another rescue was at hand. This was such a regular occurrence now that we di
dn't even need to stop and think, we reacted with adept proficiency - we grabbed dog treats and a leash and ran out the front door. When we got nearer to the dog, we realized she was just a puppy so we showed her the treats and called her with enthusiasm. It worked immediately. She came leaping and romping towards us. We made her sit for her treat and as we gave it to her, we leashed her up. After spotting her pink collar with rhinestones we felt relieved - she'd have a phone number to call.

But it wasn't going to be that easy. Daring rescues never are. Her tags only had her microchip 800 number. After calling that, we found that the owner was not answering but the second contact was a hysterical sister of the owner, Leanne. Turns out, the owner was in Alaska for a few weeks - without cell service. His dogs were being dog-sat by his friend - BUT - she didn't know where or who these friends were. She raced out to get the puppy - who we now knew was Jezebel. We fed her because we weren't sure how long she had been wandering - it could have been days since she had eaten. Sadly, we found out that Jezebel had a brother but we hadn't seen another dog wandering around. Apparently, the last time Leanne's brother went out of town, the dog he had at the time had gotten out of the dog-sitters house and gotten run over. She was just in tears as it seemed as if this nightmare was happening again. We gave her our number and told her we would help in any way we could. We also talked about who this 'dog-sitter' could be. She said she thought it could be Bud, a tall native american with greying hair. Both Warren and I said, oh man, that's Toby and he lives just down the street - 4 houses down to be exact. But no, this guys name was Bud, not Toby. So she left and we promised to stay in touch. About an hour later, she called to say she had found her brother's dog sitter - and it WAS Toby - down the street - and the other dog, Taz, was fine and still there.

So the story goes like this: Toby, aka - Bud, fed the dogs and put them in the backyard with bones. Jezebel dug a hole under the fence and escaped. When we found her, she had only been missing about 5 minutes. Taz didn't get out. Toby didn't realize they were missing until he got the call from Leanne but was immediately assured that a nice couple down the street had rescued Jezebel, who by the way, now had the squirts from 2 breakfasts, a bone and the excitement of being a runaway, all within one hour. Leanne thanked us profusely and apologized for not having any money. I will tell you what I told her - We do not want any money. The only thing we hope is that if one of our dogs ever got out that someone would put forth the same effort to find it's home.

Daring rescues involve quick, decisive action, sometimes a little creativity, some waiting time and lots of explaining. But in the end, compassion and kindness win and the parties involved are pleased with the outcome and thank you's are abundant. But we don't attempt these rescues for the recognition. We do it for the love of animals and to protect the hearts of the humans who love them.

01 August 2009

The Orchid Is My Friend

I keep telling myself, "The Orchid is my friend", hoping that if I say it enough it will come true. The deal is, our good friends have gone away for most of the summer. I am keeping an eye on their house and yard and watering the plants. You see, my friend has this Orchid that was given to her as a gift. Notice, it was not her choice to have this Orchid, but since it was given to her, she wants to take good care of it. So she asked that I watch it while she is away.

Knowing that Orchids are high maintenance in my book, I took it home so that I can keep a close eye on it and give it the attention it desires. I had a talk with it while we were walking home together. I let it know that I would do my best, but that I am a gardener of specific tastes. I like natives that adapt easily to the pacific northwest weather patterns and plants that prefer shade and alone time. Of course, the weekly watering schedule is preferred too. But this orchid told me that it had other things in mind. It wanted to be lightly misted each morning and water poured over the rocks at it's base daily. It did not want any direct sunlight but preferred a sunny place to chill.

Ok, that is high maintenance if you ask me. I was just waiting for it to say it would be nice if it could also have a mate. So as a plant lover, I told it that I would do my very best but that it had to do it's part too - not die while I was it's caretaker. In fact, if it flourished, that would be even better.

So, after a day or two of caring for this demanding indivdual plant spirit, I took it upon myself to dote on it. It had one leaf that was not doing well and dried up stems from when it flowered earlier in the year. My pruning shears came out and I clipped off that sad leaf and the dried flower stems. I rearranged the rocks so that it could soak up the minerals from the water better and put it in our sunny office where the sun never shines direct but the whole room is sunny all day long. I mist it daily and be sure it never lacks for water. I am doing my part.

Well, this is a smart Orchid. It is actually holding up it's end of the deal. A few days ago I noticed a teeny tiny new growth. Could this be a new leaf already? Yes, a new leaf it is. I swear this new little delicacy has actually grown almost an inch. I really have no idea what I am doing with this exotic creature but it seems to be working. All I did was put my basic skills to work - talk to the plant, connect with it's spirit and let it show me what it needs. So as my mantra started out as a desperate plea, I say it now with a gardener's pride: The orchid is my friend!