♦ For Now

Dear Shaina,
Vacation has taken over my life!

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A month in Portland and now Destin…the city, the mountains, the beach…different scenery, different rain clouds, different mattresses! We walked a lot. We ate a lot. We used public transportation…a lot. We shared our dollars and our candy with the homeless.

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We heard music, went to bars (even saw a comedy show in one) and meandered through vintage stores. We were entertained everywhere we went.

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Dad getting ready for Halloween…or whatever.

Tossing aside your everyday routine allows you a sneak peek into your core nature.

  • I can be pretty lazy…and enjoy it…up to a point.

Late night TV, Solitaire on my iPad, hours of sitting and knitting hats I don’t need (I couldn’t resist all the unique yarn shops in Portland including the one at the Alpaca Farm near Mt Hood), sleeping in later than you think possible, having no daily obligations or agenda. It’s both luxurious and unsettling.

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  • I function best with some structure, however minimal it may be.

Dad and I signed up for weekly Pilates, drank coffee every morning, ate steel cut oatmeal and apples and cottage cheese for breakfast on most days, went to Powell Books to hear authors, planned our days around restaurants, music and local events, walked for miles and miles everywhere, and did laundry on Sundays.

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  • Grocery stores and markets are my art galleries.

I went to a grocery store (there was one two short blocks from our apartment) or market almost every day to buy the best honeycrisp apples we ever tasted or more bulk oatmeal or just to see the stunning fresh produce displays. The farmers market offered up 20 varieties of small batch freshly smoked salmon and sable and raw locally harvested honey and gluten free baked goods in addition to rows and rows of locally grown apples and raspberries and lettuces…and wine, coffee and bread, of course.

Edible Art Everywhere

Edible Art Everywhere

  • There are only so many fabulous restaurant meals I can have before my kitchen starts calling me.

We explored the happy hour scene and ate artfully crafted small plates and drinks unique to the ambiance of the restaurant.

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We ate at rooftop bars overlooking the city, downtown establishments sporting their original 50’s decor, food trucks offering vegetarian thai cuisine in our neighborhood and highly polished converted warehouses that had been invaded by nouveau chefs and patrons, young and old, sipping on fancy drinks and Pinot Noir.

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Still, my kitchen was calling. I was inspired by some friends we visited for a weekend on the river near Mt Hood to bake my first baguette from scratch. Despite the fact that I bought the wrong yeast and didn’t have the right size bowl for the rising process, I loved messing around in my little rented kitchen. I even prepared fresh cod for dinner to accompany the freshly baked bread.

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Fresh Cod

  • Cooking is my craft, my therapy, my antidote to laziness…it feeds my soul and my need to accomplish something.
  • I love living in a neighborhood where I can walk a few blocks and get everything I need.
  • I love being in a climate where the air smells green and everyone is required to compost as much of their garbage as possible.

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  • I love living in a town where women wear their gray hair proudly and you can go into the most exclusive restaurant in hiking boots and shorts.
  • I love accessible city parks, patient bus drivers and all kinds of service employees who love their jobs and are genuinely helpful.

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  • I am a rooted creature.

I miss the predictability of routine, the comfort of community, the embrace of my home and the familiarity of the life I have known for over thirty years.

  • For now, home is still home.

Vacation is a lovely respite from the everyday routine, but for now, your childhood bedroom is still where it always was.

See you soon!

Love, Mom

Easy French Baguette

Baked by our friends...my inspiration.

How it should look…baked by our friends…my inspiration.

  • Rapid Rise yeast (use amount according to package instructions)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm tap water
  • 3 1/2 -4 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Vegetable oil for greasing bowl
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes

Optional

  • cornmeal for lining bottom of baking sheet
  • sesame seeds, salt, poppy seeds or herbs for topping if desired

Dissolve rapid rise yeast in 1 1/2 cups warm water in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 3 1/2 cups flour, and stir with a spatula until a soft dough forms and all flour is absorbed; adding a little flour as needed if dough is sticky. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle evenly with salt. Knead until the salt is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add a small amount of flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands. The dough should feel slightly sticky, but elastic. Knead into a ball.

Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven or warm room. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes. Gently press two fingers into dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.

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My first attempt.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide in half. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion on a floured surface into a 12-inch rope, slightly tapered at ends. Place ropes on large baking sheet (covered in parchment paper to make clean up easier) sprinkled with flour or cornmeal.

Cover lightly with a dish towel and let rise again for 30-40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Heat oven to 450°. Place an iron skillet on a lower rack or the floor of the oven.

Uncover the dough. Using a sharp knife, slash the top of each baguette at a 30–degree angle across the loaf about 3” apart. Dust top lightly with flour. Sprinkle with optional seeds or toppings if desired .

Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms) right before putting the loaves into the oven.

I'll keep trying!

I’ll keep trying!

Bake at 450° for 20-30 minutes or until browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped.
Allow breads to rest for thirty minutes after they are removed from the oven before serving.

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♦ Tzereis Gezundereit…or Carpe Diem

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Dear Shaina,

What a role reversal for you to be driving us to the airport to send us off on an adventure!  No guilt or fear…maybe a little worry…worry that you might get lonely or scared, especially since you’re still afraid to go into the basement alone! But you sound good and I am thrilled for you…not even the slightest bit concerned about the state of the kitchen.  Out of sight, out of mind!

I am happy for your comfort in cooking and sharing with friends and using the house for what it is meant for: a place to enjoy, to eat and drink and be with friends and family.  As Bubbe used to say, Tzereis Gezundereit: tear it up in good health!  Not literally, of course.

She  meant that the things we have shouldn’t be saved and preserved for some later pleasure…use what you have, enjoy it today and share it with the people in your life.  It was the Bubbe version of Carpe Diem, plus the acknowledgement that most of our stuff will outlast us, hence, tear it up while you can.

picking peaches on the streets of our neighborhood

picking peaches on the streets of our neighborhood

We all seem to have taken that message to heart.  Here we are in Portland indulging in food, wine, and the distinctive sights and sounds that live in an environment that seems to be fearless when it comes to the expression of individual style, creativity and preference for just about anything…as long as it doesn’t hurt your neighbor or the environment.  We are drinking ( we are tasting a lot of wine) this city in like parched nomads emerging from the desert…and it is delicious!

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There are hundreds of neighborhoods (and we have hit many of them on this trip) each boasting unique flavors and personalities.  The walkable streets, lined with bike lanes and crosswalks and closely packed craftsman style homes are lushly adorned with Portland greenery and fruit trees… small independently owned coffee shops, French bakeries and taquerias, bars and ice cream parlors, vintage stores and shops displaying the work of artisans of every talent and skill (dress shops complete with sewing machine and seamstress, old fashioned barber shops, weavers, painters and jewelers) are everywhere. The costumes on the street are wide open…from biking shorts to hiking boots to retro flowered dresses to…well, anything goes in this town, really.  The tattoos are  bold and sported by people of all ages and lifestyles. Freedom and independence feeds the creative spirit…and the entrepreneur.

We followed a llama into a jewellery boutique

We followed a llama into a jewellery boutique

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We have shared  good wine, food and conversation with our new dear friends from Portland and look forward to showing them Portland’s polar opposite twin city in the South when they visit us.  We’ll try to break them in slowly.

Today we drove to Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Theater and saw a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream set in 1964 at a Catholic Parochial School. Tomorrow on to Napa.

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The luxury of our trip reminds me that now is our time.  Even old couples need some time alone in a fresh space every now and then to remind them of who they are…separately and together. We are seizing the day…and hope to continue to do so together for a very long time.

Breakfast on our porch

Breakfast on our porch

Soon it will be the holidays. I saw your post for the cleanse.  Although I haven’t done much cooking (not that I haven’t been eating), the one thing I did make is cleanse-friendly.  I tried to replicate a beet dish that we had at a Peruvian restaurant in Portland.  I thought mine tasted good, but definitely didn’t have quite the same visual appeal.

Everyday there are new places and sites and experiences I want to share, but enough is enough! I am looking forward to coming home and returning to the normal order of things…me doting on you for the last few weeks of your home-stay…you preparing to leave and being annoyed with my stickiness.

I miss you already. Even though I know its not easy for us to live in the same house.  I still miss being around you…being a part of the moments of your every day.  I know these days are short-lived and that soon, I will be hearing about your life through the wonders of technology, again.

We’re off for a wine tour in Napa, so I better send this now because I am sure I won’t feel much like focusing after we return.

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxoxooxoxo

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Beet Salad with Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce
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  • 2 Red Beets, medium sized
  • 2 Golden Beets, medium sized

Wrap beets in aluminum foil and roast in a 375° oven for 30 -45 minutes or until done (able to be pierced easily with a knife)
Slice thinly, keeping red and yellow beets in separate bowls

Beet Dressing

  • 2 limes, juice and zest
  • 1 Tblsp olive oil
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together and adjust to taste.

Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 cup (packed) fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Jalapeno or habanero pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Process all ingredients in a food processor.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

The restaurant version

The restaurant version

Arrange thinly sliced beets in alternating layers of red, golden, red beets on a platter. Pour lime sesame dressing over beets.
Drip Cilantro Chimichurri sauce along edges or center of beets.

Garnish with fresh cucumber , cut in thin julienne strips and fresh chopped cilantro or parsley.  Serve cold or at room temperature as an appetizer with a fresh baguette or on a bed of arugula as a salad with dinner.