Monthly Archives: June 2010

WILT #9, in which wildflowers don’t care where they grow

I’ve shown you our street before. It’s growing things now.

Is this what happens in the country? Flowers of all sorts just sort of… pop up everywhere?

This guy is all over. We have one in our front yard. There are many in the pasture down the street. They greet me on my way home from work, my headlights illuminating the crest of the hill at midnight.

I don’t think anyone put them there.

Not on purpose, at least.

And these little guys! By the roadside! Not a particularly sunny roadside, either.

Yellow flowers sneaking up on the other side of the neighbors’ fence. Did they start on the inside of the fence, planted carefully to beautify the view out the side window, and then sneak under?

Pretty and tenacious.

And I can’t just title my post with this lyric without encouraging you to check out the song from which it came. Here’s a brief taste: To complete the mindblowing, check out the incredible album Trio–a 1986 collaboration between Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris. I took that CD from my mom’s collection when I went to college.


this is what we do

A weekend afternoon stretching out before us, we decide the fire pit needs some attention. We head to the grocery store and don’t even have to think: wild-caught Alaskan salmon, fingerling potatoes, walnut halves and dried apricots. Lemons. Mayonnaise. Sweet corn! A trio of recipes we know by heart and a night by the fire. Unabashedly covered in DEET, if you’re as delicious to mosquitos as my future pa-in-law and I seem to be.

Let me tell you what we like to do with salmon around here. Cheryl, my future mother-in-law, taught me.

Get a beautiful fillet of salmon so salmon-colored it’s practically fluorescent. Living out here in Portland, we have access to some amazing Alaskan Copper River salmon that makes Jesse’s heart go pitter-patter. In a small bowl, combine a half a cup of mayonnaise (no, I’m not kidding–homemade, organic, Kraft, whatever) with a couple teaspoons of turmeric, a teaspoon of ground cumin, and a teaspoon of ground coriander. A few turns of the grinder for some cracked black pepper, and it’s time to stir. Mix the mayo and spices and taste for salt. Depending upon the mayo, you may want more (not likely, though–and this, coming from a salt fiend!). Slather that lovely mess of flavor on the salmon and top with slices of lemon. You’ve never had a juicier, brighter piece of fish.

I know what you’re thinking: this looks TOTALLY ridiculous and I’ve completely lost my mind and all my culinary cred in your eyes and you can’t beLIEVE I’m telling you to do this. But you must trust me on this one. Actually, trust my future ma-in-law. She’s right. (That’s organic roasted garlic mayo, by the way. No “modified starch” or “natural flavor” in that stuff.)

When we’re grilling on the old classic Weber, we put the salmon on a soaked cedar plank. Over the fire pit, however, we’ve learned that no cedar plank can be sufficiently soaked so as not to burst into flames; instead, we put the fish on a metal grill pan. The cooking time is always different depending upon the thickness of the fish and the heat of the grill. Usually, we just ask Sandra what she thinks.

She’s become our resident Grill Wench. She has an aura of creativity about her, that one; she made some potatoes a few cookouts ago that have become a new staple in my repertoire. I would never have thought of this combination:

-a few pounds of little tiny new or fingerling potatoes

-a cup of dried apricots

-a cup of walnut or pecan halves

-oil to coat


-salt & pepper

Seriously. Mix all that together and put it over the fire in a grill basket or packet of foil. Or something. Anything to get it over that fire. The dried apricots and nuts get so toasty and charred and chewy and sweet-spicy, and those potatoes!

Grilled dried apricots with chili powder. Heaven help me. Do they cook unevenly? Of course, and it’s brilliant. I started jumping up and down when I saw her put those ingredients together in the big mixing bowl, but there was no way I could’ve known that those crusty half-burned apricots would be the highlight of my meal.

And Jesse’s perennial favorite is the sweet corn. Soak the corn for 20 minutes in cold water. Pull the husks back and take out the silk. Rub a combo of nothing more than olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper over the kernels. Fold the husks back into place and put them on the grill.

Sandra somehow manages to position everything over the fire pit such that it’s all ready to eat at about the same time; she’s figured out how to make the most of its zones of direct and indirect heat. There may be a science behind it, but so much of what she does happens with intuitive grace.

And then we have dinner.

We like crazy potatoes, and full-flavored salmon, and corn with smoking husks pulled back.

This is what we do here.

WILT #8, in which I find portland in a picture

I’m getting less and less inhibited with my camera, folks.

I still intend to leave it squarely in my purse when the meal arrives–or, at the very least, I promise not to stick it under your nose and postpone your first bite. I’m finding myself reaching for it more frequently in the hopes of capturing an image or moment that speaks Portland or yummy or life is good! to me. Photographer I am not; I’m using my lovely little Canon PowerShot Digital ELPH from a few years ago (actually it’s Jesse’s) and I very much have a point-and-shoot attitude about it. I’m a writer first. But I’m also working on it.

So when I drove past this scene last week, I found myself giggling and driving around the block. Pulling that camera out from the bottom of my tote and gathering up the courage to point it out the car window as my wheels crept up to the corner. I sing at the top of my lungs alone in the car with the windows rolled down, stopped at stop lights. I’m learning to take a picture without rushing, or hiding my lens. Because some of these images, these moments, are too good not to capture.

Welcome to Portland! The old Plymouth. The bikes. The beer. You have arrived.

I have Big Things planned for my WILT space, by the way. And I’m painfully aware that it’s (gasp!) Wednesday! New adventures in the world of nursing have taken my mind (and my concept of time) on a bit of a ride this past month. I’m excited to get back on track, though–and in the interim, I would love to learn about where you live!


I don’t think I was served or offered sangria the entire time I was in Spain. That was eight or nine summers ago anyway, and I was young but always provided with whatever adult beverage my hosts were drinking. Table wine with soda water, champagne, a taste of this or that liqueur.

No sangria though. Hm.

At particular parties in college, we’d fill a big hammered stainless (or was it aluminum?) bowl with cheap wine, 7-up, all sorts of chopped fruits, and various other magical liquid ingredients I never quite saw. Then we’d sing in the basement all night, or dance down the streets.

Now, it’s time for a mellow and fruity sangria–something tasty that delights with every sip but doesn’t require much attention. We sat out at the fire pit last weekend, pre-celebrating Father’s Day as my future ma- and pa-in law are currently off exploring London for 8 days. More on the meal we grilled later: we made our favorites, and leftovers were scant and lasted only hours.

The sangria, on the other hand, was finished before the meal was even begun.

Mid-June Sangria


Fruit from 1 canteloupe, cubed into bite-sized pieces

4 ripe apricots, sliced into half-moons and then cut into little pieces

2 mangos, cut into pieces like this

1/2 cup of torn mint leaves, or more as desired

1/2 cup orange liqueur such as Gran Marnier (what I used) or Cointreau

1 bottle of cold, not-bad pinot grigio (I had a $9 bottle of Hogue Pinot Grigio ’08 on hand)

Any other wine leftovers in the fridge (in my case, half a bottle of a vinho verde and a splash of riesling)


Chop all fruits and mix with torn mint leaves and orange liqueur. Add wine and stir to mix. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving in tall glasses. Provide spoons to facilitate fruit-slurping.

Experiment with other wine choices. When it comes to a sangria or mixed wine drink, I’m not particular about vintages or vintners. In this case, I didn’t pay much attention, beyond the varietal, to what half-bottles from the fridge I was adding to the mix. Find a good value in the $8-$10 range and relax.

WILT#7, in which I so totally win

I actually *do* care

Staff meeting on Wednesday. New employee handbook published by corporate. One of our facility’s co-administrators reads all the new parts to us. It takes an hour.

The last handbook was published in 2002, apparently. In that “old” version (2002 is old?), there was nothing about face tattoos, about PDAs (personal digital assistants, in this context), about engaging in romantic relationships with patients. The 2010 version? Full of this stuff. Full of hints at some of the crazy things that have happened in the company in the last 8 years. And let me tell you, the HIPAA section is now, like, a mile long.

When she got to the part about social networking sites, Twitter, and blogs, our co-administrator sighed and looked up. “I don’t know why anybody does any of this stuff anyway,” she said. “Like, I don’t CARE what you had for breakfast. Keep it to yourself!”

I’ve heard this argument before: that this constant sharing of the supposedly mundane and banal is just unnecessary background noise leading to the overstimulation of our modern minds. But you know what?


I WANT to know what you thought about the waffles at the new cafe down the street! I WANT to know about how much you love your new banana-yellow Schwinn cruiser! And almost more than anything else, I CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU HAD FOR BREAKFAST!

Give me ideas about what I can make tomorrow. Give me some insight into the little day-to-day things in your life that matter to you. Maybe this is further indication that, against all odds, I’m truly a people-person. What matters to you genuinely does matter to me. And yeah, if I’m busy or overwhelmed, I’ll log off.


What did you have for breakfast?

I had some Greek yogurt–FAGE 0%–with sliced supermarket strawberries (didn’t make it to the farmers’ market this weekend) and chopped walnuts. And coffee.

It’s often the little meals, the meals and snacks taken alone at the computer or when halfway out the door, that don’t get any recognition. We often think of them as fuel, as boring necessity. I think they can be the most interesting. It’s when your stomach is growling and demanding food NOW that you inadvertently get creative with your culinary concoctions.

Maybe you’re like me and have a basic template for little meals like that–a fried egg, some form of whole grain, maybe a veggie, and a condiment. When you’re rushing to pull something together to satisfy your tummy, you reach into the fridge for the cheese and inexplicably end up grabbing the jar of pickles. And your fried egg sammich takes a new and crazy turn.

I love this.

Tell me. Keep it coming.

WILT #6, in which moss grows fat

You know that whole Boy Scout maxim that says you can tell which way north is based on the side of the tree the moss is growing on?

Not here.

Until recently, Jesse’s ma Cheryl had a big white minivan that we lovingly referred to as the Toboggan. The Toboggan took me to multiple dead-end job interviews this January, and shortly after was turned in for a bright shiny gold Subaru. Good trade. Anyway, the Toboggan’s passenger door handle had moss growing under it. Just growing there. Why not?

Jesse and I are training for the Portland marathon–he for the full, I for the half–with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. We go for training runs through the campus of the community college down the street, and it’s full of moss-covered trees, rocks, statue art.

And because every day here in the Pacific Northwest is a veritable slugfest (and because I can’t resist):


With Jesse’s pointer finger for scale. It’s so little! Destined for big things, to be sure.

We take our quick mid-week runs here; 30 minutes of trotting and we switch to a brisk walk. Rain (mostly) or shine. It’s only a two-minute drive from our front door, and I’m pretty sure it’s an extension of the magical area in which our house is situated. Keep going, Jesse! The unicorns are just up ahead.