Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I just made myself the weirdest sandwich:

Shredded chicken breast mixed with Miracle Whip and barbecue sauce, on whole wheat bread spread with homemade cherry jam.

It was SO good.

Monday, July 29, 2013

This mixer is messing with my head.  All I want to do is cook things.  And clean my house while they cook. And organize my kitchen.  I feel like Suzy Homemaker.

(HAhahahahaha. Yeah.... no.  I am so not Suzy Homemaker.)

I am having fun with the mixer, though.

Look what came today!

Pasta rollers for the KitchenAid.

Pasta gizmos!  Back to front, that's the sheet roller, thick noodle cutter, fettuccine cutter, spaghetti cutter, and angel hair cutter, with the ravioli maker on the left.

And LOOK!  There is now pasta!

Fresh pasta from the KitchenAid!

I did that, my very own self! Linguini and thin spaghetti!


I cooked some of the spaghetti for dinner. It went straight from the KitchenAid into the pot of boiling water, and literally took only two minutes to cook.  Then I topped it with chopped fresh basil, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. 

So very yummy.

Even Emma, picky eater extraordinaire, declared that it was the best pasta ever.  I feel that this is a real accomplishment on my part, since normally she only likes one very specific kind of pasta with one very specific kind of jarred tomato sauce. Broadening her palate!  Triumph!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yep, it makes bread!

Yep, it makes bread.

Easy peasy!  The second loaf from the batch went to the neighbors, because Emma and I won't eat that much bread in the next few days, and my freezer is full of fruit.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

So yeah, that whole plan to wait until it wasn't 100 degrees out before turning on the oven and trying out the new mixer?

First batch of cookies...

Didn't happen.  I couldn't wait.

This mixer powered through preparing chocolate chip cookie dough, which typically defeats my little handheld mixer (which is still very handy for light duty tasks, and is also a KitchenAid) that my mom got for me when I moved out on my own for grad school.

I love this stand mixer.

(I also ordered the pasta roller attachments last night, so watch for homemade noodles on Monday...)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Last night I acquired a new kitchen toy.

New old toy...

This was GIVEN to me by my friend Anne.

I'll say that again:

She.  GAVE.  Me.  A.  KitchenAid.  Mixer.

This was her mom's mixer, passed along to Anne many years ago, but since Anne is in mega clean-out-her-house mode and getting rid of all the things she never uses, she passed it along to me.

I've drooled over KitchenAid stand mixers for many many years, but could never bring myself to spend the money.  I can't believe I have one in my kitchen.  It's old, it's solid, and it weighs a ton.  Plus, it came with TWO bowls, a splatter shield, and the wire whip, dough hook, and flat paddle attachments!  And a cover, not shown.

Anne, you rock.

Now I want to...

...however, I may wait until it's not 98 degrees out before I turn on the oven.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Note to self:

When it's late and you're feeling a little low, don't open up Pinterest and search for "Maine."  It doesn't make you feel better to see all those pictures.

It should, but it doesn't, because Maine is there and I am here.  And "here" is "not there."

Monday, July 22, 2013

In the past three days I've tucked away a beautiful pile of fruit in my freezer: a total of 14 pounds of pitted, sliced peaches and 28 pounds of pitted sweet cherries.

Emma and I picked the cherries on Thursday at an orchard over across the valley in Cove. We waited until evening to pick so it wouldn't be so hot, and spent a peaceful hour and a half watching the sun set over the valley.  We got 34 pounds of cherries off our one tree. Pretty good, considering a late freeze damaged the fruit set! I pitted them on Friday afternoon, right before heading out for a weekend camping trip. 

I bought the peaches last Wednesday while on a work trip over in central Oregon, at the Kimberly Orchard. They have the best peaches ever. The freestone peaches aren't ripe yet, so I got a 20-pound box of almost ripe semi-clings, figuring I'd just slice them the best I could. Turns out that by Sunday night when they were fully ripe, they were so meltingly luscious that they just sliced right off the pit. And I didn't even have to scald them, the skin peeled right off!

While I wasn't particularly pleased to have to rush to process 34 pounds of cherries right before leaving for the weekend and 20 pounds of peaches immediately after getting back, I wouldn't trade that work for anything.  I love having delicious, flavorful fruit stashed in the freezer for later in the year. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Emma and I had a fantastic weekend.  Really, it was very nearly perfect.  We went over the mountains and camped at the Wallowa Lake State Park for two nights, and we each picked an activity that we'd been looking forward to for a long time.

For Emma, it was a horseback trail ride.  She's been talking about doing this since May 2012, the last time we camped at the park.  We didn't have time during that trip, so I told her that when we went camping at Wallowa this summer, we would go.  I was pretty excited about it too, actually.

It was a four-hour guided trip, and we rode about three miles up along the West Fork Wallowa River.  Here's Emma riding Max, and the ears of my horse, Rebel.  She was on a lead, since she was initially nervous about controlling the horse herself.  By the second half of the ride, she was more confident and wished that the guide hadn't taken off the bridle so that she could be independent, but oh well.  Next time.

Emma on Max, me on Rebel

I didn't take too many pictures while I was riding, not because it wasn't beautiful, but because I was too busy holding on.  The horses were completely confident and knew what they were doing (better than I did...) but the trail was very steep and rocky in places, and a little scary.

When we got to the three-mile mark, we stopped for a break.  I was VERY THANKFUL for this.  Apparently, the saddle and stirrups combine to torque your knees in exactly the same way that falling down on a too-steep ski slope and getting tangled up in your own skis does.  My twisted knee from 15 years ago was not at all happy.

Also, my legs are not shaped the same as a horse's ribcage and saddles are very hard.


Thankfully, the discomfort went away quickly when I got off the horse.  We stopped to rest for half an hour at the turn around spot, where another trail branched off.  We walked up the new trail a few hundred yards, after crossing the river.

Rest stop at the West Fork Wallowa River

The trail skirted a beautiful meadow, with Craig Mountain in the background.  Beautiful.

Rest stop in a pretty meadow, with Craig Mountain

Full of flowers.  Lovely.  We had a snack and a drink, then back across the river to mount up and head down the trail.

West Fork Wallowa River

It was super fun, and I'm glad we did the ride.  Emma's already planning for next year.

When we got back to our campsite Emma had a blast running around on the playground with the swarms of kids.   I, on the other hand, spread out a blanket in the shade, tried to remember how to straighten my legs, and read a book.  There may have been a nap as well.  If we go riding again, I'm starting a stretching routine at least a month beforehand...

Later in the afternoon, we took a short drive to town to get ice cream cones and a couple geocaches, then went down to the lake beach for a while.  It was a low-key afternoon.  That night we cooked on the campfire, and Emma had a great time learning to use matches safely and build a fire.  Here she is, immensely proud of her first little practice fire out of kindling.

Emma's first fire

The next day was my activity.  I've wanted to hike the Hurricane Creek trail for several years, and had hoped to go last summer but we never got around to it.

So off we went, after a somewhat later start than we had planned due to the Junior Ranger program that Emma did in the morning.  It was about 11:00 before we left the campground.  There were two geocaches in the vicinity- one just off the road (but up a steep bank) on the way to the trailhead, and one on a short side trail right at the beginning of the main trail.  We got them both, though Emma was dragging a bit at the start, since she almost fell asleep in the car during the short drive from the campground to the trailhead, was hungry, and doesn't like steep scrambles at the best of times.

I got some food, chocolate, and water in her and we took the hike slowly to start. Once we got back onto the main Hurricane Creek trail, the chocolate had kicked in and the only rough and grumpy patch of the weekend was done.  Except for one long steep section in the first part of the trail, the hike was great.  I think we stopped four times during that long pull.  Multiple snacks supplemented her initial chocolate buzz and headed off the sugar crash, and we made it through.

Steep section

The views were amazing.  This is Deadman Meadow, with Sacajawea Peak in the background.

Sacajawea Peak and Deadman Meadow

The trail parallels Hurricane Creek, and passes through forests, meadows, and former burned and avalanche areas that are regenerating.  Quite a variety.

We saw three kinds of orchids blooming, including this beauty, a mountain lady's slipper (Cypripedium montanum).

Mountain lady's slipper (Cypripedium montanum)

I love finding these in the wild.  It's fun to go see them at the nature reserve, where they are monitored and we know where expect them to bloom, but it's so much more exciting to come across one unexpectedly in the woods.  A treasure.

We hiked up to Slick Rock Creek, a bit more than three miles from the trailhead.  When we were almost there, Hurricane Creek goes through a narrow gorge with the creek cascading from pool to pool in a series of steps.

Hurricane Creek gorge

It's amazing country.

Almost to Slick Rock Creek

We waded across Slick Rock Creek, and sat to enjoy the view for a few minutes.  This is looking up Slick Rock Creek: 
Slick Rock Creek

And this is looking down Slick Rock Creek toward Hurricane Creek, which is out of sight below the close ridge that has the lightest green vegetation.  It was a very steep streambed below where Emma was sitting!

Slick Rock Creek

The cold water felt great on our tired feet.

After fording Slick Rock Creek

By this time, though, we were ready for a more substantial meal, and we hiked along the trail just a bit more to find some shade.  This is looking back downstream along Hurricane Creek, with Slick Rock Creek joining from the left.  The narrow gorge with the pools is immediately downstream around the bend.

Confluence of Slick Rock Creek and Hurricane Creek

We found a suitable lunch rock and broke out the stove. Man, did that chicken and rice hit the spot!

Lunch stop

We hung out a while just absorbing the amazing scenery and looking at rocks by the creek, then finally had to head back.  While I refilled our water bottles, Emma went fishing with her walking stick.  However, with no fishing line, hook, or bait, she didn't have much success.

Hurricane Creek

It was mostly downhill on the way back.  One last look back across Deadman Meadow,

Sacajawea Peak and Deadman Meadow

back across a channel of Deadman Creek,

Fording Deadman Creek

and through the spruce and fir forests.  It's great that Emma still looked like this after hiking a total of 7.6 miles.  I am so proud of her.  This is the longest hike she's done.

Happy hiker girl

It was an amazing weekend.  I can't even fully express how smoothly everything went, and how much I enjoyed everything -everything- Emma and I did.  I was completely, purely happy.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Are you tired of all my photos from geocaching adventures yet?  Too bad!  All I want to do is play outside.

Yesterday my friend Anne and I went after some caches we've wanted to get for a while, on the  mountains that form the eastern rim of the Grande Ronde valley.  The views on the drive up were spectacular.

at the top of Mt. Harris

This is looking west from the Wallowa Mountains, across the Grande Ronde Valley, to the Blue Mountains.  You can see the Grande Ronde River meandering north across the near side of the valley.  The highest peak in the photo is Mount Emily, and the town of La Grande, where I live, is at the base of the mountain just out of the picture to the left (south).  It's about nine and a half miles across from where I was standing on the top of Mount Harris to the top of Mount Emily.

We got four caches yesterday, and hiked a total of almost seven miles.  The first cache was on the way up the mountain, and the second two were at the tip-top of Mount Harris.  The wildflowers were beautiful.

Indian paintbrush

AND, I saw another new butterfly!  This is a Phoebus parnassian (Parnassius phoebus), related to the swallowtails.

Phoebus parnassian butterfly (Parnassius phoebus)

I love seeing new critters.

penstemon and other wildflowers

AND, I also saw a new moth, a quite spectacular one.  This is a Western sheepmoth (Hemileuca eglanterina), one the silk moths.  Fancy!

Western sheepmoth (Hemileuca eglanterina)

After we got the three caches on Mount Harris, we decided to get one more at Point Prominence, about 10 miles to the southeast.

More spectacular views, and a great (steep!) hike in.  We found the cache, and enjoyed a quiet moment at the top for a well-deserved snack and drink.

hiking rest

What a perfectly fantastic day.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

I am so fed up with the whole fireworks-in-every-single-driveway-in-town thing. They have been going since last night. A full 24 hours of randomly timed BANGS that make me jump every time.  

Also, Emma had a sleepover last night. They were giggling until 11pm, then up at  5:30am. FIVE THIRTY AM!! This, from the girl that has trouble dragging herself out of bed at 7:30 on school days. So my day was tired from the start. I made myself overcome my antisocial tendancies enough to have dinner with my neighbors, and now we're sitting on the noisy and crowded football field waiting for the big town fireworks display to start. 

It's a good thing this is the last activity of the day, because I've filled my socializing quota and used up all my allotted noise-tolerance points for the next month.