Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feast of St. John the Baptist

During the years I have been resurrecting feast day traditions I keep coming across references to giant community bonfires to mark St. John's Day which is carried over from the ancient celebrations of the solstice. This would be a great idea if we had a beach cottage and could light a blaze on the sand, but we don't have one. Then I considered going out to Sauvie's Island and having a bonfire on the beach there; it would be a much shorter drive for any of our friends who wanted to join us. But June always seems to get so booked up every year.
When I bought Feast Day Cookbook it mentions an English custom of setting out a table of beers and cheeses outside one's door for drop-by guests. A porch party was much more up our alley than a bonfire, especially if it featured beer and cheese, two things that Mr. W and I love most! Mr. W has also been a longtime promoter of the notion that beer is a better partner to cheese than wine. Wine should be paired with chocolates apparently. I don't like beer and am only a recent convert to wine, so I always defer to his expertise in these matters.
Mr. W is a homebrewer, a member of the Oregon Brew Crew, and a nationally certified Master Beer Judge. Yes, our nerdiness knows no limits. This party would satisfy my wish to celebrate Catholicism and be an opportunity for him to showcase his beer knowledge. He put a lot of thought and planning into the pairings. Frankly, I think the party kind of got away from us and we spent a lot more than I thought would be possible for some beer and cheeses.
I set the table with a Provencal tablecloth we received as a wedding gift from Ms. H and Ms. B and a big, cheery arrangement of sunflowers. I had planted St. John's Wort in a container a few years ago, but it didn't survive. I'll have to try again next year because I need it for my scripture garden.We decided upon 8 pairings and served them in two shifts with lots of fruits, nuts, olives and bread to counteract the effects of too much cheese on toddler GI tracks. The following were the first 3 pairings:
  • Muenster with Reissdorf Kolsch (Cologne, Germany)
  • Tillamook sharp cheddar with Budweiser Budvar (Czech Republic)
  • Tillamook pepper Monteray jack with Laurelwood free range Red (Portland, OR)
I made little labels with the suggested pairings. Mr. W used his collection of tasting mugs accumulated from years of local beer fests. The majority of the beers we purchased at Belmont Station, which is conveniently in the neighborhood and the cheeses from Zupan's. The order in which we served the courses was from the milder beers to the more full bodied.
The next five pairings:
  • Mook Rookkaas gouda with Maredsous 8 (Moortgart, Belgium)
  • Baked double creme brie with Hopworks IPA or Alameda El Toreno IPA (both of Portland, OR)
  • Rogue River Caveman blue with Anchor Porter (San Francisco, CA)
  • Clawson Blue Shropshire with Rogue Shakespeare Stout (Newport, OR)
  • Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog with Chimay Grand Reserve (Scourmont, Belgium) or St. Bernardus 8 (Watau, Belgium)
The most anticipated course had less to do with the beer and more to do with the cheese: a baked brie. I don't know why I don't prepare this more often. I used a frozen, store bought pastry dough with a little egg wash. It is so easy yet looks so pretty and yum!The children loaded up on watermelon slices and berries, which are most fun when stuck on your fingers first before you eat them off. And what could be more fun than a drive in an old-timey car?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Buh-bye, laurels!!!!

I am such a happy duck! My uncle was here all day yesterday removing and disposing of the laurel hedge on the east side of our lot. It is much a major difference! I realize that now we have a view of the not so pretty apartment building behind us, but with time that will change. For now I am enjoying being able to see sky from my kitchen window (which is hard for me to see out of anyway, but that is a totally different rant.) With the hedge gone our backyard seems so much larger and we have more square footage for the boy to play.
Sadly my happy oxsalys did not survive the work, but I'm confident that it will return and hopefully will take advantage of the new area and will continue to spread. The 3 ferns I had growing in the bed beneath the laurel also took a real beating, but again I know they'll be happier next year.
The next step is for me to mount the bamboo screening along the remainder of the chain link fence. When we took out the one laurel to the left of the maple as a trial run a few years ago, I ordered enough of the 6' high screening anticipating the eventual removal of the laurels.
The other important step is to kill the laurel stumps. When I had an arborist provide an estimate she said that due to the proximity of the other trees' root systems that they couldn't grind out the stumps. We'd have to kill them with chemicals. I don't love this plan, but I need to do a bit more research.
I'm reading up on all the material provided through the Backyard Habitat Certification Program as well as some gardening books from my mom before I head out the nurseries. Since we have a small space I need to not go crazy and plan wisely. I already am smitten with a native Douglas spirea and think I want to add another snowberry.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day brunch

My friend Mrs. F had the idea to send our husbands out for an early round of golf while we prepare them a Father's Day brunch. She offered up her house so I wouldn't have to do any clean up, so very nice of her! Also they just recently moved into a bungalow in Laurelhurst so I'm sure it is nice to be able to christen all the rooms with each passing holiday.
She offered to make a meat platter and bloody Marys, I decided I'd do a bagel spread and a fruit salad. Since Kettleman's is the current hot place to get bagels these days, I drove over there to pick up a half dozen. They do have a really nice selection plus they have min bagels which the boys love. It was crazy crowded in there though!A few days before Father's Day I saw that Saint Cupcake would be making moustache cupcakes in honor of the day and knew that I had to have them based on Mr. W's penchant for moustaches. I made sure that I was at the shop right at 10 AM in case they ran out. I don't know why I thought that mustache cupcakes would be as popular as say, the Ipad, and would creates a mad rush on the store with a line around the block. Anyway we walked over there and we were fine, only behind a few other people in the shop and the moustaches were being made to order. They were so, so cute.Mrs. F had set a lovely table and when the dads finally made it back from golfing they were very appreciative of our brunch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Our backyard (the before)

We have a little lot in the city, just 33 1/3'w x 100'd with no off street parking. Our bungalow is set further back from the street than the two foursquares which flank us. This allows for a nice size front yard with western exposure. This also results in a tiny postage stamp backyard. When Mr. W bought the house one of the things that sold him on it was the party deck in the backyard. It's a great size, but it also makes the yard seem even smaller. Compounding the situation was the overgrown laurel hedges on all three sides. In addition to the 50+ year old Doug fir and two maples the backyard was completely shaded.
I decided to take advantage of the situation by creating a shade garden that worked with the principles of naturescaping. I did a lot of my shopping at Bosky Dell nursery. I started by adding a few more sword ferns and introducing oxalis, which I love seeing on a forest floor and they bloom with little white flowers. On day I came home from work and discovered the property owners to the north tore out all the laurel on their lot. I although surprised, I was happy to see it gone. I was then able to add a snowberry, Oregon Grape (our state flower), huckleberry, and a purple rhododendron from Greer Gardens in Eugene. The previous homeowners had put in a sandbox which I removed since it really was just a giant litter box at that point. We went in on a picture frame fence with the neighbors, it's higher than it should be, but they wanted to accommodate the height of our deck to allow privacy for their tenants.
Several months ago we had a representative from the Backyard Habitat Program present to us out a neighborhood association meeting. Since I was already working toward a native garden I thought it would be a natural next step. It also helped that Mr. W has finally consented to me having the laurel hedge on our property removed. He isn't too keen on the idea, but either he trusts my judgment or he just got worn down. Over the years we have had arborists come out to give us estimates on the work, but we never seem to be able to fit it into the budget. One of my uncles is looking for work and already has all the equipment needed since he has a yard work business. I met with him this week and he is going to start work tomorrow. I am so, so excited!! It will be really helpful to me to get this project wrapped up before I get to large. I anticipate spending lots of time in the backyard this summer letting the boy run around while I sit in the shade trying to be cool and comfortable. My problem is that I usually can't relax in the back yard because all I see are unfinished projects.
Here is a look at our starting point:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Grand Floral Parade

There is only one thing that will get me out of bed at 4:30 in the morning. And since it only happens once a year, I'm happy to do it. Finding a spot along the parade route is something in which we Portlanders take great pride. Perhaps more than any election, this is democracy in action. Camping out on the side walk in the pre-dawn hours is a great equalizer as Portlanders make friends over coffee and baked goods as we wait for hours saving the perfect spot for our families.
Since I grew up in Irvington, so close to the parade route, my dad was the one who would drag lawn chairs from our house to an open spot in the wee hours of the morning. My mom would bring us out to meet him at a more practical time before the parade started. I remember that the very first time I ever had cream cheese was on an english muffin he had brought from home for us to snack on while we waited for the parade to begin. I remember watching the parade as a child under sheets of plastic to protect us from the rain. But, unlike the adage that it always rains on the Grand Floral, not every parade has wet weather. Although my family stopped going to the parade, through high school I continued the tradition of camping out nearly overnight with my friends.
My first time going to the parade as an adult was 3 years ago for the centennial. I couldn't miss out on that event. Mr. W was none too pleased about the idea of getting up so early to camp out on the street, but since I was about 6 months pregnant at the time, I was the only one with room to complain. if he had his way, we'd show up around 9:30 to get a spot for a parade that starts at 10. This is exactly the kind of person we who camp out despise, especially when they try to squish in on your front row spot.
The forecast called for 80 degree weather so I decided this was as good a time as any to introduce the littlest W to the Grand Floral. Since Mr. W had a business trip to California and didn't return home until midnight, I knew that the best option for us was for me to camp out and then have our friend Mr. F come with his son to pick up my boys and join me around 8 or 9. Will it surprise anyone that they showed up just moments before the parade began? Anyway, the weather ended up being terrific, but unfortunately 2 hours is too long to hold the attention of two year olds. The first 40 minutes the boys sat mouths agape watching the motorcycles, horses, floats and bands pass by. But since the temperature was rising they prefered to run around in the shade of the building behind us. It was a great parade though, which I enjoyed.
The only thing I did not enjoy was that the Rose Court was riding in vintage cars rather than their usual float. I read later that this is the second year in which no one has sponsored a float for the Rose Court. WTH? They had a float for the members of the 1960 Rose Court, but not the current court? This seems totally unacceptable to me, I don't understand why the Royal Rosarians aren't securing a sponsor or sponsoring it themselves. This should be resolved by next year.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

12 weeks

Last night was the final night of taking the progesterone suppositories. Thank you, Jesus! My pregnancy symptoms have been so different this time that at first I thought it was indicative that I may be carrying a girl, but realized that it was more indicative of the extra hormone support. During that first month, wearing a bra was incredibly uncomfortable; I really wished that they could be optional. Morning sickness started much earlier than it did with my first pregnancy. The first time I had it months 3-5 which isn't typical. This pregnancy it started in the second month and continues to this day. I am hoping that it wasn't just the progesterone. It would totally suck to be sick for an extra month if it continues through month 5 again.
And I've been exhausted! I don't remember being this tired the first time; how did I manage to get to work?! I feel like the morning sickness was more tolerable the first time. I'm not a morning person so I'd usually be rushing to get showered and dressed for work and never ate breakfast before I arrived at work. So I'd get sick every morning while brushing my teeth and then I'd be more or less fine for the rest of the day. This time I have nowhere to be in the mornings. I just have to walk downstairs and get cereal for me and the boy, so I am better able to combat the actual vomiting. The problem is that then I feel nauseated for most of the day. I haven't decided which is better: dry heaving and feeling great afterward or feeling like I could hurl all ding-dong day. Either way, I'm grateful to be nauseous because it means I'm pregnant.
I had an appointment with the OB today. The baby is measuring well and the back of the neck measurement is in the normal range. We've decided we will decline the amniocentesis. I will only be 6 weeks into 35 when the baby is due. I have lost about 10 lbs since being pregnant. I am of course overweight from my infertility depression eating, so it is not like I am becoming malnourished, it is probably a result of my nausea and small appetite. (I imagine this is what it must feel like to have gastric bypass surgery: I get really hungry but I can only eat a little bit of something and then I am so turned off by it I couldn't possibly eat a 5th baby carrot.) I don't remember losing weight the last time, but I know it was a long time before I started to gain weight.
The only bad part of my appointment today was that I found out that my doctor doesn't like to do VBACs. This makes me sad because I really, really hated my cesarean section. I felt like I was being crucified. And the idea of recovering with a toddler and a newborn is not appealing. Stink!
But all in all things are good. I am convinced that last night I could feel the baby's heart beat. I rolled over on the couch and my hand was on my abdomen and I thought, "That's not where my heart is" I felt a throbbing and when I checked my own pulse they were different in timing and beats. So maybe I'm crazy because it is too early to feel such a thing, but I'm going to continue to feel blissfully ignorant.