Tag Archives: Rural Living

Highlight of Spring

I know I have been neglectful of OurNWLife. I assure you that life does continue, but at a breakneck pace that allows little time for written introspection and online documentation of goings-on.

I’ll cut to the chase. The motivation for this post wasn’t to catch up on months of unshared adventures, but to simply proclaim joy over what has been the highlight of spring. A killdeer bird formed her nest in our front yard about a month ago and the eggs are beautiful. bird eggs 2

bird eggs 1

In fact, at last check two of the eggs had hatched into fluffy, awkward chicks. And that is a wonderful thing.

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It grows on you.

“It grows on you.” I have heard this statement, or some variation of it, from countless locals over the past three months. I guess it’s only logical that the number one metaphor used to by people in this agriculture-centric town would be one using an agrarian comparison. What they mean by this farming comparison is that the town endears itself to newcomers over time. I cannot truthfully state that I have as of yet arrived at a place of full-grown attachment to this place, but our lives here are certainly growing more and more full. (And yes, these ‘grow’ word play puns were intended.)

view on my morning run

Trevor is now playing hockey on a men’s rec league two nights per week. Though it is uncomfortably cold at the outdoor rink (I am taking lessons from natives on how to keep warm–one woman brings a portable propane heater and sets it up in the stands!), it is a fun connection to the community here and we are hoping it will also be a good venue for meeting friend-potentials.

men's league hockey game

Notice the score; Trevor is on the “old man” team, which has now been whipped three times in a row by the team composed mainly of men in their late teens and early twenties!

As my search for out-of-home employment slowly moves forward I am finding that my time is steadily filling up, even without a job. I am now a dedicated member of three separate book clubs, an on-call volunteer at the church to prepare snacks for the after school tutoring program, and an accomplished baker of rustic and crusty bread (recipe from Simply So Good). And the walls of our home are filling with my burgeoning “art” projects.

crusty asiago-cheddar bread

We have also determined that Wenatchee is the most happening place around, and have embraced that town as our home base for cultural and commercial needs. Just last weekend, amidst a trip designed to meet the uninspiring dual purposes of dropping off our faulty boat motor for rehabilitation and collecting our finally repaired (and thankfully functional) vacuum cleaner, we discovered the most wonderful indoor market. Wandering among the trendy restaurants, artisan bakeries, and fresh local produce stands it felt like we had been magically transported to Pike Place or Fisherman’s Wharf. Needless to say, I was an instant fan, have already planned a friend meet-up lunch date there, and complained vociferously when it appeared that Trevor had consumed more than half of the INCREDIBLE maple bar we purchased to “share”.

That’s right. I’m ending another post on the topic of maple bars.

DIY Dot Art

One component of our new life here in Central Washington is that, due to the local economy, we are able to rent a very large house. I mean, really, really, big. It’s probably at least triple the amount of space that we had at our townhouse in Portland. Our newly expanded environment came not only with increased floor space, but also increased wall space. Since we most certainly were not in possession of enough of anything to decorate these numerous walls, and because living in small town means that there are not sufficient retail options for purchasing home decor (oh, that I could just run over to Target and peruse the always-trendy selections of affordable decorations…), I had no choice but to re-awaken my crafty side and tackle the project myself.

Before I dive in, let it be known that I am not a naturally artistic person. I envy those for whom a pencil or paintbrush will magically bring to life the images dancing in their mind’s eye. Therefore, the projects that I share here may require supplies, patience, or tracing paper (or tracing off a computer screen with printer paper, in a pinch!), but they do not require any innate artistic ability. If I can do it, you can too.

1. Pencil-eraser Dot Trees. The inspiration for this project came from a blog that provides very detailed step-by-step instructions; the author even includes a shopping list with exact paint colors and a print out of her tree shape. But that would be too easy, and I prefer to complicate my projects–so I loosely followed her idea, but created my own tree shape, selected my own paint colors, and decided that it would be part of a two piece set.

This project was very time consuming, but extremely simple and the repetitive dotting even had a soothing, mindfulness-meditation aspect. To be honest, and I will always strive to be honest here, I am not 100% in love with my final product and wish I had spaced my background dots further apart to allow the first coats to show through more. However, considering that I used pencils I already had in my desk, paints that were purchased for a different project, and two used canvas boards (I painted over some oils from a MUCH earlier era in my life), the cost for this project was almost zero. I hung them in frames I bought at Hobby Lobby for 50% off and I do think the overall effect really improves the atmosphere in our newly formed guest room.

2. Fading Metallic Dots. This one is basically a copy cat from another blog, though instead of using a 30″x40″ canvas as that blogger did, I used a 4’x4′ canvas that my husband built ages ago and has been plaguing our garage (and admittedly plagued his sister’s garage for many years; thanks Colprons!). Since our canvas had been through several moves and was rather dirty, I painted the entire thing with white house primer before starting. Yes, I do mean the type of primer you would use on a wall, because trying to cover that enormous beast with a tiny artist brush and acrylic paint was taking far too long. Once I set to it with the primer and a correspondingly beefy brush, the canvas was covered and gleaming in no time. Conventional? No. Effective? Extremely.

The best part was that this was a finished-in-a-single-afternoon type of project. I think Trevor was extremely surprised to come home to find a piece completed in the span of a single day, especially after the sluggish progression of the pencil-eraser dot trees. Again in the name of honesty, I admit that I do wish that my gold dots hadn’t turned out with the apparent orangey tint, but overall my husband and I are both very pleased with the outcome and it looks great in our bedroom.

3. Festive Outline Dot Greeting Cards. I get all the credit for this idea. These greeting cards were actually a way for me to test this dotted outline method for some future projects I have been scheming about. The first ones were not pretty, not pretty at all. But later generations were cute enough that they will be sent out into the world via my old friend the USPS.

The lesson here is that dots are easy! Dots are fun! Dots are very forgiving to work with! And, unless the shopping possibilities shape up around here, there are very likely to be more dot art projects in my future.

Scooped. Part II.

Directly following my rant from last week about how the world has been at work harvesting my personal ideas without my knowledge or consent, I came across another article along surprisingly similar lines. So, perhaps my brain-child was not all that novel after all, but I do take consolation from my thinking being so ‘on trend’. I was able to put aside my sense of indignation long enough to read said article and, though it was quite long and I’ll forgive you if you don’t possess the stamina to steam all the way through, I found it worth my time.

If literature, imagination, or empathy are at all important to you (and they should be to everyone, in my opinion) then take some time to read this article from Neil Gaiman on “Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming.” Since I do know that these things are important to you, and I also realize that many of you will not read the whole article, I have copied a few pertinent quotes below, both to whet your interest and to highlight the main points.

“Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.”

“Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.”

“We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.”

“Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Libraries are extremely important to me, as the librarians at the local branch of my public library have found out over the past months. I have frequented their fine establishment at the minimum of one time per week since our arrival in this town–in fact I’m headed there in half an hour for a book club– and the kind women who work at the check out counter are beginning to recognize me as the girl who checks out inordinately long books at an astonishingly regular rate. Living far away from friends and family has resulted in my relying more than ever on the companionship and ‘mental travel’ afforded by any well-written book.

Come back again soon and I’ll put my blog where my mouth is, so to speak, and share about a recent series of books I have been enjoying. What are your favorite books?

Inclement weather

This past weekend our little family set out to uncover the majesty of the Wenatchee National Forrest. Neither of us had any experience with this stretch of woods, but since it is now the nearest forrest to where we live we were determined to familiarize ourselves with our camping and hiking options. We used our a brand new, but already well-trusted Forrest Service map, selected a stretch of road that appeared heavily populated with campgrounds and trailheads, and headed out for a long weekend beneath the pines. Well, it was meant to be a long weekend, as you’ll see.

Winding our way up through the Icicle Gorge area we ‘discovered’ some really great campgrounds–beachfront on the rugged river, spacious and thick massive trees, and best of all: almost completely devoid of any other human beings. We knew that this privacy was due to the lateness of the season and the unwelcoming weather, but we boldly assumed that four years of camping on the rainy Oregon coast would have uniquely prepared us for any unwanted precipitation.

View from under the Superbrella.

View from under the Superbrella.

It started raining soon after we selected a most premier campsite, but we remained calm, set up our Superbrella, and made a fire. Everyone we’ve talked to has been cheerfully adamant that the weather in Central Washington is much more sunny and dry than what we were accustomed to in Portland, so we remained confident that the “showers” would pass, if not by nightfall then certainly by morning, and we would be able to enjoy our planned hikes the following day. I settled into my camp chair beneath the encompassing Superbrella with a novel and a glass of cheap red wine, ready to wait it out.

 

Boy were we wrong. It rained and it poured all night long. And it persisted on into the morning. We woke up to this:

And we promptly decamped, tossing our drenched tent, tarp, and Superbrella helter-skelter into the back of the car and tearing away down the mountain. We managed to somewhat relieve our disappointment at having our first ever Central Washington camping trip rained out by stopping at the Fred Meyer in Wenatchee (I do SO miss my good old friend FM…) and treating ourselves to coffee and maple bars. I’m not saying that the maple bars made up for the lost hours that were meant to be spent hiking along scenic gorges and camping beneath towering trees, but they certainly helped.

I believe a good maple bar can go quite some way in assuaging many of life’s upsets.

WEEDS

Now, just so we’re clear, this post will NOT be regarding the popular television drama, nor will it address a more-popular recreational substance. No, this is about a different type of weeds. The kind that insidiously spread through a backyard, slowly but insistently converting acreage of fescue into fields of dandelions and clover. I expressly name dandelion and clover here because they have become two of my worst enemies, combining with their compatriot crab grass to form an arch-nemesis trifecta that haunts my mornings.

dandelions

They may look innocent enough, to some, perhaps, they look like the tender makings of a foraged dinner salad. But to me, a renter who lease specifically states that lawn care will be “at the sole expense of the tenant”, these dandelions are a waving banner of war.

Let me give a little background, set the stage to help you all understand how a nature-loving, live-and-let-live person like myself has been transformed into an Ortho-Max yielding maniac. When we moved in to our new place we noted the presence of some weeds and, thinking it only typical in any lawn as large as the one we had just assumed responsibility for, didn’t think of it again. (For those of who who haven’t heard my pitiful moanings of complaint or seen the atrocity with your own eyes–this yard is a literal acre…of nothing but grass.) As the days passed a transformation began taking place before our eyes: the weeds were growing, spreading, threatening our sanity and our reputation with the neighbors. Trevor suggested that we purchase 50 million bags of “feed and weed” and spread it the poison over the entire lawn. I gasped at the expense and instead took it upon myself to visit revenge upon these weeds with a sprayer, insisting that I had the time and the determination to kill each one.

Ahem. After 6 hours of porting around a 2 gallon sprayer (which needed frequent refilling from the deadly-smelling concentrate in the garage) in the baking Central Washington summer sun the weeds seemed as heart and endless as ever and I was beat. I admitted defeat to my husband, begging for the quick and universal application of the “feed and weed” and consumed with bitterness over the futility of my attempts.

So, now you know why I hate weeds. On a lighter note, I harvested several cups of unbelievably sweet and juicy grapes from our neighbor’s vine this morning. She assured us that we were welcome to collect anything growing  on our side of the fence and I took her word for it.

photo (1)It seems that this fertile land and sun-soaked climate are good for growing ANYTHING–both succulent grapes and maddening weeds. Perhaps I should have called this post “Pros and Cons”.

My first cheese-baby

As a serious cheese lover I have long aspired to try my own hand at home cheese-making. Cheese, being everything wonderful that it is, seemed like a worthy, yet considerably intimidating goal, which is why up until last week I had shied away from any home-dairy experiments.

But now everything has changed. I found the courage to try this recipe for homemade whole-milk ricotta cheese from Annie’s Eats (one of my favorite recipe resources–www.annies-eats.com) and friends, let me tell you, it was easy to make and all-too-easy to enjoy.

My first ever cheese-baby served us in a variety of delicious ways over the weekend:

First, as a topping on a homemade whole wheat pizza dough. Topping pizza with fresh ricotta is one component of my eternal quest to find a satisfactory copycat recipe for my all-time favorite pizza which is no longer available at what used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Portland. (They obviously are not any longer, ever since they struck my favorite pizza from their menu.)

Next, it starred in two quick and easy pasta dishes for a Saturday night after-a-movie dinner. His was a baked pasta with whole wheat penne, pre-made tomato sauce from a jar (he swears that he actually likes it), homemade ricotta, and shredded mozzarella. Hers was an AMAZING recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen (my other favorite recipe resource–www.smittenkitchen.com) that showcased the ricotta in a whole wheat pasta dish with snow peas, freshly squeezed lemon, mint plucked from my patio, and grated parmesan.

You may have noticed that both the pizzas and the pasta dishes were customized; his and hers. If you continue to follow this blog you will notice that this is not a rare occurrence. Whenever it’s possible to do a construct-your-own dinner, I do it. It’s absolutely worth the peace and contentment that comes with both of us getting to personalize our meal.

You may have also noticed that my food photography leaves much to be desired. I know it and I regret it. That’s pretty much the extent of my phone camera’s capacity, though I will endeavor to make the arrangements more appealing as I learn.

My whole experience with cheese-making did leave me with one pressing question: can cheese cloth be reused? If yes, then making ricotta at home is not only tasty, but also budget-friendly. If no, then having to purchase a fresh $5.60 cheese cloth for each batch may relegate this recipe to special occasions only. I would greatly appreciate information from anyone who knows about this, especially the particulars on how to properly cleanse the cloth for future use.

And now, a small town living anecdote, repeated here to satisfy my mother: Trevor and I went to the movies on Saturday night to escape thinking about a fresh crop of car troubles that are plaguing our ever-untrusty volvo. Let me put it simply; the $14 admission for two was wonderful, but our theater event was just not the cinetopia experience we had grown accustomed to in the city. For those of you who don’t know, cinetopia is like the first class of movie theaters–wide, reclining leather seats with personal ottomans, state of the art technology, and beer and wine delivered directly to your seat. Our Saturday night at the movies was more of a ride in coach, in an old plane that smelled of crushed-velvet must and stale popcorn butter. I’m trying to chalk it all up to small town “charm”.