Category Archives: Oregon

Wash the Winter Blues Away

I’ve heard rumors that there are people who enjoy winter weather, but personally I am skeptical that these people exist.  I think there should be some kind of law passed that says you have to leave your holiday lights on through the entire month of January, just for my own sanity.  After a month of gloomy January weather, I’m ready for some serious sunshine.  So when I found out late last Friday that it was going to be sunny and in the mid 50s – 60s on the Oregon coast, I began contemplating.  Combine that with the fact that not only did Alex and I have a rare entire weekend off together, but there was also a special running at our new favorite hotel on the beach (complete with ocean view and fireplace), and I knew that the cosmos must have aligned.  I went home and informed Alex of our new weekend plans.

Just under two hours away from our destination, I dusted off my sunglasses and prepared to enjoy the scenic drive to the coast.  I don’t even think I knew how much I needed this getaway until we arrived and felt the stress and doldrums wash away.  

For the next 24 hours it was all wave watching….

beach combing…

sunset watching…

bird feeding…

brunch eating…

tide pool exploring…

and lots of basking in the glorious sunshine!

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Midnight Blackberry

It’s that time of year again! I’ll be obsessed with blackberry jam making until further notice.

Midnight Blackberry Jam

4 cups blackberries (picked down the road)
3 1/3 cups sugar
juice of 1 lemon
about 1 T of lavender (picked from front porch)
a secret ingredient that shall not be named

Put all ingredients in a pot, turn burner on low and let the sugar dissolve, making sure to stir. Then turn up the heat and let the pot boil away. I love watching the vibrant color of the pot of boiling blackberries! Stir often to keep the jam from scorching.

I’ve adapted this recipe slightly from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess Her Blackberry Jam recipe was the first jam I ever made, because she was the first person who made jam-making sound easy peasy. Why? Because she didn’t use a thermometer, which for some reason totally puts me off making anything that requires the tool. I’d rather use my own senses to tell if something’s done. Nigella taught me the “saucer method” wherein you stick a saucer in the freezer as you begin your preparation. To test the jam, “splodge teaspoons of jam onto it.” I stick my plate (or saucer if you will) back in the freezer for about a minute, then push it with my finger and when it wrinkles it’s done. This is usually about 20 minutes from when it starts boiling.

It took me a few summers before I started canning, because it all seemed way too intimidating. But last summer our fridge reached maximum jam capacity and I knew I’d either have to stop making it or learn to can. I also had some people far away who had to hear me keep talking about all this jam but weren’t able to taste it unless they took a trip to Portland. I read a few different online canning tutorials and enlisted the help of my aunt to watch over me as I processed jars for the first time since she’d at least seen older relatives do it when she was young. The second I heard my first “ping” as the jars sealed after their hot water bath, I was ecstatic. I’m still amazed at how thrilling that sound can be. Ping! Success!

I also learned that I didn’t need a bazillion canning tools to get started. I got a jar lifter (essential, trust me you do not want to drop a hot jar of jam) and a magic wand (not quite as essential but cheap and I liked the sound of it, but basically you just need a magnet long enough to grab your lids without burning yourself on hot water). The rest, you can improvise with a well equipped kitchen. Don’t be a slave to overconsumption corporate culture!

Information about canning is abundant online these days. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has detailed guidelines and instructions.

I also recently checked out Ashley English’s Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving from my public library which includes great step by step instructions for both hot water bath and pressure canner (which are needed for low-acid preservation). Her book also has some great looking new recipes I’m excited about checking out, like Peach & Lavender Butter…mmmm. Check out Ashley’s HomeGrown.org page too!

Tulipomania!

It’s been on my list of places to go and things to see for the past 3 years and this weekend, I finally got to Tulip Fest!

It was truly a dream come true.  I heard they were having a “Petal Party” on Sunday and who could resist that?  So boyfriend and I headed out for a beautiful Oregon afternoon.  I have to credit some of these photos to him.

I love this one:

Check out more of my favorites on my Flickr.

There’s over 40 acres of tulips at the Wooden Shoe Farm, so it was a little hard to stop taking pictures.