Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How do you measure a year?

"in sunsets, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles of laughter..."

Edited from the 5,028 added to my photo collection this year, here are some photos from throughout the year, some seen here on the blog, some not.


I love pulling these together: I see what I've done, where I've gone, and the beauty of life. 2008 was a really great year. Thank you for being a part of it all.

Peaceful calm

Cold Oregon Winter Beauty
It looks cold, doesn't it? Beautiful, peaceful Winter. The snow transforms views and how I see things. It forces us to reconfigure our plans and how we get there. And it's quiet.

And the snow frames beauty.
Farm in the Snow

Have a beautiful New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Who left the flan out?

juicy flan
I think you should celebrate New Year's Eve with some flan. There. I said it. You should. Flan is a reason to celebrate and celebrations call for flan. Thus, we celebrated the Virgin of Guadalupe with some flan.

And you know what? I had never made flan before in my life. Huzzuh! It does require a few steps of which you need to be comfortable in the kitchen making caramel on the stovetop by swirling sugar and water. (I learned the hard way this summer on one of those pear tarts. Don't burn the caramel.) But once you have that down, you just coat the bottom of your custard dishes with the caramel, and pour in a good homemade custard, then bake in a water bath and voila, you've got flan.
single flan
You can infuse flan with different flavors, like lemon verbena or cinnamon or whatever floats your boat. We grow lemon verbena in the garden and I'm always on the lookout for what to do with that fantastically pungent herb.

I actually have been collecting old Jello tin molds, and found they came in perfectly handy for making the flan. Each one had a little different shape, and I loved that I used my love of Jello in making this dish for the first time. Once again, I turned to Rick Bayless for the how-to on making this dish, and found his play-by-play to be really helpful. Have you bought this book yet? You should. And you should make flan for New Year's Eve. Flan for everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A glitter river into 2009

It’s the first time in a long while I’ve sat down to actually write something for my blog. To write. Not to post photos and wax a few poetic lines of beauty and mist and cute snuggly dogs, but to actually write. It’s a little daunting. But I’m determined to do more of it into the new year, and I guess that’s what this post is about.

I’m actually looking forward to and planning for 2009. And that’s just really different for me. Because I’m known for the line, “I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions.” Or another LeLo signature line, “I don’t 'do' resolutions.” But yesterday I let it slip that I was thinking of it and that I had a few. AdRi played it cool and didn’t look at me, but just kept doing what she was doing while saying nonchalantly, “Oh really?” I knew she was playing it cool. So I told her that I had a few, and interestingly enough they fell into a theme of more. Of doing more. Of writing more. Of eating more fruits and vegetables. Of walking more. More time in the garden. More hands on gardening. More targeted business recruitment. More time with true blue friends. More communication. And there were a few “less”s in there too. And a few more “more”s.

It’s like I opened up the door to New Year’s resolutions and the floodwater poured in. But I prefer to think of it as the glitter river. The glitter river is getting ready to pour into and over me, and it’s called 2009. I don’t need a life jacket, but a boogie board would be good. It’s going to be a very good year, and if you see me, you might notice a few bits of glitter. Do not be alarmed. It’s only the sparkle of doing more, trying more, and being a bit more vulnerable in that way of the daredevil.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hey gorgeous, I've got a holiday message for you

Merry Christmas from our house to yours...
happy holidays from our house to yours
I wish you peace and the beauty of nature and the wonders of childhood memories...
fiber optics at christmas
And Happy Hannukah in a wine bottle.
Happy Hanukkah from my wine bottle to yours
Make it work, people. Make it work.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Update to today's earlier post

Updated. We're at almost a foot.
Update to today's earlier post. Yes, we're now at a foot of snow. Sweet mother of god. Where the hell am I?!

Snow descends upon Portland

Arctic Blast 08 Hits Portland
And to think this was yesterday morning, and we've had so much more since then. Even my gnome is cold.

Cold gnome

I like to think in times like this we are offered rare opportunities to enjoy the moment of wonder, of each other and of simplicity. Neighbors have offered to get us things, we've checked in with Rudy, the birds are fed, and all of our gift baskets are done and ready. And we'll never forget the year that snow fell for days at Christmas. I open my eyes to the wonder of nature and see beautiful things today...

more than just wintry mix

Even in the craziness of holidays, challenging travel situations, forced togetherness and tough economy. You can still see the beauty right? It's right in front of your eyes.

Beauty in it all

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's not often I get to say this about a political representative

But yes, I love my County Commissioner, and this is why. Go gardens! Go environment! Go libraries! Go gays! Go NoPo! And how many work with youth media to make a holiday movie?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Follow up to the breaking news of my dog in the snow

Hey, that's me on the TV
Wink not only was in the snow today, but also on KGW Live @ 7pm tonight. I sent them via connecting on Twitter. Stephanie, Wink says your hair looks great, by the way.
Wink says Stephanie looks great tonight

Proof that my dog loves the snow

Wink loves snow
Wink insisted on wearing her Santa coat today. She said she had to since we're getting close to Christmas and it's snowing and all. Note: Don't ever try arguing with a Maltipoo: you'll always lose. So we put on our Santa coat and off we went. Did I ever tell you Wink loves snow? It makes her run. Run like the wind.

And it makes her do other things, too.

And then she takes off and runs some more. And it makes me laugh every time. To see her so happy and carefree and excited, you can't help but smile. See?

Run like the wind! It's snowing!
You're smiling now, aren't you? I knew it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

P is for Posole, P is for Pachanga

Muy delicioso.
That’s what I have to say about Posole, a Mexican stew made with hominy, spice and pork. We only make it once a year, if even that, but when we do, it’s an occurrence worthy of a party.

Posole is a great soup, made with a spicy base and then topped at the table with radishes, cabbage, Mexican oregano, cilantro, onions, red pepper and avocado and finished with a squeeze of fresh lime. The toppings part? They’re key to the dish, so if you make this, don’t skimp on the toppings and try to duck out. (If you were only to do three, I’d suggest oregano, cabbage and radishes.)

AdRi is the magical posole chef at this house and I support her endeavors to do so. That means I play prep cook, preparing all of the toppings and stirring when necessary. Oh, and taste testing. Hey, I’m a giver.

Most items for the posole were purchased from a Mexican market, and the cuts of pork were made by the butchers at WinCo who were familiar with what we were making.

AdRi follows the recipe for posole found in the Rick Bayless book, Mexico, One Plate at a Time, and we’ve made it both with dried hominy soaked overnight, and canned. There’s not much of a difference except for amount of time it takes to cook, and the texture is a little different. So if you need to cheat out with canned hominy, it’s okay.

Red Pork and Hominy Stew/Pozole* Rojo
1.5 lbs/4 cups American Southwestern dried pozole corn (or you can do canned if you need to)
1 head garlic, cloves broken apart, peeled and halved
3.5 lbs pork shanks, cut into 1.5 inch thick pieces
1.5 lbs pork trotters (ask the butcher to cut them in half lengthwise for you)
1.5 lbs bone-in pork shoulder; cut into 3-4 large pieces
2 large white onions, chopped fine
8 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 limes, cut into wedges
6 cups thinly sliced cabbage
15 radishes, thinly sliced
3-4 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano (yes, it’s different than regular oregano)
2 tablespoons coarsely ground dried hot red chile

Measure 6 quarts of water into a large pot, add the corn and garlic. Bring to boil, partially cover and simmer gently over medium low heat until it’s tender: about 5 hours. Yes, 5 hours. You want it tender.

Place all the meats in another large pot, cover with 4 quarts of water, add 2 tablespoons salt and bring to boil. Skim off the foam and then add half the chopped onions. Partially cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat until all the meat is tender, about 2 hours. Remove the meat from the broth and let cool. Skim the fat from the broth. Pull off the meat from the pork shanks and pull the shoulder meat into large shreds. Cut the bones and knuckles out of the trotter and discard, chop what remains into ½ inch pieces. You should have about 6 cups meat in all. Cover and refrigerate if not serving within an hour.

While the corn and meat are cooking, rehydrate the ancho chiles in enough hot water to cover (lay a small plate on top to keep them submerged) for about 20 minutes. Puree the chiles, liquid and all, in batches if necessary in a blender or food processor.

When the corn is tender, press the chile mixture through a strainer directly into the simmering liquid. Add the pork broth and 1 tablespoon salt, partially cover and simmer for 1 hour.

You see this is a day-long exploration of posole making right?

Add the meat to the simmering posole and check the consistency: it should be brothy, so add water if you need to. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls and allow guests to top with the radishes, chiles, oregano, chile, onion and lime as they like.

In the end you have a fragrant, steaming bowl with enough spice to clear your sinuses but not so much to blow your tastebuds. Muy delicioso. Worthy enough for a party. Or even a pachanga.
*Posole, pozole, same thing, different spelling

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mexican Chocolate Martini

Chocolate martini makes everything good
Mexican chocolate can be very, very good. And it's even better when its flavor is used to inspire a drink. And even better when it's a martini drink. So I have three variations for you, depending on if you like your chocolate flavored spicy with pepper, or infused with cinnamon, or mellowed with the flavor of coffee.

It all starts with a shot glass and a martini shaker. Fill your shaker with ice and then add...
1 shot Chocolate Vodka (Three Olives makes a good one)
1 shot Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
And now either mix with 1 shot Kahlua (if you're going the coffee route), Goldschlager (if you're going the cinnamon route) or Absolut Pepper (if you're going the spicy pepper route).
Shake it, pour, and top with a dash of chocolate milk.

Who says you can't start a party with chocolate?!

Posole, Flan and a Chocolate Martini

celebrating virgin of guadalupe dinner
I promised you a food post as a follow up to the Virgin of Guadalupe party, but because it’s the holidays and because I’m a giver, I’m going to give you three separate posts and one general overview. I know! Give, give, give.

The Posole Pachanga included chocolate martinis, tostadas with homemade beans, shredded chicken cooked in tomatillo salsa (made and canned this summer), queso fresco, and a little bit of cabbage, followed by posole. And oh yes, there was flan, too.
Loteria, chicle, tequila
And of course, a little loteria. With tequila. Good times, good times. And now for the recipes…

Friday, December 12, 2008

Felicidades: dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe

Virgin of Guadalupe
Happy Virgin of Guadalupe Day! The Virg' is an important icon in Mexico, and combines indigenous traditions with Catholicism, making for rich, iconic stories, rituals and symbolism. It is said that she appeared in 1531 to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac and that she spoke in the native language, Nahuatl.

There are ornate stories and believed representations of all of the bits you see in the Virgin of Guadalupe. Often at her feet are roses because roses appeared when she spoke with Juan Diego and she arranged them inside of his coat. Behind her are rays of light, and some believe they represent the spines of the maguey plant (used to make a powerful drink of pulque). This is the core of the story, but there are many, many variations and uses of her image. There's more information here and a whole lot of information here.
Peek-a-boo Diego
We celebrate The Virg' in our house for the appreciation of the rich Mexican culture, and as an opportunity to gather friends during the holidays and eat fantastic food like homemade posole and flan (oh you know there's a food post follow up to this, right?)! Happy Dia de Virgen de Guadalupe to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hi there sexy

Hi there
Miles here. He wants you to know that he understands it's the holidays, and you might be feeling on edge. He's advised me to post more photos of cute animals in order to calm any frayed nerves you may have. And so it shall be. Miles. Isn't he handsome? He kept me company during a photoshoot this afternoon. I wish he had had a tripod but whatever. He helped with lighting and provided overall sex appeal. Sex-say.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

You want a piece of me?

Alternate title: Get some gardening coaching (from moi!) and your money goes to support the Portland Women's Crisis Line. Thanks to the good folks at The Portland Mercury, you can bid on this fantastic package of canning lessons, garden coaching, sustainable budgeting and more as part of their Holiday Auction.
Self-sufficiency is all the rage! Luckily, Portland's chockfull of experts who have the skills you'll need to coax carrots out of dirt, can fabulous jam, green your home on a budget, and forage for wild edibles. Gardening guru LeAnn Locher ( will spend two hours with you at your plot to review your space, talk about your garden, site spaces for different uses, and make a list of supplies and needs. Garden Fever of Northeast Portland (3433 NE 24th) will chip in some seeds and hand tools to put your skills to use. Preserve's Harriet Fasenfest ( will guide you and a friend through canning the bounty, in a three-hour lesson. Then, take a forage-tastic tour with the guides of Urban Edibles ( And top it all off with Monique Dupre's acclaimed Sustainable Living on a Budget introductory seminar (, where you'll learn pocketbook-friendly ways to make your whole life greener.
What a great gift this would make, and your money goes to a good cause. Bidding goes until this Friday. Get!

Read about the package and bid here.

This post has a soundtrack

I'm sitting on your lap if we're going through this thing
At the car wash

Workin' at the car wash, girl

Come on and sing it with me

(Car wash)

Sing it with the feelin' ya'all

(Car wash, girl)

At the carwash

Some of the work gets kinda hard

This ain't no place to be if you planned on bein' a star

Let me tell you it's always cool

And the boss don't mind sometimes if you act the fool

At the car wash

Whoa whoa whoa whoa

Talkin' about the car wash, girl

Come on, ya'all and sing it for me

(Car wash)

Oooh oooh oooh

(Car wash, girl)
The carwash is frightening
Okay so Wink doesn't like the car wash much and must sit on my lap while going through. And then she gives me dirty looks. Don't tell me this dog doesn't give attitude. But when you're this good lookin', I guess you can. Yes you can.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Are you really listening?

My nephew is. He's listening very, very carefully. I think it feels good on the ear.
Are you listening?
He has a thing for the piano. It's mesmerizing to him and he'll sit here with me for the longest time ever, playing along with me, just listening, and when we're done, he uses sign language for more. More, more, more he signs. He can't talk but he's clearly telling me he wants more.
4 hands are better than 2
This is the piano I grew up playing. The piano my siblings played. The piano my mother played. It was her mother's piano.
It's traveled from Kansas to California, and then on to Oregon. It was once pulled up the stairs of my loft by men who actually strapped themselves to it and rolled it along N. Lombard and up a flight of stairs. I need to have it tuned desperately (if you have a Portland recommendation for a tuner hook me up!). This is the time of year it's used most for holiday sing-a-longs. I like Christmas music. I can't sing, but I accompany others who sing. And I duet. Duet's are fun. Especially with my nephew. I say "hit it" and he hits it. Here's to holiday music.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Visiting under a rain pavilion in a Southeast Portland garden

chatting in the rain pavilion
I consider myself lucky to meet the people I do through my garden writing. Gardeners are an interesting lot, and Larry Cross is no exception. My latest column is out and on the streets, but you can read it online here. It's about my visit to Larry's garden in Southeast Portland.

Alas, no photos are online, so I put them up here in a slideshow. Check out Larry's rain pavilion: while it wasn't raining the day I was visiting, he put the sprinkler on top of the pavilion and turned that baby on high so that we could chat in the rain pavilion with water falling all around us. Love that.

See the photos here in Flickr.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

An abundance of produce, and what the heck to do with a honkin' huge cabbage

cabbage is beautiful
'Tis the season to have an abundance of fruits and vegetables when you belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). For the past two weeks we've had a box of goodness dropped on our front porch, delivered via Organics To You. Opening the box and discovering what's inside is kinda like Christmas.

So why do CSA? It's a great motivator to base our meals around fresh produce rather than starches or meats. The pressure of consuming all of these vegetables and fruits is a good one. It also means stretching my comfort zone and familiarity: it's not until I first started doing a CSA 3 years ago that I learned how to cook greens like kale. And this week's box had a strange looking vegetable I discovered was celeriac. (I can't wait to photograph it for you: expect a future post about it.) And the price is pretty darn good. These are all organic, and most are local. Buying direct means our dollars go back to the local farmers, and keeping our money in the local market is an important thing to do right now while the economy is so whacked. Supporting local farms is important to us and how we live in the world. Speaking of local farms, if you haven't seen The Real Dirt on Farmer John yet, do. It's out on DVD and is one of my favorite movies of the year. Oh, and a final reason to do CSA? It's delivered to our door. How easy is that?!

So our CSA box two weeks back included a head of gorgeous cabbage. That's it up there at the top of this post. Isn't it beautiful? And you know what? It has fed us for numerous meals. I'm all about that cabbage. It keeps easily, it's flexible, and it's good for you. So far we've used it in salads along with lettuce—it gives it more structure and heft, in an asian stirfry with broccoli, bok choi, bell pepper and chicken, and in a big pot with potatoes and turkey sausage (with coriander). And we still have some left! I am a fan of the cabbage. If you are too, leave me a comment with your favorite ways to eat cabbage. I have a feeling there's a lot of cabbage in my future.

Next up? Celeriac. I have no idea how to pronounce it but I'm going to figure out how to eat it.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Of course a musical says it best!

What better way to tell the Prop 8 story than with a musical? Well, duh. I spy jazz hands...

Shrimp cocktail anyone?
Hat tip to Mombian.