Monday, December 7, 2015

Oregon Adventures XX

*The funny bits have asterisks, in case you're in a hurry. :-)

When we aren't going to be spending Christmas at home, we don't buy a real tree.  We get this Charlie Brown one out of the attic instead.  As I strung the lights on, half of them went out.  I was thinking it was the ugliest tree we'd ever had, when the kids couldn't stop raving about our beautiful tree.  Ha!

The girls making granola bars all by themselves for the first time.  (They were good, but exceedingly chocolatey.)  All three also sewed their own pillows this week.

Yesterday, we went to Portland for a baby party for Ben's cousin, Levi and his wife, Julie.  It wasn't until 2pm, so, we went early and parked near the Portland Saturday Market.  I walked to the market to do some Christmas shopping while Ben and the kids had a wee adventure.

They walked across Burnside Bridge to a bus station.  This was taken at 10:30am.  It was a rainy day, it doesn't start to get dark lately until 4pm.

 And rode a street car to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).

They had lunch there and played while I finished up most of my Christmas shopping.  I picked them up a little too early for the party, so we drove all over Portland until it was time for the party!  We met the host of the Oregon Public Broadcasting show, "Think Out Loud," Dave Miller.  Ben's cousin's wife, who is great with child, is a producer of the show.  We also met a band member of Levi's old band, "Ages and Ages," who we used to go see in Pittsburgh when they toured.  It was a lovely baby party and had excellent Lebanese food.  

I sang with a group of five other women at church today for special music, and had a solo part.  It's fun to sing again.  Ben has played hand drums for the last two weeks to accompany one song we are learning at church.  The weather was in the high fifties today and absolutely gorgeous.  A month ago a day in the fifties felt cold, but now, it's glorious!  It has been raining most days for at least part of the day or night for the last few weeks.  The grass is no longer brown, and the trees, though they have lost most of their leaves, many of them have moss on them that is a brilliant green now.

*Before we moved here, I  had a strange conversation with Ezra in the car one day.  He announced that he would not be using an umbrella in the rain any more as he wanted to be "an organist."  I paused to think about this for a while and asked if he meant that he would like to be someone from Oregon.  He said, "yes, an organist!"  I explained that people from Oregon are called, "Oregonians, not organists or Oregoners."  It turns out that lots of people call Oregon, "Ore-gone," like it's no longer here.  Oregonians don't like this pronunciation.  They prefer, "Oregun".  Could someone from Wyoming tell me what they prefer?  Wyoming or Wyomee? Thanks.

*Phoebe had another moment...every five minutes Phoebe was announcing that she loved me as she sat there in her Princess Elsa dress eating leftover sausages and an orange for lunch, she exclaimed, "I'm happy...and thankful...and reasonable."  I beg to differ on the last one, but it wasn't the time for arguing these things. 

We are counting down the days to our big trip out East: 7 left!  We are excited to see as many people as possible.  Ben won't be with us for most of the trip, but we'll see him for a few days in the middle.   We plan to do a ton of baking this week.  I will try to get a picture of the trees and their moss for you.  Have a great week!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Oregon Adventures XIX

This is our November from beginning to end.

We surprised her with a horse ride for her birthday.  She loved it!                                                                                                                                

 This note was accompanied by a raspberry plant.  It reads, "Here's hoping that you take root in our church family. The Smiths".  We love all these new people at our church already and we're just getting to know them.

Two birds have hit our big sliding door window that leads to our porch.  This one, a black capped junco, sat stunned for a half hour afterwards then flew off.  The second one didn't make it.  

THIS is why we have to have flood insurance.  There's a lovely creek in the nature preserve behind our house.  Whenever the kids get antsy, Ben takes them to feed oats to the ducks.  Evidently, bread isn't good for them.  Gluten free ducks.  

The Canada geese are plentiful this time of year, they live here for the winter and return to Alaska in the Spring.  There is a wildlife refuge ten minutes away where most of them stay, but a few like the nature preserve behind our house.  Thousands of them fly overhead several times a day and can be heard even with all the doors and windows closed.  They are skittish, not mean, so I don't mind them, but worry about them pooping on our heads when we're out.  (That happened to me  during a visit to England when I was 8 and I have goose poo PTSD now.)

Ezra has a weekly chess date with his Great Grandpa Jennings.  Grandpa is teaching Ezra all the moves and some strategy.  It's the best he focuses on anything!

A few weeks ago, we unpacked the last of the boxes, sat in all the packing paper and made "snow angels" to celebrate being done.  It was bitter-sweet for me.  It made the permanency of our move very real to finish unpacking (read: I felt like throwing up that whole day and cried a lot).

The Riverfront Carousel in Salem was a hit.

We went with Ezra's new friend, Abel, and his family.  His mom and I are friends.

The Oregon Zoo in Portland was lovely.  We went with my friend, Bonnie, and her out-of-town family.

We finished recording the CD for the kid's school.  My friend, Susanne, and I put all their memory work for two subjects to music.  Ben and I recorded guitar, drum and vocal tracks for 24 more songs for the second half of the school year.

Drum roll, please!  This is before...

...and this is now!  The tooth fairy brought her a dollar.  Isn't she sweet with all her blue stripes and toothlessness?

Then there is this one.  This photo was her request and her choice of pose.  She has said a few things, I have to share...

While looking at a picture of the Quaker Oats guy, she asks, "Why is George Bushington on here?"  

Recently, while explaining that my cousin who came for Thanksgiving was our flower girl in our wedding, she asked, "What does a flower girl do?"  
"They take flower petals and drop them on the floor for the bride to walk on as she comes down the aisle."
Longingly she looked at me, and said, "Oh, I would like to be a flower girl, but I am being a vet when I grow up." Atta girl, don't be tempted to be a professional flower girl, they get paid way less than ring bearers anyway.

Then, there was the day she said, "Daddy, I have a Chinese name.  It's Scream Scream."  Oh look, there's Sceam Scream now, photobombing her sister.

Ezra had a couple of doozies too.  He came into the kitchen, where I was, and did this pose for 20 seconds and said, "Mom, what is missing?"  Hint: It's the same thing that he has been wanting for Christmas (a football).  His silly way of reminding me what to get him made me chuckle.
Also, on the Christmas topic, Ezra knows our tradition of giving each child only one gift at Christmas to represent God's gift to the world and had a good question.  He asked me why it was that they only receive one present from us for Christmas, when God is, in fact, three persons?  Shouldn't they receive THREE gifts? Nice try, Ez.

Our flower girl came to see us!  My cousin, Lauren, lives in Washington and came down to join us for Thanksgiving.  She's all grown up now, a photographer in the Navy, and is as sweet as sugar.

Guess who we visited after dinner?  The ducks!

Moving across country is a big change, but one that we have always had peace about.  I still don't know where to find awesome olive oil, like I had in Ohio, or bulk flour.  I still use a GPS to get to all but four places I go.  We still don't know anybody we'd just leave all our kids with without feeling like we're imposing (unless we pay them).  We are still enamored by the mountains and ocean.  We haven't been overwhelmed by rain...yet.  Ben still loves his job.  We have yet to see the full picture of our lives here, but are optimistic, and nostalgic.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oregon Adventures XVIII

I should have known it was an omen when our jack-o-lanterns had to be tossed as they were moldy messes by the time Halloween rolled around.  We learned that with the frequent showers here, pumpkins don't last long outside.

In Ohio, we had a tradition of hanging out with our former neighbor, Betty, every Halloween and help hand out candy on her block, because we didn't get too many trick-or-treaters in the country, where we lived.  This year, several people from our Ohio church spent time with her for that night.  We called her and she proudly informed, "Eleven people were here for hot cocoa!"  That made our day.  We really were missing Betty on Halloween.

To make the day a little spooky, and to check off something off my to-do list, I let Juni pick out something to dissect from her kit she had ordered and bought with her own money.  She chose the frog.  She and I outlasted the rest as we took apart every bit of it and even extracted the cornea from it's tiny eye.  It was like a little plastic ball, so fascinating!
The night before Halloween, we took part in a Halloween fun night at our church's community center, which is an outreach to the local community.  We helped hand out candy to the kids and had dinner with them.  The pictures below were taken there.

We searched on-line and couldn't find any information regarding trick-or-treat times, except that our area gets to decide on it's own what we do.  Evidently, that's code for "your neighborhood doesn't do much for Halloween".  

Our new home is in a suburb with lots of retired neighbors.  I asked two of them about the traditions and one said they would be in Aruba and the other said they'd be anywhere but home for Halloween.  So, we waited for dark to come and see if anyone turned on their light out front.  We were prepared with travel apple sauces and glow sticks (enough for 50 or so), and Ben agreed to wait for the doorbell.  I decided since the neighborhood was darker than normal, we would seek out the trick-or-treating action.  Unfortunately, it was raining...hard.  The kids and I took off by car for a nearby neighborhood that has nice houses and found one block with some action.  Lights on, kids with parents walking outside in the rain, perfect!  We parked and got out.  We walked to about five houses in the rain and were drenched to the bone.  We knew Oregonians don't use umbrellas, and so we didn't bring those, but we did see others with ponchos on.  That would have been smart.  Clear trash bags would have worked.  As you can see we had some on hand.

Juni's outfit started to malfunction after about the third house and every few steps another balloon fell from between her legs and she would announce, "I have released another one!  It's a boy [or girl]!"
Ezra and I were laughing so hard we were crying as we picked up her "eggs" from all over the sidewalk and people's porches.  We were headed back to the car when I started to rethink my choice to grab gift bags for the kids to collect their candy in (we decided NOT to transport plastic pumpkins across the USA and left them in Ohio).  Completely saturated at this point, their candy fell through the bottom of the paper gift bags.  Phoebe was cold and miserable, and so we grabbed what we could of the candy and headed home: four soggy doggies.

[Ezra is top left and Phoebe is the left Elsa in the front row.  Juni had to remove her costume by this point so she could sit down to eat.]
In hindsight, the rain may have contributed to Phoebe's dress no longer lighting up or singing, "Let it Go."  I'm not complaining though.  We made sure a desk lamp with an extension cord was on our front porch since our porch light has a motion sensor and wasn't staying on for us.  Two families,  a total of three children, came by that night and we gave them double apple sauce and glow sticks.  We have been eating applesauce everyday since and have yet to finish it all.  And so you have our first, soggy Halloween in Oregon!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Oregon Adventures XVII

Our Bus Adventure

When we first arrived in Salem, Oregon, I purchased some bus tickets for us to use sometime.  One day a couple of weeks ago, I packed some hot cocoa and snacks, a jacket for everyone and off we went.  It's a half mile to the bus stop from our house and despite my rushing everyone, we still missed the first bus.  So, we sat at the stop, sipping our cocoa and 15 minutes later, our bus arrived.

Ezra needed rain boots, so that was our mission, to get good quality unisex rainboots that all three would eventually wear.  We were going from the bottom of the bus line to the very tippy top to an REI (outdoor supply store).  What normally would take 20 minutes to drive by car would now take one hour.  Isn't that fun?
We got the boots uneventfully and shared some pizza for lunch, then decided to head back.  The kids were loving the bus rides sooo much they begged to stop anywhere else, just to get off and on again and make the adventure last longer.  I agreed we could stop to get some milk since we were out.  The first grocery store that had a stop near it was LifeSource, our favorite health food grocery store.  I settled for a half gallon when I remembered the prices and then Ezra reminded me that his two week waiting period was up for spending his savings on something.  Two weeks before he had requested two six packs of a special pop they carry at LifeSource (I can't recall it's name, but it only has sugar in it, no artificial flavors or corn syrup).  We make them wait two weeks to use their savings to distinguish it from their spending money and to make them think about whether they really want whatever it is or not.  We also don't buy pop unless there's a party.  So, he really wanted this and was using his own money.  

That's when everything changed.  I felt this wetness on my lower back, I looked and I was covered in hot cocoa, which was dripping out of the backpack I was wearing, down the lower back of my shirt and top of my jeans.  Upon inspection, the last person who had drank cocoa, had not closed the lid and had replaced it in the backpack upside down.  We had no vehicle and I looked like I had pooped my the health food store.  It was perhaps a second after this realization that I saw the first person I knew.  It was that person who has only seen me repeatedly blundering in life for whatever reason: Late for something because we got lost; out of gas and at a gas station that you have to have a membership from online to get gas (yes, they have those here!), and so on.  There was nothing to do but incredulously explain what happened.  The person laughed as if, "That's so typical for you!" and walked away.  I realized they were right and after putting the sopping backpack into a garbage bag that a kind store employee provided me, I headed to the bathroom.  Thankfully, inside the backpack, my jacket was on top and hadn't gotten drenched in hot cocoa and I tied it around my waist covering the questionable stains.  

In hindsight, I'm not sure why we spent so long at the store after that, looking up and down every aisle.  Perhaps, I was processing it all or playing it cool, or most likely, trying to convince the kind store employees that were were there to spend money, not cause trouble.  A lady from church was on her lunch break and we chit-chatted.  I would have told her about the problem on my backside if she hadn't been in a hurry, it was just as well.  With my jacket being white, I worried it would soak up the cocoa and show through, but alas I was ok.  We checked out and headed to the bus stop.  The buses were much more full on the way home and Ez and June sat toward the back while I sat with Phoebe in an open seat toward the front.  

Twenty minutes later we got to our stop (again, this would have been seven minutes in a car) and started walking the half mile toward home with the plastic garbage bag containing the messy backpack in one hand and the paper bag from LifeSource in the other, both too heavy for the kids to help with.  The milk, the two six packs of black cherry pop and impulse egg rolls in it got heavy fast and in readjusting, the handles broke.  I tied them together again and gritted my teeth as I led the kids home, tremendously thankful I had only purchased a half gallon of milk.
This is a picture of the last time I wore this shirt, the cocoa stains did not come out (it actually got dried in the dryer by accident before getting checked - another fail).  The pop is gone now, the boots are great, and the kids still beg to go on another bus adventure soon and I'm open, but we will leave the thermos and cocoa behind.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Oregon Adventures XVI

The Edible Mushroom Retreat
This past weekend, we went on an edible mushroom retreat at Drift Creek Camp.  Yes, this is the camp that when I picked Ezra up from it this past Summer he said, "I ate berries and they made me throw up!"  Then, all of this happened.
We had free time the first night, then a presentation in the morning on what to look for and what to watch out for.

Then they fed us well so we wouldn't be tempted to eat mushrooms on our hunt, then sent us out searching.

The presenters did some mushroom hunting on the way to the retreat and found this King Bolete.  It's edible!

A Big Leaf Maple leaf - which Juni brought in and had inspected by the mushroom expert, who found fungus on it!  

I heard there were a lot of banana slugs out on the coast and was very pleased to find two.  This one found a mushroom before we did, it was slimey, he can keep it.  Ezra happily informed me that he had licked a banana slug earlier in the day to make his tongue go numb.

The slug licker over Drift Creek

Here's a fun little mushroom we found, no idea what it is.  We finished so early, we had to kill time before the expert returned from his hunt to ID our finds.

 Juni still loves little toads.

Ben checking out the salmon

 Can you see them?
Finally, all the other hunters returned with their goodies.  Here the mushroom guru was putting Ezra's 'rooms into piles of edible and non-edible.  He found one Chanterelle, several Honey Mushrooms and lots of poisonous ones.

Here someone found a good selection of coral mushrooms.  Our leader told us he has friends who eat the colored coral, but the white ones are diuretic.  He said he doesn't eat any of them.

Some people found A LOT of mushrooms!!!

That's it for those in a hurry, but for anyone wanting to learn a little extra about mushrooms, see below.  I love to share what I learned!  None of the pictures below are mine, found them all on the internet, so you know.

Fungi (which he pronounced "Fun-jee"): 

Here's how they eat!
Three ways:
1. Mycorrhizol: Half of mushrooms and almost all truffles are mychorrhizol.  They form a symbiotic partnership with trees.  The tree gets nutrients, the mushroom gets it's food from the tree's photosynthesis abilities.  No one has successfully reproduced these kind of mushrooms in a lab, they are only in the wild.

2. Saprobic: These are decomposers.  Did you know that wood would not decompose without these? There are two types.  One digests cellulose which produces "brown rot" 

and one digests lignion which produces "white rot".

3. Parasitic - These attack living plants causing disease or death to them.  Honey mushrooms are one we found that are edible, but are parasitic.

When identifying mushrooms, there are a few things to note to help you identify them.  
Do they have gills?  If so, which type?

Or do they have pores? Like the King Bolete!

Or teeth?

Next, look at it's stem...
These are Matsutake mushrooms and are highly prized in Asian cooking... 

...and should not be confused with the Smith's Amanita, 
which can cause kidney failure.  See the bulbous stem?

Does it have a ring/veil?  If so, does it go up or down?  One he showed us went down like the one below and was edible, the other, looked just like it, but the veil went up and causes profuse sweating.

Make note of it's habitat.  Did you find it in dirt, on a tree, what type of tree?  By the way, he mentioned lawn mushrooms as generally being inedible.

Crafty moms, take note! The final way we were taught to identify a mushroom was by it's spore print.  Anyone can do this and easily with any type of mushroom!
Cut off the cap of the mushroom and set it cap down on some paper.  If you have two, put one on dark paper and one on light.  Cover with a bowl for four or more hours and then remove.  You will be left with beautiful spore prints that are great for helping identify the mushroom as spore color can be the only difference between edible and poisonous doppelgangers. 

It is always safe to assume that mushrooms are poisonous.  It is wise to not consume any that you have picked without approval of a veteran mushroom hunter (ours was a third generation mushroom hunter, has his PhD in mycology and wrote a book on Truffles): Dr. Matt Trappe.  Also, many edible mushrooms are only edible after cooking, so never eat one raw that you've found in the wild!  

We haven't eaten our edible mushrooms yet, but will be sauteeing them in butter tomorrow.  It will be the last time we eat wild mushrooms until we return to another mushroom retreat.  Oh, and if anyone is in the market for a good book on mushrooms, he recommended this classic, "Mushrooms Demystified," by David Arora.  For kids, I still love, "Katya's Book of Mushrooms," by Katya Arnold.  

Have a FUNgi day!