Abode {W}

Thursday, March 22, 2012

{phfr} Beverly Hills edition

 Pretty- Diamond necklace at Harry Winston's. I have never seen so many diamonds at a time, and can't imagine wearing something worth all of my possessions combined around my neck, but thought the necklace was beautiful nonetheless!
 Happy- Late night tiramisu, coffee, and cribbage with my sisters. The restaurant was right along a busy street in Burbank, so we enjoyed watching people coming and going as we ate. It was pouring rain, which we as Oregonians are used to, but in this area, heavy rains occur once or twice a year.
 Funny- The dress looked like it was made of the non-skid mats we put under our throw rugs to keep them from slipping. Only, instead of being two dollars at Wal-Mart, this dress is offered by Dior for several thousand dollars.
Real- It was fun to wander down Rodeo Drive, but then, a few short miles up the road, we saw a lot of this. People who were sad, down-trodden, mentally ill, or addicts, trying to get a meal and a smile. It reminded me that while there is nothing wrong in luxury items in and of themselves, our real purpose is to be salt and light to those who are hurting and alone.  I was in Los Angeles and it's environs for my uncle's memorial service, and this week's {phfr} comes to you compliments of that trip! The pictures show a few scenes from a fun trip and wonderful time with my family, but the truth is, for real contentment, there is no place like home! Joining Like Mother Like Daughter for another round of {phfr}, visit them for more fun pictures and reminders to find contentment in the everyday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Home again

Fresh vegetables and undergarments in the Versace store
I loved the collection of shoes these girls were wearing!
Would you be able to walk in these shoes? I might be able to after LOTS of practice...
A Bugati. There was a huge crowd of people taking pictures of this car, and it was worth a second glance. I have never seen one on the road before- it was beautiful!
This young man serenaded me on Hollywood Boulevard for a dollar. I think he was on something, and it was by far the strangest song I have ever heard. But it was an interesting part of the whole adventure!
My uncle's swimming pool. I spent many happy hours there as a child, I hardly left the pool when we were visiting.
I am sitting in my dining room, watching the snow fall gently, blanketing my daffodils and violets with a layer of fluffy white. Although the snow is beautiful and I am usually outside running around in it, I am now officially tired of being cold and seeing grey skies and snow. This marks the fourth snowfall in March this year, and I am ready for warm weather and sunshine. Just saying.

The weekend in Los Angeles was a wonderful get away. My sisters are a blast to be with, and even though the occasion was a sad one, we had a great time. Friday after landing, we immediately set out for Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It was so much fun window shopping, watching all the luxury cars gliding past, and drinking our afternoon coffee outside with the sun warming us! I didn't buy anything, much to my husband's relief. Next stop was Hollywood, where we walked the sidewalk of stars and enjoyed all of the street performances. It was crowded and vaguely seedy, but we enjoyed being part of the crowd and absorbing all of the colors and sounds and sights.

The service for my Uncle Dick was on Saturday. It was a very nice service, with a lot of laughter as we shared our memories of him. There was no drama or weeping, and the people in his church were very kind and welcoming. After the service, we went to his house and were allowed to take anything we wanted from it. The executor of his estate (LONG, LONG story on that whole situation) called while we were there and urged us to take the beds, T.V., chairs, pictures, and so on. We politely declined on the furniture, and I ended up with a suitcase full of old family photos, which I am enjoying sorting through.

Sunday was a day of travel, and we all hit the ground running as soon as we got back in to town. My youngest sister to finish lesson plans for the week, my older sister to get her kids to a swim team party, and myself to an evening Mass. Fun trip, great weekend, so nice to be home!

The no stove/no oven saga continues, and I am really starting to get used to this. Last night I made pasta with bread crumbs and olive oil (pasta cooked at my mother-in-law's house, sauce made in my electric skillet), a huge salad with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and large crystals of black salt, and sauteed locally foraged mushrooms. It was all delicious, and I am starting to get a kick out of seeing just how fancy I can get without the stove! I know some people may wonder why we don't just buy a stove, but we really, really, really don't want to rack up more debt. We also don't want to just buy a cheap, used stove and end up replacing it a few years down the road. I really like to experiment and be challenged in the kitchen, as I love to cook and enjoy learning new techniques and being creative. This no stove/no oven thing has done that for me in spades! We are managing quite well, with three square meals a day. Roasted vegetables with peanut sauce and rice and quinoa patties on the menu for dinner tonight!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

this week

 This week was heavy winds which blew the top out of a tall pine tree along our driveway. It missed Estelle by a few inches. That was Monday morning, and Tuesday morning brought a dusting of snow. Yesterday was rainy, cold, and windy, and today is just the same, but the it is raining harder than it did yesterday. All month, I have been looking forward to my trip to Los Angeles this weekend, knowing it would be sunny and warm there. As it turns out, the expected high is only 61, and rain is forecasted for every day of the weekend.
 This week was lots of time spent by the fire, reading good books and playing games. The cat slept in his cozy chair all day, waking only to go outside for a few minutes. My husband made a Kentucky Derby pie last night, and we ate huge slices and drank lots of coffee and played pinochle. The busy farm season is almost upon us, and so we are all enjoying the last few weeks of slower paced winter evenings.
This week was discovering an activity which will keep Stuart occupied for hours. It is lots of little plastic circles, with plastic peg boards to put them on. You can make patterns on them, or (Stuart's favorite) use your little tractors, wagons, and construction toys to scoop them up, dump them back out, bulldoze them in to piles, and  load them in to the big dump truck. My friend Regina gave these to me years ago, and my older children would play with them every once in a while. Stuart is crazy about them!
This week was also discovering that I can successfully bake bread in my counter top roasting oven. Stuart loves to help me make bread, and came running in to the kitchen as soon as he saw me getting the flour canister down. The bread made in the roaster is not quite as good as using an oven (the bottom does not brown) but I am so happy to have hot, fresh bread again!

This week was also late night bowling with my sisters and my little girls, cribbage at our favorite coffee shop, afternoons visiting my mother, a planning meeting for the fundraising tea I am organizing, and packing for my trip. Books read, school work done, walks taken, bread baked, puzzles started, meeting friends for swimming, and new recipes tried. My flight leaves early tomorrow morning, and even though the trip is for a sad reason (my last Uncle on my father's side passed away), I am looking forward to a weekend exploring LA with my sisters. We have plans for Rodeo Drive and Disney fireworks in the late evening. I am bringing my camera and my husband tells me to play tourist and photograph everything interesting. I don't want to appear gauche on Rodeo Drive, but I know I will see lots of interesting things, and I certainly won't be buying!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

 We woke up on Monday to snow. It was only a light dusting when we awoke, but the snow came down steadily for another hour or so, leaving us with about two inches of snow. The children had a snowball fight, and I had a lovely walk around the garden, holding my camera as insurance against being a target.
 By ten 'o' clock, patches of blue were visible in the sky, and I knew the snow would be gone shortly. It was nice while it lasted, but I was actually glad to see the sun come out. I am ready for spring!
By mid-afternoon, the sun was shining brightly. We also had rain and hail, giving us a complete range of weather experience. In kitchen-without-stove-or-oven news, my son unearthed a plug in burner in one of the sheds, so I can use a (small) sauce pan. On Tuesday I made pan seared shrimp and fried rice for dinner, and last night we had pasta with salmon and a lemon/parmesan/vermouth sauce. For lunch yesterday, I roasted sweet potatoes with a soy glaze in my roasting oven. I made a 9x13 pan full of them, and I polished off almost half the pan-they were that good! One thing I have realized about this new kitchen routine is that I am no longer moving easily in my kitchen. I am used to having things a certain way, to having a smooth, fluid dance between counter, stove, and refrigerator. Now I am mis-stepping, bumbling, unsure of where to go next. Am I putting this in the roaster oven on this counter, or the electric skillet on that counter? Cooking the shrimp first or frying the rice first? In short, I have lost my kitchen groove! By the time we get a new stove, I will be so accustomed to this crazy juggling of small appliances to produce the good food I love, that I will have to learn a whole new set of steps. Maybe. Either way, I don't think I will mind!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday fun!

Estelle pushing Stuart across footbridge over the Willamette River

In the bubble room at the Children's Museum

I know this is a terrible picture (blurry, out of focus, etc.) but I like how her hair appears to be on fire!

View from the park-love the old buildings!

More neat old buildings, as seen from the park.
One of the challenges of a large family with a wide range of ages is finding family activities that everyone enjoys. My older children still enjoy playing at the park and taking walks, but the children's museum is out of the question. Yesterday, we went to the seven a.m. Latin Mass, where my husband led the schola and the older boys served. This left us with the rest of the day free. The farmer took the three older children to the beach (his mom had rented a house for the extended family and the younger children and I had spent the day there on Saturday), leaving the three youngers and I with lots of time for a fun outing. We began by taking Stuart to Learning Palace to play with the train set there, while I shopped for some new school supplies. Next on our list was a walk across the Willamette River, one of our favorite activities. Although I must confess to an irrational fear of the bridge breaking when I am halfway across. Our next stop was the children's museum, where we spent two hours playing and running around on their awesome outdoor play structure. Stuart loved the model train there, and kept trying to sneak back to that room. We left the museum to go to our favorite hangout, Napoleon's gelateria- also home to the best latte's in Salem. The gelato is delicious, but kind of expensive, especially for the whole family. Taking only three children was a fun treat. Our next stop was the Book Bin, where we each bought a book. Nancy Drew for Evangeline, a truck book for Stuart, a Tin Tin sticker book for Estelle, and a cooking book for me. Then it was off to Bush Park, to play at the playground where I always played when I was little. The girls quickly made a new friend, and Stuart spent the entire 45 minutes on the swing set. I sat on a bench and read the news on my phone. We then drove to Trader Joes, picked up some picnic food, and headed to the nearby (and totally charming) small town of Independence to check out their city park and have a picnic. The real reason for this trek was to get Stuart to fall asleep in the car (he did!) as he was showing signs (crying, whining, kicking...) of being overly tired. The park was beautiful, and by this point in the day the sun was shining, the sky was a clear blue, and it was actually warm enough to make being outside pleasant. It was so pleasant to have a day with nothing else to do other than enjoy being with my children. No pressure, no time restraints, just a day to do as our fancy dictated! I start the week feeling truly relaxed, and ready to tackle another week!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kitchen updates

Salmon roasted in the counter top roasting oven

Black bean quinoa patties from the griddle
So! I am now two weeks in to this adventure of making three meals a day for eight people with no stove or oven. I have been forced to become better organized and more creative in my cooking, and so far, I don't think we have suffered for it. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to try my hand at baking a cake in my counter top roasting oven. I made a cinnamon apple spice cake, full of cinnamon and hazelnuts. Other than needing extra time to bake (I think my little roaster runs a bit cool), it turned out really well. For dinner, I used my electric skillet to make fried potatoes with browned butter, rosemary, and garlic. I also made veggie and salmon burgers on the griddle, and microwaved a bowl of frozen vegetables. On Tuesday, I made a potato and garbanzo bean curry in the slow cooker, and served it with rice. The curry was delicious, but the farmer and eldest son asked for a little more flavor next time. I think I will add some ginger and a handful of fresh cilantro before serving. Tonight I am planning on searing shrimp in my electric skillet, tossing it with butter, garlic, parsley, and lemon juice. If I have enough time, I will make two loaves of baguette bread in my counter top oven, and serve the shrimp with bread, salad, and rice pilaf. I think another cake is in order, as the one I made yesterday is long gone. The only problem with baking in the counter top oven is that I can not use any of my larger baking dishes, so the quantities are not quite enough for my large family! I forgot to mention the other tricky part of my new kitchen routine, and that is that during Lent, our family forgoes meat. So, I am cooking vegetarian with no stove or oven for the next four weeks! I checked out a handful of gorgeous vegetarian cook books from the library last night, as I badly need some inspiration. I think the no stove/vegetarian thing would be a lot easier in the summer time, when I can grill outside and load up on fresh veggies from the garden. I find myself craving hot soup, which is really hard to make with no stove! I woke up to a light dusting of snow on the ground, and under that a sheet of ice. The sun is shining brightly, beckoning me outside for a walk in the end of winter frostiness. The children are all still asleep (with the exception of Stuart), relishing an unexpected snow day. I should be doing laundry, starting the bread, and taking care of paper work, but I am also enjoying the slow paced morning, lingering over a second cup of coffee.