Wednesday, August 31, 2016

An Apple a Day Keeps the Fat Away

We went a little crazy Sunday afternoon.  The orchards behind Hood River, Oregon are full of juicy, ripe apples and pears this time of year.  Although it's just the two of us now, we returned home with several bags of fruit from the farm stands.  Needless to say I am baking a lot this week:  Apple pie, an almond pear tart and as I write this post, a big pot of applesauce is simmering on the stove.

I always knew there was a "foodie" inside me somewhere.  It took a move to Oregon to coax it out.  People love to talk about food around here.  The search for delicious, wholesome organic food is now on my agenda.  I have a source for eggs, wine, salmon and fruit.  I've been sworn to secrecy on where to find wild mushrooms and huckleberries.  And miracle of miracles, I am now baking my own bread.  (To be slathered with applesauce for my breakfast tomorrow.)

 


Mimi was a little horrified when I jokingly commented, "Maybe I should change the focus of my blog to traveling the world in search of delicious food.  I mean, really . . . we have enough clothes now to fill three closets.  I don't need any more clothes."

"Yeah and you'll get so fat you won't be able to wear any of them."

Ouch.

I've gained about fifteen pounds this past year and I'm struggling to get that weight off.  The truth is, there are many clothes in my closet I can't wear because of the weight gain.  I've tried a few different diets this summer, but I can never seem to stick to them; they're just SO BORING.

But I have succeeded in getting thin before, and I am determined to get there again.  I know what I have to do.  I have to cook more.  The more I cook, the thinner I get.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it's true.
  Going from farm stand to farm stand is an all day affair.  Rather than mindlessly throwing boxes of processed food into my shopping cart,  I buy fresh, seasonal produce along a 35-mile route.  I go home and create recipes around what I found.

I shop slow.  Cook slow.  And eat slow.

This is the trick to getting thin.

"And then you'll buy more clothes?" Mimi asked (hopefully).

I nodded.  I don't even have to change the focus of my blog.  My wanderlust will lead me down the back roads of Hood River County.  My wanderlust will get me thin again.



  And then I'll buy more clothes.






Monday, August 29, 2016

Dinner on the Train

We boarded the Pullman Dinner Train at 5 pm last Saturday in Hood River, Oregon.  My travel buddy took a little coaxing.  "Where are we going again?" he asked (at least three times).

  "Absolutely nowhere," I finally answered a bit sarcastically.  It was the farm-to-table gourmet dinner that sold me on the trip.  And as soon as our hostess escorted us to our reserved table and brought us a bottle of chilled pinot gris and a basket of aromatic garlic bread, his face lit up with comprehension.
For the next three hours, we dined in style while the Mt. Hood River train rolled by picturesque orchards, fruit packing houses and vineyards.  It was all familiar territory, and yet . . . somehow different.

Perhaps it was the couple dancing to Frank Sinatra in the bar car or the tray of manhattans our hostess was carrying down the aisle.  Perhaps it was the white tablecloth and vase of fresh flowers. Or our reflections mingling with gasp-inducing views of Mt. Hood.  But our train trip to nowhere took us down a road rarely taken. It made me realize I have been missing a big part of the global experience when I travel:  The wonderful world of food.
Because of budget limitations, my travel buddy and I tend to skimp on meals.  In order to afford those hotel rooms, we skip the multi-starred restaurants and end up buying picnic food.  But beginning NOW, this is going to stop.  I am going to make an effort to explore the local cuisine when I travel.  Whether I'm in familiar territory or in a far-away exotic locale.  I'm going to splurge, at least once, on a gourmet meal in a beautiful restaurant.

Tonight we were dining on salmon caught in the Columbia River.  It was served with cherry chutney, roasted carrots and fresh broccoli, all sourced from local farms.  The dessert, a berry cobbler, was absolutely heavenly.

And out our window were those very farms where the food had been grown.
  

I was happy to see my partner enjoying the experience as much as I.  In fact, he started talking about future meals on future trains.  The Orient Express to Istanbul.  The Trans-Siberian across the entire continent of Asia.  With vodka and blinis, of course.

And so our Saturday evening train to nowhere took us somewhere . . .very special.  

A road into the future.








Thursday, August 25, 2016

Stevenson 98648

When I accompany my travel buddy on his windsurfing trips, I usually end up in the van with a book to read and a bag of junk food by my side.  (Boredom is fattening!) But this time, his destination was Stevenson, Washington, a cute little town of 1,500 on the north side of the Columbia River.  So I left Daniel Silva and the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups behind.

Of course, leave it to me to find the whiskey and beer tasting rooms, as well as a restaurant with tasty, pulled pork sandwiches.  I discovered a good old-fashioned diner, too, high on a hill overlooking the river, so maybe, just maybe, he can talk me into joining him again with a promise of a burger and fries. 

I was thrilled to also find two women's boutiques and actually bought a summer dress for sale, much to Mimi's delight.  There were also a few art galleries and a gardening shop, so I kept myself busy for a couple of hours.  Then I took a long walk by the river and to the outskirts of town.  Just me and my camera.  This kind of aimless travel is something I really enjoy.  I try to find the "heart" of a place and capture it with my lens.
But as I meandered my way back to the windsurfing launch, I realized the "heart" of Stevenson is the Mighty Columbia River.  The town is located 44 miles east of Vancouver, Washington, on State Route 14.  Its heyday belonged to the era of the steamboat.  Many such boats, between 1890 and 1920, docked here to be loaded with cordwood.   Indeed, there is still a Port of Skamania here with office space for lease, but there seemed to be a lot of vacant space.

In the parking lots, I noticed many license plates from other states:  Utah.  Arizona.  Alaska.  And even New Jersey.  People had driven thousands of miles to windsurf or kite on the Columbia River.  They would be leaving at summer's end and then the tiny town of Stevenson would once again belong to the locals.

And to me.  















Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Birth of a Lake

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument



As I continue to write about this fascinating park, I realize how lucky I am to live within close proximity to it.  It means I can explore this area thoroughly.  A weekend here.  A weekend there.  Which brings me to another topic:  When time is limited, how do we decide where to go?  I've read many articles written by fellow travel writers and we all suffer from the same quandary.  How many times have I read:   I went to Peru to see Machu Picchu but I enjoyed Sacsahuamon more.

 Does that mean we should skip Machu Picchu?

The answer, of course, is "No".  How can you go to Peru and not see Machu Picchu?  And how can you go to Mount St. Helens and not go up to the Blast Zone?

I tend to see the highlights first, and if time allows, visit the more off-the-radar places.   But I'm starting to think that I should reverse this strategy.  While the blast zone trails were overrun by tourists, we had this trail along the shore of Coldwater Lake completely to ourselves.  And I enjoyed it so much more.
Mount St. Helens can be seen in the distance.  It was the volcano's eruption in 1980 that caused this lake to form.  A mixture of water, ash, dirt, trees and rock tumbled down the South Coldwater Creek and ended up here.  Although at first, the lake was a soupy, smelly mixture of brown crud, oxygen-gulping bacteria immediately went to work.  Within three years, these microorganisms had created this pristine gem of a lake.

Along the Birth of a Lake Trail, interpretive signs explain this scientific process in detail.  But it was the quiet beauty of the place that stunned me.  To think I almost drove by without stopping!

  

It's the detours where magic is found!











Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Gauzy Cover-Up

After my dermatologist zapped yet another suspicious red spot off my back, I now heed her advice whenever I go out in the merciless skin-cancer inducing sun.  I rub my skin with sunscreen.  I grab a hat.  And I cover up.

This summer my beach cover-up is doing double duty.
I can't help but compare this outfit to the abaya I wore in Saudi Arabia when I lived there.  Although I'm a full-blooded First Amendment Anything Goes kind of gal, I admit there were benefits to wearing the darn thing, especially on hot, shamal driven days.  It protected me from the sun, the wind, sand and pesky insects.  Therefore, I often play devil's advocate when I'm involved in the debate:  Should the burqa be banned?

One thing I know for sure:  My Muslim sisters never get zapped by a dermatologist.














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