Resurrection of a Blog

Date of last entry; 6/18/2008. Whoa! I started with such good intent. I wonder what happened? I vaguely remember the last few years…I think. I quit the job I had when I started this blog, it’s now been two crazy jobs later. I’ve aged. I don’t feel it, but my hair has definitely grayed. My then teenager is now 21. The Husband and I are still married five years strong this year (that’s always a good thing!). Pretty sure I’ve gained some weight. Turned Vegetarian. I moved from the home my son and I lived in for 15 years into brand new home. it’s a rental, but oh so wonderful. I’ve started a new creative outlet or two, created a new genre of  silly Haiku and Poetry, read lots of books, seen lots a movies. For unknown reasons I’ve managed to alienate some friends and family. Made some new friends and have a new grandson. Most importantly, I have successfully avoided MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. I shall forge on with this diary of my life, such as it is. And even though I really have nothing to talk about, I have so much to say!

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.

– William Shakespeare


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The Arcata Bay Oyster Festival

Anytime my honey and I can get away for a weekend I jump at the chance. Especially when we can drive three hours or less to our destination from Grants Pass, Oregon. Last Friday we did just that. After work we headed to my Uncle Steve’s house in near McKinleyville, California. Our plan was to attend The Arcata Bay Oyster Festival. The festival is going on 18 years and highlights local chefs, restaurants and caterers. Their goal is to win the judges approval for best Oysters. The publics goal is to eat, drink and be merry. Or to win Oyster Shucker and/or Oyster Sucker of the year. I am not a fan of Oysters but I knew we’d have fun no matter what we did.

Arcata Plaza

We took off early evening and planned on eating dinner somewhere along the way. Whenever I’m near the ocean my desire to eat fish and chowder becomes overwhelming. My Uncle had told us about a restaurant in Crescent City, California that had great fish and chips. I can not think of one restaurant in Crescent City that has decent food, but I trusted him on this one. The place, Chart Room, located on Anchor Way at the marina near the one and only surf shop in the city. As we drove up I saw that people were standing inside the door. Not a good sign for us as we wanted to eat and run, but a good sign that the food must be partially decent at the least. I ran in and asked the waitress how long the wait was and it was too long for us, plus they were closing in 30 minutes. It did smell good in there but also looked frantic.

Plan B. There is another restaurant about one minute away named The Grotto. I had eaten there years ago and it was fair so we decided to give it a try. We arrived at 7:40 pm. The place only had two other tables occupied. The hostess was just writing the nights special on the board. I thought that a bit odd that she put it up so late. The menu was very pricy for what I had wanted. Small Fish and Chips for $11.95. Large order was $13.95. I ordered the small plate with a cup of clam chowder. Hubby ordered scallops, baked potato and a salad. The menu noted that all fish came breaded, battered or grilled. Sautéed was and extra $1.00. OK this is another oddity. Why charge more for sautéed? Unfortunately my honey did not notice this and the waiter did not ask him.

As we waited for our food, the restaurant filled to capacity. We were shocked. All we could think of was that when the Chart House closed, everyone came to the Grotto. The place turned into a zoo.

Dinner arrived. First bummer was the scallops. Hubby wanted sautéed scallops and got breaded. The scallops were soggy. Frozen scallops always hold a lot of water. He was not happy with that potato either. It tasted like it sat in the baker all day long. The mealy waxy texture is a turn off. My plate was equally unappetizing. The chowder had an odd flavor to it. Some sort of herb or seasoning that I could not put my finger. My small fish and chips order was actually very large. Four pieces of fish, a large pile of fries and a small scoop of overly boiled mixed veggies. What, no coleslaw??? . Also on the plate was about one tablespoon of tarter sauce and about two tablespoons of cocktail sauce. I normally do not see cocktail sauce for fish and chips. I took the veggies off my plate immediately. The water from the veggies was making the fish soggy. The fish was battered, though not a beer batter. It was fair but again soggy. The fries were as okay as can be. I had to ask for extra tarter sauce and waiter came out in a huge cup of the stuff, so much so that it was wasted. This will be the last time we eat at the Grotto.

Saturday morning we were up and at ‘em. We decided to hit the festival early at the suggestion of Uncle Steve. He said the crowds got large and rowdy around noon. We meet his lovely adorable girlfriend at the festival and headed off to the first tent. The festival is held at the Arcata Plaza. I have always loved this little college town. There are shops and restaurants built around a square quaint park. The festival is held around the park. The center of the park had a stage and music. There must have been over a hundred vendors. Mostly food and about four local microbrew and wine tents. The first Oyster we tried was barbequed with a light cucumber salsa. I must admit the salsa was great; the Oyster was just ok for me. Off to the next tent. Fried Oysters with hot sauce. I tried just one and decided that was enough Oyster tasting for me. Hubby, Uncle and his girlfriend loved them. I could tell they were in heaven. Next we tried the taco tent. The three had Oyster tacos. I had a steak taco. This was delish! Grilled steak topped with a spicy coleslaw mixture, salsa and lime in a corn tortilla. Next hubby got three barbequed Oysters with garlic, sherry and herbs topped with salmon tartar. As I watched the three devour those, I noticed a couple people with ears of barbequed corn. OH YEAH! That’s more my speed. This was our next stop…but wait, Uncle Steve found a booth that had Oyster Pierogi’s. These came with sautéed onions. While they ate those I ordered Cheese Pierogi’s. Also with sautéed onions and a side of sour cream. These were very nice. Whilst I was eating those, hubby found a stand that sold kabobs. Are we EVER getting to that corn? He got a chicken kabob that we all tried and agreed was very good and thought to come back for more. Off to find that corn. Yea! We ordered three ears. Boy was that corn good. White corn barbequed in the husks and slathered with butter, salt and pepper. I was in heaven.

As we meandered around the plaza more Oysters were consumed and the square was filling up fast. I lost track of all the Oysters they tried. Somewhere along the way they all tried an Oyster Shooter with roe. Double yuck. I heard moans of joy from the three. We found one of the stands we were looking for that sold Fish Tacos. Oh my, these were good. Nicely battered pieces of white fish, cabbage, salsa, a spicy sour cream sauce, cilantro and lime. Delectable! At this point we decided to find a spot in the park and watch the Oyster calling contest. This was divided into ages from three up. There were some pretty adorable kids and some very drunk and funny adults. The kids pretty much yelled out remarks such as “HELLO OYSTERS!” The adults had poems and songs and even a rap or two. One song was titled “Oysters over troubled Waters” and one was “We don’t Shuck our Oysters in Arcata”. All in all, pretty hilarious. Full of Oysters and wall to wall people we decided to head for home. Sadly no pictures were taken by any of us. Hard to hold a camera, a drink and a plate of Oysters at a crowded festival.

Winners of this years best of Oysters;

Best Oyster according to the judges:
-1st Tomo’s Oyster Sushi
-2nd Tomo’s Oyster Shooter
-3rd Folie Douce Japanese grilled oysters
The people’s choice:
Curly’s Grill

Shuck and Chuck 2008 champions:
Shucker: Aidan Semingson
Sucker: Conor Eckholm

Back at the house the three were barely awake. I was in the mood for more fun and I was actually a bit hungry as I hadn’t consumed as much as they had. After a rest we decided a walk on the beach would perk them up. We drove up the coast to Triniad. The beach was beautiful but extremely windy and chilly, so much so we didn’t walk very far. Trinidad is a beautiful little fishing town. Most of it sits on a bluff above a gorgeous inlet were the water is blue green. There are fishing boats moored in the inlet that are only accessible by smaller boats or dingies. The pier has cranes attached that lower and raise boats from the water for repair. This is a must stop place for any traveler.

Wind blown and hungry, we headed off to dinner. We decided more barbeque was in order. We headed off to Porter Street Barbeque. Porter’s is nothing fancy, but has some of the best bbq I have had in the Pacific Northwest. There is a large bbq pit outside that they load with meat every morning. The menu is small and no nonsense. BBQ chicken, pork or beef. Homemade sides and the BEST clam chowder I have ever eaten. Made with red potatoes, tender clams and seasoned perfectly.
Three of us had the BBQ chicken sandwich. This came shredded in big chunks, smothered with bbq sauce on toasted garlic bread. They have a fixins’ bar for your sandwiches. Hot peppers, horseradish, salsas, peperoncinis and more. Also a big bucket of warmed barbeque sauce in case you needed more on your meat which of course I did. That was one fine sauce, slightly spicy, thick and dark red. Hubby had beef ribs. They looked good but messy. His came with a side of slaw and chili. That chili was great! Lots of beef to beans and spiced just right.

Porter Street Barbeque
665 Samoa Blvd
Arcata, CA 95521

We decided to continue our gluttonous journey and head for Bon Boniere. An ice cream and bakery establishment located back at the Arcata Square. Homemade ice cream is pretty hard to pass up. I had a scoop of chocolate orange chip and a scoop of mint cookie. Very creamy and refreshing. I think that did it. I was done and ready to fall into a coma of happiness.

Bon Boniere
791 8th Street
Arcata, CA 95521

Sunday, Uncle Steve suggested that he and his sweetheart follow us back to Crescent City, about an hours drive north to have lunch at the Chart Room. What a great idea. I would have my fish and chip fix after all. The Chart Room is nothing fancy but boy is it good. The clam chowder was excellent. We had the Samll order of a Seafood combo with fish, scallops and prawns beer battered with lots of tarter and cocktail sauce, crispy fries, coleslaw and garlic toast for $9.95. The fish was hot and crispy good and a great ending to a wonderful happy weekend!

Chart Room Marina & Restaurant
130 Anchor Way
Crescent City, CA 95531

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The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth

The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth – by Roy Andries De Groot

Published in 1973, in which de Groot writes about the time he spent at a French inn by that name (L’Auberge de l’Atre Fleuri in St-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, Savoy) and the good meals he ate there. It addresses the logic of constructing a meal of several dishes so that they harmonize with one another, to the use of primarily local and seasonal ingredients to contribute to this harmony, and also an internal harmony within individual dishes. It is also a snapshot of old-school aperitifs, such as kir, and illustrates how a kitchen of little pretension can put out world-class food in an environment of passion, hard work, sound technique, long experience, etc. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is that de Groot was blind.

My Comments~

After reading a fantastic article in a local magazine about a woman’s trek and failed attempt to find The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth in Southern Oregon, I decided I had to have it. She painstakingly drove from Grants Pass, to Rogue River, Glendale and Medford searching high and low. Even though she came back empty handed, she had a grand time trekking through our lower half of the state. All along the way she describes to her friend the reasons she must have this book. I can see why.

Never have I read such a remarkable tale of a journey filled with excitement, longing, passion and love of food. Filled with magnificent descriptive narrative of de Groots travels to a place far away and almost unbelievable, and recipes so divine they are almost un-attemptable, this book took me on a fantastic voyage. Each page better then the next. de Groot takes you from the curvy rocky roads to the Inn, to the pristine kitchen of Mademoiselle Ray and to the rustic markets of Gernoble with Mademoiselle Vivette. These remarkable women teach him the art of a well balanced meal using the valley, rivers and local famers to supply them with the freshest ingredients.

If you are a cook, chef or just have a deep love for food and travel, I encourage you to read this book. It will leave you hungry and read to pack your bags for your own journey to the Auberge.

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Crazy Jobs ~ Stable Hand

Growing up, as with most young girls I loved horses. I still do, but the passion was much stronger back in the day. At age of 16, I was able to land a job as a stable hand at a horse ranch near Rogue River, Oregon for the summer. I was in sheer heaven. The owners raised all sorts of horses. From jumping to show. Their daughter was in charge of the stables. Sassy, that’s what I always thought of her. Sometimes when the family went out of town, I got to stay in the daughter’s apartment. A barn converted into living quarters. Oh I felt so grown up.

My daily routine was to feed, water, walk, clean horse stalls, inspect and generally care for the horses. I grew to love them all. The most disgusting job was not cleaning the horse stalls, but feeding the horses flakes of alfalfa. The alfalfa was stored in the huge barn with the horses. Shrews would make nests in the bales. Being that I tended to be a bit forgetful about these bald little creepy creatures, I often, accidentally, stab them with the pitchfork. It was disgusting. Sometimes I would grab a flake with my hands and see from the corner of my eye, squirming movements. I always screamed and jumped sky high. They were horrid little things. We also had to watch for mice. Double disgusting. Never a barn cat around when you needed one.

I really wanted to mimic everything the daughter did. I wanted to be just like her. One thing that always impressed me was that she could drive the farm tractor like it was a compact car. She could turn it on a dime. Back it up into the smallest spaces. AND, most importantly, dump loads of fresh saw dust into the stalls. The stalls were of rather large size however the opening to get a tractors bucket in to the stalls between the large beams that were attached to the ceiling seemed impossible. There was about a foot space between the tractor bucket and the beams to the right and left of it. Simple!

One day while alone, seems like the daughter was always off having fun whilst I was slaving away and doing both my jobs AND hers, I decided it was time for me to use that tractor. Being that she was gallivanting around town this day, I was about 2 hours behind. My normal routine of using shovel and wheel burrow to refresh the stalls with saw dust was not working for me. I hoped onto the tractor. Started it up. OH BABY! What a powerful machine that was. I was overjoyed. I would get all my work done and be home in time for dinner.

I practiced for several minutes out side of the barn. Piece of cake. Although I had butterflies, I felt confident that using this tractor would make my life better. More time to spend with the horses and all. I was ready. I loaded the bucket with sawdust. Pulled the tractor ever so slowly into the barn. I lined up the bucket with the stall beams. Slowly, painfully slowly, I inched towards the stall opening. Everything was going swell. Over the roar of the tractor I heard a very high pitched screeching sound. Like metal on metal. Or metal on wood? Hmm, I thought, this did not sound good. I stopped the tractor and listened. Nothing. I started her up again moved the tractor a milla-inch at a time. Again that blasted noise. At this time I realized I did not seem to be making much progress. I should have cleared the beams by now. For some reason I looked up. OMG! I hadn’t lined up the bucket well at all. I saw instantly where the noise was coming from. The tractor bucket was just barley touching the beam on the right. So much so that the bucket was pushing the beam from its place. The sounds I heard were the gigantic nails being pulled from their connection to the beam of the ceiling. There was about a three inch gap where the stall beam had separated from the ceiling beam. You could see the nails metallic bent forms in the gap. Freak out time. I shoved that tractor in reverse and hauled it out of there.

I seriously did not know what to do. I knew there was no way in heck the stall or barn would fall over. This was only one beam out of hundreds. And the beam did not completely separate from the ceiling. I fretted about it for hours. I went about my business and finished the stalls in record time. The adrenaline kept me going full speed. I paused every now and again to look at the mess I had made. I pushed and tried to jiggle the beam to see how loose it was. It did not move at all. It was still very very secure. With that I decided to hang my head in shame and not tell a soul.

I worked there the rest of the summer until school started back up. No one noticed a thing. The owners of the ranch loved my hard work and even gave me a letter of recommendation. I never used it though. I still feel ashamed that I never fessed up.

I do drive by on occasion to make sure that barn is still standing after all these years and it is. Thank the horse Gods!

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My dearest friend and I went to celebrate something or other, at Gogi’s. First time for both of us. This is quaint 15-table restaurant just below the Britt gardens and is one of the most wonderful well rounded restaurants I have been to in Southern Oregon. For starters that evening; Dungeness Crab Cakes with Scallion Coulis on a bed Organic Greens with herbed Alioli. We chose a light, flowery Pinot Gris at the suggestion of our waiter. Then a second course of a nice, lightly dressed salad of field greens and warm sourdough bread.

For my main course I chose a Grilled Marinated Buffalo Skirt steak with thinly sliced truffles (the buffalo was unbelievably tender and mild, you could cut it with a spoon), a fried potato cake and oven roasted root vegetables. My friend had Coriander Lime Glazed Halibut with Stir Fry Asian Vegetables, Ginger and Soy. We chose a full bodied 2000 Pinot Noir-Hamacher Label from Willamette Valley.

Even though we were sufficiently stuffed and belly happy, for dessert we shared the most wonderful cheesecake with a ginger caramel sauce. The Pinot was an excellent complement to both dinner and dessert. We finished the evening with a rich cup of espresso.

Gogi’s menu has everything from Tuna Carpaccio to Fennel Rubbed Pork Tenderloins. They offer daily specials along with an extensive wine list and cocktail menu. They serve Brunch on Sunday’s too!

I’m kind of a food snob and have worked as a cook and sous chef in my younger life. This place is at the top of my list! The owners have the “whole package” going on. The atmosphere, wait staff, food and wine selection. The prices…a little on the high side, but worth every last bite!

Gogi’s Restaurant
235 W. Main St.
Jacksonville, OR 97530
541- 899-8699
Open Wed-Sun, 9 to 5pm
Brunch Sunday’s 10-2

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All American Macaroni Salad

Picnic Season is here! I love a good picnic with family and friends. I don’t picnic as often as I like, but this summer have a couple planned already.

This weekend marks the Josephine County Relay for Life event in Grants Pass, Oregon. My husbands team raised over $10,000.00. The team brought a huge potluck, picnic dinner together to eat at the track. Hamburgers, chicken, hot dogs and salads. Hubby made my All American Macaroni Salad.

1 pound elbow macaroni
1 1/2 c grated or diced cheddar cheese
3 hard boiled eggs chopped small
1/2 small red onion , diced small
2 large stalks celery , diced small
3 TB Sweet Relish
3 TB yellow mustard
1/4 c minced parsley
2 TB Dill
2 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 TB lemon juice
2 c mayo
2 TB milk – to thin
Salt and pepper

Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and macaroni and cook until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in colander and rinse with cold water until cool. Chill macaroni in refrigerator until cold.

Mix onion, celery, relish, mustard, parsley, dill, celery seed cayenne, lemon juice and let sit until flavors are absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add mayo and milk. Fold mayo mixture over chilled macaroni, eggs and cheese.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8-10

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The High Cost of Groceries – 5 Ways to cut costs

$5.00 a gallon back East. $4.89 a gallon locally. No this is not the price of a gallon of gas. This is what it will cost for you to buy one gallon of milk at your grocery store. With the rise of gas prices brings the rise of groceries. Most families in America are already on a tight budget. From clipping coupons to changing your shopping habits, tonight I am sharing five sure ways to help you reduce your grocery bill.

• Buy store brands. Brands like Western Family or Sam’s Choice have improved in quality over the years in order to compete with name brands. Some of us shoppers want name brands as they are tried and true. However switching to store brands can save anywhere from 20 to 50%.

• Evaluate unit prices. Checking an item’s cost per unit, which is found on the shelf sticker, can help you make your decisions on what brand to buy at the cheapest cost per unit. You will still need to compare cost per unit even when an item goes on sale to see which is the better deal. This method is timely but does help save you money.

• Consider changing markets. Here is a comparison on three different items from three stores. I also chose three items of the same brand name and compared prices at each store.

Wal mart
-One gallon of 1% Milk $3.35, Umpqua Dairy
-One dozen eggs $2.24, Eggland’s Best
-Two pounds cheese $7.98, Tillamook Cheese

Fred Meyer
-One gallon of 1% Milk $3.69, Umpqua Dairy
-One dozen eggs $3.99, Eggland’s Best
-Two pounds cheese $5.99, Tillamook Cheese ~ Fred Meyers claims this is an every day low price.

-One gallon of 1% Milk $4.89, Umpqua Dairy
-One dozen eggs $3.49, Eggland’s Best
-Two pounds cheese $10.99, Tillamook Cheese

• Clip coupons. Shoppers should look through newspapers or online for coupons, especially double coupons where accepted. When reading ads, do not assume that all items in a supermarket’s flyer are on sale. Manufacturers pay to have items featured. “Featured” is not the same as “On Sale”.

• Ask for a store discount card. These discount cards allow shoppers to get discounts on items without having to clip coupons. This can be a pain as you may end up with 4-5 discount cards in your wallet. Not to mention that I can never find mine. However two pounds of cheese at Safeway that is regularly $10.99 was on the discount card this week for $7.99. Though this is still higher then prices Wal Mart and Fred Meyers.

• Shop different sections of the store.  Cheese and sliced meat is often cheaper in the dairy aisle than the deli because shoppers have to pay extra for it to be sliced.

While gas, rent and groceries cost more and more each day, yet wages stay the same, the lack of disposable income makes it hard to live a comfortable life. We can ride a bike or walk to work. We can move to a smaller more affordable home, but we have to have groceries to survive. Cutting costs is crucial to most budgets. Compare, clip and consider down sizing from your favorite brand names. Or as one of my good friends told me just recently… “I know how to the cut cost of my grocery bill. I eat out more!”

*This will be a speech I am giving on 6/4/08 for Toastmasters in Grants Pass.

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