Eating

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Baker City:

What a gem of a town, with an abundance of fine architecture under baby blue skies. We breakfasted at the Lone Pine. It felt like it was plucked out of Portland, with finely executed, yet simple fare, and impeccable service with a dazzling smile. A hush of Stevie Wonder singing on the hi-fi and lights dimmed to ward off the impending heat made for perfection.

The Strawberry Mountain Range and the hubster yukking it up for my amusement. I could not ask for a finer companion! Which reminds me, TODAY is his birthday. Send him happy thoughts, won’t ya?

Pelican and White Faced Ibis at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. So VERY many birds! I’ll update this later with all that we saw. Updated!

American Coot . American White Pelican . Barn Swallow . Black-Billed Magpie . Bullock’s Oriole . California Quail . Cormorant . Dusky Flycatcher . Eastern Kingbird . Golden Eagle . Great Blue Heron . Great Egret (or maybe Snowy) . Killdeer . Mallard . Mourning Dove . Northern Harrier . Red-Winged Blackbird . Sandhill Crane . Turkey Vulture . Western Grebe . Wilson’s Phalarope . Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Diamond, Oregon, population five. What a truly special place. A friend waxed poetic about the Hotel Diamond probably thirteen years ago, beautiful and remote, with one of the best meals of his life. We did not forget. Run by a father and daughter, with a mere nine rooms, it is quaint and comfortable with beautiful paintings and historical photographs lining the walls, an old timey screen porch to stave off hungry flies and wicked mosquitoes, and fine and hearty fare (this is ranch country, after all), served family style, every evening at 6:30. Book early and come hungry! And forget about television, phone, and internet, this is truly the back of beyond. A good book, the company of a dear friend (or new ones – Hello Diane, Manfred, and Paulina!), and the sublime scenery will be enough and more.

lupine

Our picnic in a grove of aspen trees at Lily Lake. There is something magical about being alone among wildlife. Everything humming and acutely alive, the pulse of the earth seen and felt and heard, I feel how small I am, how fleeting this moment, this breath, this life IS, and inhale ever more deeply to take it all in.

yellow indian paintbrush

desert buckwheat

 a tiny alpine penstemon, I think

indian paintbrush

desert buckwheat

wild onion

Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert down and beyond. It’s a study in contrasts, with lush green, cool, crisp air, and a myriad of wildflowers flanking a desert that receives a scant six inches of moisture a year.  The wildflowers were magical, and I was positively giddy at the abundance and variety. Heavenly! If you know them, please help me identify what I do not know and correct me where I am wrong. I’d be most grateful!

We took the Steens Mountain loop road, the highest in the state of Oregon, which is 66 miles of, at the moment, very nicely graded gravel. We heard horrible tales of it in previous incarnations and were most grateful that it was Mini Cooper navigable, though the desert side is N O T for the faint of heart. A single narrow lane, with nary a guard rail and hundred-plus foot drop offs, the hubster and I white-knuckled it much of the way.

I don’t believe there could have been a finer end to the day and this leg of our journey.

Stay tuned for Summer Lake!

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And so it begins…

Breakfast in Pendleton:

Home of the Round-Up

Cabbage Hill View Point

Wallowa

Kombucha break in Lostine

Gazing upon the Wallowas

Toward Hell’s Canyon

Zumwalt Prairie:

Some fourteen miles of winding gravel wound us in and around one of the largest intact bunch grass prairies in the world. Vast, my friends, with us and the animals the only life for miles upon miles. I watched the hawk, a red-tail, I think, swoop down to seize it’s prey and carry it to the utility pole, the snake writhing and coiling some thirty feet from the ground. My heart quickened at the wonder and privilege of it all.

Filthy prairie feet

Wallowa Lake:

Our wee cabin was called the Fawn, and we loved it!

The baby robin was terribly sweet and let us get quite close before her unsteady wings carried her off.

I bought two books and some deliciously scented soaps at this gem of a shop!

Enterprise:

A sweet town full of kindly and hospitable strangers.

Arrowhead Chocolates

They gave us spoons dipped in chocolate while we waited for our treats. The hubster was in heaven!

Joseph:

Named for Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (that last sculpture is his likeness), Joseph is a prince of a town. With a world famous foundry, beautiful landscape, friendly people, and Stein’s top notch distillery, it’s easy to find a reason to stay.

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Hey there! Just in case you were wondering what happened to me, this is it! We redecorated the office and guest room, and it occupied much of our waking (and my sleeping) hours for the last month. We’d been meaning to do it for ages, but you know how it goes: time; money better spent on food, shoes, an evening out; no real desire to spend weekends attached to paint brushes and rollers. Yadda, yadda, yadda, a few years go by.

A fire was finally lit under our arses and here we are, pretty snazzy! I should also mention that we cleaned out the house, top to bottom, in the process. Furniture, books, knick-knacks, clothes, the random and sundry, all in neat piles in the basement waiting for a sale and trips to the thrift store and Powell’s.  My pocketbook is also happy to report that the only new items in the office are the desk lamps (from IKEA) and the curtains, which I made because no one had the color I wanted. I shopped the house for the rest. Hoot and holler!

And then there’s the color! We’d had a peachy-orange before and really liked it for a time. As soon as we started rolling this on, we decided it was kind of psycho and felt an enormous sense of relief and calm at the new color, winter wheat by Benjamin Moore, if that’s your thing. Cream fleece is the trim color, just a shade darker.

We spent a bit more in the guest room, and mostly at IKEA (that place!), chest, organizers, tray, picture frames (filled with my photos!), curtain, lamp, bedding. Though that toss pillow is from Target, and the bedside table was $1 at a yard sale eons ago. We couldn’t be more pleased with how it all turned out!

And now, a break for fine art: The big painting above my desk and the small square on top of the bookshelf are by our super talented friend Jamee Linton. The three mountain paintings in the assemblage are by Tim Deibler. The wide landscape and the center painting are by Ann Hutchinson. The cicada was purchased on vacation, somewhere in the south of France, artist unknown.

But wait, there’s more! Imma break it down…

Which I got from this fab song of my youth. Bub, are you reading? You know you are the reason for my love of Eazy-E!

The salad: farro, shaved fennel, green onion, dried tart cherries, toasted walnuts, feta cheese, orange & sherry vinaigrette.

The cocktail: Ransom’s Old Tom Gin and Galliano. Heavy on the gin…

The sound: Jack White. That voice, guitar, look, the man captivates me. Turn it up.

The love: two of my favorite people are getting married! Congratulations Matt & Kelly!

Imagine this is your largest serving bowl, the one you use for a crowd (maybe just your kids!), requiring your giant pot for the water that takes ages and ages to boil. B I G. This is that bowl, and I filled it with cherries! Truth be told, it actually had more in it, another cereal bowl’s worth, but who in their right mind waits to dive in before taking a photo? Not me, peeps, no way, no how. Cherry bliss! I picked these myself, too, just down the street. How is that for local and organic? My neighbor’s tree was positively loaded with the ruby jewels. I wish I could say the same about mine, but, it did make great strides in the production department this year, with probably two dozen mouth watering cherries. Baby steps!

All of this stirs a memory, six weeks in France, one summer, eons ago. I studied in Amiens (World War I buffs will know this name well), a quaint town in the north, complete with canals and a grand cathedral (of course). After my studies were over, I headed south, to Paris, Bordeaux, Angouleme, Avignon, and Saintes Maries de la Mer. It was the first time I had ever been completely alone, and while this was fine the majority of the time, so busy with learning and exploring and eagerly filling my head with all things French, there were lonesome pockets. The hubster was thousands of miles away, and the void, of our enlaced hands and eager voices describing the essential and mundane details of our separate days, positively wrecked me at times.

But, like much of life, there are moments that enfeeble our dark hours with glorious beams of light. Mine came as surprises, like the man at breakfast in my tiny hotel in Angouleme. We exchanged pleasantries in swift French, and he was utterly shocked to learn that I was an American. “Except for Jodie Foster (on whom he had a serious crush) they do not speak good French. Your parents are from France? Your grandmere?” I assured him that my parentage was wholly American and positively beamed at relaying that my accent and vocabulaire were no coincidence but the product of diligence and a bit of love.

Another surprise came early in my voyage, when out walking in Amiens, I stumbled upon a concert at the Cathedral. I sat near the back on a wobbly folding chair, not expecting much. Then the music began, with the sound of string instruments performing fantastic acrobatics one moment and soulful pirouettes the next. Coupled with the dazzling summer light, the soft hues of stained glass, it was wholly transcendent, with me embodying every vibrant and luminous molecule in the space.

Then there were the cherries, the first of the season. I spied them from a distance, walking through an open air market. Cherries of my happiness, favorite fruit in the world! Salvation and balm in one, I bought a bag, one whole kilo (two pounds, three ounces just in case you don’t know), and ate them in one sitting. I have no memory of being too full or wishing I hadn’t, only the distinct pleasure of doing exactly what I wanted when I wanted and enjoying every minute. In hearty celebration, the very next day, I did it again.

Good morning! A quick hello to share our strawberry bounty with you. We planted a patch last year and boy howdy are we reaping the rewards. Each morning for the past two or three weeks (not sure, it’s a strawberry haze!) we pick a big handful like this. Super sweet and delicious!

I was a little worried that we would have more competition from our wild visitors, with near-ripe berries disappearing in the midnight hours early on. Apparently there are quite enough for us all now, with so many ripening at once.

Which reminds me, the opossum visited in broad daylight the other day. We saw her scrounging for fallen birdseed under the feeder and went outside to see. By the time we got there, she had hidden in the strawberry patch, and as she came out fiercely hissed at me, which was a surprise. Normally, we chat a minute before she saunters off. Then the hubster spied the reason, she had a baby clinging to her back! It was a wonder to witness that bit of adorableness. I gave her some space, and she darted for the shed, making funny noises to coax the baby into her pouch; because, as we discovered, opossums are marsupials. To think we probably wouldn’t have learned that had we not planted strawberries! Gosh, I really do love nature.

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