Monday, December 26, 2011

This is My Story.. and I'm Sticking to It!!!

On the "Twelfth Day of Christmas, My true love gave to me..." and of course YOU know the rest of the song, and all those catchy lyrics - but do you know that there really are twelve days of Christmas? The lyrics do have religious significance*, but John Denver and the Muppets are quite pleased to sing their version of that song for you here!

I love having twelve days of Christmas,  which is why I'm mailing the rest of my Christmas cards tomorrow!

You see, before Christmas became a time of hurried shopping,  expensive gift giving,  stress filled decorating and commercial mega advertising, it really did last twelve days. Imagine! Twelve days of merrymaking, wassailing, letting go, laying back.. hugging, going from house to house and sharing stories, little treats, but mostly the blessings of friends and family. Imagine the hope of the sun returning -  the Light of the World, the birth of the Christ, the Yule log to get us thru the long winters night, but mostly, the turning out of the old, the welcoming of the new, and the gifts of the Magi.

In early Christiandom, the tradition of the birth of Christ was assigned to December 25th, to interrupt (but obviously not replace) the celebration of the Winter Solstice, which is the 21st or so. The days had been getting progressively shorter since June 21, and in the Northern Hemisphere, all the folks living at higher latitudes were getting pretty sick of the shortening days, and a little scared that darkness would surround them and never end. So! what humans do, when faced with such dilemmas, is invent a solution. If we drank enough stong spirit and danced around a fire, and kept that flame alive, surely we could scare away the night and the light would return. By the 25th, even with crude measuring devices, early astronomers determined that the days were lengthing and the sun would eventually rise higher in the sky. What could be more hopeful than the celebration of the birth of a child, especially the Saviour, Christ the Lord! The Christchild became the metaphor for the returning Light. In about the fifth century someone conveniently realized that there were already a few other religious feasts that fell about the same time, and if incorporated into this time of festivity, would give Christians something to concentrate on, a reason for dancing and wassailing, and it could go on for twelve days!

In our family, we open our gifts on Christmas morning, and I am never in a hurry to take everything down and put it away. Trying to avoid the hype and hurriedness of Christmas, we try to give gifts of the heart. We try to give handmade gifts when possible, and waste free gifts, like experiences, when we can.
Granddaugher Ania enjoying opening presents on Christmas morning

While advent, which begins on the 4th Sunday before December 25th marks the beginning of the religious observance of the coming of the birth of Christ, the actual celebration of Christmas, traditionally did not begin until December 25th. Although the Christmas season now begins in August in the United States due to the need of retailers to fill their balance sheets with black ink, there are those of us who hold out with a more traditional viewpoint.  I actually saw an automobile heading down the freeway on December 23rd with a Christmas tree on it's roof! Imagine, not setting the tree up until Christmas eve, and leaving it until the 6th of January! Oh, yes...January 6th marks the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the arrival of the three kings, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myhrr. This is the day after the "twelfth night" and there are families in Christiandom who still celebrate that evening with a final gift, followed by the cleaning of the home and stowing of decorations on January 6.

Gifts? I wouldn't mind another present on January 6th. Gold, of course would be my favorite, but a little  frankincense and myhrr to add to the cupboard wouldn't be bad, either. These gifts were brought to the Christchild because gold is symbolic of the richness of the coming establishment of Christ the King, and the value of the resins which were used for incense, medicinals and embalming herbs, were to send this child in good stead into his future.
Since those guys had to travel so far across the desert, only able to walk at night as they were following that star, it's no wonder it took them 12 days!

Folk art nativity carved by Fred Reed.

Given the time, effort and energy that goes into preparing for this wonderful season, the welcoming of Peace, the return of the Light, the loving and festive times spent with friends and family, I for one am happy for it to last twelve days! So, if anyone is concerned my cards haven't been postmarked until December 27, they just must not know it is really the 2nd day of Christmas! Perhaps instead of a card we should send 2 calling birds!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

This is the time of year when we start thinking about giving thanks for all of the blessings bestowed upon us in our lives. I thought of making a list of all the things and people I am thankful for, but unsure where to begin, I realize the list would be so long, no one would ever want to read it, and surely I would be unable to make it fit within the consigns of this blog. Love is really what matters most in this life, and I feel I have almost more than my share.
Just for starters, working on that list, we are blessed with an invitation from our oldest daughter to spend Thanksgiving in the Phoenix area with she and her other half. It was terribly difficult to board that flight and leave wind, rain and falling temperatures in the NW and travel to the balmy 70 degree days of the Southwest desert, but duty calls.
Sunset from our daughter's patio, Chandler, AZ  photo courtesy CJ Wheale
 On my list of thousands of countless blessings, having our grown kids seek our company is pretty close to the top. Daughter number one is also a fabulous cook, and coming to her house is like staying in a cozy, personalized B&B where we are pampered and very well fed. She tells us that Thanksgiving dinner will be traditionally non-traditional. Whatever ends up on the menu will be creative, delicious and beautifully presented. I think she could open a restaurant... but that would be hard work, and probably spoil the enjoyment she finds in her kitchen creativity. When we arrived at dinner time a couple nights ago, we had homemade calzones waiting for us. Stuffed with her homemade Italian style chicken sausage, sun dried tomatoes, marinara sauce, caramelized onions and mushrooms, mozzarella and Parmesan Gran Padano, wrapped in her home made whole grain crust, they rivaled those found in the best restaurants. The fragrance wafting from her kitchen was that of an authentic cucina, and we knew that, as always, whatever comes from Carolyn's Kitchen is sure to be a treat.
Calzone par excellence! photo courtesy CJ Wheale
Yesterday we were blessed by meeting up with an old school mate of mine, and her hubby who is a docent at the Heard Museum  in downtown Phoenix. Ellen and I knew each other but weren't close friends in high school. Reacquainted at our 50 year reunion in October of 2010, we have discovered we have much in common and enjoy each other's company. We have emailed a few times and gotten to know each other a little, so I was really looking forward to spending some time with this "new- old" friend. Ellen thought it would be fun to meet up at the Heard, and as neither Paul nor I had been there for 20 years, it was a wonderful treat. Rex is a mild mannered, knowledgeable guide, and we felt so privileged to have him give us a private tour of this magnificent facility. The Heard Museum houses a magnificent collection of the physical artifacts of Southwest indigenous anthropology. A major exhibit shows the tragedy of separating families when little children were sent off to Indian Schools in an attempt to erase all vestiges of their ancestral cultural practices. I of course, love the baskets and pottery and sculpture, and enjoyed seeing the evolution of more contemporary native art. A most exciting new work blends ceramic art and blown glass.

"Art Fence" pottery and glass assemblage at the Heard Museum
Rosemary Lone Wolf of Santa Clara pueblo is a ceramic artist and Tony Jojola, Isleta  is a glass artist. Tony studied under Dale Chihuly, and glass is now emerging as a new and exciting art form within the Native American community. These two very talented artists have collaborated on the creation of "Art Fence", a 50 foot installation of ceramic "stems" and glass "orbs". The fence symbolizes the indigenous materials used by native people for fences and home building, and references the colors of the desert. The linear construction allows the mind to travel with native cultures from the past into the present and look forward toward a bright new future. The experience of studying this amazing assemblage reminds me how blessed we are to have such beautiful places that exhibit our artistic expression, and that we live in a country where art is appreciated, funded and supported.

Saturday, we enjoyed blessings of another sort as we attended a Celebration of the Life of Eileen Koerner. Dieter and Eileen were two of the first people we got to know when we moved to Payson. Loving all things German, Dieter easily found his way into our hearts and his Eileen was right there too. Eileen was a Minnesota farm girl with a warm smile and a quick laugh, especially when Dieter teased her. She was a good friend, devoted wife, wonderful mom and loving grandma. On Saturday we gathered with about 60 kindred souls who all had one thing in common- our love an affection for Eileen. She was taken far too soon, and will be sorely missed.  One of Eileen's lovely daughters told me that if there is such a thing, her mom had a "good death", surrounded by her family. I guess that's what we all pray for.

Making the most of this glorious sunny fall vacation, we traveled to the Prescott area and visited with my sister Donna and hubby Stephen Ellis. But that's another story filled with blessings that will wait for another day.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Everyone! And don't forget to Give Thanks!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Where, OH Where?

     "Where oh, where does the time go"?  Said a friend to me on an email this morning. I wonder how time can pass so quickly.. minute to minute, hour to hour, season to season. Looking at my last post, I see that it published on September 22. How can it be, that I was thinking of  writing an entry about the beauty of Autumn the very next week, and already Hallowe'en is here? Blink! and it will be time for Christmas!
White pumpkin carved to look like ET!
      Two weekends ago I had the most wonderful privilege of taking a couple of my teenage grandchilren to a "pumpkin patch". Choosing and carving a pumpkin for Hallowe'en keeps us young, and adds frivolity to life while we remember our roots, and reminisce on times past. Perhaps to slow down the clock we need to try to make the most of every moment. Staying in the moment, enjoying and really experiencing everything about the present, may serve to slow down the passing of time, and help us to relish and grant value to not only what we say and feel, but to our time spent with other people, too. Spending that day with teenagers who still remember how to be kids made my heart glad, and reminded me to allow myself to play and have fun!
Trees in our neighbors yard that let us know Autumn is here!
     Autumn is, next to summer, my favorite season of the year. Summer is hedonistic, fleeting, full of barefoot pleasure, hot sun on bare skin, season of my birth... wonderful. But Autumn is sophisticated, smoky, rich with my favorite hues of bronze and copper and gold and orange. Especially Orange! Orange is symbolic of intense energy, but calmer than red and containing the cheerfulness of yellow. Autumn leaves, pumpkins, ripening pears and apples and berries and squash in the fields and markets bring us  the sensuality of a bountiful harvest. Autumn helps us reverse the anxiety of Spring with a calm, orderly opportunity to fill our larders, stow summer clothes, and bring out sweaters and scarves and mittens in preparation for chilly days to come. 

Little vignette on the bench on our front porch
    I love to augment our home furnishings with seasonal decor, and as I use lots of warm colors in paint, upholstery and accessories, it seems the house is at it's best in Autumn.

Orange seems to dominate this time of year!
     This is the time of year for candles, and slow cookers and roasts in the oven. Here in the Pac NW, the days are drawing in and it is dark by 6 PM. Rain hitting the skylights makes us want to click on the fireplace starter, and that jack o'lantern featured at the top of this posting will soon become pie!
The pie will undoubtedly be prettier than this guy!
     So as boots and wooly socks replace sandals, and t-shirts give way to fleece pullovers, we cozy up, cocoon and invite friends to come and share the flavors of fall. On the menu this weekend will be German style beef rolls, red cabbage and apple strudle. It just seems right for this season of the year!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How can it be autumn??/ Where was Summer?

As a person who lives for summer, it has come as a great shock to me that I missed it. I'm not sure whether I missed it because it never arrived, or I was too busy to enjoy it, or perhaps I just didn't recognize it. The weather service tells us this summer has been the coolest on record. It isn't the cool that bothers me, because a body that is in the shape mine is should stay mostly covered anyway. It is the gray. Since when was summer supposed to be gray? Isn't the sun supposed to shine in the summertime?

And then there was the lack of rain. After the wettest spring on record, the rain stopped and everything dried up. Our water bill went from $30.00 to $80.00 for the month, and until the real rain of this past weekend, everything looked as if it was parched and crying for a drink. Oh, and speaking of the rain which fell on September 17 and 18, as badly as we needed it I would rather it had been dry! The last thing we needed when we were expecting dozens of visitors for the Gig Harbor Open Studio Tour was for our visitors to have to traipse through rain!  Up the side yard, through the gate, and finally into my lilliputian studio. And, although I had set up the potters wheel and a wedging table in good faith under a canopy, it was too cool and drippy to even think about demonstrating wheel throwing,

Northwest art lovers are not deterred by rain however, and we had over a hundred cheerful interesting visitors during the course of the weekend. A lovely daughter, a couple of good friends, along with hubby himself gave me cheerful and valuable support, and I could not have done it without them.  Enthusiastic compliments directed toward the creation of ones heart, mind and hands lifts the spirit no matter what the weather. And when visitors exchange dollars for that same work, the process is validated, and another ripple in the pool is created. 

I offer my work for sale because if I did not, it would pile up around me.  I enjoy the interface between those who appreciate hand made pottery, and my being able to furnish it to them. I leave the mark of my hands on my work intentionally, so there is proof that it was made by a pair of hands, and not by a machine. I use glazes that are pleasing to me. Sometimes they meet the demands of the marketplace, and sometimes they do not. The market is never my primary consideration when I am steeped in the creative process. It was a most satifactory weekend, several visitors expressed an interest in classes, and  I received several commisions for work. Nearly everyone expressed an interest in an early shopping opportunity for Christmas gifts.

 Holiday Shopping Open Studio
Saturday, November 12 10AM-5PM 

As I have made the decision to allow my website to go dark when the web hosting contract runs out, my blog will be my major source of communication regarding my pottery. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Sarah Alberta Todd Bourscheidt

8/31/1911 – 5/9/2011

                Our wonderful mom, grandma, great grandma, mother-in-law went to eternal sleep in the small hours of the morning, May 9, 2012 in Gig harbor, Washington.

            Monday, May 9, was the day after Mothers Day. Between Thursday and Sunday, each of us had the opportunity to visit her as she slept peacefully, under the compassionate care of Franciscan Hospice in a darkened room at Cottesmore of Life Care. We each, in our own way told her how much we loved her, and I for one, thanked her for being such a wonderful grandmother to my children, and mother-in-law to me.

            You see, “Mom” as I called her (perhaps to my own mother’s chagrin) was my friend, my mentor, and my “other mother”. She had wished to give birth to a girl, who coincidentally, she had planned to name Barbara Ann. When Paul and I announced our engagement, Mom was thrilled and welcomed me into her fold without reservation.

            She told me stories about Paul when he was a baby and a little boy, to help me learn about the man I married. She showed me how to clean house, and always told me “if it was worth doing it was worth doing right.” She was present at the birth of each of my babies, to help me thru the early days of diapers, healing from episiotomies, sore nipples and sleepless nights. She was so thrilled to be a grandma, no task was too much to ask.

            When we had toddlers, and needed a break, this more than willing energetic woman took my girls and lovingly cared for them for two weeks while Paul and I enjoyed a leisurely vacation. I came home to a potty trained Cheryl, and a very spoiled Carolyn. Mom never spoiled the girls “rotten”- she just spoiled them with unbinding love and attention. I had awfully big shoes to fill when I reclaimed my daughters, as they now expected me to hold daily tea-parties, play dress-ups, and maintain a bottomless cookie jar!
Fred and "Sally" Bourscheidt  c.1962

            Mom loved to come and visit us where-ever we lived, her visits always limited by “Pop” who didn’t think they should wear out their welcome. Pop passed away in 1971, when Cathryn was a toddler, and Mom began her routine of spending winters with us. Oh what freedoms that gave me! Mom was laundress par excellence. She loved to shop, taking over the chore of weekly grocery shopping, and hated to cook. She liked cleaning up the kitchen, though-(can you imagine)?  We had a nightly routine of me cooking and she cleaning up after me as I went, often exclaiming “Oh, we’ll eat good tonight! Barbara has used every pan she owns!

            As I became more involved as a Girl Scout volunteer, Mom picked up the slack at home, and in later years she was my loyal sidekick and my assistant in whatever job I assigned her. She was the most patient and long-suffering sould I have ever known, for when our girls experienced growing pains she would sit and rub their legs for hours. When anyone was sick, GG could be counted on to sit with their feet in her lap, and she would rub them, until the little patient was fast asleep.

            She accompanied us on camping trips for years, worrying about the bears circling our tent while we snoozed, and managed to out-hike us on every uphill trail. When we stopped to rest, she always pulled candy bars out of her pockets for treats to give us energy- and of course we always acted surprised that she had a favorite one for each of us.
Mom icing Christmas lebkuchen, 2008

Encouraged by Pop, Mom followed the tradition of setting up and baking off hundreds of Christmas cookies every year. The first year Paul and I were married we had a kitchen that was about 6’ x 6’, and yet we were able to mix and bake about 12 different kinds of cookies! The tradition continued, waxing and waning with circumstance and energy levels, but last Christmas, mom helped ice about 10 dozen lebkuchen, even though she said she always hated that job!

            As I recount this lifelong friendship I was so fortunate to experience, I am reminded of the young 50ish year old woman who embraced me unconditionally as her new daughter, the 60 year old widow who thought her world had come to an end, the vibrant matriarch in her 70th and 80th years, and the amazing, devoted caretaker in her 90’s. Mom’s decline into dementia in the past couple of years was heartbreaking for us, but I am sure, painful for her. I realize now, that we really lost her a couple of years back, as this heinous disease ate into her brain.

            Mom gave us all so much, and I will hold her love and her influence in my heart and in my memory for many years to come, hoping to follow in some small way, the shining example she set for me.
Crazy old lady who never lost her sense of humor!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kitchen Remodel- Chapter Two!

Hubby's favorite TV program these days is Holmes on Homes.. an HG TV reality show where a guy named Mike Holmes, a Canadian contractor do-gooder, rescues helpless homeowners from un-scrupulous contractors who botch up the job while constructing or remodeling their homes. The modus operendii is that every time Holmes and crew remove a wall, or look up in the attic they find things as they shouldn't be... and of course the job gets bigger and bigger as our hero's right the wrongs left by the villains.

Well, the good news in our remodel is that we have found nothing major. And there is no real bad news... just little irritants that crop up that make the job harder, longer, more complex. We have a gem of a contractor, a young hard working guy who is one of the most punctual people I have ever met- gotta love that! He also has "people" -  Well qualified hard working electrical, gas and drywall guys who show up when they say they will, and who even clean up after themselves... lucky us!
New hood install required 1 electrician, 1 general contractor and 1 non-union supervisor!
Time in attic: 45 minutes. Time pulling wires: 30 minutes. Time hanging hood 60 minutes (+/-)
Time spent kibitzing with supervisor charged at overtime! 

The hood install went nearly seamlessly- as well as pulling wires for the new pendant lights over the bar. The instructions, written in Canadian French then translated to English were a little confusing at first, but our intrepid team used their combined creativity, ingenuity and experience to a most successful outcome. It's amazing how the addition of a range hood changes the overall atmosphere of a kitchen. Mine was transformed from cute and "cottage-y"  to  "a serious cook lives here" just in the course of a Saturday morning.
Testing the broiler with a side of salmon and stove top with sauteed vegtables proves the new range is fully operational
On Thursday, the DiNiccio brothers, Dino and Dave came and installed our new range! The old electric downdraft from hell which shall remain nameless was carted out to the front porch, and by noon my beautiful new Electrolux double oven dual fuel range was operational. We love new toys around here, and before the weekend was over we had used all four burners, the broiler and the oven. The only part left untouched is the bottom oven which is basically an  warming drawer, but will bake at 450 degrees! My new range has more bells and whistles than I may ever use, but I am looking forward to bread proofing, dehydrating and slow cooking in addition to regular baking. We have so far baked scones, and cookies, and broiled a side of salmon. But the real joy is in cooking on top, which we have proven by already making a huge pot of chicken soup, fajitas, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, bacon and sauteed vegetables.  The flexibility and control of gas cook top burners just makes cooking  so much more pleasurable.
Today, the serious work began, along with camping in ones own home without a functional kitchen. The counter -tops came off and the old sink is now laying in the garage ready to be hauled off to Habitat for Humanity re-store. Contractor Geary installed the supports for the new sink, a granite composite Blanco single bowl, so tomorrow Josh will come and make the templates for the new stone counter-tops! Dishes will now be washed in the laundry sink in the garage, and the coffee pot is set up and ready for brew tomorrow morning on the bathroom vanity. Himself, the shopper guy, will make a trek to Costco for a big stack of compostable paper plates, and we will warm freezer meals in the microwave to avoid having to wash pots and pans! Thankfully, a dinner invitation or two is looming on the horizon, and a short visit to the home of the Portland daughter will relieve several days of kitchen misery.

The little irritants? Jury rigged electrics in the attic, a big hole in the floor under the range where the previous downdraft vent went and unsafe wiring for the garbage disposal that was stuffed inside a conduit which made it look good. Ugly, icky foam that had been blown in under the Formica in our garden window, which is a mess to clean up, but is revealing a nice clean level surface on which to install slate tile.  We're still waiting for a light fixture that was supposed to have been delivered on Thursday from a big box store, and no-one seems to be able to find it.

The final blow? When the counters came off, it became readily apparent what a lousy housekeeper I am... amazing what hides in all those cracks and crevices!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Kitchen Remodel - Chapter One

The shine wore off the kitchen in our cute little house about 4 months after we moved in. Oh! it looked great: Stainless steel appliances; Sink that appeared brand new; Beautiful well made glass front cabinets; And a Formica pattern that I had seen and loved for years.

Then the reality of the stove from hell set in! The brand name of this unacceptable so called kitchen range shall be withheld here to avoid the possibility of litigation-  suffice to say it is a four burner electric with downdraft ventilation.

An important fact to note here is that I had my dream kitchen in Payson before moving to Gig Harbor. A 36" Thermador Pro range which sported 6 burners and huge oven afforded me the opportunity to really cook on 6 burners, and bake to my heart's content. That range even had an infrared broil unit.. just like the big boys in the expensive restaurants use! Leaving that range behind was like leaving an old friend.  But I digress!

I've never been a fan of electric cook tops, so imagine my dismay when I discovered the coil burners on the range I inherited  here were after market, didn't fit properly, and worse, didn't heat evenly and consistently. After enduring regular whining, unending complaints and blue language emanating from the kitchen for a few months, my helpful other half diligently sought and acquired  what he thought would be the answer to my problems: halogen glass top inserts! AAARRGH!

   If you've ever tried to regulate the heat on a ceramglass top.. you know the problem. Certain pots work better than others... don't try using anything with a ridge around the bottom like a Le Cruset dutch oven or grandmas old cast iron skillet. Don't even think about putting a granite canner with a 14" bottom on it and expect to heat 4 gallons of water. What good are these things any way? Oh- right... you can boil pasta or maybe fry an egg.

And then, there is the problem of ventilation. Boiling pasta, making soup, reducing stock, steaming vegetables, all reasonable processes in a kitchen, release steam into the air. It's really best not to have steam  drifting up into the corners of the kitchen ceiling, and who knows where else all that moisture ends up. Perhaps you would wonder, at this juncture why I don't simply turn on the exhaust system?

Take a second look at the picture above. See that long skinny black section between the burner inserts? It is the exhaust intake. Right. It's a downdraft. In high school science, I learned that heat rises, and usually steam, smoke, and fumes go with it! S0! Picture this: A tall 12 quart pasta or stock pot filled with boiling liquid. I never learned how to calculate what percentage of steam comes off a boiling cauldron, but I do know that steam rising about 12-15 inches off the surface of a stove top is not easily sucked below. The roaring vibrating fan which is supposed to swallow all of that steam shakes the stove, vibrates the pot, and makes cooking a most raucous and unpleasant experience.

And so it begins! A mini-remodel of our kitchen which will include upgraded lighting, new stone counter tops, a new under mount sink, and best of all! A brand new Electolux dual-fuel 30" slide in range with, of course, a natural gas cook top. It also has a convection oven (always wanted one of those),  with bread-proofing, slow cooking and dehydration settings and even a warming drawer! But what about ventilation you ask? An overhead stainless steel 30" x 36" hood, with a 600cfm blower! Take that pasta pot, stock pot and canner!

We'll be losing a little of the visual open space between the kitchen and the dining area, but the cook will be so much happier. And in theory, a happy cook should produce better tasting and more elegant meals. Stay tune for pictures of work in progress and dinner invitations forthcoming!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What a Gift!

Much is said these days about the value of giving experiences instead of material items as gifts. It takes imagination and heartfelt interest in the personalities involved to be able to organize and execute a gift as memorable as one we received for Christmas and our January wedding anniversary. Nearly two weeks after the experience we are still reminiscing about what a wonderful experience it was, and how perfectly suited to my spouse and I it turned out to be. Our children discovered the Whale Cove Inn and Restaurant Beck on an anniversary excursion of their own last year, and thought their aging parents might enjoy an overnight and gourmet meal in this lovely setting. 

Each of the eight suites of the Whale Cove Inn opens onto a private balcony which looks out over the cove.
  We arrived in Depoe Bay, (which is located South of Lincoln City and North of Newport, OR)  mid-afternoon on January 27. Although the weather forecast was favorable, we didn't hold out much hope for sunshine- let alone 60° temperatures. Mother Nature must surely have known this was a special occasion for us however, and smiled sweetly on our day. Dozens of harbor seals were sunning themselves on the rocks just at the head of cove at low tide, while sea otters frolicked in the gentle surf amid the bobbing heads of giant kelp.  

Sylvia was minding the desk when we checked in, helped with our luggage and graciously gave us a tour of the Inn and an orientation to our high tech quarters.  The Whale Cove Inn is built on the site of an old motel and restaurant. Redesigned and built with the idea of rest and relaxation in mind, this specialty boutique hotel offers the ultimate in design, comfort and decor. Understatedly elegant, with a slightly Asian flair, the soft colors, mixed textures and tasteful artwork offer visitors a comfortable, peaceful respite from the rigors of everyday life.

Entering the lobby, visitors are greeted by this beautiful orhid display
 Hubby napped while yours truly explored the premises, camera in hand, trying to capture the magic of this most magnificent day, and this lovely, peaceful place. Sylvia and I  visited for a little bit, sharing whale stories, and while we did not exchange names and contact information, I found in her a kindred spirit.
As the winter sun began to sink toward the horizon, it was time to take our seats at our reserved table in Restaurant Beck,  the gourmet restaurant located within the Inn. Beck is owned by Justin and Stormee Wills, and offers the freshest, most creative and  delicious food imaginable. Chef Justin is CIA trained and sources his ingredients from local farms, foragers and fishermen whenever possible. Energetic Stormee manages the dining room and looks after guests with explanations of the descriptions on the menu, and suggestions for course choices and wine pairing.

Our deckside window at Restaurant Beck (photo courtesy of Beck)
We doddled over a bottle of wine while the sky turned from blue to pink and finally to amethyst, while the surf roared below.
  Next came the challenge of making choices from Becks enticing menu. The mouthwatering fragrances  emanating from the kitchen all afternoon, gave us a preview of delectable flavors to come. The solution to indecision was that we would each choose different items from the menu, and share tastes of each. as you can see below, the choices were difficult to make!

Needless to say, every bite was beyond delicious, perfectly executed and presented. What would I recommend from this menu? Anything that strikes your fancy! No diner could possibly leave Beck disappointed. Chef Wills serves the sort of cuisine that is so beautiful you almost hate to put a fork into it, but once the first morsel is in the mouth, it should be savored ever so slowly, to make the experience last as long as possible.
Retiring to our suite after dinner, we relaxed in the comfortable furnishing of the sitting area, and yours truly could not resist the jacuzzi on the balcony, complete with sea salts provided by the Inn. Sitting out of doors, listening to the waves crashing on the rocks below, catching a glimpse of stars between wafts of steam rising from the hot water, was an ethereal experience this writer would like to repeat very soon. Sinking into a kingsized temperpedic mattress dressed in the most perfectly pressed Egyption cotton linens brought us to the end of a most wonderful day.

Our heartfelt thanks to all who helped make this lovely celebration happen for us: Cathyn & Michael and Family, JC & CJ, the propritors and staff at the Whale Cove Inn, and Restaurant Beck! 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Of Hebes and Hellebores

Hebe jeebie! I never knew a plant named Hebe existed until I moved to the Pacific  NW,  but what wonderful plants they are. Hebe's comprise the largest genus of plants native to New Zealand, where there are about 90-100 species, and nearly all are evergreen. Most bloom, in shades of blue or white, but the most identifiable characteristic of a hebe is it's leaf pattern- normally 4 rows of opposite leaves, as if designed by a silk plant artist. There are tiny shrub hebes and small tree hebes to about 20 feet, and all are unfussy about soil type, or moisture as long as there is good drainage. Another wonderful characteristic of hebe is it's tolerance for a wide range of temperatures- maybe! That's why some of us get the jeebies when we are thinking about planting and growing them here. You see- this is a plant group that has been  propagated and introduced from several different temperature zones in New Zealand, French Polynesia and the Falkland Islands. Temperatures vary greatly in those regions from tropical to sub-zero, but of course not all hebes survive, let alone thrive in all of those climatic conditions.  Most hebes that we buy in the nurseries here say they are suited to USDA zones 8-10, meaning not too cold- not too hot. But here's the rub- I had hebes in my back yard that showed no sign of frostbite at 18 degrees f. last winter- but succumbed quickly to 25 degrees in December this winter!

Small shrub Hebe with tiny leaves, in a rain garden.
The picture above shows the only hebe in my garden that survived our early winter blast this year, and by all accounts should not be as happy as it is where it is situated. It is in a little catchment area of a downspout, in other words, very wet! But seemingly, most happy. It will aquire more leaves as the weather warms.

Another thing that gives gardeners the jeebies about hebes is pruning, as there is little, if any information about how, and when, or even if we should prune them. My experience has been that if they get leggy and out of control, a good hard pruning results in full, lush, controlled growth. If hebes freeze I have taken the same approach. When spring arrives, we'll see if the hebes I cut within 4-6 inches of the ground reappear. If so- "yippee", but if not, I'll probably go back to the garden center, buy a few to replace them and start again.
 By now, the reader is wondering "where do the hellebores enter into this story"? Below is a picture of a large leaf hellebore which will sport  a magnificent deep purple flower, that appeared growing up in the middle of a hebe I had transplanted from a friends garden about 3 years ago. There was no evidence of the hellebore until late last spring, when it appeared without warning. Three large leaves appeared first, then the flower, but because the hebe was quite large, one had to look closely through the branches to see the hellebore making it's way into the center of the hebe. My plan was to dig up the entire root ball this winter, separate the hebe from the hellebore, and replant each in a suitable place. When the hebe seemingly froze to the ground we cut it back, which pleased the hellebore immensly.

Hellebore which seemingly "appeared from nowwhere"
 Hellebores grow in far flung parts of the world, most coming from Europe. Although often referred to in Great Britain as "Christmas Rose", or "Lenten Rose", these names pertain more to bloom time than species as they are not related to roses at all, but rather are members of the family Ranunuclaceae. Hellebores will thrive in shade, most any soil as well as it is well drained, and are evergreen. They will live for decades in a large pot and require little care.
Purchased in fall, 2005, this "Ivory Prince" blooms each January with little or no maintenance!
Helleborus foetidus, "stinking hellebore" has lime green flowers and toothy leaves
This desert transplant gardener only ever dreamed of growing Christmas Roses and plants from New Zealand when she lived in Arizona... and is filled with wonder at the sight of  translucent papery blooms lifting their heads above shiny green leaves in the midst of the darkest January weather. Like a long lost friend suddenly re-appearing, the blooms bring joy to the heart.  And as for hebes, well I'll have to just go and buy some more if they freeze and don't recover, because they just make me happy to look at them! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Forcing the Season

In November and December, home and garden magazines are full of articles on forcing bulbs for the holidays. Amaryllis  kits are always popular gifts for those who love to watch things grow. But this writer wonders how on earth,  with everything else going on, does anyone have time to think about assembling containers, gravel and bulbs to grow something that takes 3-4 weeks?  Let alone find a place to display this flowering marvel amidst all the greenery and glass balls and garlands and candles and candycanes!
So! My solution is simply wait until the hilarity of the holidays has passes, life returns to winter glum, and everything and everyone needs a little cheering up. January 2nd or 3rd this year seemed like a good day to wash some nice glass containers, get the bulbs that never got planted in the fall together, fill the jars with pebbles, plant the bulbs, and wait. As our days become minutely longer, the dormant bulbs awaken from their year long slumber, yawn and stretch and begin to send up green shoots. Slowly at first, as if to test the air, the light and temperature, the green leaves of paperwhite, daffodill and hyacinth emerge.

Paperwhites and hyacinth are beginning to bloom

There is nothing like the color of fresh bright green to lift the spirits and offer the promise that yes, indeed, Spring will return once more. Our beautiful sunny day today brought out the first flowers of the paperwhites, and a nearly cloudless sky at sunset promises another moonlit night. I'm going to leave the blinds pulled up tonight. The moon is so bright, I think my bulbs may bask and grow in it's glow... and I will enjoy seeing the "Man in the Moon", as he rises to watch over me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blog break over!

1-11-11... ! Do numbers have significance? I don't know how magical or mystical these numbers are, but I do know that a string of 1's seem to be urging me to think about how small the number 1 is, and how powerful it can be.

We croon over baby's first step or first tooth and first birthday.

Neil Armstrong, in 1969 stepped out onto the surface of our moon and said "That's one small step for man... one giant leap for mankind".

Eating one less bite of what is on the dinner plate, resisting one ice cream cone or cookie, over time will result in significant weight loss.

Exercising one extra hour or day each week will make us healthier and more fit.

John F. Kennedy, our 35th President said  “One person can make a difference and every person should try.” One person killed him.

Fairy tales always begin with "Once upon a time..." and Sleeping Beauty sang "One day my prince will come..."

When we were kids, we each had one pair of school shoes, one pair of play shoes and one pair of shoes for Sunday School.

Insomniacs yearn for just one good night's sleep. Some things don't matter much "one way or the other".

We're encouraged to love one another, and many of us have one special one we love more than any other.

So on 1-11-11, this writer intends to start making one blog entry each week, one relating to gardening, one relating to food, one relating to family and community and one miscellaneous wild card each month for one whole year.