Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Solstice Sunset

"The summer night is like a perfection of thought." - Wallace Stevens

It has been a long, wet spring, even for Northwest natives like myself. Spring is supposed to be our reward for dealing with the long, dark days of winter, but, this year it seems like the dreary weather is never going to retreat. Even the "weather people" have stated Oregon has seen the second wettest spring in 117 years of record keeping.

Yesterday, Mother Nature rewarded those of us in the Portland Metro Area for our patience (okay, maybe she just got really tired of all our whining) with not only the second 80+ degree day of the year, but a spectacular light show at sunset.

 As my husband and I were returning from a spectacular dinner at Twilight Pizza in Camas, we stopped on the Glenn Jackson Bridge as we crossed the Columbia River to snap some pictures with our phones. I have not stopped lamenting the fact I didn't have my real camera with me to capture such an amazing work of art in the sky.

I guess the pictures just prove, it doesn't matter if you have the fanciest equipment made to capture a great image, when you have such a beautiful landscape to work with!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pork Therapy

"Porkchops and Bacon. My two favorite animals." - Homer Simpson

Normally this blog is dedicated to the adventures of my family and I as we go out and explore the world from behind the lens of a camera. I had such a wonderful experience at the Crystal Food Garden in St. John’s this past Saturday that I am going to have to take a bit of a detour just to share it with you.

The Crystal Food Garden is a food cart “pod” located on the corner of Lombard and Richmond, in the heart of St. John’s. This neighborhood has experienced quite the transformation in the past few years, but one thing that has not changed is the sense of community. As a result, the manager of the “pod” is starting an outdoor community market, which just happens to coincide with the St. John’s Farmer’s Market, which happens just a few blocks up the street (and does not include craft, art and service vendors). My friend Kerri (who you may know as Earringopia from her beautiful jewelry) and I decided this was a great opportunity to get out, enjoy the sunshine, and meet some great new people, while showing off our respective wares. The fact that this would be on the same lot as some great looking food carts was an added bonus.

Earringopia and Wahkeena Photo's Booth

Whenever we do these events, we can always count on a few friends (you know who you are) coming down to hang out with us, which is always so appreciated. This time we had the added bonus of the beautifully landscaped grounds, the many picnic tables, and the food carts to feed us, when lent to an extra enjoyable time had by all.

Our friend Kari and her daughter Sophia stopping by the booth.

Many great food items were sampled. The iced tea and drunken noodles from Anya’s Thai, the pulled pork sandwich from Savvy J’s, but there was one runaway favorite: STICK-IT.

My love of all things pork is well known. Who else do you know that makes salted bacon fudge or plans trips around the best stops for biscuits and gravy? So how could I turn down a whole pork chop on a stick? This was something I absolutely had to sample.

STICK-IT brines their pork chops for at least 24 hours before cooking. I am not sure what is in their mixture, and I know enough about chef etiquette not to ask for his secrets (though I really wanted to try and get it out of him). They are then grilled on a flaming hot grill.

My pork on the grill.
After being grilled to perfection, they are skewered and served on a stick. None of the normal pesky forks and knives are needed, just eat it like a caveman. Yes, people, I present to you: the “Pork Chop Lollipop”--a phrase I am happy to have coined and not yet copyrighted. Quite literally, once of the best pieces of pork to ever cross my lips, which is certainly saying something.

Pork chop lollipop
We had such a great time last Saturday that we will be returning this weekend. The fact that there are pork chop lollipops in such close proximity may or may not be one of the major contributing factors. Kerri and I thought it would be great fun if we got a group of people together to hang out and sample this culinary delight (along with the others available here) this Saturday when we return. So, what do you say? Pork Chop Lollipop Gathering, 2:00ish, at the Crystal Food Garden in St. John’s? We would love to see you all there!!

PS: If you don’t love pork as much as I do, STICK-IT also offers rib eye steaks, chicken and corn, and yes, they all come on a stick.

Kerri will also have a limited supply of bacon cinnamon rolls for the early birds. So, if you can't make the official pork gathering and arrive before the food carts open around noon, we will still have some delicious treats for you. But only while supplies last.

Getting there:

The Crystal Food Garden is located on the 8200 block of North Lombard, on the corner of Richmond. There is plenty of parking available both in the adjacent lot and on the street. If you don't drive, the area is served by four different bus lines.

The St. John's Community Market is open from 10:00 to 6:00, a few blocks down Lombard from the St. John's Farmers Market, just before you enter the heart of downtown St. John's.

Related Links:

Crystal Food Garden

St. John's Farmer's Market 

Note: The farmer's market does not include any craft, art, or service booths.

STICK-IT (@foodonastick on Twitter)

Earringopia on Etsy

Wahkeena Exposures Photography on Etsy

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Nature's Work of Art: The Painted Hills of Oregon

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.” 
 - Alice Walker

For the whole trip, we had only pre-planned one portion of the entire itinerary, other than breakfast in Mitchell, and that was to visit The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. After that, the rest of our trip would be wherever the road and our whimsy happened to take us.

Map courtesy of ODOT
I first heard about the Painted Hills a couple of years ago. A relative posted some pictures on Facebook from a visit his family made there, and not only could I not believe I had never heard of this place, but, I instantly, absolutely, had to go there. Turns out, I am not the only one who had not heard of it. When I told people where I was going, they had either never heard of them, or they only had some sort of vague recollection of hearing about them. In my opinion, they are a hidden treasure, and it is a shame more people don’t make the journey out there to see such a natural wonder.
Painted Hills from Overlook
This was our second visit to the area. We visited a couple of years ago shortly after I “discovered” them, while my niece was visiting from San Diego. Unfortunately, on that trip, my old point-and-shoot camera was damaged in an unfortunate fossil-digging accident, so I had no “decent” pictures of the place. I have just been waiting for a good excuse to go back--especially after getting my “new” camera.

My girls enjoying the view from the overlook
The Painted Hills are a place that no matter how many times you have seen them, they will always inspire awe and wonder. Words and pictures don’t seem to do them justice, especially when you are standing in front of them. Looking down at the combination of colors nature has put together over thousands of years is something that is best done in person. Each hill is a little different from the others: blacks, reds, golds, purples, whites and greens. It's like a painter’s palate where all the colors have been smeared together by water and wind.

(And so ends my attempt at poetry.)

We spent a fair amount of time at the “main” overlook, at the largest grouping and most photographed hills of the unit. We were lucky that the rain we had complained about on our drive the afternoon before had actually cleared the air and made the colors even more vibrant. Plus, the wildflowers were blooming--something that had been missing on our previous visit. The only thing that was lacking was some bright, blue sky, but after the spring we have had in Oregon, you take what you can get.

Sage, Sagebrush and my dog Sara.
Our next stop was the “Painted Cove” trailhead. I hesitate to call this hiking at all. I don’t think the loop here is maybe half a mile, if that. However, this trail does have something that none other has: I do believe this is the closest I will ever get to walking on Mars.

Painted Cove Trail
When you round the corner on the faux wood boardwalk trail, surrounded by the cracked, red soil of the hills, you honestly feel like you are on another planet. Both Sage and I joked about a Martian popping up around the corner.
Close up of hill surface

My aspiring photographer
Alas, there was only one very camera-shy lizard waiting for us.

After a little more exploring, we hopped back in the RV to go drive “The Loop” that Gravy Lady had mentioned to us earlier over breakfast, anxious to see what else the road would offer today.

Visiting the Painted Hills

Below are some great websites for planning your own visit to the Painted Hills: