Category Archives: Travel

The Challenge – The Great Wall

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Bottom of the Great Wall

Today’s thought provoking question is: For What Challenge am I Grateful? And the Million Dollar ball dropped onto … Starting a climb to the top of the Great Wall in China and making it to the top.

My traveling partner Faye, a much younger and much fitter friend (think wildland firefighter fit) and I started up the steps, casually at first along with hundred of other tourists. Every so often there would be a landing as the stairs changed direction … think a very steep road of continuous switch-backs, though without any easy grade change. It was always straight up hill.

You’re asking so what’s so difficult about climbing some stairs? These stairs aren’t standard measurements, like climbing the Eiffel Tower, but are ever changing heights and depths; 6 inches, 9 inches, 15 inches, 4 inches and depths were like 10 inches, 26 inches, 8 inches … each one smooth, slick, and worn deep from millions of feet over thousands of years.  You can’t get into a climbing rhythm with changes like that. Add into the mix the count down clock given us by our tour guide; you have 1 hour here before we leave for the tea plantation.

From the top of the Great Wall

My thought was to climb a bit then stop for a photo op and return. That was not Faye’s thought, no, not at all. I’ve not come all the way to China to climb up this wall and stop part way.  Up we continued, at first I tried to keep pace with Faye’s running feet, but she soon out paced me. She would run up to the next landing, look down toward me and urge me on. Me? I fell into a trudge, a stair at a time, huffing and puffing as I tried to keep up with her.  Every now and again, I’d say, I’ve had it, this is it, I’m not going any farther. And Faye, friend that she is, would yell back at me, you can do this and if you don’t I’ll tell everyone at work that you whimped out.  I wouldn’t let that happen, so I continued plodding up the stairs, pushing on my knees at times to keep them from shaking out from under me as I stretched for those extra tall steps.

Finally I could see the watch tower 100 steps above me and Faye’s face leaning over the path ledge urging me on, encouraging me to make that final grade, that final push.  As I gasped for air leaning against the base of the tower, Faye said, we can go inside and to the top of the tower … what? more stairs? She said, “I waited for you so we could go up together”.

Faye & Me at the Top of the Tower at the Top of the Great Wall

How grateful I am for Faye’s laughter and encouragement that helped me reach that pinnacle in the sky. If it weren’t for her shouting and calling and walking next to me I would not have made it to the top of the tower. Isn’t that how we reach success most often in our lives? We don’t really do things ‘ourselves’. We have cheerleaders, we have mentors, we have parents and friends, we have teachers and coaches guiding us, encouraging us to reach higher than we think we can. Encouraging us to see ourselves from the top of the tower and so we might feel the sweetness of success.

Like standing next to my friend looking down at the throngs of people at the base of the stairs at the bottom of the mountain, and saw them rather rapidly thin out as the climb steepened and sheer stamina alone couldn’t pull them up … like the 8 of us standing at the top of that tower, 4 pair of friends each standing in awe at what we had accomplished together.

That awe lasted just a few minutes then we ran sliding and slipping downward to meet our bus … we were the last ones on of course, but the only ones to reach the summit. (Yes, they had to wait longer than an hour, but not by much.)

Michelangelo’s David – Pure Joy

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I was not prepared for the overpowering, breath-taking beauty of Michelangelo’s David as we entered the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence Italy.

The magnificence and perfection of the young David in the strength of his faith and youth brought me to tears. Not just wet eyes, but tears running freely down my face bursting forth from the overwhelming joy I felt witnessing such beauty.

How grateful I am to have stood in awe and wonder of Michelangelo who brought forth perfection from marble that joy continues to live in my heart and fills my soul. Michelangelo’s David is the piece of art for which I am most grateful. 

 

Fall: sweetness of summer & gateway to winter

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Fall Hike with Mala

For what season am I most grateful? Fall. Fall … all of it and in Fall I include late summer and later Indian summer and no snow early winter. I think that covers the stretch.

Fall … Fall Harvest. The mid-morning sun that beckons me out for the final garden day.  It’s that day, that day to pull on my favorite garden gloves and pick and dig up the final products of summer.  Then I grab those plants by their tenacious roots; tug and twist until the root ball pops out into the air hanging tightly to the soil. I shake the dirt briskly off into the garden and then toss the now limp and wilted plants in the compost pile (or trash).

Fall … Fall Hikes … with air just cool enough for a jacket, not cold enough for boots. Leaves and twigs littering the ground and branches newly bared standing majestic in their bones. Fall sun … rosier, softer and more intimate having shed its blazing summer intensity.

Fall Bike Ride … Visions

Fall … Fall Smells … soup on the stove, fruit bubbling into jam, spices added to pies and cookies, dusty leaves crackling to broken bits as they’re kicked up the sidewalk a step at a time.

Fall … Fall Sounds … laughs that float a bit more clearly across the street, wind skittering leaves across the lawn, zippers before the door opens, geese exploding in clouds from disturbed fields chased by smiling bird dogs.

I sometimes feel like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, when I stop and think of my favorite things and the list goes on and on. Fall is my favorite time because it still holds the sweetness of summer and is the quiet gateway to winter; trees, and bushes, and plants and sometimes the sky bursting into blazing color and smells like the explosion of fireworks on the 4th of July. It is the downshift from summer that is why Fall is the season I love the best. 

Portland Food Odyssey — Shut My Mouth!

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Durfur Oregon

There are thousands, if not hundred’s of thousands of millions of words written about food; how to grow it, buy it, cook it, eat it. Words written attempting to describe a flavor or smell, texture or color of food.  I have a friend who is not a foodie; she’s described food as fuel and can eat the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner for days and be satisfied.  My sweetie on the other hand loves food; meal planning, purchasing, preparing is a joy for him and partaking of the finished result is most often a joy for me. Though at one time I did ask that he cut down on garlic … everything, no matter how distinct the dish sort of tasted the same.

With the hundreds of thousands of millions of words written I will not attempt to describe the foods we’ve enjoyed these past two weeks, but I will share a few of the restaurants, joints, bakeries, and spots that when you find yourself wandering around Portland you really should try. These places are in no particular order, and are spread all over the place.

Though it did start with an impromptu decision on our drive through the Columbia River Gorge to stay 12 miles south of The Dalles, OR at the Balch Hotel in Dufur. No that’s not a misspelling.  The hotel was built in 1907. Restored beautifully and located in a small town farming community which isn’t tumbling down and nearly deserted. Our room was full of antiques and original light fixtures, the bed and pillows were totally comfortable, and the claw foot tub was the highlight of the renovated modern bath. The morning’s surprise, the included breakfast was fresh with homemade yogurt and granola, sun-dried tomato and spinach omelet, a blueberry muffin, and fresh squeezed orange juice.  I think that breakfast was an omen of our forthcoming culinary ‘joys’.

After Sweetie did some urban forestry, removing some poorly placed old trees in son’s backyard we were taken on a 20 minute ride to try our first ever Khao Man Gai at where else? Nong’s Khao Man Gai … Rice, Chicken with Asian spices and too-die-for chicken broth soup.

Later that night we Google Mapped our way to downtown Portland located on Mississippi to taste oyster nectar at the Olympia Oyster Bar , just so you all know, I don’t eat raw oysters … they creep me out. I did have the seafood bucket overloaded with clams & mussels. Their bread was thick and rustic, just perfect for soaking up the liquid gold at the bottom of the tin. Sweetie’s son runs the kitchen and cooks (you don’t cook oysters) and sitting at the bar we watched him in action.

Remember that was just our first afternoon in town …

Breakfast was en’joy’ing perfectly cooked eggs, while sitting next to a lovely fireplace, on an enclosed patio at the Tin Shed Cafe, which is dog-friendly in case you wanted to know. They have a Fido Menu, served along with a dish of water for your furry friends.

Truly mouthwatering vegan, gluten-free lemon bars

Wandering through the Alberta District where the Tin Shed is located, we were introduced to what I think  is the first time I’ve eaten vegan, gluten-free baked goods where the sweets taste like desserts. Shut my mouth! Yep! On a scrumptious lemon bar. I heartily recommend the Back to Eden bakery … it’ll be worth the hunt for a parking space, I promise. And I don’t make promises lightly …

Mid-afternoon found the gaggle of us meeting at Cathedral Park and then a cross-town jaunt again downtown (where we found an actual parking garage) and later a very large bowl of fresh raman from at an eatery called ???? that’s right I don’t remember, but it was tasty and I can’t even tell you where it was. I nearly forgot brioche donuts from Blue Star Donuts … they were sold out of my favorite lemon poppyseed so I settled for spicy mexican hot chocolate (and a few other varieties that disappeared just as quickly)!

Can you believe I didn’t take any photos of dinner? No family snaps, snaps of food, or the building. you’ll just have to take my word that the Authentica Mexican restaurant was worth the hike after finding a parking spot a few blocks down the street. Opps! I almost tried to describe the food… I’ll just say “try it ” we loved the Chili Relleno.

Come Saturday and topping off our food odyssey the daughter of my heart  had us over for brunch before we headed home … my mouth is watering thinking of it and I think I may have to try to recreate the potato, egg, and asparagus dish, and hope I don’t forget the fresh mango on the side.

After our tantalizing odyssey I’ve decided that we’re in a food rut .. a stuck-in-a-rut make the same easy favorite recipes when it’s time for a meal kind of rut; or when we head out for dinner we go the the same 3 or 4 places and it takes a road-trip and time with family and friends who really are foodies with a capital F to shake things up and get us thinking on another plane. My other local food plane will include trying that small, place down the street that’s tucked into the little shopping mall, stop at a new food truck … or that Bosnian sandwich shop whose parking lot is always full … I’m thinking of looking for a Khao Man Gai somewhere in Boise … well a girl can hope, can’t she?

Life is soooo good and tonight’s dinner is quail with mushrooms, asparagus and basmati rice.  See ya later friends … quoting Julia C. “bon appetite”!

4,530 Miles & Popcorn Crack

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Oven-Baked Popcorn — Beware! It’s Addicting

I’m eating oven-baked caramel popcorn (aka popcorn crack). A nibble becomes a taste, becomes a handful, becomes three handfuls, then what the heck! I’ll just eat the whole dang bag full. In lieu of eating the whole dang sack of popcorn and randomly wandering through the never-ending pages of Pinterest (which is as addicting as my popcorn crack) I started counting Wanderingkeri  miles … it started when I noticed the Escape-mobile turned 45,000 while driving to Council last night.

Then I thought of the miles I’ve driven just since November … from Boise to Riverton, Utah (baby shower 358 x 2), Boise to the gas station at Sweetzer Summit (meet Mom 1/2 way 193 x 2), Boise to Highland Utah for Thanksgiving (367 x 2), Boise to American Fork, Utah (funeral 369 x 2), Boise to Orem, Utah (help Mom move 378 x 2). Of course this includes the trips from Boise to Council (at least 5, I think @ 120 x 2) but not the miles around town, or the miles within the trips. (that’s just too OCD for me right now).

So the major legs of travel, point to point adds up to:  4, 530 miles and December isn’t even over yet!!

What to do these miles mean besides calluses on my rear end ? They mean LOVE, they mean FAMILY, they mean TRADITIONS …  a perfect trifecta. Better than this popcorn, but not by much! BTW  this is a great travel snack (you’ll want to bring extra – make a double batch).

Oven-Baked Popcorn aka Popcorn Crack

Pop 1 cup of popcorn & set aside

Melt 1 cup (2 cubes) butter

Add 2 cups brown sugar

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt

On medium heat bring mixture to a slow boil, then boil for 5 minutes

Remove from heat

Stir in 1/2 t baking soda

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla

When mixture becomes creamy, but still hot, gently pour over popped corn mixing as you pour (I put popcorn in a tall sauce pot so kernels don’t spill out)

Once popcorn is evenly coated, spread out onto a roasting pan or cookie sheet(s)

Place in Pre-heated 250 degrees F oven

Bake for 1 hour

Every 15 minutes using a spatula carefully turn popcorn over and separate kernel clumps.

Once out of the oven, tip onto the counter-top to cool, continuing to separate kernel clumps.

Once cooled store in large plastic storage or paper bags.

 

Merry Christmas my friends!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV #lighttheworld

 

Summer Over? No! I’m Not Ready … I’m in Denial

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North Fork Clearwater River … in the smoke at sunset … River on Fire

I hope you’ve been out doin stuff … We’ve been doin’ losts of fishing stuff these last months of summer and I’ve not been writin’ about doin’, oh I thought about it, but  why write if I could fish, or hike, or … but it really is fall now, isn’t it? Well, I’m not ready for summer to be over …  I’m in Denial! I’ve started praying for a long, lovely Indian Summer.

Sweetie and I have packed as much into the last months of summer and first weeks of fall as I have filled bottles and freezer bags with the abundance from our garden. Whereas the jewel filled jars of peaches and Sweetie’s tomatoes sauce, and grapes are bottled shining reminders of those summer days, I took few photographs to jog my memory of these past weeks and months, but lots and lots of memories. (uhh, like watching Wade submerge in the Owhyee, hat only floating atop the water … or me submerged LOL).

I can tell you that here out west we were still dealing with the awesome winter of 2016-17  until mid-August or so … the rivers were scoured out; river beds and banks torn asunder and high water debris in many places 10-20-30 feet above the water line. Powerful and mighty torrents of snow melt crashed through these canyons. There was little to not very good fly fishing until mid-summer, but then woah! Nelly.  We hit the road, and went into fishing mode full time. Did we catch fish? Lots of fish (catch & release folks), except for one rainbow who became dinner.

Jill & Me on the North Fork with Maggie & Mala dogs

After early August fish camp  and the total solar eclipse we really got down to summer business.  Leaving Sweetie at home working, my fishing friend Jill and I headed to the North Fork of the Clearwater River in northern Idaho for a girls only trip … for those of you who couldn’t come this year, remember the invite is open for next!

The fishing was exciting and I lost as many flies and line on BIG fish as I caught … thinking about it makes my heart pump a bit faster. The air was smokey from the huge fires that burned through Montana and Oregon all summer and though we coughed and couldn’t see stars, the smoke filter made for some beautiful sunsets.

Fun Fishing Group … Me, Tommy, Greg, George, Paul, & Jim …

Then we had more than several days on the Owyhee and more days on the South Fork of the Boise … and I came home “fished out”.  I never thought that would happen, but I was like “Nope! I’m staying home … clean the garden, mow the pasture of a backyard, bottle those peaches gathering fruit flies and…and…and…”

However, after a few weeks off, tomorrow I’m going to find a riffle or two and spend a couple of hours listening to Fall. My Sweetie has moved into hunting mode: elk, upland game, and so on and so forth…so I’ll be on my own. Which is mucho okay, as solitude rejuvenates my soul since I’m an introvert in disguise. I know, you’d never guess would you?

Today’s weather is supposed to be rainy … it’ll be a great introvert day.  Enjoy your days my friend.