Sugared Cranberries

9 12 2014

IMG_8537A festive bowl of sugared cranberries merits a place at my buffet table for special occasions and certainly commands a spot during the holidays. Sugared cranberries resemble frosty winter berries and pair nicely with traditional menus and décor. My sister-in-law first served them, and I immediately snatched the recipe.

Early Native American tribes gave cranberries a variety of names until Dutch and German settlers dubbed them “crane berries” after the red on crane birds. Cranberries grow in bogs and are one of the few fruits native to North America. The Pacific Northwest grows and harvests cranberry crops along the Pacific coast from British Columbia to Oregon. Oregon is the fourth largest national cranberry producer followed by Washington, host of the Cranberry Coast from Grays Harbor to the Long Beach peninsula. Most PNW cranberry farmers sell to the company Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. based in the east.

Sugared cranberries’ beauty marries perfectly with their berry tartness and sugary sweetness. This superfood delivers powerful antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. I wish I could serve you some right now, but I can pass on the recipe!

Sugared Cranberries

  • 2 C fresh cranberries
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 C water
  • ¾ C superfine sugar (put extra granulated sugar in a blender or coffee grinder)

Mix granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and immediately remove from heat (boiling water can cause cranberries to pop open). Stir in cranberries and pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving liquid if desired which makes great simple syrup. Put superfine sugar in a shallow dish, add the cranberries and roll to coat. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet and leave at room temperature for one hour or until dry. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week.


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Why Hang a Bat Box

30 10 2014

batboxMost people do not share my love of bats. I don’t think they’re creepy; I think they’re adorable. These flying mammals have cool wings with two thin skin layers stretched over an arm, a thumb, and four very long fingers. Bats don’t flap these wings to fly but pull themselves through the air. They also use their wings to hold objects and even crawl across the ground. That’s pretty comical. I marvel at their knack for hanging out upside down. It comforts me when they fly about my neighborhood at night, knowing they are gobbling up bugs that might otherwise land on me. Bats consume hundreds of insects every hour.

I grew up near a hill in Oregon that hosted a bat cave not far from my property. I’m no expert, but my guess is they were known as The Little Brown Bat (Myotis Lucifugus) recently renamed Little Brown Myotis. On extra hot summer nights when I took a late dip in our pool, I swam as bats swooped down for sips during their hunts. I welcomed their nocturnal company. Late one evening in Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania in Transylvania, I fell ill and walked alone across town to my room. I passed a large tree near the center of town where thousands of bats congregated. Their flights to and from the tree formed a black cloud in the night sky, and their loud communication broke the silence of a sleeping town. I paused and appreciated this unforgettable experience.

Bats are sociable creatures as most live in groups for as long as 20 years. They include over a thousand different species ranging in size from about a peanut to a wingspan comparative to an average man. Most bats communicate through echolocation, making noise and waiting for the echo. That’s how they detect the distance of an object and determine their safety margin for flight. Speaking of flight, bats are the only mammals able to fly continually, because Flying Squirrels actually only jump long distances.

Bats thrive all over the world except in extreme deserts and polar regions, so your chance of having bat neighbors (not batty neighbors—well, we all have those or might be one!) is extremely high. Bats don’t just live in caves. Bats like dying trees and abandoned buildings, or at least ones that have tight, dark spaces with little activity. PIMG_4488roviding a bat box in an ideal location attracts bats and puts them to work for you. Most bats eat insects, but some prefer fruit, fish, small mammals, and reptiles. Ok, I admit, three species of vampire bats live on blood alone. Their teeth, however, are so small and sharp that they pierce preys’ skin undetected. That’s impressive, in a way. If you want a hunter hard at work while you sleep, post a bat box on your property.

The celebration of Halloween spotlights bats on décor, paper products, toys, candy bowls and food items. Bats are frightening symbols meant to be scary, but I don’t buy it. I know I’m out on a limb on this one—and that’s okay with me.


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Quick Pumpkin Bread

7 10 2014

IMG_8178 (2)My family loves pumpkin bread and my traditional recipe, but I often lack the time or ingredients to throw a loaf together between activities, homework, and everything else needing accomplishment. I needed a quick recipe that satisfied everyone’s cravings for pumpkin bread. After trial and error, I created this pumpkin bread recipe that makes my household happy from baker to consumer.

Quick Pumpkin Bread Recipe

  • 1 15oz box of spice cake mix
  • 1 15oz can of pure pumpkin
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Optional add-ins: chocolate chips, chopped pumpkin seeds (pepitas), raisins

Mix ingredients together and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes for muffins, 20-30 minutes for a 9×9 or 7×11 bread, or 45-60 minutes for a loaf.

Depending on your preferences, you can leave out the spices or add-ins or adjust the amounts. This pumpkin bread recipe is easy and forgiving and will adapt to your taste!

Note: Duncan Hines offers a cake mix that is dairy-free or vegan.


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Horsethief Lake State Park

25 09 2014

I’ve heard of Horsethief Lake State Park for years, a place where my newlywed parents hunted Native American arrowheads along the Columbia River banks and viewed ancient petroglyphs (carvings) and pictographs (paintings) among the rocky terrain. The place intrigues me, so I took my adventurous family on a getaway to The Dalles, Oregon. No agenda. Just to explore. My youngest son’s main objective was spotting a rattlesnake. My daughter and I are the non-venomous snake catchers in the family, so that was fine with us. Even though this trip did not produce a rattler, my daughter did point out an American Porcupine scurrying away from our path.

Horsethief Lake State Park sits on the Washington state side of The Dalles Dam and Bridge in Dallesport, directly off SR 14 near milepost 86 about ninety miles east of the Portland/Vancouver Metro area. This National Historic Site hosted the Lewis and Clark Expedition in October 1805 and received a spot in their famous journals. The original site, called the Wishram Indian Village by Upper Chinook tribes, remains the largest prehistoric Chinook site. Wishram, Lishkam, and Cloud tribes camped there during fishing season. The Dalles Dam flooded the site in the 1950s, burying most of its history while creating a ninety-acre lake and state park named by workers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This desert area ripe with Native horse herds and flanked by rocky cliffs reminded them of classic horse thief hideouts.

IMG_7659Ancient Wanapum basalt flows created one such cliff called Horsethief Butte. It won my hiker’s heart and I am anxious to get back to its trailhead. This easy one-mile dirt trail overlooks Horsethief Lake and the park area, the Columbia River, The Dalles, and the Columbia River Gorge. It winds past crags, ravines, pictographs, petroglyphs, and rock climbing sites. Each season produces its own show of desert flora and fauna, and the constant danger of walking into the path of venomous snakes and poison oak. A split from the main trail presents a short but steep, rocky climb over the peak. I stepped over a small, loose rock marked with a petroglyph and hoped others would leave it just like I did. Kevin and the boys wanted to explore that area further, so my daughter and I descended back to the main trail and followed it above the river. Halfway out and entirely exposed at the top of the butte, thunder rumbled and large raindrops suddenly pelted us. We ran toward the parking lot that was a distance away. Gusts of wind turned into a steady force that drowned out our communication. We met the boys on our way back and together leaped and scrambled over the rocky path. Thunderstorms cut my hike short. I must return.

IMG_7576I also must return to Horsethief Lake State Park to join a guided tour of the petroglyphs and pictographs considered some of the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. The well-known face named “Tsagiglalal” or “She Who Watches” is both a painting and a carving and only can be viewed with a park ranger. Guided tours require reservations and take place at 10 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Call 1-509-767-1159 to reserve a free tour. Even though most stones were buried by the river changes, many are available for view along the self-guided Temani Pesh-wa Interpretive Trail adjacent to the parking lot. They were saved from vandals, moved and grouped along a short, paved path. Only a rudimentary wooden fence separates people from the petroglyphs and pictographs. It’s a photographer’s and historian’s dream. Really, if you can make it, don’t miss it.

The Dalles Mountain Ranch and Horsethief Lake State Park comprise part of the nearly 4000-acre Columbia Hills State Park where visitors camp, hike, swim, picnic, rock climb and more spring through autumn. The park is closed for winter. Day-use hours are 6:30 a.m. to dusk. A state park day-use permit costs $10 or the annual Discover Pass costs $30 per vehicle. For more information, go to or The 2014 Free State Park Days are September 27 and November 11.


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A Nod to Sun Hats

19 06 2014

IMG_6312-2The classic sun hat never goes out of style. This floppy beach hat’s vintage appeal looks just as charming accompanying a modern outfit or swimsuit. The traditional brim design ranges from four to seven inches wide, however, hats now come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials. Its original wide-brimmed design shades a person’s face, ears and shoulders from the sun, and most importantly, from harmful ultraviolet rays (UV).

IMG_1945-2Sun visors or mesh ball caps cannot offer nearly the same protection. Cancer awareness reveals extremely lethal melanomas are found on the scalp and neck, with twice the death rate of melanomas found on the face, ears, and other skin locations. Melanoma on the scalp is one of the most common but least diagnosed cancers. A classic wide-brimmed hat not only is super cute but also is a super effective sun protector.

IMG_6322I love my foldable, wrinkle-proof sun hat and try to remember to pack it along for outings. Admittedly, I’m more of a bandana or handkerchief-tied-on-the-head kind of girl, but with recent cancer studies and a penchant for anything vintage, I’ll be wearing my wide-brimmed hat more often. Join me!


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Pudding Dirt Cups

9 06 2014


IMG_5267-2The arrival of summer in the Pacific Northwest kicks off easy and fun snack season for the kids. Mine spend their time to and from water, on and off skateboards, back and forth with friends, and in and out of the house for snacks. Between keeping track of everyone and cleaning their tracks, I need to prepare and clean up snacks quickly. I’m sharing one of their favorites, The Pudding Dirt Cup. My version is the easiest! I’ll also give you a few variations on it.

IMG_5265My Pudding Dirt Cup is the easiest because it requires minimal steps and clean up, and only three ingredients:

  • Chocolate pudding cups
  • Gummy worms candy
  • Packaged crisp chocolate cookies

First, place the cookies in a sealed baggie and crush them into coarse crumbs using whatever resources you have nearby—even your hands. If you have cookies with frosting sandwiched between, it’s fine to leave it in because it gives your “dirt” some white speckles that resemble potting soil. Then, peel off the pudding cup lid and sprinkle your cookie dirt completely over the top of the pudding. Next, stick one to three gummy worms into and across the cookie dirt so they come out of and crawl over the soil. Last, serve excited kiddos!

IMG_5271-2If you want a more authentic container, make the Pudding Dirt Cup in a mini plant pot. If you use clay, due to toxins, I recommend scooping the pudding into a clear glass bowl nearly the same width as the pot and setting the bowl into the clay pot. If the glass is too shallow, then build it up underneath to the height of the rim of the pot. To adjust the amount of pudding needed, either combine multiple pudding cups or make your own.

If you want pebbles or grass on top of your soil, use chocolateIMG_5280 rocks or shredded coconut dyed green with food coloring. Instead of gummy worms, stick a flower into the pudding. If you add a real flower, however, use a nontoxic variety and wrap its stem in clear tape before it touches the food.

My final tip is to think outside the pudding cup container for occasions when those extra touches are worth the extra hassle. I’ve seen a dirt birthday cake in the back of a toy dump truck. It was adorable!

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The Adirondack Chair

15 05 2014

IMAG0091-1I love the Adirondack Chair. It’s comfortable. It’s functional. It’s classical. It beckons throughout any season to sit, relax, and set a steaming or refreshing drink on its signature wide armrests. The Adirondack Chair didn’t originate from the Pacific Northwest, but we’ve embraced it wholly on this coast. Whether the Adirondack Chair sits at a lodge in the Cascade Mountain Range or a cabin on the Pacific Northwest Coast, I slide into its slanted seat and unwind. In those moments, life slows down and my senses awaken.

We have Thomas Lee to thank for these masterpieces. Mr. Lee vacationed on Lake Champlain in Westport, New York in the Adirondack Mountain Range. IMG_1190-1He invented a chair in 1903 for his family who tested his designs and helped him perfect the “Westport Plank Chair.” He cut eleven pieces of wood from one plank, slanted the seat and back to keep upright on the uneven mountain ground, and made extra wide armrests to accommodate a drink. He shared his plans with his carpenter friend, Harry Bunnell, who promptly stole the design, started his own business, and received the U.S. patent for the “Westport Plank Chair” by 1905. Mr. Bunnell signed each chair, and vintage Bunnell chairs now sell for thousands of dollars. So, we also have him to thank for making these chairs public. Irving Wolpin modified and patented the modern Adirondack Chair in 1938.

Anytime you come across a Westport Plank, Adirondack or any other version, grab a cup (plates work well, too!), take a seat, and absorb your environment.


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