Crescent Moon Ranch

9 09 2015

IMG_1655-copyAn Alpaca herd grazing along the highway caught my family’s attention while traveling through Central Oregon. The emerald pastures and quaint 1911 white farmhouse of Crescent Moon Ranch incited an impromptu visit. Crescent Moon Ranch gleams like a jewel among the high desert’s craggy lava rocks, Juniper trees, and tumbleweed. The Cascade Mountain Range’s Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson, and Oregon’s beloved Smith Rock flank the ranch’s famous Alpacas.

Owners Scott and Debbie Miller welcome visitors at Crescent Moon Ranch and encourage guests to hand-feed the Alpacas, stroll along their pastures, and shop in The Alpaca Boutique, a former potato cellar. The Alpaca Boutique sells a variety of products including Alpaca clothing and home accessories, and other non-fleece mementos of a ranch visit. Shorn each spring, Alpacas produce 22 colors of fleece considered one of the softest and rarest natural fibers worldwide. Their fleece is even hypoallergenic.

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Crescent Moon Ranch set two world records when it separately bought and sold the most expensive Alpacas. The Millers’ championship breeding program includes breeding, raising, boarding, buying and selling Alpacas. Alpacas originated in mountainous regions of South America, providing warmth and revenue from their fleece, and as a food source. These herbivores are part of the camel family and cousins to llamas. Only two breeds of Alpacas exist. The common Huacaya breed’s crimped fleece resembles the classic Teddy Bear. The rare Suri breed’s fleece grows into long ropes similar to Dred Locks.

Experts describe Alpacas as gentle, intelligent, and shy. They reproduce one cria (baby Alpaca) per year during their lifespan of 15-20 years. The average adult weighs 125-175 pounds and measures 32-38 inches at its withers. The average cria weighs 15-20 pounds and nurses for six months, with mama already pregnant within a few weeks of each birth.

IMG_1701My family arrived at Crescent Moon Ranch in time to witness two simultaneous births in the pasture, from pregnancy to first wobbly steps. The newborn pictured is Ophelia’s handsome little guy. He was strong and determined to stand up despite the common interference of his curious herd. Crescent Moon Ranch and its visitors will enjoy seeing his personality develop!

Crescent Moon Ranch and the boutique are open for visitors daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 7566 N Hwy. 97 in Terrebonne, Oregon. The mailing address is PO Box 600, Terrebonne, OR 97760. For information, go to or call (541) 923-2285.

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Fossils Found at Beverly Beach State Park

26 06 2015

IMG_9946Beverly Beach State Park inhabits the north end of Newport, Oregon on the iconic Highway 101. Pacific Northwesterners flock to Beverly Beach for its ideal camping and day-use facilities, to catch a glimpse of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, and to regale on its picturesque beach. Two paths extending from the parking lot and nearest campground lead visitors under the highway bridge, over smooth cobblestone-like rocks, and onto an expanse of white sand dotted with piles of driftwood.

IMG_9949As if Beverly Beach State Park isn’t a find in itself, it conceals treasures unique to this Pacific Coast location. Poke around the driftwood and discover debris from Japan’s 2011 Tsunami tangled amid the ocean’s offerings. Please be respectful and mindful of the posted regulations regarding tsunami debris. Most beachcombers literally step over the most fascinating additions to collections: Fossils. Embedded among those rocks disrupting a clear path to the water’s edge lie thousands of ancient fossils etched into or forming stony figures. Even the most amateur paleontologists cannot miss these numerous fossils if they slow down and observe on the way to their coastal destination.

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Cooper’s Adoption Tale

15 05 2015


Adopting a dog became a monumental decision for my husband and I who had been petless throughout our marriage. The possibility of caring for a dog brought months of discussion and planning. Family chats teemed with avid promises from three children that they’d help with everything. (Yes, despite outside advice, I still fell for the “everything” promise.) Adopting a dog brought the likelihood of dirtier floors, hairier upholstery, less flexibility, and unavoidable trips outside despite the weather. Having a dog meant less money in our pockets in order to have a clean, healthy, legal pet. Were we ready? We were ready to give our children the experience of caring for and loving a dog of their own. We had an ideal situation with a fenced yard, a safe home, and someone present every day.

With the initial decision behind us, our next step was choosing the type of dog most compatible with our family. My husband wanted a small to medium-sized dog. I wanted one that didn’t shed much. The kids, of course, wanted a puppy. After narrowing down preferences, we opted for a type of spaniel, a breed I’d grown up with and adored. The puppy debate fell flat since the training inevitably would fall to me, and I did not want to start from scratch. And, honestly, I did not want a 15-year commitment of caring for a family pet into the empty-nester stage of life. It would be a sad transition for the children and for the dog during the college years and beyond. I lived it once and couldn’t bear to repeat it with my children.

So, after lengthy consideration, we decided to adopt a mid-life or senior dog. Everyone was comfortable with adopting a dog who was mostly trained and needed a suitable home in which to live out the remainder of its life. The closer we came to finding our senior dog, the more excited we all got about our decision. It became less about the logistics and all about unleashing our love and acceptance on the rejected.

For us, the pros outweighed the cons. Most likely, an older dog would have some habits needing redirection. Signs of aging, neglect or abuse could be more evident. They are past the baby-cute age and might be scruffy, unidentifiable mutts. On the flip side, they usually have some training. Mature dogs are fully-grown, which means no unforeseen growth spurts. With a little grooming and training, they only improve. You can deal with any signs of health issues upfront. The biggest pro: Providing a good home to a pet who probably has been disregarded only because of age.

I support good, responsible breeders and their clients. I understand buyers of puppies. But, I encourage people to adopt from shelters, foster organizations, and homes. I’ll go a step further and ask people to consider adopting an older pet.

I saw our Cocker Spaniel, Cooper, online. It was love at first sight. He had the sweetest face with big, brown eyes. When I inquired about him, I was surprised he was available still. The foster caretaker was surprised someone specifically was interested in him. A dog I thought couldn’t possibly still be adoptable was the rejected one. Why? He was not young.

My phone call came just as Cooper had arrived back from another Pet Adoption Weekend at a local pet store. He had been overlooked for many weeks by shoppers searching for puppies, or at least, younger dogs. Not one person took an interest in Cooper. He watched fellow foster dogs get adopted while he made weekly trips between the foster home and the pet store. One by one, they left. He stayed.

Cooper initially landed at the foster home after a local no-kill shelter called in a favor of a foster caretaker. Authorities had removed Cooper from his original home due to abuse and neglect. Despite great care at the shelter, he was not thriving. He refused to eat. He trembled continuously. His eyes remained bloodshot due to stress. I cannot imagine seeing my dog in that state. In our home, he became a content, relaxed couch potato living for snacks, tug-of-war, and car rides.

I am grateful for that shelter staff person who went above his duty to ensure Cooper received the best care in the interim. He could’ve disregarded Cooper’s terror and continued on with his duties to so many others, but he paused, noticed a frightened dog, and gave him a chance by proactively finding him a foster home. I’m also thankful for foster caretakers who open their homes to transitional animals.

Older pets aren’t only available at shelters and foster homes, but also from their owners through ads or word-of-mouth. They’re ideal pets who need a new home for various reasons such as a move, lack of finances, or an owner’s health challenges. Don’t discount these pets because of their ages. Give yourself the gift of a wonderful, settled companion and give them the gift of a loving home.

I have never regretted choosing my senior dog. Whatever pet is in my future, I guarantee my heart will lead me to one in its golden years.

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The Stone House

25 02 2015

IMG_9243The Stone House in Portland, Oregon resembles the remains of a fairy tale cottage nestled in the woods along a creek. Ferns grow from its mossy, cobbled wall ending at steps leading to the upper level. Empty, stone-ledged windows accent the arched doorways and draw the eye toward a peaked roofline open to the sky. A lower-level entrance draws visitors inside a dark, windowless room coated in graffiti and condensation. The Stone House transports admirers to another era.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built this landmark in the mid-1930s during the Great Depression as a public restroom for hikers. The Stone House functioned as a beloved rest stop until the Columbus Day Storm of 1962. Irreversible storm damage along with continual vandalism forced the city to gut the interior and leave it in disrepair. Locals nicknamed it the Witch’s Castle. Its shell still stands in Forest Park. Forest Park encompasses over 5,000 acres and 80 miles of trails, making it the largest urban forest park in America. This seven-mile stretch of forest reserve lies west of downtown Portland in the Tualatin Mountains, also called the West Hills.

A brief stroll along the Upper Macleay Trail or the Lower Macleay Trail gets visitors to the Stone House in less than a mile either way. Committed hikers may access the house from the Wildwood Trail originating at Washington Park. The Upper Macleay Trailhead parking lot is next to the Audubon Society of Portland that merits its own visit. The Upper Macleay Trail switchbacks down a gulch, crosses over and follows Balch Creek.

Balch Creek is named after Danford Balch, the original landowner and the first man to be legally executed in Oregon. Mr. Balch hanged for shooting and murdering his new son-in-law on November 18, 1858 just 14 days after his eldest daughter rebelliously eloped with the family’s hired hand, Mortimer Stump. The property then changed owners many times until Donald Macleay gave a portion of it to the city of Portland in 1897 for a park to be enjoyed by all.


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A Pacific Northwest Delicacy

12 02 2015

TIMG_8903he Pacific Northwest grows the best food in the world, whether tended in our backyards or back forties. Our profuse supply and variety of nuts and fruits inspired the production of a beloved local treat called Aplets & Cotlets by Liberty Orchards in Cashmere, Washington.

Founders Mark Balaban and Armen Tertsagian immigrated separately to America from Armenia in the early 1900s and eventually bought an apple farm in Cashmere, naming it Liberty Orchards to honor their new home. Their abundance of apples, apricots, and walnuts led them to recreate a confection from their homeland similar to Turkish Delight. Apparently, a mix of fruits, nuts and gelatin coated in powdered sugar (and sometimes chocolate) enraptures people all over the world—and I’m no exception!

Liberty Orchards makes small batches and packages them by hand, giving each a personal touch and a close inspection. Although locals simply refer to much of the company’s expanding inventory as Aplets & Cotlets (apples and apricots), Liberty Orchards offers Fruit Delights and Fruit Chocolates that incorporate berries and other local fruits, and Hawaiian Delights filled with tropical fruits and nuts. Yes, thank you! Even sugar-free and nut-free candy is available.

IMG_8898The six specialized flavors of Northwest Delights include boysenberry and hazelnut, green apple and almond, cherry and almond, grape and walnut, pear and pecan, and cranberry and walnut. The Fruit Chocolates have strawberry and walnut, apricot and walnut, raspberry and pecan, cherry and pecan, and orange marmalade. Fruit Chocolates make ideal Valentine gifts in place of traditional boxed chocolates!

Shameless hinting aside, various stores throughout the United States sell Liberty Orchards products for your selection. For more information about Liberty Orchards and its products, or to plan a tour, go to And yes, I product-tested as I wrote!



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Multnomah Falls in Winter

8 01 2015

IMG_8857Multnomah Falls, the most visited recreation site in the Pacific Northwest and Oregon’s most visited natural attraction, welcomes over 2 million people annually. It remains the tallest waterfall in Oregon throughout the year at 620 feet, being fed by underground springs from nearby Larch Mountain, melting snowpack from the Cascade Mountain Range, and plenty of rainfall. The majority of visitors flock to Multnomah Falls during warmer months even though it stays open all year, and each season provides its own charm, but my family also makes the trek every winter hoping to catch the falls clothed in ice. This glacial wonderland compels one to stare in awe.

Spray from the 542-foot upper and 69-foot lower falls freezes into crystal shards and frosty white sheets against jagged cliffs that flank the waterfall and bottom pool. Creeks that trickle from the sides form icy bubbles over mossy rocks, bare branches and sword ferns. The trailhead view satisfies enough, but meander the paved foot trail a quarter mile up to the 45-foot long 1914 Benson Footbridge that spans the lower falls. Peer down 105 feet to the lower falls or observe the upper falls intimately as its spray engulfs you in an arctic shower and inflicts a frigid blast. Be cautious of slippery concrete and continue on the path nearly an additional mile to a platform overlooking the falls in its entirety, a dizzying perspective of the drop along with an Eagle-eye panorama of the Columbia River and Gorge, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge built in 1925.

This path leading to the platform divides toward Multnomah Creek (one of my favorite spots to picnic) and adjoins trail systems throughout the Columbia River Gorge. Unless you are prepared for a lengthy winter hike, head back down to the day-Lodge area and warm up. You’ll find the Multnomah Falls Lodge Restaurant, a gift shop, espresso bar, snack bar, Interpretive Center, and public restrooms. You won’t leave hungry or empty-handed.

Multnomah Falls is located off I-84 between Troutdale and Cascade Locks or along the 1913 Historic Columbia River Highway, the first highway in America named a National Historic Landmark. Parking is plentiful and a Northwest Forest Pass is not required. Pets are welcome and the Leash Law applies.

Simon Benson, a philanthropist who left his mark on Oregon, donated land that encompasses Multnomah Falls, financed projects including his namesake bridge, and constructed the HCRH Scenic Byway that is a must-do if possible. The HCRH provides several features on the National Register of Historic Places such as unique bridges, viewpoints, recreation sites, rare plants and creatures, and numerous waterfalls. The road itself is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. But enough of the titles, just go if you can!


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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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