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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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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