Football-Shaped Sandwich Ideas

3 02 2016

IMG_5248In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, we get inundated with menu ideas for the big game. I fluctuate between staying simple and tackling all the recipes I discover. This football sandwich is a touchdown in my household because it’s super easy and everyone likes it. That’s a win-win in my playbook! It works for any football game from professional teams to peewee leagues, and even for a fun lunchbox surprise.

I made a grilled cheese version with cheddar laces on the top, but any filling of your choice works between two slices of bread shaped into a football. Cheese laces pair well with many sandwich flavors, but several lace options complement a variety of sandwiches. Try piping on mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, cream cheese, peanut butter, or frosting onto your savory or sweet sandwiches. Embellish them a bit more by making smaller laces and leaving room to stripe both ends of your bread. You’ll easily have these football sandwiches ready by kickoff!


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Pendleton Woolen Mills

6 01 2016

IMG_1636-2Anyone familiar with the Pacific Northwest knows that we like our plaid shirts so much that they’ve grown into a stereotype. We wear them throughout all seasons. They double as coats in spring and fall. We layer them with puffy vests in winter. These shirts tie around our waists and drape over shorts on summer days, dutifully warding off chill from air-conditioners or cool evenings. We owe this trend to Pendleton Woolen Mills that began over 100 years ago.

Thomas Kay, a skilled English weaver, traveled by ship and burro to arrive in Oregon in 1863 and begin his own company in a region ideal for raising sheep and producing wool. Oregon held many positives such as a moderate climate, fresh water, and established wool operations. Kay worked for others before opening his own company in Salem, Oregon where he trained his eldest daughter, Fannie. Fannie married retail merchant Charles Pleasant Bishop and moved their family to Pendleton, Oregon. Their new hometown along the Columbia River already hosted a shipping center for local wool producers on a main railway. The three Bishop sons named Chauncey, Clarence, and Roy, caught the family’s passion for wool and founded Pendleton Woolen Mills in 1909. Pendleton Woolen Mills operated on the original site of a wool scouring plant that washed raw wool before shipping, and also of a previous woolen mill that produced blankets for Native Americans.

Pendleton Woolen Mills employees consulted local and Southwest Native Americans about their preferred colors and designs for blankets. Blanket production continued and included robes and shawls. Native Americans used these products for warmth and for trade among tribes. They preferred wool to animal skins because of its ability to capture heat, repel water, and sew or patch easily. Pendleton’s Nez Perce nation traded among themselves and with other nearby tribes such as the Navajos. They traded for jewelry and various valuables. Native Americans valued Pendleton Woolen Mills blankets for everyday apparel, dowries, gifts, and ceremonial pieces. The most traditional pattern in the Pacific Northwest continues to be the Hudson’s Bay point design with a white background and a stripe of green, red, yellow, and indigo.

The company expanded its location and product line after opening in Washougal, Washington and producing men’s shirts. Women’s apparel, non-wool items, surf wear, and accessories for body and home followed in the subsequent decades. The Bishop family continues to operate Pendleton Woolen Mills to this day.

Interesting Facts

  • The Beach Boys originally were called The Pendletones and wore plaid Pendleton shirts as their band’s uniform. The iconic blue and charcoal plaid remained their favorite and appeared on 45 record covers including Surfin’ Safari and Surfer Girl! That pattern is sold today as the Pendleton Board Shirt.
  • Actor Jeff Bridges wore a classic Pendleton sweater called The Westerley in his film The Big Lebowski! The Westerley sweater gives a nod to the hand-knit Cowichan sweaters made by Pacific Northwest Tribes.

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Altitude is Everything

30 11 2015

IMG_4652This photo has been a family secret; hidden in my files for five years. I know it’s bad. I wish the picture better exhibited this colossal baking failure. The “before” shot displays the unadorned first attempt at hiding it under frosting. Doesn’t chocolate frosting make everything better? Clearly not. Notice the evidence of two swipes of little fingers across the top. I’m not sure who the culprit was, but I can safely guess that it was one or both of my two youngest children and not their big brother or cousins.

IMG_4654The “after” shot is the final product, presented as a joint-birthday cake to my husband and brother while on vacation. My creative sister-in-law (truly talented at everything!) brainstormed the idea to add marshmallows and chocolate syrup. These marshmallows were the special, ginormous ones meant for some amazing s’mores. The kiddos couldn’t wait to toast them over an open fire. Didn’t happen. We confiscated them with the intention of holding up the cake to keep it from becoming even more of a pancake. It did help some. Next came squirts of chocolate syrup to fancy it up. The positive about that stellar move is that it didn’t hurt the cake or alter its form in any way. We sprinkled the top with powdered sugar and added a few festive (and perhaps, confused) birthday candles, and voila!

How did this cake emerge from the oven looking like a crime scene, you ask? We followed baking instructions explicitly, except we missed that note every box includes about baking at varying altitudes. We didn’t even realize this issue until well after vacation. Rookies. We’re used to baking along the Willamette Valley at about 200 feet in elevation, and we threw this beauty together in Sunriver, Oregon at 4,200 feet. My advice for all traveling or relocated bakers out there is to remember what altitude you’re at and adjust accordingly. Your desserts—and guests—will know otherwise!


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Do Scarecrows Really Scare Crows?

16 10 2015

scarecrowUsing scarecrows to protect agriculture from scavengers finds its roots anchored in ancient cultures around the globe. These fearsome figures acquired various looks and names throughout history but retained one common goal: To scare away predators from seeds and maturing crops from spring through fall. Scarecrows crudely designed into human likenesses confronted any thieves threatening from ground and air. These decoys guarded large fields and loomed inside small gardens. So why did the scarecrow receive its name when many other creatures stalk fields? Crows forage in flocks, return fearlessly, and cause more damage than other animals.

Egyptians constructed wood frames covered in nets to capture trespassers. Romans copied the Greeks’ more-elaborate carved wooden figure design—maybe something more to admire than to flee. German scarecrows resembled witches that were certain to chase away anything and anybody. Japanese adopted the warrior appearance, donning coats and straw hats complete with bows and arrows. Americans borrowed from these ideas and fashioned their own traditional scarecrows with cross-shaped bodies covered in tattered clothing and stuffed with hay. Their heads consisted of animal skulls or round produce topped with hats. Early German immigrants to the United States tied red handkerchiefs around scarecrows’ necks.

Scarecrow use peaked during the Great Depression but dropped dramatically after World War II when crop-dusting pesticides such as DDT covered our farmlands instead. These chemicals destroyed wildlife and any need for the humble scarecrow. Technological mechanisms such as noise guns, windmills, wind turbines, and fans replaced scarecrows almost entirely in modern society. Even CD’s and ribbons fluttering through the air discourage birds and mammals on personal and global levels.

Although scarecrows suffered popularity as an effective means of protection, they never vanished from our hearts. Many countries host scarecrow festivals and millions of homes display scarecrows as decoration during the harvest season. Find your perfect scarecrow at stores and farm stands, or craft your own!

How To Make A Traditional Scarecrow

Start by stuffing a pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt with straw or anything that fills the space. Tuck the shirt into the pants waist and tuck the pants hem into boots, shoes, or socks. Slip shirt cuffs into front pants pockets to resemble hands, or fill gloves and tie them onto the shirt cuffs. Stuff a plain t-shirt into a round shape for the head. Decorate the face with pen, paint, or craft supplies. For the neck, run a stick up into the middle of the head and the other end of the stick down into the body. Tie a fun bandana around the neck. Top the head with more straw or a wig, and a hat. Be creative with your own scarecrow by making it any size, any species, and either gender!

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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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