Thursday, October 10, 2013

The View from my Window

The View from my Window

Fall came suddenly this year in the Pacific Northwest.  We were enjoying summer one day and the next day the skies opened and the water poured down.  It rained hard for a week and a half.  The trees, with their full complement of leaves, were heaving in the wind.  Branches broke, power lines snapped, and gutters overflowed in every neighborhood.

Some deciduous trees change color and drop their leaves in response to temperature, others in response to day length.  Two weeks into October, the temperatures are dropping, the days are growing shorter and the leaves are changing in every neighborhood.

From my office window the view is dense with foliage.  Against the dark green of Douglas firs, the native alders turn a rusty yellow.  They are not showy trees.  Another native, the Big Leaf maples are slightly lighter in hue but again, they don’t wear their colors like a debutante wears a gown.  More pale still are the cottonwoods, and while they aren’t bright with color, they are bright with movement.  Their leaves flicker in the wind and catch the eye.

Because I live in the city, there are many non-native trees in the landscape.  From my window is a luminous yellow tree which glows like a round torch when the sun strikes it.  Even on a dark and cloudy day it shines in bright contrast to the somber natives.  My eyes are drawn to it again and again during its brief time of seasonal glory.

There are reds and russets of maples and oaks and more yellows and oranges of elms and ash.  The purple-leaved ornamental plums turn a burnished bronze as the temperature dips.  The sweet gums and dogwoods, the tulip trees and liquidambars all blaze as their chlorophyll breaks down and the trees store up energy for the winter.

Soon, the deciduous trees will be bare but our hills never are.  The evergreens are as thick as a winter pelt.  Douglas firs tower over the landscape whether in town or in the country.  There are cedars and spruce and pine on every hill.  As the deciduous trees fade into the background, the conifers make up for their absence.  The variety in shades of green is astounding.  Some so dark and deep that they nearly look black and others almost a yellowy green that reminds us spring will come again.

But today, the view at work is dominated by that glowing ball of bright yellow.  This tree will hold its leaves for another week or so and the parade of colorful trees will march in time for a little longer.  After that, rain-soaked woods and a palette of gray and green will be the view from my window.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Building Boom in the Rose City

Building Boom in the Rose City

It seems the economic slow-down or recession or whatever you want to call it is over.  Building projects are leaping up all over the damned place. 

The Albina Fuel location is FINALLY moving forward.  They knocked down all the buildings on the site, scraped up the rubble and are working like beavers at constructing the new thing.  It’s going to be the typical layout – ground floor retail and condos above.  The ground floor retail is supposed to be, get this, a New Seasons grocery store.  Wha….?!?  Yes, right between Freddy’s and QFC, and down the street from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  Well, it’s not like we won’t have choices.  They will be adding a traffic light at 32nd, which is going to be necessary when they add the hundreds of dwelling spaces.  It feels odd to have  a giant construction crane looming over Broadway. 

There’s a so-called ‘super-block’ being developed in the Lloyd District.  It’s the property that once was a private parking lot between Multnomah and the Max tracks.  Next door to the computer store.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a mix of ground floor retail and business and condos above.  Sound familiar?  This is our future, apparently.  Right now, they have a tall chain link fence with tarps on the inside all around the property.  I kind of resent that because we all like to watch stuff being built in our neighborhoods.

The new bridge over the Willamette is going along nicely.  It’s actually nice looking so far with a spiderweb of steel cables stretching from the towers to the road bed.  I’m supposing it will be a lift bridge because yes, we are a PORT and shipping should be able to go further up the river than that.  At least, I’d bet the businesses in Oregon City think so.  I’m actually pretty excited about this bridge.  It’s going to be used for light rail, bikes and pedestrians.  Not cars!  Well, probably buses and maybe emergency vehicles, but not cars in general.  Good.  Progress.

I had mentioned some time ago that there was a building going up at that wacky intersection of Burnside, 12th and Sandy.  It looks like it is nearing completion.  I understand that it is supposed to be a senior living facility (no doubt over ground floor retail).  I’m not sure why it’s going up right there – other than the obvious: someone wanted to build something big and had the land for it.  What I mean is, there aren’t any obvious services geared to seniors in that neighborhood.  There is a bus line or two.  And, plenty of bars and a couple of strip joints… I suppose the Franz bakery might have cheap bread for the oldsters.  But, it’s not really even a very walkable location.  I don’t get it.  Maybe I need more info. 

I have also mentioned the Edith Green Wendell Wyatt Federal Building and its big redo.  Looks like they might be nearing completion on that.  I really need some pictures to do this post  justice.  The outside of this building looks like a giant pipe organ.  I don’t know if they make noise, but the front of the building is covered with rows and rows of massive upright pipes.  I suppose it’s some form of green technology and it is interesting looking.  I’ll give it that.

I have taken the bus a couple of times this week, and there are some updates along the route.  I’ll be back on the bus more, what with the weather getting so very wet suddenly.  I’ll take better notes, because there are things happening!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Successful Experiment

Hi!  Have you forgotten that I have a blog?  Believe it or not, I haven't forgotten.  But, hey, I'm here now so let's get on with it.

Birthday season in my family is just starting to taper off.  April is a challenging month!  Last weekend we had birthday celebrations for the mother in law and the niece...  mother in law turned 80 and niece turned 18.  So, that called for a party, of course!

Not that they needed more food or more desserts, but I needed to get some fruit out of the freezer so I volunteered to make a cherry pie.  I buy pie cherries and jam cherries from Fruithill Farm in Yamhill, Oregon.  You have to buy a 4 gallon bucket at a time.  You can get them either with or without sugar.  With sugar is recommended for pie cherries (it helps keep their color bright) and without sugar is best for canning and jam.

Two years ago I got a bucket of each.  Last year year I only got the cherries without sugar.  I make a lot of jam, but not that many pies.   I had several ziptop bags of cherries in the freezer at my parents house -- probably enough for a half dozen pies.  Well, my dad called a week or so ago and said that his fridge was misbehaving and he thought I should come and get the cherries before they defrosted.  I did so, and quickly. Those cherries are way too good and too costly to squander!  I brought them home and put them in my small chest freezer.

Besides the cherries, I had several small batches of berries frozen too.  I like to freeze berries individually on a plastic cutting board and then bag them up for later.  We love the berries in a mimosa!  I had several bags of strawberries, raspberries and one bag of blackberries.  Mostly from our garden, but some from the farmer's market.

So, I decided to make a cherry pie for the party and asked my partner if her mom would like that.  She said yes, but she'd rather have a raspberry pie.  I didn't have enough berries for a whole pie but enough for two medium sized tarts.

I have been searching for small pie pans for a long time and recently bought two new contenders.  One is a ceramic 5 inch deep dish (Chantal) and the other is a metal (Fat Daddio) 6 inch, much shallower.  They aren't exactly what I was looking for but this seemed like the perfect time to try them out.

I got the dough started and let it rest in the fridge.  Then I got the fruit into two separate pans on the stove.  It was at this point that I became frustrated with myself.  No matter how many times I dug through the pantry, I could not find any cornstarch.  What?!  No cornstarch?  How the heck was I going to thicken these juicy berries without a quick trip to the store?

People, let me tell you, it is possible.  At least, it's possible if you happen to be an avid jam maker and happen to have several kinds of pectin on hand.

Yes!  It's true!  I made a pie and two tarts using pectin to thicken the fruit instead of cornstarch!  I was pretty pleased with myself, I have to say.

For the berry tarts, I started with about 4 cups of mixed berries.  I like my pies to really taste like the fruit so I don't add much sugar to them.  I mixed a half cup of sugar and a teaspoon of powdered pectin together and added them to the pan.  I let the berries and sugar/pectin mixture cook down for about 15 minutes at a very low simmer.  They were pretty soupy even after I had poured off as much juice as possible.  After it had cooked down, I simply poured it in the pie crust and popped it in the oven.  Well, ok, I made a lattice top and brushed it with butter and sprinkled sugar on it, but you know what I mean...

We ate one of the berry tarts at home and took the pie and the deep dish tart over to the mother in law's house.  It was good!  I heard no complaints from the in laws but they are not a very effusive bunch.

So, the moral of this story is: pectin works in pies!