One Sunday we took a leisurely drive from our St. Helens home near the Columbia River to the historic town of Vernonia. Winding our way from the flat lands up towards the gossamer clouds it would be easy to pretend we were entering Misty Mountain territory from Lord of the Rings.
It takes about an hour to travel the twisting thirty-one miles into tall-tree country. (That is if you don’t stop for pictures)
Vernonia’s history is rooted in the timber industry. Magnificent giant trees dwell on hillsides like skyscrapers dominate downtown San Francisco.
Vernonia’s famous Big Gun Logging team is part of the History Channel Ax Men series.
And the 1961 film Ring of Fire, starring David Janssen and Frank Gorshin, was partially filmed in Vernonia.
Arriving in this charming town, with a population of a little over 2,200, we were greeted by a winsome old hip-roofed barn.
I am crazy about bridges, and could not resist getting a photo of this stalwart structure…..
We found parking next to a grocery store that is definitely “parent friendly!” I’ve NEVER seen this before. I’m impressed. How accommodating…how touching….how thoughtful!
We strolled down the sidewalk to the Black Bear Coffee Company on Bridge Street.
Our delicious hamburger was only outdone by my fantastic Bloody Mary…and it was true, as one of my friends noted, “there’s a salad on top of your drink.”
The service was terrific and the atmosphere delightful. We’ll be returning to the Black Bear Coffee Company.
Leaving the carpets of ferns….
….but I know that the road leading out of Vernonia, can take me back anytime I want!
We’ve known him longer than we have had our youngest daughter.
He introduced us to Sencha and Oolong teas years ago.
On a visit to our home, he acquainted us with a modified version of the Japanese tea ceremony.
He brought everything we would need…
including some fine matcha…all the way from Japan.
He survived Hiroshima…he was only about six years old.
He is an independent entrepreneur…very unusual in Japan. He and my husband have been doing business for over twenty-five years.
He has been married twice. And has children with each wife.
On one of our trips to Japan, we found out he had a baby son at the moment we arrived on his doorstep. “Don’t be surprised, I have a baby,” he said as he opened his front door. This “baby” just graduated from college with a degree in chemistry. The university is not having a formal graduation, because of the devastation in Japan.
Our friend’s older son married a famous pop star in Japan without mentioning the wedding to his father. He found out when the reporters staked out his home.
His beautiful daughter spent several weeks with us when she was sixteen. She rode her first horse at our house. Later in her life she became the second runner up in the Miss Japan contest.
He made and lost a fortune in the 1980′s. My husband has made over one hundred and thirty trips to Japan…all to do business with our friend.
And on March 11, 2011 we were worried sick about him….and his family. We couldn’t get in touch with him after the massive earthquake in Japan. Later, he related that he happened to be in downtown Tokyo at the time of the quake. He only had time to call his wife before his cell phone quit working. There was no public transportation. He began walking home….six and half hours later, he reached his house. He called us as soon as he got there.
He said, “I knew you would be worried about me.” I cried when I heard his voice and handed my husband the phone.
He is back to doing business….he placed an order and emailed the shipping instructions.
He says he’s coming to visit us soon….we will be overjoyed to see him!
He’s amazing! The Japanese people are amazing. This is a terrible tragedy….please keep Japan in your hearts and prayers!
Traveling north on I-5 we took a short detour into Central Point, Oregon.
Being a chocolate lover, it is difficult to drive past a sign like this without stopping!
The factory-retail store is an inconspicuous looking building.
Inside though, there is a multitude of incredibly finely crafted Artisian Chocolates. Over 60 different flavors of caramels, truffles and bon-bons!
Owner and Master Chocolatier, Jeff Shepherd uses organic raspberries, strawberries and marionberries which are grown on his family’s farm only a coulple of miles from the store.
We purchased several wonderful chocolates. My Sweet Husband chose a Chilpolte Ganache, a dark chocolate infused with smokey hot sweetness of chilpolte pepper.
I picked three little “chocolate cups”…..
A dreamy Lemon Buttercup….tart fresh lemon buttercream in a white chocolate cup.
Maker’s Mark Cup………………decadent cup filled with pecan butter, dark chocolate and Maker’s Mark
Whisky ganache topped with a large caramelized pecan.
Margarita Cup……………………margarita buttercream in a dark chocolate cup with “salted rim”.
I managed to arrive home with the chocolates untouched. But once I made a pot of tea….oh I savored every morsel of chocolate with every sip of tea!
Chocolates and tea are perfect companions!
If you aren’t heading North any time soon, you can order these award winning chocolates on line.
Happy Infusions…..enjoy with chocolates!
On our way home from Grants Pass, Oregon we decided to gas up our truck in Central Point. We spotted a sign advertising the “Rogue Creamery”. We had a little free time and since we delight in off road excursions when we travel, we drove in the direction we thought the creamery must be. After two miles and no creamery, we stopped a bicyclist and ask directions. She mentioned that it was a small stone building, not fancy, but assured us “the company wins all kinds of awards for their cheeses”. After turning around, driving back the way we came and making an important turn (we missed the first time)…..
We spotted the sidewalk sign and pulled into the parking lot……
A cement trough filled with spring flowers graced the front entry…..
We were greeted warmly and introduced to the historic cheese shop. Not only does this store carry artisan cheeses, but also local wines and craft beers.
We tasted cheeses; blue cheeses, cheddar cheeses and curds. A representative from the Longsword Vineyard, pouring for the day, offered us a taste of Sparkling Chardonnay. This is a delicious light wine we sipped while perusing the gift shop.
We purchased several cheeses and a bottle of the Sparkling Chardonnay. This was my first time to taste cheese curds and I wondered what you might do with them. The helpful personnel made a number of suggestions. I noticed they sold a batter mix to make fried curds. I purchased a bag of curds vowing to find recipes for them.
After we were home, I researched cheese curds. Cheddar cheese curds are small chunks of cheese solids which form in the cheese making process. The remaining liquid is called the whey, a watery, thin liquid. I learned cheese curds have a two to three week shelf life, however, fresh curds can be frozen for up to four months. Cheddar cheese curds are similar to fresh Mozzarella in taste and texture. Fried Cheese Curds are a staple at the Minnesota Wisconsin and several Mid-Western State Fairs…..now who would have guessed? I found several recipes and decided to try a couple.
Cheese curds should be at room temperature before being battered and fried…..
Minnesota State Fair Recipe for Fried Cheese Curds.…
1 pound of fresh cheddar cheese curds
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Enough oil to either deep fry or you can fry with a little olive oil and not deep fry.
Beat egg, add milk and stir. Add baking powder, salt and flour. Stir until thoroughly combined. Drop the cheese curds in and mix gently until all are completely covered with batter. Heat oil in skillet or deep fryer. ( I use my wonderful trusty cast iron skillet). Working in small batches, being careful the battered curds do not touch, drop the curds into heated oil. Flip only once. Fry until a golden color. (Approximately one minute). Drain on paper towel if desired. Eat while hot/warm. These are tasty…reminded me a bit of Mozzarella sticks.
This next recipe is a bit unusual, but tasty and a little different. I am especially fond of Hungarian Paprika, so that is what I used.
Beer Batter For Fried Cheese Curds
1 cup flour
2 tbls garlic powder
2 tbls paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 12 ounce can/bottle beer
Enough oil to deep fry or you can fry with a little olive oil and not deep fry.
Combine flour, garlic powder, paprika, salt,and pepper. Stir egg into dry ingredients. Gradually mix in beer until a batter is formed.
Drop in cheese curds and thoroughly coat with batter. Heat oil in skillet. ( I use my trusty cast iron skillet). Fry the coated curds approximately one minute, until golden brown. Be sure to keep them separated so they are not touching. Drain on a paper towel and serve hot/warm. These are really good with beer!
If you drive on Highway 5 into Oregon, be sure to make a stop in Central Point. Visit the wonderful Rogue Creamery. On the same side of the street there is also the famous Lillie Belle Farms Chocolate Shop ( I’ll talk about this in another blog) and a great little Wine Tasting shop !
Happy Excursions…..Happy Curds on the Way….. and Happy Infusions,
My Sweet Husband and I were standing in the kitchen, discussing breakfast options. The wind whipped the tree branches back and forth and the rain pounded on the roof. We rattled off several possible choices; an omelet with sausage, waffles with whipped cream, scrambled eggs and toast, Cream of Wheat.
Rainy mornings and Cream of Wheat…a comfort food..stirring happy memories of childhood and those fun-filled years of rushing to have a healthy, yummy breakfast for three lively kids before they bolted out the door to catch the school bus.
I settled on Cream of Wheat. Warm mush ! I like my Cream of Wheat with butter and sorghum. Sorghum is similar to molasses, but much better !
I’ve never been able to find sorghum in grocery stores in California, so I am forced to ship a case home from my favorite supplier, an Amish family in Dunnegan, Missouri.
(This is my sorghum stash !)
Whenever I dip into my sorghum cache, I am instantly transported to Amish country.
It is another world. Quiet country roads…rolling green hills…and signs that remind us to share our space.
And then I begin to reminiscence about My Grandpa’s Farm. A lovely Amish family purchased his farm after he died.
He would be blessed to see how they have loved and cared for his farm.
They expanded the house…(they have 10 children)….and resurrected the outhouse.
(My Grandpa did not have an indoor toilet or shower until 1978. He never did get around to tearing down the old outhouse and it stands today where it stood when we were kids. Showering, before he built the indoor bathroom, meant you filled a 5 gallon bucket, which sat the roof of the cellar, with warm water. You proceeded down the steps into the dark cellar, stripped down, turned on the water using a valve on a hose, soaped up, hurrying and hoping to have enough water to rinse ! We thought it was like camping out !)
They repaired the roof and are still using the beautiful rock barn My Grandpa built…….
Wow..with a bowl of Cream of Wheat and sorghum I had a stroll down memory lane !!
Now it’s time for tea !
I used to call for directions to a shop or restaurant.
Then I began googling to get directions.
But now, I have a new BFF (Best Friend Forever)….a GPS (Global Positioning System). The sound of it, Global Positioning System, is incredibly Sci-Fi or maybe Techie. I’m neither, so I like to say it and imagine that I am somewhere in the universe, and have no fear, because, this Global Positioning System knows the way to my home….wherever home is at the moment .
My Sweet Husband rented a car in Virginia with this NEVERLOSTGPS. I didn’t think we needed it, and I wasn’t sure it would be reliable, since this was a rented car.
But he likes the GPS we have in our van. Truthfully, the van GPS has saved our bacon several times in Portland, when we consistently miss the “slight left middle lane veer to the right” exit onto the next freeway! The GPS knows how to get us through downtown Portland…no easy task….and back on the right freeway!
We entered the Williamsburg motel address in the NEVERLOST. I continued to be mildly skeptical and kept the printed directions out of sight, folded neatly in my purse, just in case this GPS failed.
We had no trouble getting on the freeway from the airport, but when we got off and started having to find streets and make turns….which we occasionally missed…I was grateful to hear the words” recalculating route” emanating from the NEVERLOST !
On the day I went by myself for tea and shopping, hearing “recalculating route” and “when possible make a legal U turn” made me feel all warm and fuzzy… cared for, safe and secure. I knew I would get where I was going. No matter what mistakes I made, the NEVERLOST gently and continually recalculated my route trying to help me find my way. It never through up its hands and declared it was “so done” with me because I kept making wrong turns !
Wouldn’t it be incredible if we had a LIFE GPS. We enter our goal and begin our journey. With the first bad decision, and the next and the next, the device would “recalculate our route”. Modifying our mistakes, the LIFE GPS would alter our route constantly guiding us toward the intended goal.
Sounds like my relationship with my Lord ! Navigating life is difficult! I have made many wrong turns and gone down some crazy roads and always, gently and consistently, I see Him adjust and “recalculate my route”. Not in anger and disgust, only with love and patience, redirecting my mind and heart, and I am NEVERLOST ! Sometimes I’m late to the party, but I get there feeling safe and secure and beloved !
Happy Travels…. and have some tea along the way !
In Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia……
walking is the primary mode of transportation.
Occasionally, a messenger might come charging down the street……
or a military officer might ride by on a mighty steed.
Docile yoked oxen can be found resting in the shade before returning to their work in the fields.
Horse drawn vehicles are everywhere.
Functional and fast……
Fanciful and flowing….
First-class and formal….
In the evenings the horses retire to a serene green pasture..
surrounded by a split rail hand-notched fence.
And I wonder how, in those lovely long dresses,
did the ladies tip-toe through all the piles of horse poop scattered all over the road ?
Happy wondering….let’s have a cup of tea and be grateful for this wonderful day !
The Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington suggested we visit the Museum of Glass.
We had been invited to a glass blowing session at our resident glass blower in Surprise Valley. That experience was fascinating and as a homeschooling project it was incredible.
The working artist at the Museum of Glass work in pairs….on delicate, transparent compositions.
Shaping and sculpting…..
then into the fire……
and out again for more shaping and sculpting……
The works of art produced are delightful and whimsical….
and quite stunning !