I’m sorry! I lied!

A friend asked me about a month ago, so how is life in Oregon? I responded with “The transition from City Gal to Ranch Gal has been interesting. I don’t freak out at bugs as much as I used to”. Lol mainly because the last time I freaked I fell and broke my foot. That was no bueno!  It’s like when you’re walking in a park and a gnat gets in your mouth. You gag and spit and do whatever you have to, to get that thing OUT. Up here I used to do that, then you shrug and keep going. There’s lots of different sounds up here, no cars, airplanes, helicopters, and no sirens at all. But ducks, geese, cows, pheasants, turkeys and deer. And at night it’s dark. No no I mean DARK. You can walk out on my patio with the lights on and see the porch and about 8 feet beyond. Step out past the line of light and you cannot see.”

We laughed and she said sounds like you’re adjusting well. I said we sure are! I am a regular country gal now. Other than my foot it’s been a pretty great transition. (and I was feeling pretty darn proud I can tell you)

I had no idea of what going from the city to the county would entail. I knew I would have to get used to certain things.

Like – not having access to the variety of grocery shopping I used to. Or retail stores. I also knew I would have to get use to traveling longer distances to reach certain stores. For me the big retail stores are over an hour away, that’s ok, it’s a beautiful drive to get to them. I just make a day of it.

I also knew it would be hard leaving friends and family behind. But I keep in touch with my family with at least one on a daily basis (thank you modern technology). And I have made new friends up here that are just wonderful (shout outs to Kish and Anne).

Yard work we knew would triple, as now we have 7.5 acres to maintain. A push mower was out of the question, so we got a small riding mower. That, we later learned is only good for small, lol, areas like an acre of closer cut grass. So we use it for the ‘front and back’ yard. We had to get a much larger mower for the other 6 acres. So a used John Deere has now joined our vehicle fleet. (which includes 2 trailers, 2 cars, a pickup truck and 2 motorcycles) But all this has been a fun transition.

And then there was today…Today was an awesome day! We decided to play hooky from chores and go for a motorcycle ride. The weather was a delicious 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky! And Pearl (our gold wing) was just purring like a kitten.

We got home and I was greeted promptly by the evil black bug from hell (along with about 40 or so of his close personal buddies). It was about 1/2 to an inch inch long, but to me it was 6 inches. Then it flew at me and landed on my shirt and started to quickly crawl up. Now while all this happened in the matter of 10 seconds I had an agonizing slow motion flashback to the wasp that flew at me causing me to freak out, step back and break my foot. It was all happening again, only this time it was ON ME and it was working it’s way to my jugular vein! I was not only doing outstanding Ninja moves (like the ones you do when you walk into a spider web you didn’t see) I was a contender that could have taken down Steven Seagal who in every movie slaps the crap out of his opponent. It was an Oscar moment for me.

In S. Cal we had ants. The ever feared red fire ants (hhmm I am seeing a pattern here, I had a bad encounter with these when I was kid..), the small black ants that love to come in your home and raid your kitchen cupboards and the larger black ants that frequented school play yards and parks where they were often eradicated by some kid with a magnifying glass.

Up here we have the (shudder) Carpenter Ant. Holy mother of insects these things are creepy! Not sure how many of you remember the movie THEM! It was done in 1954 about a colony of giant ants. I am convinced that it is because whoever wrote that movie came to the great northwest and saw these ants and thought “whoa cool this is gonna freak people out!” I refuse to post a picture of them, so since you are reading this I know google is just a few keystrokes away.

So to my friend Pat, I am sorry…I lied! I thought I was used to the bugs…like when over a thousand crane flies descended on our house. They look like what we used to call ‘Daddy Long Legs’ only a bigger. Then we had to have the bee keepers come and get a large hive that settled itself into the walls of the small barn. Or when in the early summer when you walk down the property and these small tiny grasshoppers hop and dash about. But I was not prepared for these ginormous ants where you can see each of their sections clearly including their legs and mandibles. And the worst part, if you step on them and don’t quite kill them, and their body separates, the front half keeps moving! (shudders) Did I mention the yard spiders? Yeah…there are thousands of these in the grass and they scurry to and fro as you walk. Even those I got used to…well so long as they are outside. If they get inside I still scream at Derek “Get it! Get it!! It’s going under the couch!!”

Everyday it’s something new. I wonder if RAID makes a line of clothing..they should!

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Pork – It’s what for dinner – Oh and beets, goat cheese and potatoes

So here is dinner and I gotta say it is a keeper! The salad was just so darn good we both had 2 helpings.

First I must point out there is nothing more beautiful in color and texture than a roasted beet. It is a fuchsia to beat all fuchsias. And the wonderful aroma as you peel the skins back is this true ‘from the earth’ smell that just reaches into your heart and says you will love me. I inspire the passion in your soul.

Between the nice peppery bite of the arugula, the earthy flavors of the roast beets and the creaminess of the goat cheese all brought together with the sweet and tangy balsamic glaze and a toasted crunch of almonds we knew it was a dish we were hooked on.

All the flavors of tang, bitter, tart, creaminess and earthiness are in this dish.

All the flavors of tang, bitter, tart, creaminess and earthiness are in this dish.

Main dish was Italian Porchetta (Porketta in english) which is a pork roast heavily seasoned with fennel, garlic, oregano, paprika and rosemary. It is seasoned on the morning of the first day and cooked on the second. It makes a crust that is just decadent with rendered pork fat and seasonings that you cannot resist the impulse to keep picking pieces and quickly popping them into your mouth where you close your eyes and think ‘man this is so good…’ The pork was so darn tender and moist it could not have been more perfect. Made a quick sauce for the for the pork out of the pan drippings, white wine and chicken stock.

Italian Porketta and Potato Parmesan Crisps

The side dish was parmesan potato crisps. While I wish I had, had a more waxy potato like a yukon gold or red potato I had to make do with what I had, russets. So I par boiled them to help remove some of the starchiness. These were simply seasoned with S&P, dried thyme and parmesan.

Making a dish where every component comes together is wonderful, and having the flavors make you come back for seconds – priceless.

Roasted Beet Salad –

Ingredients
8 medium-size beets, tops removed and scrubbed

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup good olive oil

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces baby arugula and spinach mix

1/3 cup toasted almond slivers

4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil and place them on a sheet pan. Roast them for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on their size, until a small sharp knife inserted in the middle indicates that they are tender. Unwrap each beet and set aside for 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle. You can peel the beets by hand after about 10-15 minutes

Meanwhile, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and set aside. While the beets are still warm, cut each one in half and then each half into 4 to 6 wedges and place them in a large mixing bowl. As you’re cutting the beets, toss them with half of the vinaigrette (warm beets absorb more vinaigrette), Taste for seasonings and add more S&P if needed.

Place the salad mixture in a separate bowl and toss it with enough vinaigrette to moisten. Put the mixture on a serving platter and then arrange the beets, almonds, and goat cheese on top. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette, if desired, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Italian Porchetta (Porketta)

2 Tablespoons fennel seeds

1 Tablespoon course kosher salt

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

1 teaspon dried crushed red pepper

2 Tablespoons sweet paprika (I know it’s more hungarian, but it really works here)

1 5-6lb boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed with a thin layer left intact. (Truth be told if you can only find one with bone-in, get it, it will be just fine!)

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing

Stir fennel seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until slightly darker in color and fragrant about 4 minutes. Transfer seeds to spice mill and cool. Add kosher salt, peppercorns, and dried crushed red pepper and paprika. Grind to medium-fine consistency (not powder).

Place pork in 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Rub garlic all over pork, then coat with spice mixture. Loosely cover pork with waxed paper or foil. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush large rimmed baking sheet with oil. Place roast, fat side up and coating intact, in center of sheet. Drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons oil. Roast pork 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Roast pork until very tender and thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 190°F, about 3 hours 30 minutes longer. Transfer pork to cutting board, cover with foil and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

For my sauce I took the pan juices and poured them into a sauce pan (about 2-3 tablespoons of the pork fat) I added 1/2 white wine and let that simmer until the wine was just about evaporated. To that I added one slightly rounded tablespoon of flour and whisked it in for about 2 -3 minutes. Then 1 cup of chicken stock was whisked in and heated thru and cooked until slightly thickened. This is not a gravy.

We gotta to ride man!

So Derek and I are looking for a new motorcycle group within the GWRRA. Unfortunately for us, the nearest group is about 2 hours away.

By the way this translate to Gold Wing Road Riders Association.

These groups are a hoot! We went to an event sponsored by OR-G (Thanks Trent) called the Right Turn Ride where the entire long ride consists of only right turns. No you don’t get dizzy. There were about 60 riders there. Some were Flamingo’s, others Aliens and even a cartoon character.  No I really can’t explain here, it’s something you have to experience.  Now don’t go thinking it was an early halloween party, these are mascots of the various chapters. And they are cherished and protected. Nothing like the thrill of stealing a mascot from another chapter or the victory of returning yours to home base. Afterwards we all went for a great ride of 121 miles through scenic twists and turns, over green hills and forested areas. The scenery cannot be beat when riding on the back of a bike. Nor can the smell of cows stuck in your helmet…I love this life!

But I began to wonder…If I was in my 20’s I’d officially be in a ‘motorcycle gang’! However, when you’re in your 50’s you’re in a group…with stuffed animals. Ah momma never told me.

Needless to say, great group of folks, lots of beautiful bikes and miles of open road 🙂

This is about 1/2 of the riders for the event. That's our bike - front left.

This is about 1/2 of the riders for the event. That’s our bike – front left.

More bikes are pulling in.

More bikes are pulling in.

With over 60 bikes descending on this small store I can hear them now "OMG it's the Del Fuego's!"

With over 60 bikes descending on this small store I can hear them now “OMG it’s the Del Fuego’s!”

Oldest Cookbook Found

Oldest Cookbook Found

Well here I was thinking some of my recipes were dated. I cannot imagine the joy at discovering something of this magnitude. My fingers just itch at the thought of touching the pages. And once the literal translation was complete, to do the research to translate it further so we could put it to everyday format. Wow.

I was fortunate to come across some of my husband’s grandmother recipes, (she passed away 3 months shy of her 104 birthday) and one of them called for an “egg of lard”. I found that so quaint.

Chicken Enchilada Soup – Such a dish!

Making soup is a craft. To take various bits and pieces of ingredients and turn it into a dish that warms you from the inside out.

Soup has been known to cure so much of what ails us. Have a cold, a cup of chicken noodle soup will fix you right up. Been outside shoveling snow and exhausted – well ladle out a rich and creamy bowl of tomato soup.

The great thing is soup can also be wonderful as a complete meal, a filling meal, a meal that makes you smack your lips, put your hand on your stomach and sigh while nodding “now that was g-o-o-d”. I present to you my Chicken Tortilla Soup –

A rich and smooth soup that is hearty for a full meal.

A rich and smooth soup that is hearty for a full meal.

6 Boneless And Skinless Chicken Thighs
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
½ cup Diced Onion
1 clove Garlic, minced
48 ounces Chicken Broth
1 cup Masa Harina
3 cups Water, divided
1 cup Enchilada Sauce (I used the whole 10oz can)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Ground Cumin
Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Sour Cream
¼ cup Cilantro , chopped
1 can (14oz) Black Beans, drained
1 can (14oz) Diced Tomatoes, drained
1 small can (7oz) Whole Kernel Corn, drained
2-4 Tortillas, sliced

Directions: 
In a large pot over medium heat, cook chicken thighs in oil until well browned on all sides. Remove, dice and set aside.

Cook onion and garlic in remaining oil until onions are translucent. Pour in chicken broth.

In a bowl, whisk together masa harina and 2 cups water until well blended. Pour into pot with remaining 1 cup water. Add enchilada sauce, tomatoes, beans, corn, salt, chili powder and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, until thickened and chicken is cooked through.

Take 2 tortillas, slice in half, then cut into 1/4″ strips. In a small pan add ½” of oil and fry strips till crispy. (drain on paper towels)

When soup is done top with chopped cilantro, dollop of sour cream, some shredded cheese and some avocado.

From my kitchen to yours! Enjoy.

We’ve been adopted!

Odd but true. Seems we are just to lovable. A few months back a white cat was seen lurking out by the barn. I called to her using the standard cat lingo known to all “Kitty…Kitty” For those that don’t speak the cat language it’s Kit-ty [kit-ee] with emphasis on the ee. Spoken in a high pitch this sound will usually invoke a reaction. Ears up head turned “I’m interested…” look or the “STRANGER DANGER” and run away. I got her interest. Not because I wanted a cat, no no I am very allergic. I was just curious if she’d react.

She came trotting towards us, but not too close. Then she slinked off. Next day she was back and much closer.

Day 3 had her on the front porch talking up a storm with Derek. (He must be very fluent)

I told him we’ll give her water but no food. We didn’t want a pet. We’re retired and want to travel and go camping. I have no neighbors near me to check on this cat. So water only for the next 3 days. She slept on the doormat. And since we didn’t feed her, she took it upon herself to feed us, or as I like to call it “Here, this little CSI crime scene is for you!”

Did you know a cat can eat a huge mouse in about 20-30 seconds?! I do now! Did you know mice are very crunchy? I do now!

To date we have been given 32 mice, 2 birds and 7 moles. She won’t eat the moles, I guess they are only for playing with.

Oh and we’ve named her Ranch Kitty…but we don’t own a cat 😉

Ranch Kitty

Arts and Crafts Day…

I remember as a child being so excited about the days at school when we were going to do arts and crafts.

Finger painting with all the primary colors (and which probably contained lead), gluing all those popsicle sticks together in shapes of buildings, and who can forget the “was it an ashtray, pencil holder, weak pumping heart made of clay” figurine?

Well I decided that since I have more time I’d channel my inner child and begin my own arts and crafts. I remember as a kid we didn’t care if we got dirty, or even ate the glue in which we formed our creations. Now we carefully gather all our items, lay down the all powerful newspaper to protect our tables and don the apron to keep our clothes tidy.

So lets gather our items – Here we have old mayonnaise jars, Mod Podge, water, food coloring and a small paint brush. Before I forget, go over and turn your oven on to about 200-225. If you have one of those fancy convection ovens be sure to turn the convection fan off. Now where were we…oh the items.

Items needed

The mixture I used here was 4 tablespoons of Mod Podge, 1 1/2 tablespoons of water and 15-20 drops of standard green food coloring.

Mod Podge

Mix the Mod Podge, water and food coloring together in a paper bowl or glass bowl.

Colored Mod Podge

Be sure to mix it very well to get even coloring.

Coat the jars

Once it’s all mixed up pour the entire contents into a jar. Slowly turn the jar to get it all even coated. Then very slowly pour the contents into the next jar and slowly turn the jar to get the entire rim. Let it drain for a bit to get as much excess as you can out. This mixture will do 4 large jars and it’s easy to work with.

Bake Upside Down

Put the jars upside down onto a cookie sheet covered with either wax paper or parchment paper. Double it up because it will soak through. But again clean up is pretty easy as it’s all water soluble. Let them bake about 5-7 minutes then flip them over.

Turn them over.

You can remove the cookie sheet and let the jars continue to bake right on the rack. (Do excuse my pizza stone, I leave it in my oven all the time as it gets quite a work out with pizza’s and hearth breads…but more on that for another post) Let them continue to bake for another 30 minutes.

Finished

Your jars will come out all shiny and translucent. Here are my green jars and a couple of light blue jars I did earlier. If you want lighter colors use less food coloring. For extremely bold, use more. It’s all up to you.

Finished Touches

Now you can use them for all sorts of things. Here I just added some twine and silk flowers. The small blue jar will hold q-tips for my guest bathroom. You can put tea candles in them for great patio lighting for bbq’s. Just remember not to fill them water or you’ll undo all your work.

Well that’s it for now.  Lets see where my next inspiration takes me.

Welcome to Our Green Acres

Our Home

Welcome to our Green Acres

So it’s been a long time coming but I think things have finally gotten to a point where I can take a moment and write.
This blog is about my, and hubby’s, transition from working full time to finally retiring. From living in a big city and moving to a new state out in the country. From having no time to embrace things we’ve wanted to try to actually doing them. (And some we will do again and others, maybe not so much)
Let’s begin…This was a very intense year for us!
We’ve moved! We came to a cross roads and decided to retire and relocate. Sold the house in CA and moved to the property we bought in Oregon. Then we went back to CA to get Derek’s dad (he’s 88 years old and he’s very, um…well let’s just say it’s like having a 6’2″, 265 lb 3 year old). We got him settled in and slowly began the chore of unpacking 20 years of accumulated items. (I really think it was easier when we moved every 3-5 years prior because you didn’t have time to gather so many belongings) This is, of course, after we tossed out and donated about 1/2 of the stuff. But a 17′ U-Haul truck and 16’ trailer, along with our pick up truck and a another 16′ cargo trailer our items in da house. It’s August 25th…
Derek has to make another trip to S. Cal to pick up one of the motorcycles and I stay to make sure all goes smoothly with his dad, who I might add is taking this all in stride. What we did was rent a motorhome to bring him up here to make the drive more comfortable for him. Had the trip been designed for our comfort it would of had a chauffeur  and a bottle of vodka.
Derek gets home Sept 2nd and we are primed and ready to start working on our stuff! Sept 4th arrives and this is when all hell broke loose…well not really all hell, just my foot. It’s a nice morning so we go out to trim some of the wild blackberry vines that grow. Being a city gal I have none of the proper clothing, I’m wearing my clogs…not the right shoes for anything but a kitchen up here. I step back because a bug flew out at me, I screamed, waved my large cutting shears at the small bug (missed him btw), stepped back into a ditch and next thing I know I am on the ground and in PAIN. Bug – 1, me – 0. My foot bent up and back, well to give a good description flex your foot and toes up…now keep going until your big toe touches your shin. Fun huh? The tendon hyper extended and instead of tearing it pulled and broke the tip my heel off. This put me into a cast for 2 months and not  a walking cast. I couldn’t put any weight on it at all for the first 30 days. Talk about depression settling in. I’m looking at box after box that needs to be unpacked and I can’t even get up out of the chair without Derek’s help and get a glass of water.
I am so glad that event is behind me. Foot still hurts and will for the next year and I’ll probably get arthritis but oh well.
Laura, our one and only daughter,  graduated from SFSU this year with 5 honors 🙂 So very proud of her!!! Two days before we moved to Oregon we took her to LAX where she boarded a plane for Sweden. She will live there for the next 4 years. She is following her dream to live in Europe and study abroad some more (she went to Spain her Junior year of College for the entire year). I sure hope to go over and see her next spring.
So now we have us relocating and our daughter relocating and decide, huh…why not get a trailer and travel? (I have images of Lucile Ball and Desi Arnez in the Long Trailer movie).
We were in Texas this last Nov. to buy a travel trailer. Good lord it was HOT! We had to go to San Antonio to pick it up and then drive it back. We made the mistake…er..choice to drive the back roads to come into Texas. I’m glad we didn’t make that “choice” heading home. We actually were on the Extraterrestrial Highway…being probed by an alien would have been much more entertaining. This is one desolate area!
We arrive home safe and sound to find that everyday in our green acres is a new experience. Like turkeys that attack our truck, a unique pheasant I’ve named Larry that is not very bright, a small group of little deers (not dears) that are determined to get to my garden, flocks of geese and ducks and a critter that huffs at me when I walk near the stream side of the property.
And to top it all off we got adopted by a cat. Not my choice but seems I didn’t get a vote. She arrived late November and is still here, despite our leaving for trips. To date she’s brought us 31 mice (had no idea that many mice were even ON the property), 2 birds and 7 moles. I’m a city gal, I’ve never owned a cat. So having these little prizes brought to me has been an adjustment. She loves to eat the mice, more so if I stand there with her. Moles, she leaves those and of the birds only beaks and feathers remain. It’s my own personal CSI show. We’ve named her Ranch Kitty.
There you have it. My introduction to country, rural life. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.