The Painted Hills of Eastern Oregon
Thursday, May 27, 2010

When most people think of Eastern Oregon, they think desert. That's because, well, it is. And while some are able to appreciate the unique characteristics of an arid landscape--very fragrant sagebrush, the SUN!, or (gasp!) the overabundant reptile population (eeek! ewww!)--most people who live in The Valley, I suspect, don't really find the value in leaving the recreational mecca of Portland to travel 5 to 6 hours by car only to end up in a land comparatively deficient of moisture and vegetation. Even when they know one of Oregon's most fascinating geological masterpieces can be found there.

These, my friends, are The Painted Hills of Eastern Oregon--an impressive 3,000-acre stretch of colorful layers situated within the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The entire area was an ancient floodplain, and the different types of matter deposited there over time are what gives it such diverse and highly saturated coloring.

Totally. Worth. The Drive.

Vibrant yellow flowers growing in the crevices

Wyatt and Avery running up and down the boardwalk of one of the trails

Trying to catch a lizard
(Notice how Avery is interested yet remains cautious
behind the protective shield of the trail sign. Love that girl.)

We spent the weekend exploring the monument, camping amongst snakes, lizards, and feral pigs (thank God we didn't actually see one of those!), and getting to know the townsfolk of the neighboring communities. Apparently it's common practice for the overall-wearing, axe-carrying, Paul Bunyan lookalike owner of the local mercantile to make female customers follow him out to the field behind the store to gather their own firewood and haul it back by themselves. Good to know, right? My heart was racing a million miles a minute. Oh, and did I mention his two ginormous rottweilers were sniffing my crotch the entire time I had my arms full of firewood? Oh yeah. I thought I was a goner.

Damn dogs.

Grasshead Harry
Monday, May 24, 2010

Grasshead Harry. Sort of sounds like a name for a rock band.

Or, in our case, a preschool horticulture project.

Meet Harry.

He came to us as bald as a newborn baby about 3 weeks ago, and we have since been diligently watering, checking for progress, watering, and checking for progress.


I feared Wyatt had, in typical Wyatt fashion, picked the dud head. Then one day, surprisingly, Harry sprouted his first bright green blade of grassy hair. Two days later, he had enough to braid into pigtails (Oh trust me, I've been so tempted).

We've grown quite fond of Grasshead Harry over the past few weeks. I'm nostalgically reminded of a time during my childhood when all I ever wanted in life was my very own Chia Pet.

I never got one.

Needless to say, Harry and I have a special bond. It's going to be really hard to chuck him into the garbage in a few days.

(If you're interested in making a Grasshead Harry of your very own, you can find instructions here.)


Oh, and for any fellow Chia followers out there, you'll be excited to learn about the new ObamaChia.

Hurry and get your own, while supplies last.

Marvel!! Give me back my son!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When Wyatt discovers a new interest, he becomes obsessed. He fixates on that one thing for weeks (even months) on end, leaving no room for other hobbies or activities. It all started with Thomas the Tank Engine, then it switched to Batman, then Spiderman. Now, it's Venom; the repulsive saw-toothed arch nemesis of Spiderman.

My rebellious-natured son has disapprovingly ventured to the dark side and loves it (can't say I'm surprised). Probably because he knows his mother doesn't. I try not to make a big fuss, in hopes he'll get bored and pursue something else, but I'm not sure how much longer I can stand the ugliness.

But I do have to give the kid some credit for such a flawless Venom impersonation. It's actually quite impressive. You can tell he's spent many hours in front of the mirror perfecting his skill.

And it keeps him from getting girl cooties at school because none of them want a thing to do with him. Really...can you blame them?

I'm hoping Iron Man will pull through for me and officially dethrone the ogre villain. But if not, I'm sure we can ditch him at the Texas border en route to Oklahoma. The Bible Belt doesn't take too kindly to evil black slime.

Rockaway Beach
Friday, May 14, 2010

We're getting ready to head out for the weekend, but I just wanted to post a few of my favorite shots from last weekend's outing to Rockaway Beach.

Have a wonderful weekend. We're being blessed with some amazing weather right now. Let's hope it continues.


Be careful, you could gain 10 lbs just reading this.
Friday, May 7, 2010

Last December I read The Help.

It's an awesome read. If you haven't read it yet, you need to. Asap.

But anyway, one of the main characters--an angry, scrappy, and downright hilarious maid by the name of Minny--was famous for her caramel cakes around the town of Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960's.

Caramel cake? I thought to myself inquisitively as I read it the first time. I never knew such a delightful thing existed! Well, it did exist, and I was determined to try a bite for myself. The only problem was that if I baked an entire cake for my family, Eric would eat a microscopic sliver, the kids might share a piece, and I'd be left to devour the rest, thereby committing myself to exercising morning, noon, and night for a year just to work off the calories.

So, when The Help was selected as our April book club pick, I jumped at the chance to bake a caramel cake for all the girls. These girls.

Awww...look at all those smiling faces. I sure will miss them.
**sniff, sniff**

I searched high and low for a truly authentic southern recipe, but most of them required a cast iron skillet (you don't say) in which to cook the caramel, and the idea alone of me trying to cook with a piece of equipment like that (sheesh, they weigh like 50 lbs or something) just spelled D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. So, any time I'm in any type of southern cooking crisis I turn to Paula Deen. You can't go wrong with Paula. In fact, her recipes should come with a "you'll gain 30 lbs in a month OR your money back" guarantee. And with 5 sticks of butter in this baby, she did not disappoint.

Holy cholesterol, Batman!

It was really a delicious cake. The frosting was a bit too sweet for me, but the cake and caramel filling were absolutely perfect. For those interested in attempting this caloric masterpiece at home, here is the recipe.

Bobby's Caramel Cake
For the cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the filling:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream, or more if needed
1 (16-ounce) box confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts, optional


For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add granulated sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4-inches above counter dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

For the filling:
While cake is baking, in a saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and milk. Cook and stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Remove cake layers from oven and allow cake to remain in pans as you prepare to stack and fill. Remove first layer and invert onto cake plate. Pierce cake layer with a toothpick over entire surface. Spread 1/3 of filling mixture on cake layer. Top with second layer, repeat process. Top with last layer and repeat process again.

*Cook's Note:
You may want to insert dowel rods or toothpicks into the layers to prevent cake from shifting.

For the frosting:

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil, and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat with a handheld electric mixer until it reaches a spreading consistency. At this time it may be necessary to add a tablespoon of heavy cream, or more, if frosting gets too thick. Just be sure to add cream is small amounts because you can always "add to", but you can't take away. Frost cake and sprinkle top with chopped nuts, if desired.

This is what Wyatt thought of his mom's first attempt at a caramel cake.

This was taken just moments before he was told he'd have to wait 24 hours before he could have a piece. The thumbs up turned into a big fat thumbs down in a hurry.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

You know the saying. April showers bring May showers.

Oh, that's not it?

Well it is around here.

In the land of precipitation.

Rain, drizzle, hail, and even thundersnow (there really is such a thing). We've seen it all this Spring. Who ever would've thought precip could be so exciting?

Being cooped up indoors for so many days and weeks at a time has really taken its toll on all of us, but unfortunately, Avery has drawn the shortest end of the stick because, well, she has hair. Hair that can be played with by a mommy looking for something to do.

Besides laundry.

I call this masterpiece, The Debacle of Braids.

I'm always looking for ways to experiment with Avery's hair, for it's truly a monstrosity with all of the random cowlicks atop her head. I thought maybe adding a little body to it would do the trick.

Cute. But not worth the effort.

Rain, Rain, Go Away.

And please don't come again another day.

For Avery's sake.

Her mother may be forced to go Pippi Longstocking on that sweet little head of hers.

Simply for the shock value
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Our next door reptile neighbor, Delilah

Yes, she is disgusting.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!



My Wine Personality:
For the most part I’m a chardonnay, as I consider myself to exhibit a somewhat sunny and mellow disposition (most of the time), but because I find a tremendous amount of joy out of showering my two kids with hugs and kisses, I also possess the subtle sweetness often found in a riesling. But don’t be fooled. I love a great outdoor adventure and am willing to try anything once. This occasional display of boldness is thought to match that of a cabernet, whereas my appreciation for nature suggests that I have an earthy component to my personality—very characteristic of a merlot. (more)


“Wine rejoices the heart of man and joy is the mother of all virtues.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1771