Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Random reflections on September

  1. The Minkler Cash Store. Do. Not. Miss. It. Of course, you have to find yourself in central CA, east of Fresno. But, still...completely worth it.
  2. If you leave Fresno, CA at 5:20 a.m., you can reach Bend, OR by 4:00 p.m. The same day. While driving relatively close to the posted speed limit.
  3. Enjoyed my first rugby game. Of course as a spectator. That is one rough sport. Just like football, without the helmets and pads. Ouch.
  4. Rugby players are a wild bunch.
  5. I wish someone would've told me sooner about the wonderfulness that is Aloha Cafe's Lava Chicken. Wait. I may have been better off not knowing.
  6. I should play golf more than once a year.
  7. I get to be a MIL again! So very happy for DD#2 on her engagement.
  8. Guess I'd better get back to a regular workout schedule. And lay off #5.
  9. All this cool weather makes me think it must be time to fire up the needles.
  10. Do I finally finish the sleeves on that blasted sweater, or find some new inspiration?
Watch out for that blind curve. It's seriously deadly.

Above the bar at Minkler Cash Store. Yes, you can have a beer before you do your shopping. Or after.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Each September and February, a group of girlfriends gets together for the weekend. In September, it's a great way to close out the summer and make sure our connections are strong for the busy fall and winter ahead. There are nine of us now, coming from various parts of Oregon and northern California. We spend the weekend talking, eating, laughing, drinking wine, reading, occasionally knitting...nothing strenuous. Our weekend this year had the perfect setting: Lake of the Woods in southern Oregon. My friend's family cabin on the east side of the lake is the perfect setting at all times of day...

Just after sunriseEarly afternoon
It's a little piece of paradise, right here on earth.

Despite the fact that I never wanted to leave, I think I'm now ready to take on whatever the world throws my way this fall.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I ran a marathon! Well, sort of...

As some of you recall, I participated in a half-marathon in January. Shortly thereafter, I was coerced--er, I mean, invited--to do another one in June with two nieces who live near Seattle. Despite the fact that I wasn't able to train as rigorously for the second one, I did complete it, and I did beat my Phoenix time by one whole minute!
Yay, me!

Considering the Seattle course was hilly, and the Phoenix one was flat as a pancake, I was thrilled to come in with a better time.

If you're a runner who enjoys participating in these events, I have high praise for the Rock 'n' Roll Series of races. Not because the music along the route is outstanding (I honestly didn't feel it was, in either race), but because the races were so well organized. From the registration packet pick-up to the finish line, it was a smooth and enjoyable experience. The Seattle course was absolutely beautiful, too. It began in Tukwila and wound up through the Seward Park neighborhood, along Lake Washington, through the I-90 tunnel and into downtown. Great views!

Now, imagine my surprise when another medal arrived in the mail recently...
See that? It says 26.2 miles! That's a marathon, right?! Never mind the fact that it took me six months to get it done.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One to enjoy before summer's behind us

Before we get to the end of summer, I wanted to share a recipe I found that I've been enjoying this season. Ordinarily, I don't consider myself a cole slaw fan. It's largely because of the mayo. I'll only eat mayonnaise--and it has to be Best Foods--in certain dishes, and cole slaw isn't one of them. Recently, though, I was asked to bring a salad to a friend's dinner party. The entree was to be chicken enchiladas, so I went on the hunt for a complementary Mexican recipe. I think I've found my kind of cole slaw! This Spicy Southwestern Slaw was very refreshing with lots of distinct flavors. I'm a bit wary with jalapenos and cayenne, so the only modifications I made to the recipe were to substitute diced green chiles for the jalapenos, and to use only about 1/4 tsp. of cayenne. Everyone still felt it was spicy enough, and allowed the other flavors in the salad to really stand out.
If you're a cabbage fan, I recommend giving this a try! It'd be a great addition to fish tacos, too. Hmm...maybe that's what's for dinner!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fifty. Yes, fifty.

Wow. Another month has passed since my last post. Doesn't exactly make for an interesting read, now does it?

I honestly thought life was back on track there for a while, settling into some kind of normal routine. We helped Mom celebrate her 85th...
With her 12th great-grandchild...
Spent an afternoon with friends at Mt. Shasta Lavender Farms:
Unfortunately, we weren't to see the full glory of Mt. Shasta that's there in the clouds.But the new shop is beautiful!And, oh, the smell of all the fresh lavender. Heaven!

If you get to northern California between mid-June and mid-July in any year, I encourage you to make a stop at the farms. Take a picnic and enjoy the views of the Shasta Valley and the mountain. The sights and scents will do you good.

Yes, that was a lovely weekend, and we returned home with the expectation of settling back into the regular flow of the weekdays and weekends of a Bend summer. Then the phone started ringing.

In that last full week of June, two days apart, I lost two of my first cousins. One from each side of the family. Neither one expected. It's been hard. Really hard.

I'm part of a huge family. Loads of aunts and uncles on both sides of the family (Mom was one of seven; Dad one of eleven), many of whom had loads of children. I came along at the tail end of the generation, so it has become a fairly frequent occurrence that one of my aunts or uncles passes away...most into their 80's or 90's. I miss them all, but am grateful for the long, fulfilling lives they led and for the chance to have been able to know them and hear first-hand the stories and experiences of a Depression-era generation.

As a result of all those aunts and uncles (and I know what you're thinking, but no, they weren't all Catholic, and none of them were LDS...), I am one of 50 first cousins. Yes, you read that right. 27 on my Mom's side, 23 on my Dad's. I haven't recently made a count of these cousins' families, but I'm pretty sure if you put us all in one place we could incorporate a small city. I have my "go-to" cousins for a wide array of issues and advice. They are relatives, but they are also friends. Thankfully, I can say the same for my brothers, sister, nieces and nephews.

It's a mixed blessing, this huge family thing. On one hand, I've had--and continue to have--a lifetime of picnics, weddings, BBQ's, reunions and other assorted family gatherings that have made for a lifetime of happy memories.

On the other hand, I've attended way too many funerals at this point in my life, and I know there are far too many ahead. But, as our family tends to do, we use humor as our coping mechanism. They're now called "going away parties."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Remember this?

Well, things are beginning to take shape. The past couple of weeks have been busy on several fronts:
  • Gardening (between thunderstorms)
  • Working on the consulting project
  • Entertaining and enjoying company
  • Training for the upcoming half-marathon in Seattle
  • Reading a couple of fun, summer-style books: The Girls from Ames, A Salty Piece of Land
  • Sewing. Lots of it. Between some custom orders and other items, it's been fun to play with fabric and exercise some basic math skills in the design process. Here are a few finished products:
File tote for a mobile office

Laptop sleeve

Cord and charger case for a road warrior

What hasn't been happening? Knitting. Must fix that. But right now, I have three more handbags to complete this week.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not from around these parts, are you?

Periodically, I'll look out to the front lawn to find Sophie stretching out from her back legs, tail straight, nose down, ears forward and an inquisitive look on her face. It's always fun to check out what new bug, snail or caterpillar she is encountering for the first time.

Today was no exception. It was definitely something new and different:

The neighbors' pet turtle decided to break out and take an off-road trip.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Recipe for exhaustion

  • One three-year-old Westie
  • One six-year-old girl
  • One tennis ball
  • One stuffed squirrel
  • One house with yard
To make:

Mix until blended, allowing to flow in and out of house for two days. Remove six-year-old girl. Check Westie on afternoon of second day. Should look something like this, and remain so for at least one day:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Oops! Someone fell off the blogwagon.

I don't know exactly what happened to the month of May, but here's a brief glimpse:
  • Jimmy Buffett is not past his prime. He still puts on a terrific show.
  • The wind in Montague can bruise your knee, if it happens to shut your car door on it. And it's the reason I don't plan to ever live there again.
  • There's a vibe in Berkeley quite like no other place I've been (unless maybe Cambridge, MA.)
  • It's wonderful to have a friend that you can pick right up with after years of apart-ness.
  • Quaking Aspen are just large weeds. Granted, they're pretty ones, but seriously. I am SO tired of pulling the little shoots, and the battle has only just begun.
  • My sweater's still not done.
  • Bolt is one fantabulous fabric boutique.
Happy June!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Status: Sleeveless

It's the last day of April, and my goal of finishing Cables and Os hasn't quite come to fruition. I've made steady progress, but some company over last weekend and some sewing projects I allowed to distract me put a dent in my knitting time this month. So, here it stands:

I'm now aiming for mid-May. At least I can take comfort in the fact that we're back in winter here and this probably wouldn't keep me warm enough if I did have it completed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I wasn't going to whine about the weather.

Honest, I wasn't. But after two straight days of this, I can't stand it. Look at the calendar, will you, please! Then, look at these:

And then tell me (insert deep breath here) how I'm supposed to feel like running (which I'm supposed to be doing in about an hour but it's still snowing out and I have this issue where my fingers and toes go numb when I'm out in the cold for very long and I have this personal requirement about running only when it's above 45 and I could come up with a million other excuses but the truth is I just don't want to deal with it), or planning my garden (let alone planting it), or doing much of anything outside that involves more than opening the door to let the dog out and back in (exhale what's left of breath here).

So, I think I'll go knit instead. Indoors. At Dudley's. Where they have great coffee. And it's warm.

Or, maybe I'll succumb to the guilt of knowing that all my running friends will be there and I should just suck it up and act like a true Bendite and stop wimping out because after all it is only for an hour. And someone told me once that there is no bad weather, only bad clothes. And I can stand anything for an hour. Right?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

Last month, I asked for guesses on the year this fabulous pattern was published...

Since you were good sports and played along, I've decided to select a winner with the closest guess, rather than requiring the exact year. And, with her guess of 1972, Melissa wins! The year was actually 1971. And yes, I did wear one of these, exactly as you see it featured above. Hey...I was eight, and it was the 70's...

For Melissa's nearly-accurate guess, she'll be receiving a set of my summery Hummingbirds & Dragonflies coasters. I know, I know...I said the prize would be knit...but summer's coming and these just seemed like fun.

Thanks for playing along!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One of a Million?

That's my estimate of how many blog posts I'm among out there featuring a photo similar to this one from our beautiful Central Oregon this week.

Click on photo to view the Three Sisters and Broken Top

I made the drive to Sisters Sunday morning for the Stitchin Post's customer appreciation days (thanks for the heads up, Sarah...I love that store...and it should love me back...), and actually remembered to take my camera for a change. It's a wonder there aren't more accidents along Hwy. 20 on days like that; it's hard to keep your eyes on the road when the Cascades are looming so large you can almost reach out and touch them.

I have an ongoing love affair with the Cascade range, probably because of growing up with Mt. Shasta out my front window. If you're a geology lover, there is a fabulous book on the Cascade volcanoes called Fire & Ice by Stephen Harris. I picked it up several years ago at the visitor center at Mt. St. Helens. It's out of print now, but available used on Amazon and probably also through the library. Check it out! It will give you a whole new appreciation for this beautiful chain of mountains.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jackpot: 46, PJ: 0

Alas, foiled again for another year (see previous post). One of my nephews found it. Somehow, the camera didn't make it to the hunt with me, so this has to be a photo-free post. For the record, though, it turned out to be a gorgeous afternoon: mid-60's...sunny, blue skies...ahhh...

And now, I'm off to devil the dozen I did manage to find. I always think of deviled eggs as such a "retro" dish, but I have to admit I love them. Any favorite recipes out there? Here's mine:

To six mashed egg yolks, add:

1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. salt
Dash pepper
3 tbsp. mayonnaise or sour cream (I prefer mayo here, even though I'm not a mayo fan)
1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Mix together, refill the egg whites and dust with paprika and chopped parsley. I think it's the Worcestershire that makes the difference. Mmmm...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On Tradition (warning: long post)

I love a good tradition. I find great peace in knowing that no matter what else changes in my life, there is something I can count on to remain constant through the years. It helps me mark time, reflect on my past and shape the future. It ensures a real-life, non-electronic connection in a world that now relates largely via facebook, twitter, and email. While those are fabulous tools, and I use them, they're no substitute for the real thing.

My favorite tradition comes this weekend. Every year for the past 85 or so--rain, shine, or snow--my Dad's side of the family has gathered on Easter Sunday. Not for brunch. Not for dinner. No fancy Easter dresses. This is not your average Easter tradition. It goes something like this:

Sometime around noon, after attending various Easter services we all converge on the home of one of my cousins, several miles outside an already remote town in far northern California. We number around 80-100 people most years, ranging in age from newborn to 90. I travel four hours to be there; others travel twice that. While waiting for everyone to arrive, baseballs and Frisbees are tossed; others pass around new babies or give hugs to a great-aunt or -uncle. Eventually, we head for the food.

Ah, the food. Each family brings a main dish plus a salad or dessert. There are at least a dozen iterations of fried chicken, plus lasagnas, baked beans, green salads, bean salads, brownies, deviled eggs, cakes, pies, cookies... This is not a day for counting calories or fat content. You won't find a nutritional label for miles in any direction.

The food line snakes through the house, out the door and around the yard as everyone fills a plate and finds a place on the lawn to sit and catch up with someone they haven't seen for a year or more. In addition to our roles as parents, children, brothers and sisters, we are cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren. We are second cousins, first cousins-once-removed, and other relationships we've yet to figure out.

Oh yes, the eggs. Usually about 70-80 dozen of them, for the hunt. Each family brings one or two dozen depending upon the size of their crew. One of my older cousins is currently responsible for creating the Jackpot Egg...the holy grail of the hunt...elusive to me for the past 45 years. Judging from the way we all talk about this egg, you'd think the prize for finding it must be an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii.'s a bag of chocolates and bragging rights until next year.

Being selected as a hider is a big honor, usually bestowed on four or five of the uncles and older cousins who are most immune to bribery from those wanting the jackpot egg. The hiders gather up the dozens of cartons and head for the hills a mile or so from the picnic. They have about an hour to hide nearly 1,000 eggs before the rest of us arrive.

Easter Egg Hill is divided into two sections, separated by an irrigation ditch. To the east is gently sloping pasture, set aside for the kids aged 8 and under. There, eggs are resting on tufts of new grass, easily visible to the 2'- and 3'-tall set. West of the ditch is for the big kids aged 90. It's a hill covered with chaparral, wild celery (icknish), oak and ponderosa pine trees. On this side, the eggs are harder to spot: tucked into the bushes and plants, down squirrel holes, in the crook of a tree branch.

The little ones go first, so everyone can watch them run aimlessly over the pasture, tripping over their baskets and walking directly over top of several eggs.
Then, it's a sight to behold when the starter turns toward the hill and yells "3...2...1...go!", and 60 adult bodies launch themselves across the ditch and up the hill, risking twisted ankles and scraped knees.
The race is on for the prizes that will be awarded to Finder of the Most Eggs and Finder of the Jackpot Egg. It's a tough crowd and competition is fierce. As I mentioned earlier (and I'm not bitter...really...), I've yet to find the jackpot egg. My totals are always respectable, but never prize-winning. No matter how I change my route up the hill and try new strategies each year, my totals always seem to be around 13 eggs and not one of them bears the word 'JACKPOT'.

So, accepting that another year will pass with me in the middle of the pack, I turn to my personal tradition. Once I've found the majority of my eggs, I wander the hill, breathing the fresh air, listening to the birds, and taking in the new spring growth around me.
I remember my dad and aunts and uncles who have wandered this hill before me...the way they made their families top priority through their actions, words and traditions. I say a silent "thank you" for them having been such strong, positive influences on my life. I miss them, and I recommit to paying forward the gifts they gave me.

Within an hour, we're all gathered back together, reporting our totals to the counter and waiting for the prizes to be awarded. Invariably, we learn there are still 97 eggs out there somewhere. We agree to leave them for the squirrels, deer, and other residents of the Hill and we all head home, another Easter complete and a week of deviled eggs on the horizon.

In our Monday-to-Friday lives, we are business owners, lawyers, veterinarians, engineers, ranchers, artists, judges, homemakers, teachers, etc. But on this day we're just Bray kids, doing what we've done every Easter for as long as we can remember, because the generations before us did it, and we've learned from them the importance of continuity. And we know we can count on each other to show up. And isn't that really what life's about? Learning from the old and teaching the young. Being present for those who matter. Showing up.

I think so. It's tradition.

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 3, 2009

They missed the memo

Back from our road trip to Idaho/Wyoming/Montana, where it appears--as evidenced here--word has not yet reached them that Spring has begun. We traveled some absolutely gorgeous country, from Jackson, Wyoming through West Yellowstone and Bozeman, Montana. If you've never been to that part of the world, I highly recommend putting it on your list. And if you're not a winter person, I highly recommend it sometime June through October.

A small fraction of the elk currently on the National Elk Refuge at Jackson, Wyoming.

Along the Gros Ventre River, just outside Jackson.

Limited visibility (no kidding!) on our way through Island Park, Idaho. Consequently, I have no idea what Island Park looks like...

Rolling clouds along the rolling hills in Northeastern Idaho, during our one day of blue sky. Loved this shot.

Lucky for me, I have a husband who likes to drive so I was able to spend the better part of 2,00o miles doing this:

Beginning stages of the Cables and O's Cardigan.

I wish I were a faster knitter, but I have to sacrifice speed for accuracy at this point. My goal is to get this done by end of April...I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I think I'll take up crochet...

...because DH's birthday is coming up and I just know he'd jump at the chance to wear one of these. I mean really, who wouldn't, when something can make you so obviously happy?

Just one of my finds from the Great Upstairs Clean-out of 2009 while I was down at Mom's last week. I have a prize for the reader who can guess the year this pattern was published. I won't tell you what it is yet. But I can promise you it will be knitted.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In freak of nature, 45-year-old turns 13

You'd think I'd be past it by now...this business of feeling like an adolescent, expecting to break out in bouts of acne and attitude at any moment.

I'm off to spend a week with my Mom, working on projects around the house that she can no longer see to do. Each time I make these trips back to the ranch solo, I feel as though I immediately revert back to that awkward teenager. The "ahh, to be a kid again" sentiment doesn't apply to me, I guess. It's a strange phenomenon, vaulting back through the years. Things are certainly different now: Dad's gone (has been for almost 25 years), the animals are gone, and Mom's the one who needs care now; not the child. And yet, she still manages to wield that Mom-ness that has me flipping between "it's good to be back home" and a bad burst of back-talk.

I doubt I'm unique. I suspect most women go through this at one time or another. You tell me. I'm just saying it's weird, and I'm not wild about the feeling. On the flip side, though:
  • I'll get a few days of digging through the old fabric stash. Who knows? Maybe I'll find some "vintage" stuff from my high school days. Ouch.
  • I'll get to run Sophie all over the ranch (one of her favorite things on the planet).
  • And I'll get to stare at this out the front window (one of my favorite things on the planet).
Maybe it will be good to be a kid again. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Waste not, want not...or not

From Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's "Never Not Knitting" Page-a-Day calendar.

Another of my March resolutions: de-stash. How is it possible, you wonder, that a person who has only been knitting for little more than a year could even have a stash? Well, it's like this: As a fledgling knitter, I bought stuff that wouldn't break the bank so that I wouldn't feel guilty if it didn't turn into what it was supposed to turn into. The now-more-mature, one-year-old knitter realizes this was a silly idea. I've become fairly proficient at tinking and frogging (more than I care to admit), so have been able to scrap patterns and start on new ones with the same yarn. And, I've learned what a joy it is to work with good yarn.

Noro Kureyon, colorway 95

Then, there's the yarn that my Mom bestowed on me after a massive closet cleaning, overjoyed at the fact that her baby had taken up knitting. She was a crocheter (before her eyes succumbed to macular degeneration)...a frugal crocheter, raised during the depression. While she made beautiful baby blankets, sweaters and wedding afghans, she made nearly all of them from 100% acrylic. Of course, back in the 70's and 80's there wasn't the mind-boggling array of fiber that we enjoy today, so I have to cut her some slack. Thinking I could put it to good use on some charity items (baby hats to hospitals, etc.), I took the stuff. Another silly idea. Oh, I still plan to use a bit of it for baby hats, but for the last year most of it has done nothing more than take up space in my closet. Obviously, when it came time to start a new project, the budding yarn aficionado in me would reach for something else. So, most of it will see charity in a different a donation of yarn.

So this month, I've put a moratorium on buying any new yarn, requiring myself to knit what I have. Except for that little bit of Dream in Color Classy in Beach Fog I picked up on ebay last weekend. Using gift credit doesn't really count as buying, does it?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Unfortunately, Polly isn't a perfect creation...

Because it's Sunday and I lost an hour of sleep last night, I'm being lazy. So, with a nod to Melissa, via Kathi D, via, via, via...

The "unfortunately" meme: go to Google, type your name and the word unfortunately in quotations, and share the results.

Unfortunately, Polly will not be able to make finals.
I always hated finals, so I'm OK with that.

Unfortunately, Polly isn’t planning on writing a sequel.
Kind of difficult to plan on that when the first book has yet to be conceived.

Unfortunately, Polly is not included with this play set but three of her friends are...
You want the big dogs, you have to pony up.

Unfortunately, Polly isn't a perfect creation and she dances faster and faster until she is out of control and ends up off the dance floor.
Well, I never claimed to be perfect. But obviously, someone's been watching at those wedding receptions...

, Polly, who happens to have a problem keeping her clothes on...
Now that's just not true.

Unfortunately, Polly is silly enough to believe them!
My full name does not include anna...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Top five reasons I'm glad it's March

  • It's no longer February. February has always been my least favorite month of the year. Dark. Brr.
  • Spring Training is underway. Go Giants! Go Red Sox! (Yes, I have dual loyalties. I'm a National League girl at heart, but I also have to root for our hometown--home region?--boy, Jacoby Ellsbury . This drives my dyed-in-the-wool-third-generation-Giants-Fan brothers NUTS.)
  • Daylight Saving Time begins. More day at the end of the day.
  • St. Patrick's Day. Hey, 1/4 Irish is still Irish. I actually like corned beef and cabbage.
  • Spring officially begins on the calendar. Which means only another couple of months until it reaches Central Oregon...but a girl can dream, can't she?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Every 56 days

That's how often you can help save a life. According to the American Red Cross, someone in the U.S. needs blood every 2 seconds. Think about that! Even more amazing to me: just 5% of eligible Americans donate on a regular basis. Until recently, I'd fallen into the other had been 19 years since my last donation (the look on the volunteer's face when I handed them my old card was'd have thought it was in heiroglyphics. "I've never seen one this old."). I can't explain what kept me from donating after that first time in wasn't as though I'd made a conscious decision not to donate. I just simply didn't do it.

Thankfully, that has changed, and I made a resolution this year that as long as I'm eligible, I'll give as frequently as allowed. It's painless (this, coming from someone who quakes at needles and the sight of blood), it only takes an hour, it could save someone's life, and you get free cookies. I love cookies.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In stitches

It's been a fabric-and-fiber-filled couple of weeks, and I've been stitching like a madwoman. My knitting group is making a blanket to donate to charity, so I bought a skein of Cascade 220 Heathers (in colorway Kansas) and went to town on some squares.

Our daughter's friend had their first child...last November. How embarrassingly late can I be with a gift? At least she's not walking yet. Thank goodness. This is her Sweet Dreams Pillow.

And lastly, my nephew/godson and his wife are expecting their first baby in May, and the shower is next weekend. They're expecting a girl. No, seriously.

I'm still scrubbing the rust off where sewing is concerned, but I'm getting back into the groove and it feels good.