News flash! Strange creature spotted in my backyard!

September 1st, 2010

Hmmm.  Does this dog seem to have too many legs?

Yep — definitely two too many!

Wait, now there seems to be an extra tail…

Ah, puzzle solved!

Billie’s favorite place to sit is directly underneath Bonnie.  Bonnie puts up with it because…

She loves her new little sister!

Little House on the Cul-de-sac

July 20th, 2010

There’s something about summer that makes me feel all Laura Ingalls Wilderish.  I get in a “Little House” frame of mind come July every year, and there’s nothing to be done for it but whip out my apron and start stirring up good things.

July is when the berries start ripening in droves.  June is a tease — just strawberries, mostly — although here in Oregon, that means Hood strawberries, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else.  Intensely sweet and highly perishable, they rarely make it to stores and have to be hunted down at Farmer’s Markets or, if you’re lucky (which I am), at the neighborhood berry stand that magically appears every summer in an unpaved parking lot near our local supermarket.

June means bowls of strawberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It means homemade strawberry shortcake (my husband’s favorite) for Father’s Day.  Some years it means strawberry jam, too, although this year I was too busy with work to put any up.

July, though, means Berries with a capital B — boysenberries, loganberries, raspberries, marionberries, tayberries, sylvan blackberries, and whatever other berries Mother Nature can dream up.  I was determined not to let this bounty, too, slip by, and when a window of opportunity opened up this past weekend, I grabbed it and my husband (aka Pa Frederick), and made a dash for our favorite berry farm …

… where we picked gooseberries and boysenberries.

Oregon boysenberries

Boysenberries  make the BEST jam — although marionberries run a close second.

Ma Frederick's Boysenberry Jam

Oddly enough, boysenberries also make good picture books.

Coming in October 2010!

I got the idea for this book a couple of years ago, at the very same berry farm.  Writers fool around with words in their heads a lot (if you ever notice a vacant expression on our faces, that’s what we’re doing), and that day I got to noodling around with the word “boysenberry” while my hands were busy picking.  Wouldn’t it be funny if there were girlsenberries? I thought.  Which of course led to, And wouldn’t it be funny if you could pick babyberries? That was it, I was off and running, and voila! Babyberry Pie was born.

No picture books were born this weekend, just a most satisfying cupboard full of jam and chutney (gooseberries make fabulous chutney).  Oh, and we picked up some rhubarb, too, which I turned into Rhubarb Custard Streusel Pie.

I used Jennifer Jacobson’s recipe (thanks, JJ!),  but since I only had one pie crust in the freezer (I make several at a time and freeze the extras), and was too lazy to make another one, I whipped up some streusel topping instead.  You can use it atop just about any fruit pie — trust me, it’s delicious.  Here’s the recipe:

Streusel Topping

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour

Mix together until topping is the consistency of coarse bread crumbs.  Sprinkle evenly atop pie, cover with foil, and bake as usual, according to the directions for whatever pie you’re making.  Remove foil for the last 10 minutes or so of baking, so that streusel turns golden brown.

Yum.

All in all, a most satisfying weekend.  Ma Ingalls would definitely approve.

Keeping cool

July 8th, 2010

It’s hotter than blazes here!

When my family and I moved from the East Coast to the Northwest nearly 20 years ago, we quickly discovered one of Portland, Oregon’s best-kept secrets — absolutely heavenly summers.

Our winters may be cool and gray and rainy, but summer is a different story altogether.  We’re talking almost no humidity (bliss for a former New Englander), and weeks and weeks of sunny skies and temperatures that hover in the 70s and low 80s.

Not today.

Like most of the rest of the country, we’re sweltering out here.  After one of the rainiest springs on record, and March weather that lingered through the fourth of July, we’ve finally been hit with a heat wave.

Yesterday I threw in the towel (literally) and vamoosed to my favorite outdoor pool to cool off.  When I came home, I switched the air conditioner on for the first time all summer and made homemade fudgesicles.  Today I might have to play hooky and go to a movie.

What are your favorite ways to beat the heat?

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