The cocktail/mocktail challenge

I am very actively involved in a theater/performing arts/cultural nonprofit, the Portland Revels. Each spring we have an event, Flourish, with the purpose of connecting with our friends and supporters and of course, raising money. This year’s restrictions of course have put a crimp in in-person gatherings and we have been pivoting and shifting to an on-line get-together – hasn’t everyone!

To spice things up, we settled on a cocktail/mocktail challenge — designing drinks worthy of the name “Flourish”.  We have several talented amateur mixologists on board. Robert Lockwood has been called out in a previous post and I myself have fun with a drop of this and a squeeze of that.

We’re hoping to have all attendees come up with something and I’ve been posting beverages, both silly and serious, in this lead up to the event on May 31.

I have no idea how a totally on-line event is going to go and am a bit nervous about that.  But hoping to get enough buzz on the cocktail/mocktail challenge that people will have fun with it.  At least I get to try to use every piece of different glassware in the house!

What’s the best ‘event’ you’ve attended  in the past few weeks in an online setting? I’d love to hear what made it work or made it special.


A cold day calls for a hot tea toddy


Flourish quince cooler, my first drink

#revelsflourish #portlandrevels #revelsconnect #revelscreates

The grass is greener….

The power of green


The wall apparently took some getting over.  And I’m not sure I’m quite over there yet but I am being propelled by the power of green. The color green. The greening earth. The green smell of my tomato plants and (of course) cut grass.  I’m pretty well convinced of the power of nature and there is evidence empirically, that things like ‘forest-bathing’ are essential to our mental health.

Twenty years ago, American biologist E. O. Wilson noted that humans are “hardwired” to connect with the natural world, and that being in nature had a profoundly positive effect on human health.

It makes sense.  For thousands of years, if not more, the human species lived off the land and in the land. The evidence indicates that agriculture, as in farming, arose a mere 12,000 years ago.  Humans have been around much longer than that, the oldest known skeleton of an anatomically modern homo sapien (us) dates back at least 200,000 years ago.  Cities, on the other hand, are only 5,000 years old (give or take) – some anthropologist believe that strong agricultural practices were necessary before cities could coalesce.  In any event, as my friend Erna is fond of saying, we as a species have had much more experience being in natural environments rather than in built environments. Some researchers have even proposed that living in high rise apartments increases your risk of depression! Perhaps its because we are not ‘built’ for that kind of living.

These past few weeks have been an interesting experience in separation from the natural environment for many people. As a result, there’s been a phenomenal uptick in the purchase of house plants, garden seeds, vegetable starts, and the like. People are experimenting with regrowing lettuce and scallions in a kitchen window.  It of course remains to be seen if people will stick with this green growth but I’m optimistic. Millennials are fueling an overall increase in house plant purchases. I know the nursery I work at has stocked more and more houseplants as the years have gone by.

I’m very, very lucky in that I’ve got a big garden and am an easy drive from natural (and safe) beauty. I can feel my blood pressure and anxiety decreases whenever I’m working in the garden or walking through the woods.  But even grooming a house plant can improve your mood.

Go green.  You may find yourself happier for it.


peering into the wild


#quarantinegardening #forestbathing

Hitting a wall

Hitting a wall

Or maybe its just a fence.

Or maybe that it’s fatigue from the getting up at 5:20 am yesterday to dance up the sun on Mayday – a quaint custom I’ve been doing for fifteen years or more with my dance team. Alas, without my team this year.

Or maybe too many zoom meetings in a week.

Or maybe it’s keeping lively during this unexpectedly long time of sequestering.

Whatever it is, I hit a wall. Or a fence. Or a pause point.  Maybe a little depression, a little sadness. Poetry month is over and that always deflates my balloon a bit. Going from receiving 5-10 poems a day, and writing one, to the absence of shaped words in my in-box and life.

What I know , or believe, is this is a temporary banana peel.  I come from a long line of strong-hearted women, who pick themselves off the floor (and then wash it).  Move forward because that’s what you have to do.  But there is a little space when you have to pull back.  To sit at the bottom of the wall.  Sit with your sorrow or grief or anger.  Maybe butt your head against it. Maybe imagine it as a fence with space between it. Space that will gradually widen.

Whatever it is, I’ll sit here awhile.  Then today, or tomorrow, or the next day, I’ll plant something, or make something, or write something. Or just be. In the now of having climbed over the wall.




Til next time.



A May basket of goodies

Celebrate Mayday


I’m experimenting, truly, with media so I thought it might be fine to include a video in this post which is a bit about Mayday.

May 1, Mayday, has been celebrated as some kind of holiday in many cultures and traditions, perhaps most especially in the British Isles.  Given the historical US ties to England, Mayday is one of those days that has been celebrated in the past, but maybe not as robustly as it used to be.  Perhaps its because of the unfortunate connection between Mayday and the former Soviet Union. Or maybe the customs surrounding Mayday have become out of date, obsolete and quaint. They have certainly died out in many places.

However, some of us persevere.

Besides getting up to dance the dawn in (which, full disclosure, I have been doing for the past twenty years or so!), children, and perhaps adults,  used to put together May baskets, or May posies, to leave on a neighbors doorstep or doorknob. With my kids, I considered this anonymous gift a way of paying back the kindness of neighbors who put up with Halloween!

Mayday is 1/2 round the year from Halloween, and in some countries is considered the beginning of summer (thereby making the 23/24 of June – midsummer – something I had deeply wondered about in my  younger days – mid-June did not seem like midsummer). Maypoles, May dances, Maywine, fire leaping, and other special activities were part of village or small town life celebrating perhaps, the end of cold weather and the start of truly balmy days.

If you are hankering to do more to celebrate Mayday, this year on Friday, you could cut branches from flowering trees or shrubs.  Most trees flower, really!

Or you could decorate a May bush with streamers, ribbon, leftover Easter eggs and other decorations.

A sort of May bush.

Finally consider making May posies or May baskets to leave for your neighbors with or without a note. It’s a small kindness when small kindness means a lot.

Make posey cones, collect flowers and fill your cones.


Here’s a link to the video,


Our own Library of Congress has some interesting history, backstory, and resources about Mayday celebrations both here and in England. Here are links to two of them: Mayday and dancing and May celebrations.

And here’s an NPR piece specifically on May baskets from a few years ago.

Whether you dance up the sun, leave neighbors May baskets, or just enjoy the day, have a wonderful first of May.


(Song written and sung by Dave Weber)



#maydaybaskets #diyspring #mayday

Why DIY (in the kitchen that is)

Why DIY?

If you’re used to going out, whether to hike, eat, visit friends or go dancing or drinking, this time of social/physical distancing might have have given you more time (or at least a different kind of time) to do things you’ve always ‘meant to do’ like garden or bake bread or make things. You may have discovered some of the joys of DIY. Or perhaps have been curious in watching youtube videos of other peoples’ DIY

I’ve been a proponent of DIY in the kitchen for a long time, although it’s been, shall we say, emphasized lately.  I’ve already talked about making hummus for example. But there are other things, and other reasons, I DIY many things.

  • Generally foods taste better homemade than pre-prepared. Or at least fresher. With fewer additives. That leads to….
  • You have control of the ingredients. For instance, did you know that peanut butter often has added sugar and oil (and salt). Condiments like ketchup may have may more sugar than you want to have in your diet, not to mention the corn syrup. In DIY, you get to decide how much to add. And what.
  • A corollary to that: you get to experiment. Want to add garlic to your mayonnaise, just add garlic.  Want to shake up your hummus flavors. Hey, you are in control of that. And it doesn’t cost much if it goes south and you need to start again. Mad kitchen science is fun.
  • It can be cost -effective (not always but often).
  • You may be able to replicate an out of date or unavailable, taste or flavor. The pickles you had as a kid, a certain store-bought cupcake.
    • Or maybe you can’t get something now because stores are all sold out. Maybe you’ve got the ingredients at home to do so.
  • You can minimize other unintended consequences inherent in the packaging: many store bought, pre-made items are packaged in plastic. How many of you have way, way too many yogurt containers or other plastic containers?   I do, without reliable ways to recycle the containers or the lids.  If I DIY and make it myself, I can use re-usable glass containers for storage. Which also makes me feel better health-wise because glass is inert, while plastic (some plastics) can leach chemicals into your food.
  • Finally you can gain skills and get great satisfaction from doing something yourself. From home-made maraschino cherries to mayonnaise; from bread to bitters (my next project), there are instructions on how to hack, or make, just about anything these days. Chose a reliable source and try it.

    Life can be a bowl of maraschino cherries


Note: there are of course many, many arguments against DIY, chiefly time, effort, and money. If this is your opportunity to try something out, then go for it, really. You may find that that DIY mayonnaise takes very little time to make.  Or that cooking at home is actually more time efficient than eating out.  This can be an opportunity to experiment.  Open your heart and try.

Til next time:


#quarantine cooking #roomsinbloomnw #DIYcooking

2/3 of the way through on the 20th

That’s 2/3 of the way through NAPOWRIMO and my writers group has been busy.  About ten of us swapping poems and prompts.

I also encouraged three other friends to take on the NAPOWrIMO challenge of a poem a day. I feel like a mother hen to use an old expression, clucking over what my friends have taken the time to create. I don’t claim to be a ‘successful’ writer though I write, a lot, both technical things and creative things. But as mentioned in a post earlier in the month, I believe that we all have creative instincts and abilities.  We just need to trust in them, and in ourselves. Sometimes we have to dig quite deep. Sometimes we get crap and doggerel. Sometimes, we unearth a sublime gem.

I have been having some fun myself matching poems with images. I am a terrible 2D visual artist but, like many, I do like to take photos and play around with those.


So even though National/Global Poetry writing month is 2/3 done, pick up your pen. And go.

For prompts and ideas: NAPOWRIMO

Adult Beverages, Part 2

Well, this being Oregon, it seems like every other person we know makes wine, beer, mead, kombucha, etc.  Or is somehow engaged in dishing up yummy  beverages.  Our friend Robert, whose drink was featured a few weeks ago, loves to experiment but he’s not the only one.

In any case, in honor of this quite extraordinary sunny and warm Friday here on the west coast (and apologies to you midwesterners who may be getting snow), I’m having the concoction on the left, aka, “The Back Porch”


It’s pretty simple. I took stock of what I had (not much really) and used 2 oz. of Lillet (a French aperitif, kept cold), 1/2 oz of cherry liquor that came with the homemade maraschino cherries I made last summer, a squeeze of lime, 2 drops of bitters, a cherry and a lime peel. Shaken w/ an ice cube to get colder and then served.

Mmmmm. I think I’ll have another.

The cherries are quite easy to make if you can get your hands on cherries and Luxardo liquor this summer.  Either pie cherries or sweet cherries will do,  you can pit them or not. 1 pint of cherries to 1 pint of liquor.  Put the cherries in a jar (or two, how ever many will fit), pour the liquor over the cherries, let rest in cool dark place (refrigerated is best) for a few days at least, 2 weeks is best.  Apparently you can make non-alcohol versions using pomegranate juice or grape juice. I might try some with tart cherry juice or black cherry juice. You can also add lemon peel and other spices.

Saving the cherry for last.


Good luck to everyone heading into this weekend. Stay safe, stay well.


Out of the fire and into the fry pan

roasted chickpeas

I know, the saying is backward (out of the frying pan into the fire…. or things going from bad to worse). But I couldn’t help playing with it because this is a great time to back up, get that fallen hamburger out of the fire, give it a quick sear and eat it. Don’t let it go to waste.

There may be a time to cut your losses (and let that burger fall where it may), but its not now.  Now is the time to experiment, figure out what to do with the can of garbanzo beans in your pantry, find and cook those unusual cuts of meat, try Meatless Mondays, etc. Whether we have a few more weeks of isolation or not, there’s still an opportunity to take a slow food approach to life.

So I’m going to throw out a couple of ideas here because I know shortages are happening for some of you.  These are kind of random,  so pick what’s useful to you.

  • Out of baking powder? If you having backing soda and cream of tartar you can make your own. 1 teaspoon baking soda and 2 teaspoons cream of tartar yields 1 Tablespoon baking powder.


  • What about yeast? There is wild yeast everywhere in the air. From complicated to simple recipes, its possible to capture wild yeast, and therefore have bread starter. It’s as easy as mixing up 1 cup of flour and ½ cup of cool water and leaving it on your counter. King Arthur brand has a good reliable method of nurturing that starter and using it here


  • Those cans of chickpeas.  Easy peasy to turn into hummus or a wonderful chickpea snack.  Ordinarily hummus includes tahini but its not every pantry that has tahini. You can make hummus anyway with 1 can chickpeas, ¼ cup olive oil (or any oil really), 1 Tb lemon juice, salt to taste. You also add a bit of cumin, or a couple of garlic cloves.  Once you’ve tried homemade, you can experiment and make those fancy hummuses that cost a fortune and leave you with too many plastic containers.

Homemade hummus

  • Oven baked chickpeas are also fun and yum. Again one can of chickpeas, toss w/ olive oil and some spices. I’ve used salt and smoked paprika. 400o   oven for about 10 minutes (do check, you want the chickpeas a bit crunchy but not burned.


  • Try an unusual cut of meat. We’ve got a great grocery story, Sheridans, which stocks all kinds of unusual stuff in the freezer section.  They also have a fabulous fresh butcher/meat department.  Ox tails, pork or beef cheeks, chicken livers, etc. If these don’t sound appealing (too bad, porch cheeks are delicious), start off with something ‘easier’ like a hanger steak (which bears marinating…. great from fajitas) or short ribs (good braised).  There are plenty of good resources on the web, and in cookbooks imagine, to help you cook some of these unusual cuts.


  • The same idea applies to vegetables.  Now may be a great time to try brussels sprouts or celeriac, or turnips. My daughter sent me a great brussels sprout salad recipe even my husband liked.
  1. Shred 1 pound brussels sprouts (trimmed). Slice as thin as you can.

  2. Mash together 3 anchovies, 1 garlic clove, a pinch of salt and 2 Tb. olive oil, and 1 Tb lemon juice.

  3. Whisk in about ¼ cup or so of additional olive oil.

  4. Take ½ cup of walnuts, chop and toast in a dry pan.

  5. Put everything together.

  6. Serve with a small bowl of parmesan on the side to add.

Note: don’t have anchovies? You can just do a more traditional vinaigrette with just the garlic, adding a small bit of mustard. Or get real wild and crazy and try substituting 2-3 Tb Worcestershire Sauce, fish sauce, balsamic vinegar, or capers. What these do is add a little umami and salt which is the point of the anchovies.

  • Or go Meatless Monday for a change.  Make a quiche if you have eggs. Or a souffle – they are easy I promise.  Here’s a souffle for two.
  1. Preheat oven to 475
  2. Separate 4 eggs, blend (puree) the egg yokes with 3 oz of cream cheese (or cream) and prosciutto (or smoked salmon). Add ½ cup of grated cheese.
  3. Beat the egg whites still stiff and dry.
  4. Fold yokes into whites.
  5. Pour into a medium sized, oven proof, saute pan or skillet. Heck even a pie pan will do. Be sure you buttered it.
  6. 10-12 minutes in the very hot oven.

Basically, if you have the time, and not all of us do, use what you have to explore a new way of doing in the kitchen. And keep it all in the frying pan.

Til next time


One gratuitous flower photo

#quarantine cooking #roomsinbloomnw

Vegetable Gardening: Part 1

A healthy rhubarb

As promised, vegetables. Part 1

I’ve been putting off this post just a little bit because if any of you are living somewhere other than Zone 8 or higher (average last day of frost April 20) you still have a chance of frost (Zone 5, Chicagoland, has May 6 as average last day of frost).  While it’s easy to get overexcited when the days are sunny and warm(er), nights are still cool to downright cold and in some places you might even have a chance of snow.

Some of the earliest crops you can put in the ground pretty much anywhere are potatoes, peas and some leafy greens. I have had my spuds, peas and kale in the ground since mid-March (again it’s a Zonal thing). It is probably safe* in most places to put these in the ground now.  I find these are some of the easiest crops to grow and you don’t need to buy plants. Really. Peas are especially easy as are potatoes.

First prepare your soil. If this is your first time gardening, raised beds are great as they instantly improve  your soil.  If you are just planning to stick your plants in your existing dirt…… good luck.  Unless you’ve successfully grown flowers in that spot,  and even if you have, you’ll need to do some amending.  That means adding or replacing good stuff to your exhausted ground: compost, potting soil, rotted leaves, etc.  This is more of a topic than I can take on here, check out  or your local extension service*.  You can grow many things in a container. I’ll be covering that in another post.

With peas, you just stick the seeds in the ground. In about 10-14 days, depending on variety, you should see small plants beginning to rear their little seeded heads.  Plant ‘successive sowings’ for a longer extended group. This means, plant a row one week, and then another row a week later, and so on for about a month or so.  Be sure to set up a system of trellising if you do not buy bush peas.  You can certainly buy pea plants but it is way more economical to buy seed.  There are quite a number of varieties of peas: shelling peas (you eat only the pea inside) and edible pod peas including snow peas, sugar snap peas, Chinese pea pods, snap peas, etc. These are my favorite and all I grow as I don’t think you get enough of a crop from shelling peas.

To Harvest: pick em off the plant and eat!

My pea rows. I have 3 others.

Potatoes are a little more complicated. But only a little. It took me years to grow potatoes and I was astounded at how easy they were to grow.

First, prepare your soil (see above) or fill your containers with good soil

Then, prepare your potatoes (I’m borrowing from Chicago Botanic Gardens post)

Potatoes are grown from “seed” potatoes—small tubers with “eyes” that sprout leaves. (If you’ve ever had an old potato in your kitchen that’s sprouted, the sprout comes from the eye.) Small tubers can be planted whole, while larger tubers are cut into small pieces. Each piece should have at least one or two eyes. Let the cut seed potatoes dry for a few days before you plant them. This allows the potato to form a callus and reduces the chance of rotting once it’s in the soil. Seed potatoes are available at local garden centers and online.

You might have some success with store bought potatoes – organic only otherwise they are treated with chemicals – especially if they have begun to sprout.

Then plant

Planting Methods

I grow my potatoes in round planting holes.  I dig each hole about 6 inches deep and about the size of a large serving platter or 14”-16” across. Then I put in my seed potato piece (2-4 pieces) and cover with 2-3 inches of soil. I put a tomato cage around each one because I use straw to ‘hill’ my potatoes. Hilling is the process of backfilling the planting area with additional soil or material to keep your potatoes from turning green (which is poisonous).  You start doing this when shoots emerge at about 6-8” tall.  As soon as you see green tops at about 6”, you add more soil and continue to do this. I use straw instead to make it easier to dig the potatoes at harvest but if you don’t have straw, use dirt.

One of my three potato beds. 4 planting areas. And yes those are peas around the cages.

You can use a container that would hold 15 gallons of soil.  I’m pretty sure anything could work as a container including cardboard boxes (deep is better than wide) and pillowcases!  Use what you’ve got and try it. Don’t fill the soil to the top to  egin with.  Fill the soil about 20” and plant the spuds about 6” deep. Then follow the ‘hilling’ instructions

Tips about bugs and other things.

Don’t grow potatoes in the same place twice, or where you’ve planted tomatoes, peppers or eggplant. These are the same family prone to the same diseases.

Don’t plant them too early. Check what your zone requirements are.

Do mulch or use row covers to protect from pests. Row covers are lightweight fabric to keeps pests off. I use it for my kale but you can use it for other crops.

To Harvest: Harvest the potatoes after the vines have died. Just dig or fork (carefully) through your dirt or straw and pick out the spuds you want.  I have had success with leaving my plants/spuds in the ground (mulched with straw) through the winter and harvesting as needed.

There are many potatoes varieties dozens if not hundreds.

Both peas and potatoes need a good amount of sun, 6-8 hours.

Kale and chard are also pretty easy and pretty hardy but with these, I start with plants rather than starts. You can of course grow these from seed, I just haven’t done it so your on your own if your reading this post for directions. Kale can be susceptible to white flies and cabbage borers so when my plants reach a certain size, I use row covers. In Oregon and other mild zones you can grow chard and kale through the winter, harvesting the tender leaves and leaving the plants in the ground.


You can begin planting seed indoors for some of the yummy, more tender vegetables. But that’s another post.

Keep Green.


*Check with your local extension service. For instance, Oregon Extension at OSU Extension All 50 states have an extension service housed at a university. Originally funded by the USDA, not all are still affiliated with the USDA. These are some of the BEST sources of gardening information, scientifically backed and tested. Some extensions are a little to free w/ pesticides and herbicides in my opinion but they in general have good information about your local growing season, and what to grow. Oh and if you have kids (and are homeschooling!) , check into 4H.

And another great resource: Chicago Botanic Garden


#gardengoddess #quarantinegardening #vegetablegardening #firsttimegardener #roomsinbloomnw

Because its Friday

A poetry pole for sharing poems with my neighborhood


I hope you are enjoying this array of topics.  I promise a post on vegetable gardening is coming up.

We are a third of the way through the month of April.  And a third of a the way through National/Global poetry writing month.  There may be more people than usual trying their hands at words on a page which as far as I’m concerned, is lovely.  If you haven’t tried to discover your creative side yet (no pressure, just a thought), maybe take a break from cleaning, work, making masks, fighting with your kids to do just that (imagine what you could do with five minutes or fifteen.)

Here’s my poem of the day, a hay(na)ku or variation on a haiku

April 10

Tweet mornings
joyous sunny pledge

on branches
of greening trees

pleasant promise
of daylight released

our steps
with tacit hope

will surely
honor our oath.