Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dinner at the garlic palace

In a small northern Idaho city, there is a Greek restaurant with its motto painted on the outside wall: If you love garlic, we love you!

We stopped there on the way home and parked on the edges of a crowded lot. It looked like weekend crowds, but it wasn't the weekend. When we got inside we discovered we'd come on belly dancing night. Maybe that was why there were so many people.

I'd been the one to choose the restaurant. The reviews mentioned garlic, but didn't say anything about the dancer. She must've kept it pretty low-key, I decided, and anyway, I can't decide how to feel about belly dancing. I won't do it in a restaurant, but it's a sport that welcomes curvy women, and I respect that.

So we sat down and explored the garlic cuisine. It was not garlic sauteed in hot olive oil at the beginning stages of Italian red sauce. It was fresh, raw garlic, pressed generously into everything. The oil we dipped our bread in, the cold pasta salad, the veggie gyro.

The garlic in the dipping oil was wonderful. The garlic in the pasta salad was fiery. The garlic in the veggie gyros was just too much for the girls. And while we were still working on our appetizers, the belly dancer appeared.

She is indeed curvy, but not too over the top. She only performs once a week, circulating between the rooms in the restaurant. You can tell she's headed your way when the sound system switches to loud, lively music, and every man fastens his eyes to his plate.

Or at least, that's what happened at our table. So the dancer came up to us and asked where we were from.

"Northern Utah," I told her. "We're on our way back from Spring Break."

She interviewed us a little more before turning to my youngest daughter. "I didn't mean to scare you," she said. "I love dancing and I love people, and when you put them together I get a little crazy. But you look like a sweet, calm family. I'll ask them to turn down the music back here. I didn't realize it was so loud."

She danced for other people in other rooms after that, and we finished dinner and left for the hotel. We took some of the leftovers home in the cooler, and Husband ate them later, after we were home.

The next morning's car ride to work was garlic-scented. Ick.

So if you go to a white-painted building in northern Idaho with the garlicky slogan painted on the side, make sure you all eat the food together. And avoid social gatherings for the next day or so.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge

Here is a sampling of waterfalls along the Historic Columbia River Highway. We did not see them all, afraid we'd run out of daylight before we arrived at our destination.

Above is Horsetail Falls. The water is beautiful, but the green is equally fascinating. I'm not used to seeing moss grow thick on trees and rocks like this.

Multnomah is the most famous--and probably the most-photographed--of the Columbia River waterfalls. It also had a little touristy gift shop that offered fudge. I didn't buy any. Just had to tell somebody.

At Wahkeena Falls we took a little walk, which gave us a view of the falls from another direction. 

The air, already so much more humid than what we're used to, was full of fine mist from the waterfall. This abundance of moisture did more than coat the trees with moss--it also made it possible for ferns to grow on the limb overhead. Crazy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Sea Lion Chorus of Astoria


This is what Astoria's waterfront sounds like. It is so loud, it seems that every sea lion that has commandeered a rock or pier is talking to its friend.

That is not true. Believe it or not, some of the sea lions are resting their voices so they can join the chorus later. It is like a human choir that has been trained to stagger its breathing so that it can sustain a long note. Except that with the sea lions, the song goes on forever.

At least, I'm pretty sure it does. I woke up in the middle of the night and they were barking. (Don't worry, it lulled me back to sleep.) The next morning they were still calling to each other. It made me smile. I like their exuberance. But I noticed that homes of Astoria, Oregon were positioned up the hill, away from the waterfront. I imagine the locals are over it.

The railing to the left of this pub overlooks the ocean, so I went there to take pictures of the sea lions.

This was as close as I could get. I was making the best of it, wishing I had a longer lens, when I heard some heavy breathing from the water below.

I looked down and my curious friend looked up. "Hey, kid," I said, because that's how I greet other barking animals.

I really should have snapped first and spoken later. And focused.

Astoria is positioned where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific. We took the kids to the Pacific Northwest for Spring Break, fully expecting to spend a lot of the time in museums away from the rain. The weather was a lot better than we thought it would be--which means we spent more time looking at waterfalls and less time indoors (more on the waterfalls later).

We really enjoyed the sea lions--so much that we barely got a look at the town. It's a shame, because it was so charming. But my philosophy is that when traveling, you always leave at least one thing undone. It gives you an excuse to go back.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Whining: the ultimate defense--plus a student photographer confession

I dreamed a gunman broke into my home. (At least, it was my home in my dream. It was more modern and uncluttered than my actual home.)

I instantly defended myself by... whining.

"I'm too tired for this," I said. Except that my voice was weak and it had an odd vibration in it. I tried again. "I'm tired!" I was supposed to be shouting, but it still sounded wimpy and just plain weird. "I said I'm tired!"

At which point my own snoring woke me up.

I think the message here is I need to ramp up my self-defense skills. And clear out my sinuses.

Now for my confession: I know photos have been hard to come by on this blog. I will buckle down this week and get some new material. I fully intended to get some last week. I even took the camera with me into the foothills and discovered a back road I'd never been on before. There were old barns and snowcapped mountain scenes. There were fields just beginning to show green.

It was a joyous afternoon, and the instant I was home I ran to the computer to upload the photos.

I didn't have an SD card in the camera. Stupid camera. Everything else warns me if I don't have any memory, but not my little old Nikon. We have been friends through so much, but when it comes to telling me I'm about to humiliate myself, it leaves me on my own.

This week will be different. I've loaded up, so if anybody breaks in, I'll be able to whine AND take his picture.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to raise a food snob, in six easy steps.

Are you tired of eating at McDonald's? Do you wish your children would rather eat your nutritious cooking than mac and cheese from a blue box? Follow these steps to create a completely different kind of monster:

1. Relax a little, especially when they're young. The best thing we did was allow the kids to choose what was for dinner, once a week. We rotated it so that each child would have their own turn, and for the first year or so they always chose ramen noodles or mac and cheese. Miraculously, most of our food arguments ended. 

Before then, the dinner conversation went something like this.

Kids: I don't like this. 
Me: You know, outside this house I'm known as a good cook.
Kids: You are a good cook. 
Me: Then why won't you eat what I make?
Kids: [silence]

2. Involve them in the garden. Let them discover for themselves the difference between a vine-ripened tomato and one from the grocery store. 

3. Find creative ways to encourage the children to eat the harvest. Creativity is OK. You can tell them you don't have food for groceries during harvest season, if you're desperate.

4. Introduce new foods in slow, gentle ways. For us, it was a Greek restaurant that offered cheese sandwiches on pita bread.

Kids: We love Greek food!
Parents: Yes, you do!

5. Involve them in cooking. When they want to try something really strange, let them.

6. You are now ready to try the Indian Oven and the Vietnamese noodle place. 

From there it pretty much evolves on its own. But your next lesson will be reminding them to be gracious if their friends want to go to McDonald's.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fascinating corruption: the case of Swallow

A case of corruption has gotten a lot of play in the regional news, but with all the coverage it has received, the biggest story has yet to be written. That’s just my opinion, but hear me out.
We’ve read stories about how Utah’s former attorney general, John Swallow, allegedly traded favorable treatment from the AG’s office for money.
Recently, we have read reports that accuse him of tampering with evidence. Among the evidence recovered were 1300 “lost” emails. He is accused of hiding campaign contributions from industries he had promised to defend because if the public had known, it might have made him look bad.
One news report alleges he broke eight different laws.
A legislative probe into Swallow’s behavior in office began several months ago. In November he resigned from office. All of this is big news in our state, but here’s the larger story I am waiting to have explained: before the legislative probe began producing all this fallout, a Federal probe resulted in no charges.
Read the rest on my other blog.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March Book Madness and other writing news

My friend Rebecca L. Belliston's tradition of March Book Madness continues this year. I'm participating again. I had a lot of fun with it, so do check it out, and check out the other guests, too. (Hint: One of them is her dad, and I'm pretty sure a lot of you have heard of him.)

My topic: Welcome to Niche-land! Put on some classical banjo and let's talk about mixing genres.

In other news...

This week I hired an editor and began looking into finding a cover artist. That's not an announcement that I'm going indie, but it's close.

Traditionally published friends, I hope we can keep having lunch together. I respect all walks of the publishing world. 

Emails from home

Most of our email is pretty mundane. Once in a while, though, the immediate flavor of country life sings amid the shopping lists and communications to the office. Here are some stored on our home computer, written by people in our house and edited for privacy.

Some of the terms are softened for a family audience, but not by much.

Your evil kitty just woke up your son by urping up a mouse on his lion blankie.

You know you live in a small town when…

...Fifty-year old people born and raised in town are ‘new comers’.

...You are more afraid of locking yourself out of your house than of being robbed.

...The library has a different schedule on every day of the week.

...You are darn proud that your town has a library. Incidentally, your library account is handled not by a card but by a number that the librarian types into her computer. You have trouble remembering it, but the librarian can always tell you what it is.

...You can honestly say, "The Mayor is in front of the house fixing his manure spreader."

Good news: We caught another mouse.

Bad news: We have at least one more.

Good news: He must be hungry and he thinks of traps as a food source, since he robbed the bait of an un-sprung trap, finished the bait of the sprung one, and ate an eye from his dead brother.

Hope you're done with breakfast.