Saturday, May 1, 2010


Kyle has completed the work on my new raised bed, including the trim and I think it is beautiful. The wood is cedar and should last for a long, long time. He also built a smaller container along the same walkway and now I'll be looking for a small tree that enjoys some shade, as it gets both sunlight and shade but about 50% of each. We're about to embark on the patio and gazebo and I'll be all set for summer, except for a lot of gardening.

Things are peaceful between Beau and Walden. I finally stopped worrying about keeping Walden away from Beau's feeding dish because Beau gets quite ornery with the little 'Munchkin' as Kyle likes to refer to him. This week Beau's patience have been tried a number of times, and he's let the kid have it, or as I like to say, "teaching the little guy some manners." Walden has ventured too close to Beau's dish when he's eating a couple of times and gotten his head handed to him. Walden now keeps a respectful distance from Beau when he's eating. Not sure how he's doing with the house-breaking. I try to move him and his poop over to a wee-wee pad, and it is somewhat effective. But there are accidents. He loves laying on top of the back pillows on my couch if I'm watching TV in the living room. But I got up the other night and saw the wet puddle he'd left and fortunately was able to take the stuffing out of the pillow before any damage was done. Up to the washer with that cover. When Walden is on the ground, he's a whirling dervish never stopping for an instant. He's got quite a bark and I'm hoping that won't be a regular daily feature Beau almost never barks and I prefer it that way. Walden loves being out in the back yard, and generally keeps within the grassy boundaries of the lawn. Beau has been trying to show by example that he can relieve himself out there, but it is hit and miss at this point.

Detente between them was achieved today. Beau allowed Walden to come into his daybed in the dining room. I tried to snap a photo but when I got up to get the camera, Walden was out of bed like a shot. Ten minutes later, I snapped this adorable photo of them. It's become a regular thing with them. Beau will be in his bed, and Walden settles down next to him. Walden, being something of a bed hog, Beau has to push him over whenever Walden expands his area of body mass too far into Beau's space. But it looks like they will nap together peacefully from now on. Besides, it is the only day bed down here and I'm not getting another.

I won a free eight-inch skillet. I was at that pet show a few weeks ago, and someone called out to me asking if I wanted to enter a contest for a free stainless steel fry pan. Like I need a new fry pan! Well I signed up and two days later, a woman named Kate called with the news that I had won the pan. She wanted to bring the pan over and cook a dinner for me in my own kitchen showing me how superior these pans were. How I get myself into these things, I'll never know. She offered to cook for any other friends I might know who would be interested. It still didn't dawn on me that she's selling pots and pans. But at least I didn't rope anyone else into this event.

Kate arrived on Tuesday night an hour late. And she brought with her more pots and pans than I have ever seen in once place except Macy's, with her. On the menu was fried chicken, which she was going to grill in the same pan as the sliced Yukon Gold potatoes. In another pan she poured in a package of frozen corn, then a bunch of fresh broccoli and then some fresh carrots that had been waffle sliced from the supermarket. It was the oddest looking vegetable medley I've ever seen. Over this she sprinkled a liberal amount of something called Spike--a mixture of spices. I wasn't inspired. She sprinkled more Spike on the check and thick slices of potatoes in a large pan with raised cross hatching on it, which she called a grill pan. Now mind you, this was attractive stainless steel of clearly good quality. But did she notice, I wondered, a massive pot wrack in plain sight in my kitchen loaded down with all manner of stainless steel, copper, cast iron enamel ware, and Calphalon? Did it occur to her that I might not be in the mood to replace this painstakingly assembled and expensive cookware for her shiny, clearly pricey new stuff? Undeterred, Kate went on her spiel telling us of the low-fat virtues of this cookware that simply didn't stick. But who would want to eat a pile of frozen and fresh vegetables cooked with nothing but a spice blend? The "fried chicken" was nothing of the sort. I pointed out to her that it was simply pan seared boneless and skinless chicken thigh. There was an impressive amount of fond at the bottom of that pan just crying out for some liquid to deglaze its surface and turn it into a sauce. As she got near to completing this bland dish, I grabbed some chicken broth and did it for her. I might have added some thyme, salt, pepper and a pat of butter, but then I figured that was bad manners.

The chicken was fine with a good sear, juicy but my pans could do that. The less said about the vegetables the better. I'm not about to start eating vegetables cooked this way--I don't care how much fat I'm saving. We ate and talked more about what the pots were capable, and I actually heard myself say "what if you want to cook conventionally?" Kate said they perform as any quality cookware does. And then she asked to see my Calphalon non-stick saute pan and one of my All-Clad pans. She dropped a teaspoonful of baking soda in each one with water and heated it up. We were asked to sample the results to show that my pans were leaching out impurities. She did the same thing were her pan. Well who the heck drinks baking soda dissolved in hot water? All three tasted terrible and were hardly conclusive. And then we were told the prices. The largest set cost more than $4,000! Well it was a slippery slope by then. I had missed "Dancing with the Stars," and had to do an Internet search to find out that Jake had been voted off at last. I also missed "The Good Wife," the only good scripted hour-long drama on network TV this season.

Kate packed her pots and pans and departed. It was 10:30 PM. A few days later, Kate called me. She had been reading my stovetopreadings, my cookbook review blog, and had an offer. They wanted me to accept a free grill pan (worth something in the neighborhood of $400 +), in exchange for writing some sort of endorsement for their website. "Okay...well what about I take their grill pan and see what it can do," I countered. "If I like the pan (and it's a handsome thing and I suspect it will do a lot), I'll write about it. If I don't, I'll return the pan to you, and that will be that." They agreed. So I await their pan and will let you all know how it goes.

Finally, Kent took me to see the Portland State University farmer's market yesterday, which was in full swing with many booths selling spring produce, including gorgeous asparagus, lettuces, strawberries, rhubarb, red and green kohlrabi (ridiculously overpriced at $4 a pound!), leeks, etc. There were many plant stands where I bought a beautiful and unusually colored Coleus with a mostly red leaf edged in green. There were also lilacs for sale in bunches and I couldn't resist a deep purple variety edged in white. There were vendors selling meat, fish, jams, eggs, cheese, sausages, all local. It so reminded me of the Union Square farmer's market in Union Square--only a block away from my Manhattan apartment. I bumped into the chef of Tabla Mediterranean Bistro, a restaurant I liked and wrote about. We had another pleasant chat, and I look forward to going again.

Warm weather is resisting us. The temperatures have rarely risen above this year and I'm anxious for it to get warm again--if only for a few days. Today we go in search of pavers for my patio.

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