Sunday, September 18, 2011


Me getting ready to drive the red car, which is now named Mona, off of the Honda lot.

Mona parked in my driveway

Mona's hatchback attributes

August/September have consumed most of my time away from this blog. I bought a car--a red 2008 Subaru Impreza hatchback which has liberated me from depending on my friends for getting around. I passed my driver's test on August 5th and drove the Ford F-150 truck around for a month.  There's a reason my friend Laura referred to the truck as a pig. It was an effort to drive the damn thing. Every turn was physical. Getting it to rev up on the highway was like pushing a rock up a hill. Its responses were always slow. Backing out of my driveway into busy Holgate Blvd. was a nightmare. I wasn't using the truck for work, so I finally decided to trade it in and get a car.  It's fast, responsive, pretty to look at, holds lots of stuff, and did I forget to mention is RED! It became a nice diversion from the other reason why I've been so busy.  I closed my business on August 31st for lack of business.  It was simple as that. I lost my drawers and I'm still negotiating with my landlord who seems to think she's entitled to all five years of rent on the lease. We're still negotiating and hopefully that will be resolved soon. Unsold stock is being sold on consignment by a friendly competitor. I'm selling computers and office equipment and fixtures to pay down on a small loan.  I'm glad to get out from under it and get back to my day job full time. Lesson learned--retail is not for me!

With little or no effort I flank the front door with spectacular coleus plants, which show off their 
gorgeous flower leaves.  They grow like weeds.

My friend Pat Reshen spent the Labor Day weekend, her third annual visit and we had a lot of fun.  This was my first year driving, so I was able to pick her up at the airport (and drop her off for the next leg of her journey). We had dinner at one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants (Sunshine Tavern), and grilled steaks out on the patio.  Pat watered my garden four days in a row, for which she has my undying gratitude. John Baker took us to see an heirloom Rose garden outside of Portland, which was a prelude to the Swan Island Dahlia Festival in Canby, Oregon.  The rose garden was immaculately planted with lush green grass paths to view the many varieties of roses there. They feature a lot of old English style roses and there's a greenhouse to purchase small rosebushes.  I have plenty of roses now, so I passed on these plants, preferring to wait and see what might be available at the dahlia festival.

Billed as the Dahlia Capital of America, Swan Island Dahlias comprise forty acres of planted dahlias in full bloom throughout August and September. There are hundreds of varieties on display at the farms cavernous caves where each of the dahlias are displayed to show off each Dahlia. The colors, sizes, shapes, and beauty of these exotic blooms are amazing. Once you've gone through three large rooms of dahlia display arrangements, you can order tubers for planting next spring.  I ordered six and could have easily taken on 30 more. Then out into the fields, you're stunned at the sheer size and concentrated planting of row upon row of dahlia, each row marked.  Here are just a few of the spectacular blooms on  display.

We had a two-week heatwave with temperatures rising to 95 degrees F. While not as bad as New York, particularly this summer, it was steamy here and I resorted to using the central air conditioning--a rare occurrence. Last week we suddenly plunged into gloomy mornings on the cool side and have had virtually no sun all week long. Then yesterday (Saturday) is rained and again rained today.  This is rare out here as August and September are usually beautifully sunny and warm.  Because the spring came so late and was so wet, summer didn't truly get started until mid-August, and now everyone fears we will be plunged into fall with the rains arriving earlier than usual.  Warm weather is predicted next week, but the result is slow gardens. My cherry tomatoes are abundant and green in this third week of September. My pears and plums have been non-existent. The strawberries haven't produced as much of a bumper crop as usual.  My blueberries did well.  Roses have been blooming, but like last summer, they are not happy,

It's been a month of nice dinners at friend's homes and dining out.  Portland is such a big foodie town. I tried Noble Rot, a fine restaurant over on SE Burnside near a cluster of popular Portland restaurants. Located on the fourth floor, Noble Rot offers gorgeous views, a good selection of local wines and an eclectic, if not wholly inspired menu (really--macaroni and cheese?--it's a good version, but upscale dining shouldn't include this comfort food item on the menu).  I had fresh fettucine with summer vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, garlic and herbs.  Again, delicious, but is this the kind of dish an upscale restaurant wants to build a reputation on?  Castagna Cafe, is a cheaper, more casual dining experience from it's ultra sophisticated partner next door.  John an I had their well-known 20-minute roast chicken, which was good, but not as good as a proper hour-long roasted chicken.

Suddenly rose has disappeared of the shelves of the city's wine shops!  Perhaps it has proven so popular that roses that idled on shelves for months around the calendar year are suddenly out of stock. Rose is a very food-friendly wine.  Don't make the mistake of domestic rose. It's almost always too sweet. They lack the complexity or minerally simple qualities of an even modest French version.  I'm hoping the shelves won't be too long without my favorite daily quaff.

A lamb burger made for a solo dinner at home on a summer Saturday night with farmer's market tomatoes, feta cheese in the burger, and a saute of fresh white corn, dice red pepper, sliced scallions and basil

Finally took myself off to see THE HELP, and like the book, I enjoyed its emotionally naive story of a young southern woman who comes to help the local maids in her Mississippi town write anonymously about their real feelings toward the women they work for in the pre-civil rights movement south of 1964. Medgar Evers has just been shot dead on his front lawn.  The southern ladies who socially dominate the town of Jackson Mississippi are also mostly bullies towards their housekeepers who are also de facto mothers to their children and with whom they have forged a close relationship.  They girls grow up, get married and have kids, which they dump into the laps of their housekeepers. The story is simple and emotional. The cast is note perfect with Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek and Jessical Chastain anchoring this story superbly.  Bryce Dallas Howard as the villainous Hilly has the thankless task of being so vile a personality you virtually hiss each time she comes on screen, which I suppose is a compliment.  She is often made to look foolish and still bounces hatefully back after each humiliation.  The New York Times was very snotty about the movie, and I suspect were very snotty about the book as well.  No matter, readers reacted by sending the book to the top of the bestseller lists where it remains.  The movie has done stupendous business since it opened.  It's a perfect summer movie and Viola Davis' deeply expressive performance carries it off superbly.  Highly recommended.

blueberries harvested from my garden

An excellent summer salad of grilled pork tenderloin, roasted fingerling potatoes, arugula and a mustard vinaigrette

This nectarine/peach tart with its press-in crust, almond extract flavoring and sugar/butter/flour crumble topping takes great advantage of summer fruits.  Recipe from Amanda Hesser from her wonderful Food52 blog. 

1 comment:

  1. I'll see THE HELP when it is available on Netflcks or (Quickster). Now that's a lot of dahlias! Are you ready for your trip?