Saturday, May 23, 2015

What is Memorial Day All About?

A visitor to our country will observe the scurrying around on Memorial Day and conclude that it's "National Camping Day," "National Barbecue Day," or "National Mattress Shopping Day," right?

Actually, if you really stop and think about it. Memorial Day is for remembrance. If you look at the History Channel webpage describing Memorial Day, you will see a succinctly written history of the day:

Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.

And then, sadly, a Memorial Day mattress sale ad plays over the article. But we should stop and take a moment to remember. I do that by reflecting on this poem, which has great meaning to me:

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God

Thursday, May 21, 2015

National Chardonnay Day 2015: An Unusual Place for an Excellent Chard

Maragas Chardonnay
I just found out that we're all celebrating National Chardonnay Day today. I don't know why I'm surprised. There is National Ketchup Day, National Ice Cream Month... you get the idea. So let's celebrate!

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Maragas Winery in Culver, Oregon (near Bend) and found a very good Chardonnay there. We toured the vineyard and barrel room.

Bend is in the high desert and there is a very short growing season so it is usual to see very many vineyards in the area. But, at Maragas, they were having great success using old world techniques learned from the owner's family in Crete, Greece with some local ingenuity thrown in for good measure.

The volcanic soils rich with minerals allow for excellent water drainage so the vines thrive. The owners' use of porous tarps and rocks warms the earth to give the vines a head start each season.

They vineyard showing the use of tarp and rocks,
which the owners dug from the surrounding property.
At Maragas, they focus on farming organically and being as environmentally friendly as possible. They are eager to show visitors what they are doing. And, they are proud of their wines, much of which is made using grapes sourced from the Willamette Valley. Eventually their vineyards will produce enough for Maragas to offer estate wines.

We enjoyed a flight of their wines in the tasting room filled with art by Doug Maragas' mother. As we tasted I kept coming back to the first wine, the Chardonnay, as my favorite. The 2012 Chardonnay, with grapes sourced in Oregon's Applegate Valley, was crisp and well-balanaced. I really liked it!
Doug Maragas pouring my favorite Chardonnay
So on this day, National Chardonnay Day, I'll lift my glass to toast the Maragas family and the Maragas Winery in beautiful Central Oregon.

Note: The winery is holding an Open House on this Memorial Weekend -  Friday and Saturday 11am to 6pm, Monday 11am to 4pm.   More details by clicking Here

More Information
Maragas Winery, 15523 SW Hwy 97, Culver, OR 97734 (easy to find)
Phone: 541-546-5464
Visit Central Oregon

Friday, May 15, 2015

Visiting Bend Oregon: Consider a guided specialty tour

Chef Bette Fraser
leads Culinary Tours
as well as provides catering for special events.
When you are visiting Bend, Oregon there is so much to do that you can use up all your vacation time doing the planning and consulting your GPS to get around to the various attractions. Why not consider a guided tour and leave the planning to the professionals.

Farm to Table Culinary Tours

Chef Bette Fraser of The Well Traveled Fork leads culinary tours that will take you to the source of good food in the Bend area. She’ll help you learn how local farmers and ranchers are growing healthy food these days. Join The Well Traveled Fork for a tour of Central Oregon farms and ranches that produce food the old fashioned way—the way we used to before big agribusiness became the source of most of our food.

We toured with Chef Bette and visited Maragas Winery where tales of the Maragas family history kept us entranced. Later, out in the vineyard, we learned about the adaptations needed to grow grapes in Central Oregon. 
Doug Maragas explains his use of
old-world farming techniques with a little
pioneer innovation added in to grow grapes in a
difficult region.

We also visited Red Tail Farm and learned about sustainable farming in a beautiful setting with mountain views.

The tour was capped off with a visit to the Crescent Moon Alpaca Ranch where we fed the alpacas and learned about how they are raised. The on-site boutique provides a beautiful array of high end goods made with soft alpaca yarns.

Chef Bette customizes each tour. At each stop we spent time with the farm owner and toured the farm, saw the produce and the animals.

Art Safari Tour

Did you know that Bend is famous for it’s roundabout art? It’s a little tough to enjoy the art while you are driving yourself in circles. So let the folks from The Bend Tour Company take you. We enjoyed stories of the roundabout art, learned about Bend’s galleries and First Friday openings and found public art we never knew existed in Bend.

John Flannery of The Bend Tour Company
hams it up for the camera. He was a great tour
guide on our art tour of Bend. 
The Bend Tour Company offers knowledgeable guides and fun ways of touring. They offer a variety of touring options. You can glide in and around Bend on a SEGWAY, pedal your way along Bend’s famous Ale Trail on a Cycle Pub, take in Bend’s happening art scene looking cool in their new Electric Cruisers, or relax and enjoy all that Bend has to offer from the comfort of a 12 passenger MiniBus.

Brewery Tours

Bend is known for their Ale Trail. You can certainly follow the tour, map in hand, and enjoy imbibing at any of the 14 stops on the trail. But wait.  Drinking and driving don’t mix. So here’s why a guided tour makes sense.

The Bend Brew Bus is a good way to see the breweries of Bend! The Bend Brew Bus and LocalPour Tours pick you up and drop you off wherever you are staying in Bend.
This is just one tasting. Yep, better leave the driving
to someone else!

And don’t forget that The Bend Tour Company offers a Cycle Pub so you can work your way from beer to beer. Not up for cycling? Their Brew Taps Experience explores a rotating list of internationally recognized & award winning Central Oregon breweries that form The Bend Ale Trail. Your outing begins with a behind the scenes tour featuring insights into the art of crafting beautiful Bend beers from scratch. You’ll be chauffeured in one of their MiniBusses.

More Information

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Farmlandia: Touring and tasting farm to table in the Portland area

The growing season has arrived in the Pacific Northwest, whetting appetites for a fresh and flavorful bounty. Nestled in the verdant Willamette Valley, Portland is the ideal gateway to the region’s growers and producers.

The self-guided Farmlandia Farm Loop offers a taste of goods at their peak, starting with a tour of Bob’s Red Mill and a hearty breakfast of high-quality whole grains in its bakery and restaurant southeast of Portland.

At the Oregon City Summer Farmers Market, a vibrant array of flowers, produce and artisan products await. The loop continues south and west through West Linn, Stafford and Wilsonville, taking adventurers on a multisensory exploration of local fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, farm animals and nature walks.

Four wineries offer tastings along the way and, with advance planning, it’s possible to nab a coveted spot in a cooking class at The Kitchen at Middleground Farms or a seat at a farm dinner at Our Table Cooperative.

The folks at Field & Vine have done the legwork to bring food-lovers together with the farmers, winemakers, ranchers and specialty food producers of the valley and the Columbia River Gorge in the Dinners in the Field series; this year 20 feasts will be offered in bucolic settings such as Beckham Estate Vineyard, Stoller Family Estate and the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm & Vineyards.

Information Courtesy: Travel Portland

Friday, May 1, 2015

Bend to Portland: Powered by an Ocean Roll

Five days in Central Oregon. It was an amazing getaway. But it was time to travel home. From my room at the luxurious Tetherow Lodges overlooking the golf course I enjoyed one last sunrise. As the sunlight gradually colored the sheer white curtains a soft orange, I gathered my things.

I walked out of the lodge, loaded my car and kept one special bag in the front seat. A brown bag with an enticing pastry and bottled orange juice awaited my dawn getaway. I sprayed water on the frosty windshield, turned on the wipers and warmed up the car. I looked down at the bag. I must wait, I told myself. I needed my breakfast for the road. But the smell was telling me to open the pastry bag. What awaited me was a Bend specialty. And I had saved it for my trip home.

The day before, I had the pleasure of touring some of the art and foodie finds of Bend with The Bend Tour Company.  We hit the Old Mill District, learned about the Roundabout Art and then pulled in to The Sparrow Bakery in Northwest Crossing. The French Bakery was humming with activity. Croissants were being made in the kitchen, and locals were buying their bread for the day.

But there was something very special at The Sparrow Bakery… something I didn’t know about. Locals all know about Ocean Rolls but I didn’t. The Ocean Roll is their signature pastry made from scratch every day of the week. Ocean Rolls are prized by Bend residents and savvy visitors (which I, obviously, was not).

They make Ocean Rolls from their traditional croissant dough. They roll out the dough and then add a layer of cardamom, sugar, and vanilla.  It is rolled up (in to a rather large bun) and they add a splash of egg wash, and bake it

It was pure will power that allowed me to save the Ocean Roll overnight. Our tour guide (who knew everything) said to sprinkle a little water on it to keep it fresh.

I drove down the hill, around the “Sexy Roundabout” and headed out on Highway 97 North. I fueled up just outside of town and eyed the roll. Once I got back on the highway it was time for breakfast. I opened the brown bag and broke off a piece of the flaky pastry. It smelled so good… it was the cardamom. The orange juice and a couple of bites of Ocean Roll sustained me for a while.

I sailed past Redmond and started up the hill after Madras. It was a clear sunny morning and the snowy mountains glowed in the morning light. I tried to remember all their names. At one point, I slowed and took in the sight of a long chain of mountains. I swear I could see then all! Slowing gave me a chance to discover even more of the Ocean Roll’s secrets.  As the bakery will tell you, the natural warmth of the cardamom plays perfectly with the slightly sweet mix of the sugar and vanilla.  And as I delved into the center of the roll, the flavors accelerated. This was VERY GOOD!

Ocean Rolls (courtesy The Sparrow Bakery)
I looked at each mountain, enjoyed the sparse traffic and was glad I was on the road early. As Mount Hood came into sight. I stopped for a photo and the final bite of my Ocean Roll.

It was time to go over the mountain, as the song says. I found Mt. Hood white with snow, yet the roads were clear and the air warm. Within no time I was headed back into town, down my street and to my home. All the way, the Ocean Roll powered me. And, all the way I was reminded of the sights I had seen, the warmth of the people and the wonderful experiences of Central Oregon.
Mt Hood in view, just as I finished my Ocean Roll!

So now I know a Bend secret. When you go be sure and stop at The Sparrow Bakery for an Ocean Roll just like the locals do. You won’t be sorry.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Fabulous Fitbit Flex: Issues with iMac Syncing and Workarounds

It was January and I'd been eying the Fitbit for some time. My good friend and well-known walking writer, Wendy Bumgardner, had a habit of wearing several pedometers and measuring devices at once. And I, well... I just wore my ceramic wristwatch. I traveled and ate out. I really needed to walk more. I was convinced that measuring my steps would help me at home and on the road.

So in January I purchased the simple Fitbit Flex and hurried home to download the software to my new iMac desktop. I didn't have a smart phone so wouldn't be syncing on the run. With the software downloaded and my information entered I was ready to go. I hooked up the Fitbit to my computer to charge the battery just as the instructions told me to do.

I was thrilled to see that there was an opportunity to connect, also, with some of my friends on Facebook so that we could see each others' progress (or lack thereof). So I hooked up with three of them.

I walked the dog, I walked myself at the gym and I mowed the lawn. My Fitbit recorded it all and when I neared my computer, the distance magically appeared on my Fitbit dashboard. It worked!

I even decided to purchase a scale that would sync with my Fitbit dashboard and take a stab at losing weight. It didn't sync and I returned it. So much for a weight loss incentive.

I did find that I had quite an exercise incentive going. My friends were active daily and their steps were right there on my dashboard. My friend, Wendy, was always ahead. After all, she was a walking expert and she set her goals high. I kept mine at an achievable 10,000 steps per day. But my other friend and neighbor wavered from time to time so I found her a worthy opponent in the step race. Sometimes I was ahead of her and sometimes she passed me. This went on despite my growing technical difficulties with the device.

However, as the time passed, I found that my Fitbit was not syncing when I neared the computer. In fact, I had to reset it to sync it. This got worse and worse as the weeks went on. I took the Fitbit out of the bracelet so many times that it broke! I really wanted to keep up with my friends and so put up with this technological stressor.

Frustrated, I called the Fitbit Tech Support. They were very receptive and thought for sure they could help me. They walked me through all the steps needed to deal with the software and the Fitbit. I did everything they suggested (even checked my iPad to see if I could use that instead) and things still didn't work consistently. I think they spent about 45 minutes on the phone with me. At the end of the consultation it was suggested that I had some sort of wireless interference going on. Since I had a wireless mouse it was suggested I purchase a USB cord mouse to use instead. Hmmm. this was costing me well above the $99 I paid for the Fitbit.

I gave up using the Fitbit for a couple of days and sent for a USB mouse. It arrived and I switched out my "meeses." Things worked a little better. Notice I said "a little." I still wasn't pleased.

Things came to a head after a wonderful three day trip to the Long Beach Peninsula of Washington. I walked the beach, hiked the Discovery Trail and walked along the waterfront in Ilwaco. The Fitbit buzzed away, signaling that I had achieved (and often exceeded) my goal each day.  I was excited to return home and see how my achievement looked on my Fitbit dashboard! Wouldn't my friends be impressed!

I got home and did my usual workarounds (several times) to sync my Fitbit. The outcome? All the data was lost FOR THE PAST THREE DAYS! I was "fit" to be tied. I took off the Fitbit and left it, the dongle, and the recharging USB in the box. Meanwhile my friends racked up more and more steps. I lost interest in doing any more walking that normal. Perhaps a trip to the dog park, a walk around the block or a walking tour... certainly less than 10,000 steps per day.

I realized that not having my Fitbit was causing me to walk less. I needed to walk MORE for my health. On a rainy day, I took the Fitbit out of the box once again and wrote a long note to Fitbit Support. Within 24 hours they wrote back an equally long note. Although much of the advice was what I had done before (to no avail), there were a few tidbits of new information.

I read through it and decided to try deleting the old Fitbit software and reinstalling the latest version of the software. I walked a bit and then tried syncing the Fitbit. I found out that if I put my wrist almost next to the dongle in back of my computer it would sync... but only if I went to the Fitbit software and manually synced it. So, what once was a frustrating ineffective workaround has become a three step workaround:

1. Select the Fitbit Icon and access the software
2. Press manually sync
3. Put my wrist with the Fitbit close to the dongle.

That works!

I am now back on the Fitbit walking trail. I am now walking more! And, I have my friends to give me some incentive to keep walking.

It took a combination of advice from the Fitbit Tech Support and my own inventiveness to make things work. If you have an iMac and have difficulty syncing, you might keep these things in mind and, by all means, contact Fitbit Technical Support.

Purchase a Fitbit from Amazon

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Photo: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Just as the sun goes down, and when the tide is in, is a wonderful time to go to Waikiki Beach at the Cape Disappointment State Park of Washington, to photograph the light house. Cape D is a favorite place for hiking and camping. During the day, you can hike out to the lighthouse.

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