Friday, February 27, 2015

"Sleeping Naked is Green" by Vanessa Farquharson

It's a book. It's a blog. It's a blog that became a book.
I was browsing in the biography and memoir section at Goodwill and found this book. I have to be honest, I was first attracted because of its title Sleeping Naked is Green. Next came the intriguing cover with bare legs rising from a green field. The back cover let me know that the author, Vanessa Farquharson, was Canadian. And the clincher was that this book started out as a blog. I thought maybe it could give me some hints about making my off the grid blog into a book.

Vanessa Farquharson was a journalist with the National Post focusing on arts and film. In 2007, she believed that it was time that people needed to stop "talking so much" and start "doing something - anything." And that is what she did. Beginning on March 1, 2007, and for the next 366 days (it was a leap year), she began implementing one green solution a day to make her life and the environment better.

The book is organized by month, each chapter beginning with a list of the day-by-day things she did to green her life. Some were simple, switching to recycled paper towels. Some more difficult, giving up her refrigerator.

When I started the book I wasn't sure it would hold my interest, but Vanessa has an engaging writing style. The descriptions she included for selected green solutions were informative and often funny. Vanessa stuck it out for the full year. Some of the solutions didn't become a permanent part of her life (not surprising), but many of the changes stuck and made her an overall greener person. In fact, Vanessa is now Communications Manager for TerraCycle, an international upcycling and recycling company.

My original goal of getting inspired to organize my blog into a book wasn't met. My topic of off-the-grid living doesn't really fit this format. But my goal of reading an enjoyable book was. -- Margy

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Las Vegas Sun-cation

Wayne and I are on a winter sun seeking vacation. Unfortunately, storms coincided with the days we'd already scheduled for our trip. But here in Las Vegas, weather moves through quickly and we still got a full day of sun for our effort.

February is a good month to visit Las Vegas for several reasons. Typically, it's sunny and warm when the Pacific Northwest is cloudy, cold and rainy. Next, the rooms are extremely reasonable. We chose the Hard Rock Hotel. King rooms were as low as $36, and a suite at $81, depending on the night selected. We opted for a suite.

The Hard Rock Hotel is off the strip, but within reasonable walking distance. It's also close to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and its Thomas and Mack Center. Since we couldn't soak up the sun for the first two days, we went to UNLV men's baseball games. We bundled up and got excellent seats for $5 each online, the best bargain of the trip.

We walked down to the strip to see what was happening. There were quite a few people, but not overly crowded. Rather than gamble, we went to a movie at the United Artists Showcase near the MGM Grand.

Finally, there was sun on our last day so we took our books to the pool.

The main reason for a sun-cation is to ward off the winter blues. We had the pool all to ourselves until a few others arrived at noon.

We picked the Hard Rock Hotel because they have lots of pools to choose from, but only one was open this time of year.  But it was all we needed to get our much needed dose of natural Vitamin D.

Do you have any favourite sun-cation destinations? -- Margy

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fantastic Driftwood Forts

Did you like to build or play in forts when you were a kid? This one is on the shore of Powell Lake at the mouth of Olsen River. It's a favourite summer camping and fishing spot. You can only get here by boat or a long quad ride from Theodosia Inlet.

Because of logging, rivers, lakes and the coast in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest have shores lined with weather worn logs, perfect for fort building.  Here's another example from Squalicum Beach in Bellingham, Washington.

When I was a kid, I lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles. We didn't have logs for building, but kids will be kids. In the early days (before they cemented the channel of the Los Angeles River to prevent flooding), there were natural willow groves to play in. Large cardboard boxes became temporary play structures, and I remember a card table cover that made it look like a playhouse. What were some of your fantastic fort experiences? -- Margy

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mac n' Cheese for Two

I love simple recipes, and what would be simpler than macaroni and cheese. The problem is that recipes are written for family size meals. We love leftovers, but first overs are our favourite.

I found a mac n' cheese recipe online from that I like and have modified to make a meal for two regular sized eaters, plus enough for one leftover meal.

Mac n' Cheese for Two

1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper (optional)
2 cups (8-oz.) dry package elbow macaroni, cooked

First cook the macaroni al dente. Drain and place it in the baking dish temporarily.

Rinse and dry the pan. Melt two tablespoons butter. Whisk in two tablespoons flour. Cook over a medium heat until it just begins to bubble.

Gradually add the milk while whisking to keep the flour from thickening too much on the bottom of the pan. Add the salt and continue to whisk over medium heat until it is uniformly thickened and bubbling.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese until melted and remove from the heat. Add the cooked macaroni back into the pot and stir until mixed thoroughly.

Wipe the baking dish and coat with cooking spray. Pour the mac n' cheese into the dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake until it is melted and bubbling.

Tonight I served the mac n' cheese with steamed asparagus and a cold broccoli salad. And the best part, we have one more meal for the freezer (if I can keep Wayne away from taking thirds). -- Margy

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Are We Walking to Alaska?" by JoAnn Dunlap Bayne

Last month I shared a story about a used bookstore in Bellingham, Washington, called the Cozy Corner Books and Coffee.

While I was there, I found a book by one of my Bellingham blogging friends, JoAnn Dunlap Bayne.

She writes two blogs, one called Are We Walking to Alaska? promoting her book. The other is called Scene Through My Eyes about more general topics of interest.

Are We Walking to Alaska? is JoAnn's memoir that follows her early years from living in California through the family's move to far off Alaska.

Sitka marina with fishing boats during our 1994 visit.
JoAnn was six when the family moved to follow her father's dream to become a fisherman near Sitka. In the beginning, they lived far from town and off the grid.

Life was hard for everyone, but JoAnn never complained.  JoAnn and her older brother Jimmy and younger brother Jeff learned to play together, support each other and enjoy their new homes. They made up games and had lots of chores.

Landing our airplane 997 at Sitka Airport.
Schooling was done through correspondence until they later moved to town.

JoAnn was a quiet and respectful girl. Her parents were loving but strict. I got the impression one of the hardest things was not being allowed to read at home except for school books.

In town, JoAnn enjoyed exploring and learning about all the things an eight year old hadn't yet experienced.

Sitka National Historical Park and totem poles in 1994.
Of course, going to school was exciting with lots of new friends. Shops and stores were wonderful places to explore and ask questions.  The library was amazing with lots of books to read (except not to take home), and a favourite was the museum with diplays and friendly curators. JoAnn and her friends liked the Sitka National Historical Park with it's diplay of native Tlinglit totem poles.

I don't want to give away too much of the story. Are We Walking to Alaska? is a wonderful memoir and a family treasure. I wish I had something like this for my family's history. I especially enjoyed reading the "About the Author" messages written by her three children. You can purchase the book on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.  Or you can stop by Cozy Corner Books and Coffee and see if you can find a copy of your own. -- Margy

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Overnighter to Euguene, Oregon

Steelhead Brewery and Pub on 5th Street in the Market District.
Wayne and I traveled from Corvallis to Eugene, Oregon for the second half of our USC Women's Basketball sports-cation.  We come here for lots of USC sporting events at the University of Oregon.

We checked in at the downtown Eugene Hilton. We like to stay here because it's within walking distance to both football and basketball.

It was Super Bowl Sunday so we settled in to watch. We're Seahawks fans, so the results weren't the best, but the game was exciting. We planned ahead and fixed dinner in our room using our mobile meal kit and a spaghetti dinner I prepared at home.

Last year we discovered a great breakfast spot, The Original Pancake House, and had to return.

Wayne and I shared their signature Apple Pancake. Don't let the name fool you. It's a plate sized air filled pancake with sautéed apples and cinnamon sugar baked until it caramelizes. You have to wait a long time for it to cook, but the wait is well worth it! Yum!

Willamette River from the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail.
To work off our breakfast, we walked along the Willamette River on the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail. Last year it was at flood stage, over-running its banks. Today it was high and fast, but well under control. The river runs right through town, an easy walk from almost any location.

The River Trail follows along on both sides, so you can use the dedicated foot bridges and make it a two mile or so loop. Parts are paved to share with bikes, and parts are dirt along the north shore.

J. Michaels Bookstore at 160 E. Broadway.
After our walk was finished, Wayne went back to the room and I reversed course to go downtown to a bookstore we passed earlier. J. Michaels Books has a well organized and extensive collection of used and new books.

I'm always on the lookout for a good read and found Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell about mid-1900s life in a remote cabin on the west coast of Scotland.

Finally to the USC Women's Basketball portion of our trip. They played in the Matthew Knight Arena. It's amazing with a unique floor representing a forest of fir trees and a giant green "O" in the middle for the Oregon Ducks. The Women of Troy fought a hard battle, but again did not win. Either way, we enjoy this town.

Little Big Burger on Orchard next to the OU campus.
What is a vacation without lots of good food. We probably should have opted for a light dinner, but NOT. We headed over to Little Big Burger. The buns are smaller, but the burger is thick and juicy, and the truffle fries are amazing, especially with the gourmet Camden's catsup with a kick.

If that wasn't enough, after walking back to the Hilton, we stopped downstairs for dessert. Now we'll have to go out walking again tomorrow and work it all off. -- Margy

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Overnighter to Corvallis, Oregon

Downtown Corvallis, Oregon.
This weekend we are on a sports-cation road trip following the USC Women's Basketball team to Oregon. We drove from Bellingham to  Oregon State University in Corvallis. We come here quite often for sports events and love the vibrancy of this college town.

We checked into the Hilton Garden Inn on the south side of campus. This is a great place to stay because it is right next to the softball, football and basketball venues. Be sure to get early reservations for big sports events.

We went to the Willamette Riverfront Park to check on the river level (way high) before heading over to the Oregon State University campus to watch the basketball game. 

The Women of Troy fought a hard game, but bowed to the power of the OSU team for the second year in a row.

The Hilton has a nice restaurant, but we like to go downtown to eat. We've eaten at Sky High Brewing several times, but this trip we decided to try Block 15, another brew pub.   They have excellent pub food, and I do love a fresh brew.

You can walk the mile and a quarter fairly easily, and check out the Oregon State University campus on the way. We were blown away with the excellent beer, great food (ribs for me and a buffalo burger for Wayne), and the outstanding service Matt gave us in the "Game Room."  We liked this seating better than the main restaurant.

Pale and red ales at Block 15 Brewery.
It was smaller, quieter, and had two TVs showing games on the Pac12 Network. For Wayne to say it may have been the best restaurant meal he'd ever had, that's saying something. We'll be back for sure!

Kayaking the Willamette River.
Just past the restaurant is the Willamette River with a Riverfront Commemorative Park, perfect for a stroll or relaxing on a bench.

We launched our kayak near here to travel down the Willamette to Salem 2011. It's an easy river when the water level is lower.

The Broken Yolk breakfast spot in Corvallis.
On the way out of town, we stopped at our favourite breakfast spot, The Broken Yolk Cafe. It's modern on the outside, but funky inside. The food's plentiful, reasonably priced, and tasty.

Our recommendations: cinnamon buns, juevos rancheros, and the Beaver combi-Nation (a play on words for the OSU mascot). A great way to end an overnighter in Corvallis. -- Margy