Thrift Stores and Thrifty Polenta Pancakes

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Dear Readers,
Let me start off by saying I was never a fan of thrift stores. Too messy, time consuming and unpredictable for my high-strung personality. But, when we moved to Oregon and I began my job in the farm heartland, and didn't have a Target near my work (devastating for sure), I needed to go somewhere to spend my rainy lunch breaks. So, I discovered the closest such place was a Goodwill.

Then, I decided to fill my entire house with plants, and the Goodwill seemed like a great place to find neat planters and ceramics that can serve as pots. And that is how my Goodwill obsession began. Let me also say, the quality of Goodwill stores in Oregon seem to be much higher than the land I came from (Los Angeles), so that just fueled my new hobby, and apparently inspired the husband to write a post. 

I also want to add, I DO NOT DO compulsions, as the husband tries to suggest below. It's just not my style. And, the polenta pancakes were not bad. 

Every few days the Blog Lady was showing up to the house after work with Goodwill bags full of planters, pots, and puzzles for Viggo. She used her lunch hour to snack and then shop for new, old items to decorate the house with. At some point, I had to chase away thoughts she was developing a shopping compulsion from the sheer number of planter pots filling our patio and windows. Then one night she texted “Big mistake going to Goodwill. So much good stuff.” When she walked into the house and exclaimed “you’re going to have to bring in the box of stuff,” my suspicions seemed confirmed.

But, it’s good to be wrong. Sometimes. The content of that “box of stuff” was a genuine Goodwill find. Pottery from a Native American women’s collective in New Mexico, a signed bowl from Holland, sturdy plateware from well-known, but long-gone American companies, whale and geese coffee cups, etc. I’ve always known the Blog Lady to have a good eye, but this outing was something else entirely. Curious, I typed into my iphone the price for a gravy spoon from England. I followed this up by checking a set a plates, then the cups, adding the figures up and estimating the stuff was easily worth triple what she paid. I didn’t care about resale value, though, just the sheer quality of the goods. They were beautiful--to look at, to hold, to use.  When I got to googling the last item, I was actually sad she didn’t buy more!

While the Blog Lady’s been buying new plates and coffee cups, I’ve been trying to fill these dishes with weekend breakfasts. A recent attempt involved changing up straightforward wheat pancakes by adding cornmeal. Cornmeal seemed both exotic and homey, a Sunday morning breakfast virtue one should always aim for. The process of making cornmeal pancakes from scratch isn’t that different than regular old pancakes, except you add cornmeal. Oh, and this recipe included vinegar to apparently replicate the acidity of buttermilk. The Little Guy loved them, I thought they were interesting, whereas the last review went something like “I knew they’d taste like polenta pancakes.” The Blog Lady had a point. They were crunchy, grainy, and hit your stomach hard. Not quite the fluffy pancakes I normally make. They weren’t bad per se, but before breakfast was over, we agreed cornmeal pancakes would make a better savory dinner item with cheese and vegetables.

Not a thrilling breakfast endorsement by any means, but don’t let that dissuade you.

Animal cups too cute to pass up.
Basket for my weaving supplies.
Cornmeal Pancakes
via thepioneerwoman.com

1-1/2 cup (scant) All-purpose Flour
1-1/2 cup Heaping Yellow Cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
4 Tablespoons Sugar
2-1/4 cups Whole Milk (more If Needed)
2 whole Large Eggs
3 teaspoons Vanilla
4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

1) Mix together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

2) In a separate bowl, mix milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients, stirring gently. 

3) Stir in melted butter. Set batter aside. If batter is overly thick, splash in a small amount of milk.

4) Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. When heated, drop 1/4 cup batter per pancake and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove from skillet and set aside. 


Cold Weather Hobbies: Weaving and Plant Hoarding + Soups

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It is fun having weather. I know not everyone is into rainy days, random snow days, or temperatures below 60 degrees. But, I am. After living in dry and oppressively hot Southern California, the Pacific Northwest has been a welcome change. Everything is so green and fresh and mossy. I'm into it. And, I'm also into the nesting that comes with this weather. 

I've been filling our home with lots of plants, because we currently don't have a garden, and have a lot more square feet than we know what to do with. I've been slowly learning about plant care, and trying to figure out how to rid my house of annoying gnats that seem to love my plants more than I do. And I love them A LOT.

Also, I asked for a lap loom for Christmas, and have taken up weaving. I've been wanting to learn weaving for sometime, but between working, cooking, and laying on the couch, it's been hard to carve out time for a new hobby. But since the kid sleeps early, and there's not much to do except hang out by the fireplace, I figured this might be a good time to learn something new.
I've taught myself by watching YouTube videos, and mostly freestyling, because I don't have the skills or discipline yet for intricate and structured designs. And maybe I never will. But, it's been fun to work on wall hangings for friends and family and ship them off weekly. In a good week, I can get a couple done. Now I just need a small fund to cover my supplies and shipping expenses. Etsy?

Trying to grow a few herbs indoors. Because of the freezing temperatures and all. 
I love these windows in our bedroom. Perfect for collecting plants. 
Little guy loves to spend quality time in our bed post baths, acting like a monkey and hiding under the covers. 
Since it's been a while, like a long while, since I posted actual recipes, I thought I'd share one for a hot and sour soup I recently made in like 20 minutes. Who knew it was so easy? 

I've also been making lots of miso and udon soups with whatever we happen to have in the fridge or freezer. This often includes peas, corn, tofu, cabbage, and sometimes even crab. Because after having crab a couple of times, Viggo is under the impression it's an everyday staple. 
There's been a handful of really nice days. And that usually means park time. Park time with his pal Juni is Viggo's favorite, especially when he lounges and let's her pull him around in her wagon. 
Viggo has been really excited about all the holidays this year, including Valentine's Day. He made grams for his buddies at daycare, one for Juni and one for himself. 
And we made our first visit to Mt. Hood, where we hung out at the fancy Timberline lodge and sled for a good 10 minutes before it got really cold and snowy. 

Hot & Sour Soup

4 cups chicken broth
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 (8-ounce) can bamboo shoots, drained and thinly sliced
8 ounces firm tofu, drained and sliced in 1/4-inch strips
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoons ginger, grated
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chili sauce, such as sambal oelek or sriracha
3 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch mixed into 2 tablespoons cold water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon white pepper (or black pepper)
4 green onions, sliced

Bring the broth, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu, garlic, ginger, vinegars, chili sauce, soy sauce and sugar to a boil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Mix in the cornstarch and water mixture and simmer until the soup thickens a bit, about 2 minutes.

Slowly pour in the eggs in a thin stream while stirring the soup.

Mix in the sesame oil, white pepper and green onions, remove from heat.

You can also add pork or chicken for a meat version. 


Winter in Oregon

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We've seen a lot of snow this winter, which has been fun, especially all the no-work snow days. But we are told this is not common for this part of Oregon, so we've been savoring each one. 

Since my posting is really off, and apparently seasonal, here's a quick snapshot of our winter, in photos. 
Above, Viggo builds a snowman. He calls all snowmen Frosty. And below he's taking in the view at White Rose Winery.
We've been eating a lot of comfort food. This means big bowls of soup, roast chicken and pot pies made with leftover chicken.
After the holidays, we took a trip to Corvallis and the coast. We stayed at an old granary on the river, visited the aquarium, and spent a night right on the beach.

We learned Viggo loves crab, along with salmon caviar. We bought him a small jar as a Christmas present. 
  We've also been going on local adventures around Cannon Beach and our many nearby parks.
And entertaining friends, like these out of towners, who spent the weekend with us freezing. Sigh, Southern Californians.


Fall in Oregon

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It's been a long time since my last post. I had somehow convinced myself that I would keep up the blog during the move, documenting away. Ha! So, here we are, over a month in Oregon. Hillsboro to be exactly. About 20 miles west of Portland, close to farms and wineries, far from pretty much everyone we know.
Above Viggo doing jumpies before the movers came. And below he's already made himself comfortable on our new bed.
So moving with a two-year old is fun. Just kidding. It's a nightmare. And so is driving for three days. And so is unpacking. And unpacking. And unpacking. But, we are almost, kind of, done. And I can usually find things I need with about 70% confidence. And although I want to never move again, I so badly want to be in my own place and not a rental, where I can do anything, like NOT HAVE CARPET IN THE DINING ROOM. Sigh.

And now that I've gotten all the whining out of the way regarding moving, let's talk about fall. It's my favorite season. And I'm so glad we made it here in time for us to experience the season. Along with a little storm. It's been glorious to see color, wear sweaters, listen to rain tapping softly on the windows.
We stopped in Bend on the way up. And is was great. 
Trick or treating as a little owl.

We are also getting back to meal planning and cooking. Although now, most of that is being done by the husband. Why? Because he's living the dream. MY HOUSEWIFE dream. Although I'm not sure if "living" is the right word. He has dark circles under his eyes, is spending a lot of time at the supermarket and park, and is asleep by 8:30 pm. Taking care of a toddler was never part of my stay-at-home fantasy. So, at this point, I'm not too sad to be escaping to work everyday.

Cooking away in his little kitchen. 

We figured the first year here would be hard, but I didn't realize I would start missing our friends so soon. But, I am. And it's hard. And I'm counting down the days until people visit us and we get to take them to wineries and drive over bridges and get wet in the rain together.
What wine tasting with this crazy looks like this! Also, Viggo got a haircut. 

That's it for now. Hopefully, the husband will find the time and energy to write soon. Considering he's just at home all day, getting abused by Demando Viggo.