Well how about that! A White Christmas!

In my more than sixty years, only twice have I seen a White Christmas.

Until now.

This is only the third time I have seen a White Christmas. (I had to grab this shot from the home office window – everything else is iced over.)

Living here in the Pacific Northwest, our weather is some of the most unpredictable – and changeable – in the world. We have a unique position between the ocean and tall mountains, which makes for unstable weather.

Yesterday, I would not have believed that this cold would stick around long enough to keep snow on the ground for this morning. I had gone down into town and it was nearly 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and the ground was dry! Not even a hint of the rough conditions up here on the side of the mountain.

But we live on the snow line. And that just got proven once again.

Last night, I couldn’t even go out. And I can stand some pretty severe stuff. But… The wind was gusting past 30 knots, and driving snow before it. It was the kind of stuff that stings the skin and wants to get in your eyes. Temperature was in the mid-20s, making for a wind chill in the low to mid teens.

I went into the sunroom to try to grab a shot of the conditions, which would be considered a blizzard, had the snow been falling at a higher rate. As it was, the snow is powder and is being picked up and drifted by the wind:

Just a few moments after I grabbed this shot, the rattle of freezing rain began to sound against the windows. I knew that by morning, it would be treacherous to walk out there.

But this morning, we have a warm house, the makings for a nice Christmas breakfast, and warm hearts for each other. A roast is curing in the garage fridge for dinner tonight. Dara snoozes happily on the bed.

We take time to pause and remember the coming of the Light of the World, Everlasting Saviour, Prince of Peace.

And to marvel.

A White Christmas! How about that.

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More reasons to be thankful – a photo post

My wonderful wife, beset with so many challenges, is cooking again.

I cannot begin to describe the depth of joy which this brings to my heart. It is, in the words of Miami Sound Machine, “Coming out of the dark”. She had given up cooking in abject frustration and despair as to do so was presenting too many challenges for her: standing, carrying, bending, and so on – all things needed for, and associated with, cooking.

She had so very long ago claimed the kitchen and cooking as her domain. She has always enjoyed cooking and cooking-related things, including researching new ideas and methods. It has always been a joy to her. I got to trespass in her domain only briefly for things like breakfast.

And now she’s beginning to do cooking again. I see this as the beginning of healing from all these challenges she has had to face, which I will not enumerate.

We are looking forward, not back.

But look what we produced together yesterday:

This was one of the easiest ways to do a turkey, and she had spent about a week doing research. This method involved using a cooking bag, (See Cook’s Country, current issue) and the turkey turned out GREAT. Moist, and look at the browning! One caveat: the turkey cooks faster in a bag, WAY faster. You have to watch it. We overcooked it just a bit, but it was hard to tell that we did, because it was moist and flavorful. We’ll do better, next time; live and learn.

The best thing: None of this dangerous stuff from before, like trying to turn a hot turkey from breast to back halfway through cooking – which is what we did last time. And I got at least a couple dozen new gray hairs on that day. I cannot tell you how stressful that was…

But to reemphasize the lead: I am so proud of her for taking up cooking again. We did good things together yesterday. And even made side dishes.

After putting away the food, we fell into bed exhausted, and slept in today. Now to tackle the kitchen.

In her words, “Eek, eek, eek…”

 

Yeah, there is a giant stack of dishes to do – and a lot of stuff out of sight to the left – but you know what? I’m doing it with a light heart:

Because she’s cooking and enjoying herself in the kitchen – her claimed domain – once again.

.

Healing comes. Healing… comes.
A tearful ‘Thank you’, Lord.

Chimichanga Omelettes – a different take on Omelettes

This is one of those things which came to me while lying awake early in the morning, in a “hey, what if…?”, mad-scientist sort of moment.

Sure, they’re not really figure-friendly, but they turned out well…

We had a couple of the store-bought chimichangas left in the freezer, and the more I thought about this, the more interesting it sounded. But before doing these, I checked with my wife, who doesn’t like “unconventional” breakfasts, and she said this sounded good to her. So away we go…

First, I heated/cooked the chimichangas in the microwave according to their package directions, going a little shorter on cook time to make up for the time they’d spend in the pan. Then I put them in a skillet to crisp up the outsides and keep them hot. This skillet will become my “topper” to bake the Omelettes from the top.

A couple eggs and a shot of Ranch for fluffiness..

Into the hot pan that’s had a pat of butter, and the trick of lifting the edges to let the uncooked eggs flow under. Here, we’re ready to cook the top:

And now the one pan on top of the other. This is something I thought of a while ago, for a time-saving and energy-saving technique. You don’t have to have the oven on and waste all that power/gas. Meanwhile in the hot pan, the chimichangas are still crisping. Perfect multitasking…

And the result:

Note how puffy! Now to turn it out onto the plate, and to insert the chimichangas into the middle, as I’m turning them out. This required a bit of fancy dancing with the camera (phone) while this was happening.

And the way it came out:

What would I do different? I used butter in the pan with the chimichangas, thinking that would help make them crispier; it did initially, but the butter soaked in, creating the opposite effect.

Did they turn out well? Oh yeah. This was a breakfast that kept us going all day. I’d recommend a good hot sauce to accompany them. Something not too spicy; so you can enjoy all the flavors here.

Hope you give them a try, and enjoy them as much as we did.

Hazy and Smoky (with photos); and a change I can feel: Rain’s Coming.

This morning, I’ve been enjoying a rare privilege of sitting outside in the sunrise, with a cup of coffee and a dog companion.

The breeze is up; a welcome change from this summer, when all we had were lighter winds that heralded the change from hot to hotter; or from strength-sapping oppressiveness to I’m-glad-it’s not-so-awfully-hot-today.

We had a strong cover of smoke and cloud last night, so we didn’t get very cold; about 58° overnight. This morning we have an East wind of about 10 knots, varying up and down by about 7 knots each way. We have some light ashfall coming from the fires in the Gorge, but nothing like earlier.

The humidity is way down; in the high teens to low 20s. I’ll miss that, but I’m glad to trade it for cooler weather and rains to put out the forest fires.

Locally, the Archer Mountain fire is under control and is being slowly knocked down. This is the fire that is only about ten miles away from us and was raining ashes and blackened evergreen needles everywhere here for a few days.  There was a lot of concern about some of those ashes still being live, but thankfully, no secondary fires.

Now the haze and smoke are almost to the point of being oppressive. Our house is tight, and we’ve kept it closed up, but my poor wife is suffering terrible coughing fits. Out here, my eyes are streaming, and even the light effort of watering the flowerbed brings on coughing.

And right now, we have no health insurance. (This is a post for another time, and I need to let my rage at the Dilbertian COBRA payment system cool a bit before I write about it.)

Back to the weather:
Here are some photos of how things are right now. I’ll start with a few grab shots on my way home yesterday. I-84 is finally, finally, open westbound, meaning that my two-hour drive is finally back to an hour.

On the way home, anyway.

It’s still almost a two-hour drive to work. At about 50 MPH, as we’ll get some slowpoke up in front of about forty cars, someone who is completely oblivious to the line behind. Listen, WSDOT: If you want things to be safer on SR-14 in the Gorge, put up a few signs. I even have the slogan: “Keep a mind for those behind. If you want to go slow and sight-see, please pull over periodically and let everyone by.”

So back to the drive home. Here’s a shot when it was safe to grab one on the I-84 highway. I’ll say up front that camera angles won’t be perfect, as I prefer keeping my attention on my driving, rather than grabbing a snapshot. Visibility was about 2500 feet at this point, but in some places you had to be careful, because it would suddenly go down to 100 feet. You can see a big patch of smoky obscurity coming up:

These photos also show the great curse of automatic cameras: due to software tweaks, they see better than you do. Keep this in mind as you look at these photos. Things are quite a bit more obscure than you see here.

 

Here’s coming into Cascade Locks. Note how everything looks so deserted. Well, yeah, and smoky.

 

 

Crossing The Bridge Of The Gods. You can’t see the far end of the bridge – and it’s not all that long.

 

Looking East, toward Cascade Locks:

 

And looking West, toward North Bonneville. Yes, those are streamers of smoke from the forest fires.

 

Finally, home… And the Ridge is just a looming presence in the haze.

 

 

Oh yes, we can’t wait for the rain. It’s been since June 15th.

A Cowboy Version of Eggs in Purgatory

On a recent camping trip, I had the brilliant idea to use up one of the cans of chili in the cupboard – for breakfast!

Combine that with a couple of soft-fried eggs, and you get this “Cowboy” version of Eggs in Purgatory. It was so good that I grabbed the phone and made a quick snapshot:

Here’s all you need for two people:

  • 1 can of Dennison’s Chili (we like Dennison’s because it doesn’t taste ‘tinny’, and it tastes like real chili)
  • 4 eggs

Open the chili and get it heating in a pot. Add about a tablespoon of water to ‘loosen’ it just a bit so it won’t scorch on you while you cook the eggs. Fry the eggs until the white sets, then plate: Chili on the bottom, eggs on top. Toast is up to you; we found we didn’t need it because of the carbs in the chili.

This is a great one because it’s flavorful, and can go together on anything you brought to cook with.

Simple, quick, easy… say Grace and enjoy!

What We Did Before NOAA 

Too often, we take for granted these things which technology has brought us.

You know, it’s great to have a fairly accurate, hour-by-hour forecast; especially in an area of the world where it’s been impossible to have any kind of accuracy in a weather forecast. And look at this, it’s on the phone!

But isn’t it all too easy to take it for granted?

Tonight whilst sitting the sunset, my nose and ears were getting really chilled, and I just knew from old folklore that we were going to get a frost tonight. The sky was clear.

All the things I’ve seen from so many decades of watching the weather, and those bits of folklore passed down from my grandparents say that we will get a hard frost tonight.

I was reminded of those times when we had ‘weathermen’, and not those mere readers of the computerized forecasts from NOAA. The local NBC affiliate tried a new idea instead of the typical scene of having a guy standing in front of a map. I still remember “KING’s Cartooning Weatherman, Bob Hale”. Bob could whip out a finished illustration in the five -to ten minutes they gave him during the evening newscast, and all while going through the area forecasts. Keep in mind, we had several different forecasts that had to be done: The Olympics, Metropolitan Area, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca,  Costal, and finally Southwest Washington forecasts. Even found an old photo of Bob on set:

First thing to understand here is that I live in the Pacific Northwest; one of the VERY most difficult regions in the world for weather forecasting.

In those older times, there were no such things as satellites. TIROS was launched in the early sixties; an East coast observation satellite. Weather was the most blackest of black arts.

It was easier on the East coast: there were more ships at sea and the Atlantic was more predictable. In the Midwest: you could look at was happening in Canada, and then add a couple of days.

But for us, there were no weather satellites; no photos of cloud formations, no idea of what was coming; other than what was sketchily available from the few barometric and sky observations of a very few offshore mariners.

It had been that way forever. Technology began to creep up on the problem, but all we did was add some sophistication and consistency to observations. Weather balloons began to be used; and in the case of a possible big storm, the big guns of sounding rockets were used.

But no matter how much the technology of those days could be applied, predicting our weather remained one of the hardest things in the world to do accurately. But there were a few whose minds could see and interpret the maps with consistent accuracy; and such insight was a Gift.

In the early seventies, I had a radio show, and I had my best-est of all best friends – Dan, whom I still consider my best friend of all time, on the show, to give his forecasts. In those days, we used terms seldom heard now; things like onshore flow, high or low pressure-induced wind pattern vortexes, and others. The thing is, Dan was right, almost all the time.

I still don’t know how he did it, but he did. And this was before the inception of NOAA and all their sophisticated satellites and computer models. Dan’s amazing mind on my little radio show beat all those TV weather forecasters almost all the time. I need to say this: There is a gift of some things of prescience about weather, and Dan had it.

And tonight, I just wanted to remember and to give credit (albeit delayed) where credit is due.

Thanks, Dan. Thanks for being my best friend.

I don’t know how many others appreciated your gift, but I do. And I wanted to make sure you knew that.

I’m really, REALLY, ready for the winter storms to be over…

Almost a month to the day, I wrote something similar while sitting in the home office and looking out the window.  And here I am today, feeling the same thing.

Thursday through Saturday, we watched an ice storm roll in and cover everything with cold slipperiness. All the windows on the North side of the house were turned into pebble glass, and it began to feel as if we were living an endless scene from Frozen.

Saturday brought enough thawing so that we could at least see out the windows, so the icy claustrophobia began to lift. Weather reports brought hope that perhaps today (Sunday) we might be able to go to church, and then to the store to pick up a few would-be-nice-to-haves.

That’s not happening.

This morning we have heavy snow showers, and as of the time to get up for church, about a half-inch accumulation. Remembering that there’s probably still a layer of ice underneath that, we’re staying put. Again.

Time to finish touching up my resume’ before I send it to some friends for proofing, and to begin to put together my new website. Last time I was out of work, I hand-coded my entire website; let’s see if I can avoid that, this time.

Meanwhile:
We have lots to be thankful for: the power is on, which means we have water to drink, and the heat is running, so we’re warm. It’s easy to ‘be still and know that God is’ when it’s this quiet inside and outside.

The snow has let up enough for the trees at the edge of the meadow to show themselves a bit. Those deck railings yesterday had 8″ icicles hanging from them: