Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pink, Blue, and White Flowering NW Native Plants

Spring Flowers

Today is a surprisingly warm day for March. Usually, plants aren't breaking bud yet, but take a look-see at the bright spring flowers I found on this weeks hike! 

Red Flowering Currant - Ribes sanguineum

I don't know why this shrub isn't planted. Around more homes and businesses for its rich pink floral clusters! Super lovely. Hummingbirds kill for it. It does grow up pretty shrubby (like the size of a refrigerator).

And here is the white-flowering sister Ribes indecorum with much looser and smaller clusters. It's always a treat to find a native with larger flower displays - so many wild plants have small, inconspicuous flowers for insects to pollinate. 

And this little treasure is a Blue Buttons - Cynoglossum grande. Just growing away happy as can be beneath a hillside of Oak on a SW facing slope.
Kinda makes your heart light just to see them.

If you have a favorite spring flower in bloom right now, comment-up! I'd love to hear.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Adventures with Coconuts and Banana Leaves....

How Hard Could it Be to Cook with Fresh Coconut?

Naive words. I really don't recommend tackling a humble coconut after a long day of work unless you have....BACKUP! If my girlfriend hadn't been as equally intrigued as I was by this tough hairy fruit that sloshed with a mysterious interior liquid, hope would have been lost. Here's my checklist for surviving a coconut encounter. May the you conquer the nut.

  • Get the GEAR! Find a hammer and screw driver (don't ask, just fetch). 
  • Find a very hard surface (aka concrete) and some old rags you don't mind damaging.
  • Find the 3 "eye" on the end of the nut. These are the vicious coconut's achille's heel.
  • Ok, go slow so you don't hurt yourself here. In fact, go get a buddy to help you hold the nut wrapped in the rag.
  • With the "eyes" facing upwards, firmly and precisely tap the screwdriver through each of the eyes with the hammer. This takes multiple smacks on each eye to make it all the way through the fleshy goodness.
  • Let the liquid drain out of the coconut into a bowl. This is coconut water. Nasty smelling. Kind of oily and waxing...not sweet and delicious. Get back to work!
  • This part is awesome. I'm not a big cook by any means, but any time I get to use a HAMMER, things are bound to get interesting.;) Wrap the nut in the rag again. Thwack that baby around the equator. 
  • Examine your progress. See a crack? Smack the nut again near the crack so it splits in half. 
  • RAWR! You win. :) You are now holding two halves of a coconut. Make a coconut bra, take a pic, and send to Instagram. 

  • Now that you've cracked the coconut it's time to prep it for feasting. Use the hammer again to break the hemispheres into chunks.
  • This part suuuuuucks. Begin to pry the woody-outernut from the creamy white meat. When I GTS'ed it ("Googled that sh*t"), it recommended using a veggie peeler on the white pieces after the husk was removed, but it was evident that my backup my slice her finger so we abandoned that idea.
  • After you've removed as much shell as you can or can take, begin grating the white chunks into delectable shreds. Hopefully, you have large chunks so you don't remove a nail with the grater.
  • Fling the beautiful shreddings onto a cookie sheet and toast in an over at 400F for about 10-15min depending on how crispy you like your shreds. 
  • I threw some slivered almonds and crushed pecans onto the sheet to toast too because I am a badass.
  • Take your treats out of the oven and throw in a bowl and SMOTHER WITH HONEY! Yeah, baby!

Now put your feet up and eat your socks off. This stuff is delicious - rich, vitamin dense, gluten-free, versatile, and a-mazing. If you are a lazy soul like me, you'll agree that this process can be done much more conveniently with pre-vanquished coconuts....after you've taken the coconut challenge and proved your tougher than a tropical nut. Good luck. :)

Banana-rama: Cook Fish in a Leaf!

If you follow Gallery of Shea on YouTube, you've seen a cooking video where I discuss a off-beat recipe I tried that involved a trip to an Asian market (my first time!), these greens below, and a banana leaf. Check the video for details on the recipe and my mixed review on cooking fish wrapped in banana leaves like little tamales. Comment below if you like using leaves instead of foil. Stay happy and healthy!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Fine Details of Forest Park

Exploring in the Mist

Despite lazy raindrops, I took a delicious morning stroll in the Portland rain forest known as Forest Park. These pictures are my souvenirs. It's all about the small details that capture your attention. Please enjoy then go find some of your own!

Hazy mist
Wild-rooted Cedars
Cascading water
Tiny moss clumps.
Stump and chain
Silvery lichen on red bark
Mini moss 

If you are into native plants, here's a fantastic field guide of what's-what around Portland. Browse pictures and brief descriptions before your next trail excursion.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tryon Creek Saturday Morning Hike

Fresh Air 

If it's not raining right NOW, you're safe to leave the house for a hike, right?! :) It will probably stop before you arrive anyhow. I chanced it - risky girl. What am I to do without my peaceful, green, Saturday morning refresh? Apparently, I'm risky and lucky - no rain while hiking. :)

 Rain sprinkled on me as I drove across town toward Terwilliger to Tryon Creek - Oregon's only state park within the major metro area. Perfect. Although it wasn't bright and sunny like this pic from the Intertwine below, the area is gorgeous. Lots of trails with many splits and different path options. Just go chill and sniff ferns and kick logs. No major time commitment needed to enjoy the looping paths.

I'm positive that fairies frolic here.
Saw plenty of little kiddos with the parents oohing and aahing over twigs and moss. Adorable. Also crossed the creek many times on all kinds of bridges. Here's my fav - the suspension bridge! 

Sure to bring out your inner girlscout - the Terry Riley Suspension Bridge! Bouncy as all get-out.

Enjoyed the plentiful wood art. Old trees left killer silhouettes with their mangled roots. This could double as Middle Earth. Seriously.

An uprooted trees creates forest driftwood.

Tryon's gurgle is lovely. Let's go back and listen when the trilliums bloom? Don't forget a picnic basket.

Tryon Creek - see the milky-emerald-green water on the left?

Quitting - How Do You Know When It's Time?

Ever felt fragile? I do. I'm almost 26. A quarter of a century, and I'm falling out of love with myself. I feel roadblocked. Stumped. Stymied. My goals seem stalled. Motivation is is hope. Tomorrow I may feel spectacular, but this dull throb in my heart won't go away and STAY away. I may be failing myself and my spirit is disheartened.

So here's my question for you: how do you know when it's time to throw in the towel, pack a bag, and set to work reinventing yourself? I'm a tough cookie, but need some advice. What words would you share?