Monthly Archives: August 2013

Places in the World a Woman Can Walk

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Today, it started to sprinkle a little bit….not really rain….but I was in the mood for a walk, so I grabbed John and told him that I had a surprise for him….and we set off for Powell Butte, one of the many urban forests in Portland.  It was such a beautiful experience for us both.  I had hiked on Powell Butte once before, but without John, and I didn’t even tell him where we were going until we got there.  He had never been, and was very happy when he saw our destination.

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So hard to believe this forest is only 15 minutes from home!  Powell Butte is the site of an  extinct cinder cone volcano that rises near the headwaters of Johnson Creek – an urban creek that runs near our daughter’s home.  It has a remnant populations of native salmon and steelhead that one can see occasionally from the shore. The park is comprised of 608 acres of meadowland and forest.  We went to the densest forest area that has trails running up the side of the volcano.

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Before the turn of the century, the large meadow area was cleared and an orchard planted, although there are no signs left of it today.   In 1925 the City of Portland bought  the property from George Wilson because they planned to build future water reservoirs there.  However, they continued to lease the northeast section of the property to Henry Anderegg, a farmer and owner of Meadowland Crest Dairy, until 1948 when he retired. . However, dairy cattle were permitted to graze on the acreage to preserve the pastures. In the mid-1970s the Water Bureau prepared a development plan for Powell Butte that called for the construction of four 50-million gallon underground reservoirs to be located at the north end of the butte. In 1981 the first, and only, reservoir was built and still serves as the hub of the Water Bureau’s distribution system. Also, the Powell Valley Water District has three reservoirs on the butte. In 1987 the City officially established Powell Butte as a nature park and the park was opened to the public in 1990.

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Today, miles of trails accommodate hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.   In fact, we were almost run off the trail by a group of 10-yr. old mountain bikers that shattered our serenity with their war cries and shrieks as they sped down the hill.  After they had passed, however, the quiet was restored.

Abundant wildlife populates the park, including rabbits, ring-necked pheasants, ground squirrels, raccoons, gray foxes, skunks, bats, chipmunks, coyotes, and black-tailed mule deer. The park is home to many birds of prey with its open meadows, groves of wild hawthorn trees, forested slopes of Western red cedar, and wetlands near Johnson Creek.

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We didn’t see any wildlife today….not even birds, but the walk was splendid, regardless. The weather was cool and breezy, and we felt the occasional raindrop….just enough to keep us cool during our brisk walk.  We walked all the way to the top, too!

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I loved all the moss growing on the trees…and the ferns on the forest floor.

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I loved everything about this walk!  John and I had a great chat as we strolled up the path to the top of the ridge, and then back down again.  He called me,  “Sacagawea” because I have a real knack for finding my way around in a forest.  He claims to always get lost.  I told him I would rescue him.  No problem.  🙂

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This was a nice end of summer walk…and we both remarked about how it was beginning to feel like autumn a little bit.

A new season for new adventures….

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This is one of the most fabulous renditions of “Dark Side of the Moon” I have ever heard!  Please don’t pass it by.  You HAVE to hear this!  wow!

DAY #22 – A ROOM

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Photo a Day – AUGUST

Day #22- A ROOM

© Stacy Alexander – 2013

This is part of the floor mural in (I think) Terminal D …a big room….at the Dallas-FT. Worth Airport (DFW). When I fly in and out of there, I always try to see as much of the art as possible.  That is about the only good thing in this airport for a liberal vegetarian.  🙂  (well…almost….)    I have searched and searched for the name of this mosaic  artist so I could give due credit, but my attempts to find his or her name were unsuccessful.  If any of you know who made this piece, will you please let me know?

There are never enough hours in the day…..

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I have, again, managed to fall behind on my Photo-a-Day posts, so I shall take this opportunity to get caught up.

Photo a Day

© Stacy Alexander – 2013

Day #16 – COOKING

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Day # 17 – EXERCISE

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#18 – SOMEONE I SPOKE TO TODAY

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Day #19 – LOST

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Day #20 – STAIRS

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Day #21 – SLOW

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Cops Satisfy Munchies with Free Doritos in Seattle

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SEATTLE (AP) — A few things will be different at this year’s Hempfest, the 22-year-old summer “protestival” on Seattle’s waterfront where tens of thousands of revelers gather to use dope openly, listen to music and gaze at the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

The haze of pot smoke might smell a little more like victory, after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana use by adults over 21. Having won at the state level, speakers will concentrate on the reform of federal marijuana laws.

Oh, and the Seattle police — who have long turned a lenient eye on Hempfest tokers — don’t plan to be writing tickets or making arrests. They’ll be busy handing out Doritos.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, department spokesman and junk-food-dispenser-in-chief. “It’s meant to be ironic. The idea of police passing out Doritos at a festival that celebrates pot, we’re sure, is going to generate some buzz.”

The idea isn’t just to satisfy some munchies. The department has affixed labels to 1,000 bags of Doritos urging people to check out a question-and-answer post on its website, titled “Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle.” It explains some of the nuances of Washington’s law: that adults can possess up to an ounce but can’t sell it or give it away, that driving under the influence of pot is illegal, and that — festivals aside — public use is illegal.

Organizers are expecting as many as 85,000 people each day of the three-day event, which begins Friday and is the first Hempfest since voters passed Initiative 502 last fall.

The vote legalized possession of marijuana and set up a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and stores to sell taxed and regulated weed. Officials are still writing rules for the new pot industry, with sales scheduled to begin next year.

Hempfest executive director Vivian McPeak said that despite the state-level legalization, work remains as long as pot is illegal under federal law. The event is free, but McPeak is asking attendees to contribute $10 to offset the $800,000 cost of Hempfest so it can continue next year.

“It’s going to be the most interesting Hempfest we’ve ever had because it’s going to be part victory celebration,” McPeak said. “That said, we feel it’s very important to remind everyone that as long as it’s still a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, it’s not legal anywhere. The job’s not done yet.”

The event will feature 117 musical acts on six stages and more than 100 speakers, not to mention 400 vendors offering informational pamphlets, colorful glass bongs, food and art.

McPeak said that to encourage the responsible use of pot, Hempfest this year will be handing out cards with marijuana “gut checks” prepared by Roger Roffman, a University of Washington School of Social Work professor and marijuana dependence expert. The cards note that while marijuana is used safely by many people, it can cause short-term memory loss, affect your ability to drive and cause dependence.

“We hope people will take it more seriously coming from us than from a traditional messenger,” McPeak said.

And although police won’t be ticketing people for smoking in public, officers will be ensuring public safety and keeping a close eye out for intoxicated drivers leaving the event, Whitcomb said.

Brian Laoruangroch is hoping to use Hempfest to promote his fledgling business, Prohibition Brands, by rolling a joint of at least 2 pounds — an effort Hempfest’s organizers have frowned upon as not compliant with Initiative 502. Prohibition Brands hopes to obtain a marijuana processing license under the state’s new law.

“This is a big moment for me,” he said. As a pot smoker, “You kind of get an image that’s cast upon you in a negative way. For a lot of people, this is a you-don’t-have-to-hide-in-the-shadows-any-more kind of thing. You can be out in the open.”

Salt and Straw….oh, my!

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Strawberry with Cilantro Lime Cheesecake…..Raspberry Lemon Basil Sorbet… or the flavor I had today…the Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero….oh, my!

Salt and Straw is the awesome new ice cream store located dangerously close to our house.

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This is serious ice cream, folks, and is not for sissies!

This summer, Salt and Straw got thousands of pounds of strawberries from deep Roots Farm located in nearby Albany, OR.  The strawberries that go into their ice cream are picked and delivered the same day they use them.  All of their ice cream is as fresh as it is delicious!

My husband’s birthday was last week.  We took him to Salt and Straw and he chose the Birthday Cake and Blackberries flavor….frosting flavored ice cream with ribbons of cake and blackberry jam.  mmmmm…  The blackberry jam is extra special because it uses Evergreen Blackberries from the Willamette Valley.  These berries are pitch black in color and wonderfully sweet.  With this combo, it might as well be everyone’s birthday every day!

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How about a cup of Pear with Blue Cheese made from  delicate, sweet Oregon Trail Northwest Bartlett pears from Salem with crumbles of Rogue Creamery’s Crater Lake Blue Cheese (recently named the best in the world at a fancy competition in France) mixed throughout?   or the Freckled Woodblock Chocolate?  Woodblock is the fist bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Portland.  Salt and Straw adds in a bit of Jacobson seal salt, and then uses an old school ice cream making technique called “freckling” to suspend the chocolate in an untempered state.  Or how about the Coffee & Bourbon flavor?  This one uses Stumptown’s single-origin Sumatra coffee mixed with a little of Portland’s Holy Kakow chocolate and a lot of Burnside Bourbon from our own local Eastside Distillery.  Uh huh….It is every bit as good as it sounds.

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Yes, folks, these people take their ice cream seriously.  They even have an Arbequina Olive Oil flavor!  That’s right!  This is one of Oprah’s favorite things!  After tasting more than 50 ice creams from all over the US, the folks at Opera Magazine were absolutely blown away by this flavor.  Red Ridge Farms from here in Oregon provide a rich and spicy Arbequina Olive Oil for its unique flavor.

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Ingrid’s favorite flavor is Cinnamon snickerdoodle made of Red Ape Cinnamon from Eugene who donates part of the proceed to save the orangutans in Sumatra where the cinnamon is harvested.  Mine is the Strawberry Honey Balsamic Vinegar with Cracked Black Pepper….made with strawberries, jam and syrup from Oregon Hill Farms, Balsamic from a 5th generation bee keeper at Honeyridge Farms, and a pinch of black pepper…a little trick to bring out the fruit flavor.

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Oh, and they have merchandise, too…tee shirts…local honey…chocolate…cookies….You name it.

Salt and Straw at 3345 SE Division Street is one of 3 locales in Portland.  This ice cream is HOT!

Day #13 – FAST

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Photo a Day – AUGUST

Day #13 – FAST

© Stacy Alexander – 2013

The Perils of Songwriting…

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You know, I’ve always been a pretty good songwriter.  I could sit down at a keyboard and hammer something out relatively quickly, and it would be decent….not great, but decent.  However, now that I am taking this songwriting course from the Berklee College of Music, I am finding myself drift over to left brained thinking more, leaving my creative right lobes hungry for more substance.  Things are no longer flowing as easily and naturally as before.  Songwriting that was once easy for me is now more difficult as I struggle with all of these terms and the methodology behind them.  I know it will all come together as I keep going, but right now, it is challenging.  Fortunately, I welcome a good challenge.

Last week, we learned about assonance rhyme and additive rhymes.    This week, we are working with plosives and family rhymes.  Rhyme schemes and consonate rhymes.  We are learning when to use single syllable words and we are learning what makes a rhyme or thought stable or unstable.   The course is fascinating….but sometimes, I wish I could go back to my carefree way of writing that didn’t involve so much thinking about things!

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My country and western song, “Call Me When the Coast is Clear”  is starting to shape up, though.  If I can learn to apply all of this theory, I might actually have something!

Day #10 – BEVERAGE

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Photo a Day – AUGUST

Day #10 – BEVERAGE

© Stacy Alexander – 2013

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Mi Mero Mole – Another Portland Treasure

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Mi Mero Mole at 5026 SE Division in Portland,  is one of those nondescript little places that we passed virtually every day, but until recently, had not tried.

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Mistake.   I wish I’d known how good this place was before now.  I’d not had a decent plate of truly good Mexican food since I left Texas!

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Let me just say that any place that would serve a fresh plantain margarita is ok in my books!  Touted as one of the top five margaritas in Portland, this drink is comprised of:

2 oz reposado tequila
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz spiced plantain syrup

(Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass  – salt rim optional).

This margarita  is light and refreshing….different….and leaves notes of cinnamon on the back of the tongue.  Delicious!

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The overall ambiance of the restaurant is very casual.  Cement floors…booths…sort of dark inside.  The noise levels are pretty high due to the less-than-perfect acoustics.  Thankfully, the food is amazing, so one doesn’t notice so much.

They specialize in guisados.  In Mexico, guisados are cooked dishes that especially include stews and stir-fries.  Mi Mero Mole is one of the few Mexican restaurants that I have encountered that serves genuine vegan and vegetarian options that do not contain things such as “pork oil”.  The first night that we went, I tried the vegan mole.

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Served with a side of black beans and rice and a few chips, this dish did not have much eye-appeal.  Fortunately, one does not eat with one’s eyes.  The taste was fabulous….albeit, it tasted more like a curry than a mole, but it was still very good.  The menu said that the dish was to have green beans in it, but from where I sat, it was just mole sauce over spuds.  Still, it was delicious.

John had a taco a la carte….with rajas con crema….that is, roasted poblano chili peppers with sauteed onions in a sour cream sauce with mushrooms and other goodies like fresh lime and pickled onions on the side.

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John’s dish was fabulous, and that is what *I* ordered the second time we went.  HE ordered a big salad the second time we went.  Why anyone would order a caesar salad in a Mexican restaurant is beyond me…..but John is from PA, and they do things a little differently there….so I’ll excuse him this time.  😉    Actually, I tasted his salad and it was good!

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This is a meat-oriented restaurant, so they offer a lot of traditional Mexican pork and fish dishes….some sausage and smoked duck.  They also have a wide selection of microbrewery beers and designer cocktails.

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The most unique characteristic was  their willingness to serve great vegan and vegetarian options that go far beyond the vegetarian fare that is typically offered at places like this.  These options were wonderful, and I’m so glad to have found Mi Mero Mole!

I am looking forward to trying the Hongos en salsa de Guajilto…mushrooms stewed in a red chili and cream sauce…or the Tinga de Calabacites, which is stir friend summer squach, online, tomatoes and chipoltle.    Oh…and they serve killer guac and chips there, too!

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Our tortillas are made fresh using ground nixtamal rather than commercial Maseca. Everything we serve, including our moles, salsas, rice, and beans, are made from scratch.

ObamaCare – Are you a doubting Thomas?

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I am STILL hearing whining about ObamaCare….yet every time I do, it is from someone that is ill-informed about the Affordable Care Act’s benefits.  Here is a comprehensive list of ways in which ObamaCare is helping Americans….and it is just going to get better from here.  Each point is linked to substantiation.

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Benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare):

  1. Prevents denial of coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
  2. Adults up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ health plans.
  3. Requires new health plans to provide  free preventive care  without cost-sharing such as co-pays or deductibles. HHS issued interim final regulations on preventive services and amendment to the final regulations.
  4. Prohibits rescinding coverage making it illegal.
  5. Prohibits lifetime limits on the dollar value of insurance coverage.
  6. Prohibits annual limits on insurance coverage.
  7. More options to appeal coverage decisions.
  8. Provides $5 billion in immediate federal support to affordable Coverage for the Uninsured with Pre-existing Conditions.
  9. Provides a $10 billion investment in Community Health Centers to expand medical services.
  10. Create immediate access to re-insurance for employer health plans providing coverage for early retirees over age 55 who are not eligible for Medicare.
  11. Implemented a process that requires states to review insurance companies premium increases. The final rule for the insurance rate review program was published in the Federal Register on May 19, 2011 .
  12. Provided grants worth almost $250 million ($46 million and $199 million) to assist States enforce the insurance rate review program.
  13. Provides tax credits or grants to employers with 250 or fewer employees for up to 50% of the investments costs in projects that qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project. About a $1 billion in tax credits and grants have been provided by end of 2010.
  14. Appropriated $5 billion for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 and $2 billion for each of the subsequent five fiscal years to support prevention and public health programs.
  15. Provides a $250 rebate to 750,000 Medicare Beneficiaries who reach the Part D coverage gap in 2010. As of March 22, 2011, 3.8 million beneficiaries had received a $250 check to close the coverage gap, according to an HHS report.
  16. Requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide a 50% discount on brand-name prescriptions and a 7% and 14% generic drug discount (in 2011 and 2012, respectively) filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap.
  17. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees will get tax credits covering up to 35% of employee premiums effective 2011 and a 50% tax credit effective 2013.
  18. Creates a state option to provide Medicaid coverage to childless adults with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level. By 2014, States are required to provide this coverage.
  19. Provides a 10% Medicare bonus payment for primary care services and to general surgeons practicing in health professional shortage areas.
  20. Requires insurance companies spend at least 80 to 85 percent of the proportion of thepremium dollars on clinical services and issue a rebate if the share of the premium spent is less than the threshold.
  21. Creates a temporary program to provide health coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months.
  22. Imposes a tax of 10% on the amount paid for indoor tanning services.
  23. Expands eligibility for the 340(B) drug discount program to sole-community hospitals, critical access hospitals, certain children’s hospitals, and other entities with a savings estimated to be 20% to 50% on the cost of pharmaceuticals and reaching more eligible patients while providing more comprehensive services.
  24. Eliminates cost-sharing for Medicare-covered preventive services that are recommended (rated A or B) by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.As of October 6, 2011, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that 20.5 million people had participated in the free Annual Wellness Visit.
  25. Provides 3-year grants worth $100 million to states to develop programs for Medicaid enrollees with incentives to participate in comprehensive health lifestyle programs.
  26. Awarded $185 million worth of grants as of August 2011 to states to begin planning for the establishment of American Health Benefit Exchanges and Small Business Health Options Program Exchanges, which facilitate the purchase of insurance by individuals and small employers.
  27. Requires disclosure of the nutritional content of standard menu items at chain restaurants and food sold from vending machines.
  28. Imposes new annual fees on the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. The sector will be assessed at the following rates$2.8 billion in 2012 through 2013, $3 billion in 2014 through 2016, $4 billion in 2017, $4.1 billion in 2018 and $2.8 billion in 2019 and after