Justa Pasta - Portland

You have to know Justa Pasta is there, if you don’t, you’ll drive right past. This is probably one of the many reasons I love this place, it is understated perfection. In the showdow if it’s neighbor, Les Schwab, on the one-way NW 19th street and tucked back behind a small parking lot, Justa Pasta is preparing house made pastas, desserts, and expertly prepared espresso drinks.  

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about them and it won’t be the last. 

 https://www.justapasta.com/

 Tauzher. Slovenaian wine, delightful. 

Tauzher. Slovenaian wine, delightful. 

 Pesto ravioli, add shrimp.

Pesto ravioli, add shrimp.

 Cheesecake dreams realized. 

Cheesecake dreams realized. 

Photo Friday Series. Bellingham Harbor

Week four and I'm already breaking the one-photo rule, eh, whatever, it's my site. Plus, I think you'll appreciate the zoom shot. 

Bellingham, Washington. 

I'm on a wonderfully large yacht with four other writers, our hosts, a catered spread of local salmon and all of the delights that go with it. (More about that and them later) 

The Captain has disappeared to his post, leaving the passengers to the buffet table and to enjoy the insightful comments, and pointing gestures about sights along the shoreline, from the Harbor Expert. Bellingham harbor is a thriving fishing port and home to very notable businesses and expert ship builders. 

The sun is starting to set through a smoked filled sky, a result of fires burning in Canada and Washington, casting a haze over the horizon. The sun eventually brightened to a red orb and the sky filled with milky rose colors.  

As the passengers milled around the back of the yacht, I discovered a little staircase that took me to the very front, to the stern. Yes, I had to look up the name of "front of boat". The stern was magical and open and serene. 

I carefully climbed up the stairs and stood on the stern looking out over the glassy water at the harbor. Time stood still. The sun was soft and the water was quiet. Off in the distance I saw a couple snuggling under the boardwalk, sitting on the rocks and hidden from the foot traffic above. I saw a group of teens jumping off the boardwalk, then swimming to the dock, and running to do it over and over again. I saw the harbor life beginning to rest for the day and the movements along the shoreline began to lessen. 

On the water, little boats were anchored out in the bay, some waiting for their owners to return the next morning, some with passengers enjoying the sky show. 

I stood by myself for a significant amount of time. It was like I had a secret hiding place on the boat, and I was enjoying every little minute that passed before it was discovered by all. I had unobstructed views and the warm summer air blowing through my hair. All I could do was smile that smile of pure contentment, of awe, of pinch-me, of appreciation. The Captain and I exchanged knowing looks through his window, acknowledging the beauty surrounding us and my stolen location moment. 

We cut quietly through the water and passed a sailboat to our right. This sailboat had two passengers but I didn't see them right away, thinking this was just another of the anchored-for-the-night boats. Because the scene was so spectacular with the sun setting and the reflection of the sailboat on the water I continued to study it for an extended period of time.

When I saw them, I laughed. Out loud. No one could hear but myself, and then I laughed again. 

Brilliant!

I shouted through my laughter, "I LOVE IT". They didn't move, not one bit but held their pose with precision and commitment. 

Standing with their backs to our yacht, the two sailboat passengers were hoisting up large swords, with full stance, straight to the sky. They held this pose the entire time our boat passed, never looking over their shoulders to see if we were watching, never wavering. We were not going fast so it felt like it took a good long while. Everything fell into slow motion. 

I don't know who these harbor pirates were, but I applaud them and their commitment and for creating an incredible moment. I don't know if any other passengers on my boat saw this display, and while I hoped they did, I'm also okay if it was only for my and the Captain's eyes.  

When people talk about the fires and the smoke overtaking the Northwest, I will forever think of these two sword wielding boat dwellers, who knew exactly how to live a life well. 

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Photo Friday Series. Alsace

 

This photo was taken on day 9 of a seven week trip in Europe. I know this, because I had just spent 8 days in Amsterdam by myself, then took the train to Frankfurt to pick up my husband so we could drive straight to Switzerland. We didn’t have reservations, but we had town destinations. This is our favorite way to travel. (I usually web search ‘most romantic small towns in x country’, which never fails me.) 

As we were zipping along, GPS set to non-highway, non-toll, I started to see signage about wineries. Everywhere. 

Back in Oregon, we live in a wine region and I feel very comfortable around this industry and I have learned to really appreciate the craft of winemaking and care of the vineyards. 

The classical music was playing softly, (I am not making that up) we’ve left Germany, and needed to make a quick pass through France to arrive to Switzerland. Surrounding us are vines and winery signs, and I spot the word Alsace. I have only heard of the Alsace wine region in conversation or when I’ve been lucky enough to be with the right crowd and enjoyed a bottle or two. I became instantly giddy! 

A pinch me moment was happening and I’m in awe of our good fortune to have stumbled upon the Alsace wine mothership. 

Like mice with a long string of bread crumbs, we followed sign after sign and drove down side country roads to end up in the town of Riquewihr, France.  

Clearly a very touristy village, we shook our shoulders and remembered we too, were tourists. So, off we went, in through the hugh stone wall entry gate. The cobblestone streets, wide enough for a tiny car were filled, no jammed, with people from all over the world going this way and that. We followed the masses around the main corridors and then snuck away. 

This is when we stopped thinking about wine for a moment.  

Stealing into a side street, and worming our way back towards the homefronts of the locals, my mind is filled with imagining life on a daily basis here. I’m transported. The streets are quiet, doors and windows mostly closed up, and yet, as if to say, life is here, flowers everywhere. 

What I love about this photo, not only are the building colors, the textures and the flowers but the pulley, and the combination of it all.

Yes, the pulley. 

I am fascinated by pulleys, weird, I know. I love how they have been a staple tool for, well, for ever. I love how pulleys are the quiet champion of the work world. They are the tool no one really thinks about but when something really clever needs to happen, it’s usually the pulley that saves the day. Pulleys were used to hoist food, water, furniture, and so much more, to and from high floors in the midieval era and now to the modern city life. 

So here we were, strolling aimlessly around the back streets of Riquewihr staring at this pulley. This pulley, who’s long life could tell so many stories, I am sure.

Yes, we also enjoyed some wine. 

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Photo Friday Series - Idaho

The kind of sunset you pull the car over for. 

That moment when it’s just you, the stillness of time, resting in the reflections of the day and the reflections on the water.  

Lake Coeur d’ Alene. You were so very lovely last night.  

 

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Photo Friday Series. one photo one story. France

MONET'S GARDEN - Monet's Studio and My Mom

My mom was an artist, an unknown artist. Her flower series... I greedily reached for and kept when my parents moved from their home to downsize, fills the walls of my guest room. My own art room in my own home, this is what I think every time I walk in. Sometimes I light candles in my living room, play classical music and walk to the guest room and study each painting, imaging my mom lifting these brush strokes. These flowers that my brown thumb couldn't grow if I tried. 

When I was a little girl, my mom introduced us to the riveting board game of Masterpiece, where one traded paintings by famous artists instead of houses or land. It was always my favorite game. 

On my first trip to Paris, I entered the Musee D'Orsay and flooding inside of me bubbled every emotion.  I thought of the paintings of Masterpiece and how my mom would never see this incredible museum. I stared and stared at the little cards I once played now hanging on the walls. 

I cried the first time I walked the quiet hallways of the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. My breath was taken. 

I found myself a handful of years later facilitating and taking talented artist Christine Joy on her first trip to Europe where she painted the countryside of Italy and parts of France. On this trip, after going to the Louvre and Musee D' Orsay, we went to Monet's Garden. 

I had traded Monet's work when I was a child. I knew it well. His soft landscapes were always the chosen calendars for years, and my early marriage fake-art for our home, always was Monet inspired. 

Christine and I navigated the train to Giverny, took the shuttle bus to the garden and both stood there, in absolute awe. We pinched ourselves that we were there! We were at Monet's home! The six year old in me was ecstatic, but, yet again, adult me knew this was another beautiful place my mom will not see in person, she is too frail to travel this far.

The grounds were everything one might dream; landscape art, every flower imaginable and endless inspiration for artists for generations. In the moments I'm walking around the famous pond, taking photos of the delicate green bridge, and sitting and taking it all in and never wanting to leave, I'm thinking of her. 

One acute thing I've learned when traveling, it just always gets better. When I think it's impossible to have an experience that can top 'this', top a 'best day ever', a 'I can't believe I'm here', or this really happened(?!) moment, or even Monet's pond...it always does. 

We left the garden. I was sad to leave the pond. We walked through the most beautiful flowers and entered the home. What's in a home?   

Monet's studio is in his home, that's what in a home! Oh my goodness. This sunken sun room off of the main house, with iron windows filling both both sides of the room, a desk, and easels. Monet's easels. The studio topped the pond. The studio room was where he painted the pond. The pond that we all know and love with the lily pads, floating flowers, row boat and little green bridge. 

Lining the walls were paintings, 50 or so filled the space, surrounding you with the soothing colors of the flower gardens, boat paintings and the abstracts as his eyes gave, hovering gently around you like a warm blanket. 

I stood there, studying the paintings, imagining Claude Monet lifting up those brush strokes.

I stood there, thinking of my mom. Two great artists. 

 

 

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This room is one of my favorite rooms I've ever entered in all of my travels. 

Heaven found on Orcas Island. Pebble Cove Farm

I am running not walking back to this place, and when I get there I am not leaving.  

It has been only three days since I woke up with this view through the windows from my suite.

Even now, when I close my eyes I’m back there sitting in the hot tub, resting, breathing, relaxing. 

Pebble Cove Farm is a working organic farm on Orcas Island, complete with its own beach. You are encouraged to pet the animals that are peacefully roaming the grounds: ponys, pigs, sheep.. There is a fire pit ready for your sunset s’mores and a hot tub located in the perfect spot to watch the moon reflect on the lapping shoreline. 

Guests are encouraged to stroll and pick from the expansive garden, reach through a special little door into the chicken coup for eggs in the morning and make themselves at home. 

A day could be spend on the rocky sand at the shore playing in the water or venturing beyond and exploring by kayak.  

When I go back, I can assure you I’ll be sitting on the beach and listening to the music of the incoming water for hours, will roast brats by the fire and end my day again with a soak in the hot tub. 

If you’ve ever wanted a perfect home to visit on Orcas, and it has everything(!), you’ve found it in Pebble Cove Farm. 

 

 http://pebblecovefarm.com/

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Crunchy Caprese

The power of social media led me to Church. Well, a Portland hot spot called Church. It was really the word Caprese that got me there, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Caprese that I didn’t like and this was no exception. 

On a friend’s post was the Crunchy Caprese, it looked delightful! I found myself visiting this dish inside two weeks.  

Warm melty cheese inside a crisp exterior topped with sweet tomato, resting on a bed of pesto (God’s gift to the Italians and thus the world) and drizzled with just the right amount of reduced balsamic. 

Mozzarella sticks all grown up. 

Church 2600 NE Sandy, Portland, Oregon 

 

 

 

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Christine Paints Italy- it's finally here. We kick off in NYC

To know Christine Swanson is to know an incredible human being.

Our paths crossed in 2013 when a mutual friend suggested Christine (then 22 years old) paint for a fundraiser dinner I was throwing. From that point forward we have partnered up for many many wine events, charity events and personal events. 

It was on event three or four that I stood back and thought, I wonder what would happen if we could put Miss Christine Swanson on the hillsides of Italy?

This trip is to do just that. 

Christine's first trip to Europe and it is my true honor to be able to facilitate it for her.  

Our plans include: 

Paris

Monet's Garden

Louvre

Eiffel Tower

Musee D' Orsay

Hop over to Italy

Villa Calcinaia Winery 

Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort

Florence

David

Bagno Vignoni, - hot springs town dating back to 1170 and ties to St. John the Baptist

stop in San Gimigano

stop in Pienza

stop in Montepulciano

Assisi - St. Francis of Assisi

Orvieto

stop in Calcata

Ladispoli - on the Tyrrhenian Sea

Rome

MAP of Italian Route - leaving off Paris/Florence/Rome

 

Christine will be painting ten 12x12 paintings and fifteen 6x6 paintings. We have sold futures of these paintings for 400.00 and 200.00.  

A Gallery Pick-Up party will happen on December 3rd at Remy Winery. Purchasers who live outside of Oregon will be mailed their framed painting. 

Everyone bought blind, knowing they will receive a painting by Artist's Choice.  These are numbered 1/1. 

We do have one large and three small paintings left for purchase. If interested, text (text only) 503-883-1856 and we will send you a PayPal pay link and collect your details.  

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As a way to kick off the trip, we have stopped over in NYC.  

Through the wonderful website Meet Up, we connected with the Plein Air Painters of Central Park and met Gerry.  

An afternoon of perfect weather and stillness, Gerry, Christine and Maureen, who sketched her art, visited and painted this scene.  

This painting will be featured in the gallery show, and will be for sale.  

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Natalie's Estate Winery Winemakers Dinner at The Barberry

Saturday, May 6th, on the 19th birthday of Natalie, for whom Natalie's Estate Winery is named, 25 guests enjoyed a delicious family style Winemakers dinner at The Barberry, downtown McMinnville. 

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All of the wines served were from the Natalie's Estate Winery brand.  

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Special muse of whipped trout and ricotta, paired with Pinot Gris.  

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Artist Christine Swanson at the beginning of the evening. 

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Carlton Farms Pork Meatballs, summer squash and zucchini with herb creme fresh.  Paired with newly released 2015 Pinot Noir.

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Braised Venison Loin served with potato gnocchi, black truffle buerre monte, braised collard greens and crispy leeks. Paired with 2014 Reserve Sangiovese. 

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Listening to winemaker Boyd Teegarden describe the wines in detail.  

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Dried cherry and pecorino bread pudding with an herbed créme anglaise. Paired with 2014 Zinfandel.  

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More stories from Boyd. 

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Two hours later, red Poppies by Christine Joy Swanson.  

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We asked for names of charities the guests were passionate about, wrote them down, put them in the hat, and pulled one foundation name out: Family Bridge, Hillsboro, OR. 

As a way to give back, we auctioned this painting in a silent bid. 

Congratulations to dinner guest Adina (pictured on right), whose donation to Family Bridge will forever be a memory of this night as she enjoy Christine's painting in her home. 

27th Ann, one night away 5.4.17

It's incredibly hard to imagine our lives 27 years ago. It was a 90 degree scorcher for May and the little 20 and 22 year olds that we were, said I Do.  

Today, our lives are not defined by celebrating special days as though they are the moments to live for, but to celebrate every day together, and the "special days" just roll right into life.  

Marriage is not easy, but it's also not hard if you commit, support, be patient, and spend ridiculous amounts of time together. 

I am NO expert, but I am asked often what is a good secret to marriage? We always say the same thing, spend time together. Travel without the kids. Make time. It doesn't have to break the bank, it doesn't have to be epic. Make the little moments  epic by simply doing them. 

Different stages of marriage offer different opportunities. For the empty nest life, we choose to have coffee together, by candlelight and often classical music, every day. We may even get up earlier to do this which is difficult at times. It's the number one thing I miss when I travel. Number two is my cat. Sorry kids. 

 

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27th Anniversary. May the 4th be with you.  

 

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Forced MC to get a McMenamins Passport. First stamp: Roseburg!  

 

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Made our way from Southern Oregon to Bend.  

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Found a sign that said Michael, est 1986, his grad year from high school.  

ps. He's never actually been to Cabo Wabo, haha. Free shirt from a company trip in March. #classy #hesallmineladies

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South Bend Bistro, in Sun River, OR. Chef Jeremy Buck is amazing. 

Favorite dinner view.  

Dont buy me gifts. Buy me a two to three hour slow dinner and I will love you forever. My happiest of places is enjoying art plated by chefs and raising a glass of wine. Add white linen and candles and, boom, you have me. 

 

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Carried in our 2011 Roads End, by Dave Grooters. Special wine for special times .

 

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Shrimp and lobster. Give me pasta, always.  

  

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We may or may not have brought some 2011 Brooks Pinot Noir and put it in our Passport stamp winning tumblers to sit by the fire. 

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Old Saint Francis, a McMenamins hotel, has the most spectacular soaking pool. It's a luxurious at it looks. 

 

Monday 4.20.17

When conversations are so enjoyable, it pushes back dinner to begin after 9 P.M. This is what life is all about, well this, and having friends who are amazing in the kitchen. I'm so impressed with people who love to cook and do it so well. 

 

 Lobster Risotto ❤️ 

Lobster Risotto ❤️ 

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March golfing in Oregon

I'm a golfer. I keep saying those words. However, in Oregon, I'm a fair weather golfer, and fair weather has not been friendly to western Oregonians this year. I've read that we have had one full year worth of rain in just 3 1/2 months. Cabin fever is real for mediocre golfers like myself. 

We had a break and the sun spent a day with us, reminding the dreary that hope for summer is not lost.  

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Eyrie, it was a pleasure.

The luxury of living in a wine region is not lost on me. On a random Monday, I can find myself meeting new friends and barrel tasting from one of our founding vineyards, Eyrie.

Jason Lett, the son and heir of highly respected David Lett took time from his day to spend with us. I'm proud to know him (and his late father) and to have the Eyrie story live on. 

Note: anytime a winemaker says he's going to get the thief, let him. Don't speak, just listen.  

 

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1974, 1976, 1986..... 

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This was a blend from 1974 to the current vintage. It has not been released and I am incredibly honored to have tried it. I know the name, but will let the Lett's share it, someday. 

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Trousseau, loved it!  

My Lucky Guests

My dinner party guests the other night do not know how lucky they were. On the table was the olive oil I had shipped back from Italy two summers ago, from the winery Villa Calcinaia located just outside of Florence. You will see me talk about them again, just wait. 

The La Vecchia Dispensa Aceto Balsamico was a gift from a friend a few years. I've been hoarding both of these, my prizes that sit quietly in my kitchen cupboards. 

Sometimes though, an evening warrants the best, even if it's just for my knowledge and palate. 

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Two reasons to go to Camp 18

Camp 18 is a log cabin restaurant located 18 miles off the Oregon coastal highway 101, between Seaside and Cannon Beach.  

I go there for the picture widows, bird watching and cats that live on the property. If you want a cinnamon roll the size of your plate, they have it. If you want a raging log cabin fire and view of the Nehalem river rolling past, they also have these. That is, if you want them. 

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Scholarship Fundraising Dinner.

It's snowed big white flakes in the morning. The afternoon was crisp and clear. The table was filled with 24 guests who believed in the value of art and supporting dreams. The scholarship recipient is a university Art student wrestling to fund her education. Guest artist Christine Swanson shared her talents and inspiration with a live painting of the view from the home of the dinner. In a blind bid, Swanson's painting sold for 3000.00, making the total raised 6000.00. There is nothing like a night with great food and wine, conversation with strangers turned friend sand tears of happiness. 

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