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Two Thumbs Up for Little Birds

Vaux's swifts: I'm a vauxeur

The hottest show in Portland in September is also free: the nightly roosting of the Vaux’s Swifts that, tornado-like, funnel into the chimney of, among other places, Chapman Elementary School in NW Portland. The night’s silver screen might also feature a protagonist hawk waiting to catch his prey, that is if a swarm of swifts doesn’t circle back en masse to chase the hawk away amid whooping cheers from the audience. Read more about them on the Audubon Society of Portland’s website. Think Audubon should print this as a t-shirt next year? If so, hit the Like button and I’ll donate the art to them.

Good Finds: Caldera Student Blues Posters

I was lucky enough to see these blues posters as large banners at Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival. They’re part of youth art program called Caldera that brings in artists from around the world to do month-long residencies working with at-risk youth.

Students worked with local artist, Joe McMurrian, to learn about blues legends and create illustrated portraits. View all the Caldera blues posters online. Originals and small prints are available for sale. Contact 503-937-7594 or email caldera@calderaarts.org. Proceeds are split between the young artist and Caldera to support more programs.

Branding Is for Those Other Folks

The word brand and its counterparts, the mind-boggling (and snooty-sounding) array of words like brand architecture, brand extension, vertical branding, diagonal branding (okay, I made that last one up) are enough to make you not want to bother.

This leads small business people to think branding is only for the Martha Stewarts and Budweisers of the world. But as overused as the word brand is, it’s the only word we have to describe the totality of what a company represents to the outside world. Read more

Give a Man a Bowl of Pasta…

…and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to make pasta and you feed him for a lifetime.

Second only to enjoying a bowl of steaming pasta is the pleasure of making your own, which is what five people did here last Sunday. It does involve work. But as several of them said afterwords, “This was easier than I thought it would be!” This was my thought, too when I learned to make several hand-formed pasta shapes at a cooking school in southern Italy. Read more

When life gives you asparagus

Despite thinking the other day that I should build an ark, the frequent heavy downpours punctuated by bold sun and dramatic clouds hardly has me down. One reason is that farmers market season is in full swing and, once again, I can make my weekly pilgrimage in search glorious produce.

One twist this year is that, having just moved into a new place with a large organic garden bed, I find myself holding back on planting too much for fear that I won’t need to visit the market. It’s an activity that is part errand, part community spirit, part sensory stimulation…the colors, the sounds, the smells. It’s woven naturally into my life.

The new King market opened last weekend at NE 7th and Wygant. I was asked to take photos and was happy to see a huge turnout, not to mention a bit of sun. Needless to say, the asparagus tent was one of the more popular. And now begins the Spring asparagus feeding frenzy that started with making never-ending asparagus risotto (recipe link below).


The folks at EcoMetro Portland, and creators of the Chinook Book, wrote a useful article on how to understand organic certification. This is something I often wonder about because I know certification for small farms can be costly. But one reason I choose to shop at our farmers markets is that I can talk to farmers. The lack of anonymity in a venue likes this means you can feel more comfortable with your shopping choices. You can learn about a farmer’s growing practices, whether they’re certified or not. Personally, I want my produce to be at least pesticide free; I’m more interested in buying local and I trust who I’m buying from.

The article also has a link to a wallet-sized pesticide guide that will help you understand which produce is more harmful than others if grown with pesticides. Produce that you peel is less harmful, for example, than a strawberry.

A side note: During the month of May, the PSU market has bike workshops each Saturday to help you get your bike market friendly, So, get thee to the farmers market.


Risotto alla Primavera

This recipe is from Bon Appetit via Epicurious.com.

It’s easy to underestimate how much risotto expands, as well as one’s waistline if you made as much as I did. I’ve eaten it for the last five days, once for breakfast with a fried egg on the side and another as pan-fried risotto cakes. Wet your hands a little, form a cake, pan fry in a little olive oil and serve with a side salad.

I didn’t have enough parsley so I added thyme instead. I also added shiitake mushrooms which I probably would have sauteed a bit first, but I threw them in as an afterthought. They added a nice complexity.

I might have added half as much more asparagus than the recipe calls for to add a bit more green.


Ode to a Carrot

I have a growing collection of odd-shaped foods usually found at the wonderful Portland Farmers Market. Some Saturdays I can be found cooking at the Taste the Place tent, letting market shoppers try various seasonal foods. Otherwise, I’m found wandering in a daze trying to remember just what it is I need to buy. I’m often so overtaken by the abundance of gorgeous produce that I will have made several loops and still have nothing in my bag. A display of purple cauliflower sitting next to orange pumpkins leaves me speechless. Despite my obsession with artichokes, I’m almost paralyzed at the mountain of greenish purple thistles not knowing if I should eat them or paint a picture. Or I consider buying an array of peppers, each one representing a color of the rainbow, all except for blue…thank god.

The “carrot guy” as he is unofficially known, has the most splendid pile of just-dug beets, potatoes and carrots in more colors than you knew existed. Aside from the dual-colored purple and orange ones, these two carrots were my most inspired purchase. (I never claimed to be a poet.)