Author: Stephanie Woods

Spring please

This winter has been the most challenging since moving to Portland. The weather has been contributing to our slow start to this years adventuring. We were greeted with an ice storm early December which was followed a month later with a snow storm that dumped ten inches of snow in Portland.

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Portland ice storm December 9, 2016

The city shut down for a week with temperatures hovering between 20 – 32 degrees. It’s rare to find a shoveled sidewalk since most people don’t own a shovel for the once a year one inch snow fall. I used our dustpan to remove snow from the steps so Wiley would tolerate going out. The sidewalks became packed down and turned quickly to thick layers of ice. My Sorel boots worked wonderful the first couple of days but as the snow turned to ice they were useless. Those metal spikes for the bottoms of shoes seem like a white elephant gift, but are sctually practical. I broke down and ordered a pair but they arrived a week too late. I am prepared for next year!

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Portland snow storm – January 11, 2017

Having grown up in the Midwest, it was a strange site seeing cars and busses driving around the city with chains for a solid week. The streets were the quietest I have ever seen. The first few days it was easier to walk the street than the sidewalk. Nights were lively with adults and kids playing in the snow. So much snow art could be found throughout the city.

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Southeast Portland snow art

By the third day of work from home, I was restless and needed to get to the office. I rummaged through our Minnesota bin to find the essentials, snow pants, mittens, hat and the warmest coat I own. I hobbled on the snow and ice covered side walked to my bus stop. Pro tip, the schedules are never right with bad weather. The TriMet app will say one minute till arrival and the bus never shows. I have concluded the city is filled with ghost buses. When the bus actually does arrive it was so packed the driver would not pick up anyone else. So I started walking towards the next stop. Lucky for me, the next stop one person got off and I was able to hop on. Chains can be noisy and vehicles should only go a maximum of 25 mph. On the bright side it makes for a scenic commute across the Burnside Bridge.

Exactly a month later we reserved a site at Cape Lookout State Park for our first R-pod adventure of the year. The temperatures were promising highs in the 50’s which felt quite warm after the chilly January weather we had been experiencing.

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First camping of the season – February 11, 2017

Removing the cover was much easier than expected. Mike, thinking ahead, bought a pump to fill the tires. We added a few belongings for our one night stay and we were quickly on the road. The R-pod isn’t that large but requires extra attention and being alert in traffic.

We came across a few challenges on our first R-pod adventure. Our first discovery was the battery no longer holds a charge. The battery is five years old so that is not much of a surprise. The second surprise came at Cape Lookout State Park. They have incredible RV sites with water hook ups, electrical and sewer dump at each site. We took this opportunity to fill the tank with water. While organizing the bedroom, I peaked in the bathroom and saw a steady stream of water flowing down the drain. The pipe connection at the base of the toilet was spraying water. Thinking back on it we forgot to use the pressure value and may have just had too much pressure causing the water to spray. We’ll need some further investigation. I swear that toilet has it out for us.

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Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon

The rest of the weekend went smooth. On the ride home we did find one minor hiccup that the sewer water cover had fallen off during our drive back and had been bouncing as we drove. Now the cover won’t stay on due to a few prongs busted off. Easy fix though – we’ll just need to order a replacement.

I have to say, I am proud to have Mike as my partner. We have an ability to work through the unexpected together without fighting but rather laughter. Seriously he is the best.

Dutch Oven No Knead Bread

Rainy weekends make baking homemade bread a delightful treat! One of my favorites is grilled cheese sandwiches made with fresh baked bread and served with hot tomato soup. We usually jazz up our grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon and avocado.

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Bacon, avocado, grilled cheese sammie with tomato soup

Ingredients

3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water room temperature

Instructions

1. Mix flour, salt and yeast in a big bowl. Using a wooden spoon add water to the bowl and mix until it’s a sticky ball.
2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature.
3. Preheat oven to 450 F degrees. Add cast iron pot to the oven while it’s preheating.
4. Remove the cast iron from the oven and set lid aside. So the bread doesn’t stick to the pot, sprinkle flour or cornmeal to the bottom. I prefer to use cornmeal.
5. Flour your hands really well, pick up the dough and shape roughly into a ball. Place the dough into the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and place into oven.
6. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.
7. Remove lid and back for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
8. Remove the bread from the pot. Let cool before slicing to serve.

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No Knead Bread

Marinated Chèvre Topping

This is tasty holiday crowd pleaser for those crazy lactose intolerant relatives, yes this is me. It’s one of my favorite creations by my dearest sister-in-law, Jocelyn Woods.

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Serving size: 4

Ingredients

1/4 c green onion
1/2 c golden raisins
1/3 c diced dates
3/4 c cranberries
1/3 c sliced figs
1/2 c sliced apricots

Dressing

1/2 lemon (zest and juice)
1 small clove garlic
1 T fresh thyme
1/4 c honey
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c canola/vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Directions

1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk the dressing together and pour over fruit mixture. Mix well.
2. Serve over goat cheese rounds. Let stand about 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Contributor: Jocelyn Woods

Stollen bread

Weihnachtsstollen is a traditional German fruit bread that has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions. The Wisconsin Electric Power Company would publish an annual holiday cookbook. This recipe was from their 1966 edition.

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Stollen dates back to the 14th century when Germans baked loaves at Christmas to honor princes and church dignitaries, and to sell at fairs and festivals for holiday celebrations. It can be enjoyed at anytime of day!

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Serving Size: 3 stollen loaves

Ingredients

  • 2 packages active dry yeast or 1 oz. compressed yeast
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup seedless dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup diced dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup diced dried apricots
  • About 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • Melted butter

Directions

Soften active dry yeast in warm water or compressed yeast in lukewarm water. Scald milk; stir in sugar, salt and butter; cool to lukewarm.

Stir in 2 cups flour, yeast, eggs and cardamom; mix in fruit and enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough.

Knead on floured surface; place in greased bowl; grease top of dough; cover and let rise until doubled. Punch dough down; cover; let rest 10 minutes.

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Divide into three equal parts. Shape each piece into an 8 x 10 inch oval; fold lengthwise and place in greased shallow pans.

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Let rise until doubled and bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes. Frost and decorate if desired.

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Contributor: Elaine Woods

Cucumber and Feta Salad

This recipe is from a dear friend, Brad Thomas. It is a great appetizer for any occasion. It’s so good even the kids will beg more. Typically for a smaller gathering we’ll half the recipe below.

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Serving Size: 8 – 10

Ingredients

  • 1 large seedless, English cucumber
  • 2-3 T, fresh minced dill fronds
  • 6-8 green onions, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
  • Pink peppercorns, for color
  • Olive oil
  • ¾ pound of Greek Feta
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Cut the cucumber into long strips and dice into ¼” pieces. Place in a medium mixing bowl. Add the dill, green onions and garlic. Toss with olive oil until saturated. Add the juice from 1 lemon and about 1 tsp. of lemon zest. Add the peppercorns. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slice the feta and arrange in a layer on a platter. Pour the cucumber mix over the top of the feta.

Suggestion

Serve with sliced baguette or toasted pita triangles.

I’m on a boat

Every year we go on a long weekend vacation with Mike’s family and this past summer was particularly special since it was Mike’s parents 50th wedding anniversary. I had a mission to find the family a memorable experience. My searches guided me to a 70′ Monte Fino Yacht named OASIS in Seattle, WA.

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This was my first trip to Seattle and having spent our evenings from a boat was the best way to experience the beautiful city. From OASIS’s top deck we had a great view of the Space Needle and off the back we were able to watch the seaplanes take off and land every few minutes.

 

The boat had 3 stories and approximately 1800 sq ft of livable space. The main deck had the living room, dining table and kitchen. The lower deck had a master suite, stateroom with queen bed and a bunk cabin for the kids. The upper deck was my most favorite where we could watch the skyline light up as the sunset.

We spent our days exploring what the city had to offer. We toured the Space Needle and wondered the Public Market where we sampled the best smoked salmon I have ever had. Late afternoons we would return to the boat for snackers and cocktails.

One of our last evening together we wandered down the street and stumbled upon a cute little Italian restaurant, Pasta Freska. It was an enjoyable ordering experience where Chef Mike asked if anyone had food allergies, what types of food we liked and didn’t like and how hungry were we. Chef Mike and staff treated us as family bringing plate after plate of incredible dishes and bottles of wine flooded the table. If you are ever in the area, it’s absolutely worth a stop at this little gem.

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We paid extra for an evening charter of the puget sound with Captain Chuck on OASIS. Captain Chuck was an excellent guide pointing out Bill Gates mansion, the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat and the Nathan Myhrvold T-rex mansion. We ended our evening tour with a belly full of proper brats and a competitive game of Farkle.

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If you are planning a trip to Seattle remember to bring good walking shoes, eat lots of seafood and get out on the water.

Shit Happens

We made it to Wisconsin on Labor Day ready for our tiny home travel trailer r-pod adventure to begin. We exchanged a quick hello with my parents and immediately began our r-pod lessons with my dad. We had two days to learn all we needed on its operations before our 2,500 mile trip back to Oregon. We knew we had a long journey ahead of us.

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Beaver Dam, WI

While at my parents we slept in the r-pod to help learn as much as possible and to become comfortable navigating the small space with two humans and a small dog. It was a humid week which guided our first lesson, how to run the AC. We plugged into the garage electrical to power the AC. Next we learned about filling the water tanks and how to care for the toilet. An important note about the toilet, always remember to use the fancy pills and special TP in your travel trailer.

The second night we switched the r-pod to run on propane. The refrigerator is able to run on electric or propane. We made the switch to the propane tank no sweat. We were nervous about the battery holding charge since the r-pod had been sitting for four years, but no problems thus far.

Mike took the 4Runner to the dealer for an oil change and assistance hooking up the electrical cabling for the trailer’s lights and brakes. It was a much harder task than we expected, which required removing paneling to expose the hidden the wires.

One of my favorite memories was jamming four of us into the trailer, including Wiley, for our nightly happy hours. The second day through the night we were greeted with pouring rain and very active thunder showers. We were able to really test the r-pod’s window seals. The morning after the storms checked the rain gauge and it had recorded 7.5” of rain!

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Happy hour in the r-pod

It took two hours to prepare for departure and for us to learn the final steps of how to hook the trailer to the 4Runner and setup of the sway bar. Easy peezy. Mike tested our successful connection by circling through the driveway to quickly find the trailer brake sensitivity was to high and were locking hard anytime he braked. Thank god for my parents experiences navigating trailer issues and their support. We had to turn down the setting so the trailer brakes wasn’t so sensitive. We were on the road by noon with a full charge, full water tank and packed optimally for no spills.

The r-pod definitely brings a different dynamic to our adventuring lifestyle. For long road trips it was beautiful pulling into a rest stop to sleep for free in a real bed. Our lunch stops were delicious and typically consisted of a variety of cheeses, salami and hummus with carrots. It was also convenient and pleasant being able to stop anywhere for bathroom relief in a clean toilet.

The not so attractive aspects was the slower highway speeds and decreased mpg, which was expected. Gas stops became much much more frequent, which Wiley didn’t complain. Our feel economy went from 18 to 12 mpg. Any mountain pass were painfully slow but allowed for scenic daydreaming for longer periods than usual.

After a few days we arrived in Utah for a longer stay. We found a great spot off of the Columbia River were backing up the r-pod wasn’t to stressful. I would have never guessed temps would be in the high 90s in the middle of September. Luckily at night it cooled down to a comfortable temperature for comfortable open window sleeps. We used the day hours for exploring back roads of the surrounding area and soaked up the 4Runner AC.

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Fisher Tower, Utah

The sunrise and sunsets across the red rock left me speechless. It was like watching a painting transform before your eyes. The fine red dust was left everywhere in the 4runner and even stained our feet red. One of my fondest memories was taking a shower in the open air lite by the full moon. The water was cool but the air was refreshingly warm. Any water temp would have felt amazing after four days with no shower.

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Watching the sunset at our campsite

Our last full day in Utah we traveled the Shafer Canyon Road, which had two hours of incredible views that no camera could capture it’s true beauty. The next morning we packed up and hit the road. We were chasing storms for miles and watched the dark rainy skies closing in on either side of us. As we hit western Utah the angry skies greeted us with a hail storm that pelted our left side. The sound was so loud it felt as if the r-pod windows would break at any moment. We pulled over to wait it out. The site of hail was much more beautiful at a stand still.

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Shafer Canyon Road, Utah

We made it to Great Basin National Park that same day. Where the desert meets the mountains. We started the morning with 90’s and pulled into our campsite with temps in the low 30’s. I looked out of place, running around in flip flops and a sundress as we passed campers wearing winter coats, mittens and hats. Wiley preferred the comfort of the r-pod to outdoors. We made a hot meal on the gas stove and snuggled up for the cold evening.

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Great Basin National Park – elevation 10,000 ft

We pushed hard the following day to find a great stay at Crystal Creek Hot Springs in southeast Oregon. We rolled in barely making it in time before they closed. We were able to hook up electrical for a comfortable evening with heat. At 10pm we took an evening soak in the 101 degree pond. The skies were clear, the stars bright and the swim felt so good. With a center of 7 feet deep swimming laps gave a good workout. We also took a morning dip, followed that up with a hot shower.

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Crystal Creek Hot Spring, Oregon

We finished our road trip at one of our favorite campground, Trillium Lake. This is where the journey went quickly from easy to stressful. Before bed I used the toilet and noticed the water had difficulty draining. I mentioned this to Mike and he thought nothing of it other than maybe try to use more water. The following morning the water wouldn’t go down at all. Rather it seemed to fill the bowl the more water we used. And we learned quickly concluded, the shitter must be clogged. Our brilliant next idea was to find a long stick and push the backed up toilet paper down the hole. Well that severely backfired, literally with a bowl full of brown poop water. This is where the panic set in and our minds raced. To stop our near freak out, we took a walk around Trillium Lake to think. Two miles later our solution emerged, cling wrap the pot and seal with painters tape.

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Trillim Lake and Mt. Hood

One of Mike’s many hidden talents is his ability to have an instant gag reflex when smelling vomit or poop. So, that left it up to me… rolled up my sleeves, held my breath and wrapped the pot as quickly as possible. Of course the bathroom fan had to stop working at this very minute even though it worked the whole trip up until this point.

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The calm before the storm

Fun fact, the majority of RV repair shops will not work on toilets. The one place that did in the area had a 6 days wait. We quickly switched gears and focused on our necessary DMV trip to Sandy to register the trailer. Another fun fact, no storage facility will accept your trailer unless it is registered in Oregon.

As I waited the hour and a half for my turn at the DMV, Mike gave the toilet another attempt in the Safeway parking lot two blocks away. He sacrificed a set of tongs, a few sticks and a waste bucket for our new trailer. I questioned nothing. My number was finally called and was thankful to be greeted by a bubbly smiling lady. We completed the necessary paperwork and then the nice lady requests to see the trailer for VIN validation to complete my registration. I give an awkward smile since this should be an easy ask but little does she know of my poopy toilet problem.

I call Mike, “Babe you need to drive over to the DMV now.” Mike replies, “Umm yeah the toilet is full of brown poop water and uncover.” At this moment I am walking outside with the DMV lady listening to her rave about how she can’t wait to get her own travel trailer someday. I giggle and quietly reply, “Prepare for some adventures with the toilet.” Mike rolls up with a very uneasy face and makes small talk with the nice DMV lady as she gushes about our cute trailer. A few minutes later we’re verified and Oregon registered. I meet Mike in the Safeway parking lot and go full action with rubber gloves and cleaning supplies on the toilet. I lysol every inch of that  trailer as quickly as possible and cling wrap the pot secured with painters tape for no spillage, maybe?

We needed to find a dump station and the closest was 30 minutes the opposite direction toward Mt Hood. It was a fancy camping resort that charged $12.50 for a dump. At this point all that mattered was figuring out how to unclog the loo. We pulled up and found this magical 3ft long rebar sitting next to the dump. With rubber gloves, shirt covering his face, Mike bravely went into the bathroom and forcefully shoved the rebar down the shoot. It takes a few attempts and finally I hear that sweet chucky sound of bile flowing through the poop shoot. We both cheered loudly at our accomplishment. We flushed a few gallons of water through the tank and thoroughly wiped down every inch of that bathroom.

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Hello Portland!

Next we dropped the trailer at our storage and cleaned out all used items like dishes and bedsheets. That last 30 minutes home never felt so good. We both were exhausted and smelled like shit.

We have a bitter sweet feeling toward the r-pod. My first thought was thank god this happened our last night of vacation instead of in the middle or in Utah with those hot temps. We would have both been throwing up from the smell. We’re looking forward to getting our r-pod again sometime soon. Cheers to whatever our next adventure throws at us. It can’t be worse than a clogged toilet I hope. Shit happens but it’s all apart of the adventure.