Tag Archives: Weather

Travel Tuesday: Crater Lake National Park

Just when you might think you’ve had enough of winter (or an interminably wet spring), you’re reminded of a place that is still measuring the snow on the ground in feet.

And it’s beautiful just the same.

SNOW

The snowbanks at the visitor center towered over the cars.

Two years ago in May, we visited Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. The caldera in which the lake is cupped is at an elevation of 7,000 to 8,000 feet and therefore chilly, even in May; we had to climb a 20-foot snowbank in order to catch a glimpse of the lake. And that was after a 90-minute drive through winding roadsit’s as remote as it is stunning. Forty-six feet of snow—feet, not inches—fell at Crater Lake that year; in February of this year, the park experienced the second biggest monthly snowfall in nearly 70 years at 154 inches. Road crews use rotary plows equipped with fans that can shoot snow 75 to 80 feet in the air, but Rim Drive (the road circling the lake) remains blocked at this time of year.

cRATER lAKE

Awe-inspiring.

But forget about the snow; the real show is the lake. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the world’s deepest volcanic lake. Replenished only by rain and snow, Crater Lake is widely considered to be the cleanest, clearest large body of water in the world.

When my Beloved and I were there two years ago on a calm, sunny day, it was the bluest reflecting pool I’ve ever seen. It was so calm, it was like a mirror of the shore and the sky. Those white streaks in the water? Those are the reverse images of the wispy contrails in the sky.

Crater Lake, resting inside a caldera formed 7,700 years ago when a volcano collapsed, was established as a national park in 1902 and has been protected from lakefront developers who might sully its rugged shores. As I mentioned, it’s a remote National Park but it’s worth the trip if you find yourself in southern Oregon. As a destination, I would recommend visiting it later in the summer (when there’s less snow and easier travel).

Summer begins tomorrow: I declare

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (usually June 21) but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, this one included, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day.

One hundred and one glorious days of summer. And next week feels like a bonus week in May. How often is it that we get four more May days after Memorial Day? In our family, in additional to the regular holidays of Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, we celebrate a half dozen birthdays and our anniversary during summer. This year, we have two family reunions to attend. So much to savor.

Speaking of savoring, I think everyone around here is salivating for some real summer days. It seems like it’s been overcast since September. I tire of dodging raindrops. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right.

ice cream

You scream, I scream, we call scream for ice cream.

I struggle with assigning a sense to summer. Spring’s fresh air and lilacs win with the sense of smell. Autumn probably gets the color award, what with its fantastic changing leaves and orange pumpkins and golden waves of grain. Does summer best minister to our sense of taste when we enjoy sweet and creamy ice cream cones and juicy fresh tomatoes and buttery sweet corn? Or is it our sense of hearing that summer amplifies? Is it a coo of a mourning dove, the wind rustling the leaves or the laughter of children wafting through the neighborhood that say “summer” to you?

So tomorrow is the first day of summer as declared by Minnesota Transplant, and the perfect opportunity to ponder how you will best experience it. As any good Minnesotan knows, summer is fleeting and we must appreciate every moment. What will you savor?

Aaah, summer—that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.

~ Darell Hammond, the philanthropist, not the comedian

 

Blooms in their original place

Another gray day in paradise. The wet fields are preventing farmers from planting their crops, but you know what they say about the upside of April showers: They bring May flowers.

Here are a few tulips I’ve glimpsed recently. Tulips have lovely blossoms that are best viewed in situ.

tulips

This bunch is growing in the middle of nowhere, clinging to a steep hill. “Life, uh, finds a way,” doesn’t it Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park).

tulips red

These tulips are growing in front of the sign at the other church in town.

tulip yellow

This single yellow beauty is growing in the garden left behind by the former gardeners of our church, now home. It’s a persistent bugger; I have pictures of the bloom last year at this time, too.

I ran across something else today, too, that seems appropriate for the subject matter. I saw this quote in a vanity sink. Yes, you read that right. Kohler made an Artists Edition sink painted with prairie flowers and this verse:

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”

~ Aldo Leopold

Leopold was an American author, philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac.

Pine boughs whispering

So, this happened.

Snow on April 14

At breakfast, I could see the dirt with tiny spears of green grass that is our lawn. About 11ish, it started snowing. Snowing! On April 14. Not unheard of but also not welcome. And then it didn’t stop for hours.

Pretty soon, the snowplow went by.

My Beloved drained the snowblower of gasoline a couple of weeks ago, so even if the streets were clear, our sidewalks weren’t going to be. I just watched the white stuff come down, my jaw on my chest, unbelieving.

pine tree

So then I wondered what it was like this time of year last year. I figured this snow must be a fluke.

2018 april 14

This picture was taken exactly a year ago. That’s our camper in the back yard of our rental house. For some reason, we backed the pickup up to the front door. Maybe we were loading luggage, trying to get away.

My point is that snow in mid-April in southern Wisconsin is not all that unusual, so I better believe it.

Fortunately, the forecast calls for highs in the 60s midweek, so this terrible reminder that winter is not a three-month season but a five-month one will disappear in the spring sunshine and be forgotten soon enough.

So there’s that.

Spring, nothing beats it

spring tulips

If ever there was a symbol of spring, it’s tulips.

Welcome, First Day of Spring. We’ve been longing for you.

Depending on how you slice it, today is the first day of spring. The vernal equinox occurred at 4:58 p.m. yesterday, so yesterday might qualify but only as the first evening of spring. Today, oh, we have a full day!

Spring is my favorite season.

I love how it sounds and smells and feels.

Birds are chirping, and frogs are gallooping.

The air smells fresh and watery. My nose hairs aren’t crispy cold, and I no longer have to smell exhaust fumes while my car warms up.

Spring feels spongy like a melting bog — the earth is forgiving again.

And spring is colorful! The sky is blue, not gray! Well, today is gray, but even the clouds are not so imposing–I see sunlight burning through. The ground is green, not white! There are birds with orange breasts (!), and golden sunrises begin each day.

The snow here in Southern Wisconsin isn’t quite gone, but the melting ice drifts are few and far between. I’m not quite ready for sandals, but I put away my down coat and mittens. Even more bold, screaming children in T-shirts are tearing around the playground across the street.

Welcome, Spring. How I have missed thee.

Cold enough, eh?

Well. wouldn’tcha know it, the third week of January came a week late this year. The same sloppy Polar Vortex that can’t keep its boundaries straight can’t read a calendar either.

I haven’t written a blog in nearly a week because I have no inspiration. And if I had inspiration, my motivation has slipped through the door to (and fallen on the ice, no doubt). It’s tough to work up a head of steam when it’s so cold, the hairs in your nose freeze.

frost

That’s sunshine behind them thar frost covered windows.

It was 24 degrees below zero this morning in southern Wisconsin, if my Beloved’s Weather Underground app can be believed. Every square inch of the windows in our unheated entryway was covered in frost. Jack Frost comes out to play when Old Man Winter gets unseemly.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go outside. I worked upstairs in my home office with the space heater on and a hot cup of tea. But many of my Midwestern friends posted pictures or videos of their car temperatures, the wide-open roads bereft of rush hour traffic and even shows of boiling water vaporizing in the frigid air.

This is crazy cold, the stuff of legend. “You remember that January in ’19 when it got down to 30 below zero? My car wouldn’t start even when I had it plugged in! My eyelids froze shut! I didn’t warm up until Valentine’s Day!”

[Did that reference to plugging in your car go over your head, my sweet Southern friend? Up here in God’s country, we have devices known as block heaters that, when powered with an extension cord, keep the oil in a car’s oil pan liquified (or at least viscous enough to flow through the engine). Yup, that’s Scandihoovian ingenuity at work, you betcha.]

We Midwesterners endure run-of-the-mill cold every year. Like, the high temperature hasn’t risen into double digits for a week, and when it finally does, a foot of snow drops out of the sky. That kind of thing happens every year. But temperatures fifty or sixty degrees below freezing? Well, that’s once-in-a-generation type of cold. That’s the stuff a good Minnesotan takes pride in. “Twenty below? That’s nothing! I go ice fishing when it gets 20 degrees below zero–just makes the beer taste better! Now forty below, that’s something to see. Or feel, rather. Only the toughest endure that kind of cold.”

Fortunately, February is quite literally right around the corner and she’s bringing balmier weather with her and the distraction of the Superbowl being played in Atlanta. We Midwesterners don’t care much about a couple of teams from the coasts trying the best one another in a Southern city, but heck, we like any reason to make a hot dip or place a friendly bet. We’re just glad the cold gave us our chance to exercise our bragging rights.

When it’s hot, think cool

Coping with summer’s heat requires air conditioning, swimming gear and the right attitude.

Statistically, we’re smack dab in the middle of the hottest two weeks of the year in Illinois, Iowa and the southern halves of Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Coming right up, July 15 through August 1 are the hottest two weeks for the northern halves of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

If one has a mindset that these days are Old Man Winter’s answer to our prayers in March that he get the heck out of town, then one can endure the dog days of summer better.

We asked for days like this. Days like this are a gift. Days like this will be go away eventually.

That’s the right attitude. It’s hot now. But it will be cold again.

With that in mind, I’m sharing an image taken a year ago in June when my Beloved and I visited Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona is the type of town that inspires night life, so one late evening we stopped by IceBarcelona (get it? Ice? Bar? Celona? I love wordplay like that) for a drink.

On the way in, there’s a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea for an al fresco cocktail, the perfect respite from the 20-degree atmosphere inside the ice bar. Patrons can borrow natty parkas and gloves. Everything, including the bar and the furniture, are made of ice; drinks are served in glasses made of ice, of course. Elaborate, seasonally changing ice sculptures decorate the place.

Naturally, it’s called the coolest bar in Barcelona.

Here’s a shot of my Beloved and I on the ice couch in front of a sculpture of an Imperial Walker (it was a “Star Wars” theme when we were there). That’s an icy cold screwdriver in my hand.

icebarcelona

Here’s to hot July days. Cheers!

Cream of Crisper Drawer Soup, heavy on the asparagus

It’s that time of year.

No, I’m not talking about the third week in January, the worst week of the year. (Stock brokers around the country can attest to this! But no, that’s not what I mean.)

OK, well, I am. A little.

I’m talking soup. And it’s soup time because, well, it’s cold outside and a nice hot soup warms the house and the soul. (Won’t help your stock portfolio, though. Sorry.)

I talked to my mom earlier this week, and she assured me she was staying indoors (away from the bone chilling temps in central Minnesota), keeping busy. Making soup. Chili. Minestrone. Something called Barley Burger Soup (you had me at “barley,” Mom).

So I made soup for supper, even though my Beloved proclaimed “yuck” (fine, enjoy your boxed macaroni and cheese).

I’ve posted a recipe for “Cream” of Asparagus Soup in the past, but that recipe was a faux cream version. This one actually calls for a half cup of half and half. Because, why not?

I also cleaned out my fridge. Because that’s what a good soup is for. Using stuff up. Plus it turns a greenish asparagus soup into a more golden hue. Like the sun.

I hope you enjoy.

cream of asparagus carrot sweet potato soup

Cream of Asparagus & Orange Leftovers Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 leftover red pepper, chopped (bonus if it’s roasted)
  • 20-25 spears asparagus
  • 1 cup leftover baked potato and baked sweet potato (I knew I’d find a use for this!)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • Shredded parmesan to garnish

Directions:

  1. Break tough ends off asparagus and separate tips to use later. Roughly chop remainder into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Heat olive oil in a largish sauce pan and add all vegetables except asparagus tips and leftover baked potatoes. Saute until onion is translucent.
  3. Add chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes or so until vegetables are tender. Add potatoes 5 minutes from the end; they’re already cooked and you just need to warm them up. Add lemon zest at the very end, right before blending.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add asparagus tips and simmer for 6-8 minutes (until tips are tender). Stir in half-and-half and warm (don’t boil), and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2. Garnish with parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.

 

Enjoying the great outdoors … while we can

We dined al fresco this evening, and we counted ourselves lucky (I enjoyed a Chicago-style hotdog, complete with sport peppers, because it seemed like a warm weather menu choice).

It reminded me to be thankful for all things, even global warming. Which brings to mind this post from 2010…

If this is what global warming brings to the party, Midwesterners should be celebrating

Global warming isn’t all that bad. If you live in Illinois. Or Minnesota. Or anywhere else considered close to the center of a continent. 

The media make global warming seem like, well, the end of planet Earth. Some of that is just that bad news attracts more readers and viewers than good news, but think about it: Where do a lot of reporters, media moguls, movie producers and internet workers live? The coasts.

What areas of the country (and world) are experiencing the worst effects of global warming? The coasts.

When glaciers melt and water levels rise, folks on the coasts will lose their homes and property. When hurricanes hit, folks on the coasts suffer the consequences. When polar bears go extinct … well, I don’t know if even folks on the coasts care. Lots of creatures that once existed no longer walk the earth — dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and a lot of bugs. Frankly, I’m glad they’re not around anymore, and I really have no interest in meeting a polar bear in my back yard either. You’re big and beautiful, Mr. Bear, but good riddance.

What’s the downside of global warming for us Midwesterners?

Click here to read more.

How to eat your vegetables and keep the kitchen cool at the same time this summer

When it’s hot and humid outside, the last thing I want to do is heat up the house by turning on the oven or heating up a big pot of water. And honestly, I don’t really want to eat a huge hunk of meat covered in gravy either. Ugh. I’m sweating enough as it is without having to digest that.

As many people have found, grilling out is the solution. But so many times, my Beloved assumes the grill is only for meat. Not so. It’s great for vegetables, too, and I persuaded him to try it for lunch today.

What? A meatless meal? Yes, it is an option, even for hearty eaters. Just in case you need it, here’s my persuasion technique: Threaten to do it yourself.

“What’s for lunch?” he said.

“Grilled vegetable salad,” I said.

“I’m not eating a salad for lunch,” he said.

“Well, I am.”

“Well, I’m not grilling a bunch of vegetables.”

“Well, I will then,” and I started chopping vegetables. Before I knew it, my Beloved had started the grill. I handed him the vegetables.

“I hope it’s OK they have char marks,” he said (like that might dissuade me).

“I want char marks!”

Part of his hesitation is that I’ve been pushing entrée salads for every lunch and dinner for the past week (see point 1. grilling keeps the kitchen cool, and point 2. eating lighter keeps me cool). It was challenging to come up different types of salad (which is why I came up with “grilled vegetable salad” in the first place), but avoiding boredom stoked my creativity. Here are a few of the salads we’ve enjoyed the past few days:

  • Taco Salad (made with ground turkey — yes! you can sauté meat in a pan on the grill!)
  • Steak Salad With Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans and Dried Cranberries (I had my Beloved at the word “steak” on this one)
  • Tropical Chicken Salad with Grilled Pineapple and Shredded Coconut
  • Barbecue Chicken Salad (mm, barbecue sauce)

Thanks to my effective persuasion technique (and my Beloved’s pride about being the chief grill master in the family), we ate a delicious vegetable salad for lunch (the goat cheese wheels make it especially tasty!), and we didn’t heat up the kitchen. I couldn’t find exactly the recipe I wanted online, so I’m sharing my version here.

grilled veggies

Grilled Vegetable Salad With Goat Cheese Wheels

Ingredients:

  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 big handfuls of spinach
  • Several leaves of romaine lettuce, torn
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 ounces soft goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • Bottled salad dressing of choice (Italian or vinaigrette–balsamic vinaigrette might be nice; I used red wine vinaigrette)

Directions:

  1. Slice all vegetables 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Drizzle with oil olive, and salt and pepper liberally. Place on a hot grill and cook for 10 minutes or so. Turn and cook the other side for 10 minutes or so. You want the vegetables to be soft but not mushy.
  2. Meanwhile, divide the spinach, romaine and tomatoes on two plates.
  3. Cut goat cheese into four chunks and form each piece into rounds. Roll edges in chopped pecans. Place goat cheese wheels on edge of greens.
  4. Remove grilled vegetables from grill, and cut rounds into quarters (don’t do this until after you’re done grilling or all your vegetables will fall through the grates of the grill). Divide grilled vegetables between plates of greens.
  5. Top with salad dressing. Serves two.

roasted vegetable salad