Friday was a beautiful, blue-sky day here in Portland, Oregon. Diana left about 8:30 to go down to the riverfront park to paddle dragon boats for an hour. She’s a member of the Golden Dragons team, a group of active senior (50 and older) men and women who paddle dragon boats. Diana tells me there are folks in their 70s, 80s, and even one 94-year-old man, who paddle on their team!
The plan was for me to drive down and meet her around 10AM when they returned to the dock. We arrived about 15 minutes early, found parking, and headed over to the Little River Café just as they were all coming up the ramp. Perfect timing, freezing cold wind whipping off the river. I was so impressed that this hearty group – Friday, less than 20 turned out – went out for an hour on the water in such bitter cold.
We decided to go to Central Café and Bakery for a little warmup snack and coffee before going back home, which was a fun experience. The place was jumping with all sorts of people, lots of good pastries to choose from, and some beautiful little watercolor paintings of pears on display on the walls.
Later, after lunch, Diana and I decided to take a drive (as if I haven’t been doing enough of that – I’ve logged 8,769 miles from Maine to Portland, Oregon!). We loaded the two dogs into Tumbleweed and set out for the Columbia Gorge about 1:30 in the afternoon.
With Diana navigating, we made our way north, then headed east along the Oregon side of the Columbia, and up into the hills for the view along the river. The road up rivaled some of those twisting stretches of California Highway 1, except it was ICY. Some of the curves were marked 10 MPH, but we were already creeping along at 12-15 so speed wasn’t an issue. Although I grew up in Maine and know how to drive in winter conditions, these steep narrow, twisting mountain roads make me overly cautious.
What we saw when we got to the top made it worth the scary drive! Crown Point, set on a high overlook above the Gorge provided a stunning clear view:
We continued on the icy, winding road so we could stop at Multnomah Falls Lodge for a hot drink before heading back to Portland. The beautiful stone lodge was built in 1925. Its gorgeous upstairs dining room has a cathedral ceiling with a wall of glass giving a stunning view of the falls behind the building:
We each had a hot chocolate and shared a vanilla ginger creme brulée and boysenberry tart, while sitting on the couches by a roaring fire. What more could you want on a cold, blustery day? When we went back outside to the car, we gave the dogs a little walk about to stretch their legs and answer nature’s call, then headed back to Portland and our warm house.
Saturday dawned cold and gray – typical for Portland at this time of year – and Diana headed to Salem for a rally in support of the Wisconsin teachers union. Max and I were left to our own devices, so we headed into downtown Portland for a little shopping. Too cold to walk around, I left him in the car while I went into Macy’s to pick up some “essentials” for myself.
On the way back, I stopped at New Seasons, a great local market, and picked up the ingredients for dinner. I love New Seasons – it has everything organic, local, fresh, etc. that you could want or need, as well as a great hot food counter and dining area. Like Whole Foods, only better because it’s locally owned, and the staff is amazingly friendly and helpful.
We were invited to Diana’s friend Chris’s house for an all-woman dinner party. The fun part of it was that we were all going to cook together! Chris assigned different ingredients to each guest. All we knew was it was an Asian theme…
Max had been cooped up far too long, so I took him to the dog park before returning to the house with the groceries. He had a great time chasing some other dog’s ball – it was MUCH better than the one we brought! When we finally got back to the house, Diana was ready to go to the party, which was starting at 5 PM. I had no idea of the time, and was shocked to discover it was 4:57!! I quickly washed the mud from his feet and fed Max, freshened up, threw on a shawl and we took off.
Portland is divided into four areas; Southeast, Southwest (where Diana lives), Northwest, and Northeast, which is where Chris lives, so we had about a 20 minute drive to get there. On the way, I said I thought we should say I was still on east coast time! After six weeks on the road, I didn’t really think that would fly!
Chris was very gracious, and we weren’t that late. Everyone was gathered in her beautiful new kitchen, drinking ginger martinis, laughing and talking when we came in. Chris got us drinks, we did a round of introductions, and she explained that the dinner party was planned around a game. We were divided into two teams, and all of the ingredients were placed on the counter in front of us. There was a spinner we used to decide whether we picked an ingredient for our team or the other team, traded an item, or took an item from the other team.
After one martini (two for some of the earlier arrivals…), and not too much to eat (yet) you can imagine the raucous rounds of fun we were having. My team wanted the chicken, cashews, lots of bok choy, chicken broth (for soup), and some other ingredients who escape my recollection right now. The other team wanted the shrimp so it was working out well.
After the division of ingredients, we were told that each team would make an appetizer and a main dish. We were supposed to come up with a team name as well as names for our dishes. We were off and running! Sylvia and I worked on our team’s appetizer – our own unique version of egg drop soup: chicken broth, pepper, sesame oil, scallions, and crisp-fried strips of wonton to float on top. The rest of the team worked on a delicious chicken stir fry with rice noodles.
The kitchen was abuzz with activity, talk, and laughter as we all worked together to make dinner. What a great idea! I’m hoping I can pull together some women at home to do this at my house when I return…
The table looked fabulous – set with a fine embroidered linen cloth, china and a beautiful centerpiece of white roses and red carnations:
Our soup was dubbed “Eight Million Blessings,” our chicken dish became “Rattlesnake Stirfry Fright.” As Diana said, “People are always saying that rattlesnake tastes just like chicken. Maybe chicken really tastes like rattlesnake!”
The other team served us skewers of broiled banana, pineapple, and starfruit with a delicious sauce, and Mermaids of the Sea shrimp stirfry. It was a convivial meal with discussion ranging from how young people today can have hope in such a messed up world, to the Wisconsin teachers union, to family, and travel… not an unusual dinner in the least. It was great fun!
Tea and fortune cookies were served, and we continued to sit around for some time talking, laughing, and occasionally disagreeing. What dinner would be complete without that? Both Diana and I were shocked to discover it was 10:30 when we got into the car to go home!
A fabulous evening of new women friends, good food and drink, and yet more memories to carry with me when I hit the road again…