Saffron Fields Client Dinner

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Last Thursday marked the fourth of our six Client Appreciation Dinners for the Rogers. I can’t believe how quickly this fall is flying by! This dinner was extra fun for a couple of reasons. First, Andrea and I got to work with an old friend (Katy!) who used to work with us at Community Plate. It was kind of nuts how the three of us just fell right back into the same old rhythm. The night was so smooth and easy. It was wonderful.

The second, was the fact that Saffron Fields has such a beautiful, modern tasting room, so different from a lot of the more “rustic” places we’ve been. I was inspired to write a more refined menu and kept the table decor a little more restrained than usual. I loved mixing it up and flexing my creative muscles in a different way.

Wednesday, the day before the dinner, as I stood in the kitchen prepping and slicing, the light dimmed and rain began to literally dump from the heavens. The sky turned that shade of gray that can only be found in Oregon and created an instant coziness in the warm kitchen. I found myself looking around and instantly a smile came to my face.

Who is this person that gets to spend cozy afternoons working with beautiful ingredients, creating gourmet meals that will be served with world class Oregon wines? How did I get here? How is this my life? My job? I’ll admit it’s not always sunshine and roses, and in reality, my job involves a lot of computer time and even more dirty dish washing, but there are a few days here and there, where I get to revel- even just for a few minutes- in that fact that I’m doing what I was made to do.

Thank you Rogers for hosting another smashing party. Thank you Andrea for your excellent company and even better service. And thank you Katy for being the social director and sharing your space and knowledge with all of us. It was such a wonderful evening, one I hope to repeat sometime very soon!

Menu
Balsamic Roasted Roots with Spinach Sauce
Chicory Salad with Roquefort, Apples and Walnuts
Red Wine Marinated Flat Iron Steak with Herb Roasted Potatoes
Candied Apple Ile Flottante

Holiday Table Workshop

I’m so very pleased to announce (albeit, a little late) this super fun workshop with two new friends! As we all know, the holidays can be a crazy whirlwind of food, family and stress. Come join us this Sunday, from 2-4 p.m. at Willamette Valley Pie Company in Salem, where we’ll help you simplify your celebrations!

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The workshop will feature the talents of local florist Katie Davis, of Ponderosa and Thyme, who will be there showing us how to make a gorgeous, seasonal arrangement that you’ll have a chance to win! She’ll pass along some of her tips and tricks for creating simple arrangements out of materials that can easily be found in your neck of the woods, and guide us in the art of foraging.

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Bird is the Word will walk you through putting a fresh spin on classic holiday recipes, teach you how to make our favorite seasonal side dishes and talk about easy, affordable table decor. There’s no reason a beautiful table has to be complicated!

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Finally, Willamette Valley Pie Company will be serving up a tasty pie buffet so you can sample all the season’s specialties. Everyone will go home with a mini pie of their own and WVPCO will also be raffling off free pies for you to enjoy in your holiday celebrations!

Goodie baskets, new friends and free pie. What more could you ask for?

Your $40/person fee includes:
-Demo of a holiday table arrangement and tips and tricks for creating your own at home. Plus a chance to win the arrangement that Katie will make during the demo.
-Instruction on seasonal side dishes and recipe ideas.
-Budget friendly holiday table decor ideas.
-Holiday Pie Giveaways and raffles!
-WVPCO Mini Pies, flower frogs and a stocked goodie bag for everyone!

Click here for more information and to RSVP! We can’t wait to see you there!

Beginnings

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click on the handy-dandy image in the sidebar labeled “Our Story.” And thanks for following along!

Christmas Date

The other night I did something I’ve done a thousand times. I walked out into the dark, over to the car, got in and took my seat next to Taylor. It was pitch black except for the lights on the dash and the music sprung to life as he turned the key. He reached over for my hand and we pulled out onto the road. Completely normal. Routine. It’s happened a thousand times. But last night as we drove along the country roads back from Silverton, music drifting along in the background, a smile suddenly came to my face. I looked down at our hands in the dark, fingers interlaced, and remembered when it wasn’t so common. When it wasn’t normal for me to climb into a car with the boy I loved. When it was the very first time we ever climbed in a car together and drove that very same route.

Shortly after that cold, rainy November night that included the legendary viewing of Aladdin, we made the trek down to his hometown to attend a college group that he’d gone to in the summers. I’d spent hours trying to figure out what to wear on my first official outing as his “girlfriend,” and had settled on my favorite jeans and brand new gray “Oregon,” sweatshirt. When in doubt, always go the athletic route.

He picked me up at my door and we headed out into the night, towards his little blue Corolla. The drive down was a little awkward at first. We’d crossed over into uncharted territory just a few days before and were both still a little uncertain in our new roles. I wasn’t sure what to say. I was still a little bit afraid that it had all been a dream. That he’d wake up one morning and realize he’d made a mistake. That I wasn’t anywhere near deserving of his company, much less the title of his “girlfriend.” But as we drove further and further south, he started to tell me about his home and we settled into our familiar rhythm of conversation.

Anyone who knows my husband can testify to the fact that when he talks of things he loves- things like basketball, Silverton and fantasy basketball, to name a few- there’s this certain tone that takes over his normal, intelligible speaking voice. He gets increasingly louder as he goes and I think the best way to describe the change is to say that when he’s excited about something, his voice literally sounds like a grin. Not only is there a giant smile spread across his face, but his tone is somehow smiling too.

This has charmed me at times and driven me nuts on more than one occasion, but in that moment, I was pretty sure that face, and that silly, excited tone, were just about the most adorable things in the world.

The night went relatively smooth. He introduced me to a few of his friends, we sang songs and listened to a talk, and we sat together at a tall bistro table, drinking Italian sodas and whispering back and forth. The lighting in the room was rather dim, except for a small candle that glowed in the center of our teeny table. Taylor had taken to fidgeting with said candle and as we got ready to head out, fumbled it to the point that it rolled over and spilled all over me. Hot wax dripped across my knuckles and down the front of my new, prized sweatshirt. He was embarrassed, and apologized profusely as we made our way out of the church, but I shrugged him off, all the while quietly mourning the wound to my favorite hoodie.

The first few weeks of our relationship went much the same way. Simple, sweet; a few awkward bumbles here and there. We were both a little hesitant. A little unsure. We played card games with our friends. We stayed up watching Gilmore Girls til the wee hours, holding hands and playing footsie on the couch. We listened to music, ate bottomless steak fries at Red Robin and slowly got used to our new titles, “girlfriend,” and “boyfriend.” It was so different from any of the relationships I’d had before. So innocent and fun. I wanted nothing to change, ever.

But my team was headed off to Hawaii for Thanksgiving and it would be over a week before I’d see him again. Again, I feared he’d come to his senses and decide he’d made a lapse in judgement, but my worries didn’t stop me from daydreaming of him all the way to the island of Oahu. Reflecting on the first few weeks of being liked by a boy so beautiful, looking at him still took my breath away. Reveling in the way it felt when he laced his fingers in between mine. Thinking about the wave of heat that crashed over me whenever he touched me, even if by accident. I was knee deep in basketball season, but I was neck deep in new love.

The trip consisted mostly of talking about, practicing, or playing basketball, but one night, gathered around a stone table outside of The Cheesecake Factory, Melissa, Jaime, Mandee and I bared our souls and bonded for life. Andrew had finally kissed Melissa, you see, after nine months of dating, and we were interrogating her for every single detail. Squealing and giggling, teasing her about things that seemed a million years away at the time, things like marriage and babies. That night The Fab Four, as we would later call ourselves, was born. And in the same month that I’d already received one of the biggest blessings in my life, I somehow ended up receiving three more.

After we got home from our trip, it was all studying and basketball and games and finals.  November flew by and all of a sudden it was time to head home for Christmas break. But not before I had my first two “official,” dates with my new boyfriend.

I remember the first date as clear as day. We went out to a “fancy” dinner at The Farm Cafe in Portland, followed by a play based on one of his favorite books, “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” He held my hand as we walked. He paid for my meal. It was dark and rainy and cold. I felt a million years old. It was the first of thousands of meals we’d share together and though the food was nothing special, the whole night was just so “us.” It set the tone for our whole relationship and I can close my eyes and relive every minute of it to this day. We picked up dessert at Rose’s Deli and drove back to my apartment to watch Dirty Dancing and snuggle on the couch.

Our second date included a little more fanfare. My friends and I, now firmly established as The Fab Four, had decided we’d plan a Christmas Date in Portland, get dressed up and invite our male counterparts to come along. Us girls spent the entire day getting ready, borrowing clothes from a well-dressed teammate and laboring over eachother’s hair, before meeting up with the guys to ride the Max into the city. We walked around Pioneer Square, looking at Christmas lights and shivering in the cold air, before filing into Rock Bottom Brewery for warm burgers and fries. We hopped on the Max again, feeling like big time city kids, and rode up to 23rd street to have dessert at Portland fixture, Papa Haydn’s. I had a six layer ice cream cake that I still order to this day. Taylor and I took our first picture together, it was the first time I’d seen him in dressy clothes and we held hands under the table as we ate our dessert.

When we got back to our apartment, we all decided to watch a Christmas movie, and I picked White Christmas. As the musical numbers increased, the audience dwindled, and soon enough it was just Taylor and I left watching the movie.

He was acting a little bit funny. A little bit like the night when we’d watched Aladdin. Doing lots of deep sighing and fidgeting. At one point, as I reached up to take a silly selfie of us laying on the couch, he reached down and pressed his lips to my forehead. I hit a wall of adrenaline that coursed all the way down to my toes before dying out. And then he kept on sighing. I didn’t know what to think, but I silently wondered what in the world he could be wrestling with after such a magical evening. When the movie ended, he bid me goodnight and left through the sliding door at the back of our apartment. I was convinced I’d freaked him out by taking him on this date, and he was about to call things off.

I trudged into my room, changed into a large t-shirt and took to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, feeling depressed about our inevitable end. As I was washing my face, I heard what I thought was a knock on glass. I didn’t have my contacts in or glasses on, so I squinted around the corner, wondering who it could possibly be at that hour. Shocked to see Taylor standing on the other side of the locked glass door, I forgot my current wet face and pants-less state, and scampered over to let him in.

“This is it,” I thought. He couldn’t even wait until morning to break it off. He had to be rid of me as soon as possible. I sighed a deep sigh of resignation before reaching for the handle.

But as I pulled the stopper out of the way, he grabbed the door handle from the outside and flung open the glass with great enthusiasm. He quickly stepped up into the apartment, grabbed my still dripping wet face with both hands, and planted his lips directly upon mine. He kissed me twice, softly, then took his hands off my face, turned around and said determinedly,

“There. Now I can go to sleep,” as he stepped out of the door and walked away.

I stood completely still, shocked to the core, until the cold outside reminded me that I was indeed pants-less and the slider was still ajar. I shook my head, closed and locked the door, and walked dreamily back to the bathroom to finish what I had started.

He’d waited exactly one month to the day for our first kiss. He wasn’t freaked out about our date, he was simply trying to work up the courage to kiss me! And his pure determination had completely blinded him to the fact that I had been standing before him in nothing but a baggy t-shirt and a pair of underwear.

I woke the next morning, sure that I had dreamt it, but the look of pride on his face when I saw him that day told me it was real. I’d never dated a boy who’d waited that long (or at all) to kiss me, and I’d never been kissed with such purpose before. Something told me I was in deep trouble.

To be continued…

Tortellini Soup

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There are not a lot of recipes that I made when we were first married, and still make today. Not a lot that survived to the post-culinary school era. But this one came from a friend’s older sister. We had it at her house one night and I fell in love. Slightly spicy, deliciously warm and completely comforting.

At the time, I thought my friend’s older sister was the picture of domestic perfection. She was married, had a few small kids and a beautiful home. I was young, newly married and completely unsure what being a wife was all about. As I sat at her table and slurped down a few bowls of this delicious, warm soup, I figured anyone who could make soup that good, had to be on to something. I decided I wanted to be just like her. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded in that department, but I have continued to make this soup time and time again, whatever that’s worth.

I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, but the spirit of the thing remains the same. This time I used tomatoes that I canned myself and threw in a dash of red wine. I also subbed in a red onion for the usual yellow and added a pinch of chili flake. It added a really nice depth of flavor and spice. Perfect for the arrival (finally!) of our fall weather. Nothing better than a recipe that’s warm, simple and good. And slightly nostalgic.

Tortellini Soup
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 Chicken Sausage Links, removed from casings
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 24 oz. chicken stock
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced (or crushed) tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz. package of refrigerated tortellini
  • 1 head (or package) of fresh spinach
  • ¼ tsp. chili flake
  • 1 Tbsp red wine
  • 1-1.5 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, on medium heat, cook sausage in olive oil until browned and broken up into pieces.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent.
  3. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and cook 10 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, wine and chili flake.
  5. Add tortellini and cook until tender.
  6. Add chopped/torn spinach just before serving.
  7. Top with Parmesan and serve with garlic bread.

 

Silver Linings

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Silver Linings post. Not because good things haven’t been happening, because believe you me, the good overfloweth. But I’ve been busy, and busy means bad at taking time to pursue gratitude. So, without further ado…

I want to cultivate a grateful heart. A positive outlook. I want to be a person who looks around and sees the silver linings on a regular basis. Here’s a few from my life lately…

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This place and the peace it brings.

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Giggly Squish-berries that never go out of season.

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A cookie maker devoted to his craft.

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Knowing that the road ahead is leading to good things.

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A quick getaway to the gorge with my husband of six years.

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The best brunch buddy in all the land.

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A winter’s supply of Today’s Letters applesauce.

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A super handsome pear peeler.

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Breakfast sandwiches after 11 a.m.

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 And a super fun variety of smaller jobs for me to flex my creative muscles.

Gratefulness is a gamechanger. What kind of silver linings are you finding in your life lately?

Montana: Part II

For Part I of our trip, go here!

When we woke up in the cabin at Lake Blaine, it was bright and sunny, the pink sun rising slowly over the mountains. By the time we’d packed up all our stuff and dressed to go fishing, winter had arrived. It was snowing just 25 minutes away in Glacier park and had started raining in town. We’d get some hot food, then see how we felt, we reasoned.

After a delicious breakfast at a cute little place in Columbia Falls, called Base Camp, we decided we were too chicken to brave the cold and would head towards Missoula, seeking trout and warmer weather. On the way, needing gas and feeling intrigued by a sign that claimed “70 different varieties of licorice,” we stopped in a super tiny, rural town in the middle of nowhere. Taylor bought some of their trademark black licorice and I greedily grabbed a bag of the Montana huckleberry. I swear I saw 2-3 tumbleweeds blow down the street as we paid. It was a strange place. But we had fuel, and sugar, and so we marched on. Or drove on. Whatever.

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Rock Creek: My cousin’s father-in-law recommended the fishing on Rock Creek, so we drove straight through Missoula and landed at the Fisherman’s Mercantile at Rock Creek. Stocking up on a few terrestrial flies, a map of the river and chatting up the shop owner, we felt ready to tackle the stream. We’d succeeded in our quest for warmer weather and it turned out to be a beautiful, warm afternoon on the water.

We each caught a few small trout, and though we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the stream, we felt satisfied with our first excursion. When I was walking along the road on the way back to the car, I spotted a little water snake in the gravel to the side. Shivers ran up and down my spine and I took a wide arc to avoid being anywhere near it. When Taylor got back in the car, I mentioned the snake with a shudder, and he said quietly, “I didn’t tell you this earlier, but there were a bunch of snakes swimming around in the water.”

I wanted to curl up and die.

“Thank you for not telling me,” I whispered.

We made our way back to Missoula to meet my Aunt and her family for dinner, stuffing our faces with licorice and trying to get the wasp flying around the back seat to go out the window. Snakes and bugs. It wasn’t my day. We pulled into my Aunt’s cute little house not far from the University of Montana and unloaded our bags.

Missoula: Missoula has always intrigued me. I haven’t ever spent a ton of time there, but I’ve caught glimpses here and there; enough to pique my interest. After a day and half this trip, I’ve decided it’s very Portland ten years ago. Pre-hipster era. Post 90’s. Portland before it was cool to be Portland.

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And that means delicious, undiscovered, unpretentious restaurants. We had a fantastic Italian meal Tuesday night (at Caffe Dolce) and a fabulous breakfast the next morning (at Catalyst Cafe). I’m still dreaming of that buckwheat waffle. I might have to recreate that sucker here, sometime soon. Delicious food aside, it was so wonderful to spend some time with my Aunt Dee and her family. Hearing about their fascinating jobs in the weather bureau and smoke jumper base. Staying at their super cute house in the college district. Laughing at stories of their geriatric pets with special drinking fountains. Seeing glimpses of my Mom in my Aunt’s laugh and smile.

Taking my poor Aunt on a wild goose chase to hunt down the perfect magnet to represent our time in Missoula. We just had so much fun, I wanted to find the perfect magnet. As if our time would only be validated by the acquisition of said magnet. Yeesh. In the process I found a fly shop, chocolate covered gummy bears, a shirt I wanted to buy but didn’t, and eventually, two magnets. Success! Our time was too short though, and we are sincerely hoping the Sieglers will make an Oregon trip very soon!

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We had planned to head back and fish Rock Creek after our magnet chase breakfast, but the cold weather caught up with us, and we started to get a little worried about getting over the pass before nightfall. Snow was expected and we were afraid our little Camry might not be up to the task. So, we set off for Helena, figuring we’d stop on the Clark Fork River along the way and see what we could find.

Well, we found the Clark Fork. Several green, slimy, mossy pieces of it, in fact. All over our flies. Necessitating removal every 2-3 casts. We stopped several times on different sections of the river, each time being met with weeds and grime and increasingly cold, brutal weather. I’m pretty sure we stopped on some other river, too, without even realizing where we were. There were no fish there either. And we were wet. And cold. And honestly, a little frustrated.

The car was pretty quiet as we ascended the pass towards Helena. We were soaked, and chilled. And instead of braving the water snakes and heading back to Rock Creek, where we knew there would be fish, I’d insisted we try out the Clark Fork. I sank low into my seat and pouted. But it was hard to stay grumpy as we came over the mountains, surrounded by a skiff of white snow. The trees were dusted white and we laughed as we watched the temperature gauge drop from 41 to 38, from 38 to 36, and finally all the way down to 32. It had been 97 when we left Portland just a few days earlier. Nothing like a 60 degree swing!

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Helena: We stopped at a fly shop downtown before heading over to my Aunt and Uncle’s house, and were instantly comforted by the shop keeper. The Clark Fork was a tough cookie. We’d gone too far up. It wasn’t great this time of year anyway. We felt better. We gathered intel on the next day’s stream, the creek my Dad had grown up fishing, and went on our merry way, still dressed in our soggy waders.

My Mom’s sister Jean, and her husband Zach, live on a really nice little golf course in Helena. But since it’s Montana, they also live in the country. Confused? Me too. It’s a beautiful spot, surrounded by old trees and enough land for Zach’s three horses to pasture. We would be staying in the beautiful little guest suite attached to the back of my uncle’s garage/big game trophy room, which is really quite a place. Hard to put into words, but a sight to see, for sure. I’m pretty sure Taylor uttered the word, “awesome,” about 1,500 times. All I can say is, I locked the door that led from the “environment” to our room. I’ve seen Night at the Museum. I know what happens at night.

After a lovely dinner with my Aunt, Uncle and Grandma, we headed back to their house and sat in front of the fire catching up. I’ve always been amused by the fact that my Aunt Jean dated my Dad before he got together with my Mom, and that he and Uncle Zach were best friends growing up. There’s something about being with people who’ve known your parents longer than you. It’s strangely comforting, like they just get it, you know? We’d done a lot of fun things on our trip so far, but sitting down at the end of the night and visiting was always my favorite part.

Before we gave in to the siren song of sleep, Uncle Zach asked if we wanted to go up to the cabin in the morning. I’d been up there as a little girl, before a wildfire changed the face of the entire region, and was intrigued to see it again. I remembered it being absolutely beautiful. Wild and untamed, the very essence of how I felt about Montana. With some coaxing, we talked him down from a 4:30 a.m. departure and promised to report for duty in the morning.

After a good night’s sleep (despite my fear of the stuffed crocodile coming to eat me), and some of Uncle Zach’s eggs and bacon, we all piled in the truck to head for the cabin. It was cold and getting colder as we neared the hills that lead up to the cabin road, and eventually we hit snow. I felt justified in my decision to wear long underwear underneath my jeans, Grandpa George style.

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As we climbed up the mountainside, sliding a little in the snow here and there, I thought of all the times I’d been in the back of a family member’s truck, on some sort of adventure, and felt very, very lucky. Not everyone gets to be related to people who know how to drive up mountains in the snow, or shoot grizzly bears. We stopped a few times so Uncle Zach could call some elk, and what do you know, a nice sized bull elk on a neighboring hill called right back. We spotted him with the binoculars and marveled at his size and grace, considering the weight of the rack on his head.

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Eventually we made it up to the cabin, tromped inside through the snow and poked around, trying to keep warm until the fire was started. Pictures of my cousins covered the wall, and in the corner, sat a stuffed Cougar that I was pretty sure had it’s eye on me the whole time we were in there. I settled in front of the fire, sipped hot chocolate and watched the snow flurry outside the windows. It was absolutely magical. There’s not a whole lot I love more in life than being holed up in a log cabin, next to a fire, with miserable weather outside.

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Thank you so much for taking the day off to schlep us up to the cabin and back, Aunt Jean and Uncle Zach! We so enjoyed our time with you both and sincerely hope you will stop by on your way to Sisters very soon!

Part III up next! B-Ba-Ba-Ba-Boulder-Boulder!

Three Amazing Things

I have to take a short minute to say Happy Anniversary! to the sweet boy whose love has inspired this entire series. Six years ago this Saturday, we were standing at the front of a church, blushing like mad and high-fiving like idiots. Taylor James, the past six years have been a beautiful mess and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Thanks for loving me and for being so darn loveable yourself.

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click on the handy-dandy image in the sidebar labeled “Our Story.” And thanks for following along!

That 70's Squad

With the tables turned the fall of my Sophomore year, I was magically free from the all-consuming daydreams that had monopolized my time the year before. Free to enjoy living with my best friend Jaime, another year of basketball and my newly selected major. But more than that, I was free from the idea I was actually running my own life. And because I believed that, a few amazing things happened.

The first was a bible study/prayer group called Coremdeo. That may sound totally weird to anyone who didn’t grow up in a Christian culture, but it really wasn’t all that weird. Basically, every week 10 of us would gather in someone’s dorm room or apartment and share what was going on in our lives. Girls from all walks of life, studying different disciplines, with all kinds of varied experiences, in one room bearing their souls. People I might not have even said “hi,” to had I passed them on the sidewalk. But in time, it became clear we were divinely assembled.

I hadn’t had high expectations when I’d been invited to join the group the year before, never having had great female friendships in the past. I figured sooner or later, pettiness, jealously and competition would drive us all apart. But what actually happened was far from it. In addition to being one of the most formative experiences I’d had in my young life, those ladies became sisters, women who I had the pleasure of standing by through love, loss, new relationships and breakups, depression, financial hardship, and mental health issues. Engagements, marriages and now, babies!

Thanks to those beautiful souls, I learned to be vulnerable. To let my true self peek through now and again. To have empathy and show compassion. To put my own worries aside and help other people carry their burdens for a while. To let down my blunt, sarcastic guard and speak kindness and encouragement to other people. And in turn, to allow myself to be known and lifted up by people I’d never even expected to be friends with. It was beautiful.

The second, was a specific night, early in September. We’d just had a particularly intense Coremdeo gathering, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the heaviness of the things my friends were dealing with. We’d planned to gather with the male counterpart to our group, Radcore (of which my beloved was a founding member) to sing some songs and have a worship time. Again, this might sound totally weird to anyone not from a religious background, but it’s really not as strange as it sounds. We sang songs, a couple guys played guitars and we had some quiet reflection and meditation time. A couple people prayed out loud for our school, and campus, for specific things going on in their lives. And then Taylor, whose presence I’d been doing my best to ignore, pipes in with this simple, humble prayer that took my breath away. Even though I knew him pretty well at that point, it was like I was suddenly seeing him for the first time.

As I watched him, with his eyes shut tight, instead of a dark, handsome face with chiseled features, I saw this beautiful, earnest soul. Longing for wisdom and understanding. Seeking to be a better man. With a humble, quiet spirit, yet absolutely undeterred from being boldly vulnerable. Instead of the typical lust attraction I felt in his presence, I was filled with this pure, overwhelming admiration and respect. He was genuine and unashamed. Free from all the things I wished I was- fear of what other people thought, fear of revealing myself, fear of letting down my guard. And in that moment, I got a glimpse of what my life might be like spent with a guy like that.

More than I’d wanted his affections, craved his attention or enjoyed his presence, I wanted a taste of that freedom. In him, I saw a path to the person I wanted to be, and I knew I had to have a front row seat to the way this guy lived his life. After the music ended, filled with the joy of my new discovery and armed with determination, I marched right over and wrapped my arms around his waist. I hugged that beautiful soul as hard as I possibly could, and stood up on my tippy toes to whisper in his ear,

“Thanks for being you.”

About five minutes later my nerve wore off, and I broke into a cold sweat thinking of what I’d just done. But as Jaime and I walked back to our apartment, we both agreed, it would be a night to remember.

Looking back, it’s pretty easy to see a theme. Learning how to open up to other people, trusting them with my heart and embracing the freedom to be myself. All good things, sure, but more importantly, all perfectly preparing me for the third amazing thing that would happen that fall.

As we neared October, things started to heat up between Taylor and I. We’d finally exchanged phone numbers during a friends’ birthday party, and I was getting more and more knocks at my front door. We spent a lot of late nights on opposite ends of the couch, downloading more country music than I knew what to do with and watching dozens of movies. Braveheart. Never Been Kissed. Reruns of Friends. We’d meet up on Sunday mornings for church, and make late night runs to McDonalds for sodas. We’d also spent a night dancing our butts off with our friends at the campus 70’s dance, me looking convincingly like a mullet-wearing construction worker. Sexy. We followed the dance up with a rousing game of Girl Talk, since the guys had missed out on that treasure in their adolescence. The image of Taylor and his friends covered in those red “zit” stickers will not soon leave my mind.

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Despite all our time spent together, he still wasn’t sure. He’d instant messaged me late one night, saying he was too tired at the moment, but that we needed to talk. I let a day pass before finding out he was headed home for the weekend, and calling him up to demand he clear the air. It was an awkward conversation. He liked me, but he wasn’t ready. He was confused. The timing didn’t feel right. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes.

I told him not to worry and forget about it. It was a little annoying to be constantly reminded of his hesitation, but I believed things would happen in their own time. And I was still pretty content with the way his name looked when it popped up on my phone. He had a hard time staying away for more than a couple days, and that fact alone was enough for now.

As we moved into November though, my frustration grew. I wasn’t exactly frustrated with him, I wasn’t upset that we weren’t dating- I truly felt it would all work out when the time was right. I guess the best word to describe it would be, “tension.” Things were just unresolved. We had all these feelings and all this quality time spent together, but it was undefined. From the outside looking in, we weren’t really anything to each other. I struggled to put it into words in my journal entries, but there’s a lot of quotes and verses about burdens and expectations. Tension.

Three days before we left for a basketball road trip (Nov. 15 to be exact), my teammates and I were all gathered at one of their houses watching The Hills and trashing the sketchy behavior of Heidi Montag. My phone buzzed and I saw my favorite name in red at the top of my missed calls list. I listened to his voicemail on our way home from the girls’ house and unconsciously transferred it to my saved messages box. Old stalker habits die hard.

In his message he said he’d really been jonesin’ for some Aladdin and wondered if I’d be interested in watching it with him. When I got home, I logged onto AIM and wrote that I needed to take a quick shower, but he could come over after.

I hopped in the shower, washing away the sweat (and probably tears) from the day’s basketball practice, and thought I hadn’t seen Aladdin in a while either, and how fun it would be to re-watch. I wrapped my hair in a towel, threw on a plain, old, red crewneck sweatshirt and a pair of ratty navy blue sweats my Mom had bought me at the state tournament my senior year of high school. They had “Ramey” written across the butt. I wasn’t exactly a vision, but I’d made a sincere effort to be “real” with Taylor from the beginning, and I thought it would look a little fishy if I did my hair and makeup for a late-night cartoon.

Settling into the couch, I waited for him to arrive, unwinding my wet hair from my towel and giving it a toss. He knocked on the door while I shook the excess water from my head, and quickly throwing my soggy towel in my room, I opened it up and let him in. I plopped down on my usual side of the couch while he got the movie all set up, filling him in on the earth-shattering events of The Hills episode we’d watched as a team.

Much to my surprise, instead of taking his usual seat on the far end of the giant, squishy green couch, he sat down right smack dab in the middle, dangerously close to touching me. He’d always kept his distance so he wouldn’t give me the wrong idea, so I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but I was quickly drawn into the movie and forgot all about it. Prince Ali has that power.

But slowly, verrrrrrry slowly, throughout the course of the movie, he began to inch towards me until our shoulders were side by side. He kept sighing and slapping his hand down on the small space of couch that remained between us. I was aware of his every move. Despite my refreshing shower, my body suddenly felt hot all over and my stomach filled with butterflies. What was happening?

I’d had plenty of guys “put the moves on” me before. The fake yawn arm wrap in the movie theater. The pinky trick. The slow crawl of their hand from the seat beside you, to your knee, to your own hand. But I was still so surprised that he was even sitting near me, my mind turned fuzzy and I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. I figured he must have injured his hand at practice and it was bothering him. He couldn’t possibly be putting the moves on me.

His twin brother Andrew, and my future sister-in-law Melissa, stopped by during the movie, smiling at us like idiots. But they were pretty googly-eyed in general, so again, I didn’t make much of it. We finished the movie, they took off, and we settled in to watch the special features like we always did.

As the magic behind the making of Aladdin played on the screen, Taylor finally mustered the courage to reach over and grab my hand.

As he opened my fingers with his and slid them between each of mine, my stomach flip flopped and I prayed my hand wasn’t clammy. My hand tingled with electricity and all the blood in my body rose to my face. I silently thanked God we’d turned out most of the lights for the movie, knowing my face was 50 shades of red. I was so absolutely shocked, but he just kept talking like normal and flipping through the special features. Convinced that my voice would be too shaky to say anything, I kept mostly quiet, and eventually we found ourselves in a moment of silence.

“So…how are we going to do this?” he asked.

I couldn’t breathe. This was it! This was my moment. This boy I’d spent a year and a half starting at, loving from near and afar, getting to know slowly and deliberately, was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with me, holding my hand. I’d never wash it, I told myself. My heart was on fire. It was the culmination of so many of my hopes and dreams in this one moment. He’d made the move, he was ready, he couldn’t possibly resist me anymore. I swooned. I think the word, “swoon,” might be the understatement of the century.

He continued, saying that he was glad we were already such good friends, but that he was ready for something more. Still unconvinced that all this was actually happening, I sat silent and dumbfounded, forcing him to continue. He said he was looking for a good buddy, someone to be close with. But at the same time, he wanted to take it slow, keep our hands to ourselves and be careful not to invest too much, too soon.

“There are things about me that you’re not ready to deal with. And things about you that I’m not ready to deal with,” he explained. He said he would be a little bit guarded at first, so we didn’t get ahead of ourselves. And he wanted things to progress casually and naturally. He wasn’t ready to be serious and he didn’t want to be like some of the other couples in our friend group, mushy and intense.

Listening to him talk about what would be “our” relationship, I felt a goofy grin creep across my face. In his mind, he was giving me a stern talking to, but his words were music to my ears. He was wise and considerate and I knew my heart would be in good hands. I mean, here we were, after all the ups and downs, after all the change and growth I’d been through, after all the lessons learned and hard choices made. Here we were at our own perfect, new beginning.

“You know what’s nice about this?” he asked as he got up to leave.

“What?” I finally spoke, following him over the sliding door, still holding onto his hand like my life depended on it.

“I don’t have to worry about falling asleep on the way home, like I did with past girlfriends,” referring to the fact that he now lived in an apartment just a short walk away. And suddenly, as he turned around to look at me, the same goofy grin I’d just had, spread across his face.

“Weird…are you my girlfriend?”

“Well, it’s looking like it, huh?” I said coyly, recovering a fraction of my wits, but grinning back just as goofy-like. He slid open the door, finally dropping my hand and took a step out to leave. Stopping, only to turn and say with a smirk,

“Well, goodnight girlfriend.”

To be continued…

Montana: Part I

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I’ve put off writing a post about our two-week trip to Montana for quite some time. Three weeks to be exact. I mean how do you even attempt to capture 4,000 miles, 1,200 photos and one billion memories in just a few posts? It feels impossible. But if I wait any longer, it’s going to be Christmas. So, here we go.

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Kalispell: After spending the first night at my parent’s house in Spokane, and waking up earrrrrrrly to fresh sourdough pancakes (thanks Mom!), we were on our way to my cousin’s place in Kalispell. We craned our necks out the windows as the landscape took us through forests of evergreens, over rocky, rolling hills and dumped us into wide, golden valleys full of grazing cattle and run-down homesteads. Though I wasn’t born there, nor have I ever lived there, something about going to Montana always feels like coming home. And this time was no different.

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We arrived in the Flathead valley around 11:30 a.m., following my cousin’s instructions to meet him and his family at a boat launch on Flathead Lake for a day on the water. The day was glorious. The sun was shining, the water sparkled and the licorice was a plenty. We toured the massive coast-line, picking out our favorite million dollar homes and marveling at the fortresses that lurked around every corner. My cousin had mentioned “cliff jumping” in a text earlier in the day, which I assumed was a joke, but shortly into our cruise, we pulled up to a large, terrifying cliff. And as everyone bailed out of the boat to swim towards the rocks, I realized no one was joking. Even the kids jumped in!

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I knew if I wanted to keep up my bad ass reputation (ha!) I’d have to give it a go, so my cousin-in-law and I climbed to our desired cliff height and on the count of three, took a flying leap. I’ll be honest with you, about half a second into my descent, I was pretty sure I was dying. Every falling nightmare I’d ever had was coming true. It seemed like I was airborne forever, but eventually, I did hit the ice cold water and swam as fast as I could back to the boat. My daredevil act for the year, complete.

We had a lovely picnic lunch on one of the beaches, spotted some deer on one of the islands and kept our eyes peeled for wild horses all the way back to the launch. I didn’t even know wild horses were still a thing. My inner Man from Snowy River fan was delighted. All the way back to the launch, I pictured Jim Craig riding the brumbies down one of the hills we passed. Brumbies never say die.

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After we pulled the boat out of the water, we followed my cousin across the valley to their cabin on Lake Blaine. As we drove, beautiful golden light set into the space between the mountains. Rays of light danced between dark blue, rugged peaks that cut straight from the ground to the sky. Fields of wheat rippled in the breeze. Red barns popped up in clusters, looking exactly like a painting by my friend Richard. I sighed. What a way to start a trip.

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When we got to Lake Blaine we were greeted by my cousin’s in-laws and had our first family dinner of the trip. It was wonderful. We visited until the mosquitoes were too thick to remain, then packed up to head back to their house. Only after they convinced us to forsake our reservation at the Glacier KOA the next night, and stay at the lake instead. We took one look through the wall of windows, at that golden sun setting on the lake, and decided we’d better. It was a tough sell.

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After catching up with my cousins back at their house, we retreated to their basement and got what might have been the best sleep of the whole trip. Kennedy, your room is magic. We woke up with sleep hangovers and after grabbing a quick breakfast, set out for Glacier a bit later than we intended. Early mornings have never been our thing, anyway.

Glacier National Park: Blew. Me. Away. I mean, I knew it would be amazing and all, but it was just mind blowingly beautiful. Again, I realize everyone says that. I guess I’d become jaded by too many gorgeous pictures of outdoorsy things on Pinterest or something. But having the real thing, right there in front of me, kind of took me by surprise.

Knowing we only had one day to explore the park, we decided to stick mainly to the “Going to the Sun” road so we could cover all the main attractions. We stopped at a shop just outside the entrance, picking up a map and our first magnet of the trip. I became irrationally excited about this. Taylor laughed at me.

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We drove in the West Glacier entrance, past the iconic sign and along the banks of Lake McDonald, deciding to follow our map and stop at the historic lodge on our way out. I wasn’t really expecting to suddenly turn a corner and suddenly start climbing up the side of a mountain, but that’s exactly what we did. I think my fists were clenched the entire first hour of the drive, as I peered anxiously down the increasingly steep cliff just a few feet from where I sat. We passed walls that seeped water like tears. We got closer and closer to the jagged peaks, and rose further and further away from the river that cut through the bottom of the canyon floor. We stopped at vistas and I think I used up at least 1/3 of my memory card in the first couple hours in the park. It couldn’t fit everything I was seeing in my lens!

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Everything was bigger, grander and more majestic than I had imagined. The giant glacier blew my mind and the sheer amount of water running, flowing and seeping from the tops of peaks all the way down to the valley below, was absolutely stunning. We hit Logan Pass, essentially the top of the park, and circled the busy parking lot a few times before deciding to press on. A little ways down the road, we stopped to hike into a couple bigger waterfalls, noticing as we went, that the weather was growing colder and some large storm clouds were rolling in. By that point it was late afternoon and we wanted to hit the lodge on the way out, so we turned around and made the journey back down the cliff-hugging road. The way that thing was built is absolutely incredible. And the fact that it was built in the early 1900’s. Nuts.

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We reached the lodge and hopped out of our car to snap some photos of the rustic wonder, weaving our way through the historic red Fords that we’d passed on the road all day long. If we would have had more time, I would have loved to have seen the park that way. There’s just something so romantic about those classic beauties.

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After a short stop at the lodge, we made our way out of the park and headed towards Whitefish for dinner. A quick burger, a stop at the first (of many) fly shops and a stroll through town, and we were on our way back to Lake Blaine for a relaxing evening on the lake.

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We kayaked around the “neighborhood,” watched the sun set and read our books before turning in ridiculously early. Planning to scout out a place to fish in the morning, we set our waders out and went to bed.

Part II, coming soon!

(Sidenote: This is literally 1/16th of the photos I took at each of these places, and there are still a TON in this post. I just needed to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening. Carry on.)

A Day in the Life

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When Bird is the Word moved from just a glimmer in my eye to a living, breathing part of my everyday life, I promised myself I would start an interview series. A series that follows some of my favorite people around for a day, chronicling their lives, their work and their beautiful spirits. And I’m finally making good on that promise. We’re on to our second Day in the Life interview today, and trust me, it’s a good one. See my interview, here.

I met Richard during a working interview for my former job at the little cafe in wine country. Most people don’t just introduce themselves to an interviewee during the actual interview, but Richard certainly isn’t most people.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Richard.” With his trademark mischievous grin.

“He’s sort of a fixture around here,” the chef explained to me. I thought it was a bit strange, but I was far too busy being needlessly nervous to give it much thought. I figured I’d probably never see the guy again.

Boy was I wrong. Not only did I see him again, but I saw him almost every single morning for the better part of two years. He asked a million questions, happily ate the pitiful eggs I turned out in the beginning, and somewhere along the way, we became thick as thieves. Eating breakfast together every day, shooting the breeze and drawing pictures of bugs and fish on napkins.

Early this year, after an obscene amount of begging on my end, he agreed to take me on as his fly fishing apprentice. And since, weather and mono permitting, we’ve explored all that western Oregon has to offer. We’ve spent hours in the truck, driving to and from our destinations (all within a 2.5 hour radius), talking about life, fishing and listening to political talk radio. We’ve survived brutal days on the Deschutes, hours of fishlessness on Lake Harriet and a few unexpected dips in the river. I’ve learned more about life, and fishing, in the last six months, than I ever expected.

Though he’ll probably hate me saying this, fishing with Richard has made me feel like I’ve been able to recoup some of the time I never got to spend fishing with both my fly-fisherman grandfathers. He’s sweet and kind. He spoils me rotten. And he has more wild, hilarious stories than anyone I’ve ever met. When Taylor and I met him in Silver Creek, Idaho this fall, on the tail-end of our Montana road trip, it felt like a family reunion.

But aside from what he is to me, he’s also a really, really ridiculously talented artist. A genius painter whose work has shown in galleries all over the world for the last 50 years. Being able to spend the day in his studio last week, peppering him with questions and getting to see his process, was a once in a lifetime experience. I couldn’t be more proud to have captured him in his element, and I couldn’t possibly be more honored to share this Day in the Life interview with you, today. Without further ado, A Day in the Life with Richard Thompson.


Who are you?
Who am I today? Or in the big arc of time? That’s a difficult question.

I’m 69 years old. I’m a farm kid from Dayton, who discovered art and keeps discovering it everyday. And somehow became the dean of a leading art school. I’m an Artist. Educator. Administrator. All those things are part of who I am, but I’m still a farm kid.

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Where do you live?
Back home. I live in my grandfather, Hans’, home. Which became my father’s, and then mine. I was an only child so this place came to me, to be mine. I’ve lived in New Mexico, Texas and New York but I decided to come back where I started from.

What do you love most about where you live?
That I’m getting to rediscover it. Growing up here, I saw it through a child’s eyes. But coming back, I get to see the community as if I’m new here. Familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

In a way, it’s inspired most of my paintings. Even though my knowledge of contemporary art has grown, I’m still looking at it. Trying to figure out the same landscape I’ve looked at since I was 10 years old. In moving back, all the things that make up a sense of place- light, moisture, color- are fresh again.

I love that all of Oregon’s weather rolls in over the coastal range and through the valley before passing over the rest of the state. There’s never a static sky here. Every single day, the sky changes by the minute.

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What does a normal day in your life look like?
Around six o’clock I’m either awoken by my alarm, or a fight between the cats. Usually Cinco, the kitten, is somehow upsetting Xena, the matriarch. I get up, boil an egg for my wife Kymberli, and make her a salad for lunch. Once I send her off to work, I get in the truck and head to Community Plate. I have my coffee and start my day off with friends.

Once I drag myself out of CP, I run my errands and then come home to the studio. I’m a morning person, so my best work is done then. But sometimes, if I get involved in a project I will come back and work in the evening. I usually work ’til early afternoon, then have lunch. After lunch I usually take care of my email business- work, friends, fishing tales, etc. Then, it’s naptime. I’m retired, so I get to take naps. After my nap, I usually start cooking dinner.

The rest of the day is spent catching up with Kymberli. I don’t do any partying. Farming as a kid was a great teacher, there’s only one person that’s going to do the work, and that’s you. So I go to bed.

Artists have a bad reputation for living a “bohemian” lifestyle, but I don’t know how those types get any actual work done. Most serious artists I know…their lives are pretty mundane. Getting the work done is a discipline.

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How did you get into what you do?
Well, it came as a big surprise to me. And everyone else.

In 1963, I enrolled at Oregon State University to study forestry. What else does a kid from Dayton do? I failed to register in time to get a dorm room, so I spent the first semester in a fraternity house. I wasn’t fraternity material. I was also failing miserably in all my Forestry classes. The only one I was doing well in was Botany, because most of the class consisted of drawing plants. Ray Dragseth, a senior in my frat house, happened upon me drawing plants one day and having taken a painting class earlier that year, offered me his leftover painting supplies.

“Did you ever think of painting those leaves?” he asked me. So I did.

It came absolutely, perfectly natural to me. I didn’t know why, but I painted shadows under the leaves. Within a week, my room reeked of oil paint and I had paintings covering every square inch of the four walls. I realized Forestry was not going to do it for me. I had this new passion, but I also had no idea what do with it.

So, I started taking design classes. My parents weren’t especially thrilled about it, so I lied to them for a few years, telling them I was studying English while secretly taking every art class I could get my hands on. They finally found out in 1966, when I transferred to University of New Mexico to focus on painting.

My career got started pretty fast. By 1965, I’d had my first show. And really, it was all happenstance. Thanks to a simple question, “Did you ever think of painting those leaves?” And a fraternity brother trying to get rid of his leftover art supplies.

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What do you like most about it? What inspires you?
I’ve been so blessed. I was embraced by a lot of people who have really blessed and encouraged me. Garo, the professor I went to UNM to study under; I had lunch with him last year. He’s 93 and he still remembered me and my work. We still keep in touch.

With art, it’s always about tomorrow. Where can this go next? It’s always about the next painting. I’ve done this so long now, I really have a body of work. It shows growth. I love finding the little places that can be opened up for growth.

I love the process, and the thinking that goes into the process. First there is a mountain. Then there is no mountain. Then there is. You take something external, internalize it and try to figure out how to reproduce it in a way that means something to you. I choose to paint because it’s the closest I can get to that process of thinking.

At the end of the day, it’s what you see, what you think about it and what you do about it. Painting is alchemy. Taking shit and turning it into light. Converting nothing into something.

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Favorite thing to paint?
Nothing.

That is to say my paintings are not about places that are special, they are about the mundane. The absolute essence of the mundane American moment. There’s nothing more sad than the places in the middle of nowhere. Clusters of buildings.

I like to take nothing and turn it into something.

My perfect painting would be so quiet, so silent, it would take your breath away. So much art today is screaming. Paintings that draw me in are the ones where you can hear the crickets.

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Favorite place to see art?
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

I think a lot of places are driven by trendiness versus thoughtfulness. Trying to fit into a global perspective rather than a national one. Americans are undereducated in the arts. I don’t think people have an eye for painting anymore. It’s hard to find a good painting museum.

I like to see art in other people’s studios.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a NOT-so-normal day?
Fly fishing with my friend Kali.

Suck up.

I’m good at two things: fly fishing and painting.

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If you are interested in doing a Day in the Life interview, please get in touch.

Coelho Client Dinner

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Last night, despite a gravely throat and foggy head, I loaded up my little Camry full of food and traveled into wine country for a lovely evening at Coelho. It was a little surreal to realize that we are halfway through our six dinner series, but it felt good to get back in the saddle after our long vacation.

When Valerie and I went in earlier this week to taste the wine for the meal, I was blown away by the deep, rich flavors of Coelho’s wine. And instantly, all I wanted to do was eat. I taste a lot of wine in my profession, and though I have an untrained, generally unsophisticated palate, I know what I like. And I liked their wine. As we worked our way through the pairings for each course, menu ideas flooded my mind, until we arrived at the last one. A strong, fruity Sirah. And all I could say was, “Chocolate. Cherries. Chocolate pots with brandied cherries!” I love it when that happens.

And after repeatedly plunging my spoon into those chocolate pots and taking sips of that sexy Sirah, I can testify that it truly was a match made in heaven.

Everything about last night was cozy. The room, the food, the people. Sometimes my job feels like a lot of work, but last night, it felt easy. I’m so grateful for this season and the variety of smaller events I’m getting to pour into creatively. Talk about rewarding. Two weeks ’til we’re at it again!

Menu
Mushroom Tartlets with Herbed Goat Cheese
Crispy Kale Salad with Broccolini and Fresh Ricotta
Braised Lamb Shanks with Roasted Pears, Pistachios and a Parsnip Puree
Chocolate Pots with Brandied Cherries