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Homemade Pretzels

I haven't made homemade pretzels since we were in Alabama and I had forgotten how easy they are if not a little time consuming. I made these last week for Oscar night. They keep a long time in an airtight container. 1   (.25 ounce) package   active dry yeast 1 tablespoons   brown sugar 1  teaspoons   salt 1 ½   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 3   cups   all-purpose flour 1   cup   bread flour 2   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 2   tablespoons   baking soda 1-2   tablespoons   butter, melted 2   tablespoons  kosher salt Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place the yeast, brown sugar and salt in the 1.5 cups of warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the flour. Knead for about 7-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let it rise for an hour (I place mine in the oven with the light on). Combine the two cups of warm water with the baking soda in a square shallow pan. After the dough has risen, cut it into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each section into a


Contemplating... our new home, a new garden, a new phase in life. We sit here in limbo in Portland, Oregon, as we endure the agonizing slowness of purchasing a house in nearby Vancouver, Washington. Thankfully, things have moved smoothly. We located a house on our third day out - the process has transpired fairly smoothly with a few hiccups but I am told that it is going remarkably well. The first few weeks was a hectic flurry of downloading and e-mailing documents, faxing them, mailing them again, signing, signing, signing...

Then a period of silence and boredom. Some inspection issues are currently being addressed. After those issues are resolved, we hope to close on the house in mid-January. 

The weather was calm and clear for the first several weeks that we were here. Then rain set in - lots of rain - more than average. In fact, a record was recently set for rainfall during December.  Lots of days though are rain-free, even though rain may fall in nearby communities. Usually periods of light rainfall are followed by breaks in the clouds, and sunshine. Temperatures stay in the 40s during the day and 30s at night. There has not been any flooding in this community although there have been issues in other parts of Portland. We hear that there are storms and tornadoes and temperatures in the 70s in Alabama but Christmas day here was sunny and cold.

We have not ventured out much. I did go through a period of cabin fever a few weeks ago and braved the rain to get out and explore a bit. Last week, I went to nearby Forest Park and took a muddy hike to take the photos you see here. These were taken with my camera phone. It was exciting to get out into the woods. The greenness, moss and crisp winter air provided a much-needed dose of adrenalin. 

I have immersed myself in books about gardening for this region. Ann Lovejoy's books have been particularly helpful. I realize that I am in for a totally new experience - a different climate, challenging issues with soils and plant choices - but it is an exciting one. I can't wait to begin planning the new garden. I try not to get ahead of myself - after all, the house is not ours yet and anything can happen - but I confess plans have been whirling about in my head. I will have to pace myself - there will not be room enough for all I want to have and do. I also have to face the fact that we are going to be on a limited budget. It is, however, a dream come true for me.

To be continued...






Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Wow, look at all that GREEN. Even tho we have had above normal temps we don't have this much green. Your new garden (life) sounds so exciting. I can't wait to see it all transpire. Good luck with the house closing. First things first.

  2. Phillip, you are going to love it, and that includes the rain, fog, moss, drought tolerant plants... After moving to the PNW 23 years ago, my first impression was how beautifully dynamic it was_ still is.
    Our former neighbor is from Alabama (there now for Christmas with family) and has since sold their home and moving from OR to Spokane. There is something about the Pacific northwest that beckons. And I know your garden here will be as spectacular as it was back east.

  3. So very exciting Phillip!! I am so looking forward to following this adventure!

  4. Winter can be a rough time to acclimatize to the PNW. One time, my dentist told me that he'd come here for school and got work as a bike hilly Seattle. That must have been rough--I'm surprised he stuck it out. But, you already know that your patience during Winter will be rewarded with a long and beautiful Summer. I've got my fingers crossed that your home purchase continues to move along peacefully.

  5. Forest Park is amazing! Love it. To see landscape plants, visit McMenamins at Kennedy School and at Edgefield. If you want to go with me sometime, I can try to ID the plants. amycampion at outlook dot com. Also know that there is a knowledgeable and very welcoming group of gardeners here! I think you've already experienced some of that, but email me and I'll give you some more contacts. And you must join HPSO! Welcome to the area. :)

  6. Ketzel Levine also has a sweet little book called Plant This.

  7. Fingers crossed for your house and future garden! And if you can make it through this December everything else will be a breeze...

  8. This is such a lovely post Phillip. And your photos are amazing. I love forest park. I agree with Amy. Mcmenamins Edgefield and Kennedy School have really interesting landscaping. I can't wait to see the results of your gardening here.

  9. Hi Phillip, hang in there! I'm so looking forward to your new adventures. Your photographs are beautiful. Hope 2016 is the best!!

  10. Love the mossy tree photos, Phillip!

    Best of luck with your new adventures in gardening and in life :)

    PS - Yes, it's been crazy warm in the Southeast so far this winter. Lots of days with temps in the 60s or even 70s in Nashville. Strong winds (15-30 mph) seemingly every day. Tulips, daffodils, winter jasmine all blooming in my garden. Even a reblooming azalea sending out some flowers. And today I just saw what I think may be an ornamental plum and ornamental pear in bloom in my neighbor's garden!

  11. What an exciting time for you Philip! I bet you are counting the days until you are in your new home, contemplating a brand new garden! Happy new year to you !


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