Christmas 2010 at April’s

19 01 2011

With both parents passed away and a brother in Minnesota and cousins back in NY/CT, I was an orphan this year. So when my friend April Obern and her beau Jim Dockwiler asked me for Christmas dinner I accepted thankfully!

April invited some other orphans, too, like Olga and Lisa. Brother Kevin drove over from La Grande for the celebration. Also in attendance were several members of April’s immediate family. I arrived to a merrily decked out house, and the cooks were involved in what seems an American holiday tradition – fretting over the meal!

In this case the culprit was the gravy…April is gluten intolerant so they were making “alternative gravy.” Someone had an idea to add ‘coconut flour’ to thicken it…and with that, all hell broke loose. I tried it and thought I could deal with it…

This is the offending element! Must fix!

However, most others simply turned their noses at this stuff. So Jim toiled over an alternative gluten-free concoction, which turned out to be the choice for the day’s dinner!

A little of this and that...

I am impressed with April’s cooking! The salads, sweet potato side, dressing, and especially the home baked pies (one was pecan topped pumpkin pie) were to die for!

OK, DIG IN….Time to let go all thought of restraint, and enjoy the spread!

That's a gobbler, quacker and a clucker!

Vegetarians, close your eyes! We are having a Turducken…a duck stuffed in a chicken stuffed in a turkey. Simply scrumptious. And when combined with the accompaniments…

Carnivore at heart!

The company was warm and the conversation vibrant!

Kevin gushed with stories about backpacking and climbing/exploring far east Oregon and parts of Idaho. He has a lot of stories about hiking the Wallowa Mountains, Elkhorn Mountains, and Blue Mountains, as well as the Owyhee River. I’ll have to head out there and let him be my guide!

Olga is a reporter and was looking for contacts on an assignment. She hails from Moscow, a city I’d like to visit one day. She took her Mom to see Lady Gaga! Wow, I had a hard time imagining that!

Well, the clock struck 3:30 and it was time for me to head to my next Xmas “dinner,” which I’m afraid would just be dessert, at most!

Most Romantic Wedding – Kristin Dahl and Jake Gunderson

12 08 2010

This wedding will forever be burned in my heart as the one where the bride rides in from under the hill, on horseback! The weekend of August 7-8 2010 was magical in Joseph, Oregon. That weekend Kristin Dahl, Jake Gunderson and their families pulled out all the stops and held a western themed outdoors enthusiast ranch style wedding weekend in the Wallowas! Jake and Kristin love the outdoors and their passion for being outside was woven through the weekend. First, the event was held in their favorite setting – in and around the Wallowa mountains of northeast Oregon. The area is unlike the volcanoes of Central Oregon, more like somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The Wallowas are more a folded uplifting. They’re not as well traveled as their Central Oregon counterparts – due to their remoteness. I car pooled out there with Brian and Lisa Mullis who live in White Salmon. Excellent travel companions! Even more so because they have a VW Jetta Wagon like me! So the three of us shared driving. That made the trip so much easier and seem faster. Jake and Kristin knew their friends also share a love of the outdoors. So they reserved a camping area with adjoining house called the Wallowa River Camp. This allowed more than 50 of us to camp in a field bordered by the river, and enjoy a bonfire in the evening. It was a nice way for the group to relax and get to know one another. Friday evening I caught up with Kristin, Jake, Frederick Reimers, Jacqui Bishop and others. The mountains were always present above us, reminding us where we were! Saturday the wedding was to take place about 4:30 p.m. but word was it’d likely be later. It was to occur on a bluff above the prairie in the valley, with the mountains in the background. Weather was perfect. That meant we had time to enjoy the area during the day. Jacqui, Brian, Lisa, Frederick and I made plans to hike Hurricane Creek in the mountains and then head to Wallowa Lake for a swim and lunch. It leads right into the heart of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The day turned out perfectly in every way. The hike, while not long (about three miles each way) was spectacularly beautiful. Up ahead, and to the left and to the right the peaks rose into the sky. We could view rivers cascading down the slopes all over. Many had waterfalls trickling over hanging cliffs. I’ve been suffering with plantar fasciitis in my left foot and every step hurt! The trail meandered through blooming wildflower meadows and forested canyons before making a steeper climb on the edge of a fabulously pretty cut gorge with pool drops. There, we stopped for a break to admire the area before heading back. What a wonderful place to behold the Wallowas! We marveled at the knocked down trees all over both sides, evidence of the fact that this is an avalanche chute. Snow must have barreled down from high above and sluiced all over both sides, obliterating trees. The hike back still hurt my foot but I got compliments since I pushed and didn’t slow the group any!

Later we headed out to the lake to swim. I took the group to the Wallowa Lake Lodge to show them its amazing grounds. But accessing the lake from there meant crossing a stream with rocks which killed my injured foot! Anyway after our swim we then satiated our appetites at a cafe lakeside. Though it was about 2:00 by then, we calculated a late lunch was a great idea since dinner wouldn’t happen until 8:00. Heck and then we found out the place had onion rings…we ALL got onion rings. Once back at the camp everyone began to prepare for the wedding ceremony. The invitation called for “outdoor formal,” something guests debated over. While some opted for cowboy boots and hats, others wore shorts and summer airy shirts. I wore my grand dad’s sport coat and a matching hat. Since there was a guest house at the camp, some guests availed themselves of the shower while others refreshed themselves in the creek! We meandered over to the Rockin HK Ranch where the wedding and reception was to take place. Wow! What a setting! The grounds held many tables, some ponds, goats, geese and turkeys, a pretty barn (where dancing was to be), behind which was the bluff where the ceremony was planned.

Guests meander up to the wedding site!

It was a half mile across the Zumwalt prairie and up the hill to the wedding site. After much concern for my aching foot, I reluctantly began walking. It was a slow, beautiful way to transition to the ceremony. As late afternoon light took effect, it made the still-green grain glow a beautiful shade! The sun baked us in our “outdoor formal attire,” so many opted for parasols like days of old! Some boys in the party wore the cutest red cowboy hats! The wedding site was a series pews made of bales of hay, facing south, toward the Wallowas. As guests settled down, the wedding party made its way up the hill, towed by tractor! They came in under the arch. Then assembled one by one for the ceremony. Jake Gunderson, the groom, ensuring everything goes comfortably. And then it happened. Slowly, ever so slowly, here comes the bride with Dad to give her away. This time it’s Kristin riding on horseback, coming into view up the prairie! WOW, what a romantic site. It was so lovely, and then, after vows were exchanged and wedding complete, the couple rode off up the hill! No improvement possible! Then all 150+ guests descended to the Rockin HK Ranch for a reception followed by country music and dancing in the barn! This was an awesome time for all! Kristin and Jake rode into the reception on horseback, of course!