Substitute and Improvise

Our daughter Megan and her husband Brandon were here with us for Thanksgiving. It was good to see them and have a little time together. Of course our time would not be complete without lots of good food. We did the traditional turkey and all the fixings on Thanksgiving day and it was delicious if I must say so myself, then on Friday we put the visitors to work. I had a recipe for “Texas Style Smoked Brisket” that sounded good, so since we had our Texan available Brandon smoked a brisket and also a roast; both of our very own grass fed beef.


The brisket recipe called for a mop sauce that included 2 cups of Lone Star or other Texas beer. So when I did my Thanksgiving grocery shopping I went looking for the beer. Now those of you who know me know that a. I don’t drink and b. I don’t buy beer, so I was at a bit of a disadvantage – but really how hard could this be? I went to the beer aisle of the supermarket and found approximately 300 different types of beer – none of which said Lone Star or Texas.


There were beers in cans and beers in bottles and 6-packs and 12-packs and other huge quantities. Lite beers and dark, and ales and lagers (which apparently is pronounced logger as in the person who cuts down a tree – who knew?) and cold filtered and Belgian and beer in dark bottles and clear, beers named after patriots – but none that said Lone Star or Texas. I’m pretty sure if I had been shopping in Texas this would have been a lot easier, but here in western Washington no Texas beer to be found.


Since Lone Star or Texas beer was not available, we would have to make a substitution, but with what? So I asked the liquor area sales clerk what would be close to Lone Star beer? The sales clerk, a very nice girl who looked about 12 years old tells me that a. she doesn’t drink and b. she doesn’t buy beer and c. she has no idea. This recipe is starting to be a bit more difficult. I briefly considered asking total strangers in the store about beer until I found someone who knew what I needed, but decided against that desperate measure. The sales clerk and I finally decided that Texas beer must be a lager (don’t know if that is true or not but we had to choose something) and so we found another beer that said lager on the label and went with that.  So when Brandon and Megan arrived, after they all had a good laugh about my beer buying adventure, Brandon made the mop sauce and basted it on the beef every hour.


Since Brandon is from Texas he is also a huge football fan and so he timed the basting for the commercials of the football games. Many hours and football games later, the brisket was done. I still don’t know if the beer I got was the correct variety, but the brisket and the roast were very tasty!


Megan didn’t get off the hook, we also put her to work. She made her Grandma’s cinnamon roll recipe, an old family favorite. Here she is rolling out the yeast dough she made from scratch.


You might notice her “rolling pin” is a bit unconventional. Let me explain: since our house is very tiny, we put Megan and Brandon up at our friend’s guest house just down the road from us. More room for everyone to be comfortable and have enough space to cook. I took over the kitchen items I thought we would need to do our Thanksgiving cooking – but I forgot a rolling pin. So, we improvised.


In a pinch a flat bottle works pretty well as a rolling pin – in this case Worcestershire sauce bottle. And soon the cinnamon rolls are in the pan. Half delicious rolls with nuts and half with raisins – ugh.


After the cinnamon rolls raise and are baked and cooled a bit, she spoons the icing over the top. MMmm good!


The visitors both did a good job on their cooking assignments. The smoked meat and the cinnamon rolls were delicious! As I was putting this post together, I realized I only took pictures of the food, not the people who cooked it. So, here is a picture of our family from last Thanksgiving.


It was great to see Megan and Brandon and have a little time to visit with them, then they were on their way back to California.

And just in case you were wondering about the beer, I bought a six pack – the smallest amount I could find. One bottle we used at Thanksgiving, another went for a recipe Alex found that used beer as a marinade so I still have four bottles left in the cold room. At that rate we should have enough to last another 3 or 4 years 😉

Friday the 13th

I’m sure you’ve heard the superstition that Friday the 13th is a “bad luck” kind of day – why I really don’t know. In our family that is certainly not true. We were blessed twenty eight years ago on Friday the 13th with our son Alex. He hasn’t always lived in the middle of nowhere on a cattle ranch. He was a California kid who grew up wearing flip flops and shorts every day and driving a dragster, but he’s made the transition to rural life and we appreciate being able to work with him. Here are a few pictures from when he and his cat arrived and some of the fun and exciting jobs he does on the ranch.



alex scratching close

Alex in grass

??????????????????????Happy Birthday Alex! We love you. And P.S. to Uncle Rodger in Florida – Happy Birthday to you too!

Eagles on the River

Every winter our beautiful Skagit River is home to one of the largest bald eagle populations in North America. The eagles come down from Canada and feed on the spawned out salmon in the river. It is a pretty common sight to see the eagles perched in the trees along the river this time of year.

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I’ve seen as many as six eagles in one tree at the height of the season.  They also like to hang out on the gravel bars in the river and look for the salmon.

Eagle 1

My friend Dan has become quite a good nature photographer and has graciously allowed me to share his pictures of these majestic raptors. Here is one of an eagle plucking a fish out of the river.

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They patrol the gravel bars and are actually strong swimmers.

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Eagles are very territorial creatures, and they don’t mind fighting other birds to keep them away from their prey – though this seagull seems to have slipped in.

3 birds

Danny got some of the best shots I’ve seen of this eagle feeding on a salmon carcass. You can tell it is a mature bird because the head is totally white. At least four to five years old.

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eagle fish 4

eagle fish 2

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After they feed, the eagles retreat to the trees to rest and wait for another fish.

eagle tree 2

Danny took some great shots, but this one is my favorite – I think it could be in a magazine. It is lucky for both of us we live in such a naturally beautiful area with lots of good photo opportunities.

 eagle fish 3

Thanks Danny for sharing your pictures!

All photos courtesy of Dan DuVarney.