Life dimmed for me and my kids when my friend Katie moved two years ago, she and her husband Rick trading their Silicon Valley home for a ranch in Oregon and taking with them three of our favorite little people – two of my kids’ soulmates and my angelic 18-month-old boyfriend. Between school and kids’ sporting events, we saw them almost daily, and they were rays of sunshine in our lives.
But in relationships there is proximity, and then there is closeness. Faraway friends are still some of my closest pals, because our periodic texts/emails and rare visits add up to more contact than I have with local friends with whom I keep up less simply because I could, anytime – but seldom do.
And if Katie and Rick had never moved, we never would have had the grand adventure in Oregon we just had together, one of the most hilarious weekends of my life and one we surely never would have ventured if we’d all remained regular school friends at a polite distance.
Invading Katie and Rick’s ranch with my husband and four kids would have been chaos enough. But our ranch-raised friend Abby, with four kids close to mine in age plus a bonus kindergartener, jumped at the chance to visit too. I tried to convince Katie of the sanity of four adults and nine kids staying in a local motel instead of crashing on every surface of her home, but she wasn’t having it.
So the 13 of us, two minivans stuffed with people, sleeping bags, pillows, towels and food, descended on the five of them in southern Oregon. It was like family camp for two crazy days and nights.
We plowed through a couple dozen hot dogs and boxes of mac and cheese. I made three big loaves of french toast. Three 8-year-old prep cooks cheerfully did the chopping when Katie made veggie chili. We boiled a dozen fresh eggs from Katie’s prolific chickens to make a big bowl of the richest, brightest, most golden egg salad ever. And we easily demolished 14 pounds of strawberries, a large watermelon, a dozen bananas and pounds of grapes.
Abby has gluten issues, so I brought up a 12-pack of my favorite yogurt with a jar of a homemade trail mix I like these days in place of granola. Everyone enjoyed it so much, both with yogurt and for easy snacking, I thought I’d share the recipe with them and you all at once.
I love a great granola, but I eat enough grains that I figure subbing some out for seeds, nuts and dried fruit is probably good for nutritional diversity. Earlier this year, my great friend Lisa gave me a bag of hikers trail mix – a fantastic mix of seeds, nuts and dried fruit – from Berkeley Bowl, and I loved it so much as a granola alternative that I re-created it when my bag got low.
It’s a simple mix of crunchy sunflower seeds, pepitas and peanuts with the chewy sweetness of cranberries, raisins and dates. Unlike granola, there’s no cooking, just assembly of a few items into a particularly wonderful mix. It makes a great snack on the trail (add chocolate chips or M&Ms if you like) or in a jar at your desk.
There’s nothing to this recipe, but I’ll run you through it quickly before ending with some weekend photos for those who want a mental vacation to ranch life in lovely Oregon.
Sunflower seeds, pepitas and peanuts. I use raw sunflower seeds and pepitas with roasted peanuts, but use what you like and can easily find.
Dried cranberries, raisins and chopped dates (or whatever you like).
A quick stir and that’s it. Store it in an airtight container (I use a quart mason jar).
Easy breakfasts are good for bleary night owls.
A jar of this is also an easy gift. I should have brought two to Oregon.
And speaking of Oregon…a little journey into ranch life…
It took about three seconds before the kids got on quads (aka 4-wheelers or ATVs) and roared away. There are hills and shallow creeks to traverse on the ranch, so Katie and Rick’s kids have serious, gas-powered vehicles, not the battery-powered toy ones. It was so freeing for our suburban kids to have a sense of independence and freedom for the weekend, sadly missing from modern childhood life.
We did have to keep an eye out for my boyfriend, in his footie PJs and camouflage rain boots.
Kind of a cross between Christopher Robin and James Dean, he has sweet wheels too.
Big bro is raising pigs for the 4H Fair.
His buddies helped clean poop from the pig stall. Ranch chores are so much cooler than house chores.
The girls brushed away Silky the horse’s winter coat in downy clumps of fuzz.
The kids took turns feeding chickens, collecting eggs and visiting the baby chicks.
They were surprised at the suckling strength of the baby calf.
And lived out their pyro dreams with a ranch bonfire.
We skipped stones on the river.
And blew giant bubbles.
The forecast was rain, and we got some. But we also got fluffy high clouds, low dark clouds, a burst of pebbly hail and stretches of glorious sunshine. Life in Oregon.
I loved the delicately frosted ranch in the early morning, quiet except for the occasional rooster.
I can’t really weigh one amazing weekend against two years of missed daily hugs and catch-up conversation. But we were lucky to have met Katie and Rick during their brief stint in suburbia, and now we are lucky to have friends to visit in Oregon. There are all kinds of good in this world, and when we find it – in people, and experiences, and moments of discovery – we embrace it exactly as it is.
I love a good granola, but these days I’m digging this simple mix of seeds, nuts and dried fruit on my morning yogurt. It’s nothing to assemble – no cooking! – and a great alternative for gluten avoiders. Based on the hiker’s trail mix from Berkeley Bowl, it’s just as good a snack at your desk as it is on the trail.
- 1 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 3/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup chopped dates
- Mix ingredients together in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container (I use a quart-sized Mason jar). Keeps well for a month at room temperature, or in freezer for longer-term storage.
- Substitutions: use roasted/salted seeds; try other nuts or dried fruits; add chocolate chips or a sprinkle of spice.
Here’s the link to a printable version.
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