• Melisa Smith

A Life in Balance


Hello, yes, it's been awhile..."Life happens." they say.

Who are "they" anyway?


The day before my last posting a very dear friend died. He lived across the street from us and was a large part of our family's life. This is his cat "Bud". He's ours now. He has acclimated very well to our 2 large dogs and super old cat "Buddy". Yes, they both have pretty much the same name. Fortunately they were already friends.

It's been difficult to find time or a way to process "blogging" the last few weeks.

Life has been out of balance.

It was a very unexpected death, although our friend had many real health problems like type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. He was only 62 years old and he was very active. He was always visiting and helping around our house. It was amazing what that man could do! He took care of our animals when we were gone and when our kids still lived at home he watched over them from his house next door. Making sure they didn't throw outrageous parties while we were gone and that they were safely home after school each day. He was important in our lives and we appreciated him a lot.

My husband was particularly close to our friend and has taken on a lot of responsibility for the care of his estate since he passed. He's been working with our friends son who is young and needs advice and he's been caring for the yard and the property because the son lives far away. The "all the way across the country" kind of far away. This is not a complaint, just a statement of fact because as important as it is, and as happy as we are to do this for our friend, it does change our lives and we are missing him so much that everything feels a little harder and out of balance.

It was my birthday a few days after his death. That felt out of balance.

We did have a really lovely day, though. My husband took me to Portland, OR for some shopping at my favorite Asian Market Fubonn and a wonderful Sushi lunch in Gresham, OR called

Yami Sushi and Teriyaki. I found the Sushi place on Yelp when we were heading home from our shopping. Then I drove us home in my convertible VW EOS with the top down.

I do love my car!


We did have to make a stop on the way back at Home Depot to pick up a couple of new door locks to deal with some door lock issues at our friend's house across the street. That felt a little out of balance.

Then our youngest daughter and her husband came out to visit for the weekend and that was great! They helped me clean out a couple of my flower and veggie gardens that were in terrible need of weeding and mulching since I hadn't gotten too it because you guessed it.

Life was out of balance.

We had this fabulous dinner! Sure wish I had taken pictures! But life was out of balance.....

I had purchased 2 whole fish at Fubonn in Portland the day before and we baked them whole encrusted in salt. It is an awesome way to bake fish! I will definitely add it to The Glass Pantry when I do it again. The recipe is very simple:

Salt Encrusted Baked Whole Fish

(Click on the title for the blog on baking a whole fish encrusted in salt)

Clean or buy a 2-3 lb. whole fish leaving the head and tail on. No need to scale the fish.

Mix together 2-3 cups of salt with a few egg whites and a couple of tablespoons of water until you get a wet sand consistency.

Salt and pepper the cavity of the fish then stuff the fish with a few slices of lemon and some fresh herbs, I used some oregano from my garden.

Place a layer of the salt mixture on a sheet pan just large enough to lay the fish on.

Place your fish on the salt and then pile the rest of the salt on top of the fish smoothing it out to completely cover the fish and seal the edges so the fish is entirely encased in the salt. It will harden as it bakes and seal in the moisture steaming the fish inside.

Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and let the fish rest for another 10 minutes.

When you are ready to serve, use a knife to crack a line down the spine of the fish and pry up the hardened shell of salt that should lift right off the fish much more cleanly than you might imagine. brush away any excess salt from the top of the fish.

Cut just through the skin in a line across the fish behind the gills and peel back the skin to expose the perfectly steamed, moist flesh. This is traditionally served plated just like this, whole with top skin removed, family style. Fish cooked on the bone like this is more flavorful than when cooked as a filet.

After my birthday we moved on to some more serious matters, days were long. Sleep was weird.

Life was still out of balance.

I did take a few pictures but I just couldn't quite get my head around a blog.

We decided to hold a "Celebration of Life" for our friend last weekend. The family was not having one and we needed it. Several people in our community seemed to need it too. So last weekend we had a potluck at our community center to celebrate our friend.

I made a loaf of this great Sourdough French Bread and I made a Twice Smoked Ham:

Twice Smoked Ham

We bought a butchered pig last year and the first ham we ate seemed a little light on flavor to our taste so I smoked it in my electric smoker this time.

I thawed out our last 4-5 lb. Ham and put it cut side down in a disposable aluminum pan and set the smoker on 275 for 4 hours. I used just one pan of alder wood chips and filled the water pan in the bottom of the smoker with 3 cups of water and 2 cups of apple cider vinegar.

I went to the store to do some grocery shopping at this point and my helpful Honey kept an eye on the Ham. He took it out of the smoker when it reached 150 degrees and covered it with plastic wrap until I came home. It was beautiful.

My thoughtful husband had saved the juices that were in the pan with the Ham in the smoker too. We put the juices (in their own container) and the Ham (wrapped in plastic) into the refrigerator for the night.

In the morning before our potluck, I skimmed the fat off of the juices that had congealed into a beautiful aspic and we spread the aspic into a large roasting pan. My husband sliced the ham and set it on top of the aspic and we heated it, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours at 200 degrees.

It was wonderful! I was surprised how much subtle flavor was infused into the Ham from the apple cider vinegar. Has anyone else ever tried this method?

Having the potluck felt good. An event to make the living feel better after the hardship and loss of a loved one seems to be a very important thing.

Life in Balance!

I feel like we are moving forward again.

By next weekend we will be heading out on our next big adventure and we will take our memories of our friend with us. Balancing the good and the bad, the happy and the sad.

Our next big adventure takes us along the top of the Cascade range from Canada to Oregon on the outback routes of the WABDR. We are driving up to Canada in our vintage "Dune Buggy" based on the earlier "Meyers Manx". Then we return to Stevenson, WA along the Columbia River driving the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route. Check back on my Adventure Page or subscribe to my website so you don't miss this post. It's going to be an amazing trip!


I hope you are currently living a life in balance!

~Melisa

#Life #SmokedHam #Salt #wholefish #Bake

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