No more Grand Am

We found it at a BECU used car sale. I needed an economical car to commute to the UW, and Dave picked this one out immediately, and never changed his mind. We took it home, and it took me through my bachelor's degree at the University of Washington, then took me to California and my first technical writing job at IBM's Santa Teresa Laboratory. Together we explored the Santa Cruz Mountains, California gold country, Yosemite, the California wine country, and the Monterey coast... driving a lot of back roads along the way. The Grand Am took me and Louise to San Francisco, to the Oakland Hills, and to a lot of yard sales throughout the Bay Area.

And when I moved back home, it took me to work every day, and it took us backpacking and skiing. When I moved on to a Ford Explorer, it took Dave to work for nearly 20 years. He intended to drive it to 200,000 miles, but when he retired and no longer drove a daily commute, the Grand Am sat.

Today it took its last drive, to the auto yard that bought it for $350. Looking back on all the miles we traveled together was a bit sad and bittersweet. But... no more sets of tires or oil changes, no more emissions tests or license fees, no more insurance premiums. That makes me feel a bit better.


Mornings at the lake

For years I started my workday so early in the morning, I'd have the building to myself. I always rose early on weekends, so I'd have solitude before Dave got up, before the cats begged for breakfast, before the routine intruded.

When we're at the lake, I get up quietly so I don't wake him, make coffee, and take my first mug down to the lakeshore. I'm always the first one at the water's edge, saying "hello" to the day.  Early in the morning, the lake is calm and quiet. Fish are rising, sometimes there are tiny fish schooling near shore. Most mornings there's an early fisherman is casting his line. And some mornings the lake is gone, shrouded in mist, doing a disappearing act.

Early in the morning, the sounds of the day, nature's sounds, are enough for me. In the morning, in this place, the world speaks to me in its own way, through the breeze moving through the trees and the birds singing in the trees.

I sip my coffee, and think about the coming day. I can relax here, think here, write here. In this place, my own little bit of lakeside heaven.


Robin Hood on the South Shore

This dinner at this South Shore landmark should have been last night. It's where I wanted to celebrate my milestone birthday, but we couldn't figure out how to make it to our cabin a day earlier. So, tonight we finally made it here.

In the old days (when we first bought our lakeside cabin), this place was called Victoria's (the owner and chef). We loved it, spent our birthday dinners here, and loved to stop by for lunch and a glass of wine.

But then the restaurant changed hands... not a pretty picture. Fortunately, it changed hands again, and we were determined to try out the third iteration.

The first time we stopped by was after a drive around the canal, and our timing was off. We were an hour early and they weren't open yet. Our bad.

The next time, we found out the hard way that the restaurant isn't open every day. Our bad. Again.

Still, we persevered. We checked days and time, and headed off on a drive along the South Shore on a gorgeous day, one of our favorite drives. We pulled in, and they were closed. We double checked the hours, then our watches. Not happy. Their bad. 

A year later, on my birthday weekend, we made our annual drive around the canal. At dinnertime we pulled into the lot, perfect timing. But they were closed for a private party. Bill Gates? Just a guess. (The Gates' family beach home is just up the road.)

As of today, our sad saga of trying to connect with this landmark restaurant is all in the past... and so is perhaps my longest introduction ever... sorry.

Tonight we had a reservation, a quiet table for two by the fireplace, and a wonderful meal. The restaurant was just as I remembered, a tall A-frame style building with rustic wood interior and windows that look out on gardens and the creek. It's a beautiful spot. We both ordered the salmon, and it was amazing. Perfectly cooked, with a tasty salt & pepper crust, and a tasty buerre rouge sauce. It came with risotto (equally fabulous) and crunchy green beans. Awesome.

My Oregon Pinot Noir went perfectly with my salmon (sounds odd, doesn't it? but it was one of those rare Pinot Noir wines made to be robust, not flabby.)  For dessert (hey, it's my birthday after all!) I had key lime pie that was really good, and Dave had rhubarb pie.

If you'd like to check out this wonderful restaurant for yourself, and don't mind a bit of a drive, I highly recommend it. It's in the tiny Hood Canal town of Union, Washington.

Copyright Robin Hood Restaurant & Pub


August reads

My sister and brother-in-law were staying with us for much of the summer, and August was frantically busy and fun. So, not much reading got done in August.

Jewelry making
When we came home from Portland the end of July, we made our usual stop at Shipwreck Beads. What a great bead store! Julie & I shooed the guys off to Cabela's while we shopped; I found what I needed for a few new projects, and Julie bought a great book.

My jewelry making has been limited to earrings so far, but think it would be fun to make bracelets and pendants, too. I found some cool ideas in these:

Sharilyn Miller | Wire Art Jewelry Workshop

Susan Beal | Beadsimple, Drop Earrings, and Bead necklaces

David Whyte | Beaded Chain Mail Jewelry. You too can learn how easy it is to make dozens of perfect jump rings at once. I tried out different colors of craft wire, then practiced connecting them together in patterns, starting with a zipper pull that uses four different sizes of rings.

Lisa Niven Kelly | Stamped Metal Jewelry. I had to return this book quickly. Too much fun, and absolutely no time to learn something new! Not just jewelry, but adding stamped metal accents to crafts would be cool. There are all sorts of new tools, like letter stamps and sheets of metal and hammers. I have too many projects and things I want to learn. But some day.

Thanks to a long road trip with my sister and brother-in-law this month, I did find time to read a couple of novels. After all, it's impossible to go on a trip without taking a book along. I've been anxiously awaiting the final two books from Stephen White, the very last books in the Alan Gregory series:  Line of Fire, and Compound Fractures. I enjoyed them both, and will miss the series. It's been one of my favorites for years.


Serenity lost

Do you remember? I do. That early morning twelve years ago we were in Grand Teton National Park. Crisp air just shy of cold. Brilliant blue skies, the sun golden but not bright or warm, not that early. Deep breaths to take it all in, the absolutely beautiful scenery. That long-ago day, we were at the Oxbow Bend, watching my favorite woodland animal, the elusive moose. I was taking photos, Dave scanning the brush for more animals.

The peaceful morning was jolted when a car pulled in, radio blaring. Four people, two couples it seemed, spilled out to enjoy the view. I was annoyed, getting thoroughly pissed off when one woman lowered the windows and cranked the volume up even more.

Really?! Did these Easterners not have a clue about quiet spaces and wildlife, and keeping the noise down to a dull roar? Dave walked over to ask them to turn the radio down. "Did you hear?" they asked. And that's how we learned that terrorists had flown a commercial jetliner into one of the World Trade towers. And we were standing there, talking, listening... when the second plane flew into the second tower.

We've been back to this peaceful place several times since that day. And each time I hear the echoes of that news broadcast, quiet and urgent, forever disturbing the serenity of this beautiful place.


Land trust sheep

An August family gathering at my sister's place on Vashon, on the last day of our eldest sister's visit. We played in the creek for a while, then I walked up to the old barn to take photographs. When I came around the barn, I came face to face with a flock of sheep. Hmmm... didn't know they had sheep.

They came to an abrupt stop and stared right back, then dropped their heads and grazed... but they all kept a suspicious eye on me.

I dropped to my knees to watch and take pictures, then called for my sister. She said they're visiting from the upper part of the pasture, where they graze on the land trust part of the property.

Peter shooed them back up the hill toward "home," but with just him herding the flock, he couldn't control where they went. And sure enough, they headed down the wrong path toward the creek. So we formed a line to block them, and he drove them back out and up to their fenced pasture.

High five

On our last family gathering in August, we finished up the day on the dock at Dockton Park for a potluck picnic. Vivian was the center of attention for this group of mom, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and "greats." Both girls are very good at being the center of attention, and my camera was out constantly.

Vivian has learned "high five," which she'll do with the nearest person whenever someone says those two magic words. Then she'd flash her trademark wide grin and giggle.

This one had me puzzled. She looked like a tiny dancer raising her leg and doing a jig. But mom says she's learning to climb, and does the motion even when there's nothing to climb on (or climb into). It had us all in stitches.


The youngest photographer

So many favorite photographs came out of our last family gathering in August, I haven't had time to post them all (or write about them). Finally I'm catching up!

In the afternoon we all spent time by the creek that runs through their property. It's a beautiful spot, and my sister set up her camera and tripod for Ella to use. She's learning how to take pictures, as her very talented mother did before her.

Ella was completely focused on getting her shot of the creek. For me, it was one of those moments when the beauty around me wasn't as captivating as this tiny photographer was.


A sense of place

Do the scenes of our childhood imprint themselves on our souls, indelibly, so that they come along on the journey of our lives? Spending the past two months with my eldest sister, who has lived in Australia the past forty years, makes me wonder.

She's been happy in Australia, and it's a beautiful place to live. But something inside her still yearns for the Pacific Northwest. The mountains and forests, the always-present Mt. Rainier, the Sound and the ferryboats, the constant reminders of ample water. Not just rain, but the moist air and the lakes and ponds, the waterfowl, the rivers everywhere. We took them to check out the fly fishing on a local river, and my sister was so happy, she positively lit up from the inside.

Being here seemed to awaken senses that have been dormant on her previous visits, and she talked a lot about how the Northwest is in her genes. We talked a lot about this during her trip. Even though her life has been in Australia for more than 40 years, it hasn't erased her connection with her first home.

Our first move away from home was after college. We moved to the Tri-Cities, where nearly everyone we met came from someplace else. In fact, in all the years we were there, I only knew two people who were actually born and raised there. Everyone else came there for the jobs. And over the years, nearly all of our close friends have moved on, or moved home. Those two friends who were born and raised there? They're still there.

So all this contemplation makes me wonder. Is my childhood home, this place of water and mountains and green, so imprinted in me, so necessary to me, that I could never be completely happy anywhere else? I've spent time in so many places, and I appreciate those places for their natural beauty and quality of life. I've even found a few special places that I could imagine myself living.

But was that just wishful thinking?


Winery tiles

I love these stone winery tiles. We use them as coasters throughout the house, and I like to arrange them on the sideboard and use them to hold wine bottles during a party. They're a nice way to display the bottles we'll be sampling, and they also protect the wood from damage.

The tiles were a big deal a few years ago, now they're getting harder to find. Glad I collected them when I did.


Silkscreened olive oil bottles

I have this cool antique Coca-Cola(R) box, one of those wooden crates with separate cubbies for twelve glass bottles of Coke(R). It sits on the library table in the middle of my farmhouse kitchen, and holds olive oil and balsamic vinegar, dipping oils and sauces, and one gorgeous ceramic oil bottle with a French town scene painted on it. And which, unfortunately, I can't use because it leaks. Sigh...

But I digress.

I used to buy the big plastic bottles of olive oil from Costco, the kind you can't hope to use up before it starts to go south. I kept the extra bottle in my pantry in the basement, where it's cool and dark. But I recently read that plastic is not the optimum storage container for olive oil, and clear plastic that lets in light is even worse.

Also in my cool, dark pantry is a wide shelf that holds empty silkscreened wine bottles that I've saved over the years. I love these bottles, and now they have new life: to store olive oil. Pour tops for oil bottles are easy to find, and when I buy oil in a bottle that won't fit in my box, or that comes in a clear bottle, I decant it into one of these dark green wine bottles.

Of course, storing my olive oil in the wine cellar would be the best place, as the year-round 55 degree temperature will help keep the oil from degrading. But it's not exactly handy for cooking. As long as I buy only premium extra-virgin olive oil (which lasts longer, and is best if kept at room temperature), keep an air-tight cap on it, and use it within a reasonable timeframe, it's OK in my kitchen.


Thunder and lightning... oh, my

Thunder woke me at 4:00 this morning. I wasn't sure what the noise was at first, so I went back to snooze mode. Again I woke up, still couldn't pin it down. So I rolled over. The third time, I knew... and the flash of lightning helped connect the dots. I rolled out of bed at 6:00 to watch the storm, and wouldn't you know, it stopped. I made coffee. It started up again. I'm pretty sure there's no connection.

One thing I like about living close to the foothills are the storms. Clouds travel east and build where the mountains block their path, and there they sit, rumbling in protest, occasionally flaring in a temper tantrum of lightning and thunder. I love it, especially when the rain follows.

Canning jar cork holder

Years ago I found a few big canning jars at a yard sale, and they've been perfect for making sun tea. Big enough to make it worth my while, small enough to fit in the refrigerator alongside the milk. And in a tiny junk store in Curlew a few years later, I found a box of aluminum jar rings with dog bone openings, with matching glass seals.

I was packing away my sun tea jars today, and it dawned on me. Canning jar + aluminum ring - glass seal = the perfect display jar for wine corks.

The jar sits on a stool next to the sideboard in my farmhouse kitchen, where we serve wine. Pull the cork, drop it through the opening in the lid, simple.

Finding uses for my collection of old canning jars is always a good thing, and the look is perfect for my country kitchen. Doesn't get better than that.


Yakima Canyon in flood

This is one of my favorite places, and not just because the twisty road was made for my MX-5. I love the way the road hugs the river, and how the hills change from season to season. Whether covered with snow or with golden grass, they're equally beautiful. If we're lucky, we'll see eagles and hawks soaring on the air currents.

On a road trip through Idaho last May, we drove the canyon on the first day, and on the last. The river was high when we started our road trip, and was in flood when we came back because of back-to-back thunderstorms on the eastern slope of the Cascades (where the Yakima River has its origins).

Come fall, the water will drop and the river can be waded by fly fishermen. I'm looking forward to that. But for this one day in May, I loved seeing the canyon full of a rushing river.

Looking for snakes... and a geocache

There's an eagles nest in one of the pine trees along the river.

It's a short walk from the highway down to the cliffs.

That row of trees is currently on an island... it isn't supposed to be.

Flooded fields near Canyon Road, at the mouth of the canyon.


Octagon barns

Back in 2007, while on a round-the-state geocaching road trip, we stumbled across the most amazing barn. It was getting on toward dark, and the light was so perfectly beautiful. We never did find the cache that was nearby, and we never forgot this beautiful barn.

Last spring we headed off on another road trip, and I wanted to find the barn again... and find the geocache. This time I had a source of information, the Washington Heritage Barns website. My sister and brother-in-law's barn is on the registry, and chances were good that this octagon barn would also be listed there. I found the barn easily, but was surprised to learn that there are ten barns of this type in Washington, and two in Whitman county.

Our "lost" barn is known as the Steinke Round Barn, located on WA-23, 5 miles west of the town of St. John. The barn was built in 1916 by Max Steinke on land purchased by his father, Theodore Steinke, around 1900.

The other barn in Whitman county is known as the T.A. Leonard barn, and it's on the Old Moscow highway about 1.5 miles SE of Pullman. Located on the eighty year-old family farm in the wheat-producing Palouse region, the Leonard Barn has remained relatively unchanged since it was built in 1917. It's green, which is one of my favorite colors for a barn. And besides being a Washington Heritage Barn, it's been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986, and photographs of the barn are on the Library of Congress website. If you're curious what an octagon (or round) barn looks like on the inside, you can check it out here.

Last spring we spent quite a bit of time photographing the barn... and we did find the geocache. Next road trip around the state, I'm pretty sure our route will take us to each of the other nine barns.