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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

FLOWERS IN THE GARDEN ~ A NEW BEER TO TRY ~ GARDEN UPDATE ~ RECIPE OF THE WEEK: ZUCCHINI RELISH ~ PARTING SHOT

FLOWERS IN THE GARDEN


For the past several years when planting my vegetable garden, I have been including some marigold plants along with the vegetable plants. A friend told me that marigolds would keep away bugs, so I was all for that. It turns out that this year there was some kind of bug that actually liked them because they almost got eaten up! But eventually whatever bug was out there moved on to greener pastures and the marigolds got a chance to make a comeback. Now they are absolutely gorgeous! I also like the fact that I can plant them along the soaker hose in areas where there aren't any vegetable plants. That way the water isn't going to waste. And they do attract bees to the garden, so that is an additional benefit. But most of all, they are beautiful!

Marigolds in the garden

A NEW BEER TO TRY


Even though I love my gin & tonic on the weekends, I also have a fondness for a good craft beer every now and then. I am always on the lookout for a new beer to try, and I especially like what the local craft breweries here in Yakima have to offer. There are quite a few breweries here and it seems like more are opening up every year. It may have something to do with the fact that 75% of the hops grown in the U.S., and a third of the hops grown worldwide, are grown right here in Yakima County. Hop Nation Brewery (click here for their website) provided the beer at the Wags to Riches fundraiser dinner a few weeks ago, so I had the opportunity to try out their beer. On our vacation trip to Leavenworth back in June we tasted some amazing IPA beers at another local brewery, Blewett Brewery. Ever since then I have been wanting to try out a Yakima IPA. I always thought that IPA beer was too bitter for my taste, and some of it is. But what we sampled in Leavenworth had my taste buds intrigued. So this week I decided to take the plunge and buy a 22 ounce bottle of an IPA, just to try it and see if I liked it. For this test I chose EGO India Pale Ale by Hop Nation Brewery, since I liked their beer at the fundraiser. Believe it or not, I actually liked this IPA very much! I don't know if the logo picture for their brewery influenced me any, but you have to admit it is pretty awesome. It is a red Phoenix Bird with a hop flower making up the body of the bird. If you live in the Yakima area, I highly recommend that you give Hop Nation Brewery a try.

My new favorite beer 
Hop Nation Brewery logo

GARDEN UPDATE


There was some excitement in the garden this past week. I checked on my little Hab plant one day and was surprised to see some flower buds popping out all over it! Even though they are still tiny, I was overjoyed to see those buds. I was skeptical that this plant would be able to produce buds since it got such a late start. However, after we got past the week of mostly triple-digit temperatures, it settled down and like the rest of the garden, got down to business. Here is a picture I took this afternoon and if you look really closely, you can see the flower buds. I may actually get some Zavory Habanero peppers after all this year!

Little Hab has some buds!
The potato plants have finally gone down to the ground but haven't turned brown yet. I think the rain we got the other night may have helped them bend over to the ground. Since everything is a couple of weeks behind this year, we have been anxiously awaiting our homegrown potatoes. I couldn't stand it any longer, so I dug one up yesterday. It is a pretty nice sized potato and is sitting on the back porch curing right now.

First potato this year

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: ZUCCHINI RELISH


If there is one thing I can count on each year to be an over-achiever in the garden, it is the zucchini plant. We are going crazy trying to keep up with eating what it produces. So when I saw a Facebook friend mention that she had just made some Zucchini Relish, I jumped at the chance to get her recipe. A big thank-you goes out to Linda Burkett, one of my friends from the Facebook rock painting group, Yakima Valley Rocks. She was gracious enough to share her recipe with me, one that was handed down to her from her mother. I so enjoy it when people pass on their family recipes. You know they will be good because they have usually been tested for generations. Since I had four very large zucchini staring at me from the refrigerator, I decided to give it a try this morning. In making this recipe I also got to use some Candy Sweet onions from the garden and also a few of my Banana Peppers and a California Gold pepper. Here is her recipe:

Zucchini Relish  by Linda Burkett

Ingredients:
10 cups zucchini
4 cups onion
5 Tbsp salt

2 1/4 cups vinegar
5 cups sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp turmeric
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 each or more red & green peppers, chopped finely

Directions:
Grind or shred the 10 cups zucchini and the 4 cups onion, add the 5 Tbsp salt and mix in. Let stand overnight (I put mine in the fridge--Peg). The next day, drain and rinse in cold water.

To that add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 30 minutes.  Let cool and put in jars.
Note from Peg on storage: Since I don't do shelf-stable canning yet, I always keep anything I jar up in the fridge or freezer.  If you know how to do shelf-stable canning, you can absolutely use that method for storing.

This recipe smells wonderful while it's cooking. You probably won't be able to resist having a bowl-full of it as soon as it's done. Mine got done right at lunch time, so I added a nice dollop to the top of my salad. It was delicious!

Making you hungry?
I envision using this relish the next time I make some Southern Style Potato Salad, which will be as soon as I start digging up potatoes. I bet it would be killer in a nice coleslaw, too. But hey, it's good all by itself!


PARTING SHOT


It's hard to get a picture of Summer Girl doing anything other than lazing around this time of year. To her, this is the "Cat Days of Summer." At least she does vary her nap venue from time to time. Here she is after I woke her up from her afternoon nap beside the patio.







Wednesday, August 9, 2017

GARDEN UPDATE ~ ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY ~ FROZEN GIN & TONIC ~ HOME IMPROVEMENT ~ PARTING SHOT

GARDEN UPDATE


Let me start this week's blog with an update on the garden, which is starting to consume more of my time. We have harvested quite a few zucchini now, most of which I have cooked on the grill. I also spiralized one and used it to make a very nice zucchini and cucumber salad, dressed with just oil and vinegar. I gave a few to a friend and one to my neighbor. So far we are keeping up with production, but I fear we will be overrun soon. Anybody want some zucchini? Funny thing, Monday was "National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day". This is true, at least that's what Facebook says...so you know it MUST be true! Anyway, here is a picture of the harvest from yesterday and this morning.

All I can say is...YUM!
I actually could have harvested a bucket full of various kinds of peppers, but I am holding out on most of them so they will turn red. That is when they have the most flavor (and heat if it's a hot pepper), and also when they look the prettiest! The two red Cherry tomato plants are really starting to produce. I just snacked on a small bowlful and they are so tasty, nothing like the tomatoes that you get in the grocery stores nowadays. I wouldn't really call those tomatoes, because they taste nothing like a real tomato. Local fruit and vegetable stands have far better produce in the summer than any of the grocery stores, so we try to go there if we need anything that we don't grow ourselves. One thing we don't grow ourselves is corn. I tried it a few years ago and it was riddled with bugs and didn't produce much at all. It was too much work for the yield, so I haven't grown it since. However, our local produce stand had corn on sale this past week, 4 ears for $1.00. The grocery stores have it 2 ears for $1.00, so we decided to get some at the produce stand here in Yakima run by Jones Farm (click here for link to their website). Since we wanted to put some in the freezer, I decided to smoke some of it. In the past two weeks I have smoked 29 ears of corn. After I smoke it I let it cool, then cut the kernels off the cob and pack it into sandwich bags, which we then put in big freezer bags. We did this last year and it was so nice to be able to have "fresh" corn in the middle of winter. Here is a picture of the corn going into the smoker.

Smoking Corn
This little smoker is turning out to be one of my most favorite things. I used to have a bigger smoker, but I like this little one better. It is a better size for smoking something for one or two people. This smoker is electric and is so easy to use. I just plug it in, put the chips in the holder, fill up the water tray, load in the food and then close the door. I usually smoke the corn for around 1 1/2 to 2 hours at 250 degrees. On the last batch I used mesquite wood chips, which I haven't tried before. I really can't distinguish between the different flavors of wood chips, but I just like the smoky taste it imparts to food. If you are interested at all in smoking food, I highly recommend this little smoker that I have, made by Masterbuilt (here is the link to their website). Right now it is available on Amazon for around $99 and includes free shipping.

I got off track a little bit there, but I wanted to mention the smoked corn. Now, back to the update on the garden. Everything is starting to get big, although it isn't as big yet as it has been in past years by this same time. The only concern I have is that my little Hab will not have time to give me any peppers. This is the Zavory Habanero plant that I grew from seed and got a late start because it was so small. Right now it is doing very well but hasn't produced any flowers, as you can see in this picture.

The Little Hab
I am hoping that it will still have time to produce a few peppers. It's just amazing what a little time, sun, and water can do. Below is a picture of the garden now.

The garden as of 08/08/17
The onions have already bent their tops over and the potatoes will soon be doing the same, which means they are done and can be harvested. Everything else is still busy growing! I must mention that I had a huge problem pop up in the garden the other day. While putting up fencing around one of our tomatoes (you can see it in the lower right-hand corner), I accidentally placed a stake on top of my longest soaker hose (see tear below). So now I have to either fix it (hello, duct tape), or else I will have to hand-water about a third of the garden. Keep your fingers crossed that I can get it fixed!

Hole in hose at top

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY


We had another anniversary recently, but this one was not a happy one. On July 28th we marked being one year without our little Precious Baby. We still both miss her terribly. I am hoping that as time goes by I won't miss her as much, but I don't know. She was such a special kitty and I know she will always hold a special place in my heart.



FROZEN GIN & TONIC


The recipe for this week is Frozen Gin & Tonic. I mentioned this recipe in my last blog two weeks ago. I tried it out that weekend and it turned out really good! So, here is the link to the recipe on the Kitchn website. This was a really refreshing drink, which was very much needed as we have had triple-digit high temperatures for the past two weeks.

Cheers!

HOME IMPROVEMENT


The reason I didn't post a blog last week is because we were having carpet installed and we had to get all the furniture out of those rooms. This included the office where our computer is located. So, pretty much all last week our house was in disarray, with furniture everywhere it wasn't supposed to be. Things are back to normal now and we absolutely love our new carpet. Here is a before and after photo of the living room.

Old carpet on top, new carpet below

PARTING SHOT


I still can't get my videos to upload to YouTube. I think the problem is that the videos were taken on an iPad and the file format is incompatible. So you will have to be content with just a picture of Summer Girl. I know it has been a long two weeks without a Summer Girl fix, but a picture of the Black Cat Ninja is better than nothing!

Her favorite place now...in the garden!



Monday, July 31, 2017

There will be no blog post this week because we are having some home improvements done.  But be sure to check back next week to see what's new!  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WAGS TO RICHES


This past weekend Linda and I attended the annual BBQ & Brew Fundraiser for Wags to Riches, our favorite local pet rescue organization. Our attendance was courtesy of my former employer for the past 10 years, Avail Home Health, who graciously offered us a couple of tickets to attend and sit at their table. We have always enjoyed going to the BBQ & Brew event, although any true Southerner would be disappointed because it is not actual BBQ that is served. Out West, anything that is cooked on a grill is considered "BBQ." But that's a whole other thing back East, and we won't talk about that now. Anyway, we went there Saturday evening and had a great time visiting with some of my former co-workers and enjoying good food and good beer. This year, on each table there were a bunch of painted rocks for people to take and keep or hide around the community. I belong to a group that does this, Yakima Valley Rocks, and I posted about this phenomenon in an earlier blog. Rocks seem to be popping up all over the place! Here is a picture of a couple of the rocks that we "found" on our table at Wags. Thank you, Avail, for enabling us to attend!

Wags to Riches painted rocks

RESULTS OF CHERRY JAM


I promised last week to give the verdict on the Cherry Jam recipe I made. Let me put it like this, it was good, but not up to par to what I used to be able to buy years ago. I believe I put too much pineapple in it because it tasted like Pineapple Jam instead of Cherry Jam. At any rate, it was good enough to put on some pancakes that I made Sunday morning.

See, it even looks like Pineapple Jam!
I was going to include a short video of me using my cherry pitter so you could get a look at how it works, but YouTube is not letting me upload it for some reason.

GARDEN HARVEST


The garden is starting to pick up, although things are at least two weeks behind where they should be. I double checked my journal from this same time last year and we had picked substantially more produce by now than we have this year. But I did get to pick a few things, and I am heartened that my little Hab is doing so well and adding new leaves (I won't bore you with yet another picture of it). I do need to report that I picked, stuffed and grilled my first Tam Jalapeno and man, was it forevermore HOT! The Tam is the plant that is supposed to produce "less hot" jalapenos. I have five of these plants in my garden. I am hoping that maybe this one particular plant may be producing hot ones and the other plants will have mild ones, or else it's because it was the first pepper off that plant. However it turns out, I will be prepared next time I pick one. I also stuffed and grilled an Anaheim pepper, which is supposed to be way hotter than the Tam, but it was not all that hot. I quite enjoyed that one. The Tam pepper just about set me on fire! 

Zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers
In the picture above (clockwise from upper left) we have a zucchini, some Red Cherry tomatoes and Sun Sugar tomatoes, a couple of Verde Tomatillos, the notorious Tam jalapeno, two Sweet Banana peppers, an Anaheim pepper and a Suyo Long cucumber. We don't have any Lemon cucumbers or Armenian cucumbers yet, nor do we have any Yellow squash. So things are kind of dragging along, but they are starting to come off. The tomato in the picture below will be the first one off of our big tomato plant, the Cherokee Carbon.

We have nicknamed this the "Ballard Tomato" plant after Linda's dad

KITCHEN ESSENTIALS


I don't have a recipe for you today, instead I decided to go over what I consider to be my list of "must-have" kitchen essentials. First is a little gadget that I got in my stocking for Christmas. It was only a dollar or two, but I have found it to be worth it's weight in gold. If you do any canning, "putting up" of produce or making jelly, you need one of these. It's a wide-mouth funnel. I don't know why I didn't have one of these years ago! Trust me, it saves a lot on clean-up.

Wide-mouth funnel
Next on my list is something I got for my birthday, a counter-top spiralizer. I had one of those little hand-held jobs but I was always cutting my finger half off when I used it, so I wanted a bigger one. Thank you to the Clouse Family for coming to the rescue! This is the Cadillac of spiralizers, with five separate blades to choose from. I have used it many times already and our favorite thing to do is spiralize a potato and then cook it on the grill in a cast-iron fry pan with a minimal amount of oil. Voila, guilt-free curly-cue fries!

Briefton's Five-Blade Spiralizer

Another new gadget that I think is indispensable in the kitchen is a blender. I had one years ago but got rid of it because I got a food processor, thinking it would replace the blender. But that isn't entirely true because a food processor (or at least, the one I have) will not crush ice. I have been craving some nice frozen cocktails this summer, so when Linda's sister gave me a gift card to Bed, Bath and Beyond for my birthday, I knew exactly what I wanted to get with it. I am looking forward to a Frozen Gin Tonic this weekend. If it turns out any good, I will give you the recipe next week.

My new blender

I have many more favorite kitchen gadgets (like the cherry pitter, salad spinner, etc.), but the ones above are my newest obsessions. What do you have in your kitchen that you couldn't do without?


RESCUING A PLANT


This time of year when we go to the grocery store, we always like to walk around the Garden Center to see if they have any good perennial plants in the mark-down section. This week when we went Linda found a nice little Rudbeckia plant. When we got home, we discovered that we got a bonus along with the plant. Can you see it in the picture below?

Something is lurking on our plant

PARTING SHOT


I did have a sweet little video of Summer Girl watching the birds out our front window. However, YouTube is still not letting me upload my videos, so you will have to be content with just a picture of her in her bird-watching spot...but not watching any at the moment.

Excuse the boxes, we are storing them for someone!

That's all for this week, check back next week for more from the Southerner in the Northwest!






Wednesday, July 19, 2017

FLOWER GARDENS ~ AN INTRODUCTION ~ GARDEN UPDATE ~ RECIPE OF THE DAY: CHERRY JAM ~ PARTING SHOT

FLOWER GARDENS


Linda and I have been doing a lot of work the past week or so in the back flower garden. Linda pulled up a bunch of old Cranesbill plants that were getting huge and taking over and I got everything watered and cut back some old blooms. One of the most beautiful things in our yard is in our backyard flower garden and it is the Stargazer Lily. This plant gets more and more blooms each year, and it is spectacular when all of them are open. A friend gave this to us a couple of years after we moved here and it has always produced the most beautiful flowers. It is right beside the area where we sit under the tree so we can enjoy the blooms and the lovely scent when we sit outside.

Stargazer Lily

Right now a lot of our flowers have bloomed out so the dazzling array of color is somewhat scattered. But we do have several Sunflowers in the front yard that are starting to bloom. I tried planting some special sunflower seed this year in hopes that we would get some of the Mammoth Sunflowers. These are the ones with absolutely huge heads measuring 12" across. I also planted some Autumn Beauty seeds, which produce a red-orange hued flower. Alas, I do not think any of those seeds germinated. We'll have to wait and see when all the sunflowers are in bloom. This year, everything is about 2 weeks behind schedule due to the cool spring we had. So we only have a couple of sunflowers blooming right now, but they are still so beautiful. The ones in the picture below are volunteers that come up from sunflower seeds that fall from our bird feeder. We probably have at least 25 plants out there, all surrounding the bird feeder. It will be gorgeous when they all bloom!

Sunflowers

AN INTRODUCTION


Let me introduce you to the newest member of our family, Elizabeth the flamingo. She is a distant cousin to Fanti and Mingo, our garden flamingos. She joined our family on my birthday, having been flown here to Yakima courtesy of my sister and her partner. She was named for Queen Elizabeth, who became Queen the year I was born, 1952. We welcomed her with open arms (wings). She is most energetic when it is sunny, flapping her wings with great abandon. Her wings will get a workout here in Yakima!

Elizabeth

GARDEN UPDATE


The vegetable garden is starting to slowly take off with most of the plants producing small versions of their offerings. There are a few troublesome areas, such as the Sun Sugar tomato I planted in a pot. We used to have it in the front yard near the front porch, but we have since moved it back to the garden because something is causing the leaves to turn yellow. I at first thought I was watering it too much, now I think I might have been not watering it enough! Anyway, it is in the back with all the other plants so now I can monitor the watering more closely. The little Hab plant is still struggling. It is hanging in there but is looking puny. I moved it to the patio with the herbs because I thought the intense hot sun was scalding the leaves. I do not know, it's all a guessing game. It does seem to be growing bigger but the leaves are a funny, light-green color, especially when compared to all the other peppers.


We do have some pepper plants that are actually producing peppers now! I was shocked when I went out in the garden one day and saw peppers on the Anaheim plant, the Sweet Banana plant and the Tam Jalapeno plant.

Clockwise from left: Anaheim, Sweet Banana, Tam Jalapeno

The garden is now starting to take on the jungle-look that it will have when things are in full swing!

It's a jungle out there!

RECIPE OF THE DAY:  CHERRY JAM


One of things I love most about Yakima in the summertime is the large variety of fresh, locally-grown produce that we have available. In addition to the same vegetables that I grow in my backyard garden, the Yakima Valley offers a large assortment of fruit. During the summer months we have several varieties of cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, grapes, and some apples, towards the end of summer. Apple season gets in full swing in the fall. We are currently in the midst of cherry season, my absolute favorite. I have been on a search for different recipes in which to use cherries this year. Last week I made a fantastic cherry BBQ sauce which is second in flavor only to the blueberry BBQ sauce I made earlier this summer (here is the link for the Cherry BBQ Sauce recipe from the Serious Eats blog). Today I am going to try my hand at making Cherry Jam. I am following a recipe from the Kitchn blog (click here for recipe). I'm going to put my own spin on this recipe by adding a little crushed pineapple to it. I am hoping to recreate a jam that I remember fondly from my youth. There is a company in Florida that makes Cherry Pineapple Jam that I used to love and I bought a jar of it every chance I got. So keep your fingers crossed that I come up with something similar. I wanted to use Bing cherries for this as they are the sweetest ones, but when I went to the fruit stand they were all out of Bings. I had to get Rainier cherries, which were on sale for $.99 a pound. What a deal! Rainiers are almost as sweet as Bings, so I'm sure it will turn out fine. I will post the results next week.

Rainier Cherries

One kitchen gadget that you absolutely need to have when cooking with cherries is a cherry pitter. It's an unassuming little gizmo, but it will save you a ton of work in the prep. You place a cherry in the cradle with the hole, and then press the plunger against the cherry until the pit shoots out the hole in the bottom. Genius!

Cherry Pitter


PARTING SHOT


Summer Girl has been working hard on her relaxing skills this summer. I think she has it down to a science now. It sure looks to me like she has all the kinks worked out!



That's all for this week. Please check back next week to see the results of the Cherry Jam recipe, among other happenings!



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MOVE TO YAKIMA ~ GARDEN UPDATE ~ OUR VISITOR ~ PARTING SHOT

10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MOVE TO YAKIMA


Linda and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary of living in Yakima on July 3rd. When we moved out to Yakima, I kept a journal of our move. Actually, I had already been keeping a birding journal for several years, but I decided to do one that detailed our move. This past week, during our coffee in the mornings, I read aloud the journal entries from 10 years ago when we moved. It was an interesting perspective on the actual trip out here and what we did after we arrived. We had planned to arrive in Yakima a week before the moving van so we could clean and paint without all our stuff in the way. This meant we had to get creative with things since all we had was what we brought with us in Linda's car. This consisted of a few clothes, one fry pan, painting supplies, our pictures and mirrors (we couldn't trust them to the moving van), a blow-up bed, and our Precious Baby. Now, it's a well-known fact that Linda and I love to relax at cocktail hour on the weekends. But when we moved we were so busy working hard every day that it was pretty much cocktail hour every afternoon! The day we arrived, Linda went to the store and got two white plastic lawn chairs so we would have somewhere to sit, and we had our drinks on the front porch with our cooler serving as a table. On the 10-year anniversary of this day, we recreated that scene as best we could.

Better chairs than 10 years ago!

Here is a picture of our house in Lumberton. We absolutely loved this little house and hated leaving it, mostly because we renovated it with the help of a friend and had so much sweat equity in it. But it was a bit small, just over 900 square feet.

Our charming little house in Lumberton
On June 28, 2007, we packed up Linda's little car and left our home to set off across country, with Precious Baby in a large carrier cage in the back seat.

We arrived in Yakima on July 3rd.



Here is what our house and front yard looked like then.

Our house in Yakima 10 years ago
See all that lawn in the front? And see the sprinkler? This is not something we wanted to do ongoing, mow and water grass all the time. If we were going to use up precious water, we decided to use it to benefit our environment. So we transformed it into this below in the ensuring 10 years.

Our bird and bee-friendly yard today
Reading the journal entries from 10 years ago each day has turned out to be a great way to remind us of what it took for us to move here. And some of them are quite hilarious, although I'm not sure that's what I intended back then! We put in a lot of hard work on our new house, just like we had on the one back in Lumberton. We continue to do this as we plant new things in our yard each year.

To give you some idea of the transformation we have made to our home in the past 10 years, below is a series of pictures of the back yard taken when we moved.

Notice how small our tree was

The back vegetable garden area was just weeds

Kinda looks like the desert, doesn't it?
So we pretty much had a blank slate to start with and we went from there. Here is a video I took today (07/12/17) showing the same area as is shown in the pictures.



Big difference! We both love to garden and we love sitting outside under our tree when the weather (heat) permits. We don't have to worry too much about rain because during the warmer months, it seldom rains here. During this past week we have discussed the things we like about living here in Yakima, and I believe the thing we both like most is being able to grow so many plants and vegetables in the summer. It makes living through the cold, hard winter months bearable.


GARDEN UPDATE


All this talk about the yard has my mind wandering to my favorite subject this time of year: my vegetable garden. Before we went on vacation I was battling some kind of bug that was eating everything up. When we got back from vacation just 3 days later, I could tell that things had grown. I put down some diatomaceous earth around my plants, and in a few days it seemed like the bug infestation slacked off. I don't know if it was that or the fact that the plants were getting bigger, but whatever it was I was glad. But that didn't help the plants that were eaten up entirely...rest in peace, little Zavory Habanero and Tequila Sunrise peppers. But on a good note, the little Hab that I had put in the pot is getting bigger, so I am happy about that.  Here's a video that I took this morning of the garden as it is right now. Summer Girl had to get in on the act, too!



OUR VISITOR


One day this past week we saw something that is a rare occurrence here in Yakima. Linda found a frog on our front porch. This is only the second time in 10 years that I have seen a frog in our yard. And he is not like the toad frogs we had back in Lumberton. But still, he is a frog so we are hoping he will eat many bugs while he is here!

Our little frog friend

PARTING SHOT


It has been a busy week since we got back from vacation, but we are caught up now and so we can relax a bit. Summer Girl has been relaxing with us sometimes in the afternoon. Here she is doing her impression of her favorite superhero. She said, "I'm Batman!"





That's all for this week, please check back again next week for another edition of "Southerner in the Northwest."





Thursday, July 6, 2017

65th BIRTHDAY VACATION: PART TWO

Part Two of our trip to Leavenworth, Washington. Please note that if you see words in bold and italicized, it's a link you can click on to take you to that website.

 65th BIRTHDAY VACATION:  PART TWO


The second day of our vacation we decided to do a little exploring of the outlying area around Leavenworth. We had gone online beforehand and found some hiking trails that were "easy" and not too long, so that morning we decided to try out a couple of them. We were going to go to the "Bygone Byways Trail" first. Our information said that we were to proceed about 20 miles from a certain intersection on the edge of town, and then we would see a sign for the trail. We rode out Highway 2 towards Stevens Pass and about 18 miles out we started looking for the sign. We didn't see it when we reached 20 miles out, so we kept on going. At 25 miles outside of town, we turned around and went back the other way. Still no sign, and we didn't even see anywhere to pull off the road to get on a trail. We gave up on that one, but continued on back towards town as there was another trail that was only 1.5 miles out of town. When we suddenly found ourselves back in Leavenworth, we knew we had missed that one also. So, we turned around and backtracked and finally saw the turn off for this trail. It's almost like you won't find these trails unless you know where they are to start with! At any rate, we parked at the trail head to the Old Pipeline Bed. The trail starts right beside the Wenatchee River and goes over a bridge that was made from half of a huge pipe.

Linda crossing over the Pipeline bridge

The river was absolutely raging below us, but the bridge was really sturdy so there were no worries. The view from the middle of the bridge was absolutely gorgeous but very noisy!



Once we got over the bridge and a few steps away, the noise level went way down and we had a lovely view out over the river to the other shore.

View from the Trail

The trail was a nice mile or so walk along a relatively level path alongside the river. We were glad it was totally in shade because it was getting on towards mid-morning and the temperature was rising. There were pretty wildflowers and plants in bloom all along the trail, and it even had the "Christmas tree" smell that is so prevalent in forests around here. We came to a small creek and met a couple with three kids who were headed back to the trail head. They told us that apparently the rest of the trail had washed out because there was no way to go any further than the creek, unless you were an experienced mountain climber. We were most certainly not that, so we turned around and headed back. I had hoped to get in some bird watching, but the trail really wasn't conducive to that kind of activity. It was a short but very enjoyable walk, which was good because my back had been hurting me for several days and I wasn't up for anything strenuous. After one last picture of the scenery, we got back in our car and headed for the next stop.

Heading back to trail head

The next stop on our list was to check out the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. We drove up to the Hatchery but since it was out in the hot sun and it was getting close to noon, we decided to save this for another trip. At least we know where it is! From there, we continued on to Wenatchee, WA, stopping on the way out of town to pick up a couple of sandwiches for a picnic. Wenatchee is a larger town that is around 20 miles from Leavenworth. Arriving in Wenatchee we remarked on how similar it is to Yakima, at least in the way it looks coming into town. We found the Wenatchee Riverfront Park and settled in at a picnic table for lunch. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was pretty close to perfect except for a stiff wind blowing off of the river. The Wenatchee River is a pretty big river, and the city seems to done a great job of showcasing it with this lovely park. During lunch we did get the opportunity to watch some birds and butterflies flying around. After lunch, we drove a few blocks and parked near a used bookstore that Linda wanted to visit. It was a funky little place and had loads of books, but we didn't spend much time there as Linda decided she has been spoiled by the Little Free Libraries she visits...free books! No bookstore can compete with that unless you are absolutely dying for a specific book. We left the bookstore and took a short walk along the sidewalks downtown just to see what was there. Back at the car, we decided to head for home base (Starbucks) and relax a bit since my back had just about had it. 

Back at home base I decided to try out one of the new drinks from Starbucks, the Mango Pineapple Frappuccino Blended Creme. That's a long name for a drink, but let me tell you it really delivers on flavor! I may have to get that again soon. 

After our relaxing break we decided to poke around a few of the stores in Leavenworth. There is a wide variety of merchandise for sale in Leavenworth. They have nic-nac shops, wineries with tasting rooms, biergartens, sit-down restaurants, gift shops, ice cream stores, and even a distillery, plus many more. The one store we always go to is the Christmas store, Kris Kringl. I have never seen so many Christmas decorations in my life, and every time we go they have new and different things. This year they had a collection of Beatles ornaments which were very pretty. Of course, some of these ornaments are extremely expensive and I would feel funny putting them on our little three foot tall artificial tree, which we bought in Lumberton for a fraction of what those ornaments cost. But they also have some inexpensive ornaments and such a wide variety that everyone can find something they like. We try to get an new ornament every year to go on our tree, so we decided on this one below for our 2017 ornament.

Our new Christmas ornament for this year

After poking around in quite a few stores, we decided to go back to our room and rest for a bit. This didn't last long, though, as it was getting close to cocktail hour. So, we headed for our next stop, the Icicle Brewing Company. We decided to have a beer here and then go to another restaurant for dinner. All beers are brewed on site and there are quite a few to choose from. Linda likes a dark beer while I usually go for a much lighter one. Upon perusing the menu, I decided on the Colchuck Raspberry Wheat. Linda was intrigued by the description for the Dark Persuasion beer, tasting like "German chocolate cake." We carried our beers out to their beautiful patio in front of the brewery, right alongside Front Street. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not cold at all, with a light breeze. There was music playing in the background but it wasn't so loud as to deter a good conversation. The beers were excellent! Linda's actually did have a chocolaty-coconut flavor to it, and the Raspberry Wheat was one of the best wheat beers I've ever had. We checked out their menu and came to the conclusion that on our next trip we will eat dinner there as well.

Relaxing at Icicle Brewery

After our delicious beers we took a short walk one street over to our destination for dinner, Blewett Brewing Company. It should be obvious by now that Linda and I love our microbrewery beer! Leavenworth does not lack for breweries, as is true of most cities in our fair state. Upon reading reviews of eateries in Leavenworth, I had read that this brewery recently merged with the pizza place next door, and had received rave reviews for both the beer and the pizza. I had been craving pizza, so this was a no-brainer. We chose to sit inside for dinner as the sun was bathing the outside area in tons of hotness. Before ordering dinner, we ordered a flight of five of their beers to sample together. This was a great idea as I had been wanting to try other types of beer beside my usual favorites. The brewery picks four of the beers on the flight and we got to pick the fifth beer. We decided on the Nut Brown Ale just to be sure we got one dark beer. We sipped on the beers while waiting for our pizza, and came to the conclusion that we both liked the Barnstorm Pale Ale and the Crikside Citra IPA best. Both were very similar and had a definite grapefruit flavor to them. All of the beers were very good, as evidenced by the fact that there was none left. We ordered a "Sister Kathy" pizza, a homemade crust topped with crimini mushrooms, roasted garlic, provolone cheese, arugula and parmesan cheese. Linda remarked that she had never had pizza with lettuce on it before. The one pizza was just the perfect size for two and it was out-of-this-world delicious! When we left the brewery, we were pleasantly full but not stuffed. On our way back to our hotel (which was only about a block away), we passed by a gift shop called Ganz Klasse. It wasn't open at the time, but there was a beautiful, unusal tea kettle in the window so I had to take a picture of it.



We somewhat staggered back to our hotel and settled in for the evening. The next morning we had breakfast and coffee at our home base and then bid a fond farewell to Leavenworth...until the next time!

That's all for this week, but I hope you will check back next week to see what we've been up to since we got home...and I promise a picture of Summer next week.