Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bad News For Birds

For a year now, we've enjoyed watching birds at the back yard feeder station.
Yes, I've become my mother!

The pole is about 15 yards from the corner of the back porch
and I put special thought into buying an 7' tall official Squirrel Buster pole.  

And it's worked like a charm....
no squirrels.
But bigger pests never crossed my mind.  

What a sight....
All 5 of the feeders torn from the pole.  

Torn to smithereens...
Two hauled into the woods to be chewed open and snapped.  
It was a sad day for birds....
But a good day for a bear!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Seattle Souvenir

Before the Seattle trip,
Clark and I were on the phone discussing plans for the upcoming week.
We each had a few ideas and
because I figured that Clark might assume that his mother had gone crazy,
I mentioned with some hesitancy that I'd like to visit a smithy/studio in Fremont
where someone was making hand forged skillets.  

You know the saying "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree"?
Clark exclaimed that this sounded familiar;
he'd met a skillet maker at a cooking demonstration at his university!
Surely it was the same one...
after all how many skillet makers can one city have?  
And yes, he'd love to go see where the skillets were made!
A partner in crime!  I love that young man!

BluSkillet hand forged carbon steel pans
are the brainchild of blacksmith/artist Patrick Maher and partner Caryn Badgett.  
Shortly before our visit, they hit the big time 
and it couldn't have happened to a nicer pair.
An August review of their 13" pan in Cooks Illustrated
has had them sold out non-stop since the magazine hit the shelves.
An online order waiting list is periodically opened
and within minutes are all pans are pre-sold for shipment a later shipment date.

On Sunday afternoons, they have an open door policy
so that nutty people like us can wander in and pester them!

Since their website showed every pan as sold out
and because I really didn't need a new skillet,
I tried to convince the rest of the family that I was going only to look.
I think they'd heard this type of rationalization before.
Photo lifted from website
Repeat after me....
only going to look....
don't need to spend money on a skillet....
maybe I'll order one next year.  

Since they're slammed trying to fill orders.
I expected them to nod and smile
and that's about it.
Instead they were SO gracious.....
explaining, demonstrating, showing off the tools and equipment.
Tools and a stack of 13" pan bases awaiting handles 
They were understandably proud of what they're creating
and didn't seem a bit fazed that 4 people had crashed in to disrupt them.
Various stages of handle shaping
And to my delight they had a couple of skillets to sell!!
My plans to "look" flew out the door as soon as I touched one.
The handle is perfect, the balance and weight....
They're just gorgeous.... can a skillet be gorgeous?

I was tempted by a big 13" that someone was late coming to pick up,
and was equally torn between the French style pan with its deeper sides
or the traditional fry.
In the end a 10" fry pan came home to Virginia
and drew a quizzical look from airport TSA as it rolled through the scanner in my backpack.
With my new pan.... all wrapped up to go. 
Carbon steel is a different animal from my All-Clad stainless and cast iron.
It's lighter than cast iron, quick to heat, browns in an instant
and with each use it gets a better patina.
From tuna steaks
to a simple breakfast of spinach and fried eggs,
it seems to turn everything into a gourmet experience
This is going to sound ultra zen and new agey, 
but it's a pleasure to touch and look at as well as to cook with; 
I realize that I just said that I like to touch my skillet!  
There might be a rush to lock me away soon!  

One day I'll probably put it away,
but for now it's living out on the stovetop
so that I can see it even when I'm not cooking;
An odd reminder of a special vacation
and also a son and daughter-in-law miles and miles away,
but close to our hearts.
Before leaving the studio, 
I'd promised Clark the skillet as an inheritance....
He's his mother's son.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Seattle Sights (Food!) part two

More than a little eating went on during our trip.

Italian, Afghan, Pizza, Clark's homemade Kombucha, seafood, salmon....

Din Tai Fung had some crazy delicious foods and a kitchen viewing window;
dumplings were made so fast 
that it looked as though they were rolling and crimping at 2x fast forward speeds!

And then there was pie....
Oh, the pie!
I need to go back.

A few days before our trip, 
we accidentally turned on a PBS show called A Few Good Pie Places
.... a drool worthy hour long visit to you guessed right: a few good pie places.

If you could watch without craving pie then you're not human.
One of the seven featured shops was a cafe in Seattle;
A la Mode Pies Cafe on Phinney Ave in Seattle.

So don't you know we had to find it?
They only sell pie (with or without ice cream) and coffee
but we each had quite a struggle deciding which choice to make.

Can you tell that each piece is about a sixth or so of a whole pie?
No skimpy pieces here!  They're huge!
Toasted Coconut, Spiced Apple, Peach and Mexican Chocolate!

The pregnant lady threatened to claim them all as we were getting settled but we fended her off!
And then two days later....
Why mess with success and order dessert at the Italian restaurant where we'd just eaten dinner
when there's PIE, lovely pie across town???

We headed back to A la Mode 
and got slices to go and eat at home during our evening domino game..... 

We ordered our four huge pieces to go
 and they gave us three slightly smaller (aka normal sized) pieces for free.... 
Three for Free!
What's not to love about pie.... especially free pie!  
Guess we made an impression with our effusive glowing pie love!

Final Seattle memories in the next post
 and then it's back to Virginia life!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Seattle Sights

It was a grand week in Seattle!
The first question most people ask was
"Did it rain?"
So let's get that out of the way!
There were a few brief sprinkles but nothing that required a raincoat 
or that lasted more than a couple of minutes.
Notice the brilliant blue skies during our harbor tour! 
One of the best things we did 
was to participate in two small group walking tours 
given by the Seattle Architectural Foundation.
Each tour lasted two hours and was a total bargain at 15.00 per person.
The first tour focused on ornamental elements of various downtown buildings
and was also a great historical overview of Seattle's history.  
Raeanna was working for our first tour,
but was able to join us two days later for the second which focused on 
the history of numerous significant or unique buildings.  
 We couldn't have found a better way to spend two hours 
getting to know the downtown area.  

I visited Experience Music Project
shortly after it opened in the early 2000's and it was just the EMP.
Now it's EMP and Sci-Fi and Pop Culture (which mostly means video games and cartoons). 
During that first visit Carter wasn't with us and I kept thinking how much he'd enjoy it.
I can't hear Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jimi Hendrix 
that I don't think of him and his high school guitar playing years.
He'll be visiting Seattle himself this week and I hope he gets to spend an afternoon there.  

The addition of the Sci Fi and gaming exhibits didn't 
earn any brownie points with me,
perhaps that means I'm an old fogey
and time marches on! 

Although it was mostly a week of touring, playing and eating, 
we tackled some odd jobs around the house and tried to be useful. 
A kit from an auto parts store and a new cordless drill enabled us to perform 
the most impressive, astonishing DIY of the week:  
clearing the yellowed....totally yellowed...
 headlights on Raeanna's SUV. 
Who'd have thought such a crazy method (power sanding) would work?
No photos of the headlamp restoration but here are a few more from the week..... 
 Seattle Part Two (or is it Three) to follow 
when we will see how much pie four people can consume in one week! 
Hint:  It's a lot.   

Monday, September 7, 2015

Biggest News Yet?? Seattle

The last time that we saw these two
was in New Orleans. 

We the drove down and were treated to an amazing stay 
at Brenda and Charles' condo in the French Quarter.

We ate, and ate and ate, shopped and relaxed; 
but mostly we were there to applaud as Raeanna was awarded her medical school degree!
Graduation was mid-May and last week we flew out to visit at their home in Seattle
where Raeanna has begun her first year of residency and Clark is finishing up his Masters degree.  
What a difference 3.5 months can make!
 A new job thousands of miles from New Orleans and.....

Do you see us standing next to our youngest son, our lovely daughter-in-law and our grandbaby?

They sneakily made the baby announcement over lunch at graduation 
in the form of a slightly belated mother's day gift.... 
a Washington and Lee newborn onesie.  
It took about 5 seconds for the news to soak in 
as I pulled the tiny cotton baby wear out of the box!  
Too bad nobody got a photo of my delighted face when I finally realized what they were telling us!

We're tickled pink (or blue) as the case may be.... 
the gender will be a surprise for everyone when he/she arrives in early December.
The next time we see them will likely be after the first of the year, 
so they'll be old hands at parenting by then.

Feeling the baby move was a highlight of the trip but we managed to fill the week with a few other sights and experiences!

More on that tomorrow!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Iron Mountain Horse Camp Weekend

I said that I wouldn't try and catch up with old news, 
but this was only 10 days ago so I'm giving myself a special dispensation!

The tires on the living quarters trailer were growing square; 
it has sat unused by the garage since last winter!  
We've been riding regularly and trailering the horses to day riding spots with our small trailer, 
but hadn't planned an overnight trip since last winter.  
Finally the stars aligned:  
we thought the horses were in good enough shape to handle some back-to-back long rides 
AND we were able to set aside a few days to get away.

We decided on the eastern section of the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area for no particular reason other than that we'd never been there and it was an easy 3 hour drive from the barn.  

There are several primitive (and free) campgrounds in the area for horses, 
but since it was a weekend 
and we wanted to be assured of a place to park, 
we anted up and paid in advance for a reserved site at Iron Mountain Horse Camp.
Cloud and I at the camp entrance
Atta's trail riding days are over, especially in the mountains, 
but she was along for the adventure and so was Noel!  
We decided to give the old 19 year old tabby a chance and see how she'd handle camping in the RV and she did brilliantly, loving every minute of being in the trailer.  
Sleeping in.....
She rode over and back in the truck securely in a crate next to Attagirl; 
aside from a few quiet meows to remind us that she was there, 
she didn't even seem fazed by the truck ride.  
We joked with people that if she escaped and was lost at the campground, we'd never be able to Lexington.  So we were paranoid about remembering to close the door immediately 
though she never gave any sign of wanting to slip out.

While Atta and Noel entertained each other in the air conditioning, 
we logged almost 30 miles on the trails and never had any issues.  
It was rocky.....VERY rocky.... in places
with a some substantial elevation changes but nothing we weren't expecting.
Thank goodness that we both ride with a Garmin GPS because the map provided by the camp was more confusing and wrong than helpful!  
The most difficult section of our weekend riding: Devils Den
Parts of the Virginia Highlands Trail were dead ringers for our old regular riding territory  near Gloster MS, in the Homochitto National Forest.
This was one of the very few distant mountain views as we were largely in deep woods,
but if we go back in the fall or winter there should be plenty of visible long range views.

Noel isn't the only one who is 19.....
Sarge is also closing in on 20 and is still looking good and showing no signs of needing to retire.
The camp was quiet, neat and clean and the manager was very helpful and friendly.   The barn was also spic and span and with sturdy stalls.  
Posing at the camp entrance sign
All in all a great weekend and a fun getaway.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Friday Hike: Sharp Top

It's been almost six months!  I've thought about posting almost every day but it remained just a thought and a nagging desire.

I had to do some thinking about why I was blogging.  I guess it's a natural temptation to try and "grow" the blog, get comments and have an audience.  But that's NOT why I started recording my thoughts and activities.  It was primarily for me in order to remember this period of my life and stay in touch with friends and family.

A very wise son told me yesterday that I should "Just Post"; the blogging version of Nike's Just Do It.  Dive in and not worry about trying to catch up.

So here goes.... a deep breath in,
a step to the edge,
and a post....

I'm still hiking with the Friday group through Newcomers but rain and travels have made me miss quite a few recently so I had to stop and catch my breath more times than I'd like to admit and I was sorer than I'd thought possible after the hike to the top of Short Top Mountain.

Without a doubt it was the hardest hike I've done lately.
We're headed up to the top of the mountain on the other side of the lake.  With it's steep little cap, you can see why it's called Sharp Top.  The trail gains 1,500 feet in 1.5 miles and we hiked a little over 6 miles that day by returning along a different route.

When we reached the top there was a stone summit shelter nestled in among the boulders.
I couldn't find any info on the web about who built it and whether it ever served any purpose, but I'll guess that it was another of the many CCC projects that we still benefit from in our forests and parks across the country all these years later.
Once again, I was proud to have a son who works for the NPS which administers this area off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It was a hazy day with low clouds but the 360 degree views were worth the aching thighs that plagued me for two days post hike!

The day after the hike, I varied between thinking that I was woefully out of shape or that I was doing better than many my age who wouldn't have even attempted it!
Tonight when trying to research the history of the shelter, I found that in 1815, Thomas Jefferson and two friends climbed Sharp Top with surveying equipment in order to try and estimate the height of the mountain.  Jefferson was 72 and I'm only 59; so that's a little embarrassing, but maybe he rode a pack mule?

I'm a lucky person to live among this natural beauty.....