My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Friday, August 23, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: May we have a pause, please?

Please pardon my absence and failure to keep the vacation posts coming lately. I spent several days last week in Havre, MT visiting my mom, and we had a nice time and got quite a bit accomplished, but those visits are never easy for a variety of reasons. I was zonked when I got home Tuesday evening and had a lot to catch up on. Good thing I got a lot of it done on Wednesday, because I spent the next two days down for the count with a monster headache. My body always lets me know when I need to take a break, but I wish its clues would be more subtle! (Of course then I'd just ignore them...)

I'd hoped to finish Part 2 of our Seattle visit early this week but there's a lot left to do on it, and even when I've had some time I haven't felt like blogging or even being online. My in-laws arrive Monday for a 5-day visit so we've been busy trying to get projects done before they arrive and August is history, plus this month has been filled with appointments. All the distractions prevent my feeling focused and creative, especially when it comes to the vacation posts, which take so much time and effort to put together. When blogging feels too much like work and not enough like a fun creative outlet, it's time for a break. The first time BW and I visited our English friends Iain and Sophie, they took us out to dinner at a very fancy restaurant in a historic country house hotel. Iain told us during dinner about the last time they'd eaten there, when he'd felt that the waitstaff was being a tad too eager about whisking away their plates and cutlery between courses. So as one swooped in to abscond with his latest barely-finished dish, Iain put his hand over it and quietly said, "May we have a pause, please?" BW and I just loved that and love to repeat it (usually just to the Universe, there being no waitstaff to say it to - which is probably part of the problem, lol) - whenever things are pressing in on us and we're feeling overwhelmed. Anyway, just thought I'd explain my post's title. Just make sure you read it in an English accent, or it won't sound right. :-)

I still have so many photos from our PNW trip to sort, cull, edit and upload that I've been taking very few new ones. But a handful has accumulated, both local and from my Havre trip, so I'll use this opportunity to share them. I took most of these with the iPad, which sure takes some impressive photos! Hope you enjoy, and I promise to return in September to wrap up our Seattle visit and get us at least started on our visit to eye-candy intensive Victoria, BC! 

Sunrise, July 30

Thunderstorm, Aug 3

Another thunderstorm that same day, illuminated by the sunset
(the white dot in the upper right is a plane)

We had several of these pass by in early August, but got nary a raindrop from any of them. Noooo, that waited till early yesterday morning, since I'd just finished washing the last of our many windows the night before! Grrr...

Muley Schooly :-)

School starts this Tuesday and kids have been showing up at the elementary school across the street since late July to register. But these three mule deer bucks who showed up one morning look more like teenage high schoolers to me! :-)

Soldier Ridge Trail

A new 4-mile walking/biking trail opened near our house a few months ago, and we finally got a chance to check out about 1.5 miles of it with our dogs a couple of weeks ago. Except for a lone jogger we saw near the end of our hike, we had it all to ourselves. It passes through private land and no motorized vehicles or hunting is allowed, which will make it a real treat for us this fall when the weather cools off and we plan to take a day to explore the entire trail.

And now to Havre...

Montana Used Car Lot :-)

Spied this collection of used cars for sale off Highway 87 about 11 miles south of Roundup, MT. Not quite the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there! ;-)

Hubcap of Doom 

While in downtown Havre to check out their farmer's market, I happened to park next to the vehicle sporting these intimidating hubcaps, so of course had to snap a pic!

Hill County Courthouse

Havre is the county seat for Hill County, and while I think their stately courthouse is quite photogenic, I also took this for sentimental reasons as my late grandmother worked here as the Hill County Auditor. Which was ironic, since she had quit high school over an unbearable math class and its equally unbearable teacher, and wouldn't earn her high school diploma till she was in her mid-80s ~ the oldest person in Montana (at that time, anyway) to do so! She was an excellent auditor, however, re-elected every time she ran until she retired in the early 1970s. Wonder what her high school math teacher would have thought of that? 

As a child in the late '60s, I loved to visit her at work because I'd get to type merrily away on one of the state-of-the-art IBM electric typewriters, writing letters back home to my dad (mom and I would spend a month in Havre every summer). And I'd get to gape at the giant murals painted in the impressive main stairwell.  Mom and I had to go to the courthouse on this visit to register her vehicles, so I went looking for the murals to photograph them. But alas, turns out the building was extensively remodeled in the late 1970s, and the murals were covered up! Sheesh.

Sunrise over Havre

I was up by 6, about three hours before Mom, every morning during my visit so I could let Willow out and feed her. Then Willow and I would drive to the library, where I could access their free WiFi from the parking lot. Sometimes we'd also go for a walk and I'd take photos of some of Havre's old homes and email them to BW, since the library is right near the historic residential district. (Click here and here for two views of my favorite Havre cottage!) On our way to the library on the last morning of our visit, I'd only made it part way down Mom's block when I had to stop to take this sunrise photo. Mom's neighborhood sits atop a hill with wonderful views in every direction, and in this one you can see into Saskatchewan. 

Enjoy more incredible skies from around the world!

Wishing you all a safe and happy end to August and, to those of you in the US, a wonderful Labor Day weekend! See you in Seattle when I'm ready to move my finger on Life's DVD Player from "Pause" to "Play!" :-)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

PNW Road Trip: Day 3, Pt 1: Seattle's Chihuly Garden & Glass

Welcome to Part 1 of Day #3 of our Road Trip from Sheridan, WY to the Pacific Northwest!

We awoke to another beautiful day and also another busy one, this time getting together with our Seattle friends Ken and Andrea. We drove to their adorable house in their lovely neighborhood so we could park our car in their garage for the day. After getting acquainted with sweet Callie and enjoying a fun tour of their place, we got in their car and headed for the first place on our itinerary...


I'd wanted to see a Chihuly exhibit since first seeing Dale Chihuly's work in an online article about the ceiling in Las Vegas' Bellagio Hotel and Casino. So when I learned about the new permanent exhibit of his glass creations that opened just last year in Seattle, it got the #1 spot on our Seattle Sight-Seeing Wish List!

I hadn't realized the Chihuly exhibition was located right by the base of my beloved Space Needle, so you can probably imagine how excited I was at the fun photo ops that provided...

The Space Needle reflected in the Experience Music Project Building at Seattle Center
(take a quick look at the entire building - it's really quite something!)

From out of the bright, hot sunshine we walked into the Chihuly Glass Exhibit Hall - and into another world, one that was magical, vibrant with color, and reverently hushed despite the crowds. I've linked to the Chihuly Garden and Glass web site and virtual tour at the end of this post, but since their professional photos taken under ideal conditions put mine to shame, I wanted you to see mine first to avoid beginning with unfavorable comparisons. ;-) (I'll also link to Andrea's post about our day together when I publish Part 2). 

I'll leave most of the informative stuff to the official Chihuly web sites and mainly just let you enjoy all the eye candy (as always, click on any photo for a larger version), starting with the first room on the tour...

Glass Forest:

Created by taking a large blob of white glass from the furnace and dropping globbets of it from the top of a ladder, the shapes were then illuminated with neon. 

Northwest Room:

Glass "Indian Baskets" and a wall of woven trade blankets

Sealife Room:

20-foot high "Sealife Tower"

"Sealife Tower" detail

The Persian Ceiling:

Similar to the Bellagio ceiling that inspired our visit, this was my favorite room in the Exhibit Hall. The walls are bare and white so you can focus on the gorgeous, illuminated ceiling with its sea creatures both real and fanciful,  and also enjoy its colorful reflections on the walls. (The upper photo was taken without the flash, while this one that shows a bit of the walls was taken with the flash)...

Mille Fiori:

BW (lugging my camera bag, bless him) poses at one end of "Mille Fiori"

Inspired in large part by Dale's mother's flower garden he played in as a child

Ikebana & Float Boat:

These glass pieces were inspired by Ikebana, the minimalist, disciplined Japanese art of flower arrangement, and Dale's childhood spent beach-combing for Japanese floats in Tacoma, WA.

Float Boat

The installation itself was inspired by Dale's time in the '90's at the glass factory in Finland (where many of his glass creations are made), when he took to tossing finished glass pieces from a bridge by the factory into the river where local kids would retrieve them using wooden row boats. Dale liked how his glass pieces looked in the wooden boats, and so designed this display! 

Ikebana Boat detail

Described in the audio tour as the "wildly Baroque chandeliers," I love their whimsical playfulness (though I can't picture one suspended over our dining room table!):-)

Want a Chihuly chandelier installed in your home? No problem! (Just $$$. Lots of it)...

Macchia Forest:

The idea for these pieces sprang from the sudden availability of hundreds of new colors of German glass and Dale's desire to incorporate them all! ("Macchia" is Italian for "spotted.")

After touring the exhibit hall we headed outside into the glass gardens, once again finding ourselves at the base of the photogenic Space Needle...

The Space Needle and "Yellow Sun" sculpture

I just couldn't be this close to the Space Needle and not take several photos. :-)

"Yellow Sun"
with the Glasshouse on the left and Space Needle on the right

The 100-foot long, 25-foot high suspended sculpture in the 40-foot tall Glasshouse

That's Andrea on the right (and the back of Ken in the purple shirt)
And here's a closeup of the tall "Green Icicle Tower" you can see up ahead...

See the crescent moon to the lower left of the Icicle Tower? :-)

Since I'm often accused of being too camera-shy (guilty as charged), in my vacation posts I'm trying to make up for always being behind the camera by sharing a few photos that caught me in front of it for a change. (But that doesn't mean I won't resort to camouflage to try to hide myself, like in this one where my shirt blended with the blue and purple reeds, floats and fiori of this section of the glass garden!)...

And it seems to only be on vacation trips that BW and I appear together in photos. This one comes to you courtesy of Andrea (and won't be the last one of us together in a garden of purple on this vacation!)...

A little moment of PDA in the PNW among the purple neodymium reeds :-)

We'll explore more of Seattle in my next post before heading to Port Angeles for the ferry to Victoria, but for now I must make another road trip - this time up to Havre, Montana to visit my Mom for a few days. 

Till then, please enjoy exploring more of Chihuly Garden & Glass on their web site and on their virtual tour, and of course, enjoy exploring the world's amazing skies at...

Other PNW Road Trip Posts:

Day #1, Part 1: Butte
Day #1, Part 2: Missoula-Idaho-Spokane

Thursday, August 1, 2013

PNW Road Trip: Day 2 - Wanapum-Lymans-Seattle

Welcome to Day #2 of our road trip from Sheridan, WY to the PNW!

Ah, road signs... we adored many things about Washington State, but their road signage wasn't one of them. When it came to giving an adequate heads up or marking street names, WA seems to follow what my college communications professor called The COIK Principle: "COIK" = "Clear Only If Known." And since it was all new territory to us and definitely not known, and we don't have GPS, we wore more baffled looks and executed more bat turns than we'd have liked! (It wasn't just Washington, we had issues with Missoula, too! And while I'm the first to admit I have no sense of direction, BW was a highly trained and skilled USAF navigator so I'm pretty sure it wasn't our fault). :-)

Anyway, our whining about Washington's inadequate signs began when we crossed the state line from Idaho the day before. I'd intended to get a photo of it like I did the giant welcoming Idaho sign, but we got a foreshadowing of things to come when we saw the barely noticeable (and completely unphotographable) "entering Washington" sign. It was on the left side in the median (who puts them there on a 70mph Interstate?) and might - MIGHT - have measured 18"x24". Washington was far more friendly and welcoming than their official welcoming sign would lead one to believe!

But the little town of George (get it? I love that!) did a much better job 150 miles later...

Frankly, it wasn't till George's exit sign that I realized the highway number background
was George Washington's profile instead of just a random blob! :-)

I also thought their water tower was clever in its simplicity and clarity (and I like to think I know a good SkyWatch candidate when I see one, lol)...

Or when I see another one! ;-) ...

Wind farm near the Columbia River

Our friend Andrea in Seattle sent me an email the day before we left home that suggested "stopping at the Columbia River Gorge in Eastern WA. It's kind of a rest stop (with no facilities) but it is very beautiful to walk the paths leading to the cliffs overlooking the river. You have to actually walk down, not just look from the parking area. The vegetation is more like what you'd expect in New Mexico than Wash. — very desert-like and beautiful. I don't think you can access the area on your way home so try to stop. It's worth it!"

And so we did, and she was right! These next few photos are from our 30-minute stopover overlooking the Columbia River and Gingko Petrified Forest/Wanapum State Parks in the Wanapum Recreational Area. We were glad Andrea told us about it, otherwise we'd have driven right past the turnoff to it (I doubt I need to mention how discretely it was marked)...

The informational sign at this spot identified the winding dirt road below as a remnant of an early day "post road," the pre-railroad dirt (and later macadam) roads built for the distribution of US mail, and went on to say, "The first roads in this area were constructed in about 1918 and followed the contour of the hillside down to a ferry landing." This road served until 1930, when an improved highway was constructed.

And do you know what this is?...

Why, a fork in the road, of course! Every road trip comes upon one eventually. ;-)
(Sorry, couldn't resist!)

It was still morning but already getting to be hot and hazy, yet I still think this was a lovely scene looking down the Columbia River past the Vantage Bridge (which we crossed shortly after resuming our trip)...

The Columbia, meanwhile, flows on past Wanapum State Park, Yakima Training Center, and then winds around the notorious DOE Hanford Site where dreadful things threaten it, but thankfully devoted people are working diligently to protect it

Speaking of devoted people working diligently to protect what's important... we stopped in Ellensburg for a wonderful visit (and delicious lunch) with our friends Howard and Willow Jeane Lyman...

We've known Howard and Willow Jeane since August 2000 when we met them through our neighbor Vistara, who's known them for decades from their mutual hometown of Great Falls, MT. The day we met and spoke to Howard is the day we went vegan, so how appropriate that I'm getting to post this on the first day of our "veganniversary" month! :-)

Howard and Willow Jeane are not only wonderful people and generous hosts, they also have a delightful home and garden that we really enjoyed getting to see. Willow Jeane is an extremely talented and prolific quilter (as is her daughter Laura, who owns a huge quilt shop in Billings, MT), so I wasn't surprised to see that she has a fantastic and colorful quilting room which I photographed not only for this post but also for my friend Jo (aka AdventureJo), also a quilter extraordinaire...

Willow Jeane's impressive "fabric stash"
Note her prize ribbons (probably only a small sampling!), and her ironing board cover, because here's a closeup of the same fabric, designed by her local quilt guild and also used for her sewing machine cover...

The ladies all represent the guild members, with words and phrases that have personal meaning to them. Of course, the words "Road Trip" jumped right out at me! :-)

This gorgeous quilt, which rightfully has pride of place in the Lyman's living room, took Willow Jeane about 2 years to complete, though she said she set it aside from time to time when she "got sick of it." I understand, I've got cross stitch projects like that. Heck sometimes this blog is like that! :-) ...

Here's the beautiful spread that Willow Jeane and her sister (who was there on her annual summer visit from Great Falls) had prepared for us! Lots of local organic produce - including two varieties of heirloom tomatoes - from the Ellensburg Farmer's Market, lemon-blueberry scones with homemade preserves, breakfast casserole, and crispy hash browns. Need I say it was all incredibly delicious? Didn't think so...

Willow Jeane was kind enough to share her recipes for the lemon-blueberry scones and breakfast casserole (pictured below on the left), both of which you'll find here. She also passed along her great tip for putting the crispy "brown" in oil-free hashbrowns (pictured on the right): Grate cooked & cooled potatoes. Toss with onion granules and bake on parchment paper for an hour or so. It's the onion granules that brown so you need to cover the potatoes well...

We filled our plates (with the first round of helpings!) and took them outside to dine al fresco under their shady Wisteria and Virginia Creeper-covered arbor (a bit of which is visible on the right) in their lush and lovely back yard they created from bare dirt and rock since moving here seven years ago...

I loved this beautiful suncatcher mobile under the arbor, made by a local artist from found bits of glass and a piece of driftwood...

All good things must end, so after a very fun visit we had to grudgingly depart and finish our drive to Seattle, where we planned to stock up on Remedy Teas (which I'm addicted to thanks to gifts of it from my friend Rose!), check into our hotel, and then meet our friend Mike for some fun activities (like a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel) before our 6:30 dinner reservations at Sutra. But we left the Lyman's an hour later than we'd planned, and shortly afterward got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic driving through the Cascades at an average of 2mph (when it moved at all). So instead of arriving in Seattle at 3pm, we barely made it in time to grab the tea, check into the hotel and make it to the restaurant on time. Such a bummer, especially since it was the only time we were going to get to spend with Mike, whom we hadn't seen since he stayed with us during his move from Portland, ME to Seattle 10 years ago! Oh well, all you can do (besides cuss the traffic jam, which I did impressively) is roll with it. At least the scenery was even more impressive than my cussing! :-)

On our way to our whirlwind stop at Remedy Teas, I got my first glimpse of the iconic Space Needle and insisted that BW detour a block and stop so I could get this photo - dinner reservations be damned!...

I'm smitten with the Space Needle, so you'll be seeing much more of it in the next posts!

We stayed at the Watertown Inn, which was wonderfully located and surprisingly affordable (thanks in no small part to their generous military discount), not to mention clean and comfortable, friendly and attractive...

But the best part was our room's awesome views!...

Seattle's skyline, with the Space Needle on the right

and Mt. Rainier (taken through our window at dawn the next day with my telephoto)

We had a few minutes to gape out the windows and snap the photos, hurl water on our faces and toothpaste at our teeth, and then it was off to meet with Mike - who'd been parked outside patiently waiting for us - and zip off to Sutra...

BW and Mike with their biggest fan. *snork*

Sutra's pre-set five-course gourmet vegan dinner menu, whose content and pricing varies daily, was a relatively extravagant ($40 per person + tax and tip) experience that interested BW more than it did me. As a simple woman with more frugal dining habits, I'd had my heart set on eating at PizzaPi for years - since Mike used to live just down the block from it and would torment me with emails about it - but since Sutra gets rave reviews and is a very popular and pretty unique dining experience, when Mike suggested it for dinner that night we agreed.

Sutra is a very small place. Only open for dinner and with just 1-2 seatings a night, reservations are pretty much mandatory and they turn people away on a regular basis. Their web site says they can comfortably accommodate 35, but we take issue with the "comfortably" part. In their defense, it was 92º in Seattle that day, which doesn't happen often and so they weren't equipped for it. No a/c, no windows that open, and that fan you see in the photo with BW and Mike? Just a prop, really - the door was closed when everyone was seated and there were no fans operating that we could see or feel. And it didn't help that they served us warm water! The place was filled to capacity and we were squeezed into a tiny table in the far back corner right near the kitchen, which is open to the dining area as you can see from this photo I took from my seat... 

Hot as it was where I was sitting, I can't imagine working over that hot stove!

The dining room has high ceilings and hardwood floors, so when it's filled with the noise of chattering diners, the extraneous background music, and the bang and clatter of the kitchen, the acoustics are awful. We had to strain to hear each other and make ourselves heard over the din. Add to that the stifling heat, warm water and cramped seating, and it wore us out. So, low marks from us for ambience and comfort, at least on a hot summer evening.

As for the food... 

All the dishes were creative, interesting, beautifully plated and very tasty medleys of textures, colors and flavors. We love that it's all vegan (of course), organic and local, and prepared fresh daily. 

In the interest of space, I created a collage of the meal's five courses. But those of you who enjoy oogling food porn (and you know who you are!) can click on each course title for the larger version. I've also typed up that night's menu verbatim, but please don't ask me what most of these ingredients are (e.g. shunkyo radish, scape, urfa, aprium, mofongo), for I was clueless in Seattle. nyuck-nyuck!...

Tonight's Menu

English Pea-Hempcream-Yuzu Soup served aside a Salad of Frisee-Shunkyo Radish-Pickled Scape-Sonata Cherry & Candied Sunflower with a Lemon Balm Dressing

Miso-Urfa Biber-Zucchini-Tokyo Turnip "Lasagna" with Grilled Aprium and a 
Sea Bean-Arame-Shiso Slaw finished with Truffle Oil and a Balsamic Reduction

Fava Bean & Fig Roasted Cauliflower-Spinach-Parsley Mofongo with Cashew Cheese Stuffed Grey Morel, a Chile-Saffron-Saskatoon Sauce & Fried Caper Berry

Pistachio Brittle Crusted Cacao-Coconut-Rose Tort and Fresh Strawberry Blueberry

Sounds pretentious (or elegant, depending on your perspective) as all get-out, doesn't it? (But I'm sorry, am I the only one who can never hear "fava bean" without immediately thinking of Hannibal Lecter?!) Anyway, point is it was all mighty tasty, but my favorites were absolutely the meal's bookends - the soup and dessert. That soup may not look like much, but it was the best soup I've ever had! We all agreed. (Which is quite an accomplishment on the chef's part, because who wants soup when it's 125º??) I want to weep when I think that I'll probably never get to taste it again - if only they'd ship me a barrel of it every month! (Or at least share the recipe!) The dessert, subbed with blueberries when it was discovered the strawberries had sold out, was as amazing as it looks and sounds. I can't imagine it tasting any better with the strawberries. So, high marks from us for the food, very high marks for the dessert, and stratospheric marks for the soup! 

After dinner Mike took us on a little tour of the neighborhoods between Sutra and the Watertown Inn before dropping us off there at 9pm, with promises from all of us that we won't let another decade go by before we get together again! We got back to our room in time to enjoy seeing the city lights all aglow as full darkness fell, but since we had another very full day ahead of us we crashed shortly thereafter. So I'm afraid the only scenes of Seattle nightlife you're going to get from me is the pretty neon mural in the hotel lobby! :-)

To view skies and skylines by day and by night, 
you know where to go!...

Happy Birthday wishes to you on Sunday, AdventureJo! :-)

Other PNW Road Trip Posts:

Day #1, Part 1: Butte


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...



  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

free counters