Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why haven't you posted a blog

It's Thanksgiving Day and last evening my daughter-in-law, Ada asked me why I haven't posted a blog recently. First I asked her if she had posted anything recently (no I don't have a blog) and then I promised to post one today. It's today.

I had some ideas for today that I would go to St. Leo's for the Thanksgiving Hospitality coffee and treats, but I did not articulate it beyond the thought and so I slept in instead. It was 8:45 before I got out of bed. Mary made an early morning trip downstairs, but was back in bed when I woke up. I noted the time as I knew she had some prep work to get the turkey in the oven. She was up in an instant and we both trundeled downstairs; me to make coffe and Mary to start the prep. The first pot of coffee was called weak and when I tasted it I agreed (I must have missed the scoop count?). I made a second pot and announced it as sturdier than the first, a little something to chew on.
A significant facet of this Thanksgiving is the dinner table. In September/October we had a new floor installed on the main level of the house - the family living area. This project expanded into new molding and doors throughout and then new furniture and new carpets. Sometime in late October we said goodbye to our old red plaid couch (acquired in Gaithersburg almost 20 years ago) and our long lived dining room table (acquired in Moncks corner more than 30 years ago). Both, table and couch went to St. Vincent dePaul for someone else to use. As of today we have all our new furniture except for a dining room table., which I ordered in late October. If we are lucky it will be here before Christmas. This is what it looks like.

So we are having Thanksgiving dinner without a dinner table ... and James and Ada are here and the Pearson's are coming and we are without a dinner table ...
The turkey is in the oven - 10:30 AM so out of the oven around 4 and dinner at 4:30 plus or minus. I have been sitting around doing mostly nothing and Mary has been doing everything including coming downstairs while I was doing my back excercises to give me a kiss ... she is amazing. Last night we agreed that I would do some cleaning, but she is doing most of that too ... I am just sitting around doing my exercises and blogging. I guess somebody has to due it. Oh yeah I looked up a scripture reading and our dinner prayer as we ponder those people and events in our lives that we are especially thankful for this day. For me that is:
Matt and Cara's wedding and welcoming Cara into the family. The wedding was wonderful, getting to know Cara's parents, good friends and family, Father Bruno, Madeline's and all the wonderful events.
I am thankful for Matt's new job at Sacramento State aka Cal State Sacramento. It's still awhile before the new job starts, thankfully ... he has some dissertation work that he can now focus on without the regular disruption of another job interview. Congrats to Matt, I know he will be a great addition to the Cal State faculty.

I am thankful for family with special note today to James and Ada. It is so wonderful to have the two of them nearby in Redmond. I pray for gifts of work for them so that they can continue to pursue their dreams. And pray for safe travel to Peru for the holidays ... I know it will be wonderful to see her parents, sister and brothers, other family and friends. The last time Ada was home was just before their wedding in 2007.

I am thankful for my job at Weyerhaeuser and the new Manufacturing Support role I started in August. I think I may be meant to do something else in this life, but Weyerhaeuser has provided for much and given me plenty of growth opportunities.

I am particularly thankful for Mary who right this minute is downstairs talking to the turkey - two and a half hours into the baking. I have been blessed to have her in my life these 30+ years. There is so much more that I am thankful for, but I will leave that unspoken (or at least unblogged) and close with a ...


BTW - the alternative to a dinner table worked

Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock - I Wish I Had My Camera

Forty years ago this weekend my friend David and I hitchhiked from Rochester, NY to the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. We were both 17, soon to be starting our senior year in high school at McQuaid Jesuit. We had been planning all summer to go to the concert and had seriously considered pre-purchasing 3 day passes which I seem to recall were $25. We procrastinated and never did buy the passes, which famously were not needed for what became a free concert. Of course our parents didn’t approve of the hitchhiking, but they wouldn’t let us drive the family cars and they had no intention of driving us the 200+ miles to the festival site. My mother did however drive us to the entrance of the NY State Thruway where we found the first of our two rides that took us to this once in a lifetime event.
As I recall the first ride we got was in a VW microbus, I think I saw my first dreadlocks. Given the age of the folks already in the van when they picked us up, I expected they would be going all the way to Woodstock, but they dropped us off near Syracuse. The second ride was two college co-eds who were going to the concert, we were as good as there.
When we arrived, I presume it was Thursday afternoon/evening, August 14, I believe, we parked about a mile from the concert site and set up camp in the parking lot. We had brought a tent and basic food supplies for the weekend, and we had cash for food and tickets. We started the partying in the tent and by evening moved outside to watch the steady and endless line of traffic flowing into the festival area. Clearly the crowd had exceeded the capacity of the highways and planned for parking. You might expect people to be grumping, but everyone took it in stride. The incoming traffic became a slow winding pot party on wheels. Concert goers walked along side traffic and would jump in and out of cars for a toke or to share a toke well into the evening.
Saturday morning we woke in expectation of a day of music. Early on that morning, we heard the concert organizers had decided to forego tickets and make it free for all comers. Around lunch time we made our way to the concert stage. I seem to recall there was still a little bit of traffic, but it was really at a standstill. There were a few state troopers on hand, but their role was diminished by the size of the crowd, they stood and watched on. Pot, drugs and nudity were all accepted in the new town of Woodstock, already be proclaimed as the largest event of its kind ever. News was viral flowing mostly on rumors, but a consistent message that dominated the weekend was “this is a peaceful gathering”.
At the concert site, something of a natural amphitheatre which was a transformed cornfield on Yasgur’s farm. At 5:07 p.m. on Aug. 15, 1969, Richie Havens stepped onstage, played the opening cords of “High Flyin’ Bird,” and the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair was under way. I really do not recall the order of music, it would have been great to have had a digital camera. Events I recall following Richie Havens were Joan Baez singing about the governor of California Ronald “Ray Guns”, Jon Sebastian, Ravi Shankar. There may have been more, but they are dumped into the Saturday bucket in my memory. After the concert we found our way back to our parking lot tent through the meandering and still peaceful crowd.
After breakfast on Saturday we joined a large group headed off to find a place to swim. Some people were talking about people getting sick, but these seemed more rumor than fact. People would walk off into cornfields and liberate a few ears of corn (cattle feed corn) and eat it on the spot. We finally found the pond and joined in a swim. Perhaps needless to say with this crowd, but clothing was optional and not many were clothed. I really don’t remember if I was skinny dipping or not .. oh for that camera. After the swim David and I headed kind off on our own (if you can be on your own in that kind of crowd) and eventually approached the concert stage from what seemed like a stand of trees. Santana was playing at the time and the music sound tribal as if we were coming on a village in the jungle. We found a place in the crowd and sat down to enjoy one fabulous day of music. Shows I remember for Saturday included Country Joe McDonald and the Fish – he had us all singing a version of 1-2-3-4 what are we fighting for in a peaceful but vocal protest to the Vietnam War. Following throughout the day were Joe Cocker, Edgar Winter, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, Sly and the Family Stone – with a Gonna Take You Higher sing along and probably more.
By Sunday we were exhausted along with a whole lot of folks. There was some rain so we stayed close to our tent or other cover. It may have been that the concert was postponed for the rain. We did not make it to the concert site until the evening. Through the night the crowd slowly started trickling away and still sleepy I found myself dozing as the music played through the night. I recall Paul Butterfield (Dave Sanborn was playing with the group at that time) and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. I know there were other performances that night, but I they are only in my dreams. And in the early morning hours of Monday, August 18, Jimi Hendrix and his newly formed Band of Gypsies made it to the stage, the closing act for the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival.
When the music ended we were a weary and diminished crowd, more survivors than celebrants, passive, perhaps stunned, in small groups in the muddy fields and hills overlooking the stage. It was as if I had lived a dream where a city of a half a million people had come together with a common purpose and a message of peace and celebration, and we got the attention of the world. Woodstock was three days in the garden and I am proud to have been a part of it.
As I recall David was barefoot and shirtless at the end of the concert. The tent was gone, perhaps a conscious decision to not go back and get it. As we strategized on how we would get home we ran into a school friend who unbeknownst to us had driven to the festival and had room in his car. Go figure.
When we got back to school from summer vacation our first assignment was to write on what we had done that summer. I know I wrote about Woodstock … I sure wish I had that essay along with a few digital pictures. My only Woodstock memento is the Woodstock bird which my mother embroidery on a Levi’s pant pocket. The jeans are long gone, but the embroidered bird sits in a box on my dresser, a treasured memento of a younger day when I learned how to make a dream come true. My Woodstock trip was a dream come ture.
“We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.” CS&N

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bubba Strawberry

Strawberry Hill is a 40' by 6' patch of strawberrys on the rise between our yard and our neighbor's (the Pearson's) yard. The strawberry's were in the hill before we moved in, so before 1995 and have produced a crop every year.

The strawberry crop comes on in June and has been reliable for some summer beverages, smoothies, oatmeal and freezer bags for the winter months. About 3 years ago we removed a hedge that sat between the two yards at the top of Strawberry Hill and since then the strawberries really took off. This year's crop after a good dose of fertilizer after we finished picking last year's berries has been the best ever. We are eating over a quart of strawberries each day between Mary and me with smoothies or in oatmeal, Friday we had strawberry daiquris with our neighbors and this afternoon a strawberry milk shake. On top of this we probably have put 4 gallons in the freezer.

Picking strawberries for a snack is really pretty quick and easy, but start picking by the gallons and it is a chore. As you might expect they aren't all readily visible, you need to get down on the ground and push the leaves out of the way or turn them over to reveal the ripe berries. Early in the season you are competing with the slugs and the squirrels, but as the pace picks up there is way more than these critters can keep up with and the buckets start filling up. And then after you pick them you need to cap them and clean them befor eating. Cleaning and capping is not hard, but it does take some time ... no different than if you buy them at the grocery store, but remember we are working in gallons.

More than half of the fresh berries (and probably 80% of the frozen berries) go into smoothies, which are a pretty regular breakfast for the two of us. I also like to put them in the bottom of the bowl before I add some hot oatmeal (Mike's Macdamia Blueberry Oatmeal).
Last week Mary was inspired to make a strawberry cream cheese pie which always reminds me of our visit with Anne and David Jones when they lived in Steam Boat Springs, we visited just days before their first daughter was born.

Picking last for 3-4 weeks and there are plenty of berries for our friends and family. And as the season winds down the freezer is loaded with fresh frozen berries for smoothies through the winter. The 2008 frozen strawberries lasted until early May 2009 so we don't go long without strawberries here.
And not too long after the strawberries are gone for the season our blueberries start to ripen and this year's crop looks to be a doozy too!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Red, White and Rose

A wine tasting weekend in the Yakima Valley

April 25 and 26 was Jame's birthday weekend, as well as the NFL draft weekend. The latter was not particularly important to me, but it was to the former and shaping the weekend around the former was to me, important. So on Saturday while James attended to the NFL draft Mary, Ada and I went wine tasting in the Southern Yakima Valley, in the vicinity of Prosser. James stayed home with his friend John Rainier to watch the draft activities and have some beers.

We visited 6 (or 7) wineries on Saturday - Kestrel, Mercer, Hogue, Dessert Wind, Snoqualmie and Hinzerling. If there was a 7th it certainly wasn't memorable. The big name in this area and indeed one of the big guys in Washington State is Hogue Cellars; they have been around for a long time and their operation is as big as the name. Across the street from Hogue is Mercer Estates, a new comer with some of the same folks who supported Hogue Cellars early on.

The visit to Mercer Estates was a guided tour through a good sized up and coming operation, but the high point was when I was introduced to Mike Hogue by his son in law (who was our tour guide). Mike Hogue grows much (maybe all) of the fruit for Mercer Estates and still grows around 40% of the fruit for Hogue Cellars where he used to be more involved along with his brother who is still there (I think I got that right). Like my name Hoag, the name Hogue is also Scottish and as Mary watched us talking she said she saw lots of similarities in our features and mannerisms. Here we are in the reception area of Mercer estates - Mike and Mike.
The most interesting winery of the trip was one of the valley’s oldest, Hinzerling. We got there at closing time, after driving a couple of miles past it and then turning around, but they welcomed us in to there 3 stages of tasting - 14 total tastes. These included tasting some library Cabs as old as 1979. We picked up a 1983 for James (his birth year) and the 1994 (it was the best of the lot and very good). They also did a sherry, several ports and some other desert wines all commendable. The presentation in a beat up old building that look like a 1950’s garage/gas station was unique and well done with some good food pairings (tastes) with the desert wines. Keep your ear to the ground for special events or call ahead, Hinzerling is worth the trip.

Here we are arriving at James (goofy look on the left) and Ada's Saturday morning:
We got back to Ellensburg about 7:30 Saturday evening and found a sleepy James - he worked the doughnut shift a Safeway that morning so it was bedtime. Mary and I left him and Ada and we went and check-in to our hotel and then found some dinner at the Dakota Cafe. The fare was very good.

On Sunday we met James and Ada for a hardy breakfast at the Palace. They make a great breakfast that will get you started for just about any activity including wine tasting. We then headed south to Zillah, I82 exit 52. Stops for the day included Claar (tasting 14 wines not counting the barrels), 2 Mountains, Hyatt (They had some great music and a great view so we had lunch here and literally broke out James' birthday cake). Heading into the hills we found Porteus where we found a very good Zinfandel and then headed via the hillsides (or Steppes) to find Steppe Cellars. We enjoyed some great conversation at Steppe and look forward to a future trip or at least finding Steppe wines locally.

Here we are at 2 Mountains winery on Sunday. I really liked their label design:

Here are some shots from Hyatt where we had birthday cake. I won't tell you the story about dropping the cooler and having the cake plop out on the grass. Hyatt has a great view of Mt. Adams and Mount Rainier!

Home in Federal Way with the bounty:

We had a great time celebrating James' 26th birthday and meeting lots of new people who love wine like we do.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter at St. Leo

Easter Sunday

This was our first Easter Vigil Mass at St. Leo Cahtholic Church in Tacoma. We were parishoners last year, but we did not attend the Easter mass because we joined with our Faith Sharing group to witness our friend's baptism at St. Theresa's, our old parish. This year I (we) participated in the Triduum at St. Leo's. The Triduum is the three days of services that culminate in the Easter Vigil where the new members are welcomed into the church.

On Thursday Mary and I attended Holy Thursday mass, the parking lot was quite full when we arrived. The gospel reading was from John and is from the Last Supper when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. The Homilist explained that at the Council of Trent washing of the feet was seriously considered as a sacrament, but was voted down if you will because they wanted to keep it to seven sacraments. Nonetheless it is a powerful sacramental event when one washes the feet of their loved one. For Jesus that was everyone of us. Holy Thursday mass ends with the Eucharist (Christ) being taken from the sanctuary.

Friday I made the late afternoon commute to St. Leo by myself. The traffic was bumper-to-bumper and several times I thought about getting off the freeway and heading home instead of arriving late as I could see I would. I am glad I did not do this, but stayed true to my initial plan to participate in the Good Friday service. I arrived late and the parking lot was overflowing, I had to park on G Street below the church and walked up the hill to arrive in the middle of the first reading. The Good Friday service was in collaboration with another (non-Catholic) faith community, Urban Grace. Members of this community participated in the readings and the Urban Grace pastor delivered the homily. The Gospel was the Passion reading from John. The theme for the homily was the words Jesus spoke when the Roman soldiers came to arrest him. When they asked if he as Jessus of Nazareth he simply said "I am". These words have deep roots in old testament scripture, suggesting God's name is so holy, so sacred ... not to be spoken ... and the solidiers themselves fell back.

The most powerful part of the Good Friday service was the presentation of the cross. St. Leo has a simple wooden cross which has been in the entry area of the church all during lent. On Good Friday the cross is walked through the streets of Tacoma in a reinactment of the Stations of the Cross. At the Good Friday service the cross is carried into the church in a sacred ceremony. At St. Leo part of this ceremony includes passing the cross through the pews, overhead hand-to-outreached-hand so all parishoners/worshipers participate in this silent tearful procession of the cross. The ceremony comes to an end when the cross is placed against the baptismal font. The celebrants then venerate the cross before inviting all to come venerate the cross.

The third event in the Triduum is the Easter Vigil. The mass begins with a bonfire which and from the fire the Easter Candle is lit, light is again in the world. The mass includes Baptism of the new members of the church, those who have elected to enter the church after some period of education and discernment. It also includes Confirmation of these newly baptized as well as others who are previously baptized, but for some reason have not become full members of the Catholic church (other Christian denominations or for some reason not confirmed with their peer group). These folks too go through a period of discernment before choosing/asking to become full members of the Church. There were 10 new members welcomed into the church last night.

The entire service is filled with drama, literally and figuratively. Many of the readings (and there are many) are sung or acted out. Allehluia is dramatically returned to the church after being taken away for Lent. The celebrants sang the entire Eucharistic Prayer, it was beautiful. Perhaps the most dramatic is the Baptism when the celebrant (Father Steve) stands in the Baptismal font and invites all of the elect, one-by-one to join him and be Baptized. The mass is a powerful symbol of community for St. Leo with many ... many parishoners coming together and being involved in every aspect of the event.

The Vigil service is long, over two and a half hours, but truly a community celebration. Next year I expect we may be more involved in some way (probably not on the drama side). For this year, Mary and I got home close to midnight and welocmed Easter, continuing the celebration by dancing to a few tunes before heading to bed.

Happy Easter!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Birding and Blues and Grays

One more fantastic trip to Pacific City and the 2009 Birding and Blues festival. Pacific City is on the Pacific at Cape Kiwanda which is postcard noteworthy for its massive hay stack which sits about 1/2 mile off shore (my guess on the distance). The haystack is the hard rock headland remanant of a much more majestic cape most of which remains is a much softer (sandstone) geology that has been worn away by the pounding ocean, winter rains and the winds. The weekend was highlighted by bird and whale (the Gray Whales heading north) watching during the day Saturday followed in the evening with this years rollicking concert of Lloyd Jones blues sounds .... very nice all the way around.
We drove over to the Coast on Friday morning with a first stop at Apollini Vineyards in Hillsboro, to pick up our wine club selection. Conveniently we met Russ and Carol there, tasted their day's offerings and eventually walked out with a mixed case of Apollini wines. From there we followed Russ and Carol to Pacific City, about 75 miles away.
Arriving in Pacific City we went to the Senior Center (the B&B festival world headquarters) and registered for the weekend activities. Russ was to signed up to lead 2 whale watching trips (a hike up Cape Kiwanda to the observation post) and he had arranged for me to go along on those 2 trips and lead the birding portion of the trip. This was the first year for the whale watching as a scheduled B&B event and the air was tense with anticipation ... just how many people would show up. It is probably worth noting here that this years festival took place April 3-5; in past years it has always been the last weekend in February, but for some reason still unkown to me the event was changed to April this year. It may have been the crappy winter weather this year, where snow and ice storms frequently shutdown traffic in various and random locations throughout the Northwest. The Oregon Coast was particularly hard hit, but this is just speculation.
Registered for the weekend events, we headed back to the hacienda where we unpacked the cars, settled a little bit and then prepared for our first beach walk of the weekend. Settling in after the walk, Carol began dinner prep while Russ opened a bottle of wine started pouring. First up was a fabulous Syrah from a Sonoma winery that is still unknown to me. I was just enjoying the wine. The bottle was a bit cold so after a small glass each we opened a Bourdeax blend, another California offering. As we sipped Carol assembled and baked 2 serving trays of crab enchiladas (way more than enough for all of us) that were simply awesome, along with trimmings of coleslaw and a fried corn. A pleasant Rose from our stop at Apollini was a good compliment and rounded out the feast. By the time we finished dinner we were pretty well done in and sat and watched a little TV before bed.
Saturday morning events kicked off at 8:00 and Russ and I were supposed to be at the event center by 7:30. We had a group of about 12 people and we all piled into our various vehicles and drove the mile to the base of the cape, which is the end of the Pacific City beach. The beach starts about 3 miles south at the mouth of the Little Nestucca river. It is a substantial beach with a high dune running nearly its entire length until right at the Cape. Here, at the base of the Cape is the Pelican Brewery/Pub, some seaside condominiums built into the side of the cape and across the street the Cape Kiwanda Inn along with a few other shops. Surfers have found PC and the ocean is seldom without a small group of surfers looking to catch a wave. Let it be known the water is darn cold and wet suits are standard surfing garb.
Arriving at the base of the Cape we regathered the group and then set out for the Cape hike. For this event the hike is down the boat/car ramp that provides beach access for vehicles and then a 200 yard+ hike north on the beach before coming to the climb, a steep sand(dune) hillrising about 25-30 feet in its lowest part. This is truly 2 steps forward and 1 back climbing. Getting to the top of the climb a much more gradual slope on generally firmer ground took us out to the viewing station. We set up camp, identified about 6-7 different (species of) birds and saw a little Gray Whale activity. The gray whales migrate from the Bering Sea to the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) each year where they have their calves before returning to the Bering Sea. In April the whale migration is heading north to their Bering Sea feeding grounds. The Gray Whale migration is the longest migration route of all mammals. While we were on the hill Mary and Carol made our day and joined us.
The session was supposed to last from 8:00 to 10:40, but by 9:45 it was only the 4 of us so we headed back to the house. Mary and Carol took off for one of the class room sessions and Russ and I hung out at the house, which was my time to do my back exercises for the day. The climb up the dune was a bit strenuous though no apparent negative effect on my back. About 11:30 Russ got out the Land Cruiser and we drove up to pick up some beer for lunch and then went and picked up the ladies from their class on Crows. We headed home and had sandwiches and beer sitting on the patio in the sun ... splendid.
The afternoon session started about 1:30 and was pretty much a repeat of the morning. There were no new birds to see, but the group was different and helped reinforce some of the morning spotttings. And the whale activity was similar ... 1 or 2 confirmed spottings. Again the crowd thinned out early and we all headed home where Russ opened up a "Pra", a white wine from northeast Italy and we sat on the porch again, and enjoyed the late afternoon sun. Mary was on tap for dinner and had pre-prepared a Zitti which we planned to pair with 2 Barberas from Walla Walla. The Zitti along with a salad and bread was fabulous and a good portion came home with us. The wines were a different matter, one of the Barberas had a strong "barnyard" nose and taste ... not something we were ready for, though Russ was confident that some time in the decanter would help ... it did improve some, but even the next day it was still a rugged one to sip on. Thankfully we had a second Barbera, this one from Woodward Canyon, and it complemented Mary's Zitti very well.
That evening we walked, hopped fences and dodged dog pooh to get to the community center for the Lloyd Jones dance/concert. Lloyd and his band have been a regular as long as I have been going to the Birding and Blues ... if you didn't figure it out Lloyd and his band are the Blues portion of the weekend. The music was loud and the crowd was ready to dance and dance we did. The crowd was really eclectic with young kids (7/8 range) on up and included program participants, presenters, guides and more. This is one chance I have "each year" to dance and without Lloyd Jones my dance opportunities would be reduced by approximately 50%. We stayed for a set and a half, as long as our ears could stand it and then walk back to the hacienda.
The return trip in the dark was interesting, but we all got home with clean shoes. Sunday morning was quiet we took one last beach walk and spied a few more whales between the beach and the Pacific City haystack ... that's pretty close. After another lunch on the patio with a growler of Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale, Mary and I packed the car and headed home.
Once again we had a great time in Pacific City and at the Birding and Blues (and Gray Whales) festival. It is so nice to spend these times with good friends.

Here are some pictures from the Birding and Blues weekend.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Musings

Sunday, March 29, and believe it or not today we woke up to a wet snow on the ground. It's as if this winter just won't let go. A couple of winters like this and I expect the din surrounding global warming will subside and may even be replaced with the threat of next Ice Age.

This afternoon the sun is out, appropriate for Sunday, and Mary and I did a long walk - 4 miles - which is the longest walk for me since November when my back flared up on me. It felt good and came home to find that Michigan State beat Louisville to advance to the Final Four and left me with none of my selected teams making it to the Final Four - BTW I was rooting for Michigan State, not wanting to see 3 Big East teams in the final 4. And now my hope rests for the finals - either Michigan State or Villanova.

It was a productive weekend. I finished my taxes yesterday and we have a few dollars coming back which is always nicer (at least to me) than having to send another check - just so it's not too much. I also bought a new lawn mower, the deck on the old one was dangerously corroded. I looked longingly at some Honda lawnmowers with their composite deck, but ended up opting for another Toro, but this time one that is self-propelled. At the end of the day I just could not justify the added cost of the Honda. I probably should be outside testing the new mower on the lawn, which if I don't do today, I may not get back to it for a couple of weeks. Next cut is the official first cut of the new season.

Next weekend we are off to Pacific City, Oregon to visit our friends Russ and Carol Paine. It is Birding and Blues weekend, and we will take in a few events but the real fun is spending time with Russ and Carol. They are our #1 wine buddies and we usually get in some games and often a movie along with the B&B activities which are capped by a dance band on Saturday night. I think this will be our 4th B&B. Click here for some Pacific City images from past trips.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hawaii 2009 - 30th Anniversary

Mary and I have just returned from our 30th anniversary trip to Hawaii, 10 days on the Big Island. This was a best trip ever type of experience which ended with a sunset visit to AA beach followed by one more great dinner, this one a Roy's Kahuna Grill at Waikoloa Beach.
The trip started with three nights at Kona Village. This is an "American Plan" resort that gave me just a hint of being on a cruise ... mostly because of the nearly constant feeding that was going on. Kona Village has tons of repeat customers who have been coming for years and clearly lots of new young families either carrying on or starting new family traditions. Although we rented a car for the trip it was not used for our 3 days here. We soaked in the sun, snorkeled in the quiet bay and just Relaxed with a capital R. Our last night here was Valentine's Day and we took in the best Lua on the islands, at Kona Village. The overall experience here was A+, from the quiet and private palm roofed Hale's, the great food selections, great staff and the best lua.
Leaving Kona Village we headed to the east side of the island to mostly to explore Kilauea Volcano. The drive took us through Waimea, the Big Island cowboy town on the slopes of Mauna Kea (a 13,700+ dormant volcano) and in the heart of the huge Parker Ranch cattle ranch noted for its great beef. We made a quick stop in Hilo the second biggest city in Hawaii and worked our way up to Kilauea Lodge where we stayed nights 5 & 6 of the trip. Kilauea National Park visitor center sits across the road from the Kilauea cauldera with one crater in a crater that is currently venting lots of SO2 which limits access somewhat in the park. (Mark Twain on Kilauea Volcano from 1866). Still lots to see, mostly down the Chain of Craters road to the ocean. If you go to Hawaii and want to really see Kilauea plan for at least one and a half days and plan to get a work out. We opted to explore the Southeast corner of the island on our second day and found some great spots which will just have to be future snorkeling adventures. We also got around to see where the lava from the current eruption of Pu'0 O'o, is entering the ocean.
From here we travelled to Captain Cook for a night in the Manago Hotel to provide early morniong access to Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook monument. We rented a kayak and did this with some last minute plans that just worked ... poor planning on my part ... and had a fantastic snorkeling adventure. We had hoped to also see Spinner Dolphins that are regulars in the bay, during our kayak adventure to the monument, but not to be on that day. After the snorkeling and returning the kayak (a story in itself) we headed to Mauna Lani resort for night 7-9 and 3 fabulous days of R&R in the sun and great sunset dinners. The Mauni Lani staff was great, we arrived on our anniversary and they welcomed us with a bottle of bubbly which we had before dinner. We thought we would explore more beaches, but found ourselves mostly content with the quiet little cove just outside our 6th (top) floor room. And from our room we watched a continuos spectacle of contented Humpback whales (momma and calves) and on our last day we finally saw the Spinner Dolphins we missed at Captain Cook.
We closed our trip with a final sunset visit to A'a beach at Waikola, a beach we visted with our friends Russ and Carol on our first trip to the Big Island some 7 years ago. The sunset was fabulous followed by one more great dinner before heading to the airport.
We always look forward to the Mai Tai when we are in Hawaii and this year was no exception. The best Mai Tai this year .... probably at Mauni Lani. Here are a few Mai Tai recipes in case you are interested.
And now back in Federal Way, rested and rejuvenated and back in long pants and fleece .... here is a link to a selection of our Hawaii pictures.


Sunday, January 4, 2009


The ride to St. Leo from Federal Way cuts across the Tide Flats where the Puyallup River and Hylebos Creek and maybe some other waters enter Commencement Bay. The Flats are the glacial silt deposits as well as historical volcanic mud flows from Mt. Rainier which can be seen looking east from the mud flats, rising 14,400 feet to Columbia Crest, the highest point on the Mountain.
Mt. Rainier is covered with glaciers that keep it "snow capped" year round and runoff from these glaciers flows into at least three major rivers - the Puyallup, the Green and the Nisqually - which enter Puget Sound from the Duwamish mudflats and Elliott bay in Seattle (North End) to Commencement Bay in Tacoma to the Nisqually flats just north of Olympia (South End). If you look west from the Tacoma Mud Flats the Olympic Mountains can be seen rising over the waters of Puget Sound and the Kitsap Peninsula. The Kitsap is an interesting piece of land intertwined by the waters of Puget Sound and lying just to the east of the Olympic Peninsula, where the Olympic Mountains are being pushed up by a teutonic plate.
Today as we drove to mass the sky was pink with the newly rising sun. The high clouds overhead were so high that you could see the entire rise of Mt. Rainier as well as the expanse of the Cascade range running north. The gap between the Cascade mountain tops and the clouds in the sky at this eastern horizon, was like a window that let the sun pour across the earth. And the light created a brilliant scene with golden highlights across the tops of the Cascades to the east and to the west the Olympics, fresh with snow, seemed close enough to touch; the shadow of the Cascades cast softly on their flanks. Tacoma on the south side of the bay looked like the Shining City on the Hill.
Later in the day, after mass, we took our walk at Redondo. The sky was steely gray and the sun, now well into the sky was above and behind the clouds, almost indistinuishable as to where it was along its path for this day. This along with the cool moist air at Redondo created a sense of closeness as if the clouds and the sky were much lower at this time. Something of an illusion or harbinger of the incoming weather, as looking west across the water, the Olympics were visible and still majestic, but seemed to have lost the crispness they displayed in early morning sun on our way to church.
Today we celebrated epiphany, the day the Magi found and recognized Christ. My wish is that every day is an epiphany experience in which we discover and reveal Christ in our lives.

Happy New Year - 2009!