orihime and dragon

Full Days in the Pacific Northwest

We spent two shellfish and family packed days in Bellingham, WA, where we went to a hang gliding take-off point, a beach through the woods, and all around town (especially Mallard's Ice Cream). We stayed late on Friday to have dinner with Yuri and Emily, and then went to Redmond with John's mother, Isabel.

From here we took Saturday to visit with niherlas and crimini, Sunday to visit Eastgate Congregational UCC and blackwingedboy and Jo in Ballard and meet with a bunch of Synarians at the Pellerin's for dinner. On Monday we took Isabel to the Great Wheel on the waterfront and Pike's Place Market, and then today we spent getting all kinds of stuff from Frye's, Ballard Bees (two medium supers!), and Trader Joe's.

It's been kind of busy.

It's also been kind of amazing realizing that I've been friends with Jim for more than 26 years, William for more than 16 years, and I'm not even going to be able to count years with all the people from Synario.

Best of all, there's news from the folks in Butte that while the head warped when the Eurovan ran out of coolant, it and the engine block didn't crack. So they're waiting on a head gasket, but have the machining to take care of most of it, so we'll hope. No chickens while the eggs are still round and smooth, but it's looking more hopeful for us to actually be able to *get* home in the Eurovan.



Crisp Bean Burrito
Coming over the pass from Eastern Washington to Issaquah, we stopped at a Taco Time. It's one of our favorite places, not because it's anything even close to 'authentic' Mexican, but because it's tasty, they make everything to order, they buy local, they do it with fresh meats and produce, they make their own sauces and stuff every morning, and we found out that they're going to as much compost as possible.

This is one of the very non-Mexican favorites, a crisp bean burrito, which is a flour tortilla filled with creamy refried beans, and then deep fried. The ends are crunchy crisp, it's always served hot enough to burn the heck out of your mouth. *laughs* I was so excited to find that they had Baja-style fish tacos, with a cabbage coleslaw over a fried fish stick, in a corn tortilla! Jet and John had chicken soft tacos (wrapped in a flour tortilla), and enjoyed them. It was just good to be there, and then the wife of one of the guys we used to work with in Synario stopped by our table to say hello! That was unexpected, but a cool way to get greeted when we finally got into the area.

Pose!
We got in pretty late Friday night, nearly at 10pm, and Mary, David, and Isabel greeted us with ice cream and raspberries they'd picked nearby. The next morning we got a great walk around town, including stopping at Emily's coffeeshop, the Union coffee shop in town. We all ordered drinks. Jet and I shared a cinnamon roll, and we talked and enjoyed.

I got to go to Handspun Yarns there, and spent some money on a beautiful handdyed lace yarn and a pair of carbon fiber knitting needles, in the size I need for lace, because I use them so often that I've bent my old Addi Turbos. We saw the Farmer's Market, went to Mallard's Ice Cream, and bought a laser game for Jet from a funky little shop with bacon everything. *laughs* That was really cool. We also got to see the bus station, Mary's apartment out there, and a new climbing place that was supposed to open on Saturday the 13th. It was a Bouldering place, so no anchors at the top, just lots of rocks, handholds, and upperbody workouts setup all around the place.

The Counter and Tank
From there we headed out to Taylor United Shellfish Farms, which was out on the mudflats outside of Bellingham, I think to the south of town? When we got out of the car, we could see miles of mudflats in all directions, piles of oyster shells that they use for helping the seedling oysters get started, and equipment all over.

They specialize in oysters, geoducks, Manila clams, and Dungeness crabs, and over both days we got everything but the geoducks. Eventhough it was one of those months without an 'r', everything was beautifully crisp, sweet, and solid. The waters here hadn't gotten warm enough for anything like a red tide, and Taylor has several farms that they can use if one or another gets too hot. So we did quite well by them for both days. We bought four pounds clams, four dozen oysters, and four pounds of mussels on the first trio. Just the five of us did more than half of that on Saturday evening for dinner, and then supplemented the next day with another two pounds of clams and two dozen oysters.

Mary used butter, garlic, celery, parsley, and white wine along with plenty of butter to cook the clams and mussels. The resulting juices were really great sopped up in the local bakery's bread. The oysters were both raw and grilled. There was also a whole side of salmon, I think it was Sockeye, and it was firm and sweet and beautiful and just grilled on their outdoor grill. I put the live crab (slowed down with ice) into the boiling water, but he settled pretty quickly and was very sweet and tasty when we got him out much later.

CrabPurchases for the DaySalmon SideFresh Oysters

It was great to just sit down to that amazing feast with everyone on Friday night.

Luckily, it wasn't just all eating. We took a few trips out with David, Isabel, and Mary and their dog Dewey on Friday, during the day, too. It was great. We got to see David's high school, and then go to a few places we normally wouldn't have seen.

Looking
One of which was a hang glinding take-off point. Up one of the mountains facing the sea, it had an incredible view of the bays right there. It was up a very steep gravel road, and Mary did the driving of her Eurovan up to the spot, and we found a paved parking lot, a bathroom, and signs as well as a map! They hadn't seen it so spiffed up before, but the place had the wind socks up, and an open space overlooking the two points that allowed for take-offs. One overlooked the San Juan Islands and the very oyster beds we'd visited the day before and went to visit after, and the other looked over the farmlands that were dyked away from the sea.

It was utterly beautiful up there.

Overlook
I really loved seeing the regular shapes of the farms in contrast with the coast, and if you look closely at the picture you can see the dark line of the dyke between the water and all the farms. They said that sometimes when it's raining hard, or stormy, the farms can be flooded pretty thoroughly, but they keep going at it. There was one very distinctive blueberry farm with clear rows.

We drove down from there to the shore and parked in the Larrabee State Park parking lot, as they had the local passes for all the parks, and then walked down to Clayton Beach. We'd taken Dewey with us, who is an old part Great Dane part Golden, and he is getting stiff in the backend, and some of the trail down to the beach was very very steep.

Woodland Walk to the Beach
It was also gorgeous, filled with trees of all kinds, for part of the way a creek ran by and on the path. There were blackberry brambles going into bloom, in pale blues and lavenders with bees all over them. There were wild flower, ferns, and all kinds of stones. And the undergrowth was dense. The canopy overhead was nearly solid.

When we were driving in, I took the last rest stop exit so that John could take over the driving, as I was tired. When we drove into the reststop, though, it was like driving into a cave made entirely of trees. They grew so thick, no light came in, and the undergrowth was so dense there was no seeing the ground. It was like nothing else I've experienced anywhere but here, where the trees take up all the sunshine, and it's green everywhere. I kind of miss that.

IMG_0196
I'll also admit that I miss the ocean.

It was just lapping gently away here, what with all the islands out there making a sort of barrier to the waves, if not the tides. Jet is the dot to the left, and he was digging in the sand to build a 'sand' castle. The funny thing was that while he was doing it, he was digging up dozens and dozens of local clams with golden brown shells and gray hinges and deep deep purple inner shells. There were live sand dollars just feet out from the shore, and they were deep dark purple as well. There was one sand dollar that I picked up that had thousands of tiny feet on the underside, and they were all prickling my palm. Isabel hadn't ever seen a live sand dollar before so I brought it to her and she carefully touched the prickly feet.

I'd never done that before, either, and it was a wonder. I set the sand dollar within inches of where I'd taken it, and put it upright on the sands. It slowly moved away.

Mary found a scallop filtering and flapping its way through the warm shallows. It was beautiful creams and browns, and she put it back where she found it as well. Jet kept throwing clams into the water, deep into the water so that the gulls wouldn't get them. I really loved that, and the day was so clear and warm we were good and warm even right by the water. The breeze was welcome while we ate some crackers and cheese on the rocks on the edge of the sand.

Coming to Dock
The other thing we really enjoyed there was the lake by their house. They have a dock onto the water, and on Thursday, it was pretty windy out, so it was cool on the dock, but John, Jet, David, and I found out that the water was actually pretty warm, especially in comparison to the wind!

I'll admit that the shock of jumping in was pretty cold, but once I was past that... *laughs* It was great swimming. I've always been more tentative in live or wild water than I am in pool water. Not being able to see a bottom, much less touch one kind of does it to me, but I'm confident enough of my abilities to go out into it for a while. I am leery of rivers, too, but am able to make my way.

And with the long, sunny days, it was a really refreshing break before eating more! *laughs*

All Gathered
We ended the Bellingham trip with a big dinner with David's daughter, Emily, and son, Yuri, whom we've known since they were tiny tots. They've seen Jet at the same age that we used to see them, so it's been fun watching them see Jet grow up, too. They're really great cousins to Jet, and it's fun just being with them!

After dinner, I really wanted to go back to Mallard's as did Jet, so we went at the urging of Emily. Hee. One last ice cream cone!

Luckily, we didn't schedule anything with niherlas and criminiat noon on Saturday, as we got into Redmond near 11 pm. Jet was wise and took a nap on the way down, but John and I needed to catch up some as well. It was a great get together with them and their son. We talked, we had BBQ, we all played games together (Castle Panic was a hit!), and we talked some more from noon to nearly six in the evening! It was great to see crimini's hummingbird feeder, and all kinds of other things. It was great having N claim us all as part of his family and to know that we all agreed!

At six, we wandered off to a teriyaki shop, got one short rib dinner and one chicken and pork combo and took it all back to Isabel's place, where we demolished them and the lamb Manpie I'd bought in Bellignham. Isabel was kind enough to bake it for me, and it was quite good. It was braised lamb with vegetables in a good thick rosemary-based gravy. We all had a taste, but I loved the pie, too. I really hope someone will do the chicken pot pie business thing in Boulder, someday.

The Food
The next morning started with a Taize service at Eastgate Congregational UCC. We were long ago members of that church and it was wonderful getting to see so many of them again, and to have such a contemplative service with them. It was so sweet to just be able to hug and talk with so many of them and see their new pastor. I loved the service and got a lot out of it.

From there we headed into Ballard, ran right by a huge salmon model, and got to the Portage Bay Cafe, where the motto is, "Eat Like You Give A Damn." It's nearly all locally sourced foods, with no GMO, all organic, and on Sunday it's breakfast all day. We met up with blackwingedboy and his Jo there at the restaurant, and this is feast we came up with from the bottom left in a clockwise direction it's the lemon curd French Toast, the smoked salmon Eggs Benedict, the Joe's Way Pancake, the baked French Toast, and the Green Pork chile omelet, with a side of pepper bacon in the center.

It was an amazing meal and it was great to talk with William and Jo for a good long time. We had even more fun by going over to the Ballard Locks and watching lots of water rushing about as well as boat people rushing about. Because it was a sunny day, lots of ships were going through the locks to get to the water they wanted to be in, ocean or lake.

Waiting Their Turn
It was a real treat to actually get to see salmon in the fish ladder. There were lots of them all pooled in one step, gathering up the patience to get on with the next leap into the waters coming down. They were big fish, too, and fascinating to watch swim to and fro.

We then spent a good half hour just watching the locks empty and fill with ships, and empty and fill with water, either way, and there were Army Corp of Engineers guys tethered to the upper walls of the Locks so that they could tie down ships against the walls. They didn't want them to move when the water moved and went up or down on them. It was pretty amazing contemplating the drop to the water from the top of the locks on the sea side of things.

We spent the evening with a good number of people we used to work with and were great friends with and stay friends with. Satomi and Dave were kind enough to host the potluck in their new house, so everyone got the nickel tour of the beautiful place. They're at the foot of Somerset, so have a Western view of Seattle in the sunset. It was great catching up with people, and just sitting and talking and eating. Satomi teaches piano and she does ceramics with a Japanese flare, but in the process of doing them, she's made what she calls mistakes. A number of them were in Dave's workshop under the house (it is actually far more awesome than that sounds... as it's open to the air and has an even better version of their West view), and she decided to give some of them to Linda and I because we were admiring them.

What was funny was that when she spoke of how they'd failed, she sounded exactly like I did about my paintings. I know what I wanted, and when I don't get it, it is a failure, but I also know that a lot of people like them anyway. *laughs* So I give them away, too.

The Great Wheel
Monday's big adventure was the Great Wheel on the waterfront. We went there first thing and had a great, smooth ride up the huge thing. It was pretty windy that day, but we didn't feel any of it in the car. The complete enclosure, the air conditioning, and the solid smoothness of the mechanisms made it a wonderful ride, and we got some amazing views up there to the north, the south, and out west across the Sound.

Isabel said that she'd go on it if she had Jet's hand to hold, but she wasn't scared of it at all. That was really wonderful. I loved the heights, and had a great time taking pictures of the water right below me, as the far side of the Wheel is out over the water. There are buoys out there to mark the far end of it. It was also neat to get all the blue umbrellas of the restaurant that was right under us, too.

The Ballparks...and South End
From the Great Wheel we headed to Ivar's Acre of Clams, and we ordered and ate from the outside fish bar. Jet liked the clams, and he said that he had as much fun feeding the seagulls French fries as he did eating his fish. We headed up into the Market after that, walking through it. I bought a nice tie dye shirt in deep purples with silver like lighting running through it. We came back on the street side, and John bought smoked salmon while I had a small dessert accident at The Confectional. Four mini cheesecakes joined the salmon, and I went to World Spice expressly to find some green tea and ended up with some cut hibiscus as well as some White Peony. I do love being able to buy just a single ounce of something I'm craving enough to drink but knowing I don't go through a lot of tea at once makes it imperative I buy just a little so I don't have to throw it out when it gets too old.

Then we went to the Bellevue Uwajimaya, found fruit, sake, and a wonderful Tuttle book on how to Learn Chinese Characters. There's not just the pictographs, but tiny stories for how each pictograph was built from component pieces! I loved that. We went back to Isabel's, had dinner with two of her friends at Emerald Heights, and then went swimming.

The Emerald Heights Pool
We've been going whenever we can. It's a beautiful pool, just 3.5 feet deep, but warm and beautifully long for just doing laps. Jet loves playing on the extended ramp in to the pool, that's designed to allow wheelchair bound people into the water. There's also a huge hot tub at the far end. Isabel loves it, and we've been doing our best to take advantage of it, too.

Today was pretty busy too, and it started with me calling the Ballard Bee Company to see when we could meet up with Corky. He doesn't have a store front, he works out of his house, and he isn't always in because he has to deal with about 150 hives all over the city! He also had an order for 150 deep boxes from one guy that wanted him to build them all for him, and so he was hip deep in building boxes and frames when I called. I just wanted two eight-frame medium supers, as I only have the deep boxes and when they're full of honey I have a hard time lifting them. I proposed a 11-11:30 meeting, and he called back to say that he was out dealing with a hive, so could we come at noon instead?

John said that we could go to Frye's first, and that would work out, so I said, "Yes." I also double-checked the address, and then we headed to Frye's.

Our usual big Canon G12 has been used extensively for the last year and a half that we've had it. It has a lens that got scratched back when we took it to Biloxi, on the beach, and we've been thinking about getting it repaired after this trip; but it seems that the sensor array's going on the fritz as it's opening dark and sometimes even when it opens well and shows pictures on the LCD on the back, it takes all-white pictures. So it's going for repairs when we get back. Still, while in China I was wishing I could have just a tiny pocket camera to take a few shots while John had the big one, or vice versa. Since Frye's often has good deals on cameras we thought we'd look at them all and see what we liked.

We liked the Elph 115 IS enough to just buy it, and for a bit over $100, it was easy to just get. It's a point and shoot that's tiny and light and exactly what I'd hoped for, for less than an iTouch and definitely made for taking pictures instead of everything else. We got other cool stuff there, too, as well... Frye's. *laughs* But my real new toy was the Elph. The extra memory card was back in the camera case of the Big Guy, so no pictures of the rest of the errands, but it was fun to know that I could again, and have it be greater resolution than my phone could do.

I did regret not being able to take good pictures of the Ballard Bee Company, like driving up to an address in a neighborhood and then seeing a truck with a bee box in the back and going, "Here it is."

Corky was great. It was fun talking with him, as he was obviously knowledgeable, but also interested in how the Colorado associations and beeks were doing, and he was really helpful. He gave Jet a honey stick, he counted out all my unassembled frame and hive body parts, and wished that he could have given me a box, but he's broken them all down the day before. He showed Isabel a capped super frame of honey, and talked with John about the handcranked extractor on his driveway, and talked some about how beekeeping in Seattle is very very different than in New Mexico. The wet here really makes a huge difference. The wood really rots quickly if left out in the wet without paint or protection, and while everyone has to deal with mites, he's seeing more problems with Nosema because of the wet. Oof.

The two boxes from him, even with Washington's sales tax was about the same as what I'd have gotten from Mann Lake, and no shipping! Yay! And it was really fun to just talk with him. I love the idea of an urban beekeeper doing well.

After that we had lunch at Haiku in the Redmond Town Center, and then hit Trader Joe's (mayo, coffee cake mix, and nuts!) and the British Pantry (Hobnobs and black tea), and then we did a few other errands and got back here, where we played some Mah Jong, took a walk and got a great picture of the pool. They're doing a lot of renovations here at Emerald Heights, and it's beautiful work since the pool is a great example.

We ate a lot at Haiku, because it was wonderful food, but by dinner time we were so full that we just had sandwiches in Isabel's kitchen. That was really fun, and we just enjoyed each others company a great deal for the evening.