Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zillah

The only Letter Z for Washington is Zillah, a small town in the aforementioned Yakima orchard and vineyard district.  Zillah has two rather interesting claims to fame, the Church of God Zillah (yes, say that quickly and it will give you a chuckle) and the Teapot Dome.

The Church of God Zillah, according to an article in the Seattle Times in 2000, embraces the coincidence of its name although it was named long before the Godzilla movies began. They have even put a wire frame Godzilla float outside, hoping to attract curious passersby to stop in and explore more.

The Teapot Dome was a service station built in 1922 and inspired by the Harding Administration Teapot Dome Scandal (the influence of oil money on politics is the short version - Google it if you want to know more). The Teapot Dome has since been relocated (and reconstructed after an unfortunate accident) and is an icon for Zillah.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for Yakima

I first heard the word Yakima years ago when the company that bought our local cable franchise also owned the franchise in Yakima.  It sounded intriguing - YAK-ima - interesting.

Along came the A to Z and here is it, Letter Y.  Time to explore Yakima and learn more.

Yakima is located in south central Washington, southeast of Mount Rainier.  It is similar to Wenatchee in that it shares its name with a river and a valley and like the Wenatchee Valley, the Yakima Valley has apples.  It also has wine with more than thirty wineries. It has a canyon with trout fishing and panoramic viewpoints of a 330-feet deep gorge and distant views of both Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. Yakima also has walking and biking paths and a restored vaudeville house, The Capitol Theatre, with guided tours.

As with many Washington cities, Yakima is keen to attract tourism and has endeavored to make its downtown area visitor-friendly while preserving much of its historic charm and features varied dining, lodging, and shopping options along with many art and cultural events and festivals.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for X-traordinary Scenery and Activities

The Pacific Northwest area of Washington is the home of (e)xtraordinary scenery and activities - yes, it rains here, but how else could you have the lush greenery everywhere you turn? And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't rain all the time!  The mountains are majestic (I have actually seen purple mountains' majesty at sunset), there are bays, lakes, and miles of scenic coastline, there are islands, a rain forest, hot springs, waterfalls, and river valleys.  Whatever outdoor pursuit you pursue, it is here.

There are cities and art and music and culture.  There are restaurants, art galleries, museums, world-famous attractions, sports (Go Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders and the Storm!), science centers, concerts, festivals, and endless shopping.

The Pacific Northwest is an amazing place to visit but it's even more amazing if you live here. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for Wenatchee

W is for Wenatchee and the Wenatchee Valley, where water skiing, backpacking, hunting, fishing, and snow skiing opportunities abound and you're just minutes away from some of the best attractions in the northwest like Mission Ridge Ski Area, Lake Chelan, Leavenworth, and some of the best wineries in the state.

Located in north-central Washington, the rich volcanic soil was too arid for farming but perfect for planting apple trees and Wenatchee emerged as one of the world's largest producers of the fruit.  The Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival is held every year around the last week of April and the first week of May. The list of activities is almost endless. The festival has a huge economic impact on Wenatchee as the events attract over 100,000 visitors.

Life Last Week 2015-17

Quite busy last week, both in the house on the computer and out of the house.  Monday was planning day for the April Rudolph Day on the 25th and it was my turn to pick the movie and get the posts up on the Magical Holiday Home Forums so that everyone had time to find the movie and plan their day.  You can read all about mine here.  Love the Forums - great group of Christmas-aholics there full of ideas and inspiration.  If you love Christmas, join us! I started disassembling the scrapbook area in the family room and moving it back to the office.  It was such a dreadful mess spread all over and by the time I got it organized, I found I could manage quite well in the office with my scrapbook cart next to me (it's on wheels so I can move it around easily).  I began the processing of scanning and uploading things that I wanted to include in the album, mostly things that had to be re-sized.

It was off to IKEA with the Ladies of Leisure on Tuesday.

I haven't been to IKEA in ages, probably four or five years, and it hasn't changed.  Still full of really tempting things but I restrained myself and settled for a hanging set of rings to hold scarves and a set of colored plates, bowls, and cups for Sophia.  I think they are designed for little children as they are plastic and very colorful but we've had a set for ages and use them all the time for quick snacks.

We had planned to eat lunch at Chick-fil-A as the one in Tacoma is the closest to us and just opened recently but it was a nightmare to even get into the parking lot and then there was a line out the door so we headed for some Thai food instead and it was delicious.  A little stroll around the mall to walk off our lunch and then we headed home.

Wednesday was Administrative Professionals' Day (hoping to be one of those again soon - more on that later) so I dropped some flowers off to the lady who is our contact at the community center where we hold the monthly COMPASS sessions.  She was really thrilled - I'm not sure anyone else in her office was on top of the celebration so I'm glad we brightened her day.  Then it was off to the dentist.  I think I was so stressed about Wednesday's appointment the night before that I slept with my jaw clenched and woke up in agony.  I had to keep opening and closing my mouth all morning to make sure that I was going to be able to hold it open once I got to the dentist.  The whole procedure was fine, but I'm such a ninny that I gave myself a fearful headache by being tense through the whole thing and decided to reward myself with not-so-Whole-30 soup and a soft bread roll since one side of my mouth was still numb.  I tried to be careful but I still managed to bite my cheek, pain which I didn't feel until after the anesthetic wore off.  I was so drained by the whole thing that I fell asleep in the recliner after my lunch and woke up with a stiff neck.  Good grief, I am just a mess!

Met a friend for lunch on Thursday at what she said was the best Chinese restaurant in the area.  Sorry, not.  We have had such a struggle to find Chinese in the area and it looks like the struggle continues.  It was nice to see her though and we had a lovely chat.  A few errands and then home to fed and walk MudLynn.  We live in a quiet neighborhood, three streets sort of like a trident and we usually walk a circuit around the outer U-shape.  We were just walking along when I heard a shout and looked up to see a huge (at least a hundred pounds) black dog jump his fence and run straight at us.  His companion dog was a little slower but he was coming for us too.  The black dog attacked MudLynn but I somehow managed to keep myself between them, lashing out with my leg to keep the black dog away.  Either they had been in the car (the owner had just pulled into the garage) or she was bringing them from the backyard through the garage into the house and when they spotted us, they bolted.  She had to kick off her shoes and run across the street to grab both of them by the collars.  She apologized and asked if I was ok; I said yes and told her to take her dogs back to her house while MudLynn and I stood rooted to the spot in the hope that she would be able to control her dogs.  That was really scary, thank goodness MudLynn was ok and that one of them didn't bite me.  I think it was more posturing than actual attacking because MudLynn didn't have any injuries but I will be checking into some options for things to carry with me in case anything like this ever happens again.  The thought of a stick doesn't thrill me; some of my friends recommended bear spray which must be like pepper spray for animals?

On Friday, the announcement for the first job opportunity closed so I am hoping to hear if I made the short list soon.  During the week, I received another announcement that was opening on Friday so I shot off an application for that one.  Fingers crossed!

Saturday was Rudolph Day and I was much more productive than I thought.  One month closer to Christmas. I was supposed to take MudLynn up to see Sophia and to meet her new roommate, Hannah, but Hannah had to go home so we'll postpone the trip until next weekend.

I hope you all have a great week!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April Rudolph Day

It's the 25th and that means only one thing to Christmas-aholics - it's Rudolph Day!  I completely forgot to put up the reminder yesterday but if you're a Christmas-aholic too, you didn't need a reminder, did you?

This month's task, from OrganizedChristmas, was to plan holiday crafts.  I have whole slew of things in my Pinterest account so I took a long, hard look at them to decide how many I can realistically take on this year.  The top three are:

This one was for sale on Etsy but is no longer available - I just have to figure out where to buy mini-footballs
Rolled Paper Christmas Tree Ornament
These were for sale on Folksy but again, they are no longer available - I need to search for a pattern for the leaves and then I'll give them a try
Also on the list for today were reminders to update our holiday letter (so much easier to remember what we did in one month than to try to remember what we did in eleven months in December!) and to keep up with the gift closet (the go-to place when you need a hostess gift and the place to stash things for Christmas as you find/make/buy them).

I also printed all the non-date-sensitive pages for my planner and put it all together.  It was sadly neglected, not having been used since 2011 which means that the last three Christmases were no doubt a bit more hectic than they would have been had I had the planner at hand.

While I was putting the planner together, I watched this month's movie, The Santa Clause, and I'll leave you with my favorite line...

Tinsel. Not just for decoration
(after one of the E.L.F.S. uses it to break Santa Claus out of jail)

V is for Vancouver

Not to be confused with Vancouver or Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the city of Vancouver, Washington is located across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon and is the oldest city in Washington.

Vancouver is at the tail-end of a 15-20 year downtown redevelopment and revitalization project which included restoration and re-purposing of many historic properties.  A thriving art and culture scene emerged and colorful history, recreational activities, charming shops, extraordinary restaurants, a burgeoning wine region, affordable attractions, charming hospitality, and premier events makes Vancouver a place not to be missed.

Vancouver is also home to one of Washington's largest Farmers Markets held Saturdays and Sundays from mid-March through October.

Vancouver Farmers Market

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for Washington Universities with Equestrian Teams

Scrambling again to find a Letter U so I thought I'd write about something very close to home - University Equestrian Teams.  If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that Sophia is an avid equestrian and based her university decision, in part, on the availability of an equestrian team. There are currently four universities in Washington with teams: University of Washington, Washington State University, Western Washington University, and Central Washington University,  They are all members of IHSA, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.  The Washington teams compete in a region that includes Oregon and British Columbia. Riders take lessons and practice at a riding facility near their school and then travel around to various facilities to compete against each other. Each school takes a turn hosting a competition. Horses and tack are provided by each team when it is their turn to host. It's a great way for students to continue to ride while they are in college, and a way for them to compete without needing to incur the expense of transporting their horse to each competition, opening the sport up to riders who do not own their own horse.  

The Western Washington Equestrian Team had a great 2015-2016 season with two of their members heading to the IHSA National Competition in New England next month.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Tacoma

Tacoma is the third-largest city in Washington.  It's a business center for the South (Puget) Sound region and my closest go-to for mall or major department store shopping.  I wasn't that impressed with Tacoma, considering it more industrial and commercial than its culture-rich sister to the north, Seattle, but as I began to do more research for this post, a new Tacoma emerged.

Although Tacoma had a bad reputation as a crime-ridden, rundown poor relation to Seattle in the latter part of the 20th century, the city has been revitalized and now offers great dining and theater options, museums and art galleries, and shopping galore.  Local universities contribute significantly to Tacoma's vibrant performing arts scene and the Tacoma Link, a light-rail system, is a great way to explore the city, including the restored Union Station and the urban waterfront.  Tacoma is a "Diamond in the Rough" and no longer side-lined by Seattle.

I'm leaving my shopping bags at home and heading out to explore the heart of Tacoma.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is not for Seattle, it's for the San Juan Islands

I thought S is for Seattle was a bit obvious and the San Juan Islands are so beautiful, I thought you'd rather enjoy reading about them.

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago accessible by ferry or air from the northwest Washington mainland.  Although known for the four main islands of San Juan, Lopez, Orcas, and Shaw, the archipelago actually comprises 172 islands.

San Juan Island is one of the two larger islands and is the picturesque location for a getaway.  Lighthouses, a sculpture park, lavender fields, beautiful beaches, and Friday Harbor with its art galleries, bookshops, and boutiques are among the offerings.  

Orcas Island, just 2 square miles larger than San Juan offers curving rural roads, stunning shoreline, and a handful of charming hamlets where talented artisans abound.  Moran State Park has lakes and miles of hiking trails, and you can drive, hike, or bike up Mount Constitution, the islands' highest point.

Both San Juan and Orcas Islands feature Washington State Scenic Byways, designated as such because of their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities.

Lopez Island, "the Friendly Isle", is also a haven for cyclists, hikers, and Lopez Village is home to cozy restaurants, a wine tasting room, art galleries, and a historical museum.

Shaw Island, the smallest of the four islands accessible by ferry, is a great place for a cycling or exploring day trip.  It's the home of the oldest continuously run schoolhouse in Washington.  Fill up, as there are no gas stations on Shaw Island!

Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Express
Drive, hike, bike, or just luxuriously stroll through the San Juan Islands.

Wednesday Hodgepodge - Volume 218

1. Have you ever had to wear a uniform? If yes, tell us more. Did you love it or hate it?

I was in the seventh grade in an American high school overseas when my father retired from the Army and we moved to England.  I spent the next three years wearing a school uniform - looking back, it was great not to have to worry about what to wear every day but at the time, I wasn't crazy about wearing it.  I was certainly glad they got rid of the hat the year before I started school.  We wore a blue skirt, blue blouse, school tie, and a cardigan, V-neck pullover or blazer.  The PE uniform was the worst - microscopic little pleated skirts (remember, this is England September through May which is, for the most part, cold, wet, and windy) and a polo shirt in either yellow, red, or blue (depending on what "house" you belonged to - yes, think Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, etc., although ours were called Wyre, Bailey and the third one that I can't rememeber!).

2. April 22nd is Earth Day. What is one thing you do personally to be a good steward of planet Earth?

I recycle - Washingtonians are quite zealous about recycling and we have bins for what seems like everything.

3. Brown rice, quinoa, or couscous...your healthy grain of choice? How often are one of the three on your menu at home?  Given a choice between white rice, brown rice, wild rice, and fried rice which would you go for?

We're grain-free right now which was a huge adjustment for my husband.  He's from the Philippines and had a three meals a day with rice habit for ages.  I couldn't believe that he could go without rice for 30 days when we started on the Whole 30 plan but he did and after the 30 days, we didn't really add rice back into our diet.  That being said, we LOVE Chinese food, so fried rice would definitely be our choice.

4. In your opinion, who has the best job ever?

The best job ever...that's tough.  Every job has its ups and downs.  Can one really have the best.job.ever?  I think Queen Elizabeth II is a strong contender for this category - I mean, to be Queen is a pretty special job.  It hasn't been without its trials and tribulations but I think she's amazing to have come through 90 years and still be so dignified and dutiful.  She grew up in an era when there were standards and values, a lifestyle from which she hasn't deviated and honestly, where would the British tourist industry be without the Queen?

5. What's a situation in your life currently requiring patience?

It has to be dealing with my husband's schedule.  His frequent absences from home, his long hours when he's not traveling.  I just have to be patient and know that our time will day.

6.  Do you live your life around days of the week? Explain.

Not really, occasionally there will be something that occurs only on a certain day of the week but I've learned to be pretty flexible.

7. In a nod to the A to Z challenge happening around town this month, what 'R word' best describes your April?

Rushed - I mean, really, where has April gone?

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Loved my trip to IKEA with my Ladies of Leisure yesterday but I just can't imagine how they are making any money when they offer breakfast like this:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

OK, it's a little bit of a stretch but bear with me, it was meant to be.  I'm a little addicted to the Great British Bake Off  and since the series is over, I have been watching it on You Tube.  There is the pesky interference of advertisements during the program, but I can usually skip them.  Today, however, I wasn't really paying attention until I heard the words "the Columbia River Gorge", and what came next was pure poetry:
The Indians revered it,
Lewis and Clark explored it,
Pioneers braved it,
And Congress made it the largest National Scenic Area in the country.
I knew I had to learn more.

The Columbia River runs along the border of Washington and Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area consists of 292,000 acres of cliffs, mountainous forestland, hilly deciduous woods, and grassy plains. The entire area is home to hiking, camping, fishing, rock climbing, water sports, wildlife viewing, and other activities.  It is an area of unparalleled beauty and adventure.

Photo courtesy of Share the Experience

Monday, April 20, 2015

Q is for Quilcene

It was tough to find a something with the Letter Q for Washington as there are only two places that start with this letter.  However, one of them is in my local area and has a site not to be missed.

Quilcene is a small town on the Olympic Peninsula along the Hood Canal.  During a recent "Let's drive around the Hood Canal" trip, we went through Quilcene and we missed the one thing that really sets it apart.  Quilcene has Mount Walker, the easternmost peak in the Olympics and the highest drive-up mountain in Washington, the only peak facing Puget Sound that has a road to its summit with excellent views of the Hood Canal, the Seattle skyline, Mount Constance, Mount Jupiter and east to Mount Baker.  How could we have missed that?

Photo courtesy of National Park Explorers
Quilcene is also famous for its oysters, prized by local restaurateurs.  We'll be visiting Mount Walker soon and stopping by the Timberhouse Restaurant to sample some Quilcene oysters, recommended by one diner on TripAdvisor as being "cooked and seasoned perfect" - the key word here being "cooked' for those of us who are not adventurous enough to try raw oysters!

Life Last Week 2015-16

Not too much on the calendar last week.  Lunch and Laughs event with the Ladies of Leisure - a lovely lunch and a video of Sebastian Maniscalco, a clean and hilarious comedian who talks a lot about the differences between life today and 1970s/1980s life. I had to just admire the lunch since I was still on the Whole 30. Weigh-in on Friday revealed an 11 pound loss and an e-mail from my doctor (as a follow-up to Wednesday's appointment) praised me for my fabulous lab results - yippee all around! I picked up an order from the local grass-fed beef butcher but I have to say that I was a little disappointed.  I can buy grass-fed beef at my local Safeway (from their Open Nature line) and it has better flavor. I manned the donations table for Wreaths Across America on Saturday - a gorgeous day outside but since the table was in the shade, it was pretty chilly.  And that's it for the week, folks, apart from this next bit of news.

I finally heard back from the Military Spouse Priority Placement Program (MPP), the resource that helps match displaced spouses (because of our spouses' frequent moves) with job opportunities that might not otherwise be available to them in the federal government.  The federal government hiring system is about as complex as it can be - there are all sorts of criteria for who can and who cannot apply for certain positions and the MPP loosens up a few of the restrictions.  You still have to apply and be interviewed, etc., etc., but you can get a chance at a few jobs that you might not qualify for otherwise.  Anyway, not only did I get a job announcement (application and interview criteria still apply) but I got word that I qualify for several other job categories that I had not considered before.  So, hopefully, more announcements will be forthcoming.  The first application is on its way and I hope to hear something after the announcement closes next week.

I really hadn't planned on working again - I quite enjoy my Lady of Leisure status but frankly, I'm bored.  With Sophia gone and Vic traveling as much as he is and will be this year and next, there is only so much cleaning and laundry a girl can do!  I have shied away from the spouses' groups a bit because most of their activities seem to revolve around food and I'm trying to stay as far away from that as I can.  So, bottom line, there's not a lot going on and I'd like to change that.  Plus, there is the possibility that, in the not too distant future, we may have an overseas assignment and a healthy travel fund would be lovely.

I know this sounds weird but I haven't mentioned this on Facebook, nor even to Vic or Sophia.  I guess I just don't want to go through the "I applied for a job" and "No, I didn't get the job" rigmarole - I'd rather just wait for "I GOT A JOB!" announcement, if and when it comes. So, blogging buddies, it's between me and y'all (or all y'all since I have more than five buddies).  If you'd pray, cross your fingers, think good thoughts, whatever works for you, I'd be most grateful!

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for Poulsbo

The Norwegian loggers, farmers, and fishermen who settled in Poulsbo in 1885 loved the town so much they nicknamed it Little Norway.  Norwegians comprised 90% of the town’s population and Norwegian was the primary language until the World War II era when an influx of shipyard employees working in nearby Bremerton settled in Poulsbo and the population became more diversified.

Poulsbo is a popular and beautiful tourist destination. The Scandinavian heritage can be seen in the architecture of the downtown area, the Norwegian flag flying from many businesses and homes, and the street signs bearing the names of Norwegian royalty.  King Olav V visited Poulsbo as part of the celebration of 150 years of Norwegian settlement in the United States.

Shops, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, and art galleries line the main street.  Of particular interest is the world famous Sluys’ Bakery (Viking Cups are to die for!) and Marina Market which carries a host of Scandinavian delicacies.

A Viking Cup courtesy of Dianne Faw
The Sons of Norway teach Norwegian dance, language, and rosemaling, the beautiful floral painting that adorns carved furniture and household items. Viking Fest, a celebration of the Scandinavian heritage is held annually in May, and the Christmas season (sorry, the Jul season) reflects all the Scandinavian traditions.

Sluys' Bakery
Downtown Poulsbo
A mural depicting Poulsbo's heritage

Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Orcas

Washington offers one of the best whale watching opportunities in the world and typically focuses on Orcas in and around the San Juan Islands of Northwest Washington although gray whales and humpback whales can also be found off the coasts.

Orca whales, also popularly known as "Killer Whales", are the most sought after whales for watching. Orcas typically travel in family groups called pods and generally are recognized as either transient or resident groups.

There are many whale watching tour companies that operate in and around the San Juan Islands and the consensus is that mid-April through September is the best time for whale watching.

In addition to taking a tour, the Whale Trail is a series of sites around the Northwest coast where you may possibly see orcas, grey whales, and other marine mammals from shore.

We have not yet taken a whale watching tour but I have friends who recently returned from a trip to the San Juan Islands and have graciously allowed me to use this photo:

Echo (J42) courtesy of Jeff and Jody
All of the orcas are numbered and named except for the new babies. The Center for Whale Research waits about six months before naming the babies to make sure they are going to make it as they have had some disappear and are not sure what happens to them.  They are not tagged in any way; they are only tracked by their movements.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Neah Bay

Map of State Highway 112 and Neah Bay
Spanish explorers landed in Neah Bay in 1791, establishing a fort that lasted five months.  Today’s explorers can take in panoramas of Neah Bay Harbor, Vancouver Island, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Koitiah Point, three miles west of Neah Bay on State Highway 112.  Farther west is Cape Flattery, where a thirty-minute hike will bring you to the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States.

Neah Bay’s Native American heritage is preserved at the Makah Indian Reservation and headquarters.  Seasonal wildlife viewing opportunities abound on the reservation – eagles, falcons and hawks, grey whales and trumpeter swans – and there are excellent fishing opportunities in the bay.

I’m completely indebted to AAA’s Tour Book Guide – Washington for this information.  Again, another Washington destination on our list of places to explore.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Mountains

There are, according to various sources, at least 63 named mountain ranges in Washington.  The two major ranges are the Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula close to the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.

The Olympic Mountains are home to Hurricane Ridge (covered in H is for Hurricane Ridge) and you will find Mount Rainier, the highest mountain and volcano in Washington at 14,411 feet in the Cascade Mountains.  You can see Mount Rainier from many viewpoints in the state and it is truly majestic.

Our first sighting of Mount Rainier when we arrived in Washington, August 2014
I suppose Washington’s most recognizable mountain is Mount St. Helens, location of the catastrophic volcanic eruption in 1980, and now a National Volcanic Monument administered by the U.S. Forest Service. 

Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens are definitely on our list of places to explore.

Wednesday Hodgepodge - Volume 217

Although I hadn't planned to post anything other than the A to Z and Life Last Week this month, I couldn't resist joining in with Wednesday Hodgepodge.  A list of questions goes up on Tuesday, link your post up with others on Wednesday, and see what Hodgepodge is all about.

1. Speaking of April 15th...what's the most 'taxing' thing you've done recently?

It must surely be dealing with Sophia's college financial aid processing.  Ugh, it never seems to get any easier and you have to make sure that all the t's are crossed and all the i's dotted or the result could be disastrous.  I have one more call to make today to make sure that everything has been received.  All that being said, I really shouldn't complain because she was awarded a very generous package and those of you with children in college know how expensive it is.

2. When did you last take a taxi somewhere and where was that somewhere?

New York City, April 2010.  Sophia's high school music department did an exchange with students from a French high school music department and we took our student guest to New York for the weekend.  We took the train from Rhode Island to New York City, arriving late on Friday night and we rode in a taxi from the train station to our hotel.  I seriously believe that you must have a death wish to be a New York City taxi driver.

3. What's something you can do today that you couldn't do a year ago?

Hop out of bed without difficulty first thing in the morning.  After switching to clean eating, my former hip inflammation/aches and pain issue is GONE!

4. How often is chicken (in some form or fashion) on your menu at home? Which of the following would you most like to see on your table tonight...a chicken salad sandwich, your mom's fried chicken, a Chick-fil-A meal, Cracker Barrel's chicken n' dumplings, a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings, or 'hold the chicken, I'm a vegetarian'...?

We eat chicken a couple of times a week.  I would most like to see my Mum's fried chicken on the table tonight because it brings back all the memories of childhood.  Speaking of memories, I just checked out my childhood (well, six years of it anyway - Army brat here, moved all over the place as a kid) home on Google Street View - so cool!

5. What was your favorite television program when you were a kid? What characters do you remember the most?

We lived overseas when I was a kid and were limited to one hour of English-speaking television per day - I can remember Skippy the Bush Kangaroo (aired from 1968-1970, I'm really dating myself here!) and Daktari (1966-1969).  We spent some time in England off and on and I loved Blue Peter which, amazingly, is still running (1958-). I'd have to say that Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men from a British children's show are the characters I remember the most.  It makes me giggle that their sidekick was plant called Weed!

Bill and Ben with Weed in the middle - had to have these when I saw them on Ebay
6. What was the last piece of 'art' you made?

This scrapbook title page for our 2008 Family Album.  I have since added our name and the year in the center block.

7. What frustrates you most about the Internet?

Does the unbelievable amount of spam in my e-mail count?  We've had our e-mail address for years and lately, I get almost as much spam in my Inbox as mail.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Vic is traveling and I have to say that I miss him more now that I did when I was a young Navy wife with a toddler at home.  I guess it's because, after 22 years, I feel like my other half is missing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Leavenworth

Leavenworth is located at the base of the Cascade Mountains near the western end of the Wenatchee Valley.  A former logging and fruit packing center, community leaders decided to make the most of its scenic setting by reinventing Leavenworth as a tourist destination and it was remodeled to look like a Bavarian village.

As a year-round tourist destination, Leavenworth has a packed calendar of events.  Winter brings the Christmas Lighting Festival, the Christkindlmart, and a host of festive activities. Leavenworth salutes its Bavarian heritage in mid-May with Maifest and birders gather, also in May, for the Spring Bird Fest.  In the summer, the International Accordion Celebration and a Wine Tasting Festival attract visitors and of course, what’s a Bavarian village without Oktoberfest. These are just a few of the festivals held in Leavenworth.  In addition, there are a host of outdoor activities to enjoy including horseback riding, kayaking, and white-water rafting.

Here are a few shots from our visit there last November:

A little Lederhosen for the man in your life!

Kris Kringl, the Christmas store
The Nutcracker House (there is also a Nutcracker Museum)
Delicious lunch

Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Kingston

Kingston is a small town on Appletree Cove and was one of the first ports on Puget Sound. The cove is named for the prevalence of wild apple trees along the shore. We haven’t spent much time in Kingston, although we go there often to catch the Kingston-Edmonds ferry on our way to see Sophia in Bellingham.  Once designed to be a resort town for vacationers from Seattle, that idea fell flat, but Kingston has evolved into a bedroom community for commuters who work north of Seattle and prefer a more rural location as well as a mecca for cyclists and those who enjoy outdoor activities.   There is a lovely marina, an independent theater, and shops, galleries, and restaurants lining the downtown area. Mike Wallace Waterfront Park is home to the Kingston Farmer's Market and Concerts on the Cove held evenings every Saturday during the summer. The community hosts a variety of other events including the Annual Slug Fest, 4th of July Fireworks, Art & Craft Fair, Kites over Kingston, and the Light Boat Festival in December.

I couldn’t image what a Slug Fest could be and my research led me to the explanation that it is a day to hunt for ceramic slugs, unique 8” ceramic pieces of art, all around Kingston held in August each year.  You must purchase a slug-hunting license ($1.00 in past years) at the Chamber Office. Definitely putting this one on the calendar.

Photo courtesy of the Kingston Slug Fest and Auction 2014 Facebook page

Life Last Week 2015-15

A bit of a quiet week followed by a frenzy of activity on Saturday.  Nothing much on the calendar except a visit to the endodontist - I don't know why I keep getting the red squiggly spell check line when I type it as it is a word - 
1. a specialist in endodontics
The visit went well; again, very soothing dental assistant and endodontist and I only have a problem (problem = need a root canal) with one tooth.  As I suspected, it's the one tooth that had a lot of work at one time and the tooth has just had enough already. The area of cold sensitivity appears to be coming from a tiny crack in my tooth and replacing the old filling with a new one should take care of that. The tiny crack issue will be taken care of this month with the root canal scheduled for next month.

Nothing else on the calendar until I dried my hair on Friday morning and realized that my bangs had somehow grown exponentially overnight and were now hanging in my eyes.  How had I missed that on Wednesday and Thursday? A quick call to the salon and some gentle pleading (ok, begging) to be squeezed in somehow resulted in a late afternoon spot being available.  Never give up, ladies, when the receptionist says your hairdresser can't fit you in!  Bangs trimmed, I dropped MudLynn off at the kennels as I was going to be up early and back late from the Navy Wives Clubs of America convention on Saturday.

And so it was 0-dark-thirty when I got up and dressed on that very morning.  Off to my friend Christine's as she had offered to drive.  We made the ferry in plenty of time and arrived at the convention.  There were quite a few looks of surprise as we entered the room.  A.  We were new and B. We were quite far under the average age of about 70!  I must explain that the Navy Wives Clubs of America is a national, non-profit organization first established in 1936, long before the days of Family Support Groups (now known as Family Readiness Groups) and long, long before today's assorted social media options keep spouses connected.  The Navy Wives Clubs of America are also a more formal organization than many of today's groups, with established by-laws, conventions, community service projects, and scholarship opportunities.  They run old school, Robert's Rules of Order-type meetings, and are steeped in tradition.  I love this type of group and I only wish I had known about it during my early years as a Navy wife.  I should note that the group will, for as long as I can imagine, be called the Navy WIVES Clubs and not the Navy Spouses or Partners or Significant Others.  They were chartered as such, in the days when a Navy spouse was a Navy wife and partners and significant others were not part of the picture.  Today partners and significant others, female and male, are welcomed as Associate Members (those with the same "aims and goals of the organization").

So, back to our entrance (ta-da!).  I must say that everyone was very welcoming and gracious.  The organization's numbers have been declining steadily and they love new blood! We were introduced and given a lovely geranium plant each as a welcome gift.  The convention began and it was very enjoyable.  There was business to discuss with lots of "I move that we....", motions to approve, amendments to the motions, etc., and there were enough breaks for socializing and getting to know the other members.  The Regional President has been a member for 51 years, can you imagine? The theme for the convention was "Bare Bones on Whidbey" - the hostess club had only a few members and no doubt the budget was sparse but they did a nice job of integrating the Bare Bones theme with some skeleton decor and although I am sure it was not intentional, the lunch was rather Bare Bones as well.  Not that it mattered to me because I am sticking to my Whole 30 program and as a result had a lettuce leaf, a slice of tomato, and about a tablespoon of unsalted nuts (along with a bit of dried mango I had the foresight to bring with me) for lunch.

The convention wrapped up shortly before 2pm and we said our goodbyes as there was a ferry at 2:45pm and we raced to catch it.  It was a rather rough crossing as the waters were choppy but we arrived, safe and sound, at the other end.  I picked up my car and as there was still time, I picked up MudLynn from the kennels and headed home where I fixed a quick dinner and almost succumbed to eating a chocolate-covered digestive biscuit but I put it back.  I think I ate too much dried mango and although it just mango and nothing else, the sweetness of the slices left me craved something sweet.  I should have thrown the biscuits in the bin but I needed to prove to myself that I could abstain and I did!  Only one more week to go before my weigh-in and I am anxious to have a cheat-free Whole 30.  I was really exhausted but persevered so that I could watch Outlander at 9:00pm but sadly, I fell asleep in the middle of it. Thank goodness for On Demand TV so I can watch it again.  I went to bed, slept in on Sunday morning, spent the day making a meal plan and a grocery list, and did the shopping.

Another relatively quiet week coming up - I've made plans for a weekend away when Vic gets home so I'll be firming up those details and working some more on getting this house organized.  Christine is having a yard sale soon and I'd love to get rid of a few things.

Have a great week everyone and there's more A to Z of Washington to come.  Hope you're enjoying reading all about the Evergreen State.

Bare Bones = Chocolate Bone (not for me, thank you very much)
Mr. Skeleton on the podium; Bare Bones also applied to the dress code as jeans were welcome

Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway State Route 112

Who was Juan de Fuca?  He was actually a Greek navigator named Apostolos Valerianus (also known as Ioánnis Phokás) who believed the waters off the north Olympic Peninsula were the Strait of Anian, the fabled Northwest Passage long sought by European explorers.  In 1787, English Captain Charles Barclay rediscovered the Strait, the waters between Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula, and named it in honor of de Fuca. Juan de Fuca is the Spanish translation for Ioánnis Phokás.

Now that the history lesson is out of the way, let me turn to the highway, a National Scenic Byway, a gateway to the outermost rim of the Pacific Northwest, and home to hundreds of fish, bird, and mammal species.  It's a remote stretch of rugged coastline, 61 miles long, with unbelievably beautiful panoramic viewpoints and numerous trails for hiking.  It is another spot that is on our list of places to explore.

Courtesy of Adventure Drop
May I just say that J was a tough one!  I was initially torn between Jamestown (population 361) or Junction City (population 18).  Thank goodness I remembered Juan de Fuca!

Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for Issaquah

Issaquah is somewhere we have not visited yet but I saw the sign on the freeway when we moved to Washington and was intrigued by the name which is a Coast Salish Indian word for "sound of waterfowl".  With its roots in mining and then the lumber industry, Issaquah's development has been significantly changed in recent years by the establishment of major industry operations for companies such as Boeing, Microsoft, and Costco.

In addition to commercial developments, Issaquah is also in an area of natural beauty with mountains on three sides and Lake Sammamish on the fourth.  As in many Pacific Northwest communities, the geography lends itself to great hiking and other outdoor activities.  There is also a historic downtown area and a number of local attractions.  Of the most interest to our family would be the Salmon Days Festival held on the first full weekend of October.

Definitely going to put a trip to Issaquah on the calendar soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

H is for Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is a mountainous area in the Olympic National Forest.  Accessed by a gently-twisting road just south of Port Angeles, you will see an amazing variety of trees, flowers, and meadow area on your way to the top.  Once at the top, however, the panorama is spectacular with views of Mount Olympus (7980 feet), glaciers, and the wilderness.  At an elevation of 5242 feet, the Visitors' Center offers food, a picnic area, a gift shop, Ranger-led walks and talks, and if you're lucky, black-tailed deer wandering through the meadow area. Here are just a few shots from our visit there last August.

A map of the general area

This sign is better than any photo I could take - it took six shots for me to get the whole Ridge
This little guy walked right through the Visitors' Center area and then settled under a tree
A shot on our way down from the Ridge
This sign becomes very important in the winter months as the Ridge gets a lot of snow and road closures are frequent

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

G is for Gig Harbor

G is for Gig Harbor, a charming town on (what else?) Gig Harbor.  It has a historic waterfront with quaint shopping and dining, a busy marina, and amazing scenery in all directions.  Often referred to as the “Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula”, as it is located just over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from the city of Tacoma, it is also “Washington’s Maritime City”. Although there is little commercial fishing still in the area, Gig Harbor has its roots in that trade and still celebrates it in a cultural sense. Large-scale commercial and housing areas have been moved away from the historic downtown, so that the main shopping area is located on the other side of the highway, away from the waterfront.  This expanded commercial area has maintained some of the charm of the town, being well laid-out and well-kept.

Courtesy of the City of Gig Harbor

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

F is for Field Trips

F is for Field Trips…and Flowers…and Fun.  My Ladies of Leisure group (we don’t work and we don’t have small children’s schedules to work around) took off for a trip to Mount Vernon last week – home of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival which is held in April each year.  Although there are numerous places to see field of flowers, the two main locations for tulips are Tulip Town and RoozenGaarde.  Between the two, there are over one million spring bulbs. Both have large fields of flowers but Tulip Town has a small, fenced area in front with displays and new varieties whereas RoozenGaarde has large grassy areas edged by blooms where you can wander freely, take photos, or pose for photos in front of the flowers.  In my opinion, RoozenGaarde is the better option if you only have time for one stop. 

Just a few of the many photos I took during our visit - pity it was a bit cloudy but that's Washington!

Monday, April 6, 2015

E is for Evergreen State

E is for Evergreen State, Washington’s nickname.  It doesn’t take more than a minute to figure out where evergreen comes from – just look around at the mountains, forests, parks, and protected wildlife areas and all you see is green.  Large amounts of annual rainfall account for this.

Whenever I told anyone that we were moving to Washington, their responses were either “Oh, it’s beautiful there”, or more likely “Ugh, it rains all the time”.  It doesn’t rain ALL the time, but we do have quite a bit of rain.  It’s usually more of a drizzle than anything heavier and since I grew up in England, it’s definitely my preferred climate.  A light jacket with a hood is all you need.

A waterfall shot from a recent road trip along the Hood Canal - I think this is Murhut Falls

Life Last Week 2015-14

I've updated my Life Last Week photo for 2015 as a result of a trip on Wednesday - more about that will be coming tomorrow - please stay tuned.

It's been a busy week compounded by the fact that I did not get my A to Z Challenge posts written in March as I had planned.  So, in addition to everything that has been going on every day, I've had to scramble each evening to get my A to Z post written.  Monday seems to have gone by in a blur...I know I spent time on the phone with Sophia regarding her appointment with the apartment leasing agent (all went well, deposits paid and she's ready for September), her job interview (went well and she was waiting for a call for a second interview but when it came and she clarified that she could only work for the spring quarter, they really wanted someone who was available to work long term as they have quite an extensive training program), and her budget/financial aid processing.

Tuesday was Day 1 of COMPASS, Navy 101 for spouses, and although I was not presenting this session, I went along to listen in on the segments and help out in general.  The course runs Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday but I would only be there for the first and last days.  Up early on Wednesday for the trip I mentioned above and more on that tomorrow, and then back to COMPASS on Thursday.  Friday was my trip to the Internal Revenue Service to get answers to questions I had about Sophia's tuition, grants, and scholarships which took less than a minute and gave me just the answers I wanted.  Made a stop to get my new reading glasses ordered and then I went home to finish processing Sophia's financial aid papers and put them in the mail.  Fingers crossed for a similar amount of aid for the coming school year as her budget has those amounts penciled in.

Saturday was our monthly Navy Wives meeting and then we went out to lunch afterwards.  I'm still going Whole 30 strong (Cobb Salad for me - no bacon, no blue cheese and no dressing - and it was still delicious).  A few errands on the way home and then spent the rest of the evening with assorted household clerical tasks.  Finished up just before 9:00pm so I could tune into the new second half of the Outlander series.

Up early on Easter Sunday - should have gotten myself together and headed out to church but we still haven't found one we really liked so I stayed home.  Visited all the bloggers who commented on my A to Z Challenge posts last week and found some very interesting and entertaining themes.  There is a lot of amazing writing talent out there in the blogsphere.  Made another Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata for the week's breakfasts and spent the rest of the day organizing my scrapbook supplies (yes, the fact that I'm STILL organizing them should give you an idea of how many bits and pieces are squirreled away in a dozen different locations).  Triple-header with Call the Midwife, Mr. Selfridge, and Wolf Hall - I was in British telly heaven last night!

Have a great week - more A to Z of Washington to come.