Saturday, August 29, 2015

Last Blasts of Summer

Summer is starting to wane. Today, it's about 65 degrees and windy with intermittent rain. Shawn is so relieved he can't stand it. He's not a sun/heat kind of guy to begin with, and summer has been long this year in Seattle, as you have likely gathered from previous posts. I'm not quite ready to let go of the heat, sun and clear blue skies, but I have had my fill of the smoke from the wildfires, so for that reason today's weather is a welcome change. I'm also ready to start using my oven again without turning the whole house into an inferno.

I mentioned wildfires. The Pacific NW's drought has led to large wildfires east of the Cascades and south of Seattle. Seattle is typically shielded from the effects of the fires, being situated between the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. Also, the wind usually comes from the west, bringing lovely ocean air keeping things fresh. Last week the wind shifted to come from the east and brought the wildfire smoke with it. Here's what our mornings looked like:

The tell-tale sign - the orange sun. The air smelled like the fire was in our back yard. Seattle mornings this time of year should be crisp and colorful - blue sky, blue water, green everything else. Between the drought and the wildfires, we had a lot of white haze and brown grass on our palatte. I feel for those east of the Cascades. It must be unbearable in the places that haven't been evacuated, and frightening in the places that have. So yes, the rain is welcome.

I suspect Summer isn't quite done with us, yet. At least, I hope not. I'd like just a few more days, please.

Last week Shawn and I were off work. It was mostly a stay-cation, but we went to Orcas Island for a few days with the Castanedas. Orcas is the largest of the San Juan Islands.

You can see on the map below:

By way of reference, last September we went to San Juan Island. People refer to Orcas as being lung-shaped - with a right ventricle and a left ventricle. We stayed on the left ventricle.

It was lovely. We stayed in a house with a view of an inlet and a huge front yard for relaxing and what-not.

We also took a sailing trip around the islands and had a great view of Orcas. Orcas has a mountain on each ventricle. On the left, it's Turtleback Mountain (about 1500 feet or so in elevation), and on the right, Mount Constitution (about 2000 feet in elevation). Here are some photos of Turtleback we took while sailing - you can see how it got its name!

Also, our captain allowed Lorelei to steer the boat for a time. It took a year off my life. I am not looking forward to teaching her how to drive.

But she was a good sailor and loved being on the boat!

The Castanedas had fun, too! Ed steered most of the time, and got us docked safely!

Shawn liked the boat also. It was a tranquil, perfect evening. In addition to sailing, we visited the tide pools at low tide by the house, and generally relaxed in the peaceful surroundings. I could have stayed there all week.

I think Maya liked hanging out with Lorelei, too.

In other news, August was a bit of a wild ride. The weather, in addition to being dry and unusually dusty, also brought another rarity to downtown Seattle - a thunderstorm complete with thunder and lightning! Crazy. I miss storms.

Seattle also continues to build. This picture below is outside my office window. I have a giant crane for a neighbor at the moment, and soon will have a giant skyscraper, blocking my view of Mount Baker. 

Boo commercial development! I've heard it's going to be a hotel. Which means instead of looking out to the pristine Mount Baker on a clear day, I'll have views of tourists running around naked in their hotel rooms, thinking no one can see them. You'd be shocked at how often that happens. My coworker, Katie, had an office that had a hotel next door and she would see people doing all sorts of things in the hotel sans clothing. Odd. The crane is sort of cool, though.

Now as vacation winds down and the air grows cooler, we start thinking back-to-school thoughts. Lorelei's first day of 5th grade is September 9. 5th grade!! I can't believe it. I have such vivid memories of 5th grade. I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

Oh, before I forget, our adventures in ice cream making continue! We made mint chocolate chip and regular chocolate this month, and tonight I plan to make another batch of coffee. If you have a favorite ice cream recipe, let me know!

Until next time - Go Bucks, and Happy Fall!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Adventures of a Too-Hot Summer!

Ahhh summer. It's the time of sun, heat, bright, vibrant colors and spectacular sunsets. I don't know why I try to take pictures of them, they don't do the sunsets justice at all. Hmm. Maybe the iPhone 6 camera will do better. Perhaps it's time for an upgrade.

You've probably heard it's been hot. Typical summer temps are 75-80. For a few weeks in June and what seems like every other week in July we've had 90 and above, which is pretty warm without a/c. It's bearable because there's no humidity, but 93 degrees is still 93 degrees. It must be making the national news because I've been getting messages from some of the Ohio folks asking how it's going with the heat.

People who are from Seattle or have lived here a long time have their strategies for dealing with shit weather. After all, winter is just day after day of shit weather.The most popular thing to do when it gets too hot is the same thing Seattleites do to deal with the winter gloom: get outta Dodge. In the winter you can head up into the mountains for skiing or over the mountains and maybe find the sun; in a too-hot summer you can drive 2 hours to the coast where it's 65 degrees,

You see how we handled it. We drove to the Ocean Shores area of the WA coast on July 4 weekend. It was crazy hot in Seattle - upper 90s - so we gave ourselves a break. Put on our bathing suits, packed a picnic, and hit the road.

Lorelei could play in the sand all day. She doesn't even have a bucket. She just finds some driftwood and plays. It seemed like it must have been a little warmer than normal at the coast also - the water wasn't too cold. Interesting.

It was a great day. I could do that every weekend and be just fine. Even though we all managed to get sunburned (I believe one of the bottles of sunscreen was too old), it was still damn near perfect. A little foggy to start, but that's typical for the Pacific NW coast.

And then the skies cleared and we had the greens of the cliff side, blues of the ocean and sky and the browns and beiges of the sand.


I get ridiculously excited when we go to the coast. I'm like a child. When the GPS shows this as the map:

I turn into a 7-year-old. Are we there yet?? How about now, now are we there?? Poor Shawn. Lorelei does the same thing. And look - obviously the beach agrees with her. This is how she spent the drive home.

Sadly, that was our only day trip in July. It felt like it was a busy month with the odd social engagements and so forth. The good news is, we have a vacation coming up at the end of August. Shawn and I both have the week off. We aren't going anywhere for the week, but we are headed to Orcas Island in the San Juans with the Castanedas for a couple of days, and we'll catch up on our day-tripping as well.

I think maybe I've mentioned before how much I like living in West Seattle because of the beaches (maybe I've mentioned this a thousand times or so). West Seattle is a peninsula jutting out into Elliott Bay, the bay between the Olympic Peninsula and downtown Seattle. But on the west side of West Seattle, the Puget Sound continues down toward Tacoma and Olympia where it pretty much dead ends. The Sound is a migratory route for marine animals and sometimes we see Orcas, but this time of year, lots of seals beach themselves on those western beaches of West Seattle and have their pups. In fact, there is an organization called Seal Sitters, comprised of volunteers taking shifts sitting on the beach keeping people away from the birthing seals and pups.

Above is one of the signs stationed every so many feet along the beach to warn people to not be jackasses and keep their dogs on the leash. This sign is along the beach of Lincoln Park near our house. When I go running, I run along this beach. I haven't seen any seals this year, but I've seen them before.

West Seattle, like the other Seattle neighborhoods, has a festival every year also, so we went to that. It's pretty fun - lots of local vendors, tons of good music (all free) and some spectacular people watching. It reminds me of a smaller scale version of Arts Fest in Cbus. This is the only picture I took this year at West Seattle Summer Fest. But it is an awesome photo:

Who doesn't love a big giant brick of fresh-cut fries??

Speaking of food, I'm going to digress here on a bit of our day to day . This might get boring if you aren't into food and cooking, so feel free to skip to the end. Since we moved to Seattle I've been on something of an epicurean journey. Part of it is that the agriculture is very close in proximity to Seattle and fresh fruits/vegetables are everywhere all year long. Part of it is also the culture here: people want to know what's in their food, where it comes from, and they want it to taste really, really good. It's legal in Seattle to keep chickens and goats for this reason. That sort of makes me crazy but I get it. You cannot beat fresh eggs. I remember Mom buying fresh eggs from the farmer in Lancaster - delicious! The other part of my food/cooking journey is related to trying to be healthy and fit and take care of my body as I get older.

The convergence of proximity to agriculture, Seattle's food culture and being healthy has resulted in a desire to control the ingredients in the food we eat as much as possible. At first I just read the labels of everything we bought in an effort to keep stuff we don't really need out of our diets. That worked for awhile, but I got tired of reading labels and having to constantly look up what all the additives are. Some of them are preservatives, some of them are ingredients that keep the other ingredients held together, and some are just stuff I can't figure out. At some point I just decided to hell with it. We can make our own stuff and it will be fine. This means we are making our food; not just meals, but making the sauces, dressings, etc., from scratch. We don't buy prepared foods, and we spend a lot of time working on recipes and making it perfect.

In this quest for really good food that is fresh and without unnecessary additives, Shawn had the idea to buy an ice cream maker. I admit, I was dubious about the ice cream maker because I do not like to have a lot of gadgets and items around that end up being clutter. Especially in the kitchen. I think it must be growing up with Mom's clear counters and always-gleaming kitchen. As it turns out, though, this idea of Shawn's was nothing short of genius. We made the first batch of ice cream last weekend - vanilla. 4 ingredients. It was the best ice cream any of us had ever tasted. This morning I made coffee ice cream. 7 ingredients. I'm pretty sure they serve that ice cream in Paradise. My apologies to Talenti, Tillamook, Graeter's and Baskin-Robbins. I will never buy ice cream again. Who knew? I always thought ice cream makers were a pain in the ass to use and yielded mediocre results. I could not have been more wrong. And what a nice way to beat the heat!!

I'll be back with more photos of our summertime adventures just as soon as we have some more of them. Until then, drop a line or comment and send us your strategies to beat the heat!