Archive | November 2012

Calexico Concert at the Neptune Theater

On October 19, 2012, after work, Jon and I made the trip down to Seattle to go to a concert. Jon had discovered that Calexico was playing with the Dodos, and asked his sister and brother-in-law if they wanted to go with us. The answer was yes, because Calexico is his sister’s absolute favorite band.

They were playing at the Neptune, which is a historic theater, built in 1921 for playing movies. It was converted to a show venue a few years ago. It has a lot of nice historic art deco features, and still has a snack bar and the outside ticket booth. Inside on the main floor, they have converted the back section to a bar, and the front area is general admission. The space is relatively cozy for seeing a band, you feel you are close enough to the stage to get a good view, and see the band. On the walls and near the ceiling are these really cool stained glass wall murals, and gold Neptune reliefs (complete with lights inserted in the eyes so they glow blue).

Art Deco Stained Glass Panels at the Neptune Theater

Since the show was a Friday night, after I had worked all day, I had some concerns about being out so late. I had gotten up before 6 am, and I generally hit the sack sometime between 9 and 9:30. 10:30 is a late weekend night for me. We have a club at home that plays live shows, and we have been to a couple there, and when they say the band starts at 9, that means at least 10:30. Then if there are multiple bands, you don’t get out of there until after 1 am! I don’t normally want to subject myself to really late night excursions, unless there is a plane ride and a vacation destination in sight. Clearly I’m getting old.

The first band, The Dodos, started a couple minutes past nine. I was pretty excited about the on-time start… And they are good! There are just two guys in the band, a guitarist and a drummer, and they do some stuff with a sound machine. They both sing and they have really nice voices. They played for about 40 minutes, but it felt much shorter than that because I was really into the music! If you are interested, you can check them out here.

The Dodos

Then after a short changeover, Calexico came on. Calexico is described as having an alternative music style with TexMex/Mariachi/Latino roots. Their songs use a lot of instruments that are prevalent in Latin music – trumpets, accordions, maracas, and even the Xylophone! There are also the standard instruments with drums, electric guitars and a stand-up bass. Everybody in the band plays at least two instruments, and the songs have a rhythm and beat that is just fun! I was so involved with watching the show that I didn’t pay any attention to the clock, and the fact that it was way past bedtime!  I was having such a great time listening to their music and watching them play! It is one of the best shows I’ve ever been to!  You can listen to some of their songs here.

Calexico – This is only some of the band members

The show wrapped up just before midnight, and we headed off to bed with happy songs in our heads.

Newhalem and Some Elk Sex

As we continued toward home from Chelan, we traveled further west on Highway 20 past the town of Newhalem.  Newhalem is a company town that was founded in the 1920s, to house employees of Seattle City Lights’ Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.  The Gorge Powerhouse began generating electricity in 1924, and is still operating today.  The building has a beauty that industrial construction just doesn’t seem to have anymore.  Even now, the power plant is operating and Newhalem is still a company town.  We were there after things closed for the day, but I have heard there is a historic general store and some information about the town and the electric project.  It would be be neat to come back and visit when things are open.

For more information about what it was like to grow up in a remote company town, you can check out Tobias Wolff’s book This Boy’s Life, which is about the author’s experience growing up in Newhalem in the 1950s.  This Boy’s Life was made into a movie starring Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio in 1993.  I’ll have to check it out.

The Gorge Powerhouse at Newhalem

The last stop on our scenic drive home from our weekend in Chelan was at one of the elk viewing sites near Rockport, Washington.  There are two big fields along the highway where elk spend a lot of time in the fall and winter months.  There are signs posted there with information about the herd, but I’m not sure if they posted the signs because the elk spent time there, or if they starting feeding the elk there so they would come.  If anyone knows how these elk sites work, please let me know.

So anyway, back to the story…  Jon and I were driving down the North Cascades Highway towards home and I made him promise that he would stop if we saw elk.  He promised.  I think he was hoping they wouldn’t be there.  So when we saw them, I made him turn around and go back to the parking lot.  He was kind of cranky for some reason, and when I asked him if he wanted to get out to go see them with me, he said gruffly, “I’ve seen elk before.”  Whatever.  Suit yourself.  I took my camera and got out of the car and lined up with all the other tourists and wildlife enthusiasts and watched the elk.

So here are some pictures of the elk, including them getting up to some hanky panky…

An Elk Herd

Elk Chillaxin’

Elk Sex – I Think the Guy on the Left Looks Jealous

And the last part of this story is the funniest part.  When Jon and I got home that evening, after a long and beautiful drive, after moving from drought and earth charred from wildfires, to beautiful rivers, wild west towns, majestic dams, and mating elk, I gave him a hard time about being so grumpy when we saw the elk.  I razzed him, in my snootiest voice.

Me (imitating him in my snootiest voice): “I’ve seen elk before.”

Jon: “Well, I have.  They are just male deer.”

Me:  “Male deer?”

Jon: “Well, aren’t they?”

This is where I burst out laughing, first, because they aren’t male deer.  Well, to give him credit – some are male.  And second, because clearly he hadn’t noticed the elk were getting busy.  Yes, perhaps I’m juvenile, and easily amused…  It was a perfect end to a great trip, and one I can tease him about for years to come…

Chemo Kitty Caught a Cold

Friday morning, Martini woke up with a cold.  She has been sneezing and rubbing her tiny little nose for a couple of days now.  It is to be expected – chemotherapy is known for running the immune system down.  So far she is sleeping a bit more, but she still has a good appetite and is enjoying snuggling with me.  If she had to say what she is thankful for at the Thanksgiving table, I think she would say she is thankful I had a four day weekend to stay home and snuggle.  That, and a heated cat bed.  Hopefully, her cold won’t get any worse.

She has her second dose of chemotherapy tomorrow.  Another round of 3.5 pills of poison.  I feel less anxious because she responded so well last time, but more anxious because this time we are going into it with a cold.  Hopefully that won’t be too hard on her little body.

She has had a better appetite, just like the vet promised.  My days off have turned into something like this… get up, give Tini her meds, feed Tini, shower, putz around, feed Tini, do some errands, feed Tini, get lunch, do laundry, feed Tini…  I suppose it could be worse, but this little 6 pound girl is demanding!  With all the eating that has been going on, she does look like she has gained a little weight, and I swear she feels heavier.  Jon says she couldn’t possibly have gained much weight in the last two weeks.  She has a follow-up vet appointment a week from tomorrow to check her white cells and do some other bloodwork, so we will find out then.

She is also continuing to tolerate her every other day subcutaneous fluids, and it is actually getting a bit easier to do it.  Maybe it will get to the point where I don’t need Jon to help!  Who knows…  I never thought I’d add skilled feline oncology nursing to my resume, but we do what we have to do.

Spielberg’s Lincoln

Last Saturday night, my mom, Jon and I all went out to see the new Spielberg movie – Lincoln. I have been looking forward to this film since I first found out it would be released.  That was over a year ago.  Several months ago, I marked my calendar when I found out when release weekend was going to be. Since I’m ordinarily not much of a ‘see it in the theater’ type, you should be able to tell how excited I was.  We got there fairly early, but after we sat down, the theater got pretty full. We waited through all the obligatory previews. The new Oz movie looks pretty neat! Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger? Not so much… And then finally, there it was. On the big screen!

If you want to see the preview, click here.

For those of you who may not be familiar – this movie is based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals. If you haven’t read it – you should. It is a fantastic book, but not a quick read. But, back to the movie. It is set during the last four months of Lincoln’s life, from January 1865 through his assassination in April 1865. And it focuses primarily on Lincoln’s attempt to keep working toward a peace that would preserve the union, while passing the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery. The movie only covers a small portion of a comprehensive book, so watchers will better understand the movie if they have read the book and understand what comes before.

After Lincoln was elected, he set about constructing a cabinet of the best political minds, men who were skilled at negotiating the complex political environment, and who could get things done. He didn’t just pluck supporters, because he understood that he would need buy-in from the naysayers as well if he was going to be successful at getting his agenda implemented. So he made sure his political opponents were close to him.

While it was a genius strategy, it did mean that he had to work tirelessly to sell his ideas to others, get input, give input and ultimately get others to see his point and agree with him. It also meant he had to be willing to compromise. And undoubtedly as a result of being surrounded by differing views all day long, he found some of his own views and opinions changing over time. The movie does a great job of showing that he wasn’t just taking advice from people who agreed with him, and actually, most of the time, they disagreed. But in the end, after carefully weighing all of the considerations, he needed everybody to be willing to support the agreed upon course.

150 years after the fact, our collective memory had faded, and most people who haven’t studied Lincoln or the Civil War probably have no idea that he frequently toed, and undoubtedly crossed, the line of Presidential authority. He was accused of being a tyrant, a dictator, and of stripping the free speech rights of the young nation’s people. He was willing to do all of these things because he believed it was required to hold a fragile nation together. He didn’t always tell the whole truth. The movie barely touches the surface of this issue, but the nuance is there for the savvy viewer.

The actors are amazing. Daniel Day Lewis captures Lincoln in a way that I believe will become the standard for my generation. He is strong yet fragile, fiercely determined yet loving, tormented by anguish yet he delights in the simplicity of an off-color story. In sum, his performance captures the nuance of an incredibly complex man. The other actors hit their parts as well. Tommy Lee Jones is brilliant as Thaddeus Stevens. And Sally Field truly shows Mary Lincoln’s fragile mental state as well as her uncompromising loyalty to her husband. I will be disappointed if all three of them don’t receive Oscars.

Of course, as with any film, there is some artistic license.  I’m sure there will be people who will discount the movie because it doesn’t always stick exactly to history.  Some scenes most likely didn’t happen the way they did in the film, but I don’t think it makes it any less powerful.

And just so you know if you are unfamiliar with Team of Rivals – this is not a war movie. There are only a few battlefield scenes, and they are not the primary focus of the film – instead their purpose is to support a point that needs to be made. So if you are expecting something more like Gettysburg, or Glory, you won’t see it. But I do believe that this film will be the closest I will ever come to seeing Lincoln as he was in life.

Winthrop, Washington

On our way home from our weekend trip to Chelan, we stopped awhile in Winthrop, Washington.  Winthrop is a historic town in the Cascade mountains, that was first settled by white settlers in 1891 after placer gold was discovered in the area in 1868.  Owen Wister, author of The Virginian, wrote the novel after honeymooning in Winthrop in 1898.  All I have to say is, his wife must have been a really adventurous woman, because it would have been quite the experience getting to someplace so remote!

Unfortunately for the town, most of the mines had closed by 1915, and the town experienced a decline.  In the 1970s, the town decided to capitalize on the old western theme, and they restored the town to an old west style.  The restoration included wooden sidewalks and all of the shops on the main street of town have old west style facades on the buildings.  There are also a few historic plaques, explaining the original structures and the history of the town.  The population of Winthrop is less than 400, but a visit there shows a vibrant tourist area with people enjoying what the town has to offer.

Jon and I arrived in time for a late lunch, and we had gotten a recommendation from a coworker on the Old Schoolhouse Brewery.  Jon and I decided to check it out, and we had an awesome meal!  We started out with the chips and black bean salsa – the chips were homemade – and amazing!  For the meal, I had the guacamole, pepperjack and bacon burger and the Epiphany Ale, a medium body pale ale.  Jon had the bacon and artichoke salad and a coffee.  My burger was excellent – the hamburger is certified Angus beef!  And Jon’s salad was equally good.  The beer was one of the best beers I have had in a long time – this brewery is fairly new, but sure to have great success!

Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop, Washington

Jon Enjoying his Lunch at the Schoolhouse Brewery

After lunch, we wandered around town and checked out the shops.  There are lots of wonderful art galleries, and a bookstore with lots of local books.  There are several neat gift shops with unique items.  But if you get bored of poking into the shops, you can also check out the Shafer Mining Museum (I would have liked to go, but Jon was getting antsy…), or you can check out the pedestrian bridge over the Methow River.  The river is really shallow here, so you could easily see the bottom, and looking into the river was really peaceful.  If you plan to stay awhile, there are also lots of outdoor activities – camping, hiking, fishing, 4 wheeling…  Plus skiing in the winter of course.

Methow River – Winthrop, Washington

After we left Winthrop, we headed over the pass towards home.  State Route 20, also known as the North Cascades Highway, is beautifully scenic, with areas to pull out and take photos in several locations.  It is also much less congested than the more traveled Highway 2 to the south.  Of course, Highway 20 is only open part of the year, opening typically in April or May and usually shutting down in November.  Heavy annual snowfall and avalanches leave the snow at Washington Pass between 15 and 20 feet deep in the winter!  Interestingly, State Route 20 is the longest highway in Washington State, at 463.13 miles, beginning in Discovery Bay, on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, and finally ending within 1000 feet of the Idaho state line.

On this trip, Jon let me stop a time or two to check out the beautiful mountains, and again to drive over Diablo Dam.  Diablo Dam is one of 3 dams built on the Upper Skagit River, and it generates electricity for Seattle City Light.  Construction was started in 1917, but due to extreme weather and political delays, it wasn’t completed until 1930.  At the time of its completion, Diablo Dam’s 389 feet made it the tallest dam in the world.  The dam created a lake called Diablo Lake that is home to rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and endangered bull trout.  The water is a brilliant turquoise blue-green color, caused by pulverized rock that is deposited into the lake by glacier-fed streams, where it hangs suspended in the water.

Diablo Dam with Diablo Lake

And the coolest part is that if you drive down this little road off to the side of the highway, you can drive across the dam!  We drove across (you aren’t allowed to stop on the dam) and parked on the other side to take some closeup photos.  I know some of you will find it strange that I found a dam so interesting, but it was a really neat (and really big) piece of architecture!  Plus, there was this cute little chipmunk posing on the road!  And since it was really close to closing time (they close the little road at 5 pm and there is a gate that will not let you in, but will let you out), we were the only ones there.

A Cute Chipmunk at Diablo Dam

After we said goodbye to the chipmunk (ok, I’m the only one who said goodbye to him – Jon refused), we continued on toward home…

Kitty Chemo

We started Martini’s chemo treatment on Monday evening.  It feels like we opened a kitty pharmacy really.  We went from feeding one low allergen prescription food to having to dose the poor little girl with all this: chlorambucil (a chemo drug used to treat lymphoma), prednisolone (a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation from chemo, relieve nausea, and boost her appetite), metoclopramide (to relieve nausea) and carafate (an antacid used to treat ulcers, but also used to coat the GI tract and prevent nausea).  In addition, Martini is getting subcutaneous fluids, every other day at least, to help with her hydration levels.  Cats can very easily get life-threateningly dehydrated, and they don’t like to drink when they feel crummy.

Tini’s chemo drug is a pill.  3.5 pills, actually.  She gets 3.5 pills every other week.  Her other 3 meds are every day.  So Monday night, I put on my latex gloves (it is dangerous to touch the pills), and Jon helped hold her while I shoved pill after pill down her throat.  She was not pleased…  And I learned there is a special kind of misery when you feel like you are poisoning your baby.  Afterwards, I cried.  Martini was mad at me for awhile.  Especially because two hours after the chemo drug, I had to hold her down again and give her the prednisolone (doc wanted them given a couple hours apart in case one caused immediate nausea), and then hold her down yet again one hour after that to give her the carafate (you have to give it an hour after all other meds, because it prevents the GI tract from absorbing the meds for a couple hours afterwards).  Finally, after all that, she hid under the bed for several hours.  I felt terrible when I went to bed and she wouldn’t sleep with me.

And then, we waited.  I didn’t know what to expect – would she start vomiting?  Would she be really tired or achy?  Would she lose her hair?  The interwebs says some cats lose their whiskers but they don’t really lose their hair.  Well it has been 6 days now and here’s our experience.

Tini vomited once the night of the chemo, and once since then.  2 times in a week, that’s not bad, all things considered.  And at least she had the decency to not puke under the bed again!  We have a Tempur-pedic mattress so moving it off the bed to get under there to clean it up is a two person workout.  She was tired the first couple of nights, certainly, putting herself to bed about 7.  She hasn’t seemed more achy than usual, and is still jumping up where she wants to be – counters, beds, etc.  And after a few days, just like the vet said, her appetite started to improve!  We are giving her wet food whenever she wants it, which she is eating well, but she is eating some kibble too!  That makes me hopeful.

And while I wouldn’t say she likes her meds, she is tolerating them pretty well.  She doesn’t hide at med-time.  She doesn’t glare at me or hide after med-time.  She doesn’t like the prednisolone, because it makes her drool – but that’s just for a few minutes afterwards…  Last night she was protesting her subcutaneous fluids, but purring at the same time!  Jon says she bit him, but not hard.  How’s that for passive aggressive!?  Here Daddy, let me purr while I bite you!

So, one week into cancer treatment, I’d say things are going well.  We have a long road still ahead, but at least so far, it could be worse.

Chelan Saturday – Dinner (of sorts) and a Movie!

After our tasting at Chelan Ridge Winery, we were wined out.  Plus, considering how pleased we were with the wines there, I’m not sure that we would have been as successful if we had gone anywhere else, so we headed back into Chelan and relaxed a little bit.  We got some food at the grocery store so we could have dinner at the room (after 5 days away from home I was getting pretty burned out on restaurant food).  Then we went out to a movie for date night!  Jon took me to see ParaNorman, the story of a nerdy boy who sees ghosts, and who has to help a little girl ghost find peace.  It is an animated film, and it was a really fun movie!  But I hate when people give away the details, so you will just have to go see it yourself!

The movie was shown at the historic Ruby Theatre, right on the main street in Chelan.  The Ruby opened in 1914, and is believed to be the oldest continuously running film theater in the state of Washington.  It is beautifully restored building that remains true to its Moorish design style.  The Ruby was state of the art for its time, with sloping floors, individual seats, a built in sound system and a fireproof projection room.  The restoration project installed more comfortable theater seats, but the first three rows still have the original seats, so you can get an idea of what once was.  You can even sit in those seats, if you are so inclined – we chose not to because there were a lot of kids at this movie, and many of them wanted to be front and center.

The Ruby Theatre, Chelan, Washington – Built 1914 – Renaissance Revival Architectural Style

The Ruby also hosts workshops, community plays and other events, to fulfill its goal of being a true community gathering place.  I loved visiting, and it is great to see a community that treasures its history and wants to preserve it.  While the projection system isn’t going to satisfy you if you are interested in seeing special effects in all their glory, history and architecture enthusiasts will delight in this special theater.

Ruby Theatre Interior – Looking Up at the Side Balcony

After the movie, we walked back to the hotel and had another evening of relaxing and enjoying some wine.  We had a great time in Chelan, but after 5 days of the smoky air, my poor lungs couldn’t take much more, and we decided we would head home the next morning.

Chelan Saturday (cont.) – More Wine and More Smoke

To get back on the wagon (or continue falling off, depending on your perspective) after our less than stellar experience at Atam Winery, we headed on over to Benson Vineyards Estate Winery.  Benson is probably the Chelan area’s most well known winery and the one of the only wineries in the area that is a 100% Estate Winery.  To qualify as an Estate Winery, that means the winery and vineyards have to be in the same AVA, all of the vineyards have to be controlled or owned by the winery, and the wine has to be made from start to finish at the winery.  Most of the Chelan area wineries source some of their fruit from the Yakima and Columbia Valley, so Benson is unique in that respect.

The tasting room is another in the grand Tuscan Villa style, with the building cut into the hill so you walk into the tasting room on the same level as the parking lot, but on the back side you can head down a flight of stairs to a gorgeous patio with chairs and tables, and a spectacular view of the lake.  Well, the view… the weekend that we were there… not so much.  You haven’t forgotten about the smoke, have you?  My lungs hadn’t!

Benson Vineyards – Can you see the really faint line across the picture near the center? That’s where the lake ends and the land begins. Normally, you can easily see the lake.

We enjoyed tasting several of their wines, starting with their 2011 Chardonnay.  This wine was aged in French oak for 6 months, but honestly it didn’t taste like an oaked Chardonnay.  It was very crisp, with flavors of tart apple – a very nice Chardonnay.  I tried the Rosé next, a Syrah Rosé that is dry with a light sweetness and flavors of cherries.  It would be an excellent accompaniment to BBQ on a hot day.  But I wasn’t so impressed with their 2009 Pinot Noir – it tasted too earthy for my taste, with lots of bitter coffee flavor.

The 2009 Nebbiolo was a big smooth wine, with flavors of strong tobacco and peppermint.  It was decent, but at a $45 sticker price, it needed to be amazing for me to buy it.  At $28, I liked the 2008 Rhythm much better, with a nice balance of berry and smoke.  The 2009 Cabernet Franc was another big tannic wine, with flavors of coffee and heavy smoke.  Not really my taste.  I liked the Cabernet Sauvignon much better, although it was also a big wine, its flavors of leather and chocolate were very smooth.

Benson Vineyards and Estate Winery Patio Seating

After our tasting, Jon and I sat out on the patio for awhile and enjoyed the warm air, but we couldn’t really linger for long because of the heavy smoke in the air.  So, we headed to our next destination.  At that point, we didn’t really know where we wanted to visit next, so he headed out and turned when we saw a winery sign that piqued our interest.  That sign said Chelan Ridge  Winery.  We had no idea what we were in for…

The tasting room was staffed by Henry, and a tasting room server (I didn’t catch her name).  Henry explained that he and his wife Lynn own the winery, and she is the winemaker.  He spent his career as a commercial airline pilot, and they decided to start a winery as a retirement project (that sounds like an awesome retirement!).  Henry and the server were both really friendly, and Henry enjoyed talking about the wines.  When he saw that I was taking notes during the tasting, he offered to make a copy of the tasting notes for me.  They had 4 reds when we were there, and here’s what I thought.

2008 Merlot – Estate Vineyard

The Winemaker’s Notes – This Merlot opens with rich, bright aromas of ripe dark cherries, blackberry jam, and dark chocolate. It’s bright acidity and supple tannins round out a long firm finish with flavors of black cherries, black currant, mocha, and toasty French oak.

My Notes – Very tannic, Toasty – aged in French oak.  A lot of great structure and balance – needs some age.

2008 Syrah – Estate Vineyard

The Winemaker’s Notes – This Syrah opens with lush aromas of ripe dark fruit, white pepper, and violets, followed by rich jammy flavors of blackberries and plums, along with spicy oak. Bold tannins show on the entry and in the finish. This is a no sissy wine! Pairs wonderfully with grilled ribeye!

My Notes – White pepper.  Very good structure – big tannins.

2008 Rouge de Moraine (Bordeaux-Style Blend) – Estate Vineyard

The Winemaker’s Notes – Our Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Cab Franc (27%), and Merlot (18%) is a real fruit bomb layered with dark cherries, rich plums, and toasted oak forming the base of the aromas, with cherries, pomegranates and blackberries on the palate. The dense tannin profile is complemented by dark chocolate notes and good acidity making it a great food wine.

My Notes – very smooth – excellent blend.  We bought two of these.

2008 Cabernet Franc – Estate Vineyard

The Winemaker’s Notes – Spicy aromas including red currants, raspberries, vanilla and light oak give way to black cherry flavors, black raspberries, and baker’s chocolate. Bright acidity and moderate tannins provide good structure and balance. Superb with alder plank salmon or grilled meats!

My Notes – Raspberry on nose.  Dark bitter chocolate.  We bought one of these.

Chelan Ridge Winery – And Lake Chelan on the Left Side Down the Hill, Only You Can’t See It!

I may not have written much in my notes, but this is no way means the wines were duds.  In fact, these wines were the stars of the weekend.  If Jon and I weren’t trying to save money, I would have gladly bought multiple bottles of each of these wines.  I contained myself with just the three bottles, but it was really hard.  If you have an opportunity to visit this winery, don’t pass it up.  It is truly a gem with standout wines!

Chelan Saturday – Wine and Smoke

Part two of our September Chelan trip…

On Saturday, we slept in and relaxed in the morning before we headed out to do some wine tasting.  We had planned to do some hiking while we were in Chelan, but the air was still so smoky that it would have been impossible.  I have asthma, and that would not have been a good idea for me to be breathing in all the smoke, which hung visibly in the air, giving it a dirty orange color.  We got moving (at a leisurely pace) and decided that we would head out to Manson, which is about seven miles from Chelan, and where a lot of the area’s wineries are.

Our first stop of the day was at Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards.  This place is fun – taking its name from one of the more colorful parts of the area’s history.  Back in the day, the 1930s to be more precise, construction on the Grand Coulee Dam was shutting down, and hiring was picking up at the Howe Sound Mine.  The mine produced mostly copper, but also gold, zinc and silver.  A group of enterprising “professional” ladies, who had been working down at the dam, decided to move into an abandoned lodge at Point Lovely, a couple of miles up the lake from the Howe Sound Mine.  So, one of the locals opened up a water-taxi business, rowing men from the mine the few miles up to the lodge.  Hard Row to Hoe – get it!?

The tasting room capitalizes on the story, featuring photographs of Victorian prostitutes and with a space decked out in velvet wallpaper, beaded lampshades and a beautiful velvet upholstered settee.  If you haven’t heard the story when you arrive, they are happy to tell you the juicier details.  And even their website gets into the act, featuring a graphic of a man rowing a rowboat across the water, and topped with Mae West quotes on every page.

Hard Row to Hoe Tasting Room

Ah, but enough about the story, you want to know about the wines, right?!

We started off with the Shameless Hussy Rosé.  It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Sangiovese that is off dry and with just a hint of sweetness.  I really liked this wine, but Jon always tells me I have too much Rosé.  What?  I don’t understand what that even means!

Then we tried the Marsanne, which is not often done as a single varietal wine.  The wine had flavors of lemongrass and oak, and the server explained that it was aged in a neutral oak barrel.  The tasting notes say it tastes of honey and grapefruit – I didn’t really get citrus flavors out of this wine, but who knows, my sniffer might have been off because of all the smoke in the air.  Jon liked this wine quite a bit, but I prefer a less oaked white wine.  I should mention it won Gold at the Seattle Wine Awards.

Next up was the Semillon, a crisp wine with a light butter flavor.  It was very nice.  I can’t tell you any more about it, because it is not mentioned on their website.  Then came a Cabernet Sauvignon, with light tannins.  It was a very laid back Cab, with the grapes coming from the Wahluke Slope in the Columbia Valley.  The Wahluke Slope has about 15% of the grape acreage in Washington State.    I liked it, but Jon likes a bigger, bolder Cab – this one was softer, with a more widespread appeal.

Their 2008 Lickety Split is a blend of two different Syrahs and a Primitivo.  All the grapes for this wine are also brought in from the Wahluke Slope.  It is a smooth balanced wine that is perfect to drink now.  A wonderful wine, but priced a bit high for my taste.  The 2007 Primitivo, again with grapes grown on the Wahluke slope, is also very smooth, with light tannins and blackberry flavors.

There wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch here – just some that were more my taste or Jon’s.  It was a real treat to try Primitivo grapes fresh from the cluster, because they were doing crush right outside!  The grapes were very sweet – sweeter than I was expecting them to be.   And the tasting room staff were fun and friendly, and were willing to give lots of information about the wines.  We came home with three wines and they are just waiting for the right night to open them!

Hard Row to Hoe Picnic Area – It would be a great day if not for the smoke in the air!

After Hard Row to Hoe, Jon and I decided to try Atam Winery.  Atam Winery is one of the areas only estate wineries – growing their grapes and producing the wine on site (more on estate wineries in an upcoming post).  It is close by, and a guy I met at the conference said that he had been there with his family the night before and was pleased with it.  So off we went.  It is up a huge hill, with vineyards and a horse pasture in front of the winery.  The winery is the lower floor of a home built into the hill, and the day that we were there, the tasting room door was fully open onto a big patio where you could sit and enjoy a glass of wine.  But unfortunately, the experience went downhill from there.

There were the birdscarers…  I know they want to protect the grapes and all, considering it was really close to harvest, but trying to enjoy wine while a sonic boom goes off outside every 15 seconds is just impossible.  Jon thought they were gunshots, and was having all sorts of thoughts of crazy Eastern Washington folks shooting their guns off everywhere!

And then, the server was a bit stiff.  She poured the red wine, a Barbera, first and said that since the wines were made in the German style, they sampled the red wine first, like the Germans do.  But that was all the information she offered up.  She didn’t tell us why the German style wines should be sampled in that order.  She didn’t explain why or how a Barbera, which is an Italian grape, was being made in the German style.  She didn’t say anything about any of the wines!  So I’m left wondering if what she said is true, that the Germans do their wine tastings with the reds first.  If you know the answer please let me know.  And if you know why – even better!

So, we tried the Barbera – it had a slight foam on top which was strange -the wine was so-so.  The Riesling we tried next was sweet but flat, and had no acidity to balance it out.  The Gewürztraminer was like grape juice; it had no structure.  I didn’t like any of the three, so I won’t delabor the point with any more detail.  At that point, Jon just wandered off, out to the patio and then further away… I knew he wasn’t coming back.  What to do now!?  I hate leaving a winery without making a purchase, because these are generally small businesses, and people’s livelihoods, but I really didn’t like any of these wines…  I said thank you and departed, and then chastised Jon when we got back in the car for bailing on me!

And I certainly won’t be taking anymore wine recommendations from my conference friend!


This is how I feel today.  Because my sweet, fiesty, loving, cranky Martini kitty has cancer.  Low grade diffuse alimentary lymphoma.  Cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes) in her GI tract – hers is in her small intestine.  Low grade means slow growing (a good thing, relatively) and diffuse means instead of tumors she has cancerous cells – in her case throughout the lining of her intestine.

I got the news yesterday afternoon, and then went to pick up some meds to get her stablized.  An anti-nausea med to stop the vomiting, and a med to coat her GI tract to settle it down.  They seem to be working; she hasn’t thrown up since early Saturday morning (unless I haven’t found it yet!).  I’ve been peering under the bed with the flashlight and under other furniture every couple of hours – yes I know that might make me a wacko.

Martini (front) and Oliver Demanding Their Breakfast

But maybe I should back up and tell you about Martini, because she is more than a cancer diagnosis…  Martini came home on February 5, 2004.  I had been looking at PetFinder ads and noticed her, well, because she is just so cute.  I saw that she had been at the shelter for awhile, and at the urging of a friend, called about her.  The shelter didn’t have her anymore, because just the day before they had transferred her to the Alternative Humane Society, a no kill shelter.  I found out later that this was a reprieve from death row for her, because she had developed kennel stress and started biting people.  She was going to be put down if the alternative shelter didn’t take her.  Biting your new potential mommy or daddy… not the most effective way to get them to adopt you…

She was not spayed and she was found as a stray, so they really didn’t know much about her.  They named her Allie (as in Allie Cat – gag…) and she was 3-4 years old and had had at least 1 litter of kittens.  If you know cats, you know age is just a guess in adulthood.  She could have been 4 or even 8, which makes her 12 or even 16 now…  A world of difference in an elderly cat. She was small – about 8 pounds.  They brought her over fresh from her spay surgery, and Martini (I couldn’t keep calling her Allie, that was just too dumb) hid in my closet for the next 3 days.  On the third night, she crawled up onto my bed and slept next to me.  I remember reaching over to pet her and being a little nervous that she would bite me, because she had been biting people at the shelter, but she never did.

She did however, immediately set about asserting her dominance over my 16 year old male cat Zorro.  Zorro didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and she was ruthless.  She would hide around corners and jump on him when he walked by, and she would smoosh in between Zorro and me if he was sitting next to me on the couch.  She growled at him, pounced on him and chased him relentlessly.  About a week in, I even called the shelter and talked to them about giving her back, because I didn’t want Zorro to live out his days being bulled by this little pipsqueak!  She was half his size!  They convinced me to give her just a little more time.

Finally one day, Zorro laid down the law.  He was sitting next to me on the couch (his favorite place) and she jumped up and squeezed in between.  Then I heard this strange, unearthly high pitched growl from him (mind you, it was very strange because in 16 years I had never heard him growl).  Martini looked over at him, but did not move.  He growled again.  She stood her ground.  Then he reached over with one big paw and brought it down on her back so hard it made an audible WHOOMP noise.  No claws, no hissing, no fight.  Just one huge thump on her back.  She jumped down off the couch, and they never had a major problem again.  His spot next to me on the couch had been secured, along with his dominant position in the house.  I was so proud of my boy!

Zorro passed away a year later, and Martini has ruled the roost since then.  I’ve gotten two more cats, Oliver and Oscar, and even though she is smallest by far, she is clearly the matriarch.  And she loves me.  She loves to snuggle.  She loves to sleep on the bed, and under the covers if she gets cold.  She snuggles right up against me.  She has never bit a person since her time in the shelter.

But, she is super cranky about being brushed, and gets mats in her thick hair very easily.  She is pretty easy to pill, but it took awhile to get to where you can trim her nails easily.  When you brush her or trim her nails, she emits these yowls that would make anyone within earshot think you were cutting off her leg with a dull, rusty knife.  She loves to be pet, but not for too long, and if she is sitting on your lap and you move around too much, you run the risk of pissing her off.  And she will tell you all about it!

And then there is her meat obsession.  Ever since her food allergy was diagnosed, she has been a fiend for meat.  She trolls around looking for scraps, and will steal whole steaks or breasts of chicken that are defrosting on the counter.  Size is no object, she can haul off something almost so big you wouldn’t think she could get it off the ground.  She stole a piece of pizza once and had it all the way up the stairs and under the bed before I could grab her!  And the time she had the strip of prosciutto hanging out of her mouth was hilarious!  But all kidding aside, as much as she wants that meat, we always have to wrestle it away from her, because it makes her so sick.  It seems so odd for a carnivore to be allergic to protein.

She starts her chemo Monday – the goal is not a cure, but an attempt to give some time while maintaining a good quality of life during the time she has left.  I hope she can fight this with as much zest for life as she has approached everything else.