Archive | December 2013

Farewell to Another Year – See you later 2013!

And just like that, another year has flown by and it is time for another annual recap.  The top 10 for another (mostly) great year in chronological order, rather than order of importance, are:

1. Jon and I took our first trip to Walla Walla wine country, after Jon ran his 3rd half marathon in Richland, WA.  He placed 3rd in his age division and 11th overall!  We had some great food, great wine, and visited the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

2.  My dear sweet bitchy kitty Martini went home to the angels after losing her battle with lymphoma on March 1.  I’ll never know how old she was, but I will always remember the nine years I got to spend with her.  And unless you are Oliver, to know her was to love her…

3.  Jon and I took a fantastic road trip to California, down the coast through the Redwoods, the Anderson Valley wine country, San Francisco, Monterey and finally Sacramento.  We saw huge trees, big elk, lighthouses, one of the world’s most awesome paintings, and we ate great food, tasted great wine, and saw great views.  And I puked.  Several times.  Ten days and almost 2,500 miles later, we came home exhausted and thoroughly spent, but happy and with memories to last a lifetime.

4.  On April 20, this sucker for a cute baby brought home sweet Coraline, a six month old kitten who was brought to my vet’s office after being dumped on a farm.  She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but she does love her kibble.

5.  I got to indulge my inner nerd in June with a trip to Antiques Roadshow in Boise!  We didn’t make it on the show, but if you are interested in watching other people from the Northwest, the 3 hours are airing on January 6, January 13, and January 20 (who knows, maybe the back of my head will be on!).  Although we can’t fund our retirement by selling our treasures, we had a blast, and had a great time seeing the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the World Center for Birds of Prey.

6.  I completed my fourth (on September 1 in wine country!) and fifth (on October 5 at home for a great cause!) half marathons.  Next year, I will have several friends testing their resolve with me!

7.  Jon and I enjoyed a weekend trip to Olympic National Park, where we hiked in the Hoh Rain Forest and listened to the crashing waves of Rialto Beach.  Although Hurricane Ridge gave us the finger with a huge downpour, we’ll be back to see those views.

8.  I had a scare with my horse Biz, who had a scary bout with colic after his most recent dental x-rays.  At 26 years old, I am aware that my remaining time with him… well… you know…

9.  Jon and I welcomed our newest nephew on November 13 (that makes two nieces and two nephews now!).  He is sweet and perfect and cuddly.  His parents love him dearly (at least until he starts talking back).

10.  Jon finished his first full marathon on December 8, in Sacramento, California.  I got a trip to California out of the deal (no more trips to California Jon!), where I got to visit the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the Governor’s Mansion, and the John Muir National Historic Site.  Posts on the trip coming soon, I swear!

This annual recap reminds me of how truly blessed we are to live the life we do.  We are surrounded by awesome friends and family, loving animals, and we are lucky to have the freedom to enjoy our travels to wonderful places.  Although there are always the highs and lows, I am thankful that there are many more highs…  I hope you have all been blessed by 2013, and that all your dreams come true in 2014.  So bye, bye 2013 – you have been good to me!

Hugues Beauvignac 2009 Picpoul de Pinet

My recent Wine Century Party gave me a list of wine grapes that I hadn’t yet tried.  Last time I checked, I was at 77 grapes.  On our recent trip to California, Jon and I visited Total Wine on a mission to get some hard liquor for one of Jon’s friends, who gave us money and a wish list (I think WA state has the highest sin tax in the nation, so stocking up in California makes a lot of sense).  I had never been to a Total Wine before, so of course, I had to check out everything…

As I was wondering what I could get to round out my six pack (and feeling a bit overwhelmed), I happened upon this bottle of Picpoul de Pinet.  I knew it was on the list of grapes I haven’t tried yet, so I picked it up and brought it home.

Hugues Beauvignac 2009 Picpoul de Pinet (Sorry the silver lettering really doesn't show up very well)

Hugues Beauvignac 2009 Picpoul de Pinet (Sorry the silver lettering really doesn’t show up very well)

We opened it on the 23rd of December, as we were watching TV and wrapping presents, getting the last minute things done for Christmas.  The wine was made by Hugues Beavignac, from the Languedoc region of France.  Picpoul Blanc is one of the grapes permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but it lost much of its popularity after the French Wine Blight because of its susceptibility to fungal diseases, and because the low yield of the grape.

Upon opening the bottle, I got a light citrus nose.  On the palate, there was a nicely balanced acidity, with citrus and mineral flavors, and just a hint of butter on the finish.  Jon described the wine as balanced right between sweet and dry.  It tasted equally good the next day, when we took the bottle down to Christmas Eve dinner at Jon’s parents.

I was very pleased with the wine, and at $10.99, it was certainly affordable.  And now I am up to 78 grapes!

Merry Christmas!

I hope that everybody had a Merry Christmas and stuffed their faces silly with lots of high calorie foods and fantastic wine.  I know I did!  Over two days, we had prime rib, ham, mashed potatoes, au gratin potatoes, kale salad, squash salad, roasted beets, rolls, trifle, and red velvet cake (I know I’m leaving some things out…).  I also enjoyed sparkling Riesling, Picpoul Blanc, Merlot, apple cider, more apple cider and a taste of Zinfandel.  Not to mention fun with family, the glow of Christmas trees all lit up with sparkling ornaments, warm babies and warm cats snuggled on my lap (even at the same time!), and some lovely thoughtful gifts received and shared.  To top it all off, it wasn’t raining on the Pacific Northwest, and Jon and I enjoyed a nice hike at one of Washington’s National Historic Sites with his dad, brother and sister.  The views of the ocean and the farmlands of Island County at Ebey’s Landing National Historic Site were amazing, and unobscured by the clouds that are all too typical this time of year.

My thoughts go out to everybody who is struggling with illness or loss, or is experiencing the full force of mother nature, like my family in Michigan who are without power during an ice storm.  I am thinking of you all.  Even though I’m a day late, I want to wish a heartfelt Merry Christmas to all.  I am truly blessed.

Book Review: The Professor and the Madman

I realized the other day that I haven’t posted a book review lately.  I’m not sure how I’ve gotten so behind, because I have been reading, albeit not quite as much as I usually do…

Back in the summer I read The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, written by Simon Winchester.  The book is based on the true story of Dr. W. C. Minor and his unlikely friendship with Professor James Murray, the man responsible for compiling the definitions for the First Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

In the 1870s, James Murray began working as editor on the project of compiling a comprehensive dictionary of the English language.  The project had been underway since 1857, but they didn’t yet have a publisher for the dictionary.  Professor Murray breathed new life into the project, by recruiting thousands of volunteer readers to read though millions of books, looking for the first reference in writing for a word, as well as quotations that show the regular use of the word.  Murray set up a system to track all the submissions coming in, and to request references and quotations on specific words that they didn’t have enough information on.

In the late 1870s, Professor Murray began receiving quotations from Dr. W.C. Minor.  The two established a very productive working relationship, with Dr. Minor supplying a high volume of quotations.  Soon, Professor Murray was requesting quotations on specific words from Dr. Minor, and was consistently amazed when his requests were quickly answered with a plethora of references on those particular words (see how I worked plethora in there?).  Dr. Minor became one of the two biggest contributors for the project.

Dr. W.C. Minor was an American surgeon living in London.  He was born in 1834 to American missionary parents in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and went to Yale Medical School.  He served as a surgeon during the Civil War, most notably performing as a surgeon during the Wilderness Campaign in 1864.  The campaign is known for its extremely bloody fighting and high casualties, including countless men who were severely injured or burned to death when the woods caught on fire.  Who knows if this trauma contributed to how Dr. Minor’s later life turned out, but it had to have impacted him.

But Professor Murray didn’t know anything about Dr. Minor’s life – all he knew is that this voracious reader seemed to have an inexhaustible library of books and a lot of time to read them.  What Professor Murray didn’t know is that after the Wilderness Campaign and the Civil War, Dr. Minor served in New York and Florida, where he began to frequent prostitutes in the Red Light District.  His increasingly erratic behavior soon had him hospitalized in an insane asylum.

Eventually he was released and moved to England, where he continued to have paranoid hallucinations.  Eventually, his mental instability caught up with him, and he murdered a young father in the street, after believing that the man had broken into his apartment.  His sentence was to be served at Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane, which is where he was when he began working on the project.

There is much about Dr. Minor that is not known, so Winchester did have to take some liberties on facts – it does not detract at all from the book, which is very well researched and written.  The book flows well from one story to the another, spending time giving the history of Dr. Minor and the history of Professor Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary project.  And I must say that I had no idea what an intriguing and all consuming project the making of the dictionary really was.

This is certainly a worthy read – I was interested the whole way through, and wanted to know if Dr. Minor was ever released.  You’ll have to read to find out, but I will tell you there is quite the twist near the end!

Harbinger Winery – Home on the Peninsula

After we sat like bumps on a log on Rialto Beach (we were literally sitting on a driftwood log!), we knew we had to begin the long drive back to our hotel in Sequim.

We got back on the road, and drove into the rain that had so kindly not come during our hike in the Hoh Rain Forest and our walk on Rialto Beach.  We were grateful for that, even as we were driving through the rain and approaching darkness.  I was also feeling the effects of our super-early wake up call, so some caffeine was in order – we grabbed a couple of caffeinated drinks at a small country store along the highway.

Soon enough, outside of Port Angeles, I saw a sign announcing a winery (I swear I can spot those suckers from miles away).  We had seen another sign when we were going in the other direction; of course we thought they would be long closed before we headed back that way.  But, as it turns out, it was only 4:30, a bit earlier than we had anticipated.  And Harbinger stays open until 6!

The outside of the winery is a big old warehouse (it used to be a logging truck shop), with these gigantic wooden doors concealing what is going on within.  When you open the doors, you have to turn around and pull them back closed, because this isn’t a door that will swing shut on its own.  Inside, you are greeted with a large tasting room decorated with wine barrels around the edges, a wooden tasting bar with bar stools on the left, and a living room set of a couch and chairs on the right.  In between are several tables and chairs who want a more restaurant feel.

The exterior at Harbinger Winery with those big wooden doors

The exterior at Harbinger Winery with those big wooden doors

The joint was jumping!  There were 4 men dressed in camo and overalls seated at one table, sipping red wine (one guy was having a beer) – they looked like the least likely wine lovers I have ever seen.  The couch and chairs were filled with two couples.  A man at another table was chatting up the server and obviously knew her well.  And another guy was going through their beer lineup at the end of the tasting bar.  While we were there, several people came and went.  Even though this was one of the busier tasting rooms we have visited, the two servers were on top of their game, serving promptly and remembering where each customer was in the lineup.  And they were friendly and chatty, making everybody feel welcome.

The Interior at Harbinger - it had cleared out a bit by this time.

The Interior at Harbinger – it had cleared out a bit by this time.

You could choose to taste through their flight, purchase by the glass or bottle, or have a beer flight of northwest beers.  Even though they didn’t brew the beers themselves, they had a good variety of northwest beers that I hadn’t tried before; if I were local I would certainly do the beer flight sometimes.

The restroom at Harbinger is decorated with all of their labels from years gone by.

The restroom at Harbinger is decorated with all of their labels from years gone by.

We tasted through their flight, starting with the whites – a Viognier and a Rosé of Lemberger – neither wine was really my taste.  To be honest, I was a little worried at that point that I wasn’t going to be a fan of any of their wines.  But then we moved on to the reds, and wow – I was impressed!  Their Barbera was excellent, a great balance of light tannins and acidity.  El Jefe, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre had bold tannins and earthy flavors mixed with bright berries.  The Rapture was a great Cabernet Franc with big tannins and pepper notes.

Our tasting finished off with the Blackberry Bliss, a blackberry wine aged in oak barrels.  I really enjoyed it, but I was really surprised when Jon wanted a bottle as he normally doesn’t like sweeter wines.

Their grapes are sourced from several vineyards near Yakima, including Crawford Vineyard, Sagemoor, Elephant Mountain, Two Coyote and Piper; several are in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, which consistently receives high reviews.  The blackberries and raspberries for their Bliss line of fruit wines are sourced locally, from Graymarsh Farm in Sequim.

We purchased the Barbera and the Blackberry Bliss – the Barbera is already long gone, but I can’t wait to open the Blackberry Bliss!  Our visit to Harbinger was a lot of fun – they definitely have a fun vibe and friendly staff.  If you have a chance, go pull open those big wooden doors!  Just remember to close them behind you!

Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach

After our trip to the Hoh Rain Forest, we decided to head over to Rialto Beach.  Rialto Beach is one of the coastal areas within Olympic National Park, near the town of La Push, Washington, and just north of the mouth of the Quillayute River.  The area is the ancestral home of the Quileute Tribe, who still live on a small reservation in La Push.

At the Mouth of the Quillayute River

At the Mouth of the Quillayute River

Rialto Beach is covered with driftwood, from small pieces all the way up to huge driftwood logs.  The waves crash onto the beach in this area, making it a perfect place to sit and listen to the sound of the rushing water.  It is the sound of a seashell held up to your ear.  There is something soothing about the sound of crashing waves, and I found all my worries drifting away as Jon and I sat on a driftwood log and just listened.

Trees Grow Right Up to the Edge of Rialto Beach

Trees Grow Right Up to the Edge of Rialto Beach

Piddles the Traveling Owl Relaxing at Rialto Beach

Piddles the Traveling Owl Relaxing at Rialto Beach

Someone Built a Driftwood Fort at Rialto Beach

Someone Built a Driftwood Fort at Rialto Beach

I love the little stack of rocks on this driftwood log - Rialto Beach

I love the little stack of rocks on this driftwood log – Rialto Beach

A Young Woman Enjoying the Beauty at Rialto Beach

A Young Woman Enjoying the Beauty at Rialto Beach

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and warm enough that I could take my jacket off!  The views are spectacular, from the seastacks in the distance to the driftwood right beneath your feet.  This was easily one of my favorite places on our Olympic National Park trip.

Sacramento Wildlife Refuge Preview

Jon and I got home last night from a trip to California.  I’ll be posting about it soon, and posting the rest of my trip to Olympic National Park, but in the meantime, I thought I would share this photo from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  Enjoy!

Sunset at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Sunset at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge