Archive | March 2014

A Vacation is Coming!

Jon and I are in the process of planning our next vacation.  We are combining a family wedding with a road trip around the southwest to visit several of our nation’s National Parks.  We are departing from Long Beach, California, on a big loop and visiting:

  • Zion National Park
  • Cedar City, UT
  • Arches National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Moab, Utah
  • Cortez, CO
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Four Corners Monument
  • Farmington, NM
  • Chaco Culture National Historic Park
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Williams, NM
  • Grand Canyon National Park

Then after this action-packed itinerary, we are returning to the Los Angeles area for the wedding and the flight home.  Here’s the visual version.

I would have put a few more places on here, but Google Maps limits you to 10...

I would have put a few more places on here, but Google Maps limits you to 10…

I would love your suggestions for the best things to do in these parks and towns/cities.  The itinerary already includes quite a bit of driving, so if it is very far off the route, I’m sad to say we probably won’t make it there.  And we only have a day or two in each place, so as much as I would love to hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, that won’t be happening on this trip (plus the hostel at the bottom was already full, and we won’t be lugging camping gear on the plane).  As my mother pointed out, we could spend a whole week in each place, but until we get to retire, that won’t be happening…

I would love to hear from people who have been to these places – what are the best things to do, and what is worth skipping?  Museums, restaurants, scenic viewpoints, places in the parks to see?  Thanks everybody for your suggestions!

Reminiscing about the Beach

The rainy, stormy weather we have had lately and an ugly cold with a wracking cough have me dreaming of summer vacations.  This gallery is from a trip in August 2011 that Jon and I took to southern Oregon, to a beach in Gold Beach.  Even though it was a cool and windy summer day on the beach, we had a great afternoon walking and relaxing.  You can read my post from back then here.


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A Herd of Felted Animals

Back in January, my sister in law organized a craft weekend at a retreat center near her house.  I’m not particularly crafty, but my mom really wanted to go and she didn’t want to make the long trip down to Portland by herself.  So, I organized all of my craft projects and made the trip.

The craft weekend was really designed for people who do scrapbooking, with rows of tables set up so you can spread out all your stuff and not have to worry about putting it away until the end of the weekend.  And if you have kids, you need an opportunity to get away from their constant need for attention and greasy fingers…

The retreat center brought back memories of summer camp.  I never actually went to a regular summer camp, but I saw some in the movies.  You know the kinds with row upon row of bunk beds.  Yep, that was this place.  There weren’t that many people there though, so mom and I had a whole room of bunk beds to ourselves.

Our sleeping quarters – they did remind me that I have gotten too old for bunk beds. My Tempurpedic is much better!

Our sleeping quarters – they did remind me that I have gotten too old for bunk beds. My Tempurpedic is much better!

Since I don’t scrapbook, I brought a latch hook rug that had been half finished since I was about 19.  I endured endless ribbing at work about the fact that I have a latch hook rug – in fact, one coworker was in tears because she was laughing so hard at my expense.  I did manage to finish off that rug – a finished project!

I also brought several felted animals.  Readers of this blog know that I hosted a felting party last year where I made a felted owl.  Piddles, as he came to be called, has traveled the Western United States with us since then and has been featured in some of my blog pictures.  And everybody knows that one needs friends.  So I wanted to give Piddles some buddies.

Mid-felt on a frog and a penguin

Mid-felt on a frog and a penguin

Over the course of the weekend, I finished off two felted goldfish and two felted frogs.  Piddles is now part of a menagerie!  I have no idea what Jon will say if any or all of them join us on our next trip!

Piddles hangs out with his new friends

Piddles hangs out with his new friends


The Egg and the Equinox

I came out of my office this morning to get a cup of tea, and found several of my coworkers gathered around the counter in the kitchen area with an egg.  A raw egg – because it has to be raw.  When they saw the puzzled look on my face, one of them quickly explained that since today is the spring equinox, the stars and planets align just right so that it makes it possible to balance an egg on its end.  According to these elusive egg balancers, the egg must be balanced right at the time of the spring equinox; which occurred at 9:45 am PST this year.

It was 9:42, and a crowd was amassing.  Would this feat of egg balancing succeed?  Was it an urban legend?  Would the egg roll off the counter and drop on the carpet and crack?  So many questions!  Not the least of which is why we have carpet in our kitchen area…

Egg balancing proceeded in earnest at 9:44 am.  We HR people like to start things on time, so we were ready.  Renée was doing the honors, and we all watched intently as the egg rolled over time and time again.  We wondered if maybe egg balancing was simply an impossible feat.

Then KayCee emerged from her office and announced that she was an expert egg balancer.  She balanced the egg on her second try.  At 9:45 am.  The rest of us were impressed – we cheered!  A visiting employee announced that he thought our department was way more fun than his own.  Cell phone photos were taken.

An Egg - Balanced

An Egg – Balanced

Angela called her husband to tell him of our super-human feat, after which he promptly burst into a fit of laughter.  Then he leveled with her.  Egg balancing can be accomplished at any time during the year…  The spring equinox holds no special power over eggs…

We didn’t tell the rest of the onlookers.  Some things should just be innocently enjoyed…

Happy First Day of Spring!  Did you know that you could balance an egg on any old day of the year?  Have you ever tried?

St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale

The same afternoon that we picked up the Kitten Mittons beer, I also selected a 341 ml bottle of St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale, from McAuslan Brewing in Montreal, Quebec.  It has been a fair number of years since I have had any Canadian beers, and back then, my taste in beer was less refined.  So, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the idea of a fruit wheat beer was intriguing.

I drank it the other night, after a long day at work.  On the nose, it smells of apricot.  And I don’t just mean it smelled like a nondescript stone fruit, where it could have been peach, nectarine, or even something else, but this was distinctly apricot.  It has very little carbonation or head (some of this was because I drank it from the bottle), but I even wondered if it had gone flat.  I certainly didn’t see anything near the head that it pictured below (from McAuslan’s website).

St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Beer

St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Beer

On the palate it tastes like a wheat beer with an over-layering of apricot, almost like there was apricot juice poured right in.  It wasn’t too sweet though – it still definitely tasted like beer.  It didn’t blow me away, but it was good – it would be a good beer for a hot, summer night on the deck.  Too bad that it is still several months before it will be hot enough for that.

The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln

My most recent audiobook read was The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln, by Kate Clifford Larson.  Published in 2008, it is a comprehensive study of the role Mary Surratt played in the plot to kill President Lincoln.

The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln

The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln

Larson begins her story with her belief that Mary Surratt was innocent of the charges that she was tried, convicted and hanged for.  It is a fair assessment; there certainly are plenty of people who believe that Mary was caught up in the public fervor to swiftly find and punish the guilty parties.  But then, she begins presenting the research, and the evidence stacks up.

Larson methodically presents the case, beginning months prior to the assassination, going over Mary’s role and what she knew, and how her actions convinced investigators of what she knew.  She interweaves the story of Mary’s family life, abusive marriage and eventual life as a widow trying to clear her alcoholic husband’s debts after his unexpected death.  It has the rhythm of a novel, so you are never bored with the numerous records that she introduces and the facts she describes.  She describes Mary in vivid detail for the reader, so you really end up feeling like you know her as a person.

She describes the arrest, the subsequent investigation and interrogations, and the trial of the conspirators before the military tribunal.  She doesn’t glorify either side, pointing out the flaws in both the prosecution’s and defense’s case, and explaining the part that media and public opinion played in the trial.  She detailed the fragile emotional state of both Mary and her daughter Anna, and how it influenced observers both in her favor and against.

She matter of factly describes the shortcomings of Mary’s inexperienced attorneys, and how Mary’s own unwillingness to provide any sort of alternate explanation against the mountain of evidence was critical in sealing her fate.  And of course, one cannot ignore that fact that Mary basically took the fall for her son John Surratt, who undoubtedly had significant knowledge of the plot, but remained hidden after Mary was arrested, tried and executed.  Would the outcome have been different had John come forward to stand before the tribunal?  We will never know.

Larson also describes the execution, making the reader feel that they understood what happened, without making it into a gory scene.  And finally, she examines the debate about Mary’s innocence by firsthand witnesses and her attorneys that continued well into the early 1900s.  The pendulum swung from the public believing in her guilt, to outrage over what was thought to be the execution of an innocent woman.

In the end, Larson has made it clear that the project did not reaffirm her belief in Mary’s innocence, as she expected it would, but led her to a deep understanding of Mary’s guilt and her knowledge of the plan.

Well researched and well written, this book is a must read for anyone who wants to more fully understand a humble, pious woman’s role in the conspiracy to kill the President.

Kitten Mittons! A Study in Beer

I’m here to talk about beer.  What does beer have to do with kittens, you ask?  I have no idea!  But Kitten Mittons is the name of Kulshan Brewing Company’s Winter Ale, and I’m here toasting the end of winter.  With some kittens.  And some mittons.

Kulshan Brewing Company’s Kitten Mittons Winter Ale

Kulshan Brewing Company’s Kitten Mittons Winter Ale

Kulshan Brewing Co. is a local brewery that opened about 4 years ago.  They have gained quite a local following, and I can understand why – their beer is really good!  Jon and I don’t usually go to the brewery because it is usually packed, but today we picked up a 32 oz. growler from our local beer shop.  Jon was contemplating a growler of their Porter, but I pushed him to get this Winter Ale.  I figured that it would be something we both could enjoy!

It has an aroma of chocolate and dates, and a medium body.  On the palate, it has more of the chocolate and roasted flavors, with balanced hops so it isn’t bitter.  It packs a punch with 7.5% ABV.

I paired it with breakfast for dinner – my parents were kind enough to take Jon and I out to breakfast this morning, and I had leftovers from my delicious Spanish Omelette.  Kitten Mittons will soon be giving way to the summer lineup, so get this while you still have a chance.

So, here’s a toast to the fact that it is after 7 pm, and thanks to daylight savings it is still light outside!  Cheers!

In case you wanted a picture of a real kitten, here's Ollie enjoying their new cat tree.

In case you wanted a picture of a real kitten, here’s Ollie enjoying their new cat tree.


A Hike at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

In my last post I explained the history of Ebey’s Landing and the events that have happened there, both good and bad.  But it is also an absolutely beautiful location, and a great place to take a walk or go for a hike.

Jon and me at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

Jon and me at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

On our Christmas Day hike, we parked across the street from Sunnyside Cemetery.  We walked down the trail past the Jacob Ebey house and one of the Blockhouses.  From the trail you can walk down to the beach and Ebey’s Landing, or up the hill to walk along the bluff.

From the bluff looking down at the beach at Ebey’s Landing

From the bluff looking down at the beach at Ebey’s Landing

We went up further on the bluff and walked the trail.  You can see all the way over to Port Townsend, and we were lucky enough to see one of the ferries making its run from Port Townsend to Coupeville.

The Washington State Ferry – Crossing from Port Townsend to Coupeville

The Washington State Ferry – Crossing from Port Townsend to Coupeville

We also enjoyed just looking down the bluff at the ocean – you can’t go wrong with the view!  It is pretty steep though – you certainly wouldn’t want to fall down the hill!

The view from the bluff

The view from the bluff

The trail that we took is a 7 mile round trip – it goes all the way to the State Park to the north.  We didn’t walk the whole trail because we didn’t have time, but it would be a great hike!

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

Christmas Day was a beautiful day on Whidbey Island (Yes, I’m pitifully behind on all the things I want to blog about.  I blame work).  It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t snowing, and there was even some blue sky peeking through the ever-present winter cloud cover.  If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you know you have to use these opportunities to get outside – if nothing more than to try to expose your face and hands to the heavens for some much needed Vitamin D.  So after a delicious breakfast at my in-laws, and after we all gathered round to open presents and stockings, we decided to go for a walk at Ebey’s Landing.

Ebey’s Landing is a National Historical Reserve on Whidbey Island that is directly adjacent to Washington State Park land, creating a large chunk of waterfront prairie land that has been protected from development.  It was established in 1978; the first National Historical Reserve in the United States.  The reserve is a partnership, with federal, state, county and privately owned land managed in a way that preserves the historic nature of the area by a local Trust Board.

Ebey’s Landing, and Ebey’s Prairie are named after Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey, who was the first permanent white resident of Whidbey Island.  He was born in Ohio in 1818, and had an adventurous spirit that led him to leave his wife and two young sons to travel west.  He landed first in California and worked as a gold miner briefly, then moved north to the Puget Sound region of the Oregon Territory.  In 1850 he landed on Whidbey Island and was impressed by the beauty of the area, and the perfect land for farming.

View of the Cascade Mountains from Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

View of the Cascade Mountains from Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

Ebey staked a land claim under the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 and began homesteading the land; meanwhile he sent letters back east to encourage his family to join him on Whidbey Island.  Within a couple of years, his wife, two sons, several siblings and siblings-in-law, a couple nephews and a cousin had all made the overland journey and began homesteading there with him.  Isaac constructed a dock to allow ships from nearby Port Townsend to bring goods and people to the area.  Isaac’s prosperity was short lived though.  In 1853, Ebey’s wife Rebecca died of tuberculosis shortly after giving birth to his daughter.  He remarried and tried to make the best of it.

Jacob Ebey, father of Isaac Ebey, built this house on his donation land claim in 1855

Jacob Ebey, father of Isaac Ebey, built this house on his donation land claim in 1855

In 1857, Native Americans seeking vengeance for the deaths of tribal members at the hands of the U.S. military came to the door.  They were originally planning to kill Dr. John Kellogg, but luckily for him, he was away from the area on the night the party arrived.  So instead they decided that Colonel Ebey would be good enough.  After he answered the door, they shot, beheaded and scalped him.  Historical records placed the blame on several different tribes over the years; it is safe to say that no one really knows.

Isaac’s headless body was buried next to his wife in the family graveyard on the prairie.  The rest of the family stayed on at the homestead, with the exception of Ebey’s new wife, who decided that she wanted nothing more to do with the area and left with her daughter.  Isaac’s scalp stayed with the tribe for several years until a steamer captain was able to purchase it back for the family.  To be honest, I’m not sure I would have wanted it back…  But as nearly as anyone can tell, it ended up with Ebey’s sister Mary and then was passed down to his niece Almira.  Truly a conversation piece.

After Isaac’s death and the departure of Isaac’s second wife Emily, his brother Winfield Ebey took in Isaac’s children, and built an inn near the dock in 1860.  The inn, named Ferry House, operated for over 60 years, providing lodging for travelers coming and going from the boat dock.  The inn also operated as a tavern, post office and general store, providing an income for the children.

Today, the site consists of four blockhouses that Ebey and the other settlers constructed to protect from Indian attacks – little good that did, right?  Additionally, Isaac’s father, Jacob Ebey’s house is still standing and has been converted into a visitor’s center.  It has been moved from its original location nearby, but gives a good sense of what the homes of the time would have been like.  The dock at Ebey’s Landing is no longer there; it was an active dock for transporting goods from Port Townsend until the early 1900’s, when a new dock was built at Fort Casey a few miles away.

This is one of four blockhouses on the site – one was built in 1855; the other three were built after Isaac Ebey’s murder.

This is one of four blockhouses on the site – one was built in 1855; the other three were built after Isaac Ebey’s murder.

Nearby is the Sunnyside Cemetery – the original cemetery that was established for the residents of the community.  Isaac, his wife Rebecca and his daughter Hetty were originally buried in the family graveyard down on the prairie.  Historical records indicate that the family intended to move their graves to the top of the hill where Sunnyside Cemetery now sits, but it is unknown if the original graveyard was ever exhumed.  The earliest burial in what is now Sunnyside Cemetery was Isaac’s brother Winfield in 1865.

Ferry House from the top of the hill – built 1860

Ferry House from the top of the hill – built 1860

And Ferry House still stands.  It is currently vacant, and has never had indoor plumbing or electricity added.  The structure is one of the oldest residential buildings in Washington State, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is in dire need of preservation.  The second floor is currently being held up by a framework of two by sixes – as a result of its sad state, it is not open to the public.   There are dreams of restoring it for use as a space to teach classes in historic preservation; hopefully this grand old inn will continue to stand the test of time.