Archive | April 2015

A House and a Mouse…

Well, Peeps, I’m learning new skills. In addition to having knockout HR skills, I am an expert wine drinker, history enthusiast, travel blogger and now… mouse assassin.

It all started a few months ago when Oliver started staring at the wall in our family room. It happened a couple of times, and I would turn off the TV, and listen where he was looking, and I never heard anything. Eventually he stopped doing it, so I just thought he was a little crazy. He is getting old…

Well, Saturday, he went to a different section of the wall and started staring. UGH! I heard something this time! It totally freaked me out! Eventually I got over my terror and Jon and I did some sleuthing.

We can’t find any evidence that whatever it is has been in the house. No droppings, no chewed packages, and with 3 cats, it probably isn’t very likely that any animals have been inside, but you never know. We peeked in the attic, where we were greeted with a ton of fluffy, loose insulation – the kind that is intended to be fluffy and loose. And no signs of disturbance; at least as far as we could tell…

We went down in the crawl space (our crawl space is actually more of a stand space), and peeked around. Bingo! Mouse turds. And a mouse skeleton on an old mousetrap, left by the previous homeowner. YUCK!

I researched mouse trapping techniques (and rat trapping techniques, before I figured out that it is probably just mice – thank god because rats are way scarier). And then Jon and I went down into the crawl space with gloves and peanut butter and set our traps. I checked the traps this morning before heading off to work – total mouse carnage! Every trap that I set but one had a dead mouse body in it…

Tonight after work I went to the store, where I stockpiled mousetraps, painter’s masks, rubber gloves, and a small jar of the cheap peanut butter. And then I baited and set my traps… 20 more (Dad said that might be overkill, but I’m not taking any chances).  And we went around the crawl space and pried last night’s stiff mouse bodies off the traps and set them again.

26 traps are currently set…  I’m ready for Mouse-A-Geddon. And Oliver? I’m sorry – I’ll never doubt you again…

World War Mouse Body Count: 5 (day one)

Yakima Valley Historical Museum

The Yakima Valley Museum lies in the heart of The Palm Springs of Washington – for you non-Washingtonians, that’s Yakima. If you are from Washington, you have probably heard of the nickname, or seen the now faded sign that greets you as you enter Yakima. It got its nickname from the more than 300 days of sunshine that Yakima receives – see? Not all of Washington is rainy… People either love the sign or hate it; there is no in between. I love it.

Anyway… The Yakima Valley Museum was founded in 1952, and is a great example of a small town historical museum. They have exhibits ranging from turn-of-the-20th-century furniture to neon signs, rocks and semi-precious gems, different species of fossilized trees, Native American clothing and bead work, and a huge collection of horse drawn vehicles. Phaetons, carriages, wagons and even a horse-drawn hearse. Other items in the collection include a whole bunch of taxidermied birds and animals, wooden boats, and paper Valentines.

While we were there, there was a special traveling exhibit on Sasquatch – does it exist? The museum curators don’t really weigh in, but the collection was obviously put together by believers. With no firm evidence. There are some foot casts (easily faked), some articles about hair samples, and a cute yet disturbing diorama of a Sasquatch killing a deer. I totally would have done better at diorama making if Sasquatch dioramas had been an option in elementary school…

And of course, no Sasquatch exhibit would be complete without a copy of the Patterson-Gimlin film. You know the one in 1967 showing a female Sasquatch (though I’m not sure how they decided it was a girl) walking away from the camera? I know you have seen it. Well, apparently it hasn’t been debunked (according to these museum curators anyway…) and the one guy that was there (the other guy has since died) still insists that he wasn’t involved in any sort of a hoax.

Let’s just say that the exhibit didn’t make me a believer; I’m still fairly far over to the “Sasquatch doesn’t exist” side. That said, I do recognize that the forests in the Pacific Northwest are still very wild places. A couple times a year here, someone disappears, usually just off of an established trail, and no trace is ever found.  So, in theory, there could be a large animal hidden there. And no, I’m not saying I believe the people who have disappeared have been eaten by Sasquatches – I’m just saying there are a lot of still remote, wild places here.

The museum also had an interesting exhibit on the internment of Japanese during World War II.  Yakima had a sizable population of Japanese before the war, and the forced removal had a big impact on the community.  Many white citizens were sympathetic to the Japanese, agreeing to store the belongings that could not be taken to the camps.  Some Japanese did not return after the war, and were never found.  The display includes items that were never reclaimed from storage by these internees.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We wrapped up at the museum just in time for a late lunch, so we checked out the 50’s style diner that is attached to the museum. It was built using salvaged pieces of actual 50’s style diners, and the interior really does look like it’s been there since then.

I loved the vintage look of the Soda Fountain

I loved the vintage look of the Soda Fountain

I got a huckleberry milkshake – so delicious!, and a pulled pork sandwich. Jon got a turkey sandwich. Both were served with coleslaw and chips. The food was good, but not amazing; it was the milkshake that was the real star here. It was made by hand with hard ice cream.

My milkshake at the Museum Soda Fountain

My milkshake at the Museum Soda Fountain

After lunch we were ready to taste some wine! I had some places on my list that I wanted to visit, based on checking out their websites.  I’ll post about those next!

2014 Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon

Last year was the second year that I did the Oregon Wine Country Half marathon (when I tell you it was Labor Day weekend, you’ll know how far behind I am on posts!).  In 2013 it was just me and Shelley, but in 2014 I was able to sucker convince several friends to join in the fun! In all, it was me, Jon, Katie, Katy, Allysa, Angela, Renee and Jean. We all made our own way down to Oregon, because some of us were just staying the weekend, some were heading off on further adventures afterwards, and some were on the way back from vacationing! Jon and I drove separately, because Jon had to work on Monday afternoon, but we caravanned with Angela and Renée.

We met up at the Ponzi Wine Bistro in Dundee and enjoyed lunch and a bottle of Pinot Noir. Everybody was pleased with their choices; I had a delicious grass fed burger. The wine was fabulous, and it was wonderful to just be able to relax and laugh with good friends.

Jon and me having lunch at Ponzi, the day before the race.

Jon and me having lunch at Ponzi, the day before the race.

After that, we braved more of that terrible Highway 99 traffic to make our way to McMinnville for the packet pickup at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. After we got our packets, we sampled some wines from the two wineries that had tasting stations on site. More and more of us kept rolling in, so we chatted and laughed and enjoyed the bright sunshine outside the museum.

That evening, it was “do it yourself” dinner night – some went out for dinner, some just grabbed a quick bite at the diner next door to our hotel. Katie and I went to the grocery store and grabbed some eats for ourselves and families – Katie had come with her husband and two littles. A hodge podge of fruit, meats, cheeses and breads was the perfect pre-race dinner, in my opinion.

The race was very similar to the year before – I think there was one minor course change. For more info on the course and the mile by mile experience, check out my post from 2013. I feel good about my race; I came in fifth among my friends, behind Jon, Jean, Allysa and Katy, and in front of Katie, Angela and Renee. My time was a little slower than last year – a 3:03:08 (a 13:58 per mile pace).  Our finish order was exactly where I expected us all to be!

The Gang - Pre-race - at Stoller Winery

The Gang – Pre-race – at Stoller Winery

It was fun to see us all do it at our own pace and in our own way – we were competing with ourselves and not each other. I was about 5 minutes behind my personal best from the 2013 race, but I had been having a wee bit of trouble at the beginning with my shin splints, so while a little disappointing, it wasn’t surprising. I feel like I finished strong.

The post race festival was fabulous again – the group of us joined together and broke apart and joined together again, as we went to get wine, came back to compare notes, and went off again in search of the best wines to be had.  It was way too long ago to remember the specifics, but my post on the wine festival from last year should give you a good idea…  Lunch was again at the little sandwich shop – a fantastic Reuben.

Later in the afternoon, after getting a much needed shower and change of clothes, a group of us wandered around downtown McMinnville poking in shops, and enjoying some huckleberry ice cream.  Dinner that night at La Rambla (a tapas restaurant) ended a wonderful day. Good friends enjoying good food…

Wenatchee: Ohme Gardens

I went to a conference in Chelan last September, and Jon came over to meet me for the weekend. We had already been to Chelan, so we decided to stay about 30 minutes away in beautiful Wenatchee. We went to Ohme Gardens, which is a garden created by a couple on a rocky outcropping overlooking the city. Herman and Ruth Ohme got married in 1929, during the Depression, and really didn’t have any money, but they had purchased a 40 acre orchard property that included this plot of land high on a hill overlooking town.

It was arid, with scrub brush and no trees, but they stood on the dry outcropping and imagined something much more lush. They set about transforming it into an oasis in the desert. You may not know, but Wenatchee only gets 9 inches of rain per year, so creating a garden with plants from the Cascade Mountain range was quite the feat.

In the beginning, the couple would head out for the day to public lands, and dig up plants that they wanted to transplant to their garden. Don’t do this, by the way, it is illegal. But this was back then, and obviously nobody stopped them. Once they transplanted some plants, the hard work began. There was no irrigation system, so they had to drive a truck with barrels of water up as high as they could go, and then they hand watered the whole garden using buckets. Buckets! The garden was smaller in the beginning, but that’s a lot of tramping up and down the hill with a 5 gallon bucket of water…

Ohme Gardens eventually grew to the 7 acres that it is today, and has an irrigation system, multiple ponds, mature pine trees and sunny grassy areas. Due to its location on a steep slope, exploring it means climbing up and down the hill on a series of garden paths and stepping stones. Don’t wear heels… There are plenty of shady nooks and crannies to keep you relatively cool in the hot summer sun, and apparently it is a popular wedding venue.

When Mr. Ohme became too elderly to keep up the garden by himself, his children started helping, and Mr. Ohme died at the age of 80 in 1971.  In 1991, they donated the garden to the State, who eventually transferred it to Chelan County.  I would love to come back sometime when the spring flowers are blooming – I bought their tourist guide and the photos in springtime look amazing. And I had no idea this gem was even there!

I didn’t bring my larger camera, for some crazy reason, so the pictures didn’t turn out as nice as I would have hoped, but I hope you can tell how neat this place is. If you have a chance, go – it is certainly worth the $7 admission.


2012 Husch Vineyards Chenin Blanc

Jon and I picked up this wine on our California trip in Spring 2013, when we had the good fortune to visit Husch Vineyards.

I opened it up last night,  after putting a couple of bottles of white wine in the fridge to chill a bit.  Now that it’s spring, I’m enjoying my whites even more!  I couldn’t be more pleased.  It has flavors of pineapple blended with minerality, giving it a balanced flavor that I love.  It has just a hint of sweetness on the tip of the tongue, with a lingering light honey syrup on the back of the palate.

Husch has been producing their Chenin Blanc since 1984, and they have clearly been doing something right.  It is fermented in stainless steel tanks, and bottled only a few weeks after fermentation was complete.

Not to mention it is a great value at just $12.00 a bottle.

Have you had the Husch Vineyards Chenin Blanc?  Have you been to the Anderson Valley? 

Book Review: Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

I’ve been reading up a storm lately, due to some of the specifics of my new job. Where I had a whole group of ladies to walk with at lunch before, now I walk by myself. So I have been taking my I-Pod with an audiobook loaded on it out to walk. My sister-in-law says that’s not reading… but for lack of a better term, reading it is. You get the point, I’m sure.

As I was perusing the library’s selection of titles, I came upon Rabid, by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy – of course it piqued my interest, because I’m just that kind of girl. And why not?  What disease is more efficient at killing its host than rabies? Rabies kills 100% of human victims of the disease if it goes untreated before symptoms begin; with an agonizing death whose symptoms include headache, body aches, paralysis, and most curiously, hydrophobia, an irrational and often violent fear of water.

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

The book begins with historical references to rabies, which was first described in historic literature over 4,000 years ago. It is thought to have begun to spread to humans in larger numbers with the domestication of the dog, although all mammals can be afflicted. The first chapter includes a series of terrifying yet comical present day attacks by rabid animals; including a bobcat who walked into a bar (how’s that for the beginning of a sick joke?), and a rabid donkey.

I learned that rabies is not a disease of the blood stream – rather the virus makes its way through the central nervous system to the brain. As a result, it takes longer for the virus to travel to the brain, up to a couple of weeks in humans, and often several months in animals.

The book also documents the similarities between symptoms caused by rabies and medieval accounts of vampires and werewolves, leaving the reader to conjecture whether rabies was the catalyst for stories of these frightening monsters. Frighteningly, people suspected of being a vampire or a werewolf were murdered much like suspected witches of the day, and some even confessed to being a vampire or werewolf.

As the book continues its meandering path, we learn the story of Louis Pasteur’s research into rabies, and the discovery of an effective vaccine to treat rabies post-bite. He was tortured by the idea of experimenting on human subjects, even though these people had been confirmed to have been bitten by a rabid animal, and well, we already established that without treatment the fatality rate is 100%. Given the options, wouldn’t you want to try something? Interestingly, the treatment for rabies now is no longer the series of huge shots in the abdomen – apparently now you just need 4 shots, typically in the muscle of the upper arm, and they are no more painful than a flu shot.

The authors also document the Milwaukee protocol – an experimental treatment involving an induced coma, and a cocktail of medications to help the body naturally fight off the disease. The first time it was tried, it was complete guesswork to determine what treatment they would try.  Thy physician who developed it had just 24 hours to research a treatment for a disease he’d never actually seen in real life, as a little girl lay ill in a hospital room, sure to die within a few days.

Of the several dozens of people who have been given the Milwaukee protocol (with varying degrees of controls on various points – some have not started the treatment right away, some didn’t receive the exact same cocktail of drugs, etc.), only 6 have survived, most with significant side effects including major traumatic brain injury. The original girl who received the protocol and survived is doing well, but does have some lingering side effects over 10 years later.

And rabies today? Although there is an effective vaccine, and post-bite vaccination treatment, between 35,000 and 50,000 people continue to die every year from rabies, mostly in the developing world. There the cost of vaccinating is prohibitively high, thanks in part to the anti-vax movement, whose insistence that the preservative thimerosal and its trace amounts of mercury be removed from vaccines has increased the price significantly, due to the fact that all vials must now contain a single dose. (Oh well, as long as my kid doesn’t get autism – who cares about the developing world!? Never mind that that faulty research has been thoroughly debunked, and the guy who put it out there lost his medical license for doctoring his study. I digress.)

In the United States, most deadly rabies bites are inflicted by bats. Bites so small that you may never know that you have been bitten. Because of this, they recommend that if you awaken to find a bat in your room that you receive the post-exposure vaccine.

Admittedly, rabies is a morbid topic. The authors did a great job of injecting historical facts and research with pop culture references to rabies and its tenuous relationship to monster lore. I learned quite a bit about a disease I had never known much about.  Really my sole experience up to this point was scenes in Cujo and the perennial classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to indulge their strange fascination with deadly disease.

Have you read Rabid? Ever seen an animal with rabies?