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Walla Walla 2017: Relaxation

Day 2 – Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday morning Lelani and I were both up early (I mean remember I had basically slept the entire day before!), so we took a walk around the neighborhood and just enjoyed the quiet morning.

Historic Sharpstein Manor, Walla Walla

 

Historic Home, now apartments

We got back, had the hotel breakfast, relaxed some on the hotel patios, and then the whole gang wandered over to Bacon and Eggs for cocktails.  When on vacation you might as well go heavy on the relaxing!  We all enjoyed cocktails – I had a Grapefruit Mimosa – YUM!  Then we did a bit of shopping (Walla Walla has some really cool little shops), and found a shop called Trove that Paula loved, because their logo is a Fleur de Lis.  She loves Fleur de Lis, and Trove had some really cute stuff!  We also went to the farmer’s market, and checked out all the fresh produce and craft items. I got a pair of earrings and a pendant made from recycled glass bottles. They are gorgeous! Sadly, I broke one of the earrings (turns out glass earrings don’t fare too well when dropped on concrete), but I have been using the second earring as another pendant for now. Next time I am there I will be sure to get another pair of earrings – or several!

My Grapefruit Mimosa at Bacon and Eggs

We also went to the Museum of Unnatural History. It is a tiny little place, created and run by a guy named Gerry Matthews with a very strange and creative imagination. He spent his career working in the film and commercial industry.  Most notably, he was the voice of Sugar Bear, the mascot for Sugar Crisp cereal – now known as Golden Crisp.  I am sure everybody my age remembers the voice!  He then retired to Walla Walla and created this museum, a play on the many Museums of Natural History… Let me just say, Wow. There was just so much bizarre going on in such a small space…  The exhibits are – well, there are just no words.  He was there when we visited and he was happy to answer questions or dialogue about his creations…  Lelani and Joel LOVED it! Paula HATED it! Brandon and I were fairly neutral. Let’s just say I won’t be decorating my home in any of his motifs.  It just goes to show that we all have different tastes, and different creative minds.  If you want to visit, it is free (he accepts donations), worth a visit, and clearly a labor of love, but it is only open Saturdays from 10-2 or by appointment.  If you do go, I guarantee you won’t leave without an opinion! Keep in mind, I limited my photos here to the PG-13 stuff, but there is A LOT more to see.

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Saturday afternoon we went to the Morrison Lane tasting room. Morrison Lane is a family run winery, owned and operated by my friend Shawn and his family.  Shawn has been the winemaker for several years now, and the wines are delicious; I especially enjoyed the Rosé, the Syrah, and the Carmenere.  The bottles have artwork depicting the Lewis Chessmen, a group of 12th century chess pieces that were discovered at the Lewis Bay in Scotland in 1831. I love the tie in to history with the labels! Both Shawn and his parents are kind and personable, and love speaking with guests about their wine; we sat around for a while chatting and revisiting some of the wines.

Saturday evening we went over to Shawn’s house for his 50th birthday.  A backyard BBQ with amazing food; chicken skewers with peanut sauce, Thai noodle salad, pasta salad and lots of local beer and wine. We sat around talking and enjoying the hot Eastern Washington evening.  There was laughter – a lot of laughter – of the “what happens in Walla Walla stays in Walla Walla” variety!

 

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Walla Walla 2017: An Inpromptu Pub Crawl

Day 1 – Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day weekend 2017 was a blast! My friend Brandon asked a bunch of us if we wanted to head over to Walla Walla for a long weekend getaway, and who am I to say no to a trip to wine country!  We were planning to relax, hit some wineries and breweries, and go to our friend Shawn’s 50th birthday party!

There was just that little bit of a planning hurdle… An issue, because I couldn’t drive that Friday. You see, I had a colonoscopy first thing that morning. Yep, that’s right. Even though I am only in my early forties, my family history has cursed me – my mom and great grand-father both had colon cancer at age 50; my GGF died at age 50 too from his cancer. So I get to enjoy this joyful rite of passage every 5 years! More often if I have polyps! So much YAY! Sorry if this is so TMI…  Seriously though, get those colonoscopies – they suck, but it is better than dying an early, painful death.  Ok, that’s it for the public service announcements.  On to some troublemaking…

Luckily, my friend Lelani was game for a wine weekend too and we met up after I had finished my procedure, eaten some breakfast and taken a shower. She generously chauffeured my heavily drugged up butt (no pun intended) down to the rendezvous point with Brandon and Joel, where we piled into the back seat of Brandon’s SUV. I brought along my favorite pillow and snoozed most of the way over, including sleeping through the giant Memorial Day weekend traffic jam on the mountain pass! Drugged travel may just be my new favorite thing – I slept through almost all of it!

Stopping for gas – I look so conscious!

We stopped in Ellensburg and went to the Iron Horse Brewery for lunch, although I have no real recollection of my lunch or beer there. Blame that whole drugged up thing. And yes, the doctor told me no alcohol, so don’t tell him or my mom I cheated…  I do remember the food and the beer were delicious.  I remember we sat at a table by the window, so that’s something right?  We piled back in the car, and we set off driving the rest of the way to Walla Walla. By we, I mean Brandon was driving.  And I went back to sleep for a longer nap!

Our other friend Paula met us there and our party was almost complete! We met at the Burwood Brewing Company, a brewery that is in a collection of buildings right next door to the Walla Walla airport.  It is a very cute setup; the other buildings have wineries and breweries, so it is a perfect area to spend some time.  (Note: while writing this post, I looked up Burwood and it seems they moved locations.) We had a beer at Burwood (the first one had long since worn off and I was awake now!) and sat out in the sunshine soaking up the warmth. I’m sure my friends had to tell me things that they had already discussed on the drive over, that I had slept through. Oh well!

The Walla Walla Airport Winery/Brewery complex

 

The gang at Burwood – sun!

We were by now getting hungry, so we made our way over to the hotel and got checked in and refreshed. We stayed right downtown at the Red Lion, so it was off on foot to find some grub! We wandered a little bit around downtown and settled on the Mill Creek Brewpub. The food was ok, but it didn’t knock it out of the park for me. I had a sandwich of some sort and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  Clearly that whole day is a bit fuzzy…  The conversation was good though, and it was great to catch up with my friends!

After dinner, we did a bit more wandering around town, although to be honest, downtown Walla doesn’t really have much of a night life, which surprised me.  It is a college town after all, with a huge wine-making and and craft beer industry.  We stopped for a drink at Whitehouse Crawford, a restaurant which is located in an old factory building – the architecture was amazing.  I just had water there, so I can’t tell you how good the cocktails are, but they looked good!  Our friend Shawn met us there, and we spent some time catching up chatting.  It was great, since it has been years since I saw him!  When we headed back to our rooms for the night, I crashed and slept deeply!

The gang at Whitehouse Crawford

 

Filters

A long, hard week (and it is only half over!) called for a long walk with a girlfriend tonight, a late dinner, and no time to catch up on this blog.

Just a little playing with filters before I tumble into bed.

A cannon at Gettysburg, coupled with dreams of vacation.

Under the Weather…

I got home after being out of town for three days at a work meeting.  Unfortunately, I am not feeling well…  So, please enjoy this simple photo of jellyfish from the Georgia Aquarium until I’m feeling on the mend.

At least it’s the weekend; because I might be in bed for a while…

Atlanta Aquarium Jellyfish

Getting Back Into the Swing…

Saturday night late, I arrived home from my cross country flight from Atlanta.  I kicked off my 2018 travels by spending a week there and had a wonderful time. The flight home was good; I watched three movies (hey, that’s a long flight!) and got up at least a half a dozen times to let my row mates out to go to the bathroom, over and over and over…  Note to travelers: if other people are already getting up, go to the bathroom.  Just go.  Don’t wait until 30 minutes later!

My favorite moment was after we landed, when Ms. Window Seat informed Mr. Middle Seat that we had a smooth non-turbulent flight because the captain diverted us south to avoid the Rockies…  I laughed out loud!  But I held my tongue and refrained from pointing out that there was not a cost effective flight path from Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest that could go far enough south to avoid the Rockies…  Me thinks that Ms. Window Seat failed Geography…

Of course, with the time change, I was awake at 6:45 Sunday after not going to bed until close to 1 am Saturday night.  Can I go back to sleep or take a nap though?  NO!  I am the world’s worst sleeper…  Until my body decides I have had enough and then I can sleep through a 777 taking off, a home invasion of the house next door (with shots fired and police searching my yard with dogs and floodlights), or The Ramones in an outdoor amphitheater concert (all true stories by the way…)

So instead of napping, I went for a 5 mile walk with a girlfriend, walked to the grocery store for some basics (read: wine – and totally other stuff too!) and did enough yard work to get me 20,000 steps for the day, along with a complete and utter exhaustion…

I need to get my next vacation planned!

 

Whidbey Half-Marathon 2017 Weekend

Last winter, I signed up for my ninth half-marathon, the Whidbey Island Half!  It was April 23, 2017. 
 
There was just this one little issue that came up: I was fighting one of the worst colds I have had in a while.  I had been completely down for the count the weekend before.  Like the kind of sick where you are awake for less than 2 hours and you already are in dire need of a 3 hour nap…  In fact, my only outing the weekend before the half-marathon had been to venture out for a very slow stroll around the tulip fields for a few hours, which had completely wiped me out and sent me back to bed… 
 
During the week I was feeling a little better, so I decided to still try to do the race, knowing I could just take it easy.  I didn’t need to run much, or at all, if I still wasn’t feeling up to it.  Katie, Shelley and I all met up at the expo, then headed off for a girls’ weekend excursion in scenic Coupeville, Washington.
 
We checked into our accommodations, the Wisteria Cottage at The Inn at Penn Cove.  It was a very reasonably priced option for Coupeville, where most of the lodgings are Bed and Breakfasts.  Most of the hotels in Oak Harbor were either booked, or had jacked up their rates for the marathon weekend.  The Inn at Penn Cove is also a historic house and cottage, consisting of the Jacob Jenne house built in 1889, and the doctor’s office turned cottage where we were staying, which is also historic (sadly I don’t know when it was built – trust me, it was old!). 

The Wisteria Cottage at the Inn at Penn Cove

Katie was convinced our cottage was haunted.  So haunted in fact that we had to drag the futon into the main room, because she didn’t want anyone sleeping in that bedroom alone…  The proprietors are warm and welcoming, giving us a rundown of the quirks of the place, and even letting us know that it was no problem at all to have a very late checkout so we could go back to the cottage for showers after the race.  And in case you were wondering, no, we didn’t see any ghosts…  However, the drawers in that bedroom wouldn’t stay closed – was it due to the fact that the floor was sloped, or something supernatural?!  You decide…
 
After getting our lodgings squared away, we poked around in some of the shops in the historic downtown area, and enjoyed a wine tasting at the Vail Wine Shop, where we chatted and laughed and enjoyed ourselves. 
After that, we enjoyed the lowering sun and the remaining afternoon while we waited for the Front Street Grill to have a table ready for us for dinner.  I love spending time with my girlfriends, and we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet afternoon relaxing.

We had a water view table at the Front Street Grill, and I had the Saffron Mussels and a beer sampler.  So delicious!

Katie and my beer samplers at the Front Street Grill

I had a wonderful day, despite my continuing fatigue…  After dinner we headed back to the cottage to turn in early.  We had some calorie burning to do in the morning!

 

Hawaiʻi 2017: Manta Rays

Day 7, Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My last full day in Hawaii had arrived.  We decided to make it another quiet pool day.  After a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon and stuffed papaya (amazing!), we sunned ourselves and I tried to get a bit of sun-kissed glow so I wouldn’t go home as pale as when I arrived.

Enjoying our breakfast of papaya filled with banana, coconut milk and cinnamon. YUM!

Me trying to achieve a sun-kissed glow is basically a pointless game by the way; remarkably I don’t sunburn easily (thanks to my Dad’s olive complexion), but in reality, I only have several shades of pale.  Even if I know I am tan (for me), nobody else will notice…

Yep, still pale…

I also had a chance to sit on the sea wall and chat on the phone with a close friend for awhile.  There is something peaceful about a conversation had while listening to the waves lapping on the rocks.

Me sitting on the seawall

 

The Muscovy duck resident at the condo. So cute!

I went back to the market and got some gifts for my mom and my employees back home.  And of course, one for me…

In the late afternoon, we headed into town.  We went to the Sheraton Hotel to have a couple of drinks and watch the sunset.  After dark is where the real fun starts though!

The Sheraton is situated on a bay, where the manta rays come in to feed on plankton.  The plankton are attracted to lights.  So both the tourist boats and the Sheraton Hotel light up the ocean with lights to draw in the plankton, and then the manta rays.  The tour boats offer an amazing experience; the opportunity to swim with the manta rays!

The rays are hard to see when the tourist boats are there, because the lights from the boats keep the rays further out from shore.  However, once the boats leave for the evening, the Sheraton’s lights draw in the manta rays and they soar through the water, doing barrel rolls and flipping over to expose their white under-bellies.  They are very large fish, growing up to 18 feet in width!  They are listed as vulnerable, and many nations have put a ban on fishing for them and exporting their parts.  However, there are still problems with manta rays being caught in international waters as they migrate, and as by catch.

The boats after dark – there is a manta ray in the center of the photo, slightly above the rocks

The night we were there, we saw at least a half a dozen rays.  They are beautiful, majestic creatures, and really impossible to catch on film, at night, from shore.  So you will just have to take my word for it; watching their dark shadows glide just below the surface of the water is an experience you won’t soon forget.  I definitely want to take one of the boat excursions next time and be able to swim in the water with these amazing animals!

A Manta Ray in the water – trust me on this…

That night, we went back to the condo and filled up on a later dinner of Portuguese sausage, salad and Cool Ranch Doritos. YUM!  That night I went to bed with very happy thoughts of my day and my evening with the Manta Rays.