Friday, August 28, 2009

Summer Camp

We don't camp like most other people, I know that. I come up with menus, Dayne makes cocktails and we go on easy hikes and nice drives. This year we added the comfort of a queen size Aero mattress. Damn I could live in the "wild" for a few weeks with our plush bed now!

A couple of weeks ago we headed out towards the Sunrise side of Mt. Rainier. It was an easy drive, through the cute town of Enumclaw and out towards Crystal Mountain Resort. We found a great spot at Silver Springs Campground, right on the mostly dry riverbed and not too close to other campers. Since it only took us about 1.5 hours from the time we left the house to get to the campground we had an entire day to explore so we headed out to Sunrise Visitor's Center with a picnic lunch.

The drive up to the center is breathtaking! Neither of us had been on this side of the mountain so it was all new to us. Amazing views of the glacier and the summit as well as surrounding peaks & valleys.

After checking out the very nice visitor's center we sat down and had lunch facing Mt. Rainier in the warm sunshine. We've been around the world and seen amazing sites but the site of that mountain up close and personal is always stunning!

After lunch we went on a easy hike on the Silver Forest Trail so we could see the wildflowers. I've never seen all the meadows full of wildflowers before and Dayne's aunt and uncle talk about how pretty it is so we were really happy to have such a gorgeous day to see them!

Purple, red and funny "Dr Suess" flowers studded the hills around the trails. And we only saw 2 other couples on the trail!

Our second day our weather wasn't as good so we decided to drive across the Chinook Pass towards Naches. Again the scenery up to the pass was amazing, until we entered into a cloud and Dayne had to drive 20 MPH! It was the thickest thing I'd ever seen and it got thicker and thicker as we went! When we got up to the pass the cloud was moving in and out. It was beautiful!

We stopped at a funny motel/restaurant called Whistlin Jack's Lodge for lunch and then headed back across Chinook Pass and then south across Cayuse Pass and up Rainier to the Paradise Visitor's Center- which is brand new and really cool. Unfortunately the clouds were so low on the mountain that even standing right at the lodge you wouldn't have known there was a mountain there at all!
On our way home the last day, we stopped at the Dalles Campground to look at the giant Douglas Fir that is over 700 years old and almost 300 feet tall. It's big, it's really big. And things like that amaze me because I always wonder how it didn't get logged, burned down or died of a disease. Think of the things that tree has seen over 700 years!

More photos from our camping trip are here!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hello neighbor!

Does your neighborhood participate in the National Night Out? We moved to Ballard 4 years ago and it was the first time I had ever heard of it. I love the yearly block party, it reminds me of when I was little and lived in LA with my parents, everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood. They would get together from time to time and do potlucks, pool parties or (my favorite) fondue parties!

Our block always has a good turn out and this year there was the addition of some live music. Everyone brings a dish, I made fresh spring rolls and Dayne brought Fish House Punch in our self serve beverage dispenser. It was a big hit and we didn't really have much left at the end of the night!

It was nice to catch up with people we don't see regularly and meet some newer additions to the 'hood. And who doesn't like to eat, drink and listen to music in someone's yard on a warm summer night?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Three Cheers for Tales of the Cocktail

I guess it's an annual trip now- this year was our 3rd time attending Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Each year the event gets larger and more people that we know show up. There are so many new people to meet and see others we've met in years past. Oh, and there are cocktails! Eye openers at breakfast, Pimm's Cups at lunch, multiple tastes during seminars, happy hour, pre-dinner libations and night caps. There are many, many cocktails.

One of my favorite things is the Spirited Dinner where cocktails are paired with a multi course meal. This year we picked the Tiki drink dinner at GWFins. It was absolutely the best dinner of the 3 years! The food was amazing, the drinks were amazing and most of our friends chose to attend too so the company was amazing! Oh and I won the coolest limited edition Smuggler's Cove grog mug!!

We attended some great seminars such as Sugarcane Spirits and Drinks from the 1600's and attended many complimentary tasting rooms like Martin Miller's Gin and Absinthe. I also attended The Wormwood Society's blind absinthe judging which was held in the Absinthe Museum, very fun!

There were delicious meals at Coop's Place, Cafe Adelaide, Luke & The Napoleon House as well as some yawners at Galatoire's and The Bourbon House.

On the last day we rented a car with our friend's Lauren & Paul and headed out to the old River Road to tour a few of the plantations that still survive. The drive out was so interesting as we crossed over large swamp lands and drove through intense mining areas. It was a landscape that I hadn't seen before and was happy to experience.

Our first stop was at the Laura Plantation which dates from 1805 and is being restored bit by bit.
This was a full on working plantation with large gardens, sugar cane fields, slave quarters, etc. It wasn't for showing off but for conducting business and the family history was very interesting. Laura Plantation is also where the original "Tales of Uncle Remus" were written based on stories told by the plantation's slaves.

these are some of the slave quarters at Laura Plantation

The other stop we made was to Oak Ally which is famous for their 600+ year old oak trees which welcome visitors- it's a magnificent sight! This plantation was the opposite of Laura as that it was always a private home and although they did grow sugar the main house was not used for business.

I highly recommend to anyone heading to New Orleans to make the short trek out to River Road and visit a few of these awesome plantations!

More pictures of booze, food, crazies and various southern things can be found here!

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