Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wow, all of a sudden 6 weeks have passed and it's time to say goodbye once again!
Although we didn't quite get everything done, we accomplished almost all 'projects' on Esther's to-do-list.
The yard looks great, we created a beautiful raised vegetable garden and the kitchen looks like new!!
This past week James worked hard to get all the irrigation/drip systems in and I have been finessing and edging the flower borders.
The weather underwent a major change for the better and the last couple of days we had abundant sunshine although the wind was still a little chilly.

The warmer weather enticed this Japanese cherry tree to flower while the 'Rhodies' in the yard are still ablaze with color and a few of them even still have to come!

On Thursday we took a break and drove to Seattle where James met with his old room-mate Steven from the days that they were both studying at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. These guys hadn't seen each other in 30 years!
They had a good time 'remembering when' and I learned some 'history' of James that he hadn't told me before!
Life certainly is full of unexpected twists and turns and all kinds of interesting surprises. Steven now lives in Tacoma, is a Pottery Artist and has 4 kids!

Older, wiser (?), balder and grey-er!!

Since we were 'in town' we decided to do some sight seeing and visited the Elliot Bay Waterfront Park at Pikes Place Market.
The latter is a lively and colorful public market, the oldest continually operating farmers  market in the United States, founded in 1907.
The market offers fresh produce, unique foods and handmade arts and crafts and there's all kinds of delicious food to be sampled.
We fell for a great crab and cheese sandwich and shared a delicious pineapple bread pudding for desert!

On Mothers Day we visited the Plant and Bake Sale at 'Casa', the local animal shelter, and had a couple of 'Hot dogs' in the parking lot. We visited the animals in the shelter afterwards and managed not to take any of them home. Boy, it's so hard when they look at you with those pleading eyes! One of the dogs, a little Pomeranian mix called Dakota was so cute, I almost went back for her but we decided a while ago not to take another dog again and I walked out before I could change my mind. 
Since the weather was so great we decided to have our first 'el fresco' dinner of the season out in the yard. The fish taco's that I made came out quite good and were a perfect ending for this sunny day.

Friday evening we finally got to go and play some golf at the local golf course! We had payed a visit already a couple of weeks ago and found their 'twilight prices' very reasonable, $10 after 5 pm but the weather just hadn't cooperated until now.
We played 9 holes and had a great time. Our game was lousy (nothing new there) and they had upped their prices to the summer rates just that day ($12) but the evening weather was warm and beautiful and we had the course almost to ourselves.
The pics are not to good since they were made with James phone. Won't you believe it, we forgot the darn camera again!

Last but not least I forgot to mention last week that I got a few unexpected presents for my birthday!
One was a bunch of spinning roving from Mary, one of Esther's neighbours a little farther down the road.
Her (danish) husband Olaf whom I had met while walking the dog with the 'Walkers' had told me that his wife Mary owned 7 spinning wheels!
The next day, the 25th, he invited me to come over for coffee and talk 'fiber' with Mary. James decided to come with me and we spent a great morning talking about Alaska where they had been a couple of years ago. A tour of the house brought us to each of their 'hide-aways' in the basement.
Mary has a beautiful yarn-studio in one half and Olaf has his tool-shop in the other.

When we left Mary gave me a whole bunch of beautiful Romney (that's a sheep breed) and Leicester (another one) roving!
Wow, what a nice (one-day-early) birthday present!

And with the mail came my other surprise present!
Anouk, my niece, had sent me a Muppet puppet. Now, I have learned since that The Muppets aren't as well known in the States as they are in Europe. Here they have heard of miss Piggy and Kermit through the movie but they don't know the television show like the one that would come on weekly in Europe.
This is one of the characters in the show. Like I said, his name is Animal and he is the rather 'wild' drummer in a rock band. So wild that they have to keep him chained up otherwise he creates chaos wherever he goes!

Anyways, as you can see he has made himself rather at home here and Sadie thinks he's very funny too!


Well, that's all for now folks! Tomorrow we'll take off for our adventure through Canada and hopefully we'll arrive in Denali, Alaska in about a day or 10-12.
I don't know if I will be able to post on the road but otherwise I'll be back around the 1st of June!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

All these varieties are in Esther's yard alone

I learned how the Rhododendron became Washington's State flower:

"The fact that women in Washington state (along with the rest of America) had no legal right to vote didn't stop them from organizing a statewide election in 1892 to select the Washington state flower. Eager to display a flower that would represent their state at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, more than 15,000 women cast a ballot in the election, choosing between the clover and the coast rhododendron. When the votes were tabulated, the coast rhododendron emerged the winner. In 1959, the state legislature officially sanctioned the flowering evergreen shrub as the Washington state flower."

Well, Esther sure has her quota in the yard. I think there are about 50 of them!

And how about these gorgeous azaleas:


While I was weeding this week I found this sweet surprise underneath one of the 'Rodies'.
I backed out as fast as I could and left the area alone for a while but I'm afraid I either chased the mother bird away or maybe it was abandoned altogether.
I'm not quite sure whom these eggs belong to but I suspect they're from a Blackeyed Junco.

James finished up his last job in the kitchen. He changed out the shelves of the cabinets (that always have those hard to reach back areas) with beautiful drawers that you can pull out all the way to make things easily accessible. 

The yard starts  to look real good too. Most of the weeds are gone and the paths between the planters are filled with gravel.
The tomatoes are in, the tepees went up and the beans got sowed!

(That's certainly written down a lot faster than it is done!)

And after all this work it sure felt good to put our feet up!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Birthdays sort of sneak up on you, don't they? At least mine seems to arrive earlier each year!
Anyways, here's another one and even if you don't necessarily want to know about it, others seem to delight into reminding you that you're a year older again, thank you very much!
Just kidding, things got off to a fun and surprising start on Thursday morning when I was serenaded by the walkers group and was handed a bunch of lovely cards! sweet, like I said before, they're such nice people!

James prepared me a fantastic breakfast, a home made egg-and-bacon Mcmuffin equivalent, and then drove me to the coffee roasting company here on the Island for a triple shot Latte (just what you need to get over the one-year-older shock!)

Next on the agenda was to drive the tulip route in the nearby Skagit Valley!

Skagit is the largest tulip producer of tulips in North America and is home to 1000+ acres of Skagit Valley tulip, daffodil, and iris fields.
The tulip route is part of the yearly tulip festival that is held each year during the month of April. It is during this time of year that the fields of tulips (and daffodils) begin to bloom and car tourists can drive through the region to see these many fields. In addition, throughout the festival, there are fun events and plenty of attractions to visit.

Some of the growers like Roozengaarde have display gardens which are fantastic for photos as you can see in this post. There are also options for purchasing tulips and other varieties of flower.


It depends a little on mother Nature if the flowers are sooner or later each year but there's almost always something blooming.
We had picked a rather cold and rainy day but the advantage was that we didn't encounter the thousands of people and tour buses that show up when the sun is out! Especially on the weekends, we've been warned, it can be very, very slow going.

I felt very much 'at home' this day since I actually come from the part of  Holland (the North-west) where most tulips are grown, so I'm very familiar with the scenery!
As a school kid I used to work in the fields ''beheading' the flowers after they bloomed and in the barns to 'peel' the bulbs to make some pocket money for the summer.

For lunch we headed to the Conway Pub where, we were told, they would have the best hamburgers and fried oysters in the area!
We were also warned not to expect to much of an ambiance or to dress up since this is basically a 'biker joint', an old barn that you might not pick to eat at if you don't know about it!

I had the delicious fried oysters which had a great flavor and still a good "snap" to them. Not mushy at all and with a nice crumbly fry texture.
James went for the excellent oyster hamburger and Esther tried to get her mouth around a yummy blue-cheese burger.

A true Hess birthday. Its all about the food!

For desert we went to another place that was recommended to us, the Snow Goose Produce market, a little farther down the road. Among all kinds of beautiful fresh, local and organic foods they sell, what one of the tourist brochures calls 'immodest', ice cream cones!
They bake the cones themselves and the whole thing is nothing less than divine.....

To work off this calorie laden day we busted our tails in Esther's yard this week!
James finished the raised planter beds and together we put them into their designated area in a sunny spot at the south side of the house. James worked until 8 o'clock that night to fill them all with dirt!

Want to hear something funny?

Those four smaller beds are actually made from the old wooden shipping boxes that were used to transport windows for the glass house that James and his Dad added to the house some 18 years ago! I guess it pays to never throw something away! James had to cut them up a little , throw away some rotted parts and give them some stain but they came out great!

I continued my 'battle against the weeds' and finally start to feel I'm making some progress.

Some 'before' areas

Some 'after' areas