Monday, September 4, 2017

Family Reunion

Tom is always on the go being deployed to the Middle East or on TDY a lot.  Every time he thinks he might be able to come home on leave, somehow it never happens.  The last time we saw him was just for one day when he flew up to see Chris graduate from college last year.  One day was all the Air Force would allow him to be gone because of everything he had going on at the time.  The time before that was two years ago at his wedding so we had a lot of catching up to do.


Tom arrived late Tuesday night.  By Saturday, he had recovered from his long hike in the Grand Tetons and he and Bill went to one of their favorite spots-Hamilton Mountain in the Columbia Gorge. This past Friday, they went on another hike in the Gorge at Dog Mountain and then went to Carson Hot Springs for a soak and a massage.  He and Bill enjoyed their hiking time together very much.

They also had some great father-son time flying.  They went up on Wednesday morning after he arrived to fly to Kelso to warm up the engine to prep for an oil change.  While they were up that day, Tom asked if they could do a flight around Mt. St. Helens so they did that the next day.  Chris wasn't able to come down for his birthday weekend so the three of us flew up on Sunday to help Chris celebrate his birthday a few days early in Bellingham.  Bill let Tom do a fair amount of the flying and talking to flight control on all their flights.  It was fun to sit in the back seat and see Bill coaching Tom on what to do and what to say.


Chris picked us up at the airport and we started out our morning with breakfast at our favorite spot in Fairhaven-Skylark's.  I was in heaven.  My whole family was together in one spot!  We didn't have any real plan of what we wanted to do while we were there.  Bill asked if there was a visitor center at Mt. Baker and that led to discussing that Artist Point is only open a couple months of the year and it was prime time to go there.  So off to Mt. Baker we went to see what there was to see.


I love this photo of Chris.  There was still some snow up at Artist Point.  People would take sleds up there to slide down on some of the hills of snow.  Chris climbed up on one of the hills.  It looks like he is so close to Mt. Shuksan from that perspective.


Unfortunately we never got any photos of all four of us together but we took lots of pictures to capture our time in that beautiful spot.


In addition to going up to Artist Point, we stopped at Nooksack Falls and a hiking trail along the highway on the Nooksack River to check those out as well.


After we got back to Bellingham, we went to one of Christopher's favorite breweries, Chuckanut, and had some beer there.  Christopher's first two choices for places to go to dinner that night were closed on Sundays so we ended up going to Boundary Bay for dinner.  Chris had plans with friends that night so he dropped us off at the hotel and we spent a little time in the hot tub there before going to bed.  Monday morning, we headed to Mount Bakery for some breakfast.  Christopher's friend and former roommate, Luke, joined us.  Then it was off to the airport to come back home and more flying time for Tom.


I took as much time off last week as I could to spend with Tom.  On Tuesday, we went with Bill to the Grant House to video the cook for Soup's On then he and I hung out going out to Ilani for the first time to check it out.  Not impressed.  We went hiking around Battle Ground Lake for the first time in I don't know how long.  I can't do those big hikes that he and Bill do.  This was a Shannon-size hike but we did make two loops around the lake.  From there, Tom wanted to see where I work and I introduced him to some of my co-workers. Then we got flowers and went to Grandma Bev's grave site to visit her.  On an interesting side note, there was a new burial site next to her.  It was one of Tom's high school wrestling teammates that died in a car accident back in 2009.  Not sure why he is just getting buried next to Bev now but was certainly an interesting coincidence.

Bill and I had been trying to figure out what we were going to do for our anniversary and decided while we were at the Grant House that we would go back that evening to celebrate.  Tom went to spend time with some of his friends that night.


I had been wanting to go see the Terracotta Warrior exhibit in Seattle ever since I heard it was coming.  Chris had gone to Xi'an when he was in China and saw the Terracotta Warriors archaeological dig there.  I asked Tom if he wanted to go and he was all for it.  Bill stayed home to work and let me and Tom have some one-on-one time.  We drove up to Seattle and were surprised to find that it was raining there.  We got there a little early so we stopped at the Armory to get some lunch before we headed to the museum.


I didn't realize until we got there that it was the last weekend that they would be in Seattle so it was providence that we actually got to see it.  The exhibit is moving to Philadelphia for the next few months before going back to China.  There were 10 actual Terracotta Warriors, some of the weapons buried with them, and some reproductions to give an idea of what some of the other figures looked like.  We enjoyed the exhibit very much.  I was so thrilled to even get a glimpse of what Chris had seen in China.


We checked out some of the other exhibits at the museum but we got done and realized we still had a fair amount of time to kill before we absolutely had to head home.  Tom really wanted to go up into the Space Needle.  We hadn't been up to the top in over 17 years but it was still really cloudy.  With as expensive as it is to go up, it didn't seem like a good idea to go up and not have much of a view.  So we decided to walk and get some more exercise by going to Pike Place Market.  We didn't spend a lot of time there.  Just enough to walk through and take a few photos.  We needed to walk back to the Seattle Center to get back to the car and wanted to try to avoid rush hour traffic.


By the time we got back to the Space Needle, most of the clouds had lifted and we decided to see if we could get some tickets.  It wasn't a super busy day there so we got tickets right away and went up.  We enjoyed catching all the views of the city while we were up there.  The only thing that would have made it better is if the clouds would have lifted enough to see Mt. Rainier.


Bill signed us up to help Gary and Shirley Gross bottle some of their mead Saturday morning.   We were joined by a mother-daughter team for our morning's work.


Bill has done it one other time and Tom has helped some of his friends bottle beer and mead before as well.  This was my first time.


We each had our jobs.  Tom hauled the bottles in off the truck and put them in to be sanitized.


Bill is pretty good at keeping all the bottles moving as they get filled.


Gary was capping the filled bottles.


Grace cut tape and wiped down the bottles.


Shirley and I sealed the bottles with wax.  That was the most time consuming part of the process-waiting for the wax to dry.


We bottled their Ruby Sunset mead which happens to be my favorite.  It is made with blackberry flower honey, cranberries and strawberries and it very yummy.


We enjoyed some mead and good company over lunch.


Sunday was to be Tom's last day in the Pacific Northwest.  His last request was to go to the beach.  We got up early and headed to Cannon Beach.  We lucked out and got a decent parking place downtown and got some breakfast before we headed out onto the beach and walked to see Haystack Rock.  We tried to go to Ecola State Park and Fort Stevens but everything was just crazy busy and crowded everywhere that we went.  We couldn't get in or get parking at most places so we finally just gave up and started for home.  We did stop at Gouger Winery for some wine tasting and to do our quarterly wine pickup on the way home.


It doesn't seem possible that Tom was here for almost two weeks.  We tried to pack as much fun and memories in as we could.  We don't know when we will see him again.  Could be a long wait again.  We enjoyed every minute that he was here with us and already miss him.

A Total Eclipse of the Sun


There was such a stir surrounding the eclipse.  We live only about 60 miles from where totality was expected.  Several days prior to the event we were in McCall, ID which was also very close to 100% totality.  We were seeing news coverage of 30 mile backups on Hwy 26 of people trying to get to Prineville for the Eclipse Festival they were having there on Thursday-5 days before the eclipse.  Unbelievable!  We saw aerial views of Madras that took your breathe away for how many people were in that little town.  Sadly--a plane crashed outside of Madras on Saturday.  There were reports from all the Eastern Oregon airports that you had to make an appointment to land.  That is almost unheard of.

I thought I was getting prepared.  I got online three weeks before the eclipse to order glasses for us, Chris and Tom and Maddy.  Little did I know at the time that there were a lot of glasses out there that weren't certified as being safe to use.  The stories were coming out that Amazon was recalling lots of glasses.  I had tried ordering on Amazon but wasn't guaranteed delivery on time so I tried Wal-Mart instead.  I found some that they claimed would arrive on time.  They cost $50 but I thought I was getting something that was acceptable.  Christopher's and Tom's arrived in time.  Mine were predicted to arrive on the day of the eclipse according to the estimate after they were shipped (several days later than promised when ordering) so I knew they wouldn't arrive in time.  Turned out that they didn't arrive until 4 days after the eclipse.

Chris decided to come down to Vancouver to experience the eclipse.  Bellingham was only going to have 88% totality and he wanted to experience closer to 100%.  Vancouver experienced a 99% total eclipse.  So we asked him to bring all his glasses down so that we could use them since we knew that ours wouldn't arrive in time.  Bill looked at them and thought that they didn't look right so he looked up online and sure enough, Wal-Mart had pulled them for not being safe.  I was so mad.  I got no e-mail to warn us that they weren't safe and that we shouldn't use them.  I called to try to get a refund several times but because it was a third party, they wouldn't honor it.  Just gave me a sketchy cell phone number to call that no one answered.  So mad that I got caught up in the scam that so many others had and no more glasses to purchase anywhere.  Chris was so disappointed.  Chris and Bill did figure out how to make a cereal box pinhole camera though so that is what we ended up using.

In the meantime, Tom was somewhere between Cheyenne and Jackson Hole.  His plan was to watch the eclipse from Grand Teton National Park which was in the line of totality.  We finally got a hold of him while he was driving but he was insisting he was going hiking during the eclipse no matter what.  He had no reservations but managed to get a hotel room for the exorbitant price of almost $1000 for the night.  I about choked when I heard that is how much he had to pay.  It was one of the few rooms left in town though and all the camping spots were taken too so he didn't have anywhere to put of his tent.  I had this total fear of the eclipse and was scared for Tom.  When he let me know that the hotel gave him a pair of glasses that were certified as safe, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

Since Chris was here and there had been such a big deal made of how bad traffic would be, I decided to work from home and watched the coverage on TV.  Here on the home front,  Chris and Bill went out every so often to try to get a look through the cereal box.  I tried a couple of times but couldn't get the hang of it.  Man I would have loved to have glasses that actually were safe!  So afraid of being outside at all, I avoided the front yard as much of possible but went out on the back deck every so often.  It did get darker but being that we were in the 99% range, I thought it would get darker than it actually did.  So partly because of my fear and partly because we didn't have eclipse glasses, it was kind of a non-event for me.  As soon as the eclipse was mostly over, Bill and Chris picked up some lunch for us and then we urged Chris to get moving to head back to Bellingham.  Knowing that there would be lots of people from Seattle area that traveled to areas of totality, he didn't have much of a window before they would all be arriving in Vancouver and tying up our traffic.

                                        

Tom managed to snag a parking spot at Grand Teton National Park.  They were expecting to be very crowded and needing to close one side of the highway and have one-way traffic only so that they could parallel park cars on the highway.  Tom was about two hours into his hike when the eclipse hit there.  He laid down on the asphalt trail and enjoyed it.  He called me during totality.  He was so excited.  He took pictures but he also met a lot of people from all over the world on the trail and met a photographer who offered to send him photos.

After the eclipse, Tom continued hiking up to see four of the lakes there.  He thought he was hiking back to the parking lot where his car was but as it turned out, his car was 10 miles away.  Luckily some park rangers picked him up and gave him a ride part of the way.  By this time he had already hiked 20 miles and his feet were not doing very well and it was pretty late at night already.  His original plan was to drive up to Yellowstone the next day and hike some more there but he knew that he wasn't going to be in any shape to enjoy his trip to Yellowstone and got as far as Idaho Falls that night and continued to drive home and arrive here in Vancouver on Tuesday night.  So happy to see my guy.  It had been two years since he had been home and except for one day last June, that was also the last time we had seen him.  

Verdict.  So for Bill and me--kind of a non-event.  Chris--not sure if he was glad he came down to see it or not.  Tom-totally thought it was the coolest thing ever.  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

McCall


Bill and I had never been to McCall, Idaho so we were really looking forward to the fly-out there.  It was about a two and a half hour flight from Vancouver to get there.  Fairly uneventful flight although I was a little taken aback when a plane flew under us and we hadn't seen him and flight following hadn't warned us that he was near us.  I sure hope he had seen us and knew avoid us.  If not, God was certainly looking after us at that point.

We left as early as possible in the morning to get there.  As with the Portland area, the McCall area was also near the 100% totality zone for the solar eclipse so we were advised it was going to be a little crazy there and to arrive early to get a parking spot at the airport.



We got to the Shore Lodge too early to check in so we ate lunch at the restaurant in the hotel before heading downtown to kill some time.  Shore Lodge has been in McCall since 1948 and is a beautiful hotel.  We ate in a newly remodeled part of the hotel with a new restaurant overlooking the lake.  The outside seating was already taken up so we ate inside but it didn't seem as if we were inside because the whole outside wall was open-felt more like we were sitting under a covered deck.  We had lunch with Ron and Janet May.  We took off from Pearson just ahead of them and waved at them as we left but they arrived before us because their Dakota is faster than our Skylane.  We could see them ahead of us most of the way with the sun glinting off their plane.


My favorite part about the hotel was how inviting the view was from the lobby.  It is hard to tell from this photo but you could see Payette Lake through this etched glass.


The view was so spectacular.  

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant just down the road.  Bill and I decided to check out the pool area and went into the hot tub for a bit after dinner.  Again--beautiful view of the lake from the hot tub.  We didn't take advantage of the beach or make s'mores at the fire pit but there were a lot of fun things for kids to do there.  It is a very family oriented resort.


Bright and early Friday morning, the folks from Salmon Rafting based out of McCall picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the Riggins area to go whitewater rafting on the Salmon River.  I have to admit that I was more than a bit apprehensive about going on the rafting trip.  Not so much that I wasn't going to go at all but enough to have healthy respect for the river and plan accordingly.  I have PTSD from inter-tubing down the river in Lava Hot Springs-getting hurt and losing my glasses and shoes.  I was extra cautious about what we took with us.  I took nothing with me that I was willing to lose.  Took my old glasses from two prescriptions ago, had croakies on my sunglasses, took off all my jewelry and took my old camera instead of my new one in case it went overboard.

We had a total of six rafts, three one-person kayaks and one two-person kayak on our trip downriver.  We put into the river at Spring Bar--about 10 miles upriver from Riggins.  There was a forest fire just a few more miles away so our morning was very smoky and hazy.  It did bother me a bit.  Especially my eyes.

Bill and I happened to be in the raft with the owner of the company.  We enjoyed our trip very much as we floated and maneuvered through the various rapids.  The river and mountains on either side were beautiful.


We stopped on a sand bar near Riggins for lunch.  It was quite the production.  The six guides prepared our lunch.  The tables that they put the food on were the seats on the rafts.  They all had a job putting together the fixings for making sandwiches, salads, etc.  It was a fabulous meal.  No restrooms in the middle of the river on a sand bar so you had to find a spot somewhere that you were willing to relieve yourself.  Guys have so much more of an advantage in that department than we women do.  I went with the flow though.  I didn't want to have to wait until we got to the end of the trip so I found a spot to just sit in the river and go with it.


One of the kayaks became available that afternoon so Bill decided to try it out for the very first time.  We were just getting ready to go through a Class III rapids so I was really nervous about him deciding to do it.  And of course, he went out of the kayak on that first rapids as I was afraid he would.  But he got back in and didn't want to give up.  He spent the whole rest of the afternoon in (and out a few more times) the kayak.  He equated it with learning to ski.  He wasn't going to learn if he didn't try and get bounced out.  He did hit his bottom on some rocks and got pretty bruised up but otherwise had a great time.

We pulled out of the river at Lucile Bar about ten miles downriver from Riggins.  It was probably about five o'clock when we started heading back to McCall.  We didn't get back to the hotel until after six o'clock and had just enough time to take a very quick shower to get to our dinner reservation at six-thirty.  Luckily we didn't have far to go--just across the street from the lodge at the Lardo Grill.


Saturday was a plan your own day.  Ron and Nicole Runyan decided that they wanted to go hiking somewhere in the McCall area and asked how many others might want to join them.  Bill and a few other adventurous souls went with them to Snowslide Lake and hiked to Snowslide Summit.  It wasn't a very long trail-just 2.3 miles one way-but it was pretty much straight up with a 2000 foot elevation gain to the summit which was at 7900 foot elevation.  Kevin Padrick and Bill hung out together and enjoyed their day.

I decided to go hiking at Ponderosa State Park which was in McCall itself.  I took the city bus on its loop around the city and arrived at the park 40 minutes later.  I had thought that I would only spend an hour or two at the most there but I ended up hiking for about two and a half hours and met back up with the bus three hours after the driver left me off.  I took the Peninsula Trail which was a well paved bike path for the first part of my hike.  It was a pretty hike with views of the lake.  From there I took the Lily Marsh Trail which was not paved and fairly rocky.  There was a bit of up and down hill climbing as well.  I was really hoping that I would see some deer or other wildlife while I was hiking but no such luck.  I had seen a doe and two fawns in someone's front yard while I was on the bus but no such luck in the park.

I'm not used to walking that long or far.  In fact according to my Fitbit, that was the most I had walked since I got it with more than 25,000 steps for the whole day.  So I was a bit stiff and sore at the end of it all and didn't want to attempt walking to the downtown area without knowing how far it was.  So I waited for the bus to pick me up and take me there.

I elected to have lunch at Veg'd Out-a salad bar restaurant at the Hotel McCall and then caught up with some other folks that were wondering around town and talked with them for a bit while they enjoyed having some ice cream.  I was a little jealous.  I was trying to be good having a baked potato and salad bar but the ice cream looked so good and I wasn't going to have another opportunity to go there before we left--sigh.  By the time I had sat and rested for awhile, I was ready to walk back to the Shore Lodge.


On the way back to the hotel, I saw three deer.  I was up close and personal with a couple of them and was afraid that they might get spooked and run into the road in front of all the traffic but they seem to be pretty used to urban living.


This one was in the hospital parking lot and eating the bushes there.  I've never seen a deer scratch its ear before so that was kind of interesting.


 This one was also at the hospital but taking advantage of the shade.


And I wasn't far from this one either.  I just couldn't get my camera out fast enough to get a closeup.


We had dinner at the Anchor Restaurant that night.  We were seated out on the deck with a wonderful view of the lake.  I watched osprey dive into the lake to get their dinner and we watched the sunset.


We came home early Sunday morning so we could see Chris.  He decided to come home so he could see the eclipse.  It was a fabulous weekend full of new experiences and fun with our flying club friends.  I don't know if we will ever go back again but if the opportunity presented itself, I certainly wouldn't be opposed.  Beautiful vacation spot.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Big Remodel


I have been wanting to remodel for nearly 20 years.  We have actually made several incremental changes over the years.  We had dry rot from a leaking dishwasher in 1994 so we replaced the gold dishwasher and floor at that time with a lovely 90's floor which has since become well worn and more water damage.  We eventually needed to replace the gold range when the oven gave out.  But we still had the ugly gold sink, the ugly fake brick back splash, the chips in the counter tops that were there when we moved in, the dropped ceiling with half the fluorescent lights never working, and cabinet drawers and doors that were breaking and starting to not look so good from years of dirty fingers damaging the wood finish.  It was definitely time but budget and the knowledge that it was a huge undertaking kept us from making any big changes up until now.  Our inheritance from Bill's mom made the financial part possible and after three years of an intense schedule at work starting to wind down to a dull roar, I was able to devote some time to finding a contractor and making decisions of what I wanted.

I have to admit that I was more than a bit taken aback when I started talking to contractors about what I wanted to do.  The sticker shock was very real.  As I got used to the idea that it was going to cost a whole lot more than I anticipated after talking to several contractors, I just accepted that it was going to cost a lot of money and went with it.  While I don't LOVE my neighborhood, I do love the convenience to shopping, the hospital, freeways, and the airport.  And with the market the way it is in this area, we may have been able to sell the house as is but wouldn't have gotten nearly enough money to buy into a new home for the amount that we could remodel.  So remodeling was our best option no matter what.

The sacrifice you have to make to do it is also very real.  We were losing our kitchen and two of our bathrooms for six weeks.  Bill got cold feet more than once before demolition actually took place until it was actually gone and there was no turning back.


I took this picture just before demolition.  Demolition day was July 5th.  I had already packed up as much as I could and the contractors had already moved our refrigerator to our living room.


We put as much of our kitchen into the living room as we could.  We took the leaves out of the kitchen table and snugged it up as close to the wood stove as we could and that was where we ate although we did eat out on the deck as much as we could to get outside and away from the crowded conditions as much as we could.  The microwave and blender went on file cabinets and TV trays.


Fortunately, the contractors were able to drill a hole through the wall to the refrigerator to keep our ice maker going.  That was extremely important to Bill to have ice for his drinks and especially his shakes on his diet.  We also had the wire rack that we have been using as our pantry in the living room.

What a weird feeling to come home to this sight after demolition and see everything gone.  And see dry rot that had probably been there for more than twenty years under the kitchen cabinets.

Our contractor was nice enough to consider that having a kitchen sink available to us was important to Bill and installed a temporary one in our hall bathroom until it was time to do the dry wall work in there.  It was nice to have that sink for a couple of weeks before we had to start washing everything upstairs in the bathroom sink or shower in the case of our blender that was too big to wash in the bathroom sink.

Staying on track with our diet was also very important to us.  A lot of people talk about how much they have to eat out when remodeling and that wasn't really an option for us.  I bought a pan that I could grill veggies and fish in and used that a lot along with microwaving our packaged meals through the diet program.  I also bought a lot of the chopped salad packages and pre-cut fruit and veggies to make getting our produce requirements easier.  Some friends also invited us to their house for a few salad meals at their house.  There was really only one week that patience and lack of imagination (aka bored with what we had been eating) prevented us from staying on track. We went out several times that week and didn't stick to the plan very well.  Given we didn't have a kitchen for six week, that wasn't too bad though.

Certain milestones were very exciting to me.  The day that they put the cabinets in was really exciting to finally catch a glimpse of what things were going to look like.  The day the floor went in was equally exciting.  Counter tops, plumbing and electrical were all milestones that were one step closer to being finished and loving everything about what I saw going in.


With the exception of a few small details like putting in the bathroom towel racks which didn't arrive in a timely fashion, our contractor was right on the money with his timeline and prediction of being done by August 15th.    I know these things can drag out so I was grateful that things moved along as quickly as they could.  Nearly six weeks is a long time to be without a kitchen but I know it can last longer than that.

I was itching to move in before they were done.  Putting things on counters to see how they would look and pulling them out because we still needed all the electrical and plumbing finished.  At last things were finished enough for me to move back into the kitchen and I spent most of Friday night and all of Saturday moving everything out of boxes and back into the cupboards.  I am not complete done yet.  Wading through all the cleaning products and junk drawer "stuff" has been a little bit overwhelming so I haven't gone through that yet but we have a fully functional kitchen now anyway.


I've had people ask what my products were so this is what I picked out.  We got our custom cabinets from Northwood Cabinets.  I picked out red oak wood Shaker style cabinets with coffee color stain.  I had originally wanted to go with something darker but we were trying to preserve as much existing trim work and doors as we could and when I put the samples up against the water heater closet door, the color I had picked out didn't go well at all with the rest of the wood in the house.  I compromised and went with a color just slightly darker than what we already had.  I debated going with the same color again but wanted something different if I was getting a new kitchen.

The counter tops are white laminate with some gray in it.  Despite wanting to keep to a certain budget, my contractor did talk me into getting crescent edges to give a nicer look and I am happy that I did.

I didn't want hardwood floors but there are so many options with vinyl sheeting, vinyl planking, and tile that look like wood that I knew I could get a wood look that would make me happy without the expense or maintenance of wood.  I ended up picking out vinyl planking that looks like gray barn wood and it looks really nice.  I really didn't like that my old white floor showed absolutely every speck of dirt and was hoping that gray would be the way to go.  I actually planned all my choices around wanting a gray floor.


I picked antiqued glass tiles for my back splash.  It it so pretty!  I had originally been drawn to something similar but with more blue in it.  I found the colors I wanted in larger tiles when I was looking but they were twice as expensive and was definitely going to put me out of budget so I went with these that I knew I would also be happy with.  I also went with a single basin sink this time.  I got so tired of not being able to soak pans flat.  I keep a wash basin in the sink to limit water usage when washing dishes but definitely wanted the flexibility of being able to let big pans soak on a flat bottom.


The contractor did run out of tile and it was on back order for a month so I had to pick a different tile for our master bath.  Luckily I had a photo of some really similar tile that I had considered in a photo and we used that.  I am really pleased with how that looks in the bathroom.  I actually really like that there is more brown in it and that is goes so well with the cabinets.  I still liked the gray look for the kitchen and hall bath but for some reason this went better with the master bath and am glad I was forced into making a different selection.


This is our hall bathroom.  Love the new look.


I did some new artwork for the bathrooms.  I was inspired by wall art that Katie Pertiet sells.  She owns the Designer Digitals company that I buy all my scrapbooking products from so I used her products to do my own layouts and had them printed to frame.  Excited to have some changes on the walls as well.





So happy to be done, have it look so nice and have our house back.