Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Roaring Towards July

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that, though they got a slow start on the season, my boys from Boston are back in the hunt. As of right now, they are tied with fast starting Tampa Bay, one half game back of the team I love to hate, the Yankees (Derek Jeter excepted).

There are plenty of things to cheer about right now, with new faces, healing injuries, old work horses, and oomph in Big Papi's bat. I still have heart palpitations when they call for the bull pen. Or when Dice K is pitching. But on the whole, I really like this team.

My Nextgen Red Sox fan, daughter Keara, was at the game the other day with her old college roommates, when they beat the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth. That girl is a good luck charm. She has a history of this stuff. Thanks for being there, doing your part, while I merely scream at the computer Game Day updates.

For the past you know how long, I've been keeping up with news on the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout. After years of living on the Gulf Coast, with a spouse who was a deepwater explorationist, it's always on my mind. My favorite source of news before it hits the major networks has been El Jefe Bob, of the Daily Hurricane. Why do I mention this, besides the fact that he's been spot on THE WHOLE TIME? I knew I liked this guy. Look at him today on his post. Check out that hat. Nuf said.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Hangouts in Husum

Since the demise of Hooba's last November, evening Husum hangouts were non existent. Weep no more, local denizens! Rumor has it that someday soon, there will be something happening at the golf course restaurant now that the ghosts of Hooba's have been busted. I hear it might even involve a deep fryer (gasp!).

The bigger news is that Shaffer and Regina are now running The Husum Ice House at the Riverside B&B. The 100 year old brick ice house-turned-wine bar is the centerpiece of the property, which was originally the Husum Hotel, founded at the turn of the century (the last one, not the present one!). The wine bar is full of local wines. Here is Regina pouring some Waving Tree Sangiovese in the Ice House.

We attended the soft opening recently, and were treated to great wines and small plates on the patio. We enjoyed the company of local winemakers, winegrowers, chefs, artists, all fans of eating well and supporting the good life in Husum.

Here are pictures of two of the five plates were were treated to. Top has shrimp and a sauce I don't recall (too much sangiovese) and a pork tenderloin with cherry sauce. The other is lamb balls with a green chutney. MMM good. By then the Sangiovese was gone and we were sipping on some Wind River Cellars reds.

I stopped in for a glass of wine and human contact on Thursday. It was rainy, so the patio was out. Instead, I got to sit at the "Chef's Table", the counter seating in the kitchen, where I watched Chef Shaffer prepare my carpaccio small plate. Nice. They are open Thurs-Fri at 5, Saturday and Sunday noon to 9 pm, and are planning on serving a weekend brunch by July. I'll double check the hours and update this info as well. You can find the Ice House on Facebook as well.

More news: The infamous hillbilly smoker has found a new home at the White Water Cafe, along with its creator and chief operator, John G. Look for the BBQ sign out in front of the WWC across from the Husum Golf Course on Rt. 141. John is open Fri-Sun for his famous pulled pork sandwiches, sliders, ribs, chicken, and combo plates. The Cafe also has plans for an early morning coffee plus shift, and a lunchtime shift. I'll update as all becomes clear.

This bodes well for the Annual 4th of July parade and o.1 K fun run. We're thinking pub crawl between the Ice House and the BBQ. If the golf course place is open by then, we might make it up the hill.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Escape to the Middle of Nowhere WA

Project #3 for being MIA in May: Camping Trip with the Nordic Club gang.

Once the snow is done (though I don't think it will EVER be really done this year) we look for other sources of adventure. Last year we kicked off the 'off' season with a trip to John Day Fossil Beds. This year, we decided to follow the Ice Age Floods. Lloyd and Fred planned us a three night camping trip to Palouse Falls and environs. The weather forecast was awful for the weekend. We were leaving early Thursday morning May 20th. The night before it was COLD, RAINY (snow at 3500 ft) and WINDY. More of the same was on the way. No one was calling it off. We were taking our pop up camper, so as long as the tenters were game, so were we.

We took our time leaving the Gorge, stopped along the way in Wallula Gap for a geology lesson, then had a lunch stop at the Marcus Whitman historic hotel in Walla Walla. The old part of the hotel is neat, but the food in the restaurant was forgettable. I wish we'd gone across the street to Jacobi's, where I'd eaten last fall during the State Democrats meeting. Much better food. And less expensive. Anyway, we made one more stop at the last grocery store for miles in Dayton, then headed in to the Lyons Ferry Marina on the Snake River to set up camp. KOAs are not our first choice in camp grounds but there weren't a lot of choices, especially since the vancampers needed hookups.

The four tents were up the hill from us and the van campers next to us. The weather held, and we set up a group dining area by merging our picnic tables between the two of us.

Skip brought down the Coleman tailgater grill, and we cooked ourselves a fantastic kabob dinner.

Ole brought his trusty guitar and we had a group campfire up the hill, singing every song we could think of, and of course, his Austin Lounge Lizard standards Old Blevins and Paint Me On Velvet. We crashed at the 10 pm quiet time. It was cold. I wore several layers to bed that night, including a hoodie.

The hikes on Friday were easy but interesting. Fueled by a hearty pancake breakfast, we went first to Lyons Ferry State Park across the bridge from our camp. We hiked to a viewpoint where you can see an archaeological site, the Marmes Rockshelter, where the oldest (10,000 year old) human remains in the state were found. There's a diked area to the center right of the photo, with a cave at the waterline where the remains were found. Cool.

Then we drove to the 200 ft. Palouse Falls. The weather looked threatening, but didn't act on the threats. We were treated to great views, and some friendly marmots.

Back at the camp, we feasted on grilled salmon steaks and salads. Meal planning is very important to us campers. Then another campfire/singalong. The campground was filling up, it being Friday night. We resolved to camp midweek if at all possible. It was cold again, but not as bad as the night before. It rained a bit overnight, but cleared by morning.

Who can go out exploring without one of Yolanda's breakfast burritos (on homemade tortillas) with homemade salsa? Not I. Some crazy people ate two. Not I. Friday's adventure was to return to one of the trails at Palouse State Park and hike the steep loose trail to the bottom.

Not being one to risk life and limb for such an experience, decided to stay above and photograph the journey.

As the insane ones made their way to the train tracks, I just KNEW a train would come. Yep, one did. Just as they made it to the next part of the trail. After getting a few shots in, I returned to the park and did Ken Ken puzzles (conveniently left in the car) until they returned. Not that I'm a wuss or anything, I truly just don't like steep trails. I know it's easier coming up. But if I fall on the way down and break my neck, how the hell am I gonna get up? See what I'm saying?

The second part of the day was fantastic. After a scenic drive through Devil's Canyon, we went to Juniper Dunes and climbed to the top. Great fun, great views and great Big Sky! Actually ran into a group that was leaving as we arrived, a nordic ski club from nearby Pasco. How crazy is that? We made it back to the campground for our final dinner (chili and leftovers). It was getting even more crowded, with noisy tenters long after we'd put out the fire packed up the chairs and guitar. It rained and gusted wind all night long. I don't think anyone slept much.

An executive decision in the morning: no one wanted to cook breakfast in the wind. We'd had it. Coffee, yes. Muffins and scones, yes. Enough to get us on our way. The tenters did not take care in being quiet packing up. With quiet hours 10 pm-6 am, they were well within their rights at 6:10 am...payback for the all night partiers, heh heh. We hit the road, but had to drive all the way to Umatilla to find breakfast. A sign by the road pointed down a side street to a hotel and restaurant...it was the first thing we'd seen in hours. The Desert River Inn and Tumbleweed Saloon looked good to us. The breakfast menu was fantastic. We all ordered different things and everyone was happy.

Great way to end the trip. Several cars went to The Dalles after that, and we crossed the river at Biggs Bridge to finish the drive home on the WA side of the Columbia.

More photos can be found on the club's Picassa site.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The List

Whenever I have a big decision to make, I use The List (apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan). You know, fold a paper in half. Put pluses on one side, minuses on the other. It usually makes the decision clear. The last time I used The List, it was when the job was taking us back to Houston. When we left Houston the first time, in 1985, after 3.5 years, the plus side for leaving was long. If you're not from Houston, it usually is. But all things are relative, so after nearly 6 years in Nigeria and 5 years in New Orleans, the plus side for Houston was pretty dang good. These days, I'd be hard pressed to find any good reasons to leave where I am. Good thing I don't have to.

There are other times where The List can come in handy, Elections, for example. You have two candidates for, say, County Commissioner of a large rural county. I want to vote for the person who has the best experience in matters financial, managerial, legal, and social and who has made a significant investment in the community. This particular race is non partisan, so the party of the candidate should not be driving the decision, even though it does. I'll call my candidates Mary 1 and Mary 2. And make my list.

Mary 1
18 year resident of county
Long record of involvement on numerous local nonprofit boards, gov't task forces, college forums
Successful fundraiser for food bank capital campaign
Former legal counsel and exec. asst to the warden, federal prison in county
Former law clerk in federal district court, Portland
Two term incumbent with experience in all areas of county management
Parent of a public middle schooler
Endorsed by both area newspapers based on her record and qualifications
Ran a nonpartisan campaign

Mary 2
17 year resident of county
No record of community involvement
No history of involvement in local government
Former tv broadcaster and radio talk show host
Failed candidate for governor
Tea Bag symbol on every sign

I've left out Mary 2's activist experience. It's at state and national levels, and not really germane to the job of county commissioner. Constitution Party politics, and you know, the hot button issues that get people all revved up but don't help much when you're trying to run a county.

Now, all things being equal, I'm going with Mary 1. But then, I'm a practical person. I like my public officials to be the best person available for the job. Lord knows it takes a special person to put up with all that being a public servant entails. Full disclosure: I'd also go with Mary 1 because she's my sister. I've known her all her life. She's smart, fair, ethical, honorable, respectful of her position and constituents, able to put herself in someone else's shoes, and damn, she's funny. She's a can-do sort of person.

You would NEVER know that judging by the 'chatter' from the haters in her county. Arrogant? Nope. Bully? Uh uh. Sore loser? Hardly. Tax and spend liberal? Why, for explaining the impact on county services should state ballot tax initiatives FAIL? For voting WITH the other two commissioners for a levy to deal with the meth problem? This is all they've got. That and the fact that she called herself a goddam liberal for caring about people, publicly taking the Lord's name in vain...someone catch me while I swoon. It's nicer than some of the stuff the other side has written online. This is the same woman who held a food bank capital campaign fundraiser for her 50th birthday, and as chairwoman, did cartwheels (a feat she'd never accomplished) when it hit $1 million. When it hit $2 million just before the election, she started working on her promised back flip. Yeah, I hate her, too. She makes me look like a slug.

The result of the primary last month was a sad commentary on the voters of that county. The sheeple couldn't look past the rhetoric and voted for Mary 2 in numbers high enough to warrant a runoff in November. I hope the 60% of voters who failed to send in their ballots change their minds in November. Maybe they thought Mary 1 was a shoo-in, even though she told them not to take anything for granted. I hope the 1500 people who voted but failed to choose a candidate for commissioner decide to vote in that race in November. And I hope those who chose write ins like George Bush and Minnie Mouse realize that their votes DO matter. That the county commissioner is more important to their daily life than most of the up ballot races they do vote for. Oh yeah, one more thing: I hope they all make their own lists, then use their BRAINS to make a good choice.