Monday, September 29, 2008

Alcohol in hand....

I've noticed that in several of the last few pictures I've posted of myself, I always seem to have a drink in my hand. Believe it or not, I'm NOT a big drinker. I think if you average it out, I probably have 1 or 2 glasses of wine a week. I guess that's probably why I post pictures of myself in public places enjoying some wine (and typically those wines are from Oregon or Washington!) because it's fairly atypical. A picture of me with a glass of wine or a cocktail in hand demonstrates a special occasion/day. And of course, since this blog is supposed to focus on exploring and enjoying the Northwest, most of my posts are about special days that are out of the ordinary "work, chores, work-out, eat, sleep" type of days.

Just thought I would point this out; I don't want anyone thinking I'm a lush!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Puyallup Fair - 2008

Every September in the city of Puyallup (you're not a real Washingtonian until you can pronounce it) is one of the biggest events of the year. The Puyallup Fair is one of the top 10 fairs in the entire world! It seems like most people in this area don't ask "ARE you going to the Fair this year", it's more like "WHEN are you going to the Fair this year?" So even though Robb and I weren't in a particularly Fair mood, we decided that we must head over to Puyallup (about a 15 minute drive) to partake in the experience.

We headed over on a Sunday afternoon. I expected to be there about 3-4 hours, max. How silly am I? Eight and a half hours after we parked (and parking is a whole other matter -- it took an hour to get through the traffic and find a parking area that had an open spot) we finally went home. And there were whole sections of the Fair that we hadn't even gotten to yet! I really wanted to see bunnies, which we didn't get to. We didn't ride the Fair rides because by the time we got to it, it was dark and cold and I didn't have a jacket. Again, who knew that we would be there after the sun went down?

What did we see? Livestock, 4-H arts and crafts, square-dancers, a very fake hypnotist, flower arrangements, award-winning vegetables, and scones. Oh the scones are quite famous. Everyone talks about the scones. While we were waiting in a very long line to pick up our scones, we started talking to a couple in their 70s who had been coming to the Fair since they were kids. They remembered the scones being $0.10. Now they're $1.25. These buttery scones are filled with a strawberry jam. And I must say, they were quite delicious.

Now, let me vent for a little bit. I'm not a huge fan of country/state fairs in general. However, the reason I go and the reason I love going to festivals is because I adore looking at different booths of artisan crafts. The last few festivals and fairs I've been to have been very disappointing. Instead of booths upon booths of crafts, there are booths upon booths of window sellers, gutter cleaners, and croc shoes. There are usually a few craft tables, but not a lot. And I have to say, that the Puyallup Fair also has embraced this massive commercialization. We saw rows of window installers, frying pans, jacuzzis, and people selling kitchen knifes. Robb told me that he thinks the price for renting booth space just keeps increasing, and the normal artists can't afford the booths anymore, while the commerical companies can pay those prices. My parents just visited Texas again and chose to fly in on the weekend of the Pecan Street Festival. We used to love the Pecan Street Festival when we lived there. Just a weekend after I was moaning to my Mom about the commericalization of fairs and festivals, they also were very disappointed in the Pecan Street Festival. In only 10-15 years, the quality of festivals and fairs have really gone down and it's such a loss!

But, Robb and I did manage to find a couple artisan booths. At the blacksmith's booth Robb found a meat turner and skewers. I found a pottery business card holder for my desk. And Robb even bought something from one of the more commerical vendors. Now that we are in a house, Robb has been researching composting. He found a great worm composting bin at the Fair for a fantastic price. So now we have to order a pound of worms and then we can start composting! (Robb's already bought a book on composting and worms. He says to me, "Katherine, I want you to read this book too. I really want us to do this together.")

So, in the end, the Puyallup Fair was certainly an experience and we had a good time. It's not something that we need to go to every year, but when we want to go again, at least now we know to block out a lot more time and take a bus so we don't have to play the traffic game!

A cute pygmy goat!

A display made entirely of farm food (grains, eggs, fruit, veggies.) These displays were fascinating and beautiful. This picture shows this year's winner!

Fisher's Scones

I love finding a wine garden!

The handsome hubby!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mount St. Helens

So in early September Robb and I finally made it to Mount St. Helens. It was forecasted to be one of the last nice weekends of the summer and we decided we had to make it to at least one touristy thing this summer. The drive was about 2 hours and we finally made it to the Visitors Center at Silver Lake. We really weren't planning on stopping at this visitors center, but drove past it and turned around to check it out. We are so glad that we stopped! We watched a video about the events surrounding the 1980 eruption and looked at different exhibits and learned so much! We then headed up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory which is only 5 miles from the volcano with absolutely perfect views. We watched another video and listened to a couple of ranger talks. We also went on a 1 mile interpretive trail with a ranger who taught us even more. We saw that the average visitor time to Johnston Ridge Observatory is 90 minutes, but we were there for hours. All of a sudden it was after 6:30 and we knew we had to start heading home (and we saw a coyote on our way home, which was pretty darn cool). But we were so bummed because we wanted to look at more of the exhibits and hike on our own for a few miles. We will definitely be going back one day.

Here are a few things I learned on our trip (and there's so much more that I learned, these are just the highlights!):
1) When the volcano blew, it was a lateral blast, which means that the blast came out the side of the mountain.
2) About 90% of the mountain came down in the blast. It was the biggest landslide ever known.
3) Since the blast, a lava dome has been building inside the center of the blown up mountain. It is still a very active volcano with smoke coming out of it!
4) Two devastating actions happened when the volcano blew up, a landslide that covered everything, and a blast of hot air and ash that turned areas hundreds of miles away to dark as night.
5) Not everything in its path died. Snow still covered the ground in April of 1980, so that snow protected creatures living in the ground (mice, groundhogs, etc.) These animals that survived helped irrigate the earth so that plant life could grow again.
We both loved Mount St. Helens and found it utterly fascinating. I would highly recommend it to anyone who's thinking about going.

This is a zoomed in shot of the center of the mountain.
This shows the lava dome growing and the smoke escaping!
The day was perfect, so anything that looks like a cloud is actually smoke.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New House

Over Labor Day weekend we made the transition from apartment living to house living. The week before Robb and I had been taking carloads of our stuff over to the house and sticking it in a giant family room. We just figured that on actual moving day, the less that we had to deal with, the happier we would be. So then I took the Friday before Labor Day weekend off and we rented a U-haul to load our furniture and whatever else we hadn't gotten around to taking to the house yet.

At my urging, Robb hired a young man from his store who has experience loading freight to help with the heavy pieces of furniture. Robb was reluctant to hire someone and thought that I could handle lifting some of our furniture and moving it down the apartment stairs and into a truck. Silly man. Later he was glad that we hired someone. Robb didn't realize exactly how heavy some of our furniture is, especially the new bedroom pieces we bought in the last year. So, luckily we got help with the big pieces of furniture and then Robb and I finished everything else.

Then, the cleaning marathon began. I took all of Saturday and half a day Sunday to clean that apartment from top to bottom. Because Robb had to work those days, I couldn't get as much help as I'm used to. (Who am I kidding? Robb is the cleaner in this family. I had to clean this apartment and it was very unsettling. However, Robb came over Saturday evening after work to bring me dinner and help with more cleaning -- and possibly re-do anything that I didn't do well enough. Well I got Robb's seal of approval! He was very impressed with everything I did and didn't have to re-clean anything!) But, I finished everything up, turned in our apartment keys on Sunday around lunchtime, and then started the process of unpacking at our new house.

Overall, the house itself is great. It's got more space and more closets than we've ever had before. The gas fireplace is awesome because now I can just flip a switch and I've got instant fire and warmth. The yard is amazing and a few days ago I saw a raccoon strolling across my backyard! (Some people think that's bad, I think it's neat to have wildlife!) And we've already met some neighbors who are friendly and even gave us their telephone number in case we need anything. Apartment living isn't like that! There are a few negatives to the house, but we're trying not to focus on these too much. For one, I have never seen so many spiders living on porches before. We've seen a few in the house, but the outside porches are just incredible. Every time I leave the house I wave my arm out in front of me so that don't walk face-first into a web. I really don't like spiders, so I'm trying to think of some solutions. (Right now, my best thought is to take a leaf blower and blast them away.) We only have one bathroom now and Robb hates it. The cabinets are very odd and, as Robb puts it, it looks like a caulking factory exploded next to our tub. And while Robb hates the bathroom, I really hate the family room. This is a giant room (was originally a garage) that has wood paneling. I hate wood paneling. There's some wood paneling in the living room, but at least it's not the entire room, and the brick fireplace distracts from some of it. The family room is awful. I've told Robb that he can basically have that room and do what he wants with it. So now he's trying to come up with a master plan (that we can afford) to make it HIS room. And finally, the master bedroom doesn't have a closet. It used to, but the doors were taken off and now the only way all of our furniture will fit in that room is if the doors remain off. So now our hanging clothes are in different rooms, which is somewhat inconvenient.

We still have boxes and messes in our house a week later. But we're definitely making some progress. I'd guess that in another week or so we'll be about done. And in three weeks we're receiving a brand new couch we've ordered. Once the house looks like it's fairly done, I'll be sure to take a few pictures and post them. But for now, just imagine boxes everywhere!