Monday, April 21, 2008

Chihuly Glass in Tacoma, WA.

We spent all last week in Washington state visiting Mike's family. They live in Lacey, near Olympia, but we stayed at a hotel in Tacoma (about 28 miles away) because I had Marriott Rewards points to use up. It was kind of a pain to drive back and forth every day but worth it to get a hotel room for only the $10/day parking charge!

The photo above is of a bridge in downtown Tacoma. Unfortunately, I don't know the name of it (anyone know?). I'm fond of bridges and thought this was pretty enough to rival our new Carquinez Bridge between Vallejo and Crockett, CA. (or, as it is officially called, the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge).

While we were in Tacoma we got a chance to see some of the sights there. We were in the City Center area and within walking distance are quite a few museums as well as the waterfront. The Tacoma Museum of Art had, among other things, Chihuly glass on display plus an exhibit of Renoir etchings both of which I found fascinating. (I hadn't even known Renoir did etchings and lithographs.)

The museum prohibited photography of any kind which was disappointing since I'd wanted photos of Chihuly glass. However, the nearby Union Station, which is now a Federal Court Building, had some that we photographed to our heart's content (after we showed photo ID just to get into the lobby)!

We found out that Dale Chihuly grew up in Tacoma so that is why there is so much of his work around the city. I believe he may still live and work there.

This impressive sculpture hangs from the domed ceiling of the Union Station. It's huge! I can't fathom having an imagintaion that dreams up this type of art and then the talent to execute it.

If you look back at the picture of the Union Station and make note of the domed window, you'll have a better idea where these poppies are situated. They are giant flowers that catch the sun at certain times of the day. A challenge to photograph and I didn't do too well, but they were gorgeous to see in person.

This is a pedestrian bridge crossing over the freeway from behind the Union Station to the Museum of Glass. We didn't end up going into that museum because we had chosen to go to the Art Museum, but we wanted to walk over the bridge. Aren't the blue glass creations interesting? The woman at the tourist bureau said they look like giant blue trash bags. I think they look like rock candy or giant blue sugar crystals.

One part of the bridge had a kind of tunnel with a glass ceiling. Inside the ceiling were hundreds of glass creations of all shapes and sizes. Looks like tropical sea creatures at rush hour!

Something we did a lot of: played cards. Mike's dad and step-mom taught us their latest favorite card game. They call it "Golf" but I think it's more like Baseball because you play 9 innings, or hands per game. It was a simple enough game that I caught on pretty fast and even won a couple of times. Of course, other times I got trounced royally and both Mike and his Dad are the type that totally smirk and gloat when they win!

Told ya! Smirky little brat!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Awesome Sky & Sprout Update

Mike and I were on our way to an appointment this morning about 9:30 a.m. when I noticed this incredible sky. I've never seen clouds quite like these before. I pulled over and Mike popped out to take this photo. Kind of looks like a trio of UFOs are on their way to visit us here in Benicia!

Ok, so I promised an update on the sprouts. I've got two trays growing now for successive crops:
The seeds in the bottom tray are about 2 days old and barely beginning to split in preparation for the sprouts to grow.
In the top tray the sprouts are about 5 days old. They're about 2/3 grown and can be eaten at any time now. This is about as big as sprouts got when our boys were young; they usually couldn't wait long enough and would eat them half-grown. The next photo shows the trays from the side, so you can see the difference in the growth of the sprouts in just a couple of days. Amazing, eh? Aren't they pretty?
In the next two days or so the sprouts in that front tray will grow taller than the tray. At that point if there are any left that we haven't eaten I will rinse them, let them dry thoroughly and then put them in the fridge. They'll keep another few days. We seldom manage to get any into the fridge, though!

I love sprouts in salads, and even more on sandwiches. They are so much more flavorful than lettuce with their slightly nutty/sweet taste. My current favorite sandwich is sliced chicken, warmed & lightly salted, on cracked wheat bread very thinly spread with mayo, and about an inch of sprouts. YUM-O!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Books books books

Most people know I love all things books. I recently blogged a little about BookCrossing and how much fun it is. Now check out the blog I found this morning, "Ready When You Are, C.B."

This lady writes from Vallejo, right next door to where I am in Benicia. She writes about books and she's got a book giveaway going on right now here. She's got a list of the books she has read in 2008 (a lot!), links to other booky-type blogs, and, of course, reviews of books. It's a great read -- when you're not actually reading a book! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Eensy Knitted Sweater

Here is an itty-bitty sweater that I knitted over the last couple of days. I downloaded the free pattern here. I love this lady's craft blog, it is called Wee Wonderfuls and she has some of the most amazing stuff there, including lots of patterns for free or a very reasonable fee. I ordered the pattern to make the Kitty that will wear this little sweater (the pattern also includes a Bear and a Bunny but I'm partial to kitties).

The pattern for the eensy cardigan was easy to follow, even for a novice knitter like me, and then I got to delve into my button collection for the perfect buttons. I added the little heart button just because I thought it would go nicely on the sweater. I may make a few more of these, that's how much fun it was. I have found I really enjoy small projects, that I can complete in just a few days. I like larger projects, too, but the small ones allow more frequent satisfaction at completing an item.

Now that I've got my buttons out I've started putting together combinations of button styles and colors that I like and am going to try my hand at a few bracelets. That will keep me busy until I receive the pattern for the Kitty who already has a sweater to wear!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Drying Clothes with Solar Power

My new apron!

I mentioned in a previous post an apron that my friend's mom had when I was a kid growing up in Redondo Beach, Ca. It had a big pocket to hold clothespins and she wore it when she was hanging clothes on the clothesline in their backyard. I always loved that apron.

Well, now I have one of my own! The Internet is a marvelous thing - I just went on-line and googled "apron pocket clothespins." Up popped an Etsy shop (if you've never been to Etsy and love handmade stuff, it's THE place to buy all things handmade!) and user momomadeit had just what I was looking for, and only $20! See it here. Don't you just love that retro fabric?? Chic is right!

It arrived quickly and beautifully wrapped in bright orange tissue paper (see below) and with several paper items to describe it (I love it's name "Eco Chic Everyday Housewife Apron), and even a recipe for a delicious pound cake, all clipped together with a teensy clothespin. How cute is that!??? This is why I love buying handmade items. People who take the time and care to make things by hand do it for the love of the craft, and when they send their handmade items out into the world it is with love and care and the hope that the recipient will enjoy the item as much as they enjoyed making it.

I hung two loads of clothes out today, and then later brought them in, all the while wearing my new apron and enjoying the convenience of dipping into that roomy pocket for clothespins.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Growing Sprouts and Juicing Carrots & Apples

My friend, Judy, wanted to see pics of my sprouter, so here it is! It was made by NK Lawn & Garden, and I don't believe they even make them any more. I just happened to find this one at Raley's Supermarket in Benicia, CA., near the racks of garden seeds. There were three of them in very dusty boxes. Inside was a coupon that expired in 2000 so you know these things were sitting around in a warehouse for years until someone came across them and said, let's just put these out and see if they sell.

Well, I bought two! One for us and one that I sent to Michael in China. I had been looking for a sprouter for several years. They are hard to find these days. Sprouting seeds at home seems to have gone out of style along with the rest of the 70's fads and fashions. I had to go online to find seeds to sprout. I found the greatest website: Sprout People. Check it out; they have all kinds of seeds and sprouters, fast shipping, and reasonable prices. Besides that, ANYTHING you want or need to know about sprouting seeds can be found on this website.

Anyway, Judy, this is my sprouter. You can see it's got three stackable trays for seeds. The topmost white tray is where you pour in water to rinse the seeds. The water is siphoned down into the first tray of seeds, then onward through the successive trays until it ends up in the bottom white tray. It's an easy way to rinse the seeds in all three trays at once. You can use one tray or all three at once. I most often just use two trays, but sometimes I do like to start several trays of the same seeds (my favorite is red clover) on successive days so that they are ready to eat on successive days.
Here are the trays partly taken apart. Each tray has a little cap in it, under which is a drain hole. The caps siphon off the water in the tray and then pass it down to the tray underneath.
This tray has seeds from Sprout People's "French Garden" mix. It contains red clover, arugula, cress, radish, fenugreek, and dill. We love this mix, though we do wish it had more radish seeds as we like the zip of radish sprouts.
This tray is "Beanie's Awesome Mix" also from Sprout People. It contains lentils, 3 different peas, garbanzos, and adzuki. Yeah, I don't know what adzuki is either. But this mix is great when sprouted and used in salads. Mmmmm!
Here are the seeds as they arrive from Sprout People. To the right side of that photo you can see the sprouter with the steamy looking sides. The seeds are busily soaking up water, giving off some condensation, and getting ready to sprout!

Sorry I don't have any photos of the seeds actually sprouting. We ate them too fast. I will try to get some soon, though. I'm putting some seeds in to sprout this evening so I should have pictures in a few days. A note here about rinsing the seeds: once mine have begun sprouting I usually run each tray under a running faucet to rinse them instead of using the siphoning method. I find each tray gets a more thorough rinse that way and I can jiggle the tray around to keep the sprouts loose and not clumped up. Just my preference

Bottom line is: sprouting seeds is super easy. Stick em in the trays, run the water through twice a day to rinse them, and eat them when they're at the length and maturity that you prefer. A lot of people soak the seeds before sprouting. We experimented and found it didn't seem to make any difference so now we just skip that step ('cuz we're lazy).
Here's another thing we've started doing as part of our new, slower-paced lifestyle. Our boys gave us this juicer several years back and we generally get it out in the summer when produce is plentiful and cheap. We've got it out early this year and have been making carrot/apple juice and is it ever yummy

So easy, too, all we do is make sure the produce is cut small enough to fit into the opening; we don't bother peeling or taking cores/seeds out of the apples, or peeling the carrots. I love the juice best when it's ice-cold right out of the fridge. I can drink 2 or 3 glasses in a row. We're hoping if we drink enough of it our eyesight will improve! Most likely we'll just turn orange. Oh well, it still tastes great.

Between the sprouts and the juice we just may get healthier in spite of all our efforts otherwise!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Benicia State Recreation Area

It's one of our favorite places to walk, bike, run, or rollerblade and it's also one of the state parks that is on Gov. Schwarzenneger's list for closure. We do hope that doesn't happen. In the meantime we are going to enjoy it as much as we can, and this happens to be one of our favorite times of the year at BSRA.

We took our bikes there yesterday afternoon and had a wondeful and relaxing ride to the end of the main bike trail and back, just over a 5 mile round trip. Lots of people were out walking or jogging or riding bicycles, although not as many as on weekends, or late afternoons after school gets out. The weather was perfect; warm and sunny and not too much of a headwind. Flowers and trees are blooming and the hills are covered with bright new grass.
Here's a field covered with that mustard grass I'm so fond of!

Mike climbed over a fence to explore this old abandoned trail, now partially covered over in grasses and plants. (He's like a cat -- put up a fence and the cat can't think of anything else until he's climbed over it!) We saw wild pheasants out in these fields, as well as lots of ground squirrels.
Along the bike trail, in the ditches, grow cattails. This group is from last year, blown out and going to seed. Later in the summer the new ones will appear. I often gather 4 or 5 and take them home to put in a tall pottery vase.
One of the few shaded parts of the trail, this path is lined with huge eucalyptus trees. It's always a welcome respite from the hot sun when we ride here at the height of summer.
At the very end of the bike trail is this view of the Carquinez Strait. Can you believe it? That's Mt. Diablo in the distance!

A xeriscape (low water) garden highlights native plants and flowers. The plants are marked so you can learn a lot about the different types that grow well in this area. We always stop here to make note of growth and changes. (And I like to take photos of the flowers!)
A walking path heading off toward the marshes. At the end is a viewing area to observe waterbirds and other wildlife. There are tons of Red Winged Blackbirds out in the marsh; also ducks, seagulls, and muskrats.

If you live in the east bay of northern California and have never visited the Benicia State Recreation Area, get over here! If it's closed it may be a long time before you have another chance. It costs $4 to park, but you can also park free in the residential areas nearby and walk or bike over. Bring your camera!