Break for the Sun

Three weeks ago I woke up to an email: RT to Tucson $127!

20 minutes later I was on the phone with my grandparents confirming they were in town. 20 minutes after that we had flights booked. 16 days later we were in sunny Arizona for some much needed sunshine and R&R!

After a record breaking wet winter (ugh!) in Washington, the desert was a welcome treat. We spent the week hiking and lounging, eating good food, more hiking, more pool time, and of course seeing family. We visited with great aunts and uncles, second cousins and grandparents. We ate fresh grapefruit and oranges for breakfast, made a tres leches cake from scratch, went to the symphony, Gaga treated me to a massage, and went out for Mexican food. Spent time in the sunshine. But the hiking. Did I mention we hiked? Some of the best hikes of my life!

Our first hike was a day trip to Chiricahua National Monument. We arrived to the park mostly being closed for construction, but we were still able to do the Heart of Rocks trail after a picnic with Grammy and Gaga. 7.4 miles was a good warm up for the rest of the trip! Scenery was stunning and the trail was almost empty.

Our second hike was in Sabino Canyon, only 10 minutes from Grammy and Gaga’s house. We got curbside dropoff (thanks grandparents!) and met up with some cousins to walk the road before peeling off for a longer trek. We walked and talked and then around noon (note: not the ideal time to start a hard hike in 90 degree heat!) we took off on a trail to do Blackett’s Ridge. This was a stunning hike, also very empty trail, and HARD! It was steep and uphill the whole way up. It felt longer than the 8ish miles it was, but totally worth it for the panoramic canyon views at the top.

After a day of rest we tackled our final (and favorite) hike: Seven Falls in Bear Canyon. Thanks to spring break the trail was pretty crowded (though not compared to I-90 trails in WA!) but we climbed up past the end of the trail to find some solitude. Highlight? Our own personal infinity pool at the top of one of the falls. Epic views and the cold water was a welcome relief from the heat. 11 out of 10 for this hike. We already want to do it again!

It was a wonderful trip. The perfect mix of relaxing and going. It had been 5 years since our last trip to Arizona and we are planning to make our next trip much, much sooner than that.

All in Fall

How did we get to the end of October so quickly? We spent the weekend filling ourselves with fallness so that we did not miss this season (something we seem to have happened this summer!) Friday night was early birthday dinner at Matt’s parents, complete with 8mm baby movies.

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Saturday we headed for the mountains and had a glorious hike 8.6 mile hike on Mt. Washington. This not so well known trail was exactly what we hoped it would be: a good workout, beautiful views and not crowded! Mt. Rainer cooperated and made for a perfect lunchtime view.

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We had dinner with good friends on our way back through town and finally collapsed into bed around 10:30 back on the island.

Sunday morning I made a quick trip to the grocery store for fresh coffee while Matt rallied an 11:00 breakfast plan. Grey skies and sore muscles made for a slow morning. We played with the idea of going on another on-island adventure but opted for a garden winter-prep session instead. It felt good to be back in the dirt. We have been ignoring weeds and plants past their prime in favor of harvesting and other projects. The garden needed some attention. I weeded and removed old plants to make room for winter cover crop (part of our soil enrichment plan) while Matt removed more sod to expand planting space for next year. After about an hour we decided to invite the chickens in to help with cleanup. Since they do not free range anymore we missed their company. It was wonderful to have them in the garden with us.IMG_8382[1]

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After a fabulous vegetarian dinner (kale-veggie curry, chanterelles and broccoli) I headed off for another fall festivity: ladies night pumpkin carving! It was a fun island event to carve pumpkins for the Roasterie’s pumpkin tradition. I am looking forward to seeing them all lit up on Friday.

How was our weekend? Fall fabulous.

Weekend Adventures

Three days of adventures. Summer is in full Swing. It is hot. Our garden needs lots of water. 

Friday night: waterfront Vashon dinner with friends from work

Saturday: new tires, Costco date, housewarming BBQ with friends

Sunday: girls day with Lana hiking Rattlesnake Ledge, island Meat & Noodle supper club dinner

Monday: breakfast date to Sporty’s, deck painting, kitchen reorganization, hanging a salvaged porch swing, laundry, and leftover hot dogs for dinner on the deck

 Awesome

Lake Serene

After a fantastic Father’s Day “breakfast for dinner” at Matt’s parents, we headed off early Sunday morning for a beautiful PNW day hiking Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls. Matt has been mentioning this hike since the day we met, and since WTA reports said the trail melted out this week, we decided it was a good day to try it.

What a stunning hike! Lush green, ripe salmon berries, beautiful waterfalls, and a stunning lake…the PNW at its best! For some reason my blog settings grey out the photos I post, so be sure to hover over them with your mouse to see their full color and glory! What a stunning day.

this was my favorite photo from the day:

Mi. Si Hike

When it hits 70 in Seattle, no one is indoors…except those of us in grad school who are banging our heads against the wall for accounting homework (and Matt who is at work banging his head against the wall). We are looking forward to grilling up some halibut in the backyard tonight and having a bonfire to celebrate the end of the sunny weekend.

Leading up to our work filled day today has been a great weekend! Matt cleaned house on Friday while I was at work, then we went to our friends Benny and Lana’s house for a great salmon dinner on the deck. Oh it feels like summer!

Taking advantage of Matt’s parents living out towards the mountains, we spent the night there on Friday to get a jump start for a day of hiking. We cooked up a great breakfast feast – grits, eggs, bacon, fruit and scones – and then headed off to conquer Mt. Si.

This beautiful hike is #1 in popularity for Seattlites. It is close to Seattle, but still gets you into the mountains, is easy to access, and is a great workout. 8 miles round trip, with 3000+ ft elevation gain makes it a good challenge, but not impossible. We packed our sandwiches and at lunch at the top with a stunning view of Mt. Rainer. Beautiful, beautiful day.

On the way home we grabbed some groceries, including fresh halibut for dinner (last night and tonight’s!) and had a low key evening at home. What a great weekend…now, back to accounting.

Honeymoon Days 11 & 12: Kotor, Montenegro & at Sea

On day 11 we awoke to stunningly clam clear, deep blue seas for our approach into country #2 for this trip: Montenegro! We enjoyed room service breakfast on our verandah as we pulled in. It felt very luxurious eating in robes on the deck (even if the food was subpar).

We anchored just off of Kotor, and took tender boats ashore. We only had a few hours here, and it was 111 degrees before we even left of boats, so we went ashore without a plan to see what we could find. The obvious choice, go shopping! Our choice: get to the fortress on the ridge 1000+ feet above the city. We asked for a city map and how to find the trail, and the information girl told us not to go. It was too hard and too hot. Too bad. We went anyway. The trail was mostly stone steps, worn smooth from years of being walked on. The trail followed the wall that edged the entire city, rising straight up from the waterfront town.

The climb up took us about 40 minutes. Hot and sweaty, yes, very. Clearly that is a theme on this trip. Actually, in Kotor we did not have the humidity that really made the heat miserable in Italy. So it did not feel that bad.

The view from the top was stunning. We took lots of photos and video. Then headed down. We wandered the town searching for some local wine (success!) to take back on the ship, then I headed back while Matt went to explore some ruins we saw from the hike.

For the next 36 hours, our schedule revolved around the pool, movies in our room, sleeping relaxing and eating. After Kotor, the day at sea gave us plenty of time to settle in get our bearings, and enjoy the ship. We spent a good amount of time in the pool, and played many games of Carccassone. Our evening at sea was a formal night, so we got dressed up and turned heads all across the ship. In the early evening we wandered the ship before formal dinner night #1. Matt and I got dressed to the nines…me in a blue evening gown (that I will be wearing in Jenny’s wedding this November!) and Matt in his wedding suit. Getting some mileage out of those clothes!

We thought we would be more excited about the shows and activities than we were but it turned out that what we really enjoyed was hanging out, renting movies in our room, and just relaxing by the pool. And of course planning out how to tackle our next port of call. These were really the highlight of the cruise.

Honeymoon Day 7: Portofino, Italy

Written September 5th, 2012 – in-flight Venice to NYC
There are three main ways to get from Santa Margharita to Portofino (assuming you don’t have a private yacht which is how the rich and famous make their entrance): bus, moped or on the water taxi. Us: we hiked. We had read that the scenic two-ish hour hike is a relaxing and unique way to link these two towns, so we went for it.

Our way out of Santa Margarita was uphill, on stairs, through houses and gardens scattered all along the hillside. We stopped climbing when we reached a hilltop church, and started making our way between lookouts over the sparking Mediterranean. You probably already guessed it: it was hot. We were both soaked practically while we were still in town! The hike was totally worth it though. We enjoyed seeing the towns from above, and watching the yachts get bigger and bigger the nearer to Portofino we got.

We stopped briefly at Paraggi Beach, but decided that the 6 foot wide strip of public beach was not what we were looking for. 100 euros for a spot on the beach? I don’t think so.

The town of Portofino was absolutely stunning. I know I took far too many pictures, but every angle was perfectly lit and everything so colorful and postcard worthy. Thank goodness for patient husbands and large memory cards!

Speaking of memory cards, this whole trip Matt and I have each been armed with our recording device of choice: me with the camera and him with our new camcorder. Between the two we have been armed with two 16G cards, two 8Gs, one 4G and three 2G cards. I am sure Portofino too up almost 2G alone. Good thing we had the iPad as our on-the-go hard drive!

When we arrived in Portofino we looked like drowned rats…quite literally. All our clothes were soaked straight through. Sweaty and disgusting did not really seem to fit in with the posh nd expensive clientele at the waterfront places (nor did we expect our budget to go with their menus) so we selected a more relaxed looking place off the main drag. We were swayed by a tasty looking pizza place…that also had…wait for it…AIR CONDITIONING! And a table right smack dab in front of it. Perfect! It was a great choice too…pizza with an arugala/shrimp/bean salad, accompanied by some ice cold sparkling wine. Perfect for two hot, tired hikers. When we told our waiter that we hiked to Portofino from Santa Margharita he was astounded…apparently people don’t hike it in the summer (which may explain why we saw no one else one the whole trail…) We felt pretty acomplished 🙂 To us, it made our time in Portofino that much more memorable.

After lunch we climbed up to the castle on the far side 0f town, and got more stunning views of Portofino. We took more pictures (big surprise), but then eventually made our way down to the waterfront again to check out ferry times. What we stumbled upon was the boat ramp…or what we called it (and realized most locals did to) the cement beach. There were locals swimming and sunning themselves so we joined in. It was glorious swimming in the crystal clear water (way cleaner than the water in Santa Margharita!) and lounging in the sun after a long day of walking and hiking. We stayed till 5 and hopped on the ferry back to Santa Margharita.

The boat ride back to Santa Margarita was very relaxing (much faster and cooler than walking too!) and beautiful. We passed by the bazillion dollar yachts (one with its own three deck waterside and fleet of 6 jet skis) and back into the cozy port where we were staying.

Our two “must haves” in Liguria were pesto and clams. Since the previous night our pesto was excellent, the latter was my mission for the night. After being turned away from an apparently “reserved” table at one place, then getting up from the empty ABBA blasting second choice we found a promising looking outdoor restaurant near the waterfront with both clams and pesto on the menu: da Emilio. This place was packed and the service was quick. The food: excellent. I ordered the spaghetti with clams and Matt had gnocchi with pesto. Both were excellent, fresh and exactly what we wanted. I would eat there again in a heartbeat!

After sweating all day and being in the sun, we figured we deserved gelato and ate our cones under the stars on the boardwalk. Perfect end to the day.