Thursday, June 20, 2013

Not a Cloud in the Sky!

Alaska (now that the Weilers aren't there) has been experiencing some pretty amazing weather.  In addition to a record breaking heat wave, they are rapidly headed to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, meaning they've got heat AND hours and HOURS of daylight!  Temperatures Tuesday ranged from 84 IN NOME(!) to 96 in Talkeetna!!!!!

The high-pressure system causing all of this meant there were very few clouds on Monday.  NASA's Terra satellite captured a rare image of the entire state!  (It's like seeing the ALL of the US west of the Rockies without a cloud in the sky!!!)

How cool is that!  (Or, you know, HOT!)

~later, tw

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ketchikan...and One of the Best Dinners EVER!

[continuing update of our Alaska cruise...while waiting not-so-patiently for the kitchen to be DONE!]

On Tuesday we visited Ketchikan, one of my favorite stops along the Alaska cruise (along with my required visit to the Silver Thimble Quilt Shop!)  It was pouring, I mean seriously POURING!  I know we weren't in port long but Gerry and I decided to wait a bit before heading into town.  We were rewarded with the driest weather of the day (others intent upon hitting the metropolis ventured out as soon as we had cleared port authorities and were quickly DRENCHED!)  We did, however, pose for the mandatory port of call photo op.

That evening we enjoyed one of the best dinners - anywhere, ever!  We had signed up to participate in the "Chef's Dinner."  It is a very special evening for only five couples and it the most absolutely, incredible event we've attended onboard (or probably anywhere else!).  We met the Maitre d'Hotel and the Chef in one of the ship's lounges and paraded off to don our sous chef jackets.

Chef John
From there we got to see a part of the galley not on the customary tour (they actually have to shut down one of the galleys which must make serving dinner that night for the remainder of the cruisers a bit of a pain).  The Chef gives us his bio (he's from Scotland and has been doing this for many, MANY years) and as it is here in the galley where we will enjoy champagne and five (yes, FIVE) appetizers not available any other time on the cruise.  He proceeds to tell us a bit about what we're having.  We're free to ask any questions such as exactly where does one get white tomatoes (they don't, the soup is strained four times which apparently removes all the color.  Cool!  But very time consuming so don't expect to see it on any menu at Chez Weiler anytime soon!)

From the galley we were, sans jackets, led to a beautifully set table and the "floor show" began!  Such amazing foods, wine, service!  Gerry did a great job of photographing the various courses (except for the risotto - it was way too delicious to remain on a plate long enough to get a photo!) so here's the menu and the photos:

 Everything is beautifully decorated with food, of course!

Stone Island Scallop with Turmeric Sauce

White Tomato Soup

Caviar Potato Cup
Yeah, I tried it!

Duck Slider w/Sweet Potato Fries
Mint Granita w/Green Apple Juice

Our hosts: Chef John and Maitre d'Hotel

Our palette cleanser, strawberry and cracked pepper sorbet, was served before our fabulous entree, "Double Impact" Surf and Turf.

The cheese course was baked camembert fondue.  The cheese itself was baked in a puff pastry and it was served with toasts in the container in which the cheese came.  CLEVER!  (Now that one I might actually have to try here at home.)

Dessert came with several courses.  First there was this amazing Double Chocolate Dome Cake that has so much going on (including that space-ish looking spun sugar decoration) and was incredibly rich and delicious!  Along with this dessert we were served limoncello (it was Italian night in the main dining rooms).

Finally, the evening concluded with Chef John's Homemade Mignardises which are nothing more than cookies and petit fours (yeah, "nothing more" she says...these are incredible treats which I have to admit we probably didn't fully appreciate as we should since by this time we were quite stuffed!)

~later, tw

Monday, June 17, 2013

Still Missing You...

Two years.  Sometimes it seems like forever.  But even more often, it seems like two days...or less.

Each project I work on I think Sandie would have a great idea or be able to give some much needed input or creative spark.  Among the many things I'm currently working on - tracking down some photos that I've actually scanned but need to get better organized.  As part of this, I came across this photo of Sandie and Michael:

I will never understand why Sandie avoided the camera lens as she was most definitely photogenic!

This was taken Labor Day weekend 2007 (if the electronic label of this photo is to be trusted).  We were gathered at our house for probably the last "official" summer BBQ (because as you know, we BBQ here year round!).  Our son-in-law Travis was then deployed to Iraq and I had some "military thank you cards" we were having people sign to send to Travis, a reminder of how much he was in our collective thoughts and prayers.

~later, remembering my friend, tw

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Alaska 2013 - Monday

[Continuing the recap of our Alaska voyage.]

I'm not sure that there is anything more relaxing than a day at sea.  Specifically on a large cruise ship with lots of cozy nooks with comfy chairs that allow one to curl up with a good book (or a fully-loaded Kindle) while attentive waitstaff offer to bring you... well, pretty much whatever you'd like (as long as you have that handy-dandy cruise card).  It was just the vacation we needed!

But the clock does not stop completely, even on these sea days, and there is always a schedule of events should one choose to partake.  We like puzzles and games (okay I love them and Gerry is a good sport, most of the time to tag along...provided he can bring his Kindle).  He usually jets down to the library each morning to pick up a copy of the day's puzzles - a word/trivia game and a daily Sudoku.

On sea days they also have a "speed Sudoku challenge" which I've gone to a couple of times...without success.  I'm pretty quick at home (now that I've got the hang of it - I really didn't understand it for years thinking that it somehow required mathematical computation.  Once I learned that wasn't the case, I love 'em!)  Gerry has religiously avoided these "competitions."  He is so good at math I couldn't understand his reluctance but apparently he doesn't like to work under that kind of pressure.

Today, however, he reluctantly said he would come along (picture Eeyore agreeing to it).  For a while it seemed like it would just be the two of us so I'm thinking he was enjoying his chances.  That is...until... an Asian couple walked in and his confidence evaporated.  Turns out though, and this is why we don't stereotype, this new guy had just discovered Sudoku a couple of weeks prior and Gerry had nothing to worry about.  Gerry quickly finished the puzzle and turned it in to the guy at the library to receive his prize (a deck of Princess playing cards).  (Me?  Yeah - I made a critical, non-recoverable error early on and elected not to embarrass myself further by asking for another copy.)

Days at sea usually offer a chance to participate in a wine tasting as well.  We've done many of these and so far all I've learned is a) to successfully swirl a glass without spilling; b) all wines, regardless of color, taste like fruits, chocolate, oak, earth (really?  Where are they getting their wine?)  But it's always a fun time and the waiters, if I can understand their English, have a great time doing the presentations.

Princess has put even more emphasis on their "piazza" area of the ship and often you can enjoy some of the ship's best performances just hanging around the new International Cafe while grabbing a bite to eat (don't want to go too long between meals!)  This juggler (or "physical comedian" as he was called) was really a funny guy!

~later, tw

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Time for a bit of Pomp and Circumstance

This month will see two of our nephews graduate:

First up, Nicholas (son of proud parents Cathy and Dan), who graduated 8th Grade on Monday (St. Alphonsus, Seattle) with many, MANY honors.  No surprise to discover that he won a drama award (I'm sure he was pretty delighted to get to keep his Harold Hill hat!) but he also received awards for: reading the most pages in 7/8 grade (53,082), the President's Award for Education Excellence, Outstanding Graduate, made the Honor Roll and was named Salutatorian for his class!  Next fall will see Nicholas transitioning to Ballard High in Seattle.  We're hoping that he will somehow find his way to the drama department there!

On Thursday we will attend the High School graduation (Issaquah High) Reed (son of equally proud parents Pete and Marne) at Safeco Field.  I'm not really sure why tickets are required for this event as the capacity of the venue is 45,000+ (though I'm sure attendance will exceed the typical Mariners game these days, I doubt we will be anywhere close to capacity!) but his parents assure us that they've got our tickets for us.  After participating in JROTC it should also come as no surprise to anyone that Reed is bound for the Marines after graduation and headed to California this summer.

Congrats to both of these fine young men!  We are very proud of you - good luck next year!

~later, tw

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Alaska 2013 - Sunday

As anyone who's had hardwood floors re/finished knows, vacating the residence isn't just a good idea - it's pretty much a requirement (at least if you like to breathe and have food that doesn't taste like chemicals!)  I'd like to say we planned this in advance but truthfully we had hoped the kitchen/dining room remodel project would have been completed long before this.  As it turned out, it provided Gerry and me an opportunity to "escape completely" (as Princess says!)

It was a crazy deal though - one worth of Lucy and Ethel.  My cruising buddy (and BFF) Carol really wanted to attain her "black belt" in cruising (the highest reward level on Princess Cruises - a black "Elite" card meaning you've completed 15+ cruises and now get free laundry service, among other perks).  I've already gotten mine (21) as does Gerry (18) - many of these cruises being the one day "relocation" cruises (where they move the boat from one port to another so it can begin its new season - in our case to/from Seattle-Vancouver BC).

These one-day cruises can be a lot of fun and really crazy as they involve transportation (by train or by bus) to/from Vancouver depending on the time of year.  In the spring, the ship finishes its winter season by arriving in Vancouver but needs a one-day "relocation" to move it to Seattle where it will headquarter for its summer (Alaska) season.  In the fall, the process is reversed.

The deal for the RT Alaska cruise out of Seattle was just too good for us to pass up, but Carol didn't have that week off.  So, in order to reach her 15 cruise goal, we dropped them off at the Amtrak station early Saturday morning so they could ride up to Vancouver, get on the Golden Princess and sail back to Seattle where we picked them up Sunday morning.

Since it was Mother's Day, Carol and I arranged to take us out for brunch at the nearby Palisade's.  After a fabulous brunch, they dropped Gerry and me off back at the Golden Princess where we began our week-long cruise (sometimes I even need a scorecard to keep up with us!)

The hardest part of boarding the ship in Seattle is waiting for your group to advance up the escalator to go through security and check-in.  This time it really paid off to have that "elite" boarding pass as we were immediately taken to the shortest line, given our little black cards and a map of the ship and directed to go through the door on the left, and look back to the right (because that's what our "elite" status allowed us to bypass!)

Having just enjoyed a sumptuous brunch we had no need of the buffet on Horizon Court (although we did manage to find us some iced tea there).  Before long we were heading out of Seattle (chasing one of those "dam" ships!).  We waved in the general direction of Ballard where we thought Gerry's sister, Cathy and her family live as we headed north to Alaska!

~later, tw

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Back in Business!

We held our "Soft Opening" on Memorial Day.  Anyone in the retail/restaurant business recognizes the term - a "pre-opening event" where a select group of people (traditionally friends and family who are typically more patient) are invited to give the new establishment an opportunity to work out the kinks before they open on a grander scale.

Truth be told we had actually planned on construction being done well before May 27th.  This turned out to be...not quite the case.  Didn't matter too much though.  Enough of the kitchen was working so that Gerry was able to prepare his ribs in the beautiful new REALLY LARGE oven AND still bake chicken (both for finishing up on the BBQ grill).  We are both still amazed that he could get THREE FULL STEAM-TABLE SIZED PANS in JUST ONE OVEN!!!  (I regret neither one of us thought to snap a photo of that!)

Even if everything wasn't perfectly ready for the grand opening, it was just fun having everyone over and getting some vital last minute input (thanks Dan - we've elected to NOT have the "feet" installed on either the island or by the sink!).  We've missed not being able to entertain all of you for the past few months and appreciate

your patience as we took some time for this project.  Both Gerry and I look forward to how much more fun it's going to be with all this new-found "room to groove"!

~later, "already planning the next event" tw

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Because it never rains....


Since I'm getting a fabulous new kitchen, it seemed only fair that Gerry get something that would require less chores outside and give him more time to enjoy this new ability to entertain.

(Well that and Costco made us a deal we couldn't refuse!)

So...we had Leaf Guard Gutters installed (yeah, I know, during the remodel - you needed a score card to keep track of all the vehicle movements required those two days what with builders, gutter guys, milk delivery, mail delivery!  It forced some to really hone their "driving in reverse" skills down our very long driveway!)

Because they installed during some of the wettest days of May we haven't had much of a test but at least these won't have to be cleaned out right away (and hopefully never!)

~later, tw

Friday, June 7, 2013

Welcome Back Old Friend!

[Gerry and I were on an Alaskan cruise last month and so I'll be catching up on the Kitchen Remodel while waiting for Gerry to finish up the cruise photos.]

FINALLY!  The end must truly be in sight because the refrigerator - the appliance that has been residing in our foyer for the past three months - was returned to its rightful place in the kitchen.  That alone caused mere excitement but the realization that we could once again have ICED tea (because the ice maker is usable again) elicited actual jubilation!  Gerry immediately searched through boxes in the piano room to locate the ice tea maker and put it to good use.

Wasn't an easy feat - it's a really large refrigerator and took both Todd and Hymie (with my excellent oversight and supervision) to carefully move it
from the piano room...

through the dining room and its newly refinished hardwood floors...

into the kitchen for water and electrical hook-up.

Once that was done, the other smaller appliances came back to the kitchen (after floor refinishing) - the wine fridge and ice maker.

Then it was time to bring it in - the entire reason for this remodel - the dishwasher.  THE WORLD'S MOST EXPENSIVE DISHWASHER!!!!

For those of you playing along at home, you may now check off "Appliance Installation" as everyone is (and nearly functional - the beverage bar and island appliances are installed but do not yet have power).

~later, "sipping my iced tea" tw