Traveling, Cooking, Reading, and Trains

Here is a picture from my workflow of importing photos from a camera SD card into LightRoom mobile; then exporting them to an SSD drive connected to my iPad.

Let’s see if I can get a picture posted from the SSD drive

The first step was to trim it. I can’t remember ever having to trim a Tri-Tip before but this had a thick fat cap on one side – similar to trimming a brisket. You can see some of the trimmings in the photo below.

Tri-Tip trimmed and ready for the rub.

My rub has salt, granulated garlic, onion powder, and three kinds of pepper: black, white, and cayenne. It is soooo good.

I started the grill and let the rub settle on the roast for 30 minutes before putting it on the grill.

Tri-Tip on the grill
Ready to flip and baste
Tri-Tip off the grill and ready to rest before slicing.
Dinner is served

My dad used to cook this for us back in teh day and it is one of my favorie things to grill. This one ws a bit tough. Because we’ve isolated ourselves due to the Coronoa virus we shopped at Fred Meyer using their remote app rather than going to the store. It’s the first time in ages – if ever – we’ve eaten meat from Fred Meyers. It’s just not a store we usually shop at. When I took the meat out of the tray the back side had a very thick fat cap on it – almost ike a brisket.

The Tri-Tip was medium instead of medium-rare. That was probably due to cooking it at a higher heat – 350° – which I chose because my notes from last July said to try cooking hotter.

Well, it looks like this method works. When we are finally able to go out again, it will be nice to be able to travel and blog from the road. The biggest problem I have at this point is I can’t import the feature image from the SSD drive.

I think I’ve solved this problem before – too bad I didn’t remember at first. In order to use an image from an external drive, it must first be loaded into the body of the blog post. At that point it is the library and can be set as the featured photo then remove the photo from the post body.

Not bad. I went through the entire process: import, edit, export, write, and post while sitting in my living roomeasy chair.


Author: Elmore Leonard
Copyright: 1993
Type: Fiction
Finished: April 4, 2020

Rating: ★★★

Image from Amazon

Harry Arno, a bookie for the Florida mob, gets crosswise with the local boss who authorizes a hit. Raylan Givens, US Marshall, is assigned to keep Harry safe but loses him – for the second time in Raylan’s career. Raylan follows Harry to Italy, and of course The Zip, mob hitman, gets there too.

This adventure has it all: strippers, girlfriends, mob guys, cops, and more. Elmore does a great job keeping things moving. While it wasn’t a “can’t put it down” book for me, it fulfilled its purpose of entertaining me. 

I haven’t read many Elmore Leonard books, but in this time of Corona virus I wanted an escape and this fit the bill. It is the first novel featuring Raylan – the hero in the TV series Justified. At the beginning of the novel Raylan lets his guard down and Harry gets away. This is not something we’d ever see on the TV show. But Raylan grows a lot through the story. You could make the case that the end of this novel is where Justified starts. 

If you are looking to escape from the world’s problems for a bit, Elmore Leonard novels are a good place to retreat. To paraphrase something I’ve heard before: “If this is the kind of book you like, you’ll like this book.” If you love it, you are in luck as there are 4 or 5 books in the series.  If you aren’t sure, give it a spin, it is a fast read.

In addition to the TV series “Justified” many of Leonard’s books have been turned into movies including “Get Shorty” with John Travolta, “Out of Sight” with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, and Jackie Brown – based on the novel Rum Punch – starring Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson. 

After the end of the Kindle edition, Elmore Leonard has provided a partial descriptive bibliography which can help you pick the next book you want to read. That will come in handy as he has written over 40 novels. He also included his 10 rules of writing. 

Note: This is the 150th book report since I started keeping track in 2009.

Before We Were Yours

Author: Lisa Wingate
Copyright: 2017
Type: Fiction
Finished: January 24, 2020

Rating: ★★★

Image from Amazon

In real life of the 1920s into the 1950s a woman named Georgia Tann ran the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. From the outside it looked like Tann was performing a noble service by connecting orphans with new families. In truth her deputies roamed the countryside kidnapping children of poor families, treating them horribly in deplorable conditions until she could sell them to rich families. 

“Essentially, if you were poor and you lived, stayed, or stopped over in the proximity of Memphis, your children were at risk.” [Notes: Loc 5641]

If a child was too much trouble they simply disappeared. 

“Estimates as to the number of children who may have simply vanished under Georgia Tann’s management range as high as five hundred.” [Notes: Loc 5664]

Before We Were Yours is a fictional portrayal of this history told from two perspectives. The first thread takes place in the late 1930s when a girl, Rill Foss, and  her younger siblings were kidnapped by Tann’s agents when her parents were temporarily away from the boat they all lived on. The second thread is the story of a rich and powerful woman, Avery Stafford, who stumbles upon a happenstance encounter with an old woman at a nursing home. The novel alternates the two narratives until the mystery is solved. There is an accompanying love story.

This was a hard book to read. I found myself putting it down when I got to a chapter on the harrowing circumstances of Rill, her siblings, and the others in the orphanage. I’d see the book just lying there waiting for me to pick it up; but I had to steel myself for those chapters. It’s also taken me two months to write this book report about it.

Lisa Wingate is a good storyteller as proven by the fact that this was on the New York Times best seller list. She employs some beautiful imagery of the South.

“The screens sway inward as the attic fan rattles overhead, pulling at wet air that has no desire to be moved.” [Loc 131] 

If the subject matter hadn’t been so brutal I would have enjoyed her Wingate’s story telling more. 

Prepared: April 4, 2020

With the Corona Virus raging around us we have been thinking “comfort food”; a nice hearty bean soup/stew was in order. I’ve made this dish at least twice before when I called it Senate Bean Soup: April 2014 and again in January 2015.

I had a bag of white beans from Rancho Gordo along with chicken stock, onion, carrots, and garlic – it’s a pretty simple recipe. While we had a smoked ham hock in the freezer, I prefer this with a ham bone, but I didn’t want to be in contact with anyone. I called our local Honey Baked Ham shop and discovered we could have an – almost – touch-free experience: I ordered online then called when we got to the parking lot so they could deliver it to our car. When we got home, we – of course – discarded the plastic packaging since people had touched it.

We bought just a ham bone (not a full ham); nevertheless, it had plenty of meat on it; the recipe calls for about 1½ pounds and this was well north of 2 pounds. So, I cut off a big chunk we used in our scrambled eggs and ham sandwiches this week.

As I said, there aren’t a lot of ingredients for this soup.

Bean soup mis en place.

Cooking in the pressure cooker is hard to capture in pictures since everything is in a closed environment. The first step is to sauté the onion and carrot in the melted butter until softened, then add the garlic for about a minute. In go the beans, ½ teaspoon salt, ham bone, chicken stock, and beans – which were brined overnight. Cook under high pressure for 12 minutes followed by a 12 minute natural release.

Remove the ham bone to a cutting board using a pair of tongs. Then to thicken the soup by putting 2 cups of the cooked beans in a 1 quart Pyrex measuring cup/bowl and used a stick blender on low speed to make a slurry.

Ready to blend 2 cups of the beans
Blended beans ready to go back in the pot
(See note about the photography)

After shredding the ham, discarding the bone, and putting the meat in the soup dinner was served.

Senate Bean Soup
(See note on the photography)

Did I mention we had cornbread? We use Marie Calendar’s pre-mixed package. It may not be homemade but it is delicious. More like cake than bread.

Corn bread with copious amounts of butter and honey.
(See note on photography)

What a nice dinner. I originally based this on the Senate Bean Soup recipe published by Mike Vrobel of Dad Cooks Dinner, but I’ve made adjustments to it – adding a carrot and chicken stock – that it isn’t really much like the true original; so I created my own recipe – White Bean Soup with Ham – which you can find here.

A note on the photography. I used my Sony A6600 with a Godox XPro-S flash trigger in the hot shoe and two Godox TT685-S flashes shooting into reflective umbrellas. Except for the dinner table shots which were shot with just one umbrella resulting in a bit more shadow. The result was a well lighted scene.

In a couple of shots – those indicated in the captions – the light was balanced over the entire frame nut I wanted to bring a little more attention to the stars of the shot. For those I used radial filters in LightRoom to mask the subject while lowering exposure, highlights, saturation, and what-not on the perimeter. The trick is to get just enough adjustment in to be barely noticeable. I owe a big shout out to Matt Kloskowski’s Lightroom System on-line course. Matt is a Lightroom and Photoshop master. But mastery isn’t enough on its own. Matt is also a great teacher. He breaks Lightroom into a number of chapters, working from the very basics, through importing photos, to basic and advanced editing and beyond. Brushes, radial filters and graduated filters are incredible tools that provide the ability to post process photos with amazing results.

Today’s quarantine project is to import photos from my camera SD card and from Apple photos into Lightroom Mobile on my iPad. Then edit selected photos, save them to a drive then include them in a blog post.

Importing into Lightroom is so much easier now that we have iPadOS. Editing them is okay, but I’m having a difficult time exporting the pics. I try to export to a cloud service (e.g. Google Drive) but they either show up with little red “-“ in them or an error isn’t displayed but nothing is in the folder when I browse using the Files or Google Drive App. Then magically I eventually end up with multiple versions of the image files in the location I exported them to.

Also, after editing in Lightroom I think it is better to use the “Export As…” dialog since it gives more control over the output such as naming and quality.

So my attempt today is to export them to an attached SSD drive. Let’s see how that works. I’m hoping since the export is to a local drive it will be fast and easy.

Anyway, I’ve been walking a lot since the New Year started and since the gym is shut down, walking is the only exexcise I get. I see some beautiful and interesting things as I range around a 3-mile radius from home. I’ve walked in pouring rain, drizzle (a lot here in Spring), and brilliant sunshine.

This gorgeous view of our local volcano – Mt. Hood – made the walk up the steep Weir Road worthwhile.

My Hood seen from the top of Weir Road

Here is a view of Mt. St. Helen and Mt Adams (I think) from the top of Weir Road in Beaverton.

Mt. St. Helen and Mt Adams (I think) from the top of Weir Road.

One of my routes takes me up and down part of the Power Line Trail. The clouds can be dramatic. The Power Line Trail runs about 6 miles from Scholls Ferry Road at the south end all the way north up to the Sunset Highway

Dramatic clouds from the Power Line trail

Even on the cool showery March days the trees know Spring is coming.

Sunset maple tree getting ready for a new season

After walking up to the top of Weir Road, or when on the Power Line Trail I usually turn back east toward home on Nora Road. Nora is a prime example of the screwed up street naming in this part of town. I think it must be due to various small roads with unique names later being joined as the Beaverton and Washington County grew. From the top of the hill on Nora you can head east and without taking any turns you end up on Beard then Brockman and after a slight bend to the left Greenway.

Walking down Nora you get a vivid sense of time: some of the houses are old and small interspersed with newer large upscale neighborhoods. Here is one of the old houses

Old small house on Nora Road

What struck me about this home was the little seated statue on the porch. Racist much?

Racist much?

I”m glad to say that is the exception to the rule.
There are other, fun, garden decorations like this rooster.

Garden rooster

On a nice day in mid March Carla and I strolled along a portion of the Fanno Creek Trail. The 7.3 mile trail parallels Fanno Creek (what a coincidence!) from downtown Tigard through Beaverton and up to Southwest Portland. We walked from Hall Blvd, and a bit past the Scholls and Allen intersection.

This tree is stooped but may still be alive.

Stooped tree along the Fanno Creek Trail

Corona virus or not, spring is in the air.

Along Fanno Creek Trail in Beaverton, Oregon

Along the trail we saw a number of colorful chalk drawings on the path. This, I think, shows peoples’ spirits as we plod along the public health crisis.

Encouraging words along Fanno Creek Trail during the COVID-19 pandemic

Fingers crossed, I got the images exported to my SSD drive and imported into WordPress. It will be interesting to see how it looks online.

Stay healthy!

March 30, 2019

We’ve been self-isolated because of COVID-19 for a couple of weeks now and are doing pretty well: Carla and I are together – it’s tough for people who live alone; we are using Google Hangouts and Facetime to keep up with friends and family, and we get out every day to walk – I’m going 5 or more miles most days. Our co-mother-in-law in South Africa is in a much tougher quarantine. She can only leave the house and yard for an hour or two each day for shopping.

But it gets old. As I was out walking this morning, brownies just jumped in my head – well, the idea of brownies – no one was pelting brownies at my noggin. I came home and Carla and I found a Brownies recipe online at allrecipes.com and were delighted to discover we had all the necessary ingredients.

Brownie Ingredients

It’s a photo project so of course I put things in place

Brownie ingredients mis en place

Meanwhile, Carla pulled together the ingredients for the frosting.

Frosting ingredients

I put things next to the stove in the order they would be used.

Brownie ingredients ready for assembly

After melting ½ cup of butter I removed the pan from the heat and mixed in the sugar. Once that was incorporated, I whisked in one egg at a time. I was a bit trepidatious – many years ago we tried to make treats to mail to the boys in college and when we added the eggs they just scrambled instead of mixing in. We hadn’t learned about tempering – adding eggs, or whatever, to a small bit of the hot stuff so they wouldn’t cook. Watching the video, they didn’t worry about that in this recipe; nevertheless, I tempered the first egg. Then in went the vanilla extract. After that was all mixed together I added the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt.

I poured it into a prepared square pan – slightly bigger than the one in the recipe. I think it was too big, the brownies were pretty thin. While they baked Carla made the frosting – it was very thick.

Frosting for Brownies

The recipe calls for a bake time of 25-20 minutes. I pulled them at 20 because of the larger pan and our oven cooks pretty hot.

A pan full of brownies.

Carla frosted them.

Brownies ready to eat

A note about the photo above, the frosting didn’t look that nice in real life; it was very thick and impossible to spread easily. I’ve been spending time the past few weeks refreshing my Lightroom and Photoshop skills. I have an old Wacom tablet that I pulled from the far corner of my desk to use in Photoshop to do some content-aware fill on the frosting blank spots. Here is the original

Frosted brownies – pre-Photoshop

As the videos I’ve watched over the past weeks promised, using the Intuos Pro table made the selection soooo easy.

We didn’t wait until dessert – we had a mid afternoon treat.

Brownies! Yum!

I’ve lost a few pounds since the New Year; in addition to the exercise, cutting out sugar, sweets, and desserts was an important part of that change. I need to be careful about putting those pounds back on- but brownies on a rainy, quarantine Sunday afternoon are sometimes called for.

These aren’t the best brownies I’ve ever eaten, but then short of putting anchovies in them any brownie is a good brownie. Next time we’ll cook them in a slightly smaller square pan and maybe find a better frosting. But hey, these are simple and very good.

As I mentioned above, I used Photoshop on a couple of the photos above. If you are a Lightroom and/or Photoshop user, I highly recommend, Matt Kloskowski’s training. I’m doing a refresh on his Lightroom course and hope to start his Photoshop course this week. During the quarantine he has produced a series of free “Stuck Inside” videos. His post on the Wacom tablet is what prompted me to pull my tablet out to try again. He’s also been posting a lot of free tutorials including a series on “How to Get the Most from Adobe”. If you are a current Lightroom/Photoshop user who feels you need some help, or if you are thinking about subscribing to the Adobe Creative Cloud but are skittish about the complexity, give these resources a try. Of course, he has plenty of great full length courses available – and are currently 50% off. I’m not an affiliate; I don’t get anything if you subscribe, I just really like his technique and training skills.

Another thing I’ve spent the last week doing is switching from a mouse – which I’ve used forever – to a trackpad. There is definitely a learning curve; I’ve tried off and on in the past, but with all this time available I’ve committed to give a full try. Using a trackpad – and the trackpad feature on the Wacom Tablet – gives a lot more options for navigating on my Mac. One week in and I look longingly at the mouse in my desk drawer less and less.

So that’s what we are up to!

[Note added 3/31/20]
A note on the photography lighting. I shot these pictures with my Sony A660 using a Godox TT350S flash mounted on camera pointed up and the little reflector card extended. The slave was a Godox TT685S mounted on a light stand shooting into a reflective umbrella. It was a bit easier to maneuver with only one light stand – especially with two of us moving around the kitchen. I shot in TTL (Through The Lens) flash mode; while I adjusted lighting as I went, a typical ratio was the TT385 at +1 and the slave TT685 at +1.3. The lighting may not be as vibrant as when using two stand-mounted flashes but I think it worked well at lighting the subjects with few annoying shadows.

[Note added 4/2/20]
After reviewing Matt Kloskowski’s Lightroom System 2020 I added a vignette to the first two and the last one photo to give a little bit of a spotlight effect so we can bring attention to the objects and not all the background.

Date: March 20, 2020

With COVID-19 upon us our only outings are walks and over the past 20 years we’ve walked everywhere in the neighborhood. Portland has not issued a Shelter-In-Place order – yet; so we figured we could follow our friends recommendation and head over to the University of Portland up on the bluff on the east bank of the Willamette River.

We saw a few students and other walkers but it was very easy to keep our distance from everyone we saw. The cherry trees were in full blossom. I’ll let the pictures tell their story.

Cherry trees at the University of Portland
Cherry Blossom at the University of Portland
Cherry Blossom at the University of Portland

We walked along the fence line looking over the river and got a few other plants blooming.

Random blossoming plant at the University of Portland

There was also a tulip tree; it was just starting to lose its luster.

Tulip tree blossoms at the University of Portland
Tulip tree blossoms at the University of Portland

There is a shipyard below the bluff and we saw this great portable dry dock. If you look closely notice that there is a small warship inside the pontoon dry dock.

Portable dry dock on the Willamette River in Portland

You can see all but the ship in my University of Portland Flowering Trees Flickr Album. They are also in my Foliage and Landscape Flickr album.

I hope you are self-quarantining and taking care of yourself. I wish you all good health

March 17, 2020

This fear of catching COVID-19 has really slowed our lives down; what better escape than to cook. We shopped online for our weekly groceries for the first time; unfortunately, New Seasons didn’t have any corned beef left. In real life, if they didn’t have corned beef I would have not bought all the carrots and cabbage. But if/then logic that isn’t something you can do in online shopping. So Carla braved the crowds at Safeway to pick one up.

I made this dish two years ago when I used Mike Vrobel’s Dad Cooks Dinner recipe. I had big success this weekend with Amanda Biddle’s Striped Spatula recipe for Bolognese sauce, so I used her recipe. Now, pressure cooker corned beef and cabbage is pretty straightforward: cook the beef first in plenty of water and some aromatics. Take out the meat when done and add the cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. So, in this respect Mike and Amanda’s recipes are very similar. However, I did employ two of Dad Cooks Dinner strategies. First, I cut the 4 pound brisket into quarters to hasten the cooking. Second, I didn’t use a rack to keep the meat above the liquid. Coming from Safeway instead of New Seasons I figured it was going to be very salty and wanted to submerge the brisket to help remove some of that salt.

This is a real simple dish; here are all the ingredients minus the unphotogenic corned beef and water.

Most of the ingredients for corned beef and cabbage

I put the onion slices, celery chunks, and slightly smashed garlic cloves in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Then added water, put the brisket in and poured the beer over the top. It cooked for 60 minutes with a quick pressure release. Amanda’s recipe called for 85 minutes with a 20 minute natural pressure release. Cutting the brisket ala Mike Vrobel saved 45 minutes!

When the brisket was almost done, I spent about 3 minutes prepping the other vegetables.

Corned beef and cabbage vegetables.

After 60 minutes I checked the corned beef for tenderness – it was perfect – and removed to to a cutting board where I tented it with foil while the vegetables cooked.

Corned beef for the corned beef and cabbage.

I strained the liquid removing the chunks of onion, celery and garlic. Then returned 1½ cups of liquid to the cooker and tossed potatoes and carrots on the bottom and stacked the cabbage wedges on top. I only used ½ of that huge cabbage – we’ll be having coleslaw later this week.

Vegetables for corned beef and cabbage

After 4 minutes at high pressure the vegetables were done. It takes a while for the quick pressure release to let all that pressure out. While that was going on I removed the fat on top and sliced the brisket across the grain. Then laid it all out on a platter.

Corned beef and cabbage ready to serve.

Dinner was served – I took one too many slices of corned beef – but I sure enough ate it instead of putting it back. We served it with some horseradish aioli. Aioli – the word to allow mayonnaise to be sold at twice the normal price.

This was very good, but that Safeway brisket was salty but good. The version I made two years ago with the New Seasons corned beef was much better.

Rating: ★★★★. Actually 3½ stars if I could do halves. Perfectly fine for dinner and I’d even serve it to friends.

It’s too late for y’all to cook for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner, but you don’t have to wait; it’s good no matter the date. And it is so, so easy. Give it a try.

Cook date: March 15, 2020

Back in November 2018 I made an Italian Meat Sauce recipe. It rated 3 stars but I thought I could find a way to move it up a star. Finally this past January I tried again with the adjustments I thought would improve it. No go, it was much too fatty.

Carla and I thought it would be fun to explore pressure cooker Bolognese recipes. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 candidates and today I started with the first recipe. This recipe is from The Striped Spatula website written by Amanda Biddle. I’ve never cooked any of her recipes before but this one looked promising. Although it’s almost Spring it snowed the day before and was plenty chilly this morning. Pasta was just what we needed.

We had invited friends over, but with the Corona virus scare we disinvited everyone a couple of days ahead of time. I’m at the intersection of 2 different risk groups so have determined to be especially careful for a few weeks. But we did drop off pints of Handel’s ice cream which would have been our dessert.

The first thing that drew me to this recipe. First, Amanda’s insistence on using San Marzano crushed tomatoes in pureé. My regular market had San Marzano style tomato sauces but not the real deal. I found some at Whole Foods and picked up two cans. One for now and one for later. It doesn’t say it’s in pureé, but, spoiler alert, it worked out fine.

A few weeks ago, Linda sent me a link about San Marzano tomatoes. Seems there is a whole debate on the subject, and if the tomatoes are crushed – as they are here – they don’t qualify. Whatever, the sauce was great.

San Marzano tomatoes – A necessity for Bolognese
Bolognese sauce – 1st group of ingredients (Plus pasta)

Of course we dice onion, carrots, and celery to form our mirepoix base. There is way more onion that the other ingredients; the carrots and celery are sitting on top of some onions.

Mirepoix for Bolognese sauce

The second thing that pulled me to this recipe was the use of pancetta – in addition to lean ground beef and ground sausage. If your market has pancetta, it’s likely in the butcher case. You’ll need to dice it before cooking

Pork, ground beef and pancetta for Sauce Bolognese

You’re not really cooking Italian food unless you have garlic and wine.

Garlic for sauce Bolognese
Oregon pinot noir – the best wine on the planet

Almost the full set of ingredients are in place.

Sauce Bolognese mise en place

The first step is to sauté the mirepoix. Next we add the meat, breaking up the ground meats into small pieces. Then we add the tomato paste and garlic for a minute or two followed by deglazing the pan with some wine. Toss in the tomatoes, a bit of water and Italian parsley and pressure cook on high for 20 minutes. Here it is before pressure cooking.

Sauce Bolognese ready to be cooked under pressure

Quick release the pressure as soon as the time is up, then simmer for a few minutes to thicken Unlike stove top, we don’t lose much moisture cooking in the Instant Pot. I had my pasta water simmering and cranked the heat to cook the pasta while the sauce thickened. I don’t normally use spaghetti noodles – just because. The staging picture above include Tórchiette which we like. But we had a half a pound of open Penne; because it was just the two of us we used that instead.

While the sauce cooks, we stage the final couple of ingredients: whipping cream and nutmeg. We were also supposed to toss in a bit more flat leaf Italian parsley but I had a small issue with the second batch -we won’t go into it.

After draining the pasta I returned it to the pot and added about ½ cup of the sauce to it. Then spooned some into pasta bowls and poured more sauce on top.

Pasta Bolognese – Almost ready to eat.

It’s not complete without plenty of salty, nutty parmesan reggiano cheese on top.
Dinner is served.

Dinner is served – Pasta Bolognese
Pasta Bolognese and wine.

We may not make it to the remaining two contenders. Stay tuned. I don’t have a link to my copy of the recipe because I made no adjustments to it. If it looks good, go to Amanda Biddle’s page and cook it up!

Rating: ★★★★ 4 out of 5 stars. A great dish for company (though it will be a few weeks before the Corona virus self-quarantine is over. By then it will be barbecue season.

A note on the pictures. This is the first time I used the full lighting set up with my Sony A6600 and the Sony 18-135 lens. I use 2 off-camera speedlights: one with a reflector umbrella and one with a softbox. It took me some time to get the setting close to right; the settings are much different from my Sony A7R3. But I was happy with the results.

Dates: February 28 ==> March 1, 2020

It’s nice to have Linda as a sister-in-law; mainly because she is nice, fun, and always looking for adventures. As an additional benefit, she has friends all around the country. We started our fall trip to the south with her friends near Washington DC. This past weekend we were invited to visit her friends her friends who has a place Hood Canal, Washington. When we got there Friday evening we enjoyed appetizers and wine while we gazed out at the beautiful view from their house overlooking the water.

It was rainy in the evening and not very photogenic, but I set up my camera on a tripod for nicer views in the morning. Sure enough, it was sunny on Saturday morning and the Olympic Mountains were displaying their awesome beauty.

Olympic Mountain Range see across Hood Canal

We are getting ready for a big adventure in late summer – hopefully the Corona virus won’t be a thing then – and need to get into hiking shape. I’ve been extending my walks around home – ranging up to 5 miles with 14% inclines and elevation gains of 300-500 feet, depending on the route. But we wanted to get off the sidewalks and onto a trail, so we walked a few hundred yards from the house down to Twanoh State Park. The park has – for me – a steep grade but it rather short – just a couple of miles. It also gave Carla and I a chance to try our new hiking poles.

The incredible greenery and foliage in western Washington and Oregon makes it difficult to get large panoramic pictures on mountainsides. But I did get a chance to grab a picture of the creek at the bottom of the hill.

River through Twanoh State Park. Hood Canal, Washington

But there is plenty of moss and green things to enjoy on the trail.

Tree Moss at Twanoh State Park, Washington

On our trip to the south last fall we saw plenty of Spanish moss – especially in Charleston, South Carolina. It was actually named that by the English as a derogatory term for the Spanish explorers who – the English claimed – had scraggly beards. Both countries were trying to expand their claims on the new world so there was no love lost between the two groups.

After our hike we grabbed sandwiches from the QVC deli in Belfair before we all got together with our long-time friends who have a place on Hood Canal. We walked along the trails of the Thelan Wetlands. The tide was out but was still scenic. About five or so years ago, the state of Washington breached a dike which allowed creation of farmland at the north end of Hood Canal. It’s been interesting over the past few years to see the fresh water farm land turn into an estuary. The Union River is slowly cutting new channels – or more likely reclaiming channels that had once been filled in to allow cattle to more easily graze.

One of many bird hotels in the Thelan Wetlands. Hood Canal, Washington

Spring is trying to claim its territory

Hint of Spring in Thelan Wetlands. Hood Canal, Washington

It started to turn blustery; but before turning back to our cars, I caught a picture of the dramatic sky.

Dramatic clouds looking south down Hood Canal from Thelan Wetlands. Washington

We all headed back to Linda’s friends house where we snacked on more hors d’oeuvres.

Before dinner treats

Before long it was time to start dinner; master of the house started up the grills to cook some salmon filets and asparagus. I was in charge of roasting potatoes and Carla made the salad. It was a delicious dinner and fun with all of us – old friends and new – getting to know one another.

On Sunday morning the light looked promising so I set up the tripod again for a few pictures. After coming inside, everyone yelled “Howard! There’s a spotlight on the Olympics! I was amazed at their beauty.,

Olympic Mountains seen across Hood Canal.
Olympic Mountains seen across Hood Canal.

I’ve grabbed pictures of these mountains before but these were the best I can remember; I think it was a combination of the viewpoint and the light. Last May we were over at Lake Quinault in the Olympic Rain Forest, on the other side of these mountains.

After a great breakfast of pancakes and eggs we headed back to the wetlands for another walk before heading home. I saw another birdhouse – this one is both beautiful and functional.

Bird house on Hood Canal

It was March first and some of the plants were eager to show their stuff.

Hint of Spring in Thelan Wetlands. Hood Canal, Washington

At one end of the Thelan Wetlands there is a Salmon center used as a local meeting place. Next to that is a small learning farm with some animals. I caught a picture of a small goat.

Billy Goat Gruff at a learning farm near the Salmon Center. Belfair, Washington

After we got back to the house Carla and I did some cleaning then jumped in the car for the 3 hour drive home – the kids were coming over for dinner.

We had a great time with Linda’s friends and hope we get invited back!