Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grace Gets Hitched! (cont.)

On Friday, we started with a big breakfast at the cabin: cheesey slow-cooked eggs, a pound of bacon, and big cups of hot coffee. Sooo good!

After breakfast, hubs, Clay, and I decided to take a walk around Trillium Lake. It was so, so beautiful. The last time I was there, a cloud hovered over the top of Mt. Hood. On this day, though, it was clear as a bell. We walked all around the lake trail and decided that camping there is on our "to-do" list for our next trip. I think kayaks might be in order, as well.

By this time, Ski Bowl had opened. We were dying to try the Alpine Slide. We pulled in, bought our tickets, and headed out. The way it works is this: you ride the ski lift AAAALLLL the way up the mountain. This part is super-fun in itself. You have great views from your little dangling chair. Then, at the top, they give you a toboggan and send you on your way. The ride is about a half a mile, and you can go really fast if you get a good toboggan and forget about the brake! We rode it four or five times, with everyone trying to beat everyone else to the bottom, before deciding we needed a quick lunch and a nap before the rehearsal dinner that night.

For some grub, we headed to the Zig Zag Inn. We couldn't resist their macaroni and cheese with bacon, and boy was it good! They serve it in a gratin dish, and the cheese is light (maybe Parmesan or Fontina?). There's tons of bacon on it, and you can get a fruit cup on the side if you are feeling virtuous. (Which we were.) After that, we headed home for a quick rest.

Grace's rehearsal dinner was held at The Resort on the Mountain, and it was lovely! There was a great, fun crowd, and we had a beautiful space in the Foliage Room. (You could see a very green ravine, with a waterfall at one end, out of the large picture windows.) And the food was scrumptious: soup, then a menu of favorites to choose from, then ice cream! Afterwards, some of the party went out to the Skyway Bar and Grill for drinks. Though I LOVE their macaroni and cheese and barbecue, we were completely full as well as pooped! It was off to bed for us.

The next day was Grace's wedding!! That morning, I took Dad, hubs, Clay, and Caleb for a late breakfast at the Barlow Trail Roadhouse. They say this place is historic, and it looks it. The walls are composed of giant logs, and the food inside is equally BIG. I chose the two-egg breakfast with country potatoes and sausage. (So did dad.) Clay got pancakes and sausage, and Caleb chose french toast. Hubs had eggs, biscuits, and gravy. For all five of us, the bill was around $40, and it was a TON of food! (Which was good, because it had to last us until 3 p.m., when the reception started.)

After we ate, we headed back to the cabin to start showering and otherwise getting ready. Then, we set our sights on Timberline Lodge. The lodge, built as part of the Works Progress Administration (as an arts project), is a lovely building. Expansive, it's full of hand-woven textiles, hand made furniture, and beautifully crafted hardware.

Grace and Ryan got married on the back patio, with majestic Mt. Hood behind them. Grace's friends played parts in the ceremony, reading poems, singing songs, taking photos, and otherwise making it a special day that I'm sure she'll never forget.

I cried like a baby.

Once the ceremony was complete, we gathered in a windowed upper room at the lodge for the reception. We feasted on salmon, fresh corn, green salad, and biscuits drenched in honey and butter as we admired the amazing views. As I sipped my Oregon wine, I thought to myself that such a room was made for eating salmon. It was just perfect.

After toasts, cake, and the dubke, the Bradshaw clan begged off a little early so Clay could play in the snow on Mt. Hood. We went on a short hike up the mountain, and we found ourselves slipping and sliding and feeling like real explorers! Since Clay hadn't eaten much of his fish at the reception, we capped off our visit with a PB&J and a hot cocoa at the Lodge's restaurant.

After that, it was packing, bed, and the return flights home the next morning! What a magical trip, and a magical day for our family. I will remember it always!

Grace Gets Hitched!!

After college, my little sister Grace moved up to the Portland, Oregon, area. Of course, she met a boy. And she decided to marry said boy, setting the date for July 14.

Naturally, the Saad clan had to represent. We scheduled several days in Mt. Hood country to have fun and celebrate the joining of two families.

First of all, we decided to rent a big house that we could all stay in, instead of holing up in separate hotel rooms. This ended up being a GREAT idea. My older sister, Laura, found an AWESOME cabin in Brightwood Loop (off Hwy 26). Three bedrooms, plus a futon for the boys, two baths, gorgeous outdoor space (think water gardens, a hot tub, etc.), and mere steps from the banks of the Sandy River (above). Wonderful.

We arrived late Wednesday, picked up our rental car at the airport, and made the drive. We stopped at Burgerville on the way in (We were starving.), treating ourselves to cheeseburgers with Tillamook cheddar, giant Walla Walla onion rings, and raspberry lemonade. Burgerville is a chain restaurant, but they use a lot of local ingredients. Yum!

We found the cabin without any trouble, unpacked, and settled in for an early night. We were up bright and early the next morning, though. Clay and I sneaked out for secret breakfast at Cafe Aria. They make tasty stuffed waffles there. Clay chose the one with nutella and strawberries inside. I picked a savory version filled with eggs, bacon, and cheese. They also have a small shop, and I took the opportunity to load up on Stumptown Roasters coffee and gourmet sea salt to bring back home.

After breakfast, we all decided to head out to the Columbia River Gorge. Along the way, we stopped at Packer's Fruit Stand. LOVE! First of all, you have great views from this little spot. Then, you've got delicious fresh fruit. (Cherries!) THEN, you've got all the marvelous goodies they make: ice cream, tons of varieties of cookies, jams, jellies, pies, the list goes on. We spent about 45 minutes here, admiring the views, sampling treats, and choosing jams to take home. (I chose a raspberry pear variety and a cherry. Delicious!)

Next, we decided to tour Pheasant Valley Vineyards. What fun! It's a self-guided tour. You get a small booklet, and you use it to guide yourself through the markers in the vienyard. We saw the vines, hiked out to the overlook, and learned about how fruit in the field turns into liquid poetry in your glass. After our hike, we got to return to the tasting room and sample all 12 wines bottled at the winery. I absolutely LOVED their whites, and I'm usually a strictly red-wine drinker. They even have a pear wine, sweet and with a low alcohol content, that slips down the throat like the breath of August. I couldn't resist picking up a bottle for later!

By then, it was time for lunch! We stopped at Full Sail, a restaurant and microbrewery by the river. Hubs had a big glass of their pale ale and a giant burger, while I chose the steak sandwich. Service was quick, food was tasty, and prices were reasonable. They even had a kids' menu! From the windows (and the outdoor deck), you could see the kite surfers down on the water.

By this time, we were figuring that we needed to get out to the Gorge. We started with Multnomah Falls. The last time I'd taken Clay there, he'd been too little to hike. We checked out the falls from the observation area, but that was it. This time, hubs, Clay, and I all hiked up to the bridge. It was so beautiful! And at Horse Tail Falls, little man even took his shoes off to dip his toes in the (COLD) water!

Later, we hiked up to the bridge at Wahkeena Falls, and this might have been my favorite. The hike is short, and few people make it, because Wahkeena doesn't look that impressive from the road. But once you're up there, the bridge is REALLY close to the falls. You get tons of spray, and you feel like you have the whole place to yourself. Don't miss it!

Latourelle Falls was closed for construction, but we did get out and explore Vista House at Crown Point. Amazing views. Clay and Caleb loved running around Vista House, and we took lots of pictures.

After that, Laura, Mom, and I were supposed to go out with Grace and her friends, but we were completely exhausted. We contented ourselves with a grand tour of her new house, then headed back up the mountain to the cabin. As we drove, we worried. See, there was a big mountain festival scheduled for that weekend in Sandy, about 20 minutes down the mountain from where we were staying. And the festival kicked off with a giant parade on Thursday night on Hwy 26, which is the road you use to get EVERYWHERE on the mountain. This parade was supposed to start at 7 p.m. As we approached Sandy, it was 6:55 p.m.

"Dangit, we are going to get caught by this parade!" I wailed. "It'll take us forever to get through here! Maybe we should just open the sun roof and let Mom stand up and wave a little?"

The streets were lined with people stacked 4 or 5 deep. Tons of stadium chairs were everywhere. As we puttered through, we passed just in front of the entire parade. Fire trucks. Beauty queens. The whole she-bang. We barely beat them through town. We had a good laugh over it, then gratefully headed home for bed.

More to come . . .

Party Animal!

A couple of weeks ago, mere DAYS after we put the finishing touches on the kitchen, we celebrated little man's FIFTH birthday!

He wanted a pirate party, so we did up the house in swashbuckling style, rented a slip and dip for the back yard, and got a cake with a ship on top. We did our usual hokey invitations ("Shiver me timbers! Cap'n Clay be turnin' FIVE!" We are such goobs.)

I put out fruit and cheese plates (two different versions - adults and kids), hubs grilled chicken, and we served up sauteed corn and roasted cherry tomatoes. Very delicious, very summery!

I can hardly believe how big he's gotten! He starts school in TWO WEEKS! We've got him all registered, he's had his round of vaccinations, and we went and got all of his school supplies today.

Little man is growing up!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Something's been cooking . . .

For a while, we'd been wanting to remodel our kitchen. We'd decided to re-face the cabinet doors, install new countertops (The old laminate ones were chipping.), add/update some lighting, and tile the backsplash. After a lot of thought, we decided on a transitional style with nods to the American farmhouse look. We found an awesome apron-front sink at a local store, hunted up a bridge faucet online, and we were off!

In early June, the project began. Here's what we started with:

I've had a blue and yellow kitchen for as long as I've been an adult. I still love the color combination, but I was ready for a change. In addition, the old kitchen was skimpy on lighting (and what we did have was very dated).

Five weeks later, here's where we ended up:

The wall color is a pale olive, the countertops are angola silver granite, and we chose a simple white subway tile for the backsplash. We also added two custom open cabinets to hold extra stuff and faced the peninsula in beadboard to reinforce the farmhouse look.

My favorite thing, though, is the lighting. We replaced the dated central flourescent fixture with five pot lights, added two pendants over the peninsula, replaced the fixture over the eat-in portion of the kitchen, and added under cabinet lighting. (The under cabinet lighting is AMAZING. If you are considering remodeling, PLEASE think about adding under cabinet lighting. I can't tell you how much I love it.)

I won't lie to you. There were times during the five-week process that I wondered if we'd ever finish. But we stuck it out, and I couldn't be more pleased with the result. I LOVE cooking in this new space!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Memphis getaway

Well, it was late June. The kitchen renovation had dragged on for four weeks, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit it was getting to me.

So when some of my girlfriends started talking about a weekend in Memphis, I was all ears.

We drove up together early one Saturday morning, heading straight to Neely's Barbecue in downtown for lunch. We got there right before a big tour group, so we were able to enjoy our ribs (OMG.) and mac and cheese pretty quickly. I also had coleslaw on the side. I'm not a big closeslaw fan and, alas, Neely's slaw didn't make a convert out of me. But the ribs were amazing, and the mac and cheese is some of the best I've had at a restaurant. They also served those soft, white schoolhouse rolls. Yum!

Feeling refreshed, we moseyed over to Sun Studios. I'd never toured the small facility, and I was interested in a closer look. After browsing the gift shop a while, our tour guide led us upstairs to a room filled with music memorabilia. He explained all of the artifacts to us in an entertaining and informative way. He also played music clips from some of the artists and songs he was telling us about, and I thought that dimension added so much to the tour. I wish they'd do something similar at Graceland.

Then, it was downstairs to the actual old studio. Everything has remained intact, and it's thrilling to stand in the same room where famous songs were recorded and hear them playing over the speakers. Our tour guide even let us grab an old microphone and have our pictures taken.

This facility is small, and the tour is short. However, it's well worth your while to take a look! We loved it! (I even got Clay and I Sun Studios T-shirts in the gift shop afterwards.)

Next up, we'd planned to tour the Center for Southern Folklore. Their website said they were open on Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. After a little trouble we found it, but we were disappointed. We'd misread the site. The center's SHOP is open on Saturdays, but the center itself is only open Monday through Fridays. Sigh.

Undaunted, we felt we ought to be checking into our hotel, so it was off to the downtown Marriott. After freshening up a bit, we headed down for drinks in the hotel bar before making our dinner plans. On the advice of our concierge, we gussied up, hopped the trolley and headed to Spindini's for Italian food.

Mamma mia! This place was great! The trolley car driver let us off right in front of the restaurant (which was good, because we had our high heels on!). I had a gorgeous plate of shrimp carbonara (full of shrimp and smoky bacon), some of the gals got pizzas, and another friend had a steak. A bottle of wine for the table, and we were in heaven!

Only one tiny incident marred our visit. About halfway through dinner, the friend sitting next to me began choking. It was a tense few seconds before we could get her standing up and administer a quick Heimlich maneuver. Thankfully, it worked. But it scared the heck out of all of us for about a minute there. It's weird. They tell you what to do when someone is choking, and you listen to that information, but you don't really get the chance to test it out. I remember thinking, "Man, I hope this Heimlich thing works!"

After dinner, we decided to hit Beale Street. And I learned something. I am too old to be walking up and down Beale Street late at night! First of all, they have barriers and police officers at each end. You have to show them your ID and be wanded down (for weapons, I presume) before they'll even let you on the street. And then, it's just the drunks and the smell and the crowds. Some guys barked at us. BARKED. No lie. I have grown too cantankerous to put up with it all, I think!

After making the loop, we headed to a place where we'd blend in much better - the Peabody Hotel, for drinks at their lobby bar. Aaaahhhh! I opted for a nice decaf coffee and their bourbon pecan pie. Afterwards, we caught the trolley back to the hotel and sunk into grateful sleep.

The next morning, we slept in and took our breakfast at Gibson's Donuts. I'd seen this place profiled on Cheap Bites (on the Cooking Channel), and it looked DIVINE! I ordered the New Orleans Buttermilk donut, an old-fashioned donut, and a cream cake donut. They were all delicious (I think the cream cake was my favorite!!), and coffee and juice washed them right down!

Then, we had to get our shop on. We went to Macy's first, then perused the Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma outlets. I found tons of great stuff for our new kitchen at amazing prices!! WHY haven't I been hitting these outlets regularly whenever I get close to Memphis?! I will be sure and plan for shop time in the future!

Then, it was off for home. What a great way to avoid the remodel for the weekend!

Fun with little people

Clay and I stayed busy in June! We saw perhaps the best circus we've ever seen with Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey came to town with Barnum Bash. What fun!

Part of the program focused on the rich history of the circus sideshow, with a fire eater, contortionists, and a strong man who they ran over with a Hummer full of people! They also had an AMAZING act called Duo Fusion, where a woman (in a sparkly bikini and high heels, no less) did all sorts of strength and balancing tricks. That woman was throwing that man around, lifting him up into the air, all kinds of stuff. Very impressive! The elephant act, featuring three elephants, was also really well done. We've been to the circus three or four time now with little man, but we all agreed that Barnum Bash was the best show we'd seen!

There's also a new dinosaurs exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. In the facility's first-floor, glassed-in exhibit space, they have a animatronic T-Rex that you can get REALLY close to! At first, little man was afraid. But right next to it, they have a stripped-down animatron that you can control with a console. That helped him realize that the big, scary dinosaur was actually just a machine. He then spent some time teaching that machine how to really roar!

The two of us sneaked out early on Father's Day weekend to eat donuts and get hubs his present - a new grill! Hus and I bought our old grill the year we got married, and it's seen 12 years of hard use! He asked for a new one this year, and we rewarded him with a shiny Char-Broil Infrared. Clay "helped" him put it together, and hubs has already grill steaks, veggie kabobs, BBQ chicken, and other treats for us on it!