Evil vs. Evil!

November 24th, 2010 by Amy Alphin No comments »

Ok, so I don’t normally re-post stuff to my blog, but this one is an exception.  As many of you know, I have a slight obsession with Harry Potter.  Well, I also have a bit of a Star Warsproblem as well.  So imagine my amusement when I saw this come up on one of the blogs I frequent.  LOVE.IT.  I personally think that Darth could take Voldy any day, I mean, he does have the FORCE and all, but I still think that Voldy is way scarier.  Discuss.

 

 

Originally from Geekologie.

Visiting West Virginia

November 18th, 2010 by Amy Alphin 1 comment »

 

Sorry for the absence.  There’s been work, grad school more work, and, oh yea, a VACATION!   We went and visited our family on the east coast for a week during my October break, as we will not be going for Christmas, because we’re going to New Zealand!  The first stop on the list was to West Virginia to see my Dad, Sharon and my grandma, who has just moved into an assisted living community minutes from my Dad’s.  The visit was short, but we packed in lots of fun stuff couple with good family time.  We got to spend several evenings hanging out and visiting with grandma, which was one of the highlights of the trip.

 

After arriving on the red-eye, all we wanted to do was shower and chill.  Luckily it was Sunday and the Steelers were playing.  So chill time happened.  Yay!  However, the next day, Tom, Dad and I visited the West Virginia state capitol building.  Tom and I have a thing for capitol buildings, we find them interesting.  Because we’re nerds. 

In front of the building there is a beautiful war memorial dedicated to all of those West Virginians who have served in previous American wars.  It was very moving.

 

The capitol building its self is quite imposing.  It’s dome is coated in real gold leaf and the structure is made of imported marble.  The whole inside of the building is marble as well, and the huge chandelier is made of Czech crystal.  We took the tour to learn all of these fun facts and more.  Because we’re nerds. 

  

 

Later that evening, Dad cooked us some yummy steaks on the grill and we had a lively conversation about politics, where the conservative east coast folk shook their heads at those silly liberal west coasters.  And vice versa. 

The next day, we went over to Blenko Glass Company, which makes hand-blown glass products.  They have this cool viewing area where you can see the discarded glass from broken projects, as well as the guys who are actively blowing the new glass vases, pitchers, etc.  It was very cool…erm  hot, actually.  They also have an incredible gift shop and we took home more than a few items and gifts.  If you happen to be near Charleston, West Virginia, it’s worth heading out to Blenko Glass, or checking out their website.  They make beautiful work.

 

 

After spending some time shopping and another wonderful meal, we sadly off the next morning.  We had a wonderful time with Dad and Sharon and  can’t wait to see them again soon! 

Next up…we head down I-64 to Lexington, Virginia to see Tom’s parents’ new house!

Making Blackberry Jam

October 22nd, 2010 by Amy Alphin 1 comment »

It all started when I thought it would be a good idea to buy a flat of blackberries.  They were a deal, and I was able to bargain (!) to get a lower price.  So then we were stuck with all.these.blackberries.   Right.  Not to be discouraged, I exclaimed “Let’s make jam!”  Tom and I have made jam before, and it’s usually a sticky, messy good time.  However, in the past, we have never had the quantities of berries that we were faced with this time.  This was going to require two batches of jam making to happen at the same time.  Now, this wouldn’t be a problem on a normal 4 burner stove, because you would have one burner for each pot of berry mixture, and one burner for steralizing your equipment and one burner for processing the jars.  Here’s the rub:  we only have two burners.  Oh, and this weird induction plug in thing that kinda acts as the third burner.  But no fourth.  Hm.

We started out by cleaning all the berries and crushing them, four cups at a time in one of our larger pots.  We added kind of a lot of sugar, but it’s tastier that way.  Then we boiled the mixture, finally adding pectin at the end.  Then we poured this liquid magma like stuff into jars that have been steralized, added the canning lids, and dropped them into a boiling water bath for processing.  The jars came out sealed like magic.  At least, this was how the first batch went.  Nice and smooth.

   

 

However, we had to start the process all over again with the second batch about midway through the first batch.  About the time that the boiling mess of blackberrysugar needs pectin and pouring, the other blackberrysugar mess needed to go on the stove.  There were not enough burners, and very few places to put things because once the jars and utensils are sterilized, we try to interact with them as little as possible.  It was a three ring circus of blackberry jam. 

We did get both batches finished and canned though, with only one jar that didn’t seal correctly, but that’s not too bad, because we’ll just use it!  Oh, and for “clean up” we may have wiped the left over jam out of the pot.  It might have been amazing.

 

 I like how cute the jars look all lined up.  If you’re good, you might end up getting of of these for Christmas! 

Remembering John

October 11th, 2010 by Amy Alphin 3 comments »

Last weekend, Tom and I flew to Maryland for the funeral of one of his oldest friends, John Merrill.  As is often the case, the details are sad.  John was killed in a landslide while hiking in Colorado with his dog Oof.  His dog refused to leave John’s body when other hikers arrived on the scene of the accident, and ended up staying all night on the mountain with his beloved companion until the SAR folks were able to recover John’s body.  Oof has since been adopted by one of the SAR workers.   His wife was pregnant.

 

These are the details.  The facts reported over and over in the papers.  Somehow they seem so empty.   They say nothing about the intelligent, kind, complicated man that John was.  That there was so much more to his life than the way that he died.  I only knew John for a short time, but I will remember him as a funny, quirky guy who danced in his kilt at our wedding.  I will remember how much he loved show tunes.  I will remember how much he loved America, Guatemala, animals and wild places.  I will remember what a good friend he was to my husband. 

 

In the past three years I have lost two friends to the mountains.  People who do not hike or climb always ask, “Why were they there?  Why were they climbing?  Why were they hiking?”  And the simple truth, for me, and I believe for those who I have lost, is that we climb, and we hike, because we must.  It is a necessity of our lives.  To be out in the wild is where I find my peace.  It is where I find myself. 

As John’s mother said at his memorial, quoting her son, “I climb the mountains to get closer to God”.

We will miss you John, but we will always remember you in the high, wild and beautiful places in the world.

For more information: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16196657

Tom’s Blog post:  http://tomalphin.com/category/uncategorized

Photos: Don Mears Photography, Jane Merrill, Amy Alphin

Cakespy

September 23rd, 2010 by Amy Alphin 1 comment »

So I’ve been reading cakespy’s blog for a while and follow her twitter feed because I think her cupcake art is just way too cute for words.  I knew that her shop was in Seattle, but hadn’t found it yet.  As luck would have it, as Tom and I were walking around Capitol Hill looking for a new board game store, (because we’re THAT cool), and we found cakespy!!  It was one of those weird moments where my internet life met my real life and there was a warp in the space time continuum.  I may have giggled a lot.  Anyway, I went in and promptly gushed to the owner and fabulous artist,  Jessie Oleson, about how much I love her adorable prints of happy cupcakes.  Of course I bought one too!  And there was much rejoicing. 

 

Photos from cakespy

Visiting Victoria

September 20th, 2010 by Amy Alphin No comments »

Over Labor Day weekend the weather forecast in the Cascades was for rain, as is the usual these days it seems.  Wanting to escape as much of the wet as possible, and still feel like we had a vacation, we turned our sites north.  To Canada that is.  We took the ferry up on Saturday morning under beautiful blue skies and landed in Sidney, just outside of Victoria around lunchtime.

 

We went directly to Goldstream Provincial Parkto make sure that we got a campsite for the night.  We decided to camp the first night, as the weather was supposed to be nice.  The campground was very pleasant, with wide sites and a beautiful forest, and our tent was right at home.

The afternoon was spent eating lunch, and wandering around the harbor side in downtown Victoria, looking at all the Britishish architecture.  We ducked inside the ivy-covered Empress Hotel, decided that the tea was way too outrageously expensive, and decided to visit the gift shop, and return for the free tour on Monday instead.

 

That evening, we headed over to Butchart Gardents, though we were unclear as to how the flowers would look at this sometimes awkward time between summer and fall.  I’m glad we went though, as the dahlias were in full bloom and stunning.  There was also a beautiful rose garden, Japanese garden, and manicured “sunken” garden.  It rained on us a bit, but the well trained workers at the Garden were quick to hand out adorable clear umbrellas to everyone.  Butchart Gardens is a very well oiled machine, with helpers always at the ready to hand out an umbrella, direct you to the nearest hot chocolate stand, or give away “blanket weights” for holding down your picnic blanket for the fireworks later in the evening.  The fireworks show was one of the best I’ve ever seen, and it left me wide eyed as a little girl, as fireworks often do. 

    

 

 

The following day we hiked up Mount  Finlayson, which was in the provincial park we camped in. The trail was noted as being “steep, rugged, and hard to follow”.  Since many trails in Washington are labeled as such, we didn’t figure it was much of a problem, so we weren’t really prepared when our “hike” tuned more into a Class III scramble!  After much huffing and puffing, we pulled ourselves up to the top and took in the view. 

Later in the afternoon, we checked into our hotel for the evening, The Oswego.   The room was nice, though it had a weird, pull-down, Murphy style bed.  After a short bike ride, we decided to check out a fish and chips place we had seen on our walk around the city the day before.  The shop is called Red Fish Blue Fish and is run out of what looks like a shipping crate and positioned right on the docks in the harbor.  We had thought it must be good to have such a large line the day before, and we were definitely proven right.  Everything we at was spectacularly tasty, especially the coconut curry fish chowder.  NOM. 

 

Our final day was filled with rain and tours.  We stared off touring The Empress, with an adorable tour guide named Margaret who was dressed in Victorian garb and an English accent.  So CUTE!   After visiting The Empress, we headed over to the Parliament buildings for their tour.  The architecture and art were quite impressive.

 

 

Later in the afternoon, it was back to the ferry we went, and back to Seattle.  It was wonderful to get away and finally visit Victoria. 

(Sorry for the long post, we did lots of stuff and I take lots of pictures.  Plus, brevity is overrated.)

Hiking to Blanca Lake

September 15th, 2010 by Amy Alphin 1 comment »

Whee!  Sorry the posting has been “light” (read: nonexistent), it’s the beginning of the school year, and all that entails.  Which is mainly sleep deprivation, stress, and less exercise.  But oh well.  Let’s talk about this wonderful little hike instead.  Yee!  It was in August!!  Yikes, I’m behind.  Oh well.  I digress.

Ok.  Blanca Lake.  I had been wanting to do this hike for a while, as I was inspired by the beautiful photos of sea-glass green water surrounded by towering peaks.   Have I mentioned that I enjoy alpine lakes?  It also spans two seperate wilderness areas, which is  kind of cool.  The hike is steep, steep, steep, but oh so very worth it.  The first few miles climb relentlessly, but you’re surrounded by an ancient old growth forest which shrouds you from the sun, and is something pretty to look at whilst you huff and puff your way up.    There are also huckleberries and blueberries for your nibbling pleasure. 

 

Eventually the trail crests the ridge and there are some beautiful views of Glacier Peak in the distance.  As you can see, we didn’t have the clearest day, but our views weren’t so bad either. 

After ridge walking for far too brief a time, the trail descends, steeply again, towards Blanca.  The Washington Trails Association crews had been out the weekend before, and had done some spectacular work on this side of the trail.  Unfortunately, much more work is still needed.  In contrast to the well maintained, relatively smooth trail on the way up, this side is root-filled, rough, narrow, and did I mention steep?  First you encounter tiny Virgin Lake, then continue to descend towards Blanca. 

The lake is green.  And blue.  It doesn’t look real.  It’s kind of amazing.  We had lunch on the logjam halfway across the output of the lake for optimal viewing pleasure.  The weather was rolling in, so we didn’t stay long, but man, this place is gorgeous!  I can’t wait to come back on a sunny day to actually go swimming!  Tom swam, of course, but he always swims.    So the hike is steep, hard, and dirty, but the lake was more than worth the effort.

 

 

December 2010…

August 31st, 2010 by Amy Alphin 1 comment »

picture source

Hiking to Margaret Lake

August 30th, 2010 by Amy Alphin 1 comment »

A few weeks ago, I had my summer break week.  As in, there was a week when I did not have classes and I did not have to teach.  It was a wonderful, magical time filled with lots of sleep and sunshine.  There was also this fun little hike.  SIL S and I decided that even though the weather in Seattle was grey and cloudy, we bet that on the other side of Snoqulamie Pass, there might be sunshine to be found.  We were right!  We decided to hike up to Margaret Lake, and figured that, as it was a weekday, it wouldn’t be too crowded.  We were right, and were given the wonderful gift of having the trail essential to ourselves.  Sweet!

 

The first few miles of the trail follow the same trail as the trail to Twin Lakes, but the way to Margaret Lake drops off at the ridge instead of continuing on to Twin Lakes.  The hike up is exposed and warm until you get through an old clear cut and into some nice old (er) growth near the ridge. Oh, and there are Rainier views, which are always sweet.  As I mentioned, you quickly drop over the other side of the ridge down a steeper and rougher trail down to the lake.  The lake its self is on the small side but very pretty, with Mount Margaret as the backdrop and pikas whistling all around.  The day was warm, and so was the lake!  We swam around for about 20 minutes before settling down for lunch.  It was so peaceful to have the lake all to ourselves.  What a treat.  I need to hike more on the weekdays! 

 

Tom’s SURPRISE Party!

August 23rd, 2010 by Amy Alphin 3 comments »

 

Tom and I had a wonderful time celebrating his birthday together, but I knew that he would want a party with all of his friends as well.  Several months ago, I contacted pretty much everyone we knew to see who would be interested and available to come to a surprise birthday party for Tom.  I also solicited ideas about where and when we should have the party. We decided on the weekend following his birthday,  and decided to have a big camping party.  In college, camping parties were a staple, and I figured it would be a nice throwback.  So I rallied the troops, roped some folks into helping out, and jumped into party planning mode with both feet.  It was not easy keeping the secret from Tom, and there were MANY logistical details to work out and coordinate, but with lots of help from friends, and some good luck from the weather gods, I was able to pull off the surprise. 

  

 

We ended up camping at Penrose Point State Park, which is south and west from Tacoma.  I reserved three campsites, and got as many people to come as possible.  Folks arrived around 4:00 to start setting up tents, food and of course, booze.  Tom and I arrived a little after 5:00, and everyone was there, waiting at the site, with party hats and noise makers.  He was totally surprised.  It was wonderful! 

 

We spent the evening with our friends, laughing, drinking, and grilling.  There was a dinosaur cake, cheese balls, snacks and many grillables.  There was a whole picnic table for drinks.  There was swimming in the ocean, and staying up late talking around the fire.  I was so glad that everything came together in the end, that so many of our friends were there to celebrate with Tom, and that he was, indeed surprised.  Thank you so much to all of our friends who helped out!  It was great!