Tacoma Rainiers

Just after I landed in Tacoma, my mom and my oldest nephew (Andrew) and I headed to Cheney Stadium to watch the Tacoma Rainiers game with some other family members. My entire family loves baseball. The Mariners were always on the radio in the background of family gatherings and going to Tacoma Rainiers games (the Mariner’s AAA affiliate team) happens quite often.

Tacoma Rainiers, Cheney Stadium

Cheney Stadium got a major renovation in 2011 but I haven’t been back to see a game since they were completed. The place has been way more spruced up than it was the last time I was there! Renovations or not, I always love baseball stadiums. There are very few things in the world as beautiful as a baseball diamond in the sun:

Cheney Stadium

Rainiers Game; Beth and Andrew

We spotted the sign for the “Summit Club” parking and I explained to Andrew what a “summit” is and we decided to take a picture:

Summit club, Andrew and Beth

This is his summit face or so he explained to me:

Andrew at Rainiers Game

We don’t get to hang out very much but I really like being with my nephew. I think the feeling is mutual:

Beth and Andrew

My dad taught me a lot about baseball. Lots of my favorite memories with him were either practicing softball or watching the Mariners and Rainiers. After I moved away, I’d always call him to tell him about my games or about the stadium I was at. Andrew never got to really watch baseball with his Papi so I had so much fun spending a half inning teaching him how to keep score.

Keeping score

Once Andrew had enough of score keeping (although he was a really quick learner!) and wanted to go hang out with his cousins, I got to watch the game with my uncle. Uncle Skip is one of my favorite people to watch baseball with. We got to talk strategy and baseball history for a couple of innings before we headed over to join my mom, Andrew, my aunt, my cousin, his wife, and their two daughters for the rest of the game.

Beth and Uncle Skip

Cheney Stadium

The Rainiers won, I got to hang out with my family, and watch some baseball. We even wrapped up the night by heading over to my grandmother’s house for dinner.It was an awesome way to be welcomed back to Washington!

Beth and Andrew

The (Few) Happy Valentine’s Days

Valentine’s Day.

I honestly have had, in my 29 Valentine’s Days, two, and perhaps a third, that made me feel like this day of love really is okay.

1.

I was about eight. My family went “camping” (we were in our motorhome) at the ocean. I took my pink Minnie Mouse suitcase and packed it with “books and my stuff” but really, I squirreled away the last few heart shaped sugar cookies my mom had made (no one questioned whether I’d actually eaten them all), made Valentines for my mom, my dad, and my sister (I might have even made one for the dog…). I stole some of the Valentines decorations out of my room (yes, our rooms were always decorated for holidays) so I could decorate the motorhome on Valentines day, and not before.

My family was so delighted that I’d taken the time to make them feel special. I still remember my mom and dad just kind of tilting their heads and laughing a bit at the holiday exuberance of their oldest daughter.

2.

I was a sophomore in high school. Neither my friend or I had Valentines but we had planned an evening to watch Bridget Jones’ Diary and eat pizza. I had already established to my friends and family that I hated Valentine’s Day and that it was a stupid holiday designed to make single people feel dumb. (The prior year I’d wore a Maleficent t-shirt to my friends red-pink-and-white party.) We’d both read the books and in our own sixteen year old way, identified with the thirty-something “singleton” Bridget.

That morning, flowers had been delivered to my house from a “Bellarmine freind” (Bellarmine was my high school and, yes, it was spelled “freind.”) We spent a good chunk of our evening speculating who the “freind” was and giggling. Her mom had bought us pizza and had brought us a Papa Murphy’s heart shaped special. We gleefully tore into it with kitchen shears, ripping the heart apart into pieces we felt symbolized our young, tortured, lonely hearts.

When I got back to my house that evening, my parents had Valentines Day gifts for me. I had gotten a small potted rose, but the part that really made my day was the “necklace” of pickle balls on red curling ribbon. (My dad used to spend hours on spring and summer evenings “pitching” to me in the backyard. I was one lucky kid.)

I went to bed that Valentine’s Day feeling lucky to have a friend I could talk to about anything and a family that loved me and was able to poke fun at a holiday that had made me feel sad.

3.

It was my first Valentine’s Day with F. It was my first Valentine’s Day with a boyfriend ever.

He planned a trip for us to a friend’s beach cabin for the weekend. Weeks before Valentines Day I started shopping for a card and couldn’t find anything that I liked. I ended up making The Best Card Ever and having it printed online. It was the front page of Craigslist on the cover and the text of the personal ad that brought us together inside. I think I bought him a book I thought he’d like to go with it but I’m not really sure.

We spent the weekend hanging out in the Northwest winter damp. I didn’t feel the sense of romance I thought I’d feel but it was mostly nice. We’d get the hang of this, I thought.

We never did have an excellent Valentines Day.

 

 

This year, I’ll be out, hiking, alone for Valentines Day.

Beer Tasting: Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.

As my mom and I were headed out of downtown Tacoma we noticed Pacific Brewing & Malting Co., a new brewery on Pacific Avenue. The brewery’s name came from a pre-Prohibition brewery in Tacoma. I looked up their beer list online and learned that they make a “Griswold’s Winter Warmer”…and the description was one of my most favorite quotes from Christmas Vacation:

Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Mom decided since there was a Christmas Vacation inspired name on the menu that we really had to go and check it out. I’m so glad we did! The beer was all pretty darn good and their use of a vintage Tacoma brewing brand and it’s logo was excellent!

Pacific Brewing and Malting Co. logo

I did a tasting tray (which I did feel was a tad expensive at $14 for six tastes) to get a sense of what the brewery was all about

1897 Pale Lager: I was really skeptical about the chances of me liking this beer but I was told that it’s their flagship brew so I had to give it a shot. Surprisingly, I really liked it. The brewery needs to work on getting it on tap at the Rainiers because although I don’t think I’d sit down on a cold winter evening with this, it would be the perfect craft beer accompaniment to a summer baseball game. The original Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. was founded in 1897 which is honored in the name of this beer. Even better than this name, however, are all the vintage advertisements found throughout the tasting room. I found this one in the ladies bathroom pretty much awesome:

Pacific Beer ad

Moon Yard Ale: This amber was pretty solid. I used to really really dig ambers and browns but my tastes have definitely migrated to the hoppy and bitter. (Give me a Cascadian dark any day though!!) I enjoyed this but since the taster made up for being expensive with it’s generous pours this one probably got a little less love than it deserved.

As with all the beers on the menu, its name was derived from something T-town related. Half Moon Yard was the name of the rail yard located along the Thea Foss Waterway just below the brewery’s Pacific Avenue location.

Dirty Skoog IPA: I was a fan of this double IPA. It wasn’t overly bitter but had a good nose and was really drinkable. Besides, who wouldn’t be a fan of an IPA named after a semi-mythological blind pig speakeasy that operated in Tacoma during Prohibition. Someone please open something in Tacoma named The Skoog Saloon. I promise I’ll frequent it every time I’m back in the Northwest.

Donkey Puncher ESB: I am not a huge ESB fan but this was sort of a standout (for its style) on the tasting fleet to me. Deliciousness. I’m going to have a hard time deciding between the Dirty Skoog and the Donkey Puncher on return trips. A “donkey puncher” is another name for a steam powered logging winch (more commonly known as a “steam donkey” around here).

Griswold’s Winter Warmer: Pacific’s winter offering was a hit with both my mom and I. Mom doesn’t much like beer but she’s gaining a taste for “the darker ones.” I only got a few sips of this delicious malty Christmas beer because Suzy Snowflake was getting sort of possessive of Griswold but what I did taste was awesome.

Suzy Snowflake and Griswold's Winter Warmer

Grit City Porter: Compared to the brewery’s other offerings this one was pretty weak. I’m also not a huge porter fan so you probably shouldn’t take my word for it if this is the style that falls into your wheelhouse. It’s name is derived from a loving but slightly self-deprecating nickname for Tacoma—forever the less glamorous sister to Seattle.

I had a blast tasting with my mom and giving her my tasting notes as we went (and trying to steal sips of the winter warmer). I was so enchanted with the history, the naming, and of course the beer I even bought something to represent Grit City in beer loving Colorado. The sweet trucker hat only set me back $10. I totally give Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. status worth a visit…it’s going to get another visit from me sometime for sure.

Pacific Brewing and Malting Co. hat

Gold Mountain: Kitsap County Highpoint

After two and a half straight days of eating, by the end of Christmas I was feeling fairly horrible and just wanted to get out and do something. Since I flew up here, I don’t have a car at my disposal. Never being one to give up on the idea of adventure, I decided to see if my cousin Daniel would be willing to go on a Boxing Day hike with me. He accepted and even agreed to be at my mom’s house at the early (for him) hour of 8:30am.

We had vaguely decided to hike Mount Si, near North Bend, but I did some quick perusing of the NOAA Snow Depth modeling maps and saw they were calling for 4-8″ for most of the hike. Since neither of us were particularly prepared for hiking I quickly started clicking through Peakbagger looking for a Plan B. County highpointing peakbagger that I am, I settled on Kitsap County’s Gold Mountain. At 1,761′, Gold Mountain was a lock for being snow free and away we went.

Winter Washington hiking

One of the issues with last minute plan changes is that it can be hard to navigate while talking to your driver and trying to preview the route all at the same time. We went 2.5 miles down the wrong trail. After already having done a 5 mile hike, I was so pleased that Daniel was willing to stay out in the damp weather to do the hike I’d actually intended for us to do.

Damp Washington hiking

The short steep section through the misty forest was probably my favorite thing of the hike. It was so quintessentially Washington.

Foggy Washington

A good chunk of the hike was actually on old logging roads, passing through clearcuts to a non-view from the summit. Despite the extra mileage and the anticlimactic view it was wonderful to get out and stretch my legs. Perhaps even more fun was hanging out with Daniel. We have a big enough age gap that this was the first time I’ve gotten to hang out one-on-one with adult Dan. It was a blast.

Summit Gold Mountain

After our 12-mile adventure, we were both starving and when we got back to Bremerton started looking for somewhere to grab a good non-fast food meal. We stumbled upon El Balcon, a tiny Mexican-Salvadorian restaurant. We both got their chipotle steak burritos—exactly what we needed!

El Balcon, Bremerton

Christmas In Tacoma

When my mom picked me up from the bus station, we headed over to my grandma’s where we helped her make final preparations for the Christmas Eve festivities. After a flurry of table leaf adding, chair moving, Christmas dish unearthing, and rullepolse eating, Mom and I headed home for a Christmas Eve Eve dinner. I pretty much ate yams and stuffing (known in our house as “dressing” to the confusion of my brother-in-law).

Funny faces with Aunty Beth

Middle Nephew was unsure of what to think of gjetost cheese. His dad basically made this exact face as did Littlest Nephew (but he warmed up more quickly and I didn’t get a photo!).

Not so sure about gjetost

Christmas Eve morning I took over my dad’s “run all over Tacoma and procure all the seafood” duties. I even got to snap a selfie with this massive inflatable crab. What seafood store would be complete without one?

Northern Fish Co. Inflatable crab

At home, Mom had been busy making kringle (which doesn’t seem to bake well at altitude, I failed at an attempt earlier in the month):

Kringle

I had a snack of rullepolse and Norvegia cheese. I’ve always been all about the rullepolse and gjetost but when my brother-in-law suggested this combination I had to try it. Kevin, this is simply the best:

Rullepolse and Norvegia cheese

Nons’ house for Christmas Eve was full of all the fun traditions. There was plenty of Catch Phrase played and Times to Remember (Um. Hasboro, when you bought Milton Bradley, you were supposed to make an updated version of this for my family. How about a 1965-2014 version? Thank you very much. Love, the Rahm-Lakin-Gillis family.)

Christmas Eve game time

Santa made his annual appearance to the delight of all:

Santa time

Will (Littlest Nephew) wasn’t so sure what to make of the big guy with the beard but Santa brought presents so he warmed up pretty quickly.

Unsure about the present giving bearded man

Santa visit 2014, Christmas Eve

And for good measure, a Christmas Eve selfie:

Christmas Eve Selfie

Christmas morning, my sister and Kevin managed to hustle their boys out of the house before 10am. I was impressed. Clearly there had been promises of more presents on the way though, Junior (Middle Nephew) could hardly wait for coffee to be poured before tearing into this pile of presents. I had lots of help opening gifts this year.

Holy pile of presents

Cheese ball

Planes

Christmas presents

Then it was on to Christmas Day festivities with my dad’s side of the family. Uncle Mo, as always, was an entertaining elf with assistance from Izzy and Emily.

Christmas Elf Uncle Mo

After dinner and presents, we had two tables of 500 going on. I chose to be partners with my sister since I figured she’d give me the least hard time for being out of practice on the strategy. I’m not a card game fan but I love this funky euchre/hearts like game.

500

It was so so much fun to see everyone! I’m so lucky to have big extended families on both my mom and my dad’s side that are so supportive and loving. Thank you everyone for an awesome Christmas!

Final Christmas Preparations

The Sunday before Christmas, my mom and I headed out to a large sporting goods store to finish most of her Christmas shopping. She did need to head to downtown Tacoma to pick up a few things at a small toy store there for my nephews so I tagged along again. It just so happened to be across the street from The Matador’s Tacoma location. We shared some awesome el pastor enchiladas and I tried this delicious cucumber jalapeno margarita.

Matador Tacoma

Matador

We made a few more stops in Tacoma (Northern Fish, Metropolitan Market, Ginko Forest Winery and Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.) before I headed over to a friend’s house to catch up while watching the Seahawks game. I even brought appropriate beverages to cheer on another Hawks win:

12th Man Beer

Norwegian Christmas Cookies

It’s become an annual tradition in my family for all available children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to go over to my grandmother’s house the weekend before Christmas to help make Norwegian Christmas cookies. All of the cookies are a lot of work but everyone looks forward to them every year.

My middle nephew was all over helping out this year:

Junior making fattigman

Emily had way too much fun making krumkake with Aunty:

Emily and Aunty making krumkake

Nons and Junior

Will even got in on the fun making krumkake:

Beth, Emily, Junior and Will

I made frystekake and finally tried it warm…holy cow this stuff is good! (How do you go wrong with powdered sugar, butter, and almonds?)

Frystekake

Fattigman

Mom Visits Colorado!

Last week, my mom came to Colorado for a visit. It was awesome to show her around the San Juans and Western Colorado. We spent some time in Ouray marveling at the scenery and catching up:

Ouray Ampitheater

We even spotted some bighorn sheep along Highway 550 between Ridgway and Ouray:

Bighorn Sheep

Then we took Sprocket to Telluride for the day. You’d have thought he rode the gondola all the time!

Sprocket and Beth

Then we headed up to Grand Junction and visited Colorado National Monument. The day was a bit grey bit doing the Rim Rock Drive was fun anyway!

Colorado National Monument

Coke Ovens

Mom at Ute Canyon Overlook

Ute Canyon

Beth at Ute Canyon