Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Tradition Lives On

Out of all the four Seattle Christmases that Janna and I have lived together, this was our most successful year for baking. Between the two of us we made seven different kinds of treats! The most beautiful were Janna’s blue glazed sugar cookies with white snowflakes in the middle of the blue. They looked like something Elsa would have served in her ice palace. And those gingersnaps dipped in white chocolate? Janna took home a “Best Cookie” award at a Christmas cookie party with them. They were delicious! She said that her favorite, (after her true favorite of homemade caramels), were my red velvet cheesecake buttons—a new recipe for me this year. Those were fun and happily not so tedious to make as you’d think, but my favorite were still the “Best Cookie” award winners. The majority never lies. Merry Christmas!

Monday, January 19, 2015

We Gave Thanks

This Thanksgiving break I went to Barcelona. And Venice. It was A M A Z I N G !!! My travel companions were down-to-earth, laid back people, and shared a mutual interest in maximizing each day. The things we saw and experienced together were everything a good imagination could even begin to dream about. I love Europe so much. I loved Barcelona and Venice.

We ate gelato every day minus one. At night. In the freezing rain. And sometimes twice in one day. It more than made up for the Venice pizza topped with chopped hot dogs on Thanksgiving Day.

I also celebrated my 30th Birthday in Spain. Bah! However, feelings of trepidation at entering a third decade of life were swallowed up and forgotten in the excitement of a perfect day in Spain.  I woke up in the morning to delicious aromas - My sweet dad made a full breakfast of meat and potatoes to start the day off right. The biggest surprise was that Jim went out while everyone was asleep in the morning, (at least I was), and bought churros and thick hot chocolate for us. It was especially thoughtful because the previous day Leisha and I finally spotted a churro/hot chocolate cafe after being in Barcelona for two days, but it was a Sunday so we didn't go. We were so excited to return that we took a picture of every crossroad sign so we could find our way back from the metro station a future day. So, Jim couldn't have done a more thoughtful thing. The churros were soft and warm and twice as good dipped in the thick chocolate.

That morning we took a train from Barcelona out to Montserrat, a monastery built in the Spanish mountains, and spent a full day admiring the great cathedral, listening to the Boy's Choir, buying sheep and goat cheeses, and riding the funicular to the mountains above the monastery where we hiked to even higher elevations and saw remnants of ancient monk dwellings. When we returned to our apartment, we got out the maps and our host's written recommendations and left in search of a traditional Catalonian-Spanish restaurant. After walking and walking, we called it a hopeless case and sat down at the first decent looking place we found. It turned out to be the best place we ate during the entire trip! After hiking and climbing all day we were really hungry and ate baskets and baskets of bread until our meal of seared tuna steaks, curries, salmon and soups was served. My parents bought me a rose and everyone sang Happy Birthday to me over a "Grandisimo Chocoloate Cake."

This is my grandisimo cake:

Cliffs of Montserrat.
Here we all are in our first successful selfie attempt.

First successful panorama attempt. With exception of missing part of head.

On our first full day in Barcelona we toured Casa Batll√≥ de Barcelona, an apartment suite designed by Antoni Gaudi during the Art Noveau movement. We also walked on the main tourist street, La Rambla, stopping for a paella lunch, and then onward toward the old Barcelona port which features a huge monument commemorating Christopher Columbus and his first voyage to the Americas.

Later that night, Leisha, Jim and I got to watch some Spanish football history unfold when Lionel Messi scored enough goals to become the all-time top scorer of La Liga, breaking the record that had held since 1955. The stadium was BOOMING with celebration!

During our time in Barcelona we also visited the traditional Gothic Quarter old cathedral, a  historic military fort, Castell de Montijuic, toured Gaudi's famous park and massive La Sagrada Familia Cathedral (portions still under construction), Roman ruins, and shopped and ate good food in between.

Barcelona was in good hands this day.
Riding the gondola back from the fort.
One of  the more poignant marble sculptures seen in the cloisters of the Gothic Cathedral. You can't see in the picture, but the woman has a marble tear on her cheek.

Inside La Sagrada.
 We wouldn't be eating here if the men hadn't been with us...

After four full days in Barcelona we left for Venice, Italy via airplane, touching down around 5:30pm. From Marco Polo Airport took a water taxi over the dark lagoon waters to Fondamente Nove station in the Cannaregio neighborhood of Venice. As we hefted our luggage over a bridge of stairs we crossed the very first canal of the trip. On our left was the Adriatic Sea and to the left was a long and narrow canal with several arched bridges visible in the distance. The air was brisk, and the water softly illuminated by the bridge lamps in the darkness while it lapped against the building walls. Not a person was to be seen outside of our group. It was a magical moment.

I didn't get to take a picture that night, but here are a couple of pictures taken during the subsequent two days:

The Grand Canal, looking out from Rialto Bridge

At the Doge Palace courtyard. The newly elected doge would descend the stairs seen in the back right of the photo to be introduced to the people.

We're on a gondola! And he even sang to us in Italian - I was so glad we did this! ♪ ♫ ♪
HI think two days in Venice was just about the perfect amount of time. The land area is small and most of the sites are grouped close together. We toured St. Mark's Cathedral, went up the clock tower, visited Rialto Bridge and the Jewish Ghetto, took a Doge Palace tour, visited Murano Island for a glass tour, took a gondola ride, the fish market and did a lot of wandering and shopping. Our very last night we had an in-house grand feast with sting-ray and salmon as the main dishes. Happy 2014 Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mount Ranier: Pan Handle Gap

This awesome hike was probably one of the best things I've done yet since moving to Washington. Bears, mountain goats, sweeping views~ I can't even begin to describe how amazing it was. Hopefully you can get at least a glimpse from the following pictures...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summer Sweet

While the globe experienced the hottest July since 1880, the weatherman on my local radio was reporting that only ten days had passed since the beginning of summer when temperatures reached above 70 degrees in Seattle. Blah. And it wasn’t until Labor Day that I experienced my first true sunburn—although I had to hike to a magnificent point of 6750 ft elevation to do such. Two weeks later I’m enjoying a BBQ in the wind and rain at Mukilteo Beach.
But despite Seattle’s somewhat crummy track record for sunny days, I had a pretty awesome summer.

This is me at Lake La Jolla, near Leavenworth. It's frozen. The unexpected snow turned this 10 mile hike into an eight hour adventure. Great company, sunburnt ankles, and beautiful scenery. And a reuben sandwich to top the day off. (^_^)

Here is the Dungeness Crab Spit in Sequim, a 5+ mile long sand bar extending into the Juan De Fuca Strait of the Pacific Ocean. At the very tip of the bar is a light house that we unfortunately didn't make it to because we wanted to catch the ferry before the crazy 4th of July fireworks traffic, (so we were warned).

My friends and I opted out of the Seattle firework show and held our own private showing, complete with blowtorch and mega big Indian reservation explosives - Don't be fooled by the pansy sparklers in hand.

Below is Goat Lake. My companions: 16 year old girls, lots of them! Minus the poor girl who was throwing up nearing the second mile and had to go home, the girls did great! They were much appreciative of my supplies of pringles, chex mix and hi-chews. And after hiking in to find that the guy carrying my dinner had given it to another, I was too.

Late August, my coworker invited me to go for an hour drive and hike up to the Granite Falls ice caves, a short mile hike. Imagine my delight when I saw this:

And this:

And despite warning signs, we saw the following. Everyone at the bottom of the glacier was pretty freaked out for this crazy person's life.

And the bestest hike of the summer, if not the bestest thing I've ever done in Washington, will have to be a stand alone post, as the pictures are amazing and plentiful. Stay tuned...!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beauties of Christmas

After a great Thanksgiving holiday, December proved to be just as wonderful. For starters, Janna and I committed ourselves at the beginning of the month to play a Christmas duet on the harp and violin for church - - and - - we actually did it! Despite shaking hands and sweaty palms, (at least on my part), I think we did a great job. Our next up and coming gig is tentatively planned for the local retirement center. Yee-haw!

We enjoyed a lot more sister time as we continued the Lathen Family tradition of making delicious goodies for our friends and neighbors.

My personal favorite were these cute little cake pops, (stick display made possible by Janna’s woodwork cleverness). The classic chocolate peanut butter balls were a close second.

More Christmas beauties to be posted...