Clouston stuff

catching up…

30 May 2007

Since I was reaching my vacation accrual cap, I took Friday off for a long weekend to see family, since my grandmother came down from Seattle for my mom’s birthday. It was Central Valley hot as usual (yes I like Bay Area weather better!) and the new puppy has discovered how to jump into the pool to retrieve various toys, so that was a lot of the weekend entertainment! My brother & I had a little backroads of West Sac adventure trying to avoid hideous Friday daytime traffic between errands, but miraculously ending up where we wanted to be anyway! Then Saturday as he & I were rushing to the bank before it closed, my tire was completely flat overnight in his driveway! Thank goodness for the portable air compressor for the power tools, since that got us to the bank fine, then we drove along Folsom Blvd finding a tire place that was open. What I thought might be a nail that looked like the tire could just be patched was really just a pebble in the tread, no punctures at all, and it was just a bad valve, so the guy at Goodyear replaced it for FREE! Nice! My mom said “You must have looked really good!” haha…my denim skirt wasn’t that short, and my tank top was demure? Thank goodness the tire went flat on the day places would still be open, since I was the ride to San Francisco for my grandma & her friend on Monday! We celebrated my mom’s birthday on Sunday a day early because Monday was traveling day after the big church Memorial Day picnic. They’d asked me to sing God Bless America, so I obliged including a final high G, which was nice that my grandma got to hear me, since she doesn’t get to hear me sing very often. We left Sacramento around 2:30 and got to Union Square by about 4:45, which wasn’t too bad considering we did have quite a few sections of heavy traffic. I was even able to unpack my car & cool down the house a bit before I had to rush off to choir rehearsal…whew!

I am SO behind vs where I wanted to be for Potter party prep it’s not even funny. My costume is mostly cut out, but not sewn yet. My invitations aren’t ready and they’re supposed to be mailed by next week, so I’d better get a move on! The only spring goal I’ve actually succeeded at so far is two batches of loquat jam, since last spring I missed most of my loquat harvest. I should get at least a third harvest this weekend or next weekend, so at least a couple more batches of jam will be made. I’m learning the limits of pectin the hard way, so I have some jam, some syrup, but at least no hard candy this year! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend!

White Christmas!

27 December 2007

Lo & behold, a white Christmas! My grandma’s house is very close to Puget Sound, so the warmer coastal air very rarely lends itself to snow even though the inland Seattle area might get it more often. We have seen some flurries the 23rd or 26th before, but actual snow on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day has only happened once ever before in my mom’s entire life in the Seattle area, and that was in 1990 when we were all there! We couldn’t believe in the early afternoon on Christmas Day when fluffier blobs started coming down along with the rain, not sticking to the ground until about an hour later. My parents’ new black Lab mix Elsie, only a year-and-a half-old, was wondering what this weird white stuff was coming from the sky & on the ground! I was hearing Jack Skellington’s “What’s This?” song in my head as Elsie sniffed & ran around in the snow. ๐Ÿ˜‰

White Christmas in Woodway, Washington!

We obviously did get here safely, but the RV got stuck in the mud in my grandma’s backyard when we arrived after dark, so the morning of Christmas Eve was spent waiting for the Good Sam winch truck that never arrived, with me helping my dad work with long scrap wood, concrete stepping stones and lots of digging, and we eventually got it out & parked on more stable ground. My grandma kept announcing incredulously that I was the youngest person here for Christmas! ๐Ÿ˜› She would much rather have some young kids around for Christmas, and so would I, but that wasn’t to be this year. We still had a fun family Christmas, especially when the snow arrived. Since she lives in Seattle, my cousin Kristina on my dad’s side came to visit this afternoon with her son Anders who I hadn’t seen since he was a baby and her 7-month old daughter Solveig I hadn’t met yet. What a cutie! No snow here today, not even any rain, but several inches of snow is forecast for tomorrow for Seattle and all along I-5 south through Oregon, let alone the more easterly route over Snoqualmie Pass we are planning on going to stop by Bend, OR to see my mom’s brother & his family on the way back down to California, so we’re staying at my grandma’s house an extra day. The forecast is back to rain by Friday so hopefully that will be safer driving in the giant RV. No, my dad has not allowed me to drive the RV yet, even though I have earned my keep researching in all the documentation for possibilities why the hot water heater wouldn’t work and figuring out the little-did-we-know-how-highly-useful walkie-talkie system that came with the RV, and in ice & snow he is not going to let me drive his new toy anytime soon. That’s fine with me as long as he stays awake driving the whole way! My parents have no schedule except New Years parties, lucky them, but I have to get back to work on Jan 2nd, let alone get back to my kittens!

I hope everyone has been having a nice Christmas!

on the road again

28 December 2007

By the Thursday afternoon my uncle’s family had all caught a cold so we were uninvited to Bend anyway. We picked a good day to drive today though, since rain all day but no snow, and Seattle is scheduled for snow again Saturday & Sunday. My dad is still not letting anyone else drive the RV even though he’s complaining about being the only one driving, and I keep offering to drive! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We’re south of Medford for the night, with wifi included at the RV campsite. My dad still insisted on using his Verizon aircard instead as I easily connected to the wifi & was showing them all Nora the Piano Cat I had just stumbled upon last night. Am I the last person to see Nora? I wonder if my kitties will play piano like that…haha! My mom & I played Scrabble again tonight after a yummy pizza dinner, but she caught up past my early 20 pt lead playing QUAD on a triple word score for 42 pts, and I was stuck with only one vowel each turn thereafter! I caught up so I wasn’t so far behind & was able to play all my letters on my last turn – first time for me ever! – but she only had a G left which was only 2 pts, so she still beat me by less than 10 pts. This is two games in a row we’ve played until 1 letter left, which is shocking for us, but maybe it’s a normal occurrence for more frequent Scrabble players? Since we play one game in a blue moon maybe we just don’t know it happens more often. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tomorrow is hopefully all the way back to Roseville, but we still have to cross the Siskiyous and get past Mt Shasta…wish us no snow please!

happy birthday to me

27 July 2008

My grandmother and I will be cruising the Alaskan coastline in one month! Aug 29th-Sept 5th on the Celebrity Infinity sailing from Seattle, supposedly a very nice ship from at least two personal accounts. She’s gone several times before and said to me “September is no problem…it’s beautiful weather” to which I replied, “Grandma, I remember you said ‘I’ve cruised the Caribbean in October plenty of times and hurricanes are no problem’…and the last cruise I took with you we ended up in Hurricane Roxanne!” haha…

At any rate, as of earlier today the cruise is now booked with an ocean view stateroom with excursions at each port, including a sled dog ride with time for husky puppy cuddling (how cute is that?!?), and a cider brewery & farm on Vancouver Island, among other cool things. I haven’t been that impressed with the cruises I’ve been on before, but the Alaska cruises have sounded different, more for the gorgeous scenery, glaciers & wildlife than the sunbathing & partying of other cruising, especially since my grandma is turning 94 in November, and even though she’s still doing very well, I’m not sure how many more years I will have to travel with her. For those of you who might be saying “traveling with grandma?!?” let me describe to you how she was dancing for her 90th birthday to “Five Foot Two” with her full glass of scotch on the rocks in hand, nary spilling a drop. That’s MY grandma! :)

off to Alaska!

28 August 2008

Tomorrow my grandma & I sail from Seattle to Alaska on the Celebrity Infinity! I fly to Seattle today, I am NOT bringing a computer, and my Treo service will be spotty I’m sure, so unless I break down & pay for some internet cafe time, I won’t be posting until I get back next Friday evening. I am really looking forward to this, not only to get away from everyday drudgery and spend quality time with my fun grandma, but the beautiful scenery and fun excursions!

Here’s the itinerary, with more details if you click…

Celebrity Infinity
Pier 66 Bell Street Terminal, Seattle

Fri, Aug 29, 2008
Seattle, Washington
Depart: 04:00 PM

Sat, Aug 30, 2008
At Sea

Sun, Aug 31, 2008
Sitka, Alaska
Arrive: 10:00 AM
Depart: 06:00 PM
02:00 PM Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest

up the coast

22 December 2008

We had decent weather, drizzle only and reasonable traffic, before dark pulling in to Sutherlin last night, just north of Roseburg, Oregon. The RV park had free wifi & local TV hookup, so after dinner my mom blogged & my dad was watching TV & laptop surfing while I made 3 jars of pickled salmon since we didn’t have time to make it before we left. I was done & cleaned up before 7:30 so my mom & I played Scrabble like last year…but I was way ahead of her the whole game this year, and even with my last letter subtracting 8 points, I still beat her something like 235 to 187. Luck of the tiles, but since I was so far ahead already, I did show her how to lay her same 3 letters for twice the points…haha!

This morning the question was still which way to try to get to Seattle…I-5 through Portland required chains all the way through & had cancelled all flights, but there was even so much snow in Astoria those roads were closed! We have been on the phone with just about every relative up this way…my dad’s cousin in Astoria, my dad’s brother in Newport on the Oregon coast & my mom’s brother-in-law up in Bellevue, WA. After joint road webcam views on cellphone calls & an inside report from the Oregon state police (my uncle has connections) that no chains required over Hwy 20 through Corvalis, we agreed that our best chance is to go up the coast, stay the night in Seaside just south of Astoria, and hope that tomorrow we can get through Astoria up the Washington coast through Seattle up to Edmonds. It’s supposed to be warming up the next couple days, plus the coast should warm up sooner than inland. Hopefully this will work! Since we’re driving through Newport this way, we’re stopping for lunch to see my aunt & uncle, so that will be nice.

I’ve never seen so much snow up here on any of our Christmas trips, which has been the majority of my life…it sure LOOKS like Christmas, that’s for sure!

Somewhere between Corvalis and Newport in Oregon

we made it!

23 December 2008

After pizza lunch with my aunt & uncle, we made it to Seaside in gorgeous weather with ocean views. We camped in a nice place my parents had stayed at last summer, complete with wifi that reached from the clubhouse to our site (yay!), and an inside pool with jacuzzi…I knew I kept my bathing suit in my bag for a reason! My mom didn’t have a suit so my dad & I went over after dinner to soak our weary bones…him from driving, me from sleeping on the RV couch that isn’t helping my recent back issues, even with a chiropractor visit before we left…

Safest & nicest weather all trip up the Oregon coast from Newport to Seaside

Since Lori had commented on Facebook NOT to go to the Pig N Pancake in Seaside, that made my dad’s mouth water for the Pig N Pan in his hometown Astoria! Since we were giving ourselves time for the ice to melt as much as possible, we had a leisurely morning, even finding some holly to decorate the front of the RV, then went straight to the Pig N Pan on the main drag of Astoria, carefully parking the RV. Browsing the menu I saw a seasonal special of fried razor clams with eggs…I haven’t had razor clams in who knows when, probably since before I was in double-digits. There are photos when I was was 3 years old with my arm in the sand up to my shoulder digging for razor clams, then my dad’s mom would fry them and they were tasty! So my mom thought it was disgusting, but my dad had to have some too off my plate, and I had a nice nostalgic moment for brunch. :)

Fried razor clams, eggs & pancakes at the Astoria Pig N Pan!

We had heard while filling up at the Warrenton Costco that people had been making it south from Seattle okay this morning, so we decided to go ahead and take Hwy 30 to Longview, then I-5 up to Seattle & Edmonds, since that would be quicker than up the coast to Olympia. Well, it was beautiful but a little nerve-wracking driving over completely white snow-packed roads…no wonder that highway had been closed just yesterday & before!

Beautiful but dangerous on the way from Astoria to Longview

I-5 from Longview to Seattle wasn’t too bad, just a little icy but mostly clear, so we did make it safely to Woodway just before dark, with a little RV getting stuck issue in my grandma’s yard, but not as bad as last year, thank goodness. My grandma says she has never seen such snow here and she’s been in this house over 40 years. Elsie the black Lab who only saw snow for the first time last year, and only the barest dusting of white then, has had an absolute ball running everywhere, snorting her face in the deep snow, just like she did in the sand pile at my house when she was a tiny puppy. She kept wanting to go outside to play again tonight when Tule the older Lab was preferring to stay inside where it was warm. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Unfortunately after running around in the snow helping my dad get the RV unstuck, my nose has started dripping & my throat is sore, so I guess my hopefully second Christmas in a row without being sick might not happen. I’ve already snorted some Zicam and will be turning in soon, uncharacteristically early, so hopefully tomorrow I can enjoy my Christmas Eve!

catching up on Christmas

26 December 2008

Christmas Eve morning we woke up to even more snow, which was great fun for Elsie, especially visiting the horse when he’d venture out of the barn, but required us to dig out the driveway enough so my dad could drive to get some last-minute groceries, let alone for our relatives to arrive later for dinner & presents. The driveway is probably 150ft long up a hill, and the snow was about 8″ deep, so with a little help from my mom, my dad & I spent about an hour shoveling two tracks for tires, then more on the flat by the carport for turnaround and parking for more vehicles later. After my dad tested by getting the van down the hill in the tracks, I was already so overheated I was shoveling in my t-shirt & still sweating, but I kept going for another hour thinking that it would be better if it was clearer where everyone needed to park. I was also hoping the exertion might sweat my cold out of me, but my nose just kept dripping! At least it was a valiant pre-emptive attack against dinner calories, right?

Shoveling snow in Woodway, WA

Christmas Eve Wedgie Revenge!

almost home…

28 December 2008

Saturday was a frustrating day. We wanted to get going by 9am, so when I woke up hearing movement in the kitchen, I jumped up, took the sheets off my bed & started packing, but my mom was on the phone with Good Sam requesting a tech to come out. This RV has had constant problems with the levelers, and they had worked on the drive up, but now 3 came up but one was stuck down, and we can’t drive with a leveler down. My dad learned on their last trip how to crank it up by hand, but it takes about an hour underneath in the mud, so he decided to use the service they’ve already paid for & wait for the tech to arrive. 3 hours later, the tech still wasn’t there, Good Sam tracked him down, and another 2 hrs he showed up, then needed to leave to buy the right tool…so finally after 3pm we finally left Woodway! Sheesh!

Hired help doing the dirty work handcranking the last leveler up so we can finally get on the road!

At least while we were waiting so long already packed, I said we didn’t have a photo with Grandma, so here we are…

Grandma & Britta in Woodway, with the dogs trying to squeeze in the photo

It’s not very safe driving with risk of ice overnight, so with a break for a quick dinner out at BJ’s Brewery for Dad & me since he needed a driving break, we only made it to Woodburn south of Portland, where I beat Mom again at Scrabble, and without levelers and such wind & rain overnight I had trouble getting to sleep and felt a bit seasick! We got going on the road again before 9:30am so made it to Medford by lunchtime when we ate in the RV after filling up at Costco, then over the still-snowy Siskiyou Summit in fairly clear weather. Oddly enough the coldest weather & only snow falling was all the way south of Dunsmuir near Mt Shasta, but the roads were still clear. We made it to Redding by 5pm, free wifi again, Mom finally beat me at Scrabble (I’m still ahead 2 of 3 games though!), and my mom & I watched the Sound of Music on TV while my dad realized he’d never paid attention to the movie before, but still gave up only halfway through watching. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Still plenty chilly south of Dunsmuir by Mt Shasta

Tomorrow we should get to Sacramento sometime in the afternoon, then it’s presents & dinner with my brother before I can drive to my house, so I’m not sure if I’ll make it back the same night or sometime on Tuesday…I will be glad to see my kitties again & sleep in my own bed!

fondly remembering this week last year…Alaska 2008!

4 September 2009

My grandmother & I had a fantastic time on our cruise from Seattle to Alaska last year, but when I got home I walked in the door to my freshly-printed proof copy of Eerie Elegance, so I never got the chance to blog the trip…bad Britta! However I did work hard on this Shutterfly photobook for Grandma for Christmas, and she loves having it & showing it to people. I admit I also showed my copy to anyone who would sit still long enough! Since Shutterfly has more advanced sharing options now, you’ll probably have to click the “view larger” link to read the captions, but here’s my trip to Alaska…Enjoy!

Click here to view this photo book larger

fun with Grandma!

18 September 2009

Grandma last saw my house in June 2006, when nothing yet had been done except some minor repairs, some paint & some decorating. She’s been seeing photos all spring of the kitchen remodel & other projects, so on her way to a wedding in Santa Rosa, she asked to come stay with me…hooray! This is the first time Grandma has visited me without other family around, so it was fun to have time to ourselves, like the Alaska cruise last year. :)

She stayed with my cousin in Menlo Park the first couple days, so my cousin brought her to my house the day after Labor Day so she could see my house too. My cousin was impressed, and she’s difficult to impress, with much more expensive tastes than me! :) After she left, we finally got dinner started, with fresh sourdough bread, caprese-inspired heirloom tomato, feta & balsamic vinegar salad from my garden, and a new recipe I’d found for Bermuda Onion Marmalade, saying it went well with chicken or pork, so I had chicken breasts for us. Grandma was excited to see my experiment, so she was very interested in the recipe, and she helped stir while I got out other ingredients. Since it was an experiment & only a recipe for the marmalade, next time I would add the raw chicken in earlier, since some of the onions got extra carmelized, but it was so tasty Grandma requested the recipe! She’s complaining about slowing down, but I want to be that healthy & active when I’m 95! That’s Johnnie Walker Red Label scotch with water on the rocks as her favorite evening cocktail… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Grandma eating chicken with bermuda onion marmalade and fresh sourdough bread, all made in my new kitchen! :)

The next morning we both slept in – hey, I was on vacation myself! – had a late & leisurely waffle brunch, then met Cyd at the Savannah-Chanelle winery in the Saratoga hills for free wine tasting since Cyd is a member. All 3 of us bought the 4-pack special of the 2006 Pinot Noir & the Pinot Noir Rose we tasted, so combined together we got the case discount too! I had thought we’d just go back down through Saratoga, but it was such a beautiful day & Grandma was enjoying the breeze in her hair in the Briata, so we decided to continue over the Santa Cruz Mountains to see the ocean! Grandma lives on the Pacific herself so it’s not that exotic, but Puget Sound is a lot different than the California coast. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In the Santa Cruz Mountains in the Briata after wine tasting at Savannah-Chanelle, heading for the ocean!

It was nearing 4pm when we drove through Santa Cruz, with a ton of rush hour traffic already starting, so we took Hwy 1 up just far enough to see some coast with some crops growing right up to the cliffs & pretty clear blue ocean. I knew there were some cool cliffs with craggy trees at Davenport, so we parked there, walked about 10 ft for the best view, then it was so windy we got back in the car & headed back. I used my GPS on my new iPhone to find a route to cut through the mountains back to Hwy 9, which took us down Big Basin canyon & up again, but was a very nice drive, and much better than just sitting in Santa Cruz traffic!

At Davenport on Hwy 1…gorgeous day!

We took it easy before dinner, Grandma enjoyed the sunny patio with her Johnnie Walker Red, then we went to Left Bank in Santana Row since I’d never been there & wanted to try it. We each had a different savory tart & shared the cheese plate, which was perfect portions for both of us. We had just enough time after dinner to check out Z Gallerie & Sur La Table before they closed, then I hooked up my laptop to my backyard projector & showed Grandma all the Eerie Elegance podcasts from last year up through current…she was impressed! It was funny to see them so huge…8 ft wide! Talk about extreme zoom for the eyeball painting! haha…

After-dinner entertainment…showing Grandma my Eerie Elegance podcasts at Cinema Brittahytta

Thursday morning I set Grandma’s hair after leftover waffles, then we got on the road for Santa Rosa by around 1pm & got to the hotel just before 3pm. No top-down this time since freeway driving would have messed up her freshly-done hair! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We checked in & got in contact with her friends, then it was a big party on the deck outside Jonelle’s & Grandma’s room at first with Savannah-Chanelle wine, scotch, some of my sourdough bread, my homegrown grapes, smoked salmon from Alaska & other munchies from others, but then the bride’s parents had bought BBQ & wanted the whole Dontos clan to come over, and their house was about 5 minutes from the hotel. Since there was no point in even trying to get through Bay Area rush hour traffic by leaving Santa Rosa that early, I went with them too, driving Grandma with me, close enough & slow enough we had the top-down for those few minutes, and that was a hit with everyone to see us with the top down…haha! We all went back to the hotel by about 9pm, when Grandma said “It’s too early to go to sleep!” so it was back on the deck awhile longer chatting again. They were strongly twisting my arm to stay the whole weekend with them for the wedding & everything, and they are a fun bunch, but I declined & got home with no traffic around 11:15pm…whew!

Incidentally, all these photos were taken with my iPhone 3GS, which sadly has no flash, but has a camera with almost as high megapixels as my trusty Nikon Coolpix 995 from 2002! The top-down photo was when we were on the side of the road when we had to take a cellphone call, NOT while I was driving of course! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Grandma said she had a really great time & I told her I did too! Maybe we can make this an annual event? :)

Road Trip with Grandma – July 2011

22 November 2011

Back in July, I flew up to Seattle for a short road trip with Grandma, through Snoqualmie, Roslyn, Yakima, Selah, Toppenish, Maryhill, Bend to see my uncle Monte and his family, Timberline Lodge at Mt Hood, and Skamania Lodge on the Columbia River Gorge, with an extra bonus that my Peterson cousins were able to visit before I left! We had a great time, and I’ve created another photo book like I did for our Alaska cruise so she & I can both have copies. :)

Click here to view this photo book larger

Create your own custom photo books at

(If the widget breaks, here’s the link for the album: )

Seattle to Salem

15 August 2012

Sunset over the Sound at Sea-Tac

After a crazy two weeks of non-stop special events including a lot of edible art painstakingly created by yours truly, I flew to Seattle for another road trip with Grandma! Quite a lovely sunset over the sound to greet me as the plane landed…and after I arrived at 10pm, Grandma & I chatted over her favorite Scotch & water until midnight! I knew there was a reason I planned not to start the road trip until lunchtime. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lovely summer garden at Woodway



I can’t believe how hot it is up here! As we were leisurely getting our acts together to leave, she turned on her fountain to help give her gorgeous plants a good drink, since it’s supposed to be even hotter later in the week! After a trip to the post office and fillup at Costco, we were finally on I-5 south by 1:15pm.


Orange Spaceneedle?


We hit traffic through Seattle, letting me take a quick photo of the Spaceneedle as we were totally stopped…anyone know why the roof is now bright orange? I’ve never seen that before? We hit more traffic through Portland when I handed the camera to Grandma to try to get some photos there. I’ve still never stopped in Portland…maybe next time?
Historic Elsinore TheatreWe made it the 235 miles to Salem in almost exactly 4 hours, and as soon as we got settled in our room at the Grand Hotel, Grandma pulled out the Scotch she brought for a teeny tipple for each of us. We were only a Original Elsinore Theatre Photo in the Grand Hotel Lobbycouple blocks from the river, but when we found a corner map, it was only a park & carousel on the riverbank, no restaurants advertised anywhere. We did see an historic theatre only about one block the other way, so we found it, and the state capitol was down the street around the corner, so we saw that from a distance. That was the second state capitol in the same day, since I saw the Olympia dome through the trees while we were driving!

Grandma by the historic bank in Salem


I was still hoping we could slowly make it the couple blocks to the river, but holy moly it was hot in the evening sun! We decided to turn back at the next corner, and on the way we were rewarded with musical kitties stained glass, a fabulous old bank now marred by the modern neon sign of the current occupant…

Cutest City Castle Ever


…and the cutest city “castle” ever! Copper verdigris tower roof, variegated stone, I love it all! Grandma sat in the shade on her walker seat while I ran across & down the street to get a better photo, just barely between rush hour cars and a big cherry picker that would have ruined my shot the very next second! It was built in 1892 and is now Earl’s Antiques since 1977, but I need to research this building & find out how the heck it was built that way, squished so tightly between other buildings! That tower with the curving roof around it is fabulous!

Britta playing a Salem Street PianoEven though we were both fading from the heat, if we had never taken our stroll, we would never have happened across this “Play Me I’m Yours” street piano right behind our hotel! Grandma wanted me to play & sing, so I tried, but I was completely thrown by the middle G being completely dead and others so badly out of tune, so I didn’t get very far in any of the pieces I tried..but Grandma still loved it. Since we never found any other better restaurants on our stroll, we ended up at the restaurant in the hotel for decent food. We had their Tuesday Tinis $5 drink specials and shared the creme brulee that came with my dinner special…yum!

Click to view the full photo gallery below, and tomorrow we arrive in Bend…where Grandma has requested to watch a movie in their home theatre AND she wants s’mores! Good thing I brought some leftover Door S’mores & Alien S’mores, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰


Salem to Bend

15 August 2012

Inside the Cutest City CastleI slept well, got up about 9:15am, then woke Grandma up just in the nick of time to make it to our free hot breakfast before they closed at 10am. There was only enough batter left for one-fourth of a waffle, but I didn’t need a whole one anyway, and Grandma enjoyed biscuits & gravy. We checked out on time, then made it to the castle antique store by 11:15am. What a fantastic place, and articles about the history were just outside the doors, so I took photos to have all the text for reference. It has mostly been a bank, and the heavy vault door with wheel handle is even still there inside, Another cool antique hat for my collection!but there are supposed to be no photos allowed, even though I sneaked some anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If I could drive all the way home, I might have bought more & bigger cool stuff, but I restrained myself – even from the aqua velvet photo album! – and only bought an antique Stetson derby hat that fit me perfectly, talked down from $150 to $100 cash. Grandma spotted an opal ring that totally matches the necklace she gave me that I wear constantly, plus fits my pinky finger perfectly, so she said that will be my Christmas present. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We had fun chatting with the lady employee, who was so pleased we were excited to see all the cool stuff in the shop. Stupid me forgot to take a closer photo of the outside front for details! I thought I would take it afterwards when I had more time, but by then we were running later than we thought, plus I had completely forgotten because of how much we both enjoyed ourselves AND my cool new hat! Ah well…

Britta & Grandma at Detroit Lake in Willamette National ForestWe left Salem with Dairy Queen dipped cones in hand about 12:15, and drove east through Willamette National Forest, along Detroit Lake & Dam, and Deschutes National Forest with Suttle Lake. Very pretty drive, only marred in places by smoke haze from all the fires to the north, then later the poor scarred hillsides & skeleton trees from the fire here last year. Lucky planning that the road trip last year missed those fires, and that this year missed the other fires! I realized I didn’t have any photos of Grandma & me together from the first day, so I set up the timer on the Britta & Grandma at Suttle Lake in Deschutes National Foresthood of the van to get one at a turnout by Detroit Lake, even getting out my polarizing filter to attempt to combat the haze. It was so hot outside, even always-chilled Grandma was very glad for the air conditioning during the drive! She let me take one more photo at Suttle Lake which turned out great, but after that, she refused to get out for any more photos since it was just too hot! However, she was a good sport taking out the window photos for me since I was driving . :)

Grandma & Monte in the front row with meWe made it to Bend at 3pm exactly, right at the outside of our estimate, so that was great! We chatted all afternoon with my uncle & his family, had a nice homecooked dinner and blackberry cobbler, then Grandma wanted to watch a movie in their fancy home theatre with reclining seats, so after many suggestions & scrolling through on-demand listings, we settled on Secretariat, which everyone enjoyed, especially Grandma. Great choice! Hopefully the s’mores will be tomorrow night before we leave! :)

Full photo gallery below, and an unscheduled family day to enjoy tomorrow!


Family Day in Bend

16 August 2012

Cloustons in one of Monte's new housesI was thankful we didn’t have a busy day planned, since I was able to sleep in, even though work called me before 10am. About noon we all went to see Monte’s new houses he has been building for sale. Cute little houses with good floor plans but on tiny lots, and they are all more square Some of Monte's Housesfootage for a third or less price than mine! *sigh* The market is picking up though, since he has already sold several and expects that his pricing will bring in more buyers, so that’s great.

We came back to the house and had an easy afternoon chatting. Grandma wanted to sit outside, so we tried for awhile, but it was just too darn hot an a bit muggy, so we moved back inside. I was joking that she has become a lizard & needs to sit on a hot rock in the sunshine now! ๐Ÿ˜‰ The haze from the fires up north was even worse today, even making the sunlight orange and we could feel & smell the smoke. I was very glad for the air conditioning inside!

I got to ride with new driver Josh in his new Jeep while Monte drove the others, so we had a nice chat and I played him some Movits (Swedish hip-hop swing jazz music) from my iPhone on the way to dinner and back. We ate at a Mexican seafood place called Baltazar, I had a very tasty mixed seafood burrito, and the Cadillac margarita was tasty! I guess I had Margarita Thursday since I’m missing Margarita Friday this week! ๐Ÿ˜‰

We got back with plenty of time to make some s’mores outside with the firepit, and I laughed so hard at the photos! Even Grandma & Brenda had marshmallow all over, and Josh made a fantastic effort but Alex won the longest marshmallow string…haha! They had their choice of Door S’mores or Alien S’mores homemade graham crackers with Hershey’s chocolate I had brought with me. Grandma says her Scotch goes very well with s’mores! ๐Ÿ˜‰

S'mores Outdoors Josh's Marshmallow String...pretty long! S'mores & Scotch: a new taste sensation! ;) Josh's Alien S'more Alex Monster & his Mom Fantastic S'more Face! Go Brenda! Alex bests his big brother with the longest marshmallow string ever!

Dr Horrible must be shown!I had mentioned Dr Horrible earlier in the day and realized they hadn’t seen it, so as the “adults” went to bed, the boys & I went up to the theatre room again, where we found Batman Maybe on YouTube (they loved it but careful since it’s full of spoilers if you haven’t seen Dark Knight Rises yet!), then we found Dr Horrible on Netflix. They aren’t the rabid fans I am, but they did enjoy it, so a worthy evening, and early enough that I think I can get up earlier so driving to Crater Lake won’t be so late in the day. Here’s hoping! :)

Full photo gallery below, and we’re on our way to Crater Lake & Klamath Falls tomorrow!



Crater Lake

17 August 2012

My first view of Crater Lake!We got up in time to leave Monte’s house by 10:15am, found gas on the way out of town, which always takes longer since Oregon doesn’t let you pump your own gas, then we made it all the way to Crater Lake by 1:15pm, even them waving us through for free when Grandma couldn’t find her lifetime national parks pass in her purse. The first view of the actual lake was up a sandy hill, but for Grandma & me to get up to the edge was Grandma & Britta at the Crater Lake Lodgegreat, since we might have gotten the best photo of the day! There were still patches of snow in spots, so Grandma tried some out the window shots for me. It was much too curvy with no guardrail and a steep dropoff on Grandma’s side, and she is terrified of heights, so I drove over the center line as many times as I could to make her more comfortable.

Britta & Grandma having lunch at Crater Lake LodgeWe got to the lodge, having to wait for someone to leave for a handicap spot to open up – yes it was that busy today! – then it was a 25 minute wait for lunch. Grandma sat on the balcony & chatted to some people while I walked around taking photos of Wizard Island and the big patch of snow on the beach below. When we saw that the trolley drive around the lake was 2 hours and there were so many people around, we decided to make our own drive, seeing how much time it took & maybe take the south road out. Lunch was tasty enough, and I set up my little tripod on the water table by us to get a photo.

Crater Lake in the smoky haze with snowThe haze from all the wildfires was so heavy that the sky wasn’t even blue, and only at the beach edge closest to me could I see what the blue lake might look like on a better day. Even my polarizing filter didn’t help much, and the haze washed out most of the colors looking west & south and especially as the afternoon darkened by the minute, but I still took a lot of photos!

The Phantom Ship - spooky in the smoky hazeI wanted at least to see the Phantom Ship lava plug formation, which was another third around the lake, but it didn’t take nearly as long to drive there as expected, so we ended up driving all the way around the lake, plus overlapped to where we didn’t stop on the way to lunch, like the Watchman Trail point. I’m glad we took photos when we first arrived, since even the same spot 3 hours later was so thick with haze that it looked like the lighting during the solar eclipse a few months ago! *sigh* Looking west we couldn’t even see the lake let alone across like the sign described…I was as disappointed as my Norway in a Nutshell trip when I couldn’t even see across the skinniest Naerofjord sailing down the middle because of the rain & mist.

Lake? What lake?!?At least we saw what we could see, and Grandma has been to Crater Lake twice before, but only from the south entrance, and never all the way around the entire lake, so she really enjoyed herself. She sat in the van for most of my photo stops but she got out for the Phantom Ship, and she could see a lot staying inside the van. We saw the trolley stop at Phantom Ship, and we saw it completely pass one of the good stops I made, so we decided not only did we save $25 each, but we didn’t have to cram in with other people, we chose our own stops & pace, and we had control over our own air conditioning, which was definitely needed today again!

The Pumice Desert north of Crater LakeBy 4:45pm we were back on the north road out the way we came back to 97 South to Klamath Falls, through the Pumice Desert and more trees, much hazier than earlier. At the junction I pulled into a parking lot to get out the hotel directions, and since I finally had cellphone signal again, we were able to convince the Inn at Cape Kiwanda to let us stay only Saturday night since they require a 2-night minimum usually. It will be the most expensive place we stay the whole trip, but Monte highly recommended it, and it’s across from famous Haystack Rock with a good restaurant across the street, so hopefully we can have a nice beach sunset dinner tomorrow.

Klamath Lake? What lake?!?About 6pm as I was watching my iPhone GPS I said “We should be able to see Klamath Lake soon immediately on our right” and if I hadn’t known to look we never would have realized there was a lake! It was like the entire sky off the road had been erased. It was already looking like sunset 2 hours early. I had Grandma take a photo looking Sunset 2 hours early over Klamath Lakeback and she caught the sun trying to shine through all the smoky haze. We had to drive around the horn of Klamath Lake through town to get to our hotel, and then as I left Grandma in the cool van while I checked in, I got 3 mosquito bites on my face…yuck! That plus the muggiest weather we’ve had yet was the last straw to my disappointing day, so I gladly got ice for the scotch Grandma wanted before dinner and enjoyed one with her.

Dinner was just ok but cheap at the convenience restaurant in the hotel, but they had no desserts and Grandma spotted a mosquito, then I swatted another mosquito in our room! This might be a long night! Hope tomorrow will be a better day since it’s about 6 hours to get over to Pacific City on the coast. Full photo gallery below as always…and now that I’ve seen them on computer and edited a bit, there are at least a few decent ones of Crater Lake that might almost be acceptable to frame… :)


Klamath Falls to the Oregon Coast

18 August 2012

Klamath LakeEven after paying for breakfast at the convenience restaurant, who were behind because of a fire in the kitchen, we were checked out & on the road from Klamath Falls just after 11am, finally able to see Klamath Lake, the largest lake in the Pacific Northwest, and some blue skies with clouds, so I took some photos quick! As I was out of the car, a swarm of mosquitos landed on the windshield and we shooed a couple out…we were glad to get out of this area! We made it to Medford in an hour, found the Costco on the main drag to fill up, hit one rest stop about 3pm, then on I-5 until 4pm when we turned off for Corvallis. We drove past an A&W so since Grandma was craving ice cream for her midafternoon snack, I had a root beer float & she had a milkshake…hit the spot!

Driving west towards the coastThe haze increased as the afternoon descended, so all white skies again, and after we turned west, it was coastal clouds turning the sky white instead of smoke. We were still making good time until we got stuck behind a trailer for awhile on the curvy part of OR-22, then he finally pulled out for our long line of cars to pass him, and on OR-130 we crossed 4 single-lane bridges until we finally came out onto Hwy 101 for a tiny bit, then found Pacific City. Of course as soon as we got to the coast at 6pm, the sky was spitting on our windshield, to be expected for summer in Oregon, even though I had been hopeful, especially with this heat spell in the rest of the state. We found the Inn at Cape Kiwanda at the end right by the beach access, and I barely got one phone photo of hazy Haystack Rock before parking the car properly, then when I got back to the room after filling ice for Grandma, the rock was nowhere to be seen, let alone water!

I was glad for my light raincoat since it was actually drizzling as we walked across the street for dinner at Pelican Brewery. It was an hour wait for dinner, and the bar was totally full, but lucky us 2 guys were leaving just as we were deciding what to do next! Our bartender was on the ball, overhearing our menu choices before we told him, and the food was great. Grandma has a seafood quesadilla starter that was just the right size for her to eat the whole thing, and I had delicious linguini with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes & local clams…not razor clams though, so I think I might have to hit Pig N Pan tomorrow in Astoria for my fix! ๐Ÿ˜‰


By the time we finished dinner, some haze was clearing to show Haystack Rock again, not clear enough to show a sunset, but I can hope for a morning view. We had another scotch when we got back to our room, so I took some pix while I had the view. Here you can compare the before-dinner vs. after-dinner views from our balcony:

Before dinner room view After dinner room view

Full photo gallery below…Hopefully we’ll get at least a little break in the weather on our drive up the coast to Astoria tomorrow, since I hate the rain, and even though it is cooler, it doesn’t feel like summer let alone vacation to me. Obviously I’m a California girl even though I wasn’t born there! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Up the Oregon Coast

19 August 2012

No blue skies this morning, but at least we could see Haystack Rock! I didn’t realize we were that far south of Cannon Beach and there are two Oregon Haystack Rocks, so this is the junior version. I figured out a wacky setup using my bendy tripod on the back of a padded chair set on the coffeetable to get a good photo of us on our hotel balcony with the view behind us…hooray! As we pulled out of the parking lot, there were two black & brown bunnies hanging out, and I just barely caught a photo of them out the window before they hopped away.

Western Oregon CowsThis was the most expensive hotel yet but no breakfast with only a coffee shop downstairs. I was starving but Grandma claimed she wasn’t hungry yet, so she wanted to find somewhere to eat along the way. I scarfed a couple leftover Brownie Briquettes to tide me over, but I was still getting a low blood sugar headache since it was about 14 Cute Wine Glass Pedestalhours since we had eaten dinner. Hwy 101 is inland for awhile, so we saw a lot of cows, and some blue sky really trying hard to peek through, so I was hopeful for more views when we got back to the coast.

We didn’t find anywhere to eat until downtown Tillamook, where I spotted a sign on the street advertising Eggs Benedict, so we pulled right over, just minutes before they stopped serving brunch at noon. The Rendezvous Restaurant is a tiny hole in the wall, but Grandma was impressed how clean it was, they made the hash browns crispy all the way through, and they gave me a half order of Eggs Benedict, a perfect portion size. I thought the upside-down wine glass as candle pedestal was cute. :) About an hour after lunch, I found another splurge…there were signs for a winery farther north, and I was sad we had driven past so many Willamette Valley wineries the day before with no time to stop, so since today we had time, Grandma said sure. She only tasted a couple, but they had FRUIT wines – real fruit wines! When I said I’d have trouble deciding since I have to fly home, she said they’re offering free shipping, so I splurged on all 6 of their fruit wines to share with friends back home. The cranberry & peach were Rieslings re-fermented with juice, but the plum, blackberry, green concord, and red concord were all truly fermented from the actual fruit…and were VERY tasty! Too sweet for Grandma, but I won’t be sharing them with her. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Impressive rock wall supporting Hwy 101 through Neahkanie MountainNorth of Tillamook is where the coastal views are spectacular along the Pacific Coast Highway, and the blue skies kept trying hard to peek out when they could, so I stopped at almost every turnout for photos while Grandma sat in the car enjoying the view without walking. The last time I had been on this stretch in summer was 1997, pre-digital camera with no exposure Northern Oregon Coast View with Wildflowersoptions or fill-in flash, so I grabbed as many snaps as I could, some perhaps worthy of framing for my travel gallery wall back home. There were also information signs that were not there in 1997, so I learned that the drive-through Neahkahnie Mountain was completely impassable without a dangerous climb until Hwy 101 was built, and it is still an impressive rock wall supporting the road. I also learned there is a lighthouse called Terrible Tilly so far out even my camera digital zoom can’t do it justice. It was replaced with a marker in 1957 but the trouble it took to build that all the way out there, plus staffing and maintaining it was quite a feat.

The Local Grill & Scoop in Cannon BeachI mentioned two Haystack Rocks, and the most famous one, featured in The Goonies movie, is at Cannon Beach, so we took the turnoff to see if I could get a photo. Grandma also thought it was time for an afternoon snack, so we were also in search of ice cream. What a busy Sunday at the beach town! We drove very carefully around town a bit, finding the beach but of course no parking, found a Haystack Rock at Cannon Beachshop with a loading zone open for me to run in to buy us excellent ice cream cones, then I got the idea to try the national park turnoff I saw to the north. The park was a fee entrance, but there was a street nearby with a turnaround by some beach homes…voila! Grandma stayed in the van eating her ice cream while I hiked over the grassy hill to the beach and got some photos of the real Haystack Rock, still no blue skies, but at least a view. I didn’t go all the way to the water since it would take too long, plus then I would have wet sandy feet for the rest of the drive! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hotel Elliott LobbyWe found the Warrenton Costco just south of Astoria exactly when the gas light turned out…seriously, we were sitting in the gas line when I heard the sign & saw the light go on…haha! It was only 4pm and I had seen a billboard for the Oregon Film Museum in Astoria, but Grandma decided we should shop for groceries instead, so we didn’t get to our hotel until 5pm, also too late for the street fair that was already packing up. C’est la vie! This hotel is quite nice Our Suite at the Hotel Elliottbut not cheap. The only online reservation I could get was a single queen bed, so we asked if there was any way we could have two beds.They had the last double suite available for $80 more, putting this almost as expensive as last-night’s hotel, but Grandma thought it was worth it. What a fancy place! Around the corner from the old Liberty Theatre (where we saw Empire Strikes Back in 1980), remodeled but with vintage art deco flavor, nicely decorated with wetbar & fireplace, we have separate rooms each with a TV, and our suite looks out onto Grandma Peterson’s church, Peace Lutheran!

Peterson HouseI didn’t let Grandma have any scotch yet since I had an agenda in our short time here in Astoria. I wanted to drive past the old Peterson house to see how it was doing, eat fried razor clams at the Pig N Pan, plus find any buildings I remembered, Razor Clams at the Pig N Pan - yum!maybe go up to the Astoria Column, and be back in time for sunset on the hotel rooftop balcony, when we would enjoy our scotch. I found the house easily enough, then we continued down the south hillside of Astoria and around the horn again to the Pig N Pan for an early dinner. Yummy fried razor clams, but I do think Grandma Peterson’s were better! ๐Ÿ˜‰

We followed the signs up to the Astoria Column but it was closed for some special event. They were taking busloads of people up who wanted to see it, but we only wanted to drive up there since we’ve both been there before many many years ago. Too bad since the view should have been nice at least. My next mission was John John Jacob Astor SchoolJacob Astor School, which I found on my phone map on the other side of town. I had never driven on Irving Street before, and it’s mostly trees so that was nice to see. We found the school, no I still haven’t seen Kindergarten Cop, but I know it was filmed here. :) Since we were on that end of Astoria, I thought of trying to find the Goonies house, especially since my Grandpa Peterson’s childhood home was down the street, but no luck. When I looked it up Gorgeous Victorian Flavel Houseonline tonight, I literally was only one block away…argh! I did find other cute houses though, and the most vivid royal blue & purple hydrangeas I have ever seen. I want my hydrangeas to be that color!

I knew the most gorgeous Victorian house in Astoria, the Flavel House, was near our hotel, but I had forgotten the courthouse and jail were across the street! The jail is now the Oregon Film Museum of course, with an old Jail & Courthouseblocky black Jeep parked out front, just like the bad guys drove in the Goonies! Hahaha! Great idea for a building that had been idle for my entire lifetime, and I wish we had time to peek inside. I don’t ever remember going inside the courthouse, but Grandma Peterson worked there as far back as I remember until she retired, and one of my living room chairs is an old wooden carved jury chair from when they were being discarded.

That was the end of our Astoria tour, perfectly on time to ask for ice from the front desk, get upstairs to pour ourselves truly teeny tipples of scotch & water because the room glasses were so small, and head to the roof Scotch at sunset on the roof of Hotel Elliottfor our sunset. We couldn’t sit by the firepit since a guy was smoking a cigar, but we found a sheltered spot out of the breeze and enjoyed the view, even with the “bandaids” on the bridge from construction. Lovely sunset, so at least I got one good view from the past three days! :)

Tomorrow we head back to Seattle on a schedule, but we’ll drive up 101 over the Astoria Bridge since I have never driven that way myself. It’s been a good trip, but after driving well over 1000 miles since Tuesday, I am ready not to be driving for awhile! Full photo gallery is below, as always…enjoy!


From Astoria to Seattle

20 August 2012

Prune tart for breakfast!We had to get up early for the free continental breakfast, and I didn’t sleep well at all with too much morning light, but I was overjoyed to find the last prune tart among the pastries! These are my dad’s favorites, and I tried making them for Christmas a few years ago using my Grandma Peterson’s recipe using bourbon-butter-heavy cream puff pastry that is LOTS of work. Mine tasted just like hers, and better than this one for breakfast, but mine did not want to stay closed in the cute pinwheel shape. I’m sure Grandma’s favorite part about this breakfast was that our table partners guess she might be in her 80s…haha! The bright colors today definitely made her sparkle!

Goonies house view - attempting to duplicate the movie without a crane cameraI still can’t believe I was only one block away from the Goonies house the night before, but the morning was a better view anyway instead of looking into the evening sun. Sure it’s fun to see the Goonies house, but my grandfather’s childhood home is just down the street, even barely visible in the movie, so I wanted to take good photos of it…but I still don’t know which one it is! So I took lots of photos up & down both streets from the corner, and my dad will have to tell me later. :)

Britta & Grandma at the Astoria Column


It was still only 10:15am, so we took another chance at going up to the Astoria Column, a artistic marker commemorating the voyages of Lewis & Clark. I’ve always thought the sepia paintings in the spiral around the column were very pretty. We had both climbed to the top before, and Grandma couldn’t do that now, so I set the tripod on the hood of the van again for our photo. Another bonus that we had to wait until the morning since the blue skies with clouds made for an absolutely gorgeous view of Astoria & the ocean!
Astoria & Ocean from the Astoria Column

Astoria Bridge while stopped in trafficThat was Astoria mission accomplished, so the bridge was next. The construction on the bridge had it down to one lane so each lane had to wait for the other, but that was great for a photo that would never have been safe while moving! The Washington side also had construction with a similar wait, so while we were sitting stopped on the bridge, Grandma took a couple photos out her window looking east up into the Columbia River, and I took a couple looking out at Cape Disappointment on the ocean.

Willapa Natural Wildlife RefugeI misread my directions so we ended up on 101 N the long way through Willapa Natural Wildlife Refuge until we found the normal 101 N to Aberdeen. Right before getting on Hwy 12 to Olympia we stopped for delicious blackberry milkshakes in Montesano, then back on the freeway through construction by 1pm.

We were passing through forests with large areas cut down, but I had seen a few groves with 10-20 ft trees that looked like replanting efforts. Then we saw a bunch of wonky old growth trees that had a Weyerhaeuser Central Washington Forests with Wildflowerssign saying that grove was hit by hurricane force winds in 2007. We also saw two more Weyerhaeuser signs, one generically voicing their commitment to reforesting, an another for a grove of douglas firs planted in 1999 that were probably at least 20ft tall already. My dad worked for Weyerhaeuser for 30 years so I’ve heard plenty about how the wood & paper business has changed over the years, but I’d never seen any of their forests.

Downtown Seattle from I-5 NorthGrandma had an appointment today with a new doctor that could not be changed, so we were on a schedule to get back north of downtown Seattle before 3pm. We were making good time, but it was beginning to look tight, and the carpool lane wasn’t making much difference. Finally we made it to our exit 15 minutes before the appointment, very thankful we weren’t going south since that was a parking lot all the way south into Seattle! By the time we had left the doctor, stopped for groceries, pizza for dinner, and a necessary pie for dessert, back home in her driveway I counted 1289 miles round trip, all driven by me…whew! No wonder I’m a bit sick of driving! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Full photo gallery below as always. We had a great road trip, and now I have two days left before I fly home, but I doubt I’ll be relaxing knowing Grandma’s schedule. We all think keeping so busy keeps her young! :)


Dinner View in Bellevue

21 August 2012

Teal vintage Spaceneedle glass with Blue Label scotchI slept in as long as I could, we ran some errands around Edmonds, then reviewed some old home movies I had digitized recently before heading over to my cousin’s house in Bellevue for a quick dinner between work & tennis for him. He is big into midcentury modern style, many of my grandfather’s vintage collectibles from that era are now in places of honor in his restored period house on the hill, and our dinner glasses were even collectible Seattle World’s Fair glasses. I traded my uncle for the teal Spaceneedle one. I also got to enjoy Johnny Walker Blue Label with Grandma, since he keeps a bottle at his house just for her. Tasty!

Britta, Carol, Doug, Stephen & GrandmaI thought my good camera was in my purse as usual, but no luck, so I was stuck with only iPhone with no timer and only my arm’s reach, plus the fantastic view of downtown Bellevue silhouetted us all! A little iPhoto magic after the HDR in camera and at least you can see all of us. ๐Ÿ˜‰ To get the view properly, I sneaked a couple more better-aimed photos while everyone was eating. Delicious dinner with a carrot salad, green salad of lettuce & cherry tomatoes from his small garden, and fresh king salmon with chili lime & mesquite cooked on his grill.

Sunset towards Seattle



On the drive back to Edmonds, I sneaked a couple photos of the lovely sunset, then we reviewed more old home movies until we pooped out. One more full day left before I go home on Thursday!




Last Day of Vacation

22 August 2012

Buck's House
Today was more errands mixed with some quick visits to family friends. First was Buck’s house, a 5000 square foot custom home on the water with antiques collected from travels all over the world, mostly on trips with my Buck & Grandma on Buck's back patiograndparents. The house is already quite castley, and I would love to take it all the way there! ๐Ÿ˜‰ A bit too far from my friends, and Buck isn’t moving anytime soon…he’s much too proud of his house & loves living there!


Dinner at Arnie's
We stayed too long at Buck’s house so were late to Grandma’s hair appointment, and I killed the 2 hours wait for her with some shopping & resting my eyes in the car. We came back home, Grandma wanted a scotch first, then we left Kingston Ferry at Sunsetfor dinner on the water, this time at Arnie’s. Great food, and I think I’ve had great seafood almost every night this whole trip! Yum!

After dinner we drove along the waterfront to the scuba diver point and the dog park for some lovely sunset views of the Kingston Ferry making its rounds.

Johnnie, Grandma & Britta at Johnnie's HouseOn our way home we decided to stop at Johnnie’s house, and he was glad to see us. In our whiskey/y discussion, I mentioned I liked Jameson, and he has an 18-year special reserve bottle, but I’m the first person who recognized its value, so he was so tickled! Johnnie can barely see – he enlarges everything to gigantic on his old iMac – and barely hear, plus his throat has been repaired after cancer surgery, but he still has a great laugh & smile, and he really gets a kick out of hearing about Grandma’s exploits. He was reading this blog on the road trip, and didn’t believe Grandma could ever pour a “teeny” scotch! hahaha!

I’ve printed my boarding pass, confirmed my shuttle pickup, and mostly repacked, including dismantling a large brass chandelier to fit in my suitcase for Halloween use. More photos of Buck’s house and the sunset are below in the photo gallery if you’d like to see. Hope you enjoyed reading about this trip as much as I enjoyed it! :)


Surprise in Seattle!

12 November 2012

My mom beat me to it, and I would have said the same thing anyway, so I will point you to her version of how we flew up together to surprise my grandmother for her 98th birthday last Sunday! Check out the photos of the sunrise at the airport, and our stakeout of the entrance from our rental car behind the bushes! Heehee…We even surprised my uncle who had planned the surprise lunch! Successful surprise was worth seeing the sunrise in Sac on the way to Seattle! Very fun but loooong day!

Day 1 with Grandma

29 August 2013

Johnny Walker Gold for my arrivalIt’s time for another trip with Grandma! I arrived last night in time for steak dinner with baked potatoes, peas & salad, and since Grandma had already enjoyed all the Johnny Walker Blue Label I got her for Christmas, she decided to open a bottle of Gold for us to share. We were still talking at 11pm when we decided we should get to bed!

Grandma slept in much longer than I did, which was fine for me to have a leisurely morning the first real day of my vacation. Of course it rained overnight and was still raining off and on, the first rain they have had here in 60 days, a rare dry summer for Seattle! Glad it waited until I arrived…hrmph! We finally decided since it was only spitting off and on, we should still take the Kingston Ferry then drive down to Bainbridge Island where I’d never been before. Since there are too many stairs, Grandma stayed in the van while I enjoyed the wind in my hair up on deck, including some iPhone panorama fun. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Panorama from the Kingston Ferry

Silly Hair Britta on the Kingston FerryWe were lucky that the rain stayed away for our ferry crossing, so I stayed out on the deck the whole time. It was so windy it was hard to keep my eyes open for a photo, especially when the sun finally came out, but the funny curlicues in my hair in this photo really cracked me up! I even caught the return ferry in the background.

Wine Tasting at Eleven on Bainbridge IslandWe drove through some nice trees across one small bridge to Bainbridge Island, parked and thought we could walk up and down the little street to see what shops or restaurants looked interesting. I saw a wine tasting room across the street so I suggested we go there first, then walk down that side and back up the other side of the street to the van. Eleven Winery is carbon-neutral, and says all their profits will go to charity. No chardonnays (woohoo!), the pinot grigio, Viognier and a Donella were quite good, and their syrah port was sold out but their white port was too sweet for Grandma but excellent for me!

Torrential Downpour!By the end of our wine tasting the sky had turned gray, and it started pouring down hard! Even Grandma was shocked at how heavy it was! We were hoping it might let up enough to keep browsing, so we looked in the shop next door since there was a wide overhang, but it just got worse and worse! Grandma had left her umbrella in the car, so I took my raincoat out of my bag, ran to get the van & drove down to pick her up. My shoes were soaked pretty good by the time I got Grandma and her walker into the van! We decided we could at least drive around the rest of town to see what we could see before we left for home, and maybe find somewhere to eat dinner.

Lovely marina view dinner at Doc's Marina GrillI had googled Bainbridge Island on my phone and found a whole bunch of restaurants, including one called Doc’s Marina Grill that sounded good and not too expensive. In our driving tour we turned a corner, and there it was! It was still raining hard so I dropped Grandma at the curb and parked. Grandma was to chilly in the slight breeze or it would have been nice to sit on their covered open patio. Even inside in our booth we could still see the nice view of the marina.

The actual marina view from Doc'sGrandma thought their margarita sounded tasty, so I decided it was Margarita Thursday this week since I’m missing Margarita Friday back home! Grandma had tempura prawns & chips, and I had Dungeoness crab risotto, and I still have leftovers. Very tasty!

Driving in the rain on Bainbridge IslandIt was still rush hour time so we didn’t take the ferry to Seattle to make a loop, so we drove back north the way we came, waited another half hour for the return ferry, then after a quick grocery shopping trip in Edmonds, we were home by 8:30pm. Grandma wanted to go to bed early but I looked at my watch while we were talking at it was 11:30 already…oops!

Tomorrow we’re having lunch in Bellevue at my aunt’s house with a couple of my grandma’s friends. Sounds like it might be all ladies who lunch? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Day 2 with Grandma: Ladies Who Lunch

30 August 2013

Carol, Doug and DaisyToday my aunt Carol invited my grandma, two family friends, and me for a nice lunch at their house in Bellevue. Here are Carol, Doug and their new dog Daisy in front of their house. I haven’t seen it with the shutters, and rarely in summer when everything is blooming, even her windowboxes! She has a gorgeous garden.

Carol and her famous Pavlova dessertLunch was delicious, with individual quiches for each of us, dinner rolls, and a salad of poppy-seed dressing over lettuce, red onions pears, oranges, pecans and feta cheese that was so good I had two full helpings, and Carol loves making her famous Pavlova, this time with summer peaches…yum! Grandma was so full from lunch all she had for dinner tonight was a few tortilla chips!

Daisy is a cutie

Carol and Doug got a new little dog Daisy a couple years ago. She is a cute little thing, and weaseled her way into the dining room where she wasn’t supposed to be. Funny how she blendsDaisy enjoys tummy rubs into the carpet!

She obviously wanted her tummy rubbed more than pets on her head or back! I could barely get a photo of her without her tummy bared to the sky! ๐Ÿ˜‰

These are the schoolhouse where Grandma taught, the Clouston house, and the Bergstrom house, all in North Dakota. I’m not sure I have these photos in my family collection, so I snapped a quick pic so I can Schoolhouse, Clouston house and Bergstrom house in North Dakotadouble-check in my copious notes for Grandma’s biography project.

Ladies who Lunch, taken by DougWe were done eating by probably 2pm, but we were still chatting until after 4pm! Joanne is in her 80s but still dances on stage with a retired follies group in Hawaii where she lives most of the year now, and boy is she a character with a lot of stories! We finally got coordinated to leave around 4:30, high rush hour of course. Before we left, I wanted a photo and my arm wasn’t long enough for a selfie this time, so Doug graciously took a picture of us Ladies Who Lunch: Joanne, Jonelle, Helen with Daisy, Carol, and yours truly!

We got back about 6pm, but Grandma wasn’t hungry for dinner, so later I ate my leftover crab risotto from last night that really hit the spot. We tried turning on the TV but her Comcast box seems to have quit and I don’t have that myself so don’t know how to troubleshoot it very well. Since she still has service in her office where the internet box feeds the TV, but neither the family room or her bedroom, it seems that the main TV box gave up, and the mini box in the bedroom can only function with the main box, since it doesn’t work connected to either TV either. I guess we will need to call Comcast and see if they can come on Tuesday before I fly home. It’s always something!

We have an early day tomorrow since it’s at least a two-hour drive to get to the Ellensburg Rodeo, so Grandma actually went to bed before 10pm for a change! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Day 3 with Grandma: The Ellensburg Rodeo

31 August 2013

Britta's Last Ellensburg RodeoThis picture is from my last visit to the Ellensburg Rodeo, when I was 5 weeks old, so since I picked Labor Day weekend to visit Grandma, she immediately bought rodeo tickets so I could go again! My grandfather was in the King County Sheriff’s Posse for many many years, and both my aunt and mother were rodeo princesses at different times, so it was a big family thing for many years.

Snoqualmie National ForestWe got up earlier, and were on the road by 10am instead of the 9:30am when Grandma wanted to leave, but it was because it always takes her so long to take her morning pills. :) It was a long drive but an easy and pretty one, down I-5 through Seattle to Hwy 90 through Snoqualmie & Wenatchee National Forests, then into flat Eastern Washington, turning off for signs to Ellensburg. Grandma’s hands are too shaky now to take iPhone photos for me, so I safely sneaked some photos out the windshield bracing on the steering wheel.

Driving Through Eastern WashingtonAfter the tall mountains and the forests, it seemed like a drastic change to the flat golden fields of Eastern Washington. Several more miles through the fields, and we finally turned off for Ellensburg.

Traffic getting to the rodeoIt took awhile to get through town since there was plenty of traffic getting to the various parking lots. We finally got in, with our handicapped sign on the dash, asking how we could get Grandma to our seats. Luckily they had little golf carts as shuttles, so a nice chatty retired guy drove us through the backstage area where the princesses were saddled up and waiting, right up to the end of the building where our seats were! There was a ramp, but that took so long, Grandma decided the 8 steps were easier. Our seats were the second row of benches, which was perfect for Grandma as well as seeing. Grandma immediately started talking to the young family sitting next to us, mom with the tiny baby in her ams, and the oldest son was my buddy the whole show, letting me step on the bench next to him to get out instead of climbing across other people to get to the stairs. Grandma was comfortable even in her jacket for most of the afternoon, very glad we were in the shade since it was a very hot day!

Lots of people at the rodeo! We made it to the rodeo with time to spare before the opening ceremonies!

I’m very glad we made it in time for the opening ceremonies, since the King County Sheriff’s Posse opened the show. Can you see all their fancy silver studded tackle? That’s what Grandpa used to do for many years. It looks like there might have been two women now in the posse, since I saw some longer hair with more feminine body shapes, like the one holding the flag here.
King County Posse opens the ceremonies Can you see all the fancy King County silver studded tackle?

Everyone rode in with various flags for posses, sponsors, etcAfter the posse entered, all sorts of other posses cantered in with their flags, like the Ellensburg Posse, and sponsor flags too. When they were all out on the field, it was vey impressive!

After some bareback bucking competition, the princesses rode in doing the “death ride.” My mom remembers doing this when she was rodeo princess…since they had to wave to the crowd while running at a full gallop, they had to rely on the other riders to guide the horses into the gate at the end! The princesses definitely have flashier outfits than the tailored suit my mom wore in the 1960s. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Princess doing the death ride The death ride around the field

I didn’t always hear the official names of the events, so pardon me if I mislabel some of these. I didn’t get any good photos of the bareback bucking horses, but I got examples of all the other events I think, like calf roping here. When they would change and reset for for a new event, there was entertainment between, like parading the bareback bucking horses while explaining how they are bred for bucking, or this fabulous fancy lasso expert! He could lasso around his horse and himself while cantering around the field! Very impressive!
Calf Roping Fancy Lasso Work Fancy Lasso Work Bucking Horses on Parade

Here are steer roping, saddle bucking behind the hilarious rodeo clown, whose banter with the announcer was hilarious all afternoon, then bull riding looking pretty much like the bull riding machines!Steer Roping Rodeo Clown and Saddle Bucking Bull Riding Bull Riding

The next event was barrel riding, which was all cowgirls, and they were impressive. The girls got their horses to go so fast, and scooting around those corners caused quite the dust clouds!Barrel Racing Cowgirls Barrel Racing Cowgirls

Stubborn Bull Wouldn't Leave!There was more bull riding after the barrel racing, but the funniest was when this bull decided he would NOT leave after he bucked his rider off. All the pickup guys and even the fancy lasso guy all had their ropes on him, and he still wouldn’t budge! It was quite awhile, then I guess the bull finally gave up and went into the gate. I guess that’s the definition of stubborn! ๐Ÿ˜‰

After the rodeo was finished, we tried looking around the fair, but it was even too hot for Grandma so we didn’t get very far. Inside the 4-H hall I couldn’t resist taking photos of the wool exhibit for all my fiber arts friends. :)
4-H wool exhibit for all my fiber arts friends 4-H wool exhibit for all my fiber arts friends 4-H wool exhibit for all my fiber arts friends 4-H wool exhibit for all my fiber arts friends

Grandma sat on a bench in the shade, watching the kid’s version of the mechanical bull, while I quickly checked out the rest of the fair, including a teal ferris wheel…heehee! Finally the line was short enough I could get a giant shaved ice which really hit the spot…yum!
Teal Ferris Wheel at the Fair More of the Fair

It was too early for dinner in Ellensburg, so we headed back on Hwy 90, watching the scenery changed from the flat grasslands to the forests and mountains again, including Lake Natchez, and finally the floating bridge across Lake Washington and the tunnel back into Seattle.
Leaving Eastern Washington Back to the Forests and Mountains Lake Natchez from Hwy 90 Wenatchee National Forest

Margarita Saturday for dinnerSince we were back near to Grandma’s house by 7ish, we tried a new Mexican restaurant Grandma had seen in the paper, so it was Margarita Saturday! Puerto Bonita was nicely decorated and had good service, but my fajita quesadilla was gigantic and it didn’t have any fajita flavor or ingredients. The bite I had of Grandma’s wet burrito was very tasty. Grandma thinks the Mexican place in downtown Edmonds is still better.

We got home about 8:15pm to a ton of messages from people checking in on Grandma, but also from Jim & Linda that they’re in Seattle overnight after all waiting for their son, so they’d like to stay overnight if possible instead of heading back to Yakima. Grandma called her back & said sure, so even though we were both tired from our long day and neither of us sleeping well, we stayed up, showing Grandma how to use my iPad to read the last 2 days of blogs, plus all my Halloween ghost updates from last year. Jim & Linda arrived about 10:30 or so, and at 1:30am we looked at our watches and were shocked! Latest night yet…oops! I was so sleepy I was trying to load photos from my phone and my eyes kept crossing so I gave up at 2am. Jim & Linda had to get back home to host a pool party so they got up early & left while Grandma & I were still sleeping…we both sure needed the sleep!

Even though it was long, it was a very fun day! Even more photos are in the gallery if you continue reading! Not sure about Sunday plans yet, so we’ll see what happens next… :)


Day 4 with Grandma: Theo Chocolate & Anthony’s Seafood

1 September 2013

Barely squeaked into the last tour of the day!Neither Grandma nor I felt very rested, even though we tried to sleep in after Jim & Linda quietly left early in the morning. Grandma wanted waffles again so got those ready while I did my T-Tapp exercises outside again, then I looked up the Theo Chocolate tours in case there were any left, since we knew they were closed on Monday for Labor Day. There was one slot left at 3:30 showing open, but I didn’t want to pay in advance since we weren’t sure if there were too many stairs or too much walking for Grandma, so we decided to gamble and ask when we arrived. We took Greenwood instead of any freeways, but the chocolate building was farther down where Phinney changes direction several times. Some of those hills with narrow residential streets reminded me of Astoria! We made it and the shop said there were openings in the 3:30 tour so just walk over to the tour door. By the time we got there, the person in front of us had taken the last spot! Argh! I said if I’d known that I would have run & let Grandma catch up! Since we were only 2 people, she was able to squeeze us in. That was at 3:10, and instead of walking back to the shop & back again, we stayed sitting A real cacao tree as our guide tells us about how chocolate is madethere, taking a photo with our funny hair nets on for the tour. We heard several people come up after us and not get in, so we were very lucky to be the last ones to get on, since all the tours the rest of the day were booked solid. She said “this is the hot tour right now” so I guess that’s true? I only heard about them at all because my cousin Kathleen posted on Facebook that she went there a few weeks ago. I guess being the first organic & fair trade chocolate maker in the US everyone wants to visit them. :)

The beginning of the tour was seated in a small room with 5 different chocolates to taste as our guide described and showed us how cacao is grown and chocolate is made. I knew some of this already but it is still interesting, and our guide was a bubbly girl who was entertaining. Even the 85% dark chocolate was quite good and I don’t usually like darker than 70%. After that portion, we had to wear hairnets to enter the factory floor. Since they have to keep it at 98F, they have a room with windows on all sides with air conditioning so we could stand in comfort and listen as the guide explained all the machines.
The Theo Chocolate Factory Floor

The Confectionary RoomWe only walked through the actual factory floor for a short trip to the confectionary room, and it was even hot for Grandma, so I’m glad for that little room! In the confectionary room they make their truffles and fun creations. I saw they hang their silicone mats when not in use which would let them dry without sticking to things, so I might try that in the future! They gave us samples of truffles, so I made sure Grandma got to try one of the Scotch truffles. She liked it!

Walla Walla Onion Truffle...very good!Our guide mentioned a Walla Walla Onion Truffle they have right now, so we got one for each of us to try…very tasty! Those onions are very sweet in the first place, and it tasted like they carmelized them before adding them into the chocolate. I kind of want to try making some onion chocolate myself now! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I figured this could be my place to buy some birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and thank you gifts, plus they have Partner Bars where portions of the proceeds go to good causes, so I spent awhile shopping…and when I thought I was done, the clerk pointed out that if I got this or that handpacked instead of pre-boxed, I could get the tour 10% discount, so I went back 3x before I actually paid…ending up still spending about $150! At least it didn’t take up as much physical space in my suitcase as the Mexican chocolate & mole sauce assortment I bought in Oaxaca that took up half of one side of my luggage!

Anthonys at SunsetWe had thought we would go to the Chiluly Glass Garden and Spaceneedle since the weather was so nice, but after the tour Grandma was tired and asked to go home before dinner. We had a break, then we went to Anthony’s in Edmonds on the water, just in time for a nice sunset dinner of delicious seafood. Yum!

Kingston Ferry Returning at NightBy the time we were finishing dinner, the return ferry was coming, all lit up, with just enough daylight left to see some mountains and clouds in the background. I almost got out my good camera for this, but it was moving so fast, by the time I dug my camera out of the bottom of my bag, I think the ferry would have been docked!

You can keep reading for a lot more photos of the chocolate tour…hopefully more downtown Seattle tomorrow!


Day 5 with Grandma: Seattle Waterfront & Home Again

3 September 2013

Grandma Making Blueberry PancakesGrandma decided the leftover waffle batter should become blueberry pancakes, so here she is making them for us! We had thought we would try the Chiluly glass garden and maybe the Spaceneedle, since Linda had told us even with the big Bumbershoot music festival going on at Seattle Center, the south road into the garden was open and worth seeing. But Steven called during breakfast and had been to Bumbershoot on Sunday. He told Grandma there were “too many druggies” so we should avoid that area completely. I had mentioned trying to eat at the On the Seattle Waterfrontfancy place Canlis they keep talking about, so he recommended we go there. So as I was finishing my breakfast, I looked up Canlis on my phone, finding the number first for Grandma to call for a reservation, but as no one was answering, I finally found their page that shows the handful of days they are closed each year…and Labor Day was first on their list. Zero for two!

Linda had also mentioned the Argosy cruises were nice, so I was able to get a AAA discount and book our tickets online for the 3:45pm harbor cruise, so we headed for the Seattle Waterfront. We parked in a lot one block from the pier which was also one block over from Fried Clams on the Seattle Waterfrontthe end of Pike’s Place Market. The one block was pretty long, so Grandma went very slowly but she made it! She thinks she needs more exercise like this to heal, and I agree, but we need to be careful she doesn’t overdo it either.

Spaceneedle and BrittaWe got checked in for our cruise just fine and I left Grandma sitting at the gate while I strolled a bit more, including finding fried clams to go! I needed some protein since it was already 3:30pm, and boy were they tasty! Grandma even had a few. ๐Ÿ˜‰

It was soooo hot in the sunshine…hotter than I have ever been in Seattle! I really needed the breeze but Grandma didn’t want to go up the stairs, so I went up two decks for the breeze and the view for awhile. I got a lot of great photos, and this is the closest we got to the Spaceneedle. :)

Britta and Grandma on the Argosy harbor cruiseThey tried to sell this to us but I sneaked a photo ;)When we turned around to make our circle, I went downstairs to spend the rest of the cruise with Grandma, so I was able to get this photo when we were heading back to the pier.

Of course they take photos of you in hopes you’ll buy $10 prints, but I sneaked an iPhone shot of this one. Grandma isn’t looking at the camera but it’s pretty good of both of us! Glad she listened when I begged her to wear something with more color than her cream sweater! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I remember Ye Olde Curiosity Shop from when I was little, especially the gruesome “mermaid” hanging from the ceiling and the mummies in the back. Since it was only the next pier over from our boat, I convinced Grandma to let me take another look. You could spend hours looking at all the weird stuff in the cases, even real shrunken heads, taxidermy of two headed creatures, turtle skeletons, almost anything… and you never know when or where I might get Halloween inspiration! ๐Ÿ˜‰
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop

Pike's Place MarketWe started slowly walking back along the waterfront, but Grandma was needing more rest breaks. We saw two bike rickshaw guys, and the first guy’s price was only $3 to the elevators up to the market, so that was worth it! He had to move the bike down to the street so the curb height helped Grandma get up into the seat, then we were set. Most of the market was closing already, no fish-throwing happening, but there was an excellent moving bronze statue lady!

Sunset Seafood Dinner at Palisade on Elliott BaySince Canlis was a bust, Grandma thought of a nice place on Elliott Bay but couldn’t remember the name so we didn’t make reservations and just gambled. We found it and only about a 10 minute wait so that was perfect! Very nice staff, excellent food, good cocktails, a waterfall and fishpond inside, a player piano on a platform above the bar, and a stunning view of the marina and the Seattle skyline! We split the crabcake appetizer, a different salad for each of us, one cocktail each, and shared the creme brรปlรฉe trio…and even with 20% tip (very difficult to convince Grandma to tip that much!) our total was only $85 with both of us pleasantly full. We had yet another night talking until almost midnight! I’m so glad I have a grandmother I can talk to. :)

Goodbye to Grandma's House AgainSince my shuttle was picking me up at 4pm for the airport, all we did today was run errands like gas, groceries, picked up her new checks at the bank, and more computer lessons. I did finally take a chance to feed some carrots to the goats and the horse, so you can see some cute photos if you continue to see the whole gallery below. ๐Ÿ˜‰

On the plane now for the flight home! I really enjoyed my trip but didn’t sleep well all week, so I am looking forward to my own bed tonight and hope my three kitties allow me some good sleep!


Christmas in Seattle again

27 December 2013

Airport selfie with Mom & DadWe spent Christmas 2013 in Seattle again by Grandma’s request, which required me driving to my parents’ house late Saturday night, then getting up at 4am to get to the Sac airport for our flight at dawn…ugh! I tried taking a family sunrise selfie, but Mom had to stand on her tiptoes and Dad had to scrunch down for us all to fit in the same photo! haha…

Some of the Peterson ClanMy grandma is the Clouston side of my family, but it was fun to some of the Peterson cousins on the 22nd, especially the kids who are growing up so fast. I played a couple carols on the electric organ while little Alan and Abby sang along, then they each insisted on a solo turn on Rudolph, with Abby even doing a Santa voice in the middle like I did. I think she might become a diva! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Grandma insisted I make us pomegranate martinisIt wasn’t a full house, since Carol & Doug were in the desert, and Christine & her family were in California, but Monte’s family came from Bend for Christmas. I snapped some fun photos especially of 99-year-old Grandma having a great time, like insisting on having pomegranate martinis this year. I know I inherited my party proclivities from her! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mother & daughter making lefseChristmas Eve is the Scandinavian tradition, with opening presents after the big family dinner. Since my dad and grandma both love it, my grandma splurged on lutefisk for Christmas Eve. My mom and grandma spent the afternoon of the 23rd making fresh lefse to go with the lutefisk. For those of us who are not lutefisk fans, my parents hauled a frozen salmon in their luggage from my dad’s Alaska fishing trip last summer.

Dad making smelly lutefiskLutefisk is cod that was preserved in lye (usually sold these days with the lye already soaked out so no one accidentally poisons themselves), boiled to mush in cheesecloth while it stinks up the whole house, then served with melted butter. It’s a big joke that either you love it or hate it. My dad and grandma love it so we had it for Christmas Eve dinner. Even my dad agrees it stinks while boiling. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The only flavor I taste is the butter, but the texture is like wet paper napkins or fish jello, so I only took a token portion on my plate. ๐Ÿ˜‰ At least we all enjoy the lefse, like a thin potato tortilla eaten rolled up with butter and sugar.

Josh & Alex saved most of their presents to open Christmas morning so we watched them have a great time. Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays as much as we enjoyed ours!

Hawaii 2014

24 September 2014

Grandma wanted to go to Hawaii again before her 100th birthday this fall, so we celebrated this summer with a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands, outrunning two hurricanes on our way! I still hope to blog the entire trip with photos, but until then, here is the Shutterfly book!

Click here to view this photo book larger

Build your own high-quality photo books at

A Hundred Years of Helen

17 December 2014

The birthday girl and me at the pre-partyI have been working since 2006 on a biography project for my last surviving grandparent, and when she was turning 100 this year, I absolutely had to finish the project in time for her birthday! This has been a lot of work even before 2014, but this project has been about 140 hours of work in just the past 8 months. I hadn’t started counting when I reviewed & imported all the video interviews and scanned most of the old photos before then. I have taken about 800 media “assets” of interviews, old films, scanned vintage photos, digital photos, narrations, including my own singing & playing for the soundtrack, and compressed a chock-full interesting 100-year life into 2 hours 9 minutes running time.

Slideshow at the big partyEven with my day job, my eye surgery in the spring, hosting 4 summer movie nights, a 2-week Hawaiian vacation with Grandma, and giant Halloween The full video premiere at the after-partypreparations this year, I finished a single digital copy complete with all music and transitions in time for the party! I made a short slideshow with a couple video clips to show as large as possible on the wall during the big party, then I set up my projector in the living room back at her house to premiere the full video at the after-party, far enough away from competing with the football game on the TV in the family room. We had a decent dinnertime audience who really enjoyed hearing stories even close friends and family hadn’t heard before. :)

After the premiere, my cousin Stephen told me he had some of the missing photos my grandma couldn’t find, so he scanned those for me, I added in what I could to the video and mastered a DVD-ROM to include all the photos as files for other generations to use, plus I transcribed and formatted everything into a book to accompany the video. I couldn’t fit as many photos into the book, and I took a couple screenshots from the old family films, but that’s not the same as seeing them in motion. The hardback book is available on the Lulu Marketplace here, but the DVD is only available from me. :)

You can now watch the full video “A Hundred Years of Helen” online, broken into the five chapters. There are easy links at the end to click to view the next chapter. The full story is just over two hours long, and Chapter 3 is the longest section at 40 minutes. All the soundtrack songs are classics my grandfather used to play, performed by yours truly on vocals, steel-string guitar and baritone ukulele.

A Hundred Years of Helen
The Story of Helen Marie Bergstrom Clouston

Chapter 1: Childhood in Minnesota
Chapter 2: From the City to the Farm
Chapter 3: Starting in Seattle
Chapter 4: Travels Around the World
Chapter 5: A New Chapter

My mom beat me to blogging the pre-party with pizza and out-of-towners at the house, the big party with 101 guests to help the birthday girl celebrate, the after-party at the house with dinner, and the day-after Peterson cousin fun, so you can read what she said here:

Gary & Diane’s Adventures: A Hundred Years of Helen

I’ve added my own photo gallery here below. Grandma said it isn’t a party without music, and she loves that I can carry on my grandfather’s musical tradition, so I obliged in belting out some classics my grandfather used to play along with the hired accordion player per the request of the birthday girl. :)

Grandma’s 101st Birthday in Seattle

7 November 2015

We made it to Grandma’s house! Do you think I traveled with enough teal?

We made it to Grandma's house! Do you think I traveled with enough teal? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Posted by Britta Peterson on Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Grandma wanted a margarita and an enchilada so we are having Margarita Tuesday. We told them she’s turning 101 tomorrow so they brought her a flaming layered tequila shot and sang!

Grandma wanted a margarita and an enchilada so we are having Margarita Tuesday. We told them she's turning 101 tomorrow so they brought her a flaming layered tequila shot and sang!

Posted by Britta Peterson on Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Kim brought her 10-month old puppy Guido and her year-old granddaughter to wish Grandma a happy birthday! That’s a 100-year age difference opening the presents together!

Kim brought her 10-month old puppy Guido and her year-old granddaughter to wish Grandma a happy birthday! That's a 100-year age difference opening the presents together!

Posted by Britta Peterson on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Grandma was treated like royalty at Canlis tonight for a delicious fancy birthday dinner! Grandma & Mom were here for their opening night back in 1950, and the grandson Brian Canlis had to take a photo with her while hearing old stories about his grandfather.

Grandma was treated like royalty at Canlis tonight for a delicious fancy birthday dinner! Grandma & Mom were here for…

Posted by Britta Peterson on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Grandma enjoyed her new birthday presents today!

Full disclosure: she bought the new computer herself but all the conversion from the old computer, setup, lessons, and tech support are some of my birthday gifts to her. The motorcycle is a joke since my rich cousin has so many cars at his house that his bike stays in Grandma’s garage. We keep walking past it so I wanted to take a photo.

Grandma enjoyed her new birthday presents today! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Posted by Britta Peterson on Thursday, November 5, 2015

The celebrations continued tonight with my Peterson cousins, aunt & uncle coming over to wish Grandma a happy 101st birthday!

The celebrations continued tonight with my Peterson cousins, aunt & uncle coming over to wish Grandma a happy 101st birthday! :)

Posted by Britta Peterson on Saturday, November 7, 2015

Today’s brunch was the last of the parties for Grandma’s 101st birthday! Mom made a bunch of goodies and I made the entire three-layer cake, including the sculpted modeling chocolate, handpainted, double-sided 101 topper. Now we are already at the airport to fly home. Happy Birthday Grandma! So glad we could celebrate all week with you!

Today's brunch was the last of the parties for Grandma's 101st birthday! Mom made a bunch of goodies and I made the…

Posted by Britta Peterson on Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sunset somewhere over the clouds and downtown San Jose at night. Home again and looking forward to my own bed tonight. Onyx greeted me at the door of course, but I hope the other kitties forgive me for being gone!

Sunset somewhere over the clouds and downtown San Jose at night. Home again and looking forward to my own bed tonight….

Posted by Britta Peterson on Saturday, November 7, 2015

Quick Visit with Grandma in Seattle

21 March 2016

Are plane selfies still a thing? Or was that just last year? Grandma has had a couple of bad weeks healthwise, so I’m taking a quick last-minute trip to cheer her up while she’s still stuck in rehab…

Are plane selfies still a thing? Or was that just last year? Grandma has had a couple of bad weeks healthwise, so I'm taking a quick last-minute trip to cheer her up while she's still stuck in rehab…

Posted by Britta Peterson on Saturday, March 19, 2016

I guess our plane was so early we circled wide since when we finally came out from clouds, the water was to our right flying south…then I saw my first aerial view of the Spaceneedle just before we passed it! We were still l so early that I was halfway to baggage claim by our scheduled landing time. Now I got lucky and instead of the shared van I booked, I’m the only passenger in a swanky town car…but Seattle traffic on Saturday is just as bad as the rest of the week so we are barely crawling along…

I guess our plane was so early we circled wide since when we finally came out from clouds, the water was to our right…

Posted by Britta Peterson on Saturday, March 19, 2016

The physical therapist says that Grandma is definitely moving much better than when she got here! If she keeps this up she might go home this coming week, as long as she agrees to help coming every day, sticks to the new low-salt diet, and keeps drinking more water. :)

The physical therapist says that Grandma is definitely moving much better than when she got here! If she keeps this up…

Posted by Britta Peterson on Saturday, March 19, 2016

Already on the way home, with my traditional bowl of Ivar’s smoked salmon chowder for lunch in the air after a Dungeness crab breakfast sandwich. A TSA agent and plane stewardess have gotten a big kick from my color matching, even my water bottle. When I left the plane, one laughed & said “Bye Miss Matchy-Matchy!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

Already on the way home, with my traditional bowl of Ivar's smoked salmon chowder for lunch in the air after a Dungeness…

Posted by Britta Peterson on Sunday, March 20, 2016

quick Seattle trip – July 2016

22 July 2016

Grandma has developed congestive heart failure and isn’t allowed any airplane travel anymore, plus I didn’t have time for a longer trip after I’d spent so much work time off on the Spain castle trip, so I just visited Grandma for a couple days in July.

Gorgeous day for the ferry! Headed to Poulsbo today!

Poulsbo is an adorable Little Scandinavia town, with lovely murals, gorgeous flowers, cute Viking ship benches, and gjetost and even beet sillsalat in the market! The lefse looks a little thick though, and no prune tarts at the bakery, so we enjoyed caramel pecan rolls for our snack. Next stop Bainbridge Island…

Since I have two friends who are also now fans of the late-harvest Viognier, we went back for more wine tasting at Eleven in Bainbridge Island! Totally different in the sunshine since the last time we were here, some sideways rain hit us hard! Too early for dinner yet so we are already at Kingston in line for the ferry back to Edmonds.

Had to look out the ferry bow on the way back to Edmonds, but the view as we were leaving was stunningly dramatic with backlit clouds!

Grandma’s 102nd birthday in Seattle!

8 November 2016

Since Grandma was turning 102 and still loves big parties, we had another birthday party brunch for her at her house in Seattle this year, so I embellished a Costco cake into an impressive peacock-feathered creation, Glen accompanied me this time, and we even had a chance for a few hours of sightseeing in Seattle! Check out the full photo gallery at the end, too!

Glen did his best Shatner at the EMP museum Trek exhibit in Seattle…hahaha! While it rendered it had messages like “Please wait, rendering evil smugness…amplifying Shatnerosity…” Hilarious!

Click through to see the full gallery!


Happy Holidays!

17 January 2017

Xmas2016I haven’t created a Christmas photo the past couple years since I thought everyone knew what my year was like due to Facebook and my blogs, plus I couldn’t get decent photos of all three kitties and myself. However even though we are already well past New Years, this year I have major updates to announce, so let’s get started…

Grandma has had a harder year healthwise, so I surprised her in March for a quick weekend to cheer her up in the hospital before she could return home. Her travel is now restricted due to congestive heart failure, so we didn’t do a big trip this summer like our Hawaii cruise in 2014 and the Canadian Rockies in 2015, but I did visit her in July for a few days. She was well enough to thoroughly enjoy her 102nd birthday in November with a party that kept growing larger as she invited more people! We spent Christmas at her house, like the majority of my entire lifetime of Christmases, and we are all thankful she still has all her personality even if her body is “finally starting to wear out” as she put it.

My big trip this year was in June when Glen & I took an ambitious road trip around Spain, seeing 26 Spanish castles in 10 days, even staying overnight in 9 castles! I’m sure you won’t be surprised that I took a TON of photos, over 3300 in fact! You can see select photos and read about the whole trip in the Travels section on if you like.

After celebrating 16 years working for Equinix, still thankful it pays for my house and other things I enjoy, summer was more fun working on Halloween projects between hosting my annual 4th of July fireworks party and three Cinema Brittahytta backyard movie nights, then by the end of August, Glen and I were officially dating! We first met 9 years ago when he attended my Halloween party with mutual friends, and our friendship has grown closer the past 5 years after he volunteered to help with my Halloween projects, so it is wonderful to have such a strong relationship before adding romance. :)

My big annual Halloween party went well as the Webmistress hosted a Victorian Halloween at Castle Brittahytta, with a new spider food menu and a front show with original music and over 10,000 spiders crawling over the castle walls and gravestones as the Waltz of the Spiders, but sadly our November was rough, starting with Glen catching an awful flu before we left Grandma’s birthday in Seattle. Thankfully I stayed well to take care of him, but he was miserable for a couple weeks and was only barely well enough to feel human again when I found out my beloved “dog in a cat’s body” Onyx was in end-stage chronic kidney failure at only 9 years old. I gave Onyx one last night of love, then Glen held me as I held Onyx as he left his pain behind. The next day we flew to San Antonio as scheduled to meet some of Glen’s family for a Simon Thanksgiving at Bret’s house, with Frank and Lisa also visiting, and to see my highschool friends Amanda & Anne, which was a really great trip…remember the Alamo! We had turkey #2 as a Peterson Thanksgiving on Friday in Roseville with my parents Diane & Gary and brother Erik, getting my fresh Christmas tree and fresh apple cider at Apple Hill the next day according to tradition…a whirlwind week but grateful we could visit both our families!

Glen & I both caught colds to start December, but thankfully by my Holiday Happy Hour party on the 11th, we were both healthy again, ready to host our friends for Christmas at the Castle while wearing the new red & green tartan dress I made for our fancy Christmas photo, and ready to take on the rest of the holiday season and 2017…starting with an East Asia cruise in February!

We hope everyone enjoyed a happy holiday season, and may you have a fabulous 2017!

– Britta, Glen, Ebony & Obsidian from Brittahytta in Santa Clara, California

Grandma’s 103rd Birthday in Seattle

8 November 2017

A 2 hour airport delay means shepherd’s pie & bangers & mash meals at the SJC airport Britannia Arms with a teal margarita, sticky toffee pudding, and a friendly Lab from Germany, then finally in the air with a pretty pink moonrise over the clouds. Safely in Seattle now for Grandma’s 103rd birthday party tomorrow!

Happy 103rd Birthday to Grandma! Another great house party with mimosas plus bakery quiche & several cakes all courtesy of of cousin Stephen! Loved the toddler birthday card modified with an extra century, the Scrabble tiles card, and the world record plaque for most buckets of weeds…haha!

We visited Grandma at rehab today so I played piano for a small audience in the lobby and Mom sang with me for a couple songs. :)

Fun afternoon with my Peterson cousins!

We should have brought the giant birthday balloons to rehab yesterday in the van…haha!Southwest SeaTac’s Halloween decorations are still up with a cute Seattle skyline painted on a real pumpkin, and both our San Jose and Sacramento flights are at the same gate…haha! Goodbye to Seattle but we will see Grandma again for Christmas!

Christmas 2017 in Seattle…with an 8ft tall snow Olaf-Zilla!

28 December 2017

On our way to Seattle trying not to catch anything else! Did you know that the airport Menchies Frozen Yogurt just got Dole Whip 2 days ago?!? The sign says Dole Pineapple Sorbet but it is creamy just like at the Tiki Room!

We were picked up at the airport in style with a furry welcome! Made it to Grandma’s house and unloaded all the luggage and presents before dinner!

Merry Christmas from Diagon Alley in Ballard! Impressive amount of work in just a driveway and a constant line of people! We did our best Azkaban escapee faces, took advantage of the mistletoe at the “moving bricks” entrance, inspected the construction behind the scenes, spotted a holiday R2-D2 near a spare dragon, and even peeked through the window into his garage shop in back and spotted some new details in progress. Congrats to them for having creative fun and raising so much money for a good cause! #diagonalleyproject

It’s snowing just in time for a white Christmas! 😃No need to dream anymore! โ„๏ธ🎄🎁โ›„๏ธ

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! Lutefisk, lefse, pickled beets & Swedish meatballs for our Christmas Eve dinner, all while snow continued to fall and a couple snowballs were thrown, then fun opening all our presents, including some challenging puzzle boxes for Glen that required group effort! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Merry Christmas! Do you wanna build a snowman?!? Our Olaf-Zilla is 8ft tall! I hadn’t built a snowman since I was 9, but Glen was on a mission to go big! Thanks to Diane for taking photos, thinking of the sweet potato nose, and mason jar rings & cut out leaves for eyes!

Our 8ft tall Olaf-Zilla is already leaning so some last photos before he melts away! Hope everyone is enjoying their Christmas Day!

Great to see my Peterson cousins today and the big brothers were all smiles! Thanks to Kathleen & Brian for hosting at their new house only one week after moving in! A bit of stress when we couldn’t get the van up the hill in the snow, so they drove us up in shifts…whew!

Singalong carols around the piano like the old Clouston Christmases! Of course we had to sing White Christmas this year with all the snow still on the ground!

Glen inspected the last pieces of Olaf-Zilla, we packed the RV, and said goodbye to Grandma out the back door for another snazzy ride to the airport as Gary & Diane keep driving to California! The Spaceneedle was peeking through the melting snowdrops on the window, but Mt Rainier was out today!

Home again! We got lucky with an open seat in our row, and Southwest has smartly moved the magazines to the top of the seat and plenty of knee room even for my long legs! When we disembarked, Glen immediately headed the opposite direction from baggage claim with a sneaky grin…it took me half the walk to figure out he was headed for some Dole Whip to go before we left the airport…hahaha! Even though there was no lid that fit, that giant container is now safely in our freezer. Both kitties are fine but Obsidian somehow lost both his normal collar AND his Christmas collar!

our wedding day!

28 April 2018

I was able to tease several wedding projects a little on Instagram and the BrittaBlvd Facebook page, and I had been hoping to post on in more detail about my wedding projects along the way, but all the coordination with so many vendors on top of late-nights working on wedding projects plus dayjob had me already at my multi-tasking limit, plus several projects needed to stay as surprises…but our big day was April 28th, 2018! Professional photos are still forthcoming, but for now, you might find some photos by searching our hashtag #GlenAndBritta on Facebook and Instagram, and catch up on all the Facebook Live streams from our wedding day at Winchester Mystery House with horse & carriage ride to Hotel Valencia for dinner and dancing!

All the planning and sleepless nights sewing and other wedding projects were worth it for such a fantastic celebration with our family & friends! We livestreamed video of our wedding at Winchester Mystery House for the sake of several dear family & friends who couldn’t travel, so you can watch here if you like. We even got to ring the tower bell ourselves 13 times and leave in a horse & carriage, and we danced to Grim Grinning Ghosts by fabulous swing band Lee Presson and the Nails with our surprise lighting effects…what a fantastic day!


Wedding Ceremony & Cocktail Hour at Winchester Mystery House:


Fairytale Farewell with Horse & Carriage:


Our Ride in the Horse & Carriage:


Arrival in the Horse & Carriage:


Wedding Reception part 1:


Wedding Reception part 2 – toasts!


Partying with Lee Presson and the Nails!

quickest Seattle trip ever!

30 April 2018

Since my 103-year-old grandma ended up unable to travel for our wedding, we took a day trip to Seattle to bring a taste of our wedding to her! She requested I play & sing for some new friends at her care facility and they loved it. We had dinner with her and showed her some of the wedding that she didnโ€™t get to see on the livestream on Saturday. Our outfits were pretty obvious especially since we brought our hats and my extremely heavy bridal bouquet, so we got a lot of comments and congrats, and even free cocktails paid by the man sitting in front of us on the plane!