Thursday, July 13, 2017

San Juan 4th of July: Stuart Island

My family has a long tradition of holding a big family gathering on Stuart Island in the San Juans for the Fourth of July. I haven't been able to make it out there for the past five years due to general summer zaniness, and trying to get to the mountains as much as possible. For example, last year I was attempting to summit Glacier Peak

But this year was the right time to spent a long weekend out there with family and it was just what I needed. I got to hang with both my sisters, their husband and three kids, and a ton of extended family. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Two nieces: my oldest niece and her younger sister
Arrived at the island just as the sun was setting
New tradition for 4th of July weekend: outdoor family movie on the barn
Family picnic: Salmon BBQ/potluck and badminton tournament
Two nieces in their 4th of July dresses
Niece discovers I'm ticklish
Indoor activity after all the sun and playing outside:
Bingo tournament
Hanging on the bluffs and rocks of Turn Point.
We spotted humpback whales!
Monday evening: the kiddos soak the last of the sun
Bonfire and hot dog roast
My auntie with her great-nieces
Caught the sunrise over the bay, around 5 a.m.
I hope you had a fun, safe, and relaxing Fourth!

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Spring Roundup

This spring has been a whirlwind. A blur. A slog. I have been heads-down in front of the computer every weekend writing my first book, after being heads-down in front of the computer during the week writing for my day job. I feel like I have finally emerged from a word-cave, and it turns out there were some bright spots in the spring.

In March, I went to my first conference since high school, and the first one I've been to for editing. The ACES Society for Editing held its national conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, this year, and I got to spend two nonstop nerdy days learnings, talking, and breathing editing. There was some eating and drinking in there too.
Poolside editor happy hour
While I was in Florida, I got to visit my dad north of Tampa who I haven't seen in three years (!!!). We had a blast, dad style. That means letting me sleep in, drinking lots of coffee together, spending time with family, and going for motorcycle rides.
I took another special ride too---in a 1935 Boeing Stearman biplane over the Land o' Lakes area. It was a beautiful plane and a pretty awesome experience.
Another day, we went to the Rainbow River and went kayaking. We saw a ton of birds, ducklings, a swimming snake, and turtles and capped off the afternoon with a nice lunch.
My birthday was in early April, and I celebrated with my family and "birthday twin": my mom's best friend who I share a birthday with. She and my mom lived together when they were both pregnant at the same time, and she was there when I was born on her birthday in a little house in Wallingford. A month later, she gave birth to her son the day after my mom's birthday.
The following weekend I also had a birthday brunch, and amazingly, two of my dear friends happened to be in town from California and Texas, respectively. Seeing them was pretty much the best gift I could imagine.
Later in April on a rare weekend when I took a break from the book, I headed out to the Olympic Peninsula. I camped in the rain, hiked in the sun, tromped in the snow, watched the sun set over the Pacific, and dug razor clams.
I am so, so ready for summer, and for not sitting in front of the computer all the time. What are you excited for this summer?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Beyond Austin: Lockhart, Texas

One of my best friends escaped the grey Seattle weather moved to Austin six years ago. I have visited her four times since then, including the first time in 2011, her wedding in 2016, and a road trip to West Texas. Austin is awesome, but as the most rapidly growing city in the United States, traffic is getting predictably worse and the cost of living is rising far faster than income.

Turns out there are a lot of great small towns outside Austin that still have fast and easy access to the city. Last year my friend and her husband decided to buy a home in Lockhart, a small town 30 miles south of Austin. Lockhart is the self-proclaimed barbeque capital of Texas with several well-known, long-established joints in town. As this article, Lockhart Turns the Key claims, Lockhart is up-and-coming for more than its barbeque. I visited my friend a few weeks ago to do a writing retreat (more on that later) and here's what I found.


Due to friends recommending this place, and the fact that it's in Top 5 Austin from the Travel Channel and this Foodie Post about Smitty's Market, we had to go there.

You walk in to the back first, and all the meat is cooking over old school grills with wood fires. It feels like you've stepped into a medieval market. You pick whatever weight and whatever assortment you want of brisket (lean or fat), ribs, and sausage, and then they wrap it in brown butcher paper plus paper for each person. From there, you jump forward 700 years and enter a brightly lit, 1950s-feeling cafeteria where you order your drinks and side dishes (potato salad, beans, pickles, coleslaw, and bread) separately. I'm no expert on Texas barbeque but it was pretty ridiculously delicious.
Lockhart on the big screen:

Randomly, a lot of movies and TV shows have had scenes shot in Lockhart.
Courthouse in the background, used in the 1993 film,
What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Here's a partial list of more recent films, snagged from the Lockhart Wikipedia page.
It's just cute:

There is a lot of other charm to the town, like a great little coffee shop, a handful of good restaurants, shops, and bars. The city center is very walkable, and on a Wednesday night we noticed live music in two different venues--pretty impressive nightlife for a town of this size. There are a lot of empty storefronts but I don't think it will take long for tenants to come in and new businesses to crop up.  There is a beautiful old library from the late 1890s, which is the longest continually operated library in Texas. 
Eugene Clark Library
Pecan trees are really common and you find
pecans on the streets and sidewalks
It's a sweet town and I predict that it will be radically different in 10 years as more and more people more there from Austin and beyond.