To Healdsburg (Part 3) and Beyond!

We had one main mission today – to taste wine at Pezzi-King in Healdsburg. We plugged it into our maps app, which finally loaded once we were nearly there. But when we arrived, it was nowhere to be found. We drove around and around, and not a clue, so I went on the website, and discovered that a reservation was required to taste – pay in advance, please – and that it was actually in a building we had passed, but without a name on the front. Oh, and no reservations were available for the rest of the day. So we booked on for Wednesday, our last day in Sonoma, and cruised into town, looking for Williamson Wines, recommended by friends.

On the way, we saw Longboard Wines, so we took a longshot, and stopped in. They had a small, pleasant tasting area out front, and a large event-type area inside with the casks of wine making 30 foot tall walls on three sides. There were several wines to try; none were bad, but none of them were able to get my wallet out for anything but the tasting fee. On to Williamson Winery.

Street-side tasting areas built over parking spots are the norm in Healdsburg; we were happy  this one had a roof, as a brief shower passed over us. Angie was quite knowledgeable about the wines, and the winemaker, Bill Williamson. Holding three degrees, he started and later sold a software company in Australia, then moved to San Francisco to start another very successful one. He owns at least 10 vineyards throughout the Sonoma – Mendocino area, at least two restaurants, plus dinners for 10 guests available at his home (he has four top chefs working for him). And, he has a line of cheeses and condiments, which are paired with the wines we tasted.

First off, Tickled Pink, a delicious Rose’ blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot! This was paired with a cheddar cheese with a Beet and Horseradish Mustard; spectacular! We are coming home with a bottle of each. From there we went to Pinot Noir; I must admit, with all the wineries offering this grape, I’ve been very disappointed that none came close to meeting my expectations, including theirs, the Rapture. The cheese pairing was great, though. Onto two Red Bordeaux style wines; the Allure and the Entice, paired with a gouda. They were both good, but the Entice DID entice me to get a bottle. Finally, the Indulge, a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon, with a Gouda and pepper and bacon jam. Terri HAD to have a jar of that to bring home!

We had so much fun there that we took Angie’s suggestion, and booked a late lunch at their restaurant tasting room for Wednesday. We can’t wait! Then I asked Angie to recommend just one winery we couldn’t miss no more than 10 miles away, and she recommended Ferrari-Carano. It will probably end up being the highlight of our trip here. 

The ‘tasting room” turned out to be a gigantic, Italian style villa with wonderful gardens, and expansive views of hills laden with vineyards basking in the sun. The tasting was done on a very large patio complete with boxwood shrubbery carving out individual areas for tables. Reservations were required, and we didn’t have one, but fate smiled kindly on us, and we were able to be seated at a small table tucked up next to the villa, with great views wherever we looked.

We were immediately given a taste of Fume’ Blanc as we were seated, which I quite enjoyed. Eventually we were greeted by Harry, a slight, unassuming man with a bit of a speech impediment. We started off with a Chardonnay which was better than average. I moved on to reds; a 2018 Middle Ranch Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. Yes! THIS was the Pinot I’d been looking for the entire trip! Harry appreciated my approval of the wine, noting that most others were looking for an entirely different expression of this grape. Couldn’t pass it up.

View from the tasting patio

Next on the list was a 2018 Merlot from Sonoma County. While it was just a bit light for me, I commented on the nice structure and some potential for aging. Harry told us that one Merlot he bought for $32 is now worth at least $1,000! At one time he had owned over 600 cases of wine; When he “liquidated” his holdings due to a dissolution, the net proceeds were over $100,000

On to the 2016 Tressor Bordeaux Blend, also from Sonoma County. A very non-traditional Bordeaux, 71% Cab Sauv, 10% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Very, nice, could not pass it up. Our last taste was a Cabernet Sauvignon; good, but we left some for the next visitors.

But this was about so much more than just the wine. The setting was idyllic, sunny, comfortable temperature, amazing views, spoiled only for a short time by a narcissistic Instagram influencer putting on a bit of a show for her photographer/partner. As we left, Harry looked me in the eye and gave me the most interesting compliment. “You know more about wine than you think you do.”

Then, just for fun, right before we got home, we stopped off at Russian River Brewing and tried a Belgian Quad (a double Doppel Bock?) and a Stout. Being in California, I’m thinking that the Stout had gone on a diet; not as stout as I like a Stout. The Belgian was 9.5% and wonderful. Terri let me have a sip.

Up next: tasting at Pezzi-King and a late lunch at Williamson Winery.

Best Laid Plans Take a Detour

The plan was beautiful in its simplicity. Drive out to Guerneville, then drive back, stopping at a few wineries we’d spot along the way. What could go wrong? Well, first the day got off to a slow start – somehow, I slept in until 8:30, which is super-rare. Then Terri took the time to make us a fabulous breakfast of Avocado Toast with a fruit salad, which was really tasty and filling, but more time-consuming than our typical granola and yogurt. Oh well, both are great, let’s head out!

Oops, then there’s the whole WiFi/cell phone coverage issue. The good news is that we get free WiFi here, but only for two devices. We chose Terri’s iPad, and the laptop so we can connect to the TV and stream shows instead of the usual garbage, plus I can work on my blog. The downside is that the cell coverage here looks good on paper, but connecting to the internet on the phones ranges between sluggish and nearly non-existent. I could NOT pull up the route to Guerneville at all. No worries, I had a basic idea of how to get there, so we headed out. 

Dinner is served!

And within a few minutes were completely distracted by a flock of Turkey Vultures on a wide shoulder of the road holding a conclave. We had to pull over! They didn’t budge, even though we were pretty close. Terri took a video, then I had to get out, change the lens on my camera for a nice close-up shot, and then take my own video. We walked a few steps the other way towards a creek where we’d seen another vulture, and discovered another carcass, cleaned up to the bones. Several minutes later, we drove away, and came to an intersection.

And turned the wrong way, waiting for the route to load on the phone. And discovered Sebastapol. Did I mention all the wineries we passed on the way? But I was on a mission to get to Guerneville, maybe because it was such a cool name, or because on a map it looked to be in the Russian River area, which is widely known for their great grapes. Only a half an hour away (which is how long it should have taken us in the first place). 

The roads out here are very narrow, generally with zero shoulders, overhung with oak trees, and twisty as a corkscrew. With someone behind you who typically drives them 10-20 mph over the limit. Hidden driveways abound, making me wonder how many times residents have been hit trying to get on the road. Suddenly I see a sign that says “Russian River Winery” as I fly past. I want to stop! Luckily, there is a small junction, a dirt road to a local cemetery, so I pull in and turn around.

As we drive down the winery driveway, we spot what looks to be a building built 150 years ago, but then we see other rustic, but newer ones as well. We enter the main building … but no one is there. There is a sign that points to Wine Tasting, which ends up in an odd place. A woman appears “Can  I help you?” “Wine tasting?” I ask with lifted eyebrows. “Over there” across a courtyard, and a completely separate area. Nick comes out to show us to a table; we find one out of a cool breeze that even has a heater, and settle in.

We are happy to see they have an onsite restaurant, as it is now past lunchtime. We order a Focaccia Bread; they customize the toppings to our preferences, and we dig in, accompanied by tastes of their wines. Oh, and I HAD to wander around the grounds, taking photos of several vintage vehicles and the huge trees (Redwoods?) that dotted their grounds. Their wines were interesting. The first Pinot Noir I tried had a distinct taste of dill pickle, not exactly pleasing to my palate. The next one was much better, but then Nick brought out the Petite Sirah, and it knocked my socks off, and I had to get a bottle. Somehow we learned that they had also made a sparkling wine from Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. What? That’s crazy – but it was only $20, so we took a flier, buying it taste untested. 

Okay, on to Guerneville! The roads now became overhung with coastal Redwoods, up and down, narrower and even twistier. When we finally pulled into Guerneville, we were agape. It was as if we had passed through a portal, and been transported into the late 1950’s. And it started raining. We took off, and soon came to Korbel Winery, established in 1862. Full of anticipation we entered. A staff person eventually approached, only to inform us we were 20 minutes too late to try any of their wines, as they were closing soon. We did stop at their deli, and picked up some sweet treats, as well as two micro bottles of their champagne-style wine. That was the last winery we saw on our way home, except for the ones we hunted down in Windsor that were closed.

Well, we had wanted to explore, and explore we did! The day ended up nothing like we had planned or anticipated, but it was full of opportunities to let ourselves absorb what life offered on that one unique day. Maybe we didn’t get want we wanted, but we got what we needed.

Exploring Healdsburg, Part One

The last time we were in Healdsburg, there was only one business open – the Costeaux French Bakery, so we stopped in and had lunch. We were served by the owner of the Healdsburg Running Company, a shoe store. Why? Fires had broken out overnight, on our first night in the area, and pretty much everyone was either evacuating or trying to save their home from the flames. We ended up being trapped in our condo in Windsor for another day before the roads opened enough for us to evacuate.

We had much better luck this time, although the fog that surrounded us when we got up was unnervingly similar to the smoke we saw when we got up that fateful morning. But the sun soon broke out, and we headed out, along with hundreds of others, to explore this charming town. The main area of downtown surrounds a city plaza that takes up an entire block, filled with trees, grass, benches and tables. Each street has a wine-tasting room, a restaurant, an art gallery and a boutique store, another wine-tasting room, restaurant, art gallery and boutique, on and on. The possibilities are limited, but endless.

Tasting at Portalupi Wines

We started out at Portalupi Cal-Ital Wines. The Spanish, who colonized this area, brought the first grape vines and made the first wine, but it was the Italians who came later who really developed Sonoman wines. It pretty much all came crashing down during Prohibition, except for wine made for sacramental purposes. Some of the vineyards here still have grape vines over 100 years old, and obscure Italian varieties can often be found. 

Jane Portalupi greeted us, and presented the tasting menu; Arneis, an Italian white, Barbera, Primitivo (the precursor to Zinfandel) and Charbono, all Italian reds, along with Pinot Noir Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. I tried three;  the Barbera had massive acidity, decent fruit on the middle palate and a moderate finish. Definitely made to be served with food, as are most Italian type wines. 

From there I moved to the Charbono, a variety I’d never heard of (but was becoming a regular theme in my tastings). Very big fruit forward, but not overpowering. Not much of a nose, nor finish, but with firm tannins. Next up, Petite Sirah! My notes say “WOW!” Big and jammy, great mouthfeel, nice long finish. Once again, I wished it had been decanted at least an hour earlier so it could develop its full potential.

A fabulous day to enjoy this tray of treats and some nice wine at thumbprint wines

Next up, thumbprint cellars (lack of Capitalization on purpose, per their literature). Wonderful outdoor setting across the street from the park. Sometimes the … atmosphere … is as good or better than the wine, but it all works to make a great experience. Terri had a 2021 Grenache Blanc – a white Grenache? Yep, done in stainless steel, so no need to lay down for a year. It was light, but pleasant, probably pair well with scallops. From there she had 2021 Chardonnay, again done in stainless steel; not at all pleasing to her palate. I started with a 2021 NuVo red Blend. If they had told me it was Beaujolais style, I would have skipped it, as I’ve been put off by the raw brashness of it. However, it was not bad! Light body like a Pinot Noir, best served chilled. 

Another park, another Sunday in Healdsburg

From there I tried the 2017 Threesome, a blend of Cab Sav, Petite Verdot and Cab Franc. I love red blends, and was expecting quite a lot. I would have bought a bottle if it was half the price. Each tasting came with a small tray of goodies; three cheeses, some honey-herbed almonds, pretzels made with cauliflower flour (which we are going to go back and buy!) and some almond flour crackers. It made tasting quite the treat! So, the tasting fee was $30 for four wines with the food tray, waived with the purchase of a bottle. The Nuvo was $32 – no brainer there! We will keep it in the wine fridge until a hot day in August, and have it out on the patio.

Sweet ride cruising Healdsburg

Time for lunch! We decided to go to HBG – Healdsburg Bar and Grill – since the French Bakery wasn’t open. A bit funky and declasse’, but with a great outdoor seating area, again with a view of the park. Terri had an Impossible Burger, and I had a Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich with a Black Butte Porter. Not bad! Headed out, went to a couple of art galleries and explored the square a bit more, but decided to head back and sit on the deck and enjoy the sun. But we will return! Stay tuned for part Two.

Took the long way home, and came across this

When Wine Tasting Becomes So Much More, Part Two

Leaving our extraordinary visit and tasting with Phyllis at Zouzounis Wines, we had identified two other wineries we wanted to visit. Phyllis was very positive about one, and much less so about the other. So we found them both, a few hundred feet away, with the doors right next to each other. Both were locked tight. So much for that! But she had also recommended Colagrossi Wines, just across the street, so we headed over. The setting was not impressive – the “tasting room” door was blocked by equipment; but the metal roll-up door to the tiny warehouse was open with bottles of Rose’ stacked on a wine barrel. Several wicker chairs were set up under umbrellas in the parking lot, and we saw people sitting outside with a glass of wine.

Craig is a big, amiable man who had spent years selling “cooperage” or wine barrels to wineries all around Napa and Sonoma, then decided to open his own winery with an emphasis on wines made with Italian grape varieties. I enjoyed the Rose’ di Sangiovese; Terri not as much. We both found the Ribolla Gialla pretty light. It would probably be great quite chilled on a hot day on the patio. The full-on Sangiovese was good, but not remarkable.

Gotta love that smile!

The Barbera, however, was absolutely wonderful! Here’s where things get sketchy, though. I’m not even sure if we tasted any of the other wines on his list, because we had met his partner (wife?) Tatiana, and were listening to her remarkable story. The daughter of a Russian General, she had enjoyed a privileged life growing up, with two dachas and household staff. She had a rich education, much broader than what students here get. Then she started traveling broadly, to Turkey, Italy and more. She learned Italian and Spanish. She actually lived in Turkey, and then Italy for eight years! Returning home, she was contacted by an owner of a large farming business in Italy; long story short, she began importing fruits and vegetables, which sold out as quickly as she could bring them in. By the tons. She became quite successful, until one day when she went to work, found it closed and shut down by Putin’s orders.

She left Russia, and eventually found her way to America (another story in itself). She knew zero English, knew no one, and had very few assets, but came anyway. She used Google Translate a lot, and put her profile on a dating app, looking for someone who could speak Italian. Craig talked her into giving him her phone number, where he used the two Italian words he knew. Fast forward, and she is now his business manager and partner in life. 


There was much, much more to the story, some of which we heard, some still waiting to be told. And then, who should roll up (literally) but Phyllis! Unsurprisingly, she and Tatiana had met shortly after Tatiana arrived in Windsor, and Phyllis took her under her wing, and they have had an incredibly strong friendship ever since. 

Wine tasting. Sometimes the wines are great, sometimes not very good. But each visit provides the opportunity for an encounter that will be unforgettable.

When Wine Tasting Becomes So Much More, Part One 4/16/22

Bill and Terri with wine maker extraordinaire Phyllis Zouzounis

After hours and hours of scouring the internet, and planning our first day of wine tasting, nothing turned out as planned. Which turned out to be perfect. We had decided to take it a bit easy, and stay close to quarters today, and I had found three wineries an easy 1+ mile walk from our condo. They all sounded interesting, so we started out. Sonoma County in mid-April shares some characteristics with western Washington, including cloudy skies and showers. Fortunately, the showers were done, and the skies started to clear as we headed out, loving the tons of roses in full bloom, and sensuously scented.

We found ourselves in the “Beverage District”, or so the signs said. Basically it was an industrial park, with small wineries tucked in here and there. Our first stop was Zouzounis Wines. Kim greeted us; we preferred to sit outside, so she said she’d bring our tastes to us. And then Phyllis, the winemaker, would be out to talk about the wines. Phyllis, potentially an octogenarian, was in a wheelchair due to a stroke some years ago. 

She had headed to Sonoma in the 80’s determined to work in the wine industry, but back then, no doors were open to females. Nonetheless, she persevered, and worked her way into the cellar and wine making.When the winery owner told the winemaker that Phyllis was to be the assistant, he said “We don’t hire women!” We do now, he said, and her career was born. She worked almost 20 years at Dry Creek Vineyards, before eventually opening her own winery. In 1997, she was recognized as one of the few women winemakers in Sonoma. 

There is SO much more to the story she told us, but I have to leave some for you to discover. And what about her wines? So glad you asked! We started off with a Sangiovese … if you’ve ever had a Chianti from Italy, it’s from the same grapes. To my palate, it was a perfect balance between Italian and American styles, and was just crying for some pasta with tomato sauce. 

We moved on to Zinfandel’s, a 2015 from Dry Creek Vineyard, and a 2019 from Locavore. She typecast the Dry Creek as masculine, and the Locavore as feminine. I totally got it. The Locavore was soft and supple; several chefs earlier had told her it would pair well with seafood, and I agree,  can’t wait to try it with salmon. The Dry creek was muscular, and a bit in your face. It was standing just a bit too close, and said “My name is ZIN!”, and you said, “Okay!”. This wine wants something powerful to stand up to it, although I’d love it on its own.

Then we moved on to a 2016 Petite Syrah, which was my gateway wine to reds. But this Petite Syrah was a bit magical. A huge nose, full of spice and herbs. Its middle name was Surprise! So floral, herbaceous, yet great fruit. And then she had Kim, our fabulous server, open a 2015 – grapes from the same vineyard, same techniques by the same winemaker, but a totally different wine. At first taste, I’d call it mousy compared to the first. It’s a shame we couldn’t let it aerate for an hour or so, because the character finally started to come through at the end.

Phyllis with our attentive server, Kim

There was also a port-style wine at the end, made with Rafina grapes which are used to make port in Portugal; alas, the low sugar content appealed to her, but not as much to us.

But in the end, I wouldn’t trade the experience of being able to spend time with this remarkable woman pioneer winemaker for anything. Sometimes a conversation over a glass of wine can be oh, so much more. Oh, and then she recommended we check out Colarossi Wines.

The Game of “Cutting Trees”

I just listened to a podcast featuring C. Chi Nguyen, as heard on the Ezra Klein Show, that was fun, interesting and transformative (listen HERE). It talked about how governments and businesses strip out details and nuances on topics/issues/programs/actions, and reduces them to quantifiable numbers, such as grades, profit margins, clicks, etc. He goes on to say that when we play that game, then the game plays us, and we start to measure ourselves by how many “likes” we get, how many steps we take, what were your sales, and on and on. 

Orientation at the start of the hike

A short time ago, I took a short hike with 29 other people to a place called “Unit 2 Upper Rutzatz” that was recently slated to be clear-cut of all but a very few, very large trees. The Center for Responsible Forestry surveyed the area, and found it was a “Legacy Forest’; one that had been logged by white settlers around 1880, and subsequently regrew into a mixed species forest with trees now over 4 feet in diameter, and 200 feet high. It is also a watershed first least two forks of the Nooksack River that merge just downhill. 

Onward and upward!

The Center for Responsible Forestry (C4RF) mobilized their members, local residents, and members of other interested groups like the Mount Baker Group of the Sierra Club in writing letters to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to try and save this biologically rich and diverse area.

So, the DNR sees this as its game; how many board feet of lumber can they get from cutting the trees down, and how much money can they get by selling the rights to cut the trees? They DO have to abide by some rules in this game; how many trees over 4’ in diameter are there? Not many, but they must be saved. How many Cedar trees are there? Are there protected species there?

Made it to the end of the road

But this is a multi-player game, and environmentalists can play as well. How many letters opposing the sale can we get? How much testimony before the DNR committee will be heard? (And DNR changed the rules; only one hour of public input instead of two, and only two minutes per person, down from three. Announced on the day of the meeting). How many articles can we help get written? In the Upper Rutzatz game, enough public opinion was generated to get the DNR to postpone the sale from March to April. We will see what April brings.

And then we took our hike to Section 2. Here is a quote from C. Thi Nugyen that spoke to me:

“And games are toxic for me when we just get hyper-narrowed on the point system and we never think about the larger outcome of the point system. We never think about what our life is like or what the activity is like under that point system. We never think about what follows from it. The big worry with the impact of highly gamified external systems is it encourages us not to step into a game and [then] step back from it and think about the richness of the activity and whether it was worth it. What I’m worried about is those cases when the point system blocks out everything else from your universe and you don’t see any of the other stuff.”

C. Chi Nguyen as heard on the Ezra Klein Show

Our group walked about two miles up a steep logging road to reach the contested area. We saw a couple of trees with blue rings spray-painted around them: I asked Alex, one of the group leaders, what they were for. “Those are the trees that will be saved,” he said. Presumably they will be one of the eight trees per acre they are required to leave due to the rules of the game. Everything else will be cut down to ground level. 

Once we made it to the top, we found a small clearing where we sat and drank in the stillness of the forest, and in our minds’ eyes, compared this organically mixed-species regrown woods to the tree-factory feeling of a monoculture forest. As we sat there – men and women, boys and girls, and happy cavorting dogs – we were learning about this Legacy Forest, and others like it, and the benefits of preserving it.  A group of mountain bikers passed through; it was obvious we weren’t the only ones who saw the beauty and restorative properties in this area. 

Learning in and from the forest

Immersed in regrown nature, we found ourselves unplugged from the “Game of Cutting Trees” and let our thoughts and spirits wander amongst the Douglas Fir, Cedar, Hemlock, Broadleaf Maple, ferns, Oregon Grape and other plants. We were “thinking about the richness of the experience (of hiking and being in the woods) and whether it was worth it.” And it was, and our lives were enriched by it.

The Cask (Bottle) of Amontillado

Starting in my youth (and even nowadays), I’d find an author I liked, and I’d read everything the author wrote. I started off with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries, then moved on to Edgar Allen Poe. One of his most famous and fascinating short stories is “The Cask of Amontillado,” where he lures an already intoxicated “friend” who has deeply wronged him to the cellars deep beneath his grand home on the premise he has located a rare cask of Amontillado wine. He gets him even drunker, chains him up in an alcove, then builds a new wall, sealing him there forever.

So, I’ve always had a curiosity about this wine for ages. Terri and I were out grocery shopping the other day, and I saw a bottle of authentic  Amontillado from Spain, and thought “Hey, now’s our chance to try this!” So, with much anticipation, we bought the bottle and brought it home. Amontillado is a type of Sherry; there are seven different types: manzanilla, fino, amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado, cream and Pedro Ximenez. Some Sherry’s are aperitifs, to be enjoyed before a meal; others are served with food; and others are served as a dessert wine. 

Years ago, we stayed at an awesome Bed and Breakfast in northern California, and they offered a wine in the evening we quite enjoyed. We had thought it was a Port, but later found out it was a Sherry. We’ve been searching for it for years, and had hoped that this Amontillado was THE one.

We opened the bottle with great anticipation, swirled the wine, and appreciated the nose redolent of almonds. We tasted it, and Whoa, Charlie! This was NOT the wine we had hoped for; I normally like dry wines, but this bordered on astriginent. Terri took three sips, and was done. I stuck with it and finished the small pour, but it didn’t seem to improve. Sadly, it looks like this bottle is going to be (another) bottle of Sherry used for cooking.

Have you had a different experience with Sherry? Let me know! (But if you invite us over for a tasting of a rare Amontillado in your basement, we will probably decline).

2021 – Not As Bad As I Thought…

I was throwing a private little pity-party for myself on Christmas Eve. Plans to travel to Portland and the Seattle area to see friends, our kids, grand-kids, sisters, nieces and nephews had to be cancelled once again. “This year REALLY sucks,” I thought, “and next year is starting to also look really sucky.” The emergence of Omicron as an incredibly contagious variant of Coronavirus AND getting over 18” of snow and near-zero temperatures really cast a pall of doom over my thoughts and feelings.

But on New Years Day, I started working on a post to our Skagit Friends of Wine group. I began scrolling through photos of 2021, and it was like “Wow! We did all that?” Local low-land hikes in January, snowshoeing in Leavenworth in February, Skagit daffodils in March, Long Beach and Astoria in April. May saw us take a 4000 mile road trip, and fulfill a bucket-list desire to see Mesa Verde as well as explore around Taos, NM, Durango, CO and St. George, UT. (Not interested in recaps? This is a great place to skip to the end).

Then in June, Terri posted “Do You Like to Drink Wine?” on NextDoor, and Skagit Friends of Wine was born. We hosted eight events open to all members at various local wineries, wine cellars and restaurants with up to 20 people at the outside only venues. In the process, we made several new friends, and met up with several of them for hikes, meals and other gatherings. 

We got to explore the Olympic Peninsula in July with my sister from Colorado, do a favorite hike at Mt Baker, and attend a grandson’s Little League games. August saw us meeting up with a high school friend of Terri’s, have domino’s and dinner with a daughter and granddaughter, see an outdoor concert with friends, and spend time with our daughter and twin grandson’s from Portland while they were visiting here. Our big adventure in September was a visit to Orcas Island, staying in a cozy cabin at Deer Harbor. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to explore the San Juan Islands, it is pretty awesome. Moran State Park alone would take over a week to see everything.

October turned out to be a pleasant fall month; we got our booster vaccination, and we were out and about meeting with our SFoW group, hiking, walking, dining on outdoor patios, and generally taking advantage of the last few nice days before the Long Wet Gray. November lived up to its reputation of being cold and wet, but we still got out here and there; a visit to Terri’s sister and BIL in Port Townsend, helping on some projects to restore the late 1870’s home they bought, and then celebrating my 70th birthday (okay, a couple of years late) with friends at a bistro with a heated, outdoor patio. 

December! Baking cookies with Granddaughter Grace, our last SFoW event at Lantz Cellars, complete with hand-tossed pizza baked in a wood-fired pizza oven, celebrating our anniversary at Birch Bay – and the weather even cooperated! Then, a first in years, a White Christmas, and another dinner and Mexican Train Domino night with Jenn and Grace. Then more snow, cancelling the trips mentioned above. The snow stayed another day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and … still snow on the ground today, January4!

Hmm, it wasn’t my intention to list the highlights of the year, but what a year it was. The continuing lock downs, then a vaccine! The world starts to open up again, only to have the football pulled away just as we went to kick it. Laying on the ground, the wind knocked out of us, it was easy for me to focus on what we had just lost, not all we had been able to do in 2021. All in all, it was definitely a better year than I thought. 2022? Who knows? It’s anybody’s guess what kind of yo-yo ride it will be, with ups and downs in so many aspects of our lives. The good news is that if you truly live each and every day, it just might turn out better than expected – or remembered. 

Here There Be Dragons

My Muse was prompting me to write a great, upbeat post about the Joy of Friends. But at 5:00 AM this morning, somehow it morphed into Here There Be Dragons. Just a few days ago, we actually had dinner inside someone else’s home, with two other couples! It was amazing, and so much fun!  And we were happily making plans to drive to Portland to visit friends and grandkids, and then head up to near Seattle to visit a gaggle of other close family members. And today we are meeting up with our Skagit Friends of Wine group at a winery for pizza and wine. What a far cry from a year ago! 

And yet, it feels like we are approaching Terra Incognito, or maybe the edge of the earth, where ships fall off if they get too close. Or maybe we have arrived at the lands where there are dragons. With the meteoric rise of Omicron, to continue the metaphor, we are sailing into uncharted waters. 

We were ecstatic last April when we became “fully vaccinated”, and started going back out into the world again. It was a little bit like our own version of the movie “Blast from the Past”, where a guy emerges out of a bomb shelter after living in it for years, to find a strange “new” world (great movie, if you haven’t seen it). Yeah, we were still concerned about the background “radiation levels” of COVID, but we carefully  built our new world with safe people in safe places. 

Of course, that didn’t last more than a few months, when it became obvious that the effectiveness of the vaccine was ebbing significantly. But then we could get booster shots! Yay! And all was skylarks and flowers again. “Are you boostered?” became one of our most used phrases, but things still seemed to be getting better. And then, like a zombie apocalypse, Omicron appeared, COVID back from the dead, and more virulent than ever. And it’s Deja Vu, March of 2019 all over again, with a twist. How well does our vaccine protect us? How dangerous is Omicron? Look, the hospitals are overflowing again, and people are waiting 12 hours to be seen in ER’s. Immunized people, and even people who have recovered from COVID are being infected. And it’s all so new, and so fast, and there is – once again – no data. We are in uncharted territory and getting conflicting advice from experts. And it’s winter. 

Whelp, let’s see. Going back to ordering groceries online, and having them delivered to the back of the car? Check. Still no inside dining. Check. Movie theaters? Hahaha, nope. But … In Person with boostered friends and family? Going to say yes right now. It was so amazing to reestablish close, in-person relationships! Of course we will continue to keep in touch with distant friends and family with video chats, but the closeness of being in-person will never be possible over a Zoom call. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? But today, we are going to meet up with some boostered friends, eat, drink and be merry. Happy Holidays …

That’s What niH Said!

Introducing niH, the gender-free personal pronoun

It started out as a nice, quiet dinner with another couple at a local bistro. Somehow the conversation turned to the increasing difficulties of which personal pronoun is preferred by any random person. Zoom (and probably many others) have even added the option for you to state which pronoun you desire others to use when conversing with or about you. As we continue to experience increasing levels of genderless clothing and hairstyles and lifestyles, it rapidly becomes apparent that he/his, she/hers, etc, is an antiquated form of speech. 

During the dinner, I proposed an entirely gender-free personal pronoun – the word niH. As a symbol of non-conformity, the last letter will be capitalized, as well as give a clue as to the pronunciation of this word. As an added benefit, the word is so amorphous it lends itself to a wide variety of situations, and is very flexible in usage. “That waitperson is great. niH really does a good job!” “niH said it’s time to go now.” “Whose turn is it? Oh, it’s niHs.” 

In the course of the conversation, a question arose: “What is the plural of niH?” Hmmm, that made me think … so, is there a plural of (using oldspeak) she? Well, I guess a gathering of she-persons would be women. Using that as a guideline, it seems like niHen (both “men” and “women” end in “en”) would make the most sense. 

Now, there is no way I can make this go viral by myself. I need a strong team I can depend on, and so I am founding the Royal Order of the Knights of niH. This may ring a bell for some of you; to see the Monty Python inspiration for the Knights of niH, check it out HERE. We will recognize each other by wearing a very small shrubbery – like a spring of Thyme – pinned to the lapel. 

So, now go and spread the word – niH, niH, niH!