NW Snapshots: Victorian Amenities at Fort Worden

Antique radiator with built-in warming oven. Circa 1900. Photo: KGilb.

Antique radiator with built-in warming oven. Circa 1900. Photo: KGilb.

I love big, beautiful, Victorian-era houses.  They usually have so much more architectural detail than homes built today.  So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across this little beauty in the dining room of a house used by officers at Fort Worden near Port Townsend, WA.  I’ve seen dozens of hot water radiators over the years, including some with ornate decorative designs.  But this is the first one I’ve ever seen that came with a built-in warming oven.  What a great idea!

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Gypsy Jazz by Pearl Django

Seattle gypsy jazz band's newest CD titled Eleven. Cover Credit: Pearl DJango.

Seattle gypsy jazz band’s newest CD titled Eleven. Cover Credit: Pearl DJango.

January 7, 2012.  I fell in love with Gypsy Jazz thanks in large part to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of a river rat in the 2000 film Chocolat.  Midway through the movie, Depp’s character picks up an acoustic guitar and launches into a lively rendition of “Minor Swing” which was composed by guitar legend Django Reinhardt.  Reinhardt was instrumental in the creation of Gypsy Jazz, a movement that sprang to life in the Hot Clubs and French cabarets of the 1930’s.

What is Gypsy Jazz?  To me, it’s a smooth blend of traditional gypsy music with melodies reminiscent of a street scene in Paris, circa 1930s, and the toe-tapping energy of Swing.  In short, it’s the kind of music that makes you want to get up and move.

Keeping the sound alive in the Pacific NW is a Seattle-based jazz  group called Pearl Django.  The group–comprised initially of Neil Andersson, Dudley Hill, and David “Pope” Firman–came together in 1994 in Tacoma, WA.  In 1995, they released their first album titled Le Jazz Hot, followed by ten more albums in fairly quick succession.

Over the years, the group lost some members and added others, eventually becoming a quintet.  Their repertoire expanded to include several original compositions.  They continued playing in a variety of nightclubs, cabarets, jazz concerts, and folk music festivals.  (including the Festival Django Reinhardt at Samois sur Seine, France)  And, in the process, they established a reputation as one of the best Hot Club-style groups in America.

The band’s most recent CD, Eleven, was released in June 2012 to critical acclaim.  The music has a rich, mellow sound with an almost “Paris After Hours” feel to it.  And three of the tracks feature award-winning guitarist Martin Taylor.  Buoyed by sales to enthusiastic fans, Eleven stayed on Jazz Week‘s Top 40 Chart for ten straight weeks.  (to sample some of the cuts, please check out Pearl Django on Amazon)

If you haven’t yet had a chance to catch this incredible jazz group live in concert, do yourself a favor.  Treat yourself to one of their CDs ASAP, but take care.  This music is so addictive, I’m betting you won’t be happy with just one.  Enjoy!


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Water Tower in Volunteer Park

Water Tower in Seattle's Volunteer Park. Photo: KGilb.

Water Tower in Seattle’s Volunteer Park. Photo: KGilb.

9/28/2012. The Water Tower rises 75 feet from the top of a small hillock at the south entrance of Seattle’s Volunteer Park.  Even on a day drenched with sunshine, it’s dark and foreboding like the stone keep of a medieval castle.  But over the years, the trees and shrubbery planted around its base have grown tall enough to obscure and soften the impact of the massive red brick tower.

A narrow path snakes around the base of the tower to a flight of stone steps that leads to the entrance.  Inside, voices echo as you climb the metal staircase that spirals up to an observation platform at the top.  107 steps, by my count, but the climb is worth it.  Arched windows, covered only by black metal grates, offer a gorgeous 360 degree view of the Seattle skyline.

The Water Tower was designed by the Olmsted Brothers.  (a landscape architectural firm in Brookline, MA)  Construction was completed in 1906.  The Olmsted Brothers, creators of NYC’s world-renowned Central Park, spent over 30 years in the Emerald City developing private properties in addition to Seattle’s incredible parks system.

While visiting the Water Tower, take some time to explore the other attractions in Volunteer Park:  the conservatory, the dahlia garden, the koi ponds, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.  Or stroll along one of the many trails winding through the lush green lawns and towering trees of this 40-acre park.

The Water Tower is located at 1247 15th Avenue East in Seattle’s Capitol Hill District.  Open to the public from dawn til dusk.  For a map and detailed directions, please check out the Go Northwest website.

Special Note:  For interior photos of  the Water Tower in Volunteer Park, please check out our Wild About the NW Facebook Page.

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NW Snapshots: Cold Water Spring


Cold water spring near Mt Hood. Photo: KGilb.

Cold water spring near Mt Hood. Photo: KGilb.

9/11/2012.  We stumbled upon this cold water spring while traveling along a forest service road in northern Oregon.  How many years has water been burbling down into the catch basin?  Difficult to say.  There were no signs posted on site and no reference to it made on any of our maps.  But the fountain’s stonework is reminiscent of the stone bridges and guard rails found along the historic Columbia River Highway which was built between 1913 and 1922.  Could it be that old?  I guess only the moss knows for sure.

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What’s On Your BBQ?

Three great BBQ sauces from the Pacific NW. Photo: KGilb.

Three great BBQ sauces from the Pacific NW. Photo: KGilb.

8/15/2012. I love the taste of barbecue.  There’s nothing better during the summer.  But I hate sitting at a picnic table, trying to enjoy a plate full of my favorite barbecued foods, with tears streaming down my face.  It’s that lusciously sweet, smoky flavor I love, not a sauce so spicy hot that it sears my tongue to a cinder.

Fortunately, there are some very flavorful sauces out on the market right now that won’t set your mouth on fire . . . and many of them are made right here in the Pacific NW.  Here are three of my favorites:

Big Tony Brown’s Mild Sauce. A little sweet, a little tangy, and with just enough heat to give it a kick.  This is the sweetest of my three favorites.  Big Tony Brown comes from St. Louis, MO, where “Barbecue is King”.  He actually learned the art and craft of true backyard BBQ from his family.  Want an even bigger kick, but still nowhere near hot enough to reach for a fire extinguisher?  Try Big Tony Brown’s Spicy Sauce.  And for those who’d like to leave the grilling to someone else, Tony also does catering.

SweetFire Barbecue Sauce. Uniquely Northwest, SweetFire is slow-cooked to perfection from an old family recipe.  With its sweet tomato base and blend of spices, this sauce would go well with almost anything you might like to grill.  Beef, pork, poultry–even fish or veggie kabobs!  SweetFire is a natural born flavor enhancer that allows the true flavor of the food to shine through.  And, bite after bite, the heat is never overpowering.

Bette Jo’s Sweet Creole-style BBQ Sauce. This sauce was created in honor of Bette Jo Rideau whose passion for cooking was passed down to her daughter, Tori.  Bette Jo’s has a sweet, smoky flavor with a little surge of heat that sneaks in right at the end.  Good with beef, pork, or poultry, it’s also the perfect ingredient for a big pot of barbecue beans.  The secret to this scrumptious sauce?  Its unique blend of West African, Western European, and Native American influences.

Warning!  Big Tony Brown’s, SweetFire, and Bette Jo’s BBQ sauces are all about flavor.  Try them just once and I think you’ll be hooked.  But if all you’re looking for is a spicy hot sauce with the fire power of a blow torch, these products are definitely not for you.

Special Note:  Can’t find these BBQ sauces at your favorite grocery store?  Don’t despair!  All three can be ordered online from their individual websites.

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Taft Beach II

Driftwood on Taft Beach. Central Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

Driftwood on Taft Beach. Central Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

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Taft Beach on the Oregon Coast

Driftwood litters the sand at Taft Beach. Central Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

Driftwood litters the sand at Taft Beach. Central Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

July 27, 2012.  With over 300 miles of rugged coastline, Oregon has a lot of sandy beaches tucked away among its headlands and each one is unique.  Mention Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock springs instantly to mind.  Indian Beach at Ecola State Park, and it’s a misty image of wetsuit-clad surfers riding the waves into a small cove.  Cobble Beach is black with volcanic cobbles, and Taft Beach?  Picture a long curving stretch of sand littered with driftwood.  And oh, what driftwood!  We’re not talking skinny little pieces you can carry home and carve into walking sticks.  Most are huge logs or the trunks of mature trees with their root balls still attached.

Taft Beach is located on the north shore of Siletz Bay.  Walking along the hard-packed sand next to the water, the eye can’t help but return again and again to the jumble of driftwood cast up by the sea.  Some of the logs have been charred and blackened by campfires.  Others fashioned into crude shelters and wind breaks by fussy landlubbers so they can escape the stiff breeze off the ocean.  A few are clearly forts built and then abandoned by an “army” of kids.  Careful!  Before you know it, you might find yourself wandering up into the midst of all that weathered wood just to take a closer look.   What then?

Push on toward the ocean, hang a right, and there’s a stretch of uncluttered sand long enough to satisfy the most ardent beachcomber.  Brightly colored kites fly high overhead and a line of pelicans can often be seen skimming over the waves offshore.  If you’re a wave-watcher, the water is especially turbulent where the bay’s outwardly flowing current meets the ocean’s incoming tides.

Walking back in, watch for crabbers along the shore throwing crab rings into the water.  There’s also a colony of harbor seals who love to sun themselves on a sand spit nearby.  Best place to watch their antics?  From a wooden pier that juts out into the bay.

Taft Beach is located at the southern end of Lincoln City on the Central Oregon Coast.  From Highway 101 (Oregon Coast Highway), turn onto 51st Street and head toward the ocean.  Pass under the welcoming arch featuring Taft Beach’s crab mascot and continue on to the parking lot at the end of the street.  Ample parking available most of the time, though it may be crowded on a busy summer weekend.

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Sweet Taste of Summer

Juicy red cherries ready to be picked. Photo: KGilb.

Juicy red cherries ready to be picked. Photo: KGilb.

Bursting with flavor and with a distinctive rich red color, Bing cherries are the classic summer treat.  This year, however, why not try one of the other varieties grown here in the Pacific NW:  Chelan, Tieton, Lambert, Lapin, Skeena or Sweetheart cherries.  And for an extra special treat, be sure to sample some Rainiers–the large yellow cherry with a bright red blush.  Trust me . . . you haven’t lived until you’ve tried a thick slice of dark chocolate cake topped with a Rainier cherry sauce.  Mmmmmm.

These are absolutely the best tasting cherries in the country.  So, don’t miss out!  Pick up a couple of bags today and savor the sweet taste of summer for yourself.

Special Note:  The photo was taken at Tiny’s Organic in Wenatchee, WA.  This family-owned farm also grows peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, and a wide variety of vegetables.   

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Voodoo Magic in Eugene

VooDoo Doughnut #3 in Eugene OR. Photo: KGilb.

VooDoo Doughnut #3 in Eugene OR. Photo: KGilb.

7/9/2012.  We were strolling through downtown Eugene, OR, recently when we passed three young men huddled around an iconic pink box full of baked goodies.  The aroma wafting up from the box must have been too overpowering.  They didn’t even make it halfway down the block before digging in.  Voodoo Doughnut stikes again . . . and they didn’t even have to drive all the way to Portland for a fix!

Voodoo Doughnut #3 is located at 20 East Broadway (at Willamette Avenue) where you’ll find the same wickedly delicious treats as served in their original location.  Enjoy!

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Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Kern Street Circus by LeAnn Powers. Photo: KGilb.

Kern Street Circus by LeAnn Powers. Photo: KGilb.

6/21/2012. Monarch Sculpture Park is like a country inn or manor house that has fallen on hard times. The scope and grandeur of the initial vision is still evident, but Mother Nature is moving rapidly to reclaim the area. In short, the grounds are starting to look a little wild. Though that does result in a different experience from what was originally intended, this unique park is still worth a visit. Some might even argue that the experience is more visceral now that the artwork and surrounding environment are becoming one.

A gently sloping path leads from the parking lot down into the 10-acre park. At that point, it branches off into a number of side trails. The sounds of nature are all around: birds singing in the trees, water gurgling in a nearby creek, a soft breeze sighing through the meadow grass. We even saw two deer grazing contentedly on the far side of an exterior fence. And everywhere we looked, there were sculptures.

Monarch probably has close to eighty outdoor sculptures representing a wide range of artistic styles. Modern, classic, quirky, humorous, ethnic, heart-warming, and more than a little surrealistic. Some are as small as a bowling ball; others, as tall and graceful as a willow tree. Some thrum with hidden energy. A few even sing out with the lyrical voice of a chime or temple bell. With area map in hand, we thoroughly enjoyed tracking them all down.

Monarch Sculpture Park is the dream child of artist Myrna Orsini. The idea came to her after several trips to Europe where she attended some workshops at which the artists lived, worked, and displayed their art all in one location. She wanted to establish a similar place here in the Pacific NW that would bring artists and the public together in an inviting natural setting. Land was purchased, a nonprofit organization was set up to oversee the project, and the park opened in 1998.

Unfortunately, in recent months, the park has suffered a series of setbacks. Orsini (now 70+ years old) is no longer able to care for or properly maintain the property–especially since the death of her business partner, fellow artist Doris Coonrod. The downturn in the economy certainly hasn’t helped either. All maintenance work is now being done by volunteers. Donations, of course, are gratefully accepted and additional funding is being sought by local communities in order to keep the park open. But some features and services have been curtailed or scaled back.

Monarch Sculpture Park is located at 8431 Waldrick Road SE, about ten miles outside of Olympia WA. Look for the metallic “Butterfly Tree” sculpture that marks the entrance. The Papillon Inside Gallery is open by appointment only from June 1st to October 1st. But the park grounds are open year-round from dawn to dusk. For a map and detailed directions to the park, please check Monarch’s website.

**Special Note: Be sure to bring along a sturdy pair of walking shoes. Though the trails are marked, they are no longer meticulously maintained. And don’t wait too long to visit. 


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