Fried Green Tomatoes

Sometimes the Chef and I come up with some rather oddball dinner ideas.  We combine what our taste buds get a hankering for and sometimes those combinations can be rather strange.  Like macaroni and cheese with sausage and kraut paired with a side of guacamole…eaten in no particular order.  Weirdness.

Last Sunday, while walking the isles of Whole Foods, we found ourselves thinking about fried green tomatoes, Cesar salad with fresh corn and pimento cheese crackers! Pimento cheese because as we passed the floor to ceiling cheese isle, I spotted the bright orange stuff and instantly had an image of my childhood flash before my eyes… 10 years old, sitting on the back porch with my dogs, eating the creamy cheese mixture, spread between two slices of incredibly soft Mrs. Baird’s white bread.  I was probably drinking a Pepsi too.

Now that I know what’s in the pre-made stuff, I shy away.  Thank goodness for the Chef.  He knows how to make it.

Did you know that pimento cheese is a Southern thing, also known as Caviar of the South?  Guess that’s why it was a staple in our fridge when I was a kid!

green tomato

fried green tomatoes

fresh corn

the cesar dressing is homemade...my favorite!

fried green tomatoes

pimento cheese

 

Cute cotton ball with legs…the Frizzle chicken

Have you ever seen a walking cotton ball?  No?  Me either…but I’ve seen something pretty darn close! A cute little chicken, known as a Frizzle with curled feathers.  She and I had a close, yet cheerful encounter this past weekend when the Chef and I escaped to the countryside of North Carolina to visit some of our Coastie friends.

Check out this frizzled ball of cuteness.

Frizzle chicken

frizzle chicken

 

She’s thinking… “you called me over here and you don’t have anything to eat…I’m outta here chick.”  Heading back to the gang.

frizzle chicken

 

 

 

And isn’t this guy gorgeous.  A Lavender Orpington Rooster.

Rooster with frizzle chicken

 

This Ameraucana hen became intrigued with the camera.  Aren’t chickens funny creatures?   Sorry, girl…no food here.

 

Ameraucana  Hen

 

He looks somewhat French…proud and arrogant.  ;-)  The rooster is one of France’s national emblems… makes perfect sense, no?

Ameraucana hen and Lavender Orpington Rooster

 

backyard hens

Goodbye Frizzle…

backyard hens

 

Oh, just one more pose for the camera huh…

Frizzle chicken

 

And now you too can say you’ve seen a cotton ball with legs!

Diner en Blanc DC…a Paris tradition in America’s capital

Just a quick post about last night’s first ever Diner en Blanc in Washington, DC.  A flash mob dinner event that first came about in none other than our beloved Paris, 1988 to be exact! It’s traveled across the globe and found it’s way to DC, just when we did!  What a coincidence, no?

Dressed in complete white from head to toe, the Chef and I received some pretty puzzling looks while boarding the metro in our residential neighborhood yesterday to meet our group at the Dupont Circle metro entrance (attendees had meeting locations all over DC).  Even more puzzling to onlookers were the table, 2 chairs and a picnic basket dangling from the Chef’s right and left shoulders.   As we walked down the street we were congratulated by one passerby.  I guess he thought we were getting married…what would make him think that?  ;-)  Others thought we were protesting for peace.  That’s exactly what the world needs about now.

Diner en Blanc DC

 

The instructions were clear: be dressed in white (preferable elegantly dressed), bring a table, 2 chairs, white table cloth, 2 white napkins, 3 course dinner with bread and drinks (but no booze), table decorations, LED candles and your invite.  If you violated any of that, you would either not be permitted entrance, or kicked off the list for the following year.  Attendees were invited or selected from a waiting list.

We got lucky with our invite, or possibly it was a little of that Parisian fairy dust left on me from my trip in July.  ;-)

Actually our Paris fairy came in the form of a fun, macaron-loving French blogger named Laetitia.  She’s a Parisian who is now a Washingtonian, who describes herself as the “unofficial ambassador of French culture” here in DC and writes the blog, French Twist DC.    I’ve been following her blog since 2011, before we moved to Paris! How ironic we would actually come to live in the same city???   

So the location–not a clue!  I was seriously hoping the White House lawn.  ;-)  Though I guess there isn’t a fairy around with enough dust for that these days.

Not even after hoofing it  about a mile underground in the metro during RUSH HOUR with about 1500 other white dressed dinner party attendees, were we allowed to know.  I think we either really upset the commuters trying to get home or left them dumbfounded…I’m thinking most had mixed feelings, others wondered why they didn’t get the memo.

Since the Chef and I are newbies to DC, it  really didn’t matter where we were going….it’s all new either way.  After what seemed like 5 metro stops and 10 transfers, our group leader signaled we would exit at the Naval Yard stop.  Our venue…Yards Park, the waterfront area of D.C.’s up and coming Navy Yard neighborhood.

Diner en Blanc Metro ride

The photo is the worst quality, sorry for that. It was either take it really fast or risk getting lost from our group. I wasn’t up for getting lost.

As we meandered our way among those already there who were setting up their Instagrammed inspired table decor, the Chef was exhausted and begging for the wine to found (due to DC laws, etc. we had to purchase wine before hand from the Diner en Blanc organization).  So while I found the wine, he set up the table and got the mandatory gourmet dinner arranged, his area of expertise no doubt! Of course I brought along an Eiffel…duh!

Diner en Blanc DC 2014

A tribute to where it all started…Paris.

salad of grapefruit and avocado

salad of grapefruit and avocado

Diner en Blanc DC

As the sun lowered behind the Anacosita river, the wine was poured  and great conversation with our neighbors to the left and to the right began to flow.  It’s truly amazing how real life connections with total strangers can be made at a table set with excellent food and surrounded by joyful energy (something we plan for our Traveling Pear farm/BnB later in life).  A part of me wanted to continuously snap photos with both the Canon and my cell phone, and the other half just wanted to take it all in, like the Parisians of 1988 most certainly did.  There were enough Instagrammers, Facebookers, Tweeters and whatever else there is to socialize with via the airwaves going on all around me.  I was caught in between…the Chef, well he’s more old school, and therefore sat back, like the gentleman to his left, and took the whole spectacle in while sipping his glass of Sancerre…like the Parisians of 1988.  I’d love to see the photos of that first dinner.  Wouldn’t you?

Diner en Blanc napkin waving

the signaling of the start of diner

Diner en Blanc DC

 

Diner en Blanc DC

 

 

 

Just like the first ball at Versailles in the summer of 2011, this too will go down on the list of The Traveling Pear’s adventures.  As for now, the Chef said he’d like to take a break from playing dress-up…that is until the next soirée I’ll find to get us into.   :-)

Diner en Blanc DC

So have you done the Diner en Blanc before?  If so, where…and please don’t say Paris circa 1988.  Though, I would be very intrigued.

Chasing Orca along San Juan Island

Clear skies for as far as the eye can see.  Mount Rainier shrouded in a purple haze. Glistening peeks of the Olympic mountains and the tranquil blue waters of Haro Strait.  This idyllic summer setting is where the Southern Resident orca pod come to feast on salmon, play, and raise their young.  If you’re an orca enthusiast like myself, this is your Disneyland.

 

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

 

Haro Strait with Olympic Mountains in the distance

Haro Strait with Olympic Mountains in the distance

Haro Strait

Southern Resident Orca approaching Lime Kiln Park

Southern Resident Orca approaching Lime Kiln Park

I planned our Pacific Northwest getaway to correspond with the yearly Orca Sing, a summer solstice event where the orca loving community gathers at Lime Klin state park (Whale Watch park) to sing to the Southern Residents, in hopes they sing back or at least make an appearance.  This year, Seattle’s City Cantabile Choir attended, along with a song and drumming performance by Orca Annie and her husband Odin, a member of the Alaskan Tlingit tribe.

Orca Sing 2014

Orca Sing 2014

Firday Harbor’s weekly market is on Saturday, just the time we were scheduled to arrive by ferry from Anacortes.   Our first stop at the market was the oyster purveyor..not because that was our intention, but because of how incredible they looked as we walked by–they caught our eye for sure.  They were the biggest oysters I had ever seen.  As the Chef and I shopped, my parents found a place to munch down on the local market fare and meet the locals.

oysters at the San Juan Island market

market goodies San Juan Island

 

Haro Haiku, our vacation rental, wasn’t due to be ready for our arrival until the afternoon, so we headed over to the Whale Museum to pass the time, and so that I could get my fill of everything orca.  As the proud sponsor of the orca, Ocean Sun L-25, (thought-to-be-mother of Lolita orca kept at the Miami Seaquarium) I had been looking forward to this museum for quite some time.  Ocean Sun L-25 had been in the hearts of myself and my 22 fourth graders all year.  Sure enough the museum was a everything I had expected.  Very kind and enthusiastic staff members, great informational displays and everything ORCA!  It was hard to leave, but by the time I had read each display and had my nose into every book, it was time to check into the much anticipated Haro Haiku, our island home for the week.

Orca Sooke

Orca Sooke

 

Let’s just say when I set out to experience everything orca, I made sure the accommodations were everything orca too.  I wanted to be able to lay in bed and see the orca if I wanted…and that’s what I got! Literally I could do that.  It was that idyllic.  Haro Haiku sits on Hannah heights, a large hill (mountain) along the west side of San Juan Island.  From the deck, kitchen, living room, and master bedroom one has 180 degree unobstructed  views of Haro Strait over to Victoria, BC.  Mount Rainier rises in the distance as do the Olympic mountains that tower over Port Angeles (where the Chef and I spent our 4th anniversary chasing vampires :-)  That’s another story…

Haro Haiku

 

Haro Haiku

 

Haro Haiku

Dad and the Chef relaxing after a long day of chasing orca!

 

 

_MG_8118

 

Haro Haiku kitchen

Whale watching from the comforts of a king sized bed...

Whale watching from the comforts of a king sized bed…

 

Haro Haiku

the most serene pond along the road to Haro Haiku

the most serene pond along the road to Haro Haiku

Haro Haiku is a home unlike any other I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in.  It was the first time I had visited a place where I truly felt peace and serenity.  Many evenings I found myself sitting at the windows, hot tea in hand, just gazing out across the vast horizon of water, watching the orca porpoise in the waves just below the cliff until twilight gave way to night.  As much as I adore Texas and Maine, there was just something about San Juan Island that fed my soul.  My heart literally ached the day we departed.

While watching orca from the deck of the house was incredible, it couldn’t compare to being on the water next to them!  Captain Jim Maya from Mayas Westside Whale Watch Charters got us as close as the law would allow.  I had contacted Jim about six months before our trip to ask about chartering the entire boat. As we talked, we learned we had some commonalities in life.  He was a retired teacher and had a daughter in-law with a name similar to mine! Jim knew how fond I was of the orca and made sure to get us to the prime viewing spots.  Accompanying Jim was Jeanne, a naturalist who has been living on San Juan Island for 20 years.  Jeanne writes the blog “Whale of A Purpose” and is an orca aficionado.  She can identify each orca almost immediately upon seeing their dorsal fin and has a story for each.  The Chef and I were blow away by the amount of knowledge she had on these majestic creatures.  She’s dedicated her life to chasing orca from dusk till dawn to better understand their relationships, characteristics, and overall existence.  Through the lens of her camera, she’s able to capture what their daily life is like.  No day at SeaWorld  SeaPrison can even come close to comparing to what it’s like to witness orca in the wild…FOR REAL.  They are incredible.

Jim Maya Westside Charters

Jim Maya Westside Charters

The Traveling Pear chasing orca

chasing orca

Jim Mayas Westside Charters

a whale research dog...he sniffs out whale poo!

a whale research dog…he sniffs out whale poo!

The orca known as Cruiser

The orca known as Cruiser with Mount Baker in the distance

 

 

spyhopping orca

 

orca

Jeanne from Whale of a Purpose

Jeanne from
Whale of a Purpose blog who we ran into one more time on our last night on San Juan Island.  She was chasing the orca too.

Captain Jim kept me informed everyday of where the orca were.  On many occasions the Chef and I found ourselves literally on a chase in an instant.  We would get the text from Jim that the whales were headed up or down island and away we would run…either in the car or on foot.  Once we were having lunch in Friday Harbor when I got the the text…and off we went.  Running like crazy people down the rocky beach to Lime Klin, heavy camera in hand, legs about to give way, following the dorsal fins and listening for the “spout” of air.  It was exhilarating.  We weren’t the only crazy orca chasing people either!  A photog dude, about 60 yrs old totally passed me up while running uphill following a rather large orca just offshore.  He only passed and beat me to the lookout point because my hat flew off during the run, and I had to turn back…not because I’m out of shape or anything ;-)   By the way…chasing orca is a great workout! I do recommend it.

darn hat

Lime Kiln park

That's me and Jeanne before I had even met her...she happened to be chasing orca the morning before our boat ride later that morning.  It's a small island after all.

That’s me and Jeanne before I had even met her…she happened to be chasing orca the morning before our boat ride later that afternoon. It’s a small island after all.

Lime Kiln Park

Lime Kiln Park with my Momma

While whale watching is a big draw of the tourism to San Juan Island, it isn’t the only attraction.  There’s great shopping, plenty of outdoors activities like kayaking (which we did…and did not see orca, but harbor seals and porpoise).  There’s a good amount of local cuisine and restaurants to try, though we mostly ate at home because the kitchen at Haro Haiku was meant for a chef! There’s a distillery that makes apply brandy and gin; a vineyard; cheese maker and lavender farm! It’s a splendid little island.

0620142013a

kayaking san juan island

San Juan Island…The Traveling Pear will return!

San Juan Island

Lime Kiln Park

_MG_8636

flowers at Lime Kiln Park

 

 

 

_MG_8139

 

orca

Fair Winds and Following Seas for USS CONSTELLATION CV-64: Her last sail

Tomorrow at 1:00pm my father’s favorite Navy aircraft carrier, the USS CONSTELLATION CV-64, will set sail on her last voyage.  She’s headed to Brownsville, Texas to fearlessly face the torches of the ship breaking company, All Star Metals.  It’s a harsh ending for a ship that gallantly served our nation during some of the most trying of times, the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom to name but a few.

Photo:  Wikipedia- Navy Emporium

Photo: Wikipedia- Navy Emporium

Lovingly nicknamed Connie by her crew, she was commissioned on October 27, 1961 and was the first warship to launch strikes against North Vietnam interests.  In 1981 Connie earned the title of “America’s Flagship” by then president Ronald Reagan.  At one time she was the Navy’s finest ship, was deployed over twenty times to the Western Pacific and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  In 2003, after 41 admirable years of service, Connie was decommission at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, CA and was sent to rest at Puget Sound Naval Station, WA where she awaited her fate.

Awaiting the tug to the scrap yard Bremerton, WA

Awaiting the tug to the scrap yard
Bremerton, WA

Dad’s last tour in his four year Navy career was aboard Connie.  He spent nine months on a West Pac tour, visiting Hong Kong and the Philippines in 1969-1970.  He was part of the squadron known then as VAH-10, or Heavy Attack Squadron 10, now called VAQ-129 which is still stationed at Whidbey Island, where Dad spent two years of service.  One of his most exciting memories aboard Connie was the time he had to stand deck watch on the flight deck during high seas, while waves broke over her bow.  A distance he says was 90ft.  He had to harness himself to a pad eye on deck, and take cover inside the wheel well of a  Douglas A-3 Skywarrior,  just so he wouldn’t be blown or tossed overboard.  It was this same aircraft he crewed for midair refueling operations.  While sailing the calm seas, he recounts the times he snoozed in the forward nets along the flight deck of the ship, where he watched the bow slice through the ocean below.

USS CONSTELLATION CVA-64 Flight deck 1967 A3 Skywarrior Image: Wikipedia

USS CONSTELLATION CVA-64 Flight deck 1967 A3 Skywarrior
Image: Wikipedia

 

Images from Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

Also moored alongside USS CONSTELLATION, is USS INDEPENDENCE, another ship that Dad has a dozen or so stories about.  Dad spent most of his Navy career aboard the USS INDEPENDENCE touring the Mediterranean.  My favorite story, which happens to be quite suspenseful,  was when his buddy, Minner as he called him, was blown overboard at night due to an F4 Phantom aircraft gunning its engine at the same time that Minner walked upon the flight deck.  Dad witnessed his friend taking the plunge and threw his flashlight  and life vest over before signaling an emergency.  His friend was rescued, and never set foot on the flight deck again.  Shortly after returning to port he was discharged from the Navy. I understand why.  What a terrifying ordeal.

The most comical story is the one about the “phantom shitter”, as Dad calls him, that was aboard the INDEPENDENCE during a Med cruise.  The “phantom” would leave bags of pooh in the most mysterious of places, calling over the ship’s loud speakers as to where he left it.   Dad said the phantom was never caught, but caused quite a stir among the Command.  His account of the event is hilarious.

Just like Connie will soon disappear and the INDEPENDENCE to follow, the stories of service members like my father will also be lost to history, if not written down.  Luckily, my father is still able to remember his Navy days, but that may not always be the case.  Accompanying Dad to Bremerton to see Connie and the INDEPENDENCE before they become just distant memories had been a goal of mine for years.

Pudget Sound Naval Ship Yard

Pudget Sound Naval Ship Yard

After listening to these stories all my life, I had developed an attachment and fondness to these ships.  Finally faced with their immense presence I couldn’t help but become emotional.  I was worried that seeing the ships in their depressed state might cause Dad great anguish.  As he gazed upon them from shore,  I could see his bottom lip quiver as he said “I just can’t believe they’re going to cut them up.”  Was I wrong to have brought Dad to see them after 44 years?  I don’t think so.  I could tell he was glad to see them, but also saddened.

USS CONSTELLATION in the background.

USS CONSTELLATION in the background. I wish we could have gone further.

These two ships took my father far from home. As a farm boy from central Texas, who spent his summers plowing his father’s wheat field, there was nothing he wanted more than a chance to see the world.  His chance was the Navy.  Dad joined the Navy without even telling his parents.  Farm life was not for him.

From Texas the INDEPENDENCE and CONSTELLATION took him to the beautiful sandy shores of the blue Mediterranean, along the French Rivera, to Italy, to Turkey, Greece.  Then on to the skies over Vietnam and the Pacific, to the Philippines, and Japan.  It was the only time in his life (besides piloting his own airplane) that he truly felt alive, fulfilled and happy.  For him to relive all that, if only for a moment, was a priceless gift I would offer him again.  He’s the reason I have the love of travel.  It developed from the stories I heard about these two mighty ships.

USS INDEPENDENCE

USS INDEPENDENCE CV-62

USS INDEPENDENCE CV-62

USS INDEPENDENCE CV-62

USS CONSTELLATION

USS CONSTELLATION CV-64.  Dad’s snoozing nets a distant memory.

USS CONSTELLATION and USS INDEPENDENCE

Navy Museum--many of Dad's stories are about the abundance of delish food he enjoyed aboard both ships.

Navy Museum–many of Dad’s stories are about the abundance of delish food he enjoyed aboard both ships.  This would be the Chef’s domain too.

It would have been nice to see Connie made into a museum like the USS LEXINGTON CV-16 in Corpus, Christi…but that’s not her fate.  As we drove off I tried to put it all into perspective.  Each ship moored there had served their purpose.  They were the best machines of their time.  They were revered, loved and gave many service members a lifetime of memories to share with their loved ones.  Those memories, when preserved on paper and passed down through the generations will last forever, unlike the metal that holds these old girls together which will rust and give way to the wind.  So, in the end Connie and the INDEPENDENCE will be preserved…in the minds of all those who encountered her.

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