Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yes, We Are Crazy.

The Tomato Battle in Seattle, 2011. If it weren't for bad influences (my cousin Julie and GROUPON), we never would have done it. But heck, it was going to be on the day before Sean's birthday, and Julie had fun, so why not? I sent out an email to our friends and got a resounding, "ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDIN' ME???" So Sean and I did it alone. With about 500 strangers.

Before the festivities, we took part in the Beer Garden. The event was held at the Pyramid Brewery (actually in a parking lot in back of the brewery), right by Safeco Field in Seattle. The people watching was great, and the spelling was bad. Really bad. Tomatoe, tomatos. Who really cares, anyway?

There was some eye-candy. The gladiator was generous enough to wear just enough clothing to please the women-folk, but not so little clothing to turn them off (no pictures of the several Speedo-Men, you're welcome).

There was also lots of eye-candy for the men, specifically two "silver clad women" whose bikini bottoms were about as big as a hair band. No pictures of those ladies, but judging from the flurry of phones that were taking pictures, and strained neck muscles of many, many people, I'm SURE you could find some pictures or video online. Just look for "Tall Blond Silver Tomato Battle Seattle." You're bound to get a few hits (make sure the kids are out of the room).

Sean and I ran into his old college roommate, Dan, and his wife Leslie. Haven't seen them since their wedding 13 years ago, and lost touch with Christmas cards even. But heck, in a situation like this, when we saw them, it was like running into our best friends.

Soon it was time to go to the tomatoes. There were two dump trucks worth of "not for consumption" roma tomatoes. Some green, some discolored, all somewhat smelly, but not much mold. The two piles didn't look like much. But the website said 30,ooo pounds of tomatoes, and Sean guesses there were about 500-600 people there. So that'd be about 50 pounds of tomatoes per person, and I estimate about three tomatoes per pound. One hundred fifty tomatoes can keep a person busy for a while.

Melinda, Tomato Warrior.

I thought I was ready to go.

I thought I was ready to fling tomatoes with wild abandon (I was wrong). We got into position, and watched the staff organizers try, pathetically, to keep the crowd under control for the twenty more minutes that needed to pass before we were supposed to start. We saw people picking up a tomato, juggling it, planning their first few "hits." Maybe we did a little of that ourselves. But the staff was saying, no, no, no, not yet.

We put on our goggles (swim goggles gave just as much clarity and visibility as a phone camera in a Ziploc bag), we got into postion right up next to the tomatoes.
At a certain point, the crowd said "screw the staff," and let 'em fly.

There was a minute or so at the start that I had thoughts of how stupid it would be if I got trampled to death in a pile of tomatoes. Seriously. I was knocked down to my knees, it was slimy, and people were EXCITED. I fought my way back up to my feet and stood tall--this meant getting quite a few hits on my chest, neck, face. But I was gonna live! Sh*t. ....strong...quads...must...stand...up...must...move...out...of...crowd...

I got out of the middle after a minute or so, and found my happiness along the outskirts. Picking up the ramdom tomatoes that made it to the edges, and flinging tomatoes from there, with really bad aim. Much more fun than possible trampling in rotting tomatoes.

And all that slime felt kinda good. Sean got a few comments on his jersey--but he was making a statement; the Seahawks are rotten tomatoes this year...and thankfully, all the clothes washed up fine after two loads.

Who needs a spa day? All those anti-oxidants...

Fun time had by all...or at least us. Would I do it again? Maybe...with changes. It'd be more fun with friends, and I'd never get anywhere close to the front line. Maybe next time I'd do snow angels in the sauce.

Monday, September 12, 2011


We went ziplining in Whistler yesterday! It was, sort of, a last minute decision. The weather had finally turned into summer weather, even though the boys had started back at school. Sean has been working six days a week for almost the entire summer, and not only has it been a strain on him, the kids and me as well. This was a way to spend the absolutely beautiful day together in a way that we wouldn't forget.

Before I start on the ziplining pictures, I've got to say something about the drive! It was about 3 hours, which we kind of were dreading...packed the laptop, games, books, knitting, etc. to keep us occupied. I do believe though, that it was the most beautiful drive I have ever taken. Whenever I go to Whistler again, if it's clear day, I'll make sure to go in the daytime. So incredibly worth it. There's lots of places for tree pose...

This is Squamish Chief Mountain, just south of Squamish, BC, the rock climbing capital of BC. We saw it in the morning and were so amazed we had to stop again in the afternoon.

Apparently, you can also hike to the top; it takes about an hour, although it looks like it would take DAYS. Return trip in the future.

And the river. The sound was so cool, and the water so cold!

So we got up to Whistler at about 10:15, and after taking a little while to find our bearings and the Ziptrek check-in, we wandered around for a while. In the summer, Whistler is a mecca for mountain bikers. They ride the ski lifts up the mountain, and ride down the mountain like crazy lunatics. It looked like suicidal tendencies to me, but lots of fun to Sean. Return trip idea FOR HIM in the future. I told him I'd park it and sip on a drink or find something else to do all day. Way too scary for me.

When it was time for the tour, we got harnessed up. There was another boy in our group, Lucas, who was the same size as Owen. They had lots of fun together, and I think it made the whole experience more fun and less frightening for O. He was nervous in the days coming up to it, but was a trooper during the whole tour.

After getting our harnesses on, we took a little hike up to the "tester zip" to get a feel for it. I raced to the front of the line to get pictures--that's Guyan there in the front. There was also a couple on the tour, plus Lucas, his dad, and his dad's friend.

When we got to the structure to climb up for the tester zip (looked strangely like a gallows to me), I quickly realized first in line was NOT where I wanted to be. So I offered up my firstborn son to go first. He did great.

Experienced zipliner, ready for the next offering.

Here's Sean getting locked in. My camera died soon after taking this Sean took most of the rest of the pictures and videos with his phone. With no wrist strap to tether it to his harness, that meant not getting too fancy with the twists, twirls, upside down moves, etc.

So I made sure to get in plenty of that.

Guyan was so calm--never a scream, or a nervous look.

Unlike his mother.

The scenery up there was bee-yooo-ti-ful.

One of the guides, Darraugh, was from Ireland. Awesome accent. He taught the boys how to be Bravo Force members with their harnesses. You could tell he really enjoyed his job.

OH!! Another highlight. We saw a bear! The guides told us that the bear population around Whistler is high enough that you are never further than a kilometer from a bear (usually a docile black bear, not an aggressive, huge Grizzly). We were pretty darned close to a black bear! Right after Guyan zipped across one of the long zips, the photographer on the course radioed that there was a bear below the lines. Guyan and I were watching it for a few minutes while the others (including Sean, with the only working camera for our family) were zipping across. By the time Sean got there, it was hard to see the bear from the platform (and thankfully no chance--that's what I like to tell myself--of the bear joining us on the platform, since there was a VERY steep incline between it and us). One of the Ziptrek employees took Sean's phone out further on the platform and took this photo, sans zoom.

Maybe if I digitally zoom, you can see it better...

Seriously...we did see a bear. Awesome. It happens periodically, but not an everyday thing, the guides said. I think the black blob to the right of the "digitally enhanced" bear is the real thing. Or maybe it's the blob above it. Or maybe that's all shadows and the bear was climbinb the incline.

And now for the videos! As we were getting ready to leave for Whistler, I was stressing to Sean that it was important that we wear bright clothes, so that we could identify each other as we're zipping around the forest. I think he thought I was being a little over-dramatic, but now as I look at the grainy still shots from the videos I've uploaded to this blog one at a time over the past few hours, I can only identify, for sure, mine--'cause I'm wearing hot pink. Sean should've worn fluorescent orange or something. I figure I'll post and then move them around if they're totally messed up.

This first video, I know, is of me.

The remaining five videos...I got them all messed up, except the last one (mine!). After posting and watching them all, now I've moved them around and they're right.

Sean's view of his own zip.

And this is Guyan...

This is Owen, in his first big solo zip.

On the real long zips, Owen had to go tandem with a guide, to make sure he made it all the way across. Umm, good idea. Goes a lot faster when you add ~150 pounds!

And finally, on the last short zip of the day, it was freestyle. Upside down? Tree pose? Twirl? Upside down tree pose with a twirl? I couldn't make up my mind. Before doing this zip, I had specifically asked one of the guides if we had to get upright before hitting the brake. It seemed like a good idea. "Yes. Get upright." I tried, I swear, but arrived at the brake in a horizontal flailing mess. Sorry 'bout that. Re-do?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Day of School

This past Wednesday was the first day of school for the boys--second grade for Owen, fifth for Guyan. No excitement like a strike or anything (or the arrival of summer, *finally*) delayed the start of school.

Owen has Ms. Frizzell this year. She recently had a baby, so he'll have a long-term substitute, Mr. Clawson until around Christmas. I'm not too concerned--he'll be fine.

Guyan (in this horribly over exposed camera, put it on the list of wants) has Mr. Salisbury as his teacher. Neither of us knew anything much about the fifth grade teachers, so we'll see!

On Labor Day, a few days before the start of school, I played around with my parents' camera at their's a couple of those pictures. Nice bright color...

Me and my boys...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's Like Little House on the Prairie (or Sea?) Here

On one of the last days of summer vacation, Sean and the boys joined our good friend Dan, his son Henry, and their friend Tad on the waves (or lack thereof) of Bellingham Bay in search of crab. Dungeness...mmmmm.

First, the manly men had to find the right spots, the right depths, and the right amount of rope. Guyan...he just had to be patient.

But when it was time to pull up the pots, Guyan was helping out.

Wouldn't it be nice if this video worked...?

Lots of keepers in this pot! Not that the kids cared too much...I don't think Guyan, Henry, or Owen care for the taste of crab at all.

They placed several pots--two smaller ones, like in the above picture, and two big ones which were a bit heavy to pull up.

Sean sent me this picture on his phone. I was shocked to see Guyan holding a live crab, especially after he wouldn't touch the salmon from the weekend before. Did the boy not notice those big ol' CLAWS???

The captain and his motley crew.

After a while, they caught a crab that Owen was comfortable holding and snapped a few pictures with it before tossing it back...apparently not a keeper. Or maybe my little animal lover took pity on it.

He's a very photogenic child if I say so cute!

Back in the Bergmans' driveway it was another photo op...

...and crab massacre. yech! It was totally gross. Watch the video, at the end of the blog, if you dare. If you don't, here's a still shot of Sean with a "before" picture of the crab...right before its shell was pried off and guts spilled out into the bucket. *retch*

And finally, the massacre. You've been warned. And if the video link doesn't work, consider it karma, the good kind.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Smokin' Mama

So just because I don't fish doesn't mean I didn't have a job to do. When we got home, Sean had to return to the daily grind (he's been incredibly busy this summer at work), so I was the Super-Salmon-Smoker-Extraordinaire.

After Sean and our neighbor filleted the fish (~24 pounds of salmon down to ~14 pounds), I brined the fish overnight in five different brines. We had a recipe from Sean's brother, a friend's neighbor, and three from the internet. A well-stocked pantry is fantastic--didn't have to run to the store for anything.

Never mind the messy kitchen. The smoker rack is strategically placed there to hide the pile o' junk that I had to shove to the other side of the counter to make room.

We borrowed our neighbor's Little Chief, and used our own to cram all the salmon in. Note to self--about three to three and a half salmon per smoker. I know I'll need that information again someday.

I didn't take any pictures when the salmon came out of the smoker, but our entire dining room table was covered with smoked salmon pieces and FoodSaver tools and bags. AND--I kept all five recipes straight! Labelled and in the freezer--see you at the potluck! We'll bring an appetizer!

Deceiving the Humpies

Last weekend, we took our last camping trip of the summer to Deception Pass. Eight years ago, when I was pregnant with Owen, we went to Deception Pass with Sean's dad and Lynne, just before he was diagnosed, and a year before he passed away. It was a fantastic, memorable vacation. Sean and his Dad caught several pink salmon, called "Humpies"--I think three or so. It's an odd-numbered year, so it was time for some Humpy fishing again.

The boys each had a fishing license, and Sean did a fantastic job of getting the boys going, threading their poles, casting, reeling in. I know nothing, so I sat and knitted. I also didn't get a license, so LEGALLY I could offer no assistance. Works for me, law-abiding citizen that I am.

The first fish were caught while I was still up at the campground. A fish had just bit on Sean's line, so he was dealing with it while another one bit on Guyan's line. Sean was trying to help Guyan by telling him what to do, but Owen was the real help, I hear. He stood in front of Guyan's line, braced himself and helped to hold the rod up--very important so the line doesn't snap and the fish gets away. Both Sean and the boys landed their fish--the boys' first fish was the biggest of the weekend, about five pounds! Sean has told this story to many people, and the pride in his voice is just great, every time. It'll be a family fish tale forever.

Here's Owen and Dad with a fish that Owen caught all by himself--with a tad of help bringing it in.

Guyan caught the most fish--we recorded four on his catch card for the weekend. He refused, however, to hold, clean, touch, or eat any of them.

But he would fake hold a fish for the camera, no problem.

Just five of the seven fish they caught.

Guyan still has the same opinion of the fish, but Owen has actually tried it, and (if Guyan isn't around), actually likes it.