Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trillium Creek Winery is a treat for the whole family

I ventured to the Key Peninsula with some girlfriends and our families recently for a bit of food n' fun with the friends, and part of our day of R&R on the beach in Home (gotta say it: FORMER nudist colony ...) was to visit the very nearby Trillium Creek Winery. Wow -- it might be available at the Thursday downtown farmers market in Tacoma, but I HIGHLY recommend making the trek across the Purdy Spit for a tour and free tasting, all very family friendly (though the kids get to play with toys, not taste wine).

The winery is very, very new ... and the owners are very, very kind, generous and knowledgeable. (Check out their website for some great details.) We scheduled a tour, and seven of the nine adults, and five of the 10 children joined Claudia as she taught us about the different grape varietals, pruning of the vines, why vines at the bottom of the hill weren't as lush as at the top of the hill. We got to see how they kept the deer away, the hand-crank label applier, we watched them bottle, we heard about why steel vs. oak. All kinds of stuff.

Then we settled down for the day's FREE wine tasting menu. The kids played in the corner with a pile of toys waiting while we adults sat at the small bar and listened as Claude told us about how their Chardonnay is fruity rather than oaky, and how it would actually taste quite like champagne if they added the bubbles. Each wine was definitely a different take on the stuff you pick up at the grocery store, and by the end, our group bought enough to get FREE bottle to bring back to the beach house and share with the adults who stayed back with the rest of the rambunctious children. Oh, and did I mention cheese? We had spotted the many cheeses in the fridge and started asking questions, as we had many cheese-addicts among us. Claude pulled out a couple and fed us slivers of this and that with instructions to put them on our tongue and explore the flavors as the cheese warmed from health-department mandated temperatures. Fabulous. We bought a wheel ... or more.

It's fabulous to find a winery out on this side of the mountains that grow the grapes themselves, and they'd love to see others join the pack. So, if you're interested in starting a winery out in this neck of the woods ... ask Claudia about getting some clippings the next time she prunes grapes. Apparently all you have to do is stick them in the ground and watch them grow (and offer some TLC, of course, but she's pretty smart on sharing that info, too.)

Who knows, maybe in five to 10 years the South Sound will be the next Walla Walla/Yakima Valley/Willamette Valley wine country ... I won't complain.

Oh, and this fabulous wine comes at fabulous prices. It ain't three-buck Chuck, that's for sure, but for under $20 -- many closer to $10, you can pick up quite a bottle to savor. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mary's Shows Lots of Promise for a Little Price

Dear Boss: If you need proof of where I was for today's unexpected two-hour lunch, Mister Mary promises you can call him for a much-appreciated (and yummy) alibi. I should have had him sign a tardy slip while I was there, I know, but he looked busy. Oh, what was that? I should have brought you back a cookie instead? Next time, I promise.

Dear Swim Buddy: The downtown YMCA better get done re-tiling the pool this week, because I have a (very-worth-it) burger to work off.

Dear Walking Buddy: I shouldn't have slept in this morning.

Dear Lunch Buddy: Thanks for being patient with my lunchtime "great idea". No more first-day escapades at the top of the noon-hour, promise. But we will be going back ... perhaps for an 11 a.m. lunch ... (I was too full for dinner).

Dear Chain Burger Place With a Brightly Colored Bird for a Mascot: I now know where to get better burgers for half the price. And while there's no 19-minute guarantee, I know the service will speed up with time. (Bad, I know, bad, bad pun.)

Dear Mary's: Great heart. Great menu. Great price. Great space. And I know a burger takes time, and that you know most of us only get an hour for lunch -- and I have great faith that those two facts of life will soon live in harmony.

Dear Future Opening Restaurants: Watch out for Kevin and his flash mobs ... though I have to admit, I saw several who likely came all on their own, as I had planned to do. I've been craving a good lunch-time burger ... :P

Dear Tacoma: We gave Mary's a great welcome today ... and likely overwhelmed them a bit. They have the heart and soul I crave in a downtown eatery -- and a hefty burger with all the fixin's and then some for $4.99 is awesome; as are their many breakfast options for much less. Let's not let Mary's folks think we only patronize in flash mobs -- let's let them know we're in for the long haul, as long as they can get us back to work in about hour ...

UPDATE: Mary's Burger Bistro is at 2301 Pacific Ave. in Tacoma. And now that opening day has passed service time is normal and good, and the burgers are still fabulous and $5 lunch affordable. (A bit more with fries and soda.) I've only tried the traditional "American" burger so far ... but oh so yummy. I considered comparing it to another yummy burger place, Paddy Coyne's, but they're completely different burgers, each fabulous in their own right. So I'll lovel them each, just the way they are. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Because I'd like to have something left of the environment when my kids grow up ...

I'm not usually an event-poster, but below is a volunteer event that's easy and can do a lot of good -- basically, you wander around the East Side with some friends, eat pizza, oh, and glue curb markers onto sidewalks near storm drains so that folks are alerted to PLEASE keep icky things out of the street (such as cigarettes, oil, car wash soap, lawn chemicals, and anything anyone might think is safe to dump into the street but is not) as whatever goes down that drain goes right into Commencement Bay, the Puget Sound ... you get the picture.

The notice is short, but if you have a morning to spare, you could make a big difference, so even if you can't do it ... spread the word ...

Citizens for a Healthy Bay need you ... to help mark curbs (and eat pizza)

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 (yes, this Saturday)

WHERE: Meet in the athletic field across from Gault Middle School, corner of Division and East L St.

PIZZA LUNCH PROVIDED between approximately noon and 12:30 for those who participate.

Help keep our local waters clean by marking storm drains Saturday morning. The durable, non-fade markers help let people know that what goes down their neighborhood storm drains flows directly to our local waterways. (Think oil, soap from car washing, lawn chemicals, etc.)

Help keep only rain in the drain; come out and mark some curbs!

Anyone who can pitch in, please contact Jeanine Riss, Citizens for a Healthy Bay's new volunteer coordinator, at 253-266-2081 (cell), 253-383-2429 (office) or e-mail her at

For more information about Citizens for a Healthy Bay, go to

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Living large on the cheap in T-town - yard edition

Being on a budget can really suck. But after a dear also-budget-grumpy friend commented today that she was secretly envious of how I'd been able to fix up my yard this year, I realized all the many ways I've been able to rehab my yard this year, locally and on the cheap. So, a few tips to share ...

Fixing your lawn is easy. I hate dandelions. I even wrote a poem about my hate for dandelions last year. I've learned that adding soil ammendment, overseeding, and mowing regularly can work WONDERS. Mega-wonders. Sod might be an easy fix, but it comes with its own clay-laden, raccoon attracting mega-problems, so I say, get yourself a load of TAGRO Mix, a big bag of lawn seed (region appropriate!) from GardenSphere, apply in fall and spring, and reap the rewards. Oh yeah, and TAGRO is dirt cheap. Get it? DIRT?! CHEAP!? Ok, it's not dirt, it's soil amendment, but it's still funny ...

Find a friendly fairy gardenmother (or father) in your neighborhood. I've been blessed with an outspoken neighbor who if she hadn't had kids would have been an extremely type A CEO and making millions, and probably she would have been dead of a stroke by now. But she has a kid. She has two. And she's taken to motivating the kids and the neighbors to be better, be better, be better. I say this with love, and gratefullness, and with the knowledge that she or one of her kids could easily be reading this blog ... she's found it before. And you know what: She's a great leader. She literally gives us the tools to make our backyard something more pleasant for her to look at. She can hone in on free things like nobody's business. She knows who's getting rid of what, and who else in the neighborhood just might be able to use that what. Our garden is full of cuttings from her bodacious dividing flower bed, our raised garden bed is fenced thanks to her salvaging, and our projects are done thanks to her prodding. And we're all the happier for it. I so owe her a bottle of wine ... good wine.

Save your seeds. Did you know you could do that? Has it ever occurred to you that the seeds in the center of whatever you're eating could grow you your own whole plant that you don't have to pay for? I'm a farm girl and I hadn't even taken the time to make the correlation. My husband this year, genius that he is, started saving seeds from melons and other foods and starting them for fun in the windowsill. And we might just reap the fruits of our labors ... if not this year, then quite possibly next when we kind of maybe know a little about what the heck we're doing. And if you have a garden, there are many, many more sources to save those seeds from. Apparently you don't have to buy new ones every year. Who knew? Carrie Little at Mother Earth Farms knows what she's talking about in this regard, and keep an eye out at for a possible seed saving workshop in the near future!

Need a cheap plant? Then you really should check out the local Native Plant Salvage project. For a bit of effort, you can do a good deed and get cheap or free plants. That's awesome. And you can usually find their events posted at as well.

I think that's enough for now ... but a quick disclaimer: I ain't a gardening guru, I'm a gardening idiot learning as she goes. Don't expect to see my yard in any magazine anytime soon ... but I'm having fun, and taking it one step at a time. And I'm enjoying the journey.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Our awesome urban wilderness ...

Sometimes I forget about all the wildlife that can be found in Tacoma. Sure, opossum, squirrels, raccoons and plenty of birds -- but at least for those of us who live near our fair city's number of canyons and other urban wilderness areas, have you ever really thought about the deer wandering past your bedroom window in the middle of the night to nip at the rosebuds in your neighborhood? Well, I hadn't really until now.

I live a few blocks from the Stevens Street canyon/overlook in North Tacoma, near Ruston, and I'd heard from many friends who'd gotten their rosebuds stolen in the dark of the night. Robust, about-to-bloom rosebushes suddenly looking sad and forlorn. Young apples being munched on by impressively antlered bucks and a bevy of beautiful does. I've heard them fret about ways to disuade them from nibbling all their garden's wares. I've heard about how male urine is supposed to be a good deterrant, and offered up my own 4-year-old son as an inoffensive neighborhood pee-er. No takers yet, but it seems I'll have to use him in our own yard quite soon ...

The other morning, after weeks and months of being asked, "Did they get your roses?" and being able to say, "Why, no ... whatever do you mean?" Well, it had been a long couple weeks, and I got home and noticed that one of the rose bushes had odd looking pruned parts that were NOT just above the five-leaf branch that they should be. So then I wondered if my husband had tried to be helpful, or if the kids had gotten ahold of the clippers to make a bouquet or help me in my pruning chores. And just as I was about to help "HONEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE ..." to inquire as to who was in trouble, well, then I remembered that we'd been lucky until now. The deer had finally expanded their circle to our yard, or perhaps finally came by when we had a plethora of buds (I'd really been looking forward to that explosion of 6-8 new roses at once ... grrr ...). So, well, at least my household was not in trouble.

So, while I'll have to wait another couple weeks for that particular bush to bloom, it got me realizing that there was a deer. Right outside my window. Within 10 feet. And I live in the city.

You see, I grew up on a farm. Sixty-two acres of mostly woods and a few fields and a big pond. I'm used to wildlife. But we had dogs, so the deer usually kept their nibbling to the fields. I don't think I ever considered a deer outside my window. They were always sparkling eyes in the middle of the field, or out in the orchard.

But here I am, in the city. And there's a deer outside my window. And I realized that I love being in a City that has a huge park like Point Defiance, several areas of local wilderness that are still mildly untamed. I have occasionally run across a small mini-farm-sized piece of property in some parts of East Tacoma. My former midwife, who lived in East Tacoma, had goats and chickens.

Stuff like that makes me smile. And makes me love my city. And want its green spaces to still be there when my children are old enough to wonder what happened to their rosebuds in the middle of the night. And lucky for me, and generations to come, there are many groups and organizations out there that are helping keep our green spaces green. A couple I know of:

Pierce Conservation District
Cascade Land Trust
Green Tacoma Partnership