Friday, August 22, 2014

Young and Old

I know everyone wants me to get to the pictures of Gigi and Clyde as soon as possible, so I'll be quick in describing our last trip to D.C for a while. Once again (I feel like I've lived in DC this summer), the upside was seeing lots of friends. While on a rooftop having drinks with Cedar and Rachel and Jon and Alison (after a great outside meal downtown on a strangely temperate day), I was able to have my first Epic brewed especially for the Colorado market. With all apologies to Al Kissane, I have to say that it was surprisingly mild. I'll stick to Copper Cone. I dunno, you'd think Coloradans could handle strongly flavored beers right now given how numbed their tastes buds are. But anyway the views were nice.

To be too brief, Ranita and Sean sure have two cute daughters, though they were practically Paparazzi-proof, and I could only really capture Samaya on film.

Just one warranted rant: we officially need a movement demanding that all bars list the exact size glass each beer is served in. Look, I love Jaleo, and it was one of Mom's favorites, and we had a very fun and delicious meal there with Debbie and Kirk, but how did the 16-ounce '90s American pint glass somehow evolve into this?


At the least, give me an interesting glass, like this divine Stillwater Stateside Saison from Baltimore at Two Amy's. Good pizza, too.

Now onto the Erie Canal, and more specifically Clyde, New York, where J's Dad grew up, where he's restoring his parents' house, and where most years the extended clan gathers on August 15 for the Feast of the Assumption. (I'll spare you the long economic history lecture on the deindustrialization of the region ... Andy Morris, maybe you're up for it.)

Here's Grandma Mary's house on the Canal (see the people gathered).

And the view back across the canal to the traveling carnival. 

And an old house (sadly crumbling) down the street from Grandma Mary's.

J and I spent our anniversary with Gene and Dina and Aunt Mary Anne in Seneca Falls, before Chris and Christine showed up. 

One of the things we like about upstate New York is scampi -- whatever seafood (or chicken) in garlic butter and wine. And one of the things we love is that even when one orders scallops "broiled," as I did on this evening, they still come out looking like scallops scampi.

We didn't have time to visit the Women's Rights National Historical Park, but it was good to see that the legacy of the place lives on downtown.

Mom would have approved our visit to Seneca Falls. After all, I found this going through her stuff. 

The main order of business was the party and fireworks on the 15th -- and of course hanging out with our niece Gigi. None disappointed. Gigi absolutely loves popcorn. I think she ate her weight in it this night.

She ate so much that Gene has just today upgraded the popcorn machine. 

 Gigi loved the fireworks. 

But was a bit more skeptical of her uncle

Gigi likes to say "uh-oh" a lot

And is astonishingly good with an I-phone

{Damn, really, a 100 mb file size limit? Argh. I'll Facebook it, and email me if you want a dropbox.}

And in general, well, she's just really adorable. 

Where did he go?

But ... she did have some competition from Kendall and Steve's Bash, aka the New Kid on the Block.

 Here's Gigi at the carnival, as well.

I have remarkably cute video of the two of them together if anyone wants it (also on Facebook). 

Another highlight of the trip was visiting Grandma Mary in Rochester. She came to this country from Sicily -- through Ellis Island -- in 1915. You read that correctly ... I don't know how many are left who did the same, but she came through Ellis Island before World War I (at which point the immigration gates nearly closed until the 1960s). If you've been doing the math (or if you're a producer for the Today Show), she turns 103 this semester. When Chris and Christine told Gigi that she was going to visit her 102-year-old great-grandmother, all she could say was one of her patented slow "Wow"s.

After our visit Gigi was hungry. When in Rochester, we prefer this place ...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Last Fun Trip of a Somewhat Stressful Summer (by First World Standards)

An honest to goodness short entry! Instead of meeting up in West Yellowstone or in D.C., J and I decided to go right to the source and see Sean and Gillian in their new house in Missoula (a city name, by the way, remarkably still not accepted by Google's spellcheck, which is probably the way the not-in-my-backyard types in Missoula like it).

In the imagination of this sometimes Malthusian, Montana is one of the last frontiers, so it's dispiriting that the state's population just crossed over the 1,000,000 mark. In the spirit of suppressing population growth, I wish I could record that Missoula is lame and always smoked out by forest fires (as it nearly was our last visit, more than a decade ago), and that it doesn't even have an Indian restaurant (ok, that's actually true), and that, therefore, anyone thinking about Montana should move instead to Texas, if progressive, or Alabama, if conservative, but I have to confess that we had a great weekend, one made even better by the temperature dropping into the mid-40s both nights. Completely fun, relaxing, and drama-free weekends don't make for especially riveting blog entries, but hey, I'll take this trade-off anytime.

To begin with, most of us (even if we live in Sandy), don't have a federal Wilderness Area 1.4 miles from our front door. After an idyllic trail run in the Rattlesnake Wilderness, and much ado about nothing over a few moving boxes, it was time for the real business at hand: sampling Montana's practically-approaching-Fort Collins beer scene. In The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri poignantly wrote about the main character's wedding at a Doubletree, which for him confirmed the all-too-soon abandonment of his dreams of greatness and wealth. But I'm pretty sure Lahiri never sipped a Blackfoot IPA from Blackfoot Brewery in Helena while taking in the Clark Fork River below from the deck of the Doubletree Missoula.

Fast forward past a zippy Slovenian white and a damn good Italian meal (this isn't your grandfather's Montana), the main hike of the weekend brought us down the road to the awesome two-state Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and to Blodgett Canyon more specifically.

Sean's a local, and an experienced backpacker, and he manages an REI to boot, so we figured he'd be able to get us to the waterfalls at the end of the hike, where we paused for an outstanding Prickly Pear APA, brewed with real cactus, from the Lewis and Clark Brewery (also in Helena). Sure the cactus is pure marketing, but it's also delicious.

Too bad this little dip above wasn't actually the waterfalls in question, however. I don't have a picture of the real falls because we didn't make it all the way, thinking the above was it. Next time I guess.

The highway between the Bitteroots and Missoula should be renamed the Montana Taphouse Trail. After visiting the perfectly fine if perhaps trapped-in-the-90s Bitterroot facility (still called a "brewpub"!), perhaps the highlight of the whole weekend was our visit to Wildwood Brewery. You simply have to love a taphouse in a barn with rusting trucks out back and $2 saisons.

The final stop of a classic day was the vineyard across the street -- and I mean across the street -- from Sean and Gillian's house. Ok, Montana may not be the Trentino-Alto Adige/S├╝dtirol wine region, my new kick, but the wines were decent, and the setting was unbeatable. 

Sadly, I think it's a straight shot to 2,000,000 people.