Watermelon Mint

Summer Fruit Water

Melon sa Malamig is a Cantaloupe drink from the Philippines. Sa Malamig means “cold” in Tagalog. I like to call it Melon Water, because the recipe is very simple: shredded or blended cantaloupe, sweetener, and water. Its kinda of like a Agua Fresca except without the blended seeds. This makes a great drink for a hot weather. I got to thinking a few weeks ago, why not use other fruits? Why not add herbs for an extra dimension. So I came up with a few combinations to make Fruit Herb Water:

Combo 1: Strawberry, basil, honey, water
Combo 2: Blackberry, sage, lemon zest, honey, water
Combo 3: Watermelon, mint, honey, water
Combo 4: Pineapple, lemon balm, honey, coconut milk, water

I didn’t really measure anything, I just put a couple handfuls of fruit, a few sprigs of herb, few spoonfuls of sweet, and water into the blender hit the on button. So far Strawberry-Basil combo was the surprisingly tasty, I was inspired by a gelato flavor found at my local gelato shop and tried to mimic it in a drink. Watermelon-Mint was extremely cooling, while the Blackberry-Sage deliciously dark. Pineapple-Lemon Balm-Coconut tastes just like a pina colada.

Rockslide Larkspur

Give me Delphiniums for Dragons Please!

I have traded the Dragons for Delphiniums and the Dungeons for Dahlias. Eight months have passed since I last had a regular D&D group.  Sig was our last remaining DM of the group, and when the demands of his work picked up, the group fell apart. Do I miss it?  Maybe a little.  Although, my D&D time was quickly replaced by other activities, including gardening.  My garden is coming along nicely and my efforts in March are really starting to show in the form of bright leafy edible greens.

I also feel pretty lucky that I live near a strong gardening community, the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden. Everyone I’ve met so far is nice, polite and very eager to share their knowledge of pacific northwest plants.  They have a wonderful selection of plants in their nursery to help fill my garden with lovely textures and colors.

What the heck are Delphiniums anyways? These flowers are known as Larkspurs here in Seattle. Delphinium cultivars are perennials grown for showy spikes of colorful summer flowers in gorgeous shades of blue, pink, white, and purple. Since they prefer moist, cool summers they are a nice addition to a pacific northwest garden. They also attract a lot of bees and butterflies.

If you walk the subalpine ridge trails of Mount Rainier in July, you’ll find sprinklings of Rockslide Larkspur (Delphinium glareosum) with its distinctive bright blue flowers.

This season, I plan to just stop and enjoy the flowers. I hope you do too.

Mixed Lettuce Dragon's Tongue Arugula full_sun partial_sun full sun

Veggies in the Shade

My garden is in part shade.  What does that mean?  We’ll here’s my cheat sheet


Full Sun 6 to 8 hours of full sun. That sun doesn’t need to be consecutively, it could be a minimum of six hours could be a mix 3 hours of sun in the morning and 3 hours late in the afternoon.
Partial Shade Also called “Partial Sun.”  This means 3 to 6 hours of sun.  Early morning is better than afternoon. Partial Sun means there’s a greater emphasis on its receiving the minimal sun requirements. Partial Shade means the plant will need some relief from the intense late afternoon sun, either from shade provided by a nearby tree or planting it on the east side of a building.
Dappled Sun Similar to partial shade, but the sun makes it way through branches of a tree. Examples of plants that do well in dappled sun are woodland plants which are use to indirect light
Full Shade 3 hours or less of direct sunlight, with much of the sunlight being filtered during the rest of the day. Full Shade doesn’t mean there is no sun.  Only mushrooms can survive in the dark.


There are only a handful of vegetables and herbs that will go in part shade, but the varieties of each plant type are nearly endless so I feel I don’t need to restrict myself to one type of seed.  But in general I can’t grow any fruit crop (peppers, cucs, eggplants, tomatoes) because they need at least 6 hours of sun to ripen. There are exceptions but I have to search high and low for cultivars (a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding) that were bred for partial shade or shade tolerance.


Arugula At least three to four hours of sun per day. Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun.
Asian greens At least two hours of sun per day. Asian greens such as pak choi, komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light.
Chard I mainly grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves so 3
hours of sun per day will be enough.
Expect chard grown in partial shade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads.
Culinary herbs At least three hours of sun per day. Of the herbs: chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley
Kale At least three to four hours of sun per day. You’ll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun.
Lettuce At least three to four hours of sun per day. Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun.
Mesclun One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade
The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before
you have to replant.
Mustard greens At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens. Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens.
Peas and beans At least four to five hours of sun. If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest will take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties.
Root vegetables At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production. Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do okay in partial shade, but you’ll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they’ll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourmet treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store.
Scallions At least three hours of sun per day. This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season.
Spinach At least three to four hours of sun per day. Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easily if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you’ll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outermost leaves of each plant.



Spring Cleaning. Spring Planting.

Last year left me with a lot of planting pots. This is a good thing because I love starting plants by seed and the square ones fit nicely on my indoor grow table. Seeds and cuttings need a warm moist environment to grow and take root. Unfortunately, this is also the perfect environment for mildew and molds. Late February and early March is the perfect time to clean recycled containers. I also have to clean my seedling table to prevent spores from taking hold as seedlings grow. A simple and mild 1:1 bleach-water solution works out great for cleaning surfaces and reusable pots. I like to soak the pots for a bit before giving them a good scrub. Giving the pots a good rinse and setting them out to dry in the sun is a good idea too. I also apply the same cleaning regimen to my sturdy and decorative plant containers.


Outside in my planting beds, I’ve learned that now is the good time to set out slug traps before I transplant seedlings or plant seeds. Most of the Pacific North West slugs will lay eggs in the fall. Slug eggs can stay in the ground for roughly 100 days until the temperature and humidity are just right for hatching, thus baby slugs run ravage in March and April. I prefer to use a cornmeal slug trap. Cornmeal is cheaper, but may not attract as many slugs. Add a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar, then lay the jar on its side. Keep the cornmeal dry, and it will kill slugs by expanding inside them once eaten.


I’m really big on succession planting. I’ll start my seedlings indoor as early as mid-February and then again in early March. By around mid April, when the average last frost date has passed, I’ll do a single set of planting outdoors under cloches. If the weather looks promising in early April, I may sow directly outside some hardy winter crop like arugula, kale or Swiss chard.

I will also start hardening indoor starter plants, which takes about two weeks. For the first day of the first week, I set them out for about two hours then bring them back in. For each following day, I’ll increase the time they spend out, such that by the 7th day, they’ve spent a full 8 hours outside. On the second week, I’ll leave them outside in their pots, with a row cover material to protect them from wind and insects. On the third week, I set them out on the garden bed. Add a bit of mulch around it to prevent weeds and maybe cover with a cloche if the weather is not warm enough at night. A decent cloche will trap warmth in the soil to keep the plant happy.

Tomato Experiments

Last year my Sungold tomatoes grew like mad; so much I ended up with way more than I could eat by myself. This year I’ll be growing less tomatoes, but more variety. I’ve added Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes along with Sungolds. I may try Indigo Rose if I can find the seeds in time. I will note, I only have a few spots in my garden where I can get 6+ hours of sun light. Tomatoes need a lot of light, heat and water. So I use a self-watering container system for my tomatoes.

Arugula and Other Tasties

I was happily surprised by the flavor of arugula that I grew in mass last year. This year I’ve decided on two kinds: Rocket (pretty standard, found in supermarkets) and Dragon’s Tongue – having I tried at a posh restaurant last year, I loved its peppery and sharp flavors. I’m also growing various lettuces and kale, much like last year and expect them to do well. I had a nice modest batch of carrots previously. So this year I’ve decided on a Carrot Calliope Blend (colored carrots), Tonda di Parigi, and Red Cored Chantenay. Tonda di Parigi are tender, sweet, small and round shaped – good for growing in shallow soil. Red Cored Chantenay grow up to 7 inches long and are good for soups and stews.

Newer plants in my garden are radishes: Crimson Red Radish (similar to the ones found at supermarkets) and Radish Watermelon Mantanghong – a hybrid variety which has a beautiful rosy-red interior filled with a sweet flavor and a tender-crisp texture. These might do okay in my partly shaded garden, but they do need quite a bit of sun to produce a nice root crop. I expect smaller root size than normal for harvest…or complete failure.

Another new experiment: artichokes. In the Seattle area, the can be grown as perennials but only with a lot of love. They need a lot of food in the form of additional compost and even regular fertilizing. And in the winter, their roots need to be protected with a lot of mulch or straw. If it works out well, I’ll have a harvest next year in the early summer.

I also want to grow onions and garlic. I will try green onions, but bulb onions do need a lot of sun. If I did plant them, I would expect a small yield. Same with Garlics.

Herbs grow very well in my small plot of land. I learned quickly that Basil needs to be planted outside in summer, when the ground is warm enough. Too early and they die off. I love oregano, not only because it smells good, but because of the way it attracts bees. Broadleaf Sage and English thyme were the only herbs that survived the winter. I was hoping my Russian Sage would survive, but sadly I think it died due to improper drainage. I’ll try again later this season, but in a different spot in the garden. I can’t seem to grow rosemary, they need sandy soil and at least 8 hours of sun. If I grow one, it will have to be in a large pot in the front yard.

Plants vs Pests

One experiment I’m eager to try are what I call “sacrificial” and “guardian” plants. Sacrificial plants are plants that pests prefer over the ones that I want to survive. Guardian plants are plants that repel pests by emitting a fragrance or smell. In my research, I found a few potentials, I am unsure of which to plant:

  • Marigolds – Mexican marigolds are said to offend a host of destructive insects and wild rabbits as well. If you choose marigolds for your garden they must be scented to work as a repellant. And while this plant drives away many bad bugs, it also attracts spider mites and snails away from precious vegetables
  • Nasturtiums – repels whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, many beetles, and the cabbage looper. Aphids will try to eat the young flower buds, but something about the plant causes the bugs to die after having their fill. I’ve also read that nasturtiums ward of fungal diseases
  • Petunias – These repel asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, a range of aphids, tomato worms, and a good many other pests.
  • Borage – I love borage! It repels tomato hornworms and cabbage worms and attracts beneficial bees and wasps.
  • Citronella – This plant is a part of the geranium family and is also called the mosquito plant. It carries the fragrance of citronella in its foliage. When a leaf is crushed and rubbed on the skin, it smells wonderful and helps naturally repel mosquitoes and some other flying insects.
  • Catnip – This plant repels just about everything, except for cats. Keeps away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils. You can even use sachets of dried catnip to deter ants that invade your kitchen… but be warned they may end up some place else if you have cats. There is a breed called ‘Six Hills Giant’ which has a nice proliferation of sky blue blooms.
  • Basil – The oils in basil are said to repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes. Bees and other pollinators love basil. Planting basil near tomatoes creates a larger, tastier crop.
  • Red Clover – slugs, snails, and other pests love to eat red clover. Luring them away from your food crop.
Victoria Valentines Lights Nooksack Stream Frozen Crows Tight Rope Walker at Shillshole Mt Baker From Skagit Valley Witch's Butter Moss & Stream Heron Boudoir Snowy Mt. Baker Plum Blossoms Waiting For Tea Purple Crocus Salmon Berry Flower Mt. Rainier Framed by Downtown Cafe Love Mt. Rainier from Kent Red Tailed Hawk Cormorants Deception Pass You're a Firework Willow Male Catkins Empress Tea Great Blue Heron DSC_0235 DSC_0169 DSC_0161

Where Have the Games Gone? Part 2

A few months ago I made a post answering the question “Where have the games gone?”…from my blog and from my life. In addition to our adventures around the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been absorbed into another hobby: photography.

I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D5300 given to me as a present by my beloved husband. And I am delighted by a DSLR camera, especially when I’m out on my hikes. There is so much to learn about light and how to capture it within a camera. Its a challenging passtime with immediate rewards. Its a creative process which leads to varied experiences and destinations that I would have overlooked before. Although I’m attracted to natural subjects such as birds and plants, photographing people and buildings has its own demands and bonuses.

Photography is the art of observation. Practicing observation as a skill helps me to be mindful of the moment and to live in the now. And to appreciate life as Alice Morse Earle described it, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”

Continue reading…

Driftwood Beach Cabin Trail Boat Launch Wanted! Dead or Alive Beach Driftwood Texture Saratoga Passage

Camano Island State Park

For our first trip of 2015, we took a short jaunt out to Camano Island. Camano Island State Park is a 173-acre camping park with 6,700-feet of rocky shoreline and beach. The park provides sweeping views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and Mount Rainier. We decided to comb the beach and look out for birds on the Saratoga passage. There are forest loop trails to hike, but we decided to save them for later.

As we walked we saw a Great Blue Heron, a number of Surf Scoters and Goldeneyes. Along the way I learned that 60% of the Lesser Snow Geese that breed on Wrangle Island, Russia make a yearly migration to Washington state. Camano Island is one of those areas where the geese like to during the winter months. There were no snow geese at the park, but they can be found on other parts of the island and near Stanwood, WA. I’ll have to go back to find some snow geese.

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Tree walker fun Tree Hugging Just before the cliffwalk Old Growth Tree On the Cliff Walk Tree Walk Capilano Suspention Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

If you visit Vancouver and Whistler-Blackholm, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a fun place to stop. They have three main attractions that make the entry fee worth it.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above Capilano River. Originally built in 1889 by George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer and park commissioner for Vancouver, its first incarnation was made of hemp ropes with a deck of cedar planks. In 1903, a wire cable bridge was built as a replacement. The bridge was completely rebuilt in 1956 and pretty much in the state you see it today and with repairs.

In 2004, Treetops Adventures was installed and consists of seven footbridges suspended between old-growth Douglas Fir trees on the west side of the canyon, forming a walkway up to 98 feet above the forest floor. Just a present walk for enjoying trees

In June 2011, an attraction called Cliff Walk opened and features a cantilevered and suspended walkways that jut out from the granite cliff face above Capilano River.

Apart from those heart pounding show stoppers, they have smaller “safer” attractions. Of them I really enjoyed the rain forest walk around serene ponds and tall old growth trees.

Some of the kiosks feature interesting history and stories about the park, but most are trivia bites meant to entertain children. One particular story stood out: in 2006, a 300-year-old, 46-tonne Douglas fir tree toppled during a heavy snowstorm. The tree fell across the western end of the bridge and the park had to be closed for repairs. They kept part of the tree where it fell and you can walk over it along the boardwalk trail.

The best part of course is walking over the bridge trying to steady yourself as it bounces with each step — not just your step, but also the steps of everyone else on the bridge. On that particular day, we were lucky to see a bald eagle swoop about 10 feet above the center of the bridge while we were on it. I had to call out to Sig who was staring intently at the bridge floor, “Look up! Look Up!” He turned up just in time to see the eagle fly over his head.

On the Cliff Walk, we saw more bald eagles hunting for fish in the river. That walk was particularly tough, but worth views which I’ve never experienced in my life. Now I want to go see more touristy sky walks such as Glacier Skywalk in Jasper national park, Alberta, Canada or the Grand Canyon. Even brave those old suspension bridges found in Costa Rica.

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Dungeness Light Station Dungeness Spit Beach Dungeness Spit Driftwood Dungeness Spit Dungeness Spit Out on the Dungeness Spit Out on the Dungeness Spit Out on the Dungeness Spit Don't let the hat blow away Low Tide Low Tide Beach Combing

Dungeness Spit

The Dungeness Spit was formed by wind and water currents that forced river silt and glacial till to arch into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Over the centuries the spit has grown to over 5 miles. You can hike all the way to the tip, where a lighthouse has been keeping guard since 1857. The extreme tip, however, like the Dungeness Bay side of the spit, is closed to public entry to protect important wildlife habitat. Because the spit is protected and managed as a wildlife refuge, many recreational activities are restricted.

The best time to go is obviously low tide. The entry trail is 0.5 mile and before descending to the beach, theres a sweeping views of the spit from an overlook. At the base of tall bluffs is the start of the spit with a straightforward hike to the lighthouse. Pack plenty of water and sunscreen. If the 11-mile round trip seems daunting, any distance hiked along the spit will be rewarding.

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Temple Fish Black swan of hawaii Buddha & The Temple Stone Buddha Temple Temple bird Gardens Temple pillars Zen Garden Buddha & The Sig Bamboo Gardens The Byodo-In Temple The Byodo-In Temple

O’ahu: Byodo-In Temple, Valley of the Temples

The Byodo-In Temple is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It was established on June 7, 1968, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The Byodo-In Temple in O’ahu is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan.

This leisurely walk through the temple grounds includes a lushly landscaped paradise nestled in a cleft of the pali and is home to wild peacocks and hundreds of  Japanese koi carp. The beautiful grounds include a large reflecting pond, meditation niches, and small waterfalls; a beautiful, peaceful, and restful place.

Amida, a golden Buddha housed in the temple, falls solidly in the “awe inspiring” category.  The Buddha is possibly the largest figure carved outside of Japan. Towering more than 9 feet, the immense figure is an original work of art carved by the famous Japanese sculptor, Masuzo Inui.

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Coffee in saucer

Drinking from the Saucer

Today I learned that a saucer is a small dish originally intended for holding sauce. But in the 18th century, it was acceptable to pour tea or coffee into a cup’s saucer to cool the beverage before drinking it.

I was only able to find once reference about it in Google Books in a 1800s Peterson’s Magazine, but it talks about coffee.

But then I found this in a 1920s book how drinking from the saucer is considered “old” or “passé”:

Years ago, it was not simply permissible to drink out of the “sasser” it was an accomplishment. To see a man pour his tea into his saucer and cool it off and then lift it with firm touch and sip it with a long, soothing, sibilant, gurgling, fugue-like cadence that could be heard in the next county, was to see and hear the proper thing. The louder noise he could make, the more desirable dinner-guest he was considered. If he wanted to do a little fin-de-siecle flourish, he dipped his gingerbread in the tea in his saucer and then played a solo in double-bass with it thru his mustache. And then if he were a true artist and could wipe his mustache on his coat sleeve daintily — daintily, mark you? without the slightest suggestion of coarseness but with that infinite considerateness that betokens the saving of napkins, he was worth while; for napkins were rarely given out except to the minister.

Konstantin Makovsky (1839-1915). drinking tea

18th century drinking from saucer