May 292012
 
Red Rhododendron

Red Rhododendron

On my walk to pick up my daughter from school the other day, I was amazed by the many varieties of  rhododendrons blooming in my neighbors’ yards.

Rhododendrons grow best in mild and moist climates which is why they do especially well here in the Pacific Northwest. I did not realize that there are more than 850 different natural species in the Rhododendron genus. They also vary greatly in size and shape from short ground covers to Rhododendron trees more than 100 feet tall.

Pink Rhododendron

Pink Rhododendron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Rhododendron

Purple Rhododendron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White - Pink Rhododendron

White - Pink Rhododendron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Rhododendron

White Rhododendron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 242012
 

 

Northern Lights Dome Room in the Arctic Building

Northern Lights Dome Room in the Arctic Building

I was recently inside the famous Northern Lights Dome Room in the Arctic Building in downtown Seattle for a business meeting. As I was listening to the speakers talk about their businesses, I could not resist glancing up toward the ornate ceiling that was beckoning for attention.

The Arctic Building was originally built for the Arctic Club in 1916 and housed them until the club dissolved in 1971. The Arctic Club served as a social institution for men who struck it rich during the Yukon gold rush. Currently, the Arctic Club is a DoubleTree / Hilton Hotel.

As I gazed at the room’s stuccoed ceilings and beautiful chandeliers, I reflected upon the people who sat in that room many decades ago. What were they talking about as they chomped on their nasty cigars (it wasn’t smoke-free back then)? What memories and stories were left behind in that grand room? If only the walls could talk…

 

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May 212012
 
Steller's Jay Chicks

Steller's Jay Chicks

When I opened my front door to get the newspaper yesterday morning, I was greeted by two unexpected visitors right outside my door. They were two Steller’s Jay chicks who were as surprised as I was. They appeared to have some flight feathers but were not capable of flying quite yet. I was surprised that they did not immediately run away from me. Perhaps they hadn’t yet gotten the lesson about predators from their mom.

As I stooped to take a picture of them, three adult jays immediately flew down from the trees and started squawking franticly several yards away. No doubt they were trying to distract me away from the young ones. I stayed my distance from the chicks and encouraged them to walk toward the waiting adults.  I closed my door and the family of jays was gone shortly thereafter.

The Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is native to Washington and other Northwestern states. They are related to the blue jay but have differentiating features such as a black head and shoulders and a pronounced crested head. Found in a variety of forested habitats and open spaces in forest zones, the Steller’s Jay typically lives in groups of 10 or more. These jays usually lay their eggs from April to May so I assume that the ones that visited me, given their size, were born in April.

 

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Trout on a Pink Salmon Fly

 Posted by on May 19, 2012 at 7:22 am  Outdoors  No Responses »
May 192012
 
Bead head pink salmon fly

Bead head pink salmon fly

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been doing some experimenting to test out my theory that the motion of a fly, rather than its color or pattern, matters most to fish. Previously, I successfully caught trout using a bright pink and white clouser minnow fly.

Trout eating a pink salmon fly

Trout eating a pink salmon fly

A few days ago, I tied up a size 8 bead head pink salmon fly that did well for me during the last pink salmon run in Washington. I trolled it using an intermediate line and caught several trout in short order!

I am getting more confident about my theory.

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Trout on a Clouser Minnow Fly

 Posted by on May 16, 2012 at 6:04 am  Outdoors  No Responses »
May 162012
 
Trout on a clouser minnow fly
Trout on a clouser minnow fly

Trout on a clouser minnow fly

I must confess that I have always been a little skeptical that the color and pattern of a fly matters a whole lot when fishing for trout. A few days ago I decided to do some experimenting while I was fishing for trout on a local lake. After successfully catching a bunch of fish using traditional trout flies like wooly buggers and leech patterns, I decided to use some of my bright flies traditionally used for salmon and salt water fish.

I tied up a size 6 pink and white deep clouser minnow and trolled it behind an intermediate line. Bingo! Despite the fact that no creatures in the lake look anything like a pink and white clouser minnow, the trout went for this gaudy fly pattern! This reinforces my belief that the most important characteristic of a fly is its motion in the water rather than its color or pattern. Do others think otherwise?

 

 

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May 132012
 
Springer fishing on the Willamette River

Springer fishing on the Willamette River

Last week, a friend of mine from Portland invited me to fish with him on the Willamette River close to where it empties into the Columbia River. We were fishing for spring chinook (king) salmon, one of my favorite fish to catch and eat. These fish can get over 20 pounds and their fatty meat is a quite a treat.

Springers, as they are called by the locals, enter fresh water from the ocean in April and May but do not spawn until the fall. Their spawning grounds are located hundreds of miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean. The Willamette is a major tributary of the Columbia River and accounts for 12 to 15 percent of the river’s  flow.

On our day of fishing, we encountered periods of sunshine, rain, and wind. All day long, we only saw two fish caught by dozens of boats. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a single bite that day. Maybe next year.

 

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May 072012
 
Fixing a Delta two-handle faucet
Fixing a Delta two-handle faucet

Fixing a Delta two-handle faucet

A two-handle Delta bathroom faucet started leaking from the spigot recently. Rather than calling a plumber and spending triple digits for a simple repair, I decided to tackle it myself. I first did some research on the Internet and concluded that the mostly likely solution is to replace the seat and spring in the affected handle unit assembly. Apparently these will start failing with repeated use.

I didn’t find a good online step-by-step guide for fixing two-handle Delta faucet leaks so I decided to document my repair. It only took me about 15 minutes to do the repair.

Before tackling this repair, you’ll need an adjustable wrench (or gripping pliers), a small screwdriver, a set of hex wrenches, and a replacement set of seats and springs.

Tip: Take photos of the faucet assembly as you take it apart so you remember how it all fits back together.

Tools for fixing leaking faucet

Tools for fixing leaking faucet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1) First determine if the leak is in one handle unit or both.  You can so this by alternatively shutting off the hot and cold water supply beneath the sink. In my case, the dripping stopped when I turned off the hot water supply so I knew this handle unit was affected.

Replacement set of seats and springs

Replacement set of seats and springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Turn off the water source at the affected handle unit. Obviously very important if you don’t want to get wet!

3) Close the sink stopper and cover sink with towel. Before you take anything apart, close the sink stopper and/or cover the sink with a bath towel so that any little pieces do not fall down the drain.

Shut drain stopper and cover drain hole

Shut drain stopper and cover drain hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Remove the handle. Unscrew the handle counterclockwise.

Remove faucet handle

Remove faucet handle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) Remove the handle housing. Unscrew the set screw with a hex wrench. You’ll need to try several sizes to find a fit. Mine was 3/32″.

Remove handle housing

Remove handle housing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) Remove 1/4 turn stop. Remove this small plastic piece by hand.

Remove 1/4 stop

Remove 1/4 stop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7) Remove bonnet nut. Use an adjustable wrench or pliers to unscrew the nut.

Remove bonnet nut

Remove bonnet nut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.) Remove the stem unit assembly. Use your hand or pliers to pull this out.

Remove stem assembly

Remove stem assembly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9) Remove the seat and spring. Use a small screwdriver to lift out the black rubber seat and spring underneath. Note the orientation of the spring underneath the seat.

Remove the seat and spring

Remove the seat and spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10) Replace the seat and spring. If the spring is not symmetrical, make sure it is oriented correctly. Carefully place the new seat and spring into the small hole.

11) Reassemble the faucet parts in reverse order.

Congratulations, you just saved the cost of a plumber’s house call.

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Dim Sum Guide: Steamed Fish Balls

 Posted by on May 6, 2012 at 6:51 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
May 062012
 
Steamed fish balls with bean curd skins

Steamed fish balls with bean curd skins

If you are a fish fanatic, then steamed fish balls may be right up your alley (or creek). These balls are made of chopped up fish meat with added scallions, garlic, and other ingredients. They are steamed over a bed of bean curd skins. I have found fish balls to vary widely in taste and quality so you’ll need to be careful ordering it. Most of the time, I find them a little bland and in need of spicing up with chili paste. Steamed fish balls may be an acquired taste for people who did not grow up eating lots of fish.

 

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May 042012
 
Mushroom and cheese omelet at Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe

Mushroom and cheese omelet at Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe

I stayed at Carlsbad, CA on a recent visit to Legoland and ate dinner at the Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe since it was walking distance to the hotel.

Having a craving for breakfast food, I ordered the three egg mushroom cheese omelet. When it arrived, the omelet was quite impressive. It had distinct layers of egg, cheese, and mushrooms that blended very well in each bite. The Swiss cheese was generously folded in and the mushrooms were cooked just right. It was simply one of the best omelets I’ve had in a few years.

Sour cream cherry pie at the Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe

Sour cream cherry pie at the Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe

For dessert, I had a difficult time choosing among the many great looking pies in the display case, so I took the waiter’s recommendation and ordered the sour cream cherry pie. I was not disappointed. The large piece of pie came with pile of whipped cream on top. I didn’t want to know the calorie count. The cherry pie filling had just the right level of sweetness with slightly tart cherries. I haven’t ever seen walnuts used in fruit pies before, but the sprinkling of sweetened toasted walnuts provided a great contrast to the soft pie crust.

If you find yourself in Carlsbad craving for good simple American comfort food (including dessert), check out the Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe.

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May 022012
 
Fried scallion pancake

Fried scallion pancake

Fried scallion pancake (cong you bing), also know as green onion pancake, is one of my favorite dim sum dishes. Yes, this is a Mandarin rather than Cantonese dim sum dish but no dim sum guide would be complete without mention of this dish. Scallion pancake is made from wheat dough folded with chopped scallions and salt and fried in oil until it becomes a crispy, aromatic pancake. Because the pancake is fried in a generous amount of oil, it can sometimes get quite greasy on the bottom. When dipped in a little chili oil paste, you wonder how such a simple pancake can make your taste buds so happy.

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