{Wine Wednesday} Washington wine: WTF?

WineWednesday

Are you interested in learning more about Washington wine?

My friend Zach at Vine Trainings is starting a new set of wine courses, targeting different wine growing regions and varietals. For the low cost of $45 per class, you’ll get to taste some great wines, talk about the most exciting growing regions, and even discuss the history of the industry.

When: Monday, Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Grub on Queen Anne, 7 Boston St, 98109

Why: Everything is better with wine, especially learning about wine while drinking it!

Read more about my experience with Vine Trainings on the Island!

Washington Wine Map

3-D Husky tailgating cake

I kept a lot of you in the loop via Facebook and Instagram but for those of you who only follow me here, I wanted to show off this year’s tailgating feat: My husky cake!

Woof! Here's my University of Washington Huskies cake

Woof! Here’s my University of Washington Huskies cake

It didn’t turn out quite as well as I had hoped, but I was pretty pleased with the final product. (This cake was for the University of Washington football game against UCLA. Unfortunately the rare November Seattle sun turned the purple cake Bruin blue. Totally not cool. 100 percent Wilton food coloring fail!)

And now it's a Bruin cake!

And now it’s a Bruin cake!

This was the goal cake and I followed the instructions very closely. Unfortunately I didn’t have a large enough plate, so I had to freehand the shape, hence the squatty pup.

The original inspiration

The original inspiration

Here are some photos of the progress of the cake. Please excuse the poor lighting:

Baked cakes!

Baked cakes!

Frosting, I mean glue, I mean frosting!

Frosting, I mean glue, I mean frosting!

Cake progress!

Cake progress!

Huskies cake: assembled but not frosted!

Huskies cake: assembled but not frosted!  It’s 3-D!

Might I suggest you try making this cake for the Cactus Bowl on January 2? Gooooo Huskies!

Woof! Here's my University of Washington Huskies cake

Woof! Here’s my University of Washington Huskies cake

PAC 12 party pinatas

As you know, I love parties: attending and hosting. When I’m attending, I enjoy every little detail and special touches the host puts on the party to make it their own. When I’m hosting, I really like to do it right and I try to make sure every little detail is perfect. For my birthday last year, we hosted a tailgate for the University of Washington/Oregon football game.

This wasn’t just any tailgate. It was a tailgate with a PINATA! The pinata was definitely the star of the show and although the Huskies didn’t beat the Ducks the way we beat the pinata, I still felt pretty positive. I’m just bummed the videos and photo footage didn’t go viral. Maybe next time…

Oregon Duck Pinata

Back to the duck pinata. I did an exhaustive internet search (both Bing and Google images AND Pinterest) and I only found one (ONE!) Oregon Duck mascot-looking pinata, via Twitter. I reached out to the person who tweeted it and got the phone number of the seller. After my message was un-returned, I decided I could make it myself. (It’s kind of my mantra…)

It’s been about 10 years since I had even thought about paper mache, so I sought out a teacher. Lucky for me, one of my work friends fit the bill. Thank you, Patrick for all of your guidance!

First: Collect your materials. Patrick recommended Sta Flo starch, available at most grocery stores. I bought mine for ~$4 at QFC. I ended up using about a third of the bottle. (Meaning there was more left for that Cougar pinata…) I also used about three free small-sized newspapers. Make sure you find one that isn’t glossy. Look for your run-of-the-mill, classic newsprint paper. You’ll also need two normal-sized balloons (not yet blown up) and some painters tape. I used the 1/2″ thick blue version. I also used a cardboard ring that I found in the cat toy area and another cardboard box. You’ll create quite a mess, so have a large garbage bag and paper towels ready for clean up.

Paper mache supplies

Paper mache supplies

Next: Set up your station. Spread out your garbage bag and cut some of your newspaper into 1-1.5″ strips, about 7″ long. Blow up your balloons to the appropriate size: one is the abdomen (slightly larger, more oblong) and one is the head (smaller and more round).

Now let’s get messy:

1. Dip a handful of paper strips in the starch. Let them soak for 30 seconds to a few minutes.

2. Drape the wet strips over the balloon. This will be one of the messiest, most awkward steps. The balloons will get static-y and will roll around on their own and starch will get everywhere. That’s where your boxes/cardboard rings come into play. Plop those wet, paper covered balloons in the boxes and let them dry. (Likely overnight.)

Doesn't look like much yet... but it will!

Doesn’t look like much yet… but it will!

3. Repeat! You’ll need 3 layers or so, depending on your amount of starch and thickness of paper. Make sure each layer dries fully.

4. Once your last layer is dry and more-or-less hard, pop those balloons! Don’t worry if your  balloons sort of implode. Mine did and I was able to pop them back into the right shape. This is what they could (will most likely) look like:

Don't worry: it's supposed to look like this!

Don’t worry: it’s supposed to look like this!

5. Once the balloon is removed (it might stick a bit) trim up the openings a bit. Connect the two open edges and cut it so the head fits over the abdomen. Make sure there is some overlap, but as little of a gap as possible. Since this gap will be sealed up eventually, you’ll need to cut another opening. I prefer back or top of the head for my openings.

6. Once the base is complete, it’s time to determine your PAC 12 mascot and add the extremities and other features. I was having some issue visualizing the finished product on my first pinata, so I sketched the eyes, which helped me figure out the design for the beak. Use some cardboard (I used something similar to the back of a notepad) and a pen or pencil to curl the edges out a bit. Like this:

It looks a lot like a duck!

It looks a lot like a duck!

For the cougar I waded up more newspaper and created a nose and snout:

Cougar head

Cougar head

Side view of the Cougar snout

Side view of the Cougar snout

7. It’s a similar story for the limbs: design them off of the “body” and then attach them using painter’s tape. Don’t skimp on the tape. The more, the merrier. I crumpled and bent large sections of paper for the legs and then used a spiral tape pattern to make sure they kept their shape. I then taped on the hands and feet or paws, depending on your PAC 12 mascot. Cut holes where the limbs will go in the body and tape them in place. BEFORE YOU CUT: Make sure the hole is a little bit smaller than you think it needs to be. You can always scrunch the crumbled paper.

Leg hole!

Leg hole!

Duck limbs for days

Duck limbs for days

8. Once all of the pieces are ready, tape them together and your pinata will really start looking like an actual mascot.

Duck pinata: about half way done

Duck pinata: about half way done

Cougar pinata: About half way done

Cougar pinata: About half way done

9. Get out the starch and more strips of paper. Time for more layers! Put on another two layers of starched newspaper over everything, especially the seams. It’s boring and you have to be methodical, making sure that the whole area is covered. Just do it.

10. Once those layers are dry (each independently), bust out your solid white drawing paper. (Probably a normal printer paper would work too…) And it’s time to put another few layers on! The total number will depend on how thick paper is as well as how well it covers. I only needed one layer of the drawing paper.

One layer of white paper

One layer of white paper

A couple of layers of white

A couple of layers of white

11. Once all those layers dry, it should be time to fill the thing! For our Duck pinata we used some mini-sized Halloween candy, mini plastic tequila bottles (make sure they’re plastic!) and yellow and green feathers picked up from Michael’s. (The feathers were the best part of the pinata, so make sure you get those! I was thinking about including some cat hair leftovers in the Cougar pinata, but we’ll see. That could be really gross.)

I layered the fillings: feathers, candy, tequila. Repeat. But don’t fill too full. This thing has to be able to hang at its final location.

12. Hang it up! I made a hangman’s noose with yellow nylon rope with these instructions I found on Pinterest. (Yes, it was weird to “pin” noose instructions!)

Oregon Duck on a noose

Oregon Duck on a noose

Finished WSU Cougar pinata

Finished WSU Cougar pinata

Good luck on your pinata endeavor! Please leave any pinata-making feedback in the comments below. And, GO HUSKIES!!

Happy birthday, Washington!

The wonderful state of Washington turned 125 today! Happy birthday! (Washington became the 42nd state in the United States on November 11, 1889.)

We celebrated with a bottle of Washington wine: the 2009 Cave B XXIV Merlot. It needed to breathe a bit but is drinking wonderfully as I type this post. (We paired it with a big bowl of “pasta:” spaghetti squash, chicken Italian sausage, kale, mushrooms and onions. Now that I think about it, we totally should have made something more “Washington”… Maybe next year!)

Celebrating Washington's birthday  with some excellent Washington wine

Celebrating Washington’s birthday with some excellent Washington wine

Back to Washington. Here are some fun state facts for you Washingtonians (and those out-of-state readers interested in our fine state):

  1. The state of Washington is the only state to be named after a United States president. Before it became a state, the territory was called Columbia (named after the Columbia River). When it was granted statehood, the name was changed to Washington, supposedly so people wouldn’t confuse it with The District of Columbia.
  2. Seattle is home to the first revolving restaurant, 1961. (The Space Needle)
  3. Washington state produces more apples than any other state in the union.
  4. Washington state has more glaciers than the other 47 contiguous states combined and eighty percent of the glacial ice in the contiguous U.S is found in Washington State. (We love you, Alaska!)
  5. Washington flagEverett is the site of the world’s largest building, Boeing’s final assembly plant
  6. The oldest operating gas station in the United States is in Zillah.
  7. Washington’s state insect is the Green Darner Dragonfly.
  8. Washington’s state gem is petrified wood (We have a piece at home!)
  9. The world’s first soft-serve ice cream machine was located in an Olympia Dairy Queen.
  10. Starbucks, the biggest coffee chain in the world was founded in Seattle.
  11. Puget Sound’s many islands are served by the largest ferry fleet in the United States.
  12. The forests of the Olympic Peninsula are among the rainiest places in the world and the only rainforests (such as the Hoh Rain Forest) in the continental United States
  13. The percentage of non-religious people in Washington is the highest of any state, and church membership is among the lowest of all states.
  14. United Airlines was originally owned by the Boeing Airplane Company.
  15. Popular games Pictionary, Pickle-ball, and Cranium were all invented in Washington.
  16. Famous Washingtonians include: John Elway (football great and Brandon’s hero), Macklemore (musician), Ryan Lewis (musician/producer), Bob Barker (TV host), Ray Charles (singer/musician), Fred Couples (golf), Bing Crosby (actor/singer), Bill Gates (Microsoft Founder), Jimi Hendrix (guitarist), Quincy Jones (music producer), Gary Larson (cartoonist), Kenny Loggins (singer), Steve Miller (musician), Ahmad Rashad (football & TV host), and Adam West (actor).
  17. Washington’s state motto is Al-Ki (Indian word meaning “by and by” — Also a neighborhood in West Seattle!)
  18. We have six National Forests and 215 State Parks.
  19. Washington is number one in the country in the production of hops, apples, pears, red raspberries, spearmint oil, and sweet cherries.
  20. Washington has over 1,000 dams, including the Grand Coulee Dam, the largest dam in the United States that my Grandpa helped build!
  21. Up to 5,000 wild horses roam the Yakima Indian Reservation.
  22. Washington is home to four of the five longest floating bridges in the world: the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge and Homer M. Hadley Bridge over Lake Washington, and the Hood Canal Bridge connecting the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas.
  23. Seattle was the first city in the world to pump Muzak into stores and offices.
  24. Seattle was the first American city to put police on bicycles.
  25. Washington is a leading lumber producer. Its rugged surface is rich in stands of Douglas fir, hemlock (the state tree!), ponderosa and white pine, spruce, larch, and cedar.

Read more about Washington and our state symbols here.

Happy birthday, Washington!!

Happy birthday, Washington!

Happy birthday, Washington!

Happy birthday, UW!

Today is a very special day for the University of Washington: birthday number 153!

DawgDash

In honor of the UW’s birthday and tomorrow’s homecoming game against Arizona State, I put together a collection of blog articles as a tribute to my alma mater…

Goooooo Dawgs!

W

Happy birthday, UW!

My new AstroTurf “W” wreath

One of my most favorite crafts to date: An AstroTurf W!

One of my most favorite crafts to date: An AstroTurf W!

My dear old glue gun made it halfway through this very special project. I wanted to finish it so badly that after the literal glue gun explosion, we rushed to Lowe’s to pick up a new one.

I started with this “W” letter from JoAnn’s. It runs $2.99 and stands 9.5″ tall. Perfect. And, you can use this technique for just about any letter or number combination.

You’ll also need that giant roll of AstroTurf that I convinced you to buy a couple of months ago.

I flipped the AstroTurf over and traced my letter, leaving about an inch of overhang. From there, cut it out and get that glue gun ready.

Flip and glue. And glue and glue and glue

Flip and glue. And glue and glue and glue

What I didn’t do on my first go-around and will do in the future– and you SHOULD do your first time, add a wire or a tie of some sort toward the middle of your “wreath” before you glue on the facing layer of AstroTurf.

Start gluing. It’s important to go from one side to the other of the facing of the letter and to go with quick speed, since hot glue dries pretty quickly. Specifically, I glued in three main sections (left, right, middle), one section at a time. First, the fully covered “front” side, then I wrapped the overhang around the back, being very careful not to burn myself. On the backside, I pulled the turf tight and added cuts with the X-acto knife as needed.

Two sides done, just one to go

Two sides done, just one to go

I added some felt flowers to give the wreath that extra Husky feel, using leftover felt from a new coaster project I’ve got up my sleeve. (I tried a variety of designs for the flowers with this technique, for the most part.)

Felt flowers made out of extra AstroTurf coaster fabric

Felt flowers made out of extra AstroTurf coaster fabric

The project didn’t take too long and I think the finished product was well worth the time. I’m going to wager that this wreath and its presence at our game watching parties are the reason the Huskies are winning! (I hope I didn’t just jinx them!)

Anyway, happy Purple Friday and GO HUSKIES!

(YES! There is still time for you to grab the project pieces and make one of these to celebrate UW Homecoming on Oct. 25! You know I’m going to make a couple more!!)

 

{Wine Wednesday} Brandon crushed it!

WineWednesday

Editor’s note: Today’s Wine Wednesday post was written by Megan’s Island resident (and my husband) Brandon. His writing is great, but his photo skills could use some work. I still love him. — M.

Hello Megan’s Island Blog!  I’m excited to be you guest blogger for Wine Wednesday.

This past Saturday I did something that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  I joined a crush volunteer team at one of our local Woodinville wineries.  The experience wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be, to say the least.

Lots of grapes to sort!

Lots of grapes to sort!

It started out promising when I showed up and they had donuts and pastries for breakfast.  It was a 7:45 a.m. start time, so this was great.  Most importantly, I learned that we would be working with cabernet sauvignon grapes.  No lousy white wine grapes here!  I found out that we would be helping with about 10 tons of grapes or about 3.5 acres worth.  That is a lot of grapes!  When I say “we,” I’m referring to me and the nine other volunteers, most of who were experienced in this but a few were rookies like me.  The wine maker and 4 or 5 winery employees showed us the ropes.

There were essentially two jobs that needed to be done, both of which involved picking stuff out of the grapes.  The grapes arrive at the winery in big bins.  With the help of a fork lift, the grapes are dumped into a hopper and then slowly release onto a vibrating conveyor table.  It is similar to a conveyor belt but instead is a solid piece of stainless steel that is constantly vibrating and sloped slightly downward so that the grapes make their way down the line.  The first set of volunteers is stationed here and pulls out everything they spot that shouldn’t be there.  This primarily includes leafs and grapes that aren’t fit for wine – those that aren’t ripe, those that are too ripe and have turned into raisins, and those that are damaged by birds or whatever.  This group also removed a few bugs.  Remember that these grapes are in bunches and come straight from the vineyard where they’re cut from the vines.  We were told that our grapes were pretty clean, that the vineyard crew did a good job of selective cutting and screening.

Sorting grapes

Sorting grapes

From here, the grape bunches travel up a conveyor to the de-stemming machine, which removes the grapes from the stems.  We were told the machine wasn’t working the greatest that day, possibly because of the summer that Washington had – lots of sun.  Because of this, the grapes were left on the vines as long as possible get as much flavor as they could because they were ripening very quickly.  From my understanding they were very full of sugar but not necessarily complexity.  I was told these grapes would easily convert to a 17% alcohol if the winery didn’t cut it some.  I tasted a few, and they were very good and sweet.  The end result was that the stems were little more brittle than usual and they were breaking in the machine easily.  Because of the poor performance of the de-stemming machine, most people were stationed after this and were tasked with grabbing stems that make it through.  Apparently stems are okay in things like syrah but they not wanted in cabernet sauvignon.  After this, the grapes went into the fermentation bins where they started the fermentation process.

Hard at work

Hard at work

In case you didn’t notice, there was no “crush” by the volunteers (or the employees).  It was all about pulling stuff out of the grapes.  All in all, this isn’t a necessarily a hard thing.  However, you are essentially bent over all day and your back starts to hurt.  Everyone there experienced some level of back pain, yours truly included.  This was worse for those on the first vibrating table.  It wasn’t as bad for those removing stems because they grapes were moving up a belt, meaning they were higher in the air as one picked through them.  However, because the conveyor belt was constantly moving with “steps” carrying the grapes at a pretty good pace, some people experienced dizziness and vertigo as a result (and because many people are standing on ladders or steps to reach the grapes).  There were a few volunteers who help in this task because of this.  Luckily, I don’t get motion sickness and I was fine there.

Leftover stems

Leftover stems

The intense Washington summer also meant that all the grapes were coming in early and at the same time.  Last year the wines came in over a span of six weeks, but this year it was a little under four weeks.  Most of the other grape varietals had been “crushed” before Saturday.  This meant all the winery employees were pretty tired, but they kept a good face for the volunteers.  It also meant a pretty intense day for the volunteers.  We ended up finishing just before 4 p.m., with less than 30 minutes for lunch.

Crush: back breaking work

Crush: back breaking work

Overall, as a volunteer, the manual labor isn’t very comfortable.  The winery staff is very busy and it just isn’t fun.  It is often pretty loud, so you can’t really talk to many people either.  It isn’t what I was expecting and it wasn’t worth the three bottles of wine and lunch (which was delicious) that I received as compensation.  Maybe I was naïve in my expectations.  I am glad that I was able to help out a winery that I love when they needed it.  However, you won’t see me back volunteering anytime soon.  No one really seemed to enjoy it (lots of complaining and plenty of exhausted faces at the end) but one of the volunteers was there for the third time that week.  Another guy did it 10 times last year.

I will enjoy the bottles of wine this gets turned into when it is bottled in a few years, probably much more so than usual.  I’m glad I did it once, but I’ll stick to working on my dissertation, my house, and my pizza oven, and watching football on future weekends.