Monthly Archives: October 2017

Mason Lake

We happened to have a delightfully sunny and warm fall day that coincided with a weekend here in Seattle, so we decided to take advantage of it and go for a hike! I am always a fan of a good alpine lake, so we did a popular hike off of I-90 from the Ira Springs Trail Head to Mason Lake.

The key feature of this hike was our inability to read trail signs, such as a prominent one that said:

Mt. Bandera –>
Mason Lake  <–

We took a right. Inadvertent peak bagging is the best sort of peak bagging, right? On the plus side, we got some gorgeous views of Mt Rainer from the mountain so it wasn’t all bad.

Once we noticed our failure, we made it back to the split and onward to the lakes. Mason was nice and very scenic, but we trekked on to see some more of the lakes. We were rewarded with a delightful private lake to have a bit of a midafternoon snack on.

Overall, I give the hike a B+. It was all the things I loved (woods, lakes, outdoorsness) and all the things I hate (crazy crowded parking, crowded trails, and straight uphill for the first 2000 vertical ft) about hiking in the Seattle area. We will have to come back in spring and venture further into the lakes without failing prey to a tricky mountain pass.

The views of Mt. Rainier from the hike were rather stunning.

The views of Mt. Rainier from the hike were rather stunning.

The moment I realized we took a wrong turn, when the lake I wanted to get to was 800 ft down a cliff from me.

The moment I realized we took a wrong turn, when the lake I wanted to get to was 800 ft down a cliff from me.

But we made in the end. Perseverance and all that malarkey.

But we made it in the end. Perseverance and all that malarkey.

The alpine likes have the craziest crystal clear water.

The alpine lakes have the craziest crystal clear water.

The normal trail, amusingly on the north face there was already snow, even though we were only at ~4000 ft elevation.

The normal trail. Amusingly, on the north face, there was already snow even though we were only at ~4000 ft elevation.

Garum

A couple of months ago I made cured smelt, which you can see here! As a result of that, we had a fair bit of fish guts and heads left over and I decided to do what I always do: make fish sauce! Also, nota bene, I love fish sauce so sorry for all the exclamation points.

Specifically, the fish sauce that I make is based off of Garum, the ancient Roman variety of fish sauce. For the faint of stomach, probably stop reading now. The steps are:

1) Clean a ball jar very well.

2) Fill a ball jar 2/3rds full of fish heads, spines, guts, and other not fleshy bits, such as you have left over from making cured smelt. Anchovies and sardines also work well.

3) Add enough salt to cover, roughly 30% by weight, being generous with the salt. Mix the fish and salt thoroughly.

4) Cover and leave out in the sun for 6 months. Shake it once or twice. It only needs to be in the sun for a week of it, mostly to ensure it gets up to at least 40C for a couple of hours.

5) Strain. First, use a slotted spoon or colander to get out the large bones. Next, use a course cheesecloth to strain the again – sometimes you need to push it through with a spoon.

6) Enjoy! It will be a brown, thick liquid with a fresh, saline, slightly fishy odor. It will taste a bit like pureed anchovies with an extra kick.

This is the start of the smelt and salt party. Not the prettiest of beginnings for its sublime ending.

This is the start of the smelt and salt party. Not the prettiest of beginnings for its sublime ending.

An after picture of the fermented fish, as well as the strainer set up.

An after picture of the fermented fish, as well as the strainer set up.

And the final product. Still not the prettiest of sauces but it adds a rich salty flavor to any meal.

And the final product. Still not the prettiest of sauces, but it adds a rich salty flavor to any meal.

Verona / Lakes Region

For our last full day in Italy, we dialed it back from the major cities and went to the Italian Lakes region and ended up in fair Verona. It was nice to take it a bit more slowly and walk around the touristy, but quiet, lake region. I think that every water based tourist area in the world is similar in kind – and the lakes region did not disappoint in that regard. It was pleasant, had good coffee shops, beautiful scenery, and 1000x more trailers and rental properties than anyone should want.

Verona itself was a very proper little city. It was just the right size to walk around, had some cool Roman and Renaissance buildings, a nice open air mall, and some rather good restaurants. Just flying through in half a day seemed a bit quick for me, but we got to see the highlights. I think that it is somewhere I would consider spending a bit more time in and looking at all the various back alleys and points of interest. I highly recommend Verona as a chill day trip as long as you avoid the tourist trap that is “Juliet’s Grave”.

Lago di Gardi. I do love a large lake with some mountains it the background. Probably my favorite landscape.

Lago di Gardi. I do love a large lake with some mountains it the background. Probably my favorite landscape.

Obligatory selfie. I got alright at it after 2 weeks.

Obligatory selfie. I got alright at it after two weeks.

Castelvecchio bridge. The Castelvecchio museum is a must see in Verona. It has a neat arms and armor exhibit.

Castelvecchio bridge. The Castelvecchio museum is a must see in Verona. It has a neat arms and armor exhibit.

Giusti Gardens. We paid 10 euro a piece to walk the grounds. Which was both delightful and one of the most British things I have ever done. Second only to kippers on toast points for breakfast. In other news Goethe praised one of the cypress trees.

Giusti Gardens. We paid 10 euro a piece to walk the grounds, which was both delightful and one of the most British things I have ever done. Second only to kippers on toast points for breakfast. In other news, Goethe praised one of the cypress trees here.

Apparently Verona has its own Coleseum and it is both nicer than the Roman variant and it is still used for concerts.

Apparently Verona has its own Coleseum and it is both nicer than the Roman variant and it is still used for concerts.

Finally my most enduring image of Italy. A out of shape man talking on his cell phone too loud while smoking. Addio!

Finally, my most enduring image of Italy. A poorly dressed out of shape man talking on his cell phone too loudly while smoking. Addio!

Venice, Italy

When in Italy, we felt obligated to go to Venice, partially because it is nice and partially because we thought there was a chance that it would not exist next time we went to Italy as it is sinking into the sea. I was a bit apprehensive as I was afraid it would be too much of a Disneyland with more tourists than Venetians – and I was right. But this isn’t to say it wasn’t fun and worth going to.

The first day in Venice, it was drizzly and a bit grey and awesome. The rain made it sparsely populated and, if you went into the alleyways, you could pretend that you were walking into the past. Venice is awesome in that it is walking only, with the addition of boats, and walking around a cool city or countryside is all that Jasmine and I want to do. Day 2 the weather got nice and it was all crushed with people – it was actually hard to walk around and got oppressive in a hurry. So I recommend rain when you are in Venice. :)

Venice loves their winged lions. In truth winged lions are awesome and in real life terrifying.

Venice loves their winged lions. In truth, winged lions are awesome and in real life terrifying.

We fancied it up at Caffe Florian for a afternoon coffee and hot chocolate. It dates back to 1720 and was worth it.

We fancied it up at Caffe Florian for a afternoon coffee and hot chocolate. It dates back to 1720 and was worth it.

Most streets in Venice look like this.

Most streets in Venice look like this.

Other streets look like this. We took a number of service gondolas on our trip.

Other streets look like this. We took a number of service gondolas on our trip.

I didn't realize how much Venice is really flooded till I was there.

I didn’t realize how much Venice is really flooded till I was there.

Selfie! In our hotel for breakfast. The trip made me realize that painted ceilings, not just for the Sistine Chapel!

Selfie! In our hotel for breakfast. The trip made me realize that painted ceilings are not just for the Sistine Chapel!

Tuscany

On the list for our Italy trip was a visit to Tuscany! We skipped out on Florance, but we did go to the neighboring town of Fiesole. The main draw of Fiesole was Etruscan ruins and a museum for the same. It was fun trip and both of us were excited to see the Etruscan ruins – because apparently we are history nerds.

One funny part of the trip was the car we drove around in, a Fiat 500 convertible. We had reserved an economy car but, upon arrival at the rental location, the gentleman at the car rental was flabbergasted by our lack of luggage. In a fit of good will, and a need to get a car with no luggage room in the boot between 2 tourist locations, we got the fancy car. I have never driven a convertible before, and might not bother to do so again, but for once in a lifetime, the Tuscany countryside and Italian lakes will do.

This is the Etruscan ruins - it is quite hard to separate from the roman ruins around it.

This is the Etruscan ruins – it is quite hard to separate from the Roman ruins around it.

Now with additional roman ruins! The local stone last a bit better than brick.

Now with additional Roman ruins! The local stone lasted a bit better than brick.

Etruscan!

Etruscan!

The Etruscans did some really nice bronze working in addition to the pottery.

The Etruscans did some really nice bronze working in addition to the pottery.

And fancy Tuscany B&B.

And fancy Tuscany B&B.