Day Out With Thomas
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

We had so much fun last year when Thomas came to town that we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see him at Mt. Hood Railroad again this year. But this time, we were lucky enough to have the grandparents join us.

Wyatt felt quite honored to meet the infamous Sir Topham Hatt, director of the railway. After toting around pocket-sized figurines of the fat guy for at least 2 years, I think Wyatt was a bit surprised to see how big he really is in person. No wonder all of the engines are scared of him!

While we waited for the 3 o'clock train, Wyatt busied himself with the various train tables that were set up while Avery nearly wore down every single crayon until nothing but a little stub remained. She loves to draw, have I mentioned that lately?

However, she did take a little break from coloring to help her brother navigate through the hay maze before, literally, heading back to the drawing board for Round 2 of coloring.

Shortly thereafter, it was time to board the train. Wyatt was really excited to finally get the opportunity to show his grandparents how awesome it is to ride on a train being pulled by the one and only, Thomas the Tank Engine. Avery and I, on the other hand, watched from the sidelines as Thomas cheerfully "tooted" down the tracks (Ha! I'm sorry, I couldn't resist).

And to top off an already exciting afternoon, Grandma and Papa took it up just a sugary little notch by treating the kids to some ice cream. It was the first time all day in which both of them sat simultaneously still and quiet for longer than 3 minutes. Sugar. It's a powerful thing.

Wine Selection: Tapteil Merlot (2004)
Personal Rating: ***Good***
Comments: Very well-balanced merlot with soft tannins. I thought it was a bit more on the acidic side than most merlots I've tasted. But I really enjoyed this wine.


365 DAYS....and counting.

The countdown to grown-up life has officially begun. I hope that doesn't mean I'm setting myself up for what will seem like a very long year ahead. But it probably does.

Eric's graduation banquet was this past weekend. Residency. Over. Not quite sure I believe it. I think I'm still waiting for Eric to drop the I-want-to-specialize-in-something-else bomb, or to tell me he's going back to college to obtain the degree in Meteorology he always wanted. Seriously. The man leaves no stone unturned. For his wife, such an attribute can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Rumors have been circulating as to where we'll be settling once Eric completes his Neuromuscular Fellowship next June. However, I'm afraid it is still a little too early to officially confirm or deny those rumors. I guess you'll just have to stay tuned for the big announcement later this fall. Oh, the suspense!

At any rate, I'm really proud of Eric for not only excelling in his residency program, but for his ability to balance work and family life. It's tough to do when the demands at work are high, but the kids and I never felt slighted. In fact, he took every opportunity to engage the family in fun, memorable activities during his time off, and as a result we've explored nearly every square mile of the Pacific Northwest!

Congratulations Eric. I'm so proud of you!

Wine Selection: Kiona Sangiovese 2003 Estate
Personal Rating: ***Good***
Comments: A great medium-bodied red that can easily be enjoyed with an Italian dish or by itself. Very well-balanced.


Avery Celebrates Another Year!
Saturday, June 27, 2009

My little girl celebrated her 2nd birthday this week!! Oh, and did I mention the two-year-old attitude that came along with it? Oh. Boy. Where, oh where, did my sweet baby go?

Sweet Baby Avery on her first birthday

One year later, I introduce to you...
Little Miss Sassy Pants

This year we celebrated her big day at The Little Gym. Surprisingly, she really seemed to enjoy all of the attention, and even successfully blew out the two candles on the Tinkerbell cake I made for her this year.

Most of her days as a two-year-old (all of five) have been spent baking cookies in her new retro play kitchen. Who knows, folks, we may just have the next Martha Stewart on our hands. Well, minus the ex-con part. She has also been adorning her body with an assortment of scabs, bumps, and bruises she has sustained as a result of her innate clumsiness. Seriously. Have you ever heard of another child who can plant her face on the concrete while in a seated position? Our little Avery. What a hoot.

For anyone interested, I compiled a slideshow of Avery's birthday party at The Little Gym. Thanks so much to all of our friends who helped us celebrate her big day!

Happy Father's Day: Part III
Monday, June 22, 2009

I always thought my dad had nine lives. Throughout his life, he survived a head-on collision, being hit by a car in a cross walk, and even shot (just to name a few). So when he passed away last month at the age of 58 from heart failure, it came as quite a shock. There is something about the finality of death that conjures up emotions in people they never knew they had. Perhaps for me, it's because it brings to the surface so many memories--more negative than positive--of the time we spent in this life together, the type of man he was, and the type of man I had so wished he'd become.

I guess you could say my dad was a rebel, which meant that asking him to conform to a traditional lifestyle as a husband and father was like trying to cage a wild bird. It just wasn't in his nature. Once I realized and accepted that about him, I was able to move forward in my life, with or without him.

Most of his life was spent fighting demons--one right after another it seemed. But he was also an intelligent man with a gift and passion for carpentry. A true master of his craft. In fact, I had always looked forward to the day when he might sit down with Eric and me to sketch out drawings for the house we would one day have custom built.

This past month, I've been grieving not the loss of my father because I did that many years ago. Rather, I'm grieving the loss of the person he will no longer have the opportunity to become. But like all things, it will get easier with time. More than anything, I'm just so thankful that my dad is finally--for once--at peace. As are my sister and I.


Happy Father's Day: Part II
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eight years ago, I met the man who would eventually become my father-in-law. My first impression of Don was that he was pretty cool--super laid back with a witty sense of humor. He was easy to talk to and made me laugh. I couldn't have asked for anything more from my new boyfriend's dad, but then again I wasn't aware of the possibilities, given my lack of experience in that area. In a word, I thought Don was...well...great!

It wasn't until Eric and I were in our second year of marriage, shortly after Wyatt shocked us with the unmistakable two-line positive pregnancy test just months before we were planning to pack up and move across the country, that our relationship started to evolve--at least from my perspective-- from great!, to something more substantial and meaningful.

I hold very dear to my heart one memory in particular, in which Don had taken me to the driving range one spring day to hit some balls. It was, I think, the first activity we had ever done with just the two of us. I was about 5 months pregnant. Could barely see my toes, much less the dang golf ball. But I distinctly remember how irritated I became (just like a child) when my father-in-law began critiquing every. single. SWING. Good Lord!, I thought. Just let me do it by. my. self! I realize now how much like a two-year-old I was behaving, especially now that I hear those same words in the same tone from my do-it-herself daughter on an, oh, 15-minute basis.

But what I had realized at that moment was that his critiques--as excessive as I thought they were at the time--weren't given with the intent of pissing off a hormonal pregnant lady to the point in which golf clubs would be violently slung across the range. He wanted me to do better, just as he would with one of his own children. For most of my life, I've been doing things by. my. self!, and it's sometimes hard for me to accept--let alone ask for--help. Without ever having told him so, that day was very special to me. It was the first time, even in all of my hormonal frustration, I ever felt like a daddy's girl.

And it certainly wasn't the last. There were mornings he'd take my car, clean it up, and top off the tank before I had ever even crawled out of bed on a Saturday--just like all of my friends' dads did for them in high school. And when the kids and I would fly from Portland to Tulsa to visit them, he'd insist on driving to get Starbucks for me every morning (that was before, at four bucks a pop, I insisted on them buying a coffee maker instead). A true sweetheart, indeed. My only complaint, naturally, is that his eldest son failed to inherit the same endearing quality. Ha!

After 8 years, I consider him my dad just as much as he is Eric's--and out of the two, I'm proud to say that I'm clearly the favorite! It's not uncommon for Don to get a call from me when various "handy man" issues arise at our house. I've learned in my 5 years of marriage, it's always safest to just skip the middle man and go straight to the source. Eric with a screwdriver can only complicate things. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

Don, thank you for loving me like one of your own, and teaching me that it's okay to ask for and accept help from others. By the way, can I borrow $50 bucks? Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day: A Week of Reflection
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In light of the recent passing of my dad, I seem to be hyperaware of all things related to Father's Day. Not because he was an outstanding father, for that he surely was not. He was, rather, a well-intentioned man who just couldn't get his stuff together long enough to even contemplate what it meant to be one. I'm okay with that, and have been for quite some time....really. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Father's Day has proven to be a rather meaningless "holiday" for me for quite some time. In fact, there was a time in my life that I walked this earth completely and utterly fatherless, both physically and spiritually. That was a lonely time, indeed.

But this Father's Day, as I try to sort through all of the various emotions that come along with losing a father that was never really a father, I'm also reminded of the fathers who have come into my life over the years and stepped up to fill some very important roles in my life. It is because of them that I have reason to celebrate, and I would like to take the opportunity this week (because it's my blog and I do what I want) to let each one of them know how much I love and appreciate them.

-------------------------------Happy Father's Day, Part I--------------------------------

One of the most important roles as a father, in a child's eyes, is to love her mother. Unconditionally. No matter how many times her head spins around and fire shoots out her ears. Ha! Just kidding, Mom. I've rarely seen you in such form. Rarely (insert snicker) .

But seriously, there's nothing like catching a glimpse of the unspoken tenderness between a mother and father, and finding comfort, as a child, in the idea of "till death us do part." Before Dennis (my step-dad), I can't say that I ever felt the comfort of knowing that the mother who loved and worked hard for her children alone for most of her life--my mother--would be well taken care of, loved, and respected the way she deserved.

I call Dennis by name only because I was 23 when they married--a little too awkward after so many years of hardly uttering the word, to start calling someone Dad. But given his laid-back disposition (the denim overalls say it all), he wouldn't have minded if I did. What I appreciate most about him is that he's an intellectual. He has such an extensive library of books he has read, and I'm pleased to report that after having borrowed The Great Gatsby from him for over 5 years now, I've finally (as of this morning) finished the less than 200-page edge-of-your-seat thriller. Ha! (It really didn't take me 5 years to read it, just that long to actually pick it up).

The man also knows his meat. That's right folks. No vegetarians in this family. He's been known to deep fry a darn good Thanksgiving turkey, and he'll whip up a Reuben Sandwich that will knock your socks off.

And of course, my kids think Papa Lafferty is pretty cool. Wyatt especially likes it when he and his papa play fetch with the dogs. The kid is always so amused that the dogs will frantically chase down the ball. Every time. And Papa always seems to have the most unusual odds and ends lying around the house that can entertain the kids for hours. Most recently, it was a plastic horseshoe set. Wyatt spent the entire afternoon with one of the horseshoes around his waist, boasting that it was his "superhero belt" which stored all of his special powers. It was lovely.

The dogs fighting over Wyatt's "superhero belt".
Apparently, they wanted in on the action.

Dennis, thank you for stepping up to fill such a very important fatherly role for me. I will be forever grateful to you for loving my mom and making her so happy. It means more than you'll ever know. Happy Father's Day!

Wine Selection:
Yakima Cellars Downtown Red
Personal Rating: **Fair**
Comments: As part of a member promotion at our local wine shop, I was able to purchase this wine for only a single dollar (Man, I didn't think you could get anything for a dollar these days). For that much, it was worth it. But I certainly wouldn't pay full price for it.


Red Mountain Wineries
Saturday, June 13, 2009

When we toured the wineries of Red Mountain, we hit several along a 2-mile stretch of road, including Kiona, Sandhill, Tapteil, Blackwood Canyon (don't get me started on that hole-in-the-wall), and Hightower.

My personal favorite was Tapteil Estate Winery. The woman pouring the wines was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. She also had a stash of Juicy Juice, gummies, and bubbles which seemed to make Wyatt's day, so that certainly earned them a few brownie points.

I absolutely loved all of their wines, but what I appreciated most was that the wife of the wine-maker--an incredibly talented artist--often renders paintings of guests enjoying their wines on the patio or working in the vineyard, and then turns them into wine labels. I think it adds such a personal touch to their already outstanding wines.

From their annual hat turned painting turned wine label.
(I didn't want you to assume that wearing an oversized
sunhat is a prerequisite to enjoying their wines).

Wyatt thinks wine-tasting is "barrels" of fun.

Apparently, it's not uncommon for wineries (especially those in Washington State) to have a winery dog. In fact, there is actually a book showcasing all of the winery dogs of Washington State. Go figure. You've already met the dog at Terra Blanca, although I was too embarrassed after having watched my kids fondle him, to even ask the poor pooch's name. But Tapteil has a very sweet black poodle named Argus.

I was so impressed with Argus because he sat literally at Eric's feet while we ate lunch on the patio (which I'm sure thrilled Eric to pieces), and while the dog eyed and salivated over our selection of fine Italian meats and cheeses, he never once begged for food. Good dog.

Once we left Tapteil, we walked next door to Hightower Cellars. Before we even entered the door, we were greeted by their beautiful, and very energetic, yellow labrador retriever barrelling down the hillside at a rapid pace just to say hello. Avery loves to admire dogs from afar, so she hopped into her daddy's arms before sweet little Murray even had a chance to douse her in slobbery head-to-toe doggie kisses. But you can tell by the way Avery's tongue is protruding from her mouth, she thought Murray was sort of special.

From Tapteil, we walked away with a wonderful 2004 Merlot, although I used much restraint in deciding against the 2005/2006 Syrah duo (with the fun artsy labels) signed by the winery's owner. We also purchased a bottle of Hightower's 2006 Merlot, although we really loved the 2005 Red Mountain Red Wine the best. But we just couldn't justify spending $50 for a single bottle. Yowza!

As unruly as they are sometimes, I just love my little man's curls.

Terra Blanca Winery
Monday, June 8, 2009

After perusing the reviews promising a true Tuscan experience, we were quite intrigued and therefore easily persuaded on the first day of our wine tour to make Terra Blanca Winery one of the stops along our route. We entered the winery through a pair of large cast-iron gates before ascending the steep gravel driveway which snaked up the hillside. Once in the parking lot, we were struck with awe as we admired the picturesque views of the arid landscape--treeless hills that rolled for miles, flanked by thriving vinicultural regions and brilliant skies of blue.

The long corridor guiding us to the entrance was draped in lush greenery, which then opened up to a beautiful, Tuscan-inspired terrace which, for a moment, made me feel as if we had suddenly and divinely been plucked right out of the desert of eastern Washington and into a gorgeous Italian villa.

Avery and Eric walking through the corridor and trying to catch up
with Wyatt, who used his superpowers to outrun the rest of the family.

The gorgeous terrace overlooking the Yakima Valley

Timid and cautious little princess turned daredevil...overnight.

Soaking up some rays, and some good 'ol Vitamin D

The kids and me walking through the courtyard

You'd probably expect a place like this to be very pretentious about their wines, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the contrary to be true. Rather than being forced to fake interest in the exhaustive spiel about how many medals the wines have won, we were actually able to enjoy them the way we like, while engaging in some friendly conversation with the young college girl pouring them. We ended up walking away with a very nice bottle of the 2003 Pantheon, a bold blend of 81% Nebbiolo, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Dolcetto.

It was probably our favorite winery from the trip. We spent a lot of time there, and even enjoyed a picnic lunch on the terrace.

Wine Selection: Tagaris Sangiovese
Personal Rating: ***Good***
Comments: I bought this bottle for Eric on one of my solo wine-tasting outings in the Tri-Cities. I should've known he wouldn't like it nearly as much as I did. I thought it was rather tasty. Eric just looked at me like I was crazy. He's a sangiovese snob.


Exploring Wines of Eastern Washington
Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wine-tasting in the Willamette Valley. It's fabulous. Heavenly, in fact.

If you like Pinot Noir.

If you like variety, however, there's nothing like eastern Washington--one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country. We thought we'd check it out for ourselves to see what all of the fuss was about. For the past several days, we've been exploring the desert within the Tri-Cities (Richland, Kennewick, & Pasco) area and sampling wines from the plethora of wineries throughout the region.

Were we pleased?

You tell me.

Pleased, indeed!

We sampled everything from Lemberger to Nebbiolo at the 14 wineries we visited--each tasting room offering something unique, whether in its architecture, decor, or wine label design (not to mention the secret stash of lollipops and juice boxes that some had on hand in an effort to distract little ankle automatic two-bottle sale in my book).

We met a lot of interesting people during our wine tours and learned a lot about dry climate wine production. The more I learn about wine, the more fascinated I become. I'll post in more detail our experiences at a few of our favorite wineries from the trip. Wyatt and Avery were such troopers. Fortunately, they're at an age in which they can still find entertainment in some of the simplest activities, like rolling down hills, playing with rocks, and pulling on, poking, and prodding the winery's proud pooch as if he were a stuffed plaything.

This, my friends, is why we don't yet own a dog.

(By the looks of it, you'd think this poor pooch just narrowly escaped being
given an accidental enema at the hands of a two-year-old. Good grief.)

In addition to wine-tasting, we toured a few micro-breweries, visited Palouse Falls (A-MAZING!), and caught up with our cousins, Thomas and Sharon, who moved to the area from Tulsa 3 years ago. Stay tuned for more pictures, and many, many more wine reviews!



My Wine Personality:
For the most part I’m a chardonnay, as I consider myself to exhibit a somewhat sunny and mellow disposition (most of the time), but because I find a tremendous amount of joy out of showering my two kids with hugs and kisses, I also possess the subtle sweetness often found in a riesling. But don’t be fooled. I love a great outdoor adventure and am willing to try anything once. This occasional display of boldness is thought to match that of a cabernet, whereas my appreciation for nature suggests that I have an earthy component to my personality—very characteristic of a merlot. (more)


“Wine rejoices the heart of man and joy is the mother of all virtues.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1771