December 30, 2010

Saw an eagle | Semiahmoo | Birch Bay State Park | Texas caviar

The second (and last) time I got seasick was on a fishing boat off the northernmost point of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. We were camping at Meat Cove, a fishing village accessed from an unpaved road off the Cabot Trail, with a permanent population of fewer than 100. Our tent was on a high cliff overlooking the ocean, and remaining on solid ground, hiking and enjoying the scenic beauty, was what I should have done. But no, I had to succumb to the lore of seeing whales. The owner of the gorgeous land was a fisherman who supplemented his earnings by renting out camping space, and hosting whale watching tours in his fishing boat.

(My first experience with seasickness had been a ghastly one suffered aboard a large tour boat off the coast of Paihia, a tourist town in the Bay of Islands in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand. On that fateful cruise, which I'd been looking forward to for weeks, I spent two hours locked in a tiny bathroom making simultaneous use of a toilet and sink basin. I was understandably leery of ever going out on the sea again.)

Anyway, the fisherman/Captain assured me that the sea where we were going was calm, and no one ever got seasick on his boat. HA! The boat was small, bare-bones, and seating was on a ring of milk crates along the rail. Things were OK while we were moving, but when the Captain dropped anchor, the boat started tilting from side to side — up and down, up and down, up and down. It wasn't long before I felt the familiar, horrible feeling of seasickness upon me. The only bathroom was an open toilet visible behind the Captain, and I began to cope with my misery by lying back on my crate and willing myself asleep, so as not to feel the horror. My crate and I became one. I was vaguely aware of a young child keening, "is it going to tip, Mom? Is the boat going to tip?" over and over, and of people leaning over me as if I weren't there, to see the whales, but mostly I was basically unconscious.

Then, one of my sons started tapping me and begging, "open your eyes, Mom. Open your eyes. There are eagles flying over us. Please, Mom, open your eyes. Just for a minute." I tried. I really did. But opening my eyes even a crack allowed the nausea to seep to the surface, so I squeezed them shut again, and fell back into my self-preservation coma. I've always felt so regretful about not seeing the eagles, which is why I was so excited when we went walking on on Semiahmoo Spit on our little mini-vacation to Birch Bay — and there, across the road, was an eagle!

Semiahmoo Spit is a mile-long strip of land jutting into the ocean at the northern end of Blaine, Wash. At the northern tip of the spit is the Semiahmoo Resort, where we stopped to have tea, and gaze at the water from one of the public sitting rooms. After our tea, meandering around the trails behind the resort, we found rotted, moss-covered old piers, and a newer seasonal ferry dock. (Clearly we were here in the wrong season.)

Atmospheric, or bleak, depending on your point of view.

After exploring the docks, we headed to the beach, and walking path.

I've always been hopelessly attracted to rocks, especially wet ones, and used the most restraint I could manage to only look at them, pick up a few, then leave them behind. I won't admit to how many Lake Superior rocks I have, but I didn't take any from the spit. Not even one. You can see how irresistible they are, though, in their nests of grass.

We were heading down the walking path when I looked across the road and saw what appeared to be an eagle sitting on top of a dead tree. With only an 80mm zoom on my camera, we weren't close enough to get a good photo, and I saw there was a walking trail on the eagle's side of the park. Sooooo, we headed over there, not quite sure what the eagle would think of our intentions. When we were at Glacier National Park in Montana, where the chance of encountering wildlife is high, the rule of thumb was, if an animal changed its activity as a result of your presence, you were too close. Using this as our guide, we slowly went closer. The eagle turned to face us and, not knowing anything about eagle behavior, I opted to take some photos from where we were, rather than try to move any closer. Wouldn't you know it — my camera battery chose that moment to die, and I had forgotten to put the spare back in my bag after I'd charged it. Still, seeing the eagle was exciting.

Later that afternoon, Christmas Eve, we took a little break from the damp, natural world to take in a movie. We headed to a seven-screen theater to see True Grit. The lobby seemed perfectly normal, and the cost was typical of any movie, so we were quite surprised when we entered the theater and found a small screen and decrepit seating. The seats were old, uncomfortable, and arranged without concern for viewing ease. We were scrunched and twisted in our efforts to see the screen, and Ken attributes his stiff neck to the two hours we spent in the theater. I think it also had something to do with my aching back. (Along with our marshmallow bed.) The movie was good, though, if you don't mind some shooting and chopping.

For dinner, we ate our Vancouver leftovers plus the stuffed tofu hot pot with black bean sauce, and soup with dumplings, purchased for the occasion the evening before at Bodhi Chinese restaurant in Vancouver.

Soup with dumplings

The food was just as good as the night before, and left us wanting to return to Bodhi again, soon.

On Saturday we headed to Birch Bay State Park for a gentle hike. Actually, it was more like a walk through the woods, as my back was acting up and I didn't want to take any chances.

The wet, ferny, mossy woods were quite magical — kind of like a series of pastel paintings. It seemed like the kind of place where Hobbits would live. Seriously, I was expecting to come upon a Hobbit house at every turn.

It may be winter here, but so much vegetation stays green year round, that it's a very different scene from what I'm used to. Washington is called The Evergreen State, and it's an accurate description. The temperature is usually in the 40s during the day, and I seldom even wear gloves — an act unheard of in Wisconsin.

With so much rain and dampness, moss grows everywhere, adding to the green and slightly eerie look of the woods.

These are my new hiking boots, which I love. This was their first outing, and they were completely comfortable. As soon as we returned home, I donated my old (very old but still thought of fondly) hiking boots to Goodwill.

Buffy spent the days of our vacation in a scenic dog-boarding lakeside home near Bellingham, and I believe she had a good time there. I was hesitant to leave her because she's 17, but she did well, and came home happy and refreshed, though a little tired from all the excitement.


Texas Caviar: black-eyed pea salsa

It's almost the new year, and I suppose I should be both looking back and looking ahead — evaluating the past year and forming resolutions and goals for 2011. But for right now, I wish everyone a prosperous, peaceful, healthful and generous new year. And to ensure your good fortune, I'm reprinting my favorite recipe for black-eyed peas. Make it today and let it marinate until Jan. 1, or make it at the last minute and enjoy it fresh. Either way, eating black-eyed peas on the New Year is supposed to bring you luck — and they taste great! See you in 2011!

Texas Caviar
  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (or equivalent amount of home-cooked beans)
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced
  • 3 jalapenos, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil,
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground peppercorns

Rinse and drain the beans and place in a bowl with the scallions, cilantro and peppers. Put the oil, vinegar, lime juice and salt in a one cup glass measuring cup and mix together. Add the liquid to the beans mixture and combine. Place in a shallow glass (or other non-reactive) dish. Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or a few days. Mix occasionally to distribute the marinade evenly. Grind some peppercorns over the top just before serving.

notes: I thought the mix looked a little too green and beige so I went looking in the refrigerator for a few grape tomatoes to chop up. They were gone so I got a few slices of the tomatoes I dried last summer (and keep in a sealed freezer bag in the fridge). I chopped those up and added them for color and tang. I also used jalapenos from last summer's garden. I always freeze bags of whole, hot peppers from the garden to use in cooking during the rest of the year. This was the first time I tried to use them uncooked. Couldn't tell they weren't fresh.

I like to rinse and drain canned beans in a wire wok skimmer that I got in an Asian market years ago because I liked the way it looked. It's easier to clean than my fine mesh strainers and holds about one can of beans at a time.

For a little black-eyed pea and New Year's history, read this story from the New York Times.


  1. Wow, it looks like you've had some wonderful outdoorsy adventures lately! The photos are lovely. I've tried Texas caviar once--it was store-bought--but didn't quite take to it; there were a few additional, off-tasting components to it. I'll have to try your version, which sounds much more palatable. :) Thanks for sharing, and happy new year to you, too!

  2. such beautiful photos, andrea! especially the ones in the state park. it looks totally magical indeed.

  3. oh those black eyed peas look amazing!.. and how cool seeing the eagle.

  4. Tiffany,
    Thanks, Tiffany. You should definitely try Texas caviar again — it's really delicious. Black-eyed peas are easy to cook yourself. They don't need to be soaked and only take about 30 minutes to cook.

    My eyes were dancing in that park. The colors were so pretty I wanted to record them all for future reference, in case I want to paint a forest scene.

    I was so excited to see the eagle! I just wish I could have taken a better photo. I guess I'll have to go back!

  5. Your pictures are gorgeous, and thanks for the info re black eyed peas, and the recipe, which I'm sure is fantastic. The food from Bodhi looks great, very inspiring. I've been trying to make up a recipe for "turnip" cakes for years, never thinking they were made of daikon. D'oh. And isn't it wonderful when new shoes work out the first time you wear them (especially on a hike)!

  6. I loved this post, Andrea. So beautiful!
    Oh, and Happy Chrsitmas & New Year! A little behind on the blogs I am.
    I've never been sea sick, and I also have a thing for rocks, maybe because of being born along Lake Superior?
    Buffy looks sweet.

  7. Zoa,
    Thanks! The scenery was so beautiful, softened and muted by rain, I just wanted to pack it up and bring it home.

    I really like black-eyed peas but I always forget about them until New Years. I'll probably cook some today (dried, not canned) and make some "caviar" for tomorrow.

    I used to have a "vague" recipe for radish cakes given to me by the owner of a great Chinese restaurant near Madison, Wis. I interpreted and worked on the recipe, and successfully made them, but the recipe is lost. I really want to made them again. The main ingredients are daikon and rice flour.

    Thank you so much. Happy holidays to you, too! I know what you mean about being behind on reading blogs — vacations will do that.

    You were born along Lake Superior? I had no idea.

  8. Beautiful photos! Sounds like a great time!

    I am on the hunt for hiking boots myself. We are planning on do more hiking in the new year.

    Yummy....the Texas Caviar looks very good! I've got black eyed peas on hand for my New Years dinner. :o)

    Happy New Years!

  9. Michelle,
    Thanks! It was nice to have a change of scenery. After reading a gazillion reviews, I ordered my hiking boots online at a great price from REI, knowing I could return them to our local store if I had to. I was amazed that they fit, and were so comfortable. Best boots ever. (Montrail)

  10. I get seriously seasick too. It's awful.

    How awesome to see and eagle. I need to head there.

    And off to soak some peas!

  11. Happy New Year, Andrea!

    I feel for you and your seasickness too, having once spent a wretched (and retching) two days on a ferry from Maine to Nova Scotia and back with no means of escape. But really, a vegan sitting on a milk crate on a fishing vessel in a place called Meat Cove? You know there was just never any way that was going to go well. ;-)

    You exercised amazing self-control in leaving those beautiful rocks where they were! At least you have that lovely photo as a souvenir. I do so love a pretty rock and doubt I could have resisted such beguiling temptation. Have you seen the enchanting little book, Beach Stones?

    Your eagle photo is beautiful, even if your camera battery died before you could get a closer one. I'm having similar luck trying to get a photo of some bald eagles that love to sit in a big dead cottonwood between my house and town. Whenever I don't have my camera with me, there they are, perched as majestically as you please and lit perfectly with a cobalt sky and snow-covered mountains as a back drop. When I do have my camera? Nary an eagle in sight. This game of peekaboo has been going on for a month now. I figure I have another 4-6 weeks to get lucky before they're gone from there for another year.

    Your hike in the state park looked magical indeed, and I'm certain there are Hobbit houses hidden in that mossy, ferny undergrowth somewhere!

    I'm glad Buffy did well on her own vacation. She looks great for a lady of her advanced years!

    And your Texas Caviar looks so pretty and tasty, how could it not bring you abundance in the New Year? Wishing you that and more in 2011!

  12. Aimee,
    Yes, it was amazing to see the eagle, and I understand there are lots of them on the Semiahmoo Spit. I want to go back again. I cooked my black-eyed peas yesterday, and they are marinating in the refrigerator.

    HA! Your comment had me laughing so hard there were tears running down my face. I called my husband in and he started laughing, too. You know, the Meat Cove-fishing boat thing always bothered me, but I'd never put it together in quite that way before.

    Rocks are beautiful and beguiling, true, but if you've ever hauled away bags of them you know they are also HEAVY. After our trip to Lake Superior, I was afraid the car would bottom out on the way home.

    How wonderful that you live where you might see eagles at any time!

    Happy New Year!

  13. Happy New Year Andrea!!!

    Camera batteries have a very annoying habit of dying at all the wrong times. But the shots you did get of the eagle are great. Glad you were able to see him without having to get on a boat. :)

    Buffy is so cute and those black-eyed peas look delicious.

  14. What Laloofah said WAS really funny. I get seasick, too. And carsick. We went whale watching last year, and I felt so sick because I was trying to keep up with all the kids and make sure they didn't you know, fall overboard or seomthing. I didn't puke, but my oldest son did.

  15. I hope you had a happy holiday and a wonderful New Years Eve. I hope 2011 treats you well :-) Happy New Year!


  16. Rose,
    Thank you. If I'd had to get on a boat, you can be sure I wouldn't have seen him. :D

    Seasickness is the worst. I was so sick I basically abandoned the kids to my husband because I was incapacitated.

    Thanks so much, Courtney. I wish all the same to you! Happy New Year.

  17. Andrea, your reply tickled me in turn, so I'm glad we helped kick off each other's New Year on a mirthful note! :-)

    While I haven't hauled away bags of rocks (really? Bags of them? You do have the fever!), I have gone on hikes up our mountain and ended up stuffing rocks in every available shirt, pants and jacket pocket as well as my knapsack, taking off my sweatshirt and turning it into a rock-hauling sling-type affair, and then flipping my tshirt up into a kangaroo pouch to haul the rest of the rocks I just couldn't bear to leave where they'd sat unmolested since the Pleistocene Era. And then I have to lurch and waddle down the steep mountain like that, hoping no one sees me and feeling very like the Rock Monster in Galaxy Quest!

    There is nothing quite like a rockhound possessed, as your car suspension's mechanic and my chiropractor can testify. :-)

  18. Laloofa,
    Possessed, indeed.

  19. I get motion sickness too but somehow managed to never ever be talked into a boat ride of any sort. No matter how much anyone says it'll be fine, I know better. :-) Beautiful photos though! Happy 2011!

  20. Congrats on spotting that eagle! I had the exact same experience when we went whale watching in Newfoundland years ago. Spent the entire time looking at the ground. ;) As always, the food looks great--but "Toronto leftovers"?? Did I miss the fact that you were in Toronto?! Gaaaa! I know I'm behind with blog reading, but boy will I be sorry if I missed you (she says, rather presumptously).

  21. Chow vegan,
    Thanks, and happy 2011 to you, too. And STAY OFF THE BOATS.

    "Toronto" was a typo that should have read "Vancouver." I must have been thinking of you! I fixed it. :|

  22. It looks like you are having such a nice trip. Sorry to hear about your back - I hope it feels better soon. I love the tidbit about you and rocks, such a kid at heart!

  23. Vegetarian life in 2011 is the best new years resolution. The world is getting grin we must be green now.

  24. Blessedmama,
    The trip was a nice change of scenery, if not weather. What I really need is a trip to someplace with sunshine! Yeah, rocks.

    I agree that a vegan diet is great for us and the environment!


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