Taking a selfie with green-cheeked conures is dangerous, and I’m not being silly. For some reason Kiwi (on my shoulder) attacks phones (and remote controls, sockless feet, and cats). Piper is fortunately much nicer.
I’ve always wanted to learn more about birds, since I am the proud owner of two green-cheeked conures who do a pretty good job of running our lives.
So I was pleased to find out I’d snagged a spot in the Audubon/Yakima Arboretum’s birdwatching class this spring at the Yakima Area Aboretum. The class maxed out at 40 students, and the organizers told us this week that they had 16 people on the waiting list. We’ll be meeting once a month for classes on bird identification, and then going on subsequent field trip to various places to cement our newly-acquired skills. I’m excited.
The Yakima Valley is home to lots of great birders with many years of experience…(you can check more out here ) and it’s a lot of fun to hear these experienced birders talk about their memorable moments.
I’ve also spent a fair amount of time running around the countryside trying to photograph birds, and thanks to pure dumb luck, I’ve managed to get some fairly good shots.
“Dumb” luck really is an apt phrase in my case. Once I was out on my brother-in-law’s farm west of Royal City one day when he mentioned he’d seen an owl living in an old tree. He told me where to find the tree, and when I found it I was disappointed…no owl in sight. But when I was about five feet away, a tiny face popped into view and I was able to get some close-up shots before she flew away.
I found out much later from that this was a saw-whet owl, a bird that’s on the bucket list of many lifelong birders. They’re rarely seen in eastern Washington, and yet there I was thinking I’d just managed to get a picture of a “cute owl.”
A burrowing owl near Othello checks out the strange lady with the camera
Burrowing owls have been one of my favorite birds to photograph. They used to be quite common in Grant County, and one year we had a burrow not too far from our house. These photogenic little owls are the subject of much consternation among wildlife folks recently, since their numbers have been dwindling at alarming rates. My dad told me once when he was growing up in eastern Kansas he used to try to catch prairie dogs in traps. “All I ever managed to catch was those little owls,” he said (burrowing owls depend on abandoned burrows for nesting). In some areas in Eastern Washington, artificial burrows have been installed in the hopes of attracting nesting pairs. I’m hoping that the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife sets up a “burrowing owl cam” again this year.
I’ve never had good luck photographing raptors, even with my best long lens. Eagles are extremely hard to sneak up on, and usually aren’t fooled by the “I’m staying-in-my-car-so-I’m harmless” gambit that I’ve successfully used with other species, like Sandhill Cranes.
Sandhill cranes west of Royal City
I once drove my Civic into a recently-seeded field in order to get some good crane photos. (Again, I have my good-natured brother-in-law to thank for that shot.)
The WSU Raptor Club brings their raptors to the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival to meet and educate attendees. Almost all of the raptors the club cares for were rescued. This barn owl is blind, but he heard my camera shutter when I was taking pictures of this group.
If you’re into birds and geology, I highly recommend a trip to Othello for the Sandhill Crane Festival at the end of this month. I designed the catalog for the 2013 festival, so I handled a lot of information about the lecturers and what’s available during the weekend. It’s a top-notch event, and no matter what your fancy (whether it’s groundwater or ground squirrels), there will be a lecture and/or field trip you won’t want to miss.
And speaking of great classes and things to do, our very own Arboretum here in Yakima has a slew of fantastic classes coming up this spring…everything from a wildlife tracking workshop to a bonsai class. You can view their course schedules here.
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Three tacos asada on homemade tortillas…mmm. The cilantro dressing on the tomato and lettuce was also a nice touch.
Taco Borracho’s reputation is growing in Yakima, and it’s not hard to see why. The small restaurant is located on 503 S. Fair Avenue (next to the skate park–it shares parking with a mini-mart). As other diners have pointed out on Yelp and Urbanspoon, Taco B. is not in what most folks would call the best neighborhood…but the classy interior, friendly service, and good food earned Taco Borracho a thumbs-up from our lunch bunch.
As a somewhat opinionated aside, I think all the folks who say they’re on the “I care about Yakima” bandwagon should make an effort to patronize local businesses like this one. It’s not just good for local business, it’s good for everyone who lives in that part of town. The old adage “if you build it, they will come” requires participation from the customer side, you know…and this is an enjoyable way of putting your money where your mouth is.
The pre-meal chips here are served with three kinds of salsa, including a wonderful traditional pico de gallo cabbage/jalapeno slaw that we quickly gobbled down (thankfully we were grateful that we were promptly supplied with reinforcements).
We’d highly recommend the tacos, which are made with homemade tortillas and served as part of a rice and beans combo (above). I’ve also tried and would recommend the molcajete, which is a layered dish served up in a traditional molcajete (a gray stone three-legged bowl). It’s a messy dish, but it’s fun to assemble your own tacos with the beans, meat, vegetables, and cheeses in the bowl. I appreciated the ranchero-style beans in the molcajete dish, which I like a lot more than refried beans. We haven’t tried the guacamole here, but I’ve heard several people rave about it.
One of my co-diners really liked Taco Borracho’s chicken tortilla soup, while another thought maybe there was too much cheese in her portion (which spurred this comment from me: “Is there such a thing as too much cheese?”)
Taco Borracho is open for lunch and dinner, and they also serve drinks and are open late on Friday night. (509) 469-0886. They’ve built it. Will you go?
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Few things in life are more challenging than staying on a restricted diet, and my beau R. and I are still spinning trying to figure out how to handle his recently-diagnosed gluten intolerance.
I say “diagnosed” as if a doctor had figured it out, but we had to puzzle it out on our own. Unfortunately, months of mysterious discomfort is usually par for the course for folks who develop an intolerance to a certain food, and there are often no easy answers. After a slew of expensive tests, R’s doc ruled out cancer, ulcers, and celiac disease…but the asthma attacks, weird skin rashes, and bloating continued.
We’d only known each other for few months when his symptoms really started to set in, and the poor guy was growing more tired and depressed by the day. “I feel like I’m pregnant,” he moaned one night after he came home from the gym. Finally I said, “Let’s try not eating wheat for week and see what happens.”
So we did. And he felt better. And then, R being R, he decided to order himself a pizza about a week into our little experiment. (As he said, in his defense: “There was a Seahawks game on.”) His allergy symptoms and gut pain returned with a screaming vengeance that night, and we had our answer.
Since then, we’ve been struggling in the kitchen and just about every time we go out to eat. There was the vegetable barley soup I made him earlier this year that triggered a scary hour-long middle-of-the-night asthma attack (yes, Virginia, barley HAS GLUTEN IN IT…I still feel terrible about that one). Or the dozen or so times I’ve attempted to make gluten-free pizza–only one of which I would call semi-successful. It’s not that gluten-free baked goods all taste horrible, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to get the taste and texture to be like the “real thing.” So basically the whole gluten-free thing can be plenty disappointing and scary on the cooking side as well as the eating side of things.
Jenny’s pie crust has lots of ingredients in it, including some millet flour
R. putting the final touches on his pie crust. Gluten-free doughs of all kinds are notoriously difficult to handle.
Topping a pot pie after rolling out pie dough between two sheets of plastic wrap
Taking a picture of the finished pies…things of beauty!
Jenny making apple fritters (with coconut whipped cream and vegan caramel sauce) for dessert
Enjoying the fruits of our labors
Imagine my delight to find out from Savannah Tranchell’s blog that La Maison in Yakima was hosting Jenny Mae Simmons for a gluten-free cooking class. Or rather, I was delighted and sort of dragged R. along (he did wind up having a lot of fun, even though he was the only guy there other than Chef Brad Smith).
Jenny taught us a lot about thickeners, flours, and methods that are involved in skilled gluten-free cooking–and yes, it is indeed quite intimidating. She noted that even just keeping all the ingredients on hand is a challenge, since a lot of the gluten-free flours and mixes can’t sit happily in a pantry for months on end like wheat flour can (keeping them in the freezer or fridge is a must).
Jenny runs a gluten-free bakery here in Yakima called Jenny Mae’s… (it’s a little tricky to find, but it’s located at 730 N. 16th Ave., Suite #2). She’s open 10-5 M-F and 10-1 on Saturday….and if you go on Saturday, go early, because she sells out of lots of things early on. If you’re gluten-intolerant or a diagnosed celiac, I highly recommend meeting Jenny in person…she’s accumulated a wealth of information about food allergies and also provides, as she says, “a little therapy” along with her baked goods. She recognizes that being on a restricted diet can be a real challenge emotionally, especially when it’s something as ubiquitous as wheat (which can be hidden in anything from gravy to pizza sauce to frozen yogurt). Although R’s allergies aren’t life-threatening, there are plenty of celiacs and other folks out there whose food allergies are a life-and-death matter, and education is a must.
One of the very best things about Jenny Mae’s class (which was the first gluten-free class hosted at La Maison) was that it showed those of us still struggling with gluten-free baking that with a little effort and education, success in the kitchen IS possible. Jenny’s apple fritters with coconut whipped cream and vegan caramel sauce was one of the best desserts I’ve had in some time. R. and I were also both extremely impressed with Jenny’s baking powder biscuits, which we’re going to try at home as soon as we can; I actually liked them better than regular flour biscuits.
We also got to talk to other folks who have been struggling with similar sorts of food allergy problems, and commiserating with them about their failures and triumphs was very enlightening (and there were a lot of laughs).
So there is hope, if you’re on a restricted diet. All it takes is a little practice, and thanks again to Jenny Mae for helping light the way for so many gluten-free folks in Yakima. All of us left hoping there will be another gluten-free class scheduled soon. If you’ve never been to La Maison before, it’s a blast–take a friend and be prepared to have a very enjoyable afternoon or evening. Upcoming cooking classes there include a Fat Tuesday Mardi-Gras themed evening, as well as a “Titanic Last Supper” evening that owner Kathy Sali says will be amazing (guests come in costume, and a violinist will be playing period music). You can register for La Maison classes here.
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If you’ve never been to the Orion Theater in Yakima, you’re missing a real treat.
My beau R. and I went on a double date at the Orion a few weeks ago–I’d heard lots of praise about the theater from my coworkers here at the Herald, and so we finally got around to going. We weren’t seeing a brand-new release, so we were surprised at how packed the theater was. One of the best things about the Orion is that you can order drinks (even of the adult-beverage variety – the theater is strictly 21 and over) and dinner and have everything delivered while you’re watching the show. And if you get a hankering for some popcorn halfway through, all you have to do is press the tiny button on your tray table and someone will show up to take your order.
We were also surprised that gluten-free pizza was on the menu (which made R. very happy), and my chicken pizza was excellent. (I also had to politely stifle a groan of pure gluttonous pleasure after trying one of Stacey’s fried macaroni & cheese bites.) The seats at the Orion are deep and comfortable, and the pitch of the theater is steep enough so you have a clear view of the screen no matter where you’re sitting. We were really impressed by the skill and unobtrusiveness of the wait staff, who glide quietly up the steep aisles in the dark carrying trays of food and drinks.
Seven months ago, the Orion started a “Classic Movie Night” on the second Tuesday of every month, and according to Steve Mercy, the Vice President of Yakima Theaters, the classic offerings have been a smashing success. Seats are $5 (as opposed to the regular $12 ticket charge) and showings often sell out days in advance. Or weeks in advance, as in the case of the upcoming showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark on March 11th. Ticket sales have been so brisk that Mercy said they decided to make it an all-Indy all-night offering with six showings. At least two of the shows have already sold out.
Mercy noted that the idea for a classic movie night came from the desire to make the Orion as multipurpose as possible. “We don’t want to just show first-run movies,” he said. He said the theater tries to select seasonally-appropriate classics depending on the season (The Rocky Horror Picture Show in October, and It’s a Wonderful Life in December, for example).
Mercy said it can be challenging at times to find digital releases of classic movies, so his staff comes up with two or three classic prospects for each month, and then they see what they can obtain from the studios on a month-to-month basis. Mercy said they look at the American Film Institute’s list of 100 top movies for selection inspiration, and they also take recommendations from local moviegoers. “We’re all big movie buffs,” he said.
The theater announces classic movies about a month in advance; the once-monthly showings occur on the second Tuesdays, and the following month’s selection is posted the following Friday. The Orion has been seeing quite a few repeat customers for the classic movie nights, Mercy said. “It’s a fun night out and a great chance to see a great old movie.”
Mercy’s particularly looking forward to seeing Raiders on the big screen, since he never got the chance to see it in the theaters when the movie first came 33 years ago in 1981. “It ran for something like 47 weeks here in Yakima when it was first released or something crazy like that,” he said. “I’m really excited to see it on the big screen.”
You can buy tickets online for all of the Orion’s shows by going to their website. Just use the drop-down menu to select a date at the top of the page in the “Showtimes” box to see what’s available.
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Shelly Parker is a new member of the Yakima Herald-Republic team, and her adorable skirt from ModCloth.com reminds us that spring is definitely on the way. Shelly hails from Wyoming and has lived in Montana, so she knows how to mix practical winter clothes (like her awesome black suede boots) with a springy skirt.
Making the Scene is a monthly feature here on the Yakima Magazine blog. If you know someone in our area who oozes unique style, please let Elly know! email@example.com or (509) 759-7964.
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