Alaskan RED

A lifelong Alaskan learning about the world one backroad at a time


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Housesitting Perk – Blue Apron Meal Kit Day Three

Our final meal is the one I picked out just for me.  I absolutely love gnocchi so the Brown Butter Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Chard were my first choice for our box.

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This was probably the fastest dish to make and once again, I was in charge.  I’m using that as my excuse for not taking more pictures…please forgive me.  I put water on to boil for the gnocchi, then chopped chard and garlic, sliced the shallot and quartered mushrooms.  As luck would have it, the farmers market had fresh shitakes that week so I added some of those to the mushrooms included in the kit.

The mushrooms are sauted, first alone and. then with the thyme springs.  Then you add the butter and brown it, remove the thyme and saute the rest of the veggies, adding the chard leaves at the end.

The gnocchi cooks quickly and I put hubby in charge of skimming them out when they floated to the top, and putting them in a colander.  Then you stir them into the pan with the veggies and add some pasta water, stirring and adding more of the pasta water until it coated the gnocchi in sauce.  I ultimately added more pasta water than they called for as I wanted to be sure the dish wasn’t too dry.

Plating was simple – put on a dish and garnish with Parmesan cheese.  I had some Parmesan in the fridge so I put that out so it could be added if desired.  Did I mention how much we love cheese?

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The serving size they sent for two people was a quarter pound of fresh gnocchi.  I honestly could not get through this meal.  Gnocchi are very solid bits of pasta and I find I can’t eat much of them.  But it was a good preparation, super fast and reminded me to put more chard in our pasta dishes next year when I’m staring at the bumper crop from our garden.

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This was the end of our meal kit box so we discussed what we liked and didn’t like.  We don’t mind grocery shopping and meal planning, in fact we enjoy it, so having that done for us was not really a big deal.  However, I could certainly see how busy people or those who don’t really like to cook might enjoy it.  There was the opportunity to try some new things like the farro or the fennel spice so that was good.  Cost wise, this was about $20 per meal or $10 per person each night.  That’s not too bad and in fact is reasonable enough that we might be sending a trial to some busy folks for the holidays.  If you don’t have a full collection of spices like we do, it makes it even more affordable since you don’t have to buy a full jar of something just to use a teaspoon of it.  The meals seemed pretty healthy, the fat to calorie ratio was good, but I didn’t use salt every time they said to because we don’t eat much salt.

The real question is whether we would do it again?  If it was available in Alaska, I think we might try it but maybe only every other week or something.  But I have to say that it’s still worth considering when we are down in the lower 48 housesitting since we could vary our meals without having to invest in a bunch of spices – well that and since it will be winter and there will be no farmer’s markets to tempt us.

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Housesitter Perk – Blue Apron Meal Kit Day Two

Tonight we dove into the Blue Apron kits for the things to make Ginger Scallion Meatballs and Rice with Bok Choy and Marinated Radishes.  Hubby loves meatballs and I love rice and anything Asian inspired so this meal was an easy choice for us.

He loves to cook so he took care of most of the meal prep, grabbing the dish with all the kit ingredients and finding the ones for this meal and setting to work.  Did I mention that these are “30-minute meals”?  I’d say that’s about a true estimate. Unfortunately, he was so quick, I didn’t get beginning pictures. But here’s the recipe for future reference… Please excuse the glare.

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First step is getting the rice on to cook followed by chopping veggies.  We had bought some watermelon radishes at the farmer’s market so he added some of those in with the three that came in the kit.  The radishes are marinated with vinegar while you cook the rest of the meal. Have you ever marinated radishes? They give off an interesting aroma but trust me, they taste great.

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Then you make meatballs with the ground beef and breadcrumbs, adding in ginger and the whites of the scallions.  It says to make 10-12 meatballs but he thought those were a bit big so we ended up with a bit more than that.

You brown the meatballs, then add bok choy, vinegar, water and a packet labeled “sushi sauce” to the pan, cooking til the bok choy is wilted and the meatballs are done.

He wasn’t going to plate the dish but said I could do it so there was a picture for you – pretty easy with just the rice topped with the meatballs and bok choy mixture, then the marinated radishes and scallion tops for garnish.

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I really liked this dish – it was simple, light and the marinated radishes reminded me of when we make them for banh mi sandwiches.  And since it was meatballs, it was a universal hit.  Again, hubby felt like it needed a small salad on the side, but I was full without that….and no leftovers this time.

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Housesitter Perk – Meal Kit Delivery by Blue Apron

Full disclaimer – we are experienced home cooks and definitely qualify for foodie status.  So why would we consider a meal kit delivery service?  Well, we’d seen commercials and watched some friends try them via Facebook and the only thing I could think is when we are housesitting, it might vary our meals a little more without having to buy a bunch of ingredients we would never use again.  But this would only work when we were at a sit long enough and frankly, part of sitting is seeking out local foods and shopping the local markets so we would only want to get a few meals.  As luck would have it, we were able to try a meal kit service on two recent sits, courtesy of our awesome homeowners.

On the first sit, the homeowner said they started Blue Apron as they were tired of cooking and the decision making that goes with it.  They thought because there were no leftovers and they only got what they needed for that meal, it saved them money in the long run.  A recent article about a study done by Dr. Oz and his team supports this.  They had an extra meal they wouldn’t use before they left and asked us to eat it so it didn’t go bad.  How thoughtful!  As it turned out, it was an Alaska rockfish recipe with a kale side – being from Alaska, it was amusing to see the rockfish and kale isn’t Cabana Boy’s favorite but we made it, it was tasty and we really appreciated the trial run.

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Then came the real trial at a house sit several weeks later.  As we were in the area, we stopped by to visit with the homeowners.  In showing us around, we saw boxes and freezer gel packs from Blue Apron in the garage, waiting to be sent back for recycling.  I commented how we had been interested in the meal kit service and we’d been fortunate enough to try a meal at our last sit.  In confirming details by email later, the homeowners said they wanted to buy us a week of Blue Apron to try while they were gone.  So incredibly generous that at first I insisted it was too much but they really wanted to so we agreed and picked our meals from the list they sent us.  They confirmed delivery would be the Friday afternoon after they left and we’d need to be home then or soon after to ensure it didn’t get too warm.

We moved into their house on a Wednesday and only purchased enough dinner stuff for a couple days.  Friday came and FedEx showed up at the door in the afternoon as promised.  The box they left was fairly compact.  It readily identified what was inside which I’m not sure I liked.  On one hand, you know to scoop it up and get it into the fridge. On the other hand, it advertises there’s a full box of food sitting on the porch just waiting for someone to snatch it.  But if someone needs food that bad, I think they are welcome to it.

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We immediately opened the box to see what we’d received – honestly, we’d forgotten what we ordered!   There was an insulating liner inside the box and two big freezer gel packs.  I think the food would have stayed plenty cold even if we hadn’t made it home til late that night – and we were having nice 70ish temperatures in Washington at the time.

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There are three meals in each box and a recipe card with pictures and very detailed instructions for each meal is included.  The nice thing is if you liked something, you can save the card and replicate it in the future since the ingredients are listed.

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Each ingredient is labeled to make it easy to find what you need.  In addition, each meal has a small brown bag labeled “Knick-Knacks” that holds all the small bits of things you’ll need for the meal so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. We sorted through everything and put it in a dish to keep it all together in the fridge.  We got this idea from a bin used by the last homeowner for their meal kits.  On one hand, everything is together and you can just pull the bin/dish out and grab what you need for that night’s meal but if I was doing it at home, I think I’d put my produce in the crisper drawer and my meat in the deli drawer.  But I do think I’d try to keep it all a bit separate from the other things.

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After popping it all in the fridge, we discussed when we might prepare the meals.  This was tough for us as our plans had evolved – as they are wont to do.  We had plans for that night’s meal and had family coming the next day so likely wouldn’t start then either.  And we knew we’d be hitting the farmer’s market, something we love to do when housesitting, and there would be veggies and fruit from that to consider as well.  We decided Sunday would be the day we’d begin and we’d cook through all three in a row rather than interspersing them with other meals.  If you had this box coming weekly, I think you’d likely become more adept at integrating it with meals you purchased locally.  But with the dish of meal kits staring us in the face every time we opened the fridge, we knew that would be the star of our week’s meals.

Stay tuned for more posts as we cook through the box!


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Housesitter Perk – Blue Apron Meal Kit Day One

As promised in my last post, here’s a review of our first meal kit from Blue Apron, a generous gift from one of our homeowners.  For the first meal we are making Fennel Spiced Pork Chops with Fig Compote.

We started by pulling out the recipe card for the pork chops and read through it.  The instructions are very detailed with every step laid out, all the ingredients listed, and pictures.

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We grabbed the meal kit dish and found all the items we needed.  Then we were cooking.  I handled the pork chops and fig compote and hubby handled the side dish – farro with kale “salad”.  There seems to be a lot of kale and other greens used in the kits, at least in the ones we had to choose from, so even though he’s not a big fan, we chose this kit, in large part because of the pork chops and knowing we like fennel.

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The recipe was pretty straightforward.  You start the farro first  as it needs to cook for a bit.  We’d never made farro before and it was interesting that it didn’t say how much water to boil it in so we just made sure the grains were well covered.

Next up, coat the chops with a spice mixture that was in a pouch in the Knick Knack bag, Fry quickly (note that you provide the oil for cooking), remove to a plate and keep warm.  Honestly, I didn’t think the amount of time they allow for cooking the chops – 3 to 4 minutes a side – was sufficient for the center cut thicker chops so I gave them an extra minute or two and used tongs to hold them to brown the edges too.

Making the compote with included figs, vinegar, and sugar was pretty easy – just chopping the figs and letting everything simmer until a bit thick.

Then you add the kale to the pan you cooked the chops in and cook til wilted, then add some water to finish cooking and loosen the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  Here’s where I took some liberty – rather than adding water, we added white wine because….well….we had some and that’s how we roll.

You finish up by stirring the kale into the farro and adding some creme fraiche, tarragon and vinegar into the farro.  Then you plate and serve.  I really did plate it rather than just having serving it family style, just so we could have the complete experience and so I could take this picture for you.

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We really did enjoy this meal.  I would likely never have used the spice combo they came up with. I’m sure I have the ingredients at home so I will try it again.  As I said, we’ve never had farro and while I liked it because I like hearty grains like barley and such, hubby was not a big fan so I likely won’t go out of my way to make it again.  It also didn’t really seem like a salad – more like a side dish.  Not a big deal for some but we are used to having some sort of salad or a straight vegetable side with our meals so it was different. The fig compote was a big hit.  I make these kinds of things a lot – some fruit, sugar and vinegar and you’re good to go – but figs in Alaska are very seasonal and expensive so this was a treat.  And it wasn’t unreasonable in the calorie and fat counts.

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Oh yes….there were no leftovers.  Good that it’s portion controlled….bad if you want something for lunch the next day as we usually did when we were working full time.

Next up – an Asian styled meatball dish!


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I’M PUBLISHED!!!

I have a published article! So exciting!

I am actually a published writer if you count the innumerable articles, blogs, and booklets I wrote for the State of Alaska. And of course I do a little doodling on this blog. But now I have an article published in a magazine. Ok…it’s an online magazine and no money changed hands but those are my words and pictures out there.

If you want to check it out, here is the link…

Housesitter Magazine


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A SilverCar Newbie Experience

I read a lot of blogs—everything from home décor to tech info—and travel blogs are near the top of my list due in large part to the amount of traveling we do.  An upcoming trip to the Seattle area was proving to be somewhat expensive given that it was summer time and coincided with the recent solar eclipse.  Finding a reasonably priced rental car seemed to be a pipe dream so when I read a blog about the new SilverCar location in Seattle, I was intrigued.

I knew absolutely nothing about SilverCar because they are only in larger US cities and we hadn’t had occasion to fly into any of those recently.  Reading the article and visiting their website turned up these facts:

  • They rent only silver Audi A4s – hence the name.
  • Reservations may be done online or in their app but for pickup you’ll need the app on your smartphone.
  • The cars are equipped with just about everything you need—navigation, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and wi-fi.
  • The price includes all the extras mentioned above as well as an additional driver.
  • If you return the car without filling up, they will charge you the actual receipt price for gas, plus a $5 fee.
  • If you encounter toll roads in your driving, you’ll be charged just those tolls, without another fee for processing.
  • They are usually off site but will pick you up and drop you back to the airport
  • They frequently have discount codes or you can find a referral code from someone who has rented from them in the past.

I already had a car rental set up and I’d used AutoSlash.com to find a decent deal (AutoSlash will continually check the rental car prices for your trip and notify you when it finds something less expensive).  For $329, we had a Nissan Sentra or similar rented for the five days we were going to be in the city.  I had joined the loyalty club so this included an additional driver.

To try SilverCar, I downloaded the app and set up an account then to test it, I logged in on their website and made my reservation.  The price was $369 after using the 30% discount code I’d found searching online. It was an easy choice to pay a little more for all the included options.

On the day of flight, I checked their website for how to pick up the car in Seattle but as it turned out, I didn’t need to.  I received a text from SilverCar telling me they were expecting me and that we would exit baggage claim to hop on the shuttle to the rental car facility.  At that point, I was to text that we were ready for pick up.  We did as instructed and on the shuttle, I opened the app and clicked on “Pick Me Up”.  This generated a text that said I was ready to be picked up.  Note – I missed that I had to click send on that text, likely because husband was talking to me and it was all new.  But once I got it sent, the reply I got was to proceed to the “Off Site Pickup” area at the rental car facility.  The signage for that area is exceedingly poor—SeaTac needs to do a better job with that—but we found it at the end of the facility where cars can pull in.  On this nice sunny day, it was lovely but on a rainy, windy day, you’ll be grateful for the limited shelter provided.

An Audi A4 pulled up after we’d been waiting about five minutes, but I’ll take the blame since I missed pushing send on the text message.  The driver put our luggage in the car (the trunk easily fit our two 21-inch cases, daypack and tote with room to spare) and asked if we’d mind picking up a third passenger who was also waiting which we of course agreed to.  On the short drive to their lot, he went through some of the car’s features including the navigation and phone menu.  There was a hang tag that showed how to shift the car – unlike the shifter in my truck, it’s a little lever that you push forward for reverse or pull back for drive.

At the facility, another agent asked if he had checked our driver’s licenses and when we said he hadn’t, she scanned them.  I’m not sure if this is because we were first time renters or if this happens every time but it only took a moment.  She told me to open the app and scan the car’s tag, located on the driver’s side windshield.  It would scan but it kept saying that the location services on my phone weren’t active even after turning them off and back on and rescanning but while I was trying that, she was processing it manually so we were ready to drive off in less than five minutes.  She told me to try uninstalling and reinstalling the app when we had a moment as she’d heard that fixed the problem.

I took a moment to check out the car – headlights, wipers, cruise – that stuff you need to know before you set off.  The navigation, phone, radio, backup camera and settings are all handled in a large, bright screen mounted in the center of the dash.  It sticks up above the dash a bit but doesn’t interfere with sight lines while driving.  The one thing we couldn’t figure out was how to turn the radio down or off – it’s a small button on the passenger side of the console – but we asked and then we were off!

I’ve never driven an Audi before but it was quite comfortable – or as comfortable as a smaller car can be for someone used to driving full size trucks.  It has enough pep to easily merge onto the freeway and the road noise was minimal.  The sunroof was a great feature as we’ve had a very cold, wet summer in Alaska this year and it was sunny and warm in Seattle.  As is normal on I-5, we encountered some slowdowns but fortunately we didn’t have any complete standstills until we were off on the side streets hitting traffic lights.  I say fortunately, because the Audi has an automatic feature that turns the engine off when its idling and turns it back on when you release the brake.  I HATED that feature and worked through all the different settings to figure out how to turn it off.  More on that later.

When we reached our destination, I couldn’t figure out how to put it in park. No, really – the shifter has Reverse and Drive and pops back to the middle position after you’ve engaged either one, but I couldn’t find Park.  When I turned the car off, it told me that I needed to put it in Park by stepping on the brake and using the Park button.  There is a lever type button flat on the console with a P on it.  Apparently, that is the Parking brake.  Looking closer, I saw the P button on the front side of the shifter, hit that and we were good to go.  The doors automatically unlock when you put it in Park so you know you’ve done it correctly.  (Not sure how I feel about that feature; my truck unlocks the door only when I pull on the handle and the rest remain locked which seems more secure.)  I can’t tell you how many times I pushed the shifter forward to put the car in Park just as I do in my truck before I’d remember to hit that Park button.

As our time in Seattle progressed, there were things I really appreciated about the car.  The peppy engine was great, it’s small enough to park easily, and it got great gas mileage.  But during a half hour stop and go session in Seattle’s notorious traffic one day, I grew to hate the auto shutdown during idle more and more.  I found a button near the bottom of the dash where you can turn that feature off but every time you turn the car off, it resets to the default of auto shutdown. The navigation is solely voice controlled and I had a heck of a time getting it to recognize the address but that may be just a learning curve on how it likes to hear things.  On the upside, the navigation appears both on the screen and as a heads-up display in the center of the dash in front of the driver.  Hubby could see the navigation to be helpful but I could also see it easily, albeit in a smaller form.   I missed the full set of backup cameras my truck has to show exactly where each corner of the car is in relation to the things around it – especially one night when the only spot left in the parking garage was pretty skinny even for an Audi. And a small thing – there is a trunk button on the key fob but it just unlocks the trunk rather than popping open the lid which is so much handier when you have a handful of shopping or luggage.

When it came time to head back to the SilverCar base, we knew where we were going but they thoughtfully program the address into the Favorites so you can easily find the address.  And they texted me that morning with my expected return time and a note to call their concierge if I needed more time.  Once at the facility, they scanned in the car and we boarded a shuttle bus that took us right to the airport, skipping the rental car facility altogether. It could not have been smoother.  I hope that in the future, they may use this option for pickup as well.  I would rather be picked up in a shuttle and taken straight to their lot than have to shuttle to the rental car facility for pick up.

They emailed me a receipt that matched my reservation and included the gas charge.  We’d purposefully left the tank unfilled to see how well that worked.  It showed the ten gallons they’d pumped at $3.49 per gallon, for a total of $34.90 plus a $5 fee.  We noted the gas prices were less expensive away from the airport so if you are looking to save a few bucks, fill it up yourself.  But if you are in a hurry or don’t want to mess with finding a gas station, this is a great convenience option.

And I guess that sums up my SilverCar experience—they make it as convenient as possible for you to rent a car and include all the options so you don’t get nickel and dimed during your rental.  You know exactly what car you’re getting and it’s a first class drive.  Would I rent from them again?  Absolutely!

If you want to try SilverCar, I’d encourage you to search online for “SilverCar discount code”.  You can also use my referral code, WDNZFLIB, to save $25.  Full disclosure – I’ll save the same on my next rental if you use the code but honestly, I’d rent from them anyway.


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Four Nights In Tofino

When I first read a magazine piece on Tofino, I knew I had to go there. Big beaches to walk, good food, a casual atmosphere, fishing, and surfing if you have more balance and coordination than I do.  Occasionally, Tofino would rise to the top of my list after seeing another article or a mention from a friend.

Then two years ago, we had a housesit on Vancouver Island and a stretch of good weather. I looked up the distance from the house in Parksville and decided that if we got an early start, we could go out and back in one day; a sort of recon mission for a future trip. So we loaded up our petsit charge, a lovely springer spaniel, put on our beach walking shoes, grabbed drinks and snacks and headed Vancouver Island Housesit January2015 (316).jpgout.

What followed was a five hour round trip on some narrow, twisty roads through beautiful forest, a five mile walk on a beach that seemed to go on forever, and a great lunch overlooking the town and water.

As I drove us back, hubby and pup both sound asleep, I vowed to come back when we could spend more time.

Fast forward to this January and the opportunity to return to Vancouver Island to care for the springer wonderdog came around. This time, we planned for an extra bit of time at the end of the sit to make a run to Tofino. I had read much about the Wickaninnish Inn over the years and had thought to spoil ourselves with a couple nights there but found it closes in January for annual cleaning and maintenance. There are many other options for lodging in Tofino, from budget to luxury, but I couldn’t pass up a Rewards member deal at the Best Western Tin Wis Resort so I booked two nights.

The drive out to Tofino runs through Port Alberni and along Sproat Lake, then becomes narrower as it cuts through the rainforest before dumping you out at the coast. It is a 2.5 hour drive on a good day and our day just that, sunny and temperate. As we went, I marked a few places I wanted to pull over for photos on our way back. Once at the coast, a left turn will take you into Ucluelet and a right turn will take you to Tofino, taking you through the Pacific Rim park and passing many beaches along the way.

We found the Tin Wis, a native phrase for “calm waters”, without too much trouble. It sits right on Mackenzie Beach and is more of a motel style in that the “hallways” are open to the elements facing the parking.  This also means every room faces the beach. We snagged a room on the second floor, which had us carrying our suitcases up two flights of stairs as there is no elevator, but also gave us an elevated view of the beach from our balcony.

After settling in, we drove into Tofino for lunch. It’s a short 2-3 mile drive. A recommendation from a bartender in Vancouver sent us to the Wolf and the Fog. They have a smallish bar area downstairs for lunch and a larger restaurant upstairs for dinner. Hubby ordered the burger and a brew on tap.  I had a shrimp po-boy with big prawns lightly battered and stuffed in a roll with amazing Asian-inspired slaw.

I washed it down with one of their specialty cocktails, a Cedar Sour made with cedar-infused rye.  It was quite unique with a definite woody flavor that left a bit of a tannic dryness in my mouth.

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After lunch, we strolled through town, poking into the shops carrying trinkets, clothes suited to the area, and of course, surfing equipment.

Needing more steps to walk off the lunch, we headed back to the hotel, changed into our beach shoes, and walked out on Mackenzie Beach. It’s a nice curved. sandy beach, small by Tofino standards but big anywhere else.

We walked from end to end, exploring the tide pools in the rocks at either end.

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Back in the hotel, we decided that dinner wasn’t in the cards after our big lunch so we spent the evening enjoying the sunset and a glass of wine on our balcony.

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The next morning, we decided breakfast would be a good idea before we set out for the day. The restaurant at the hotel is nicely appointed and it has a sunroom/patio area that looked to be quite nice for summertime use. The food was basic but done well and the service was decent. Then it was off to the beach – but which one? We chose Long Beach where we had walked two years before. And it is long – stretching off into the distance in either direction from the parking area. We walked and walked and finally decided we should turn back while we still had the energy for the return trip.

Back at the hotel, we cleaned up and decided to head to The Schooner for dinner. We 20150128_121614.jpghad been here for lunch on our first trip and it also came recommended by the Vancouver bartender. It’s upstairs and has a lovely view of the Tofino and Clayoquot Sound. We started with a sampler of oysters – classic Rockafeller, Robatta with miso, ginger and lime, and my favorite, Nami Nori, which are fried and finished with honey wasabi mayo and tobiko. Then we shared Halibut Bawden Bay stuffed with shrimp, crab and brie. Good thing we split the meal!

The next morning, we headed into Ucluelet, about 35 miles from Tofino. Much of it is built on black rock so there aren’t beaches to walk but I was more interested in the Amphritite lighthouse and its section of the Wild Pacific Trail. It did not disappoint. The lighthouse is a short downhill walk from the parking area and the trail perches on the rocks above beautiful blue green ocean.

The walk is pretty flat with just a little up and down, mostly dirt, and has several places to stop for a break or a picture.  We could have walked much more on the Wild Pacific Trail but we had some other things to explore.

      

Back in Uke, as Ucluelet is known, we stopped by Pina, a print shop that specializes in Pacific Northwest inspired designs. We had stopped in their boutique in Tofino and admired the designs but when the gal there said we could have them custom made at the Uke store for the same price, we knew we must stop there. Soon we were leaving with our first souvenirs – two hooded sweatshirts (we wear a lot of hoodies in Alaska) with designs on the front and sleeves that we’d chosen from books of many. Not only did we have a memento of our trip but these became our new “dress hoodies”, a concept from Alaska where you have a hoodie or two that are worthy of a casual evening out.

We had to check out Wickaninnish Beach on our way back.   It’s a bit of a drive in from the highway which ends in several parking areas.  A short walk through the trees brings you to a relatively steep beach popular with surfers.

Even in January, they are donning wetsuits in the parking lot.  We were fortunate to catch several of them showing off their skills.  Wickanninish Beach Surfers (29)

We also saw a pair of eagles on the sand and upon further investigation, found they were making a meal of a dead seal that had washed up.

Dead critters aside, this is a big beach with plenty of room to walk.  There is also Kwistis Visitor Centre at the south end of the beach but we spent too long on the beach and missed it.  Next time!

We arrived home just in time for sunset on Mackenzie Beach – best observed with a glass of wine in hand as we had discovered on our first night here.

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Are you surprised that we headed out to the beach again the next day?  This time we headed to Incinerator Rock at the north end of Long Beach. We walked north and the beach curved around a point and we were able to check out the tidepools around a little “island” on the way.  It was definitely the quieter end of the beach.

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Back at the parking area, we watched others climb up Incinerator Rock for a picture.  Then we zipped back towards town so we could get lunch at the last of our recommended spots.  Tacofino has their original taco truck (they are also in Vancouver and Victoria) at back of a complex that includes Chocolate Tofino and Wildside Grill.  Hubby got a huge basket of ling cod and chips from Wildside and I got fish tacos  and a bowl of tortilla soup for us to share from Tacofino – both excellent choices that we enjoyed at the outdoor tables next to Tacofino.  Of course before we left, we had to grab some chocolates at Chocolate Tofino and promise ourselves we’d make it back for their gelato.  (Sadly, we never did as they close quite early so weren’t open when the dessert craving hit)

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For our final night’s dinner, we headed to Long Beach Lodge.  This resort consists of individual cabins lining the road to the lodge which sits above a small but popular surfing beach.  The lodge is beautiful – very open, northwest decor, with a nice view.  The bartender did a great job at making gin fizzes (a rare find these days) and then we shared our way through the menu.  We started with Venison Carpaccio – smoked venison & foraged salad with cherries & local Tofino coffee oil.  Then we shared a 22-day aged rib eye that was cooked to perfection and finished with a giant French macaron for dessert. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous trip.

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As you can tell, we had extended our stay by a couple of days since we were having so much beach and foodie fun but we decided would leave Friday and drive into Victoria for the weekend.  We awoke to muffled surf sounds and looking out the window, saw that a couple inches of snow had fallen.

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It was coming down hard but we had reservations in town and we are, after all, Alaskans with a 4WD truck so we packed up and checked out.  By this time, there were 5-6 inches and still coming down.  The desk clerk said she’d seen the RCMP Mountie rig in the ditch that morning and urged me to take coffee and snacks for the long drive.  And it was long – 5.5 hours long – with the first 3.5 hours at 25-35 miles an hour as we wended our way along that narrow road with 4-12 inches of wet snow packing into ice.  Needless to say, those spots I marked for pictures were passed by.  It was a relief to turn our keys over to the valet at the Magnolia Hotel with instructions to park the truck for three days.

As we settled in, the memory of the long drive fading in the glow of the fireplace, we looked back at our little runaway to the outer coast.  Tofino and Ucluelet are small places but their backyard is huge and we have enough things left undone that I can imagine a return trip is likely in the cards!