I don't know if we like Sumner because of the rhubarb or we like rhubarb because of Sumner. Sumner is the self-proclaimed Rhubarb Pie Capitol of the World. We love to visit this friendly community, smack-dab between Puyallup and Auburn. We have fun each time we go there. Actually, we enjoy either Sumner or Puyallup . . . and we've had fun in Auburn as well. The valley has been good to us.
For this adventure we began on Thursday rather than Friday. Our Tacoma northend home isn't very far away from the Puyallup Valley, but we had been meeting some stressful deadlines and we just needed to get away for some R&R.
We relaxed over glasses of beer and Sprite (Sparks Deli) and then checked into the hotel that’s becoming our home away from home, the Fairfield Inn (Marriott) in Puyallup a few minutes before three in the afternoon. The Fairfield has almost an endless supply of fresh baked cookies, and while that isn't a pre-requisite for staying there, it certainly is a bonus. We unpacked our bags and then while I checked emails and wrote notes to myself, Peg went to South Hill for some art supply shopping.
I may have dozed a little while Peg was gone, so I felt refreshed when she returned.
We headed downtown from the hotel, which means a journey of about five minutes. We parked about sixty paces from The Novel Idea, Peg's favorite Puyallup bookstore. Peg likes their books; I like the bookstore too, but for different reasons. They always have posters taped to their front door about local events. I saw two welcome events: the musical “Annie” was being performed in Sumner and “42nd Street” was being performed in Puyallup.
While Peg found half-a-dozen books by favorite authors, I found one. The title grabbed me. I don't know if I will recommend it to my book group or just keep it to myself, but the book looked interesting, amusing, and informative.
The book is entitled Edward Trencom's Nose: A Novel of History, Dark Intrigue, and Cheese by Giles Milton.
The dust jacket gave me enough tantalizing bits to incite a purchase: "Edward Trencom has bumbled through life, relying on his trusty nose to turn the family cheese shop into the most celebrated fromagerie in England. This was no ordinary nose, but one long, aquiline, and furnishing the trademark circular bump over the bridge---the very same nose bestowed on all the Trencom men. It was extraordinary, able to discern the composition, maturity, and quality of cheese---and the Trencom noses had sniffed, whiffed, and judged the very best cheeses of the world."
I began reading and almost immediately began keeping a list of unfamiliar words and cheese. One really stood out: Epoisses.
"It is said that Napoleon was partial to this cheese and ate it with Chambertin wine. It was very popular in the early part of the twentieth century but disappeared during the second world war. It was only in 1946 that two local Bourguignon families started to produce it. The well known Epicurean Brillat Savarin called it the King of cheeses. Many people consider it one of the most interesting French cheeses. It is often compared to the character of two well known French historic personalities, the Epoisses has the force of Charles le Temeraire and the sensibility of Madame de Sevigne. The cheese has a powerful rich flavour with an outdoorsy, fresh, pungent smell; the pate, a mouth watering taste of sweet, salty and creamy milk flavours. The pate is fine textured. The rind is regularly washed in Marc, this adds to its complexity and fascinating taste."
We both read ourselves to sleep and then Friday morning I was up around five and made myself at home in the Business Center on the first floor. I made a coffee-hot chocolate-hazelnut latte and settled in two computers away from a fellow guest who took the computer nearest the printer.
I checked out the online news, my emails, wrote some correspondence, visited eBay and Craigslist and then sat back and drank my coffee and stared outside. Once I moved on to my second coffee-hot chocolate-hazelnut latte, it was time for a waffle and single sausage patty, while I read both the USA Today and The News Tribune. Totally up to date on news from around the corner and around the world I went back up our room to check on Peg. She was still sleeping so I read more about Edward Trencom and laughed silently as I turned each delicious page.
With a fun mystery about cheese, there was one particular stop I wanted to make: My Cheese Shoppe.
My Cheese Shoppe is located less than a hundred yards away from our two favorite stops in downtown Puyallup, A Novel Idea and Pioneer Bakery . . . and just down the street from Charlie's . . . and Auntie B's Café. Obviously to become a favorite you have to supply good things to read or eat.
My Cheese Shoppe is run and owned by Laurie Sanders-Polen. The store isn't very large, but the two display/coolers are well stocked. I wandered around looking at interesting things to eat like chocolate covered figs and date and nut loaves, while Peg peered into the coolers and then asked questions.
Laurie was friendly and helpful. We tried a fig and nut bread, some excellent crackers, and a couple samples of cheese. Normally, we would have purchased several pieces, but since we were looking at a possibly very long and hot day we didn't want to buy cheese and have it ruined. We bought a baguette and a wedge of Idiazabal, a Spanish cheese made from sheep's milk. Laurie gave Peg a plastic knife and we drove to Edgewood to pick up two granddaughters.
While I drove, Peg ripped off pieces of bread and attacked the wedge with her plastic knife. She would alternately nibble and hand me samples. We arrived at the girls' other grandparents' home with most of the cheese and bread still intact. We made Brent and Nancy Kirkpatrick presents of the toothsome baguette and the lovely wedge of Spanish cheese. We hoped to replenish the cheese before leaving Puyallup for home, but it didn't happen. We'll have to return on our own later.
We loaded up backpacks, pillows, and suitcases and headed from Edgewood to Sumner. We drove only a little over a mile before stopping so Peg could shop for essentials. While Peg went into Walgreen's I talked with the girls, Bailee (almost fourteen) and Laci (six). I gave them a choice of entertainment for the evening: “ Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse, “Annie” at the Sumner Performing Arts Center, “42nd Street” at All Saints Catholic Church in downtown Puyallup, or the feature film “Brave”.
We compromised. Bailee wanted to see “Annie”, while Laci wanted to see “Brave”. Knowing that Peg was not enamored with another production of “Annie”, I suggested we see “Brave”. I did offer to listen to musical selections sung by Bailee on the way to “Brave”. This earned me a squinty-eyed, sarcastic look from our “Annie”-headed granddaughter, Bailee. To help out, I began singing my own version of “Tomorrow”. In my version I sing it like a cross between Broadway's belter of tunes Ethel Merman and Howard Wallowitz's mother from “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS (another favorite).
Soon we were parking in downtown Sumner and looking around.
We looked over the schedule of festival events for Rhubarb Days and decided to use Friday as a scouting foray and then return on Saturday when there were more fun things for children.
We knew that we would probably be eating rhubarb pie at the Berryland Café, we also knew we would be buying more books. While still scouting we visited a favorite thrift store, which is across the street from the Salvation Army . . . another good place to shop. Leaving the thrift store we marched back towards our car with arms filled with bags and boxes. Three of us were successful in finding treasures. Bailee only had memories. I bought a soft-handled tool set for Peg and some objects d'art I could donate for raffles. Peg and Laci were happy with books and more.
One of my glass pieces turned out to be from the "avant garde" collection of Avon. I was crestfallen, but happy with our other choices.
When we had picked up our granddaughters, our eyebrows raised a little bit as Laci, the youngest, appeared with her overnight gear dressed in a purple bathrobe and slippers; to each her own. We saw many heads turn and heard several times "Oh, what a pretty bathrobe." We just said thank you and shrugged our shoulders when confused people looked at us for comment.
When we left Sumner we headed to the hotel; Laci had stayed there with us once before. The girls chose to hit the swimming pool first, then go see “Brave” at the South Hill Mall, just south of our hotel at the top of the hill. I took my cheese book and did life guard duty while Bailee and Laci cavorted from one end of the pool to the other.
Since I was fully clothed and watching over the kids I was almost going to sleep in the warm room. I wondered if the adjoining exercise room was cooler.
A wall of windows separates the exercise room from the pool area. Exercise machines line the windows and face the water. I went into the exercise room and felt a fifteen or twenty degree reduction in heat.
There were elliptical machines, treadmills, and a recumbent bike. The night before I had been watching TV as a long video described the Elliptigo, a bicycle with an elliptical system where you simply use a walking motion to propel the bike. It had great balance and looked so easy AND healthy. Then they announced the healthy price: twenty-five hundred dollars. Out went my dreams of enjoyable tours along the Tacoma waterfront as I alternately walked and coasted.
Empty elliptical machines beckoned with their possibilities of healthy enjoyment. I stepped onto the contraption and within seconds was flying along. Within a few more seconds I was also "kapooped." I reduced my speed, made it past sixty seconds, and dismounted with my dreams shattered once more. My elliptical training days were over . . . done . . . finished . . . kaput.
”Brave” is a 2012 American 3D computer-animated fantasy adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. The film's voice cast features Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, and John Ratzenberger. Pixar completely rewrote their animation system for this film. It is the first movie to use the Dolby Atmos sound format.
Set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland, a clan chieftain's daughter, a skilled archer named Merida, defies an age-old custom, causing chaos in her kingdom. Instead of giving her hand in marriage to the winner of an archery competition she competes against the three sons (a group of dullards, geeks, and kooks) of the other three chieftains of their clan. The story moved right a long, although a bear fight was fairly intense.
Brave premiered on June 10, 2012, at the Seattle International Film Festival, and was released in North America on June 22, 2012, to positive reviews. The film was beautiful and the accompanying soundtrack was wonderful. Fortunately, the film didn't feature any groin jokes, but did feature a personal affront, a lifting of the kilt while bending over. We all enjoyed the movie.
After the movie we decided to just visit the mall Food Court, which was just a few feet away from the ticket window. We decided to buy our food and return to the hotel to eat it there when we were ready, rather than go back to the hotel and then go out again to a restaurant.
We walked around looking at the fast food places before making our decisions. Peg and Laci chose Chinese, while Bailee and I chose Italian. Back at the hotel, I took our food and other goodies up to the room, while the women studied a selection of DVDs at the front desk. When they came to the room with two movies, Bailee stayed in the room with her cell phone, as the rest of us went down to the dining room to eat our dinner. I enjoyed the Chinese noodles more than my pasta. My Sbarro noodles were overcooked and the sauce was too thin. Later I longingly watched Bailee eat her large slice of pepperoni pizza, which she devoured without offering me a bite.
The DVD choices Peg and the girls made worked for me. I enjoyed Hugo, but fell asleep almost instantly with Horten Hears a Who. For Laci it was almost the opposite.
I was up early on Saturday and had a waffle and a sausage patty . . . and a couple of hours on the computer and reading my cheese book before the rest of the family came down for breakfast. After breakfast we packed up, checked out and headed to Sumner.
The main street in downtown Sumner was closed off. There was plenty of parking and Sumner has a great welcoming small town feel. I looked at a display in a local real estate office and told Bailee, "I could rent an apartment right upstairs here for about $600 a month." She looked at me as if to say, "Why would you do that?" After that Peg and I turned into stalkers . . . rhubarb stalkers, that is.
At lunch time we went into the Berryland Café. I ordered a half order of biscuits and gravy, but didn't give my usual hashbrowns aside of "burnt, burnt, burnt . . . with an onion cut up in it." If I had done that I would have probably eaten the whole dish. When I'm served only lightly browned hashbrowns it's easier for me to leave food on the plate. As it was I just sampled.
Peg ordered a salad with bacon . . . and I mean bacon. It had a ton on it. Laci had a grilled cheese and Bailee had fish and chips, with onion rings instead of chips. I am so glad I didn't order that. I had a bite of the fish and an onion ring. I could have eaten the entire order. For dessert we all ordered a piece of pie.
Laci's grilled cheese came on whole wheat bread. She ate the whole thing.
The pie pieces for dessert where large. I ate about half of my rhubarb pie, while Peg only ate a few bites of her raspberry rhubarb pie. Both Bailee and Laci ordered the chocolate cream pie.
The restaurant was crowded and was constantly filled all day long with lines that spilled out onto the sidewalk. We were lucky to get seats. Bailee's pie was served early, which allowed us to get our spoons into motion right away. The Oreo cookie crust was perfect. I restrained myself to a spoonful of whipped cream, while the others raved about the rest of it. Her pie was the only one that was entirely eaten at lunch.
We filled one to-go clamshell with Laci's pie and one for my rhubarb pie pieces underneath Peg's almost complete raspberry rhubarb on top.
The streets of what was originally a farm community had a nice selection of farm tractors. At the center of Rhubarb Days there was a large red tractor that kiddies could mount and have their picture taken. Neither of ours were interested, however.
What drew my attention was a very nice 1927 Willys. Although mostly known for their Jeep which was widely produced during World War II, from 1912 to 1918 Willys was the second largest producer of automobiles in the United States. In the 1950s my dad had a Willys Jeep station wagon. He repainted the traditional maroon and cream with red and yellow. It really stood out, but what I liked most about it was the steering knob featuring the famous Playboy naked pose of Marilyn Monroe. As a young boy I would stare at it almost every chance I got.
Rhubarb Days poses no threat to the Western Washington Fair held each year at the Puyallup Fair Grounds (two blocks north of our favorite hotel), but they do have livestock. Inside a small fenced and hay-baled enclosure locals had a momma sheep and a baby lamb and separated by another bale, were two little porkers.
I recently grilled a nice lamb steak for Peg and for a friendly gathering I grilled some excellent (boneless) pork ribs, so the little creatures were nice to see . . . even if they were on the too rare side of cooking.
This little petting zoo always had both kids and adults surrounding it. The animals were cute, but I couldn't help myself I kept seeing them being served on platters.
Right next to the pet enclosure was a watering trough, but inside was no water but rather chicks and ducklings. My mouth was watering, too. Back on River Road, just outside downtown Puyallup there is a Thai restaurant, AppeTHAIzing that serves a mean "crispy duck" for a very affordable price.
Laci was able to stroke and pet a little duckling. It looked soooooo soft with its downy feathers.
Rhubarb Days illustrates that you don't have to have lots of large livestock to entertain; a few chicks, ducklings, a sheep, a lamb, and two little pigs were enough for flavor. The live display, and the pies of course, act as a reminder that there are still local farms that produce meat and poultry, as well as fruits and vegetables, just minutes away from the big cities of the Puget Sound region.
Peg and I used to visit a Puyallup Valley winery years ago. They offered mostly fruit wines, but one of our favorites was their dry rhubarb wine. So, I was pleased to see a tasting area set up in the Sumner gazebo for rhubarb wine and liqueur.
I got in line and listened as the greeter explained about tasting "only a small amount" to sip; however, this wasn't my idea of tasting.
Actually, I should have tried the samples out, but the winery was actually from Oregon, which put me off a little bit.
Later I kept thinking, "I wonder what the rhubarb liqueur tasted like." Oh, well. Maybe I'll try both the wine and the liqueur next year.
At Boy Scout Jamborees and at many Boys and Girls Clubs you can see a Pinewood Derby. A Pinewood Derby features a do-it-yourself kit. You get the standard un-cut 7" x 1-3/4" x 1-3/8" wood block, wheels and both nail and one-piece axles. You can buy the kits on Amazon for less than three dollars. Kids buy the kits and build their cars and then builders race them to select the fastest Pinewood Derby vehicle. Rhubarb Days has taken the Pinewood Derby into the realm of fast food.
Instead of a block of wood, nails, axles, and plastic wheels, children at Rhubarb Days made their own Produce Derby entries. Using stalks of rhubarb, toothpicks, and slices of cucumber, the car builders put together some very creative and very ugly vehicles. Most fell apart long before crossing the finish line, but the races were funny and the kids had a great time.
One of the selling points for Peg's attendance at Rhubarb Days was their apron displays. In shop windows you could view samples of aprons dating back one hundred and thirty years. At the thrift store we had visited on Friday there was a child's apron for sale for only three dollars. It was dark red and I couldn't picture any of our grandchildren wearing it, but still, I should have bought it.
In addition to the shop window displays, the Rhubarb Days organizers asked for people to register their own aprons for show. Some were created just for the festival and some were just someone’s favorite apron. Peg has several aprons and so was very interested in both looking at aprons as well as perhaps having an apron art workshop for grandchildren prior to next year's event. I think that’s a good idea.
This year there were several clothes lines with art aprons blowing in the wind. They were colorful and a delight to see.
When I told friends about our trip to Sumner’s Rhubarb Days , a number of them (all guys) told of eating rhubarb raw when they were children. I too did that. While staying with my cousin Lindy at her home on South Tacoma Way, we raided the neighbor's rhubarb patch. We were 5-7 years of age.
I'm pretty sure we got in trouble for our efforts, but mostly what I recall is drinking a bottle of Orange Crush about half an hour after munching a nice green and red stalk. The bottle of pop tasted horrible with the rhubarb taste still in my mouth. I learned my lesson though. The next time I ate raw rhubarb I didn't follow it up with a bottle of Orange Crush. As matter of fact I wouldn't drink Orange Crush for years after the Great Rhubarb Rhubarb.
I almost bought a rhubarb plant at the festival, but came to my senses. We have friends who can give us rhubarb starters. It grows like a week here in the Pacific Northwest. I love it cooked as a sauce with a little sugar . . . well done.
I always enjoy seeing the Daffodil Princesses. When they visited my Rotary Club earlier this year each one stepped forward and introduced themselves and announced what college or university they would be attending. I was shocked that none had chosen my alma mater, the University of Puget Sound. There were a number attending our cross-town rival Pacific Lutheran University, however. Simply shocking . . .
There were three princesses helping children (boys and girls) design their own crowns. Laci stepped right up and created a matching crown for her robe and slippers. Her purple robe wasn't quite a royal hue, but it was close enough for a bedroom and farming community. Rhubarb Days did a great job of providing games and activities for both adults and children of all ages. I declined a crown myself; it seemed a little self-serving for me. But I think I do have noble blood in my veins. I have been called a royal pain before.
Both Bailee and Laci played the Disk Game. A plastic lid cascades down a Pachinko like dense forest of pins before arriving at a final slot for a gift. Sometimes the disk would get hung up briefly. As I watched from the side . . . and slightly back I saw the low-tech assistance of a foot as it gently nudged the board and started the disk sliding down the board once, again.
I think Laci would have played the game all afternoon, but I didn't think the radio station sponsor wanted to keep shelling out prizes to one little girl wearing a purple robe.
I don't know if it was Bailee or Laci who won a radio station KVI-570AM coffee cup, but I ended up with it.
After we loaded up our treasures from Rhubarb Days we headed to Auburn, where we dropped off Bailee at the Messiah Lutheran Church Garage Sale. We had to go shopping of course.
Once we were back home and unpacked and napped, we began looking at our garage sale purchases. One was a framed and matted piece of art called Bear Grass and Paint Brush by Ross Gill (written in pencil on the mat). I googled "Ross Gill" and discovered that he was a local artist and had lived from the 1880s and died in 1969. The piece is gouache on colored paper and once I took the art out of the frame I was able to see a signature in the lower left corner of the work. Earlier this year a similar work by Gill sold at auction for $300. Estimated value is about $290 for a profit of about $287. That almost paid for our adventure food expenses.
We also have a nice German etching with what looks like a signature in German. The final discovery was some writing on the back of a nicely framed "sampler" telling us it’s by an M. Kauffman (January 23, 1926 - June 20, 1994). So, we had a great time AND we found several nice pieces of art for our home.
After a good night's sleep I was up and working early. The phone rang at 7:30. It was a breakfast call. Donn Irwin was inviting Peg and me to join him and his wife, Debbie at the Harvester Restaurant and Lounge hear Stadium High School. We arrived a few minutes after nine. Our friend Mike Mowat was also there. His wife Jan was in the mid-west for two wedding showers.
Peg and I love the fresh squeezed orange juice there. It has a nice tang. Out of respect for my friends at the Roman Meal Company, I ordered the whole wheat pancakes. Peg and I shared our bacon and chicken and apple sausage links.
Since we hadn’t really seen each other in a couple of days we had a great morning catching up with everyone's latest news. While we were dining Janet called and talked with Mike and Peggy.
After breakfast we set out for Art on the Ave. The weather looked threatening.
Barricades closed off Sixth Avenue from Steele to Junett streets. The one day event featured artists and other vendors. Sections of the street were being decorated with chalk and water-based paint. Even thought the wind was blowing and there were a few rain drops here and there, we could tell that the event had more going on than Rhubarb Days did. Each has its place.
I dropped Peg off near the east end of the event and told her that I would meet her near the co-op grocery store several blocks away.
I didn't drive straight to the store, however. I circumvented some of the barricades on the side roads so I could take photographs from almost every block. If we hadn't just eaten breakfast I would have met Peg half way down the street, so we would have been close to a taco truck. The taco truck is one of my favorite modes of transportation. Great Mexican food can transport you south of the border. Mediocre Mexican food might get you as far as South Tacoma.
One of my favorite art d'canopy protected the art work of Kris Vermeer. Kris's most dramatic creations contain elements of cave art. Kris says, "My love of ancient cultures is present in the work I create. I am thankful to work in a variety of mediums."
Kris combines traditional painting techniques with cut-out figures of men and animals that stand out in relief. I really like what she has done. With many figures forming a 3-D effect, light and shadow play across the art, just like a torch would create in the Lascaux and Chauvet caves of France and the petro glyphs of our own Southwest and Hawaii. Her use of a reduced palette brings that feeling even closer to the surface.
Examples of Kris's work can be found in private collections as well places where you might not expect to see them, such as the Emerald Queen Casino. I like the bronze salmon stream sculpture she has there. Kris works in a variety of mediums: sand, paper, canvas, metal, fused glass and more.
I was hoping to stop in and see Shelly and Dan at Tacoma Custom Jewelry, but I didn't see them standing around when I dropped off Peg a hundred and fifty feet from their door. They offer jewelry repair as well as a nice combination of new and antique rings, necklaces earrings, and brooches.
Although art was the focus of the event, any shop along Sixth Avenue was free to display their wares and marketing their pieces.
Sixth Avenue has become a destination. There are great places to shop, eat, and drink. Some of the best restaurants in Tacoma can be found on Sixth Avenue. From Dirty Oscar's to Primo Grill the food is outstanding. Even Taco Time moved down the avenue from their years old location nearer to Wilson High School. It is a happening place. Engine House #9 at Sixth and Pine has long been a favorite watering hole and now it’s been joined by the Overtime Bar and Grill at Sixth and Cedar.
I photographed a number of booths as they tied down their canopies and set up their art. Peg worked her way down the avenue. I watched her approach. We met and talked and she returned to the Glass Peace canopy. I had already photographed their display. Peg had seen several glass flower and heart pendants she loved. She wanted me to help her pick out one. I tucked a ten dollar bill in her hand and sent her on her way wishing her well. We have similar tastes . . . good.
I was disappointed in the weather. I'm afraid it kept people away. The dark clouds made it look worse than it was.
We left Art on the Ave and returned home and were greeted by our day lilies in bloom. We smiled and were well pleased. We managed to read the Sunday papers and relax before heading out to dinner. We had been invited by my friend Niwar Nasim to join him and his family for Sunday dinner. The Nasims, Khairi and Khadija moved here with their children from the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Niwar was ten years old. The father opened his own business: Nasim & Sons, which Niwar now runs. This fall Nasim and Sons will be installing a lawn sprinkler system as well as a drip watering system for Peg's plant pots. They already do a wonderful job with our lawn. It's a hardworking family run business . . . just like I grew up in.
Dinner was cooked in the traditional Kurdish fashion, but with reduced spice for us. Khadija served a huge metal dish of basmati rice and beef stuffed in tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, and onions. Smaller bowls, containing tzatziki-style sauce of Khadija’s homemade yogurt with chopped cucumbers, garlic and salt, accompanied the wonderful main dish. The meal was finished with fresh nectarines, raspberries and peaches. What a great way to end a Sunday dinner and one of our Northwest Adventures.