Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chatterbox on the road: Leavenworth, WA

5/20/09 Chatterbox
‘Chatterbox on the road’
Betty Kaiser

Cabin fever and winter blahs have set in and it’s time for the Kaisers to hit the road. Road trips beckon. This winter and spring we have made a serious dent in our annual ‘to do’ list, cleaned up six acres of winter debris and it’s time to get out of town!

Road trips are different than planned vacations or guided tours to foreign countries. Road trips are gold mines of pure adventure. No reservations or passports are necessary. You pack your bags, grab your maps, charge the cell phones and GO.

Our friends often question us about our itinerary. We usually don’t have one. We sit down with a map, sketch out an outline and fill in the details as we go. The mystery of the unknown is what makes the trip worthwhile.

Weather wise, spring road trips are tricky. If possible, we avoid wet, wild and windy weather. An occasional shower with sun breaks is okay. Bright, sunny days in a place where we can ride our bikes to a bakery in the morning and sit by a river in the afternoon with a good book are impossible dreams.

The week before Mother’s Day, Chuck and I packed up the RV and headed out to continue exploring Washington State’s Cascade loop. Our first stop was a favorite RV Resort just outside Woodland. It’s a short drive from home and a great place to decompress as we watch the barges navigate the river.

Moving on, we reluctantly decided to zip by our favorite antique malls in Kalama, Centralia and Snohomish. We headed straight for Leavenworth, the delightful Bavarian village in the heart of alpine country. The town is sited at the foot of the towering snow capped Cascade Mountains where the weather tends to be mild and the scenery spectacular at this time of year. It is the perfect base for exploring and enjoying the countryside.

The town’s motto –“Life in Leavenworth is a festival” – attracts thousands of people yearly with its monthly calendars of tourist attractions. In terms of ambiance, think Switzerland or Solvang. The village's 2500 residents hosts 16 festivals and art shows including Maifest, Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarket. Springtime and fall are perfect times to visit unless you prefer hot, sticky summer days or snowy cold winter weather.

As early as the late1800s (thanks to the railroad and logging industry) Leavenworth was a bustling town. But back in the 1950s the town was in a 30-year slump and struggling. Outdoor recreation wasn’t paying the bills. Businesses were failing. Jobs were scarce and they were becoming a welfare town.

The tide of decline turned when a family introduced an alpine theme into their restaurant and motel to fit the lifestyle of the area. Other business owners took notice of the family’s positive returns and made similar changes. In 1965, the entire business community created a plan of action when they unanimously decided to ‘go alpine’ without coercion or government aide. Today a Bavarian Design Review Board maintains the town’s characteristic charm.

The short little Maifest parade, on the second Sat. in May, has become a tradition for us. Period costumed residents blowing 8-ft. long Alpine horns and ringing huge cowbells start things off at noon. There are as many animals as people strutting their stuff. Giant Burnese dogs from sweet, curly puppies to the well-behaved adults pulling flower adorned wagons are always crowd pleasers.

I was joined curbside by my new friend Zena, a gorgeous four year old, 101 pound Burnese. Sprawled at my feet, she lazily eyed many of her cousins in the parade who were decked out in flower leis, while she rolled over for a belly rub and eyed my ice cream cone. The yodeling, accordions, oom-pa-pa music and Maypole activities didn’t faze her.

After a few days relaxing alongside the Icicle River, we headed east for a tour of the Aplets and Cotlets factory in Cashmere. Since our last trek down that apple blossom lined highway, the tiny town has sprouted two huge antique malls that kept us busy until lunchtime. A new Studebaker Diner beckoned. It oozed 1950s charm, served a great clubhouse sandwich and fortified us for our next stop.

Between Leavenworth and Wenatchee the terrain changed dramatically into arid, high desert. The wind picked up in the canyon and we decided to let it propel us into Chelan, population 3,500. There, on Lake Chelan, at Lakeshore RV Park, we enjoyed, grassy campsites, immaculate bathrooms, lakeside views, towering trees and close proximity to town.

Our bicycles got a good workout over the next few days as we tooled around town gawking like tourists. We started with the Chamber of Commerce to get our bearings. They pointed us to mural walks (each containing an apple in some form), historic buildings (a log cabin Lutheran Church built in 1898!), the Riverwalk Park, pavilion and path; quirky cement statues; and numerous outdoor activities from fishing to paragliding.

Due to the inclement weather, we decided against the daylong cruise to the remote headwaters of Lake Chelan and the community of Stehekin that can only be reached by water. Our Anacortes camping neighbors gave the long ride mixed reviews but raved about towering Rainbow Falls. We gave rave reviews, however, to the local museum. It is an absolute treasure trove of history with its displays of the Wapato Indians and early white settlers.

All too soon it was over. Next time we’ll take the boat trip and revisit gems that we have previously mined including the amazing Ohme gardens, the delightful Maryhill Museum and the mysterious replica of England’s Stonehenge.

This was fun! Road trips should be shared so I’ll do this again. Let me know if you’d like to contribute a special adventure of your own. Until next time, ‘happy trails!’

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail at

Bullock's Tea Room Salads

5/13/09 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Today, as promised in last week’s Chatterbox, we’re going to look at some elegant recipes from the now defunct Bullock’s Tea Rooms. Originally opened as a single store in downtown Los Angeles during the late 1930s, the equally beautiful Westwood and Wilshire stores came along later as the city started to sprawl.

Tea rooms were all the rage in the mid-twentieth century but they served up more than afternoon tea and crumpets. After all, a girl had to eat something around noon to keep up her strength for shopping! So tea rooms also served as upscale luncheonettes where ladies could dress up to meet and socialize with their friends, while enjoying a delightful meal.

Bullock’s Tea Room was the top of the heap. Literally. The view from the fifth floor was magnificent. It catered to the upper crust of society but attracted everyone with its charm, diverse menu, genteel atmosphere and surprisingly affordable prices. In terms of ambiance, food and service, it had no peer.

Eating there also served as a badge of honor or prestige. A Monday morning conversation between friends might go something like this: “What did you do this weekend?” If the response was, “Oh, we went to Bullock’s Tea room,” there was always an electric silence in return. One could almost feel the envy in the air.

All of the tea rooms were originally run by Miss Larson, who beautifully displayed her dessert creations, meticulously trained her wait staff and carefully guarded her recipes. Her diversity of menu items was dizzying. And on Tuesdays there was an upscale fashion luncheon costing $1.25, an up-charge from the usual $I.00 fee.

We Bullock’s girls were always torn between our favorites. Should we choose the club sandwich, the trio salad (chicken, fruit and shrimp) or The Spanish plate with its yummy little tamales, beans, green salad and toasted cheese sandwiches? Adding to the dilemma were the fresh breads and desserts. Their pecan rolls, date and nut bread, orange rolls and cheese bread were to die for. Of course, a slice of decadently rich French chocolate layer cake rounded any menu choice.

I have seen several variations on the so-called Bullock’s recipes. I’m going to share my favorites for the trio salads that I clipped out of the L.A. Times years ago. As I recall, the salads were served on a single plate, each nestled in its own lettuce cup and accompanied by a slice of fruit and nut bread.

Please remember that this was an era when calories “didn’t count.” So feel free to adjust the amounts of mayonnaise or oil called for and/or use low fat varieties. The number of people served by each recipe will depend on whether you’re serving a single salad as an entrée or as part of the trio. Enjoy!

Bullock’s Fruit Salad

Salad base:
Assorted cut fruit in season
(Melons, grapes, bananas, pineapple, berries, cherries, etc.)
Lettuce leaf cups or shredded lettuce, set aside

Mix fruits in large bowl and refrigerate.

1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2/3 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons onion juice
2 cups oil
3 tablespoons poppy seeds

Combine sugar, mustard, vinegar and onion juice. Gradually add oil, whisking until smooth. Add poppy seeds and blend well. Chill, covered in refrigerator. Drizzle dressing in desired amounts over fruit and mix lightly. Serve in lettuce cups. Refrigerate remaining dressing in tightly covered jar for later use. Serves 4-8

NOTE: This recipe can easily be halved. It is obviously proportioned for a large quantity of fruit.

Bullock’s Chicken Salad

Salad base:
3 cups cooked chicken, diced
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
Lettuce leaf cups or shredded lettuce, set aside
6 tablespoons almonds, toasted and sliced

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine chicken, celery, salt and pepper. Mix mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and lemon juice; add to chicken mixture. Toss to mix well. Chill at least 1 hour. Serve in lettuce cups and sprinkle with a dash of paprika and toasted almonds. Serves 4-6

NOTE: As a main dish this is excellent as a so-called Chinese Chicken salad with crispy noodles and mandarin oranges.

Crab Meat and Shrimp Salad

Salad base:
2 cups cooked crab meat, shredded
2 cups bay shrimp
2 cups celery, finely sliced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Lettuce leaf cups or shredded lettuce; set aside

Combine all ingredients except lettuce and refrigerate.

Poppy-Seed Dressing
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
1 tablespoon poppy seed (reserved)

Combine all ingredients except poppy seeds in blender until smooth. Pour dressing in a bowl and stir in poppy seeds. Cover and chill 1 hour or more.

To serve: Distribute salad among the lettuce cups and drizzle the dressing over the top. Serve extra dressing on the side. Serves 4-8

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

Mother's Day memories of Bullock's

5/6/09 Chatterbox “Memories of Mother’s Day” Betty Kaiser Every year as Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself leafing through old photo albums and remembering what was, is and will never be again. The images of a lifetime that began in stark black and white trigger memories of people, places and traditions that are long gone. I am, however, deeply grateful for the ways in which they enriched my life. As you may know, I grew up in Los Angeles. This magnificent city and surrounding area is well known for its casual lifestyle and for being on the cutting edge of west coast business and culture. Being so large, it is less known for the local family and cultural traditions that shaped our lives in the mid 20th century. One of those traditions was an annual Mother’s Day tea in downtown Los Angeles. As a young girl, I eagerly looked forward to this extravagant girly-girl weekend of dressing up, shopping, lunch at a tea room, church with family and friends and … more dining out. It’s hard to describe what a big deal Mother’s Day was back in the 1950s. It was not just a pull on your jeans, go to the mall, browse the shops and grab a burger lunch experience with mom. Of course, we didn’t wear jeans and there were no malls, shopping centers or fast food joints … but we did make cards and purchase gifts at the dime store! Before shopping centers, Angelinos drove downtown and shopped in stores like Bullock’s department store. Located at seventh and Broadway, it was one of the city’s grandest stores. A towering building of magnificent architecture, it was all drama and art deco. Movie stars were a common sight as they arrived in chauffeured cars to shop for furs, jewelry, leather gloves or luggage. The rest of us parked our cars in nearby lots with attendants and walked around trying not to gawk like country bumpkins. The high ceilings, sparkling lights, beautiful people and racks of pricey clothes were mesmerizing to impressionable youngsters. A new dress or skirt and sweater from the store was a big event in our household. Much of what we wore was homemade by my grandmother who loved to sew. Our shopping expeditions were limited to the beginning of the school year and in the springtime. The Mother’s Day luncheon and tea at Bullock’s Tea Room was a sort of coming of age for young girls. The fifth floor dining room with its elegant décor, floral wallpaper, gilt framed mirrors and white tablecloths was the social hub of the city. Every day, but especially in May, the store would fill up with mothers and daughters and groups of ladies dressed in hats, furs and gloves. First they would shop and then patiently stand in line for lunch or tea. My sister and I eagerly looked forward to the annual ladies only Sat. luncheon. We would dress in our best outfits complimented by little white gloves and patent leather Mary Jane shoes. And we were always on our best behavior as the waitresses in pink aprons served us from the menu or we chose from the buffet. The celebration continued at home on Sunday. We girls dressed in our best outfits with gloves, hats and shiny shoes. Dad, grandpa and brother Jim all wore suits, shirts and ties. We pinned orchid corsages on mother and grandmother’s dresses and off we went to Sunday school church and brunch. In those days, our entire family rarely went out to eat. Pricey dinner houses were about the only places available. But Mother’s Day was different. Mom and grandmother got to choose the restaurant and we were all treated royally. Especially if we got to order a Shirley Temple drink with our meal. There are no recorded photos of those memorable Mother’s Day shopping excursions, luncheons, meals and tea times but they are forever etched on my heart and in the family annals. My mother died in 2004 at the age of 94. Bullock’s Department Stores and Tea Rooms closed in 1993. At the end of her life she was still talking about the wonderful memories that she and her mother (my grandmother) made while sipping tea with us girls a long, long time ago on memorable Mother’s Days. Love combined with tradition anchors a family. Life’s celebrations are important and some should become traditions. Just remember whom you’re celebrating. If you do, I guarantee that you’ll also be making memories that will last forever. Finally, whatever you and your mom and family do this Mother’s Day — don’t forget the camera! Someday, like me, you’ll be glad that you did, when you’re leafing through the pages of the times of your life. Happy Mother’s Day ladies! P.S. Next week we’ll discuss prices, expound on the menu and share a few recipes from Bullock’s tea room in Cook’s Corner. Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.