Saturday Shopping Downtown

I ran out of my favorite blend of tea last weekend when my son and daughter-in-law visited us.  I waited impatiently Saturday morning for ten o’clock to roll around so I could head north to downtown Leavenworth to visit the local enclave of British teas, foods and sundries: the Queen’s Pantry.

Favorite Local British Tea Spot
Queen’s Pantry

I brought my empty four ounce tin, already properly labeled for Irish Blend tea, with me to the store.  The store clerk suggested I try some iced Elderberry tea, one of the two special daily teas made available to customers.  I filled a small Styrofoam cup with two or three ounces of the Elderberry and sipped it while browsing through the rest of the store.  I liked the sweetness of the tea and asked her if the iced tea had been sweetened with sugar.  She confirmed my suspicion that any sweetness came from the infusion of elderberries when steeping the tea.  I ordered a couple of ounces to take home, as well as two ounces of Japanese pan-fried green tea, another favorite variety I had run out of.

In one of the windows, a cute four cup tea pot sported the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ slogan from WWII during the Blackout when Germany bombed Britain relentlessly.  I found a set of matching salt and pepper shakers that I decided to buy, since I haven’t had a matching set for the dining room table in decades.

Keep Calm and Carry On Salt & Pepper Shakers

I asked the clerk if she had a set in a box, as I didn’t want to take her display ones. She assured me they had several more on display and in the back so she urged me to grab the pair and bring it to the counter.  She returned them to their box and rang up my tea and shakers.

Teas: Irish Blend, Elderberry, & Japanese Pan-Fried Green
Teas: Irish Blend, Elderberry, & Japanese Pan-Fried Green

I slipped in the Tune Shop next door, hoping to find some guitar picks for Terry. The selection lacked the brand and size he prefers, but I bought a half dozen just to make him laugh at my inability to select a proper pick.

I almost didn’t stop by the farmer’s market, since it was already past eleven o’clock.  But I needed some honey, and the market is only a couple of blocks away from Queen’s Pantry.  I bought my honey and tried a slice of locally grown Gala apples.  I couldn’t believe they were already harvesting them.  I should probably check my own apple tree to see if the apples are ripe.

Hillside Honey

I’ll be baking more Honey Wheat bread soon, as the temperatures drop, and we use quite a bit of honey when we make a marinade for grilling chicken. I talked briefly to a local farmer and said “Hello” to a class mate of mine from high school who has a stall of soaps and breads.

My final stop before returning home was the local K-Mart/Sears for some triple-A batteries for Terry.  I also bought a couple of frames to finally put Derek and Rachelle’s college graduation photos in.


I’ll get Terry to hang them up in the dining area on either side of the front window.  I also found a new steamer on sale but none available to purchase.  I made it all the way home and all the way to the end of this blog post before realizing I forgot to acquire a rain check for the steamer.  I guess I’ll be making a second trip to K-Mart later today to assure I get the sale price on that item.  The steamer we have is too small (tiny really) and we’d like a new one so we can steam an entire head of broccoli, not just half or a third of one.

I think I’ll warm up some leftovers for lunch and steep some of the Elderberry for a fresh glass of refreshing iced tea to complement it.

Fishing for Neptune: Testing the Waters

I couldn’t wait for midnight Friday night.  The forecast for the weekend seemed unbelievable, especially after the scorching heat of the last month.  Clear skies and mid to lower 80s for the high temperatures over the next several days.  I came home from work to a grilled steak and baked potato dinner, prepared by Terry.  Mmm-mmm good.

After dinner, Terry and I began reviewing the DVR play list and guide, deciding to delete many old recordings to free up some disc space.  Our daughter called and chatted with us for about forty-five minutes.  The conversation ended abruptly when her phone battery died.

For dessert, Terry blended a frozen raspberry lemonade.  I read for a few minutes, while slowly sipping the drink (trying to avoid a brain freeze).  I asked him to wake me up around midnight so I could scout the skies in search of the Andromeda galaxy and the planet Neptune. Apollo followed me upstairs to the bedroom to join me in my nap.

Terry woke me up just shortly after midnight.  I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and found my flip flops.  I followed Terry back downstairs to the band room and walked out the patio door to the back yard.  The skies were clear, if not what you’d call dark (why do my neighbors leave their porch lights on all night long?).  I went back inside for one of my star charts and a pair of binoculars.  I didn’t trust myself to lug the telescope outside in the dark, not being completely awake yet.  A survey with the binoculars should be sufficient for my first attempt.

I walked out into my backyard, towards my one remaining pine tree and turned back around to face the east.  What a difference a couple of hours makes!  I could clearly see the Great Square of Pegasus hovering directly over my roof.  In fact, my chimney seemed to be pointing a finger at the famous flying horse.  I remembered what I’d read in the EarthSky post about finding the Andromeda galaxy and put what I’d learned to good use.  With just a pair of mediocre binoculars, I easily found the smudge that is M31.  Now I regretted not moving the XT8 outside before I took my nap.

I turned ninety degrees to the right and began scanning the southern skies.  I can’t see most of the southern horizon, which is blocked by my neighbors tall trees and houses (and all the exterior lighting attached to them).  I lose a good twenty if not thirty degrees of sky in all but one direction, to the southwest I can see a bit of horizon, but only through the even worse light pollution generated by the parking lot of a doctor’s office and the streetlights along Main Street (also known as K-7/US-73).

I needed to find the constellations Aquarius and Capricornus.  The ecliptic passes through both of these constellations.  Neptune swam the night skies somewhere between the two constellations on the invisible ecliptic course all the planets chart.  The trouble in finding Neptune in this area of the sky comes from a lack of bright stars to anchor from for star hopping.  I spent the next hour comparing the star atlas from my pocket guide to the stars I saw through the binoculars and eventually convinced myself I had found the southeastern tip of Capricornus.  Just above those stars, I believe I found the two brightest stars in Aquarius, Sadalmelik and Sadalsuud, but those two stars were too high above the ecliptic and too far away in the field of view of the binoculars to find Neptune.  I needed to do more research and next time use a telescope to help cut through the fog of light pollution.

After an hour, I returned inside and went back to bed, resolved to research better star charts in the morning.

I went back to and re-read the article on Neptune, but I just couldn’t relate their star chart (shown above) to what I’d observed last night through the binoculars. I would need more magnification and a more steady mount to zoom in and match up the stars shown above to the field of view of the XT8.

I tried Sky and Telescope’s web page and found a better set of charts in a PDF format in their article about Uranus and Neptune visibility during 2012.  I downloaded the document and will print it today to keep with the rest of my star charts.

Saturdays are always packed full of activities, so I’m hoping I’ll still have the energy tonight to make a second attempt at finding Neptune.  My scouting trip showed me what I needed to overcome before I proceed with netting Neptune.