Saturday, October 3, 2015

Our Vashonista retreat so far

Deb at work
When we Vashonistas decided to get together for an entire six days this year, Deb agreed to organize a writing retreat for us while we are here. We already knew this setting well, having been here three times before, but now we not only have plenty of time, but we also are learning some great techniques to free up our inner writers. It's Saturday morning, and by this time in earlier visits, we would have only this one full day left to enjoy not only each other, but this wonderful Lavender Hill Farm setting. This year, we don't need to pack up and leave until Tuesday!

Deb gave us all copies of Stephen King's book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, which is almost impossible to put down (like most of his books), but we've been very busy. We started on Thursday night after dinner (hence my short post), and yesterday we worked very hard together. I have been to writing workshops before, but it's been a long time, and I have not only already learned some new tools to move myself from stuck writing places, but also how to find buried treasures within myself.
Listening to our esteemed guest
And last night, Linda Reeder joined us for dinner. She lives in Seattle and was one of the original bloggers we hoped would become part of this group in the beginning. She's a very busy person but made the time to take the ferry ride to Vashon Island and meet us in person. We all know each other so very well from our blogs, so she slipped into the gathering as if she had always been here. She writes on Linda Letters and posts about her travels, family, home, and gardens galore.

The picture above shows how we have been working together: Deb would give us a prompt, such as "Beneath the surface" or "Find yourself in a car" and give us either a short time (five minutes) or a longer one (fifteen) and we write, longhand, in our notebooks. I've already discovered that writing that way, rather than on a laptop, frees up something inside, as if writing it down longhand allows another aspect of creativity to be loosened.

Linda joined us for that second prompt (finding oneself in a car) and we all shared what that brought up for us. It was so much fun! The very full day yesterday made me struggling to keep my eyes opened by 8:30pm. (Who am I kidding? That's when I always fall asleep.)

And now it's the next day, Saturday morning. I hear the creaking floorboard above me, letting me know that my fellow early riser (Deb) has begun her day, too. I think I'll go join her to start today's adventure!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Vashonistas are together again

Our beautiful living room
We are together again for our fourth gathering. I am trying to get this done really quickly, so we can get started with our writing project, our first for our six days together. It's so nice to be back in this place that seems like home. It's a wonderful place, and the weather is fantastic for our entire trip.

Gotta go, Deb is pulling on my arm to get started the writing for tonight!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time to start packing

Taken by Ross Schram von Haupt (Bellingham)
I found this picture of the supermoon/eclipse on the LoveBellingham site on Facebook, with credit given to a local real estate agent (linked to his page underneath the picture). It's pretty darn wonderful. I'm afraid I didn't get any pictures, because I ended up drinking wine with my next door neighbor and had a bit more than usual. I decided I wasn't in any shape to go looking for the perfect spot to take pictures. I knew there would be some wonderful ones.

One of my friends at the gym told me of some friends of hers who drove all the way to Artist Point (an hour and a half drive) in order to photograph the eclipse. It was so cold that they were unable to get out of their car for awhile, and then their hands kept freezing as they set up the camera. And they had to wait for the moon to rise above Mt. Shuksan, so for a good while they were battling the freezing temperature. It was cold down here, too, so I can only imagine.

Only two more sleeps before I get together with fellow Vashonista friend Linda and take the ferry to Vashon Island. It's going to be wonderful to have so much time! Instead of three days/two nights, it will be six days/five nights. Wow! I'll be skipping the Trailblazer hike on Thursday, but I'll probably manage to get something up on here from Vashon before the day is over. I feel a bit like a kid going off to camp!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A beautiful fall day

Connie and Carol on the Lake Padden trail
We ladies usually spend one Saturday walk at Lake Padden, because it's a known quantity. We take two loops, just over 2.6 miles once around. One direction is considered harder than the other, because for some reason the hills seems steeper (that's not possible, but perception is everything). Today we went around the "harder" way first, counter-clockwise, and finished with the clockwise version. I decided to use my new smartphone app today, MapMyWalk, since it's a known distance and I figured I could see if it's accurate.
A screen shot from my phone
There was a slight discrepancy, I thought, because it showed .09 miles more than it should, but Cindy, our leader, told me the actual distance really is a little more than exactly 2.6 miles. Close enough, I'd say. I was a little surprised when a female voice gave me my stats at each mile (something I can probably turn off), and when I looked at the final information, I was pleased to see I could tell how fast I covered each mile as well. Pretty cool!
Fall feast
Then I headed over to the Farmers' Market, which goes almost year round here, closing up for the season on the last Saturday before Christmas. I will enjoy purchasing the fall produce, since my garden has been put to bed for the season. A couple of years ago I grew some delicata squash myself (the yellow ones with the dark green stripes), but I found that for whatever reason mine weren't as succulent as the ones from the market. So I happily fork over my dollars for a chance to eat these instead. I am very aware that I live in a wonderful part of this beautiful country and wish everyone had such bounty available to them. Virtual hugs all around; there's plenty of those!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A bit of everything at Lake Ann

First glimpse of Lake Ann today
Yes, I know it's late for my blog post, but I just got home after a long day in the High Country. Only nine Senior Trailblazers showed up, probably because the weather forecast was for rain, but it kept getting pushed later in the day. Still, you might notice that because of the drought, a hike we took two years ago, almost to the day, shows a much larger Lake Ann. We need all the rain we can get, so none of us would have been unhappy if it had turned out to be a wet day.
Climbing the rocks to Lake Ann
The reason this hike is considered difficult is because you descend 800 feet to a valley at the beginning, cross the valley, then climb a long rocky traverse to Lake Ann and the back side of Mt. Shuksan. This must all be reversed when you return to the starting point. It's sort of uphill both ways. It was overcast for most of the day, but every once in awhile we would see patches of blue and get a dose of sunshine.
Jacqueline and Peggy on the trail
As you can see in this picture, it was a beautiful climb, with fall colors everywhere, and us needing very little to keep us warm as we hiked. At any minute we expected the heavens to open up and drench us (we were ready), but instead the clouds came and went and we stayed mostly dry.
Mt. Baker partially obscured
As we climbed higher, we got some wonderful views of Mt. Baker (Komo Kulshan), with Al and Doug in this picture at the head of our group of nine. The sky was so grey at this point that even if you could have seen the top of the mountain, it would have blended in. But it was still stunning, and nobody had felt even one raindrop by this point.
The glacier on the back of Mt. Shuksan
And then we reached the top, where we saw that first glimpse of Lake Ann, and to the left the back of Mt. Shuksan with its glacier, much diminished from past years, but still magnificent. You can see the top of the mountain shrouded in fog, and plenty of red foliage in the foreground.
The Trailblazers on the left
And then it was time for lunch. We stopped here, gazing at the beauty all around us, getting the occasional ray of sunshine as we enjoyed the splendor of our surroundings. We didn't stay very long, less than half an hour, before we turned around and began our return journey.
Me in front of Mt. Shuksan
I asked Carol to take a picture of me in front of the glacier, and this turned out quite well, I think. (That's why you're seeing it, of course.) I put my raincoat on for warmth, but at this point we were all getting just a bit chilled from the breeze and altitude. We packed up and headed back down. And up.
Hillside colors
When we reached the cars, it was 4:00pm, after a long day in the beautiful wilderness that we are so privileged to appreciate and enjoy. It was simply a wonderful day, and if you had been able to join us today, as we hiked around eight miles and went up and down somewhere around 2,500 feet, you would have said so, too. The rain was intermittent and didn't even cause us to put on our raincoats, and the wind and weather only added to our virtuous day. What a day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Blecchh to blepharitis

Pretty clouds and trees
I'm starting this post with a picture of some pretty clouds, so that those who don't want to go further and see pictures of blepharitis can leave now!

Last week I noticed that my left eye was itchy and uncomfortable, tearing badly, but then again, it didn't seem all that bad. Until a few nights ago when I could hardly stand to touch my eyelid, and it had become very painful and swollen. Like this:
From ByeByeDoctor website
I found this picture that pretty much shows what my eyelid looked like. I've never had anything like it before, and although I do get an occasional stye, this was different. No bump and WAY more painful. So of course I went to the internet to find out how to treat this condition, and I learned that warm compresses applied several times a day would help to unplug the glands in the eyelid, and that there was probably a bacterial infection as well.

I went to the drugstore to buy myself some stuff to help me out, so that I wouldn't have to apply a warm washcloth for ten to fifteen minutes by continually having to change out the cloth, as it would only stay warm for a few minutes. I bought a hot water bottle and some eyelid wipes, and something that appealed to me called "Eye-Press" that promised to get warm on its own and be reusable up to ten times (in a package of ten). Well, it sort of worked the first time I used it, but I was then supposed to put it in a bowl of water in the microwave for four minutes to get it back to a usable state. It exploded. After wondering what I had done wrong, I found some reviews on line and learned that I'm not alone in being very unhappy with this product. Don't buy it!

The hot water bottle would have worked, but it's big and unwieldy, and not what I needed. Back to the warm washcloth, trekking back and forth to the sink. Little by little my eye has been getting better, and now a stye has formed and the swelling of the eyelid has begun to recede. I managed with my trusty iPhone to get a picture of my own eye to show you.
The stye is in the outer corner, inside the eyelid
You can see how much better it is today, but I am still applying compresses. In the middle of the night, the solution hit me! How about those little hand warmers that I carry on my hikes? You take it out of the package and it stays warm for hours. So at midnight last night I opened a package and wrapped it in one of the eyelid wipes. It soothed me enough so I could get back to sleep, and this morning that little hand warmer was still ready for me to use on my eye. I had tucked it under my pillow and was astounded at how warm it remained! Here's a link to the hand warmers (Hot Hands) that I bought from Amazon.

So remember, any time you need to apply warm compresses to something, this trick should work for you. Plus those hand warmers are great to tuck into a glove or mitten when your hands get cold while hiking or otherwise playing around outdoors in the winter.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rainy Saturday

Park Butte last Thursday
I took this picture last week on our hike, but it sort of looks like the outdoors here in Bellingham this Saturday morning. When I went out earlier for the walk with the ladies, it hadn't started raining yet, but once it started, it kept up all through the hour-and-a-half walk. I was prepared with my new rain hat and a light raincoat, so it wasn't bad at all, although that's partly because it's warm and not windy. When that happens, it's pretty miserable to be wet. But we were all just fine, if a bit on the drippy side at the end.
Quite a project to move all that stuff
Our apartment neighbor to the south is moving out. There is a little pathway through her things (for us), and this has been going on for pretty much a week. She brings stuff out, packs it into her car and repeats the process again and again. I knew she was a bit of a pack rat and really doesn't like to throw anything away, but now it all needs to be moved. I'm so glad it's not me having to sort through all that stuff. It's important to her, though. I have commiserated with her plight, but I don't think she would be happy to have me help. Anyhow, I really will miss her, since she's quiet and has been a good neighbor.

I'm going to the movies with my friend Judy, and I just got a notice that it's time to get ready to leave. We're going to see Grandma with Lily Tomlin. See you later!