Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fog and sun

Moss and waterfall
I took this picture with my iPhone last Thursday, and I was struck by the mossy branches in front of the waterfall. At first I thought it interfered with the picture, but then I realized that this is a quintessentially Pacific Northwest kind of scene, and then I rather liked it. Today we have the possibility of sunshine, but for now, it's still foggy. But it's not raining!

In a week, at this time I will be at SeaTac Airport getting ready to board a plane to Amsterdam, then fly to Istanbul, and finally, a plane to Antalya. Twenty-four hours of travel before I lay my head down in a new country to catch up on my missing sleep. I will have a full day before the conference starts to get myself rested up.

This morning after our nice five-mile walk, I spent some time at the coffee shop with the ladies and discussed travel tips and told stories about getting ready for the trip to Turkey. Just now I spent some time on YouTube learning how to say hello and thank you in Turkish. This is NOT an easy language, but I think it's important to learn the basics just for politeness. I already know how to say thank you and how to introduce myself.

I also heard bad things about Delta's food on the plane to Amsterdam, and good things about Turkish Air's, so I'll get a bit of both, it seems. I'll be taking my own food along anyway. I've never been to any of these places, so for me, the adventure has already begun!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lookout Mountain and Stimpson Reserve

Diane staying warm
It was pretty cold when 13 Senior Trailblazers began an around-town hike, beginning at the Lookout Mountain Preserve. You can see it was sunny when we started, but it didn't stay that way for long, since low clouds, also known as fog, covered the sky for most of the day. Our plan for the day was to hike the trails in the preserve and then head on over to the Stimpson Reserve where we would have lunch.
New tree growing out of a nurse log
As these old stumps deteriorate, they make good places for new seeds to take root and grow. They are called nurse logs, or in this case, a nurse stump from a long-ago logging operation. I had never heard of one before I moved here, but everyone around here knows what they are.
The group heading over to see the waterfall
One of our side trails took us to a place where we could look out at an impressive waterfall. I took several pictures, and this one with my new camera is set at "super vivid" as I wanted to see just how vivid that might be. The picture I took of the nurse log was not in that setting, but was pretty vivid anyway. Take a look at the waterfall.
Lookout Mountain waterfall
I noticed that the clouds, which had kept us chilly for most of the day, were beginning to break up a little. We must have been caught in a temperature inversion, because it grew colder as we descended in elevation on our way back to the cars.
Finally beginning to break up
We piled in and headed over to the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve, where we made our way to Geneva Pond and stopped to have lunch. By this time, most of the clouds were gone, but where we were we could see the sunshine, but it didn't reach us. It was still quite a nice place to stop, and once we started around the other side of the loop, we reached full sun!
Bob, Doug, Kirk, Kathleen, Rita, Carol, Al, Sharon
I asked those nearby to let me take a picture of them in the sunshine, which gave me a chance to stay there for a few seconds extra and enjoy the rays, too. Stimpson Reserve is a beautiful place, but most of us were quite happy to head back home after more than seven miles for the day.
Heading home
The sun, all the green, and the lack of rain made it just a lovely way to spend the day. Al had considered maybe making a trip up to the High Country, since the snow level is way down, but it would have been a long drive and a hard hike. I'm glad we stayed close to home and had a chance to do plenty of visiting with each other.

All pictures were taken with my new camera, a Canon PowerShot SX160 with 16X optical zoom. I haven't tried the zoom out all the way yet, but the camera so far is performing wonderfully for me. It's similar enough to the SX150 I had before, but it doesn't have any of the annoying glitches that had started to take over the old one. So far, so good. And Doug took this picture of me in front of the falls, with my iPhone 6. Both of these cameras will be going with me on my trip.
Me with a waterfall growing out of my head
All in all, it was a good day, spent with good friends, and not a raindrop was to be seen anywhere!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Birthdays, travel, and football

"Happy Semisesquicentennial"
I learned a new word at Al's party on Saturday, as we celebrated his semisesquicentennial birthday. "Sesquicentennial" means 150 years, so the "semi" means he's only half of that. That "cake" is actually a mountain made of cheese, with pecans and walnuts around the sides. It was delicious. As people arrived with various things for his Diamond Jubilee (also 75 years), we had homemade baklava in the shape of diamonds, and even bowls of trail mix (for the hikers) and cough drops (for the singers). It was a lot of fun, and I managed to keep from making myself sick by carefully monitoring what I ate.

This weekend is the Superbowl, and we are in it for the second year in a row. I didn't go off and get my nails done in Seahawks colors this year, like I did last year, but the excitement is palpable in the entire state. You can't turn on the news without seeing Seahawks 12s everywhere. (A football team has 11 players on the field at a time, and the fans in Washington are called the "12th man." It seems everyone is one.)

And I am beginning to prepare for my trip to Turkey, less than two weeks away. I've got my carry-on suitcase and another to check in one corner of the living room, and I've started adding things to the pile that will go inside them. I ordered and received a new camera, very similar to my old one but better and really inexpensive, since the model has been discontinued. I managed to read hundred of reviews before making my choice. So that's done, and so far I'm quite pleased with it. It will go with me on Thursday, as our hike looks like it might be dry. Once it's not new any more I'll be less careful with it, but it's going with me on my travels in good shape.

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny warm day, but today the rain has returned. It was sure nice to see the sun for a couple of days. My mood is pretty darn sunny. Oh, I did go see American Sniper and now understand why it's been nominated for Best Picture: it's very well done, and Bradley Cooper is uncanny as Chris Kyle. When I think this is the same man who was in American Hustle in pink hair rollers I recognize that he definitely has quite a range. I'm glad I saw it; now I've seen all nine movies that have been nominated. I could never pick just one.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Still raining

Shirley, Ebba, Connie, Lauren
Do they look wet? Yep, they are. I just got home from the Saturday walk, and fifteen of us showed up in a light rain, hoping it would stop before too long. Well, it didn't. We walked more than six miles anyway, and I have to say, we do look a little bit on the soggy side, don't you think? Lauren didn't even wear a raincoat, just a fleece, and although she doesn't look as wet as Shirley, she is.
Theresa in her Seattle Sombrero
This hat was admired and commented upon while we were walking, and I asked if I could take a picture, just to show my readers how nicely it worked in the rain. All those pretty raindrops on the brim kept her under what almost seems like a portable umbrella. I want one; I wore a baseball cap, which is what I usually wear in wet weather. Now that I am home warm and dry, it was a fun adventure. Hardly anybody stayed for coffee afterwards, though, as most were too wet to stick around. I was one of four who stayed.
John and Bob at Avellino's
This picture was taken at the coffee shop yesterday, showing John is finally back exactly one month after having both knees replaced. It was his first excursion driving himself since being released from the nursing home on Wednesday. He said that when he went down the elevator and walked to the front door, more than a dozen staff members were there to say goodbye and wish him well.

He's walking pretty well with the cane, but everything is still quite a challenge. Not bad for a 75-year-old, though. He will be back on his tractor by springtime, as he hoped. The surgery for knee replacement has come a long way in the past few years. He's still got quite a bit of physical therapy ahead for awhile, but I'm impressed.

This afternoon I am going to Al's birthday party, who is 75 years old today. The invitation reminded me that 75 years is considered a Diamond Jubilee, so I'll look in my jewelry box to see if I have something suitable to wear.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Well, we got some exercise anyway

You know it's not a wonderful day when only five Senior Trailblazers show up at the Senior Center for our weekly hike. After three days of full sun, I woke this morning to the sound of rain. It was forecast for the day, but it was supposed to stop early and possibly even give us a few rays of sun. But that was not to be.
Best view we had all day
We started our hike up Olsen Creek in a light rain, but we were optimistic when we began to see the fog lift a little, and the rain stop completely. This is is the best view we had, but we were quite comfy, the temperature mild and no more rain, so we kept going. We knew that there was timber logging that had started earlier this month in the area, so we were curious to see how far we might get.
Carol and me
By the time this picture was taken, we had taken off our rain jackets and were delighted to have a view behind us. You can see we were quite happy at this point on our hike. We didn't realize that it would be the best part of the trek, either.
Steve, Doug, Al
By the time I got this picture, our view was already beginning to fade, as the clouds and fog began to close in again, but still the temperature was mild and we were in good spirits. And then we reached the logging area. Our trail was obliterated, but we hoped if we made our way through the branches, we might reach the area where they have not yet begun to clear the trees.
Steve and Al making their way through the brush and branches
Every once in awhile we earn our Trailblazer title, when we have to try and find a way through the branches left by the logging operation. There actually is a road under there, but after a short time we realized it was futile. Plus, we could hear the operation nearby, and we didn't want to get in the way. By this time, the fog had closed in and the rain began once again. We remained in a light rain all the way back to the cars.
Cupcakes to celebrate Al's birthday
Yes, you guessed it: we hightailed it over to the closest Haggen cafeteria to have our lunch and celebrate Al's birthday. Carol brought the cupcakes, and we enjoyed a very nice warm lunch once again, indoors instead of huddled on a wet log somewhere outside. We only went around six miles and maybe 1,500 feet of elevation, but it was good exercise, and I have to say it's always nice to have a warm cozy place for lunch.

Now that I'm home and can get the mud off my clothes and boots, I'm happy I went. But it was only some good physical activity and good company; there wasn't much else to recommend today's outing. Those of you Trailblazers who missed the hike today made the right choice!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Movies and more

Rotten Tomatoes on Selma
If you go to that link under the picture, you'll see that the critics gave Selma a rating of 99% "fresh." That's probably the most of any movie I've seen for ages. The audience rating is 88%, but still. I went to see it on Sunday.

I figured that because of the playoff game between Seattle and Green Bay that the movie at 12:00pm would be lightly attended. That was an understatement: I was the only person in the huge theater until about five minutes after the show started, when another woman came in by herself. The weather outside was frightful; lots of rain and wind, and most of Bellingham was inside hunkered around the TV, watching the playoff game. Now the weather is sunny and will stay that way until Thursday, my hiking day. (grump)

I loved the movie, plain and simple. It tells the story of the three-month period in 1965 when Martin Luther King rallied support in Selma, Alabama to secure voting rights for the black people in Alabama who were not able to register. Plenty of the scenes brought to life the injustices of the period: Oprah Winfrey plays a black woman who tries to register to vote, and she's expected to know the entire preamble of the Constitution (which she did) and the names of all the judges in Alabama, which of course she didn't. The actor who plays King (David Oyelowo) gained thirty pounds for the role, and he embodied King amazingly well. I was disappointed that neither he nor the director were nominated for their contributions to the movie. But I suspect that this movie will continue to be shown for decades, it's that good, long after others also nominated for Best Picture will be forgotten.

I wanted to see it on MLK weekend when we celebrate his life, and Judy wasn't available to go with me, so I went alone. I would see it again in a second, although there were some very very disturbing scenes as people were attacked and even murdered for their beliefs. Of course, in the end that's also what happened to Dr. King. We have come a long way, but we still have a ways to go. See the movie if you can, in my opinion it deserves to win.

When I left the theater, I asked the usher if she had heard anything about the game, and she told me that unfortunately we were losing big time, 16 to nothing at the half. Saddened, I came home to turn on the rest of the game and see how badly we lost. Well, that game didn't even start until the last five minutes, when we staged the most amazing comeback, then Green Bay tied it up, and it went into Overtime. What a game! So I got the best of both worlds: I got to see the movie and see the best of the game, too.
Rotten Tomatoes on Whiplash
On Saturday Judy and I also went to see Whiplash, a movie about a young jazz drummer and his really sadistic teacher, played by J.K. Simmons. He's garnered a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his part as the teacher, and the movie is also nominated for Best Picture. It is a very good movie, indeed, 95% freshness rating by both critics and audience, but I have to say, it was really painful to watch. Miles Teller is also great in it (the drummer), and I thought about the movie for a long time afterwards. I enjoyed it for the art of the movie, but I have to say I'll never see J.K. Simmons in his insurance advertisements, or anywhere else for that matter, without thinking of him in this part. He sure knows how to play a brutal, cold-blooded fiend. He deserves the nomination, for sure.

As far as the movie, it's perfectly filmed and performed, and many parts of it had my heart pounding so hard that I was exhausted when I left the theater. It's that kind of movie. If you see it and have more to say about it, let me know in the comments. I wonder how other people felt about the story.

So now I've seen all the nominated movies except American Sniper. It wasn't loved quite as much by the critics, with a 73% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but I'm not sure I want to see it. It's touted as a pro-war movie by Clint Eastwood, and I hesitate to go. I felt the same way last year about "12 Years a Slave" (because of the brutality) and I went anyway (by myself) and was glad I did. I'll probably see Sniper before it's all over. I still have to see Foxcatcher and Still Alice, anyway. They are not playing here quite yet.

If I were giving out the Oscars, Best Picture would go to Selma. But I'm not giving out the awards, and I hear that Boyhood is the likely winner. It is really good, I agree, but it's in a class by itself. I think it would be very hard to choose a winner among this year's nominees for Best Picture. We'll know on February 22.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Three weeks to go

Iceberg Lake, 2011
First of all, I just put this picture up on here because I was perusing some of my old photos and found this one taken October 2011 on one of our Trailblazer hikes. The sun, the lake, the red leaves and the snow-laden pine all added up to make me feel good, so here I am, sharing it with you.

About the title of this post: I will leave three weeks from today for a trip to Turkey. Now some of you might wonder why in the world I would travel to the Middle East while the world seems to be blowing up all around us, but it all started several months ago, when my old boss asked me if I would help him for one last conference, and I reluctantly agreed. I'm not as resilient as I used to be (who is?), and I am anxious about all the travel, since I seem to get sick almost every time I am forced to breathe airplane air for long periods. I've got some tricks up my sleeve this time. And I am finally beginning to actually get a little excited about it. I will be blogging from Turkey, so I shouldn't be missing any posts. More on this later.

We lucked out again this Saturday morning. Twenty-one of us showed up on a cloudy overcast day, with rain in the forecast. As I sit here, I can hear it drumming on the roof, but we stayed dry, with only a sprinkle or two during the six-mile brisk walk. We were all ready for it, of course, but it waited until we had finished. That always makes the day brighter, even without any sunshine.

And I'm going to see a movie this afternoon that I hadn't even heard about until the Oscars were announced. It is one of the Best Picture nominees, and it happens to be on at our local independent theater. It's called Whiplash, and after reading the dazzling reviews (the link takes you to Rotten Tomatoes), I'm wondering why it has been kept so quiet. I will be sitting in the movie theater with Judy in less than two hours from now, if all goes as planned. I'll let you know on Tuesday what I think about it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Alger Alp 2015

Squires Lake
In preparation for writing today's post, I went back and looked at previous years that we have done this particular hike. It's an easy one for us, just under six miles round trip and around 1,000 feet elevation gain and loss. Not our usual ten- or eleven-mile trudges. Probably for that reason, we get more people than usual; today it was thirteen. Last year it was nineteen.
Chris and newcomer Sharon
The temperature last year was also very similar to this year's, around freezing to start and warming up ten degrees or so as we ascended. I didn't get warm for awhile, but then I stayed warm, congratulating myself on having chosen the correct layering technique. Rain was expected before the hike would end, but although we felt a drop or two, we didn't get wet.
Carol and Linda gazing at the view
This is the top of our hike, and I smiled when I noticed that I almost always take a picture from this vantage point, with different people in front. You can see the I-5 highway running left to right about a quarter of the way up. We could hear the traffic in the distance on this hike now and then, but as we stood here it was quite loud.
Looking down at the group
I walked up to a small promontory behind us and got this picture before we decided to turn around and head back down. It was still early, too early to stop for lunch, so we thought we'd wait a bit before stopping. At this point we also felt a raindrop or two, and nobody wanted to hang out for long and get cold again.
Squires Lake again
By the time we got back to Squires Lake where we started our hike, the sun was making appearances now and then, but we kept on going until we returned to the cars. This rare sunshine didn't stick around long, and nobody was all that excited about stopping. It wasn't even noon by this time.
Sign reminding people to clean up after their dogs
This sign was new, and I hadn't noticed it on the way up. You'll notice also that someone found a pair of glasses, placing them on the sign, and hopefully the owner will find them. It's always nice when somebody takes care of lost items found on the trail.
A few of us stayed for lunch at the Senior Center
Although several people decided to head home right away after we reached the Senior Center, some of us pulled out our lunches and enjoyed a nice warm leisurely lunch inside. The sunshine came and went outside, and by the time we left there was still no rain. But now, as I write this post, I see that it has come indeed, and we were very lucky to have had a wonderful day together, as well as staying dry the whole time. Another really fine day, exercised and content, as I finish the day's tasks. And it's still early!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Partly sunny iPhone

Mt Baker from my front porch
This morning, on my walk to the bus stop in the dark, the fog and temperature in the mid-30s (1.6C) made me glad to have on my heavier coat. I realize that for some of my readers, this sounds downright balmy, as I read about schools being closed because of wind chills in the -30s. Yikes! Well, I live in the Pacific Northwest and endure (enjoy) plenty of rain in the winter months, but rather mild temperatures, for the most part. It's gotten down well below freezing now and then, but it warms up again.

Today, once the sun came out and the fog lifted, I smiled at the blue skies beginning to peek through and now, in the early afternoon, it's very pleasant out there. I just went to the library and picked up some books I had on hold, and now I can settle down in my favorite chair and get started on them.

I dropped my new iPhone 6 last Thursday, right on the gravel in the parking lot at the beginning of our hike. Although I have a phone case, the glass is exposed, and I managed to get the tiniest little chip in the glass. That did NOT make me happy, so I did a bit of research and decided to order the Tech Armor Ballistic Glass Screen Protector from Amazon. If you don't know already, one of the problems for screen protectors with the new iPhones are that their edges curve downwards. This makes it difficult for screen protectors to fit all the way to the edges.
iPhone 6 in Symmetry Otter Box with Tech Armor screen cover
I thought I'd show you how incredibly tight the tolerances are for the screen protector. (The blue plastic on the outer edges show my Otter Box case.) After reading all the reviews, watching the installation video, and enlisting the help of Smart Guy, I attempted to get it onto my screen. This took some doing, but it wasn't terribly awful. There are no bubbles or other annoying things in the viewing area, but on the right-hand side you can see that there is an area of lighter coloring, which shows that the screen protector is not sealed completely on that side. The reason for that is evident, if you study the picture carefully: on the bottom lower left you can see that I didn't get it exactly right; there is just the tiniest bit of difference between the placement on the left and right sides.

The good part is that it is easy to use the touch screen, no difference really with and without the screen protector. But one of the reasons that people didn't give this protector the highest rating is that it began to peel away after a few months. I suspect this one will do the same. But it's SO MUCH BETTER than walking around with a naked screen with someone as klutzy as me.

Does anybody have a recommendation for either a screen protector or cover that is better than this? If so, I might just go ahead and order it. I love my iPhone and want to give it the best care I can.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My schedule is back to normal

More from Dale Chihuly
Just a quick note for my Saturday post, with me being happy to have gone on a nice (albeit wet)walk with the Fairhaven ladies (and one man) this morning. It was dark and dreary when we started out, most of us surprised by the rather wet weather, since it was supposed to come in much later than it did. There were 21 of us, in the rain and dark, so you know there are plenty of us happy to walk in whatever weather the day brings us.

I learned on Facebook that my stepdaughter Susan enjoyed the Chihuly Garden and Glass show so much when we went there last Monday that she went again the next evening, and got even more wonderful pictures to share on her Facebook page. That made me want to show you a few more of my pictures from last Monday.

With the hike on Thursday and the walk this morning, I am feeling right back into the swing of my routine. Not that I'm rigid or anything (smile), but I sure do like having a schedule. I've survived the holidays without gaining a pound, and that also makes me smile. Here's another Chihuly Glass picture to round out the post.
In the Macchia Forest Room
I hope you have also survived the holidays, got all the trimmings put away, and are staying warm and dry. See you again on Tuesday!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Lily and Lizard Lakes, plus North Butte

Carol, Peggy, Sue, Doug, Udo, Chris, Diane
Twelve Senior Trailblazers made our way to the Senior Center in deep, thick fog. We expected at some point it might lift, but it wasn't obvious when that might happen. We began our hike today at the Upper Trailhead at Barrel Springs. This picture shows part of our group after we stopped for our first shedding of a layer of clothing. The clouds were beginning to part, as you can see here.
Such a pretty sky
We started out really cold, but as we ascended on our hike to Lizard Lake, the temperature grew warmer (and we were working hard, too). Today was one of those temperature inversions where the air closer to the ground was actually colder than the air a bit higher up. This hike takes us first to Lizard Lake and then, if the weather is fine, we can decide to go up to North Butte and then head to Lily Lake.
Ward and Linda pointing in the right direction
Yes, let's go to Lizard Lake first, and then we can decide what happens next. The last time we were here, it was icy and very cold, so today was a nice change from that. Although it's possible to reach these lakes from several different starting points, this one gives us a chance to have a very nice loop hike.
Partially frozen Lizard Lake
Although it was not really cold, you can see that it was recently quite a bit colder, as half of Lizard Lake still has a covering of ice. But as you can see, we weren't in that warm sunshine, so we decided to head up to North Butte, where we would be in the sun and have a view as well. But before we left, I took a picture of this recent beaver action at the lake.
Busy beavers
This tree doesn't have much longer to stand, as the beavers will soon get it to join the one behind it, which was recently felled by the same beaver family, I suspect. Does it make your teeth hurt to look at this? And then we went up to the Butte for lunch.
Samish Bay from North Butte
Once we reached the top, we saw that some fog still remained in little pockets below us, and we realized that as we enjoyed our wonderful lunch in the sunshine, it was probably cold and foggy at sea level. Where we were, everything was perfect; there was no breeze and full sun as we raised our winter faces to the sun.
Happy hikers in full sunshine, a view and no wind
We had a couple of hikers whom we haven't seen in awhile, Fred and Udo. You can see Fred's red cap in the background, but I didn't seem to capture him completely in any of my pictures. Udo has gone out with us a few times before, and it was really nice to see him again. Everyone enjoyed our stop here, but we still had Lily Lake to visit before we started our return.
Ice sculptures at Lily Lake
Once we got there, I saw this stump that I've captured in other seasons, but this time I was captivated by the designs in the ice around it. And on the left, you can see the wrinkles captured in the ice, probably from the wind blowing the water as it froze, layer by layer. Here in the Pacific Northwest, you have greenery mixed with ice, which comes and goes as the temperature changes.

We covered somewhere under nine miles and 1,800 feet of elevation gain and loss before we returned to our cars, happy to have the holidays behind us and our schedule of Thursday hikes begun again. It was a wonderful beginning to the new year!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Chihuly, Seattle, and Susan

Susan and me in the Persian Room
I took the Bolt Bus yesterday to Seattle, a pretty darn wonderful way to get there. The bus stops right at the Light Rail station, so I could simply hop on and in minutes arrive downtown at the hotel where Susan and her husband are staying. She and I decided first to have coffee and plan our day.
Hearts and flowers
Susan was my stepdaughter many, many moons ago, and although it had been more than a quarter of a century since we last saw each other, it was an emotional and very satisfying reunion. You know how some people might change a little by the passage of time but are still exactly who they were back then? That's the way it felt. Some catching up, some tears and laughter, but we picked up right where we left off.
Detail of the ceiling in the Persian Room
We headed off to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, something we both wanted very much to see. One of my blogging friends, Linda Letters, has shown an incredible number of pictures of this glass museum, and I definitely had it on my list of places I simply had to visit in Seattle. There are several different rooms, along with an outdoor garden.
In the Milli Fiori Room
It's almost impossible to describe the magnificence of his work. The glass is, I know intellectually, not actually waving in the breeze and flowing anywhere at all,  but it sure feels like it is. There is incredible movement in his art, as you can see above. But my favorite room of all is the Sealife Room. Piece after piece captured my eye and my heart. This tiny little sea urchin in the midst of all this blue is just a little piece of an enormous sculpture.
One sea urchin among many
I loved the detail and the colors that kept catching my eye and making me gasp in astonishment. Another incredible room is the Chandelier Room. Although my pictures couldn't begin to capture the size and beauty of them, the bottom of this chandelier shows the delicacy of his work.
Glass droplets
It is not my intention to post all the pictures that I took, because although they are wonderful to look at, my intention is really to encourage anyone who has a chance to see Dale Chihuly's art to do so. After we left the museum and the garden, the rain had stopped, and we went up in the Space Needle, although there was not much to see through the fog. It was still a nice treat to be with Susan. After spending a few hours at the hotel with her and Greg, we went back to where the Bolt Bus was waiting to take me back to Bellingham.
Thanks for the great picture, Greg
They both came with me to the bus and, since we had a few minutes, we wandered over to Uwajimaya, which is a huge Asian market filled with amazing things. And then it was time to go, a delightful day having come to an end. It was wonderful and magical, and this beautiful woman is not only a part of my past, but of my future, too. I love you, Susan.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Downton Abbey

Highclare Castle
For all of us who absolutely love the British Downton Abbey drama, Season 5 will begin tomorrow here in the United States. It's already been shown in the UK, so some of my readers already know what will transpire. But I don't, and I'm not willing to find some workaround system to find out ahead of time. In fact, I went looking online for a recap of Season 4, and I found this on Time Magazine.

And for those of you who would like to watch a funny Christmas spoof of Downton Abbey, there are two parts to a Christmas Text Santa spoof, with George Clooney a delightful addition. Here's the first part:

Clooney plays the part of Lord Hollywood, and I laughed to hear his broad American accent in the midst of all those upper crust British ones. Here's Part Two:

I hope you enjoy the Text Santa spoofs with Lord Hollywood as much as I did. I am looking forward to another season of high drama, with the soap opera aspect still very much alive in Season 5!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years Day 2015

Lake Padden just before sunrise
Although it's Thursday, and the fact that a hike was scheduled for today (even if it was a short one to Fragrance Lake), I decided instead to join the Fairhaven walking group for our traditional loops around the lake and a potluck. I knew that it would be a wonderful gathering with a bunch of women I really enjoy being with, and we even had a man join us for a change. When we got there early, we were the only people around.
Toasting in the new year
We will have the occasional man show up among all the women, but they usually don't return for a second trip, for some reason. It was clear and very cold, around 25 when this picture was taken, but we had already made one loop around the lake (2.6 miles) and Cindy's wonderful hot chocolate and mocha coffee was being enjoyed with our other goodies before some of us headed around for a second lap. We knew that the New Years Day festivities would begin at 11:00am, starting with a run or walk around the lake and then the Polar Bear Plunge.
Bubbles in the sunshine
People started to arrive around 10:30, and this wonderful bubble machine was set up, which made for some really nice photos. Many of the people who showed up walked or ran around the lake, but instead I went out looking for pictures. I saw that there was some ice on the lake, and the kids were having fun with it.
Not very thick, but still
I chatted with some people while I was waiting for the Plunge to begin. I thought I'd find a safe place to capture some pictures without being in danger of being pushed in by the crowd. You can see that most were waiting until the very last minute to strip down to bathing suits in the picture below, but there were more people stripping down and lining up every time I turned around.
The wind picked up right about 10 minutes before the Plunge
Most of the people in this picture will go into the water, but if you do the plunge, you must have a team on hand to help, someone to hold your clothes at the last minute and someone to take pictures, of course! And then it was time, with the guy on the loudspeaker announcing 1 minute left.
I've got a good spot for pictures
I thought I should try to take a video with my camera as they took off, but it didn't work. I forgot to press "play" and then when I realized my mistake, I went back to taking pictures, but most of the BEST ones had a very annoying gloved thumb right in front of the camera!!
Splash and scream
You can see that even this picture has a thumb in the upper left corner, and that's after having cropped most of the picture. Sigh. I've got to figure out how to train myself to check that I'm not doing that. Of course, I was all excited and trying to get the action before it went away. But it was still fun, and I learned a lot! And no, I would not have wanted to be one of these people today. Brrrr! However, it certainly is a memorable way to ring in a new year. Happy New Year to everyone!