Saturday, November 28, 2015

Not even December yet

Icy leaves
I went on a very nice hike yesterday with two of my dear friends, Al and Carol. Steve wasn't feeling well or we would have been four. We went up the south side of Stewart Mountain in the cold sunny weather we've been blessed with this Thanksgiving weekend. Our Black Friday was much more white than black. Although the sun was shining in a cloudless sky, we weren't exactly warm when we started out. This hike takes us pretty unremittingly uphill through the trees, so it didn't take long before we were warm from exertion. The air was still, with no breeze at all, and we would find little pockets of very cold air where the leaves were frozen solid. There was nothing to stop the cold air from remaining, and no sunshine reaches these spots at this time of the year.
Carol and Al, with Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters behind
We made our way to the top of a hill that gave us a beautiful view. Although we had around three or four inches of snow to navigate at this point, it was so warm from the sun that we didn't even need to put on any extra clothes when we stopped for lunch. Just lovely!
Lake Whatcom below us
We started our hike at the level of Lake Whatcom and climbed to this place where we had a magnificent view in this direction, too. The stagnant air, caused by high pressure that isn't allowing the usual scouring breeze to clear the wood smoke and other pollutants, can be seen along the horizon. We were high above it. I understand it will continue to trap the bad air until Monday when the high pressure will break down, and then we'll return to our usual rainy weather.

I heard on the radio today that the Surgeon General of the US believes that being happy helps to make us healthy, rather than the other way around. I kind of think that might be true, since I'm feeling grateful to live in such a wonderful place and happiness surrounds me.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving in our quiet home

Pre-Thanksgiving feast
When I awoke this morning and went into the kitchen for my morning tea, I saw the items above arranged in a sort of cornucopia by You Know Who. He did it before he went to bed, and right now all of those ingredients are either on the stove or in the oven, waiting for our very own traditional Thanksgiving. The salmon will go in last of all, and then we'll sit down for our meal. Of course I got the salmon from Gene, who left yesterday for Hawaii, where he'll enjoy visiting with old friends and having a Hawaiian style Thanksgiving.

That picture is actually upside-down from when I took it, in case you're wondering just how Smart Guy managed to balance that bottle on the pumpkin. Everything is, in actuality, laying flat on the kitchen counter, but if I put in that way, the wine bottle would be wrong. Plus it makes for a more interesting picture.

I don't know whether I mentioned that I finished reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, but I did. Now that's a LONG book, more than 650 pages, if I'm not mistaken; I enjoyed reading it very much. I found that the movie was really skewed to show the unpleasant sides of his character. The biography showed that while indeed he was not warm and fuzzy in any way, he had some redeeming qualities. I am now reading Isaacson's book on Einstein, which is interesting in a different way entirely.
Our Thanksgiving feast before sitting down to enjoy it
And now we sit in our living room, replete after enjoying a wonderful dinner, with plenty of leftovers for a couple of days. It was truly a joint venture, with the two of us doing about the same amount of work to put this on the table, but the best part for me is that HE cleaned up, completely. I asked if I could help (knowing he would probably say no), because I know how much he likes to have the kitchen put back together the way he likes it. Am I lucky, or what?

I hope you all are enjoying a fine Thanksgiving! Tomorrow I will go hiking with my Senior Trailblazer buddies, just because some of us are addicted to the exercise. Not sure where we'll be going, but the weather is supposed to be cold and clear. Yes!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reading reviews when buying online

Nice looking latte
My barista likes to make pretty designs in my daily latte. Sometimes they are so nice it makes it hard to drink it, but I manage. It's fun to watch an artist at work.

I'm in the process of trying to decide which kind of belt to buy that will hold my phone, keys, and small wallet with credit cards, so that I can exercise without having to wear a fanny pack (that tends to bounce up and down) and still have my phone with me. Since I discovered that I need it with me in order to count my steps, I've become rather obsessive and most workout clothes don't come with pockets. So... I've discovered on Amazon something called a Flipbelt, which looks intriguing. Unfortunately, there are more than 2,000 customer reviews, and I am not willing to read every one. It pulls on over your head (or you step into it, whichever) and doesn't have an opening, so buying the right size is critical.

Then there's another one that has a zipper closing, and it looks pretty interesting, too. It's called a FitBelt, and it only has 300 reviews. But again, getting the right size is very important for satisfaction. I've just about narrowed down my choice to the first, but I wondered if any of my readers have any ideas about either one, or even some other option. These days having something that will keep your iPhone 6 or 6+ safe while keeping it with you must have been solved already.

Oh, and by the way: I hope everyone has safe travels on their way to Grandmother's house, or wherever else you might be going for Thanksgiving. It's here, almost!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Clear, cold BRRR! factor

Frosty fallen leaf
I woke this morning realizing that my feet were cold under the covers. We sleep year round with the window open in our bedroom, which is closed to the rest of the apartment. I saw that it was 47 degrees F (8 C) inside, that getting up and starting my day meant I'd be a little on the cold side, so I turned on the space heater once I got out of bed. Time for the down comforter, I suspect.

Outside it was only 27 F (-2 C), and I saw that my pretty front porch flowers succumbed during the night. Our first hard frost. It was going to be a challenge to dress correctly for the walk with the ladies this morning, but I'm proud to say I chose layers and was successful in keeping warm during our 6.5-mile walk. In fact, by the time I reached our high point, I was able to take off one layer. I consider it a challenge not to dress too warmly when exercising, but warm enough to keep myself from being cold. My hands took the longest to warm up in my gloves. Mittens would have been a better idea.

We've got even colder weather on the way, with a chance for us to experience a little of the "S" word next week. Until then, though, we'll just have clear, cold,  brisk days, which nobody minds. Any time the sun shines, there are plenty of smiles to go around.

And to add to the smiles (at least I hope), I found this on Facebook this morning. I knew immediately what Pooh and Piglet were speaking to each other:
Pooh and Piglet speaking Tamarian
How much of a Trekkie are you? I remembered the episode where the Tamarians speak in metaphor and allegory, but I hadn't remembered exactly what they were saying here, so I looked it up. Of course! I then recalled vividly the Star Trek episode. Just in case you wonder and don't care to learn any Tamarian, here's the translation: "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" (Friendship as a result of a fight against a common enemy). "Shaka, when the walls fell" (Failure).

I know, it's obscure. But it was so original I felt I had to share it. BTW, the potluck gathering last Thursday was a success, although I was so tired that I snuck out early. Who's surprised?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lost Lake in the sunshine

I'm taking the picture, and Al is busy elsewhere
Seventeen (!) Senior Trailblazers showed up to take a ten-mile hike from the Larrabee parking lot to a clearcut area (seen above) that gives us great views of Samish Bay in one direction, and Mt. Baker in the other, and return via Lost Lake and the Fragrance Lake trail. First we needed to hike up to this spot up Cleator Road to the Lost Lake trailhead. From the junction we headed up to the clearcut to capture some great views. The weather was clear and cool, but once we reached this spot the wind made us ready to move on pretty quickly.
A view of Samish Bay and Lummi Island
This is the view behind the hikers, and it's pretty spectacular so I didn't want you to miss it. Then we walked a short distance to look in the opposite direction, to an even more spectacular view of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters, covered with new snow.
Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters, with low-lying fog for dramatic effect
Today is opening day at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, because while we've gotten lots of rain in the lowlands, it's been snowing up there with plenty of new snow for everyone to enjoy. From this point, we are actually above Lost Lake, our lunch destination, so we started down the rough trail, navigating the one part of this hike I don't enjoy very much: it's very steep and uneven, and it's easy to twist an ankle. I endured it because all the rest of the hike is so wonderful.
Kirk helping Linda and the others across
We made our way to the lake. With all the recent rain, this Lost Lake crossing was just a little treacherous. There was a log that looked inviting to step on, but we discovered that it wasn't stable, so tall Kirk helped us cross safely. From this spot, we are almost to our usual big rock where we have lunch. I was ready by then, and it wasn't even noon yet.
Lost Lake from our lunch spot
We've been here when the lake was frozen, and when it's been unusually warm, but today it was just perfect, with clouds coming and going, an enjoyable place for our large group to park and refuel.
A closeup of Lunch Rock covered with hikers
Bill took the above picture with his new iPhone 6s, and I asked him to send it to me, which he did and it showed up immediately on my phone! I love this new technology and how easy it is to take pictures with our phones and share them. By now Carol has probably made a Facebook post with hers. I've got to finish this post fairly quickly so I can get ready to leave. We're having a potluck gathering tonight to see Chris and Richard's show of their six-week-long adventure in Spain. They walked the entire 500 miles this past spring, and it should be fun to see all of their pictures.
The lake, a bush, and my well-worn boots
After a nice lunch break, we headed back down to the other side of the lake and a loop hike that would take us back down the Fragrance Lake trail rather than back on Cleator Road. This is one of my favorite hikes when we do it in sunshine, and I think everybody had a great day. Now we'll gather and share food and more good times together. I'm hoping to get out the door before the sun goes down, since I don't know the way to our hosts' home. I've got 45 minutes, so I'll see you later!

Monday, November 16, 2015

I can't take it another minute

Lake Padden on a grey, rainy morning
I know I usually write (these days) a post on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays, but I cannot take another moment of looking at the Little Prince and the image of the Eiffel Tower on my previous post. It's been a tough weekend for sure, because we are all reeling from the carnage in Paris and now worrying about the future. The terrorists have succeeded in bringing me to tears every time I allow myself (in my thoughts) to leave the safety I find in the world around me. So I will go back to last week.
For a moment, I am as tall as Norma Jean
Peter took a bunch of pictures of the two of us, and in this post you see that I suddenly realized I needed to change places with Norma Jean so I could be the same height as her. She is thinking that this might not be real, but as you can see I'm happy about it. I realize that with every passing year I'm shrinking in height, but for now, I'm standing tall!
Alicia and her toes
When I was Alicia's age, I could suck my toes, too. But you know, that was a LONG time ago. Isn't she cute? I had such a good time in Florida that I'm thinking I might not wait another year before heading back to where I could visit this adorable creature, her sister Lexie, their mother Allison, my own sister Norma Jean, and Peter the Chef who spoiled me with fabulous dishes every night.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

There are no words

Taken from a friend's Facebook profile

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wonderful and windy Oyster Dome

Al, Kirk and Joy leading the group
Twelve intrepid Senior Trailblazers decided to brave today's discouraging forecast and hike up to Oyster Dome. The rain was forecast to start around 10:00am and keep up for days. Not to mention high winds, so I was a little surprised that so many of us decided to brave the elements. We go out rain or shine but our numbers are usually fewer when the weather looks bad. I went to that little search box on my sidebar and looked up previous trips up Oyster Dome, searching particularly for one time when we got drenched and didn't even stop for lunch. It was in November 2013.
Big leaf maple leaves littered the trail
It wasn't exactly warm, with a cold wind and the temperature in the mid-forties (8 C), and we were expected at any moment to encounter rain. I noticed that we have always done this hike in April and November, at the beginning and end of our winter season in the Chuckanuts. The trail has been improved greatly over the past few years, and we saw that construction is still continuing. It's almost easy (other than the elevation gain) to get to Oyster Dome.
At the Dome and the wind was fierce
It was still not raining by the time we reached the Dome around 10:30am, so we decided to descend to get out of the wind and make our way over to Lily Lake. We've almost always done a nice loop hike so that we don't have to go back down the steep and slippery trail to the Dome. They have added some signage that sort of tells the tale of Oyster Dome.
It's pretty graphic, don't you think?
At Lily Lake, we stopped for lunch. We looked for some place out of the wind, but we weren't really successful. It was tolerable, but nobody wanted to lounge around at lunch time, as you can see from this picture.
Al, Joy, Dave, Roger, Steve
Although it wasn't warm, you might be wondering about a missing element: rain. No rain! We couldn't believe our luck, but the hike wasn't over yet, since we were only at the halfway point here and still needed to head back via Max's Shortcut and Samish Overlook. We packed up and took off through the trees, where we could hear the wind howling overhead but only occasionally reaching us. You might notice there are no pictures at the Overlook: there were times we could barely stand up in the intense wind, so we scurried back into the trees to hike the final leg back to the cars.
Lots of yellow leaves
On this section of the trail, we continued to hear howling wind above us but felt protected from it, except for the possibility of a tree being uprooted and falling on us. But it was really rather strange: all that weather seemed very removed from us. Still no rain. Occasionally we had a drop or two, thinking it was the beginning, but then it stopped.
Carol and big leaf maple leaves
When we reached our cars, Carol decided to gather some of the beautiful leaves to take home to a friend, and I was delighted to take this picture. We had covered more than nine miles and up and down around 2,500 feet of elevation, so you might guess we were all tired. But the fact that the rain didn't impede our enjoyment and that we had so much fun together today reminds me why I love this group so much.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Last day in Florida

Norma Jean swimming laps
I enjoyed today's swim very much, since the intense heat is almost back to normal Florida temperatures. Which is still WAY too warm for me. I looked this morning at Bellingham's temperature, and was surprised to see that it got down to freezing level! Forty degrees cooler than the Sunshine State. Tomorrow will be a travel day, and then I'll go out on my Thursday hike in what looks to be weather a little on the cool and wet side. No problem for me.

This morning after our swim, Norma Jean realized that she couldn't find her wallet. She didn't worry too much, thinking it had been misplaced. It wasn't. She didn't lock her car last night after we returned from the movies, and it was stolen out of her console. Fortunately there was nothing else of any value except, of course, her credit cards and driver's license. When we realized that it was indeed gone, she called the security police in her retirement community and the police.

After the police arrived, other neighbors saw his squad car and came over to say that their unlocked cars had been burgled as well. Although it meant canceling her cards and spending part of the day getting a new driver's license, she had not left anything else of value inside. A nearby neighbor was not so lucky. He lost his camera, binoculars, CDs, and other stuff I can't remember right now. Everyone around here usually feels pretty safe from thieves, but no more. You can be sure that everyone around here will be locking their cars and homes after this.

We know about when it happened, because Peter's dog Zen kept going in and out the doggy door and whining around 3-3:30am, but Peter didn't think much about it. Norma Jean said that her dog also whined and woke her about that time. The dogs knew someone was out there who didn't belong.

It wasn't the way I expected to spend my last day in Florida. The kids and Allison will be here for dinner tonight, and I'm busy packing up and getting ready for my day of travel tomorrow. Other than a few wrinkles here and there, it's been a wonderful visit, if a bit on the scorcher side. This fragile wilted Pacific Northwestern senior won't be visiting in November again any time soon!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Family time

Me in the back, Allison and Norma Jean, Alicia and Lexie
I am at Allison's home in Brandon (a suburb of Tampa), with my sister Norma Jean and Allison's two girls, Alicia (8 months) and Lexie (five last June). It's a different life, being around little ones. I guess I will get my fill of kids this week, and then I'll miss them when I go home. This morning I went to Hillsborough River, where my sister joined her newest exercise group, the Pink Dragon Ladies, a paddling group of breast cancer survivors who meet three times a week to practice and compete regularly. I captured this picture this morning of them.
Pink Dragon Ladies Paddling Team
These wonderful ladies are all ages and fitness levels, although all these ladies look to be incredibly fit. They went out for an entire hour of nonstop paddling this morning, which is twice as long as usual. It was possible for me to go on the boat as a guest, but I wanted to get pictures like this one. Plus there is a river walk and so I went for a nice walk while they paddled. It is still very hot, but the humidity has fallen a little and isn't quite as oppressive. I'm tired at the end of every day, though.
Norma Jean (with Icarus at her feet), and me with Zen (Peter's dog)
Peter, Norma Jean's son, took this picture of us while we were "watching TV" in the early evening. He showed us this picture in the morning to remind us what a lively visit we're having. But it's because we are pretty active during the day and, as usual, I fade really early. But I'm having a great time with family. More on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

It's hot here all right

We went for a three-mile walk this morning
Leave it to me to arrive in Florida during a heat wave. This part of Florida is experiencing record-setting heat and humidity. As I write this (a couple of hours after our walk), its already 90 degrees F with a heat index of 99. And this is in November! At home right now it isn't even 50 degrees while my friends are on their hike and I'm wilting in the sunshine. Thank goodness for a light breeze, at least.

We swam this morning at Norma Jean's YMCA, and I have to say that I wore out after about twenty minutes. I've got to build up to this swimming thing again, since my arms feel a little like wet noodles. Norma Jean swims for an hour and twenty minutes. But then again she does it every day. By the time I leave next  week, hopefully I'll have worked my way up to a least a half hour.
Norma Jean reading her iPad after our walk
Her son Peter lives with her and makes the most delicious meals. He has taken his auntie under his culinary wing, too, and I will be treated to salads every day that look like this one.
My lunch today, prepared by Peter
I will be going with Norma Jean to visit Allison tonight and will meet my littlest grand-niece and see Lexie again. You know I'll be taking plenty of pictures. Although it's really hot here, I am so happy to be with my sister again. It's worth it, and I do hope that I won't get so accustomed to the warmth that I forget how to be a Pacific Northwesterner. Nah. No chance of that. It sure did feel nice to swim outdoors, though.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Leaving on a jet plane

Taken from my front porch this weekend with my iPhone 6
This time tomorrow I'll be just about ready to arrive in Tampa, Florida, for a week-long vacation with my sister and her family. I'll meet my little grand-niece Alicia for the first time, and get reacquainted with Lexie, since it's been almost two years since I saw her last. She's now in kindergarten and learning to read, I hear. And Peter and Allison, Norma Jean's son and daughter.

I took that photo on Sunday afternoon as I was getting ready to meet Judy at the movie theater. We had the time change the previous night, and so although the movie was starting at 3:00pm, it was already getting late in the afternoon for me. By the time we left the theater, it was pitch dark, and it was only a little after 5:00pm!

What movie did we see? We saw Steve Jobs, a rather controversial movie about the co-founder of Apple, who died in 2011. I am an Apple fan, typing this post on my second MacBook Air (I got a new version after my first one turned three, with a hard drive twice the size of my first). And I own an iPhone 6, which has turned into my main camera, since it takes such great pictures. If you click on the link above, you'll go to a Hollywood Reporter article about some of the controversy. When I returned home from the theater, I immediately got on the internet to see how much of the movie is true to life.

First of all, the movie is mostly about Jobs' relationship to his first daughter, Lisa, who was born out of wedlock. He initially denied paternity. The movie makes it seem like he's a really unpleasant person in many ways that were highlighted with little to no redeeming qualities. He had a sister, Mona Simpson, who wrote a very moving eulogy about her brother who sounds nothing like the person portrayed in the movie. I read more than one piece that called the movie a "character assassination." His wife (not even mentioned in the movie) tried everything she could to keep it from being made, because she feared something like this would happen.

If you go, remember that. He was a great man who died before his time, in my opinion. And I'll get the biography of Jobs that was written by Walter Isaacson. It looks really tempting, and I might even spring for the $13 Kindle version and bury myself in it while I'm traveling tomorrow.
Leaves, taken with my iPhone 6 this morning
Until we meet again on Thursday, I'll be traveling from one end of the country to the other, but I'll be with my sister tomorrow! I am excited, not for the travel, but for the end result.