Sunday, February 28, 2010

Missing in action

Yes, I know. I've been missing in action. I have had my nose buried in this book, Cutting for Stone, for the past few days, and I'm only halfway through. Every page of this book is filled with such vivid imagery and the characters are so alive to me that I must force myself to put it down every now and then. Even though I want to skip ahead to find out what's going to happen, I'm afraid of missing something of the beautifully drawn characters, so I refuse to rush through this story. A short excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Not a word is wasted in this larger-than-life saga. ... Verghese expertly weaves the threads of numerous story lines into one cohesive opus. The writing is graceful, the characters compassionate and the story full of nuggets of wisdom.
I waited until this book came out in paperback, which was just recently, before I bought it. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you want a big (667 pages) and absorbing book to read. I'll be back when I'm done!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Silence of the yams

I've been reading Michael Pollan's latest book, Food Rules, when I'm on the bus or sitting quietly at home. It's entirely different from his last two books that I have read, The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Both of those books are long and involved, with lots of references and places to go for more information. That is not to say I didn't enjoy both of them immensely. This one is based on his seven words about how to choose what to eat:
Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.
The book is divided into those three parts, with little sayings at the top of each of 64 Food Rules. The title of this blog is from Rule #8:
Avoid food products that make health claims.
He says that really good foods don't need to make health claims, because they are not usually in a package. Only the big food manufacturers have enough money to get FDA-approved health claims for their products. From p. 19 of the book:
The healthiest food in the supermarket -- the fresh produce -- doesn't boast about its healthfulness, because the growers don't have the budget or the packaging. Don't take the silence of the yams as a sign they have nothing valuable to say about your health.
Another thing I like about the book is that he isn't an absolutist, he just asks that you read the book and take at least one thing from each of the three sections. The book takes only a short while to read, but it's a lovely thing to carry around with you to start conversations. Plus it helps to be chuckling at some witty thing Pollan wrote to lighten up your day. Eating well doesn't need to be a grim business!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chinscraper trail

You know I can never resist a picture of a mossy tree, and this one is no exception. (Click any picture to enlarge.) The day was a little rainy and overcast when we started out, and although the forecast was for it to stop raining, I didn't expect any views today. There's a reason this trail we took in the Chuckanuts is called "Chinscraper trail." Fourteen Senior Trailblazers started the hike on an old logging road that winds moderately uphill. I say "moderately," because when we turned off to start the hike up Chinscraper, the uphill got decidedly steeper. We gained 1,800 feet in around three miles, and many places where a switchback would have been welcome, the trail just went straight up. I had to stop several times to catch my breath.
By the time we reached Gates Overlook, there was little to see except the fog that had rolled in, and we were drenched with sweat from having pushed so hard to get up Chinscraper trail to the overlook. Usually you have a great view of Bellingham Bay from here. After a short break and time to add clothing, we decided to hike to Fragrance Lake for lunch, giving us a round trip of a little more than 9 miles by the time we would get back to the trailhead.
Once we reached Fragrance Lake, the sun broke out, and by the time we headed back, there wasn't a cloud in the sky! Although it was a little chilly, we had a nice lunch and some of us played around near the water. Mike always has his umbrella with him on rain days, and this was no exception. We call him "Mikey Poppins" for obvious reasons.
The completely clear skies didn't last long, though, and on the way back a few of us took a quick side trip (just a quarter mile) to a viewpoint that I couldn't resist, since there was a possibility for a picture! This was taken at the viewpoint looking out over Bellingham Bay. You can see the clouds have already started to roll back in.
All in all, it was a very satisfying day, with rain, wind, fog, and even sunshine! To hike with these special friends of mine is always a pleasure, too. I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bodies: The Exhibition

Today Smart Guy and I joined 32 others for a Senior Center outing to Seattle and this: Bodies: The Exhibition. I don't know if you know much about it, but these are actual bodies that were prepared using a process called polymer preservation. From a book I bought about the exhibit:
In this process, tissue water is first removed by submersion in acetone. Then the acetone, too, is removed in a vacuum chamber. During this step in the process, known as impregnation, the tissue spaces within the specimen, formerly filled with acetone, become filled instead with liquid silicone rubber. Lastly, during a step called curing, the silicone rubber is treated with a catalyst and hardened. The end product is a rubberized specimen that can be easily examined without any chance of it deteriorating due to the natural decay that otherwise would have rendered it unfit for study or public view.
This is an amazing exhibit. I had heard that the bodies were of Chinese prisoners, so the first question I asked of one of the roaming white-coated staff was where the bodies were obtained. I found that, contrary to the rumors, these bodies had been Chinese citizens whose bodies were unclaimed and had died a natural death. She told me none of them had shown any signs of having died any other way, except for a few that had signs of disease, which we saw: healthy lungs versus a smoker' lungs, cirrhotic livers, breast cancer.

In many cases we saw the entire body preserved as in the picture above, from head to toe, with parts removed in order to see inside. Although it sounds really gross, it wasn't at all; instead, it was beautiful to see how elegant and complex our bodies really are. We first went to the Seattle Cheesecake Factory for lunch (beforehand!) and after seeing the exhibit, we were all picked up outside by our huge bus to head home to Bellingham.
Our wonderful escort from the Senior Center, Bernyce, was a pleasure to have around shepherding us from place to place. In my opinion, this is definitely the way to experience Seattle: no drive, no parking, and zero hassle once we were there. If you get a chance to see this exhibit, or if you already have, I'd love to know what YOU thought of it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bucket list

Well, this is embarrassing. Several of my blogging buddies wrote down a list of things they want to accomplish before they "kick the bucket." This idea was popularized recently with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starring in a movie by the same name. I haven't seen it yet, but I'll probably put it in my Netflix queue and watch it sometime.

I couldn't think of anything I haven't already done to put on a list of things I want to experience before the Big Sleep. Nothing. Nada. I've slept under the stars without a tent, made love in the surf, kissed in the rain, run a marathon (well, a half marathon anyway), traveled to exotic places (more than once), bicycled across the country, made a few skydives, held a wild hawk in my hands, and found a nice place to retire after having had a satisfying career.

But then, I realized there are LOTS of unaccomplished things in my life, things that I would definitely like to attain before I die: to find a constant peaceful state of mind, to become a master of meditation, to learn how better to deal with the aging process, and finally, to let go of old hurts and grudges so that I will be squeaky clean when I pass over.

I'm sure there are more, but I am also inspired by an excerpt from a poem written by Chief Dan George, a Coast Salish native who became a movie actor at the age of sixty and even got an Academy Award nomination for his part in Little Big Man. He wrote poetry and helped people better understand the First Nations people.
Between the first campfire and the last
of each day I searched for food,
made shelter, clothing and weapons
and always found time for prayer.
Inspiration can always be found by studying the lives of those who came before, so that's my final entry on the list: learn from my ancestors.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Alien invasion

Playing around with Picnik (a "free" photo editing software that pulled me in quickly to get the $25/year premier version). I was amused by this picture thinking that these mushrooms really DO look like aliens. Or what I imagine aliens might look like; I'm not sure I've ever seen one.

Humor is not one of my strong points, and every time I read a funny blog I think I'll try it out again. Sorry to say, all my readers are going to be subjected to this every once in a while. I do believe there are aliens out there, a product of my many years of reading science fiction.

What do you think? Are there such things as aliens? And how would we know them anyway, since they would be, um, alien?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Three wonderful jumps

Yes, three! We arrived at the Drop Zone right around 11:00am, to find Linny already there and organizing the first jump of the day. In this picture, Smart Guy and I are boarding the plane, a sweet little Cessna Caravan that takes us up two miles above the earth, with Puget Sound in one direction, the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Baker in other directions, all of which were clear as a bell on that first jump. It was a bit chilly on the ride up, but heck, it is February after all!

Once we landed, Linny and I went to pack our parachutes quick as we could, so we could make what we thought would be our second and last jump of the day, since Linny had to leave for work by 3:00pm. The jump was so much fun and after we landed and started to pack, Linny came running over to me (it was 1:45pm) asking if I could pack quickly so we might make yet another jump!
I did a quick but thorough pack job and up we went at 2:30pm, landing right at 3:00! We managed to say a few goodbyes and there was Linny, running like crazy at 3:20pm to make it to her job (she's an usher in Seattle for some major venue). Linny is five years younger than me, has more than 3,000 skydives, almost all of them at the Snohomish Drop Zone, and is called the "Queen Mother" -- she has never arrived at the Drop Zone in all these years without having baked a goody that everybody enjoys until it's gone. She organizes skydives,  and she never fails to give the pilot a dollar bill when we get ready to take off. She says she will take it back if the pilot scares her; otherwise it's theirs to keep. There's nobody quite like her, and I love to see my cellphone ring with a call from Linny telling me to get myself and my equipment to the DZ: the weather's great! My day was, well, perfect.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Going skydiving

Well, the season is coming! Tomorrow I'm heading up to Snohomish to enjoy my first skydive of the decade, unless it's too cold and I chicken out. It should be in the low to middle 50s on the ground, which means it will be (brrrr!) cold at altitude and in the airplane.
This is a picture of Smart Guy and me coming in to land at Harvey Field in Snohomish after a skydive last summer. It was much warmer that day than it will be tomorrow, but I thought I'd like to show you our pretty canopies, both a brand called Stiletto. They used to be state of the art, and nowadays they are considered to be older technology, but they're still hot!

My need and desire to skydive has diminished considerably over the years, but I still get a great deal of enjoyment from the activity, especially when I have friends who smile at me in freefall and, after we land, come over to enjoy the grins and smiles from our activity in the air. There's nothing like it. Now I'm not trying to convince anybody to do this, but if you do get a chance to make a tandem jump, you might get hooked, like I did. After all, I was 47 when I made my first jump, and I'm still at it twenty years later. Not making very many, but after more than 4,000 of them, and 64 hours of accumulated freefall time, I'm definitely not on the first (or second, or third) rush of excitement.

That's not to say I'm not excited and feeling butterflies, thinking of making a jump after five months on the ground. I made my last one at the end of September, and then I crashed and hurt my shin while hiking! I'll let you know how it goes, and how it felt after a layoff. Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dreaming in Technicolor

Does everybody dream in Technicolor? I know I do. Last night I had the most vivid dream, and I woke up thinking it had happened in real life. It took me a couple of minutes to put together than I had been dreaming. 

I do wonder if I am normal or not. Not only are my dreams in vivid color, at least parts of them, but it's almost always night in my dreams. Smart Guy says of course, we ALL dream in color, and it's B&W that is not normal, because that's not the way the world looks. But I do wonder, you know?

I used to record my dreams as soon as I woke up. If I did it before I was in a full waking state, I can re-read what I wrote and remember the dream. Here's a long-ago dream from my journal:
I dream I become a fashion designer. There are two women who see me with a mannequin, which I am draping with purple and red material. They tell me I have talent and offer me a job, which I begin immediately. I am told to step into high heels and start answering the phone. I am confused and excited, and call my family to tell them I have started a new career.
I also notice that if I record a dream when I first awaken, it is always in the present tense. Once I've been awake for awhile, I write it down in past tense. Sometimes it makes me wonder if our "real" selves don't exist in the time-space continuum at all but in some other place that we get to visit in our dreams. Just wondering out loud.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mt. Erie and Sugarloaf

Today, eighteen Trailblazers set out from Heart Lake in Skagit County (south of Bellingham) to hike under eight miles but up (and down) 2,500 feet to the top of Mt. Erie and Sugarloaf Mountain. The hike is lovely, along leaf-strewn and ferny trails in the Anacortes Community Forest Land. Last year when we did the same hike, it was overcast and dreary in Bellingham, and although we hiked up above the clouds, we stayed cold all day long, even in the sun.
Not today. it was sunny and calm all day, with the temperature somewhere near 60 (15 C), even at the summit (1,263 feet). The only disconcerting part is hiking all that way and then coming to a paved road, which goes the entire way to the top. Of course we didn't care about that, we wanted the hiking experience. Here's a picture of our lunch spot, with the hikers all scattered around, commenting on how it wasn't even necessary to put on our jackets when we reached the summit, because it was so toasty warm in the sunshine.
 The views at the top were new to me, because last year we didn't see much other than a few features hovering through the fog when it would lift now and then. I have never seen Glacier Peak look so beautiful before. It's not easily seen on any of our other hikes, but here it is in all its glory. This is what I missed last year!
And Linda, one of our hikers from the Ferndale contingent, pointed out this fungus to me on the way up, which I chose to capture on the way back down. (I would have had to hike back down to take it earlier.) It's really quite lovely, isn't it? (You can click any picture to enlarge.) All in all, we had a great day, I'll sleep well tonight, and I'm even feeling a little sunburned!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A mixed bag

First of all, I'd like to share a picture that Smart Guy sent me yesterday, showing some REAL snow. I'm not sure where it was taken, but I think it's a little more than the East Coast has right now. I know it's "somewhere in Switzerland." That's one strong roof!

And guess who's coming to dinner at my place? This Cooper's Hawk. I have gotten a little bit used to the fact that he sees my bird feeders as HIS dinner, and he's right: he's a hawk, a raptor after all, and his dinner is usually one of my well-fed bird treats. It's the way the system works. I took this picture after he swooped in and missed. He hung around for awhile longer before flying off, but I have seen him before able to catch one on the wing. Amazing how much he blends into the tree, isn't it? (Click to enlarge)
Finally, I just read two rather distressing posts by some people I follow regularly. The first was from Tiff over at Still Seeking Sanity. She's got four young kids and went to Chuck E. Cheese and wrote this post about her experience there. It makes me totally and completely scared about the future of our next generation. She wrote that some parents just stood by and let their children rifle through other people's things and actually watched them try to hurt other kids, without a word to them. This is wrong.

And Jeff over at My Life... Lived My Way, who is a teacher and wrote a post called "Tired" relates how discouraged he is about the way people are not standing up to, well, anything. (Warning: he uses the F word in this post.) I never thought I would say this and really mean it, but I truly am wondering "what is the world coming to?" And especially, what is OUR world coming to?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Right around the corner

And what might that be? Spring, of course! For all of you in the snowy and frigid East, here's what the Pacific Northwest looks like during the Winter Olympics. Jo over at A Majority of Two wrote a post on Sunday about her Winter Olympic magnolias (she lives in Vancouver, about an hour north of me). I took this picture of a miniature daffodil covered with raindrops as I walked in here to write a new post (click to enlarge).
Walking back to catch the bus after my morning workout, I saw this ornamental plum tree beginning to blossom out. It is the 16th of February! Although thinking back, I don't remember the dates I began to see all of this happening last year. However, we had an extremely cold January then, and this year we tied the record for the warmest January ever in Bellingham. So I suppose it's normal for everything to be springing up. My favorite meteorological website, Cliff Mass Weather Blog, has also said we have a Rex block setting up for the rest of the week, which will push our gardens even more. I don't mind. I'll leave you with a picture of the quintessential spring flower: the crocus, from outside my apartment.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's de-frikkin-lightful!

I'll bet you don't know what a tmesis is. I didn't, until I received in my emailbox the World Wide Words edition for the week. It comes every Saturday, and if you click on the link, you can sign up to get it too.

Back to what a tmesis (pronounced tuh-MEE-sis) might be. Well, according to Michael Quinion, who writes the World Wide Words website, it's the stuffing of one word into another, as in the title of this post. The origin of the word is from Ancient Greek, meaning "cutting." Interestingly, in Australia it's also known as a tumbarumba. They often insert the word "bloody" inside two words, as in "abso-bloody-lutely." Wikipedia gives some humorous ways that a tmesis is used in the English language:
  • Any-old-how," in which the divisibility of "anything" (as in "any old thing") is mimicked with the usually indivisible "anyhow."
  • "A-whole-nother", in which another (an+other) is reanalyzed as a+nother.
  • "Legen-wait for it-dary," in which the phrase "wait for it" is inserted into the word "legendary."
Isn't this fun? When I told Smart Guy about it, he said the first time he ever heard it used was by a friend many years ago, who said, "My hammer has disa-frackin-peared!" (except the word was not "frackin" but you can guess what it was).

The funny thing is that I've heard the phrase "a whole nother" my entire life and didn't even think about the fact that "nother" is not a word or that I had heard somebody make a tmesis!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I watched the Olympics on TV yesterday, since I can get the Canadian station that shows it happening live. In this picture, Jennifer Heil (on the left) settled for a silver medal in the mogul freestyle competition because Hannah Kearney beat her out for the gold medal by less than one point. It turns out that Canada is the only country never to have won a gold medal on its own turf. Heil was on track to win that first gold medal until the last competitor of the day, Kearney, got a teeny bit higher score.

It was hard to watch Jennifer try to smile, try to be happy with the silver medal, because she was so close. I'm sure there are lots of people who love competition, but sometimes I wonder. So much striving to be the world's best: is it a good thing or not! "The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat."

Does somebody decide to try to be the best in the world or does competition drive it? I couldn't help but think, as I watched the ski jumpers getting points for the longest run PLUS style points, of the judges sitting down below looking at all the nuances of the jump, nitpicking every little thing and mysteriously giving or taking points.

I'm sure that Canada will get a gold medal in these Olympics, and that I will love watching the sports, but I can't help but wonder if competition is good for the soul...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy New Year

Did you know that Valentine's Day and the Chinese New Year are both this Sunday, February 14? Yes, it's a coincidence that doesn't happen very often. The Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. This picture is from a traditional Chinese New Year's greeting, and I thought that showing a happy couple seemed very appropriate.

This will be the Year of the Tiger, following the Year of the Ox. I happened to be in China during the festivities once, and that's when I realized that the whole country comes to a halt for a week! And every other minute we were treated to (1) a banquet, or (2) a parade with paper dragons. It did make it difficult to get around, but we had our trusty Chinese guide to help us. Qian (that's his name) was indispensable because there are so many important traditions, and we didn't want to offend.

On New Year's Eve, everyone cleans their house from top to bottom, and cleans and re-arranges their household altar, in order to sweep all the old away and make room for the new. Nobody is supposed to sweep or clean on New Year's Day, because then you would be sweeping away all the luck for your coming year.

According to this page, people born during the Year of the Tiger (1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998) are "usually straightforward and outgoing by nature. They will never give up no matter how aggravated they may become. But, they are also full of suspicion and at times will take hasty action." More information about these people is available on that link.

And it all comes to a close (the festivities, I mean) on the day of the Chinese Lantern Festival, which falls on February 28 this year. So let's clean house and get ready to receive lots of Good Luck!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Almost finished sweater

I've got three pictures of my almost-finished sweater in this post (click to enlarge). I like this one because you can see how the bottom garter stitch of the sweater rolls up. Blocking the sweater is the last step before it's finished. I decided to make the sweater with three-quarter sleeves because I realized that I ALWAYS roll up the sleeves, why not make them the length I want? I think I made them a smidgen too short, but I don't have a clue how I would lengthen them by an inch without a whole lot of grief. Next sweater, maybe.

I'm wearing the sweater right now, and it feels good, except it's really warm. In this picture (below), you can see the way the sweater is supposed to hang on the bottom, but it doesn't, so I think before I block it, I will hem the garter stitch up, since that stitch is the same on either side (row of knit, row of purl). (The color is different because I used the flash.)
I called my family's expert knitter, my aunt Quetita, and she said she has NEVER had a problem like that (stitches rolling up), and she thought my solution would be a good one. She also suggested simply sewing the side seams closed so it wouldn't roll up. Anyway, I'm done, and I have two skeins left, so I think my next project will be a pair of felted mittens, since this yarn is supposed to be the best for felting!! Gotta have something to work on, since I'm almost done with this project. Here's a picture of me in the sweater where I I think look a little like my sister Norma Jean!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In the pink

What makes you happy? Valentine's Day is a time for us to remember those we love, and those we miss who are still in our hearts, even if they are gone. This picture (spiffed up a little with the help of Picnik) of some Washington state rhododendrons, taken last spring, makes me happy when I look at it. Pink is one of my favorite colors.

Several blogging buddies have been getting into the spirit by listing things they love. I decided to make a list of some of the things that make me happy:
  1. Smart Guy. Sharing my life, everything that matters to me, with another person who listens and supports me makes me very grateful to have found him.
  2. Living here in the Pacific Northwest, where the mountains and the sea come together.
  3. A community that supports its seniors by having a great bus system and the Center for Senior Health.
  4. A warm, safe place to come home to, a rented apartment where when something goes wrong, somebody else has to fix it, not me.
  5. My birds. I feed them and they entertain me. I especially enjoy seeing my little sparrow with the broken wing, who flies just as well as the others. He comes by every day.
  6. The friends I've made here. Sometimes I think about those I left behind in Boulder, but mostly I'm grateful for all the wonderful people I get to hike and work out with every day.
  7. Great veggies and other good food healthily prepared by Smart Guy.
  8. My children. Even though they are both gone now, they are still in my heart and I believe one day when I pass over to the other side, we will be together again.
  9. My family. My siblings are very precious to me, and two of them even read my blog on a regular basis! All of them, however long it's been since I've seen them, add to my blessings.
  10. And how could I forget my blogging friends? You light up my life, every single day, when I read what you have written and rejoice in our diversity.
What makes YOU happy? I'd love to hear about it, if you feel like counting YOUR blessings.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hot stone massage

Last week I tried something a little different when I got my massage: hot stones. It was pretty special, I must say! My massage therapist spent about 90 minutes with me instead of the usual 60, since she had to reheat the stones and place new warm ones on me several times. She had oiled stones of various sizes and when I was lying face down (as in the picture), she put warm oiled stones into my hands and onto the soles of my feet while she worked my back with the hot stones.

Also while I was face down, as she worked on my arms and legs she left nice warm stones up and down my back, and then when I was turned face up, she had some nice flat warm stones in a towel under my back. By the time I was finished with the massage, I had some difficulty getting up off the table and dressed, because I was SO RELAXED.

Although this was a delightful treat, I don't think I will do it on a regular basis. This is only because I usually feel energized after a massage. But if you have this available somewhere in your own town, I would recommend it as a fabulous Valentine's Day gift, either for yourself or your partner.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Crazy Heart

Yesterday my friend Judy and I went to the movies again. This time we saw "Crazy Heart" which is playing in the art venue (a small 75-seat theater), the Pickford Theater, here in Bellingham. We got there early so we would be sure to get in, because we heard that the lines were around the building.

Sure enough, even a half hour before the doors opened, the line had started. There's a reason for this, although most of us in line wondered why it was not playing in any of the major theaters. The movie was made to be a direct-to-video release, and wasn't even scheduled to be in any theaters until it was bought by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The movie is about Bad Blake, an alcoholic down-and-out country musician played by Jeff Bridges. The story opens with him arriving at a bowling alley where he's scheduled to perform, and he gets out of his old station wagon looking like, well, a serious has-been. From one of the Rotten Tomato reviews:
As Bad Blake steps out of his truck upon his arrival for a bowling-ally gig, Cooper (the director) shows his audience exactly what a mess of a man he has become -- all in less than 20 seconds of screen time.
Anybody who has spent any time with a musician and/or a drunk will see how authentically this portrayal of Bad Blake was captured by Bridges. He's got nothing left in his life except booze and his music, and you can't help but feel he's at the end of the road. And then he meets Jean, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and although she can see who he is, she gets involved with him anyway. She's got a four-year-old son who Blake begins to care about, too.

Blake wants to clean himself up and tries, but he can't. And then he does something that causes Jean to break up with him, and he retreats into the bottle. The scenes of him with his bottle, staring into the depths of his soul, are so heartfelt and wrenching that I just sat in the movie theater with tears streaming down my face. And then he calls his friend and says he wants to get sober.

Blake goes to AA and finds his way back to life. It's so beautifully done. Bad Blake and his life were the first things I thought about when I woke this morning. It's a movie well worth seeing, and it ends with you believing that Blake will make it. I hope that Bridges wins an Oscar for this performance, because he richly deserves it. Maggie is also nominated for her performance. If you get a chance to see this movie, I hope you do.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Waffle-y wedded

I don't know whether you saw this video when it came out last fall. It actually happened right here in my new home town of Bellingham. I would like to dedicate it to every couple that wants to live together with lots of laughter in their lives. I cannot watch it without laughing, no matter how many times I see it!

I'm thinking of Valentine's Day themes this coming week, with next Sunday being the Big Day. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thinking about borders

As many people will be heading to Canada next week for the Winter Olympics, I was thinking about border crossings. Here in northern Washington, going across in Canada is pretty easy, but sometimes getting back across into the United States is not so straightforward. Now you need a passport.

But there ARE countries where border crossings are not so hard. This picture shows the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. Although it's usually known as Holland, I learned that the Netherlands are made up 12 provinces, two of which are North and South Holland, and the people are also known as "Dutch." From that Wikipedia link:
The word "Dutch" is used to refer to the people, the language, and anything pertaining to the Netherlands. This lexical difference between the noun and the adjective is a peculiarity of the English language and does not exist in the Dutch language. The adjective "Dutch" is derived from the language that was spoken in the area, called "Diets," which equals Middle Dutch.
Now that's a very complicated way to describe a country, isn't it? Three different names, but a very civilized border crossing between two countries. I sure wish it could be like this everywhere.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stewart's south summit

Yesterday, 16 Senior Trailblazers headed up to what we usually call "Cub Creek" from the north shore of Lake Whatcom here in Bellingham. But since the day dawned crisp, clear, and without a trace of snow, we decided to try a hike up higher than we usually do, and more challenging. Last year we were turned back on Stewart Mountain much earlier because of snow, but since Bellingham tied the record for the warmest January EVER last month, we had no snow and abundant sunshine.
About half the hike was on trail and half on road as in these pictures (click on any to enlarge). We started at 400 feet and ended up at 3,100 feet, but the aggregate uphill (and downhill) we accomplished was almost 3,000 feet, covering just under 12 miles. This was grueling for me, because the uphill was mostly quite steep, and the downhill very hard on the joints, even using the trekking poles. We also passed under power lines, which buzzed and hummed, and in this picture you can see the power lines and the long shadows from the February sun.
As we gained altitude, we got some really glorious views. In the foreground you can see power lines, with Lake Whatcom in the lower right, and Bellingham Bay in the middle of the picture. Looking to the southwest, we could see the area where we hiked last Thursday, in Anacortes, with the Olympics in the far background. However, the real excitement came from our views of the Twin Sisters and Mt. Baker, which I have now seen from just about every side. This was taken from the south summit of Stewart Mountain, Baker on the left and the Sisters on the right.
The area where we hiked has a fair amount of clear cut, using the trees for logging purposes and leaving behind rather unsightly piles of detritus and denuded hilltops. Although I have tried to keep those pictures out of view, it's impossible as I show you our lunch spot, high atop the south summit.
It was a little cold from the wind, but the temperature, if not balmy, was very mild for the first week in February. After lunch, we were all happy to make our way back down to the trailhead, tired, sore, and feeling like we accomplished quite a lot for a bunch of old geezers and geezettes. If you enlarge this last picture, you can clearly see the denuded hillside directly in front of us. Although these might seem annoying, I am still so thrilled that I have (1) a wonderful place to hike every week, (2) a great bunch of people to hike with, and (3) the physical ability to still keep on trekkin'!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Seattle flower show

Three of us, Judy, Karen and I traveled down to Seattle with the Senior Center to attend one day of the five-day-long flower show. Last year was supposed to be the last one, but it was opened under new management, and I found it to be every bit as good as last year's. Click on any picture to enlarge. We walked in and saw (and smelled!) myriad flower beds, a reminder that spring is just around the corner!
We not only had REAL flowers to look at, but ingenious ones made of bottle caps and other whimsical things. Another great way to recycle, isn't it?
Here's a closeup of a beautiful display. This is from one of the flower arrangements that competed for Best in Show. I loved all the textures and exotic flowers in this one.
And there were faces in the crowd, both from lots of people and this one hiding in the garden. These ceramic sculptures are available in many different sizes. I didn't see it at first, and then I could not NOT see it!
Some people had ideas of how to recycle old trucks, like this one. Frankly, this seems like a lot better idea than putting it in a landfill. Fill it with land and plant it!
One entire section was filled with elegant arrangements like this one. Each was credited to a single artist and the school the artist attends. I think this one is especially graceful.
Throughout the show, we saw so many different plants I have never heard of before. Now I have heard of a Tasmanian Devil, but here is a picture of a Tasmanian Angel. All in all, we had a great time, and now I must plant my bulbs as soon as I get back from my hiking trip tomorrow. This retirement business is sure filled with adventures!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lunar fog bow

I'm heading off to the Seattle Flower Show (with camera) today, but this morning when I read my usual websites, I realized that you might not know about the Astronomy Picture of the Day. This is what they had on there yesterday, and it just took my breath away. Here's the description, from that page (all those links are from APOD):
Arching across the lower part of the image is a rare lunar fog bow. Unlike a more commonly seen rainbow, which is created by sunlight reflected prismatically by falling rain, this fog bow was created by moonlight reflected by the small water drops that compose fog. Although most fog bows appear white, all of the colors of the rainbow were somehow visible here. The above image was taken from high atop Haleakala, a huge volcano in Hawaii, USA.
And that lovely shining star is Mars, taken two weeks ago when it was very bright. Enjoy! Tomorrow, lots of flower pictures!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sweater coming along

The sweater I began last month is almost finished. All I have left are the sleeves, and I need some advice. First of all, as you can see in the above picture (click to enlarge), there are nifty side slits, which lie neatly on the model in the picture. But I was dismayed that both sides of mine curl right up. Note the heavy scissors I have laying across the bottom to keep it from turning up.

I went back to the yarn store and asked them about it, and the lady told me about blocking the sweater once I'm finished. I've never blocked anything before, but she assured me it would help, except for the unfortunate fact that the garter stitch is right in the crease of my lap when I'm sitting. Hmmm. She suggested that I turn it under and sew it down. I'm wondering what you knitters out there think.

I also decided to go ahead and make the sleeves three-quarter length rather than full length, since I notice that the most favorite sweaters I wear all the time have them. I'm going to do it and forget the pattern. Does anybody know about blocking? The sweater is 50% llama and 50% wool, which I'm told will take a wet block just fine. But I'm just not sure about getting a wool sweater wet and putting it in the shape I want.

You might also notice that halfway down the torso the variegated pattern of the yarn is slightly different. I suspect I didn't check the dye lots and got one with a little different color, but it's not too different and there's NO WAY I would tear it out to fix that!

The other thing, before I go, is that Lucy over at Secrets for Happiness gave me an award, and I'd like to acknowledge her and say (blush) thanks so much for thinking of me! I received the award earlier from AL, and I'll add Lucy's name here and tell you why I am not going to send it along to others, if you read this post that answers the questions that the blog rules ask for.

I think I'll be done with the sweater soon, especially since I'm going to shorten the sleeves. It does fit, and I'm looking to use the leftover yarn (quite a lot of it) to learn how to felt, since apparently this type of yarn is truly magnificent when felted. I think I'll try mittens if I can find the right pattern.

Tomorrow I'm heading off to Seattle to see the Flower Show for this year. Last year's show was supposed to be the final one, but somehow another one popped up. I had a great time then, and I'll be sharing with you my pictures and the whole event!