Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's never fun to be sick

Illness is awful, especially when you're traveling. Tuesday I spent the entire day in cars, airplanes and buses getting back home to Bellingham. Somewhere around midday I began to feel a bit queasy but didn't think much of it. As I boarded the plane and faced the more-than-four-hour flight, I settled in with my iPad and read The Life of Pi. I downloaded the book to read because I enjoyed the movie so much, and it successfully held my interest throughout the long flight.

Then I had a two-hour wait for the airport shuttle and faced another three-hour-long trip north. As the day wore on, I began to feel less interested in my book and more than a bit crummy, but nothing much out of the ordinary with such a long tiring day.

However, halfway through the bus ride, I realized I was not well at all and was only saved by the bathroom in the back of the bus. I spent some time vomiting and dealing with diarrhea before I got off and into the capable hands of Smart Guy. He immediately took me home and put me to bed. My teeth were chattering so hard I couldn't talk, and I couldn't get warm for ages. Many more bouts to the bathroom with each end of my body wanting to get rid of its contents. It was simply awful.

At first I thought I had food poisoning, but then I realized I was running a temperature of 100.2, which you just don't get when you ingest something bad. All day long yesterday I spent in bed, no appetite and no desire to get up. Although I spent the entire day either sleeping or laying in bed moaning, I had no problem falling into a deep sleep last night.

I woke this morning to a normal temperature and feeling almost human in comparison to the day before. Well, it wasn't the flu, to be that short a duration, so I checked the Magic Box (you knew I would). I found that there is something called a norovirus that has a 24-to-48-hour time frame. This link gives more information, but I found this particularly interesting:
When a person becomes infected with norovirus, the virus begins to multiply within the small intestine. After approximately one to two days, norovirus symptoms can appear. The principal symptom is acute gastroenteritis that develops between 24 and 48 hours after exposure, and lasts for 24–60 hours. The disease is usually self-limiting, and characterized by nausea, forceful vomiting, watery diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and in some cases, loss of taste. General lethargy, weakness, muscle aches, headache, coughs, and low-grade fever may occur.
Yep, I can pretty much figure that is what I had. But some people don't think the laws of physics apply to them, so I got up and dressed this morning to go on my usual Thursday hike. By the time I had dressed, I was completely exhausted. Okay then, I'll just go the gym and take my usual class. Or maybe the yoga class would relax me. Ha! By the time I got there, I knew that it would take all my energy just to take a shower and sit in the steam room. Then I went home and have been sitting and relaxing ever since. My fellow Senior Trailblazers are out there hiking the Madrone Crest, which we last visited in April of this year.

One thing I am learning as I find myself actually ELDERLY, I do have to pay attention to what my body is telling me or face the consequences. Today I am still waiting for my usual healthy appetite to return and am eating the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast). Although nothing is appealing, I know I need to eat and hydrate, so I am cooperating.

I took this picture on one of our trips to the Crest a while ago, with the lovely madrone tree's limb in the foreground. These trees are so interesting.
It will still be there when we visit it next, and I'll take a picture of this same spot then. For now, my task is to get well so I can have my usual vitality back once again.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A couple of great movies

This week I have gone to two different movies with my family here in Texas. The first is Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field. I think I can say without reservation that Day-Lewis' performance is without parallel in any movie I have seen for such a long time. He didn't just act the part, he BECAME Lincoln.

There were some uncomfortable moments in the movie when they portrayed the awfulness of the Civil War, with graphic scenes reminding the viewer how much more personal warfare was when men were grappling hand to hand with bayonets. And the scene where Lincoln rode in on horseback surveying the battlefield... oh, that broke my heart.

But the parts that were incredibly fascinating were there, too, seeing the way politics worked back then. Even though I knew the outcome of the vote to pass the 13th Amendment, in the movie it was so well done that I held my breath as the votes were cast. If you get a chance to see this movie, I don't think you will be disappointed. Not to mention if you are an Oscar aficionado, you will be required to see this one because it will receive all kinds of accolades. It is a movie I would see again, even with the violence, which was not gratuitous but necessary to understanding the decisions Lincoln made.

The other movie we saw together is The Life of Pi. It is based on the 2001 novel by Yann Martel and was made into a 3-D movie. You don't have to see it in 3-D, and since it had just been released and it was the day after Thanksgiving, we saw the 2-D version. It was still very crowded but nowhere near as much.

What can I say about this movie? It thrilled me in every aspect. Even though we didn't get the extreme effect of being inside the movie, it didn't detract from the experience at all. The visual elements are breathtaking in any dimension. The story was enthralling, from start to finish.

When I came home and read reviews of the movie, I realized that much of it was computer generated, and I had no idea which parts were real and which were not... it didn't matter to me at all, and I am indebted to the producers and directors for creating a film that tells a great story and gives it to us as a treasure.

I was reminded of Avatar when I saw it because of the lushness of the landscapes that were created, but this movie has something more: a strong message about religion and God that resonated deep within me. Some of the reviewers disliked this part of the movie, but I myself found it to be essential. I downloaded the book onto my iPad so I can read it during the long journey home on Tuesday. I peeked at it and was quickly drawn into the book, so I closed it to stop myself from reading it right then. It won the Booker Prize in 2002.

I will see this movie in 3-D with my partner when I return home. It is a movie for the ages. There's not much more I can say without giving away the plot (which is available on that Wikipedia link above if you want to read it), but I cannot praise either movie high enough. As different as they are from each other, they are both well worth seeing. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Stewart style

Norma Jean and Jan, 1995 and 2012
While perusing old pictures, we ran across the picture on the left, taken during a Thanksgiving gathering 16 or 17 years ago here in Texas. Norma Jean and I had bought novelty t-shirts with the saying "Two beers or not two beers: What was the question?" and hammed it up for the camera. Norma Jean arrived this week with the "Wines Constantly" t-shirt, and we embarked on a quest to find one for me so that we could re-create the experience for Thanksgiving 2012.

It was quite an adventure. We went to several malls and were given the idea that our best shot would be to try to find one in Grapevine, a nearby town with several wineries. We did indeed find one for me, but it was only after we had given up all hope. (Isn't that the way it always happens?) The first store we visited had some, but we didn't see this one. We decided to go back and have a wine tasting before heading home, and Norma Jean found the elusive shirt in a different section of the store. So today, Thanksgiving 2012, we decided to show in the above picture what happens when two dedicated beer drinkers turn to red wine.
Other than the beer-to-wine conversion picture, we had a very nice, quiet Thanksgiving celebration with our siblings, my brother's wife Phyllis and her sister Kay, and PJ's husband Stewart. We ate and played some games, while Stewart watched (is still watching) a football game. So I crept into the bedroom to write this post and read my favorite blogs to share Thanksgiving with all of YOU as well.

I don't return home until Tuesday, but Norma Jean leaves early in the morning. We walked together every day but one, and I will miss her. I know, however, that she is anxious to return home to her own life and her little dog who will cover her with kisses when he sees her. I have missed the worst of the rain in Washington state (I'm hoping anyway) and am enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures here in Texas very much. I am sending you love and my most sincere wishes that your family time is nourishing to you, as mine is for me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Birthday girls

Twenty years apart in age only
When your parents decide to have kids and forget to stop, you end up with wide differences in ages. Today my dear sister Fia is fifty years old, and in a few short days I will turn seventy. Last night all six of us siblings got together to celebrate. Ten years ago we gathered for the same event, rented a karaoke machine and all made fools of ourselves, having a great time doing it.

Last night we went to Fia's apartment clubhouse, a place large enough for us to have a gathering for us all to share a pre-Thanksgiving feast. I guess it's necessary to start stretching your stomach for the Big Day. (smile) Actually, since not everyone could celebrate Thanksgiving together, we had it early. It was wonderful, but of course I ate too much. It's a family tradition, not to mention it's almost un-American NOT to overeat on that one day out of the year. Unfortunately we are extending it out over several days.
Me, Norma Jean, PJ, Buz, Markee, Fia
Whenever we are together, we have the obligatory photo placing us in birth order, oldest to youngest. You might notice a little gremlin behind PJ; that's Chad, Fia's son. It was wonderful to see everyone again. Norma Jean and I talk on video chat frequently, so we didn't have to catch up.

PJ (whose name is really Patricia June but she's always been PJ to the family) is my sister who loves to tell jokes, so she had us all laughing (or groaning) for hours. Buz's name is really Norman Francis, but he has always been Buz or Buzzy to the family. He and his lovely wife Phyllis are hosting both Norma Jean and me for the duration. Markee (which is a contraction of Mary Katherine) lives with her family in Alberta, Canada and is very close to Fia (short for Sofia). They see each other more often than any of the rest of us.

It's only Monday and already there is talk about going to a restaurant for dinner tonight to celebrate Fia's birthday. More food, but at least a restaurant meal is finite, rather than huge mounds of food like last night's dinner, which consisted of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans almondine, three different salads, and three kinds of pie with actual heavy whipped cream. Even if you eat a tiny amount of each one, you end up groaning at the end of the meal.

Buz just said that since Thanksgiving is Thursday, we need to plan a couple of big dinners to keep keep up our regimen. One-two-one-two-CHOMP!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

We have arrived

Sister Norma Jean, brother Buz and Pixie the pup
It's later in the afternoon, after a day spent shopping for Thanksgiving goodies and stuff for the birthday party tonight. We learned yesterday that my sister Markee (who lives in Canada) arrived earlier today, so now all six of us are in the same place. Tonight we will go to my niece's house and we will see everyone! I am very excited.

I arrived late yesterday, met by Buz and Norma Jean. We stopped at Whole Foods and got some pizza and other goodies and came back home (to Buz and Phyllis' home, that is) to celebrate the first leg of our trip being finished. It was quite the trip through the security line in Seattle for me, since I had to have my bag searched. The TSA agent asked if I had any weapons or sharp objects in there, and I said no. I couldn't imagine what it was that alerted them. He opened the bag and went immediately to the object in question:
The killer rye bread
This loaf of bread is so dense that it looked like a weapon! Perhaps a brick? It's so solid that I suspect I could use it to defend myself. After he pulled it out of the suitcase, he ran it separately through the scanner and then re-scanned the bag. Finally through! The flight itself was uneventful, and the only problem I had last night was having more than one glass of wine.

This morning Norma Jean and I went out to the local park, and I felt much better after a brisk walk in the sunshine. I have realized that my capacity for alcohol has diminished considerably over the years. Now I am feeling quite well, ready for a party, but I think I will be much less cavalier about how much I imbibe. In fact, maybe I'll be the designated driver tonight.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Once more in the High Country

Church Mountain trail 15 Nov 12
Al just couldn't stand it, giving up the High Country without one more attempt. Although we met lots of snow on our hike to Goat Mountain last month, and it was supposed to be the last High Country hike of the year, he reasoned that the weather has been mild during the last week, and the snow we encountered then is probably melted from all the rain, so let's blow off our scheduled hike and head for the Church Mountain meadows. And he was so right! Eleven of us Senior Trailblazers drove three cars through the fog to start our hike at the trailhead without a flake of snow or a drop of rain and plenty of sunshine!
We knew that we would hit snow, since this hike starts at about 2,500 feet elevation and climbs relentlessly for another 2,500 feet in three miles until we reach the meadows. There was no thought of going past the meadows toward the summit of Church Mountain, since it was almost noon by the time we got to today's destination. As we ascended, we met more and more snow, and before we came out of the trees to the meadow, we had plenty of snow, and lots of it that was hanging on the trees started falling on our heads as we passed under them.
Stream crossing on our way to the meadows
The weather was mild, with only an occasional breeze. We kept ourselves warm since we were moving uphill continually, and the sun poked out through the trees every once in awhile. Then we reached the meadows and came out into the sun, with this spectacular view.
There is Mt. Baker and our friends the Sisters behind the snow-laden trees. We trudged through knee-deep snow to a nice sunny place where we could enjoy our lunch before heading back down. It was around noon when we stopped to enjoy this view and plopped ourselves down in the snow. We took awhile before we started back, and I took this picture, which could be a Christmas card for next month, don't you think?
It was simply a wonderful day, one we didn't expect to have again this season. Next time I am in the wilderness, I will be on snowshoes, there is no doubt. But today eleven Trailblazers enjoyed a very special day together. Chuckanut Ridge will still be on the schedule for another day, but I am so glad I got to spend this day in the High Country with some of my very best friends.
Sun, snow-covered trees, light layers of clouds, and eleven Seniors in the very best of spirits. We told jokes and sang together, reminisced about things we did as youngsters, and once we got back to our respective homes, I think I can say for every one of us that it was a day to remember.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Travel in the forecast

I took this picture on Saturday at the Farmers' Market. The fire is being prepared by the local pizza maker who makes pizzas on the spot for the locals. It was really cold on Saturday morning and I was drawn to this nice warm fire. Our market will continue to be open until the middle of December, but almost everybody is gone now, with just a few vendors around, but there are still lots and lots of veggies.
Yum! I think it's time to start thinking about making soups. Notice that the vendor is not standing around in shirtsleeves. However, that soup will have to wait until I get home from Texas. I leave on Friday for a nice visit with my siblings, to celebrate Thanksgiving together and some fun big birthdays: my seventieth and my sister Fia's fiftieth. How is it possible? Where did the time go? Now I'm really sounding like an old fart!
The Senior Trailblazers must be doing something right: look at the forecast for the upcoming few days. The only day without rain forecast is on Thursday. And as you can see, it's raining now but not all that cold. I think I'll go do some shopping, since time is running out before I start the long journey to Texas!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembering Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada and the UK. They are the same thing, really, with different names and a slightly different focus. Yesterday I saw several people walking around with a poppy and found that each person I asked about it is Canadian. Since today is Veterans Day here, I wondered how it happened to be similar but not quite. I found this information on line:
The common British, Canadian, South African, and ANZAC tradition includes either one or two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:00 a.m., 11 November), as that marks the time (in the United Kingdom) when the armistice became effective.
Now I understand why I never heard of Veterans Day when I was young: it was called Armistice Day and then was changed to Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is observed in the United States on 11 November, and is both a federal holiday and a state holiday in all states. However, the function of the observance elsewhere is more closely matched by Memorial Day in May. In the United States, and some other allied nations, 11 November was formerly known as Armistice Day; in the United States it was given its new name in 1954 at the end of the Korean War to honor all veterans. Veterans Day is observed with memorial ceremonies, salutes at military cemeteries, and parades.
Although I live not far from Canada, I looked in several places to buy myself a poppy to wear, and I couldn't find one. So I went on line and am now sending all of you a virtual poppy to help us remember those who served. And in less than an hour, I'm going to sit in silence and remember my own veterans, at 11:00 on 11/11.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Third time is the charm

This is the third time this year that the Senior Trailblazers have headed up to the south summit of Stewart Mountain, also called "Cub Creek." I'm not sure why we call it that, since there is no creek and no cub (that we saw, anyway). Nine of us headed out on a beautiful Thursday, with plenty of sunshine, and we didn't even say (or think) the "R" word. Last February we went on this hike and turned back early, since my blog post that day was entitled "Another soggy Thursday hike." Not much fun at all. We didn't make it to the summit, so we tried again in June. This was a much better day, but we didn't make it to the summit either, because the fog came in and surrounded us. You can read about it here.

Today, we not only made it to the summit, but it was simply a glorious day, with views of Lake Whatcom, along with Mt. Baker and the Sisters. I learned when I got home that it has been windy in Bellingham all day long, but I didn't notice it until I got out of the car. The wind didn't make it to 3,000 feet while we were there.
You can see in this picture that we had magnificent views of Mt. Baker (on the left) and the Sisters to the right. In the foreground is the clearcut we must learn to deal with here in Washington state. We had to cross some of it to get to this spot, but the forest does come in and repopulate the area with trees... eventually.
Some of this hike is on old logging roads, and some of it is on trails. We got to this spot before we stopped to have lunch. This is the south summit of Stewart Mountain, so we made it this time, on the third try of the year! And what a beautiful day it was. After we had lunch, we headed back down to our cars, but not before I captured this lovely picture of Mt. Baker.
Although there are a few clouds in the sky above Mt. Baker, we had none over us. Those are also not lenticular clouds that you see with wind, so that also surprised me when I returned home to find it had been blowing hard all day. As I gaze out the front window, I see the wind is very strong at the moment. I am so glad we didn't have to deal with it during our day outside.
When we started our descent, we got some great views of Bellingham Bay in the distance. Before the day was done, we had traveled more than ten miles and ascended and descended around 2,700 feet. No wonder I feel tired now. This is the kind of day that makes me keep coming back for more with the Senior Trailblazers. It's the best way I can imagine to spend my retirement. Oh, and one more picture: Peggy is peering out from behind this BIG maple leaf, looking a bit scary, just right for the season:
It sure made me smile when I saw this! Thanks, Peggy, for being one of my favorite aliens!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obviously not from my garden

99-pound Canadian cabbage
Smart Guy sent me this picture yesterday, which made me go over to Reddit where he found it and see if I could find the story behind it. (It's linked under the picture.) But the short story is that John Vincent, a Master Grower from Ontario, Canada, grew this cabbage. And from that link, I found this little tidbit: "Vincent has been growing giants since 2004 and is one of three people in Ontario who have earned the prestigious Master Growers distinction." I wonder if it was as tasty as MY little cabbages. Whatever, the cabbage must have made a fair amount of slaw, don't you think?

The other thing I want to mention is the documentary that Judy and I saw last Sunday. It was about Rodriguez, a musician who was the focus of the documentary, and all I can say is that if you really want to be uplifted, see it for yourself. The story is almost unbelievable: during the early 1970s he wrote some songs that were recorded, even put out two albums, which didn't do well here in the States. He was dropped from the label, but his music found its way to South Africa, where it became the sound track to many people's lives as they fought against the repressive regime that supported apartheid. The story is very well told, and it is punctuated with many of the songs Rodriguez wrote that are still very relevant today. I also learned from this website that there has been a new album released of his songs. I'm going to get it, since the songs are still going through my mind. Here's a quote about Rodriguez:
In 1991, both his albums were released on CD in South Africa for the first time. His fame in South Africa was completely unknown to him, until 1998 when his eldest daughter came across a website dedicated to him. In 1998, he played his first South African tour, playing six concerts in front of thousands of fans.
There are scenes from that first concert that had tears streaming down my face. I am so glad I saw this documentary, and I hope if you get a chance to see it, you will too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Those pesky fruit flies

Where's my beach towel?
We have been inundated with those pesky little fruit flies that are coming from somewhere in our new kitchen. We never had any of these before, so I'm wondering if it could be our compost bin. We started keeping one in the kitchen after we got a composter for the community garden. Whatever the reason, one of my blogging friends, Kay over at Musings, put a tip in a blog post a while back about how to deal with these little buggers. You just put a little apple cider vinegar into a container and put a drop of dish soap in. It works like a charm! The flies are attracted to the smell, dive in and promptly drown, since the dish soap breaks the surface tension of the vinegar.

What you can't see in the picture is that there are plenty of dead flies in the bottom of the container, but why aren't these guys climbing in? Did one of them see George down there on the bottom and put out the alarm to the others? I've noticed that they do seem reluctant to take the plunge, so to speak. But they sure do like that smell. Maybe the trick is to use something glass instead of metal.

I did find this on line, a humane way to catch fruit flies without killing them and giving me a method to catch and release them outside. I don't like to kill things like spiders, but I have a really hard time feeling bad about those little fruit flies drowning. Am I being callous?

My friend Judy and I are going to see the documentary called Searching for Sugar Man today at the Pickford. I'll let you know whether we give it a Thumbs Up. It won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, among others, for the best international documentary, so it must be pretty good. The story is of a musician named Rodriguez (Sugar Man) who became a legend in South Africa because of his music, but no one else had heard of him.

I have one more thing to remind you: please vote, whichever party and whoever you vote for. The privilege of voting is nothing to be taken lightly, and many people around the globe would give anything to have a chance to do so. Here in Washington State, we vote by mail, so my job is done!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Oyster Dome

It wasn't looking like today would be a very good day for our Senior Trailblazer's hike, since it had been raining, sometimes very hard, for the past two days. Nevertheless, eight of us met at the Senior Center for our first trip back in the Chuckanuts, the area close to home. This makes our drive much shorter, which is an advantage. We drove to the trailhead off of Highway 11, which starts steeply upward. It had stopped raining by the time we began, and lo and behold, our day was almost without additional precipitation.
Our first view of Samish Bay shows that the clouds were beginning to break, and we were optimistic that we might actually have some good views from the Dome. That's Lummi Island out there wearing a "hat" of clouds. But it had rained for so long before we set out today that the humidity and light precipitation brought misty views. By the time we reached Oyster Dome itself, I grabbed a quick shot before it completely closed in.
Just so you can see what we missed seeing today, in mid-April of this year we went up on a sunny day for this same hike, and the views are available here. We didn't have any such luck today. Since it was not yet noon, we decided to trek to Lily Lake for lunch before stopping. There was a light breeze, and all the humidity in the air made us feel cold after just a few minutes.
Our lunch spot: you can see we are now bundled up, with the breeze and having hunkered down to have a quick lunch. I was reminded of all the times we don everything we bring along with us to keep ourselves warm when we stop to eat. It's our winter lunchtime dance. We didn't stay long before we got up to continue our hike. We passed through lots of places where big-leaf maples were dropping their leaves and making a carpet of them.
Many of my pictures today are not sharp, because the light was so low and I didn't want to use the flash. I know that the flash makes these pictures much less interesting, but I can't hold the camera still enough to take good pictures. This was the best shot I got of those big leaves as we walked.
Toward the end of this trek, we come to an overlook of Samish Flats. This new parking lot is not easy to find, but you can drive to it if you can figure out how to get here. You can also see that the clouds didn't leave us after all, and we are still wearing our hats and coats to keep warm. But this is not to say we were not all very happy to have been out in the Chuckanuts today, for several reasons: (1) it didn't rain; (2) the company was great; (3) we walked somewhere around nine miles and had a fantastic workout; and (4) nobody got hurt or lost anything of value!
When we got back to the cars, Al realized that when he had put on his hiking boots in the morning, he left his tennis shoes by his car, neglecting to put them inside. And there they still were, waiting for him when we returned! A good omen, and we were all smiles when we drove off. Another great day!