Thursday, February 28, 2013

All that rain is good for the complexion

Peggy looking very well moisturized
I have to say, showing up on a Thursday when it's already raining out, for a hike rated hard, and find 9 of us rarin' to go, makes me wonder about my choice of companions. Seriously, I was taken aback at how many of us decided to make a go of it on this less-than-stellar day. The other group of Senior Trailblazers also hiked Bellingham's Chuckanut Ridge today, but they only went six miles while we went ELEVEN miles. We ran into them after lunch, and I was surprised to see that fifteen people went out with that group. This is a hardy bunch of seniors, and I'm proud to be part of them.
I don't have many pictures from today, because I was reluctant to expose my camera to the incessant rain. We hiked in mud puddles with the rain falling around us, as you can see from this picture. I don't remember seeing this pond before, but it might be around only seasonally. It wasn't terribly heavy rain, just consistent. It's no wonder that we have so much moss, but it's also quite lovely if you have the right mindset.
When we stopped for a quick lunch (no reason to just hang around in the rain), Norm pulled out this stool that he carried the entire way for just a few minutes of leisure time. If you enlarge the picture, you can see that we were all well moisturized. I tell myself that hiking in all this rain IS good for the complexion, not to mention good for cleaning out the sinuses.
This is one of the places in the country where you can't figure out where north is by looking at the formation of moss on the trees. It's everywhere. But all this rain does make for a lush environment in the summer, when the rain lessens and then stops. For about a month. It was not terribly cold, temperature in the high 40s F, but it still seems cold when you just can't stay dry. We not only walked 11 miles today, we also gained and lost over 2,600 feet of elevation. Chuckanut Ridge is one of our winter hikes that I never want to miss, since I know I will get a good workout. It was a fine day, if you consider how much better my wine tastes right now compared to how it would be after sitting around inside on a grey, rainy day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The noisy world we live in

From Green-Mom
I've noticed that when I ride the bus in the morning, somewhere around half the people I see have earbuds in their ears, or in some cases are wearing full-sized headphones. I don't know what most of them are listening to, because I can't hear anything. There is the occasional one, however, usually a young person, whose volume is so loud that I can hear the beat of their music and wonder what it sounds like inside their head! Or a car will go by that has the volume turned up so loud that I can feel the sound inside my entire body, even when their windows are closed.

Noise pollution is real, and there's no doubt in my mind that it's getting worse. I live around a mile from Bellingham's International Airport, which has recently added more jet noise. I don't really mind it, and in some ways it's easier to deal with because of its regularity. Train tracks run by somewhere around the same distance away, and during the night I can hear the lonesome sound of a train passing by. If I lived closer to the tracks, I think it would bother me quite a bit, but many people who live nearby say after awhile you don't hear it any more.

When I visited my sister, I was quite taken aback when I attended her yoga class and found that the instructor (young, of course) played music at a fairly loud volume, with singing and a beat included. My massage therapist plays a very soothing, light music during my massage, but this was NOT in the same category at all. Noise pollution is so insidious that it seems most of us has learned to shut out the worst of it. I found this page about noise pollution, what it is and what it does to us. That link goes to the American Tinnitus Association. I don't have tinnitus, but I know lots of people who do: a persistent ringing or other sound in the ear that is the result of damaged hearing.

The event that has reminded me of how easy it is to get accustomed to regular sounds is that of our downstairs neighbors moving out. These are not really big apartments, less than a thousand feet of living space, and they are a young couple with two teenagers and a baby on the way. It wasn't big enough for them, but I was amazed at how loud they were, and how silent it is now. It's almost spooky.

Someone else will move in, and I'm hoping it will be a nice little old lady like me, maybe one who likes to feed the birds and likes it quiet, whose hearing is not so far gone that she needs to turn up the volume too awfully loud. The two of us use headphones when listening to TV alone, so that the other person doesn't feel the need to listen in. But we're rather unusual in this increasingly noisy world. I can always hope for a positive change. I'm feeling hopeful, and a little nervous about what the future holds.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Last week's Flower and Garden Show

My friend Judy and I arrived about 10:30am on Wednesday at the Flower and Garden Show in Seattle and walked into an alternate universe. The theme this year is "Hollywood," and the amazing flower display as we walked in the front door had a little flower Toto, and this very modern Tin Man, complete with shades and a flower pot in his hand. (My Toto picture wasn't very good.)
There were exceptionally beautiful floral displays inside the front door that won several prizes. Although I tried to get some good pictures of the different displays, this picture showing several different ones in a row is the best I could do. I tried so hard to find a way to get each one, but to no avail. This picture evokes the feeling of abundance: flowers galore.
About a half hour after we arrived, Linda and her husband Tom found me! She wrote about it on her blog on Thursday while I was out hiking. Her pictures are simply incredible, and I'm linking them here so you can appreciate them. You will see what I mean. She also posted another blog yesterday about the flower show market, and I have to say she saw things I didn't even notice! Of course, she and Tom got there first thing in the morning and stayed until the end. We were with a group and were limited to just a bit more than four hours, which was enough for me.
The first flowers we saw after we entered the main display room were orchids of every size and shape. This one looks like an alien, I think. It was so perfect that it doesn't even look real to me, but it is. We walked through admiring many different varieties, and I saw this one, with a sign that says, "Orchademy Award for Best Production."
Like I said, the theme for this year's show is "Hollywood," and this fits right in with tomorrow's Academy Award show. These orchids are one of my favorite colors, a pinkish magenta delight. Then we proceeded to the show gardens. These are displays that have a theme and are judged. I'm providing a link to the show gardens, but the photo galleries are from previous years, as this show will not be over until tomorrow. (Hint: Linda's post above has many really good pictures of them.) Here's the best one I was able to get of Frodo's house.
I love the walkway leading up to the round door. We couldn't actually do more than admire from a distance; Frodo was away for the day, I guess. Too many visitors for a simple Hobbit to entertain. This next one has a bunch of chairs and popcorn for people to watch the movies. I loved the feeling of this sunny spot, filled with summer flowers.
In the foreground, there is a short description of the lighting display, how it was made to look so bright and cheerful. I believe this garden is called "Backyard Box Office." However, I could be wrong, as there were some others that could have fit the description.
After perusing the gardens, we went to the other side where plants and vendors display their wares in a market setting. I was especially taken by these rocks, which have been covered with lots of bling. If they had not cost an arm and a leg (not to mention being a bit on the heavy side), I would have bought one. Pretty expensive doorstops. Linda has covered much of this side of things in her post here.

I spent a fair amount of money and didn't buy a single flower! I bought goat cheese, a lavender-filled teddy bear, honey, and something called "water beads." When I get them properly plump, I'll post a picture. All in all, we had a great day! I've attended every year since I arrived in this part of the country, and I expect to be there next year, too. You never know what fine people you might find there.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Raptor Ridge in the rain

Eight of us Senior Trailblazers showed up for a guaranteed rainy Thursday hike. Here's a picture of Linda right after we climbed out of the car before we started hiking, and you can see her raincoat and pack cover are already wet. Since we start out in the trees as we make our way to Raptor Ridge, it didn't seem too bad, but once we got to the ridge, we turned around to start back down before stopping. It was raining, snowing, and blowing up there! Definitely not a place to sit down and enjoy a leisurely repast, as we have done in the past.
I took this picture of Al on the ridge, since there was zero view. Trust me, there is really a nice view when the weather is fine, which it wasn't today. The good part is that it wasn't raining as hard as it might have been. In fact, every now and then it would lighten up and a bit of sunshine tried to make its way through.
This looks like a place where an animal might find refuge, or even a bunch of hikers looking for a place out of the wind and rain. We kept going, however, after deciding that our best bet for a nice place for lunch was the Senior Center itself! But we had four miles to navigate before we would be back to the cars.
For most of the day, our trail was rather nice, with mist and light rain the only real problem we had. We are accustomed to having cloudy or rainy days; they seem much more common on Thursdays than sunshine. We also saw a couple of neat trees.
The bark on the red cedar tree really IS that red, especially when wet from the rain. And Rita is looking at a face we saw in a tree, two eyes on the top, a nose and mouth. Can you see it? By the time we had finished our eight-mile hike, we headed for a late lunch over at the Center, where we could be warm and dry and enjoy our time together.
Karen joined us at the Center, although she didn't make the hike with us, and she took this picture for me, so you can see the group of intrepid Seniors who enjoy being with each other, even when the weather isn't perfect. If we waited for the weather, we would miss many good times!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Flower and Garden Show tomorrow

From the Flower Show 2012
Every year my friend Judy and I head down to Seattle to attend the Flower and Garden Show at the Washington State Convention Center. We usually go on the Senior Center bus, which means we don't have to find a place to park, and somebody else takes care of all the arrangements. We just have to show up at 8:30am and sign in. It's only there for five days; tomorrow is the first day.

It's the 25th anniversary of the Northwest flower show. This is also the first year that I will be interested in the garden implements that are displayed along with the flowers, since I am now (ahem) a gardener with a little experience under my belt. The very best part of the flower show is walking into spring after a long winter. Acres of blooming flowers are displayed in the entrance before one heads to the main area where show gardens have been created that amaze me every year. There are also lots of exhibitors selling everything from A to Z. We will have about four hours to roam, admire, sniff, and purchase.

I'll be going on my hike Thursday so I'm not sure when I'll be able to post my favorite pictures from this year, but never fear: you will be treated to them in due course. It's funny; sometimes I wonder how I ever managed to squeeze a full-time job into my life!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Because my sister has one

I walked into the apartment yesterday with this in hand and said, "I bought a chopper today." Of course Smart Guy's comment was, "Is it in the garage?" Immediately I realized the double meaning of the word and showed him the nifty vegetable chopper, which I don't know how I've managed without for so long. Of course it's because Norma Jean has one, and I fell in love with it once I saw how it works. When you push repeatedly on the top, the item being chopped, whether garlic cloves or broccoli, is perfectly diced up into teeny-tiny pieces! It turns out my sister has influenced me to buy many now-indispensable items for my kitchen.
Just last week I ordered this digital scale from Amazon. I didn't even know what a tare scale was before my visit to Norma Jean's. It allows me to weigh things in grams or ounces, and once I put the item that will hold my food on the scale I can zero it out and weigh just the food. So cool, and it wasn't even very expensive! I already had one of the kind with a dial, but it just isn't very accurate. I use my new one every morning these days.
I also didn't have a lightweight portable drink mixer, which I also ordered from Amazon, to mix chia seeds or other stuff into soy milk for a quick treat. This also comes with a whisk and a beater, which I have yet to use. It's really perfect for what I am using it for, and I wonder how I got along without it. Norma Jean has a smaller one that I got to see in use during my visit. It would be even better than this one, but I had already ordered this one and it works just fine.
The other thing Norma Jean introduced me to is called a spiralizer. You take whatever item you want to render into spaghetti-sized whorls and slap it between the blades and that thing on the right, turn the handle and you've got zucchini spaghetti or raw beets into perfect little strips! We used it every single night I was there when we made salad, and I'm planning to use it tonight with a beet I got at the Farmers' Market yesterday.

Of course, Norma Jean's kitchen is replete with lots of other tools I didn't get a chance to see or use, and it's probably just as well. I'm looking forward to incorporating these tools into my kitchen and need to keep my partner from being TOO overwhelmed with all the new stuff!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Deception Pass and Goose Rock

From the Deception Pass bridge
I woke this morning to the familiar but hardly welcome sound of... rain. It rained all night long and the weather forecast gave us an 80% chance of rain today. Well, I figured, it's already a 100% chance, but maybe it won't rain all day. Eight Senior Trailblazers drove south to Deception Pass State Park for our annual trip up to the summit of Goose Rock. On the way, we noticed that the rain was beginning to lighten up.
Lots of moss
The eight of us were quite surprised when we began our hike in dry conditions, but we were ready for anything, already in our raincoats expecting that the rain would pick up, but it didn't. In fact, we went the entire day without more than a hint of rain!
An eagle in a nearby tree stayed for quite awhile, giving me a chance to get several pictures. We heard eagle calls during the entire hike. We also saw a kingfisher on the water, but I wasn't able to capture it in a photo. The tide was on its way out when we began, and we walked along the beach before heading onto the Goose Rock trail.
Every once in awhile we thought we might actually see the sun, but it was not to be. We were quite happy just to have a sky that held back the rain. It had rained there all night, too, and the rocks were slippery in places. I fell and smacked my arm pretty hard, but now we all carry Ace bandages; I added compression and am now going to do the other parts of treatment for a sprain or bruise: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).
This area has some of the most beautiful madrone trees, as you can see here. The red bark peels away to reveal a smooth greenish-tinted wood. I have always been enamored with the way they look. Do you think they are pretty, too?
We had lunch at the top of Goose Rock, bundled up against the breeze. We didn't stay awfully long. The entire trip was a little more than seven miles, and we traveled up and down around 1,500 feet of elevation. Not a really hard day, but we were happy to have spent Valentine's Day together, high and dry.
Steve skipping a rock while Al and Mike look for more flat rocks
Boys will be boys, no matter how old they get, right? Now I am home and quite happy to settle in and enjoy the rest of the day with my partner. It's still grey and overcast, but it's not raining. I missed my friends while I was in Florida, and now that my routine has completed a full week, it feels good to be home.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Buses and more

Regular bus, hybrid bus, and short bus
Today was the first day I rode the bus since I returned home. Yesterday I missed my usual exercise class because of a doctor's appointment to have my ears cleaned. And I can hear again! All that ear wax came right out with the proper tools, and the nurse gave me a lesson on how to keep it from building up again. The doctor said my left ear was completely blocked, but I already knew that; now my ears are fully functional again.
While I was gone, several of these hybrid buses were brought on line. Now we have regular buses, short buses, and hybrids. I got to ride the new bus both ways to town and back. They are definitely quieter with better pickup than the regular ones. I'm so pleased to live in a place that encourages recycling, bans single-use plastic bags in grocery stores, and provides hybrid buses.

My friend Judy and I went to see Beasts of the Southern Wild this weekend. It's been nominated for four academy awards; one of them is for Best Actress by Quevenzhané Wallis, who is only nine years old. She was indeed amazing, but the movie... I still don't know why it has garnered so much acclaim, since I found it to be rather confusing and really depressing. It's about a young girl who has lost her mother and is in the process of losing her father. The movie is told from her point of view, and reality and fantasy mix together in a way that confused me until I figured out that many of the scenes were in her mind. If you see it, let me know how you felt about it. Maybe it was just me.

In any event, it's nice to be getting back into the swing of my regular life, and it's REALLY nice to be able to hear again. I've got three books on my plate and will be getting involved in reading them any minute now. Thursday is my first hike in three weeks; fortunately it's rated "moderate" so it shouldn't be a problem for me. It will be so nice to be with my friends again!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Florida is just a memory

Ice cream cone in the sky
Yesterday, as we came down from a higher altitude, I caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier sticking up out of the clouds, before we descended to the normal wintertime Pacific Northwest climate. Many times I've seen low-lying clouds with my two favorite mountains sticking up like this, Rainier and Baker. Yes, I've grown to love the area, and after two weeks of sunshine, I'm ready to live under the clouds again.
There were a few breaks in the clouds before it became totally overcast, and I caught this quick shot of Seattle with my iPhone. The weather forecast was for overcast skies, with some clearing today (hasn't happened yet). For those of you who wondered about my ears, I did use the Valsalva maneuver as we descended to keep my ears from hurting, and it worked just fine. If you're not familiar with it, I've provided a link. Basically it's just holding your nose and blowing as if you are inflating a balloon. It equalizes the pressure in the ears.

I find it easier when traveling east to adjust to the time change. I awoke this morning at 2:00am, as I would normally awake at 5:00am in Florida. I tossed and turned, managing to doze for another two hours, but I'll be ready to drop by early evening, I'm sure. My friend Judy and I are going to the movies this afternoon to see Beasts of the Southern Wild, an Oscar-nominated movie.

This morning I joined the Fairhaven walkers to take two trips around Lake Padden, for a distance of 5.2 miles. It felt pretty easy, after having been hardened by my sister's routine. Here I thought I was made of sterner stuff, but my own exercise routine is not to her intensity. Now I get to do what I'm accustomed to. Amazing how quickly two weeks in Florida have faded. However, one friend noticed that I have a bit of a tan, imagine that!
I not only have gained some sun on my face, but I have a plethora of photos to remember my time in Florida. My favorite time of the day was in the early evening when the rays of the sun came through the door. We sat in our respective chairs and each drank our one glass of wine together at this time, which also made it memorable.

I'm back into my old routine, without a hitch, and many wonderful memories of my Florida vacation. I think I'll do this again! No, I KNOW I will.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Heading home tomorrow

This morning's sunrise
I took this picture this morning as we headed out for our morning jog, after having watched the dark skies turn to blue and gold with beautiful puffy clouds. We were returning from our swim at the YMCA. Norma Jean's habit is to be there when it opens at 6:30am and swim for 45 minutes. I swam laps for 30 minutes and watched the first light appear in the skies on my last day in Florida.
Lifeguards Josh and Ellie
After my shower, I chatted with the two lifeguards while Norma Jean finished her swim. Ellie had a piece of play doh which she had fashioned into a pretty blue moustache. I'll miss the morning routine, but frankly, I'm ready for a break. After we returned home, we changed into our jogging clothes and Icarus joined us. I actually must jog alongside Norma Jean to keep up, as she walks at a 4.6-mile-an-hour pace. She also goes for 50 minutes, while I cut it off after 30. Since we are in her community the whole time, it's easy for me to find my way back home.
I took this picture with my iPhone on an earlier excursion, and I tried the "zoom" feature, which worked pretty well. I just enlarged the picture using the patented two-fingered zoom, the opposite of a pinch. I need to brush up on my iPhone terminology, I fear.

After that was over, off we went to the Y again, this time for a Pilates class. Oh, I will be sore tomorrow, but I'll be recovering on the plane, so it won't be too bad. I'm sitting here with my laptop and two doggies (Icarus and Doris' dog Jingles) both waiting for my lap to become vacant again. They fight with each other for any available petting opportunities.
Icky and Jingles
I've got a doctor's appointment on Monday as soon as I return, since my left ear seems to have plugged up with earwax. This happens to me periodically, and I think it was exacerbated by swimming and trying to keep water out of my ears. I bought some earwax removal stuff, some kind of peroxide, but all it did was make it worse. I last saw a doctor about this in May 2010, and I wrote about it here. After poking around in my ear carefully with an ear-cleaning instrument, I gave up and called for an appointment. It's a strange feeling not knowing where a sound is coming from and feeling pretty darn deaf, to tell you the truth. "What did you say?" "Huh?"

I'll be packed up and ready for an early departure tomorrow, with a full day of travel ahead. My second flight in Denver originates in New York, so I'm hoping it won't be delayed by the Nor'easter headed to the East Coast. It's 47 degrees F at home, but it's in the low 80s here. I think I'll go for a bike ride after I finish this. Talk to you soon!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Only three days left

Yes, only three more days to enjoy the blue skies and palm trees of Florida before I go back home to Bellingham and 40-degree days with lots of rain. But the worst of the winter months are behind us, we have passed the midpoint towards spring, and I'm really enjoying being with Norma Jean.
A day at the beach
When we were in Texas for Thanksgiving, I got my first pedicure, and a few days ago I got my second one. I could really get used to this kind of pampering. It's not so easy to do this myself, and I've learned that most of these places have nice jacuzzi-like places for your feet and all you need to do is pick out a color for the nail polish, and they do the rest. Other than paying for it, of course. I'll need to find a place in Bellingham; I'm sure there are many.
From my iPhone "Lose It" app
One thing I'll miss is exercising with my sister. As you can see from this picture, today was a bit of everything, which gave me a total number of calories burned of 579. Adding this to my daily allowance means that today I can eat a fair amount more than usual. (My usual exercises only burn about 300.) We'll be talking on video chat next week instead of being together.

In some ways, I'm ready to resume my life in Bellingham. I miss my partner, and I miss my friends. Tomorrow we will go to her yoga class, so I probably won't jog along with her tomorrow. I cannot possibly add another thing to today's exercise. I'm just a bit tired, if you can believe it! I still have three more days before heading back home, and I'm making the best of it.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Florida flowers

Thinking about what to write for this morning's post, I hopped on Norma Jean's bike and rode around her community, looking for pictures of flowers that might brighten your day, as well as my own once I return home to Bellingham. I just checked the weather there, and the sun is shining at home as well as here, but there is a thirty-degree difference in the outside temperature. It was cold last night again, down into the thirties, but by mid-morning it became very pleasant.
There are many beautiful flowers in the front yards of many residents, but I didn't feel it was appropriate for me to tromp into someone's yard to get closeups, so I took pictures from the street, mostly. These geraniums reminded me of summertime in the Pacific Northwest, and now they will remind me of Florida in the winter as well.
Hibiscus (or are they azaleas?)
These, however, don't grow anywhere in the Pacific Northwest that I know of. The hibiscus is a southern flower that I only see in the southern climes, although they are not that different in appearance from Washington state's flower, the rhododendron. I've taken many pictures of them in their incredible variety. Only a few more months, and then they will make their brief appearance at home. Until then I'll gaze at these.
These flowers are, I believe, poinsettias. Usually I see them around the country at Christmas time, a Christmas flower, but here they grow like weeds. If I have misidentified any of these flowers, please let me know so I can correct my error. I did see some incredibly beautiful daffodils, but when I bent down to admire them, I realized they are plastic. (!)

The temperature is just perfect right now, and Norma Jean is out shopping for our salad fixings for dinner as I write this. Her little dog Icarus is curled up next to me. I plan on writing the story of how she got this little guy in my other blog tomorrow morning. Until then, I hope you enjoy these pictures to remind those of you in freezing weather that Florida is a pretty perfect place to be in February!