Saturday, November 30, 2013

Battening down the hatches

From Climate Prediction Center
It looks like the majority of the country has got some cold weather a-comin' our way. The dark blue shows an 80% confidence level in the forecast that the weather will be colder than normal for the next week or so. My sister who lives in Florida will be having warmer than normal. I guess I should have made that plane reservation, but for now I'm staying home, battening down the hatches, and expecting to have temperatures 10–20 degrees F below normal. My hike next Thursday will be FRIGID, with the high for the day not getting close to freezing. We've done it before, but last winter never had any days this cold, if I'm not mistaken. I'll be ready.
Pretty blue skies
Yesterday five of us Trailblazers went out on an impromptu hike. It was supposed to rain later in the day, but it was quite mild and we never got any rain. In fact, the skies started to clear, and we even saw some sunshine. Today is another matter, however; it's been raining on and off, and tomorrow it's supposed to really rain, as in buckets, while the wind is predicted to blow a gale. The only place I'll exercise will be at the Y to use the treadmill, if I even do that much.
Our Thanksgiving table (sans salmon)
We had a wonderful dinner, and although I had seconds, I didn't overdo it. The salmon was just coming out of the oven when I took this picture so we could sit down and eat. Okay, the salmon's done. Here's a closeup of our magnificent meal.
Salmon, squash casserole, salad, wine
Today (Saturday), we finished up the last of our leftovers and Smart Guy is in the kitchen preparing our week's worth of steamed veggies. (We just had a minor interruption in our day, so I'll just sign off here, and look forward to writing more later, like on Tuesday.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Wild turkeys
I just got this nice picture of two local wild turkeys, a picture placed on the Whatcom Birders' site just a few minutes ago. It gave me a perfect lead-in for my post. Joe Meche, the photographer, put the following comment along with the picture: "Here are two happy Wild Turkeys on the top of Squalicum Mountain, happy to be there and not on someone's table."

I have eaten plenty of Thanksgiving turkeys over the years, and last year in Texas with my siblings I enjoyed it for several days. This year, however, I'm at home and will prepare wild Atlantic salmon (NB: I mean "Alaska" salmon) caught by my fisherman friend Gene, along with all the trimmings.

None of the places I normally go for coffee this morning are open, since all independent coffee shops are closed for the day. I headed off to the local Haggen's grocery store, which is open 24/7 and has a Starbucks inside. While there, I bought a new ice scraper for the upcoming cold snap, and a young man in line in front of me was buying a 10-pound bag of potatoes and two dozen eggs. Then he took his unicycle out of the cart and proceeded to get everything ready to transport home. I asked if I could take his picture as he balanced the potatoes and the eggs in his backpack and took off!
A fall would make an omelet
I suspect he didn't have far to go, but there was little traffic on the streets in any event. I watched in admiration as he navigated his unique mode of transportation. Bellingham is filled with people who follow a bit of a different path. Like me, for instance. This is another sport I don't think I'll take up any time soon, even though it sure looks like fun!

A list of all the reasons I am grateful to be here, today, would be way too long and cumbersome. But just a few things:
  1. Being healthy, hale and hearty, and having plenty to eat.
  2. Having a partner who shares my life with me.
  3. My extended family, siblings and their mates, nieces and nephews.
  4. Blogaritaville, where my other extended family lives.
  5. Not needing a lot of "stuff" to be happy (no shopping tomorrow).
  6. All the blessings that come from living in a place where I fit in.
  7. The gift of technology (as I sit here with my laptop).
Yes, this is a good year to take some time to sit back and reflect on my blessings. It doesn't get much better than this, right here, right now. Blessings to you and yours! Oh, and don't forget to take a walk after dinner, if you can. You'll sleep better. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Front porch sunrise

Starting my day
We have been having lots of sunshiny mornings, like this one. I think it's been almost two weeks in a row, which is very unusual for us at this time of the year. It must be because the rest of the country is getting our usual weather. We've got some changes coming up by the weekend, but right now it's awfully nice. I will continue to enjoy it.

Just got back from seeing Catching Fire, the second movie adapted from the Hunger Games trilogy of books written by Suzanne Collins. Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen. I just learned that the third book in the series will be made into two more movies (sigh), I guess to capture maximum dollars from the audience. I won't miss either one, because I enjoyed the books and, so far, both movies. I was ready today with my ear plugs firmly settled in my ears. This film was so loud that I never took them out once the movie started, and I was glad I had them. It made me feel actually comfortable, although I jumped in my seat every now and then at scary parts. The ear plugs didn't make me miss a single word of dialog. I enjoyed it, but it's not the kind of movie that might keep me up at night wondering about it. Entertainment, pure and simple. And loud.

I've been getting a few things every day to prepare for our Thanksgiving dinner of salmon from my fisherman friend Gene (the fifth year in a row he has given us our sumptuous meal). We'll also have a nice green salad (with avocado of course) and a squash casserole as in past years. It's going to be a lot of food for the two of us, but we will definitely enjoy a fine Thanksgiving feast together.

I won't be going on a hike on Thursday, but I'm hoping that maybe Al will get something going for Friday. Otherwise, I'll be going through withdrawal.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Almost in my prime

Twin primes
Next week I will turn 71, which is a prime number. Al is 73, another prime number, for a couple more months, so you are looking at two people who are in their prime, so to speak. You gotta have something to look forward to when you get up there in years. This picture was taken last Thursday, when we did a really challenging hike, well over eleven miles long with almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. I managed, but I sure did collapse when I got home and wrote my last post.

The next morning, yesterday, I woke up and groaned as I climbed out of bed. Everything hurt: my knee, which is still bothering me, my right Achilles tendon, and pretty much every muscle in my legs. They are still pretty sore, but I got up, had breakfast, got dressed for the cold weather and made my way to my exercise class. I know it sounds counterproductive, but by the time I finished my hour-long aerobic class, showered, and walked back to the bus, I was feeling pretty darn good. The exercise worked out my muscles and the hot shower was just what the doctor ordered.

Yes, I know that I'm getting older. I feel it every day, but this morning when I went out to walk with the Fairhaven group of ladies, I decided to wear my knee brace. It was a good move, because now, after five miles at a brisk 4-mile-an-hour pace, it doesn't hurt at all. In a few minutes I'll head out the door to see a movie with my friend Judy. And I've got a spring in my step.

Oh, and by the way, how long can YOU hold your breath? I read this article about a guy who died while trying to set a freediving record. This is where you dive underwater and come back up without using any kind of breathing apparatus, other than your own lungs. I was astounded to learn that the record for holding your breath is now up to 22 minutes!! And if you read the article, you'll learn that professional freedivers can get better with age (and practice).

No, I don't think I'll be taking up freediving after I stop skydiving. I can read your mind, you know.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chuckanut Ridge 2013

The exciting spot on the trail
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers showed up on a day that could only be called FRIGID in our neck of the woods. It was 23 degrees F (-5C) when we set out to join the others at the Senior Center. We were headed for Chuckanut Ridge, a challenging hike in any conditions, since it's long and has lots of ups and downs. We climbed the same elevation many times today. Clear and cold, but there was little breeze and we were quite comfortable as we set out.
I think I know this guy
Early on, some previous hiker had taken this leaf off the trail and placed it on the signpost for subsequent hikers to enjoy. Such a perfect face! By the time I took this, I was probably beginning to get warm, as the beginning of the hike is uphill for the most part. It was cold enough for hoarfrost to form, after the recent rains we've experienced. I love this pretty angel-hair stuff. Once you touch it, it's gone because of your body heat, but it's extruded out of the wood in fine filaments because of the cold.
Angel dust
The angle of the sun is quite low at this time of year, but we did have sunshine on and off during the day's exertions, and we had some magnificent views of Mt. Baker. But before I finish this post with that picture, I'll show you our lunch spot.
Twelve, with me behind the camera
We arrived at Gates Overlook, which has two picnic tables, right at noon and stopped for lunch. We had already traveled more than 6 miles and more than 2,400 feet of elevation gain and loss. Although we enjoyed ourselves as we "relaxed" in freezing temperatures, we didn't stay long. If you want to know how cold it was, how about a picture of our usually underdressed Trailblazer, Mikey, in the gear he wore today.
Is it really Mikey, or his twin?
Yep, it was that cold. So we didn't linger at our lovely lunch spot but began our trip back to the cars, where warmth and relaxation awaited us. We covered more than eleven miles today, almost 11.5, as well as going up and down close to 3,000 feet elevation. I'm glad to be home now, sitting in my living room writing this post. I think I'll sleep well tonight. And here's the picture of Mt. Baker from Chuckanut Ridge:
Favorite mountain, Mt. Baker
Since our days are not very long at this time of year, the shadows when we get past noon are long on the mountain. But will you look at that sky? Clear, something we don't see all that often. Now that I am home and enjoying my wine, the day looks MUCH better than it did while we were a mile from the cars. I was ready for it to be over at nine miles out, but there's nothing to do but keep going. Now I can say it was a GREAT day spent with wonderful people. My people.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rainy days and blessings

Taken yesterday
It's been a bit dreary around here lately. But the rainy days are behind us for awhile, it seems! Although we received more than an inch of rain here in Bellingham yesterday, the forecast looks clear (after a small chance of rain today) all the way through the weekend. If it weren't November, I might be thinking of going skydiving. The season pretty much ends in this part of the country as November rolls around. Instead, I'll be doing my usual Saturday walk and probably going to see a movie.

Many of my friends have been doing a month-long listing of things to be grateful for. I'm feeling pretty darn grateful for all the blessings I've got in my life, not the least of which are my blogging family. You guys make me reflect on my blessings every morning as I read what's going on in your lives. I never knew how much my world would change when I began this blog. It's nothing short of incredible.

And my nephew Peter rode his motorcycle successfully all the way from Michigan to Florida yesterday, with no mishaps! At this time of year, that's pretty amazing. Norma Jean now has her family together again. Whew! I did worry about him yesterday. Another sister, Fia, is having a birthday today. We got together one year ago to celebrate her turning fifty and me turning seventy. That means I've got another birthday coming up, too. Each one is still a lovely celebration, which I didn't realize when I was younger. I thought by now I'd be conveniently forgetting them. Nope!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kinda nice Saturday

Walking at Lake Padden
This morning it looked a lot like rain, so I bundled up before heading to Lake Padden to join the Fairhaven walkers. About a dozen women showed up, and as you can see from the way we are dressed in the picture, it wasn't warm. Yesterday it rained all day and the wind blew quite hard. Not so today: we didn't have any moisture, but the ground was pretty wet. Fortunately, the trail around Lake Padden is well maintained, so we only had a new puddles to navigate. We walked twice around, 5.2 miles.

It's almost been two years since my car was broken into at Lake Padden, and I think of it every time we walk there. Apparently it's still happening, since a friend of a friend was violated in the same manner. Now I have my credit cards and driver's license on my person instead of in my purse, and the purse is hidden in the trunk, placed there before I leave home. Women are targeted because we don't usually carry our valuables when we go out for a walk. The thieves know that and sit in cars with tinted windows, waiting to see someone drive up and leave for a short excursion around the lake. I refuse to stop visiting this beautiful spot because of them; I just take precautions.
Kale and chard
Then I headed over to the Farmers' Market for some greens. We are so incredibly fortunate to live in a place where these are locally grown right up through December. The Market will remain open until the last Saturday before Christmas, and reopen the first Saturday in April. Although the produce has fallen off, now many booths have beautiful handmade crafts, such as hand-knit items, pottery, and batik from one of my favorite artists, Margot Myers. She has an Etsy shop, if you are interested in purchasing from her. I simply love her work.
Margot's table runners
Even though I wasn't in the market for anything other than veggies, I had to stop by her table because she says I bring her luck, so after chatting for a few minutes, I headed home. It's so nice to walk into a warm and cozy place after being out and about, isn't it?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Damn fine hike

Al starting up the Damfino trail
Al sent out a feeler earlier this week to the Senior Trailblazers to see if anybody would be interested in maybe making one more High Country hike this season. After all, the snow has begun to fall in earnest up there, but the Canyon Creek road has just been reopened after being closed for three years. This gives us access to several trailheads, one that we really missed visiting: Damfino Lakes. In response, twelve of us showed up at the Center today! These tiny lakes got their name, supposedly, this way:
The lakes purportedly received their name many moons ago from a ranger's response to a query as to what they were called. His answer: "Damn if I know." (from Washington Trails Association website)
Whatever, the trailhead is located at the end of a long road, at an elevation of 4,300 feet (that's the start we were hoping for today). However, we had to leave our cars at 4,000 feet and walk a half-mile to the trailhead, very little of which was snow-free. It's usually a short hike to Excelsior Pass (you can read more about it on that link, if you want), but we didn't bring snowshoes and had to navigate much heavier snow than we anticipated.
There's a lake under that snow
Nobody was unhappy, however. We were dressed for the weather, and other than having moments when we would posthole through the snow (that means stepping onto what you think is solid ground and sinking in to your hip), it was breathtakingly beautiful, with little breeze and reasonable temperatures. We kept going upwards, but the going just got harder as the snow got deeper, so we stopped for lunch before reaching our destination, thinking maybe we would go a little farther afterwards.
A bit of snow, eh?
But we didn't go very far. Once we ate lunch, several people just wanted to head back down to the cars, and a few of us walked out another five minutes or so. I kept hoping that the skies would clear, because the low clouds would come and go, bathing us in sunshine and disappearing just as quickly. I looked up at some snow-covered trees and got this shot.
Blue sky, snowy trees
It was simply a beautiful day, the snow and the company making it especially wonderful. And we had a couple of new hikers, and one old friend who has returned! I was thrilled to see Fred back, after what seems like forever. Ron has hiked with us occasionally before, but this was Hank's first time with us. I hope they all come back, since they added their own special flavor to today's hike.
Ron, Hank, and Fred
We had a lot of fun, and afterwards we all met at Graham's store in Glacier for coffee and (for some) ice cream. I'm afraid that, even as much as I love ice cream, it doesn't sound all that enticing when I've spent all day walking on snow and ice! On the way back, we saw the clouds were still coming and going.
View from Canyon Creek road
By the time we reached Bellingham, however, it was clear, for the most part. Never mind, I wouldn't trade my day in the High Country for anything! It was very special, a damn fine day.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Latest books and movies

Mushrooms and moss
The picture has nothing to do with this post, but I thought it was a good lead-in, and kind of pretty, too. I'm always looking for ways to use pictures I take on my hikes.

Ever since I received the first of the five books I put on hold at the library (out of 14 that Nancy Pearl recommended last Friday), I've been engrossed in reading Jincy Willett's book, Amy Falls Down. The link will take you to Willett's website to give you some information about who she is and what kind of books she writes. I laughed out loud several times at certain scenes in the book, and I just finished it tonight and returned it to the library so the next person in line might enjoy it.
Scene from Captain Phillips
On Sunday I went to see Captain Phillips, a movie starring Tom Hanks as well as an unknown young Somali immigrant, Barkhad Abdi, who had never acted before but got close to stealing the show from Hanks. Although it is based on a true story, there are some controversies that are mentioned in the Wikipedia link above. It's a gripping and well told movie. I was on the edge of my seat and immediately got on the internet when I arrived home to find out more about the story. It's based on a book written by Richard Phillips, the captain who was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2009. I remember when it was all over the news.
Scene from The Patience Stone
Last night I went to another movie that could not have been more different. An Afghanistan ex-pat, Atiq Rahimi (who also wrote the book the movie is based on) tells the story of a young Afghan woman whose older husband, probably a Taliban fighter, has a bullet wound that has rendered him comatose but alive. As she cares for him, she begins to talk to him in ways she never could before. The Patience Stone refers to a mythical stone to which individuals confide their deepest secrets. Golshifteh Farahani is almost the only person who speaks in the entire film, and she's astounding in this role. Although the language is Farsi (Persian) with English subtitles, I forgot about it as I grew more and more engrossed in the movie. The lives of women under the Taliban is horrifying to me, and what decades of war has done to these people as well.

So, as you can see, I'm still busy! One of these days my life will settle back down into some semblance of normality. Maybe. Or maybe this is the new normal.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Time flies when you're having fun

Frosty grass and leaves
I'll be glad when my life gets back to its normal routine. October and November, so far, have been filled with unusual activities, and I keep forgetting things that are usually uppermost in my mind, such as last Tuesday's post. In mid-October I spent a week traveling to southern California and almost immediately took a trip to Vashon Island with my blogging friends. And here it is the second week in November, and I'm still trying to regain my equilibrium. I was invited to a breakfast last Friday and missed my class because of it. Just another thing to keep me off balance, but it was a really interesting experience.
Closeup of the top leaf
Oooops! See? I just published this post instead of adding this picture. Sheesh! Hopefully I was able to revert it to draft without giving everybody a sneak peek. I'll slow down and maybe I can make it through the day. I took the two pictures above with my cellphone earlier in the week, the first one with the usual cellphone camera and the second with the camera+ app. I've pretty much stopped carrying around my old camera, since this one does everything I require, including such a nice closeup as you see above. The grass was frosty, making it look almost artificial, I thought.
Shirley and Cindy
This morning I went on the Fairhaven walk with a couple of dozen women. It was pretty cold, but the only day this week that was really rainy and miserable was Thursday, when we were fighting the elements. This morning, by the time we got to this spot, we were all warm and shedding clothes. Cindy leads this group and was waiting for the others to catch up, since we had several different routes we might take from here. It was a lovely way to start the weekend.

The breakfast I mentioned was sponsored by the Whatcom Literacy Council and we had Nancy Pearl give a really interesting talk about fourteen new books she thinks we should read this year. She is familiar to me from listening to her on NPR. I immediately went to the library website afterwards and put my name in to receive four of them. Since they are all recently published, I was put on a waiting list, but I should receive at least one of them fairly soon.

I'm going to head down to my local bookstore and purchase one of her recommendations, which is so long I couldn't possibly finish it in two weeks, and you cannot renew when somebody else is waiting for the book. It sounds like a doozy: The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis. Nancy said when she finished it, she was unable to pick up another book for awhile, because this one had practically taken over her life. She said there were some uncomfortable parts, but it is incredible and well worth reading, her favorite book of 2013.

Have a wonderful weekend, and I'll be back here to post on Tuesday, unless they move the order of the days like they did last week.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wet hike in the Chuckanuts

Al clearing a branch from the trail
Today we were scheduled to hike up to Oyster Dome off Chuckanut Drive. It was one of those days that even I considered staying home, since it rained all night and was expected to keep raining, along with a significant wind storm. Oh, well, I thought this morning, I'll go to the Senior Center and probably nobody will show up except for Al, and we'll do something else. Hah! Seven Senior Trailblazers showed up, in spite of the weather.
Steve, Ward, Amy, Linda, Rita, Al (and me behind the camera)
At this point on our hike, our first viewpoint, Samish Bay was completely obscured. Nobody is actually looking at anything; Steve and Ward were playing and knew I would ask them when I saw the picture what they were pointing at. "Nothing, we just thought it would make a good picture," Steve said. We were already dealing with a light rain when I took the picture, but it was nothing compared to what was coming.
Our soggy trail
As we began the steep climb toward Oyster Dome, it began to rain in earnest. A hard, driving rain that didn't let up for a couple of hours. By that time we had reached the junction where we could take an easier trail back to the cars, but it would be longer. The treacherous condition of the trail was the deciding factor to take the longer (but easier) route back. We skipped Oyster Dome, which meant our hike was a little shorter than planned. Nobody wanted to make it longer. We were all pretty drenched, even with our fancy rain gear, and we just wanted to keep moving and get back to the cars.
View of Samish Bay
By the time we got to Samish Overlook, there was a view! Although the rain had pretty much stopped by then, the wind had picked up, so we didn't make a stop for lunch, deciding we would eat at the Senior Center where it would be warm and dry. We trudged on, covering more than eight miles, much of it while trying to keep moving because we were all so wet.
Finally back to the cars
You can see Chuckanut Drive in this picture, with our cars waiting for us. We piled in and headed for the Senior Center, hungry but wanting to get to a warm and dry spot. As we walked into the Center, the cold wind was pretty awful, but we knew we were headed to safety.
Rita blowing out her birthday candle
Amy, as always, brought cupcakes to celebrate Rita's birthday. I almost caught the pivotal moment. After I took this picture, we were amazed to see the sun come out briefly. Al reminded us that here in the Pacific Northwest, this qualifies as a "sun break." It's the only place in the country where we hear that term, if I'm not mistaken. It was all there was, one sun break, just in time to make us smile before we headed back to our respective homes. We all got our aerobic exercise for the day!

For anyone who might be wondering why I didn't write a post on Tuesday, it's because I forgot. While I was talking to Norma Jean on Wednesday, she asked where it was. "Where's what?" said I. "Your post!" "I write it on Tuesdays." "That was yesterday." I paused and considered. "Oh. Yeah. I guess it's too late now." It's been a busy week.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Weather or not

Threatening sky
Although it rained on and off all night, I was pleased to see that it was not raining when I got to Boulevard Park, where the Fairhaven walking group was to meet this morning. At first I thought there might be just a few of us, but before we headed out for a nice five-mile walk this morning, more than a dozen, plus a few dogs, showed up. We knew that the weather was projected to deteriorate, but we hoped that it would wait until we were warm and dry inside the coffee shop.

We did get wet, but it wasn't awful, until I left to hurry home and change my clothes before meeting my friend Judy at the Pickford to see a movie. It was raining and blowing pretty hard by then, but the bad part was not finding a place to park nearby and having to walk three blocks to the theater. By then I was every bit as wet, even more so, than I was before I changed!

We went inside to enjoy a really wonderful music documentary, Muscle Shoals, about a little town in Alabama that was the birthplace of plenty of the music I listened to in the 1960s and 1970s. I didn't know anything about the place before I saw this, but the documentary was really interesting and very well done. The beauty of the town, which has the Tennessee River running through it, was simply breathtaking at times. I learned about Rick Hall, who started it all, and the Swampers, a group of musicians who backed up many of the great hits. They were all shown as they once were, as well as interviewed as the people they are now. Highly recommended.

And books! I've just finished Gulp by Mary Roach (Adventures on the Alimentary Canal) and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. It never fails that I'll start to read a book from the library and one (or in this case, two) other books I've had on hold come into the library at the same time. So I put Gulp down so I could read the other two. I've read everything Lahiri has written and am obviously a fan. This book stayed with me for days as I continued to ponder the characters. Everything Mary Roach writes is funny and interesting, but Lahiri's book was also deeply satisfying.

The last one, which I'm still reading, is The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet. This fascinating true adventure story was written in 1961 by Blanchet, who put her five children on a 25-foot boat and explored the coastal waters of British Columbia every summer in the 1920s and 1930s. From the book jacket:
Acting single-handedly as skipper, navigator, engineer and of course mother, she saw her crew through exciting (and sometimes perilous) encounters with fog, rough seas, cougars, bears and whales, and did so with high spirits and courage.
I am enjoying her memoir and hope to find out, after I finish this book, whether any of her children grew up to write about how they experienced the same events. Oh, and one more thing: I found out about that huge pumpkin. I guessed that it weighs 315 pounds, but it turns out it is 685 pounds! I was nowhere close.