Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One movie review and some pictures

John's new bionic knees
I went up to see John in the nursing home on Sunday and took this picture of his knees. Friday those stitches will come out, but he's already able to walk around with help from his walker, and for quite a distance, too. So I'm hopeful he'll be out of that place soon. He said he thought it could be up to six weeks in there, but I don't think it will take that long. He's doing really well.

Plus, I don't know about you, but hanging out in a nursing home is not good for one's mental health, if you ask me. He seems to have plenty of help, and he's also getting two physical therapy sessions a day, so there are good things about it. But frankly, I can hardly wait to get out of there, and I'm only visiting. It's something about the looks on the inmates' faces: blank and hopeless. I could never volunteer in a place like that, or I would be depressed in no time at all.

Yesterday Judy and I went to see Unbroken at the theater, and I now understand why the reviews are mixed. Although it is a wonderfully well-made movie, it focuses on the time spent at sea (47 days) before he and another guy were "rescued" by the Japanese. And then it goes into the time he spent as a prisoner of war, with plenty of brutality by one guard in particular. The part of Lou Zamperini is played by Jack O'Connell, someone I had never seen before. He was great, but the guy who played the prison guard (Miyavi) was simply incredible. But if you read the book and wanted to see how he turned his life around after the war ended, it is summed up by a short picture at the end. The movie is good, but it could have been spectacular. I would give it a B. But go, see it and let me know what YOU think of it.

I just spent a couple of hours getting my Trailblazer pictures for 2014 up on my Flickr site. I haven't been doing it quarterly, like I did for so long before, because frankly, my pictures are just not as good as they used to be. You can find them here, if you want to see the 40 pictures I chose from all the ones I took during the year. I figure my fellow Trailblazers will go there to see if there are any really good ones (or really bad ones) of themselves. Anyway, I'm finally caught up to date!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

New movies and a few reviews

December sunrise from my front porch
I was thinking that I took this picture on Christmas morning, but frankly now I'm just not sure. It's pretty enough to grace this post, in any case. I just got back from seeing Into the Woods with my movie-going pal Judy. (All links in this post will go to the Rotten Tomatoes website so you can read for yourself what others think of these movies.)

I didn't actually know the setting of this musical from the 1980s, although I was pretty sure it was about fairy tales, and it is. It mixes Cinderella with Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood together with some clever songs. I enjoyed it very much, but you would have to be a fan of musicals to enjoy it at all. I found it to be entertaining and fun. Meryl Streep is wonderful in it, but she's pretty wonderful in anything, to me anyway. The reviews have been mixed, but I'd give it a B.

Last week we went to see Wild, with Reese Witherspoon playing the lead. This movie has gotten the best ratings, and it's another one I enjoyed. The book was adapted very well to the screen, and I think she will definitely get an Oscar nomination for her performance, which was outstanding. Laura Dern plays her mother and is also excellent. The true story (if you don't know it) is about a young woman whose mother's death at 47 threw her for a loop and she became very self destructive. She decides to hike the Pacific Crest trail alone for over a thousand miles to get her life back on track, and the movie covers the experience in excruciating detail, along with flashbacks to her earlier life. I'd give it an A.

The movie that has stayed with me the longest, however, is The Theory of Everything, the true story of the early years of Stephen Hawking's life and his relationship with his first wife. It's based on her memoir and as soon as I got home I went looking to see how closely the movie followed facts. It's pretty much correct, with some things rearranged for dramatic effect, but still very close to reality. Eddie Redmayne plays Hawking and is absolutely stunning in the role. He inhabited the part and the disability so well that I actually forgot he was acting. This one gets another A from me.

Next Monday we will see Unbroken, which has received rather dismal reviews. (It's the only one in the group that has received a "rotten" rating.) But I've learned to take other people's ideas about what is good and what is not with a grain of salt. There are plenty of movies that I hesitated to see because of the reviews and I loved them after all. Anyway, it's movie time for us!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

Bellingham Bay and Smart Guy on Christmas Day
No hike today. Smart Guy and I had a leisurely morning and then we went for a walk from the apartment to Bellingham Bay. The cold wind and brisk temperatures (well, not that brisk, around 40F or 4C) made it feel quite cold to me until I warmed up. It was about an hour after high tide when we got to the bay. We didn't stay long because of the wind, but it was nice to be there together. This is part of his regular walk and I only visit it a couple times a year. It was nice to be together.

After I scouted out a place for my coffee and enjoyed it to the last drop, I went to visit John in the nursing home. He was moved there today from the hospital and it was the first time I had been inside the North Cascades Health and Rehabilitation Center. I got his stuff moved around so that he can easily reach important things like his new iPad, plugged it in and then left after about a half hour.

It was over 85F in his room when I walked in, and there is no way to turn down the heat, so I opened all the windows and let fresh air in. John cannot get up by himself and I guess that will be the way of things for the next several weeks, but frankly, it made me depressed to think about myself being in such a place. It's Bellingham's newest nursing home, and although it's not bad for what it is, I was anxious to leave.

But it's Christmas, and there was no way I wouldn't go to visit him today. Tomorrow when I'm in the coffee shop, we'll have a video chat so he can join us at the table where we usually sit. Here's what his environment looks like right now:
John in his new home for awhile
His legs are swollen and encased in pressure stockings, and he needs help to get out of bed and stand next to his walker. I didn't stay when the nurses went to take him to the bathroom because I was afraid that it would be hard to see him in pain. Plus he wasn't feeling all that well with the room temperature so high. I hope next time I visit him it will be better.

But otherwise, I've had a wonderful Christmas Day, with an hour's walk with my very special guy. When I finish with this, I'll dial up my family in Texas and say hello. I hope you've had a wonderful Christmas Day!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Eve eve

What if I wanted to check out one of those?
I just went to the library to return some books that will come due by the end of this week, and to pick up one suggested by one of my blogging friends. I don't remember who, I almost never do, but this one  is about the oldest Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, who recently died. I've looked at the book jacket and I know I will enjoy learning about this amazing woman, who lived to be more than 100.

It's pouring outside, with the rain drumming overhead, making a gentle sound as I sit tap-tapping on my laptop keys. I'm beginning to settle in for the duration, with only one short excursion by bus tomorrow, Christmas Eve, to the gym for a good workout. Thursday, Christmas, nothing in the entire town will be open, all the grocery stores closed (good for them), giving all the employees the day off. I'll be searching for something to blog about on Thursday, my usual hiking day. Or maybe I'll give myself the day off, too.

If you don't see me on Thursday, I am wishing all my readers, and everybody in my Blogosphere the happiest and safest of Christmases! May blessings overflow in your life.
:-) hohoho

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Last Market of the year, and a birthday

The outside vendors at today's Farmers' Market
You might notice in the above picture that the pavement is a bit on the wet side: we were forecast to have heavy rain all day long, and when I first woke up, that's what it was doing outside. Buckets of the stuff, and I thought drat, it's Saturday, the walk with the ladies. I waffled about whether to go or not, but finally put on all my rain gear and went. By the time we met (19 of us), the rain had stopped. We did our usual five-mile walk and headed back to the coffee shop.
My coffee and Peggy's scone
Then I headed to the market, just to see it for the last time this year, as it will close at 3:00pm today and not re-open until April. There is a slight chance they may do what they did last year and have one Saturday a month, but the number of vendors will be down to just a few. I visited my friend Margo, who makes the wonderful batik designs, and she was busy helping customers buy some last-minute gifts. I am rarely without some Margo scarf or hanky.
Margo and customer
I have bought lots from her and if I were visiting my family this year, I'd be buying some gifts here, but we're staying home and not traveling anywhere farther than downtown Bellingham. Margo was at Leo's birthday party a couple of nights ago, as we celebrated his sixth birthday. We sang "Happy Birthday" to him (there were probably two dozen adults and Leo) and this is what he did:
Leo being bashful
I think it might have been just a little overwhelming for him, and as he opened presents and got more and more excited, I realized he was probably more than a little overstimulated. I caught this wonderful picture of him as he blew out his candles:
The raspberries on the cake spell out "6"
He loves ice cream cakes, and his mom (holding the cake) always makes one for him. I feel so happy to be included in this circle of friends, all because of the coffee shop we frequent. He takes the place of a grandchild in my heart, and I love him just as much as if he were my own.

All these pictures were taken with my new iPhone 6, and I'm very pleased with them. I keep forgetting about the "burst" mode that allows you to hold down the button and take numerous pictures all at once, and then choose the one(s) you like and get rid of the rest. I was just lucky I got this one right at the moment he was blowing out the candles.

And now the rain is drumming hard on the roof, and I am very glad it didn't do this while we were walking this morning! Life is good, and I hope you all have your chores and shopping finished for the coming holiday, so you can sit back and relax. I'm happy to be done, with only a few things to wrap and deliver.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hike and a Christmas party

Most of the group at the trailhead
Today we met an hour later than usual, to go on a nice easy hike of six flat miles (three out, three back) before gathering for our annual Christmas party at Amy's place. Although she hasn't been able to join us lately because of her knee replacement and back problems, she still wanted to host the party, and we were more than willing to allow her to.
Marjan, Frank, Karen
We don't see Marjan and Frank very often any more, as they usually hike with the other Senior Trailblazer group. Frank is 84 how and doesn't move as fast as he used to (who does?) and Marjan is now 78 but still hikes as fast as ever. Karen bounces around from one group to the other, so it was really nice to have some friends we don't see very often on the hike. There were twenty of us in all.
Linda, Peggy, Marjan, Ward
This picture shows the end of the trail, where we turned around and went back to the cars. And then we all made our way to Amy's for the party. I picked up Smart Guy, who was waiting for me at home with the salad and the wine. When we arrived before the main group got there, I saw that a dozen or more people were already at Amy's who did not go on the hike. There were many people and a very festive atmosphere.
Amy and Jacqueline
Everyone brought food to share, and there was more than we could all eat, but most of it was very healthy and I did fine... until the desserts. And then a piece of pecan pie and a piece of cake were my downfall, and I didn't even touch most of those scrumptious goodies.
Seniors all concentrating on the task at hand: eating
We all enjoyed ourselves very much, as well as getting a chance to know the spouses of some of our regular hikers. Although I don't usually allow myself to eat so much rich food, it was worth it. And the cake! It was to celebrate a very special occasion: Helen's 80th birthday!
Helen and her cake
Helen doesn't hike with us much any more, but she went out with the Senior Trailblazers for 14 years, faithfully. For her birthday, she decided to put a cool purple streak in her snow-white hair. I told her she looks simply beautiful and is an inspiration for me. She told me she hopes that I can still hike when I myself turn eighty. I figured it out: if I still am able, I will have been hiking with these wonderful people for 15 years! A great day.
Selfie in the mirror
All the pictures taken today were with my brand-new iPhone6! I am very happy with my new purchase, and I'm thinking that on days when the weather is fine, this may be my go-to camera of choice. I've got a lot to learn, but it's definitely fun.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Coffee shop goings on

A bird? A plane? No, it's coffee!
I thought my coffee this morning looked a lot like a bird, or maybe something else with wings. Very pretty, and thanks to my barista I was able to enjoy it after taking the picture. But I have to say, I think I've helped to create a budding techno-geek in the coffee shop. Not my friend Gene, either.
Gene all engrossed in his tablet, my iPad Air and John's iPad Mini
My friend John bought himself an Android tablet, which he could barely use, and he brought it to the coffee shop to ask me how to use it. I really didn't know, and being an Apple person I told him I wished he had bought something I could actually help to show him how to use. When he would ask me a question, I would look it up on Google on my iPad and we could eventually get the task done. But last week, he walked in with an iPad Mini! He had decided to join the Apple bandwagon and will sell his perfectly usable (by someone else) Android.

John learned how to use FaceTime yesterday, and I have already received three phone calls from him. He's delighted that he can call and video chat with me. This morning he called to introduce me to his cat. John is a dear man, and I'm happy to help him out, now that I actually CAN. He is going to have both of his knees replaced this coming Monday, and I will be looking forward to a lot of calls from him.

I'm just a bit worried about him, though. This is a major thing he's doing, and I don't think realizes just how major. He will be transferred directly from the hospital to a nursing home until he's back on his new knees. My fingers are crossed for all to go well. Tomorrow I will get him a few more apps that will help to keep him occupied during his convalescence.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

End of a very full day

Bellingham Bay at sunset
This picture was not taken today, but earlier this year. I was looking for something that would feel just right, after such a full day. It started not as usual with a walk, but with a memorial service for my friend Beth, who died a couple of weeks ago. She was only 58, but is another woman who left early because of breast cancer. I was completely taken by surprise at how quickly she died, just a few months after diagnosis.

I really needed the service, which was held at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, a place I have visited in the past. It was exactly what I needed. The experience was moving and personal, and it gave me the closure I so sorely needed. I learned many new things about Beth, but mostly I saw how many people other than me were touched by her life. She was my massage therapist for several months.

As soon as I got home, I ate a quick lunch and Smart Guy and I drove the 75 miles south to Snohomish to take my parachute rig in for its six-month checkup. Yes, that's right: I decided that I am not done yet, and the Drop Zone will open in the first week of January and, weather permitting, I will be out there once again. Or twice or more, who knows? I drove down and he drove back, so we had plenty of time to be together and process our journey.

As we drove back in the sunshine and clouds, we were also both so happy to realize the good choice we made seven years ago to move to Bellingham. It's a beautiful place to live, the just the right place for us.
Magnificent clouds
When it comes my time to cross over, I feel fortunate to know that the community that surrounds me now will support me then, too. Blue skies, Beth! Fly free...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Raindrops keep falling on us

Karen, Peggy, Chris, Lisa, Rich, Doug, Kirk, Al
On a day when we knew ahead of time that we would have weather, not sunshine, nine of us met to hike from the North Chuckanut Trailhead up to Raptor Ridge and beyond. Although rain and wind were forecast, it seemed that we might be able to avoid the worst of it if we got started early enough. At 8:20am, we set off on the trail, with no rain to speak of and made it to Chuckanut Falls. The above picture was taken with my flash, since the day was dark. It felt like twilight, even though the sun was somewhere up there.
Chuckanut Falls
There was more water than I've seen before coming down the falls, probably because of all the rain we've been having. The temperature was very mild and without wind and rain, so at this point were excited that we might luck out. I took one more picture of these three, because the tree behind them needed to be decorated for the season (smile). We discussed the fact that here in the Pacific Northwest, moss grows all the way around the trees, not just on the north-facing side.
Karen, Peggy, Chris
Not long after I took this picture, the rain began in earnest. We thought if we hustled into our rain gear, it might get the message and stop. We hiked up to Huckleberry Point for a view, but the only one I got was of these two guys.
Kirk and Doug with a teeny bit of view
And a few minutes later, I realized that though it was quite warm, I was not staying dry in the steady rain. By the time we had lunch at Raptor Ridge (no view there, either), we decided that maybe it would be a good idea to just turn around and go home, as the rain was picking up, not diminishing. We shortened the hike considerably, but still got almost eight miles in before we reached the cars.
Mist in the trees
It's not easy to see the rain coming down, but I captured this misty view as we hurried back. Rich's yellow pack cover adds just the right amount of color to the scene. We were maybe a mile from the trailhead when the rain turned into a deluge. Once we got back to the cars, we quickly peeled off our wet gear and sped back to the Senior Center. I was able to wring water out of my gloves and have noticed that my rain gear needs some more work before I'll be comfy in something like this. I'll work on it.

The positive points of today's hike: good company, the wind stayed away, and we were back home early enough to have an entire afternoon to spend doing something else!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Giveaways are fun when you win

Eight original photos from Sharon, made into cards
Yesterday I received these eight wonderful cards, made from original photos taken in Costa Rica by Sharon Wagner, as the winner of her Giveaway. Whenever any of my blogging friends have a giveaway, I enter it, because you never know. These cards are also accompanied by some stickers that I can use if I so choose, to add to the cards. I simply love all the pictures, but here is my favorite:
Baru Beach, Costa Rica
Oh, that beach! It's such a perfect picture, I can just imagine myself leaving footprints in the sand and the smell of the ocean. Thank you so much, Sharon! It's not the first giveaway I've won; more than two years ago I won TexWisGirl's giveaway in November 2012. It arrived almost exactly on my 70th birthday, so I was especially thrilled. If you look closely at this picture, you can see my reflection in the glass.
Green heron drawn by Teresa of the Run*A*Round Ranch
And it was not the first giveaway I had ever won, either. Years ago (October 2011, to be exact), I won my first giveaway from Connie at Far Side of Fifty. It was a book about Aldo Leopold, and she also included a bunch of original cards like Sharon's. I've used them by now, but this link to my blog post tells you who Aldo Leopold was and shows pictures of the cards Connie included.

I love the idea of these giveaways and would love to do one of my own, but heck, what would I give away? A skydive? A walk in the woods? My pictures are all digital and I don't think I've even printed one for ages, much less made them into cards like these. I suppose I could give someone a workout plan... no, too much like work! I'll just enter them and hope for the best.

Oh, and by the way: I learned that the dratted word verification thingie is now showing up on my posts. Just ignore it and don't enter the numbers; you should be able to leave a comment anyhow. I don't know WHAT blogger is thinking of.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

More Terry Border

Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn Meringue
Sorry, I can't resist. I saw this cupcake and laughed out loud. Plus it's still my birthday week, so I'm allowing myself a little more indulgence here. It's rainy and a little gloomy outside, so there's not much to take pictures of, and Terry Border provided the inspiration with Marilyn Monroe. Even Ms. Meringue's high heels made me laugh.

This morning I had to wrestle with myself to go out walking with the Fairhaven ladies, but I went, even though it was raining. Not hard enough to convince myself that I should stay inside, and what if it stopped while I was sitting around wishing I had gone? Well, it rained lightly for the entire seven-mile walk, so I didn't stick around for coffee afterwards, realizing that as soon as my feet figured out that I'd stopped, they would decide to get cold (they were squishy wet). Now I am home, warm and toasty, and very glad I went.

This afternoon Judy and I will go to the Bellingham Chamber Chorale to hear their annual Christmas concert. My friend Al sings in it, as he reminded us in an email last week. It should help to get me in the holiday mood. Plus I saw that my community food co-op has just put Christmas wreaths out for sale. When I walked by them this morning (on my way to a latte) the delightful smell was also another reminder that Christmas is not that far away!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rock and ice

Ice on Rock Trail
Today twelve Senior Trailblazers set out on an overcast but relatively balmy day (35F) to make a loop hike from Gates Overlook down the Rock Trail, over to Lost Lake the long way, and then hike back up the Rock Trail.  Or, as Al likes to call these excursions that start and end on the same trail but make a loop in the middle, a "lollipop" hike. The ice is all there because of the recent extremely cold weather we had, and although the temperature is above freezing (barely), the ice is mostly still there.
Icicles have fallen from above that we are walking on
I know this picture is out of focus, but I just had to show you how much the ice had already fallen in certain places on the trail. I didn't want to stop long enough right there to worry about anything except moving out of harm's way. We crunched our way quickly across the places where we might have ice still coming down on us.
Ward, Peggy, Linda, Carol, Doug, Al, Lisa, Kirk, Rich, Steve, Mel
Once we got to the high point of today's hike, which has a view because of it being a clearcut area, I asked for a picture of everybody. There is actually a view behind them, but I think my colorful fellow hikers look pretty good, too. And we could see our lunch destination from up there.
Lost Lake
There it is, Lost Lake, down below us a bit. You can see a stump in the foreground that was once a tree cleared by loggers. It's been a few years, and they did plant some evergreens here and there, so that some day they will be able to do it again. I've not grown exactly accustomed to the harvest of these trees, but I am not as dismayed by it as I was when I first moved here. And it does give unobstructed views.
Golden Ears in Canada
I think I could see that there were places over there in Canada where the sun might be shining. We didn't ever have any, and other than a few stray rain showers, it was quite pleasant all day long. It was time to make our way down to Lost Lake for lunch.
Linda, Ward, Mel, Steve, Carol, Peggy, me, Rich, Al, Doug, Kirk
Before I allowed the group to settle down for lunch, I asked for yet another picture, which turned out quite nice of everybody. Lisa took this one, so I am in it. She did a great job of getting everyone in the frame, with Lost Lake behind us.
A view of the lake while we enjoyed our lunch
Once you stop after hiking for awhile, you tend to get rather cold, so we bundled up and sat in relative comfort as we had lunch. It's really a beautiful place, one of my favorite around-town hikes, as long as it's not raining. As I said, we had a few raindrops, but for Pacific Northwesterners, it was nothing.
Magnificent icicle
This picture of an enormous icicle was taken on our return trip up the Rock Trail and back to the cars. If you didn't have a person in the picture, you wouldn't have any way to tell how large it is. You can see that some pieces have fallen off below it, so again we hustled fast to get out of the way of any possible falling ice. It was a really nice day, and it would have been perfect if I hadn't managed to fall on some slippery rocks just as we gained a view of the cars! I will have a bruise, but otherwise the only thing that was damaged was my pride. We know it goes before a fall, right?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Feeling silly

from terry border.com
A while back one of my blogging friends introduced me to Terry Border's "Bent Objects" page. I recently ran across another website he created recently (linked under the picture) with his funny art. His website says that he's a "humorist, author, Earthling." And he sure does know how to make me laugh by bringing inanimate objects to life. The one above is one of my favorites, as well as the one below. I thought about going to get my nails done again, just for a chance to use this as a header picture.
Yes, he's bent all right
On his page, he also has a few videos, and I watched this one yesterday and thought it would be great fun to share. He was profiled on an Indianapolis station (WFYI) last year and they have this one on YouTube. Enjoy!

He says he's got his dream job, finally: doing what he loves. I hope you get a few laughs out of it. Remember, laughing is good for you!