Happy as a clam?

I used the expression recently in an e-mail to a friend, who replied: "How did clams get so freakin’ happy?"

So it got me thinking about this abundant Northwest shellfish. Clams live in the mud and rarely see daylight. People chase them around with shovels. If the clam digger misses, clams just keep living their mucky existence below the sand. If the digger breaks the shell, the clam dies a horrible death at the beak of some hungry seagull. And horror of horrors, if the digger is lucky & catches the clam, he’s dumped into a bucket of water, taken home, and thrown live into boiling water.

I’m still looking for the happy part…


Spiral wine glass charms

This afternoon I got out beads and silver wire, and made a bunch of wine glass charms. My friend Kathy gave me a few of these, and they're so easy to make. Silver wire won't rust, so I just leave the charms on my glasses.

I really like the beautiful glass lampwork beads for these charms. They're a good size, come in interesting shapes, and are distinctive enough to stand on their own.

These spiral tags are really easy to make. You will need a pair of needle nose pliers with fine tips best are the type made for jewelry making, as they have smooth tips that won't mark the wire, but I've uesd both types. You'll also need something round to wrap the wire around, which should be a bit bigger in diameter than the stem of your wine glasses. A  smooth-barreled pen, the stem of a screwdriver, or a jewelry-making mandrel will all work. 

First, cut a 4.5 in. length of wire.

Make a tiny loop in one end of the wire, using the needle nose pliers. For fun, vary the loop: single, double, even a tiny spiral. You can even buy silver wire already cut in various lengths; some come with a ball end which looks really pretty..

String the bead and let it drop against the loop.

Hold the pen in your right hand, and push the bead right up against the pen with the wire running underneath. Wrap the wire around the pen barrel, angling the wire so you create a spiral with a small gap between the wires. You'll want at least 3 full wraps.

Remove the spiral from the pen barrel. Trim the end if needed, and make a loop in the end of the wire. Note how much you trimmed off. If you trimmed 1/2 inch, for the next charm, cut the wire 4 in. long. If the spiral ended up too short, you'll want to start with a longer piece of wire. And also remember that glasses will need different diameter charms. My red wine glasses have more robust stems than my delicate white wine glasses. You'll want to experiment: make a charm and try it out on your own glasses, then adjust the measurements as necessary.

To use the charm: slip the gap that's closest to the bead over the stem of the glass, and carefully twist the spiral until it's wrapped around the stem of the glass. Be careful not to bend the wire; you're just incorporating the glass stem into the spiral, which is easy if you use a delicate touch. The bead should rest on the foot of the wine glass, right at the base of the stem.


As languages go…

A friend was bemoaning her inability to spell in a recent blog, and I sympathize. As an editor, I deal with it every single day. Spelling, grammar, punctuation...  it's a difficult language, but I love it. I also applaud anyone's efforts to use our quirky language correctly, especially in this day of instant publishing via the Internet. Some people say that correct spelling isn't important, but I disagree. People have a habit of thinking that if something is in "print," it must be correct. So reading our own words to catch errors, and using spell check on everything (even e-mail) is one way to make sure mistakes don't get published.

Today one of our marketing guys shared something he found on the internet, and I thought I'd share it with you. Hope you enjoy it.

Let's face it: English is a CRAZY language.

There is no EGG in EGGPLANT nor HAM in HAMBURGER, neither APPLE nor PINE in pineapple. ENGLISH MUFFINS weren't invented in ENGLAND, QUICKSAND can work SLOWLY, BOXING RINGS are SQUARE, and a GUINEA PIG is neither from GUINEA nor is it a PIG.

And why is it that WRITERS WRITE but FINGERS don't FING, GROCERS don't GROCE and HAMMERS don't HAM? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can MAKE AMENDS but not one AMEND? If TEACHERS TAUGHT, why didn't PREACHERS PRAUGHT? If a VEGETARIAN eats VEGETABLES, what does a HUMANITARIAN eat?

In what other language do people RECITE at a PLAY and PLAY at a RECITAL? We SHIP by TRUCK but SEND CARGO BY SHIP. We have NOSES that RUN and FEET that SMELL. We PARK in a DRIVEWAY and DRIVE on a PARKWAY. And how can a SLIM CHANCE and a FAT CHANCE be the same, while a WISE MAN and a WISE GUY are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your HOUSE can BURN UP as it BURNS DOWN, in which you FILL IN a form by FILLING IT OUT, and in which an ALARM goes OFF by going ON. And in closing, if Father is POP, how come mother's not MOP?

– Author Unknown


Mystery draft horses

When we first moved to our little horse farm, we were surrounded by horses (cows and sheep, too). It's one thing we loved about the place from the beginning: that all around us were other small farms. We boarded a few horses along with my own, and life was good. With all the nearby trails, we often saw horses being ridden up and down the road, and I did the same. My Thoroughbred gelding loved trail riding, and I didn't have an outdoor ring at the time, so trail riding was pretty much all I did.

But we were both surprised one day when working out in the front pasture, and a young Clydesdale trotted past on the road, pulling a training cart. Dave looked at the horse, and said "If I ever got my own horse, I'd like to have a draft horse." We saw the horse and driver a lot that summer; we later found out that he used the outdoor ring at the horse boarding farm just up the road.

We never did get that draft horse (although it would have been a lot of fun). But we always looked for them on our backroads drives, and never missed the draft horse shows at the state fair each year. Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, Belgian… I loved them all.

Our best friends live in Kittitas county, home to Ellensburg and Central Washington University. On my last visit, I was surprised to see a big herd of black draft horses just down the hill from their place. Linda & I stopped to check them out, and I left the Pilot in the middle of the road and took a few quick pictures. Nothing photographic about the shots; I'll have to come back another day and spend some time doing a better photo shoot. This is a beautiful herd, mares and geldings, and one foal... already the size of a Quarter horse.

We weren't entirely sure what breed they were. They're pure black with lots of white markings, the feathers you usually see on Clydesdale legs, and gorgeous Roman noses. They were quite striking, standing in a brilliant green pasture, with golden hills behind. Linda guessed Percheron, but since they're born black and turn grey as they age, that wasn't right. And I knew that although Clydesdales have white markings and feathers, they are always bay.

So I did some research later, and these beautiful horses are Shires. Black is the most common color for this breed, their feathers come from the Clydesdale in their foundation bloodlines, and they have extravagent white markings. But the clincher in the identification was the Roman nose... that is all Shire and not shared among the other breeds.

If you're interested in learning more, here's a link to the breed association website: www.shirehorse.org/information/breedstandard


Too dark to read

Over the years I've gotten in the habit of adding funny e-mails or jokes to my daily journal, and occasionally I come across one when looking for something completely different in my journal. This gem from October 2007 was sent to the whole group of mountain biking friends, courtesy of Bernard. I thought it was especially amusing, since Bernie doesn't read a book if he can listen to it on CD. But he does own a dog.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog it’s too dark to read.



I have a love/hate relationship with flannel sheets. I love that they're toasty warm when I first slide under the covers, and that the top sheet is like a lightweight blanket. But I miss those cool spots under the covers, the ones you can stick your feet into if you get too warm. With flannel sheets, once you heat up the bed, it stays that way all night long. Each winter, I wait until the nights are good and cold before I pack away the cotton sheets, and can hardly wait until the nights warm up again, and I can sleep in smooth, cool cotton once again.

The bed in the cabin draped in flannel sheets year-round, though. Our rustic cabin is unheated, except by a wood stove in the main living area downstairs, and we sleep in the cozy upstairs, with a big window looking out toward the lake. I love the exposed collar beams, and the wood tongue-in-groove ceiling. The roof isn't insulated, which makes the bedroom a perfect place to listen to the rain falling on the metal roof. But it's chilly in the bedroom most of the year, and flannel sheets make the bed cozy and warm.


A painterly outlook

Even though I’ve not put paint to paper yet, my usual research approach to any new subject is paying off already. I’ve read a couple dozen books on watercolor painting, especially landscapes and architecture, and am seeing the world in a different way. As a photographer, I love to take wide views, but also like close-ups of features: farmhouses in their landscape, but also doors, millwork features, windows, etc. And those are useful for references when painting. I usually try to crop out things that aren’t attractive, but for painting, I don’t need to do this. It’s better to get the scene right for a composition, and just don’t include the ugly powerlines or jumble of houses.

The last weekend we spent at the cabin, we took one of our favorite drives, up the canal to Seabeck. As always, I rode with my camera on my lap. There was something about the overcast sky but fairly bright light that made everything so photogenic. I took a few pictures of the cool community center at Holly, just snapshots out the window. These will be good reference pictures. Dave spotted a string of new caches on the Holly Road, one of our favorite little side roads anyway, so we took a detour to go find them. The first was next to an inlet with overhanging trees; the color of the water next to the green trees and bright shore was beautiful, and I took quite a few photos there.

I’ve gotten in the habit of looking at the world through the lens, and choosing my shots that way. That’s how I found my favorite picture of the day: looking west toward the canal through overhanging trees, with misty clouds hiding the Olympics.

The day steadily got more gloomy and rainy, but I still stopped to photograph one of my favorite farmhouses. It's at the turn to the state park, surrounded by grass and trees, at what was once the end of Seabeck Bay. And although you should take architectural pictures on sunny days (because buildings benefit from stronger contrast), I love this view of one of my very favorite farmhouses. This house sat rather forlorn in an open field for years, now it has a fresh coat of paint, and beautiful gardens. This place has the sort of plantings I’d like to have at our farmhouse, including the foundation plantings.
I especially love the curved edging of rock that turns into a dry stone wall, separating the gravel drive from the gardens, the granite boulders that add interest to the border, and the rich colors of the sedum and chrysanthemums.


It's all about the jeans

Today marks an anniversary of sorts: it's been a year since I decided to change my work attire to jeans. Just jeans, every day.

It started when I looked around the room during our weekly staff meeting, and everyone in the room (except for our boss) was wearing jeans. The software team, the lead engineer, the electrical engineers, the technical writers, the industrial designer… everyone in blue jeans. I decided right then to start wearing jeans more often, maybe even daily. I I'd already been in jeans every day that week, because of almost daily snowfall.

Jeans are easy to take care of, no ironing required, and comfortable. And everything goes with them, which would give me less to worry about in the morning. Plus, I think it was just a tiny sign of rebellion on my part. If everyone else in Engineering wore jeans every day, why shouldn't I?

For the past year, a pretty big part of my day was spent on the manufacturing floor, documenting new products. So jeans made a lot of sense. I didn't have to think twice about getting down on the floor to check out plumbing connections, or climbing into a catcher tank to see how the sections were put together. And comfy jeans and t-shirts and warm sweaters just made the rest of my day—the time spent at my computer, writing—that much easier to get through.

And now, a year later, jeans are a habit I have no intention of breaking.