Herons take flight

I headed for the trail about 9:00 this morning. I wanted to hang out with the herons, but six left the nests and flew overhead as I reached the footbridge, so I was sure I was too late. No matter... today is one of those perfect, you-can-smell-spring sort of mornings, and I was just glad to be out enjoying it.

In just two days, the skunk cabbage was starting to emerge from the marshes and the creek beds, beautiful slender yellow tubes with bright green leaves. I love them, especially this time of year... they don't smell yet! The springs are still running strong, filling the tiny streams that run downhill to the main creek, streams that will dry up in a few months. I love how the leaf litter fills the ditches, making interesting patterns in the water.

I walked south toward the lake, looking for more heron nests. At a picnic table right at water's edge, a pair of Mallards came up on dry land, looking for crumbs. Too early in the year for picnics, but they were hopeful.

I headed back toward the car, and just as I walked past the heronry, the sky suddenly filled with birds, lifting up out of the marsh, herons flying and squawking, soaring overhead. Fortunately my camera was already set to infinity, and I was lucky to get a shot. I've never seen so many herons at one time; at least forty birds were in flight.

The herons landed in three or four trees, still squawking as they settled down in their perches. Most relaxed and pulled up one leg, and went to sleep.

I waited around to see what came next in this bird ballet; one by one they took off and flew back to the nests, or landed back in the marsh.

I stood there and watched as the birds took off, squawking, soaring around... and of all the people on the trail this morning, only one other person noticed.

It's sad how many people treat this trail as just a place to get some exercise. I see them flying by on bicycles, walking or jogging, blinders on, ignoring the park completely. It's just a blacktop path close to home, convenient. They never see the beauty around them. Of all the people who passed me on the trail while the herons were flying, only one person even noticed them. He stopped next to me as the birds soared overhead, completely in awe.


A perfect dessert

Have you ever had a dessert so perfect, you tell all your friends about it,
and you can't wait to go back for more? 
Just imagine creamy vanilla and chocolate gelato wrapped around a center of maraschino cherries and nuts, encased in a thick bittersweet chocolate shell, and drizzled with melted chocolate.
Even my non-chocolate loving hubbie thought it was fabulous.
I wanted to lick the plate.

Correction... we both wanted to lick the plate.

You can get your own at Osteria di Parma in downtown Burien.
The food, especially the brick oven pizza, was awesome.
But I'd go back just to have dessert and a glass of Italian red.
Maybe tonight.


The herons return

I look forward to this day every year: when the Blue Herons return to the heronry near my house.

Last Wednesday as we headed out to meet friends, we spotted this big guy sitting in the cottonwood tree by our pond. He seemed unconcerned that I sat nearby for ten minutes and took his picture... maybe because he was 50 feet above the ground. Was he there to check on the food supply in our pond? Or was he scoping out the trees for a possible nesting site?

I drove past the heronry a couple of times this week, checking on the nests. Today when I went for my walk on the trail, two birds flew right overhead. A man with a Canon dSLR on a tripod came around the corner; he pointed to the birds, and said he'd been photographing the birds in flight. But he didn't know there was a heronry right down the road.

There's one place on the trail where you can see into the stand of dead trees where the nests are. This late in the morning, most of the birds were off in the marsh. So tomorrow I'll be there first thing, before the nesting pairs leave to look for food.

This telephoto photograph was taken across the marsh, and shows just a small part of the heronry. If you look closely, you'll see seven herons in the picture.


My favorite park is waking up to spring

Today I walked the trail near my house, which has been my favorite walk for almost three decades. There's always something beautiful to see... herons flying, the trees budding out in spring, the carpet of huge maple leaves to scuff through in autumn. The beauty of this place never fails to amaze and delight me. There is only one distant vista, and no views of lakes or the Sound, but that's part of its charm. It rewards those who take the time to look closely to see the beauty in the details.

It was chilly today, and threatening rain, so I only walked for an hour. The wind was blowing the clouds east, opening up patches of blue sky and letting the sun shine for brief moments, over and over again. Spring may be on its way, but it's still winter here.

On my way back to the car, the clouds settled in for good and it began to rain, but there was one stubborn patch of sunshine that refused to be chased away. And there I saw it:  the first signs of spring in the park. On a hillside lit by the sun, under a canopy of trees, was a vast carpet of snowdrops, spreading through the woods and absolutely making my day.


Fresh squeezed

I bought a bag of Cara Cara oranges at Costco last weekend, thinking some natural Vitamin C would be a good thing during our gloomy winter. But neither of us cared much for the flavor, and they were a bit mushy. So I decided to juice them instead.

I do it the old-fashioned way, using a glass juicer from the 1960s. And this small Polish pottery pitcher is the perfect size for juice for two. The orange husks will go into the freezer; my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe uses orange zest, plus orange juice instead of vanilla. Yum!

Isn't the juice a beautiful color?


Reflections... and sunflowers

At times in life I've felt like I was treading water, uncertain about my life, my approach to life. But thankfully, not often. I don't like the way being overly introspective makes me feel. Dissatisfied somehow, like I'm missing something.

Do I consider my life, myself, when I make choices? Absolutely. But I try not to get hung up on the "what if's" of life. My choices haven't always been great, but I'd rather embrace the decisions I've made, and be grateful for the path those choices led me toward... and for the good that's come my way. I've been guilty of just going with the flow, sometimes... but I've also made tough choices, and turned away from the easy path.

Remembering the small, seemingly insignificant choices is one reason I've kept a journal for nearly 40 years. Because I've learned that how you get onto a certain path isn't always because of a momentous decision. Sometimes it's a small thing that ends up changing your life.

Today's photo choice will hopefully cheer up a grey winter day:

Oklahoma sunflowers | Texture Tuesday's Downton Abbey II | Daisy


Grains of sand

Sometimes I feel as though I grew up on a beach. All those family vacations spent walking the Oregon coast beaches, from the white sands of Honeyman to the wild rocky beaches of Yachats, I loved them all. But my favorite beaches were the ones with enough sand for running, sea stacks and tide pools, and enough gravel to spend hours digging, looking for agates. It never seemed to matter whether it was sunny or rainy, we had just as much fun.

On our last day at the beach, the beach was full of sand dollars, the smallest the size of a nickel. And at the line between wet sand and dry, these beautiful jellyfish. While the guys talked and tossed the ball for Brodi, I knelt down and looked at the world through the magnifying glass of a jellyfish.


January reads

Our dark and gloomy January was perfect for reading and sewing, for learning about new places and learning new software programs. And there was still plenty of time to enjoy some new fiction authors. It was one of those months when I was especially grateful for having access to the best public library system in the country.

These are my favorites for the month:


  • David Baldacci | Hell's Corner
  • David Baldacci | The Collectors
  • Vanessa Diffenbaugh | The Language of Flowers
  • Tatiana de Rosnay | The House I Loved
  • Louise Marley | The Glass Butterfly
  • William Sullivan | The Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachute
  • Kathryn R. Wall's Bay Tanner mysteries |first two in the series
  • P.S. Wall | The Wilde Women
  • Kate Wilhelm | Heaven is High


  • Scott Kelby's 7-Point System for Photoshop. Love this book. It makes sense of all the controls in Photoshop, putting them into a logical order to follow when tweaking photographs. There are lots of authors writing about Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, but I highly recommend Kelby's PS and PSE books.
  • David Busch's Mastering Digital SLR Photography
  • David Busch's Nikon D5100 : guide to digital SLR photography (he also wrote one on the Nikon D7000).

Other non-fiction

  • Handmade tote bags, purses, wallets | found great patterns and ideas in a dozen books
  • Fly fishing in Washington, Idaho, Montana. I especially loved the book on the Olympic Peninsula, as much for the fishing locations as for the ideas for photography locations
  • Scott Kelby | CS2 Photoshop book (I've used Photoshop Elements for years, but just got a free copy of Photoshop to play with!)
  • Rick Steves | ETBD books and DVDs on England, Ireland, and Scotland


Sewing with cats

Anyone who shares their life with a cat (or two) knows the strongest magnet for felines is the sight of their human trying to work on a project. (That and anyone in the kitchen, 'cause that means the possibility of food.)

My latest project took me back to the sewing room, away from the computer for a change. I've been learning how to make tote bags, the perfect project for a cold, rainy winter. I started with a couple of simple bags, leading up to the main event: a custom designed padded "bucket" for my camera and lenses, something I could slip into a tote bag, or the big leather hobo bag I take on trips. (I am not a fan of traditional camera bags.) I'll be writing up my notes soon, and will link to them here.

But until then, I thought you might enjoy Phoebe's favorite place when I'm sewing: right smack in the middle of my fabric and sewing tools.


98 years

Had she lived, my mother would have been 98 years old today. I miss her, and will always miss her. There is much I would have done differently as a daughter, but I choose not to dwell on things that cannot be changed.

Instead, I think about this photograph, and remember the good times we had together, and wish I could have known the laughing, joyful woman I see.

I also thank her for giving me her hair genes... she is the reason my hair is still thick and dark brown, when I'm in the last year of my fifth decade.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.


Language is such fun

I've been watching a lot of British television lately, not sure how that happened, but besides enjoying some wacky British humor, I also learned some new words that we don't share on our side of the pond.

Some terms and phrases I'd heard before, some are brand new, but none are particularly vague. I'm sure we both use words that the other side wouldn't understand at all. The Brits have a reputation for slang, but we Americans have our share!

Theirs | Ours
Trainers | running shoes
Tracksuit | sweatsuit or sweats
Boot (of car) | trunk
Jumper | sweater
Changing gears or changing up | shifting (a car)
Child minder | babysitter
Flat | apartment
Half past (hour) | (hour):30 (half past four vs. 4:30)
Juncture | intersection (road)
Ring someone | call on the phone
Gents | men's room
Car park or "park" | parking lot
Lorry | truck
Hoovering | vacuuming
Ground floor | first floor
First floor | second floor

I'll be adding to this list as I learn new Brit-isms.


Love letters

Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them  ... Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

One of the treasures my sisters and I inherited from our parents is a box stuffed full of letters, written between them before they were married, when my dad was studying to be an architect at the University of Washington, and my mom was living in Denver.

The letters are full of the small bits of life, things you write to remember a particular day or event, the weather, the sunset. My mom's letters are much more romantic than my dad's; sending her love across the miles, missing him, sending him news of his family and hers, so he feels connected to his roots. His are full of friends and classes, football games, exploring downtown Seattle, his wonder at the natural scenic beauty of the Northwest.

We lost something important, when the electronic age made handwritten letters a thing of the past. Few people save e-mail, and you can't re-read a telephone call. All that is shared between people in these ways is lost forever.

Texture Tuesday . Downton Abbey . Edith


Beach glass

For the past ten days we've been house-sitting for friends who live at the beach at Three Tree Point. And every day we've walked the beach, rain or shine. I envy anyone who has access to a salt water beach, anytime they want. I grew up spending all my vacations along the Oregon and Washington coast, walking the beach every day, running in and out of the surf, staring at the sand, hoping to find the perfect agate. Walking for miles.

Driftwood, agates, bright red jasper stones, and speckled egg-shaped stones... they all found their way into my collecting bag, and into the Pilot to take home. But I had the most fun looking for beach glass. I love the stuff, always have. Every day I walked the beach at least twice, once alone, once with Brodi. He'd run endlessly, and I'd look for treasures.

The most common glass has been clear; no surprise. But I've found just about as much green. Just picture 7-up bottles and Mickey Big Mouth beer bottles, and you'll know the exact color. The brown is hard to spot; it seems to blend in with sand and stones more than the other colors. The blue glass is so gorgeous, from a deep, beautiful cobalt to light blue. My favorite is the red, and I only found a few pieces. I also found two colors I've never seen before: orange, and pink, and a handful of marbles. But I think my favorite piece is what I think was a swizzle stick, with the knobby end intact.

In all I scored about five pounds of glass, all sorted into separate bags by color. My original idea was to find big pieces to use for polishing driftwood... that's another blog. But I also started collecting the small bits, and I'm thinking about other projects. Maybe I'll make framed stained-glass type mosaics, and frame them to hang in our cabin windows to catch the light. Or maybe combine twisted bits of polished driftwood and beach glass and make wind chimes. Or...

If you have any ideas for art projects using beach glass, I'd love to hear them.


Books for the beach

My brand new Trip Advisor tote bag got its first outing: hauling ten days' worth of books to the beach house. Did I make it through all of them?  Yes, through these and more...  Aren't vacations wonderful? So many books, and finally enough time to read.

This huge tote bag was a gift from Trip Advisor, for submitting 50 reviews of restaurants and attractions. It's the perfect size for an overnight bag... or for a book bag for vacation. It has a front pocket and zipper top, the canvas is heavy duty and sturdy, and the green straps are long enough to go over my shoulder.