Hot summer days...

Another hot day; I've lost track of how many there have been, but I'm not complaining. The warmth feels good.

Nine yummy books came in for me at the library, landscape photography mostly, plus a couple of books on the best places to photograph the beauty of my home state. A brand-new book on this subject is on order through the library, and I'll get one of the first copies.

The 90 degree day drove me downstairs again... a good day to work in the wine cellar. We stored wine for friends while they built their retirement home, and now that empty space is just begging to be filled. Dave's Mayer Cellars wines will go there as soon as I assemble a new rack for them.

Natalie and Anton cooked dinner for us; they head for Alaska in the morning and will be gone until the end of September. While they're gone, we'll work on our bathroom remodel projects... starting with the cabin. I'll do just about anything to get back to the lake, even learn basic plumbing and electrical skills.

After dinner, I wrote for a while, and edited photographs. I love this view of an oxbow lake near Fall City... still and calm and peaceful on a hot summer day.


Random thoughts

It's hard to not be at the cabin on such a hot day, the lake always in view, cool and inviting. We're heading into a long warm, dry season, with no rain in sight. And the only place I want to be is at the lake.

So I turned my back on such thoughts, and concentrated on getting ready for the next cabin weekend. The laundry is finished, and I've repacked the lake box. It was nice in the basement, at least 15 degrees cooler.

We're talking about getting a pair of kayaks for the lake, a way to get out on the water solo. We could also fly fish from a kayak, instead of climbing into waders and boots and launching our float tubes. It would be fun to take them on road trips, too... maybe try out the lakes on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway near Mt. Bachelor. We've been there several times the past few decades, and the lakes are so beautiful they just beg you to come and explore... perfect for a kayak.

I've been in size 12 jeans and shorts for a month now, and today I bought a pair of size 10 jeans. It's the first time I've been this size for a couple of decades, and it sure feels good.

James, our aging blond cat, is feeling pretty good, too. There's a new spring in her step, and she can get up on the sofa without a footstool. I caught her trotting down the stairs the other day; this cat who has been stiff and arthritic for several years now, is moving like a cat half her age. Still, these hot days encourage her to do only one thing... sleep.



This little basket has become my constant companion the past couple of weeks. I tuck in a few blocks for the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt, plus thread, needle book, embroidery scissors, and reading glasses, and I'm ready to sew wherever I am.

The entire quilt will be stitched by hand, and I'm surprisingly not at all bored by the repetition. Instead, there's something soothing about sewing, keeping my hands occupied, while watching television, or talking with friends on the deck at the cabin. I slowly make progress on the quilt, without missing out on the world around me.


Facing east

The cabin windows face east, across the lake, away from approaching weather that's divided by the Olympic Mountains. I lie in bed and watch the sky turn pink with the sun's rising, and on the 4th of July, watch exploding fireworks over the lake.

The other side of the cabin faces uphill into woods of fir and pine, toward the setting sun and the salt water of Hood Canal. We can't see either mountains or canal from our place; there are too many hills and trees between us. But in summer, when skies are clear, we see snatches of sunset color in the sky between the trees.

The big deck is an extension of the cabin, and my favorite place to sit. Anytime of day, anytime of the year, I sweep the needles off, then pull the Adirondack chairs outside. I curl up with my book, or my laptop, and my Nikon is always in reach. I never know what will pass in front of me, in my aerie over the lake. An osprey fishing for its dinner. Eagles soaring on the air currents. Swallows chasing bugs, with fish rising below them. A lake that turns flat calm and reflects the trees along the shore, or a brilliant sunrise. Fishermen silently casting their lines, hoping to hook a big rainbow.

In summer my feet are bare. In winter I wrap up in a quilt, wanting to be outside even though it's cold. Only the rain will drive me indoors.

I don't have this need to be outside when I'm at home. But at the cabin, it's my favorite place to be.


Summer storms...

The thunder woke me about 4:30 this morning, faint rumblings against the foothills that grew stronger, bolder, as if more sure of itself. One boom! right over the house made me sit bolt upright in bed, waking the cat (and Dave). It rained all day long, a much-needed rain.

I love thunderstorms, but I didn't always. I used to get up and hide in the bathroom of my parents' house, the only room in the house with no windows. I'd sit on the hamper and put my feet on the sink, and read until the storm passed.

It was my oldest sister, Kathie, who changed my mind about storms. During one particularly bad summer storm when she was home from college, she got up and coaxed me out of the bathroom and out to the carport, where we stood under the roof and watched the sky blaze with lightning, the rain pouring down the roof and overflowing the gutters. She taught me how to gauge the distance of the storm by counting the time between the lightning flash and the next crack of thunder. One thousand one, one thousand two... boom!

We stood there in our bathrobes and slippers, watching the storm and talking, until the storm passed and the rain let up, then went back to bed.

I was never afraid of thunderstorms again, and thanks to my sister, learned to love the raw strength and beauty of storms.


Bird basket...

We've seen birds build nests in odd places around here. The bravest bird built a nest in the Christmas wreath I hung by the front door and never took down. Come spring, this little house finch called it home.

This June I treated myself to a hanging basket of bright geraniums and verbena and lobelia, and I hung it outside the dining room windows, where I could see it from inside the house. Just a few days later, I opened the window to water the basket, and there was a tiny soft nest, right in the middle of the planter. Before I realized, I dumped water right in the middle of the nest, on top of two small cream-colored eggs.

I was sure the parents had abandoned the nest, but later in the day, there was a small Junco sitting there.

When we got home from camping last weekend, I stood on a chair to get a good look into the nest, and was surprised to see that the eggs had hatched and there were two tiny birds, all open mouths, begging to be fed. No adult birds were in sight, so I carefully watered all around the outside edge of the planter. And just before dark, I saw the mother Junco fly in and settle down for the night.

All week I kept an eye on the nest, watching the mother bird fly in and feed her babies.

Today, the nest was empty, the baby birds fledged and flown.


Baby violets, part 3

I've been propagating African violets in water, and I'm totally sold on this approach.

The first batch of African violet leaves sprouted roots so quickly, I decided to try it again. With the extra light of summer, these had roots in about a week, and baby leaves in just ten days.

Of those first plants, the ones that did the best were left in water until the tiny leaves grew larger, then I planted them. With each, I left the "parent" leaf intact. I'm not sure this had any benefit, but it sure didn't hurt. After all, it was this leaf that sprouted roots, so just as much a part of the new plant as the tiny new crown of leaves is.

Since the first experiment worked so well, I'll do the same with these new leaves. It will give me time to find more of these small McCoy pottery planters!

This is so easy, it just may become a new hobby.

You can read about propagating violet leaves in water here and here.


Friday Finds | Counted cross-stitch

Back in the 80's I was hooked on cross stitch, actually on needlework of all kinds. We lived in a new, modern house in the suburbs... and all I wanted was an old house in the country. So my favorite subjects were barns and antiques, old houses, and main streets full of character.

I'd sit and stitch, dreaming about the house and the life I wish I had. And a few years later I got my wish:  a 1923 farmhouse in a rural valley, with a lot of needs but an equal amount of character. I could look out my windows and see my horse grazing, pick fruit from my orchard trees, and my needlework hung on the walls.

I don't remember why I took this cross-stitch picture down. But when cleaning out an attic recently, there it was. Wrapped carefully in paper, tucked in a box in the corner.

When I chose this pattern, it was the antique chest that caught my eye. But now everything in it is has meaning:  the antique chest, the basket of branches, the carved wood decoy, the hand-made quilts. I love antique furniture, the burnished wood, the style, and have collected a few pieces over the years. My sister makes the most amazing baskets, all on display in her own antique farmhouse. My friend Linda has carved and painted wood decoys on the bookshelves in her family room. And she taught me to love antique quilts, and got me started on the path to collecting them. Which led, eventually, to making quilts of my own.

So this little cross-stitch is back on the wall in my living room, where it will stay to remind me of so much that's important in my life.

Linked up with Kim's Friday Finds today.


Family time...

We've been surrounded by family these past few weeks. Natalie & Anton are back after four months of skiing, and exploring national parks in the western states. Last week we camped at the ocean with "the girls":  my sister and her two daughters, plus Anna's little girls, plus Nat and Anton. It was five days of laughter and walks on the beach, cooking meals together, sitting around the campfire, watching the sun go down, catching up on our reading, and marveling at the pod of gray whales.

On Sunday there was a gathering of my other family, to celebrate my mother-in-law's 82nd birthday. Everyone was there. Our nieces are so grown up now... Emily in high school, Katie at drama school in Chicago, Mandy heading off to her first job in Denver. Jess is nearly finished with a master's in library science, and Tiffany just started a new job at a software company. I was glad Natalie and Anton got to spend time with them. Any get-together of this clan is full of fun and laughter.

I've always felt like my house was a home, even with just the two of us. But there's something about having family visiting that seems to bring the whole family together, making our lives fuller and richer.


Summer reading

Every year as a child, I took part in the library's summer reading program. Mom would take me and my sisters to the neighborhood library to sign up, and since reading was one of our favorite things to do, we often earned the top prize: reading 100 books before school started up in the fall.

When I was a child with no responsibilities, it was easy. Today, not so much. Even though I no longer work, my days are still filled with other activities:  keeping up with the garden, fly fishing, housekeeping, and our cabin. And there are wineries to visit, and road trips to plan, and time to devote to family and friends.

My reading time most of the year is dedicated to non-fiction. Photography, quilting, watercolor painting, and cooking have been common themes this year, and I've managed to squeeze in a few novels along the way. So it's nice to look at my current stack of books and see mostly fiction for a change. I snagged most of these from the Choice Reads shelves in my local library. Some are new authors to me; others are new books from comfortable, familiar authors.

I've finished three so far:

Neither Wolf Nor Dog is on loan from my brother-in-law, Bob. It's the perfect read after I've climbed into bed each night, something to ease the transition from a busy day.

Rage Against the Dying is the first novel by a new writer, and it went to the ocean with me last week. It's very good, and I loved her characters. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

The Road to Burgundy is autobiographical, about a San Francisco man who falls in love with the wines of Burgundy, decides to leave an unfulfilling career and learns how to make wine instead. I know what you're thinking... "yeah, another one of those tales." But this one may surprise you. It's not the best writing I've every read, but it's entertaining. And if you've ever tried to decipher the labels on French wines, the book will help you do just that. I read it in a few hours last week, sitting on the edge of the ocean.


A walking stick for Vivian

Last week at the ocean, I took my walking stick to Ruby Beach. We hadn't walked very far before tiny Vivian wanted a walking stick of her own. Anna easily found one in just the right length... driftwood walking sticks for kids are much easier to find!


The edge of the ocean

Last night I went to sleep in a tent at the edge of the ocean. The sound of the surf rang in my ears and lulled me to sleep. I fought against it, lying on my stomach in the tent watching the light die over the waves, not wanting to give in and go to sleep.

This morning we got up early for a final walk on the beach. It's the lowest tide yet, and we wanted to take advantage of it before we head for home. The morning fog was hanging over the hill behind us, but it was still and warm on the beach. All the rock formations were surrounded by sand, easy to explore, with crystal clear pools full of tiny fish and sea anemones and crabs, even a few hermit crabs and one lone starfish.

It was hard to turn my back on the ocean and head back to camp, harder still to pack up and head for home. These days at the beach with our family were amazing.


Alone at the beach

The last of the clan left today, and we're all alone here, on this stretch of coastline. My sister and her daughters, Anna and her daughters headed home yesterday. Our niece and her boyfriend left this morning. I miss the sounds of laughter, communal cooking, creaking chairs, chatter.

Low tide was at 6:30 this morning, and I'd already been on the beach for an hour. It will be sunny today, but it's cool this early, with not a breath of wind to tangle my hair. I walked out to the edge of land, then explored the rocks and pools before heading upriver to poke through the driftwood. I dragged a few pieces back that will make good walking sticks, and watched the sun come over the top of the bluff.

My footprints were the only ones on the beach... except for a pair of small five-toed mammals that were there before me.


Cape Flattery

The four of us took a drive out to Cape Flattery this afternoon, and walked out to the end of the land. The Cape is the most northwesterly point of the continental United States. Off the point is Tatoosh Island and its active lighthouse; the island is now a wildlife sanctuary.

The point is riddled with sea caves, and they say if you make the walk out during a storm, you can hear (and feel) the waves pounding inside them.

It's on my bucket list.


Perfect beach

It's the perfect beach. There's grass for tents, rocks for a cook stove, and a firepit. The beach is just a short steep scramble down the old breakwater. Beach grass and scattered driftwood, then sand, toe-squishing warm sand, all the way to the water's edge.

Rock mounds dot the shore and the nearby headland, covered with barnacles and piling worms, with small pools of sea anemones and starfish. We climbed up for a better look at grey whales on our first evening.

At the end of the beach are rocks that have turned on their side, knife edges of rock with sandy coves in between. The sand heats up in the sun, keeping your toes warm as you walk, then cooling them when a wave rolls in.

It's an irresistible beach, the perfect place for kids to play, people to walk their dogs, surfers to catch a wave, and the occasional game of beach golf.


Grays at play

Tonight we sat on our little bluff, watching the water and the dogs running on the beach. The girls were down near the rocks, and suddenly Caroline hollered and waved frantically, pointing at the water. And there was the fluke of a whale!

The three cousins watched from the beach, with baby Vivian.

I grabbed my Nikon and ran. The rocks gave us a great vantage point for photographing first one, then two, then three whales. It was awesome to be so close to them, even though they never threw themselves into the air, just rolled and waved their fins, and once in a while splashed a tail hard on the water. Caroline looked up whale anatomy online, and we're pretty sure these were gray whales, and pretty sure there were two adults and one baby.

The whales worked their way along the shore, following the tide as it came in, and stayed until it got too dark to see them.

Flat rocks

We headed north to Neah Bay this morning. On the way, we spent a couple of hours at Ruby Beach, one of my favorite beaches anywhere.

The beach is covered with lovely flat basalt stones. Big ones to make towers from, tiny ones for jewelry, in-between sizes for game board tokens. Every so often I'd find a small pocket of glossy black flat stones, already polished glass smooth.

I found one small piece of green jade, and a few tiny pieces of red jasper, but didn't find any garnets, the gem that gave the beach its name.


Tide pools

Before settling down for the evening, we decided to drive north to Beach 4 and check out the tide pools.

The tide was out just far enough to let us scramble up on the rocks, and we split up like a school of fish fleeing from a bald eagle. It was pretty amusing to watch. Everyone had their own pool, their own rocks to scramble over, looking for the most amazing creatures.

Ella gave Natalie and Anton a tour of her favorite pool.

Vivian played on the beach, with help from Laurie. They collected rocks and driftwood, and stacked rocks on beach logs. Until Aunt Lissa brought out the shy side.

But she soon smiled, and showed me her rock collection. She's already learning beachcombing skills, and she's not two yet. It's definitely in her genes.

Kalaloch quilting

What can I say... it's wet here. Even when it's not raining, all that green comes with a price. The damp seeps into your clothes, then into your bones. But it's beautiful here.

After we set up our tent and unrolled our pads and bags, we walked across the road to the group campfire and settled down to talk. I pulled out my quilt blocks, and as soon as Ella saw the colored fabric pieces, she pulled her chair close and wanted to see what I was doing. So I explained to this small 6-year-old girl how the hexagons are stitched together into flowers. She washed her hands and took control of the pieces, handing them to me one at a time. Dare I hope she'll be a quilter one day?


A week at the beach

We're off to the Washington coast this week with my sister, her daughters, and grand-daughters, plus our niece and her boyfriend, who are visiting from Australia. So I'll be posting some back-dated entries in a week or so... or however long it takes me to catch up!

I'm looking forward to walks on the beach, foggy mornings, and time around the campfire. I'm also looking forward to trying out our new camping pads, and seeing if our old backpacking tent still repels water after being in the attic for twenty years.

I'm looking forward to some quiet time to work on my latest project: a completely hand-pieced Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.

Most of all, I'm looking forward to a week without my laptop and cell phone... to reconnect the old-fashioned way: face to face.


Friday the Fourth

We'd planned to spend the day at home, catching up on projects. Instead, a last-minute invitation took us to Tacoma to spend the day with friends.

The Ruston Way street fair. The deck @ Dukes. Boats and blue water and views of Vashon. Buckets of beer for the table. Amazing ceviche shared with Davey, skewers of prawns and scallops, chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. We had the best seats for the air show, no one between my Nikon and a stream of planes,  including a purple & white Russian Sukoi, a Lockheed Harpoon bomber, a bright red biplane, and a P-51 Mustang. And did I mention the sunshine?

For the first time since we moved to the farm, there were fireworks displays right in our little valley... three of them, in fact. We had a perfect view from our bedroom windows, and were not at all worried that the noise would bother James. I hate that my cat is deaf, except on this day.

I don't usually post this many photographs, but playing with servo mode on the Nikon was just too much fun. You can tell by the images that the bright red biplane was my favorite in the show.