On the library stool in January...

This year, I may just list the really great stuff I find at the library, the new writers, especially the ones who win "best new author" awards every year. While exploring the new, I've also been trying to catch up on my favorite authors... since retiring I've not been all that good at keeping up. Sigh... never enough time.

Sara J. Henry is a new author to me, and she is amazing. Learning to Swim is the first in a series, followed by A Cold and Lonely Place. I'm anxiously awaiting the third in the series.

I also finished Tom Clancy's Command Authority (I, for one, am hoping for a new Jack Ryan movie franchise, with Chris Pine). I also finished Patricia Cornwell's Dust (oh, boy... not worth the time), Matt Coyle's Yesterday's Echo, and Rachel Abbott's The Back Road. And I started Barry Maitland's The Raven's Eye (awesome so far).

On the non-fiction side, I devoured Julie Adair King's book on my camera, Nikon D5200 for Dummies... I loved it so much, I bought a copy. There are so many tips and tricks in this book, it's been a great learning tool. I also loved The Art of Simple Food, but returned the second book in the series. It will be a better read this summer, when all the produce stands are full of fresh fruits and veggies.

I'm still waiting for Plenty and Plenty More, books that my friend, Cathy, introduced me to. I'm looking forward to trying some of her favorite recipes.



The two camellia bushes outside my kitchen windows are full of buds, already swelling and showing color, one bright magenta, the other palest pink. This morning the fog was thick, and the air was cold, and everything was dripping. It didn't feel much like spring, but I've noticed my garden always knows more than I do.


A logical cat

When we bought our small farm, there was a rustic, hand-made bird feeder mounted on a post in the garden that bordered the patio, the perfect spot for watching birds.

My youngest cat agreed. Tigger was always my hunter, and loved having five acres to roam. I never caught her off the property, so I never worried she'd get herself into trouble. I'd find her in the orchard, crouched completely still, waiting to catch a mouse. Or hanging out by the chicken coop, watching the baby chicks. She even managed to catch a Stellar jay, quite a coup for such a small cat.

One day I came home from work, changed clothes, and grabbed my gardening tools. And then I spotted Tigger. My clever cat figured out a way to get 6 feet off the ground, and up into the bird feeder, where she waited patiently for the birds to come to her.

Consider the logic, if cats have such a thing. Did she sit on the patio and watch the birds fly in and out of the feeder, then decide that was the perfect place to lie in wait? She was a very smart cat, and I don't doubt it for a minute.

I came across this bird feeder today. It was brought crashing to the ground in January 1994, when a major windstorm snapped the top of a huge cedar tree. I put the remaining pieces in the barn, thinking I'd rebuild it. And never did. But now, maybe I will, and put it back on a post by the patio.

And remember my sweet cat.


Pink roses (TT)

During a cold, wet week (when I was longing for snow), I brightened my house with roses. 

I'm linking up with Kim Klassen and Texture Tuesday today. Texture is CherishScripted @ 60% Overlay    



A friend of mine started an Instagram "play-along" this year, and as my personal winner of the who-owns-the-most-cookbooks contest, Cathy is the perfect person to do this. It's easy enough: cook from the cookbook she chooses for each month, or choose one of your own favorites. Then just post photographs and comments in Instagram when you cook from the book.

I chose this one, which is full of healthy recipes using ingredients from Trader Joe's. You don't need to run out and buy everything from TJ's of course... just use the ingredients list as a guideline.

For dinner on this rainy winter day, I made one of my favorites: "Creamy" Red Pepper-Basil Pasta. It's quick and tasty, and a full recipe will feed us for two nights... I like that.

You heat up the sauce ingredients while the pasta cooks. I increase the quantity of green peas, 'cause I like them. And I always add a few sliced fresh mushrooms. Or sauteed chanterelles from the freezer, if I have any left. You could also add leftover meat, like some chopped chicken or pork.

When the pasta is at the al dente stage, strain it then pour the pasta into an oven-proof dish. Pour the sauce over the top and swish it to distribute it evenly, add grated or shredded cheese on top, and bake it for 20-25 minutes. Yum.

If you want to follow along on Instagram, just do a search on #nowshecooks.



Sunrise at the cabin

It's darkest just before the dawn, and the
hours before dawn are the coldest of the day. 
Cold, and dark.

But when dawn finally comes, it brings 
the most magical, beautiful light for a brand new day.



Rediscovered old favorites, a former biker bar in the south end that has a great beer selection and even better pizza... and a diner in downtown Bainbridge that's still going strong.

Some new toys... my first tablet which I absolutely love, and a new smart phone to replace my aging Motorola. I can be stubborn about clinging to the familiar, not wanting to move on to something better. But when I let go, I'm always happy. There's a life lesson there, I think.

Mom-in-law is doing well after her hip replacement. I hope at 82 I have her optimism and high spirits. She's a true joy in my life.

Mid-week found us on the ferry to Bainbridge with fly fishing friends, for a tour of the Sage fly rod company. Loved the day spent talking about nothing but fly fishing.

We ended the day with a pig roast, in downtown of all places... wherever did they cook it? I have a mental image of a huge rotisserie on the roof of the building, overlook the Pike Place Market.

Lots of rain made bookends for a couple of brilliant days. Yesterday I headed out for a wet-road drive out into the eastern reach of the county, to do maintenance on one of my geocaches. I didn't mind the weather; it's one of my favorite drives anywhere.


Back roads...

It's one of my favorite back roads, always has been. The road runs hard up against the Cascade foothills, and you can't go further east without going south to Chinook Pass or north to Snoqualmie Pass.

It's secluded and green out in the far edge of the county... and today the clouds were so low, it looked foggy, with the low mountains disappearing in the clouds. The road twists and bends, and it's easy to miss the turns that keep you heading on the main line, and not ending up on some dead end.

The tiny remnants of old coal towns, some just a name on a road sign now, remind me of the rich local history. The long, one-track railroad sidings hold cars until they're ready to head east over the mountains; today tanker cars stretched both ways past the bridge, a line of black snaking out of sight. Another held lumber cars; the worn gold blending perfectly with the winter colors.

It was raining so hard, the clouds were nearly at ground level, and water and clouds made photography difficult. The river is running strong, and no brave kayakers were out on the course.

I know all the side roads like the back of my hand, the hidden lakes, the fishing spots on the Cedar, the mountain bike trails. I've driven this road with joy behind the seat of my little red car, and if I'm upset or pensive, it's always my choice to drive while I sort things out.

When it pours rain like today, and there's country music on the radio, all is right with this little corner of the world... my world.


Sage and a diner...

On the road today with some new fly fishing friends from the local Senior Activities Center, heading for Bainbridge Island. The Center has the best fly fishing program, lots of day trips and weekend trips, plus other cool stuff. And once a week a group gets together for a morning of fly tying.

Today we're heading to Sage Manufacturing, one of the premier fly rod manufacturers in the country, maybe the world. Years ago I learned how to cast a fly rod from one of the Sage reps, using Sage gear, and never forgot what a great introduction that was to the sport.

But first, lunch. We suggested the Streamliner Diner. We used to love this place but haven't been there in years. They fit half at the counter with a perfect view of the cooks, half at a corner table with a perfect view of downtown Bainbridge. Half the group ordered breakfast, half had lunch. Great food, fun place to eat (especially at the counter).

The Sage tour was fun, and we saw every step of the process, from cutting the graphite sheets to form the rod pieces, to the final coat of epoxy to protect the silkscreened logo.

I think we all wanted the R&D engineer's job: besides designing all the rods, he spends half the year fly fishing, to make sure everything works the way he designed them.


Moments... a rainy week in winter

Rain and wind and cold most of the week, oh, my... the coats speak volumes about the weather.

A day in Edmonds with friends... look at those smiles! I was smiling too, behind the camera. Good beer and food, and there will be a new messenger bag that I'll convert to a camera bag.

Walked a county park and watched dogs and kids and an eagle.

Reading a new author. Then another. Rainy days are perfect for catching up on my reading.

On the one day of light... photographed these beautiful roses in my "studio."


My still Sunday...

This is a weekly collection of still life photography, hosted by Kim Klassen (who also gathers together photographs for Texture Tuesday and Friday Finds). It's the first time I've played along with this Instagram-only collection, so I thought for this week, I'd also include my photograph here.

I included more of the gorgeous pink roses that I've been photographing lately, plus a favorite sugar spoon, encrusted with roses. The sheet music belonged to my mother, and the Kodak pocket camera was my dad's. Since he was the one who taught me to love photography, I thought it fitting to included a bit of him here.

Still life photography isn't my strong suit, and that's one reason I'm doing this. I'll learn a lot about composition, and I'll learn a lot about my camera in the process.

You can find the entire collection of My still Sunday photographs on Instagram, under #mystillsundaycompetition.



One thing I love about the blogging world is discovering other writers who have the same interests. I discovered Cheryl through another blog I enjoy reading, and loved her writing style and her photographs. She shared a story about friendships gained through blogging, and photographs of her friend's bowl of treasured silver flatware.

She went home and sorted through her own collection, many passed down through her family, and the memories connected with them. As I wrote a comment on her lovely story and photographs, I thought about my own collection of silver. Some pieces came down through my mother's family, but most were chosen by me at antique shops and yard sales.

I love silver, and have a few pieces that I use daily. But I've never set the especially beautiful pieces out on display. Instead, it's tucked away in silvercloth-lined boxes to keep the tarnish at bay. I don't get to see it and touch it, and admire the designs, and think about how each piece is a work of art.

So today I pulled out a few of my favorite patterns and pieces and a Polish pottery platter, and tried to capture their beauty.

My favorite patterns have grape or grapevine designs... lovely patterns like Vintage, Isabella, and LaVigne. But I also love the florals, like Wildwood and Flower, Arbutus and York Rose.

The serving pieces are the most beautiful, with extravagant sprays of blooms and vines that run along the edges and spill into the bowls.

My favorite piece is in the center of the platter: a fish serving fork in the Vintage pattern, which I found in an antique shop in Utah a few years ago. It was in the original box, and was a wedding gift to the bride from her sister, and the hand-written gift card was tucked inside the box. Knowing something of its history makes it all the more beautiful.


Friday Finds | Driftwood from a long-ago beach

This morning I was rummaging around in one of the attics, looking for a box of old piano music (which I never found). But in a box of treasures saved from my childhood, I did find this.

I still remember finding this twisted bit of driftwood. We were camping at Beachside State Park in Oregon, where we always went for our summer holiday. Out on the beach for the day, my dad had all us girls looking for small pieces of driftwood for an art project. When I found this piece, polished smooth by the tides, wrapped around a striped rock, I thought it was beautiful.

How the stone got embedded into the wood will always be a mystery. But it's just as tight and immovable today as it was all those years ago, when a young girl picked it up off a beach.



The day dawned clear with cloudy streaks, and stayed that way long enough to show how glorious a sunrise can be... pink and blue stripes and an ocean of waves that stretched across the sky. Then the sunrise vanished, and the grey skies closed ranks.

It will rain today, but I won't mind. I saw the sun rise.


Ivory and pink (TT)

Is there anything more beautiful than a rose? These beauties will be in my guest room until they fade, sharing the corner table with a bear made from an antique quilt.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday today. The texture is Kim Klassen's 0511 | Multiply 60%


A rose in winter...

I rarely buy flowers, except in the winter. When the skies are grey, and it's raining (or snowing), there's just something about fresh flowers in the house. They brighten my mood, and make everything fresh. And they make me smile.

Today the best light in the house was in the guest room, which is upstairs in a dormer. The sun stays low in the sky in winter, and the light reaches through the windows, all the way through the house. It's my favorite room in the wintertime.

I put one of my roses in a tiny cream pitcher and carried it upstairs. In the corner of the room is a small table that holds a green and white antique quilt, and my favorite bear, made from an antique Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.

The soft pastel colors made the perfect backdrop for this pale pink rose. And the light brought out the texture of the petals, and shone clear through to the heart of the bloom.


Fresh air...

It was a completely unexpected sunny day...  and I turned my back on all the things to do at home, and headed out for some fresh air in one of my favorite local "wild" places. There are so many developed parks around, with soccer fields and floodlights, and paved walking paths, and big parking lots. This park is a wide open space with no pavement anywhere, just dirt and gravel pathways, rolling hills, woods and creeks and ponds. Wild and open, this park was carved from old farms and pastures, and I love it.

The park was glistening in the sunlight, the sky bright blue. All the wet from the past few foggy days was still on the bushes and trees, and my shoes got wet walking through the grass. The creek was running strong.

I wasn't the only one out on this gorgeous afternoon. There were dog walkers, and park maintenance workers, and two high school kids, sitting on a bench by the lake.

I spotted this gorgeous eagle sitting high in a tree above the dock. His head was a combination of dark feathers and white, like he's turning from juvenile to adult.


James the cat

Tonight I crawled into bed with my camera and a field guide to my camera, and played around with focusing options. I needed a subject, and since James had just settled down on the bed, she was it.

Before I was done fiddling with all the settings, I got the "what the heck is that" look, then the skeptical look, then the "what was that bright light?" look, then the "I'm closing my eyes and going to sleep" look. All those cat expressions... don't you love them?


Storing Christmas

It has become as much a holiday tradition as decorating for the holidays. I bring down the plastic crates full of small cardboard boxes, and put in a DVD movie, usually an old favorite that I don't need to watch closely. I pour a glass of wine, get out all the ornament boxes, and settle in for an afternoon of carefully dismantling the Christmas trees, separating ornaments from wire hangars, sorting them into piles, then figuring out what goes in which box... putting Christmas away for another year.

Since our small house doesn't have room for a big tree, instead I decorate a forest of small trees that I spread around the house, kitchen and dining room, living room and bedroom, even the upstairs hall. I love the look.

Packing the ornaments away was always made more challenging by the presence of our cats. The couple of years when we had five cats, I had to lock them in the basement if I wanted any ornaments to survive. Our Russian Blue, Phoebe, was especially tempted by all those shiny little balls. Usually I managed to get them down and packed before Phoebe lost control and whacked one across the floor. With wood floors and an eager cat, ornaments could sail clear across the room and smack into the wall before I could say “No!”

We lost Phoebe a few days after Christmas 2013, and we still miss her. As I sorted and wrapped, I couldn't help thinking about her, and missing her mischief.


A pot for blooms

On Christmas Day, my sister asked if I knew how she came by a small pair of bean pots, and I remembered they'd belonged to our mother. Laurie pulled one down and handed it to me, something of our history to share.

Today when I went out in the fog to cut a few sprays of the Lily of the Valley shrub, I thought they went perfectly with the shiny brown glaze of the pot.


The garden in winter

The buds for this spring's blooms are already swelling on my Lily of the Valley shrub, which was old when we bought our little farm thirty years ago. They will stay, beautifully red, until spring gives the signal to burst into bloom. Until then, I will bring sprays indoors to brighten my day.


Lily of the valley in winter (TT)

Linking up with Texture Tuesday today. I chose an old favorite texture for the curvy lines of text, and for the way the texture intensifies the color of the buds and leaves.

Textured with Kim Klassen's Wonderful Magic scripted | Overlay @ 47%


Looking for food...

The orchard was alive this morning, with a flock of these beauties searching for food. Before the day turned dark, they'd completely cleaned out three bird feeders. They'll be back tomorrow.


Trail dog

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent.
To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden,
where doing nothing was not boring... it was peace.
Milan Kundera

I've felt really nostalgic the past week or so, seeing blogging friends posting photos of their dogs, and remembering how much I loved sharing my life with a dog.

Storm was our second dog, and our last dog (at least so far). He was a rescue dog, as most of our resident four-legged creatures have been. He came to us in early winter, after our Norwegian Elkhound disappeared one night. When I put up a note at work, a friend asked if we were interested in adopting a Siberian Husky that they had rescued. D fell in love with this big furry dog at first sight, and we took him home. We figured with 5 acres, if Bjorn ever found his way home, there was plenty of room for two.

We soon figured out that while kind and gentle with people and cats, Storm had a different perspective on farm animals. The first time we let him run in the front pasture, he chased the geese. The geese could look out for themselves, however, and the gander chased Storm off. A month later we were working in the front pasture, and suddenly Storm just took off, heading for our neighbor's place. By the time Dave got there, Storm had jumped the fence of their goat pen and had one of the goats pinned. So from then on, he was on a run unless he was in the house with us. We were disappointed. We wanted a farm dog, one that could stay outside while we were at work, keeping an eye on the place.

If we couldn't trust Storm off-leash at home, how would he behave when we went hiking? There was only one way to find out. We chose a trail off Snoqualmie Pass while there was still snow on the ground, and off we went. We kept Storm on a leash for the first mile, then unclipped the leash. We figured he'd either run off, or he'd figure it out and stay with us. We held our breath as he ran ahead of us about 30 feet, stopped and sniffed the snow... and came right back to us. We hiked for hours, and this dog knew his place was a few dozen yards ahead of us, and he kept a careful eye on us, never getting out of our sight. He became the perfect trail dog, and we never left him at home when we went hiking.


In 2015, let there be Balance...

Live a balanced life... learn some and think some 
and draw and paint and sing and dance 
and play and work every day some. 
Robert Fulgham

When I came across this quotation, I knew I had found my word for 2015. For someone like me, with a lot of passions and a tendency to get sidetracked by one at a time... it should be a word to live by. And it will fit perfectly with my goals for this year.


Fifteen in 2015

Last year was the first time I've participated in this challenge, and it was eye-opening for me. It wasn't just declaring goals ahead of time; I'd always been good about doing this with my work. But once I retired, I was not so good about setting goals in my real life. But somehow publishing a list, then going back at the end of the year and seeing how I did... taking ownership of the things that were important to me that I didn't complete, and carrying them forward to the new year. That simple act made all the difference.

So in this brand new year, these fifteen things are what I'd like to accomplish:

Work more in black and white
Take a trip out of the country, to explore a bit more of this big, wide world
Keep working on those hand-written letters
Ride horses with my niece
Travel and photograph the Kittitas barn quilt trail
Explore and photograph the Palouse country
Frame photographs to hang at home
Finish at least one quilt... maybe the one that's been up on the design wall for a year
Clear out all the attics in my old farmhouse... and maybe clear out the attic in the garage, too
Spend part of the winter, either at the beginning or the end of the year, in a snowy place
Finish both bathroom remodel projects (joint with D) before something else breaks
Take that Kim Klassen Photoshop Elements class
Participate in an online photographic journey
Bring a puppy into my home
And last... more fly fishing adventures

Let the fun begin!


Winter frost...

Frost grows on the window glass, 
forming whorl patterns of lovely translucent geometry.
Breathe on the glass, and you give frost more ammunition.
Now it can build castles and cities 
and whole ice continents with your breath's vapor.
In a few blinks you can almost see the winter fairies moving in...
But first, you hear the crackle of their wings.  

Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration


A 2014 report card...

Of the goals I set for myself a year ago, how did I do?

Discover more of the country through the lens of my camera | Oregon and Nevada, Colorado and eastern Idaho. Winter, summer, and fall... lots of practice capturing snow and ice, the colors of the ocean and sky, and the oranges and reds of autumn | Take a long MX-5 road trip with my honey | It wasn't the trip we planned, but we managed to get out for ten days in True Red, geocaching and exploring in Palouse country and the Blue Mountains | Do as much fly fishing as possible, in as many places as possible | We fished on the Yeager ranch in Colorado, and two of the best rivers in Idaho: Henry's Fork, and the South Fork of the Snake River. It's sad that we didn't fish at all in our own state, but the trips were great | Spend more time with family, especially my beautiful nieces | There were birthday parties and holiday gatherings, road trips with our Aussie relatives, and a week at the ocean with sister and nieces and great nieces | Volunteer at the local historical society | No time, but will keep this one in mind for 2015. Not as a docent or anything like that, but in the back room doing research. That's my thing | Eat healthier and exercise more | Definitely! Between us we lost a lot of weight this year, and feel better than we have in years. We read recipes together, and cooked together... even better | Smile more, and learn to let go of things outside my control | Boy, not working sure helped me with this one. I used to get so stressed out at my job, worrying about things I had absolutely no control over. I enjoy my life so much more now | Be a tourist in my own town, and visit the local landmarks I've never seen | I had a perfect way to jump-start this one: a visiting niece and her boyfriend from Australia. We did some city exploring together, and even got up to Mt. Rainier in January. Best was finally doing the Seattle Underground Tour | Ride with Jessica, and rediscover my love of all things horsey | This one just didn't happen, and she now lives a couple of hours away | Work on my photography bucket list | A work in progress that keeps growing... I adding much more to the list than I completed | Take a quilting class... maybe even join a quilt guild | We came and went too much to take a class, but I did work on two quilts | Frame my photographs to hang in the house and the cabin | Nope. But I spent a lot of time reviewing my photographs, and know what I want to print | Write more letters the old fashioned way | Two, combined with birthday cards. Does that count? | Take one of Kim's Photoshop Elements classes | In spite of my best intentions, I couldn't pull this off. But it's at the top of my list for January |