2016 in photos...

Posting my favorite photograph from each month of the year is something I've not done before. I always thought it would be too hard to choose just one picture. But what I learned is that sometimes, the opposite was true. For some months this year, I had to look hard to find a photograph I really liked. That has given me much food for thought. In any case, here are my favorite pictures of the year. I hope you enjoy them!

In January we spent a weekend in Ellensburg with friends, and on the last day I went out in a snowstorm to photograph the farms and barns on the hillside where they live. I have a lot of favorite pictures from that afternoon, and most have never been published before. Because of the blowing snow, the photographs from that day look more like paintings.

In February, it rained. And it rained. And then it rained some more. Rainfall records were broken. I'm not sure it ever stopped, based on the number of photos with rain droplets, and photos of flooded pastures! But it made for a lot of interesting, if soggy, opportunities.

March was a month to explore county open space parks, in search of geocaches, but also in search of new trails close to home. We did two geocaching events, one on the cold side of the state. There were no good photos from that weekend, sad to say. My favorite place we explored during the other event was an old soldier's cemetery near Orting, high on the side of a hill. I loved the solitary cross amidst the sea of plain white stones.

In April, we started planning road trips for the summer and fall, and jump-started the season with a trip to Leavenworth to visit friends. We walked prairies in bloom in SW Washington. And the cherry trees bloomed.


May brought us to our cabin for our annual "opening" day. It was Madison's first visit, and we took one of our favorite drives, circumnavigating Hood Canal. In one of the state parks along the canal, I pulled the tall grass away from the base of a tree, and found this perfect nest.

In June, Madison turned one year old. She's been a complete joy ever since she moved home with us last December. We hit the road for a couple of weeks in Oregon, with hiking near Mount Hood, and geocaching near Bend.

In July I helped with my quilt guild's annual quilt show, and my Aussie sister and brother-in-law arrived for a visit. But I confess that the event in July that sticks in my mind is a different encounter: with a baby timber rattlesnake. I was reaching for a geocache at the base of a tree, and lucky for me, the tiny snake wasn't in the mood to be social.

In August I sprained my ankle, my African violet bloomed (a big deal, really!), and we toured the Boeing Everett plant for the first time ever. It's true that it's a good thing to play tourist in your own town once in a while! Best of all, we spent a week in Walla Walla and the rolling hills of the Palouse. And I finally got to see this spectacular old barn with its fence of wheels.

September brought the long-awaited road trip, to Colorado by way of Utah, and home through Montana. We hiked on the Continental Divide, discovered petroglyphs in a little-seen canyon, and went fishing on Blue Mesa. And I had another encounter with a rattlesnake, a full-grown one this time.

But the coolest thing I did in September was babysit a fire lookout for four nights. At a mile high, the air was crystal clear and the weather was picture perfect, and we had a stunning view of Mount Rainier. We sat up late and watched the stars, and woke at first light to photograph the dawn's light hitting the mountain. It was hard to choose just one picture from the hundreds I took during those four days, but I do love this one, taken just before dawn on the third morning.

Fall came late this year, and by mid-October the leaves had only just begun to turn color. We made our fourth trip around Mount Rainier, this time spending a few nights and doing some hiking south of the mountain.

In November we spent a few days at the cabin, unfortunately during a stormy period. On the one sunny day, we drove up Puget Sound to Port Townsend and Port Angeles, then back along Hood Canal. It's one of our favorite drives, and we always try to do it in the fall, when the trees are changing color. This time we were lucky enough to catch the passenger boat arriving in Port Orchard.

The first snows of the season came in December, and that was enough incentive to spend a cold, snowy day exploring the Snoqualmie Valley. We know it well, all the back roads and the views, but snow on Mt. Si completely changed the landscape. It may be the only time I've seen the Snoqualmie River lined with trees just changing to fall colors, with Mt. Si covered in snow.

Well, that's it... 2016 officially ends in just a couple of hours. I have great hopes for 2017!



At the beginning of 2016, on the last day of a weekend spent with friends in Ellensburg, I headed out to take pictures before we headed for home. And found myself in the middle of a blizzard, flying solo with the Pilot and my camera, freezing my bones but finding some beautiful scenery.

It was really the first time I'd deliberately gone out in a winter storm, by myself. I don't have a track record with driving in the stuff, in spite of living on the cold side of the state for almost 8 years. But today was so beautiful, I decided to risk the roads and explore. My friends live in the midst of old farms and homesteads, some of my favorite subjects. But today I found more than my favorite old barns. Irrigation lines still connected, because the blizzard took the farmer by surprise. A herd of elk, eating hay with a herd of cattle. Draft horses with icicles in their tails. Yellow lichen-covered willow trees, blowing in the wind.

Photography in falling snow is new to me, and I have much to learn about light and white balance when there isn't much light, and the contrast is so extreme. But I had the roads to myself, and the world was magical, and even though I was chilled through, I didn't want to leave.

It hasn't snowed much this winter on the wet side of the state, but I am ever hopeful. We're at the beginning of a cold spell, and snow might be just around the corner. My fingers are crossed that scenes like this one will be possible, without having to travel a hundred miles from home.


Christmas No. 2...

We stayed up too late last night, and got up in the dark to help with breakfast, then wave goodbye to my family as they headed for Leavenworth for a day in the snow. With time to kill before our boat, we explored the island, found some geocaches, and made the ferry with plenty of time to spare.

I brought my mom's sewing machine home with me. It's choking on something, and I offered to get it some help. Mom left it to my sister, and it's made plenty of kid's clothes and doll clothes, and even some quilts. I hope it still has life, and there will be many more hours of sewing ahead.

We're headed off island to spend the afternoon with DWs family, a big rowdy bunch from 84 to 18; such fun. Good food and wine, a Secret Santa gift exchange, and a sweater contest, then home in the cold rain to crash with Madison. Tomorrow's another day; maybe I'll find time to clean my house.

Or maybe I'll catch up on that stack of books that's been waiting for me.

And wait for it to snow.


Ten gallons...

I took a break from family and excited little girls and Christmas presents, and walked into my niece's family room. The windows there look out on my sister's perennial gardens, asleep for the winter. But it wasn't the gardens that caught my eye. It was this 10-gallon crock, filled to the brim with a bumper crop of hazlenuts.

And three almonds.


Ten days...

Ten days ago, I wrote a few words and edited a photograph, and uploaded them to my blog. I felt relieved that I'd caught up to the current day, but dismayed to know that the next time I posted, I'd be ten days behind again. That's the curse of a blogger who loves to get out on the road and explore, to visit friends, to geocache, to just find someplace I've never been before.

I loved my week with friends near Lake Wenatchee, a winter wonderland this year. The trees were laden with snow, the rivers and streams were icing over, bank to bank. It was beautiful, but the weather made it hard to get out with my camera every day. Every day it got colder, too... on Saturday we went to a private winery party, and when we left, it was 2 degrees. We watched the snow fall (15+ inches in the first few days), sat by the fire, talked and caught up, and cooked together. It was heavenly.

I never thought I had the wanderlust gene. I looked forward to vacation every year, but loved being at home, and always thought I was happiest in my own home. , but the past year I've really become to understand that part of me. I love my home, my little farmhouse on five beautiful serene acres, and I love the things I create while I'm there.

But I also love the road, the road that takes me to the amazing places in this beautiful country of ours. Places you can find just by getting off the freeway and following those hidden side roads. Following your nose, following the winding road, letting the schedule slip just long enough to see what else is out there.


A quartet of cats...

The last handmade gifts for this year are these cats... quilted and embroidered with love for my two great nieces, Ella and Vivian. The two on the left are 25 years old, and will stay at the farm with my collection of old bears and bunnies and cats. The two on the right will go to their new owners on Christmas day.

But I just might have to make a few more... you never know when a cuddly stuffed toy will be needed!


Water into ice...

If the river has a soul, it's a peaceful one. If it has a lesson to impart, that lesson is patience. There will be drought, it says; there will be floods; the ice will form, the ice will melt; the water will flow and blend into the river's brackish mouth, then join the ocean... endlessly, forever, amen.  - Therese Anne Fowler


Blue snow...

This homestead near Plain is one of my favorite spots, but I've never been there with so much snow on the ground. After breakfast and a stroll through Plain Hardware, I came back on my own with my camera. I followed footsteps and photographed the lovely barns.

The log home has been under restoration for a few years now, and finally it looks done.

I love how the bright blue sky reflects on snow and turns it blue... just as it does on a clear mountain lake.


Ice drops...

Heading east, to the central Cascades, where we'll find snow and blue skies and cold temperatures. Good friends, good food, a winery party, and lots of time to relax before Christmas.

Our snow is over for now. The icy cold days were such fun and I loved being outside with my camera.

Winter officially arrives in a few days... I hope it's a cold one.



A grassy hillside, a handful of lichen-covered sticks, and a sentiment we can all understand. Not what you'd expect to find alongside a trail. But I loved finding it there.


.Winter walk...

On a chilly day last week, after the first snow fell in the foothills, we took our first walk on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. We only sampled short stretches of the 31-mile railroad grade, and already I'm thinking of doing the whole thing on the bikes come spring. We're going to a geocaching event in North Bend tonight; the perfect excuse to spend the whole day exploring the valley.



A few days ago we spent an entire day exploring the Snoqualmie Valley, and our route took us along the old highway into North Bend, and past the old Weyerhaeuser mill pond.

I remember taking this old road when it was the only route over the pass, but more than that, it was one of the best back-country roads to get me out into farm country. And whenever we went out for a Sunday drive after church, that was always my goal. Farms, barns, horses... that's what I was passionate about from the time I was old enough to know what a horse was.

A lot of those farms and old barns are still there today. The winding river still winds its way through the Snoqualmie Valley, but because the river floods the valley, much of the farmland is still green with pastures and not covered with houses. Thank goodness for that.

The mill pond was still used to float logs for the mill that once stood here. The mill itself is gone, but the pond remains, and it makes a perfect reflecting pool for Mount Si.


A new view...

One of the reasons I love driving the back roads (other than driving my bright red MX-5 on a twisty road) is that I almost always find a different viewpoint of a local landmark. Like Mount Si, which rises above the little town of North Bend. It's a spectacular hunk of glacier-carved rock and one of my favorite views along I-90 heading toward Snoqualmie Pass.

But today we found a different view, with the mountain coated in fresh snow, the Snoqualmie River flowing north, and all of it framed with trees and shrubs still wearing their autumn colors.


Quilted cats...

Years ago, when I was a temporary California girl, I discovered the tiny mission town of San Juan Bautista. My roommate and I were on our way to Monterey, and we never made it there. Instead, we explored the town and its shops.

I made a lot of discoveries that day: that the town was founded in 1869, California's largest Spanish mission, a shop devoted entirely to Limoges china, and the most wonderful shop filled with all sorts of cottage crafts made from vintage and antique materials.

A friend back home had just introduced me to collecting antique quilts, and in this small shop I found examples of what talented people were doing with cutter quilts: those badly damaged quilts that couldn't be used for bedding. The thought of cutting up a quilt to use for crafts made me a bit squeamish, but I still couldn't resist going home with a teddy bear made from a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt, a fleece-bottomed goose, and a tiny cat made from a scrap of antique quilt too small to make out the pattern. Louise went home with a table runner made from a quilt.

Over the years I've made more small cats based on this one, drafting a pattern and changing it to suit my own style. The calico cat is made from a leftover bit of fabric from a Gunne Sax dress I made, hand quilted first then cut out and sewn together. It was always one of my favorite dresses, and I love having the reminder of it.

But I've yet to cut up a tattered antique quilt to make something else from it. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough.


Drops of ice...

On a day that began with icy roads and freezing fog, and ended with watching the last light of the day washing over the face of Mt. Si, there were lots of things that stood out as amazing.

Being surrounded by mountains covered in the first real snow of the season, sparkling in the sunshine. Finding a hidden view of the mountains reflected in an oxbow lake. Walking along the the Snoqualmie River, with a snowy Mt. Si in the background.

Everything was beautiful on this cold morning. As I slid across a bridge on the Snoqualmie Valley trail and walked down the slope toward the river, I was surrounded by snowberry bushes glinting with moisture. As I brushed against one, expecting to be showered with icy cold water, I realized that the branches were actually covered in droplets of crystal clear ice.


First snow...

Huge flakes falling outside the farmhouse windows this morning, just after first light. I love the first real snow of the season, don't you?



I've had a lot of trouble keeping up with my blog this year, as you've probably noticed. It's not that we've traveled a lot, or spent a lot of time away from home. No, I blame it on the growing stack of tiny quilt tops in my basement sewing room.

A goal to clear out my scrap bins started it all last January, and led to a couple of dozen quilt kits ready to sew together, which led to more scraps. Which led to other fabric crafts like quilted coasters and pin cushions and table runners and wall hangings, which led to embroidery, and stuffed animals.

I haven't been so creative for many years, which is a good feeling. But I feel just a bit guilty about writing my blog in spurts instead of daily, and hope that in 2017 I'll be able to find some balance.


Change of season...

For me, winter arrives the week before Thanksgiving. It's time to get serious about finishing up handmade Christmas projects, gather with the family for Thanksgiving, and think about decorating the house for the holidays.

It's also when our weather usually turns cold, and I start thinking about frosty mornings and snow falling, and people around here start getting excited about the beginning of ski season.

And it's time to swap my composition book cover for this one, full of snowmen and trees and stars. It puts a reminder of the season squarely in front of me, every day.


Mosquitoes in the outhouse...

It's been raining hard here, and today the wind is blowing. A fire in the woodstove keeps the chill off, and I watched the rain on the lake. We received news from a dear friend; her mother is dying. The dreary, cold day punctuated the sad news.

Overnight the rain on the metal roof pattered and bounced, making the cabin feel cozy and safe. The dozen Mergansers are stretched out in a line; you can barely see the opposite shore.

We brought out a stack of books to read, and I stitched Christmas ornaments, and reveled in the quiet. Madison prowled for hours, then settled on the folded quilt right next to me. It's the closest she's come to being a lap cat, and I like that she showed this affection here at the cabin, the place I love so much.


First light...

Overnight the weather changed. A pre-dawn run to the outhouse under a blanket of stars made me smile, and gave me hope for the day.


Bird count...

Some things I can't help counting. Stairs I climb, especially when I'm carrying my own luggage. Books I've read, so I can share favorite authors and stories with family and friends.

At the cabin, I watch the birds. Each year since we bought our cabin there, it seems like new species have passed through, maybe spending only a few days on their way to elsewhere, maybe staying the whole season. Eagles and ospreys are always around. So are owls. I rarely see them, but I hear them at night, calling outside the window. Ducks and geese change from year to year.

I started keeping a list next to my binoculars, especially those times when there were so many birds on the water, it's hard to remember them all.


Giving thanks...

We are on our own this year for Thanksgiving. I can't even remember the last time we didn't spend Thanksgiving with one or the other of our families. Usually all of DWs family gathers at one of DWs sister's houses; they're the only ones with a house big enough for all of us. But this year, Mike & Karen are in Hawaii, and Mary and her family are spending the holiday weekend at their cabin. The rest of us are on our own.

But it gave me an idea: why not spend Thanksgiving weekend at our cabin? And that was the plan, until the weather turned so soggy and awful. So instead, we'll wait for the weather to clear a bit, then go out in a few days, and take Madison with us. We still need to close up the cabin for the winter, and there are caches to be done on the Peninsula.

I will miss seeing the family, but there is much to be thankful for this season. Health and happiness, family and friends, and a wee cat named Madison.



It seems to be a pattern lately... I'll be working on a project, with an end goal in sight. Then the "what if?" happens. Today, it was these embroidered stars, which were destined to become pincushions. But instead, I think I'll make two more, and piece them together into a Christmas wall hanging.

It seems to be a trend lately, that nothing is ever locked into a single path... that anything can become even better with a bit of imagination.



They started out as crazy pieced coasters, oversized to fit any mug or bowl, and hand quilted. But on the way to being finished, they ended up as pincushions instead. Funny how that happens. These are going to a holiday bazaar at the church that hosts one of my quilt guilds, to raise money for the guild for 2017.



Turning discarded wool clothing into felt for projects has been a deeply satisfying experience. Working with quilting cottons for so many years, I've forgotten the softness and texture and rich colors of wool, how it drapes and holds a shape, how lovely it is to work with.

I've found wool sweaters and skirts at thrift stores, and have also dug into my box of leftover bits of wool from skirts, jackets, and slacks that I made a few decades ago. And a project for January and February, once we get snow and have settled down in the farmhouse for the winter, will be to dismantle a few old outgrown sports coats, so I can turn this soft beautiful wool into felt for applique.


The weekend...

Good friends in our guest room, dinner and wine from around the world, and cherry pie for breakfast. Lots of talk and sharing, photos from a French holiday, and brunch with our circle of good friends. Crab and oysters and eggs benedict and bacon for breakfast. Yummy!

It was sort of an adult's "What did you do on your summer vacation?" get-together, a chance to catch up with everyone, these friends we haven't seen since last spring. There's a baby on the way, and plans for bike rides in the works, new bikes to replace ones stolen in a home robbery (which is a real downer), holiday party invitations, and some sad news as well. But we ended on a good note, with plans to get together again soon, and celebrate the good in everyone's lives. I'm looking forward to that.



It wasn't exactly my kind of hike, but sometimes a closed road is the only trail to get you where you need to go.

    The double yellow was my trail today.

The road to Sunrise is gradually being closed down for the winter. You can't get up to the lodge any more, or even to the "big bend" where you can see three of the four major peaks in the Washington Cascades: Rainier, Adams, and Baker. From the closed gate by the White River campground, we only need to hike up about a mile to get to the earthcache we want to do before they close the road completely.

It's up, up, unrelentingly uphill. So I just put my head down and walked the yellow line, stopping occasionally to take a photo, and check out the view back toward Mt. Rainier. And sometimes I looked down at my feet, to the beautiful signs of autumn.

    A mushroom in the shape of a hard hat

   Wild strawberries turning crimson

The earthcache was all about the Osceola mudflow, which 5600 years ago took the top of Mt. Rainier and carried it down the mountains all the way to Puget Sound. This account gives me the shivers every time I read it:

"This was a catastrophic event, possibly triggered by a small eruption. About one cubic mile of hydrothermally altered rock collapsed as a giant landslide. It took the summit of the mountain, along with part of the northeast flank and the overlying glaciers, racing downwards toward Puget Sound, through the White and Green river valleys, reaching as far as Kent, 70 miles away. Moving an estimated 45 to 60 miles per hour, it covered 212 square miles with mud, rocks and trees, possibly as deep as 300 feet, and destroyed everything in its path."

The mudflow is visible today in various places, including the road cut on the way up to Sunrise. That's it behind me.

At the last corner, a huge cottonwood tree grew. High on the ridge, nowhere near water, it somehow took root and thrived. It was glorious in bright yellow, shining in the morning sun.

We headed back down the hill, glad to be going downhill. Just up WA-410 there's a place to pull off and see Mt. Rainier, standing at the head of the White River valley.moved on, heading toward Tipsoo Lake, we stopped to look at the mountain, with snow blowing off the top.

But by far the best view of my favorite mountain is from the highway just before the top of Chinook Pass, where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses over the road. In early summer, the meadows are full of wildflowers, and in the fall the bushes turn to gold and the lake swells from runoff. There's already been snow there, and soon the road will close until late spring.



Another sign of fall... campgrounds and roads near Mt. Rainier start closing down, so they don't have to be maintained during the snowy season. It's frustrating for us, because we like to hike until the snow comes, and many trails are already out of reach.

La Wis Wis is one campground we wanted to visit before winter, and the road is already closed. So we decided to get up at first light (and before breakfast) and walk in. It's a short walk, only a half mile or so from the road. And downhill. Oh, joy... I'd much rather climb on the walk in, and have the downhill on the way out.

As soon as we got to the campground though, I'd forgotten all about that hike back to the highway. This is a beautiful, historic place with buildings made from logs, huge Western Red Cedar trees, and a crystal-clear stream that flows right through the picnic area.

The leaves are nearly down from the trees, making a thick carpet on the ground.

Before we started the long hill back to the highway, we walked over to see the original ranger station that's being restored to the original blueprints from 1937.

In spite of the early hour, and the cold morning, and the unceasing rain... I was glad we made the effort to hike to this beautiful place. And I was never more ready for breakfast.