Have I mentioned that I love fabric? I brought home some new bits of quilting fabric today, and some have composition book covers written all over them. Just as soon as I'm done with the current quilt.


Simple days...

Lunch at our favorite neighborhood place, the Testy Chef. Then up to the foothills where it snowed overnight. Bright snow on top, winter greens below. We walked a bit, and thought about a drive through the Snoqualmie Valley, but in the end, we headed back home... just as it started to rain.



This morning it hailed, twice. It got thicker and thicker, until it looked like a river of ice falling from the sky. I scooped up Madison and took her to the window to see; it's probably her first hailstorm. I went outside for a closer look (leaving Madison inside), and turning 360 degrees I could see a band of blue sky all around the horizon. The thick clouds made a bowl above our heads most of the day.

Only one thing to do... go take a walk on the Lake Youngs trail. We made it a fast walk; it's turned cold and threatens to rain again.

While Dave roamed the woods looking for a geocache, I just stood and looked at the woods. There's something so wonderfully chaotic about woods in the Northwest. It can be tough to find a point of interest, so sometimes I just like to aim and shoot and capture all the amazing variety of it all.


Secrets shared...

My current favorite local park has become my new favorite place to go wander with my camera. It's an open space that surrounds a small lake, and it's a great place to stretch my legs. The park is full of native trees... towering firs and hemlocks, massive cedars, maples and alders, vine maples, and spiky hawthorns.

Because I live nearby, and drove past this acreage for years before the city started buying the land, I know where the farmhouses and barns once stood. So I understand the reason why there are so many pockets of non-native trees: the oaks, the fruit trees, the camellias and other ornamental shrubs that once surrounded farmhouses and barns.

The knowledge is like a secret I share with the land. I like that.


Balls of moss...

We took DW's mom to lunch today, to our favorite hangout... a local bar & grill that's been on the same corner since I was in high school (and probably a lot longer). On the way home past Clark Lake, DW dropped me off at the corner, and I ran into the park for a quick cache. I only took a pen and my camera; the hint (Hawthorn tree) is all I need to find this one.

This tree stands alone on a grassy slope that was once a horse pasture. As I walked down the hill, I was so glad I brought my big camera:  the tree still has a lot of red berry clusters, and is studded with beautiful balls of spiky moss.

The tree looks like it's decorated for Christmas. Beautiful.


Open space...

One thing I love about geocaching... the search for caches has taken me to a lot of really cool places. A couple of weeks ago, we discovered a new county open space park near our house. We went back again today for another cache; there are eight of them here. This wooded open space lies near a couple of beautiful lakes, on land that was once riddled with coal mines. I'm looking forward to better weather, so we can go hiking here.


Fresh dill...

In winter, a dry day means a baking day. A pile of ingredients, a couple of dirty bowls, lots of flour on the counter, and therapeutic kneading led from this...

to this.

They're not only beautiful, they're wonderfully tasty and satisfying. Cheddar-Dill scones and cabbage soup for dinner!


Movie day...

Today turned out to be another dry day, but we had other plans:  a date! A neighborhood coffee shop for a hot coffee and baklava, then a cute little theater in the north end for an afternoon spent with DW and Matt Damon and Tom Hanks.



Morning glow...

The ground in this corner of the park is carpeted with oak leaves that finally fell off the trees. I scuffed my way through piles of uninspiring light brown leaves, and this one leaf glowed in the pale sunlight.


A hint of spring...

My kitchen windows look out on the orchard, and it's a view I love all year long. But I especially like it in the winter. I look forward to bringing in armloads of branches in late winter, and watching the blossoms open up in the warmth of the house.

When the leaves are off the trees, I can see through the orchard to the chicken coop and the pasture, and beyond the windbreak of fir trees to the farms north of us. I love this more open view of our little valley, one I don't see from these windows the rest of the year.

But lately when I look at my trees, all I see are the suckers shooting toward the sky. Straight whippy branches that are eager to grow tall and snatch all the sunlight for themselves. I don't want 'em. But it's been cold, or raining, or cold and raining, since Christmas, and tackling a dripping wet orchard just isn't my idea of a good time.

Today turned out to be one of those mid-winter days that hints of the spring that's just a couple of months away. It was supposed to rain most of the day (nothing new). But after breakfast as we caught up on e-mail and played with the kitten, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds and lit up the room. I jumped up to look. There were lots of dark clouds all around, but the sky overhead was clear and blue.

So we changed our plans. Dave headed out to work on the truck (it's getting new shocks and struts), and I hauled out the pole pruner and started in on the orchard trees. It felt great to be outside on a day warm enough to work in just a sweatshirt and jeans.

Today was a gift.


Another rainy day...

One of those "not much going on" days. A dentist appointment for a cleaning sandwiched between some extremely wet geocaching, then home to keep the fire going to keep the chill off. The rain made the day so dark; I opened up all the blinds in the house, trying to find some daylight.

My Nikon didn't get out at all today, not on such a wet day. I tried to compensate by spending the rest of the day tagging photographs in PhotoShop. I don't even want to admit how many years (and photos) I'm behind.


A walk in the woods...

This small park that surrounds a lake is one of my favorite places to walk. People bring their dogs for a run, and on a good day, there's a stunning view of Mt. Rainier. On the hill above the lake the springs were running strong, creating small streams running down the hill toward the lake. The stream that runs from a nearby lake , and the two streams that run through the park are full.

The park has been a work in progress for more than a decade now. The city has acquired the land in stages, buying out the small farms that enclosed the lake; some have been here for a hundred years. There are only two farms left, but you can see where the other farmsteads stood. The city decided to leave a lot of the trees and shrubs that were planted near the farmhouses. The last farm to be demolished had a towering redwood tree by the barn, and a huge native camellia in the front yard.

It's sad that they didn't leave any of the barns. I always thought they'd make the perfect park maintenance buildings. But it's especially sad because this state has such a strong heritage barn program, dedicated to preserving these pieces of Washington's farming heritage. That makes it doubly tragic for a city to just carelessly destroy them.



Snow turns the most ordinary things into works of art... even this wheel irrigation line. It stands out against the white... every line, every curve. The snow highlights the basic composition of everything around it.


Snow falling...

Snow falling on a street in Ellensburg brings to life the small details. The lovely shape of the tree. The carved pediment above the doorway, freshly painted. The harmony of colors, brick and paint. The reflections in windows.

If you stop to look carefully, you'll see much more than just an old building. It's one reason I love architecture.


Farmlands in winter...

It was foggy this morning, but it hadn't snowed. So I grabbed my hoodie and my camera and headed down into the valley. As I drove down the hill, with fields spreading out to both sides, I was struck by how the most basic things stood out beautifully against the snow. Fence lines, clusters of farm buildings, the beautiful barns.

At the first turn on Riverbottom, I spotted the big elk herd that's been hanging around this stretch of the valley, and as I watched them, it began to snow.

So I headed back toward the house. I stopped occasionally to take photographs, trying out different settings, looking for the best way to capture the flat light and smooth fields of snow. This road hasn't been plowed or sanded, and it's slick and ridged with ice and snow. But I had the road to myself.

When I got to the corner, I wanted to turn right and keep driving through the valley. There are so many beautiful farms here, and so much I want to photograph. But the light is going as the snow gets thicker. In just a half hour, there's already an inch of snow on the road.

Just down the hill from the house, I stopped in the road to take pictures of a row of wind-sculpted willow trees, and again for my favorite red barn. It isn't old, like the hundreds of barns in this farming community. But I love the broken gable style, and it's beautifully tended.

I'll post more of my farmlands photos soon.


Waking to snow...

 I woke at 3:00 am, here on the east side. And it was snowing. When we all got up a few hours later, there was a flurry of coats and boots being pulled on, of locating keys, of dogs dashing out into the new white of the morning. The morning light in the snow was blue. The guys shifted SUVs so Bernie could get the John Deere out, and scrape three inches of snow off the parking area, and the driveway.

It snowed off and on all day. It was a welcome sight as we waited in line for Winterhop to begin, as past years have been bare and warm, or bitterly icy. In early afternoon, I took a break from beer and photographed some of my favorite 100-year-old brick buildings. I love the remnants of advertising signs, painted right on the brick.


Heading for snow country

This morning we headed east over the pass. This weekend is Winterhop in Ellensburg, and  we're spending it with friends. Much of Eastern Washington has snow right now, a lot of snow. So besides time with friends and sampling good beer, I will be giving my camera a workout.

On the drive, a friend called about an upcoming photography and writing class in February... she's going to be a guest interviewer, and offered me a place in the class. It will be my first, and I can hardly wait.


A good start to my reading list...

When I worked, I did my browsing for books at a local used book store. I loved owning my books, especially owning complete series of books from my favorite authors. But once I retired, I gradually got used to browsing for my reading material at our big county library system.

I especially enjoy the Choice Reads shelves just inside the front door of each branch. There you'll find books chosen by the staff, or brand new best sellers, or books that were highly regarded by critics. I always stop to browse when I come in to return books, and I always find something interesting to read.

I've been stocking up on books, hoping for cold winter weather to give me an excuse to stay indoors and read by the fire. Here are a few on my reading stool:

Bill Bryson | A Walk in the Woods (rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail)

Stephanie Barron | Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas (something like #12 in the series; I should really start at the beginning... but then again, I've got this one in hand)

Robert Wilson | You Will Never Find Me (a new author for me, with loads of promise)

Olen Steinhauer | All the Old Knives

Laura Lippman | Hush Hush (an old favorite author; I love her books)


Still small...

All her kitten-sized toys go right under the Mission Oak cabinet. She's still small enough to crawl in after them.

And sometimes, she stays underneath and watches us.

I wonder when she'll grow into those big, strong hind feet. They propel her around the house like a jack rabbit, flying on and off the furniture, chasing toys (and us).

And then she wants to cuddle.



It poured rain today... a good day to finally go see the new Star Wars movie. Afterwards, we drove up the hill to the neighborhood where I grew up, and checked out a brand new bar and grill. It's in a concrete block building that used to be a grocery store back in the day. Five days a week for three years, I walked past this corner on my way to and from the junior high school I attended.

The Brick isn't a big place, but it's warm and welcoming, has a great list of microbrews, and an even better kitchen. It was a bit strange, spending time in this place I knew decades ago as something else. Spending time in the old neighborhood brought back a lot of memories.


Rainy back roads...

I wandered the back roads in the rain today, armed with a list of old barns to photograph. I especially wanted to explore the sole remaining hop barn in the Snoqualmie Valley. But the farther north I drove, the harder it rained, and I had to scrap my plans. But the drive, the green trees and pastures, the low-hanging clouds... were completely worthwhile.


Unexpected things...

Today was sunny and clear, with a sunrise that streaked the sky with color... such a welcome change from the past few foggy mornings. It felt like a day where anything was possible, and you never know what you might find, just around the bend. A day to get out and explore, a day to look for the unexpected.

A barn that dreams above its reflection in a flooded pasture.

A "no trespassing" sign that should have read, "no swimming."

A usually dry ditch that's become a stream you could float a kayak on.

Heading north, deep in the woods near Ravensdale, is a memorial for four men killed in the Landsburg Mine disaster of 1955. We really wanted to go find it, but kept running into no trespassing signs. We'll try again... there must be a public way in... there are sixteen geocaches in these woods.

In a small-town park to look for a geocache, I cut across the baseball diamond and it looked like an entire elk herd spent the night there. Lots of big elk prints. Really big.

And finally, a redwood tree on an old farmstead, brought from California in the early 1960s. The tree is the only thing that remains of the farm, demolished when the WA-18 interchange was built.

It's what I love about road trips, no matter how short. You never know what you'll find.


Nursery tree...

Sometimes I pull out my camera and pretend to be taking pictures, to hide that we're actually looking for a geocache. Today as we walked off the trail down toward the Cedar River, my camera came out with no conscious thought at all. The huge multi-trunked maple tree had colonies of ferns all over it, growing from the horizontal places, and from mossy patches on the trunks. The ferns absolutely glowed in the late afternoon light.


Growing fast...

Sometimes, pictures just make me laugh out loud. Like this one. We've got company coming for the weekend, so Madison got another bath. We plopped her down in front of the wood stove to dry, and she spent an hour "washing" herself dry.

It's hard to believe 
how much Madison has
changed in just six weeks. 
From 4.2 pounds...

... to 7.1 pounds. Madison is growing so fast, and if she has the breeding we think she has, she may get very big indeed. 

At first, we thought Maine Coon. But now we're thinking she is closer to a Siberian. She has more of the characteristics of the Siberian, and is a dead-ringer for some of the online photographs we've seen. 

Time will tell... and these big cats can take five years to grow up, so we'll have lots of time to watch her grow. 


Winter trees...

Our daily excursion took us to a great place for killer views of The Mountain... at least, on days that aren't foggy (like today) or raining (most of the rest of the time) or snowing (occasionally, if we're lucky). There's a narrow park on the edge of the bluff for the views, and on the crown of this hill, there's an old cemetery.

The fog may not have done much for the view today, but it was perfect for isolating the beautiful lone trees in the cemetery, and showing off their structure.



In my front pasture are beautiful shrubby trees that flower pink and white in the spring. It took a trip to Ireland to learn that they're hawthorn bushes.

In Ireland, we saw hedges made from stone, and hedges made from living, growing shrubbery and trees. In early June, we were lucky enough to see the hawthorn hedges in full bloom.

As we drove north along the western coast, we saw a lot of farmland enclosed by these hedges, and our guide told us quite a bit about the lore of the hawthorn in Ireland. There are many traditions. Once it was believed that the hawthorn was sacred to the fairies, and that fairy spirits inhabited the trees. On the first of May, young women would wear a sprig of hawthorn blossom tucked in their bodice, in hopes of attracting a husband. It was believed that keeping a thorn from a hawthorn in your tackle box would guarantee a good catch. And that planting a hawthorn near a house would protect it from storms and lightning strikes.

Even today, some of those traditions linger. It is still believed to be bad luck to cut down a hawthorn tree that is standing alone, and as we passed hedgerows that were being pruned, it was clear that the hawthorns were left strictly alone.

I'm not a superstitious person, but those pink and white hawthorns in my front pasture? They're welcome to stay right where they are, and grow as much as they want.


The rain is back...

I wanted to get out and explore today, but the rain came back and I didn't feel like getting wet and muddy. I finished packing away the Christmas decorations, and updated the wine cellar inventory. It's cold down there in the winter, so I didn't last long before coming back to sit by the fire. I started "A Walk in the Woods," by Bill Bryson. So far, it's a hoot.

A cache in the valley took us to an early dinner at The Milton, then home to cuddle with Madison.


Stuck between autumn and winter...

Yesterday's unexpected weather brought even more snow to the Enumclaw Plateau, and this farm I photographed two days ago looks completely different today. The snow on the craggy foothills is building up, in beautiful contrast to the green pastures that frame this old farmstead.

This contrast of winter and autumn is still going strong in early January, but autumn won't be able to hold on for long... more snow is on its way.



A good day. Up early for a shower, then a hot mug of tea by the fire. Maddie played and entertained, then Dave got up, asking, "Did you have breakfast?" Unfortunately, he got up three hours after I did. So, yes, I had already had breakfast.

So we did the next best thing: caught up on e-mail and internet news and laundry, then went out for a geocache in the snow, along the Green River Road in Auburn. We ended up in downtown, just a block away from the Irish pub we like. They were open, and there was a curbside parking spot, no denying that bit of good luck. When we walked in, the Seahawks game was on; Perfect! We snagged a corner booth, checked out the the beers on tap, and both ordered a Jolly Roger. Boy, did that bring back memories of winters past, getting together with good friends and drinking Jolly or Jubelale or Snow Cap while catching up. Today we had a late lunch, watched the Seahawks game, and watched the snow fall.

No one expected snow today, and I loved this completely unexpected weather event.


Coldest day this year...

It was 23 degrees when I got up this morning, not even close to the cold winter weather at our friend's house in Ellensburg, where it was minus 1 degrees this morning. But for us, darned cold.

I rekindled the fire in the wood stove, and brewed a mug of tea, and settled down to read my e-mail and look at photographs on Instagram. I tossed toys to Madison and played with her, and laughed at her antics. She's nearly 7 months old now, and exactly 7 pounds. She's growing up fast.

It was a quiet, peaceful morning, and not much changed throughout the day. It stayed sunny and cold and absolutely beautiful, a good day to spend by the fire and think about plans for the new year.



It's the first day of a new year, full of possibilities. Winter is a great time to slow the pace, to take time to reflect and plan, while winter gets on with its cold temperatures and snow and rain and whatever else it wants to throw at us.

Our weather has turned beautiful and sunny and cold, and I pulled open all the blinds and built a fire, and sat down to enjoy the sunshine along with my mug of tea. Madison climbed up on my lap, and as we cuddled, it was clear that DW was right:  it's time for the dreaded first bath.

So off they went to the bathroom, and I crossed my fingers. I think The Bath is the ultimate indicator of a cat's disposition, and really hoped she wouldn't go ballistic. And in spite of the ferocious pose, Maddie was as good as gold.

There are few things more amusing than a long-haired cat that's soaking wet, so some photos were in order. Then I wrapped her in a bath towel and took her out by the wood stove where it was warm. All my other cats would spend hours washing every inch all over again, but she didn't. She was happy to snuggle down in a succession of warm, dry towels, and purr.