Monday, December 28, 2009

Mug Shot

This is just a short post to share a picture of my dogs, Nova (Doberman) and Asterisk (Boxer).  I took the picture yesterday and it makes me laugh every time I look at it.  This is a typical picture of them.  Whenever I'm in my recliner, they plop their heads on the arm and give me these pitiful, soulful looks.  It's really quite pathetic. *g*

Sunday, December 27, 2009

No E-mail, No Life!

Blast CenturyTel, anyway!  Or rather, CenturyLink.  They recently merged with another company and changed their name from CenturyTel to CenturyLink.  Which is probably the reason why I have been unable to get my e-mails for 4 days now.  They are my phone and DSL provider and when I called them 4 days ago to find out why I can't download my e-mails, they said they were having server problems and "hoped to have it fixed sometime this weekend."  Well, "this weekend" is almost over, and it's still broken.

I work from home, and e-mail is my lifeline.  I can dispense with all the social e-mail for a few days and not miss it, but my work is another issue.  No e-mail, no work.  No work, no groceries.  And so it goes.  What's most annoying is that I have friends who also have CenturyLink as their ISP, and they are getting their e-mails!  And they only live 20 miles away.  I get around 100 e-mails a day, so I shudder to think what my inbox will look like once this problem gets fixed.  So in the meantime, if you've sent me an e-mail and haven't heard from me, now you know the reason why!

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Christmas Cards

Just a short post with a couple more cards I've made. These two are less traditional in appearance, with nothing overtly Christmasy about them.  If you click on each card, it will bring up a larger version of it.  I stamped the aspen trees, below, with black ink, then sponged color on the background to give it an autumn feel.

For this card, I used a simple stencil and placed it over maroon cardstock, then sponged in the "mist" background with different colors.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Cards

Well, gosh! I won a card contest!  I've been making Christmas cards for a contest and came up with some cool ideas using "found" items like bits of lace, scraps of material, pieces of ribbons, etc.  I decided to go with nontraditional colors.  Instead of the usual reds and greens, I went with golds and beiges.  Above is the card that won the contest. I'd used an old postcard for the main part of the card.  Below are two more cards I made, using the same color scheme.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Lunch With Friends

'Tis the season!  I recently went to Christmas lunch with my friends, Jacquie Rogers and Judy Laik.  We've been friends for years, and often spend the entire day at Jacquie's watching movies.  Her husband is a sound engineer and he has a huge in-home theater set up in their basement, complete with real movie theater speakers as well as comfy recliners.  We each bring our own lunch and make a day of it, watching several movies in a row.

But this time, we were doing lunch.  As usual, we laughed a lot.  Oddly enough, we were almost the only diners in the restaurant.  Just one other table had customers.  Afterwards, we asked the waitress to take our picture for posterity.  That's us in the picture--Judy Laik, Jacquie Rogers, and me.  Aren't we colorful?!!  

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Mug Shot

My sister Lori and I often get together for what we call a Baking and Bonding Day.  On a recent B&B Day, we made squash bread, and the house was redolent with the wonderful scent of cinnamon and ginger and cloves.  We got to goofing around, and I tried to take a picture of ourselves with my camera.  It wasn't quite focused properly, and the angle was unflattering, but every time I look at the picture, I laugh.  That's Lori on the left, me on the right, holding the camera out and trying to aim at our faces.  I love this picture.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mom! The Cat Wants In!

I've trained my young Boxer, Asterisk, to dingle a bell hanging from the handle of the sliding glass door when she needs to go out.  But lately, I've notice that Asterisk was dingling the bell even when she'd just been out.  I'd get out of my chair to reprimand her for dingling the bell when she didn't need to go out, but then get sidetracked when I noticed one of my cats wanting in.  So I'd open the slider and go back to my computer. 

This went on for a couple of weeks before I realized what Asterisk was doing:  She dingled the bell to let me know that a cat was on the other side of the slider, wanting in.  My desk faces away from the door, so I can't see a cat behind me at the slider.  But Asterisk can.  And she goes to ring the bell whenever one of the cats wants in. 

It's hilarious, really.  I never taught her that trick.  She figured it out herself.  What's more, the cats have learned to ring the bell themselves when they need to go outside, by observing me training Asterisk to ring the bell when she has to go out.  They put two and two together, seeing that every time Asterisk jingled the bell, I'd let her outside.  Smart animals!  (The above picture is one I took just after Asterisk had jingled the bell to notify me that Christopher wanted in.  You can barely see the blue and green cable ties just above her head, from which I've hung two large jingle bells.  The buckets on the porch were from the 2 weeks of cold weather when I had to carry buckets of water to the barn for the horses when the water at the barn froze.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Construction R Us

Hmmm.  My last two posts disappeared.  No wonder things have been quiet around here!  I finally finished the office project where I installed cabinets over my desk.  It was a bear of a job.  No matter how hard I tried, I just could not get things level, primarily because my house isn't level! It bugs me every time I look at the cabinets, but friends tell me it's not noticeable.

I'm something of a DIYer and have built many things in the past:  a walk-in closet in one end of my bedroom, a craft center (with table and cupboards) on the other end of my bedroom, a closet and cupboards in the laundry room, cedar benches and table on the front deck, a rock garden, etc.  But the cupboards above my desk were the hardest task so far.  They're done, now, and I have lots of storage space.

And once the office cupboards were installed, I got on house-rearranging kick and moved furniture and pictures around.  I'm really pleased with how things turned out.  Here are two pictures.  The first shows the new cupboards.  The second shows my "office."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lord Byron's Profile

Here's another picture of Byron.  I told you he liked to pose.  This picture was originally bigger, but I cropped it down, because I wanted to focus on his profile and his long whiskers, standing out stark against the dark background.  Isn't he a handsome boy?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Byron Gets Contemplative

The other day, Lord Byron (my cat) was in a very contemplative mood.  He was a study in otherworldliness.  This is a very photogenic cat, and he is an excellent photographic subject.  Most animals get silly and self-conscious when a camera is aimed at them.  Not Byron.  He's a ham.  Isn't this a handsome picture?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Red Dahlia

This past fall I took a picture of a red dahlia that fills me with happiness every time I look at the picture.  It was a beautiful flower on a bright sunny day, and when I look at the picture, it reminds me of how lovely the day was.  I'd like to share it with you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


A couple of days ago my sister and I had another "Baking and Bonding" day.  This time, we made cheese.  Yes, cheese!  Mozzarella, to be specific.  I'd ordered a cheesemaking kit, complete with video, cheesecloth, recipe book, rennet, etc., and we made two batches of Mozzarella.  It was great fun, and now we want to move on to the more difficult cheeses.  I plan to make "farmhouse cheddar," and my sister has already made an herbed Mozzarella, adding sun dried tomatoes and fresh herbs.  She said it was great on pizza. 

One thing we found out is to avoid ultra-pasteurized milk when making cheese. It just won't form a proper curd.  And trying to find non-ultra-pasteuriaed milk wasn't all that easy, because stores like to stock the ultra-pasteurized as it has a longer shelf life.

Here's a picture of me with the two batches of Mozzarella that we made.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn Photo Shoot

I hosted a nature photography outing here in Olalla on October 18, hoping to capture some of the beautiful autumn foliage on the local trees.  After a week of rain, Mother Nature did cooperate and the sun came out on our day.  We stopped at Olalla Bay first, taking many pictures of the beautiful trees lining the shore, as well as the numerous cormorants and seagulls sitting like silent sentinels on old pilings.  On the left is my favorite shot of Olalla Bay.  The second picture is another view of the bay, where you can see more of the colorful trees. 

The third shot shows Olalla Bay from a different perspective.  I think the rocks and boulders add visual interest.  They were brought in to prevent erosion of the beach.  At high tide they are completely covered.

Next stop was Crescent Lake, for more photos.  Then we stopped to shoot an old abandoned cabin.  Our final stop was a small park where we took pictures of an old weathered totem pole. 

The close-up of the leaf is another of my favorites.  It is a blackberry leaf and I love the red and green pattern.

At day's end a couple of us still had the camera bug, so after the rest left, we went to Burley Lagoon for more photos.  The 5th picture is Burley Lagoon.

In all, it was a great day and everyone got beautiful shots.  Hope you enjoy a few of mine!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Funny (and not so funny) Animal Shenanigans

I'm sitting here at my computer and I hear my cat yelling at me for some attention.  I look down just in time to see him lean heavily against a box on the floor, attempting to rub his face against it.  The box slides across the floor.  The cat staggers and falls down.  Oops!  A little too much body English!  Embarrassed cat fastidiously licks himself, pretending it didn't happen.  Kind and sensitive owner that I am, I laugh hysterically.

I did not laugh yesterday when my puppy, Asterisk, chewed the power cord on my new drill.  She didn't even have the decency to chew the plug end, which I could have replaced.  Nooooo.  She chewed it off where it enters the drill, leaving no room to splice a new cord.  I caught her in the act, and was able to punish her, which probably didn't have much of an effect on her, but it made me feel better.  :-) 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Retail Rip-off

I am becoming more and more cynical and curmudgeonly as I age.  Primarily it has to do with "the public out there."  Rude drivers, obnoxious people, outrageous prices on products, lack of respect . . . the list goes on.  We're breeding a society of "gimmee" people.  Gimmee this.  Gimmee that.

Last week I went to the pharmacy, looking for a device that helps old people pull on their socks.  I don't consider myself old, but I do have a bad hip, and while I can cross my left leg over my right knee to put on a sock, I can't do that with my right leg.  It's been that way all my life, but as I've aged, it's gotten so bad that it's very painful trying to put a sock on my right foot.

So I paid $18 for a cheap sock aid that is next to worthless.  I went back and looked at their other sock aids.  They had one other brand, at an utterly ridiculous $32.  We're not talking rocket science, folks.  A sock aid is basically just a tube with straps attached.  The top of the tube is open.  You slide your sock onto the tube, stick your foot into the opening, and pull up on the straps.  It pulls the sock onto your foot and slides free from the sock.

No way was I going to pay $32 for a piece of plastic with straps.  So I made my own.  I took an old plastic 2-cup measuring cup and cut off the bottom, sliced off the handle and upper part of the tube, made a slit on either side for the straps, and voila!  It cost me nothing--I had all the materials.  And because it's rigid plastic, I can wipe off the hand lotion that I often use on my dry feet.  That's my homemade sock aid, below.

The sock aid I'd bought isn't rigid plastic, so putting a sock on it is an exercise in frustration.  And because it's lined with cloth (whose bright idea was that?), lotion gets all over the lining.  So now I have a perfectly decent sock aid, and retailers who charge a fortune for an item that probably cost 5 cents to make, can go suck someone's toe!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn in Olalla

Wow, where did the time go?  Let's just say I've been crazy busy.  REALLY crazy busy.  I'm now on Injured Reserves, having somehow injured my back just below the shoulder blade.  Ouch. 

Autumn is officially here now, and that means the leaves on the trees are just beginning to turn.  In a few weeks, they will be a riot of oranges and yellows.  A photographer's paradise! 

I'm having a group of photographers out to my place as soon as the leaves are at their gorgeous best.  We'll be heading down to the bucolic Olalla Bay, just 2.8 miles from my house, where pine and deciduous trees grow right down to the water line and put on a display worthy of Mother Nature's highest award.  The bay is glass-like at high tide, and the reflections of the trees in the water make for some beautiful shots.  Plus, the bay has an interesting contour and shoreline. 

I'll be checking tide tables and watching the trees turn color.  In a few weeks you'll likely see a million pictures from me.  Or perhaps just a few.  As all photographers know, you can take 100 pictures, and only have 2-3 good ones worth keeping.  Thank goodness for digital cameras!

In the meantime, here are a few pictures of Olalla Bay, taken a few weeks ago.  Sort of my dry run.  The tide was coming in, so the water wasn't as glass-like as it usually is.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My New Gate

I just finished painting the new gate I built for the front porch.  The old gate was forever getting out of alignment, no matter how many times I tightened the hinges.  This made it sticky, and I kept planing off wood from the side to keep it from sticking.  Then it would sag some more and scrape the deck when I opened it.  I finally got tired and chucked it.  Now, the new gate is perfect!  It is perfectly level and swings shut with the touch of a finger.  I love it!  And it's completely green, because I didn't have to buy new lumber.  And I used paint left over from previous projects. 

Now I'm in a building mood!  Oh, hey, I just came up with an idea!  I'll build a cozy cat house on the back porch for the cats.  It'll be a place for them to get in out of the rain on days they're outside and don't want to come in.  Right now, they have a bed on a small table on the porch.  The roof overhang is really large (4 feet long), so it protects them from the elements.  So I'll build a box and install it under the kitchen window so they can peer into the house and scare me with their eye reflections.  Which is what they do now.  Let me tell you, it's really spooky to see two pairs of eyes watching you at night!

I think I'll hang the box/bed on the side of the house, under the kitchen window, and either build a ramp to the box, or probably just put a footstool below it, so they can jump to the box from the footstool.  Yup, that's the ticket!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Best Friends

Today is the birthday of my best friend, Carol Hansen.  Carol and I have known each other for 35+ years.  We met while taking horseback riding lessons and have been friends ever since.  We've held garage sales together, as well as driving around looking for garage sales to visit.  We done Competitive Trail Riding together, as well as just trail riding for fun locally.  We've weathered heartache and happiness, and many, many birthdays together. 

Carol's always there for me when I need her, and I hope I always return the favor.  Just knowing there's someone who loves me for who I am, and who overlooks my foibles and missteps, means a lot.  Carol has enriched my life in more ways than I can name.  So this post is dedicated to you, Carol.  May our friendship continue to grow.  Happy birthday, dear friend.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yet More Pictures

Washington State is a perfect environment for green and growing things. We have a maritime climate--lots of rain and mild winters (usually) and also lots of sunshine. Rain and sunshine have been in abundance this year, and as a result things are growing as fast as a speeding bullet. (Case in point: the apple above, taken in bright sunshine right after it rained) You can almost hear the vegetation growing in the pasture. So I've been taking lots of pictures lately. Pictures of the cats and dogs playing, of the horses playing, of flowers blooming, of trees in all their leafy glory. Lots of pictures. Here is a sampling.

This is the underside of a leaf from the apple tree. Love the veins!

And if you don't believe in our rains, here's a picture of part of my driveway during a huge rainstorm.

This is a single tree in my pasture, an ancient alder with three trunks. Quite a rarity for an alder.

And last but not least, one of my favorite pasture pictures, showing a meandering path made by my horses and wild critters. I find this picture very calming.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Two Nerdy History Girls

One of my clients has started a new history blog with a friend, and it's so delightful that I wanted to pass it on to you.

Two Nerdy History Girls is a new blog by Susan Holloway Scott and Loretta Chase. Susan writes historical novels and Loretta writes historical romance. The focus of the blog is history in all its fascinating aspects, including talk about who wore what and who slept with whom, not to mention sorting out rumor and myth from fact. If you're a history buff, do drop by their blog for a visit. These ladies know their history!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Pictures

I've been taking a lot of pictures lately, taking advantage of the recent spate of overcast, rainy days. An overcast day is excellent picture-taking weather if you're doing close-ups of, say, flowers, or portraits of people. Bright sun casts harsh shadows on faces and objects, so whenever it gets overcast, I head outdoors with my camera. I took the picture on the left, looking up through one of the Alder trees in the pasture.

This is a close-up of leaves in the apple tree. I love the veins that are so prominent in apple leaves.

I guess this is going to be a "green" post, since apparently all my recent pictures are of green things. The below picture is a close-up of bracken ferns. I'll be back in a few days with more pictures.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Breaking All Heat Records

Today it hit 102 degrees F. in Seattle, breaking all previous heat records since we began recording the temps in 1861. In truth, the temps have soared much higher in outlying areas. It hit 106 in the shade at my place today, the hottest weather I've ever encountered in Washington State in 62 years.

I'm hosing down the dogs several times a day. In fact, when Asterisk hears me using the garden hose, she comes running. She likes to run through the spray, biting at the water. Unfortunately, it's so hot that the dogs dry off quickly. I may just put a small sprinkler in the side yard and let the dogs run through it at will.

Here are some more pictures of Asterisk playing in the water.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Running Through the Sprinkler

See that thermometer on the left? It's on my front porch, and I took the picture today, 7-27-09 at 4:29 p.m. It's 99 degrees Farenheit in the shade.

Here in the Pacific NW, few of us have air conditioning, because this kind of weather is rare. We've been having weeks and weeks of temps in the 80s and 90s, and this week they're predicting we'll break 100. There's an Extreme Weather Advisory and an Air Stagnation Alert in our area.
It's been so hot and dry that drought-resistant plants are dying. Today when I went to clean out the horses' water trough, I found a dead squirrel floating in the water. Obviously he'd tried to get some water and fell in and couldn't get out again.

How does one stay cool in such hot weather? Well, if you're a 9-month-old Boxer pup named Asterisk, you run through the sprinkler. Or you lie down in your very own kiddy wading pool and then roll onto your back, legs spread, begging for tummy rubs. Or you chase the spray from the garden hose, biting at the water and ignoring the spray blasting you in the face.

As you can see by the pictures, Asterisk knows how to stay cool and hydrated.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cats in the Dog House

It got up to 96 degrees today, and I checked the back porch to see how my two cats were doing in this heat. They have a bed on a small table on the back porch, and that's the place where they hang out most of the day. They weren't there. But I heard a meowed greeting. It took a minute to realize that both cats were sacked out in comfort in the igloo-type dog house! I don't know if it was cooler in there, but the cats seemed quite comfortable. They looked so funny that I just had to take a picture of them!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Something's Wrong With our Healthcare System

This is a rant. I'm not going to get all political on you, but I really must say a few words about the state of the healthcare system and the outrageous prices they charge.

Last week I made an appointment to have a complete eye exam. They told me it would cost $256 and I'd have to wait 3 weeks. Ouch! I will also need new frames (I stepped on mine) and lenses. A look at their cheaper frames showed a range of $169-$399. The lower priced ones were butt-ugly, so I'd probably end up with something in the $250-$300 range. (I'd like to know how anyone can justify charging $400 and more for an ounce or two of colored plastic! This makes me very mad.)

And then there are the lenses. I have reflection-free, "no-lines" trifocals. Add another $200-$300. So, $256 for the exam, $250 for frames, and $250 for lenses. Total: $765! (and that's conservative)

Today I went to Costco and found out I can get a complete eye exam there for--get this--$65. Frames will cost me $75. The only price I don't know is the cost of lenses, but knowing Costco, it will be half what I'd pay elsewhere. So I made an appointment at Costco and will cancel the other one. Instead of paying $756 out of pocket, I'll be paying $265. That's a difference of $491. Oh, and I didn't have to wait 3 weeks like at the other place. I'm going in tomorrow at noon.

I won't even go into all the hassle I've had with the incredibly bureaucratic and ridiculously inefficient medical doctor I'm seeing for various issues. I'm on Basic Health, a state-subsidized medical plan for low income people. The plan itself is a good one, but the doctor they appointed for me sucks. It's at a modern community health clinic and they are the most inefficient thing I've ever seen. My doctor has misdiagnosed every thing I've seen her for but one. She never treats me for anything, instead referring me to a specialist. Referrals are supposed to take 1-2 weeks. In truth, I wait 1-4 months for referrals.

I waited 4 months, in serious pain, for a referral to a podiatrist for my feet. I waited 6 weeks for a referral to an ob/gyn after my doc said I had a prolapsed uterus. (As usual, she was wrong--it was something else entirely.) I waited several weeks for a referral to a surgeon to have a fingernail removed because she said I had a fungus. Turns out she was wrong. No fungus, but arthritis, and the surgeon said I needed meds, not surgery.

I waited 6 weeks for a referral to a specialist because of debilitating thigh pain. And now I've waited 4 weeks for a referral to physical therapy for the same issue. While I wait, I'm in severe pain.

Somebody needs to do a performance audit of the community health clinic I go to. These people are seriously stupid. There's a very good chance I'll be kicked off Basic Health because they are in financial trouble due to the bad economy, and they are looking to dump about 80,000 subscribers--despite the fact we're low income and qualify for BH. If I get kicked off, I'm going to submit a report on the atrocious care I've received the past 3 years. If I don't get kicked off (it'll be a miracle) I'm going to ask if I can change doctors.

In the meantime, our entire medical system needs a serious overhaul.

End of rant. My thigh is killing me. I'm going to bed.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Recipe: Layered Pineapple Pound Cake

I've been cleaning out and organizing my recipes, and came across this one that I'd clipped from a magazine but never tried. I needed a simple dessert for the 4th of July BBQ that was supposed to be held at my house (and which subsequently got canceled when I came down with a miserable cold--my first in 2 years).

This recipe is dead simple, and absolutely delicious. It came from a Dole Pineapple advertisement and was originally called Dole Golden Layer Cake, but I don't feel that conveys a very good description, so I renamed it. You can name it whatever you want.

Here's the recipe:

1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple in juice
1 carton (8 oz) Cool Whip
1 pkg (4 serving size) instant vanilla pudding
1 pkg (16 oz family size) frozen pound cake, thawed
1/3 cup almond-flavored liqueur, or 1/3 c. pineapple juice and 1/2 tsp. almond extract (I didn't have pineapple juice, so used orange juice)
Optional garnish: sliced pineapple; 1/4 c. sliced almonds, toasted

Combine undrained pineapple, Cool Whip, and pudding mix. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut cake lenghtwise in thirds. Drizzle with liqueur. Spread one-third pudding mixture over bottom layer of cake. Top with second layer. Repeat layering, ending with pudding. Chill 30 mins. Sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds and garnish with pineapple slices, if desired. Serves 12. Prep time: 15 mins.