Taking it slow

Luxury is a relative word.

Sometimes it means an exquisite sensation: tasting rich dark chocolate and raspberries; feeling silk velvet against your skin; hearing a beautiful piece of music…The list goes on and on.

I spent last week at Mount Rainier with my husband and some dear friends. That is a luxury, even though the physical experience itself was rustic (and strenuous!) at times. As I wrote that sentence I realized that I don’t generally associate my sense of sight with luxury. Mount Rainier provides gorgeous visual sensations:


A while ago I wrote about luxury, Luxury. What is  luxury? ,noting that things like a flush toilet and a shower are luxuries (two of my favorites!). Ones that much of the world don’t have. How very relative the word “luxury” can be: if it weren’t for burlap would we appreciate silk velvet? Stale crackers make a peach luxurious, and a week with a squatty-potty latrine and basin of water to wash with turn a simple bathroom the height of luxury.

So, on this rather grey morning, with things unpacked, the laundry done, and the Empress (our cat) home from her visit to the colonies (she stays on Vashon Island with my father while we are away), the luxury is taking things slow. When the sun shines I feel like I have to get going and do things.

Sniping at sandpipers

I’ve been feeling kind of beach-y this week. Between the noise and dust from a nearby construction project  starting about seven in the morning and a seasonal allergy that makes it difficult to breathe so I have trouble sleeping and am prone to sneezing fits, I am a bit crotchety. It’s not really a Crisis, but it adds an edge to every minor setback in life.

I decided to go to my dad’s (he lives at the beach) and make a project I had in mind: a planter of concrete and beach rocks to replace one that falls over when the wind blows.

Naturally I couldn’t just follow the directions in the book. I tried to add complexity to the project. I came over yesterday to create a stand with feet (I like planters to not be flush against the ground). That seemed to go fine. I came over today to finish up the project. I started working and things were not going well. Then my back started aching.

So Sam and I went for a walk on the beach, Sam fished and I breathed and sniped at sandpipers, and other birds (with my camera not a gun). Sandpipers (actually most of these are Kildeer, a similar species) are well camouflaged, nervous and pretty fast movers, and I am kind of shaky so this is a bit of a sport. The birds, and there were a lot of them, don’t seem to mind Sam.

KSM20160727-DP-Crisis-02After our walk I went back to work on the project, building up the sides of the planter like a rock wall against a trash can. There wasn’t enough wall thickness between the base I made yesterday using an old 5 gallon bucket of my dad’s and the trash can I had; I made the mortar mix too dry and it couldn’t get into the nooks and crannies of the rocks. Being stubborn I persevered until there was a mini landslide.


KSM20160727-DP-Planter-01I washed off all of the rocks and decided that, instead of giving up entirely, I would try (gasp of horror) following the directions, and use the remainder of the 5 gallon bucket as a form.

So far the follow-the-directions one is looking okay…fingers crossed. It won’t be big enough to replace my problem pot, but if it turns out I can plant a few pansies and think of the beach.

Contrasting Texture

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Lesson:Black and White-The Basics. After reading her essay I spent the month paying a lot more attention to contrast and texture than I often do.

I also began to experiment with Lightroom’s black and white presets (there are over 20 black and white presets that come with the software!) I am actually working on an exercise to take a few sample pictures and process them with all of the presets so that I get an idea of what they all do. I may put that onto Flikr when I get it done, in case anyone else out there is as overwhelmed yet curious about them as I.

But I digress: Cee’s challenge for this month is about the initial composition, not post processing. Here are six pictures, out of  the heaven only knows how many I took this past month, where I thought that contrast and/or texture was essential to the composition. I used the one-click color to black and white in Adobe Lightroom. Some of them came out well and others less so.

Pair #1:

The textures I noted in the original were the shingles on the walls of the station, the clouds on the horizon and the shininess of the roof and pumps. Unfortunately the clouds don’t have enough contrast to show up in the black and white, and the electric wires really jump out and compete for attention with the handle, spout and roof of the station. In the color picture, while they are annoying, the red stands up to them a bit. Although I am not very skilled at the editing process I prefer this  image where I removed the high contrast electric wires:


Pair #2:

For this pair I prefer the black and white. Black and white brings out the contrast of the chalk on the boards listing the prices, the stripes caused by the light on the corrugated siding  which contrasts with the plain black of the chalk board signs and the round shapes of the fruits. It seems like this is an example of the composition points that Cee made.

Pair #3:

In this case there is not a lot of contrast between the color and black and white versions. The one thing that black and white does for you is to remove the contrast of the fairly bright green of the maple seedling that draws your eye to the bottom of the screen in the color picture. There is both textural and darkness contrast between the fern and the earth. The regularity of the fern’s geometry and its arrow like shape show up well in black and white.

Pair #4:

This fine fellow looks great in color or black and white. His feathers have a texture that define him (or her) against the fence and tree. The focus of the picture helped with that: the hawkling is in sharper focus than the background.

Pair #5:

In this case I prefer the black and white. It seems to make the stripes of the tablecloth more like a background. The rounded and irregular shapes of the mushrooms show up well against the narrow stripes of the table covering. In the color picture the similar colors of the mushrooms and the stripes make the shape contrast less noticeable.

Pair #6:

This is a dud in black and white. I thought that the mountain had enough textural difference to show up but it does not. There is not enough contrast in brightness between the sky and the white of the mountain.

I think my personal favorite black and white is from a few Compose Yourself’s ago:

There are different textures in the rose, the leaves and the fence. The rose, which is the subject, is much brighter than the other two elements. This is another picture that illustrates Cee’s Composition points well.



Surprise visitor

I looked up from washing dishes and there was a hawk sitting on the rail of our deck.

I  have never seen one there before. I raced off to find my camera and, as quietly as I could, I removed the screen and opened the window. It didn’t notice the screen removal but flew up into our maple tree when I opened the window.

We tried to figure out what type of hawk it was using the pictures and a field guide, but only got as far as recognizing that it was immature. It is likely either a Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s hawk. Both common around here, but not in my front yard.

It made my day.

Cherry On Top

Let the feast begin!

One week ago tomorrow they completed my kitchen. I am finally able to cook.

Last weekend I brought home a 20 pound box of apricots (it was only $14!) from a fruit stand in the Yakima Valley. So the last few days have been kind of fruity.

Yesterday I had my first “jam session” in the new kitchen, I kicked out two large-ish (5 pints each) low sugar and one small (one pint) no sugar (sweetened with Spenda) batches of apricot jam.

I have been anticipating my new kitchen since before the work started in the usual book addict fashion: I got two cook books, Baking for Two from America’s Test Kitchen and But I Could Never Go Vegan by Kristy Turner. The first I got because I love to bake but since our fledgling flew off I have had to throw out some great, carefully made delicacies. Two of us eat less than half what the three of us did.

The vegan cookbook I saw at Costco, perused and found interesting. I rationalized the purchase (I had no kitchen at the time but my vegan in-laws were due to arrive almost as soon as it was complete). My reasoning was that we have friends and family who are vegan and my husband’s last blood tests showed that his cholesterol and blood sugars are creeping up and I thought a couple of vegan dinners a week might help.

I have been reading those cookbooks for a couple-three months now, anticipating trying out some of the recipes. The kitchen was almost done when the vegan in-laws arrived but stuff wasn’t put back into it and I was not feeling overly energetic so we ate out and snacked.

This week I finally got started using the kitchen: Last night I made a very tasty “Mediterranean tofu scramble”; tonight I tried a Lentil-mushroom loaf (I won’t call it a “meatloaf” even though the author did). Tonight’s loaf was solidly okay, I left out two ingredients, the fennel seed because they didn’t have it at the store and the celery because when I went to my vegetable drawer the celery had melted into a nasty blob (often my fridge will freeze things in the vegetable drawers, celery expecially dislikes this treatment). I opted to do without over going back out into the world. I also put in less than half of the salt called for. I suspicion that these were poor choices and that if I followed the recipe it would be much better.

Tonight I also concocted a pumpkin soup (no recipe, I had to make room in the freezer for the apricots so the pumpkin got thawed out) and sierra cup apricot cobblers that used the drop biscuit recipe from the Baking for Two cookbook.

So the Feast begins. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Signs of Life

This gallery is a response to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Signscffc badge


Journey to a magic kingdom

This Journey wasn’t to Disneyland. A few weeks ago we went to the Olympic National Park and took a short walk up to Marymere Falls.

The hike  (it’s really just a walk, there is a short steep section but it has stairs) starts at the Storm King Ranger Station on the shore of Lake Crescent. It doesn’t have the awe inspiring grandeur that is present in other parts of the park but is has a magical charm.

The desert

I have spent more time in the Desert than I care to have done. For me this is primarily the Coachella Valley in California which is part of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem, a rain shadow desert east of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Although I don’t particularly like the desert, I have been going for over forty years.

My first visit to the desert was in 1972. My grandparents had moved there to work as caretakers for a compound in Thousand Palms, and my family drove down to spend Christmas with them. It was out of my experience to be in a place that was warm in the winter.

The landscape was so very different from our home in the Puget Sound area that it was intriguing. The stark landscape was beautiful and the plants and animals that adapted to the harsh environment fascinated.

Especially the palm trees that popped up seemingly out of nowhere. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend visiting the Thousand Palms Oasis, a preserve run by the Nature Conservancy. Here are some photos that my dad took on that original trip in the area of the Thousand Palms Oasis, it was not a nature preserve at the time.

I don’t hate the desert passionately, but find it unpleasant to be there. My curiosity about it as an environment has been satisfied or fried out of me and “been there, done that”, in most cases more than once, to the local spots of interest.

The area has grown up and there is not as much desert there as there used to be. All the construction feels the same, visit one faux adobe shopping center and you have pretty much seen them all.

I hate that jaded feeling, I pride myself on being able to find interesting things to see and do where ever I go, but the heat, aridity, wind, and that extra large, sharp sand that infiltrates no matter which shoes I wear to cut into my feet really make it hard to keep a good attitude going.

One disturbing reality is that, as the population of the area has skyrocketed and the faux adobe developments have proliferated, the open desert has often been treated as a dump. I wrote a bit about this in my post The Ephemeral, The Eternal & Trash. An example: near where my property was someone (probably someone who had a contract to dispose of the waste from a dog park) had dumped a series of three foot high piles of doggie doo-doo along the edge of a dirt track. As the years pass it is becoming dust in the wind, but I first noticed it something like six years ago and it was still distinguishable last year. You see furniture, tires, sometimes even whole households’ worth of stuff, just dumped. It sits drying out and being sandblasted for a very, very long time before it either blows away or is buried.

Here are some pictures from my trips to the desert since I discovered digital cameras (if you have read this far you need a break, and the desert does have it’s own, rather stark, beauty).

My most recent trip was last month, when I went down with my grandmother to sell the property. My post Was it all a dream? was from that trip, which I meant to be my last trip, but on returning I promised Grandma that I will take her back this winter, if all goes well (she loves it there…or at least the idea of it she formed in her head 40+ years ago).

It was not my first “last trip down”, my post I am on a Journey…, is from another “last trip” to the desert, and My Worst NightmareStyling in Palm Springs-Practical, but not pretty and Nightmare Part 2 are about the trip last August. I was surprised how many of the posts I have written have been about the desert.

I don’t long for my last “last trip” any more, because I realized that it will mean that Grandma is no longer able to travel.


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