Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Birthday song for Jeff, or "It's a Costco Birthday!"

Feel free to sing along with Jeff.

On the first day of my birthday week my true love gave to me
A sound bar for our flat screen TV.

And then I spent hours figuring out how to get it to work.
With a little help from Jon
Well, a lot of help from Jon.

On the next day of my birthday week my true love gave to me
A history book...

(it's a good one too)
...and a sound bar for our flat screen TV.

On the third day of my birthday week my true love gave to me
Two trekking poles...

...a history book
and a sound bar for our flat screen TV.

Now I have to take my true love hiking, 'cause she got two for herself as well.

On the fourth day of my birthday week my true love gave to me
Another nifty book...

(it must be a good one 'cause Glenn Beck says so)
...two trekking poles
a history book
and a sound bar for our flat screen TV.

On my birthday (today!) my true love gave to me
A fi-i-shing pole.

(now I can go not land a fish any time I want)
Another nifty book
two trekking poles
a history book
(sing it loudly now)
And a sound bar for our flat screen TV.

Yes, I know it's only five days, but that's all there is.

The End.

Ain't it wunnerful to be singing Christmas songs in March?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Run away! Run away!

Name that movie.
Go here  for a clue.
And feel free to leave any other splendiferous quotes from the iconic film that spring to mind.

Get on with it, Susan, get on with it!

I never thought I would be quoting Jimmy Carter, but here goes.

A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.

He must have had a good speech writer back then.
On the other hand, I love to quote Thomas Jefferson.

We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it.

And what, you are likely thinking, does that have to do with the price of tea in China? 
Well, in my short running career (which is probably overstating it), I find myself kinda hating the real runners, the ones who run eight or ten miles before breakfast. I feel intimidated and compelled to either reject the whole concept, or to attempt to keep up. When in actuality, I want to do neither. And I feel like my friends who don't run at all, or who are having a hard time getting into it, are surely bored or frustrated with having to listen to those of us who (albeit reluctantly, in my case) discuss the topic. 
So I am sensitive to that possibility and do not want to seem boastful.

Am I pushing the segue?

What I really want (tell me what you want, what you reallyreally want) is to be more fit and to lose about twenty or thirty pounds. And to be able to do it without working too hard.
Yeah, right.
So Barb and I are back to the gym, yoga classes, weight-lifting, and running on the off days. 
What I don't seem to be able to do is quit eating.
So, we'll see if it helps to add running to the mix.

Barb and I planned to participate in a 10K run on Saturday morning.
IF it wasn't raining.
And IF she slept well.
With all the outs we were allowing ourselves, it's a wonder we actually showed up.
We were not going to push ourselves too much, as we've never before run that far.
A reasonable mixture of walking and running would do the trick, we figured.

Yeah right!
You know how it is, once you start running and the rest of the pack is already out of sight, you're going so slow.
And the police car is on your tail, making sure you don't get lost or have a heart attack.
And Barb, who's lost 20lbs recently, seemed determined to be an animal.
So we ran.
And ran.
And ran.

Until the end was in sight.
And there we were.
And it didn't rain on us.
One hour, eleven minutes, and a few seconds.
Nothing to brag about, and we were dead last (which is historically true to form, in my case) but a severe accomplishment for us to even finish.
And I'm starting to see that being a runner might be in my future, if the old bod doesn't fall apart.
My hips are not sure that they agree.
Which is really weird, because my whole life, I have been dead set against the concept.

I blame it all on Brenda.

P.S. Thanks to Kathy D. for the pics. We didn't look too bad, did we?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A brilliant commentary on the usefulness of vinegar

Well, that would be the brilliant commentary that I composed in my head at about 3:30 this morning.
Which has now dissipated into the ether.
I'm not sure if I can come up with two such streaks of brilliance in a twenty-four hour period, but here goes.

I've been facing a conundrum for the last few years. I don't know if it's advancing menopause, heavy exercise, or extra pounds, but I sweat more. What's worse, my clothes have been retaining that odour in the underarm area.
Apologies to any of my readers who have tender sensibilities.
Get over it.
So, clothes that are still perfectly wearable are rendered less so by the smelliness factor.

I've tried many things to combat the problem:
Bleach on the whites.
Oxyclean in the wash.
Stain remover in the offending areas.
Longer wash cycles.
Hot water.
And phooey, nothing worked for long.

A few weeks ago I did a little internet research and discovered that many people were recommending white vinegar as a solution.
Yes, the same white vinegar that I've been using to try and kill dandelions.
Hint: it doesn't work so well on the dandelions.
So, I gave it a try.
And blow me down if it didn't work!
I soaked the underarm areas in straight vinegar and it completely got rid of the lingering odour.
Apparently, the smell is caused by bacteria that doesn't get killed in a normal wash. Vinegar has some pretty powerful anti-bacterial properties. Some people on the websites were recommending that one splash vinegar on one's armpits after a shower, but I don't think I'm that desperate!

So now, every so often, I add a cup of white vinegar to the load of wash, which seems to do the trick.
You can thank me later, 'cause I'm sure I'm not the only one who has pondered the predicament.

Vinegar has many other uses in the garden and around the house according to this website, which lists 131 of them. It's a low cost and environmentally-friendly alternative to the many expensive and toxic products with which we usually fill our shelves. Think: deodorizing, disinfecting, removing, softening, soothing. You will be surprised and amazed at the versatility of vinegar.

Although I don't think I'll be sprinkling my food with it to dampen my appetite.
Or rinsing my hair with it.
I have my limits.

I'll see you later.
I'm off to Costco to stock up on some gallon bottles of that lovely substance.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Just thinking little thoughts

I've been less enthused than usual about the computer this week.
Very strange.
But I do have a few things to share, some of which may be more interesting to you than others.

First, I thought some of you might like to read the article that was in our local paper about my Haiti trip. If so, you can read it here. The reporter was very sweet and only got a couple of details wrong. I was excited for MamaBabyHaiti to get a little publicity and was a little disappointed that he didn't play that angle up more than he did. On that same note, you will notice a new blog in my Blog List, that of Dokte Sarah. I love her perspectives on the work she and Sean are doing in Haiti.  

Haiti is often on my mind. I ruminate on the political conundrum that is Haiti as often as I contemplate the living situation. I didn't really cover the politics in my series of posts, but Lisa wrote about it here and told of an interesting conversation that we had with a Haitian woman on our long bus ride. 

Barb and I ran (okay, we walked a little bit, maybe a mile) a 10K on the treadmill on Thursday.
Not my favourite way to spend a morning, but Barb was finishing this ten-week challenge thing and had to complete it by Thursday night. Like a good friend, I went along for the run. Of course, it was raining, so we went to the gym. Typical of the vagaries of our Oregon weather, it was sunny by the time we walked out of the gym 90 minutes later. We felt pretty awesome after we got done, although I was sure I was going to die a few times along the way. We are going to do another local 10K on Saturday. If it's not raining. In which case we will stay in bed.

I will say that running has helped my ankle and foot to be stronger and less painful. I think the motion of running is less stressful for my body than walking because of the limited range of motion in my ankle. 

I found these running shoes on clearance on Saturday. Adidas Marathon. Not that I am planning to ever run a marathon or anything. Would you hold me to that, please? I tried them out this morning and the old bod feels so much better for having new shoes. I also find that good socks make a lot of difference for my  short, wide feet. These are some Keen socks I bought on a whim from 6pm. Lovely, cushy, comfortableness.

Speaking of marathons and crazy runners, I've also added my friend Brenda's blog to the list. If you're into running, you will enjoy her writing. I think it's a little scary, because I say that I will never want to run a marathon and I'm completely serious. But I also said I'd never run a 10K and I'm beginning to see that it will probably happen this year. 
And Brenda had better not say I told you so.

And that's enough about running, because I know it's a very tedious topic if you're not into it.

A few other updates on life:
  • Did I tell you that Jeff is working on his Master's degree? Something about Business and Psychology. He started last fall. It's keeping him very busy. 
  • Jon and Jenny are looking into house-buying. Very exciting for them and their two very active little boys, who desperately need a yard in which to run around.
  • I'm off to New Zealand in four weeks. Excited to see my family and friends. Anne and I will be sorting out Mum's house, which I'm sure will be sad and sweet at the same time. Mum became quite the little hoarder in the last few years and there will be lots of memories. At least it's a small house!
  • Jeff and I watched The Next Three Days this weekend. We both loved it, which only happens about three times a year. Great acting by Russell Crowe and the rest of the cast, suspenseful plot, and I didn't hate the ending.
  • That's all there is 'cause there isn't any more.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For the Anglophiles among us, redacted, apologized, and added upon

I know, I know, it's supposed to be Irish day, not British.
If you want to be Irishly inspired, go see my awesome St. Paddy's Day post from last year.
It's all the Irish I got!

A few days ago, I found this hilarious website.
I suggest you go waste a few minutes on it.
Just click on the "animations" button on the left sidebar and prepare yourself for merriment.
Or, hit the play button on this video and sample the goods.

I am embarrassed. 
After checking some of the animations, I'm not recommending you do the same.
Ignore the above red teeny tiny writing.

So, to save your tender sensibilities, here is one other video.  Being the proud owner of not one, but two, compost bins, I find this to be incomparably funny.

If you don't get some of the eclectic references, well then, you're just not a true Anglophile.
As for me, I've been singing My Wild Irish Rose and It's a Long Way to Tipperary with my elderly music therapy groups for a couple of weeks now and I'm  fresh out of enthusiasm for all things Irish.

Suddenly, I'm in the mood for a Mr. Whippy ice cream cone.
With a chocolate flake on top.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Winners and losers: It's not just about March Madness

Oh dear.
Contests may be few and far between on this here blog.
I discovered this weekend that I am a BAD judge.
I just wanted to give everyone a prize for even caring enough to write a comment.
See how much I love you?
Co-dependent, more likely.

Anyway, here are the entries.

A couple of people wrote captions for this photo, even though I didn't ask for it.
Bonus points!
Ellen wrote: "I'm sure Timon never had Mondays like this..."
And Nicole (or her husband Max) suggested: "Praise peanuts! Hallelujah!"
Which took me a while to get, but then, aha, he does look a little prostrately worshipping!
Supposing that meerkats eat peanuts....

And now for the real competition.
Ellen: "What does a meerkat have to do to get a decent manicure around here?"
Lindsay, who is never short of a witty comment: "Dang, I'd make one SEXY stole..." and "Whoever wrote 'Muskrat Love' never snuggled with a meerkat..."
Lindsay earned extra points for even knowing the song "Muskrat Love", which was one of my fave 70's songs.
Lisa, being a bit of an overachiever: . . . between a rock and two furballs . . .
Are you freakin' kidding me?
But Mom, I couldn't find the nailclippers!
Is that dessert you have there?
I think she was looking for extra points on that last one!
Nicole (Max): "Your hide would make a fine poncho."
And Jenny the Pirate: I hear there's a casting call for Les Mis! I am Jean Valjean!
Jenny gets extra points for managing to slip in a little French reference.

And, finally, the real extra point candidate, the Three Lemurs.
Ellen, of course.
Being just a tad competitive.
"Davey, Davey Crocket. King of the wild frontier....wait, what?"
BTW, Ellen, Crockett has two "t's". 
Just thought you'd like to know.

Well, it's a tough one, but I have to go with the captions that elicited actual belly laughs.
Maybe Ellen and I have spent too much time together, because it is she. 
Plus, you know, all the extra points.

Now, for all of you, um, losers, just remember this:
In the words of Casey Stengel, American baseball icon,  Without losers, where would the winners be?
And, as Christopher D. Furman (who, as far as I can tell, is only famous for this quote) wrote, If you want to be a winner, hang around with winners.

So, I'll catch you all later, over at Ellen's place! 
Oh, except then we'll be hanging out with losers.
Hmmmm. How does that work?

I probably should be quiet now.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, How about you, you, you?

Shortly after we arrived at the zoo on Saturday, we were lucky enough to catch a Close Encounters show at the Wild Wonders Outdoor Stage. 
An outdoor stage with a roof over the seating area.
This is the Pacific Northwest, after all!
First was Tilly the aardvark, who has no doubt already endeared you to her charms.
Then there was a bald eagle, a kookaburra (yes, really, and she laughed on demand), a clever dog named Herall, and Stella the hornbill.
Stella played fetch with the zookeeper and was all kinds of cute.

I love this kind of an animal show, laid back and humourous. 
Dang. British spelling is starting to look erroneous to me. What shall I do?
PDZ&A is a very hands-on zoo. Tilly the aardvark goes for regular walks around the zoo, meeting the patrons, as do many of the other animals who have been raised by and imprinted on humans.

The aquarium has a few glorious sights. 

One of the sea otters lay with this thing on its stomach the whole time I stood and watched. The other otters were active and playful, but this one just lay there, grooming its face and catching the few watery rays that beamed down from the sky. It looked perfectly content, but I was a bit worried about the disc thing. It seemed to be resting heavily on the stomach of the otter; you can see the imprint in its fur.
Very strange.
I was determined to outlast the otter and see what happened when it decided to swim away, but alas, the otter was the better man of us two. 
Or woman.
Outdone by an otter.

The lemurs were in the children's section. As we were leaving I caught this shot of them snoozing with their tails wrapped around them.
Another caption-worthy photo?
Maybe some extra points?

We closed down the zoo (literally) and went to visit some old friends who live close by. Brett and Jeannine  were really friends of Bethany and Chris but we kind of adopted them and they are part of many fond family memories. They have three cute little girls now and are forging their way in the world with gusto. They treated us to dinner at Steamers, which is almost worth the three-hour drive all on its own. I can't resist posting this photo of their two oldest girls. 
Little peas in a pod.

And then we went home.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meerkat love

I'm in a baking mood.
And I'm killing myself running again.
Belly fat + running = people laughing at you when you run.
I'm not kidding. It really happened.
So, let me bake for YOU.

On Saturday, we went to one of my favourite zoos, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.
I took the kids there several times when they were young and it turns out Jeff never went with us. So, you know me, any excuse for a trip to a zoo!

Hence, the aardvark.

And now, the meerkats.
There is an awesome children's section where you can sit and watch the meerkats' antics to your heart's content.
Unless you are accompanied by your restless husband.

Some of my favourite shots:

I saved the best for last.

I just know that somewhere in that last picture is a funny caption.
But I'm very bad at thinking up funny captions.
So, whoever makes me laugh the hardest will win a batch of something delicious.

I'll give you till Friday midnight.

If the winner lives in the US I will deliver or mail it.
If the winner lives in New Zealand, hand delivery will occur in April.
For my lovely English readers, and that strange fellow in Doha (just in case he reads it) I guess you would have to settle for notoriety. No, come to think of it, I should be in England by autumn. But Mark might have to come see me again.

Game on.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

House of glass

Our house is made of glass...and our lives are made of glass; and there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves. Joyce Carol Oates.

Well, don't pay too much attention to that; I gave up reading JCO's novels a few months ago. They are beautifully written but she is too gloomy by far. 

I've wanted to visit the Tacoma Glass Museum for several years.
Boom! Another one off the Bucket List.
We stopped in on the way to our hotel on Friday. After figuring out our free parking and the free light rail, we rode to the 19th and Pacific stop and this is what we saw.

We crossed the street between Union Station and the State History Museum...

...and walked onto the Bridge of Glass.
This was designed by Dale Chihuly, the father of modern glass art, and contains many of his works. Chihuly has an instantly recognizable style and has been a leader in the American glass art scene for decades. He learned the team approach to glass-blowing while on a Fulbright Scholarship in Venice in the 60's and subsequently adopted it as his own. Chihuly directs his assembled team in the creative aspects of the glass-blowing and makes the ultimate decision on whether or not the finished piece is a "keeper". I assume that this approach is what enables his prolific output.

This suspension bridge is off to the right. It was a grey day still, so difficult to get an inspiring photo, but it is an imposing structure.

As you walk under the covered area, your eyes are drawn upwards and you immediately start to look like a dork. You cannot look away from all the luscious colours and sensuous shapes of the Chihuly glass, which is perched tantalizingly on top of the glass ceiling.
I'm thinking, a few million dollars of glass art in this here covered bridge.

I could have stayed in there, walking to and fro with my head tipped back, for a long time, but, you know, Jeff was with me.
Yes, there he is, moving impatiently ahead.

Meanwhile, I'm still under cover, gazing at the ceiling.
Glorious, isn't it?
Then, on to the next section which has glass displayed in cases on each side.

There is something about glass that is very tactile. I have to touch it to get a complete sense of its beauty. These enclosed cases drove me nuts!

There are several art installations on the grounds of the museum.
This is Water Forest, by Howard Ben Tre.

Fluent Steps, by Martin Blank, contains 754 individually sculpted pieces of glass. I love the fluid motion of the sculpture as a whole and the ethereal transparency of the individual pieces.
There's my fancy-shmancy art review for the day.

We paid our admission for the museum.
I was less than impressed with most of it, with a couple of exceptions.
Glimmering Gone is a collaboration between two artists, one in the US and one in Sweden. It is quite gorgeous and innovative. 
The Hot Shop, which is inside the cone in the photos, was interesting. You can watch visiting artists actually blow and form glass pieces. 
No photos allowed, anywhere in the museum.
You can imagine how I felt about that!
Much of the art is very avant garde and a little too weird for my taste. 
Peculiar, even.
I prefer my art to be beautiful rather than interesting.
Plus, it really puts me off when I read artists' pseudo-intellectual comments on their own work, as if it contained answers to life's greatest questions. Phrases like "central to the human condition" and "silent internal dialogue" just leave me cold. I want to tell them to get over themselves.

Sorry if I upset anyone with that opinion. In many ways, I am too pragmatic for my own good.

My recommendation on the Glass Museum, unless you're dying to visit the Hot Shop, is to save your money and soak in the free sights outside.

Just down the terraced steps from the museum is a shop that sells works from many of the artists who are displayed in the museum. 
Like this piece.
Jeff and I decided this artist must be quite popular, because the price tag....wowee!

I would have bought at least one smaller piece of glass, but Jeff was giving me no encouragement, so out we went again. The shop is worth a visit. I preferred it to the museum.

UP the steps again, where we got the other side of Union Station. 
What a grand building.

I will leave you with this.
I don't know the name of the sculpture.

Had we been in a more adventurous mood, we would have checked out Union Station (where it looked like some more glass resided) and the history museum.
But it was starting to rain and we were chilly and tired.
So we went on to the next hotel.
Towne Suites, by Marriott.
Functional but uninspired.
The feather pillows, however, were to die for.

Tomorrow, a contest.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thirty-one years and counting

I know you're all dying of anticipation, wondering what we did for our anniversary.
Thirty-one years.
Sometimes, it seems like an eternity.
Sometimes, only yesterday.
Nah, I'm kidding.
I can actually hardly remember life before Jeff, although every time I go to New Zealand it all comes back to me. In a good way.

So, here's the scoop. 
In excruciating detail.

I planned a long weekend, with the first night being spent in a luxury boutique hotel in Portland: the Hotel Monaco, which was 5th Avenue Suites Hotel until several years ago, when it was transformed into its present state. I found a half-price deal on Travelzoo, which included a continental breakfast but not, unfortunately, free parking.
Let me just say that I do not pay $33 a night for parking. Ever.
We parked in the Smart Park facility a few blocks away, which ended up being $13 for the night, which is within my comfort zone. It was a little inconvenient when we forgot to bring our toilet kit into the hotel, but Jeff just popped out in the morning to get it.

I was delighted by this fellow playing the beat buckets just outside the parking structure.
I put a couple of dollars in his tip bucket and asked him if I could take his picture.
He, in turn, was delighted by the suggestion.

The interior decor is an exotic mix of Anglo-Chinois influences.
Whatever that means.

All I know is that this bed with its soft linens and down comforter was incredibly comfortable and, more to the point, so was my pillow.
Because, wouldn't you know, I forgot mine.
But I didn't forget my camera!

One could request a goldfish for one's room.
Of course I did.
Why did you even have to ask?

His name is Gillis.
I said so.
Animal print robes are there for the wearing, but we didn't bother. 
They were stiff and unappealing.
But aren't they exotic?

Would someone tell me why these higher-end hotels feel compelled to place a nice large refreshing-looking bottle of water by the side of the bed?
With a sign on it that say "$5"?
It is one of my nightmares that one day I won't see the outrageous price tag and I'll drink it.

And this sweet bear that was sitting on the bed, with a $35 price tag.

Oh, I forgot to mention, we watched True Grit on the way into Portland. 
Fantastic acting, but some of the gruesome scenes are etched into my brain for evermore.
And the ending was crap.
So, if you're at all impressionable, like me, give it a miss.
Jon said, What did you expect from the Coen brothers?

Friday morning after breakfast, we headed up into the West Hills to the Japanese Gardens. The gardens have been almost fifty years in the making and it shows. Every view is gorgeous.

Once again, too many photos, so hopefully you won't be bored by this slideshow. I recommend watching it on full screen, but let it preload some before pressing the play button.

It was beautiful even though the day was grey.
I love the graceful shapes of the bare tree branches.

Because it was such a dismal day, I had to boost the colour and contrast quite a bit on most of the photos. They were very flat and almost monochromatic in their raw state. I'd love any constructive comments from you awesome photographers out there. My little camera is fairly limited in its capabilities, but maybe some pointers on editing?

Tomorrow, the Chihuly Glass Museum in Tacoma.