Winter Solstice 2017

S. noticed that the hummingbird feeders were frozen this morning. We hopped to it, bringing them inside, putting them in a pan of hot water and within seconds of rehanging them, the little brrrds were filling up their reserves.

Maybe we’ll bring the feeders inside while the hummingbirds are in torpor at night and then put the feeders out again in the early morning.
IMG-1200K, our singing group, and I sang at the beginning of Bloedel Reserve’s Solstice Walk and then joined the quiet procession through the dark woods and gardens. (photo credit: K)

IMG-1208A couple of hours of darling children: gingerbread house building and crocheting next to the fire.

IMG-1215Tasha is one of the very best parts of a winter stay-cation.


Mount Ellinor

Part of S’s 17th birthday celebration: a camping trip and hiking Mount Ellinor, the southern-most peak along the eastern front of the Olympics. Some of the trail looks like this:IMG-1089That was an easy bit. There are occasional scrambly parts too.

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Lake Cushman to the right; the Hood Canal to the left.2017-08-12-15-06-00.jpgI adore my S girl to the moon and back and I love that she wanted a hike for her birthday. 🙂

Three summer days

IMG-0970Antelope Island, UT. The littlest bison are prone to sudden scampers and the birdsong is glorious.

IMG-1076Hood Canal, WA on the Kitsap side. Early in the morning, I couldn’t see or hear another soul. Good place for walking and thinking.

IMG-1080Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill was a really lovely setting for the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s free concert; Borodin’s String Quintet in f minor with cellist Edward Arron was intense and lyrical.



Bainbridge in Bloom and BARN

The Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour is an annual event on the island, hosted by private garden owners, and produced by the Bainbridge Arts & Humanities Council. They hire musicians to play throughout the gardens, and yesterday I got to experience two gorgeous places as I sang with my women’s chamber group, Byway.
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I figured out what these are: Allium Nectaroscordum, or Mediterranean bells. The bees love them.

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Also, Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) had their open house on Saturday afternoon. The concept is progressive and brilliantly executed; it’s a community gathering point for physical resources and materials as well as knowledgable, talented individuals who teach and guide. There are 11 studios: Book Arts, Fiber Arts, Glass Arts, Kitchen Arts, Metal Arts, Electronic and Technical Arts, Jewelry and Fine Metals, Media Arts, Printmaking, Woodworking and Small Boat Building, and Writers.

I want to do it all!

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Spring Break 2016

K turned 18!

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Here we are on our way to hear Stile Antico, a UK vocal ensemble specializing in Renaissance music. It was luminous, rich, precise, enchanting; deserving of every laudatory review I’d seen beforehand. The group comes from Cambridge and Oxford; having begun their training in the choral programs there, the 12 singers perform with no accompaniment and no director. The program focused on the music of Shakespeare’s era–very little Shakespearean text was contemporaneously set to music, so the singers wove spoken-word history lessons on William Byrd, the death of Prince Henry Stuart and the subsequent flood of music composed in requiem, and other items of interest in between their numbers.


A. created a hidden fairy house in the wild corner of the back yard.

All three kids had dog-sitting or dog-walking jobs during spring break.

I took Tolstoy to heart:  “Rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.”


S’s 15th Birthday

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S at 15: invisalign, never wears makeup, excited to be in Victoria, B.C. for the first time, loves extreme dot-to-dot, regularly makes up new recipes, considering medical school and psychiatry, vivacious, confident, helpful.

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Butchart Gardens in early August is a riot of bloom and a green oasis in a rather dry year on Vancouver Island. We wondered how much water they must use to keep it all so lush, and pondered the use of finite resources in the pursuit of beauty. The gardens are accessible to the public (though not available to all due to cost of entry and location), and serve as a sort of living museum as well as natural art gallery.

When we saw this gorgeous mimosa tree, we told the kids about the mimosas in Alabama that gracefully spring away from touch, relatives of the sensitive plant we have growing on our kitchen window sill. I waited while S went to see if this one would respond to her.

People are funny–when the leaves didn’t flinch from S, K and A had to see if they would have a different effect on the tree.

In Victoria proper.

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This chalk art cracked me up because it looks like this game A’s been playing called “Goat Simulator”. It’s hilarious and horrifying in equal measure, with the goats licking things and dragging them around by their long stretchy tongues. There were a couple of others that took my fancy:

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In the gorgeous Munro’s Books, where we found plenty of good reads for the ferry ride back to Port Angeles:

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And back at home, look what Grandma V made for S: A memory quilt that includes fabric from 6 decades of sewing clothes and quilts!


Uinta Reunion

B’s dad and stepmom planned a 5-day family reunion for the last week in July, and all the pieces were in place for a gorgeous, relaxing get-together. Here’s what worked so well:
1. The accommodation was rented rather than any one of us hosting; there was more than enough room (the cabin holds 60 overnight, and we were 51 strong).
2. Food prep and cleanup weren’t onerous for anyone since rotating small groups of us were in charge of 2 meals for all.
3. Lots to do without anyone needing to plan activities or be responsible for fun (house arrest? I want to stay here)– pool, ping-pong, foosball, air hockey…speaking of which, I’m still sporting a bruise that looks like a red and purple sunset in the middle of a dirty grayish-green pond, ewww). I have this beauty blooming on my upper thigh from blithely slamming into the table as I became the air hockey champion. For one night, anyway. So also: hot tub, swimming pool, library nooks, bouncy castle (yes, I did), and quiet comfy bedrooms for escaping from the party.

Setting out with 28+ hours roundtrip in the car ahead of us and potentially excellent reading spots high in the Utah mountains, I piled up a stack of books that filled an entire backpack on their own.


I read my way through Broken Harbor (very good, but less gripping than Tana French’s first three novels), City of Thieves (soooo good), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (driven by a voice bursting with energy and a narrative finale that left me sobbing. Oh, Dominican Republic. Oh, lost love.) Also got through the first third of Power, Sex, and Suicide (rats, they went with a social-sciency title, and then pulled a fast one by lodging a textbook on mitochondria inside), the first 54 pages of The Dante Club (so far: meh, but I might stick with it a little longer) and the first 1/4 of William Wordsworth: A Life (I like this passage: “Wordsworth tried to define truly poetic and creative minds. One of their characteristics, he said, was watchfulness: ‘they build up greatest things / From least suggestions’”(26).

First stop: Sunday with my brother P and his family. We met the youngest member of the extended family: newborn R!





T really liked the blackberries we brought from Bainbridge (they’re on so early this year!)–what’s that? Oh, ok, he really liked the whipped cream and tolerated a few hidden berries.

And on to the colossal cabin, the altissimo abode, the gleaming hewn bones of a mountainous glen:


S with cousin O.

T, B, and K


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C and T washing up after lunch for 48.

An afternoon hike at 8,400 feet elevation:

Grandpa D and Grandma K on the trail (which at times was nearly overgrown with a profusion of wildflowers).

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Groves of aspens everywhere in the lower areas.

We discovered high-altitude badminton birdies fly like crazy–the workout comes from laughing as much as running after the shuttlecock shooting over our heads.

One last stop in SLC to have lunch with my brother B and his family:

Little O drawing a picture of his daddy.

A showing us K’s version of Uncle B

I and B

On to home again, caravaning part of the way with the Zs–the car ride this time went smoother than most.
20 questions, a good playlist, car games that are only interesting on the road (We tried replacing all vowels with short e sound: after hours in the car, “Pess the wetter bettle” is super-duper funny).

The kids have discovered that even more than run-of-the-mill bickering, singing in augmented 4ths drives their parents loco. Their delight is absolutely devilish.

Getting on the Bainbridge ferry on a Friday evening in the summer takes a couple of hours; I drove up to the ticket booth at 5:45 p.m. and we got a spot on the 7:20 ferry. That gave us time to get a light dinner at Cafe Paloma on Yesler Way, and now my cooking goal is to re-create the red lentil kofta I had last night.

Outside time



This peony is bigger than Tasha’s head!


So is her soccer ball…

She herds it around like it’s a rotund docile sheep, lightning-fast and with a great sense of purpose. A. practices his soccer moves with her–it’s a challenge to get the ball around her because she can dribble it with her face.

Homemade signs and political involvement > attending school for a day.

On Thursday morning the kids and I gathered with fellow supporters of education funding and marched on the capitol steps in Olympia. Our wonderful legislators met us and spoke about their efforts to comply with the state supreme court ruling, and my student who is making a documentary of the situation was really excited to get some excellent interviews.

Mid-Winter Break

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Today’s glorious sunshine brought Christina Rossetti’s first verse of “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” to mind:

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Here’s a re-worked verse for today:

In the mild mid-winter
Camellias all abloom,
Earth inhaled the sunshine,
Water like a loom;
Weaving roots and blossoms,
Bloom on bloom,
In the mild mid-winter
Come so soon.

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A and I started preparing the garden beds and discovered some of my purple carrots happily wintering over! They’re going in the coconut curry tonight.

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Tasha got a new rawhide bone and the houseplants all got a little direct sunlight on the outskirts of our badminton game. I had my teeth cleaned this morning (do I dare admit it had been since 2008?), still no cavities, no problems–this sort of history is why I can be so blasĂ©–and I feel like I’ve been to a spa. Now to curl up again with one of the 7 books I’m trying to get through before the break is over!