Times and Travels: Vashon Island Get-Away

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On the way to Vashon on the ferry. Mt. Rainier faintly in the distance.

I come from a place where you hardly ever call anything an island. People tend to laugh if you call it anything but a “key”. Here in the PNW there are lots of islands around and in Puget Sound. People will laugh if you call the place we went to this morning Vashon Key.  It’s an island.

We rode the early ferry from West Seattle to the dock at the east side of Vashon.  The ferries are part of the transportation system and very well maintained and operated. Cars, buses and semi-tractor/trailers were lined up on deck for our 20 minute trip across the Sound.  It’s Friday, so there isn’t a crowd like there probably will be on the weekend.

This was the morning that Ryan Bruel was scheduled to receive the keys to his new property. But first things first – breakfast at Cafe Luna in the town of Vashon.  The signs on the way warn travelers that this is a rural area, although I’m not sure what danger that poses. The small town has a library, numerous businesses, a grocery, some artist shops, a school – pretty much what is needed is what is found there. I imagine there has to be some degree of self-sufficient mindset for a person to live comfortably on an island.

At Café Luna we ordered breakfast burritos, fresh quiche, hot from the oven and our latte’s. Esther walked around the corner to her favorite bakery for a Bob’s Burger.  The food and the atmosphere were good introductions to the island.

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Ryan’s cabin is midway between Vashon and the ferry dock, so we back tracked and pulled into the drive marked by the mailbox with the red butterfly. The roughly 3 acre property was owned by an elderly man until it got to be a project he could not keep up with. It is mostly forest, except for the drive and the clearing where the cabin, garage, and small studio sit.  I’m sure the buildings were built back when there were few codes to follow, and there have been additions and remodels since then, none of professional quality. This is to say that there are quaint surprises in many rooms of the main cabin.

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Kitchen – all
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Vintage decoupage knife block coordinate with vintage wall paper

The realtor and some helpers were there taking away some of the old appliances, and removing layers of old carpet. There were newspapers between the layers dating from the early 1990’s.  It will be a cabin suitable for camping and will provide years and years of interesting renovation projects for Ryan and Esther.

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Small loft areas adorn both ends of the main cabin, accessible only by ladder. Curious little spaces (with questionable usefulness since bathroom vents into this one…)
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Ryan and Esther, in the last moments of their comparatively restful life before property renovations

Codes now will prevent them from building new structures on the property but they can fool around quite liberally with what is already there. The separate studio is a sturdy one room log cabin and even though it has only one chair in it at present, it stirs my imagination in all kinds of interesting ways.

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the log cabin studio – how could you not be inspired to write here?
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complete with minimalist decor…
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One of many ancient guardians of the property

The forest around the clearing has numerous giant, old growth trees.  There is also a protected wetland and a green algae pond. The predominant ground cover is blackberry bushes. The clearing has been recently cleaned of growth but I can envision how fast it will come back and become wild again.  For people who have been living in the city, working at tech jobs in stressful environments, the Vashon Island get away is going to be an adventure of a whole different sort. That’s what they’ve been wanting.

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The lovely mystery pond – nobody knows what’s in there.

Ordinary Times and Travels: Airstream, post 8

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At the dealership – sight love.

Both my daughters are risk takers and dream followers, not every day in every way, but when it matters. It mattered recently that new life be given to an old dream, which is how youngest daughter, Esther, became owner of a 1972 Airstream. To be clear, it’s 27 feet of aluminum, pull behind, live in trailer with softly rounded corners for streamline movement. You all know what I’m talking about.

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Where do we get notions like this? How do these dreams come about? We don’t always know, but when they’ve been around in our thoughts for years it becomes exciting to move on them, finally. Esther found Sylvia Path (subsequently named) at a dealership. They wanted to try out all the systems and appliances before she took possession, and part of her contract was ongoing help, coaching, should she need it. The dealer agreed to deliver her purchase to her when everything was checked out. She sent the cushions and mattress to an upholsterer – the first of several planned upgrades.

Having an Airstream in your backyard is kind of a trendy thing in many parts of the country (usually where it is warm enough to winter over in one).  Many people don’t travel with them. They use them for an extra room, or rent the space for extra income. Many people just like to restore a beautiful piece of equipment for the joy of doing it. Esther wants to do all of these, but first, the challenge of where to put it and the actual move.

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Yeah, this is where it has to go and there are some big rocks here…

Esther assured me she had talked with the dealership about her plan to park the Airstream in her driveway.  They had assured her it was possible in a “no problem” kind of way that guys often rely on. I wasn’t so sure, but I’m only an interested observer.  There were a couple of delivery dates that got rescheduled and with each one, we began to get more anxious about the steep hills, narrow streets and small final destination.  An ornamental tree had been cut to clear the way.  In her mind’s eye, the Airstream was neatly parked against her fence with the door and canopy opening out on the cement drive, herself sitting inside writing her first memoir, a best seller.

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You’re kidding, right?

On the Monday after Christmas, we finally saw Sylvia coming down the street behind a pick-up truck and ran out to greet her. But as we found out, the men delivering her had either not understood, or not believed Esther’s description. Turns out, they can’t really put it anywhere you want it, only where they can drive it with the truck. Backing in was the only option. Here is how it went –  on the second try. (click link for 3 minute YouTube video)

The mind’s eye is the perfect place for a re-do. What you thought would happen can get changed to what actually happened with a minimum of cost and energy. The rest of the delivery process went smoothly as the trailer was leveled, electricity was connected, and the propane heater demonstration successfully concluded.

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Obviously, there is no door on this side.

My first contribution to Sylvia was to remove the lavender bush we were trampling to get to the door, and place some stepping stones to keep us out of the mud.  Esther is going to save pictures of the inside for the before/after shoots, because there is work to be done. It may be a while before the completion, but the dream has begun, and that’s what counts.

 

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To be continued (but do not hold your breath).

Ordinary Times and Travels: Alki Drive, post 7

Come along. Charlie (the dog) and I are going for a walk.

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A summer shot along the sea wall from Alki Beach.

West Seattle is a peninsula of sorts with a variety of geographical features. In previous visits I’ve posted about the Alki lighthouse, the stairways leading up the steep bluffs, the old growth forest in the interior, and some of the sights along the default exercise walk, Alki Drive. Today, Charlie and I went on that walk just to see what it looked like in winter.  It has been so cold, wet and windy that we were glad to have time outside on a calmer, warmer day.

On Alki Drive one can traverse the western side of West Seattle from the lighthouse and Alki Beach all the way up to the northern point where there is a good view of downtown Seattle across the water. It’s hard to describe in words so you really have to look at a map. Puget Sound has many islands, inlets, peninsulas and bays and is a long body of water. There are some beaches but often the shoreline is rocky and steep. My daughter’s house is only a few blocks from one of the few beach areas so that is where my walk usually starts.

There is the water, a sandy beach which gives way gradually to a cement sea wall, then a wide grass and shrub strip, then the sidewalk for walkers, another strip of shrubbery, the wide paved area for bikers, skaters and long board riders, then the street, the sidewalk again, a row (sometimes two) of dwellings and finally a steep, unbuildable cliff covered with trees and vines. Every once in a while there is enough of an outcropping that someone feels safe attaching houses to it, but the roads to them are narrow, switch-backed and have very inventive parking areas.

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The bluff is not very high here. Another row of houses hanging on up top.

Although it is cold here, it doesn’t freeze hard enough to kill many of the plants and shrubs. There is green grass, many of the trees still have leaves and the houses and condos along Alki Drive looked much like they do in the spring and summer. I passed the monkey tail tree, araucaria araucana, one of the oddest conifers I have ever seen.

This is the thought game I play while I walk past all the small summer houses, the old ones. Many of them are run down, poorly maintained, and some are uninhabited (condemned most likely), in spite of the high priced land they are sitting on. I look at them and plan what I would do first if I lived there. Give me a sledge hammer, some paint, a shovel. They beg me to pull the weeds, pick up trash and simply make them look like someone loves them. I know if they are not fixed up they will soon find themselves replaced with high rise condos.  Some are fixed up and are very cute – showing that it can be done.

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Draw a circle around the one that is not like the others.

The goal today is to walk to the so-called “flower house”. Nestled between two high rises, a small house and adjoining building have become locally famous for being festooned with flowers throughout the summer, extremely festooned. The flower house is right on the sidewalk and the owner has seating for tourists to have their pictures taken surrounded by flowers. I’ve posted photos of my daughter and I in those very seats last year. This winter the décor is more sparse but still lovely.

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On the way back, the house that wins my vote for Christmas prettiness is this one. I choose it mostly because of the blue lights which are my favorites.

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I walk a little further and see another one of my colorful favorites, the Blue Moon Burger joint. They have some crazy good sweet potato fries there.

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One of many eateries lined up along Alki Drive in the beach area.

And then we head inland a couple blocks and are back to Esther’s house, “Ocean’s Arms”, immediately below the path leading into Schmitz Park.  To end, I am showing you a picture of the Star of Bethlehem tree, which you saw in the dark a few nights ago.  This is how it looks in the day, along the walk going up into Schmitz Park. Both pictures are from my bedroom window. We think they must leave the star up there all year, although Esther has not thought to look.

 

Thanks for coming along on my walk down Alki Drive.

Ordinary Times and Travels: St. Marks Cathedral

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We traveled to Capital Hill to St. Marks and experienced this.

This was exactly as described, “quiet night and perfect end”. Esther and I entered the cathedral almost half an hour before the appointed time, but it was already nearly full. We went up to the front and put our blankets on the floor, using the short wall as our back rest. Esther said this was prime seating. In spite of the crowd, the sanctuary was quiet and dark, except for the candles lighting each row and the altar area. We saw the singers assembling.

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The music was old, historic, mysterious, haunting at times, joyful at times, sacred in quality. There are very few opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the chant, of harmonies in a building so acoustically perfect. Part of the experience is being surrounded by others who are also curious, amazed, calmed and blessed by the words and songs.

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pipe organ, back of church

Much of the music was acapella. Occasionally handbells joined the singing. And at the end of the half hour, the pipe organ began to enrich the empty places with tangible layers of sound.

With the departure of the chorus most people filed out quietly, but the organ continued to play. The complexity of the sound demanded that we get a closer look, and there did seem to be people in the organ loft. We found the stair and joined a small group watching the organist. This virtuoso was a young man in plaid flannel, whose fingers flew over the four levels of keys, and whose feet were all but running over the foot pedals. At the finish he stood and bowed slightly, seeming almost embarrassed to be watched.

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not what I was expecting, talent in flannel

I now love the word compline, for its meaning and for the memory of this experience. St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral, Capital Hill, Seattle, WA. You will not be disappointed.

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front of sanctuary

The Strangeness of Being Cold

There is more to feeling cold than just the physical sensation.

I know it’s largely physical, dependent upon location. I rarely feel cold in Florida. This morning we stood outside watching the Airstream being backed into place. It was only about an hour total, but I’ve not been warm since.

There is the mental side of it. I’ve been reading a lot lately, stories of young people feeling that their lives could just as well be ended, because of their physical misery. There are so many of those stories. And there is also my daughter’s story with heavy doses of despair and anxiety. And my other daughter’s story of overwhelming demands, confusion and loneliness. And there is being in Seattle. All these are part of feeling cold, I think.

wp-1482788166367.jpgI read until my eyes were heavy and there was no need to keep them open so I went to lie down. I am in a house which I am sure is heated adequately, yet I am cold, dressed in two layers on my legs, two layers and a jacket on top. A wool blanket is over me as I wait for it to trap the heat and make me feel warm, but it doesn’t happen. Even the bed and blankets I’m lying on give the lingering sensation of cool, like an unwanted draft. It’s not painful or intolerable. It’s nagging.

Every surface around me is waiting to grab some of my energy, especially the floor. I feel it through my socks, my shoes. The chairs feel cold, and oh, the leather car seat is the worst. When I back up to the heater on the wall, it heats one small portion of me but makes all the other portions more aware of their chill. It’s hard to even think about undressing at night. I touch my face with icy fingers and feel the effect of it all the way down to my feet.

It is not the actual temperature either. Outside, everything is the color of cold. Cold looks smoky blue, five shades of foggy grey, and the darkness of being wet. I want to move, to work up some heat, to exercise (not like the shirtless runner I saw yesterday, but a little sweat would be nice).

I am hoping this is a temporary phenomenon. I am cold, just sayin’…

Ordinary Times and Travels: PNW Christmas, post 6

The last couple of days have been quiet, marked by only a few happenings, and one big non-happening.

Sylvia, the Airstream, did not come on Saturday as scheduled. The dealer decided he had something more important to do on Christmas Eve day. Imagine that. We are still hoping for some day next week, before I have to leave. I want to be here to welcome the new addition. Esther has named it Sylvia Plath after one of her favorite poets (Aaack! I’ve been edited. It’s Sylvia Path, because it’s wittier.). She is having fun thinking about upholstery fabric for the cushions and other upgrades she wants to make inside. Did you know that refurbishing older Airstreams is a trend these days? It goes along with the tiny house movement, and glamping. Like other trendy movements, you can find books and blogs and videos about how to do it.

What did arrive on Saturday was our Amazon Fresh order. A little before 8 the large green truck came down our street and stopped several houses away. I was up, dressed, waiting for it so I came out to flag down the driver. Esther does not have her house numbers up since her paint job this summer and I figured he might have trouble. He brought the two coolers and two paper grocery bags to the door. I asked him if he liked his job with Amazon and he didn’t actually say yes or no, but he didn’t complain, and he did smile. He said he would have to wait a few minutes to leave because our delivery wasn’t scheduled until 8 and they track him with GPS.

Unloading the groceries in the house, I marveled at how carefully they were packaged. Delicate fruits were wrapped and bagged separately. The coolers with the vegetables were packed with ice, and the one with the ground meat had dry ice. Everything was in good condition, and there were instructions on recycling all the packaging. Someone did all this work for us (more carefully than I ever would have) and it was delivered to our door in less than a day at a price that was not noticeably more than if we had gone to the store ourselves. How can they do this? I don’t know.

I did a lot of cooking that day, trying out a couple Paleo recipes. I liked them both and Esther like one of them – the one without meat, of course.  It’s called “Nomato Sauce” because it has no tomatoes, but is used like tomato sauce. Tomatoes are one of the eliminated foods, that commonly cause inflammation (nightshade family – even sounds deadly, right?) It’s a beautiful colored sauce because it is made with beets and carrots. This combination even tastes a bit like tomatoes and that really surprised me.

Last night we made a fire in the fireplace and watched National Lampoon: Family Christmas (I  know, I know…). It was a different kind of Christmas Eve than I normally have, but it was good. Good to be with a daughter, in safety, in pleasant surroundings. I always have mixed feelings about Christmas celebration, not because the birth of Jesus wasn’t a thing worthy of celebration, but because we’ve made it to be so not about that. We’ve combined so many other traditions and stories that it’s a holiday for everyone, even if they don’t know anything about Christ. Why don’t we just have a winter holiday with pretty lights and presents and celebrate Jesus’ birthday some other time, like in the fall when it probably really happened?

Christmas Day was also quiet, except for the early morning call from the husband that the septic system was backed up again. Really?! On Christmas Day?! He got to work and the crisis was short lived, but I have to thank him for sharing it with me.

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Youngest daughter, Esther, photo bombing…

We took an evening walk, bundled up in every way possible. I had to gawk at the male runner who passed us with shorts and no shirt on in 35 degree weather. Seattle has its own brand of craziness. Later tonight, we plan to visit a church where a men’s chorus regularly gives performances. This is also reported to be a bit different from the norm, in that people bring blankets to wrap themselves in and hot drinks to sip while taking in the concert, inside the church. I am glad that life is interesting. I am happy to be in Seattle. I am happy. Hope you are too, Merry Christmas.

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Puget Sound. I love these soft, sad colors.

December in the PNW: Ordinary Times and Travels, post 1

I am preparing to leave in the morning for Christmas in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t have an aversion to spending holidays at home, really. Home is my favorite place to be, followed closely by any place where my family is located. Youngest daughter is in Seattle so that will be a good place to spend the last half of December. She and I can break in the “new to her” old Airstream that has recently joined her family and keep each other company over that time of year when no one wants to be alone.

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Sylvia

I have a bit of trepidation, rather I should say my mom and the husband have a bit of trepidation, over what home will be like in my absence. They have both promised each other not to have to cook for anyone other than themselves and to eat when they want to eat. Even now they have gone off to Walmart and are probably abandoning my paleo diet regimen at McDonalds. Cooking is just too much work, but eating is simple, if you know what there is to eat. Anyway, for two weeks they are on their own.

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I have not been to Seattle in winter that I can recall. Youngest daughter is sending me texts of the weather report and planning some yard work for me in between the rain and snow forecasts for the week – the whole week. I am getting out clothing that I have not worn since I lived in Wisconsin thirty years ago. I still have the stuff, yes I do. And the cool thing is that most of it is now back in style. Even though I have seen those temps in the 30’s and 40’s it’s still hard to sit here in 85 degree weather and think sweaters. I have snow boots. Oddly enough, I found them on sale here in Florida and couldn’t resist getting them because they fit me. I’m counting on them to keep my feet warm and dry when I tramp around in Schmitz Park, maybe with Charlie.

I say maybe, because I saw a picture of Charlie yesterday and he has no hair anymore.  Some over-zealous groomer practically shaved him and now he will be shivering, unless Grandma gets him a doggie coat. Poor thing.

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And the question in my mind that I can’t wait to have answered is how on earth does all that Seattle traffic work in snow? Youngest daughter told me she decided to ignore “road closed” barriers during the last snowfall and practically slid all the way to her house. Evidently a lot of roads need to be closed when it’s slippery because they are almost too steep to negotiate when it’s dry – and I  know it to be so.

I need some accountability on this trip and will welcome it from anyone. Please make me feel really guilty if I don’t take my vitamins. Normally, they travel with me, and then they travel back home and I eventually eat them.  But because I’ve recently had a respiratory virus and don’t want it to relapse, I need to be especially diligent and eat them while I’m there in Seattle. I will be in an airplane (think virus capsule), sharing air with way too many people and it will be cold and wet when I arrive. I’m one of those people who would rather get the flu than get a flu shot, but to be clear, I’d rather not have either one. Here’s hoping…

 

 

#atozchallenge: Somewhat Uncommon Q

There is an ancient pseudo-cereal called quinoa that is very nutritious, high in protein and fiber, with vitamins and minerals a plenty.  It’s not a true grain, not a grass plant, but a member of the amaranth family and although it cooks up much like rice it is a bit different.  I wish I was practiced at using it and knew exactly how to make it a part of a meal.  I don’t.  But I’ve had some recently and the whole experience was so good, I was willing to try to reproduce it at home.

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The Columbia Building

Location: high in the sky above Seattle.  It you view the Seattle skyline you will see one dark building that rises above all the rest.  At the top of the Columbia building there is an exclusive area for dining and communing and it is there that I found myself a guest, with my daughter.  You would have to say that she has friends in high places, very high places. I could hardly breathe, looking out the full view glass windows over the harbor and Puget Sound.  In order to calm down I had to purposely not think about where I was and what kind of structure was holding me up.

We were advised about the menu items and ordered vegetarian.  The dishes came out looking perfectly cooked and presented in very attractive ways.  Everything was delicious.  It was a wonderful, relaxing evening in every way (as long as I kept my mind off being 80 stories high and on the same level as jets approaching SeaTac airport…).

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The quinoa was light and fluffy in a creamy sauce – just wet enough to hold it together and make it easier to eat.  The flavor was mild and slightly of salt, like a good comfort food. I wasn’t sure how to  do this at home but a light cream/celery sauce with the quinoa did a pretty good job.  The food was really great but it had a hard time competing with the view.  Just sayin’…

 

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The quinoa is in the upper left, accompanied by asparagus and what may have been garlic mashed potato or cauliflower – I don’t remember which.