…the beautiful…

…America.

Image result for cascades mt range images

Wanting to share the best of the Pacific Northwest with a dear friend, I decided we’d tour Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helen’s. This was Laurie’s first visit, and airfares from the east coast being what they are, I was pretty sure she’d not be returning anytime soon.

I’ve no idea why I’d never thought to travel out that way before, except to say that neither my husband nor I are overly keen about venturing forth into the great outdoors. Simply put, we like to leave it to the critters that call it home.

One day, while out walking in Banff, Canada, I almost came face to face with a giant black bear. From then on, I decided to enjoy the outdoors…from the safety of the indoors.

Since I was born in Hawaii where volcanoes loom large around every bend in the road, it could also be that I had no inclination to see two more.

Was I ever wrong.

The drive towards Mount Rainier felt desolate. The two-way road was pretty isolated, except for the occasional car driving in the opposite direction. Acres and acres of evergreens lent an eeriness to the quiet hanging heavy all around us. If it weren’t for the intermittent chatter between Laurie and me, we might have been three souls traveling alone toward a destination as yet unrevealed to us.

A little spooky, I thought.

Thankfully the sun shone bright as we made our way along, what was for us, uncharted territory. More than once I proclaimed “How majestic!” as the Cascades Mountain Range unfolded before our eyes. If there ever was a place God designated as his, this was it.

While we didn’t see the summit of Mount Rainier because it was hidden by a heavy blanket of clouds, we hiked a winding trail up a nearby mountain in the hopes we’d catch even a glimpse. Breathing heavily because of the elevation, we climbed uphill gingerly so as not to lose our footing and tumble backwards over bumpy terrain.

Image result for Mount Rainier

Stretching out all around us were fields and fields of wildflowers. Seeing them made our questionable decision to continue the ascent worthwhile.

The following day we drove in the direction of Mount St. Helen’s.

In May 1980, it famously exploded in an eruption that sent a landslide of uprooted trees, bridges, houses and other debris 50 miles downstream. Sadly, lives were also lost. According to Wikipedia…

Fifty-seven people were killed during the eruption.[52] Had the eruption occurred one day later, when loggers would have been at work, rather than on a Sunday, the death toll would almost certainly have been much higher.[8]

83-year-old Harry R. Truman, who had lived near the mountain for 54 years, became famous when he decided not to evacuate before the impending eruption, despite repeated pleas by local authorities. His body was never found after the eruption.

Another victim of the eruption was 30-year-old volcanologist David A. Johnston, who was stationed on the nearby Coldwater Ridge. Moments before his position was hit by the pyroclastic flow, Johnston radioed his famous last words: “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”[53] Johnston’s body was never found.

A young geologist lectured small groups of visitors on the science behind volcanic eruptions, and more specifically the one that occurred at that site. Of particular interest to me was her explanation that Hawaiian volcanoes aren’t destructive to human life unless, of course, a person is in the path of its lava flow. The difference, she said, was that the nearby ocean salt causes Hawaiian volcanoes to be fluid, not explosive.

My relatives living on the islands should be able to rest easy. You think?

Another volcanic dome is growing within the crater of Mount St. Helen’s. Earthquakes continue to occur regularly. When I asked the geologist about the next eruption occurring while folks were in the area, she seemed to take the question in stride. She said the experts would call in time to alert everyone to leave.

Hmmm…

I think I’ll start reading the earthquake reports myself. I’m no Olympic runner.

…not by a long shot.

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

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…faux fur…

…and arthritis.

I can see that quizzical look as you read the title and first line of this post. What the heck does one have to do with the other? On the surface? Not a lot. However when you knead down into the folds of a faux fur coverlet you’ll see what I mean. No doubt!

Rainy, cold, gray days like we’re having here in the Pacific Northwest make me want to fly away to the balmy, mostly sun-filled days in my native Hawaii. Every winter without fail I half-jokingly insist to my husband that we should return home. I am definitely like a fish out of water when it comes to the weather here. Every bone in my body throbs like a drum beat, as if chanting…”Give me heat. I need heat.”

As if to satisfy the relentless request for warmth, I switch on all the lamps in the living room..a total of seven…as well as the space heater. I also turn on the one down the hall near the bedrooms, and the one in the kitchen. All the while the furnace in the lower level laundry room blasts heat throughout the entire house.

As for me, I’m covered from the neck down…a hoodie over my long-sleeved shirt, comfortable pants to my knees…AND compression socks from my knees to my toes! If I could work with gloved hands I would.

So after a full day puttering around the house…doing a little bit of this, that and the other…I usually call it quits at about midnight. I always aim to end the day earlier, but it never seems to work out that way. Don’t get me wrong. I take little…sometimes long…breaks here and there throughout the day. I’ll catch snippets of HGTV’s “Love it or List it,” “Flip or Flop,” “House Hunters,” or “Million Dollar Listings, Los Angeles.” Sometimes I’ll stop to play computer games on my Nook. And, of course, I can’t just play one game. I usually go until I successfully finish a level and can go on to the next one.

One of the last things I do before calling it a night involves water…hot, cold and somewhere in-between. There’s dishes to wash or load into the dishwasher, depending…how big, how fragile, how much cooked-on-grime. When I turn out the kitchen lights…and all the other lights upstairs, I head downstairs to our master bedroom suite to shower before diving under the bed covers. Of course I run the water as close to hot as I can stand. It soothes all the muscles, especially those in my lower back.

In recent weeks, as the weather has gotten colder and wetter, I’ve taken to pulling the faux fur coverlet, that usually lies at the foot of our bed, over all the other covers under which I bury myself…the sheet, the quilt, and the duvet. Sometimes I even wear socks to bed! In addition to all this, we’ve begun using our gas fireplace to bring the bedroom to a cozy temperature, before turning it off and going to sleep.  

While I never, ever feel hot enough to kick the covers off, my husband spends most of the night…partially outside the covers. I call him…my “hot-blooded Hawaiian!” ha, ha.

Last night, for the first time, I noticed as I pulled the faux fur up to my chin and lay my hands on its luxurious warmth…how soothing it was to my arthritic fingers. While I still couldn’t completely bend my stiff knuckles, I felt relief. Kneading my fingers into the folds of the “fur,” whatever stress remained from the day disappeared. My lips curled into a soft smile, as I lay, eyes closed in the dark…thankful for my…

…little piece of faux fur heaven.

………hugmamma.

 

we manage…mocha and me

These last few months have been touch and go for my pal Mocha. Old age has been complicated by the debilitating effects of sciatica. Hobbling around, her right paw can bend backwards and send her tumbling forward onto bended knees. Not one to be dissuaded from what she is about, Mocha picks herself up, dusts herself off, and goes about her business.

Observing Mocha makes me sympathetic to the plight of older folks. It’s no fun when body parts don’t work anymore. Life seems consumed with just the basics…eating, peeing and pooping.

“Wwwhhhaaa happened? Where’d all the fun go?” That’s what Mocha’s eyes seem to say as she watches me move about the room. On medication for a heart murmur, sciatica, and now a urinary tract infection, what’s a dog to do? Not much, except lie around.

These last few days I’ve been outdoors prepping the garden for the hibernating months ahead. While back-breaking for me and my arthritic lumbar, Mocha’s been lazing about on the freshly mowed grass, drinking in the sunshine. I’m certain we’ve both felt like switching places.

Being half-beagle, Mocha would love to make like a mole and dig tunnels in the dirt. Me? I’d be content with stretching out on the warm, green lawn, staring up at the billowy, white clouds floating serenely across the baby blue sky.

And yet we make the best of it, Mocha and me. On good days, she’s a little sprightlier. We both are. On days when it takes a little more effort to get going, we take our time.

We don’t wallow in “what ifs,” we just tweak our plans a little. If I’m not up to weeding and pruning, then I’ll do some laundry and vacuum. As for Mocha, if she can’t wander about in search of a new place to lie, then she’ll stay put in her comfy bed all day.

Older age. It’s about doing what we can do, and not fretting about what we can’t do. Of course, doing what we can to keep our bodies humming along is imperative…stretching, exercising, and minimizing our intake of unhealthy carbs.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgo potato chips, candy, and soda. Although I have managed to limit them to…once-in-awhile.

Because of global warming we’re suppose to get a break from the cold, dank, dark weather that normally smothers the Pacific Northwest like an unwanted blanket. According to local forecasters, the lows should hover around the 50s. So far the prediction seems to be panning out. The sun is still with us.

Hallelujah!!!

…mocha and I don’t feel so old…when our bones are warm! Xmas 2010 2 00000

………hugmamma.

 

paying homage…to the sun…what else?

Seattle

Seattle (Photo credit: Martin Cathrae)

Here in the Seattle area where the sun doesn’t abide year round, we’re always focused upon its next appearance. So while others may perform rain dances…poor, deranged souls…we close our eyes at night hoping that when next we open them…the sun will have risen in our neck of the woods. So to help it along, I’ve written a song…actually a ditty…hoping the Creator…or Mother Nature…or whoever’s in charge…will take pity.

Thanks for the sun…that lights away the shadows…inside…and out,

its warmth…that blankets all beneath,

making the flowers bloom…the birds chirp,

the children frolic…while the adults tend to chores…outdoors. 

Power-washing the driveway…digging pine needles from the gutters…pulling the weeds and watering the plants. Setting furniture out on the deck.

But what am I thinking???

Forget the tasks…forget the grind…

I’m headed to Molbak’s…where the sun always shines…no matter the weather!

A sip of java…some turkey on foccacia…nibble on a cookie (peanut-butter, of course!)

Gift items…plants…small treasures abound.

So look about you…there’s sunshine everywhere…you’ve just got to find it.

It’s probably hiding…somewhere…inside you!

For it’s no secret…you and I… 

…are the keepers of the sun…

………hugmamma.    🙂

Molbak's Woodinville

Molbak’s Woodinville (Photo credit: burienundressedblog)

Molbak's outdoor eating

Molbak’s outdoor eating (Photo credit: burienundressedblog)

Molbaks' Orchids

Molbaks’ Orchids (Photo credit: JHall159)

weekly photo challenge: summer

Here in the Pacific Northwest summer is but a fleeting moment in an otherwise gray, soggy landscape. So we don’t really discuss the weather except when the sun shines brightly and the warm air settles upon us like a lightweight blanket, comforting but not suffocating.

For us, spring signals that summer cannot be far behind…

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…happy spring…and very, very soon…happy summer

………hugmamma.  🙂

swedish hospital…a 5-star resort?

Hubby and I had a date Saturday…touring the brand, spanking new Swedish Hospital in the Issaquah Highlands. We thought we’d make a quick stop, check it out, and be on our way to our real destination…Molbak’s Nursery, gift shop and cafe in Woodinville. Well, we never made it to see the flowers, plants and knick-knacks, or lunch among the lush foliage. Instead we wandered around the new hospital with thousands of other curious tourists to what seemed like a resort, not a place where the sick and maimed go to be cured and put back together again. I’m sure I wandered around, my mouth agape the whole time. We were all like children in a new candy shop, sampling everything with our eyes. I wasn’t the only one who was bug-eyed either.

Walking through glass doors which parted without hesitation, I immediately saw a Starbuck’s to my right…already with a line of people. No small wonder there. Tucked in the corner between the cafe and the front door was the restaurant. Visiting it later, I saw that it was on the caliber of any good dining destination in the community at large. Viewing the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest through the surrounding glass walls would also be a treat…a very calming one for sure.

Wandering further inside through what felt like a grand foyer, a reception desk sat to the left, and next to it a staircase leading to the second floor. Straight ahead was the bank of elevators, and to the right, past Starbuck’s was a gift shop. Rather, I should say, a mall of shops. After touring the floors above, I spent some time wandering in and out of the several stores. This is probably when I most felt like I was not in a hospital.

What appeared to be the main gift shop was lit up with a beautifully handrafted chandelier made by a local artist. Directly beneath was a table also crafted by another homegrown talent. In fact, most of the items in the shop were made here in the Pacific Northwest according to the shop’s lovely manager. She spent a few moments of her time talking with me, smiling all the while. A definite asset to what could be an intimidating environment for some. After all, this was still a hospital.

Walking through an oversized open doorway into the next shop, I delighted in seeing all manner of gifts for newborns and toddlers. Some items I’d never seen elsewhere. Across the way was another, very large, retailer selling exercise clothes, lingerie, and if I’m not mistaken, some maternity items for expectant mothers. One fun gift for you or someone else was a “snap” watch for around $16. The salesclerk kindly showed me how it operated. She stretched out the watchband, snapped it across her wrist, and “voile!” the watchband wrapped itself securely in place. What don’t people invent these days?!?

Down the hallway, next door to the shop with baby gifts, was a small studio for yoga classes. The nice volunteer offered information on how I could sign up for classes. Of course, it involved the internet. What doesn’t these days? Evidently I can check out the schedule for times and styles of yoga on the Swedish Hospital website. I might have to do that. I’ve always wanted to take a yoga class on a regular basis. Good for the body…and mind.

There were doctors, nurses, and technicians milling about to answer any questions. It was amazing to see so many of the staff smiling and relaxed. I’ve usually only seen them hurrying off to tend to patients. And I mean hurrying! Hopefully they’ll continue to smile once they get back to business as usual. I like smiling medical staff. They calm my nerves. Wouldn’t they make you feel more comfortable? They would me.

In October I’ll be having a colonoscopy and endoscopy done by Dr. David Patterson, Medical Director of Gastroenterology at Swedish. I met up with him again at the open house, after having talked with him a month or so ago at our initial consultation. Originally from New Zealand, he retains very little of his accent. Having lived here in the States for 35 years, I can understand why. Dr. Patterson’s ready smile and easy “bedside” manner goes far in steadying my nerves for the impending procedures. Knowing he sees many people in the course of his practice, and having met me only once, I was amazed that he could recall who I was as throngs of people were milling all around us. The key to unlocking his memory about me was that my daughter was a ballerina. We’d discussed it at our first meeting when he asked if I had children. Of course, ask a mom about her offspring…and you’ve got a friend for life. Well, let’s see what I think after the doc goes to work on me in the Fall. I’ll let you know then…

Meanwhile I’ve only good things to say about the new Swedish Hospital and their staff. They’ve served me well for more than a decade, the doctors and nurses, that is. Oh, and the ER team at the old facility. Between my husband and me, we’ve seen them a few times over the years, for various and sundry minor crises, which seemed somewhat major at the time…episodes of asthma, pains mimicking a heart attack. You know, the usual.

The new Emergency Room check-in looked like that in any 5-star hotel. But that’s as far as we went. I’m hoping we won’t have to see the rest of the ER anytime soon. Unfortunately we didn’t do any of the tours offered. The one to see the surgical facility had a line of people the length of the hallway. Since hubby and I were on a “date,” and we’d already spent a couple of hours sightseeing, we decided we’d seen enough to convince us that the hospital was pretty much just what the hype was all about.

it’s what the doctor ordered…and it’s just fine by me…hugmamma.

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volunteering…and cowboys

The following was written on Wednesday, 4/20…

Two Bridges and a Small Stream In a Pacific No...

Image by bterrycompton via Flickr

Have been sitting here for the last couple of hours volunteering as a meet and greet person for Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. By sitting in close proximity to professional writers, I thought perhaps through the process of osmosis I’d gain some knowledge that might prove useful to me, as I try to become one of them. At this point I’m a little doubtful. I can see that the staff writers aren’t about to sit around sharing tidbits of insider information with me. Besides which, the 3 are much younger.

I’m like the “fly on the wall.” I’m here, but I’m not here. Their words flow unencumbered through the wooden bi-fold screen, loud and clear. But with my back toward them, and the screen in-between, I’m naturally excluded from their conversation. But those aren’t the only obstacles to my being part of the group. I’m old enough to be their mothers, or grandmothers!

Public Cowboy

Image via Wikipedia

Our generations enjoy different jokes, music, topics of interest. But as I said before, I’m not here to schmooze. I’m here to “pull my own weight,” which in this case means tackling someone who walks through the front door before they can invade the inner sanctum of the youngsters with whom I work. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I mean they’re in their 20s and I’m in my 60s. Get the picture? They’re up and coming, while I’m on the verge of applying for Medicare. Unless the Republicans pull the rug out from under my feet, that is!

Cowboy W-1

Image via Wikipedia

I’m excellent at meeting and greeting. So far I’ve stopped a couple “dead in their tracks” who were soliciting ads for their magazine, “Best of Issaquah.” After querying them, I handed them over to Kelly, one of my young overseers. Next through the door came a giant, hulking man, with a mile-wide grin planted on his face, bearing huge plastic bags that contained colorful, plastic eggs under both his armpits. Planting myself in front of this oversized, elderly gentleman, I asked how I might help. Not slowed down by me in the least, he proceeded to sweep me along as he continued striding toward the back office. Blah, blah, blah…yada, yada, yada…I heard myself saying. My companions stood up in unison, laughing heartily at my faux pas. It seems the gentleman was the head of the assocation of shopkeepers in the Gilman Village complex. Duh? The youngsters cut me some slack, complimenting me on how seriously I took my job. “Ruff! Ruff! Aren’t I a great guard dog?!?”

Next I tried attacking a lady carrying a large, heavy box. She too was one of “them,” dropping something off that belonged to some author. But the final visitor of the day, was the real deal. Finally, I was confronting a stranger, a complete unknown. But this 77-year-old gentleman was mighty friendly…mighty friendly. He’d come from the Senior Center where he participates in a writing class. Thinking he wanted something a little more advanced, a friend referred him to PNWA.

Basic creditcard / debitcard / smartcard graph...

Image via Wikipedia

Amidst much joking and bantering back-and-forth, the gentleman signed up for an annual, paid membership. Kelly again assisted. He tried to get she or I to loan him a credit card. We laughed. Then when he said he’d pay cash, he asked if I had the cash. I laughed. He soon pulled out a $100 bill which I handed over to the staff. As they poked around for the cash box, which turned up void of funds, I overheard the man speaking on his cellphone. When Kelly left to make change from a neighboring shop, he told me what the call was about.

The Cowboy Millionaire

Image via Wikipedia

It seemed the man and a friend were part-time prospectors. They were set to fly to New Mexico to track down buried treasure, hidden in the 1800’s by outlaws. Evidently they forgot where they had dumped the stuff when they went to retrieve it for the law. Unfortunately, this man’s partner had called cancelling the trip because of wildfires in the area. I was dumbfounded. Could the storytelling get any richer? Yes, it could.

The old codger proceeded to tell me he had other friends who were in the film business, 2 were directors, and one was an actor. I was familiar with some of the movies in which they were involved, but at the moment their titles escape me. In fact one of his director friends encouraged this gentleman to write Western stories, which is what he plans to do. It seems his writing skills have come in handy helping to edit some screenplays. Needless to say I was speechless for most of the conversation. 

So as not to encourage the man to while away the afternoon with me, I nodded and smiled, but spoke very little. He eventually stood up from his chair taking his leave. But before he did he bent over to ask me if I’d run away with him. Well I nearly fell out of my chair, but quickly replied “I don’t think my husband would like that!” To which came the retort “Well, I’ll just have to ask him!” Followed by my laughing response that I’d been married 41 years, and I didn’t think my husband would walk away from his investment. Backing away the man laughingly exclaimed “The poor guy!”

Four Cowboys

Image by anyjazz65 via Flickr

Well if I had been writing a Western, I’d have said this old cowboy blew through the front door of our office overturning everything in his path, like a human tornado, before taking off again for parts, and adventures, unknown. But before leaving, he promised to return…as a volunteer.

Cowboy snake

Image via Wikipedia

you know where i’ll be when that day arrives…out on the open range…hugmamma.

 

spring’s arrived!!!

 

Springtime flowers.

Image by beamillion via Flickr

I think it’s safe to say that the Pacific Northwest is finally beginning to experience spring. The sun’s been out all day; it’s warm. Perhaps it’s time to think of storing away cold-weather clothing…or maybe not. One can never tell here, it could be dry and in the 50s and 60s one day, wet and in the 30s and 40s the next, or even later the same day. But I won’t jinx it. It’s spring!

I’ve been cleaning and refashioning the rooms in my house, preparing for the new season. Now that it’s April, with summer right around the bend, hopefully, I like to keep the decor light and airy, and colorful. Although the primary color palette remains pretty much the same, shades of blues, greens, roses, and mustards. Country colors. “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can never take the country out of the girl.” That’s me to a tee! I love cities, and fit right in with city-folk, as long as I know it’s not a permanent arrangement. Being an island girl, I always go back to those small town roots for sustenance and recharging.

When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob Bobbin' ...

Image by Fozzeee via Flickr

Having redone my daughter’s bedroom so that I now have a small, computer table stationed in front of the window, I’m sitting here typing away on the keyboard. Where I use to roam between my husband’s office, thereby throwing him out without intending to do so, and sitting uncomfortably at the dining room table, I’m now occupying prime real estate. Gazing out at the back yard, I can watch red robins digging in the dirt for insects, squirrels scampering up the big cedar tree trunk making their way nimbly out along the large, drooping branches, and leaves swaying ever so softly as the breezes drift through the boughs of the lilac bush and the low-lying roses. What with all this day-dreaming, I may not get a whole lot written.

Actually, sitting here I’m reminded of all the work that needs to be done in the garden, weeding being my least favorite. I can already feel the arthritis acting up in my lower back. Oh me, oh my…getting old’s no fun when I’m still doing the work I use to do in my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, but haven’t the same agile body I had back then. No complaints though, at least I’m still moving around, indoors and outdoors. I’ll just be taking my time, that’s all.

I’m just glad the warm weather’s here. I can do anything when I’m not shivering just standing still.

i age less when the sun’s out…that’s for sure…hugmamma.

an “international destination,” crossroads mall

Saw friends Sylvia and Jim at Crossroads Mall last night, a favorite hang-out for ethnicities of all creeds and colors. Weekend entertainment draws crowds. A Big Bands group brought back reminiscences of bygone days, not only for our friends, but for many other retirees sitting on metal, folding chairs. They seemed to be smiling, as though deep in thought and a million miles away.

Over the years, the mall has evolved into a true “melting pot” of cultures, including dialects, and products. The food court says it all. There are counters serving up Greek, Italian, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, BBQ, American, Mexican, and Russian. My choices when dining there are the won ton soup at the Vietnamese stand, the spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and Mediterranean chop salad at the Italian stand, and the bento box with teriyaki salmon and tempura at the Japanese stand. There are other outstanding dishes, but these are my favorites. I’ve gotten my friend Cindy hooked on the won ton soup. We both love the broth, especially on a cold, rainy day, which is most days, here in the Pacific Northwest.

The stores I frequent are Half-Price Books, where I can buy out-of-print books, and Silver  Platters, which has a great inventory of old movies. The mall welcomed a new restaurant recently, Crossroads Bar and Grill. The food is delicious and the service is quite good. When sharing meals, the wait staff will halve the portions, plating them up in  the kitchen before bringing them out. I’ve shared the Western burger and Mediterranean salad with my daughter on one occasion, and friend Sylvia, on another. Both times the extra service of splitting dishes beforehand made a huge impression. I’ve never experienced this anywhere, especially in view of the fact that the waiters seem only too happy to accommodate. It’s so much better than dealing with the mess, when attempting to split the dishes ourselves.

Anchoring Crossroads Mall are large stores like Sports Authority, Barnes and Noble, PetcoQFC Supermarket, Pier OneBed, Bath and Beyond, and Old Navy. Of course there’s a Starbucks, not a surprise since it’s headquartered here in Seattle. Rounding out the shopping options are Hallmark’s, Party Center, JoAnn Fabrics and Michael’s crafts. A variety of smaller stores fill in the mall’s nooks and crannies.

Bordering the mall’s perimeter is a very special gift shop, Common Folk. It sports a vintage feel, selling both antiques and reproductions. The owner, Kathryn, artfully melds both for a seamless blend of shabby chic, industrial, and pretty, pretty princess! More shops should follow suit. Next door is New York Cupcakes which sells  “fantasy,” and “sin” in  paper cups. And they’re worth the calories, any time of day. I know, I’ve sinned! When I do, I bask in the immorality of a red velvet, or strawberry cream, or key lime pie cupcake. Yummy! Yummy! They’re irresistible. Good thing the store was closed when we left the mall. I’ll have to make a special trip soon. By the way, I tried cupcakes from QFC’s bakery recently and couldn’t eat more than a few bites. More often than not, I’ve been disappointed by desserts that look like they’re “to die for,” only to find out that, in fact, appearances are not always what they seem. Funny, I’ve not learned that lesson yet. I continue to make the same mistake.

Across the parking lot on the other side of the mall is Crossroads Theatre, where the seats are huge, soft, comfy, and they rock, literally. If the show is boring, the seat will help lull you to sleep. Just don’t snore, and remember to wake up when everyone’s leaving. 

Crossroads Mall offers comfort food for one’s physical being, as well as one’s inner spirit.

 

i smile every time i walk through the doors…hugmamma.

“hocus pocus!” real estate for sale!

When we moved from the east coast 13 years ago, we practiced a little “hocus pocus” when selling our home in Redding, Connecticut. One of the smallest houses in town, our 100-year-old Victorian farmhouse, at 1,500 square feet, was about half the size of our current one. While it lacked an abundance of living space, our 3 bedroom, 1 bath home was full to overflowing with charm. It provided the perfect backdrop for my collection of antiques and memorabilia. But when it was time to sell, we weren’t sure prospective buyers would love our one-of-a-kind, vintage home.

My husband left my young daughter and me before Christmas, to begin his new job here in the Pacific Northwest. I was anxious to sell quickly so that we could all be reunited. Just before he returned to spend the holiday with us, I learned from a friend that a neighbor and friend of hers had just died of a heart attack at age 42. The loss was especially devastating because she left behind two very young daughters, the littler of whom wore a helmet because she suffered some neurological disorder. The husband owned a local ice cream shop in a town next door to ours. Evidently their marriage had been strained because he was very controlling of his wife’s time, and her friendships.

I was so saddened for the little girls who were now without a mom, that the sale of our house seemed inconsequential. Instead of praying for our family’s reunion, I prayed hard that the children would be okay. I cried that they would be okay.

When my thoughts returned to the sale of our home, a dear friend, Carol, offered some unusual advice. While it seemed like religious superstition, we were open to anything after 2 months without a firm offer. In the dead of winter, we buried a small statue of St.  Joseph, head first, facing the street, in the dirt in front of our house. Needless to say my husband had a difficult time digging a hole in the frozen ground. But he did. And guess what? Our home went into contract later that week! We had bought it 14 or 15 years earlier for $115,000, and sold it for $245,000. When we moved, St. Joseph traveled with us. We had to dig up his statue and honor him with a place in our new home, which we have. He stands among my collectible dishware in a red, painted cupboard.

With foreclosures on the rise recently, sellers and buyers “are turning to witches, psychics, priests and feng shui consultants, among others, to bless or exorcise dwellings,” or “to help move…property stuck  on the market.” The Wall Street Journal’s “The Housing Slump Has Salem  On a Witch Hunt Again,” indicates that the ancient tradition of housecleansing is making a comeback. Tony Barletta bought a foreclosed home in disrepair at 31 Arbella St. Because of its bad vibes, he invited 70-year-old witch, Lori Bruno, who claims to be descended from 16th century Italian witches, and warlock Christian Day to process through the house casting out the negativity. “They clanged bells and sprayed holy water, poured kosher salt on doorways and raised iron swords at windows.” Then Ms. Bruno chanted ” ‘Residue, residue, residue is in this house. It has to come out,” and “Lord of fire, lord flame, blessed be thy holy name…All negativity must be gone!’ ” The bell ringing is to break up the negativity, while the iron sword keeps evil spirits at bay, according to Bruno and Day.

Historically, Catholics and Hindus call upon priests to bless a new home before occupying it. Chinese believe in cleansing a home of any accumulated bad luck before the start of their New Year. Julie Belmont, a so-called “intuitive,” working in Orange County, California, explains that with foreclosures, ” ‘It’s not dealing with entities or ghosts…anymore…a lot of it is energy imprints from past discussions, arguments, money problems. All of that is absorbed by the house.’ “

But while Ms. Bruno and fellow Salem witch Lillee Allee perform house blessings for free because they “don’t want to live off people’s sadness,” others see it as a real business opportunity. “Austin, Texas-based feng shui consultant Logynn B. Northrip is teaming up with Scottsdale, Ariz., real-estate agent Jason Goldberg to offer a package of services to create better vibes in a home, either before sale or after purchase. The two met at a yoga retreat.” Sacramento, California realtor Tamara Dorris used feng shui to help sell a home that had sat on the market for more than a year. Having placed “a jade plant, believed to bring financial good luck, in a ‘prosperity corner’,” the home received 2 offers of purchase within two weeks.

Seems to me like St. Joseph is a more budget-friendly investment, and reeks less of superstitious mumbo-jumbo. But as far as I’m concerned, hey, whatever works!

never know…might try some of it the next go-round…hugmamma.

“sun’s out!,” time to plant?

What a difference a day makes, even here in the Pacific Northwest! The sun’s rays are showering down on all the tree tops; glistening raindrops hanging ever so delicately from the twiggy branches of the apple tree. It feels like spring. Yet I have to remind myself that the calendar on the desk top reads January 19. No scurrying out to weed or plant bulbs. I did that when we first moved from the east coast 13 years ago.

Having left icy winters behind whose last dregs were not gone until Memorial Day, I was elated to find that here in the Seattle burbs my garden began to show signs of new birth in February. So I got outside and sloshed around in the mud, oft-times kneeling in it to pull out unwanted stuff, and replace them with finds I’d discovered at Molbak’s or Squawk Mountain Nursery.

I wallowed in early spring, in the sunshine, in the sweet smell of new growth. I loved the sun warmly beating against my bent back, as I toiled away in the dirt. I am my mother’s daughter, I’d think to myself. She left me her “green thumb,” and she’d be proud at my constant use of it, even when I lived in Redding, Connecticut.

Friends, neighbors, and passersby would often comment upon the lovely cottage garden that surrounded our small, Victorian farmhouse. I strived to outdo myself each year. But my loveliest memory is of the abundance of wildflowers which grew from a packet. I sprinkled its contents on either side of the walkway leading to our front porch. Never one for math, I overlooked the explanation that the seeds were to be spread over a larger area than where I’d chosen.

It seemed forever before the blooms all emerged. But as they filled in, overwhelming the space in which they grew, I was like a child experiencing nature’s glory for the first time. Every morning I’d bound out the front door, which slammed shut with a loud bang. I’d walk the path, oohing and aahing at the varieties, the colors, the scents. I couldn’t count the number of wildflowers peeking out from behind one another. I tried picking favorites but gave up, because en-masse they were all beautiful!

Soon the bees came calling. And the butterflies, tiny ones and Monarchs, began congregating in my garden. Nearby, robins and finches twittered and chirped in the massive, overhanging, rhododendron shrub. Being careful not to get stung by a busy bee, my husband, daughter and I would plop ourselves down on the porch steps or an outdoor bench. Gazing upon Mother Nature’s handiwork, we were enthralled by what she could do with one inexpensive, little packet of seeds.

Those among you who are gardeners, probably know the ending to my story. Yes, it didn’t take long, perhaps a few weeks, before happiness turned to sorrow. With the first heavy downpour, my glorious, little garden nearly drowned in the onslaught. Hardier flowers were able to lift their heads once more, but the more fragile were too frail to pick themselves up again. I tried for a time to help, leaning some against others for support, propping others up with twine and stakes. Before long I too gave in, digging up the whole mess, save for a few that didn’t “throw in the towel” like me.

I replanted with specimens that were tried and true. Though the results were lovely, they never recaptured that brief moment when our house and its front path looked as though Cinderella and her fairy godmothers lived there, or Snow White and the seven dwarfs, or Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

Throughout the first decade of her life however, my daughter loved the first home she ever knew, and all the flowers that grew in its gardens. And so, while I could never replicate my cottage garden fantasy, I’ve continued to make my garden here my own. I try very hard to follow planting instructions, but I’m still inclined to want every plant that I fancy to have a home with me. Grumbling to dissuade me, my husband is usually won over, and moves plants to make room for a new neighbor, or two, or three.

But thank goodness my energy’s maxing out as the years pass, for my garden space is maturing as well, meaning that it’s maxed out too. Although there’s still that wild, unkempt patch of brush at the top right of our driveway. I Wonder what I can do there? Hmmm…

it never ends…nature’s beauty, i mean…hugmamma.

snowfall or sunshine – “which do you think?”

Wish the snow was still falling here in my blog, and not covering the landscape outdoors. Brrr! This Maui girl finds herself pining for the good old days on the Valley Isle. Sun, warmth, flip-flops and shorts, I could get use to those tropical mainstays very easily. I’d better have a talk with my hubby. This Pacific Northwest weather sucks! Excuse the language, but if you had to sit indoors 24/7, 365 days a year, you’d be harmonizing with me, singing my song. Yes, I exaggerate, but not by much, believe me.

My dog would probably prefer the feel of soft sand beneath her paws, rather than the grit and grime of dirty snow turned to ice. She’d probably love to jump on a surfboard in front of me, and ride the waves at Makaha. I know, I know. I don’t swim, so how can I even contemplate surfing. I did once, when I was in high school and the guy I was dating tried to teach me. I think I tried to stand up facing the horizon, preparing to ride the wave backwards. I didn’t get far, but I did end up dating the guy for a year or so, captain of the football and basketball teams, you know. So I scored, even if I never learned to surf.

Now where was I? Oh, yeah, frolicking in the blue, Pacific Ocean. I can wade, and so can Mocha. We’re also great at lying around, soaking up the UV rays. No more oiling myself with Johnson’s Baby Oil though, as I did when I was an exotic coed attending the University of Hawaii in the late 60s. I remember baking in the Hawaiian sun alongside a couple of my sisters-in-law who were then in high school. While I turned a molten gray, their skin glistened like freshly polished copper. I always wished I’d had some “hauole” blood. “Hapa-hauole’s” (half-whites) always tanned a golden bronze. My skin tone skipped tan, going straight to black.

But at 61 I don’t care what shade my skin color turns, as long as it’s feeling the heat. Give me the heat! And Mocha knows that if hugmamma’s happy, everybody’s happy. So I know she’d like to get me where the sun is shining and the temperature hovers around the 70s. If I’m outdoors, she’s outdoors. Let’s face it, she hasn’t seen a whole lot of the doggie world lately, especially since I’ve been “under the weather” myself.

Until we find ourselves stretched out on Waikiki beach, do you think you could send some sunshine and warm weather, if you’ve even a smidgen to spare? Mocha and I would be much obliged, and forever in your debt.

for your generosity, sending you huge hugs in advance…hugmamma, and mocha too.

up and running, for now, comcast

Don’t want to jinx the recovery of our internet connection, but right now I’m typing away on my laptop upstairs. If this keeps up, I won’t be visiting the “dungeon” much anymore. Our family room is nice and cozy, just a little dark since sunlight streaming in through the windows is pretty minimal, especially given the fact we live in the Pacific Northwest. Someone should bottle and sell sunshine. I’m Hawaiian, you’d think I’d have the inside track, although I’ve lived away from the islands for 30+ years. I’ll have to call some relatives. But I digress.

Comcast’s rep who’d been by last night called early this morning. I let him speak with my husband. Evidently they did some work last night in our area. If our problem is resolved as a result, then the job will have been successful, and there’ll be no need for a followup visit to our house. “Knock on wood,” looks like we’ll be spared Mocha’s unstoppable barking when strangers show up at the door. The rep is still committed to trying to change out our single modem, for the more current 2 modems. Otherwise, it looks like we’re good to go.

So for now, all’s well that ends well. I know, as one comment stated, that Comcast has bigger issues with the government and public than our little dilemma. But as I replied, I’ve also got bigger battles to wage than what Comcast is doing or not doing. Yes, it’s good to look at the “bigger picture,” but it’s also wise to focus on taking small steps towards accomplishing change. Most of us can only wrap our minds around the small stuff, anyway. The big politics can overwhelm, stopping people dead in their tracks. Better we do what we can do, and leave what we can’t to those who are better equipped for the challenge, remembering that small still counts.

I may not be as recognizable as the Tea Party organizers, but, hey, those 2 housewives started small, and look where their blogging got them. Perhaps companies like Comcast do sit up and take notice when we Lilliputians speak. My husband says they do; his company has someone trolling the internet tracking comments, good and bad. So we should all register our voices on the internet, since our access to mainstream media is limited, and manipulated to suit their purposes. But remember the wise, old adage “You can get more with honey, than vinegar.” As I’ve aged, this truism is even more relevant, for my own self-serving reasons. Life is short. Alzheimer’s looms. Heart attacks are even more plausible. Why am I going to quicken all 3, by stressing out over “stuff.” My urgent priorities are my health and my family. Amen.

for keeping my voice on the internet, thanks Comcast…hugmamma.

“rain, rain go away,” and don’t come back another day!

You know you live in Seattle when the skies are gray, all day, and when you’ve got more water outdoors, than is running through your pipes indoors! I’m not certain anyone acclimates to the Pacific Northwest’s lackluster weather, but I know for sure Hawaiians don’t. I’ll bet if a poll was taken of the ethnicity of most travelers to the Aloha State during the rainy season, the biggest number would be locals returning home for a “shot of sunshine.” Maybe not so much in this economy, however, where passengers are having to pay extra for a lot more than we did in the “good old days.” Fun-loving, we Hawaiians can still be practical.

When my husband and I attended the Human Rights Campaign fundraiser a few weeks ago, we successfully bid on tickets to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Twyla Tharp Performance,” for this weekend. So tonight my daughter and I found our way into the city, where we met my husband, who was joining us after work.

I’ve never been keen on driving in the rain, in the dark, especially in heavy traffic. Of course the skies opened up, as we left the house minutes before 5 p.m. We were heading out right in the midst of “rush hour.” Already dealing with a slight headache from neck and shoulder tension, I looked like a deer caught in headlights, as I sat straight as a ramrod behind the wheel. I’m pretty sure I didn’t draw a deep breath until we got to our destination, an hour later.

My daughter knew my stress level was high; it was oozing from my pores. Normally happy to be nodding my head back and forth to Michael Jackson on  DVD, I asked her to find something calmer on the radio. She fumbled with the switches, unfamiliar with the area stations. I couldn’t even speak to help her. ALL my attention was on driving in the rain, cars flying by me on the freeway.

In the past there’s been a couple of instances when other drivers have caught my attention, not easily I might add, letting me know that my headlights were not turned on. I remembered this as I was stepping on the gas pedal, working my way up to the 60 mile-an-hour speed limit. Speaking in clipped phrases, my daughter and I tried to figure out if, in fact, I had the parking lights, or the head lights, on. I never yell, but my voice did go up several octaves, almost to a shrill. I decided they were on; my daughter wasn’t certain, but she thought they weren’t. I overruled her, since I had to return to focusing upon my driving. If this was another instance when a passing car had to tell me I was the one who was wrong, then so be it.

Thankfully, traffic moved along, me with it. Making it to Mercer Island, the exit just before crossing Lake Washington to enter Seattle, without any glitches, like an accident, was a huge relief. But the trip was only half-finished. I still had to get through the traffic in town, on a Friday evening, in the pouring rain.

Once I was out of the second tunnel, it was clear sailing until I reached the  beginning of the “bottleneck” on 4th avenue. Patience, and braking, saved the night. Passing through the Westlake Center area of town, I was well on my way until I reached another “bottleneck” near our destination.

My wonderful daughter reached over to pat me on the back as I parked, expressing her thanks for a “job well done.” Where she lives the freeways, and the in-town roads are wider than they are here in Seattle. She felt our roads, by comparison, were pretty cramped, making it seem like we were sandwiched in by cars on all sides, during the entire ride. Talk about making me feel better.

Compared to friends of mine, back East, and here, I’m a “wuss” of a driver. They will drive inter-state without any qualms. When I decided to make the trip with my daughter’s car from Atlanta, Georgia to Chautauqua, New York, where she was dancing for several weeks one summer, my girlfriend Becky drove the 13 hours. We did overnite in West Virginia, halfway through our trek. She didn’t mind, preferring to drive than be a passenger. Hey, that was just fine with me.

When “push comes to shove,” someone pushing AND shoving me, I’ll drive where necessary. It might take me longer than someonelse, and I might make a couple of unexpected detours, like to a state other than the one I’d had in mind.  I think that’s why my husband has always preferred to do all the driving. He likes to get where he’s going, without any detours, or any “pit stops,” for that matter. When it comes to driving, he definitely likes to be in control.

So you see, I’m a “shrinking violet” when it comes to driving. And I’m at the age, where I’m already beginning to think I might have to give up my driver’s license soon. I don’t think anyone will have to convince me that it’s time  I get off the road. I’ll probably make the suggestion myself. I’m a wimp compared to my mother-in-law who’s only now wondering if she should stop driving, at 85 years of age. God bless her!

I congratulate all the women who drive like men, fearlessly! You go, girlfriend!

driving like i’m still in maui…hugmamma

gray skies above, warm hearts below

Our “signature” weather here in the Pacific Northwest never goes out of style. So it’s with little fanfare that we welcome the return of menacing gray skies, upon whose heels arrive the downpour of “angels’ tears.” Our family has learned to take it all in stride.

The dismal weather gives us a chance to burrow under blankets, read a mountain of books, piled high magazines and Wall Street Journals, sup on homemade soups, play endless rounds of Bananagrams, and just recently, cribbage.

Once-in-awhile, my daughter and I settle in to watch old films on DVD, like “Anna and the King of Siam,” starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunn. Totally different from “The King and I,” the colorized version with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, my daughter was enthralled with the more serious story told in the older version. Unlike its successor, it was a drama, not a musical. In it the king does not dance with the teacher, nor does Tuptim stage the story of  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

After Mass yesterday we decided to drive out to Snohomish, where antique stores abound. Enroute we stopped at a favorite haunt, Maltby Cafe. It’s not a restaurant we frequent because of its distance, and because the meals taste like mom’s cooking, which means lo-cal is not a high priority. The few times we’ve driven to partake of this gastronomical feast, there has always been a lineup of hungry customers. But everyone minds their manners. We put our names on a list, and wait patiently, the cafe’s “monster” cinnamon roll making me salivate at the thought of biting into it, melted icing escaping out the corners of my grinning lips.

The Cafe is cozily ensconced in the basement of a building. After 20 minutes or so of eager anticipation,  we were comfortably seated at a table. We took our time looking through the menu, deciding what to eat. My husband is always the first to make a selection. His pick was some gigantic omelet, whose name  escapes me. Meanwhile, my daughter and I read the menu as though it were a novel, poring over each page from top to bottom.

I started with “desserts” on the back of the menu. The “melted caramel sundae” sounded divine, and loaded with calories! Coming to my senses, I chose French toast with marionberries and creme fraiche on the side. With it I ordered a dish of red, fried potatoes, onions, mushrooms and diced ham. Of course, half of it came home in a “doggie bag.” The same was true of my daughter’s meal, homemade Italian sausages with  scrambled eggs, and biscuits with gravy.

While awaiting our main courses, we began with an appetizer. We sliced the long-awaited cinnamon roll 4 ways. We still brought home half of it. As we “oohed and aahed” and hungrily devoured morsels of the heavenly pastry, our eyes wandered around the spacious dining room. Devotees of HGTV, we agreed that the Cafe could easily be transformed into a basement apartment. The long breakfast bar along one side of the room could serve as informal family dining, while the main room could easily house a living space, office space, dining space, and perhaps spare sleeping area. Through a door towards the back would probably be a bedroom. At the very back of the restaurant were a men’s and women’s restroom. And, of course, there was a kitchen through a door behind the breakfast bar. Beams running the length of the ceiling added to the warmth and charm of the room. I think our family qualifies for its own designer show on HGTV. My husband and daughter would probably say “Yeah, right.” They’re not as full of ideas as I am. Or am I… just full of it? Hmmm. Whatever…

Tummies full, we drove on to our final destination. Hunting for bargains in antique shops is a “high” for me. Most dealers, if not all, thrive on finding treasures for unbelievably fabulous prices, in other words, cheap. Once upon a time it was possible, and it may be again, given the current economy. But the difficulty now is that while something may be a bargain, how much of a markup can the market bear? Where nearly 2 decades ago I could double the price of what I paid for an item, I’m no longer able to do so in most cases. So the profit margin has shrunk considerably. Why remain in the business?

All antique dealers are passionate about “old” stuff, their history, their  craftsmanship, and the idea that these items are very much relics of the past. Walking through aisles of artifacts usually stirs up memories of bygone days, before all the modern conveniences like dishwashers, clothes dryers, refrigerators, computers. Instead, my eyes linger over dishracks and colorful dish towels, vintage clothes drying racks or clothes lines that unwind from a green or blue tin box, pie safes that use to store perishable foods from pesky flies, and typewriters, Royals and Underwoods.

With the holidays approaching, I opted to purchase several silver plated serving platters of various shapes and sizes. The prices were reasonable, most $12, a couple $16. They’re not in mint condition, but for the right price, customers will purchase them as beautiful accents for festive celebrations. Shabby chic is in these days, especially at stores like Crate and Barrel. Why pay their exorbitant prices for “knock-offs,” when the real thing can be bought for half the price or less? “Used” means it’s been loved in its former life.

Meandering the back roads under a threatening, gray sky in verdant Washington State, is as special as lazing under the tropical sun, on a white sand beach in Maui. 

found anywhere, blessings…hugmamma.