Archive | March 2018

Oliver’s Boxes

Oliver’s health seems to still be holding it’s own, even though his tumor is growing.  It is currently about the size of a lime, nestled in between and under his right shoulder blade.  It is just this hard lump, visible under the skin – you can absolutely feel it.  So far, it doesn’t seem to be painful to him, so that is a positive.

His appetite is good, and he still enjoys snuggling with me every chance he gets.  He likes to be warm under the covers.

Oliver loves boxes, even if he can’t fit…

I continue to just try to be grateful for the time I have with him, not knowing how much longer that will be.  No matter what, it will never be enough.



Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Baker City

Day 1, Monday, July 24, 2017

I headed down to Portland the day before we departed on our road trip, and spent Sunday evening sorting out last minute packing details and spending time with my nieces and nephew.

Monday morning, we were up and at ’em.  The first order of business, after showers and breakfast, was to “Tetris” the minivan.  Six people in a minivan, with all our stuff and camping gear is a tight squeeze!  It took some doing, and a healthy bit of discarding to get everything in the van!  We got on the road a little later than anticipated, but at 9 am, we pulled out of the driveway and soon we were traveling on Interstate 84 along The Columbia River Gorge.  Lunch was ham sandwiches, cucumbers, tomatoes and Doritos at the Boardman Rest Area, and it was windy, so we had to make sure to hold our stuff down!

After piling back into the car, we made good time, and our next stop was in Baker City, Oregon, at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.  The site is part of the National Parks System, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, so my annual pass served as our admission fee.

The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Sign


Heading into the Center

The center has an outdoor exhibit with several covered wagons, some original to the Oregon Trail time period, and some replicas.  The kids were able to climb into the wagons and see what it would be like to ride in a covered wagon.  They had fun, and seeing the different wagons was pretty neat.

Covered Wagons – the one in front is an original


The inside of a covered wagon – could you fit your whole life in there?

Inside the Center, we had time to look through the exhibits, which covered the experience of the pioneers traveling the trail, the items they brought with them, and the reasons why families made the decision to travel West to the Oregon Territory.  The Center also had an exhibit on gold mining, as many pioneers came west to try their luck at gold mining in the region.  Outside, visitors can view the historic Flagstaff Gold Mine Stamp Mill.

The Stamp Mill at the Interpretive Center

I decided to do the Junior Ranger Program which included finding the answers to questions throughout the center’s exhibits.  Some of them were hard – I think I forgot all that stuff I studied in school!  I did manage to complete my book before it was time to go, and I got my first Junior Ranger Badge!  Yes, I really am a nerd, in case you didn’t already know that.  My nieces and nephew didn’t want to finish theirs, but I think they were totally jealous when they saw my badge…

Pioneers on the Oregon Trail

As we were talking to the Ranger, we learned that the freeway was closed further down the road due to a chemical spill.  Would we be able to get to the campground before nightfall?  Luckily, we got word right as we were wrapping up that the road had reopened.  Yay!  We piled back into the van after taking a short trail back to stretch our legs once home and get one last view of the covered wagons.

The landscape from the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

A little less than an hour more of driving, and finally we got to our destination for the night – Farewell Bend State Recreation Area, which is right along the Oregon/Idaho border, along the Snake River.  We got our tents set up – it was still windy but it was hot!!  We had a huge field almost entirely to ourselves – and the restroom was just right across the field.  We had dinner and went for a walk to explore the riverbank.

The Snake River

The Park is another Oregon Trail site, because after following the Snake River for 330 miles, Oregon Trail pioneers rested above the bend in the river here.  It was here that they said farewell to the Snake River and continued their journey. Nearby is the location where the Snake River Shoshone Indians battled with pioneer travelers in 1860.

There were several people fishing from the boat launch dock, a few feet away from a several dead fish rotting along the banks of the river.  I am pretty sure that even if I had a fishing pole, I wouldn’t want to fish so close to dead fish – YUCK! I’ll spare you the photos of that – here’s a cute bunny instead…

A bunny at our campsite

The sunset was spectacular that evening, and it was too windy to have a fire, so as is the case with camping, we turned in when the darkness hit.  I lay on top of my sleeping bag in the heat of the evening, pondering life before falling asleep to the sound of the breeze…

The view from my tent – Farewell Bend State Recreation Area


The sunset at Farewell Bend


Distance for the Day: 5 hours, 37 minutes; 355 miles
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center: $8.00 adults, $4.50 seniors, free for youth ages 15 and under.  A free carload with a National Parks Pass.
Farewell Bend State Recreation Area: $18 for a tent site


Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Planning

In early 2017, I got a text from my sister-in-law, asking if I were interested in taking a family road trip with them to Yellowstone.  It would be my brother, sister-in-law, two nieces and nephew.  My sister-in-law’s family – mom, sister, niece and niece’s husband would be meeting us in Yellowstone, and my aunt and uncle would be there as well, as they were working in the park for the summer.  On the road trip agenda, Yellowstone of course, and places that were somewhere along the way.

When the planning phase was done, our itinerary included the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, the World Center for Birds of Prey, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Sisters, Oregon, including the High Desert Museum.  We would leave on Monday, July 24, 2017, and plan to arrive back in Portland on Thursday or Friday, August 3 or 4, 2017.  It was a full agenda for 12 days!

It’s a little off since the West Entrance is closed in the winter, but this was roughly our route…

Six of us would be crammed into my brother’s mini van for the trip, with a Thule roof box for some of our gear.  Road tripping at its finest!  We would be camping, and it would be the longest camping trip I had done since childhood, when all I really had to do was show up…  It would be the first time I had ever camped in my own tent, responsible for setting up and tearing down on my own – even though other people could and would help.  Of course, camping in BEAR COUNTRY takes it up to a whole new level, and not just black bears – grizzlies!

Stay tuned for posts on the trip!

Glass Ceiling

I take a lot of photos – way more than ever end up on this blog…  And sometimes one is just so pretty it deserves to be seen, even if I can’t fit it into a post.  This is the ceiling at the Chihuly Garden and Glass, at the Seattle Center.  We didn’t go into the exhibit the day we were at the Terracotta Army exhibit, as it costs $24 per person.  Maybe someday I will.  Meanwhile, you can stand beneath this spectacular creation for free.  This ceiling is so beautiful!


Ceiling at the Chihuly Garden and Glass

Terracotta Army at the Pacific Science Center

August 19, 2017

Last August, my mom and I went to see the Terracotta Army exhibit at the Pacific Science Center.  It was a great day for it!

The Seattle Space Needle


The Army was discovered in 1974 in Lintong District, Xi’an, China.  The first pieces of pottery were discovered in a farmer’s field, and then archaeologists kept finding more as they began digging. The Army was created beginning in 246 BCE when Emperor Qin Shi Huang ascended the throne.  Work at points involved approximately 700,000 workers, working until approximately 209-210 BCE; the figures were all part of a huge necropolis surrounding the tomb of the Emperor.

The site has not been fully excavated, but estimates are that the site has 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses.  There were also other types of figures, including musicians, acrobats, strongmen and officials.

The Army is extremely realistic, and the figures are life-sized. The exhibit included a cross section of the figures, including archers, laborers, infantrymen and generals.  They are all different, and although there were about 10 face molds, each of the individual faces are different.  The figures are recognizable by their uniforms, hairstyles and head wear.  The exhibit allowed you to get up close and personal, and really examine the figures.


I loved the chariots and the horses!  The horses were really well done, and of course I would love one.  How can I get one for my living room?

Cavalry Soldier and Horse


A Chariot Replica

Originally the Terracotta Army figures were painted, although at this point most of the paint has long fallen away.  This exhibit included a virtual representation of the painting process.  As you watch the figure, he brightens with layers of paint to become a bright, vibrant, colorful figure.  Then, just as quickly, the virtual model shows the paint falling away and disintegrating as it did over thousands of years tucked away in their below ground crypt.


The exhibit also showed the process of making the figures.  They explain how the figures are molded, how the clay is made, and then how the various pieces are put together.  The figures aren’t one complete piece, due to the size, and have to be made very carefully or they will break.

The exhibits included lots of other smaller clay figures as well, and other decorative objects for grave sites.  The clay animals and figures were very detailed and beautiful.


I really enjoyed this exhibit; it was fascinating!  The figures were gorgeous and the exhibit did a great job of explaining the history of the Terracotta Army and its purpose and re-discovery.

Mom and I also had lunch at Seattle Center that day, and enjoyed the Butterfly House at the Science Center.  Most of the regular exhibits at the Science Center are geared towards kids, but the Butterfly House will interest people of all ages.  If you are there for a special exhibit, be sure to check it out!


The only bad part of the day was that I forgot to bring my big camera, so all my photos are with my cell phone, which isn’t very good.  I find myself really wanting to travel to China to see the entire Army!

Me after my day at the Terracotta Army Exhibit


Hood Canal 2017: Sand Dollars

Day 4, Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The day of our Independence had arrived. I got up fairly early, and seeing it was low tide, decided to go looking for sand dollars.  The Hood Canal is teeming with them, and of course, I only collect the dead ones.  If you didn’t know, live sand dollars are black; they turn white after they die. The sand dollars are fun to watch, in calm waters they tilt on their edge and are partially submerged in the sand, and kind of roll along.  You have to be patient though, as they don’t move quickly…

The beach at low tide

The tide wasn’t out quite far enough, so I had to go diving to get some sand dollars.  I can’t imagine why, but no one else wanted to go swimming that morning!  It was pretty cold, even on a sunny July day!  I’m determined though, so in I went.

After my sand dollar excursion…

After a shower, breakfast and a relatively lazy morning, we decided to do a quick, kid-friendly hike at Twanoh State Park. The trail heads along the creek for a bit before heading about 375 feet up the hillside. It intersects with an old road, so much of the trail isn’t that scenic, but it is a nice chance to stretch your legs and get some exercise in.  The hike is 2.3 miles round trip.

Nurse tree at Twanoh State Park


The mossy forest at Twanoh State Park

We also checked out the shoreline here, but there were quite a few people, so we didn’t stay too long.  You can pick oysters here if you have a permit, but I’m not sure if there are many within the limits of the park.  It is much better to just have a property with shoreline access where you can pick oysters right off your own stretch of beach.

After our hike, Lelani headed for home, and Brandon and his daughter had lunch and headed out too.  I relaxed a bit more on the deck with Brent and Rich, ate lunch and then headed for home.  Traffic was light and easy the whole way, because people were celebrating the holiday.  I love drives like that to finish off a long weekend getaway.




Analemma Blanc de Noir

In astronomy, an analemma is a diagram showing the variation of the position of the Sun in the sky over the course of a year, as viewed at a fixed time of day and from a fixed location on the Earth.  It can be a diagram, or a composite photograph.

In wine, Analemma is a winery in Eastern Oregon that produces a variety of wines, including sparkling wines.

I was introduced to Analemma Wines at the BubblesFest Sparkling Wine festival hosted by Anne Amie Winery in the Willamette Valley.  It was the first time I had ever seen Analemma wines or this wine, a 2011 Blanc de Noir.  I purchased this bottle at the last BubblesFest I went to in 2016 – I need to get back there again!

Analemma Blanc de Noir

The 2011 Blanc de Noir is 100% Pinot Noir grown in the Columbia Gorge AVA; the wines are some of the oldest in the state’s wine industry, over 40 years old.  The wine is produced in the Methode Champenoise, and aged sur lie for 42 months. The color is a golden yellow, with flavors of creamy yeast and butter.  It was so smooth, and was easily the best sparkling wine I have had in a while…  I drank it over three days. Although the bubbles didn’t last until the third day, the wine was still delicious!

If you have had their wine, please let me know what you thought!




Hood Canal 2017: Oysters and Fireworks

Day 3, Monday, July 3, 2017

We got home from Lake Cushman in time to pick more oysters for the BBQ, and Brent’s dad had joined us too, so we got the grill fired up and pretty soon the BBQ’d oyster eating commenced. This is one of my very favorite things about the Hood Canal!

Picking oysters at low tide


Rich shucking oysters into the garlic butter.

Joel and Brandon were drinking Rainier, which is a Northwest institution, so I asked if I could try it, as I don’t think I have ever had a Rainier… I gave it my all and tried two sips, but as you can see from the photo montage, I was not impressed… I’ll stick to wine and craft beer.

Me, trying Rainier. Can you guess if I liked it?

Once again the sunset was beautiful, and the evening was spent with laughter and relaxation. After dark, we went down to the beach for paper lanterns and fireworks. Lelani had brought paper lanterns for each of us, so we wrote our wishes on them and set them free into the air to float away. My wish hasn’t come true yet, but it will – I can feel it.


The fireworks were fun, and so was my time with friends…

Hood Canal 2017: Staircase

Day 3, Monday, July 3, 2017

On Monday morning, Lelani joined us fairly early, and we decided to do a day trip up to the Staircase area of Olympic National Park. Lelani, Brent, Joel and I were going along; Brandon and his daughter stayed back at the cabin to relax. We packed up some lunch and snacks, and headed out.

We stopped at a viewpoint for our first look at Lake Cushman, which was going to be one of our destinations for the day. Lake Cushman is huge, and stunning! We looked down at it, and the clouds, and then continued on our drive.

Lake Cushman beneath the clouds

The Staircase area of the park is located down a gravel road, and we drove along the edge of Lake Cushman for awhile. The giant rocks on the edge of the lake are amazing!

The view of Lake Cushman

We arrived at Staircase, and after we paid our fee (with my annual pass, of course), we embarked on a 2.2 mile hike; the Staircase Rapids hike.

Olympic National Park

The hike travels along the North Fork of the Skokomish River, both along sections of rapids (an aptly named hike!), as well as quieter sections of the river. Lelani and I were so into the scenery along the trail that we accidentally missed the turn where we were supposed to turn right to head over the bridge. We eventually turned around after realizing our mistake, but stopped along the edge of the river to look back at the view of the bridge along the rocky bank of the river.

The North Fork Skokomish River, with the bridge in the distance

When we got back to the bridge, the boys were wondering where we were, and standing on the bridge waiting for us. Oops! It is a beautiful bridge though, so it was worth seeing from a distance!

We crossed the bridge, and took photos. Then we spied the rocks in the river, and decided to go climb on them for a spell. While sitting on the rocks, near the bridge, in the river, we had a snack and entertained ourselves. This picture of Lelani giving me the side-eye at my antics is one of my favorites!


We finished our hike, climbing on the giant log, and crossing a couple little creeks, and making it back to the trail head. It didn’t take too long, as it was only a 2.2 mile hike, but of course Lelani and I did add a little distance with our detour.

Me at one of the overlooks

On our way back, we wanted to do some more sitting on the huge boulders along the side of the road, so we parked and found a nice big rock to sit on. And then we drank beer… What good hiking party doesn’t pack a cooler with some nice, cold beers! We cracked them open and watched the teenagers on the next rock over jump off into the water! It did look fun! Just sitting and talking with my friends was very relaxing, as we discussed travel, music, concerts and whatever came to mind.


Our drive home was uneventful, with another stop at the farm stand for ice cream! Interestingly, I’m not even that into ice cream, but this was some good stuff!  What a day, and it wasn’t even done…