Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thistling in the Wind

Coming off the mountain at Slate Peak, I saw several different types of wildflowers in bloom. One that caught my attention was the purple thistle. I am not sure of which kind it is exactly, only that I believe it is listed as a noxious weed in Okanogan County. It sure has a pretty bloom though.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Weekend Reflections - Mountain Magic

As I was changing my shoes for the short hike to Slate Peak, I looked to my right at a very shiny and large truck bumper. I liked how the surrounding mountains were reflected in it. Hope you enjoy it, too.

Mountain Reflections

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It may take me a few days to visit your blog this week. I am off to Canada, eh?!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Skywatch Friday - North Cascade Panorama

A panorama I put together of the view from Slate Peak. This one is definitely worth enlarging.

North Cascades Panorama

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hart's Pass & Slate Peak

I took a trip up to Hart's Pass/Slate Peak near Mazama, Washington last Friday. This is the highest drivable road at almost 7,300 feet in Washington. Once you leave the paved road, it is a twelve mile journey to Hart's Pass. Twelve long and slow miles along what was once a narrow wagon trail leading up to the now abandoned gold mine.

Starting up the Road Looking Back Towards Mazama

One particular half-mile section of the road is called Dead Horse Point and with good reason! The road clings to the side of the mountain along a very narrow cliff area. Back in the day, wooden planks were stretched across this area. In the 1890's a string pack of horses was crossing and the one of the last horses panicked not wanting to cross. Since they were all tied together, the other horses lost their footing and the whole string went off the edge of the road and plummeted several hundred feet down to the bottom of Rattlesnake Creek.

For me, this was not picture-taking time. This was white knuckle time!! (Coming back down from Hart's Pass, I was on the outside edge looking almost straight down into the ravine. Talk about instant vertigo! If I would have seen this going up the mountain, I'm not sure I would have made it to the top.)

Once we cleared Dead Horse Point and I took a deep breath, the road continues climbing. As you get nearer to Hart's Pass, you drive through an area decimated by the 2003 Needles Fire.

Winding Through Dead Trees
Just before reaching Hart's Pass at 6,200 feet in elevation there is a turn off that takes you past Meadows Campground (still in the burn zone) out to a point where the road ends. From there you can see the Pacific Crest Trail. It made for a nice place to have a picnic lunch.

Pacific Crest Trail Section

After lunch, we continued on our way past Hart's Pass and up to Slate Peak where the road ends just below the lookout. The military gave Slate Peak it's flat top look. There used to be a small lookout house on top of the mountain but the Cold War of the 1950's and fear of Soviet attack was incentive enough for the government to blow off the top of the peak and build a radar station. The radar station is long gone and the replacement tower sits exactly at the same height as the original mountaintop.

Slate Peak Lookout - Elevation 7,488 Feet

The sky was pretty clear, not too hazy. It is a short but strenuous (at least for me) half-mile hike from the parking area up to the top of the mountain.  Once up there, you have a 360 degree view of the surrounding North Cascades including Mount Baker to the west, the Pasayten wilderness and Canada eighteen miles to the north. It was simply spectacular!

Mount Baker Waaaay in the Back (52 miles away!)

The Old Mine Site - aka "The Glory Hole"

Hello, Canada!

Looking Down Towards the Parking Area and Hart's Pass Beyond

All in all, it was a great trip up to this area, even with Dead Horse Point. Glad I finally made it up to Hart's Pass and Slate Peak.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sally Said Sew!

I've decided to split out my quilting and sewing into a separate blog. You can find it by clicking here or on the Quilting tab at the top. I'll keep this one for my photography. :-)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

White Hydrangea

The hydrangeas in our yard are starting to wind down their blooming. Must be the brutal August heat. I figured I had better take a picture before their showy mounds of flowers are gone for the season. Enjoy!

White Hydrangea

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Skywatch Friday - Chill Out!

Just six months ago, this was the vista before me...high up in the mountains above the Methow Valley in Washington state. So high up that we were above the cloud layer blanketing the valley floor. Since our temps lately have been in the 90's, I thought I would look back on a snowy February day and chill out for a bit. Before long, the snow will start falling at higher elevations in the mountains and we'll be back to scenes like this.

High Above the Methow Valley

Looking Down Valley Towards Winthrop

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Scolding From Spencer

A few weeks back we heard a ruckus in one of the pine trees on the side of the house. A squirrel (aka Spencer) was carrying on about something. I looked around and didn't see anything that was disturbing him. He gave me a scolding any way so I left him to his ranting.

Sorry the picture is not quite in focus. I hurriedly grabbed my camera and didn't check my settings. Oops!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday's Tip - Thread Management

Being fairly new to quilting, I haven't gotten as organized as I like. With the planned sewing room, I hope to eventually get a grip on my fabrics and supplies. Until then, I took some time this weekend to clean up my mess in my temporary sewing space. I thought I would share what I am doing to keep my spools of thread and bobbins under control.

First, I am using a thread box by ArtBin. I picked it up at Joann Fabrics on sale. They frequently have these boxes on sale at 50% off so wait and buy it then. Trust me! (I just checked online and they are on sale NOW! Regularly $29.99, On Sale $14.99)

ArtBin Thread Box

Last fall, my mom sent me a sandwich baggie full of mini hair scrunchies. I thought "what the heck is she thinking?" Then it dawned on me. You put one of these around your bobbin as a thread keeper. You can pick up a bag of these at your local dollar store for one dollar. I think the bag my mom purchased came with 100 pieces. Cheap and clever! Way to go, Mom!

Mini Hair Scrunchies

Bobbin Before
Bobbin After

Once I got my bobbins neatened up, I put them underneath the matching thread spool. The thread box is deep enough to do this, even with different size spools, and the cover will still close and latch properly.

Thread Spools and Bobbins

No more trying to figure out what bobbin goes with what spool, especially if you have colors that are close in hue. Plus everything is in one place rather than the bobbins in a separate box.

Monday, August 13, 2012

International Space Station

I went out in the front yard Saturday night with three goals.

1) Observe the International Space Station flyover
2) Watch for the Perseid meteor showers
3) Work on my nighttime photography skills

I failed miserably (again!) with #3. Time to break out my book and re-read it. But I was able to barely capture the ISS as it streaked across the darkened sky. This was the second pass of the evening, too.  I had my camera set for a 30 second exposure, hence the line across the photo as it moved from the southwestern sky towards to northeast.

Do you see the Big Dipper?

If you want to see if the ISS comes near your house, you can use this link and change the location to where you are. It will give you a list of visible passes. Because of its size, it can be seen with the naked eye. Per the website, "the best time to observe the ISS is when it is night time at your location, but the Space Station is sunlit. Such a situation occurs often in the morning before sunrise or in the evening after sunset."

As for the meteor showers, I did see a few shooting stars before calling it a night. The peak time was between 2 and 4 a.m. and I was fast asleep during those hours. Although my alarm went off at 2 a.m., I was too darn tired to get up and go outside. Shame on me!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

InSPIREd Sunday - St. Andrews

I've always liked these golden domes on St. Andrew's Christian Orthodox Church. While they are not spires in the true sense of the word, it's my blog and I can do what I want. :-)

St. Andrews - Arlington, Washington

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Full One

Glad this isn't in the sky tonight! I want to see the meteor showers and this might have made them harder to see.

As a bonus, I got to see the International Space Station fly over my house last night. :-)
Full Moon - August 1st

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Sneak Peek with Batiks

A few weeks ago, a bundle of fabric called Bali Pop Watermelon caught my eye at my local quilt shop and said "Buy me!" The pinks, purples and greens were very appealing but I had never worked with batiks before. Could I do this? Sure, I told myself!

Bali Pop Watermelon by Hoffman Fabrics

I came home and started researching quilting with batik fabrics. What were the pros and cons of this type of material? Some people said batiks are prone to colors running in the wash and others said they never had a problem with Bali Pops doing this. There were suggestions on different laundry products to use - Synthrapol in the wash before cutting and sewing or Retayne after the piece is sewn. Or try Shout Color Catchers. But because the Bali Pops are pre-cut 2-1/2" wide strips, I didn't want to pre-wash them. This was gonna be a cross-my-fingers-and-hope-nothing-goes-wrong project because I won't wash it until after I have sewn it all together. I did find the Shout Color Catchers at Wal-mart and will give them a try.

Then I needed to decide on a pattern. I saw a pattern (aka "recipe") on the Moda Bake Shop website that I really liked and thought would work nicely with the Bali Pops. Have I committed an egregious sin by using the pattern from one fabric company with the fabric of another? Oh, I hope not. I love Moda fabrics and they are always one of my first choices but I really wanted to make something with the Bali Pops. Maybe I will use a Moda fabric for the backing. Does that get me out of hot water?

On a post earlier this week, I shared a cutting tip I learned. Here's why I needed an easier and faster way for cutting lots of pieces. If you look at the pattern, there are lots and lots of little squares that need to get cut and sewn together. Each of the bright pink squares are 2" wide and I needed over two hundred of them for this project, not to mention cutting all of the patterned fabric, too.

First Completed Batik Square

Square Number Two

I am really liking the vibrancy of the colors and the designs in the batik fabrics. I still have a lot of work before this project is completed so you'll have to settle for this sneak peek for the time being. It is slow going matching up all of these corners!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Where There's Fire, There's Smoke

There is a large wildfire burning about thirty miles south of me, currently about 6,400 acres. The smoke came up the Methow Valley and made for a beautiful sunrise the other morning. The winds finally changed direction and by afternoon, the skies were clear again. The firefighters are slowly gaining the upper hand on the fire.

Smoky Sunrise

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mountain Layers

Just after the sun goes behind the North Cascade mountains, a soft glow layers the distant hills.

Methow Valley Sunset Looking North From the Airport

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Redneck Quilting & A Shortcut

I have been working on a quilt that uses strips which are cut down into a couple hundred smaller pieces. To make things go quicker for me, I measured out my cutting lengths and put pieces of tape with arrows drawn on them down on my cutting mat. The picture below is for the 2-1/2" long cuts I needed to make. No more counting out the inches of where to cut. I just line up my ruler and cut at each mark. And no permanent markings on my mat. Easy-peasy!!

Measure once, cut a gazillion pieces!

Now back to sewing redneck style...

A fellow quilter also named Sally gave me this idea from her blog to take my sewing machine with me when I went camping. So I did! Twice I set my machine up on the picnic table and did a little sewing this past weekend.

Quilting Redneck Style!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Aliens Have Landed!

Last week I read a news article about crop circles appearing in a wheat field near Wilbur, Washington which is a small farming community in the northeastern part of the state. The route of our trip to Spokane this past weekend took us through Wilbur. We were driving down highway 174 and sure enough, there was the field with the crop circles. Its not the greatest of shots because you really should view it from the air, but the rise in the road gave us a partial view of the field. The crop circles are almost an acre in size.

Since it has been several days since this was reported, you could see paths through the wheat field to the crop circles where people had gone to check them out. On our way home, there were people standing in the circles. If you google "Wilbur Crop Circles" you can find additional photos and information on when they first appeared.

This was the first time I have seen anything like this. What do you think causes crop circles -- man-made or other?

A text message for ET perhaps?
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Sunday, August 5, 2012

InSPIREd Sunday & Caribbean Cruise Week - Elmslie Memorial United

It may look gray and overcast in this photo, and for a time it was, but then the sun came out on the Wednesday I spent on Grand Cayman. This church was established in 1846.

Elmslie Memorial United Church - George Town, Grand Cayman

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Caribbean Cruise Week - Heading Home

After departing Jamaica, our next two days were spent at sea. This is when I really learned to like at sea days. No rushing to get to your shore excursions and worrying about making it back to the ship in time for departures. Nope, you would be on a different kind of island time -- the floating island kind.

As I said earlier, there is plenty to do while at sea. The ship's cruise director and staff make sure guests are sufficiently occupied if they so choose.

Our first at sea day activity after Jamaica was to participate in Wishes At Sea that benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You purchase a t-shirt for $10 and then walk a mile with several crew members around the track on the upper deck. All of the proceeds are then donated to Make-A-Wish. On our cruise, we raised over $3,300!

Wishes At Sea

For lunch, we had a regular barbeque up on the pool deck. There were ribs, chicken and sausages along with plenty of fixins' to go with it. Oh, it smelled so good while they were cooking!

If Only You Could Smell This!

After lunch, it was time to continue exploring the ship. One thing I really liked was the variety of artwork on display. Some of it was simply amazing. There were sculptures, pottery, paintings, metalwork and more. The piece below was made of entirely of paper. I wish I got the artist's name but I forgot. I guess I was too enthralled by the details of this and two other companion pieces.

3D Paper Artwork

Later I got to watch another type of artistry in action - ice sculpting! The chef had to work fast in the heat and in short order the block of ice became a piece of art.

Ice Sculpture

One of the funniest things I saw was the belly flop contest. I think about eight guys were brave enough to participate. I didn't have the greatest of viewpoints to watch from, but at least I (and my camera) didn't get wet. I will bet the pool had to have some water pumped in after it was over.

Belly Flopper in Action

Dinner that night was our second formal dress of the cruise. And guess what? No pictures -- at least that I'm willing to share. I just hate having my picture taken. Maybe next cruise. One of the main themes for dinner was Surf & Turf. All you can eat, no less. I know a couple of people at our table had more than one plate of lobster. Actually, there are several menu choices to pick from each night in the main dining room starting with appetizers, salads, entrees, side dishes and desserts. Honestly, it can be very easy to gain weight while cruising if you are not careful.

Lobster Dinner

After dinner, there was always a show of some kind in the main theater. Music, dance, comedy -- all done by very talented performers.

The next day at sea was almost as busy as the previous day. We started off with another walkabout around the ship and found the peek-a-boo bridge where you can look in on the helm. Pretty neat although hard to take pictures of it.

Peeking in at the Bridge

Then it was time for a game of miniature golf up on Deck 12 at the stern. Talk about challenging. It was a bit windy even though there are glass partitions around you. Add in a little wave action while you are trying to line up a putt and things don't always go as planned. Still fun to play though.

I hope it goes straight!

We watched our Alaskan friends climb the rock wall. The ship provides the climbing gear including the helmet and shoes. Sharon made it to the top on one of the hardest routes and rang the bell.

Ding! Ding!

Just before dinner, there was a circus-type parade down the Royal Promenade. It was very colorful and noisy. There were performers on stilts, little bicycles and moving platforms. Some just danced in the "street". The little kid in me enjoyed watching the parade.

Royal Promenade Parade

After dinner, it was time for one last show aboard the Mariner of the Seas. But not before being treated to a beautiful sunset.

Last Sunset of the Cruise

When we awoke the next morning, our ship was already docked at the port in Galveston. To facilitate an orderly disembarkation, the ship assigns group numbers to passengers. We were not scheduled to go to our meeting area until 9:30. There was plenty of time for breakfast and to watch the activity at the port preparing the ship to sail out again later that day with a whole new set of passengers.

The semi trucks were lined up and the forklifts buzzing around moving the supplies the ship needed. Pallets of food and beverages, maintenance items, even new ladders were made ready to load onto the ship. In another area, luggage was being offloaded along with the recyclables such as paper, glass and cans. The picture below doesn't reflect the amount of activity going on, but it was super busy. In the midst of all of this action, a border agent and his dog were in high gear inspecting the shipments and the loading zone area.

Controlled Chaos

All too soon our cruise came to end and it was time to leaving our floating resort. My fears of being at sea away from the sight of land were greatly diminished. I was an experienced cruiser now, ready to go again.

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