Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Cabin In The Woods

A few weeks back we were invited by a friend to visit her families park in the back woods of Washington. She gave me a few details, but we weren't really sure what to expect. Lush forests, a river, and a cabin were on the list. It sounded quaint and like something worth seeing, so on a Sunday afternoon we headed over to her home and she drove us to the countryside.

The property has been in her family for several generations. They use it as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of Portland life. It has been the site of childhood adventures and family picnics, as well as a place where local residents have occasionally come and made a mess. Most of the fishermen who have visited have respected the owners wishes to care for the land, but at one point a rogue group used explosives in a fishing frenzy and destroyed a natural waterfall. To make matters worse, there was a robbery at the cabin leading them to hire a man to stay there and maintain the place.

Enter Billy. Before our arrival my friend had told me that the man who stays there has a curious collection of hunting trophies inside, so I had some small idea of what to expect, but when we arrived and he led us inside the small cabin my response was nothing short of awe. As a kid, I well remember my grandparents living room being encircled by buck horns, but this was something different all together.

It seems that Billy is actually a celebrity in the hunting world. He has circled the globe and hunted pretty much everything you can hunt, and brought it back. Add to it the fact that he is also a taxidermist, having mounted his first piece at the age of ten (which he still has), and you are beginning to understand what we're talking about here.

Every inch of wall space was covered. HIs collection even included a trophy from the Czech Republic where he was knighted into a local hunting circle. He showed us the certificate they presented him with, and for the first time he was able to have it translated.

These images are all from the main room of the house, but his bedroom was encircled with the heads of sheep and goats from places like Egypt, Azerbaijan, and China. He was full of stories, which I won't go into now, but it was fascinating and overwhelming all at the same time. Even as we spoke, he told us he was cooking up some bear in the crock pot. Not something you hear every day.

It was a rainy day, so we weren't able to soak up the sun, or go swimming like we had originally thought when we planned this trip, but after spending half an hour or so in the cabin, we headed out to enjoy the beautiful nature along the Washougal River.

The rocks were really fascinating. There were these large holes that had us guessing at their cause and purpose. Were they created by rocks of old under pressure? Carved out by indigenous people for milling? We even considered one section with a series of circles close together as an early clothes washing station. Whatever their early uses, they now serve nicely as gardens for spiders who weave their webs over the tops and await the larvae to sprout wings and fly.

We wandered the trails and saw interesting flora, as well as evidence of the past being slowly integrated back into nature.

And on a final note, the curtains our friend hung in the bathroom roughly forty years ago. Enjoy :)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kiff Tales. Or Is It Kiff's Tail?

Well, after some patient jiggling and cajoling, I got the light to come on, and the computer to run, so I can share Kiff's big trip to the beach. Our little Kiffmeister had a rough start in life, and came to us a battered timid little guy. It has been a long process to get him to warm up and share his joy with us, but he has been making serious progress, so we decided to bring to him to the beach.

He still isn't particularly good at coming when called, so I was nervous about letting him run free. But after some persuasion, I let him loose and this was how he responded.

Personally, that looks like pure joy to me. He pranced across the sand, exulting in his freedom, but also in security. When he first came home with us, anytime we took him outside he would look for a place to hide. Usually this meant curling up in the dirt behind the bushes around the periphery of the yard. What a difference seven months can make.

He has not changed his opinions about water, however. We tried to get him to come and at least experience the edge of the ocean, but as he followed me I did the thing my grandparents always warned me not to do. I turned my back on the ocean. I wanted to capture his first salty sea steps, but ignoring what was heading in our direction, I didn't realize there was a large sneaky wave coming, and it nearly toppled Kiff completely. Needless to say, from that point on he kept as far away from the pesky water as possible.

The Oregon Coast can be quite unpredictable, but this day, which had been gray and cloudy at home when we headed out, turned out to be spectacular. Nearly seventy degrees, almost no wind, and blue skies encouraged us to try out the frigid waters, despite Kiff's rejection. We let him have his space to romp across the sand. It was encouraging to see that, even if he was up the beach as close to the cliff as possible, he kept level with us, always checking to see that we were together.

Everything was fine and dandy, until we noticed the buzzards starting to circle. While they aren't likely to scoop up an active ten pound dog, the way they kept coming back and swooping in for a closer look - first one, then two, then three ugly scavengers - convinced us that it was time to turn back, and keep a close eye on the pup. We even put him on the leash a few times when they got particularly close.

So we bid adieu to the lovely beach and headed back home, thankful for Kiff's experience with freedom, and encouraged by his acceptance of our protection.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Sinister Plot Twist

I'm writing my end note at the beginning for reasons that will quickly reveal themselves. Another downside to writing this on my tablet, besides the ridiculousness of the messy keyboard autocorrect functions, is that it won't let me to back to a place to correct it, unless it is one of two pre selected locations. Even worse, when I just wanted to go back to the end and create this end note, it would only let me return to the very beginning. So in advance, I ask for your forgiveness for whatever blunders you may uncover in the following lines...
We have a couple different computers in various levels of decay. Mine is so overloaded with photos, despite trying to limit myself and clear them off at least semi regularly, that I can't add any, remove any, or update my system to allow a connection with any other photo holding devices. So when I have a chance, I have been using my husband's old laptop because blogger has not figure out a good way to let me upload directly from my phone or tablet, despite the option appearing to be there, the help topics saying it works, and uninstalling and reinstalling the app more than once.
Yesterday, I had a wonderful opportunity to load some pictures, with plans to write about them over the course of the week. I should also note that, due to a series of events, we have only one cord that our various laptops share,and considering the age of them, the batteries no longer hold a charge, so it is necessary to be attached in order to operate them. Consequently, I unplugged his and plugged in mine to do my workout video, because the DVD reader on his is defunct. After said workout and shower, I was ready to do another blog post, only to discover that the light on the charger was out. I tried it several times, even went back and put it into mine, which worked fine, then returned it to his. No change, no charge.
All this to say, there will be no cute puppy on the beach post today :( I'm still hoping this is something that can be remedied, but I'm not holding my breath...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I'll be the first to admit that I have some...peculiarities shall we say. I wouldn't go quite so far as to call myself a hoarder, at least not like I was when I was younger, but I do hold onto things. I form sentimental attachments with inanimate objects, which can make it difficult to part with them. That's not really what this post is about, but it does help to set up the background.

I enjoy shopping and clothes, typical girly sorts of things, and these enjoyable experiences build up memories in my mind. Generally speaking, I can remember where, and at least within which life period I bought certain pieces of clothing. So the other day, when I was chatting with a customer at the shop, I realized that everything I was wearing was from when I lived in Hong Kong. (See how this ties in with not throwing things away, and sentimentality?)

The realization drew me to the conclusion that I absolutely had to have a Hong Kong experience in the present. Just a couple stores down from us, the newest owners of the little cafe have introduced Bubble Tea to their menu. Consequently, I made the trek over and bought a mango flavored Bubble Tea to go with my Hong Kong outfit.

Just to make it painfully clear how accurate my above comments were, I will share that I got that tank top at the then new Zara in IFC back in the summer of 2004 and the skirt was purchased at U2 on Nathan Road sometime in 2002. So there's your snapshot of the day. As stated earlier in the month, I'm attempting to get back on the blog writing bandwagon, and having finally uploaded a few pictures, I might even catch up on some backlog...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Literary Renewal

I read a book the other evening. A whole book. Perhaps novella is a more precise term, but there is something so wholesome about devouring a book in it's entirety, in one sitting. The book was, The Pearl, by John Steinbeck. It was sad, and beautiful, and startlingly real. It brought with it memories of days spent analyzing themes, and looking for all the nuances that give a story life.
There was a line near the beginning that struck me deeply, a line that can sum up so much: "It was a morning like other mornings and yet perfect among mornings." From that point on I was all in. I underlined, I wrote in the margins. I was the me that I always am but scarcely see anymore in the every day. And yet, there in that line, it was all there so clearly.
I used to write in my journal every day. I saw there the chance to preserve the fact that every day is its only self. Time is so fleeting, so hard to value. It can seem like monotony, or like an endless rush. Without pausing to remind myself, this is real, this is happening, this is now, it can evaporate into a long stream of other days. Memories cease to be individual and become more a feeling of eras. Mornings are like mornings. A walk, a shower, a bowl of cereal. Humdrum, and frail in their transience.
I can actually sum up eras in time based on breakfasts. In childhood there were bowls of bananas with sugar, pancakes or french toast or waffle weekdays made by Dad. Cold cereal Saturdays poured by me during cartoon commercial breaks. Sundays with coffee cake or cinnamon rolls freshly baked by Mom. In college, early mornings in the cafeteria after working on the janitorial crew and watching the sun rise, before curling back up in bed to sleep another hour before chapel. At Janet's house I ate muffins in the early mornings before going to the mill. In Hong Kong I usually had toast with Nutella and peanut butter, or corn flakes, or Digestive cookies. Salem was all about Great Harvest sweets from work. Alaska meant doughnut Sundays, and cold cereal through the week. In Czech I indulged in rich yogurt with granola, or freshly made baked goods from Hypernova. These days I eat a whole lot of sugary puffed wheat cold cereal. Not afraid of gluten around here. Odd? Probably.
I could actually categorize life by lunches as well. I'm a creature of habit. And lazy. So I deal nicely with routine because it makes things faster, easier, and more safely predictable. These mornings, they blend, and mix, and are hard to differentiate, and yet each is a gift. The start of a new day. Perfect among mornings.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


It is so easy to fall into habits. At least the bad ones. The lazy ones that remind you it's been so long, a little longer won't matter. So today I'm trying to think of how to reconnect with my blog in a fresh way. I want to get back into the flow of writing regularly, because despite several years of slowly disconnecting, it is still one of the core things that drive me forward.
So, no excuses, just hope. We're shockingly half way through 2014, which sounds like a good moment for resolve. Here's to hope.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One Day We Built An Igloo

Time has a way of going its own way. It cares little about our hopes, wishes, or best laid plans. It plods along at a steady place, and disappears in the flash of an eye. So February has faded into March, and very nearly slipped into April. It's not that I haven't thought about writing. It's simply that it has not happened.
As the great outdoors morphs into Spring, it is hard to believe that a month or so ago we were hit by a random snow storm. Unlike Alaska, where schools stay in session despite several feet of snowfall, around these parts a couple inches spirals rapidly into a shutdown. Despite our snow tires still residing in Idaho, we braved the storm the first couple of days in an attempt to maintain the slogan: neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail...etc. But without the proper equipment to clean the roads, and with no chains for our bare summer tires, by the time we got home Friday night, there was no return until Monday.

Well, I had plans of writing a considerable amount more, but technical difficulties slowed me down substantially. I'll have to just wrap things up a little more quickly by adding a few photos of what we did when life handed us snow...

It might not be super obvious form the photos, but this "little" igloo was over six feet tall, and was big enough for me to stand up straight inside. There was also plenty of room for the two of us to sit comfortably inside. Good use for a yard full of snow if you ask me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Walking Through a Spa Town

There is no doubt that whatever life we live in the present acquires a mundane quality, regardless of the location. We become accustomed to that which is daily routine. Days drift together into a fuzzy haze, dashing past in a whirl of activity mixed with boredom. We adapt, conform, settle in.

I spend quite a bit of time in a car almost every day. I maneuver amidst the traffic more out of habit than anything else. There is no sense of thrill, no feeling of intrigue. But when living overseas, the thought of being able to get into my car and just go sounds so appealing. On the other hand, as I wait at traffic lights, full of nervous energy, I think of the charm of living somewhere with excellent public transportation, and having a job within easy walking distance.

Through the busyness of the past season, my thoughts have often been pulled back to other eras, other places I have dwelt. Distance tends to diminish the monotony of old, shrouding it in a veil of ethereal mystery. Looking back at pictures, it seems difficult to imagine that any place so beautiful could fade from fantasy to normalcy. Take these shots from our last trip to Czech. I spent an afternoon wandering Frantiskovy Lazne, a small spa town just outside of Cheb where I used to live. I was there to spend time with a former student, and took advantage of the last few minutes of her working day to capture the wonder around me.

The yellow buildings are typical of spa towns. I have heard several reasons for this, but on rainy days like today, I imagine that the golden colored buildings are designed to make visitors feel like it's a sunny day. I can just imagine the well dressed ladies and gentlemen strolling down the colonnade, enjoying the statues as they sip on their potent spring waters.

The water in Frantiskovy Lazne is said to increase fertility, thus the patron is a little statue called Frantisek. It is said that if you touch the golden areas on the little statue you'll conceive. Personally, I was content just to insinuate ;)

Up next, a short study on a single building. I am always so impressed with the effort the architects put into making these buildings so breathtaking. There is art breathing around every corner.

If I wrote a guide book on this gem of a village I would be sure to include a little trip down trails, focusing on details.

I would also encourage visitors to take the time to really look closer at the flowers in bloom.

Sometimes the line between boredom and intrigue is just a matter of where you focus.

As I recall my trips to Frantiskovy Lazne, I am reminded of the truth about this place. There really isn't much of anything to do there. If you can afford to stay in a spa hotel I'm sure you can get a very nice massage, if you are ill, I am sure they have some good treatments, but there isn't much else in the way of entertainment. As lovely as it is too look at, it wouldn't take more than a day to wonder where to go next.

The real truth is in finding the beauty in the everyday moments. It's making up stories about the creepy house that overlooks the daily commute. It's delighting in the stories and lives of the people that come and go in and out of your life every day. It is too easy to give in to stress, or fall into monotony, but there is so much more to life than that. Just some thinks to think as January is about to fade into February...

Monday, January 27, 2014

It Seems Appropriate

There are so many things you read when you start thinking about publishing online. Back when I finished the first draft of my book I was still in Czech and actually had time. I spent hours reading blogs and looking over different sites about self publishing and all the things you have to do to get your name out there.

I started working on some of those things. I opened a twitter account. I linked other writers to my blog, and bookmarked even more so I could stay connected to ideas. I was ready to get out there and make a name for myself so that when it came time to put my work out before the whole wide world I would already have a crowd of interested readers breathing down my neck in their impatience to consume that which I had created.

Becoming a business owner definitely took it's toll on the self promotion web storm. Instead, at the time of actual publication I was so busy with the shop that about all I managed to do was put a couple posts on facebook letting people know, and giving out the free download code.

I have since managed to convince about thirty of my family and friends to download the book, and a few of them even opted to pay for it. Just think about it. The wonder of knowing that people actually bought a book I wrote. Pretty amazingly cool when it all sinks in.

There are still a few tweaks I need to make in the file. Despite the fact that the Christmas rush is over, we have been steadily at work making the store fresh, so I still haven't taken the time get it all downloaded correctly in order to be included in the Smashwords Premium Catalog, and it is yet to be made available on the Apple Bookstore or Amazon, but it will happen...hopefully sooner than later.

Anyone interested in seeing my book live online can check it out at Still awfully cool to see my name in print, even if it is just digital. Here's a look at the magic my husby worked on changing one of my photos into a magical cover.

The Incredible Kiffmeister.

Thought it was about time to share a few photos of our little puppy dog. He's a bit of a mess, incredibly insecure, nervous, and freaked out half of the time, and still far from certain about men in particular, but we're working on him. He has survived toe nail clipping, showers, and a hair cut, and for the first time today he barked in the daylight. He loves to chase his rope in the back yard, and can jump at least three feet in the air despite his diminutive stature. His background is predominantly a mystery, but he is some variety of "terrier." Doesn't get much more vague than that. Basically he's a mixture of adorable, pathetic, and in desperate need of training...