Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US and I'd like to wish you all a happy one. A year ago my older son was serving with the Navy Seals in Afghanistan and it is sure a relief to know that he is home this year. Our holiday has been good. We actually have had two Thanksgiving dinners, today at Pat's daughter's home and last Monday at my younger son's home. M & his family decided to do it on Monday as M has to work today. We enjoyed them both and thank our kids for the opportunity to enjoy the holiday with them.

Yesterday dawned with kind of an overcast, but since we tend to get up early I was looking out the kitchen window to the east shortly before the sun rose and saw that we were going to have a beautiful sunrise. I got my camera and proceeded to take some photos and I'll post a few of them here.

Sunrise 25 Nov 01
This first one is looking to the east and a bit south. The sun will come up in that area where the bright spot is behind the house across the street from us, but the sky was lit all along the horizon from far north to the south behind Little Mountain. You can just see the beginning of Little Mountain rising at the far right side of this photo.

Sunrise 25 Nov 02
This view is also to the east but looking almost north. The base of Mt. Baker is just visible at the horizon if you look at it over the back end of our Prius. This photo shows what I meant about the horizon being lit all the way from the far north to the south. The pink clouds are low but there is a full cloud cover above them and we didn't actually see the sun as the view of it was totally blocked by clouds.

Sunrise 25 Nov 03
In moving around to get different views of the sunrise I happened to look to the west between our house and the one to the south of ours. This is what I saw. Those are also low level clouds with the sunlight just breaking across them. Again, that is not blue sky above but the full cloud cover. This was amazing to me in that there was actually almost more exciting light in the sky to the west than there was to the east!

Sunrise 25 Nov 04
I went out into our back yard beside the sunroom and this was the view from there. The lighting is changing very rapidly. Our fence is across the bottom of the photo with the fronds and blooms of the pampas grass rising to the right side of the photo. Across the common ground behind the house is our neighbor's home and beyond it, across the street and the other houses that cannot be seen from here, is the background of fir trees. But look at the way those clouds are lit by the sun rising on the opposite side of the sky!

Sunrise 25 Nov 05
This view is close to the last one- see the pampas grass blooms, but here the camera is looking a bit farther to the north. You can see the arbor that rises above our back gate that goes out to the common yard.

I do not particularly like winter but we occasionally get some pretty phenomenal sunrises during this season and yesterday sure was a good example. I sent these photos to our morning DJ, Joe Flood, on our local Oldies radio station, KBRC, and will hop from here to their web site to see if he posted them there. Joe lives a bit to the east of us up in Eaglemont but he was already at work when this painting in the sky occurred. I still don't understand just how that light to the west happens, but I'll enjoy looking at it whenever it does.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 13, 2009


Skagit Valley Gardens Christmas Open House #2

I'll go ahead and add the second seven photos from a week ago at the Christmas Open House at Skagit Valley Gardens (see the link in the last post.)

Skagit Gardens Christmas 07
This photo shows Pat signing up for a drawing for something but it also has one of the largest toads I've ever seen in the foreground. Pat is a collector of toads and things toady but I'd not be sure where we could find enough space for this one.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 08
These two were working the Cashier counter at the time we were by. I took two photos because we knew one had blinked in this first one but I really like the expressions and feeling of this one better, even with the blink. They look like they were having fun and I think they were.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 09
In addition to the dinner that was available through the Garden Cafe, Skagit Gardens also provided a table with cookies and coffee (I think it was coffee- as it was just after dinner for us I didn't have any.) I was good and only had one cookie and I called that my desert with dinner.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 10
This little still life photo has had the light color corrected. Yellowish angel hair just didn't look right, nor did the yellow casts on the crystal figures. This was on a small shelf and I just liked it. It is simple with only three components but to me it is beautiful.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 11
This scene has been setup for quite awhile and it is one of the most interesting. The bear on the left, hiding behind a fir tree, has a fishing pole and has snagged himself a very large fish which is on the top of the tree to the right. I doubt a person would ever have enough space in a home to setup something like this but it is cute and works well here. Maybe outside in one's yard?

Skagit Gardens Christmas 12
Pat is checking out an interesting Christmas tree with Santa behind her. This photo was hand held as I had put the tripod away after the photo of the bear so it isn't quite as sharp as it ideally should be but I like it because of the subject.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 13
I guess you almost have to include Barbie in Christmas. This is one of the largest Barbie dolls I've ever seen but it does make a very nice display. My younger granddaughter may still be young enough to like these but her favorites are something called Webkinz where she logs onto a web site to register her menagerie of them. It is more involved than just registering them but I don't try to follow it.

This annual event is fun every year and this place sure goes all out to decorate for the Christmas season. The place looks good all of the time and they do a good job with whatever season it might be. Last spring we were there with hundreds of others for an Easter egg hunt all over the 20 or so acre place. Everyone was a winner of something and it was far enough into the spring planting season that there were a lot of plants to choose from. If you live near enough to Mount Vernon, stop in and see this place. It is right alongside the I-5 freeway just a couple of miles south of town. It is fun. And don't forget to eat at the Garden Cafe.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Skagit Gardens Christmas Open House

Friday November 6th we went to dinner at the Garden Cafe and I've already posted a few photos from there in my last post. Garden Cafe is located inside a large greenhouse that is the retail outlet for Skagit Valley Gardens. Skagit Valley Gardens does a fantastic job of decorating for the Christmas holidays and this open house is a perfect time to come see the displays which look even better after dark. I took many photos and had a hard time trying to limit how many I was going to post here. I think that I will actually split the post into two. I'll do one now and another in a couple of days with the rest of the photos. They let me take my tripod and most of the photos are in available light, so it is generally pretty "warm" toned light as opposed to a colder, more bluish daylight that we are more used to. I decided to not make a color shift on most of the photos but instead just leave them as the camera saw them, with some cropping, exposure and contrast corrections. You will also notice that I am posting them in a little larger format. I checked it on my system and this size is fine with it, although I do have a wide screen monitor. Please let me know it it doesn't work well on yours. Anyway, here we go:

Skagit Gardens Christmas 00
This is a general inside scene with their cashier station and a Welcome sign.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 01
This old truck is one of a few that are around the area. During the warmer weather there are outdoor gardens to explore and in September the local dahlia society, that grows their display garden here on the property, holds their annual viewing and it is spectacular. In addition to this greenhouse there is a large building that is heated and comfortable that contains many gift items.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 02
The shutter speeds on these photos are not real slow but you can still see some motion showing up in many of the people who are moving. I like the juxtaposition of the tree ornaments in this photo, both those in the distance that are in sharp focus and the nearby ones that are fuzzy. There were a lot of people here and it was very hard to get photos without including some of them.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 03
There are many already decorated Christmas trees with various themes. They can be bought already decorated or one can pick decorations off the trees to buy individually. This is a closer view of a part of the Peacock tree.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 04
This tree in the foreground would be perfect for an apartment or other fairly small place. It is tall and skinny. And, the trunk is lighted AND it changes colors! There is a more normal Christmas tree in the background.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 05
This display was hanging from above so I lowered the camera and turned it upward for this photo. You can actually see the glazing that makes up the roof of the greenhouse in the background here.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 06
Musician Marcia Kester provided live entertainment during the evening. We have heard her before and she is good, kind of a country western/pop artist. Notice the tall skinny Christmas tree from the previous photo to her right in this photo. This is a flash photo so the lighting is more like what we are used to seeing.

This gets me about half way through the photos I've got ready to post so in order to keep the post from getting too large I'll close it here. Look for the second half of the photos in a couple of days. In the meantime, go check out the Skagit Valley Gardens web site as listed at the beginning of this post.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Dinner at the Garden Cafe

One of our favorite area restaurants is the Garden Cafe that is located inside the greenhouse at Skagit Gardens. Skagit Gardens grows many plants of their own and operates this location as a retail outlet for their plants along with those from other growers, and a very large gift shop. They go all out for Christmas, starting to set up the displays back in September. Then they have a one night open house to kick off the holiday season, inviting their patrons.

The Garden Cafe usually serves lunch daily. You are seated inside the greenhouse and get to enjoy all of the exhibits. During this once-a-year open house night, owners Ray and Katie stay open late to serve a by reservation only dinner. Their food is the best around (I LOVE his tomato bisque soup!) and we are usually there for lunch at least once a week. Last night was the Christmas Open House and their dinner which we attended. Of course I took some photos and will start today with a few of the folks from the Garden Cafe.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 14
Owner Ray is at the left with a couple of the others who were there helping with a very busy night.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 15
Here is a sneak peak behind the scenes into the kitchen area. Nearest the camera is Ray with his wife Katie next. They are the owners and Ray does most of the cooking. This photo has an odd mix of lighting. I used the flash but it primarily lighted the foreground (bluish daylight type light) while the background is lighted with the ambient lighting (warm, yellowish colored light) in the greenhouse. It was after dark so no daylight was coming through the glass from outside.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 16
Here is my bride paying for our dinners (wasn't that nice of her!) and chatting with Ray's Mom who was brought in to help.

Skagit Gardens Christmas 17
Todd is Ray's cousin and you couldn't find a better person to greet patrons than Todd. His smile shows how he enjoys meeting people.

I have a lot of photos of various things about the Open House and will post them next although I may split it into two posts as there are about 14 photos that I've prepared and I could easily have included more. This place is beautiful and if you have the chance to come to Skagit Valley Gardens between now and Christmas to see it, do so. And plan to eat lunch at the Garden Cafe. You will not regret it.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Daylight Savings Time is over- again

So far it doesn't feel bad, what with it getting light earlier in the morning. That means on Mon, Wed & Fri when I go walking with the guys from my park it will be an hour warmer when we start at 08:30. But I know that at the other end of the "day" it will get dark an hour earlier and that is the part I am not fond of. The two things I liked best about Snowbirding was the warmer temperatures and more hours of daylight. In the north during summer our days are longer than they are down south but it is the opposite in the winter. And the winter difference between here and southern Arizona is about an hour, or the difference between having Daylight Savings Time and not having it. Oh well, in two more months the timing will start back the other way toward longer days.

We did go on a road trip last month in the Prius. We left home on Monday Oct. 12th and drove to Spokane, WA on the far Eastern side of the state. It is about 340 miles and most of the trip over was via I-90 with 70mph speed limits. I did set the cruise control for 70 and we averaged about 47 miles per gallon (mpg) going over. That is not bad but not as good as what I've heard these cars can do. I didn't do any extraordinary things like trying to draft behind semi-trucks or anything like that. Just driving at a pretty constant speed.

For our return trip we came west via US-2 which is a 60mph road most of the way, with some slowdowns for small towns. We didn't go quite as far as we stopped in Manson to visit friends but it was long enough to give a pretty good test. This leg didn't have us crossing any mountain passes (there is one on I-90 of about 3000 feet) but we did drop down to the Columbia River and climb back up. Our mileage average for this leg was about 53mpg. It does make a difference when you slow down a bit- 60 as compared to 70.

The last leg, home from Manson, had us on 60mph roads but also crossing two mountain passes, one over 5000 feet and the other just below that at 4800+, then dropping down to sea level. Out mileage for this leg was about 51.5mpg which I figure is very good, especially when considering the elevations we climbed to. To be fair, the area between the two passes is all at high elevation so the climb up to the second pass is probably less than 1500'.

The car was very comfortable and easy to drive. We both like it, other than Pat often getting a static shock when she gets out. I don't know why it doesn't affect me the way it does her. I keep telling her that she is an electrifying woman. I don't think that helps.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet my younger son and my youngest granddaughter and go watch K play in a soccer game with her team. They are in a U-10 league and I think all the girls on her team are age 9. The other team sure has some tall girls for only being 9 but the two teams were actually fairly well matched. Our team lost but the score was 4 - 3 and it really could have gone either way. Of course it was raining- isn't it supposed to when the kids are playing soccer? I took some photos of the game and after a quick look through them, I setup one to post here:

Soccer 10-31-09
My granddaughter likes to play defender which means that her position is to hang out in front of their own goal to help the goal keeper defend it. But K is quite fast and her coach has been working with her to move the ball forward when she has it and to even go as far as taking a shot at the other teams goal. Here she is moving the ball against a much taller opponent and staying in front of the other girl. K's team are wearing the gray jerseys. I think she might develop into quite a good player if she stays with the game.

Labels: , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?