Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

La Campagnia (The Sicilian Countryside)

April 25, 2017

We wake up to birdsong and sunshine.  We wake up to our beautiful villa.  We make jokes about staying here forever.  We breathe and take in the smell of orange blossoms, laurel in bloom, fragrant flowers that smell of jasmine.  We wake up to the great big Ionian Sea.  I do the sea a great injustice if I attempt to describe the water as a deep blue.  It is that and more.  The sky is the same.  Both sky and sea take on different colors at different times of the day.  We cannot take enough photos…of the sea, of the smoking mountain, of the great blue sky, of the food, of the sunrises and sunsets, of each other.  It seems nearly impossible to capture it all and it seems not to be enough to simply stand still and take it all in.  But, we do that too: we stand still, breathe in the Sicilian air, draw in the Sicilian sunlight, and open our hearts to this experience.

our villa

our villa

Yesterday we had two beautiful outdoor yoga sessions.  We worked on elongation of the spine and on creating space.  And then we discovered, in our yoga sessions, how lovely the lettini (pool chairs) are.   You will see below how comfortable it is to do our ending meditation with legs up the chair, a form of viparita karani (legs up the wall pose) along the poolside.  Everyone in the yoga group is relaxed, happy, peaceful.

Legs up the chair pose, shavasana Sicilian-style

Legs up the chair pose, shavasana Sicilian-style  (Woody and John!)

Hello Nora!

Hello Nora!

We drove to the countryside, passing the most beautiful green terraced fields, orange and lemon orchards, vineyards, and olive groves. Fields and fields of wildflowers grow brightly in the springtime in Sicily.  We passed cows, sheep, stone houses, and bright red poppies and purple thistles growing amid dainty yellow carpets of flowers I cannot name.

Wild Poppy

Wild Poppy

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Thistles

Thistles

And then a visit to an organic ricotta farm.  Yes, the real deal.  We were greeted by Maria, the ricotta and cheese maker, her sister Giovanna, and Maria’s husband, Nino.  Their walls were filled with photos of their four daughters and their families, of their daughter’s wedding photos.  We watched Maria make the ricotta.  It was amazing!  They cooked so much homemade food for us. We felt like stuffed birds at the end of the visit. They served us their homemade wine, their country bread (and they also had gluten-free and dairy-free to suit some dietary needs in our group), their homemade pasta and sauce, their various cheese made from their ten cows, their prosciutto (yes, we saw the little piglets oinking around), and so much more.

Maria makes the "tuma" for the various cheese.

Maria makes the “tuma” for the various cheese.

The cow's milk is boiling to make ricotta cheese

The cow’s milk is boiling to make ricotta cheese

Ginger helps with the stirring (we later did a "Stir the Ricotta Asana"

Ginger helps with the stirring (we later did a “Stir the Ricotta Asana”

Maria makes all this cheese and it is later sold at local grocery stores to to private clients who come to the house.

Maria makes all this cheese and it is later sold at local grocery stores to to private clients who come to the house.

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Nino

Nino

A Tavola!  The feast.

A Tavola! The feast.

When it came time to leave, Maria and Giovanna packed up bags and bags of food for us to take home.  There were 14 of us at the table, but our farmer hosts had cooked enough for the army of the Roman Empire.  They kept bringing out food.  I made the mistake of not telling my group that the first dish set out on the table was just the appetizer, that there was more to come.  Oops!  Rick delighted in having our group experience Sicilian hospitality, country-style, just as my relatives have done for him time and time again.  We now have enough ricotta to last us a month, though it is meant to be eaten right away.  We will share with our caretakers and driver.

Ricotta Farmers Maria and her husband of 45 years, Nino.

Ricotta Farmers Maria and her husband of 45 years, Nino.

Their adorable dog, Chico (sounds like Kee-Koh and means little something small and dear)

Their adorable dog, Chico (sounds like Kee-Koh and means little something small and dear)

At the end of our visit, Maria tenderly gave me a special mystery gift, all wrapped up in butcher paper.  “Here, Francesca.  This is just for you.  A little something made with love from our farm.  Take this home with you to America.”  Later, at the villa, I unwrapped the mystery gift and saw about a large hunk of prosciutto.  The real thing, crudo prosciutto, made from their own pigs, pigs lovingly raised from piglet-hood, fed on figs.  An extremely valuable chunk of meat, cured so perfectly that it can last 1-2 years.  I know the value because I know.  Of course, I will share with the group.  Even though I don’t eat prosciutto, I can still appreciate what it is.  Our unique ricotta experience was truly remarkable.

Our bus/van

Our bus/van

Sicilian Green Bean Salad

Sicilian Green Bean Salad with Capers (served last night at the villa)

Sweet Summer

August 29, 2016

Summer time is my favorite of all seasons.  It comes after so much anticipation and seems to be over in no time at all.  Included in this email are some of my favorite photos from this summer, including some from this past weekend in Cle Elum and Roslyn.

I truly love taking photos.  And living in Washington state makes taking a great photo easy to do.

A visit to Vashon

A visit to Vashon and a hike on Shinglemill Creek Trail

Biondo Farm tomatoes!

Biondo Farm tomatoes!

Heritage Tomatoes (Biondo Farm)

Heritage Tomatoes (Biondo Farm). It was a 95 degree day so we missed out on Pizza Night at Karen Biondo’s farm (who wants to fire a 700 degree oven on a 95 degree day??)

Dahlias Forever!  Karen Biondo's farm

Dahlias Forever! Karen Biondo’s farm

We saw a wonderful paper art show at the Blue Heron Art Center (Vashon Center for the Arts). The new art center is magnificent!

We saw a wonderful paper art show at the Blue Heron Art Center (Vashon Center for the Arts). The new art center is magnificent!

Got my horse fix today in Roslyn

Got my horse fix today in Roslyn

Cosmos in Roslyn at the Farmer's Market

Cosmos in Roslyn at the Farmer’s Market

FRUIT: gifts of summer!  Roslyn farmers' market

FRUIT: gifts of summer! Roslyn farmers’ market

"fishnet" stockings...shadow on my leg in the beer garden in Cle Elum

“fishnet stockings”…shadow on my leg in the beer garden in Cle Elum (thanks, Nellie, for the idea)

Old mining town..on our way to the historical cemetery in Roslyn

Remnants from an old coal mining town..on our way to the historical coal miners’ cemetery in Roslyn

Stehekin!

Stehekin!

Stehekin hiking buddy: Winnie!

Stehekin hiking buddy: Winnie!

My other Stehekin hiking buddy: Leslie!

My other Stehekin hiking buddy: Leslie!

Relaxing at the cabin: Stehekin

Relaxing at the cabin: Stehekin

Have to include a foot photo:  soaking our hot feet when we break for lunch

Have to include a foot photo: soaking our hot feet while we break for lunch

Fantastic Rivers of Stehekin

Fantastic Rivers of Stehekin

Green and Trees at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

Green and Trees at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

Flowers at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

The Japanese Garden at the Boedel Reserve on Bainbridge

The Japanese Garden at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge

 

Kat-Krazy Day

June 12, 2016

And here we are: a blog post that is easy on the eyes, short and filled with feline sweetness.  Wednesday was a Kat-Krazy Day.  That is to say, I met three fine cats and fell in love with each one.

The first cat I encountered  is Marilyn’s newly adopted calico cat, Callie.  All we know about Callie’s history is that she has gone from home to home, owner to owner.   In her new home, Callie is loved, loving, and is already feeling very comfortable.  The home is the real deal!  Callie is just about as sweet as they come.  I am so happy for my friend and for Callie.  Our pets are an incredible source of unconditional love.

It was a little dark when I took this photo. But you can see how Callie has found my bags and has snuggled into them. I am already in love with this girl!

It was a little dark when I took this photo. But you can see how Callie has found my bags and has snuggled into them. I am already in love with this girl!  She is very very loving!  It’s a win-win situation. Lucky Marilyn!  Lucky kitty!

Then I came across a cat that looked almost identical to my cat of almost 18 years, Little Bear!  There were two big differences in the two cats.  This one’s name was Georgia and she was a SHE!  And she is polydactyl!  That is to say, Georgia has 6 toes on her front paws.  Other than those two physical differences, I felt I was with my cat again.  As soon as I saw Georgia, I dropped my bags to the sidewalk and started taking photos and petting her.

Tuxedo Cat Cuteness!

Tuxedo Cat Cuteness: Georgia, Little Bear’s Look-Alike

Georgia, too, liked my red bag!

Georgia, too, liked my red bag!

OK, so the photo above is my new feline friend Georgia and the photo below is my old cat Little Bear…they are practically identical, n’est-ce pas??

The one and only, King of My Heart, Little Bear!

The one and only, King of My Heart, Little Bear!

And if you have never seen this before, have a look at the link below.  The link is a pdf with another photo of Little Bear and poems Rick wrote for him.  Little Bear was most regal and the subject of so many poems:  link

And lastly, a magical moment meeting Rebecca’s cat, Axel.  He was snuggled in his tree perch indoors, basking in the sun, dozing on and off.  His sunlit fur against the dark blue wall made for the best cat portrait ever:

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Say Hello to Autumn

September 16, 2015

No time to post this yesterday (it was written, but I didn’t have time to edit until now)….so it goes out now (from Iceland!). Stay tuned…next blog entry within the half hour is from Iceland.

Written on Tuesday, September 15th:

In my head, it is officially Say-Goodbye-to-Summer-Time.  Today’s walk over to the Volunteer Park Cafe for lunch with Rick was a dose of reality for me.  Autumn is here.  It seems to have come abruptly on the heels of an unusually hot Seattle summer.  As we walked over to our neighborhood cafe, a few red maple leaves brightened the sidewalks, their colors matching the pro-teachers’ strike chalk-graffiti on Steven’s Elementary School stone wall.  (And it felt very eerie to walk past the very quiet empty school on a Tuesday.)

Below are a few photos from an interesting and pleasant hike I did with Leslie and Winnie two days ago to the Lime Kiln Trail. 

As the name would suggest, the trail meanders through a mossy forest and leads to a lime kiln.  Walking through the forest, it is really surprising to come across the old limestone kiln, embedded in the forest, a relic from the past.  It seemed to have jumped out at us when we least expected it.  The kiln is 20 feet tall and covered in moss and ferns.  The forest has almost completely taken over the area and today you can only see remnants of a business that was thriving and employing hundreds of people.  The kiln is in the Robe Canyon Historic Park and the trail is a gentle 7 mile round trip.

The kiln

The kiln with old broken saw blades.  I can only imagine how many trees needed to be cut in order to produce the wood that kept the kiln burning hot.

Below is the explanation I found on the kiln and how the limestone was used:

The kiln was built in the 1890s and used until the early 1930s to convert local limestone into “lime,” i.e. calcium oxide. The product was transported by the adjoining railroad, mostly for use as a “flux” to promote melting of ores in smelters in the Everett area. The limestone apparently was loaded into the open top of the kiln from carts that approached from the uphill side. Unfortunately, none of the loading structure remains. The kiln has stoking ports on three sides where fires would have been tended–gathering sufficient dry wood as fuel in this very moist area must have presented a challenge!

Close up view of one of three kilns

Close up view of one of three stoking ports

Another view of the kiln.  Here you can see the moss and fern covered walls.

Another view of the kiln. Here you can see the moss and fern covered walls.

Broken Saw Blade Composition

Broken Saw Blade and Mossy Tree Composition

Dense mossy forest of Kiln Trail

Dense mossy forest of Lime Kiln Trail

Our girl Winnie at riverside lunch spot.

Sentinel: our girl Winnie at riverside lunch spot

Serene lunch spot.  Already the maples are changing colors.

Serene lunch spot. Already the maples are changing colors.

I will also include a few photos from a summer hike to Pete Lake.  I didn’t have time to post these photos earlier and the place is so beautiful (another long but easy hike!) that I just had to include these few photos:

Gorgeous Pete Lake!

Gorgeous Pete Lake! (Model: Rick Clark!)

Scenes like this make me feel like I am in a movie.  I truly love summer and hiking in Washington!

Scenes like this make me feel like I am in a movie. I truly love summer and hiking in Washington!

Squirrel (one of the most difficult words for foreigners to say in English-especially my Italian cousins and my Japanese friends!).  This friendly guy kept trying to get into our packs in search of food! Probably getting ready for Autumn which is already upon us.

Squirrel (one of the most difficult words for foreigners to say in English-especially for my Italian cousins and my Japanese friends!). This friendly guy kept trying to get into our packs in search of food! Probably getting ready for autumn which is already upon us.

Besides colorful autumn leaves, spider webs are another sign that summer is on its way out!  Spider webs are everywhere at Ocean Shores.  I can’t walk in the garden without barging in on one.  These photos are of the webs up close. I caught the fractured sun beams and imagined this is how the spider admires our garden at Little Renaissance:

Our garden and forest from the Spider's Point Of View

Our garden and forest from the Spider’s Point Of View

Fractured Light from the spider's web

Fractured Light from the spider’s web

The Forest Breathes

July 28, 2015

I get a natural high from walking along forest trails and this year I have had ample opportunities to be out in nature, hiking through the most alluring landscapes.  Rick and I just got back from our annual trip to Stehekin, Washington with Leslie.  While Rick fished the rivers for trout, Leslie and I hiked miles and miles of trails with her dog, Winnie.

No roads lead to Stehekin!  In fact, you can only get there by plane, boat, or hiking.  One of the many charms of Stehekin is its remoteness.  Once in Stehekin, there is a road that stretches from the landing to the Stehekin Bakery and beyond to some trail heads.  The only vehicles are the ones that have come over on a barge from Chelan.  In order to have a vehicle, you must be a grandfathered-in property owner or lease holder.  Wild untouched Stehekin is part of the North Cascades National Park.  Around 100 people live here year round.

We took a float plane to the landing.  It is about a 50 minute flight from Chelan to the Stehekin Landing:

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The next two photos are hilarious (to me, anyways!).  You can see how small the plane is.  Rick, in green, to your far right, is smooshed into his seat with two other beefy men!  Leslie and I, on the other hand, had ample space between us because Leslie bought a seat or a “space” for Winnie.   Winnie burrowed and hunkered down into the floor of the plane where she felt secure and Leslie and I got to spread out a bit.  Rick was wedged in so tightly that he was unable to look back to see us. I made sure Rick was in a humorous mood before I showed him these two photos!

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Tight Quarters!

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Ample Space on the flight for Fran, Leslie, and Winnie! (feeling a wee bit guilty about all the space!)

One of the people who lives in Stehekin year round is Karl, the man who, year after year, plants and produces the best organic vegetables in his Stehekin Garden.  In addition to vegetables and fruit, he sells honey, candles made from his bees’ wax, dried herbs and teas, goat cheese made from his goats, whole wheat crackers, muffins, granola made with his honey, salad dressings, and pesto made from his homegrown basil.  Every time we arrive at the cabin, I make a dash for his garden to see what vegetables and fruits are available.  This time around I bought organic nectarines, peaches, blueberries, beets, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, and a muffin!  When I arrived at the garden, I was greeted by barefooted slender Karl.  His earthy wholehearted hugs are most welcoming.  His vegetable garden is fringed with dahlias and other beautiful flowers which, he is quick to tell you, he does NOT sell.

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Karl’s dahlias, after a much-needed morning rain shower, are nearly smiling.  We were at Karl’s when it started to rain.  We sat under the eaves with Karl and waited until the rain let up. 

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Hope you like dahlias because there are many in this blog!

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One of Karl’s bees busily pollinating a dahlia.

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During the winter months, Stehekin is covered in snow.  Karl’s garden and goats rest in the winter and Karl spends his winter days cross country skiing, meditating, doing yoga, reading various books, and writing.  You can see his spirit-infused writing on various white boards at the garden.

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Health is Wealth, written by Karl

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A bearded Rick talking books, poetry, nature with Karl at the garden.

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Inner Peace by Karl

Leslie and I took a hike to the Buckner Orchard and to Rainbow Falls.  This is our favorite hike to do on our first day in Stehekin.  We saw so many deer in the apple orchard on this day.

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Long Term Parking at the Buckner Orchard

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Winnie takes in a long drink at Rainbow Falls. 

Like Cuba, Stehekin has trucks and cars that have been around for a while and still running.  In order to get a car here, it has to be barged over as was this 1967 Chevy back in the day.  I was looking at some of Leslie’s old photos from years ago and noted that today the Forest Green ’67 Chevy Truck looks almost identical to how it looked back then.

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The Cannon’s 1957 Chevy. 

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Winnie, ready to hike!

Another favorite hike is the Lakeside Trail, along Lake Chelan.  The trail starts near the landing and goes on and on towards Chelan.  It is a rolling trail with a constant view of Lake Chelan.  Parts of the forest have been victim to forest fires and as we hiked we saw blackened trees that have survived past fires as well as charred stumps that were not so lucky.

As we stopped for lunch at a bluff overlooking the lake, Leslie was pulling some items out of her backpack and came across her favorite poem, Lost.  She always carries this poem with her and from time to time, on our hikes, she reads it aloud.  I asked her to read it on this hike.  I am always moved by this poem.  The name of this blog post, The Forest Breathes, comes from this poem. She reads it so perfectly:

LOST
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree of a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

-David Wagoner

David Wagoner was Rick’s professor for the MFA program at the University of Washington.  We went to a reading and heard Wagoner read his poem, Lost.  He prefaced the poem by telling us that he never imagined this poem would be so well received! Wagoner still seemed to be in disbelief that this very poem is the favorite of many outdoor enthusiasts, including Leslie and myself.

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Burnt trees from fires past.

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Another hike: Agnes Creek Trail

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View of Agnes Gorge

Well, since our fisherman, Rick, caught a 19 inch trout (!!!), he decided to join Leslie and me on this morning’s half hour steep hike up to a viewpoint.  From our viewpoint, we had the best view of the Stehekin Valley.

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View of the Stehekin Valley

Rick’s prized trout, was dinner tonight!  We brought it back to Chelan with us and Timothy grilled it with rosemary and lemon slices.  Four of us feasted on the best trout ever!  Here it is below, about to be grilled.

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Anacortes

July 20, 2015
Another wonderful place in Washington discovered (for me) this past weekend.  Simone and I drove up to Anacortes, where we stayed with friends Janet and Steve.  Like so many others, I have been to Anacortes before because it is the point where we catch ferries to Lopez Island, Orcas, and San Juan Island.  However, I have never taken time to explore Anacortes.
Beautiful AnacortesThe town is named after Anna Curtis, wife of an early settler named Amos Brown.  And all this time I thought the name of the town sounded very Spanish, but it’s not!  We were there for the Shipwreck Festival, which is basically rows and rows of tables set up on the streets where vendors sell just about anything from used clothing to garage sale type items to crafts and furniture.  Every vendor is ready to make a bargain and, though I had no intention of buying anything, I got some good deals (amongst them a cute sunhat and a set of 6 blue water glasses).  Read on to see the weekend through many photos and captions!  I think this blog post is a record for number of photos posted!  I just can’t trim down to any fewer photos!  Enjoy..

We ate delicious meals.  Ingredients could not have been any fresher: vegetables straight from Janet and Steve's garden and from the Farmer's Market

Dahlias!

Loki the Cat and more from the garden...with all this heat, peaches are ripening early this year!

Anacortes Farmers' Market

Heirloom tomatoes at the market

Beautiful Carrots and Roots

Janet gets down to the business of buying purslane.  The market vendor told us how purslane is really good for the lungs.  Here is what I found out about delicious purslane: "Purslane is a nutritious weed increasingly used in agriculture and cooking recipes. This herb is high in vitamin C and metabolism-regulating Omega-3 fatty acids. "  I even read that it has more Omega-3 fatty acids than most fish oils!  I think I will add it to my herb garden.

Squash and Yellow Zucchini

It's Dahlia season!

Summer bouquets at the market

Seen earlier in the day at the Shipwreck Festival!

Back at Janet and Steve's house, Steve reads to me from his novel in progress!

Postprandial Walk

View along the trail

Since Janet and Simone were admiring this enormous drift log, I thought I'd capture it on film.  The light was divine.

Pugalicious!  A very sweet 14 year-old pug resting on a bench along the trail.

Sunset coming on.  Hot summer days and gorgeous sunsets is how I will always remember this summer.  It has been and continues to be amazing.

Sunset in Anacortes, along the Guemes Trail.  Does it get any better than this?

Sunset in Anacortes

And today's hike through a Madrona Forest!  Madronas are perhaps one of my favorite trees!

Madrona Trunk I

Madrona Trunk II

With Deep Gratitude

April 11, 2015

It is hard to believe my friend Elizabeth Lawrence is no longer around. I keep thinking about her, especially now that it is spring.  She loved spring and tending to her garden during her healthy years. Last evening, Rick and I had dinner with some of his former high school friends.  Our host, Lori, grew up in the same neighborhood where she now lives with her husband Tim in Tacoma, WA.  Lori told me that Elizabeth grew up in the house across the yard during elementary school, before moving to Fox Island.  Dr. Lawrence, Elizabeth’s dad, used to come around and tend to the neighbors when they got sick.  Everyone loved him.  Elizabeth was Lori’s playmate.

Elizabeth and her rescue dog Pip.

Elizabeth and her rescue dog Pip.

Elizabeth passed away in February while I was in India.  When I got to Varanasi, I said a prayer for her and floated a candle in her honor in the holy Ganges River.  Her candle floated during the Aarti evening ceremony.  Bells were chiming and clanging, crowds were gathered to say good night to the great Mother Ganga and some people sang devotional hymns, incense billowed forth and perfumed the night air, and Brahman priests performed their nightly ritual honoring all the elements present in nature: earth, water, fire, air, ether (space).  I believe I felt Mother Ganga embrace Elizabeth’s beautiful spirit the moment I set the lit butter ghee candle into the water.

one of the many cute gifts Elizabeth gave me: gourd cat

one of the many cute gifts Elizabeth gave me: gourd cat

I write this blog post with deep gratitude for Elizabeth Lawrence, or DB, as refers to her nickname Detonator Beth.  She attended yoga classes with me for many years when I taught at NIAOM (Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) in Fremont.  She stopped taking classes with me when NIAOM closed its doors and I moved to Yogalife Green Lake Studio in 2001. She said she couldn’t stand looking at the purple painted ceiling!

We kept in touch over the years and later, when my mother passed away, Elizabeth helped take care of my sister Toni for four months in the evenings while I taught classes.  Toni is a special needs adult and Elizabeth was wonderful with her.  Perhaps she coddled Toni excessively, but Toni needed a lot of TLC at that time.  After all, Toni had just lost her lifetime best friends/parents and house and was now in her sisters’ care.   Elizabeth used to read to her, take her on walks, watch movies with her, do crafts, and tell stories.

One of the many frogs Elizabeth gave us.  The bird bath is also from Elizabeth.

One of the many frogs Elizabeth gave us. The bird bath is also from Elizabeth.

Elizabeth's gifts: frog and birdbath set in our garden at Little Renaissance

Elizabeth’s gifts: frog and birdbath set in our garden at Little Renaissance

Elizabeth loved Ocean Shores and our sanctuary, Little Renaissance.  She came out for visits and for a few yoga retreats throughout the years.  She also gifted us with many beautiful decorative garden objects and other amazing items for our home. All the items in this blog post are gifts from Elizabeth!

garden otter

garden otter

Recently, some friends were gathering information for Elizabeth’s obituary, which is to come out soon.  I hope the obituary will make mention of her many talents.  Among them, she sang, did theater, was involved in animal rescue and fostering programs, was a Reiki practitioner, played various instruments, including the piano, did creative writing and was an editor.  One of her friends, contributing to the obit, reminded us all of Elizabeth’s/DB’s generosity and the empathy of her soul:

Of the 50 bequests in her will, 22 of the bequests go to nonprofits (Environmental, Animal Rescue, Cancer Care and Research, Fighting Poverty, Public Radios and TV).  An incredible range of giving. The rest to friends, family, and animal adoptees. And if there is any $ left in the estate, the remainder is to go to “an appropriate charity for sex-slaves-women in India.” !!

I hope you will take time to admire the items I am so lucky to have, from the generosity of Elizabeth’s heart.  They are fun and eclectic, a reflection of who she was.  I am forever grateful!

another frog!

another frog!

I really like this photo of Elizabeth!

I really like this photo of Elizabeth.

and yet another frog!

and yet another frog!

She knew Rick loves rocks and in turn gave her a clay baby, which she treasured.

She knew Rick loves rocks and gave him this.  In turn, he gave her a clay baby, which she treasured.

This birdhouse has housed many many bird families, one every year!

This birdhouse has housed many many generations of chickadee bird families, one every year!

Garden decor I

Garden Decor I

Garden Decor II (this one is larger)

Garden Decor II (this one is larger)

African hand-made wall hanging-  another treasure

African hand-made wall hanging- another treasure

The first of many gifts and perhaps the most interesting gift of them all, an antique Japanese tea chest

The first of many gifts and perhaps the most interesting gift of them all, an antique Japanese tea chest

Little Si

March 21, 2015

Little Si… or maybe this blog post should be titled Little Sigh/Big Sigh.  It’s been a while since I last blogged.  I still have so many topics I’d like to write about, but writing creatively seems to be a great luxury these days.  Since I got back from India one month ago, I have worked 22 days.  Add another move to yet another apartment into the stew and you have a nearly overwhelmed person entirely focused on keeping her nose to the grinder.

Breathe In Breathe Out...it's a game of balance!

When working this much, sleep becomes very important.  I take a nice warm shower before going to bed and snuggle in for the night.  Nothing can wake me up except the alarm clock going off in in the wee hours of the morning.   Another key to staying balanced is to make sure I eat well-balanced meals.  Sometimes I fall behind in my reading, blogging, keeping up with emails and phone communications, but sleep, eating well, and staying hydrated are key to staying healthy.  Practicing yoga is also a mainstay that is always a part of me.

I have an office and my own yoga space in this new apartment.  I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have my own office space within our new apartment.  I think I will be able to buckle down to blogging again, planning out 2016 yoga retreats (yes, I have to think ahead in retreat planning), and to working on a new writing project (more on the writing project later).

Little Sigh/Big Sigh and Little Si..the latter refers to a hike I did today.  Little Si is almost 5 miles long.  It was a pleasant day and the predicted rain didn’t start coming down until we were at the end of our hike, about 5 minutes from the car.  And it felt so good to move and breathe in the forest air.  It is delightful to see Winnie smelling ferns and trees along the path.  She puts her nose up to the sky and sniffs the air.  She reminds me to be in the moment, to enjoy every step along the way, to slow down.

Little Si hike

Take a breather...catch your breath

Moss covered boulders

Don't forget to stay hydrated!

"A tired dog is a happy dog!" (after the hike on the way home)

 

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Sicilian Cats II

January 15, 2015
Scruffers Cuddling

Scruffers Cuddling

What better way to make my re-entry into the 2015 World of Blogging than to post some of my favorite photos of cats!  This blog is dedicated to my friends’ father, Daddy Don, who loved cats.  He especially loved Italian cats.  Strays?  He loved them even more!  When in Italy, he’d buy cat food and fed legions of stray cats.

All of the photos below were shot in Sicily:

Cats make you happy! My daddy's cousin and one of his many many cats!

Cats make you happy:  my daddy’s cousin and one of his many cats.

Black Roof Cat

Black Cat Green Eyes

Proud Mamma

Proud Mamma I

Proud Mamma II

Proud Mamma II

Sicilian Cats

Sicilian Cats

Well fed cat

Well fed cat: I live here

Another view of Signore Gatto

Another view of Signore Gatto

Hanging out

Hanging out

Greek Temple Cat

Sicilian Greek-Temple Cat

Es

To Your Health: Salute!

Out all night, snooze all day

rough night, sleep in

Sono stanchissimo (I'm very tired!)

Sono stanchissimo (I’m very tired!)

11 Pre-Holiday Wellness Strategies

December 14, 2014
Pre-Holiday Wellness Day Retreat in Issaquah, Washington

Pre-Holiday Wellness Day Retreat in Issaquah, Washington

I lead an annual Pre-Holiday Yoga and Wellness Day Retreat at Crystal Creek Studio in Issaquah, Washington.  The studio and house where the retreat takes place sits on a mountain.  It is a green peaceful getaway, less than an hour drive from Seattle.  The studio looks out over trees and it feels as if we are doing yoga in a tree house.

The studio looks out over trees.

The studio looks out over trees.

This year, there was a dusting of snow, which made for a beautiful walk in the woods.  The majority of retreat participants chose to stay indoors (it was cold out!) and enjoyed reading or chatting by the fireplace in the main part of Cathy’s house.   A few of us braved the cold temperatures and went on a brisk hike.

the hike between yoga sessions.

the hike between yoga sessions

The retreat day started with a morning session of deep-stretching Yin Yoga and ended with an hour and a half of Restorative Yoga.  In between the yoga sessions, we had a hearty delicious lunch, followed by hiking for some and relaxing by the fireplace for others, massages with Julie Bacon throughout the day, and a shared discussion on Wellness Strategies.  What follows are bits of wisdom, Wellness Strategies, shared by the retreat participants on ways to stay healthy, relaxed, and stress-free during the holiday season:

  • HUMOR  My wellness strategy involves having humor in my life.  Around this time of year, I like to watch Love Actually.  Humor makes me feel good and helps me stay healthy.
  • VACCINES, YOGA  How to stay healthy?  Get your vaccines! Get your flu shot. Get your shingles shot…Also, I don’t do any work after 5pm! And I practice yoga daily.
  • NATURE, GET ACTIVE,  D3   Take Vitamin D3!  Do your yoga daily, get moving, bring humor into your life.  I love nature.  I live on Vashon and nature is all around me so I try to be outside as often as I can   I spend a lot of my time gardening, walking, and being outside.
  • AN ORANGE A DAY  When I was a child, every single day my Grandmother Lucke used to ask me, “Have you had your Bowel Movement today?”  And after my reply,  she’d say, “Sit here.  Eat an orange.” And I would sit with her and eat an orange!  And to this day, I eat an orange every single day.  That is how you stay healthy!
  • MBSR MEDITATION   Well, I don’t like oranges, so I can’t try Grandmother Lucke’s wellness strategy.  However, meditation works for me.  I took a MBSR (Minfulness-Based Stress Reduction) class at Bastyr and it is a powerful tool for wellness.  MBSR was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.  It is a meditation that encourages body awareness and mindfulness.  Dr. Kabat-Zin describes it as “moment-to-moment, non judgmental awareness.”  Other wellness strategies: I  practice yoga, do aerobic activity which helps me with anxiety,  I eat a piece of dark chocolate every day, and I recommend having pets!  I have three cats and a St. Bernard who is a therapy dog.
  • FEEL THE RHYTHM OF LIFE  I ask myself, “What’s my Zen?”  My Zen is the rhythm of my life and the rhythmic things I do in my life such as swimming, breathing, and simple actions like grounding my feet onto the yoga mat as I stand in Mountain Pose, which give me a sense of wellness.  When I discover my Zen, I feel healthy and balanced.  I recently started fly fishing with my husband and I have discovered the flow and rhythm of the river, the sense of movement and the sense of going forward.  This is another example of finding my Zen!  Cat and Cow Poses, coupled with breathing, are physical actions that give me a sense of this Zen Rhythm. The changing of the seasons also allow me to feel my Zen.
  • MANTRA MEDITATION  I have been taking a Kundalini Yoga Class offered through Seattle Unity.  In class and now on my own, I have been chanting the very powerful meditation mantra:  Sa Ta Na Ma.  The mantra represents the cycle of life:  Birth, Life, Death, Rebirth.  The mantra consists of vibrational sounds. I have a recording that I listen to for 11 minutes while sitting in a chair.  The sounds are calming and rhythmic.  The mantra has been shown to change your brain, how it functions, how it reacts, and its thinking patterns.  It works!  And one more strategy that works is feeling and expressing your gratitude every single day of your life!
  • ENJOY BEING WITH YOUR FAMILY  I am a Type A perfectionist, so the holidays can be a stressful time for me.  As my wellness strategy, I focus on making the most of the holidays by being with my family and having a good time.  What I wish for is to make happy memories!
  • PERSPECTIVE   My intention is to be less stressed-out.  I am a very emotional person.  I experience life deeply so I can feel deeply sad or deeply happy.  I am working on putting things into perspective.  I want to feel less crazy when in a political conversation or when I am driving. I don’t want to let the little things upset me anymore.  My intention or key to change starts with awareness and being present.
  • RESCUE A DOG  I have had some terrible things happen in my life this past year and I am still here!  I have learned that I am more resilient than ever.   Know your strength because it will get you through life!  And Go Rescue A Dog!  I did and  I am in love with her and my body is full of the love hormone, oxytocin!
  • A DAILY YOGA SEQUENCE  One of the best Wellness Strategies is to have a Yoga Routine you can do on a daily basis.  The following is one I do to keep myself stress-free and happy:  Twist (lying on your back and bring one leg over, holding the foot with your opposite hand or use a strap)–Bridge–Downward and Upward Facing DogPlank and Side Plank Poses–Extended Side Angle PoseFull Backbend or an arch pose such as camel or bow–Headstand or Shoulderstand (or another inversion)..if doing Shoulderstand, follow by Tranquility Pose, Plow, and Fish Pose

The next Pre-Holiday Wellness Yoga Day Retreat will be Wednesday, December 9, 2015 in Issaquah, Washington.  And it’s never too early to sign up!

http://www.frangallo.com

Fern and Snow

Fern and Snow (taken on our hike)


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