Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good Wines for around $20.00 ...

One of my Christmas presents this year was a few decent bottles of wine to fill my always empty wine rack.  Now, I'm not a wine snob.  In fact, I didn't even start drinking wine until after college ... I had only ever tried white wines, because that was what my parents drank mostly and, quite frankly, I didn't taste the appeal in white wines.  It wasn't until after college, when my husband and I went to a local wine festival and I tried some red wines that I started to appreciate wine.  Red wine is just so much more complex and interesting, intense than white in my opinion.  Anyway, as I said, I am not a wine snob, but it is hard (in my humble opinion) to find a decent bottle of wine for under 15.00-20.00 dollars.  I'm not saying that it can't be done, but it is a challenge.  And do you really want to spend $20.00-$40.00 on a bottle of wine that may or may not be any good?  So for Christmas, I told my husband that I wanted some "nice" bottles of wine in the $20.00 to $40.00 range.  Ken rose to the challenge and he delivered, but most of the bottles are well under $40.00.

Well, I opened my first Christmas bottle of wine tonight and I have to admit that I was more than pleasantly surprised.  Ken had the buyer at a local market, with over 25 years of experience buying, help him pick some interesting looking selections ... everything from a Shiraz to a Pinot Noir, most bottles being from the year 2006.  The bottle that we opened tonight was a Malbec (Malbec is supposed to be tamer version of Merlot, so if you find Merlot too overpowering for your tastes, you might give Malbec a try).  Malbec is a new variety for me, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  The wine label is "Layer Cake", Malbec, Vintage 2009 and it is from Mendoza ~ Argentina. 



"Layer Cake", Malbec, Vintage 2009 ... from Mendoza ~ Argentina.
4.5 out of 5.0 stars



The cost is just over $20.00 per bottle.  On a 1 to 5 scale ... 1 being low, 5 high:  I'd have to give this bottle of wine 4.5 stars.  I don't know all of the fancy wine terminology, but here goes ... This Malbec was not overstatedly bold, but it did get your attention, it was rich and velvety, with a chocolaty flavor and hints of blackberry and raspberry.  It had a pleasant bouquet and decent legs.  I had two nearly full glasses, which is saying a lot about how much I enjoyed this wine ... because I usually limit myself to half a glass at a time.  And interestingly enough, I read an article the other day that was about dispelling "wine myths" ... Did you know that contrary to popular belief, the legs on a wine do not speak to the quality of the wine?  The legs on a wine are purely a function of the alcohol content in a given wine, so the higher the alcohol content the more pronounced the legs.  Now you know  : )

I usually hate to buy wine myself.  It can be so intimidating and confusing.  I mean, I read reviews and stuff on-line and sometimes in magazines.  We occasionally go to wine tastings, but I rarely am able to find a wine that I read about, with a good review, or one that I had tasted at a tasting and liked.  So aside from asking someone at the store and trusting in their expertise:  how does the average person like me wind up with a decent bottle at a reasonable price??  As I said at the start of this entry:  "Do you really want to spend $20.00-$40.00 on a bottle of wine that may or may not be any good?" ...  Well, if my adventures with my other Christmas bottles go well ... perhaps, I will share with you here ... an on-going entry:  "Good wines for around $20.00" ... and you can benefit from my experience with bottles that the gentleman who assisted Ken with his selections assured him "are widely available and relatively easy to find."  I'll hold my tongue on wine and food pairings though ... I'm not very good at that yet.  For now, I just like what I like.  Perhaps some of you can help me out on the food-wine pairing side in return? 

That's all for now.  Hopefully more to follow in the coming weeks:  Cheers!


1/5/2011 ... Bad news ... the second bottle of wine was not so good ... It made me break out in hives?  Didn't seem to bother Ken and that's never happened to me before ... but the wine didn't taste good either ... I'd give it a 1.5 tops.  It was a red Zinfandel ... not one I would usually buy, but it doesn't usually hurt to try something new? Well, maybe the next bottle will be better:  Here's hoping!  I'll post the label tomorrow, so that you can be sure to avoid this Zinfandel and save your money ... Okay here it is:  Bogle Vineyards, old vine Zinfandel 2008, California.  I would save my money and take a pass on this one.


1/13/2010  Had a Merlot last night, from "Canoe Ridge Vineyard" ... It was pretty decent, full bodied.  I'd give it a 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.  Had predominantly a berries flavors (blackberry & cherry) with a slight peppery and tobacco taste.  This wine also had very nice legs, but not much in the way of boquet.  I had fun swirling this one around in my glass ; )




"Canoe Ridge Vineyard" 2006 Merlot
3.0 out of 5.0 stars


Cheers!!








Waterbrook Reserve, 2006 Syrah
4.0 out of 5.0 stars


Been awhile since I had this one ... about 2 weeks?  So I don't remember everything about it, but I do recall that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Seem to recall it being very smooth and velvety, with decent legs.  A lot of bang for buck, as they say.  If you enjoy Syrah, you'll like this one from the Columbia Valley.






3/13/2011  Had another good bottle of wine.  It was a Petite Sirah ... never had this one before:  Bogle Vineyards, Vintage 2008, From California.   I'd give this one 4.0 out of 5.0 stars easy.  No photo and not much time to write.  Will update later ... Promise!  This one was in the $35.00 price range, but well worth the price.

11/07/2011 ... Never did quite finish evaluating all of the bottles in my Christmas wine rack.  Think, I covered most of the best ones?  ... Anyhow, I happened to have an excellent Syrah the other night while out for dinner.  I don't often find a Syrah that I like ... and I really enjoy a good Syrah ... but this Syrah was really good!!  Price per bottle may be over $20.00 a bit, as it was $9.00 per glass:  Jones of Washington, Rose of Syrah 2010.  This wine won "Gold" in the recent  2011 Washington State Wine Competition, held this past June 2011.  So  this Rose of Syrah 2010 is definitely one to consider if you happen to enjoy Syrah.  Cheers!


3/2012 ... In reflecting back over the wines I've had since this opening this entry back at the end of 2010, I would have to say almost every single bottle of wine I've had from the vineyard "Layer Cake" has been truly delightful.  I haven't had a bad bottle from them yet and their wines are surprisingly affordable. In my humble opinion, you can't go wrong with Layer Cake ... gives you confidence to experiment among their many varieties without worry. Their Malbec and Shiraz are my  personal favorites.






Wine Tasting Explained - Terms and How-to Get the most out of Wine





P.S. Just for FUN ... found this very informative art album on wines and other spirits on ArtMagick.  "A Case of YOU".   Enjoy!



12/28/2013  Been awhile since I've revisited this entry.  I have had many great bottles of wine since my last comment ... too many to name, but had an exceptionally good bottle of wine this evening that was reasonably priced as well, at around $30.00 a bottle.  Happened to have this bottle of wine with my significant other while sitting alone by an outdoor fireplace alone (together) while we waited for a table to open up for dinner, so perhaps the ambience added to the overall enjoyment of this wine?  The wine we shared this evening was a Petite Sirah 2012, by Spellbound (a California vineyard).  Seems that Syrah (Shiraz is the same thing coming out of Australia) is my new favorite red wine, but upon further investigation I found that "Sirah" is not the same thing as "Syrah":  "Syrah should not be confused with Petite Sirah, a synonym for Durif, a cross of Syrah with Peloursin dating from 1880."  The latter aside, I enjoyed this Sirah equally as well as the Syrahs I've had of late.  I personally found the Sirah to be a tad bit fruitier, with fewer tannins than a typical Syrah.  So now you know.  Cheers!

P.S. If you're in the mood for a good Syrah you might try this one Southward Syrah 2009 (at around $25.00 bottle).  From what I understand, Syrah became popular in the northwest of U.S. during the last decade when a blight hit and killed many varieties of grapes in this portion of the U.S.. But somehow the Syrah variety of grape was completely unaffected and continued to flourish.  Syrah also seems to tolerate the cooler temps on west coast as well.  The best way I've heard Syrah described is as a tamer version of the intense (but nonetheless immensely popular Merlot).  The Syrah is a bit less intense, smoother and contains a significantly lower concentration of tannins.  I've heard Syrah referred to as "Merlot Light", if that make any sense?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

We got SNOW!!! : )

One of my Christmas wishes ... right along with my kids ... was that we would get some snow up here in the Seattle area.  Well, it didn't make it exactly ON Christmas, but this will do!  I heard something odd ... something with a resonating ting, almost like a bell ... hitting the skylight in my bedroom when I went to bed after 3:30 a.m. last night and I thought to myself:  "Snow?"





I woke up early this morning and peaked out the window and to my pleasant surprise: I was right.  It had been SNOW!!  Yeah!!  Feel like a kid again ... ready to run outside right now in my PJs and PLAY, PLAY! : )

And you know:  it still is the 12 days of Christmas.  What day is this now ... the 4th day of Christmas, right?  I love it!  I dreamt of a White Christmas and now here it is.  Can't wait to wake the kids up and let them see.  They will probably be even more excited than me  : )

Better photos to follow ... when I'm not in my PJs ...

Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Let all the Earth Rejoice!!

We went to Christmas eve mass this evening.  I love the evening mass, with candles flickering softly, the smell of fresh pine, poinsettas as far as the eye can see and everyone dressed in their Christmas best.  There is a joyful anticipation in the air that can lift even the saddest of spirits.  Everyone does seem almost to be a "kid" again ... "from [age] 1 to 92" ... as the Bing Crosby Christmas song says.

I love the Christmas carols especially, even though I haven't yet found the voice in me to sing again.  I can still smile, sing in my heart and watch my three beautiful daughters sing for me.  Tonight the very talented and uplifting choir sang all three verses of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" ... and I don't know if it is just that I had never heard all three verses of the song before ... or maybe it's just that I hadn't been paying attention? ... but the third verse of this song is just so very beautiful.  Here are the song lyrics in their entirety ...

Play Song:  "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"


Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"


Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"


Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"


"Angels Entertaining the Holy Child", By Marianne Stokes
(Image Courtesy of ArtMagick.com)



I don't know, this last verse just truly speaks to me ... "Prince of Peace" ... "Light and life to all He brings" ... "Risen with healing in His wings" ... "Mild He lays His glory by" ... "Born to give them second birth".  These are things that really resonate in me.  This last verse is so uplifting, hopeful and inclusive.  I especially love the verse "Mild He lays His glory by" ... this is not a bold, in your face, self-righteous God ... He is rather humble, gentle, kind and loving.  That's my kind of God ... Creator ... Jesus.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!! ... Thank you for bringing your Light into the world.  And on this day, the day that we celebrate your birth ... your gift to us, let us remember that your Light shines within each of us and that we are called to pass it on to others.




(Ken didn't want to post our family photo here,
so this is the compromise ... and maybe it shows our  inner lights shining?)



Merry Christmas from our family to yours:  God's Peace, Light, and Love to all who pass this way.   Let all the Earth Rejoice!!   ... Indeed  : )

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Lame Duck" Session of Congress: Time to coin a new term?

"Lame Duck" session of Congress?  Maybe it's time to coin a new term?  (Hmmmm ... have to think on possible candidates for a new term ... Any suggestions?)  This session of Congress, the 111th - 2nd Session, has been many things, but "lame" is definitely NOT one of them. 




Analysts are now saying that this Congress has been (remarkably, mostly in these last few weeks of the the Lame Duck session) one of the most legislatively active sessions of Congress in the past 6 decades.  This session of Congress will no doubt go down in history for its legislative accomplishments.  Chief among these:  Signing of the Stark Treaty, Repeal of  the U.S. Military's 'Don't ask Don't Tell' policy, Passing 9/11 Healtcare Compensation Package for First Responder and the miraculous bi-partisan effort to extend the tax credits for all Americans.

I have to say that getting back to basics ... focusing on what's truly important this Christmas ... the simple things seems to be working not just at the individual and family level, but on up the chain as well.  This Christmas season, even though things have been considerably scaled back for me and my own family, I feel the true Spirit of Christmas more than ever.  This year, I see that people are genuinely smiling in the stores and malls, on the streets and in their cars.  I actually hear Christmas music in public places, as the norm rather than the exception, and I've had more than one store clerk smile and wish me a "Merry Christmas" (not just a "happy holiday") as they handed me my package over the store counter.  I think that people finally realize that even if someone doesn't celebrate the birth of Jesus, or believe in Jesus, they can still share in the joy ... the love ... the Christmas Spirit without being offended. 

On a larger scale, just maybe ... people ... Americans ... finally realize that it is our diversity that makes America unique in the world ... that makes us "America!"... that we should embrace one another and move forward instead of wasting precious time, energy and resources tearing one another apart and worrying about being politically correct ("PC").  Perhaps the hunter has taken his focus off the duck and blown PC (both in the traditional as well as in political sense) out of the water instead?

For the first time, in a long time, I can breathe a sigh of relief and truly feel as if things are looking up for this country that I love.  God Bless America and a Magical & Merry Christmas to all who pass this way!  May God Bless you and yours in the New Year.

Peace & Love,
M


P.S.  I will be keeping Congress, and all of our elected officials ... representatives of "We the people", in my prayers as we move forward into the new year.  I will pray that our elected officials will continue to embrace this newfound peace ... goodwill ... bi-partisanship, as they strive to enact legislation that serves and represents "We the people" in a concerted effort to make The United States of America strong once again.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Moon Photographs: Taken with the New Camera Mount for my Telescope

Well, I finally found the time and a reason (near full moon: 99% of full and clouds not too dense) to try out the new camera mount for my Astroscan telescope.  It was a bit cloudy, so the images are not as clear as I would have liked ... but this was a trial run ... just to see what I would ... could get.  Lots to learn:  this is a whole new ballgame for me. 

Haven't had time to look at all of the images yet.  I just choose what appeared to be the 2 best and took a look at them.  Here are my favorite thus far.  I LOVE the moon ... She and I are old friends.  : )




Photos by me, Michelle C.:  12/19/2010 ... Feel free to use, copy, post etc. ...
Give me credit if you want : )


Photo By, Michelle C.


Note:  Clouds are what make these images appear to be slightly out of focus ... This was the best I could get with the clouds in the way.


"Fly Me Away to the Dark Side of the Moon ....
.... And Meet Me on the Other Side"

Photo By, Michelle C.





Late p.m. ...

There is a lunar eclipse tonight ... but alas the cloud cover is too dense to even see the moon at all most of the time.  Even when the clouds disperse slightly ... there is still enough cloud cover to prevent seeing a clear image with the telescope or the camera.  Such is life ... there will be other times.




In lieu of lunar eclipse photos ... here is an ART render that I did ... just for FUN, titled "Solar Demise" ...



"Solar Demise", By Michelle C.

Feel free to use this image as well ... give me credit if you want : )

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Beautiful Christmas Card ...

A dear friend of mine, a woman that I look up to and admire, just sent me the most beautiful Christmas card via email.  She's always checking in on me and sending me inspiring messages ... or sometimes just something hilarious to make me laugh and smile.  Margaret is her name; I call her Margo.  Margo is a fellow photographer, a grandmother ... a mother and a kindred soul.  She's truly one of those people that make the world a better place.  God Bless you, Margo!

Her card was so beautiful that I just had to share it here with you ...





Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays!
God, our Creator's Blessings to one and all : )

Peace & Love,
M

Friday, December 17, 2010

Congress Passes Bi-partisan Tax Package: A Christmas Miracle?

"WASHINGTON – A massive bipartisan tax package preventing a big New Year's Day tax hike for millions of Americans is on its way to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The measure would extend tax cuts for families at every income level, renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and enact a new one-year cut in Social Security taxes that would benefit nearly every worker who earns a wage.

In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by rebellious Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to. The vote was 277-148, with each party contributing an almost identical number of votes in favor (the Democrats, 139 and the Republicans, 138)."

Source: Associate Press, "Bill preventing big tax hikes heads to Obama", By Stephen Ohlemacher (read more here).


It's a Christmas miracle and a blessing: Way to go Congress! I must say that I, for one, am both truly impressed and quite frankly amazed. Somehow, I didn't see the left-wing opposition going down quite so easily. Perhaps the President will be successful in achieving bi-partisan measures during the remainder of his term after all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dec. 16th - Healthcare Reform Repeal Petition Newsletter

Here is the newletter that I just received from the Campaign for the Petition to Repeal Healthcare Reform ...

Dec. 16th, 2010


TOP STORY »Petition Drive is "Red Hot"

The Repeal It Now! Campaign to erase the disastrous HealthCare law is off to a red-hot start. Even in its first few weeks, the campaign has produced overwhelming results. Americans from coast to coast have responded strongly to television ads calling for outright repeal of the HealthCare Act. "We are well on our way to our first million petitions," said campaign chairman, Ken Hoagland.

"Mike Huckabee, Michael Reagan and even Joe the Plumber have helped us gather a growing momentum that will inevitably result in outright repeal of this destructive law in the coming year," said Hoagland. "We will use the largest petition drive in the history of the nation and a variety of overwhelming grassroots and legislative tactics to force a veto-proof vote for repeal in the coming months," he said.

"Because Congress forced this law down our throats over the objections of a majority of Americans it is only right that the American people answer back with an overwhelming demand for repeal," said Hoagland. "The many destructive realities of the new law have already begun to damage the fabric of American society and our economy and are fuel for the fire that now burns in the American people for outright repeal of this destructive legislation," he said.

The Repeal It Now campaign announced its first petition delivery will be in January to greet the incoming Congress. "There must be no mistake by Congress that the American people are determined to see this law overturned," said Hoagland. Through this newsletter and special e-mail reports the Repeal It Now campaign will inform supporters of both our progress and the expected "maneuverings" that Washington will offer to avoid faithful representation of American citizens. "We won't be accepting any excuses," said Hoagland.

"Yes, many pundits don't believe that the Senate can be made to vote for repeal," said Hoagland. "We strongly disagree because we believe in the power of Americans to force true representation. We believe that with determination we can change the political reality that now exists in Washington," he said.

Please help us continue to drive petition signatures by forwarding this email to every family member, friend and co-worker you know and ask them to click here and Sign the Petition Today!



White House Friends Get Hundreds of ObamaCare Waivers

The White House has quietly granted more than 200 waivers for new healthcare act requirements, essentially granting repeal to more than a million people. For average Americans, however, only outright repeal through our campaign will bring relief from this destructive law.

Unions like the Service Employee's International Union (SEIU), perhaps the most partisan of all Mr. Obama's supporters (who devoted millions of dollars to attacking Republican candidates), was one of the first waivers granted -- allowing their members an "escape hatch" from ObamaCare. All unions were granted exemption from income taxes on the value of high cost plans -- unlike every other American.

Adding salt to the wound, the law exempts the President, Vice-President, cabinet officers and Capitol Hill staffers who work for Congressional Committees, among others.

The promise repeated over and over again that average Americans could keep their health care coverage has now been admitted to be false with the Administration itself conceding that as many of eight out of ten existing programs will disappear under onerous new coverage requirements.

A full list of exempted unions and others business will be detailed in upcoming newsletters.



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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Old Blue Eyes ...

Happy Birthday, Frank Sinatra!  You would be 95 this day and though you're no longer here with us in body: your spirit lives in on your wonderful music. 

Whenever spirits are down in our house, and we are in need of pick-up, my girls all sing in chorus, "Let's put Frank on!"  We turn on your CD and soon everyone is singing, dancing and laughing again.  We love you, Frank!






Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sign the Petition: You CAN Do Something to Help Repeal "Healthcare Reform" Law






Were you outraged that the "Healthcare Reform" Bill was pushed through Congress, despite strong opposition from the American people? 

Did you not buy Nancy Pelosi's claim that: "We have to PASS the bill before we can see what's in it."?!

Well, we've seen what backroom deals and thousands of pages of unread (prior to voting) documents have produced and we STILL DON'T WANT THIS "Healthcare Reform"!  If you feel the same way as I do, then visit this website and sign this massive national petition to have this lousy and damaging piece of legislation repealed:


Sign the Petition to Repeal Healthcare Reform Law

(Note: the first screen with the Mike Huckabee video clip is the signing of the petition. The subsequent screen is just if you want to contribute money to help raise awareness of this cause. If you don't want to contribute: just close out the window. You have still signed the petition.)


This campaign is being headed by former presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee.  Don't delay, visit today! Take a stand against political corruption and the potential devastation of our healthcare system (i.e., turning our U.S. Healthcare System in the fiasco that is socialized medicine in Europe).


On another note ...
As I was reading recent news articles on the Healthcare Reform Law, I happened to come across a very well written,detailed explanation of what is wrong with the Healthcare Reform Law as it currently exists.  The article also puts forth very realistic solutions for what we can, and should do, to address "fixing" our current healthcare system woes.  The article is found at the "Americans for Tax Reform" website and is titled "Healtcare Soultions" (click on title to visit the webpage).

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

President Supports Middle Class Tax Cuts Extension: Well Done Mr. President

I have to say that for almost the first time since President Obama took office, I am proud of him for putting his foot down, embracing reality and doing what he needed to do in order to look out for us, "We the people."


The President is absolutely right: continuing to stay on partisan fighting lines, quibbling over ideology, would only hurt the American people when the amount of money that they had "in their pocket" to pay bills and to try to make ends meet in this lousy economy would be further depleted by tax credits expiring Dec. 31, 2010. I've heard estimates that the average amount required to be paid out by a middle income family (without the extension of these tax credits) would be about $3,000 on average.  In terms of percentage, I have heard that if the tax cut extensions are not passed that the lowest middle class tax bracket will go from 10% tax on income to 15%.  That's a 50% increase in the taxes paid!

It's funny; Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid could seem to care less about our nation's rising national debt up until now. They want to spend, spend, and spend without a thought about the legacy of mounting debt that we leave to our children. But now that these "middle class" tax cuts have been extended, all of the sudden Democrats are hollering and whining about our mounting national debt and how "Now is not the time to extend tax cuts for the (cough, cough, choke) 'wealthy'"?!? Talk about hypocrisy!!! Since when is "middle class" wealthy? And it's not like this is entitlement spending ... It's just letting those that actually put money into the system keep a little bit of what they have during these tough economic times, in the hopes that doing so will help to get the economy moving once again.

Well done, Mr. President: you did the right thing in this instance and history, not to mention "We the people", will remember you favorably for your courage in standing up to your own party hard-liners and your willingness to compromise so that the people would not have to suffer in the name of party ideology.





12/8/2010  Well, I guess that the Republicans held out for extension of tax credits for incomes beyond $250,000.  I must say, I am disappointed in the Republican Party for doing this.  Seems THEY (the Republicans) are willing to stalemate at the expense of "We the people."  Very sad indeed!!  The Republicans should have been willing to settle for up to and including $250,000.  I guess, the Republicans want to clearly set the tone for future "compromise" early on in this congressional session?

Terminal Diagnosis for Elizabeth Edwards ...

God Bless Elizabeth Edwards and her family.  You'll be in my special thoughts and prayers.


http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/12/07/earlyshow/living/parenting/main7125280.shtml



"Death is not the end "...  It is merely the doorway for what comes next.

(@Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved, Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com)




1/31/2011  Query:  "Is a terminal diagnosis always terminal?"  Answer: In my opinion: No, it isn't.  Not if you catch the disease early enough and if you believe in the power of prayer.  Let me know who you are, what you disease is, and I will pray for you specificially.  I truly and firmly believe in the power of prayer.  God Bless you my friend!  Keep hope ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Happy Thought From My Youngest ...

My back is sore today, from overdoing in a workout again.  You'd think I'd learn to ease up a bit when I'm stressed, instead of pounding myself into the ground ... but old habits die hard, I guess?  Anyway, we went out for a nice family dinner this evening and when we came home, I went to sit by the fireplace with the heating pad on my back.  My youngest came up to me and said, "Where does it hurt, Mommy?  I'll massage your back for you."  She is so sweet.

I showed my youngest daughter the spot that hurt in my middle back.  Then she began massaging my back tenderly with her tiny, but strong, little fingers.  A few minutes later after some giggles and converstation, she announces for all to hear ... "I sure do bless the Lord with my awesomeness!"  Out of the mouths of babes ... I couldn't have said it better myself.  Perhaps her angel whispered the same into her ear for her to hear and she just decided to share?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Go University of Oregon DUCKS!!

I need to write about something happy today. Thanksgiving was fun this year, from a snow point-of-view.  So even though we were away from  our family and friends, in Texas, we had our own little family of sorts along with lots of snow to help us celebrate this year.  According to locals who have lived here, in the Seattle area, all of their lives: "We've never had a White Thanksgiving!"  The kids had a blast with getting to miss two whole scheduled days of school due to the snow.  And of course, they thoroughly enjoyed going sledding for hours on end each day, including Thanksgiving Day!



The kids' "Monster Snowball" .... Thankfully, this thing was flung at me ; )


Fortunately, we had most of the supplies needed in order to throw together our Thanksgiving dinner, and what we didn't have: we just did without. So it was a simple Thanksgiving celebration; sometimes returning to basics helps to refocus your appreciation for all that you are truly grateful to have. And while extended family was greatly missed:  we made the most of the day, on our own, the best way we knew how to do.  I think, just maybe, getting back to the simpler things in life is something we as Americans, as a nation, should all be focused on this Thanksgiving most especially, given the state of our current economy.  Just a thought: take it for what you will.

Of course, no Thanksgiving would be complete without the college football games and holiday parades. Unfortunately, neither Ken's team (the Florida Gators) nor mine (University of Texas Longhorns) are having a very good year this year.  I guess our teams' poor performances are to be expected due to the influx of a large new freshman class of players who have seen very little game time this season.  A good friend of mine, however, happens to be a graduate of the University of Oregon.  Her team, The Ducks, are having an amazing year!  The Ducks are presently in first place and headed onto the National Championship last time I checked.  So I'd be willing to bet she --my high school friend, Kathy-- is pretty happy right now.  Bet she's cheering for her Ducks as we speak.  Go DUCKS! We'll be rooting for ya'll. : )

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another Thanksgiving Day ....

Cajun injected turkey, instant mashed potatoes, my amended veggie stuffing, whole cranberries out of a can and a frozen pumpkin pie ... Oh my?!  I did make homemade gravy and Ken made a loaf of homemade bread ...  

Drawing by my youngest from last year ... Kids were too busy sledding this year to spend time
coloring turkies, Indians and the like ...

Another Turkey day come and gone ... No mushy "Thankfulness" this year ...
A prayer for our military service persons overseas away from their own loved ones this Thanksgiving 2010.  And a champagne toast to the Pilgrims and Indians who had the right idea that original celebratory feast day so long ago.  With a nod to Hope that our spiraling out of control country will find its way back to the ideals of this long ago feast that we Americans religiously (mindlessly?) celebrate annually on Thanksgiving Day. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

National Opt out Day for Airline Travelers

I can't wait to see how the National Opt out Day for passengers traveling via commercial airlines in the U.S. works out.  I feel for those trying to get to their loved ones in time to celebrate Thanksgiving, but in truth Thanksgiving is just a day ... and so much more is at stake with our essential liberties on the line.

I will be praying for those brave enough to make a stand.  More power to you and God Bless!!

Maybe we still are the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE?




Well according to a friend of mine who travelled from Chicago, Illinois International Airport, the TSA agents were only randomly picking people for the pat-down.  My friend said, someone was in the body scanner with a line waiting for scans.  Someone else was being patted down, in front of her.  Then, the TSA agent waved her and 3 other women through ... meaning that they did not have to undergo either the body scan or the full body pat-down.  Seems the TSA is set to avoid any complications or system slow downs on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Maybe we're now the land of hypocrites?


P.S.  The icing on my cake this holiday season?  My twelve year old asks me why we, as Americans, celebrate Thanksgiving when America later stole the Indians lands, food sources, and way of life ... driving the "lucky ones?" to a miserable life on tiny government reservations?  Yeah ... Happy Thanksgiving ... I'll think on it for awhile, maybe I can find an upside ... We do have Native American Indian blood in our family a few generations back.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What about trains, buses, ferries and cruise ships?

I have to ask myself lately:  Why is Department of Homeland Security focusing solely on passenger airliners? 




 
 
 
[Photo is currently being edited]
 
Photo By Me:  Grapevine Vintage Railroad
(@Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved, Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com)



What about trains, buses, ferries, cruise ships ... concerts, professional sporting events, political rallies?  Why not be proactive in prevention ... instead of waiting for a tragedy to occur before implementing security protocols?  Hmmm ... maybe because, you can't drive a train, ferry or cruise ship into the White House?  Guess, you could try a bus, but you probably wouldn't get very far.

Then again, do I really want to have to undergo a body scan or a "full body pat-down" in order to go to the movies or the mall?  Maybe not ... but surely there is some happy medium.  The bottom line is that I'm not going to live my life in fear of some terrorist attack.  When it's my time to go, I will go and I will have no regrets ... I guess, there is a fine line between being safe and being free.

What a world we live in?  So what can we, as ordinary citizens, do about it?  My twelve year old is already planning her political career ... She's starting with a run for student body president of her middle school next year, but she has high hopes and aspirations ... I've no doubt she'd get into government, take names and make some heads roll.  Ah, the energy and idealism of youth ... Too bad we have to grow up?

Friday, November 19, 2010

New TSA Invasive Security Procedures: Is this still the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE??

People today are worried about their "information" falling into the wrong hands. Specifically: name, age, date of birth, credit card numbers and the sacred social security number. You'd never share your most private health information with your casual acquaintances, employers, even extended family in some cases. And fingerprints ... those are sacred too, are they not? Yet the federal government now wants to you to submit to a full detailed body scan ... a print of your entire body. And some people are willing to submit to this scan? It just boggles my mind?! Truly?! Many people say that they are willing to submit to these scans because they don't want to undergo the alternative: the invasive "full body pat-down" which has aptly been described as "sexual assault under any other guise than government."  While the detailed body scan images --which are essentially an image of you without clothing ...nude-- have been referred to as pornographic?

I say that the government has no right to ask for either a body scan or a "full body pat-down" as condition of my flying unless they have reasonable and justifiable grounds that I specifically pose a threat to the safety of the passenger airliner that I am about to board. In this country, what used to be the land of the FREE and the home of the brave, one is assumed innocent until proven guilty. It is totally absurd to me that we would allow the presumption that ALL potential airline passengers are guilty as a rationale for subjecting citizens who choose to fly via passenger airlines to these new TSA security procedures ... especially when these new procedures fail to make any significant improvements to overall airline safety.  There are still too many shortfalls in the TSA security protocols, chief among these shortfalls being that the body scanners and "full body pat-downs" fail to detect liquid and plastic explosives.

I also find it absurd: 1) that people are willing to trust that the dose of radiation given by these machines is "safe" for repeat flyers or those already on the high side of "safe" (due to pre-existing medical or other work related exposure) on a cumulative basis; 2) that people trust that this body print image will not be stored and used for some ulterior purpose (e.g., body parts and healthy organs inventory (conspiracy theory), health fingerprint database for the government). I wonder how this "body scan" image compares to the "Life scan" body images being pushed by the health industry as a snapshot of your current health status, able to detect tumors, cancer, and heart disease among other things ? Is it all relevant that we see these new body scan machines roll out just after the passing of "Obama Care" ... Healthcare Reform law?  Especially in light of the fact that there have been no new incidents here in the U.S. and no specific security intelligence on new credible threats?

If this still is the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE, then let us unite and fight this latest infringement of government upon our essential liberties. Let us call them on it ... Let us refuse to submit to these gross violations of our persons and DEMAND that the government instead take steps to ensure our REAL safety when choosing to fly on U.S. passenger airlines. Namely: 1) that cargo be more thoroughly and intensely screened for explosives; 2) that trained canines be used to scan cargo, passengers and carryon luggage in an effort to detect liquid and plastic explosives which the new body scans and "full body pat-downs" cannot do; 3) that profiling by expertly trained personnel* be employed to identify persons of interest who do warrant a more thorough interview and screening process before being allowed aboarad a passenger airliner; *4) that the money being spent on these ridiculous body scanning machines be spent instead on hiring and properly training expert security personnel (i.e., former military or security personnel) to implement the latter security provisions, with their main focus being the ability to properly identity potential threats to safety, thereby focusing resources where they are most needed ... instead of straining the current system of TSA's poorly trained, poorly paid, and under-qualified staff to its very limits with the currently required screening and violating every man, woman, and child over the age of twelve.

I am sending these thoughts of mine, written here, to every elected official that I can think of. I have also made the decision NOT TO FLY ...period, without exception, until our essential liberties (not to mention basic dignity) when choosing to fly at U.S. airports has been resotred.

These days, I find myself wondering, not what planet am I living on, but rather what the **** country am I now living in??!!??

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New TSA Invasive "Body Scan" and "Body Pat Down" Procedures Are Just Smoke and Mirrors ...

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." ~Benjamin Franklin


I, personally, think that the new that the new TSA Security Screening Requirements are first, and foremost, a gross violation of our very persons not to mention our essential liberties, and  further, that these new "security procedures" are unecessary and overall ineffective measures towards the end of preventing another terrorist incident on board a U.S. passegner airliner.

Bottom line, if nothing else, ask yourself this: Why are these invasive procedures being implemented at the beginning of the busiest travel season of the year in the United States?

If "we, the people" revolt against these new procedures, when another incident happens on one or more of our passenger airliners ... if the "people's revolt", and legal challenges are successful, then the government essentially has a "Get Out Jail FREE" card. Do they not?

So do we sit back and just take the government's implementation of these new and invasive security procedures? I say "NO"!! ... Why?

Because these new procedures not only MISS THE TARGET (by a long shot!!), they are overall largely ineffective. These new "body scan" machines WILL NOT detect liquid nor plastic explosives, but trained dogs ... canines ... could. A TSA "body pat down" will not detect liquid or plastic explosives concealed in body cavities, but a trained dog potentially could.

Further, use of profiling would identify persons of interest that warrant a more thorough interrogation before being allowed onto passenger airplanes. Ironically, our Homeland Security Department will not deny that special treatment may be allowed for certain groups of people when applying these new security measures (e.g., Muslim women wearing burkas), but we won't use similar rationale for implementing profiling (a proven, highly effective security measure for Israeli Airport Security) ?


We, the American people, should DEMAND that our government not just do SOMETHING, but that our government should do what it takes to effectively implement proven security measures ( ... I plan to elaborate upon specific security measures that should be implemented in my post tomorrow...) that would prevent another tragic incident from happening on board a U.S. passenger airliner. This current across the board violation of all passengers choosing to travel via U.S. passenger airlines is sadly just smoke and mirrors.

And of course another cynical friend of mine harkens back to his ongoing divining rod for all that is wrong in the world today: "Follow the money!" ... And in this case, his theory proves true. Do the investigating for yourself: "Rapid ...Scan" the company manufacturing these "body scan" machines, parent company: "OSI Systems, Inc." ... Who recommended them? Was there a conflict of interest? Who made money off of the sale of these machines? ... Anybody working on behalf of our government? Hmmmmm ....

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Dream of Autumn ...

I love this time of year!  Autumn is my favorite season, by far I think.  I've been out trying to capture some of its inate beauty this past week ... This is my favorite capture so far.  Enjoy!  Hope Mother Nature is putting on a fabulous display for you and yours.  Peace & Love!



**************COPYRIGHTED IMAGE *****************
"Autumn Dream"

@Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved ... Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com





Monday, November 01, 2010

I feel inspired once again ...

 After all the work in recent weeks leading up to our big Halloween Bash, last night ...I decided to take some time out just for me. I took a walk in a nearby neighborhood and discovered a bounty of color, textures, and sounds as a crisp fall breeze danced joyfully through the rustling leaves ... I feel inspired once again : )




**************COPYRIGHTED IMAGE *****************
"Autumn Breeze at Twilight"

@2010 Copyright, All Rights Reserved ... Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com




Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

It's been a FUN Halloween season. I LOVE this time of year!! ... Don't know why? It just makes me feel ALIVE!! ... The colors ... the chill in the air ... the harvest ... anticipation ... celebration. I feel like a kid again : )


We had a BIG Halloween party last night, Saturday, and it was SHEER CHAOS, with the entire 7th grade running throughout our house for 3 hours ... But loads of FUN!!

So Alice, in her "Halloween Wonderland", had a Happy Halloween ... Hope you and yours did as well.




My Three Daughters' masterpieces : )  "3 Spooky Jack-o-Lanterns Be We"!!






Peace & LOVE,

Michelle

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering September 11, 2001 ...

We remember ... Let us never forget, nor become callous and unfeeling. Let us stand beside one another, as a nation, united with common purpose: pursuit of life, individual liberty and happiness ... A nation under one God ... one Creator ... despite our right to choose to worship or not as we please.




"Hope Among the Runis"

Photo By Me:  Dedicated to those who lost their lives and loved ones on 9/11
(@Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved, Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com)


Peace, Light, and Love to all pass this way!
God Bless!


M

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Walking down the path ...

There but for a moment to stay ...


(@Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved, Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com)


There is a gathering of people I once knew, and still love, in a far, far away city of old. My warmest thoughts and brightest wishes go out to ALL of you this special weekend. May God continue to Bless and guide you throughout this journey we call life.

Peace, Love, Light and abundant Joy to you all this weekend and always.

~MAE

Sunday, August 08, 2010

IL Divo ... "Amazing Grace"

Amazing performance ... Brings tears to your eyes ...



A dear friend of mine sent this to me on FaceBook ... don't normally share this sort of thing, but this one really pulled on my heart strings. Enjoy!

Peace and Love ...

M

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lazy, Uncomplicated Days of Glorious Summer ....

Wow!?! It's been over a month since I last wrote ... Tempus Fuget.  Well, not much to say these day.  I've been wound up in the lazy, uncomplicated days of glorious summer.  That being said, I wanted to write to let you know that I am alive still and doing well. I just returned from a nice long vacation in my home state of Texas (after nearly 3 full weeks). During my visit we had gorgeous weather, with lots of sunshine and white clouds aplenty --very uncharacteristic for Texas in the summertime. Normally, Texas in the summertime has clear blue, cloudless skies, as far as the eye can see ...




 
Beautiful Day ... Ft. Worth Stockyards, Fort Worth, Texas ... Fluffy White Clouds abound ...
(@Copright July 2010, Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com)



Anyway, I feel renewed after having had the opportunity to visit with all of my favorite people, family and good friends. I took way too many photos while visiting! It was FUN to shoot at the time, but sure leaves a heck of a lot of work for me to do in the post processing. I am trying my best to wade through the mountains of photos as we speak.


Speaking of photos ... while I was away, in Texas, I received word that my cemetery photo (of the one handed girl statue) was chosen for publication in the Seattle version of the Schmap Visitors On-line Travel Guide (12th Edition) .




"Angel Descending the Steps of Heaven", Photo By Me ...
from my "A Walk on the Wild Side" album, Lakeview Cemetery, March 2010 .



So I am, now, officially "published" and it is fitting, I suppose, as my last post was a tribute to my beloved grandmother, who has gone from this life onto the next ... And now, I am writing with good news regarding my love of photography and a photo representing the love and beauty found in a local cemetery. With this thought in mind, I dedicate this photo, and my "new-found success", to you my wonderful grandmother, Jeanne Dorothy G. . I love you and I miss you terribly, but I know that you are truly happy and at peace where ever you may happen to be.  Onto your next great adventure, no doubt.

Peace and Light to all who happen, by chance, to pass this way ...


M

P.S. I've done "Hansel and Grettle" ... now I'm going through the "Looking Glass" ...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Grandma Jeanne's Sunset with Shooting Star ...

Grandma Jeanne this is your sunset ... 6/12/2010 ... Bethany and I were watching it for you and we even (thanks to Bethany's great eyes) saw a shooting star zip across the horizon. Bethany made a wish for you ...
 
 
 
(Look for the shooting star to the top left of the big tree ...)



I think that just maybe ... that shooting star was you going back home ... Safe journey:  you are loved and you will be greatly missed!  Until we meet again ...


All Our Love,

Michelle & Bethany



P.S.  I've just been in a terrible overwhelming funk ... since my Grandmother's passing.  For some reason ... I just can't seem to shake it.  Vacation coming soon ... maybe that will help?  Until then, I just don't have it in me to write right now ... Until I find the words in me once me ... Peace and Love ... ~M/Isa

Friday, June 11, 2010

When life gives you lemons ...

When life "gives you lemons" and "you make lemonade" ... then life gives more lemons and you've still got a full gallon of lemonade left:  what do you do next?






This was my FaceBook post the other day ... and my wonderful FaceBook friends ... my friends ... rallied with a plethera of fanstastic answers that made me smile on a day, when I thought that a smile would be hard to come by.  One of the best answers was posted by my friend Angela ... she said "Add Tequela and invite my friends over."  What a great answer!  : )  It reminds me of the importance of having good friends to help give you a hand up when you are down ... to share not just the good times, but also the bad.  Sometimes ... (sometimes?! ...  actually almost all the time) ... it is hard for me to reach out to others and trust them with my pain ... I am a master at putting up a good front because I don't want to burden others with my pain ... my suffering, but I'm starting to realize that to not trust them is perhaps the greater insult.

Thanks to my friends, and one dear friend in particular, I am laughing and smiling during a very difficult time.  This time, the pain is surprisingly bearable and I don't feel as if I am slowly drowning.  Guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.  ; )  Thank you, my dear friends ... you have blessed me in more ways than you'll ever fully know.



P.S. Speaking of friends in good times and bad, I feel compelled to pray extra hard for your dad lately Paul and you ... hope all is going well and that my feeling is wrong.

A good friend of mine gave me this recipe for Margaritas ... I haven't been up to making these yet (my Grandmother's funeral is on Monday 6/21), but I feel the time is coming ... maybe just around the corner.  Anyway, here is the recipe for you to share ...

Margarita Recipe

Ingredients:


1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup white Tequila

1/3 cup Triple Sec

Coarse salt for coating the rims of the glasses



Dip the rims of 4 glasses in the lemon juice and put the glasses in the freezer. In a sealable bottle or shaker combine the Tequila, the Triple Sec, the remaining lemon juice, and about 2 cups crushed ice, seal the bottle, and shake the Margarita vigorously until it is very cold and the ice is almost melted. Remove the glasses from the freezer, dip the rims in the salt, shaking off the excess, and fill the glasses with ice cubes. Divide the Margaritas among the glasses.
 
 
Thank you ... I will be sure to toast to you as well when I finally get around to making these.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

An Enchanted Life ...




(Copyright @May 2010, Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com)


“An enchanted life has many moments when the heart is overwhelmed with beauty and the imagination is electrified by some haunting quality in the world or by a spirit or voice speaking from deep within a thing, a place, or a person. ”

~Thomas Moore,  The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life


Do not let fear or conformity hold you back. Step forward, with the courage bestowed in the midst of humble grace and embrace your enchanted life; for the rest remains to be written.


6/5/2010 Sometimes embracing your enchanted life maybe means helping others find the path to theirs?


Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 ... We remember ...

We remember you this day, and always, for your service, your sacrifice and your bravery for the sake of our freedom.






"It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you." ~Author unknown, sometimes attributed to M. Grundler


"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." ~Elmer Davis





"Are they dead that yet speak louder than we can speak, and in a more universal language? Are they dead that yet act? Are they dead that yet move upon society and inspire the people with nobler motives and more heroic patriotism?" ~Henry Ward Beecher

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rain, Rain ... Please ... Please GO AWAY!!

...Cause I'm dying to go outside and PLAY!!!  Yes, I happen to love dancing in the rain, but its starting to get OLD ... very OLD.  And my camera does NOT like rain one tiny little bit.  : (

It has been raining here ... grey and overcast ... for over a week now. Seems forever since I've laid eyes on the actual sun. This rainy weather doesn't usually get to me ... I see the beauty all around despite the rain, but these past few days of ENDLESS DRIZZLE and pouring rain are starting to wear on me?!!!  Help?!!!!

So  ... in an effort to remain positive and to try and brighten my dreary days ... I've been browsing through old photos with the glorious sun present.  I came across this photo last Thursday ... and while it is a setting sun, it still warms my soul to view ...


Copyright @May 2010, Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com
"Cloudstream"


The clouds in this one are tres cool too ... almost water-like ... a flowing stream of clouds. Made me smile : )


On another photographic note:  I've been doing research on IR (infra-red) photography lately.  It turns out my Pentax K-100D is one of the few new cameras on the market that is fairly sensitive to IR.  So I went and picked up a Hoya R72 filter this weekend and once the sun makes it reappearance -- have to have a good IR source in order to get decent photos -- I'll be ready to start shooting.  I'm so excited!  Feel like a kid with a new toy : )  [... In case you were wondering IR photos are very unexpected ... often with glowing elements ... very artistic and often ethereal.  I'll try to post some links here to others photos shortly.]

Hope that the sun is shining brilliantly in your neck of the woods ... and if its not that its still shining in your heart.  : )  Peace ...


M

Monday, May 24, 2010

Made it through yet another Birthday ....



Yes, it's official:  I am now another year older and wiser.  One has to wonder at this point ... just how wise can one get?  ; )   Well, I figure I've still a ways to go yet ...

Some wisdom to share with you?  Well, you're never gonna survive in this life unless you're willing to through caution to the wind and just get a little crazy from time to time.  Trust me ... I get crazy OFTEN ... that's why I'm still smiling : ).  On that note, here's me getting crazy ... splashing in the water on my birthday.






How old?  Well a true lady never reveals her age ... Give it your best guess?
... At heart though: I'm not a day over 12  : ) 




Me around the age of 12 ... think I may have still been 11 here?



Why should we have to grow up anyway ... takes all the fun out of life, no?

We none of us know how much time we have left ...
So live each day to its FULLEST!!! ...
And simply try your best not to let the little things get you down.


Life got you down?  Come splash with me!  : )


My birthday wish? ... I got to wish on a falling star a few days prior ...
Lucky ME! ...
Well, among other things, I wished  for true peace and happiness in the lives of those that I love and care about. You are ever in my thoughts ... prayers ... and always close to my heart.  God Bless!



All My Love,
Michelle 

(a.k.a.  Isabelle (my alias) ... if you know me as Isabelle and not Michelle don't feel bad ... that's who I was in many former lives ... so Isabelle is just as much a part of me as Michelle : )  ... Then again, if you found your way here from my alias, you are a rather good detective ... because I 've done my very best to keep the this blog and my alias separate.  )



P.S. Today, the 24th, is my grandmother's birthday.  HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Grandma Jeanne.  I love you all the way to the stars and back again and again!  : ) : ) : ) : )

Monday, May 10, 2010

Things that fly unexpectedly through the night


"There are no Lions, Tigers or Bears on Orcas Island."






5/9/2010 

This weekend Ken and I decided to make a retreat to the San Juan Islands, in the Pacific Northwest.   Technically speaking, this was to be our very FIRST weekend away from kids since having kids --sad, but true.  This prolific chain of islands --for the number of actual islands remains ever in dispute by locals, due to changing tides-- are very beautiful, pristine and rustic.  Furthermore, the locals have made an extensive effort to minimize intrusions by man on most of the island.  Thus, one naturally wonders:  what kind of wildlife might you happen to find roaming about upon these islands?  With this thought bouncing around in my mind throughout most of the long ferry ride to Orcas Island, the first question I thought to ask upon departing the ferry was "Are there bears or cougars on the island?"  Now, don't laugh!  When I'm in strange territory, I like to know what I am up against ... 'Forewarned is forearmed', or something like that.  Anyway, I was emphatically reassured by the owner of a nearby inn there were NOT, in fact, any dangerous wildlife to be found on the island where we were staying.  So: no worries, right?  WRONG!

Last night, my husband and I lay reclined, relaxing in the warm, soothing waters of the Jacuzzi, located just outside of the little cottage where we were staying.  We had all  the cottage lights, inside and out,  dimmed so as to enable a better viewing of the spectacularly clear nighttime sky.  Suddenly out of nowhere  a strange and rather ominous presence, a creature of the night, paid us an unexpected visit.  Yes, as we lay reclining in what I had thought had been a protective pocket of warm, bubbly relaxation, without sound or warning, a HUGE shadow, with easily a four foot wing span, swept silently through the darkness of the surrounding night in our direction.  My heart skipped a few beats and I held my breath as the ominous creature flew towards us, literally just feet away from the hot-tub, its claws extended and heading on a trajectory that seemed to end at the back of my unsuspecting husband's head. Thankfully, however, the razor sharp talons continued along a path which led them safely beyond the reach of the back of my husband's head, as the giant winged-creature continued to fly right on by us at a high rate of speed, whereupon it ended the execution of its maneuver by landing itself stealthily upon a precarious perch, atop a towering evergreen tree not twenty feet away from our Jacuzzi.

"Did you just see that?!" I exclaimed loudly to my completely clueless husband, but he had been turned at an angle, away from the huge winged beast. Thus he had not seen the huge creature swoop by in the very nearby vicinity of him.  Though, I failed to see how my husband could not have felt the resultant disruption of air-flow generated by the giant creature's swooping flight?



(Image from:  Great Horned Owl )



"Huge wingspan ..."  I managed to get out.   " ... Just flew over, not 3 feet away" I sputtered on.  "It must be an owl?!"  I concluded, finally, collecting my thoughts along with my breath.  This was my attempt  to try and explain the bewildering scene I had just witnessed.  Of course, for the moment, I omitted the fact that this creature's long sharp talons had been in such close proximity to the back of my husband's head.  I would add this piece of the story later, when I had my wits about me once again.

"Look, he's perched atop of that tall tree, just at the edge of the clearing, off to our right ." I pointed, with a shaky hand, toward the huge dark shadow which now set atop the nearby tree, it's large luminous orbs penetrating eerily into the darkness of the surrounding night.

Ken turned with skepticism to get a better view for himself.  Said treetop bent painfully in sway, lilting off to the left, under the weight of this enormous nightly-winged majestic beast.

"Wow?! That's HUGE?!!" Ken agreed, with surprise.

"Ya think?!"  I thought to myself. "And you've absolutely no idea how close his talons just came to engaging with the back of your head."

We sat watching the giant owl for several minutes, but the creature showed no signs of moving anytime soon.  Then suddenly, out of nowhere, my husband decided he needed to go inside the cottage in search for something he'd forgotten. Timing is everything???

"I'll be right back."  Ken announced, hastily, as he extracted himself from the warm waters of the Jacuzzi to brave the chilly nighttime air.

"You're leaving me ALONE? ...  ALONE, out here with that HUGE thing?!" I asked incredulously. 'Some night in shining armor you are' I thought to myself.

"Oh, he's not going to bother with you. He's too busy looking for something scurrying along the ground right about now.  Sit tight:  I'll be right back." Ken replied, and with that he went inside, closing the cottage door behind him with a loud, echoing bang.

So there I was, ALL ALONE, in the company of this huge owl, who now set upon his nearby perch intently watching me.  I took a deep cleansing breath, mostly in effort to reassure myself that all would be okay.  That being said, I wasn't going to take my eyes off this winged-fella, not for ONE second.  

"I'm bigger than he is, right?"  I attempted to reassure myself, as I tried to bury myself  into the relative safety of the Jacuzzi bubbles.

The creature, for his part, sat unmoving,  unflinching, save for a set of large luminous eyes which seemed to wander, back and forth, rapidly inside the creature's head as he went about the business of sizing me up.  But to be fair, I was in the process of sizing him up as well.  This owl was easily the size of a two-year old child and his eyes seemed to be deeply questioning me as he sat atop the nearby tree intently pondering me. I sat frozen in my cocoon of bubbling water, not daring yet to move, let alone scarcely breathe, as I pondered back this strange creature's pondering of me.  

"Surely some mouse, or rabbit, would make a tastier feast than me?" I reasoned. I guess the winged creature happened to agree with my silent observation, for after a good five minutes of sizing me up he took to flight once again, sailing away -- to my great relief-- in the opposite direction of me.  "Whew?!!!!"  I sighed, finally finding the nerve to breathe again.

While it tis true I happen to adore almost all things with wings,  perhaps I draw the line at things with wings, sporting large and incredibly powerful claws, moving stealthily under the cover of darkness, in the night, and in the nearby vicinity of ME. Especially, when those 'wings' are capable of extracting blood and pain?!!?

Once my ominous visitor had taken to flight again, and I was sure he was unlikely to return again, I began to breathe once again.  Then I tried my best to relax and unwind the spent-up tension in my neck and shoulders.  It was at this point that the more rational, inquisitive side of me began to re-engage and suddenly I wondered: was this visitation an omen?  Was this owl visitor some sort of sign or a message meant just for me?  I wondered if perhaps the visitation meant that the owl is my animal totem?  Perhaps this particular owl was a messenger sent to signal that an awakening was about occur in me?   Needless to say, I've always wondered what my animal totem might be?  I've never been able to say for certain, though I've had many interesting 'run-ins' with things with wings, over the years, starting at a very young age  [I wonder, does everyone have an animal totem? ]  At the conclusion of the latter pondering, I tried my best to put such my wondering, always wandering, thoughts aside.  I then reminded myself I was on vacation and supposed to be in the process of relaxing,  at the conclusion of which I concluded  "You think way too much, Michelle."

And so I made a sincere effort to try and relax once again, allowing myself to sink further down into the warm massaging bubbles, this time while actually breathing, long deep and slow ... "Try to relax"  I thought to myself as  my husband, Ken, finally made his reappearance and reiterated the same.



(Image Source Unknown?)




"The owl is gone."  I informed my husband.  "Do you think he'll be back?"  I wondered aloud.

My husband glanced briefly towards the empty tree-top before answering.  "Nope, don't think he'll be back.  In fact, he's probably snacking on some nice tasty treat even as we speak."  Ken tried to reassure me.

Then Ken tried to distract me with a reading of stars and constellations which painted a breathtaking picture upon the quiet of deep indigo country sky.  First Ken pointed out the Lynx, after which he moved onto toward the constellation of Cancer, but as we moved from Cancer toward the constellation of Virgo another unexpected --this time wonderful!-- surprise lit up the nighttime sky: it was a shooting star.  A beautifully glowing, dancing star  which almost appeared to be smiling right at me.  : ) I smiled my own smile, as I took in the falling star's brilliant dance.  This shooting star moved so gracefully across the indigo sky, before falling into a final magnificent twisting spiral leading it from Cancer right into the lap of the constellation of Virgo.  After which, of course, I paused to make a wish upon this falling star.  I remember thinking to myself, at the time, "God does indeed work in mysterious ways." And with that thought in mind: I have every confidence that  He has been working all along to make my wish come true.

And we did see lots of other wildlife while on the island as well, including: a huge osprey landing in its mammoth nest, a walrus, dolphins, Harbor seals, Canadian geese, deer and more.  I must have taken near 1,000 pictures.  Haven't gone through them yet to see how they turned out, but I am hopeful that I got some good shots.  It was a very relaxing and renewing weekend.  I'm glad that my husband and I made the effort to visit the San Juan Islands, even it was just for a short weekend. It's good (healthy) for parents to remember who they are (i.e., apart from their children) every now and again, I think.

Hope all of you had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend as well!    : )

Peace,

M


P.S. Ken and I were home by 1:00 p.m. on Mom's Day to spend the afternoon with the kids.  After all what would Mom's Day be without the kids, no? ; )  I'll post my trip ... tripping : ) ...  photos in a Flickr album shortly. I hope. Lots to do ...

Okay: Here is the link to photos from the trip, Flickr album:
San Juan Islands Trip Photos


Update:  Found this link with info on the symbolism of the owl and the owl as totem ... After reading this(coupled with my sixth sense and other-worldly experiences):  I'd have to say that the owl is most definitely my totem.  http://www.whats-your-sign.com/animal-symbolism-owl.html