Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mr. Death


Nicholas' lit jack-o'-lantern

Mr. Death is who Nicholas chose for his pumpkin pattern this year, but that's getting ahead of myself!

After his last soccer game of the season this past Saturday morning, we took Nicholas to the pumpkin patch. 'We' was Amy, Uncle Mark, Donica and me. As you'd guess, I took scads of pics (unphotoshopped) but this (above) was my favorite! He was so cute trying to pick up the pumpkin he picked out for himself (and gets extra points for bending his knees!)

Amy's garage was the "manufacturing plant." Mark was in his spot with his own pumpkin; Amy was in her spot with hers. Across from them was Nicholas, with Donica helping him figure it all out. Somewhere along the way, they both agreed that Nicholas' pumpkin would not quite work for the pattern he chose, so they switched with the 4th "extra" pumpkin, slimmer but taller.

Then they went at it! The slimy, slippery, messy seeds inside were carefully saved, every one! We all had anticipation for the roasted seeds to come, thanks to Amy's delicious recipe.

The tedious punching of holes on the pattern was all part of the suspense for Mr. Death. No one doubted for one second that he would be ferocious. And so he was/is! But as I said,


Even Nicholas would say, "It's just pretend!" It's all part of our lovely Halloween tradition, right?!

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Green Fair Chair

Empty green chair on the ferris wheel.

The theme for Tuesdays Photos this week is GREEN. So this is my chance to hit 2 birds with one stone and tell you about our county fair 2 weekends ago, before we left for Hannover.

You know that Nicholas is 6 years old. This is our FIFTH time to take him to our county fair held in October. By now, weeks before it's time, he'll be asking, "When's the fair, G'ma?" We get so tickled because if you could have seen the fearful expressions on his face the first year (he was just 2 + 3 months old) compared to now, you'd see the transformation. Now he wants to go on rides that he's not tall enough for!

This year for the first time they had an alpine ski ride that took you the full length of the fair, 30 minutes round trip. Since Donica is afraid of heights, I was the lucky one to go with Nicholas, twice: once at the beginning (around 5p when it was still light) and once at the end when it was already dark. Lots of pics from a different vantage point, which you can see in the photo album. The pic above, for instance was taken almost at eye level of the ferris wheel.

The green chair is full!

Later, Nicholas and I rode the ferris wheel together, just so you know he really was there! But we were in the blue chair, which happens to be his favorite color.

Donica gets to ride the stomach-churning rides with him. Well, maybe not any more! After 3 of them, she had to "puke!" I tell you this because it's all part of the fair. Nothing to be embarrassed about, right? When I told Nicholas I couldn't ride some of the rides because they would make me vomit, he asked me what 'vomit' was. When I went through the motions, he said, "Oh! Puke!"

So now we have to wait another year before we figure out who needs to go with us to ride on the stomach-churning rides with a 7-year-old boy. Someone who won't puke! Someone who will gladly leave the green and blue chairs to Donica and me!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The UCLUELET Vacation Spot

Mission accomplished (don't we wish)! I have finished my vacation albums in time to fly back to Atlanta today from Hannover. Just as I had hoped.

Talk about a vacation spot! It doesn't get much better than this if you like the ocean AND mountains, which we do. Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, CANADA!

If you're driving a vehicle (we had a rental that Donica called the Mafia Car, the dark-blue Dodge above), or walking, there's really only one main way to get there from Vancouver and that's by BC ferry. It reminded me of all the 2-hour ferry rides we used to take from LA to Catalina Island back when the kids were young and Bill was on InterVarsity staff.

The ferry took us to Nanaimo, on the east side of the island, where we then drove the 3 hours across to Ucluelet on the other side. But first we stopped at Port Alberni midway and took a stroll of the little town. The Harbour Quay above is it's major landmark.

Once in Ucluelet, we headed straight for our accommodations and found ourselves in an incredibly gorgeous and soulful condo, overlooking the harbor on the ground floor. Many of my harbor pics in the photo album were taken just feet away from this living room window. I'd go out first thing in the morning and catch the fog. Or in the afternoon when the full sun was shining. Or in the early evening as the sun set. We felt so lucky to have such a view!

That very first day, we lost no time and went out to walk the Wild Pacific Trail, with above lighthouse, which is Ucluelet's oceanside view (our condo was on the harbor inlet). The album will give you a taste of the varied coastline with its rainforest and rocky beaches.

Speaking of taste, every meal we ate out was fabulous. This was my first time ever to have cedar-plank salmon. As you see, they served it on the plank! Salmon has never tasted so good. I think Donica had Mahi Mahi. We did stick to seafood, BTW. (But I have since heard that Canadian beef is better than anywhere in the world, so I wished I had tried it at least once.)

Thus "ends" * my posting of such a wonderful memory for us. As Donica says, it was just too short! We'd definitely go to the island again, if we have a chance, to see Victoria on the southern tip and more of the eastern side. So totally worth it!

[* Since Sharlene K seemed to wind her way through many of my pics, I will probably need to spend some time on her one day, just for the halibut!]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Coast from Ucluelet to Tofino

I'm still going backwards. Are you following me?

Our first full day on Vancouver Island, we drove the 41 km from Ucluelet to Tofino along the Pacific Rim National Forest. OMG. Talk about varied! It felt like we went from one world to another. You'll see it in the photo album.

First of all, I expected the entire drive to have the ocean visible to us from the car. Not at all! In fact, it felt like we were in a rainforest the entire way except for when we got out of the car and had to walk through it to get to the shore. This bog (above) was one of our first stops, with an .8 km loop between ancient stunted trees and meter-deep moss. Most of the trail was over a boardwalk.

The picturesque Wickaninnish Inn (above) was one of the best seaside photo ops. Most of the day into early afternoon was still in fog, so there was a definite mood to everything. The foggy mists know how to give personality to everything they touch.

Because the Pacific Rim National Park is in a rainforest between Ucluelet and Tofino, we were surrounded by it the entire way. In the Spruce Fringe (above) we saw some of the tallest trees anywhere, Sitkas, just a tad shorter than the California redwoods.

A couple hours hours after we started, we reached Tofino (above), our destination, in time for Mr. Sun to shine. And shine he did! We had planned to eat dinner there at one of their fine restaurants, but after seeing all we wanted to see in town, it was too early to eat, so we drove straight back to Ucluelet, the 41 km, and ate a great meal there.

For those of you living anywhere close to this paradise, we highly recommend it. If you like nature, you've got it! Pristine, uncluttered, unpopulated NATURE. Therapy for the Soul!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Saturday Night at Pumpkin Creek

For a lovely 4 hours last night, from 3:45 -7:45, Donica and I babysat little 16-month-old Leo, the son of expats here in Hannover from Donica's Atlanta office. They'll be here for 2-3 years and are in the process of moving from one apartment to another. Our taking Leo out freed them up to get a lot done. And it gave us a different "diversion" from what we're used to here in Hannover, especially when Nicholas is not around. I have a feeling this won't be the last time we offer our services! He was a total charm.

We took him in his stroller on the tram to city center where the early night-life was buzzing. So much is always going on in the city, where street musicians pick out their spots and entertain. Glory of glories, there was my Cheyenne friend from last December's Christmas market, where I had found my Soul. This time I bought his CD on the spot (since I had lost out on it before).

Interestingly, we found out throughout the evening that little Leo would be mesmerized by the musicians. He'd watch and sit still. If Donica started rolling him away, I'd say, "Oh, let him watch a little longer." You just never know what gets absorbed into those young, early minds. Besides, I wanted to stay longer, truth be known.

After eating a great meal together and then dropping him off back home, Donica and I continued on our way back to our own apartment, feeling so deliciously good about spending our evening with a little child again. "Of such is the Kingdom of God" has never been truer said.

And that on a "Saturday night at Pumpkin Creek!" (Did the rest of you grow up saying that about Saturday night, I wonder?)

Tomorrow morning (Monday) I mosey over to Christina's (in her Hannover suburb) for another blogger get-together. This is becoming a ritual for us every time I come to Hannover. See why I feel so lucky!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What We Say In Our Heads

Today we will miss Nicholas' soccer game (boohoo) because we're here in Hannover. Last week all of us were there: Amy, Dennis, Mark, Bill, Linda, Donica and me, as well as Daddy Nick and his parents.

Thinking of Nicholas (6) playing sports reminded me of when he was swinging at our house just before bed in late August, after the school year had started. He really wanted to swing (which kinda surprised me), so as he swung, I glided next to him. I hoped it might calm him down before bed.

SUDDENLY, I exclaimed, "Nicholas! When did you learn to swing by yourself??!! Did you just learn at school?"

No, his school doesn't have swings, believe it or not. He had learned to pump-swing while at daycare this summer, just before school started. Something we have tried to teach him forever!

Then he said, when I told him I was so proud of him, "I know! I said to myself in my head, 'I wish G'ma could see me!'"

They say "Be careful what you wish for!" In this case, Thank You for that, dear Nicholas. Your wish is my command!

Broken Group Islands Nature Cruise

Sometimes it's just easier to go backwards, so after telling you all about Vancouver, the city, at the end of our vacation, here's the wildlife/nature cruise we took our last full day on Vancouver Island. It was 5.5 glorious hours on Toddy and Al's home, their 53' Archipelago yacht, 14 of us passengers as their guests!

Even though we left at 10a, it was still barely daylight. So in the entire first half of the photo album, it's hazy and without sun. No problem for me (though chilly) because I love that kind of mood. This fishing boat (above) was heading out for its catch-of-the-day (or was it already coming back in?).

Speaking of chilly, our hosts came prepared, offering nice, soft and thin-enough gloves to still operate the camera. I did find out, however, that it was cold enough to disable certain of my camera functions (namely the zoom). So I had to bundle up the camera from time to time.

Besides the myriad seals/sea lions (you'll get your fill in the album!), we did see several eagles but not close enough to get good shots. You can see they're eagles but that's the closest we got for my 12x zoom. We saw several other birds, for which we were told their names. I know I got many cormorants. But the other birds are nameless for me right now. We saw several gray whales and even saw their tails pop out but I could never get the camera on them fast enough. There's only one pic showing only the hump of one whale (see if you can spot it because I forgot to name it in the album). These whales have been living on Earth for only the past 30 million years, that's all!

As the sun came out, the colors were more vivid, as you see. You can also tell why these are called the Broken Group Islands of Barkley Sound. I actually was just as fascinated with them as the wildlife! Just spectacular in all their different shapes and sizes. It looked like sea-lion colonies were claiming their own little islands.

BTW, those sea lions preen and act coy with the best of them! Al told us that they will cock their snouts up in the air like they could care less if anyone is watching them, but then they'll tilt their heads and look to see if anyone IS watching. I actually captured that several times. So cute.

What a memory! And it started and stopped so close to where we stayed in Ucluelet Harbor, just a stone's throw from our condo. We'd do it again in the blink of an eye.

[While the cat is gone (in fact, she's flying to Basel from Amsterdam as we speak), the mouse has played :). But she'll be back here in Hannover by late afternoon tomorrow!]

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Putting Our Face On It

Down the street from our apartment in Hannover.

Yes, I made it back to Hannover safe-n-sound! I left in rain yesterday...in Atlanta, NYC and then Paris this morning. But when we landed in Hannover just before noon, the sun welcomed me. How nice of him!

And I was thinking about how we bloggers write about the weather and the seasons and how we love the colors or it's foggy or raining and we're this week on Vancouver Island or in LA or Hannover, visiting with so-and-so, attending this or that, reading, or doing such-n-such. On and on and on.

We tell our stories and we take our photos. Always putting a face on what's there for us so that we'll recognize it, distinguish it from something else, or see it for the first time. It's our gift to each other. Often it's our gift to ourselves.

Yup, I just went through my blogroll and wanted to say Thank You for the unique contribution we all make to each other. We all come with our own face written all over our individual blogs.

We could pick each other out in a crowd, couldn't we!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Whetting the Appetite

Little did I know last night, when I posted the horse fields near our apartment in Hannover, that Donica would awaken me this morning with a flight itinerary for ME to Hannover tomorrow. SURPRISE! She was leaving today for a 2-week crazy trip to Amsterdam, Basel, Paris and Hannover. I wasn't scheduled to go with her because of how much she'd be gone (from Hannover). BUT! When she realized she'd be in Hannover for the last week, she made it work. We discovered long ago that even when she's gone, if we're in the same time zone we do so much better.

So, unbenownst to me, I whetted my own appetite!

Now let me whet your appetite with these pics from our recent Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada (what an address!) trip. The above photo is taken from across the harbor from the condo where we stayed. A first-floor unit of that middle, cape-cod blue building was ours for the week. The photo below was during early morning fog, standing in front of our condo's living room window the opposite direction. What a view either way, coming or going!

I have gone through most of my pics, getting them ready for albums. A separate album altogether will be of our 41 km drive up the coast from Ucluelet to Tofino (below).

Also, there will be an album of our 5.5-hour wildlife boat excursion into Barkley Sound, amongst the Broken Group Islands near Ucluelet. In fact, we embarked our boat a stone's throw from our condo across the harbor.

Being in Hannover should give me ample time to work hard to complete the albums. That's my goal.

So, talk to you next from Germany! Don't go away!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Build It and They Will Come

This week's theme for Tuesdays Photos is FIELDS. Immediately, in my mind's eye, I went to the horse pastures near our apartment in Hannover, Germany, where I love to walk. This particular field is across the street from the stables and main pasture and doesn't always have horses. But this particular day in September, these beauties welcomed me.

It's hard for me to hear FIELDS without thinking of Field of Dreams and the catch phrase we often repeat, "Build it, and they will come." Growing up in a conservative preacher's home, I also often heard "the fields are ripe unto harvest," in reference to evangelism.

Whatever we think of when we hear FIELDS, I'm guessing, is expansive, productive and ripe for something. Maybe it's our heart, our mind or our soul. That place where we are still tentative or disbelieving. That place where we search for meaning. Or where we long for healing or enlightenment or peace.

Sometimes we just need each other to believe in our expansive FIELDS. The tiniest touch or encouragement. The one "yes" that takes us over the hump. Sometimes we just need someone to say, "Build it. Just do it!"

And then the FIELDS are ripe unto harvest. All those things we need come to us. The light turns on and we see. We see that the FIELDS are within us, ready for the limitless skies!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Symbol of Friendship

Going backwards (I see) through our recent trip to Vancouver Island-Vancouver-LA, I want to stop in Vancouver again, where Expat Traveler so graciously tour-guided us (see photo album). This time, I want to highlight the Inukshuk (pronounced Ee-NOOK-shook).

This Inuit word means "in the image/shape of man." I've also seen "thing that can act in the place of a human." It is among the most important objects created by the Inuit, who were the first people to inhabit portions of Alaska, Arctic Canada and Greenland. They built them:

* As hunting and navigational aids
* As message centers
* To show where food was stored
* To mark entrance to spiritual landscape
* To act as helpers in hunting caribou

When we were on Vancouver Island (before touring Vancouver, the city), we bought a small Inukshuk as a remembrance of our visit. The Northwest Coast is so heavily influenced by the First Nations people, and the Inuit have always been a favorite of mine. We also bought an Inukshuk trivet for Judy and Dave as a keepsake for our budding friendship.

But it wasn't till our time with ET in Vancouver that we realized the deeper significance of our purchases. "These beacons of the North have now been adapted as symbols of friendship, reminding us that today as in yesteryear, we all depend on one another" (from the gift tag). It's a symbol for the whole world!

I first heard about the Inukshuk on Christina's blog last December and read there that it had been chosen as the symbol for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. But I had totally forgotten about that until we saw the merchandise already being sold in stores.

Since the Inukshuk is "the image of man," see how easily it will fit whatever winter sport being played. I love the creativity!

This is so incredibly soulful to me--all of it. The shape, the translation, the history, the significance. It makes me realize that our foreparents had something our technology so often lacks: Hope and Friendship. It's a gift we should give more often, yes?!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Seasons Greetings

Dennis had told me that if ever I needed an idea of what to get his mom, pick something related to a season. Any season. He wasn't kidding! Both outside and in, Judy has decorated their house with everything HALLOWEEN. In this particular pic, she and I were at a Christmas store in Newport Beach, eating it all up and getting ideas, I'm sure, for a season to come. But at their house, this is what I mean. I love it! A total kid at heart. Actually, I think even Dave gets into it because he was the one who picked out a huge spider for the hallway.

While all this is happening--the busy entertaining, making their house a home, cooking, going off to meetings or organizations with which she's involved, she takes care of their one dog and 4 cats. Here's Annie (as in Little Orphan) taking everything in and being just as soulful about the whole thing as anyone possibly could. She captured my heart!

Just before Judy drove me to the airport on Tuesday morning, Dave took a couple pics of us sitting in Annie's spot. In fact, you don't see her but Annie is on Judy's lap, saying good-bye as well.

Judy is my age (well, 3 years my senior). Don't we make a couple of great-looking mothers for our children?! :) I told her that this is a brand new experience for me, having the in-law parents meet in their homes and get acquainted up close and personal like this. It didn't happen with Bill's and my parents (different states, I assume), nor did it happen with us and Amy's first husband's folks (our divorce, I assume). This time is a charm, I see, so I'm gonna live it up from one season to the next.

Thank you, Judy and Dave, for your incredible "seasons greetings" to me and all I represent. Next time Donica will be with me...and maybe even Amy!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Piano Man

After 10 glorious days away in nature (Vancouver Island) and the city (LA), where do I start! My head is full. My heart is soaring. My photo albums are bursting at the seams.

So where do I start but with a soulful collection that brings back so many memories from my childhood when these player pianos were more common. Here's Dave (Dennis' dad) whom I have now just met. The piano man. This particular piano is a Duo-Art brand that Dave is threading with a paper music roll which he had picked out from a huge collection. And you think WE'RE bad!

What's absolutely delightful about these player pianos, of course, is watching the keys move by themselves! I never tire of watching them play magically as the music fills the room. Maybe Mom was sitting there doing the classical pieces; maybe her step-dad was there playing the honky-tonk by ear with an ecstatic grin on his face. I was once again mesmerized, just as in my childhood days!

Remember the ditty we used to say while doing our folded-hand motions:

Here's the church, here's the steeple.
Open the door and there's all the people.

At one point, after all my pics, Judy decided to take off all the photos standing on the baby grand. I never would have asked her to go to that trouble, but she must have wanted me to see all the "people!" And there they are: all the strings willing and ready to play any piano man on any music roll.

It really WAS like a church and steeple for me because of how soulful the entire experience was, from beginning to end. I wonder if everyone has had a chance to go to this kind of church?!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Expats for a Day

Between here and there (Vancouver Island and LA), I have 6 wonderful, free, Internet hours with my laptop here in my hotel room, while waiting for my flight to see Judy and Dave in LA. I've decided to use this time to make a post of our time with Expat Traveler (ET) yesterday!

In a word, it was GLORIOUS! Everything about it. We drove off the BC ferry at 12:15p and drove straight to ET and P's house 15 min. away. How very special to be welcomed to their home, meeting them both for the first time, before we 3 girls went on our merry way to see the sights. Before we left, however, I told ET I just had to take a pic of where she sits when she writes her posts. That's the posed-unposed shot of her above (ha).

Then P was "told" to come join her for another "posed-unposed" shot since the lighting there was spectacular, under a "ginormous" skylight. Are they just the cutest couple or what! I knew that shot would be better than when we met later at 7p for dinner.

While Donica drove, ET then became our fabulous tour guide around the world-class international city of Vancouver. One of our first stops was at this suspension foot-bridge over a waterfall chasm. Donica, bless her, afraid of heights, still took a few steps before turning back--just to say she did it. Here (above) ET and I are standing at the middle of the bridge, where a nice gentleman kindly took our pic.

Later, just to show that Donica was such a good sport with us, we stepped into this great shop where I was able to capture her with ET. Donica is always a happy camper when she can shop! BTW, ET is the first in my Blogger Neighborhood to meet Donica. She, Donica, fit right in! After all, she's "met" ET through her comments on my blog.

In the last hour before dinner, while the sun was setting, we visited the Queen Elizabeth park where ET and P were married last December. Months ago I had seen these bronze statues in her wedding album and had told her I'd LOVE to see them some day. Did I really believe I would?! So incredibly soulful.

Which I guess is the other good word for the day: Glorious AND Soulful. The sun was shining; ET had the day off and was so ready and willing to guide us; we had incredible food (Thai for lunch; their wedding-reception restaurant for dinner where P and I had lamb!); so many great sights, all of which I'll include in an album later (along with all the other albums from Vancouver Island!).

Thank you, dear ET (and P), for a piece of your life for a day. We'll never forget it!

Now I gear up for my short visit in Los Angeles with Judy and Dave, Dennis' parents. I do NOT anticipate having any Internet access till I get home late Tuesday evening. So till then, carry on carrying on!