Tag Archives: travel

Are you Depressed?

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In my opinion,  psychiatrists should first test their patients for nutritional deficiencies before writing prescriptions for Zoloftor for  antipsychotics, like Zyprexa.  Conscientious doctors send patients to get lab work done prior to prescribing drugs or increasing dosages.  There are times when people do need antidepressants.   However,  other times  spinach would go far to eliminate the symptoms of depression.   Think Popeye.

If you haven’t ever tested your nutrition levels, you might inquire with either your psychiatrist or primary-care physician. Supplements can be expensive, but you can make it back  by not having to see your psychiatrist as often. You should talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you’re on prescription drugs.

 

Vitamin D

According to my doctor, Vitamin D deficiency is a major epidemic that doctors and public health officials are just beginning to realize. This deficiency has been linked to depression, dementia, and autism. Most of our levels drop off during the fall and winter months, since sunlight is the richest source.   My doctor believes that we should be getting from 5,000 to 10,000 IU  a day.  However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends most healthy adults get only about 600 IUs daily.  Hence, the widespread deficiency and increases in depression.

Magnesium

I am forever extolling the virtues of Magnesium, because this, like Vitamin D, is deficient in most American adults, according to my doctor, and the symptoms are not pretty.  They can, in fact, set off a chain reaction of unpleasant symptoms. Our lifestyles decrease our levels of Magnesium.  Some of the things that contribute are excess alcohol, salt, coffee, sugar, phosphoric acid (in soda), chronic stress, antibiotics, and diuretics (water pills). Magnesium is sometimes referred to as the stress antidote, the “most powerful relaxation mineral that exists,” according to Hyman. It is found in seaweed, greens, and beans. The NIH recommends a daily intake of about 400 to 420 milligrams (mg) of magnesium for adult men and 310 to 320 mg for adult women.  Magnesium Citrate can also act as a laxative, so buy your Magnesium accordingly….and time it well.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I was surprised when my results showed an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency because I eat plenty of salmon and take fish oil supplements every day. That shows you just how much fish — salmon, tuna, halibut — or flaxseeds and walnuts we need to consume to be at an optimal level. These essential minerals reduce inflammation and play a critical role in brain function, especially memory and mood. The body can’t make them, so you need to either eat them or take supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are just one of the supplements I take every day for depression

Vitamin B Complex

B vitamins like vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 can provide some incredible health benefits, including reduced stroke risk and healthy skin and nails. On the other hand, a vitamin B deficiency may impact your mental health. More than a quarter of severely depressed older women were deficient in B-12, according to one 2009 study.

The best sources of vitamin B-6 are poultry, seafood, bananas, and leafy green vegetables. For vitamin B-6, the NIH recommends a daily intake of 1.7 mg for adult men, and 1.5 mg for adult women. Vitamin B-12 is found in animal foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk) and shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and crab. Most adults should need to consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 daily, according to the NIH.

Folate

People with a low folate level have only a 7 percent response to treatment with antidepressants. Those with high folate levels have a response of 44 percent, according to Hyman. That is why many psychiatrists are now prescribing a folate called Deplin to treat depression and improve the effectiveness of an antidepressant. I tried it and it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference; however, I have several friends who have had very positive responses to Deplin. You need not try the prescription form of Deplin. You could just start taking a folate supplement and see if you get any results. Your daily recommended folate intake depends on your gender, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and age. However, most adults need at least 400 mcg daily. You can also get your daily folate requirements by consuming foods high in folate, including dark leafy greens, beans and legumes, and citrus fruits and juices.

 Amino Acids

Amino acids — the building blocks of protein — help your brain properly function. A deficiency in amino acids may cause you to feel sluggish, foggy, unfocused, and depressed. Good sources of amino acids include beef, eggs, fish, beans, seeds, and nuts.

 Iron

Iron deficiency is pretty common in women. About 20 percent of women, and 50 percent of pregnant women, are in the club. Only three percent of men are iron deficient. The most common form of anemia — an insufficient number of red blood cells — is caused by iron deficiency. Its symptoms are similar to depression: fatigue, irritability, brain fog. Most adults should consume 8 to 18 mg of iron daily, depending on age, gender, and diet, according to the NIH. Good sources of iron include red meat, fish, and poultry. If you really want to get more red blood cells, eat liver. Yuck.

 Zinc

This one is SO important!  Zinc is used by more enzymes (and we have over 300) than any other mineral. It is crucial to many of our systems. It activates our digestive enzymes so that we can break down our food, and works to prevent food allergies (which, in turn, averts depression in some people, since some of our mood disruptions are triggered by food allergies). It also helps our DNA to repair and produce proteins. Finally, zinc helps control inflammation and boosts our immune system. The NIH recommends a daily intake of 11 mg of zinc for adult men and 8 mg for adult women.

 Selenium

Like iodine, selenium is important for good thyroid function. It assists the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 to the active thyroid hormone, T3. It also helps one of our important antioxidants (glutathione peroxidase) keep polyunsaturated acids in our cell membranes from getting oxidized (rancid). Most adults need about 55 mcg of selenium daily. The best food source of selenium is Brazil nuts, which contains about 544 mcg of selenium per ounce.

Iodine

Iodine deficiency can be a big problem because iodine is critical for the thyroid to work as it should, and the thyroid affects more than you think: your energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune function, and brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). When it’s not functioning properly, you can feel very depressed, among other things. You can get iodine by using an iodine-enriched salt, or by eating dried seaweed, shrimp, or cod. I take a kelp supplement every morning because I have hypothyroidism. The daily recommend amount of iodine for most adults is about 150 mcg.

Seattle Here We Come!

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Late this afternoon, I completed my final assignments for Personality Theory class and now have a 4 day break before the new term begins. Man!  That class was difficult!  I’ve never written so much in my life, but I’m happy to say that I have a 4 point and my professor just recommended I publish my last paper, so I’m pretty pleased that all my hard work is paying off.

Tomorrow, I shall turn off my computer and put my phone away and hit the road for a couple of days of sweet R&R!

My daughter, Sarah and I are going to take 4 yr. old Ingrid to Seattle for 2 of those 4 days, in order to see Maya, my 17 year old granddaughter, shown here at Seattle’s famous Pike’s Market, fiercely armed with a pineapple!

ImageRene Best musician                          Rene Best guitarist

 

We’ll be leaving in the morning.  She is so psyched about this, and so are we!   On Friday night, we’re going to have a “slumber party” at one of my best friend’s beautiful house.   Sheryl, (shown here with our mutual friend, George, who now lives in Mexico) and I have known one another since we both lived in Texas….20 years?  Something like that.  She and her partner, Dylan, are metal artists.  Sheryl specializes in patinas.  Dylan welds.  They both do amazing work!

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Sheryl and  Dylan, have created the coziest, most fabulous  living space.  Their house is full of plants and art and is …well, just perfect, really… Comfortable, beautiful and with much character.   It is in a remote-ish area and there is plenty of time to spread out and relax while we bask in the pleasure of one another’s company.  This is Dylan with their now-deceased boxer, Buddha.  Image

Sheryl and Dylan now have two beautiful black boxers, Ella and Able.  Our little Beatrix will be no match for these two big guys.  I’m planning to keep them apart.  These two dogs are like thoroughbred racehorses, and every bit as graceful.  They’re both brilliant, too, and have no idea that they are dogs.

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 It has been a long time since I’ve had the time to just hang out and have fun.   Maya is bringing a friend, and we’re just going to relax, eat pizza, play cards, watch movies and have a good time.  I SO look forward to spending this time with my family there!!

 The coming school  term is going to be difficult.  Two complex classes, lots of writing and much time and energy will be expended.  This will give me time to relax and unwind a little…to recharge, as it were.  My daughter Sarah needs this, too.  It will be good.

Can you see the smile on my face??     Can’t wait!

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The King Returneth… An Uber App Review, Capellini and A Lot of Theatre Talk…

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My husband, John,  returned from the 2014 TCG National Conference in San Diego last night  feeling renewed and excited, having learned a lot more about the play writing arena.  He feels that this conference really helped him elevate his endeavors to a more professional level.   He saw many one act plays and worked with some notable Hollywood writers, such as the guys that wrote the HBO series, “Hung”.

It was fun to see how this conference sparked his enthusiasm and breathed new life into his ardor for play writing.  Can’t wait to see what he does next.  He is now urging ME to write a play and to attend next year’s conference with him.  I hope to be able to do that, but since I still have another year of my grad program to do, it isn’t likely that I will be able to accomplish it just yet.

One can dream, however.

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Global Citizenship is one of TCG’s four core values (Artistry, Advocacy, Diversity and Global Citizenship), underscoring the organization’s  belief that the future of the U.S. professional not-for-profit theatre requires a connection to the international network of theatres, artists and other cultural leaders.   John loved how the group promotes cultural and aesthetic diversity, and learned about many  of those things as they apply to playwriting in this context.

This was a good thing.  I’m so happy that he went, and I love the fire that attending seemed to have lit under him.  His voice sounded so excited as he spoke of it all, and I was glad to hear that. Can’t wait to see what he does next.  He also got some excellent leads toward production deals for his own work.

In other news, I  had a nice meal of capellini with fresh, organic tomatoes, peppers and basil waiting for him when he got home.  I served it with some pistachio-encrusted asparagus and some of the organic zucchini that we picked last weekend, cooked  in a light white wine sauce with Hawaiian sweet onions.  I also made a nice salad of sliced tomatoes, avocado and other earthly delights.  It was delicious, and John was appreciative of my efforts.

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We ate slowly, sipped wine and had a lovely visit after he got home. I loved listening to him talk about his time in San Diego, and I had fun filling him in on everything that has been going on here…and no, this isn’t us in the pic below.  Just illustrating someone else eating FISH, which I, the vegetarian, never eat .

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While in San Diego, John tried out the UBER app on his iPhone for the first time.  He is now quite enthusiastic about it, so I think it will be regularly used during our future travels.  The app is one that enlists a network of private drivers to run a cab service that is a fraction of the cost of regular Taxis….and the experience is much more pleasant than that provided by the usual cab service, so he was happy.

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It is a little hard to explain exactly how this app works, but the concept goes a little something like this:  Users download the app for either iPhone or Android platforms, and then use it to signal their needs for a ride.  Within a few minutes (John reported less than 5 minutes every time he used it.) nice, shiny black cars show up to take users to their destinations.  Since the user’s credit card is already configured to the mobile app used to call for the ride, the payment and tip are both charged automatically, so no cash is exchanged.  John said service was perfect, and that he enjoyed using this app very much.

John and I both love San Diego.  We stay there from time-to-time, in our timeshare near Balboa Park, but this trip was all business, and I was busy here in Portland, so I stayed behind this time.

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I’m glad that he is home now.  He still sleeping this morning, and I am getting ready to make some Meyer lemon pancakes with blueberries.  The aroma will wake him, and when he wakes to the smell of something delicious on the stove, he is in an excellent mood all day…so cooking this morning, is a win-win.

Ecola State Park – Cannon Beach, Oregon

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What better adventure is there on a beautiful Oregon afternoon in June, than to take off for places we’d never been?  This time, it was Ecola National Park near Cannon Beach on the incredible Oregon Coast.   We have been to Cannon Beach many times, but this was our first trip to Ecola Park.  William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition wrote about this place, “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless Ocean…”

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We hiked through a couple of trails and stood at the apex of the cliff and watched the azure waves undulate slowly across the sand below.  It was breathtaking. I thought of a friend, far away, enduring the sweltering heat and mosquitoes inherent in an unsavory environment, so I shot a little video and sent it via text message so he could share this moment with me.

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John and I must have walked for miles. Each view seemed to be more spectacular than the next.  So hard to believe this is so close to our home.

ImageThe Pacific was in front of us and the forest behind us, and  beautiful Forsythia, a widely cultivated ornamental Eurasian shrub, was in bloom everywhere.  Ingrid and I talk about a magical white deer that feeds on Forsythia.  The story goes that if you see the deer, you will have five continuous days of good luck.  When we go on road trips, this is what we talk about, and four-year-old Ingrid keeps a watchful eye out for him at all times.

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There were many little streams running through the woods, so we could hear those gurgling with the roar of the ocean in the background.

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The water, beaches and forests of Cannon Beach abound with wildlife.  Whales pass by during their bi-annual migration.  The shoreline teems with birds, including many types of gulls, stellar jays, chickadees, nuthatches and hummingbirds that hang out locally.  Many other varieties stop by during migration.  Elk and deer can be seen in the forest and meadows.  Raccoons and squirrels are plentiful as well.  This place is a true wonderland!

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Even the forest afforded us magnificent views of the ocean!  Every time we turned a corner, there was another natural phenomenon to behold.  We were literally surrounded by beauty every minute that we were there!

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There were spectacular views everywhere…

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Others were out enjoying the day as well, but it wasn’t crowded at all.

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What a nice day trip this was!  We are both thankful to live so close to this kind of magnificence.  Never let it be said that we do not appreciate that which surrounds us.  It is awesome….in the old, pre-Bill and Ted’s Big Adventure sense.  Awesome.  Visit Oregon! You’ll be glad you did.

Mothers Day Weekend – Traveling the Historic Columbia River Highway

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As an early start to Mothers Day weekend, John, Ingrid and I decided to take a day trip across the historic Columbia River Highway on the Oregon side of the gorge.  It looks isolated, I know, but is actually only about a half hour away from our house.    The entire area is magically beautiful with its lush greenery and wispy cloud cover.  There are many, many waterfalls along the way, and I am always delighted to see them. The area has a plethora of places to hike and hang out for the day.

Our first stop was Multnomah Falls.  Ingrid was very happy to be there!  There was a moderate crowd…not bad….and it rained on and off, lightly,  with intermittent sunshine.  Could have been worse.  We, in fact, had a great time!

The falls is a 611-foot-tall, 2-tiered  roaring cascade of icy water that allows visitors to experience the power and beauty of nature up close and with ease. According to Native American folk lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. Although you can see the top portion of the falls from the highway, to view both tiers you have to walk to the viewing area located in a carved-out opening in the rock face , as shown in the photo below.

ings and stacy multnomah

Creating these memories together is the best part of these little trips.

My daughter had given us a gift certificate awhile back, so we decided to use it and eat lunch at the lodge.There was a big fire burning in the fireplace to take the damp chill out of the air, and  although this photo doesn’t show it, there was a stellar view from our table, of the falls crashing down the side of the mountain.

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After lunch, we took one more look at the falls, then got back into the car and headed further up the highway to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery which is located at the mouth of Tanner Creek . We took Ingrid to the basement of the visitors center to watch fish swim up the fish ladder.  They have windows located there with lit portions of the ladder.  After that, we drove across the dam to the hatchery itself.    We must have walked for miles along the grounds.  Flowers were blooming and the little ponds and forested areas were stunning.  One of my favorite sightings was this resting spot for ducks.  See them scattered across that log in the pond?

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The highlight for Ms. Ingrid was the opportunity to meet and greet Mr. Herman the sturgeon.  Herman is about 11 feet long, weighs in at around 500 pounds, and is right around 70 years old!

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Here is a little video of Ingrid offering up some sugar for the old guy.

The ponds were teaming with trout.  Their rainbow scales glistened as they jumped about.

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Ingles  had a great time feeding the ducks!

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After we explored awhile, we headed up the mountain to the Vista House with a slight detour to take a look at Horsetail Falls.

 

Horsetail Falls roars loudly and leaves quite a spray.

ingrid horsetail falls

I have written previously  about trips to the Vista House .  Ingrid fell in love with the marble and the stained glass windows and patina’d brass.

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We walked all the way to the top, down to the basement and back up again.

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This brief video can give you an idea about how glorious the view was yesterday, but even this doesn’t begin to capture the serenity and feeling of peacefulness  that this beautiful location imparts.  It is an absolutely stunning location!  The views seem different every time we go, because the big sky plays such a huge role in the overall appearance of the view.  The Columbia majestically twists and turns its way through the Cascades.  Lovely, in every respect, and so amazingly close to home!  We visit here often.

We headed back to Portland for a quiet family evening together. On our way back, a special someone called to wish me Happy Mothers Day, and to remind me that I am loved.  I appreciated that so very much at that particular moment. Love is the answer to just about everything, folks, and this friend reminds me of that each time that we speak.

Ingrid had a sleepover with us that night, and woke me this morning with a beautiful little music box playing Beethoven’s, “Fur Elise”

Perfection!

School Days…..

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I have just rounded a corner…wait…Can one actually *round* a corner?    Let me begin again….

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I have just TURNED a corner in my current school term, one of the most difficult of my academic endeavors.  This is the end of midterm.  During this week alone, I  have read 4 dense, technical chapters on brain chemistry, I have written a tediously detailed research proposal regarding a new protocol for biofeedback in the treatment of depression, and am currently working (hard) on a paper about the APA Ethics Code with regard to a schizophrenic man that has lost his feet due to frostbite.  Gripping subjects, both of them, but at this point, I am fantasizing about the arrival of summer.  I am tired.  This term has been challenging, yet invigorating at once.  I love/hate school.

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Our sunny spring in Portland lasted only a couple of weeks…and then the rain returned, bringing with it cool temperatures and dark skies, so it has been like winter all over again.  There has been a chill in damp air that has necessitated my wearing my thick, terry cloth bathrobe in the mornings rather than that graceful cotton kimono that I love to wear during  the summers. We have had a fire burning in the fireplace in the mornings.  It does not seem, at all, like May.

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Today looks promising, though.  I think the skies are supposed to clear up and the temperature is predicted to rise, so we will have typically beautiful Portland spring weather now.  Welcome once again!!

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My husband has returned for the summer…sort of…He has a graduation to attend in Sacramento and a business trip to San Diego, but other than that, we will be together until the beginnings of our concurrent terms at the end of summer.  Unfortunately, I have been so busy with school, and he with his online class and play writing,  that he and I have spent very little time doing anything together since his return.  That will change next month when his teaching term ends and my learning term ends.  We have many fun plans on the back burner for now.   I am going to take a term off just to unwind and recoup.  This has been a long, tough haul, but I only have 5 more classes to go!  Then, I’ll have my masters in organizational psychology to add to my other degrees and can move ahead with this business that my friends and I are planning to open.  Really looking forward to that.

Meanwhile, for the remaining part of summer, John and I will be two cool cats, just hangin’ out by the pool, traveling to some places and having fun.

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How to Be the Perfect House Guest

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With summer coming up soon, a lot of us will be traveling.  I often host my friends who want to stay in Portland and hang for awhile.  Some are great house guests and some?  …not so much.  Here is my own interpretation of the perfect house guest, as opposed to the other kind.

Things you should know

#1 – Regardless of how good a house guest you are, you will be work for your host/hostess.

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When I am here alone, or when John and I are here, we are not as diligent about cleaning as we are when guests are coming. Neither of us is a slob, but when guests are coming, we make sure there are clean sheets on the bed.  We make sure the carpets are vacuumed, even though we do this every week anyway….if guests are coming, we do it again.  We make sure everything is tidy and dusted and ship-shape so that our guests are comfortable….so even if you plan to just sleep somewhere and not be there all the time, be aware of the fact that your presence takes energy.

#2. – Don’t put your host/hostess on the spot.

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Remember that when it comes to someone else’s home, your needs are not necessarily the other person’s needs.  I stay TREMENDOUSLY busy.  I have my own business.  I am in school full time.  I care for 4 year old, Ingrid.  I’m married.  I’m busy, ok?  If you contact me to ask if you can stay here and I hesitate, even for an instant, you should find other accommodations.  Do not put your host/hostess on the spot.  I am, personally,  very good about inviting people when I have breaks….but when I don’t have breaks, you make my life very difficult just by being here. What I do entails a high degree of concentration.  Give me a break.  I don’t want to have to stop to clean my house when I have work to do and I don’t want to have conversations unless I have the time.  Really.  Don’t say, “…but I won’t take up any space…”  LISTEN to your host/hostess.  Go with their initial response to your request. If you hear hesitancy in their voices, find a different place to stay.

#3. – Try not to take up too much space….and please…don’t be a slob.

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When staying in someone else’s house, try not to take up too much space.   Keep your things neatly folded and in one area.  Don’t scatter your belongings out all over the place, even if you have your own room.  For some of us, this is disconcerting and distracting.  Just keep it all neat, ok?   Oh….and make your bed when you get up.  If you’re sleeping on the sofa, fold your bedding and place it out of site until the next night.

#4 – Pitch in and help!

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If you were staying at a hotel, you’d pay money to do so, right?  If you stay in someone’s home, you are costing them money.  You are using their water, electricity, heat and oftentimes, eating their food and so forth.  Do a little something around the house to show your appreciation for being there.  This is not to say that you should spend your entire visit working for them, but grab a broom and sweep off the front steps.  Water the plants.  Dust.  Do a little something to show your gratitude and earn your keep.  You ARE work for your host/hostess, whether you think you are or not.

#5. – Be mindful of the food situation

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There are a few rules to follow for eating when staying at someone else’s house.  Even if your host/hostess has said, “Eat whatever you want!” be mindful that food costs money.  Don’t eat the last of anything unless you check with your host/hostess first.  Ask, “Were you saving this last piece of pie?”  CONTRIBUTE to the food stash.  Take snacks with you when you go.  Even if you take your own food to eat, you should contribute something to the community larder.  Jam.  A loaf of artisan bread. A few nice apples.  Something….anything.  Don’t just go to the fridge and help yourself and eat everything up.  Attempt to be cool.  You might be asked back, if you do.

#6. – Strip your damned bed, people!

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Look.  If you’re going to stay with me, I’m not going to put someone else between the sheets that you have just slept on.  I don’t know what you’ve done there.  Please.  Before you leave, strip your bed.  Wash your sheets and replace them, if you have time, but at the very least, don’t make your host/hostess strip your sheets.  Jesus.  What are they, your maids?  STRIP YOUR BED!  Really.  Why should your host/hostess have to do ANY cleaning up after you.  You just got a free place to stay!

#7 – Give a small gift.

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This is over and above the food contribution….It is nice to show one’s appreciation with a small hostess/host gift.  Just shows you’re a decent human being.  Ya know?  Doesn’t have to be anything expensive.  Could be a flower or a poem.  Could be a small book or a photograph.  Be a good guest.  Show your gratitude, please.   Let the host/hostess know that he or she isn’t just being used.

#8. – For F*ck’s Sake!  Don’t STEAL

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I live in a small space and I know what I have.  If you stay in my room and then I notice that my white bathrobe and my highly-prized turquoise and black cowboy boots are missing the day after you stay here, chances are, I’m going to know that you are the person that took them.  Duh.  I am a generous and benevolent person.  If you love something that I have and ask me for it nicely, there is about an 80% chance that I’ll just give it to you, or at least lend it to you.  Don’t steal.  It’s bad karma for you and downright hurtful to the person that opened his/her home to you.

#9. – Watch those interruptions

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Don’t play loud music.  Don’t burst into the working person’s office to chitchat.  Keep the TV OFF, if you think it might disturb the person that is working.  Really.  Keep interruptions to a minimum.  You have come into another person’s space.  Be respectful at all times.

#10. – Get into the Groove!

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Try to fit into the groove of the household in which you are staying.  Don’t sleep in, if everyone else is up.  Don’t talk loudly on your phone late at night.  Don’t smoke in a household of non-smokers.  Don’t bring a bunch of nasty meat into a vegetarian’s house.  Clean up after yourself.  Don’t be obtrusive.  Try to get a feel for the situation and do your best to fit in while you’re there.  Most important of all, leave the space at least as neat as you found it, if not even more so.

 

I hope these tips have been helpful.  I guarantee that if you follow them, you will be asked back more often. 

Happy (and ok, sleepless, too…) in Seattle

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I have just returned from my morning walk where the apple, cherry and magnolia blossoms left a delicate carpet along my path.  Springtime in Portland is indescribably beautiful.  However, this is not another post about Portland.  As I walked, I reflected upon the trip I took to Seattle a couple of days ago, and I smiled.  I had finished my school term (officially) on Thursday morning.  Anticipating the beginning of the next term, which starts today, my daughter, Sarah, her daughter, Ingrid, and my puppy, Beatrix and I, all piled into her new car and headed for the Emerald City.

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It rained hard both going there and coming back, but we had sporadic spots of sunshine that made it all worth it.  (Besides, it takes more than a little rain to slow me down!)   My daughter is a college professor.  Between her job and mine, and my being in grad school, we have little or no time for recreation together (or apart), so this trip meant the world to me.  To be able to share it with my dear friend, Sheryl, and another of my granddaughters, Maya, will cause this trip to go down in my personal history as a most memorable occasion.

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We stayed with my friends, Sheryl and Dylan and their two gigantic boxers, Ella and Abel. Our first stop was at their big metal shop where they create the most incredible artisan furniture and artwork!  Sheryl specializes in patinas and Dylan bends steel and welds it.  The work they do is absolutely beautiful!  The above photo is of Ingrid greeting Abel as Dylan looks on.  It was love at first sight.

Our next stop was to pick up Maya. Oh, how I love that girl!  I was so happy to see her!  This is a picture of Ingrid with Maya’s dog, Louise.

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We went to dinner at The Hi Life in Ballard.  It is a nice restaurant that is situated in what used to be a fire station.  The makeover respected the integrity of the original architecture and really turned out nicely.

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The food was delicious and the strawberry jalapeno margaritas were even better!  My only complaint was that the noise levels were a little high.  Other than that, I really enjoyed it, and I think everyone else did, too.

This trip, we did a lot of the more tourist-y things for the benefit of Ingrid, but we also spent some quality time with Sheryl who was a superior hostess. She is always such a kind and generous friend.  All of us are crazy about her.  For instance, she got up early the next morning and made us an amazing breakfast. It was fantastic!

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This is Ingrid and Maya, having an early morning chat. Maya, at age 17, towers over us at almost 6′ tall!

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We went out and about to a number of different places in Seattle, including a trip to the piers where we rode the old carousel in the noisy indoor arcade that had a creaky wooden floor.  This was the fastest carousel I’d ever seen.  I think it freaked Ingrid out a little bit.  I was happy for the rain because this place is usually so jam-packed with people that it can be a real drag.  This was actually pleasant.

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I had taken Maya to the top of the space needle when she was 4, so I was determined to take Ingrid as well.  She was a good sport, even though she was a little bit worried about the height.  This picture was taken on the outer deck where she insisted upon looking for the “day moon”.

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We rode the mammoth Ferris wheel that went out over the ocean.

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Ingrid was a brave 4 year old!

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Her teenaged cousin, Maya, was very patient as Ingrid asked question after question after question.  I love it that Ingrid is so inquisitive, and I love it that she can talk so freely to her older cousin.  They were comfortable together.  That made my heart soar.

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I’m not sure I was as brave as my granddaughters….but I truly did enjoy myself.

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At night, the Ferris wheel helps transform Seattle into a magical wonderland!     Ok…that might be a stretch, but it is very pretty….majestic.

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The view was spectacular from every direction!

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 The best part of the trip was our all simply hanging out together.   My heart is still happy from the experience.  It was so much fun.

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I went with Maya to a talent show at her high school.  There were belly dancers and singers and poets.  All very talented young people.

Seattle is a beautiful and exciting city with a lot of fun things to do.  It has a “faster” vibe than Portland, and is decidedly more cosmopolitan.  I love it there!

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Of course, the pirates and Trekies were out in full force!  What else would one expect?!

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My heartfelt thanks to my darling friend, Sheryl, without whom this trip would not have been possible.   Friends like Sheryl are rare.  I am so grateful to her for everything she is and for everything that she does for my family .  Much love to you, Sheryl, from all of us.  Thank you for the perfect 2-day vacation!  xoxo

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Long Road Home

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Goodbyes are so hard.  My heart is heavy as we make our way back to the West coast.  We have stopped periodically, exploring different areas of the country as we progress toward the Pacific NW.  I have  snapped some good photos along the way,  most of which  are on my camera waiting to be downloaded. We are now in New Mexico driving across long expenses desert with mountains in the background and the occasional train checking along the tracks. We plan to go to Tucson this afternoon and spend the night with friends Denise and Charles. We are both tired and hungry, and I miss Texas. That’s all I can say right now because I am choking back the tears.  I miss Texas.

(Thank god for cell phones!!)

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I Saw the Light – Pigeon Point Lighthouse

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We tend to visit Pigeon Point lighthouse every year when we are in the area.  It is located on Pacific Coast Highway #1, near Pescadero, between San Francisco and Santa Cruz and is a lovely beacon for ships in the fog….or at least, it was at one time.    This time last week, I was standing there shooting this little video from my phone.  I saw a big whale pod that day….and seals….and sea lions….and a plethora of waterfowl.  The sun was out and the weather was perfect.  It was a beautiful day.

                                               

built in 1871, Pigeon Point lighthouse, at 115′ tall,  ties with one other lighthouse as one of the tallest on the West coast of the United States.  There are a few small houses there, that serve as hostels.  John and I have always wanted to stay there.  It costs next to nothing, and we thought it would be fun to hang with some of the folks that are passing through the area.  We have simply never gotten around to it yet.  There is a small gift shop and a community barn where musical events and lectures are held occasionally.                                    

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The lantern room of the lighthouse tower is no longer equipped with the original first-order, 1000-watt Fresnel lens, nor is it any longer illuminated for demonstration purposes.  The lens has 24 flash panels, is composed of 1008 hand-polished lenses and prisms and is capable of producing over 500,000 candlepower illumination. It was manufactured by the Henry-LePaute company in Paris and was first lit at Pigeon Point at sunset on what would, one day, be my birthday, on November 15, 1872.  Perhaps this is why I feel such a special affinity for this place.  Funds are being raised to restore it, and at some point, we might be able to walk up the winding stairs to the top.  I hope so!

We always see something interesting when we visit Pigeon point.  This last trip, I saw a fairly large whale pod, but couldn’t identify what kind they were.  This is the only picture I got of their blow spouts, but I did get one ok tail shot. (below)

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We went once during the evening, and as we were leaving, I saw a flash of yellow eyes in the underbrush.  We stopped the car, and I snapped a picture that was completely dark.  However, when I lightened it up with Photoshop, this was what was sitting there!

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Pigeon Point is one of my favorite places to photograph birds, because I can stand on a ledge at eye-level with them, and sometimes above them, and capture some great angles.

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This is the partial jawbone of a young gray whale.  I find it quite beautiful, and love to run my fingers along the cracks and indentations and wonder about the animal…how it died…what it experienced during its lifetime.  I feel honored to touch its bones.

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There are a thousand and one beautiful photo opportunities at Pigeon Point.  In virtually any direction one turns, there is something awesome to photograph.

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We usually see a lot of seals sunning themselves on the rocks below the observation deck.  However, we only saw a couple this time.  They were bobbing about in the water and keeping a look out for one another.

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Being at Pigeon Point always brings a smile to my face.  This day was no exception.

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It’s All About Wine! Va di Vie!

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One of the best parts of our recent California vacation, was the food.  We did have some remarkable dining experiences….and Va di Vie in Walnut Creek was one of them.  (I borrowed this photo from the restaurant’s website, because it was better than the one that I took myself.  this is a view of the front and side of the place.)  Had to go a couple of times to taste all of the veggie offerings on their menu.  Va de Vi translates to “It’s all about wine!” in Catalan.  However, at this place, it’s all about food, too!  In this case, small plates, or tapas.  Executive Chef Andy Phillips enables diners to explore and share a variety of eclectic, international small plate portions that are out of this world!  A warm, casual elegance defines the ambiance. Outdoors, diners can take advantage of an ancient oak tree or do as we did, and grab a table in the picturesque interior.

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The rustic Califorina/Spanish decor was warm and inviting….but the service could have been a little better.  There were many empty tables, but it took a long time for us to be seated, as the hostess with the most-ess was chatting on her iPhone.  The staff at this place stood around a lot.  sigh…  However, the food made up for it.

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We started off the show with a cocktail, a mushroom soup shooter and a small cheese plate and pomme frits.

The cocktail was called a Watermelon Crawl, consisting of watermelon-infused vodka, basil simple syrup and fresh lime juice.  It arrived at my table almost room temperature.  Should have been colder, and I wasn’t happy with it at all.  Sounded light and refreshing.  Tasted cloyingly sweet and heavy.  I’ll stick to wine the next time I go…

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The pommes frites were Kennebec potatoes tossed with olive oil, garlic and parsley.  They were light and crispy….but again, fried, so I only had a couple.  Loved the aioli dipping sauce, though.  Very tangy and tasty.   The Burrata cheese plate was delightful!  It was served with fresh, organic berries, grilled bread, crisps, aged balsamic vinegar and sea salt.  Fabulous!  The shooter of mushroom soup was to die for!    It was just a taste…topped with a liquid goat cheese and fresh chives.  So delicious!

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We split the Farro, which is an ancient Egyptian grain.  It was done in roasted cipollini onions, soffritto and  vin cotto, which is a is a dark, sweet dense condiment produced artisanally in the Apulia region of southeastern Italy.  It is made by the slow cooking and reduction over many hours of non-fermented grape must until it has been reduced to about one fifth of its original volume and the sugars present have caramelized. It can be made from a number of varieties of local red wine grapes including  PrimitivoNegroamaro and Malvasia Nera, collected after being allowed to wither naturally on the vine for about 30 days.  One tiny taste sends a bright, cool sensation all through the tongue.  It is fantastic!  A perfectly balanced combination!

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The potato-based gnocci was simply prepared, drizzled with basil pesto and grana padano, one of the most popular cheeses in Italy.  The name comes from the noun grana (‘grain’), which refers to the distinctively grainy texture of the cheese, and the adjective Padano, which refers to the valley Pianura Padana. (The reason this cheese is called “Grana Padano” and not “Grana Padana” is because in this case the Italian word grana is the masculine noun, il grana, describing this specific cheese, and not the feminine noun la grana, which means “grain”).  I have always loved this cheese, and Va di Vie uses it liberally in a number of their small plates.  The gnocci was one of my favorite dishes here.  Just a couple of bites….but oh, so good!

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My all-time favorite dish was the fried squash blossoms.  This dish consisted of ricotta stuffed blossoms topped with pickled shallots and drizzled with a tasty calabrian chili aioli.  Yum-o!  Delightful!  The saltiness of the cheese-stuffed blossoms was perfectly countered by the sweetness of the pickled shallots and the heat of the aioli.  So good!

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The creamed corn is a dish I have already prepared twice since we at at Va di Vie.  It is one of the most delicious dishes ever!   It is prepared by slowly roasting fresh Brentwood corn on the cob.  The corn is scraped from the cob and mixed with diced jalapeno peppers and a tiny touch of whole cream.  Wow.  The flavor is incredible!  Smoky…sweet…hot…All the tastes that I love .

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The chilled chiogga beet salad was another favorite.  The picture above is not one that I took of the salad.  I just wanted you to see what chiogga beets look like.  The one from Va di Vie was pale pink in color and served with grilled fennel, endive, blue cheese and a cider vinegar dressing.  It was light and refreshing and I loved every bit of it!

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This is a picture of Treviso.   We sampled Va di Vie’s Triviso risotto, which was a creamy risotto, grilled Treviso,  caramelized onions, more of the grand padano, and a dirzzel of  white truffle oil.  The complexities of the various flavors harmonized perfectly to create a soothing, comfort food that was beyond belief!  Delicious…but very filling, so we could only handle a couple of bites.  Seemed more like a winter food, but was totally satisfying in every way.  The flavors were just incredible!

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All in all, our dining experiences at Va di Vie were positive.    We tried their  Late Harvest wine, a Williams Selyem, “vista verde vineyard,” gewürztraminer from San Benito County (2011)  and a sparkling wine, the name of which escapes me…it was French, light, delicous, and finally, the Passito, 2002 La Roncaia, Verduzzo from Ramandolo, Italy.  All of the wines were exceptional.  I loved the sparkling wine best, so wouldn’t you know, that would be the one I’d forget?  sigh….

Va di Vie is very expensive….but it is good.   The service?  eh!  Not so great…but with food this good, it doesn’t matter that much.  I do have to say, that bussers who cleared the dishes and brought water were fantastic….always on top of their jobs….but the wait staff seemed a little preoccupied with standing in the corners gossiping or talking on their iPhones, and I felt they were a little snooty…which was amusing, considering they were WAITERS.  ha ha.

Nice place.  Beautiful atmosphere.  Great food…even better wine.  I recommend it!

There are never enough hours in the day…..

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I have, again, managed to fall behind on my Photo-a-Day posts, so I shall take this opportunity to get caught up.

Photo a Day

© Stacy Alexander – 2013

Day #16 – COOKING

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Day # 17 – EXERCISE

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#18 – SOMEONE I SPOKE TO TODAY

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Day #19 – LOST

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Day #20 – STAIRS

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Day #21 – SLOW

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Baby, You Can Drive MY Car!

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Day # 14 – WATER

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Photo a Day – APRIL

Day #14 – WATER

© Stacy Alexander – 2013