Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Tornado on Valentine's Day??? -- Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"...and tornados are possible."  Yikes!  Checking Weather Underground and the local weather news this morning on one of Houston's TV channels, we hear the disturbing announcement.  Yet, we are not in what Herb and I have always referred to as 'tornado alley' in Texas.  That would be farther north.

Dark Sky on my phone does not show immediate danger.

WX Underground radar shows the threatened area, and yes, our part of Houston is in the path as it stands now.  I quickly scan the skies to see the clouds with lots of dark masses moving rapidly all around us.

It is 8:25 in the morning.

I look to the south -- and yes, it is coming.  It doesn't appear quite daylight yet, and the soft pinks kissing the clouds cause me to think I see a hint of a sunrise being reflected against them.  Maybe the storm will bypass us....

It is raining as I point my camera to the north at 8:31.

I text my family members who may be on their way to work.  "I need to know you are safe!"  I can see Roxie's building through the binoculars I keep near the northeast window, and she tells me she is already at work.  Ed and Stephanie are also OK.

I zoom the camera for a closer look at the downtown traffic that never stops.  Haven't they heard the forecast? It makes for a colorful scene with the bright headlights coming south and the brilliant red taillights heading north.  Now and then I see a Xenon.  The northbound vehicles could stay ahead of the system, but the others will run right into it.  I hope they will be OK.

As fast as the rain is coming down, the ground can not soak it in quickly enough, which results in some street flooding.  I hear splashing outside and note a car making a U-turn in front of our driveway.  The driver has realized the depth of the water in the street ahead.  He will find another way to get to his destination -- or go back home!

It is 8:42 and the news on TV says the threat of a tornado will last until 9:15.  We watch and wait, and pray.

As the rapidly moving system moves closer to us, the rain shifts its direction and peppers our north facing windows.  Visibility diminishes so that I can no longer see Roxie's building or the red taillights.  It is 8:49A.  Twenty-six more minutes of this distressful situation.

Hope springs eternal (Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Man") and I am glad to see the clock shows 9:08.  Seven more minutes.  I take a quick photo of the radar on the WX news and see the intense system yet to pass over Houston, but soon!  Some flooding is also shown.

One minute later at 9:09 I zoom in for a closer look at exactly where the storm is.  I can barely see the word Houston and know the part of town we live in.  The movement shows much of the system is going north and not so much east, so will miss giving us her wrath.  The yellows and reds are very beautiful, but can cause so much harm.  I note with a bit of anxiety the red outlined kite quadrilateral.  That would be the tornado!  Six minutes to go!

At 9:15 we have breakfast and relax. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

We give thanks for safety of all people, for the rain that nourishes the grass, flowers, trees, and gardens.  And for the several shades of blue that we see now appearing in the sky.  Can sunshine be far behind?

                                                                                             Photo by Herb Stark, AKA Walldog

Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Good News and Other News -- Tuesday, February 7, 2017

There's always news; there's always good news and bad news -- or shall I say good news and 'other news.' 

The other news this morning is that we must leave our friends in the PNW to catch our flight back to Houston.  We arrive at SeaTac for checking our bags and Herb says, "I think it is best to do it curbside for a small fee."

"But, Herb, it is cold out here!"

So he takes me to the door for departures and shows me the long line.  I look at the length of it and agree we should check the bags outside.  Herb wears his warm cap and I have quite a few layers, as well as hat, scarf and gloves.

As our plane taxies down the runway, we look out the window to see snowflakes still floating down from the gray skies above.  There is a hint of some blue sky and I search for something glistening on the ground, but fear we may not see the sun until we are high above the clouds.  Ah, the blanket of snow is so beautiful, and I am happy to enjoy seeing it from the warm cabin of the plane.

I now settle back to see how many pages of my book I can read before falling asleep. 

Several hours and pages later, we are cruising down Houston freeways in an Uber truck -- yes, this is Texas.  Because of the time zone we are now in, we get to see an incredible sunset upon our arrival.  The yellows and pinks are reflected in one of the tall buildings in our west window view.

So, what is the good news?  This flaming ball of fire warms our great room, such that we have not had to turn on our heating system all Winter.  

Air conditioning?  Yes!

Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Greatest Surprise of the Seattle Boat Show Trip -- Monday, February 6, 2017

The aroma of freshly brewed Community Coffee floats into the master berth of Willie's Tug at 5:30 this morning, and I am tempted to crawl out of my warm bed and find my way to the galley, when I hear Herb come in from the cockpit.  His voice betrays the devious grin on his face as he says, "Willie, you will get a real surprise when you look outside this morning."

I don't know whether to be happy or fearful.  Did he finally get my birthday present delivered?

No, he says, you must come take a look.  So this is what I see out the starboard window -- snow!  But, wait!  It doesn't snow in Seattle!!  Well, yes, it does, and did.  There are about two inches of white stuff on the neighbor's dinghy.  

Seeing this, I am about to start feeling cold, but then I remember that we are toasty warm inside the boat.

I do get brave enough to step out the back door into the cockpit for a photo. It is quite chilly, so I won't be long.  There through the isinglass window is a good view of Jake's Ferry, otherwise known as our dinghy.  I wonder what 'The Doctor' would think about his ride if he were with us today.  

Over coffee and breakfast Herb and I watch some boats in the Selene yard move about.  I am amazed at a pilot driving topside WITHOUT A WARM CAP ON HIS HEAD.  And WHO would go out on a WX day like this!!!

Herb goes out on the dock to see that the boat goes down the fairway in front of us in order to turn around and go into her slip bow in.  They need to make room for boats that will be coming back from being on display at the Boats Afloat part of the Seattle Boat Show.  By the time the pilot turns around, he has realized that he needs his cap on.

I feel better now.

When we are all packed and ready to leave the boat buttoned up for a few months, I hesitantly prepare to step across from the swim platform onto the dock for the trek up the ramp.  Without a snow shovel, a smart move is to kick the icy snow off the place where I will put my foot for stepping out.  Then another kick gets me onto the main dock.  Once safely there I have plenty of footprints to walk in.  

Three steps later I discover a problem with rolling my luggage.  It has become a snowplow!  It is impossible for me to pull my bag perpendicular to the ramp, and it actually leans forward, dragging its load of slush and ice along until I can't budge it anymore.  So I stop and kick the ice to the side.  Three times.  When I am at the steeper incline, I stop to wonder how in the world I will go any farther.  I am quite tired and cold.

A good samaritan sitting in his cockpit calls out, "Ma'am, would you like some help?"  

"Oh, yes please!"

He not only takes my luggage, but assists me along the snowy boards to the top of the ramp. 

Looking back behind me, I see the very smoothly plowed path I have made that Herb will appreciate when he comes along a few minutes later.  He has no idea what has been going on.

We have one last chance to say "So Long" to our friends, Vicki and Bruce, before returning to Texas and await Springtime when we will once again return to Willie's Tug and the Pacific Northwest for the boating season.

Conversation is lively -- as always -- and I very much enjoy also watching Bruce talk.  Here he explains his story and I ask to photograph the gestures.

Now, as I write this six weeks later, I find myself making similar, if not the same motions.  Some things just have to be demonstrated to be properly understood.

Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Monday, February 6, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Team Wins the Super Bowl Championship! -- Sunday, February 5, 2017

Years ago Herb and I never watched the Super Bowl because we didn't follow a team, but when we got invited to a Super Bowl party, we said, "Party?  Sure!"

I don't know if I saw any of the plays, but we did a lot of visiting and watching of commercials.

We were hooked!

We still don't follow any teams (except the Seahawks), but when I heard the Patriots were going to play, I knew I would have a great interest in the game.   The Pats are daughter Patrice's favorite team.

So when Bruce and Vicki invite us to watch the game with them, we call Mr. Uber to take us to their home, where we will meet our Facebook friends Jason and Susan in person for the first time.  Bruce says we need to pick a team to root for, and of course, mine is the Patriots.  Susan and Jason take the Pats, as well, Bruce opts for the Falcons, and to even it up, Herb also chooses the Falcons. 

It is a lively afternoon with many cheers -- oh No's -- and Yes!  I do see a few commercials, but mainly use that time and the time outs for hurrying to sample the tasty snacks our hosts had prepared.  For two and a half quarters of the game I fear the worst for my team as the Falcons lead 28-3, but Tom Brady seems to come alive finally. 

The game is soon tied 28-28 with 57 seconds left.  No one scores in this last minute.

My heart rate is pretty high, now.  And I think the neighbors hear me cheer as New England scores in overtime to win the Championship 34-28.

Oh, did I mention we sipped Bruce's delicious rum punch during the game?  He improvised on Jamie's punch recipe from the bar tending class we attended a couple of weeks earlier.

Find the frozen blueberries breaking off the floating ice block of citrus....

Willie of Willie's Tug,
     and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
     Sunday, Februarya 5, 2017

Monday, March 6, 2017

Tour de Cab Franc -- Saturday, February 4, 2017

Our friend Roger not only knows about Bhy Kracke Park, but about the Wine Country in Woodinville, northeast of Seattle.  He invites us to go on a tour with him, if our calendar is clear.  Our calendar becomes clear.   This sounds great, and he picks us up this morning and hands us a set of maps and copies of the websites from his choice of two wineries.

From one map I learn that Woodinville is across Lake Washington (east of Lake Union) and a bit to the north from Seattle.  So we have a couple of hours' drive for a visit and orientation on the wines we will taste.  

First we visit Five Star Cellars, because food is available for our lunch, as we enjoy the flight of several different red wines.  Our favorite is the 2012 Malbec, 100% Malbec from Walla Walla Valley.   59% is from Seven Hills vineyard and 41% from Pepperbridge.  It is described as having a deep purple color that shocks the eye.  Purple fruits tease the nose with hints of clove and oak spice.  Plum and blackberry electrify the palate followed by soft tannins.  Fruit and acid dominate the mouth, making one long for cobbler and ice cream.  

My palate was electrified, but I don't need any encouragement to want ice cream.

It is interesting to learn that the winery was begun by David Huse, who graduated from Walla Walla Community College with a degree in Enology and Viticulture, a program for persons interested in grape growing and wine making.

Roger takes us next to Flying Dreams Winery, also in Woodinville.  The name originated from the idea that we must take chances if we are to fulfill our deepest passions.  "Leap, and find your wings on the way down."

Our tour includes a peek into the room filled with barrels and barrels and barrels of aging wine.

Herb and I agree that the 2013 Cabernet Franc from the Stillwater Creek vineyard is our choice, and we make a purchase here.

Today Cab Franc becomes my favorite wine, replacing Malbec, which has reigned for the past few years.

Find Willie's choice....

Willie of Willie's Tug,
     and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
     Saturday, February 4, 2017

It Doesn't Snow in Seattle -- Friday, February 3, 2017

Step one in the morning is to grab a cup of coffee, enjoying the aroma and steam rising toward the ceiling of Willie's Tug.  Step two is to open the laptop and check the weather.

Wow!  Snow predicted in Seattle?  I can't believe it.  It is hard to believe it is 38.8 degrees outside, because Herb and I are toasty warm inside the cabin of the boat.  

When we left Houston a few days earlier, an acquaintance asked us if we were going there to ski?  We laughed and told him that it does not snow in Seattle.

Well, what do we know!

Do you hear what I  hear?  Snow does not make a noise, but sleet does!  I look out the window to see the neighbor's tarp on his dinghy beginning to collect a little frozen precip.

Keeping a close watch on the gray sky, I do not see any snow -- yet!  By bedtime there is no snow, only the sleet.  Like I said, it doesn't snow in Seattle.

Find that weatherman....     ?????

Willie of Willie's Tug,
     and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
     Friday, February 3, 2017

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bhy Kracke, We Found the Park! -- Thursday, February 2, 2017

Another sunny day with only a few wispy clouds greets Herb and me as we anticipate our walk today to Bhy Kracke Park, up the hill from our temporary 'home' on Lake Union.   Roger, a PNW friend,  sees photos of the walk we took up the set of stairs to cross Westlake Ave and Hwy. 99, and tells us about a park we would enjoy visiting if we would go just a bit farther up the hill.

When Herb hears the name of the park, he replies, "by cracky, I think we'll go there!"

So we are eager to see new sights and I dress for the cool temperatures Seattle gives me this morning, especially as I go way far up the 'mountain,' where it may be windy.  I can't choose between my warm hat that won't keep my ears covered, and the not so warm cap that ties under my chin, so I wear both!  I will shop for a 'proper' cap before coming back next Winter.

So up we go again, high above Lake Union.

And then past some very pretty residences and more sets of stairs.

And now another level up, as we look back on the street we just crossed.

Then the streets end, the homes are seen no more, and we find a sidewalk leading us through a lush green winter-time forest.

By cracky, I think we have arrived! We are at 1215 5th Avenue North, in Queen Anne neighborhood, which is on the highest hill in Seattle.   I look over the concrete rail to see the skyline of downtown Seattle, with the Space Needle near the right of the photo.

In Herb's panoramic shots of the area, we see from Lake Union to just north of the Space Needle.  Oh, to be a bird and see these awesome views as I glide wherever I want to go.

Sitting on one of the park benches to enjoy the view that includes the sky of many shades of blue, and taking a sip of water, we wonder how the park got its name.  Our first surprise is to learn that Kracke is pronounced 'crack.'  

Google tells me that Werner H. "Bhy" (nickname) Kracke lived for years on the park's upper-most level, but died in 1971 before fulfilling his promise to donate the site for a city park and $20,000 for its development.

Landscape architect Roy Leher created the unique design for the park, which features a steep, winding trail linking the lower level containing the playground, to the middle and upper levels, whose winding paths provide surprise vistas to the Cacsades, Lake Union and Downtown Seattle.

What we see today is a circular area with children's playground equipment, but no children.  Perhaps they are in school.

Find Willie's warm scarf and gloves....

                                                                            Bhy Kracke Park
Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Thursday, February 2, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Purchase at the Seattle Boat Show -- Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This morning we have a chilly but pleasant walk a for a mile or so south from the Selene docks on Lake Union to the Boats Afloat part of the Seattle Boat Show, where boats for sale are moored in South Lake Union.  We go aboard a few, visiting with the sales people, and mentally selecting the one we would buy -- if we were to get another boat!  Looking for the right boat at the right price.

Lunch is from a hot dog stand on the dock -- healthful?  But the Polish sausage is oh, so delicious!  Well, the water is pure.

After lunch Herb suggests we go back to the inside show at Century Link one more time and see what Fisheries has for sale.  It would be quite a hike, but there is complimentary bus service between the two venues, so we get to sit for a time as we ride.

Once at the show, we go upstairs to the small booths, and find Bruce and Vicki shopping.  Vicki literally takes me by the hand to show me her recent purchase -- a waterproof life jacket for her phone.  I had seen the booth earlier, but paid no attention after I saw the words, "life jacket," because I am happy with my current life jacket.

But wait!  This is for my phone!  It is billed as enabling one to use the phone in the water, but for Vicki and me, it is a safety feature to keep the phone in tow while handling lines as we dock our boats.  It has a strap for wearing over the shoulder or around the waist.  If it ever did happen to fall overboard, it will float until fished out with the dip net or boat hook.

You can use the phone while it is in the case, and there is even room for a key fob, credit card and watch.

Find Willie's new Ugo phone purse.

                                                                                                            From left, Ugo saleslady and Willie
Willie of Willie's Tug,
     and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
     Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Steps and Floors -- Tuesday, January 31, 2017

With another week to live aboard Willie's Tug in Lake Union, we search for a market to replenish our food and supplies.   With Seattle being quite hilly, any place you go from 'sea level' at Lake Union, is up!

To avoid crossing -- first Westlake Ave by the marina, then farther up the hill the multi-lane Aurora Ave, -- we take the overhead crosswalk that Seattle has built for us.  It looks inviting!

FitBit will love this!  Lots'a steps and quite a few 'floors' as we make our way to Metropolitan Market.  

So up we go, and up again.  I stop a couple of times to rest, breathe, and be amazed at where we have come.  Halfway up I stop to look down, then look up to see how far I have yet to go.

Are we there yet?

I wonder if it will be easier going down.

Find Lake Union....

Willie of Willie's Tug,
     Tuesday, January 31, 2017