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Friday, February 23, 2018

Due to the passing of Linda’s dad, the blog will be on hiatus for a few weeks.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


"It's a puzzlement!" Sorry, I just couldn't help sneaking in that reference to The King and I, a movie that I've always loved. Last week I revealed the picture of the completed "Rainforest Butterfly" puzzle, which we finished on February 2nd. We started a new puzzle on February 4th and finished it on February 8th. This one was pretty easy because it only had 750 pieces. It was fun to put together, though, as we were excited to see it finished. The calico cat in it looks almost exactly like our sweet Precious Baby, who passed away in 2016.

The "Peeber" puzzle
We received a new 1000 piece puzzle last Friday from Linda's daughter, Emily. She thought that it would be good for our "retired brains" to have a challenge. As if that Rainforest Butterfly wasn't hard enough! So, we got started on it right away. I decided that this puzzle would be a good candidate for me to do a series of photographs on the evolution of a jigsaw puzzle. The first step is dumping all of the pieces out of the box onto the surface upon which you are going to assemble the puzzle.

A pile of puzzle pieces
Next you have to turn all the pieces face-up, and at this time it is a good idea to separate out all of the edge pieces. In a typical square puzzle this is easy to do since an edge piece will always have a straight side. This did not hold true for the butterfly puzzle, however, as the outline of that puzzle was irregular. Below is a picture of what you wind up with after this step. All of the pieces are flat on the table, which left us absolutely no room to start assembling the puzzle. So, we eventually had to stack pieces which means you are constantly moving them around. It just makes it a bit harder, which in our world is a good thing.

All pieces face-up

Edge pieces separated out
Once you get enough room cleared to start, the first order of business is to assemble the edge pieces to establish the outline of the puzzle. In this picture below we had to stack some of the pieces in the middle.

Outline established
Now the work on the puzzle begins in earnest. You will find that the best tool in your search for puzzle pieces is the picture on the box. Linda and I pass the box back and forth, back and forth almost constantly when we start a puzzle. It helps you get a fixed picture in your mind of what the puzzle will look like when completed. The more you look at the picture, the more little things you will see revealed to help you. There are several approaches to working on a jigsaw puzzle. You can conduct your search for pieces by looking for a specific shape to fit into other puzzle pieces. This approach works very well when the puzzle has parts already assembled. Another approach is to look for a specific color that matches surrounding puzzle pieces. I usually pick an area to work on, zero in on a certain color in that area, and then find all the pieces that match the color. Then I try to fit them together. Once you have a few pieces connected in your area you can move on to the final approach, which is looking for pieces of an object depicted in the puzzle. This involves close inspection of the picture on the box. This puzzle we are doing now is so intricate that sometimes I have to use a magnifying glass to see what I am looking for. Here is a close-up picture showing some of the tiny details on the pieces.

Lots of feet in this puzzle!
Here's a short video walk-through of the puzzle as it stands right now.

And here's a picture of what we have done so far. This is definitely a hard puzzle, but still a lot of fun. We find ourselves saying "just let me find one more piece" and then hours later, when we still haven't found that piece, we walk away for a bit. Puzzling can suck up more of your time than being on Facebook! And that, my friends, is a very good thing!

Our current "time black-hole"


We have had some nice, warm, sunny days lately that almost had us tricked into thinking Spring was just around the corner. But then Monday night the temperature got down to 19 degrees and brought us back to reality. The birds have been having a field day out at the feeders. As soon as Linda puts one of the peanut butter-lard-cornmeal cakes out for them, they descend upon it like vultures. So we have been enjoying the antics of the birds lately. One morning this past weekend Linda told me to check out a little sparrow beneath the feeder. He was so cute I had to get a video of him. We think he was sitting in the sun napping, and he would put his head up every few seconds to check out the terrain, and then tuck it back under his wing.

I snapped this photo below of a Black-billed Magpie on top of an large evergreen on our walk at Tahoma Cemetery this past week.

We also took a walk on the Greenway at the part that runs right beside the Yakima River. I was still hoping to see an eagle, but no such luck. However, we did see this duck catching a ride down the river on the swift current.

The winter colors were very much evident on that bright, sunny day. The wind picked up a bit before we left, but it was a fantastic walk. There was so much to see and the weather was so nice that we wound up walking about twice as far as we usually do.

The water was flowing very swiftly down the river, making whitecaps at various spots. The sound of rushing water almost drowned out the traffic noise!


On our walk at Tahoma Cemetery I stopped to admire some grasses along the driveway. The sun was shining behind them and they were almost glowing.


I think the warm weather also tricked Summer Girl into thinking Spring was coming. She has been enjoying her time outdoors basking in the warm sun. All that basking came to a stop on Tuesday as it was bitter cold outside. So she was relegated to watching the birds out the front window.


I hope everyone has a great day spent with the ones you love the most. Here's a picture to remind us all that love never dies.

See you next week!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018



The puzzle is finally finished! It was very challenging but we both so much enjoyed putting it together. Here is the final picture and as you can see, it's a butterfly-shaped puzzle.

Rainforest Butterfly
My good friend Linda H. read in a previous blog about the butterfly-shaped puzzle we put together back in North Carolina, so she thought that we needed to do another one. She showed up at our front door one evening bearing this as a "just because" gift. I must admit that I think this one was way harder to put together. Normally the outline of the puzzle is pretty easy to do, but the intricate design of the outline of this particular puzzle was one of the hardest parts to get together. It is a beautiful puzzle, as the closeup video below of the entire puzzle shows.

We would like to thank Linda H. for all the hours of enjoyment we got from putting this puzzle together. Of course, now we are on to another one so stay tuned in future blogs for progress reports. Here is a picture of the new one we've started.

Any guesses yet?


This past week we took another walk at Randal Park. It was once again a dreary day, but we decided to take a walk anyway. The ducks and geese were there to greet us as usual. They actually didn't pay us much attention because they were busy eating.

We like this park so much because it has a pond. The department of Parks & Recreation is in the process of planting some shrubs and grasses along the edge of the pond, so there are orange barriers up in certain places. There are also plans to resurface the pathway around the park, which is a good thing because it is very uneven. The pond has a large paved viewing area at one end and that is where I like to go to take pictures and videos of the ducks and geese. Here's a short video of a duck taking a bath, a visual rendition of the expression "like water off a duck's back."

Sometimes the obvious subject of a photograph is not the only thing you should be looking for. A lot of times the photographer's intention is to take a picture of something else, but sometimes this intention is so subtle that you really have to look at the whole picture to see what the photographer was aiming to capture. Take a look at this picture, what do you see?

Ripples in the water cause a ghostly image of the trees on the edge of the pond

A couple of days later the sun came out so we decided to take a walk at the Arboretum. When we left the house it was still quite chilly, but as we walked along the path we actually got very warm from being in the sun. 

There are always a couple of flocks of Canada Geese at the Arboretum foraging around in the wide open spaces, under the trees and shrubs, and on the pond. They were dabbling around underneath the trees when we arrived, finding little morsels or insects for their breakfast.

Three up...three down

I got a few pictures at the bird blind so you can see the set up there. 

Yakima Arboretum Bird Blind
Above is a picture of the back side of the blind, where you stand to view the wildlife on the other side. 

Open viewing slat in bird blind
This picture above shows one of the slats dropped down so I can take pictures through the hole. Below you can see my view of the feeding area (note the shadow of my head in the middle).

Linda spread out a couple of containers of birdseed around the area and it wasn't long before we had a customer. He wasn't the only one as there were birds and squirrels all over the place within a few minutes.

The bird blind is just wonderful for taking closeup pictures of the birds and squirrels as they come there to feed. I am so glad the Arboretum constructed this feature for the benefit of the bird-loving public. Now, if I could just figure out a way to make them stay still...


I decided to add a new intermittent feature to the blog called "Arty Photo of the Week." From time to time I will share one of our photos that we think is worthy of being called "art." As justification for being able to call our pictures "art," I cite the French saying from the early 19th century: "L'art pour l'art" which translates into English as "Art for art's sake." This expression embodies the idea that the foremost aim of a work of art is the self-expression of the creator of the work.


This time of year it is very hard to get an action picture of Summer Girl. Lately she has been spending a lot of her time in the house, sleeping in one or the other of her favorite spots. She has become quite good at ignoring me. Nevertheless, she is so adorable. Just look at those little paws!

That wraps it up for this week, be sure and check back again next week!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018



We had a very rare scientific event happen this morning, something that hasn't happened since 150 years ago. It has been called a "cosmic trifecta." We had a Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse. A "super moon" is when the moon is at its nearest point to the earth, which makes it appear larger than normal. A "blue moon" is when there are two full moons in one calendar month.  A "blood moon" is so named because of the red tinge caused by the earth's shadow moving across the moon during an eclipse. So this morning about 5:45, Linda came running into the bedroom saying, "You can see the moon, you can see the moon!" I got up (I was already awake thanks to Summer Girl) and threw on my coat and hat and headed out the front door. The moon was just peeking out of the clouds but we could see the earth's shadow across it. Linda had gone outside earlier to check and the clouds were completely covering the moon. Fortunately, she went outside a second time and that's when she came in to get me. I went back inside and got my camera and set it up on the driveway. This was my first time using my new camera to take night video and photos, so I wasn't sure if I'd get anything at all. I don't think I did too badly for my first time.

The video is rather grainy due to it being so dark outside. But I gave it a go anyway, and here's the result. The noise in the background is traffic.

Did it mention that it was 27 degrees outside at this time? My fingers were so cold I could barely work the camera. After we watched it for a while the clouds really moved in and covered it up. But it was so exciting! Last summer we saw a total eclipse of the sun and then this winter we saw one of the moon. How fortunate we were to have two astrological events within 6 months visible in our neck of the woods.


We so much enjoy our walks at the cemeteries. We have two that are right beside each other only a few blocks away from us. This gives us somewhere else to walk besides the park, just for a change of scenery. We walked down at Tahoma Cemetery again on Saturday, where I took the video and pictures below. On next week's blog, I will include a few pictures of our walk at Calvary Cemetery, the other one close to us. It is interesting to look closely at the grave markers to see what they reveal about the person buried there. Perhaps the most interesting one we have found so far was the grave for Walter J. Reed, a civil war hero. In case the writing on his marker is not readable, I asked Linda to read what was written on it. The video is in two parts.

Also on this walk Linda happened to find the grave I had been looking for, the one that I think sums it all up pretty well.

Luke obviously had a good sense of humor, as did this one below:

This person had a more philosophical outlook about the whole thing:

When walking around a cemetery you often come upon certain objects that have been left on a grave. Some of the objects are obviously to honor the person buried there, such as a heart or a flower or a picture. But more often than not the object leads to speculation as to its purpose. Who left the object on the grave? Did they know the person buried there? Is it a long, lost relative? What is the connection? No one knows except the person who left the object.


Since the weather has warmed up a bit lately we have been taking more walks. Last Thursday we took a walk at one of my favorite places, the Yakima Arboretum. They have a bird blind there that is absolutely wonderful for bird watching. There are a couple of metal trash cans full of seed for you to throw out for the birds and other critters. Next time we go I will take a picture of the actual bird blind so you can see what it looks like.

Of course when we do go there for a walk, there isn't much walking done for a while because I'm too enthralled by all the birds. We got a rare treat this time as we saw four or five Steller's Jays. These beautiful birds are not very common here in Yakima and I have usually only seen one at a time, and never up close before. I was stunned by how pretty the jay is as I had never noticed the different colors of blue.

Also at the blind was this cute little guy below, kicking around in the dirt to uncover some seed.

Birds are not the only animals you encounter at the blind. There were a couple of squirrels there as well, since they had gotten the memo about the free seed.

Everyone probably recognizes this little fellow below as there are seven different species of this bird throughout the United States. Here in Yakima we have the Black-Capped Chickadee. The other guy over towards the right is an Oregon Junco.

The walking path at the Arboretum is connected to Yakima Greenway, so while there we usually take a walk along part of the Greenway as well. I was hoping to maybe photograph an eagle on the Greenway since it runs parallel to the river, but we didn't see any this time. Maybe next time we will spot an eagle.


Linda and I have been diligently working on the puzzle in hopes that we would have it finished in time to make this week's blog. Alas, we haven't quite been able to get it all together but we are getting very close. Since no one was brave enough last week to guess as to the nature of the puzzle, I am posting another picture this week. Does anyone have a clue yet?


Summer Girl hasn't been up to much lately. She's been busy behaving herself for a change. She knows if she's a good girl she gets to play with Dot from time to time. She's usually more energetic than this going after Dot, but we have to give her some slack since she had just gotten up from a nap and was still a bit fuzzy.

That's all for this week, be sure to check back again next week for more from the Southerner in the Northwest (and Summer Girl).

Wednesday, January 24, 2018



Since we enjoyed our walk at Tahoma Cemetery so much, we went again last Saturday. I was still hoping to find the headstone that I really like, but I wasn't successful. However, I did want to take a picture of the headstone that is right beneath the big tree that was pictured in last week's blog.

Only 29 years old
I don't know if this young person was buried there when the tree was just planted, or if it was later. I tried to find some history on the cemetery but there just isn't much out there. However, this is one of the older markers in the cemetery because it was established just eight years earlier in 1867. There is a large part of this cemetery dedicated to veterans. A lot of those grave markers are some of the oldest ones in the cemetery.

Veteran section
While on our walk, we encountered our Canada Geese friends from last week's walk. They were still fussing at each other! The funny thing is that it was so chilly outside you could see this guy's breath each time he squawked.

We also ran into this guy foraging around in the leaves. He's a Black-Billed Magpie, a very striking bird that is quite prevalent around here. Most people do not like this bird as he is a scavenger, but I take the position that since he is a bird, I like him. When the sun hits the feathers of a Magpie just right, they are a beautiful blue and teal color. Unfortunately, the sun wasn't out when I took this video.


We found another park near us and since we hadn't walked there before, we decided to check it out last week. The West Valley Park is somewhat small compared to some of the other parks, but they did have a paved walking trail, which is a good thing in inclement weather. We drove over to the park and took a walk on the short path. We did discover that when walking, as in life, you sometimes need to stray off the path to see some interesting things.

Paper Wasp nest

Some kind of seed pod
We didn't see any birds of note on our walk and I was desperate to get some pictures for the blog, so I decided to take an arty photo.

Arty Photo


We have made a good start on our latest puzzle endeavor, but it is proving to really be a challenge. That's okay, though, because we need challenges at this stage in life! We try to work on it every day or so, and sometimes we lose track of time and are back there for hours on end. I am including a picture of just part of what we have gotten put together so far. I want to keep the subject of the entire puzzle a surprise until we get it finished.

Just a part of the puzzle
One reason this puzzle is driving us so crazy is the way the pieces are shaped. We've done a lot of puzzles but I don't think I've ever seen one with such interesting shapes. It does have some of the "usual" puzzle shaped pieces, but there are some that are really different from the norm.

Typical puzzle pieces
Uniquely-shaped puzzle pieces

I will post updates on the puzzle as we get more of it finished. Anybody want to hazard a guess as to what the main subject is? Linda H., you are disqualified from making a guess since you already know.


Most of the time I prefer to do my baking from scratch, but every once in a while I will opt to use a boxed mix. I had been wanting to try this mix for a while and when I finally saw it in the grocery store, I snatched it up. This particular mix is from the Essential Goodness line of mixes from King Arthur Flour (click here to go to their website). If you read this blog on a regular basis you already know that this is my favorite baking website.

A great mix from a great company

Nothing could be easier than making this recipe. All you need in addition to the boxed mix is three eggs, a stick of butter and some water. That's all. Anybody can bake a delicious dessert using this  mix. So if you've been hesitating to get into baking, this would be a good place to start. Just look at this picture of the result!

Yum...are you hungry yet?


I just went looking for Summer Girl to get her weekly picture for the blog. I found her curled up in her bed outside. I tried my best to get her to come out and pose pretty for all her fans, but she wasn't having it.

Summer Girl, teaching the class on "how to ignore someone"

That's all for this week, be sure to check back again next week to see what's happening!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018



We finally finished the puzzle we've been working on since the day after Christmas. We finished it this past Sunday, so we worked on it for 20 days. As soon as we were done we both took a picture of it and then Linda started taking it apart so we could get started on a new one. Here is the finished puzzle.

Readers Paradise finished!
You're probably saying, "Wow, she doesn't even know how to hold her new camera straight!" I know it looks a bit crooked, but I was standing on a stool holding my camera up high so I could get it all in the frame and have a bird's-eye view of the puzzle. Remember people, I'm old! I probably shouldn't have been up on that stool in the first place, but hey, I risk life and limb for my peeps!

Here's our new puzzle we have started on. We can both tell that this one is going to be unusually hard. I can't divulge the name of it yet because I want it to be a surprise when we get it finished. I will post updates as we make progress.

Mystery puzzle


We've decided to dedicate each Thursday to walking at a venue other than Kissel Park, which is just down the street from our house. On my last post I talked about our walk at Randall Park. This past week we drove a few blocks over to Tahoma Cemetery and took an early-morning walk there. For those of you who don't already know, Tahoma is the Native American name for Mount Rainier and means "frozen water." We had to postpone our walk to Friday because it was raining on Thursday, and we were both glad we waited the extra day. This is how things looked when we arrived at the cemetery.

I like to ride my bike around this cemetery a lot in the summertime. It's quite big with lots of huge trees, which is always a plus in Yakima. There is a Native American saying that goes something like this: "To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again." So, as I ride my bike I like to read out loud some of the names on the headstones. These are people I don't even know, but I feel as if I should acknowledge them since I am riding my bike around in their final resting place. Some of the headstones are even a bit humorous, like this one below. There is one that is my personal favorite, but I couldn't find it on this walk. If I see it again and can get a picture of it, I will post it on the blog at that time.

Speaking of big trees, this is the biggest one in the cemetery. There is a very old grave right at the foot of it, with roots covering the edges of the gravestone. I wonder if this tree was planted when that person was buried? You can just barely see the gravestone beside Linda's left foot in the second picture below.

Big tree

Close up of same tree
One thing I like about walking in a cemetery is the quiet, especially early in the morning. There aren't many places you can go these days and be among the quiet. We did hear some birds, but that is a good thing, even if they did sound like they were having an argument!

Sometimes you happen upon strange things in a cemetery, images that may seem disturbing at first, but become comforting as you let your mind wander and create elaborate stories based upon those images.

Dead roses among the gravestones. A lost love, perhaps?

Someone left a hat, possibly a distant relative of the deceased?

The best thing about a walk in the cemetery is that there usually isn't anybody else there besides us...well, at least anybody else alive. Most of the time we see a lot of birds due to the big trees. I was especially excited that we saw this hawk perched atop one of those trees. I even managed to get a pretty good picture of him as he glowered at us!

Red-Tailed Hawk, perhaps?


I always love making bread, as you probably know already. When I come across an especially good recipe, I like to share it. Recently I made this recipe below for Rustic Herb Bread and we both absolutely loved it. It's extremely easy to make, too. This recipe was posted on a Facebook blog called Janet's Appalachian Kitchen by Janet Crow (click here to go directly to Janet's Facebook page). All of her recipes are ones that have been handed down to her by family members, or recipes she has developed herself. Each recipe is accompanied by a related story, usually about her upbringing in the South. I highly recommend her Facebook blog for anyone who likes good down-home recipes. I asked her if I could share her recipe on my blog and she gave me permission, so here it is below.
Janet's Appalachian Kitchen Here it is...Rustic Herb Bread
1 C. warm tap water
1 T. yeast (I use saf-instant)

1/2 tsp. sugar
2 C. all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried chives
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dill weed
vegetable oil

In a large bowl combine the water, yeast and sugar. Allow to proof for 5-6 minutes till it becomes foamy. Add in the flour, salt, chives, basil and dill. Using a wooden spoon, combine well (I used my hands with some flour on them to do this process). Lightly oil (using a paper towel) the bottom of an 8" iron skillet with some of the veg. oil. Form the dough into a ball and place in the center of the skillet. Lightly brush a little oil over the top of the dough and loosely cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to rise. Allow the dough to rise until double in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Place an oven proof bowl of water in the oven as it preheats to 375 degrees (the bowl of water remains in the oven while baking). Remove the plastic wrap from the bread and place the bread in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top and sound hollow when you tap the top.
Janet's Rustic Herb Bread
The picture above is my picture from the last time I made this bread. I have made this recipe using both all-purpose white flour and whole wheat flour. It came out great using either one. I didn't have any dried chives so I substituted onion flakes to make it a bit more savory. Like most really good recipes, this one is adaptable to your individual taste. If you have been wondering about making some homemade bread, this would be a good recipe to start with. It makes a small loaf, but is perfect for serving with something like pasta or chili. What are you waiting for, give it a try!


The entire time I have been working on my blog Summer Girl has been here in the office with me, hard at work guarding our puzzle. I feel so safe!

Asleep on the job
That's all for this week, check back again next week for more exciting adventures in the land of no-snow!  (We've only had a couple of inches so far, and it's been gone for a while now).