Working on my photography at the beach


This weekend I spent with me, myself and I. My husband went to Spokane to run in the Bloomsday event. This is a huge race that he does with his coworkers. They leave early on Saturday morning for the 1 hour flight and head straight to a golf course where they proceed to drink all day and, somehow, play a round or two. They spend the night and get up early to join the 30,000 other folks for the annual 12K (7.5 mile) run, have lunch, drink some more beverages and then fly home Sunday night. That meant that I was on my own to run a 9 mile training run so I figured that after I ran I would take off to the Washington coast and work on my photography skills (such that they are!).

I left for the shore at 1pm on Saturday and arrived at 4pm. I was staying at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino on, you guessed it, Quinault Beach. I dropped off my bag and immediately headed out to the shoreline.


As I exited the hotel, I took a shot before I entered the beach


These images were from the shore, looking back at the resort. The sky was amazing!



The property had a private boardwalk to enter the beach


It was windy, and cold to be sure, but the sun was shining.


The tide was out quite a ways and the beach was covered with jellyfish.


There were a few seagulls out and about. This one is the same as the bird in the picture that is found at the start of the post.


I really love the cloud cover. Part of our photography class is playing with the white balance. We are learning how to shoot in cloudy and bright conditions. I played around with this function to get this image.


Another area of focus in the class is depth analysis. Here I tried to capture the different growth levels of the plant both above and below the surface of the water.


I switched to my zoom lens to get a little closer to the waves and this seagull.


By now I was quite cold and ready to head inside for some hot coffee. Sunset was at 8:34 and I had just enough time to settle into my room, have dinner and get back out to the shore with my tripod in tow.

It was extremely windy and the sand was really blowing along. I tried to capture the feeling of movement by using a longer exposure setting. What do you think? Can you see the sand moving?


I will keep working on that!

These next shots were on aperture priority setting, and the white balance was set to cloudy to make the colors more visible. I should also say that I did not use any filters.




I decided to swing around and look at the clouds in the east as well.


Moving back to the west again, I tried positioning the sun in different fields of view.


That was a long as I could stand the cold! I went back to my room and had a hot bath, read a good book and had a great night’s sleep!

The next morning I went for a long walk on the beach sans camera. I just wanted to absorb the beauty, breath in the salty air and stretch my sore muscles-they were definitely feeling that 9 mile run the day before! With my soul refreshed I packed up, checked out and went 5 miles down the road to the city of Ocean Shores. This was a completely different experience! Where Quinault Beach was quiet and mostly deserted, Ocean Shores was crazy, populated and chaotic. There were cars on the beach driving around, horse trailers set up for tourists to ride on and motorized bicycles buzzing around. Why would anyone want to drive all the way to the shore to then drive on the beach! What happened to listening to the waves, feeling the sand in your toes and getting away from it all? I didn’t get it!

There were some standard sights that you usually get at the beach, such as people flying kites.


And the ocean here looked a lot like the last beach, but the clouds were not as impressive today. At least it was warmer, and I did appreciate that.


The birds here were insane. Maybe it was because there were so many people around who left their food unattended. The flocks were massive and the small birds were wicked fast. I decided to try to capture some the fast moving objects by moving into shutter priority mode and set it to 800. I can’t tell you how many shots I snapped trying to get a sharp image, but I got a few to my surprise!


I was getting a headache trying to catch the little birds so I turned my attention to the slower, gulls. I managed to get a couple good ones.



Then, out of nowhere one of the flocks turned right at me!


They veered off at the last second, thankfully!


That was enough for me-I am not really all that comfortable around birds. Especially when there are so many of them. I decided to pack it in for the weekend. I made one last stop for lunch before the long ride home in Sunday traffic.



This granola with greek yogurt and berries was delicious! I had a great, albeit short trip and had a lot of fun with my camera. Next time I think I will skip the touristy beach and just hang out on the calm, serene shoreline. Minus the deadly attack birds!

Half Marathon Training, Week 2 Update


We finally made it back from Arizona yesterday. It took three days for a couple reasons. First of all, we didn’t want to come back and decided to spend one more night in AZ and went to the Arizona Biltmore Resort. You can check out this earlier post if you want to see why we were so eager to stay there.  We hung by the pool and drank too much, especially for the 3 mile run on Thursday! We spent one night in Las Vegas, Just because we could! Then we drove 11 hours to get to Boise, Idaho to visit some friends that we never see enough and had a great night with them. So, how did this effect our running schedule? Well, we ran the 3 miles Tuesday in Chandler, which was wonderful. It was sunny and warm enough to wear shorts and a tank top. Thursday we ran at the Biltmore which was in Scottsdale where the temperatures are really starting to heat up this time of the year. This was a tough run for me, as I mentioned before I had too much to drink the night prior and did not enjoy the hangover pounding in my head all the way to my feet!   But I still appreciated running in the sun. We were scheduled to run 5 miles on Saturday but had to defer that one until today because we were in the car for 8 hours yesterday, trying to get back to Seattle. So today’s run was colder, and really windy! I had a head wind at the turn around but I did manage to avoid the rain, that started later in the day. Mentally, it is tough to gear up for these colder runs when I was so spoiled for the last three weeks! I already miss Arizona but am determined to keep to the schedule, winter be damned!

Time to go rock climbing at Vertical World Redmond. Climbing at AZ on the Rocks was great, but we are really looking forward to the new routes and seeing old friends at our home gym.

March 2017 Half Marathon Training Schedule

This is a blank and printable March Calendar. Courtesy of

February 2017 March 2017 April 2017
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
Feb 26

Week 1

  Feb 28

4 miles




3 miles




5 miles

5 week 2





3 miles




3 miles




5 miles

12 week 3





4 miles




4 miles




6 miles

19 week 4





4 miles




4 miles




6 miles

26 week 5













I wil leave you with this image from the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas!

Week One Half Marathon Training, Done!



Our first week went really well, how could it not? We have beautiful, sunny, warm Arizona weather to thank!

I ran on Tuesday morning for 4 miles here in Chandler. But my husband had to go to a conference in New York, so he ran his 4 in Central Park in the afternoon. He arrived back in AZ late Wednesday night so we were able to run together on Thursday (3miles) and today, Saturday, for the 5 mile, long run of the week. We also managed to get in some putting on the practice greens and rock climbing at AZ on the Rocks again.

Personally I hit a small milestone. I have been using the Nike running app to log my miles and started June  7th, 2016. Todays run put me over the 400 mile mark. Looking forward to 500! Maybe I will get a foot message to celebrate!


Next week has me worried! The Tuesday run should be fine but we leave Arizona on Wednesday for the road trip back home. We are planning to return via a different route back to Seattle, maybe staying at the Arizona Biltmore one night (if you are wondering why we would stop so close to Chandler, then check out the pics here), then heading to Vegas for a day. I don’t know what weather or running opportunities will present to us, should be interesting!


March 2017 Half Marathon Training Schedule
This is a blank and printable March Calendar. Courtesy of

February 2017 March 2017 April 2017
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
Feb 26

Week 1

  Feb 28

4 miles




3 miles




5 miles


week 2





3 miles




3 miles




5 miles


week 3





4 miles




4 miles




6 miles


week 4





4 miles




4 miles




6 miles


week 5













Botany and Brunch in Phoenix!

I have mentioned before that we lived in the high desert for six years in Southern California. We were incredibly busy during that time and I really didn’t have the luxury of wandering the desert and looking at the flora or fauna. Now that the kids are grown and on their own we decided to revisit the desert through calmer, more leisurely eyes. We went to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix Arizona yesterday. I wasn’t sure what would be worth seeing since it is winter, but there were plenty of blooms and impressive succulents to make the trip a success. There is no way to capture the entirety of the ecosystem that would do it justice, so I tried to focus on plants that are unique or dramatic in some way.  And, no I don’t know the names of any of them! I am a molecular biologist not a botanist. I can extract their DNA but that is the extent of my plant based knowledge.

The park is divided into 5 distinct loops, or trails and each has a main theme. Desert plants found around the world, those that are used for food or medicine, ideas for succulents in your landscaping at home, desert wildflowers and a vista loop with uniques perspectives and views.  I guess I will just jump in!





















There were several sculptures and water features in the various gardens as well.











This sun dial was on time












These seed pods were horseshoe shaped















Remember when I mentioned fauna?


This bird appeared to be nesting on the ground. You cannot see from this angle, but its wings were spread out as if it was roosting.


We were told that some birds will hollow out a portion of the larger cacti to nest in or for protection.


Do you see both birds?

Remember when I mentioned the trail with the great views?






We were finally done and on our way out of the gardens when a couple other interesting sites popped up!


Touch down, Seahawks!




These last two pictures are of Dale Chihuly Glass sculptures that mark the entrance/exit to the park-just beautiful!


We spent a couple hours hiking around the park and we were good and hungry. We headed over to the Biltmore Resort for Sunday Brunch, which was being served in their Wright’s Restaurant.img_0509

This was quite the spread! Included in the price of the brunch was this all you can eat buffet that included the mussels, shrimp, crab claws, smoked salmon and capers that you see above. What you do not see is the rest of the cold buffet and the dessert bar, both of which were extensive! Additionally there were hot items made to order (also included in the cost of the brunch). I chose the chipotle maple glazed pork with farrow, golden raisins, grilled broccolini and sunny side up egg.


As good as this was, it was nothing compared to my second choice! Blue corn pancakes with jalapeño, lime and mexican creme. Beyond delicious!


Another amazing taste was from the cold buffet. I had a smoked salmon bowl, with pickled vegetables, mandarin orange and salmon roe.


Of course I had to leave some room for dessert. There were many great options but I took only two small bites to sample. A salted caramel cheesecake and the raspberry chocolate macaron, and coffee of course!


Both desserts were outstanding! Now that we were replenished from our morning, my husband and I set out to check out the Biltmore Resort grounds.




The resort had an 18 hole putting course that we had fun practicing on. I didn’t too bad that day!


We could have played a game of chess on this giant outdoor chess board, but golf was our first choice.

Then we saw the pool! This is hard to forget-just stunning and so inviting!





We finally wrapped up a very busy and incredibly fun day! If you are in Phoenix you are going to want to hit up the Desert Botanical Gardens and Wright’s Restaurant at the Arizona Biltmore Resort!

A few last beautiful images!





Road Trip! Second Stop, San Simeon California

We lived in Southern California for six years. I was a graduate student at USC, my husband worked at Edwards Air Force Base as a civilian engineer and both our children were born in Lancaster during those six years. Clearly we were busy and in way over our heads with life in general. Still, before all that wonderful chaos we managed to visit the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Fast forward 20+ years and I can honestly say I remember very little of that initial visit. We decided to take a refresher tour and were just as amazed as the first time we saw the hilltop house, it is breathtaking in that over-the-top, wanton excess kind of way that makes one wonder “what were they thinking?” It is truly one of a kind that will never be politically correct to replicate in the future. If you get the opportunity to see it, you definitely want to grab it!

We began by entering the visitors center and purchasing our tickets. They have several tours to choose from and you will not have the opportunity to see the whole estate in one viewing. I wanted the tour that led throughout the three guest cottages and the kitchen, but that was sold out, so we selected the Grand Room tour. We boarded our designated bus for the 15 minute ride up to “the enchanted hilltop” as they called it. Along the way we saw cattle grazing on the slopes and a variety of fruit trees while Alex Trebek informed us of the basic facts about the construction of the estate. We caught a few glimpses of the structure as we approached the top.

Just a note, this estate is far too vast to capture with one camera and you can go to the website for panoramic shots. I tried to focus on details that really demonstrated the attention to detail that impressed me the most.


The view from the hilltop was incredible, even on a cloudy day like the one we experienced.


The tour began outside where there were plenty of sites to absorb.


This marble carving was at the base of the grand staircase


Another carving marked the base of a light fixture, one of a dozen identical lights. The Neptune pool, which can be seen in the background, was under repair and not part of this tour.


Another example of a light base with a stone carving, several of these lined the stone wall border

The surface of the walkway was not overlooked by the designers.


This pattern covered the entire terrace


This is a single square that you see repeated in the floor covering above.

We made our way up the grand staircase and additional sculptures, buttresses and embellishments were visible.

Even the staircases had amazing details.



This golden statue had the best view of all!

We continued our ascent to the front door. Not just any front door!


A statue of Cupid pointed the way


See the gold door at the top of the stairs, to the left?


There are two statues on either side of the door


This is the “wild man” on the left side, half man half beast


Directly above the center of the door is a Madonna and child


Above the Madonna is an intricately carved wooden ledge that covers the balcony. Zoom in and you can make out the variety of animals carved from the wood.

Remember the cottage tour I wanted to take? This was as close as I could get this time. There are three guest cottages on the property. Each a small home in itself at 2,000, 3,000 and 5,000 square feet!



It was finally time to enter the great hall, where there is no flash photography allowed.


Sculptures on both sides greet guests as they enter


This is the first image seen as you walk straight into the room. On the right is the fireplace with a huge mantle that runs, almost to the carved ceiling, and on the left a glimpse of the tapestries that adorn the entire great room.


I love ceilings, and the details on this one are beyond stunning!



a close up of one of the panels, these are not repeating images, they are all different!

From here we went into the dining hall.


Who doesn’t need a table that seats 22 guests?


These are choir seats, found throughout many of the rooms. These are not meant for additional seating, Hearst just liked how they looked.


Another amazing ceiling!


The detail is exquisite! No wonder it took 28 years to complete this estate.

After dessert was finished, the guests would retire to the Morning Room to relax.


Another impressive fireplace. See the row of choir chairs off to the left again?


Then it was on to the billiards room. This room was particularly dark and hard to photograph. Just a couple of images from this one.


Then the guests would be treated to a movie in the theatre. This is not your media room at home! It was a full theatre with seating for a small city. It was also dark so only one picture.


This was one of the dozen or so carved beams that ran floor to ceiling. Impressive to say the least.

The Roman Pool was the final stop on the tour, and my favorite site (beside the ceilings).


The light you see from above is from the tennis courts located on top of the pool house. The balcony in the middle is the high dive


This is the bottom of the pool, the picture is taken from above, through the water.


One of the many examples of the tile pictures that line the pool deckimg_0227img_0220img_0229img_0228


We had the option to tour the grounds, gardens and other walk ways in the public areas, but it was cold! So we boarded our bus and returned to the visitors center. Our ticket included a 40 minute video on the building of the estate, but we were hungry! We made it back to our resort just in time for sunset.


A great end to a perfect day, on to Chandler Arizona!

Road trip! First stop, Cambria California

We have been planning to spend some time in Arizona this month and will be renting a friend’s house in Chandler, just east of Phoenix. We decided to drive down from Seattle, so my husband and I packed up the family truckster and left at 5:30am on a Sunday morning. We drove for 10 hours and spent the night in Redding California. Not much to report from Redding! We climbed back into the car Monday morning and drove another 7 hours or so to Cambria.  Why Cambria? Well, we have never been there before, it is very close to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle which we wanted to tour again as the last time we were there was over 20 years ago, (another post will be coming with lots of pics!), and we wanted to stay right on the shore and chose the Cavalier Resort for that specific reason.

img_0291 Let me just say that the drive itself was rough. Apparently we chose the exact wrong time to drive through Northern California as there was one storm system after another. It rained the entire two days! Mud slides and flooding were rampant, but we kept our windshield wipers on high and our focus forward and made our way into Cambia just before sundown. It was cloudy and stormy so the waves were big, boisterous and impressive! I grabbed my new camera (my Valentines’ gift from my hubby) and ran out into the fading light to see what I could capture.



This was one of the few flowers that still had pedals after the wind swept through


This brave dog was playing fetch in waves well over his head. He disappeared several times as I watched him, and still begged for more playing time!

The next day was a minor miracle. The rains stopped and the sun made brief appearances throughout the day. We had planned for a rest day to explore the area and grab a reprieve from driving. Our bodies and minds desperately deserved a workout after all that sitting in the car, so that was the first priority. We went into downtown Cambria and ran three miles on a bike path. Easier said than done with the dodging of fallen rocks, piles of mud everywhere from the minor slides in the area and all the standing water flooding any low lying spot, but we felt mentally and physically refreshed afterward. During the run I saw a number of cute stores that I wanted to check out. I love to explore shops and businesses that are unique to the area or have a special sense of style. I am also a sucker for kitchen supply stores and bakeries, I love to see what is new in the culinary world.

My first stop was “A Matter of Taste“, a gourmet food and culinary shop right next to main street in Cambria. The owners were there and were very gracious when I told them I was travel blogging. They let me take pictures and offered a sample of their chia tea blend.

The shop was bright and colorful, and full of my favorite products.



I liked their decorating style



Stonewall Kitchen and iveta are among my favs!


These commercial bakeware pans are my goto pans at home


I want this!



Across the street was a nursery and garden store. There were several of this type of shop in downtown Cambria, but this one impressed me the most. Inside, there were some unique items. “Spellbound Herbs Gift Shop & Garden” builds its gardening theme around story book characters. The owner was also present that day and spent time showing me around the store.



These handmade soaps look like a delicious dessert, and they smelled amazing



All the figures contained amazing detail

As much as I enjoyed the inside of the store, it was nothing compared to the extensive garden area out back. I could have taken a hundred pictures and yet I would fail to capture the ambiance. The garden was colorful, whimsical and each area had a storybook theme.


A few other images from the downtown area.



You can see some of the erosion due to the heavy rains at the bottom left of this picture, this small house looks like it could slip down the hillside at any moment.




Can you spot the butterfly?


This lily is growing wild by the side of a bridge.

We had to wrap up our time in Cambria if we were going to make it to San Simeon on time for our tour of the Hearst Castle. Spoiler alert: We made it and that post will be uploaded tomorrow!

Best Birthday Ever!

February 6th was my 50th birthday. Not a day I have been looking forward to but not one I had been dreading either. Ordinarily I am not one to get too caught up in a number, but this one was a quite different. My 49th year was excruciatingly painful and not a year I would ever, ever wish on another person. My birthday, in particular was very lonely for a variety of reasons. When I look back to this time last year I realize that I was on the verge of figuring out a number of troubling facts, one of which was my cloak of invisibility that I didn’t realize I had been wearing. I would find out near the end of this month, 2016. This blog was one of my attempts to shed that cloak, and thanks to this wonderful community, I know it is working. I feel stronger now then I did then, or have in a long time.

For my milestone birthday, my husband and I have been in New Orleans and I have posted about the first part of our trip in Beignets, Bourbon street and Breaking a Sweat in New Orleans! Today I will write about the birthday plans. My husband surprised me with a tour of a plantation, an airboat ride through the bayou and a fabulous french dinner.

We started out at Destrehan plantation. I have to admit, being from Seattle I don’t think about Louisiana when the topic of slavery comes up. Georgia, Virginia and Mississippi spring to mind. But of course there were numerous plantations all along the Mississippi River and Destrehan Plantation was one of the most prosperous. The property is still beautiful and the main house has been restored with much of the original art work, building materials and furnishings. The first thing that caught my attention were the numerous oak trees and the spanish moss that symbiotically thrives on them.



This massive branch was a small part of the larger tree


The main house was set a little way from the main road, which of course did not exist in the 1700’s. The entire plantation was self sustaining with a black smith, small trading post run by the slaves for profit which they kept and 2 hospitals. Each plantation was so far from one another that they had to be more like small cities.

The main house had a wrap around porch wide enough for four adults to walk side by side. These pictures are from the butlers pantry, two views of the room held by the lady of the house (who had 14 children!), the Master’s room and the eldest daughters bed, where she died from yellow fever.

The slave’s quarters were considerably more modest, as you can imagine!


By our count, 2 adults and 5 children lived together here


The adult bed


An example of a child’s sleeping area


This was a separate building called the wash room


all the laundry for the plantation was done here


Part of the blacksmith area


A loom that was maintained in the main house, used to make all the clothing needed by the slaves and master’s family

The tour guide took great pains to remind us how great the slaves in Louisiana were treated compared to the other slaves in the south. Still, two slaves were found guilty of collusion in the uprising of 1811 and put to death-guess no one told them how great they had it!

After the plantation we made our way over to the airboat tour. The boats were noisy, fast and fun! We began by moving through the canals of the bayou, and were immediately impressed by the many cypress trees that naturally grow in the swampy water.



More Spanish moss, it was everywhere!

We moved from the bayou into the marsh, were there were less trees and a lot more snakes! The water moccasins were masters of camouflage and I never got a good picture, the alligators were a little easier to spot.


We wrapped up our outing and were pretty tired after the 5 hours of history and eco tourism! Our next stop was an amazing dinner at Bayona. My brilliant husband made this reservation in advance. This restaurant was neither cajun nor creole, it was traditional french and delicious!



My first cocktail of the evening


Crispy Quail Salad


Rabbit Ravioli! 

It was the perfect end to a fantastic birthday celebration! My hubby will have a tough time out doing this one next year! No Pressure!

My final gift was one that a gave to myself. I have never been a tattoo kind of girl, but this year needed, begged really, for something different. I needed to take my invisible-no-more concept to a new level and I wanted my outside to reflect the intense growth I have been experiencing through my mid life crisis. So,


This is the celtic symbol for New Beginnings. Thank you New Orleans and my dear husband for an amazing trip!