Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thanks, I Needed That

Sometimes in life, we all need a slap in the face from a perfect stranger to wake up and pay attention.

Well. I certainly do.

So last week, when I read this random blog post about a glorious trip to Washington's Snoqualmie Falls, I considered myself slapped.

Snoqualmie Falls, in all her thunderous natural glory, seen from the main observation decks.

See, the author of said post wrote about her longstanding, Twin Peaks-inspired crush on the Pacific Northwest. Calling it her "dream vacation," she and her hubby trekked all the way from good ol' Cleveland to Seattle, and specifically, to Snoqualmie Falls.

With a slightly wider angle, the trappings of civilization can be seen. 
I much prefer the natural look.


Snoqualmie Falls is a 268-foot waterfall, one of Washington's most popular scenic attractions. Famously featured in the intro to Twin Peaks, the falls have an international reputation and cult status. They are just a stone's throw from the Seattle area, and rank high on the must-see list of any respectable visitor to the Emerald City.

So certainly, I've been there many times, right?

After a ten-minute hike down a steep gravel trail and a short stroll down a clip-clopping boardwalk, 
the falls pop back into sight. 


No, I have not.

Full disclosure. I have been to Snoqualmie Falls exactly once - when my husband and I came to Seattle as newlyweds with an unsolicited job offer in our pocket and an unexpected opportunity to move half a continent away from our home in Chicago. In an effort to tempt us here permanently, our hosts advised us to check out the natural scenery of this amazing corner of the country, and with a few hours to explore, we made our way to the Falls. 

Obviously, we took to the place. 

But four daughters and several decades later, I never thought to go back to Snoqualmie Falls.

Once the water tumbles down the falls, the river sweeps past rocky, moss-covered granite cliffs, 

over a series of rapids and countless boulders, 

and continues on its course through the pristine evergreen forest. 


Well, until last week, that is.

Because finally, on a cloudy July afternoon when we were in the mood for an adventure, my second- and fourth-born and I hopped in the car and drove a mere hour to this breathtakingly beautiful site.

The place has changed a lot.

Smooth, wide paths lead through gorgeous natural landscaping to beautiful new observation decks.

A steep trail through lush green forest leads to a boardwalk and more fabulous views of the falls. 

Everywhere we looked, interesting details and well-planned design abounded. 

What appears to be an abstract sculpture along the hiking trail is actually a section of the pipes used in the last century to divert the water to a pumping station.

The view of the forest from one of the many artful benches generously placed along the trail. You know, not that I needed to rest or anything. 

All of the various signboards and kiosks around the park have 'green' roofs, meaning that they were covered with darling little succulents. I wanted to kiss each one and take them home with me.

As I absentmindedly scanned the text on this signboard at the front of the park, my brain suddenly exploded. It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened. At the top of the display, I had seen the phrase, "Selamat Datang," which means "Welcome" in the Malay language. Although I understand a smattering of that foreign tongue, my neurons have never before encountered Bahasa Melayu on this continent and it came as a bit of a shock. 

And you know, the Falls weren't too shabby either.

* * * * *

So to the author of the post that woke me from my slumbers and reminded me of the beauty in my own backyard, I can only say, "Thanks. I needed that."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Selamat Hari Raya

This week marks the end of Ramadhan, the Islamic month of fasting, and the joyous celebration of Eid.

In Malaysia, we celebrate by saying, Selamat Hari Raya!

And in my world, wherever and whenever a holiday strikes, I know just what to do.

Yep. Break out the paper and paint, and make a banner!

For this one, I tore watercolor paper into squares.

Then I drew out the letters for my message with a yellow marker, and painted outside the outlines.

My inner art teacher wants to point out that that area is called the 'negative space.'

Using a teeny tiny hole punch, I punched teeny tiny holes in the upper corners of each square, and threaded them together with dental floss.

Yep. Dental floss. It's long, strong, and inconspicuously white. Plus it smells minty and that's a bonus.

Once this little baby was assembled, I trotted it into my dining room and took it for a trial run.

Yep, I think it turned out pretty darn cute.

Then I took down my banner, packed it into an envelope and mailed it off to Malaysia, where hopefully it is adding to the festive holiday gala.

Selamat Hari Raya to all my Muslim friends!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

With Peace And New Beginnings

For over twenty years now, Kalaloch Beach has been my family's go-to annual camping spot, and for good reason. The wide, straight, sandy beach - a rarity in the rocky Pacific Northwest - is an easy walk from the campground and a relatively safe and simple place to spend time with four little girls and a big red dog.

Just a few miles north of Kalaloch, lies a very different sort of beach. Ruby Beach has a lot to recommend: picturesque sea stacks, dramatic cliffs, and an interestingly curved and variable beach. Alas, she also demands certain logistical compromises: there is no campground, so users must drive in to the parking lot up top and hike down a steep trail to reach the shore. 

Back in the day, we visited Ruby once or twice. But with all those tikes in tow, we just weren't willing to give up the convenience of Kalaloch for the novelty and drama of Ruby.

In the past few years, though, things seem to be starting to change. 

We've begun a new tradition of stopping at Ruby on our way home. It's easy and convenient to pop into the parking lot and hike down for an hour or so. 

Everyone is clever enough to pack up a bag of essentials for the outing.
Everyone is big enough to carry what they need.
Everyone is strong enough to hike down and up that steep hill without whining.

Well. Except for me. But I'm only whining for the fun of it.

This year, as we were lollygagging about on the beach and enjoying ourselves immensely, my fourth-born popped up with an interesting idea.

Maybe next year, we can come up here to Ruby and spend a full day, rather than just stopping on our way home. 

Hmm. Yes. Our family traditions can stretch and grow to reflect how we have stretched and grown. We aren't bound to the past, nor are we letting go of our precious memories; we are building on what works to create something new.

So here's to another year's glorious visit to Kalaloch, and an exciting idea for new beginnings.

* * * * *

More stories about this year's camping trip to the Pacific coast:

                                             With Joy And Wild Abandon
                                             With Hope And Desperate Longing
                                             With Peace And New Beginnings

* * * * *

And here are some stories about my 2012 trip to the Kalaloch coast:

                                          It's All About The Food
                                          It's All About Playing On The Beach
                                          It's All About The Sunsets
                                          It's All About The Artistic Inspiration

* * * * *

My family and I go to Kalaloch a lot. Here are stories from our trips over the years:






Wednesday, July 23, 2014

With Hope And Desperate Longing

There's a lot to like about Kalaloch, our favorite camping spot on Washington's Pacific coast. On the very first day of each year's visit, once we get the tent set up and our hunger under control, we usually head down the short trail and find ourselves out on the sand. And inevitably, our first instinct is to turn left and head to the lagoon.

Ranger knows the way.

Here's the thing about the lagoon. It's not really a lagoon. My daughters made up that name when they were young, and it stuck in our family lexicon.

This place is actually a small freshwater lake fed by a stream that runs down from the mountains. Eventually, the current carries the water out to the sea. Heaps of beach logs and mounds of fabulously smooth stones lie here and there around the lake shore. Sheltered from the strong winds off the ocean, this spot makes a perfect and protected natural playground for humans and animals alike.

Ranger loves it here. As usual, he worked up a powerful thirst on the five-minute walk over, and did what always comes naturally to dogs in this place. He promptly waded out into the lake, lapping up water like a little red camel. I held his leash and kept him company.

In the meantime, the rest of the family did what always comes naturally to humans in this place. They climbed. Up across the beach logs, zigging and zagging over the tumbled trunks, until finally they reached the highest spot of the biggest tree.

That's when Ranger looked up.

What's this??
My people went climbing without me!!

Not gonna lie, Ranger has some pretty solid beach-log-climbing skills himself. When he climbs along with us, he can easily scale a tree of this size.

But to turn around and suddenly see his girl up so far away from him - well, that was just too much for the Irish gentleman to bear.

He whined,
He yipped.
He begged and pleaded.

He really wanted to be up with my fourth-born in that tree.

We tried to coax him into jumping.
I struggled to lead him around to the back of the tree where he could more easily climb up.
Failing those strategies, I attempted to distract him with a different adventure.

But Ranger was simply not willing to give up.

My daughter soon took pity on him - or maybe she got tired of her ears bleeding - and decided to climb down. 

Which calmed Ranger considerably. 
And I should have left well enough alone. 

But I kept thinking that it looked so fun to be inside of that upturned tree. I just had to try it for myself.

 Poor Ranger.

He wasn't even mad this time.
He didn't bark or yip or jump around with excited agitation.

He just stood there, ankle deep in the chilly water, staring despondently at first my daughter...

And then up at me.

 Well, here's the thing.

I can handle Ranger when he is naughty or hyper, full of sass or misbehaving.

But I can't resist him when he is sad.

So I climbed out of that tree, jumped back down on the beach, ran over to my poor sad dog, and gave him a great big hug.

Then we all walked home together, and Ranger was glad.

* * * * *

Three stories about this year's camping trip to the Pacific coast:

                                             With Joy And Wild Abandon
                                             With Hope And Desperate Longing

                                             With Peace And New Beginnings

* * * * *

And here are some stories about my 2012 trip to the Kalaloch coast:

                                          It's All About The Food
                                          It's All About Playing On The Beach
                                          It's All About The Sunsets
                                          It's All About The Artistic Inspiration

* * * * *

My family and I go to Kalaloch a lot. Here are stories from our trips over the years:






There's No Place Like Home

When the time came to leave Asia, I put on my ruby red slippers and clicked my heels three times.

^ Click One: Goodbye, Danang, with your sweet, little airport and gentle, communist ways. I'll come back to see you next year.

^ Click Two: Oh hay, Hong Kong, remember me? Istanbul, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Rio de Janiero...your gates lead to some exotic places and I'm tempted to wander. But for today, I'm going home

^ Click Three: Vancouver. All night long. There is a certain irony in spending an eight-hour layover at an airport that is just over 100 miles away from home. But that's what I did. And when the sun rose and I climbed onto this little puddle jumper for the last leg of my flight home, I was thrilled for the final chapter in my lovely, long adventure. 

There's no place like home...
There's no place like home...
There's no place like home...

^ Wait. There is my home!!

We flew right past Mukilteo and I saw my good old hometown ferry plying the waters in the golden sunlight of dawn. Squint hard and you can make out a tiny black speck in the sunlit patch of water. Somewhere on that forested bluff to the right lies my home, my family, and my sleeping furry pets. 

Smoothly, my plane touched down, rolled up to the gateway and came to a stop.

I opened my eyes, and found myself in a gingham dress with a wet washcloth on my forehead.

No, no. Just kidding.

But I grabbed my suitcase and walked outside where the cool Pacific Northwest air washed over me, and I knew that for all the miracles of travel, there really is no place like home.

A Happy Birthday Bedroom Tour

Regrettably, my third-born's birthday happened while I was away in Malaysia.

I missed it completely.

So as soon as I rolled back into Danang and settled in to spend my last few days in Asia as her roommate, I decided to make up for lost time. My first order of business was to make my baby a happy birthday banner.

Thankfully, I had brought my paints, brushes and art paper with me from home. 
I even thought to bring some coordinating string and a fresh roll of tape. 
And I found a perfect assistant in the form of Sally, the ten-year-old daughter of the family with whom my daughter lives.

^ While the birthday girl was off at work, Sally and I set straight to work and whipped up this little gem. We hung it up on the wall, and then Sally settled into playing a game on my daughter's laptop.  

I snapped a few shots of our banner, and noticed with fresh eyes all of the cozy little touches that my daughter has added to her home away from home.

^ Well. Her mint-colored baby blanket. And this cute stuffed little tiger, a parting gift from her baby sister. Even when we are all grown up and traveling the world, we still like to keep our comforts close at hand, right?

^ Above her dressing table, my daughter has a well-curated collection of art: 

drawings from little girls who adore her, 
photos and postcards from family and friends, 
an assortment of necklaces 
and a soft silk rose. 

^ Sally was not impressed by my photo shoot. She played on.

^ This woven rug, positioned near the bathroom door, perfectly captures the spunky, colorful charm and simple style of the room. It's also tiny, like my itty bitty third-born, and I love to see her stand on it, with her little feet fitting just right.

^ This name art was a little gift I made just before my daughter left home last year. She carefully wrapped it up and told me that she would hang it up in her Vietnamese bedroom. And sure enough, that's exactly what she did. 

^ And still Sally sat, completely engrossed in her game. She's a regular visitor here in my daughter's room, and with her precious chubby Asian cheeks and adorable school uniform, she makes another lovely addition to this cozy space.

* * * * *

About an hour later, the bedroom door burst open and my daughter whooshed in, hot from her ride home and eager to join us in the air conditioned room. Her eyes quickly fell on the new banner, and Sally, finally looking up from the laptop, excitedly burst out with the whole story of how she helped me make it.

Then we all laid on the bed together and watched Sally finish her game. And that was a very nice start to our belated birthday celebration.

* * * * *

Once there were two best friends named Jane and Audrey, and I wrote about both of their stylish bedrooms. Read the other story here:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Common Denominators

When my twenty-six days in Malaysia came to an end, I flew away.

North I traveled, across the South China Sea and back to Vietnam to spend a few more days with my third-born, who lives and teaches English in Danang.

Over Saigon, rivers twisted and flowed in every direction. Their courses arced and swooped until I grew dizzy from trying to keep each one straight. But one thing was certainly clear - the rivers' common denominator was mud.

As I flew, I thought about the astonishing fact that not one but now two little countries tucked into the faraway corners of Southeast Asia feel like home to me, and their people are my friends. Certainly, our lives twist and flow in some different directions, and I often grow dizzy trying to sort out our similarities and differences. But if I have learned anything on my Asian adventures, it must be this - my faraway friends and I share a common denominator and it is most certainly love.