Monday, March 22, 2010

‘Fears that Veterans health care and TRICARE will be undermined by the health reform legislation are unfounded.’ Shinseki

Statement from VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

WASHINGTON - As Secretary of Veterans Affairs, I accepted the solemn responsibility to uphold our sacred trust with our nation’s Veterans. Fears that Veterans health care and TRICARE will be undermined by the health reform legislation are unfounded. I am confident that the legislation being voted on today will provide the protections afforded our nation’s Veterans and the health care they have earned through their service. The President and I stand firm in our commitment to those who serve and have served in our armed forces. We pledge to continue to provide the men and women in uniform and our Veterans the high quality health care they have earned.

President Obama has strongly supported Veterans and their needs, specifically health care needs, on every major issue for these past 14 months – advance appropriations, new GI Bill implementation, new Agent Orange presumptions for three additional diseases, new Gulf War Illness presumptions for nine additional diseases, and a 16% budget increase in 2010 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, that is the largest in over 30 years, and which has been followed by a 2011 VA budget request that increases that record budget by an additional 7.6%.

To give our Veterans further assurance that health reform legislation will not affect their health care systems, the Chairmen of five House committees, including Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner and Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, have just issued a joint letter reaffirming that the health reform legislation as written would protect those receiving care through all TRICARE and Department of Veterans Affairs programs.

Link source at United States Department of Veterans Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Katie Roberts
March 21, 2010 katie.roberts@va.gov or 202-461-4982

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Monday, March 15, 2010

The end of an era - Monkey Puzzle Tree is down


(photo of our home is among the featured illustrations in 'Back Roads of Washington', 1992, drawn by illustrator, Earl Thollander)


Saga of our 90 year old Chilean Monkey Puzzle Tree ( Araucaria araucana ) comes to a close. The tree was planted in the front yard of our house, we are given to understand, some 90 years before we ever arrived on the scene. When we bought the house, the tree looked ragged along the lower branches, and the previous home owner told us it was not unusual for this species of tree to look like that when they reached these mature ages. He told us the story of how the species of tree came to be planted in Bay Center, Washington as it is not native to the area, although the climate is conducive to nurturing this species.

When our house was built in 1892, by a barge builder, the house was given to the daughter and her husband - the Bochaus. In those early 1900's there was ship travel on our Willapa Bay and the Willapa River. The ships might harbor in Bay Center and spend a day or night as guests of local residents. Mrs. Bochau would entertain the ship captains in her home and one of the ship captains (Capt. Cook, I believe) gifted her one of the seedlings of the Chilean Monkey Puzzle Tree he had as cargo on his ship.

The tree grew successfully through their lifetime, and on into the life spans of the next two owners of the house. By the time we came along to to buy the house in November 2002, the tree was well into it's maturity. However, these are prehistoric trees and have an incredible lifespan, living well past 100 years. The tree was not beyond it's years, but it did succumb to some infection and it began dying from within.

The first year, we enjoyed the giant tree with it's giant limbs and it swayed gently in the heavy windstorms. It was well rooted and not likely to fall over even with the highest winds. The first spring, I learned how prickly are the 'leaves' if you can call them that on the branches, as I did the yard spring cleaning. As the lower limbs lost their green, I asked a neighbor to cut off the lower limbs in hopes we could save the tree. It seemed to me the logical, compassion, caring and nurturing thing to do to try to save the tree. I neglected to consult my husband on my decision and that was one of the few times I have seen him livid. He was 'not ready' for the mangling of that great gracious tree, no matter that it had dying lower limbs.

Over the years the tree continued to die from within, turning browner and browner with each passing year until there was nothing left of green on the tree limbs even at the pinnacle of it's height. But it continued to stand, testament to the community of it's long history in Bay Center. I pointed out to my husband that there was nothing green left on the tree and it had indeed passed into that place where trees are no longer among the living. He would not be convinced easily. He had been following for a few years the attempt of a new branch shoot trying to grow and what was left at the tip top of the tree that was still green. He would not agree to the reality that the tree was no longer healthy or even living.

When the limbs became dry enough to begin to break off, I grew concerned that one could fall on someone passing beneath and insisted the tree come down. Our neighbor, who has some experience with bringing down trees agreed to take it down. He was able to get all the limbs cut off and the top of the tree when there was an accident kickback with the chainsaw. The kickback went across the top of his hand, and we are all blessed that it grazed his hand with no damage to the nerves or connecting tissue. My husband rushed him to hospital where they attended to his hand, but it did cost him some work on the fishing boats during his time of recovery. He has said he would come finish taking the tree all the way down, but a few years have passed and he has not taken it down. I can completely understand his reluctance! Nor did I really want him to take on the challenge as the county power lines create a tripod quite close to the top of the tree.

I explored having the tree made into a totem pole, asking the person who made the totem pole for our neighbor down the street if he could make one from the remains of the tree. He said the wood is too soft and if he made a totem, the features would split with the wood, ie, the eyes or nose might split causing a caricature image -- not very totem like. So for a couple of years the trunk of the tree has been standing, withstanding our powerful Storm 2007 winds of 140 - 160 mph.

Another neighbor thought perhaps to use the wood from the tree to make unusual wooden crafts as it is a desired wood for such projects. We agreed if he could take it down, he could use the wood. He came, he saw the power line obstacles and changed his mind about taking it down. He suggested that the county might be willing to take it down.

Last week as I was leaving the community heading to town, I saw the county people doing some roadside tree cutting and stopped to inquire if they could take down my trunk of a tree. He said he couldn't do it today as they had full schedule but would come back, to which I said no hurry, the tree will continue to stand. Surprised to find a work crew from the county in front of my house today, he kept his word and did come back to take down our tree.

It was fascinating to watch as with their power equipment and trucks they were able to stabilize the tree while someone else using chainsaw cut through the lower trunk. The truck with the stabilizing equipment held the tree steady, lifted it and gently swung it to the side of our road, laying it down gently.

She lies there in less than all her glory now, having been stripped of her limbs and foliage, a tall trunk of a tree that used to be and is no more. Good bye dear Monkey Puzzle Tree, we did not get to enjoy your heyday and were there at the time of your demise, but we truly respect your tremendous history.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shifting direction a bit..

Taking inventory, it looks like I had some fun over the years creatively building and playing with blogs. I have 17 blogs that I have created over the years at Blogger, and 11 at Word Press not to mention the other blogger sites where I built blogs. I began blogging back in the early years when blogging hadn't yet caught the popular imagination. My early efforts were in accord with the limited technology which has made advancements over the years. Along the years I've seen people built some really great blogs, artistic, playful, theme related, content rich, and I am delighted to follow other's blogs. Expanding on the blog theme, there are now online magazines that attempt to capture diverse interest categories.

In that regard, I think it has come time for me to attempt to integrate some of my blogs and work more in one blog than across many. Much as I'd like to build one of those blogs with multiple pages and columns, I doubt that I will get around to doing it. So, will take one of my blogs and see if I can rework it to be more expansive with multiple topics rather than core theme to one topic. Large effort for me to round up all the blog content and get it into one place. New project.

Why, though, I ask myself. Why bother. Shrug...I don't know, just seems like it is time for me to do it if for no other reason than for myself.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Orders to deploy to Afghanistan - third combat deployment

Son-in-law already has his orders for deployment to Afghanistan. He is home with his family for now - his year 'dwell time' at home. We work to try to forget it is only a year that will pass quickly and another deployment looms ahead. My daughter works (and I do mean Works) at trying to get the most out of their time home, arranging for the family to get everything they can out of each moment; something to be stored up against the times he is away.

A third deployment after two extended, stop-loss 15 month deployments in Iraq. Amounts to 30 months on the ground in Iraq + the months before and after deployments of readying or debriefing and he has been gone about 40 months of his children's lives. Strong as my daughter is in trying to keep her family stabilized, I am seeing the toll these deployments are putting on the families. There is no way that my grandchildren will not carry some imprint of fear into their adult lives. Military brats, kids who grow up with parent(s) in military are resilient and develop unique coping skills that can serve them well in their adult years, ie, taking responsibility, organizational and communication skills, embracing different cultures, but as is well identified in the movie (dvd available) Brats; Our Journey Home, children are impacted by the life during times of peace, and more so during times of war.

Is it too early for me to be thinking about joining the protests of the Afghanistan war? Possibly, but I don't think it's going to be marching in the streets that will get the message out there this time. Not sure yet, what direction registering statements of concern about the direction of Afghanistan war will need to take or wind up taking, but a beginning is discourse and dialogue, talking about the course of this war. Wearied from years of intense activity in being part of actions to elevate the concerns about Iraq war, I'm not anxious to jump into the fray to do likewise with Afghanistan war......and yet, neither do I want my son-in-law and his family to have to go through another combat deployment.

I do empathize with President Obama in having so many fires to put out as soon as he stepped into office, and unlike former President Bush, I don't think we are dealing with a President in Obama who is beyond listening to reason. Afghanistan is another fire that needs to be put out, it won't wait patiently in line whilst all the other issues demanding President Obama's attention get priority attention. I'm going to need to hear Obama's reasoning for why our troops need to remain in Afghanistan; why my son-in-law needs to put his life on the line once more --- for what purpose, for what larger issue, for what greater good?





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Congressman Brian Baird's Successfully Civil Town Hall Meeting in Ilwaco – Health Care Reform

Kudos to the Congressman and his staff for hosting a successfully civil discourse Town Hall meeting last night in Ilwaco, in Pacific County, WA. And of course, the primary range of questions had to do with Health Care/Insurance Reform. Death threats to the Congressman aside, he still managed to conduct his usual in-person Town Hall meetings in several Southwest Washington counties.

What was the process?

I can't speak to the in person Town Hall meetings he held in other counties except for what I've read in media (some of which has been reported at Washblog). I can speak to the TH we attended in Ilwaco last night. Also Baird has added telephone Town Hall meetings as well to his usual array of in-person TH meetings in the SW counties.

The Ilwaco TH meeting was orderly and permitted the many to hear both the questions and Baird's responses without interruption or interference. Which is precisely what I wanted - information and not the drama of interference that has been the hallmark of many other TH meetings across the nation.

We arrived at the high school, and yes, there was a tiny contingent of less than impressive 'protesters' with their home-made cardboard signs. They kept their behavior under control and did not molest the people as they were coming into the auditorium. We signed in, and we were asked if we wanted to ask a question of the Congressman; if so, we were given a number (kind of like at an auction).

We were seated and it was explained by the moderator that corresponding numbers were in a twirl cage (bingo comes to mind), and numbers would be picked at random. Those persons who held those numbers would come forward to be seated in the first row of seats. Each would then get 3 minutes of time at the microphone to state their concerns, ask their questions and the Congressman would have 3 minutes of time to respond.

Questions came from both parties. I think people are sophisticated enough to filter out what is rhetoric and focus in on the actual question, when there is a question and not just a 3 minute pulpit for speech making. The Congressman's opportunity to respond, or better said, give the facts as he knows them, provided a format that helped enormously to dispel some of the rhetorical myths, giving the auditorium of people an opportunity to listen to and hear the information.

In Congressman Baird's Town Halls that we have attended in the past, even when my own emotions have been highly charged, (ie, his vote in 2007 for the Surge in Iraq where our son-in-law was deployed), he has been respectful to all, including us, in responding to concerns and questions. Last night's Town Hall was no exception. He was respectful, courteous, and responsive to every question, even the few who formulated their questions in what seemed designed to bait him. He actually was skillful in handling those baiting type questions, both responding and further elaborating on concerns and situations that led to the current Health Care Reform issue.

It was a 2 hour TH meeting, so obviously, there was not time for everyone who might have wanted to ask a question to have a turn at the microphone. But with the quality of the kinds of questions asked, and Baird's informative responses, I think probably most of the concerns people had in their minds received air time in a very Civil dialogue.

Earlier in August, I was also on one of Baird's telephone TH meetings (Pacific County), and got to ask my question of him; specifically what concerns about the Health Care Reform Bill did he have as he has said he is unsure how he will vote when it comes up for vote in Congress. Frankly, I would like to see him vote for the Bill with all of it's warts and flaws rather than to vote against it. I sense that voting for the Bill starts the ball rolling, probably with a lot of tweaks needed in years to come. Whereas to vote against it because of it's imperfections does little to alter or change the current deeply flawed Health Care 'system'.

As Baird explained he has heard from doctors, it is not really a system so much as an evolution that has evolved into a complex hodge podge of health care that some get and some don't.

On a personal note, I do have to be a bit amused at one of the questions last night. The Chair of the Republican Party in our 3rd Congressional District was among one of those whose number was called, giving her time at the microphone. She has had time at earlier Town Hall meeting in another county to state her concerns to the Congressman and she did make an offer of her home as a venue for the Congressman to hold an in- person Town Hall, guaranteeing him an assurance of safety she would personally provide. He did thank her for and it did seem he accepted the offer; I'm not sure he intended to hold a Town Hall in her home, nor would that be logical. He did hold the in person Town Hall in Ilwaco, at the high school - a more appropriate venue and approximately 2 miles from her home. She has not been deprived of opportunity of access to the Congressman, nor of opportunity to state her concerns or questions.

She has had a beef with what she terms his rejection of her offer, labeling it as evidence of an unwillingness on the part of Congressman Baird to hold in-person Town Hall meetings. She has both blogged it and arranged for a newspaper article in The Columbian, of her account of his rejection of her offer. In my opinion, it goes to show the 'slant' of her perspective in presenting the situation as a rejection, as an unwillingness on Baird's part to conduct in person Town Hall meetings. And it is a perspective she is pleased to broadcast in the media and telegraph to her party. It was, in fact, Baird offering a more appropriate venue with a wider opportunity, for the larger populace in the area to participate in an in person Town Hall. Probably safer for everyone also, with the County Sheriff there, and the presence of uniformed officers stationed along the side corridors.

Her concern as she stated it in the question last night to Congressman Baird were some remarks he had made in earlier years; favoring universal health care and duration terms of office. Baird corrected the perception she had of his earlier remarks on terms of office. She spoke again indicating she was in favor of all people having access to health care, and when Baird asked if she was in favor of universal health care, she said no, she was not, and promptly sat down. There was a bit of a buzz talk after that exchange amongst the people in the auditorium.

Highlighting this more to illustrate, in my opinion, a tactic of intent on the part of the Republican party in trying to direct attention away from the Health Care Reform issue, while offering little of substantive value as an alternative method to adjust the disparities in health care as we know it today. Congressman Baird is not the issue, nor is the next election. Health Care Reform is the issue on many people's mind and they seem to want information, not politicking.

My thanks to Brian Baird for the opportunity to learn what I felt I wanted and needed to learn about Health Care Reform - less the noise of disruptive interference. Good job in putting together the Ilwaco Town Hall meeting.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bill Moyers interviewed on Bill Maher - videos

Did you watch Bill Moyers on Bill Maher this past Friday? It is worth watching. Bill Moyers is well … Bill Moyers and he says it best. If you missed it you can see 3 part video posted below; also at LiveLeak - links here and here and here.

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daughter’s family stationed in Hawaii, 2006

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KoKo Head in Hawaii, photos taken by daughter when stationed in Hawaii, 2006.

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She did her kitchen in Coffee motif, using  Espresso painted cabinets, and coffee cup napkins pasted to kitchen backdrop

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Her patio garden, Hawaii, 2006

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Coyote Moon – Native American – Chant - Meditation

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Our weekend out of town; The Story.

Our weekend;   The Story.  I have a peridontist appointment about every three months, in a town about 2 + hours from where we live.  So we have turned it into a weekend getaway, and a visit with my mother who lives in a nearby town to the town where my peridontist is located.

Had my peridontist appt Friday and the report was good - some small improvement actually.  Not much improvement, but far better than deterioration.    Then we went to my mother's home, spent the weekend. and then came home to our animals.   Our cat and dog remain at home, and so our time away is limited to a safe duration for the cat and dog to fend for themselves.  Now that my cat bite is healing and the cat is healing, life is returning to normal.   (A couple weeks earlier the cat was bitten by an animal, and in not knowing she was bitten, I picked her up, more rather tugged her out of her hiding place and she bit me…not at all her usual behavior, she is a very loving cat.   We didn’t see her wound at the time, but knew something was wrong with her.  Arthur spotted her wound, and we took her to the vet, who gave her a vaccine, and told me was more concerned that I get myself to hospital to treat the cat bite.  I did, was vaccinated and given antibiotics, the incident reported to County Health, the cat quarantined at our home for 10 days and we are both mending without incident, the primary concern being exposure to rabies).   When we returned home, our dog Jake resumed eating again.  He misses us when we are gone and gets sad - depressed.  Dogs have feelings.  Oh, and our cat too, she has feelings, misses us and glad when we return home. 

After my peridontist visit on Friday afternoon we drove to my mother’s home, picked her up and went out to eat.  We live in a rural town, and there aren’t a lot of restaurants or places to eat, so we enjoy the opportunity of eating out at different restaurants on the days of  my peridontist appointments.  It’s an eating out together date we look relish.  Choosing a restaurant in the town where my mother lives proved not to be as obvious as it might seem.  We kind of scoured what we knew to be restaurants in her neighborhood, opted to go further away, settled on Black Angus, since I was hankering for a nice steak lunch.  We got there and it no longer has lunch, open for dinner only.  Must be the economy.  The hour was growing late into the afternoon, I was hungry now, and we had not eaten breakfast that day,  or at all, so we wound up at (oh yuck!) Old Country Buffet.   Arthur likes the many choices of buffet restaurants, and sometimes so do I, but Old Country Buffet is not one of my favorites.  We both really enjoy the buffet variety of primarily healthy choices at  Sweet Tomatoes restaurant, but there were none the town where my Mom lives.    

Saturday Arthur spent the day home, defrosted Mom’s freezer for her because it had become so full of ice that the ice on all the shelves were touching each other, no room for food.   He took care of some other taskings for her, then spent the rest of the day fooling around with installing stuff in  his old fashioned computer.  Not the laptop kind, the big bulky kind.  Some guy he knows had given him some Linus software to download or told him about it.  Anyway, it was a dead computer (not working) and when Arthur finished the download it sprung back to life, installed Windows XP and is sort of functional again.  He was delighted.  Still needs an audio driver and something else that would permit it to link to internet.  He was just intrigued that it started working again...kind of like a guy tinkering in his garage with his power tools, only Arthur likes to tinker with puter.

Saturday I took Mom to Farmers Market in Proctor area of Tacoma.  That is a district that more resembles Portland or some Seattle districts; organic, green living, conscientious choices - that sort of thing, and an amazingly cool, fun grocery store with very upscale item choices.  For a mere $309.00 you can purchase a wheel of gourmet cheese!  An experience in itself.  (I’m being a bit snarky – it would be very unlikely we would ever spend that kind of  money on cheese.)  We visited a new consignment shop in her immediate neighborhood – delightful items, colorful, fun, upbeat, cheerful.  I liked it.   But I didn’t buy anything, because in truth, neither of us need another thing!

And more for the hunt of treasure than because either of us need anything more in our homes, we went to a few garage sales. What was being offered wasn’t the kind of garage sales we were looking for - more like junk sales.  We had fun anyway because we toured many of the University Place neighborhoods, the million + $$ homes with breathtaking views of the Narrows water, Narrows Bridge, the outlying island.  And alongside the million + $$ homes, are more modest ranch style homes.  You can be on a ‘house of dreams’ street and turn to go down the the next street which could well be a quiet and modest street of different ranch style homes.    University Place neighborhoods are in interesting mix of income levels.   After our tour of neighborhoods,  I took her to visit Charlie at cemetary where his ashes are placed.  It is a beautiful, peaceful cemetary, a place of quiet serenity amidst the hubbub of getting from here to there.  Nice place to quietly reflect on life.  I know, it may sound like a strange juxtaposition to reflect on life when at a cemetary where the dead are buried…..but that is how it works for me.

We went back to Proctor district that evening to have dinner at a niche Mexican restaurant (not a restaurant chain) because Mom said she heard good things about the food and atmosphere there.  Lively atmosphere with mix of old and young people dining.    I had a Taste Assault dish called Chicken Mole, although it would be better named Chicken in Mole (prounounced molay)  Sauce, because the sauce was Outrageous -  6 ingredients, and I can remember plums, almonds, mole (an unsweetened chocolate), and some other ingredients.  It wakes up your taste buds like wowza!   Not hot or even spicy, flavorful would be the word I would use to describe it.  Flavorful with each bite.  Arthur took a menu and will experiment at home with making the mole sauce because I liked it so well. 

Sunday we took Mom to her church (St Andrews Episcopal Church).   A bit of history here; my mom lost half her sightedness recently and is vision impaired now.  Mom had been saying she felt she needed something inspirational amidst all the doctor appointments and bad news.  Along the way, I decided to call the Priest at St Andrews to talk to him about Mom.  When she was a child, she attended Episcopal church in Spokane.  I explained to him her childhood church exposure, and her current medical condition with being sight impaired, being told by her doctors not to drive anymore. He agreed to visit Mom immediately and arranged for someone to pick her up and take her to church on Sundays.  

She has been to St Andrews now, a few times, and wanted us to visit her church.  We wanted to visit it also, as I enjoyed the upbeat conversation with the Priest - he was energetically young, even though he isn't young.    That Sunday they had special guests, a singing group who livened up the entire worship service with renditions of the hymns done to foot tapping music.  Guitars, tambourines, horns, and one of the gals playing guitar was barefoot!   Felt like we were at a campfire gathering!  Geesh!  But the worship service having a combination of traditional liturgy, the laying on of hands for healing, the Eucharist, and the lively music with a welcome invitation to all does reflect ‘The Emerging Church’.

We loved the church, it had accommodations our little church building isn’t equipped to have, and if we lived in that area, we would likely attend that church.   Afterwards we ate at a restaurant in her immediate neighborhood that she is fond of - an old fashioned restaurant left over from approximately the 1950’s era.     So lots of eating this weekend, way too many calories, and Mom had a nice weekend.  So did we.  

Oh and at the Farmer's Market I bought some snow peas that were priced below what is usually charged for snow peas, so I bought enough to freeze.  Bought a couple of tomato plants already bearing tomatoes, and a basil plant.   I didn’t plant a vegetable garden this year, and haven’t spent much time outside with the herb and flower gardens, so keeping it light this year.   Weather hasn’t been too cooperative where we live – cold, rainy, then unseasonably blistering hot, then cold again.   At the market, I found a growing salad bowl planter that I wanted and Mom bought it for me for my birthday gift.  The planter has growing  lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro plants  - salad ingredients, and that is the extent of my vegetable garden this year.   Except all the herbs I have been growing for a few years now. 

And I was delighted to learn about a lovely tasty sauce called Chimichurri?  Oh, I tasted some at the market, and just had to buy one - lime Chimichurri.  Great to use as braising sauce for grilled vegetables, on meats, or just straight on healthy chips or fresh veggies.   Taste delight!

It was a rather sweet weekend.  Last year around this time, we had visited Mom and she and I went to Lavender Festival on Vashon Island, ferry ride over and back, a beautiful, clear, sunny day, making the waters deep blue and picturesque. There was a Farmer’s Market there too, and we visited that Farmer’s Market

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father Matthew Presents: Mary Magdalene (Episcopal)

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Make Your Own Seed Tapes

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Book; American farmhouses : country style and design

American Farmhouses: Country Style and Design American Farmhouses: Country Style and Design by Leah Rosch


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
I like to study the architecture of homes of bygone eras.


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Book; Forgotten Household Crafts

Forgotten Household Crafts Forgotten Household Crafts by John Seymour


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
From the point of view of someone who grew up in Europe, it was more intriguing to read not only the how it was done, but the perspective from a child growing up, seeing the results of how it was done.


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Book; The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest

The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest by Lawrence Kreisman


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Actually it was quite comprehensive and regionally specific.


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Oil Painting is so much brighter though

I created 5 new paintings in a day. I was really into it that day. Two oils and three acrylics. Trying acrylics was new for me, see the post below.

Here is one of the oil paintings, and you can see the paint is so much more vivid.

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Hydrangea

Hydrangea

Dahlia

Dahlia

spring color bowl

spring color bowl

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