Tuesday, January 31, 2012
My first grandchild was born two days ago. While waiting for her arrival, I sat down and started a list of all the places I want to take her.
I want her to walk down the beautiful streets of Paris with me. I want to show her the breathtaking rift valley in Iceland. I want to sit under an olive tree in Tuscany and let the sun sink into us.
Closer to home, I want to share Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Thinking about the powerful scenery in Yellowstone, I remembered an essay I wrote for my Home Planet column in 2010. In it, I described one perfect day in one of the world's most dramatic places. Now, I can't wait to share that day with her.
Read: "If I Could Take You to Yellowstone"
Thursday, January 26, 2012
My world is full of complex machines. I live by my computer, my phone goes everywhere with me--I even have it on a table beside the tub when I take a bubble bath.
But I have a long-running love affair with a much simpler instrument. The pencil. Preferably the yellow Dixon Ticonderoga #2. The same pencil I've been writing notes with since I was a schoolgirl.
The other day, prowling through Roost, an antiques shop in Spokane, I found a vintage Made-in-England pencil case worthy of my Ticonderogas. I brought it home and now it sits on my desk full of freshly-sharpened yellow pencils ready for work.
As I wrote in my Spokesman-Review Treasure Hunting antiques blog, a pencil is good for first thoughts. It feels right in the hand, balances on the end of a finger. A pencil forgives, erasing what you want to change.
Monday, January 23, 2012
The City of San Francisco is touted as a place for lovers. For long, hand-holding, walks by the bay and candlelit dinners for two at cozy, private, eateries. A place for fog-shrouded mystery and love at first sight. Or, when it's needed, rekindled romance
But let me tell you something. You don't have to be there as one of a pair to fall under the city's spell. I spent a working-weekend exploring San Francisco on my own and I came away infatuated. I walked up and down the hills, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and down the scenic, iconic, Highway 1.
On my last night, letting the sun go down as I gazed out at the Oakland Bay Bridge--now celebrating it's 75th Anniversary and under construction--I snapped a quick photo with my phone. And now, when I'm at work or alone at home, like a true secret love, I sneak a little look at it every now and then.
And I can't help but wonder if maybe it's time to get away again.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
After teasing us for weeks, winter finally swept in and across Washington State, carpeting Seattle before crossing the Cascades to settle on Spokane.
As I shoveled the driveway and sidewalks, clearing away the day's accumulation, I was reminded of the gifts of silence and solitude that sometimes fall with snow.
You can read my Spokesman-Review column here: The Solitude of Snow
Thursday, January 19, 2012
We had our choice. While in Italy, we could head out for a day in Pisa, following in the footsteps of most tourists traveling through Tuscany, guidebooks in hand, marking the Leaning Tower off the bucket list. Or, we could take the train to the small town of Lucca. We chose the latter.
Lucca is worth seeing; beautiful, full of culture, history and good food. After entering the city gate, we strolled along the path on top of the 16th Century wall that still surrounds the city and stopped to soak up the sun and sights at the Piazza del Anfiteatro Romano. The Piazza is the site of an ancient Roman amphitheater and is still a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists.
Oh, and for Opera lovers, Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini. Are you humming Nessun dorma now? I am...
Saturday, January 14, 2012
I love this photo taken at a street fair in San Antonio in March,2011. I was there for the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo and stumbled onto the fair as I wandered around town. The colorful costumes, the movement and freedom of the dancers' movements, as well as their smiles, delighted me. You can see my video of the performance on YouTube
Thursday, January 12, 2012
I've been writing about antiques and collectibles for The Spokesman-Review since 2003. Over the years I've talked about the things we collect or inherit or simply fall in love with and have to have. Some are are big-ticket items brought out for events like the Antiques Roadshow. Others are more humble, trinkets picked up at thrift stores and junk shops.
This week I took a look around my own house. And I realized that everything in it comes with a story, if not a lot of value. This week's column was about the antique dough bowl in the photo above.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
On a recent swing through Idaho with my good friend Pam Scott, we stopped for a tour of the Old Idaho Penitentiary near Boise.
Built in 1870, using inmate labor to haul the massive sandstone blocks from a local quarry, the prison housed more than 13,000 inmates in its 101-year history.
Today, the Gothic architecture and stark landscape combine to create a vibe than stays with you as you read the signs and study the photos.
A small building on the grounds housed the 222 female inmates, many jailed for stigmatizing crimes of adultery and abortion. The women lived in close quarters and the photographs paint a picture of long boring days with little privacy.
Now, after a fire gutted many of the old buildings in the late 1990s, the compound stands like a ghost town under the wide Idaho sky.
Take the tour. See if you don't shiver as you walk the paths and through the buildings, some with cells still furnished as they were when the prison closed in 1973. It's worth a visit. When you walk back to your car you'll take a deep breath, grateful to be on the outside of all that stone and iron.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Founded in the 13th Century, the Grand Beguinage in Leuven, Belgium, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Considered the oldest surviving beguinage, the Leuven location is now part of the University of Leuven, the oldest Catholic university in the world.
Leuven also has a unique connection with the United States. When the library was deliberately bombed by Germans during WWI, Herbert Hoover spearheaded a campaign to have American students contribute to the rebuilding.
Donations from universities, high schools and academic associations were combined with money raised by school children from across the country. Etched in the stones of the exterior of the new building were the names of American schools and organizations that had helped make the new library a reality.
You can read more about the Leuven Library story here.
Friday, January 6, 2012
The romantic stereotype of Italy is that everywhere you look, you will find something beautiful. Who am I to argue?
In Florence, after touring the Scuola del Cuoio, the school of traditional Florentine leatherwork founded after WWII to give orphans a means of learning a trade, we stepped out into the walled courtyard and parking lot at the rear of the building, making our way back to the square. Glancing over as we walked past, I noticed a statue lying on its side. The beautiful figure was half covered in the scarlet leaves of the vines that were cascading over the wall. It was eerily beautiful. And romantic. And perfectly Italian in every way.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Maybe it's living under the gray Inland Northwest skies so common in Spokane in January, but I've been daydreaming of beautiful Lake Zurich. I took this photo in May 2011, on a day so clear and bright the Alps looked close enough to reach out and touch.
This isn't just scenery to the Swiss. As soon as the weather warms they flock to the water. They live, play and work around it.