Saturday, December 31, 2016

Keep It Simple

I don't do New Year's resolutions.  I used to make goals for myself, but I always made them pretty easy, and typically they were things I would do anyway without writing them down and posting them on the wall.  So then I came up with "theme" years -- "The Year of Birding", "The Year of Reading", "The Year of Art."  I've run out of themes, though, so you know what?  I think I'll just dispense with all that New Year's nonsense once and for all.

Instead, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing, which has been pretty darn good, all in all.  For example, I'll keep on watching those birds:

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

And I'll keep going out to sketch things:

Lately, I've been practicing drawing trees

Come Spring, I'll get back to my garden, and at times I'll do volunteer work for the Seattle Audubon publications committee, and I'll keep hanging out with my friends, and of course, most important of all, I'll keep hanging with my buddy Truman.

A recent outing to the Montlake Fill

So I have no resolutions, no goals, and no theme for 2017.  Because in my world, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Year in Review: Retirement

One-word summary:  FUN!

December 31 marks the one-year anniversary of my retirement.  Whoo!

The Upside:  More time to sketch, more time to go birding, more time to garden, more time to explore the city and nearby environs, more time with Truman.  And more time to relax!

The Downside:  All except one of my close friends are still working, so I can only hang with them on weekends.  Also, because I am a morning person, the late afternoon hours can seem a little slow at times.

ART:  Enjoyed going on sketch outings with Tina and Nicole, and with the Seattle Urban Sketchers.  Got to participate in the group's Friday outings from time to time.  Had fun painting decorative stuff on the walls of the living room.  Had a blast with the West Coast Regional Urban Sketch Crawl in Tacoma.

BIRDS:  Got the first new life bird in ages -- a lovely Snow Bunting at Discovery Park beach.  Always enjoyed seeing the "regulars" at various parks around town, but was disappointed at the renovations occurring at the Montlake Fill, my favorite spot, which made it difficult to bird there.  Was grateful to be able to watch the Osprey family successfully raise their three youngsters there over the summer, though.

I was also delighted and proud to be able to contribute to Seattle Audubon's centennial book.  The volunteer gig on their publications committee turned out to be a perfect fit for me.

MONEY:  Things were a bit tight due to my decision to retire at age 61 instead of my originally planned 62.  As I was not eligible for Social Security benefits for a whole year, I had to live on half-wages of my government pension, supplemented by savings.  Luckily, I had a full year's expenses in savings and wound up using only about a third of that.  So I managed all right, though was not pleased about the unexpected hearing aid cost and several home repair/maintenance issues that arose.  I'm happy to now be on my full retirement income!

NET RESULT:  I'm SO HAPPY I left work early!!!   I do not miss the daily bus commute.  I do not miss the office politics and mismanagement and horrid morale.  I LOVE getting up each morning and asking Truman, "Hey, what do you want to do today?"

And I love the fact that every day is Saturday.
Except Sunday!


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Truman's Christmas

Truman had doggie company both Christmas Day and Boxing Day -- we had Winston and Chloe over to keep us entertained.

Michelle (who is owned by Winston and Chloe) gave me a new plush dachshund toy -- "Buddy" from the movie "The Secret Life of Pets."  For some reason, Truman took against it.  Now, I have a large number of plush dachshunds, eight of which sit propped on the end of the bed, and he completely ignores them.  I added Buddy to that group.  Truman did not ignore it -- he kept dragging poor Buddy out into the living room and thrashing him about.

I kept taking Buddy away and putting him back on the bed with the other toys with a stern "No!", but Tru was having none of it.  He just has it in for the new toy!

I do hope I can train Tru to leave Buddy alone, as it is a very nice plush dachshund.  We shall see.

On Monday, Winston and Truman and I took a stroll to our neighborhood library.

The building houses both the library and other city services, and has an inside corridor with a glass wall for the library entrance proper -- this is where I always park the hounds.

Because the Hold shelves and the checkout counter are all visible through the wall, they can watch my every move.

Truman usually rides in the stroller on the way to the library, and walks home -- but first we have to get past the Evil Garage Door.  There is an apartment building one block from the library which has a large garage door which once opened suddenly as Truman was walking past it, scaring him silly.  That happened over a year ago, but he still refuses to walk past it to this day.

So we stroll until we get by it.

As soon as we clear the Evil Garage Door, Truman is ready to walk home!

He certainly enjoyed his Christmas company very much.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Year in Review: Reading

I read sixty-five books in 2016, weighted heavily towards fiction this time (49 novels to 16 nonfiction books).  I was in the mood for mostly lightweight fiction, reading a lot of "cozy" mysteries (amateur sleuth, small-town settings, not a lot of violence), some middle-grade children's books, and a lot of P.G. Wodehouse.

My reading choices went well with my desire to spend my first year of retirement relaxing as much as I could!

My Favorite Nonfiction Books

The Road to Little Dribbling (Bill Bryson).  Bryson jaunts around his adopted home of England in his typical humorous fashion -- a master of the wryly observed travel memoir.

A Kentish Lad (Frank Muir).  Good luck finding this autobiography -- I snapped it up at a used book sale.  Frank Muir was a British radio and TV icon from the 1940s - 1970s specializing in comedy writing and acting, and he tells rollicking good stories about his life and times.

Super Sushi Ramen Express (Michael Booth).  Booth, who is mainly a food writer, takes his wife and young sons on a two-month exploration of Japan's food culture with highly entertaining and often amusing results.

Caring for Nature:  100 Years of Seattle Audubon (Edited by Constance Sidles).  Well, okay, I'm heavily biased about this book, since I did research for it.  Impressively told history and stories of people who made a difference for the preservation of birds and nature.

The Boys in the Boat (Daniel Brown).  Absolutely riveting account of the young men on the UW rowing crew who won Olympic gold in 1936.  Amazing story about amazing people.

My Favorite Fiction Books

The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof  (Annie Schmidt).  Quirky and charming children's book about a cat who turns into a young woman.

Pretty much everything I read this year by P.G. Wodehouse.  What can one say?  Jeeves and Wooster.  Blandings Castle and Galahad Threepwood.  Aunt Agatha...Monty Bodkin...Stilton Cheesewright....of course the plots are all the same, full of thwarted young love, miscommunication and mishaps galore, with Bertie Wooster continually under threat of unwanted marriage and the Empress of Blandings always in danger of pig-napping...with everything turning out right in the end.  One does not read Wodehouse for his plots -- one reads him for his wit, his amusing turns of phrase, and his delightful dialogue.   I'd read most of these books at least once before, and won't mind reading them again a few years hence.

Titles enjoyed this year:  Summer Lightning, The Luck of the Bodkins, Heavy Weather, Cocktail Time, The Mating Season, Thank You Jeeves, Joy in the Morning, Full Moon, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, Galahad at Blandings, Pigs Have Wings, Right Ho, Jeeves.

Artists in Crime (Ngaio Marsh).  Another re-read of a favorite mystery, where artist Agatha Troy meets Inspector Roderick Alleyn while he investigates a murder at her studio.

Absolutely Truly (Heather Frederick).  Middle-grade novel about a young girl dealing with a move to a new town where she makes new friends while solving a literary mystery uncovered at her family's bookstore.

The Transcendental Murder and The Memorial Hall Murder (Jane Langton).  While I enjoyed these early entries in Langton's series featuring amateur sleuth Homer Kelly and his wife Mary, who are both English Literature teachers, and I enjoyed their New England settings, I was disappointed in later books in the series that I tried to read and gave up on.  These two feature  Homer and Mary more prominently, while the later ones focused on other characters to their detriment.

The End of the Road (Sue Henry).  While the plot of this mystery is barely there, and the solution comes out of left field in an unsatisfying fashion, and despite the heroine, amateur sleuth Maxie McNabb, committing a couple of dumb moves, I still enjoyed this book overall for its portrayal of Homer, Alaska and its quirky residents.  And possibly the fact that Maxie owns a dachshund named Stretch had a little something to do with it.  Also read two earlier book in the series, The Serpents Tooth, which takes Maxie and Stretch on the road to Colorado, and The Tooth of Time, set in New Mexico, where the plots were definitely better.

Good stuff!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Birds

The birds from the far north who like to spend Winter down this way have been turning up in larger numbers lately.  In the past two days, Truman and I checked out both Green Lake park and Magnuson Park to see them.

We found a large flock of American Wigeons at Green Lake.

Something startled them (not us!) and they flew pell-mell to the safety of the lake.

Later we met some coots -- Truman seemed concerned about the way they approached the shore right towards him.

Here is a close-up of a non-startled wigeon:

We also saw a lot of Common Mergansers there.

All in all, Truman seemed a tad suspicious about all the activity at Green Lake, and was anxious to go home, as usual.

The next day we went to Magnuson Park, which Truman likes a lot better, as it is generally quieter and less populated.  There were some lovely Buffleheads on the wetland ponds.

Tru was much more content there.

There was a good-sized flock of Common Goldeneyes out on the lake:

We got some lovely sunshine, too!

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Little Snow, a Little Sketching, a Little Dog

We had a dusting of snow on Saturday morning -- so light as to be barely visible, but Truman still enjoyed checking it out.

On Sunday Tina and I went to the Lake Forest Park Town Center for some quick sketching.  A Winter Farmer's Market was held (indoors) -- it closed at 3pm and we got there around twenty minutes before closing.  I spent about ten minutes on this sketch, until the proprietor started boxing stuff up.

There was also a holiday craft fair going on, which was way too crowded to do any sketching, so I sat on a bench next to a tree decorated with large bows and did this drawing:

Earlier that week, I forced Truman to get into the Christmas spirit by getting his photo taken with Santa at our vet's office for charity.  He did not appreciate it one bit.

But he did enjoy the gourmet dog treat he got afterwards for his trouble, and later that day, he seemed quite content.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Art! (and Truman)

As you know, I haven't been out sketching for some time due to the weather, and I don't enjoy sketching indoors all that much, but I did manage three small drawings over the past week or so.

This was done quickly at the UW marina, on a sunny but very cold day:

This is from Tuesday while I stood in line at the Post Office waiting to mail Christmas presents:

And this is what I see when I sit here in comfort in the living room, staring out the window and wishing it were warmer out there:

So not that terribly exciting, but at least I'm keeping the drawing hand limbered up now and then while waiting for Spring.

And now here is what readers really want to see -- more Truman!

We got a chilly walk in at the the Montlake Fill yesterday.  The puddles were mostly ice and rather slippery in spots.

We saw a lot of coots on the lake, an eagle and a Cooper's Hawk hunting, and not much else other than this lone Killdeer.

Afterwards we tootled up to Third Place Books, where Truman helped me shop.

I did not buy any books about dogs, much to his disappointment!

Finally, one last pic from Monday when Winston came over for a visit:

Happy dogs!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Feed the Birds

I had many lovely visitors to my yard during the recent snow day and the ensuing chilly weather, thanks to the presence of the bird feeder.

Dark-eyed Juncos were the most common:

And here's a Black-capped Chickadee:

I tossed out some peanuts, hoping to get Steller's Jays, but it turned out they were all busy feeding at my neighbor's place, so I wound up with crows instead.

The snow melted by Saturday.  It was fun for a day, but I'm glad that it's gone.