Man how can you top last week’s whale post? I don’t even know. But it’s Tuesday so here we go!
Guys… it’s getting closer to winter. The sun comes up as I’m driving to work and it sets before I get home. It’s causing kind of a panicked situation for me because I spent the whole summer running and hiking outside! Now I have to leave work early, go outside, and then telework to get my hours in if I want any non-dark outdoors time on the weekdays. I’m a little stressed out about it (first world problem for sure).
So this weekend, when we woke up and it was a beautiful sunny (and not too cold) day, I dragged Cobalt out for a run. We went to my new favorite trail, which, after half a mile of uphill, winds around the side of a mountain hill and is in direct sunlight pretty much all day in the winter. Lovely. I could feel the layers of stress floating away from me as the sun warmed my skin. Happy Potassium.
Then on Sunday afternoon, we headed back to hike the front of the mountain hill. We got there as the sun was starting to go down, and this epic gold color washed across the whole trail. Cobalt and I kept stopping to try to capture it on our phones. We had some success, as you can see from the that top photo this week. At least you could tell the lighting was epic. But really, I think you had to be there. The color was fantastic. Maybe I’ll post that pic again.
Then on our way back down to the car, the sun gave us this gorgeous wave goodbye.
Winter is often hard for me – I am not great at being cold (though I had a sock epiphany recently so my feet are happier) and I like to go play outside whenever I want. I think this year, I’m going to have to come up with more of a strategy to keep me happy and healthy throughout this season.
What do you do? Does it involve treadmills? I feel so reluctant about them.
PS: Today is my friend S’s bday! Yaaaaaaay! Happy day, friend! I know it’s a big one so I hope you celebrate in a crazily amazing way. :D
***WARNING: Photo-heavy post. It might take a while for all the photos to load but I think it’s probably worth it.***
EVERYONE. I got to see orcas for my birthday. It was amazing.
For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE orcas (also known as killer whales). My love of orcas actually predates my shark love by at least 15 years, if not more. Plus, Washington state is a great place to see orcas in the wild because we have a bunch of different kinds of orcas that live around here. So ever since I was a wee undergrad in Washington, I have wanted to go and see them. But I never got the chance… until this year when I told Cobalt that all I wanted for my birthday was to see the orcas.
So he and my friend Titanium put together a trip for my birthday. And then my sister (Deoxyribolove), my sister in law (she’s going by Strontium now), and our friends M and P decided they wanted to come too! Yay whale-watching party!
So this is the story of our adventure, complete with tons of pictures. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
We got up super early. Like 6 am. Then we picked up Strontium at her hotel and headed north to Anacortes, WA. There we met Titanium and her bf J and M and P at the ferry terminal! We boarded the ferry and headed to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. It was a beautiful ferry ride. Not too cold, not rainy, just cloudy and cool with mountains jutting out all around us. We spent the majority of the ride outside catching up.
Once at Friday Harbor, we stopped for a bite to eat. Then it was time for whales.
It was raining as we walked to the San Juan Safaris shop but it soon stopped and the rain decided to stay away for the rest of the afternoon. We met our two guides who told us about all the animals we could see on our trip: bald eagles, minke whales, orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and more! As they were talking, a bald eagle flew overhead! It was a sign…
Then we loaded onto the boat and headed out into the Salish Sea.
To give you an idea of where we were: we had to turn our cell phones to airplane mode because our they might try to pick up Canadian cell towers. So yeah, we were basically as close to Canada as we could be. At one point, we even passed the most northwest lighthouse in the United States.
Anyway, we weren’t out very long when we discovered another bald eagle. So regal up in the tree!
Not long after that, someone spotted tall black fins sticking up out of the water. ORCAS! Our guides quickly determined that we had found T101 (a transient/Bigg’s killer whale), her two sons (T101A and T101B), and her adopted son (T102). One way to ID an orca is to look at the dorsal fin (the one on the whale’s back). We could easily tell T101 apart from the boys because female orcas have smaller dorsal fins. But it was harder to figure out who we were looking at when it came to the boys. T102 had the biggest fin because he’s the oldest. His fin was huge and kind of wobbly (no bones in these fins!). But unless they were all in a line, it was hard to tell the other two apart.
Time for a short killer whale lesson: there are two types of killer whales in this area: residents and transients (or Bigg’s). Residents were named because they were thought to reside only in this one area while the transients were thought to roam up and down the coast. But it turns out that both kinds can be found anywhere between Alaska and Monterey Bay, California, according to our guides. So the names “transient” and “resident” are kind of misleading. Annnnnnnyway – resident killer whales eat Chinook salmon but Bigg’s killer whales, like T101 and her family, eat everything. Especially seals. Which is what they were hunting when we found them.
So killer whales are super smart. And Bigg’s killer whales are super stealthy so they can sneak up on their prey. It was fun watching their crazy shenanigans. The water was pretty dark though so I think we missed out on most of the plotting.
We followed the orcas at a respectful distance, slowing the boat down and/or turning off the motor when we got closer. I loved when that happened because we were drifting in our boat near these giant creatures. We could hear them breathing. It was incredible to be so close to one of my favorite animals. And I got to coexist with them. I was breathing, they were breathing. I was drifting, they were… doing whatever they were doing… It was beautiful.
At some point, we left the orcas to try to find some other critters. We saw a few porpoises but they weren’t interested in hanging out with our boat so they left. It also turns out there was a HUGE sailboat regatta happening on Saturday though so we found a lot of humans out on the water! It was fun to watch them too.
Then we found our orcas again! So we hung out with them more! By this point, we were starting to get pretty cold…
Then it was time to start heading back to land. So we said goodbye to the orcas and tried to cram into the inside part of the boat to get warm. But the tour wasn’t over! On our way back to Friday Harbor, our guides took us past some of the other islands to look for other wildlife. We found more bald eagles, some sheep, deer, and more!
We arrived back at Friday Harbor tired but content after such an amazing day of hanging out with some of Washington’s finest creatures. The ferry ride back to Anacortes was filled with snacks and laughter as everyone looked over their photographs and recounted their favorite parts of the day. Everyone mostly stayed inside this time, which was good because it was SUPER windy outside. I went outside to watch the last of the sun go down and I loved the feeling of the wind on my back. It made eerie tones as it wrapped around the ferry too. It was such a neat ethereal experience to close out the day.
Well. That definitely became one of my top birthdays ever. Now it’s your turn – what’s your favorite picture? What was one of your favorite birthdays? Why was it so amazing? This bald eagle wants to know.
Hellllooooo everyone! How are your Novembers turning out? Good I hope. Did everyone remember to vote today? Very important.
Anyway, this past weekend, Washington state got hit with its first snow of the season. On Friday, I saw a lot of pictures and videos of some wet snow falling to the west of us. But it was actually quite pleasant in the Tri-Cities. It was a little chilly but it was mostly sunny and beautiful. Then on Saturday, it was just cold. When Cobalt and I woke up, it was 27 degrees out. Yikes! Where did our brisk fall weather go? It stayed chilly all day and on Sunday we woke up to SNOW. Big, fat flakes that looked like soap suds rained down from the heavens on and off all morning. I might have lived in Colorado recently but I am still a native Californian at heart: The first snow of the season (no matter how wet it is) always makes me super excited. I jumped out of bed determined to take fun videos and pictures.
Because I lived in Colorado for 8 out of the last 9 years, my first-snow-of-the-season pictures usually look something like this. You know, with snow-coated mountains and such. We do have some hills here but I couldn’t really see them through all the haze. Plus I was intrigued by the clumpiness of the snowflakes.
So this time, I gave myself a new challenge: Photograph the fat flakes as they were falling. It was hard. I had a really fast shutter speed to capture the flakes in mid air. And I also had to manually focus on the fat clusters as they were falling. I took a lot of pictures and I still mostly missed my target flakes. But it was a fun challenge anyway.
Meanwhile, Tarantula was sitting on my desk chair watching the whole ordeal with annoyance. Humans… why is it so cold? And can you please turn on the sun?
Anyway, I want to point out that pretty much none of those fat flakes stuck so yesterday we were back to fall. Sort of. It was still super cold. But at least it was also super pretty…
PS: Today is my Sister in Law’s bday! Hurrah! Happy day! Can’t wait to see you soooooon! :D
Hey everyone! Sorry you didn’t get your usual Tuesday morning post today! Things have been a little bit crazier than usual for me lately. But never fear! It’s still Tuesday here in Washington and it’s time for a Halloween update!
So a few weeks ago, Cobalt and I went to pick pumpkins for Halloween. This patch was awesome! There were perfect pumpkins in every direction! And we got to clip our favorites off the vine! How could we pick just two? We couldn’t. We brought home three delightful pumpkins.
Fast forward to last weekend: Cobalt’s and my friend L was in town. So we asked him if he wanted to come over and carve pumpkins with us. Obviously he said yes. Carving pumpkins is the best. Success – three pumpkin carvers for three pumpkins!
So I present to you a photo gallery of our happy jack-o-lanterns this year:
First up we have L’s pumpkin “Derp-face.” I can’t get over the eyes. :D
Next up, Cobalt made the pumpkin featured in the first Halloween movie. It looks almost traditional but then it gets a little creepy the more you look at it.
Finally, you know the demon fish pumpkin is mine. I’ve been carving shark/fish pumpkins for a few years now and I have to say, I really like this guy.
I like him so much that you get an extra picture of him.
In addition to carving pumpkins, Cobalt and I went to Scaregrounds last weekend. It consisted of three haunted houses at the fairgrounds (get the name now?)! Unfortunately we were only able to go through one of them, called “Blackout.” It was pretty dark in there and they gave us one glowstick for the six of us. The ghosts kept stealing it but then somehow sneaking it back to us, which was amusing. My favorite part was that our friend K started the haunt by announcing things like “there’s a trap door in here so… fair game…” Then we just started saying “fair game… fair game…” every time we turned a new corner. By the end, the ghosts were screaming “FAIR GAME” back at us. Heh heh heh. It was good though. Especially because that’s not something I normally do.
Did any one dress up for work today? I didn’t go too crazy but I definitely wore some extra ears all day.
So now it’s your turn. Tell me about your Halloweens! Any ridiculous weather? Any hilarious costumes? I saw some good ones on Twitter today. Any plans for Dia De Los Muertos tomorrow?
I have been having a tough time, friends. The Tubbs fire that ate up half my hometown is now listed as the most destructive wildfire in California history. It’s jarring and heartbreaking to see my hometown as a statistic in the news. I’m not used to looking at The New York Times, for example, and finding a map of my hometown, complete with the names of everyone who died.
I feel so lucky that my parents and our house are okay. But I also feel horror for the people who lost everything. And for the people who went to bed on Sunday night and then died less than 12 hours later. My town will never be the same. I have no idea what to do with all of that. As I go through my daily activities, I get stopped by random memories popping up in my head. And then I have to stop and think: is that structure still there? And then I have to shake it all away and try to remember what I was doing.
On top of that, I have some other stuff going on (such as: “OK Potassium, you really need to figure out what you want to be when you grow up…”) that’s been gnawing at me and keeping me up at night.
But this weekend, two things happened that gave me a break from all of the insanity. First of all, Cobalt and I went to Portland.
Cobalt helped our friend F move to Portland on Thursday. I followed them after work on Friday. I drove by myself through the Columbia Gorge. It was super windy at first, then kind of rainy, and then the clouds cleared and I was driving into a gorgeous orange sunset, complete with tufts of fluffy clouds rising off the top of the gorge. Plus the fall colors scattered around all the evergreens made a stark contrast to all the gray. I almost had to pull the car over because I was that stunned by the beauty.
Somehow I made it to Portland and Cobalt and I spent the evening with our friends M and P. We had Korean BBQ for dinner. Then we drank a glass of wine and watched The Shining in the dark while M’s and P’s cat purred loudly on the back of the couch. I found myself breathing deeper and snuggling into my blanket. For the first time in weeks, I felt at peace.
The other thing that happened is that I got a group text message from two of my childhood friends. We’ve been group texting since the day of the fire. But I realized on Sunday how amazing it is that I’ve had these friends my whole life and that we can be honest about what’s going on for each of us. It reminded me that despite feeling anxious about everything going on in my life, I am not alone.
About the picture: I have been doing Inktober on Twitter. That means I have to draw a picture in ink every day of the month of October. This picture was from Mental Health Awareness Day and it’s called “You are not alone.” I like it because the shark on the side is kind of nebulous. Maybe it’s not even a shark? I think that’s often how I feel when I feel depressed and anxious: all my anxiety is so clear to me that it’s hard for me to see past it to bring anything else into focus.
One last thing. This blog is 7 years old this week. WAAAAAAT. Oh and also I defended my PhD thesis 3 years ago today. Geez…
Hi everyone, how’s it going? I’m still pretty upset from all the craziness with the fires in and around my hometown last week. But today we are going to talk about bread.
Cobalt and I have been enjoying fresh bread from a local bakery. But then our friend K gave us a jar of sourdough starter and a recipe so we could try it ourselves. So on Friday night, we rolled up our sleeves and started the process. It’s long. Most of the steps aren’t really time consuming — just add some flour here or some water there — but there is a very specific order to things… and there are a lot of six-hour wait times. Also, there are a lot of steps where you only keep a little bit of the dough/starter and toss everything else, which Cobalt and I found wasteful. Oh well. Let’s get to the details!
Anyway, so on Friday night before we went to bread bed, we fed the starter. Turns out it eats flour and water, which is good because I don’t know if I could afford to feed a starter that liked steak or sushi. We got up on Saturday morning and took a little bit of that fed starter and fed it again. Same diet. Then on Saturday afternoon, we mixed some of that starter with more flour and water plus yeast and salt to make the actual bread dough. On Saturday night, we split the dough in half and set up an experiment. One loaf got to proof at room temperature and the second loaf got to proof in the fridge.
On Sunday morning, the room-temp loaf was huge. Waaaaay overproofed. We spent the morning quoting Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood from The Great British Baking Show. But we baked it anyway. And it didn’t turn out too bad (Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would say otherwise, I’m sure ;)). It still looked and tasted amazing, which is what really counts. Plus it crackled as it cooled, which we found heartwarming. It reminded Cobalt of a line from the movie Ratatouille: how the sound of the crust will tell you how good a bread is going to be.
Tarantula was very curious about our baking. We’re starting to wonder if it’s the smell of yeast. She was intrigued as we set up the overproofed bread Sunday morning and even more intrigued during its photoshoot an hour later. Crazy cat. You’re supposed to be a carnivore!
The fridge-proofed loaf turned out much better. We baked it on Sunday afternoon and it just looks lovely.
Yay bread! We saved some of our starter so we’ll definitely have to make more soon. Maybe even next week? What fun recipes should we try next? So many options…
Yesterday, a good chunk of my hometown burned down. My parents and their house are currently safe (at least when I wrote this in the evening of 10/9) but many of my friends lost their current and/or childhood homes.
It was so hard to work yesterday. My heart and my mind were back in California, and I felt helpless two states away. I was constantly reloading the local news site, checking Twitter and Facebook for updates, and texting my sister and my childhood friends. My heart is broken, you guys.
Also I have a vicious cold that keeps pretending like it’s going away and then coming back with a vengeance.
So that’s all for today, folks. Back to photos next week.