Thursday, December 19, 2013

Free Seattle Christmas Fun

Looking for some free things to do in Seattle in December?   There are an amazing number of freebies to help get everyone into the holiday spirit.  Here are some of my favorites:

1. Stroll around the streets near Westlake Center and enjoy the Christmas tree and all of the lights on the street trees

2.  Check out the fabulous train and village in the window at Macy's on the corner of 4th and Stewart Street

3.  Go see the fantastic gingerbread houses at the Seattle Sheraton.  If you'd like to see more photos, visit  The Seattle Gingerbread Village

4.  Don't miss the Seattle Christmas Parade!  Check the schedule for where the ships can be seen each night at: The Seattle Christmas Ship Festival

 5.  Take a  walk throught the Pike Place Market - lots of decorations, street musicians and a festive atmosphere.

6.  Visit the Seattle Center - lights and decorations and lots of  free activites.  Here is a link to the schedule: Seattle Center Winterfest 

6.  Not quite free, but visit Westlake Park and take a ride on the Carousel.  A small donation is requested.

7.  A new thing to do at Westlake Park this year, is to get your photo taken in the Snow globe.  Of course if you want a professional photo taken, there is a charge, but if you bring along a friend to take your own photo it is free!

Of course there are lots of other things to do, although some are not free.  For more ideas, visit my page: Christmas in Seattle on Hubpages.

If you are planning a holiday season visit to Seattle and need information to choose a hotel, I recommend reading the ratings and reviews on Trip Advisor and check out the deals on
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hummingbird's in Winter

As anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows, we've had about a week of what is considered cold weather around here with the high temperatures for the last couple of days not even getting above freezing.  Some people may not realize that although most hummingbirds migrate south for the winter, we have one species of hummingbird, the Anna's hummingbird that lives around the Puget Sound area year round.  They eat insects as well as nectar so usually manage to ok finding food since there are some winter blooming flowers and it is usually warm enough that there are a few bugs around.  Not so, this week and because of the low temperatures they need more food that usual to stay warm.
Male Anna's Hummingbird - a year round resident of the Puget Sound area
The nectar in my hummingbird feeder was freezing even during the day and I had up to 3 hungry hummers at a time buzzing it.  I kept bringing it inside to warm it back up and would look out my kitchen window to find them looking in at me as if to say "hey lady, where's our food?"

An old friend who used to be my neighbor also feeds the hummers and shared her trick for keeping the nectar from freezing and also provide the birds with a little warmth.  She clamps a utility light above her feeder.  Since I lack imagination, but am a great copycat, I adopted her idea and it works like a charm.  (Thank you, Sue!)
Here is a photo of my set-up:

Keeping my hummingbird nectar thawed

If you look closely at the photo you can see the blur of male hummingbird to the right side of the feeder.  Since taking the photo, we made some adjustments to the length of the wire holding the feeder to shorten it up and keep it closer to the heat of the lamp.  Another tip I read somewhere was that it is ok to increase the amount of sugar in the nectar to 3 parts water to one part sugar.  (Normally it is 4 parts water to one part sugar).  The birds can use a little extra energy boost in the cold weather and the added sugar helps to lower the freezing temperature.  Remember to always just use regular granulated sugar - NO HONEY, NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!  There is also no need to add red food coloring - as you can see, the hummers find the red feeding ports and don't need the food coloring.  No one knows for sure if the food coloring could be potentially harmful, so why use it?

Here's another photo of a happy hummer looking at me:

Male Anna's Hummingbird at a Hummingbird Feeder

As long as we're talking about hummingbird feeders, the one in the photo is the same model as the one below.   And the type of light I've used to keep it warm is just an inexpensive utility lamp like the one below:

It is the model I prefer and I think the hummers like it, too.  They seem to the perches as you can see the hummingbird in the photo is using one.  I like them because most of it is glass (other than the bottom with the feeding ports) instead of plastic so they don't get discolored or leach any unhealthy chemicals into the nectar.  I usually just run my feeders through the dishwasher, after inspecting the inside to make sure there isn't any mold.  This is also a good size - the feeder should be cleaned and fresh nectar added at least once a week - so usually my nectar runs out before it gets stale which makes it easy for me to remember to always replace it frequently.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

The Capitol Christmas Tree - From Washington State to Washington, DC with Love!

2013 US Capitol Christmas Tree

Every year a Christmas Tree cut from a National Forest is displayed at the Capitol Mall in Washington, DC.  This year the Colville National Forest in Eastern Washington State was selected for the honor.  The tree was cut on November 1st near the town of Newport, WA and is making stops around the country on its way to the "other Washington".  Today it made a stop in Everett and we went to take a look at the 88 foot tall Englemann Spruce that will be our national Christmas Tree.

Since this was an outdoor event, it was a dog-friendly adventure so Hank and Tim came with me and posed in front of the truck.

The semi pulling the load is a Mack that has been beautifully painted with a winter scene of Washington DC and the Mack truck mascot bulldog pulling a Christmas Tree.

The tree is enclosed inside the trailer, covered with tarps, with some clear vinyl panels that look like window panes for viewing the tree which is covered with lights and decorations made by people in Washington State.

Santa was there!

We met Smokey the Bear.......

and Woodsy Owl, too!

This afternoon the tree makes a stop in Olympia - the Washington State Capitol,  and then will make its way across the country making stops in numerous communities along the way and will arrive in Washington DC by Thanksgiving.  

The tree arrived in Washington, DC and the lighting ceremony was on December 3rd.  Watch on this video:

View of the National Christmas Tree Standing Before the Capitol
View of the...
Richard Nowitz
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Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Seattle Center Today

Seattle Center Space Needle Entrance
It has been almost 51 years since the 1962 Seattle World's Fair opened on April 21, 1962.  The theme of the fair was "Century 21" which was intended to showcase new technology and a look into future. The old fair site is now the site of the Seattle Center which explains why many of the buildings including the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center have a Jetson's look. 
 Century 21 - The 1962 Seattle World's Fair

There have been many changes in the past 50 years, but recent renovations include the demolition of the old carnival rides and replacing them with the Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Some of the other attractions that are worth enjoying include the Pacific Science Center with its hands-on exhibits, butterflies in the tropical butterfly house, IMAX theaters and laser shows.

 Butterfly in the Pacific Science Center Tropical Butterfly House

And if you've never taken a trip to the top of the Space Needle on a clear sunny day, it is something you must do at least once in your life!

Seattle Space Needle on a sunny day

Of course there are always the annual festivals and events held on the grounds like the Northwest Folklife Festival, Bite of Seattle and Bumbershoot or it is a great place to spend a sunny day relaxing around the International Fountain while the kiddies run from the spray.

 Seattle Center International Fountain

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Hiking Dog Friendly Guemes Island

Guemes Mountain, WA
Just getting around to posting a trip report of our dog friendly hike to Guemes Mountain, WA.  It is amazing after living in the Pacific Northwest for so many years, that there are still places that await discovery and exploration. 
We parked our cars at the free parking lot at the Guemes Island Ferry terminal in Anacortes, WA and walked on the ferry - $2.50 round trip fare for humans - $0 for the dogs.

We hiked about 2 miles along the sparsely traveled roads to the Guemes Mountain trailhead.  There is no sign on the road marking the trailhead - just a wide shoulder where a few vehicles can park and a bike rack - but the graveled trail is clearly visible.  A few yards after staring up the trail there is a sign with information about the Guemes Mountain trail.
The trail was completed in 2011 after a joint effort by the Skagit Land Trust, San Juan PreservationTrust, Guemes Island residents and the Washington Trails Association.  What a great legacy for future generations to enjoy!  Even though the spring weather was less than perfect, the view from the summit was fabulous and as a bonus we saw numerous bald eagles.
To see more of my adventures hiking with me dogs, visit my other blog Adventures of Border Collies in the Burbs.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rufous Hummingbirds are Arriving

Some of the first signs of spring are starting to appear in the Pacific Northwest.  Daffodils and crocus are starting to bloom and our native red-flowering currant (ribes sanguineum) is starting to bloom in some of the warmer more sheltered areas.

Red-flowering Currant - Ribes Sanguineum
Ribes sanguineum is one of  our most brilliant and beautiful blooming shrubs and an added bonus is that their bloom time is closely synchronized with the return of our spring and summer visitor, the gorgeous rufous hummingbird.

Male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
Photo courtesy of  Velo Steve on Flickr  - creative commons license

An interesting website where you can follow the progress of their migration is called Field Notes - the Journey North

If you want to attract these gorgeous little birds as the migrate and perhaps encourage them to stay around for the summer, consider planting a few red-flowering currant or other ribes genus plants.  They are often available in nurseries.

  Ribes is the genus of both currants and gooseberries.  Currants and gooseberries are usually early spring bloomers and many have  attractive flowers and some also have delicious edible fruit after the flowers fade away.  For more information, here is an article about growing Spring Blooming Ribes

Of course the currants and gooseberries are also enjoyed by our year-round resident Anna's hummingbird, too.

Male Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna )                      
Photo credit: Tyler Karaszewski on Flickr - Creative Commons License

Of course another way to attract hummingbirds is with hummingbird feeders.  Use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and boil for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar.  Do NOT use brown sugar, honey or artificial sweeteners.  Red food coloring in NOT necessary if the feeder itself has a red color.  Food coloring be harmful.  Be sure to throw away any remaining nectar every few days, clean the feeders and refill with fresh nectar.  A week's supply of nectar can be made up and refrigerated for a week.  Please don't hang feeders or plant flowers and shrubs that attract hummingbirds within the reach of cats.   Cats can, and do catch and kill many hummingbirds each year.

This is my favorite hummingbird feeder. The glass is fairly easy to clean and can be run through the dishwasher or boiled to sterilize. The hummingbirds seem to enjoy the perches by each feeding station because they certainly use them.  Again the red food coloring shown in the photo is NOT NECESSARY.  I never use red food coloring and the hummingbirds find and use my feeders just fine.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Winter Getaway to Belize

One of my favorite winter getaways is Belize. In particular I fell in love with Ambergris Caye - there was nothing I didn't like. 

 It is an eco-friendly bird and wildlife watcher's paradise and with the second largest coral barrier reef in the world is a great place to engage in one of my favorite activities - snorkeling. 

Numerous species of coral including this brain coral and of course colorful tropical fish. 

Brain Coral Coffee Mug
Brain Coral Coffee Mug by VickiSims
Create a unique personalize coffee mug from

We earned bragging rights snorkeling with sharks and rays Hol Chan Marine Preserve. 

The island is a few miles offshore from the mainland of Belize has a very relaxed retro feeling. No big chain hotels and no building taller than 3 stories.  Even in the town of San Pedro the main methods of transportation and the mostly sand streets are walking, boats, bikes and golf carts.  To get there you either board a water taxi or a small plane.   We arrived by plane on Tropic Air - the smallest plane I'd ever flown on.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Snowshoeing Trip to Big4 Ice Caves

Hank Checking out the Chimney from the Old Resort at Big4

We started off the New Year on one of our favorite dog-friendly snowshoeing trips to Big4 Ice Caves.  The Hike is located in Snohomish County off of the Mountain Loop Highway out of Granite Falls, WA.

Where are the Big4 Ice Caves?

We are early risers so we arrived at the end of the plowed road at the Deer Creek Campground at about 9:30 am on New Years Day.  And it was a good thing, too!  There were only a handful of other vehicles parked and we set off along the compact snow on the road and since there was no one around, Hank and Tim got some off-leash time to be silly in the snow.

We made good progress and within a couple of hours arrived at the Big 4 Picnic area and sat down to enjoy some lunch in the picnic shelter before heading up the trail to the ice caves.

Hank wore a backpack and carried in water for himself and Tim.

We were joined for lunch by some tame Steller's Jays hoping for a hand-out.

We leashed the dogs up before continuing up the trail to the ice caves.  The trail was well-worn compacted snow that was easy to follow but somewhat narrow.  We encountered several other people with dogs along the trail - all friendly and courteous about controlling/leashing their dogs when they encountered others.

On the way out, many more people had arrived and actually it was quite a zoo!  Lots of dogs, small children with sleds.  Not all of the people with dogs had them on leashes or even under good control and some people with children had obviously not taught them to be cautious about approaching dogs.  We had several children run up to pet the dogs without asking if it was ok or even showing any caution.  So it is a great dog-friendly snowshoeing trip destination, but my tip would be to get out early before the throngs of people arrive and I'm sure weekdays would be much better than New Years Day or a weekend.

Hank, Me and Tim at Big 4