Category Archives: Play

Panorama of paradise: Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge

Panorama: n a complete or unobstructed view of a wide area

Paradise: n. a place or state of bliss, felicity or delight

Eat your heart out. This is where I was on Saturday:

Columbia River Gorge from Dog Mountain trail

Columbia River Gorge from Dog Mountain trail

The Dog Mountain trail is one of the very most beloved in all the Gorge – particularly when the wildflowers are at their peak, which was this week.

Everybody and their brother (and some of their dogs and kids too) were on the mountain, but rather than seeming crowded, it was like a jolly meetup. Everyone greeting each other, encouraging each other, sympathizing with each other.  The encouragement and sympathy gush forth because it’s a dog of a hike.  Pretty much unrelentingly UP – like 3000′ in 3 miles.

Slow slogging... only halfway there

Slow slogging... only halfway there

Most people use hiking poles (land version of ski poles) to take some of the burden off the thighs and knees, and on the way down to brace you lest you slip on little rocks.

Any excuse to stop is a good excuse. Water, photograph, shoelace adjustment…

Photographing a hillside of balsam root in bloom

Photographing a hillside of balsam root in bloom

It was a glorious sunny day and you could see way down the river both east and west. At the top you could also see Mt. Hood poking up behind the Oregon palisades, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier off the back sides of the mountain.

Mt. Rainier, looking north from the top

Mt. Rainier, looking north from the top

We got to the top around noon, and joined a happy throng having lunch and savoring the opportunity to sit. Problem was… how to get up again.

About half way down my legs got so shaky I was afraid they’d just give way, so I stopped often to admire the flowers:

Balsam root, lupine, indian paintbrush, snow-in-summer, buttercup

Balsam root, lupine, indian paintbrush, snow-in-summer, buttercup

Truly the Gorge is one of the most awesome places in the world, and this hike on this lovely day was something I’ll never forget. My quadriceps won’t either.

Patty-cake (with cats)

Patty-cake: n. a traditional American rhyming-clapping game an adult plays with a baby, to the usual delight or both.

Here’s a hilarious new twist on Patty-cake. Two cats play, voiced-over.

Peacock picnic in the Columbia River Gorge

Peacock: n. the national bird of India, related to the pheasant. The male peafowl, or peacock, has long been valued for its brilliant tail feathers. The bright spots on it are known as “eyes”, and inspired the Greek myth that Hera placed the hundred eyes of her slain giant Argus on the tail of her favorite bird.

Picnic: n. a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors

Peacock's personal table

Peacock's personal table

I spent the entire day exploring the spectacular Columbia River Gorge with four friends. We left the gray weather behind in Vancouver and drove 100 miles east to the the Maryhill Museum of Art.

This former mansion of tycoon Sam Hill was built in 1907  on a hilltop overlooking the Gorge near Goldendale, WA. He bought 5300 acres of land there in the hope of establishing a Quaker community, but it never really caught on.  His buddies – the avant garde dancer Loie Fuller and Queen Marie of Roumania – convinced him instead to convert the place into a museum.

Fuller was friends with Auguste Rodin, so there is a sizeable collection of Rodin sculptures and sketches. His collection of Indian basketry is impressive, and other exhibits come thru regularly.

I was taken by the gorgeous gilt furnishings from Queen Marie:

Queen Marie's throne

Queen Marie's throne

Queen Marie's table

Queen Marie's table

But I digress. After museuming we went outside for our picnic with the peacocks.

I couldn’t get over the stunning colors… like jewels. In one direction the tail looks coppery, in another green, in another silver.

Peacock's back

Peacock's back

Tail - silvery angle

Tail - silvery angle

Our next stop was the replica Sam Hill built of StoneHenge, to honor local soldiers who died in World War I.

Center area of Sam Hill's Stonehenge

Center area of Sam Hill's Stonehenge

Columbia River from Stonehenge

Columbia River from Stonehenge

The Gorge isn’t as steep near Maryhill as it is closer to Portland, where the east side of the Columbia boasts some wonderful waterfalls. We stopped and hiked up one, gawked at others from below.  So much beauty on all sides!!

I think the Gorge is one of America’s most awesome scenic treasures. It’s 80 miles long and in some places the walls rise 4000 feet!

Pure pleasure: artist’s date at Tacoma Museum of Glass

Pure: adj. being thus and no other; unmixed with any tainting substance

Pleasure: n. a state of gratification; a source of delight and joy

Part of ceiling on Glass Bridge by Dale Chihualy

Part of ceiling on Glass Bridge by Dale Chihuly

To celebrate my birthday, my best friend took me up to Tacoma on Friday for an “artist’s date,” a concept introduced by Julia Cameron in her best-seller, The Artist’s Way.

An artist’s date is when you take time out from your ordinary life and usual artistic pursuits to do expose yourself to or participate in some other creative endeavor for the sheer pleasure of it.

An artist’s date can be as simple as dumping your button collection onto a table and playing with them. If you’re a writer, you could go into the yard and attempt to sketch a flower. If you’re an artist you could immerse yourself in a book of poetry.

Or it could be a real museum outing, as Judi and I  did Friday.

Tacoma is a two hour drive from here.  To get to the Museum from the parking lot, you cross over the highway on the magical Bridge of Glass, designed by the wildly creative glass artist Dale Chihuly.

On one side of the enclosed mid-section is a wall of crazy “vases”.  The roof  looks like someone dumped the three-dimensional phantasmagorical contents of a dozen super-sized kaleidoscopes onto a glass plate above you.

The glass pieces vary in size from balls about 4″ in diameter to trumpet shapes 3′ long and scalloped “flowers” 2′-4′ across.  The shimmering backlit shapes of brilliant colors can only be called ecstatic art. I could have permanently cricked my neck taking it all in.

Here is some more:


Chihualy ceiling closer view

Chihuly ceiling closer view

Here’s a portion of  the side wall:

A family in front of the wall of Chihualy "vases"

A family in front of the wall of Chihuly "vases"

Looking up at one of the two glass spires on first part of the Bridge. The chunks are BIG, like 2-3′ across:


Here’s a Chihuly chandelier:


The museum has much more than Chihuly, including a huge glass-blowing shop, where you can watch art glass being blown. There’s a terrific exhibit about describing glass art, beyond “I like it; I don’t like it” but you can’t take photos inside. (This exhibit closes in November; worth the trip if you live close enough.)

This is a museum for kids of all ages, and it’s in a part of town with two other fine museums, the handsome U. Washington Tacoma campus, the refurbished train station (now courthouse) with an enormous arched window with orange Chihuly “poppies” floating across it.


Closeup of Chihualy poppy window

Closeup of Chihuly poppy window

Can you tell I LOVED this place???

And PS – we ate lunch in the museum cafe: YUMMMMMMY.

Paper and pooties don’t mix

Paper: n. a felted sheet of (usually) vegetable fibers laid down on a fine screen from a water suspension

Pootie: n. slang name for cute pets, cats especially

In this case, the paper is of the soft fluffy variety used to wipe your butt, or when tissue is unavailable, a runny nose.

There’s a lot to say about toilet paper – and recently the New York Times did a long article about how environmentally UNfriendly the toilet paper most Americans use is – and to suggest that recycled toilet paper is the way to go.

But I’m speaking only peripherally about sustainability – the sustainability of using soft fluffy rolls of paper in my house at all.

It’s about my cat, Bama.

First he discovered paper towels and chewed his way through a couple of rolls before I hid it in the kitchen cupboard and put out extra cloth towels. Thwarted, he moved into the bathroom.

I was almost asleep a few nights ago when I heard a strange sound coming from the direction of the bathroom, which I can’t begin to describe, but since I knew I was the only one at home it was very alarming.

This is what I saw when I opened the door:

"Oh, hi!"

"Oh, hi!"

"Excuse me, I've got an itch... are you upset or something?"

"Excuse me, I've got an itch... are you upset or something?"

I left the room to replace my camera battery and caught this…

“Not quite as exciting as a mousie, but I’ll pretend…” "Not quite as exciting as a mousie, but I'll pretend..."
"My precious..."

"My precious..."

There are all sorts of videos on YouTube of this phenomenon (search for “cats and toilet paper”) but the one I’d like to direct Bama’s attention to is this one, where the cat has learned to poop in the toilet first. Having just changed yet another stinky litterbox I’m all for toilet training. All I need is time and PATIENCE…

Portfolio of Port Park Pictures – Picnic at Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Portfolio: n. a set of pictures; a selection of a student’s work

Port: n. a place where ships can take on or deliver cargo; a harbor

Park: n. a piece of ground in or near a city or town kept for ornament and recreation

Picture: n. a transitory visible image or reproduction; a photograph

Picnic: n. an outing with food usually provided by members of the group and eaten outside

Peaceful: San Francisco from the Port of Oakland

Peaceful: San Francisco from the Port of Oakland

I am back at home after five lovely days visiting my kids and grandkids in Oakland, California. I could have been in Portland, for the gray skies and rain we had, but Saturday the sun came out and we took off for a picnic at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, which I believe is Oakland’s newest and as yet still undiscovered park.

OMiGod, what a fabulous place – especially for young un’s learning to ride bikes and needing safe wide-open trails – and parents wanting fresh air, natural beauty, and a novel perspective. More than two miles of pathways encircle and crisscross the edges of the Middle Harbor Basin and acres of rolling grass fields ask for games of frisbee, catch, or flying kites.  It’s like having a front row seat on the San Francisco Bay – you can poke around the beach while watching boats and barges  or you can lift your gaze to the spectacles of the Bay Bridge and the city of San Francisco. Look behind you and watch the seemingly robotic operations of a busy international trade hub.

This 38-acre park opened in 2004 as a joint venture between the Port of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District. Originally it was the Oakland Naval Supply Depot, an important part of the WWII war effort.   Extensive community involvement went into the park’s planning and development, with the goals of creating a place  for learning about local history, ecology and maritime activities.  Here are some more pictures:

Port "ponies"

Port "ponies"

Picnic Tables

Picnic Tables

Picnic: pretzels, salami and Nadja's oranges

Picnic: pretzels, salami and Nadja's oranges

Perfect paths for pedaling

Perfect paths for pedaling

Pedal-pushing Mama Poppies and pine tree

Poppies and pine tree

Palm trees (native??)

Palm trees (native??)

Palm trunk patterns

Palm trunk patterns

Pokéman, Pickachu and Pupitar

Pokémon: n. a multi-billion dollar media franchise owned by Nintendo but started by Japanese game designer Satoshi Tajiri. Pokémon took the youth world by storm in 1995 and shows no signs of slowing down. The franchise includes video games, playing/trading cards, movies, books and much more based on 493 anime characters.

pikachuPikachu: n. a yellow electric mouse who is considered the official mascot of the Pokémon world. Pikachu has the ability to store and release electricity in its cheeks.

pupitarPupitar: n. Pupitar looks like a short bumblebee with two short pointy legs. He has a mask and three spikes of hair on his head.

My grandsons live a thousand miles away. One way we could keep connected is by talking on the phone. My daughter passes the phone to them, I ask questions or say silly things but until last week I rarely got more out of either one than giggles, bathroom noises and sounds of protest.  (They’re only 4 and 7, so my expectations were low – their mother and uncles were no better at those young ages.)

However last week, the annual Washington Post word redefinition contest was brought to my attention (very punny!) and one of the redefined words was Pokémon. Some samples:

Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

Pokémon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.

Remembering our Christmas together, when the little ones sucked their uncles into becoming Pokéman players, and remembering that Pikachu and Pupitar were P-characters with evocative names, I decided I should write a Pokémon P-post. So I called my young expert, Alexander, for details.

WOW. He talked my ear off for half an hour. “Are you writing this down, Grandma? Do you want me to spell “Pupitar” for you?”  Among other things, I learned that:

“Pupitar is a hard-shelled rock-ground type of Pokémon, and that by building up gas in his body he can shoot himself like a rocket [giggles]. He expels the gas from his butt. This is how he attacks:  bite, leer, sandstorm, screech, rockslide, scary face, thrash, dark pulse, payback, crunch, earthquake, stone edge, hyper beam.”

Leer? Alexander did not know what “leer” meant, but he said quite a few Pokemon characters attack by leering.

Now here’s the question… how would you redefine the words Pickachu and Pupitar?

Here’s a shot from Christmas – the uncles in an intense Pokémon battle. Alexander coaches from the sidelines.

Uncles play Pokemon with Alexander

Uncles play Pokemon with Alexander

Update: loyal reader Susan takes on the redefinition challenge:

Pickachu: deciding whether to buy Wrigley’s or Chiclets gum.

Paws to play: the life of a young cat

Paws: n. the feet of a quadruped that has claws (dogs, cats, lions, bears, etc.)

Pause: n. temporary inaction or stop

Play: v. to engage in recreation or sport

This really isn’t a blog about pets, but last night was all about pets.

First the dog threw up. Loudly. I woke up – cleaned up the rug (god knows what she got into…). Back to bed. Lay there waiting for it to happen again.

It didn’t. Eventually I got back to sleep.

Then the cat decided it was time to play.  Although he’s almost ten months old and very active, he just discovered that he could pretend his tail was a foreign object – a mouse, perhaps. And he practiced catching it – on my bed, with me in it trying to stay asleep.

Next he used his prehensile paws to root about on every table and shelf in my bedroom, seeking something he could pick up or push onto the floor. Papers, pencils, books, my glasses, my watch, a bracelet, a stapler – one by one these things clunked, crashed or fluttered to the floor, with the cat after them.

Lightweight objects are always worth several bats around the room; heavier stuff he just stares at before jumping back up to find something more interesting.

Meanwhile sleeping had become nearly impossible. BUT, in that awful nighttime nether world I was also too out of it to get up and throw him out of the room.  Besides, I knew he could make an even bigger mess with the stuff on the kitchen counter.


A seed packet?? !


And what would happen if I just pushed it a little farther??

I wish I had as light-hearted and dispassionate view of the world as he does – that I could pause to play.

Play-Doh DIY: make it yourself

Play-Doh n. a soft modeling compound principally used by children and composed mainly of flour, water, and salt.

Playdough n. the cheap home-made substitute – recipe below.

Oh the places the letter P can take you!  Like back to Play-Doh.

My kids loved Play-Doh. And truth be told, it was one of the two “toys” I enjoyed playing with alongside them. (Legos was the other). Now my grandkids are into it, and I’m glad I saved both the Legos and our Play-Doh Fun Factory for three decades.  (The Fun Factory is an extrusion device where you press the dough in one end through one of several screens and spaghetti-like streams ooze out the other, like magic.


According to Wikipedia – and now I’m sorry I looked it up – the stuff was initially a wallpaper cleaner (!). The inventor’s nephew,  Joseph McVicker, reworked the compound  in the mid-1950s, named it ‘Play-Doh’ and sold to Cincinnati-area schools as a modeling compound.

When Play-Doh television ads appeared on influential children’s shows in 1957, the product became a hit in the United States.

Since its introduction, Play-Doh has been manufactured in 50 different colors and has generated ancillary merchandise such as The Fun Factory and The Play-Doh Creativity Table. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association named Play-Doh to its Century of Toys List, and, in 2006, a perfumery released a fragrance inspired by Play-Doh’s distinctive odor. Play-Doh is currently manufactured by Hasbro and is sold around the world.

The “fragrance” of Play-Doh – or “diSTINKtive odor” as I prefer to call it, was one reason I started making the stuff myself.  The other reason was that the kids kept leaving the tops off the cans, which would be discovered under the bed a week after the contents had shriveled into a hard little mass at the bottom of the can.

Playdough is fast, easy and fun to make – and you already own the ingredients in your cupboard:

2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt (keeps bacteria or mold from developing)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons cream of tartar (for improved elasticity)

food coloring

Dump all but the food coloring into a saucepan, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes.  After about 3 minutes the dough will pull away from the sides of the pan and clump in the center (but cook it a little longer if it feels at all sticky).  It should feel like Play-Doh.

Remove from heat and allow to cool until you can handle it.  Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or silicone mat, and knead vigorously until it becomes silky-smooth. Divide the dough into balls for coloring (I make four, because my food coloring kit has four colors – available on the grocery store aisle with cake frostings).

Make a divot in the center of the ball, and several drops of food coloring in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the playdough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter because in concentrated form it can dye them too. (You could use gloves or plastic wrap at this stage to keep your hands clean- once it’s worked in bare hands are fine.) Work the dye through, adding more as necessary to achieve your chosen color.

I like mine stink free, but some folks add vanilla or mint flavoring. Now all you need is a kid, a Fun Factory, a rolling pin and some cookie cutters.

Store in airtight freezer bags.

One final note:

Two billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold since 1955 and, today, 95 million cans are produced annually with the product being sold in more than 6,000 American stores and in more than 75 countries.

And that’s not counting all the DIY playdough made at home by clever folks like you and me.

Play: prescription for kids

Play: n. recreational activity ; esp. the spontaneous activity of children

Prescription: n. a written direction for a therapeutic or corrective agent ; specifically one for the preparation and use of a medicine

You’ve read about “nature deficit disorder” a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. It refers to the trend of children spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems and loss of appreciation for and understanding of the natural world.

Now we’re worried not just about kids playing outside, we’re worried that they don’t play much, period.  The experts say they need more time from freewheeling play at home and in school.  Not only is it bad for their little psyches, it’s downright unpatriotic as budding American citizens.  The kids will be at a disadvantage in the global economy where creativity, innovation and cooperation are needed.

The National PTA has launched a “Rescuing Recess” campaign. The American Academy of Pediatrics is chiming in with recommendations as well:

*Developing “safe spaces” where children can play freely outdoors in their neighbourhoods.

*Reduce use of “passive entertainment” including TV and computer games.

*Promote use of imagination-nurturing toys such as blocks and dolls.

* Encourage fantasy role-play for preschoolers.

*Let kids play at playgrounds, etc., without feeling their parent is watching every move.

*Don’t insist on playing with your child if he or she is happily playing alone.

All I can say is GOLLY. When I was a kid (and walked five miles barefoot uphill in the snow to school), we had very few toys. My favorite toy was dirt.

I’m not kidding…dirt. Plus a big spoon, a pot or piepan, some rocks, sticks, and a little water. I was as happy as a piglet playing with these magical ingredients.

Inside my sisters and I threw a blanket over the dining room table and played house. We played teacher and practiced writing like grownups – loopy scribbles that we pretended were real words telling real stories.

We each had a large collection of paper dolls. A favorite game was issuing invitations addressed to a particular paper doll: “Martha is invited to a gala weekend in the country. There will be a hunt on Saturday, a ball Saturday night, a swim party on Sunday, followed by a picnic. Please plan your wardrobe accordingly.”

Of course “Martha” may not have come with clothing appropriate for such a weekend, so we’d have to make our own outfits with crayons and scissors.

Fast forward to a feng shui consultation I did a few years ago. Although ten-year-old Janice, the couple’s only child, had recently been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, they wanted me to focus on boosting the flow of wealth into the home.

The house was modest in size and pretension, but there was no place to sit, except at the dining room table. Every chair in the living room had a large stuffed animal in it. The woman had so many potted plants that she spent most of her minimal free time caring for them. And then we went into Janice’s room.

Toys everywhere. EVERYWHERE.  On the chair, on the bed, on the bookcase, spilling out of the toy chest, and all over the floor. Some still in the original box or wrapping. Little Janice sat on the floor, paralyzed by the plethora of toys.

Once in awhile the critical mother-in-law in me overpowers my dispassionate consultant self, and I told the parents that their first priority was to get rid of 90% of the toys and stuffed animals and plants, creating a calm environment so that poor Janice could have space for her self.

They weren’t happy with my analysis. They couldn’t imagine being separated from all this stuff that had taken so long to acquire.  Five years later, I heard that Janice had a bout of depression so severe she was hospitalized.

If I’d known then what was going to happen, I’d have suggested that the family rent an unfurnished home in their neighborhood and move only the most crucial pieces of furniture in from the old house. See how that felt. See how Janice responded. Then maybe add a few favorite books, dolls, etc.  After they adjusted to the spare existence, have an estate sale company sell everything else from the original house.  When it was finally empty, they could move the critical stuff back home from the rental.

Ah, the benefit of hindsight.