The Fish Whisperer

The weather report predicted rain the whole time. We had only five days.  Last-minute tickets were double the price.

But we love Alaska

…we love my sister Constance…

…and we love to fish.

On his last trip Eli couldn’t drop a line without pulling out a fish.  After catching a thirty pound King, he was hooked.

 

Using frequent flyer miles and companion fares, we caught the tail end of the salmon season.

You can pack a lot into five days, especially in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

We set out each day by the crack of noon.

Wildlife was abundant, whether feathered…

 

 

…or finned.

And then there was the two-footed kind.

Con’s friend Barbara is famous for her gin and tonics, and now her recently remodeled garage is a neighborhood attraction that everyone calls the Garage Mahal.

At the Alaska State Museum my artist sister’s painting, belonging to its permanent collection, was on display.  She’d just had a show of paintings created during a residency in a historic lighthouse keeper’s house on an island off the rugged coast of Norway.

 

We were inspired to make art of our own.  At her studio Eli and Constance painted…

…and I sketched Thom, although I couldn’t get him to look up from his book.

The line at the art house cinema was tolerable.

Small town headlines were refreshing.

And the fish were biting!

 

Some for grilling…

…and some for smoking.

 

The Fish Whisperer…

 

…strikes again!

 

We’ll be back. 

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Fun.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Sport.

See You Later, Alligator

Last January my son Eli and cousin Nancy were visiting.  Bea had just returned to school, and we missed her already. A tradition at our house is for the remaining sibling to leave a surprise for the other to come home to.  Nancy and Eli, both artists, did their homework.


Then, like the Shoemaker’s elves…

 …they put that talent to work.

Not without hijinks.  Anticipating Bea’s reaction was part of the fun.

It was a marvel to behold the masters at work.

Ah, the joy of creation!

Down to the last detail.

 Bea visited earlier this week, and was so impressed that we think Frida might be sticking around for awhile.  Eli will need to think of a new way to surprise his sister.

I’m sure he’ll come up with something.

All images and words ©2016Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Jubilant.

Baffled

Eight years ago I bought three five-inch-tall end-of-the-season baby grapevines for $1.29 each and planted them in pots on the deck, hoping to train them onto the arbor. Nothing much happened for several years, although one grew tall enough to peek over Bea’s shoulder in the photo below.

So I transplanted them into the ground beneath the arbor surrounding our patio.  They liked it there, and began to make themselves at home.

Time went by, and over the last few years we’ve had a few sour grapes, but didn’t mind because the leaves were so beautiful.  They might’ve been more productive if I’d pruned, but we loved the shady greenery.

This summer Seattle was unseasonably hot, and we had bunches and bunches of grapes.  All summer we anticipated the harvest. Thom brought in the first bunch to test for ripeness.  Almost ready

We harvested ripe juicy pears.

A few apples.

 

Tomatoes.

 

And wild blackberries…

…by the handful.

Then came the raccoons.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  We let them eat their fill of Italian plums, just to keep them occupied and away from the grapes.  But in the wee hours one night, they got into the arbor.  I chased them off with the jet hose and stood guard. They growled. They snarled. They organized.  It was intense.  They adapted to the water, so I rattled a deck chair to scare them off.  Once they became immune to the rattle of the chair, I had to bang on the chimes with a stick, which I’m sure the neighbors didn’t appreciate.  While I was occupied by one, another approached from the other side.  Finally, at first light, before disappearing into the trees, the biggest one curled its lip and said, “I’ll be back.”

We had to draw a line, and it was right in front of our first decent crop of grapes ever. Thom designed a “raccoon baffle” from metal sheeting to keep them from accessing the grapes from the south side arbor. He installed a little electric fence below to prevent their climbing up the base of the arbor.  It worked for a couple nights. But the night before harvest day, we heard loud rustling just outside our bedroom window.

The dam! dam! dam! broke.  Thom and I hurried out with bowls, flashlights, and scissors to power harvest everything within reach.  I don’t know how, but they found their way past all the barriers to those grapes. Raccoons are the Borg of the natural world; so smart, expert at teamwork, and they adapt.  While we snipped grapes, they kept creeping up from all directions. They look cute, but are wild and can be dangerous.  It was illogical to take a stand there, when I could buy Safeway grapes for two bucks a pound, but I can’t deny it: I’m very territorial when it comes to my garden.  Ask any slug.

We processed the grapes like we grew them–haphazardly, making it up as we went along.  My sister Constance helped boil them into a thick syrup.

The crock-pot works well for this too, and you don’t have to stir constantly.

When the mixture turns purple and thickens, throw in a bunch of sugar.  Please don’t ask for proportions.  A bunch of grapes and a bunch of sugar.  Strain it a couple times with cheesecloth, coffee filters, or a clean dishtowel (we used them all), and pour it into a container.

Heat the syrup in the microwave, mix it with a little brandy.

 

Or Vernor’s ginger ale. Here too I must draw the line. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: only Vernor’s will do.

 And don’t forget the cocktail umbrella.

What you end up with is grape-flavored liquid Sweet Tart, best savored one sip at a time.

After we harvested enough grapes to call it a day (or a desperate last stand of a night), we surrendered the remainders to the raccoons, squirrels, and one particularly noisy possum.  They are smarter than we are, and we figure they earned it.  Now sometimes at night we hear them munching, run for flashlights, and watch them feast at eye level from our cozy raccoon blind.  That’s not sour grapes talking.  In fact, I’d call it a win-win situation.

All words and images copyright 2015 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Boundaries.

The Weekly Travel Theme: Intense.

If you want to learn more about raccoons, watch this PBS program on urban raccoons titled Raccoon Nation. It will shock and amaze you!

Old Spice

As old as the hills.

 

As fresh as the dew.

As sure as the sun rises and sets, light and darkness engage in an eternal struggle. 

 This time of the year, when its seems nighttime might last forever, we find ways to beat back the darkness. 

Always have.  Always will.

 Just outside our door.

In our homes.

…and in our hearts.

With music…

…friends and family…

…stories…

 

…and more stories.

Parties help.

So does chocolate.

Sweetness of any kind, really.

And a sense of adventure, even if it’s just in your own mind.

When in doubt, add an extra pinch of spice.

May the New Year bring you fun and adventure, sweetness and spice.

All words and images ©2015 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Theme: Now.

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He Lived Long and Prospered

 I mourn the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who brought depth and integrity to the role of Mr. Spock in the classic Star Trek series and films.

I grew up on Star Trek reruns.  The show helped me formulate ideas about writing, as well as life.  It was an enthusiasm I passed on to my kids.

No wonder I became the Proud Mom of a Starfleet Cadet and that so many of our parties…

…favorite toys…

…and family fun has been inspired by Star Trek.

 

Leonard Nimoy co-wrote and directed Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, which was my favorite of all the Star Trek movies.  His vision for the story was to have “no dying, no fighting, no shooting, no photon torpedoes, no phaser blasts, no stereotypical bad guy.”  It was funny and quirky, and didn’t take itself too seriously, yet its message was important– advocating protection and conservation of our world and its creatures.

There was much more to the man than Star Trek or Mr. Spock.  He was the son of Ukrainian Jews, he spoke and wrote Yiddish, was a photographer, a poet, and a man of principle.

According to NPR, when he found out that Nichelle Nichols wasn’t being paid as much as the other actors on the show, he protested on her behalf.  When he found out that she and George Takei were to be excluded from the animated series, again he went to bat for them and they were hired on for that series.

His last message to his fans was very appropriate, wise, even logical:  “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

He lived long and prospered, but he also lived well.

And we will never forget him.

c2015Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward.

Joyriding

  • “Love…

…doesn’t make the world go round.”   

But love

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

LOVE!

 Yes, LOVE!

“..is what makes the ride worthwhile.”–Franklin P. Jones

Always has.

Always will.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

c

c2015 Naomi Baltuck

A Theory of Relativity

I met a little Elf-man, once…


…Down where the lilies blow.


I asked him why he was so small…


…And why he didn’t grow.

He slightly frowned, and with his eye

He looked me through and through.

 

“I’m quite as big for me,” said he,


“As you are big for you.”

—JOHN KENDRICK BANGS.

All images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of  The Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

Vintage Dude

The Man…

The Myth….

The Legend…

Also an excellent teacher librarian who spends hours working at home on his own time.  He serves on the teachers’ union board because teachers’ working conditions (ie. class size) are students’ learning conditions.

He’s a soccer referee who gives back to his association by serving on the board as treasurer…

…and he still looks pretty darn good in shorts.

Even more importantly–he’s  a very good daddy.

He is wise and kind, and he sees the world through a lens of compassion.

Not only that—the man bakes his own Christmas cookies!

Thom is of the very best vintage.  Who could ask for anything more?

If I couldn’t have Thom…

…I might settle for Indiana Jones.

 

But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

When the time comes, maybe we’ll have Thom stuffed and put in a museum.

But for now, we’ll stuff him with cake and ice cream.

Happy Birthday, dear Thom, and many many more!

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Face.

All words and images (except Indiana Jones) copyright Naomi Baltuck

Fifty Shades of Yellow

Purple is my favorite color, and it always has been.  But I love yellow for its cheerfulness.

It’s my daughter Bea’s favorite color.

And she wears it well, don’t you think?

She isn’t the only one.

Whether yellow comes as a tasteful accent…

…a warm background…

…a pleasing bit of contrast…

…or a big splash of color…

…Ma Nature wears it well too.

…and so do her children.

We’ve borrowed this sunny hue from nature to brighten our homes on the outside…

…and on the inside too.

It shines a cheerful light through the darkness…

…and lifts our spirits.

It warms us from the inside out.

Yellow comes in many eye-catching colors and goes by many names…goldenrod, schoolbus, taxicab yellow…

Maize, saffron, lemon…mmm, yellow never smelled so good.

 Yellow means different things to different people.  Does this signal mean approach slowly?  Or go very very fast?

It might depend on whether you’re coming…

 

…or going.

Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Never mind.   That’s neither here nor there.

Want to dance?

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow.

Proud Mom of a Starfleet Cadet

Last month we attended Sue and Rick’s White Elephant party.  Remember Sue?

Everyone brought a wrapped “White Elephant,” something new or used to pass on.  We drew numbers, with number one picking a gift and unwrapping it.  The next person could choose an unopened gift or lay claim to someone’s opened gift.  But a gift couldn’t change hands more than three times.

I’ve always been a Trek Geek so in my opinion, the best prize was an email address “@ starfleet.com,”and that’s even before I realized it was the gift that would keep on giving.  It was snatched twice by Star Trek officianados, AKA Trekkers.  When my daughter Bea’s turn came, she commandeered the Starfleet address and no one could take it from her, as she was the third to claim it.  At the holiday’s end, she returned to school.


Soon after, I received my first email from my cadet at Starfleet Academy.  She had enlisted!

Dear Mom and Dad,

 I just wanted you to know that I have settled into my dorm room and all is well. My roommate is an Aaamazzarite. It is a little awkward between us still because I can’t pronounce the name of her species. On the bright side, however, Aaamazzarites are hairless, so vacuuming is quite easy. It’s better than last year, when I roomed with that girl from Sigma Iotia II. She kept trying to extract protection money from me and teach me some weird game called “bizz fin.” 

I started classes yesterday.  I’m pretty excited for Andorian Early Empires, though there is only one other person in the class, and he’s…well…Andorian. Wish me luck. I’m also in Xenolinguistics, Intelligently Fudging Incident Reports (which, legend has it, Kirk got an A+ in), and the Starfleet Graphic Novel Project, which follows the struggles of 13 female Starfleet captains back when sexism was still a thing.

 I also made a couple of friends. One of them is a fellow student of xenobiology. We’re both interested in extraterrestrial ecology. He seems pretty fun, although he’s strangely obsessed with mustaches. The other guy is a Ferengi. He talks really quickly and likes juggling gold-pressed latinum. Unfortunately for him, he is very good at juggling but has no latinum to juggle. He plays the Vulcan lute surprisingly well. 

Anyways, I’ll let you know how things go. I love you and miss you!

 xoxo,

Bea

Upon reflection, Bea at Starfleet Academy made perfect sense.  She was always keen to explore strange new worlds…

–especially her own little world.

I recalled the voyages of the star child Beatrice.

Her ongoing mission…

…to seek out new life…

…and new civilizations.

 Rife with pirates…

…cannibals…

…and pink fuzzy brainsucking creatures.

From the tiny…

…to the towering.

And at great personal risk…

…To boldly go…

…where no man has gone before.

She is well qualified.  A Starfleet cadet needs to be flexible.

She always manages to bounce back…

…blend in with the locals…

…and keep her head.

We can hardly wait to beam down to the Academy in San Francisco to check out her new Starfleet digs.

Barring any transporter accidents…

…which can get SO messy.

We’ll tell you all about it.  In the meantime…

Dear Bea, 

It’s good to know you are all settled into your dorm.  Life goes on, but it isn’t the same without you.  To cheer ourselves up in our Empty Nest, Dad and I took a short trip to Risa.  When they say what happens at Risa stays at Risa, they aren’t kidding.  He left six bars of gold pressed latinum at the Dabbo tables.  It’s lucky I’m such a cheap date.  All I needed was a l’il sippy cup of Romulan Ale, and a few hours in the Holo Suite.  I like that program about The Battle of Hastings, only I programmed it so that King Harold Godwinson could kick William the Conqueror’s ass right back to Normandy.

The bad news is that we asked Grandma to take care of your pet tribble, Odysseus, while we were gone.  Unfortunately, Grandma forgot she wasn’t supposed to feed it.  By the time we got home, five days later, there were eight generations of tribbles crammed into the cage, and they had all died of suffocation.  We put them in stasis and can have the funerals—228 of them–when you come home for spring break.  Maybe we can get you a nice Cardassian Vole.  

Don’t turn your back on that Ferengi, and don’t get killed!

Love,

Mom and Dad

 

Copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Letters

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