Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ready for Four Muddy Feet

In this world of big box stores, supermarkets the size of football fields, and mass marketing of low grade merchandise, it is refreshing to locate a small local company with a quality product.   

Thistle has upholstered seats, vulnerable to dirt, wear and tear. How easily we could soil or rip these attractive seats, especially given our four-footed friend, Benton.  Initially, we were thinking slipcovers, but they would not work well, limiting access to gear pockets, arm rests, and under seat storage.  

Finally we decided to just put a blanket on the seat for Benton and be done with it.  In explaining this to a friend, she suggested Mambe Waterproof Blankets, designed for a wide range of uses, such as pet blankets, furniture covers, outdoor picnic blankets and survival blankets.   

We purchased three.  Two are small, 24" x 24", to cover the front seats and a third, 70" x 90",  to cover the back seat.  Benton's muddy feet?  No problem!

 Mambe blankets  have a different color on each side,
with waterproofing in-between

Thistle seat throws 

In ordering, I was having trouble with the site accepting my credit card so I called the company. A real live human being answered my call, and with great patience solved the problem.   

Garnishing this fine product, the order was accompanied with a handwritten note.   We enthusiastically recommend Mambe.


"Buy less. Choose well.  Make it last.  Quality, not quantity."

  ~Vivienne Westwood 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"…yep, it's a Good day!"

“Morning Short List

1. Woke up ✓
2. Air to breath ✓
3. Food to eat ✓
4. Roof over head ✓

...yep, it's a Good day!”

~Russell Kyle

Russell Kyle sums up life wonderfully for me -- the basics nicely met!  Then, when I throw in the trimmings of family, friends and community, I'm indeed blessed.   In reflecting on years past, I am grateful my life has been so rich.  I've never missed a meal, without intent, nor have I slept roofless, without intent, and I continue to wake up each day.     Yep, life is good.

The current teachings tell us we need to focus on today, don't look back and don't look forward.  Live  now, today!  Yet, how tasty the diversions.  Reveling in wonderful memories can be a delight.

Camping, family & Friends, 2014

Gathered for Brad & Yessi's wedding, family & friends, 2014
Brad & Yessi with wedding party, family & friends, 2014

Christmas dinner, family & friends, 2013 
Book group. friends, 2014

Looking forward is exciting as well.  Planning, anticipating, wondering, wandering, as we step out on our Thistle Adventure.

With the warmest of blessings…

Brad, Yessi, Ed & Fran

Happy Holidays! 
 May 2015 be a wonderful year! 
 Wishing each of you
Happiness!  Peace!  Good Health! 


“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

~ William Arthur Ward

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Dad

Our quickly approaching departure on our Thistle adventure has me pondering life.  You know, death, aging, family, health, all those easy topics.   So I got to thinking about my dad.

My mom and dad's wedding photo

In all the years my dad has been gone from our lives, I've never written about him.  I think about him, often, and yearn to have a conversation with him, but I've never written about him.     I miss his quick intellect and his gentle wise ways, and how, after a day in the garden, he'd squat, watching his plants grow, coffee in hand, cigarette dangling from his mouth, content.

George J. Abel, 1965

It's that darn cigarette that probably killed him.  That and those  poisons used in gardening back  then.  When he was young he worked as a commercial landscaper, spraying without washing his hands or face afterwards, never mind a mask.  And, those cigarettes!  Both he and my mom enjoyed smoking together and alone and all the time.  Pack a day folks, they were.   Unfiltered Camels.

When my dad was 59 he and my mom took leaves from their jobs, purchased a little Airstream, and headed out for a six month trip deep into Mexico.  On their return they were ecstatic,  delight was everywhere -- faces, postures, voices.

Working, saving, working, waiting, they had finally found a life that stimulated and pleased them both.   Then my dad started coughing.  A raspy, persistent cough that wouldn't go away.  My dad became very frail, my mom very frightened.  

Horrible news of lung cancer, emphysema and a long-ago damaged heart were all found during tests.  Surgery, Cobalt therapy, hospitalization and death occurred quickly.   He was dead in six months.  Gratefully, as he suffered so.  

I miss my dad.  I miss talking gardening.  I miss that he missed Brad's life.  I miss that Brad doesn't remember him.

Brad a year before my dad's death

I miss that Ed didn't meet him or know him.    I've wanted to share so much with him over the years but he died much too soon.  He told me he wasn't afraid of death only that he was sorry to leave us.  

So here I am, on the eve of our travel adventure, thinking about my dad.  Remembering how vast and deep he read -- Krishnamurti, Hesse, T.E. Lawrence.  And then there were the well-studied plant books, flowers pressed in the pages, smudged, dog-eared and broken down with hard use.   When hiking the Sierras he took a photograph of each wildflower he saw.   When my sister and I were young, my folks loved to go for  Sunday drives.  We'd all pile in the car and head for the hills.  It was back when facial tissue was dyed pastel colors.  Time-after-time, jerking suddenly to a stop, we'd jump out of the car, just to view another  rumpled-tissue "wildflower". 

At the end of the day, he loved nothing better than to gather around the fire pit and talk philosophy with family and friends.

My dad far left, me far right and my mom center.

There is so much more I could say about my dad.  But this is a blog, after all, not a memoir.    


"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature."  

~ Antoine Francois Prevost

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"You'll Look Sweet Upon the Seat of a Bicycle Built for Two"

Part of our travel plans are to ride our beloved Cannondale tandem as much as we can on as many back roads and Rails to Trails as we can find. We purchased our tandem several years ago, used,  from it's second owner.  It's no longer shiny and new but it is a very fine steed.

Seattle has three athletic "rites of passage":  climbing Mt. Rainier, running the Seattle Marathon and riding the STP.  Twice we've completed  one of those rites, the STP.  The STP is a 200 mile annual ride from Seattle to Portland, with about 10,000 of your closest biking buddies.  

Fran & Ed, STP Finish Line, Portland, OR

Group rides light a training-fire under us, so we sign up for a couple each year.  

The Chilly Hilly, a cold February ride on Bainbridge Island, is one of our favorite rides as a kickoff to the biking season. At 33 miles it's not a long ride, but it is a demanding ride, with steep ups and downs and challenging weather.

Waiting for the ferry after a Chilly Hilly ride.

We also like the  NW Tandem Rally rides.   This group is heavily into very cool equipment, like this bicycle built for four.

Plus, it's more of a family ride than the other rides we participate in.  Dogs, kids, old and young are out there on their bicycles built for two.   These rides are a good workout for our bodies and the equipment provides lots of eye candy.

N.W. Tandem Rally

On Whidbey Island you'll often see us riding our favorite loop, Langley to Maxwelton Beach, and back.  This ride is our stay fit ride.  It's a 17 mile loop on a mostly friendly road, with a perfect midway stop at the beach for a snack and terrific views.  

Maxwelton Beach

A bike rack must be added to Thistle to complete our travel needs.  Right now the bike rack of choice is the ATOC.  As the website claims, it is "Designed by a Rocket Scientist." Carrying a tandem is serious business.  It is difficult to load because it is large.  It is difficult to lift because it is awkward and heavy.  It needs to be upright on the back of the van, so it needs to be easily maneuvered to enable us to access the back doors on our van.  

ATOC photo - bike in loading position

We have tried Benton in the bike trailer a number of times but he's an ungrateful passenger, barking incessantly.  Will we take the trailer or not?  

Ed pulling Benton. 
The details for our travels started out as one big messy pile.  We're now closing in on our final decisions as departure grows closer.  Fortunately we still have some time to deliberate.  We won't be departing again until February, and then only for four months, or until we sell our home.  

Fran & Ed


"My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles.  They both move people forward without wasting anything.  The perfect day:  riding a bike to the library."

~ Peter Golkin

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Beyond Pen and Paper

Blogs are phenomenal stay-in-touch tools.

My blog, like for many other bloggers, is my journal.   But, instead of the little locked book I had as a young girl, I publish this one for the entire world to see.  Mostly the world isn't interested, but friends and family are reading it, keeping me on my edit toes.  By publishing I also know I could become a common criminal if I broke copyright laws.  As William Feather said, "If we don't discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us."

When I post a quote I give credit.  Likewise, I try to respect copyright laws in regard to images, however, I've been guilty of small offenses.  I'm now in image stealing recovery, thanks to a good friend, author and blogger, Dan Petersen.  

Many artists will mark their images with a watermark to protect them.  I've always respected the watermarked images, but unmarked images I've "borrowed" on occasion.  Now I know better.  I will share only images I've cleared as "free to use or share."  Want more information?  See webIntegrity

Photo protected with watermark

Photo selected from Google's Advance Search and labeled
 "free to use or share"
Photo by Ed Anderson

Ed and I are often asked if we'll travel with our computer gear. Our answer is, yes!  First, we want to stay closely connected with family and friends so by using a combination of e-mail, blogging, texting, Skype, Facebook and our phones we should be thoroughly covered.  We'll want to research weather, bike paths, and current news.  We'll need maps, GPS and campground apps.   And, the most amazing part of all this is my i-phone will become our "personal hotspot", also known as tethering.   Wherever we have phone reception we will have internet.

I'm still stumbling and fumbling around using my i-pad and i-phone independently from their "mother ship", my desktop.  It's yet to be seen if I'll need a laptop too, but hoping not.  Unfortunately, this family of two is not in sync on computers so Ed will be using Microsoft and I will be using Apple.  We'll be packing lots of electronic gear.   Shoes, not so much.


"What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with.  It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds."

~ Steve Jobs, Memory and Imagination:  New Pathways to the 
Library of Congress  

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Anxious adjective
afraid or nervous especially about what may happen:  feeling anxiety:  causing or showing fear or nervousness.  ~ Merriam-Webster

Anxious.  This word seems suitable for my lack of progress in sketching.  I've wanted to sketch for years but I find I'm apprehensive about beginning.  My concern that I could fail shows up in a multitude of excuses -- too busy heading the list.   I know how irrational this is but I've been trapped in this unreasonable self evaluation for some time now.

This summer the Whidbey Island Sketchers came to our home to sketch.  I watched; I envied.  Here are some examples of the Fredley home sketches, as done by local Whidbey Island talent.

Judi Nyerges

Fredley Home
by Phyllis Ray

Garden & Greenhouse
by Kathy Lull

Orange Lily in Bud
by Sue Van Etten

These rough drawings are quick, fun and capture the moment.  Sketches become a swift way to tell a story and are often more expressive than a photograph.  Here Sue Van Etten shows a great talent at quickly capturing poultry in action.

by Sue Van Etten

by Sue Van Etten

As Walt Stanchfield says,  “We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.”   I'm posting this early sketch as the first of my 10,000 bad drawings.  9,999 to go before I'll post another sketch.

Oregon Coast Camping Neighbor
by Fran Abel


"Now relax, think positively and begin -- the smile of success awaits you."

 ~ Claudia Nice, First Steps Drawing in Pen & Ink

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What's My Brain Tossing At Me Now?

On our travels Ed and I play with interesting topics, like brains.  How they work, or not, and why.  Topics like this travel with us for hours.


“Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, 
"that that's why he never understands anything.” 
 A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

My brain runs amuck.   I've needed to engage in corrective behavior from time-to-time.  For example, I hate it when my very own brain makes me feel guilty or afraid.  The trick though is catching it in its misdeed.  The brain insists it's on track, as it crazily zigzags through life, tossing junk at us.  Overcoming its own truth is not the brain's forte.  

On our travels, a few weeks ago  it rained all night.  My brain, however, was still in  drought mode.  It instructed me to not waste Benton's stale water, but to instead pour it on a shrub outside.  I watered a rain drenched shrub.

Bang!  Both Ed and I jumped.  Was that dynamite?   Wow, where?  We were on a  deserted beach on a sunny day.    Bang!  Again.  We saw it this time.  A wave hitting the rocks, Bang!   Bang again!     Brains don't always get it right.  

I often need to tell my brain to shut up, especially at 3:00 a.m. My loved ones are safe in their beds, but, that  brain of mine has me fretting about one imminent disaster after another. If it can't fool me about disasters it will pester me with minutiae. 

My brain sends me other messages I need to stomp out.  Thoughts like desire instead of restraint; anger instead of calm; jealousy rather than reason. My brain can't  always get it right and I need to correct it's wayward path.  I need to assert reason into crazy random thoughts.  Fingers crossed I keep my mouth shut until reason is found again.

And what is it about retrieval?  I know the word I want, but where is it?    I turn to Ed for help. "What's that word I'm searching for?  You know, the one that has to do with space travel."   "Rocket, Saturn, moon?" He suggests.  "No!" I say.  If he can't help me, I get peeved.  It's  Ed after all who says "we have a distributed memory system."    If I can't remember, he must.   It's his job, right?

Then hours later, my brain, working all the while, throws the word at me.  Ed and I will be  talking about the weather or some such, when I suddenly say, "Sputnik".  "What?" he says.   "Remember that word I couldn't think of?"  I say.  "Oh yeah." he says.  

Like the bumper sticker says, "Don't Believe Everything You Think."


“It is a question of cubic capacity," said he; "a man with so large a brain must have something in it.” 

~ Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where are my boots?

S N O W ! !

When sorting through things I might or might not need on our travels, boots were put into the "off with their head" category.  Who would need boots in Mexico, California or Florida?  But with new snow to play in, I needed boots.  After a moment of panic, thinking my boots had already gone to the thrift store, Ed located them.   Ok, boots will stay in storage.  After all, once we begin traveling, we will be back for Thanksgiving or Christmas and it just might snow.

The day became all about sun, snow, play, happiness, laughing, silly stuff, delight...

Snow down the neck

Brad, Yessi, Ed, Fran & Benton

Yessi & Brad

Ed, Fran & Benton


"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. 
 You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, 
and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?"

~JB Priestley

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shark Reef

For a classic Lopez Island walk,  despite a looming storm, we headed to Shark Reef, a nature preserve and walking paradise.   The sky was dynamic with clouds crazily blowing every which way.  The water, mean-looking, swirled wildly with the changing tides.  Looking down from the rocky cliffs we could see the seals frolicking in the surf.  We would have surely died in this wild sea yet these seals were buoyant in their seal world.  A little seal head would appear, like a beach ball floating on the surface, peer at us, dive, just to pop up nearby, to peer at us again.  And masses of birds.   There were large  flocks of migrating ducks; hundreds of squawking gulls; lone blue heron sentries; and the occasional eagle giving us an evil eye.   One little duck, a Bufflehead perhaps, was playing the seal game.   Floating quietly on wild waves, diving, resurfacing, diving again.


"The sea is emotion incarnate.  It loves, hates, and weeps.  It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles.  No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can't."

~ Christopher Paolini

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Lopez Style

Living on Whidbey Island, I understand the relaxing sigh of getting on the ferry -- that, awwww of leaving the rat race of the other side.  When boarding the ferry departing for Lopez Island, the sigh is longer and deeper.  The crossing is lengthier putting more time and more peace between the island and the mainland.   Lopez Island has fewer cars, people, houses, lights.  More open space, quiet.  There are friendly little roads with hi there waves from the other drivers.

If I were to relocate to another island it would no doubt be Lopez Island, if not an even more remote island.  An island more like Whidbey Island was 30 years ago when we first moved here.  Lopez is still wonderfully rural, with the charming Lopez Village offering services, social encounters and cultural events to fulfill needs and desires, even if in small doses.  We enjoyed expresso at Isabel's, shopped for organic groceries at Blossom, lunch at the Vortex and hanging out in the library.

Fran at Vortex Restaurat -- we couldn't resist a color-coordinated photo.

Lopez Library

We went to Lopez for an early Thanksgiving celebration with friends.   We learned long ago not to commute between two islands on a holiday, so we simply changed the date.  Now we usually have two Thanksgivings which is perfect as Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

We parked Thistle in the drive of friends for three nights and at the Greene Partners studio in the village, Walmart-style, a couple of other nights.  One evening we invited our hosts, Joe and Nancy, to dinner in Thistle, serving a cabbage soup, with blue cheese and hard crusted bread.  For dessert we finished off with sliced pears and chocolate.  Eating Thistle-style is definitely not a hardship.

Greene Partners RV parking

A lovely five days, with rain, but lovely nevertheless...


"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow