Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Greetings

What a challenging year. It began and ended with our mothers in rehab with broken hips – Dan’s mom in January, then my mom in November. We are thankful that both have worked hard and achieved a fairly good recovery. This week we are in the process of moving my parents to a retirement community; Mom will go straight from rehab to this new location, just ten minutes from us and about 20 minutes from Larry. Mom and Dad had been looking for some time, but it took a crisis, as is so often the case, to actually motivate them to move.

In addition, several deaths have had a significant impact on us and on people we are close to. God has clearly been with us through all the tough times and losses, helping to redirect our thinking to a more realistic view of life and giving us the strength and compassion to care for others.

We’ve had some very significant and bright times this year as well.

For three weeks this summer we toured France and Germany. We spent a wonderful week in a small town in the hills just north of Provence, in a house with Celia, Keith and Rebecca (Keith’s sister) and with Jan, Willy, Lucia and Jan Scholten (Jan was the exchange student that lived with Dan’s family.) From there we went to Germany to visit our exchange student Rene and his family and to celebrate with them as Rene and Helge were married. The wedding celebration was held at a castle/hostel where most of the guests stayed for the weekend, and it was a very rich and memorable time. See August and September blog entries for pictures and the full story.

I’ve begun a new adventure: I decided to get a part-time job in June. I am working about 8 hours a week at Sylvan Learning Center as a tutor, and most of the time I really enjoy what I do. My long term goal is to tutor disadvantaged children, perhaps training others as well. (see my July entry for more details)

Dan has been very busy at work this year, involved in several “Boeing-wide” projects to improve the structural analysis computing system. He has done a lot of long distance conference calling, telecommuting, and some traveling. Musically, he has spent a lot of time with Matteo (his baroque guitar), playing and singing in the Continuo Ensemble, and both of us continue in Opus 7.

We’ve seen quite a bit of Celia and Keith this year, with our trip to Europe together (yes, it was really “family togetherness” with five in the little car we had…). We went to Vancouver several times to visit them, usually to see them perform. (See March and April blog entries) They are still going to Regent College; Celia’s focus is “Christianity and the Arts” and Keith’s is Biblical studies and languages. Our family was all together for Christmas this year, which is really special.

We’ve seen quite a bit of Colin, too, mostly on the hiking trail and at Crystal Mountain. He is so far beyond us in his physical ability; we’re glad he’s patient with us. Dan goes out to lunch with him quite often, since Colin also works at Boeing, not too far from Dan. He rides his bike to work almost every day, and practices “green living” in about every way possible. In fact, he suggested that we try to curb the trash at the chili cook off this year, and did the dirty work of pulling all the plastic spoons out of the compostable materials. We put some of the waste in my bear proof compost bin, except we forgot to put the lid on tight and woke up one morning to bowls of moldy chili spread all over the lawn. We learned a few things for next year… (see October entry for more about the chili cook-off)

Speaking of bears, in October, our chili-loving mama bear and her two cubs were trapped on our street and carried away to the mountains. We still see plenty of wildlife, between the deer and coyotes. There’s always something interesting for the neighborhood dogs to bark at (including us).

We hope you’ll take some time to peruse the pictures and read the stories on our blog.

We wish each of you God’s richest blessings in the New Year!

Dan and Joann

Friday, December 28, 2007

Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming

Lo, How a Rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a flow'ret bright, Amid the cold of winter,
when half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas fortold it, The Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, The virgin mother kind.
To show God's love aright she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Approaching winter

This picture was taken on an October hike to Lost Lake, up the Greenwater River trail. It was a beautiful clear day and there was just a trace of fresh snow which had crystalized on the branches.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


These were the plumpest, sweetest and most prolific blue huckleberries we've ever found. Olallie Meadow, by Snoqualmie pass, was the place. We went right home and made a pie...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hiking to Copper Lake

It was a lovely, warm, September day. Does Colin look like he is enjoying his swim? It was like ice! I went in too, but only for about 15 seconds and I don't think I breathed the whole time. it sure felt refreshing once we got out.

Chili Cook Off 2007

Well, it finally happened. The first rainy Chili Cook Off. But it didn’t dampen the spirits of the chili lovers who came (at least 75, maybe 100) - except for Frodo, Mark and Janet's dog. As usual, we had some very creative and wonderfully spicy chilis. As usual, I sampled each and every one. As usual, we had some of the same winners; most of the people who won had won before. But we had a couple of new winners, including Celia and Keith, who captured First Place Mild with their Brazilian black bean chili.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On to Germany!

Our last stop in France was a lovely town called Semur en Auxios. Almost completely surrounded by water, it was the ideal location for a fortified city. We had a four-course French meal at the hotel. It began with a salad, then the entree, followed by a selection of cheeses, and finally dessert. By the time dessert came, we were totally stuffed, but some of us managed to choke it down. I think Dan finished his and helped others, as well. I ate all of mine.
By this time we had bought way too much stuff, and the car just kept getting fuller and fuller.... Five of us and all our luggage in a Renault Scenic was a challenge.

We spent a day driving along the Mosel River, sampling (and buying) wine and stopping often to wander through a town or walk to a viewpoint. It was one of our favorite days. Dan and I are standing across the river from the castle in Cochem.

Now we're in Wernigerode, about to enjoy ice cream on the town square with Franziske, Rene's sister, and her friend Dominic. It happened to be Dan's birthday that day, and everyone except Dan forgot about it. Oops.

From there we went to Kassel to see Rene and Helge, and their baby, Fabian. Rene lived with us for a year as a high school exchange student, and we had come to Germany to share in the celebration of their wedding.

The celebration lasted from Friday evening until Sunday, at the Wasserschloss Wulmersen, a castle turned hostel. On Friday night there were probably 50 of us gathered for a bratwurst BBQ and bonfire. The brats were wonderful, and so were the cheeses and breads. We met several other people who didn't speak much German - a couple from Iceland and a brother and sister from France. We had a fascinating conversation about our respective cultures. We also met Rene's relatives.

Saturday was wedding day! It started with a great assortment of breads, cheeses and meats for breakfast. Then we all drove to the Rathaus (town hall) in a nearby town.

Helge and Rene, about to ascend the stairs into the Rathaus.

Their baby, Fabian, was there for the ceremony in Grandmother's arms. He got as much attention as the bride and groom.

After the ceremony, there was a toast and then we went out to the town square where there was music and dancing.

We caravaned back to the castle, honking our horns and getting lots of attention. The rest of the day was filled with games, a wonderful buffet with roast pig, dancing, drinking, and singing. Rene is popping the balloons with his hat, which has a thumbtack on the top. Helge's job is to catch the money that was inside. People found many creative ways to package money for Helge and Rene, including a bottle covered entirely with thumbtacks (points sticking out) and tongs also covered in thumbtacks.

One of the things I especially enjoyed about the wedding celebration was the time we had to talk with people from so many different places and circumstances. Rene and Helge have great friends.

And we were really pleased to see Rene so happy with his bride and with his son. He'll be a terrific husband and father.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In the Drome, France

8/17 – Friday
One more morning at our favorite cafĂ©… the hot chocolate is the best. We bought a whole kilo of it. We took off fairly early and headed south toward Dijon. We arrived at the hotel outside Dijon at 7:30. The “Premier classe” motel was bare bones basic: a tiny room with one window, a tiny prefab bathroom, and three beds with metal frames. No pictures on the walls, nothing but the necessities. It reminded us of a ship cabin - We went on in to town and picked up Celia, Keith and Rebecca at the train station.

8/18 – Saturday

Loading the luggage this morning was a challenge. We were packed all the way to the ceiling. The five of us shoehorned ourselves in and drove toward Dieulefit. On the way, we passed by a dramatic mountain range, then went up and over a high hill with many switchbacks. We arrived at the house at about 7, and were greeted by an enthusiastic Scholten family. They had prepared dinner. The house is very nice, with plenty of bedrooms and a nice outside patio with a view of the hills nearby.

8/19 – Sunday
After having tea, melons, and yogurt, all nine of us drove away toward Nyon.
There we experienced another French market. Pottery, lavender, soaps, and clothing were plentiful. Our last stop of the day was a “cave du vin” where one could taste and buy. Jan spent a long time talking with the lady there about the different wines. We tasted by sniffing, then tasting, holding it in our mouths and spitting it out. Jan bought quite a few bottles of wine, which wasn’t very expensive, between 4 and 10 euros per bottle.

Fill 'er up! People came in with large containers to get their wine.

8/20 – Monday
We ended up going on a hike from the house, into Dieulefit, then up to Montagne des Ventes – 600 or so meters of elevation gain, and steep. We were able to see Dieulefit as well as the next valley, up toward the Foret de Saou, a rugged mountain range. We stopped at a viewpoint and ate bread. The way down was really steep and difficult. We finished the walk by walking back into Dieulefit, eating ice cream, and looking around at stores.

In Avignon, "sur la pont"

We took a drive and then a very steep hike at ForetdeSaou. What a view!

Some of the joys of the market in Dieulefit!

Celia and Keith at nearby Poet Laval.

Friday, August 17, 2007

16 August - Route du Vin

16 August – Route du Vin
As we left the hotel on the way to our favorite boulangerie, we were delighted to discover that there was a market in Obernai. We spent at least an hour sampling cheese and sausage, buying bread and fruit, and looking at the wares of the many merchants. Then we headed by car to the “route de vin”, heading south today.
In addition to visiting several medieval towns, we hiked to the ruined castle Bergstein, where we ate lunch overlooking the villages we had just driven through.

15 August - Strasbourg

8/15 – Wednesday
A day in Strasbourg

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Getting Alsaced

Yesterday we arrived in Cologne, Germany in the morning and drove to the Alsace region of France. Below are pictures of Obernai, where we are staying. With the help of coffee in the morning and melatonin at night, we haven't experienced much of the discomforts of jet lag.

On Day one we visited the castle ruins of Fleckenstein. This castle fortress was built right into a rock.

Day two began with a lovely breakfast of quiche, pastries and cafe au lait. We drove the route du vin through beautiful contryside and villages. Here is the gate of Rosheim.

Most of the towns have a medieval town well.

We drove to the top of Mont de Odile, where there was a monastery set on a spot with cliffs on three sides. We took a walk along a wall built by Celts.

We ate grapes, took pictures of grapes, and sampled some wines.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunny and hot vacations

Fresno in June? Yes, it was very hot, but a pool in the back yard – and air conditioning - helped us stay cool while visiting our friends Sheila and Jeff. Jeff was participating in a music festival featuring works by Beethoven with the Fresno Philharmonic. We went to two concerts.


This is a very beautiful spot in Eastern Washington. We camped with a bunch of friends and enjoyed hiking, canoeing, swimming, jet skiing and rock jumping (well, it wasn’t a very big one). Oh, yes, and eating – community meals and campfires with s’mores. We all succeeded in waterskiing on one ski, but one of us didn’t stay up for long. I hadn’t skied in about 20 years. At least I didn’t get sore.

View from the top of Steamboat Rock at sunset.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Job for Joann?!?!

Yes, for the first time since Celia was born, I have a paying job. (part time.) It all happened rather suddenly. One day back in May it came to me that I needed to get a job. There were a number of reasons for this. I have felt the need for a new challenge, and for someone to hold me to higher expectations that what typically happens in a volunteer position. I also had formed some bad habits of being somewhat obsessive about the house and garden, and over-responsible for things I shouldn’t be taking responsibility for. I also felt the need to be around other people more.

The obvious choice for me was to return to teaching in some way. Though I haven’t taught for pay in 26 years, I find myself continually drawn to teaching in my volunteer work, and I have always really enjoyed it. Over the course of the next few weeks, I talked to a number of people who were involved in some form of teaching. I also checked to see what was necessary to renew my certification, and found that I have a life-time certification! What a surprise.

Because I love working one on one or with small groups, I thought about doing private tutoring, but decided that I needed to find a place to tutor where I could receive training and work with other people. So I checked with a couple of tutoring centers and decided to work for Sylvan Learning Centers. I have gone through their training and am beginning to teach, though very part time at this point. I am learning a lot about what is involved in prescriptive tutoring.

My ultimate goal is to work in some sort of tutoring program for disadvantaged children (similar to my work at First Place) with improved skills in diagnosing and setting up learning programs specific to the needs of individual children. I may take some classes this coming year toward this end.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Greenwater River Trail

The snow is still deep high in the mountains, so we have been hiking the lowlands. Late in May Dan, Colin, and I hiked the Greenwater River trail. We did get into the snow, but were able to find our way by following the tracks. The river was very full and new plants were shooting up everywhere.