Friday, June 30, 2017

Weeds or Wonders?

Weeds, the disdain of the gardener, the rats or pigeons of the botanical world, the underappreciated little warriors and vagabonds of the kingdom plantae.

Here are some cute little weeds sprouting near a building.

Weeds are classified as such as soon as they appear somewhere unwanted.... in a flower garden full of perfectly lined marigolds and petunias....huddled beneath a tomato plant...sprouting between bunches of grass on a recently mowed lawn. But just because something is unwanted, doesn't mean it is not beneficial. Here are some beneficial uses for the most detested of plants:
  • Dandelions are known to be the peskiest of plan pests, but these pretty puff producers also make great salads! I don't say 'great' from a position of authority, since I have never tried dandelion greens, but this is the rumor in the plant world. 
  • Yarrow, mullein, golden rod and woad can all be used as natural dyes. 
  • Some people think weeds are known for their medicinal qualities. Chickweed is believed to relieve cough and stinging nettle is believed to help arthritis. Of course, and actual doctor may disagree with these claims. 
  • Clovers, dandelions, buttercups and bluebells all make lovely bouquets.
So next time you see a weed, think: weeds or wonders?


"That's No Weed! 10 Valuable Medicinal & Edible Plants In Your Yard." WebEcoist. N.p., 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 June 2017. <>.

Farm, Joybilee. "Make a Rainbow with These 5 Weeds (Natural Dyes)." Joybilee Farm. N.p., 01 May 2014. Web. 09 June 2017. <>

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bubbles and Other Friendly Folk

Pop quiz!...Where is a common place to encounter bubbles: 

A. Haunted Houses
B. Ancient Ruins
C. Street Fairs

The answer is C! Street fairs!

Seattle has all sorts of street fairs throughout summer. The first one of the season I went to was the U District street fair. The very best part of street fairs is without a doubt the people watching! Street fairs attract all sorts of creative eccentrics and unique souls.

I love street performers! These two are some of my all time favorite!

Two cat-people playing music! One cat-person played the accordion while the other played the fiddle. Not only was their shtick charming and adorable, the music was good too!

There was also a contemplative street poet creating works of poetry for passerby's. If your creative pursuit of choice is writing, it is a little more difficult to make it into a street preforming gig, but this young poet was able to intermingle his love of writing with his entrepreneur zest for street preforming.

 Bagpipers are underutilized musicians here in the states. But this young bagpiper has no fears about the lack of bagpipe enthusiasm, he has embraced his instrument and is ready too share is music with he world!

 Jugglers always seem to be very popular street fairs. This guy got quite the crowd.

But it is not just the street performers that are interesting at street fairs...the fair goers are always really interesting also.

This beautiful rollerskating fairy was the first person who caught my eye at the fair. At street fairs, a person is suddenly transported to a land where fairy's roam (or roll) free.

Street fairs also give people a forum to present their agenda to a large audience. This person's agenda was to find a friend to chat with....well, a physically available female friends, so maybe more of a romantic partner. Here is what the sign said "Female biped wanted for egalitarian accommodation. Need to be emotionally and physically available. Not interested in your car, home or money. Your values, lifestyle and priorities is the universe I seek. Care to chat?"

I wonder if he ended up finding someone. It is a unique way to do a personal ad.

I also saw a group of peace loving protesters. This is an agenda I can stand behind!

I went to the street fair with my friend, and we had a grand time looking at people and booths, and looking a people looking at booths.

But when it came to food, there was a hitch in our easy -going day. He is vegan and I am vegetarian, and fair food is decidedly aimed toward the carnivorous. We were surrounded by pulled pork, corn dogs (no vegetarian ones, I checked since they are a favorite) and all types of simmering, broiling, barbecuing meat (or, to our minds, dead animals....ahh!). But luckily, the u district is full of veggie friendly restaurants. We went to a Japanese restaurant. Hanging up by the front door, they had an awesome map with pins showing where different customers were from.

A street fair is like it's own little world in itself. It exists for a moment parallel to our own real world, then disappears, leaving behind the faint smell of fried food and kettle corn. The once vibrant streets of the fair world now strewn with flyers, scraps of indiscernible color and other remains of the fair.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #8: The Forest Witch transforms Annabelle into a Bird

Here is the eighth illustration in the Annabelle in the Woods series. I used gouache and acrylic paint. 

While walking through the woods, Annabelle heard a beautiful song. The song had words about far off lands sung in a human voice. The backup lyrics were meowed by a chorus of cats. Annabelle followed the sound deeper and deeper into the woods. There she saw the forest witch tending to her mushroom garden.

“Hello.” Annabelle said to the woman.

“Oh my, it is not often I see other humans in these parts! How do you do?” The forest witch said.

“Oh yes! All the fantastic animals are just amazing. Sometimes I wish just for an hour I could be an animal too.” Annabelle replied with sparkling eyes.

The forest witch, who immediately took a liking to the intrepid young forest explorer, was inspired to grant Annabelle’s wish.

“If you could be animal, which one would you choose?” The forest witch asked.

“A bird of course! To soar the splendid skies! Nothing could be more fantastic.”
“If you would like, I could grant you your wish and turn you to a bird.”

“Oh yes! Please!”

With the flick of her wand, the forest witch transformed Annabelle into a robin as to grant Annabelle’s wish.

“Oh my!” Annabelle chirped, “I am a bird!”

“Only for an hour, so fly off! But before you depart, know that when you feel a tickle in your talons, the magic is beginning to ware off. At this point you must descend from your flight toward the safety of ground.”

Annabelle nodded her head solemnly in agreement and fluttered off into the sky. Flying was everything she had thought it would be and more. Annabelle was full of delight as she soared through the air. When she felt that tickle in her talons, she reluctantly descended back to the ground. Just as her talons hit the ground, she saw them transform into toes. Soon, Annabelle was back in her human form, but she would never forget the beauty of flight.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mue Mue, A Talent for the Ages

I have a ferocious little friend, my gray kitty Mue Mue.

My cat Mue Mue is a feisty, playful, funny, quirky and an extremely talented cat. He is almost 14 years old, which  means he is a senior kitty, although you'd never guess by his confidence, which more resembles the confidence of the fancy-free youth. His energetic charisma also gives him the illusion of youth. One thing you should never tell Mue Mue is that you can't teach old cats new tricks because he will quickly dispel this notion. My genius kitty is learning new tricks left and right! Here he is preforming his latest trick.....Stand:

While it is quite evident that my little monster Mue Mue is extremely talented and brilliant, most cats really can learn tricks. The main quality that the cat must possess in order to learn such amazing skills is that he be food motivated. My other little goofball Wendel, is not at all food motivated. So I have not worked with him on learning tricks. A delicious treat is not enough to convince him to shake or stand. He is a little bit of a free spirit and prefers to daydream and be cute.

If you have a treat motivated cat yourself, here is how you can train your own little darling to do amazing feats of trickery and talent.

What you need: A cat, a clicker, a bag of treats.
  1. First, teach your cat that a click gets a treat. While hanging out with your cat, click! and give a treat. Click! and treat. He will quickly make the appropriate associations and know that that happy click will get him what he wants. 
  2. Decide what trick you want to teach your cat. I recommend starting with shake. Gently pick up your cats paw and immediately click and give a treat right away. The power of the clicker is that it marks the exact moment of when the cat does something that you want. Cats, unlike dogs, are less evolutionary conditioned to respond to praise or changes in human voice or expression. So if you say "oh what a good kitty!" this will not be as effective as the click. The click is a distinct noise, associated with them doing a behavior that you find good.
  3. Make sure you clearly communicate to your cat what you want from him. When I ask my cat to shake, I say "Mue Mue, shake" while simultaneously placing my hand palm up in front of him. This way, he can associate both the word and the hand gesture to what I want. For stand, I say "Mue Mue, stand" and move my hands in an upward motion. I really think Mue Mue pays more attention to what I am doing with my hands then the words I am saying, so I do think it is quite important to have a helpful hand motion. 
  4. Spend about five minutes a day doing this with your cat. Spending too much time working on tricks is exhausting, frustrating and irritating to your furry feline friend. Devoting a solid five minutes a day is a good way to spend quality time with your kitty, enrich their mind through something new and novel and help them progress without making them dread trick practice time by overdoing it.
  5. Be cautious with the treats. You don't want training time to lead to an unhealthy and overweight cat. Read the back and count out how many you can use. A lot of treats you can break up into smaller pieces. 
  6. If your cat is unhappy and hates training time, STOP. While I do think cat's learning power is underestimated, not all cats are the same and if learning tricks makes your little feline unhappy, no reason to worry about teaching him tricks as I am sure he has a whole barrage of cute quirks, mannerisms and habits that delight the heart. With Mue Mue, he got a little irritated with me when I first started training, but the irritation rapidly dissipated when he realized treats were involved. If he had continued to behave as if he was irritated, we would have retired his training. Now, whenever he sees me pull the clicker out, he gets really excited!
  7. If you cat does seem to enjoy training, still make sure you are paying attention to what he may be communicating to you. Mue Mue sometimes has grumpy days and we will stop training time early if he seems extra frustrated or disinterested. While cat training is super fun for the humans, it should be something fun for your kitty too. It is a chance for enrichment and a way to use their brain power in an interesting way. If training ever becomes something that isn't fun for your cat, it is not worth it!
If you and your cat keep up with practice, before long, your own little guy or gal will be preforming amazing tricks! You will be glowing with pride!

Standing isn't Mue Mue's first trick, here he is shaking: Mue Mue, Shake!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Secret World of Trains

Sometimes I really dislike trains because there is a train track near my work, and sometimes when a train come, it blocks me from actually getting to work and I will have to wait up to 40 minutes! But, I am able to forgive this inconvenience because trains are romantic and their very existence encourages the mind to wander into daydreams.

I like imagining where they are going and imagining the people who have train hopped on them and are watching the world pass from their stowaway location. I also like how talented graffiti artists use rusted old trains as their canvas. Then the trains become like touring museums, featuring work from all around the country. Maybe on one car an artist from Kansas paints a beautiful graffiti mural and on the train car next to it, an artist from Delaware paints something else.

In Ballard, we have an old train track that isn't used anymore. There are weeds covering the tracks and people walk along them without fear of being run over. There are also some decommissioned trains that sit peacefully in the sun.

Although train culture is not what it use to be, hobos still exist today, wandering the the country on a rattling, railroad journey. One thing that is interesting about hobos is they have their own secret hieroglyphics so the can communicate important messages to other hobos. Here is what some of the pictures mean.

  • Cat: A kind woman lives here
  • An X with two eyes: Safe camp
  • A frowning crescent moon: A dishonest person lives here
  • A number 2 over the number 10: Thieves roam about
  • A symbol that looks like a child's stick drawing of a lady next to three triangles: Tell a pitiful story to elicit sympathy and get something good 
Hobo culture seems like a close knit community, despite being spread out far and wide across the country, always moving, always traveling. But the way the hobos communicate via these symbols is sweet, they are all looking out for each other.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #7: In the Brightest and Darkest Corner of the Woods, Annabelle Discovers the Forest Monsters

Here is the seventh of the Annabelle in the Woods series. I used acrylic, drawing ink and gouache.

Annabelle is drawn by a flash of color into the darkest corner of the woods. Carved into a bent tree dripping with sap were the words “Here be monsters.”

Annabelle had always been fascinated by monsters. She’d always wanted to meet one. She imagined having tea with bigfoot, or ridding upon the back of Nessie. When she was little and thought there were monsters under her bed or in her closet, she would ask them politely to come out and join her in a bed time story.

Annabelle descended into the dark and colorful woods. She began to hear howling and roaring. “The monsters!” She thought. Suddenly, she was seized with nerves. She never expected that she would feel such unease at finally experiencing something she’d always wanted to experience: meeting a real life monster.

Then, she saw them! The monsters! They gathered together in the clearing. They rumbled and growled. When she listened closer, Annabelle realized they weren’t rumbling and growling so much as having a conversation, a deep conversation about the meaning of life.

 Annabelle was fascinated as she eavesdropped upon them. It seemed over all the monsters had an optimistic view on the meaning of life. After the meaning of life, the monsters moved onto a new topic: what happens after we die.

“We turn into birds.” One monster said.

“We’re transformed into stardust.” Another monster chimed in.

“We go to a magical place.” One last monster said.

“Ahem” Annabelle said and came from behind the tree.

All the monsters looked at her, surprised and fascinated at the small humanoid creature.
“I’m Annabelle. I’ve got all sorts of theories about this topic!”

“Why lets here them then.” One of the monsters said.

Annabelle smiled, and began telling the monsters all her fantastic theories about life, death and the universe.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: Ufology by James Tynion, Noah J. Yuenkel, Matthew Fox and Adam Metcalfe

I recently checked out a new comic book from the library. It wasn't a book I had been seeking out. I was in the mood for comic books and exploring the comic book section for something that looked interesting when I came across 'Ufology.'

This comic book reminds me a bit of ET, Super 8 and Stranger Things. It shares with these stories intrepid young protagonists, encounters with the strange and hints of conspiracy.

Becky is a dissatisfied young woman who feels disconnected with her peers, her family and school. But one day she decides to hangout with a classmate after school. While wandering the outdoors, Becky and the classmate explore a seemingly abandoned house. But the house harbors something strange. The encounter in the house leads Becky to aliens and conspiracies and to a friendship with an paranormal obsessed classmate named Malcolm. The action and the mysterious twists that Becky and Malcolm encounter lead them to uncover mysteries from the past. Together, the two try to solve the mystery of the strange encounters and the stranger occurrences.

I like this book for several reasons: Good artwork, interesting, well-paced story and a fun subject matter. Alien stories are endlessly interesting! Being a child of the 90's, I am very much influenced by alien lore. Aliens were all the rage in the 90's from X-Files, to that so-called-real (but actually fake) alien autopsy video.

Ufology really captures the feeling of being young and seeking out answers in the world. Becky and Malcolm represent two different common mindsets of the teenage years. Malcolm is hopeful, still holding on to the hope of mystery that fills all of childhood. Becky is disappointed with what the world has shown her thus far. The encounter that both teens share with aliens and conspiracy work to alter both characters views so Malcolm becomes more jaded and Becky more enthused. But both characters become wiser.

When I checked this book out, I thought it was a stand-alone novel, but apparently there are more! I will definitely check out book two of this series. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nature from Songs

  When I just barely miss the bus, it is the worst! Watching the bus pulling away from the curb as I dash toward it in a frantic and useless attempt to catch it always fills me with disappointment. Then, having to wait twenty or more minutes in the rain, huddled under a nearby roof eave squished next to a bunch of restless strangers. Sigh! Not fun. But just barely missing the ferry is full of delights. Once, when D and I were off on an island adventure, we missed the ferry by probably thirty seconds. At first, we were filled with utter disappointment! But then we got to spend a couple of guilt-free and indulgent hours exploring and lounging at the beach.

Before I moved to Washington, I liked to listen to the band The Microphones. There is something very dreamlike and wistful about their music. The band is from Anacortes (where this beach and the ferry terminal is located) and now that I have lived in Washington and visited Anacortes, I feel like I understand more of their inspiration. Just like this little beach, The Microphones music is beautiful, whimsical and a little lonesome.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #6: Annabelle Meets the Wild Children Raised by Wolves

Here is the sixth painting of the Annabelle in the woods series. I used tea, gouache and acrylic paints.

On the edge of the woods there was once an orphanage of sad and lonely children. The children’s lives were bleak and consisted of dreary days of cleaning and crying. Slowly, the children started to disappear. In the evening, they would all go to sleep together, but when they woke up, Greta’s bed would be empty, or underneath Martin's blankets there would be pillows and not a boy. Eventually, the entire orphanage was completely empty. People living nearby marveled at the tragedy and wondered about the mystery, but the children were parentless, and the orphan keepers were merciless, so no one mourned for the children individually as little human beings.

If anyone were to learn what truly happened, they would not be sad either. The children had not perished, but instead had been spirited off to a better life by a pack of loving wolves. The wolves who lived in the woods nearby heard the cries of the children and could no longer bear the idea of the horrid life the children lived. So the wolves sneaked in to the orphanage, gently plucked the children up and took them to their wolf village.

The children grew up loved by their fur covered mothers and fathers. They frolicked with their fur covered siblings. They learned how to howl, how to frolic, how to appreciate the beauty of a butterfly or wildflower and how to survive with joy in the woods. So in the end, all the orphans were adopted and raised with love by their lupine families. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Baby Bunny's Harrowing Ordeal With (Spoiler!) a Happy Ending

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a sad and strange squeaking coming from behind the building where I work. I looked through the cracks in the fence, and saw that it was a crow terrorizing some innocent, fuzzy creature! I bellowed loudly at the crow "Hey, stop" or something similar. The crow was startled by my voice and stopped engaging in his blood-thirsty scavenging, leaving the little creature alone. With help from my coworker, we were able to find the little creature. It was an itty bitty baby bunny! The little bunny had run across the way from where the crow had attacked her. In her frenzy to escape, she got her head stuck in a fence. Luckily I work at an animal rescue with vet staff on duty, so I ran to get someone from the vet clinic. With help from them, the bunny was safe and her intimidate medical needs were tended to. We named her Rocky because she is a survivor. The vet clinic we work with deals with domestic animals, so while they were able to do a lot to make sure she was safe and warm, Rocky wasn't in the right place for rehabilitation and reintroduction into the wild. Little Rocky was transported to the local wild life rehabilitation center. A couple of weeks after Rocky's near death experience, we got an email saying she was reintroduced to her natural habitat where she can enjoy her life as a little bunny. They also identified her as a cottontail rabbit. How precious little cottontail Rocky is!

A lot of times when you come across an injured animal, it is difficult to know what action to take. I was lucky in this situation that I was able to get help from trained medical staff. I also knew the bunny was in distress because I saw it terrorized by a crow. But sometimes, it is hard to know the best course of action when coming across an animal that appears to need help. Here are some helpful tips:
  • A no nonsense approach to helping an animal in distress is to immediately contact your local wildlife rehabilitator and describe to them the situation. Their knowledge and expertise are invaluable. 
  • Before interacting with the animal, make sure the animal actually needs your help. For example, on the beaches of Puget Sound, baby harbor seals come to shore. This is natural for them and their mothers will come back to take care of them. But humans often think the animal is in distress and will needlessly interfere. The humans with good intentions end up jeopardizing the seals well being rather than promoting it. Sometimes it is important to observe the animal first. Another such example is when a bird flies into a window. Often times, they are stunned shortly after the incident and will appear harmed. But after they are able to regain their barrings, the bird flies off to a happy life.
  • Make sure you are safe. For example, don't try to save a ferocious bear that is growling and snarling at you. But even small animals can be dangerous, so remember it is important to be both compassionate and practical in these situations. 
  • If you handle an injured animal or abandoned baby animal, wear gloves.
  • Find a safe way to transport the animal to a wildlife rehabilitation center. A cardboard box with air holes is a good tool to use. 
  • The goal should be to get an abandoned or injured animal to someone that can provide the best care for them. Here is a handy list from The Humane Society: List of Wildlife Rehabilitator Resources
  • For more in depth advice and species specific tips, read this, another helpful article from The Humane Society: How to Help Injured and Abandoned Wildlife
In the area I work around Seattle, we have lots of bunnies. Sometimes the dogs bark at them when they see the bunnies during walks, but the bunnies seem unfazed! Sometimes I see them on the way to my bus stop. They are beautiful little creatures.

I always feel lucky when I spot a bunny in the wild. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Walking and Walking and Walking

One of my favorite activities is taking walks with my camera. It is nice being outdoors and there is always so much to see. The other day, I took a walk from the Ballard neighborhood to the Fremont neighborhood. I had a particular destination in mind. Along the ship canal in Fremont is an amazing topiary bush sculpture of a Apatosaurus mother dino with her baby. It is really awesome. But then, right before I got to the sculpture, my camera ran out of batteries! Luckily, I still got lots of great pictures of the walk there.

I recently learned about an interesting fellow who when he was alive, also had a joy for wandering walks. His name was Raymond Robinson and he was born on October 29th, 1910 in the state of Pennsylvania. Raymond Robinson garnered much happiness out of long, rambling, nighttime walks. During his night time walks, he felt at peace and he felt freedom like he never did during any daytime walk.

But Raymond's walks inspired stories of a wandering boogeyman that haunted the Pennsylvania countryside. Children were warned to not venture out during the wee hours of the night because a faceless spook would get them. The fabled boogeyman was known locally by two names. Some knew him as Charlie No Face, to describe the faceless state of the wandering boogie man. Others knew him as the Green Man to describe the green glow that purportedly emanated from the man.

But the alleged no-faced ghost or boogeyman was really just Raymond Robinson, a kind-hearted, gentle man who enjoyed the beauty of a nighttime stroll. He didn't enjoy night to veil sinister deeds, but because it was the time of the day where he was safest from ridicule. When Raymond was a young boy he suffered a horrible accident that mutilated his face.

He was a curious little lad whose excitement to peer into a birds nest overwhelmed his natural good sense to not climb up the bridge where the nest was located. The bridge was the route for a trolley and thus had electrical lines upon it. When little Raymond climbed the bridge, he slipped and his face hit against the electrical line, which resulted in a serious injury.

Raymond was lucky to survive the accident, but his injuries left him blind and seriously disfigured. The world can be cruel to people who look strange, so he retreated from the public, spending his days in the safety of his home. But the night was his time! The cloak of night was his freedom.

Raymond Robinson walked with a stick to guide him. He didn't need his eyes. He could hear the world around him. The swoop of bat wings. The chirp of crickets. The scurry of tiny mammals feet pushing against the dirt as they scurried away from a hungry owl. He could smell the the close bloomed wildflowers, the trees swaying in the wind, the soil underneath his feet. The cool, nighttime air was cool on his skin.  He could sense the story of the night without seeing it. He belonged there with the bats and the crickets and the nocturnal mammals. The only time he didn't belong was when he heard the rumble of the car. Sometimes that rumble, that signal of his isolation from the rest of the world, was enough to send him hiding in the brush until the sound disappeared into the distance.

The neighbors who knew Raymond said he was a kind man. He spent his days with his family making doormats, belts and wallets to sell. He sometimes shared a beer or cigarette with a neighbor while exchanging pleasantries.

But he wasn't know for his ability to create or his conversational skills, he was know for his face, or the face that was missing. People's curiosity brought out their cruelty. The cruelty of curiosity went so far to inspire oglers to park outside his house, as they honked their horn and demanded to see Charlie No Face.

Raymond Robinson would not be their spectacle, but he would not let their rude curiosity deter him. Night came and he wandered. He was struck by several cars during his years of nightly walks. But this didn't stop him either. Night came and he wandered. His identity became blemished and convoluted so who he was to the world was a cliched story of a boogeyman. But this didn't stop him either. Night came and he wandered. Through his wanderings, he was free. Through his wanderings, he was the man he was meant to be.

His life would have been different if he had never climbed that bridge. Like hundreds of thousands of other men, his life would have been simple, his existence lost to history. Maybe he would have married and he would have had children and grandchildren. His descendants would have still been alive now, existing in the world, never thinking twice when they saw a bridge. Maybe Raymond Robinson would have moved to a different town in a different state and built a life for himself there. He probably would have looked like many other men. He probably would have blended in with the crowd. Or maybe he would have grown up to stay in his hometown with his family, making wallets, belts and doormats to earn a living. And even without the motivation to hide his face, maybe he would have been drawn to the night.

Nine months before Raymond Robinson lost his face and changed his future, another boy had an accident on the same bridge. That other boy had never got the chance to become anyone besides a little boy. He had fallen from the bridge and lost his life. Raymond Robinson died too, but not until he was an old man. He was buried at Grandview Cemetery, the same cemetery where the little boy had been buried, that other victim of the trolley bridge. Now they are just bones in the ground, forever connected by parallel fates, forever alive in the legends that galvanize the countryside.


"Raymond Robinson (Green Man)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 May 2017. Web. 13 May 2017. <>

"Raymond Robinson – the True Story behind the Legend of “Charlie No Face” (aka The Green Man." Altered Dimensions Paranormal. Altered Dimensions, 21 Jan. 2013. Web. 13 May 2017. <>