3 Things Thursday

Here’s my weekly installment for the blog challenge Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesomeness of your life.”

three-things-thursday-participant

1. Valentine’s Day

My wonderful husband of almost 44 years scored sime big hits this Valentine’s Day. First, he arranged for us to have lunch at the Cliff House, a fancy restaurant here in Tacoma that we hadn’t been to before. The food was delicious and the view spectacular. Second, from the restaurant it was just a short trip down the road to the historic Browns Point Lighthouse, somewhere I’d never been before (though he had). We had beautiful weather, a fine day for taking photos. Third, he got me a stunning bouquet of red roses and purple carnations (purple being my favorite color).

Yes, my life is truly awesome.

2. WordPress Course Writing 201: Poetry

The good folks at WordPress, the blogging platform, are offering a free, two-week course in poetry writing. The course consists of 10 assignments, one for each weekday. Each assignment includes three parameters for a poem: a prompt (a topic such as water, trust), a poetic form (such as haiku, limerick), and a poetic device (such as simile, alliteration). These three items are only suggestions, though. We are free to write whatever poem we feel inspired to create. We post our work on our own blogs, then post a link to our piece on the WordPress page for that day’s assignment.

Since I’m strictly a nonfiction writer, I saw this course as an opportunity to stretch my writing self. And although I’ve only completed three assignments so far, I’m enjoying it tremendously. Despite the freedom to write whatever we want, I’m planning to stick to each day’s three parameters. Writing to fit those parameters, especially form, requires me to focus on my material and to play with language—something I haven’t done in a long time.

3. The Weather

My husband and I both grew up in New England, and we still have many family members and friends in the Northeast. While they have been experiencing snow upon snow upon snow along with bitter cold temperatures, we out here in the great Pacific Northwest have had record-breaking high temperatures and atypically sunny days. My personal weather gauge is Mount Rainier: If I can see it from Tacoma, it’s a good weather day. The past week gave us several beautiful days. Here’s what my mountain looked like on Friday the 13th:

Cliff House mtn view

Not bad, huh?

WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class, Day 3

The assignment for Day 3 offers these three parameters:

  • Prompt: trust
  • Form: acrostic
  • Device: internal rhyme

Acrostic

Acrostics have been around for millennia: they’re a creative way to give order and convey multiple meanings at once while staying fairly subtle.

There have been two prevalent ways to create acrostics. In one, you follow the sequence of the alphabet, beginning each verse in your poem with a different one from A to Z (or to whatever letter you choose to reach — you’re not obliged to cover the entire ABC). This type of acrostic emphasizes the idea of seriality, of accumulation, or of a preset order.

The other type of acrostic is one in which the first (or last) letter of each verse together spell out a message: a short sentence, a word, a name (for example, medieval poets loved writing love poems with acrostics spelling out their beloved’s name).

Some interesting ways to use acrostics include writing a poem that asks a question to which the answer is the spelled-out word; one in which the “hidden” message contradicts or otherwise complicates the content of the poem.

Writing Process

I’ll start with a simple acrostic, a poem that spells out its subject matter.

Mount Rainier’s white head appears
Out of her bed of clouds.
Unless the day is sunny and clear, when
Nothing her beauty shrouds.

To see her in her majesty
And mystery
I find to be
Necessity.

This includes the acrostic form and the device of internal rhyme, but not the concept of trust. It also sounds a bit pretentious. I would probably never use the word shrouds, except when it’s necessary to rhyme with clouds.

But look: The first line in my second stanza must start with t. There’s an opening for trust:

Mount Rainier’s white head appears
Out of her bed of clouds.
Unless the day is sunny and clear, when
Nothing her beauty shrouds.

Trusting in her majesty
And mystery
I find to be
Necessity.

There’s still that pesky shrouds, but the more I read this poem, the less that word bothers me. I’m trying to convey the image of stateliness and reverence, and this old-fashioned word contributes to that imagery.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class, Day 2

Here’s the assignment for Day 2:

  • Prompt: journey
  • Form: limerick
  • Device: alliteration

limerick

Limericks are traditionally composed of five lines of verse. The traditional rhyming scheme of a limerick is a a b b a — the first two lines rhyme, then the next two, and the final verse rhymes with the first couplet.

Write a limerick — or two or five, if you wish to create a narrative cycle — and inject this form with something personal and surprising. Break the pattern if you need to — and if it serves the purpose of your poem.

alliteration

Use of the same consonant multiple times in proximity.

Writing Process

I managed to come up with two different starts. In both cases the first four lines came fairly quickly, but that final line, with its rhyme to the initial couplet, eluded me. I ended up with these, which should be read as separate, not part of a narrative cycle (although the concept of a narrative cycle intrigues me):

For two thousand miles I drove,
Ever forward I strove,
To reach my new home
From one I’d outgrown,
In a new place I knew I would love.

Writing all over the place,
Trying this memoir to ace.
“Slow down,” said my brain
In a constant refrain.
“Life writing should not be a race.”

But then there came the challenge of alliteration. I tend to use frequent alliteration in my writing. I usually don’t consciously write it, but I do notice it when it appears on the page or the screen. But where was it when I needed it?

So I put this project aside and moved on to another one. And, as so often happens, I found an alliterative line in something else I wrote:

Why in the world would …?

What happens if I start with this as a final line and write the previous four lines around it? So I completed the line, compounding the alliteration:

Why in the world would I wait?

Now for the rest of the limerick, incorporating the concept of a journey.

Rhyming words (for the opening couplet):

  • hate
  • date
  • late
  • fate
  • mate
  • straight
  • trait
  • gate
  • great
  • grate
  • state
  • rate
  • bait

Life’s journey is not always straight
Because of our fickle friend, fate.
But a journey circuitous
Is uplifting, not ruinous.
So why in the world would I wait?

And notice the alliteration in the second line!

WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class, Day 1

Today begins WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class. How great it is to have such a resource available for FREE!

I write strictly nonfiction, so this class is a big stretch for me. But I’m determined to work on my writing this year, and what better way to do that than to dabble in something WAY out of my comfort zone? The course offers an assignment every weekday for two weeks. Each daily post includes a prompt (topic), a poetic form, and a poetic device. We are instructed to use whatever—or nothing—we find inspirational in these suggestions.

I’ll be working on these daily assignments and hope to publish the results of my attempts here. I’ll probably follow the suggestions in each daily prompt fairly closely, since my purpose here is to practice with types of writing outside of my usual work.

Thanks for playing along with me. I’d love to hear your comments. Since I’m not a poet by nature, I could really use some constructive criticism.

So please leave a comment if you’ve found your way here.

And here’s my attempt for Day One

  • Prompt: water
  • Form: haiku “three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables, respectively”
  • Device: simile

Waves roll in to shore
Like nature’s breath from the wind
Unceasing, always

Wow, that wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I’m stoked!

Historic Browns Point Lighthouse

After our Friday lunch at the Cliff House, it was just a short way down the road to Browns Point Lighthouse Park:

201 Tulalip St. N.E.
Tacoma, WA 98422
(253) 927–2536

And yes, that is the correct spelling, without an apostrophe. At some point the apostrophe was dropped, although I couldn’t find out exactly when or why.

Browns Point Community

Browns Point Lighthouse Park comprises 4.03 acres and offers waterfront access. The U. S. Coast Guard owns and maintains the lighthouse itself, but the surrounding land and buildings are under the joint care of Metro Parks Tacoma and the Points Northeast Historical Society.

BP Lighthouse

A light was first erected on a post at the location now known as Browns Point on December 12, 1887, two years before Washington became a state. The first White residents of Browns Point were the lighthouse keeper, Oscar Brown, and his wife, Annie, who arrived in 1903. The original lighthouse was a wooden structure built in 1903 that featured both a lamp and a bell used for fog warnings. Oscar and Annie Brown tended the lighthouse until 1939. More on the history of Browns Point Lighthouse is available here.

Browns Point Lighthouse Plaque
Click on photo to enlarge

 

The original wooden lighthouse was replaced by the current structure in 1933. The keeper’s cottage, originally built for the Browns in 1903, has been fully renovated. The three-bedroom cottage of 2,000 square feet sleeps up to six people, has a full kitchen, and offers cable television, internet, and wi-fi service. It is available for rental. Furnished with antique furniture, the cottage is a living museum, and renters become honorary lightkeepers responsible for duties such as raising and lowering the flag daily, watering flower boxes, and welcoming visitors to an open house on Saturday afternoons between April and November.

lightkeeper's cottage
Browns Point Lightkeeper’s Cottage

Cliff House Restaurant

Val DayMy husband F. and I often try to celebrate Valentine’s Day a day early to avoid the restaurant rush. This year F. made a lunch reservation at the Cliff House in Northeast Tacoma:

6300 Marine View Dr, Tacoma, WA 98422
(253) 927–0400

According to the restaurant’s web site, “Since 1925 the Cliff House has been a landmark in the Pacific Northwest.” The Cliff House sits high on a bluff overlooking Commencement Bay and offers lovely views of Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the skyline of downtown Tacoma.

One of our neighbors, a native Tacoman, told us that a few years ago the restaurant got quite run down, then was closed for a while before finally reopening with its current decor. This article of March 23, 2012, from our local Tacoma paper, The News Tribune, explains the problems and hails the current decor and food. In another article dated March 31, 2012, the same reviewer goes into more detail about the menu: “The food is precisely what you’d expect from a restaurant with a legacy as the go-to restaurant for celebrations for every generation.”

Like The News Tribune reviewer, we enjoyed the “this-is-why-we-live-here views” from the Cliff House’s upstairs dining room. Here’s the view of Mount Rainier we saw from our table, with Tacoma’s industrial waterfront in the foreground:

Cliff House mtn view

F. and I shared an appetizer of steamed clams, always one of our favorites. We both ordered the grilled salmon, which came with a cucumber-dill yogurt topping that contained small half-slices of cucumber. The salmon was grilled just right: cooked through but not dried out. The whole meal was delicious.

I didn’t discover the historic photos depicting Tacoma’s past until I went to the restroom after lunch. As a newcomer to Tacoma, I always love seeing such old photos to learn about the city’s history. F. and I were both particularly interested in a photo showing people boarding the ferry in Point Defiance Park, since we live very close to the park and often walk past the ferry landing.

An added benefit of this Valentine lunch trip is that it took me closer to the Port of Tacoma than I had ever been. It’s an impressive sight, but I wasn’t able to get any photos because there isn’t any good place to pull over along the road. We were, however, able to get this shot of logs being floated to one of the local lumber yards:

logs

Logs are ubiquitous here in the Pacific Northwest. Another fact I noticed on the drive to the Cliff House that I wasn’t able to document photographically is how logs get stacked. I guess I just noticed this because driving by a stack of logs allowed me to see the stack from the end rather than from the side, looking at the length of the log. The end of the stack clearly reveals that a few rows of the larger end alternate with a few rows of the smaller end. The result is that the stack lies relatively flat. It had never occurred to me to wonder about that before.

In addition to logs, boats are also all over the place around Puget Sound, such as in this marina visible from the Cliff House parking lot:

marina

My wonderful husband earns 5 Valentine hearts out of a possible 5 for arranging this Valentine luncheon trip.

3 Things Thursday

Once again it’s time for the blog challenge Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

There’s some awesome art work on public display in our neighborhood. Here are three examples.

1. Antique Sandwich Co.

Antique Sandwich Co

One of the most interesting places nearby is the Antique Sandwich Co., founded as a family business in 1973.

5102 N Pearl St, Tacoma, WA 98407
(253) 752–4069

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and offers a varied menu that includes granola, cinnamon rolls, sandwiches, soups, lasagna, quiche, pies, cakes, and a big selection of teas and coffees. They also host frequent musical performances.

The mural pictured here graces the N. 51st Street side of the shop’s antique building.

2. Don’s Ruston Market

Don's

Just a few blocks down N. 51st Street from the Antique Sandwich Co. is Don’s Ruston Market and Deli.

5102 N Winnifred St, Ruston, WA 98407
(253) 759–8151

Don’s has graced its corner in the little city of Ruston for more than 30 years. It offers seasonal kayak rentals, but its main attraction is the antique soda fountain that features a lengthy list of milkshakes and sodas. For more information, check out this article from our local Tacoma newspaper, The News Tribune.

This photo shows the decorative mural on the N. 51st Street side of the store. The mural is actually much bigger (it extends further off the left side of the photo), but I couldn’t get the whole thing because a van was parked on the street.

3. Octopus on The Waterwalk at Point Ruston

octopus

About three steep blocks down N. 51st Street from Don’s Ruston Market is the new development of Point Ruston, currently under construction. When finished, the development will include apartments, condos, restaurants, retail shops, and a movie theater.

5005 Ruston Way, Tacoma, WA 98407
(253) 759–6400

The Waterwalk is a park that stretches along the edge of Commencement Bay at Point Ruston and eventually connects to a walkway into nearby Point Defiance Park. This octopus graces an entrance into the park off Ruston Way. There are other art spots along the walkway featuring fish, jellyfish, and squids. I photographed the octopus because the Giant Pacific Octopus, prolific in this area, is one of my favorite animals.

Lunch Bunch: Adriatic Grill

Today’s Lunch Bunch destination was:

Adriatic Grill
Italian Cuisine & Wine Bar

4201 South Steele Street
Tacoma, WA 98409
253–475–6000

Awards

KING 5 Best of Western Washington

  • Winner: Best Mediterranean Restaurant (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
  • Winner: Best Italian Restaurant (2013)

Best of the South Sound

  • Winner: Best Chef Bill Trudnowski (2011, 2012, 2013)
  • Winner, Best Italian Restaurant (2012, 2013, 2014)

Ratings

The restaurant has a 4+-star rating on the following sites:

scroll divider

The cream of mushroom soup at this restaurant is the best I’ve ever had. (For more on the mushroom soup, see this article from our local Tacoma newspaper, The News Tribune.) I started with a cup of the soup, then followed with their clam linguine. The white clam sauce I’m used to contains cream. I could tell from the menu description that this one did not use cream, but I went for it anyway. And I’m glad I did! It was a garlic broth that was absolutely delicious.

There were 14 people in our group. A couple of people said they were a bit disappointed because the food they got wasn’t what they expected. But everyone else seemed pleased. M. said, “I like what I had so much that I can’t wait to come back and order the same thing again.”

And what was the menu item that got such a high endorsement? The prawns over spaghetti squash. Kudos to the chef for offering a non-carb alternative to pasta. (I thought about asking for the clam sauce over spaghetti squash instead of the traditional pasta but in the end decided to go traditional.)

We had good service at this local, family-owned restaurant. I highly recommend it. And don’t forget to try the cream of mushroom soup.

Blog a Day Challenge: January Report

I admit that when I set this challenge up for myself near the end of December, I did so with trepidation:

  • Would I be able to find something to write about EVERY SINGLE DAY?
  • Would I be able to do all the research necessary for each post during a single day?
  • Would I be able to find enough overlap between the three areas of my current life (reading, writing, retirement) to make all three areas interesting?
  • Would I neglect other areas of my life in order to get a post written and published every day?

I did manage to write a post a day for the first month. Here’s what I’ve learned from the challenge so far:

  • It was easy to find topics to write about once I began paying attention to what goes on in the world around me.
  • Not every post needs to be a research project. (Since I tend to approach everything new that I come across as a research project requiring a lot of background investigation, this lesson was perhaps the most difficult but important one for me to learn.)
  • The various areas of my life do cross-pollinate each other once I begin to think that way.
  • So far I have not felt that I am neglecting any important parts of my life, probably because I’ve made an effort not to compartmentalize the several aspects of my life but rather to see them as complementary parts of a whole.

One challenge I still have to face is how I’ll keep up with writing and posting when we travel.

But overall, I’ve found this first month of the blog post a day challenge in 2015 to be enlightening and rewarding.

Here are my January stats:

Number of posts written: 31

Shortest post: 55 words

Longest post: 1,360 words

Total words written: 19,115

Distribution of posts across my three blogs:

The total of posts here may not equal the number of posts written last month because I occasionally publish the same post on more than one blog. However, I have included each post only once in my total word count.

Last month’s featured posts:

1. 8 Lessons College Bowl Season Teaches About Writing

I’m featuring this post because it resulted from the first time I saw how something in one area of my life (personal experience) applied to another part of my life (my writing). I see posts like this all over the internet and often find them interesting, but in the past I just didn’t think this way. But this one appeared out of nowhere while I was watching college football, an example of how synchronicity happens once you open yourself to the possibility of it.

2. Flow

I’m featuring this post because it’s my first attempt at defining a technical term for a general audience on my blog.

I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at this post and then leave a comment telling me whether you think I’ve succeeded.

“If you don’t like the weather. . .”

I grew up in Connecticut, where I often heard the old Yankee saying “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute and it will change.”

When we moved to St. Louis, MO, right after getting married, we didn’t initially have a car. I had to take a couple of different buses to get to work. On my first day of transferring from one bus to another, I asked an older woman at the bus stop if I was in the right place to get the bus I needed. She told me yes, I was. Then she asked me if I was new in the area, and we began to chat. Out of the blue she said, “One thing about St. Louis weather: If you don’t like it, just wait a minute and it will change.”

Now we’ve retired to the Pacific Northwest, and guess what people say about the weather here. Yes, “if you don’t like it, just wait a minute and it will change.” But this time people are right.

I arrived in Tacoma, after a week on the road from St. Louis, the night before I was scheduled to move into my cottage at the retirement community. I stayed at a nearby hotel that night. When I arrived at my cottage at 10:00 the following morning, it was pouring heavily. I was thankful that I had an attached garage to keep me dry as I unpacked my loaded-down little hybrid car. By 11:00 I had all the boxes out of the car and placed in the appropriate rooms (though not unpacked). I was ready to head off to Costco, Target, and Safeway for additional necessities such as food, a coffee maker, a vacuum cleaner, and kitchen storage containers. And when I left to run my errands, the weather was beautiful: a sunny, clear, warm spring day. What a difference an hour had made.

After about a year and a half here, I’m still getting used to this changeable weather. In St. Louis the hottest part of a summer day was usually from noon until about 2:00 or 3:00. After that the temperature would usually begin to go down at least a bit. But here in Tacoma the hottest part of a typical summer day is from 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon until sundown. In the winter we do get quite a bit of rain here. (Have you ever noticed that when a movie or television show is set in Seattle, the indicator of the setting is always rain?) But even in winter a day often starts off with drizzle and fog that gives way to sun, or at least less rain, by mid-morning or early afternoon.

In fact, I find the weather here one of the attractions of the Pacific Northwest. I know that if I don’t like it at any given moment, all I have to do is wait a minute and it will change.