Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

One: Whirligig Pterodactyl

Pterodactyl Sculpture

At least we think this is a whirligig. There was very little wind when the photo was taken, so we didn’t see the pterodactyl fly.

I’m always amazed at how creative some people are!

Two: Rubber Ducky Raft

Rubber Ducky raft

There was some waterskiing going on in Commencement Bay, and these folks had pulled up to watch. Later we read in the paper that this was some kind of national championship competition.

These folks had one of the best seats in the house.

Three: Live Like the Mountain is Out

Mount Rainier: "Live Like the Mountain Is Out"

The area around Tacoma, WA, USA, is called the South Sound because we sit at the bottom of Puget Sound. And although Seattle, which is not in the South Sound area, likes to try to commandeer our mountain, we folks down here know that Mount Rainier is really OUR mountain.

Live Like the Mountain is Out is a slogan and movement of SouthSoundProud.

Over the years I’ve posted a lot of photos of Mount Rainier because I love it so much. But you need to see one more, because this one was taken last weekend, on perhaps the clearest day we’ve had in our four years in Tacoma. And it looks even better if you click for the larger view.

Once again, thanks to my husband for his great photo skills.

Have a wonderful week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)


One thing that fascinates me is how words can be used to manipulate meaning. Prunes have gotten such a bad name because … well, you know. So why not call them something else:

dried plums

Sure, you see the word prunes on this bag, but the phrase dried plums is bigger so you’ll notice that first and maybe overlook the fact that this bag actually contains prunes.

Be honest now: Wouldn’t you much rather admit to eating dried plums than to eating prunes?


The activities director at our retirement community has planned a great trip to Oregon for us to view the total solar eclipse next month. We’re so excited! We even bought some special glasses for watching the eclipse safely.

These are my husband’s glasses, which he plans to wear over his eyeglasses:

eclipse-viewing glasses

I won’t be wearing mine over eyeglasses, so I opted for the wrap-around style:

eclipse-viewing glasses

Which one of us do you think will be more fashionable?


Do NOT view the eclipse with regular sunglasses.

The glasses pictured here are specially made for eclipse viewing.

The American Astronomical Society has information about the eclipse, including eye safety, here.


If Mount Rainier erupts in the near future, we can say, “I saw this coming”:

Mount Rainier with plume-like cloud

I hope you all have a remarkable week between now and next Thursday.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

U.S. Open: We Tuned in for the Scenery But Stayed for the Drama

I have absolutely zero interest in the sport of golf. But the U.S. Open is being held at Chambers Bay, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from our new hometown of Tacoma, WA. So I tuned in to Fox this afternoon to see if the Goodyear blimp (which we’ve seen, as a far-off speck in the sky, circling for the last couple of days) would provide some shots of our beautiful local scenery.

And it certainly did. The weather here has been clear and just gorgeous all four days of the tournament. The blimp caught postcard-perfect shots of Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But what surprised both my husband F. and me was that, between the gorgeous scenery shots, we got caught up in the tournament drama.

Even though I don’t follow golf, I am interested in other sports, notably baseball, basketball, NFL football (which you are required to like when you move to the Seattle-Tacoma area), and tennis. But I’m not much into personalities and statistics. Even though baseball is my first love and I watch the World Series faithfully every year, no matter who’s playing, sometimes, come January, I’ve forgotten who won.

What I like is watching games. I love the way games unfold and the way players react to and cope with changing situations. This is why I prefer National League baseball to American League play: because the AL use of the designated hitter means that managers don’t have to make key decisions about whether to pinch hit for a pitcher who’s working well to take advantage of a potential scoring situation. I love to see which players step up in clutch moments and which ones choke, which athletes are able to recognize and adapt to what their opponents are doing and which ones stubbornly keep doing what they’re doing and hoping for different results. I love the pressure of the moment, the opportunity to step up or shut down.

And the final round of this year’s U.S. Open golf tournament provided some of the best sports drama I’ve seen in a long time:

  • one player who was completely out of the running until an amazing string of birdies brought him within one stroke of the lead
  • three or four players who kept tossing the lead, or a share of the lead, around among themselves
  • a player who made a seemingly unbelievable putt near the end of his final round
  • another player who could have won the tournament, then could have forced a playoff on the following day, and then finally lost the tournament, all because of his inability to putt

I admit that I can’t putt either—or I assume I can’t; I’ve never tried—but that’s why these guys were at Chambers Bay while I was watching on TV in my living room just a few miles away. But even though we got caught up in the drama, I don’t anticipate watching too many more golf tournaments—unless the U.S. Open comes back to Chambers Bay one day.

Living in the Shadow of an Active Volcano

Related Post:


(Click on any of the images to see a larger version.)

Mount Rainier is so beautiful and majestic to see that it’s easy to forget how potentially dangerous it is. Here in Tacoma, WA, we live in the shadow of this active volcano:

in the shadow of an active volcano
Living in the shadow of an active volcano (photographed at Washington State History Museum)

Washington is home to five major composite volcanoes or stratovolcanoes (from north to south): Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. These volcanoes and Mount Hood to the south in Oregon are part of the Cascade Range, a volcanic arc that stretches from southwestern British Columbia to northern California.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

In conjunction with the anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, May is Washington State Volcano Preparedness Month:

State of Washington Proclamation for Volcano Preparedness Month
State of Washington Proclamation for Volcano Preparedness Month

The Washington State History Museum presented an exhibit earlier this month entitled “Living in the Shadows” to remind the public that what happened at Mount St. Helens could happen here:

Photographed at Washington State History Museum
Photographed at Washington State History Museum

When most people think of the danger of a volcanic eruption, they think immediately of flowing lava. But there are two more immediate and potentially widespread dangers:

  • lahars—volcanic mudflows
  • pyroclastic flows—ground-hugging avalanches of hot volcanic ash, pumice, rock fragments, and gases that destroy everything in their path
Dangerous Mount Rainier
Dangerous Mount Rainier (photographed at Pacific Science Center)

As part of the state’s volcano preparedness program, students perform annual lahar drills in which they practice evacuating their schools ahead of lahar:

Student lahar drill
School lahar drill (photographed at Washington State History Museum)

Also see the local news article Orting schools conducting lahar drill Thursday.

On our recent visit to see Pompeii: The Exhibition, we found the Pacific Science Center in Seattle used the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy in 79 A.D. as a springboard for education about our local situation:

description of lahar and pyroclastic flow
Lahar and pyroclastic flow (photographed at Pacific Science Center)

This map shows the potential danger zones if Mount Rainier were to erupt:

Mount Rainier hazard zones
Mount Rainier hazard zones (photographed at Pacific Science Center)

My home town of Tacoma is up there near the top, on the left.

The beautiful Cascades have been around for years. Long before the USGS (U. S. Geological Survey) started keeping records, Native Americans knew of the mountains’ power:

Volcanoes through Native Eyes
(photographed at Washington State History Museum)

Washington’s Volcano Preparedness Month announcements and activities remind us that it’s not a question of “if Mount Rainier erupts,” but rather “when Mount Rainier erupts.”

Additional Resources

35 years after Mount St. Helens erupted: A new world of research

Dzurisin, D., Driedger, C.L., and Faust, L.M., 2013, Mount St. Helens, 1980 to now—what’s going on?: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2013–3014, v. 1.1, 6 p. and videos. (Available at

Recent News Articles about Erupting Volcanoes

Did she blow? NW submarine volcano likely just erupted

Scientists find missing link in Yellowstone plumbing: This giant volcano is very much alive

Calbuco Volcano Erupts in Chile, and Nearby Town Evacuated

‘Wired’ Underwater Volcano May Be Erupting Off Oregon

At Home: My Two-Year Anniversary in Tacoma

Today I celebrate two years of living in Tacoma. I actually arrived in Tacoma on April 9, 2013, then stayed in a motel overnight before moving into my new home on April 10.

We had been visiting Tacoma for a week each year for several years before deciding to move here. I therefore knew a little about getting around, but not very much. I knew only one route to my new home from the motel where I stayed. (We’d been staying there regularly for many years.) I have since discovered a few alternate routes to my house, including one that cuts about 15 minutes off that route I drove on my first day as a resident here.

After two years, I finally feel that I’m beginning to know my general way around. I still use Google Maps a lot, but now when people say, “That store is on Hosmer Street” or “We’re on Steele Street,” I have a general idea of where to head. I also no longer fear getting lost and can approach finding somewhere I’ve never gone before as an opportunity to explore new places.

I arrived at my house at 10:00 AM on April 10, 2013, in a torrential downpour. Of course I knew about the frequent rain here—our daughter had been reminding us that we’d have to get used to it—so I wasn’t surprised. After getting my keys, I pulled my car into the attached garage and unloaded the boxes of necessities that I had brought with me from St. Louis. My car could not have held even one more dish or pan.

By the time I had unloaded the boxes—not unpacked them yet, but at least removed them from my car and put them in the appropriate rooms—it was 11:00 AM. I was ready to head out to Target, Costco, and Safeway to purchase necessities I hadn’t been able to bring with me (coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, cleaning supplies, and yes, food). Was I surprised to find that the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly.

That was the first time I realized that the old adage “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change” applies here more than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. In the two years I’ve been here I’ve learned a lot about dealing with the weather:

  • Even if it’s raining now, it might not still be raining an hour from now.
  • Even if it’s not raining now, that doesn’t mean it won’t be raining an hour from now (so bring along that umbrella or raincoat).
  • A morning of fog and drizzle (quite common) doesn’t mean that the afternoon won’t be beautifully sunny.
  • The hottest part of the day here isn’t around high noon, as it was in St. Louis, but usually at 3:00 or 4:00 PM.
  • If you expect to live around here, you can’t be skittish about occasionally getting a bit wet. Also, my mother was right when she told me, “You’re not sugar. You won’t melt.”

I do not miss the unbearable heat and humidity of St. Louis summers at all.

But after 40+ years in St. Louis, I do kind of miss the St. Louis Cardinals and still follow them in the standings. Nonetheless, I have adopted the Seattle Mariners as my home MLB team and faithfully follow their ups and downs (so far, unfortunately, mostly downs) and tune in to the games. I’m grateful that the Mariners AAA minor league team, the Rainiers, is headquartered right here in Tacoma. Attending their games is much easier—and much cheaper—than making the trip up to Seattle’s Safeco Field. And I’ve become an enthusiastic football fan here in Seattle Seahawks territory, where everybody is expected to be The Twelfth Man. Like a lot of other people around here, I still wish the Supersonics, the local NBA team, had not moved away and remade itself as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Our recent five-day trip to Tampa, FL, for the Women’s Final Four college basketball championship tournament made me realize how much I’ve come to think of Tacoma as my home. Two features here that I love the most are the water, with its high and low tides, and Mount Rainier. There’s water aplenty in Tampa, too, but the sun just doesn’t glint off Tampa water the same way it does off the water of our Commencement Bay. And Tampa is just so FLAT. After about four days, I was craving a glimpse of my mountain.

Because our flight back from Tampa didn’t get in until after dark, we couldn’t see the mountains from the plane as we usually can. But I could feel their presence. For air travelers, the local airport represents home, and when we stepped off the plane at Sea-Tac Airport, I felt that’s where I was. I’ve flown into Sea-Tac lots of times over the years, and I was always excited to see my daughter and to be on vacation. But this time, walking through Sea-Tac made me feel grounded, made me feel that I was back where I truly belonged.

It’s great to be back in the Pacific Northwest, where there’s still a chill in the air that requires a light jacket. Goodbye to the 88 degrees F. of Tampa. It was a great place to visit, but I’m glad to be home. In Tacoma, WA.

Tacoma Nature Center

Today was such a beautiful day in the neighborhood that we went for a walk with our daughter this afternoon at the Tacoma Nature Center. The Nature Center is a 71-acre nature preserve that includes Snake Lake and the surrounding wetlands and forest.

Snake Lake is a 17-acre lake and wetland area that is home to wood ducks, mallard ducks, and Canada geese. The entire Nature Center is home to more than 20 species of mammals and about 100 species of birds.

The Nature Center offers more than two miles of walking trails, which we took advantage of this afternoon. According to Run Keeper, we walked a little more than 1.6 miles today.

trails at The Nature Center
trails at The Nature Center

When we first arrived, we heard frogs croaking (probably Pacific tree frogs), but we never saw them. We also saw a pair of Canada geese swimming on the lake. We also saw the colorful male wood duck and several turtles on logs, but they were too far away to be photographed with a camera phone. But I did get a picture of this pair of mallard ducks:

mallard ducks
mallard ducks

As we were crossing one of the bridges over the lake, a couple of teenaged nature guides were showing a group of young children a clump of salamander eggs (the roundish blob in the center of the photo) just beneath the surface of the water:

salamander eggs
salamander eggs

Magnificent Mount Rainier was visible on this clear, sunny day:

Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier

My husband and daughter took me to an anthill that they discovered last summer:

large anthill
large anthill

There were some ants moving about, but on the walk back we saw several smaller but busier anthills. In this photo, the part that looks like dark mud is actually swarming ants:

ant swarm
ant swarm

And here’s a close-up of them:

close-up: ants
close-up: ants

Here are a couple of other forest sights:

holly berries
holly berries
the obligatory fungus photo

When we got back to the parking lot, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to photograph this lovely purple hyacinth:

purple hyacinth
purple hyacinth

Tacoma’s Fireman’s Park

It’s a beautiful day here in Tacoma, so hubby and I ventured into the outskirts of downtown for lunch.

After eating, we visited Fireman’s Park, which we entered at the corner of Pacific Avenue and S. 7th Street. From Pacific Avenue, this park looks about the size of a postage stamp, but in fact the park extends along the bluff behind the buildings on Pacific Avenue.

Fountain (now non-functioning) at Pacific Ave. entrance to Fireman’s Park

Fireman’s Park offers expansive views of the working area of the Port of Tacoma, including the entrance of the greenish-gray water of the Puyallup River into the bluer water of Commencement Bay.


A statue called “Clearing the Way” commemorates logging as the foundation of the Pacific Northwest:

statue: "Clearing the Way"
“Clearing the Way”

And logs are still ubiquitous around here:

logs at the Port of Tacoma

A vertical drawbridge provides an unusual frame for Mount Rainier:

Mount Rainier and drawbridge
Mount Rainier and drawbridge

Just across Pacific Avenue from where we entered Fireman’s Park stands Tacoma’s Old City Hall:

Tacoma's Old City Hall
Tacoma’s Old City Hall
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