Posted by: Janet | June 26, 2009

Fireweed by Mildred Walker

As followers of this blog and my other blog  Janet’s Thread  will know, I recently travelled from Dublin to Seattle and back.  My reading for the flight westward was I Used to Be Irish by Blain and I wrote a blog entry about it a week or so ago.  On the flight eastbound I read Fireweed by Mildred Walker.  This is an author I discovered at The Secret Garden book store in Seattle.  Ms Walker wrote during the 1930’s right up to the 1970’s.  I bought and read 2 of her books in April – The Curlew’s Cry and The Brewers’ Horses.  These books were previously published in the 1940’s.  They are very well written and I was eager to read more.  And happy I was to find 2 more on this recent trip to Seattle.  Fireweed is one of the books I found.  It was written in the 1930’s, and like her others, is somewhat autobiographical – that is, much of the material stems from her own experiences.  And there is a great deal of social history.

Fireweed by Mildren Walker  Fireweed by Mildred Walker, originally published in 1934, reissued by Bison Books 60 years later in 1994.

The history of the lumber industry and the depression form the background for this novel.  The main character and her husband are the children of Scandinavian pioneers, and the story of their struggles is carefully drawn.

Posted by: Janet | June 26, 2009


The Solstice Parade

It was wonderful being in Seattle with the family.  I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite but one of the highlights was the Solstice Parade in Fremont.  We missed the actual Parade which started at 12 o’clock,  but we had a good excuse.  Earlier in the morning we had attended what turned out to be a private seminar on insurance, investment planning, and buying and selling a house.  This was a free community event but there was so much going on that day that we were the only attendees.  It was perfectly geared for our information needs at this point in time.  The presentation was excellent.  Thank you Pauline of Farm State Insurance; Gerry, April, and Leah from Windermere; Dirk from Cobalt Mortgage; and Bryce from Edward Jones.


After the seminar we hurried down to Fremont to try to catch the Parade.  Alas, we had to park so far away and walk at least a mile to get to the Parade site.  We were too late but we met many of the Parade participants as we walked along the Burke Gilman Trail.  The girls did wonderfully walking so far.  One of the features of the Parade are the imaginatively body-painted cyclists.  All kinds of colourful designs in critical places!  Susan and I were joking about how we could participate next year.  I thought I would ride fully dressed as a pioneer settler – I would be decidedly overdressed.  James thought my participation might ruin his career prospects.


The Fremont Fair in conjunction with the Parade was HUGE.  It was so crowded it was hard to see the various stands.  The girls were drawn early on to dresses at the Designs from Bali booth.  We had a good browse – Caitlin was so excited – she waved me away from the area where she was browsing – then when we finished and decided to look around the multitude of other booths before we decided to buy anything, Caitlin presented me with a lovely painted cat which she had bought for me with her own money.  That steals a grandma’s heart!!!


On we went through the crowds.  We began to feel hungry and went to look for a place to eat.  No luck – just too many people everywhere.  We decided to make our way back to the car by way of the music booth where we had seen guitars and then to the Bali tent.  Happily we found both these booths again and made our purchases.  We came away rejoicing and strumming.  And definitely decided to bring a picnic next year.

Move to Seattle 060  Here come the cyclists on the Burke Gilman Trail, after the Parade

Move to Seattle 070  Daddy, Daddy, can you buy these guitars for us?


Move to Seattle 074  Caitlin taking a little rest, before bouncing up and skipping on to the next booth


Move to Seattle 092  Ashley and Caitlin wearing their new dresses, made in Bali



Move to Seattle 101  Walking back to the car, new guitar being carried by Ashley, Caitlin has one too.

Posted by: Janet | June 26, 2009


The Livestrong Cycle Challenge

 We had a busy weekend in Seattle – the Seminar (see next post THE SOLSTICE PARADE), the Solstice Parade,  and Mamma Mia on Saturday.  Then on Sunday we had an exciting time cheering on our hero Christian Cabanero at the Livestrong Cycle Challenge.  Christian is a five times cancer survivor and he was riding the 100 mile Challenge to raise funds for cancer research.  No sign of Lance Armstrong but maybe he was in France getting ready for the Tour only 2 weeks away.


 The riders set off at 7 a.m. from the Seattle Center.   We went down to the Center about 2:30 p.m. to see the riders finishing.  Excitement excitement as word reached us that Christian was about 15 miles out and due to finish in about half an hour.  We waited with baited breath.  In he came looking strong as he crossed the finish line and rounded the bend to the recovery area.  We showered him with congratulations.

Move to Seattle 112  Cancer Survivors to the left, Other riders to the right – Christian is on the left

Move to Seattle 114  Christian gets a hug from Susan, James and Caitlin looking on

Move to Seattle 116  Ashley is ecstatic over Christian’s achievement

Move to Seattle 134  Christian after cooling off in the fountain

Posted by: Janet | June 22, 2009

I Used to be Irish


Above is a photo of the cover of the book I read on the flights during my most recent trip from Dublin to Seattle (via Chicago).  Since the year 2000 I have made this trip many times in order to visit one of our sons and his growing family.  As the years have gone by and the family has grown the pull to Seattle has become stronger and stronger.  And now we have made the big decision to move from Dublin to Seattle permanently.  Repatriation for me, emigration for Ian.  This book stirred many memories for me and sent my thoughts in numerous directions.  The author, Angela Kearns Blain, was born in Dublin in 1938.  I was born in Boston in 1936.  So we are close in age.  She left Ireland at the age of 18 to begin her married life in America – Glastonbury Connecticut where one of my sons and his family now live.  I left America in 1966, married and came to Ireland in 1968.  Dublin has been my base for most of my married life.  Now I will be returning to live in America after living abroad for over 40 years.  

When Ian retired and we returned to Dublin in the mid 1990’s, I did quite a bit of writing about the countries we had lived in and the various experiences we had had.  I wanted to publish it but felt rather shy about it and then set it aside.  But now time has moved on and I am looking at that writing again with a view to having it exposed to a wider public.  I just have to review it and get it to the printer.  I’m trying to do that in the midst of all the other things we are doing to get ready for the move. Hopefully it will be available soon for distribution to family and friends and anyone else interested.  Reading Angela Kearns Blain’s book has given me even more ideas for my writing but these will have to wait until I get the first lot out of the way.  Watch this space!

Posted by: Janet | May 25, 2009

Paper Bags

Dublin May Photos 071  Paper bag made from old newspapers

I made several purchases today in the gift shop at Airfield – our local neighbourhood urban farm.  My modest purchases were presented to me in a most attractive paper bag made from recycled Indian newspapers.   The main objective of the NGO making these newspapers is to provide education and shelter to street children.  According to the little tag attached to the bag, the organization was started in 2004 by street children who wanted to give something back in return for the opportunities which had allowed them to escape desperate circumstances.  These elder children now married with children of their own, generate an income by making newspaper bags and jute items.  This allows them to take care of 13 street children that they have saved from the street’s surrounding Delhi train station.  Support for this project means that these children can enjoy going to school and playing, rather than pulling rickshows, shoe polishing, rag picking and worse.   Check out this website to find out more.

Posted by: Janet | May 19, 2009

My Grandmother’s Records

In my mother’s records I found these photographs taken by her parents when my mother was a baby and the family lived in Minneapolis Minnesota.  My mother was born in 1912 and her older sister, who was a twin,  was born in 1907.

These photographs were in the back of a little book called Baby’s Childhood Days.


Famiy in Minneapolis 1912Family in Minneapolis Minnesota, 1912 

Top picture, the twins – my Aunt Elizabeth and her twin sister Helen, born 1907

Middle picture – my grandmother, one of the twins, and my mother as a baby, on the back of this picture is written I’m not so mournful-looking as in my postcard, you see.  (I wonder if this was written after Helen died – if so, then the twin in the picture would be my Aunt Elizabeth)

Lower picture – my grandfather, one of the twins, and my mother


Baby's Childhood Days

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1912 and 1913 my grandmother made the following notes about my mother’s progress.  She made these notes in very careful handwriting, starting with pen and then switching to pencil.  

My grandmother's handwritingMy grandmother’s writing

At two weeks follows moving objects with her eyes

At four weeks smiles and coos

At eleven weeks crows a great deal

Laughed out loud a hearty little laugh at twelve weeks, June 26

At 8 1/2 months plays with dolls and rattles, pulls off her shoes, and pulls the ribbons out of them

(Now my grandmother backtracks a bit)

August 17, four months old, is afraid of strangers

September.  Sits on the floor with pillows around her.  Sometimes sits up alone

At 6 months, sat at table in a high chair all through dinner, October 6

October 24.  Two bottles a day

October 30.  Three bottles a day

December 19.  Eight months a half.  Begins eating oatmeal, cream of wheat, baked apple

December 21.  Had the breast milk for the last time.  Weight, 15 1/2 lbs.

At nine months has two teeth.  Eats egg and toast, and sucks bacon.

Jan. 13.  Third tooth, Jan. 16  Fourth tooth

Jan. 18.  Fifth tooth

Jan. 12.  Weight 18 lbs.  Jan. 19.  19 lbs  10 1/2 mos.  (One feels that these notes might have been made in a hurry and there is some confusion here)

One year. Weight 20 lbs. Height, 28 in.  Seven teeth.  Has four meals a day.  Eats cereals, toast, crackers, eggs, orange juice, soup, milk toast, and four bottles a day of modified milk.

Thirteen months.  Begins to stand.  Says “down, how now, meow, pat, bat (butter)

May 28. Rompers

May 30.  13 1/2 mos.  Straight milk.

15 1/2 months.  Begins to walk when held by both hands.  Has eight teeth.  Begins to eat meat.

July 22.  Took the first step of her own volition.

At sixteen months, seldom soils or wets a diaper.

16 months.  Two words put together Dear bowwow

Sept. 24.  17 months.  Bottles given up.  Eats well at table, three meals a day.  Has ten teeth.

At nineteen months, goes up and downstairs.

At nineteen months, first step alone.

(continued from another page)  At 20 months begins to walk quite a little

Here my grandmother’s record ends.

In copying this record I want to clarify when the twin sister Helen died.  My mother once told me that her mother and father didn’t talk about it but she thinks her mother told her that Helen died at age 6 of diptheria.  That was a very common cause of death at that time.  How tragic.

Posted by: Janet | May 18, 2009

Monday Musings

Each Monday I receive a Monday Musings quote from Susan.  I hope the quote for today is especially relevant to our decision to move from Dublin to Seattle.


“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Posted by: Janet | May 18, 2009

Family Records

As my mother felt she was nearing the end of her life she carefully sorted through her documents and personal letters and photographs.  In October 1999 she sent me 3 large manila envelopes containing letters I had sent to her over the years.  I was rather surprised to receive these and a bit hurt that she no longer wanted to keep them.  She said they would help me in writing my autobiography.  Ten+ years on I can better understand and appreciate why she returned the letters to me and indeed I will use them in my writing.  

 What my mother did not post from her home in Maui Hawaii to me here in Dublin, were many many additional letters and diaries and photographs, mostly giving her life story and family history.  Those records I found when my sisters and I were sorting out her house a year later following her death in October 2000.  We had a limited time to clean out her house.  I had come from Dublin, my sister Ruth from New Hampshire, and my sister Nan from Connecticut.  We each had to return to our respective families.  We had little time to stop and look at photographs and read old letters.  But I tried to keep all the old photographs and letters and I put whatever I found and posted them to myself here in Dublin.  When my boxes containing these records finally arrived I just put them into storage without examining them closely.  It has been on my “to do” list ever since to go through them carefully.  Now my “to do” list is coming home to roost and I am going through them again and putting them in boxes to send to Seattle. 

 Incidentally, Seattle airport was the last place I saw my mother.  She had  come from Hawaii to attend son James and Susan’s wedding in King County Courthouse, Room 9, on July 1, 2000.   She was not feeling well but wanted very badly to attend the wedding and go on to New Hampshire for the annual family reunion.  She was in good form for the wedding and we were so happy she was there. 


James and Susan's weddingThe family particularly liked her flashy trousers pictured above (upper right just beside  James and Susan)


In the days following the wedding she felt so unwell that she cancelled her plans to fly on to Boston and returned to Maui instead.  We saw her off at departure gate N2 at SeaTac.  That turned out to be our final parting.  She passed away 3 months later.

 Mother on one of her Crysrtal Cruises    A photo of my mother when she went on one of her Crystal Cruises.  1982

I am finding so many wonderful photographs in her collection but what is really bugging me as I write this is that yesterday Ian and I were looking at one small album in particular – one among many I hasten to add – but later when I wanted to look at this particular album again I could not find it.  I have looked and looked again everywhere!!!  It has somehow disappeared.  Of particular interest were photographs of my mother and father, Ian and myself, my father and my brother.  Grr.

To be continued, with more photographs.

Posted by: Janet | May 16, 2009

Solar Cyclists

In today’s Irish Times (Saturday May 16) there was an article about 3 environmental campaigners who will embark on a round-the-world cycling adventure to highlight the potential of solar power. On their 12,000 mile journey the 3 cyclists will use hi-tech equipment powered by the sun. They will have Nokia N79 Active phones, which come with a heart-rate monitor and pre-loaded sports tracker so they can measure their distance, speed and pace when cycling and upload their location via GPS. In the places they visit they will highlight already available solar solutions as well as demonstrating how solar energy can be used to power everyday appliances such as their phones. To follow the journey , go to  Sounds rather neat.

Posted by: Janet | May 15, 2009

Trips to Oxfam

Getting ready for our move to Seattle, we are doing a big sorting of our accumulated belongings. I have made numerous trips to Oxfam. Each time I go to hand things in, I end up buying a few things. The latest temptation has been jigsaw puzzles. Someone is donating some lovely old-fashioned jigsaws and I am snapping them up with a view to doing them in Seattle. For Mother’s Day, Ian gave me a PortaPuzzle so that we could continue doing jigsaws here and get them out of the way easily when someone was coming to view the house. But now the packing is all-consuming and we have had to put our passion for doing jigsaws aside. We like to do the 1000 piece size.

Today in Oxfam I saw a 1500 piece puzzle that we did in Kenya almost 20 years ago. It was One of the Family, a painting by P. O’Connor. It’s a picture of a horse leaning in the window toward a family seated round the dinner table. The woman of the house is holding out her hand to feed something to the horse. This couldn’t be our copy of the puzzle because we gave all ours away to the Kenya Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. While we were doing this puzzle one of our dogs stole a few of the pieces and chewed them up. Our gardner, Thomas, rescued 1 or 2 of the remains. The dog, Coco, had good taste.

My other indulgence at Oxfam is books – again books I probably won’t read until they are unpacked in Seattle. So I hand in books and then end up buying a few. Today they had very good copies of two of Larry McMurtry’s books. Unusual to see them here – those are books that I buy in America. I already have copies of almost all his books so I resisted the temptation to buy those today, even though the ones today were nicer editions than the ones I have in my collection.

Today I was rather incensed. I made a special trip to Oxfam to deliver my son James’s old motorcycle jacket and trousers. Now admittedly they weren’t brand new but there was plenty of wear in them yet. I was dumbfounded when the woman rejected them and said they weren’t in good enough condition. She was sneeringly dismissive. Now this jacket and the trousers are heavy – that’s why we drove down to Dundrum with them. Ian carried them in and left me to present this offering. What was I to do – no way was I going to walk back home with them. I reacted strongly and told the woman they were in perfectly good condition. Thankfully she called a younger girl over and that girl quite sensibly told her to accept them. Phew. But the incident was annoying, particularly when I’d made a special trip and I’d given Oxfam so much and also been a good customer. The good side of the trip was finding the puzzles and the books and seeing that a number of items I had delivered on another trip were currently for sale – very good book tapes and some kitchen mugs.

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