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The town of Puerto Octay on the north shore of Lago Llanquihue.

The town of Puerto Octay on the north shore of Lago Llanquihue.

A headstone at the cemetery in Puerto Octay.

A headstone at the cemetery in Puerto Octay.

Lago Llanquihue is huge. It’s the second-largest lake in Chile, at 330 square miles. The scenery is magnificent, with five snow-capped volcanoes that can be viewed from the water’s edge, splashing rivers, thickly forested cliffs that rise right up out of the water in some places, and beaches and sloping farmland rising out of the water in other places. It’s located in southern Chile just west of the northern boundary of Patagonia, a region famous for its beauty. The lake basin was carved by glaciers and filled when the ice melted. Its name, from what I can tell in Internet research, is from the Mapuche language (the local indigenous population), and means “sunken place.” It’s pronounced Yan Key Way.

Margaret does vacations with intent, researching ahead of time to find a way to get the most out of each day. This morning she encouraged me to take it easy and work on the blog a little. The rest was much appreciated. 🙂 We got a late start under overcast skies and drizzle. Our hostess Vicki recommended a trip up to Puerto Octay, then a leisurely road trip back, along the shores of the lake.

On the way to Puerto Octay, a picturesque church beside the road.

On the way to Puerto Octay, a picturesque church beside the road.

Cemetery on a hill overlooking Lake Llanquihue.

Cemetery on a hill overlooking Lake Llanquihue.

Puerto Octay has a cute history to its name. From Frommers: “Puerto Octay was founded in the second half of the 19th century by German immigrants; folks in the region know it for its well-stocked general goods store — the only one in the region — run by Cristino Ochs. In fact, the name Octay comes from ‘donde Ochs hay,’ roughly translated as ‘you’ll find it where Ochs is.'” Over time the name was shortened to Octay (pronounced Oktai).

In fact, the German history around here is a big part of the tourist draw. After we found a cemetery on a hill over looking the lake, we explored the town and easily recognized the European influence on the local architecture. This region welcomed German families to settle here in 1850 and their descendants include many light-skinned, red-headed, blue-eyed Chileans. We visited one of many wooden churches, bought some local cheese (from all the farmland filled with cattle, cheese is inevitable), and left town for the most German city of our trip: Frutillar.

We bought cheese in a shop on the first floor of this lovely house.

We bought cheese in a shop on the first floor of this lovely house.

A view of the church in the center of town.

A view of the church in the center of town.

Inside the church were arches built of wood - the first time I have seen this structure in wood instead of stone.

Inside the church were arches built of wood – the first time I have seen this structure in wood instead of stone.

At noon the fire siren went off - a common thing I've seen in US cities - and four previously quiet stray dogs jumped to their feet and joined in song.

At noon the fire siren went off – a common thing I’ve seen in US cities – and four previously quiet stray dogs jumped to their feet and joined in song.

The farther south we travel, the more influence from indígena (indigenous peoples) I see.

The farther south we travel, the more influence I see from indígena (indigenous peoples).

We stopped for lunch at a fabulous barbecue buffet, called Rancho Espantapajaros that had been recommended by Vicki. The meal was a bit pricey, but it was our only real expense of the day, so we were happy to pay for the wonderful meal and atmosphere. Our first view upon walking into the place was a twenty-foot-long spit turning over a fire, holding beef, chicken, and lamb. They also served sausages and wurst, cold potato salad, beet salad and sauerkraut, sticking with the regional theme. We sat beside a window with a view of the lake and some llamas and ate a bit of everything, including fresh water mussels and salmon ceviche. It was here that Margaret tried a dessert that turned out to be the Nalca I mentioned in yesterday’s post. We climbed into the trusty rental car that had taken us so far already, and continued south along the coast, with stunning views of wildflowers and rolling green hills.

My first plate at Ranch Espantapajaros.

My first plate at Ranch Espantapajaros.

View out to the lake from Rancho Espantapajaros.

View out to the lake from Rancho Espantapajaros.

German immigrants arrived at the seaport of Puerto Montt in the 1850s, traveled across land to Puerto Varas, and then took ships up the coast of the lake to form the communities of Puerto Octay and Frutillar and Llanquihue. Frutillar is so German that Margaret and I began singing Edelweiss as we walked the streets. It’s a very pretty little town, with a German museum and a German club, and many restaurants serving German food. The most striking building is the theatre, on the shores of the lake, which is primarily a concert venue, but was deep into preparations for a ballet performance of the nutcracker while we were there. Kids arrived in baggy workout gear that I identified as most likely a warm cover-up for their leotards, and M and I watched Clara practice her dance for Christmas Eve night when she first receives the gift of the nutcracker. I wish Tara could have seen it.

The eye-catching pier in Frutillar.

The eye-catching pier in Frutillar.

Two of the omnipresent Ibis, their raucous laughter falling down to us below.

The omnipresent Ibis, their raucous laughter falling down to us below.

A version of seagull? Love that black head.

A version of seagull? Love that black head.

The theatre on the water in Frutillar.

The theatre on the water in Frutillar.

A restaurant in Frutillar.

A restaurant in Frutillar.

German-style hotel in Frutillar.

German-style hotel in Frutillar, next to the clock building pictured above.

A restaurant in Frutillar.

A restaurant in Frutillar.

You may recall I am not a dog lover, but the multitudinous Chilean stray mutts loved me. In every city we visited, dogs would seek me out, lean up against me for comfort, and trot happily at my feet as we walked. I never fed a one, but they remained hopeful. After one bounded up to me delightedly on the beach at Frutillar, I played tug-of-war with it, with a stick. A child watched me the whole time and then picked up a stick and went over to the next stray dog that showed up, but her momma shouted and took the stick from her hand. Ooops, guess I’m a bad influence.

We struck out once more, this time for the town of Llanquique. I mentioned to Margaret that I suddenly was not feeling so well. As prepared as any boy scout, Margaret deftly whipped the car into a pullout when I needed to get out and spew my lunch on the side of the road. And 5 kilometers later, again. And when we stopped in Llanquihue so M could get me a bottle of water to rinse out my mouth, again. Ugh. Three cheers for food poisoning. I admit I stopped delighting in the scenery and focused just on protecting the interior of the rental car. No more photos. We passed a Deutsche Schule (German School) in Llanquihue, but that was basically the only thing I noticed. M got me back to the hostel as quickly as she could, wincing in empathy as we bounced over the often-gravel highways. I went directly to bed and slept the rest of the evening away.

I woke around 8 pm and went out into the common room where M and Vicki were chatting. I felt remarkably better. We could not figure out the source of the sickness. The only thing that I had eaten that M did not was a taste of miel (honey) at a shop in Frutillar, where tourists had dipped out of the same jar. And the salmon ceviche at Rancho Espantapajaro. It could easily have been either. I drank more water, but passed on dinner.

A home outside of Llanquihue.

A home outside of Frutillar.

The countryside is filled with these beautiful and large farmhouses.

The countryside is filled with these beautiful and large farmhouses.


Frosty pond on Thanksgiving Day.

After rain and clouds and fog and darkness, we’ve had a week of sunshine. Sun in November means there is no protective blanket of clouds and the ground is exposed to the frigid atmosphere. Lows in Rainier have been in the 20s (below zero Celsius) at night and warm up to around the freeze/ melt point during the day (most people saying “freezing point,” but meteorologist say “melting point”). Despite the cold, the sun makes me happy. And when it’s cold day after day, and you walk in the air and breathe deeply while chasing chickens or chopping wood, you get used to it in no time.


I am no longer worried about the pond being too warm for the fish to stay healthy. Interestingly, I have no concerns about the effects of a frozen pond on the fish inside.


Frost is adornment for the leaves and grasses and branches. When the sun hits them, the land sparkles.


My friends told me this plant looks like kale. I’m pretty sure it is not kale, but I haven’t identified this random weed growing on my property. I do agree that it’s as pretty as kale.

The chicken hussies (so-called because of their stubborn insistence on misbehaving) are periodically in their pen. I capture them, and I force visitors to help me wrangle chickens, so on occasion all four are inside. But they lose their patience and fly out within days. Or hours. They used to be content to scratch the dirt and eat the grass within feet of the house, but in the past month have decided that no distance is too far to roam. I usually have no idea where they are.  Thanksgiving morning I walked down to the chicken pen to visit the only chicken in there at the time.


Tawny examines a crust from leftover key lime pie.

After chatting with Tawny, dumping out the solid block of ice and refilling her water dish with liquid water, I noticed something white that looked like paper trash down by the creek. It was not trash but the most amazing ice sculpture! I’m guessing that the cold temperatures froze the moisture inside the sticks, and when the ice swelled, it was forced to squeeze out of the sticks. Anyway, what do you think happened?


I brought the two branches up from the creek to the deck, so I could photograph the ice better.


It was very difficult to get my camera to show what I saw: delicate feather-like wisps of ice that clumped together in a chilly pillow.


As soon as I touched these mounds of ice, they crushed and melted beneath my fingertips.


I was totally captivated by the ice.

I have been worn out with my commute. I spend three hours a day in traffic, sometimes four. I can’t stand driving to begin with, so it really takes a toll on my spirit and my ability to get stuff done at home since I’ve been deprived of all that time. But the upside is, I am slowly learning my new job and gaining a tiny bit of confidence. In a few months I will probably be released to go back to working at home.


My view every single day when I leave work and begin the long trip home. Well, usually it’s raining.

Hair care I find to be a menace, and once I have a hairdresser that suits me, I stick with that person till something drastic pulls us apart. When I lived in Boston, I continued to schedule haircuts for when I flew back to California, ha ha. Well, I have moved from Portland to way out in the country, and only recently made it back into the city to get my hair cut. I like it long in summer, so I can pull it back into a ponytail. I like it short in winter.


Short hair is a good way to show off enormous earrings!

I was asked out on a date a few weeks ago, and he and I hit it off, which is CRAZY because this guy is proud to call himself a conservative Christian Republican. I may be nuts. I am proud to call myself a liberal atheist who refuses to align with any political party. In my Thanksgiving phone call to my Pa, he laughed and said, “Well, I’ll bet you two have some rousing conversations!” So… it could make for some future rants in my blog that could offer some real entertainment. Stay tuned. 😉

Tara has been home the last two weekends and I am *so* happy to have my kid at home. I didn’t realize how much of a hole there was until it was filled and I felt the peace of it.


Last weekend, Tara came home because there was a performance by the dancers at their old studio.


It is like family being there, even for me. I love these girls and have watched them grow into stunning young women athletes.

Tara got their first tattoo yesterday. It was an event. Tara has wanted a tattoo for years, but I would not give consent. The kid is now 18 and I relinquished my right to say “no.” If the plan had been to get a tattoo on the face or neck, or someone’s name, I would have protested, but instead Tara wanted a honeybee on their thigh. I can totally live with that. I think the tattoo is beautiful. While I was there I showed the artist my sadly distorted faery on my abdomen (who looked lovely until I got pregnant), and she had some ideas for how to make her pretty again. I may soon go under the needle myself.


From this photo you can’t tell how much pain my kid is in.



It’s the season for giving thanks, and I am so grateful. For having a perfect child and an open mind, for having a father I can call, and a stepfather who calls me. For the reminder that I am a woman that a man could love. I am grateful that it’s so cold I think about the weather, and grateful that I have chickens to worry about. I am grateful for a troupe of gorgeous dancers and their parents and siblings who hug me every time I show up. I feel lucky to have a job many miles away, and I know I am lucky to have a home that fills up when my Tara and my Racecar kitty are here with me. I am so grateful that I turned out to be a person who never ceases to be fascinated with investigating the world around me.

My lovely Tara

My lovely Tara

I’m a mom. I’ve got to go on about my kid now and then. Can’t help myself.

Tara has been dancing for years and is not among those ballerinas who is fiercely focused and driven and denies herself the pleasures in life to get a landing just right. She dances because it makes her feel good, and because she gets to share in the dancing of her dear friends. At first, that frustrated me, because I am driven and competitive and aggressively pursue skill, as if it has something to do with how valuable I am.

Over the years I have learned from my kid: how to work at something for the love of it. Tara makes sacrifices to be at practices and endless rehearsals, missing out on parties and homework time and eating meals at reasonable hours. But it’s all for the pure joy of it, and in that way, she keeps ballet fun for herself. Years and years of practicing the same moves over and over, and yet the desire to get dressed and go do it again remains strong.

From the steps of the Rose Garden, looking down onto the Washington Park Amphitheatre

From the steps of the Rose Garden, looking down onto the Washington Park Amphitheatre

Tara, before the show. The shank is going out in her pointe shoes, so she is testing another pair to see if they are in better shape.

Tara, before the show. The shank is going out in her pointe shoes, so she is testing another pair to see if they are in better shape.

Saturday we went to Washington Park in Portland, at an outdoor amphitheatre just below the International Rose Test Gardens (did you know Portland is also called the Rose City?). Her studio is Portland Metro Arts, which hosts all kinds of artists including those who paint, who play piano, who Irish step dance, who sing, as well as those who ballet. Saturday’s performance was a showcase of different talents.

The dancers did short pieces from their recent full-length ballet, Alice In Wonderland, with additional classical ballet pieces, and some swing dance. Sadly, the sky was getting pretty dark by the time the swing dancing began. I was sitting far away from the stage and had my lens in full zoom. The exposure was longer because of the dark, and extra-sensitive to movement. This meant that all of the later shots were blurry, but they did make some pretty interesting images, so I included them anyway.

Earlier in the week there had been a threat of rain, and Tara worried about what rain on the stage would do to their ability to dance well. Instead, the weather was brilliant. It was sunny, dry, not windy, and warm. The steps of the amphitheatre filled with people of all ages and the murmurs of talk and laughter filled the green bowl we occupied.

Flowers from Alice. Tara in red in the center.

Flowers from Alice. Tara in red in the center.








Alice scolds a weed in the back of the flower garden.

Alice scolds a weed in the back of the flower garden.

blurry swing dance

blurry swing dance

taekwondo maybe?

taekwondo maybe?

...what they do when they're not at the airport


(Thank you, Google calendar, for helping me keep my life organized during the last two weeks.)

We went into town to try to see the Starlight Parade as part of Portland’s Rose Festival. It didn’t end up being a satisfactory evening because it was crowded, so we couldn’t see, and because it was hot. Really? Yes, Portland gave us one hot summer night during a nighttime parade. That was actually a wonderful thing. However, heat does tend to make people cranky. I could barely see the parade and was shoulder to shoulder with steaming humanity and their screaming, cranky children, making screaming, cranky parents. The parade was so-so (what I could see of it). The high point for me was being able to see Darcelle XV – a local celebrity in the continuing legend of the Portland Darcelles.

One of Portland's many delicious traditions

We wrapped up ballet classes with a big performance the beginning of June. First, of course, there were the extended full cast rehearsals at the studio. Then there were the tech rehearsal and the dress rehearsal at the auditorium. Then there were the actual performances (plural). Mom/Gramy came into town for five days to see both ballet and graduation. Miss T’s dad came into town for the ballet performance. He could only take time off from work to attend one event, and he asked his girl which one. Ballet was the one!

Coast Guard ship docked downtown

The performance went well; a rather entertaining community dance event from Laurelhurst’s ballet program. Mom and I attended the first actual performance, and skipped the second. Tara’s dad made the second performance. All agreed the beginner dancers had one of the best pieces of the night, for entertainment value. In a follow up phone call a few days later from Jo Jo, her instructor, it was confirmed that Tara will be promoted into the next level if she returns to Laurelhurst after the summer with her dad. Tara really has her hopes on gaining an audition with OBT again. It would be so fabulous for all of us if T could get into the studio and I’ll do what I can to help her. For the first time I wish I was rich enough to give my kid privileged attention: I wish I could hire a private tutor just to get her up to speed so that she could get accepted into the school!

Food carts are HUGE in Portland. Here's Mom at my fave collection of mobile eats on SW Belmont

...and me at the food carts

Mom needed a place to stay, and Tara’s dad needed a place to stay. And me, well, I’m a nice chick. So our tiny little rental place was full for awhile. Not just full, but full of high-tension visitors. My mother and my ex-husband. Wow. Both remarkable. The last time Mom was here, her heart palpitations got so bad she left early to go back home in the midst of high, high stress on both our parts. And …there was no last time the ex crashed on my couch. This is unprecedented. After 13 years, we have finally reached a point of maturity sufficient to allow me to share my home with my daughter’s father. I used to hate that guy with a passion. Nice to know one can eventually rid herself of such an ugly emotion.

My girl on a sailboat in the Willamette. She was obviously enjoying it!

Spent Saturday shopping with Mom. I typically can’t stand shopping – particularly for clothes. I mean, seriously, CAN’T STAND it. But…I met a guy! Yes! Yay for me! We had only met on the Internet and we were planning to meet in person. And I haven’t purchased new clothes in about 10 years, so it was time to make myself look presentable. The people at work might appreciate seeing me in something other than jeans, too. I have been selected to do some training for VA this summer, and needed a wardrobe in which to stand in front of a classroom. Ok, ok, it was mostly for the guy.

Hawthorne from the water. It's my fave Portland bridge.

Capn. Shane and his guests

Then graduation on Tuesday night (my last blog post). For a celebration of the beginning of summer, Tara and I took an hour and a half sailboat cruise on the Willamette with Scovare Expeditions, Inc., and Captain Shane St. Clair. It rained part of the time, but stayed relatively warm, and the tour was a delight. Capt. Shane took us from our launch at the Sellwood Bridge, north to downtown Portland, and back again. He was able to give us some great background information about the river, the islands, the houseboat communities and particular structures we passed. He told bad jokes, kept us on our toes, laughed off the rain, and generally kept us entertained the entire trip. It was over entirely too soon. I had a blast snapping photos, and if you’re interested, you should check them out on my flickr page. I highly recommend the company, the captain, the 90-minute cruise!

Celebrated a friend’s birthday with a barbecue. Next day met the Internet guy, who lives an hour away and came into town for the occasion. It went well, so met him again. And that went so well we had a third date! That’s gonna have to hold us for awhile: both too busy now. It was Faerieworlds time again on Saturday! Miss T and I have gone every year since 2007. Faerieworlds gets its own post because it is a whole story in itself, so you’ll have to check in later for that.

Condos on the water. How freaking cool and surreal is this? Like a set from a sci fi movie!

Sunday, Tara left for California with her dad, and I made my way back home to attempt to recuperate for a few hours because TOMORROW I am jetting off to Seattle to see my friend, V, visiting from Honolulu. We met years and years ago, when I was still working for the National Weather Service. V is still a forecaster, and is on the mainland for a gamer’s convention (love my friends!). He extended his trip a little so I get a chance to drive up there and see him, and check out the city with a friend. I haven’t explored Seattle for such a long time.

Monday, a week from now, I’m flying out to Virginia to get some teacher training. I’ve volunteered to train newly hired VA employees to do what I do. This summer I will be sent to be an instructor for four weeks. Sometime. Somewhere. My employer has not yet decided, but when I do get my instructions, it will be an adventure! I will make certain of that.

I should get back from Virginia just in time to drive to my Pa’s house on the Snake River in southern Idaho for some desperately-needed R&R over the 4th of July holiday. If the wind cooperates, we may get the chance to launch some questionably-legal rockets and explosives over the river. While there, I plan to do some hardcore exploring for more petroglyphs, since my last post on the petroglyphs at his place has become one of my most popular blog posts since I’ve been keeping a blog! You guys apparently want to read about petroglyphs.

From the looks of things, my summer is already booked. Solid.

Mr. President and Natasha

Oh, p.s. how freaking cool is the President? OMG, this is the BEST.

back yard in bloom, early in the month

Even when I don’t post, be assured there is always something happening in my world. Yours too, I’m sure! Among other things, we’ve re-visited Hopkins Demonstration Forest, rehearsed for the ballet recital, went camping, strolled the waterfront, did homework, and spotted fun stuff around town. Here are a few glimpses of our month of May.

Our group leader doles out equipment and instructions to the students

Even with two 8th graders, it was hard to extract a plug from the tree

sketching in her notebook

I chaperoned the 8thgrade science field trip to Hopkins Demonstration Forest last fall. The class graciously invited me to attend the spring trip as well. It was interesting to see the same forest in a different season, and to learn new forest management skills. In the fall we learned about soil types and erosion. This time we focused on measuring, identifying, and sampling trees.


The kids at Harrison Park are a good group, and respond politely to urges to get them to notice the world around them. They were eager to use the auger and pull a plug of wood from a tree, or sketch plants into a notebook. They happily traipsed along the trails, discovering woodpecker holes and snails, and christening the “sticky plant” so named because if you break a branch and throw it on someone, it sticks.

get a load of this curiosity, parked at Stark Street Pizza

trying out some new dance gear

My ballerina is excited about her upcoming show the second weekend in June. It’s a presentation from the Laurelhurst studio within Portland Parks and Recreation. All of the dances are from adults except one, in which the kids dance to an inspiring arrangement from Black Violin. Tara is somewhat disappointed in their costumes because they are silly and cute and do not match the music, nor do they look like something ballerinas would wear. She has resigned herself to the thought that perhaps it is because she is in the kids group, and perhaps it was the costume designer’s idea all along to make it cute. Until then, she practices in her own gear, decidedly more elegant.

We calculated that Memorial Day weekend was her last opportunity to go camping with me before heading off to California for the summer. She wanted to go so badly that she begged me to continue with our plans even though the weekend forecast was for more rain. So we went off to our spot along Zig Zag Creek, at the base of Mt. Hood. It’s only an hour away, and free, and close to water.

doubly-protected from the rain


We lucked out because it did not rain at all Saturday evening. The entire place was soaked, and soaked good, however. We babysat the fire for a full hour before it condescended to burn on its own. Our hair filled with smoke as we hovered close to the flames talking, eating, and giggling.

Despite the relatively dry evening, I took no chances and attached the tent’s rain flap as well as an additional tarp over that. It was a good call. The steady rain began in the night and continued all through the morning. We stayed snug as bugs inside.

The next morning we climbed around rocks at the river, discovered clusters of wild purple orchids, and got cold. So we packed up camp and continually deposited handfuls of trash into the bag designated for it. Every time we stay here we find bucketloads of trash all over the site, in the fire pit, in the river, crammed into tree trunks. Ugh, people.

"Mom, can you give the camera a rest?"

My girl is feeling some pressure at school to get a bunch of work done all at once. The teachers have realized they are running out of time, and have piled on the end of year projects. Her toolbox is filled with excellent reading skills and eager creativity, so that does help. She would still rather be at the damp park nearby than at the kitchen table working on stuff for school. That proves she’s a normal kid. And a normal person! I remember those days too, and I haven’t told her that this 8thgrade experience is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to end-of-term workload.

view of the east bank of the Willamette in the setting sun

don't you have a sumo wrestler on YOUR bike?

T asked me to make biscuits with bacon and cheese baked in. Yummo!

wooden crab on a concrete post

typical Portland dude

One of my many guises

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