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September 12, 2003

About

I live in the suburbs of Seattle with my husband. I love traveling, photography, hiking, cooking and hunting for wildflowers.

I developed my passion for travel when my parents took a vacation and drove down Hwy 1 in California. I was hooked. After I married, we took several road trips in the western US and Canada before taking the leap overseas to London.

Many of our trips involve our hobbies of hiking, photography, wildflowers and gardening. Our first international trip was to England to visit the gardens of Wales. We have also made trips to New Zealand, Spain, France and returned to England to visit gardens.

We love to hike. One of our favorite places is Mt. Rainier and my husband climbed it for his 50th birthday. The next year we climbed Mt. Whitney to celebrate my 50th. We try to include hiking in our travels. We have hiked the Maritime Alps of France, the Dolomites of Italy, along the Routeburn and Abel Tasman tracks in New Zealand and craggy spires of Patagonia in Chile. We have also kayaked in Mexico, snorkeled in in Hawaii and Belize and climbed the Mayan ruins of Yucatan and Guatemala.

Our best trip was an anniversary trip to South Africa and Namibia where we searched for spring wildflower on the veld and wild animals in Namibia. We have also spent our vacations visiting the different areas of the Mediterranean biome (Southern Europe, California, Chile, South Africa and Western Australia) to study flora and wildflowers.

I've also had the opportunity to live and work in Europe - another dream come true. I worked for three months in the Netherlands in 1990 and again for 6 weeks in 1996. We learned how to shop, use the appliances, live without a car and open our minds to other cultures. In 2007, I studied for 4 weeks at an intensive French language school in Villefranche sur Mer - Institut de Francais.

We have also traveled to more diverse locals. In 2009, we spent two weeks in Borneo - East Malaysia. In 2011, we spent two weeks in Western Turkey exploring Istanbul and the Aegean ruins. We have also visited the tropical US with several trips to Hawaii.

You can also find more photos on our personal website - MartaGeorge and check out my Flickr photosteam

Updated: Jan 2, 2012.

February 13, 2004

Giving up caffeine

I never really thought it was a problem. Caffeine that is. I have been a coffee drinker for a long time. I wasn't getting the jitters or shakes. Nothing like that. It was the headaches. I have had them off and on for a while but they got really bad in January. I couldn't figure out what it was.

I have always attributed the headaches to some type of sinus or allergy. I never understood if the headaches were due to sinus why sinus medicine like Claritin never made any differences. Besides, it was too early for sinus problems. There is nothing in bloom in January. Maybe it was the dry office. I did notice that the headaches started on Monday and lasted through Friday, but I didn't get them on the weekends. Got to be the office building. Hmmm... But there was something else different. I didn't drink as much coffee on the weekends. I would have one espresso and that was it on the weekends. Could it be caffeine?

I started drinking decaff at work at the beginning of February. After just a few days, I noticed a difference. The headaches were gone, my mood was much better, I had more energy, I was feeling much better. My goodness, it was the caffeine.

I would have a cup of coffee at home in the morning. I would still have a bit of headache. So I finally decided to stop all caffeine on Wednesday. I don't feel as much of a difference this time. I do yawn a lot but I'm not ready to fall in bed after a glass or two of wine.

I've read a bit about caffeine. It may be a while for me to totally withdraw from it. I have read a bit about how caffeine works and it may be six weeks until I have it out of my system. But it has been great.

I had also been a drinker of caffeinated soda since I was seven years old. Or at least until January 2003. I gave up sugar sodas to help lose weight which really helped. 150-200 calories per can and I was a heavy consumer of 3 cans a day. That is 500 extra calories! Soda is free where I work so it was so easy to drink. But I put on the pounds drinking soda after soda. It is much harder to not drink a soda than to avoid coffee. Avoiding coffee has been real easy. But soda, the cravings are still there. Yes, even after a year.

March 29, 2004

Spring Fever

It is an absolutely gorgeous day today. It is 78 degrees!!! That must definitely be a record for March. I went out at lunch to get dinner and I could feel the warmth even as I left the building. I am definitely going to go for a run today although I bet Green Lake will be a zoo.

It is time to start to make some travel plans for the Whitney climb. I think I have all the places choosen and some of the day hikes. I may do that tonight.

This weekend was the pits. I hate being sick. I finally caught George's cold on Thursday and I spent the whole time sniffling and sneezing. Thursday night was winers and we had a French Burgundy tasting that was really great. Fortunately, I never lost my taste so everything was yummy. But I felt lousy on Friday and slept a lot Friday and Saturday while taking mega doses of C. Did the trick, because I'm much better. But I did get my trip report done for Tucson.

On the dinner plate: Sockeye Salmon with mixed green salad
In the wine glass: 9th Island Pinot Noir
On the turntable: Anne Lennox Bare
On the nightstand: 100 Hike in Central Sierra

May 28, 2004

Union Restaurant

God we have been in such a rut. It is so tough when it is spring and G is busy with plant sales and working in the nursery. Plus there is so much to do ourselves in the yard. It has been ages since we have been out to dinner or even ventured together to downtown Seattle. But the plant sales are done so I suggested that we go to dinner.

E-Gullet has been highlighting a thread on their board about a new restaurant called Union. It is at the south end of the Pike Market near the Seattle Art Museum. It sounded very interesting. I was torn between going to Rays for some good Copper River or trying something new. It is somewhat hard with G because he doesn't eat meat, only fish, when we go out. So it is important to have a good selection of fish or vegetarian on the menu. He hates it when we go out and there is one fish dish and it has some type of meat in it.

After reviewing the thread, I was definitely intrigued and G seemed to be game for trying something new. So I made a reservation on OpenTable and we planned a nice night out. We gave ourselves an hour to drive into downtown Seattle since it was the Friday of Memorial day. It wasn't bad until we got off on Stewart. It took me almost as long to get from the Freeway to 1st and Union as it did to drive down to the exit. We parked next to the Wild Ginger and we there a bit early for our 5:30 reservation.

We were one of the first for the evening. It used to bug us to be alone in a restaurant but no longer. It is actually kinda nice. The server explained the restaurant concept. Instead of the typical appetizer, salad, entree, there were three courses groupings on the menu. The plates are small so you are able to taste several different items. A person with a good appetite can easily eat three courses. Or there is the tasting menu which has 7 courses and is an exceptional deal for $45.00. But as usual, it included meat so it wasn't an option for us.

We decided to have all three courses and ordered a bottle of french Sancerre. The server brought by an amuse bouche of a bite of poached Cooper River Salmon. It was just cooked to lightly and was very tasty. G started with the Mixed salad with goat cheese and hazelnuts. It arrived in a tower of greens on top of the goat cheese and hazelnuts. Very good. I had an outstanding crab and avocado salad. It was crab and avocado mixed together into a circle topped with miners lettuce and accented with an herb oil. For our second course. G had the softshelled crab. It was lightly floured and fried. It was accented with sauted porcini and saba. I couldn't remember what Saba was until we asked, basically a basalmic like vinegar made from grape juice mosto. Excellent! I had the morel ravioli with favas. The favas were great and the ravioli very good but I didn't get a strong taste of morels.

For third course, I had the beef loin with shallot sauce and grilled young red onions. Perfect. G had the Copper River with morels and peas. It was just as he liked it.

I was not full so I wanted dessert. I toyed with the idea of having the cheese course but wanted something sweet. Most of the dessert menu was chocolate. There was a rhurbarb crisp but I'm not into rhurbarb so I decided on the Chocolate Espresso pot of creme. Very good. I also had a glass of dessert wine from France. G decided on a grappa.

After dinner, we decided to walk up to see the new Seattle Library. What a wonderful building. It is so Dutch in being functional and designed. The entry from 5th Avenue is stunning. It was closed and we can't wait to go back to go inside.

It was so much fun walking around and seeing the buildings. Looking at the design on the Cobb building and the lines and views. I miss not going downtown as much since G no longer works in the market. We must do this more often.

December 6, 2004

Art Walk

Last Thursday we went downtown for the art walk. It has been a while since we visited the galleries. It was the perfect way to spend the evening.

We started the evening with dinner at a rather new restaurant called Crow. It is located on lower Queen Anne. It was fun. They have gotten several good reviews and the restaurant was listed in the Seattle Times Sunday Magazine as one of the hot bistros in town.

We went early (5:30 pm) and we were a bit surprised to find that it was going to be difficult to get a table. There were only one or two tables taken. They usually allow 2 hours for each seatting and had full seattings at 6:30-7:00pm. I explained that we were planning on a quick meal because we were heading out to the Pioneer Square galleries. Perfect. As long as we were out by 6:30 or so, they could seat us.

I don't remember what used to be there. The room is large and open. You can see from the bar through to the kitchen. They have seating around the kitchen which look really fun. You can watch them prepare dinner. I've got to try that.

We looked over the menu. G doesn't eat meat but does want fish on the menu. They only had the fish of the day which was seared scallops with bacon. I know... we could request them to make the dish without the meat. We'd probably do that but we have had a very bad experience at another restaurant where we requested that they not include the meat. The waitperson brought the dish and immediately grabbed it back and said that it was prepared with the meat! So there I sat eating my dish while we waited for them to correctly prepare G's dish. Plus it made us feel so awkward when they quickly grabbed the plate back after sitting it down. It has made us very reluctant to try it again.

Okay, end of long story. We decided instead to order a couple of the small plates along with salads. I ordered the iceburg lettuce wedge with blue cheese. Nicely prepared with an ascertive blue. It came with a half of hard boiled egg and a crinkle cut raw carrot. G had the greens with blue cheese, pear and walnuts. I had a taste and it was nicely done. The vinagrette had a touch of tarragon.

For the small plates, we ordered the curried mussels, Brandade fritters. Both were wonderful but I really liked the curried mussels. We sopped up the broth with the crusty bread. Along with this we each had a glass of wine; G had a glass of Fairview Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa and I had a glass of Kris Pinot Grigio from Alto Adigo area of Italy. We have had both wines before and they were good. My only small complaint is the small pour they do for the glass of wine.

Off we went to the galleries. Our favorites ended up being the two we first visited; Linda Hodges and Global Art Venue. We were amazed at the watercolors by a Polish artist at Global Art Venue. There was also some nice glass.

It was a nice way to spend a Thursday evening.

December 18, 2004

Getting in the Spirit in the NW

It can be so tough here in the far corner of the US to get in the holiday spirit. It is cold, drizzly and dark. The sun comes up around 8am and sets shortly after 4pm. Eight hours but it can feel even shorter when the day is dark and cloudy.

We are not giving gifts this year so we don't have the pressure of running around finding the perfect something. We have gone downtown for breakfast and to look around. It is great not having to be obligated to make purchases.

We also do not have a Christmas Tree. We got out of having one when our kitties were little. We didn't want them to terrorize it while we were at work. We just didn't get back into having one.

But we do like to have a lot of light during this time and do as much as we can outdoors. We have strung lights around the living room and on our fig tree. I purchased a wreath and have a nice bouquet of white flowers, seasonal evergreens and holly. I also pull out a lot of candles to add a warm glow to the room.

This year has also been very mild. It has not snowed this year and there have been few frosts. And we have had several warm sunny days. We have been able to get out on the trail on Saturday. Last Saturday, we went to Tiger Mountain. It had rained heavily the day before and the lower part of the trail was almost a stream. Fortunately, the trail is well constructed so the water is directed off and you can get around the it. It was cool at the top but not freezing.

This Saturday we went to Rattlesnake Ledge. It was so warm that I hiked in just a polypro top. I started out with my wool sweater but got too warm. It was busy. From the view at the top towards Snoqualmie Pass, there was very little snow.

But what else has been nice this year is the mild weather has allowed us to attend several of the outdoor seasonal events. Last Saturday, we went to the Pathway of Lights. We got back from Tiger and remembered it. It has been rainy the past several years so we couldn't pass up the chance to see it without the rain.

We got there shortly after 6pm and they were just finishing lighting the 4,000 luminaries. We parked at the Bathhouse and headed out. It was already crowded. Most people were walking without lights. It was kinda spooky since you really couldn't see if you were about to walk into someone. But it was also so cool. A few people had on short strands of Christmas lights. Several of the dogs had blinking lights on their collars. Around 7pm, the several lighted canoes launched from the Aquatheater. They glided along reflecting from the lake.

On Tuesday, the Christmas Ship sailed from Edmonds to Richmond Beach. The Christmas Ship is pretty commercial but there was a planned bon fire at Richmond Beach. That sounded really cool. Again, it was a rain free night. The ship left Edmonds at 7:00pm and was supposed to arrive at Richmond Beach around 8:10. We ate dinner and headed out around 7:30. It was already quite crowded when we arrived. I didn't even attempt to try to park in the lot but parked a block or so away. You could see the fires from the top and the ships were just coming into view. We walked down the stairs and onto the beach. It was a great fire. It was stacked high and roaring in the breeze. You couldn't stay very long facing it.

The boat arrived and the choir started. They were okay. We walked down along the water to cool off as they sang. We walked back up to the second bon fire as they finished. Looking up the hill, you could already see the cars streaming out and a traffic jam. We decided to stick around and let everyone leave. There is just something about standing around a bon fire on a cold winter night. We went home and had a hot chocolate.

Dec.jpg

Happy Holidays From Rattlesnake Ledge!

January 24, 2005

Sonoma Getaway

God, I'm getting old. We spent the weekend in Sonoma with friends and I'm exhausted.

We flew down to the Bay Area this weekend for an extended getaway. It all started when Ramkins published their Winter schedule and Judy Witts Francini aka Divina Cucina was teaching a Winter Tuscan Dinner class. Several of us on SlowTrav had said we would take the class. I signed up right way which was a good thing since it sold out.

We also hadn't seen our friends in Bay Area for a while so we made arrangements to stay with them and we would spend the weekend in Sonoma.

Pauline fron SlowTrav found an outstanding rental, Cottage Sonoma. She said it would be big enough for two couples so we wented it. It was outstanding. I loved the Asian/Island style decor. It has two bedrooms, two baths, hard wood floors, a large open modern kitchen, patio, BBQ and hot tub. It was foggy and cold so we didn't take advantage of the hot tub, but the deck and tub would be great in the Spring.

We flew into Oakland. We decided to tour a few of the gardens on the East Bay. Our first stop was the Lakeside Garden at Lake Merritt in Oakland. It has a metal lath house for Vireya Rhododendrons. Many of them were in bloom. It was kinda run down but nice vireya. Great for plant geeks.

Next we headed up to Berkeley and the Fourth Street shopping area. Our destination, Tacubaya, an upscale taqueria. Yummy. G had a mushroom-cheese chile rellano and a fish taco. I had a pork tamale and a beef taco. All was outstanding. I loved the chile aioli on the fish taco and the mole sauce on the tamale was a perfect blend of sweet/bitter chocolate and hot spices. We'll go to Tacubaya again.

Next door is the Pasta Company. I picked up some porcini ravioli, sauce and a piece of Selle sur Cher goat cheese for dinner. At the wine store, we picked up a yummy Chianti from a producer I hadn't heard of but was located in Panzano.

On the way back to the car, I ran into a former co-worker who had moved back to Bay Area several years ago. It was so strange to run into someone you know.

Our dinner that night was fun. We spent the evening talking politics and wondering about the future.

Friday, we lounged around while B worked from home. We did take in back to back viewing of Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2. Tarantino is not one of my favorites. I also don't care lots of violence even over the top stylised violence.

We left shortly before 4pm and made it to Sonoma just around 5:30pm. We dumped our bags and headed out to Cafe La Haye for dinner. Boy oh boy was it good. G had a wild greens salad and taglattini with clams. It was spicy but good. A had mussels in a pernod-fennel sauce and a filet mignon spiced with pepper and lavendar. B had a green salad and the filet mignon. I had the endive, golden beet, dry jack cheese salad. It was great but unfortunately, the pale belgian endive and white cheese ended up not being very appetizing in appearance. My entree was a lamb shank in a great sauce. It was a red wine, broth, and tomate based and was the perfect sweetness to go with the lamb. But was the best was the mustard cooked cabbage. It was wonderful. Along with this we had a bottle of Flora Springs 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon.

We skipped dessert and headed back to the cottage. They had Trivial Pursuit 6. We always play TP when we are together. We play men against women. Several years ago, the women would always win but again is taking its toll. The women were ahead but we didn't finish it so who knows who would have won. We opened a bottle of Robert Craig Affinity and had it with Fran's chocolate truffles. Oh that was good.

- more to follow -

February 18, 2005

Malware Wars

I got hit by a 'driveby download' on Sunday. Yes, it was an unlucky 13th. I naively was reading a message board (not SlowTalk) and clicked on a link. It took me out to a site to provide song lyrics. Those sites are notorious downloading malware/spyware to your PC. If I had only known....

Suddenly, a windows installer box popped up along with lots of different popups. Crap. The dirty little popups also wouldn't let me close them safely by clicking on the upper right corner or right clicking and choosing close. Grrr... Next thing I knew, Norton was popping up left and right telling me a trojan was trying to run. Double grrr.. I checked Add/Remove programs and several pieces of junk software had been installed. My toolbar was changed to MySearch and there was a lot of junk on the tool bar.

I unplugged my connection from the network and started to do some scans. I already had Ad-Aware and SpyBot. They caught quite a few. Next I ran Norton and it found some items but couldn't delete them. Sigh... It was taking at least an hour to scan my machine with Norton. I did some manual deletes. Okay. I thought I was clean. I plugged back into the network. Damn. There went Norton again. They were still on my machine. 4 hours later and several scans, I was back where I started. So I decided to load on XP sp 2 that I fortunately had on disk.

Monday, I mentioned it to a couple of co-workers and did some searches on the virus, etc. One of the coworkers mentioned safe mode. Right... now I remember, I need to boot into safe mode so those little buggers don't load and then I can get them. I also remembered reading a great newsletter by Brian Livingston at Windows Secrets. His January 27th newsletter went into details how many anti-spyware software would miss most malware. It mentioned the new Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta being one of the best.

I went home early. I downloaded the MS Anti-spyware beta and installed it. It found even more. I spent about 4 hours scanning and cleaning. Everything was looking good. Okay... I booted out of safe mode and plugged back into the network. EEEeeiiiii. There goes Norton again. They haven't left. Time to load on Zone Alarm so even if the bugger is on my machine, I'll keep it in a small cage. I also had a program name to search on.

Now it was time to pull out the big guns. The Windows Secret Newsletter mentioned a great study by Eric Howes. He gives some right-on tips on his page comparing the different anti-spyware programs. It also has a great part on what to do when you have been infected. I did a bit of googling on the offending program. The next step was to run HijackThis and have someone knowlegeable analyse the log. He lists several different forums to get help on the Hijack This log. I used and highly recommend Techsupportforum.com. I posted a log in their Hijackthis forum and within a few hours I had a reply. They were right on the mark at getting rid of most of what was lurking. They give clear instructions on what to do and I've seen them stick through some tough cases. I am in support and I work on a message board. I know what the job is like. My hats are off to them. They do a remarkable service. I am also going to send them a donation.

I followed their instructions and thought I was fine. But something was still lurking. I configured my machine to startup with Norton, ZoneAlarm and the MS Anti-spyware software loading automatic on startup. Yes, it takes almost 3 minutes to boot up but it is keeping it at bay.

Shortly after booting up, the MS Anti-spy told me that My Search Bar was trying to change my browser toolbar. It would catch it and I'd delete it. But it was happening everytime I logged in. Hmmm.. They recommending running anti-spyware and anti-virus again. I downloaded a new version of Ad-Aware. It got several items but it was still there when I logged in. I also tried Trend Micro's Housecall anti-virus scan. No luck.

I've had spent almost 15 evening hours to try to kill this. I decided to give it one more try tonight. Whenever I got the message about MySearch bar trying to make a change, I would also get a pop-up about Norton making changes to my browser. Hmmm.. This seemed strange. I was also getting pop-ups for Norton's automatic update. I decided to check the IP address. It went to a strangish location. So I decided to do the Live Update via the software instead. Low and behold, it had a virus definition update. So scanning began again.

I booted into safe mode. Ran updated Ad-Aware. I was clean. I also went though my Windows\System32 folder and noticed an unusual name exe from the 13th. I noted it. Then ran Norton. It found two threats and sure enough one of them was the suspicious file, winbhgk32. It couldn't delete it but I knew where it was... I deleted it from the folder, rebooted and logged on. Nothing. Loaded the browser. Nothing. Woohoo! I think I might have it.

It took 5 days and almost 20 hours!

Lessons learned? A lot!

Keep Up with Windows Update I hadn't kept up with the Windows updates and I suspect that some of the malware took advantage of the vulnerabilities.

Apply Windows XP sp 2 Service pack 2 would have probably helped. I would have at least had a firewall to prevent any attacks on other ports.

Run a commercial Firewall The Windows XP sp 2 firewall is okay at preventing things from coming in but does absolutely nothing once you have something on your PC. A real firewall such as ZoneAlarm will alert you to both programs trying to get in and get out.

Get help I work in support and I couldn't have done it alone. Find a good support board on line or someone who regularly deals with this to help you if you are infected.

February 26, 2005

Malware - Part 2

I thought I was finished and won the battle with malware. But I was wrong! I was still 'bugged' by warning from MS Anti-spyware (MAS) telling me that My Search bar was trying to change my toolbar. It would only happen when I switched between G's account and my account so I didn't notice it until a couple of days had passed and G logged on. I did another scan and found some more remnants of the viruses but I just couldn't get rid of this warning about My Search Bar.

I finally went out to the MAS newsgroups at Microsoft and got a couple of other good pieces of advice. A member found the guid for the program and I was able to search for the guid in the registry. I found a reference to it in 'HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Internet Explorer \ Toolbar \ WebBrowser'. That got it.

I'm also giving SpywareBlaster a try. I'm hoping it will block those critters.

Some other pieces of advice

If you have more than one account on your PC and use XP, turn off System Restore on all the accounts. This will prevent the registry entries for these critters from being backed up.

Boot into Safe Mode (F8 on startup) and thoroughly scan all accounts.

Scan with multiple anti-spyware programs and a virus checked.

Use some type of spyware blocker and keep it up to date.

April 25, 2005

Arboretum Plant Sale

This weekend was the big event, the Arboretum Plant Sale. It was the big event for Smartyplants. I decided to help G and helped out at the beginning. It is always rush at the start. Everyone comes early to get the best selection. Salvias were popular. I could overhear people talking about them and the great selection. I answered what questions that I could and helped backstock the selection. It was fun and overall a good sale.

June 20, 2005

Blog Redux

I have been unable to write using the computer. It is so strange but my mind goes blank when faced with a cursor and a blank screen. I've decided to go back to pen and paper. The physical clinch of the fingers and the sound of the pen scratching the paper; the tactile helps this ancient brain.

I want to start up my blog again and do more than just record the passing day. So much is going on and writing can be a good outlet. But so much of the time I feel distracted … or is it sedated… by the bombardment of TV and the lure of the internet. The ability to focus and concentrate seems to slip away. I look up and the evening has passed. I am going to set aside time in the evening and make an effort to write and exercise my brain.

I'm committed now.

August 22, 2005

Testing Email notification

Last time I went on vacation, I used email to update by blog. I can't seem to see how to do that with MT. That actually might be a good thing. It looks like MT has the reverse which is it will send an email to people who want to know you have updated your blog and who don't subscribe using RSS.

Let's see if it works.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Postcards from the Trail in the Miscellaneous category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Memoirs is the previous category.

Mt Whitney is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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