Home on Whidbey is a family blog revolving around Fran, Ed, Brad, Yessi, plus puppy Benton, and our family, travels, friends, neighbors and community. Thanks for reading.


Magic Happens!

Our kitchen, turned over to Rosy, Tan Hong and Yessi, has become an international delight.  Enough food was purchased at Uwajimaya to feed an army, and was miraculously turned into a magnificent feast in just two hours.   I mostly watched engulfing myself in the smells, sounds, and sights.  My expectations expanded until I felt like pavlog's dog.

"Any time women come together with a collective intention, it's a powerful thing. Whether it's sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens."

Phylicia Rashad  


The preparation ~

The food ~

The eating pleasure ~

We give thanks!

Welcoming Yessi's Family

China becomes our friend.  A country always far, far away and not much in our sights has, because of sweet Yessi's influence, become more and more familiar.  A few years ago I engulfed myself in Cultural Revolution readings, but that's not the China of today and not the China I'm experiencing vicariously through Brad and Yessi's relationship.  I suddenly feel like my world has expanded in a million new ways as our lives expand to include thoughts of traveling to China, walking the Great Wall of China, enjoying meals at Yessi's family home in Xiamen, experiencing the coffee at Pacific Coffee of Mukilteo Coffee fame) in Hong Kong, and so much more.

The holidays have brought us visitors from China making our immersion in the Chinese culture deeper and sweeter.  Yessi's mom, Tan Hong, and aunt, Rosie, arrived a few days ago for a two week stay.  They will be at our home the first week of their stay before going to Seattle for another week.  On these first couple of days everyone has been tentative except for smiling, smiling, smiling!  Yessi is trying to keep us all connected but with six people in the room, and only one bilingual person, she's pretty busy.   

Our first evening together (left to right:  Tan Hong, Brad, Ed, Fran & Rosie)
Photo by Yessi
We're honored to have guests for the holidays and very pleased to get to know Yessi's family.   

"Wherever you go, go with all your heart."


Preparing for the Holidays

This year our holiday preparations have been especially fun and exciting as we plan for Yessi's mom, Wu Dan Feng (or Tan Hong for short), and Yessi's aunt, Zeng Ming Ling (or Rosie for short) to arrive from China on the 21st.  We are also seeing our holiday traditions through Yessi's eyes, as this is her first Christmas in the United States, and everything we do is once again new and exciting.  Hearing Yessi say, in her delightful voice, "really?" delights us all.

One of our  first holiday activities was, of course, putting up our Christmas tree.  But first, we unpacked 45 years of collected ornaments.    Brad has received at least one ornament each year of his life, plus Ed and I have a few of our own, so the big trunk holding our ornaments is jammed full.  Unwrapping each ornament brings forth exclamations of, "Was that my first ornament?"  Or, "That's the one Greg brought back from Germany."  Or, "Remember that one?  We got it in Banff."  And then telling Yessi all about Banff or the Pass, or whatever place or memory the ornament unleashed.   


The lion of the scarecrow, tin man and lion from The Wizard of Oz

Yessi, Brad & Ed putting on ornaments

Yessi and I spent one day making candy and cookie gift boxes.  We made chocolate chip cookies for eating now.  But then we also made nut balls, peanut brittle and fudge to put into Christmas tins for gifts.  The next day I also made toffee but although following the recipe carefully all we have to show for the effort is burned toffee and a smelly house.

Fran packing Christmas tins

Yessi carefully preparing wax paper lining in the tins

A table full of sweets

The stocking were hung with care -- no chimney.

Hinoki lighting the garden 

Our living tree to be planted on Brad and Yessi's property after Christmas



As we prepare to leave our home for a new adventure we must say goodbye to many wonderful friends.  In thirty years of life in Langley, and before that, many years in Seattle, our list of friends, acquaintances, neighbors, political allies, and I-don't-know-your-name-but-we've-been-saying-hi-for-years folks.  The list is long and the names and faces behind the list are very dear.  

For better than a decade my book group has been gathering to talk books, politics and life events.  We've shared, right along with great books, the sorrows of death, happiness of new grandchildren, the delight of new puppies, and the challenges of health problems.  Our friendships have deepened and enriched us as we've moved through our years of reading and talking and laughing and crying. 

There are political allies too.  Folks we've shared various campaigns with for the past 45 years from Seattle and Whidbey Island both.  Campaigns sought and lost or won and causes fought for, sometimes with amazing success, sometimes with stunning defeat.  We're engaged in cheers, jeers, and tears as we let our hearts and our heads have their way. 

As with any life, we have a long list of the good and the bad neighbors.  The good ones, years later, long after moving from the neighborhood, are still friends and missed almost daily.   Just this past year, after leaving my Seattle neighborhood 30 years ago, we enjoyed a neighborhood reunion.  Neighbors are a bit like family.  We don't pick our neighbors but in spending years talking over the fence, negotiating neighborhood issues,  and in sharing kids and pets and garden tools, often very long term and special friendships are formed.  Neighbors can become very dear friends, and often do in special ways that cross political, age and interest barriers.

In a small town there are the numerous encounters with folks weekly as we meet in the grocery, coffee shop or thrift store.  Quick chats, over a number of years, add up to friendships.  Kids, health, books, jobs and pets are discussed, along with the weather being too cold, too wet or just right.  Why these encounters don't always result in dinner parties or wedding invitations is curious but everyone seems content to enjoy the spontaneity without the follow through.  Chance encounters bring on hugs, good wishes or expressions of concern and these friendships spill and overlap and bounce about in a delightful way through the years. 

But, we're leaving all this.   We're moving to Ecuador.  We're leaving our friends and our town and our well established lives in the Pacific Northwest.  We're headed off to explore new neighbors, new cities, and to enjoy new adventures.  Will we miss our friends?  You bet we will.  Skype, Facebook and e-mail will be our life lines to the many, many relationships we hold so dear but we won't feel the warm hugs or see the twinkle in the eye and we will be sad for that loss. 


“I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”  ~ Jon Katz


Favorite Holiday -- whenever it happens!

When did it start?  When did we first begin sharing Thanksgivings with Joe and Nancy?  Joe and I met 30 years ago at a party at Island Design in Langley, WA.  We liked one another immediately and stayed in touch over all these years. A year after Joe and I met, I married Ed.  A few years later Joe married Nancy.  On Joe and Nancy's wedding day we were introduced to Nancy for the first time.  Ed's first words to Nancy were, "I'll never forget this day!"  Nancy, taken aback at this strange man's forward comment, was at a lack for words.  Ed then announced, "Today is my birthday."

As Joe and I connected all those years ago, so did Ed, Nancy, Joe and I connect as couples.  To make it even more special, with Joe's age falling between Brad's age and mine, he became a hiking buddy and a good friend with Brad as well.  A family was born, a Thanksgiving family, of very special friendships and connections.

We had our 2013 Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, five days early, on Lopez.  It took a number of years to figure it out, but we finally came up with the plan to "beat" the holiday traffic and long ferry lines.      It was an aha moment when we said to one another, "Let's celebrate on a day other than the actual holiday."   Now we routinely celebrate Thanksgiving on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

It is a wonderful solution.  We casually and comfortably gather one year on Lopez Island and the next on Whidbey Island to enjoy our thanksgiving-of-life with wonderfully good, long time friends, together with their Lopez Island friends when on Lopez and our Whidbey Island friends when on Whidbey. 

So, as the rest of you rush around this week preparing for Thanksgiving, we are resting, exercising and enjoying the sweet peace of an early holiday celebration.  Here are a few photographs of this year's gathering on Lopez Island.  Unfortunately these photographs do not include all the people present, especially the two wonderful children (perhaps they were moving too fast for the camera lens), despite the delight they brought to the gathering.

Yessi & Brad.
 We were blessed this year to share Thanksgiving with Yessi, her first ever Thanksgiving celebration. 

As after each year's Thanksgiving festivities, we end the weekend grateful for cherished friends and delicious food, plus outstanding conversations and a wonderful walk or two in the woods.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy,
they are the charming gardeners who make our
souls blossom.

Marcel Proust

Happy Thanksgiving!


Red Roofs of Cuenca!

As we huddle in the low 30's here on Whidbey Island I check the temperature in Cuenca, Ecuador.  It is 73 degrees.   So I begin to dream of the warm temperatures and the warm red roofs of Cuenca.

The color alone is warming me on this cold NW day

Then my mind turns to the colorful, fresh, year-around fruits and vegetables of Cuenca.

Cuenca market
 Followed by the idea of fresh flowers year around.

Cuenca flower vendor

All of this adds up to the news that we have reservations to fly to Ecuador on January 3, 2014.  This first trip we will only stay for 4 weeks to test out our instincts and the wisdom of relocating to a strange land.  When there we will look for housing; check on Resident Visa requirements; determine the key items we'll need and what we can weed from our baggage; and investigate what the details of life will look like once we move.

At first we thought we'd just go.  Dog crate in one hand, two bicycles in another, plus several bags of clothing and various household items piled around our feet.  As I tried to visualize this, it became too fuzzy to imagine.  We changed our plans to include a trial visit.  Dog and bikes stay home as do all household items.  After our January run, we'll know more about housing, transportation, and a million other details, like what to pack and what to leave behind.  Whew!  Breathing again.  Now, back to learning Spanish. 

Adios para hoy.

The Sweetness of Yessi and Brad

Brad has found a very special woman in Yessi.    We are delighted for him and we are delighted to have Yessi in our lives.  This relationship will bring together two very interesting and adventurous people.  We will all expand our thinking, broaden our horizons, and benefit from this beautiful blend of different worlds, languages, tastes, experiences, ideas, political views, desires, expectations, habits and more….

Yessi & Brad ravishingly hungry after a day of hiking in the Olympics, 2013

Yessi & Brad hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, 2012

Yessi & Brad in New Zealand, 2012

A delighted Benton,  Fran & Ed!
We hope Yessi and Brad enjoy years of love and happiness!

Yessi & Brad


Life is to be lived

Brad has always been an amazing influence on my life, in so many ways, all the way back to his birth.  Initially it was me leading him into camping, hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, new friendships, travel, and design but that changed.   I can't remember when it was that he began to push me to the next more difficult step.   We were still doing all the same activities but with Brad's nudging, I would go harder, faster, further,   He radicalized my thinking in topic after topic.  He radicalized my efforts in activity after activity.   I've spend every day since 1968 teaching and learning; learning and teaching; and marveling at the unfolding adventures Brad has introduced me to.  The latest is his wonderfully sweet relationship with Yessi.

If you've been reading this blog, or Brad's blog you'll know that he hiked 5000 miles in 2012.  At the end of the year, his adventure was topped off with Yessi's company.  They met in New Zealand when Brad was hiking the Te Araroa trail and Yessi was spending a year traveling and working in New Zealand.  They got together again in China where Brad met her family and enjoyed a quick tour of Xiamen and surrounds, before they took off to hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.  Yessi's first hike was begun on one of our world's most challenging treks, not a hike at Ebey's landing, or some other wonderful, but relatively easy hike. 

Yessi on the Annapurna Circuit

Yessi is a go-for-it-person and she's hooked up with a go-for-it-guy.  Wavering isn't part of the relationship Brad and Yessi are tackling.   From Customs to hiking to cultural differences, their relationship has been one huge adventure.

With a traditional Chinese upbringing, Yessi's exploratory enthusiasm is especially remarkable.  Not that she doesn't suffer conflicting values, like us all, but she still jumps in to experience the new, taking her well beyond her upbringing in xiamen, China.  And, naturally, she takes all of us, especially Brad, well beyond the customs of America.

The latest, and perhaps one of the more remarkable activities she's engaged in on her return trip to America is climbing.  On a cold day in November, on Whidbey Island, she conquered her fear of climbing on Mt. Erie, WA.  Shivering with fear, she stepped over the edge with a smile on her face.

Yessi rappelling off Mt. Erie
Brad's life is far richer for knowing Yessi and her life has expanded to unfathomable places in her relationship with Brad.    All our lives have expanded.  We are grateful!

Yessi & Brad sharing a quiet moment on the Mukilteo ferry

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.


Pumpkin Party

It's great fun to share our American traditions with Yessi.  She is so enthusiastic to try almost anything.  When she last visited she wanted to mow lawns, drive tractors, shoot guns, hike new trails, travel vast distances on Brad's motorbike, and eat anything we put in front of her. 

This visit appears to be similar, with Yessi game for anything.  So we planned a mini pumpkin party.  We started our family gathering with pumpkin-curry soup and Screaming Banshee bread.  Our dessert was a pumpkin-rice pudding.

After eating pumpkin, we moved onto carving pumpkins into Jack-o'-lanterns.

Yessi and Brad carving Jack--o'--lanterns

Brad resorted to working in the shop at one point

Brad uses a drill and Fran resorts to the old fashioned knife for pumpkin carving

Ed too resorts to power tools, while Yessi digs into the center of her pumpkin to clean it out with her hands

Our glowing Jack-o'-lanterns
From left to right -- Brad, Yessi, Fran & Ed

 Halloween, Halloween,

Oh what funny things I've seen...

Witches Hats,

Coal Black Cats,
Broom Stick Riders,
Mice and Bats!