Best Finds of 2013

I’ve been reading a lot of best of lists in the last several days, everything from albums of 2013 to recipes involving bacon.  Everyone seems to be making a year end list.  I thought, why not jump on the bandwagon.  So here we go.  This isn’t a top ten or even a list with any sort of theme.  These are just things (songs, movie houses, art, tv shows, food, etc.) I discovered in 2013 that will stay with me long into 2014 and beyond.

Let’s get to it….

The Lone Bellow came into my life via iTunes and a free download.  I instantly became obsessed with them.  Great lyrics, excellent harmonies, and catchy tunes that stay in your head for days.

The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel from Panera.  This thing is addicting.  I’m so glad we discovered them, and so sad at the same time.  It’s all kinds of deliciousness in a small round baked good.  Toasted with butter… so damn tasty.

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Kickapoo State Park, Illinois.  We’ve lived in Illinois now for nearly two and a half years.  Surprisingly there are many things we’ve come to appreciate and even truly like about living here.  One thing we haven’t is that there isn’t as much water as we were used to living in Oregon.  We’ve done our best to travel to nearby towns with river walks (there aren’t that many) and to find state parks and such that have a decent amount of water, in whatever form we can find it.  One such place, to our delight, is Kickapoo.  First, you have to love the name, c’mon, it’s kind of awesome.  But more importantly, it has water.  All sorts of little lakes and a stream, running through it.  There are canoe rentals in the summer, and loads of trails.  We went in the fall, when the colors of the foliage were stunningly beautiful.  We will definitely be going back.

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The Golden Harbor Restaurant.  With a huge menu, free tea by the pot, and a cool old school vibe, this place rocks. Plus, the food is great.  How can you go wrong with spicy green beans, salt and pepper mushrooms, and plates full of sweet and spicy chicken.  The menu on the wall is enormous and all in Chinese.  You can pick up an english language menu from the little table by the front door if you like.  Write down the numbers of the things you’d like to order, take it up to the counter, and moments later your tasty hot food starts coming out as it’s ready.  We love this place.

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Season tickets for the University of Illinois women’s volleyball and basketball.  What a great deal.  We’d been to games before, but this all inclusive $35 dollar ticket package gets you into all the home games for both sports.  We’ve had hours of enjoyment at these games.  The atmosphere, the competition, supporting the local university, and eating an occasional stadium dog… all worth it.  Can’t beat it for good sporty entertainment.

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Cris Cab.  I can’t even remember how I stumbled on this young gent.  All I know for sure is that his music is catchy and I’m semi-addicted to it.

Dominic Thomas was born.  I don’t know if you can call him a discovery, but as he grows, and has one discovery after another of his own, we have discovered a little more about him, and ourselves.  I think that’s part of the beauty of little people.  As they grow and change and develop we see the world through them, and it is an amazingly wondrous place.

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The fun of riding steam trains.  Taking a five mile ride on a steam train isn’t exactly something I would choose to do on my own.  Maybe an over night or a several night journey, one with sleeper cars and a nice dining car, but not a shorty ride on a steam train that goes one way forward and then backs up on the return trip.  But, somehow, with the help of the excitement of a three year old, short trip steam trains kinda rock.  We went a couple of different times and I’m sure we’ll be going again this year.  Our mini engineer in training loves it and, consequently, so do we.

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The Blacklist.  James Spader is just plain awesome.  He’s an amazing actor.  In lessor hands this role, and the tv show connected to it, might not be as riveting and interesting as it is.  But with James Spader at the center, a decent supporting cast, and top notch writing, Blacklist keeps you hooked.

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Portland, Maine.  We took a little road trip for our 10th anniversary to Portland by way of NY, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, etc.  We loved New England.  It’s beautiful, it’s people are great, and it’s beautiful.  Portland, the destination for this trip, didn’t disappoint.  We met in Portland, Oregon.  It’s our city, as we like to call it.  We love it there.  I had, however, always wanted to go to the other Portland.  To check it out.  To see what it had to offer.  My honey felt the same.  Seemed fitting that on our 10th we would take a trip to that other Portland to see what we could see.  It was great.  Good restaurants, excellent scenery, really nice people, and funky in it’s own way, we enjoyed it very much.

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Roadtrippers.  I love this website.  We travel quite a bit.  Most especially, in recent years at least, we’ve gone on some major road trips here in the U.S.  This site allows you to plan your route and then see what sorts of places might be along it.  From practical to strange Roadtrippers has them all.   They also have an app, which rocks.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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Cafe ZoJo.  It’s a local coffee shop that’s fairly new.  I’m not sure if we actually found this in 2013 or the year before, but never the less, I’m including it here.  The staff are friendly, with quick helpful smiles, the atmosphere is eclectic and comfortable, the food is tasty, and the coffee is sublime.  ZoJo is our go to for take away coffee.  I’ve never had better drip coffee in my life.  That’s saying a lot.

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Sleepy Creek Vineyards.  We actually discovered this place by way of a thing called the Fork in the Road Tour.  A few local farms, their goods, a nice drive with good friends, and we ended up, last stop on the tour, at Sleepy Creek.  We were given a tour of the vineyard,  an explanation of the bottling process, and then a tasting.  The wine was good, but the people were great, and the atmosphere was awesome.  Later, like a month or so, they hosted the Salk Fork River Art Festival.  Again, great setting, great wine, great people.  We were hooked.  They do several events a month including things like film festivals, live music, art festivals, weenie roasts, and of course wine tastings.  It’s worth the drive east.

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Cinnebarre in Salem, Oregon.  We live in Illinois now, but we still spend a significant amount of time in Oregon.  It’s where I’m from, and where my honey lived for over 30 years.  It’s home.  My mom lives in Salem, in the same house we lived in when I was in high school.  Salem is the capitol city, and has always been considered, amongst people who live in Portland anyway, a lessor town.  But in the last several years Salem has grown up a little, and funked out a bit as well.  To prove this point they now have a movie place downtown called Cinebarre.  It’s a chain, though there are only about seven or eight locations around the country.  The fact that one of those is in Salem is very cool.  Cinebarre is a movie theater and it’s a restaurant.  You get table service during the movie, which seems like it could distract you, but it doesn’t really.  Walk in, look at the menu before the movie starts, fill out your card, prop it up, and the wait staff comes to take your order via your card and then brings you the food while the movie is going.  You can keep ordering if you want to, they also have beer and wine.  It’s a kick and a unique movie experience.  I like it.

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Honda PCX 150 Scooter.  We used to own motorcycles.  Big motorcycles.  Hogs.  We had all the gear, went on rides, and thought we were slightly above all those scooter riders out there.  That’s the way it goes.  If you ride motorcycles you think scooter riders, or scooterists as I like to call them, are slightly beneath you.  Not really in an arrogant way, it’s just that as a motorcycle rider you’re cool.  As a scooterist you’re nerdy.  Until, of course, we gave up the motorcycles and bought a Honda scooter in 2013.  It’s beyond awesome.  It hauls buns, can carry both of us, is fun as hell to ride, and seems easier.  Maybe the easier part is just because you don’t have to shift, I don’t know.  But it’s zippy, and it makes a fantastic second car.  I so love to ride it.  Who would’ve thunk, those few short years ago, we would prefer a scooter, but we do.  I guess if that makes us nerds we proudly own it.  I’m a scooterist.  Damn straight I am.

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Thankful Everyday – The Tenth

Here we are, a third of the way through, and I feel like I’m just getting started.  This is good for the soul.  This little affirmation every day of things to be thankful and grateful for.  It’s sending positive energy out into the world.  I feel that from others.  I feel that for myself.

10. I’m thankful for coffee, in all it’s forms — lattes, au laits, drip, french press, espresso, iced, hot, and a lovely thing called a Bibero I once had in Spain.  Not only does it help me to wake in the morning, I enjoy it.  I love the warmth in the morning and sometimes the cold in the afternoon.  I love the flavor of a flavored drink or the simplicity of a really good cup o’ joe.  I enjoy trying new cafes and stands and diners.  I’m a fan, and thankful I get to drink the stuff.  It brings me joy.

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Notes From The Road

We’ve been back home now for a few days, but before we actually arrived here, on the last day of our anniversary road trip, Karen and I made a little list of stuff as we were driving.  Notes about things we saw, stuff we did, people we met, etc.  So without further ado, here it is… our notes from the road.

Alright, maybe not just yet… before I unleash the rest of this post I just want to say that having Karen in my life has been a miraculous thing.  We are so lucky to have  found each other.  It’s a beautiful thing to have been together for 10 years and still feel, and in fact feel more strongly, such a huge love for each other.  It’s also a lovely thing to be “married” to your best friend.  There’s no one either of us would rather hang out with, and amazingly we both feel that way and want to share everything.  It’s wonderful and amazing.  I am beyond lucky, and I know it.

OK… here we go… some notes from the road…

2795.6 miles travelled.

“I bet this would be really pretty if the trees were leafed out”

Favorite coffee: Comet Coffee in Ann Arbor… Pour over, so good.

Favorite espresso: Jimmy’s, Kensington Market location, in Toronto… Americano… Yum!

Favorite City: Portland, ME with Toronto a close second.

Favorite public transport: the Red Rocket in Toronto.

Favorite fish and chips: Susan’s in Portland.  A place that was once  a gas station.

Favorite beach: Kennebunkport (heart rock beach).

Favorite countryside: Coast of Maine, Vermont‘s Green Mountains, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Favorite meal Tam: Montpelier at the Three Penny Taproom… chicken stew with pastry.

Favorite meal Karen: Hot Suppa! in Portland, Maine… fried chicken and sweet potatoes.

Favorite ice cream: Dot’s Ice cream in Bath, Maine.   Second place, for atmosphere, Jumpin’ Jacks near Schenectady, NY

Favorite little town: Bath, Maine.

Favorite B&B : Mayor Lord’s B&B in Meadville, PA.

Most comfy bed: Marriott in Portland Maine.

Best unexpected stop:  Williamstown, MA and Williams CollegeTunnel City Coffee in the town where Thomas went to school.

Favorite zen moment: marina in Portland, sitting on a bench, chatting, looking at the water, 65 degrees and sunny.

Most interesting historical spot: Fryeburg Academy in Maine and Concord Grape Belt, NY.

Favorite tourist attraction: Herb Brooks Hockey Arena and ski jumping site from 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.

Biggest disappoinent: Niagara Falls… Ghetto. Should’ve gone to the Canadian side.

Most interesting fact: ice wine made from grapes that have gone through first freeze… sold in Canada.

Best breakfast: The Senator in Toronto… both food and atmosphere.

Most authentic eating experience: House of Gourmet in Chinatown, Toronto with it’s all Asian crowd, huge menu in Chinese, and hanging meat.

Bump in the road: rental car malfunction in Albany Ny resulting in car exchange at Albany International Airport.

Best fast food: Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs in Meadville, PA.

Noisiest hotel: The Stockdale Inn, Schenectady, NY due to wedding party.

My honey’s big disappointment: not getting a green rock from Vermont.

Interesting natural wonder: rock by lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth, Maine… it looked like wood (we took some).

Life changing moment during trip: sale of Scappoose house.

Personal family moment: driving by the home in Jackson, Michigan where my great grandparents lived when my grandma was born and driving by the memorial site of the hospital where she was born.

Finding great heart rock.

“Pompous grass”

The accent of toll booth guy in N.H.

Coffee at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport (if driving by while drinking coffee counts).

Conversing with people at bed and breakfast who lived in India for a time.

States and Countries visited: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Michigan

Coffee shops visited: 14.

Number of rude people met along the way: 2.  Woman at some gas station in Maine who was terse about bathroom facilities and man at rental car place in Savoy when we picked up the car for the trip.

Favorite souvenirs: raven lunatic t-shirt and huge red lobster.

First drink in three years: strawberry mojito at Hot Suppa! on our anniversary.

Signs for moose, bear, and Amish seen… No actual moose, bear or Amish spotted.

Wildlife spotted: flock of wild turkeys in Maine, sea birds.

Worst weather: Lake Placid… cold and a tad snowy.

“Ride the Red Rocket”

Laughs out loud: too many to count.

Music: 936 songs on shuffle… No repeats… Maine and Back Again Playlist. Awesomeness.

Reminiscing about 10 years together… Priceless.

On routes (Canada’s much nicer version of the rest area).

Nicest person: VIA rail employee in Toronto who walked us a couple of blocks to Union Station and then to where we needed to go inside the station… We told him we wished we could’ve taken him home as souvenir!

Honorable mentions for nicest person: Jimmy’s coffee barista who gave us free croissants, girl at on route stop who talked to us about the toll, red rocket driver, the hotel dude who pointed toward good ice cream in Schenectady, hotel guy in Portland Maine who answered our questions, rental car guy, Steve, at Albany Imternational Airport, also guy in Albany rental car park who let us store our belongings in little locked kiosk while we walked in to get our new rental car.  Lots of nice people along the way.

Best hotel location: tie between Bond Place Hotel, Toronto for great access to transit and downtown, and Portland, Maine Marriott for walking proximity to old port and view of the bay.

Biggest panic moment: when my honey thought she lost her wallet in Lake Placid… It was not lost.

Second biggest panic moment: not having any money for toll to get back into U.S. over Ambassador Bridge and first ATM didn’t work. Thought we might have to learn to speak French.

Frozen Lake Erie was amazing.

Largest Globe we’ve ever seen: Eartha at Delorme.

 

Keyser Soze Has Nothing On Us

Wow.  And wow again.  I think I may have started more than one blog entry with that word and here I am using it once again.  Oh well, I’m getting older and that means repeating myself repeatedly.  I’m OK with that.

I digress…

Wow.  It’s been a whirlwind of activity and adventure since we left our little hovel in Urbana, Illinois for places west on July 5.  Here we are on August 14 and I have no idea where the time has gone.  Day after tomorrow we pack up Thor, our tried and true Volvo, our two pupinos, a bunch of crap, and ourselves for the trek back home.  Six days later, and some 2500 miles we will once again be back in the Midwest.  Where has the time gone?

When we were planning this sojourn we thought, OK, six weeks (including two weeks driving) would be plenty of time, but  then again how can there ever be enough time spent with the people you love.  There are so many people here who are in our lives it’s been tough to see everyone.  We haven’t seen everyone.  That’s a hard one.  To leave without seeing everyone.  Seriously though, how could we?  We’ve been so busy.  Let’s recap…

Six days driving here, get here and have appointment with Oregon oncologist, start treatment in Oregon, see Stan and Connie who drove to Salem just to see us (you guys rock), drive up to Portland to meet my cousin and his family after he finished the STP bike ride, eat pizza, have yogurt, drive up to Burlington, WA (and Marblemount, WA) to participate in the spreading of my grandparents ashes and next day check out the estate sale put on by my Mom and Aunts and Uncles at my grandparents house, from there take off for three days in Long Beach, WA (after a 5 hour drive to get there), enjoy the beach, drive back to Salem, drive back up to Scappoose, dinner with friends who invited us over (thanks SJ and Angela, your house is awesome), trips back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week so I could get my shot in Salem, helping Mom sprinkle some of grandpa and grandmas ashes at Willamette University, work on the yard in Scappoose, and more work on the yard in Scappoose (thanks to Mom and Kev for helping us out with that one of the days… you two are amazing), dinner out with friends (thanks Maggie for taking us to dinner for our birthdays), dinner with friends from Urbana who happened to come to Portland for a wedding while we were here (great dining with you Evelyne and Natalie), showing our friend Jen (who also hails from Urbana) around Portland, and the farm, for three and a half days,  the treat of breakfast out at the Screen Door courtesy of Vicki (thanks girl, the chicken and waffles there can’t be beat!), a few walks in parks both in Portland and Salem with the pupinos, one of which included a piano solo by Karen, a trip on the river with Stan, dinner at Stan and Connie’s place for us with some of our good friends (so great to see you guys), a walk at Cathedral Park with Liz and Jake and Ilsa and Indy followed by a tour of their new house (love it you guys!), a stop by my old office for some chat (Stacia, I love ya girl) and lunch with some of my old work mates (I miss you Josh, Linda, Chris, Liz and Stacia!), packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week (oh, I think I said that already), our annual walk through of one of our rentals with the renters and a drive by of the other, a couple of barbecues thrown for us by POD members, one including splashes in a pool and the other including a tasty salad made with home grown veggies, a couple of trips to the Portland Saturday Market (Sundays too!), a zoo concert (Melissa Etheridge) with some of the POD, dinners out at various places we didn’t want to miss while we were here (Piazza Italia, Little Big Burger, tacos at The Varsity, The Stepping Stone, Ruby Jewel for ice cream, chicken and waffles at The Screen Door, Mississippi Pizza, a food cart or two, Pok Pok, E-San for thai, burritos at Muchas, etc.) all of which made us each gain about 10 pounds, breakfast with my sister Kay, time spent at the farm with Mom and Don, time spent in Scappoose with Kev, packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week like gypsies, sun, fun, and loads of love.

It’s been an amazing time.  We’ve had so much fun.  Though, seriously, I think we’re ready to be home again.  Not that we don’t love it here, and love everyone here, but we’re ready to be home.  Sleep in our own beds, be in our own house, see and spend time with the kids and our little man, who we have missed very much.  I guess that’s what happens when you live in two places.  Live in two places in your heart I mean.  You are always missing something, someone.  That’s the nature of how life works sometimes.  We moved to Illinois to be a part of of the kid’s lives, to be in Sebastian’s life, and we are glad we did.  We wouldn’t change that at all.  It’s just that this is home, and always will be.  The people here and this place make it so.  We are torn, but that doesn’t make us any less happy to be there when we are there, or here when we are here.

That bit there being a few moments of reflection.

So we are heading home on Thursday morning.  Leaving early to get a jump on our longest driving day of the lot.  10 hours the first day.  We’re going to Boise, Idaho by way of Bend and Hwy 20, then Driggs, ID near the Tetons, and from there a drive through the Tetons and Yellowstone and then stays in Sheridan, WY, Chamberlain, SD, La Crosse, Wisconsin, and home.  We’ll get there just in time for the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.  Yum!

We’ll miss you Oregon, and everyone in it.  It’s been a flash, and now we’re almost out of here.  A month, poof, just like that and it’s gone.  Keyser Soze has nothing on us.  We love it here, and we love the people here.  This wonderful adventure has flown by, and been fantastic.  But be rest assured… we will be back.  It’s time for us to go back home, to more people we love, but we will be back.  We will miss you while we’re gone.  But be rest assured… we will be back.

Pronunciamento

I love words and this is a great one. Pronunciamento. Meaning… pro·nun·ci·a·men·to   [pruh-nuhn-see-uh-men-toh, -shee-uh-] noun, plural pro·nun·ci·a·men·tos. a proclamation; manifesto; edict.

I came across this one today as I was looking around the dictionary.  Or more precisely, in this new age, dictionary.com. It’s a wonderful word found in a wonderful place.  Dictionaries are exciting, to me anyway.  I’ve been reading them since I knew what one was and found one in our house.  Words.  Wonderful.

I used to play word games with some of my work mates.  Emails going around with sentences made up of words with the same letter.  Peter picked pickled peppers.  Like that.  We’d start with A and work our way to Z and back again, or we’d rhyme, or be cute some other way with wonderful wacky words.  Fun, to us anyway.  We’d stretch our minds, our vocabularies, and we’d laugh and laugh.  Words are good like that.

Today as I looked around I came across this great word.  Had never heard of it.  And now I love it.  I am also, I think, going to use it here.  Make a pronunciamento about things I’d like to do this summer… a proclamation of sorts.  Here, publicly, live and “in person”.  Maybe if I put some things down here I will do some of them… maybe I already have.  Maybe I would anyway.  No matter… it’s a fun exercise.

(Riley is playing with her Uncle Kevin right now… he’s rubbing her belly, she’s growling, barking, and jumping up to wiggle around and play bite at him.  She’s like popcorn. It’s cute.  They missed each other.)

Anyway… back to the pronunciamento.

100 things to do this summer… and in life.

  1. Be present.
  2. Act with grace.
  3. Ride my bike around town.
  4. Use the frisbee golf set I purchased.
  5. Play with Sebastian.
  6. Eat grapes.
  7. Get my photos better organized.
  8. See an opera again.
  9. Hold hands.
  10. Be patient with people.
  11. Listen.
  12. Walk.
  13. Sing loudly in moving vehicles.
  14. Eat more whole food, less processed food.
  15. Play guitar again.
  16. Travel to foreign places.
  17. Write.
  18. Be silly.
  19. Dance suddenly and randomly at home, and sometimes in public.
  20. Be child like.
  21. Hug my honey more than I already do.
  22. Use the library more than I do.
  23. Make pudding.
  24. Sleep outside.
  25. Be less afraid.
  26. Live more sustainably.
  27. Don’t buy anything for myself, including music, clothes, videos, etc. unless it’s second hand. (related to previous point)
  28. See a few movies in the park.
  29. Stop and listen to live music (street corners, festival bands, etc.)
  30. Paint something.
  31. Go to the drive in.
  32. Take photographs that inspire me.
  33. Continue to evolve.
  34. Give more than I get.
  35. Show respect to strangers.
  36. Buy meat from a farmer.
  37. Write and send actual letters.
  38. Study other cultures and ideas.
  39. Honor my ancestors.
  40. Swim in wild waters.
  41. Walk in Central Park in New York, eat lobster in Maine, watch hot air balloons in New Mexico.
  42. Use the crockpot to make dessert.
  43. Put my feet in lakes, oceans, rivers, puddles, tiny wading pools.
  44. Do another paring down of my clothes and shoes.
  45. Eat tomatoes from our tomato plant.
  46. Sit quietly outside in the wind and sunshine listening to the trees and not talk or play on the computer or phone or any other man made thing.
  47. Live responsibly.
  48. Worry less.
  49. Try new foods that scare me a little.
  50. Use hairbrushes and wooden spoons as microphones.
  51. Give the pups even more attention than they already get.
  52. Go snorkeling.
  53. Take random day long road trips with my honey to nowhere in particular with good music playing and great conversations.
  54. Embrace my dorky nature.
  55. Go to museums.
  56. Dinners with friends.
  57. Be in awe.
  58. Make people laugh on purpose.
  59. Learn.
  60. Make and eat pudgy pies.
  61. Talk to strangers.
  62. Laugh at myself and things that might irk me, but shouldn’t.
  63. Be the nicer version of me in taxing situations.
  64. Do things I love more than things I should do.
  65. Make and drink naturally flavored sun tea.
  66. Make a fort out of blankets.
  67. Smile often and only from the eyes.
  68. Camp in wild beautiful places.
  69. Put my toes in the sand.
  70. Color.
  71. Eat more fruit and less bread.
  72. Read at least two books a month.
  73. Make stuff.
  74. Take care of my honey like she deserves.
  75. Skip, hop, and jump.
  76. See the AFI top 100 films.
  77. Know what’s going on in the world.
  78. Read poetry again.
  79. Play games and cards.
  80. Volunteer my time.
  81. Be passionate in life.
  82. Always look people in the eye.
  83. Wear funky hats.
  84. Write random and unexpected emails to friends and family more often.
  85. Love.
  86. Get paid for being creative.
  87. Take the dogs to parks and on walks.
  88. Be an agent of positive change.
  89. Travel to new places.
  90. Take the train more often.
  91. Ride a bus to Chicago or maybe some other random place.
  92. Sit around our chiminea with good company.
  93. Make a s’more or two.
  94. Say what I mean and only that.
  95. Smell flowers.
  96. Live free.
  97. Eat handcrafted ice cream.
  98. Help out friends and family.
  99. Be kind to myself.
  100. And lastly, though I could go on, laugh laugh laugh at why WordPress has famous nuns and Saint Peter as recommended highlighted links down below this as I type.  Hmmmm….

Fried Egg Sandwiches, Steel Guitar, and Dad

I had a fried egg sandwich the other day. It sounds exactly like what it is… hard fried egg, two pieces of bread, loads of mayo. Yum. I don’t do this often, maybe a couple times a year, but every time I do I think of my dad. He loved them.

Forrest Gilfred Parker…. born April 17, 1943, died June 14, 2006. Dad’s would’ve turned 69 three weeks ago. Seems weird that he’s already been gone 6 years. I’ve been thinking about him on and off since his birthday, culminating in the eating of aforementioned fried egg sandwich.

I loved my dad and still do. Our relationship, for those of you who know us, or me, or him, was complicated. A lot of time spent apart, a lot of time not communicating, but also a lot of love. He was a great kid of a man. I say this because he had, all his life I’m sure, the joy of a kid. He never lost it as he aged. It was fantastic. He wasn’t dealt the best of hands, legally blind, high school at the Montana School for the Blind and Deaf, a father who died when my dad was 16, but he never lost that joy. Amazing.

The thing is, what dad didn’t have in eye sight he made up for in musical talent. My dad was a musical phenomena. Able to play nearly any instrument he picked up, he chose the pedal steel guitar as his baby because it was the hardest to play. Everything else kind of came easy to him. He never became famous, though he played nearly as well as Buddy Emmons, his idol, but that didn’t stop him from playing in all kinds of bands in all sorts of venues. He played music his whole life as well. Famous didn’t matter, the music did. I loved that baby blue double neck. It was probably as big a part of him as his seven children were, and the sight of it always made me smile. I have great memories of listening to him play, laughing and smiling when all the right notes went all the right ways. He could riff with the best of them. Talented.

I also loved the way he ate, or enjoyed food I should say. He seemed to be in constant perpetual motion. He wasn’t a sit around and relax kind of guy. Projects and doing this and that. His blindness progressed to the point he couldn’t work, but that didn’t seem to stop or slow him down. He couldn’t see well, but he moved around a lot. All the time. I was always amazed how he did it without slamming into things more often. He also helped his friends a lot, like helping to put a new roof on the church he and my step mom attended. A roofing blind guy. We, all of his kids, teased him. He was a tease himself. And his laugh… oh my lordy. I could laugh just thinking about his laugh. A full blown giggle combined with a deep down in his gut kind of laugh. Uniquely his own and always with that toothy smile. Dad’s face glowed when he smiled. So he moved around a lot, always on the go, and consequently his food often was food he could eat while running around doing this or that. Loads of sandwiches, and always a cup of coffee, cream and sugar. We all drink coffee now I think, and I think it’s probably a genetic thing as drinking it seemed to be in his blood. And even though he was on the go, eating on the go a lot, he enjoyed his food. Fried egg sandwiches, banana milkshakes or better yet, malts, and sweets. I just remember the joy he got from it. The joy he got from most everything he did.

The same complete joy he got from spending time with his kids. Probably his favorite thing to do. And what a crowd we are. All gray haired, except for maybe Ken, the youngest, all with his playful sense of things, all with his corny sense of humor. The lot of us, if I do say so myself, are pretty darn fantastic. He was proud of us. And we, whether we admitted it to each other or ourselves, were all very proud to call him our father. We are still proud. So the other day I had a fried egg sandwich, and I smiled a little thinking how he would like that. He would like that I was eating it and thinking of him. He would like that I got a bit of joy from it. He would like that I ate it while listening to some good music. The whole scene would’ve been music to his heart. And for my dad, that’s about as good as it got. Music, food, and the cup of coffee I had to go with.

I love you dad, and I miss you.

Christmas 2011, Two Days That Will Live in Infamy

or not….

We had such a great two days over at the kid’s house.  A really lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Pierogi making and toy building and a walk and elf set up on Christmas Eve.  Such a nice day.  Karen makes a mean pierogi… or several of them.  So good.  A new Christmas Eve tradition is born.  From now on every Christmas Eve we will be clamoring for pierogi.  Yum.  After a walk, and food, and after the young gent went to bed we all went into elf mode.  Building toys and setting out his wagon and enormous zebra, later named Zeus.  The kids put together his easel.  All while Christmas music played.

Christmas day Karen and I opened our gifts to each other, and the gifts from Mom for the pups (they loved them… or, more accurately, Weston took to both of them and Riley hasn’t seen much of either since… LOL) while enjoying a quick cup of coffee.  We had to get it all done and then get dressed and head over to the kid’s house so we’d be there before the little guy was up and able to look at the tree.  We didn’t make it before he was up, but he hadn’t looked at the tree yet.  When that little man wakes up he thinks of only one thing… food.  He loves him some oatmeal and applesauce!

So he looked at the tree and the gifts and was overwhelmed.  In a good way.  We all opened, he opened some of his, and we enjoyed some cinnamon rolls. Then Martin made us lunch (pizza) using his new bread maker.  He makes some mean pizza dough and we made some yummy pizzas.  Then a walk (the young man rode in his new wagon part of the way and pushed it part of the way and cared less about it part of the way).  The walk was followed by more present opening for him, he got an unusually high number of presents… go figure.  It was fun.

After a full day Sebastian had a little dinner, played a little more, and then went up for his bath and bed.  Meanwhile the turkey was cooked (it had been started earlier in the day) and Karen and I set about getting the rest of the stuff ready.  The kids came back down and the table was set, the food laid out, the wine uncorked, and there we were… turkey dinner for the four of us with most of the trimmings.  A quiet really nice dinner.  We followed that up with a rousing game of Mad Gab, a game we’d gotten for them for Christmas.  It was totally fun.  At one point Mary and I were laughing so hard we were crying.  Good fun!

It was a beautiful Christmas this year.  Relaxed, fun, totally great.  As Mary said… it’s why we all moved to the same place.  So we could enjoy stuff like this while still getting to sleep in our own beds at night.  The best of both worlds.

What a Weekend… I’m Exhausted!

We had such a fantastic weekend.  So great that I’m tired today.  OK, maybe to be more accurate I should say that I’m partially tired from having to get up in the middle of the night to the let the dogs out.  For some reason, and this is a rare event, they both had to go out.  There’s the little girlie getting up for water and then not jumping back in the bed.  Bad sign.  I got up to find her and she was waiting in the hallway for me.  She ran over to the doggie door and then I heard Weston coming along as well.  I opened the door, they go out, and there I am peeking through the curtains over the sliders trying to see them out in the backyard at four in the morning.  Too funny.  So I could be tired from that.  But, the weekend was so busy, so much fun, and tiring in a totally good way as well.

It started Friday night with a Gal Up (a group we’ve found and joined) event at a local bar, the Esquire Lounge in downtown Champaign.  Drink, food, talk, pool playing, and good times had by all.  A great night with cool women.  Saturday we got up early to go watch Sebastian’s first swimming lesson here in the U.S.  He’s somewhat of a swimming lesson expert as he’s been in them since he was like three months old or something in the U.K.  But it’s been a little while since he’s been in the pool, so he was a tad cautious.  He had a big hold on Mary most of the time.  He didn’t cry, but he was unsure.  By the end though he was a champ, showing that now famous smile all over the place.  He’s going to be great and it was such a blast watching him, and watching Mary be such a fantastic Mom with him when he was unsure and scared and such.  Makes a person tear up watching the kid be so good with her kid.  Impressive.  After the swim lesson we took a jaunt over to Einstein Bagels with the kids to have a little bagel breakfast and then went over to their house for a bit to visit with Ashley, one of Mary’s friends and bridesmaids, who was visiting for the weekend from Indianapolis, where she’s living now.  It was really nice to see her.  Ashley recently got married, the wedding the kids went to over the weekend we did our overnight babysitting for the first time.   After we left the kid’s place we came home, picked up the pups, and headed out to Mahomet and a lovely new to us walking trail out there.  A great spot to walk them.  There are numerous trails to hit so it will be fun to go back out there and see what’s what with those.  On Saturday we only walked for about a mile, one way, because it was really sunny, with no shade, and Weston doesn’t much like the heat.  He was panting and kept trying to lay down in close to the tall grass.  We couldn’t keep going so we turned around, but they got a nice walk in anyway.  Afterward we came home and just enjoyed being here.  Watched some of the World Series, ate dinner followed by caramel corn, relaxed.  Nice.

Yesterday we had a nice mellow morning at home.  Brewed and drank some coffee, we each looked at our fantasy football teams and adjusted (we played each other this week), drank more coffee, pet on the pups a lot, and lounged in our living room.  Later we’d finally had enough of that lounging stuff and took the pups for a long walk.  We discovered a great area on campus only about a 15 minute walk from our house.  Fantastic.  It’s near the Arboretum, which includes the Idea Garden, and Japan House.  So great.  There’s an actual hill over there.  You can see out a ways.  We plan on going back to the garden with a camera to get some ideas.  It is the idea garden after all.  We also plan on taking the pups back over there again.  It’s so close to our house.  It’s so cool that we keep finding all these great places to take the dogs for walks.  We’re loving that.  After the walk we met up with Ann, one of our new friends here in Illinois, and drove out to Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch where we met other peeps and then all did the corn maze.  We ended up splitting into two groups and raced each other.  Texting the other group with things like… Number 5!  There were eight punch stations to get in the maze and we were racing to see which group could get them all first.  We were ahead most of the time, until the end, when they managed to squeak by us for the win.  Damn Dracula! Where were you?!?!  We also looked at the reindeer, the pumpkins, and watched the pumpkin cannon shoot a pumpkin out into a field.  The cannon was pretty impressive.  A fun time with great ladies.  After the Reindeer Ranch we headed home again, hung with the pups for a little bit, and then went over to the kid’s place for dinner.  We played with the grandson, ate some food, and watched the beginning of World Series game four with the kids before heading home where we loved on the pups and finished watching the game.

Whew.

A lot of stuff…. a busy weekend.  Fun.  Illinois is growing on us.  We love the adventure of discovering things in a new place.  We are loving… and let me say… L-O-V-I-N-G… the fall weather here.  Beautiful blue skies, gorgeous fall colors, and warmish (enough to be in t-shirts yesterday).  We are loving being close to the kids and getting to see Sebastian all the time, go to his little classes, hang out and play.  And we are finding some friends, getting to know some people, starting to make a life here.  We still miss everyone in Oregon tremendously, but we are starting to really settle in, and excited about all the new things we’ve yet to discover and do.  Everything is an adventure when you live in a new place.  It’s kinda cool….

A Few photos from the ol’ iPhone

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Falling For Illinois

It’s a rainy, windy, blustery, wet day here in Illinois.  It started yesterday, the blue sky fading as the clouds came in and the rain and wind started up.  It reminds me of an Oregon Fall.  Loads of rain, gray skies, everything just getting soaked.

It’s a cup of coffee read a book kind of day.  Though I just did the cup of coffee part.  Otherwise I was catching up on email and Facebook “stuff”.  Loving on the dogs… like I am right now, excuse me as I pet Weston for a moment… OK, back.

Tonight we head to the kids house with Black Dog Smoke and Ale House BBQ in hand.  No date night this week.  We are just back from our trip so the kids are going to stay home with us and we’re going to hang out.  We’re looking forward to it.

Had a great visit last evening with Karen’s aunt and uncle.  I’d never met them and it had been a long time since she’d seen them.  It’s a perk of living here.  They travel from their home in Minnesota to their son and daughter in law’s place in Atlanta twice a year.  We’re on the route.  It was so lovely to meet them and spend some time getting to know them a little.  I enjoyed their company.

OK… time to pet Weston again.  He’s being a tad needy, but I don’t mind… who can resist that look of love.  Not I, that’s for sure.  I love this little guy…. and his cutie little sister.

 

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Whirlwind

Wow… I’m tired.  We arrived back home at 11:00 PM last night after spending much of the last five days back in Oregon.  What a time we had…

I’m sitting here looking back on it all and I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of love, laughter, and community.  We have a big life there.  So many people who love us and who we love.  Amazing.

We arrived Thursday at about 10:00 PM after a direct flight from Chicago Midway.  Kevin, my brother, picked us up and hauled us back to what used to be our house and is now Vicki and Kevin’s house.  We slept on the hide-a-bed after staying up way too late talking to Kev.  I love my brother.  He’s an awesome man!

Next morning we jumped into our Toyota pickup truck (the one we left in Oregon so my brother could use it if he had to do stuff for any of our rentals) and drove in to Gravy for a fantastic breakfast with Kev.   I love that place.  So good.  After we  all drove down to Mom and Don’s place in Salem.  Kev stayed over there as well, which was great, so we had a really nice time just hanging out at the farm with everyone.  Mom and Don’s place is fantastic.  A true Better Homes and Gardens kind of place.  Gorgeous plantings, landscaping, etc.  It was so nice getting the Mom hugs and just hanging out with her and Don.  I love my Momma.  She so rocks it out!

Saturday, after hanging out more at Mom and Don’s we jumped back in the trusty Toyota and headed back to Portland.  We hit Saturday Market for some wedding gift shopping and some lunch.  After we drove on out to Stacia and Eric’s place to drop our stuff and load Stan’s party playlist on his retirement present… new iPod and docking station.  Then it was off to the fairgrounds to hook up my laptop to the sound system and make sure all was well.  Then… party party party.  We were there from 5:00 to after 11:00.  I got to see so many great friends and people I hadn’t seen in a long long time.  People who I hadn’t seen since I abruptly left when I got sick last year.  It was wonderful getting to catch up, hug some people, and hang out with some fantastic peeps.  Plus, getting to be there to help send Stan into retirement… so wonderful.  I love that man…. he’s  a true sweetie.  A fantastic friend.  He’s family…. many of those people are like family to me.  So much love in that room.  For Stan and for each other.  It was lovely.  When we got back to Stacia and Eric’s that night we had a chance to hang and visit with Stacia a little bit… and then again in the morning for a brief time.  Not long enough… but it was great just getting the time we did.  I love you girl… my sister from another mother!

Sunday we got up and drove back over to our Oregon house to drop off the truck and get a ride from Vicki (thanks girl!) into Maggie’s for the wedding.  Wedding prep ensued.  It was a lovely lovely ceremony.  I love weddings…. after all, they are all about love.  What’s better?  I was so honored to be a part of it.  I love Kate and Terri and am so happy they took this step.  Plus, it was wonderful wonderful to hang out with the POD.  Ladies, you are a classy group of babes and we are so lucky to be a part of this little family we’ve made.  Love love love to all of you.  It was so nice sitting around the chiminea Sunday night chatting it up.

Sunday we got up and hung out with Maggie a bit.  She’d had to take Bernadette (so great to see you again B) to the airport early early that morning and then had come home before work.  So glad she did so we had some time to chat.  You’re house, and you yourself, are fantastic.  We love you!  Later Sandy and Angela came over, picked us up, took us to the airport, and then enjoyed some breakfast with us at a restaurant at the airport.  So so great to get to spend this time with them.  We were rushing so much that getting these little snippets of time with individual people was like getting little gifts each day.  Sandy… you are a gift to us.  We adore you.

It was wonderful… our time back home.  Lovely.  Fast.  Furious.  A whirlwind.  We saw so many people, ran around so much, stayed at a different house every night, but so so good.  So so wonderful.  Our life there is so big.  Our relationships so important to us.  We love each of you.  Know this.

Yes, it was also good to get back home.  Which is nice.  It was great seeing the pups again, great to see Mary and Sebastian this morning.  Great to see Lisa Lynn who was so fantastic to stay with and care for our babies while we were gone.  Girl… you rock and we love you.  Thank you so much!  And… we felt like we were coming home as we traveled back here.  Because, this is home now.  We are making new friends, loving being near Sebastian and his parents, and finding things to love here in Illinois.  We are starting to make a life here… what we hope, and what we can dream… is that our life here starts to resemble, even in a little way, what our life in Oregon has been and still is.  If we can do that, build even a part of that here, we will have done something amazing.  Because people… you are an amazing glorious group… a huge web of love we feel all the way over here in the Midwest.  Much love to you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you….

A Cheese Festival, The Amish, Children’s Museum in Decatur, Barbecues, and a First Birthday

We have had a full week here in Illinois.  Loads of barbecuing at both our house and over at Mary and Martin’s, we went to a cheese festival in Arthur Illinois, which also happens to be in Amish Country so we saw loads of Amish (a first for both of us).  We even bought some Amish goods here at our Saturday Market at the Square this last Saturday when we finally made it over there (yummy cinnamon bread… so good).  We went to the Children’s museum in Decatur and made big bubbles and watched the little boy climb up and down the little slide and pull and pull the fake wooden garden vegetables out of the fake wooden garden.  I had another blow draw (numbers normal… yay!) and a shot this week.  Karen put together the spring thunder horse so Sebastian could ride on it the way Mary did when she was a wee sprout.  Karen saved it all this time just for this moment… when her daughter would have a child and he/she could ride it.  It brought tears to both of our eyes.  We took the dogs in for their first vet appointment to get them checked for heart worm (clear!) and get another round of heart worm meds for them.  We went on a few walks with the pups at Meadowbrook Park (our favorite in town), once with a couple of people we met through the UP Center (LGBT center in town).  And we celebrated Sebastian’s first birthday two days ago.  Who can believe he’s one… wow!  We will be celebrating again tomorrow when some friends of Martin and Mary arrive and Mary makes some delicious spiced cupcakes in the shape of trucks.  Presents have already been opened, but there’s always time to have another celebration… especially when cake is involved!  We had our handyman over and he took the first step in eliminating the spindles between our kitchen and dining room.  Spindles out… now the finish work is all that’s left to do.  He’s coming back on Monday to take care of that.  We have him working on an estimate to put in a garage door opener and then we will have him give us an estimate for putting crown molding throughout the upper floor of the house.

We are adjusting to life in Illinois.  The weather has turned nice.  Cooler… much much less humidity, and cool nights!   We are loving it.  It’s been in the mid to upper 70’s during the day, and in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s at night.  We are actually wearing sweatshirts (with our shorts and flip flops of course… and my honey’s boot… so fashionable) once in awhile now.  I actually had a blanket on my lap last night as we sat down in our media room watching the first NFL game of the season.  My honey scored a load of points on her men in the game… her fantasy football year is off to a great start!

Now… we are going to take the pups and walk downtown to the Common Ground Food Co-op.  Time to get some organics, some deodorant, and maybe a snack for the walk back.  We have to wear sweatshirts… and, it may just rain on us.  We are not complaining!

17 Days in Urbana… and Counting

Life in the Midwest is pretty much everything we expected it to be… yet… more.  And less.  So philosphical.

Karen and I were making a list the other day of some of those differences and I thought, given the fact that I’m sitting here in the office while Karen works and it’s getting hot hot hot out there, that I would do something in our air conditioned house.  Namely blog about some of the differences we’ve found so far after living in Urbana for 17 days.

It’s hot here… and that hot is a different kind of hot.  Hot as in the butter is always soft if you leave it on the counter.  Really soft… melting soft.  Even inside with the air conditioning on.  Not only that… ice cubes melt incredibly fast.  They are there… then poof, gone.  Your glass has sweated all over the table, coaster, napkin, whatever.  Inside mind you, inside with the air conditioning blasting.  Not outside, where ice wouldn’t stand a chance at all.

Sunsets are beautiful here… and the weather creates part of that, but so does the endless skyline.  No mountains to block them out so they last a long long time.  It’s flat.  Really flat.  So the sunsets last and last… lingering over the corn fields and prairie grasses for a very long time.  Gorgeous.

It’s never quiet… during the day there’s the regular noise… cars driving by, people walking by, dogs barking (ours and others), horns honking, garbage trucks, people mowing their lawns.  A cacophony of sound for a couple of girls who used to live out in the country… we’re getting used to it and actually like a certain measure of it.  It’s the symphony of moving life all around us.  The thing that’s shocking is the night noise… the sound of the cicadas.  So loud.  So very loud.  It’s such an interesting thing since we didn’t have them in the Pacific Northwest.  We had the occasional owl sound and sometimes coyotes, but that was only once in a while.  This wall of sound from the cicadas is amazing.  Not annoying to us, just shocking.

Humidity.  We were not prepared.  We thought we were mentally prepared, knew it would be the hardest part of the transition, but we were not prepared.  Neither of us like that kind of heat.  Hot, damp, heavy air.  Not fans.  And it’s not even because our bouffants don’t stay up or that when we tease it suddenly goes limp… and yes, I’m kidding, about the bouffants and the teasing I mean.  It’s an amazing thing, this humidity.  We are learning, slowly, all about dew points and heat indexes and why 60% humidity in Oregon is nothing like 60% humidity here.  It’s a learning curve, and air conditioning is our friend.  That and fans… loads and loads of new fans.

There’s something to be said for a small kitchen.  Our kitchen in this house is small.  Smaller than the kitchen we had in Scappoose.  Not much counter space, and hardly any cupboard space at all.  It’s cool… with it’s granite counter tops, great gas stove and oven, it’s under mount sink.  But it’s small… really small.  But… we like it.  Who knew?  We put up a big metro shelf for storage of food.  It’s all out and open to the room, but we love that about it.  We also got a metro cart that we put spices and baking stuff on and added a cool dark bamboo cutting board to the top of it so we could move it around and use it for chopping and such when we needed more room.  It works great.  When we put our bowls and large collection of coffee cups away from the dishwasher we don’t have to move at all.  Everything is right there. Easy, close, convenient, and very organized.  It has to be.  It is.  We like it.  Simple.  Of course, having a small kitchen is helped by the fact that we can store anything that doesn’t fit, the stuff we don’t use very often, down in our second kitchen.  It’s small too, but it holds the overflow nicely.  We got lucky there.

I had here, next, that we couldn’t find raw dog food… and it was a challenge.  We tried several places with no luck.  We thought, wow… there are a lot of dogs here, we see them all the time.  People love their dogs here, like in Portland, so what gives.  No raw?  Finally we looked up the company that makes it and used their locate our products in your area tab… one place.  In Savoy.  It’s only 4 miles from our house, and it’s a very cool feed/country store.  They have everything a pet owner or horse and cattle man might want.  Plus, they were nice.  So… we couldn’t find it, but now we did, and we love the store.  There you go.  Out in Savoy we also discovered a huge movie theater, a new Shnuck’s grocery store, a Buffalo Wild Wings (Karen was a happy happy woman knowing she could get Asian Zing so close to our house), and a small myriad of other little places.  Savoy is the nearby hamlet that seems to just keep on giving.

Living in a University town again is really cool.  I’ve always loved Universities… the vibe, the life, the people (students and staff alike) rushing to go somewhere important.  This town, these towns, with this huge University at the center of them, is the same.  There will be art, and music, and sporting events galore.  There will be philosophical discussions to over hear in coffee shops and restaurants, there will be slightly drunk young men to talk to outside of the Black Dog Smoke and Ale House when we go to get take out.  Awesome!

Lots of bugs and five times times the size.  There are a lot of bugs here.  And they are big.  Nothing to really expound on except that I saw a thing (and then Mary saw it) at Mary and Martin’s house… it looked like a small bird, only it was a bee or hornet or some such thing that was too awfully big to be anything other than awful.  I’m sure it chased me into their house one day.  I’m sure of it.  I narrowly escaped.  It was frightening.  Mary saw it a few days later going into a hole in the ground in their back yard.  Karen filled the hole with a crap load of sand.  Hopefully that thing won’t be making another fly by appearance.  Creepy.

There are super friendly people here.  Really friendly.  We have had most all of our close neighbors come over to say hello to us.  Two even brought baked goods. We haven’t returned the plate to one of them, so they might not be feeling as friendly toward us right now, but they will again when we bring it back with oatmeal cookies on it.  That’s our plan… bribe them back with our own baked goods.  But it’s not just our neighbors… everyone everywhere we go has been friendly.  Nice nice nice.  They say hello when you pass them, look you in the eye, mean it.  Nice.  Friendly.  Sure, there’s that anonymous neighbor who has called the cops on us twice for barking dogs (admittedly once before we got here and the kids were living here with their dogs… and then one time later when their dogs were over here… though I’m sure it was all four of them barking).  We don’t know who they are, since they wish to remain anonymous, and the police, who came to the door both times, said the second time that really they just wanted to make sure the dogs were OK and not being left outside in the heat.  Once they knew we had a doggie door they were like, no worries…

Nights are (forever without you…. laaaaa…  that song just popped into my head… I digress) warmer for being out and about.  One fantastic thing about living here is the night time weather.  It’s so nice being in shorts and flip flops out and about at 9 or 10 or 11 and it’s warm.  A nice little breeze, but still 75 or 80.  We both love love love that.  It’s summer… and flip flops and shorts, no sweatshirt… awesome!  In fact, the other night when we were at the Sweetcorn Festival waiting for Survivor to start we were both a tad shocked when we said we were just a little chilly.  Not bad, but just a little.  The sweat that happens here, followed by a cool breeze in the evening, even when it’s still 80, cools a person down.  We are acclimating.  And everything is relative.  Any way you look at this one, we love being out and about in the evenings without having to don a sweatshirt… or even take one with us.

It’s really fun to discover a new place.  Every day we find a new restaurant to try, or a new store we want to go to, or a new park to walk the dogs in.  And that’s just in these two towns.  There are neighboring towns and townships, neighboring states and parks, all waiting for us to discover them.  It’s an exciting thing… even just walking the aisles of the local grocery stores.  We’re learning, discovering, experiencing the adventure of it all.  That’s a great fantastic thing.

We’ve worn more wicking t-shirts than ever before, in our lives… they work great.  And they dry fast.  Enough said… this one goes along with the humidity factoid.

Being so close to everything is nice for walking and just going to the store.  Not having lived in town for a very long time, for me, and for a very very long time, for Karen, it’s really nice to get anywhere we want to go in minutes.  I had to drive across the cities on Monday and I got over there in 10/15 minutes.  Easy.  And closer to home we can walk to restaurants, the library, the recent Sweetcorn Festival, and parks.  It’s lovely.  As soon as Karen gets that walking boot off we will also be bike riding.  We’re both looking forward to that.  It’s one of the things we wanted in coming here and our house is definitely in a great spot for that.  Very different from our life in Scappoose where we had to drive to go anywhere.

8.75 sales tax is shocking.  There’s only a 1% on food in the grocery store, but it’s a surprise to us, every time, when we go to pay for something.  No more knowing exactly what you’re spending when you walk up to the counter.  The taxes here are high… and that’s no lie.

Pumping your own gas is cool (karen is not a fan).  For a girl from Oregon I’m used to other people pumping my gas.  I love that I can just whip in to a station, hop out, pump the gas, and go.  Karen isn’t as big a fan as I am.  She likes someone to do it.  To not have to get out of the car.  I may feel the same way when the temperatures turn cold here, but for now I love it.

Having a fenced backyard for the pups is awesome.  In Scappoose we didn’t have a fence.  We did that on purpose as we didn’t want to mess with the aesthetic of the place, but it caused me stress when the pups were outside.  I would worry, too much I’m sure, about where they were, what they were doing, where they were going.  I could never really relax outside if they were out with us, which they usually were.  I was always worried someone would drive up and not see them or they would chase something down the driveway to the road.  Always worried.  Here… no worries.  There’s a completely fenced back yard that’s really decent size.  They are loving it more and more and I love that they have it, and that I don’t have to stress about them.  Ahhhhhh….

The new medical facilities are very nice.  The transition with my medical stuff has gone really well, and the new facilities here are really nice.  It’s sweet.  We will see how it is when Karen goes to get her ankle looked at in a couple of weeks and I go to have a new patient consult with a GP in a couple of weeks.  But so far… it’s good.

Pacific northwest people don’t know anything about thunderstorms… and that included us.  So… yes, I did learn about thunderstorms, as did Kev, when we drove Mary’s car out here in June.  Tornado warnings, black upon black clouds, etc.  Scary stuff then.  But even the regular thunderstorms here… boat loads of rain in a really short amount of time, LOUD thunder and lightening that hits the ground.  It’s fun and fantastic to watch, and also a tad scary at the same time.  I think I like them… and am scared by them…. it’s going to be a love hate relationship.

Shopping is an adventure… none of our known stores are here… besides things like Walgreens I mean.  We have Meijer, and Shnucks, and County Market.  We have the Co-op  and Strawberry Fields for more natural and organics though Meijer actually has some decent organic selections.  It’s learning a whole new system of grocery buying for us.  It’s fun actually.  As is learning about new restaurants and deciding where we should go for my upcoming birthday weekend (we decided on Southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest).  It’s all an adventure… finding new places to take the pups for walks, learning about where to see music,

Lastly, for now anyway… Illinois sweet corn is good.  Very tasty.  We are fans.  Karen is in corn heaven!

It’s continuing to be different, new, strange, good, scary, happy, sweet, sad from missing everyone, great, adventurous, and beautiful to get to spend time with Sebastian, Mary, and Martin.  It’s what we feared, but more than we hoped for.  It’s life… and we are living it!

Conspicuously Absent

Hello out there in Think Tank Land…. Been a LONG time since I posted anything.  What can I say… it’s been crazy.  You will know and understand how crazy when I say I haven’t taken one photo since I’ve been here.  Not one.  Yes, I snapped a couple with my phone, but otherwise… nada.

We’ve had a time of it… moving is hard business.  Ask anyone who’s moved.  Add to that Karen breaking her ankle, frustrations with some things after we got here, helping the kids settle in, etc., etc.  It’s been exhausting.

A good thing…  Thomas, Karen’s son, was here for a week.  He stayed with the kids and we went over every day, once in the morning to take him coffee and then again in the evening for dinner every night.  It was wonderful spending time with him, getting to know him a bit better, just hanging out with him.  It’s a big deal.  And no, I didn’t take any photos.  I know… what was I thinking.  Maybe just that we were in it and I didn’t want to be an observer…   Thomas is a lovely man.  Really.  Sweet, thoughtful, fun to have conversation with, and excited about his upcoming stint at the Yokohama International Student House (where he will live) and the intensive language program in Yokohama.  I’m so glad we got to have this time with him, that Karen got to sit there every night and have dinner with her two children, her son in law, and her grandson.  That I got to be in that with her.  Wonderful.

There have been ups and downs on this journey, that’s still not complete… we have purchased some furniture, but it won’t be here for a couple of weeks so for the time being we are using a futon the kids bought when they first got here.  We will return it to them when our couch and two new chairs arrive.  We need to paint a couple of rooms, buy some rugs, still do some major unpacking (our clothes, put the office together, the storage room together, and deal with the garage).  Yesterday we got the upstairs kitchen all situated.  We even barbecued (our first real cooking here at the house) last night and then ate while watching a movie on our spectacular new 55″ TV.  It’s going to be cool down there in the media room… but yes, it’s still lacking the two recliners (I know… recliners… I can’t believe it myself… LOL) and the sofa/lounger that should all be coming this week some time.

We’re getting there….

The pups are doing better every day.  It’s been rough on them.  All the moving from place to place before we left, then the traveling here (they were total champs by the way), then the new house, going over to Mary and Martin’s and meeting and getting to know their two fur heads Wicket and Ziggy, and just being here, in a new place.  It’s a major adjustment for the little rug rats, but they are sweet and are actually beginning to love their new backyard, and we think their new house.  Weston is laying on the chaise as I type.  He loves it out here.

The weather has been a major adjustment.  The humidity factor, which we knew would be a problem for us has definitely been that.  We went out and bought another fan and have them all going, the ceiling fans going, and the air conditioning set at 70.  We walk outside and it’s like being it by a wall of damp heaviness.  Though today… lovely.  Feels like crisp Oregon weather today.  We’re heading toward fall now, so we should have more crisp than heavy.  At least, that’s what we’re hoping.  We keep saying it’s an adjustment… though everyone we meet here keeps saying you never really adjust, you just live with it.  We combat it yesterday with another stop at Jarlings Custard Cup.  Yum yum!  Nothing says cool down in the summer like a cup of strawberry custard covered in cold fudge and almonds.  Helps to heal what ails ya…. LOL

Now we’re going to head out and get some breakfast at the Cafe Kopi in downtown Champaign.  Kev and I had coffee there when we came out in June with Jennie, the nice woman who knows Mary and Martin and put them up for a couple of nights when they first got here.  It’s a funky place.  A place you’d find in Portland.  I know the coffee is good… we’re going to see if the food is good.

I promise to take some photos (as soon as I can locate my camera bag… I know it’s in the house… where in the house is the question) soon.  It’s a cute house… has a good feel.  And it’s feeling better and better, more like us, all the time.  We’re trying to make it a home… I think we are.

And Mom… we found the cylindrical red gong.  It’s hanging on our front porch… It looks and feels like home.

And that’s the short version of all that’s transpired.  It seems like so much more… and has been.  Who can actually encapsulate everything in a blog post.  Not I…

Pictures will follow…

All kinds of love to everyone out there in blog land…

 

 

Yolk, Fish, The Lake, The Pier, The River, Willis, and Chicago Dogs

What a full day we’ve had. Started off lounging around the room for a bit to let the major part of the storm pass, then we were off and running.

First stop… Yolk for breakfast. Wow. I had the stuffed french toast. French toast stuffed with raspberry jam and cream cheese topped with bananas and powdered sugar with raspberry syrup on the side. Oh yeah baby! That with a side of bacon and a few cups of coffee gets a girl going in the morning. So awesome.

From Yolk we walked to the museum complex where the Shedd Aquarium happens to be. An hour wait in the queue, but it was worth it. Fish, more fish, more fish, a show, a 3D movie, and a really enjoyable time.

After Shedd we took a water taxi, traveling on Lake Michigan, from the museum complex to the Navy Pier. We enjoyed Chicago dogs, me with sweet potato fries and Kev with curly. What is a Chicago dog you ask? It’s a dog with relish, mustard, tomatoes, peppers, a dill pickle, and onions. That’s how they do them and they are good. We also enjoyed the Smith Museum of Stain Glass Windows at the Navy Pier. So cool… and free. Also good. I’d heard about this from Karen’s brother and sister in law when we were all in Chicago for the wedding last year. They went then and showed us some photos. I had to see these windows… and am glad we did. They were gorgeous.

From the Navy Pier we took another water taxi, this time on the Chicago River, to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. We took the one minute 1350 foot journey up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor to stand out on the Ledge. Trippy, that’s what it was. It’s a long way down.

We ended with a walk back to our hotel, a bit of a rest, and then some dinner at the restaurant in the lobby… The Thai Spoon. What did I have? Hmmm… maybe some Massaman with chicken and a thai iced tea. Yeah… that’s what was for dinner.

Now here we are, back in our room, both playing around on our computers, TV on, feet sore, and happily tired. What will we do tomorrow? Well that’s the question… we move hotels tomorrow… leaving the good ol’ Travelodge for a hotel out by Midway. Close to the airport for our earlyish flight on Wednesday back to Oregon. I’m sure we will find something to do… there’s so much to do here. I love this city.

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Champaign/Urbana to Chicago

Well… here we are in the Second City. We started the morning by dropping off Mary’s car at Charlie and Jennie’s place and then getting a ride from Jennie in to the train station. She was wonderful. Took us to the train station, went inside with us as we checked in and got our boarding passes, then took us over to Cafe Kopi for some coffee and really nice conversation until it was time to take us back to the train station. Jennie is great and it will be good to sit down with her for tea and coffee again.

Our train was a bit late, an hour or so, which wasn’t really an issue. We had no time schedule. Once on and rolling it was smooth sailing to Chicago. Both of us with our individual head phones on playing our own music. Kev working on his laptop, me mostly just staring out the window. A nice mellow ride… and we didn’t have to drive. Yay!

We got in to Chicago, oriented ourselves (with the help of the iPhone GPS) and walked the 20 minutes from the station to our hotel. We checked in, dropped our bags, and immediately went in search of food. Not just any food, but Chicago food. Pizza. That’s right… Lou Maltani’s pizza. So good. I mean… really good. We loved it big time.

Then it was walk time… had to walk off some of that pizza. We walked over to Michigan Avenue and took a stroll up to Millennium Park. All kinds of stuff going on near the Art Institute, at the Jay Prytzker Pavilion, and the Crown Fountain. We saw tango dancing, heard Dennis DeYoung (lead singer of Styx) singing with his band live and for free, took our photos at the bean, and marveled at the beauty that is Chicago architecture. That’s just day one.

We are now comfortably ensconced in our room, hooked into the internet, TV on, loads of water here for the drinking to combat the humidity. It’s supposed to be rainy today here, but wasn’t and isn’t. It was humid, but beautiful. A few clouds, but loads of blue sky to go with. They say thunderstorms tomorrow, but who knows… hopefully we’ll get more of what we had today. And if not… s’ok. We will still be out exploring more of this gorgeous city.

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Rifle, Colorado to Hays, Kansas

It’s day three and here we are, safely ensconced in our hotel room in Hays, Kansas. It’s been a hell of a day. Started off pretty nice up in the Rockies, had a wonderful lunch time visit with a new old friend (Jan, it was lovely to meet you and put a face to all of the correspondence and commenting we’ve been up to for quite awhile now), and then… then… well… thunderstorms. Severe thunderstorms with lightning, pea sized hail coming down so hard it piled up an inch or two high on the highway, rain pounding down with it, cars driving so slow all with hazard lights on, and Kev and I just saying to each other… press on, if we can get ahead of it we are good to go. We pressed on… and we did. Scary moments for sure… not the least of which was when the emergency alert came over the radio that there was a tornado warning for our area. Both Kev and I started scanning like mad and planning where we would park and run if we had to try and get away from one. Like I said… some scary and nerve racking moments.

Then… well… we thought we were in the clear… literally. We made it through that storm and were heading full speed ahead toward what was supposed to be our stop for the night when I checked the weather up ahead. Low and behold there was another group of severe thunderstorms heading straight for Salina. They were bigger and looked much worse than what we’d driven through… so we made the decision. Turn around and head back to Hays, which was about 20 miles behind us, instead of motoring on to Salina, 78 miles ahead. We were done for the day. There was no way we wanted to be heading into all the lightning we say in that direction not being able to see anything else because it was now dark outside. I decided to forgo the reservation we had, forgo the money we’d lose, to keep our nerves better intact. Good decision. Oh, and the photos… I didn’t take any at all during the worst of it. None. I was too busy obsessing about what was going on around us to pick up my camera. I did take a 13 second video with my phone. I’ll try to post that as well.

Tomorrow we read there is the possibility of more severe thunderstorms ahead. Pretty much all the way to Champaign. And, we have further to drive than originally planned. I’m hoping for a more mellow drive… fingers crossed. Lets just get there already! LOL

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Twin Falls to Rifle

Day two found us traveling 559.1 miles through a couple of thunderstorms with a couple of stops for gas and a stop in Fruita for food. Music playing, photos taken, another day of conversation. We are halfway to Champaign/Urbana! Kev is in Colorado for the first time ever, pretty exciting! Tomorrow we go to Kansas… lookout Dorothy!

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First Stop Hood River

First stop on the Parker sibling great American road trip… Oregon to Illinois… Finds outr intrepid adventurers in Hood River getting gas, a coffee refill, and subway healthy breakfast sandwichs. We are off to a great start folks…. And the sun is starting to peak through!

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Massages, Food, Movies, and More… Anniversary Weekend 2011

It was a lovely lovely weekend, this year’s anniversary weekend was.  Sounds a little Dr. Seuss there, but what can I say… it was.  We started the fun on Friday with our usual Fun Friday adventure.  This particular Friday we decided on miniature golf and burgers at Steakburger and Golf-O-Rama in Vancouver.  I’d never been there, Karen had.  She used to take the kids there when they were younger.  We had a great time.  Great burgers and a shared chocolate shake followed by 18 holes of mini golf.  She beat me by one point.  One.  We sort of sucked, but we didn’t care.  It was fun and the weather ended up being perfect for it.  We finished in time to meet some of our friends for the regular Friday at 5:30 get together at Crush.  Always good to see the POD.  A great ending to another fun Friday.

Saturday, our actual anniversary, my honey told me we had to leave by 9:30, she put an address in the GPS, and told me to listen to the commands and go where it said to go.  Two and a half hours of listening to music, talking, singing, and laughing later, we pulled up at the Rejuvenation Spa in Lincoln City where she’d scheduled a couples massage.  I’d been saying I wanted to get a massage for a long time.  Neither of us had ever had one before… rookies, that’s what we were, and it was actually pretty great. We have no clue if they were really good as we’d never had one before, but we felt relaxed afterward, and I definitely felt less tense.  It was nice and we are now saying we need to try it again.  After all, we have to have something to compare it to.  Naturally.  We were pretty hilarious in the little room after our masseuses gave us a few minutes to disrobe and get ready.  We were laughing a little and saying to each other… are you going to take it all off, I don’t know, are you, yes, I think I am, so am I, OK, let’s go… then it was a quick scoot onto our respective tables and a cover up with our respective sheets.  We always seem to have fun, no matter what we are doing.

After the massage we went over to nearby Mo’s for a little seafood lunch.  We split it, our new thing, and it was good.  They were busy, as usual, but we managed to get in pretty quickly and also ended up with a table by the window.  Gorgeous.  The weather was so great over there on Saturday.  Partly cloudy, warmish, not a lot of wind.  It was so beautiful out we went out onto the beach at Siletz Bay and ended up walking for two hours after lunch.  There were sea lions, gulls, loads of people out, and most importantly, us just spending time together.

We stopped at Safeway on our way out of Lincoln City, headed home, for some water and chocolate.  Of course.  We drove the same way back as we’d really enjoyed the drive, with one added stop.  We pulled off at the Chinook Winds Casino and did a tad bit of gambling.  For us the operative words there are tad bit.  We walked in saying $20 each and walked out about a half an hour later ahead five dollareenies, not each, total.  Not a huge gain, but when we got ahead we were like, Ok, that’s it, let’s quit.  We were feeling quite satisfied with ourselves.

Nearly home we stopped at Dairy Queen, picked up a couple of Blizzards, came on home and settled in with Despicable Me on the DVD player and Blizzards in hand.  A nice quiet end to a long and wonderful day.

Sunday we met a friend at Starbucks near the Fox Tower 10 and then walked over to the theater to meet the rest of our party for a group viewing of Hanna.  The consensus about the film… interesting.  Karen and I decided later, as we talked about it more, that it failed because it didn’t have enough heart.  While some of the filming was cool, and the concept was good, we didn’t really care enough about her or her predicament because we didn’t know enough about her.  Cate Blanchett was, as always, great.  Whenever she’s onscreen you pay attention to her.  She’s good.  The girl’s (Saoirse Ronan) acting was good too, but there just simply wasn’t enough back story to like her or care.  No heart.  We followed the film with a late lunch at Shigezo.  It was OK.  Not really spectacular, though the California rolls were really good.  Apparently the sushi there is very good, we just don’t really like sushi… except I like California rolls.  We had a katsu chicken curry we shared and it was alright.  The chicken on it was tasty, but the sauce was more like gravy or some such thing.  Not great enough to repeat. Then it was home and cleaning up and cooking for the return of the kid’s after their trip to Sunriver.  They had a great time over their weekend as well, so nice for Mary to get to see her long time friends.  They hadn’t all seen each other since the wedding.

I’d say this weekend was up there as far as anniversaries go.  This was our eighth.  Karen of course is now saying we’ve been together for almost nine years.  She does this, always the day after our actual anniversary.  I love that about her.

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AM Snacks… For Lunch

I recently went out fishing with a couple of great guys.  We went out on Stan’s boat… we always go out on Stan’s boat.  He’s the man.

When you go out salmon fishing on the Columbia River with Stan you usually have to get up early… when it’s still dark and cold out.  There are two things to remember… dress warmly with loads of layers AND don’t forget your AM snacks.  AM snacks for me always include pretty much the same things.  Why?  Well you know when you go to a certain restaurant and before you ever even get there you are craving your favorite thing from the place?  Yeah… that’s how AM snacks work for me.  I know I’m going out on the boat and for some reason I always want the same things.  They aren’t healthy… string cheese, old wisconsin beef bites, wheat thins, Peanut M&M’s, hot chocolate in a thermos, and this time a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  It’s a mixed bag of stuff.  The thing is, I always buy and take too much.

So here I am, messing around on the computer and snacking on left over AM snacks…. yum.  Nothing like eating the snacks that keep on giving.  I seem to have a nearly endless supply.  Still more string cheese and beef bites and wheat thins left.  Oh my.

By the way… I caught a fish the last time out.  Not a huge one, but I will take it.

Fun Fridays

It’s Friday so you know what that means…  another Friday afternoon out exploring something or somewhere new.  This Friday we started by doing some errands.  Nothing much new about that.  Bully sticks for the pups, and a new low beam bulb for the Volvo.  Oh, I guess I should say coffee and chai first… then sticks and bulb.

After that however we called a couple of friends and got the name of a Thai place we’d been told about but had never been to. We are always looking for a new Thai place as it’s our favorite kind of food.  And, thanks to our friends, we were able to get the info we couldn’t either of us remember.  E-San.   Yum.  The reviews were correct… the place is good.  Yum yum.  We will be back.

Following the great late lunch/early dinner we walked around a bit in the Pearl… stopping at North Face and REI looking for winter jackets.  Yeah, we know it’s Spring soon turning to Summer, but then it will be Autumn turning to Winter and we will be then living in the Midwest where it is C-O-L-D.  We want to be prepared.  I guess we should start looking for down jackets for the pups as well… ya think?  Hmmm….

Finally, after some shopping (we didn’t buy anything yet), we ended up at Crush where a few of our friends were meeting (we found this out when we called around asking about the Thai place… nice little coincidence, we call and they happen to be meeting and we get invited… yay us!).  We had some tasty and refreshing beverages with them and some, as always, great conversation.

It was a very nice Fun Friday Adventure.  I love these little afternoons sneaking away.  Time for us to just do what we feel like doing, be together, and… well… have some fun.

Get Motivated… Or Not

Yesterday I attended the Get Motivated gathering at the Rose Garden in Portland, OR.

The Pros… Some great speakers that I actually enjoyed… Terry Bradshaw, Colin Powell, Bill Cosby, Rudy Giuliani (he was a tad boring, but it was cool to see him speak) and yes… Laura Bush. Also attended with some great friends… Kate, Sandy, Maggie… loved hanging with you guys for a day. Spending time with you always makes whatever I’m doing better. A decent chicken sandwich with some pretty tasty french fries… yum. Also a Haagen Dazs ice cream bar and like three bottles of water (not to mention a cup of very mediocre but necessary coffee). In short, or long, the food was OK.

The Cons… Parking was a bummer and I ended up being late (which I usually never am) after having to park at the Loyd Center (paid $8 to do that) and then rode the MAX to the gig. I walked to my car after it was over instead of riding the MAX… WAY too crowded for this girl. Also… some of the speakers, not mentioned above, were a tad preachy (literally and figuratively)… NOT my cup o’ tea. Kate and I left during the first of these extended sales pitches and got ourselves some early lunch. The lunch was much better than that particular talk. Another couple after lunch went on way too long and were again sales pitches wrapped up in a preachy type of presentation. It might just be me, but I can’t take that.

All in all it was cool seeing some pretty great people talk, and it was probably worth it. Though I can’t see myself doing this ever again even though I’m kinda glad I went this time. Was I motivated? Probably not any more than I already am…. so, in name the thing failed, but ultimately it was a pretty good day… so, there’s definitely that.