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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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.

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.