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.

cinnamon

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.

1534876_10152212584160802_2075198641_o

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.

SliceMenuWall

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.

1471313_10152118417475802_1262614362_n

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.

966861_10152212598445802_1963504907_o

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.

1399146_10152032865670802_954895830_o

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.

The-Blacklist

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.

893068_10151671209620802_1987702919_o

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.

1094041_10151884167640802_293897564_o

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.

zojocovercoffee (1)

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.

1269536_10152006322545802_173713000_o

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.

l

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.

13_Honda_PCX150_1

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.

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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….

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!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Friends, Movies, And Food

We had a great day yesterday.  Time spent hanging out with great friends, eating together, and going to see a couple of Academy Award winners we hadn’t seen.  I’m going to talk about that a little…

Black Swan…  Natalie Portman did do a fantastic job.  The whole film relies on her acting.  You have to be drawn in, wondering what is real, what isn’t, believing like she does that what’s happening is real.  Shocked to learn it isn’t, then still not sure, wondering.  It’s uncomfortable, disturbing, and at times horrific.  Three of us saw it together and were all covering up our eyes during certain scenes, peeking through our hands and fingers as grotesque and hard to watch things were happening on the screen.  I can’t decide if I liked this movie.  As I said, Natalie Portman’s performance was magnetic, compelling, and very very good.  I can see why she won.  It’s just that I don’t know if I liked the movie as a whole.  I’ve heard from others they thought it was depressing.  I didn’t get that.  Not depressing.  To me it was, I guess I’ll say it again, disturbing.  One of those films I’m glad I saw, but would never want to watch again.

Dragonfish…  A restaurant downtown we’d wanted to try for quite some time.  In between films we met up with the POD, as we call ourselves, to enjoy a nice late lunch.  The day’s plan was that whoever wanted to join for the first movie would join, we would then all go to lunch with whoever wanted to show up for lunch, and then whoever wanted to go to the second movie would go to that.  A sort of choose your participation day.  So, Dragonfish…  first, the service was terrible.  We couldn’t really figure out who our waiter was and whoever it was didn’t come over often.  S-L-O-W.  We weren’t too put out as we had tons of time, but still… it’s annoying.  Then the food… not terrible… just not great.  We had high expectations, had heard good things, but seriously… not stellar.  The company, fantastic as always, the food and the service… not so much.  We won’t be back.  None of us.

The King’s Speech…  Really really good.  It’s one of those films that’s both interesting and feel good.  Colin Firth was awesome in it, I don’t know how he got the stammer down the way he did, and the pain behind it.  Great acting.  And it was obvious to me why both the film and he won the Academy Awards.  It was also quite beautiful.  Loved the perspective in some of the scenes.  It was anything but slow and boring, as some people thought it might be.  Keeping our attention from beginning to end.  Just a fascinating film.  Who knew?

We said goodbye to the friends who’d seen the King’s Speech with us and then walked back up the couple blocks to the streetcar stop, just catching the train as we rounded the corner and ran up to it.  Nice timing.  It was a great day.  Any time you can spend several hours with people you love, respect, and enjoy it’s lovely.  Thanks guys for a wonderful day.

Another Episode of Friday Adventures

Here we are folks, another edition of the Kam (our celebrity combo name given to us by our good friend Sandy) Friday adventures.

Today finds our adventurers enjoying a tasty lunch of soup, lettuce wraps, and spare ribs at PF Changs. Yum. If you haven’t been to PF Changs or had their lettuce wraps you are missing out. SO good. We went outside the box today, in keeping with doing something new, by ordering soup. Karen had hot and sour and I had the traditional egg drop. Best egg drop I’ve ever had. Really deep flavor.

Next is a walk over to Sur La Table for a few kitchen items and then who knows what. We are downtown, it’s beautiful out, and we don’t have to be anywhere until 6:45 tonight. We can get into some good mischief between now and then.

Life From The Backseat

I’m in the backseat of Kev’s car heading back up north to Portland and then home. We just had brunch with Mom and Don at Word of Mouth in Salem (Karen and I split creme brûlée french toast and homemade hash. Yummy!)

It’s glorious out. One of those fantastic late fall days where the air is crisp, the sky blue, and the mountains in the distance so clear. Absolutely gorgeous.

I’ve spent the day with people I love who love me. There is nothing better.

 

Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving so I thought I’d write a little about being thankful….

As you all might be aware we decided to do something different this year for Thanksgiving.  Something fresh and new.  Something we’ve never done before.  We ended up going out for Chinese food.  A great idea in theory…. and if you talk about the company alone it was most certainly a great idea, but the food… not so great.  We cannot recommend House of Louie.  However… I am thankful we got to spend the meal with great friends who we love very much.  Afterward we headed to Maggie’s place to meet her dad and step mom and say hello to her dinner guests.  We enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate while we were there.  I’m thankful for the graciousness and love Maggie always shows us when we go to her place and for the sincere love we both felt from the other people present.  It touches my heart to know how many people have been thinking of me/us these past months.  I’m deeply humbled by their genuine outpouring of emotion.

I talked to Mom this morning, she called to say a big happy Thanksgiving to us.  I’m grateful and thankful I have the amazing mother I do.  Mom, you are the best… hands down.  I’ve been lucky to realize, all along, what a gift I have in you, and that feeling of love, gratitude and thankfulness for having you in my life just gets stronger with each passing year.  I love you.

I’m also thankful for the family and friends near and far I didn’t get to see today, but felt none the less.  You all mean so much to me.  I can’t express how blessed I feel to have you all in my life.  We might not see each other that often or as much as we would like, but I value having you in my life… so very much.

I’m so thankful and grateful I ended up with a great step daughter and son in law who I love very very much. They have given us the most wonderful gift this year… a new grandson.  I can’t wait to meet him.

And most importantly… my honey.  How can I not talk about her, but what do I say?  Every day I wonder in awe at the amazing luck I had in finding you.  I don’t know what I did to get you in my life, but I am thankful for it every day.  I know I can be moody and difficult sometimes… can’t we all…. but I look at you and get that feeling inside, the complete sense of joy when you are doing something so cute, and I forget I’m moody.  I stop being difficult.  I’ve never felt joy like this, like the kind you’ve brought to my life, my heart.  I am more than thankful for you honey.  I am blessed to have you.  I am awed by you… and I am grateful, to the bones, for you.  You make me so happy.  Our life makes me so happy.  So thankful.

I feel so lucky, so thankful, so happy.  It’s amazing.  This is, as I’ve said… such a beautiful life.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone…

Busy Weekend

It’s been a busy busy weekend.  Friday night dinner at Stan and Connie’s, with Stacia, Kev, my honey and I.  It was a great time.  Excellent food, as always, fantastic company ( I love you guys), and just really relaxing and comfortable.  Then yesterday Karen and I headed over to Maggie’s for a pumpkin carving party (plus chocolate treat making and some great ribs… thanks again Kate!).  We carved pumpkins, made chocolate pretzel treats, ate some great ribs, chatted it up with the pod (the name we all use for this particular group of women we hang out with), and watched some football and the World Series game.  Also a fantastic time with a fantastic group of women.  We love you guys.  It’s always so good to spend time with you.  This time pretty special since it was the first time we’ve been able to get together since the whole leukemia thing happened.

Today, Halloween, we are hanging at home.  Karen and Kev are out doing yard work… picking up and blowing leaves.  Quite the chore around here.  Earlier they went to winterize one of our rentals (they also picked up a chicken sandwich and potato wedges for me… my first craving realized.  :-)  I have started craving stuff again.  It’s a thing I really never thought about before, but craving stuff is something I haven’t done in the last few months, my appetite and such is coming back… it’s a good thing.  It’s actually pretty nice out there.  Perfect fall day for doing the leaf thing.

This week coming up I have a blood draw, a bone marrow biopsy, and possibly my weekly shot on Wednesday.  Last week my neutrophil and white counts were down a bit after getting the shot the week before and taking the low dose chemo for a week (the red counts were up a bit, which is great for the energy level).  We asked my doc some questions about it, he looked into it a bit, and ended up taking me off the pills (since Friday) and we may hold off on the shot.  I will be back on both when my counts are up again.  He may adjust the pill or shot amount to keep my counts from dropping too low.  We don’t know how low they will go if I stay on the current doses, etc.  It’s a process of finding the right thing for me.  I’m still on the ATRA (I have a few days left on my 15 day cycle this round), but the other stuff, both low dose chemo, is on the back burner until after the blood test this coming Wednesday, which will happen before the bone marrow biopsy.  Then, on the 10th, after another blood test, and probably a shot, we have an appointment with my doc to chat about maintenance and everything.  We are trying to get the plan, and me, stabilized so that Karen and I can go to England in December and January, as planned.   Everyone cross your fingers, send those vibes and prayers, wishes, and hopes, that all goes well this week and that we get everything else worked out.  It would be great to meet my grandson and spend Christmas with him and his parents.

For now, today… I’m keeping track of my fantasy football teams and hoping for a couple of wins (I’m in two leagues… LOL).  I am also hoping for a win for my honey.  Goooooooo honey!

Visiting With Family

A nice Saturday.  We took a drive to Mom and Don’s place to see Grandpa, Aunt Susie, and Uncle Jim…. all visiting from up North.  So great to see them.  It’s been a few months and I always love spending time with family.  Mom and Don made a great feast for us, as they always do.  Just a really nice time.  It was also a nice drive down there… music playing, Karen and I sipping on our respective chai latte and earl gray tea latte.  Nice… mellow.

 

Maintenance

Hey all… been a few days.  Again.  We had a busy weekend, a lay low day on Monday (Karen had to work, but we didn’t go anywhere), went to get some new glasses ordered for Karen yesterday and stopped off at the park to take the dogs for a walk on the way home, and now today we are going in for my first shot and to pick up my meds and do my blood draw.

Last weekend… had a great weekend.  Went to a family dinner at Mom and Don’s place on Saturday.  It was great seeing everyone.  Really good.  Had some tasty vittles as well.  Then Sunday we went to Chris and Jessica’s wedding.  It was great seeing so many people from the Juvenile Department.  I miss them and it’s always so nice to spend time with them.  They rock.  The wedding was nice as well.  Casual, comfortable, and laid back.  Nice.  Congratulations Chris and Jessica!

Maintenance starts today.  Two years of it, but hey… I get to get back to more of a normal life.  That’s the best part.  I will have a shot every Wednesday that we have to go to the clinic for and a med I’ll be taking every day.  Then there’s the ATRA that I will take for 15 days every three months.  Not too bad really.  We can work around it.  We picked Wednesdays for the shot so that we could go away for a long weekend if we wanted to and it wouldn’t interfere.  We are now working with Nancy to try and get it squared away for our planned trip to England over Christmas.  We already had our tickets before this all started and now are trying to work it out so that I can get my shot from an oncology department either in Lancaster or close to it.  Go Nancy!

I have an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor on Friday.  My oncologist referred me.  I have this itchy throat that won’t quite go away.  Some days are better than others, but it’s annoying.  It makes me cough… sometimes so hard I start gagging.  Though I have a really sensitive gag reflex so it doesn’t take much.  But anyway… Dr. Bigler didn’t see anything in my throat, but wanted me to see someone who could look a little bit more.  They may put a little camera down my throat… yuck.  We shall see on Friday.  I just hope they can do something about this itch.  Maybe it’s allergies… maybe it’s my throat, etc. healing after my GI track was beaten up all this time by chemo… we don’t know.  Like I said… we shall see what the doc says on Friday.

Otherwise…. the weather is good.  Supposed to start raining tomorrow evening, but for now it’s beautiful. Blue sky out there.  Really lovely.  I love fall weather actually… it’s sunny, yet crisp out there.  It’s supposed to get up to almost 70 today, which is wonderful, but it’s crisp out there right now.  The light is always so fantastic in the fall.  Did anyone see that moon the last few nights?  Wow.  So bright out there.  Hope everyone has been enjoying these lovely lovely days!

Sunday… After Blood

Here we are, my sweetie and I (and the pups), hanging at the house today.  Karen woke up at 5:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep (still on England time I think), so she got up.  Luckily we went to bed so early and she went to sleep pretty early so she actually got enough sleep.  It’s seemed like a long day, especially for her, so it’s been really nice.

Yesterday we spent several hours at the infusion center while I got a transfusion.  At least there was a TV in the room, plus we got to talk to each other, in person.  So nice. The only faux pas of the day happened just as we were leaving.  She was pushing me out in the wheel chair when I asked her to look at my neck, which felt hot and itchy.  She did and then we got the nurse and he said… looks like hives, back to your room for you.  They put in another IV and gave me some IV Benadryl and then had us stay for another hour or so to watch me to make sure I didn’t have any other issues and that the hives went away.  They did.  We all didn’t know if it was a reaction to one of the bags of blood, or if it was unrelated, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

We got home last night and at one point a bat started flying around in the family room.  Kev opened up the door and eventually it flew outside.  We have no clue how it got in.  Must have come in through a door at some point, though we don’t make it a habit of leaving the doors open at night very much.  I personally think it just sensed that there was another blood sucker in the house and it wanted to commune with it’s peeps.

So, back to today… mellow.  Nice.

I have a blood draw tomorrow.  Hopefully the numbers start coming up.  It will be day 19 of my cycle, so there you have it.  We’ll see what’s up.  I do feel a little stronger today after getting the blood yesterday.  That part is nice.  I left the infusion center saying I hopefully wouldn’t be back.  They said… well, the last chemo treatment is usually the hardest on the numbers and the body, so you may be back.  I say… one day at a time.

For now my honey is making dinner, Weston is sitting next to me on the sofa chewing on a bully, the little girlie is in the kitchen with Karen, and I’m watching the Next Iron Chef.  I’m so addicted to these competition cooking shows.  Who knew…

Day Four

It’s day four and it’s almost over and on to day five. Tomorrow, after chemo and a bit of time after for recovery, pick up of meds, and getting our stuff in the car, we will hopefully be heading home by mid afternoon. Can’t wait to get back home this time. Definitely more relaxed and mellow there.

Today they premeded (not exactly a word, but you know sometimes there are no words but the ones we make up) the heck out of me…. Steroids, anti-nausea, Ativan, Tylenol, and an in iV dose of benadryl. It seemed to do the trick along with holding warm compresses to my vein/iV site during the infusion. Quite the process. The new IV site is in a smallish vein and my veins are small anyway… And they shrink up when I get nervous. Like I said, a process. But hey, one more day in this round. Yay! Almost over and home.

Karen went to Spaghetti Factory again this evening. Food and another dose of Ativan (which is for nausea as well as nerves), plus a walk, has calmed the nausea I was having. That was awhile ago. Now I’m having some tea my honey made. Decaf green mandarin orange. She also rubbed my feet during the infusion and then my back later… Earlier this evening. She is amazing.

Cheesecake Factory Teaser

Day three…. New IV site this afternoon after my chemo round earlier today. The first one lasted three days. Not bad considering the harshness of the chemo drug and the steroids they have to keep pushing because of my continued throat reaction. The first site was getting sore, hence the change of site. Hopefully this one lasts the two days it needs to. Crossing fingers for that and a lesser reaction to the chemo med. This throat thing is a bit disconcerting.

In other news Karen went to get us some dinner tonight after she worked all day. She was able to get online via the card today so that was great. Made it easier for her to be with me and to do the meetings she had to do. The dinner was from Panda Express…. Orange Chicken over rice for me in a bowl and orange chicken and Beijing Beef with rice for her. Tasty. For dessert we were going to have cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory because my honey thought she saw one at the Clackamas Town Center. Alas, after getting our taste buds all psyched for it she got there and realized there wasn’t one there. The dessert alternative? Chocolate and toffee nut cookies from Panera (also a great choice!). It was all good if you ask me. We only ate a chocolate cookie each so we still have some for snacks tomorrow. Yay! It’s the small pleasures in life!

We are both anxious to get out day after tomorrow. We’re tired of being here. Everyone is wonderful, as usual, but we would much rather be home. We are over the hump now and heading to the home stretch. Not long and we will be back at home. Two more nights. One more take out dinner. :-)

Chef Salad

Had a lovely chef salad today for lunch accompanied by a wheat roll and a small tidbit of a brownie. It was so nice to be able to eat a salad with veggies on it. Really…. You don’t realize how much you miss them until you can’t have them.

Had my second round of the blue stuff today with all the same blue side effects. Denise, I sent you a picture. It was a tad bit of a struggle with the iV, but it held. I got Ativan beforehand to help me, and consequently my veins, relax. Karen also spent the whole time massaging my feet to try and keep me relaxed. Not to mention the warm compress on the Iv site and my arm. A process that worked today. Three days to go, we shall see if it holds. Gracy, my sweet nurse yesterday and today, is off the next two days so we will have to train the new one on all my little idiosyncrasies. They are all pretty sweet so it should be ok. If all else fails I’ll get a new IV site. Hopefully not, but if I have to I do. The nurses wish I had a picc line again, and really so do I. Alas, it is not so. I’m keeping positive, with Karen’s help, and after all, we will be back home with this behind us on Wednesday afternoon. Yay!

Karen has been keeping me company and trying to not get too bored. She is wonderful.

Last night she went out for dinner for us, picked up some pasta and brought it back to the room. It was tasty tasty. Tonight, who knows…. Probably something good as well. We went for a walk around the loop here this morning and probably will again later today.

And now Nate is here to do vitals…. Cheers.