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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We had such a fun time with you this last weekend. Your Mommy and Daddy went to Chicago for the weekend so we got to stay with you while they were gone. We had so much fun!
We came over in the morning on Saturday and you were already up. Your parents left and we played for a while. You and your Grandma took out your new tractor, farmer, and animal set and ran it all over. Your Grandma Tam got a basket that we used for the barn and you started putting your animals in the barn and then taking them out and putting them back in the tractor. You were very cute. Then your Grandma showed you how the farmer could the animals to the grass and watering hole. So then you took out your animals so they could eat and drink. You would take them out and put them on the grass and then take them over to the watering hole, which was really the dogs water bowl, but it worked good as a watering hole. You really liked this and you did it for a long time. So much fun!
After that you were tired so you went down for a nap. Your Grandma asked you if you wanted a nap and you said yes, so got one. After you had a nice sleep you had some lunch. You like lunch. And after lunch you got all dressed up in your jacket and hat and we took you from your house to your Grandmas house for awhile.
You like it at your Grandmas house because Thunder, your spring horse, is here and so are your friends (the animal flash lights you love so much). Plus we have all your little animals here and every time you come over you get a new one. You think that’s pretty neat. We played for a couple of hours and then we went back to your house, with Weston and Riley this time.
We played some more and then you had dinner, a bath, and story, and then you went to bed. The next day you had breakfast, played, had a nap, lunch, and then your Mommy and Daddy came home.
It was a fun adventure hanging out with you. It always is. Your Grandmas are so lucky to get to spend so much time with you.
We love you Sebastian…
We had the best Christmas this year and it was all because of you. Christmas is the time when a person should feel a lot of joy and enjoy a lot of warm family gatherings. Because of you your Grandmas felt both of those things.
We spent a lot of time over at your house with you and your Mommy and Daddy. We ate good food, your Grandma made pierogi on Christmas eve. You liked it very much, just like the rest of us. So good. Then after you went to bed Santa got to work.
Your Grandmas came over early Christmas morning so we could see you see your presents under the tree for the first time. You really liked your wagon and Zeus. We were so happy you did. We spend a lot of time opening presents. You are such a loved guy you got a lot of them and not just from your parents and your Grandmas, but from your aunts and uncles, and your great grandparents. We even had to take a couple of breaks from opening, to go for a walk and to play with some of your new stuff, before you finally finished later in the day.
That evening we had dinner too. You loved that and then you went bed. You had such a fun day. Just what Christmas is supposed to be… time with the people you love. And you are one loved guy. I can’t believe all the people that love you. It’s a lot. It’s because you are such a fantastic guy.
We love you…
We had so much fun with you this weekend. We came over to your house and hung out with you last night, made dinner, and were there when you took your bath and went to bed. We had so much fun with you that we decided to stay over so we could be there in the morning to see you when you got up. Your Daddy was away for the weekend so it was just you, your Mommy, and us. It was pretty funny, grandmas and Weston and Riley all staying just so we could see you. You are a pretty special guy, that’s for sure.
Today we went to watch you swim, it was your last class until next year. You got to go down the big slide today. You didn’t seem too thrilled about it, especially the first time, but you went down twice because you are so brave. Wow.
After swimming we went out to breakfast with your friend Tavish and his parents. We went to the Courier Cafe and you had scrambled eggs. Grandmas think you had more fun banging the plastic jam holder on the table than eating your eggs, but you had fun. You also enjoyed your Grandma Karen’s english muffin with jam.
When we were done having breakfast we went back to your house where we played and watched videos after you got up from your nap. You are such a good sleeper. And you were in such a great mood when you got up. You are in a good mood most of the time. Must be because you are such a laid back kind of guy. You’re a busy guy, but pretty mellow most of the time. So curious and interested in everything. That must be because you’re so smart. You rock.
Grandmas had so much fun with you this weekend. Thank you for letting us hang out with you.
We love you… Your Grandmas
You were here again today. It’s so neat that we live so close that you can come over and visit whenever you feel like seeing us. Your Mommy was nice to bring you over.
We went for a walk after you got here today. It was sort of chilly outside so your Grandmas, your Mommy, and you all got bundled up and we walked around your Grandmas neighborhood with our doggies, Weston and Riley. It was a nice walk. It’s really pretty right now because all the leaves are changing colors.
When we got back to the house your Mommy had to run an errand so we got to hang out with you for a little bit. Grandma Tam tried to make you some eggs, but you weren’t very keen on eating them. Then your Grandmas tried to feed you applesauce followed by yogurt. You didn’t want those either. Your Grandmas struck out on everything we tried, but you didn’t seem to care. You were too busy playing with your monkey and your panda bear. You were pretty cute playing with them. Your Grandmas like to give you a new little animal every time you come over. Last time we gave you the first one, the monkey. You found it in a cupboard. It was a big surprise. Today when you came over monkey was in the cupboard again, and so was your new friend the panda bear. You were pretty excited and played with them the rest of the time you were here. We had a lot of fun.
Tonight your Grandmas get to see you again when we come over for dinner and to watch the World Series. This year the St. Louis Cardinals are playing the Texas Rangers. Your Mommy and Daddy are big St. Louis Cardinals fans because your Mommy lived in St. Louis for a long time. That’s where she lived when she met your daddy. Pretty cool. So tonight we are coming over to visit you, have dinner with you, and then watch the game with your Mommy and Daddy. Go Cardinals!
Your Grandmas Love you!