Entries in hall house (25)


it starts

Finally tackling the big canvas for the living room. Fifty thousand layers to come... #whatsitgonnabe #lovemystudio


if it weren't for my horse*

"Oh, look.  We have the white chicken in our bed. I have to go get the number off the pole and call now."

This is the combination of words Sal just said about 20 minutes ago as he happened to glance out the kitchen window, then took off out the front door. What the what?

I'm in full-on does-not-compute-blue-screen-of-death-void-null-error mode. Chicken? What chicken? "The chicken" implies a specific chicken, an expected one, which is odd since we don't, you know, have any chickens. The little hamster wheels in my brain are spinning furiously as I try to sort out what he's just said, trailing behind him in the blazing heat. (Trying to figure out wtf he was talking about was the only thing that could've enticed me outside at these temperatures.) The "bed" part I realize must be one of the raised garden beds, but what the everloving hell does a pole (light? telephone? North?) and a number have to do with anything?

By the time I get to the front porch, I have concocted a rough theory that there's a white chicken statue/figurine/object of some sort that has been left in our garden bed by some mysterious prankster, and that this is a random underground Portlandia sort of game that Sal has heard about and knows what's required next.  That this white chicken whatever-the-hell has a phone number on it that you're supposed to call when you find the chicken for your instructions on where to leave it next. I haven't quite figured out how the pole fits into the scheme of things, but I'm only about 10 seconds into this adventure so it's early yet.

Welcome to the inside of my brain. It's scary in here.

Sal's down to the street level by this point and hollers over his shoulder to watch the chicken. As one does. So I did. I go around the side of the house to the garden beds and I hear rustling and then see a dart of white and then feathers. "WHAT." I'm loud enough for the neighbors to hear. There is an actual white chicken darting around our yard. My brain-hamsters are now no longer in their wheels, but instead running madly about and crashing into each other.

Nothing like the chicken in question. You know Portland, we're all about the heirloom varieties.So there's a "Lost Chicken" flyer on the lightpole at the corner of our street (not as uncommon as you'd think) that Sal noticed on his bike rides and turns out, it's the very white chicken in our yard that I'm at that very moment "WHAT"-ing about while he's calling the number on the flyer.

He has to leave a voicemail, but must first listen to a long message because the number is apparently for a business, and the message is about hoop yoga classes, because of course it is. As he waits to leave the message about their lost white chicken running around in our yard, he says, "Well I feel like a true Portlander now."

(A few minutes after leaving the message, the chicken flew clear across the street and the neighbor's house/yard into Baltimore Woods, and there's probably a "why did the chicken cross the road" joke in there but I can't tease it out because my brain is still rebooting.)

*Title taken from a famous Lewis Black routine.


the madness has officially begun

For those just tuning in, after months (and months and months) of planning and financial wrangling, our massive series of home improvement projects are now underway. The good news is that we're going to be getting it all over with in one fell, relatively short, swoop. The bad news is that we might possibly be crazy. Because our plan involves accomplishing almost all of the following in 2 weeks:

  • new roof and gutters
  • repairing dry rot and water intrusion damage on the front facia and west gable/porch overhang
  • replacing all the plumbing (including installing shutoff valves, which I never realized how much I would appreciate in my previous life as a non-homeowner)
  • new furnace and thermostat
  • new heat pump to replace the decrepit and long-overdue-for-replacement water heater (no seriously, we have pushed our luck beyond belief with this water heater -- it was past its life when we moved in...12 years ago)
  • bathroom renovation, including: refinishing the original cast iron clawfoot tub; tearing out the tile floor and replacing with a new tile floor; installing wainscoting with trim and new baseboards; stripping paint from trim, window frame, both cupboards, and all drawers/doors; painting walls, cupboards, trim, ceiling; installing bathroom ventilation; installing a clawfoot shower kit; replacing the sink with a new pedestal sink & fixtures; replacing the light fixture; replacing window and cabinet hardware
  • replacing the attic dormer window (a 7 foot, 3 unit casement window) with a custom wood frame window
  • 12(!) Indow Windows for the main floor and attic (to make our original, single pane windows more energy efficient)
  • energy efficiency improvements -- air sealing, duct sealing, rim joist insulation, attic insulation, wall insulation, floor insulation

Today was actually Day 4 of this whacked out home improvement schedule of ours. The whole rolling snowball of insanity actually began last Wednesday -- which, I will note, was also my birthday -- with the removal of the tub. As mentioned above, it's the original cast iron clawfoot tub, over 100 years old and weighing about the same as a dumptruck. Much of its porcelain finish has worn off over the decades so we're having it refinished, which means it has to be physically relocated to the refinishers' shop in Vancouver.

The plumbers needed the tub out of the way before they could begin work, and the plumbing work needed to be done before the bathroom contractor could do their renovations, and suddenly we're in that song about the old woman who swallowed a fly. The kicker is that while the tub refinishers would pick up the tub, they would only pick it up from the street -- something about "liability" and "potential damage" and "holy crap all those stairs are you crazy, lady". Moving a tub that weighs a gazillion tons from the bathroom to the street is also not in the plumbers' wheelhouse, which meant we needed to hire movers -- because what's another contractor in a cast of thousands, really? -- to move it from the bathroom to the street. (It ended up being easier to just have the movers take the tub to the refinishers.)

Complicating all of that was the plumbing, which, like the tub, was also over 100 years old and thus had no shut off valves anywhere but at the main. So removing the tub meant turning off the water to the house until the plumbers could install shutoffs as part of the rest of the plumbing replacement, which is also why we had to time it closely with the plumbers' arrival, since we kind of, you know, need running water.

So the tub came out on schedule, and the plumbers worked their magic in two days, also on schedule. Next up on the schedule: the simultaneous arrival of the bathroom and roofing contractors today, who have this week to do their work so that the furnace, hot water heater, window replacement, Indow windows, and energy efficiency improvements can all be done next week. Also arriving today: 2+ inches of rain, finally ending months of abnormally dry weather.

Not all of the work will be done by the end of next week, unfortunately. The tub won't be back from the refinishers until mid-March, nor will the shower kit, sink, and fixtures. So what are arguably the most crucial and personally impacting portion of this whole complicated plan -- the tub/shower and toilet -- will also take the longest to be restored to normal.

The loss of our bathroom means using The Bathroom That Shall Not Be Named for toilet needs, which has the extra super duper bonus of being in the Totally Not Creepy basement. (As for bathing needs for 4 weeks, well, that's a whole other story.) This was planned insanity, to be sure, and we knew the loss of our bathroom was going to be a hardship. Somewhat less planned was that everything would get underway on my birthday, that it would coincide with a visit from The Albino and Family, or that it would come on the heels of a pretty spectacular winter storm that wreaked havoc with everyone's schedules. Completely not planned and really unnecessarily sucktacular was both of us getting struck with the flu riiiight as everything got underway, because apparently we stole Karma's lunch money in a previous life. Which meant spending the weekend that we were planning to do a lot of preparation for everything to kick into high gear instead doing a lot of sleeping and feeling generally miserable, trekking up and down two flights of stairs to go to the bathroom, and taking about four times longer than usual to empty the bathroom in preparation for the renovation.

But Karma's personal vendetta and flu obstacle notwithstanding, we were ready and waiting for the contractors bright and early this morning. It worked out that I had the day off as a work holiday, which was fortunate for coordination purposes, if not exactly relaxing when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head. I had to stay out of everyone's way so I spent the day in the kitchen with the kitties while a bunch of guys ripped our roof off and another pair of guys ripped out the floor of our bathroom. And in my NyQuil induced haze, I sometimes couldn't tell the difference between all the hammering and the pounding inside my skull.

The area around our house looks like the aftermath of a tornado, the front porch is overflowing with power tools and orange power cords, the toilet is in the library, my desk is functioning as a temporary vanity/medicine cabinet, and our toothbrushes are now being stored in the kitchen. But the roofing crew managed to get three layers of old roofs off in the midst of a downpour without once springing a leak, the bathroom crew laid all the tile before they left for the day, and by the end of the week, we'll have more than half of that list up there crossed off.

So, onward.


my unintentional year in review

It's both coincidental and not that the last post on this here website (7(!) months ago) was a reflection about how blessed we are. It would've been a good stand-in for the obligatory end-of-the-old-start-of-the-new year post, and I suppose still is, since everything I wrote about then is still true. But on the whole, 2013 was a hard year, and by the end, I wanted nothing more than to see it in my rearview mirror. Hence the dearth of posting.

I've had a lot to share. I have drafts of posts I never got the time to finish, loads and loads of pictures to upload, bentos pics to update, and of course Hall House projects to finish writing about. But things were busy, like they always are, and as the amount of things to post about built up, it started to become A Thing.

And then November happened. Well technically, the end of October to the end of November, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was apprehensive about 2013 from the beginning, and as soon as I returned to work from the holidays, found out I had good reason to be.  From the first day back, we were faced with some big challenges at the office that ended up taking months to resolve, a friend received terrible news, and it was looking increasingly likely that the plans I'd made for my milestone birthday would have to be cancelled. By the end of the first month, I had fired January altogether and put 2013 on notice.

at Manzanita, looking toward Neahkahnie MountainThankfully, my birthday plans didn't have to be cancelled, after all. I celebrated my 40th in several ways, with family and with Sal and with my own quiet little sojourn. And later, with the Albino, whose birthday is just a month after mine, and our mutual friend, Twinklebugs. A year in the making, we celebrated the entry into our fifth decade with a Girls' Weekend in Manzanita. We rented a house on the beach and when we weren't just staring out the windows, we were out on the sand and shopping and eating ridiculously good food and staying up very late talking.

the rapiers are the prettiest, but the longswords are the most funSigns continued that 2013 might not be so bad after all. In April, I attended the first ever Swords for Scribes workshop put on by my friend Kim and her partner. I got to handle swords and machetes and rapiers, oh my, and practice three different sequences and learn all the awesomely gruesome physics of blades in battle. We then vanquished a melon army and watched a live duelling session between people who know what they're doing. I also learned that I am madly in love with the two-handed long sword.

Lake Quinault LodgeOur summer technically kicked off in May, when we spent a long weekend at Lake Quinault Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula, which I planned to post about in yet another brilliantly-written-only-in my-head post. We lucked out with temps in the 80s all weekend and a cabin room with an unparalleled view. We dangled our feet in the water and snapped pics of an otter swimming around the dock and climbed the roots of an ancient Sitka spruce. We took an epic 5 mile trail hike, up ravines, past waterfalls, and through a wetland.

My mom and grandmother came out for a visit for five days at the end of May, and we ran them (gently) ragged, to rose gardens and the forestry museum, Powell's and a plant nursery. We enjoyed dinner at the OCI restaurant so Grandmother could eat the food Sal teaches his students to make, and we enjoyed dinner at our own humble kitchen so Grandmother could eat the food Sal masterfully creates. We made a trip down to my office, so she could see where I work at my "very grownup job". And we spent a significant time doing my Grandmother's favorite thing of all: Visiting. (My family doesn't just talk. We visit, which is talking taken to the level of an Olympic sport, because my family are world-class caliber visitors.) We started a list of the things we'll do during her next visit.

summer vacation in OceansideAt the end of June, we took our summer vacation to Oceanside and enjoyed a nice bit of time off together. We celebrated our 17th anniversary in mid-July with a driveabout, something we hadn't done in a long time. Our destination? The Arctic Circle in Prineville so we could have a Bounty Burger and fry sauce like the ones we had at the Arctic Circle in our hometown back in the day.

Crooked River Canyon, looking eerily similar to our Wyoming homeOur driveabout led us to the Crooked River Canyon and we had the best, best day of adventure, windows rolled down and singing to our favorite road music at the top of our lungs and making it to a gas station juuuuuust in time on the way home. We capped off our wonderful day with a romantic dinner of takeout pizza by candlelight and talking until late into the night, hands held and maybe tears of gratitude a time or two.

it's been more than 13 years since we'd last had a Taco Johns softshell, and it tasted just like we remembered(We made a similar nostalgic fast food daytrip on Labor Day weekend, this time to TriCities, which we'd never been to before but happens to be the nearest location of a Taco John's. Because sometimes, you just gotta drive three and a half hours for six pack and a pound.)

rain, rain, glorious rainThe beautiful weather that started in May continued almost unbroken through the first half of September, which is how I found out there really is such a thing as Summer SAD and wow, do I have every single symptom. If there ever was any doubt that the PNW is my homeland, this summer cleared that up definitively. I actually like summer okay, and Oregon summers are pleasant and mild for the most part. But I do battle insomnia and loss of appetite when the weather turns warmer and this year, they came with a low burn anxiety that had me agitated and restless by mid-August. But the rains finally came in mid-September and we crossed into blessedly cool and wonderful autumn at last. It took a few weeks, but I started to feel like my old self again.

Really, 2013 could've been an okay year, my struggles with the summer notwithstanding. But there had been one particular shadow casting a long silhouette across everything all year, and in the back of my mind, I knew something very hard was coming.

Back in January amidst all the work stuff, my dear friend and colleague and mentor, Geri, received terrible health news. The kind of news that measures time in weeks and not years. The kind of news that brings everything else to a stop. Two months, they said. Maybe three.

She leaped into a battle for more time. Not time for the sake of it, nor time increasingly occupied by specialists and last-ditch treatments. She was determined to have good, quality, make-the-most-of-it, leave-no-regrets time. And warrior that she was, she wrested eight extra months of time from that initial diagnosis and in true Geri fashion, she packed a whole lot of living into it.

I was one of many incredibly fortunate beneficiaries of that extra time so fiercely fought for. We met for lunch regularly and I visited her at home when treatments left her tired. We texted all the time. We played epic rounds of Word Feud and Draw Something until well past either of our bed times. She regaled me with tales of a life well-lived, of a fearless woman who blazed trails and kicked asses left, right, and center while wearing very fashionable footwear. I showed her whatever artwork I'd recently finished and told her all my funniest stories and caught her up on the latest goings on at the office. I got to visit with her and laugh with her and hug her and hold her hand. I got to make sure she knew, every time, how important she was to me.

Her partner very kindly notified me the morning she died, and my colleagues very kindly shouldered the responsibility of figuring out how best to notify our staff, and my husband very kindly asked me what did I need. It was a pretty fall day, season of my heart, all blue sky and autumn colors ablaze in technicolor intensity, the kind of day that's so brilliant your soul feels too small to contain it all, and as I sat looking out our kitchen window, I knew it was a day to be outside, breathing that air and digging in the earth, connecting to life in a profoundly simple way.

the lilac my mom bought for my new homeIt's a tradition in my family to plant something to mark events and occasions and to remember those we love. A lilac for a mother's day, perhaps, maybe a pretty clematis for a birthday. A favorite rose bush to mark a great grandmother's passing, a silver leafed tree to mark a daughter's graduation, a willow for a significant anniversary. Geri was a gardener -- she would appreciate such a tradition. A tree would honor her well.

At the nursery, as we wandered among maples and oaks and birch and ash, I thought a lot about her, touching each trunk -- was this Geri's tree? This one? Maples are my favorite, but the birches kept drawing our attention. The birch is a symbol of renewal and strength, the first to leaf when spring hasn't yet taken firm hold, quick to repopulate after the ravages of fire. Resilient in times of adversity, spreading beauty and comfort where they're most needed, a symbol of hope and a reminder that the dark days will brighten. Yes, that was Geri.

Geri's treeWe decided on a birch variety called 'royal frost', which has red and burgundy leaves in spring and summer, turning gold in fall, and striking salmon-colored bark until it matures. We made a prominent place for it in our back yard near the stump of the old apple tree we had to take down last year, tucked in among ferns and bleeding hearts and snowberries and heuchera. That pretty salmon bark stood out beautifully, the last few leaves burning dark burgundy against the late October sky. Damp dark earth, sharp scented bark mulch, a hummingbird hovering nearby as if to oversee our informal little ritual.

The serenity of that day became a touchpoint of calm in the weeks that followed. There was the office remodel that became both a logistical and scheduling headache, the abrupt demise of my laptop a week before my clients' websites needed their monthly updates, the scramble to get the house ready for an appraisal for a refinance that moved faster than expected. There was my granddad in the hospital, and a week later, my dad. My granddad's surgery went well, thankfully. Dad's surgery did, too, but there were complications and days of worry and frequent check-ins, waiting to hear if everything was going to be okay.

There was Geri's memorial. There were the hard days that followed.

There was a health scare for Smaug that saw us at Dove Lewis (emergency veterinary hospital) at 1 AM on a Monday night, where we waited for nearly five hours through a series of tests and scans, ending in inconclusive results and us returning home long enough for an hour nap before our regular vet opened for more tests.

There was me forgetting the disk with the scans from the hospital in the rush to get out the door, which meant Sal had to bring them to me instead of getting a couple of hours sleep before work, and all of that complicated by a financial snafu that threatened to derail the refinance, which Sal heroically straightened out while we waited for the vet. Afterward, there was a mad dash to the office for a meeting, still in my clothes from the night before and barely able to keep my eyes open. There was a text from Sal when I got out of my meeting that his laptop stopped working because of course it had.

the day Smaug returned from her ordeal at the hospital and the vetSmaug's recovered, thankfully, from what turned out to be an e.coli infection. But she and Hobbes will be 18 in a few months, and she doesn't bounce back like she used to. They've been slowing down a bit this last year, but she seems to be aging quicker since this last incident. I have a feeling that this was probably our last Christmas with her, and as close as she and Hobbes are, wouldn't be surprised if he follows her soon after. They both seem okay, but something seems to have changed, and I feel like she's giving us little signs to prepare ourselves. Maybe for months, maybe for longer. Maybe not.


So we make extra extra sure to enjoy our time with them each day, and continue to be grateful for the many years of joy and immeasurable love they have brought into our lives. We will let them go gracefully and painlessly when their time comes, whenever it does. I don't know how I will face those days, or a home without their delightfully demented and crazed little selves. This is the price we pay for love.

But if the month of November was heavy with grief, it was not unrelenting. ProcrastiGirl got engaged and her obvious happiness is an infectious sort of joy. The appraisal exceeded our hopes, the refinance closed successfully, and we'll be able to start some long overdue projects soon. The laptops were replaced (after a not insignificant amount of sturm und drang, but compared to everything else, it's hardly worth a mention), and I was fortunate enough to borrow one from work in the meantime, managing through two months of client website updates without a hitch despite the disarray of our technology while we waited for our new laptops. Family and friends provided support and encouragement throughout the chaos. We squeezed in time for little diversions to relieve the stress. We enjoyed our annual Hall-Smiley Thanksgiving Extravaganza of laughter and fun and food and love.

And even after she was gone, Geri was still working her special magic. It was thanks in part to her that reconciliation came from an unexpected quarter, renewing a lost relationship. That loss was an old wound, deep, but long since moved past. But she healed it just the same, as if to remind me that she's still got her eye on me. On all of us. That was the kind of person she was, to have an impact on all the lives that surrounded hers. Renewal and strength, spreading beauty and comfort where they're most needed. Yes indeed, that's Geri.

Christmas Eve fogHeading into December, I think 2013 decided we'd had enough. December came with spectacular bouts of fog and downright frigid temperatures, conjuring something akin to the winters we grew up with -- as close as you can get in the PNW, anyway --which it made it feel more festive somehow. We had some much-needed time off together, in which we baked cookies and listened to Christmas music and watched every single one of our Christmas movies. A few days before Christmas, we dressed up for a nice night out -- dinner at Veritable Quandary followed by the tree all lit up at Pioneer Courthouse Square and enjoying being out and about in our city all dressed up for the holiday. We went to all the movies we wanted to see and took walks through the neighborhood and brewed beer and spent time in the studio making glorious artistic messes.

winter vacation in OceansideBetween Christmas and New Years', we made our winter pilgrimage to Oceanside, enjoying unusually warm days, a bit of sunshine, and the sounds of the waves soothing us to sleep at night. Sal found four intact sand dollars, the first time we've ever found one intact, let alone four, and that seems like a good omen. And we ended the year the same way we started it, with our Smiley family and all the little traditions we've created together for the last day and the first.

That's by no means all of our highlights -- nor all of our lowlights -- of the complicated year we've just put behind us, but they're the parts I wanted to share here, to memorialize. I won't remember 2013 fondly, but I do want to remember that so many good memories happened this year, too, and maybe 2013 was a lesson in taking comfort in those things amidst the difficult ones. To remember the symbolism of Geri's tree: of renewal and strength, spreading beauty and comfort where they're most needed.




this charming life

fairy house the Fabulous Miss M and I built yesterdayA coworker friend once told me, "You have a charming life." On days like today, I believe that's true.

She was saying it from the vantage of acquaintanceship, looking into my life from the outside, seeing the picture I showed her, of the old house lovingly remodeled, the dear husband who is talented and kind and hilarious and so very thoughtful, the two cats with more personality than their little bodies can hold. And surely to someone with two little kids at home and free time a far distant memory, my life of writing and artwork and frequent trips and neighborhood adventures must surely seem romantic and enchanting. She does not see the dishes that pile up more often than I'm comfortable admitting, or the tumbling tumbleweeds of cat hair that roll across our dusty floors, or the week-long dash of work and responsibilities and mismatched schedules that mean Sal and I only see each other for a couple of hours each day Monday through Friday.

Nonetheless, she was right. I had fresh strawberries and cream on waffles my husband made for breakfast this morning. The weather has been unbelievably perfect, all temperate air and sunny brightness and brilliant blue sky and we spent yesterday on the patio reading before family arrived for an overnight visit.

We made our dinner as a family and blew bubbles and built a fairy house in the backyard and stayed up late playing board games. After they left this morning, Sal and I spent our day on the back porch, surrounded by the oasis of our little patch of earth, doing artwork and being affectionately exasperated by the kitties, feeling awash with contentment. Dinner was easy-going, something on the grill and the rest pulled together from odds and ends, so that we sat down to a meal that could have featured in any magazine. There was a table with view and star lights for ambiance and pretty little dishes to eat from and a bouquet of flowers, and none of it required any sort of fuss, it just all happened, like magic.

Today and yesterday, I walked barefoot through my house, my sweet little cottage of a house, windows thrown open to let the outside in, and just took a moment to be in each room. To be and to be grateful.

Here is the front porch: view of steep forests and the green arc of a man-made sculpture, a rocking chair and a lazy swing as front row seats to a tiny little paradise.

Here is the living room: full of bold color and cozy seating, built-in book cases full of found treasures and a leaded glass window to ensure there are always rainbows.

Here is the dining room: all rich wood turned deep dark by age, anchored by tables customized with our own artwork, and in the wide window alcove, two kitties curled into one furry ball on the cushions put there just for them.

Here is the kitchen: inviting and warm, filled with layer upon layer upon infinite layer of every meal and treat made with loving care for four generations of families.

Here is the back porch: a view to rival the front with a table for two and a reading chair tucked in the corner alongside the flower pots full of cheerful daisies.

Here is the studio: a room of creative energy, meant for paint and clay and stories of imaginary places, a room that turns briefly to magnificent gold at a very specific time of day and magic becomes very, very real.

Here is the library: a refuge for books and long days of nothing but escaping into them from the comfort of an overstuffed chair, the place to be when it's cold and rainy outside, when the only things that can warm me up on the inside are a cup of hot chocolate and sleeping cat and a well-worn copy of my favorite book.

Here is the attic: a nook for reading and a nook for leisurely Sunday breakfasts, a bed dressed in luxurious sheets and a pile of pillows and a blanket made of feathers, set beneath the stars, where we fall asleep to the sound of foghorns when the mist sits so thick on the river that ships the size of small villages call to each other in the damp dark.

Here is the yard: filled with plants and trees and shrubs planted before us and others we planted ourselves, transformed to a little patch of forest, with beds of vegetables to one side and moss-covered walls we built by hand, and silvery bells tucked amongst the ferns chiming at the passage of a breeze or a raccoon or a hummingbird.

Yesterday marked 11 years since Hall House officially became ours. Today marked 23 years since Sal and I officially became a couple. Without even planning to, we celebrated both anniversaries with this, our charming life.


light and dark

An impending storm hanging over Forest Park and the setting sun turning everything to gold. Can't believe we get to live here.

boom roasted

I have successfully thwarted the Universe's attempt to make me huddle in a corner out of fear and defeat. Apparently, the Universe didn't get the memo that NOBODY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER. The memo came via a cheesy 80s dance movie so that might be why the Universe missed it.

Anyway, despite an extraordinarily stressful weekend and being very tired on top of it, life is surprisingly in order at the moment. I feel like saying "BOOM ROASTED" after every accomplishment, as in "YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE ME DOWN UNIVERSE? BRING IT. I WILL GIVE YOU A WEDGIE AND STEAL YOUR LUNCH MONEY AND TIE YOU TO THE FLAG POLE."

The stress came in the form of a catastrophic web server failure sometime Friday, which meant The Hallway, Writer's Cramp, and all my clients' sites were down. Not only did I get everything restored LIKE A BOSS, I still managed to finish the design work for my clients' platform upgrades that I had originally planned to finish Friday, complete the rollout schedule for said upgrade, send out monthly traffic analysis to clients on schedule, and complete and send invoices. BOOM ROASTED.

Not content with website kung-fu, we still managed to stay caught up on or catch up on the various household chores on our to-do list for Saturday: dishes done, laundry folded and put away, downstairs vacuumed, GROCERIES BOUGHT, dinner made. BOOM ROASTED.

And it wasn't even all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy at our house this weekend. We fit in our first game of Pandemic since we bought it, caught up on all of our shows, fit in a day of writing and art, and read several chapters of a new book. BOOM ROASTED.

All of this despite losing an hour of time, and in fact, we got to bed at a reasonable hour TWO nights in a row, like real grownups! Also like real grownups: clothes laid out and bento packed, ready for Monday. Even the browning bananas that were at risk of going to waste got turned into delicious bread, just in time for both tonight and tomorrow when I'll be having a couple of neighbors over for tea. BOOM ROASTED.

Got anything else to throw at me, Universe?

lunch, matryoshka:

  • chicken lo mein (chicken, carrots, onions, green onions, bean sprouts, celery, noodles, secret sauce)
  • peas
  • Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Bento: Pinova apple

luckily, our idiocy wasn't fatal

Great news, everyone! Sal and I are no longer going to die in a tragic house fire! WE ARE NOW LEGIT RESPONSIBLE GROWN UPS YOU GUYS.

Our new state of non-dumbassitude is thanks to Sal, who spent some time Saturday and Sunday installing the nine(!) smoke detectors that have been sitting in a bag in our basement since before Christmas last year. You might not know it from the epic procrastination evidenced in such a fact, but I am extremely anxious about housefires, and particularly, a fire in my house. And given that we live in a very old house with wiring that marks every evolution of domestic electricity* since the early 20th century, I am understandably paranoid about our house erupting in a big ball of flame. NOT PARANOID ENOUGH TO ACTUALLY INSTALL SMOKE DETECTORS IN A TIMELY MANNER OR ANYTHING. Just paranoid enough to worry about it incessantly.

*Trufax: If we ever win the lottery, the first thing I'm doing is having the house totally rewired, top to bottom. Which will be difficult, since I don't actually play the lottery, but that is my plan for what to do with a big wad of cash. Well, and it may not be the first thing, because I would probably take a trip to Europe and then buy a bit of land on the coast to build my yurt, and then what would likely happen would be that while we were busy doing these other fun things first, our house actually would burn down from a fire started by the old wiring that we finally had the money to have replaced and that is what we would call irony.

We did have a couple of detectors that were already in the house when we moved in: one in the kitchen, one in the little landing area between the bedrooms, bathroom, and dining room. But then the one in the kitchen kept going off whenever we so much as breathed in its vicinity thanks to not having a vent system for the stove so we took that one down with vague promises to ourselves that we'd do something about it soon and then never did. And the one in the little hallway area -- which is probably the least helpful place for one, since it's basically so protected that the house will be a smoking ruin before any smoke would get to it to detect -- weremoved when we started redoing the guest room and library (the hallway connects them) so we could paint the ceiling and we, um, never got around to putting it back. BECAUSE WE ARE TOTES RESPONSIBLE LIKE THAT.

So now we have detectors on all three levels and in almost every room of the house. We even have two that have 10 year batteries! Because when we do finally stop being morons, we do that shit right.

lunch, pink natural lunch:

  • spicy meatsa balls
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrots
  • Pink Lady apple slices
  • raw pumpkin seeds

st. johns appreciation post

our little market square hosts the St. Johns Farmers' Market until mid-OctoberSeriously, our neighborhood is the greatest. Sometimes I wonder how we got to be so lucky to live here.

We looked at 42 houses before we found The One, and we were looking long and hard at the neighborhood for each, not just the house. Which is to say, we did our legwork, no question. But there was a sizeable amount of luck and faith and hope, involved, too. Driving through the little downtown area of St. Johns then was deceptive -- many storefronts were empty and what was there wasn't promising. The houses ranged from well-kept to rundown. It was the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of Portland.

But there was promise there. The downtown had a community feel despite the vacancies, and it was clear that many people had lived here a long time, and were proud of it. There was a police station and a fire house right there by the bridge, and a post office just a block past that, and a terrific library with original woodwork and stately old fixtures. There were wonderful parks and some great little shops and places to eat (granted, just a few). And then there was the house, and the bridge, and that view.

Saturday, after a trek out to Forest Grove for a vintage crafts fair (that turned out to be less "crafts" and more "stuff"), we stopped in our little downtown to check out a few of the newest shops we hadn't made it to yet. Barrel, a new wine and beer shop, was opening, so of course we had to be there for that. Right next door was Etcetera, a wonderful little home decor shop that will give me another place for gift shopping along with the already fabulous Salty Teacup. And right around the corner (past Grammy and Nonna's Toys, where we're always able to find something just right for the Fabulous Miss M), we had a chance to stop in at Olive and Vine for the first time since they opened. Salts and tea and olive oil and vinegars and spices, oh my.

Both of us now laden with shopping bags in each hand, we didn't dare cross the street to St. John's Booksellers, since we can never get out of that place without at least one book apiece (and our tottering to-read pile is already borderline hazardous). We had our options of Thai Cottage for dinner, or Anna Banana's, or James John Cafe, or Girasole, or John Street Cafe, or Signal Station Pizza, or could have bought ingredients to make it ourselves at Proper Eats Market. Afterward, we could've caught the latest release at the St. Johns Cinema (for less than one of of those big movie houses, and the option for pizza and beer to boot!), or a summer release for half the price at St. Johns Pub. Cakes and cookies from Tulip Pastry, cat food and litter from Tres Bone, bikes and supplies from Weir Cyclery, photography-anything from Blue Moon Camera, clothes for Sal at The Man's Shop...all of these and more are just blocks from our house in our neighborhood's little downtown.

From haircuts to freshly roasted coffee beans, our neighborhood has it all, and as we headed home, I had to pinch myself yet again at how lucky we are to live here.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • roasted butternut squash soup
  • broccoli and hard boiled egg
  • carrots and celery (with the leaves left on)
  • Starkcrimson pear with cashews as gap fillers

breakfast/snack, cute animals sidecar:

  • Starkcrimson pear
  • kiwi
  • walnuts

the continuing douchebaggery of douchebag developer

So Douchebag Developer is back and making me hate him.

Two weeks ago (while my dad was here, actually), we returned from an afternoon outing to find "No Parking" signs blocking both sides of the street on our block. The signs were placed there on behalf of Douchebag Developer's project, which requires sewer improvements before work can begin. In 12 pt. font that's oh-so-easy to read when you're IN A CAR AND AT LEAST FIVE FEET AWAY FROM THE SIGN, the signs further informed us that the street would be blocked from October 12th to October 27th, Monday through Saturday, 7 AM to 6 PM to allow work on the pipes under the street.

You'll remember that we have no off-street parking at Hall House.

The first night, we parked the cars just past the end of the block. Someone broke into the Camry and stole the ashtray (which we use for change). We don't leave anything in the car so there wasn't much to steal -- they sifted through the few CDs in the console but didn't take any and rifled through the papers in the glovebox, but that was about it. They didn't even take the car kit we keep in the trunk. I could swear that I locked the car -- I'm obsessive about such things -- but since none of the windows were broken and there was no sign of tampering, I can only surmise that I left it unlocked.

Now, I realize that I'm partly to blame, and that Douchebag Developer isn't responsible for the criminal acts of other people. Our neighborhood is actually very safe and close knit, but transients sometimes migrate through on their way from the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill up to St. Johns. They're harmless, and you know, whatever few dollars of change was in that ashtray is worth far more to them than it is to me, whether it was used for a fix or for food. In the scheme of things, it's hardly worth mentioning.

But I know that it happened because our cars were parked out of sight of our house and the streetlight that they normally sit under. And for that, I do blame Douchebag Developer. (We've been parking our cars down the corner since then, since that street gets more frequent traffic and is more exposed, as well as being right in line with the neighbor's security light.) And I wonder what we're in for when this cursed development is finally finished and suddenly there are a bunch of cars parking on the street -- cars that will each have their own garages, but thanks to Douchebag Developer's douchebaggily planned development, are almost impossible to actually park in.

And there's the usual inconvenience you'd expect with such work: jackhammering and big chunks of asphalt dropping into gigantic metal tractor buckets at SEVEN O'FUCKING CLOCK IN THE A.M.; dust everywhere, and the smell of diesel, and pipes stacked on our nicely landscaped sidewalk strips; loud equipment and pounding that makes the whole house vibrate all damn day. Hauling groceries is a challenge already when you have to haul them up the seventy gajillion stairs from the street to the front door, but add having to park down the block to the whole expedition and suddenly the prospect of saltines and some grapes for dinner seems much more appetizing than having to get groceries.

But, you know, this stuff happens, and streets and sewers need work, and a couple of weeks of inconvenience aren't that big of a deal, my self-indulgent pissing and moaning aside.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday -- the day before all of this was supposed to end -- there was a flyer on our doorstep that new sewer work (sanitary sewer work, as opposed to to the storm sewer work that was apparently being done this last two weeks) commences today with the same restrictions, but will continue until "approximately" November 18th.

And that was the moment when my loathing for Douchebag Developer sharpened to a surgical precision.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • smoked sausages
  • peas and carrots, corn
  • molded egg
  • dark chocolate-covered raisins
  • Starkcrimson pear slices
  • yogurt-covered raisins

it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

We seriously live in the best neighborhood in the universe.

Just got back a little while ago from the neighborhood emergency planning meeting (also the monthly neighborhood potluck). Neighbors got together at the main gathering spot on our street* this evening for a presentation from a local emergency preparedness expert (also a neighbor). His presentation was all about why it's practical to be prepared, but he also gave us tremendous information about easy measures we can take and available resources we can use. (Tip: a lot of the materials we received tonight, which really are super informative, were apparently made available via Homeland Security funding. Which means it's likely that a lot of other communities have similiar departments and resources to offer.)

*[Two of our neighbors have built a wonderful community space on the lower part of their property. On the far end, there's a fire pit with earthen seats all the way around, and an astounding view of the bridge, river, and Forest Park. There's a covered stage for neighborhood concerts (we have lots of talented musicians) and lots of room either for seating or dancing or both. And there's an ingenious outdoor kitchen that makes hosting the neighborhood potlucks easy, but also makes it possible to have monthly "classes", where everyone learns the fine arts of food preparation and preservation. Pickling, fermenting, brewing, canning...Sal's even on deck to teach everyone how to make rustic breads.]

The idea isn't to be scared or paranoid, but to make smart, reasonable preparations for all kinds of emergencies. Not just the big stuff, like earthquakes, but also more frequent, less catastrophic things like extended power outages. Practical ideas, like stocking an emergency kit for home and car, learning how to turn off utilities to prevent gas leaks and fires, and alternative communications when cell phones and computers (or electricity, period) aren't working. (Tip: cell phones will almost always go down in an emergency to leave the lines open for emergency personnel communications, but texting will usually still be available. The City of Portland has a really cool site at www.publicalerts.org where you can put in your info and be notified via the method of your choice if there's an emergency in your area.)

Our neighborhood plans for this to be the first in a series. The first goal is for each of our households to do the things we need to prepare. Once we've started working on that, our next goal will be how our neighborhood can be a self-sufficient community in the event of emergency or disaster. Building an "asset map" (what skills and resources are available in our neighborhood, which is useful even when there's not an emergency); designating responsibilities (people to go around to each house to make sure gas valves are turned off, for example, in the event of an earthquake to prevent secondary fires, or people who will check on elderly or disabled neighbors); basic first-aid and triage education (so we can start caring for each other in the event emergency personnel are too overwhelmed or unable to reach us right away); central meeting places (to do head counts and situation reassessment, and for allocating resources).

After that, we'll be moving on to expanding the idea further into our community, so other neighborhoods in the area can do what we're doing and provide support to each other in times of need. Because (as I learned tonight) there are 300 police officers and 160 firefighters and 22 ambulance crews for the entire city of Portland, a population of 500,000 people. In the event of a city- or region-wide emergency, they'll be doing the heroic work, but the very best thing _we_ can do for ourselves and for them is to take care of each other. (The presentation materials we received tonight advised that we should plan to be on our own for the first 72 hours, so to have plans in place that could take care of everything through that time, if not longer.)

I just love our neighborhood so much! We are a community of progressives and activists and naturalists and urban farmers and dreamers and artists and craftspeople and teachers. We are rich in talents and skills and knowledge and education and passion. We all love our little corner of the world, and we are building a village together.


summer begins to have the look, peruser of enchanting book

Fall is definitely here. It's my favorite season, all bright, crisp days and cool, clear nights. Or gray and rainy like it was this weekend. I love everything about it, from the smell and feel of the air to the turning leaves to the heavy sweaters and abundance of produce and craving for hearty comfort foods. And, joy of joys, Honeycrisp apples!

We were fortunate to not have a whole lot on the docket at Hall House, which meant that I could spend most of the day curled up in the library with a new book, and fall asleep in my chair for an impromptu afternoon nap. It also meant time to get laundry done without it feeling like a chore (folding while watching movies), and to stay on top of the dishes (always a challenge without a dishwasher), and to write for a good long stretch of time while Sal helped a friend harvest their hops (and coming home with a nice bounty as a result). It was the best sort of weekend, a combination of productive and leisurely, cozy and restful and restorative.

With such weather that makes a person crave hearty comfort foods, it's little wonder that Sunday night dinner would be something thick and creamy and served with crusty artisan bread and likely to put a person to sleep after two overflowing bowls full. Which we totally didn't have. We also totally didn't follow that with a slice of opera cake and a dollop of malted chocolate ice cream. We're all about moderation here at Hall House.

breakfast, cute animals sidecar:

  • oatmeal with raisins and maple syrup
  • Honeycrisp apple slices


lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • potato soup (potatoes, spaetzle, corn, celery, dill)
  • peas and carrots
  • Honeycrisp apple half
  • opera cake


title taken from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickenson, "Part Five: The Single Hound, LXV"


a charm from the sky seems to hallow us there

Today and yesterday are big anniversaries in our lives. Today marks 21 years since Sal and I first started dating, which...is still boggling to me every time I think about it. How is that even possible? Holy crap. We've been together for well over half our lives. Incomprehensible! It's like trying to wrap your head around the concept of super massive black holes or chaos theory or why Justin Bieber is popular.

And yesterday marked our 9 year house-iversary! Happy House-iversary, Hall House! How far you've come and how much you've changed. You were in need of more help than we initially realized, but you've been a bigger reward than we ever could've imagined. (Except for that whole water line incident. Let's not do that again, kay?) Thank you for being a castle and a sanctuary and a house of dreams.

breakfast, bento color mini green:

  • mini frittatas -- mushroom, onion, spinach
  • mini blueberry pancakes
  • raspberries

lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • 4-color raddiatore (tomato, carrot, spinach, regular) tossed with a bit of oil, herbs, and salt
  • asparagus sauteed with mushrooms and caramelized onions
  • red garnet yam patties*
  • pepperoni -- the last from our visit to Dick's Brewing
  • corn
  • raspberries

*This is a new invention. Although someone probably thought of it long before I did.  So new to me, I guess. Anyway, I had some leftover roasted yams from last week so I mashed them up and mixed them with a little maple syrup, them put them in a lightly oiled pan (to keep them from sticking) on high heat. The result? To die for.

title taken from John Howard Payne's "Home, Sweet Home"


t-minus two days and counting

Vacation begins in two days and it's a race to the finish whether or not Sal and I will drop dead from exhaustion before it gets here. But after this weekend, I like our odds. We worked our tails off but somehow managed a smidgen of R&R in there so we're refreshed for this final stretch. And yesterday was a particularly lovely day. While we both worked (more on that in a minute), we had the radio tuned to the local station that switches to a holiday music format for December and had such a pleasant day together, laughing and singing along. In just a couple of days, we'll have nineteen days of time like that.

My company holiday party was Friday afternoon, and although I couldn't afford the lost time for what I need to get done before I'm gone, it was a welcome respite and loads of fun. Probably the best holiday party we've had in all the time I've been there. We've sure had some doozies so that's saying something. Oh, and I won a $50 Home Depot gift card. Which is kind of funny, since the $100 Home Depot gift card I won at the company picnic bought all those smoke/fire detectors last weekend.

The party finished an hour earlier than scheduled and rather than be the workaholic I'm sometimes accused of being by going back to my office to finish up some things while there were no interruptions, I instead decided to hit Collage finally, after Kim told me about it when we met for coffee last week. I really almost wish she hadn't, because the last thing I (or my bank account!) needed was another terrific art store on my list and within my immediate area. Well of course I spent a ridiculous amount of time there and came out with a ridiculously overstuffed bag of goodies, but what can you do, right?

The dark clouds were just starting to release the flood as I was headed up the stairs to my front door. We've had some real toadstranglers of late, so it was another in a recent spate of them. I had things around the house to be done, but the perfect weather for being curled up on the couch combined with a week of late nights, I ended up falling asleep watching a movie and I blame the rain. Cue Milli Vanili.

We spent the weekend working on the creative room, getting the painting done and most of the furniture together. Woohoo!! We'll finish up the furniture and putting the room together on Wednesday, then decorate and put things away in the room on Thursday, and by Friday, we should be able to use it. Arty crafty days, here we come!

lunch, blue bunny & moons:

  • hazelnut crusted chicken breast
  • jasmine rice with sweet & sour sauce
  • Honeycrisp apple, celery sticks
  • satsumas

The weather's been positively biblical all weekend. Rain measured in inches, records broken, that kind of thing. AND freakishly warm. Like, high 50s, low 60s. We had to open the windows to air out the house a bit last night -- Sal baked an apple pie (OMG SO MUCH LOVE) and something from a previous meal started smoking in the oven -- and ended up leaving the windows open most of the evening, it was that warm. Torrential rains and unseasonable temps? That kind of wildly erratic weather doesn't bode well. Because, in the words of the venerable Lewis Black, "I know what comes next...



from a distance, we look like paragons of efficiency

Smaug and Hobbes, being their usual productive selves, which is to say IN ABSOLUTELY NO WAY WHATSOEVERProductive weekend, I'm happy to report. Which is a relief because I feel like there's a countdown clock hanging just over my shoulder -- as previously mentioned, I'm taking off the second half of December to coincide with Sal's winter break from school but there is much to be done in the next week and a half. Nonetheless, I feel like a kid looking forward to Christmas, or perhaps the way I did in college: excited to have a breather from the stress and homework and tests, but a shitload of difficult finals to get through first.

It started off on the right foot: not with work, but with fun. Friday, I met up with my friend Kim for coffee (well, hot chocolate, actually) and we spent a few hours catching up and trading info on cool creative things, tools, and new places to spend way more money than we should shop for all the things that make an artist's heart go pitter pat. So it's thanks to her that I was feeling energized enough to focus on website updates when I got home.

So I've completed a few more updates on the guest room and library projects from a few years ago. We're getting into the exciting stuff now, like neato decorative window films and painting the walls at last:

Library, Part 4: Fixing the Window & Wall

Guest & Creative Room, Part 4: Fixing the Windows & Ceiling

Guest & Creative Room, Part 5: Painting the Room

Note that the text is not the same for these posts, nor will they be from here on out.

I hope to have the painting in the library posted tonight; that was a far more dramatic change. It was fun to look through the pictures for these phases of the projects and remember all the little snags and interruptions we had to overcome, but to look at them knowing about the end result and how much we love the outcome. Or to relive the sense of accomplishment when we'd successfully completed a particularly challenging part (wall patch ftw!). One of the reasons I've been documenting all our home improvement (mis)adventures is to be able to go back and see how far we've come and to remember what it took to get to this point. As I've gone back through these pictures to get caught up on these two projects, but with a few years' distance, I'm reminded of all the hard work that went into them and each time I go into those rooms now, I have a renewed sense of pride in them. Also, how thankful I am that we got rid of that heinous pink.

Saturday, we got the paint for the creative room and I did the preliminary work on the aforementioned sooper sekrit project in preparation for (probably) painting this coming weekend. Sal had to do the transfer to secondary fermentation of his latest batch of beer (brewed last weekend). He also fixed the dripping faucets in the kitchen and bathroom, the broken handle on the toilet, and put in much-easier-to-use faucet handles in the utility sink in the basement. His trip to Home Depot for the hardware also included the purchase of nine(!) smoke/fire detectors and two carbon monoxide detectors so that we don't literally die in a fire. So yay, no house-induced death for us!

AND! We spent Saturday evening going through several boxes of papers and mementos that had accumulated in the eave closets, the product of needing to clean in a hurry -- for company, more often than not -- and throwing stuff we didn't have time for into a box "to go through later". Well "later" came Saturday night since I had to drag out some mementos boxes anyway to put away the things from the guest room that had been on display and stored in my old desk. We're not done, but we put a respectable dent in it.

Despite our weekend of industry (or perhaps because of it), the house looks like a wreck, but I should have time this weekend to instill some order. Nothing too catastrophic, thankfully. I do have to wrap up my website clients for the month (statistics analysis, final report, and invoicing), and I expect I'll be working some late nights right up until vacation starts in order to get the end-of-year programming done on the billing program, but at this point, I'm not in freakout mode. The fact that I'm still thinking I can fit in housework in the evenings indicates that I'm in not-yet-overwhelmed-but-possibly-a-tad-optimistic mode. Don't try this at home, kids.

And just to round out the list of accomplishments for the weekend, I got a breakfast AND lunch packed for today. I've been away from bento for a couple of weeks and I'm feeling it. There was the week of the holiday, of course, and I worked from home in the days leading up to it so no bento. Last week was occupied by visits from Corporate (the COO on Tuesday and one of the members of the Corporate IT Team at another division on Thursday) so I either was too busy in preparation to even get a drink of water (Monday) or joining them for lunch (Tuesday and Thursday). So again, no bento.

It's a testament to how little I go out for lunch, how infrequently I eat at chain restaurants, and how accustomed I am to my bentos that I didn't feel well at all last week. The restaurants were decent as chain restaurants go, but nothing about the meal felt good. Way too much food (I ended up leaving most of it on the plate, unfortunately, and I absolutely hate waste), much too heavy (even though I ordered a salad!), and the fruit and veggies didn't have as much flavor as I'm used to. Yes, I fear the worst has happened: I've become a food snob. :) I think in the future when I inevitably have to go for these Corporate lunches, I'll plan to pack a bento anyway to eat before/after and just order a small side of something for lunch.

Anyway, it's a relief to be back to a bento schedule. As I was packing today's, I initially felt a little rusty, like I was getting back on a bike after being away for awhile. Once I was done, I felt the familiar sense of comfort and assurance that I have something to eat tomorrow that I know will be good for me, that won't make me feel like chugging a bottle of Pepto afterward, and that gives me enough energy to get through the day. I know I go on and on about the wonders of bento and the difference it's made to my well-being, but I just can't overstate it enough.

breakfast, cute animals sidecar:

  • satsuma mandarin
  • red grapes
  • plain yogurt with a dollop of marionberry preserves


lunch, deli club:

  • chicken that Sal made for dinner Sunday -- he tucked slices of lemon under the skin and roasted it
  • roasted potates (olive oil, salt, pepper)
  • kiwi slices and red grapes
  • satsuma mandarin and the last of the dark chocolate covered raisins

Oh how I love the satsumas. Sal came home from the grocery store Saturday night bearing an entire box of them for me. I'll probably give myself a rash of canker sores from eating as many as I possibly can while they're in season, but it'll be worth it.


each of us was created for it

No breakfast today so I was extra grateful to have such a pleasing and yummy lunch waiting for me.

lunch, blue bunny & moons:

  • hazelnut-crusted chicken breast
  • jasmine rice with peas, carrot flowers for garnish
  • Cortland apple with carrot pieces as gap fillers
  • walnuts and dark chocolate covered raisins

the view from the library to the back yard, through the back porch

I'm so in love with our home I can hardly contain myself some days. There's still a lot to be done, but we've reached a point where we can enjoy it as it is, even with the bathroom in its semi-demolished state and the kitchen looking like something right out of Good Housekeeping circa 1966. And in the fall, my favorite season, in my favorite city, it's like falling in love every day, this house. I took a few random pictures to remind me of that.

spider web on the front porch, with Sal's Japanese maple in the backgroundIt was another whirlwind of activity at Hall House this weekend, so it was nice to have the steadying comfort of home throughout. Saturday was another OCI graduation, which meant Chef Salvatore gave another graduation speech. He gives the same one each time so he's had time to refine it, but he changes it every time, too, so he stays fresh and funny when he gives it. I've decided I'm going to video it next time.

a close-up of the crape myrtle I posted about last weekThe ceremony takes place in the morning and then there's a reception for the students and family afterward, so it takes most of the day. Things finished up just in time for the arrival of our Smiley family, who were coming to spend the night. We had a roast and veggies going in the crockpot all day to keep dinner easy, they arrived bearing a loaf of sourdough and a pan full of chocolate chip bar cookies. This is the reason our family is awesome. Well, one of the many, anyway.

We spent some time with the Fabulous Miss M before her bedtime, then had a late dinner catching up with Sister and Guy. (Late, at least in part, because Miss M insisted there was a ghost in the guest room. We promised her it was friendly.)

Sal and the Fabulous Miss M watching a movie on the inflatable bedThey had come for a race in town they wanted to go to and we would watch Miss M while they were gone. It meant an early start Sunday, but Miss M and I snuggled under the blankets while we watched Finding Nemo and that's not such a bad way to start the day. The three of us played and colored and had a tea party and ate breakfast, and next thing we knew Sister and Guy were back and it was time to say goodbye. But it was okay...we have Thanksgiving to look forward to next month, and Christmas after that, and I'm sure some get togethers in between.

just looking at them makes you want to take a nap, doesn't it?After they left, Sunday was a lazy day to recharge before the week starts up. We spent the day on creative stuff and naps and not being as productive as we ought to be and taking ten million more pictures of the cats because we needed still more of those.

view from the front porchBut mostly, we spent the day watching all the ways the light turns Hall House into an illustration from a storybook and thinking there's magic in the world if you know where to look for it.


the corner of my desk (yes, the decoupaged table), which happened to be lighted very prettily; it's part of a map of the Oregon Coast, with an arrow pointed to Oceanside; the full Maya Angelou quote is here


it takes a village

Today was our neighborhood block party. There was lots of food and a bouncy house for the kids, and a makeshift stage for neighborhood musicians, chalk for the kids to draw to their hearts' content and a plant exchange and a map for us to mark neighborhood assets for trade and barter, or neighborhood activities: "Mike and Michelle -- garden with veggies for trade, flowers to share", "Ivy and C -- chicken coop, eggs to barter, cob structure sauna", "Mona -- textiles, music", "Paul and Pete -- carpentry and woodworking, foreign language lessons". Like that.

click to see more picturesBut the main event was the "intersection repair": painting the intersection down the street with a big compass rose design created by a collaboration of neighbors. There were buckets of recycled paint in nine colors and a chalked out design on the street. Everyone brought a brush and spent this gloriously beautiful day painting the hell out of the intersection. Mother Nature herself was completely on board, because she called a temporary stop to the weeks of rain that've put a damper on even the hardiest Pacific Northwesterner's spirits and even intermittently shut down the annual Rose Festival. Until late afternoon yesterday, no one was sure if this long-planned street painting project was going to happen.

But happen it did. With kids running about and a band rocking out in the background. And the end result? Pretty damn awesome.

We stuck around for a bit, but decided to skip out on the evening BBQ even though we'd spent the earlier part of the day making potato salad and cookies for the occasion. We love our neighborhood to itty bitty bohemian pieces, but it was a lot of people, and we already don't get a lot of time together as it is. Plus, with the first nice weather we've had in weeks, our little backyard sanctuary was calling to us.

We were sitting there watching the goings on after the painting was finished, just soaking up the moment and the lovely weather, and Sally said, "Sooo...do you still want to stick around for the potluck?" I grinned. "Do you?" "Not really." I had to hug him at that moment, because that's what you do when someone reads your mind and understands everything without you having to say anything. "Me neither."

So Sally threw a few skewers on the grill and I drizzled some fresh asparagus with a bit of oil and sea salt and pepper, then set the little table on our back porch. While we waited for the coals to get going, we did some trimming of the roses in the back corner and walked around the yard and marveled at how much it's changed in the 8 years we've been here.

Then we kicked back on the porch and talked while we took our time enjoying our dinner -- spicy marinated pork and Thai peanut chicken skewers, my famous dill and vinegar potato salad, and grilled asparagus -- the new star-shaped curtain lights for lighting and the local jazz station on low volume for atmosphere.

Not a bad day. Not a bad day at all.


i vote for three day weekends every week

How was everyone's weekend? Did you get to do something fun and relaxing?

Ours was nice -- a good combination of fun, productive, and relaxing. We spent Saturday and Sunday in the yard working on our To Do List to get it ready to enjoy for the summer. We didn't get everything on our list done, but we accomplished a lot:

  • weeded the back bed and cleared out of the last of the spring bulb plants that have died back, which were beginning to choke out some of the other stuff trying to poke up through all that decaying vegetation; we've gotten so much rain that everything was slimy and squishy...yuck!
  • Sal trimmed the apple tree, including a lot of trimming and shaping of the under-canopy
  • raked the patio and the areas under the apple and Japanese maple trees
  • Sal trimmed the rosebushes in the front; I trimmed and re-directed the canes of the climbing rose in the back -- we're going to need at least one more trellis on the back fence this year because that bad boy is going completely bananas
  • Sal trimmed the lilacs, part of a 3 year plan to get them whipped into shape after several years of not tending to them like we should've
  • back porch cleaned, swept, and mopped, including the screens all the way around and everything set up so we can now sit out there and walk around in our bare feet without turning the bottoms of our feet black
  • yard decorations (wind chimes, lanterns, etc.) unpacked and set out
  • install my new star-shaped curtain lights from IKEA (that I bought six months ago and completely forgot about until I unpacked the yard stuff)

And all of that despite the gray days and wet weather. Actually, it was pretty great working-in-the-yard weather Saturday and Sunday -- not too hot or cold, didn't really rain, and it was gray (not just overcast) so we didn't have to worry about sunscreen, with some nice sunbreaks here and there. However, despite wearing two thin, long-sleeved shirts, pants, gardening gloves, and work boots, I still managed to get bitten all to hell by mosquitoes. I have about a dozen quarter-sized welts on my legs that are going to drive me mad for days.

Left to do:

  • plant the salvia that mom gave Sal for his birthday
  • plant my annuals that we started when we did our veggie starts
  • put up the twinkle lights in the trees
  • weed the sidewalk strips
  • replace a few of the plants we lost over the winter from last year's landscape-o-rama (namely, the jasmine and one of the clematis)
  • get two more metal bins from IKEA to store a few things on the back porch
  • oil the front porch swing and rocker

There are other things we want to do, of course, but once we've taken care of those items, we'll be able to call it good for enjoying the yard whenever we want this summer

But working in the yard wasn't all we got accomplished this weekend. We relaxed in the evenings watching movies and cuddling under blankets with the kitties on the couch. And yesterday was reserved for non-work or chore items: Sally brewed another batch of beer (his third batch this month!) and I spent the day writing. Also a productive day: he got his batch put up AND the last batch bottled, and I reached a milestone of my own.


back to the grind

To a really hectic stretch of work this week and next, unfortunately. And I have a bunch of things to get done in the evenings this week, too, so no rest for the weary, I guess. Our first CSA pickup is tonight, and then I need to get my website clients updated when I get home, which means a late night, and probably tomorrow night, as well. Errands Thursday night, something I'm forgetting Friday, and a block party Saturday, which includes the neighborhood project of painting the intersection down the street (with a design that Sal and I haven't seen yet, but knowing our awesomely artistic neighbors, ought to be cool no matter what).

And today marks our 8 year house-iversary...8 years since the old girl became ours, and wow, has a lot changed since then. If I ever get our website updated before I start collecting Social Security, I'll have lots of new pictures of that progress.

Anyway, on to lunch. It was a busy weekend (more on that in another post) so there wasn't a lot of cooking happening from which to cull leftovers for lunch. Today's more of a smorgasbord, but that's never a bad thing, is it?

Laptop Lunch box:

  • Applegate Farms pepperoni slices, alternating with smoked mozzarella slices
  • sourdough bread
  • steamed broccoli
  • dark chocolate and yogurt covered raisins, with walnuts in the small inner container

happy birthday, sally!

I'm excited about the prospect of all the produce we'll be getting this summer, what with our regular bin delivery, our vegetable garden, and the CSA we signed up for this year. May have to scale back our bin delivery until the garden and CSA peter out in the fall, as it's entirely possible we'll be overrun with fruit and veggies, but that's a good problem to have, no? Still a few weeks yet until we'll see anything from the CSA, though, and it'll be a couple of months before the garden gets going, so no need to panic just yet.

But it does mean that every other Monday, my bentos tend to be a little forlorn as they await the arrival of the next delivery. While we had the grill going last night, I had Sally throw on a couple of chicken basil sausages to use in lunches this week.

Breakfast, cute animals sidecar:

  • oatmeal, with Braeburn apple chunks underneath
  • butter, brown sugar, and raisins in the mini-sidecar to mix in

Lunch, black strawberry box:

  • chicken basil sausage
  • julienne cucumber and carrot strips from the weekend's sushi party (see below)
  • grilled potato with butter, sour cream, and green onion, leftover from last night's dinner
  • Braeburn apple slices
  • yogurt and dark chocolate covered raisins
  • garlic dill cheese curds

Is there anything better than a gorgeous weekend in the Pacific Northwest? NO NO THERE IS NOT.

All weekend we had temps in the mid/high 70s, blue or mildly cloudy skies, and not a breath of wind. Our roses exploded all over the place in the last few days, and combined with the rhododendrons and azaleas and irises, I'm so in love with our house and our neighborhood I could burst. Next weekend we'll be doing some yard work -- weeding the back bed so the plants my mom put in don't get clogged into oblivion, trimming back the lilacs, pruning the apple tree, planting a few new and replacement things, and putting up the twinkle lights in the trees -- but the yard is in good enough shape already that when Sister, Guy, and the Fabulous Miss M came for the weekend, all that was needed was to set the patio chairs out for us to while away some time soaking up the gorgeous, gorgeous weather.

They came for Sal's birthday -- which is actually today; Happy Birthday, Sally!! -- and we had a nice, easy-going time with family to celebrate. Did a bit of running around Saturday-- to Portland Nursery to pick up the gift certificate and two black and blue salvia my mom had reserved for his gift -- then to Steinbart's so the boys could get all atwitter over brewing supplies. We stopped for lunch at Grilled Cheese Grill, which Guy hadn't yet been to, and though we had to wait in line thanks to the street fair going on down the block, we managed to have a yummy lunch all around. Back home to put Miss M down for her nap, and we passed the time at our wonderful table under the apple tree, which is all you really need in life, frankly.

After a run to New Seasons for supplies, and back home for a snacky interlude of bread and cheese while Miss M ate her dinner, she was off to the pre-bedtime ritual of jammies, storytime, and a goodnight song. Meanwhile, we got things ready for Sal's requested birthday activity: a sushi-rolling party! Great, great fun and lots of laughs while hoovering up plates of sushi in every combination we could think of. When the last of the sushi rice was rolled up, we retired to the living room to finish off our plates and watch Louis C.K.'s most recent stand-up show and finished off the evening with four mini-cakes, complete with candles and a rendition of "Happy Birthday".

The next morning, Guy treated the chef (and the rest of us) to a fabulous breakfast -- yeasted waffles with lemon-poppyseed creme -- and then it was time for them to head home. Afterward, I retired to the nook for a bit to edit while Sally read some of his brewing books out on the front porch. We moved to the patio, where I did so more editing, though mostly I just kind of sat there in contented silence, trying to absorb just how absolutely perfect the day was. We grilled for dinner -- steaks and potatoes, with some steamed broccoli and green onions from our bin. And though I had website work to do, I did absolutely none of it, opting instead to watch a movie and fold clothes (I am determined to stay on top of the laundry, dammit!), get to bed relatively early, read for a bit, and get a good night's rest. Website work will be there tomorrow, and anyway, I knew it was supposed to rain today. How's that for procrastination?