Entries in oceanside (8)


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.




and only the stormy hearts know what it says

While the rest of the PNW was suffering its first hot temperatures of the summer this weekend, we were literally basking in the glory of a beautific summer day on the Oregon Coast.

The timing was strictly a stroke of luck. We scheduled this bonus weekend at the end of June, when the proprietors of the cabins we frequent offered us first dibs on a cancellation for this weekend. The perks of being a regular.

So instead of sweltering in 102 degree heat in our non-air conditioned house, we were stretched out on the sand on a perfectly perfect 80 degree day under ridiculous blue sky.

And we remembered the sunscreen! And the sunglasses! So we weren't burnt to human-shaped crisps! Nor were our eyeballs broiled in their sockets! Hurray for responsibility!

A tempered victory, though. We have a standing Oregon Coast Checklist to help us remember the things we need/want/might bring. It's rare that we bring most or even half of the items, but it's indispensable in helping us remember everything for each trip. In our haste to get out the door, I didn't bother pulling up the list. We've made this trip dozens of times, surely we'd remember what we needed. And we were traveling especially light this time. Most of the list wouldn't apply.

Oh, nay nay.

Throughout the weekend, one of us would suddenly name a thing we realized we'd forgotten, accompanied by a facepalm. "Camera!" "Chairs!" "Butter!" Whoops. Lesson learned: always leave a note check the list.

Sunday was nearly as hot in Portland as Saturday, but in Oceanside, we had fog and cloud cover so heavy it was as if the sky was only a hundred feet high. No wind, no sun, and just the right combination of cool and temperate. It was goddamn glorious. Sal and I did not a single damn thing all day except relax and read and nap.

An hour or so before sunset, we changed to warmer clothes, filled a small cooler with ingredients for a campfire meal (hot dogs, buns, marshmallows, carrot sticks, etc.), and claimed a spot on the beach for building a fire. This is a pretty regular thing on Oregon beaches, so it's easy to find a ring of rocks and remnants of a previous fire someone else built. The sophistication of the firepits will vary, but it's rare that you have to build one from scratch.

We managed to snag a good one, complete with two big driftwood logs for seating, and only had to build a second ring on top of the first to make it deeper. Our luck ended there, though. We'd bought a small bundle of wood (with the heat, the beach was crazy-crowded, which means there was not a stick of small driftwood to be found) but didn't realize until we were trying to get a fire going that it wasn't seasoned and there were no pieces that were really kindling-sized.

We'd almost burnt through all of our paper trying to get the fire going and were about to admit defeat when a guy came down the hillside, saw that our fire, you know, wasn't, and offered to bring some kindling from his van. WAY too good to be true, this guy. It could've been a candy-from-strangers situation, but he was just a nice guy with good timing doing a nice thing.

A really nice thing, actually, since he didn't actually have kindling in his van, he had wood in his van, which he then chopped into a big bundle of kindling and hauled back down the hillside to us. And single-handedly saved our much-anticipated beachside picnic in the process. Then politely refused any offer to share in our fire or food, just left with a handshake and a smile. Faith in humanity: restored.

So we enjoyed our cookout and our fire until well past dark, ocean rumbling nearby, fog bank keeping the air cool and still, the smell of woodsmoke bringing back too many memories to count.


title taken from "Young Sea" by Carl Sandburg, which contains one of my all-time favorite lines:  "I am the last word/ And I tell/ Where storms and stars come from."


it takes an ocean not to break

I think sometimes I was a mermaid in a mythic former life, beginning to shrivel and die a little inside when I'm too long away from water. I live within sight of a river, which helps, and cross a mighty bridge almost daily that soars so high, high in the air that some days the clouds sit low beneath it, and it's very possible that what lies on the other side is a secret city in the sky. Which means I might also be a bird or a seraph (though more of the "burning one" species than the angelic sort).

But even wide rivers across the feet of verdant hills and secret cities in the sky lose their appeal for a mermaid after awhile, and eventually, the sea is the only thing that will do.

The unintended hiatus of the last few months is an indication of how much has been going on, this thing and that thing, a teetering stack, everything piling on to a heap that would crush even the strongest person after a while. Haven't we all known that mountain that can only be carried, not climbed? We identify with Atlas for a reason.

So the salve for such heart weariness is those sacred places that refill us, let us set aside that damnable mountain for awhile and just rest and rejuvenate and remember what it means to be light and airy (and fishy, if you're a mermaid). And my sacred place -- one of many, truth be told, because a person can't have too many sanctuaries, really -- is a wide expanse of mercurial sea hidden at the end of a secret road and marked by the gravestones of three long-dead giants.

We arrived just after a storm had swept through (and indeed, had swept over us an hour before as we wound through mountain passes), sky clear and blue, the air warming and calm. We paused just long enough to unload our stuff and throw together a quick little lunch wrapped in dishcloths, then headed straight for the sand. And for the next few hours, we did nothing but sit in the sun with our tiny feast and spend a whole lot of time just watching. Watching the waves, the birds, the clouds, the people, each other.

And after, we sat on the little porch of our little cabin, drinks in hand and books in laps -- books that never quite got opened as long as the sun was still sinking to the horizon -- and we watched some more. Talked about this life, this wonderful life, what it took to get here and could we even believe it and how we are defined by the places that nurture us.

Then it was time for feasting. An easy accomplishment at the coast, really -- with a good view, even a bowl of cereal could be called a feast. What, then, to call our meal, with its varieties of meats and sausages and cheeses, crusty-soft baguette and sesame-encrusted loaf of Sicilian, fresh mushrooms and carrots, and juicy grapes so sweet we rethink our commitment to chocolate, all with the ocean waves rolling on soft sand a couple hundred feet from our door?

We usually stay longer during our summer break, but this trip was no less regenerative for being shorter. We had warm and cool, sunny and rainy, cloudy and clear, but not a lick of wind through any of it, which makes just about any weather bearable, if you ask me. (The only time I like wind is if it's positively gale force while I am safely ensconced inside someplace cozy and warm with a book and a good light and hot chocolate at hand.) We saw seals in the water and slept in a bed beneath an open window, had blueberry pancakes for breakfast and took pictures of pretty-colored rocks.

Mermaids love pretty-colored rocks.

And bless the dear folks who own and run the cabins where we stay, who call us family and treat us that way, always making sure we get our reservations (even when we're a little tardy in scheduling them) and give us first dibs on our favorite cabins. When we're there, they let us know about cancellations during the busy season, in case we want to snatch up a last-minute getaway, because even though we try to come out every three months or so, we'll never pass up a chance to visit more.

The cynical person would say it's good business to treat your regulars well, but I like to think they recognize a mermaid when they see one.

title taken from "Terrible Love" by The National


vacation thus far

Sal @ Lovejoy Bakery, contemplating life, love, and the intricacies of laminated doughsOur WinterFest Vacation crossed the halfway mark a few days ago, which means we have successfully developed amnesia about all things work-related and managed to cram in a buttload of seriously awesome fun in the last week and a half or so: four days at the coast, WITH the cats, and no one ended up in handcuffs or a morgue; homemade gifts completed on time and delivered intact, and eventually gifted successfully; Smiley-Hall Christmas 2012 celebrated in the usual grand and entertaining style, with said homemade gifts exchanged during the festivities; a day of utter slothfulness that involved reading in the library with a cat on each lap and staying in our pajamas all day; full seasons of Dexter, Parks & Rec, and Sherlock (re)watched; and today, a Day of Portland that included Powell's and two(!) bakeries. And there are still four days left!

Powell's a complete madhouse today, by the way. We avoid anything that even hints of shopping in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but apparently, a mid-week afternoon three days afterward is still a time to be wary. Holy buckets.

I did, however, come out of there with two new bento boxes, of all things. The "Syrup O'Clock" line is new to me, but clearly adorable. They had locking two tiers that went with each of these designs, as well as a nesting set of square boxes for each, but I managed to resist. I do have some willpower, you know.

These are each 240 mL, which will make them perfect for my "Greek yogurt mixed with fruit" mornings. (The 300 mL sidecars are too large for a portion of yogurt and the 100 mL mini sidecars are too small. These are, therefore, the Goldilocks of my bento box collection.


when the salt and blue fill a circle of horizons

the sun finally appears at the end of a grey dayTonight is the last night of our Summer 2011 vacation at Oceanside. We'll be back in a few months in the fall, and we've been doing this seasonal Oceanside vacation thing for years now, but it never gets any easier to leave.

And I do mean years. As we were unloading our stuff when we arrived at the cabins, one of the proprietors was returning from a walk with a new employee. I was in the cabin putting things away as Sal was coming up the steps with the last load of stuff, and I heard her greet Sal warmly, then introduce him to the new person. "This is Salvatore," she said. "One of our regulars. You'll see him and his wife every three months. Like seasons."

sunlight on the cliffsExcept this year -- we skipped our March/April visit to save up so we could take the Olympic Peninsula trip for Sal's birthday. She noticed, too. When I went to check in a little later*, she remarked that they'd missed seeing us this spring. It's nice to be known like that. To be someone's regular.

*The front office was empty when we arrived. But we come so often that they just leave the cabin to our door unlocked knowing we'll check in at some point. Which is why we were able to start unloading the car and get settled in before they got back.

our vacation spot is so awesome it includes a tunnel to a secret beachWe had mostly gray sky for this trip, and a whole day of rain today, but it was comfortably temperate, warm enough that we could keep the windows open day and night without getting chilled. And we did get several hours on the beach despite the intermittent sun, with little wind. Enough to get a bit of sunburn, even. And today, which was rainy until late in the evening, we squeezed in a pleasant stroll on the sand. We snapped some pics and even made a short jaunt through the tunnel to the secret beach on the other side of the promontory before the tide got too high.

ending in sunburstOther highlights: continuing our tradition of starting a new show, which we watch once it gets dark and we're eating a late dinner or snack; starting a special book saved for the occasion -- The Wise Man's Fear, in my case, which I've been waiting for more than three months to begin and that's a testament to willpower, people, because goddamn, this series is brilliant; afternoon naps with the window open and the sound and smell of the ocean as we fall asleep; Sal's homemade cookies and orange chocolate chip scones; and of course our special crockpot roast stew, which no matter how many times we make it at home never tastes quite the same as it does at the coast.

But then, I guess that's true of a lot of things.


title taken from "North Atlantic" by Carl Sandburg


vacation's all i ever wanted

Hello, internets!! I have returned, you may rejoice! Or roll your eyes, that works, too.

So vacation is officially over and I am officially depressed. (not really) Nineteen days away from work is really the bestest invention ever and should be something I do every month. Ha ha, I kid. (no really, nobody fire me, kay?) The downside of nineteen days of vacation is the coming back part, which is decidedly not part of the bestest invention ever, but I knew that going into it, so.

yes, it's really a screenshot of my Inbox (we don't count the Sustainability folder since it's all from automated online mailing lists)But you know what else is also not the funnest thing ever invented? THE TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN EMAIL MESSAGES WAITING IN MY INBOX THIS MORNING. Jesus H, people! Email in the workplace is srsly of the devil. I suppose I should be grateful(!) that I was gone when many people were also gone for various lengths of time for the holidays, because holy buckets I would not even want to contemplate the horrors. I'm hoping that half of that will be variations on "hey everyone I will be gone for the next 3/5/whatever days so long losers" and "oh yay vendors have brought holiday treats don't trample each other on the way to the kitchen" and thus deleted with no further effort. I AM VERY OPTIMISTIC IN THIS WAY. I kind of don't know yet how bad it is because I am feeling particularly avoidant today and thus haven't delved too deeply. Well, and I had meetings from the moment I walked in the door until, well, right now. Let's see, lunch or cleaning out my inbox...hmmm....

So, vacation! Was, as I mentioned, totally badass! It was a little more hectic at the start than either of us would've preferred due to some scheduling obligations, but nothing too traumatic. Things That I Did On My Vacation: A Thesis:

  • completed the creative room, woot woot! (now renamed officially to the studio, except on the web pages here because it would break all the links and I don't feel like fixing them all)
  • created our little hearts out in our creative room studio, woot woot! and left projects half-done, and all our stuff out, and it's totally okay because it's not in the middle of the kitchen or the living room and the cats can't get into any of it to chew on things and barf them back up and just generally yay for dedicated creative spaces!
  • did some writing on Book 2 in the new creative room studio; also, at the coast
  • made some way awesome presents for the homemade Christmas with our Smiley family, as mentioned in the last post (and yes, I still owe a write-up and pics of that...coming soon!)
  • finished Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which makes me sad because ye gods and little fishes that show is goddamn freaking awesome and joins the list of great shows that died too soon and I may now be madly in love with John Connor and his almost-human Summerbot and also also ALSO Sarah Connor the mother of us all and Derek Reese of the Reese clan and omg Shirley Manson still a Scottish badass and also in addition I need to see more John Henry playing D&D oh woe why why why was this show cancelled
  • went to the movies (saw Voyage of the Dawn Treader but still haven't seen Tangled so we're hoping we can fit it in next weekend before it's gone from the theaters)
  • played utterly ridic amounts of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Wii; in other news, we are hilariously behind on gaming trends (hahaha as if we have ever been up-to-date on gaming anything, we are srsly 124 years old)
  • got my website clients updated for January (those who sent me their updates, anyway) -- not really a vacation-y thing, but a considerable accomplishment considering my general attitude throughout vacation was "if it looks like work, then I'm not doing it, damn it"

a winter storm raged like a banshee the entire time we were at the coast, and of course the morning we left, it looked like this

  • spent four quite glorious days at the Oregon Coast
  • went out to eat at a new restaurant (Tasty & Sons); well actually, two, since we tried out Little Big Burger for the first time, as well
  • went to brunch on Alberta -- hahaha Tin Shed on any day of the week what was I thinking trying to get in for brunch? god bless Alberta's many coffee shop alternatives or we would have been hungry and thus cranky otherwise -- and then to Collage with Sal and managed not to buy everything in sight
  • started (finally) Wheel of Time: The Towers of Midnight and spent much happy time curled up with a satisfactorily heavy book either at the coast with a terrifically ferocious storm raging outside or at home in my terrifically cozy library; also, I have an addiction to adverbifying adjectives
  • slept in...like, a whole lot
  • did silly time-wasting things like playing an embarrassing amount of Angry Birds on my phone (what I don't even), for which I make no apologies because I freaking PWN that game, dude
  • oh yeah, and spent every available moment with my dear and beloved Sally Bear which was still not enough but way, way more time than we've had together in a long, long while

Our vacation clearly rocked it, I think we can all agree. There were a few things not done that we'd hoped to -- no LOTR marathon this year, unfortunately -- but there's no reason we can't do them anyway. It's going to take some time to get back into the routine of things, and there's always that period of the doldrums following a vacation, but it was worth it. Also, the cats have gotten WAY too used to having our attention practically 24/7 so I expect retaliation when I get home tonight. In other news, we live with terrorists.

And you know, we actually aren't planning to get back into the routine of things. We've long since decided -- and vacation was partly used for the planning of making this happen -- that we need to refocus our efforts on boundaries with the demands on our time versus spending our time in a way that's important to us. That refocus is something you just have to do on a regular basis, that resetting of boundaries, and we just haven't had a chance to catch our breath long enough to do it. So we did. Will. Are.

New Years' Resolutions? Nay nay, for we do not believe in them! Instead, these are Our Goals That Just Happen To Coincide With The Beginning Of A New Year No They Are Not Resolutions Shut Up. Anyway, 2011 will hopefully be a good year, better than 2010 was and it better be a damn sight better than 2009 or I'll demand a refund because holy crap, 2009 sucked it.

Anywhoodle, I'm back to work, back to posting, back to catching up on the past house projects so I can post on the creative room studio project, back to folding laundry and doing dishes and other illusions of responsibility, but in a new and revised format in which responsibilities and obligations get a portion of the pie than they were getting prior to vacation.

I'm also back to bentoing. I missed doing it, and I didn't. It was nice being all free spirit-y and lackadaisical about mealtimes and such, but I sure enjoy my pretty packed lunches, lo they give me great joy, Charlie Brown. Still, it's good to take a break sometimes, just so it stays fun and enjoyable instead of becoming another obligation, non?

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • jasmine rice with a stripe of peas
  • orange sections and Rancho Royale apple slices
  • Sal's custom blend of flavored nut mix (part of his homemade Christmas gifts)

special treat, cute animals sidecar:

  • sugar cookies Sal made for me last night as a special treat for my first day back to work, which he presented to me as bento animal cookies I KNOW RIGHT HE MADE ME HOMEMADE ANIMAL COOKIES HE WINS ALL THE AWARDS IN EXISTENCE

lol somewhat homely bento I maybe didn't put much effort into it. The protein part of the equation is a tad, um, lacking, but whatever, it's still a bento and it's still one more meal I'm neither skipping nor resorting to less healthy means for.


boxing day

a sneak peek at the much talked about creative room; or, a pic in which the kitties prove that they do in fact own every room in the houseI have the "Christmas Time is Here" theme from Charlie Brown Christmas running through my head. I was never a fan of that soundtrack when I was a kid, but it's one of my favorites for Christmas now. (It also contains the only version of 'O Tannebaum' I have ever liked.) I love the introspective, melancholic feel of the music, even though I don't feel that way at all. It seems to suit a grown-up Christmas mood more than a kid's; maybe that's why I didn't like it then and love it now.

We've had quite a vacation so far. We finished the creative room a week ago Friday, amidst other obligations -- including an evening dinner party down in Oregon City -- and have been spending pretty much all our time since then in there, playing. I need to finish updating on the work from three years ago and then I'll have posts and pictures about the work we just finished. I'm so excited to show it to you! I have a gazillion pictures, so be prepared.

We've also been to the movie (Voyage of the Dawn Treader) tried a couple new restaurants (Little Big Burger in the Pearl and Tasty & Sons on North Williams), mainlined more of S2 of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, made gifts for each other and Sister and Guy (we exchanged homemade gifts this year), shopped for the Fabulous Miss M, passed new levels of Zelda on the Wii, slept in a lot, and traveled to Salem and back to celebrate Christmas with our beloved Smiley family.

We headed to Salem Friday afternoon, to arrive to a warm house that smelled yummy and smiles and hugs from Sister, Guy, and Miss M. We had seafood chowder for Christmas Eve dinner, then bundled up and headed to their church for the candlelight service. (And oh man, talk about Charlie Brown Christmas...I can never listen to someone reading the traditional passage from Luke without thinking of Linus' KJV reading.) Then it was home again to get Miss M in her jammies and off to bed, set the coffee table with plates of cookies, and relax on the couch to visit. We brought our Wii controllers so we could do a fun foursome of Wii Sports Resort, but just never got around to it. No complaints here...I love just visiting, and especially around the Christmas tree. Guy read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, we shared our favorite Christmas memories, stuffed each others' stockings, and went to bed waaaay too late.

Christmas morning was opening our stockings, then breakfast of egg dish (a traditional casserole-type dish from Sister's family), orange sweet rolls and pecan sweet rolls (all homemade, of course!), and then we opened gifts from under the tree. Miss M was commendably patient for a three year-old, waiting her turn to open packages in between the opening of the homemade gifts among the adults. (More about the gifts in the next post.) After a bit of play, it was time for a much-needed nap for everyone, Miss M to her bed and the adults crashed on the couches and recliner in the living room.

We enjoyed a late afternoon snack-lunch of cold honey-baked ham, cheeses, veggies, bread, and cookies, and watched a couple of the old Rankin/Bass Christmas classics together with Miss M while we ate. (You forget how scary the Abominable Snowman was to you as a little kid until you watch it with another little kid for the first time. Miss M had to check a few times that Sal was still sitting beside her during those parts, in case she needed protection from the monster.) Before we knew it, it was time to head home to be sure the cats hadn't burned the house down, with Sister cramming plastic containers with leftovers for us to take with us and Guy making sure the beer was all packed safely for the trip home, and Miss M refusing to say goodbye because she didn't want us to leave. A good visit all around!

Hobbes is exhausted after a long day of sleepingWe came home to a house still standing and no immediate signs of destruction, which was perhaps the best Christmas gift of all, considering the state we've come home to at times in the past. The kitties were glad to see us instead of refusing to get near us as punishment for being gone, there wasn't a lot of unpacking to be done (we'd packed light and of course there weren't a lot of gifts to be unloaded) so we were able to just kick back on the couch in contented weariness to watch a couple of movies and then go to bed.

So today is a play day, a do-whatever-we-want day, a this-is-an-awesome-thing-about-being-an-adult-because-you-can-do-anything day, and then ProcrastiGirl arrives tomorrow to watch the cats and the house while we head to Oceanside for our winter coast vacation, a much-needed dose of Oregon Coast. It's supposed to be rainy and yucky, which means it will be awesome. The New Seasons grocery delivery arrives later today so we'll have plenty of deliciousness to munch on (along with everything Sister sent with us), we have a couple of shows to marathon, a new book to read, another to write :), and of course wi-fi and our laptops to keep us entertained if we need it (no seriously: what did we do before the internet??) in between walking the beach, visiting Cape Meares, or simply staring out the window at the beauty of waves crashing on the sand. God bless us, every one.


this vacation brought to you by the letters h and s and the number 2

click to see full photo galleryGUESS WHAT YOU GUYS WE HAVE BEEN ON VACATION AHA. We were being all sneaky.

Actually, would've very much liked to be posting whilst on vacation, because welcome to the 21st century and all, but since scary internet predators love posts that basically say HELLO WE ARE GONE FROM THE HOUSE PLEASE ROB US NAO THX, this is why we can't have nice things. Scary internet predators ruin it for everybody, you guys. Haters be hatin', yo.

So instead, we have had to save up our many days of vacation squeeage for one ginormous post. (We actually returned yesterday -- TO THE SURFACE OF THE SUN I MIGHT ADD -- but this post is so ginormous that it took us a day and a half to get it posted.) Think you can handle it? I don't know, the squeeage here is pretty heart-explodey, you may want to consult with your physician first....

Okay, so now that all the legal clappity-trappity is out of the way -- HELLO INTERNETS WE ARE BACK FROM MANY DAYS OF VACATION AND FUN TIMES. This is actually quite an accomplishment, on many levels and for more than the obvious reason. (That reason being, of course, that the fact that we ever return from time spent at the Oregon coast is a testament to our superhuman skillz of being responsible adults.) The less obvious reason -- at least to most of you -- is that we took the cats with us.

Put the phone down -- you do not need to call the mental health professionals for information on how to have us involuntarily committed.

See, Sally gets two weeks of paid vacation per year and due to the school schedule, they're fixed by the school calendar, so it's a week around the holidays and a week sometime in late June/early July. We take the opportunity during both of these vacation periods to spend at least 4 days at Oceanside, longer if we can. This year, his summer vacation just happened to begin during the 4th of July weekend, and so we were all WOOT WOOT 4TH OF JULY AT THE OREGON COAST BITCHEZ.

What we failed to take into account was how the holiday weekend would affect the availability of our primary and backup pet & housesitters. Whoops. This was a problem entirely of our own making, since we didn't really realize it until a month before, when availability for later in the week was of course gone so we couldn't move our reservations, and cancelling would mean forfeiting our holiday weekend reservation deposit.

So by this point last month, it was looking increasingly grim for our heroes. But! When Sally called the place we usually stay to see about possibly moving our reserved days, Sherry (one of the owners of the place; they know us by name and give us priority reservations because we stay so often) reminded him that they're a pet-friendly place, and that the cabin we already had reserved was one of the "pets allowed" cabins. For a nominal fee and a refundable damage deposit, we could bring the cats with us. And thus, faced with bringing the cats with us or not going at all, we opted to bring them with us. See, I told you: it wasn't craziness, it was desperation. Not the same thing. Same zip code, though.

click to see full photo galleryWe did not choose this course without considerable trepidation, however. Hobbes' cystitis has increasingly become an issue in the last year, and any change in routine has resulted in many frustrating messes to deal with, not to mention the potential of expensive vet visits and medications. Neither of them travels well and the cabin, which is very small for two people, would be close quarters indeed for two people and two high strung cats. We figured we'd just prepare as best we could and make the best of it, no matter what happened. At least we'd still get to go to the coast. This is the "Everything's Better At The Beach" theory of problem-solving.

We brought extra linens and our own pillows, hoping that using familiar-smelling bedding would prevent them from wanting to mark it, and of course their food and cat box and all of that. We brought a few of their favorite toys, some catnip, the Feliway diffuser and some Feliway spray, and we got a prescription from the vet for a mild sedative to help with the car trip and transition to new surroundings.

Our plan was to leave as soon as we could after Sally got home Friday night. Friday night, however, saw both of us having worked an especially long day, ending an especially long work week, with little sleep. These are not ideal conditions for trekking to the coast with four days' worth of your own crap and two demon hellbeasts.

I'd given the kitties their sedative a few hours before, but rather than making it easier to gather everything and pack before Sally got home, it made it infinitely harder. They were both loopy within about 30 minutes of taking the sedative, and completely wobbly and disoriented, but while Hobbes was content to just lay on his cushion and mellow out (at first), Smaug wasn't having it. She kept wanting to jump up on things or suddenly dash off madly to no place in particular, but with the approximate agility of a dog on roller skates. She kept tripping over things, including her own feet, and missing whatever she was trying to jump onto and falling backwards, then skitter/wobbling into a nearby wall, doorjamb, table leg, etc., all the while pitifully crying, "Aroo? Aroo?" I felt simultaneously guilty, sympathetic, and exhaustedly amused -- c'mon, you wouldn't laugh at that? I call bullshit.

So I spent a great deal of time just trying to keep her from accidentally breaking her neck, and then Hobbes freaked out about an hour after she started and suddenly I couldn't keep him out of anything. When Sally called to see how it was going, I'm sure he could hear the hysteria in my voice; I'm still kind of astounded he came home at all, knowing what might be waiting for him there.

But come home he did, and we managed to get them crated (this is a two person job in the best of circumstances) so we could get on with the business of packing and getting out the door. Our plan had been that I would already have everything packed so we could leave as soon as he got home, but thanks to Stoned Cat Theater, we were a good two hours later than planned. We got out of town at a quarter to 1 AM and hoped to hell that neither of us would fall asleep. But Smaug helpfully yowled most of the way so we were in no danger.

We stumbled into our cabin at a little after 2 AM. Once we'd gotten everything put away (read: out of their reach) and appropriately Hobbes-proofed the cabin, we let them out of their crates. After an hour of loves and cuddles to help them feel safe about their new environs, and helping them onto and into the bed (the sedative lasts for 8 to 12 hours so they were still wobbly), we turned in for the night, exhausted. Hobbes proceeded to yowl for the next 2 hours, which is pretty much the only sound two exhausted adults are unable to sleep through. I assured Sally it was simply a reaction to the sedative, and that we did not in fact have nightly yowling to look forward to for the rest of the trip. I had no idea if it was or wasn't, but we were facing catricide here, so I had to think of something.

click to see full photo galleryThat inauspicious start notwithstanding, however, they were amazing the entire rest of the time. Mellow, loving, completely well-behaved. Not once did they pee anywhere other than the catbox. The normal craziness of mealtimes -- in which they go competely batshit at least an hour before feeding time, in which valuables are broken in an effort for attention and humans are heard to utter the phrase, "YOUR SISTER IS NOT A CHEW TOY!" -- was replaced with a calm, orderly manner. There wasn't a single, miniscule threat of a cystitis flare-up and it was nothing but peace, love, and harmony all the live long day. We were seriously freaked out at the change in these cats while were there. Could it be that cats need a vacation, too?

As for us, we were in desperate need of this vacation, and wow, did we ever get it. On the first day, Sherry mentioned that our cabin had just opened up for the night of our departure date and would we want to stay an extra night. And you guys? That right there was proof of a benevolent universe after all, because there was no way we could've been all OMG YES PLEASE to such a thing if we didn't already have the cats with us.

click to see full photo galleryThe weather was a.maz.ing. We had nice but cool, cool and then cloudy, cloudy and then deliciously foggy, nice and a little bit warmer, really really nice and quite pleasanty temperate. Our last full day, we woke up to a perfectly cloudless blue sky that stayed that way the entire day. Most of the day was spent on the beach.

The day before had been mostly clear with a mild breeze, so we'd spent that day walking the length of the beach, in the water the whole way, stopping at tide pools and picking up shells and rocks and sand dollars. (We always bring home at least a rock or two when we go to the coast, so we have something from every visit, but this is the first time in a long time that we've brought home so many.) The first two days, we got to enjoy at least some beach time before it got too chilly, and then we cozied up in our little cabin with our fuzzy little kitties and good food, and marathoned our next new show. (Friday Night Lights, FINALLY! Cat: we must now squee because omg!!)

click to see full photo galleryGood food, of course, is a staple of our getaways. Our cabin this time was one of the ones with a mini fridge and hot plate instead of full fridge and stove/oven, so we have to plan our grocery list accordingly and make more things ahead of time, but still feast like Damn Hell Ass Kings. Tacos the first night, smorgasbord the second, crockpot chili the third (the night of the 4th). We'd intended to build a fire on the beach for the evening of the 4th, and to roast hot dogs and marshmallows and eat s'mores, but it got too cloudy and chilly for that, so we decided to try for Tuesday night and had smorgasbord. Yeah, feel so sorry for us and our awesomeness.

Unfortunately, Tuesday night was too windy for us to feel safe building a fire to roast hot dogs for dinner, but we had plenty to eat so we were in no danger of going hungry. Then near sunset, the winds calmed down and it got downright balmy (the temps all day had been in the 80s, but the wind throughout the day was enough to make it a tad chilly at times). We'd already eaten dinner so it was too late for hot dogs, but hey, we still had those marshmallows that needed a good roasting!

So we hightailed it back to the cabin, changed into some warmer clothes, stuffed a bag full of supplies (matches, newspaper, skewers, marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate bars...oh, and a beer for Sally and jug of water for me :), and set out for the spot we'd marked for our clandestine beach fire a few days before.

click to see full photo galleryWe'd stockpiled some good dry driftwood and stashed it up in the rocks above the high tide line when we'd been out picking up rocks and seashells. We'd had our eye on a couple of nice firepits someone had built up (probably for the 4th), hoping that at least one of them would be unused once the holiday crowd was gone. They were quite a ways down from the beach entrance, a good mile and a half down the beach, and since most people tend to cluster right around the entrance (something I will never understand -- you have 3 miles of gorgeous beach, people, why the hell are you all concentrating within the same 100 yard radius???), we felt pretty confident we'd be able to use one of those pits.

A decent fog was rolling in by the time we were about halfway there and it well past sunset, so it was a bit dicey whether or not we'd find our stash. We ended up picking the closer of the two pits we'd staked out, which turned out to be the nicer of the two, with a huge log that was the perfect size for seating and a well stacked ring of rocks to give the fire a chance to take hold even with a decent wind.

In no time at all Sally had a good fire base going, and then got it built to a size that was strong and steady without being too big. And from there, we proceeded to roast half a package of giant marshmallows, eating one for every one that we used for a s'more. We watched the waves dwindle away behind the dark and the mist, and most everything around us turn hazy and distant. But it was clear overhead and the sound of the waves echoed back at us from the steep wooded slope behind us, and we could see swathes of stars above. We talked about how long it'd been since we'd sat at a campfire together, how long since we'd roasted marshmallows, how long since we'd seen so many stars, how long we'd been married. It'll be 14 years in a week, and that number seems both too big and too small in all the right ways.

We were done eating long before we were ready to leave, so we just sat and enjoyed the fire until it had mostly burned down, then doused it with sand and headed back in the dark, the waves at our left, the cliffs at our right, the stars overhead. And that ended the last full day of our summer beach vacation.

click to see full photo gallerySo basically, we did like we always do on these secret coast getaways. We read big books from our tottering To Read Pile and listened to iPods and dozed in the sun. We talked and we laughed. We started a new show and ate lots of good food. We waded in the water and got used to sand in and on everything. We took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. We watched sunsets and listened to waves crashing and dreamed about the tiny little place we'll have on the coast someday.