Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Best of Portland (So Far): Part I

Is it too soon to declare my undying love for places in the Portland-Vancouver area? Months before we've moved there? Can they really be favorites already? I am I a fickle, fickle woman? I say no, yes and yes. In that order. Let's begin.

Paxton Gate // I remembered that Natalie wrote a post about some of her favorite haunts in Portland early this year, so I used it as a guide when setting out to explore some of Portland's nooks and crannies. Paxton Gate was featured in said post and it immediately struck me as a place we'd find interesting. It was. Oddities, taxidermy, bones galore, books, plants... every square inch of that store was fascinating. Dioramas with bugs (a bookworm theme, for one) and rodents. The one in the ornate frame pictured above was pretty awesome. It's a mouse wearing a mustache and carrying an umbrella. It reminded me of the intro scene from Dinner with Schmucks. We aren't ones to decorate with dead things, but boy did I appreciate this store. So did the boys. We asked a zillion questions and enjoyed hearing about this and that from the lovely ladies running the register. (For instance, we discovered that all but the antique taxidermy pieces they carry are from animals who died of natural causes.)












City State Diner // This diner is just around the corner from one of the schools we toured. We knew immediately after laying eyes on the "We Serve Bacon All Day" sign that it was our kind of place. It couldn't have been cuter inside, and the food was off the hook. I had a crab hash that I couldn't stop eating, and Kiddo ate every bite of his Bananas Foster french toast. And dude. Did you see that Bloody Mary? I swear I heard Mario whispering sweet nothings to it. 

We are breakfast-out-on-the-weekends kind of people, and on our drive home from the airport I came to a realization: we could probably eat out for two whole years (or more!) before going to the same place twice. What an exciting prospect! There are all of 5 breakfast places in our immediate area and one of them closed this week. If that's not a sign we should be moving, I don't know what is (besides the zillion other reasons, of course).







Powell's Books // This place is a Portland institution. And while I've explored my fair share of bookstores, this is hands-down the most awe-inspiring. It goes on for ever and ever and ever. And they're adding on to the building. We spent a couple hours in there and will likely spend many, many more. One of the things I liked about it was that the store is divided into rooms based on the subject matter, and the new and used books are all on one shelf. No seeking out the used book section. Brilliant.

I proceeded to add photos of the next place before realizing that I may break some sort of Blogger page length barrier. And thus, a two-parter was born.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.

Milton Berle


We are back to the grind after our week-long trip to Portland. I headed out there without much optimism, I now realize. As I wrote in my last post, the what ifs were deafening at times and I wondered what we'd do if it was time to go home and we hadn't settled anything. There is a lot of change happening. Good change, but scary. Is change, especially big, rapid-fire change, ever not a little scary?

First and foremost was Kiddo's school. Everything depended on that. After visiting a charter school, then the smallest public school in the area, nothing had ignited a spark. The third school was big and we didn't hold out much hope that we'd love it, but we knew almost the minute we stepped foot inside that it was The One. It just was. We sat in the car and buzzed for a few moments after leaving and, because we were so sure it was The One, decided to look for homes in the area. The first that popped up was just over a mile away so we headed to check it out. Upon pulling onto the street, we knew it was also The One. The neighborhood, the proximity to the school...all of it. So on a rather unassuming Thursday morning, as our fact-finding mission was nearing its close, we began laying roots. Just like that. 


So here we are, about two months out from The Move, and the big things seem to be settled. The deposit has been sent, the moving truck has been reserved and the school registration paperwork has been submitted. We have a curb to pull up to with the moving truck and a roof under which to lay our heads. And can I just say how cute I find this house? I want to pinch its cheeks. Were weren't able to do a walk-through before we left, so we've had to rely on photos and what we could see from the outside. It was a leap of faith, which can be challenging and calls for a lot of discussion, but sometimes you just have to go with your gut rather than risk losing something that feels very, well, right. Fortunately, we have great friends in the area that can give it the once-over for us in the coming weeks.


This trip also served to solidify our sureness about moving to this particular neck of the woods. We love the area. I missed being a part of the hustle and bustle of a city! Mario won't have to drive hours away to reach an airport when he travels. But the best part is that our new abode is tucked away in the cozy suburbs, which will allow us to hold on to some of the quiet stillness that comes with living outside city limits. Win-win.

We saw a hesitant kiddo fly out with us and an eager, excited one come home. As the week progressed his mood changed considerably. We knew he'd warm up to the idea of moving once he saw the area, but I carried a considerable burden when it came to his feelings about the move. I didn't want to just take him along for the ride, I wanted him to want to be there. His happiness was definitely on the list of what ifs (What if he hates it here?!). And while I'm sure there will be bumps along the way, I feel more at peace where he is concerned.

Mario had to work the first two days of our trip, so Jared and I headed up to Seattle for a little side excursion. I wanted him to feel like his spring break was still a break, and we both needed a moment to take a breath. To enjoy the area without the pressure that comes with having just one week to sort out a life-changing relocation. I took lots of photos of the area, and will do posts on some of our favorite places, but in the meantime here's a few of the more candid moments.

 // The EMP museum is hands-down one of the most interesting places I've ever been. The building itself is bonkers. // I love this graffiti wall in downtown Seattle. This was Kiddo's first visit and it was the first thing that really caught his eye. // The Swami fortune telling machine is a favorite. I can't walk by without getting my fortune. I'm always tempted to say "I wish I were...big". // The umbrella and map shops are my favorite. // The EMP museum has the original costume David Bowie wore in the movie Labyrinth. My favorite movie, of course. I geeked out big time. // Kiddo and I love the sign and overall vibe of this restaurant. The lion made us think of our mini lion at home. // Random chalk robot. // The donuts at Pike Place Market are divine. // A cool, unstaged iPhone shot of Kiddo under the space needle. I probably couldn't replicate it if I tried. // The view from our hotel room. //


 // On our last morning, as we drove to the airport, Portland greeted us with the most beautiful sunrise. I felt like a Welcome Home. // Our friends took us up to "Pill Hill" where the University of Oregon medical center and schools are located. OHSU has been my first choice PA program since deciding many years ago to pursue my undergrad and professional degrees. Being there, seeing it in person, renewed my spirit. Let's get this done. // Our friend Lucy. I'm endlessly entertained by her. And her photo-shy brother. // Powell's Books. This place will definitely come up again because it's just that amazing. //

I really dislike flying. I don't have any of the typical phobias, just a general dislike of the whole process. I get bored and restless and occasionally feel trapped. If given the choice, a road trip would win every time. But I have a husband who gives me his first class upgrades every time we travel together which is just one of the gazillion things about him that proves he's the best kind of husband there is. On our way home I started and finished a book; spent even more time thinking about all the squares that make up our landscape (who drew them so perfectly?); and was awed by the mountain peaks among the clouds. 

Now that we are home, but have a definite moving date, we are in an odd in-between phase. It's a bit too early to start packing everything up. So we live our lives and let time pass. While away, we reduced the price of our current home significantly in order to stir up some interest in the stagnant real estate market we find ourselves in. Well, it worked. We have already had one showing and two more are scheduled for this week. It's good, as we are in a time crunch and want to sell, but as anyone who's sold a home can attest (especially with a Kiddo and pets), it's a weird way to live. Your house doesn't feel like your own. It still belongs to you, but you no longer want it and it's dressed for someone else. You can't curl up on the couch with a coffee table covered in magazines and Legos anymore. Because the phone could ring at any moment. There will be lots of meals eaten out since people like to look on Saturday mornings and during dinnertime. Fingers (and toes) crossed one of them sees themselves in it and takes it off our hands.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The future begins today.

Wayne Gerard Trotman
Blogging has gotten away from me the last few days. Post after unwritten post has been swirling around this brain of mine, but fingers have not met keyboard. Curiously, having too many thoughts seems to stifle the writing process nearly as much as writer's block.
I'm typing this from the guest room of our friends' home in Vancouver, Washington. This week Kiddo is on spring break, so we used the time to go on a pre-move fact-finding mission. (Can I just say how awesome our friends are? They have taken us in this week and guided us on the path to relocation. I will be forever grateful for their generosity and kindness.)
Excitement has surpassed nervousness as the primary emotion where this move is concerned, and this week has solidified our decision to start the next chapter in this part of the country. Mario had to work on Monday and Tuesday, so Jared and I took a quick trip up to Seattle so he could participate in some spring-break-like activities. Today we visited a potential school for next year and have two more to see tomorrow. We're making progress and, based on the advice of friends and the knowledge of what we are not looking for, narrowed our choices down to a manageable number.
But gosh, where does one even begin when attempting to starting over? How do you find what you want and where you want it when you're not even sure what all that looks like? So much fear lies in the unknown. Fear of picking the wrong school for Kiddo. Fear of signing a lease on the wrong house. Fear of getting it all wrong and finding out too late. All this fear can spiral out of control if given the opportunity.
The good thing about life is that nothing is permanent. Schools can be changed and new houses found. We are sure about the where and that's as good a place as any to start. There are no certainties in life and we all have to live with that. To allow fear to place a little black rain cloud over an otherwise exciting situation would be to do ourselves a great injustice. So we are taking things one step at a time. And in doing so, I feel less overwhelmed than I did when we landed just three days ago.
Good things are happening with this tribe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.


I'd love to have my fancy camera handy and awaiting every impromptu photo op. In theory. But the truth is, I don't want to lug a big heavy camera around all day every day, and I enjoy the opportunity to be present in the moment rather than worrying that I will miss the shot. In Rio, for example, I carried my DSLR almost everywhere. I didn't want to miss a moment of that once in a lifetime experience. But it meant babysitting my camera case and always having my hands full. At one point, I came to the stark realization that I wasn't viewing the world around me organically. Instead, I was looking at everything through a Would this make for a great photograph? filter. I'll treasure the photos I took forever, but I cherish the memories more. So I've been more deliberate with my photography lately; deciding with intention whether or not to bring my camera at all.

Which brings me to my next point: most of my life is lived through the lens of my trusty iPhone camera. In truth, my most treasured photos of the boys were taken with my iPhone. Photos taken in a fleeting moment that can't be reenacted. While the memory card on my DSLR contains carefully contemplated photos of favorite places, people and things, my phone is more representative of my daily life. The minutia, yes, but also the moments and sights that stop me in my tracks. Daily ponderings captured in real life. The photos accumulate and posts like this are born.

Here is a glimpse into life as late:

// Mario got home late Saturday evening, so Sunday morning we headed out for some family time. We stopped at a local sugar house and watched them boil sap into that sweet New England nectar while we waited for a table, then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Pancakes and Time magazine. That's how we roll. // I've been in a accessory state of mind the last couple of weeks. Not one for more than stud earrings and a watch on a daily basis, this has been a departure from the norm. My Alex & Ani bracelets are getting a lot of wrist time. // This kid. I mean young man. It sneaks up on a mom, manhood. His face has thinned out and his voice is now a deep alto. Puberty is taking my breath away. The other day, while looking for new clothing for his ever-lengthening frame, I came to realize he's graduated to Abercrombie's adult tees. I took solace in the fact that he's still not old enough to see the bag they were sent home in. // During our drive through southern Vermont on Sunday, I swung by one of my favorite antique stores. Two new pieces of Pyrex later (for less than 20 bones!), I was one happy girl. // Spring has officially sprung. I am t-shirt clad and feeling more alive than I have in months. I got a rare and elusive urge to really clean the house on Saturday. To declutter and open some windows. Baking the occasional batch of cupcakes is the extent of my domesticity, so clearly something has come over me. Patches of color are popping up everywhere in what has been an otherwise gray world. (Update: Tuesday has brought heavy rain, flood warnings and the threat of snow. But this does not deter my optimism for Spring's arrival.) //


 // I try to keep evidence of my infatuation with our feline friend to a minimum in this space, but sometimes it simply can't be helped. This furry guy has been sunning in every available window and has grown a wild hair... frolicking about the house like a wee kitten despite his 15 pound frame. A spring revival clearly isn't reserved for just humans. He's acting how I feel. //


 The Dude is now officially in his mid-thirties. He was away on business during his birthday week, so we celebrated early. I surprised him with tickets to a comedy show and dinner at a local martini bar. Sans young man. // We are moving into a chapter in our lives where we treasure experiences over material objects. This was no exception. We laughed, bonded and overall had a great time... which trumps a tactile gift any day in our book. (Kiddo gifted him with a movie date.) // On Saturday night I made a cake and he made a wish. //


I aspire to read more self-help tomes so I may become a better, more well-rounded person. But more often than not I lose interest. Except for The Happiness Project. That particular book led to many great insights and really opened my eyes to what a great "self-help" book can be. I had a few extra minutes the other day and followed an urge to peruse our local book store. A whole table of books about improving happiness and finding balance drew me in. So these have been added to The List. (I'm currently reading The Lost Whale.) And while Chelsea Handler can hardly be considered a self-help guru, her books are great reminder not to take yourself too seriously. I'm all for the occasional reality check. //

Until next time...


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rio de Janeiro: Part III

 

I finally went through the last of my Rio pictures this morning. I compiled a list for Part 3... a place to put all those wonderfully random photos that I feel compelled to share. Upon finishing, I realized I probably had too many to fit in just one post. A post of reasonable length, anyway. But because I want to make sure these captured moments take up permanent residence in my corner of the blogosphere, my online memory-keeper, today will conclude my series about our adventures in Brazil. The country as seen through our eyes. This trip already feels miles away; our upcoming move and life in general have had the effect of distancing us from our time there. The memories have been softened, perhaps, but will never be forgotten. You can click on the following links to see parts one and two, should it be your heart's desire.


My lovely aunt loaned me her transitional filter for the trip. Those great waterfall photos I've always lusted after? That was the secret.









I lost count of how many coconuts I drank. So. Good.
This little guy was cute. And a little scary. Apparently they are quite aggressive. Thank goodness for telephoto lenses.








All the sidewalks in Rio have mosaic patterns of some sort. The hours spent accomplishing this must have been tremendous.
I took enough mojito photos to suggest I have a drinking problem. In reality I drink very little but will seldom turn down a really good mojito. Rio consistently had the best I've ever tasted and I imagine all others will pale in comparison.

The dinner on the last night had a Rio Carnival theme, complete with beautiful dancers in ornate costumes.



His best Blue Steel.
There is just something about stacked hillside houses. They were my favorite sight in Greece, too.