Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh, Christmas tree! Oh, Christmas tree!

My grandmother always had the most lovely Christmas trees. Lots of glass ornaments and birds clipped to branches. She lived on a fixed income, but her tree never looked like it. She also used to tie red tartan ribbon on the branches. I loved this look and thought to myself that I wanted to have red tartan ribbons on my tree when I grew up and had a tree of my own. Over the years though I had difficulties finding enough tartan ribbon. Somehow I always seem to be shopping too late. Two years ago post Christmas I hit the mother load of tartan ribbon. I wasn't sure how much I would need so I over purchased for a total of 5 rolls. Each roll is 100yds. I only used one roll this year. I am still laughing at myself! We did not go to a farm to cut down a tree this year so the tree we have isn't as tall as I would like. Maybe with a taller tree I can use up more ribbon!
I have been collecting the entire series of the Portland Ornament. I was introduced to it when I was in high school. My Spanish teacher's mother is the artist. I love them. This year's ornament pays tribute to Oregon's sesquicentennial by featuring the Capitol dome. (Technically NOT in Portland) I find this especially nice because Mr. W was sworn in to the Oregon Bar there earlier this year. I think I probably have enough gold/brass on the tree and ought to add some more red balls to add more pops of color against the green needles.
An ornament we purchased on our honeymoon in Scotland.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Peacock Lane

Mr. W and his friends would meet up regularly for Happy Hour early in their careers. More people added to the group as people started to get married. I came into the picture around this time. It was a nice big group of fairly regular attendants. And then people started breeding. Our numbers began to drop until it was just a small core of bachelors and childless couples. Eventually though we all got on the baby train. I suggested that we start a rotating at home HH rather than searching for kid friendly bars. We call it HH:FE (happy hour: family edition) So we put months in a hat and each family draws. I think the last few years we have just been calling dibbs on months though and we have been taking December.
Since we live in Sunnyside and are so close to Peacock Lane we have everyone over here for supper. The party is BYOTravel mug and we make egg nog, hot buttered rum, coffee, and hot chocolate and everyone can spike their drinks for the walk to Peacock Lane.
Peacock Lane was a development built in the 1920s and is full of Storybook style houses, mostly Tudor Revivals. It is 4 blocks long and is one block east of 39th Ave. Since the late 1920s the neighbors decorate their houses with Christmas lights and it has become a popular Portland tradition. When Mr. W was looking for houses he read a listing which noted that the Christmas lights were included. He didn't know about Peacock Lane then and thought it was the weirdest thing to have in a house's description.
Since Sunnyside is so pro-sustainability Peacock Lane initiated their first car free night last year and they repeated it this year. I know that some SNA board members are encouraging more car free nights in the future and the Peacock Lane community is more than willing to work toward that goal.
I rotated the dining room table to make a bar for the party.
Somehow we have acquired a lot of silver serving pieces since the previous owners in our family grow tired of polishing it. We are glad to accept all new additions! I use Cape Cod polishing rags to remove the tarnish. I find it very easy to use and then I keep the pieces in silver bags to help prevent tarnish forming between uses. This was the first time we actually used the punch bowl. It worked perfectly for the egg nog. Everything looked so sparkly and pretty for Christmas.
I decorated the chandelier for Christmas after seeing my friend Ms. Mc had added the cutest Christmas decorations to hers. This is faux greenery and sugared fruits.
For supper we made a tomato soup and a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches. I also set out a few cookies. These are my great grandma S's raspberry napoleans and some Martha spice cookies.


Weather forecasting in Portland is always a crap shoot. The whole town gets paranoid over a predicted storm only to have nothing show up. That happened again just a couple weeks ago. Then yesterday after watching a little afternoon Thomas the Tank Engine we realized it was snowing outside. I hadn't heard there was snow predicted so I bundled up the littlest W and myself and we headed out to enjoy it while it lasted. More often than not the snow will fall, but it won't stick, or it will only stick on the grass, but not the pavement. We went for a little walk, with him leading the way directly to the slides at Sunnyside Park. When we got there we discovered snow baseball players! How awesome is that?!
After getting soaked through going down the slide I realized that the snow was not letting up and was sticking to everything. Very curious I thought, how did I miss this forecast? Well, it turns out I didn't. Mr. W saw it falling from his office downtown and read the weather men reporting that it was only raining and that the rain would quickly replace the snow. Ah! they were so, so wrong. It was a mess for people trying to get home last night. Many of my friends had a 3 1/2 hour commute, one even had a 4 1/2 hour commute. Yuck! I cannot imagine especially with children in the car. I suggested Mr. W walk home and since he could see the mess on the Morrison Bridge from his window he decided to at least walk across it and try to catch a bus once on the East side. Poor thing, he was too cold to stand still waiting at bus stops so he would walk to the next stop to keep warm and inevitably a bus would pass him while between stops. He ended up walking all the way home from down town! I had a hot buttered rum waiting for him and hot tomoato soup.
I do love the snow in Portland though, we get it so seldom that it is always welcome in my book.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Feast of Seven Fishes

I discovered this Italian American Christmas Eve tradition on thenest a few years ago. Since Mr. W loves sea creatures and we are always looking for ways to use our good silver we adopted the tradition. In the past one was supposed to abstain from meat before a feast day, just as you would on Fridays during the entire year. Since Christmas is such a special occasion people would do it up with a seven course meal. From what I have read there is some debate over why there are seven courses; 7 is a symbolic number: sacraments, virtues, sins, etc. I think in a tiny way it reminds me of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, so it has to be good, right?
Over the past 5 years we have fluctuated in the fish and the recipes but it usually goes some thing like this:
oysters on the half shell
crab cakes with aoili
mussels in broth
fried calamari
shrimp remoulade
baccala served with broccolini with anchovies (a bonus fish, if you will)

salmon tagliatelli
The crabcakes and the calamari we prepare in the deep fryer. We registered for one and my friend Mr. C bought it for us. We love it and love him for being generous enough to purchase such a crazy thing for us. It is kind of a pain to clean though. We have solved this problem by enstating Deep Fryer Season. Deep Fryer Season runs from Christmas Eve through Mardi Gras. This encompasses most of football season so all the novelties from the freezer aisle come into play...but I digress.
This year we decided that Midnight Mass with a two year old was a bad idea so we'd celebrate at the 5 o'clock children's Mass. This meant we had 3 courses before Mass and 4 after. This kind of worked for us. Kind of. We are always working on perfecting our timing. We ended up in the back row of the balcony. The littlest W was NOT thrilled to be there. Better luck next year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's back, baby!

Genoa has reopened! It has been about a year since the original restaurant closed and now it is back under new management with some of the original chefs. Genoa is a very special place for Mr. W and I because he took me there for dinner after he proposed to me at Cape Lookout. We would go there occasionally for anniversaries and special events, but it isn't often that you can have an eight course meal. The new Genoa offers a five course meal and there is a cafe next door. Mr. W and I had planned an antiques shopping excursion in Kalama, Washington last weekend because we were searching for my Christmas gift. We planned an overnight visit to Grammy's house for the littlest W. since we'd learned that antiques shopping with a toddler is a bad, bad idea. With the boy away for a Friday night I planned a night out in Sunnyside. Yay! no worries of designated drivers! I made reservations at Genoa at 8:45 and after Mr. W returned home from work we started our date at the Pied Cow coffee house.
The Pied Cow is in the Buttertoes House which was one of the properties owned by Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan. After they had both passed away and their collections became the Bosco-Milligan Foundation my dad made plans to relocate his stained glass studio from the West Block, which was Ben & Jerry's property that was to become the future home of the Architectural Heritage Center. Dad planned to buy the Buttertoes House and we would live upstairs and he'd have his shop below. Dad was convinced that if Ben & Jerry were still alive they would have sold it to him, but since the foundation did not want to lose their renter at the West Block they did not accept his offer for the Buttertoes House. I have been living in Sunnyside for seven years and have never been inside to see what could have been my house. It is a great old Victorian, but definitely has a hippy touch to the current interior decoration. We had a little baked brie with filberts and some drinks. I wasn't sure if I had made a reservation on the 5 course dinner side or the cafe side so I wanted to keep our first stop light.
When we arrived at Genoa we learned that we were eating in the dining room. It has been remodeled again since the last time we where there. The private room in back is now accessed from the main dining room, but has curtains to create privacy. It looks much more modern now and Mr. W was a little disappointed that the copper pot collection is gone. The man is hot for copper pots! The window to the kitchen is no longer in view from the dining room now.
The menu was just as delightful as we remembered. We are not so sure about the Italian fondue, but we enjyed our meal and left incredibly full and thankful for the walk home. We are so glad that Genoa is back in the neighborhood!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Loss and maybe some more loss

Today was slightly dry so I decided to stop by a few old commercial buildings before they disappear forever. I'd received an update that the demolition of the Daily Grind building for a new and "improved" New Seasons Market location was going to happen this month. After a week of rain during which I did not feel adventurous enough to take a long walk with the littlest W. I decided I'd do a drive by. I was too late. The damage has been done. The old building is completely demolished and the site is empty.

Maybe it is better that I didn't get there when the actual demolition was happening because I can't be sure that I would have been able to control myself from strapping myself to the building in protest. This is very upsetting to me that we lost this building.
The news recently ran a story about the commercial storefront on NE 21st at Multnomah St. It was reported that a water line had frozen and then broke which caused extensive water saturation under the building and the land basically slid away into Sullivan's Gulch and took part of the building with it. I was worried to be losing another building, because I have long hoped that this building had a little more love and life in it. In walking around taking photos one of the crew members directing traffic befriended us and gave us the real scoop. Apparently no one knows if a water pipe froze they haven't gotten in there to be able to evaluate that yet. And the two owners can't decide whether they should try to save the building or completely demolish it. I hope the owner who is more preservationally minded wins out in the debate. And their insurance company may influence the outcome. However I'm not sure how reliable my "source" is so who knows if any of my scoop is accurate. When we were there the work crew was working to remove the section of the building that had completely given way. So Portland we are losing our architectural heritage en mass this month.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

3 houses saved from demolition by PGE

About a year ago Sunnyside was going up against PGE to save 3 old homes in the neighborhood. PGE has plans to expand the Alder Substation which is on Belmont at 32nd. PGE owns the 3 houses adjacent to the substation and went to the City with plans to tear down the houses to add another transformer when they updated the exisiting equipment. They rent out the properties, and I can't say that they seem to do a great job with keeping the homes in good repair. We had a lot of support with in the neighborhood and our own engineers and professionals worked to come up with alternatives to the PGE proposal of demolition. Notably one of the neighbors learned of the Anaheim's Park Substation in which GIS (gas insulated switchgear) technology was used because it allows the equipment to be placed in greater proximity and it was built under ground and a park was constructed above it. This was Sunnyside's 1st choice of solutions. In order to offset the additional cost for the GIS's we suggested that PGE sell of the homes, thus ensuring that the houses would be saved for the neighborhood. It was many months and many meetings with amazing neighborhood turn out and eventually Sunnyside was able to convince PGE to take an option to the City which kept the 3 houses in tact and used GISs to keep the two new transformers with in the current footprint. Yay for community activism! Here are the houses we saved:
This first house is on 32nd an is the one which needs the most love. It has a great little back porch too.
The other two houses are on Yamhill. The second house is a great old Portland style foursquare.
One can tell that the tenants here really love this house. I assume that this is the house where the tenant who made such an eloquent, heartfelt plea to save the house at one of the PGE meetings lives.
And the smallest of the houses has long been one of my favorites in Sunnyside. I just think it is the sweetest little cottage and I adore the roof over the front door. The idea of losing this great house was one of the reasons I got so fired up about the project.
So, why do I bring these houses up now? They are saved, let's move on! Well, PGE assured us that they would work with a team of neighbors to help develop an lanscape plan for the substation to help mitigate the negative curb appeal of transformers. That was supposed to happen in August and we've heard nary a peep from them. We did just learn though that they have already gone to the City with new plans. Sigh! PGE, when will you learn that you need neighborhood involvement first before you come to us needing our support to get your plans through the City? So next month's meeting will include a speaker from PGE to build the landscaping team.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Yesterday was a really hard day for me. It was Guadete Sunday the joyful Sunday when we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, but it was anything but. My troubles began on Saturday night after dinner when we watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I cried through the whole movie, and it is 3 hours long. I'm not clear what exactly affected me so much whether it was the unwanted baby, death, him leaving his daughter, him dying at the end but in the form of a baby. I don't know, but I was miserable. I had such a headache from all the crying I did. I miss my dad and I am so frustrated with infertility. I am profoundly saddened by both. Even after the movie was over and we went to bed I could not stop thinking about it and could not stop crying. I can't remember the last time I had a good cry, so maybe that is why I had such a back up that needed to be released. I woke up in the morning still with a throbbing head ache. And then I did the dumbest thing to myself. I took a HPT.
After 18 months trying to conceive our first child I had a positive test result on Guadete Sunday. I was one day late. The way my cycle was working this year I could have conceived on the exact same day as our son. The way the calendar falls this year the 3rd Sunday of Advent is 4 days before I am due, the earliest the HPTs will work. So with superstition on my side I decided I'd test on Guadete Sunday again. There is no better way to celebrate the Joyful Sunday than knowing you are pregnant. Well, I'm not. And that set the tone for a cross and sad day for me.
After our breakfast in bed together I decided to go alone to Mass because I still had an awful headache. Afterwards I went alone to some antiques/junk stores looking for a bridge lamp and was unsuccessful in that as well. I know this sounds awful but I'm not sure how excited I can be as we lead into a holiday which focuses on birth and babies. It is going to be heart breaking for me.

St. Lucia Day

I first read about the Swedish traditions for celebrating St. Lucia Day when my little sister collected the American Girls books. I was in high school and therefore too old for those books, but since I have always been a big history nerd I read them in secret. So if my mom hadn't given them away, reading Kirsten's Surprise would be a great way to illustrate the tradition. I really appreciate the idea that this is a day where the children do something for their parents to help balance out the receiving that children enjoy during the season. At two, the littlest W isn't ready to prepare buns and coffee and tea for us so for the last several years I have been playing the role of the oldest daughter.
This year I purchased Cooking With the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf which contains several recipes for the feast of St. Lucy including lussekattor or St. Lucia cats. These saffron buns are a traditional Swedish recipe. The recipe was challenging, I'm not sure if I killed the yeast or what, but I really struggled with the dough. Part of the problem may have been that I made the dough and formed the buns the night before to save myself some time in the morning. I'm hoping I'll be more successful next year!

With three of us having breakfast in bed together I needed two trays to get everything upstairs. I used all my white lines that I could find to create a snowy& wintery effect. That sweet little battenburg lace scone holder my parents brought back for me after a trip to Quebec. The tea cozy was another souvenier from my mom; she knows I love tea things and she always manages to find a new treasure for me. The little mug Mr. W's parents brought back for him after their trip to visit family in Norway. I figure it contibutes to the Scandinavian theme. I decided the trays needed a bit more color; fortunately for me we have a douglas fir tree in our back yard. So within two steps out our back door I found a fir bow that I used to spruce up the breakfast trays.
After I read Kirsten's Surprise I saw the St. Lucy wreath in the American Girls catalog. I coveted it for my future children but it was much to expenisve for me to purchase at the time. Later when I was in college and considered purchasing it I discovered that it was no longer offered in the catalog. I have searched for a long time, but it isn't an easy thing to find. I finally found them at Scandia Imports in Beaverton. I bought one with a green plastic base rather than gold. This year I bought some fake greenery to wrap around it to make it look more like an evergreen wreath with candles in it. The littlest W was decidedly uninterested in putting it on his head. Technically little boys dress up as "star boys" and wear white with a cone hat decorated with stars and carry a star baton and the little girls dress up as St. Lucy. Do you know how challenging it is to find white anything for little boys? After they hit 18-24 months all their clothing suddenly becomes covered with skulls and crossbones. I think maybe some red and white striped jams from Hanna Andersson might be in order for next year. In any event here is the wreath on no one's head.
And here is the wreath I have on the front door for Advent

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our Lady of Guadalupe

December is a fun month because it is filled with so many feast days. With the weather turning cold outside it makes sense to take advantage and make lots of food. The weathermen were all predicting snow followed by ice for Friday night. I hadn't made it to the store on Thursday, my usual market day so I went mid day on Friday. It was so crazy crowded for the middle of the day and I couldn't figure out why... a Hanukkah rush? Well I decided later it must have been panic cause by the weather forecasting. I am quite convinced that the winter storm reporting is a conspiracy between the grocery and hardware stores that advertize on the news channels. In any event we had plenty of supplies and in the end there was no snow and no ice.
Since I try to keep Advent by not decorating for Christmas I rationalize my purchase of poinsettias as decorations for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Now that they are in the copper cache pots the mantle is finally complete!
I was going to make enchiladas to celebrate, but has a craving for tacos instead. For me taco night is one of the best comfort foods. I have memories of my dad frying the corn tortillas to make the taco shells. He was a perpetually frugal man so this was one of his ways to save money. Plus Mr. W and I like the warm shells.
I put this vintage poinsettia table cloth out for OLoG to keep the flower theme going. Among the cooking shows Mr W. tivos is America's Test itchen which did a segment on frenchy carmel custard so that gave me a craving for flan. The cook book that I use for flan has an alternative for orange flavored flan which I thought would be nice to try since oranges are in season now. I did use a few of the tips from ATK, like filling the baking dish with water when it is in the oven so as to avoid spills. The flan turned out better than the last time I made it but it I still can't get all the carmel to come out.
We finished the night by reading The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie DePaolo. He is one of my favorite illustrators and since he was raised Catholic he does lots of books on the subject.

Monday, December 7, 2009

St. Nicholas Day

In the spirit of taking Santa out of Christmas, we have been doing our stockings on St. Nicholas day for the last several years. I have read, and I am hoping, that by spreading out the season and gift giving in small doses from St. Nicholas Day through Epiphany that children won't get as crazy with the anticipation and subsequent let down at Christmas. This year I included the littlest W in making the cookies that we left out for St. Nicholas. I learned though that it is never a good idea to make a two year old walk a way from a plate of cookies. The next morning he came down stairs and right to the plate and started eating the cookie with a bite out of it that we had St. Nicholas leave behind. We also left out a little Santa hat that Grandma W. sent
Here are a few St. Nicholas things that I have collected over the years. They aren't all authentic St. Nicholas the bishop of Myrna images, that is hard to come by. The Father Christmas-y statue I got as a sweet 16 gift from my aunt and the two icons we got on our trip to Turkey, where he was born and lived.
In keeping with the legend of St. Nicholas throwing the bags of gold coins in the window to save three girls from a life of prostitution, I get gold foil wrapped chocolate coins from See's candy. For Mr. W I usually get a bottle or two of Samichlaus Bier which is a beer that is brewed only on St. Nicholas Day at a monestary in Austria.
We had a birthday party to attend later in the day so we weren't able to make a fire and enjoy our living room. But Mr. W did make us a nice breakfast of blueberry waffles. Since today was a special feast day I decided to bring out the Christmas china for today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The old Daily Grind

This is the building the Daily Grind store was in before they closed. It has sat vacant for over a year now. New Seasons Market contracted with the property owner to put in a new store at this location on Hawthorne. Their proposal involves demolishing the old building, which isn't very "green". I went to a neighborhood feedback meeting in August and New Seasons claims that due to the economy, banks would no longer finance a loan for a store as small as the existing building. It is such a shame because this is a great old building that is in keeping with the majority of old commercial storefronts on Hawthorne. Far to many mixed-use hyper-contemporary buildings are going up that dwarf the neighboring businesses and buildings. Not to mention they aren't able to sell the condos so they either sit vacant or go apartment instead.
The building facade as it is has some nice brickwork. If the clerestory windows weren't boarded up it would have even more character, so many other Hawthorne buildings have their clerestory windows restored and new insulated glass picture windows. These buildings look fresh, without being wasteful.
Unfortunately no one else at the August meeting was concerned about saving the facade and trying to encorporate it into the new design. The majority of the participants were from Richmond and lived on either 40th or 41st and were concerned about the increased traffic and parking. That and they were happy to learn that one of the neighbor's suggestions to have a walk up coffee window was going to be encorporated into the new store.
Before going to the meeting I took these photos of a building on NE MLK Blvd that saves the original facade of the building, but still ends up with a multi-story/use building. I'm not saying that I love this building, but it is encouraging to see that we can repurpose original structures without turning our backs on our architectural history completely. Isn't that arch great?
I ended up not presenting these photos to Brian the owner because during the course of the presentation I learned that they were no longer designing a multi-story building. The new building with be one story with parking above accessed by a single driveway with a signaling system to let drivers know when the path is clear. I foresee trouble with that.
New Seasons recently updated the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association that the floor plan for the store is being flipped based upon feedback from the city. So now the driveway to access the parking will be on 40th rather than 41st. The plan to begin demolition this winter. Upsetting.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Feast of St. Andrew

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Andrew. Originally I wanted to celebrate this by bringing out the deep fryer and making Scotch eggs and Shepard's Pie. However Mr. W didn't want to start deep fryer season early. In our house deep fryer season lasts from Christmas Eve through Lent. I also wanted to have my soon to be godson Andrew over to celebrate his name day. But since his mother had to work we just had a little family dinner together. With the amount of Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge, it seemed like a bad idea to buy more food to make a traditional pie. So I decided to try making it out of our turkey leftovers. I checked online and learned that this is not an original idea, but it was nice to know I wasn't crazy and that it was recommended. So I cubed up some leftover turkey breast, chopped a few carrots, layered some turkey gravy, and added some frozed corn. On top of all of that I spread a "crust" of leftover mashed potatoes. This was a great way to use up leftover gravy since Mr. W made two kinds for Thanksgiving. We all enjoyed our St. Andrew's Shepard'd pies!

Tonight we will begin reading from Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider. There is a brief story for each night of December of Benjamin Bear following the star to Bethlehem. I am not sure how much the Littlest W got out of it last year, but I'm hoping for more success this year with his longer attention span. The illustrations have a beautiful painterly, quality to them.