Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Camping trip

16 years ago Mr. W and a few of his fraternity brothers who found themselves living and working in the PNdub planned a Memorial Day camping trip. Being novices and non natives they selected Crater Lake as their destination. Little did they know that the campsites there are typically snowed under still by Memorial Day weekend. Yet every year since they have ventured out into the funky hinterlands to make fire and sleep in the woods. They have mostly learned their lesson and select campsites east of the Cascades so they have a better chance of dry weather in May.
This camping trip is actually the origin of how we met. My friend Ms. H was working at an interior design firm in Seattle with Mr. Z. He invited her and Mr. G to join his college friends on a camping trip near Grand Coulee dam. The bachelor Mr. W was in rare form, trying to get a 'chick landing strip' sun burn, receiving punishment from a spank machine, and singing inappropriate drinking songs so loudly that he got the entire group kicked out of the campsite forcing everyone to relocate to BLM land. She found him to be so delightfully obnoxious that she decided he was perfect for me. I was still living nad working in NYC; it was then that she decided to use him as bait to assure my return to the PNdub. Working with Mr. Z's then girlfriend she hatched a plan to set us up over the internet. Both of us single, we each reluctantly agreed to correspond to each other over email, what did we have to lose really?
Surprisingly her plan worked. Mr. W and I enjoyed our 'conversations' and continued to correspond for 8 months before I moved back home to Portland. We've been together ever since.
Being the perpetually creative men that they are, each year they try to out do themselves with over the top camp site activities. From pinatas and fire surfing, keg kickball, disco croque, The Price is Right complete with the wheel (I won a console tv in the Showcase Show Down that year; yes, one of them hauled a console tv all the way into the woods), drive in movies, and nearly drowning when a visiting WASP took the helm in a rented boat one year, the Memorial Day Camping trip is always memorable.
The way Mr. Z runs the trip is to assign different duties or meals to each camper. With communal meals no one gets burnt out on cooking and we have a lot of variety. The guys also like to compete with who has the best meal. It can be challenging year after year and we also have to contend with preparing foods that are vegetarian and vegan.
This year our family is paired with The General's for Sunday night dinner. I have learned to stay the heck out of it. The men decided to do bento boxes and incorporate in karaoke as the special activity this year. Mr. W received a karaoke machine from his brother this last Christmas and we have yet to use it. He ordered a ton of CDs and we put together our own binders sorted by artist or song as well as our own song request slips. This has been top secret and he keeps reminding me not to tell anyone. Honest, my lips are sealed.
I had promised to prepare some cookies for a Neighborhood Association event and thought I may as well make some for the camping meal while I was at it. But what kind of cookie goes with a bento box? I initially thought a green tea something or something with lychee fruit would be nice. Mr. W and The General didn't have much of an opinion. I did an internet search and came up with these green tea cookies. I thought the great pop of color would be perfect. Shortbread is a great tea cookie so I also wanted to try them out for future Mah Jongg parties. They are wonderfully buttery and the green tea flavor is not too overwhelming.For the vegan option I decided to adapt these goji-almond oatmeal cookies by substituting margarine and vegetable shortening for the butter and cornstarch and water for the eggs.* Having nothing to compare it to I think they turned out great, but then oatmeal raisin cookies are my all time favorite cookie!Not surprisingly Fred Meyer did not have all the ingredients I needed so I ventured out to Uwajimaya in Beaverton. There I was able to find the matcha and the goji berries along with miso paste and some other things Mr. W needed for the savory part of the meal. I rarely have a need to shop there, but it is a great store with so many hard to find items; I really ought to remember it more often.
*1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Goodbye, Oprah

I just finished watching the final Oprah, or rather Oprah's last lecture. For about 25 years I have been watching her program, almost two thirds of my life. Oprah has been my education. And now it is over. Do I now hold a diploma from the University of Oprah? Am I a graduate now? Where do I go from here? I feel as though I still have so much left to learn! My journey as a parent is just beginning; where will I find the information to mother them through their little lives and be updated on the new dangers that parents need to know to keep their children safe? Did I take enough notes all these years? How can I glean more information from her? Will she still have office hours for students?
I can't imagine my life without her constant influence in it. Even if I didn't watch everyday, I'd catch up on recordings of the episodes on the weekends. I'm an easily weepy person so most days I would have my cry during Oprah. And often I'd be sharing that cry with my mother, or my father, or my roommate*. Certainly some of her episodes were not my cup of tea, especially the new agey ones, but there I'd sit with my cup of tea waiting for my aha moment. But I'd also laugh while watching; happy or sad I
First Pope John Paul II died and now Oprah is off the air; the great role models I grew up with are no longer there to provide guidance.
*Mr. W doesn't cry much. I've only seen him cry twice in all the years we've been together and one of those times was when we were at Joe Chiodo's for the last time before it went out of business.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Irvington Home Tour

Portland's touring season continues today with the Irvington Home Tour. As we hem and haw over the Mt. Tabor house I decided that I ought to go on the IHT this weekend and the Chapman Home Tour which happens next weekend. Is this Queen Anne really the house for us, or could I be content with a Foursquare that was mostly intact and original woodwork? The best way for me to decide is to see more houses to allow me to imagine myself in something 'newer' from the 'Teens or Twenties. I wasn't able to find a touring companion, my mom had other things going on and children weren't allowed, so I had considered calling my old boss Mr. W F to see if he had a date. Just as I was parking my car by my first house I saw Mr. W F and Ms. W, a new designer hired after I retired, walking by so I was able to join them for several houses.
The three of us find ourselves a little bit jaded. We see so many wonderful old houses in our line of work that we really expect the tour houses to be special. And often times we are disappointed in their plainness or lack of character, and often are hyper critical of modern renovations which we deem to be inappropriate. Perhaps because we think we could do it better.
But there was one real treasure on the tour this year. The 1909 Prairie style Hoover house on 17th and Thompson was one I passed everyday on my way to parochial school. I have always admired it and its corner lot location. Unfortunately the IHT doesn't allow photography so I don't have any interiors to show. By the woodwork is all in its original condition, and there is so much of it! Some of the lighting fixtures are original although they are a little mismatched with the house. This was a source of much distress to Mr. W F. There is a little study off the dining room, probably intended for cigars and brandy, that continues the stained woodwork paneling and includes coved ceilings. The coved ceilings continue upstairs in all of the bedrooms. One curious feature of this house is the wall treatments in the living room and the hallways; they aren't covered in anaglyptal which was my first guess. When I felt them the texture of the pattern was rough, while the field was completely smooth. Mr. W F surmised that it was flocked wallpaper which had been painted over and sure enough the guide book confirmed that.
Another house that I really liked, although sadly all but the dining room's box beam ceiling had been painted over, was the 1910 Coan bungalow. It boasts an attached covered carport which has an enclosed sitting room above it. It was in this room however that I heard Mr. W F mutter, "I wish we had gotten here first." Yes, we are jaded. I did not care for the kitchen remodel at all, but was impressed with a few clever storage solutions.
One of the houses was recently filmed in the movie Untraceable. I've not seen that movie, nor was I aware it was filmed here, but Irvington seems to be a very popular location for movie houses. I remember riding my bike by a house on 17th that was being filmed on my way to school. Only the dining room has unpainted woodwork, but apparently the director felt the room was too dark for shooting the movie so the crew used a peel-able paint on the wood work for the movie. Craziness! Even more crazy? The cost of that trick alone was $25,000! Crazy! The family used the funds from the movie to build an outbuilding which they use as a potting shed and fort for their children. Again I am motivated to get to work on the backyard.
I ran into our former clients again, the ones I saw at the Kitchen Tour. We all seem to move in the same circles and we all are planning on attending the tour next weekend as well. The last house I visited is currently owned by a gardener who has really transformed her modest bungalow lot. I did take a few out of doors pictures to help motivate me to work on our back garden. If the weather holds this week I am determined to get outside and remove the sand and garden paper from the rhododendron bed. It's a start.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Picnic

Before we even had children I started a tradition of taking Mr. W on a picnic for Mother's Day weekend. It sort of began as an extension of me making up for lost time while I was living in New York and missing out on Portland. My first year back in the PNdub I went to as many festivals and parks as I could squeeze in, one of which was the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Since all the rhodys and azaleas would be in bloom in May I decided Mother's Day weekend would be a good time to visit and a perfect setting for a picnic.
The next year I decided upon Rocky Butte which I had never visited. This began my trend of alternating between parks with gardens and parks with views. These are our parks so far:
2002 Crystal Springs (gardens)
2003 Rocky Butte (view)
2004 Peninsula Park (gardens)
2005 Council Crest (view)
2006 Ladd's Circle (gardens)2007 Washington Park's International Rose Test Garden (both views and gardens)2008 Our parlor floor2009 WestMoreland (garden)2010 Mt. Tabor (view)2011 Duniway Lilac Garden (garden)
Since it was a garden year and we are having a late spring, I thought this lilac garden would be perfect timing. Lilacs are my favorite flower; they are both purple and wonderfully fragrant. I usually scout out the parks prior to picnic day to find the best spot to set up as well as the proximity of good parking spots. We don't pack light for our picnics!
The problem this year was the weather didn't cooperate. Or I am just too ambitious. Or Mr. W doesn't tell me no when he thinks I have a bad idea. We knew before we left the house that it was rainy so we were searching for alternate locations. Unfortunately the PP&R site doesn't list whether the parks have covered picnic areas or not. Something you might think would be relevant and important for Portland park goers...I'm just saying. We had two other options as we drove put, but as we crossed the Willamette the sky opened up and the clouds seemed to disappear. All that sun shine made me irrational. We could still go to the lilac garden after all! So after we parked in the sunshine and loaded up our stroller in the sunshine and walked into the park in the sunshine, it began to sprinkle. On we tread, and the sprinkle turned to drizzle. We decided to abandon our plan to sit at a picnic table out in the open and headed toward a bench under a giant Douglas Fir which was even further away from the car. As I began to convert that sad, vandalized bench into our picnic table the precipitation could only be described as rain. When we sat down to eat it was officially pouring.
I think it is safe to say that I am the only mom forcing her family to have a picnic in the rain on Mother's Day. Mr. W found it much less funny than I did. Oopsie. We all got soaked, our food was wet, even Our Little Helper decided that the novelty of being out in the rain had worn off. Baby Boy was the only one who was dry being safely strapped in the stroller, but he was screaming his head off. Mr. W had had enough and went to retrieve the car as I loaded the stroller up with every rain drenched thing we had and pushed it through the mud toward the street.
Lesson learned. Always find a covered picnic spot if there is any rain forecast. Next year will be better.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

I went a little crazy shopping in Arizona last month. We found a Mexican import shop in old town Scottsdale and I had to have a sombrero and serape for Our Little Helper, in green of course. He thought he needed some maracas so we got two for the boys. I had to bribe him with dessert to get him to try on the hat. I think it was worth it.I made enchiladas which are one of Mr. W's favorite dishes for dinner. I also had a craving for roasted red pepper and black bean dip. I found the recipe on the side of the Tostitos corn chips bag, not authentic at all, but yummy. I served it up in individual ramekins for each of us because I was trying to avoid a mess on the tablecloth. The red and yellow ruffly tulips are from our garden.I set the table with a Wilender Mexicana tablecloth I found on ebay. The Mexicana trivet is part of a set of three which I found locally at an antique store.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My con list

I'm trying to be really responsible and thoughtful about the decision to buy a new house. I'm trying to not let my life long dream of living in a Victorian make me impulsive and unrealistic. Most importantly, would purchasing this Queen Anne house mean we wouldn't be able to afford parochial school too? If that is the case, I think I would have to choose my children's education over dream house. I really did not like my experience in the Portland Public Schools system...and back then it wasn't underfunded. And the intimate size of a parochial school makes me reticient to start them at public school and then switch schools. I changed from Irvington elementary to parochial school halfway through third grade and I feel like it took me until 6th or 7th grade to really fit in. When you are with the same kids for 9 yrs your form a tight bond, not unlike a family, that can be hard to break through. And Lord knows I'm not cut out for homeschooling!
I had been vacillating on whether or not I should go on the Irvington Home tour this month, but now I think it would be a good idea. I need to know whether or not I'd be content in a 1920s Foursquare or a large Craftsman. Something that has an old kitchen that is still modern enough. I fell in love with this kitchen on the Kitchen Revival Tour last month.
My house wish list included the following:
  • A garage, or at a minimum, off street parking.
  • Original woodwork that had not been painted over. (I can't handle another stripping)
  • A butler's pantry. We have a lot of china, crystal, and silver that need to be stored close at hand
  • A fireplace in the master bedroom.
  • A sleeping porch.
Of course not all of these bullet points are must haves, I was just reaching for the stars to convince Mr. W that we really ought to stay in the Laburnum Bungalow, rather than moving. The Tabor Victorian only has the first two items, but is that really a deal breaker for me?
Here is my list of Cons (in no particular order):
  • Why don't the pocket doors from the parlor to the drawing room open?
  • Where are the french doors from the drawing room to the dining room? Are they in the attic or do we have to buy new ones?
  • The same with the single door from the drawing room to the back hallway. If there is no door, would I be content with a portiere here?
  • We'd need to buy interior shutters for the polygonal bay windows, potentially all the west facing windows.
  • There is no coat closet.
  • There is no butler's pantry, we'd have to buy a large china cabinet for the dining room.
  • I'm positive the stained glass windows in the dining room aren't original. I can't decide whether or not I hate them, especially since my dad was not hired to do the work.
  • There is no breakfast room and we can't fit our dinette table in the kitchen. Could we put it in the so called solarium, but would it drive us crazy to carry our meals down the hallway all the time? Alternatively would we hate having the table in the family room with the fireplace and the tv?
  • Ants on the kitchen counter tops and ladybugs in the bedroom.
  • How much to insulate the attic?
  • How much to add a gas line? Mr. W can't live with that electric stove.
  • The jetted tub and steam shower are not necessary for us, certainly don't need two toilets. I'm not sure whether I hate this bathroom layout.
  • I don't like the shiny brass and floral porcelain fixtures.
  • The furnace needs to be replaced soon.
  • Eventually I'd want to re-do the kitchen.
  • Now that I know there used to be a tower, I'd want to restore it and the missing cresting.

The temptation begins...

Yesterday a fellow board member, who is also a Realtor, came by our house to take a tour, give us an evaluation and recommendations for preparing to sell the Laburnum Bungalow. That evening we all met them on Mt. Tabor to look at two houses that have been on the market and tempting Mr. W and me.
Mr. W's house crush is a 1903 Colonial Revival. Prior to taking the tour I thought it was too much house for us; the consensus after the tour is that it is. It is an awesome house, but it needs too much love which we cannot afford to give it. It boasts 7 bedrooms and 4 fireplaces. The public rooms of the entry, dining room and living room are stunning. There is a large room in the basement, with the same board and batten wainscot as the dining room above, which I am quite convinced was a ballroom, why else would there we such a wide, grand staircase into the basement? The kitchen is a hot mess. No kidding. It was a such a horrible and poorly executed 70s remodel that I didn't waste any digital memory on it. Seriously not good and the butler's pantry had been eliminated. So much rot, asbestos, and repair is needed for this home. The servants quarters on the third floor are completely unnecessary for us, even if we are able to add more children to our family.The second house has been among my house crushes for several years. It is a 1890 Queen Anne Victorian which is featured in Classic Houses of Portland, Oregon: 1850-1950 by Hawkins and Willingham. It is a dream house for me with qualifications such as corner lot, large side yard, views, and ample architectural interest in the facade. I've been pouring over the interior photos online and eating fast food lunches in the car parked outside trying to figure out the interior layout to determine what rooms remain un-photographed. The real estate listing claims Povey Bros. Art Glass.
The interior did not disappoint. Because the house has multiple window bays I was having trouble deciphering the layout; I was wrong about the placement of several rooms. But the woodwork is heavenly, the stained glass is mostly Povey, the floors are parquet, the walls and ceilings are in good condition albeit covered in inappropriate wallpaper. Sadly there is only one fireplace in the whole house and it is located in a sitting room which we would likely use as a family room and tv room. It's surround is black marble in the Eastlake style and I'm guessing it is missing its overmantle because it is looking a little forlorn, or maybe it is just he wallpaper that causes the problem.The kitchen is also a little problematic. It has been updated as recently as the 1980s so while not my exact preference, the layout, cabinets, and finishes are liveable. The problem is there is no butler's pantry or built-ins in the dining room to compensate for the scant upper cabinets in the kitchen. I worry about convenient storage. The second problem is the lack of a breakfast room and the kitchen would not accommodate our dinette table.The 4 bedrooms upstairs are in good condition, just poorly papered. The master suite is a slightly odd Boomer paradise. The sitting room which adjoins the bedchamber has been converted into a dressing room. The abundant storage is awesome, but the placement of some of the cabinetry is a little questionable considering it cuts off the view from the windows. The his and hers bathroom with two commodes and two toilets includes a glass block steam shower with two doors, and a double jetted soaking tub.
Not what I would have done in a Victorian, but I'm not sure whether I can live with or would completely hate it. Did I mention it is all 1980s shiny brass with flowered porcelain?
The third floor is all attic space and accesses the novelty porch. It is the kind of attic you imagine in books. There is also a stash of all the original wood sash, double hung windows. All the double hungs have been replaced with what I assume are Marvin tilt pacs, which while not ideal, is perfectly acceptable. Clearly the current owners have put a lot of love (and attempts at energy efficiency) into this house over the last 3 decades. The entire attic needs to be insulated however.
The basement is moderately scary. The furnace is ancient and has some asbestos insulation. All the rooms down here are in sad shape but the brick foundation appears to be in good shape and more importantly dry. There is a potters room, a pantry or some type of canning room, a work room with I'd imagine a century's worth of old tools, a pathetic laundry, but happily an incredible 1940s knotty pine bonus room. I'm positive the vinyl tile flooring in there has asbestos, but the paneling is wide and gorgeous!Mr. W and I have a lot to contemplate. Most importantly, can we afford it now? Mr. W described the house as "bad ass" this morning so I know that my house crush is now his house crush too.