April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

These are delicious! Recipe courtesy of Pioneer Woman.

The most important thing about today is that it's EASTER. Happy Easter! We are blessed to have friends who treat us like family so we will be celebrating with our friends and their CHILDREN! I can't wait to see what the Easter Bunny brought and I look forward to visiting with our friends and their family. We are so very lucky to have littles in our life and generous friends who share them with us. On this Easter Sunday the world's oldest teenager is dying Easter eggs and I am making hot cross buns. Both are some of my favorite childhood memories. I love that JSM loves these rituals as much as I do no matter how old we are.

JSM's fine work!

Being married to the world's oldest teenager is so. much. fun!

It's been weeks since I've written. Mostly because we've been on the emotional roller coaster of home buying and selling. We lost the darling dollhouse on the river because it had moved towards the water (yikes - totally NOT worth dying in my sleep over!), sold our home in ONE DAY, and began the fun (but exhausting!) work of trying on all kinds of dreams for size. In between we've put in a new master bath in the home we are selling and had lots of repair people come in and out. Some days it's looked like we were hosting a party with all the cars and vans in the driveway. Sadly, we were at work. And so were they.

We zig-zagged all over Clark County and toured some mid-century ranches in a wooded neighborhood, a 5000 SF grand home on the top of a hill (I'm sure it comes as no surprise I loved that one!), a glamorous vintage condo on Lake Vancouver, a number of ranches circa 1960-1970 that needed LOTS of work, and a brand new house in a new development (That's not who we are, but I can see why they are SO popular.) It was an emotional experience that required us to really think about what we wanted. We are in a unique position to do whatever we want, live wherever we wish, and think long and hard about what is the best choice for where we are NOW. That's way more overwhelming than I ever imagined. After seeing 20+ houses over 2 Saturdays we ended up in the exact neighborhood where we started when we moved to Vancouver almost 6 years ago.

This one was a bit too modern although very lovely.

The Brady Bunch house. Too big....but it felt so comfortable inside. I LOVED it!

Back then, only one of us was working and the real estate market was on fire. We rented a beautiful townhouse in an area called Fisher's Landing. From our master bedroom window we watched a brand new townhouse development rise up in a Tudor style that was absolutely beautiful on the outside, refined on the inside, and most definitely out of our price range. So, we set our sites on Brush Prairie. Fast forward 5 years and those beautiful town homes have fallen dramatically in price and we found one that has barely been lived in. And it was perfect. For us. No yard work, an almost brand new interior with no projects, and a double door into the master bedroom (I was sold.)

This one is just right! 

Now, for the really hard part....actually moving! Our house is almost wrapped up and we are doing the inspection on this one next week. We are so excited for the new opportunity that will allow us to travel, spend more time together, and live with less. On this Easter I am grateful for eternal life and an opportunity to begin a new chapter in life with JSM. 


March 15, 2015

Mid March

We just endured the rainiest of weekends which made for perfect reading though there wasn't much time for that! On Saturday JSM and I attended the Rock Solid Teen Center annual auction. I am privileged to be on the board of this fantastic organization which is the only teen center in the greater Battle Ground area. Rock Solid Teen Center serves youth in 5th - 12th grades with after school activities while building community and fostering relationships between the teens and the adults who care for them. The St. Patty's themed-auction was a huge success and we had so much fun!

The Vancouver Firefighter Pipes and Drums performed and it was beautiful!
Our sweet friends joined us and it was his first auction event. He won something!
As I type this I am surrounded by publications of all sorts: Flow (a Dutch publication for paper lovers), Southern Living, Martha Stewart Living, ElleAtomic Ranch, Dwell, Psychologies, (a British wellness magazine I discovered on a layover at Heathrow), and Esquire (OK, that one belongs to JSM, but I can't help myself) and I did take some time to read this afternoon. I love magazines for their beautiful photography and short articles that don't require much thought before I drift off to sleep. In fact, I'm a self-proclaimed magazine whore with little discernment when it comes to the titles I read. My only requirements: must contain something useful with limited celebrity gossip and it must be available in the checkout line at the grocery store (#smalltownlife). This means my selection changes weekly depending on where I shop. Thankfully, JSM and I were out and about in Portland this weekend in search of unique mid-century furnishings for the dollhouse and I was able to sneak into Anthropologie. I don't go for the girly dresses and charming housewares. I'm more interested in their carefully curated selection of books, cookbooks, and magazines. Probably not the best idea as I'm about to downsize, but today was my lucky day. I discovered a fantastic publication titled Anthology. It's subtitle, Living with Substance and Style, really described the magazine itself which featured almost no ads, striking photography, and interesting subjects like a trip to Manila, the life of a lettering professional (ever wonder who creates some of the beautiful fonts we encounter in movies and ads?) and a home design in California. And at 7.5x10 inches, I threw it in my bag and devoured it in one sitting! You won't learn how to lose 10 lbs. or look 10 years younger here, but you will learn something about the world beyond  yourself. Yes to that!

Anthology Magazine (Google images)
Things are moving along on the dollhouse and we are readying Little House on Brush Prairie for sale. We've had to make numerous trips to the soon to be "new" house to meet the inspector, interior designer, and other professionals helping us to make this happen. Every time we go over there we love the house even more and can't wait to make it our own, but I feel a pang of sadness when I think about letting our first house go. This has been such a wonderful home for us.....until today when we woke up to a leaking skylight, came home from Portland to a torrential wind storm that wrecked our yard, and we are still trying to find a handy-person to come fix a few things. All before professional photos are taken on Thursday! As much as we've loved this place we're ready for a whole new interior.

Hopefully, sometime this summer, I'll be here in a renovated space reading Anthology. It's published quarterly and the next issue is summer 2015. Perfect timing!


March 12, 2015

Little House Love

Last month we lost our minds. No, not really, we've just been knee deep in house love and negotiations. We'd been thinking about the fact that we were in year 5 in our 5-year house and contemplating something different. We just had never come to any resolution about it. But one thing is clear: we need a change. Little House on Brush Prairie has been a wonderful home for us, but a home full of hopes and dreams that haven't gone to plan as we expected when we purchased this home almost 5 years ago. Don't get me wrong, this home is lovely and beautiful and our life is good. It's just that this house represents waiting, hoping, and an in between place I am reminded of every time I pull in the driveway. We bought this house because it had the lines of a mid-century with a more modern electrical panel, a single story for little feet to take their first steps, plenty of room for guests, a canopy of the tallest cedar trees, the best schools in the county, a golf course, and a spacious backyard with plenty of room for a swing set. Except that even though I wanted and appreciated all of those things but I still dreamed of a studio apartment I could decorate with clever furnishings. JSM still imagined that mid century modern with floor to ceiling windows to bring the outside in.

We've had a fantastic five years in this house, but we are ready for something different. Something more and something less. Because we can. We are firmly and happily the two of us and we are ready for an adventure. Of course, we have our sights set on other continents someday, but for now we are looking in our own backyard. And last month we stumbled on it....deep in the woods, on the banks of the Lewis River, in between 2 of the libraries I serve, at the end of the road:

The house at the end of the road with a deck ON the river.

Those windows.....that ceiling! The river roars so loudly you can hear it in the house. 

We'll be bringing this (almost untouched!) adorable glass 2/1 dollhouse from 1956 into the 21st century.

We have big plans for this little place and can hardly wait to get started. As my mama always said, little houses grow big love. Looking forward to our life on the Lewis.....all 750 SF of it!


February 1, 2015

February Dreaming....

Around these parts February is the dead of winter: dreary, wet, cold, and gray. It's 39 degrees and chilling to the bone today! I'm so glad it's our anniversary month because it gives us something to look forward to and celebrate. At least my heart is warmed even if my hands are freezing. I don't mind the gray and the cold, but it certainly does get me thinking about vacation! This time of year many Portlanders (hell even other people I know on the east coast!) are off to Hawaii, Mexico or other sunny locales. We're just PLANNING where we want to go, but there is one sure bet: This year we're revisiting the place where we married 8 years ago to celebrate the wedding of sister 3 who is also getting married at Club Continental in September.

Sister 3 and future brother-in-law. So happy for them!

Club Continental is a beautiful resort (of sorts) on the St. John's River in Orange Park, Florida. Originally, the winter home of the founder of Palmolive Soap Company who escaped harsh Wisconsin winter in Orange Park, the property became a private club in 1966. It is no longer private and makes for a beautiful wedding location. I was captivated by it's mossy beauty of course (Spanish moss, different from NW moss, but I love it all!) and the fact that it had a fireplace. I wanted a winter wedding and in Florida you take what you can get so we married on an overcast, cool February morning with the hour going up of course, for good luck! I think sister loves that it is so elegant, beautiful, and located on the water. I look forward to creating more new family memories at this lovely locale. I'm hoping for no family fights at this Cranston wedding (ha!) and beautiful weather! 

from Club Continental


from Club Continental

If all goes well, we'll get more sunshine later in the year: We've got a wedding on the Jersey Shore which will be a first for me. I've only watched Jersey Shore on TV (once!) so I'm hoping for a more.....refined experience. JSM is headed to Chicago for his 50th (!) to see the remaining members of the Grateful Dead this summer. We also have our sites set on another visit to Africa... Not sure yet exactly where we're going, but it will definitely be during the South African summer. Life can be lots of fun if you learn to let go of what you thought it would be and let it be what it is. So, with that I'm open to some adventure and lots of experience. I'm hoping for some South Africa with a little Botswana, Zambia, or Zanzibar, but we'll see where the planning takes us. Half the fun is deciding where to go and what to do. AND it's always more fun with friends. We're looking forward to traveling with KWK and APK and seeing CWDB and NV.  In the meantime, we'll be daydreaming of exotic locations, Florida weather, crazy adventures, family, friends, and a warm day hopefully, soon to come. And I'll be working on fitting into that strapless bridesmaid dress....

January 25, 2015

Urban Exploring

Mount St. Helens yesterday...such a gorgeous 60 degree day!

I have never appreciated nature as much as I do now that we live here. Growing up in Florida my limited experience with the outdoors extended to the beach and the backyard when it wasn't too hot. I've never camped unless you count Camp Dorothy Thomas which I attended as a Brownie and cried all weekend because I missed my mom. (Some things never change....) These days I still cry on a dime, it's my hallmark move, and I miss my mama terribly, but I have a special place in my heart for the natural scenery, mountainous terrain, crisp weather, and mossy beauty that make up northwest.

Apparently, love affairs with the northwest have been happening since William Clark and Meriwether Lewis made their way to these parts. One of my favorite books, What There is to Say We Have Said, the correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell, includes a letter from William to Eudora dated August 7, 1952. The letter ends with this:

"Wonderful time in Oregon, visiting all the places Emmy knew as a child. What with camping on the beach and in the mountains and horseback riding and rushing from rose garden to rose garden, I had the loveliest kind of vacation. - Emmy sends her love with mine. Bill"

That about sums up exactly what Oregon and SW Washington have to offer and it is lovely indeed, though there is much more to see and do. Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, the Oregon coast, the Washington coast, beautiful rose gardens, tulip gardens, skiing, snowshoeing, evergreens, more parks than I can ever imagine, and the winding Columbia River. And that's for starters. JSM and I have vowed that this year we will get out and explore more of it. Just because I appreciate nature doesn't mean I'm really good in it, but I'm going to do my best to experience as much of it as I can. If JSM ever wants to explore Africa, as he says, I better start practicing. So, we started this weekend with a trip to the beautiful Forest Park.

Forest Park is an urban park located in northwest Portland and that's exactly what I love about it. It is located just a few minutes from one of the nicest walking neighborhoods in Portland and is completely unexpected for an urban area. Portlanders are so very lucky! In fact, at 5,157 acres it is the largest urban forest in the United States. It includes 80 miles of trails and overlooks both the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. This is what NW Portland looks like:

Large, stately homes on side-walked streets with shops and restaurants in walking distance. This is typically more my style....

And a few minutes drive up Lovejoy you can find this:

But, I think this is beautiful! A little fog on a January morning. 

Look at the bark on that tree! 

I told you I love moss!

A peek-a-boo view of Mt. Hood on the way home...I can't get enough! 

January 18, 2015

Thoughts. (Things I think about and things I should think about.)

Mt. Hood from White Salmon, WA

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to visit one of the more rural libraries in our district in White Salmon, WA. White Salmon is located in the gorge across the Columbia River from Hood River, OR. It's a beautiful drive even if a bit white-knuckled in some spots. I traveled on the Oregon side and crossed the Columbia over Button Bridge, which no one warned me, is made of metal grates, as narrow as they come, and a bit too noisy for my comfort. I don't like bridges and I'm terrified of heights. Just as I crossed the bridge, my GPS told me to take a left and then a sharp right on Dock Grade Rd. I didn't even realize what I'd gotten myself into when I was headed up an almost 50 degree grade with no guard rails! As I looked to my right I could see a steep drop-off and in the distance, the sparkling Columbia (it was sunny!). Down and in. Down and in. That mantra, which JSM used to talk me through the switchbacks during a honeymoon hike at Zion National Park, played on a loop in my head as my car hugged the curves. It has gotten me through Bryce Canyon and the black hills of South Dakota, out to the very edge of the north rim of the Grand Canyon at Toroweap, up to the observation deck at the Burj Khalifa, over the pass at Mt. Hood, down an open air drive along the coast of South Africa, and just last week it landed me high above the Columbia River in White Salmon. His words are a tremendous amount of support that I can repeat to myself over and over again. How I love him.

I spent the 2 hour drive listening to a book recommended on one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo. It was a quick decision to pick up Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and possibly a life changing one. I'd seen the book on our Lucky Day shelf at the library and heard it's praises on various blogs and websites, but all I can say is.....WOW. This incredibly important book describes in detail the agonizing decisions one has to make towards the end of life, first as people age and later the choices faced by the terminally ill. The book brought up many ideas including that modern medicine has not only cured many diseases and brought endless comfort to people, but in doing so has prolonged the dying process. Older adults, who used to live their final years at home with their family, are now sent to institutions in some cases, where they "make new friends" and participate in loads of activities. In reality they are forced to live by rigid schedules and spend time with people they don't know who keep them up at night. There are really important questions to ask your loved ones like what do you want, what are your biggest fears and concerns, what goals are important to you, what trade-offs are you willing to make? Hospice is a wonderful support.  

While not an upbeat read for certain, this excellent book won't let me go. End of life is never an easy topic to discuss or even think about, because, of course, that won't ever happen to me, us, you....But it does. It will. To all of us. And just like "down and in" guides me over the highest peaks, talking with and knowing how your loved ones feel about this topic and understanding their wishes can provide a sense of peace in the midst of difficulty, give direction where none is seen and shed a guiding light to the last breath.  I am moved.

Grateful for another day even if it rained....Off the back patio of Little House on Brush Prairie. I love the contrast of the bare trees against the gray sky with the evergreens. 


January 11, 2015

Are You Up For a Challenge?

Not that kind of girl?

Oh, but I am.....I've learned over the years not to set new year's resolutions, but I do like a challenge. In fact, I love nothing more than to compete with myself whether it be with a Fit Bit, a Pomodoro, my calendar, or a stack of books. There's a sense of accomplishment in doing so although I admit sometimes I can't even keep up with myself, especially when it comes to what I read. I work with books - think about them, see them, select them, shelve them, talk about them, read about them, suggest them, and even (when I have time!) read one myself. And I love it. But, always being surrounded by books for me is like a chocoholic working at See's.

Even though I WORK at a library, it's tough living within driving distance of this place.

Everything looks so good and my eyes are always bigger than my stomach...I mean reading list.

That's why I love a reading challenge! A reading challenge removes the usual list I keep for books and authors I want to read. Instead, I see books from a different perspective and look for books that aren't new, on the bestseller list, or on everyone else's list for that matter. I might consider a book published the year I was born. I'm going to give away my age, but one of my favorites to this day is The Great Santini. Perhaps I'll read a book set on another continent. I've never read a book by Isabel Allende and that's criminal considering I spent almost 10 years living in Miami! Maybe I'll add a book authored by someone who passed away last year. Have you ever read South African author Nadine Gordimer? I think I want to (but then don't really want to) read something out of my comfort zone which is definitely science fiction. Any suggestions? What about a book chosen because of the cover? Yes, it's totally OK to do that! Cover art is captivating for a reason.

This one got my attention recently and I'm saving it for a rainy day. It looks like a painting!

If you need some inspiration to create your own reading challenge, I've curated some  from around the web:

Good Reads is always a good place to start either to peruse the lists or view the 2015 reading challenge.
This one is short and sweet at Modern Mrs. Darcy

I like Pop Sugar's Reading Challenge 2015. So many fun options!

Do you have a stack of books you've been meaning to read? Because of course, sometimes is easier to buy more books than to tackle that list! Here's a challenge for you. This one is different because it challenges based on the number of books, not the type of books.

Are you am armchair traveler? If so, this one is for you. Around the World in 2015 with mini challenges, too!

Did you love the show Gilmore Girls? If so, you might already know that Rory read more than 300 books during 7 seasons of that show. Challenge yourself to a just a few of them at The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. Rory is now married to Pete, that sleazy account exec from Mad Men, but good books never age. I know a few people who might really love this one....

Personally, I'm loving letters at the moment so I'll be looking for books about letters this year: how to write them, classic letters, letters between friends, lovers, famous people! But here are a few authors and titles I want to read this year as part of my own challenge which I hope includes:

Cashelmara by Susan Howatch and A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford (My mother LOVED these two books and I look forward to pulling out my South African copy of Substance this year. I have a thing about hauling really heavy books around the world!)

Crazy Rich by Jerry Oppenheimer. I loved Empty Mansions last year because I can't resist a story about a rich, eccentric person. In this case, it's the entire Johnson (as in Johnson & Johnson) family!

Sebastian Faulks

Barbara Brown Taylor

William Maxwell (MY literary crush! A Folded Leaf is my favorite, but Time Will Darken It is also good. I'm going to re-read one.)

Eudora Welty (She was life-long friends with William Maxwell who was her editor at The New Yorker. So, of course, I'm  going to love her, too!)

I can't wait to start my challenge this year. I keep a list along the side of this blog, so check back if you want to know what I'm reading in 2015. In the meantime, I'll be here reading in silent competition with myself.