Friday, October 28, 2011

What Came in Yesterday's Mail...

It was so much fun to go to the mailbox yesterday!

Loved this Halloween card from grandson Ethan. It says, "Hope you like my Smash Monster!"

He's just 2 years you know this is a great toddler craft! Looks to me like his clever mama, daughter-in-law Hillary, took a piece of orange card stock (approx. 6" x 6") and folded it in half. Then it was most likely a mother-son project to dribble some green paint (looks like it's acrylic) in the fold. Then smash (fold) it in half (Rorschach ink-blot style) to get the smash monster's shape. Sprinkle a little glitter in the paint while it's still wet...

After the paint is dry, glue a single googly-eye in the middle of the smash monster's face. Then use a sharpie pen to draw a unibrow over the eye, and a mouth below the eye. Add a greeting and send to a favorite grandma and grandpa!

(Update! Just got an email from Hillary...she confirmed that I figured out the gist of the instructions. Clever grandma that I am. She found the original idea on a Martha Stewart post, here.)

(Here's a photo of Ethan playing with cousin Olivia last April...the last time Grandma and Grandpa got to see him...)

The next treasure in the mailbox was a bulky little package...look what I won! Sarah at mimi and the boy sponsored a giveaway last week to celebrate her 300th (wow!) blog post. Lucky me...I won this darling autumn pillow, handmade by Sarah. Doesn't it look great against the new gold upholstery on my heirloom chair? (More about the upholstery job on an upcoming post. No, I didn't do it myself.)

Here's a closeup of Sarah's talent. I love the way she used scrap fabric cut into simple shapes to make a vibrant accent...for my home! Wish I could think up designs like this.

Check out the nice little finishing touch - a sweet tag to remind me of this pillow's special creator.

Gee, I wish every day were that much fun at the mailbox! Today was just bills and junk mail...

Have you had any special mailbox surprises lately?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sewing Project

I recently agreed to make a wedding dress for Julia's sister-in-law, Michelle. I told her I could do it if the dress of her dreams was fairly simple. She said "keep it simple" was her goal, so we headed out to look at patterns.

She chose this one: Butterick B5419
She wanted it with the long skirt and the boat-neck top (bottom right) with the sleeves (upper right). Michelle came over on Saturday for the final measuring/fitting. I had learned from many experiences making prom dresses for my daughters over the years, that it is often best to make a practice bodice, to check the fit. I don't bother with sleeves or zipper, but it gives me a chance to make sure everything is working the way we want it to before we cut into the "real" fabric. We tried on the practice bodice (bright blue...not her wedding colors!) first, and it was a perfect fit. On to the real sewing!

I had spent 4 or 5 hours working on the skirt during the week before. After 10 hours of sewing on Saturday, the top is finished, too! I'll post a picture of the bride after her wedding on November 8.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Block Party

Mark and I hosted a little block party here on Laurel Lane last Saturday evening. We live on a one-block dead-end street, so we went up and down the street a week earlier, handing out invitations to a "get acquainted" root beer social at our house. The day before the party, we went up and down the street again with little reminder notices, which we attached to their doorknobs with rubber bands.

Six different households, including ours, attended the root beer social. If you count David and Holly as their own household, then there were seven. It was a nice size to entertain, and everyone seemed to enjoy chatting. We learned what people do for a living, some of the neighborhood history from "old timers" on the street, a little about each others' families.

We had distributed 25 invitations, so I was a little nervous about having too big of a crowd. If everyone had come, we would have been bursting at the seams, and it would have been too chaotic. Still, I wished that a few more people had come. Why wouldn't people want to get better acquainted with their neighbors? Since it's a narrow dead-end street, we drive by one anothers' houses all the time, but we rarely get out of our cars to say hello. People are friendly about waving, but Mark and I had hoped to help establish a little deeper sense of neighborhood here.

Mike and Lauren live across the street and kitty-corner from us. They are a young couple. He is an engineer and she teaches chemistry at LaSalle High School in Portland. They were really friendly and seemed to enjoy visiting with everyone. A funny story - they told us that they got a little freaked out when we attached our reminder invitation to their doorknob on Friday. Their dogs started barking, and they heard their front doorknob jiggle, but when they looked outside, there was no one there. Mike had grown up in a tough neighborhood in SE Portland, so his instincts went on alert. Then they found our little reminder and said, "Oh, it's just the root beer party."

Nancy and Terry have lived around the corner for years. We know them well from church, and also because are sons were (and are) best friends. We enjoyed introducing them to more of the Laurel Lane neighbors. Nancy teaches piano lessons, so people knew their house from the "Piano Lessons" sign out front. They had also noticed the big roofing job that Terry and Nancy completed on their home last month.

Dolores and Luddy have been my next-door neighbors for the entire time (32 years!) that I have lived on Laurel Lane. Dolores actually lived in my house when she was a girl. Her father bought the 5-acre dairy and subdivided it. He built several of the houses on Laurel Lane. They were interested to see our remodeling project. We did it 6 years ago, and had told them about it, but they hadn't been over to the house to see what we had done in all that time. Luddy used to be kind of gruff, but he has softened over the years, especially as he's come through some difficult health problems (heart attack, heart surgery, falling off a ladder) in the last few years. They were tickled to get better acquainted with more neighbors.

Glad is one of the "new neighbors." She lives in one of the six houses that were built down at the end of the street about the time Mark and I were remodeling our house. Their part of Laurel Lane is actually an extension of the original street, but it's still a dead end. Glad is retired, and always smiling. She has a wonderful optimism about life. She volunteers with a gardening program that reaches out to kids in the juvenile detention system. Terry had heard that Glad plays the accordion, and he was encouraging her to bring it to a future party.

I'm kicking myself because I can't remember the name of Glad's daughter, who lives a few houses down from Glad in the last "old" house on the street. Her name begins with D, so I'll have to call her that for now. D is about my age, and like her mother, she is always smiling. When I took Luddy and Dolores upstairs for a tour of the remodeling project, she attached herself to the tour. I didn't get to visit with her much, and would like to visit with her again.

After everyone left, we talked about ways to encourage more neighborhood get-togethers in the future. Maybe we'll try a backyard picnic in the summer, or a dessert social some other time. Out of all the people we invited, only 2 made us a little nervous about inviting them in the future. One guy, down at the end of the street, just seemed really "rough around the edges." I don't want to be unfriendly, but I might not drop off an invitation next time around. Another man, in one of the new houses, yelled at us when we rang his doorbell with our first invitation. We had seen the sign above the door that said "no soliciting," but we weren't selling anything. He just yelled at us to go away; he never did answer the door. Too bad. He has beautiful flowers in his yard, and I had hoped to compliment him. Then there is the elderly lady living down the street. When we dropped off her invitation, a relative answered the door and said she would give the invitation to Mrs. R, but she is 98 and probably won't come.

Anyway, that's the report on our little block party. I sometimes wonder if, in our busy, wired, connected world, it's a little harder than it used to be to get to know our neighbors.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Portland 4T Trail

Mark and I enjoyed our October "play day" today. We had seen signs for the "4T Trail" in Portland, so today was our adventure! (This site has excellent directions.)

The Ts stand for:

The 4T Trail makes a wonderful scenic loop all through Portland. About 6 miles of it is a hiking trail. There is a section on the MAX train, and another section on the Portland Trolley. Perhaps the most thrilling section is a ride on the aerial tram that goes from the Willamette River up to Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) hospital.

The great thing about the 4T Trail is that you can do it any time the public transportation and the tram are operating, and you can start at any point along the loop. Mark and I started at the bottom of the tram. Then we did our hiking, followed by a MAX train ride. Finally, we took the trolley back to the parking area at the base of the tram.

The entire trail is VERY well signed. At every intersection along the way, and at every place we might have thought it was an intersection (but it wasn't), there was a 4T marker to guide us. We didn't have any difficulty at all. We did print out the directions from one of the websites, and that was very helpful.

It took us about 4 1/2 hours to do the whole loop, but we had a couple of extra stops along the way, as you'll see in the photos below.

 Boarding the aerial tram. Mark is ready for the adventure!

 Looking up the wires. We're headed for that big building (OHSU) along the far skyline.

 Looking out over the view of Portland.

 Here comes the other tram! There are 2, so one is always going up while the other one comes down. They pass each other in the middle, of course.

 There's OHSU above us - almost to our destination.

 Heading for the terminal at the top.

 One last photo looking down. Those are the wires our tram took to come up to the top of the hill. Mark said it felt like riding on an elevator, but sideways.

 After we disembarked from the tram, we hiked through the hospital campus to a nearby trailhead.  Suddenly we were in a lush forest!

 Maidenhair fern

Sunlight through cedar boughs

 After four miles of steady hiking - mostly uphill - we came to a lovely park at the top of Portland. Council Crest is the highest point in the city.

 We stopped to catch our breath and enjoy a snack and some water.

And we snapped a photo of Portland below us on this beautiful autumn day. Then we headed back into the woods, heading north toward the Oregon Zoo.

 The happy hikers, pretty green-gold autumn foliage

 Fungus on the forest floor

 The BIGGEST, juiciest caterpillar I have ever seen. He was huge! We put our boots into the photo to give a sense of scale. After the photo, we moved him off the trail so he wouldn't get stepped on. But I'll bet some bird would love to find this fellow.

 Six miles and two hours of hiking after we started, we reached the overpass over Highway 26, leading to the Oregon Zoo.
We stopped to eat a sandwich and cup of soup at the zoo restaurant...then we made friends with this big guy.

From the zoo, we could look south and see the tower on the top of Council Crest, 2 miles away. That's where we just hiked from!

Leaving the zoo, we headed for the MAX train. The zoo MAX station is deep underground, in a 3-mile-long tunnel.

We detoured a bit on the MAX train. Instead of getting off at the trolley stop, we continued on to the Saturday Market in Portland. So many fun things to see and do there!

A little street music...

While we were there, we shopped for my dad's birthday gift. He'll be 79 next week. We found a lovely gift for him, but of course I can't reveal it here...he reads this blog... (Don't worry, Dad--I'll get it in the mail right away!)

We backtracked on the MAX to the trolley intersection, which we rode all the way back to the south waterfront and the tram station. Our Metro tickets were good for two hours, and we had time to spare, even with our detour to Saturday Market.

An awe-inspiring view of the tram tower, just before we headed into the parking garage to retrieve the car. 

If you go on this outing, here are a couple of tips to know about.

1. The tram costs $4 for a round-trip ticket. They sell the tickets at the bottom of the tram, and then when you get back on at the top (assuming you want to do the round trip), it's free. But if you're only going one way as part of the 4T Trail, and you want to ride the tram for free, then go counter-clockwise on the 4T Trail, so that you're going down on the tram.

2. For the hiking part, the section between the tram/OHSU and Council Crest is about 4 miles of uphill trail. From Council Crest to the zoo, it's about 2 miles downhill. Determine which direction you want to go based on whether you'd rather do more uphill or downhill hiking. Believe it or not, Mark and I prefer uphill hiking. It's so much easier on our knees than downhill! Even though we paid $4 each for the tram, we are really glad that we chose to go on the 4T Trail loop in a clockwise direction.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I'm happy this morning.

It's my friend's birthday. Happy birthday, Dorothy! If you don't know Dorothy yet (and if you do!) take a moment to drop by her blog and wish her a happy day. You'll find thoughtful reflections about her garden, hilarious photos of her husband breaking in, a wonderful mix of wisdom and fun.
Last summer at Sparks Lake
Ken, Dorothy, me, Mark

I'm taking my last course for the MFA degree program at PSU. It's a literature course, Arab American Literature. I had been dreading another literature course (term papers to write!), but this is going to be great. The instructor, Diana Abu-Jaber, is a writer herself, and she wants our final papers to be creative. She gives us weekly free write assignments. The students in the class are interesting and thoughtful. The reading schedule is not going to kill me off. She sometimes forgets to give us assignments because she's busy with the book tour for her newest novel. After this course, then I just have to finish that thesis...

I listened to happy music on the radio last night. Haven't heard it in a while, but I clicked the station, and "Soul Sister" by Train came on. Take a minute to enjoy a fun song. It has a ukulele! Get up and dance! Happy music, for sure. (Sorry, there's a 10-second ad at the beginning.)

Want some more happy music? Try this oldie from Billy Joel. It came on the radio last night after "Soul Sister"! Hearing Billy sing "The Longest Time" always makes me think of how much I love Mark, and how lucky I am to be married to him. When we married back in 1994, it seemed like I hadn't had a strong and caring relationship for "the longest time."

I am a blessed, happy girl. I hope you're happy today, too!