A Perfect Day

Hello, fair readers! Merry Christmas, and soon-to-be happy new year! Before I write about any holiday goings-on, you might recall that a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post that was labeled “The mooshiest post you’ll ever see me write”, or some such tag. Well, apologies to you, but today’s post might just supersede my previous level of mush…so be forewarned!

You’re probably wondering about what A Perfect Day includes. There are three main elements, which include but are not limited to:

1. Harry Potter
2. Getting engaged
3. An incredible Bela Fleck show

Surprising, huh? I would’ve never guessed that these three things would be the ingredients in my perfect day, but there you have them.

Last Thursday evening, Chris and I drove up to Seattle to enjoy a nice little getaway to commemorate the occasion of our first anniversary (our first date was Dec. 6, 2009). We checked in at the Hotel Monaco where Chris reserved a huge room complete with a two-person spa, which we took advantage of whilst sipping room-service ordered champagne. Fancy, huh? It was a nice way to end a day of work and driving up to the city; I highly recommend it!

On Friday, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Sazerac (banana’s foster french toast…yummy…), then walked over to the downtown mall and hopped on the Monorail. We sped off to Seattle Center and headed over to the Pacific Science Center where Harry Potter: The Exhibition is making its last U.S. stop.

Riding the Monorail to Seattle Center
The Space Needle

Since we were there on a weekday, there weren’t that many people – we were let right in, just the two of us, and sorted into Gryffindor house (surprise, surprise) right away (although the attendant said that he thought that Chris belonged in Hufflepuff and I might fit better in Ravenclaw…go figure). The exhibit was actually really cool, and well worth the money, I thought – tons of actual props and costumes that were used in all of the movies, along with an audio guide. It took us about 90 minutes to go through the whole thing, but a big Harry Potter fan could’ve easily spent half a day or longer in there…I just didn’t want to torture Chris any longer than was necessary! And actually, even though Chris is not a huge fan, he did indulge me in watching all the movies, and I think he enjoyed the exhibit as well.

We weren’t allowed to take photos, so this was grabbed off the website. But it gives you an idea of the sets they had – pretty cool, huh?

After the Harry Potter portion of our morning, we went to the butterfly garden at the science center and ate lunch in the food court. We got to listen to a middle school band perform some holiday songs – they were really good – and Chris introduced himself to the director after the show. We hopped back on the Monorail and returned downtown, back to our hotel.

Chris and me hitchin’ a ride on a caterpillar… 

Zebra longwing

We had dinner reservations and tickets to see Bela Fleck at Jazz Alley that evening, and we decided to get all fancied up for the show. As I was getting ready, Chris asked me a couple of times if I was nearly done, and I noticed that he was repeating the same song on his iPhone. Weird, huh? When I got out of the bathroom, Chris said he had something for me, a small token of his affection for me, and he pulled out a small box with a beautiful diamond/palladium ring. It took me a minute to realize what was going on, and even then, I wasn’t sure until he said he would be the happiest man ever if I would marry him. My reply was that I would, of course, marry him…such a surprise! It turns out that the hotel was having their happy hour in the lobby so we went downstairs and got a couple of glasses of champagne, quietly celebrating our moment in the middle of a crowd of people who weren’t in on the reason for our grins. We played a couple of rounds of Guitar Hero with Bailey (on vacation from Australia with his parents), then took a cab over to Jazz Alley.

Chris picked out this ring all by himself – it’s quite gorgeous!
Our first photo together as an engaged couple :oP

Once we got to Jazz Alley, we ordered a nice bottle of wine along with dinner, which we consumed during the Bela Fleck show. He and the Flecktones played nearly their entire holiday album (Jingle all the Way), and it was a FANTASTIC show. Bela Fleck is an amazing banjo player, and along with the others (Futureman, Jeff Coffin, and Victor Wooten), the resulting music was fun, dynamic, and in some cases, unbelievable (e.g., the entire “12 days of Christmas”, with each day sung in a different key and time). They were accompanied by Alash, a group of Tuvan throat singers, and were equally amazing. Really, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, with Alash in the back.

A kindly older couple volunteered to drive us back to our hotel when they overheard us inquiring about calling a cab, which was a pleasant treat at the end of our night. We had to get back down to Vancouver the following morning, but it was a day in Seattle that I’m sure I will remember for a very long time. You can see more pictures of our trip by viewing the slideshow to the right, or by clicking here. I’m so lucky to have been able to share that day – a perfect day – with the man I love so much!

Met my blog quota…

What up, peeps? You may have noticed that I’ve been “slacking” on the old blog posts recently. Well, I could give you a number of “reasons” or “excuses” for this such as:

1. I’ve been sick
2. I’ve been busy
3. It’s none of your business

However, the real reason is that, according to my records, I’ve met my blog quota for the year. Yep, that’s right – as of this writing, I’ll have posted 34 blog entries, which far exceeds the 12 I had for the entirety of last year. So, I think I can just pat myself on the back, say I did a good job, and take an easy month and a half off until the new year begins. No?

Heh heh – I’m just kidding around. Actually, I *have* been sick, *have* been busy, and it’s only your business if you want it to be. In the past month I moved into Chris’ place, attempted (somewhat lamely) to unpack a few things, hosted my mom when she visited up here, and slogged through the majority of my days whilst sitting in front of a computer at work. This upcoming month shows no signs of slowing, either, with more relatives coming to visit for Thanksgiving, Chris and my one-year anniversary (yay!), and Christmas on the way. Whew! So with that, I’ll leave you with just a few photos taken within the past couple of weeks:

Me and my brand-spankin’ new niece, Nora Paige
Me and The Mommy
Me, Jesse, and Chris (the furry one – hee hee!)

A Visit to the Pumpkin Patch with the Little Punks

A couple of weekends ago we took advantage of the fantastic fall weather (it was sunny!) and went out to the pumpkin patch on Sauvie Island. Chris had bought groupons for the Oregon-heart shaped corn “maize” (get it???) so we invited my brother and his family, and Chris’ brother’s family. We got there around 9:30 and the crowds started to quickly gather…we checked out the animal barn, the kids took a tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch to pick a few pumpkins, and then we did the short half of the maize. By noon there were a ton of people there – cars were lined up for about a mile just waiting to get on the bridge to Sauvie Island. I’m glad we got there early and got to hang out in relative low crowd-chaos! Considering my busy month, I’m just happy that I got to experience some sort of autumn-related festivities…ah, why can’t Halloween be year-round?

Nothing says autumn romance like rusty farm equipment. And porta-potties.
Chris’ brother, nephew, niece, and sister-in-law.
The newest member of the Koski family, Nora Paige. Just over a week old! She’s hard core.
What a handsome family of four! And they’re all smiling – oh wait, I think Nora just has gas…

Wait a minute – that’s MY caramel apple!!!

Getting lost in the corn maize was quite the cornundrum! Get it? CORNundrum!!! Snort ha ha giggle snort!!! :oP

A Loverly Weekend in Waldport

I know it’s getting to be a little late, but I wanted to tell you about the splendid weekend that Chris and I had together in the beginning of September. My friend Julie, from grad school, invited us to her wedding so we took the opportunity to make a weekend of it and enjoy another little town on the Oregon coast.

Saturday, September 4, we wished Abbey a very happy first birthday (ok, Jesse only grudgingly wished her a happy birthday, but he got some wet food out of the deal so he wasn’t entirely unhappy about it) and headed west. We drove through Newburg, Dundee, and Newport, reminiscing about the excellent times we had there during previous long weekends and spring break. Ahhh, the memories! We arrived at the Cliff House B&B in Waldport and found it most remarkable…a fantastic view of the ocean and bay, along with friendly dogs and an incredible assortment of lace doilies covering most horizontal surfaces. Chris reserved the suite for us, which included vaulted ceilings, a private balcony overlooking the ocean, and a ginormous bathroom (complete with hot tub) that had mirrors covering EVERY surface except for the toilet seat cover. You might not believe it, but there are some angles that you might not prefer to view yourself from, and I discovered several of them that weekend!

We ate dinner at the Drift Inn in Yachats, under a ceiling of decorative umbrellas while listening to the modern Hawaiian-polka fusion stylings of two men armed with a Casio keyboard and a microphone. After dinner we went back to the B&B and practiced our putting skills (yes, for real, not a metaphor) while the sun set over the ocean. But that’s where I’ll stop for now…

On Sunday, Chris and I enjoyed an amazing breakfast (cooked by Sharon, the prioprietress of the Cliff House) consisting of smoked salmon quiche and home-fries, home-made muffins and scones. In the early afternoon we drove east out to Tidewater Falls Resort where Julie and Perry had their wedding – it looked like many people camped, and that the party had been going for at least a couple of days. I met up with several other friends from grad school whom I hadn’t seen in many years, including Jill, Audrey, and Andie, who came with her partner Rob. He cracked our shit up, and definitely sufficed for the evening’s entertainment in my book. And, if I can say so, I think that he became Chris’ new idol of sorts. Even Julie’s old dog Metzli was there – skulking in her familiar border collie way that I recognized from Colorado. The wedding was a simple and beautiful ceremony that took place under paper lanterns and a mirrored disco ball (I would expect nothing less), and was followed by hula hooping (how does Jill manage to defy gravity in such a nonchalant kind of way???), salmon, and wine wine wine by the bonfire. Congrats, Julie and Perry – we had an awesome time at your wedding!

Monday was Labor Day, so we had the day off. We enjoyed another delicious Cliff House breakfast, this time of cheese blintzes and more baked goods (at 8:30 sharp! don’t be late!). After packing up and waiting until the last possible moment to leave (there might have been another quick soak in the hot tub), we said our goodbyes and commenced our drive north. We stopped for lunch at Pelican Brew Pub on Cape Kiwanda, sharing fish tacos and humongous onion rings by the sea.

For an added bonus to our trip, as we drove north we stopped in Tillamook and toured the World Famous Tillamook Cheese Factory! I milked a plastic cow, and Chris bought me a magnet that said “Easy Rider”.

Which I guess just about sums up my role as the passenger on our weekend adventure!

Want to support a great cause?

Sure you do! My friend, Rebecca, is celebrating five years of being cancer-free by climbing to the top of Mt. Adams. During the past five years she has been supported by (and in-turn supports) an organization called Casting for Recovery, which is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports breast cancer survivors through a program that combines fly-fishing, counseling, and medical information to build a focus on wellness instead of illness.

Rebecca is planning her climb this September, and the donations she receives from climb sponsors (she’s hoping to get $2000) will be given to Casting for Recovery to support other cancer survivors. Please visit Rebecca’s Hike-n-Fish blog to find out more about her climb, or click HERE to donate. Thanks!

Mt. Adams, by Rebecca Young

An Evening with the Freak Mountain Ramblers!

And, by Freak Mountain Ramblers, I don’t mean my family…although my family was there with me. Anne and Paul invited me to join them at an outdoor concert just a few blocks from where I live, so I took them up on it. Anne and Paul brought a picnic dinner and my niece, I brought warm chocolate chip cookies (to win over my niece), and the Freak Mountain Ramblers brought the Grateful Dead cover music and washed up hippie dancing with juggle sticks. It was a nice change for an evening – the weather was perfect, and it was so close to my house! Ahhhh…I love northwest Portland…

Yup, he’s still going!

Playing Catch-Up

Yikes! Time has slipped away from me folks, and I realized that with all the stuff going on right now I forgot to actually write about my spring break trip that I took with Chris. I posted a slide show of all the pictures on this blog a while back (you can see the pictures here), but I totally forgot to give you the inside scoop! So here goes…even if it is old news by now.

Sunday, March 28:

We started our road trip by stopping by the Hip Chicks Do Wine tasting room in Newberg where we sampled several yummy wines. However, we wanted to check out a few other places that were going to close at 5 pm so we kept moving down the road to our bed and breakfast, the amazing Abbey Road Farm B&B. The guest rooms are in converted grain silos and the grounds are amazing! Definitely check out the pictures. After checking in (we were the only people there during our stay), we went to downtown Carlton and stopped in at the Barking (a.k.a. Barfing) Frog (we weren’t impressed), and the Tyrus Evan tasting rooms. Then a nice dinner at Cielo Blue – terrific bruschetta and it was free, since the waitress spilled my water in my pasta and comped us the appetizer.

Monday, March 29:

While I’m not normally a breakfast person, I was looking forward to a farm-fresh meal. John and Judi (the owners of the B&B, not my parents) cooked us up a fancy meal of grapefruit (topped with toasted coconut, maple syrup and a raspberry) and crepes (with whipped cream, strawberries and kiwi). John went through an exhaustive list of the tasting rooms and wineries we should visit, and talked about all the people running the wine scene in the Willamette Valley. He knew A LOT about wine and we felt a bit overwhelmed and baffled after all his recommendations. So instead of heading out for wine at 10 am, we decided to tour the grounds, which consisted of us harassing the chickens (ok, so we mainly fed them cinnamon raisin bread), making friends with the goats (we’ll see you tomorrow morning, ladies!), and having John show us around the Agrivino Event Center he built. After, we headed out to The Carlton Winemaker’s Studio where JP gave us a nice intro to the local Pinots (we liked Lazy River and Britton’s Basalt Block) – they have several wineries featured at that tasting room, so it was a nice tour. We then went just up the road to Cana’s Feast to sample their wines…and by the end of that visit we had blown our wine budget (but we have lots of really good wine to enjoy at home!). We drove through Dundee and stopped at the Dundee Bistro for dinner, then went back to the Abbey Road Farm for our second night.

Tuesday, March 30:

We managed to get ourselves up nice and early to meet Ricardo, the goat tender, for some good old-fashioned goat milking fun. At 7 am it didn’t feel like so much of a vacation, but hey, we did want our farm-lite experience. Sunflower the goat was very patient with Chris and my unexperienced hands, but we got the hang of it eventually. After all four goats were milked, we took our pail of milk down to the kitchen to Judi who set it up to pasteurize. We had a delicious breakfast of granola with yogurt and berries, VERY fresh eggs, chicken-apple sausage, potatoes, and zucchini bread with lemon-zest goat cheese.

After that it was time for us to head on down the road. Down that road we made a stop at the Brigittine Monastary (their website has an E-zine…an E-zine!!!) where we were greeted by a very friendly cat who led us to the chocolate truffle sales room. It was tended by a monk who had apparently not quite taken a vow of silence, but who made some sort of promise to use as few words as possible during the day. So we bought a couple boxes of truffles, nodded to the monk, and said goodbye to the cat.

We ate lunch at The Beanery in Corvallis, then visited my good friends Jeremy, Dana, and Autumn Monroe for a couple of hours. It was sooooo nice to see some old friends, whom I’m sure will be in my life for a very long time. They all looked well and I was happy to see that Autumn already has quite the biological vocabulary at such a young age! After that, we kept driving south and stayed the night at the Eugene Hilton. Nothing of note there, really, other than the fact that Sarah Palin would speak at that very same Hilton a month or so later. Boooo!!!

Wednesday, March 31:

We were kind of done with wine tasting (by that point our palettes were very confused) so we decided to head to the coast and stay in Newport for the next couple of days. After leaving Eugene we stopped to see a dreary road-side glassblower in Mapleton, activated my new (i.e., Chris’ old) iPhone in Florence (yay!!!), then drove North and checked in at Green Gables B&B in Newport (we’ve stayed there before and liked it so much we decided to stay again). My friend Julie (from grad school at CSU) lives in Newport so I gave her a call and we met her and her boyfriend Perry at Quimby’s for dinner and drinks – I hadn’t seen her since 2002! She hasn’t changed a bit and it was awesome catching up with her. After, Chris and I checked out a whale skeleton sculpture at a beach park, watched Stardust in our room, then…well, maybe I should just stop there.

Thursday, April 1:

Oh, Thursday. Spring break was going by too fast! We finished watching Stardust (which is a very good movie, by the way), and enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the Italian Cafe (part of the B&B) with food made by sisters Rhonda and Yolanda (or Rho and Yo, depending on how bold you are). We had fresh-baked orange-cranberry scones and sweet rolls, and a cranberry sausage quiche which was amazing…

Later, we went down to Newport’s waterfront which is apparently undergoing a major facelift judging by all the construction. We stocked up on our decade’s supply of salt-water taffy (2 lbs, a variety of flavors), checked out the sea lions on the pier, and window shopped. We had dinner at the Italian cafe – manicotti, chicken parmesean, and orange-chocolate cheesecake – YUM!!! We enjoyed a second night at Green Gables, and had a storm roll in which was reminiscent of the storm we experienced during our first stay. Very romantic!

Friday, April 2:

Breakfast was soooo good the day before that we had the very same breakfast on Friday. It was sad that our vacation was almost over, but as you can see, we took some good pictures and will remember it for a long time. Plus, on our drive home we had Combos! Pizzeria and pretzel flavor – yippee!!!

The Big Three-Six!

Well, I know that turning 36 is a big deal for most people…it’s such a benchmark in one’s life…so when my friend Cecily from Denver wanted to come out for a visit over my birthday weekend I said “woo hoo! Let’s do it!”. And in fact, it was nice to see not just Cecily, but my friend Andrew from San Diego, and Chris (of course). It was an action-packed weekend, which I will attempt to briefly (or not so briefly, it’s all relative) fill you in on here.

Thursday morning (Feb. 25th, my birthday), Chris presented me with a very nice bottle of wine, two gorgeous hand-blown wine glasses, and a fabulous orange Jersey Shore towel (GTL, that’s what happens at the Jersey Shore, baby) (update: a week later he also gave me a purple/magenta dance top that I wanted – so thoughtful!). I had to go to work that day, which was also incredibly awesome (heh heh heh, rolling eyes now), but after work I met Chris at Melt on 21st right by my house for happy hour. Tasty tots and falafel sliders…yum! But that was just an appetizer really – we swung by the airport and picked up Cecily, whom I hadn’t seen since our adventure in the Chiricauhuas, Thanksgiving 2008 (check out pictures here). Of course, Cecily looked exactly the same as always. Chris researched a few dinner places and we ended up at Siam Society – tasty noodles and hand-ground curry all around. When we got back to my place Chris revealed that he had purchased an angel food cake from – wait for it – a bakery. No cheesy grocery store cake for me! It was soooo good – it had a very light buttercream frosting with raspberry glaze over it, and it even said Happy Birthday Marci on it! What a sweetheart Chris is…awww…

I decided to take Friday off so that Cecily and I could try to find trouble exploring the fine city of Portland. We hopped on the streetcar right outside my apartment, which we rode to Powell’s Books. I subsequently spent way too much money there, but then enjoyed some yummy pizza at Rocco’s for lunch. We then got back on the streetcar and rode it down to the aerial tram, which we rode all the way to the top of the hill – even though it was kind of rainy out, the view was still amazing. We rode the tram back down, got on the streetcar again, then looped around and did some shopping at Buffalo Exchange (start: the Great Fedora Quest). We eventually did the entire streetcar circuit, ending up back at my place mid-afternoon.

Chris picked us up and we drove back downtown where we met up with my friend Andrew, who I used to work with in San Diego. He was in town for a conference so it was good to see him; the four of us walked to Henry’s Tavern for dinner and a sampling of their amazing beer menu (over 100 taps!).

One of our prime objectives for Saturday was to find a fedora for Chris to wear that evening. We decided to hit a thrift store on Mississippi Avenue before my dance class, but alas – they were closed until noon. WTF??? Closed until noon on a Saturday? We waited at Fresh Pot in hopes of a surprise early opening, but that did not happen, so I outfitted Cecily in some bellydance garb and dragged her to my Beginning Neo-Tribal Bellydance 2 class. I think she may have been a bit nervous about it at first, but she has a strong dance background (ballet, tap, swing) so I knew she would have no problem…in fact, I envied her belly-roll skills! I just have belly rolls, no skills. But we had a good time there, nonetheless.

After class we met Chris on Hawthorne for some thrift store shopping. Cecily bought a dress for the evening, but even after scouring 3 stores, we couldn’t come up with a fedora. We did, however, eat a slllooooowwww lunch at Por Que No which was quite delish (albeit a little stressful since I had to scarf as soon as the food arrived so I wouldn’t get a parking ticket).

Cecily and I left Chris to come up with a fedora (and other outfit components) on his own, and later that afternoon, my brother Paul, Anne, and Adelaide came for a visit to my apartment. That kid sure is growing fast…and Abbey knows it (or as Adelaide calls her, “Dabby”). Clearly, the biggest draw for her in coming to my place is Dabby and the choo choo (aka the streetcar that runs down my street every 15 minutes).

The weekend highlight for me was definitely Saturday evening. I’ve alluded to us getting prepped for the night…and for good reason…I purchased tickets for me, Cecily, and Chris to go see The Royal Tease, a burlesque show at the Bossanova Ballroom on Burnside. We had reserved seating with dinner, so we decided to get all dressed up for the event. And as The Baroness says, “any occasion to dress is an occasion to over-dress”. Following that advice, I went over the top, wearing a flashy red cocktail dress, short black wig, and very high heels. Cecily looked smashing in her blue dress, and Chris rocked it with a fedora he purchased at a non-thrift store – it was a combination of leather and striped material – an excellent choice!

The performance was pretty fabulous, with lots of tassels, pasties, T, and of course, A. I think my favorite performers were Charlotte Treuse (amazing tattoos), and Inga Ingenue, who did a really cool toy doll routine and an incredible performance with two giant pink feather fans. The only bummer of the night was that we were supposed to get dessert with our dinner (red velvet cake and cinnamon gelato), but that part of the meal never showed up. And my vegetarian polenta was kinda barfy too, but Chris shared his pork loin and yams so it was all good.

The following day was the last of Cecily’s visit, as she had to hop on a plane first thing Monday morning to return to Denver. We enjoyed a nice(?) brunch at Joe’s Cellar diner (mmm…egg yolk!), the ambiance of which was moodily enhanced by a non-stop musical marathon exclusively featuring Queen and Led Zeppelin. Chris then drove us via the Columbia River Scenic Highway to Crown Point State Park where we stopped at the Vista House, then to Multnomah Falls. It was a gorgeous day so there were plenty of people there, but it gave us excellent photo opportunities. We ended up back at Chris’s house for dinner where he cooked up a delicious meal of home-made crab-cakes and put us up for the night (he lives closer to the airport than me). What a sweetheart!

I’m glad I have such good friends, and that they made my 36th birthday one to remember. If you want to see more pictures, click here. Thanks for hanging in there and reading this not-quite-so-brief blog entry!