Archive for the 'Living' category

Zelda’s First Protest, Rocking it Portland Style


What’s a Portland Mom to do when her husband and oldest daughter are away in Medford for a soccer tournament during Memorial Day weekend? Why take her youngest daughter out to experience her first protest, of course!

In the spirit of protesting GMOs and Monsanto, Zelda and I armed ourselves with art supplies, constructed a few homemade posters (pictured above) and repaired to the Lloyd District for some Democracy in action. And, we would be remiss if we didn’t credit Alexander Rokoff for giving us permission to use some of his images from the War on Nature painting series. A huge thank you, Alex, because everyone loved that sign! (Click to enlarge and see the sign on the left inspired by his art work.)

After finishing our stint, I filmed the melee that was the finish line, condensing it down into moments that were memorable for us, including:

  • For my parents, the bee protestors. At 11 seconds.
  • Dude in sunglasses, shorts, and backward baseball cap who takes off running, flips a double bird, and yells, “Fuck Monsanto!” At 15 seconds.
  • The cute older lady with the dog that Zelda and I met riding the streetcar to the protest. At 20 seconds.
  • The guy in the construction/hazmat suit finding love. At 26 seconds.
  • The mad scientists. At 40 seconds.
  • The woman with the pig snout and the bunny ears. At 45 seconds.
  • The Portlandia exacta…a protestor in pajamas (there’s always someone running around in PJs in Portland), and a circus performer contact juggling crystal balls (another Portland staple). At 56 seconds.
  • Alexander Rokoff admirers digging his artwork on our sign. At 1:07 minutes.
  • Requisite drum led chanters. At 1:30 minutes.
  • Protest selfie!! At 1:51 minutes.
  • Matching hazmat suits for this couple. At 2:02 minutes.
  • Corporate exploitation of protest to expose hot thirsty walkers to yerba mate drink. (Which, incidentally, tasted nothing like a real yerba mate.) At 02:14 minutes.
  • Wonderful woman with retro camera documenting us documenting the event. At 02:19 minutes.
  • Free chalk! At 02:27 minutes.

Bruise Wheels, Black Eyes & Totally Disgusting Weeping Open Wounds!

We were excited this year when Maker Faire came to Portland, albeit in mini form! The kids enjoyed watching the watermelon launched by the giant catapult with the fancy french name…trebuchet! They made some adorable animals out of sculpting chocolate, pedal-powered their own smoothies on some bicycle blenders, and, of course, went in for some obligatory faire face painting.

Only in this case, it was Trackers style. Yes, that’s right. Trackers, or what I call hippie survival camp, which the Zs love. (The girls said they do a zombie apocalypse camp, how cool is that?)

Anyhow, Trackers had a booth at Mini Maker Faire and they were doing some awesome horrorfilmesque face painting that was a draw for old and young alike. Truth be told, it was a bit strange to see wee little tots in line for fake wounds and bruising!

Of course, the girls were instantly smitten with the concept, and placed themselves in line as Tom wandered off to peruse a few uber geeky booths we might find boring.

Zoe quickly made it to the front of the line (the artist was fast), plunked down in the chair and declared, “I would like an open cut on my arm.” The makeup whiz asked me if I had a kleenex, which I did not. But a bystander offered what I hope was an unused napkin, which she declared, “Perfect!”

This Michelangelo of the Macabre ripped a piece of the napkin, placed it on Zoe’s arm, and then sealed it to Zoe’s skin with liquid latex, leaving a line through the center raised and unattached to Zoe. Then, she began to color over it with her makeup brush from a circular palette she called her “bruise wheel!” It looked shockingly real very quickly, the napkin appearing to be peeled back layers of skin.

The icing on the cake, if you will, came when she split open the raised bit of napkin and filled the resulting trough with her special concoction of fake blood (a formulation of chocolate syrup, corn syrup and food coloring). It was disgusting, as you can see in the staged pictures below.

Zelda was next on the docket, and she requested a black eye. The makeup whiz whipped that thing out in a mere minute or two, explaining in detail to Zelda how the bones shatter and the resulting bruise pattern that occurs with a hard strike to the eye socket.

“I don’t know how to do pretty makeup,” she chatted with Zelda. “When I got married, my friends had to do do all the princess work…I only know how to do the scary stuff!”

With my disturbingly wounded lovelies in tow, we set off to find Tom.

It didn’t take long for the tall guy to spot us from a distance, his face lighting up when he saw us approaching. As we came into focus though, his hand went to his heart and he visibly staggered upon seeing the girls, so realistic was the effect. I thought he was going to have a heart attack, which, naturally, was a bonus in the eyes of our darling children!

The walk back to the car drew a lot of shocked glances and outright gawking. Clearly the highlight of Maker Faire for the Zs, and also an interesting experience, to see how fellow pedestrians interacted with their injured selves.

My View During Geometry…

This is the beach of my late childhood. The beach I could see from my high school geometry class, the one that would mesmerize me into a catatonic state, causing me to lose my train of thought…

Was that interior alternate angles are equal…?

This is the beach where my best friends and I skipped off to during the wind and rain of winter, dodging out on a practice run to go swimming in the cold ass Pacific Ocean, plowing into the surf in our shorts, t-shirts, and knee-high sports socks.

When my New Jersey-born husband first visited the Oregon Coast with me, he couldn’t believe my high school was located directly across the street from such gorgeousness.

Tom still laughs about his inaugural sojourn to the beach of my childhood. We walked toward the sea from my parents’ place, located roughly a quarter mile from the dunes and grasses, emerging onto some of the most stunning coastline I have ever seen.

I looked left, I looked right, and said…”I can’t believe it…it’s so crowded!

Now, you have to remember that Tom’s childhood coastal experiences were more along the lines of the Jersey Shore, where a body is hard pressed to find visible bits of sand in the crush of humanity that congregates there.

So, as you can imagine, he found my attitude particularly funny.

Uhm, Michele…there are…what…about five people here?!?

I know…I can’t believe it,” I responded, with no small amount of outrage.

It is lovely for the Zs that this is now the beach of their childhood. They freeze themselves in the water, swimming until their lips are blue. They roll around in the sand (still) until their ears are full of its multi-colored grains. They scramble over the huge piles of driftwood left by surging storms.

Luckily though, they don’t have the resulting drop in mathematical thinking that often accompanied my connection to the beach!

Tea, Timers, Starfish & Coffee

Sometimes, the old fashioned way just feels better.

Tom and I have developed a bit of a tea habit. We like white teas, and green teas, and black teas, and ginger teas. (Although I am lazy about loose leaf. I tend to buy high quality bagged tea, such as Mighty Leaf and Tea Forte.)

We like tea pots too. The small Japanese tea pot. The smaller Chinese tea pot. The big dragon-themed tea pot that I inherited from my Grandmother (which has the faces in the cups, I posted about earlier).

What we don’t like is boiling our water, steeping our tea…and then forgetting about it. For some reason, we just don’t use our watch timers, or our electronic kitchen timer that sits right by the stove.

I’m not sure why, but digital just doesn’t seem to jibe with the process of making and sipping and appreciating tea.

So there we were, middle-aged farts with the short-term memory of fruit flies (we like to blame this on the children) who were letting their tea over steep…sometimes for half an hour!

What to do?

Tom found the perfect solution in my Christmas present last year: an old-fashioned, totally retro, bright yellow mechanical timer. We all love it, and somehow, it seems to fit perfectly with the ceremony that is tea drinking.

As an added bonus, the sound of the timer reminds us all of the bell that rings at the beginning of Starfish and Coffee, by Prince.

Perfect, since it’s one of our favorite family songs!

No, These Turtles are not Humping!

I had the most fantastic surprise in the mail yesterday! Four gorgeous, fabulous smelling turtle soaps, lovingly handcrafted by my aunt Leslie.

She is an incredibly talented and generous woman who thought the Zs and I would enjoy a little handmade Shea Butter and Aloe Vera soap.

Leslie, you were right! We do enjoy! We are enjoying!

For the record, I would like to say that the Zs practically got in a wrestling match in their excitement over which soap to claim for their bathroom. And, Leslie, you will be happy to know that living with 3 women has rubbed off on Tom, and he appreciates a non-drying hand soap as much as the next guy!

I also wanted to get a plug in for my aunt’s Etsy store. She makes some of the most gorgeous wooden crafts. Her cutting boards with inlaid turquoise–a great Mother’s Day gift.

Thanks Leslie for making my week!!

Stop…I mean Start…the Presses!

In Portland, we have a wonderful store, if you adore paper arts and letterpress. It’s called Oblation Paper and Press. I was lucky enough to take a letterpress class there a while ago, working with those incredible old machines and wooden letter blocks (I made a postcard-sized thank you card that said “Danke”).

Anyhow, our current downsized lifestyle, which I adore, does not really include room for a turn-of-the-century, gigantic, zillion pound letterpress machine! (Maybe when the Zs depart…) So, I didn’t think playing with letterpress would be in my future.

Then, Tom gifted me with the crafter-sized QuicKutz Epic 6 letterpress and die cutter this Christmas.

Before even using it, I have to say that I enjoyed reading all of the reviews. I traveled back in time, via the Interwebs, to the moment of its launch to see what reactions were when it first came out. The outraged posts on the part of professional letterpress artists about this innocuous little machine surprised the heck out of me. I am not sure what they found so threatening. I would think it would only expand people’s appreciation for, and understanding of, this incredible art.

The consumer reviews were definitely entertaining. My personal favorite was the complaint that to use it, you would continue to have to purchase supplies. Does a tube of paint came with an inexhaustible supply of canvas? Of course not. Think of it this way, you are buying a tool with a minimum amount of supplies to get started. Also, many complained, “I got it out of the box and it didn’t work perfectly on the first print.”

Welcome to letterpress!

When I took my class at Oblation, the pros had to use a ton of tricks and tweaks to get great results. Every machine had its own personality. Don’t expect home letterpress to be any different.

There are some good posts about modifying the machine, and about other’s experiences with it, including this one from Boxcar, here from Paper Crave, and lastly Viva la Blogette’s review.

Mine own first pass reactions after spending a few hours with the machine several weeks ago are below. Above is a photo of some of the results I got with the Epic 6 during that time.

  1. I was able to get passable results pretty quickly out of the box, particularly with the finer letters and lines.

  2. The plates that are included are uber low quality. When I opened the box, several of the stock images were dramatically warped and completely unusable.

  3. The brayer that was included worked fine for me, particularly on narrow text. In fact, for this, I preferred it to the fancier 6″ one I purchased on the recommendations above. I am curious to order plates from Boxcar though, and use the larger brayer with some guides. This will be the key to good results with larger inked areas, which are hard to coat evenly with the smaller brayer.

  4. I had no problem with cracking plates, as others did. But, I didn’t print any large runs. Also, I didn’t press boundaries in terms of increasing the impression depth.

  5. Watching a video or two beforehand is definitely helpful.

  6. You will definitely want more color than the solo black tube included with the kit, so buy an array of ink ahead of time if you can!

  7. Make sure you have lots of time to play the first time you take it out of the box. It’s addictive!

A Magical Moment at the Train Station!

I’ve been meaning to post about this for awhile!

A few months ago, I was puttering around the house and glanced out the window to find a ton of people milling about near the train tracks, where they intersect with NW 9th Ave to the north of Union Station. Let me assure you, this is not a normal occurrence. There is absolutely zero reason for Portlanders, some with cameras, to be besprinkled between and betwixt the tracks. (Generally, the only crowds we get are when the Portland Police park next door at the mounted police training facility to get suited up in riot gear for protests. There was not a law enforcement officer to be found in this group though. I checked.)

Intrigued, I decided to observe this group milling around for a bit, but nothing was happening, so I continued on with my day…irritated that I couldn’t figure out why everyone was chilling at a nondescript intersection. As I was mentally setting aside their puzzling behavior, my puttering was interrupted again, this time, by a vibrating exhalation that reverberated through our place, shaking everything.

I ran for my camera while my brain was piecing together that a steam engine must be parked at Union Station. Sprinting for the balcony, I could hear it lumbering by, and I managed to catch the shot below of a lovely Art Deco steam engine starting its journey to a train show in Tacoma.

According to Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, this beauty is called the Southern Pacific #4449

Built in 1941 as a 4-8-4 GS-4 locomotive, she is 110′ long, 10′ wide and 16′ tall. With locomotive and tender weighing 433 tons and a boiler pressure of 300 psi, her eight 80″ diameter drivers and unique firebox truck booster can apply 5,500 horsepower to the rails and exceed 100 mph. The only remaining operable “streamlined” steam locomotive of the Art Deco era, this grand Lady of the High Iron pulled Southern Pacific “Daylight” coaches from Los Angeles to San Francisco over the scenic Coast Route and then on to Portland until 1955.

Retired to Oaks Park in 1958 for display only, many thought 4449 would never run again. In 1974 she was completely restored specifically to pull the 1976 Bicentennial Freedom Train throughout the United States to the delight of over 30 million people. SP 4449 has also operated numerous excursions since. She is arguably one of the most beautiful locomotives ever built and kept that way by the all-volunteer Friends of SP 4449.

The juxtaposition of highrise condos with a steam train was captivating for us all who watched her get underway. (Click on photo to the right to enlarge.)

Unbeknownst to me at the time all of this was happening, Tom was stopped by the train as he was walking home on NW 9th Ave with Zelda. He too could not deduce why people were loitering, nor imagine upon what they could be waiting. Lucky Tom and Zelda were both right there as this piece of machinery demonstrated its ability to achieve some serious pressure in its boiler…the noise and heat was quite visceral for them.

Thanks babe for snapping the great close up shot of all that water vapor using your phone (pictured top left)!

More Bridges of Multnomah County

Prior to our carless period, seven years of living in Portland had netted me exactly one trip across the Willamette River on foot. (During Tom’s marathon training, he made many crossings, so his record is much more solid than mine!)

Now, as a rule, if I have a work meeting anywhere in-city, I try to walk or bike to it, which has had the happy side effect of requiring many, many pedestrian crossings of the Willamette, the river that bisects Portland. And every single time I step foot on one of our bridges, my mood soars…it’s so movie montage cliche! Regardless, I find it spectacular in all weather — the driving rain, howling winds, dense dense fog, and gorgeous gorgeous sunshine. These little cross water forays provide a sort of relaxed fulfillment that surprises me each and every time I undertake one.

I think the Steel is my favorite because the pedestrian walkway is so low to the river.

You Know It’s Bad When I Want to Bake a Cake

I haven’t posted in forever…I think because I knew the next entry I would have to write would be a tribute to our poor little cat’s very, very, short life.

Our first few weeks of life as owners of a feral cat with sniffles involved a lot of back and forth to the vet for exams and getting up to speed on shots. During one such visit, Quinn gave his doctor a shock, because she noticed that where a few days earlier his eyes had been fine, now, one was suddenly not reactive to light at all, and the other appeared to have a film over it.

A trip to a specialist ensued and a diagnosis of FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) was handed down.

FIP is a fatal feline virus that the doctor speculated would spread like wildfire through our kitten because it was already in his brain manifesting as eye problems. When Tom called me with the news, I had an overwhelming desire to make a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. I am a stress baker. And cakes…I feel the urge to make those upon receiving really, really upsetting tidings.

Our poor little guy lasted only a few weeks beyond the diagnosis, but we tried to give him as much love and pampering as we could in those last days in a desperate effort to mitigate the shitty cards he had been dealt and the hard life he had lived up until he moved in with us.

Random Fond Recollections:

  • He loved to hang out on people’s shoulders, both in the manner shown in the photo with Tom below, which I love, or by literally climbing aboard like a parrot, surveying the world around him.

  • Because of his illness, he didn’t grow very large. With his spots and stripes and very sleek body he seemed like a wild cat, writ tiny. We called him our “Manther”, short for mini-panther.

  • His purr was gigantically, enormously, infectiously loud and so remarkable, given his size.

  • He had a special fondness for me, sometimes running and jumping into my arms with a sweet little chirping noise. He adored sitting in my lap, and if I put my computer on the bed, he would always run up and place his paws on it, waiting for me, knowing that he had some good lap time coming!

  • Watching him play with the Zs was a joy, all of us laughing as he would skid out on the transition from carpet to wood floor.

  • As he was dying, and his motor skills were going, he would insist on perching atop the arm of the leather chair, which was both slippery and rounded. He could never sit on it for long before sliding and falling off, but for some stubborn reason, that’s where he wanted to be, so we let him and tried not to watch.

In the end, Zelda and Tom took him to the vet’s office to be put down. (Zoe and I nominated the two more stoic members of our family to do the deed, because we knew we would be a complete, blubbery embarrassment.) Zelda and Tom were incredibly brave, and held Quinn through it all and were with him until the bitter end, going through a whole box of tissues in the process. Tom said he and Zelda could not stop weeping, thereby teaching us that we have no truly stoic members of our family!


Our Christmas present of a kitten for the girls has been a sad life lesson. We still miss the little furry guy.

The New Man in My Life!

Okay, he’s a little furry and has hair in his ears, but I love him to pieces anyway! Meet Quinn, our shelter kitty that we adopted after our recent trip to Hood Canal. It seems impossible now to think that we almost selected a different feline to take home…

As we stood in the entrance of The Oregon Cat shelter in Lake Oswego, we surveyed the various kittens that hadn’t been selected as Christmas gifts. (It’s big kitten season, apparently.) We were drawn to a little gray guy with lily white feet. His name was “Cruiser.” (This should have been a tip off.)

He was adorably cute, active, easy to handle. The perfect kitten. With the deal nearly sealed, we let him loose on the cat tree in the middle of the room. As I began filling out paperwork, I noticed him bothering the crap out of a giant cat that swatted him down a few times — hard. Cruiser remained undaunted. After filling out a few more lines, I glanced up once more to find him biting the carpet upon which he stood, literally rending the fibers out of their backing, flecks of carpet caught in his whiskers. A slightly crazed look in his eyes.

Hmmm. Maybe we should take another pass, we all decided.

There was a little tabby in a large cage with a bunch of his siblings, all of whom were rescued feral cats. They were like the Flying Wallendas. Playing, batting, lunging, somersaulting, and sometimes launching themselves at the cage grid and hanging on, suspended by their claws. Quinn was smaller, but gave as good as he got. The second you opened the door though, he would immediately put the ears back and to the side, looking none too pleased.

Strangely though, when we reached in, he didn’t hiss, bite or scratch. He remained extremely unhappy though, with ears plastered to his head, as we snatched him out. Quinn was a small guy, but had the LOUDEST purr we had ever heard — really remarkable for his size. (He was the runt of the litter and has slightly bowed front legs that make him look as if he’s got some sort of Western gunfighter swagger when we walks around the joint. His tail is crooked as well, very sharply, 180 degrees — about 3/4 of an inch at the tip.)

Our Kittens for Dummies book recommended setting up a “safe room” when we returned a la casa. A place with everything he needed where he could start out…a home base. So of course, Tom and I decided to volunteer the kids’ bathroom! You can see the picture here. We were concerned, at first, that the safe room was a little too comfortable, as we had a hard time getting him to come out! (Having been a feral cat, we were expecting him to take time to warm up and explore.) I mean, there are volumes devoted to “How to Get Your Cat into His Pet Carrier” but nothing written about “How Do I Get My Cat out of His Pet Carrier?”

Every day though, he explores a bit more. So far, he has attacked the ficus tree in the living room, attacked the fringe on the rug in the living room, tried to jump up and attack a few door handles, and has been entranced by his reflection in the oven door, which required attacking the dish towels that hang on the handle. (Notice a theme?)

He also attacked Zelda’s moving feet under her blankets the other night, popping her inflatable mattress (slow leak). So last evening we left Quinn at home and went to Ikea for the inevitable bunkbeds, the Z’s space-saving Aerobed scheme has come to an due to the paws of a tiny cat. Tom and the girls are assembling it now.