Tuesday, August 31, 2010


We won our last softball game of the season, 7-6, and it was such a great game!  Despite some light rain, it was the best game of the season.  Far less errors, some really nice plays,  and pretty much everyone got hits tonight.  There were lots of laughs to share yet again.  I can't say it enough - softball with my colleagues is just so much fun!


  • Am I really losing my short term memory at 43!?
  • Is keeping within a budget really THIS difficult?
  • Have I forgotten how good bed can feel?
  • Have I forgotten how to cook?
  • Do I really have to SAY I’m not interested, or will my complete lack of response finally drive that message home?
  • Am I really THAT compelling at 3:00 in the morning, after several  visits the previous day?
  • Do I have a sign on my forehead that says “Start Bickering Now”?
  • Do I really need to resort to pouring cold water on her each morning?
  • Can renewing my car registration get any more expensive?


…more to come. I’m sure of it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cafe Au Lait vs. Caffe Latte

Last night I met Scott out at the Lucky Lab on Hawthorne and had a glass of wine while he had dinner and a beer.  Later we walked around Ladd's Addition neighborhood near Hawthorne and found ourselves at Palio Coffee House, a little coffeeshop in Ladd's Circle, which I had not been to since before Stella was born. 

Inside Palio - I love the chairs.  (photo:  Andrew Collins)

We stopped in for coffee and I ordered a cafe au lait, which I have not had since I was in New Orleans when I had it with a hot, delicious beignet early one morning at Cafe du Monde after shooting sunrise pictures on the Mississippi River.  I remember wondering back then, whether a cafe au lait was different than a caffe latte.  Was it just the same thing in but spoken French and Italian?  Or was there some difference to their makeup?  The question crossed my mind then and other times,  but I never thought it about it very long, and always moved on to something else.  I would never remember to look it up.  Not this time.  I Googled the question this afternoon, and found out that there is, indeed a difference between these two coffee drinks, and it's more than just what language you are speaking. 

According to  the blog, "Coffee Break" on http://coffeeandteatime.com/blog/2008/cafelatte-cafeaulait/, this is the difference:

Cafe au Lait and Cafe Latte are indeed different. Cafe au lait is actually equal parts of regular coffee and hot milk. A cafe latte is made with 1/3 espresso and 2/3’s hot steamed milk. A cafe latte generally does not have a milk froth top. Sugar is generally not added to a caffe latte but those who prefer sweetened coffee will often add it to cafe au lait.

So, really, the biggest difference is that one has espresso and one has regularly brewed coffee.  I had already kind of guessed that.  Also there is a difference between the ratios of coffee to milk.  I happen to love the "milk froth top" I find on a cafe au lait, even as I'm surprised by it.  Seems like a latte, with its steamed milk would have more froth.  Curious.  I also like that it's traditionally sweetened if you like sugar in your coffee, which I do.

Anyway, in honor of my heritage and my love for New Orleans - and because I really lilke it better - I will be drinking cafe au lait  rather than latte's much more often!

Cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Late Summer Snapshot

7:50 and the sky glowed dusky pink and purple as Stella and I reached the field just in time for the game.  Warm welcomes, giddy with relief, greeted us as we jogged up, and I ran out onto the already brightly lit field without a warm up. It would be alright.  There would be no forfeiture this fine night - a perfect night for softball.

Getting down to business and fun, I was part of a nice play for an out at first base that first inning.  Alan, our owner, winged a fast one from third base, and my glove shot up to snag it high and to the left for that sweet  last moment out, made sweeter by my daughter cheering me from the sidelines, her broad grin splitting her face.  I'm so very proud of her and it's pretty motivating to have her there, beaming pride back at me.  I'm glad we can share these moments.

Michelle, the newest member of our sales team, and youngest player on the softball team, snagged a really nice fly ball out in center field.  This is her first ever season of playing any kind of softball or baseball, and she's turning out to be quite the competitor and natural athelete.  She improves every game.  It was great to see her grab that ball.  We all - every single one of us on the field - had our hands in the air, whooping it up.  A huge show of support and good vibes to spare.  The opposing team, a serious bunch, must of thought we were a bit touched, but we sure didn't care!

I had heard earlier from a friend down in the Big Easy that the moon was worth a look-see tonight, and sure enough as I peered up at the next batter at the bottom of the 4th, there was a big old glowing, golden orb rising in the indigo sky behind her.  A real beauty of moon, forecasting the harvest moons to come, and breaking bitter-sweet on my consciousness.  Summer will leave us soon and the fiery colors of autumns will decorate it's slow demise.

I will miss these moments a little, even as I happily anticipate the good times to come:  Fall Soccer and watching Stella tear it up in her first season playing at the club level.  Watching the Saints defend their championship.  Sharing smack-talk and laughter during Oregon's Civil War Football game.  Crunching through fallen leaves while breathing the crisp clean air and enjoying the Autumn displays of color.  Playing dress up with the kids for Halloween.  There are many things to look forward to as we transition into Fall.

For now, though, I am savoring these last vignettes of Summer.  Time passes so quickly, and I don't want to let the cycles spin by without fully enjoying them and giving thanks.

Peace and Understanding

Enjoyed my lunch today, and not just because the food was good and the weather was nice. Today it was good to share a meal and talk freely with someone I have recently had trouble connecting with, but who's occasional input and availability is so vital to me in my current pursuits.  Sometimes you simply need to take time out to break bread and speak freely and with a relaxed mind and open heart.  I'm feeling much better today.  Far less volatile or closed off than I've felt at various times this past week.   Ahhhhh....feels good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

An hour in the Mediterranean?

Had such a nice lunch.  I sat outside with the warm sunshine on my back and an umbrella overhead, while I  read For Whom the Bell Tolls while eating the most wonderful slice of Putanesca pizza and a beautiful spinach salad filled with crisp onions, soft, tangy feta, sliced sweet grape tomatoes and pine nuts in a perfect vinegairette.  Delightful!  I love Pizzicato.  Great way to bide some time till my next great vacation!


This day I have purpose and a steely armor. 
I do not strive to connect, but rather to withdraw.
I perform my duties.
I am focused. 
My face is blank.
My shutters are closed. 

Why do they now reach out to me? 
Is it mystery which compels them?
Are they afraid of missing something?
What do they expect will be different?
If they pry me open wide,
They'll only be disappointed to find, still, only my tender heart and good intentions.
Those things which repel them in the first place.

I hate fighting me.
Especially to protect me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bike Commuting - The Good

  • The strength I'm developing in my legs makes me feel powerful.
  • I haven't filled my car tank in well over a week, and there is still a quarter tank of gas in there, despite making a trip to Mt. Hood to go hiking on Sunday.
  • I have "that glow" when I get to work.
  • My lungs feel good and oxygenated every day, twice a day.
  • I have lots of very focused energy when I get to work, and I'm more productive.
  • I feel very self-sufficient
  •  I'm reducing my carbon footprint.
  • I'm inspiring others at work to do the same, because, hey - if I can do it, most of them can most certainly do it, too.
  • I'm meeting nice people in my neighborhood, who talk to me because they've seen me riding.
  • I'm becoming more fit, and other activities, like hiking, are getting easier.
  • I'm certain I'm extending my functional life.  I plan to be biking and hiking well into my 70's.
  • Next time someone invites me on a ride, I won't be as afraid that I can't keep up.
  • I'm more upbeat.
  • The ride from work back home is a fantastic transition, which gives me time to be alone with my thoughts for a little while
  • I'm gaining confidence in my body!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happiness is...an alpine hike!

I left home early last Sunday morning, with plans to hike up to McNeil Point on Mt. Hood.  I didn't get out the door as early as I wanted, because I was up a little too late the night before, but I got out and started hiking up by 8:30.  I parked at the Top Spur Trailhead, just as I did on my last hike, and I headed out in the same direction, determined this time to see more of the high country and wonderful vistas.  And DID I!  It was a strenous hike with 2,200 ft of elevation gain over 9.8 miles, and I'm itching like crazy this week, because the deer flies enjoyed my flesh while on the way up through the forested parts, but the sights along the way and the glorious destination were totally worth it!  What a great way to beat the heat - go higher! 

I was surprised to see that the pretty little pond I took photos of on my last hike 2 weeks before, was dry!  The vibrant Leopard Lillies were all gone, too, along with many of the other wildflowers I photographed along the way.  But the higher I got, the more new things I got to enjoy:  lots of Indian Paintbrush and another flowering shrub that reminds me of Heather.  Not sure what it is.  I also saw Pasque Flowers up at McNeil Point, which added interest to my photos of Hood there.  I could never articulate just how beautiful and rewarding that hike was, but I can share some pretty pictures.  I wanted to post this to have a memory of this special day.  If you really want to enjoy the photos, just click on them to see a larger version.  I wish I'd taken the advice about getting a graduated, polarizing filter for some of these shots of mountains with snow and bright sky, but some of these didn't come out too badly despite that missing tool. 

Alpine Cinquefoil - I think

Mt. Adams

The Path that leads to McNeil Point

A nice woman took a picture of Molly and me with Mt. Hood in background.

Magenta Paintbrush
Views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams - nice vista!

Alpine meadow full of Paintbrush and Mountain Heather

View of Mt. St. Helens, and  the ponds I passed on the way up.

Pasqueflower in foreground, Mt. Hood looming.

Glacial melt creek from Glisan Glacier

Mt. Hood with snowfield.  Molly loved sliding down this!

Molly cooling off in the Glisan Glacier meltwater creek.

Bleached deadwood and Mt. Hood

I think this is Ladd Creek.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Painting the Town Red

Yesterday afternoon, when I serendipitously had childcare arranged for the evening, my friend, Richard, asked me out to dinner out of the blue. "How delightful!" I thought. "Yes!" I said. When he asked me where I wanted to go, I said, "Surprise me!" I was in the perfect mood to step outside of my box - both literally and figuratively. I didn't want to make decisions; I just wanted to have fun. The only thing I wanted to think about was what to wear. Instead of throwing on a pair of jeans and a comfy top, I decided to dress up. I looked at several Summer dresses I bought this year for my vacation, and I finally chose the tomato red number I had so much fun in one fabulous day and night in New Orleans. It didn't take much else to look ready to go - a simple fresh water pearl and silver necklace and earrings are all I added to dress it up. Red kind of makes a statement all it's own!

Now, I've thought about wearing this dress ever since being back in Oregon with it this Summer, but it just never seemed right. The weather has been too cold some evenings, or I had nowhere to go in it on other evenings. Plus, it's kind of a femme fatale dress, because of the way it accentuates curves and demands attention with it's vibrant color. I just haven't felt comfortable standing out like that since I've been back from New Orleans. My inhibitions get in the way here in Portland, it seems. Back in New Orleans, I felt so free and feminine - just comfortable with myself and my curves. Maybe it was because I was vacation, and I refused to let any negative body image spoil my good time. Or, maybe it was New Orleans, herself. There was certainly a heady magic in the air there! It could have also been because men smiled at me and complimented me there everywhere we went. I hadn't been flirted with like that in years! Whatever it was, it made me feel so much more relaxed, and sexy. And much less inhibited about slipping into this knockout dress.

Last night I decided it was time to kick my inhibitions to the curb. Even after I had it on and had fixed my makeup and hair, though, I was still not sure it was the right thing to wear. But then, Stella and Annie saw me. "Mom! You look so beautiful!" Stella exclaimed. Annie grinned broadly, and said, "I like that dress!" Their dad, who was over to watch them and Evan, just sort of just swallowed and mumbled something affirmative. I knew he liked the way I looked. That was all I needed. I added a touch of the perfume I bought in New Orleans, and out the door I went, feeling very womanly and pretty.

Richard had suggested La Buca, a Northwest/Italian type place for dinner, so I headed over to the East side and found some parking down the street, a couple of blocks from the restaurant. I got that little nervous feeling about the dress again just before I stepped out of the car, but it backed down quickly and confidence took over when, as I walked down the street, I realized that people were not only noticing me, but smiling broadly at me. Two women complimented me, and men stopped their conversations to glance over at me. Wow - did that make me walk tall! I truly felt like a million bucks when I crossed the street to meet my friend. It was easy to smile and he had a big smile in return and lovely compliments, too. We had a great meal, lovely conversation, and I felt really wonderful all evening. It was a perfect way to spend a Friday evening in Portland.

I will remember how confident and pretty I felt and I will do that again. Sometimes you just have to get your girly-girl on!
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Play ball!

I would never have guessed how much I would enjoy playing softball on Axium's first year, co-ed, C league team.  I initially struggled with making the commitment to play.  "Do I really want one more thing I have to do?"  I kept asking myself.  Thankfully, the commitment was a small one.  How could I say no to one night a week, likely no practices, and no weekend games or tournaments?   I couldn't.  I figured I could do that, and signed up to play.  Now I play every Tuesday.  And I'm loving it!

At first the Axium Scope Creeps struggled to get enough players, especially women, so I felt pressure to be there.  But each and every time I showed up, I was glad I did.  It was several games before we actually had a win, but we have so much fun, it doesn't matter much!

It's actually pretty entertaining having players on our team who never even saw a baseball or softball game before, much less played one!  It makes for some good laughs.  Wale and George are both from Nigeria and then England.  They have lots of moxie and athleticism - hell, George was an Olympic Long Jumper in his day - but neither know the rules of the game.  So, there's all this power and grace, but no logic or plan behind it. It's frustrating, but also hysterical to see Wale stand at home plate seemingly enjoying being a spectator as the opposing team makes plays on his hits.  Sometimes he has to be reminded to run.  And, then there's George, who can run like noone else, but CAN'T STOP!  He plows through second base nearly every time!  Scares the bejeesus out of whoever is playing second, to see this very tall, athletic, powerful looking and FAST man tearing down the line toward them, with no hint of slowing down.  If they don't yet have the ball, then find that he's off he base once they do have it, and then things get very funny as George dances around trying not to be tagged.  We can't help but laugh, and then sheepishly make references to how far away Nigeria is to explain things to the opposing team.  But we love that they're out there playing and we have all enjoyed the comraderie, especially as the season goes on.  More and more people reliably show up, and the crew at McGuffy's Pub after the game has doubled since that first night a handful of us showed up there to enjoy beer and tell stories about good plays and funny errors.

For me, this softball team has given me a physical outlet for my competitive nature.  I enjoy sports, and sometimes forget how much fun it is to actually play the game and not just cheer someone else on.  And oh, how I love playing first base.  It's not too hard on my knees (except when I use them, instead of my glove to stop a line drive), and I don't have to run a lot, but I see lots of action and get to look cool under pressure sometimes.  If you aren't scared to catch balls thrown in a huge variety of ways, it's not a hard position at all. 

Batting is fun, too, if you let it be.  Gotta shake off any pressure, and just swing the bat like it's practice.  I try to remember the feel of the bat connecting well with the bat and visualize it leaping off the bat past the infielders before I hit.  Such a sweet sensation when that happens!  Tonight I especially liked the hard drive I hit between the first and second basemen to advance the runner and get on first.  I wanted the RBI, and I got it.  Plus, the hit felt great.  Solid.  Nice to have one like that in a game.  Feels SO good.

It's also really fun to watch your friends show off their skills.  We've got some athletic people on the team, and win or lose, there's always some great play to story-tell about after the game. 

In the end, though, what I like the very best is being outside on a warm Summer evening, with people I genuinely like, playing a fun game.   We're out there running, hitting, throwing, catching, talking smack -  and best of all smiling and laughing and living in the moment.   It's nice to be a part of something shared like this.  It's nice to play, even if just for a couple of hours once a week.  It makes me feel like I'm a kid again, playing baseball in the field on my uncle's property with my cousins and all the neighborhood kids.   Nothing else mattered during those games.  We were caught up in the game,  and played hard with contented hearts focused solely on what was at hand.  There's nothing else quite like it - this little piece of American Summer sweetness.  I'm savoring this chance to do it it again.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More Flowers...

Yesterday the kids and I went to the Zoo and Portland's International Rose Test Garden.  I was delighted with all the beautiful flowers in both places!  Click on any of these for a larger image.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peppermint and Beef Jerky...

These are the two items I decided to bring with me for sustenance when I went hiking on Saturday, along with my cannister of water.  I had been thinking about my Granddad, and I did this to honor him.  It's what he always carried, if he carried nothing else when we went hiking back when I was a kid. 

I fondly recall us taking off for impromptu hikes, stopping first to fill his waist pack with peppermints, which were ever-present in one of the house candy jars, and beef jerky, which there always seemed to be a good supply of in my Grandparent's home.  Once we had hiked a good while and reached a proper rest stop with a view, we'd break out the goodies and soak it all in.  It was always stunning.  Either an eagle's view of a valley below us, or a view of an cold, clear alpine lake, or simply an amazing stand of aspen during the change of season when they were all gold and flickering.  After chatting a bit, Granddad would always take a catnap (with a smile on his face!), and I'd explore the vicinity.  I can't eat either peppermint or beef jerky without thinking of those good times - and wanting to get out to the mountains.

Granddad must have been with me yesterday, because good things started happening right away.  Things that reminded me of him.  First of all was the great sale on one of my favorite brands of jerky - the luck!  Then, on my way out of Gresham on Hwy 26, I saw this old, but great looking, '70-something Datsun pickup that was so similar to the one he and I beat around in on the backroads and dirt roads on our way to trailheads in the mountains near Durango, Colorado in the '70's.  The only differences were the color (Grandad's was blue, and this one was a bright orange), the OPB and NRDC bumper stickers, and the camper shell on this fabulous orange version.  The one I saw on Saturday looked like this:

I took it as an omen for a great day.  I drove along with a big 'ol smile on my face.  And I smiled even more broadly when I got a peek a the driver.  What a character!  Must have been in her late 60's or early 70's - with bright white hair tied in a colorful bandana, silver bangles on her wrist and this fantastic blue denim oxford shirt, that was exactly like the ones my grandad used to wear!  She's was enjoying music and tapping in rythym on her rear view mirror.  She was beautiful!  I had to compliment her rig when we were stopped at a red light in Sandy.  She loved hearing it, and seemed to enjoy the story behind my admiration, too.  I wish I could have a cup of coffee with this woman to get to know her better.  There was just something about her.  I had happy thoughts revolving around her and how I want to live my life all the way up to the mountain.

After a brief and accidental side trip out Lolo Pass Road (and stunning views of Mt. Hood!), I finally found my way up to the Top Spur Trailhead.  I parked, got my pack on, called Molly and headed up the Top Spur trail, on my way to the Timberline trail.   I found myself huffing and puffing a bit.  I'm not in the shape I'd like to be in this Summer.  I started to take a break, but then remembered Granddad encouraging me to go a little further all those many years ago.  He'd tell me to hum a song or think of something else to keep my mind off my steps.    If we kept stopping, we'd never get to our real rest stop, he'd say.  Again, I smiled, remembering his advice, and I hummed myself along.  And I marvelled at the wildflowers along the way, trying to remember their names.  Granddad almost always knew, and if he ever didn't, we'd be looking them up in his field guide on wildflowers, which he'd nearly always have with him. 

There were plenty of wildflowers on this hike.  So many it surprised me.  At first I saw mostly Trillium and the remains of Bunchberry, but I also saw a few Indian Paintbrush. As I got out of the trees, I found I was walking through tons more bright red Indian Paintbrush, lots of purple spears of Mountain Lupine, bright and beautiful Leopard Lillies, Foxgloves and something I later learned is called Alpine Fawn Lillies, or possibly also called Avalanche Lillies!  I had to use the internet for that one, because I don't actually own a wildflower field guide.  There was also Beargrass in abundance, still not fully bloomed.  As I climbed higher, I saw Glacier Lillies and Mariposa Lillies.  I couldn't help but think about how much Grandad would have enjoyed this day full of color and stunning vistas!

I had planned to go to a spot I hiked to last Summer, but I took the "wrong" trail and ended up hiking much farther.  I'm so glad for this happy accident, because if I hadn't "messed up," I would never have seen the beautiful streams with lush green moss and other plants, and I would have missed the the giant, and very stunning rockslide.  Most importantly, my mistake led me to the most beautiful meadow I've seen in a long while, with lovely shallow ponds, which were not only lined with bright green delicate grass, but reflected the mountain beautifully.  It was a sight which brought tears to my eyes. 

The sun was getting too low in the sky to go further, so I took off my pack, sat down and enjoyed this jewel of a place.  And I savored my jerky with the warm sun on my shoulders, then chased that with a pretty little peppermint candy, while Molly explored the vicinity.  I shared some jerky with Molly, too.  Then I closed my eyes and I smiled. 

Then I said outloud, "Thank you,for sharing the best things with me, Granddad."

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Mountains in Bloom

Went on a stunningly beautiful  hike near Mt. Hood on Sunday.  The flowers were lovely:

Mountain Daisies

Leopard Lillies

Leopard Lilly

More Leopard Lillies!

Indian Paintbrush

Glacier Lillies

More Glacier Lillies

More Glacier Lillies

Budding Bear Grass

Bear Grass in full bloom