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United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

One of the highlights of our trip to Washington, DC (besides spending time with family) was the afternoon we spent at the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory and the National Museum of the American Indian, right next door. Despite growing up here, there are still a lot of places like this that I have yet to explore. There is a cool feature on the Conservatory’s web site to take a virtual tour, but it is not the same as being there, of course. I took a ton of photos with my new camera, everything was just so beautiful. I think the orchids were my favorite, but I also found the spice (vanilla, cacao, allspice, nutmeg, etc) and other exotic plants fascinating.

Parking downtown is always tricky, but we were lucky to find a metered spot not too far away. I would highly recommend the metro, especially if you don’t have a car or want to be bothered with the traffic and parking. Like many of the memorials and monuments in DC, these two were free. I didn’t take many pictures of the American Indian Museum, but if you visit be sure to have a bite at the “Mitsitam” (meaning “Let’s eat!”) café to try the authentic Native foods of the Western Hemisphere. We tried the Tamales de Rajas with Red Chili Sauce, the Black Bean and Beef Paspusas, and Fresh Yucca Fries with Lime and Cilantro.

Click here to see more photos from the Garden Conservatory.


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Flying with Baby – Packing list, tips and advice

We just got back from our trip to Washington, DC. It was long – coast-to coast, but baby handled her first airplane travel much better than I expected. I credit good advice, a smartly packed diaper bag, and the luck of sitting next to child-friendly people for making a big difference on all our flights.

Our experience on Frontier: One piece of advice I got was to check my suitcase, stroller and car seat at the curb, but it turns out than Frontier doesn’t offer curb-side check-in. Because of this I decided to leave the stroller (which I was waffling on anyway), since I wouldn’t be able to carry it into the terminal alone, along with the baby, our suitcase, the car-seat and our carry-on diaper bag. Thank goodness she was in her baby carrier, because I needed both hands to get everything to the ticketing counter, and it was a life saver getting through security.

It definitely bothered me that Frontier doesn’t allow 24hr advanced online check-in with a lap child. However, a representative told me that Frontier always tries to give mothers’ a window seat, which is what I wanted. I also noticed on most flights that they seem to stow all babies at the very back of the plane (either for convenience to the lavatory or to keep all the noise in one place, it is hard to say). Chloe was an angel during the first day of flights (layover in Denver) but a little more fussy on the return trip, probably due to the extremely early wake-up and just generally being off her schedule. The first set of flights were better timed for her.

I thought I would be rushing through the layovers, but there was plenty of time to grab a bite to eat, change her diaper, and give her some tummy-time. I tried to schedule feedings so I could nurse during take-off, and she was usually asleep by landings. She didn’t seem bothered by air pressure changes, so I didn’t wake her up. Other key elements to our successful flights included packing several small and varied toys that were new to Chloe (which kept her attention longer), choosing easy to eat, one-handed foods (a sandwich vs. a salad, for example), giving baby multiple positions in my lap, and some tummy-time / free time to stretch off my lap during the layovers.

Our airplane carry-on diaper bag packing list

For Baby:
O    8 diapers + wipes (which we didn’t use all of)
O    diaper changing pad
O    3 disposable diaper changing table covers
O    5 diaper disposal sacks
O     sample size packet of diaper cream
O    small tube of baby lotion (in case of dry cabin air)
O    small amount of masking tape (wrapped around lotion tube)
O    Little Noses saline drops (in case of dry cabin air or air pressure problems)
O    bulb syringe
O    baby tylenol
O    thermometer
O    baby nail clippers
O    Clean Well hand sanitizer
O    1 receiving blanket (for it’s small size)*
O    2 burp cloths
O    3 pacifiers (two with clips)
O    3 small toys / teethers (new ones keep her attention longer)
O    2 changes of clothes (I dressed Chloe in a one-piece “sleep-and-play” for travel, because it was easy for diaper changes but packed a     change of clothes to meet grandpa and grandma in, which I didn’t use, plus an extra sleep-and-play, if needed, protected in a large ziploc with a spare ziploc to hold soiled clothes)
O    baby hat
O    immunization records
O    birth certificate

For Mom:
O    wallet (including driver’s license and spare cash)
O    water bottle (that I filled at a water fountain after we went through security)
O    snack bar
O    spare t-shirt
O    cell-phone (see note below about the iphone)
O    small point-and-shoot camera (to record this first flight)
O    travel-size contact solution and case
O    eye glasses
O    ultra light jacket (weighs almost nothing, and takes up little space – perfect for airport tummy-time)
O    nursing cover
O    extra set of breast pads
O    book (actually two, since I bought another one at the airport)
O    travel pack of tissues
O    ear plugs
O    lip balm
O   2  pens

Other Notes

Travel clothes: Since I am still nursing, I wore a low-neck t-shirt over a nursing tank top, so I could nurse easily (and discreetly with a nursing cover) on take-off. I also wore pants that have a flat waist (no belt to sit underneath the baby carrier) and a zipper pocket (so that my wallet, phone and money were secure on my person, without needing a separate purse).

Dealing with ear pressure in babies and small children: The key is to have them sucking and/or swallowing to help even out the air pressure in their ears. Nursing, a bottle, or a pacifier works great (older kids and adults can usually just chew gum or suck on a piece of candy). Another method is to use baby saline drops or spray which will moisturize dry nasal passages (especially on longer flights) and will also cause baby to swallow.

Emergency ear pressure relief trick: Here’s an obscure tip that one of my clients who has five kids shared – If your child seems to be having a really hard time coping with ear pressure, ask the flight attendant for two styrofoam cups, some hot water, and a wad of napkins (you could also use two socks, washcloths, etc.). Dip the napkins in hot water and wring them out so they won’t drip, place half the napkins in each cup and then “cup” the cups around both baby’s ears. This creates a bit of a vacuum, which will also help relieve the pressure.

Diapers & Wipes: I packed enough diapers and wipes in my diaper bag to last the day, plus a few extra should a delay occur. I also packed a couple in my suitcase, with the intention of buying more when we got to our destination.

Travel and the iphone: My husband generously let me borrow his iphone for the duration of our trip and I can’t say enough about it. This one small device was so handy for: an alarm clock, watch, music player, gps, camera, game device, intermittent night light, emailing, texting, phone calls and general internet access. Love it!

Baby Carrier : I use our awesome Beco Carrier. More about it here.


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Lost Lake

This is where David, Chloe and I went on Saturday. It was about halfway between Portland and the coast, high up in the mountains. After turning off the highway, the first dirt road we tried was snow covered, slippery and very steep. It made me nervous, especially with the baby. Finally I asked that we turn around. If something happened, it is possible that no one would know for a long time.

Before the baby, I probably would have viewed it as an exciting adventure. But now, her safety was foremost in my mind. I had visions of us sliding down the snowy mountainside and her helpless and freezing, if we didn’t survive. That was just too much.

So we turned around, and David found another way, an entry closer to the west that started at a lower elevation. Luckily, it was a beautiful drive that followed a river. The final climb was no less steep, but had much less snow until we reached closer to the top. It was breathtaking to see the miles of the tree covered mountain range. David stopped to re-check the map, thinking we should be there, and then looked up to find we were there. Through the trees the lake glistened, patiently waiting.

We thought we’d be completely alone (after all, who would make this kind of trek in the winter?), but it was Saturday and there was one small family already fishing, though they didn’t stay long. And finally we had this incredible place all to ourselves.

The thing I remember most was how quiet it was. At one point all I could hear was my heartbeat and Chloe’s breathing, despite being heavily bundled up against my chest. I sat with my back against a tree near the lake’s edge to nurse her, when other sounds came to my attention – a woodpecker that I spotted nearby, the faintest rustling of leaves, and the soft thudding of Barkley’s paws as he ran between us and where David was fishing father out. It felt magical, and I was again thankful to live in an area where such beauty could be experienced so peacefully.


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Our Weekend on Anderson Island


David rowing me around Lake Josephine after dinner at the Riviera Lakeshore Restaurant

David and I spent this past weekend on Anderson Island, the southernmost island in the Puget Sound. A little over two hours from Portland, it was close enough to drive, and yet far enough to feel like we were really going on a little vacation to celebrate our anniversary.


The trail down to Andy’s Marine Park

Mussel shells that look like hearts and a view into the ocean. Those black specks are tiny snails.

The pretty inside of another shell and the tiniest little crab I’ve ever seen.

Anderson Island is quite small. I think I heard it measures a mere 4 miles across. To get there we drove north of Olympia to Steilacoom where we took the 20min. ferry to the island. Being small, it is really a place to getaway and relax. There is just one general store (with actual bins of 1¢ candy!), one coffee shop, and one very good restaurant (delicious fish ‘n chips). There are also two fresh water lakes with swimming holes and a couple of nice public parks. Everyone is pleasant, and it is interesting to imagine what it must be like to live in such a tiny, somewhat secluded community. I also couldn’t help but notice there seemed to be a lot of churches, and I’m guessing they provide services beyond religion where people have an excuse to get together to socialize and whatnot.


August Inn Bed & Breakfast and the view from our room, nicer than we expected.

If we lived here, we’d definitely want a house on the perimeter by the ocean (versus inland, by the lakes). We’d have a small boat and buy crab traps and go fishing for our supper, have a large vegetable garden (all covered by high fences to keep out the deer) and then, when we felt the need for bigger things, we’d just hop the ferry and drive into nearby Tacoma or Seattle. Not a bad life at all. Of course, there is always the question of jobs…


Photo of the single general store. Our ferry home to the mainland.

Here is the Sunset article that inspired this trip.


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Pics from Colorado

I was just looking through the few pictures I took while in Colorado recently and thought I’d post a few to share. My camera has seen very little action lately and I had to really try and make myself pull it out once in a while, which is pretty unusual for me.

On the afternoon we arrived David’s brother Andrew and his fiancée Aundrea took us to a lovely little creperie for lunch, appropriately called Crepes ‘n Crepes. They make them fresh with an array of fillings for you to choose from. We started off with bowls of delicious french onion soup, and then I devoured my butter, ham and chevre crepe. For dessert the four of us shared the dreamy concoction shown above: a strawberry banana crepe with extra Nutella and cream cheese sauce on the side. OMG. So divine! I hadn’t had crepes this good since I was a college student studying french in Quebec for a summer. And of course, I washed it all down with an Orangina.

Although we didn’t do too much sight seeing this trip, the day before we left David’s “Uncle David” came into town. We enjoyed a nice dinner that night and the next day we took a little drive to see the Garden of the Gods and had lunch in the small, picturesque town of Manitou Springs. It was warm and sunny, so after lunch Sandy and I stopped into a Pikes Peak Chocolate for my first taste of Josh & John’s super yummy ice cream. I couldn’t decide so I went ahead with a scoop each of mint chocolate chip and double chocolate Oreo. I wish I had gotten a picture of that!

On the way back we stopped for a tour of the Van Briggle Pottery Studio in Colorado Springs. I had been here before, but I gathered that Uncle David is quite an antique collector. I can’t say I’m wowed by the pottery, but I certainly respect its history and its surprisingly high prices. I was actually amused to see a sign that said something like “Please handle the pieces, we will be responsible for any breakage.” Since I get tired easily these days, Sandy and David joined me on these cool vintage chairs near the door. I just like this picture of the two of them.


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A special day

Ah, birthdays… the one day out of the year to do whatever I want (within reason, of course) and have my husband agree with me FOR THE ENTIRE DAY. Here’s what my day was like:

MORNING
Rolled out of bed at 9am
Listened to missed phone msg from my mother-in-law singing
Received happy birthday text msg and pic from my sister
Had a blueberry sugar scone with coffee for breakfast
Played a game of Skip-bo with David. (David won)
Completed a quick revision for a client
Showered and dressed
Sprayed sealer on some pendants I made recently (more about that soon)
Began the 2.5 hour journey from Portland to Cape Disappointment, Washington
Received birthday phone message from my father-in-law on the Astoria Bridge

AFTERNOON
Arrived in the small town of Longview, WA around 1:30pm. Enjoyed a delicious lunch at a little restaurant called the 42nd Street Cafe (4201 Pacific Hwy, Seaview, WA, 360-642-2323). We chose it solely on a drive-by, but it turns out to be highly rated by big names like Fodor’s “Tradition merges with innovation” and Travel & Leisure “Excellent.” David ordered a cheeseburger and fries (natural, fresh, handcut) and I had a pot roast sandwich with fries. I also ordered beignets ( I was starving and hey! it’s my birthday!) as well as their ‘cafe au lait’ which consists of Café du Monde coffee with chicory which I’ve heard of but never tried. It came in a small french press with hot milk on the side. Chicory is the root of the endive plant (although our server said it was a bark) that is roasted and added to coffee, common in the New Orleans area. I’ve read that it tends to have a chocolatey flavor, but that is so NOT true. To be honest, the smell reminded me of pot.

After lunch we headed to nearby Cape Disappointment State Park.
First we walked the short trail to North Head Lighthouse. On the way we saw the coast guard helicopter floating near the side of our cliff, probably doing some sort of training maneuver. It was so unbelievable close. The ground trembled and the air vibrated hard, it was that close. It was cold and the coastal wind was whipping us so hard that none of my pics turned out perfectly in focus, the wind practically buffeted the camera out of my hands. This was my favorite of the two lighthouses. On the way back we stopped to check out the Lighthouse keeper’s residences which are now vacation rentals. I would so love to overnight here someday. Received birthday text msg from Marcy.

Then we went to check out the Cape Disappointment lighthouse. It was a nice 3/4mi hike, but for some reason it didn’t seem as interesting. On the way back Heather called to wish me a happy birthday. Skipped the interpretive center to save ourselves the $5/person entry fee. On the drive back dad called to wish me a happy birthday.

On the way home we stopped at a scrapbooking store in Seaside (hey! It’s my birthday!). David actually remembered me mentioning it on the way up. I spent a little time picking up some brads and eyelets and he didn’t complain once.

EVENING
Finally made it home. Such bad weather, but worth the trip in every way.
Decided to head to the library before it closed to return books and pick up our holds.
Stopped at Baskin-Robbins on the way home to get my free birthday scoop (mint chocolate chip baby!)
Got home and played another game of Skip-bo. David won (again!).
Checked my email (yay for birthday emails!)
And finished the day with a nice massage from the husband. Yay for birthdays!

Okay, so this wasn’t supposed to be birthday cake, just a chocolate cake I happened to make this week. David cut a piece for himself (I was eating ice cream) and put in a candle for me to make a wish on after he sang happy birthday. He’s a sweetie, that David.


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Weekend Retreat, Crescent Lake


A view of the cabin from the back, almost buried in the snow.

This past Friday Alex called about the four of us and the dogs spending the 3-day weekend away somewhere. We agreed it would be fun to go somewhere new, but not spend all day in the car. We settled on the Waldo/Crescent/Odell lake area east of Eugene, about a 3.5 hour drive southeast of Portland. A place where we’d find lots of snow for snowshoeing. Not surprisingly, most of the lodges and cabins in the area were already booked. Luckily Alex found a private home listed on craigslist that was still available. So that’s where we went.

The home was a charming A-frame cabin on a secluded 3.5 acre lot, not far from the national forest. Although poorly furnished (with not a shred of toilet paper to be found), it was comfortable and cheerily warmed with a sturdy wood stove. Actually, the place had loads of potential, and I couldn’t help wondering why the owners didn’t put any effort into making it a little better. A set of decent hooks for hanging wet coats or towels and a matching set of dining chairs could have made a big difference (but I’m just picky). When we arrived there wasn’t a track to be found, and in some spots the dogs would sink in up to their bodies. Part of the fun was just watching them bound in and out of the drifts.


Crescent Creek, right in the backyard.

A little snowshoeing adventure along the creek. We made those tracks ourselves.

Barkley taking a much needed break from all the excitement.

Overall, it was so nice to get away. And I’m again reminded how lucky we are to have such good friends. With Marcy and Alex’s baby boy on the way (see this pic), it likely won’t be so easy to just pick up and go, as we’ve done in the past. But it will be interesting, too, to see what kind of new adventures will come into play, and all that the future will bring.


A brief stop at Odell Lake, on our way back to Portland.

More pics from this weekend can be found here on my flickr page.


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Butterfly Pavilion, Westminster, Colorado

A few days before we left Colorado, Aundrea and Andrew suggested that we all stop into the Butterfly Pavilion. It’s a neat place, great for kids, where you can see all kinds of insects up close, hold a tarantula in your very own hands, gently pet a few objects of sea life like starfish and horseshoe crabs and see all kinds of butterflies. We were lucky to be on time to watch one of the two daily butterfly releases. A speaker comes out with a small cage of butterflies, picks them out individually (by their wings, which surprised me because I thought you were never to touch a butterfly’s wings), gives a short educational lecture and releases them to fly away freely in the tropical conservatory, which is like a plant-filled rainforest-like room.

It was neat to walk around slowly looking for butterflies hidden amid the foliage, or see them flutter by high above. Sadly, I saw several butterflies with torn wings, due careless children, despite the warnings of the speaker. David’s dad mentioned that the place was showing its age, which is true, but I still found it to be a worthwhile and unique experience.


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Summation, Holiday 2007


With David (foreground), Aundrea (hidden) and Andrew at Breckenridge

I can hardly believe that it is the first week of 2008 already. Now that things are calming down I feel like I finally have a chance to think, and reflect. The past few weeks have just been so crazy/wonderful. I started receiving a busy stream of freelance work around the end of November, then we celebrated David’s birthday the second week of December in Las Vegas/ Death Valley, on the third week we left for almost a two week visit in Colorado with David’s family over Christmas and New Year’s and the past couple of days have been spent wildly catching up on all the freelance work. I feel like I am just now able to take a full breath after all that excitement!

I didn’t write a lot about the holidays, too busy enjoying each and every day I guess. Although I didn’t get to spend it with my own parents and sister, spending time with David’s family was really great. I feel very lucky to be able to say that. I didn’t miss grey and rainy Portland hardly at all. Yes, it was super cold, but there was snow, too. Lovely, white, sparkling snow tempered with lots of sun and blue skies.

David and Paolo
David and nephew Paolo (love that chicken hat!) on the 4-wheeler.
Old Colorado City
A quick stop through charming Old Colorado City

Christmas gifts this year were simply astounding. Lots of precious handmade items along with amazingly thoughtful and useful ones. I really hope the recipients of our presents (many handmade, some purchased) felt the same. I wish I had thought to photograph some of those things, but that’s okay. Actually, if I had the time, I’d catalogue each and every thing I received. Seriously. I feel like each item holds that much specialness. It’s a good thing that I’ll never expect to have another Christmas exactly like this one.

Am I starting to sound a little gushy? I can’t help it. It’s really how I feel. Each day was an adventure. And lest I forget, a short list includes: attending mass, snowboarding at Breckenridge, watching butterflies, spotting deer, eating delicious meals, enjoying the snow, watching indoor skydiving, learning to knit hats, driving the 4-wheeler, driving a brand new Honda Civic, sewing my first slippers, cooking a soufflé, seeing fireworks on Pike’s Peak, making cookies, watching movies (notably Ratatouille and Surf’s Up), playing games, reading (Kite Runner), and so much more.


Sunset over the mountains

At this moment, I feel completely blessed. And reminds me of a saying in one of our new gifts, a 2008 calendar with photos of the family (including pets!) along with dates for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions given to us by David’s brother, Andrew, and his fiancée Aundrea:

“Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul.” -Democritus


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A Day in Death Valley

This past Sunday was David’s birthday. We spent the weekend in Las Vegas and on Sunday we rented a car and drove to Death Valley National Park, a little over 2 hours away. Unfortunately we had a bit of a late start, and didn’t cover as much ground as I had hoped. We’ll have to come back because I was a little bummed to miss Scotty’s Castle and other sections of the park. We did however stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center and proceed to the areas nearby – Badwater, Devil’s Golf Course, Artist’s Drive, Golden Canyon, Zabriskie Point and a final drive through the Twenty Mule Team Canyon.

It was so nice to get out of the city and enjoy a day away. Our rental was a Jeep Liberty and although it was loud and somewhat of a gas guzzler, it was a nice ride. We had planned to do some of the off road 4×4 trails, but it was getting too dark by the time we were finished with the main attractions. Here are some more pics of the park…

More Death Valley pics can be found here on Flickr.


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A Beach House Weekend

View from the deck of Eagle’s Nest

Another great weekend at the beach. It just never gets old. Pretty much every trip is an adventure and this one was certainly no different. This weekend was Marcy’s birthday weekend and we spent it at a gorgeous house called Eagle’s Nest (the pictures here do not do it justice, much more Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous at least to me!) that had an incredible view of the Pacific City coastline and miles of ocean. The first night we let the dogs run on the sand and frolic in the water while we simply admired the crashing waves from the stormy weather. Then we went back to for dinner and birthday cake.

On Saturday we rented crab rings and bought crabbing licenses and bait in a town called Garibaldi. Let me just say that crab bait does not smell or look pretty – basically large fish heads frozen with string, so they can be attached to the rings. The traps are thrown off the pier and checked every 10 minutes or so. Although many found their way into our nets, none were large enough to keep, so we ended up buying live crab nearby. Meanwhile, David had struck up a conversation with another couple on the pier while the rest of us went to find lunch. I’m not sure how, but eventually it came out that they live in our neighborhood, which is pretty weird considering how far we all were from home. One thing led to another and they joined us for some late afternoon mushroom hunting and also for dinner back at the rental house of crab and freshly picked wild chanterelles. Yum!

Late afternoon on the beach, hardly a soul in sight.

Beach houses aglow from the late afternoon sun

The marina in Garabaldi, where we rented our crab rings

A desirable male, but too small to keep

Barkley on the train tracks with the pier behind him

University Falls, on the drive home from Tillamook

A little caterpillar resting near the falls

More photos of our weekend can be found here.


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Versatile Eco-Shoes by Patagonia

Patagonia “Sugar & Spice” shoes available in 4 colors (brown leather not shown)

I absolutely love the idea of these versatile “Sugar & Spice” mary janes from Patagonia. They can be worn two ways – the inner slippers by themselves when you want something a little less casual, or, when more durability is desired, they can be worn with their all-natural latex outsoles (perfect for rainy Portland winters). They’d also be great for traveling since both the outsoles and slippers “roll up or pack flat to fit in a briefcase or suitcase.”

patagonia mary jane shoes

Separate slipper and outsole (detail view)

This is a particularly good fit for those who are uber-eco-conscious, because Patagonia is well-known for their strong commitment to the environment. According to their website, these shoes incorporate:

  • Latex from the milk of the Hevea tree (the harvesting process is good for the tree, and the milk has a microstructure that when cured creates thousands of tiny air bubbles for natural cushioning)
  • Environmentally Responsible leather from tanneries registered as compliant with ISO 14001, a set of standards that measure how efficiently a company uses natural resources, and how closely it adherers to international and local environmental regulations
  • Glueless construction, minimizing impact by eliminating toxic glues
  • Recycled TPU footframe and piece fastener

Now, if only I could actually afford to buy a pair!

patagonia shoes

Other Patagonia styles worth mentioning: “Toast & Jam” “Gumwood” “Patrol” and “Freeflow”
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