Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter Mania

Ahhh Harry Potter. I love Harry Potter. To be more specific, I love the Harry Potter universe. If you are one of those people who dislikes Harry on principle, or who attempts to apply adult lit standards to a YA series, then I have nothing to say to you. I am a huge fan, and no one and nothing can change that. It was thrilling to be around for the release of each book, and I really do think that is something people will look back on as a significant event.

We were on vacation when both the movie (#5) and the book (#7) came out. Fortunately we were able to see the movie during our stay in Ashland, but I had to wait for the book until we got home. The movie was highly enjoyable (I'm doing a good job of separating the book from the movie, so I'm actually able to enjoy them both. This is a relatively new skill for me) but seeing it did not keep me from pining for the book. After all, we've been reading this story for a decade now. We want to know how it ends!

Sunday night (the day after the book came out) we got home from vacation. You might think I ripped open the box the moment we pulled up in the driveway but no. I had decided some time ago to read six again before reading seven so that it could be a single story. Therefore, Sunday night and Monday I spent on six and I'm very glad I did. My memory of the horcruxes and double crosses was not complete, so it turned out to be a good thing. Tuesday morning, I finally opened that special box from (customized for the purpose!) and took out book seven. It's a beautiful, thick book and I felt sort of elated and also sad to see it. Elated because I will soon know all, but sad that the ride is almost over.

The book is really everything I would have hoped. The sophistication of the plot has really grown alongside Harry. The first books are full of fun, humor, and hope. However, as time goes by, things become much more serious. By this last book, things were very serious indeed, and that is really as it should be. Rowling has said that each of her characters is defined by their relationship to death, and that is very much the central theme of this last book.

I will not offer any spoilers (yet anyway) but I will say that there are several parts of the book that are very vivid and very moving. Chapter 34 is (if you care about the characters) quite tough to read, but also heroic in an unexpected way. All in all, it was a satisfying conclusion to this beloved (by not just me) story. I strongly believe that this series will join the ranks of the major works of literature for young people, and that many generations of children are set to enjoy it for a long time to come.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Rest of Vacation 2007

After leaving Ashland, the rainy, even stormy, weather continued. Actually, that's not quite right. The day we left Ashland, we had beautiful weather as we drove a little bit into California and enjoyed the Redwoods. It had been quite a long time since I'd visited, and I can honestly say that Ronald Reagan was wrong: you see one redwood; you have emphatically NOT seen them all. They were quite immense, impressive, and wonderful. Now I know what it's like to be an ant. Perhaps if I get my bleep together, I will put up some pictures. The problem with this is that redwoods are not impressive without context. Perhaps I will use M for this purpose.

After leaving the redwoods, we headed back into Oregon and up to the little town of Brookings. Brookings is in what they call The Banana Belt of the Oregon Coast. True to form, it was beautiful and sunny when we arrived. However, by the next morning, no bananas could save us, and the rain and fog moved in with a vengeance. By the time we'd driven up the 101 to our next stop in Newport, there was practically a tropical storm blowing in.

We arrived at The Silvia Beach Hotel in 40mph winds. This is the kind of wind you can lean into and it almost holds you up. Fortunately, the hotel made up for the less than lovely weather. At one point, the hotel was just a seedy rooming house set right on the beach. However, new owners decided to turn it into a literary-themed hotel, and the rest is history. Each room is carefully decorated "in the style of" a given author. We stayed in the Jane Austen room which is done all in tiny roses with white furniture and a huge squashy chair. The chair sits in front of the window with a view of the beach and the lighthouse, and it even has a beautiful little embroidered footstool. I think I could sit there for days.

Dinner was wonderful, served in the hotel at family-style tables, and we even enjoyed the getting-to-know-you game of two truths and one lie. Breakfast was also quite tasty and a great deal at $8. Other than the need for a new mattress in the Jane Austen room, I would enthusiastically recommend The Sylvia Beach Hotel for any bibliophile, or any person who just wants a very quiet vacation.

Leaving the stormy coast, we headed up to Portland via McMinnville, Dundee, and Tigard. We stopped at a few wineries (I'll let M tell about that) and enjoyed the pastoral scenery. By the time we got to Portland, it was time to check into our hotel. We've been going to the Fifth Avenue Suites for a few years now, but this time they'd changed name and decor to become Hotel Monaco. We still found it to be clean, very pleasant and a good value for the middle of down town. Checked in and squared away, we set out for a new chocolate place called Cacao. Oh the drinking chocolate! They sell tiny little demitasse cups which is the perfect amount because this stuff is rich and delicious beyond belief.

Finally, we visited Powell’s (the world's best bookstore!), had dinner at the hotel restaurant (that's a whole other story), tasted some wines at "our" favorite wine bar, and then had a lovely breakfast at Mother's. All in all, Portland was a great way to cap off our vacation. We were home by 4pm, and it was actually very nice to finally get here. One of the best things about vacation is the way it re-energizes your enthusiasm for your own house (at least it does that for me). Unfortunately, now that we're home it's official: Summer is now half way gone!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


HI HONEY! WE'RE HOME! (and it feels great to be here)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wet Shakespeare

Yesterday, we finally got down to the business of seeing plays. In the afternoon we saw Tracey's Tiger, a new musical, and in the evening we saw The Taming of the Shrew. This was a bit like seeing a Bright Sheng premier vs. Beethoven's Third. That may not be fair to the musical, it really wasn't bad, and I even enjoyed several aspects. However, when you compare it to the incredible performance of "Taming," the difference is obvious.

We saw "Taming" in the Elizabethan theater which is the outdoor venue for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was a classic production with period costumes and sets, and I could not have asked for a better show. I would not have changed any of it. I know some people don't care for this play because it is not exactly feminist, but I'm willing to look the other way given that it was written over five hundred years ago. It was witty, charming, and very funny with a brilliant actor doing the part of Petruccio. Every time he had a major scene, the audience would burst into applause at the end. It poured rain for the second half, but we were lucky enough to be under the covered part of the theater. Tonight, we have Romeo & Juliette, and our seats are NOT under cover. Wish us luck.

Advice for Seeing Plays at the Elizabethan Theater In Ashland
1. Get seats in the back six rows of the center section in order to be under cover
2. Wear warm, comfortable layers of clothing as the temperature varies widely
3. Bring a cushion if you tend to have a tender bottom
4. Be sure to get cocoa during intermission since you are allowed to take it back in with you and enjoy it during the show.
5. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! What a wonderful venue

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

OCF and Ashland

I think I can say without reservation that the Oregon Country Fair went very well for us this year. Business was good, everyone got along, and we were actually able to enjoy ourselves. When we arrived on Wednesday evening, it was all thunder, lightening, and rain. We had to rush to secure everything so we wouldn't have a soggy mess by morning. It rained on and off all night, but we were lucky that everything, including ourselves in the tent, stayed dry. After that, the weather co-operated beautifully. The great pleasure of the fair was having the nieces there again. They have not attended for the last five years, so their presence was a special treat. They had a wonderful time, and I absolutely loved watching them discover things that I also loved as a kid.

Fair over, we've now headed down to Ashland, Oregon, home of a wonderful Shakespeare company. The town has only about 20,000 residents, but more than 100,000 people visit every year to enjoy the plays. We are seeing two plays today and one tomorrow. Romeo and Juliette and Taming of the Shrew are both in the outdoor theater. We are staying in Ashland's Tudor House, a very nice B&B, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to others. This morning we had eggs Benedict and yogurt parfaits for our breakfast! Luckily we've been walking nearly everywhere, so hopefully we will not turn into spherical objects while on our vacation. More to come if I get another chance to use the computer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


No, no, no, I'm not talking about M (although he is pretty cute if I do say so). Just after I arrived in Oregon, I saw a thermometer that read 102 F. This is unreal. The maritime NW is not meant to have these kinds of temperatures. We are two digit kinds of people. When I pulled off the freeway, the car died at the first light. I turned off the air-conditioning, and it started again without any trouble. I drove the last hour with the windows down. It was hot, but the valley smells like sweet new-cut hay in July.

When I arrived at the shop it was far too hot to consider going in a metal building and turning on the curing oven. Therefore, we visited for several hours, had dinner, and only started printing around 10pm. By then the heat was much less, and we printed all the "bike" shirts in only a couple hours. Today we are doing several trips out to the fair site to get everything and everyone delivered. Most of us will camp out there tonight, and tomorrow we will get everything set up. Fingers crossed that there's no rain (or forest fires) with all that thunder and lightening.

Monday, July 09, 2007

OCF Prep

Heading down to Oregon tomorrow morning with a car full of fair supplies. Hoping family will behave and "reunion" will be fun and rewarding. Vacation part after fair is bound to be good: Ashland (Shakespeare!), Oregon Caves, Redwoods, Oregon Coast, Portland. May or may not have the chance to post along the way. Happy summer everyone. We'll see you when we get back.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Kitty Again

The kitty continues to get a little better every day. I don't know if she will ever be completely back to normal, but at least she's looking more and more comfortable in her own skin. When she first came back from the vet, she would contort herself into all sorts of poses trying to find something that didn't hurt. She still wobbles and turns her head to one side when she sleeps, but at least she doesn't lay there, with her eyes open, looking pained.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

Today is a day when we celebrate something in America, but nobody seems exactly certain what. Perhaps is the festival of blowing stuff up? National Parade Day? Maybe the homage to eating too much BBQ? Perhaps it's where we celebrate getting all puffed up with an aggressive and macho form of national pride? All of those celebrations do seem to occur on this day, but, I hope it goes without saying, that they are missing the point.

Here's to all the good things about our country. All the friendly, kind, wonderful people, and the heroic and decent things that happen on a small scale every single day. Here's to our freedoms and our ideals. For those who can only see the bad in it (there is certainly plenty of that), I can only quote Max Ehrman:

"With all it's sham and drudgery, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Poor Kitty Update

The good news is that we have our kitty back after three nights at the vet. The bad news is that she is not quite the same as she once was. When the vet called this morning, they said that she was much better and that we could certainly come and take her home. We took this to mean roughly "kitty all better now." However, when she came out of the carrier after arriving home, she walked, if you'll forgive the comparison, like a drunken sailor.

If you've ever seen an animal with partial paralysis, you know that shuffling, uncertain gait that I'm talking about. Nevertheless, she was glad to be home. She shuffled into the litter box without incident, and M put the food and water dishes on the floor so she won't have to jump up to the usual spot. She does not look like a happy cat though. You can tell that it still hurts to move, and she does not have any of her usual sparkle. Mostly, she just finds soft places to hide, but she did come out long enough to get an ear rub and to prove that her purr box still works. All we can do now is wait and see if she improves.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Poor Kitty!

Our poor little kitty has been attacked by a mean and nasty dog! On Sunday, I heard our black cat come screaming through the open back door, and then I heard the scuffle still going on outside. When I went out, I saw the dog under a bush and I heard the cat yowling. After chasing the dog off, I could see that it was our tortie cat underneath. When I pulled her out, I could see marks on her neck, blood on her tongue, and that horrible rapid breathing that comes with shock. We rushed her off to the vet where she has stayed ever since.

They say she has no broken ribs or punctured lungs which is good. They also say that the various little wounds are beginning to heal which is also good. However, she can't seem to use one of her back legs properly. They think she probably has swelling on her spinal cord which is causing the weakness. It may or may not go away, so they've been keeping her and giving her steroids and antibiotics. Our black cat keeping wandering the house looking for her, and I can very much empathize with his distress.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gardener's Pride

It's been such a wet June that you might not expect any garden at all. However, the plants in our backyard have been making a valiant attempt to do some growing. Our very first actual produce of the season was the lovely, rosy radish at in the picture. It was crispy and peppery and delicious; the perfect example of radishy-ness.

The second great achievement was the single red strawberry we have so far managed to produce. We are working in a single strawberry pot (you know, the ones with the sort of balconies on the sides?) so we were never going to grow bushels of them. We were just happy to get something that actually TASTES like a strawberry. I swear, they lose their flavor just a few hours after picking!

Last, but certainly not least, we actually have a pea crop. Not one or two little pods, but actual piles of peas. They were VERY slow starting out, but in the last few days they've been popping out all over. These are the pod'n'all variety, so you can literally go into the backyard and eat them off the vines. They so sweet and crispy that I haven't had the guts to cook any of them yet.

I know, I know, not exactly a replacement for the veggie section at the grocery store. Still, the satisfaction is at least as good as the actual produce. Next up, we are working on a tender and tasty-looking lettuce crop!