Monday, October 30, 2006

The Big Dork

Have you seen this guy? He leaves me a comment here every so often and signs himself "the Big Dork". I happen to know for a fact that he's no dork, but that's his internet persona. He is actually my son Andrew, aka Andy, And, or Roo. Today is his 33rd birthday.

He's always been hard to pin down in a photo and usually makes a goofy face just as you hit the button on the camera, but I did manage to get this one of him last Christmas. Good lookin', don't you think?

What can I tell you about Andy that won't sound like shameless Mom bragging? He's creative and clever and hard-working. You never know what he'll do next. Life is an adventure for Andy. He's a graphic designer, project manager and computer whiz by day and a karaoke DJ by night. Imagine my surprise a couple years ago when he started the karaoke thing and I learned he could sing—really well. I'd never once heard him sing before. Most of all, he's a kind and loving person, a loyal friend, son and brother, all around good guy, without an ounce of meanness or anger in him.
Have a great birthday, Andy!

Love, Mom

Friday, October 27, 2006

There's no place like home, there's no place like home . . .

We got home last night to a crisp, fall evening and this morning I discovered how beautiful the trees had gotten in our absence. Home looked pretty good.




This house has been home for 13 years. It is not large. It is not fancy. It is old and needs constant repair. But the minute I saw it 13 years ago, it felt like the house I was always meant to find.


I don't know very much of its history, but I do know it was built in 1914 when this part of Portland was an area of dairies and orchards. It isn't hard to imagine a Model T Ford parked out front or ladies in long skirts fanning themselves on the porch. Previous residents have left their marks. There are remnants of old wallpaper hiding inside cupboards and closets. Somewhere along the line someone "modernized" the living and dining rooms, by lowering the ceilings to 8 feet. Several years ago we had them restored to their original height and uncovered a strip of wallpaper with large white magnolias on a grey background. I've always wondered what possessed them to drop the ceilings, and what was the guy thinking that installed the aluminum sliding door? ButI am grateful to whomever it was that added the upstairs bathroom.

One day I was out in the yard and saw a woman drive slowly by, gazing intently up at the house. I asked if I could help and she said her aunt and uncle had lived in the house when she was a child. I invited her in and she stood in the doorway to the kitchen and got a little teary telling me about what a good cook and dear person her aunt had been.

Another time I was upstairs and heard voices outside, through the open window. An elderly man and two children were standing in the street looking up. The man was saying, "this is the house I lived in when I was a teenager. My Dad and I built this garage." I invited them inside and he seemed to be so happy to see that the house was still there and still in decent condition. He showed his grandchildren the room that had been his bedroom and he is the one who told me that the upstairs bathroom did not exist when he lived in the house.

More recent residents came by to pick up a package that was delivered here (it had been many years since they lived here, but apparently someone still had their old address) and I gave them the tour as well. Their teenage children barely remembered the house, but the man pointed out all the little handyman touches he had added during their tenure.

We have been comfortable in this house and have made our marks as well—new stairs, new oak floors, new kitchen tile, the aforementioned ceiling restoration, and yes, we got rid of the aluminum slider. In a few years we will move on to a house that we can grow old in. Too many stairs, too much yard, too much maintenance here. Someone new will move in and we will be part of the history of this old house. I don't believe in ghosts, and I've never seen one lurking around here, but I do believe that people leave something of themselves behind. This is a fortunate house. It seems to be filled with happy memories and good feelings.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"And as the sun sinks on the horizon . . .

we bid a fond farewell to America's Paradise. . ."

Remember the old newsreels that they showed at the movies? Seems like there was always a travel feature that ended with a sunset shot and that "fond farewell". (What are "newsreels" you youngsters ask--sorry, I guess I am dating myself--explanation here)

Anyway, tonight we are bidding our fond farewells and will head out early in the morning. I am quite ready to get home and back into the swing. I have really enjoyed the time here, but there is something too unreal about this tropical island life. I guess I haven't perfected that laid back island attitude, Mon, though I did almost get used to driving on the left.
Here's the last sunset from our balcony.

See ya back in Oregon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More St. Croix

On Sunday when we arrived in St. Croix, we were disappointed to find out that the Cruzan Rum Distillery * was closed for tours and tasting, but we drove out to Frederiksted where there was also little that was open, but we found a nice place for lunch right on the beach, then we went to the St. George Botanical Gardens. It is on the grounds of a former Sugar plantation and the gardens are planted among the ruins of the plantation. What a lovely place! We spent a couple hours taking the self-guided tour, taking lots of pictures and would have stayed even longer had we not been eaten alive by mosquitoes. Last week there were record rains and some flooding on St. Croix and the gardens were a little soggy, making a perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes. Tonight some friends told us there had been reported cases of Dengue fever in St. Croix. Not sure I wanted to know that. Yeah, let's just ignore that.

One of the most fascinating botanical sights, was the somewhat obscene looking African "Sausage" Tree (see above). On close inspection, the hanging "sausages" look quite a lot like potatoes.
There were ruins of old buildings, including slave quarters all through the gardens. An old cemetary had unusual above-ground crypts.


The orchids and other flowers were spectacular.

* Cruzan Rum, which is made in St. Croix is very cheap in the Virgin Islands--actually cheaper than Coca Cola. Ray used to bring a bottle or two home when he came down, but we don't know how the new airline regulations about carrying liquids in your carry on luggage will affect that. We have discovered that the Cruzan Vanilla Rum is delicious and especially good on ice cream. Tonight we had friends over for dinner and served Cookies and Cream Ice Cream with a splash of vanilla rum for dessert--highly recommended!

Monday, October 23, 2006

St. Croix

St. Croix, also one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is about 30 miles from St. Thomas. Ray needed to meet with some folks at the St. Croix campus of UVI, so we took the seaplane over Sunday morning and came back this afternoon.


I loved St. Croix. It's not as crowded and busy as St. Thomas. We stayed in Christiansted, the largest of two main towns on the island. It has a beautiful waterfront area with a boardwalk. The old stone tower is typical of ones that you see all over the island, among the ruins of old Sugar plantations.

On Sunday we rented a car and explored the island, including the other town, Frederiksted. Today, while Ray was working, I explored Christiansted. The buildings are not as old as those in St. Thomas although it has a similar history, but most of Christansted was burned in a slave uprising in the late 1800s. The architecture is charming and the waterfront area has many beautiful shops and galleries in the old buildings.

























These whimsical silhouettes were painted on the back side of the hotel we were staying in. The top figure is a mermaid crawling up the stairs on her belly.

Thanks for the comments about my pictures. I'm glad people are enjoying them. I will have more St. Croix pics to post tomorrow. What you don't see in these pictures is how hot it is down here. By the time we got back today I felt like I had sweated every drop of liquid out of my body. It really makes Oregon cool and rain sound appealing.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Water Island

This morning Ray looked at my blog and he said, "Hmm. No comments. Well, you can only show people so many vacation photos before their eyes start to glaze over!" Yeah, well, I hope you can stand a few more.

This afternoon three couples of us took the ferry to Water Island which is just across the harbor from Charlotte Amalie. About the first thing we saw was the Water Island library/post office, above.
We walked about a quarter of a mile to a beautiful little beach where there were lots of boats. There was also the kind of mobile kitchen wagon that you usually see selling hot dogs or fast food. This one is equipped to provide restaurant-style fare on the beach. As soon as we arrived we could smell roasting garlic and our mouths began to water. We placed our orders for steak with garlic-roasted potatoes and Ceasar salad which was served at picnic tables on the beach. We brought several bottles of wine along and as we ate we watched the sunset over the water. I took the first picture when I thought it was at its most beautiful. Then it got better.
When the sun was finally gone we saw a cruise ship, lighted up like a Christmas tree, slip past in the distance and the lights come on on St. Thomas just across the harbor.
Beautiful.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The View from Here

Here in St. Thomas we are staying in an apartment on the campus of the University of the Virgin Islands. Our original plans were to be in a motel for two weeks, but the University had an available apartment. It's a much better situation all the way around. The apartment is comfortable and has a small kitchen and a nice balcony with this amazing view.

Way out in the distance you can see some other islands. Puerto Rico is out there about 40 miles away. The narrow strip of land jutting into the left side of the picture is the runway at the airport, so we see the planes coming in and out.

After lunch I stepped out on the balcony to take some pictures. After a number of rainy days, the sky was clear and blue and the hot, sun beating down. A beautiful Virgin Islands Day. A couple hours later this was the view.

Within 10 minutes the rain was pouring down again.

By the way, do you know how the Virgin Islands got their name? They were named by Christopher Columbus, who discovered the islands on his second voyage in 1493. He named these beautiful islands Las Once Mil Vergenes, for the legendary 11,000 virgin followers of St. Ursula. After his discovery, Columbus determined there was nothing here of any value and it was another century before any Europeans returned to the islands.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Another day in Paradise

I decided to try another trip downtown today. I am getting a little more adept at the left-side driving. It is still nerve-wracking. It is very hard to find a place to park down there and the streets are very narrow and full of buses and taxis, but I did finally find a parking space and checked out a few stores including the one where I bought the Liberty print that I finally just used in my hat lady piece. That was 14 years ago. The store is still there, they still have a few Libertys, but I didn't find anything I couldn't live without.

Like everywhere else in the U.S. there are political campaigns in full swing here. While downtown today I saw (and heard!) about 4 different vehicles equipped with big loud speakers on the roof, playing campaign songs for different candidates. These songs usually have a calypso beat and steel drum accompaniment. I followed this one nearly all the way back to the campus. Please note that I was stopped at a light when I took the picture.

Now on a different note . . .
I brought some handwork to do. I made a couple of small, simple flannel baby blankets and brought them along to add some stitching to the edges. I finished the first one quickly with a simple blanket stitch. I decided the try something a little fancier for the second one. (Isn't that frog fabric cute?) I did more than one side and found the size of the stitches was hard to keep uniform. I finally hit on the idea of folding a piece of paper to the depth I wanted the stitches to be. Then I laid the paper along the edge of the blanket and stitched over it, moving it along as I went. Boy, did that work well. The stitching went much faster and the result is much more uniform. Just thought I'd pass that tip along.
And, those baby blankets? Oh yes, I'm going to be a grandmother!

Monday, October 16, 2006

St. John

On Sunday we took the ferry to the island of St. John, another of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is only 4 miles from St. Thomas, so it is a short trip. St. John is smaller, less developed and much slower-paced than St. Thomas. It is very beautiful and about 2/3 of the island are a U.S. National Park. We had a great day. We wandered around the waterfront, watched people in the plaza, had a nice dinner and took the ferry back early in the evening.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Around St. Thomas

Havensight
St. Thomas is one of the regular stops for the huge Cruise ships that cruise the Caribbean. Yesterday this behometh was docked here. They come to St. Thomas, maybe partially for the beautiful scenery, but mostly they come to shop. To make it very easy a shopping mall was built right where the passengers disembark from the ships. We went over to check out the shopping at the Havensight Mall and found a few small gifts. The big things seem to be jewelry (you can't believe the number of jewelry stores in St. Thomas), cameras and discount liquor.

That's Ray in the hat, just about to go into that store and buy me a big ole diamond bracelet---not!

Magen's Bay
Later we drove around to the other side of the island and stopped at Udder Delights for a milkshake, then took them down to Magen's Bay to drink as we walked along the beach. First I have to tell you about the milkshakes. They are famous on the island and you get them from a ramshackle little roadside stand. What makes them special is that they have booze in them. Now, this is a concept! Mine was the original "udder delight" made with almond crunch ice cream and amaretto. Ray had one that had coffee and chocolate ice cream with Kahlua.
Magen's Bay is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It was rainy yesterday, so it was remarkably uncrowded. The gray sky made the water a bit less blue than usual, but it is still a beautiful place.
French Town
This is a little area just off the main part of Charlotte Amalie. There are a lot of fishing boats that come in and out and a lot of good restaurants and bars. We had dinner there last night with some friends, then went to a bar to listen to live music. The dinner was great, the music was great. A good time. Earlier in the day when we went to make reservations I saw this beautiful rooster running around and followed him trying to get a good picture. The only time I could catch him standing still he was watching me from behind a post.

Mishap
While we were at Havensight I had one of those mishaps that damages both body and pride. I tripped over a curb and fell flat, landing on my hands and knees. I never fall--really, never. It is strange how time slows as it is happening, and you have time to think, "What the---Am I falling? Yep, I'm definitely falling. Oh sh*t, this is going to hurt!" Then it speeds right back up as you slam into the pavement. Several people stopped to see if they could help. A clerk in the nearby pharmacy saw me fall and came out with antiseptic wipes and cream and a bandaid for my skinned up knee. People really are so kind. I'm OK, just a little bruised and humiliated by my clutziness.

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Remember to Drive on the Left"

That's what signs say along the roads here in St. Thomas. I would have taken a picture of one of those signs except I was busy trying to remember to drive on the left. This is a U.S. Territory, so I can't figure out why they drive on the "wrong" side of the road here, but they do. Just to keep the tourists on their toes I guess.

Ray is working at the University and we are now staying at one of the faculty apartments on campus, which is quite nice, except the TV doesn't work. After spending yesterday and this morning in an apartment without a functioning television set, I took the rental car downtown this afternoon. I was pretty nervous about this wrong-side-of-the-road business and dared not even play the car radio for fear of lapsing into auto-pilot. Turning corners is the trickiest part for my money.

The "downtown" to which I refer is Charlotte Amalie, the capitol of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is quite historic as a refuge for pirates and center for the slave trade, settled by the Danish in the 1600's. The old buildings around Charlotte Amalie harbor that date from that period have all been turned into kitchsy souvenir shops, art galleries and jewelry stores, but they are pretty interesting to look at. They all have these huge, heavy arched wooden doors and are built from the motliest assortment of stones and bits of brick you can imagine. I read that many of the buildings were built from stone and rubble that was used as ballast in the old ships, hence the interesting mix.
I was going to take some more scenic pictures (palm trees, ocean, etc) for Gerrie (see her comment on my previous post) but the sky opened up and it poured buckets of warm, steamy rain just after I took these pictures.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Voodoo Thursday

We arrived in St. Thomas last night in a rainstorm, which does not cool things off here, but just makes it very humid. All day today, every time I go outdoors from indoors, even get out of the car, my glasses fog completely. It is huuuuuuu-mid. And hot.

Ray is here on business for the next two weeks so I came along this time. I plan to read and take photos and do some drawing and I have a little handwork to do. I am not great in a tropical beach setting. I don't do well with heat or a lot of sun. I am actually allergic to the sun and break out in hives with too much exposure. How lame is that? But I will relax and entertain myself.

We celebrated our arrival with a Voodoo at the Island Beachcomber this evening. It was the special. It's "Voodoo Thursday". Lots of local rum and fruit juice and a layer of grenadine to give a tropical sunset vibe. Very healthy.

I'm hoping to keep blogging from here. Tomorrow I may actually take my camera out of my backpack--or maybe not. Here in the islands we not inna hurry 'bout inna-thin, mon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Douglas Fir

The other day I showed you the Douglas Fir cone that I was fusing. The reason I was making this was to give as a gift to a friend and member of our small group, S.T.A.S.H. She is moving to the Washington D.C. area to be with her significant other. I know she will love the museums and art and all the great things to see and do back there, but we will miss her!

I wanted to make a small piece that would remind her of Oregon and the beautiful Northwest. She is a bicycler and hiker and skier, so I know that she will miss this country.

Tonight our group is going out to dinner to wish her a safe journey and extend our good wishes. I will give this piece to her tonight, so I think I can safely post it here today without spoiling the surprise.

The Douglas Fir is a magnificent tree, that also happens to be the state tree of Oregon. I added a suggestion of water and beach to represent both the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. One idea I had was to attach some small flat rocks I picked up at the beach, but they didn't really do a lot for me when I laid them on the unfinished piece. In fact the whole thing looked a little dull. I tweaked the color a bit and while my original idea had been to finish the piece with no binding, in the end I liked what the bit of checked binding did to liven it up. A piece of twig seemed like the finishing touch. I hope she likes it and I hope she will be happy in her new home.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A-mazed and corn-fused

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day and my daughter, son-in-law, husband and I went out to Sauvie Island to the Pumpkin Patch. Emily (daughter) and Carlos (son-in-law) had been working way too hard and were ready for an outing and invited us along.

We started at the corn maze. Every year they come up with a new design. Somehow people are willing to pay 6 bucks to wander around lost for an hour or so. When you get into it, there are many dead ends and circles that bring you back to where you started. At two different points there are elevated platforms with stairs where you can get up above the corn for a better view. Doesn't help. It gets pretty funny when you start meeting people that you passed awhile back going the other direction.

Whew! We made it out alive.