Oregon Zoo on Martin Luther King Day

On Martin Luther King Day, my daughter participated in the service day at her elementary school. Watching her get ready, so revved-up to pitch in and keep her school looking spiffy, made me puff with pride…But not enough to change out of my pjs. I let her dad take her and stayed home with the little one.

A few hours later, they returned triumphant. Apparently, once they arrived the work party actually started working. My daughter and husband raked more leaves than anybody, and had a lot of fun doing it. They raked alongside a classmate that happened to have 2 extra tickets to the zoo. Thus, a plan was hatched. After lunch, we would meet up at the inner gate…

They are all orange!

They are all orange!

On a side note:

a package of Mott’s Medley fruit snacks was opened on the way over.

Just feast your eyes on this:

Unfortunately we took the longest route possible. I vaguely remember Division, Laurelhurst Park, Burnside? It was a long, slow ride through SE, but we eventually made it through the wilderness. totem poleWe waited around for awhile, hoping to see our friends, but we had missed them. We were a little late.

A little late and very disappointed.

A little late and very disappointed.

The weather was unseasonably bright and warm. Most of the animals were in good humor and happily making a spectacle of themselves.

FINALLY, we ran into our friends!posseWe saw a few more exhibits with them, but they couldn’t stay much longer.

We said good-bye at these strange tusked pigs, and continued on…but in a much better mood.P1000186

We hit up the polar bears next.

One polar bear was snoozing. The other seemed to be resting beside the water’s edge, but then lazily began playing with something that looked like a row of seats from an airplane. I doubt that is what it was, but my eyes don’t work as well as I’d like, so that is what they saw.

We also got a chance to see the new California condor exhibit. The last time we visited, it was still under construction.

California condor

California condor

When a condor spreads it’s wings like this, it is announcing its dominance. These birds are enormous! We happened to arrive at feeding time.

They are given an entire calf to devour.

Beside the condors, there is a compact but comfortable cougar exhibit. We snuck up on them while they were napping and found a zookeeper chatting about the cats to a small crowd.

Suddenly, the sound or smell of the calf munching aroused one wildcat’s interest. She tried to break into the condor exhibit, but she couldn’t find a way in, and gave up.

Cougar attempted to crossover.

Cougar attempted to crossover.

On the way out, we passed another totem pole, tried to solve the animal track mystery, and said goodbye to the Rocky Mountain goats.

The Oregon Zoo is currently under construction. They are expanding the elephant habitat, and I couldn’t be more pleased. However, the constant grind of machinery often makes the animals cranky. We were fortunate to see them in such high spirits, despite the noise and chaos. You never know how it will be until you get there.





Mother’s Day

I know, I know…Mother’s Day was last month, but as any mother knows, May is hectic. Trying to keep up with all the last minute field trips, end-of-school-year parties, start-of-summer parties, sports schedules, summer camp sign-ups, swim lesson sign-ups, as well the regular ho-hum chaos of school lunches, playdates, and laundry is literally causing my hair to go gray, but I persevere.

On this past Mother’s Day, my lovable in-laws came for the weekend. The girls’ adore them and love to fawn over their little dog Chrissy, so everyone was very excited for their visit. As luck would have it, the softball coach managed to finagle a game at the revered Alpenrose Field where the annual Little League World Series has been played for over 50 years. Apparently, the guy behind Alpenrose Dairy absolutely loved Little League baseball and built a field of dreams on his property. He built it, and we came.

While our team, the Firebirds, were totally slaughtered by the other team, grandma and grandpa cheered from the bleachers.P1170117Unfortunately when big sister came up to bat, little sister decided to play “hang like a bat” from the bleachers.P1170137 P1170124She promptly earned the nickname “Boom Boom” after landing with an excruciating thud right on her head.P1170161P1170167Everyone was worried about her, but the game played on.

The Purple Angels, or whatever they called themselves, beat us by about 100 to none. Still, it was totally fun. We headed to New Seasons for some quick picnic supplies and on to Johnson Creek Park.P1170205 P1170211 This is one of our favorite parks because it has a creek and monkey bars. Two fabulous things that go great together. While the adults swapped cold noodle recipes, the girls explored the edges of the creek in search of birds and berries.

After lunch, we played! Monkey bars, slides, red light/green light, swings, and daisy chains!

Grandpa walked Chrissy and someone took a power nap.P1170468P1170439Just kidding!P1170445Happy Mother’s Day!

Errol Heights Community Garden

While perusing my NW gardening book, I learned that rows of carrots thrive beside rows of onions. Apparently, the repellant nature of onions works to drive away carrot munchers that may be lurking underground. It is known as companion gardening, and I sure hope it works. Last summer my carrots were pretty scrawny, even though they tasted delicious.P1100518I’ve been driving by the Wichita Feed Store for the past couple of weeks, usually passing a sign out front that reads: ONION SETS! So, I stopped and went inside. I really like this store. It is close to my garden. I buy my straw bales from them, but that’s about it. The friendly guy working behind the counter asked what I was looking for, pointed out the small onion bulbs, and explained how to plant them. Super! We grabbed a few handfuls and snagged some carrot seeds to boot. Total cost: $2.20! Super-duper!P1150736Accompanied by my usual rag-tag crew of super-girls, we headed down to the Errol Heights Community Garden. I dug two rows and planted our haul, while the girls kicked butt.

Fortunately the evil Captain Cupcake was defeated early in the game.P1150764She helped me water.P1150702And taught me how to snap.

The garden is blooming mushrooms.

I love mushrooms, but I don’t know much about them. We took some samples home so we could determine what kind were growing.P1150839 P1150842 According to my huge book, Mushrooms Demystified, they are most likely poisonous. They have gills and a veil and might be some kind of amanita. They are definitely not russulas, because their stalks are fleshy not chalky. I am awaiting the results of my spore print, because I can’t figure it out. Varieties that share similar characteristics do not seem to grow on wood chips. I remain mystified.

Mt. Tabor

On Easter Sunday, we took our old dog out for a quick trot on Mt. Tabor. He loves sniffing around the mountain, but doesn’t care much for the fenced in dog park.P1150573This year Easter happened to fall on 4/20. Hoards of stoners milled about celebrating the stoniest day of the year by getting high in the highest place within walking distance. It made for a very silly day. As our kids skipped brightly though the daisies in their matching Easter frocks, goofy dudes with glassy-eyed grins drooled with pleasure. “Those sure are some pretty dresses!” growled one very scary looking fellow. The girls beamed with pride. Everyone we passed cooed in blissful admiration at our trio of pastel princesses.P1150553Although they adore the flounciness of a tiered skirt and the shapely curve of cap sleeves, these girls also love sticks. Luckily Mt. Tabor is literally littered with sticks. After each girl carefully selected her special stick, their purplish reign of terror began…P1150495 P1150499 P1150496 P1150521Until someone accidentally bonked herself on the head. Although it looked extremely painful, we were able to regroup and soldier on. P1150563Who sits in this tiny chair?P1150578Is this miner’s lettuce? The leaves are not quite round?P1150674Are those monkey bars?P1150584 P1150609 P1150636P1150671 P1150629 P1150617  P1150641 P1150642 P1150657 P1150664After a whole lotta swinging around, our tummies started to rumble. The stoners all winked, “We know what that means…PIZZA!” So we headed straight to Pizzacato, the closest pizza place around, and stuffed our faces with fat slices of pie.P1150689 P1150695Happy Easter dudes!

Tryon Creek Trillium Festival 2014

Recently our family visited the annual Trillium Festival at Tryon Creek State Park.


From the parking lot, we passed a tent selling plants but too eager to start exploring the forest, we decided to hit it up on the way out. After continued down to the visitors center, we discovered a cool set up for the kids featuring the pelts of different animals that inhabit the surrounding forest. Plunging our fingers into the soft fur, we tried to guess which animal we were feeling. The fox was the trickiest because we didn’t realize how small they are. The beaver’s sharp claws were also very impressive. Caught up in my discoveries, I failed to take any pictures of this, but it sure was fun.

Soon, we began our brave venture into the forest.

Our fearless leader

Our fearless leader

Sophia picked up a guide to the local plants and helped us to identify the flora. First find: stinging nettle. I wanted to prevent my children from accidentally brushing against it and just keep peace in the forest.

albino snails surrounded by stinging nettle

albino snails surrounded by stinging nettle

The girls found all sorts of treasures.

Hannah with a snail

A slug on the trail Juliet with owl feathers

 The girls bravely tramped through the moist and mossy trails…P1140851 Searching the mouths of treesP1140850 and the bellies of stumps.P1140905Crossing creeksP1140881over wet wooden bridgesP1140893Careful to check for what lurks beneath…P1140878Sometimes the girls got lostP1140915and deliberated about which path to choose.P1140845Sometimes they just had to stop and smell the skunk cabbage.P1140910Eventually we made our way homeP1140825P1140916Stopping to admire this giant root ball on the way out.P1140941Too tired from our travels, we skipped the plant sale…but there’s always next year!

Canoe Trip – Sturgeon Lake

ImageSturgeon Lake is located somewhere on Sauvie Island. Not quite sure what the problem is, but once I crossover the bridge that leads there my navigation skills go all loopy. Regardless of the maps I print before I leave, never mind the huge map looming on the island, completely dismissive of advice given by whomever happens to be traveling with me, I get hopelessly befuddled and lost. We ended up driving around the entire island before my very patient husband decided to take the reins. Once I admitted that I was lost – again, we found the lake in a matter of minutes. Still mystified, I can only tell you that it is definitely somewhere on that island.P1100660It twas a lot bigger than I imagined it.

P1100679After assembling ourselves in the necessary safety gear and gulping a few deep breaths, we embarked on our first canoe trip. It was pretty shaky at first. We all screamed as my brave husband shoved us into the gently lapping waves.


(He was not screaming.)


Once we had our sea legs, we spied all sorts of strange birds. There were eagles everywhere, circling and hovering above us, and hiding in the thickets on shore.

P1100663We also saw this heron wading in rushes. We were all very quiet so we could paddle close.P1100604With the sun blocked by puffy clouds overhead, our day on the water was surprisingly tranquil and pleasant.P1100605


Back on shore, our fearless leader surveyed the scene. After assigning her little sister the dubious honor of scout, we marched along the shore, exploring the rocks and tunneling trees.


As soon as the canoe was tied down, we got back on the road.

P1100757And headed to Kruger’s Farm for refreshments.

P1100765Picnicking beneath the trees proved to be too much of a temptation for our intrepid daughter. She could not help climbing.

P1100774Both girls also had a lot of fun chasing each other around this giant tire, leaping from it, and climbing inside.


Kruger’s Farm is also located somewhere on Sauvie Island.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Shhh…I have top secret information. This garden charges admission, and it is totally worth it, but still…I hate paying for stuff! I am definitely a tightwad, a skinflint, cheap, whatever…I’m just not into paying. So, I visit early in the morning, before the volunteer desk jockey has arrived.


The photos in this post date April 15, 2013. The cherry blossoms are in full effect, but the rhododendrons were just starting to bloom. They usually culminate in an awesome display sometime around Mother’s Day.


A secret garden for everyone. My daughters share beautifully manicured paths with ducks and geese, while artfully darting between the slow shuffles of elderly visitors. Sometimes we stop at a bench and watch the golfers at the Eastmoreland golf course on the other side of the small lake. They are usually labeled as a fruit that corresponds to the color of their shirt. Like the man throwing a tantrum is dubbed the blueberry. Or the red-shirted guy holding the flag will be known as the tomato. From our vantage point, it seems those golfers are almost always in a foul mood.Image

The paths wind through several cleverly curated scenes. A meadow lies near the center which hosts several summer weddings. Quite a few ducks and geese make use of it during the off hours. I’d advise stepping around it, rather than tip-toeing through it. In early June we snuck in with homemade cinnamon rolls for an early morning picnic. It was a pretty scary scene. All the goslings and ducklings have grown into the equivalent of brazen teenagers. We ended up running for our lives as flocks of molting birds chased us through the labyrinth of twisting branches. Be careful!


In case, you do miss your window and the man with a white beard is asking for money to enter, simply cross the street and visit Reed College Canyon. There aren’t many rhododendrons to admire, but there are ducks, sometimes beavers, and often herons. See post: Tramping Through the Reed Canyon