Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cyber Shopping, how do I love thee....

Let me count the ways! No crowds. I'm more than a little demophobic (crowd-phobic) in many ways. I hate feeling like a sheep being herded by money-grubbing retailers for pocket fleecing. Online shopping allows me to preserve the illusion that I am not, in fact one of those mindless consumer-driven sheep driving to a mall/store, endlessly circling for an open parking space (gas-sucking the entire time)then getting in line to spend my hard earned money buying useless, cheap crap to offer to the Gods of Capitalism. Online shopping lets me be a lot more selective in where my cash is going, and I an price-check without wasting a half a day and full tank of gas driving across town to do so.

Besides, nobody gets trampled racing to get a good deal at Amazon.com.

In that light, here are some new cyber stores I've found that are on my internet hit list. I'll add more in the coming days...

If you love Etsy, you'll love ArtFire.comSpeaking of Etsy, they're raking in the venture capital in this down economy. Just goes to prove that capitalism with a conscious can work. ArtFire is the new kid on the handmade/ crafting block and they're just coming out of 2 years of beta testing, so give them some love.

And another plug for Foodzie - the place for all the foodies on your list! What I really like about Foodzie is the ability to search for handcrafted, local artisans by region.

There's Ebay's social and eco-conscious spinoff: World Of Good.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Seattle, San Francisco, Portland best cities for Trick or Treating

According to online real estate data provider, Zillow.  Their methodology?

"We theorized that homes in more expensive neighborhoods would give out bigger, better candy. However, wealthy neighborhoods are not always the best for harvesting the most Halloween candy. For parents and kids alike, the walkability and density of a neighborhood is key to covering the most ground, in the fastest time, to collect the most candy. Safety, of course, is also a primary concern for parents on Halloween, thus adding crime data to the Index was a no-brainer."


Doesn't hurt that the Pacific NW (we include San Fran when it's convenient...) has a very high Happy Heathen index (i.e. lowest "religious" population in the country). We do like our Pagan holidays.

Over the next two weeks the folks at Zillow will be rolling out neighborhood-specific stats within those top 20 ghoul-friendly communities.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Harvest

We made our semi-annual October migration to the Hood River Valley this weekend to collect our winter's stash of Honeycrisp apples.  As the Monkey had temporarily re-located my camera I don't have pics to share.  But we actually made it all the way to Parkdale this time to Kiyokawa Family Orchards (a missed goal from last year as you may recall...)  

A few thousand other folks had the same idea - it was also the weekend the Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad celebrates their Autumn Fest in Parkdale.  And Hood River has their Harvest Fest.  The scenic railroad is lots of fun if you've never been.  The biggest kick is to see grown men rediscover their inner 10 year old, model-train loving selves and go climbing all over the caboose.
Once long before the Monkey - and I think when we were just dating Mr. Stang and I took this same railroad trip on a weekend as part of a 'romantical' weekend at the historic Hood River Hotel.  Beautiful old, historical inn - though I kept expecting "Larry, my brother Darryl and my other borother Darryl" to walk in at any moment. 

For this trip, however the weather was incredible even though the fall foliage was pretty much nonexistent. The nights have only just begun turning a little crisp and it looks like most leaves will fall off before changing color .  I'm blaming La Nina.  Supposedly we're in the strongest event in 60 years or so which means we're in for a "wild and wet" winter according to all the local news agencies.  I don't think I can wait to see what seizure-inducing TV graphics and adverbs for "wild, wicked weather"  they're going to come up with this year.  On the other hand, yes, yes I can! 

Actually what's most entertaining when snow/iced in is to turn on the local news, mute, and watch the city streets turn into a Demolition Derby.   I hear Seattle is giving in this year and planning to salt their streets.  Killjoys.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Does the Universe/God/alines/guiding spirits speak to you through your FM radio?

I believe so. It’s one reason I have yet to buy an IPod, download songs and put them on a playlist. I love the random cosmic convergence that seems to happen by just turning on the radio dial. When I’m having a bad day one of my secret, relatively obscure “feel good” songs inevitably hits the airwaves just in time to make me smile when I need it most.

Case in point: I love the song “Oh Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers and used the famous refrain once as the title to a blog post 6 years ago (that actually had nothing to do with the song/band) .  Here’s the funny coinkydink that tells me someone is sending me coded “I love you” messages through the radio. Not less than one hour ago I mentioned - totally out of the blue -  in an online community I frequent how that very post is #2 on Google search if you type in the lyrics to the refrain. Then, JUST NOW -  not 5 minutes ago -  I heard the Doobie Brothers performing THAT VERY SONG live on KINK in their new performance lounge.  I guess they’re in town for a concert.

Is it worth having to listen to the annoying car dealership commercials? Maybe not.  But think about it..... the consensus of astronomers is that if there is life OUT THERE circling far distant suns we will probably find them first via radiowaves.  Thjat's where we're looking.  In every good sci-fi movie the aliens start messing with the radiowaves.  I don't think it's so outrageous to think that higher life forms, beings, guardian angels (whatever you want to call them) may use them to communicate with me, personally.   Or maybe it's just the way we humans "tune in" to our collective subconscious.   In the old days they found omens in entrails and bones from the firepit.  Later tea leaves in cups.  Why not radio?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Where's my baby gone??

The Monkey's first day of Kindergarten. Well, technically it's the first day of the "Kindergarten jump start camp" since school doesn't officially start until Sept. 8.


But it's his school, probably his teacher, classroom, and classmates.

No tears (on his part, anyway - I at least held it together until the parking lot).



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Festivus for the Rest of Us

As I've mentioned before folks in the Pac. NW go a little nuts in the summertime.  The weather is typically glorious and you can pretty puch live outside (yes, we have one of the highest population of homeless in the nation.  It's a non-so-little known secret that a good % of them are actually there by choice).  Give us any excuse to eat great food, listen to great music, drink great booze, people/dog watch and buy/sell handmade arts & crafts under a canvas roof and we're there.

To that end there are a near infinite variety of civic-sponsored festivities every weekend from June - October.  And most weeks something going on weekdays as well.   Every berg with a population over 1000 has at least one "official" town fest (some version of "Pioneer Days..."  with requisite royal court, parade, carnival and softball tournament &/rodeo ) and any number of  farmer's markets, Saturday markets, street fairs, art fairs, fun runs, charity races, tournaments, music festivals, film festivals, beer festivals, seafood festivals and ethnic heritage festivals.  The largest and most famous of which is Portland's Rose Festival.   These are all in addition to the county and state fairs.

Then as the days get shorter and a lot colder they move inside for Oktoberfests, Harvest Fests, Halloween Fests, Holiday Fests, Winter Fests.... soon to move back outside in the spring with the Flower Fests.  One big,  year-round party, that's us.

Which is to say - that's what we've been up to.  I'd post pics but I've temporarily misplaced my nifty camera card reader doohicky. 

Tomorow Mr. Stang and I are doing a kayaking tour of Ross Island. He got a great deal via Groupon.  We thought it was last week but discovered otherwise when we showed up at the deserted dock underneath the Sellwood Bridge. 

They happened to be doing some filming for the TNT series "Leverage" ontop of the bridge later that day and were shutting it down. Since I'd already taken the day off I was all for sticking around and watching (maybe I'd see Timothy Hutton! or a stunt dude jumping on to a train!)  but Mr. Stang nixed that idea.   He was anxious to go pick up the Monkey who had been staying alone (for the first time) at Gramma's for a few days.  He made it two days out of the four originally planned.

We were meeting in Albany to do the hand off.  On the way down they'd met at the Enchanted Forest just south of Salem.  Gramma took him around and did the log ride and whatnot.  I had to work and was jealous not having been there since I was a kid.  Apparently they've added a ton of rides/attractions in the last few decades.   As a result I am both hopeful and terrified that we'll never be able to drive south without having to stop there, again.  I wonder if they still have the Crooked House?  I'm just happy they're still in business so I (and the grandparents) can share something I loved so much as a kid with my son.

With a forecast tomorow in the low 80's it should be a beautiful day on the river. I'm looking forward to seeing the "before" (or rather... current...) version of Ross Island up close and personal.  There's been so much interest in rebuilding/reclaiming Ross Island lately with any luck it will be unrecognizeable (for the better) by the time the Monkey grows up and shares it with his own children!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Free Portland Art museum Admission Tonight! (and other fun Free stuff to do in Portland/Vancouver)

Like so many families right now we're on a tight budget.  So I'm always on the lookout for cheap, or even better - FREE entertainment opportunities.  Especially now that T-ball and the Monkey's ballet class are both over.  Here are a few things that are on our radar for the coming weeks:

Tonight, July 23rd from 5-8 the Portland Art Museum is offering free admission and a bunch of kid-centered art activities. And Old Tyme music.  Who doesn't like Old Tymee music ?? (I'm hoping they sound like George Clooney and the Soggy Bottom Boys from "O, Brother, Where Art Though??" )  Apparently the museum has 4 free family days a year so if you don't make this one there will probably be another.

The Oregon Symphony will be having it's annual free concert in the park, by the way on Thurdsay, Sept. 2nd at Waterfront Park.



Along with many other SAH parents, Mr. Stang has developed a deep adoration for the Vancouver-Clark Parks & Rec "FunWagon".   Some of my fondest summer memories as a kid were when the BookMobile came to our little suburban town (we didn't have a library of our own).  I don't know if you can beat a bus full of BOOKS but I'm told the FunWagon comes pretty close with two hours of free arts, crafts and supervised play activities at ten different neighborhood parks every week.


I love the summertime free concerts at Esther Short Park - especially the "Riverview 6 to Sunset" Thursday night concerts.  Great music for the adults (even a beer tent...) and a great playground and splash fountain for the kids.  Grab your lawn chairs/blanket, pick-a-nick basket (or buy from the excellent food vendors there), the dog and the kids and you're all set to enjoy the oldest public square/park in the Pacific Northwest.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Finally! The Dog Days of Summer

Hi there.  Me again. I'm afraid when summer finally arrived I went a little off my rocker with sun fever and didn't want to spend one second in front of a computer longer than what was necessary for me to retain my job.  And barely that. 

After 3 good weeks of sunny weather, though (and a week in the high 90's when it's preferable to stay INSIDE with the AC) I'm back - at least long enough to rant about the ridiculous amount of freaking MOSQUITOS we have around here this year.  %#&$ record breaking wet spring!!!!!  I cannot begin to articulate my abhorrence to skeeters.  It's primeval.  Some people can't stand snakes, others mice.... the only thing I'm at all marginally phobic about are bugs.  And mosquitos are the worst.  I'm convinced I have some sort of super sweet skeeter-ambrosia flowing through my veins that makes my blood in particular extraordinarily tempting to the buggers.  I'm like the mosquito version of Bella for Edward in Twilight.  The second I go outside I'm attacked en masse, while dear hubby suffers not so much a nibble.

Let's just say this scene from Will Ferrell's remake of "Land Of The Lost" gave me nightmares.  And still does:



My goal this weekend is to do more weeding and spreading of bark dust in the yard, but if I must be eaten alive while doing so I may just let the whole damned place go wild and claim I'm trying native "nature scaping".  Just ignore the buckets of DDT in the corner, will you?

I'm off to Google symptoms of West Nile Virus.  And stock up on Calamine lotion and Cortisone cream.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lopez Island Lollygagging

Too many words, too many pictures and too much work to catch up on to do our vacation to Lopez Island in the San Juans justice.  But this was the highlight.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away....

Every now and then the Pac. NW lives up to it's super-diluvian reputation.  Since April 1 it's rained 52 out of 67 days.  It's been the wettest combined May/April on record. Today we're surpassing the all-time wettest June ever recorded and it's ONLY THE 9TH of the freaking month!
They're forecasting 80's for the weekend, just in time for our much-anticipated vacation to Lopez Island in the San Juans.  Dear Weather Gods...  Please Please Please Please give us a little sunshine????

In the meantime I'm busy tearing out my hair trying to get caught up (or ahead...) at work and plan what to pack and how to get ready.   Because I'm like a obsessive-compulsive Girl Scout that way and must. be. PREPARED.   I think I'd better chill out a little bit before I end up bald for vacation.  In which case I'll need more sunblock, and a hat, and...  

See?  I'm incurable.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Amelia Earhart found?

Maybe so, says an article on Discovery News.  Latest theory - she and her navigator perished as castaways on the remote South Pacific island of Nikumaroro after an emergency crash landing.  Possibly having been eaten by giant coconut crabs which are the scariest bugs on the planet

(OK, probably not technically a "bug" but still the largest land animals with exoskeletons up to 3 feet, capable of cracking coconut shells with their giant pincers.  Or you know, human bones). 


One hopes they were dead before the crabs got to them.  
**shudder**

I'm going to have nightmares now.

Love Glove for the Deep Horizon? Really sounds like a bad skinflick now!

Seems like everybody's got a better idea than BP on how to contain the spill.

My personal fave so far: The giant floating condom (or SQUID).  OK technically it's the "Super Quick Underwater Incident Device" (tm) but I like my nickname better.

Actor Kevin Costner's even got a machine he'd be happy to sell the government.
So far, BP's suggestion box website has received more than 20,000 ideas. They've carefully narrowed down that list to 100 good ideas they are reviewing for consideration. I'm relieved, aren't you?

Which just goes to show it certainly wasn't lack of imagination that caused this disaster. Had BP put even the slightest effort into contingency planning R&D *before* they started drilling they might have avoided this entire fiasco. Now, it may be solved by a simple solution any drunken frat boys could have told them. I wonder if the BP execs are a product of abstinence-based sex education?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What really happened on the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig

60 minutes had a remarkable interview on May 16th with one of the last oil rig survivors (Mike Williams) to get off. It really helps get past all the finger pointing so the average Jane/ Joe can understand what a "BOP" (Blow Out Preventer) is, what caused the blow out int he first place, who was pushing to ignore the known safety issues, who was responsible for what part of the operation (apparently, nobody...) etc.

Part 1:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Part 2:
Watch CBS News Videos Online

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pig from IOWA? Defend yourself!

This is what happens when you piss off the locavores: Portland Pig Cook-Off followed by drunken brawl over the provenance of pork. (Leslie Cole, the Oregonian)
Snip: "A prestigious pig cook-off at the Governor Hotel Sunday night was followed by at least two head buttings and a fist-fight outside an Old Town strip joint. Portland police were called to break up the rumble, which sent a renowned chef and the event's organizer to jail after one had been pepper-sprayed and the other shot with a taser.
And it was all over a pig. "
The comments are even better: "Pretty much a quintessential Portland story: Hipsters, Foodies, excessive drinking and a strip club. Only thing missing was whether they traveled by bicycle, streetcar, or Prius between venues."

"I hope they used locally grown peppers for the pepper spray. Also, what about the strippers? I hope they didn't bring any of them in from Iowa. It's better to eat Iowa pork and support local strippers than the other way around. "

Wonder if this makes us more or less likely to have Bobby Flay visit our belovedly weird little city for a "Throwdown".???

This has got to land right on up there as great city history with the story of how famous brewery mogul Henry Weinhard offerred to pump free beer into the Skidmore Fountain when it was dedicated in 1888.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy 30th Anniversary Mount St. Helens

I was 8 years old when the mountain blew.  I can barely recall the perfectly symmetrical, snow-capped peak from my childhood (America's Mt. Fuji, they said...)  most often glimpsed as we were driving across the I-5 Marquam Bridge through downtown Portland on the way to my grandmother or aunt's house in NE Portland.  This is the image I recall, from 1977:

And this is what was seen a month after the eruption, in 1980:


From our vantage point to the south it just looked like a giant had sliced the top off as if it were a a soft boiled egg.  And the elegeant old lady was quietly, literally fuming like a cartoon character.  But to the north where the massive landslide and lateral blast occurred it was another story.
Before from Spirit Lake:

After from Spirit Lake (1982):

I've camped, and hiked, and explored in the Gifford Pinchot national Forest on the south flank of the mountain for years, but I still have never made it up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. I think the Monkey and I are long overdue for a visit this summer.
Some media retrospectives: MSNBC slideshow,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mahalo for the Sun...

The T-Ball gods smiled upon us last weekend for picture/ game.  I'm no pro but I did get a couple of cute shots. I also got a lovely sunburn. Always happens in May. I'm always sure the sun's not hot enough to do any real damage yet after weeks of cool weather, and end up with a nasty surprise as a result. So note to self: sunblock for the rest of the summer.  And a hat.  And sleeves.






Mother's Day was wonderfully relaxing.  The Monkey made me a picture, Daddy took me out for dinner at Patrick's Hawaiian Cafe  then a movie to see Iron Man 2 at Cinetopia (just a few blocks away). Patrick's had live Hawaiian music (as they do every Fri/Sat & Sun nights, and hula dancers on special occassions...) and the Coconut Shrimp and Kal Bi Ribs were melt-in-your mouth amazing!  Everything was, actually.

While most people think of the wide range of Asian cuisine available in the Northwest (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Lao, Japanese, Malay to name a few...) we tend to forget that Hawaiians were some of the very earliest pioneers here in the Pac. NW. thanks to the old shipping days when Pacific ports were main stops on the way to/from the Sandwich Islands.  

According to the Ke Kukui Foundation, a mainland-based Polynesian group devoted to preserving Polynesian culture and language for descendents of displaced Polynesians, Hawaiians arrived in the Oregon Territory in 1811, settled near Fort Vancouver in the 1830'sduring the Fur Trade and then in California during the Gold Rush in the 1850's at "Kanaka" Villages.  Several Oregon and Washington place names were named by or for these early Hawaiians (like Kalama).  When the states refused to grant them U.S. citizenship (even though Hawaii was a U.S. territory by this time....) many returned to Hawaii.  But many stayed, and of course many native Hawaiians are moving to the mainland again as the cost of living there skyrockets.  As of the 2000 census, in fact it appears there are more people of native Hawaiian ancestry now living on the mainland than in the state of Hawaii. 

And lucky for us, many of those are opening restaurants with fantastic "home cooking" style marinated meat, macaroni salad and Spam derivatives (I don't get it, but Mr. Stang loves his Spam and eggs...). Then there is the quintessential "fusion" of Asian, Polynesian and NW flavors that simmered for decades in those volcanic islands at the Crossroads of the Pacific, generation after generation.  The seafood, of course (drool), and the  Teriyaki/ Yakisoba, sushi, Korean BBQ, and .....
Besides Patrick's Hawaiian Cafe, Vancouver boasts the Hula Boy Charbroil (now with two locations... one on 4th Plain and a new one Downtown).  And Portland has the famous Noho's (original location on SE Clinton St., new location in Medford and according to their website, FRANCHISES coming soon!); and the Mamboo Grove Hawaiian Grille on Macadam which was one of my fave lunching spots when our office was down on the River.

And a few I haven't been to (yet):  Ohana Hawaiian Cafe (two locations:  one on NE Sandy Blvd and one in Milwaukie).  and Tommy O's (two locations as well: East Vancouver and Downtown Vancouver).  Urban Spoon has a much more extensive listing for the Portland/Vancouver area. 

In recent years, the Ke Kukui Foundation has launched an annual Hawaiian Festival at Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver where you can experience a little piece of the Aloha Spirit without having to buy an expensive plane ticket. Hula dancing, music, arts and crafts..... and of course, the FOOD.  This year it's scheduled for July 31st. And it's FREE!!!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Weekend Warriors

Excuse me for a minute while I wallow in misery. My body, it hurts.  Stump removal, blueberry bush planting, and paver stone transportation is not good for the slacker lower back of a computer jockey. But it's not like I was doing this sort of thing all weekend:


Parkour from Mustang Sally on Vimeo.

This group of guys has been at the Open Gym at the local gymnastics school almost every time we've taken the Monkey and are pretty amazing. I'm pretty sure they're practitioners of "Parkour" but maybe they're just gymnasts or cheer dudes.  They are very entertaining to watch, however and are usually pretty respectful of the little guys in their midst.  Like ours:

Duncan at the Open Gym from Mustang Sally on Vimeo.


Sunday night Open Gyms are a kick.  There's the little kids diving into the cube pits, and the parkour/ gymnast/ cheer teams, but it's also apparently very popular with the teen set for date night.  You can almost taste the angst and anxiety along with the stench of stale sweat and hormones in the air.  But it's good family fun and REALLY burns off the energy, especially when the weather outside prohibits a trip to the park.

Though one time Mr. Stang did have to about open a can of whoop-ass on a little pre-teen punk who didn't wait for the Monkey to get out of the cube pit before cannon-balling on top of him and banged him up real good. Then I had to open my own version of can-o-Whoop on one of the teenage cassenovas after I overheard him "jokingly" crying rape when his incredibly diminuitive date/girlfriend/whatev kiddingly punched him in the arm. Yes, when it comes to rape jokes I'm one of those utterly humorlous hairy-legged feminists. I just told him to look around and realize that 1 in 5 of the girls in that very gym WILL be victims of rape or attempted rape - his "friend" included. And if they are lucky enough to survive it will scar them for life. The poor kids is all, "mmm... OK?" I know he was just one of those good kids who is an idiot but it's precisely those "good" guys who need to take the issue seriously.

The Gods of T-Ball finally showed a little mercy and held off the rain showers long enough for The Mighty Bees to get in a full game on Saturday.  After one rained-out game and two rained-out practices it was great for the Monkey to finally get to see what all the fuss was about!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tulips and T-Ball

First game of the season and we were rained out after one inning.  At least everyone on both teams was able to hit once!  Gramma and Grampa came up from the coast to witness the historic event. And brought the newest addition to their menagerie. 

Meet the cutest longhaired Chihuahua you've ever seen (ignore the messy kitchen though?  Kai thainx!):


Here's the team, taking the field:


This little girl, in pigtails is so adorable I can't stand it:


She's really, really good, too!  Here's the Monkey:

And the peanut gallery (Daddy and Gramma):

On Sunday we headed up to Woodland, Washington for Lilac Days at the Hulda Kluger Lilac Gardens
and stopped at the Tulip Festival at the Holland America Bulb farm to let the Monkey burn off some steam tiptoe-ing through the tulips:

I strongly resisted the urge to order some of these.
 It was really, really hard:
But I've about blown my plant budget for the year getting the patio garden set up.  Green onions and lettuce made it to the dinner table on Saturday.  I hope they're worth it!

Friday, April 23, 2010

In trouble now!

I went to the Office Crack Supply store at lunch and got a little USB SD card reader for the office (and laptop) so now I can upload pics from work (shhhhhhh!!!) which means it's much more likely to get done without the incessant screaming of a 4 ft. munchkin whining  "Mommy!  Mommy!  Come Play With Me!" (my usual excuse for never making it to the PC in the basement at home to upload/blog).

Also I figured out how to McGyver my old Canon powershot with a rubber band to keep the battery compartment closed so I can keep using it and won't have to buy another one.  Looks like crap but I don't care.  I love my little Canon A540.  Just wish it had better zoom capability.

So here's Opening Day at the Farmer's Market.  We see these handsome fellows quite often when we go (at least I'm pretty sure it's the same pair.  How many English Sheep Dogs could there be in town?) But they don't always have the bunny ears, obviously.

Here's another dude we see a lot.  Our own local Yanni wannabe.  He's actually pretty good. 


And finally for your viewing pleasure, my vantage point for the next 6 weeks or so.

That's Mr. Stang in the background.  As a former highschool star pitcher (before he threw his arm out) he's finding it very, very hard to take a backseat to all this and stay off the sidelines.  I asked him if he wanted to coach when we signed up.  He said "No".   Until about 10 minutes into the first practice.  Now it's all, "when I coach......"   I had to remind him that in T-ball they don't keep score, everybody wins, blah blah blah.   It's cracking me up to see his competetive side really come out for the first time since I've known him.  Though he was a jock in his younger years, he's not into sports now (wants to play, not watch and is too old and decrepit to do that). It didn't ocme out when the Monkey was in Tae Kwan Do, or swimming lessons, or tumbling/ballet.  But now he's doing something Daddy knows about and oh shit I think we're in trouble. 

Especially since the Monkey has (now how do I put it without sounding like an obnoxious braggart of a parent?).... quite the natural aptitude.   Here he is squaring off to hit.   Lefty.  Though yes, he is technically right handed.  He just hits the hell out of the ball (even when pitched), left handed.  He can hit right handed, too and is a little more accurate - but not as hard.  And he's got a serious arm and can drill it into your chest from 20 feet away.  For a while there until he figured out what hand the mitt went on he was even throwing pretty damned good lefty, too.  I, the non-pitcher who don't know much about anything pitch-related figured out - if a switch-hitting player is gold, then OMG what if he were a switch-PITCHING player, too?? 

Needless to say when the actual coach tried to "correct" his batting stance/grip, we were both, "ummm.... actually, NO.  The LEFT hand goes on top".  If the League had less stringent age restrictions, Mr. Stang would totally have him trying out for the PeeWee's.  Poor coaches.  Another reason I suggested Mr. Stang do it.  If anyone's going to ruin the talent of our special little snowflake it should probably be us.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mah Tooooww!!

The very first day of our Caribbean honeymoon cruise I broke my toe on a $%^#!@ deck chair whilst trying to live out my "Love Boat" fantasy.   (Really, Carnival?  What do you expect when you've got 'em lined up with 2 inches between one another and lilly-white passengers stricken with sunstroke???) Alas, there was no Doc on hand in tight little white shorts to assist me and after grimacing in excruciating pain and hobbling back to our cabin, I spent the entire rest of the week thrusting my much maltreated (and pretty purple and yellow) injured appendage in front of my earnest groom, sighing mightily and bewailing "Mah TOWWWW!!!  It huuurts!!! lookit mah towww!!*pout*" and begging for sympathy.  Then he'd pat my little head, bring me some ice and an aspirin and refuse to fetch me a margarita because a) we had to pay out of pocket for booze; and b) he didn't trust my clumsy ass on a rocking ship with the spins.  Which was logical. 

Since I'm too inundated this week with yard work,  knitting, and T-ball practice (the Monkey's first game is this Saturday!!!) to be bothered uploading any pics from Easter, or his birthday, or how great my patio garden is growing I bring you another sad saga of an injured toe, courtesy of Alice at Finslippy.  Which is far funnier than my own.   Reverse roles here: "I considered getting up and helping him out, but on the other hand the bed was warm" and you have my honeymoon in a nutshell. Also, the image of her son mourning the fate of his daddy's lost toenail brought a tear of laughter to my eye and reminded me of the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes where they have a funeral for Buddy Jr.'s lost arm.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

National Park Week - Free admission!

It's that time of year again - one week when America's national parks open up their doors to the public for free.  April 17 - 25.  

I'll always be grateful for the roadtrip I took with my grandmother to visit as many national parks as we could stomach in the SW.  Entrance fees to parks like the Grand Canyon and Arches can be $10 - $25 per vehicle and can really add up if you're visiting many in one trip.   But citizens 62 yrs and older can get a lifetime "Golden Ager" pass for only $10 that gives free entrance to anyone in their vehicle to "national parks monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges."   It's also good for sites managed by other national agencies like the BLM, US Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, US Fish & Wildlife and USDA.

So if you ever had plans to pile the family into the old station wagon and road trip across America, I highly recommend grabbing a grandparent to take along for the ride! 

For a list of which parks in which states are waiving their normal entrance fees, click here: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparksbystate.htm  .  

NW National Parks include:

Oregon:
  • Crater Lake National Park
  • Lewis & Clark National Historical Park
 Washington:
  • Fort Vancouver National Historic Site 
  • Lewis & Clark National Historical Park
  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Olympic National Park and
  • Whitman Mission National Historic Site
 Idaho:
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Yellowstone National Park 
It might be the perfect time to introduce the Monkey to Fort Vancouver.  I've only been inside once on a school field trip and for a huge history nerd that's quite the travesty. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not just Granny Squares anymore

Long time, no post.  Sorry 'bout that.   I'm in new hobby heaven and have not yet come up for air.  A couple of weeks before the Indiana trip the Monkey found my old knitting needles.  Many years ago I'd attempted to dive in to this most ancient of domestic arts and made several washclothes.  Then promptly lost interest in the knitting and the pearling and whatnot.  Until I was faced with the prospect of 8 days of awkward 'introvert visits the in-laws' time and knew I wasn't going to get away with the old coping mechanism of hiding in a corner reading a book.  Which, by the way is always an acceptable substitute for meaningful conversation in my family (well maybe just the introverted side.)

Since getting married and growing up, etc. I've been informed that this is in fact considered rude behavior in other families.  So the old coping mechanism wasn't going to cut it.  It's not that my in-laws are not lovely people and I don't enjoy spending time with them.  Quite the contrary.  But like most introverts, I get exhausted having to be social for any long period of time and need to have some kind of mental escape to take the pressure off the small talk.  Otherwise, I tend to fill the void with really boring Cliff Clavenesque trivia facts in a pathetic attempt to impress with my vast store of totally useless knowledge. 
Besides which, for some reason Mr. Stang and the Monkey feel particularly shut out when I settle into the trance-like state of devouring a good book.  But  they don't seem to mind knitting as much.  So my little free time has been taken up with knitting and crocheting and checking out this great little local yarn shop in downtown :  http://www.stitchcraft.us/ .  And surfing for free patterns on ravelry.com

And drooling over all the yummy hand dyed, hand spun yarns and fascinating twists on the craft that are now available on the 'Net.  Like yarn made from plastic bags (Plarn).  Yes, it may seem like one step above recycling cardboard for that home improvement project but as a grocery bag?   Or beach or laundry bag? Perfect.   And recycled silk.  From Indian Sari fabrics!  Made by women's co-ops in Nepal and India.   When you think about all those poor little baby silkworms that had to die to make millenia's worth of luxurious silk fabrics, recycling existing work out or scrap fabrics is the only humane thing to do (besides which, silk scarves are infinitely less itchy than wool.  Sustainable as sheep may be....)

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  There's yarn made from hemp, banana fiber, yak, and all kinds of sheeps and bunnies and other cute little furries.  And something called "qiviut".  What the hell is "qiviut" you might ask?  This:
That's right.  The underwool of the ARCTIC MUSK OX.    And according to the official qiviut coop webpage, it's supposedly eight times warmer than wool, extraordinarily lightweight, NOT scratchy and won't shrink in hot water.  But at about $40 a ball I won't be playing with it any time soon. 
 I used to think crocheting was all about toilet paper covers decked out with super campy granny squares and really hideous sock puppets.  But, NO!  Since it's inception (apaprently around 1800) crochet has really taken off.  My step-mom even crochets beautiful fine wire jewelry.  
And if you really want to nerd it up, there's a mathematician (Daina Tamina) who discovered crochet was the perfect way to create three dimentional models of hyperbolic planes - something other (**ahem.... male**) mathematicians could never duplicate with existing modeling techniques.  

Monday, March 29, 2010

Forget the golf carts.... Nissan Leaf coming to Oregon

Nissan will begin selling their new LEAF all electric car this fall in Oregon!  No word on price yet but they expect it to be comparable to similar sized family sedans.  Range will be about 100 miles per charge with a 100 % charge time of 4-8 hours at home 220V charging units, and 26 minutes for an 80% charge at public quick-charge stations.

They're looking for input right now from potential owners as to where to locate the planned 400-500 public charging stations throughout the Willamette Valley.  They say they'll start taking reservations in April.   I'm off to lobby for one just north of the river...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Date Night

Last week Grampa let the Monkey sleep over one night so we could have a Date Night.   After being reassured he wouldn't have to sleep alone the Monkey could barely restrain his excitement.  I had some mixed emotions - thrilled to have a WHOLE NIGHT to ourselves, but also a little hurt he seemed so happy to ditch the parental units, too.  Guess we all needed a little time away from each other.

We began the evening at this great little second-run, drink-in theatre in SE on Stark St. called The Academy, right next door to Portland icon, Flying Pie Pizza. The Academy was restored in 2006 and continues the River City tradition of cheap second-run movies in funky renovated historical properties that let you drink great microbeers/boutique wines while you watch.  Because what's better than a Brew Pub/Wine bar?   A Brew Pub/Wine Bar  WITH MOVIES!!!   The McMenamin brothers may have started it but other independent owners have climbed on board and are taking it to the next level.   Cinetopia of course is now the gold standard, what with the super HD screens, live music in the lobby, award-winning fine-dining restaurant and and in-theatre service. But the Academy and other venues (like the Laurelhurst) are comfortably filling the niche in between, serving affordable gourmet grub and limited alcoholic beverages with second-run/art or independent movies at a fraction of the cost of the sticky-floored, outrageously overpriced big movie chains.  And due to the liquor licensing laws - no unaccompanied teenagers!  Kids are welcome in theatre with their parents, or - even better - many like the Academy offer on-site weekend evening babysitting service for the young ones. Other theatres like McMenamin's Kennedy School offer "Mommy Matinees" for the stay-at-home contingent where you're invited to bring your fussy babies mid-afternoon and nobody complains.

After watching Sherlock Holmes in swanky reclining leather seats (great movie, btw) for the rock-bottom price of $4 each we discussed our options for dinner in the foodie mecca of SE Portland.  I know it gets old saying "what I love about Portland/ the Pacific NW..."  but the sheer diversity of cuisine available is right up there.  Of course there's the fantastic Pacific NW regional fare (featuring the freshest local ingredients, paired with the best local wines and microbrews), and all the hip fusion joints.  But you can literally spin a globe, pick a spot almost anywhere on the world and there's a menu somewhere in the city featuring those regional favorites. Tonight we were in the mood for Latin flavor.

We chose one of my faves from my days of singledom... Cuban bistro, Pambiche.  It's a small place with tables packed in so you need to be comfortable butting elbows with your neighbors, and there's almost always a wait but it's very well worth it.  And as you see more and more around town, they have graciously installed radiant heaters above and around their covered sidewalk patio tables so waiting outside is no hardship.  With the Latin music playing and the aroma of spiced roast pork and fried plantains drifting through, you can almost close your eyes and imagine you're in Havana.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adventures in Indiana

Day 1 in Indiana:  I go to throw out the plastic water bottles we bought on the plane.
Me:  "MIL, is there a special place I should toss the recycling?"
MIL:  blank stare.    "just the garbage can"
Mr. Stang: "Honey, remember you're not in Portland any more".
Oh.  Right.  I throw the bottle in the trash.  My hand feels like it may burn off with shame.

Day 2 morning in Indiana:  I replace the batteries in my camera.
Me: "MIL, do you dispose of used batteries any special way?"
MIL:  blank stare.  "just the garbage can..."
Mr. Stang: rolls eyes, swallows chuckle.
When in Rome....

Day 2 afternoon in Indiana:  We're driving.  A couple of folks are out walking their dog in the neighborhood.  We pass a car.  Mr. Stang waves.
Me: "???? Did you know them ??"
Mr. Stang: "Honey, this is Indiana.  Waving to strangers is required."
Me: "Got it.  So it's OK to poison your neighbors with toxic battery acid via the town dump so long as you wave at them as you drive by. "
Mr. Stang: "That's right.  Go Hoosiers!"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NW Farmers' Markets Open!

First day of Spring, first weekend of local farmer's markets!!

Washington State University has a great website where you can find a list of all Oregon/ Washington public markets and farms by county, as well as a harvest calendar to find out what's in season and recipes.

Yummy Northwest is still updating their 2010 list of markets, but they also include farms in Idaho and Montana so check back!!

Vancouver Farmer's Market                    Portland Farmer's Market(s)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Other Immediate Effects of Health Care Reform

Consumer Reports has more of the immediate results we'll see with health care reform:

  • An end to rescissions. Within six months of enactment, insurance companies will no longer be able to retroactively cancel individual coverage on people who get sick and start filing expensive claims.
  • A crackdown on excessive premium hikes. The White House proposes to immediately create a new national Health Insurance Rate Authority that would review premiums and, if they turned out to be unreasonable, have the power to lower them or even force health plans to pay back overcharges to consumers.
     
  • Better value for your premium dollar. Right now, buying insurance on your own is a bit of a crapshoot because it's hard to tell good policies from bad ones. As soon as reform becomes law, health plans will have to start publicly reporting the proportion of your premiums that they spend on health services, as opposed to what they spend on administration, profit, marketing, and executive perks. Within a year after reform, if insurers are spending less than 80 percent of premiums on health care for individual or small group policies, or 85 percent for large-group policies, they'll have to pay customers a rebate. They'll also be prohibited from imposing lifetime benefit limits, and the use of annual benefit limits will be restricted, giving you more confidence in the policy you purchase.
     
  • Help for small businesses. Starting immediately, small businesses can get a tax credit of up to 35% for their share of their employees' health premiums as long as they contribute at least half of the cost. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees, and average annual wages of less than $50,000, are eligible for the credits.

 

What Health Care Reform Act means to Me (and maybe, you...)

Added 3/23:  Christian Science Monitor Interactive Tool: Health Care Reform Bill 101

The Consumer's Guide to Health Reform is a great tool to see exactly how your family should benefit from the bill. 

Also, the NY Times has a great interactive tool covering different scenarios.

Here's how it will (hopefully) affect our little family:

Mr. Stang has been denied coverage entirely on the private market due to existing health issues.  To cover him and the Monkey on my employer's group plan as dependents would have cost us 13.5% of my gross wages last year - just for premiums.  Add our $500 deductible per individual, office copays ($30-$40  each visit) and 20% co-insurance we would have spent close to 25% of my gross income on health care costs.  And even then, it's entirely probably that due to his gap in coverage  they would have denied him any actual claims made after happily taking our hard-earned money in premiums. 

With the reform, we will at least be able to get coverage for him on the market. And he may qualify for the temporary high-risk pool that will be established within 90 days.  If they charge us an arm & a leg for the privilege (bad pun, I know) our out of pocket expenses (including premiums, I believe?) we will be eligible for subsidies which will limit our total out of pocket expenses to probably 9.5%.

So health insurance of any kind = great.
Lowering our costs from 25% to 9.5% ???  Fantastic.

Unless any extra taxes I may pay will exceed 15.5% of my income (the difference) we're still WAY ahead, and I'm happy to pay them.  And cover all my hard-working friends, family and fellow citizens and legal residents who are in the same leaking/sinking boat at the same time.

I know this is a huge undertaking and scares the shit out of many folks who, due to their being current or ex-military/ or government employees, or current Medicare recipients (or both)  have been lucky enough not to be in that boat, treading water at the complete mercy of insurance company sharks.  Or they're retired and were lucky enough (or in a union) to have had their financial/insurance "boats" built 20-30 years ago when they were forged in of quality materials, by not-quite-so-assholish Wall St. execs (in an age when the Democratic administrations did their jobs and REGULATED the insurance & financial inustries...).

 It doesn't help that all the talking heads are boosting their own ratings (and salaries) by ruthlessly feeding that fear, trying to convince those folks that it's every man/woman/child for themselves.  Instead of doing the humane, rational thing which is, throw those of us who are struggling a freaking life preserver (we don't want a damned yacht)  and help SHOOT THE SHARKS until we can rebuild pathetic little plywood rafts to save our own asses.

Passing of Health Care Reform in the House

Still no public option... and women's reproductive rights were once again thrown under the bus to get it.  But  it's a start.   I did push to have it passed, but I'm in agreement with Nancy Keenan of NARAL on this one:
"It is with mixed emotions that I write with news that, tonight, the House of Representatives passed the health-reform bill.
I am extremely disappointed to tell you that the final package includes the insulting, unworkable Nelson restriction on abortion coverage in the new system.
As you may recall, the Nelson language requires Americans in the new system to write two separate checks if the health plan they choose includes abortion coverage. This unacceptable bureaucratic stigmatization could cause insurance carriers to stop covering abortion care. This would represent a major setback, given that more than 85 percent of private plans cover this care for women today.
Despite this totally unacceptable anti-choice provision, reform will bring more than 30 million Americans into a system that includes affordable family-planning services and maternity care for women. It also outlaws some discriminatory insurance-industry practices that make health care more expensive for women. Improving women’s access to birth control and prenatal care and making reproductive-health care more affordable are also at the core of our mission...
 
Ultimately, we determined that we could not endorse this bill due to the abortion-coverage restrictions. But, we also could not, in good conscience, call for the bill’s outright defeat and deny millions of American women the promise of better—although imperfect—health-care services that are an important part of our pro-choice values."
If you want to go right to the source and bypass all the punditry, here's the actual bill that was passed: HR 4872.  And a good summary of what the bill actually DOES say (see the column on the left). 

Here's a good summary of the Immediate Effects of the Bill (from the Kaizer Foundation):
  • Discounts and free care in Medicare: The approximately 4 million Medicare beneficiaries who hit the so-called “doughnut hole” in the program’s drug plan will get a $250 rebate this year. Next year, their cost of drugs in the coverage gap will go down by 50 percent. Preventive care, such as some types of cancer screening, will be free of co-payments or deductibles starting this year.
  • Coverage of kids: Parents will be allowed to keep their children on their health insurance plan until age 26, unless the child is eligible for coverage through a job. Insurance plans cannot exclude pre-existing medical conditions from coverage for children under age 19, although insurers could still reject those children outright for coverage in the individual market until 2014.
  • Tax credits for businesses: Businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average wages of less than $50,000 could qualify for a tax credit of up to 35 percent of the cost of their premiums. 
  • Changes to insurance: All existing insurance plans will be barred from imposing lifetime caps on coverage. Restrictions will also be placed on annual limits on coverage. Insurers can no longer cancel insurance retroactively for things other than outright fraud. 
  • Government oversight: Insurers must report how much they spend on medical care versus administrative costs, a step that later will be followed by tighter government review of premium increases.  

Monday, March 15, 2010

Homesick

I am.  I miss my dog.  I miss my kitties.  Mostly I miss my bed.

From a Monkey standpoint the flight was much better. But the two poor souls who lost their breakfasts coming into Denver on the first leg probably wouldn't agree. I almost lost mine, too. Thankfully the kid with the super sensitive gag reflex next to me chose to finally fall asleep before the bad turbulence so he didn't catch a telltale whiff or sound like the rest of us, or he'd have been hurling in sympathy. Second flight, thank Maude was smooth and trouble free.

Indiana's not bad, it's just not home.  First few days were spent in the Indianapolis 'burbs at  my FIL's.  Used to be a farm town, now the strip malls have taken over the corn fields.  Nothing like when Mr. Stang was growing up there.  Then it was a 3 hour drive down south to the MIL's.  Southern Indy is full of rolling hills and state forests.  It reminds me a lot of Yamhill County in Oregon.  Only more corn fields, fewer wineries and fir trees, and prettier brick houses. 

I'm working up the courage to tell my MIL however that I would prefer to transfer to the guest room at SIL's house on the other side of town.  We're in the basement.  Next to a very loud, obnoxious furnace.  That fires up about once an hour. And you can hear every creak of every footstep upstairs.  The Monkey and I are light sleepers. I'd be OK with earplugs, except he wakes up and starts tossing and turning (after insisting on sharing the single airbed with me).  So no sleep for us the last two nights. With the Monkey high on sugar and birthday party adrenaline (SIL had bought him a pinata) it's been a challenge.

But I've found a coffee shop with free wifi and caffeine so I'm happy for the time being.  Will have to wait until I get home to post video and pics of the party.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Leaving, on a jetplane....

We are, that is.  Tomorow a.m.  to see the in-laws in the Midwest.  On the one hand:  UGH I hate to fly.  On the other hand, the Monkey is so much easier to travel with now at 5 (in 5 days!!)  than he was at 18 months, when we flew to Houston and he did not stop screaming ONCE.  Or kicking the seat of the woman in front of him.  That was the time I thought I'd be all Super Safety Mom. buy his own ticket, take his carseat on the plane and actually try to use it IN the seat (there's turbulence and stuff you know).  Huge mistake.  HUGE.  First, the screaming - he did not want to be in said seat but airline regulation was such that if we had it he had to be strapped in (or something... it's a little vague.  I may have misunderstood).  Second, did you know that by boosting your toddler 6 inches up from the regular airline seat, they are then 6 inches closer to the seat of the passenger in front?  Puts 'em right in prime kicking position. 

I have never in my life endured such evil looks as the ones I received from the woman unfortunately seated (in the full flight, of course) in front of my little monster. And rightfully so.  Halfway through the flight she was actually begging the flight attendant for tranquilizers.  So was I.  Alas, that was not part of in-flight service.   Which reminds me:   SHIT I forgot to buy ear plugs when I was out and about picking up last minute necessities today!  However, having totally exhausted every discipline/soothing tactic in my repertoir (you can't exactly send the kid to time-out on a plane, especially when there actually IS turbulence and you are NOT free to walk about the cabin...) it was either be mama of screaming child or abusive mama of possibly quiet child (but probably still screaming).  So major apologies, ma'am- I still feel for you.  Really.  We were all miserable.  But what did you expect me to do?  Throw him into the cargo hold?  Smother him?  At least the nice young girls behind us were trying to distract and entertain him. 

Anyway... knocking on entire forests of wood I fully expect tomorow's flight to be infinitely better. 

On a totally unrelated sidenote.  If I ever left Mr. Stang it would be for my chiropractor.  For the last several weeks my back has been twisted up like a cord at the kwiki-mart payphone.  I was NOT looking forward to flying in that condition.  Then my doc made it all go away.  Bless his healing hands - I'm in love.   Mr. Stang knows this, and totally understands.  He's actually a little jealous (of me, not our doctor.  The man is that good).

Happy spring to everyone!