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‘Tis the Season—for Baked Goods

Posted by julie on Monday, 5 December 2016, 10:47

Bouche de Noel

Our kitchen has been toasty and sweet-smelling for the last couple of weeks. From pumpkin biscuits to cranberry-orange scones to Elena’s special shortbready sugar cookies to holiday cupcakes and a bûche de Noël, we have quite literally kept the home fires burning.

Above is our first attempt at a bûche de Noël, or yule log. I baked and rolled it, using this recipe (see my photos at the bottom of this post for my notes on the recipe). Elena and I decorated it the morning it was to be won at a cake walk. We’re so happy it turned out so well, because we didn’t have a back-up plan! We’re quite proud, really. The shelf mushrooms were Elena’s idea, and they really sell it, I think. We sprinkled the iced cake with Wilton green sugar, along with powdered sugar. The mushrooms have Pirouline stems with vegan marshmallow tops sprinkled with cocoa powder. The birds (and plate) were dollar store finds.

Then, for her matinee Elf Jr. performance yesterday, E and I made and decorated cupcakes (from a box; a girl only has so much time).

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I follow in Mom’s footsteps: holiday baking really can get you in the holiday spirit!

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Happy Decade to You!

Posted by julie on Monday, 21 September 2015, 11:16
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Fun with McKenzie Pass panorama

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Enjoying the porch with Great Grandma Kay in Ohio

Dear Sylvan,

A whole decade. 3652 days. In 2005, those days were filled with swaddling, swaying, and shushing. In 2015, it’s more like skateboarding, screaming, and…still shushing. You’ve just wrapped up the ten years of your life when you will change the most, growing from a frustrated, crying, 7-pound infant to a smiling, small but sturdy, whip-smart adventure boy. I am so grateful for the change!

In June, you and I headed up Black Crater near McKenzie Pass. It’s 7.6 miles with 2500 feet of elevation gain, all on good, wide trail. After two miles of climbing, you admitted you weren’t sure you could do this, that this would be the longest hike you’d ever done. I assured you that you could do it, but told you we could turn around at any point. Then, you just kept walking; we chatted about what to do if you have a medical emergency while hiking, which you took appropriately seriously. At the summit, we took ample silly photos of ourselves with the Cascade volcanoes magnificently arrayed behind us. I suggested that we trail run some of the way down. You took the lead, running parkour-style off of logs, and I had to really run to keep up—I don’t think I always did!

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Not quite getting our jump together, but having fun anyway

We just gave you a skateboard for your 10th birthday, and you are the level of excited that every parent dreams a gift will impart. Yesterday, we brought the board and parts back into the shop to have it put together, and you chose grip tape for your board that has a kitten chasing a butterfly with a rainbow in the background. That illustrates perfectly how little you care what others think of you. You love the grip tape, and that’s that. The long-haired 25-year-old woman helping us was suitably charmed.

As she stuck down the grip tape and screwed on the trucks, she asked you questions about your summer and about school. When she asked your favorite subject, you had a hard time choosing between Games and Math. That sounds about right. Games class appeals to your active side, the one that admires your friends for their speed and agility, the side that is constantly ranking you and your friends according to athletic ability. Math comes naturally to you (although I may not want you to read that until you understand that having a growth-mindset, especially when things come easily, is invaluable to your future learning). Math appeals to both your logic and also to your outside-the-box creativity, making challenging puzzles fun for you. I know you’re also looking forward to woodworking, hand-working, and playing the viola this year in school (one of the things I really appreciate about your school is that I couldn’t teach you any of those things, unlike the curriculum in a typical 4th grade). You seem to really enjoy going to school; before school started, you said you were excited to see your friends again, that not seeing them was your least favorite part of summer.

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Hitting the via ferrata in the Valle di Fanes with some cousins. What could be better?

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Flying into Lake Bled

Other things you are right now:

  • Learning to be empathetic
  • Largely even-keeled, unless you feel unfairly blamed
  • Sometimes a wild beastie, padding around the house on all fours
  • Appreciated by other parents, who say things like, “I love that kid.” They can’t hear the loud noises you emit prior to 7 a.m., before I’ve had my coffee.
  • A reader! I can’t believe the number of pages you plow through. I’m just jealous.
  • Appreciative of Dad jokes. You also analyze them: “Mom, I don’t think the octopus ten tickles joke is a Dad joke. It’s actually funny.”
  • Taking after your Dad when it comes to the satisfaction you get from getting rid of stuff
  • A holder of hands, if only across streets, and completely unconsciously and unself-consciously
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Sort of how it goes around our house

Ten years. I could have gotten four Master’s degrees, read 250 books, climbed 400 mountains, become a pretty damn good fiddle—and guitar—player, and learned Italian and Spanish fluently. Instead, I had you, you adorable devil. And, as much as I have been known to whine about a decade of stay-at-home parenting, I couldn’t be happier that you are my dear son. This next ten years, though—the ones where you spread your little wings into the big, wide world and find other people to love—I’ll be climbing mountains and working on my Italian, in between sessions of lying on the couch reading Moby-Dick.

Love,
Mom

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Silly selfie

A Running Playlist

Posted by julie on Sunday, 19 October 2014, 21:19
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Oregon Coast 30K. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

Because I was severely under-trained for my 30K trail race yesterday, I developed a running playlist of songs that I hoped might help me power through. On the last 2.5-mile uphill slog, this list definitely helped:

  1. We No Speak Americano, Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup
  2. Beautiful Day, U2
  3. Just Can’t Get Enough, Depeche Mode
  4. Around the World (la la la la La), A Touch of Class
  5. Pompeii, Bastille
  6. Heat of the Moment, Asia
  7. Stacy’s Mom, Fountains of Wayne
  8. Boom Boom Pow, The Black Eyed Peas
  9. Pour Some Sugar On Me, Def Leppard
  10. Low, Flo Rida (feat. T-Pain)
  11. Without Me, Eminem
  12. Dynamite, Taio Cruz
  13. Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men
  14. Wake Me Up, Avicii
  15. Say Hey (I Love You), Michael Franti & Spearhead (feat. Cherine Anderson)
  16. Glad You Came, The Wanted
  17. SexyBack, Justin Timberlake (feat. Timbaland)
  18. Timber, Pitbull ((feat. Ke$ha)

Because I borrowed liberally from other folks’ running playlists, I thought I would share this list, in case you’re wandering around the web, searching for music inspiration for a tough run. This list comprises about 67 minutes of music. I’m on the lookout for some good stuff to extend it a few more hours.

Tamolitch Pool Hike

Posted by julie on Monday, 23 June 2014, 10:39

To celebrate summer, yesterday we hiked up to Tamolitch Pool, also called Blue Pool, where the McKenzie River comes back above ground after disappearing as groundwater for a bit. The two-mile hike to the pool—mostly in shade except for the last half-mile or so, which is over lava flows just beginning to grow shrubs and trees big enough to offer shade—was the perfect length for our family on a day with temperatures in the low 80s. The kids parkoured all the rocks and down trees for the first mile, then they settled into a hike. Everyone was ready for a break when we reached the clear, cold water of the pool (of which I have no photos; a Google search will probably give you some good ones). The pool is difficult to reach, so we opted out this time. We’ll climb down next time. At least one of us was brave enough to enter the 36°F river on the hike out. I know that my feet were numb in about 11 seconds.

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Mid-hike meditation

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Ooh, that’s colder than I expected

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The bravest one of all of us (always)

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Go, Unicorns!

Posted by julie on Monday, 19 May 2014, 9:40

I need to share this, because it’s too perfectly wonderful not to bare itself to the world. Unicorn/soccer design work and photographs by Chris Miller, dad extraordinaire. With special thanks to the world’s best girls’ Kinder soccer coach, Bob Chandler, who may have had as much fun as the girls.

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Finding the Sun

Posted by julie on Monday, 6 January 2014, 12:16

When folks live in Eugene, and Eugene looks like this:

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then everyone in Eugene tries to escape the freezing fog. They climb mountains, they go to Hawai’i,  or at least they hit the coast. We hit the coast. And our friends were close to where we were headed, so we hung out with them, too!

And we bought wetsuits.

Wetsuit party

Wetsuit party

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Bro, I got completely bowled in that pounder and ended up with a brainfreeze.

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Umm, Dad, I have the whole ocean’s worth of salt in my eyes.

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We also got at least a little exercise climbing the world’s largest dune (not really), then running down. Fun!

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And, before dinner, a spectacular sunset:

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If you’re curious about Chris’s whereabouts, he spent the day sitting and reading in the sun. So no action shots, but plenty of contentment.

Tephra Felt Left Out

Posted by julie on Saturday, 7 December 2013, 11:28

Sylvan thinks I should cat-shame Tephra: “I want to play in the middle of the night, so I knock books and watches off the nightstand and wake up my parents.”

Summer Update 19 June

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 19 June 2013, 9:56

We’ve been so busy. Here’s a sample:

Sage and Elena are very busy on the beach.

Kids on a log.

Swotti from Neverending Story? The Kinetic Sculpture Race in Arcata is amazingly fun. Thank you, Kari!

Yup, the trees grow big here in Cascadia!

I climbed a big mountain–the tallest in Oregon!

Sylvan’s in the midst of his first season of baseball. He pays attention, which is 90% of the game (and of life, his Dad will tell you). Here he is playing first, readying himself for the play.

Elena graduated from preschool while wearing a clown nose.

Mom (and Elena) had never been to Yosemite, so the kids, Mom, and I went down for a quick trip. Great weather the whole time, no marauding bears.

Here’s the Yosemite Valley looking like a Hudson River School painting.

I climbed Mountain #15 for the year while I was in Yosemite: Lembert Dome up in Tuolumne Meadows, a great little pre-dinner hike.

Sitting on a rock in the sun in the Tuolumne Meadows campground, near one of the world’s loveliest rivers, the Tuolumne, which the kids and Mom used as inspiration to paint pictures and do yoga.

Long Hike Thoughts

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 5 March 2013, 8:30

I met the bearded man just after I’d skied over the bridge, topped with about three feet of snow, piled to the top of the bridge’s railing (I didn’t do the math, but I wondered how much extra weight was just sitting on that bridge all winter long). I planned to explore a new ski trail for me, along the north side of Gold Lake. As a Backcountry Ski Patroller, a large part of my “job” is connecting with the public and helping them have great, snowy, winter experiences, so I stopped to chat as this man awaited his companion.

As I figured out how many miles they had already snowshoed that morning (about 5, down from the South Waldo Lake Shelter), then found out what they were training for (hiking the Continental Divide Trail), it suddenly dawned on me that I’d met Sunshine and her Dad (trail name: Balls). I first read about the duo on the Backpacking Light website in 2011, when they were completing their Pacific Crest Trail journey. Last year, they hiked the Appalachian Trail. So, this year, they’re going for the Triple Crown with their CDT hike, completing all three long hikes by the time Sunshine is 13. This 12-year-old has more experience with bear hanging, sleeping on the ground, trail food, and pushing herself through challenges than most people will ever have. As I considered the school that Sunshine has missed in the past three years, I kept coming back to what she’s gained in self-confidence and outdoor skills from her experiences.

Earlier that morning, I’d talked with my friend Walter about adventures with kids: living abroad, rock climbing, and, yes, even through-hiking. A couple of things have been pointing me toward more serious adventures with my kids. First, I just started a book, Before They’re Gone by Michael Lanza, about a family’s year-long quest to visit National Parks imperiled by climate change. Although I’ve only just begun reading it, it’s easy to see that this family had what most people would consider “grown-up-sized” adventures. In the first chapter, they’re heading out for an early spring, 4-day, 29-mile backpack with a 7- and 9-year-old on icy Grand Canyon trails. That’s believing in your kids and their abilities!

After meeting Monkey, who turned nine while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last summer, I’ve been considering how feasible it might be to complete a long hike with one or both of my children. The PCT was Monkey’s idea, by the way. She wasn’t coerced. Last summer, when we gave Monkey and her Mom a ride to their campsite after they’d inhaled 1200-calorie meals of pizza and milkshakes, I asked Sylvan if he’d like to try a long-distance hike with me. He balked. The little one, though, seemed interested. With her constant singing and smiley demeanor, she’d be the perfect companion, too! Sunshine to balance my native grumbles. I asked her yesterday if she’d like to try some backpacking this summer. Without looking up from her art project, she said, “Yes.” As she shapes up as a hiker, we’ll see if she enjoys pulling off long days (with enough Jelly Bellies) and is driven by the challenge of a good, long-term goal. I hope so!

This is why I’m on the Backcountry Ski Patrol (and why I can’t imagine leaving Oregon, even when I wish we lived much closer to grandparents). Look at that sunshine!

Beating the Heat

Posted by julie on Friday, 17 August 2012, 0:09

What a joke. It was supposed to be 100 degrees today; it turned out to be 93. When it was 90 yesterday, I said to someone, “It can’t be more than 85, right? It just doesn’t feel that hot.” That’s what two weeks on the east coast will get you. 80 degrees and humid there was, well, darn hot.

My squadron and I had a heat-beating plan in effect for today. After picking everbearing Albion strawberries in the morning (McKenzie River Farm still has lots of berries; go get your jam fixin’s), we headed upriver with our cooler of berries to the headwaters of the McKenzie: Clear Lake. Water doesn’t get any colder than that. We could barely wade in up to our knees before hopping out with numb legs. And the air temperature up there, at 3200 feet, certainly wasn’t in the 90s. Best of all, we didn’t even have to put on sunscreen, because both our wading spot and our picnic spot were shaded. It was lovely—not shivery and not sweaty.

 

"Mom, will you tell us a story?" I regaled them with memories from elementary school (I tried not to be too preachy; only some of my stories had morals).

 

Elena wanted to check out Fish Lake, 2 miles up the road. It was probably formed at the same time as Clear Lake, during a lava flow 3000 years ago that dammed them both. Fish Lake dries up every summer and becomes a meadow–a meadow where there are thumbprint-sized crawling frogs.