Archive for the ‘back home’ Category

things I miss from the Netherlands, part #9234

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

At this time of year, when I’m getting read to take a long vacation from work, I miss the phrase “t/m”. It is very useful, and we have no good equivalent in English. It stands for “tot/met”, literally “to/with” and is used in the sense of “up to and including” as in “I will be on holiday from tomorrow t/m January 2”. There’s no easy way to say that in English that doesn’t involve a lot more typing!

But the thing I think we both still miss most is still living in the center of town and being able to walk to millions of restaurants within a 10-15 minute stroll. (Even if they all serve so slowly that every dinner out takes two hours!) OK, maybe not millions, but I bet there are over a hundred bars and restaurants within that distance from our old flat. We could live in the Pearl here, but even there the restaurant density is not nearly as high, plus our house would cost three times as much as the one we bought in Hillsboro and our commute would be forty minutes instead of five (except when there was bad weather or accidents, when it could double). And the rowing club – we miss the rowing club a lot. Portland has them, they’re just a bit far to make rowing on workdays practical.

doing Oregon things

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

It seems like we’re always too busy, so it was good this weekend to take the time to do local things – the sort we used to do a lot back when we moved to Arizona, before they filled up the lake there and rowing took over our lives. I miss things like hiking and rock climbing; I also miss going out to restaurants even if my own cooking has leveled up a bit. This weekend we did both.

We started out Saturday morning at Longbottom coffee for breakfast; they may market themselves as mostly a coffee and tea shop, but they actually had a fiarly diverse breakfast menu, and they were happy to make my breakfast burrito without eggs. (I don’t have food intolerances, just don’t like them). Ted had an egg strata thingy that he also seemed to like. I actually didn’t like the coffee quite as much as the food – my decaf latte was OK, but Ted’s regular decaf tasted burnt – not dark roasted, but kind of burnt. But a) I’m not really a coffee person and b) we both had decaf, as mentioned, so take that with a grain of salt. Anyway, it as pretty decent, just not stellar. We’ve been disappointed with the breakfast places around here, since they tend toard being either greasy or limited of menu, so this was a nice find.

Since we’d decided to go out for dinner too, I wisely ate only have of my breakfast and got a box for the rest (the potatoes that came with my burrito were definitely worth saving! and the burrito itself held up for today’s lunch.)

We went grocery shopping, erged, and did some errands, then went to the Chart House for dinner. The view was spectacular – we could see downtown, the river, Mt Hood and Mt. St. Helens. The food was good; my beet salad with goat cheese, arugula, and “prosciutto crisps” (aka fancy bacon bits!) was probably the high point for me, though Ted’s salmon and my mixed seafood grill, with salmon, shrimp scampi, and crab cake were also tasty (except the crab cake, but I think I just don’t like those). The one disappointment was the winelist – nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but even though the restaurant is a chain, when it’s in a wine region as rich as this one I’d expect something more regionally slanted. I suspect this means the menu is standard across the chain, too.

On Sunday we hiked up Saddle Mountain which is why I’m sore today. The weather was good and lots of people had the same idea, so the parking lot was pretty crowded. It’s a little over 2.5 miles, with a 1600′ elevation gain; apparently it had been longer than I’d realized since I’d done a hike like that. By the steepest bits near the top, I was not only huffing but having to stop for a minute after every little segment fo the trail. I’m in pretty good shape from rowing at the moment, but I find I get tired just as fast when I do other sports. The main place it helps is that I recover a lot faster than I would otherwise. The hike was well worth being tired then and sore today; once you get to the peak, you can see the ocean to the west and south, and Mountains Hood, Saint Helens, Adams and Ranier to the east and north. It was both pretty and comfortable hiking this time of year, too; cool enough for a light jacket but no more than that (meaning that half the Portlanders hiking past us were in shorts, the remainder wore tights or jeans, and the vast majority were in sneakers rather than hiking boots), and with long views all the way up that will be obscured by leaves in another month or two. Right now the branches are just putting out buds, so there were bits of green everywhere without covering up the view.

There were daffodils along the road on the drive there too, as well as the flowering trees I’m seeing everywhere (cherry or dogwood or probably both). Those wild daffodils are one of the things I love about spring here.

The next couple of weekends (which bracket my birthday) will be good too – first there’s the Rose City Yarn Crawl, where I’ll be spending one day in a limo visiting all the participating yarn stores with other knitters, and the next day showing off my own patterns in a local store. Then after that we’re going skiing, another “first in a long time” event.

our Fourth weekend

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Well, the relaxation is finally starting to wear off.

We spent July 4 weekend visiting Ted’s grandfather, who lives in a small town out in the Oregon high desert, just north of the California border. His parents were there too (we split cooking duties – we did dinners, they did breakfast and lunch). We took it easy on the drive down – 2.5 hours to the lake house, stayed there overnight, then drove the other 4 hours. While there, I did a bunch of cooking – five people take a lot more cooking for than two people! But my spatchcocked chicken went over well, and so did the sugar-free grain-free pecan pie (mostly nuts and honey) and the cheesecake-stuffed strawberries. (I tried to make a dairy-free version of those, too, but it didn’t work – the special 10-hour yogurt she makes was too runny – so I made a yogurt-honey dip for strawberries instead. Meh.) Otherwise it was easy stuff, like steaks and burgers and corn. (A gluten-free pro-tip discovered by MIL for those who don’t eat bread: if you pile two hamburgers together, you can put your condiments and toppings between them.)

We did a lot of stacking firewood, and Ted returned to his Oregon-boy roots by splitting all the remaining wood by hand with a maul on the second day. Grandfather-in-law has a splitter, but Ted claimed this was “more fun”. I tried it, but the maul is too big and havy for me, which I conclusively proved by having it bounce off the log I was trying to split. My wrists were really bothering me that day, so I was sort of afraid to really swing it and tweak them further. (My wrists have tendonitis or something normally anyway, but now I have what the doctor has just confirmed is a ganglion cyst on the back of one wrist. Ted managed toaccidentally jam it the night before that, causing extreme pain and the cyst to deflate, though it has since come back.)

Other than that, the time was mostly spend hanging out, talking, and looking at GFIL’s collections of guns and chainsaws (he makes and repairs the former and uses the latter to cut down all that wood we stacked). One thing people never discuss about guns is that, from an engineering point of view, they are beautiful machines, with complex moving parts that fit together perfectly and every curve precision-engineered for a purpose. There were also well-engineered tools of a totally different type – he gave me a set of interchangeable knitting needles that had been Grandmother-in-law’s. (I think they’re an old Boye set. Nice joins, and they go all the wasy from size 2 to size 15, but the cables are pretty stiff. I value them though – I already have sets of interchangeables from Hiya Hiya, Webs, Addi and Denise, but I bought all of those in a store. Not the same as an inherited set.)

We got some great stories from GFIL of growing up herding sheep, fighting in the Philippines in WWII, and his time running a wildlife refuge, and to just spend a lot of time talking to him and various other friends and relations who stop by – he gets a lot of company.

And we got to see fireworks – we never did figure out why they started much later than expected, but they were really good once they did. We sat across a field from the fairgrounds where they were let off and had a great view without being stuck in the crowds afterward.

Then we drove home by a different route; it was kind of fascinating to watch the landscape change. It’s all pine trees and mountains as you drive across the state, but there are the nearly olive-colored pines set far apart beneath bare mountains of the high desert, the snowy peaks of the Cascades, the jungly emerald overgrown pine forests near Eugene, and the pure green pine forests with undergrowth but without that layer of vines and mosses growing on all surfaces.

So basically, how we spent our holiday: lots of driving, lots of stories, lots of splitting and stacking wood, lots of cooking, handling guns, discussing the pros and cons of different chainsaws, and looking at fireworks, pine trees and mountains. I can tell it was a good vacation because the relaxation took entire days to wear off.

Oh, and the whole washer saga might finally be concluded tomorrow! THe repairs are being finished up today and the replacement washer is supposed to be delivered tomorrow. Yay!

catching up some more

Friday, June 13th, 2014

There has been some happier stuff in the last month, though in a way I still feel like I’m waiting for Dad’s death to really hit me.

On Memorial Day weekend we bought kayaks, so now we have multiple ways to get out on our lake. I’ve really enjoyed paddling, because it’s such a different experience from rowing; it’s like the difference between hiking vs training for a running race; you’re just out there, paddling around, stopping whenever you feel like it to look around and appreciate the lake and the woods around it. There’s really no better way to appreciate how beautiful good weather in Oregon can be.

Last week I had another cool opportunity due to the book: I was invited to go out and speak to an executives’ group in Rhode Island. So I flew out Wednesday, spoke Thursday morning and flew right back. I’m still a bit mindboggled at how much they paid for my time, considering airfare, hotel, and a copy of my book for each of their members, but they seemed happy with me and they were a good participative audience. It was fun – all I need now are enough people who want me to speak or consult and I can have a new career!

Next weekend we are hosting a retreat; some of my local knitters are coming out to the lake house, which is nearby to Eugene’s Black Sheep Gathering. So we’ll knit during the day and hang out and drink wine in the evening. This is the first time we’ve done this, but we’d love to have houseparties or rowing workshops there, so we’re hoping it works out well.

And a brief commercial: when we were in Philly helping Mom get cleaned out, we used 1-800-GOT-JUNK to haul away the stuff that couldn’t be donated. They must just google periodically for their name, because they found where I’d written about it, and asked me to include a link. Since we really were pleased with their service, which was efficient and exactly as promised (and admittedly, I used the contact with their guy to plug my book to him!), you will see the direct link in the beginning of this paragraph. They are franchised in a bunch of cities.

Back to work

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Some of you may have seen hints about this on Facebook, but I realized I should announce it properly: I start work (paid-job-type-work) tomorrow.

I will be a Quality Manager at a medium-sized company that provides “Complete architectural, engineering, environmental analyses and property survey services for commercial, government, institutional and healthcare industries” (the words are from their website). I’ll mostly be working with the local part, that builds and modifies fabs for semiconductor and medical-tech companies; they’re in the process of merging with a slightly bigger company that is more into the general office architectural side so I get to help get the two sides’ process systems to play together nicely.

This is the job I really wanted, that I had three interviews for; I’ve worked in semiconductors but not architectural work, so it ought to be the perfect blend of stuff I know and new things to learn. The company has all kinds of awards for being a great place to work, with excellent benefits, and the commute is 5-10 minutes – in fact it’s just down the block from teds company, so we might be able to carpool, though as it’s less than 2 miles away biking is also an option.

I think I’m ready to go back; with the book done, I need a new challenge. Tomorrow will be mostly orientation, so should be an interesting but quiet start to being employed again.

Wish me luck!


Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

All that I know
Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
(Like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too,
My star that dartles the red and the blue!

Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled:
They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
What matter to me if their star is a world?
Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.
— Robert Browning

And now you know why my new Etsy shop is named Dartle. Most of the bead jewelry I make is either natural stone or very sparkly glass and crystal; it tends to be inspired by water, mountains or stars. I wanted a name that would suggest some of those things (at least to me!), and many of the sea and star-related names I thought of were already taken.

I used to do a lot of bead-and-wirework, but it got to where I had more than I could wear, didn’t have many people to give them to, and thought it would be difficult to sell them while living in the Netherlands or Taipei. I was getting Beads of the Month, too, but finally had to stop because I had more beads than I could use. For a while I made things and put them in a bowl to sell ‘someday’, but that felt so unrewarding. Someday is here now, though; I’ve started making things again, now I have a place to sell them.

You can see all pieces here at the shop, but here’s a sampling:

The difficult part seems to be marketing. Obviously I like sales, but if my stuff is not your style, or you don’t want to buy anything for whatever other good reason, I’d also appreciate mentions to friends, Facebook sharing, Etsy favoriting, Pinterest linking or whatever.

Note: A couple of these pieces have already sold, but they’re good examples of what I can do. In many cases I have similar beads and can make something similar or slightly different on request.

Note: a few of these pieces have already been sold, but they’re good examples of what I can do. In many cases I’ve got more of the same beads and can make similar (not exactly the same) pieces on request.

meet the new family members

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Oolong and Macchiato:



Macchiato is the more outgoing; we put them in our bedroom to start with, and as you can see she’s been exploring a bit. She seems to like water (she was rolling around with my water bottle earlier, too). Oolong just comes out now and then to eat or use the litterbox, though she has let me pet her and purred at me. She’d made it clear she’s not terrified or anything; she simply prefers staying under the bed for the moment.

I’ve ended up being prompted into research by both of them already, in one case into coffee and the other into cats. The names Oolong and Macchiato are because we wanted names to reference Taiwan and the Netherlands, as well as fitting the cats. The Dutch do drink a lot of coffee, but typically use the Italian names fo specific drinks. Apparently this cat is a latte macchiato (steamed milk with a shot of espresso, which is a layered drink with a dark spot on top) rather than a caffe macchiato (espresso with a shot of steamed milk, leaving a white spot on top). We were going to call her Mach for short, but that doesn’t seem to fit (too abrupt for her, and she isn’t actually all that fast) so I think it will be Macca or Maka for daily use.

Someone didn’t filter out the tea leaves for Oolong, leaving her stripy. Apparently that makes her a caliby – a calico because she’s got three colors, and a tabby because of the stripes. I’ve been seeing some dire hints about caliby cattitudes, but nothing definite. So far, they both actually seem pretty mellow compared to our previous cats, who were both male. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to eat those words in a week’s time, though.

Incidentally, on the house front, all the damage from the leak is now fixed, as of today – drywall replaced, subfloor dried, new flooring in place. Now we have a problem with a totally different toilet. It flushes fine, but ten minutes later all the water has drained out of the bowl. The plumber says the trap is cracked and he needs to replace the toilet bowl – he was supposed to do that today, but didn’t feel well, so he’s shooting for tomorrow. Thank goodness the house is under warranty! I think this toilet company had a batch issue.

new house!

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

On Friday we had our closing, got our keys, and moved the first batch of stuff from our apartment. Here’s me unpacking the dishes we bought:


Saturday was the Great Festival of Delivery: we had five different groups of people bringing in our major appliances (fridge, washer, dryer); most of the furniture (except the sofa, which takes longer, and a few backordered items); Ted’s monster TV; the key to our mailbox; and our mattress. Luckily the mattress came after the bed.

The house is almost done now; we’ve been scurrying around picking up small things, like kitchen canisters for flour and sugar, a spice rack, sheets because the ones we brought from Taiwan are too small, towels, and so on. This weekend we’ll borrow a panel truck and bring up most of the stuff from Lowell. I have no idea what’s still left there that we could possibly need, except our bikes. I know there’s some clothing, another rowing machine, some hangers for our clothes, mixing bowls, and some books, but half of a large room there is full of boxes and I can’t imagine what’s in all of them.

Here are some photos from during the delivery process, and the kitchen as it looks now.






Some of our bedroom furniture has secret identities. The coolest piece is the vanity we bought to use as my desk: here it is looking all mild-mannered, then after a quick trip to a handy phone booth:




Saturday, January 26th, 2013

We bought a house! We’ll be closing on February 22, so I think it will be a long month to wait, but in the meantime, things are getting busy.

Since we’re keeping the Eugene house, but since we’ve also been a bit spoiled by the apartments we’ve lived in as expats, we wanted something small but nice in Hillsboro. We’ve settled on a townhouse. It’s only got a one car garage, unfortunately, but at least there’s a long enough driveway to park the truck (which wouldn’t fit in the garage anyway). The entry is on the ground floor with the garage; on the next level (American 2nd floor, European 1st floor) is the living room, dinging room, and kitchen, all open to each other, plus a small den off the living room. We hope to put the rowing machines there, where they’ll be able to see the TV in the living room, but the townhouse is laid out with several condos sort of interleaved in one building, so that someone else’s one-story unit is below us. We’ll have to hope that, with a pad under the erg, they won’t be able to hear us in the bedroom below, or else we’ll have to put the ergs elsewhere. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms and a loft. Each bedroom has a walk-in closet (not true, even for the MBR, in many other townhouses we looked at!) and its own small bathroom. There’s decent storage overall – lots of counters in the kitchen, a pantry, a coat closet, and another shelved closet identical to the pantry over by the entrance, next to the powder room and coat closet.

This weekend we’re at our Eugene house getting everything ready, because next week they’ll finally be delivering our shipment! We’ll have to lay out all the kitchen stuff and linens and clothing, and decide what stays here and what goes up to Hillsboro. (The closets and bedroom size there are some of the best of any townhouse we looked at, but they’re still a bit small. I miss the closet and built-in storage space we had in Taiwan! On the other hand, hopefully this place is considerably better insulated from both outside temperatures and neighbors’ noise.)

Meanwhile, we’ve been buying everything. It feels like that, anyway – all our major appliances and furniture, because just about all of our existing furniture will stay at the Eugene house. Unfortunately, though most of the new stuff will be delivered the day after closing, the sofa won’t arrive until the beginning of April. Luckily, we have two comfortable glider chairs, one already in the Eugene house and one coming with the shipment, that we’ll being up so we have something to sit on. Ted’s bedroom chest will be late too, but since I don’t nee anything but casual clothing at the moment, I can leave most of mine in the other house and let him use some of my drawer space.

I am very glad that we decided I’d take some time off to work on writing projects; not only am I loving working at home and enjoying the writing itself, but it’s been a huge boon to have the free time to deal with all of this, look at houses, go back and buy things once we’ve made decisions, and accept deliveries. Wonder if I can eventually get a telecommuting job?

back from the holidays

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Our break has been great, though we didn’t do anything dramatic. First we spent a few days at our house near Eugene, and picked up Ted’s grandfather at the airport. Then we all went down and spent Christmas at his parents’ house. We went back to our place afterward, and they all came up for a few days around New Year’s (and to get his grandfather back to the airport). It turns out that keeping house and cooking for five people is hard work when you’re not used to it! My right wrist is unhappy with me now; apparently I need to start keeping it straight when washing dishes. Still, it’s rewarding cooking for people who appreciate it, and it’s always fun, both to try new recipes and to make old favorite ones.

Today, our “first flight” stuff – two suitcases and a computer – finally arrive. That usually takes a few days or a week, but it got hung up over the holidays. It will be nice to have more than the clothing we brought with us, though. I’ve worn the jeans I brought so often that I’ve put holes in the back bottom of the legs of one pair with my heels. On Monday Ted will start back to work, and I need to get started on my projects, with some breaks to explore the local area.