Monday, March 23, 2015


The Beav's much-anticipated (much-needed) spring rains have arrived. It's wet, wild and windy today -- an unpredictable mash-up of gully-washing rain and explosive bursts of sunlight.

And I have a head cold -- the first of the year. It's the perfect day to blog and binge watch Food Network and Home and Garden Television.

The perfect afternoon to talk about groundbreakings.

Groundbreaking #1

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Think Outside the Box Acres. (Yes, yes. I realize they bear a strong resemblance to a pair of coffins, but they are raised community garden beds and they are all ours.)

We weren't counting on getting a community garden spot this year Community gardening appears to be a crazy popular spring and summer sport in The Beav, and we've been on two waiting lists since the beginning of the year. But, lo and behold, we got the magic email -- and we were in! Best of all, the garden is within walking/biking distance of The Lane.

And one more little dividend. We just heard from our garden steward: There will be barbecues and other garden get-togethers! Bring it. Please note, however, that we carefully check the backseat of our car for unexpected little "dividends" during zucchini season.

We've been prepping the beds for about three weeks. This has involved removing some very impressive, very petrified onions, and cracking into a very hard, very resistant very thick crust of top soil. Ground breaking has taken on a whole new meaning.

We've also had our first introduction to one of Oregon's most hated beloved gardening resources -- clay soil. Don't ask me how clay ended up in two raised beds filled with store-bought soil, but it has. Hint: It looks like chunks of giant cat poop.

There are now many chunks of giant faux cat poop under the hedges on the north side of our community garden. And 6 cubic feet of soil amendment worked into the raised beds.

We're ready to plant -- beans, beets, radishes go into the left bed. . . and when good-size plants are available at our local farmers market, tomatoes (heirloom and cherry) will reside in the bed on the right.

There will never be anything quite like When Pigs Fly Farm, but the coffins beds at The Acres will be fun. Let's barbecue!
Bwahahahahahahah! Get it?
I love it
when vegetable gardeners make funny.
Groundbreaking #2

When we moved onto The Lane last fall, the Postage Stamp Patio consisted of two imperturbable clumps of Japanese sedge grass and one anorexic bamboo stalk. It does step down into the Sad Side Yard, which is nice -- but it's so sad that we aren't even dealing with it till next year. Instead, our focus will be the PSP.

Last fall, and well into the winter, we thought we would be creating the ultimate shade garden. It was shade, shade, shade morning, noon and night. I dreamed of ferns, hosta, varigated Jacob's ladder, foxglove and other luscious shade plants all winter long. But surprise! Although the PSP is mostly shady in the morning and early afternoon, it turns schizo on us in the afternoon -- with bright sunlight from the west dividing one-half to one-third of each bed into late after/early evening.

Hmmmmm. Back to the drawing board with a few sun-lovers -- sedum "Autumn Joy" and Tuscan Blue rosemary. They've joined some maiden hair fern and two Tasmanian pepper bushes. Yeah. They're small. They'll grow. Smaller plants are cheaper. And I'm cheap.

The bigger issue was the considerable slope of the PSP's west bed -- sloping right toward the patio. Problem solved during a weeding session. . . or perhaps, more accurately a rock-ing session. I kept turning up rocks as I weeded, which led me to look at the west bed with a speculative "What if?"

What if we leveled things off and added a small, stone "retaining wall" with all these flippin' rocks I was digging up? My date joined in the rock hunt (much to the neighbors' entertainment, I think), which soon encompassed the front and side yard, and this is our finished product:

Boom. (Pre-pansies.)
Next stop. A camelia per chance? Definitely a climbing hydrangea. And hostas? Of course.

The Postage Stamp Patio simply demands it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Be true to your skool

If you are a college basketball person, you're well aware that the NCAA's Tournament Week is in its waning days and hours.

Hearts are broken, heroes are made, tickets are punched, dance cards are crushed. These conference tournaments largely determines who goes on to The Dance -- aka, the national college basketball championship. Oh, the humanity.

My date and I are Zags -- as in Gonzaga University. The Bulldogs. They are not strangers to the NCAA tournament. Past teams have gotten there via the West Coast Conference tournament as its champion. And, I believe they've gotten there via a wild card slot maybe once or twice. Being a WCC champion is preferable. And each time it's magical.

This year's championship game was Tuesday -- against my our arch nemesis: Brigham Young University. They handed us a very regrettable loss at home last month. Bermtopia and its many outposts across the world, eg, The Beav, very nearly imploded in grief. But not quite.

An email from my college pal Oms was just the call to action needed. She had spied an alumni game day meet-up on Facebook. It was happening at a sports bar in downtown Portland's Pearl District.

Bona. fide. It was on Facebook.

Did I want to meet up? she asked. Hell yes.

Yep. That's us.
We arrived within 10 minutes of each other -- jauntily bedecked in our 100% cotton GU T-shirts.

No fellow alums.

No worries. We got down to it, eschewing our usual 60-something-ladylike glasses of wine for an IPA and pilsner because THAT's what real Bulldogs do. We succumbed to a hummus plate, however. (I refuse to discuss the "totchas,"  which involved tater tots, melted cheese and salsa. Some things that happen on the road, stay on the road. And on the hips.)

We appropriated a couple comfy sofas in front of a fire place with strategically placed big-screen TVs. The bar keep assured us that all TVs except one (a hold-out to hockey. . . really?) would carry the GU game.

And awaited the alumni meet-up.

About 5 minutes before tip-off, a fresh-faced young man in a GU T-shirt wandered in.

Class of 2014! mechanical engineer! Oms and I, of course, looked like we could be his mother and a doting auntie.

(I should point out here that it would be genetically impossible for either of us to be a mechanical engineer's mother and doting auntie: We were, after all, liberal arts majors.)

Dan, the mechanical engineer, recovered nicely after meeting the mother and doting auntie he never knew he had, ordered a brewski and hummus plate, and offered to scout out the basement bar for more Zags.

Sure enough, the gang was downstairs. In all their 20- to 30-something glory. Nevertheless, they embraced the possibility that a couple of 60-something ladies could pull on their 100-percent-cotton-Bulldog-embellished T-shirts and show up at a sports bar for game day.

We were Zags! We cheered! We booed! There were door prizes! We didn't win! But the Bulldogs did! And kicked BYU's butt!

Best of all, The Kids let us stick around to play Trivial Pursuit after the game.

Oms and I nailed the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club dog show question. And came up with a few countries intersected by the Equator. You're welcome!

In all, Mom's Night the Gonzaga alumni meet-up was a rip-roaring success.

And did I mention, the basement bar was awesome?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Zumba musings

I am, frankly, amazed with myself.

I am totally, completely, ridiculously besotted with Zumba at our quirky little YMCA in The Beav. Perhaps it's my not-so-secret obsession with "Dancing with Stars." I understand now, completely and no longer without snarky judgment, why so many celebrity dancers crack.

Do you know how freaking hard it is to master the heel-toe at a 4- and 2-count?

But, on the other hand, perhaps it's why I now love, at the age of 62, Bruno Mars ("Uptown Funk") and Pitbull (sorry, but "Fireball" is awesome. . . although, come to think of it,  I noticed recently it's been pulled from Zumba playlist. Maybe because, after watching the video, it's just slightly naughty?). Anyway. The musical mash-up of Latin, hip hop and funk is deliriously wonderful.

Perhaps it's because of the Zumba Ladies. There are veterans (ie, they mostly know most of the steps)  There are newbies (me!) -- who the veterans cluck over like a new chick: They gave my best piece of advice the first week of class:  "Don't even bother using your arms." As if it's humanly possible.

I'm still in the Limited Arm Use mode. But the ZLs assure me it will come. It will come.

Perhaps it's because Zumba Ladies work to their strengths, sometimes looking wonderfully graceful and athletic with small steps and graceful arms. And sometimes stopping in the middle of class to chat with a Zumba neighbor.

Perhaps it's because, after 8 weeks into the Zumba games, the ZLs  come up and say how amazing it is that I've caught on so quickly. That would be after a class where the ZLs and instructor were going south. . . and I was most decidedly going north-by-northwest.

And perhaps, it's those golden moments, when the Zumba Ladies tackle a new turn move, or as I like to think of it, unleash yet another Zumba zombie apocalypse of flying arms and careening middle-age bodies upon the YMCA.

And most definitely, it's the little things: At last Thursday class, one of my back-row ZL posse waved me over and pressed a 500-pound a hip scarf (okay, okay 5 pounds) into my hands. It was tricked out with 3-inch long brass torpedoes quite capable, I think, of also sinking The Lusitania. She smiled and said, "Use it. I'm in Palm Desert for the next 4 weeks."

Thank you, Zumba sister. I will. In honor of your generosity, it will get a hip-shaking, torpedo-rattling workout of epic proportions while you're gone.  And will still be smoking on your return.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bermtopia by the Sea: The 36-Hour Edition

One of the many advantages of being retired is the ability to pick up at a moment's notice for an adventure.

Well, not exactly a moment's notice. . . finding a Ben-friendly hotel in Cannon Beach proved somewhat vexing for my date. And took a couple days. Largely because when the website of said hotel said it was pet-friendly. But wasn't. 

But that's neither here nor there. We found The Guest House Inn and took off with Ben Wednesday for an overnight at the beach, or as Ben calls it, The Place of Noisy Water.

Ben: Sweet. But I won't get my paws wet.
Although Arch Cape is our go-to coastal sweet spot, we landed in Cannon Beach because of the plethora (or so we thought) of dog-friendly hotels that will book one night with you. Of course, it helps it's February -- the lowest of the low season on the Oregon coast  -- and the middle of the week. We packed for a windy, wet overnight trip -- and were rewarded with balmy shirt-sleeve (well, long-sleeve/sweatshirt) weather. 

Fat Bastard and I are having such a time of it, figuring out these mild climes.

Upon arrival, we beat feet to Ecola Seafoods for clam chowder. My date ordered the bread bowl and promptly sent a cell phone pic to the Number Two Son. Simply to torture him.

I ordered a side of pickled herring. Simply to torture my date.

Then on to the Cottage at the Guest House Inn. Just steps from the beach, it's a tidy little place, fully equipped with a serviceable kitchenette, electric fireplace and -- ahem -- the biggest jacuzzi tub I have ever seen. 

In the living room.

Use your imagination. 

*sound of crickets*

On to the beach. You know it's going to be a good walk when this is the first thing you encounter:

Don't tell Ben, but I have an inexplicable obsession with pugs.
This 14-week-old puppy cemented it.
The rest of our walks over the next 36 hours did not disappoint either. Especially a chance encounter with a South Korean choral group who took approximately 8 zillion selfies with Ben. A sweet soprano's voice guided us home Wednesday afternoon.

It's good to be retired.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Yoga lady

As a Christmas present to ourselves, my date and I joined the YMCA in The Beav.

It's a quirky place, located in the midst of a business/industrial park. There are a bazillion most excellent basketball courts -- hence, a very lively youth sports/development program. This makes me smile, thinking of the Number One and Two Sons' journey through YMCA youth sports.

And, oh, there's adult fitness too. A serviceable cardio/weight area -- and group classes.

Group classes. Hmmmm. I've never been much of a fitness class type person. Till now. I'm in: Yoga and Zumba. You've read it here. And here's why: I need to tone up.

Since retirement and our move in September, I've lost between 20 (thank you, holidays!) and 25 pounds. Oh, attribute it to stress and the physical effort of unpacking 8 zillion boxes, but I will share a deep, dark secret to my weight loss:

There are no vending machines on The Lane. 

But I digress. Let's talk yoga for just a moment, shall we?

I took a yoga class several winters ago in Bermtopia. We met in a church basement. Classes were cancelled due to snow, rescheduled in OTHER church basements, cancelled due to snow, rescheduled. . . . oh, you get the picture.

Nevertheless. I fear I may be terminally yoga-challenged: (1) The class is at 8 a.m. Following my first outing, I deduced two cups of French roast were not advisable. (2) I have bad feet.  Thanks to bunions, my left foot still takes a sharp right turn at the big toe. Balance is not happening.

Operative word: Balanced. Sigh.
Case in point: The Tree position. It seems simple enough, right? You slide one foot up the side of your leg, and hold the position, standing on one leg,  for some interminable amount of time. . . and in some, unfathomable contemplative state (sorry, that's the coffee talking).

Not me. Tap. Tap. Tap on ye olde yoga mat. That's my (sorta) uplifted foot assuring I don't do a side plant in yoga class. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Yoga instructor Jim observes The Tree is done without tapping toes.

Tap. Tap. Tap. I will return, Yoga Jim. I will return.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Like most of his canine cousins, I think Ben is perpetually perplexed by the holidays.

Walking schedules are kaput. . . favorite nap spots usurped by odd structures that faintly resemble trees but smell like Tupperware. . . and there are houseguests, whose random comings and goings are simply unacceptable for a herding dog who needs his flock present and accounted at all hours -- day and night.

His Royal Highness is perhaps the biggest game changer for Ben this year. They met briefly in Everett earlier in December, but Ben was too busy being petrified of Kitty Pants, the Number One Son's cat, to take much notice of our little bundle of human joy.

Ben's has had more time to study the the little munchkin this week -- and digest the sudden paradigm shift where he is no longer the rock star of family gatherings.

Ummm. Excuse me?
I actually think he's okay with this -- as long as there is a morning and evening walk and portions of our holiday meals are regularly deposited on the kitchen floor.

However, Ben's still getting around the fact we all think it's cute HRH pees and poops in his pants.
Dude. That's what parks are for.
And, good herding dog that he is, Ben decided he must supervise any HRH proceedings that involve the living room floor. As a result, he's become our holiday photo bomber extraordinaire:

He also was not above nicking one of His Royal Highness' Christmas presents.

Sorry, little one. This one's staying in The Beav.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cell phone tripping

Prior to our last trip north for an audience with His Royal Highness, I thought it might be judicious to clear out the photo gallery on my cell phone:

From the Bobcat Chic Department

This fellow (stuffed, I should add) greets us each time we pull into the city library parking lot. New trend in apartment decor? Gargoyle surrogate? The Beav -- epicenter of cutting-edge interior design.

From the Holiday Cheer Department

We dropped in on The Beav's annual city Christmas tree lighting earlier this month. It was quite festive:

There were carolers (well, we THINK they were carolers -- the sound was a little dodgy where we were standing, but we tapped along anyway because it's CHRISTMAS, dammit!). . . .

Pictures with the Disney princesses (sans, thankfully, "Let It Go). . .

And the tree: I will leave it up to you to decide what it resembles. . . .

From the You Can't Go Home Again Department. . .

Behold the mighty -- and vacant -- Oregonian building. I had dinner with a friend at a restaurant across the street from the old newspaper building. Back in the day, between my junior and senior years in college, I spent a summer working in the newsroom as a "copy kid." I worked the 3 to 11 p.m. shift and, aside from having my car towed one night, it was a glorious job. The city editor, Virgil, brought chocolate-coated popcorn and zucchini bread in almost every night. 'Nuff said.

My dinner mate Oms, whose dad, coincidentally, was an editor with Portland's evening paper (yes, two papers! those were the days!), and I observed a quick moment of silence before concluding they must now produce the paper out of the back of a late-model VW van.

And, finally, from the Peaceful Coexistence Department. . .

We are back in the bird business on the lane. I know that will make many of you happy. (Hi, Katie! Hi, Gay!)

We started with the black sunflower feeder. The chickadees, nuthatches and juncos love us. . . flying into the kitchen window -- not so much. There were a few awkward days involving regular, audible thumps as the little buggers overshot the feeder perch, but I'm happy to report they got the navigation down, and everyone's tiny avian heads are fine now.

More recently, I learned Anna's hummingbirds stick around all year in Portland so we added the hummingbird feeder. Come to find out -- Portland hummingbirds are just as territorial as their Bermtopian cousins.

There were a few tense moments while Attila the Hum II figured out the chickadees, nuthatches and juncos were not too interested in sugar water. Now we've got one big happy bird family.

Group hug! Tis the season, right?