Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.
Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Re-found Blogger Friend and "Rush" - Mon., Sept. 30

A number of months ago, I started reading the blog Linda's Lens: Life's Adventures through the Eye of My Camera. I loved her photography and writing style and had her on a reading list. However, when transferring the blogs I read to Feedly, I must have somehow missed transferring hers and haven't read the blog for a while. She commented on one of my blog posts and I wrote asking where in the Portland area was she and did she have time to meet for lunch. She works in downtown Portland as a civil engineer and we were able to meet today for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant.

Linda and Susan at lunch.
We were set to meet in the lobby of the building where she worked. On the way downtown, I stressed about how I would find her. Some of the big buildings downtown have huge lobbies with people coming and going. Luckily, she worked in a building with a small lobby. In fact, I felt a little out of place waiting for her...there was no place to sit and I was loitering with people keeping an eye on me. But as soon as she came out of the elevator, we eyed each other and knew right away we were meeting each other. If we had met earlier in the week, we could have done some walking together, weather permitting.

Lunch ended up being about 35 minutes, but we were able to wolf down our food and manage to talk too. It was a short visit because I parked on the street at a one-hour meter. Portland is notorious for giving parking tickets and I didn't want one! It would have turned my $1.60 meter rate into a ticket for more than $25.

With my belly full of Chicken with Peanut Curry Sauce and jasmine rice. We walked about four blocks together back toward my car in the pouring rain. She headed back to work and when I got to my car, it was blocked in by a city work truck and trailer. They were repairing the street behind my car. My meter time expired and I needed to head home to pick up Mom to go see a movie. I found one of the workers standing beside a dump truck and asked if I could get my car out. He was very nice, said to give him a minute, and came to back up the truck and trailer so I could sneak out of the spot.

Once again, rain poured down in sheets as I drove I-5 south. A couple of times the traffic came to a stop because of big puddles on the freeway. We had to drive through them very slowly because it was a few inches deep. Another time, I was in the fast lane and cars driving northbound were hitting water on their side which came flying over the center divider and hit the cars going southbound. Nasty driving! Again, I couldn't wait to get off the freeway onto side roads.

I picked up Mom and we went to Cinetopia in Beaverton, a living room theater with recliners and foot rests. Comfy. The Groupon I had included tickets for two, and a $9 voucher for the bar. I took the voucher to the bar to find out what I could buy. I was able to buy one 5 oz. glass of wine (I chose Riesling). Mom had one sip and let me drink the rest.

The movie "Rush" was exciting. Formula 1 racing on a big screen makes you feel like you're on the race track.  "Rush" is based on the true story of two racers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda, who were in stiff competition to win the Gran Prix in 1976. We learn about the personalities of Hunt and Lauda as well as their all-consuming competitiveness with each other. During one of the races, Niki Lauda had a problem with his Ferrari at a high rate of speed resulting in a crash and fire which burned him severely. Lauda is deeply effected by his burns and it shows in his racing. We enjoyed the movie, I give it four stars out of five.

Tonight, I made dinner for Mom. We had salmon, steamed acorn squash with butter and cinnamon and some left-over cucumber-tomato salad. After dinner, Mom had me open my birthday present. (Note: My birthday isn't until late November, but we won't see each other then.) She gave me two bottles of pear syrup. We tried samples of it when we did our Fruit Loop Tour. It was so good! We will have it on pumpkin pancakes or over frozen yogurt. Thank you, Mom.

My sister, Jan, is coming over at 8:00 p.m. because she wants to give me a present too. Then I'll have to pack and head for bed. I'm getting up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for my 7:05 a.m. flight.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be back in Bob's arms in San Antonio. Thank you, honey, for holding down the fort while I was gone. I love you.

Travel Bug out.

Movie Review: Prisoners - Sun., Sept. 29

This was quite a Sunday. At 11:00 a.m. my girlfriend (from my days of working at AAA) and I went to see the movie "Prisoners" starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhall. I was reluctant to see the movie because of the ratings saying there were scenes of torture. But after I read more reviews about how this movie played out like a Hitchcock story, that it is a thriller, and you need to watch closely for the clues, I decided to go see it.  

While there are some violent scenes, everything worked together to make a top-notch movie. The story was well written and the actors played their roles very well. My favorite character was Jake Gyllenhall as long-suffering Detective Loki who is doing his best to follow the evidence to find the kidnapper of two little girls. 

Hugh Jackman was over-the-top as the father of one of the girls who decides to take the law into his own hands. He feels the police aren't doing enough to find his little girl. He is sure he knows who took the girls and wants answers from that person. The lengths he goes to to try to elicit information are extreme.

Overall, I really liked the movie. The suspense was intense throughout as we rode along with Detective Loki while he tried to track down the kidnapper. The ending was as suspenseful as the rest of the movie. Very scary.

After the movie, Cathy and I went to Gustav's German Restaurant for lunch and caught up on our lives. She and her husband, Bob, just finished a 4,000 mile vacation through California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah so we got to discuss travel as well.

From lunch, I headed out to Troutdale, Oregon, to meet our good friends Claude and Penny for dinner. Claude and Penny own Marco Polo Designs which sells jewelry of their design made from hand-blown glass beads which they have custom made in Italy. They live in their 5th wheel close to where their storefront is located. We headed over to the 5th wheel to talk and I got my kitty fix too. They have two gorgeous black Persians. Their boy kitty decided my lap was a good place to land. Very sweet. 

They then took me to dinner at a good Italian restaurant in Troutdale close to their shop. We had a yummy meal.  I had a big chicken/avocado/mango salad, Penny had Jambalaya and Claude had spaghetti bolognese. For dessert we had decadent light (almost a sponge cake) chocolate cake with fruit (pineapple, peaches, grapes) in it. We liked it a lot. I headed back to Mom's at 7:00 p.m.

Stormy, dark, windy describes the conditions I drove home in. It was really nasty weather. The car was hydroplaning and the spray from cars and trucks made it hard to see. I was really happy to get off the freeway tonight. It was a 45 minute drive home.

At 8:00 p.m. Amazing Race was on TV so I got to see the season opener. What a fun show.

Tomorrow will be busy as well. For lunch, I plan to meet Linda, one of my blog followers, for lunch in downtown Portland. In the afternoon, Mom and I are going to see "Rush" at Cinetopia, an upscale, living-room-type movie theater with comfy recliners. Groupon had a deal for both of us to get in for $10 which includes a bottle of wine. Should be a good movie-going experience.

I'm cooking dinner for Mom, and my sister will come over after she gets off work to visit once more before I fly home on Tuesday morning.

Stay tuned. Travel Bug out.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Movie Review: The Grandmaster - Sat., Sep., 28

Mike and I chose to go see "The Grandmaster," a movie about the history of kung fu.  Past martial arts movies I have enjoyed are "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Jackie Chan movies, and "The Karate Kid." But this movie puts then all to shame.

Suffice it to say, I fell in love with this movie about China in the era from 1929 to 1954. The story starts out with a history of Chinese kung fu in-fighting. The North didn't like the South and vice versa. Each area took pride in their forms of kung fu and challenges were held to decide a Grandmaster. The movie is based on legendary kung fu master Ip Man. Ip Man trained Bruce Lee in the martial art of kung fu.

The opening fight sequence was spectacular and moody. It took place in heavy rain and the photography was spot on, following foot placement, hand forms and raindrops flowing off capes, hats and shoes.

Other fight sequences were clever and well thought out. For me, it was fascinating to watch all the precision and subtleties of kung fu. I also learned quite a bit about the sport and the philosophy of martial arts from this movie.

One drawback to the movie was the subtitles. Usually I don't mind them, but the photography and nuances of expression and fight sequences demanded that I watch them. It was hard to keep up with the subtitles because I wanted to watch the action.

In about 1934-1936, the Japanese invaded China causing much strife, turmoil, starvation and death in the Chinese population. We follow two families: one from the North and one from the South, two of whom end up in Hong Kong. We learn about family, honor and relationships.

I realize this movie may not be everyone's cup of tea. I wasn't sure it would be mine, but I truly enjoyed it. Five out of five stars. [Be sure to stay past the first final credits as there is more movie, but once that extra part is done, there's nothing left but credits.]

The Oregon Garden - Fri., Sept. 27

Major rainstorms with wind are predicted for Oregon. It was supposed to start tonight. Guess what? The rain and wind kicked up on our way south to The Oregon Garden in Silverton. As we drove south from Tigard, the rain decreased. By the time we got to the garden, we had wind and a few sprinkles. That was about to change.

We used my Groupon for half-price admission for four people ($22) which was pretty good. As soon as our hands were stamped to prove we paid, the docent in the visitor center said, "A tram should be arriving right about now." The 25-minute tram tour is included in the admission.

Sure enough, as soon as we walked out to the tram stop, a tram arrived. The tram is open air, but has plastic "windows" that can be rolled down to provide protection from wind and rain. Mom and Jan rolled their windows down, but I wanted to take photos and so did the lady next to me. We left our window up. There wasn't any rain, but the wind was chilly. 

Mom and Jan before they rolled their "window" down.
The tram.
The garden is 120 acres, 80 acres are developed. Water for the garden is provided by twice-filtered water reclaimed from the sewage treatment plant. In order to meet water-quality standards, the water has to be cooled as it is too warm as it comes from the treatment plant. The first area the tram took us through was the wetlands. A number of ponds were created so the water could flow from pond to pond, thus cooling it.

Here is a photo log of our tram tour:

Conifer garden

White oak savannah
The large tree on the left in the photo below is a protected signature oak, one of the oldest on earth.

400-year-old Signature Oak, an Oregon Heritage Tree.
I call these "wizard" trees.
Still lots of color in the garden!
Beautiful plant - don't know what it is.
Willamette Valley Ponderosa Pine.
The trees in the following photo are poplars. These are planted as a crop and can grow eight feet in one year. Their bark is ground up, mixed with water and used to create pressboard, cardboard and high-quality paper. This is a great renewable resource.

Ooh...weird plant.
The "living" sea serpent made with succulents/sedums.
Jan, Mom, Mike in the Conifer Garden.
I love all the different greens in these conifers.
A few weeks ago, the tree below was hit by lightning. The garden is leaving it as it is to show the power and destructive force of Mother Nature.

Tree struck by lightning.
One of the reflecting pools. I'm reflecting on autumn.
Our tram driver spent quite a bit of time talking about the Oregon Garden Resort next to The Oregon Garden. All stays include free admission to The Oregon Garden and you can walk from the resort, through a gate, and be at a tram stop or on a trail to take you into the garden.

We finished our tram tour, then walked through part of the garden. As we were walking up to the reflecting pools, I started to have a vertigo attack and became very dizzy. My sister had me sit down on the rock wall that goes around the reflecting pool. I closed my eyes and stayed very still for a couple of minutes. Luckily the episode passed and we continued on.

It was lunch time, so we walked up the path to The Oregon Garden Resort to have lunch in their dining room. (Most lunches are under $10.) What a lovely place to have lunch. The view overlooks the gardens and the Willamette Valley. Today was not the best day to enjoy the view because the rains came while we were eating. The clouds lowered giving limited views.
We walked through here to The Oregon Garden Resort for lunch.
Front door of the Oregon Garden Resort.
In October, The Oregon Garden is having an event called "Scarecrows in the Garden." The resort is getting in on the fun and created these two lovely scarecrows.

Scarecrows at the Resort.
After our healthy lunch, we headed out to wait for the tram to take us back to the visitor center. Picture if you will, strong, gusty winds and driving rain. We have ten minutes to wait for the tram in the gazebo. The gazebo has no walls. Mom and Jan went up to the covered patio to wait. Mike and I kept an eye out for the tram from the gazebo. Brr. Four chilled people boarded the tram. Thankfully, all the "windows" were rolled down and zipped up. So ended our day at The Oregon Garden.

Back at Mom's by early afternoon, we decided to watch a DVD called "Evening" that we had checked out from the library. The cover description sounded pretty good with an all-star cast: Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Hugh Dancy, and Glenn Close. It's supposed to be about the power of the past and the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters, family, and the loves of their lives. Our recommendation: don't bother. We didn't finish watching it. About half-way through Mom and Jan stopped watching to finish dinner preparations. It was a weird, boring movie.

For dinner we had dark turkey meat that had been in the slow cooker all day, broccoli, mashed yams, and cranberry sauce. Such a good meal for a cold, wet day. For dessert, Mom made peach crisp from peaches we bought in the orchard yesterday.

Jan took off after dinner to go to a singles social at church. Mike, Mom and I played Rummikub. Mike headed home about 8 p.m. At 9 p.m., Mom and I watched Shark Tank, which we absolutely love.

In all the driving we've been doing the past couple of days, we have seen many RVs out and about...many heading south, but some probably heading out for the start of hunting season. I'm thinking they've been hearing the weather forecast and decided to skedaddle out of here. 

Plans for us to go to the coast tomorrow are off. Weather maps are showing red, there are weather alerts on TV about heavy rain, with wind gusts up to 60 mph, and possible flooding. No way do I want to drive two hours out and two hours back in that kind of weather.

Instead, Mike and I are going to see "The Grandmaster" in downtown Portland. Enjoy your weekend.

Travel Bug out.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Columbia River Gorge - Thurs., Sept. 26 - Part 2

A trip to Hood River wouldn't be complete without taking the scenic highway to see many waterfalls. Here is a pictorial of our stops along the Highway 30, AKA the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway, or simply, the scenic highway...

Jan, Mike, Mom at Horsetail Falls.
Me and my son, Mike.
Wahkeena Falls
Cascades below Wahkeena Falls (photo by Mike G.)
Shepperd's Dell
Shepperd's Dell trail.
Mom, Jan, Mike at Shepperd's Dell.
Shepperd's Dell, end of short trail.
Latourell Falls.
Bottom of Latourell Falls.
Columbia River Gorge as seen from Crown Point.
Mom and Jan on the balcony at Vista House (built in 1916).
And that concludes our day trip to Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge. I hope you enjoyed it.

Travel Bug out.

The Fruit Loop - Thurs., Sept. 26

Peaches, pears, and apples - oh my! With white and gray, non-threatening clouds leading us through the Columbia River Gorge, we eventually shed the rocky gray walls and low-hanging clouds to find a stunning, sun-shiny day in Hood River County. For years, I wanted to travel the Fruit Loop Route around Hood River during the peak season. Today we finally did it.

First stop, Visitor Info Center to pick up a Fruit Loop map. Then we were on our way into Hood River Valley. First stop: photo op of dramatic Mt. Hood peeking out from behind the clouds, but keeping its top firmly planted in a cloud cap.

Mt. Hood showing off fresh snow.
The rental SUV - a Ford Escape.
Pearl's orchard was our first stop where we took a look at all the apples hanging on the trees. We found Elberta freestone peaches and bought a box of 16. Samples of different types of pears were on the cutting board and we tasted our way through those. Bartletts had the sweetest flavor. We bought peaches, Honey Crisp apples, and honey.

Pearl's store.

Apples ready for harvest.
About two miles down the road, our next stop was The Gorge White House with fields of flowers in bloom. They not only had a flower patch, but we also saw ever-bearing strawberries almost ready to pick. We were told they would have strawberries for sale until the first frost. In the house proper a local artist had his works on display. We thought he was superb. Next to the house was a farm store selling apples, pears, peaches, pear syrup, Pinot Noir Chocolate Truffle Sauce (oh yummy) and various preserves.

The Gorge White House
Beautiful signage.
Dahlia photo courtesy of my son, Mike.
Echinacea purpurea Ruby Giant
Mike amongst the dahlias.

Jan (sister) enjoying the pretty flowers.

Wow - Mike captured this beautifully.
Me dallying in the dahlias.
 Mike spotted this frog trying to get out of our way and snapped a photo. Looks like a tree frog.

Massive sunflower (photo by Mike G.)
A field of sunflowers.
Hood River Valley at midday.
Guess I won't park here!
Sauces, syrups, preserves and honey.
Off we went for cider at Fox Tail Cider. I had cold, fresh apple cider, Jan had hot apple cider and Mike ordered an apple/peach hard cider. We stopped briefly in an apple harvesting museum. The most interesting find was an antique Fageol tractor. Other than that, this stop was a bust.

At the alpaca farm, cuteness ruled. Alpaca food was 25 cents for a small cup. Our popularity soared as soon as the alpacas heard the food coming out of the machines.

This was all the rage at Paris Fashion Week.
Lunch time.
This alpaca didn't want just what was in my hand, it wanted the cup too!
Sweet baby alpaca (photo by Mike G.)
Mike with an alpaca.
Love this photo!
Alpaca kids.
The alpaca kids above just finished chasing a squirrel out of their pasture. In unison, they all turned to look up at us. What were they thinking?

For Karen Pfundtner, check out the loom below and the skeins of alpaca wool.

Packer Orchards & Bakery, our next stop was a true find and a gem. If you are ever doing the Fruit Loop Tour don't miss a stop here! When you walk into their showroom, you see bins filled with cookies and on top of the bins are free samples of the cookies in the bins. My, oh my. I'll tell you what, that is the best marketing ever. People were falling all over themselves snapping up cookies. The cookie samples move those cookies right up to the cash register.
Packer Orchard & Bakery.
Convenient bags for purchase are on top
of the bins along with cookie samples.
Mike chooses pumpkin chocolate chip.
When we finished buying our bounty of cookies, we headed back to Pearl's for more fruit: Bartlett pears and another box of peaches.

All that cookie tasting was making us hungry so we went into historic downtown Hood River and found a cafe where we had a delicious lunch. Mike had a meat loaf sandwich, I opted for a turkey Reuben with side salad, my sister had a French dip sandwich, and Mom had a half turkey deli sandwich with side salad. All of us enjoyed our meals

Today's blog will be continued in Part 2 - The Columbia River Gorge.