Return to Manzanita

This past week, we’ve been having a major heat wave in Portland with temperatures over 100 degrees. So we have been hiding indoors, mainly either at home or at the library. So on Saturday, with the coast only reaching the low 60s, we headed out of town. We went back to the area we vacationed at in 2013 for Sean’s 30th birthday: Manzanita. That was our first ever visit to Oregon, and it was then that we realized we wanted to live here.

We started out at Oswald West State Park, just North of Manzanita. From parking lots on Highway 101, you can take a 15-minute hike through a dense and beautiful forest down to a beach called Smuggler Cove. It’s a fairly large beach surrounded by rock walls and forest that jut out into the ocean, with consistent waves that make it popular for surfers. On one end of the beach is a small waterfall and tide pools that are accessible when the tide is low. So far, this is the most scenic beach I’ve been to, and will probably be a place I return to over and over again.

After spending several hours at Smuggler Cove, we drove into the town of Manzanita to have lunch at a seafood cafe. Afterwards, we grabbed our new beach gear–2 chairs and a 7-foot umbrella–and relaxed on the gigantic beach of Manzanita. The sun had come out by then, making everything really bright and surprisingly warm. We were very proud of ourselves for having our little beach umbrella, but we both still managed to get sunburned. When I’m at the beach, I can’t resist wading in the water and walking long distances. By late afternoon when we needed to leave, I still wasn’t ready to go. I think I need to spend a week there. How is it possible that the ocean breezes can feel and smell so good?


Discovering local parks

One of the reasons we love Oregon so much is all the abundant greenery that is here. In Denver, we usually had to travel outside the city to smell fresh mountain air and feel a part of nature, but in Portland, there are forested parks scattered throughout the city that we can quickly get away to. In our own neighborhood, we like Noble Woods Park and Orchard Park, and a bit further away is Portland’s sprawling Forest Park, of which we have only scratched the surface, the one day we hiked there. I especially enjoyed the small area of old-growth Douglas Firs in the bird sanctuary. I love the Douglas Firs in Oregon, and some of them can reach ancient ages (though those are rare now, due to logging). Those towering trees were the most striking thing about Oregon to me the first time we visited here.

The tricky part is to remind yourself to step out the door and actually go enjoy these places. I want to make visiting these parks a daily or at least weekly habit. It feels so good for the soul 🙂


Sunny beach day

This past weekend, the weather for the Portland metro area was in the 90s, and we decided it would be a good time to go to the coast. We chose Cannon Beach because I’d always heard great things about it but had never been. I’m glad we arrived in the morning, because by the time we left the beach in early afternoon, it had gotten quite crowded, both on the beach and in the town, and parking was hard to come by.

The beach was beautiful, though, and I could see why it is such a popular place. Fine sand, huge rocks, colorful tide pools. The Pacific Ocean is cold here, so I saw only a few people venture out beyond ankle-deep, aside from the surfers in wet suits. Walking in the water was wonderful, and I probably walked 2 miles along the shore, up to Haystack Rock and back. Many people had tents or big beach umbrellas and chairs, which I think we will want to bring next time. I’m hoping that we can make an overnight trip sometime soon and get to explore Cannon Beach further. But with it being only an hour and twenty minute drive, day trips work just as well!


We made it! Pictures from the road.

I am happy to report that we are now on the other side of the 1,200-mile move from Denver to Portland! It’s been a hectic 2 weeks of packing, cleaning, driving and unpacking. But ever since we got on the road, it’s been a happy and exciting time. Before the trip, we were nervous about how it would go with driving a 16-foot moving truck and being in separate vehicles. Usually we love road trips but we’re used to being able to switch off driving. We were both pleasantly surprised by how smoothly everything went. We had beautiful weather, stunning scenery, not too much traffic or road construction, and the one upside to having separate vehicles is that we each got to listen to whatever we wanted (Sean caught up on Idle Thumbs podcast, and I started a new audiobook series, The Irin Chronicles)! That helped the time fly by. I was also glad that we spread the driving out into 3 days instead of 2. This meant that we could get in to our hotel by 6:00 pm each night, have dinner nearby, and get a good night’s sleep before rising early the next day.

I took a lot of pictures from the drive as I followed Sean in the yellow Penske truck. I would highly recommend to anyone the drive on I-84 through Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon!

We’re moving to Oregon!

Next month, we’re going to be loading up a moving truck and driving to our new home in Oregon! As some of my friends and family know, ever since we first started visiting the state back in 2013, we have wanted to live there. It took a while for the right circumstances and opportunity to come along, but we are finally able to make it happen!

Last month, we traveled out there to look for apartments. We settled on one in Hillsboro, a western suburb of Portland. We’ll be 12 miles from downtown, close to a light rail station, and a 1.5-hour drive to the coast. We think it will be a good starting-out spot, from which we can explore the area and figure out where we might want to settle long-term.

Because our 2nd anniversary fell on the dates of that trip, we took a day to see two of Portland’s gardens: the Rhododendron Garden and the Japanese Garden. Both of them were stunningly beautiful and we came at the right time of year when all the flowers were blossoming. The pictures in this post are all from the gardens.

The next several weeks are going to be hard work with packing and moving, but we have a lot of fun things planned for this fall, and we are excited to get to explore the West Coast in the coming years.

Learning to paint with watercolors & ink

I recently subscribed to Skillshare with a friend, and started watching classes on painting with watercolors. There’s actually a ton of other classes I want to take on all different topics, but I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time! And soon after I started learning and practicing, a coworker started an “art trading card” group at work, where you trade little cards (2.5″ x 3.5″) of handmade art with one other person each month, based on a theme. So I decided to join, because it seemed fun and like perfect timing.

For April, the theme was “rain, puddles, umbrellas, clouds, etc” so I used drab-colored watercolors to make a dreary background and clouds, and ink and gel pens to make rain and a silhouette with an umbrella.

May’s theme is “flowers and butterflies” so I decided to make butterfly wings using a technique I learned in a Skillshare class. It uses masking fluid to create an outline first. This was incredibly frustrating and messy to work with. I couldn’t figure out how to prevent bubbles from forming and the instructions that came with it were useless. But I made multiple versions to give myself room for failures. Fortunately, what I found is that when you get to the painting stage, it’s very forgiving. And the borders from the masking fluid created nice little separations for the paint colors. I added black india ink and sea salt for added effects. Then once everything dried, I peeled off the masking fluid. I love how they turned out! I want to play with masking fluid more in the future.

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Ski Train!

20170304_133313839_iOS_PSI finally got to ride the ski train to Winter Park! It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I first moved to Denver, but I did’t get a chance before it was shut down for years. It seems to be back to stay, run by Amtrak now. So we jumped at the chance to buy tickets.

It leaves Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:00 AM from Union Station, and returns by 6:00 PM those same days. We chose to leave Saturday morning and come back Sunday evening. The train ride was very comfortable–SO much better than a plane!–and the views were beautiful. It drops you off right at the base of the mountain. We spent two days meandering around the village and trying local eateries. I got a sunburn just from sitting outside and watching all the skiers come down the mountain! It was a fun weekend trip and I’m glad we did it. I wouldn’t mind taking more train trips in the future!


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Cookbooks, Journals, and getting out of the house

20170121_002844978_iOSThis winter is going by rather quickly so far–already out of January! I’ve started working a flex/9-80 schedule at work so I have every other Friday off, and I really like the change. I’ve also been driving in earlier, which means traffic is better and I’m less stressed. We’ve been cooking more often (mostly on the weekends when we have more energy), partly due to receiving 2 new cookbooks for Christmas. I probably should have taken more pictures, but I only have one: herbed goat cheese from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey.

I’ve been enjoying journaling, for the first time in a while. I received a Q&A 5-year diary for Christmas, where you answer a new question for each day of the year, and I find myself looking forward to each new entry, even though some of the questions make me roll my eyes. (Example: Which art movement best describes you today? Surrealism? Modernism? etc) Then I also went online and bought a regular 5-year diary, because I thought it would be fun to track daily happenings year to year. My grandmother used to do this and she could always tell you what the weather was like on any day in the past 20 years.

The Union Station area of downtown Denver is really booming, and we spent a Friday evening down there at the bar and one of the restaurants, and stopped at the Modern Art Museum as well. I love what a great hangout spot Union Station has become; it has such a great atmosphere. And last night, we went to a pizza place we hadn’t tried before, and found out from the owner that he had been featured on Kitchen Nightmares! (Check out the Pantaleone’s episode on Youtube.) We actually really liked the food and thought the owner was really nice. He even invited us back into the kitchen to show us pictures of his dog.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how the last few months, and in particular the last few weeks of political news has affected us. It’s not that any of our opinions or views have changed, but I think we’ve both felt more moved to act upon them. We’ve started donating to organizations we believe in and bought a digital subscription to a newspaper so that we weren’t getting most of our news from social media anymore. And for my first time, I attended a rally, which was a really good experience.


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11 days of Christmas break

I’m sad to say that my rather long and enjoyable Christmas break has come to an end. We got to see family and friends, spent time at the beach and the city, ate lots of good food, gave and received fun gifts, and just generally relaxed a lot.

On Christmas Eve day, we flew to the East coast to stay with Sean’s family in Southern Maryland. We got to stay a whole week, which was a welcome change from the typical short long-weekend trips we usually are able to take when visiting either of our families. 20161225_043533637_iosWe had so many good home-cooked meals (including my first ever biscuits with chocolate gravy), cookies, and pie. We watched movies, read books, played video games, celebrated Sean’s sister Erin’s birthday, which is the day after Christmas, and watched our niece Shylee perform a magic show. I had my fill of delicious seafood at various restaurants throughout the week, walked around Lookout Point State Park where the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay meet, and we got to walk through the Annemarie Gardens at night to see all the Christmas lights and listen to a bluegrass band perform.

We spent a day in Baltimore visiting our friends Briana and Barbara, who bought a rowhome there a couple years ago. They took us on a walking tour of the Fells Point neighborhood. We visited specialty shops and restaurants down by the water. We saw the general area where Edgar Allen Poe’s last moments were, as well as the street Billie Holiday on lived as a child, which has an alleyway covered with painted murals of her. It was during our walk that we learned of Carrie Fisher’s death, so afterward we took a break to rewatch The Force Awakens.

We flew home on New Years Eve, and have spent the rest of the weekend cooking and cleaning up Christmas decorations. Sean and I both have projects and things we want to accomplish soon, which will hopefully help get us through these next few months which are always my least favorite of the year. I also recently started reading Kristin Lavransdatter, doing crossword puzzles on the New York Times app, got a new 1000-piece puzzle to work on, and do adult coloring books from time to time. So I should be kept busy this winter 🙂

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Sean and Marie go to the Museum

20161112_221950420_iosWe decided it was time to finally check out the History Colorado Museum, because we both had never been there before and it’s a relatively new museum to Denver. And since the Denver Art Museum currently has special exhibits on Star Wars costumes and Venetian Renaissance art, we decided to go there, too!

The history museum was very interactive. One of my favorite parts was getting to be in a house during a dust storm in the 1930s. There was a travelling exhibit for Awkward Family Photos, which was hilarious and a really fun way to end the day.

The “Glory of Venice” exhibit at the art museum was actually very good, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sean enjoyed it as much as I did. They had pieces by Bellini, Titian, Carpaccio and Giorgione, among others. I’ve enjoyed Italian Renaissance art ever since my college semester in Florence, but Venetian art in particular has always stood out to me as unique and vivid.

The Star Wars exhibit had original costumes from all the movies, including the droids, storyboard drawings and some light sabers. As you might imagine, Queen Amidala’s dresses were the most impressive. There were so many of them, and most were incredibly detailed and unique. I was most struck by how different the costumes look in person compared to on camera.

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