Visiting friends in Cleveland!

When my friend Loren asked me if I wanted to come to Cleveland to see The Book of Mormon with her, it wasn’t long before I was booking plane tickets! She and her husband Adam had moved back to her home state of Ohio with their toddler Maggie half a year before we moved to Oregon, so I was excited to see all of them again.

I flew up for the weekend, and we planned a bunch of fun things to do. First was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland. The best parts were the exhibits of famous performers’ stage costumes. They had Michael Jackson, David Bowie, The Supremes, Elvis, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and so many more. After lunch, we headed down to Cleveland’s Playhouse Square for our show at the State Theater. I had seen The Book of Mormon once before when it came to Denver, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this performance was far better! The acting, dancing, and singing seemed to be dialed up a notch and it made such a difference! We were both thoroughly impressed.

Ever since I saw the episode of the Travel Channel’s show, Bert the Conqueror, where he goes to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, I have wanted to go there. Having never been to a large amusement park or even ridden on a proper roller coaster before, I figured it was about time I change that! Loren, Adam and I spent most of Sunday at Cedar Point, and it was so much fun! It was a bit of baptism by fire for me though, in that the first thing we did was go on Raptor, a very fast and twisty coaster that turns you upside down 6 times! It was way rougher than it looks! I had to wait a couple hours before I was ready for more motion. Adam was the brave one who went on every crazy ride that he could, which was easy to do because there were almost no lines! I liked the tall rides that gave us views of the whole park with Lake Erie in the background. I think I would like to come back and try more of the daring coasters that I chickened out of this first time.

   

Back to Norway for Ina & Harald’s wedding!

What a whirlwind week this was! I didn’t think I would get to return to Norway so soon after our last trip, but when we got the invite to Harald & Ina’s wedding, along with the offer to be able to stay with their family again, we decided we needed to make this happen! We went for just a short week and stayed in one place, Bergen, rather than going everywhere like we did last time. Even though I would not recommend traveling to a location with a 9-hour time difference for so short of time (I never got over the jet lag!), it was worth it.

The day after we arrived, we helped them set up the reception venue, which was the lobby of Ina’s father’s workplace. it had a beautiful view of the harbor that I couldn’t pull my eyes away from. The four of us friends from the U.S. (Me, Sean, Mary and Alan), along with Ina’s maid of honor Henriette, set the tables and folded plenty of napkins and programs. We were there for six hours with a pizza break in between. It was actually a really fun day.

The wedding was at Slettebakken church the next day, which we had been to the last time we visited. The ceremony was in Norwegian and the recessional was the Star Wars theme on organ and trumpet 🙂  We had some free time until the evening reception, so Mary, Alan, Sean and I went downtown and took the funicular to the top of Mt. Floyen, and then had a great dinner at Zupperia. At the reception, there were several long speeches, most of them in Norwegian, 20 or 30 different cakes, dancing, and even some singing from Harald’s musically-talented family members. I don’t think we got home until 2:00 a.m!

Since Ina and Harald have lived or studied in both Denver and London, there were a few of us friends from each location who were there for the wedding, and they planned a fun day for us in which we got to have lunch on top of Ulriken, do an escape room, and have dinner at Ina’s parents house. It was my first time doing an escape room and I loved it! Our group of six made it out in time with 15 minutes to spare, while the other six were just a second too late (they were given a much tougher room where only 10% make it out within the hour). Another highlight was getting to see parasailers jump off of Ulriken while we were in a cable car at the same height!

Our last full day in Norway was more relaxed. Sean and I spent the first half of the day downtown. We toured the Hanseatic Museum and the Aquarium. I bought Christmas ornaments and a Norwegian-knit winter cap. We met back at Harald’s mother’s house, where we were staying this trip, for dinner and leftover wedding cake. Harald and Ina cut the traditional kransekake blindfolded to see how many children they were going to have (7) because they didn’t get around to it at the wedding.

We were sad to have to leave Norway so soon, especially since there is so much more we want to see! Everyone we met were great people that I wish I had more time to get to know. Harald’s mother, Hildegun, was a wonderful host to us again, despite her self-deprecating jokes to the contrary 😉  I’m already looking forward to seeing these people again, whenever or wherever that may be!

    

Viewing the total solar eclipse

Since the path of totality for the solar eclipse started only an hour’s drive south of where we now live, we decided we had to go see it. Weeks before the event, predictions about the amount of people coming into Oregon were scary: the roads would be overwhelmed, cell service might go down, as well as credit card systems and city sewer systems. I almost didn’t want to bother making the trip, and I wondered if seeing a total solar eclipse was really that much better than a partial eclipse. I am glad that Sean was determined to see the total eclipse, however, because it was much more amazing than I expected.

We left home at 4:30 am, and though the traffic on I-5 to Salem was heavy, it wasn’t slowed down very much. It probably took us a little over an hour to get to downtown, where we found parking and walked to the Riverfront Park. The city of Salem had allowed people to camp overnight in the city’s parks that weekend, so there were plenty of tents around. We picked a spot to set up our lawn chairs and settled in for the 4+ hour wait. The time went by surprisingly fast, and the park continued to fill up with people.

As it got closer to totality, the temperature got colder and the light got dimmer, but not in the same way that it does when the sun sets. Somewhere, music speakers were playing “The Final Countdown” (I still only picture Gob Bluth whenever I hear it) and then “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” We watched through our sun-viewing glasses as the sun became a thin sliver and then disappeared. Only then were we able to take off the glasses and gaze directly at the sun. I won’t be able to describe it well enough, and my iPhone camera couldn’t possibly capture it, but it was a brilliant white halo with a starkly black center that was so beautiful to look at. It was dark as night where we stood. I pressed record on my iPhone before it happened so I could remember the general feel and excitement of the moment. I didn’t look at the phone while recording, for obvious reasons, so the video is pretty shaky. But if you want to see darkness fall and crowds cheering (and hear Sean and I ooh-ing and ahh-ing), watch the video below:

We knew traffic was going to be bad when the eclipse was over, so we thought we’d try wait it out and hang out in Salem a while longer. That was not the best decision. The traffic never abated that day and it ended up taking us 4 hours to get back home. I found out the next day that my cousin’s family left Madras, OR after the eclipse to go to Crater Lake, and didn’t get to their hotel until 3:00 in the morning! So I won’t complain. It was totally worth it.

  

 

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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