Can’t seem to get rid of the snow. Not when you have a storm every single week. Because just when you think that maybe some of that week-old frozen ice of a snow pile is ever so slightly starting to melt, this happens:
And the very next morning after a storm, more of this:
But I have to say, when I walked the girls to school this morning with the sun shining so brightly that I had my sunglasses on because the sun reflecting off the snow was almost blinding, you couldn’t help but remark how beautiful it was, particularly since it was a balmy 35 degrees. I heard similar chatter all around me as parents walked their kids to school. “Hey, it’s not so bad out, it’s kinda warm!” Apparently, 40 is the new 60.
The girls are re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books and I was reminded of how much I loved “The Long Winter” in particular when I was a kid. Made me want to go grab it off the bookshelf and read it again, partly because we’ve become such a society of complainers and wimps. Let me read about real hardships! Not that I’m not happy I live in this century with modern comforts and all, but I am rather fascinated by how people lived and survived without all the things that we take for granted today.
I remember meeting a handful of various people from my travels around the country when I was young who did choose to “drop out” and live out in nature without the comforts of things like running water, heat or electricity. They were essentially squatting in the woods, building temporary shelters which often consisted of a raised wooden platform and a network of tarps to shield against rain and wind. Survivalists, hippies, I don’t know what you would call them if you had to put a label on them at all, but it was an eye-opener for this city-raised kid. I’ve camped out in much the same fashion, but only for weeks at a time, not months like some of the people I’ve met. On a few occasions I would spend a few days with them in their make-shift homes, strangers really, whom I would just meet rather randomly, but I guess we trusted our guts and instincts enough to know when a situation felt safe. Not once in my years of travel did I ever find myself in any kind of situation that was less than safe.
Were my friends and I just lucky? Did we have a guardian angel watching over us during our travels? I have no idea, but that trust we put in the world enabled us to cross paths with people I would not have normally met had I stayed in my little bubble in the city. Sometimes I think about some of those people and wonder what they’re doing now. Like this girl I met somewhere in Massachusetts who lived in the woods 6 months out of the year in a shelter made of scrap lumber and tarps – kind of like a treehouse, but on the ground. She had a futon on the side of shack that was protected under tarps, but she often slept on the other side under stars when the skies were clear. Her belongings were minimal – some books, a few change of clothes, dishware enough to cook and eat from, a notebook and some pencils, all neatly stacked on the side of her little dwelling next to a tree. When she needed more supplies she would run into town on a bicycle, picking up only what she needed for a week or two. And this is how we met. It’s funny, but I never questioned why she wanted to live this way, so isolated from everybody and everything. When I was with her for those few days, I just accepted it as what it was.
I don’t remember her name, or the names of most of the other people I briefly met crossing paths. But on certain days like this snowy one, I think about how we traveled and learned from people like the girl who lived in the woods, that you don’t really need all this stuff to live a happy life. Isn’t this true? The snow reminds me that at times I feel like I live in a snowglobe, all insulated and small. Those encounters were like blips in my life from a past that I sometimes wonder was really mine, and I may not be the same person as I was years ago, but I keep those life lessons learned through travels tucked away deep inside and I know that it informs the way I live my life now.
Posted by Jenna | 7 Comments
A quick trip to Portland a few weeks back. Breakfast at Tasty n Sons. A visit to Schoolhouse Electric.
When we were tossing around ideas for our day in Portland, our friend Jen got a laugh when Mia suggested we “drink coffee and complain about how much our backs hurt”. Because from her perspective that’s the only thing adults ever seemed to do, but it was all in the delivery that made it so funny. Somebody is starting to understand sarcasm, I see. Later that morning, Jen let her sneak some sips from her iced coffee. She’s like the aunt who says yes to all the nos that we dish out (total tangent: what the hell is the plural of no? Nos? Noes?? No’s???).
We discussed childhood schoolyard games over breakfast the next morning and was sort of flabbergasted when Mia told us that in gym they played dodgeball with bean bags. WHUT?! Not only that but you’re only allowed to toss them at your opponent’s feet, not anywhere else. Oh man, that made us laugh so hard. Somehow a little part of me couldn’t help but feel a little cheated that kids these days didn’t have to go through the ritual of childhood gym torture like we did. I mean I hated dodgeball with a passion when I was a kid and always dreaded hearing that game called during gym (I did like Steal the Bacon and SPUD though). What a stupid game. So maybe a part of me wasn’t really that surprised at this wussified version of the game that the kids play nowadays (at least at their school), but sheesh. I mean, bean bags. We obviously had to tell her how dodgeball was properly played, with balls that hurt so bad because you could basically throw them as hard as you could and no body parts were off limits.
And this, of course, reminded me of one of the greatest scenes to ever air on television – the dodgeball scene on the pilot episode of Freaks and Greeks. The girls weren’t so amused when I showed them the clip; they didn’t think it was all that funny (how?!) I guess nostalgia really does play a huge part here because personally, I think this episode is one of the funniest things ever. But I guess you had to be there.
Posted by Jenna | 13 Comments
The first time Mark and I traveled to Victoria, we were in our early 20s and we took a road trip with our roommates, driving from Portland all the way to Vancouver. On a whim, we decided to take the ferry to Victoria on a day trip while we were up north. I remember that trip well because it was such a good bonding vacation with the roommates at a time when household dynamics weren’t always comfortable. We took a lot of photos too as I recall, posing on the ferry and the hotel balcony with beer and cigarettes. You know, stupid youthful pictures that I’m sure would have ended up on Facebook had it existed back in ancient times (and man, I’m so glad that wasn’t around in the 90s).
I remember thinking how pretty Victoria was and it’s still as pretty as I remembered it. It’s bustling too, with plenty of pubs and outdoor cafes, street performers and outdoor markets. One of things we wanted to do while in Victoria was have dimsum in Chinatown, not because the dimsum was supposed to be that much more amazing than what we can get here in NY, but because dimsum is one of those things that we always keep meaning to do back home, but manage to only have once or twice a year. Mia loves dimsum and it might be her favorite meal ever, but Miss C has never taken a liking to it and it was always a challenge to find even one thing off the cart or menu that she wanted to eat. When we told her our plan of having a dimsum brunch on Sunday, she groaned.
But something happened and she was more open to trying a few things. Maybe we can chalk it up to being on vacation and somewhere new, but she kept trying new dishes and eating and finally exclaiming how yummy everything tasted, particularly the Chinese greens. The verdict? She’s a fan of dimsum now which means that when we go out to dimsum again we won’t have to bring along a container of apples and cheddar bunnies to tide her over until we can find something for her elsewhere.
As we were leaving the restaurant, she turned to me, hugged my arm and thanked me for giving her a new happy place.
Posted by Jenna | 11 Comments
Our days in Victoria right after the stormy weather on the coast were all sunshine and warmth. Leaving the country for the first time to Canada might not be so much of a culture shock, but the excitement for the kids as they handed over their passports at the border was no less a milestone, and the adults in our travel party got to trade all our less than pleasant border crossing stories.
We only had three days in Victoria and one of the things we wanted to do was go to Butchart Gardens and do the afternoon tea service. It isn’t as fancy or formal as the tea service at the Empress Hotel, but it’s half the price which actually nudges it towards the realm of “reasonable”, relatively speaking. The kid’s tea menu was better too, for the record, for pickier eaters as it had a bit more kid friendly sandwiches, like grilled cheese. Afternoon tea was a splurge, but who doesn’t love towering platters of food?? And it’s a lot more food than you think. The sandwich platters alone consisted of 6-7 varieties per person, along with cookies, cakes and scones. Nobody in our party could finish it all except for Mark (as usual), and his consistently fast metabolism, despite age, remains one of the biggest mysteries (mine used to be fast and I also used to be able to eat embarrassing amounts of food, but no longer. wah.)
The garden grounds itself are quite beautiful, but since it’s about an hour away by bus from the city, it’s pretty much a whole day activity. We boarded a city bus, though you can charter cushier tour buses for the ride, but given our short stay it was a nice way to see some of Victoria outside the city. On a related note, we chose not to bring our cars on board the ferry to Victoria from our departure point in Port Angeles. We didn’t want the hassle of driving and parking and the city is totally walkable, particularly if you’re only there a few days.
Posted by Jenna | 17 Comments
Hi, neglected blog.
September hasn’t been messing around. We’ve jumped right back into things without missing a beat since we’ve been back. The girls have started school, Mark drove all over the city yesterday to make 9 deliveries to some of our retailers while we’ve been gone, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this busy with work. I do have to admit, I thrive on the challenge of juggling schedules and chaos, but now that I’m back from my short business trip, I’m also looking forward to staying put for awhile. Hello living room couch (my favorite spot in the apartment to work)…I’ve missed you.
It’s amazing how in a span of one week life can be so different. I’ve been looking through our vacation photos and trying to recapture that feeling during some of our travels. This year marked the first time the girls left the country as we headed by ferry up to Canada. It’s been about 12 years since Mark and I have left the country as well. I have never been one of those people attracted to cruises, but Mia has been intrigued by them for a few years now. Not sure where she got the idea of cruises – perhaps her curiosity started when she spotted her first big cruise ship docked at one of the ports here – but she has been fixated on them for awhile. Personally, I can’t think of another way that I’d least like to travel (has anyone been on a cruise and loved it? Curious to know), but there is something very calming about being in the middle of the ocean. You feel very small. The view doesn’t change for a very long time so instead you notice the subtle movements and changes in the water currents and the clouds. Then off in the distance, the first sighting of land is a thrill.
Photos of our days in Victoria soon…
Posted by Jenna | 15 Comments
I’ve done a lot of camping and hiking in my late teens/ early 20s and have spent a lot of time on the Oregon Coast and camping out in the woods and national forests on both coasts, Minnesota and even up in Quebec, but I don’t really remember being in such awe of nature like I have on this trip. Maybe it’s because I was just a kid back then and didn’t really appreciate it like I do now. You know how unimpressed with the world teenagers can be, even for a city kid who suddenly found herself in the middle of the woods for weeks at a time with just a backpack. “Isn’t this amazing??!!?”, I ask the girls. “Yeah”, they reply, a bit less enthusiastically than I expected they would. Oh, kids. But I get it.
The last time I did any sort of camping was right here in the Olympic National Forest. That was about 20 years ago and the only time Mark and I had gone camping together. We packed minimally and I figured we could just cook on a fire because that’s what I always did when camping, but when we got to the campgrounds after a 3 or 4 mile hike, we discovered that fires weren’t allowed. I still laugh at the hilarity of us trying to heat up tofu dogs with a lighter (yeah, that doesn’t really work). It started to rain the next morning so we left the site early. I never owned a pair of proper hiking boots and I think we were both in sneakers, but I remember booking down that trail in the rain so fast. I was hungry and wet. I think the first thing we did was drive to the first restaurant we saw (it was a Sizzler).
It was stormy the day we visited the Hoh Rainforest in the same national park, but much to our relief the rain and wind slowed down when we drove into the forest from our cabin on the coast. We even saw some sun breaks. But the rain started up again as we headed out on a short hike. Half of the family turned back when it started raining harder and the rest of us continued. I had 2 big, heavy cameras on me and it was ridiculously cumbersome to try and take photos while trying to keep the cameras dry. Halfway through the trail, I got stung by a yellow jacket bee in my thigh. At that point, I just wanted to get back to the info center, where there were warning signs about yellow jackets as I recalled, and look at the sting. I hurried the rest of the way down the trail as the rain started coming down harder and it reminded me of the last time we left the campgrounds in the forest.
Despite the rain and the bee sting, our visit to the Hoh Rainforest was pretty spectacular. You just can’t describe something like this in words or really even in pictures. I’m looking forward to the years when the girls can hike longer distances so we can really explore some more of mountains and forests of Washington. Maybe we’ll even go camping again someday. We certainly won’t be waiting 20 years to come back.
Posted by Jenna | 7 Comments