A Thousand Shades of Green: Hiking the Salmon River Trail

On the second (and last) day of our mini vacation to Mt Hood, we decided to hike the Salmon River trail. (You can read about our day one hike up to Mirror Lake here).

This hike came highly recommended as a great option for families with small children and it didn’t disappoint. The trail was mostly flat and free of treacherous drop offs, so the kids were able to run ahead until I felt the need to call them closer out of fear that they might dive into the frigid water. They’d return for about three minutes and then run off again. It gave me time to relax and enjoy the scenery and, of course, take a few photographs.

The walk itself can best be described as looking like a scene out of Jurassic Park with about a thousand different shades of green. A light rain was falling when we first first set out on our hike but the sun started to appear on the way back which changed the scene so much that I joked to Kei about walking it again just to retake the photos. OK, I was only half joking.

Recently, Samuel has been telling me that he sees a faces and objects in trees, clouds and other elements of nature. He told me this one looked like a face. Should I be worried?

But I’ll admit that I can see the monkey hanging from the tree in this one.

And then he made a face of his own in an apple…

We stopped for a quick snack.

After which the boys sang me a song in Japanese (I bribed them with my Luna Bar).

We then took a few minutes to skip some rocks. Kei took this next photo of me. It’s not the most flattering and shows my poor rock-skipping skills, but I suppose it’s proof that was there.

Side note to the people who left their trash in a fire pit (including an old pair of socks): NOT COOL. I can only assume you’re not Oregonian because an Oregonian would never do anything so thoughtless and disgusting. We carried out as much of the trash as we could but I am not your mother. Rant over.

Finally, after a little more exploring, we headed back to the car and then home to Portland.

We only left for two days, but it really felt like an escape and it was just what we needed.

Mirror Lake (Without Much Mirror)

As I mentioned previously, we headed up to Mt Hood on the weekend for a short birthday/anniversary/just-needed-a-break vacation. It felt good to get out of the city, even if we only had to drive an hour to get there. We stayed at The Resort at the Mountain which was nice. Nothing extra fancy but a pretty good deal at about $125 a night for the fours of us. If the weather had let up a little then I’m sure we would have made better use of the amenities like the basketball hoop and croquet field. But, bad weather means fewer people and we had the mini golf and swimming pool/hot tub all to ourselves so there was a definite upside to the rain and cold.

The bad weather also meant very few people braved the hiking trails, which was a definite win for us. On Saturday morning we set out for Mirror Lake, a 3.2 mile return hike. It wasn’t too difficult but the distance to the lake was all uphill and the kids were pretty tired by the time we finally saw some water and even a little snow. It was good thing I pulled together an impromptu scavenger hunt before we left the hotel. At times, I think that might have been the only thing that motivated Thomas to keep going.

We found almost everything. I think the ants and worms decided to hide from the rain and expecting to see a feather and nest might have been a little ambitious. Still it kept the boys occupied for the first part of the trek, especially after I reassured Thomas that Samuel would still be able to open an early birthday present (the reward) even if we didn’t find everything. The important thing was that we tried.

The walk up to the lake itself wasn’t particularly interesting. And I realize that, by saying that, I have just shown how much I have become accustomed to the beautiful nature that surrounds me every day in Oregon. So, when I say that it wasn’t very interesting, I mean by gorgeous Oregon standards. I’m sure people who live in Arizona feel the same way about the desert.

The hiking trail was muddy, and at times slippery with steep drop offs. We also expected it to head downhill at some point because aren’t all lakes at lower altitudes? Apparently not, because just when Kei and I were growing concerned that we’d missed a turnoff, we stumbled upon this…

It was beautiful. The hike was worth it and I’d even consider doing it again on a better day just to see this place in the sunshine.

I could see where the naming inspiration came from. There was still a little bit of mirror even on a grey, dreary day.


If you’re looking for a relatively easy family hike on Mt Hood, then I’d definitely recommend Mirror Lake. I read that the trail gets crowded during the busy late Spring/Summer season but it was almost deserted while we were there. I’d also recommend that you buy a parking pass from the Ranger station before you head up so you don’t have to leave a note on your car promising that you’ll get one later. We thankfully didn’t get a ticket and followed through on our promise the next day.

Coming soon: More hiking adventures.

Celebrating Five

My baby turned five yesterday. We celebrated with a weekend stay at Mt Hood where we swam, hiked and played mini golf, often in the rain. All day we heard the phrase “It’s my birthday so I get to choose” or “It’s my birthday so I want to go this way”. It was at times cute, sometimes annoying, and thankfully only for this one day of the year.

Gifts included some new books, including this fast favorite and one that I remember from my own childhood, a marble run, Sirius Black’s wand (from Thomas), and the gift that I was most excited about, a Harry Potter Lego Quidditch set. Samuel asked for this lego set for Christmas and it had been discontinued. At the time, I thought about spending $40 above retail to buy it on Ebay but quickly decided that was insane. Fortunately, Amazon restocked them for about five minutes about three months ago and I was able to snag one at it’s regular price. I’ve been like a kid on Christmas waiting for him to open it ever since and he was just as excited as I had hoped he would be. An added bonus was the 2 hours that the boys spent playing with it, without arguing, after we got home yesterday. The gift that keeps on giving.

The gifts and the cake are all fun, but the best thing about birthdays for me is the opportunity it provides to reflect on the past year and think about how much my kids change in just twelve short months. This past year has been a big one for Samuel. In just one year he:

  • Started Pre-K at a real elementary school where he learns Japanese.
  • Played his first games of soccer and progressed from the kid who didn’t really want to play last season to one of the best players on the team in the Spring.
  • Developed a love for reading everything he can and, most impressively, writing about 20 letters a week to various people. They all say the same thing – “I like you Mum, I love you Mum” or “I like you Dad…” – and they are wonderful.
  • Learned how to spell certain words so that he now refers to me as M-O-M or M-U-M, spelling out my name when he calls for me, switching between Australian and American spelling.
  • Developed a wonderfully clever sense of humour.
  • Progressed from cranky a LOT of the time to only cranky some of the time – in fact this shift occurred over just the past few months.
  • Grew about 3 inches. Suddenly, his pants are too short, his shoes are pinching his feet and his legs hurt from the growing pains. Time to go shopping.
  • Gained a lot of independence. Now, instead of clinging to me until the very last moment when I drop him off at school in the morning, he greets his teachers and sits down to start the day with barely a backward glance. He can also buckle his own seatbelt (huge!).

Still, there are a few things that haven’t changed about Samuel – and I am holding on to them as long as I can. He still holds my hand, gives me the best kisses and hugs, sometimes needs me to help zip  up his jacket, says he’s thankful that I cook him a great dinner almost every night, hugs his brother goodbye in the morning, says he loves me at least twice a day, shares incredibly observant and wise thoughts out of nowhere, and can usually be pulled out of a bad mood with a tickle.

He’s quite simply my favorite five year old.

What If…

What if I hadn’t graduated from University in 1996…

What if he’d graduated earlier…

What if I hadn’t decided to teach in Japan for a year (and what if I didn’t get the job!)…

What if I hadn’t been a confident 22 year old who saw a man she was attracted to and decided to introduce herself…

What if he had taken my inability to talk to him during a hungover bus ride as complete disinterest and given up…

What if we hadn’t got together when we next met, and then stayed together during our entire year in Fukushima…

What if we had decided that we should end things after Japan and return to our separate corners of the world…

What if we hadn’t put in all the work (and money) to get an Aussie Visa…

What if we hadn’t had to marry quickly to fulfill the Visa requirements…

What if we’d decided to give up during that very first, very hard year of marriage…

And what if we’d given up during the bumps in the road since then instead of deciding that the good far outweighs the bad…

So many things had to fall into place so that we can now celebrate 14 years, 3 countries, 2 children and one very blessed life together. It’s clear that it was meant to be and I couldn’t image my life any other way.

I love you honey and look forward to next 14 years and beyond.

Note: these are iphone pics of a few snapshots from our wedding which is why it looks like we got married in 1975. Our official album is back in Australia. 




Almost Wordless Wednesday: A Walk Up Nob Hill

I traveled to San Francisco for work, oh, about a month ago now. So long ago in fact that I almost forgot about my little walk up Nob Hill.

My quick three day trip was packed with work stuff so, as much as I’d would have loved to have walked around one of my favorite cities taking photos, I just didn’t have the time. Still, I am never one to totally miss a travel photo opportunity so I set aside one hour between waking up and leaving for the airport to take a quick walk up Nob Hill – in heels because they were the only shoes that I packed in my carry on. It turns out that walking the steep sidewalks of San Francisco is not very easy in heels. Going up is OK, it’s the walk down that can cause problems. Thankfully I, and my camera, managed to make it back to the hotel without injury or embarrassment.

It was good to see you San Francisco.


Mother’s Day and a Childhood Flashback: The Sprinkler

Another relaxing Mothers’ Day has come and gone. Breakfast cooked by hubby, the last soccer match of the season, time to read a book while watching the kids have a water pistol fight (in the rain), and then dinner, also courtesy of Kei. The boys bought me some beautiful flowers, Thomas made me some notecards and Samuel gave me a card that said simply “I love you Mum. You love me.” He likes to get to the point.

Just before bed, Kei videotaped the boys telling him about why I am such a great Mum. Thomas shared a bunch of reasons, most of them focused on food and laundry, while Samuel was a little less forthcoming. After a couple of minutes I decided to leave the room to see if Samuel would be more willing to share without me watching. I’m excited to watch the full video later.

A few minutes after they went upstairs to go to bed, they came back down again. Just as I was about to get frustrated that bedtime was taking way too long, I was informed that they came down so that Thomas could read me a book called “My Mom is Great“. We’ve read this book together a number of times in the past, but this is the first time that Thomas has ever read it to me. I’m still amazed that he has gone from reading almost nothing at the beginning of the school year, to reading entire books by himself.

I’m so happy to be their Mum, even though they drive me nuts sometimes and make my life way busier than I could have ever imagined. Some of my favorite moments are when I eavesdrop on them giggling together from another room or when they’re excited to share something they learned at school or when they just like to cuddle up with me on the couch. These times almost make me forget about the fighting and talking back and the laundry (so much laundry). But there’s no ups without downs. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies, Parenthood.

Grandma: “You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!… I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

Speaking of thrills, we’ve had more than our fair share of warm, sunny May days in Portland lately. So warm, in fact, that I brought out the sprinkler which is something I remember doing when I was a child. Of course now that Melbourne is almost always on water restrictions, I’m not sure that Aussie children are allowed to experience the thrill of the sprinkler on a hot day. I’ll have to make sure my 1/2 Aussie children fully appreciate that running under the sprinkler is a very special benefit that comes from living in one of the rainiest cities in America.

I’m sure the entire neighborhood was witness to the squeals and giggles coming from our front yard on this particular sunny day. Who needs water slides and swimming pools when a $20 sprinkler will do the trick?


Ten Favorites From TEDx

All of my TEDx Photos are now posted on the official TEDx Portland Flickr feed. However, I realize that not everyone has the time to browse through nearly 200 photos so I’ve narrowed it down to 10 of my favorites here on the blog.

Kate Bingaman-Burt was an incredible speaker. I was inspired by the fact that she didn’t discover her love for illustration until she was well into her twenties and now it’s her passion and her job. She was genuine and hilarious.

Ben Huh spoke on the topic of immigration – a subject that is very close to my heart. I shed the first of many TEDx tears during this moving presentation.

Not the greatest photo in the world but it’s Tom Brokaw. 🙂

Capturing photos of people laughing is my favorite.

As I mentioned, you can check out the rest of my photos on Flickr. And that’s a wrap for TEDx PDX 2013.


Last week I continued my now-annual tradition of taking a couple of days of vacation around my birthday. The goal for these two days was simple – no agenda, just time to decompress and do whatever I felt like in the moment.

It. Was. Awesome.

Here’s a brief recap in photos… It appears I ate a lot.

  • Thursday: Coffee and scone (cheese and bacon!) at Salt and Straw.
  • Window shopping on NW 23rd … without the kids. Lush, Urban Outfitters, World Market… (Dog coat hangers. Why is this necessary in life?)
  • Photo Book browsing at Powells and one more addition to the collection.
  • Pedicure. I considered going with yellow or green but settled for predictable red.
  • New year, new profile pic. (I need a haircut)
  • Friday: Mocha with Marshmallows at an adorable new (for me) Happy Sparrow Cafe.
  • Yoga… Namaste.
  • Lunch al fresco on a perfect Portland day
  • Delicious bento at Samurai Blue
  • Saturday: Dinner at http://www.aviarypdx.com/with Kei. He had the Pigs ear and I had the goat curry. Tasted about a thousand times better than it sounded. I also recommend the chicken skin salad.
  • Ended the weekend with my boys at the Farmers market.

Of course there was more. Lots of reading, enjoying the sunshine, soccer and a Cinco De Mayo party with Kei’s golf buddies.  Things I didn’t do include laundry, much cooking and, surprisingly, pulling out the camera. It was refreshing to take a break and relieve myself of the pressure to document everything apart from a few quick pics on the iphone.

The down side is that I felt incredibly unprepared for Monday morning – although that may have also had something to do with a few too many celebratory Cinco De Mayo tequilas.

Bring on 39!