Summer in Oregon: Lavender Daze Festival

A couple of weekends ago I dragged my family of boys to the Hood River Lavender Daze festival.

It’s easy to be festivaled-out by the middle of Summer here in Portland. By the time we reach August it feel like we’ve already had a street fair in every major neighborhood and festivals celebrating everything from Beer to Blues to Tulips. And just when you think there can’t be anything more to be festive about, you’ll see an advertisement for the Portland Pirate Festival or the Naked Bike Ride.

Not that we’ve attended many festivals this year. The age of my children and my husband’s aversion to crowds means we spend more time being festive in our own backyard than in some hot tent-covered gathering of like-minded individuals. While I might make it to the Zombie Walk one day (probably not), for now I’m mostly content enjoying our own little corner of the city…with one exception.

The Lavender Festival had been on my radar for a while and, this year, I was determined to make it happen. So we set off on a beautiful, sunny, hot Saturday morning to take a road trip through the Gorge to Hood River.

I can quite honestly say that the Lavender Festival is the most relaxed Summer event that I’ve attended in a while. It helps that as soon as you exit the car, you are hit in the face with the most amazing scent of Lavender. The flower is known for it’s relaxing properties and, if I didn’t fully believe it before, I do now. I have never felt more calm and collected after an hour long drive. It’s like I couldn’t even hear the children bickering. anymore Or maybe they weren’t fighting at all. That’s the answer – fill my house and car with Lavender and the fighting will stop. I think I’m onto something.

Did I mention that it was sunny? VERY sunny. Which meant a lot of very bright photographs. Not that I was deterred. I took three or four (or 50).

One day I’ll go back and take a photo of this scene without the people, and the tents and the cars.

We quickly grabbed some lunch after we arrived – amazing wood fired pizza. I started with the cherry and sausage and we all shared the blueberry and lavender pizza for dessert. When in Rome…

Apparently bees REALLY like lavender. It took a lot of courage for the boys to walk (gently) through the lavender fields. Thankfully, no stings.

But lots of direct overhead sunlight.

After lunch I managed to avoid buying anything while we checked out some of the vendors. The boys picked up some free “divination rocks” – cast-off pieces of blown glass courtesy of a very talented glass artist. Then I talked them out of needing a “Lavender Wand” after explaining that it was decorative and not magical. P.S. We’d just come off a week of Magic camp.

Then it was time for some more frolicking through fields of flowers.

Until Samuel declared it was too hot and we took a time out in the shade.

And then picked a bunch to take home.

After about two hours of lavender overload, we headed home – stopping on the way to buy some fruit and enjoy an apple cider slushie (for the kids) and some harder cider (for the adults).

This is also where we took a few crazy photos by the red wall.

And then we headed home. The car smelled incredible and both boys fell asleep. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Summer in the City: Mississippi Street Fair

Attending the Mississippi Street fair is somewhat of a tradition in our family. I was a little disappointed when we missed it last year – although we were in Australia so that helped ease the pain a little. The year before we took our Japanese visitors and found it to be the perfect opportunity to immerse them in a slice of real Portland – even if this version of real Portland was a lot more crowded and noisy (and just a little more crazy) than the average day. I can’t find our post from 2010 so we may have missed that year as well, but I did find our 2009 visit and let’s just say that I was not prepared to look at photos of my teeny tiny little babies on a Monday morning. I may have to go curl up in a ball somewhere to get over the realization that “Super Why” is about to turn 8!

This year I decided to take the boys to the street fair while Kei stayed at home to work on the yard. Pretty sure I got the better end of that deal. We arrived at 10am to beat the crowds and I’m glad we did because it started to get insane when we left at about 12:30, although we missed a lot of the live music which was a shame. Still, the boys had a great time and were incredibly patient with me as I insisted on visiting every single booth. I love this age because they still like to hang out with their mother and yet don’t need a stroller or other sort of containment device to ensure they stay close (most of the time, anyway).

Here are a few highlights from the day.

Starting strong with a few Mexican wrestlers running down the street because… well I have no idea why.

The ninja nesting dolls that caused me to say “no, we are not buying them” about 20 times over the course of a couple of hours.

An impromptu art opportunity courtesy of OMSI.

I get so excited when my kids use color – it’s a rare occurrence.

Shave ice! (and the last piece of evidence before Thomas lost his cap).

An alien. Note to self: must visit the Pecularium sometime.

This painting was a favorite.

And I wanted that suitcase but have no idea where I would put it.

I definitely DID NOT want to take these home.

A sidewalk shave – comes with free whiskey

So, I feel like I have to explain this next photo. I really liked the look of these hand-painted flasks and I thought Kei would like the Sake one so I took a picture. And then I got home to review my photos and realized that I also took a photo of a really cool rooster with a slightly offensive message. My apologies.

Quick stop to climb some fake trees (notice that the cap has gone).

And a honey stick because they hadn’t had quite enough sugar yet.

We ran into a friend – and bigfoot.

This guy was blowing bubbles off his balcony. Great way to get into the spirit.

And, just before we decided the crowds were getting too much for us, we enjoyed a little music. I love that there’s always at least one person who dances like nobody’s watching. I tried to encourage my kids to dance but they were having none of it.

And that wraps another fun year at the Mississippi street fair.


Water Babies

I think we can call 2013 the Summer of swimming, well for the kids anyway. After years of intermittent swimming lessons, we decided this year to enroll the boys in six weeks of daily lessons.

It was risky move given Samuel refused to enter the pool when we last tried this approach. He’d sit on the stairs and refuse to budge despite bribery, threats and pleas.

I’m thrilled to say that, this year, Samuel is like a different child. Or maybe he’s just the same child with a couple of extra years under his belt. He was a little tentative getting into the pool for his first lesson, but as soon as his body hit the water he was all giggles. My stubborn little boy even decided to participate. That’s huge!

Thomas, meanwhile, has been swimming underwater, practicing his freestyle and overcoming his fear of the deep end of the pool. He’s becoming quite the little fish.

So, swimming lessons have been a huge success for us this year. The only thing that would make it better would be if they let parents in the pool on 95 degree days. It’s really not fair to make me watch the boys enjoy the nice cool water while I sweat on the sidelines, although I have managed to read a book or two and, when I get tired of that, I can close my eyes and pretend I’m on a beach in Maui.

July 4th Portland-Style, Part 2

Part 1 was all about sparklers and fireworks that didn’t make me fear for my children’s safety. Part 2 is where we moved on to enjoy some real fireworks courtesy of some of our neighbors.

I didn’t have my tripod so the results of my walk around the neighborhood may, at times, be a little blurry. Let’s call them artsy.

I love the starbursts that appeared in these photographs.

And that’s a wrap for Independence day 2013 – a day that my youngest child declared at one point to be THE BEST FUN EVER!

July 4th Portland-Style, Part 1

I grew up in a country where displays of fireworks were a special event and handled only by professionals. They were massive displays that lasted 45 minutes to an hour and were sometimes accompanied by a radio soundtrack – and ONLY on Australia day or New Years Eve. (I also grew up in a place where you couldn’t buy alcohol in grocery stores, but that’s another story).

I’ve lived in the States for 10 years and I still find it shocking that I can walk into a grocery store and spend $29.99 on a packet of fireworks that I am allowed to set off in my backyard. I’m sure others in our neighborhood cross the border into Washington State and spend way more than that. I won’t do that on principle – and also because I’m a big chicken with two little boys who love fireworks in a way that makes me fear for their safety.

Last year we were in Australia on July 4th, so it’s been two years since my boys have witnessed the light show. And what a difference two years makes. Thomas was 5 last time, timid and shy. Now he’s seven and wants to light the fireworks himself (we didn’t let him). Two years ago, Samuel was an oblivious three year old. We may have even sent him to bed before the real fireworks began. This year, he’s five and his excitement freaked me out just a little bit, but he was incredibly entertaining. The friends who joined us for the 4th of July get together have children the same age – a boy and a girl. Looking back through the photos, it’s clear that firework are very much a boy thing, although five year old girls enjoy sparklers.

I’m breaking this post into two parts because I took way too many photos (or maybe just the right amount). The size and intensity of fireworks grew over the evening.

We begin before the fireworks.

I have no idea what’s going on here…

Look how sweet she is… oh, a how I wish for a little girl (until puberty anyway).

Bring on the sparklers.

Our sparklers come with a declaration of “Wingardium Leviosa!” Although I’m sure that happens in every family…

This is Edie. She almost makes me want to get a dog… almost…Perhaps if we could clone her…

After the sparklers we moved into the alley behind our house and started with the louder stuff.

Right now, they have no idea what’s coming.

Samuel was unable to keep still from excitement. See? He’s levitating.

Three, two, one…LOUD!

And then the light show started.

We took a short break for S’mores…

And then kicked it up a (small) notch.

Impressive and exciting, but the most impressive fireworks came courtesy of our neighbors. I’ll share those tomorrow.