Garden Love

I never thought I would enjoy gardening. If you’d asked me a few years ago if I could ever see myself on a Sunday afternoon pulling weeds for four hours, I probably would have called you crazy, right after I picked myself up off the floor from laughing too hard. But now I find myself spending at least a few minutes in the garden every day, pulling a weed or two (or twenty). And it’s been a warm Summer here in Portland so watering has been a daily necessity. Honestly, once you start, it’s hard to stop. Who knew gardening could be like a drug? A very healthy drug, but just as addictive.

In truth, the hardest part of the garden project was completed a couple of years ago – and my husband dealt with most of that. He created a gravel pad for our new shed, built raised garden beds for the vegetables and laid a paved patio. I came in later to add the drama – it’s what I do best. 🙂

On the first year, I focused on the veggie garden. Year two was all about adding some color and wonderful scents with lavender (LOTS of lavender) and other flowering plants. This year I’m filling in the gaps left by the plants that sadly didn’t make it (R.I.P.) and working on maintaining my little paradise while I enjoy the fruits of my labor.

I’ll take you on a quick tour – but first a look back at where we began.

Five years ago…

Last year…

And now…

I always wanted lavender in my garden so, last year, I planted three different types. I may have overcompensated but the bees LOVE it. We have so many bees in our yard now that I’m tempted to start asking local bee keepers for a kickback.


After a failed attempt at growing strawberries in my hanging baskets, I decided to plant some colorful annuals this year. They don’t quite look like the beautiful arrangements that you find at the nursery but I think they have their own charm. I planted these little orange trumpet like flowers that the Hummingbirds enjoy so I consider that a win over conventional standards of beauty. In fact, one day as I was watering the garden, a hummingbird came and took a shower in the spray from the garden hose. He just hovered there for about 30 seconds and looked at me while he enjoyed the water. I told Kei about it and he called it my “Snow White moment.” The other birds like to use the basket material to build their nests which is probably why a pigeon decided our roof would be a nice place to set up home.

The lettuce is way over grown now but it looks cool. That’s Kale to the left. We have a love/hate relationship that can only be fixed with a green drink smoothie every morning. That’s the only way I have been able to keep it from taking over my garden.

Ahhh, the cucumbers. I learned not to plant Zucchini after the great zucchini overdose of 2011. Instead I decided to plant cucumbers and, right now, we have about 15 that are just waiting to be picked. I’ve been drinking a half a cucumber in my smoothie every day but it might be time to hand some out to friends. People are excited to receive cucumbers – zucchini, not so much.

These peas are a tried and true favorite. I plant them every year and they never fail to disappoint. I also have a healthy herb garden with basil, sage, mint, rosemary, thyme, parsley and majoram. Side note: If anyone has any idea what I can do with majoram then please let me know in the comments.

Also not photographed – Spinach, pak choi, arugula and chard. I manage to squeeze a lot into this little space.

The daisies are new and I love them. I bought some random plants through a plant sale at the school – which is a great way to fill the garden if you have trouble making a decision when faced with the thousands of options at the nursery. I’m speaking from experience, of course. I would never have picked daisies on my own.

This one also came with the plant sale. I have no idea what it’s called (my problem remembering names extends to flora), but the leaves are amazing.

And, finally, my pride and joy.

Eight foot tall sunflowers and healthy gardens make me happy.

Side Trip: San Diego

Last month I found myself on a plane to San Diego for a quick two day work visit. While I didn’t see much of the city outside the convention center, I took a few photos to prove that I was actually there. The palm trees, the sunsets and the smell of the ocean said welcome to Southern California, if only for a fleeting moment.

Dao Fu was tasty, even if it broke the “Japanese food can’t really be authentic if it’s served with Vietnamese food” rule.

Cooling Down

What a fun weekend! We managed to squeeze a lot in but we also enjoyed a little downtime. That’s the best kind of weekend in my opinion.

Kei and I managed to land a couple of tickets to see Book of Mormon at the Keller Auditorium in Portland on Saturday. While it felt a little strange to see a musical at 2pm on a 90 degree Portland Summer day, it was definitely worth the couple of hours of air conditioned comfort. Such a funny, entertaining, slightly (ok, very) offensive show. I really want to see it again but it’s a little spendy so I’ll have to make do with YouTube replays.

I ran errands on Sunday while the boys watched the Soccer World Cup final. The look of devastation on Samuel’s face when I got home told me that Argentina lost and, while I’m sad for my child, I did appreciate the two hours of quiet shopping time while the rest of the city watched TV. Then Kei took the boys to a baseball game in Salem and I was blessed with 6 hours all to myself. I did laundry, cleaned up and caught up on some Master Chef Australia. I know I live life on the edge.

It’s been a warm Portland Summer so far and this week is not exception. I’m grateful that the boys are spending the majority of their time indoors at music camp while the heat and humidity is at it worst but, sadly, our house is most comfortable at around 80 degrees. So, we’ve been finding other ways to cool  off – trips to the public pool, visits with friends to play in their temporary summer pools and popsicles, lots of popsicles.

But there is one thing we always find ourselves enjoying at some point over the Portland summer and that’s the low tech, but highly effective, fun of the sprinkler. It worked for me as a child growing up in Australia (when we didn’t have water restrictions) and it works just as well over here on the other side of the world. These photos are from a couple of weeks ago but I have a feeling the sprinkler will make another appearance when we hit the mid 90s tomorrow.

I think they had a good time.

Independence Day 2014

I already shared one of my more surreal images from our July 4th celebrations but I’m never one to post just a photo or two from a day that included fireworks.

We spent the first few hours of our celebration at the home of one of Kei’s golfing buddies – a friend who also happens to own a pretty delicious Hawaiian restaurant in Portland so, FOOD! At one point I loaded up my plate and counted five different types of meat. The margaritas were also pretty good which explains why some of my photos from later in the evening were a little shakier than usual.

Despite the 200 or so people who attended the party, it was a relaxed event with lots of Hawaiian music and random acts of Hula. The whole experience really made me want to jump on a plane to Hawaii. (Random Acts of Hula would make a great band name. You’re welcome to use it.)

The kids enjoyed Hawaiian-style shave ice, drowned with colors not found in nature.

While we had originally planned to stay for what was sure to be an epic Fireworks display, a quick family poll revealed that the boys were looking forward to lighting some of their own so we headed home around 9:30. The fact that they stayed awake for the entire car ride at that time of the night meant that the Hawaiian shave ice was doing its job.

At home, Kei let my teeny tiny little 8 year old light a few fireworks. I tried to remain calm.

Side Note: The yellow cast in the photograph is from an overheat streetlight in the alley behind our house. We started a little earlier last year so I was able to avoid it.

We started with the smallest fireworks and then gradually moved up to the bigger displays with names like “Hell Fire.”

The blue bucket is there for the trash. At one point I referred to it as the “trash bucket” and our neighbor thought I was using a new Aussie slang for “rubbish bin”. It surprises me how I can still so easily be misunderstood even after 11 years in this country, even when I’m trying to talk like an American. Trash Bucket would also make a good band name.

This next photo is a rather cool mistake.

After we exhausted our small supply, we headed down to the corner of our street where the neighbors brought out the big guns.

I managed to take two or three photos before Thomas begged to go home to bed. When that sugar crash hits, you have no other option.

And that’s a wrap for Independence Day, 2014. God bless America (and friends and hawaiian food and fireworks).

Post-Holiday Monday and Karaoke for the YWCA

It’s the Monday after the holiday weekend. The day when you look back on all the fun you had and just wish you could go back and do it again instead of sitting in front of a computer. Although I have to admit that sitting in air conditioned comfort is a nice change of pace.

Although how can I really complain after an epic weekend that included a 4th of July party with Hawaiian music and hula dancers, fireworks (of course), a fun afternoon at the swimming pool, gatherings with friends, and sunshine, PLENTY of sunshine.

And, because I had such a great weekend, I haven’t had time to edit any photos (not that I took many amidst all the fun). So instead, I’ll share photos from a  different type of light show.

I was recently asked to volunteer as photographer at a Karaoke fundraising event for the Portland YWCA. The event itself was so much fun (seems to be a theme for this blog post) and raised a lot of money for this very important cause. I recommend every non-profit organization consider a little Karaoke in their fundraising plans. The key is to line up a few amazing singers in advance to get the party started, although I was a little too intimidated by their incredible talent to get up on stage myself. Sometimes it’s best to make the call to stay behind the camera.

The event was held at Refuge, an event space on the SE side of Portland. That American flag in the photo below is on the side of one of the trains that passed by every hour or so. The noise added to the party vibe but I’m not sure it would be as pleasant for a wedding.

Don’t be fooled by the costume, her singing voice was amazing.

Despite the tricky lighting, I’d be more than willing to volunteer for this event again next year. Great music, fun people and a fantastic cause – three key ingredients that make me one very happy photographer.