Last Gasp of Summer

summer vacation Slurpees

Slurpees yesterday before we went to the pool–proof that we had fun (and sugar).

It’s the last day of summer, and I’ve been struggling holding back tears all week because I am that mom/stepmom/nanny (seriously, I cried when I was 19 and my 6-year-old charge went off to first grade–sorry Allie). Yes, Sid is entering middle school, and I am gripped by panic and guilt.

Did I use our summer productively? Did we have enough fun? Did I enrich Sid and Sarah’s lives and brains with culture, and challenges, and new experiences? Well . . . if watching Bob’s Burgers counts, the answer is a resounding yes.

summer canteloupes

All that work for two . . . two canteloupes that smelled better than they tasted. The anticlimactic flavor of summer (don’t even ask about the tomatoes).

In all seriousness, yes, we went to the zoo and on vacation, and swimming, and to the library every week for Tiny Tots. Sarah and Sid completed their summer reading challenges today (Sid read a lot of Archie). We watered the garden (occasionally) and made a ginger bug to make our own lemonade soda (turns out Sid does not like the taste of ginger), but mostly, it just feels like summer went by too quickly. Sid had at least five weeks of summer camps, and a huge chunk of my day is still taken up with Sarah’s naps and freelance projects (one big reason this blog has been slow).

But this summer is over, and we have a limited number of summers, and really, we might not have one like this again. Sid is 11, he needs less supervision and wants more independence, and that is a natural thing, a great thing. But man–right now I just want to capture this summer and keep it, fill the last few hours with everything wonderful and lovely and memorable and special.

I think this means more Slurpees.

Burn Baby Burn

We passed a milestone as parents this past weekend: first trip to the emergency room with Sarah, who got second degree burns on her palms after trying to climb some metal bars at the playground on a 93-degree day (we at first thought it was the slide, but retraced her steps and realized the real culprit). It was shocking and scary and frustrating, but I also felt a new, completely unexpected feeling: detachment.

Sarah will be two in September. Now, two is an age I’ve heard about ad nauseam: Ah, the terrible twos! Followed by the extremely annoying term threenager (apparently three-year-olds are total bitches). But I have a question: why does no one talk about the super-injury-prone age of one?

At 22 months, Sarah can walk, run, and climb just well enough to be constantly covered with bruises and scratches. She understands us well enough, but can only communicate the very simplest ideas: she wants maa–her word for milk–she wants to go to the pool, or, denied that, she plaintively asks, Baaa?–her word for bath.

She has no idea of the most basic dangers. During our trip to Wyoming, we did a mad dash to urgent care because she placed her hands in a door jamb and got her fingers pinched. I was holding her at the time and heard a cracking sound that lodged in my throat. I panicked as she cried, handing her over to Scott and wringing my hands and wailing as others gave her ice and looked for urgent care locations. I struggled to pull it together, finally bundling her into the car, naked in a diaper, and riding with her into town.

While we returned with her clothed and shod (I at least brought clothes with me) and a verdict of parental overreaction (it was the wood that cracked, not her little fingers, she was fine), I was ashamed of my extreme distress. After all, I’m Sarah’s parent: I’m supposed to be calming her and getting her to safety, not falling apart.

Compared to the finger pinch, the burns on her hands were much more gruesome–giant, angry blisters destroying her tiny little palms. It was the sort of injury you see and wonder, Will that leave a scar? But I did manage to hold it together, sitting with her in the back seat of the car while Scott drove us to the hospital. I thought about her little fingers in Wyoming and pushed my panic down, smiling and telling her that everything would be just fine, we were going to the doctor right now to make everything all better.

Weirdly enough, it worked like a charm. Sarah calmed down and laughed while we sang our ABCs together (her new favorite song). And the more I talked to her, the more I believed that everything would be fine. I stopped looking at her burns as a scary injury, or an indictment of my parental skills, and saw it as an accident that we were going to treat as quickly anas possible.

In the days after her grand ordeal, Sarah has done the following: tipped over in her tiny deck chair onto a brick patio, tumbled down the back porch steps, banged her head (while goofing around) into a wooden stair, and rammed her head into a wall (again, while goofing around). Today, she tripped during a visit to Sid’s new middle school and hit the floor.

And while I cringe at every tumble–and try to watch her ever-more carefully, I swear–I’ve noticed that new steel in my nerves as she hurls herself into my arms, crying Mommy! and I murmur, I’m sorry, everything will be okay. Because I am the parent. And I am going to buy that silly baby a helmet.

Last Gasp of Summer: Free Things to Do in Portland

Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden at Grant Park

The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden at Grant Park in Portland. How have I never been here?!? From left: Ribsy, Ramona, and Henry.

I don’t mean to stress you out, but there’s only four more weeks of summer. Summer vacation, that is. At least, school starts for Sid August 29 (what the heck happened to school beginning after Labor Day?) and with our final weeks flashing before my eyes, I realized I needed to make a list. Of course. So here’s my curated list of free things to do in Portland this August.

Fountains

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than getting blasted by Portland’s fountains! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think the best ones are here:

Downtown Portland

Salmon Street Springs
Waterfront Park, Naito Parkway at SW Salmon
The classic. Large, right on the waterfront, plenty of firepower (waterpower?).

SalmonSprings

Sid and his friend Ernie enjoying Salmon Springs Fountain last summer!

Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain
Keller Fountain Park, between SW 3rd & 4th Ave, Market & Clay
The large concrete structures make this a fun one. I got in trouble in the third grade on a Bible study field trip by walking through one of the waterfalls, fully clothed. In retrospect, I would have been in much more trouble if I had been naked, right?

Teachers Fountain
Director Park, SW Yamhill & Park Ave
This is a new park and fountain. Not a lot of excitement, but great for toddlers and small children. Also good for foot soaking. Near Nordstrom.

SE Portland

The Rose Petal
Stark Street Island Park, SE 106th & Stark
I have never been here, and I cannot help but wonder what SE Portland did to be denied any close-in fountains. Am I missing something?

NE Portland

Grant Park Fountain
NE 33rd Ave & US Grant Pl
This is also the location of the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden–and they’re part of the fountain! I will be going here immediately.

Holladay Park Fountain
Holladay Park, NE 11th & Multnomah
I have not personally been here, but the Portland Parks & Recreation site says, “The fountain has programmable nozzles and valves on several plumbing loops to create a playful atmosphere of surprise trajectories and timing sequences.”

Woodlawn City Park
NE 13th Ave & Dekum St
I played at this park with Sid during the first year of Trek in the Park (in 2009!). Four-year-old Sid highly recommended the water feature.

NW Portland

Jamison Square Fountain
Jamison Square, between NW Kearney & Johnson, and NW 10th & 11th Avenues
Extremely popular, was near a good ice cream place last time I visited.

N Portland

Dawson Park Fountain
Dawson Park, N. Stanton & Williams
I don’t wanna wait–for our lives to be over . . .

McCoy Park Fountain
McCoy Park, N. Trenton & Newman Ave

Suburbs

Beaverton City Fountain Park
12500 SW 4th St, Beaverton, OR 97005
Oh, this fountain is a lot of fun. The streams of water are so high! Plus it’s right across the street from the library.

Lake at the Commons Interactive Fountain
8325 SW Nyberg St, Tualatin, OR 97062
Full disclosure–I grew up in Tualatin, and they built the Tualatin Commons–referred to by my brother and me as the “fake lake”–while we were in high school, closing a major road and screwing up traffic. All for a lake you were not allowed to swim in, ringed by restaurants that would open with great aplomb and then slowly wither on the vine, quickly replaced with other venues that would soon do the same, mostly because–they closed the damn road and no one could see them while driving by! Ahem. The fountain was still pretty fun. Also, I think the wine bar finally stuck.

Tualatin Commons Fountain

Tualatin Commons Fountain. The only good picture I could find (from Wikimapia) was apparently taken on a cold, rainy day. Typical!

Movies

I’ve always loved the idea of Portland’s free movies in the park. Movies under the stars, where I can cuddle up to my husband and bring a lavish picnic! I think I’ve been to exactly two, and one was an accident. But I am determined to go at least once this summer. Depending on the location (either public park or private business), there’s usually pre-movie entertainment, and the films start at dusk (around 9 pm).

Here’s the full schedule from Thrillist, with my picks below.

August 3:
Office Space
Pix Patisserie / Bar Vivant (2225 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214)
This isn’t exactly free, as you will not be able to resist Pix’s exquisite desserts or excellent selection of wine. Mike Judge’s genius ode to passive-aggressive (leading to aggressive-aggressive) ins and outs office life, starring Ron Livingston. Opens at 7 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 6:
The Goonies
Wilkes Park (NE 154th & Beech)
You’re not too cool for this movie. Go see the source material for Netflix’s Stranger Things. Opens at 6:30 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 14:
Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
April Hill Park (SW 58th & Miles)
I’m going to this one, by hook or by crook! Opens at 6:30 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 18:
Jaws
Elizabeth Caruthers Park (SW Moody & Gaines)
True story: I lived on Martha’s Vineyard, where this movie was filmed, for several years. Pretty much every middle-aged denizen of the Rock was an extra in this movie! Opens at 6:30 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 20:
Best in Show
Sewallcrest Park (SE 31st & Market)
This movie gives me life! If for some reason you haven’t seen it, click the title for the trailer (I linked to all the trailers in the titles). Opens at 6:30 pm; movie starts at dusk.

August 31:
Rocky
Pix Patisserie / Bar Vivant (2225 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214)
ADRIAN! Opens at 7 pm; movie starts at dusk.

Multnomah County Library Locations and Events

I renewed my relationship last year with the Multnomah County Library last year after almost 20 years, and I’m so glad I did! There are 20 branches in the Portland area, and they’re all full of wonderful things for you–and the vast majority are free.

Did you know that you can put a hold on any book, DVD, or most any other library material online, and they will deliver it to your local branch? It’s amazing. Do that.

There’s still time to complete your Summer Reading game board, open to babies, children, and teens! There’s even a Bingo version for adults. Win prizes and read amazing books for free!

The storytimes at the library are wonderful–much better than the weak “singalong” class I paid for through Portland Parks & Recreation. There are events for babies, toddlers, young children, and families!

Want to brush up on your computer skills or get tech help with a device? Get it for free at the Multnomah County Library’s computer and technology classes.

Need your resume polished? The library has you covered.

Other events (and I’m just scratching the surface): arts and crafts classes that include making seed balls and an “all-you-can-make” art bar, book clubs, citizenship classes, and lectures and author talks that include a one-hour cheese class, a talk on Vanport, earthquake preparedness, Etsy basics, free-range poetry, and much more!

There are literally dozens of other fascinating events at the Multnomah County Library, see all of their events here!

Phew! I feel much more in control of my life with this list. What other free things have I forgotten? Post them below!

Happy Monday! Shameless Self Promotion Edition

New Mutants Forever #1 Bill Sienkiewicz

New Mutants Forever #1, cover by Bill Sienkiewicz.

Happy Monday, you guys! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I had a very full weekend. On Saturday, Sarah went to Sid’s mom’s house for the day, so Scott and I could celebrate our anniversary by walking at least eight miles, visiting the Portland Art Museum, and seeing Star Trek Beyond (we accidentally saw it in 3-D, but really enjoyed it–it’s like a giant-sized Trek episode on steroids). On Sunday, we went to the Washington County Fair and I broke my cardinal rule: I bought unlimited ride bracelets before checking the lines for the rides. I lived to regret this purchase, because it was super crowded.

But enough about me, what about . . . me? Yes, the first link is something I helped make. Love me! Listen to me talk about comics!

Geekery

I was so fortunate to be asked back to my favorite podcast, Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, for the third time! In episode #119, Red Night of the Soul, Miles and I discuss the 2010 limited series New Mutants Forever, by Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod, and Al Rio.

The Doubleclicks, Portland’s beloved geek-folk sister band, will be playing Gen Con in Indianapolis August 6!

Plus, September 2-5, the Doubleclicks will have 10 (10!) performances in Atlanta for Dragon*Con!

Live in Portland? Don’t worry–you can catch the The Doubleclicks Variety Show August 25 and September 29 at Kickstand Comedy Space.

Wow. You will have a whole new appreciation for Scooby Doo after you check out these 50 background paintings over at the Secret Fun Blog.

Cooking

Oh my god, this Secret Buckeye Bundt Cake was soooo good. And soooo filling. Eat a salad for dinner and eat the cake with a large glass of milk.

Actually, make this Thai Chicken and Noodle Salad from Martha Stewart. It was easy, tasty, and perfect for hot weather.

How’s your life going? I can’t believe summer is almost over! Post your doings below.

IMG_9125

Foolproof Vacation Cooking

BurritoWhile I believe in relaxing while on vacation, I also prefer to cook most of my own meals. And not just because I prefer my own cooking. Not only is eating out for every meal expensive, but . . . it’s just not that great. Let’s be honest: how many mediocre sandwiches or breakfasts or plates of pasta have you eaten just because they’re there? This is why I prefer rental houses to hotels when we’re staying somewhere for more than a few days. But there’s a trick to cooking on vacation–here’s how to make it foolproof:

  • Choose recipes that are simple to prepare: you can’t count on a rental house to have a food processor or stand mixer (heck, I always travel with a chef’s knife and serrated knife). Not only is it better not to rely on specialized tools, but simple meals are usually quicker to prepare.
  • Select dishes that don’t require a million ingredients. During our recent trip to Wyoming, I was tempted to make my grandma’s famous spaghetti sauce, before I realized all the things I’d have to buy: dried spices, brown sugar, etc. Then I’d be faced with two choices: lug it all home, or leave it (knowing there’s a good chance housekeeping would throw it away).
  • In a similar vein, try to select a group of dishes that use the same ingredients. The cheddar cheese I bought on our recent trip to Wyoming went in our eggs for breakfast, and in burritos, cheeseburgers, and macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Sample Menu

I feel we really got vacation cooking right in Wyoming a couple weeks ago! While we did go out a few times, we mainly ate at the condo (and packed picnics for day trips to Yellowstone and the drive home). Plus, I figured out a trick for our final night’s dinner that I will do every time in the future!

Breakfast
Bagels and cream cheese (or peanut butter, or butter)
Yogurt (full-fat Greek mixed with jam or fruit–I also used it in place of sour cream in burritos, below)
Cereal
Scrambled eggs
Fruit

Lunch
Ham and cheese sandwiches
Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
Fruit
Veggies (carrots, sweet peas, jicama, cucumber spears)

Dinner
Burritos
Burgers (twice, to help use up the condiments we purchased and because they were so good)
Roast pork loin with garlic (a very simple recipe that was delicious), macaroni and cheese (my special doctored-up Kraft version), grilled corn on the cob
Veggies (carrots, sweet peas, jicama, cucumber spears)

Condiments/Extras
Salt and pepper
Mayonnaise
Ketchup
Dijon mustard
Pickles

Dessert
Oreos (helpful in “using up” extra milk)
Ice cream bars (so fuss, no muss, no bowl or utensils required)

As you can see, we ate pretty well–and had plenty of “picnic” supplies to take along on day trips to Yellowstone, letting us avoid long lines and high prices for mediocre grub. But at the end of the trip, we stumbled into two easy ways to use up the rest of our food before packing up.

The Cleanup Crew

aka, use it before you lose it (or have to take it home with you)

The Burrito: We did something so smart and yummy for our last dinner that I’m always going to plan on this for future trips. We still had leftover tortillas, so we took everything relevant out of the refrigerator–leftover burrito fixings, roast pork (sliced up), some hummus and tabouli we had for snacks, veggies, cheese–and laid it all out on the counter, heating up things like meat and beans. Then everyone grabbed a tortilla and put whatever they wanted in it. We came up with some pretty cool combinations and got rid of almost everything.

IMG_9125

This is a smoothie I made at home–I didn’t take a lot of photos on my trip, I was on vacation!

The Smoothie: In my experience, the one countertop appliance you can usually find in a vacation rental is a blender. Perhaps rental agencies think we all want to make strawberry daiquiris while on vacation (actually I did that once). But! For our final breakfast, we whirled up all of our leftover yogurt, fruit, and juice into a quick, delicious breakfast that didn’t require a lot of cleanup. We felt very clever.

So what are your vacation cooking tips? Any simple recipes you keep in your back pocket when you need to cook on the fly? Share them below!

Roast pork loin with garlic

Roast Pork Loin With Garlic

Roast pork loin with garlic

Roast pork loin with garlic, so pretty–so tasty–so easy!

This is a very simple recipe–barely a recipe, really–that I put together while on vacation this summer. I wanted an easy dinner I could cook in our rental condo that didn’t require a lot of ingredients that I wouldn’t use up before we went home!

So play it loose. You can use pork loin, as I did, or you can use pork tenderloin. You could add fresh herbs or ginger, whatever you like–or if you’re staying at a rental house, you might have a bunch of “interesting” ingredients at your disposal. Salt and pepper is necessary, of course.

Roast Pork Loin With Garlic

You need:

3 lb pork loin (I used two 1.5 lb pork loin “cutlets,” or you could use pork tenderloin)
10 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Drizzle of olive oil (or a bit of butter)

Preheat your oven to 425. Place your pork on a rimmed baking dish or sheet and rub with the garlic, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil (or top with a little butter).

Roast for approximately 35-40 minutes, until done. I didn’t have a meat thermometer (vacation rental), so I took my pork out on the early side and cut into it to make sure it was cooked through–but not overcooked. Don’t overcook your pork, modern grocery store pork has so little fat in it that it goes tough and dry easily.

When it seems just done, take it out of the oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Slice and serve!

wonder-woman-nicola-scott

Happy Tuesday! So Much Nerd Stuff

Hey folks, happy Tuesday! With both kids out of the house yesterday (Sid to Oregon Humane Society camp, Sarah to Grandparents Camp), I spent yesterday cleaning the house and catching up on some freelance work. It felt great, but I missed blogging.

Let’s get down to business. San Diego Comic-Con was last week/weekend, and while your faithful blogger sat it out (my third year in a row, after years of manning the Things From Another World booth, miss you boo) and testily read updates, there were a few that caught my eye. First up: so many trailers.

Luke Cage looked (and sounded) amazing:

Iron Fist looked promising:

Now, while I have enjoyed both of these characters in comics (and Luke Cage in Netflix’s Jessica Jones series, I’m not super emotionally invested in them. This makes it easy for me to get excited about these shows.

Similarly, the Defenders teaser was intriguing. I loved the inclusion of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”:

And then there’s Legion. I have actually always been actively annoyed by this character, both his very existence (Charles Xavier has an unknown son? Really.) and by his portrayal as the most powerful, annoying spoiled brat in the universe (multiverse?). Also, his hair is stupid. There, I said it. But. I love Dan Stevens (reminder: watch The Guest again), I loved Noah Hawley’s previous series, Fargo, I trust FX–so this could be really cool. Plus: dancing!

And so we come to the one I have the most complicated feelings about. Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman was, literally, my first love. My earliest memories as a toddler are of watching Lynda Carter on TV and dressing up as her (or so I thought–in retrospect, my costume consisted of a frog bathing suit and Big Bird slippers) for Halloween. Even though I’ve moved away from that character and the bulk of my comics history is Marvel, this trailer still touched a nerve.

I never saw the new Superman or Batman vs. Superman movies because they seemed too dark–both literally and figuratively–especially for a beacon-of-hope character like Superman. So I’ve been ambiguous about WW. Here’s the trailer:

On the one hand, I love the visual of the ocean and Paradise Island, the actors seem capable, and Wonder Woman’s costume is amazing (if a little clunky–jointed armored boots?). But it echoes the previous “dark and moody” DC look, and the trailer is a little battle heavy for me. My favorite moments are those with Steve Trevor and definitely Etta Candy (yay!). I’m hoping there’s a lot more of this in the actual movie. So restrained joy. Yeah, that’s pretty much where I am.

Other stuff! As you may already know, I’ve become the go-to guest host for my favorite podcast, Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, and I couldn’t be prouder or more grateful. You mean I get to read a bunch of X-books and then discuss them on air? Yay! If Jay and Miles are the Cyclops and Jean Grey of the podcast, I’m like 1980 Polaris: just living a normal life, but ready to go on a superheroing adventure when needed. Yeah!

Anyway, I’ll be hosting episode #119, which will be live July 31, talking about New Mutants Forever, the 2010 throwback to Chris Claremont’s original run, with Miles Stokes. I read 61 issues to get ready for this folks, I hope you enjoy it!

Stay tuned this week: I am determined to get a food and a cheapskate post up. And fill me in on your summer doings!