Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Hey! We just got back from a trip to Portland!
Amy, Raylan, Mom, Dad, and I rented a house in Northeast Portland, about two blocks north of Alberta Street.
It was a really fun trip!
We flew out on Wednesday and switched planes in Denver.  The four to one adult to toddler ratio really made the flying very easy.

Usually Raylan and Papa look at model planes, pictures of planes in books
and plane videos on the computer.  But it's all been leading up to this...
The house we stayed in worked pretty well for us.  It had two bedrooms upstairs and a basement downstairs that was in a sort of basement.  There was a bathroom upstairs and one downstairs.  Both had showers (the one upstairs had a claw foot bathtub with a shower).
We had a porch out back with a little yard that Raylan could play in a little bit.
The house was actually located on a little alley (maybe it was first built as a back house?) behind 28th Street.
The neighborhood that we stayed in was nice.  The houses were older, but most of them were well maintained, and a good number of them had been renovated in interesting ways.  The yards had incredible gardening and plants.  I guess due to the climate up in Portland, the variety and amount of vegetation up there, in general, was pretty amazing.  There were lot of flowers and lush, interesting plants even around houses and buildings in which it wasn't clear that the owners were necessarily trying to do a lot of formal gardening.
There neighborhoods had lots of really tall, big pine trees and firs, as well as other trees.
Cherry trees and raspberry bushes were randomly scattered in various yards.
Everything was green.

"Papa in the house?  Raylan in the house!"

Raylan tries to settle in and relaxes at the vacation house with some
reading material.

We got in Wednesday in the sort of late afternoon.  We took a walk two blocks down from our house to Alberta Street (which has shops and restaurants and a few live music places and whatnot), and we walked to New Seasons Market (sort of a cross between Whole Foods and Central Market) to pick up a few groceries.
That evening we went to Broadside Brewery for dinner.  Amy, Dad, and I got beer (I got a flight), and Mom had some wine.  The food was surprisingly good for a brewery, and the beer was tasty as well.

"Dad, it appears that this brewery features toddler-sized
beer glasses..."

On Thursday we got up, ate a little breakfast, and drove out to Multnomah Falls.  They were really impressive.  Just a really pretty place.
We also drove along the Historic Columbia River Highway, which is, according to Wikipedia, the nation's oldest scenic highway.  At any rate, it had some spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge.  We also made a stop for Raylan to run around at Rooster Rock State Park (apparently a former Lewis and Clark encampment site).
We stopped at Latourell Falls along the highway.  It was slightly smaller than Multnomah Falls, but still very beautiful and impressive.  Some people were getting married up at the scenic overlook for Latrourell, and between the great weather and the scenery, I'd say they were bound to get some great pictures.  Not sure how the bridesmaids climbed up there in heels, though...
We walked a path that led down to the bottom of Latourell Falls.  Nice walk.  Very pretty.
We briefly visited Vista House, a scenic lookout point which, true to its name, had some very impressive views of the Columbia River.

Multnomah Falls

Here's a picture of Mom digging into her purse so she can throw
a lucky penny into the falls (not really)

I am afraid of heights.  But I walked across this bridge.  Even though
it gave me vertigo.  Cause I love Amy.

Amy and I are the ones on the left.
Rooster Rock State Park

Amy does her Vanna White thing at Rooster Rock...

...and does her Rockettes thing after dipping her hand into the apparently
mania-inducing waters of the Columbia River.  :-)

Mom and Dad on the Columbia River at Rooster Rock

Love you, Amy!!!

Latourell Falls

"Lemme go, Dad!  Lemme goooooo!!!!

Vista House, Crown Point

"Why are you smiling?  What's behind me?  Is there something to see?
Don't we need to get going?"

We took Raylan home for a nap and grabbed some sandwiches.  In the afternoon we went to the Portland Zoo!
It was really cool.  The weather was great.  Raylan was excited.  We're at home in Austin today, as I'm writing this, and I asked Raylan today if he remembered the zoo (you never know with a two year old).  He told me he remembered the seals with their whiskers, the sleepy tiger, an orangutan, the elephants, and (most importantly) a speaker that played music.  (There was, indeed, a speaker near the seal exhibit that was piping in some festive music.  Raylan was very proud of himself for having located the source of that music.)
The zoo was very nice.  Lots of big trees, the weather was beautiful, and nice exhibits with all kinds of animals.


"You gotta watch carefully Raylan cause the seals move pretty fas-"

"Flippers!!  On the feet!!"

Raylan is excited to try out the "how much
do you weigh compared to an elephant?" scale

Amy poses for a picture near the elephants.
Raylan tries to push aside some lady so he can get a better view.
A couple of large pack animals and a little kid.
On Thursday night, Amy and I left Raylan with my parents and went out for a little date night.
We had a reservation for a sort of fancy place that we'd made before we left Austin, but in the end, we weren't feeling it.
We just wanted good food from a local place.  Luckily, a friend of mine had been to Portland the year before and recommended a Thai restaurant called Pok Pok.
It was really good!  It was Thai food, and definitely some of the best that I've ever had, but the place wasn't pretentious at all.  They have three locations, but at the one that we went to it was mostly counter seating.  We sat at the counter, and ended up talking quite a bit with the waitstaff as well as the people seated beside us.
We talked to the waiters about the food scene in Portland and the food scene in Austin.
One of their guys had just come back from the Hot Luck food festival in Austin.  Anyway, we told them their place was definitely as good as any of the Thai we'd eaten in Austin, and they seemed excited to hear it.
We had khao soi, kai yaang, and Vietnamese fish sauce wings.  All of the food was delicious.  We also drank a couple of beers.

Pok Pok

Amy, realizing we made the right decision on the dinner place.

Nom nom nom nom!!!

After dinner we stopped by Salt and Straw and had some ice cream.  It's sort of a famous place (with a long, but fast-moving line to match), and the ice cream lived up to the reputation.  They had some pretty crazy flavors that I'm not sure I'd ever even try (Amy sampled a bunch), but I went with a chocolate fudge brownie and sea salt caramel combo that was muy bueno.
Note sure what Amy got...

Salt and Straw

On summer vacation we eat ice cream.

On Friday we got up and went downtown.  We visited Powell's City of Books, a sort of mega bookstore that took up an entire city block.  My parents both do a lot of reading, and Amy not only reads a lot, but has a master's degree from the UT Library School, so this famous book store seemed like a logical stop.
It was fun.  We all, by turns, got sort of lost browsing.  Raylan loved the expansive kids' section.

 Powell's City of Books

"Kids' section, Mom.  You promised me the kids' section."
After the book store we went to the Japanese Garden.

Portland Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden was really cool.  It's a very pretty place.
I think it's meant to be sort of a beautiful place for quiet contemplation.  Quiet contemplation, however, doesn't necessarily come easy when you have a two-year-old in tow.
"Oh, wow!  Look at those fish!!"
"A waterfall!!!"
"Those are PRETTY flowers!!"

Amy and I wandered away from my parents and Raylan for a couple of minutes to walk down a path that wasn't accessible to Raylan's stroller, and we could sort of track their progress through the garden by way of the sound of Raylan's voice.
We've got an enthusiastic kid.  ;-)
Anyway, the Japanese Gardens were really nice.

View of downtown Portland from the Japanese Garden.
The garden sits on one of the wooded hillsides
near downtown.

One of the Zen meditation gardens within the larger garden.  Very
Amy, Dad, and I went out to some food trailers for lunch.  Amy ate a vegan bowl, and Dad and I had Korean chicken burritos.  It was fun, and the food was good.

Food Trailers

"You told me there'd be pulled pork, son.  I was promised pulled pork."
In the afternoon Amy and I took Raylan to Alberta Park, near the house where we were staying.
It was a nice, public park.  Good playground, lots of really big trees, and friendly people.  In fact, Portland (or at least the northeast part where we were staying) seemed to have a lot of really nice public parks.

Alberta Park

Raylan's first ride on a merry-go-round.
"Raylan's spinning?"

On Friday night Amy and I got sandwiches, and Mom and Dad got their turn to go out to a nice dinner.  They went to a seafood place called RingSide Fish House.  It was downtown.  I think they liked it.  They said they liked it.  I hope they liked it.

On Saturday we got up and ate breakfast and went over to a coffee shop near the house called Extracto so Mom, Dad, and Amy could get coffee.  I don't drink coffee, but I did manage to get a good pastry.


Cause you have to fuel up on caffeine to keep pace with Raylan

Afterward we went to Grant Park.  It's another really nice park with a cool playground, and it's near Klickitat Street, the street where Beverly Cleary grew up, so it has a splash pad with statues of Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, and Ribsy, the dog.
We got there in the morning, and the water wasn't turned on yet at the splash pad, but we got to see the statues and enjoy the beautiful park.  Fun place.

Grant Park

Raylan and his posse.


"I am a BIG fan of yours, Ramona!"

Three generations of Steans men.  One teeter-totter.
After Grant Park (and it's amazing, frisbee-catching dogs), we headed downtown to the Saturday Market.  The Saturday Market is a big street art market that occurs on, well, Saturdays.
It was really cool.  There are two parts of the market, and at least one half of it is apparently carefully curated by some sort of board which oversees the event and determines which artists are allowed to set up shop.  There's another part, closer to the food trailers, which has more folksy art, but still some very cool stuff.
I also got a delicious cheese pretzel there with hot mustard (I swear I'm not a fatty- there's just really good food in Portland!)
At the edge of the Saturday Market there is a big fountain/splash pad that the kiddos were all playing in.  I took off my shoes and wandered in with Raylan so he could play.  The water was cold, but he had a blast.

Saturday Market

Amy, using her superpower, senses bargains.

"Let me show you amateurs how we do this in Texas!!!"

Saturday afternoon I went and worked out at a nearby gym.  According to the data on my phone, we were already putting in our 10,000 steps just walking around during the day, but as a guy who worries about my blood pressure, I felt compelled to hop on an elliptical for a while.  Anyway, there was also napping and reading.

All four of us took Raylan over to Alberta Park to play for a while.

Saturday night we went out for pizza at Old Town Brewing Company.  The pizza was very good.  The beer was really good.  The conversation was even good!  I had fun.

Old Town Brewing Company

I.  Must.  Go.  Play.  Now."
On Sunday we got up in the morning and went to the Portland Children's museum.
It was really fun.  Obviously, Raylan had the most fun (on the airplane ride home he asked to go to the children's museum again), but we all had fun with him.

Portland Children's Museum

Really cool water table with flowing water and little boats and

Raylan assembles a signal for his alien friends.
"I'm ready for pick up."

Moving the "dirt" through the chutes.
Sunday afternoon Amy and I went to a vegan place called The Bye and Bye.  I rarely (meaning never) go to vegan restaurants, but one of the guys at Pok Pok had recommended this place, swearing that he had been a meat eater all of his life and still really liked it.
So we went, and it was pretty good!
I had some sort of meatless meatball sandwich (veggie "meatballs", I'm told), and Amy had the "weeping tiger" tofu sandwich.  They were both really good.
If no one had told me, I wouldn't have known mine was vegan.

The Bye and Bye

"Those are real meatballs in there, though, right?"

In the afternoon I went and worked out.
I think everyone else took naps or read.

It got a little warm on Sunday afternoon.  The thermometer actually hit 100 degrees, and it was the hottest day of their year so far.  There was low humidity, so the heat dissipated quickly as the sun set, but the afternoon was surprisingly warm for that part of the country.

On Sunday night I went out to dinner with Raylan and my parents at a place called the Courtyard Restaurant in the Kennedy School Hotel.  The Kennedy School Hotel is a boutique hotel that's built on in old, renovated, repurposed elementary school.  The Courtyard Restaurant was once actually the school's cafeteria.  The hotel itself has a couple of restaurants, a number of bars, a movie theater, some sort of swimming or soaking pool, and I think even a live music venue.
The place has a classy, but eclectic feel to it.  I thought it was pretty cool.
Apparently it's owned by a chain called McMenamins (which I think is specific to Oregon and Washington), but I've never heard of or seen anything like it.
By the time we had dinner on Sunday, we'd been eating and drinking a lot, so we all had salads (Raylan had grilled cheese).  Dad and I had a beer, though.

Kennedy School- Courtyard Restaurant

Mom is always happy to be in school.  And Dad is happy when Mom's

Dinner shenanigans 

"I bet I can hop all the way down this hall, Papa!!"
On Sunday morning the rest of the crew got up and went out for breakfast, heading a block north, and I walked two blocks south to get a breakfast sandwich at The Big Egg on Alberta Street.
I also grabbed some doughnuts for everyone to share at Tonallis Donuts and Cream.  The donuts were good.  Too good.

Alberta Street

We all took one last walk around the neighborhood and down Alberta Street, trying to wear Raylan out for the plane ride, before heading back to the house and leaving for airport.

Is it just me, or is it obvious in this picture that Raylan is going
to take off running the minute Papa set him down?

And so that was the trip!  

We had a lot of fun!  We all got along well in close quarters over a number of days, we had fun seeing Portland, and we had fun entertaining/taking care of Raylan.  It was really nice to spend time with everyone,
It was a really good trip.  

Raylan nap = parent relaxation

"This airport park and ride bus is my favorite part of the trip, Grandma!"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Father's Day Weekend

Welcome back!  I hope everyone had a good Father's Day weekend.
We had a nice one!
Amy got me a really nice bottle of whiskey (Balcones Single Malt) for Father's Day, as well as a bunch of popcorn.  It was a really nice gift!  Made me jolly.
We just sort of hung out around the house on Friday night.  Amy made paninis, and they were very good.
On Saturday we got up and went out to breakfast.
Afterward we went swimming over at Garrison Pool.

He was supposed to be watering the flowers...
The pool was really nice on Saturday morning.  It wasn't too hot out, and we got there right when it opened, so the pool wasn't very crowded.

Practicing jumping to Dad
We swam for a while and then went to the playground for little bit.
Afterward, there was lunch and a Raylan nap while Amy and I worked out.  Raylan took a really long nap, and basically slept through a birthday party that he was supposed to attend.
Oh well.
I went to the grocery store, and afterward I played with Raylan while Amy made a key lime pie and some blackberry bars.
I'm not sure what we did Saturday night.  I think I watched Better Call Saul.  Good show!
On Sunday we got up, and I talked Amy into going out for breakfast again.  Because Father's Day.
We Went over to Dan's near our house.

Raylan is suspicious of me as I try to convince him that
I'm even better than Mom at buttering pancakes.
"Oh Father, when Mother butters the flapjacks, they have
a most delightful quality!!"
After breakfast we went over to Deep Eddy pool and went swimming.  I hadn't been there for many years.  The pool was really nice (it's a big, spring fed pool with a gently sloping entry point for the kiddos).  I hadn't been there in a long time, and it seemed a little different than I remembered, but a friend subsequently told me that they did some substantial remodeling to the place a few years back.
At any rate, Raylan loved the water.  He didn't even seem to mind that it was a little bit colder than the regular pools.  And, of course, it's always nice to swim in a pool without chlorine.

"This is my Father's Day dance, Dad!
Look at me!  Look at meeee!!!"

Amy convincing Raylan that the water isn't cold.

Time out for snacks and contemplation.
In the afternoon there was, once again, exercise and a Raylan nap.
In the late afternoon we went over to my parent's house.  We had barbecue and the key lime pie and blackberry bars that Amy had made.
Ryan, Jamie, Dick (Jamie's dad), Mom, Dad, Susan, and Uncle Donald were there.  We watched some of the college baseball World Series (TCU vs. Florida) and hung out and talked.  Raylan, as usual, played a lot and took turns entertaining and being entertained.
It was nice to see everyone!
It was a nice, relaxed, summer gathering.

"Well, yeah, I know the colors on this thing, Uncle Donald, but I
didn't know this was gonna be a test!"

Anyway, that was it for the weekend.  It was very nice.  Happy Father's Day to my dad!

Hope everyone has a good week!