Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Escape to Oregon

New Year's resolution number one: post more often on our blog.

Last semester was so busy; we meant to post more often, but it just didn't happen. In the end, we both survived finals and escaped to Oregon. 13 hour drive, but we stopped halfway at my sister's place in Boise and stayed up late talking to her and her boyfriend. Dan (the boyfriend) showed us his awesome new Traktor turntable, and demoed some seamless mixing and some nice control on the effects and equalizer. He's been teaching Amy a bit, too. Also, their two birds sing along whenever there is music playing.

The next morning we drove the rest of the way to Portland. Freaky weather: it's supposed to be mid-winter in Idaho, and there was no snow on the roads at all. At least the pass through the Blue Mountains had a little bit of snow, but for the most part the world around us was brown and dry as sawdust. Those fields in the picture really should have snow on them.

We got to spend a wonderful week with Suzanne's parents.
Her mom is a chemist, and working for a company that makes rechargeable batteries for electric cars, and her dad manages an apartment complex. We got to make a huge pile of desserts, put them on paper plates and bring them around to his tenants. I made peanut butter balls: very simple recipe, just peanut butter, oats, dry milk, and maple syrup. Then, just because I could, I dipped them in chocolate.

We went and met up with Suzanne's high school friends at Powell's Bookstore in Portland. I want to live there! So many books, so many subjects, and so many trendy cookbooks.

That's Helena on the left, Suzanne in the middle, and Leslie completing the Suzannewich.

I wanted to just stay there forever and read all sorts of interesting books, but we only had paid for an hour of parking, so we had to tear ourselves away.

Among other things, such as a walk through the very shady Chinatown area, we went to the famous Voodoo Doughnuts. They have some pretty crazy things there, like Captain Crunch on top of donuts, and Oreos mashed up with caramel. Good doughnuts (although secretly I'm not sure what separates them from all the other equally good doughnuts I've had).

Suzanne's big brother Carlin, his wife Ashley, and their excruciatingly cute two year old Liam came down from Washington for part of the week. Liam sings along to the "Threw It On The Ground" video, by the way. Very funny. We went down to Corvallis for Carlin's friend's reception (that's where Liam got the cupcake) and Suzanne and I spent the day at Grassroots Bookstore, American Dream Pizza, and New Morning Bakery. And, we got to see Leslie and Helena again. We visited Helena's cow. Suzanne likes cows a lot. If you were wondering.

At Grassroots, we found some books we really want to read:

In Defense of Food, a book about why eating is a good thing today, and contains the magnificent line, "Eat food. Not too much. And mostly plants."

Anything by Billy Collins. He writes about everyday things in a very not-everyday way.

Department of Mad Scientists Ever heard of DARPA? My metal-gear-solid-playing friends have. It's an agency designed to keep America on the cutting edge, and they have studied some crazy things. Like inventing the internet.

Burst Discusses the patterns in everything we do. I read a few chapters, and it's very insightful.

I love nonfiction books. Fiction is nice too. Moving on....

We spent Christmas Eve at Suzanne's Grandma and Grandpa Simmons' house. Lots of food, lots of talk, lots of football (Seahawks almost beat the 49er's! But then they didn't, in the end. Sad.) And, lots of relatives. I'm getting better at remembering the names of Suzanne's extended family, but it is still difficult. They have a tradition of assigning a "Santa" to hand out all the gifts. Guess who got to be Santa... yep, the dude in the Santa hat right there. So I had to try and hand gifts to the right people. I kept forgetting who Rachel was (one of the cousins) and I gave Andre one of Andrea's presents. Now he probably thinks I can't spell. I thought it was really fun though. And I felt cool when I remembered people's names.

Christmas day was nice. We opened presents in the morning. Liam was obsessed with his new car, and Suzanne's dad got a tablet PC. Suzanne got me everything I wanted - a Dylan T-shirt, a Jackson Browne CD, a German novel and a Bill Bryson book. I know Christmas isn't just about getting, but I think that items like these show how well Suzanne knows me. She also got me something that I've wanted for a long time: a harmonica holder and a G harmonica, so I can play guitar and harmonica at the same time. I got her a few kitchen things she'd wanted, and an iPod armband, Led Zeppelin "Coda" and Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." The most exciting thing there was that Suzanne's parents got her a sewing machine. She's been wanting one for so long. Now she can finally finish her apron!

Also, two days before, I played the game Ticket to Ride for the first time and loved it. And, surprise surprise, Carlin and Ashley got us the German map edition of Ticket to Ride! Very exciting.

We went to church as a family, and the program was mostly music, with a few talks in between, then had a nice day relaxing at home (well, at home-away-from-home.)

We drove home Monday morning, and it was very nice using the Magellan GPS that Suzanne's dad got for me. Those things can tell you whether there is a gas station near enough for you to fill up -- very nice if you don't want to die in the middle of the Idaho desert.

At home, we got to have a delayed Christmas with my family. Amy and Becky both came home for the week, which was really nice. We also exchanged gifts, and it was evident that a lot of thought went into what my family got for us. I was really happy to see my siblings reactions to the things we found for them. Benjamin loved the hat we found at DI. We found one for Elijah, too, that fits him perfectly. It was so nice to be able to relax with family. I'm so glad that the semester ends before Christmas, so I don't have to feel like I'm wasting homework time when I am with my family.

We didn't get a whole-family picture like I was hoping, but we at least got one with Amy. Smiles all around. Christmas was wonderful. Too many good things to write about in one blog post.

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