hallelujah, the rain has come...

...in a very literal and earth-watering sense. this weekend has been fantastic so far - Trina's sister was up staying with us all last week, and her parents came up to pick her up yesterday. we all went to lunch at Dot's Cafe on Clinton ST, and then we packed up her stuff and they took off.

After that, Trina and I gave a little whoop of joy at having our house to ourselves again for a while, after a long stint of roommates (which were all good, but sometimes it's nice to just have your own place).

We rode our bikes over to the Do It Best hardware store on Division ST and bought some sheetrock anchors for the screws that were holding in one of our curtain anchors, that had come out some weeks ago. We came back and I put up the curtains, which was really nice to have done.

We took the car and took a load of stuff to Goodwill that had been sitting in our basement, and then we stopped at New Seasons and got some bread to go with the pasta with fresh tomatoes from our garden and fresh mozzarella balls we had made earlier in the week, and we also got something special - a peach pie! Mmmmm.

A little back story - we've been watching the first season of the show Pushing Daisies, in which the main character is a pie maker, and owns a pie shop called the Pie Hole. (side note - the show is amazing, probably my very favorite show in years and years) Anyway, in the course of watching the show, I had been growing a craving for pie. So, thus, the trip to New Seasons, largely for the pie :)

We came back home and preheated the oven, while we heated up the pasta and cut the bread. We put the pie in, and then sat back to eat dinner and watch a couple more episodes of Pushing Daisies. After dinner, we pulled out Scrabble and sat at the dining room/craft studio table and played with the curtains drawn by the light of Trina's great grandma's oil lamp.

Once the pie was done, we eagerly pulled it out of the oven, looking beautiful, as good pies do, and let it set for the allotted time. We could hardly wait to dig in, but wanted the optimal experience. Finally, it was time, and we cut slices, with a little bit of french vanilla ice cream to complement it. It was delicious, and all we had waited and hoped for.

Finally we finished up the scrabble game (which Trina won, as usual), and went to crawl into bed, full and happy.

This morning we woke up to a cool morning, with clouds... we woke up late and finished watching the first season of Pushing Daisies, and then we ate a bit of lunch - Trina had fried tofu, and I had miso soup. While we were watching, it started raining pretty heavily, and continued through lunchtime. We lazily meandered around the house for a little bit, and then ran to New Seasons for a couple days of groceries. It continued to rain on and off while we were out. When we came back, we went to the garden and picked some more tomatoes, some green beans, and some herbs to use for dinner. It rained again just as we came back from the garden, and then cleared up again a bit. We rinsed up the veggies, and now here we are, getting ready for dinner.

For dinner, we're making a roasted chicken with garlic, lemon thyme, oregano, butter and lemon under the skin, rice pilaf, and sauteed green beans with butter, garlic and onions.

Tomorrow is our 6th anniversary. It seems so crazy that 6 years can go by so fast - and it seems crazy that loving someone could ever be so incredible. I never would have imagined what it would be like, and I never imagined a relationship with a person could be so deepening, fulfilling and exciting (though it is sometimes painful and difficult in the process - 'the tension is to be loved when it is like a passing note to a beautiful, beautiful chord...'). Life is deep and rich, and I love that it is that way.

We're going to have a lazy day just bumming around town, and then go see the movie The Fall at the Laurelhurst Theater in the evening.

Hope you all have fantastic weekends as well. Best wishes!


another personal quirk... and some other things

something I've noticed about myself, is that in the summer, I feel claustrophobic with a long-sleeved shirt on unless I roll the sleeves up, even just 4-5 inches from my wrist makes a huge difference. just rolling them up that much reduces how hot I feel and how much I sweat, which is weird... but hey, what can you do?

I got a new vest last night at Bombshell Vintage on E Burnside, so I wore it today with my blue-green button up shirt, jeans and brown wingtips. I'll try to get Trina to take some better photos tonight, but you can kind of get an idea of the vest anyway (click for bigger images)...


commuters of Portland...

If you're riding a bike, please stop at stop signs. It freaks people in cars out like nothing else to start going at a stop sign they have stopped at only to have a bike fly through the intersection the other way and to nearly take the biker out. I was biking to work today, and stopped at a stop sign at 34th and Clinton, only to have 5 other bikes fly past me without stopping (they were all in a clump). I sort of caught up with them again, only to have them all blow through the stop at 26th and Clinton as well. There wasn't much traffic at the time, but I have nearly hit bikers before when I've been driving when they haven't stopped at stop signs. It's one of the primary complaints I hear around Portland regarding bikers.

If you're in a car, please use your turn signals whenever you're leaving a lane of traffic (such as at an on/off ramp). It's really aggravating to be walking or on a bike and to not be able to cross roads at certain points because nobody uses their turn signals, so you never know if someone is going to veer your direction or not, and you pretty much have to wait either until nobody is nearby, or someone is nice enough to stop and let you go. Today on my commute, I had just gone over the Ross Island Bridge, and was waiting to cross the street where traffic coming off the bridge can either go straight and head towards downtown, or turn right onto the ramp that goes under the bridge and over to get onto I-5. Not a single car that turned onto the ramp used their turn signal. Since it's hard to tell which way people are going to go, as the ramp is almost directly off the bridge, I had to sit and wait for several minutes, until finally someone who was turning onto the ramp (without using their signal) stopped so I could cross.

In general, just give some thought to other people on the road and how you interact with them. I promise, it won't be that painful, and it will make things nicer for everyone. If we all start practicing, we'll all get better bit by bit, and everyone will be happier and safer. Just try it, really! :)



Today I got a very exciting little package in the mail :) It's not a very pretty package, until you get to the inside...

But, once you do, a beautiful thing is waiting for you! It's a Merkur "Progress" adjustable safety razor!

It was smaller than I expected - about 3.5 inches from head to tail, and about an inch and a half across at the head.

Also included in the package was one pack of 10 Merkur platinum blades. I'm hoping to find a place in town where I can procure these (I'm sure I can find somewhere), but I figured it'd be nice to just have a pack to go with the razor to start off with, so I ordered a package with it.

Thanks again to Trina, for letting me try shaving with this - I'll be careful, I promise :)

people of the world...

please know that each and every one of you have intrinsic value as human beings, and that you don't have to let anyone take advantage of you by playing on your insecurities. don't let anyone tell you that you are useless, and don't let anyone squash your dreams. believe that you were made for a purpose, and live to fulfill that purpose. find the strength to believe in yourself, and you will be able to dodge the bullets meant to make you crumble.

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love."


shaving cream...

I'm excited to try this shaving cream, which New Seasons was kind enough to order for me (as they sell some other products from this company anyway). Supposedly it's sage scented, which is wonderful, since I have their sage bar soap in the shower and it's my favorite soap ever. Here's hoping it's good :)


birthday fun :)

My lovely wife was kind enough to allow me to get this adjustable safety razor (see picture below) from the German company Merkur for my birthday, even though she's convinced I will cut my face off with it :)

You can adjust the amount of the blade that sticks out beyond the safety guard, so you can adjust for a more gentle or more aggressive shave, and also depending on your beard type or whatever.

I'll let you all know how it does once I get it and have a chance to try it out and get used to it. Given the price of blades for Gillette and Schick multi-blade razors (Mach III, Fusion, Quattro), this looks like it's going to be a much cheaper option (10 blades for $5, rather than 4 blades for $20).



a birthday day...

Well, yesterday was my birthday - I have now reached the venerable age of 29. I started off the day by slipping on some CDs that were sitting on our stairs, sliding down a few stairs, and tweaking my left shoulder pretty good. Thankfully, the day got better after that :)

We did some re-arranging, and decided to do a fun dinner for my birthday. We went to New Seasons and got stuff to make sauteed bay scallops over sauteed spinach, pancetta and shallots, potato/parsnip puree and roasted tomatoes and zucchini with mint.

Theresa came over and helped Trina fix up her studio area a bit while I took a nap, and then our friend Lauren happened to drop by and wake me up by tickling my foot :) We chatted with her for a while, and then she took off.

Trina finished up re-arranging the studio while I got everything out to make dinner. We whipped up the dinner, and it was a lot of fun, and really tasty (see link above), then let our stomachs rest for a little while.

We did some of the major dishes, and then rode our bikes over to our favorite Pix P√Ętisserie and got three macaroons each (mine were two cassis and one port, trina got two cassis and one hazlenut). We brought them back and munched on them, chatted, put some laundry in the wash and looked at razors and stands for me, as well as what kind of new food things have popped up in Vilnius, Lithuania since we lived there. We watched a bit of the Olympic diving and gymnastics, and then got the laundry out and headed to bed.

All in all a really nice day, despite the sore shoulder :) Hope all of your weekends were wonderful as well.

P.S. Saturday we went to see Mamma Mia! with my parents, and it was a really fun movie :) We then went to Nuestra Cocina for dinner and dessert, and it was wonderful as well. We always have such a nice time with my parents, they are fantastic.


quote of the day

"And never trust a heart that is so bent it can’t break" - Conor Oberst


quote of the day...

"The bad news: there is no key to the universe. The good news: it was never locked."

-Swami Beyondananda

a realization...

I've realized that when I'm home alone, I'm much more of a homebody than I am when people are around. I love going out, seeing films, eating good food, going for drinks, etc - when there's someone to share the experience with. Sometimes I like going out and just sitting by myself and reading or something, especially in the morning. But overall, I'd rather just be home :)

This afternoon our apartment complex is having a BBQ - the managers are providing all the hamburgers and hotdogs, and everybody is bringing something (we're making homemade salsa and bringing chips too). Hopefully it'll be a good time all around.



the end of the tour...

We had finished most of our packing on Sunday, so on Monday, we didn't get up particularly early. Alina was having coffee in the morning with a couple friends of hers, so we got up just after her, and joined her down there after a little while. We had some coffee and a small snack, and then headed off to finish up some gift shopping and to get a few things we wanted to bring back for us as well. On the way out of the coffee shop, we noticed, they have hummers in Japan too!

We went to Sanwa, and then to the Wakabadai train station to go to a few shops. After coffee, Alina went home and started packing, as she was leaving for Hawaii for a friend's wedding the same day we were leaving back to Portland.

We came back in the afternoon, and tried to finish up most of the last bits of our packing, and then we walked over to Alina's other boss' home - his wife is from Thailand, and was making us Thai food for dinner. We had a nice time with them, and the dinner was amazing - tom kha soup, red curry with pumpkin, green curry, spicy beef noodle salad, and then almond annin-dofu (kind of like custard) for dessert.

After dinner, they drove us back to Alina's place, and we got ready for bed, finished up packing everything but our toiletries, and Alina cooked us some eggplant, onion and mushrooms in miso to take in our bento sets to eat for lunch at the airport the next day.

Tuesday morning, we woke up at about 7.30, took showers and got dressed, packed up our bathroom stuff, and Alina's landlord/neighbor, Mr. Hattori, drove Trina and our luggage down to Inagi station (Alina and I took a bus). It was a bit tricky, as we were taking a huge bag home for Alina, of things she didn't want in Tokyo anymore, and she was taking two large bags, one of which she was also leaving in the U.S., with her sister. Plus, we still had all of our own luggage. Anyway, we made it to Inagi station with no problems, and hauled all the luggage over to Tully's coffee, and sat and had a coffee. I had woken up with diarrhea that morning, so I had a tea instead. While we were sitting there, we noticed there was a small drugstore in the station, and Trina decided to go try to get me some anti-diarrhea medication for the plane ride. They of course didn't speak english, so she tried to kind of mimic what was going on, and they seemed to understand, and gave her some medicine, which didn't appear to have any english on the package. She brought it back, and she and Alina were looking at it and Alina couldn't quite tell what it was either. Then, to my very great fortune, Trina noticed in *small* print, in english, it said "This is a laxative." EEP! So, she and Alina both went back and tried to explain that I needed the opposite of a laxative - Alina using words like "water poop," and explaining it's when you go poop and never stop, because she didn't know the word for diarrhea in Japanese. Finally, they came away with what was actually an anti-diarrhea medication, and I was very happy.

From Inagi station, we had to take a train to Chofu station, where we would catch the limousine bus to Narita airport. Luckily, Inagi station had an elevator down to the train platform, so we made it down and onto the train just fine. The ride to Chofu was uneventful, other than people giving us really funny looks for having so much luggage :)

Once we got to Chofu, the fun started. We had to go up a full flight of stairs from the train platform, then down a small flight of stairs, and then up some more stairs. Needless to say, carrying all that luggage up those stairs got us all pretty hot and sweaty - plus we noticed the line for the limousine bus was starting to fill up, so we were trying to hurry so we could get a spot.

At the turnstile, Trina and I were just short on our tickets, so we went to talk to the guard, and he just waived us through, so we made it to the bus in plenty of time, and took our places in line.

The bus came after about 15 minutes, and we all loaded up and had an uneventful 2 hour ride back to Narita airport.

Once we got there, we went through the rather annoying process of checking your bags in, going through security, going through customs (apparently there you go through customs on the way out too), and we walked around the terminal a bit to find our gate, then sat down and ate our lunches Alina had made us, which were delicious. Soon after that, our flight was boarding, so we headed over to the gate and stood in line with Alina till we were at the front, and then said our goodbyes.

All in all, it was wonderful to have gotten to see those parts of Alina's life in Tokyo, to be able to experience those things with her, and just to be able to spend time with her in general. It was a bit of an exhausting trip, and I definitely don't think I'd want to live in Tokyo, but it was really interesting to see, and so nice to meet the people we did.

Bye Alina, we love you!


thunder and fireworks...

So, the last Sunday we were in Tokyo, Trina and I stayed home in the morning, as Trina wasn't feeling well, and Alina went to church. They had lunch after church, and then she went to coffee with a friend after that, so she didn't get back to her flat until about 3pm. It was really nice to just hang around and read and sleep a little, start the process of packing, and by the time Alina got home, Trina was feeling quite a bit better. Alina took a nap when she got home, and then she got an sms saying that Abby and Jason, who were going to come over for dinner, wouldn't be able to make it as Abby was feeling really sick, so we decided to just go to the store and get some food for dinner.

On the way back from the store, we stopped to play in a little playground :)

When we came back and the scenery from Alina's building was stunning with the setting sun, you could see Mt. Fuji framed against the horizon...

We took showers, and then Alina was out on the balcony just having some quiet time, and I went out to join her, and we noticed there was some thunder going on across on the other side of Tokyo, so we were watching, and it just kept getting more and more intense. Finally Trina came out to join us, and we all watched together as it started to get dark...

We were just standing watching and talking about life, and suddenly we heard some big booms from the other side of the balcony, so we ran over there, thinking it might be thunder and that we should look over there for more lightning.... and it turned out to be fireworks in Fuchu!

So, at this point, we have thunderstorm to the right, fireworks to the left - and some other people in the building are starting to notice - Alina's landlord's wife came out because she noticed the fireworks. Some kids below us noticed the thunderstorm and came running up to the level below us. It was pretty crazy.

There was some amazing thunder, flashing all across the sky horizontally, with the sound of the exploding fireworks... it was a weird experience :)

Finally we all shuffled off to bed, and waking up for our last full day in Tokyo.


crazy ravens...

As a side note, the ravens in Japan make really strange noises...

Kunitachi is the place to be.... and Tachikawa fireworks

So, back to the posts about our Japan trip...

On the last Saturday that we were there, Alina took us to two of her favorite places, which both happen to be in Kunitachi. Kunitachi seems to be a bit of an anomaly in Tokyo, as it seems more laid back, casual, relaxed. The feeling of the people on the streets and in the restaurants and stores is just calmer. Kunitachi is famous for a long street that is lined with cherry trees - which of course were not in blossom when we were there - but the sight is amazing in the spring. There is also a university there, so there tend to be more foreigners in this section of Tokyo. There also was a music conservatory here, which was connected with a high school and music community center which are still in Kunitachi.

Anyway, first of all, we went for lunch to the Squall Cafe. As you will see from the pictures, this place could easily exist in SE Portland - the atmosphere, decor and food selection (for the most part) would all fit in really well. The food was amazing - I had green leek fried rice with simmered pork, and I think Trina had chicken and herb noodles.

From there, we walked back to the train station and caught a bus over to the other end of the long street with the cherry blossoms, and then walked a little ways to Alina's favorite coffee shop. The shop is owned by an older lady, and it's a beautiful shop. We think it must have been built as a tea shop, as that's what it looks like, and it still smells like a tea shop. There's a little garden outside in the front, and behind the counter of the shop looks a bit like a laboratory. The shop feels very peaceful and calm and the lady who owns it is very quiet and sweet and feels very comfortable with what she's doing.

We just sat and drank coffee and ate Meiji chocolate covered almonds for a couple of hours until we had to leave to go to Tachikawa to meet the Sakumuras for fireworks. It was wonderful to be able to share those couple of places with Alina, to get to see the places she finds restful in Tokyo.

From there, we took a train back to Tachikawa, which is closer to Alina's place, and went back to the Palace Hotel, where we had seen the flamenco show earlier in the week. We met the Sakumuras in the lobby, and then went out onto the veranda with them. We sat at a long table, and after a little bit the waiters started bringing out food. We sat and talked and ate food and had some drinks, and a bit later two of the teachers that Alina teaches with also showed up.

After a little bit, people started filling into the square outside the hotel:

Once it was dark, the fireworks started!

We all had a great time talking and laughing and watching the fireworks:

Here are a couple videos of the fireworks:

After the fireworks, we all went upstairs to the bar and had another drink and talked some more, and Mr. Sakumura gifted me his fan, which is really nice, and I'll be glad to have it to remember them by, they were wonderful to meet and get to know a little bit.

Finally we all broke up and headed home - we left with Alina's two teacher friends, whom Alina was busy teaching the phrases "holla!" and "oh, hey!", and then separated at the trains. All in all, it was a wonderful day.


some thoughts

so, to take a little break from the posts about Japan, something I've been thinking about lately -

that is, that we in the western world seem to have subjected ourselves to the rule of language. what I mean by this is, that we seem to believe that language is the only way in which we communicate anything useful to each other, to ourselves, to God. I suspect that our desire to understand everything rationally adds to this, as language is something more or less definable and we can kind of put it in a box that is pretty easy to transfer to someone else. I also suspect that our desire to understand everything rationally has led to the pressure for each person to be able to explain all their experience in words that another person can understand, which I think has also led people to limit their personal experience to what they can define with language. That is, we limit our relations with ourselves and with God to language, to conversation, because we can then relate that conversation to someone else.

what I've been thinking about is that we as humans have many other ways of communication and understanding, feeling, intuition, etc. I think we are capable of communicating and understanding on a whole different level, but that we often dismiss it or ignore it because we can't easily define it and relate it to another person.

I think this is particularly important in terms of both how we understand ourselves and how we understand God. I think we often feel that God is silent simply because He chooses not to use words to relate to us. I think we also come to understand ourselves only to a minimal level, because we only come to know the part of us that expresses itself using language.

I think we need silence in our lives for many reasons, one being that it allows us to be open to other means of communication and understanding. If we keep filling up space with words and more words that often fail to express or convey understanding, we simply miss so much. For this reason, I think prayer and meditation time just in silence is very important. Not talking, not reading, just listening. Listen to what's going on inside of you. Take a look at it and become familiar with it.

Ok, that's about all for now, I hope that makes some sense. Until next time!