Saturday, May 31, 2008

Greetings from the Golden State

Hello friends! We're here in Berkeley at Cafe Strada sipping a mocha in the glorious sunshine, er, I mean overcast coolness. We've spent all our money on tie-dyed clothing, hemp, and bongs. Not really.

We're checking out Brian's old hood, his old school (Berkeley), and Telegraph Ave. Tonight we make a head start on the drive home, and tomorrow we look forward to a loong drive home on the freeway.

The last couple days in San Francisco have been awesome. We did a lot of walking and exploring the different neighborhoods, including Chinatown (went to an amazing tea house!), North Beach, Coit Tower, Mission District, met a friend of Brian's at the Ferry Terminal for lunch, Haight Ashbury, Golden Gate Park (and DeYoung Museum), Noe Valley, Union Square, Japantown, Presidio, and now we're in Berkeley. We've seen a lot! We've had some amazing food here. Last night we had a nice meal at Zuni, where Brian had made reservations a couple weeks in advance. We had great food at Chutney, which my coworker Emma suggested. Slanted Door at the Ferry Terminal had awesome nouveau Vietnamese food. Sushi in Japantown was pretty cool; it was supposedly the first sushi place in the US with the sushi on little boats that float past. We really liked our hotel on Union Square called the Chancellor Hotel -- if you're ever in San Fran looking for a place to stay.

Although I was last here in 2001, San Francisco seems bigger than I realized. Like a west coast, smaller version of New York. There is a ton going on here, a ton of people, and a lot of really interesting, diverse neighborhoods. And great food. Actually, great shopping overall! The architecture is also pretty striking and different compared to anywhere else. I love the ornate, colorful houses. I think we need more of those in Seattle.

Speaking of Seattle, we look forward to finally being home!! It's been a whirlwind adventure the past few weeks. Although you may think that Oklahoma, Belgium, and Oregon/California have nothing in common, I intend to prove you wrong. Stay tuned for a future post on the scintillating similarities between these places.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Before I forget everything and before I run out of steam and fall asleep sitting up, here are some highlights from yesterday and today. Just a disclaimer: I'm so tired right now, so don't expect much in the way of interesting narration..!

Yesterday we continued down the Oregon coast, it was so beautiful. Shore Acres state park was especially nice. There were some beautiful gardens and some very cool eroded sandstone rocks with cool shapes. I am borrowing some pictures from Flickr since we haven't downloaded ours yet.

I think our favorite part of the day was Bandon. It's a cute, small, old town. But the seashore was awesome. We spent a couple hours wandering around the low tide area, between the rocks. We also saw sea pups up close sunning on the rocks.

Finally, we reached California! We spent the night in Eureka. There are some cool Victorian houses there. This Carson mansion was right across the street from our hotel. It was amazing and built completely from redwoods.

We drove through a tree along the Redwoods Avenue of the Giants!! Brian was sure we were going to knock off the side mirrors, but we skimmed through just fine.

After lunch in Mendocino we drove inland towards California wine country. The road was very winding and hilly, and by the time we arrived at our destination we were definitely in need of some wine. We stopped at two wineries: Field Stone in Healdsburg and Beringer in St. Helena. By this time we were pretty well sloshed, but we ventured onward. After driving though the valley, we made our way over to Sonoma. The town had a nice historic town square and a Spanish mission. We finished the day with a nice Mexican meal in the town square. Tomorrow: San Francisco!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On the road

We brought my trusty laptop with us on the road; thank goodness for free wireless access! Because lord knows we are obsessed with the internet. While Brian is over there insulting his reader's tastes in music, I thought I'd give a little update on things, because... well, apparently I'm obsessed with everybody knowing my exact whereabouts at all times. After leaving Brussels, flying for about 13 hours, in addition to a 6-hour layover and another hour in US customs (anyone feeling sorry for me yet?), I arrived home at long last on Sunday. After all my meetings, I had one free day to be a tourist on Saturday. I copped out, though, and took one of those double-decker tourist buses to pack in as many sights as possible! I also saw a Paul Klee exhibit that was pretty good. I will post more pictures of that later. About two hours after I got home, we got a head start on our road trip, arriving in Portland at 2am! Can we say "exhausted?" Thankfully I was able to sleep through the night due to sheer exhaustion and I might be mostly over my jet lag already.

Driving along the coast of Oregon yesterday was awesome. It was so beautiful. Unfortunately the weather was overcast and rainy and cool, but it was still very pretty. One of my favorite things was checking out the tidepools and looking at the beautiful anemones. We took pictures but haven't downloaded them. They looked just like this picture on the left -- amazing.

Other highlights included clam chowder, the Devil's Churn, the Devil's Punchbowl, sand dunes, and listening to the new Bonnie Prince Billy album in the car. One of my other favorite things about our drive yesterday was the recent discovery of podcasts! They're ingenious. My sister-in-law Johanna turned us on to "This American Life" podcasts from NPR, so Brian downloaded a bunch of other mostly NPR shows before our trip. We are in the middle of listening to one podcast that is going through songs from the top 25 best albums in 2007, as voted by NPR listeners. It's a fantastic selection. You can check it out here. Podcasts are wonderful things, but can someone tell my why they're called podcasts? Anyway, they are a saving grace out here on the road, and are saving Brian and me from total boredom with each other!

Right now we are in Coos Bay, Oregon, wherever the hell that is. Ha ha. It's a logging town, as far as I can tell. We were pleasantly surprised last night by an amazing German restaurant in the middle of the tiny town. It was filled with old posters and awesome beers and wines, and an extensive menu. I had bratwurst, sauerkraut, red cabbage, potato salad, and a Belgian beer. Amazing. If you ever go through Coos Bay, you must visit the Blue Heron German restaurant. To die for. I mean, if you're into that kind of food...

Well, we have another full day of driving, podcasts, and scenery ahead of us. A major highlight today is driving through the Redwood Forest!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Old family photos

My uncle just sent a link to some pictures, which included some old family photos of the farm and of my great-grandparents. Wow these are so cool.

The picture below is the original farmhouse that was built after my great-grandparents homesteaded. Literally, they came from Kansas and were part of the Oklahoma Land Rush in 1908 (?). Each person in the land rush got to stake out a quarter of land and this is where my great-grandparents chose to live. I guess the deal was that if they could make it for three years, they got to keep the land. If they couldn't make it for whatever reason before three years, the government would give them money back to move back to wherever they came from. I guess my great-grandparents stuck it out, though it couldn't have been easy. Later, the farmhouse was hit by a bad tornado in 1946 and rebuilt. I've heard many stories about that tornado. I guess the people in the picture below must be my great-grandparents Lorene and George, and my great-aunt Maebelle (who I just saw last week). I don't know who is on the horses.

And here is another picture of my great-grandparents and their three kids, Maebelle, John, and my grandfather Marvin on the right, who just passed away two months ago. Oddly, I recognize myself in the face of my great-grandmother. Her nose and chin and smile and cheeks are very similar to mine. I love these pictures!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Land of chocolate and beer!

No, Oklahoma is not the land of chocolate and beer. I'll get to that later. Brian has a very nice post about our trip to Oklahoma last week to attend my grandmother's funeral. It was very sad, the end of an era, really. But it was really nice to be there with all of my relatives, and for Brian to meet all of them, too. I learned a lot about my family's history and about the family farm, and who is related to who way back when. Small towns in Oklahoma really are fascinating. You can easily envision how it must have looked back in the early 1900s, when my great-grandparents homesteaded there. I saw the rundown house where my great-great-grandmother used to live. And we visited the family farm, which is still furnished and which still has bottles in the medicine cabinet. It was too nostalgic for the family to clean it out and get rid of everything so it still looks the same, except for the animals that have found their home there, and the weathered walls and peeling wallpaper.

My great-grandmother collected owls (is this a recurring theme on this blog?) so I rescued two nice little retro owl napkin-holders from the kitchen at the farm. On this trip, for the first time ever, I felt really connected to my own history in Oklahoma. I heard lots of stories, learned lots of things about my grandparents and their parents, and felt a strong sense of belonging to Oklahoma, at least historically. It's very cool to know at least part of the history of where I came from.

Fast forward a few days and now I'm in Brussels. Ahh, Belgium. It's really nice here. Granted, I've been working my butt off since I got here, and on very little sleep. But so far, each night around dinner time has been a real treat, mainly due to the beer.

Oh, the beer! It's tremendously wonderful. Hoegaarden is commonplace here and is one of my most favorite beers. I discovered it sometime while I was living in DC. It's actually possible to find it in good restaurants or bars in the US, or those specializing in Belgian beers. It's spicy and fruity and yellow and cloudy. Like a hefeweizen, but I might have to say it's even better. Mmmm, so good. And the other one that is extremely common is Leffe (pronounced "Lef", not "Leff-uh") also very, very good. I had both beers tonight during dinner.

We are staying right on the Place du Grand Sablon, which is a very picturesque area full of pretty shops, outdoor cafes, chocolate shops, and cobblestone streets. I have not taken many pictures, or even had a chance to download them, but I found some on Flickr that sum it up pretty well.

Mmm, chocolate.....

Well it's another long night (but short on sleep) for me. I have work still to do tonight (I think it's 11:30pm?) and I have another full, long day of meetings tomorrow, which I have been heavily involved in coordinating. It doesn't stop until Friday night. All I'm running on right now is beer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Things are a bit frenetic right now. I'm trying to finish everything up at work and pack, so I'll be ready to leave for the next two and a half weeks. I'll be going to my grandmother's funeral at the end of this week (I'm just glad I'm able to go and say goodbye). And then flying directly to Belgium on Saturday for a week's worth of meetings. Immediately after I get back, we go on a road trip to San Francisco. I hope that will be a fun break after everything else.

I may not be back to post anything here until the first week of June!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cycle of life

On Thursday, I was extremely fortunate to be present at the birth of my friend's baby. It was truly incredible to see a new life begin. Today, on mother's day, my grandmother's life ended after almost 90 years, just six weeks after my grandfather passed away. The cycle of life is bittersweet.

Remembering Helen and Marvin, who lived until 2008.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tip-toe through the tulips with me

Looks fake, right? No, it's not. I took this picture and it's not even Photoshopped -- not even a hint of extra saturation or contrast!

Brian and I went frolicking in the tulips a couple weekends ago. No, not like that kind of frolicking. Whatever kind of frolicking you were thinking of, it's not that kind... it's the other kind. Well, Brian was frolicking, anyway. Not me.

These tulips are in Skagit Valley and they go on for eternity! But can someone tell me why most of the people visiting the tulips were not caucasian? And why most of them were men? I have a theory that some cultures appreciate natural beauty much more than others. Although frankly, there is something unnatural about tidy rows of perfect, brightly colored tulips. Which, by the way, we had to pay $5 to see. So maybe that theory doesn't hold.

My theory is this: Freakish looking fields of tulips can draw a damn impressive crowd, as diverse in color as the tulips themselves. But in the end, the tulips are just tulips and the people are all people. And with that, I leave you to ponder the profundity.

Speaking of "tip-toeing through tulips," "freakish," and "profound," check this out:

Saturday, May 3, 2008


We all know the game of Scrabble. But let's be honest... it's one of those games that only your parents and nerdy friends play.

The good news is that what started out as a mediocre board game has now turned into a sort of "scrabble-mania," taking the world by storm. In fact, some of the best art in the world is made from old, useless garbage... not unlike scrabble tiles!

If you type in "scrabble" on etsy, you can get a sense of how people have turned this worthless game into artful pieces of jewelry, like these scrabble pendants, for cheap!

Or earrings:

This purse is brilliant! It's made from a vintage scrabble board:

These coasters are much more useful than the scrabble game itself:

Every man needs a pair of these cufflinks:

And a daily planner, of course:

Need a new keyboard? You can use your old scrabble tiles, of course!

Don't have anything else to put under the glass of your new coffee table? Why not scrabble tiles!

And my all-time favorite, a personalized picture frame for mom:

As you can see, there are a 1,001 better uses for scrabble tiles beyond the actual game itself!