Photo Contest: Vote for “Tired of Waiting”

Dec 8th, 2010 Posted in Random Thoughts | no comment »

For our Christmas card photo I was inspired by an old Norman Rockwell painting of two kids who had waited up for Santa but fell asleep just as he arrived. The kids hammed it up and even our dog, Otto, had to join in. Go check out the photo and give it a “vote” in Shutterfly’s photo contest.


Smith Rock State Park

Aug 19th, 2010 Posted in Fun Photos - Nature, Fun Things to Do | no comment »

We took a small detour on our road trip to Bend this year and stopped to hike at Smith Rock State Park. What an amazingly, beautiful piece of nature.

Years ago we took an easy, flat hike along the bottom of the canyon, but somehow Brian convinced us to head up Misery Ridge for the grand tour of Smith Rock. Geez, that’s a brutal climb. I mean, who voluntarily climbs “Misery” Ridge. But, after some minor cursing and huffing and puffing, we were rewarded with gorgeous views. And seeing the crazy climbers from the top was priceless.

The hike took us about 3 hours with 3 kids (ages 13, 11 and 8), 1 mini-Schnauzer, frequent water breaks and some wading in the river. Bring lots of water, a camera and good shoes with traction. The trail is steep and going down takes some skill to keep from slipping. That said, we saw several people running the trail with those slip on glove/shoes. We followed their lead and found that a quick gallop down worked best and was way more fun. We all managed the well, though the Schnauzer kept diving under boulders for shade and was obviously sore the next day :-)

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And the Little Dog, Too

Jul 29th, 2010 Posted in Fun Photos - General | no comment »

New from my photo blog: And the Little Dog, Too.


Bitter is the New Black – Review

Jul 29th, 2010 Posted in Book Review | no comment »

Ugh. I think I’m done with memoirs. I was hesitant to try again after reading the pitiful Eat, Pray, Love for the Lit Ladies Book Club (though I have to admit the movie previews look pretty good). But, hey, even I can be a follower in book club, so I read our July pick, Jen Lancaster’s Bitter is the New Black. It’s supposed to be “hilarious” and the author is “like that friend who always says what you think — only 1,000 times funnier.” Hmmm.

Jen is funny and clever and mean and shallow and nasty and mean and mean and mean. Her rise to excess and subsequent fall to near poverty is interesting. But, really all she learns from her trials is to take it easy on the handbags. She still thinks she’s queen of all that’s right with the world and that it’s her responsibility to insult and point out the flaws with everyone else. She gets a better perspective on belongings – but then turns to insulting and degrading all those who don’t follow her profound revelations. She gets fat – but somehow turns the health conscience world into evil-out-of-touch freaks. There are moments where she actually admits to her flaws and mistakes. Moments when she shows feeling and tenderness toward her dogs and her spouse. But, you guessed it, just when you think she’s getting it, she quickly turns to judging others again.

I love sarcasm as much as the next person, but Jen is just cruel.

I talked over my ban of memoirs with Brian and his perspective was right on. I’m paraphrasing, “well, duh, you have to be an egomaniac to write a memoir.” So true. Though I believe that Maya Angelou’s autobiographies are the exception. They are beautiful and inspiring. Some people really do have a story to tell and thankfully raise the bar too high for someone like Jen to reach.

Note: Some people love Bitter is the New Black. Even if you appreciate the humor it does get a bit boring after awhile in book format. All the little anecdotes are fun at first, then just distracting. Try out her blog for a few days first. Then decide if you can really handle a whole book of it.


Sweetest Thing Cupcakes – Review

Jul 28th, 2010 Posted in Fun Things to Do, Good Eats - Restaurant | no comment »

Oh, baby. The boys and I gave ourselves a summer treat by stopping by Sweetest Thing Cupcakes in Newberg. So, so, so good.

First off, the place is adorable. It’s in an old, craftsman bungalow with a cute porch to sit on and an even cuter room on the inside. It screams for a little girl’s birthday party or an afternoon coffee and treat for the ladies. Way better than finger sandwiches at a tea house for sure.

Right when you walk in, the display case has your eyes popping. It’s full of both the “regulars” and the daily specials. We had cupcake choices like:

Rootbeer Float: Rootbeer cake filled with vanilla buttercream and topped with a rootbeer buttercream r
Fallin to Pieces: Chocolate cake baked with Reese’s Pieces and topped with chocolate buttercream and more Reese’s Pieces.
Chocolate Covered Strawberry: Chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with strawberry buttercream and chocolate covered strawberry.

Fantastic stuff. And, cupcakes are just the right amount of indulgence, don’t you think? Not too big, but satisfying.

Only downside? They are messy! Hard to deal with that tower of buttercream and crumbly cake. Plan to dine in and ask for a plate and fork. Brian shamed us for not bringing him one home, but I honestly didn’t think it would transport well…and it certainly couldn’t take any heat.

- 2501 Portland Rd Ste A, Newberg, OR 97132
- CLOSED Sunday and Monday. Open all other days 10am-7pm
- They do serve some great looking pastries for breakfast
- They have daily gluten free options
- They do parties
- They strive for local, natural ingredients (no hormones, pesticides, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, and preservatives. RBST free sweet cream, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, Bob’s Red Mill flours and ingredients, evaporated cane juice, Cacao Barry’s chocolate, India Tree’s natural colors and sprinkles and more)


Bonney Meadows – Camping Review

Jul 26th, 2010 Posted in Fun Photos - Nature, Fun Things to Do | 2 comments »

Not everyone can be a slave to the Oregon campground reservation system and plan 9 months ahead. Some of us find a rare, free weekend, and spontaneously decide to head to the hills. We foolishly thought that by leaving on a Thursday evening, we could find a campsite for the weekend on Mt. Hood. But, no. We tried Lost Lake, Trillium Lake , Frog Lake, Joe Graham Horse Camp, Little Crater Lake, and Clackamas Lake. Lost Lake (a no reservations campground with 110 spots) filled up an hour before we got there. In all of the others, we found practically empty campgrounds with reservation tags for the weekend. So frustrating. We found one site at the Horse Camp (definitely a next-to-last resort) but were told to move along, because we didn’t have a horse. Serious? Guess hitching up my Schnauzer doesn’t count.

So, as the sun fades and we get desperate, we decide to brave the rough road to Bonney Meadows Campground. This was not the plan. This is not a road you take a canoe and utility trailer on. 45 very tense minutes later, we arrive to a small, lovely and completely deserted campground!!! Some of the eggs cracked and multiple soda cans exploded on the journey, but we made it and IT WAS WONDERFUL. Total privacy. Real camping, but with the benefit of a vault toilet, toilet paper, fire pits and picnic tables. We only saw a few folks passing through with horses, and one couple stayed a few nights on the other end. Couldn’t even tell you what they looked like. We played in the creek, caught lots of frogs, mountain biked the rough trails, used the slingshots, played drums on tree stumps, let the dog go wherever the heck he wanted to, hiked to the gorgeous Bonney Butte and hiked to another great view point above Boulder Lake. And the wildflowers? So, so, so pretty.

I know we’ll go back again. The kids LOVED it. We will pack a lot lighter next time. That road is wicked rough. No trailer and no canoe…but maybe bikes. We’ll also pack a lot of bug repellant. The high octane stuff. Serious squitos there.

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The Red Tent – Review

Jul 3rd, 2010 Posted in Book Review | 2 comments »

A friend of mine once named The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, as one of her favorite books of all time. So of course I was very excited to learn that she convinced the Lit Ladies Book Club to make it the June selection.

What a powerful and wonderful story for women to read. Diamant takes the life story of Dinah, the daughter barely mentioned in the story of the Bible’s Jacob, and tells it from Dinah’s perspective. Though it is a work of historical fiction, the insights and details uncover the humanity and truth of a woman’s life so long ago.  Many say that it fills in the gaps left by the biblical text and gives women a much needed piece of biblical history.  All I know, is that I loved it.  I felt reassured by the bond between the women and their strength and intelligence in times when men seemed to control it all. Dinah lives, loves, suffers, heals and finds a beautiful peace.  The story moves the mind and heart.

I loved how the women knew their worth as “life givers” and embraced it fully.  The literal red tents of the time were a place for women to gather during menses and birth and illness without the presence of men.  They rested and shared stories and sang songs. An interesting note is that after giving birth to a boy, the mother stayed in the tent for one month. After a girl birth, the mother stayed for two months. Some would say that is because girl babies made the mother “unclean.”   A better theory, in the spirit of this story, is that giving birth to a birth-giver was more sacred and the extra month was a reward.

Many thanks to my girlfriend for introducing me to The Red Tent.  The story was a wonderful gift that I hope to share and pass on to all of my women friends.


Joe Turns 11

Jun 30th, 2010 Posted in Fun Photos - General, Joyful Moments | no comment »

Joe always enjoys life to the fullest and his birthday is no exception. He gathered 4 of his best friends (plus Sam) for a birthday sleepover and the boys were having non-stop-fun together the entire time.  While I can’t believe that he’s 11 and going into 6th grade, I’m so impressed with the great kid he’s become and look forward to seeing him continue to blossom in middle school.

After Joe’s buddies left, we journeyed downtown to Powell’s and searched for good book deals. Joe found 3 that he liked. Then, we continued on to the Deschutes Brewery for Joe’s favorite wings. Now we’re home and chilling before we head out to Joe’s baseball game. We’re hoping for a win in honor of his birthday :-)  Chances are good. Joe’s team is #1 in the District and hopefully on its way to a place in the State Tournament!!!

Love you, Joe.


Joe Gets Promoted

Jun 16th, 2010 Posted in Fun Photos - General, Sherwood Schools | no comment »

Joe’s 5th Grade Promotion celebration was a great finish to a fabulous year at Edy Ridge Elementary. A surprise highlight of the morning was his receiving the President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence.  I am so proud of all that Joe has accomplished this year.  He’s shown himself to be a self-motivated, lover of reading and learning. That’s going to take him far in this world. Many thanks to his teacher, Kelsey Moore, for creating such a strong sense of community in her classroom this year. The kids were incredibly  bonded with her and each other. All of them are well-prepared for the next challenge…middle school!


Grandma’s 80th Birthday

Jun 1st, 2010 Posted in Fun Photos - General, Good Eats - Recipe, Joyful Moments | no comment »

My grandma, Mavis Hamel, will turn 80 years-old on June 4th. What a great reason to celebrate!  My mom hosted a family brunch on Saturday and all of the local Hamel clan was able to attend.  I think everyone had a good time. My boys are always excited to see Noah, my cousin Danielle’s 3 year old.  All of their cousins are older and spread out across Oregon, so Noah is a real treat.

I tried out another excellent recipe from the What Can I Bring? cookbook by Anne Bryn. Tomato Pie was delicious and will be a great addition to my cooking arsenal when the tomatoes in my garden overwhelm me.  I’m thinking it could easily be a zucchini pie as well.

And, of course, I took photos. I’m really happy with the photos of Grandma and various members of the family. I even snuck into one for the group shot. Thank goodness for timers. We had a little technical difficulty with my new remote control so we had to use the 10 second timer. Next time we’ll have the remote ready to roll so I don’t have to run back and forth.  However, I do recommend going back to check the photo in the viewer at least once to make sure you can see everyone and that you like where you are in the photo. I’d love to be tucked away in the back next time :-)