Sunday, September 30, 2007

hiking in the rain

Today was an especially rainy day, but we didn't let that discourage us. As planned, we went hiking in the Columbia Gorge, bringing with us our friend Mike.

We picked a wooded trail and didn't really get that wet in the forest. The trail led to a beautiful and dramatic waterfall called Ellowah Falls, rimmed at the bottom by large rocks covered in bright moss and ancient lava flows.

The forest smelled like pine needles, fresh soil, and mushrooms and the undergrowth was almost entirely made up of small new ferns. Indeed we found lobster mushrooms, which we promptly sauteed in garlic with butter, salt and parsley for dinner. Delicious! They not only resembled lobster with their coloring, but tasted like seafood too. Even Jonah loved it. I put a few pictures here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

back from Prague

Just got back from Prague. Though I was only gone nine days, it felt like months. Already on the plane to Europe I felt homesick. I wanted to pull out the photo album I compiled for friends and start looking through it, but stopped myself, feeling pathetic.

Once in Prague, I was able to relax and enjoy my time alone, though I felt rather strange... naked without Jonah.

As always, the trip was a whirlwind, mostly comprised of socializing with friends and family, catching a couple of cultural events, and rushing through Prague to buy presents and snap photos, which always embarasses me because acting like a tourist in my birth town is a bit awkward.

Most of the time was spent with my grandmother whose eightieth birthday is coming up in the spring. We always have such a great time together. She treated me to a concert - a sixty-some piece orchestra playing Britten, Berlioz and Dvorak, of which Dvorak was of course my "unbiased" favorite.

I also saw my dad and his wife and met my two cousins' fresh babies, the only two offspring carrying the family name so far. The story of how these two came about is actually quite amuzing - a bit like a fairy tale. My uncle - the king in the story, also a severe hypochondriac who believes every day is his last, was getting tired of waiting for grandchildren, so he declared one day that he promises to bestow one million crowns on the son that brings him his first grandchild. Sure enough, my two cousins got to work and just a few short months later, both announced their girlfriends were pregnant. The rest is history.

The old, the young, the dead... all of those were on my list of family members to visit. Thus, my grandmother and I made our usual pilgrimages to place a flower on my grandfather's and stone on my paternal grandmother's grave. On the way, we placed a small stone on the grave of Franz Kafka as well.

My dad was super busy juggling his two careers - one as an actor and theater director, the other - a recent development- as a Senator. He invited me to a staged reading of Vaclav Havel's lesser known play Spiklenci (or Conspirators). My dad cast and directed the reading. He also read the stage directions and a couple of bit parts. Some of the actors were, by Czech standards, quite well-known personalities. After the performance, my dad made me pose for pictures with him and the ex-president. I had my camera with me, but was too shy to take it out and request a snapshot for my collection of curiosities. You will just have to take my word for it - I was there.

In addition to family, I made my rounds and got together with most of my favorite friends my generation and my parents' generation. The highlight was a reunion I organized of my grade school classmates. Ten of us were there (from a class of about 28). We finished grade school together in 1987, and most of the people I saw at the get-together I hadn't seen in twenty years!

Though I'm not a great fan of the television, I watched the news nearly every day, trying to get a sense of what my birthland is currently going trough. One day I read the newspaper as well. The entire first section was taken up mostly by huge articles and exposes on the corruption of the government. Shadily bought shares, government money spent on delux apartments and fancy cars... in short, the topic de jour seems to be the misuse of power of those in the government. I also learned that I had temporarily switched places with the current Czech president, who, while I was visiting the Czech Republic, was attending the United Nations conference in New York, apparently giving scandalous speeches that deny the fact that global warming is occurring at an alarming and dangerous rate and that it is indeed largely caused by humans. He and Bush are the only heads of state still in denial, I sware.

Now I'm back. It's great to be with my boys again.

If you are curious, I put together the best pics from my trip and posted them here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

first hot chocolate and homemade cookies

Like I've mentioned before, we've been trying to keep Jonah off sugar for as long as we can. That doesn't mean he doesn't eat sweet things. His favorite are raisins and fig bars. He has only had cookies a couple of times in his life and of course, as any child would, he loved them ... too much.

Just the other day on one of the first cold fall days, I decided to make hot chocolate - with real cocoa powder and organic cane sugar. Jonah got so excited to have his first hot chocolate that he ran around repeating "chocolate, hot chocolate, chocolate" over and over, greatly emphasizing the "ch" sound as he often does with words that are special: trucks, trains, etc.

I put the hot chocolate in his special little teacup with a blue fish on it and we sipped hot chocolate together on a cold rainy afternoon like good friends.

Over the weekend the whole family made chocolate chip cookies together, a first for Jonah. He had a pretty good time mixing, but he liked licking the dough much better than eating the finished cookies. I must say he looked sharp in his apron!

best treat of all

Ever since we started giving Jonah chewable vitamins, he has been wild about them. They taste like candy and for him it's the only candy he gets. So after breakfast or lunch he gets one and then he wants more. We tell him he only gets one a day. He is starting to understand the concept, because the other day he asked me for another one and when I said no, he remarked: "Tomorrow."

Monday, September 03, 2007

water weekend

Yesterday Tim, Jonah's uncle Andy, a couple of friends, and Jonah and I drove out to a river beach at Oxbow Park. The drive was about forty minutes. The park is basically just past the eastern-most suburb of Portland, but it could be a hundred miles away. It feels so peaceful and secluded. The river is pretty slow there with the flow hardly noticable. It's lined with small cliffs and leaf trees, and as you swim in the cool but pleasant greenish opal-colored water, eagles coast overhead.

Jonah enjoyed the water in his kid-sized life vest. Best of all, he enjoyed throwing rocks in the river and pounding rocks against rocks. At one point all the men that were part of our group surrounded Jonah and watched him pound small rocks with a large rock he called a hammer. The sight was quite primal- cave child pounding rocks surrounded by cave men relaxing after a day out hunting - I mean working (Yes, most of them came straight from work even on a holiday).

Today we enjoyed city style water at an urban park filled with parents and children. The center piece of the park, or rather square, is a fountain that pours water out down sandstone slabs onto the tiled floor of the square. The water then recedes like the tide and comes back a minute later, filling up the area again. Kids love that place and Jonah does too. This was our fourth time there this summer, I think. Jonah scooped water into his bucket and poured it out an infinate number of times. He also scooted himself, seated, along the bottom of the "pool," with only his head sticking out saying: "I'm a boat." He tried splashing a couple of kids in the face to see their reaction, but the kids didn't really care so he quickly abandoned that form of entertainment. Once he even filled up his bucket and ran up to a flock of birds chirping on the ground, hoping to soak them. The birds outsmarted him, of course, flying away quicker than he could run. Good times.

We topped off the three-day weekend with a delicious dinner, if I may say so myself. I made the best rice I have ever made: chopped onions, smooshed garlic in the garlic press and fried that in a generous amount of olive oil. I added the rice and fried it with a large dash of cumin and cardamom until some of the grains turned brown, then added water, salt and a pork chop bone (yes, in my pregnancy I have been craving pork, which I haven't eaten in over two years). The beans I also started with onion frying in olive oil. I let the beans simmer for a while, flavored with cumin. We ate that with chicken pulled off the bone and heated in the oven. All of that was topped with a salsa of fresh cherry tomatoes off the vine in our garden - just with some salt and red wine vinegar. Then lettuce. So tasty!!! And simple too. Jonah stuffed himself too. Very rewarding!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

anniversary & party at the park

I can't believe it's September already! This summer has gone by in the blink of an eye.

Tim and I celebrated our wedding anniversary a couple of days back by having a family picnic dinner with Jonah at a park, then watching a unique fall phenomenon of hunderds of swifts swirling around in the sky and diving into an old elementary school chimney. I had heard about this happening at the same place every year, but never had gone to see it.

From what I hear, the number of swifts rises through mid-September until there are about ten thousand of them gathering together. It would be worth going back just for that.

Jonah enjoyed himself too, though not as much watching the birds as running around and watching kids about four years his senior sliding down a steep grassy hill on cardboard. There was even a girl soccer practice giong on nearby. So much to see!

A guy came up to film us for his documentary on the swifts. Jonah was so excited to see the giant camera that he shouted over us like a maniac. I doubt the filmmaker will be able to hear anything over him. The funniest was when Tim mentioned that we came to see the swifts for our anniversary. The guy asked how many years we have been married. Tim said three and after thinking about it a moment, in typical wife fashion, countered that it has been four years. It came off pretty funny.

On another note, yesterday we went to one of Jonah's friend's birthday parties at the park. The park had a toy jeep for kids to drive. Jonah was so obsessed with it, he drove it and crawled all over it for hours. Even in the middle of the night he rememberd it when he woke up and began to narrate a story about it in a super loud voice.

My two favorite moments at the park where the party took place were:

1. Jonah and the birthday boy singing ABCD together.

2. An incredibly overweight and expressionless pug dog with a studded leather punk leash in the playground toddler swing, pushed by his "mommy," its tongue sticking out slightly on one side (as if post-stroke).

3. Jonah standing next to a stranger, watching him take off his sandal to wipe bark dust off his foot, and proclaiming in a loud and declaratory voice: "Dirty foot." The man sure was embarassed. Kids say the darnest things.