Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Low tide

Cousins at low tide, crab in hand.

Sandfish spotted.

Water warrior.

Getting wet.

She eventually just got naked.

Nate found an eagle feather.

Trevor captured a hermit crab.

Mike enjoyed his coffee and felt cool in his new t-shirt.

The Marine Life Center in the 'ham

Mugga and the cousins with the critters in the touch pool.

Irie entranced.

Ruby underwater.

Snack time in the treehouse

Blueberries and edamame.

High tide

Grandpa Bob came to visit us at the tree house. He brought a tent for the beach.
Three generations in the morning sunshine.

Irie, pixie-like, joined us to play fairy tea set for a while.

Iris, pouring tea for fairy friends. It's all fairies, princesses and mermaids these days..

Ruby, looking ethereal herself. Is there such a thing as a beach fairy?

The third and final leg: Tree house, beach house

We spent the second week resting and recreating on the Lummi peninsula just minutes from Bellingham. As my sister's house is in the midst of renovation upheaval, we rented a luxurious little casita built up in the trees with views of the northern Cascades and the Strait of Georgia. We searched for stones and shells and ate blackberries from the brambles growing along the path down to the water. A pair of great blue herons graced us with their presence, nesting somewhere up behind the house in the enormous trees and croaking over us in the night. We slept looking out onto the bay, watching the lights of passing ships slide by while bats dipped and swung after the mosquitos and awoke to the calls of the gulls as they flew in to feast on clams and crabs at low tide. It felt like home, even if it wasn't our house, in the way the northwest has always felt like home to me, a refuge from the stark cornfields of the midwest. And for now, it will be what the girls call home, even if it isn't a fixed location but rather a feeling, the chill in the air of the desert night on the east side of the mountains or the dampness of the ocean on the west side, smokey sockeye on the grill, the sweet summer berries, the pungency of evergreens everywhere, the verdant produce at a farmer's market, and that strange cultural blend of hippies and loggers and dot.commers and happy transplants like myself doing their thing in the PNW.

The second leg: Ellensburg

We headed east along the Colombia, hanging a left somewhere after a pit stop at The Dalles' Burgerville (uh oh--second round of fish and chips, along with truly northwestalicious blackberry shakes) to snake through the wine country of the Yakima valley and up over the hills and down again toward "Elsenburg," as Ruby still calls it. We spent a few days in the 'burg catching up with dear old friends (thanks for the lovely meal and the quake advice for our bid list and sorry the girls were so crazy with colds and vacation fatigue, Marie and Stephen!) and spending time with friends who are newer (but feel like old ones anyway, although we wish we had met them sooner when we were still in town). We did the obligatory nostalgia tour of our old house and campus and our favorite neighborhood park, leaving souvenir cocktail sticks from Tonala here and there, and yes, believe it or not, we ate Mexican food. If you asked Ruby, she would probably say those enchiladas from El Caporal were the best meal she ate the entire vacation. She hummed to each quesolicious bite. The rest of the time we spent just hanging at Sarah and Derik's beautiful house out a ways in the valley, on what was essentially a three day playdate for Ruby and Iris with their girls, Lanie and Lily. Lanie and Ruby go way back, along with their friend Alice, who came over to play one day too. It didn't take the girls long to renew the bonds of friendship.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The first leg: Portland

Is that a fairy in the garden?

Ruby, reunited with her first man crush after Daddy, our friend Andrew.

A trap, constructed by Ruby with Andrew's assistance.

The girls traveled like troopers all day on the first leg of our R&R, with a brief respite in Seattle to pick up a car and grab some fish and chips at Southcenter Mall, of all places. The food court there looks out upon Mt. Rainier, which was hiding that day, although we had seen it in all its monstrous glory from above before landing at Seatac. The mall felt like home, in astonishing ways--home because it was a familiar mecca of American consumerism, and home in a GDL kind of way, because easily a third of the people there were speaking Spanish. We walked out into the parking lot and I kid you not, the first vehicle I happened to fix upon was a gigantic black Escalade with a silvery decal declaring its owner's love of Guadalajara, Jalisco. I hate to sound like a sappy character from Grey's Anatomy, but seriously? Yes, seriously. Anyway, we hopped in the car and headed south, past Tacoma which has apparently gotten quite a face lift since I last drove out of Seattle that way, past Olympia, down the Colombia, to PDX, where we spent the next few days indulging in too much of everything, in that glorious, northwest summer at its height kind of way. We finally got our hands on some of Pok Pok's famous wings, which apparently do deserve the acclaim they have earned, and practically made ourselves sick grubbing takeout from Chennai Masala and Hoda's. There was home brew and excellent wine and greens from the garden and zero sales tax and a trip to the zoo, all of which which added to the fun. We just generally lounged and lingered at the home of our dear friends Andrew and Robyn, catching up and playing with girls and enjoying the respite from our minor rat race in GDL.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Irie birthday two!"

The above phrase must be uttered while thumping one's chest, followed by a laborious show of two fingers for her two years, which took her a while to get the hang of this past week. Iris turned two a few days ago past, with much ado from friends and family and more to come when we head up the PNW in two days. She's confused by the fact that she shares her birthday week with a grandpa, her father, and an uncle too, and keeps insisting, when other's bdays are mentioned, "Irie birthday mine!" Here she is, enjoying cupcakes and ponies and of course, her beloved sister on her special day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

R&R in the PNW

It's R&R season for most of us here in GDL are rotating through this foreign service ritual. Many friends have already made the trek north to various parts of the U.S. and we are anxiously awaiting our turn to head up in a matter of days. Iris is looking forward to the plane ride, while Ruby remembers enough of cousins and doting friends of ours and hers and good food and fresh air to turn herself inside out while waiting for the trip to begin. There's a reason why so many, although not all, posts have R&R. You really do need to get out once in a while and recharge your batteries after the grind of life in a foreign country. Even if GDL is foreign service light compared to what we will likely see on the next tour, I'm really looking forward to a break from the narco news, the grind of traffic and less than civilized drivers, the grime, etc. Most of these matters aren't all that grievous, but like many things in this country, one wonders if a little effort couldn't make it so much better. And that's a daily frustration that one sometimes need to walk away from for a spell in order to take on another year. So bring on the organic heirloom tomatoes and all the splendor of summer produce at the height of the Pacific northwest summer, bring on the spunky red wines and the hoppy microbrews, fish and chips or maybe breakfast at Etta's down in the market, Vietnamese at Tamarind Tree in Seattle's Chinatown, the Lebanese joint in SE Portland our friends always take us to, a spree at Target and Nordie's Rack, the inevitable trip to the mothership REI, and a gazillion other consumer pleasures, but most of all, bring on the company. We can't wait to see you all!