This week the snow came to us and the conditions were perfect for the first annual 2018 Playground Winter Olympics. Given the short notice (and the fact that we never dreamed of having more than flurries) there weren’t many participating athletes. However, the two that did show up were physically and mentally prepared to give it their all. In addition we had a fabulous grounds crew who worked tirelessly to keep the slopes, tracks, and equipment in pristine condition. Once the games were over and the medals awarded we all retired back to the Olympic Village for cocoa and camaraderie. Playing in the snow really does bring people together 🙂
With the temperatures in the 60’s and flowers blooming in our backyard we figured that we had better hurry up and fulfill our promise to take the kids sledding before there was no more snow left to be found. So, this past Tuesday we headed off for our first trip to Mount Hood. On clear days Mount Hood is visible from our house and is stunning to behold. Driving up to the mountain wasn’t so stunning at least compared to other mountainous routes that we have taken in Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming. Route 26 which leads you up the mountain is two-lanes, well maintained and doesn’t offer much of a view.
The kids started to get worried once we got into the Mount Hood National Forest and there wasn’t any snow in site. We continued to follow the road to Government Camp (about 4,000 ft in elevation) and by that point there were some patches of snow on the roadside. However, not what we would have expected for February. However, as we continued onto Route 35 the snow pack started to get deeper and the kids started to relax. There would be sledding after all!
Sledding and snow play on Mount Hood is permitted only in designated Sno-Parks. Use of these parks is free but you have to buy a Sno-Park pass for your vehicle. A daily pass costs only $4, but depending on where you purchase one there can be a service charge. We made the mistake of buying for an Arco gas station and they tacked on a $2 fee. Next time we will buy from the Zigzag Ranger Station located between Mt Hood Village and Rhododendron on Route 26.
The most popular Sno-Park on the mountin is the White River West Sno-Park and that is where we decided to start our day. This park gets heavy use on the weekend and holidays, but on a Tuesday there were only about 20 cars in the 200 vehicle parking lot. The scenery from the parking lot is stunning with a wonderful view of Mount Hood. There was only about 2 feet of snow on the ground and the snow around the parking lot and main trail was pretty dirty. However, we headed off into the woods and found some pristine snow to sled down. While blazing your own sledding runs can be a lot of work the kids prefer going off trail to make their own runs as opposed to sledding pre-made trails. The only downside to this is the increased chance of smacking into trees, but the kids put mom and dad to good use acting as buffers.
Due to the warm weather (it was 45F) the kids gloves and snowpants became waterlogged. So, we headed back to the car for lunch and then went to visit the iconic Timberline Lodge. Construction on the lodge began in 1936 as part of the Works Progress Administration. It was dedicated in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The artistry that went into creating the lodge is absolutely stunning and visitors can walk around inside viewing the wonderful wood carvings, metal work, and mosaics. You definitely walk away with a great appreciation for the planning and construction put into the lodge.
After viewing the lodge and watching the ski and snowboarders skiing at the Timberline Ski Area we headed back out to find some more snow. This time we found a parking lot off to the side of the road leading to the lodge. The area was steep and the kids had a great time shooting down the hill while we tried to keep them from crashing into trees. Definitely not the best spot for those looking for a peaceful sledding hill. However, the sun was setting and the kids were eager to get in a few last runs before the end of the day.
All in all our trip to Mount Hood was decent. The Younger Fives miss having snow right outside their doorstep and sledding in their own backyard like they did in Montana. However, us older types have enjoyed not shoveling snow all winter long. Driving to Mount Hood seems like a good compromise and probably is pretty rewarding in years when the mountain receives more snow. This year the conditions just don’t seem to be prime, but we sure appreciated there being some snow left for our first Mount Hood adventure.
This past weekend was the third annual Portland Winter Light Festival, a Willamette Light Brigade event. While it hasn’t felt much like winter in several weeks (flowers are out and trees are budding) the event definitely lit up the city of Portland.
The Portland Winter Light Festival spans three days and includes talks, performances, and art installations. We took in the festival on the final night since we were already in the city for Five of Heart’s costume design class.
We decided to explore Hub A of the festival which was centered around the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) and the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. We really enjoyed walking around and viewing the fabulous sculptures and art pieces that were on display. At times the crowd around some areas was just way too large, but because the event was outside there were always quieter spaces that you could walk to and enjoy the lights from afar.
Somehow we timed things just right and were able to secure front row seats to the fire dancing performance by Flamebuoyant Productions. The performance was both amazing and terrifying as we watched the performers juggle, hula hoop, and dance with fire. The entire audience was captivated by their daring and elegant moves.
The festival was originally started in the winter as a way to get people outdoors and away from the tendency to hibernate during the cold, dark season. As mentioned the weather in Portland has been very mild as of late. So much so that many in the crowd were wearing shorts and sandals. However, even though it didn’t really feel like winter it was great to see so many people outside enjoying art, performances, and just being together under some really spectacular lights.
We really enjoy experiencing live music events as a family. Now that we live closer to a big city our chances at catching some great shows has increased. This past Sunday we had the pleasure of listening to some great live music at Portland’s historic Crystal Ballroom during their 104th Birthday Free-For-All.
The Crystal Ballroom opened in 1914 and has a long history of hosting dances and concerts in Portland (including Marvin Gaye, Ike & Tina Turner, and the Grateful Dead). It is now owned by McMenamins and features a brewery, hotel, and concert venue.
The time that we spent at the Crystal Ballroom was very enjoyable. We were able to see the amazing MarchFourth as well as Red Yarn, Moshow The Cat Rapper, and a very funny juggler. We were also able to break out our eighties dance moves at the ’80s Video Dance Attack. Incredibly there was no admission charge, so the entire afternoon and evening were free.
We all agreed that getting a preview of MarchFourth (we have tickets to their upcoming show) was amazing. However, the best part of the evening was dancing to 80’s music videos on the big screen. The wood floor at the Crystal Ballroom is bouncy making dancing even more fun. Finding venues where you can dance with your children is tricky, so having the opportunity to bust out some moves with the kids was amazing. We can’t wait to enjoy more great events at the Crystal Ballroom
We have always enjoyed being in the kitchen together as a family. From a very young age the kids have helped plan and prepare meals. Now that they are older they have become quite enamored with cooking competitions. In large part this stems from spending way too many nights in hotel rooms this past fall where they delighted in watching The Food Network. Their favorite show is the Holiday Baking Championship, but they also enjoy Cupcake Wars, Chopped, and Top Chef.
So, they were beyond excited this past Christmas when Santa Claus set us up with our very own family cooking competition – Team Asian Fusion versus Team Mediterranean. This past Monday was the perfect day for the competition as we dawned our aprons and entered the kitchen ready to whip up some amazing dishes.
The rules for the competition were pretty straight forward. Prepare an appetizer, main course, and dessert using the five ingredients that Santa left. In addition our esteemed judge gave us each a “special” ingredient that we had to incorporate. High Five is a very skilled food judge and critic making us all work hard to impress not only his sense of taste, but also his attention to plating details.
In the end the two teams were evenly matched and we all left the competition feeling exhausted and quite full. Everyone gained a new appreciation off how hard it is to prepare a three course meal in a set amount of time. High Five has more cooking competitions in the works and we all look forward to increasing our skills in an effort to impress his refined tastes:)
Team Asian Fusion: Five Spice and Five Ball
Must Use Ingredients: Forbidden Rice, Kelp, Brown Rice Noodles, Sweet Chili Sauce, Chinese Five Spice
“Special” Ingredient: Sunflower Seed Butter
Appetizer: Sweet Potato and Kale Pot Stickers
Entree: Forbidden Rice Stir-fry with Vegetables
Dessert: Chinese Five Spice Cake with Orange Coconut Cream Frosting
Team Mediterranean: Five String and Five of Hearts
Must Use Ingredients: Orzo, Artichokes, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Fire Roasted Tomatoes, and Garbanzo Bean Flour
“Special” Ingredient: Popcorn
Appetizer: Garbanzo Bean Foccacia with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Artichoke Dip
Entree: Orzo Stuffed Tomatoes
Dessert: Fig Bars with Lemon Frosting