Sunday, November 28, 2004


Notice a slight chill in the air? That will be winter then. Now that I wear a shirt to work every day I have learned what vests are for: keeping you warm without messing up the hang of the shirt across your shoulders. Rachel is not impressed with the unsexiness of the garment, known here as a 'wife beater,' if deployed as outerwear. Of course, there is a feminine variant on the vest, called a 'cuddledud' - cute, n'est pas? Either way, useful items for the brisk, traditional hike to the nearest Starbucks on Thanksgiving morning. I'll take a grande non-fat decaf vanilla latte, please. By the time I've said it, they've made it.

Thanksgiving is the culinary blowout I expected it to be. My first scheduled day-off since I arrived here, we kicked back and played poker with the family, grazed on appetisers until the late afternoon feast: turkey, stuffing, potatoes (I insisted on roast, though the tradition is mashed), sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, miscellaneous additional vegetables; then apple pie (or pumpkin pie if you're doing it by the book). A widely publicised fact here, but one which I was unaware of in Lewes: turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan which has a sedative effect. Whether or not there is any truth in this, what with Friday's inevitable turkey sandwich fest, I have not been at my most productive.

Yesterday we took a trip around the Eastern Willamette valley; rich farmland whose primary output consists of root vegetables, christmas trees and - you guessed it - wine. Stopped in a little German town called Mount Angel for some saurkraut and rootbeer. Took a short hike to Silver Falls where we walked through thick, moss-covered forest to duck behind an enormous waterfall. Stopped off at a couple of wineries on the way home... over thanksgiving weekend every little vineyard opens its doors to the public.

the waterfall near Silverton

Need a bit of pepping-up through the winter season? You'll want some Ester-C in that case. Also available: Ester-E. They're Ebeneezer Goode.

In other news, Green Wall closed on Friday and the proceeds have (we hope) been wired to the company dealing with the purchase of our new home. We're due to move in on Thursday, all being well!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Streaming pomegranates

Ah, the wonders of the internet. Thanks to the BBC’s online radio player and a pair of wireless speakers from Radio Shack, it is now possible for us to drop-off to the dulcet tones of genuine Radio 4 presenters, perfectly enunciating words such as "pomegranate." Of course it feels a little odd nodding-off to John Humphrey’s interrogation of the cabinet on the Today programme and strange to hear The Archers at 6am, but this is more than made up for by the fact that You and Yours comes in a 4am, just at the right time to deal with any nocturnal insomnia. God bless the BBC.

Wine. Did I ever mention it was big around here? This afternoon we're off to some barrel tastings at Willakenzie; it's a tough life. Who'd of thought you could make wine from your very own backyard though? Well, here’s the evidence: a photo form early September of this Summer's harvest from Chateau Leon...

The harvest at Chateau Assael

From left to right: Johnny, Jeanne/Flo, Rachel and Leon; foreground: all the grapes I didn’t harvest myself.

I can’t speak for the quality of the wine itself of course, because that would be impolite.

I have also gone back into blog history and added a photo from one our hikes and also evidence of pelicans.

It looks like all is going well on the house front; Green Wall completes on Friday 26th and we’re due to complete on our purchase here the following week. I’m taking the 2nd and 3rd December off work to move in (I have to use up the holiday I’ve earned so far by Christmas or lose it, which is a bit of a bugger when you only get ten days; on the plus-side however next week is a 3-dayer thanks to Thanksgiving).

Oh the good life, full of fun, seems to be the ideal…

Climatic comparisions

If there's one thing American's agree on, it's that both London and Portland are very wet indeed. But what are the facts? London and Portland both average 153 “wet days” per year, defined as a day with greater than 1/4mm rainfall. This is despite the fact that Portland has twice as much actual rain (100cm vs 60cm). And despite that fact, it is also consistently sunnier. Temperature wise, Portland is also slightly warmer than London throughout the year. Want diagrams? You've got them...

Wet days per month, Portland, OR vs London, UK

Rainfall per month, Portland, OR vs London, UK

Average hours sunshine per day, Portland, OR vs London, UK

Average max daily temperature, Portland, OR vs London, UK
The graphs also indicate Portland's climate to be more seasonal then London's, with comparatively few wet days in the summer months...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


There’s nothing like the swinging Cuban rhythms of the mambo to cheer oneself up on the evening commute and prepare oneself psychologically for the first martini of the night. I tap out the beat on the steering wheel as I roll along highway 26 at approximately 10 miles-per-hour, narrow my eyes and smile sanguinely as the big-band sounds take me forward in time to the glass of vino in the hot-tub, the steam rising across the cool lakeside air.

Happy days indeed - and hard to believe one is having quite so much fun whilst simultaneously never quite relieving oneself of the feeling that one is a bit-player in a film set in some kind of dystopic futureworld.

Mr R Kitch asked whether or not I was becoming a hippy. Of course the answer is no as I enjoy regular baths and am not averse to a slab of red meat. However, if you would like to read something frightening enough to have you exchange all your modern consumer durables for the complete boxed set of The Good Life on DVD, a pen and some notepaper – well, come closer, friend, and read about life after the oil crash

In the meantime…

Vanilla: nice. Cherry: nice. Mint: nice. Cherry & mint, however: revolting. Yet surprisingly common for cold medicines (it’s the American “cherry menthol”, if you will, only you can’t hold it down without gagging). Vanilla & mint: they wouldn’t, would they? Oh yes they would: Rachel has some vanilla and mint flavoured toothpaste. Out of morbid curiousity I tried it, once. It’s the combination that should not be. In hell, all food will taste like this.

The house-hunting is getting somewhere. We’ve had an offer accepted on a house in the Hawthorne neighbourhood, keepin’ it real on the East-side of town. It’s a really lovely 3-bedroom 1907 house complete with front porch and hot-tub. Thanks to the ridiculous exchange rate it is also hardly any more expensive than Green Wall - which, with any luck, should exchange this week.

We spent Saturday at Portland zoo, admiring polar bears, giraffes, tigers, eagles, beavers, elephants, crocodiles and so forth. An impressive collection for a small city and the animals all seemed quite happy considering. Winter has arrived and there was a nip in the air, which I, as usual, completely failed to prepare for. Therefore I have caught a cold. The mild accompanying melancholy associated with same has caused me to reflect that myself, Conker and Peanut are all overweight through lack of exercise – a situation only likely to be rectified when we move, hopefully at the end of the month.

Rachel at the zoo

Rachel at the zoo

On Sunday we took a trip out to wine country to sample the local plonk; this time to the less-expensive, northern end of the Willamette valley. Fortunately I was not driving and managed to try pretty much every offering of the four vineyards en route. The countryside is so colourful right now, the leaves green, brown, yellow, red and orange.