November

#305 Hanging with Raquel & Jesse

01 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

After the murder mystery party, our friends Raquel and Jesse spent the night with us in Eugene, and most of the next day explpring town.

We went to see the very best Eugene had to offer… the new Ross! And also geocaching, the Science Factory, Sizzle Pie, and Alton Baker Park, I suppose.

#306 The Wrong Bus

02 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

I was enjoying such a pleasant conversation on the phone that it took me 20 minutes to realize I got on the completely wrong bus. No problem! I figured I’d just let the bus complete its circuit back to UO and then get on the next one on my line. Then we stopped by Willamette and I figured I’d get home even faster if I got out there and took the bus from one of those stops. Terrible choice.

First off, the bus took half an hour to come and showed up ten minutes late. The ride was 80% populated with high school students, and one really angry mother of an infant who kept yelling at the driver. The driver also refused to let on some guy who was not all there, so he decided to take out his anger on her by biking in front of the bus real slowly up hills for most of the way.

The whole thing would have been pretty terrible if it weren’t also somewhat amusing.

#307 Bun Bo Hue

03 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

I’ve been in a recent slump of some of my more ambitious meals not quite coming out the way I’d like.

This dinner continues this streak, although it was my first time ever trying to make Bun Bo Hue, and I’m wondering if I just normally find the broth a bit funny tasting. Everything else about it turned out the way I hoped, though!

#308 A Walk Across America

04 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

“As the lifetime-long days passed I began to notice a profound cleansing taking place in myself as we were inmersed in the peaceful Pennsylvania farm valleys. The streams and cotton-clean clouds washed my soul and I felt myself opening up to the world.”

― Peter Jenkins, A Walk Across America

Thrift shop gold made for a great read. Once, while on a road trip through several states, a stranger who I ended up staying with bragged about being family friends with the Jenkins. I nodded along, trying to hide the fact that I didn’t know who the Jenkins were, all while this man mentioned them in a way that suggested I should.

Years later, I was at a dinner party here in Oregon when Peter Jenkins again became the topic of discussion. Most of the crowd was a little bit older, and I soon realized that around the late 1970s and early 1980s, Peter Jenkins basically brought the travel writing genre back to life. He spent several years walking from upstate New York to the Oregon Coast, combatting his disillusionment of American culture and politics by getting to know its different people more intimately.

When I found this for a buck at a thrift shop, I had to go for it. Books about people on a quest, especially one that involves travel or backpacking, almost never disappoint me.

#309 Soggy Days

05 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

It’s been one of those weeks that moves too slow and too fast at the same time… having a lot of crap to get done doesn’t always mix well with autumn lethargy.

So I tried really, really hard to get to the gym to shake some of that off. It cost me getting my first beesting in 21 years, but lets hope my body thinks it was worth it.

#310 Lamb & Merlot

06 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

Friday nights are the nights I like to unwind by trying my hand at an extremely ambitious and time consuming meal.

This weekend’s attempt was a nod to things that the Food Network seems to obsess over– broccoli rabe and turning everything into a reduction. I figured lamb neck would be the best host for those flavors.

#311 Dinner at Rob & Marie’s

07 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

Had the most relaxing Saturday we could’ve imagined. It consisted of way oversleeping, followed by three movies while I chipped away at my thesis.

Thank God for our friends Rob and Marie, because hanging out with them finally got us out of the house. It was worth it. Rob made some incredible pork shoulder and sauerkraut that reminded me of Prague, and some wonderful gin and rosewater cocktail.

#312 Movement Mandala

08 November 2015 // Springfield, Oregon

Deanna and I spent our Sunday afternoon out on a surprise outing she had planned for the two of us. She ended up driving us out into Springfield to an unsuspecting office where we met one of her coworkers.

She was leading a movement and mindfulness group, one that she usually used as a theraputic exercise for kids, but that was totally relaxing and beneficial for adults, too. We got to spend an hour focusing on moving freely through space, aware of our body’s impulses and capabilities, and each of the exercises was pretty fun.

My favorite part was the half hour or so spent in a massive drum circle. Towards the end we took some raw supplies to make a mandala- a slow but really thought out process. This is just one of the many possibilities when Deanna plans our dates.

#313 Lights On

09 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

These colder november days have really, really upped the appeal of being home by the early evening, getting to turn on some warm lights, and bust out a book or Netflix, or anything relaxing really. I’m not that picky about it.

The light at the end of the tunnel for this quarter has begun to appear, and I can’t wait for it to come closer. Thanksgiving and family time and Christmas and road trips all sound way nicer than what I have going on right now, and it’s tough to argue with that.

In the meantime, there’s the light at home at the end of each day. And that’s good too.

#314 Nights at Home

10 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

I meant to clean up the house a little bit more, but after work I really wasn’t in the mood to do a whole lot. This was a day as ordinary as they come. Mostly school and work, an early sunset, and wanting to spent the back end of the day being cozy and relaxed.

Sometime while sitting on the couch it occurred to me that the life I have, even at its most ordinary is one that I’m really, really glad I have. These are perhaps the easiest of days to take granted, but I thought about Deanna in the next room, the warmth from the heater we just started using sporadically, and having a warmly lit, sometimes clean place to come back to at the end of the day.

I don’t want to ever allow myself to take it for granted.

#315 Camp Mousse

11 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

Thanks to Deanna’s recent fixation on The Great British Baking Show, I’ve been craving desserts real bad most of the time when I’m at home. I don’t even have that big of a sweet tooth most of the time.

It eventually reached its breaking point when I really needed something sweet after dinner, so I dove into our camping supplies to enjoy some MRE chocolate mousse. It wasn’t quite up to par with the Great British Baking Show, but it was most definitely necessary.

#316 When Waters Whisper

12 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

“We ran across the wide field between the cliff edge and the road and startled a flock of gulls into the sky. Behind us the sun melted the last of the fog, and the Sea of Organum lay naked, shining like a polished turquoise for as many miles as the eye of the highest gull could see.”
–Dan Daly, When Waters Whisper

There is fan fiction, which typically doesn’t have the highest reputation. But then there is friend fiction, which is much better, because it means you have some extremely creative friends. My friend Dan wrote this book about a year ago, but he told me that it was best binge-read, gone through quickly, I guess to experience his story in real time.

Dan’s created a very intricate and colorfully depicted world where music and magic intersect. This book is so full unanswered questions that get you hooked, wanting to find some resolution. This is especially true if you’ve been a student of music for some time, but even if you haven’t it’s still accessible.

I love having friends with more than just a few creative bones in their body. I love seeing, hearing, reading what gets produced. Keep it coming, you guys.

#317 The World Needs Paris

13 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

This keychain was a gift from my friend Haley. So glad you’re safe, friend! I’m feeling thankful and fortunate tonight that (thanks to Facebook) I’ve accounted for all of the friends I know I have in Paris at the moment. At the same time, it’s hard to be anything but sad over all the other lives that were lost tonight in such a beautiful city.

The photo of the Louvre is one I took almost six years ago, the last time I was in Paris. I didn’t arrive in the very best mood… I had planned on spending a special weekend there with somebody and ended up basically alone and frustrated over some conflict. The sour mood didn’t last too long. A day at the Louvre, a taste of some éclairs, trying to make do with my terribly limited French, and playing “subway system roulette” with the Paris Metro quickly helped me realize how much good was in the world to be tasted and seen and felt.

Tonight’s news is sad and horrifying and all that. Life can be pretty brutal and exhausting at times. And while the city of Paris is the subject of mourning for the time being, it will always be known as a city of beauty. And that is such an important thing. The fight to make the world a little bit better, the long arc of justice, the struggle to get human beings to coexist peacefully and happily is such a tough one. We need every reminder of beauty to remember what we’re fighting for.

It’s like something one of my favorite writers says: “The world needs gorgeous places and amazing food and incredible art because… because when we’re fighting evil armies and ravaging diseases, we need to know what we’re fighting for. And the world needs Paris because in light of all the horrendous things human beings are capable of doing, we need to know that we’re also capable of extraordinary beauty.”

–Sarah Thebarge

#318 Dinner with Ris and Peter

14 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

A couple months ago, we were making our way to our car to leave on a camping trip when our downstairs neighbors recognized us and called us by name. We looked for a bit and squinted in the dark as the faces grew familiar.

We met Ris and Peter way back in April, at a bonfire at our friend’s place out in Coburg. We sat around a fire and played some music and ended up line dancing at our friend’s barn. That was a fun night.

We were surprised to have them as downstairs neighbors, but we decided that this for sure meant having each other over for dinner at some point. Ris and Peter threw out the first line, and we came over for some awesome kelp noodle pad thai, some spiritual talk, and some hanging out with Cosmo the black lab.

#319 Eugene Comic Con

15 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

If you asked me what my plans were for last weekend, I wouldn’t have said Comic-Con. If you asked me what panel I’d guess I’d be sitting in on, I wouldn’t have guessed Dungeons and Dragons. If you would’ve asked me to guess who would be moderating this Dungeons and Dragons panel, I would not ever have guessed it to be my lovely wife, who knows a lot about many things. Just not Dungeons and Dragons, per se.

And yet, last Sunday, we found ourselves at the Eugene Comic-Con, with Deanna moderating a panel in front of a bunch of fans. Actually, she was discussing how the RPG could be used as a therapeutic group vehicle with some co-workers, so that makes a little more sense, but the thought of us being Comic-Con panelists still amuses me. I made her watch the Comic-Con episode of Psych in preparation. Seriously, Oh The Places You’ll Go never even hinted at this being a possibility.

We didn’t offend any major fandoms, so I’d call it a success. We even saw the former Green Ranger and somebody looked a bit more familiar if we knew anything about the Walking Dead.

#320 Thesis Revisions

16 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

It’s been a long quarter, a good deal of which was centered around upon getting my thesis project all properly written up and then approved. After numerous revisions, I finally got something that looked a lot like a green light- permission from the school’s ethics review to go ahead.

What does this mean? It’s time to start hunting for airplane tickets and putting in my request for a leave of absence. It’s a real good feeling knowing that the wheels are in motion to go ahead with my grad school game plan.

#321 Officially Going Back to Jozi

17 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

It’s official! I’ll be returning to South Africa in January, an exact three years after my last visit.

When I left the last time, I knew I would need to come back. I knew that so many visitors had come and gone and detatched like nothing had happened, and I didn’t want that to be me. I figured a second visit would be even more important than my first.

With my tickets all booked, I’ll be going together with Deanna for a few weeks. While I had hoped to get back two years after my last visit, I suppose three years is next best. Hopefully the kids aren’t TOO much older now, but either way, I can’t wait to see them again.

#322 Misty Mornings

18 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

I had a little trouble booking my flight to South Africa lately. No matter which airline I use, getting Portland and Johannesburg to connect requires several airlines to connect to each other, and everybody’s had trouble getting each of the tickets locked down.

It could be a frustrating process, but Felicia from Virgin Airlines has been rocking at her job. Seriously. She spent over an hour with me on the phone trying to make it work, and was extremely friendly while doing so, chatting it up about growing up in Pennsylvania and everything. Plus when she realized the process would take a while, she freed me up to go work on other things and called me back later to report a solution she found.

All in all, she must’ve spent five hours working on my itinerary alone. That is what being awesome at your job looks like. All the more reason Virgin Airlines ends up one of my favorites.

#323 Poached Sole

19 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

With the weather getting all cold and nasty now, I’m less able to indulge the outdoor things I love. That means doubling down on some of my indoor hobbies.

Deanna and I both love cooking, so we both end up eating really really well and we’re happier for it. Here’s another item struck off Deanna’s Julia Child quest: Some poached sole fillet.

#324 Hindi/Urdu Class Lunch

20 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

My Hindi/Urdu class went out to lunch at Evergreen– which I say is one of my favorites in town, but I really haven’t eaten there very often. This was only my second time since moving to Eugene.

Their food was even better than I remembered, and I had a great time hanging out with our class and chatting about U.S. and Pakistani culture.

#325 Ridgeline Walk

21 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

Deanna and I did our very best to be active this past weekend as a change from the past several weeks where we haven’t felt like doing a whole lot. We set out to go hiking at one of the trails nearby our house up Mount Baldy.

Unfortunately, we took the wrong trailhead and by the time we realized it it was a little too late in the day to give Mount Baldy a shot. But, we still got the pleasure of enjoying the meats, cheese, and pickled veggies we picked up in preparation so it wasn’t a loss.

#326 Plank-Town with the Phillips

22 November 2015 // Springfield, Oregon

We got to see our friends Jacob and Alisha for the first time since they moved up to Gresham! Although we bought their old couch, so we’ve been connected that whole time through furniture transfers.

Had a really good time catching up on life lately. Post-Gresham. Post-wedding. Post-the Ducks looking a lot better than they looked shortly after the season started.

We also got the treat of Plank-Town brunch. Foggy Scotsman Ale. Scotch Eggs. Fried Oyster Po’Boy. That place is great and I don’t eat there nearly enough.

#327 UO Unity Vigil

23 November 2015 // Eugene, Oregon

Really enjoyed and appreciated the inter-faith unity vigil held at UO amongst faculty members, and Muslim, Jewish, and Christian student groups.

It’s been challenging and upsetting hearing the hostility widely experienced by my Muslim friends over the past few months. Thankfully there’s a lot of people who know better, too, and I know every display of solidarity means a whole lot.

Towards the end, hearing everybody singing Amazing Grace in unison was a simple but chilling moment. One I’d want more of.

#328 Welcome to LAX

24 November 2015 // Los Angeles, California

Deanna and I took a pretty smooth flight from Portland to L.A.. I finished a good chunk of my current book, and the flight was probably the most laid back and relaxed part of the day.

Going through airports always gets me excited, knowing that something fun and adventurous is ahead. Even when that’s a short flight from Portland to L.A., the travel process is still super exciting to me.

Plus this was a long awaited moment. I’ve been looking ahead to Thanksgiving weekend for such a long time. Seeing family again and everything.

#329 Pre-Thanksgiving

25 November 2015 // Carson, California

How you Thanksgiving is how I pre-Thanksgiving cause these two are my aunts! Seriously.

Got my very first taste of married life holidays by spending yesterday with my mom and these two before heading to Bakersfield. In return, they made sure our bellies did their stretches and warmups by feeding us plenty! A full stack of pancakes for breakfast then only a couple hours later ribs and adobo as part of the same lunch. It was a perfect carboload in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Thankful that this year allows us to get in time with both families. Thankful for the married life and seeing that develop and spawn new traditions, and thankful for the old ones that have carried over.

#330 Simon’s First Book

26 November 2015 // Bakersfield, California

A scene from my Thanksgiving… “Uncle Philippe, I wrote a book like you. Wanna see?” How could I say no.

Untitled Graphic Novel is a debut comic from nephew and author Simon Andrew. The story is a fictional memoir in which Simon and his dad enter a cave and encounter his little brother. They all have light sabers and battle until the tips of their light sabers all fall off, except for his dad’s.

So thankful for the holidays giving me a chance to catch up on great reads and discover new authors. Especially when those authors are nephews.

#331 Iron Frog

27 November 2015 // Bakersfield, California

At some point I became Simon’s favorite source of bedtime stories and its a role I wholeheartedly embrace. Lately I’ve been pretty good at pulling random morals out of the stories that I usually make up as I go.

Tonight’s tale of Iron Frog was essentially the Iron Man origin story, albeit with an ordinary frog who gets a new mechanical suit with special abilities following a near death experience. The suit allows him to do awesome things and help people, but eventually he gets bored and life returns to being fairly normal although the frog gets more adept at his new skills. The moral? Sometimes the novelty of things wear off but skills can still improve.

Without missing a beat— “Like how when I first got my Nerf gun I must’ve fired it a ton of times but now I don’t use it as much but I’m a better shot and better at dodging missiles?” Simon connects.

Glad my stories are so relatable.

#332 Bakersfield Room Escape

28 November 2015 // Bakersfield, California

Judy, Colin, Shelly, Andy, Deanna, and I made it out successfully… with almost eight minutes to spare. We all had our strategies. Brute strength. Getting Wienerschnitzel beforehand to be motivated by stomach discomfort. Feigning a medical illness because an emergency rescue still counts.

I’d been wanting to do a room escape for a really long time, and finally got to over Thanksgiving weekend. This was so much fun. We had an hour to solve the puzzle, but it was so engaging that the time period went by extremely fast.

Also, this totally tickles my interest in doing some more. I looked up a directory of all the ones around the world. Our closest ones are the six in Portland, but even Vietnam has six, so there’s no reason not to do a world tour.

#333 Onwards Rose City

29 November 2015 // Burbank, California

And now we go onwards… Onwards to Oregon once more to finish off the last two weeks that sit in between me and a wonderful Southern holiday, and being done with this quarter I’ve been over for weeks.

And also, we go onwards to the MLS Cup! We meaning the Timbers. A belated thanksgiving note… I’m thankful for phone apps that keep me up to date on games as they unfold while I’m stuck in places I can’t watch.

And speaking of onwards… Onwards to our seventh hour at the Burbank Airport!

#334 A Cold and Early Drive

30 November 2015 // Albany, Oregon

This was one of the most difficult mornings to wake up to in a long, long time.

My Mondays are always my most work-heavy days, full of classes, office hours, teaching, and writing, in general, they aren’t the easiest to start, but this one had a 5am start time. Deanna and I spent the night in Portland after flying in close to midnight the night before, and waking up to drive in 20º weather hours before the sun was not an easy task.

It was fairly rewarding though.

Frost covered most of the drive, which was gorgeous as it turned the open, lumpy, curving fields a shiny white color as we drove from Portland to Eugene. We got a better look at the pretty frost as the sun rose higher and higher. The sunrise also launched an epic, blazing sea of clouds into the sky, tinted orange, on the drivers’ side of the road. Not to be outdone, the right side of the road decided to feature a double rainbow. It was the first time the gorgeousness was so over the top I had to actually laugh at it.