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Day Trip to Astoria: Too Hot to Stay in Town...

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Will and I are researchers at heart--and by training too--so when we were planning to move to the Pacific northwest, we read about the notoriously gloomy and wet weather.  People called it "English climate," and we thought we were mostly prepared for that.  After all, we spent over a year (Will spent two) living in England.  For our initial round of packing, we included several waterproof jackets, scarves, and umbrellas.  We were ready!

Then we arrived in Portland in the first part of July.  And it was been a loooong series of 90+ days of full sun--except the occasional 101- or 104-degree days.  Yes, it is true that the string is sometimes snapped with an outlier 72-degree day.  (Thank goodness for small miracles!)  But otherwise, it's been SUNNY and HOT!

Of course, it turns out--when you probe a bit deeper--that Pacific northwest summers have ALWAYS been dry and sunny, if not quite this hot.  Unfortunately, it sounds like all the sunlight hours Portland gets are concen…

Enjoying Our New Home Away from Home

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As I mentioned in the last post, we are in transition this summer.  We're not leaving the Chicago area entirely (after all, we still have a condo to sell!), but we are adding a new Portland-area zip code to our lives.  So for the rest of the summer at least, it's goodbye mid-west and hello pacific northwest!

Because we have been busy making yet another drive across the country and then setting up a new menage (lots more on that in another post probably), we haven't had a chance to sight-see as much as we'd like.  Once things settle down and we establish a rhythm of working in this new area (Will) and traveling back and forth (me), hopefully we will get to familiarize ourselves more fully with the charms of the pacific northwest. 

In the meantime, let me enumerate a few aspects we already enjoy about our new home-away-from home:

NATURAL BEAUTY

We love Chicago (well, maybe I love it a bit more than Will does...), but it certainly cannot compete with the pacific northwe…

What We Can Pack into (and Eat in) A Summer Week in Our Town

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There is a strong possibility that we might be moving sometime this summer.  We might not be going away permanently, and we would most likely operate out of two households for the foreseeable future, but we might no longer be living full time in our little suburb bordering Chicago.  That's both very exciting and a little sad.

Will and I have lived over twenty years in the Chicago area, so a change of scenery is long overdue.  After all, there is a LOT more world out there to be lived in!  We are curious to see if we would like living in a place like New York City, or San Francisco, or Paris, etc.  Or a smaller town or a more rural setting with a mountain or beach-y feel--like Park City, Utah; Algarve, Portugal; Dordogne, France; or Abruzzo, Italy. 

Now we are in the process of documenting some of the aspects of Chicago we have taken for granted but which we'll miss.  (In fact, I've already mentioned how odd it might be that we would probably miss French Toast if we were t…

Walking Lake Geneva, WI

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In less than a month, Will and I have logged a LOT of miles in driving and flying.  Between professional travel, family visits, and social engagements, we've had--sometimes together, and sometimes separately--three driving trips to central and southern Illinois, and two round-trip flights out west.  Yes, all within the last 4 weeks!

Needless to say, by the time this week came along, we sort of needed to veg out and relax.  But we also wanted to get outside and enjoy some fresh air after being inside cars and airplanes for so long.  (On our way back from LA, our flight was grounded, after boarding, for over 3 hours while we waited out O'Hare's embargo on all flights in the aftereffects of Tropical Storm Alberto!)

So, in the middle of the week, we took off for a day trip to one of our favorite nearby destinations: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the main road heading into Lake Geneva is impossible to endure on weekends, so we like visiting durin…

Winery, Casino, Ramen, Oh My!: One Week in Southern California

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We recently returned from a whirlwind week in Southern California, and I'm here to report again on this part of the country that we've become much more familiar with since we began our "gap year."

After we flew into LA last week, we picked up our rental car and then my parents, and immediately whisked them off south of the city, to Temecula, near San Diego.  What's in Temecula that there was this rush to head straight there before all else?

One-cent video slot machines!  What else???

For the life of me, I fail to understand the allure of these video slot machines, but my parents absolutely adore these brightly-colored and obnoxiously-voiced machines that spit out incomprehensible instructions.


In the few times I attempted to spend some minutes keeping my parents company by "playing" next to them, I've been befuddled by exhortations to "Stack the monkeys!" or been greeted with I-Dream-of-Jeannie figures calling me "Master."  Occa…

Preparing to Live Abroad by Going with the Flow

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When I grow up, I want to become the Postmistress of Castrojeriz, Spain.

Imagine a job where you come in Monday-Friday from 9:30-10am.  You get to enjoy a bit of "office" camaraderie, interact with a few local residents, help out struggling tourists who want to send a postcard from their Camino route, and then go home in time to have a proper breakfast and really start the day.

Of course, if you are a tourist--or, for that matter, a resident--who needs the post office to be open beyond 30 minutes in the morning, these hours could be a bit frustrating.  And--gasp!--what if I needed something on the weekend?  Then, I might be missing the Chicago-area suburbs with their 24-hour grocery stores, Saturday hours for the post office, etc.

We have had enough adventures with European ideas of public services to know that all will not be smooth sailing if and when we finally do move there.  In fact, in just about every country we are contemplating living in, we've had some memorab…

Coffee, Cream, and Culture

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In our second two-month stay in Montreal last fall, my French teacher Nicolas--who came from the beautiful 7th arrondissement of Paris--was talking about the relative merits of different coffee shops right around our school.  Someone in class then asked him whether one would ask for a cappuccino if someone wanted coffee with cream in France.  Nicolas responded that, in fact, either Italian cappuccino or cafe latte would be understood, along with the more French cafe au lait, but that there is another French name we could use, for a better coffee drink.  He asked if anyone in class knew what that might be.  I did.

As a side note: Although our French classes were quite international, because so many of the students in class were still quite young (Will and I were both the oldest students in our respective classes, sometimes by 10+ years), they had not traveled as much as old fogies like us.  That being the case, I always tried to temper my enthusiasm in speaking about world travel with…

When Your "Home Sweet Home" Becomes Your Albatross

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Lest we seem ungrateful, let me just say at the outset that I often cherish our home.  When the afternoon sun hits our west-facing windows during summer dinner parties, or when Will and I sit out on our balcony to watch the sun set, or when I see our dog Katie sprawled out on the granite in front of our living room fireplace, I'm filled with a sense of contentment and--especially if we have actually cleaned the living room--even a certain amount of home-pride.  But...

The fact is, it's not because we love our home that we opted to stay in Chicago when there were offers a couple of years ago for Will to move out west for his career.  Sure, I have a tenured teaching position here, but that wasn't the only reason either.  In addition to whatever other reasons, the truth is that our home is something of an obstacle to an ideal "sabbatical life."

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In May 2006, we sold our Chicago bungalow and went to live in England for Will's ex-pat assignment …

Hosting Dinner Parties: Our Favorite Indoor Activity!

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In our "About Us" page, we promised that we wouldn't write too much about things like cooking dinner together.  This particular entry is going to make a liar out of that promise, but hopefully the occasional such posts will be forgiven...

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The subtitle for this blog identifies "Biking, Hiking, Eating, Traveling and Other Adventures" as the focus of Our Sabbatical Life.  While the rest are more outdoorsy activities, we find the sole indoor-oriented activity of EATING at least as important as any one of the rest.  (In fact, for me at least, food might be more critical than the ALL the rest combined!)

One of the ways we get the most out of our eating pleasure?: Hosting dinner parties.  We also like brunches and lunches and cocktail hours and weekend house parties too, but perhaps our preferred form of entertaining might be to have 2-4 extra people over for a long dinner that involves plenty of food, drinks, and wide-ranging conversation.
Duri…