Wildwood

Once we’d made the decision to move to Portland I set about doing some research. I flicked through some city guides and cycling guides, but the bulk of my research into our new home consisted of reading the Wildwood Chronicles – a children’s fantasy series which is set in Portland.

Wildwood-series

The Wildwood Chronicles are written and illustrated by a husband and wife team who live in Portland. Colin Meloy is the lead vocalist of Portland indie folk band The Decemberists and his wife, Carson Ellis, is an award winning children’s book illustrator. It’s got elements of fairy tale, Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Tolkien and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth; talking animals; evil industrialist tycoons and, to me anyway, a very strong plug for the power and benefits of meditation. Truth be told the reviews of this series are very mixed – it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of book. I’d seen it back in the library at John Kerr elementary  – what attracted me to it is the illustrations – but I doubt I would have made time for it had it not been set in Portland. Having said that, I did enjoy all three of the chronicles. Possibly much of that was to do with the fact that I was reading about an environment that was soon to be my home. I read the books whilst still in Bend…they got me quite excited about the move!

In one of those lovely twists of fate, we have ended up living not far from Forest Park, the Wildwood which is the key setting of the stories. The Wildwood area is also home to Pittock Mansion, an historic home that was built in 1914 for one of Portland’s founding families. Pittock Mansion features in the Wildwood Chronicles – it is the seat of Government for South Wood. (In the Wildwood Chronicles, Forest Park is divided into North Wood which is pastoral and rural, whereas the South is industrialized and urban.)

Today we took a wee stroll through some of the Wildwood trails and had a quick look at the exterior of Pittock Mansion.

Heading into Wildwood...
Heading into Wildwood.
We are loving the abundance of trees in our neck of the woods!
We are loving the abundance of trees in our neck of the woods!
Pittock Mansion. We plan to return closer to Christmas...apparently the decorations are quite spectacular.
Pittock Mansion. We plan to return closer to Christmas…apparently the decorations are quite spectacular.
Carson Ellis' rendition of Pittock Mansion juxtaposed with the real thing.
Carson Ellis’ rendition of Pittock Mansion juxtaposed with the real thing.

We are loving all the trees in Portland. We’ve nicknamed our house the tree house as that’s pretty much all you see from any of our windows, and luckily, we have a lot of them!

Our backyard...only one word for it...trees!
Our backyard…only one word for it…trees!

Much of our time since arriving in Portland has been focussed on the new house and the new school, but we did find some time last weekend to get away to the coast. One of the attractions of Portland – apart from all the trees – is it’s proximity to the sea, something us island dwellers sorely missed whilst in VA where it was a good three hour drive to get to the closest beach.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Had such a great day there we have booked to go back for a weekend in October.
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Had such a great day there we have booked to go back for a weekend in October.
Only these two would be crazy enough to get into the water!
Only these two would be crazy enough to get into the water!
There is always time for handstand practice.
There is always time for handstand practice.
The sea! Such a beautiful sight.
The sea! Such a beautiful sight.
And I even managed to get in a photo for once!
And I even managed to get in a photo for  once!

So twenty four days after arriving in Portland we are doing well. The girls and I even survived a whole week by ourselves when Richard was taking in the delights of Cincinnati and Boston last week.

I hope to be back soon with more about our new home. We hope that all our friends and family are well and happy and that you enjoy the beginnings of our Portlandia adventure!

Seven

 

Finally she turned seven!
Finally she turned seven!
Lots of lovely gifts. This graphic novel series is very popular with both the girls...as you can probably tell :)
Lots of lovely gifts. This graphic novel series is very popular with both the girls…as you can probably tell 🙂
And a spot of that dreaded non-feminist Lego.
And a spot of that dreaded non-feminist Lego.
The gifts from big sis were a big hit.
The gifts from big sis were a big hit.
Dad even made pancakes for breakfast.
Dad even made pancakes for breakfast.
Les girls all ready for the party.
Les girls all ready for the party.
Three amigos.
Three amigos.
Edie and Isabelle in American Girl heaven.
Edie and Isabelle in American Girl heaven.
Just chilling with my tiny crown and my tiny teacup.
Just chilling with my tiny crown and my tiny teacup.
Happy Birthday Edie!
Happy Birthday Edie!

Back to school…

Olive and Edie were not the only ones in our house “returning” to the classroom this month. Last Wednesday I switched on my computer and logged into my new classroom. It’s called ANGEL – Penn State University’s online learning portal. I’m enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature and last week was the first day of my first paper – The Art of the Picturebook.

Gotta love a paper which has this as the textbook!
Gotta love a paper which has this as the textbook!

After I graduated from university I went straight into the graduate teaching programme at Wellington College of Education – now part of the Education Department at Victoria University. Becoming a generalist primary school teacher required many areas of study – including the all important teaching of reading. In addition to the nuts and bolts of teaching reading we also had to take a course in literature for children. It’s in this class that I fell in love – again – with books for children.

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_cover1 2 3 to the zooThe tunnel

Our teacher was excellent. Rod McGregor – a very tall, very dry and very intelligent former secondary school English teacher – reopened a world that I had left behind as I “grew up”, a world that welcomed me back with open arms. We’d talk about favourite books from our childhood, discuss all the different types of literature for children and also take turns reading aloud to each other. The only assignment I can remember was having to read as much children’s literature as we could and make brief reading responses in a journal. As you can probably guess I was something of a girly swot back then and for every reading response I carefully photocopied the cover of each book and then with watercolour pencils, painted in all the colours. I glued these into my journal next to the copious amounts I had written – is it any wonder I had no social life!!

One of the first books I wrote about in my journal.
One of the first books I wrote about in my journal.

Once let loose in my own classroom my favourite time of day soon became teacher reading and I grabbed any other opportunity to weave children’s literature into the curriculum. When we studied the water cycle in science, The Magic School Bus Visits the Waterworks was invaluable, as were the Horrible Histories series when we did a unit on Ancient Egypt.

magic-school-busegyptians

Shirley Hughes beautiful story The Lion and the Unicorn provided much of the inspiration for a fantastic social studies unit we did on evacuees during World War Two, as did Michelle Magorian’s heartbreaking Goodnight Mr Tom.

Lion and the UnicornMr Tom

I began buying a lot of books for children – especially picturebooks, (the children in my class always got excited when “Miss G” had been shopping!) and I developed something of a reputation at work as the teacher who knew a lot about kids books. I was even asked to take part in a video produced by the teacher’s college on reading aloud to children. (I got a lovely message out of the blue a few weeks ago from one of the parents in Olive’s preschool class at Otari Montessori before we left New Zealand. He’s training to become a primary school teacher and his Facebook message said “I think I just watched you on a video about reading out loud to children” !)

This is the book that I read aloud in the video.
This is the book that I read aloud in the video.

I enrolled in a Diploma of Children’s Literature through Christchurch Teacher’s College and began the hard slog of working full time and studying – ugh! I loved the paper – funnily enough it, too,was all about picturebooks – but I didn’t love working and studying at the same time. So after completing that first paper I took what was meant to be a short break from studying…ahem…fourteen years later, I am declaring the break over!

I’m only a few days into the course but thus far I’m loving. It’s daunting to get my head around assignments and grades and deadlines again – and just getting to grips with the online learning platform was enough to induce a serious case of nerves – but every day it will get easier and my fellow classmates are very supportive. I might add another link to the read section of the blog and share some of the titles I’m reconnecting with and the new ones I am discovering.

Apparently Belgium is a rich source of talent in the picturebook making world. I'm kicking myself that I didn't buy more books when we lived there.
Apparently Belgium is a rich source of talent in the picturebook making world. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t buy more books when we lived there.

Thanks for all your words of support as I embark on this new challenge. I hope you will enjoy sharing the journey with me 🙂