The Graduate…

In the United States, fifth grade officially marks the end of elementary school or primary school, as we would know it in New Zealand. If we had been staying in Portland, Olive would have moved onto Middle School after the summer break. Middle schools are a bit like New Zealand intermediate schools although students attend them for three years as opposed to two.

Reaching the end of fifth grade brought with it a flurry of activities, trips and special studies for Olive. First up was marching with the Bridlemile band in the Junior Rose Parade. You might remember from my last post that one of Portland’s nicknames is the City of Roses and every year the city hosts a festival of roses, with parades, dragon boats, floral displays and the crowning of the rose queen.  The junior rose parade is the country’s oldest and largest children’s parade, and marching bands from various local schools are the major attraction.

RP1

My Dad is a very talented trumpet player. He used to play in the dance halls in his native Edinburgh and when he had a young family, he’d do a full days work then head out at night to play in Wellington clubs like the Majestic Cabaret, to bring in extra money. Jonny Gilbertson even appears in the liner notes of an early recording by none other than Kiwi opera legend Kiri Te Kanawa. Whilst his children have dabbled with various musical instruments over the years, none picked up the trumpet, and none of his grandchildren have either…until now…

RP2

We suspect that Olive’s decision to ditch orchestra and join band was the lure of marching in the parade but she surprised us by not only choosing the trumpet for her instrument but also, by actually being quite good at it!

RP3

I have to admit to feeling very emotional as we watched her marching through the streets of the Hollywood district and did wish my Dad could have been there. We don’t have the school marching band tradition in New Zealand but Olive has assured us she wants to keep up playing the horn.

RP5

Since then there has been a jet boat trip on the Willamette, a pool party, a quick Shakespeare study – Olive was chosen to read Juliet’s part…swoon – and a little bit of FLASH education. Despite the interesting acronym, flash is nothing to do with men in long raincoats – it’s the good old puberty education unit and Olive told me exactly nothing about it! “So what did you talk about?” “Mum! Nothing! I’m not telling you!” “Anything you want to ask me or share?” “I’ve already told you Mum…nothing!” “Who’s giggling and being inappropriate? Tell me about the questions from the anonymous box!” “For God’s sake Mum!!”  She didn’t actually say that last bit but I suspect she really wanted to!

Today was the last day of school and it began with the Fifth Grade promotion ceremony. Each fifth grade teacher made a little speech about their class and then each child marched across the stage to receive a certificate.

5G1
It’s super hard to get Olive to dress up for anything…she could do with some tips from one of her classmates…bow tie!

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The day ends with the fifth grade clap out. As the bell rings, the graduating class emerge from a certain door and walk along a path lined with parents clapping and high five-ing…

5G2
You try wielding a big camera and high five-ing at the same time!
5G3
Yes that is my outstretched hand being ignored…I suspect the FLASH anecdote has something to do with it…

It’s been a hugely emotional week…lots of grieving for what we are leaving behind…but also excitement at what lies ahead. For now I just want to thank the wonderful Bridlemile Elementary community. Our girls have been so happy here and whilst they are both very sad to leave, their tears just reinforce what a great place it is…

EdieK1
What’s not to love about a school that has karaoke on the last day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put a bird on it!

In my last post I talked about reading the Wildwood Chronicles as a way to get a feel for Portland – the place, the people and the culture. Another great research tool that I should have spent more time with, and which inevitably came up in conversation when we told people that we were moving to Portland, is the satirical comedy sketch series filmed in and around Portland. It goes by the name of Portlandia

FredCarrie2

Portland has a reputation for…well…hipness – a reputation that I was even aware of back in New Zealand. When Olive and Edie were very little I began my foray into the world of crafting and the common denominator connecting many blogs I read, magazine articles I flipped through, and handmade objects I drooled over on Etsy, was…Portland. A quick rummage around the internet offers many reasons as to why Portland has the hip tag – hipsters like bikes apparently (which must make my husband the hippest guy around!) and Portland is known as a big cycling city; hipsters also apparently like good food and Portland is known as a foodie town; hipsters enjoy indie music and lo and behold there is a big indie music scene in Portland; hipsters like to be on the outside of traditional culture and in Portland they find that “alternative modes of thinking and doing” are welcomed. (Thanks to this site for the quote and many more musings on the origins of Portland’s hipness.)

bicycle rights

Conceived by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, a couple of very hip writers, actors and musicians, Portlandia pokes fun at all the hipness through a range of characters like hip cyclist guy above; Toni and Candace, the rude owners of a feminist bookstore; stereotypical couple Lance played by Brownstein and Nina played by Armisen – she’s very girly, he’s very strong and tough; and by many situations involving Armisen and Brownstein as themselves. Their onscreen relationship was inspired by two very famous television pals – Bert and Ernie.

Lance and Nina
Lance and Nina

Carrie and Fred are often seen with the Mayor of Portland, hilariously played by Kyle MacLachlan, working on ways to preserve Portland’s hip culture. Mayor is worried that Seattle is going to steal Portland’s thunder as a hipper, greener, cooler place to live and so he enlists Carrie and Fred’s help as Portland ambassadors. (You’ll find a range of well-known guest stars appearing on Portlandia…people like Roseanne Barr, Selma Blair, Tim Robbins, Heather Graham, Kirsten Dunst…and of course Colin Meloy who wrote The Wildwood Chronicles. These guest stars are all a bit hip wouldn’t you say?!)

In a hip twist, the real mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, was seen as the Mayor's assistant.
In a hip twist, the real mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, appeared on screen as the Mayor’s assistant.

Full disclosure…I have watched a grand total of two episodes of Portlandia but as I’ve been writing this today I have sat through many more youTube clips….and I have laughed a lot. In one of the very first episodes we are introduced to characters Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman…what do they do you ask? Well…they put birds on things!

Put a bird on it has become something of a slogan for Portlandia…and you’ll even find an entry for it in Urban Dictionary. I found this great Salon article which goes a long way towards explaining Portlandia…its cultural impact and its, for want of a better word, philosophy. It was written in response to the put a bird on it phenomenon and is well worth a read.

You can even buy a cross stitch kit inspired by put a bird on it!
You can even buy a cross stitch kit inspired by put a bird on it!

So I can highly recommend Portlandia…New Zealand friends I’m keen to know if you’ve seen it over there…you can find it on Netflix or youTube. I believe they are working on the 6th season of the show and it was nominated for an Emmy in the recent awards.

As for me, I’m pretty pleased to discover that, as defined by Portlandia, I must be hip. Below is a picture of my collection of Moleskin notebooks…actually there are more…I just couldn’t find them all…I suspect the sketch below the picture was written with me in my mind…

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Here’s to being hip!

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!

The Bend roundup…

Once again it’s been weeks between posts. The days are bulleting past with so much happening in our lives – this is the third time I’ve sat down to write this and I fear it’s going to be short on words but heavy on pictures..a roundup of sorts…things we’ve been up to. Stick with me though and I promise the closing paragraph will provide the big info…what next for the Croads!

We finally made it to Portland where the girls easily slipped back into their big city mode a la life in Antwerp...
We finally made it to Portland where the girls easily slipped back into their big city mode a la life in Antwerp…
had fun exploring all the cool things about big city life in the Pacific Northwest...
had fun exploring all the cool things about big city life in the Pacific Northwest…
loved exploring the beautiful Japanese Garden...
loved exploring the beautiful Japanese Garden…
a tranquil oasis in the midst of the big smoke...
a tranquil oasis in the midst of the big smoke…
lots of opportunity to pause and reflect...or in this case...pose for the camera...
lots of opportunity to pause and reflect…or in this case…pose for the camera…
then onto OMSI - Oregon Museum of Science and Industry...
then onto OMSI – Oregon Museum of Science and Industry…
a very cool place which kept us busy for hours...
a very cool place which kept us busy for hours…
met the world's tallest man...
met the world’s tallest man…
quite a sad story...he got an infection in his leg from the metal braces he wore and the infection killed him when only in his early twenties...
quite a sad story…he got an infection in his leg from the metal braces he wore and the infection killed him when only in his early twenties…
mingled with some germs...
mingled with some germs…
took in some of the stunning views just outside of Portland...
took in some of the stunning views just outside of Portland…
and did a bit more posing...
and did a bit more posing…
Rachel Hunter before she decided it was time to cut lots off her hair...
Rachel Hunter before she decided it was time to cut lots off her hair…
went to a world class rodeo in Sisters which is just a short drive from Bend...
went to a world class rodeo in Sisters which is just a short drive from Bend…
there was a rodeo queen...
there was a rodeo queen…
bucking broncos...
bucking broncos…
beautiful horses...
beautiful horses…
real live buffalos...
real live buffalos…
these two rodeo clowns...
these two rodeo clowns…
Yee hah!
Yee hah!
Ride 'em cowgirl!
Ride ’em cowgirl!
continued to explore the myriad of beautiful hiking trails just a quick drive from downtown Bend...
continued to explore the myriad of beautiful hiking trails just a quick drive from downtown Bend…
had our first family photo taken in a good few years...and it's our backs...photo taken by an elderly gentleman who thought we looked cute...as he turned to leave we noticed he had a gun in a holster...because everyone needs to be armed whilst hiking!!!
had our first family photo taken in a good few years…and it’s our backs…photo taken by an elderly gentleman who thought we looked cute…as he turned to leave we noticed he had a gun in a holster…because everyone needs to be armed whilst hiking!!!
on the way to Green Lake...stunning...
on the way to Green Lake…stunning…
little bits of snow are still hanging on well into summer...
little bits of snow are still hanging on well into summer…
Green Lake...one of our favourite hikes so far...
Green Lake…one of our favourite hikes so far…
this tends to happen after nine or so miles of hiking...
this tends to happen after nine or so miles of hiking…
We went to New Zealand and had such a special time catching up with our family...my grown up nieces are just gorgeous in every way...very proud Aunty...
We went to New Zealand and had such a special time catching up with our family…my grown up nieces are just gorgeous in every way…very proud Aunty…
the rest of them are pretty damn awesome too!
the rest of them are pretty damn awesome too!
we came back to Bend and moved into a new house right on the Deschutes River...means we are regularly treated to some amazing sights...
we came back to Bend and moved into a new house right on the Deschutes River…means we are regularly treated to some amazing sights…
just beautiful!
just beautiful!

Thanks for sticking with me. Whilst all the above activity was going on, we were navigating the changes taking place because of the sale of Taura Natural Ingredients, the company Richard works for. Many of you know that the whole reason we came to Bend is because of the impending sale of the company. As our VISA’s are tied specifically to Richard’s job with Taura we weren’t sure if we’d be staying or leaving when the company sold, so we came out West to see some more of the USA just in case it was our last chance to. Shortly before the girls and I headed to NZ, we found out that a large Israeli company had bought Taura and they were very keen for Richard to stay on in his role and they were happy for him to base himself wherever in the US he liked.

Whilst we have absolutely loved Bend, travel in and out of here is tricky and as Richard is on the road a lot we needed to be somewhere that didn’t add an extra day or two in travel time to every trip. We seriously considered San Francisco, but at the end of the day we have been won over by Oregon. In many ways it reminds us a lot of New Zealand, it’s less formal and conservative than where we were on the East Coast, the people are laid back and friendly and being on the West Coast puts us much closer to home – good for us travelling back to NZ and good for visitors too…hint hint!

So the big city of Portland is to be our new home. Our focus for the last few weeks has been house hunting and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we have bought a new home. It’s in what is known as the Southwest Hills area, about five miles from the centre of Portland.

our new digs...kind of wild and crazy garden surrounded by trees, little stream running through the bottom...so despite being very close to the city we still have a sense of being close to nature
our new digs…kind of wild and crazy garden surrounded by trees, little stream running through the bottom…so despite being very close to the city we still have a sense of being close to nature…
It was built in the 90's but has been renovated throughout to be more contemporary...most kiwi looking home we've been in...
It was built in the 90’s but has been renovated throughout to be more contemporary…most kiwi looking home we’ve been in…
The crazy wilderness garden and the fabulous kitchen have Richard very excited :)
The crazy wilderness garden and the fabulous kitchen have Richard very excited 🙂

So in just over two weeks we will be in our new – hopefully for longer than two years – home. Olive and Edie start school the day after we move in. It’s a public school which has an excellent reputation so we are all excited about it. There are a few nerves too – on all our parts. Just because we’ve done it so often doesn’t make it any easier and in some ways moving state is a bit like moving country – new driver’s license, new taxes, new insurance – but I shall refrain from moaning!

Our other big news is that we have invested in an organic candy bar company – American friends if you see OCHO on the shelves, give it a try.

Gotta love a company that asks when every family member's birthday is so they can send you candy on your big day!!
Gotta love a company that asks when every family member’s birthday is so they can send you candy on your big day!!

So that is all the news from us. Next couple of weeks will no doubt be a blur of packing and organizing as well as trying to make the most of beautiful Bend before we leave. It’s been a wonderful experience and we feel pretty proud of the fact that we’ve been living in each other’s pockets, with few breaks, for nearly five months and we still like each other! Please send us lots of love and positive thoughts as we embark on another big adventure!! On the Croad again!!!