Thursday, February 27, 2014

Our First Visitors of 2014

Greg's brother Doug and his girlfriend Alexis live in Los Angeles. We've been telling them since we moved to Portland in 2012 that they would love it here and should come visit. They finally made the trip this past weekend.
Irvington House
Despite having never been to Portland before, neither of them had any specific requests in terms of sightseeing other than a day trip to the coast. They both love to drink beer and will eat pretty much anything, so I knew that part would be easy. One of the best ways to experience Portland is to explore the various neighborhoods so I chose to focus on showing them a little bit of everything during the course of their three nights & four days with us.
downtown Portland
They landed at PDX mid-morning on Thursday and took the MAX & bus to our house. By the time they arrived they were hungry for lunch so we walked down NE Broadway to Frank's Noodle House. Greg had to work until 5:30 that evening so we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Irvington neighborhood and then relaxing at our house. We decided to go to 15th Avenue Hophouse for a beer & snack while we waited for Greg to get home, then headed out for drinks (Oregon Public House & Breakside Brewery) and dinner at La Taq.
Caucasian Wingnut
I made a breakfast pizza to get us started Friday morning and we were out of the house by 10am. We drove up to Pittock Mansion so Doug & Alexis could get a bird's eye view of the city. It was pretty foggy but still beautiful and we enjoyed looking at all of the trees, plants and birds. Since not much is in bloom at this time of year we decided to skip Washington Park and instead made a brief detour along Skyline Drive for views to the west before heading back down to NW Portland. We showed them the Nob Hill neighborhood, then went to Powell's Books and browsed for more than an hour.
view from Pittock Mansion
By then we were ready for lunch and, since it was cool & damp outside, we decided to skip the food carts and instead had a nice meal by the fire at Deschutes Brewery. We continued our tour with a loop through The Pearl District, downtown, and PSU, then crossed the Hawthorne Bridge to SE Portland.
Deschutes Brewery
We turned our focus to beer and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking at Apex, Hair of the Dog, and The Commons. We had planned to have dinner at the new Bollywood Theater on SE Division, but the line was too long and there were long waits at Sunshine Tavern and other popular spots so we ultimately had a simple but delicious meal at Appethaizing. I had also hoped to go to Imperial Bottle Shop for our final beer of the night, but we were all pretty exhausted after dinner so we headed home instead.
Hair of the Dog
The best weather was forecast for Saturday so it was designated for our day trip to the coast. Knowing that part of the plan was to visit some breweries, particularly in Astoria, I reversed my usual north-to-south route and instead we set out via Hwy 26 to Cannon Beach. We enjoyed a little bit of sunshine in the first half of the day but, after a stop at Ecola State Park and a nice walk along the beach and exploration of Haystack Rock at low tide, the clouds had set in again. Thus the perfect time to start drinking beer!
view from Ecola State Park
After a quick loop down the main strip to the promenade, we started our coastal beer drinking adventure at Seaside Brewery and shared bowls of clam chowder as an afternoon snack. Then we continued north to Astoria and, wanting to take advantage of the remaining daylight, headed straight to the Astoria Column. After a successful climb to the top for 360 degree views (while I waited below and scanned the tree line for bald eagles), we did a leisurely driving tour of the historic homes in the city center (and even found the oldest one dating to 1852).
Astoria Column
We could hear the sea lions barking on the piers below so we headed there next. By far it was the most I have ever seen in that area; they were completely covering the entire pier! As we started to leave I spotted a large bird flying toward us. Sure enough, it was a bald eagle! We spent the next 30 minutes watching it and even got to see it swoop down to catch a fish and then enjoy its meal. As it finished, we took our cue to get some dinner for ourselves at Fort George Brewery.
Fort George Brewery
After some hearty fish & chips and a variety of stouts, we walked through town to the newest brewery in Oregon: Buoy Beer Co. The location, on the site of an old fish cannery directly on the waterfront, is fantastic! We enjoyed looking at all of the photos of the construction progress and then each of us ordered a different beer so we could sample all of their current offerings.
From there we walked down the pier to the Wet Dog Cafe, home of Astoria Brewing. It was closed to the public due to the FisherPoets Gathering, but the host told me we could drink their beer around the corner at The Chart Room. The place was a total hole-in-the-wall but we still had a blast playing a made-up version of "guess the date/age." Then we walked back to Fort George's new taproom for one last beer before starting the two hour drive home.
playing foosball at Fort George
We slept in a bit on Sunday morning and gave Doug & Alexis time to pack. We planned to eat brunch at Pine State Biscuits, but encountered more long lines there and at all the popular spots on NE Alberta. The wait for a table was only about 15 minutes at Podnah's, so we happily settled in. Unfortunately, it took at least another 30 minutes to get our food! We drank lots of free coffee to pass the time and chatted about life in LA.
chicken fried steak at Podnah's
There was one more neighborhood to explore before going to the airport. We parked at the north end of Mississippi Ave and then enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the main strip, poking around various shops and wishing we could eat a little bit of everything at all the great restaurants. We capped off their visit with one final beer at Stormbreaker and then it was off to PDX for their flight home.
at the Rebuilding Center on N Mississippi
In the end, we were pretty lucky with the weather. It only rained a little on Thursday and was just overcast and cool for the remainder of their stay. Sadly, the clouds were low enough that we never got even a peek of Mt Hood or Mt Saint Helens. I think they got a good vibe from our beloved city and maybe won't wait another two years to come back. It probably doesn't hurt that they were constantly surprised by the low cost of food & drink here. Not to mention our beer drinking tally over four days: eight breweries and four beer bars!

Here's a link to my Facebook photo album:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Portland Snowpocalypse!

I spotted the first snowflakes falling in NE Portland around 10:30AM on Thursday, February 6th. It was also very windy, with gusts up to 35-40mph. I had to go outside to retrieve our recycling roll-cart which, empty after that morning's pick-up, had fallen over and was in danger of blowing into the street. The temperature had been below freezing for the previous couple of days, so the ground was cold enough for the snow to stick. By noon we had a visible dusting and, an hour later, the ground was completely white. Greg decided to leave work early to avoid possible public transit delays later in the evening. When I went outside at 4PM to take some pictures, we already had more than an inch of snow. I took one last look around 11PM as I was going to bed and we had about two inches of accumulation.
the first sign of snow
at the end of Day 1
Getting measurable snowfall in Portland is pretty rare. It has snowed maybe a handful of times in the two years we've lived here and then it was usually just a dusting and completely melted within 24 hours. The most snow we've gotten (again, only during the time we've been here: February-July 2010 and now since January 2012) was two months ago, on December 6th, the day we were leaving for our southern Oregon vacation. Even then, while it did stick around for a couple of days, it was still less than an inch.
our pre-Christmas 2013 snowfall
But this time was different. With two inches still on the ground when we woke up Friday morning, it started snowing again by mid-afternoon. Thankfully I had no reason to get out but wanted to have a look around since Greg was on conference calls all afternoon. So I went for a walk towards NE Broadway. While there were still plenty of cars on the road, it was far fewer than normal. Schools and many businesses were closed so lots of people were out playing in the streets. It was so beautiful and peaceful!
Day 2: NE Broadway at 12th Ave
By Saturday morning we had about 3.5 inches of snow. We had guests checking into the upstairs apartment by mid-day, so Greg & I spent the morning shoveling a path from the street to the front door. Of course, it started snowing again while we were working, and before we finished there was a fresh layer of white powder on everything.
Day 3: time to shovel
It continued to snow all afternoon and, since all of our social plans were canceled (we were supposed to go to a beer tasting event as well as a jazz concert that evening), we decided to go for a nice long walk around the neighborhood. Irving Park, in particular, had turned into a sledding, snowboarding & skiing wonderland. We stayed out for a couple of hours and then, upon returning home, took a new measurement: six inches of snow!
Irving Park
Day 3: We now have 6 inches of snow!
The weather also began to shift that evening. The temperature had warmed up just enough that the precipitation changed to freezing rain. Within a couple of hours, on top of all that beautiful snow, we had a 1/4 inch layer of ice! This made it so treacherous to be outside that the City of Portland issued their first ever federal wireless emergency alert at 8AM on Sunday morning. Greg & I both have this feature enabled on our iPhones so that's how we were startled awake!
Day 4: And then there was ice.
Heeding the city's advice, we stayed in all day yesterday, which was the perfect opportunity to work on our taxes and catch up on some reading. Greg went for a short walk and reported lots of slush and plenty of slick spots on roads & sidewalks.
We stayed in Sunday, but this neighborhood cat was on the prowl.
As I write this on Monday, February 10th, the current outside temperature is 39F. The snow & ice are slowly melting and, thanks to the snow plows, all that's left on 15th Ave is snirt (what I call snow + dirt). We still have several inches of snow covering the grass and a thick layer of ice on the sidewalk. Hard to believe that in another 24 hours Snowpocalypse will mostly be just a memory!
Day 5: Icy footprints in our driveway
trying to show the layer of ice on top of the remaining snow
I posted more pictures to an album on Facebook: Snowpocalypse 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rehab, on the double!

As I wrote earlier this week, I had bilateral knee surgery on December 31, 2013. You can read that post here: Today I wanted to follow up with an update on my rehabilitation progress to date.
Greg gave me this wolf to keep me company while I was healing.
Let's just put it this way, the first week post-op was pretty miserable. While I could move around our apartment on crutches, I could barely bend my knees which made sitting for any length of time unbearable. I was in a lot more pain than I expected and spent most of the week lying on the couch or in bed with my legs propped up and ice packs on both knees. I still avoided taking pain meds (5mg oxycodone) except when I went to bed at night since I'm so sensitive to narcotics. But that meant I was in constant pain around the clock and felt so worn out during the day I often had to take a nap.
Three days post-op: right after I removed the bandages for the first time.
Greg worked from home for a week and basically served as my nurse. This mainly involved preparing ice bags, bringing me things since I couldn't get up and retrieve them myself, and helping me get in & out of bed. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I had precooked a variety of meals for us to eat so all he had to do was reheat those dishes. One night, for a change of pace, Greg walked to Papa Murphy's to get us a fresh pizza (his version of cooking). And, in spite of being in a lot of pain, only two days after surgery I insisted on hobbling up the block to 15th Avenue Hophouse for a special sampler tray of IPAs.
First post-op outing: to drink beer, of course!
I went to physical therapy for my first visit the Monday following my surgery (six days post-op). My knees were still very swollen at that point and my range of motion was a lot less than expected. I had a list of basic stretches and exercises that I was supposed to be doing twice a day, but I found most of them virtually impossible because I still couldn't bend my knees.
My reward after PT: the ice machine.
On Thursday, January 9th, I had my second physical therapy session followed by my first post-op appointment with my surgeon. I had made very limited progress in terms of mobility at that point and was still having to use crutches to walk. However I had enough control over my legs & ankles to drive, which saved me a lot of time and energy in getting to & from OHSU. After showing me the photos that were taken inside my knees during the surgery and describing exactly what repairs to the cartilage had been necessary, the doctor's assistant finally removed the stitches from the three incisions on each knee. Almost immediately I regained a greater degree of mobility! I went home and the following day was finally able to perform my rehab exercises as directed.
Yep, this hurts.
Each day after that I made measurable progress in terms of increased range of motion and strengthening. On Saturday, January 11th, I felt well enough to venture out for several hours to the Oregon Beer Growler's monthly blind tasting, this time featuring stouts at Concordia Ale House.
Eleven days post-op: stout tasting at Concordia Ale House.
Over the past month I have been able to gradually resume something close to my normal life:  I went to the grocery for the first time 13 days post-op; I got my hair cut and ran household errands 17 days post-op; I attended a local movie premiere 22 days post-op followed the next evening by a cooking demonstration dinner with my gal pal Cindy; I took over Irvington House cleaning responsibilities 24 days post-op; and I even worked as a cop on an episode of Grimm 30 days post-op!
Partners in crime-fighting.
I don't think the average person would be able to tell that I recently had knee surgery just based on appearance, even if they studied my gait. After four weeks of twice-weekly physical therapy, in addition to doing exercises at home, I am now only going once a week. I can ride a stationary bike with no resistance for 30 minutes. My biggest challenges are stairs, especially going down, and I still cannot crouch or kneel down. I can't tell you with conviction that the surgeries were worth the pain & expense, but I do know that my knees no longer make that awful grinding noise (nor have the associated discomfort). My next follow-up appointment with my surgeon is at the end of this month and, of course, I'm hoping I'll have more positive news to report at that time.
One month+ post-op


Monday, February 3, 2014

Knee Surgery Times Two

January 31st marked one month since my bilateral knee surgery. I wrote a blog post about the events leading up to the surgery and the decision-making process: The Final Cut. So I decided to write this post about the day of the surgery and will follow up shortly with a post about my rehabilitation progress.

The surgery was scheduled for December 31st at 4pm. I was told to check in at the out-patient surgery center at OHSU Center for Health & Healing at 1:30. I spent the first half of the day cooking food for us to eat during my recovery. This was a tormenting task because I was not allowed to eat or drink anything since midnight on the 30th. I fixed Greg a hearty lunch then took my final shower with Hibiclens, an antimicrobial skin cleanser, just before we left the house.
As with my previous surgeries at OHSU, I was called back to the pre-op area within minutes. After donning a lovely purple gown and socks, I was connected to the warming hose then the Q&A sessions began. Even though my complete medical history is already on file with OHSU, they still have to go over everything to ensure there will be no complications during or after surgery. An IV was run into my left hand (ouch!) as I just don't have good veins in my arms. By 2:30 or so I had been cleared by the first-string nurses but found out that my surgeon, Dr Herzka, who was performing multiple surgeries before mine that day, was running behind.
Believe it or not, I ended up using the spare time to work, as I discovered that my Irvington House email account had not been retrieving messages for several days. After multiple phone calls & texts, we figured out the problem and I confirmed that all of the arrangements I had made to cover my household responsibilities were in order. Finally, around 5pm, the anesthesiologist came in to review my file and, since I have had issues with dizziness and other complications from anesthesia & narcotic pain meds before, I was given a dose of phenergan as well as a scopolamine patch. Dr Herzka came in shortly afterward and we had a friendly chat as she wrote her initials on my knees (indicating she would be operating on both) and answered any remaining questions. It wasn't long before I was wheeled straight to the operating room and, after transferring to the operating table, took a few deep breaths and counted to 10. Lights out!
I woke up in the recovery area in a fair amount of pain. The post-op nurse gave me several small doses of fentanyl and/or dilaudid via IV. I handled that okay so I got to sip some diluted apple juice and soon was wheeled back to my room where Greg was waiting. I gradually started sitting up, experiencing some dizziness, but was able to sit completely upright within 10 minutes. Greg & the nurse helped me get dressed and, after reviewing my post-op instructions one more time, Greg wheeled me out to the parking lot. It was just after 8pm.
We were home within 20 minutes. I used my crutches to gingerly climb the exterior stairs to our apartment. It was not an easy task since I couldn't bend my knees! I hadn't eaten in almost 24 hours so I was quite hungry and glad that I had made a big pot of split pea soup in advance. Greg & I sat down to dinner at 9:30pm.
I stayed up and read for awhile on the couch, then moved to the bedroom. I actually managed to stay awake until midnight to welcome the new year before taking 5mg oxycodone and drifting off into an uncomfortable sleep.