Closing Out the Books for July

We had another low key month, spending wise, and were able to keep our daily spending average at $39.99/day, still under budget but a little bit higher than last month. Once again this month we had several no spend days, and even though we had one big shopping trip to Costco and Trader Joe’s we spent less than we had on previous trips. Most of the upfront expenses for our getaway out to the coast were paid for in June but we did indulge ourselves at lunch and dinner the first day, spent $$ on cheese and other goodies in Tillamook, and bought a large amount of salt water taffy to divide up for the girls. We also spent more at the farmers’ market each week in July (berries, berries, berries!) and had to reload our public transportation passes. The first payment on my dental work didn’t help our daily average either.

We also had some big expenses come out of our travel fund this month. We purchased YaYu’s ticket back to Pennsylvania at the end of August, and also a round-trip ticket for her to come to England in October. I’d been checking prices but could never find a really good match between price and schedule for the London ticket, and ended up paying just slightly more than I wanted (less than $100) but got her an itinerary with non-stop flights each way that will work with her upcoming fall class schedule. I did make one other big travel purchase this month as well – I’ll have a post up about it next week!

Otherwise, I feel like we are in good shape heading into August. We still have quite a bit of food on hand that has to get eaten (almost too much it seems – why did we buy so much butter?) so we will have fewer trips for groceries. There are just two more local outings we’d like to make, to the art museum and over to see Pittock Mansion once more. We’d like to reserve a Zipcar for the latter visit as public transportation is not convenient. Brett has only two calligraphy class meetings this month so that expense will be cut in half. We plan to go out to dinner at a downtown restaurant one evening with our friend Joan, but will order off the bistro menu in order to stay within our budget.

Our goal for this month is to get our daily expense average for Portland even lower than it was in June and July. We will be on a tighter budget when we get to England in September (because of upcoming college expenses for YaYu) and one of our primary August goals now is to re-sharpen  our frugal skills.

#Portland: The Japanese Garden

Peace, serenity, and harmony weave themselves throughout Portland’s Japanese Garden

“This is a place to discard worldly thoughts and concerns and see oneself as a small but integral part of the universe.”

Brett and I knew that no stay in Portland would be complete without a visit to the Japanese Garden, located in Washington Park in the west hills. The Garden overlooks the city and yet is a world away, transporting visitors to a soothing location where they can relax, unwind, meditate, and realize a sense of peace and harmony no matter the season or the weather. The tranquility of the Garden envelops you the moment you enter, and everyone who enters seems to slow down in order to be able take it in.

There’s an leisurely climb from the ticket office through stands of Douglas fir to the garden’s entrance gate.
Seating is placed throughout the garden so that visitors can not only stop to rest but reflect on the views as well.
Heavenly Falls is one part of the double-level Strolling Pond Garden. As in all Japanese gardens, although everything appears to be completely natural, each part of the setting and each stone and plant was carefully designed and placed for maximum effect.

Designed in 1963, each section of the garden incorporates the three main elements of Japanese garden design: stones, water, and plants with stones forming the bones of the landscapes, water the giving the garden its life force, and plants providing the fabric of the four seasons. The Portland Japanese Garden contains eight distinct garden styles ranging from a traditional tea house to a raked rock garden to meandering streams and a spectacular view overlooking the city. Each garden design is asymmetrical, and presents an idealized form of nature within human scale so that visitors feel a part of nature versus overwhelmed by it. Seating is placed throughout the garden so that visitors can stop to reflect on different views and landscapes as they rest.

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The cost to enter the garden is $18.95 per person for adults, $16.25 for seniors aged 65 or older, students are $15.25 and children $13.25. Although the price seems rather steep, it is very easy to lose track of time once inside – Brett and I easily spent more than two hours wandering through the garden, often stopping to sit for a while to take it all in. The Garden also has two gift shops and a restaurant, and visitors are allowed entrance into the art exhibits that are shown in the Pavilion Gallery. The Garden has a parking lot at the bottom of the hill but Brett and I rode public transportation to the Oregon Zoo and then took the free shuttle over from there.

All the roses throughout the test garden are in bloom in June, Portland’s Rose Festival month, and the garden is full of sensational aromas.

Located at the bottom of the hill, and across the parking lot from the Japanese Garden is the International Rose Test Garden, containing over 10,000 rose plants of over 650 different varieties. Rose cultivars are sent to the garden from all over the world to be evaluated. It is the oldest rose test garden in the United States, and roses are in bloom from April through October. Admission to the garden is free.

My favorite roses are always the multicolored ones.
Both Brett and I named this rose our favorite, the Coretta Scott King, a grand floribunda.

A Visit to Portland’s Chinese Garden

The entrance to the Lan Su Chinese Garden in NW Portland. The garden is like an oasis in the middle of several large office buildings and busy streets, but views of the buildings were considered and incorporated into garden views.

It was a walk down memory lane for Brett and I when we entered Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden this past Thursday. We made frequent trips to the garden when we lived here, both to visit and attend special events with the girls, to the point we purchased annual memberships for a couple of years. The classical Suzhou-style walled garden, which takes up a full city block, was designed by Kuang Zeng and constructed by 65 artisans from China, with completion and the garden opening in the fall of 2000. Over 500 tons of rock were brought over from China, including large scholar stones from Lake Tai, where the acid water of the lake carves stones into fantastical shapes. Located in NW Portland near the former Old Town Portland’s Chinatown, the Lan Su Chinese garden blends in among the modern buildings in the neighborhood. Suzhou is a sister city of Portland, and the name Lan Su means “Portland-Suzhou” as well as “Garden of the Awakening Orchids.”

A scholar stone from Lake Tai in China sit at the entrance to the garden.

Paths and courtyards through the garden are paved in designs created by Chinese pebbles inlaid on their sides.

The garden was carefully designed to express the elements and harmony of yin and yang, and can be enjoyed in any season or any weather. Spade-shaped drip tiles were installed so the sound of dripping water could be enjoyed while viewing the garden in the rain. The pointed tiles seen throughout the garden are decorated with five bats representing the “five blessings:” long life, good fortune, good health, a love of virtue and a painless death.

The spade-shaped tiles on the roof are drip tiles decorated with a design of five bats. The water running off them when it rains creates a pleasant sound.

Openings in the garden walls served as frames for the setting behind the wall, like viewing a painting. This view highlights a stone from Lake Tai, set in the back.

Lan Su Garden is made up of twelve vistas, each one expressing a separate element, with views designed to reflect nature’s harmony. Some of the views are from rooms that look out into the garden, such as the Reflections in Clear Ripples, the Scholar’s Study, or Hall of Brocade Clouds. Both interior and exterior doorways and windows throughout the garden frame views so that they appear like paintings that one can stop to admire and contemplate.

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Although it was rather chilly, and rain was imminent, we took our time walking through the garden. Besides the garden experience, Chinese-themed art works and prints were being sold (some from China), and there were also several other activities and displays throughout the garden, including a family altar with ancestor photos in one room and a chance to learn your fortune, Chinese style, in another. Although we didn’t go in, the two-story Tower of Cosmic Reflection contains a traditional Chinese tearoom, where one can sit and linger, enjoying views of the garden while sipping tea and nibbling on dumplings or other treats.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden is the largest Suzhou-style garden in the United States, and contains over 100 different types of plants, with 90% of them indigenous to China (the actual plants didn’t come from China but were found in nurseries and gardens in Oregon, both public and private). Some of the plants in the garden are over 100 years old. The garden experience is truly one for all the senses.

Many of the old restaurant signs remain in the Old Town neighborhood although the restaurants are now all gone, either closed or moved to SE Portland.

Located at NW 4th Avenue and Burnside Street is the Old Town Chinatown Gateway, dedicated in 1986.

After we left the garden, Brett and I walked around Old Town Chinatown, coming upon many of the restaurants where we had dined that are now shuttered and closed, with only their signs remaining. We could remember eating at almost everyone of them, whether it was for dinner out, dim sum on the weekend, a banquet benefiting the Immersion program or some other occasion. Some of the restaurants moved to SE Portland, but most are now only a memory. Although the neighborhood has improved somewhat and new businesses have moved in, we could tell Old Town has we retained its run down feel, but we never felt unsafe and were glad for the chance to visit again.