30 11 2018

heartstringsHeartstrings musical duo entertains audiences with traditional 19th century music within historical settings. Married high school sweethearts, Rob and Nancy Downie, dress in period costumes while playing the string bass and the hammered dulcimer. Other instruments featured at events and on their CDs include the fiddle, banjo, Native American flute, acoustic bass, and mountain dulcimer. Heartstrings incorporates vocals as well as information on song history and instrument origin.

This local duo regularly performs at historical landmarks and can be hired to play at a variety of public and private events. We have the privilege of hearing them throughout the year at the Champoeg State Heritage Area, Stevens-Crawford House, Museum of the Oregon Territory, and Philip Foster Farm.  Heartstrings Christmas music will set the tone at the Old Aurora Colony Candlelight Tour from 4-6:30 p.m. on December 1. For a taste of their traditional tunes, visit them at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at 1 p.m. on January 20 for “Music Along the Oregon Trail.”

Contact Rob and Nancy of Heartstrings to purchase CDs or for information on future performances. This delightful couple would love to hear from you!

(503) 885-1502



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Summer Fairs and Festivals

14 06 2016


IMG_6960Americans will spend the next few months participating in various summer fairs and festivals around the country. Some will be professional city events while others will remain casual community affairs. Do you hold out for the grand, end-of-summer state fair or do you dip into small-town festivals throughout the season and soak up their unique cultures? Whether you prefer flashy or quaint, you’re certain to find one just your style. Be adventurous and discover something new this year!



Fairs and festivals offer an array of activities:

  • Arts & Crafts
  • Auctions
  • Carnival rides
  • Ceremonies
  • Contests
  • Demonstrations
  • Exhibits
  • Food booths
  • Games
  • Live shows
  • Livestock
  • Pageants
  • Parades
  • Vendors

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Cooper’s Adoption Tale

15 05 2015


Adopting a dog became a monumental decision for my husband and I who had been petless throughout our marriage. The possibility of caring for a dog brought months of discussion and planning. Family chats teemed with avid promises from three children that they’d help with everything. (Yes, despite outside advice, I still fell for the “everything” promise.) Adopting a dog brought the likelihood of dirtier floors, hairier upholstery, less flexibility, and unavoidable trips outside despite the weather. Having a dog meant less money in our pockets in order to have a clean, healthy, legal pet. Were we ready? We were ready to give our children the experience of caring for and loving a dog of their own. We had an ideal situation with a fenced yard, a safe home, and someone present every day.

With the initial decision behind us, our next step was choosing the type of dog most compatible with our family. My husband wanted a small to medium-sized dog. I wanted one that didn’t shed much. The kids, of course, wanted a puppy. After narrowing down preferences, we opted for a type of spaniel, a breed I’d grown up with and adored. The puppy debate fell flat since the training inevitably would fall to me, and I did not want to start from scratch. And, honestly, I did not want a 15-year commitment of caring for a family pet into the empty-nester stage of life. It would be a sad transition for the children and for the dog during the college years and beyond. I lived it once and couldn’t bear to repeat it with my children.

So, after lengthy consideration, we decided to adopt a mid-life or senior dog. Everyone was comfortable with adopting a dog who was mostly trained and needed a suitable home in which to live out the remainder of its life. The closer we came to finding our senior dog, the more excited we all got about our decision. It became less about the logistics and all about unleashing our love and acceptance on the rejected.

For us, the pros outweighed the cons. Most likely, an older dog would have some habits needing redirection. Signs of aging, neglect or abuse could be more evident. They are past the baby-cute age and might be scruffy, unidentifiable mutts. On the flip side, they usually have some training. Mature dogs are fully-grown, which means no unforeseen growth spurts. With a little grooming and training, they only improve. You can deal with any signs of health issues upfront. The biggest pro: Providing a good home to a pet who probably has been disregarded only because of age.

I support good, responsible breeders and their clients. I understand buyers of puppies. But, I encourage people to adopt from shelters, foster organizations, and homes. I’ll go a step further and ask people to consider adopting an older pet.

I saw our Cocker Spaniel, Cooper, online. It was love at first sight. He had the sweetest face with big, brown eyes. When I inquired about him, I was surprised he was available still. The foster caretaker was surprised someone specifically was interested in him. A dog I thought couldn’t possibly still be adoptable was the rejected one. Why? He was not young.

My phone call came just as Cooper had arrived back from another Pet Adoption Weekend at a local pet store. He had been overlooked for many weeks by shoppers searching for puppies, or at least, younger dogs. Not one person took an interest in Cooper. He watched fellow foster dogs get adopted while he made weekly trips between the foster home and the pet store. One by one, they left. He stayed.

Cooper initially landed at the foster home after a local no-kill shelter called in a favor of a foster caretaker. Authorities had removed Cooper from his original home due to abuse and neglect. Despite great care at the shelter, he was not thriving. He refused to eat. He trembled continuously. His eyes remained bloodshot due to stress. I cannot imagine seeing my dog in that state. In our home, he became a content, relaxed couch potato living for snacks, tug-of-war, and car rides.

I am grateful for that shelter staff person who went above his duty to ensure Cooper received the best care in the interim. He could’ve disregarded Cooper’s terror and continued on with his duties to so many others, but he paused, noticed a frightened dog, and gave him a chance by proactively finding him a foster home. I’m also thankful for foster caretakers who open their homes to transitional animals.

Older pets aren’t only available at shelters and foster homes, but also from their owners through ads or word-of-mouth. They’re ideal pets who need a new home for various reasons such as a move, lack of finances, or an owner’s health challenges. Don’t discount these pets because of their ages. Give yourself the gift of a wonderful, settled companion and give them the gift of a loving home.

I have never regretted choosing my senior dog. Whatever pet is in my future, I guarantee my heart will lead me to one in its golden years.

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Why is Labor Day a Holiday?

30 08 2013

IMG_4765What does Labor Day mean to you: A day off work to knock out a home project or attend an outdoor party, the last day of summer before the school year begins, a day to shop amazing sales, the final day to wear white and seersucker until Easter, the start of football season? However you prefer to spend Labor Day in the United States of America, you have the Central Labor Union to thank for it. Our nation’s trade unions unofficially observed Labor Day for years until the CLU organized it in the 1880s, choosing the first Monday of September to honor American laborers.

Their motivation stemmed from the common practice of working 12-hour days, seven days a week with no break times. Children as young as five worked in factories, mills and mines across America, earning wages significantly less than their adult coworkers. Laborers of all ages and professions worked in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Early proposals of Labor Day state that its purpose is to celebrate the social and economic contributions of workers and their achievements toward the strength, prosperity and health of America. Traditionally, Labor Day kicks off with public street parades to exhibit the strength and spirit of American laborers, peppered with speeches by prominent leaders emphasizing the economic and civil significance of the holiday, followed by festivals and athletic events “for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families.”

IMG_5627-3  IMG_0517-2

All states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories have made Labor Day a statutory holiday. All government offices and organizations, schools, and many businesses are closed on Labor Day. If you are a fortunate laborer who has this holiday off, enjoy it with a bit more knowledge of why you do.

A Brief Overview of Labor Day History

  • 1882 New York City, ten thousand workers took an unpaid day off work to march in the first Labor Day parade
  • 1884 the first Monday of September named Labor Day
  • 1887 Oregon became the first state to pass the law making Labor Day an official holiday
  • 1894 Labor Day became a federal holiday


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Bocce Ball for Beginners

23 06 2013

IMG_7767I played bocce ball for the first time at a family reunion and was hooked from that introductory game. Three generations of cousins taught me bocce ball rules while also demonstrating the fun in bending those rules to accommodate current situations. My first bocce court was a slightly mowed hillside field where the balls often rolled out of sight. My first bocce team was a mishmash of age and skill.

I didn’t hesitate in buying my family a bocce set and teaching my children how to play. cooperOk, we’ve never actually played by official rules and we’ve only played on our backyard grass. Our sidelines are bee-covered flowers and rose bush thorns. Our main obstruction is one Cocker Spaniel who has traded chasing and snatching the target ball for lying in the middle of the yard and ignoring our pleas to move. I guess I can consider that a slight victory.

Throughout the summer, I’ll begin a bocce game with one of my kids to then find another wander into the backyard eager to join in. Sometimes we throw the target ball to the far end of the grass and sometimes we gently toss it close by. Sometimes our bocce balls hit a bump in the yard, bouncing and rolling onto the patio while other times they disappear in those longer clumps of grass that signal it’s time to mow.


About 5000 B.C., the Egyptians invented a primitive form of this popular game. Galileo enjoyed bocce for its precision and competition. Even Sir Frances Drake delayed his defense against the advancing Spanish Armada until his bocce game concluded. Good thing they aren’t part of our loosey-goosey backyard version! So now that I’ve thoroughly disturbed avid rule followers of which usually I am team captain, allow me to share game rules so that you may join others such as Galileo and play correctly. I do have a disclaimer, however, in that official rules change between cultures—and families.

The Set
A set has eight colored balls, two of each color, called boccia and one traditionally white target ball called the jack, pallina or pallino. My jack is yellow though.

The Court
Bocce can be played anywhere there’s a flat, level area of grass, dirt, sand, gravel, or asphalt. Be sure to have barriers if using a concrete court, otherwise it will carry your boccia off to Neverland. Court dimensions should measure about 10 to 13 feet wide and 60 to 100 feet long.

The Team
Each team consists of one to four players and gets two different colors of ball. Teams with multiple players take turns each round.

The Form
Bocce is a bowling game, so naturally, we would assume the only acceptable form of delivering the ball to the jack would be to roll it. That’s just one way. Although the ball is moved in the underarm fashion, it can be thrown, bounced, or gently tossed into the air. I, however, will never divulge to my children that throwing and bouncing is acceptable. I shudder to imagine the damage my property might suffer.

The Game
After team order is determined (Americans call Heads or Tails with a coin), a player from the starting team tosses the jack into the court. That player then tosses a ball as close to the jack as possible. The opposing team tries to get a ball even closer to the jack. A player can use their ball to knock their opponents’ away from the jack or to knock the jack closer to their own ball already on the court. One point is awarded each round to the team with a closer ball to the jack. With a tie, no points are given. A round is finished when all eight balls are on the court. Teams continue to alternate until one of them reaches a predetermined score. Match points range from 10 to 21 points. Some rules call a winner when the match point is made while other rules require a win by a two-point margin. In my backyard bocce ball game, we play until someone decides there are more interesting things to do besides repeatedly rolling a ball across the grass.

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