The Finer Things

Just like everybody else, Donna and I have had to tighten our belts lately to get through the economic downturn. We’ve found ourselves staying in more, spending less on entertainment and trying to purchase local food and goods to help Oregon farms. Still, we’d go crazy if we could not reward ourselves from time to time with something we really enjoy. An evening of stellar jazz at Jimmy Mak’s featuring our friend Devin Phillips. A trip to New Jersey this summer to see our nephew Tyler and attend a wedding. (Congratulations, Daniel and Evonda!) And, a few weekends ago, a relaxing stay at a delightful Bed & Breakfast overlooking the Willamette Valley. 

Chehalem Ridge B&B overlooks Oregon's wine country
Chehalem Ridge B&B overlooks Oregon's wine country

Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast offers a modern take on pastoral comfort. The rooms have country charm and magnificent views, fluffy pillows and fuzzy robes. The common areas blend 21st century luxuries like heated decks and an ambient sound system with the more traditional comforts – cozy couches, fireplaces, and a vast library of books and games. Kristin is a courteous and engaging innkeeper and a gifted chef, creating a healthy, energizing and delicious breakfast from the finest local ingredients.

The elevated location is isolated but ideal. Within minutes we were tasting outstanding Pinot Noir and Reisling at some of the lesser known wineries in the Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton regions. Anyone looking to avoid the crowds and traffic of Dundee and McMinnville would be wise to get to know wineries like Penner-Ash, Bella Vida, Domaine Serene and Elk Cove. Chehalem Ridge B&B was a perfect place to start our journey, and a romantic spot to enjoy the spoils of the day.

Donna and I look forward to planning our next weekend escape to Chehalem Ridge. Their rates are very reasonable compared to similar accomodations in the area. There are four bedrooms, so it would be a lot of fun to spend the weekend with another couple or two. Something for you East Coast folks to think about when the economy rebounds and you’re looking for new places to vacation.

A relaxed Donna and Mike enjoy the incredible view from the living room deck.
A relaxed Donna and Mike enjoy the incredible view from the living room deck.
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UM (hearts) Sounds Good!

Just a quick note to thank everybody who stopped by to read last week’s post, featuring my review of the new Umphrey’s McGee CD release Mantis. Up until then, Sounds Good had been viewed by a handful of friends and family, garnering less than 50 total hits. Now, a week after the Mantis post went up, the hit count is over 1200! Special thanks and admiration goes to Jeremy Welsh at Umphreys.com – at some point between the CD release party and perhaps the most important release day in the band’s history, he saw fit to put a link to my review on the home page.

That really sums up what this band is about. Rather than hanging their hopes for the new CD on the machines of a music industry that is struggling with its own obsolescence, they recognize that their fans will drive this release far more effectively. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that feedback from folks like me or the fine contributors at Hidden Track is featured right alongside reviews from the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.

The music industry would be wise to pay attention to the Mantis phenomenon. UM’s innovative pre-order campaign turned eager fans into an effective marketing team, and the band has rewarded those fans with hours of bonus material, which I will review once I have had a chance to digest it all.

Umphrey's McGee bathed in blue by new lighting designer Jeff Waful
Umphrey's McGee bathed in blue by new lighting designer Jeff Waful

In the Money

As the 2008 Major League Baseball season comes to a somewhat messy close, I can now lay claim to my sweetest victory in Fantasy Baseball. My Portland Prowlers are the 2008 Dump City Baseball League Champions. I’ve won fantasy leagues before, but this one is the most satisfying. It’s a salary-cap keeper league in its third year (this was my second year in the league.) And there’s actually some prize money to go along with my nifty trophy icon.

Matt Holliday earned his Franchise tag with an MVP-caliber year, but I’m more inclined to call Ian Kinsler my Team MVP. Had he not suffered a season-ending injury, his numbers could have been equal to Holliday’s, but what he did produce came at a fraction of the cost, and isn’t that what value is all about in a salary cap league? Kinsler, along with Jose Reyes and Joe Mauer, make up a great, inexpensive core to build upon for future success.

I made some great pickups during the year, including Kemp, Ludwick and Alexei Ramirez. Joey Votto was a key callup from my minor-league roster, and makes a good candidate to replace Teixeira, whom I lose to free agency. With five contracts available to sign new keepers, I like my chances to build a repeat contender on the cheap and augment with key free agent pitching. This will be key as I lose Zambrano and Lowe and have to figure out how to build a contending rotation around Burnett, Lester and Maine.

Indeed, pitching was the main obstacle to my championship. While I dominated in Wins and Ks, I spent most of the season in the basement in the other 3 categories. Most of my budget went to rotating relievers, getting saves from 13 different guys, with only Rivera giving me more than 13 saves. My ERA and WHIP were in the basement all year, but when my offense got going and put me in the lead, I found I was able to gain an extra 3 points in my ratios by benching some starters with bad matchups in the final few weeks.

The one drawback to this league is that it has dwindled to eight teams, leaving far too much talent available and therefore no incentive to deal with other owners. Much of this offseason will be spent trying to recruiit new players from the Bort, where we all met. I’ll update again in February when I have a better idea who I am keeping, and who I am defending my title against.

Just wanted to take a moment to bask in the glow of sweet victory. Now, I have a fantasy football dynasty to build.

My new face in Cyberspace

Greetings from Portland, OR. Home of great craft brews, outstanding Pinot Noir, progressive ideals and the 2010 NBA Champion Trailblazers (you heard it here first.) For almost eight years now it has been my home as well, and though we still have very close ties to Mother Jersey, Donna and I have never regretted a single day since we settled in. And until we pay off the mortgage, retire early and embark on many cross-country adventures, Portland will be the center of our universe.

I’m still fairly new to blogging. I started using the Notes section of my Facebook page to share my thoughts on my music and fantasy football. My good friend Nash invited me to join his blog, We Opine, where we offer unsolicited opinions on all things irrelevant and useless. You’ll find me over there when I’m feeling creative and silly. It is, of course, a must-read.

All of which leads me to the creation of my own little corner of the web, Sounds Good.  It’s a phrase I find myself using a lot, in response to a nice jam, a good idea, or just to acknowledge that I’m listening. I’ll be sharing more personal and earnest insights on music and life in Oregon. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine in regard to where this particular bus is heading. But welcome aboard, keep your head outside the vehicle at all times, and enjoy the ride.