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I’m a big fan of traditions, but not of the traditional kind. Maybe this is because Yoshimi and I come from different cultures with very different types of traditions.

So instead of celebrating all of the traditions from each of our cultures, we choose to celebrate none of the usual traditions and only those that we’ve creating for ourselves.

One of the traditions that we’ve created together are regular stays in our favorite fire lookouts (see previous post).  Another is an annual trip to Florida in January to visit my parents and to get a little sun on our pale winter skin.

We also have a tradition of staying at our favorite camping spot on the McKenzie River in same campground (Paradise) and site (#6) every summer. And finally, there’s our annual December pilgrimage to Manzanita on the Oregon Coast.

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We both work in retail, so in order to take a well-needed break during the holiday season craziness, we head out to the coast in mid-December for 3 nights at the Sunset Surf Motel, staying in the same second floor corner room every year. Sunset Surf may be a little rough around the edges, but it’s right on the beach (you can see the surf while laying in bed), comes equipped with a full kitchen, and is only $80 a night.

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This is the tenth year in a row we’ve gone in Manzanita. And like all traditions there is a joy in the familiar combined with the only-once-a-year novelty. The winter, I feel, is the best time to go to the Oregon Coast.  Summer trips can often be cold, windy and disappointing.  In the winter, you expect the weather to be crappy, so when you get the inevitable break (and you do most days), it feels like a special treat.  And there’s nothing better than a bonus winter sunset at the end of the long rainy day.

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We always bring along our own food with Yoshimi planning in advance all of our meals.  My personal favorite is Japanese nabe hot pot stews filled with lots of mushrooms, veggies, and some type of fish or meat.  The perfect warm and cozy winter meal. There’s also plenty of time for long drawn out brunches that always end with us both napping on the couches.  And then waking up for an early evening wine and cheese party.

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This year we had a bloody mary smackdown with each of us taking a radically different approach. I started things off with the Bloody Viking, a clamato variation with a base of aquavit, a Scandinavian anise-based liquor from Portland’s House Spirits Distillery. Yoshimi countered with a Japanese twist, incorporating soy sauce, wasabi, and shochu, a sweet potato liquor. And then christening this crazy concoction the Bloody Ninja.

So, who wins in a battle between a viking and a ninja?  It was a close fight and while both versions definitely had their strengths, in the end the Bloody Ninja prevailed.

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No matter what the weather is like I try and get out for a run everyday when we’re at the coast. Mazanita has a long beautiful beach, but for some reason I don’t really like beach running. It always looks so idyllic in photos, but in reality I find the flat out-and-back beach run to be so boring, like a treadmill of sand. I much prefer to run the hilly trails to Cape Falcon and Neahkahnie Mountain in nearby Oswald West State Park. There’s also a cool run out to Nehalem Bay where you can see of a bunch of lounging harbor seals during low tide.

Unlike some of the larger coastal communities, Mazanita is a small town with only a single street of commercial development. Even though we haven’t frequented any of the local restaurants, we always visit some of our favorite shops. The Little Apple grocery store has a surprisingly good selection of gourmet products. We usually pick up a pint (or two) of our favorite Haagen-Dazs flavors.

The Cloud and Leaf Bookstore is one of those perfectly curated shops that has everything they should and none of what they shouldn’t. And then there’s the San Dune pub, established in 1935. I’m sure they get a fair number of tourists in the summer, especially on weekends, but when we usually pop in, mid-week in winter, it feels like a real local hangout. There’s often live music and always good people watching. The staff is also super welcoming and friendly.

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Hanging out at the coast is a great time to catch up on reading, sleeping and rewatching your favorite movies. We make full use of the big screen TV and DVD player in the room and pick one director each trip to focus on. This year it was Terrence Malick. The Tree of Life definitely needs to be seen on a big screen to fully appreciate the scale of this incredible film. In years past the featured directors have been Frederico Fellini, Yasujiro Ozu, Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Wong Kar-wai.

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After several days of beach-induced decompression, we leave behind the laid back coastal lifestyle and return to the city, ready to tackle the rest of the holiday retail rush. Thank you all for following along on my adventures this year and I hope you have a wonderful (traditional or nontraditional) holiday season.

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