by: Alicia DeCosta, Carson Donnelly, 10, his sister Nicole DeCosta and mother Johnyne Donnelly visit the 2008 NW Natural Street of Dreams in the Altamont neighborhood of Mt. Scott.

Robin Leach said it best when he ended his Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous show each episode, sending viewers, 'Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.'

And while we all can't afford private jets, million dollar condos, and a wait staff the size a Nutcracker production, we can all save $18 a year to visit the NW Natural Street of Dreams. So cheers!

Yes, for about two and a half hours of your life, you too can pretend to be part of the elite. You know, those people that have a washer and dryer in their closet, a movie theater and swimming pool in the basement and a Mercedes SL550 in the driveway that doesn't look stolen.

Coming from a family of Realtors, builders and designers, I have attended the annual summer tour of Oregon's finest houses since I was born.

And in the past 25 years I have learned a lot from the tour: innovative design and construction should be highlighted and people love pretending to be someone else for a while - especially someone wealthier.

This year my 10-year-old brother, Carson, attended the tour for the first time. Holding the official program, he stepped into each 'mansion,' as he called them, with an open, but judgmental mind. This fifth-grader is no stranger to Z Gallery and isn't a fan of upper kitchen cabinetry. He loved taking the shuttle from the parking lot to the first home.

Carson favored the pool in the Cherith Brook but thought the Sonoma was the 'happiest' - with it's light and bright demeanor - and voted it 'Best of Show.' Yes, he voted! Each year, votes decide Best of Show, Best Kitchen, Best Landscaping and much more for the builders of the show.

Perched on what feels like a cloud in the Altamont neighborhood on Mt. Scott, the six homes showcased this year were all uniquely different but shared a killer view of downtown Portland.

Parents, kids, grandparents were out in full force when I attended.

And then there's the singles - I know this because two forty somethings met for the first time at the beginning of the tour and declaired their love by the time they reached The Providence House, having a little smoochy smoochy in the kitchen.

Visitors took pictures, jotted down notes and I heard one mom say she wanted to, 'skip the Caribbean this Thanksgiving and hire a masseuse to come to the house' after seeing the private massage room in one of the houses.

I think we all know the expression her husband gave her.

The tour has something for everyone each year. I think that's why our home-cooked version of what a dream home should be has been copied throughout the county.

Yes, the homes this year are elegant but all of our homes could look a little better if we just dedicated some time.

I found many decorating elements of the Cherith Brook home divine. Every room should have a chandelier, right? But the floorplan of the Sonoma sold me.

My mom, Johnyne, loves contemporary design and thought the outdoor/indoor room in the Sonoma - with an entire wall of windows that folds up like an accordion to reveal the view - a remodeling idea for anyone in Oregon.

Carson gasped when he saw the game room in the Pure Innova - with flashing lights, shuffleboard, a bar and booth with a waterproof flat screen TV built into the table.

And my sister, Alicia, also liked the Pure Innova and said she would have friends over 'every day' if that was her basement. She said she liked different elements of each house for different reasons.

'You can incorporate the best of each house into your own living space,' she said.

The tour is a great place for patrons - with thick or thin wallets - to gather ideas for their own place, meet builders and contractors who can make their own dreams come true.

Or - if you feel daring - buy one of the show homes. And then invite me over for cocktails, of course.

I felt like a torch was passed at this years' show between my brother and I. At 10, I looked just like him, magazine in hand, touring the early 90s Street of Dreams homes gathering decorating ideas and fighting with Alicia over which rooms would be 'ours.'

Now that I'm older and have met many of the builders and designers over the years, my experience is a bit different. It's about checking out the latest trends, fabrics, surfaces, appliances and layouts.

It's about shaking hands and spending an afternoon with friends and family. It is, and always has been, about dreaming.

And I'd be lying if I didn't say I still attend because I'm a nut for cool houses - how they're built, what colors they chose, the layout.

Visiting the Street of Dreams is a family tradition, something we've always done together - like our trips to Disneyland, Salishan, Target and Gubanc's restaurant.

The Street of Dreams makes us all want to work a little harder, present ourselves a little bit better and stay in touch with old friends and work associates. Honestly, those places would look empty if you just invited your six friends over for dinner, right?

Enjoy this years tour and I'd love to hear which houses struck a spark within you.

Enjoy the view, oh fabulous ones. Here's to all your champagne wishes…

Nicole DeCosta, Lake Oswego, is a staff reporter for the Lake Oswego Review and the West Linn Tidings, is the editor of the Homes section in both newspapers and is editor of the Style and Night On the Town sections that run in several Community Newspapers. She also is the singer in the local band, Macadam.

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