Another Birthday

Honestly, I don't feel older. I also don't feel like I'm really an adult although all evidence points to it - married, house, baby, dog, no longer stay up late. Then again, I drive by the college, or worse a high school, and I see how freaking young the students are...and it's at that point I realize I am an adult and I am in fact older. Oh, and then I go on to complain about said college kid like, "look at how short that girls shorts are!" or something like that. Yea, I'm getting older. 

But that doesn't stop my from celebrating and enjoying the birthday fun. I'm always down for a weekend that's dedicated to doing and eating all the things I want to do (let's ignore how selfish and spoiled that sounds, mm-k?). This year I shared my birthday with all the dad's as it fell on Father's Day. I'm generous like that. 

Saturday started the celebrations. We got crepes for breakfast at Jewel Box. You know how I love crepes. Then some awesome gelato in the afternoon at a new place in our neighborhood called Alegre Bakery and Gelato (definitely a new favorite). 

Saturday evening we got our first babysitter that wasn't a parent. She actually was the gal that watched Asha when we were down in San Diego the weekend prior. She mentioned she babysits so I say, "yes, please!" So she watched Caleb while we went out to a nice dinner at En Rama in downtown Tacoma. The meal was delicious as were the drinks. My favorite dish was the braised chickpeas. Doesn't sound as good as they were, but they were so, so good. And my "bartender choice" drink that was like a Manhattan was perfection. We had a lovely and romantic evening. 

Sunday was my birthday and Father's Day. Unfortunately, Josh was sick with some wild stomach virus thing. While Josh rested up, Caleb and I finished off the cake I made for my birthday. Yup, I made my own cake. However, I love baking so it was a birthday treat in both ways - to make and to eat. By the way, it was a hummingbird cake and was completely scrumptious. I opened my cards and gifts and felt loved and happy.

Caleb took me out for some frozen yogurt since he knows how much I love it. He secretly loves it to. Okay, it's not so secret. Do you see how serious his face is when eating it? It's serious business. Don't get in his way from eating it. He certainly is my child. 

The birthday ended with with my birthday gift from Josh: he put Caleb to bed while I went and got a relaxing massage. Ahh, sweet relaxation. On the way home, I picked up Thai food, because Thai is my one of my all-time favorites. And that's a wrap. It was a great birthday (although poor Josh with getting sick on Father's Day - such a bummer. Don't worry, we'll treat him to a second Father's Day day). 

Portland Mini-Trip: Foodie Edition

I confess...I am a foodie.

I know this might sound good, but I have always have felt slightly embarrassed to admit to being a foodie. Which got me thinking...why? After some thought, I guess it comes down to my need for everyone to like me and that as a foodie someone might think I'm a food snob. But really, it just means I like food. I like eating it, cooking it, baking it, reading about it, researching it, talking about it, photographing it...just like a hobby. Nothing to be ashamed of, right? I hope you agree. 

Great, and now that the foodie confession is off my chest, I want to talk about food. Surprise! Josh is transitioning jobs right now and got a few days off between work. We seized the opportunity to go on a family mini-trip down to Portland. We haven't been to Portland since we moved to Seattle in 2010. Crazy, huh? I mean we just live three hours away. I chalk it up to: life. 

Portland has really grown since the last time we were there, especially in the restaurant scene. It's become a real foodie town. As soon as I knew we were headed down, I started to compile a list of lists of where to dine. I looked at my Pinterest board, asked Facebook friends, and read some of my bloggers Portland must-eats. You know, foodie research.

I know we wouldn't be able to do it all - not just because it was just a day and half long trip, but because bringing a baby along changes everything. Oh, and my list was way over 50 restaurants/cafes long (heh!), but that's neither here or there.

We did get to some pretty awesome places. Also, I snuck some food photos for you (again, slightly embarrassed to be taking photos of food. Apparently not enough to not take them, though). 

Okay, enough of the talk. Here's where we went and what we ate...

Breakfast  

Barista {Day 1 - Coffee} There is a picture of me with the Barista sign from our last visit (see photos below). I am pointing at my head because it was when I was working as a Starbucks barista in Eugene. Wow, that seems like a long time ago. Back then, I'm pretty sure that was the only Barista location, but this time we found there were several locations.

Lucky for us, Barista was just a nice walk away from the AirBnB we were staying at. It snowed that morning, so we walked down and got ourselves some delicious coffee. I ordered the hazelnut latte and Josh got the Valhorna Mocha. I normally don't go for hazelnut lattes, but it was housemate syrup and I saw someone rave about it on Yelp. It was delicious - slightly sweet, nutty, and smooth. The mocha was a winner, too. The chocolate was rich, but not too much - it was just right. 

Blue Star Donuts {Day 1 - Food} Honestly, I don't have a huge want to go to Voodoo Donuts. Most of them look like they are covered in cereal. They might be delicious, and if I get the chance, I'll try one. Mostly, though, I look for a classic donut with a fun twist. And that is what Blue Star delivered. They were so freaking good. 

The gal was late to open the store, but she let us hang out inside (snow in the PNW always slows things down!). So we had time to debate what flavors to get...it was so tough. We ended up with the Raspberry Rosemary, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Smoked Grapefruit, Bourbon Blueberry Basil, and Breakfast fritter (bacon potato goodness). I think my favorite was the Raspberry Rosemary donut, and Josh couldn't decide but mentioned the Smoked Grapefruit being a favorite because it was just so different. I think I have to say it: this was the best donut I've ever had. 

Sterling Coffee Roasters {Day 2 - Coffee}  I always have a dilemma when traveling. You find something you really enjoy one day, but should you return to it knowing you really liked it or should you try something new? What if the something new isn't quite as good? #firstworldproblems. I usually end up forcing Josh to make the decision. Generally, Josh is on Team Try Something New, so that usually want we end up doing. And that is the case on our last morning in Portland. Instead of Barista, we walked a little longer to check out Sterling. It's a tiny coffee shop made more for commuters than dwellers. It was swanky and nice inside, though. I ordered a vanilla latte with their homemade vanilla syrup. Josh ordered their house caramel latte. Both were smooth, creamy, and delicious. We also purchased some beans to take home and we are still enjoying their coffee. Their beans are quite good, in fact. Unfortunately, I don't remember the exact ones, but I believe they were Ethiopian.

We took our coffees to go and strolled back to our AirBnB for some food to go along with the coffee. Man can't survive off coffee along...or, can he? Naaawww. Food required!

Trifecta Annex - {Day 2 - Food} If you continue to read, you'll know we went to Pine Street Market. When we were there we picked up some bread and pastries. For breakfast, we noshed on sweet citrus morning buns. They were buttery and had a lovely touch of orange zest inside. Take that an dip it in your coffee. Now, that's what I'm talking about.

Lunch

Lardo {Day 1} Our intention was actually to get lunch at Tasty 'n Alder, but it was a 45 minute wait. When you have a baby who's nap is coming in about an hour this just won't do. Instead, we crossed the street and hit up Lardo. This place specializes in meat and sandwiches. If you can do a good sandwich, oh man...

I indulged in the Pork Meatball Banh Mi while Josh got the Philly Joe Jones. Both were terrific. To accompany the sammies, we go the fries which were also great with herbs and such. Josh got some red velvet beer, which was in fact red colored. He thought it was great and refreshing. A great spot for lunch! 

Tasty ’n Alder {Day 2} Basically everyone I asked mentioned we should go here. It's one of John Gorham's restaurants, and he's the hit restaurateur in Portland right now. We ordered the house cottage cheese with pineapple jam for Caleb. Caleb refused it, but don't let him tell you if it was good as he's currently only living off fruit and puffs right now. Anything else gets dropped, hidden, or squished. We ate it instead and our impression of cottage cheese was changed for the better. And now I want to know how to make it!

I enjoyed the Polenta n Sugo, which was basically creamy polenta topped with a chicken and pork ragu sauce with mozzarella and topped of with an egg. Oh man, it hit the spot on the rainy day. Josh took the waiter's advice and ordered the Korean Fried Chicken, which was spot-on spicy and delicious. This place didn't disappoint...even after all the hype. 

Caleb enjoyed this Bamba (peanut puffs). And flirted with the ladies next to us.

Snacks

Salt & Straw Ice Cream {Day 1 & 2} Oh man, oh man, oh man. This ice cream is the BEST. Da Bomb! The creme de la creme. Probably the best ice cream ever. Statement made. Done. 

The flavors are freaking amazing. Different but not so wildly different that you scratch your head in confusion. We opted to share a flight of ice cream. Yup, a flight of ice cream. We found it to be the perfect way to enjoy several flavors. We tried the Chocolate Gooey Brownie, Arbequina Olive Oil, Coconut with Petunia’s Salted Caramel Bars, and Pear & Blue Cheese. We both thought the Pear & Blue Cheese was the best (of the best!). And Caleb liked their spoons. Can you find the missing spoon in the photo below?

Guys, it was so good, we made a pit stop before hitting the road back to Tacoma for a treat to go. Josh got the rootbeer float, which was dynamite. I couldn't resist and got a waffle cone of the pear and blue cheese. 

Dinner

Jo Bar & Rotisserie {Day 1} We arrived late afternoon to Portland, and didn't have much time before Caleb needed to go down for the night. He's an early to bed guy, so we need to eat at 5pm if he's going to join us. We were staying within walking distanced to 23rd Street in the Alphabet district (slash near Nob Hill), so we walked down to see what would work. We landed at Jo Bar, which received good ratings on Yelp (not that Yelp is the end all be all of rankings, but it usually steers us well). The good thing about early dining is happy hour. We both got a drink - Josh a beer, and me a cocktail (blood orange old fashion, my fav!). Our favorite dish was the fondue. Not only fun to eat, but delicious. Then we shared the rotisserie chicken since rotisserie seemed to be their specialty. We ended up having to gulf it down because Caleb started to get tired (that's code for - fussy, flailing arms, shrieks, etc). But it was a solid dish and worked well for that evening. 

Pine Street Market {Day 2} We always love a good market. Like The Ferry Building in SF, Krog Market in Atlanta, Pike Place in Seattle, Granville in Vancouver. If there is a market in the city, you can probably guess Josh and I will check it out. Pine Street Market is fairly new - just opened a year ago (according to some guy that served me some food). It has several little restaurants inside and is very hip/trendy. And we loved it. We ended up with ramen from Marukin Ramen, which was soul warming. Before we left, we bought bread & pastries from the Trifecta Annex to enjoy later. I would definitely want to come back and try more places! I love marketplaces. 

What a great weekend! What a culinary adventure! I'm pretty proud of us for getting to so many places with a baby/toddler. We definitely have to return to PDX soon. So many good places to try still. Have you gone to Portland recently? Foodies Unite! 

Josh's Birthday Treats

Josh turned another year older last Sunday. The years just keep rolling by...it's scary...can we make it slow down? Just a bit? Oh the bright side, I love that birthday mean celebrations, and in our case, the chance to try another Seattle restaurant on our "to try" list. There are so many we want to go to, but they tend to be out of the everyday dinner price range. 

For this particular celebration we headed over to Stika and Spruce. Oh man, good idea. Even with a week in a half early on calling for reservations, I was only able to snag a 5pm reservation for the two of us. Come on, Josh isn't turning that old. But it worked since we needed to meet up at 7:45pm for dessert to celebrate another friend's birthday. So 5pm it is! 

But first, before dinner we sat down for a cocktail at Bar Ferdinand. Okay, yes, we were early. But it turned out to be quite enjoyable. I order a martinez, which was quite delightful. But then dinner called...

Our Order: Sourdough bread // Delicata Squash, pumpkin seeds, haloumi, whey, argan // roasted beets & apples, sunflower seeds tartar & flora's curd // half chicken, baked ham, peregion beans, einkorn & asian pear // buckwheat crunch ice cream.

Our Favorite was the delicata squash, but it was all delicious. (I forgot to take some of the photos before we started to dig in). 

We enjoyed ourselves very much, and left with full bellies. Josh also liked opening his gifts. I bought him some over-the-ear headphones so he can rock around the house. That made him pretty happy, too.

After dinner, we headed over to our friends house for a surprise dessert party for Torrey's 40th birthday. I had made some pumpkin bars (sorry, highly secret recipe). 

And our birthday food adventures didn't stop there. Oh no sir ye, we continued with breakfast the next morning (before I had to fly to Irvine for work). One of Josh's favorites is Hudson - it's where a bar meets comfort food. 

The birthday weekend with fully bellies and smiling faces.

Happy Birthday Josh!

Georgia on my Mind

Georgia, oh Georgia...sing it for me Ray...

Now, that I've got you singing about Georgia, let me tell you about it. I can because I as just there. Yup, I did a last minute trip to Georgia for work last week. It was for a meeting with my client out in Alpharetta (in the 'burbs of Atlanta). Then I managed to tack on a extra two days in order to see some family. 

I few out on Wednesday, which took all freakin' day. We left at 10am and arrived at 6pm. Such a shame to spend your whole day on the plane (luckily I made up that lost time on the way home. Anyway, my first taste of Georgia was dinner. My co-worker that joined me had been to Alpharetta before, so he suggested the restaurant. We landed at a charming restaurant called Table & Main in Roswell. This place knocked my socks off it was so good. No offense, but it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. It was delicious "farm to table" Southern food. Dang! 

Thursday I spent the day with my client, and our meeting went well (whew!). Then I joined a few of my clients for dinner at another great restaurant called Miltons. Combined these two restaurants challenged all my preconceived notions of Southern food. Well done, Georgia.

With my client visit behind me, I drove out to Burford to visit my Aunt Pat and Uncle Ron. They have a lovely home and I got a true taste of Southern hospitality. They treated me like a queen (or should I say Southern Belle?). 

Aunt Pat & Uncle Ron's Home

I lucked out and got to meet their cat, Mr. Ford. He was a rescue cat and I think I made a breakthrough since Mr. Ford came out from behind the boxes and looked at me, which apparently he never does. I guess I am the new cat whisper. Okay, maybe not, but let's pretend. Sorry, no photos since Mr. Ford is camera shy.

Not to bring up food again (heck we do eat at least three times a day, so why not!), but of course we ate at the Cracker Barrel. What good is a trip to the South without it? Cracker Barrel is more than food, it's an experience. As a kid, I loved the jumbo checker board, the wooden peg game (oh man, if only I had this video as a kid), and the candy sticks from the stop after the meal. If you've been there, you know what I'm talking about. Oh, and you can't forget those rocking chairs out front...classic. 

I actually have a cute story about Cracker Barrel. When I was a kid, and we visited the East Coast, and I found out I loved Cracker Barrel. I loved them so much I wrote a letter to headquarters and told them to open shop in San Diego. Well, no such luck for little Heather, but it was worth a try.

Cracker Barrel experience

Saturday we enjoyed some R&R at home, but by noon we headed out to the town. I was introduced to Von Maur, a department store from Iowa, which hasn't made it's way to the West Coast (yet). I also got a tour of Dillards, a Southern department store. My favorite thing in the mall was the fact that Starbucks had sweet tea. 

Perimeter Mall

The day ended at my cousin Debbie's house. Another lovely Georgia home. So big! And I met their sweet pooch, Sammy. Sammy was a cutie and cuddled on my lap. It was great to catch up with my cousin and her husband, Dave. No joke, it has been twelve years since I last saw Debbie. Craziness. 

Family & Sammy, the dog

Sunday I flew back home. I did make up that lost time on Wednesday after all. 

And that was my quick, but sweet trip to Georgia. That's it, y'all.

Annual Celebration of ME

Tuesday was the annual celebration of ME - also known as my birthday. I can't believe it's already June this year - where is the time going? Ugh! So now I officially can't say I'm borderline 30; I'm now truly in my 30's. Sigh. Oh well, let's go 31!  

Some people try to hide from their birthdays, but I'm completely opposite. I fully embrace my birthday. I raise my arms up, and say "It's my birthday - yay!" There is nothing you can do about getting older, so you might as well take the day that's all about you. Heck, take the whole week and make it about you. (I swear, I'm not conceited). 

I would like to say I have a list of things to share with you on my 31 years of wisdom. But, eh, that takes too long. Instead, read Joy the Baker's list. I think it about covers it. (Note: I don't actually know Joy the Baker. However, I feel we have a connection with my middle name being Joy, and we both like to bake). 

Okay, back to my birthday celebration. Sadly, it fell on a Tuesday which means it was a work day. I would be silly to take the day off. What would I do, just hang around the house while Josh and friends work? Nah. So off to work I went.  

My work gift was that my laptop decided to poop out on me (meaning it didn't want to turn on; basically died). So while I waited for the IT guy, I got myself a birthday latte. Once I got a loaner laptop, it was basically a normal work day. Except for the fact that I got a card with all my co-workers notes, and better yet, beautiful flowers from my in-laws (they're the best in-laws a girl could ask for). I mean, look at the flowers....gorgeous! And they smell just as good. 

 

 Birthday Girl & Dessert

Birthday Girl & Dessert

 Work Birthday Surprises

Work Birthday Surprises

The real celebration came after work. Josh came out to Capitol Hill (where my office is), and we headed to a birthday celebration dinner at Poppy.  This was our first time at this restaurant, but it got rave reviews. I was a bit dubious since I didn't know all of the foods and flavors, but I decided to be daring. 

We sat out in the herb garden patio - yes, it was sunny. I brought the sun for my birthday this year. Woot woot! Anyway, back to the restaurant. It serves Pacific Northwest food in a “thali” style - a platter with a bunch of small dishes.  I got the braised chicken with leeks, caraway and morels. Josh got the alaskan octopus, merguez sausage and  fava beans. And each came with a bunch of small sides - just check out the menu. Oh, and we got an extra dish (just the dish, not the whole thali), yarmuth goat cheese ravioli because I couldn't decide. Oh my gosh, this stuff is delicious.

Oh wait, back track, we began with a starter, which I think might have been my favorite: eggplant fries with sea salt & honey. I know what you're thinking, "oh, eh, eggplant." But let me tell you, when eggplant is done right, it's soooo good. And these were excellent with the honey and salt. Ahhhh, I want them NOW.

But dessert might have been the best. Too. much. good. food. Dessert was a sage custard with goat cheese ice cream, port cherries, and cookie crumbles. I even ate the flower (on the waiter's recommendation), and that was surprisingly good, too! 

Don't forget the cocktails. Those were good as well. I won't go on about those since I imagine you're tried of my describing my food (and I bet getting jealous). 

 Birthday Dinner at Poppy

Birthday Dinner at Poppy

And that was my birthday day. I'm sure we'll do some more fun things this weekend! After all, it's my birthday week...

What Happens in Vegas...

Does not always stay in Vegas. For instance, this post. I'll pretty much tell you what we did because I'm cool like that. No secrets from my blog buddies. ; )

Saturday was the beginning of our "big" vacation of the year. Most of the trip is to be spent in Zion with my in-laws. However, we decided to take on Vegas at the beginning since were were flying in/out of the LV airport.

We arrived Saturday afternoon (just in time for the late-night party-ers to be getting up). We decided to make our base camp at the Venetian. We got a pretty good deal on Priceline (go us). I think I said, "oh wow" as I stepped into the lobby. Very grandiose stuff here. And our hotel room was like a small apartment. Not too shabby.

Venetian Canals Venetian

Now, before I go telling you about our visit, let me remind you, I have not been to Vegas since they were building the Luxor. Yes my friends, it's been that long. So, you can imagine, when we stepped onto to the strip, it was like a whole other world. It was sensory overload -- lights flashing, music blasting, people pushing...everything is just IN YOUR FACE. Pretty wild.

The afternoon was spent walking from hotel to hotel. I think we visited practically every hotel (except the ones at the extreme ends of the strip...my feet can only take so much walking). I have to say, my favorites were the Bellagio and Cosmopolitan. We had our first Vegas cocktail in the Aria, which was also quite nice.

Hotel Central The Strip

Dinner the first night was at a newer, up-and-coming buffet called The Wicked Spoon in the Cosmopolitan. We heard it was cheaper and better than the Bellagio buffet. I think we tried everything offered there. Just bites of everything, people, we're not total pigs...gosh. My favorite, though, was dessert. It was so fun to grab each thing and taste - the coconut flan, the brownie pop, and the peach cobbler were among my favorites.

Wicked Spoon Wicked Spoon Dessert

Then, we topped off the day with the foutain water show at the Bellagio. Okay, I lied, slightly, we saw it twice - one in the day and then we ended the night with the show again.

Bellagio Water Show @ Night Bellagio Water Show

Sunday we spent more time shopping, mainly in Caesar's Palace. Have you noticed that all the Vegas hotels seem to have the same set of stores? You really only need to visit one's shopping area and you've seen them all. Heck, you don't even need to let your own hotel if you don't want to...everything is everywhere at anytime in Vegas.

The in-laws drove out and met us for lunch at Holsteins for some burgers. We toured some more hotels like the Wynn. Then we went our own ways for the evening. Josh and I went off to celebrate our 1 year anniversary with dinner at Joe's. It was a classic restaurant known for it's stone crab and fish. Let me tell you, these stone crab claws are huge (and we got the small ones). If you ever need to try crab legs, go here. I had halibut and Josh had steak. We finished with awesomely delicious pie (which seemed fitting for our anniversary--why? because we had pie at the wedding).

At the Wynn Anniversary Toast

The big event of the Vegas trip was Sunday evening. We had tickets as a gift from my in-laws from my birthday to see Cirque du Soleil "O" at Bellagio. Oh my, it was so great I don't even know how to describe it. It didn't hurt that we had front & center seats - literally we were 7 rows from the stage (Thanks Don & Nada!).

The acrobats were fascinating. They diving from about 50 feet high, they swung from hoops hanging from each other's feet, they were contorting into crazy positions. I was entranced the whole time. Absolutely recommend it. Sorry, they were uber strict about photos. Check out the video!

Ready for "O" Josh at Cosmo

We ended our evening with drinks at the hip and trending bar at the Cosmo hotel. Then Monday rolled around, we had breakfast with the Browns, did some more shopping, and headed out for nature at Zion.

Total flip from chic urban city Vegas, to nature filled Zion. Fun times though. Vegas is really a Disneyland for adults. And my new term from the trip: Vegafied. Take something normal and Vegafy it.

Kiss at Bellagio Fountain Oh La La Gambling Josh

Check out more of my Vegas photos. : )

Business in NYC

This week has been long. I started the week off in the office on Monday, then Tuesday through Friday I was in New York City. The purpose was for a 2-day meeting with my Verizon client. We discussed some good stuff - information overload, but good. Most of my time was spent in meetings and hanging with the client, but I did get to sneak away for a little bit to be a tourist in NYC.

My only tourist thing on Tuesday was taking a picture from the taxi as we crossed over the bridge towards downtown. And dinner (with the client) near our hotel, the Sheraton Tribeca. Dinner was quite tasty at a cute Italian restaurant called Pepolino - we sat outside, ahh warm weather.

Wednesday was all client even breakfast and dinner. Dinner was at a Mexican restaurant called Dos Caminos. I have to say, the prickly pear margarita was darn tasty. It made my day better. And we took a small walk to Washington Park. It had a fake Arc de Triumphe and a cool fountain (if you look, you can see the Empire State Buildling between the arch). Check out the photo.

Luckily, Thursday the meetings ended early and we were freeeee. I grabed my co-worker, James, and made him walk around town with me. We walked from our hotel down to Ground Zero. Unfortunately, you had to pre-purchase tickets to see it, but we peeked in through the fence and got glimpses. It's amazing to stop and think about that day - where you were, what you felt, being there gave me shivers. But, the new towers that are being built look gorgeous and will be great addition to the NYC skyline someday.

Liberty Tower, WTC Building Around Ground Zero

We pasted by Saint Pauls, but unfortunately they closed the gates on our faces. Yes, seriously, they closed right when we were walking in. The nerve. I put my camera through the fence to try to get some pictures of the old gravestones. I hear they date back to 1700s even. Could have been cool. Ahh well, next time.

Saint Paul's and 9/11 Saint Paul's Graveyard

Then, we walked to Battery Park. Here we saw the glorious Statue of Liberty off in the distance. She seems so small from land. We didn't have enough time to take a ferry over, so we just admired from afar. On the way, we also admired the cool old buildings...

Statue of Liberty Fire Escapes

Our dinner (because you want to know all about the food, I know) was at Saxon and Parole. We enjoyed cocktails, tasty entrees, and dessert. This was the first time I truly had a "deconstructed" dish. When it arrived, I was like, "uhh, we got the fruit tart...." It was basically a dish with splotches of custard and crust sticking out of each glob. Then fruit was scattered around. I was doubtful, but it was delicious. I think this was my favorite dish of the week. (Sorry, no picture. I didn't think to take one, silly me).

Not wanting to miss a chance to see as much of NYC as possible, we ended the evening with a quick trip to Times Square. As we stepped out of the taxi, it was suddenly daylight again (or so it seemed) because of all the lights. Crazy. Branding overload. 

Times Square Heather in Times Square

Friday was wrapped up with one last meeting. Then I grabbed a taxi and rushed to meet good friends James and Melissa for lunch. Yes, a random meet-up in NY. We had a great meal together at ABC Kitchen - so posh and hip. It was really great to see them and wish we lived closer. Sigh.

I hurried back to the hotel, and my coworkers and I grabbed a taxi and headed back to JFK. A great week of work and fun, but now I'm ready to sleep-in. Business travel is exhausting!

New York Skyline

The Visitors

Doesn't that title sound like a book? But it's not. Or maybe it is and I don't even know it. Well, either way, it's the blog title for the post about my parents visit to Seattle.

My parents have been to Seattle before, but it's been just about 20 years. We had a family vacation up here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest when I was about 8 years old (ok, do the math and you'll figure out my age). My dad had a Burger King convention in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. We made a trip out of it in typical O'Neill fashion. We went to Mount Saint Helen's, Olympic National Forest, Seattle, and a brief stop in Spokane. I remember loving Seattle even though we only had about a day and a half here. My parents didn't have quiet the same memories; not bad, but just not the best.

With that little story, I was determined to make this trip the best visit for them. Some of the plans were out of my control and I had to pray -- primarily about the weather. The rest I could control and plan in advance. Here is a sample of my game plan:



The weather turned out well for the most part. We had to be slightly flexible on Saturday since we encountered some heavy rain and the fact that our plans took us near the university when there was a big U of W football game. However, we managed to stick to Friday's plans to a tee. Want to hear more? Well, ask no longer. Here's some of the activities and restaurants we enjoyed this weekend:

Activities

  • Julep:  Let's start with some background on this topic first. A Seattle friend shared Groupon with me, which is a daily email coupon from somewhere or something in Seattle. A few weeks ago a groupon came up that was a facial and pedi combo at a palor just a few blocks from my store. It was a great deal, so I bought two combos - one for me and one for mom. I was very excited to say the least, so the very first thing we did was get our pedi and facials. That would be mom and I, not the guys. It was quite fabulous. I just may have to return. Our faces were so soft. It was nice.

  • Columbia Tower: You might remember this activity from Irene's visit. Josh took my dad up the tower while my mom and I got our nails done. It turned out to be a gorgeous fall day, so they could really see the city (no rain = visibility). I didn't hear full reports back, but I'm sure my dad and Josh talked about where different things were in the distance.

  • Pike Place Market: This is a Seattle must for all visitors. It wasn't crazy crowded since the tourist season is over. We did get to see all the pretty flowers and fruits. My dad, in typical John O'Neill style, stopped to look at the meats and cheese very carefully (those of you who have taken a trip with him should know this one). Basically, we had a nice walk through the market. We bought some honey crisp apples since we were lured in by the free apple tasting. How could we resist? The only thing I wanted was find this blueberry guy (he has a commercial even!), but there was some construction going on and apparently he was on vacay. Lucky duck.

  • Kerry Park: Of course, we had to make a stop at our favorite Seattle downtown view. It was gorgeous as always. Think Grey's Anatomy. If you've been to my Flickr site, you've seen this site many times already.

  • Museum of Flight: Wow, this is a cool museum. I was hooked when we I found the stories about some folks that received the Metal of Honor. We also got to tour an older Air Force One and the British Airways Concorde. Also, there were parts about WWI and WWII, Nasa and Space, and much more. We got to get inside some pilot seats too. I think my dad was in heaven. Everyone had a swell time.

  • Bellevue: Originally we were going to head to University Village, an outdoor mall that was like the Forum in Encinitas but bigger. However, with heavy rain and the football game happening, we opted to go to Bellevue instead. Bellevue has a nice indoor mall and just a general pleasant area with good restaurants. We spent our Saturday afternoon roaming the stores and my mom on the Christmas hunt already.

  • Ballard Farmer's Market: You've seen this one enough on my blog already to know that this is something Josh and I enjoy. We enjoy it so much we decided to spread the love to my parents. My dad, again, was very interested in the foods and local merchants. It was Halloween, so when I saw the caramel apples, I had to partake...it was good.

  • Retail Core: This is the part of downtown Seattle that houses all the retail stores - Gap, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers, and all that good stuff. I didn't get to spend this part of the parent tour since I had to close on Sunday evening, but it was a nice closing to the Seattle weekend for my parents.


Kerry Park I'm the Captain (Pilot) The Original

Restaurants

  • Macrina: This is one of my favorite places to get bakery goods. I knew that if I liked it, my parents would probably like it as well. I mean, muffins, cookies, and scones...oh my! And Macrina did not disappoint. My mom declared it was her favorite bakery place. She love, love, loved the fruit coffeecake. My dad mentioned the scones were crunchy, but soft on the inside. Well done Macrina!

  • Fresh Bistro: This is our newest restaurant find. It's in West Seattle. Every time we get stuck in this construction and it takes several tries before we get across to the other side of the water. It's been worth it though. Tasty lunch option. You might hear more about this place soon.

  • Palace Kitchen: This was the big dinner out in the town. It's a Tom Douglas restaurant, a famous Seattle chef. You may have seen his spice rubs around your markets. The menus changes often, but the chicken is always on the menu. I had it and now I know why. How do they get it so moist?

  • Essential Bread Co: This competes with Macrina for breakfast and bakery options. My dad said it was 50/50 between Macrina and Essential. Tough life here in Seattle.

  • Purple Cafe: We ate here before moving to Seattle. It's a nice restaurant and wine bar. There are four of them throughout the Seattle area. This time we went to Bellevue. It has a "bit of this, and a bit of that" lunch combo which is awesome.

  • Anita's: Crepes. Need I say more? Oh, dessert crepes. Delish.

  • Volterra: Josh and I have walked by this place since our arrival and have been waiting for a chance to try it. I had an acquaintance recommend it, then I saw an article in my Cooking Light magazine, and I checked up and saw good reviews on yelp. Sooo...all signed pointed to try it. And that is what we did for brunch Sunday morning. I had these delicious pancakes. Everyone enjoyed. Yum!


And there you have it. The weekend in activities and food with my parents. The weather "worked with us" since our only rainy day was the one we planned for the museum. Otherwise excellent fall weather with all the colorful leaves. It was great to see my parents and share our new home with them. Hurray for a successful and very nice weekend with my parents.

I love you mom and dad! Thanks for visiting!!

Going Dutch

This post is not about splitting something, but about sharing. Last week Josh and I shared Seattle with my great friend Irene. Irene is one of my far, far away friends and lives in Holland, hence the "Going Dutch."

Irene arrived Sunday afternoon (to be clear it was 10/10 since this is a bit of a delayed post) at SeaTac Airport. I was finishing up my work day when she arrived, so Josh picked her up. We all meet up at our little place and had a happy reunion.

By the time we all meet up, our favorite Ballard Farmer's Market had closed. We wanted to give Irene a taste of Seattle's Farmer's Markets, so we headed to the other big, year-round market in Fremont. This market is a bit more on trinkets, antiques, and crafts whereas Ballard is more veggies, fruits, and bakeries/treats. It was fun to walk around though and see some local crafts (and some old stuff). Plus I got to grab a crepe which always makes me happy.

After some local flavor, we headed over to Ballard. First, we decided to see verify the authenticity of the Dutch Bike Co. After perusing the bikes, Irene confirmed that the bikes were indeed very true to Dutch style. It even carried the baby box accessory that goes in the front of the bike to cart the kiddies around. However, we all agreed that the best part was the conference bike. Yes, a bike used to hold a conference. This bike is circular and rides around. As were were observing, the bike guy said, "hey do you want to ride it?" We all chuckled. He was serious, so I pipped up, "Sure!"

I think the three of us were all thinking, "who's going to drive this thing?" Luckily, the bike guy hopped on the driver's seat and got us rolling. It was actually hard work to ride the bike with just the three of us. I was definitely huffing and puffing and a wee bit sore afterwards. It was fun though - and fun to see the people in cars looking at us and thinking, "what the...?"

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After our ride around town, we needed some nourishment from the excitement and decided to grab some dinner at Tutta Bella. Tutta Bella is one of our new favorite places for pizza - true Italian-like pizza. Then, we topped the evening off with some Molly Moon's ice cream and sorbet.

Monday morning we started out with a breakfast of champions at Macrina - this means we got muffins. Don't forget, the next food in line after froyo on the Heather list is muffins. Macrina has great bakery goodies. We enjoyed and then headed out for our big day about town.

Our first stop was at the infamous Pike Place Market. Since it's fall and no longer the big tourist season, there wasn't huge crowds. We meandered through all the booths tasting the fruits and looking at the speciality, local crafts. Along the way, I pointed out the original Starbucks and the famous fish throwing shop. We also ran into (not literally, ick) the gum wall. Yes, a wall of gum. Check out my face, it says, "gross!" Lastly, to get a true taste of the market, we picked up lunch at Three Sister's Bakery and moved along.

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In the afternoon, we took the long elevator ride up for an exceptional view at the Columbia Tower. This is a cheaper view than the Space Needle, yet higher. Plus you can see the Space Needle as part of the view (I mean, part of the Seattle skyline is the needle and if you're on it, you can't really see it!). Good deal. We lucked out with a clear, sunny afternoon with 360 views. "Oh! Beautiful! Gorgeous! Wish you were here," stuff (that's a French Kiss reference).

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(I can see my house from here!)

We wrapped up the day with a quick tour of the Seattle Library (cool building) and some downtown retail shopping. Plus a quick stop at my Starbucks. And dinner at Monkey Bridge in Ballard.

Tuesday to Thursday Irene took a side trip up to Vancouver to visit another friend from her days up in Canada. She returned Thursday night and then spent Friday with us.

Friday was another day full of fun tourist stuff. Isn't doing tourist stuff great? It's like being on vacation in your own city. Plus, being a resident here makes it harder to do tourist stuff, so visitors are great for getting out and exploring. Since I visited Seattle as a little girl (yes, I was here on a family trip years and years ago), I've been wanted to check out the Underground Tour. Underground you say? Yes, part of Seattle is actually the second level. It was rebuilt after a big fire and they built up due to some sewage issues. It's a long story, but you can learn it on the tour or from Bill Speidel. It was great to learn some history of the city we now reside in, plus it was funny. This Bill must be quite the joker. We learned about Pioneer Square and the Richardsonian Romanesque architecture of the area.

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After the tour, we picked up a few "must take home to Holland" items for Irene and headed back home for some relaxation. Whew, what fun!

Irene - It was great to have you here! Glad you made it home safely. :-p

Been Busy

Every day I groan thinking, "man, I neeeeed to write a blog post. It's been ages." I think I haven't written at all in October yet. Yikes! So let me apologize for not writing. I've got all these great things to post, but just haven't had the time. I only have a likely excuse: I've been BUSY. I just have been busy doing one thing after another. Like what? Well, here's a Busy Item List for you:

  1. Promotion: I've been quiet about this since I didn't want to tell you all about it and then have to come back with a "yea, well...(cough cough), umm yea" type post. Anyway, I interviewed a few weeks ago with a couple managers - coffee tasting, interview interrogation, the usual. After that, things started moving quickly. It got announced at our quarterly team meeting and the next week I was training. This past week was my first week managing the floor on my own. It's actually takes quite a bit of thinking. Breaks (which have to be timed wisely), cash management, keeping the customers happy, and dealing with the "crazies" that come in (note: "crazies" is the word we all use for crazy people that we have to deal with regularly). For instance, my first day running the floor I had to kick someone out for bad behavior. The next day, I had to call the police. It's not as bad as it sounds, but it's testing me for my best mean face (can you picture it?).

  2. Josh's Birthday: Josh turned the big 29 Tuesday. Sadly, I had to close the store on his birthday, but we celebrated for sure. Monday our family friends, Vince and Jonita, treated the both of us to a delicious meal at The Palace Kitchen. This is a Tom Douglas restaurant which I've been wanting to try and it did not disappoint. We went all out too with drinks, appetizers, entrees, and dessert. I had lavender goat cheese fondue to start and a succulent halibut entree. Josh has some pork & pear terrine and a lamb sirloin. Then some coconut cream pie to cap off (this pie is famous). For his actual birthday, I made a chicken tamale casserole before work and ate it after work. He also got a pair of Clark Desert shoes from yours truly. Oh, and lots of Bacon stuff (thanks Jeff & Melissa!). The last bit of celebration was this morning which was breakfast at Julia's in Wallingford. Yes, I know you're thinking: wow, what a celebration of food.

  3. Dining Next Door: I think I just came up with a cute restaurant name. But no; it was really dining next door with our neighbors, Matt and Meghan. It was great to get to know our neighbors. We know we'll get along too since they too are Rick Steve followers.

  4. Val in Town: Valerie, whom we all know and love as Val came to Seattle to visit. Val is a friend from U of O law school. She's in Montana now, but had a long weekend and decided to head west to visit. We spent a lovely, rainy evening with her and catching up.


That's not the end of the list, but I'll end it there. I just think it'd start to get too long to go through. Plus it's smaller stuff, like church, groceries, and the likes. But now you know I'm still here. Still writing. Still taking photos. Still thinking of you all. I'll try to write more often now.

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Bacon and Birthday Boy Above.

Family Fun

Sheesh, stop jumping to conclusions. I didn't go to the Family Fun Center or play miniature golf. Actually, it was fun times with family. And not just my immediate family, but all the relatives. This past weekend I was able to fly out to Chicago (elongate the "a" in Chicago as you say it). Not only was it to visit family, but to celebrate some momentous events. Momentous you say? Yes. Grandma Ruth turned 89 years old and Cousin Erin is having her first baby. Let me tell you about the weekend in bullet points - it's the easiest way and not to mention my favorite.

  • Traveling: My flight to Chicago started at the wee hours of the morning on Friday. Eh-hem, yes I know I get up early for work and should be used to it. Let me tell you something...you don't get used to it. period. But it was worth it. The itinerary was having me start in Eugene with stops in Denver at then Madison. Denver was being Denver (crazy weather, etc) and my originally on-time flight was late due to our pilot having to slow the speed approaching Denver and then circling until we got clearance. I get off the plane and run to my connecting flight, but it was closed. Luckily I got transferred to a flight straight from Denver to Chicago. Sadly that got delayed with mechanical issues (mention of starting with just one engine as we taxi to the take-off queue - hmm), then it snowed and possible de-ice, and last we had to wait for our turn. Although all this happened, I (A) still got to Chicago by 3:30 when I was original scheduled for 2:30pm - not bad, and (B) I got some awesome views from the plane at Eugene take-off. Please Note: I tried talking to the Eugene representatives about getting on a different flight because of my tight layovers...they said I'd be just fine...yea right! The return flight was only through Denver and both were early arrivals. Not to mention great views again.


The Flight

  • Erin's Baby Shower: The first day was preparing for the shower. We picked up some delicious cupcakes from Sensational Bites (we also snuck in some apple-ras crumble to snack on that night - yum!). And I did some wrapping extravaganza. Saturday we had a luncheon-style baby shower. It went really well. We had some great salads and cupcakes of course. There were also some fabulous games: (1) Name that Baby - everyone brought their own baby picture, we posted them on the wall with numbers, and people had to guess who was who. (2) Sock Laundry Timing - Erin got a buck of baby socks, mixed up, and had to match & fold them while being timed. Beforehand, everyone guessed how long it would take her. (3) Future Baby Story - a sheet with places to guess the baby's life. For instance, favorite subject or activities as a teenager. On the game topic, I did get in 2nd on the Baby Sock game - just 7 seconds off. Then just chit-chating and whatnot. On an ending note, Erin is a beautiful mother-to-be! Oh, and it's a boy!


Erin's Baby Shower




  • Grandma's Party: Immediately after the baby shower was Grandma's birthday party. It was a party day! We headed to Hackneys (more to come of food) where we had a private room for all the relatives to gather. Practically all the family showed up - the Peru Aunts, Bossharts, Lesses, and O'Neills. We enjoyed some catch-up time with all. The cousins formed a table, and we got to have cuz time. I met Scott's girlfriend, Katie, who was super nice. Man, us cousins are growing up. Grandma got some cake and presents. Just a good ole birthday celebration.


Grandma's 89th Bday Party

  • Billy Elliot: Sunday was a day out to downtown Chicago. We headed over to the Theatre District to see Billy Elliot, the Musical. It was playing at the Oriental Theatre which was very cool inside - ornate and classical (ok, I don't know art decor terms, sue me; I think you get it though). The play was great. I enjoyed the ballet and tap dancing. It was a nice balance of singing, dancing, and story-line. All Elton John music too. In a nutshell, very fun and very worth it. I've had the movie from Netflix to watch beforehand since it'd been a while since I saw it. I didn't get to it before, so now I plan to watch it in the next few days. [Side Note: Across the street we made a quick pit-shop in the old Marshall Fields, now Macys - you'll see pictures on Flickr. I also found an interesting article on Frango Mints.]


Downtown Chicago

  • Merkner-Time: More family fun! Monday mom, dad, grandma, and I headed out to McHenry-Wauconda area to visit my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Sue. I also got to meet their little doggies, PJ and Lulu - very cute. Even more exciting was Uncle Chucks Extensive Train system. It was a whole room dedicated to trains. Literally a whole room. The entire space was filled staring with a table and four different train systems. A little town, noises, controls. Crazy. Then we enjoyed lunch together at a near-by waterfront restaurant, Lindy's Landing.




Uncle Chuck's Train System from Heather O'Neill on Vimeo.

  • Baby Time: My Uncle Terry and Kellie have the two most adorable kids. Riley (20 months) and Emily (8 months). I got some quality time with Riley on Monday afternoon. In my life I haven't had many babies around, so it was a special time to get to know my newest cousins. It was so fun to bond with Riley (and she apparently looks like me when I was a baby). We played at the playground - when down a slide, roamed around, we played with all sorts of toys at home, read some books, and I watched her eat some dinner and take a bath. So Cute. I didn't see too much of Emily because the poor thing was not feeling well and Kellie took her to the doctor to get checked out - she's okay though.


Cousin Riley

  • Food: According to my parents, there are some must-go restaurants to "hit-up" when we're in town. I don't know if this requirement comes from some childhood memories, that "these are the best" places to go according to many, or just plain habit. Whatever it may be, we must go every visit. Plus, each restaurant has a very specific item that you should order (emphasis should, I rebel and usually get something different based on my eating habits). Like most trips, we managed to squeeze them all in. Here's the list: (1) Gale Street Inn for ribs, (2) Hackney's for ribs, (3) Portillo's for Italian Beef, and (4) Lou Malnati's for deep dish pizza.

  • Humor: My uncles have quite a sense of humor. I carried some of this humor back with me. I told the muffin joke and ocean joke to co-workers. They laughed and then said I was goofy. I also showed them the new fist bump, or alternatives to the bump me. Bump it and blow-up and the park-the-bumb.


P.S. Photos on Flickr for viewing. Or check out the video of grandma.

P.P.S. My forefinger feels better from the time off. It gets tired at work holding the milk pitcher and punching at the register. Poor finger.

Northern Exposure

Runners Up (on Blog titles): I had a hard time deciding, so I thought I'd mention these too...Neighborhood Watching, Sleepless in Seattle, Scoping Seattle, and a few others which I've forgotten now so they must not have been that great anyway. Oh and one with following the 5 to the Emerald City, a Wizard of Oz reference. P.S. I didn't watch Northern Exposure so I hope there are no crazy deeper meanings.

The Distance:  The distance between Eugene and Seattle is closer than many would first think. It's actually driveable and takes roughly 4-5 hours. We opted to drive so we had my car and navigation system (we started calling the system Wifey on this trip). Josh did the driving on the way up Friday morning - we got there in 4 hrs 15 mins. I took over the wheel for the majority of the city navigating with some awesome parallel parking. In general, it could probably be called Mrs. O'Neill's wild ride.

Sunday we headed back in the afternoon just in time for the rain to return (so that's an indirect way of saying we had good weather all weekend). And it returned in torrents. The windshield wipers were seemed to be on crack and the rain came down in sheet. Luckily, I got us safely down to Portland. Due to the stressful conditions, Josh took over and drove us safely home. The return drive took roughly 5 hours (longer if you include the stops for gas, dinner, rain, traffic, etc).

Exploration: Take a look at this chart. Now, you can imagine why I was slightly panicked at the amount of exploration and investigation necessary on our ~2 days in Seattle. I calmed down after sitting down and reading though some other articles. And calmed down even more so after talking with our Seattle friend, Andrea. Andrea gave us the low down on all the neighborhoods. In a nutshell, keep north. Our favorite areas included: Ballard, Fremont, Green Lake, Queen Anne (lower), Bellevue, etc. Another fun fact about downtown street names is that they go in twos - two P's, two U's, two M's, and two S's (PUSM sounds funny tho). We now have a much better idea in mind on how the city is setup and where to begin if/when the time comes. Oh, and a Farmer's Market on Sunday = yay!

Non-Exploration: I haven't mentioned yet that Josh's parents were able to join us for our weekend adventure. They were our fearless passengers as we bopped around the city. It was great seeing them and enjoying some time together. Also, we meet up with our friend Andrea for lunch on Saturday (recall: mentioned above she gave some good Seattle tips). We had a nice little lunch catch-up time. We even squeezed in a quick hi and hug with Vince and Jonita, Brown family friends. I guess we not only saw Seattle, but friends/family too!

Food: Nom Nom Nom <-- That's the written version of me munching on tasty food. I imagine you now know that we ate some good food. A few sweet highlights include: banana bread at Columbia City Bakery, orange currant oatmeal cookie and raspberry oat bran muffin from Fresh Flours. As for food, a few savory delights included: crepe at Miro Tea, lunch at Purple Cafe, and dinner at Long Provincial Vietnamese. Seattle definitely has a happenin' foodie scene and the blogs that have been screaming Seattle as the current food trend were not lying.

Frozen Yogurt: I (practically) didn't have this all weekend. Yes, opposed to popular belief I can go without it for a few days without a meltdown. Don't get me wrong, it's tough, but possible. But it turns out Seattle was sadly lacking in this department. I did have the radar turned on though. You probably noticed I put "practically" in parenthesis in the first sentence. This is because I did taste some at a shop in Bellevue called Shnoo. However, I didn't not get a yogurt. For one, it was in the morning and I don't allow myself to eat it before noon (note: a few exceptions). Also, after a taster (or two. ok three), I decided that it wasn't that great. It's the trendy tart stuff and I deemed it just mediocre. Fear not, I have some bookmarked for future ventures north.

Pictures: I'm working on pictures. I forgot my camera, but luckily Don brought his along. I already have a few on Flickr that I took with my iPhone, but more should be coming soon. Keep checking out Flickr.

It was a great weekend and get-away!

Fremont Josh & Me in Fremont

The "Big" City

Two notes before you begin this blog: (1) It's not in chronological order, (2) you might enjoy listening to this Cake song as you read - at least the beginning of the song seems fitting at parts because of the hipsterness of the area...Now onto the post:

Here I am sitting in a tiny, cute-as-a-button coffee house in Portland while Josh is hard at work (cool logo/branding too - makes me think of Scrubs ostriches). He's taking an ethics exam that's necessary for lawyers in a some states. Washington doesn't need it, but neighboring Oregon and also California do require it...really it's just in case dash who knows where we'll end up safety. So, while he is busy taking the exam, I'm out exploring.

Exploring is a favorite pastime of mine (aka roaming). I love walking around new areas and finding awesome places such as this coffee house on Alberta Street called Random Order. I ended up on Alberta Street, after roaming around the University of Portland (where Josh has the exam). I took a few shots of cherry blossom trees as well as some nice river views. It's a pretty school. At least, as cool and neat as schools go, but only 20 minutes of exploration is really necessary. Now we transition to...Alberta.

To be perfectly honest, I've been in this area previously. In other words, I'm not exploring a entirely new area. However, I didn't roam much last time and recalled thinking it was deserving of more exploration. For some background the last exploration, we basically were here just to eat and network. It was at a place called the Tin Shed and Josh and I met up with a gal I met through an Acxiom co-worker when I was pursing the Portland job market more vigorously (pre-Eugene living).

I'm excited by my return to Alberta Street. There is definitely one end of the street that the newer and more trendy, hippy. The other end was in more need of growth and stores. Since it was an absolutely beautiful day, I walked the length of the street . To my dismay, most stores don't open until 11am. Ehh, back to the nicer area and find a place to chill (or plop down, to say it in a fun way) for the remaining time. That brings us here, to this moment of me writing this blog in a free wi-fi coffee shop.

<<RING RING>> Josh just called and the exam is over! Blog to be continued...

Okay, now I'm back home in the evening to finish this off. Before I go on to the rest of the day with Josh, I'll mention Friday (note: today is Saturday). Friday after work and an appointment, Josh and I packed up and headed to Portland. We got into town and checked in to our hotel, Hotel Fifty. We got a great deal on Priceline and it was conveniently located downtown. The trip started off really great with a street parking spot right in front of the hotel - that means no paying for pricey hotel parking. Woot! We threw our stuff in the room (ok, we didn't literally throw, but you get the idea), and headed out for a stroll to uptown Pearl District for dinner. I was very hungry, so we opted on a tried and true favorite, Silk. We were not disappointed. It was a awesome meal of fish and curry. We even splurged on dessert of banana bread pudding with tapioca pudding....melted in our mouths. Tummies full, we strolled back to the hotel via Powells Book store. Josh did some final studying and I did random computer stuff.

Back to Saturday before the exam. We had to get up early - ugh, early on a non-work day (boo). Aren't I a dedicated fiancee? We got breakfast at North Star, which turned out to be quite good coffee. That was just a side note since I wanted to mention the breakfast place. Now, back on track. I picked up Josh after he called and we headed back to the awesome coffee shop for lunch. We enjoyed pot pie (Josh) and sandwich-salad combo (Heather). We strolled around the part of the area I didn't quite get to thoroughly. We also got tasty tea at Townshend - btw, we've tried it in Bend before and liked it immensely. So we strolled with our drinks on a sunny day. And if I like anything more than exploring, it's exploring with Josh with me! Heavenly day.

Oh, and that's not it. We drove back across the bridge to downtown and hit up the real mall experience and Pioneer Place. How I missed you mall! I got a free mini-facial (with product sales, of course) at Origins. Josh got a Mac Store "fix" and all we well in the world.

And I'm still going. We ended the fine day at YoCream. You CAN'T, I repeat CAN'T, go to Portland without a stop for decent, real froyo. I was a bit disappointed in flavors, but I still loved it.

After all this, we drove home and here I am. One complaint: I have to open the store tomorrow (aka wake up insanely, inhumanly early). But I I'm going to go watch some How I Met Your Mother and be happy.

Pictures to come soon, Here's some as a preview. Perhaps a video (thinking about it & whether my "old" computer can handle it). Perhaps Perhap. Oh, and in case it didn't make send, the song reference on top is because Alberta, and Portland in general, is hippy and it's a hipster type song.

Heather's Exploration Shadow Heather's Exploration Shadow

Re-Charging Our Batteries

Yes, super mini. I say super mini because we left Friday afternoon and returned Saturday evening from a little getaway up north. Josh received some Bed and Breakfast gift certificates (a combo birthday and xmas gift from my folks), so we decided to put them to good use and head out of town. The timing was perfect because I had two days off work in a row and it was the weekend before Josh's last semester begins.

After some debate early in the week - beach, mountains, vs. city and then exactly which B&B - we ended at the Camas Hotel which is a cute little Parisian-style boutique hotel located in Camas, WA. Camas is just over the Oregon border (that would mean Washington) and along the Columbia River Gorge about 20-30 minutes outside of Portland. We thought we'd get more bang for our buck out there and it'd be peaceful, quite, and quaint.

Josh took a week long, one unit Corporate Finance drafting course before the semester began that ended Friday. After his class, we high-tailed it out of Eugene up the 5. The rain was coming down in torrents so the driving was a bit tough (thanks Josh for taking over the wheel.

Finally, we arrived in Camas just in time for a nice little pizza dinner at Twilight (not related to the movie mind you). We wrapped up the night up with a martini and apple crisp at the recently opened restaurant next to our hotel, Harwood's restaurant.

Saturday morning we opted to get a bigger breakfast instead of the continental option at the B&B (which was sparse by 9am when I scoped it out in the dining area). We took a few steps down the road to a diner called Natalia's Cafe. The order? A Josh-like meal of hash browns and a Heather-like meal of egg whites and veggies scrambled. Not too shabby, and it was an adorable little diner to boot. Then we walked around for a bit since it wasn't pouring at the moment. The town did turn out to be quaint and cute, but pretty small. You can tell it's really trying hard to build up, but it's not quite there yet. There is a paper mill at the edge of town that has kept the area running over the years - a mill-town in other words.

Next up: Vancouver. That would be the closer Vancouver, the one in Washington as opposed to Canada. We walked the waterfront area, but it was pretty small. Nice condos and apartments though. After a quick walk on the water, we hopped in the car and found downtown. It was uber quiet - oddly quiet in fact - in the little downtown square we found. Our overall opinion of Vancouver: its a nice, quite place to live.

We then headed back over the bridge to the sales tax-free Oregon (always nice when eating out). We went to our favorite area, the Pearl District and walked around like we lived there. For example, we were giving people directions. Also, we hit up a few of our favorite shops, which of course means a stopat Oblations, "the scene of the proposal."

Eventually our tummies rumbled for some lunch so we jotted over to another favorite, Silk. I got a delicious curry with yams, eggplant, and chicken while Josh got a Vietnamese beef sandwich. We tacked on some tea to share since it was chilly. A perfect cold weather lunch. To top it off, Josh got a spicy mocha at Masterpiece.

Before heading back home, we did a Heather-must-feed-the-addiction stop at YoCream. I think I about died and went to heaven when I saw cookies 'n cream (my all-time favorite), Irish mint, and chocolate macadamia nut. Yummy in my tummy. Even though I wasn't incredibly hungry I ate a very large yogurt (dang that self-serve spout), but it was worth the pain...glorious.

A super great mini trip ended on the YoCream high and then back to Eugene. Need ed to get out out town..check. Good food...check. Spirit of Adventure...check. Relaxation...check. Recharge batteries...check. Well, you get the point, we checked off all our needs. This translates to...an excellent weekend!

As always, photos for your viewing pleasure on Flickr. The sneak peek picture below is along the Vancouver Waterfront.

Vancouver Waterfront Vancouver Waterfront

Party Hardy, Napa Style

AKA: Mom's 60th Birthday Napa Trip Extravaganza

I knew this weekend's trip to Napa to celebrate my mom's 60th birthday was not going to be a simple wine tasting affair the minute I received an email from my father. This email was a minute-to-minute itinerary of our trip with maps, reviews, and reservations - a 33 page document (and I'm not kidding). Usually this sort of itinerary is for our mega Europe trips and the itinerary is neatly organized into a white binder which we've all come to know as the bible. This was not in a white binder, but it was awful close especially considering we were gone for only 3 days.

It all began after my morning shift on Thursday. I dashed home, de-coffeed (I have to do this now b/c after work I smell like fresh brewed cup of coffee), and rushed to the Eugene Airport. I flew to Oakland with a stop-over in Portland. Actually, as I was waiting to take off on the Eugene to Portland segment, the flight attendant came up to me and asked if I worked at the Starbucks near the mall. Why yes I said. Well, they enjoyed a wonderful cup this morning from us. Too funny! I got good service on that portion of the trip. The rest of the trip went well, and I arrived to Oakland where I was picked up by Don & Sue Hartley and Pat Richardson. We all drove together to met up with the rest of the entourage already in Napa (or I should say, St Helena's). With us all there (albeit late in the evening), the celebrations began!

This celebration involved the gathering of family and friends (friends that are so close their family now really)--The Harleys, The Richardsons, The Troglers, and our little immediate O'Neill fam (we missed you Chicago fam!). The majority of us stayed together in a house that the Ink House B&B rents out for big parties like us, a place called the Carriage House. It's a very cute little B&B up in the St. Helena area.

But really the weekend was about two things: Mom/Jan and Wine. My mom was in high spirits the entire weekend (in fact, those of us in the B&B know from the singing from the shower) and the wine was plentiful. Now, I'm not a wine fanatic like some in the group, but we did taste some very fine wines. And how could we not? We visited practically all the wineries in the area, so we were bound to get some good ones. Here's the run down on the vineyards:

We toured almost at each winery, so now we are all highly educated in the Napa wines and vines. We all thought it funny, and very accurate, when I called my dad Teacher's Pet. He was in his element--walking ahead with the winery's tour guide, asking questions (edging on interrogation), and giving his input. A classic pose is displayed on my Flickr site (fyi-I created an album for this trip). My mom was just happy drinking the wine and enjoying the company.

To go with the wine, we had some very tasty food. The big birthday dinner was at Auberge Du Soleil, a fancy restaurant. shmancy were you get courses and such. The other delicious meal was at a Don Giovannis, a nice Italian restaurant. A other fun spots were Taylor's Refresher, Dean and Deluccas, and the Model Bakery. Yum!

I think this was the first time I've spent in Napa were I tasted the wine and found some were my usual "hum" (as in, it's ok) was like more of a ohh, hmm (as in, actually not bad & might drink 1/2 a glass). My favorite was Quixote with it's neat architecture. It reminded me of Sintra, Portugal and a castle there with lots of color and interesting shapes. Others said it reminded them of Barcelona and Gaudi.

The end of our trip was a half day in SF before our flights. We did a quick stop at the Ferry Building. Then we did a mini walk at the Land's End & Cliff House area, which was beautiful as ever. And as we headed back to Oakland, I made a pit stop at Yumi. Heather Returns! It was heaven again (I haven't hyped it up in my mind, it's still just that good).

Spottswood Winery Spottswood Winery

Coastal Cruisin'

Whenever I say mini trip, I think of Bridget Jones Diary. I'm a dork, but yes that is one of my favorite movies. Bridget says she's going "on a full-blown mini-break holiday weekend." It's cute (or at least I think so). Anyway, I bring this up because Josh and I took our own mini trip to the Oregon coast for his birthday - my gift to him.

We started out Thursday afternoon (he doesn't have school on Fridays and I didn't have work either). We hopped into the car (not a convertible like Bridget, but my reliable Honda) and headed out towards Florence. Florence is the closest beach city to Eugene. We went there in early September with my parents actually (check out that post). I made reservations at a little restaurant called the Waterfront Depot in Florence. We sat at a window seat which looked out onto the inlet. The restaurant was very quaint and was an old train station I believe. I was a bit upset when we first arrived and the hostess said we didn't have reservations and thought we were supposed to come the night before - whatever, I KNOW I made the reservations correctly and when she frantically flipped through the pages, I didn't see my name anywhere. Errr. But, we only had to wait 10 minutes or so and they squeezed us in at the originally requested window-side table. Whew! The food was good seafood fare and we enjoyed the dinner. I had crab encrusted halibut and Josh a seafood linguini.

With full bellies, we continued up the coast to our final destination for the evening, The Shamrock Lodgettes. These were little lodges that are right on the coast. Josh saw them featured in Sunset Magazine's Top 10 Romantic Cottages a while ago while looking up the Waimea Cottages in Kauai (I couldn't afford to take us there unfortunately). We got the Bay View lodge room which was pleasant and had a little wood stove fireplace inside which was cozy (and indeed has a bay view).

The next day we grabbed a muffin and latte at a tiny coffee shop (no Starbucks there) called the Village Bean. We then drove up the coast making random stops when we felt like it - Beachside State Park, Waldport Bridge viewpoint, Seal Rock. We ended the coastal cruising once we hit Newport. There, we popped over to the Rogue Brewery to check out the local Oregon brews. Josh bought an interesting one called Chipotle Ale (I say, "ehh" to beer, but than again he doesn't complain about some of my froyo creations). Also, we grabbed lunch at the same spot we did just about 2 years ago on the day after our engagement! It's a small seafood restaurant called Local Ocean Seafood.

Lastly, we cut inland from Newport over on the 20 (yes, I will and will always say "the" in front of highways) towards Corvallis. The drive inland was also gorgeous with all the fall colors. It also went alongside an old railway route. We pulled over for a stroll in Corvallis and to check out enemy grounds (that's Oregon State which rivals University of Oregon). The town was nice - reminded me a classic college town (that doesn't sound too descriptive, but not sure how else to describe it).

The 5 took us home to Eugene which thus ended our mini trip. We had a great time, and I've posted some pictures on Flickr (and just a few on FaceBook as well).

Window Reflection in Newport

Adventures in Oregonland

This past weekend was the Labor day weekend and my parents were in town visiting. And not just any visit, but the first visit to Oregon with me as an Oregonian in my new Shasta home with Josh. To help acquaint my parents, we planned some fun adventures around Oregon and hit up the local Eugene favorite spots.

  • Thursday: My parents arrived in the afternoon. First order of business was lunch. And what better place than the Beir Stein, a fun German pub-type restaurant. After our tummies were full, Mom and I abandoned dad at the hotel (btw, Josh at classes all day) and got our pedi's at the Pearl Day Spa...Ahh relaxing! To wrap up the day, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Belly.

  • Friday: Josh had to get some school work done, so I took my parents out to the Eugene Wineries. My dad was able to quiz the local wine makers on their knowledge of French wines and bottles (yup, the favorite one was asked: why the different bottle shapes). We started at Silveran Ridge then headed over to Sweet Cheeks (my favorite since it has a very sweet wine option). We rounded out the winery tour at King Estate for lunch. I think my wine-loving dad would say "not so bad" about Eugene wines...that translates to: success! To finish the day, we headed over to Red Agave, which Josh has wanted to try ever since coming to Eugene.

  • Saturday: A day of...rain! Well, the first part at least. I drove through the downpour to get us safely to Ashland where luckily the rain ended. Before arriving we made a pit-stop at Rogue Creamery to taste some blue cheeses. Not my favorite cheese (go goats), but for blue cheese not bad! Upon arriving to Ashland, my froyo radar went off. I found the ever-so-popular self-serve type froyo spot (dangerous stuff man, I tell ya). The Yogurt Hut is decent, but it ain't no Yumi Yogurt. But I'll take it! After some Heather indulgence, we roamed the cute town. The big event of the day though, was the play (Ashland is the Shakespeare "capital"). We opted for one of Shakespeare's lighter plays, Much Ado About Nothing. If you haven't seen the movie version, you should! Great play, no rain (outdoor theatre in true Old Globe style), and great company.

  • Sunday: We headed out of our Medford's lodging, and picked up breakfast and some shopping/walking in the cute historic downtown of Jacksonville. We saw art and llamas at the Sunday (no sarcastic talking llamas sadly - that would be a Emperors New Groove reference). Next we ventured into Applegate. Don and Nada's old home was looking great and peaceful as ever. We also tasted the local Southern wines at Woolridge and Schmidt. Then a leisure (late) lunch along the Rogue River. A quick stop for a shaved ice (ahhh Kauai days) at the Ice Shack in Grant's Pass and then the rest of the day was driving home (better weather of course with Josh behind the wheel).


Historic Jacksonville Historic Jacksonville

  • Monday: Let's go to the beach! Monday was a fun day in Florence, our closest beach town from Eugene. We walked along the water, grabbed lunch at the local fish restaurant, and then roamed the cute old town. The highlight for me, was the Heceta Lighthouse, just up the coast a few miles. We hiked the 1/2 mile up to the lighthouse for some spectacular views.


View from Heceta Light House View from Heceta Light House

Tuesday my parents were supposed to have a little morning time in Eugene, but unfortunately there was some flight issues (their later flight was delayed so they needed to grab an earlier flight to ensure their SF connection). So good-byes were quickly said, but the great weekend was remembered!

August: A Post-Mortem

Okay, so I really need to stop the Corporate lingo talk. Really, a post-mortem in the blog title Heather? I've always thought it sounds so morbid. I do think I'll keep the bullet point stuff though - that's a real keeper.

Anyway, this is really just a quick look back at August. I didn't have the blog rolling in August, so I'm going to do one big update for the month. From this point on, I'm going to attempt to keep the blog updated with frequent updates, so avoid the massive entires/emails. You can already see some posts now in fact.

August was a busy month, I was traveling around or visiting with friends and family each weekend. Here we go (this is a long one folks, hang in there)...

Caroline and Gerald Visit - Part 1
The first weekend of August, Josh and I hopped into a plane and flew up to Seattle, WA. We arrived Thursday night in time for a nice dinner at a little fish restaurant in downtown's Belltown called the Flying Fish. Our arrival also was timely in that it was the end of the record-breaking heat wave in Seattle (actually, we got to experience that in our own home in Eugene).

Friday we roamed all over the city exploring the many districts and sites. Our favorite spot being Pike's Marketplace with the hustle and bustle of the different stands and fish throwing. We also got to visit Josh's family friends, Vince and Jonita. They live in the heart of the city and have a spectacular view of the city and Space Needle. But at last, in the evening, the main point of the trip arrived...Caroline and Gerald (fyi-Caroline is my best friend from Germany). After a fun dinner near Pike's Market, we headed up to the Space Needle for a sunset view of the city. Did I use the word spectacular already? Dangit! Well, it was, in fact, a spectacular view. We took this Monorail out to the needle which was a blast as well (which also made me feel like I was at Disneyland).

Seattle's Pikes Market Seattle's Pikes Market

Saturday we spent some more time at Pike's Market in the morning, but then headed out to Vancouver. Caroline and Gerald drove, so we got to see the beautiful countryside on the way up (song of the trip: Fireflies). We even made a stop at the Seattle Premium Outlets, where we hit up some great deals. We arrived Vancouver in the evening and grabbed some grub in Yaletown and consumed some of my favorite cuisine, Thai food.

Sunday we had a introduction to Vancouver (at least, that's what the guide book said) at Canada Place. It was really just a cruise terminal, but it was neat to see the big ships in the harbor as well as watch the sea planes taking off and landing nearby. Then we hopped back in the car and headed into nature. We opted for Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge over Capilano (which is the more popular tourist spot and costs money, Lynn is free). The bridge was a rickety wood and wire bridge that goes over a deep gorge and river. Luckily no need to drop to hands and knees and crawl though. Then to beat the heat, we headed to the Museum of Anthropology and saw all the Native American totem poles and artwork. To round up the day, we went to the Granville Island where there was yet another marketplace (what's up with the Pacific NW and marketplaces? at least I like them!).

Monday Caroline and Gerald headed out to Victoria while Josh and I stayed in Vancouver (we met up the following weekend, but Josh and I had to go head home for work/school). I'm surprised I still have feet after all the walking we did Monday. We practically walked the entire city! For instance, we walked from our hotel to Stanley Park where we then took a walk - a walk to go take a walk, go figure.

Caroline and Gerald Visit - Part 2
After a great weekend in Seattle & Vancouver, we headed home for a few days of work/school. Then more fun the following weekend. We meet up with Caroline and Gerald on the tail end of their trip in Portland. The highlight was the pedicure with Caroline along the Portland riverwalk area. Girl talk time! And also some froyo at the Portland frozen yogurt find, Active Culture.

Girl Pedi Time in Portland Girl Pedi Time in Portland

Irene in Portland
The next weekend, which was the middle of August, my good friend Irene from Holland come out to Portland. We varied up the Portland activities by trying out some new spots. We got a great view of the city and some history mixed in too at the Pittock Mansion. We also headed outside of town to the Columbia Gorge where the Hood River runs. Along the gorge, you hit waterfall after waterfall. The most famous waterfall being Multonomah Falls. This, as well as a cute Inn we stopped at, was made even more popular by the Twilight movie (it's perfect Vampire scenery if you ask me. I fit well since I don't tan and always have cold feet and hands...hmm). If you keep driving, you hit a totally different type of area, The Dalles. It's basically high mountain desert area and incredibly windy. This day was probably the highlight (besides seeing Irene of course!). We also tried out the Aerial Tram for some awesome views of Portland, and of course a stop at YoCream near PDX (whoops, drool on the computer there). By the way, there are 2 froyo spots in PDX in case you're wondering (froyo radar still going strong!).

Multnomah Falls with Irene Multnomah Falls with Irene

Sacramento Wedding
Getting tired yet? Well, Josh and I were certainly tired of all the traveling, but onward to more fun! And we wouldn't have missed this for the world; our good, college friend, Andrew Deller was getting married. Josh was a groomsman in the wedding and it was a very lovely ceremony and reception. Good times!

Browns in Town
After the wedding, Josh's parents happened to be heading through town on their way home to Palm Desert from Seattle. We spent a wonderful day with his parents around Eugene. We hit up some great shopping at Costco, Borders, and HomeGoods. And we introduced Don and Nada to our favorite, funky pizza joint called Pizza Research Institute (PRI) - if only it had meat, then it'd be perfect.

Well, that closes up the big month of August. My parents were the next and last visitors for us. There is a separate entry for that visit. If you want some more pictures, go to Flickr or FaceBook.