Monday, May 19, 2014

Oregon adventures: last one, I promise

On our last full day in Oregon, we wanted to enjoy more of the city.  We ventured down to Old Town to try out Voodoo Doughnuts and also catch the Saturday Market.

We were blown away by the trees that were in full bloom along the walkway.  It was a busy space with people out walking, running and biking along the path and later, the photographers came out in full force.

I loved the color and the contrast between the natural and the industrial, man-made elements.

I had wanted a photo of the iconic Portland sign with the deer.
It was beautiful at every turn.
I was also celebrating the blue sky and no rain.  We were lucky to have very little of our trip impacted by rain.
We, of course, were super early to the Saturday Market, a street fair that includes vendors with all kinds of art and items.  We decided to go back to a bar we saw a couple of blocks away and watch some basketball while we waited for more vendors to open.  In the process, we discovered the bar had Scottish eggs on the menu.  It was something we had never tried, but ended up taking a chance and really liking them.
After we shopped the Saturday market and walked around some more, we went back to Chinatown. 
We happened on this cute little store with this modified bike parked out front.  First, when did we stop using the word haberdashery and why?  That's a great word!  Second, I wanted to buy everything in the store.  They carried design supplies and these amazing handmade carpenter's aprons.  I wanted an apron so bad for no reason other than they were a rustic type of beautiful and still felt functional.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Plant geek: Oregon adventures continued, Portland Japanese Garden

A stop on this year's trip to Portland was the Japanese Garden.  We missed it the last time we visited and it had been on our wishlist.

We hoped for good weather for the day we had planned to visit and while it was cool, the sun was shining and we had a pretty clear day.

We started by touring the Rose Garden.  It was so early in the growing season that there was little blooming in the way of roses.  Yet, the views were pretty amazing and we liked seeing the layout of the garden.

We then ventured up, and by up, I mean up hill on this gorgeous winding path to the entrance to the Japanese Garden.  It was beautiful and serene.

The property consisted of five "rooms" or styles of gardens.  We took our time and walked around.

This garden was one of my favorite stops.  I loved the form and the beautiful blossoms.

Then, you walked around a corner and saw this view to remind you that you were still in the city, yet you felt so removed and protected.
 There were plants in bloom!  I loved seeing the color after a winter that seemed to last forever.
This was one of my favorite blooms - perfect and delicate.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Oregon adventures continued: McMinnville

Yes, we are still sorting through photos from this spring, including our spring break getaway to Oregon.  I keep telling myself to move on to other blog topics, but there are so many great memories and things to share about our finds from that trip.

Near the top of the list was McMinnville, Oregon.  My favorite "small world moment" from this year happened at Community Plate in historic downtown McMinnville.

First, you should know that I love this place for a thousand reasons.  I won't name them all, but here are a has an open kitchen and I am insanely curious about how food is prepared and am fascinated in thinking about how so much food is prepared so quickly.  The space is this cool, historic building with open storage and vintage decor.  Check out their website to get a feel for it.  The seating is a mix of large community-style seating and some smaller tables, too. 

Now, the small world moment.  We were ordering and the person at the counter asked if my Wildcats shirt was for Northwestern.  And, I said no, it was for K-State where I went to school and work.  He's says that he went to school there, too.  So, naturally, I geek out...trying to do so quickly because of the line behind us.  I ask him where he grew up and he says he went to high school in the same county where I grew up.  Get out!  He's much younger than me, so we didn't know anyone in common, but what are the odds that on the other side of the country, I would meet someone from my same home county.

Other than the chance meeting, you should also know the food was out of this world.  We also bought some granola to take home with us and it was fantastic, too.  Super huge fans of locally owned, great food making, community supporting, and kind people sort of places - this place had it all.  It had a similar vibe to Biscuithead in Asheville, another of our favorite places.

We stayed at Hotel Oregon, a McMenamins' property. You might remember that we want to be the McMenamins when we grow up - the two brothers that renovate historic properties and turn them into great places that honor the past and create a place where people can dine or stay and just enjoy themselves.  This was a great stop. The bar downstairs had awesome food and enough tv's to get our March Madness fix.  We skipped the rooftop bar because it was kind of chilly.

Our room was pretty spectacular.
Price wise, it was comparable to what we would have paid at a mid-tier chain hotel, but this place had tons of character.  The walls had quotes and notes about the history of the property and the bed was really beautiful.  I loved the old sink in our room and all of the character throughout.

We really want to return to get the full experience of the town.  We were there midweek and kind of "off season," so many places were closed.  And, we are freakishly early risers, even on vacation and factor in the time difference and we were always up at the crack of dawn.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Jam pan!

 Earlier this week, I was super excited to see that I had a delivery at the house.  We were about to leave for a short run, but I insisted on opening the box first.

My husband was curious about what I had ordered and I was building it up and telling him how happy I was that "it" had finally arrived.  So, when I opened the box, he responded with an unimpressed, "What is that!?"  And, I yelled back that it was a jam pan!

He then teased me for the entire two mile run about being excited for a jam pan. We also decided that it sounded like some weak attempt for a hip name for an outdoor music festival. "Jam Pan." 

 I kept telling him about all of the great features - the pour spout, measuring lines inside of the pan, the non-reactive surface, the size, how it heats evenly, etc.  I also told him about the great sale price and free shipping!  I am not sure he is nearly as excited, but I am sure I can win him over if I can actually make something with it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Oregon adventures continued: Voodoo Doughnuts

We approached our trip to Oregon like every trip we plan, with strategy!  We start by talking about all of the "must see or must do" items on our list.  Then, we talk about the things that might work into our plan. Then, we leave somethings open to chance.  I am much better at the planning and less comfortable with the "by chance" idea.  There are some non-negotiables in this area - like choosing a hotel.  I always need to know where I am staying that night.

So, we were both doing our research and my husband reminded me that we had to go to Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland.  We had watch something on them on the Food Network and decided it was a "must see." 

We learned that they had a few locations and the Old Town location (near Chinatown) was right next to the Saturday, Market, another item on my "must do" list.

We took out walking early in the morning because we get up freakishly early on vacation.  Add the time difference and the time change happening while we were traveling and we could have been there early enough to help them make the doughnuts!  The plus to all of this, no lines!
 I loved the funky little joint with the pink boxes and the rotating case of donuts.  I tried the Bacon Maple Bar and loved it.  (It was kind of like the Maple Bacon Bar at Varsity Donuts.  I think in a competition, I would give the edge to our hometown favorite - Varsity. The difference, the bacon.  Plus, I like that Varsity uses donuts instead of doughnuts.  Is that a regional thing?)
We enjoyed sitting outside on the picnic tables, just eating donuts and watching people.  We saw some colorful people!

Plant geek: What do you do with an afternoon off?

 The weather for the past week has been spectacular in Kansas. It is so rare for us to have temperatures this cool in May.  We are also experiencing low humidity which is simply a miracle.

The spring weather also has me anxious to do some serious house cleaning and to work on the garden and flower beds.  We have a pretty good start on the garden and last Sunday was one of those all day cleaning days.  There is still so much to do!

I had been thinking through my schedule and discovered an afternoon with no appointments.  I went ahead and decided to take some vacation leave and see what I could accomplish.

It happened that the weather was super - sunshine and a cool breeze.  The blue sky and white clouds were stunning.

My first order of business was weeding in the garden.  Weeding isn't necessarily fun, but with a beautiful view and great weather, it's not so bad.
 I enjoyed seeing what was growing and loved thinking about the possibilities ahead.  Our potato plants have the tiniest of buds.  (I am a huge fan of these little flowers.)
 I was also glad to see that our rabbit prevention system worked for our broccoli.  Our broccoli plants were rabbit food until we put up this crazy contraption.
 My weeding continued to a couple of flower beds around the yard.  The clematis was blooming!  And, I am sorry that I didn't give it some attention earlier because a lot of the growth was trailing on the ground instead of around the support of the old school bell.
 One of my favorite sights in both leaving the house in the morning and coming home at night is the violas by our cellar door and the pansies by the front door.
 This deep purple clematis is near our garage.  It's never had better blooms.
 The irises are blooming in this amazing rotation - first, the white flowers and then it's just this chorus to different colored blooms.
 And, the columbine is beautiful again.  This color is "old fashioned" to me.  It makes me think of my grandma and how much she would have liked these blooms.

So, on an afternoon off, a plant geek works a little and geeks out over whatever is blooming at the moment. I am also saying many prayers of thanks for the blessing of beautiful weather.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spring adventures: Oregon natural wonders

 We wanted to share a few images from our trip to Oregon.  I fell in love with this place when I visited as a college student and we visited as a couple around seven years ago.  The beauty of this state and the kind people just swept us away. We had hoped to plan a return trip and made it work this March.

Here are some of our favorite natural wonders we enjoyed along the way.

Crown Point and the Vista House is one of those iconic stops along the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway.  The view from the vista is really beautiful.  On this trip, we were able to tour the Vista House and go to the observation deck for the best view.
 No photo can do justice to the vibrant yellow-green lichen (if that is the right word?  Biologist friends, what is the right term?) on the side of the waterfall.  This was a large waterfall, but not the largest or most famous.  We still loved the short hike to the fall and back.
 Along the highway, there are so many great places to stop.  These stone bridges are all along the roads and trails and they usually have a mossy covering.  I loved this one with the moss and ferns adding so much character.
 This is the famous Multnomah Falls.  I visited this spot in college and called my now husband (then boyfriend) to rave about the beauty and power of this place.  It was so special to visit here with him a few years ago and to come back again.

This time around, we learned that the bridge over the falls was closed because the bridge crumbled.  If you look in the photo, you will see on the right side of the bridge that there is a break and some fence is closing off each side.  We felt lucky that we had hiked to the top and also over the bridge during our last visit.
And, Mount Hood from a distance.  We left Hood River on our way to a lilac farm - which ended up being a bust because it was too early in the spring and it wasn't yet open for visitors - and had this great view.

 The beaches are so cool.  I love that you have so much variation across the landscape.  While the day was windy and cool, we still loved walking along the beach and hearing the sound of the ocean.
Beautiful views and an awesome mist in the air to make it magical.  We loved the drive along the coast because of the beautiful views all along the way.