Packing for a Cruise and All that Nonsense

Formal nights, really?  You’re killing me Celebrity.  So, it’s true.  We’re headed out on a bucket list kind of adventure.  An 11-night Mediterranean cruise with two of our most favorite people on earth – Maylene’s parents.

Exciting, right?  And stressful!  Boy – is it ever stressful!  When you pack for a cruise, not only are you packing for regular touring like you normally would when you’re traveling but you also have to pack for all the fun in the water you’ll be having on the ship plus hopefully a yoga class / early morning jog to keep off the buffet food.  Then there’s the need to dress for dinner.  That’s right – dress for dinner.  What’s a girl to do??

In addition to the nine other dressy nights, there are TWO – count ’em two formal nights on this cruise and when they say formal, they pretty much mean it as far as I can tell – but I’ll report back more on that later.  Complicating the packing requirements are the need to remain lightly burdened for maximum touring post-cruise for ten more days.

A lot of careful consideration later and I decided that I simply cannot be confined to a single backpack for the entire month-long multi-climate adventure.  Instead, I packed my five pairs of shoes plus two formal dresses, five cute evening numbers, five dinner blouses, four touring shirts, five touring pants/skirts, four scarves, four bras, five underwear, leggings/hose, three swimsuits, electronic devices, journal, travel pillow, makeup, cosmetics, and all the other random requirements into two carry-on bags.  And really, I’m just guessing here since I haven’t counted and at this point can’t bring myself to unpack to get the count accurate – I’m sure we can all agree that I have brought a ton of options.  Okay – maybe just 75 pounds.

ebag MotherlodeOne container I’m using is a small, 22″ rolling suitcase from Swiss Army that I’ve had for years and while I still think I have a chance of getting it on the plane as a carry-on with the larger backpack — it will instead be checked for the long flight to Rome with layover in Amsterdam.  I’ll use my tried and true Deuter collapsible day bag as another carry-on backpack for the flight over.  This will help distribute some of the weight from my larger ebags Motherlode Weekender TLS backpack making airport navigation easier.

I have to say though, I have been very impressed with the amount of space in the Motherlode and the great pockets and organizing options available.  I would highly recommend that bag for a discrete, compact backpack – which would normally be all I would need for normal touring but then they mentioned formal night.  And all logic went out the window for me.  I managed to keep it fairly contained but am still traveling with twice as much as I usually have.

I’ll report back later on whether or not it was worth having all those cute outfits or if a lighter load would have been a smarter option.  All in the name of fashion! 😉

Adventures in Vivianne

Admittedly, buying our house has limited our travel of late, but it certainly hasn’t squelched our adventures both grand and not-so-grand!  One of the things we’ve been excited about lately is prepping our flower beds for the warm summer ahead.  We’ve been carefully trimming back the Northwest native plants while laying slaughter to the invaders – one after another they meet their match — the uncompromising bulb smasher Maylene.  This has left us with a lot of empty beds and grand plans for restructuring the yard that won’t take shape for some time.  In the PNW, we call that time for mulch!

As small business owners, we recognize we have ultimate control over our schedule.  That’s why today, when the first item that popped up on Craigslist in the FREE section when Maylene checked at noon was for cedar wood chips — we jumped at the chance to grab them, knowing we had to scoop all the other Craigslist lurkers or our booty would be gone!

Throwing on a “play” shirt, old jeans, and slippers for good measure, we jumped in the car and headed as fast as we could to Inner NE to scoop the pile of wood chips – giving only secondary consideration as to how we would get it home — the most important thought was to get there first!

Pulling up to the address we were so excited to find that our mid-day adventure had paid off with at least a yard worth of beautiful, free wood chips.  That’s when we realized there was no other way to get the chips home than in the back of our Pontiac Vibe, Vivianne.  Don’t get me wrong, she is an amazing little car and she’s held a lot of things over the few years we’ve had her, but I just hadn’t seen filling her like a dump truck as an option.

Vivianne, our Vibe was named after an inspirational friend — a solo world traveler, Vivianne was the perfect name for our Vibe.  And we’ve grown to quickly love her – both the namesake and the car (fully folding back seats are now a requirement).

Yes - we moved cedar chips in our Pontiac Vibe

Yes – we moved cedar chips in our Pontiac Vibe

Endearingly known as our mini-SUV or best pick-up truck ever, we move everything in Vivianne.  Recent accomplishments include a loveseat and on a separate trip requiring off-road galavanting through the forest down dead-end gravel roads on the hunt for a 60 year-old beauty — a full-on chest of drawers and matching nightstand.

Loading Vivianne with a snow shovel

Loading Vivianne with a snow shovel


But none of those adventures could out-do the beauty of a car-load full of wood chips.  Seeing them being shoveled in by an as-yet unused snow shovel made me giggle.

So I’ve decided we must document all of the marvelous wonders we find on Craigslist and shuttle home in our best-little-car-ever, Vivianne!

Just in case you’re wondering, we did manage to get all the chips in the car and home safely – unloaded and placed throughout several cleared beds – ’cause Vivianne’s awesome!

So You Wanna Visit Portland, Huh…?

The Usually-Updated List of Stuff to Do and Places to Eat

Now that we’ve been in Portland for three years and bought a house (!), it’s obvious we’re pretty serious about this town. When friends and family ask about our newly-adopted city, we gush about its people, culture, and vibe.

Now that we’re getting more visitors through AirBnB, we thought we’d put together a list of stuff we like here with links to the place/business or our Tripadvisor/Yelp reviews, when available.

This is by no means comprehensive. We’re still discovering new spots all the time and will update the list when we can, so check back for updates.
[Last update: 25 March 2013]


Driving Tips

  • There are a lot of bridges
  • Chances are, you are going to get lost
  • Relax and take your time. Portland drivers are slow, so you might as well go with the flow
  • We have an awesome public transportation system. In fact, it was a huge factor in our moving here in the first place. Why not take the bus or light rail? An all day pass is just $5.

Back to the Overview


Kale – Do you like curry? Have you had Japanese curry? Either way, if it’s not Sunday, you need to go here. Hands down, my favorite curry anywhere.  #Tip: try the Original Doria and thank us later.
Bread & Ink Cafe – The best ketchup in the world, I think it’s made with love or something.  And ridonkulous Chicken ‘n Waffles, probably because the waffle is from the Waffle Window next door.
Voodoo Donuts – The almost obligatory gut bomb when visiting the city. My favorite: the gay bar. Do yourself a favor and skip the downtown location if there’s a line around the corner and go across the river to Voodoo Too. Usually has a much shorter line and the same donuts.  Just saying.
Sesame Donuts – If you’re ever in Tigard and the Beaverton area, Sesame Donuts has really much better donuts than its more infamous pagan competition. Family-run and reasonably-priced, you won’t find pastries with shock value but usually perfectly made Goodness – lightly crispy outside, soft chewy inside.
Burgerville – Sustainable fast food with a local focus.  If you must have a burger quickly, this is a good place to get it done. The Timber Joey Smoothie tastes just as good as a regular shake with 0 fat and a fraction of the calories. And the sauce in the original burgers reminds me of Byrons back home in Hawai`i.
Miho – Japanese bar food with a twist.  Affordable, tasty small plates of food, including a vegan spam musubi.  Whaaa???
Taqueria Portland – Some of the best Mexican food I’ve found anywhere in town.
Original Pancake House – Yeah, this is a chain, but the original original pancake house is here in Portland.  Bring cash or check. No cards, sorry (made that mistake once or twice)
East Side Deli – The sandwich place we can both agree on, satisfying both vegetarians and meat eaters alike with its HUGE sandwiches.
Southern Belles – Our favorite food cart in North Portlands serves the yummiest burgers and sandwiches.

Back to the Overview


There are so many cool, funky places to have a drink, you really can’t go wrong. Try random places around town for variety, or go to your favorite neighborhood and just pick a bar. Distilleries, microbreweries, wineries — this town has it all.

The Green Dragon – If you’re into beer, chances are, you’ll find something to love at this laid back pub.
Plews Brews – When visiting St. Johns, be sure to stop in and have a beer at Plews Brews. The drinks are cheap and yummy, Bob Marley posters adorn the wall, and interesting characters are often afoot.
=Pick a neighborhood dive=
=Pick a brewery, distillery, winery=

Back to the Overview


Ground Kontrol – Old school arcade that is 21 and over after 5pm.  So that they can serve you drinks with your Frogger or Star Trek TNG pinball, complete with drink holders on the side of the machine.  For $5 on Wednesday, play all you like for free.
Wunderland – I didn’t know this was a chain.  I’ve only been to the Avalon location and had a lot of fun playing ridiculous ticket games (Skeeeeeeee!) for cheap plastic crap.
Timbers – If you can score tickets, this is an absolutely fabulous time to spend with friends or family.  #Tip, take the Max to the park, if you can; if you insist on driving, park at the Smart Park at 10th and Yamhill and walk to the park.  Really.  Trust us.
Forest Park – If you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll probably love a hike or run in this park.  Featured in the Grimm a lot, if you’re into that show. 😉
St. John’s Bridge – I hadn’t realized how iconic this suspension bridge was until I lived in the neighborhood.  Then, I noticed that many Portland businesses use this bridge in their marketing materials.  Probably because it’s pretty darn beautiful, its Gothic Towers framing the sky and/or trees beyond (depending on which way you’re facing).  Why not walk across or visit Cathedral Park below it?  Also featured on Grimm. 🙂
OMSI – the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry always has something fun and interesting going on whether in the exhibition area or at the Imax.  Go geek out!

Back to the Overview


Drive Old Hwy 30, Waterfalls route – Best on a warm spring or summer day. Drive the old highway and hike the waterfalls along the way. Magnificent.
St John’s Cinema – Inexpensive first-run movies + cheap food + optional alcoholic beverages = an awesome movie experience.  Oh yeah, and I heard there’s a ghost.
Powell’s Books – One of the greatest book stores ever.  Go get lost. ‘Nuff said.
Willamette Valley – Beauty and lots of wineries
Lan Su Chinese Garden – An unexpected respite right in the middle of town
Washington Park – This place is huge and encompasses the Oregon Zoo, Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and miles of trails through nature.
Oregon Zoo – Better if you have kids
Portland Japanese Garden – Everything you expect from a Japanese garden
Hoyt Arboretum – Beautiful park right in the city

Back to the Overview

Portlanders, what did I miss? Admittedly, I don’t get out much, so if I’m missing your favorite haunt, post a comment below.

Keep St. Johns Weird-er

Since we moved out of the hustle and bustle of downtown to the ‘burbs of Portland and squarely into the quirky neighborhood known as St. Johns – named for a hermit who first settled the Peninsula.  It is said that he was a quiet, saintly man — and also that he didn’t frequent the local brothel — earning him the nickname Saint John.

One of the mottos that any visitor or newcomer to Portland hears over and over is “Keep Portland Weird”.

yep…it’s weird alright.

Portlanders are very proud of their city’s reputation for eccentricity and declare the statement broadly on entire building walls.   This propensity for odd behavior manifests itself in the behavior of its citizens.  It’s like we have all decided to flow through life listening to our own beat and expect you to do the same.

There’s just something about this town that’s so wrong in all the right ways.  Never fear Portland — you are in no danger of losing your bell-ringing weird status!

The funny thing is that if Portland is weird — St. Johns has to be the bacon dripped salaciously over the majestic maple delight donut of weird.  Thank you Voodoo.

You see — St. Johns has just a little something something — extra-especially weird.  It’s hard to describe.  An odd blending of old, new, down-on-your-luck, newly made middle class, and re-gentrification mish-mashed together and centered around a downtown core of tiny Mom and Pops and ubiquitous dive bars.

Just like a nice breakfast blend on a foggy morning, all the flavors of St. Johns come together nicely — creating a sum total greater (and weirder) than each individual.  So I guess the St. Johns’ rallying cry should be “Keep St. Johns Weird-er”!

A Cry from the Middle Class

Our favorite Burlingame political activist has been at it again with eye-catching commentary on life in these United States.  Strategically placed exactly opposite a popular freeway exit in Portland’s high-priced West Hills neighborhood, this graffiti takes direct aim at the squeezing of the middle class in America.

Unfortunately the artist believes the concept and truth of “middle class” has already been lost.  I choose to remain optimistic that we’ll be able to turn things around!  After all, Hope is my middle name! 😉


Smart Street Art

While Portland has its fair share of random, non-sensical let-me-mark-my-territory-arr-arr-arr graffiti, it also has a wide variety of thoughtful street art too.  In the Burlingame neighborhood of Portland recently, it seems one artist has been trying to force commuters to think critically about the world around them.

The first bit of brown spray paint that caught our eye was on a concrete retaining wall just off of Barbur Blvd in bold 12″ letters.  I like the way the artist ended the statement.  With a period.  Definitive.  The statement just IS — there is no sense in arguing.  Period.our future got outsourced.


Since moving to Portland, we have come to slowly … well … adore it.  It has a character and a natural rhythm about it that echoes, challenges, and reflects our own sensibilities.  We connect with the city – for better or for worse.

We currently live in a high-rise apartment in downtown Portland, near the PSU campus.  One of the main routes we have to the SE section of the city is over the Hawthorne bridge.  Every time I go over I do as I am told.

Headed away from the city, I SMILE.

Toward the city, I LAUGH!

Why?  Why not? =D

Free Night at Portland Art Museum

Like this blog, I had been avoiding the Portland Art Museum since our return from Europe.  Perhaps I had art museum fatigue.  And summer was coming.  And the current exhibits weren’t very interesting.  And also, it costs 12 bucks to get in.  So, being the cheapskates, ahem, “conscious consumers” we are, we got the scoops on the free night each month (currently the 4th Friday)… and promptly forgot about it for months.  I know, terrible.

Modern Art

Photo by CafeMama

I recently happened upon an article about photographer Catherine Opie having an exhibit at the art museum, and we only had one free night left to see it.  Oh, it was on like Donkey Kong.

Parking sucks anywhere downtown, so we usually just leave the car home and walk or take the streetcar.  The streetcar has an Art Museum stop, so duh.  Awesomeness.  And free.  Awesomer-ness.

The museum is free from 5pm to 8pm, and they make checking in pretty painless.  Hand stamp, free bag/coat check, and off you go.  I didn’t learn until later that you could rent an iPod Touch to enhance your museum experience, or download their (of course) iPhone/iPod Touch app to do the same.  Sweet.

The museum is divided into two buildings– one side for the contemporary art and the other for everything else– connected by a cool underground tunnel (ok, ok, so I happen to think tunnels are inherently cool; am I alone here, people??).  The exhibit we wanted to see was on the contemporary side, and since we tend to take forever when touring anything with placards… well, we decided to concentrate Friday evening’s explorations on just that one side of the museum.

Because it was Free Night, it was crowded.  Singles, couples, families, cliques, guide dogs– everyone having a night on the town, getting their culture on.

Since the Opie exhibit was on the top floor, we thought we’d be smart and take the elevator up and work our way down.  Yeah.  Didn’t count on that elevator being really, really slow.  Or the crowds of equally capable folks stepping smartly up the steps.  Or that dude rollin’ up in his wheelchair, separated from his friends stepping smartly up the steps because of his wheelchair.  I love gentle reminders.

The climb to the top took less than five minutes.

Catherine Opie

Catherine Opie

So after all that, the exhibit, while interesting, was very… abbreviated.  Opie is a great photographer; I would have loved to have seen more of her work.

Like any museum, the rest of the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art was a hodgepodge of love-it-or-hate-it pieces.  There was the usual collection of splash-paint-on-canvas crud mixed in with solid blocks of color with highfalutin’ names.  Lots of diamonds in the rough, though, which always make a museum visit worth it.

If you happened to follow our European tour of world-class museums, you may have been interested in seeing the great works yourself.  Now, you don’t need a plane ticket or even museum admission to see the good stuff.  Enter Google Art Project.  For those familiar with Google Street View, you can now tour a long list of awesome museums from the comfort of your own browser.  From Florence’s Uffizzi to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), there’s plenty to see and admire… without the stern security staff.

What a Marvel…

In preparing for our European adventure, we put one city on and took them off the list several times – unsure if we should visit or not.  It is Spain’s 3rd largest city and not one of Rick Steve’s Best of Europe.  We did, however, enjoy Samantha Brown’s episode describing the amazing aquarium and science museum and the fantastic paella to be had there, so we headed to Valencia after visiting Barcelona.  We stayed in a really great, modern studio apartment just outside the city center but accessible to everything via bus.   We took two days exploring the city and checking out the sites and then headed for our big day at the museum.

The aquarium was really well done and basically deserted when we went so we had plenty of time to check out the animals.  We marveled at a fish we had never seen before swearing it looked like it was half-eaten and missing parts but really cool in that – I can’t look away from it’s grotesque but really intriguing body – kind of ways.

Sunfish - looks kind of like a huge clam...

Sunfish - looks kind of like a huge clam...

We saw some really cool exhibits and liked the way they did the tunnels overhead – the jellyfish – and the dolphin show.

cool fishies pic in one of the tunnels

cool fishies pic in one of the tunnels

cool medusas (as they call them in Italy where we swam with them - yipes!)

cool medusas (as they call them in Italy where we swam with them - yipes!)

I know, not sure how I feel about this one but at least the dolphins looked engaged and like they were having a good time...and yes, Maylene's camera operating skills are mad to be able to catch them in mid-air.  I swore I couldn't do it, so she took over and showed me! ;-)

I know, not sure how I feel about this one but at least the dolphins looked engaged and like they were having a good time...and yes, Maylene's camera operating skills are mad to be able to catch them in mid-air. I swore I couldn't do it, so she took over and showed me! 😉

Next, we were off to the science museum with high expectations after the really pretty well-done and very modern aquarium.  We were definitely not disappointed by the architecture or enormous size of the facility.

exterior of the science museum

exterior of the science museum

It was definitely spacious and perhaps, maybe even a bit too large because it didn’t seem like they really had a handle on the exhibits.  There were a few hands-on, interactive ones that would work especially well for kids.  We couldn’t help cracking up though over the largest exhibit of all – the Marvel Comics one.  It was cool but basically a big advertisement for the comics and many of the displays were broken.  Bummer – decent effort but maybe a little more in the delivery!  Unfortunately we didn’t even make it to the ono paella – we were too excited by our in-house kitchen and the prospect of cooking our own food to eat out.  The paella had to wait.

our wonderful, modern kitchen

our wonderful, modern kitchen

Poh-ta-gee Revenge!!

So in a way very much like Montezuma’s Revenge wreaks havoc on the poor, innocent traveler to Mexico, Maylene and I have fallen wickedly prey to da Poh-ta-gee Revenge in Portugal.  We have both been stricken by food poisoning (we think).  I had it for five days and Maylene is now on day 3.  I think the worst is over for me but hers just keeps progressing.  It’s kind of crazy.  Tons of pain and lots of mad dash races to the bathroom!

where we spent most of our time...

where we spent most of our time...

Couple that with the fact that we had no internet access in our rooms – that we had to use the lobby – and we’ve fallen dreadfully behind in our posts.  We hope to catch-up over the next few weeks, so please bear with us.  And while you’re at it, send nice healing thoughts to Maylene – I know they’ll help her feel better.

***Update*** – we are definitely both better and yes, Maylene’s symptoms lasted for five whole days as well.  Yuck!