Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Walk on the Wildflower Side: Memaloose OR

A friend suggested we take a walk amongst the wildflowers at Memaloose State Park in Mosier, Oregon, just east of Hood River. So on that sunny day – after a particularly long, harsh and wet winter – we headed into the Columbia River Gorge.

A very helpful and current blog post by hiker and travel writer Paul Gerald (complete with photos and video) helped steer us to the right spot, and pointed out several things worth noting – including where to start and parking suggestions. (Always helpful if you’re hiking someplace for the first time.)

After a healthy frolic amongst the balsamroot and green rolling hills, we returned to the car, crossed the Columbia River via the Hood River Bridge, and topped off our hike with a visit to two excellent Washington State wineries: COR Cellars and Syncline Wine Cellars.

By our second glass of wine in the sun, winter was starting to feel more like a distant memory than a daily reality.

Mission accomplished.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Different Kind of Mocha: Portland OR

Yeah, yeah…I know what you're thinking. Another aerial photo of a cute coffee drink. But you know what? This one is different. This is a Soviet Mocha from Jim and Patty’s, the beloved coffee and pastry shop located in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. What makes it Soviet is that underneath all that whipped cream is a mocha infused with a dollop of sour cream. Delicious!

So just give yourself permission to forego that anemic skinny latte made with 1% (blecch!) and go for it.

Sometimes happiness is elusive, but sometimes it’s as easy as getting a really amazing specialty coffee drink.

Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bathing in Forest Park: Portland OR

Yes, you can bathe in a forest. The Japanese have a term for it: shinrin-yoku.

In Japan, visiting the forest is actually an officially recognized way to decompress.  Apparently, there are numerous studies that show spending time in the woods improves physical and mental wellbeing, and that breathing in what various trees are giving off is part this healthful practice. Simply being “fully present” in the forest is highly rejuvenating.

Seems like forests can be considered the original spa experience: a place where one can clear the senses and cleanse the soul.

So, skip yoga and put your aromatherapy aside for one afternoon. Instead, go straight to the source. If you happen to be in Portland, that would be Forest Park.

Forest Park
Portland, OR

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Lucky Break: Annecy, France

Last summer a baby unicorn fell into my lap.

What I mean is a really great opportunity came my way in the form of a freelance writing assignment for Salomon, which is located in Annecy, France, near the French-Swiss border.

So, to further milk the unicorn metaphor, I hopped on its back and off I went.

Annecy has been described as the "Pearl of the French Alps", which in my humble opinion, is a bit of an understatement. Annecy Lake, Annecy le Vieux (the old city) and the nearby village of Talloires are all beyond stunning. 

The lakeside experience in particular is mind-blowingly gorgeous  – so gorgeous that I felt that I had been dropped into a Conde Naste Traveller magazine center spread. On that that picture-perfect July afternoon, it seemed I had entered into some sort of Alpine dream: a cloudless blue sky and a sparkling lake surrounded by rugged peaks, complete with tanning sun worshippers.

If you are headed to France anytime soon  – check this place out. You won’t be disappointed.

And if a unicorn comes knocking at your door – hop on and go for the ride.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Weekend to Remember: Astoria OR

Wow. Astoria. Where have you been all my life?

I mean, I’ve lived only two hours away for almost fifteen years, and I’ve definitely been to and been through Astoria. But this time I actually hung out in Astoria and got to know it better, and I’m so glad that I did.

My primary reason for going was to attend the FisherPoets Gathering 2016 for my client Fishpeople Seafood. Before and after the festivities I had lots of down time, so I got to kick around town which allowed me to stumble across things. Sometimes it’s more fun that way.

Here’s a few highlights:

Astoria Riverwalk Inn
This modestly priced inn sits right on the water and offers views that far exceed their rates. The photo above was taken from my room.

The Astoria Bridge
After living many years in San Francisco, I can tell you my bar is high when it comes to bridges. But I must say, the Astoria Bridge is right up there with the best of them. The structure is visually arresting and set against incredible scenery creating multiple photo opps. I find it just as impressive as the Golden Gate Bridge, albeit in a more understated Pacific Northwest way. And like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Astoria Bridge acts as a gateway to the Pacific which gives it a grand sort of feeling

Historic architecture
So many historic buildings are intact and actively used in Astoria, giving this small city a very livable and cohesive feel. The streets are inviting and make you want to meander around.

Custard King
This is not your average ice cream stand. This is Custard King, a beloved Astoria landmark that dates back to the 1950s and was rescued from years of neglect by already-successful and enterprising Portlanders. That’s a good story with a happy ending.

Now, onto the custard.

Never one to pass up a high calorie dairy-infused opportunity, I had a cone. And let me tell you – it was delicious. Apparently this is a Midwestern take on soft serve ice cream.  It’s extremely creamy and not quite as sweet. As a result it tastes homemade and, well, more real – as opposed to something that just gets poured into a machine then churned out as soft ice cream. Definitely worth a stop.

Sea lions
If you’re looking for an adorable sea mammal fix visit the sea lions at Pier 39. I think there were at least a couple hundred lolling about on the rocks – pretty good for a sunny late February afternoon. Sea lions are very vocal and they are fun to watch. They are, quite simply, charming creatures.

Rogue Brewery at Pier 39 has an outdoor deck in close proximity to the sea lion hangout. You you can actually commune with them while you dine. But consider  yourself warned: sea lions are very vocal, plus they have a certain “natural” scent. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, it can envelop you while you chow down on your burger and beer. It's all part of the fun.

Astoria, I'll be back. Soon.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A U-Cut Kind of Christmas: Buxton OR

A few days back, I had the good fortune of attending a U-Cut Christmas-tree party on private property somewhere near Buxton, Oregon. The weather was quintessential Pacific Northwest – misty, rainy, foggy and cool: a perfect day to chop down your own Christmas tree and connect with your inner lumberjack.

Reinforced by spiked hot-apple cider, a few of us felt pretty darn rugged as we trudged down the lane that led to the Christmas trees. Clippers in hand, we were ready to harvest some fresh greens and a Doug fir or two. A well-prepared member of our group brought a Sawzall, which easily sliced through the young evergreens. In no time at all, we were elatedly crying out: “TIMBER!" 

And as we hauled our trees back to the warmth of our cars, we were already missing our time spent in the magical Christmas Tree Forest.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Linda's Dahlias: Washougal WA

One warm early fall afternoon, with the last vestiges of a very hot summer still lingering, I took off on a short joyride to check out Washougal River State Park – but actually never made it. On the way, I was completely distracted by an eye-candy jar full of hundreds of dahlias in full bloom. What at first appeared to be a roadside stand turned out to be Linda’s Dahlias in Washougal, Washington.

Linda's Dahlias, lower garden

The flowers, situated in upper and lower gardens on Linda’s property, are visible from the road and hard to miss, so I pulled over. Holding down the dahlia fort (so to speak) was a very friendly, slightly hippie-ish woman in a floppy straw hat (not Linda) whose name I did not catch. She informed me I could purchase a premade bouquet, or pick my own. (Note: premade bouquets are set out during the week on the honor system.)

I opted for u-pick (which was a heck of a lot easier than the time I u-picked tomatoes on Sauvie Island – but I digress.) With the u-pick option, I was entitled to 13 dahlias for $6.00, (a complete steal if you’ve checked out the flower section at Whole Foods lately). And one of the 13 could be a crazy-looking humongous dahlia (as opposed to the multitude of crazy-looking smaller dahlias).

Linda's Dahlias – grown on Planet Earth. Really. 

And so with clipping shears in hand (provided by the lovely Dahlia Hippie Lady), I set off to explore both the upper and lower gardens. As I wandered between the rows, I marveled at the many varieties and their sizes, shapes and colors. Besides being gorgeous, these dahlias were positively otherworldly, and their textures and petal patterns looked like something from another galaxy.

Apparently, I got to Linda’s Dahlias in the nick of time. It’s the end of their season and the colorful rows will be dug up in another week or two, once the rain starts in earnest. I was a bit sad I hadn’t stumbled on Linda’s Dahlias earlier in the season, but was happy I had made the discovery for next year.

In fact, I was so pumped about these amazing flowers that I’ve even considered taking a crack at growing them myself. Linda’s Dahlias has a catalog, and tubers go on sale in April.  I’ve even got a floppy straw hat.

Linda's Dahlias
Washougal, WA