Monday, October 2, 2017

A Country Drive:
Northern Willamette Valley, OR

Northern Willamette Valley

On the last day of September, I went for a Sunday drive on a Saturday afternoon in the Northern Willamette Valley. The occasion was to ring in October, which was kind of a relief after a summer dominated by forest fires and smoky air.

My first stop was the small town of Dayton, Oregon, where I lunched at the Block House Café, located in a renovated 1886 First Baptist Church. The warm brick entrance is inviting, and inside it's spacious with high ceilings. Thankfully, it's not over-decorated, so you can get a feel for the original building. The food’s not bad, either.

Block House Cafe, Dayton Oregon

I polished off my lunch, then headed across the street to Courthouse Square Park to check out one of the town’s main attractions – Fort Yamhill  an actual military fort dating back to 1856, relocated to Dayton by a prominent citizen in the name of historic preservation. History buffs (and anyone who played “fort” as kid) would greatly appreciate this rustic and sturdy structure that’s steeped in Oregon history.

Fort Yamhill, Dayton, Oregon

After admiring the fort, I jumped back into my trusty 1998 Subaru Forester and cruised a few Yamhill County back roads. The rain clouds were parting, the sun was starting to shine, and what started out as a drizzly day was shaping up to be a lovely fall afternoon.

And...I have a big, mean, jet black, jacked-up truck with “big wheels” that was bearing down on me to thank for the photo at the very top and below, since he pretty much forced me off the road to let him pass. But as luck would have it, my unplanned stop was in a beautiful spot with great light, pastoral fields, plus a well-worn barn. What could be more picturesque?

Northern Willamette Valley

On the way home, it was still so pretty out, I felt compelled to make one last stop to savor the day, so I hit Elk Cove Vineyards. Tasting good wine in a scenic spot just seemed like the right thing to do. It was – Elk Cove Vineyards is quite beautiful, and I left with two bottles in hand and happily headed back to Portland.

Elk Cove Vineyards

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Guilder: Portland OR

The view from Guilder's second floor

The weather turned this week and fall officially arrived. And of course, on that first cool and overcast day I immediately started to crave something warm and comforting to eat. That’s when I had my “Aha!” moment and remembered Guilder, a relative newcomer to the coffee shops, bakeries and cafes that dot NE Fremont Street in Portland, Oregon.

I’d been to Guilder once before and enjoyed the Scandinavian ambience – a comfortable mix of industrial chic, high ceilings and lots of natural light.

Sweet porridge

I also greatly enjoyed Guilder’s sweet porridge, another reason I returned. According to Mike Nelson, one of Guilder's owners, this Northern European take on oatmeal was inspired by a traditional Danish recipe. It consists of steel-cut and rolled oats, farro, cranberries, cardamom-spiced almonds, plus your choice of milk – another nice touch! The whole thing is topped off with a generous dollop of housemade berry jam. It has a lovely sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavor and is actually quite filling. (One bowl left me sated for a solid three hours.)

Guilder part owner Mike Nelson

I’m pretty stoked Guilder is just up the road from me. The café’s light and airy feeling, the friendly staff plus the tasty porridge is just what I’ll need to fully embrace the colder and darker days ahead.

2393 NE Fremont St.

Portland, OR 97212

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hammock Heaven: Tygh Valley OR

I’m lucky enough to know some fine people who live in Tygh Valley, Oregon.  Their home sits on a hill with views of the rugged surroundings dotted with maples and sagebrush. It’s constructed from straw bales – which is pretty cool in itself.

When visiting during the warmer months, I always gravitate to the hammock. It hangs between two sturdy trees, and during the afternoon, just the right amount of dappled sunlight filters through. At night you can swing in it and stargaze. It’s also wide – so you can really stretch out. If you tip it just right, you can reach your beer resting on the ground below.

And in these waning days of summer, it’s import to remember the season’s simple pleasures – like a warm breeze, a frosty beer, and a perfectly placed hammock.

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.