Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Portland y'all! - part III

Saturday, September 27, 2008: Day Three Portland

OK, so Saturday was good too but it was really overshadowed by Friday. In fact, by Saturday morning I was feeling a little...mellow. What better for that than a cappuccino?

Fairly close to the hostel was a bakery we'd been wanting to try, esp. because the associated restaurant was so good: Ken's Artisan Bakery. Arriving at about 8:30 am was the perfect time. There were tables available and a full case of yummy goodness (about 20 minutes later the place would have a line nearly out the door and no empty tables). We both ate some meaty items I'm not going to detail here (but they were wonderful - imagine a _____, gruyere & thyme croissant and a ______ & vegetable quiche). I will say that the peach and blueberry galette (pictured below) was not only beautiful but a delight on the tongue. As you can see our plates (in the background) are stacked - I was supposed to take this little treat to go but couldn't wait.

Next, we set out for the farmers market on the PSU campus. To tout Portland's superb transit, I must say that we had the option to take the free streetcar to the market. Yep, free - they have a "fareless square", which is actually quite large and all transit is free in this area. This is a picture of the cute little street car making its way to us.

Oh, we did stop at Stumptown coffee on the way. Sandy was saving himself that morning for this bit of caffeinated pleasure.
On to the farmers market! Last November when we were in town, the farmers market was just a few stands of this or that - nothing special. This time, however, it was a harvest festival of sorts. Of course there were the tables piled high with mushrooms, fat cucumbers, extra large garlic and leeks but there was also a guitar player with a microphone and a good sized group of watchers/listeners and a chef talking about cooking meat (while actually cooking it), and not one, not two, but three balloon animal makers. One guy was a true artist with those balloons - he made a turtle wrist corsage for a 4 year old girl.

Just a small portion of the weekly farmers market event:
Blackberries, little yellow tomatoes, and strawberries (organic of course):
Look at that burst of color (I'm obviously not referring to the coffee drinking white guy)!
such an amazing variety of tomatoes:The day was fairly uneventful after that, we walked to the Pearl District and through the Nob Hill neighborhood and fell in with the throngs of people out enjoying the sunny afternoon.

Sometime around 5:00pm we made our way to the Deschutes Brewery. I had what was basically a bowl of seasonal mushrooms in broth with chunks of bread and we both shared the beer sampler - the Jubelale was my favorite. Here is Sandy and the samples:

We adjourned to the hostel to drop off some stuff but ended up dozing lightly for about 1/2 an hour, then we headed out to the symphony! We saw Beethoven's Symphony No.9 performed by the Oregon Symphony with a choir at the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall (aka "the Schnitz"). This is Sandy enjoying a pre-concert beverage inside the place - it was stunning.

While I enjoyed the performance, I don't think I've ever sat through the entire 9th symphony before. It was longer than I thought it would be and the cheap seats were hot.

We went to a popular wine bar afterwards and then took one last trip to the Rogue Brewery (we did hit Saint Cupcake earlier in the day). At the hostel we were a giggly mess but tried to be as quiet as possible while preparing for our last night of deep, oxygen-enriched sleep in that playground of a city...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Portland y'all! - part II

Friday, September 26th, 2008 - Portland: the coolest place in America.

Friday we rented bikes from the hostel. This is awesome because, as opposed to renting bikes from a bike shop, at the hostel we could rent the bike at 8:00am and return it by 11:30pm! None of that "have it back by 6:30pm" crap. So, we set out at about 8:15 am headed for St. Honore Boulangerie. On our last trip in 2007 we attempted to get here, but it's a bit north of the hostel and, on foot, felt really far away - not so with the bicycle! My goodness, I've visited some bakeries in my day (it's a surprise I don't have a fatter ass) and this is in the top three!!!! This picture is from the case but it was not, by far, the most they had. Any narrative description can't do it justice (and I didn't get that many good pictures...). I can say that the Normandy Apple Tart and almond croissant are not to be missed.

We left St. Honore sufficiently powered up for our bike ride up to Forest Park. When I say "up" that's exactly what I mean - it was up hill the whole freaking way. But it was through an awesome neighborhood - you know, the kind I know I could never afford because I would never be able to afford the day laborers working on the landscaping, the addition to the house, or powerwashing the outside stairs.

For us Denverites, living in a dry climate, Forest Park was really a treat. It was greener than green and lush with moss. We followed a dirt and gravel path up and up and up but there were hiking trails that one could take (we did not). This is me taking a picture of Sandy while riding the "comfort bike" (the Jamis Explorer - I don't recommend it).

This is a picture of me.
This is a picture of a banana slug! I love these large, slimy creatures. They are like fungus, once you find one, all you have to do is stop and look around and you'll find a bunch more.

We rode about 3 or so miles into Forest park and then turned around and headed for Washington Park to visit the zoo. I am ashamed to have visited this zoo and do not recommend it to others - it has to be the saddest zoo I've ever seen.

However, I did see this Odwalla dispenser there. It's so fitting - the only place I've ever seen a smoothie dispenser is in Portland. I did see a beer dispenser in Spain but that's different.

This sticker on the bike rack outside the horrible place is great ("live free or drive")- oh, and this is a picture of the Jamis that Sandy rode.

We rode across the river to the Hawthorne neighborhood - this is me in front of City Bikes.
We ate lunch at Doug Fir. This is Sandy, eating a "Fir Burger" (ha ha).

We spent the rest of the day biking around the city to various neighborhoods in the Southeast and Northeast. We bought wine, we bought cards, we bought more pastry, we bought all kinds of stuff.

Biking in Portland was so insanely easy. I mean, I've heard about the bicycle infrastructure but now that I've experienced it...

They put bike lanes on busy streets (which is good) and on lots of them.

They put signs up around town that help you wayfind!
In case you miss the sign, they put directional markings on the pavement!!!

We got around Portland from Northwest to Southwest to Southeast to Northeast and back again with a free Portland bike map and these wayfinding devices.

Eventually we found our way to Roots Organic Brewery where we, and a gazillion other people, watched the presidential candidates debate. Afterwards we adjourned to the Bridgeport Brewery and ate a lot of food.

Friday was the best of the three days in Portland. The bicycling was so much fun and the weather was beautiful.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Portland y'all! - part I

As some of you already know, Portland, Oregon, is an amazing place. We've just returned from 3 days of play there. This is part one. Note: We ate and drank with no thought to our poor bodies and livers - so, this post has many food references.

We arrived at the Northwest Hostel at about noon on Thursday afternoon. However, the actual first stop was, literally, Saint Cupcake - I mean, it's on the way to the hostel...this is what we saw upon arrival! We got 3 "dots" (mini cupcakes) each and they were heavenly. The vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream icing topped with pink sugar crystals - the crunchy, sweet, cakey goodness - was especially memorable for me.

It rained while we ate the cupcakes and was cloudy most of the day afterward but, luckily, didn't rain more than a sprinkle again the entire time we were there.

So, we headed for the Hawthorne Neighborhood across the Willamette River. We wandered about on foot and ate at the Por que No? Taqueria (Hawthorne and 47th), which was delicious. This is coming from someone who doesn't prefer corn tortilla and is skeptical of taquerias. Along with my chicken taco with tomatillo sauce and onions, I got this great watermellon-guava juice that was super refreshing. This is us at the place:

This lunch was, of course, followed by dessert! Very close by was JaCivas Bakery, where we got an apple slice and an aztec cinnamon truffle. Afterward, we found Zupan's Market, which, in my opinion, gives Dean & Deluca (we've visited the location in Georgetown in D.C. many times in the past) a run for its money. Their produce in particular was outstanding. This is Sandy using an amazingly large artichoke as a prop:

More wandering - here is some puffin grafitti:

One of the meals we (and Sandy in particular) were looking forward to was dinner at Ken's Artisan Pizza. We arrived about 5 minutes after it opened and it was already filling up. We ate some fantastic wood oven pizza and drank rich, red wine in the mid-evening sun. Here is Sandy with his mushroom pizza:

We visited a nearby wine bar after, Noble Rot, and got a flight of Willamette Valley pinot noir and a flight of Southern Spanish reds. I preferred the pinots - all fantastic. The place itself was really a perfect neighborhood winebar. You know, it had all the elements: small plate menu of local food, a row of large windows that open up to the street, soothing yet upbeat music, a wonderful selection of wines. This is a horrible picture of S but gives some feel of the mellow location:

We hopped the 20 bus back to the Northwest neighborhood, where we capped the night with some Rogue beer right off the tap from the brewery! See me below near the end of the evening and feeling pretty good:
We adjourned to our private room at the best hostel in North America and slept an amazing sleep while breathing in lots of oxygen.

Ok, that was Thursday. Next - Friday!

Monday, September 22, 2008

National Geographic burns stinky

So, we went to Rocky Mountain National Park this past weekend to camp in the park and hear the elk bugle (you can hear it here and here - this second one is strange quasi-elk porn with a really whiny bull elk). We went with a soon-to-be-married couple, Scott and Kara (you can see a picture of them in a previous post here) and their dog Charlie.

The weather was "typical" Colorado weather: it rained and was chilly and windy for 1/2 an hour and then it was sunny and hot for an hour, like that over and over. These were the conditions during our Cub Lake hike. I was lucky enough to get to hike with this rugged male model:

While stopped at Cub Lake we were pestered by gray jays, ducks (they actually came out of the water to beg for food), and chipmunks. This one chipmunk, after s/he learned that we were not going to give up the goods, dug up an ancient potato chip and snacked for our viewing pleasure:

Later in the early evening it rained quite hard for about 45 minutes or so. During this time the four of us (and Charlie) took shelter in their car. We shared a bit of Fisheye Shiraz to help the time pass. As soon as the rain died down we hopped out and started to cook dinner. This led to building a fire and having more wine, which led to burning everything we could find in our vehicles that would burn. When we got down to the last of the few bundles of wood we brought, then we scavenged the cars. Of course, I had a bunch of old tissues. Here are the wine drinking pyros (well, three of them are represented - Scott is not pictured):

Sandy found two old National Geographics in our car and we did burn those but I don't recommend it - their glossy pages are stinky to burn, reminiscent of plastic...

The fire died out and we retired to our respective tents. When we woke up this was the view from the tent:

About ten minutes after this it clouded up and rained hard for about 20 minutes...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


So, here we are, in September. September is a lovely month, not my absolute favorite, but it's a good one. The seas of work have calmed for a bit and I actually got out of the office for knitting on the plaza today. On a bench, under a tree it was so nice with the leaves on the trees rustling in the wind and the people going by and I got lucky - no smokers came to the benches upwind of me! I think I appreciate the slow (a.k.a. regular) pace of work after the big storms come through.

I was just reading Best Friends magazine and apparently now is a good time to adopt a dog from a shelter. It seems that across the nation there are more animals being dropped off with the bad economy and people losing their homes and so on. Actually, I just checked out the Dumb Friends League website and if you've ever wanted to adopt a mouse - now is the time! There are lots of them and you can browse on-line! They also have cats and dogs and rabbits and rats and guinea pigs. The rodent pictures are somewhat amusing. I love that they actually photo everyone of them. What's also kind of funny is that the cat pictures have this gray cloth backdrop - very professional. But really, if I could adopt every one of them I would and I'm glad that they League has a great (if amusing) website.

And now for an amusing bit from the youtube "the cat that comes closer but never moves":

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Happy "Patriots Day"!

It's not official or anything, but I've seen 9/11 referred to as Patriots Day. I don't mean to belittle the pain and anguish of a this great nation but scads of people die en masse every day all over the world in wars and civil unrest and suicide bombings and retaliation bombings and typhoons and from famines and the list goes on! Just like I have a cushy life, as a nation it seems we've been sheltered from the violence of international politics for a long time. That is, until 09/11/01. That's not to say that any culture or nation deserves to have violence visited upon them...I shouldn't continue this line of thought.

In other news, the Sarah Palin thing is just obnoxious. The New Yorker Out Loud put out a podcast that was really about Cindy McCain (very interesting, I knew almost nothing about her) but delved a bit into Sarah Palin. It was refreshing because it really captured my impression of her: she is a mean person. That is a fairly simple evaluation but, as the podcast says, she's this good speaker who delivers these nasty, mocking jabs with a smile and little wrinkled nose. Are we really supposed to be taken in by that? I'm not going to go on I'd just be regurgitating what is in the podcast.

And now for something completely different, a post from reddit (this site is linked on the side bar of my blog) gave me a chuckle. I've always been a believer in the "if your number is up, your number is up" philosophy of death. This story, I think, underlines this concept (the story was posted under the title "F*ck, the bear really wanted to eat this dude...").

Monday, September 1, 2008

blah life

This is where my blah life becomes apparent. I'm sitting around waiting for my fellow HOA board members to come by and sign some papers. This exciting event is occurring after working seven hours on Labor Day. I mean, it's Labor Day right? why not work...

Now I'm listening to old episodes of This American Life and alternately typing this and looking at websites. Oh! news, I did see a movie this weekend, the new Woody Allen movie, Vicky Christina Barcelona. One NPR movie reviewer said something like this, "For those of you wondering if Woody Allen is back - he's not. It's not great for a Woody Allen movie but it's pretty good as a movie." Let me tell you, Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Annie Hall are a few of my favorite movies but Vicky Christina Barcelona is quite good. It has wit and good conversation and ruminations on love and relationships. Most movies don't really spend dialogue having frank conversation about love in a down to earth way. What I mean by that is that love dialogue is usually cheesy and goes nowhere. This movie confronts people with what their choices result in. I don't know, I don't want to give too much away. I'm sure you're all going to run out and see it...afterward I described it this way, "that movie was the perfect antidote to summer movies."

Looking back on the last bit of writing there I realize that most men reading this would be absolutely turned away by the "great conversation" movie. It's all coming together now. The movie theater slowly filled with folks in their late 50s and up. And then there was us. We're so hip.