Happy Friday

Hi friends. It’s been a minute. I could fill the page with all my excuses for not writing, but I’ll leave it simply at this: I miss you and I’m back. It’s a new day…

Tower Camping

What are you up to this weekend? Whatever it is, I hope you stay cozy and warm as we finally enter the month of March. (Is it just me or is this winter never-ending?) We are having new kitchen countertops installed and as you other homeowners know, I am just beside myself with glee. I’m even excited for the months of ramen and PBR we’re going to have to suffer through enjoy to pay for them. 😉 Other than that, it’s more house projects (talk about never-ending…) and maybe we’ll sneak out to our favorite neighborhood bar for some non-PBR brews.

Here are two quick links to kick off your weekend:

– Think you know everything about Portland? I was surprised by a number of these. Especially #2!

– Laughed out loud at the Williamsburg of Portland. Agree 100%.

Looking forward to sharing some travel stories with you in the coming weeks. Europe! Kauai! Asia! And that’s just a few. Let’s just say that 2013 went out with a bang.

xxx

{photo from our adventures in lookout tower camping – more on that soon!}

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Holland, is that you? A quaint homage at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

I miss Holland. A lot. Especially right now- the warm spring, the sun peeking out, all the tulips blooming and the entire place a colorful explosion. Flowers everywhere. It was the best.

So picture my delight when a friend told me about the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, right here in Oregon. About an hour’s drive from Portland, it’s just a family run farm with tulip fields, kiddie rides and what I can only describe as carnival food. It was cute. And I was immediately reminded of the beautiful tulip fields in Holland. Checking out the wooden shoe carving booths, I hunted around for people with whom I could possibly practice my Dutch (starting to get rusty), but no such luck. Can’t have it all.

Woodburn, OR

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OR

Woodburn, OR

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OR

Woodburn, OR

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OR

Woodburn, OR

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OR

Woodburn, OR

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OR

Woodburn, OR

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OR

Woodburn, OR

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OR

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OR

I had to get in there.

xxx

P.S. I don’t miss everything about living in Holland.

Around Here: Cherry Blossoms

I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely love flowers. Well, Portland basically injected an IV into my veins with all the flowering cherry blossoms (these are cherry blossoms right?) that are lining the riverfront right now. They give me that high on life feeling where I can’t help but smile. A fortunate circumstance indeed given that we are otherwise totally miserable for being stuck in our corporate apartment this final week. Saturday can’t come fast enough. (Oh yeah, we move into our house Saturday for those of you wondering.)

Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland Cherry Blossoms, Portland

The trees are so full, the grass is so green and the sky (on Sunday anyway) was so blue! How can this not put you in a good mood?

xxx

Around Here: Portland Saturday Market

I’ve now witnessed firsthand that Portland is a different city when the weather cooperates. Similarly to Amsterdam, it seems that the city really comes alive on a nice day; the hipsters are smiling, the kids are skipping and the dogs’ tails (everyone has a dog) are wagging. I’m serious! It sounds hokey/Pleasantville-ish, but it’s true. Everyone emerges from their hermit holes cozy homes & favorite coffeeshops to hang out in the fresh air. It’s kinda nice to think that we all truly appreciate a sunny day; I know it’s something I definitely took for granted growing up in the midwest. (Never again.)

A couple Sundays ago, on a chilly riverfront run, we noticed signs for the Portland Saturday Market that starts up in March. Again, similarly to Amsterdam, markets are where we would spend our weekends, so we wanted to check this one out and see how it compared. Here’s what we saw…

Portland, OR

Typical cheeky, vintage vibe

Portland, OR

The main stage

Portland, OR

This pint-sized performer

Spring

Hey it’s (un)officially spring. Floral hat for Jaro.

Spring

And velvet shoes for me

Portland, OR

Food cart lunch

Portland, OR

Local brew

Portland, OR

The Irish Lager – tasty!

It’s a large market, with vendors selling mostly cheap trinkets and some handmade crafts. There are also so many food carts that it’s impossible to decide what to eat. They have every type of cuisine under the sun. Hawaiian kalua pork? You bet. Lebanese mezza? For sure. But what about Polish pierogis? They have that too! And the location is great – right next to the waterfront park, a grassy space for picnics if you can keep the loose dogs at bay. Overall, the market itself was… average. Doesn’t compare to the beautiful markets in Amsterdam. I would bring visitors there, if only for the food carts. And the people watching is some of the best I’ve seen here.

Just being outside, soaking up the sunshine, was wonderful.

Spring is on its way. 

xxx

Sunday Drive: Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge, ORHey dudes. Guess what we finally checked out? (Here is a clue.)

Last week, Jaro and I decided to sieze the (sunny and temperate) day and drive out to the Columbia River Gorge. I have been wanting to see it since we moved, but we hadn’t found the chance until recently. While we didn’t get around to hiking, canoeing or visiting the little towns (Hood River, The Dalles, etc), we did sit back and enjoy a lovely Sunday drive.

Here you can see rolling hills of grape vines and Mount Hood in the distance…

Columbia River Gorge, OR

And here’s another cool shot of the Washington side…

Columbia River Gorge, OR

Not sure what was going on with the white balance of these photos, but you get the idea. So scenic and peaceful. We passed heaps of wineries and, at only an hour’s drive away from Portland, I know we’ll be making regular trips out there in the summer.

xxx

Daydreaming about… Our New House

heart balloons

Happiest of Fridays, friends. I have some wonderful news and in a rare twist, it’s not about travel. Yesterday, Jaro and I became homeowners. For the first time. I’m so proud of us. It has been a scary, stressful, exciting experience and, in the end, we couldn’t be happier about how it has turned out. After a few months of uncertainty and every type of “wrinkle” and “hiccup”, which were all totally out of our control, it is a tremendous relief to know that this little house is ours.  We can get in there in 30 days. The final countdown is on. 

There’s a lot of places in the world I want to see. But right now, there’s no where else I’d rather go than… home.

xxx

P.S. You can read more about our househunting here and here.

{photo via}

Happy Valentine’s Day

Wes Anderson

I love these valentines from flavorwire. And Wes Anderson films. And this quote, specifically. It actually sums up my relationship with Jaro quite well. When we started out on our journey almost six years ago, we had NO idea where it was going (and still don’t). It has taken us from Chicago to Amsterdam, almost to Stockholm and now to Portland. It’s been a crazy ride. And I look forward to continuing it with him for the rest of my life.

Hallmark commercialization aside, I don’t mind the excuse to shower those you love with… love. What’s the shame in that? We always try to do something a little special.

Several years ago, back when we were newly dating and being the food freaks that we are, we went to this restaurant in Chicago. Our dinner cost about the same amount as a weekend trip to Mexico. (I always compare costs of things to travel, like that’s a plane ticket to Europe! Do you do that too?) As much as we love food and as incredible as that nine course tasting menu was, we vowed to never do that again.

Last year, Jaro was traveling for work, so I went out in Amsterdam with some girlfriends to MOMO, a see-and-be-seen spot where we drank and laughed and happily stumbled home.

Tonight, we’re meeting new friends (yes, friends!) for some wine. (I know, on a Thursday. Living on the edge again.)

Hope you all find a way to celebrate love today.

xxx

Booked: The Bay Area

As I mentioned yesterday, I have booked my first trip outta Portland. I leave a week from today. That was quick, right? I only lasted here for about six weeks before concocting my first escape. …And we’re about to close on a house. …And we need to get a car. …And there is still a lot to coordinate. …And …And!

I know. The truth is, we have a lot to do as we continue settling in. So why am I taking this trip already, in the middle of all the chaos? Well, there are several reasons. Here is my rationalization:

  1. Marisa has the week off and we are adventurous little partners in crime, so I pretty much have to take advantage of this glorious opportunity to explore with her. Another good friend just moved there too. (I’m looking at you, David.)
  2. This whole stale corporate apartment thing, crummy rental car situation, and lack of stuff (which I have complained about numerous times) is… well… I need a break. It’s like the perfect storm of misery.
  3. Speaking of rain, I might sink into a deep(er) depression from this weather if I don’t find some sunshine. Portland winters really are the pits. While very similar to our Dutch winter last year, I’m struggling a lot more with the frequent rain and overcast skies. Why, you ask? Two reasons. Reason 1: See point #2 above. Reason 2: The city isn’t as walkable/charming as Amsterdam and I don’t feel like getting in the car every time I want to go out. That’s just the urban warrior in me, I guess.
  4. In my opinion, Portland is missing elements of urban culture. At least, in the way that I’m used to. To me, that means museums, shopping, entertainment, dining, and all connected by decent public transportation. The only factor that stands out to me up to this point is the restaurant scene. That scene is thumpin’ and I’ve been impressed with the foodie culture here. But, for health & wealth reasons, we’re trying to limit that to weekends only. Living on the edge, huh?
  5. Speaking of things to do on weekends, what I’m realizing is that Portland’s a decent place to live where you are still close to the great outdoors. If you take a look on tripadvisor.com, the #1 thing to do “in Portland” is visit the Columbia River Gorge – which isn’t in Portland. Of course, I want to get out there, but not now (see point #3). It’s not exactly hiking weather. Even if it was, I don’t have my hiking stuff. Right now, it’s ski season. But I don’t have my ski stuff (see point #2). Inconvenient.
  6. Bonus: Jaro was/is in full support. He’s pretty much the best.

I realize that sounds like a lot of complaints about Portland. I’m sure many of you are thinking, make the best of it or spend this time getting to know your own city. I will. After this trip. And truly, things will be different by this time next year. They’ll be better. I’ll (hopefully) have found school or work that prevents boredom motivates me. We’ll be settled down, have the equipment and stability and knowledge and resources to enjoy this time of year in the Pacific Northwest.

Back to the Bay I go. The nice thing about visiting friends is that I don’t have much planning to do. Accommodations and transportation – dunzo. We have no set plans; just going to see where the breeze takes us. Looking forward to exploring San Francisco, Oakland, possibly taking day trips to Big Sur and Napa, with a fresh perspective, a full heart of gratitude and an open mind.

How do you justify travel? Do you ever rationalize trips for yourself even if you don’t necessarily have to? Are you impulsive about it, like me? I have to admit, sometimes I can be quick to the draw about booking travel (especially given my liberties last year) and then afterward, I’m like, oops, should I have done that? The answer in this case is absolutely. Sometimes, I just need to spell it out to remember why.

xxx

P.S. In celebration of Fat Tuesday, we’re going to meet up with our Run Club tonight. …And go out for beers after. Living on the edge, ya’ll. 

On Travel

Chicago

What does travel mean to you? The word travel. What is it? I’ve been reflecting on it recently. Much like home, it’s kind of elusive to me. Or maybe not just elusive, more like… evolving.

See – A few months ago, I was getting myself excited for a move to Stockholm. So many new countries to explore up there. I had never been to Norway, Finland or Denmark. I craved the idea of a trip to Iceland. I was excited to drift through these Scandinavian countries; exploring beautiful landscapes, exposure to new cultures, meeting interesting people, eating all kinds of seafood (can you imagine?). Scandinavia. It sounds so mysterious. So cold cool. I would have continued to travel. To be uncomfortable (and okay with it). To be amazed. To be inspired. To be changed. From living abroad, that became my definition of travel. While not always glamorous, it was always thrilling.

Then, we slammed on the proverbial expat brakes (not intentionally) and moved back to the U.S.

“Travel” as I knew it will now be more difficult. We bought are buying a little house. Eventually, a little pup. Jaro’s job is a little more… local (read: not back and forth between Netherlands and Ukraine). Our life is a lot different. In a lot of ways, it’s simpler. And one of my first thoughts was, when am I going to travel again?

Gaining all this insight from my experiences over the past eighteen months and now faced with a “familiar” (what I previously would have called boring) life, I realize that I need to redefine travel. The word. It can’t be limited to the things I mentioned above. It longer means a visit to a foreign country. Or interacting with foreign people, foreign languages, foreign currency. It no longer means being uncomfortable… necessarily.

It means a lot more. Of course, it still means those things. But, it also means a day trip to Cannon Beach. Or a drive out to the Columbia River Gorge. Or a quick city getaway to Seattle or San Francisco (especially if that includes a day trip to Big Sur). It means getting out and seeing a new place, anywhere. And respecting it. And appreciating it. Even if it’s just a new part of Portland.

World, I’m ready.

xxx

P.S. My evolving thoughts on friendship.

{image from our flight to Chicago, our first glimpse of the States in 14 months}

On Friendships

Picture this: Two young women are walking down the sidewalk, looking at their phones and accidentally bump into each other. They apologize and smile at the same time, then realize they are carrying the same purse. Want to be friends? one of them asks. Yes! is the answer. Then, they hook arms and head into the nearest coffee shop and a beautiful, meaningful, real friendship blossoms. 

THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

I just moved to a new city where I don’t know anyone. How on earth do I make friends? Anyone who has moved can probably relate in some way. I would like to think I’m outgoing, personable, even funny sometimes, but it’s not like I can walk into a bar and be like, hey, I like your shoes, wanna be friends? Or interrupt girls dining at the same restaurant as me  and say, hey, you guys remind me of my friends back home, can I join you?

We have now been in Portland for a month and I’ll admit, I haven’t made any connections yet. Unless you count the barista at the cafe across the street. We’re real tight. I’ve let myself be consumed by this house hunt. The only way I can try to change this is by getting active in Portland and getting out. I have to “put myself out there.” Which can be really uncomfortable, even for a social person like me. It’s like… dating. Yuck. It’s intimidating. I think especially so since we’re back in the U.S. where everyone always appears established. Comfortable. Not with a sign on their back saying, hey I want new friends, come talk to me. 

When we moved to Europe, it took awhile to find friends there. I would pass little pow-wows of hip women having drinks together or shopping together and sigh. I want that! It took… four months to finally meet people. That’s a long time. I ended up stumbling into a group of other new ex-pats (none were American, interestingly) and we formed an instant bond over that commonality. Jaro once said that being an ex-pat is like being on a deserted island. You make do with what you have. And he’s right. We ended up forming unlikely friendships with people that we may not have been friends with if we were back in our cozy bubble of Chicago. I now treasure those friendships even though I may never see those people again. Isn’t that interesting?

The other thing about those ex-pat friendships is that somewhere in the back of my head, I knew it was temporary. And so rather than fully immersing myself into the group, I held on more closely to my friendships back in Chicago. This was a delicate balance that I think, in retrospect, I tipped too far. I gripped my life back in the States so hard that it was really difficult to focus on my life in Amsterdam. Most weeks, I had at least five or six skype dates, always an hour or longer. Always varying times, and varying days. It was like a job. It kept me tethered to my apartment. And, unfortunately, it prevented me from really putting myself out there in the city where I lived. That, combined with all the travel we did (I traveled a solid 1/3 of the 14 months) and wanting to spend quality time with Jaro (which was never enough), I never really got settled. I don’t have regrets, but moving forward (pun absolutely intended) I’m going to do things differently.

Now that we’re in Portland, I can’t act like this is temporary. We just bought a house for crying out loud. We are going to be here for a long time. Maybe forever. This is my life. Here. In Portland. Time to start acting like it.

With Jaro’s work schedule (he was traveling this entire week and we spoke maybe twice, for instance), I will need to focus on myself. I’m proud to say that I’m starting! Here are some things I’m going to try and where I hope I’ll meet some new friends:

  • I joined a yoga studio, CorePower Yoga.
  • I signed up to volunteer with the Oregon Humane Society.
  • I’m going to take photography classes. (started researching some options)
  • I bravely stuck my name on a sign up board at Powell’s to join a writer’s group here in Portland. (and already got one response!)

And that’s just the beginning. I’m also thinking about language classes (would love to be fluent in Spanish and eventually French), possibly a book club (’cause this girl loves to read) and maybe, just maybe, I’ll work. That’s a whole different story in itself as that would also include a career change…..

Any tips? I’d love some insights from others that have gone through a move and needed to create a new life for themselves. I admire anyone that has had to go through it. It takes so much courage.

xxx

P.S. An insightful article about making friends as adults. Anyone think I can spearhead a Portland social club?