Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013: Year of the Friendcation

 As the year winds to a close, the memories I cherish the most over the last 12 months are the incredible places we've been, and the people we've been there with. 2013 truly was the "Year of the Friendcation". Here are a few highlights, and CHEERS to many more crazy-fun adventures in 2014!


January: Weekend in PDX 

With Britta & Erin


Unfortunately I don't have many photos from this trip, since I managed to come down with the flu shortly after we arrived. 'Twas a slight damper on the trip, but it didn't stop us from squeezing in some shopping on Mississippi Ave, checking out the Tristan Prettyman show at the Doug Fir, and brunching like champs. 

March: Okinawa Adventure

With Sophia, Tyler, & Kazu


The Inmans invited us to visit them in Japan. We happily obliged. This was an AMAZING trip! We got to go paddle boarding for our very first time in a amazing island cove with the prettiest tropical aqua blue water, thanks to Tyler & his friend/business partner Kazu's experience as SUP guides. Lots of ramen & beer were consumed. This was our fourth time visiting Japan, although our first visit to Okinawa.

April: Astoria Birthday Pub Crawl Weekend

With Sophia, Tyler, Britta, Eric, Ivy, Nathan, Lisa, & Matt


Since Henry and I were actually home for our birthdays this year, we decided to do a pub crawl in one of our fave NW cities. Since Lisa's birthday was a day earlier, it ended up being a triple birthday bash! And the Inmans had just moved back to the States, so it was a "welcome home" shindig for them, too. We ate cupcakes, drank delicious beer, checked out a few dive bars, and rode bikes along the river. I'm pretty sure a couple people have scars from this trip, proving HOW EPIC IT WAS.

May: Bottlerock or Bust!

With Andrea, Britta, & Eric


Ah, it's like we're in college all over again.... 5 friends stuffed in a car (with a box of wine in the back), hauling ass down to Napa, CA for a music festival. We all crashed in the same room, arriving sweaty and dusty each night after the music ended. On Sunday, we had the crazy idea to go have brunch in San Francisco before heading home. And we couldn't leave without doing a little shopping, right?! This led to a mad dash drive home, stopping only for quadruple-shot lattes at Dutch Bros. We arrived home around 3:30 AM, and guess who happened to have 3 midterms that morning starting at 8 AM? THIS GIRL. Ugh. Totally worth, it though! 

August: Orcas Island Camping

With Lisa, Matt, Ngan, Josef, Nhah, & Hazel


Matt chose camping at Doe Bay for his birthday trip. This was an interesting place. Us girls braved the "clothing optional" spa for, like, 15 minutes.....and ate a delicious vegetarian-free range-organic-hand harvested-foraged breakfast in the cafe, while being relentlessly attacked by bees. More bees greeted us at the ferry terminal, as we portioned out the meager rations left in our cooler while forced to wait 5 hours to get back to the mainland. Note to self: don't EVER try to leave Orcas on a summer Sunday afternoon. 

September: Conquering the Bend Ale Trail

With Lisa & Matt


Spur-of-the-moment plans were made to visit Bend for Labor Day weekend, since I kept hearing over and over how it was paradise for beer drinkers and dog lovers. Check, and check. We stuffed the pups in the Subaru and hit the road. Matt, Lisa and their two dogs met up with us the next day. Our motley crew of four humans & five dogs were welcomed at most of the city's renowned craft breweries, and we ate & drank & DRANK SOME MORE on their sunny patios. We also attempted to do a hike at the aptly-named Badlands recreation area, and got about a half mile in the scorching desert heat before we gave up and turned around. You'd better believe we cooled off with a beer afterwards! 

November: I Left my Heart in San Francisco!

With Lisa & Matt


Another impromptu trip made possible by insanely-cheap airfare....$125 round-trip, and I had 2 free hotel nights to redeem through my Marriott account. What we saved in travel costs, we quickly made up for in $6 beers and $10 cocktails. Ouch. Anyways, cousin Danny was able to meet up with us while we were down there, and we all went on a pub crawl and played drunken frisbee in the park. We also rode, er....hung on to a cable car which was ridiculously fun and mildly dangerous! 

So there you have it...2013's Friendcations in a nutshell. Now it's time to start planning some a couple hundred thousand airline miles stashed away and a Subaru that can't wait to hit the road...where should we go???

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Laundry Room Remodel Begins! (Some "Before" Shots)

When our 8-year-old front loading washer broke down earlier this week, I was beyond pissed. With a slew of expenses this month - property taxes, repairs on the truck, and finally biting the bullet and getting my Subaru repainted- I really didn't need to spend another $600+ on a stupid appliance.

But when I begrudgingly dragged myself into Home Depot to pick out a replacement, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did they have a nice LG front-loading washing machine at a great price (it was on clearance because it was a floor model) but it looked a heckuva lot better than the aging Kenmore that it was replacing. Plus, it would play a cute little jingle to let me know when the cycle was completed! SOLD.

Even though our dryer at home still worked, we decided to bite the bullet and buy the matching dryer, which was also on clearance. While obviously this doubled my original budget, our dryer wasn't working quite as well as it did when new, and I worried that its days may be numbered. And, let's face it....I'm a girl and I like things to match. Sue me.

To sweeten the deal, our local PUD offers a $75 rebate on new energy-efficient washers. And we figure we might be able to get $100 or so for our old dryer on Craigslist. Since HD took an extra 20% off the clearance price of the washer and dryer, along with the rebate and CL dryer sale, we will hopefully end up paying right around $1000 for the set including tax. Score!

Anyways, now that the shiny new washer and dryer are in place, Henry and I have decided to finally tackle a complete remodel of the laundry room. Actually, the laundry room/mudroom/pantry/pet-feeding/storage room. We haven't really done anything with this room since buying the house, beside painting the walls (Hawthorne Yellow by Benjamin Moore) and the floors & stairs, which are original fir but had previously been painted a gross flesh tone. (Pretty much the whole house, including the exterior, was clad in various fleshy tones when we bought it. Gross.)

Here are some "before" shots that I took today.

(The new LG washer & dryer. IKEA expedit shelf haphazardly serving as shoe & recycling storage. pathetic attempt at wall art!)

(Across from the W&D is this space, which holds our chest freezer, my awesome vintage Coleman cooler that I inherited from my Grandma, and storage for the vacuum and shopping bags, along with some items that don't fit in my kitchen, like an ice cream maker and juicer.)

(Next to the freezer is the water-heater closet. I can't decide if I love it or hate it...I mean, it's nice that it hides the water heater, but it's kind of awkward. Perched on top is my canning jar storage area, and the cat's feeding platform, which needs to be up high away from the dogs.)

(Next to the closet are the ugliest stairs ever built. Sooo many unanswered questions here...why is that platform there? What's up with the pole? Also located here is our unsightly dog food storage receptacle.)

(Here are the stairs themselves. I've already got plans for Dash & Albert Tattersall runners just came in the mail and will be installed soon. The paint didn't hold up well on the treads, not to mention they are way too slippery for the dogs.)

(And the final shot: our "'landing strip", AKA: where we stash our stuff once we come in the back door. A place to hang keys & coats, a boot tray for wet shoes, and umbrella storage is a must! I'm looking forward to expanding this area to make it a bit more useful.)

So there you have it...our laundry room in its current state. I'm busy wrangling up ideas and inspiration for the remodel, and will post an update with some of my ideas soon. I'm really looking forward to designing this room from scratch and making it into a fun, functional space!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cropping Out the Sadness

Portlandia's "Third Date To Italy" skit that aired last season totally slayed me. Here's the gist of it: Fred and his new girlfriend take a spur-of-the-moment "weekend" trip to Italy. The awkwardness of a bland third date was only worsened by their extreme jet lag, meaning the couple spent the entire trip sleeping it off in their hotel room. Fred returns from the disappointing trip and, regarding the online photos of him and his date looking happy, he observes, "Everyone on the internet, they're not having as great a time as you think they are".

This led to me reminiscing about some of my own travel moments that I've chosen to "crop out":

-Noticing that I was getting a bad bladder infection as soon as I stepped onto a flight heading to Seattle from Tokyo (~9 hours long). I squirmed in pain the entire time, and had to use the bathroom roughly every 15 minutes. (Fun calculation: that equals 36 pees!) Thank goodness I had an aisle seat.

-Choosing to add extra jalapeƱos to an order of nachos while eating dinner in Edinburgh, and then chasing it with a few extra beers = horrible stomach cramps during the next morning's train ride to York. I missed out on a few hours of sightseeing due to being curled up in a ball on a train station bench.

-Breaking down in tears in a Kyoto train station because I couldn't find the correct exit for the "bamboo forest".

-While in Tijuana with Henry and Danny, being tricked by a sketchy bar's "3-for-1 beer special" advertisement....which did NOT mean we all got to enjoy one beer for cheap....rather, we were each presented with 3 beers. Yep, 9 for the price for 3. And then they stole our change when we tried to pay. Oh least we got drunk. Which you NEED to be in order to enjoy Tijuana.

-Having a snotty French hotel manager put us in the smelliest smoking room EVER at a London Hilton. And the windows wouldn't even open, so we couldn't air it out. Henry threw a fit in the lobby to no avail, and we were forced to sleep in the stank.

-Seafood-phobic Henry being forced to eat raw ocean creatures galore at a super-fancy, private sushi dinner in Fukuoka. Not wanting to offend the chef, he downed the urchin while visibly shaking. Lesson learned: Henry does NOT dream of sushi.

-Trying to pay for food at Whistler, and they refused to take our US dollars. BURN.

-Watching my extremely-drunk-on-sake brother almost smash into some shoji screens while stumbling around at a Japanese friend's family member's home. Although, there is video of this, and it is hilarious.

-Coming down with the flu while in Pennsylvania visiting my Grandma for what I knew would be the very last time. Spent 3/4s of the trip bed-ridden. On a positive note, she didn't catch it. On a not-so-positive note, that was indeed my final visit with her. Cue sad violin....

-Various camping mishaps. So much can go wrong whilst "enjoying" the great outdoors...campfire burns, mosquito swarms, burnt veggie dogs, air mattress leaks, sketchy midnight trips to the shitter...WHY do I continue to subject myself to this?!

Anyways, while quizzing Henry about our not-so-great travel moments, we were both surprised that it was pretty hard to come up with more. (Oddly, they always seem to involve me getting sick...or nachos). I guess we've been pretty lucky on our adventures. However, since we don't plan on staying put anytime soon, you can guarantee that there will be more cringe-worthy moments for me to "crop out" in the future.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Daily Dose of Gratitude

Today is just an ordinary day. Had a grueling Finance exam this afternoon, which frazzled me enough to add a shot of Bailey's to my afternoon coffee when I returned home. But the sun was shining, so the dogs and I decided to head outside on our sorta-daily walk up to Circle Drive. Handling three crazy dogs on leashes is no small feat, but it was all worth it when I was rewarded with a killer sunset once I crested the hill. I never get tired of them, and I am thankful to live in such a beautiful place where the sun dipping into the harbor sets off an amazing kaleidoscope of colors.

Heading back down the hill, enjoying the painted clouds overhead, I round the corner of my block and see my little bungalow, aglow with light and warmth, welcoming me home. My neighborhood is humble and working-class, and although my house is small, its beautiful craftsman architecture and details turn it into a work of art. Someone built this home, nearly a century ago, to be more than just a roof over their head. The attention to detail is incredible. And now it's MY little house. Which swells my heart with pride every time I turn that corner. Today, I am grateful for this home; my health, which allows me to walk up that hill; my dogs, who nudge me outside to enjoy the fresh air; and countless other things.'s my attitude.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gettin' Crafty: Address Number Pumpkins

I'm not big on carving pumpkins. Sure, covering the floor in newspaper and immersing your hands in cold pumpkin guts, sharpening your knife-wielding skills, and then getting to toast the seeds as a "reward" does have its merits. However, I inevitably wait too long to compost my cute creation after the holiday, and end up having to shovel the gooey, moldy mess off of my porch. Plus, I scored a few Sugar Pie pumpkins from my CSA share, and I can barely wait to make them into a delicious pie. So, I decided these babies could do double duty as dessert and decoration, and I opted to paint them. When November hits, I will just peel away the painted skin and, viola....pie time!

Since I had three small-ish pumpkins, I decided to paint them as my address numbers. I gathered my supplies: paint( I used a pot of Martha Stewart textured metallic paint in Lamp Black, from Home Depot), small artists' brushes, and a slim sharpie. Simply Googling "free number stencils" provided me with a plethora of options, and I decided on a vintage typeface style.

Next, I resized the numbers on my monitor, and then printed them out. I carefully cut out the inside of each number, and taped them to the pumpkins. I used my slim Sharpie to outline the number, being careful to follow the curves and ribs of the pumpkin. Once each number was transferred to the pumpkin, I filled it in with paint carefully, using a small brush. This particular paint is quite thick and a little tricky to use, basically it's a mix of glitter and paint.

After a half-hour or so of drying time, I displayed them out on my porch, using an old wooden crate as a display stand. I think they came out really well, and it adds a nice classy look to my fall porch decor.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The World's Ugliest Shed Gets a $12 Makeover!

This little shed sitting on the corner of our property has been an eyesore since we bought this place. We didn't bother doing anything to it for the first few years, since we were hoping to do a major rehab job, complete with new siding, a new door, and adding a new roof with a higher pitch. However, since we have about 1000 projects that are more time-sensitive than this one (as a homeowner, does the work EVER end?!) I decided to give it a "mini-makeover" in the meantime. A good cleaning was the first order of business...I forgot to snap a pic of it before I assured, it looked a LOT worse, and was covered in a thick brownish-green layer of mold/mildew/algae/whatever that nasty stuff is that covers pretty much every outdoor surface eventually here in the Northwest. Afterwards, I simply used a bunch of paint that we already had laying around from painting our house last summer. I also opted to add a $12 hinge and handle kit from Home Depot to add some flair.

Before Makeover

After Makeover

A good cleaning and plenty of elbow grease, using 60 Seconds Cleaner we already had: $0
Primer and paint left over from another job: $0
Hinge and handle kit: $12


So, for $12, the little shed is no longer the eyesore of the yard, and is now a charming little focal point. We still plan on doing the major siding, door, and roof upgrades later, and maybe adding an old window or two to up the twee factor. But for now, she's sittin' pretty, and I think it's the best $12 I've ever spent on this place.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wanderlust: Japan (Beppu, Yufuin, and Saga)

I have a fairly severe case of wanderlust, which seems to have flared up this week. For the last three years, Henry and I have traveled to Japan in the fall. Since I have felt a strong connection to this beautiful, awe-inspiring country ever since I first stepped foot on Japanese soil, I have a sort of ping in my heart reminding me that I should be stuck on an 11-hour flight on my way to eating the world's best sushi, taking fun rides on the shinkansen, and of course enjoying the company of the friendly, kind, warm-hearted people that live there.

All this week, I've been looking back in my travel diary, to see what I was doing on each day, one year ago, on our last trip to Japan. One year ago today, on October 1, 2011, we had a particularly amazing day, which will go down as one of my very favorite travel memories of all time. This was the day that our friend Ryuji took us to visit the towns of Beppu and Yufuin, and capped off the day with a special meal at his family's house.

Ryuji has a sweet black Mercedes, which meant we rode in comfort and style the whole time. We stopped off at a rest stop on the way to Beppu, which is always interesting to me. It's much like an American rest stop, with bathrooms, vending machines, and maybe a few signs depicting nearby sights to visit. The coolest thing about these rest stops, though, is that most tourists probably never see them, since most visitors do not rent a car to get around Japan, instead relying on the excellent network of trains. It's sort of a "hidden Japan" that, thanks to our Japanese friend, we were able to experience.

Ryuji's sleek black Mercedes

A rest stop in Japan.

Once in Beppu, we visited Umi Jigoku, also known as the "sea hell". It's a boiling, brilliantly blue pond of water fed by a hot spring. You can even enjoy an egg that has been hard-boiled in the "hell", which we did (and it was delicious!). There is also a shrine on the site, and a seperate warm spring that you can soak your feet in.

Eggs boiling in the sea hell
Enjoying an egg from "hell"

Henry enjoys a nice foot soak in the hot spring
 Next, we drove around Beppu a bit, making a stop for Henry to check out (and drool over) a vintage Skyline. For lunch, Ryuji suggests a conveyer sushi place, and we happily agree. At this place, if you special-order an item, it's delivered to you on a toy race car! They even had some weird things I've never seen before, such as hamburger nigiri with fries and ketchup!

Henry drooled over this race-prepped vintage Skyline

After lunch, Ryuji took us to an onsen, or hot spring bath. Henry and I were treated to a private onsen in a little rustic thatched-roof hut. There are all sorts of minerals in the water (including sulfur) which makes the water smell kinda weird, but it's supposed to be very good for your skin. It was intensely relaxing, and a very fun experience. A must-do if you ever find yourself in Beppu!

 All blissed out and relaxed from the healing waters, we leave Beppu and head to the resort town of Yufuin. It's filled with traditional ryokan and onsen, and is a big tourist destination for the Japanese. There is a cute, strollable main street lined with neat little shops. At one, we buy funny Japanese t-shirts, and also can't resist stopping at the "neko" store, which is filled entirely with cat-related merch. The music playing in the shop is various tunes done entirely in meows. You've gotta be a major cat fan to enjoy this experience! I purchase a food dish and heart-adorned collar for Abby.

The "neko shop"
Ryuji also takes us to a vintage automobile museum. There are plenty of old American cars, but also some neat old Japanese cars (Subarus and such) that I've never seen before. We play around on the Harleys serving as photo props. Since Yufuin is a mostly frequented by Japanese tourists, they definitely play up all of this exotic Americana!

Vintage Subarus!

It's getting late, so we drive back to Ryuji's hometown of Saga like a bat out of hell...Ryuji is quite the fast driver in his fancy new car! We are treated to dinner at his in-laws' house, which is located out in the country on a rice farm. We'd actually been there once before, on our first trip to Japan, which was quite the experience. Let's just say that we painfully realized how strong sake is, and never to finish your glass because your host will continue to refill it until you pass out cold on the tatami mat. But, I digress. Like last time, we sit on the floor in a tatami room, and a delicious spread is soon set before us by our gracious hosts. Dinner consists of "shabu shabu", which is a pot of boiling water set on the table that you dip very thin pieces of fish or pork into. We also eat plenty of other things like edamame (love!), fish cake, and fresh fruit. And, of course, some sake.We take it easy this time, though...lesson learned! Ryuji's father-in-law doesn't swig sake with us this time, and retires early to bed. Apparently, he has been ill and was recently hospitalized. Ryuji's sister-in-law enjoys practicing her English with us, and we share funny stories about American stereotypes. (Like, we set them straight that all Americans don't wear Levi's and drink Budweiser). We have a great night and feel so honored to be welcomed into their home, for an authentically Japanese experience.

Our friends Ryuji, Kaori, and their son Ryusei

The family and us
 Earlier this year, we received sad news that Ryuji's father-in-law had passed away. We were devastated. On our first visit, he had welcomed us into his home, the only Americans EVER to visit, and then welcomed us back again. He didn't speak English, and of course we don't speak much Japanese,  but it's amazing how much you can get across without speaking a common language. We will treasure his hospitality always, and it will go down as one of the best moments of my life. RIP...we'll see you on the other side, and we'll make sure to bring a bottle of sake.