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Friday, September 30, 2016

Rip City Redux

Oh Portland, how I love thee!

City of Coffee, Wine, Books, Beer, Nature, and Subarus!!

This trip was about a year in the planning and we couldn't wait to descend on Portland with our good friends, the Ashtons.

Traveling with friends you have known for more than half your life is such a lively experience. We won't mention anything here about driving in Portland to preserve our marriages!

Labor Day Weekend 2016 - easy flight into Portland on Friday via my fave airline - Southwest, where bags fly free and peanuts are your breakfast treat. We booked ourselves into the Marriott Waterfront ( and were happy with the choice. Location was very good, close to the freeways, and easily walkable for city meandering. Every Marriott is independently owned and operated and I'll just say that this one was not as welcoming as some of the other properties we've visited.

Portland is drizzly. But who cares?? First stop on Friday were the food carts. A couple of city blocks filled with trailers and people serving up everything from Hawaiian spam musubi, to deli-style sammies, and Korean BBQ. Not to mention vegan options, veggie selections, healthy food, and deep-fried goodness. If you can't find something here, I don't know what to think. Check out your choices at Your tummy will thank you.

Our friends had never been to Portland so off we went to Powell's House of Books ( to investigate their enormous selection of new and used tomes. I could lose myself in here and never find my way out - thank goodness for their maps and hugely obvious directional signage. If you're a reader or know a reader, or want to be a reader - this is the place for you.

And coffee... let's just say we hit up Barista, thanks to Sierra and Zach's recommendation. Oh My Land!! Ann's a coffee aficionado and I wanted her to sample as many different cups of coffee as John would sample wine and Jeff his beer.

Portland has a great craft-beer thing going on and we opted to try Ten Barrel Brewing Co ( a few blocks from Powell's. Sharing a sampler, we all found at least one or two beers we thought were tasty enough. This was a great spot for visiting - good music and decent samples.

Wine is also a very big deal here and we tottered over to Oregon Wines on Broadway, labeled online as the premiere wine tasting shop in all of Portland. Sadly, an experience not worth repeating. Staff was not the friendliest, nor the most helpful. And all those wines mentioned online - not a one of them offered in-house. Strange...

Dinner ... Imperial Restaurant on Broadway ( is an award winning restaurant with a great menu. Walking into a place that smells like firewood and fresh cooked meats takes my breath away. Fab cocktails here and those Parker House Rolls were divine. Food was good, the french fries were delish, but the scallops were cool and mushy. I'd give them another chance.

Saturday morning straight to Stumptown Coffee to grab a cup of that famous joe. On to VooDoo Doughnuts ( where the 30-minute line was no problem at all. Those doughnuts are unmistakably some of the fluffiest and tastiest I've ever had. My chocolate peanut-butter caramel fluffer was a delight from start to finish. And the apple fritters were the size of a large skillet and fresh. You'll see people wandering the city and even at the airport with their little pink boxes filled with tasty fried tidbits. YUM. Over to the Portland Saturday Market where artisans spread their wares - everything from jewelry to inlaid wood cutting boards, to candles, soap, laundry balls, windchimes, pottery, and more. There's fresh fruit and veggies, along with a few food carts too. I love stopping into a local market and getting the feel for a city - this one is the longest continuously operating Saturday market in the U.S. Check it out at

We've never seen the Lan-Su Chinese Gardens and wanted to spend a few quiet moments within the city limits. This lovely respite showcases the heady scents of gardenias, plumeria, and magnolia, a reflecting pool, teahouse, and Chinese memorabilia (

Here's a game that predicts your fortune - mine was very positive!!

The teahouse was superb - great service and a lovely pour. 
Who knew Chrysanthemum tea could be so tasty?? 

Over to Pints Brewing Co. ( for a sampler of some very nice beer. Their selection was probably my favorite on the weekend and their laid-back neighborhood feel was great with those rockin' 70's tunes. Truly enjoyed this spot. 

Our next stop was Hobo's Restaurant for a tour of the Shanghai Tunnels. Now this tour was very interesting and very kitschy. Not sure how much was true but it made for a fun underground experience and helped work up our appetite for dinner!

Andina Peruvian Restaurant ( is one of my all-time favorite restaurants ever ever ever. Their service is above and beyond gracious, the menu is terrific, and the cocktails are magnificent. It's hard to make a decision here with all the glorious choices. We loved the yucca frita - these crunch little veggies are unmistakably better than french fries and that's saying alot. The Peruvian corn tamales were sweet and delectable. Los platos - the lamb shank had me undone, and just as good was the Korobuta pork chop, and the Bistec. We were too full for dessert but they had a chocolate orange truffle on the menu and I couldn't resist. Best chocolate ever. Truth.

Sunday was a special trip out to Willamette Valley. Miss Ann Marie carefully selected a variety of wineries, eateries, and the like for our sampling. Breakfast was a darling little stop at the Red Hills Market ( for some whole grain oatmeal, salmon toast, and amazingly delicious muffins and scones. Hell yes! Then a stop into the Lafayette School House Antique Mall. Loads of great finds, but... we were flying and didn't make any purchases. Probably just as well, as the house is packed with schtuff I probably don't need now!!

Our first winery - Domaine Drouhin (, with a strong Pinot Noir selection and a gorgeous view of the valley!! I truly believe that I could sit on their patio and gaze out at this view all damn day. Loved it.

Big Tony Brown and his traveling smoker cooked up a wonderful array of BBQ treats at the WillaKenzie Estate Winery ( We only sampled one wine here and it was my favorite of the day. Gorgeous in color and ripe flavor - truly a delight. Wish I could remember the name of the wine though - that would be helpful. But... it's only sold at the winery, so you'll have to make a visit yourself and check them out. 

Third stop of the day was a winery with the best service of the day - Solena Estate. Thank you Carly for making our visit so enjoyable. We loved the wines, the ambiance, and the view. Check them out at and order some for yourselves!

I absolutely loved our dinner at Dundee Bistro ( Such a charming little spot in the heart of the valley. Their fresh-roasted beet salad, goat cheese plate, crispy brussels sprouts, and bolognese have me hungry as I type this. I'd hit them up again for a light and delicious dinner.

Tired... so tired... after a fun day of wine-tasting. 

Monday morning found us on the road again and our impromptu first stop was Black Rock Coffee Bar. SOO friendly and guess what? They're coming to Arizona!! Can't wait to visit them here in my own backyard. Breakfast was McMenamins Black Rabbit on Halsey in Troutdale. This yummy pit-stop has me hankering for their yummy salmon benedicts and loaded french toast. Next time we visit Portland I'm not only coming here for breakfast, but staying here in their gorgeous historic inn. Check them out at 

On to the Columbia River Gorge for some lovely views of their waterfalls. Surprise stop at the first un-crowded spot - Wahkeena Falls .... loved it! I've since read that there are some 15 or so waterfall spots along the Gorge. Next time...  Check out to plan your visit. 

 And here's Multnomah Falls...

Wine and Cider and Beer, oh my!

We stopped into Hood Crest Winery ( and Mt. Hood Winery ( and The Gorge White House ( and Full Sail Brewery ( I'd have to say I especially loved the spectacular vistas of Mt. Hood and the ciders at The Gorge White House on this day.

I can't for the life of me remember where we ate dinner that evening, but I do remember the creamy concoctions at Salt & Straw. Ice cream for those who can tolerate lactose and ... oh yes... coconut milk ice cream for the likes of me. This place was DE-licious!!! Salt and Straw  - check them out!!! ( 

Our last day in Portland was a quick stop in Lake Oswego (thanks Mary-Pat) for a little wander and some New Orleans style doughnuts at NOLA doughnuts ( I'd love to stay at one of the waterfront properties on this man-made lake just outside downtown Portland. Maybe next time... and there will be a next time Portland, you can count on that.

Oh... I almost forgot - no trip is complete for me without a cemetery. And we found one off the highway just outside the Columbia River Gorge. Here it tis...

Thanks John & Ann Marie for the laughs and the hilarity and the excellent driving and the food and the wine and most of all - your friendship always. 

Jeff & Deb 

Be strong, be steady, be honest, be faithful to your country, and be kind to your fellow man... Regardless of age, weight, ethnicity, beliefs, or sexual orientation. 
Put down your guns and stow your hatred. 
We are ONE United States of America. 

Until next time....
:) Deb

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Oh My Heart....

Oh My Heart, Where has the Summer Gone???

You know those times when you get so wrapped up in your life that you forget how to tie your shoelaces?? Well this summer has been that kind of time. Thank God I wear Birkenstocks most of the time, so no tying required.

Where to start....

Erin turned 30 this year and our beloved daughter wanted to make a family pilgrimage to Walt Disney World. This parent never says "no" to Disney! So we make arrangements and book flights and get the entire gang to take off the same week from work and ... voila... we are off to Orlando.

But wait. Erin's boyfriend of the past 5 years has an additional idea. Just before take-off on their flight from Phoenix, he pops the question. And she says, "yes."

Wow - now this vacation is an "engagement-moon" for the entire family. Yippee!!!


And here we all are - ready to celebrate!!

Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter is our very favorite place to stay. We love the proximity to EPCOT, the one-bus-stop bus stop, the Sassagoula Floatworks Food Court, the doorman (love the doorman!) and the relaxing rooms on the river. You just can't beat the price as this hotel is in the moderate range for WDW hotels. 

We decided prior to our visit to get the Photo Pass, and we are so glad we did. Those Disney photographers go out of their way to get good pics of you and your family all over the park. 

Check out the fun time we had at the Magic Kingdom.

Just getting started!

My favorite ride - My favorite Toy Story Characters!

Big Papi loves Snow White's Mine Train

A proposal?? 

Sierra (first time visit) and Zach 

Maria and Mike celebrated their first wedding anniversary!

We had a couple of first-timers with us on this trip - Zach's girlfriend Sierra, and Erin's new fiance Jeffery had never been to Walt Disney World. That made this birthday trip even more special. 

Dinner this first night was a fantastic experience at "Be Our Guest" inside the Magic Kingdom. We had a terrific meal, excellent service, and we all chanced a visit with The Beast. 

Sitting in the Master's Chair....

This restaurant is truly a "don't miss" experience, especially if you're a fan of Beauty and the Beast. 

We rode every ride imaginable in our 8am to midnight escapade, even waiting around for the fireworks to show up at 11:45 after a huge storm. 
Believe folks... always Believe! 

Our second day took us over to the Disney Studios. Loads of construction happening out there and I cannot wait to see what the future brings with a Star Wars Themed Land AND a Toy Story Themed Land. Disney just doesn't sit around waiting for the future to happen, they bring it!! We love the Studios and had a great day with an epic downpour after dinner. Running in flip-flops on flooded pavement isn't as smart at age 57 as you might think. No injuries to report!!

Our kids' favorite ride here is Rockin' Roller Coaster and for good reason. If you can stand the pressure of an amazing 60-second ride of epic turbulence - do it. Me... I love the Toy Story ride. 

Lunch at Mama Melrose's Place was decent Italian and service was exemplary. I won't bore you with the details of a lackluster dinner...

Weather in Florida is always dicey in the summer months - humidity, afternoon storms, and the like. We've done this time of year three times and always remember to drink plenty of water. A daily downpour doesn't ever stop us!!

EPCOT - Love this place. Love the food, love the experience, love it love it love it. We tried to grab a snack and beverage in every single country around the back side of EPCOT. We were moderately successful, skipping America of all places. 

There are performances to catch, shops to meander, movies to watch, rides to enjoy, and food food food here at EPCOT. If you're traveling with adults - it's a great place to catch some tasty adult beverages as well. Check out Tequila del Cava in Mexico or the Biergarten in Germany, or the little plaza in Italy. All were cool, welcoming, and delicious. 

We ate everywhere we could, and then sauntered over to Disney Springs. This place is hopping! Newly refurbed with some excellent dining choices. We had a wonderful meal at Raglan Road. Good food, good service, great song and dance performances as well. We wound up at Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar for evening drinks and it was a very cool space indeed. Indoors, outdoors, and a great drinks menu. 

Animal Kingdom is spectacular. If you haven't been here in awhile, you cannot believe how huge it has become. This tribute to the wild has a good safari ride, excellent thrill rides (with a Yeti!), really delicious food, and their ever-popular Lion King Spectacular. I cannot get enough of this place and the nearby Animal Kingdom Lodge is a treat beyond all else. We headed over there for dinner and their buffet was absolutely delicious!! I cannot recommend it enough. 

The Tree of Life (and us!) 
Morning and Evening 

Walt Disney World is quite possibly my favorite place on the planet. Well... I do love Bruges in Belgium too. Seriously, it is such a grand place for a family vacation and multiple generations always find something that inspires them to laugh, to hug, to celebrate, and to love. 

these two... so happy for them!! 

Until Next Time...
:) Deb