Category Archives: All Work and A Little Play

Sunriver Conferencing

After a relatively low-key beginning to the year, things really picked up in the spring. Brandon and I took an amazing trip home to Arkansas for a long Easter weekend. A couple weeks later, my brother Ethan came for a visit and to run the Eugene marathon. Two weeks later was a quick trip to Spokane for a conference followed by my first backpacking trip over Memorial Day weekend. It was a bit of a whirlwind. In between Arkansas and my brother’s visit, I managed to squeeze in another work trip, this time to Sunriver, Oregon.

As far as places to have a conference, it is hard to imagine somewhere better than the Sunriver Resort. If you happen to be a conference organizer looking for the perfect place to host a small conference in Oregon, look no further. Having attended my fair share of conferences, this place had everything a conference goer would want. In addition to opportunities to learn new stuff. Of course.

A Beautiful Location:

When it comes to places in Oregon that I love, the Bend area is toward the top of the list. Although I love my little piece of the state the best, Bend is also lovely in a deserty kind of way. I loved getting to walk around the resort property, Mt. Bachelor visible in the background, during brief breaks from conference sessions. And the drive to get there was gorgeous, snow still piled alongside the road.

A Comfortable Place to Stay:

As an introvert, conferences can be hard. And exhausting. And, at moments, my idea of a really bad time – networking, although necessary, is most definitely not fun for me. I love having a comfortable and cozy room to retreat to at the end of the day where I do not have to talk to anyone. Except Brandon on the phone. He has no idea how much I must love him in order that make that exception. Sunriver more than delivered in the comfortable and cozy room department. There was even a fireplace and a bit of a view. A great place to stay? Check!

Good Conference Facilities:

If I have to sit all day, I at least want to sit in a not ugly room. The resort’s conference facilities were well designed, easy to navigate, and seemed to be customizable to various needs. The staff made sure water and coffee (glorious coffee) were always available. Nothing life changing, but it is nice to attend a conference where the details are considered.

Yummy Food:

Okay, so I know not all conferences are catered, but this one happened to be and it was delicious. And I know not everyone prioritizes good food as a necessary component of, well, pretty much everything. Like the conference facilities, the catering facilities were ideal. Add to that really good food with enough variety to accommodate any diet and you clearly have a place that knows what they’re doing. At this particular conference, all meals and snacks were included. There was even an outdoor s’mores social one evening that was especially fun.

If you’re in the market for a great spot for a conference or other event, Sunriver Resort should be on your list.


What I Ate in North Carolina

I would normally have more to share than a handful of restaurants after visiting a new place. Alas, because I was in North Carolina for a conference, I actually had to work. I spent most of my days in hotel conference rooms, soaking in the interesting and informative lectures. In between learning, I did manage to fit in a few delicious meals.

Of course, the plan was to spend the partial day I had before the conference exploring a bit. That plan was rather disrupted when housekeeping knocked on my door that morning. Somewhat baffled by housekeeping bothering me quite so early in the morning, I looked at the clock. Only to realize that it was after 11 pm. Jet lag, man. So, not quite so much time to explore, but, with my first trip to NC, I did get to enjoy legit fried chicken, actual sweet tea, and still-warm-from-the-oven cornbread (oh how I miss Southern food). I visited a charming French bakery, chowed down on wood-fired pizza, and met up with college friends for dinner.  Although I spent most of my time either at the conference or eating, I did also find time to stop in at a fantastic and accessible museum.

Without further ado, here is my quick overview of places (okay, mostly restaurants) to visit if you find yourself in Charlotte, NC. I am so glad to have friends who make such great recommendations!

Mert’s Heart and Soul: When I think of things I miss about the South, home cooked Southern food is high on the list. In fact, it is probably right behind friends and family on the list and well above the weather. Which might not be on the list at all, as a matter of fact. Being in NC, I knew I would not be getting quite the home cooked experience, but Mert’s came pretty darn close. My co-workers and I headed there upon a recommendation from my friends in NC and I do not think anyone regretted the choice. I went all out, choosing fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and okra and tomatoes. With sweet tea of course. And the cornbread. Oh the cornbread. I could write poems about the cornbread. This is definitely a place to check out while in Charlotte.

The good stuff

Amelie’s: Another recommendation from a friend, this seemed like the perfect spot for lunch after waking up a little later than intended that morning. From the moment one walks in the door, it is hard to not be completely charmed by this spacious and unique bakery. And the food was perhaps even more impressive than the decor. My choice (not an easy one, to be sure) was the chicken salad sandwich and a side of truffle potato salad. You had me at truffle. Oh, and an iced coffee. Did I mention I was rather jet lagged? And you know I saved room for dessert. That was an even more difficult choice. Thankfully, many of the desserts came in a mini-size. The sole purpose of a mini-dessert’s existence is so that you can eat more of them without feeling guilty.

Life is full of difficult choices

Tupelo Honey: The fact that this is a chain restaurant did not make it any less delightful. Of course, that could have been the company, as well. One night while in NC, I had the privilege to meet up with two of my friends from college, who I had not seen since, well, college pretty much. I love that I have friends all over the US and the world. And that sometimes even when I am far away from home, I get the chance to see them. As I sat on the restaurant’s balcony, happily eating fried green tomatoes and “burnt” okra while enjoying the cool of the evening, I was so thankful to be spending an evening catching up with old friends.

Mama Ricotta’s: Although I could happily have eaten ALL the Southern food, this Italian restaurant was a nice change of pace for my last evening in NC. Fair warning if you decide to enjoy a meal here, this place was packed! Thankfully, my co-worker/friend and I got there in time for an early dinner. By the time we left there was a line out the door. And it was easy to see why. The food was fresh and authentic. With plenty of garlic. I don’t think there are many better food combos in the world than pizza, salad, and wine. There is, of course, turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce, but that is for another time.

Levine Museum of the New South: Obviously, this is not a restaurant. Other than seeing what was to be seen walking around downtown Charlotte, this was the other non-food stop I experienced during my time in NC. I was, after all, there to actually attend a conference. Despite being non-conference related, I did learn as I perused the museum. The Levine Museum focuses on the history of the South, especially in and around NC, since the end of the Civil War. The main exhibit is interactive and engaging, even for an adult. It was well worth the time spent and the $8 entrance fee. I would recommend this as a stop to anyone visiting Charlotte.

Of course, there was more I would have liked to do while in Charlotte. But, I feel like I made the most of my time. And I got to attend a wonderful conference. I will not bore you with the details of that. Just trust me on the food.

Conferences Can Be Fun

Okay, so the title might be a bit misleading. It suggests that the default assumption is that conferences are, in fact, not fun and one must work to make them so. However, we all know that conferences are fun because learning new stuff is fun. At least to a nerd like me. That being said, there are some ways to make the most of the time spent in a new city, even if you’re there to work.

Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to explore two amazing places while also getting to learn new stuff. My first out of town training was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and the second was in the nearby Portland, a city in which, despite its proximity, I had yet to spend much time. Here are a few things I did to make the most of my time in these two very different cities.

  1. Enjoy the journey. Whether it was marveling at the view out of my airplane and shuttle bus windows, taking a short road trip to Portland with the boyfriend, or finding a few minutes to ramble while orienting myself to a new place, I love, love, love, to see or experience a place to which I have never been. Even if I have to work the next day.IMG_6802 IMG_6813 IMG_6807
  2. Stay somewhere cool. While in Portland, I was fortunate that the conference was held at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront. Not only was the room super cool and oh-so-Portland (notice the bike art), but the view. Seriously. Plus, it was super convenient to take the elevator down to the conference instead of walking across half a city (usually in the cold and rain) to get to a conference because I was a poor, broke grad student and had to stay somewhere that was both less expensive and significantly less convenient than where the conference was being held. Oh the perks of having a real job. IMG_7144IMG_7155IMG_7147IMG_7170I wanted to extend my stay in Portland a bit longer and decided to stay at the even more cool Hotel Monaco Portland. The room was quirky and comfortable. The boyfriend and I enjoyed the well-attended complimentary wine hour before heading out to dinner. Sydney was not along for this trip, but if she had been, she would have been welcomed and spoiled at the Kimpton Hotels property.IMG_7222IMG_7207 IMG_7209 IMG_7208IMG_7217 IMG_7215 IMG_7214
  3. Eat good food. Perhaps this is more generally reflective of my approach to life, but traveling anywhere is the perfect excuse to find the best food that I can and eat it.
    The area around the Mayo Clinic had many excellent restaurants, including this one.
    Goat cheese flatbread with oven roasted tomatoes, garlic oil, spinach, and a whiskey balsamic glaze
    Br’er Rabbit’s Bramble made with gin, lemon, simple syrup, and Pimm’s Blackberry Elderflower
    Lobster mac n’ cheese at Chester’s Kitchen & Bar.
    Penne alla arrabiata from Victoria’s. Not only was it delicious, but thankfully I had a mini-fridge and microwave in my hotel room because I had plenty of leftovers.
    Raspberry creme brûlée – I couldn’t skip dessert!
    City Market was the perfect spot for a quick and yummy lunch.
    My veggie sandwich was made on multi-grain sourdough and topped with Boursin cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, sprouts, cucumber, roasted red peppers, and jack cheese.
    On Friday I treated myself to lunch at the seafood restaurant Pescara to celebrate wrapping up my training. The shrimp tacos and black bean soup were perfection.
    My last meal in Rochester was at Grand Rounds Brewpub.
    The chickpea and goat cheese burger with an avocado puree was a great veggie burger option.
    One night in Portland, the boyfriend and I treated ourselves to a fancy night out at the Portland Street Grill. The view, the food, and especially the company were impossible to beat.
    Salt and pepper seared scallops with caramelized cauliflower and roasted butternut squash – my idea of the perfect meal


    And because there had yet to be enough deliciousness, pumpkin donut holes
    The Bistro in the Marriott was an ideal spot to meet the boyfriend for a quick and very yummy lunch.
    Salmon salad with green beans, potatoes, egg, tomato, olives, and a honey mustard vinaigrette
    I was perfectly content with the curried cauliflower soup and a Caesar salad
    Friday evening, we met my colleagues for dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant in the Pearl District. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name. Forgetting one restaurant name is not too bad, right?


    My favorite meal of the entire Portland trip was at a new restaurant named Lechon. The architecture and design were unique and fun and the food, which, let’s be honest, is what really matters, was beyond incredible. Inspired by South American cuisine, was delicious. I will definitely be returning.
    Gaucho bread with chimichurri
    Brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, smoked cashew puree, pink peppercorns – I could eat these everyday.
    Grilled octopus, which was really beyond description. Just know it was fantastic.
    Grilled corn and braised brisket empanadas – I could have eaten dozens of these. I’m sure they were calorie free, right?


    Mediterraneo – pisco, cardamom infusion, egg white, lemon


    Brunch at Red Star Tavern. It was excellent, but relatively overlooked. So in a city that is all about brunch, we were able to get a table right away.


  4. Explore. I was quite busy while at the Mayo Clinic, but I did get to spend some time walking around their amazing campus. In Portland, the boyfriend and I explored the nightlife, enjoyed a scenic walk along the river, and spent a very fun afternoon at the OMSI – the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. IMG_6820IMG_6829IMG_6869IMG_6919IMG_6955IMG_6954IMG_6923IMG_6922IMG_7009IMG_7015
    We skipped Voodoo Doughnut this time because the line was always ridiculously long. Plus, in case it is not abundantly apparent from the above pictures, it is not like we could have possibly been hungry.
    Ground Kontrol Arcade


    The walk to dinner Saturday evening was gorgeous.


    This guy makes me smile


    We totally figured this one out without any help from Google. At all. Promise!


    Looking good at the IMAX


  5. Relax. I took advantage of a free afternoon to check out the spa at the Mayo Clinic’s incredible health center. A little pampering was a perfect way to wrap up a week of long days of work. The services were affordable and the facilities were quite nice. Whether it is a couple hours at a spa, doing some yoga, or taking a walk outside, relaxation helps the brain work better, an important aspect of being able to absorb all the new information you learn at a conference.IMG_7018 IMG_7024 IMG_7023 IMG_7020 IMG_7019
  6. Bring along someone with whom you like spending time. If you have not yet deduced this, the boyfriend tagged along for the conference in Portland. Which meant I could do fun things like meet him for lunch, go out on city dates and do all kinds of non-small-town stuff, and be slightly pushed out of my comfort zone (Ground Kontrol, I’m looking at you…). He definitely made my time in Portland more fun.IMG_7154
  7. As a bonus, I’m going to share one thing NOT to do. Do not, under any conditions, oversleep your alarm the morning you’re going to the airport. Hypothetically, that could result in missing your shuttle to the airport by 5 minutes, which, in turn, could potentially result in a $230 taxi ride. I am not sure who would make such a rookie travel mistake, but just take the offered advice and set an alarm and request a wake up call. Your wallet will thank you.

I have so many exciting things coming up soon: more exploration of Oregon including a New Year’s Trip to Sun River, a last minute trip to South Korea, and a long-planned trip to Iceland early next year. I am looking forward to ending this year on a high note and beginning the next one in the best way possible – going somewhere new!