There are many things that change between one’s twenties and one’s thirties. Energy levels, gray hairs, relationships and priorities. Bachelorette parties. In fact, there are many ways I imagine the average twenty-something bachelorette party is different from the average thirty-something bachelorette party.
The Food May Be Better: For real. No broke-post-college-student-cheap meals here. From the moment my friend and matron of honor extraordinaire Kacy picked me up on a Friday evening, one thing we certainly did well was eat delicious food in fancy restaurants. We started the weekend with a multi course feast at The Parrott House in Roseburg. Located in a restored historic home, this spot is as beautiful as the food is good.
We enjoyed craft cocktails and shared all the delicious dishes.
For the actual bachelorette dinner, my friend Chelsea picked out a spot that was new to all of us – Novo Modern Latin Table. It was perfect! The staff was fantastic and the food and drinks were even better.
The Accommodations Are Fancier: For our first night, Kacy rented a quaint Airbnb. It was the perfect spot to crash after a late arrival.
But the real star of the show was the next night, which was spent at the boutique Inn at 5th. This hotel had every thing I love in an accommodation – style, comfort, and thoughtful amenities.
The Wine Tour Turns Into a Therapy Session: Of course this could have more to do with having two psychologists in the vehicle, but we learned A LOT about our wine tour driver. Honestly, he should have paid us for the free therapy session. At least we did it in style.
It’s Less About the Scene: We initially had three vineyards on the itinerary, but we were having such a relaxed time, that we didn’t make it to the third. Our first stop was the iconic King Estate. It was, of course, incredible to see the hundreds of acres of vineyards and to taste the fantastic wines. The style and scale exuded class.
But it was the second stop, the gathering place called Sarver Vineyard, that was our favorite.
It was clearly a place where people came to spend time together. The wine was simply a bonus.
It was mostly Sarver’s fault that we did not make it to a third spot. The wine, the cheese, the company – it was all meant to be unhurried, savored.
There Are Not Bachelorette Banners (but there are Bride flannels and paper crowns): When I saw the cute Bride flannel at a local bridal show earlier in the year, I could not resist.
And to be fair, there was supposed to be a Bachelorette Banner, but in true thirties fashion, my friend Kacy has two little ones who were playing with them beforehand and they got lost somewhere along the way. So instead I had a gold paper crown that we picked up at the bakery.
There Are Naps. And Tums. And Coffee: A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. Enough said.
The Phallic Symbols are Somewhat Classier: Although perhaps they should have been absent… We decided that penis shaped things are fine for bachelorette parties in your twenties and probably cool again in your fifties and beyond. Even so, it was hilarious when the chef at Novo joined in on the fun and sent penis shaped appetizers to our table.
Thankfully, my friends forewent the penis cake in favor of something a bit tamer. And really, really yummy.
The Morning After Is More Brutal: I settled for salmon hash when the waiter at Marche bravely told me it was too early for a burger.
But really, I think this picture says it all.
Twenties or thirties (or beyond) a bachelorette party (or weekend, in this case) is a great opportunity to spend time with dear friends and celebrate a beautiful moment tin life. But some things really do get better with time – like fine wine and friendships.
I do this thing, this thing where I get restless if I go too long without some type of adventure, whether it be a weekend getaway or a day trip to a new place or, if I’m lucky, a vacation to somewhere interesting and beautiful. Since returning from Jamaica in September, with time and finances rather tied up with wedding planning, the opportunities to get away, although not quite nonexistent, had been few and far between. As the end of the year approached I could feel myself getting antsy. The feeling built until the last weekend of the year when I had an extra long weekend thanks to the New Year.
I woke up Saturday morning not having any plans, but really, really, really wanting to have plans. So, like a normal person, I suggested that we go camping. In a tent. The obvious choice for a weekend in December. One spot I had been wanting to explore since moving to Oregon was Cape Perpetua along the coast. Shockingly, we had no difficulty making last minute campgroup reservations at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park. Less than 2 hours after I initially suggested camping and Brandon agreed (after spending a few minutes reconsidering my sanity), we were packed up and ready to go.
Heading toward the coast seemed like the perfect excuse to stop by the Lighthouse Cafe. Not that I need an excuse.
After lunch, we enjoyed the scenic route to the coast and then arrived and settled into our campsite. I’m fairly certain that we were the only people in the entire park crazy enough to tent camp in the middle of winter, but we ensured we got a site with electricity in order to make a few, ummm, adjustments to our typical camping arrangement.
After setting up our campsite, we spent the rest of the afternoon doing the best kinds of things – walking along the beach holding hands, watching Sydney play tag with the waves, finding whole sand dollars (not easy to do), and enjoying the beauty that is the Oregon coast.
After a long walk on the beach and taking approximately 1 million pictures, give or take, we had worked up an appetite. We decided to return to Homegrown Public House, a spot we had especially liked during a previous trip to Florence.
It was just as great as we remembered. The literary themed seasonal cocktails were a fun touch. With options such as A Walk in the Woods, My Precious, Lizzie Bennet, and A Song of Ice & Fire it was hard to decide.
The real highlight continued to be the locally sourced, made from scratch food.
Bellies full, we soaked in the warmth of the restaurant before heading back to camp for what we correctly anticipated would be a chilly night.
Although the space heater and many blankets kept us reasonably warm, there is only so much you can do to make camping in a tent, an activity that is not particularly comfortable under ideal conditions, cozy in the middle of winter. Needless to say, we got an early start the next morning, desperately needing another campfire, lots of hot coffee, and the chance to move and stretch our aching backs.
Despite a mediocre night of sleep, we were excited to begin our day at Cape Perpetua. This was another spot on my Oregon bucket list, Thor’s Well and the tide pools both being among the spots I wanted to see.
With no real plan in mind, we walked the trails, explored the tide pools, and marveled at the incredible ways water and rock and wind and time have shaped the coast.
And just when we thought the views couldn’t get any more amazing, we headed to the top. From the highest point on the coast, we could see miles down the coast and out to sea. There is an immensity that overwhelms in places such as this one, an immensity that washes over and through and leaves a feeling that is simultaneously humbling and expansive.
To finish up our quick weekend away, we enjoyed a late lunch at 1285 Restobar, a favorite because of the pistachio drink, the ingredients of which we have repeatedly tried to determine. Well, it must have been our lucky day because with minimal prompting our waitress revealed the unexpected secret ingredients. I won’t reveal them (mostly because if I did you probably would not try it), but I’ll make you one of these cocktails anytime!
We savored our lunch and began the drive home, reviewing the year, both the wonderful and difficult parts. It had been a year full of amazing things, but also a year that presented some challenges. As we reflected on this year, our thoughts turned to the next year with anticipation. The next year, the one where we would get married and start our life together. As we looked backward and looked forward, I felt grateful for the man beside me with whom I made so many of the wonderful memories of the past year and with whom I would soon be starting the next chapter. Whether we spend the weekend having adventures, recovering from a crazy week, or simply moving through the mundane tasks of life, I am thankful that he is the one by my side. Later that night, exhausted, we sat around the fire pit in the backyard and toasted the new year with friends, welcoming and wondering what 2018 will bring.
One bride, two days, three friends, four bridal boutiques, and (at least) five glasses of champagne. Add in some fancy restaurants and a chic hotel and you’ve got everything you need for the perfect weekend spent searching for the perfect dress.
It all started when my friend Kacy informed me that there was a BHLDN (pronounced beholden – Dutch for “to keep”) wedding shop in Portland. BHLDN is Anthropologie’s wedding collection and after spending approximately 2 minutes looking at the collection online, I knew I had to try on the dresses. All the dresses. And thus, the plans began to fall into place. When it was all said and done, we had a packed itinerary for a weekend of wedding dress shopping and some much needed friend time.
To be honest, I was not necessarily hopeful that I would find “the” dress, but I was confident I would find something beautiful and flattering and enough to make me happy. Really, the search to find a dress was mostly an excuse to get away to the city for a night and have some fun with friends. Oh, and to drink champagne. Finding a dress would just be a bonus. I had asked my groom if he had any preferences for the dress. His only request was a white dress. The italics might be foreshadowing.
Anyway, my friends – Kacy (also my matron of honor), Chelsea, and Dani – and I set out on a Saturday morning from Roseburg and headed toward Eugene. And although my friends Jessi and Shannon could not be there in person, they spent their entire weekends texting with Kacy about every single dress. Our first appointment was at Blush Bridal. I had been told by multiple people that this was the place to shop for a dress. I could immediately see why. From the moment we walked in, every one was friendly and the consultant I worked with was excited to help me find the perfect dress. It was a little overwhelming first, but this first stop helped me settle into narrowing down what I wanted, beginning to learn what looked best on me, and just generally getting used to having all the attention focused on me.
I actually found two dresses that I loved, but did not feel quite ready to commit at the first boutique, so I made an appointment for the next day, expecting to return and finalize a dress purchase in Eugene before returning to Roseburg.
All that dress trying had worked up an appetite, so we made a quick stop for lunch at Mucho Gusto before beginning the drive to Portland.
This is a second hand bridal shop where proceeds go to charity. I think the experience there is likely to be a little hit or miss and for me it was a miss. But I did get a good laugh out of trying on a couple dresses that ended up looking unpredictably terrible on me. I love the concept and I am sure if I lived closer I would have given it another visit or two. No appointment was required, so it was easy to fit around the other activities of the weekend.
Next, it was off to check into the hotel before the final appointment of the day. I particularly love Kimpton Hotels, so when there was a suite sale, I jumped on the chance to book a suite at the Portland Hotel Monaco.
The quirky and stylish hotel did not disappoint. The suite was spacious and just perfect for a girl’s weekend.
We took a few minutes to settle in and kick up our feet before walking to the nearby Ania Bridal.
Ania Bridal was another fun experience, complete with the requisite champagne. It was here where I really narrowed down the style of dress I wanted, noting the similarities between what I liked best at Blush and what I like best here.
More dresses, more champagne, more decisions to make. I was feeling good about being able to find a dress I loved this weekend, but was still pondering the options as we headed back to the hotel for the complimentary happy hour.
Every evening, there is a social hour featuring local wines and brews. And because Kimpton is pet friendly, there are always a few cute pups hanging out, too. We didn’t want to ruin our appetites, though. We had plans.
Because it was my wedding dress weekend, we went to my favorite restaurant, Lechon. I have extolled the delicious virtues of this place many times and this evening with friends was no exception.
I could leave it at that, but the food is too beautiful not to share, dish by dish. We shared a number of incredible dishes, enjoyed craft cocktails, and ended the meal with a bit of sweetness.
With all of this, we even managed to save a little room for dessert.
We walked back to the hotel. I felt happy in a way that only the combination of a fancy meal and the energy of walking in a city after dark provide. We opened the bottle of champagne that had been cooling in the fridge (at the expense of the mini bottles now scattered across the floor to make room for the champagne) and pondered the pros and cons of the various dresses I had tried on that day.
We reviewed the texted feedback from Jessi and Shannon. We discussed our plans for the next day. And then things got a little, well, goofy… Because I like these people and want them to still be my friends, I will refrain from sharing the evidence. Other than this. Because the cool hotel robes must be modeled.
I’ll just leave it at that.
The next morning, my final bridal appointment was not until 11 am. That + being in Portland = brunch. Chelsea had recommended Mother’s Bistro and I am so glad she did.
It was classy and cozy. Most important of all, the food was incredible.
Being friends means sharing each others’ food. At least in my book.
After a great brunch, we were ready for the last bridal appointment, the one that had prompted the whole trip – BHLDN. At this point, my plan was still to try on the pretty dresses just for fun and then exhaustively discuss which of the Blush dresses I wanted to purchase on the drive back to Eugene.
Located in a corner of the second floor of Anthropologie, BHLDN just felt right. I wanted to touch all of the dresses, not just look at them, as I sipped champagne out of bright pink can. And then I met my consultant, her Southern accent sounding so familiar that I couldn’t help but ask where she was from. Something about learning that she was also from Arkansas set me at ease and made the dress shopping experience even more fun.
The place had some seriously gorgeous gowns. I had one dress left to try on and felt like I had a sense of what I liked. Sure, I had not had that moment you see on TV shows and movies, but I was feeling good about what I had mostly decided to buy. Yes, there was one more dress to try, but I had chosen it solely because it was remarkably beautiful and I simply wanted to try it on because I could. It was obviously not going to be an option because it was decidedly not white and, after all, that had been Brandon’s single request. But how many times do you have an excuse to try on as many pretty dresses as you want? I was not considering in a million years that I would buy this dress. I just wanted to wear it for five minutes.
And then I tried it on and had that moment. I walked out and everyone’s face lit up. I stood in front of the mirror and started crying, choking out the words, “I want this dress” as my friends texted Brandon to reassure him that a not white dress would be okay when it was a dress as breathtaking as this one. My mom called the second she got the pictures of the dress to insist that I buy it. And Shannon and Jessi, who had been bombarded with pictures all weekend, texted this:
This dress was, unquestionably, the one. Sometimes I put it on and just stare at it in the mirror and I absolutely can’t wait to wear it next month. It is stunning. I blew my wedding dress budget without a second thought.
A successful weekend of wedding dress shopping called for celebratory sushi burritos. If you find yourself in the Eugene area, you will not regret stopping by this little drive through sushi stand.
Sushi burritos may sound strange, but they are legit tummy goodness.
I ordered the Black Widow – cajun sesame seared albacore tuna sashimi, crispy shrimp, crab, spicy cream cheese, cucumber, carrots, and seaweed salad served with a cajun sweet soy sauce. And I added avocado. I recommend everything about this.
We savored our meal, discussing our favorite parts of the weekend and continuing to marvel over the dress, the not white wedding dress that was meant to be. I am always amazed how a single night away can make a difference – getting out of the usual routine, enjoying delicious meals, and most of all spending time in the company of friends. I think I should do this more often, although perhaps without spending more than $1000 on a dress. That would buy a lot of sushi burritos.
When I was in college there was this show, I think it was on TLC, called The Perfect Proposal. The premise of the show was helping someone, usually a man, plan an elaborate marriage proposal for the person he loved. Sure, it was a little over the top, but it was fun to watch. There were hot air balloons and sky writers, surprise visits from far away family members, and I even recall a marching band or two. But beyond all of the cute animals and spa days and bespoke productions, beyond the scenic locations and giant diamond rings, there was always this moment. This moment of fear and hope, of expectation. In that beautiful, vulnerable moment, one person asked a question full of hope and promises, a question that imagined a future and nervously took the first steps toward it. And then the next moment when another person joyfully said yes to a life full of unknowns, to both the sorrow and happiness of all the years to come. That moment is the magic of life. It’s terrifying and brilliant to have so much wrapped up into one tiny, humongous question and an even tinier, momentous answer to that question. It was that moment that would be the sweetest, most wonderful memory I would take from Jamaica.
I’ll be honest, the morning before the proposal I was kind of pouting. I suspected and hoped that Brandon was going to propose sometime during the trip because, really, how could there be a better place to propose than Jamaica? But we were nearing the end of our weeklong trip and it had not happened. So, like I said, I may have spent portions of Thursday pouting and pretending not to. However, like an adult I reminded myself that I was in a gorgeous place having a fantastic time with my favorite person. I was not going to let the lack of a piece of jewelry take away from that. We had a fun day snorkeling, relaxing at our hotel, and swimming in the pool. We had decided that we would go out that night for a fancy dinner at Ivan’s, which was just down the road from our hotel. We got dressed up, which meant that Brandon actually put on pants instead of the shorts he had been wearing the rest of the week. He suggested that before going to dinner we stop by the bar and get a couple drinks and then find a spot to watch the sunset. He did not exactly have to twist my arm.
There was this little cabana right on the edge of the cliff that was just the spot. We sat and I sipped my drink, choosing to simply enjoy the moment. I did notice that Brandon seemed a little nervous and distracted. Despite this, we soaked in the moment and savored the beauty and the company. We took a few pictures and then right at sunset (6:15 on Thursday September 14 to be exact), he suggested we get up and take some pictures together. He maneuvered us to the edge of the cabana and then dropped down on one knee. He had something in his hand, but I could only look at his face as he asked “Will you be my Mrs. Hart?” I could not speak. I could not even say yes, so I just nodded my head and leaned over to kiss him. I eventually looked at the ring. He had even found a ring box that was shaped like a shell. After a few blissful moments of cherishing the newness of being engaged, of privately celebrating suddenly being more than boyfriend and girlfriend, Brandon set off to find a random person to come take pictures. We recreated the sweet moments of our engagement for the patient man behind the camera.
It was sincere. It was joyful. It was perfect.
That evening, we had a celebratory dinner at Ivan’s.
The food may have been delicious, but even more amazing was sharing my first meal with my fiancé.
This man. I love him beyond words and cannot imagine someone loving me better than he does. This sunset proposal in Jamaica will be a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. On the days when life is hard or when love is hard, I will recall the love that came easily and the happy tears shed in one of life’s perfect moments and remind myself of the all the many reasons I said yes to the unknowns of forever.
And, if you are wondering, I spent the rest of our vacation telling every.single.person. who we met that we had just gotten engaged.
Something to know about me when I travel: me + jet lag = a headache. Almost inevitably. Unfortunately my time in the paradise that is Jamaica was no exception. I struggled with a splitting headache through the first two days of vacation, choosing to have fun despite the pain, hoping a bit of relaxation would eventually help my head catch up to the fact that we were on vacation. But by day three, I needed more than a bit of hope and the regular administration of Excedrin Migraine.
Enter the Rockhouse Spa.
The award winning spa was just what I needed to finally kick the headache.
This place was incredible. From the moment I walked into the open air building, I felt a sense of calm. The space struck the perfect balance between “Jamaica” and “spa” – light rock and dark wood, sunshine and the sound of trickling water, brightly colored and relaxing spaces set amid green tropical plants.
For my treatment, I chose the signature bath house bathing ritual, which was said to release tension, boost immunity, and reduce pain. It sounded like exactly what I needed.
After checking in and changing into the provided robe, I was led to a cozy chair where I got to soak my feet in a copper tub of flower petal laced hot water. I allowed my body to sink into the chair as I took some deep breaths and settled into a sense of calm.
After a few minutes, I was given a lovely foot scrub with the spa’s signature island mint tea scrub to welcome me to the spa.
Despite not feeling quite ready to move from the comfortable chair, I was led away to a treatment room for a much needed 60-minute aromatherapy massage. It was wonderful. As each moment passed, I could feel the pain in my head begin to ease.
And then, the best part, my own private bath with an unmatched view of the ocean.
The sunlit bathhouse was beautiful and quiet, the sound of the ocean gentle and soothing. The deep soaking tub was full of steaming water infused with a combination of Jamaican botanicals designed to help me relax and recover. Dandelion, cerassie, green tea, green rooibos, lemongrass, lime leaf and spearmint floated in the the water, pleasantly scenting the room in combination with the salty ocean air. The Epsom salts, sea salts, and baking powder also mixed into the water added to the detoxifying powers of the bath.
After ensuring I was comfortable in the bathtub, my spa therapist brought me a tray of fresh island fruit for me to eat during the bath. I consumed the energizing and healing ginger shot (it burns in a good way) followed by a bite of banana and a sip of water, before being left alone to enjoy.
There are some moments in life that seem almost too wonderful to be real, even as you’re living them. For me, this was one of them. I soaked in the infused water, the heat settling deep into my body. I ate the cold tropical fruits, enjoying the contrast of the warmth of the water and the coolness of the fruit. I gazed out at an unbelievably blue ocean, simply being in the moment, taking in every second before I woke up from what was surely a dream. I could not imagine how this moment could be any better, any more beautiful.
And then, there were dolphins. At first, I almost did not believe my eyes, certain that my entranced gaze had led me to misperceive the movements of the ocean. And yet, there were more. As I sat there, ensconced in the bath, I watched as a pod of dolphins made its way down the coast, smoothly breaking the surface of the water one at a time. It was all too much and I did that weird thing that I do and cried at the beauty of it all. This spa experience redefined bliss.
At the end of it all, when my spa therapist gently suggested that perhaps it was time to get out of the bath, I reluctantly left the warmth of the water. The ocean breeze was pleasantly cool on my skin as I dried off and took one last look around the bath house. And then I noticed it. For the first time in days, I did not have a headache. And I was genuinely relaxed, perhaps more so than I had been in months. The aromatherapy massage, the therapeutic bath, the tranquil place – all had worked together to heal me.
And there was still more. Thankfully, I did not have to jump right back into reality (although, to be fair, being in Jamaica hardly qualified as reality). I was able to sit in the garden, an ice cold towel on my neck, for the last bit of my spa experience – a tea ceremony.
I sipped my tea and savored the moment.
You may be wondering what Brandon was doing during all of this. I believe he was snorkeling and jumping off of things. As I was finishing my tea and debating the merits of never leaving the spa, the peace and quiet was interrupted by someone “whispering” my name rather loudly. After rather disturbing the spa vibe, Brandon found me sitting in the garden. He filled me in on the excitement of his morning and I shared the relaxation of mine. And I believe we both felt perfectly happy in our individual choices and somewhat sorry that the other had chosen to spend the morning in such a manner, each certain that our choice of activity was the best one. But because this is my blog, I get the last word. My morning at Rockhouse Spa was one of my favorite mornings and my spa day was obviously far superior to any morning spent snorkeling and jumping off of things. Plus, I finally got rid of that darn headache. That, my friends, was worth every penny.
So let’s get reeaaalllly personal for a sec. Let’s talk about money. Specifically just how much money I spent on travel in 2017. I began tracking this partly due to my own curiosity – although I generally budget carefully prior to taking a trip, I take a relatively relaxed approach while on vacation, so I’ve never paid more attention than to know that I stay close enough to my budget to count. Secondly, sometimes this level of detail could be helpful to those considering planning their own vacation. If money talk isn’t your thing, you may want to skip this post. If it is (or if you’re just curious) read on!
In this total, I am including all major trips and weekend getaways that I took in 2017. What I did not include is our many camping trips, even those that felt more like vacations. Mostly because the mountain air distracted me from my cell phone enough that I forgot to keep track. Overall, our spending on camping trips was minimal due to most campsites being inexpensive (ranging from no cost to $31 a night on the very high end) and most camp activities being on the cheap (read: free) side. However, camping was the vast majority of the travel and weekend getaways we did over the summer. I also did not include the out of town conferences I attended. Because those were not paid for by me. Other than those oversights, I think the list below is comprehensive. Also note, for most of my travels, expenses were shared with Brandon, so I’m documenting what I actually spent, not the total cost of the trips.
Transportation (aka gas money): $40
Lodging: $125 for a hotel on the way to Cali. Brandon paid for the VRBO where we stayed for the weekend.
Food and Drinks: $150 with additional meals paid for by Brandon
Tours and Activities: $32
Total: $367 for an elegant weekend in California wine country
Transportation: $41.26 for gas, valet parking, and an Uber
Lodging: $143 for one night at a chic hotel
Food and Drinks: $105.84 (I didn’t track this, but Brandon probably spent about this much for our “fancy” dinner out in Portland)
Tours and Activities: $11.45 for a couple of books from Powell’s; the thrill I got from longingly exploring the bookstore? Priceless!
Total: $301.55 for a fun weekend away from small town life
Transportation: $845.69 for flights, a rental car, and gas
Lodging: Free – one of the many great things about visiting friends and family
Food and Drinks: $220.84 spent mostly on coffee, we also enjoyed many amazing home cooked meals
Tours and Activities: Despite being free, time with friends and family is invaluable
Total: $1066.53 for Easter weekend with my favorite people
For this trip, I actually tracked both my expenses and Brandon’s, so I’ll provide both. Just because I can.
Transportation: $373.92 for me – taxes and fees for the flights (which were booked with airline miles) and airport parking; $405 for Brandon – mostly transportation while in Jamaica, including to and from the airport and our driver for the day we went to the south part of the island
Lodging: $623.73 – I paid the deposit for Rockhouse and paid for a hotel in San Francisco so we could get some sleep after arriving back around midnight and not having a flight home until later the next morning; $650 – Brandon paid the remaining Rockhouse balance
Food and Drinks (please don’t judge…): $585 for me; $738 for Brandon; I don’t think either of us have any regrets – so. much. lobster.
Tours and Activities: $306 for me, including some relaxing spa time; $288 for Brandon
Other: $413 for me – a trip like this had some extra stuff, like yellow fever vaccines, but this also includes souvenirs, travel insurance, and dog sitting; $255 for my love, whose insurance, unlike mine, did not cover the $225 vaccine…
Total: $2301.65 for me and $2336 for Brandon for an amazing, life changing, magical week in paradise (side note, our plan for splitting expenses apparently worked perfectly – Brandon brought cash and used his credit card at the hotel and I covered any and all other expenses that could be paid for with a credit card)
Wedding Dress Weekend
Transportation: About $25 – expenses for gas and valet parking were split between myself and 3 sweet friends
Lodging: $65 – not a bad per person price for a gorgeous and roomy suite in a fancy hotel
Food: Maybe $150, I didn’t track this particularly well, but we had some amazing meals
Tours and Activities: If I don’t include the $1300 I spent on a wedding dress, wedding dress shopping was pretty much a free activity 😉
Total: $240 for a super fun women’s weekend finding the most beautiful wedding dress that has ever existed
Grand Total (not including camping trips and conferences): $4276.63
Of course, these are just the broad categories. If there are specific things you’re curious about, for instance the cost of a certain hotel or tour, I’m happy to share! I will confess, this was interesting for me to calculate. And if I’m being honest, I feel like I actually spent less than I thought I had. I know this is still a lot of money, but traveling, at least for now, is a priority in my life and something I choose to spend my money on over other things. I can’t think of a single trip or experience I would change from 2017 and I am incredibly excited about my travel plans for 2018!
Although I generally accept getting older with stoicism and acceptance (after all, what can I do about it?), sometimes another birthday can bring out the less than stoic and accepting thoughts and feelings about adding an additional number to my age. Last year, I managed those thoughts and feelings with a trip to Hawaii. I’ll be honest, spending a few days on the beach with the occasional tropical drink in hand certainly helped ease the pain. Sadly, that was not gonna happen for this year’s birthday. So I arranged for the next best thing – a visit from my brother. It was his second trip to Oregon and we had just as much fun as the first time. And this time, Brandon got to tag along for our sibling adventures. Spending my birthday weekend (because after all a single birthday day is not quite enough) with two of my favorite guys was just about perfect.
We kicked off our weekend with a day trip to Crater Lake. This was a spot we had not made it to last time Ethan was here, but it was at the top of his list of places to go. So we went. Even though it was a bit cloudy that morning, we hoped that the weather would clear by the time we made it to the lake.
All the catching up and scenic driving worked up an appetite, so we stopped at the quaint and delicious Beckie’s outside of the park.
And we just couldn’t pass up the homemade pies. After all, we would be facing unknown risks in the still snowy mountains, so we needed plenty of fuel. Rather than choosing a pie of my own (because how can one choose among all that sweet deliciousness), I ate a bit of Brandon’s blueberry pie and a bit of Ethan’s pecan pie. Two kinds of pie instead of one kind of pie? Yeah, I think I made the best choice.
Our appetites adequately satisfied, we eagerly anticipated views of the bright blue lake. Brandon and I excitedly shared how amazing Crater Lake is, how Ethan would be almost unable to believe his eyes, that when one gets a first glimpse of Crater Lake, it is absolutely breathtaking. And then we were temporarily distracted from all this talk by the sheer amount of snow. Although the roads were clear, there were still feet of snow piled alongside the roads and on top of the buildings. In May. It was incredible.
After all of that – the drive, the talk of the amazingness of the lake, Ethan’s anticipation of finally seeing the much spoken of wonder that is Crater lake – this was the best view of the lake that we got:
Despite the disappointment, we strapped on our rented snowshoes and made the best of the afternoon.
As you can tell, we still managed to have plenty of fun. We played in the snow, threw snowballs, attempted snow angels, and were generally silly.
Even though the lack of lake views was a bit disappointing, Ethan not really seeing Crater Lake means he will just have to come back to Oregon for another visit!
So, perhaps I have sort of given the impression that Ethan came to Oregon just for my birthday. Which he would totally do because he’s one of the two best brothers in the world and I’m certainly the best sister. But I may have left out the teeny, tiny little detail that he chose this particular weekend to come to Oregon because he was running in the Eugene Marathon. Which, of course, meant that I would be there to cheer him on. We headed up to Eugene the night before so Ethan could carb load at Olive Garden and because the next morning would be an early start.
It was that evening that I fully began to appreciate just how much my boyfriend and my brother have in common. Specifically, how nerdy they both are. Sitting between the two of them while watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (and the various previews prior to the movie) was amusing. They would laugh hysterically at the exact same moments. Freak out and demand my attention in their nerdy excitement about the same previews. It was equal parts heartwarming and humorous.
And then there was race day. I was rather surprised by how emotional I was about the whole thing. This certainly was not Ethan’s first race or even his first marathon, but it was the first one of which I had been a part and it brought out my proud big sisterness in unexpected ways.
Like the moment early in the morning when we sat in my car and talked, Ethan staying a bit longer than necessary to calm his nerves, me feeling strangely protective and worried as he walked away from my car to head to the start of the race.
Or when Brandon and I found a spot by the river to cheer him on around mile 18. I think I surprised both of us when I started crying rather intensely because I was so proud of Ethan and watching him do something so difficult and wonderful made me more than a little emotional.
And then there was the finish line. I was inspired watching so many people complete the challenge of a marathon, but there has been no experience in my life like watching Ethan finish the race. I know it might sound dramatic to be emotional about watching my brother running a marathon, but it was such an amazing experience and I could not be more proud of him.
A completed marathon called for a celebratory meal. We settled on Hop Valley Brewery for burgers and beer. Ethan may have been a bit delirious from exhaustion at this point, hence, the following series of pictures.
The food and drink were excellent and exactly what Ethan needed before passing out in the backseat on the way home. Which I documented in pictures, of course. I may have been a proud and emotional big sister, but I was a big sister nonetheless.
The following day was my birthday and Ethan’s last day in Oregon. Despite his aching body, Ethan was willing to make the drive out to the coast to celebrate. He may have requested Brandon to slow down, though, as his abs hurt each time the car took a curve. If you’ve ever made the drive to the coast, you know that curves happen frequently, poor guy.
We had no specific destination other than “the ocean” in mind when we left. Our first stop was a little seafood spot in Coos Bay. We ordered our freshly caught seafood from the restaurant sitting on the water and had a nice little picnic in a waterside pavilion.
From there we headed to a little spot we call “Secret Beach.” It may technically have another name, but sharing it here would make it rather less than a secret. And I like that there are few, if any, people there. Of course, that might have something to do with the crazily rutted, unmaintained, gravel road that you have to take to get there.
We spent the afternoon as one does on an Oregon beach – exploring, walking, relaxing, carrying logs, throwing a hatchet Brandon found abandoned on the beach. You know, the normal stuff.
And for my birthday dinner? We returned to the spot in Florence where we had found a crazy delicious pistachio drink when we had been there the previous year. Yes, I chose my birthday dinner spot entirely for this drink. It’s that good.
Thankfully, the food at 1285 Restobar was almost as good as that drink.
It was altogether a lovely birthday. Getting to spend time with Ethan for an entire weekend certainly distracted me from turning another year older.
As we made the drive back home that evening, I couldn’t help but feel thankful to have had another year of life, a great life full of love and laughter and adventure, a beautiful life that I get to share with Brandon and Ethan and so many others. Getting older might not be so bad, after all.
Love is setting multiple alarms so I wouldn’t miss an early morning flight home. Actually, love is being willing to wake up this early for anyone, ever.
Love is Brandon braving his fears of tornados and water moccasins to fly halfway across the country with me in order to spend a mere 5 days meeting pretty much every person I’ve ever known. And doing it all with a smile on his handsome face.
Love is friends who are willing to drive through Dallas traffic to meet for a late lunch so that I could share the deliciousness that is Torchy’s queso with my boyfriend while introducing him to great friends and the first of many, many new people he would meet within a few short days.
Love is a favorite meal shared with friends, a meal not only of food, but of laughter and reminiscence.
Love is a friend who is willing to share her home and stay up way too late on a work night simply for the chance to catch up.
Love is a meal of Whole Hog BBQ, another stop on the mission to eat all the Southern food.
Love is revisiting the campus where so many wonderful memories were made and trying to explain Harding to my favorite Oregonian.
Love is fried chicken and staying up late playing games and breakfast with enough food to feed an army.
Love is Midnight Oil granitas and best friends who are willing to create the time and drive hours just to meet the man in my life.
Love is a weekend spent in my little hometown. It is my dad’s blueberry pancakes. It is seeing the beautiful place I grew up through the eyes of someone to whom it was all new.
Love is time spent with family – in the car, over Easter dinner, and while drinking tea and laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe.
Love is the people and places that I call home. Especially the people. People who were so excited to meet Brandon and who welcomed him with open arms and open hearts. Love is, for the first time, visiting the home of my past with the one with whom I am building a future.
I love living in Roseburg. I really do. I love my little house in a way I’ve never loved a collection of building materials combined to create a habitation. My 10 minute commute to work is amazing. The summer weather is everything sunny and perfect. I am surrounded by beautiful places. I love living in Roseburg.
Roseburg does somewhat lack in the amenities department. True, there are some fantastic restaurants, but the options are limited. There is rather a dearth of cultural activities and date night options vary between the movie theatre and the bowling alley. I happily manage what Roseburg is missing with making any excuse to go to Portland for the weekend. In March, having some friends in town for a conference provided more than enough reason to leave my small town in southern Oregon for the big city of Portland.
Things I enjoyed in Portland that I cannot find in my little hometown included the food (of course), a chic hotel, and some iconic Portland sites, including a spot on my “Oregon bucket list.”
Because of a great deal on the HotelTonight app, we booked a room at the Hotel Eastlund in downtown Portland. This hotel had everything – style, comfort, amenities, and a great location with convenient location to the light rail.
There was even a great rooftop bar where we enjoyed sunset cocktails against the backdrop of the mountains in the distance.
Afterwards, we took a pleasant walk across the river into the Pearl District for dinner.
As I mentioned, I had friends coming into town for a conference. As the token Oregonian, I had chosen Irving Street Kitchen as the spot to meet for dinner. Pros: Excellent cocktails, an ideal location in the Pearl District, and great style. Plus, it was one of a handful of restaurants that easily took reservations for large groups.
Cons: The food was solidly good, but not as wonderful as comparably priced restaurants in Portland and the service was slow.
Even if Friday’s dinner slightly disappointed, we knew that Saturday morning we would get an unbeatable meal at our favorite restaurant – Le Chon. For the first time, we went there for brunch. It was not disappointing.
Needing to walk off a few calories, we strolled along the river among the blossoming cherry trees before perusing the Portland Saturday Market.
Somehow, this book loving heart of mine had not managed to make it to this iconic Portland bookstore in the 2 1/2 years I had lived in Oregon. This was literally the biggest bookstore I had ever seen. I spent a blissfully undetermined amount of time (thank you, love) wandering among the maze of books, feeling both overjoyed and overwhelmed, inhaling deep breaths of the book smell, utterly content. It was perfection.
Although at heart, I will never be a city girl, I do love to spend some time there now and then doing all the city things that I miss. And Brandon, wonderful man that he is, tagged along for a weekend of some of my favorites.
When I last left off, Brandon and I were in the middle of our weekend trip to Bend to celebrate our first year together, the first of what will hopefully be many years together. I had fully intended to share the weekend in a single post, but some things are too big for that. I am so thankful to love and do life with someone who can fit so much living into a single weekend.
And I love that, even when we are away on our adventures, we still find ways to incorporate the routines we love when we are home. For instance, one of our favorite things to do on the weekends is to go out for brunch. Unfortunately, one limitation of Roseburg is that there are approximately two places to go. It is a wonderful change of pace to do one of our favorite things in a place with a few more options.
Saturday we began the morning with breakfast at Riverhouse’s onsite restaurant, Currents. I really cannot think of a better way to start a morning than drinking a blood orange mimosa and eating huevos rancheros while sitting next to a river on a sunny day across from my favorite person. Well, maybe the day would be slightly better if that river were in Europe and not Oregon, but only slightly.
It may seem like a lot of food, but really we needed the fuel. I promise.
As you may remember, at the beginning of the year we had also spent the weekend in the Bend area. One of our favorite things that we did that weekend was take a cave tour. We toured the only cave in the area, Boyd Cave, that is open in the winter. The other caves are hibernation habitats for bats and are closed beginning in the fall. Brandon really wanted to see some of the other caves while they were open over the summer.
And that fact – Brandon wanting to go caving – leads me to this: sometimes, I wonder how we are together. Like when he wants me to watch shows about cars with him (which I do, because love) or when he convinces me to do things that require a hardhat. Sometimes we have very different definitions of fun.
Our first stop was Arnold Ice Cave, which is one in the system of lava caves that are sort of, technically, but kind of not really, open to the public. You see. People are terrible and do things like throw parties and leave graffiti in the caves. Which adversely impacts the cave habitat. Therefore, many of the signs marking directions to the caves have been removed to prevent people from finding them. So yes, in the summer most of them are not barred shut (a few are shut all year, although with Wanderlust Tours there are some tours that give you access to these otherwise completely closed caves – we had a great experience with them in January), but you have to do a bit of sleuthing to actually find them. And then drive down a gravel road or two.
Arnold Ice Cave, thus named because it was once a solid sheet of ice inside (and I imagine still is in the winter months) and at one time was even mined for ice to sell in the nearby city. We could tell that there had been some infrastructure in place. For instance, there was a parking lot of sorts along with the remains of a staircase inside the cave.
But any infrastructure was either no longer maintained or had even been actively destroyed. But that just means it is even more fun, at least according to this guy:
The descent to the mouth of the cave was reasonably steep and required a bit of scrambling. The cave did not go really far back. Although I can only take Brandon’s word for that because I got a bit stuck on the climb in because of short legs. And perhaps some unwillingness to further risk life and limb.
It was a fun spot to explore, though, and it was interesting to see how the cave, despite being in the same cave system, was distinct from the one we crawled through earlier in the year.
We initially planned to return to civilization and explore Lava River Cave, part of the larger Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It was, after all, on my Oregon Bucket List. Unfortunately, we were thwarted by white nose syndrome and honesty. White nose syndrome is a fungal growth that affects bats and is believed to be carried from cave system to cave system by human activity. The syndrome is deadly to bats. Who need to not die because they kill mosquitoes. Save the bats! Because Arnold Ice Cave and Lave River Cave are in different cave systems, we couldn’t bring anything into the cave that had been worn in another cave unless it had been washed. We could have lied when the nice ranger asked us about previous cave activity, but that would have just not been cool.
So on to an as yet unformed Plan B. After a bit of googling, we settled upon the short drive to Smith Rock State Park, which was also on my Oregon to do list.
Oh. My. Goodness. This place was beyond, beyond words. And the pictures come nowhere close to doing justice to the immensity of it all. I can’t even.
To get to Smith Rock requires a walk down into the canyon. Which was rather pleasant if one could ignore the pressing thought that what goes down must come up and that getting back to the car would require a painfully steep and not exactly brief hike back up the trail. Once at the bottom, there are many ways to explore the park.
One of the most popular trails, the 3.8 mile Misery Ridge Loop, is one that we would love to return and hike. Like, I must return and hike that trail one day. This day, however, we had nonnegotiable (because there was no way I was missing out) dinner reservations for which we were getting all dressed up, so we contented ourselves with walking along the River Trail.
Of course, by the time that we got back to the top, we felt like this:
Although hiking is usually our activity of choice, Smith Rock is a hugely popular climbing spot. It is also a popular spot for crazy people. As we pulled into the parking lot and got out of the car, we noticed someone slack lining across the canyon. I was on my way to pay the $5 fee for parking, so I excitedly asked Brandon to hurry up and take a picture of the crazy person walking across a death defying drop into the space between really tall rocks on nothing but a too thin piece of rope. I was sure this was a unique sight that must be captured on camera immediately to document the insanity before the person either fell or crossed to the other side. After all, there could not possibly be more than one such crazy person in the park.
The thing is, this was not an isolated event. The entire time we were there, we saw people doing this. Smith Rock must be some type of magnet for adrenaline junkies with no proper sense of danger.
As much as we would have loved to explore longer, as I mentioned we had dinner reservations. At Brickhouse. It was so delicious last time, that we knew we had to eat there again.
Of course all of this, the amazing food, the even more amazing company, would pale in comparison to how the dinner ended. To fully appreciate this, you must understand that I am an Arkansas Razorback fan. In my family, watching Razorback football on Saturdays is second only to going to church on Sundays. At any given family gathering, at least 50% of those in attendance will be wearing Razorback red. This is not a thing that is taken lightly. Sadly, since moving to Oregon I have not been able to see much SEC football. That is why I hardly paid attention to the TV in the corner of the bar of the fancy restaurant where we were eating a sophisticated dinner, attention lovingly focused on one another as it should be during a romantic anniversary dinner. As I polished off the last of my coconut shrimp (because I’m not so sophisticated that I leave perfectly good shrimp on the plate) I happened to glance up and then return my attention to Brandon because we were, after all, on a date. And having your date stare at football the entire time is obnoxious.
But then I realized what I had seen. Of all things, THE RAZORBACKS WERE ON TV!!!
With all apologies to Brandon, who handled the situation with much grace, I became rather distracted. I was disappointed that they were losing to TCU, but thrilled to be watching the game. And then, with seconds left in the game Arkansas tied it up!!! I mean just picture this. I am all dressed up, in a nice restaurant, celebrating my one year anniversary and it is all I can do not to stand up and call the Hogs. As one overtime became two became a Razorback victory, I was inhibiting all kinds of noises that would have been entirely inappropriate. I would say that Brandon became acquainted with an entirely new side of me that evening. He even put up with the post-game texts between my brothers and me. Oddly, it was just so perfect. Of all the things and of all the days.
Because I was hyped on adrenaline by then, the only thing we could do was go back to the hotel and order dessert at the lounge. Because I so needed to add sugar to the mix.
It was another perfect day and the trip was not over yet.
Remember the Lave River Cave that we couldn’t see the day before? We returned on Sunday to visit there before heading home.
It has definitely been more developed than other caves in the area, but for good reason. The mile-long lava tube is the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon. The bridges and stairs at the beginning get you over the uneven and steep parts rather painlessly and then the cave continues on, the floor flat and alternating between sandy soil and rocky areas. In order to explore, you must have some type of light. We brought our own headlamps, but lanterns are available to rent if you don’t happen to keep headlamps in your trunk like Brandon. But really, who doesn’t keep headlamps in their trunk? It gets completely dark quite quickly and although the walk for much of the cave is relatively flat, there are unexpected rocks and dips in the floor that have probably caused a sprained ankle or two.
I think Lava River Cave is certainly worth a stop. Plus, it’s two miles of walking in what is essentially perfect climate control, even when it is hot outside. With temps in the 40s, you will want to bring a jacket, but it is actually quite pleasant. It was the ideal last stop before the drive home.
Brandon planned the perfect weekend. And then the last minute changes in plans and the unexpected surprises made the weekend even better. I look forward to many, many more adventures together!