Tag Archives: friendship

Love and Arkansas

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.

One of my favorite pictures from the entire trip – my people being my people.

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.

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South Korea: Fueled by Coffee and Friendship Part IV

Update: The winner of the giveaway is Courtney Barriga!!

My trip to South Korea had been one of the most impulsive, fun, and exhausting few days of my life. The only appropriate way to end it? More of the same.

Coffee #13: In case you’re still keeping track, coffee thirteen was early Monday morning. It was another morning of waking up extra early because I couldn’t sleep, so I did my usual – drank coffee and FaceTimed the boyfriend.

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I again managed to navigate Seoul independently, finding my way to another palace, Gyeongbokgung, the primary palace in Seoul. Originally built in 1395, it has been systematically reconstructed after it was most recently destroyed by the Japanese in the early 1900’s. It was incredible. One of the things I love about traveling alone is getting to wander at my own pace. So that’s exactly what I did as I savored my final morning in Seoul.

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I arrived at 9 am, just as the gates opened. For a while, I had the entire place practically to myself, although the crowds quickly grew.
I arrived at 9 am, just as the gates opened. For a while, I had the entire place practically to myself, although the crowd quickly grew.

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The only interruption to my morning was being approached by multiple groups of adolescent boys who asked me to take a picture with them. It was either some type of school project or some type of teenage boy field trip dare. I’m not sure which explanation I prefer…

Coffee #14: I was not ready to leave Korea. Absolutely 100% not ready to leave. I consoled myself with yet another cup of coffee.

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After one last stop to say a quick goodbye to Shannon (who was, you know, my entire reason for being in South Korea), I headed to the airport.

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I left Korea unwillingly, completely exhausted, feeling strung out on excessive caffeine and inadequate sleep. I left Korea on the first day that I did not feel like I was going to die, just as I began to recover from jet lag. I left to go home and back to work the day after getting back. And yet, it was perfect.

Coffee #15: After a 10.5 hour flight, during which I was thankfully able to sleep, I drank my last cup of coffee of the trip.

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I arrived back in San Francisco intact, but rather disheveled. And notice that I’m still wearing the exact same thing I was at the beginning of the post. Which was well over 24 hours before. Just keeping the reality of long distance travel alive. #itsnotglamorous

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The things I do for friends.

To wrap things up, I am hosting a small giveaway from my trip. Small to reflect the short time I spent in such an incredible place.

To enter to win this hand painted mirror, comment on this post, perhaps sharing the most fun or impulsive or ridiculous thing you have done in the name of friendship. The giveaway ends at 11 pm PST on Saturday January 23. A randomly selected winner will be announced on this post Sunday January 24.

South Korea: Fueled by Coffee and Friendship Part III

Unsurprisingly, I slept well Saturday evening. Really well. Apparently, not stopping between 6 am and midnight means not having any trouble sleeping despite the time difference. That did not mean forgoing coffee, however.

Coffee #9: We stopped in the subway station for a quick coffee before heading to our first spot of the morning. FYI, this would have been coffee #10, but we couldn’t get the coffee machine to work where we were staying. I also feel that this post needs some real-life, genuine, travel-is-not-all-fun-and-games context. Sure, the pictures make it look like I’m having the best.time.ever. And I sort of was. But I was also rocking the worst.headache.ever. The kind that comes about from fatigue and jet lag and using coffee as a means of staying upright. As you read through this post, know that I felt terrible for the entire day. Behind every smile is an unremitting headache. Behind every exciting picture is a healthy dose of exhaustion. Behind every amazing place I went were two aching and blistered feet. And yet, I would do it all over again.

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I look tired
I look tired
Congratulating ourselves on our perfect timing and flawless negotiation of the Seoul subway system. I think stopping for coffee made the difference.
Congratulating ourselves on our perfect timing and flawless negotiation of the Seoul subway system. I think stopping for coffee made the difference.

Our first stop of the day was Bukchon Hanok Village. This is a traditional Korean village comprised of shops, restaurants, and cultural displays, but is also a place where people still live. Casually walking around the village was a low-key way to start the day. Although it did mean, you know, more walking.

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On the way to our next stop, Changdeokgung Palace, we did some shopping and found a spot for lunch. Our strategy? Keep walking until something smelled really good. It worked!

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We could easily walk from the Hanok village to the palace, but apparently Koreans thought it was too far for Americans to walk. Because each time we asked for directions, we were either directed to the closest subway station or told it was far. Spoiler, it was not. We easily walked it.

Changdeokgung is one of the major palaces in Seoul. I would recommend purchasing the combination ticket, which gets you into four palaces and one shrine. DSC02186Shannon and I walked around the palace grounds, but were especially excited for the Secret Garden tour.

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The Secret Garden is a part of the grounds that was developed for the king and royal family to relax in. It is not open to the public except on a tour.

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Perhaps it was that we were tired, or maybe because it was winter and not the best time of year to see a garden, or maybe the tour was actually not all that great. In fact, it was rather a letdown. After getting a few pictures and hanging in there as long as we could, we snuck away. Like walking quickly and hiding behind buildings snuck away.

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Coffee #10: And what does one do after illegally breaking away from a tour? Buy a coffee, of course.

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Shannon and I shared a coffee and possibly said our goodbyes. She was heading to the airport to pick up her husband. They would be getting custody of their son the following day. Amid all of that, I wasn’t sure if I would get a chance to see her again. There are some moments that, as you’re living them, you can’t quite believe are actually happening. Sitting in a park in South Korea sharing a canned coffee with my best friend talking about how she was going to be a mother the next day is one of them. I am so thankful that I get to live moments like that one.

After Shannon left, I explored more of Changdeokgung on my own.

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I then walked to the nearby Channggyeonggung Palace. It is a smaller palace that was built by the young king Seongjong for the dowager queens.

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And then a practical miracle happened. After all of this, I had to find my own way back to where I was staying. Alone. I can’t even do that when I do speak the language. And sometimes not even when I am traveling between places to which I have actually been before. And yet, I was successful.

To celebrate my accomplishment, I bought myself…

Coffee #11: Bought in a subway station, coffees like this are readily available.

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Coffee #12: This was soon followed by another cup of coffee. Because why not. And because Shannon and her husband Daniel came back to where we had been staying!

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We ended the day with a delicious dinner of Korean BBQ (also called galbi gui. I think…). Served with the traditional Korean sides, this was non-stop deliciousness. The small bites of perfectly cooked beef could be eaten alone, dipped in the accompanying sauce (a type of bean paste I think), or wrapped in a lettuce leaf with onion. All were good options. So, unexpectedly, was the grilled garlic. I ate so much food and regretted nothing.

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Happy to be reunited after weeks apart!

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Yes, I was eating meat. And yes, I was enjoying it. The sweet, soy sauce marinated meat was yummy.
Yes, I was eating meat. And yes, I was enjoying it. What can I say? The sweet, soy sauce marinated meat was yummy.

It was another packed day as I worked on seeing and eating all the things in Seoul in a mere 72 hours.

 

South Korea: Fueled by Coffee and Friendship Part I

Some things I have realized about myself in the past couple of years: when I have the opportunity to travel with a friend, my answer is almost always going to be yes (as evidenced here, here, and here). And apparently I am willing to go halfway across the world to do so.

All that to say, I should have known better.

When my friend Shannon was doing her best to cover up her disappointment about being in South Korea alone longer than expected to finalize the adoption of her son, I should have known better than to make a joke about coming to see her. Within a matter of minutes, that “joke” turned into searching for plane tickets, which quickly escalated into purchasing said plane tickets and planning my trip to South Korea. A trip that would occur less than a month later. For a long weekend. You read that correctly. I went to South Korea for a grand total of 72 hours.

The only way to survive the madness? Drink lots of coffee and enjoy the amazingness that is longtime friendship.

Coffee #1: I began my journey early on a Thursday morning with the short flight from Medford to San Francisco.

I drank my first cup of coffee on the quick jaunt from OR to CA. That's the only reason I'm smiling at 5-something in the morning. Oh, and maybe because I am on my way to SOUTH KOREA to see one of my favorite people in the whole world!
I drank my first cup of coffee on the quick jaunt from OR to CA. Coffee is the reason I’m smiling at 5-something in the morning. Oh, and maybe because I am on my way to SOUTH KOREA to see one of my favorite people in the whole world!

Coffee #2: While in San Francisco, I had enough time to eat breakfast, drink more coffee, and walk around the sunny terminal.

Getting to go to the International Terminal? That always makes me happy!
Getting to go to the International Terminal? That always makes me happy!

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After a not-too-long layover, I settled into what would be my very tiny home for the next 12.5 hours.

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The flight was probably the least comfortable international flight I’ve experienced, but the time passed, as it always does.

Leaving the US!
Leaving the US!
As the beverage service began, I was mindful of my goal to actually sleep on the flight. Thus, the vodka instead of another coffee.
As the beverage service began, I was mindful of my goal to actually sleep on the flight. Thus, the vodka instead of another coffee.
A 12 plus hour flight is the perfect time for a Harry Potter marathon.
A 12 plus hour flight is the perfect time for a Harry Potter marathon.
The vegetarian option for lunch was surprisingly delicious Indian cuisine.
The vegetarian option for lunch was surprisingly delicious Indian cuisine.

After a few hours of fitful sleep, it was time to try to wake up again. I wanted to be able to sleep once I got to South Korea, after all. What’s the best way to wake up? Coffee and sunshine.

Coffee #3: I was looking a bit frazzled at this point.

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A peek out the window revealed this snowy view. No idea where this is - Russia, maybe?
A peek out the window revealed this snowy view. No idea where this is – Russia, maybe?
This was breakfast, I think. Unlike lunch, it was not very palatable. I could recognize this food neither by appearance nor taste.
This was breakfast, I think. Unlike lunch, it was not very palatable. I could recognize this food neither by appearance nor taste.

Coffee #4: So I drank another cup of coffee and continued to enjoy the scenery and Harry Potter movies.

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As the flight came to an end, I marveled at the almost magical experience of flying. Despite its drawbacks, which are many, airplanes allow me to leave the US on a cloudy Thursday morning and arrive 17 hours into the future on another continent and to another country around sunset on a Friday evening.

I think this is South Korea!!
I think this is South Korea!!

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And best of all, the magic of flying gives me the opportunity to do this – eat dinner with Shannon on the other side of the world. Because why fly to Tennessee when I can fly to South Korea? Every single uncomfortable hour of restless sleep, the sometimes mediocre food, the vomiting child in the seat next to me, the compression socks I wear on international flights to prevent my feet from swelling. All of it, every bit of it, was worth it for that.

Shannon and her friend, Mr. Song, picked me up from the airport (which has free wifi, allowing you the opportunity to easily communicate with the person picking you up - take note, China) drove me into Seoul.
Shannon and her friend, Mr. Song, picked me up from the airport (which has free wifi, allowing you the opportunity to easily communicate with the person picking you up – take note, China) and drove me into Seoul.
The random restaurant Mr. Song took us to near where we were staying. He ordered for us, in Korean, so I don't actually know what we ate, but it was good!!
Mr. Song brought us to a restaurant near where I was staying with Shannon. He ordered for us, in Korean, so I don’t actually know what we ate, but it was good!!

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In Korea, each meal is accompanied by a number of sides. I think these were some type of kimchi greens, fish cakes, soybean curd, and sprouts. Not knowing exactly what I was eating didn’t stop me from enjoying it!

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Things I know about this – it was wonderfully spicy and had vegetables, tofu, and beef.

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Some experiences can’t quite be put into words. Sometimes impulsive decisions are the best ones to make. And some friends are worth meeting for dinner on the other side of the world.

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Roommate Reunion 2015

At some point during the past 10 years since I graduated college (side note: how is that possible????), I began trying to get together at least once a year with my college roommates Jessi and Shannon. Of course life sometimes intervenes (i.e., people have babies and by people I mean Jessi) and we can’t always get together, but for the past 7 or 8 years we have managed to make a yearly reunion happen more often than not. But this year, my year to host the reunion, I was no longer living in Texas, a place conceivably within driving distance of Arkansas and Tennessee where Jessi and Shannon reside. I was in faraway Oregon. So it was a bit of a surprise when one day in July I woke up with no notion of an upcoming reunion and went to bed knowing that two of my best friends had plane tickets booked for September. Some things are just meant to be.

September arrived and so did Jessi and Shannon. Although of course it was not quite that straightforward as I will get to in a moment. We enjoyed a long weekend of good times, lots of laughs, relived memories, and very little sleep with copious amounts of coffee to compensate.

I’m trying to pretend that I’m okay with being wake right now -Cora

If a quote could sum up an entire weekend, it would be this one. The trip started off with an unexpected twist when Jessi called to share that her flight had been cancelled. I had picked Shannon up from the airport in Eugene and we were killing time at, where else, Target, before returning to the airport to pick up Jessi later in the evening. Or so we thought. Following a somewhat panicked phone call from Jessi, we quickly worked to get Jessi rebooked on another flight. That got into Portland. At midnight. So we did what any reasonable people would do, we decided to buy matching coffee mugs, supplies to make a welcome sign, and party hats. Because what airport greeting would be complete without party hats?

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How could she say no to this awesomeness?
I quickly downed three cups of coffee at 9 pm before making the drive from Eugene to Portland.
I quickly downed three cups of coffee at 9 pm before making the drive from Eugene to Portland. Desperate times…

Shannon and I spent the 2 hour drive mostly talking about my new boyfriend. After she agreed that she didn’t mind hearing everything twice when Jessi inevitably would want to have the same conversation.

By 11:30, we were feeling a bit less enthusiastic.
By 11:30, we were feeling a bit less enthusiastic.
I had failed to consider that Jessi would not be the only person to see Shannon and I holding the sign. It was like an exposure exercise designed to elicit embarrassment.
I had failed to consider that Jessi would not be the only person to see us holding the sign. It was like an exposure exercise designed to elicit embarrassment.

I loved the sign! It was like a painful joy. -Jessi

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We managed to make it back to Roseburg around 4 am. To Shannon and Jessi, that felt like 6 am and the two of them had both been awake for over 24 hours. What a way to begin. And if one should begin as one plans to continue, we did just that – going to bed too late and waking up too early. That just meant we had a constant excuse to drink coffee.

We even got to meet my other best friend, Kacy, for coffee. My worlds collided and it was pretty much the best.thing.ever!!
We even got to meet my other best friend, Kacy, for coffee. My worlds collided and it was pretty much the best.thing.ever!!
Introducing them to Dutch Bros.
Introducing them to Dutch Bros.
Pre-hiking bagels and coffee
Pre-hiking bagels and coffee

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And, imagine that, we are at another coffee shop!
And, imagine that, we are at another coffee shop!

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Not pictured: At least 5 other instances when we drank coffee. And yes, I realize they were here for like 4 days and we drank enough coffee to last a normal person at least a month.

Because a sleep-deprived, coffee fueled weekend was not quite enough exhaustion for one week, we woke up at 3 am on Wednesday so I could drive them to the airport for their early morning flights… before going to work at 8 am.

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How do I get in on that? -Jessi

One of the benefits of having best friends around is exploiting them for their talents. Like back rubs and fixing hair and fashion advice.

For a 4-day stretch in September, I had good hair thanks to Shannon. IMG_0036

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Cora, you need an Oregon makeover!! -Jessi and Shannon

Shannon, are you really going to wear Chacos with that… – Jessi

In addition to great hair, friends can also provide fashion advice, solicited and otherwise. Which could explain how I ended up with a shopping bag big enough for me to fit into full of new clothes.

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That (insert meal here) was so good/yummy/delicious -improvised by Cora to transition to a discussion of food

Okay, so that quote generally reflects the fact that we ate a lot of really great food while Shannon and Jessi were here. Roseburg is not exactly known for being a foodie destination, but happens to have exactly the number of good restaurants you need to get through a long weekend without actually cooking. Stay any longer than that and you’re out of options and stuck with fast food, but at least you can eat well for a weekend.

This was not in Roseburg, but Shan and I enjoyed a fantastic meal at Cafe 440 in Eugene.
This was not in Roseburg, but Shan and I enjoyed a fantastic meal at Cafe 440 in Eugene.
Fried green tomatoes done right and served with chipotle aioli.
Fried green tomatoes done right and served with chipotle aioli
Salmon over risotto. Can I just eat this everyday, please?
Salmon over risotto. Can I just eat this everyday, please?
And chocolate bread pudding because we were literally not going to bed that night. And I needed something to go with my coffee, right?
And chocolate bread pudding because we were literally not going to bed that night. And I needed something to go with my coffee, right?

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The Lighthouse is a vegetarian bakery that even carnivores love.
The Lighthouse is a vegetarian bakery that even carnivores love.

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The guacamole “burger” is amazing!

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Alexander's Greek Cuisine
Alexander’s Greek Cuisine

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Seafood within driving distance (in this case Florence) is a definite perk of living in Roseburg
Seafood within driving distance (in this case Florence) is a definite perk of living in Roseburg

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Dakota Street Pizza
Dakota Street Pizza
Brix, one of my favorite spots
Brix, one of my favorite spots

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Bagel Tree. For bagels. We needed the calories for hiking obviously.
Bagel Tree. For bagels. We needed the calories for hiking obviously.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at Dino's on our last night together to celebrate over 13 years of friendship in the best way possible - with delicious food and laughter-filled conversation.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at Dino’s on our last night together to celebrate over 13 years of friendship in the best way possible – with delicious food and laughter-filled conversation.

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There is more to share, but a weekend with two of my favorite people cannot possibly be summed up in one post. Stay tuned for more about gray hairs, misunderstandings about trips to Antartica, and probably more coffee.

Sleeping in Seattle Day 2

After a pretty amazing night’s sleep thanks to the awesomeness of my bed and the room in which it was located, I awoke to a cloudy but nonetheless lovely morning. I reconnected with my friends for a low-key breakfast at Hitchcock Deli followed by more I-can’t-possibly-afford-anything-in-this-shop browsing. And another visit to the bookstore. Just because it’s awesome.

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The day was becoming increasingly cloudy, but we decided to all head over to Seattle together on the ferry because I was going that way anyway. I love the ferry between Bainbridge and Seattle – even on a cloudy day, the views are hard to beat.

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It was sooo windy. And cold.
It was sooo windy. And cold. And did I mention windy? We had crazy hair.

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Just about the time we arrived in Seattle, it began to rain. And by rain, I mean the sky opened up and started pouring and did not stop for hours. Basically, I spent the rest of the day cold and wet. But not even the rain could keep me from having a good time. I ended my visit with Sara and Ryan over a delicious lunch at Cafe Campagne, a spot we chose almost entirely because it had a roof and chairs and the possibility of food. We were not feeling too picky at that point. Fortunately, the french onion soup I ordered was the perfect way to warm up while momentarily drying out.

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I had a great time catching up with my friend Sara. I was sad to say goodbye as we parted ways, but I still had some fun plans in store.

But first, my hotel. My hotel of choice was the Palladian Hotel in downtown Seattle. I chose to stay here based upon two things: it was a Kimpton hotel and it was within walking distance of the tour I would do that afternoon. Which was important because it was entitled the Booze n’ Bites tour. Emphasis on the word booze. Just sayin’.

This hotel was seriously cool. It was quirky and stylish and completely unique.

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I got to sleep with Leo. Every woman’s dream, right?!

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I had just enough time to dry off before heading back into the rain. For a walking tour.

IMG_6160A few years ago, I had taken my first Savor Seattle tour. I had completely enjoyed it and knew that another trip to Seattle was the perfect opportunity to go on another one of their tours. This time, I chose the Booze n’ Bites tour, a tour focused on the food (and alcohol) culture of Seattle.

The tour began at Rachel’s Ginger Beer.

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It might be raining just a little bit less at this point. Maybe.
It might be raining just a little bit less at this point. Maybe.
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Meeting up with my tour group. I was the only weirdo who decided to do the tour by myself. 
The first cocktail of the day was the Montana Mule, made with RGB's handcrafted ginger beer and whiskey.
The first cocktail of the day was the Montana Mule, made with RGB’s handcrafted ginger beer and whiskey.
Our second stop was Cantina de San Patricio
Our second stop was Cantina de San Patricio

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Taco, guacamole, and some type of really spicy drink made with green chile and jalapeño vodkas. This former Texan could not have been happier.
Taco, guacamole, and some type of really spicy drink made with green chile and jalapeño vodkas. This former Texan could not have been happier.
Stop #3 was Long Provincial Vietnamese, where we tried salad rolls with peanut sauce and a lemongrass martini. I was really enjoying the tour by this point.
Stop #3 was Long Provincial Vietnamese, where we tried salad rolls with peanut sauce and a lemongrass martini. I was really enjoying the tour by this point.

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Not even the persistent rain could dampen my spirits by this point.
Not even the persistent rain could dampen my spirits.

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Up next was The Diller Room. It was an original Seattle speakeasy and is now a popular happy/any hour spot. I cannot remember what the drink was (something made with whisky...?), but the mushroom muffuletta is impossible to forget. I could eat that All. Day. Long.
Up next was The Diller Room. It was an original Seattle speakeasy and is now a popular happy/any hour spot. I cannot remember what the drink was (something made with whisky…?), but the mushroom muffuletta is impossible to forget. I could eat that All. Day. Long.

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Our fifth and final stop was Von's 1000Spirits GustroBistro. This place is rumored to have Seattle's largest collection of spirits, a claim that I definitely believe.
Our fifth and final stop was Von’s 1000Spirits GustroBistro. This place is rumored to have Seattle’s largest collection of spirits, a claim that I definitely believe.
A cosmopolitan made with spun sugar. I will admit this was probably my favorite drink of the tour. And lest you think I drank 5 cocktails in the course of a couple of hours (they were mostly half size, by the way), I assure you I only drank the ones that I liked...
A cosmopolitan made with spun sugar. I will admit this was probably my favorite drink of the tour.
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And lest you think I drank 5 cocktails in the course of a couple of hours (they were mostly half-size, by the way), I assure you I only drank the ones that I liked…

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And then there was pizza. Wood-fired, cheesy, yummy pizza.
And then there was pizza. Wood-fired, cheesy, yummy pizza.

My second Savor Seattle tour did not disappoint. I would not hesitate to take another one of their tours in the future. I highly recommend checking them out if you are in Seattle.

After a cold and rainy day, all I really wanted to do was curl up in bed, order room service, and be my introverted self. However, I had made plans with another friend of mine, who I originally met while we were on internship in Houston and who had recently moved back to Seattle (apparently getting a PhD = knowing people everywhere). That meant drying myself off and taking an Uber (side note: how does one specify the verb form of using Uber? To Uber? Ubering? Someone please enlighten me) to a house party with a bunch of people I’ve never met. You read that correctly, I went to a house party. A party at which I only knew one person. And I almost utterly failed to document such a rare occurrence, although I did manage to snap exactly one picture.

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I actually had a fun time and it was a chance to catch up with another friend. Plus, travel presents the perfect opportunity for me to push myself just a bit out of my comfort zone, which is good to do now and then. But, I will admit that by the end of the night, I was ready to return to my hotel, talk to no one, and sleep with Leonardo DiCaprio, the pillow.

 

 

Sleeping in Seattle Day 1

One of my rules for life: When a friend says “Do you want to go to (insert pretty much any place in the world here)?” the answer is always “Yes!” A resounding, unhesitating, absolutely I-will-make-this-happen, yes. Thus, when my friend Sara mentioned that she was going to be in the Seattle area and asked if I wanted to meet her, there was really only one way to respond. For weeks, I looked forward to spending time with one of my “Dallas friends.” Getting to spend a weekend in one of my favorite cities was just an added bonus.

The adventure began with an early morning road trip fueled by Dutch Bros coffee.

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A six-hour drive later, I was just in time to meet Sara for lunch on Bainbridge Island, where I would be staying for the first night. After considering our options, we decided that lunch at Doc’s Marina Grill was just about perfect.

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Smoked salmon mac-n-cheese. Ummm, yes!

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We spent the afternoon browsing the many lovely and oh-so-expensive shops of downtown Bainbridge. There was this little tiny candle that I wanted to buy because it smelled like bliss. I wanted to buy it until I saw the $55 price tag. No thank you. I can do without the smell of actual bliss in my life.

My favorite stop had to be Eagle Harbor Book Co. There is nothing quite like stepping into a book store and taking a deep breath laden with the smell of real books, feeling the hint of excitement as my fingertips longingly touch the covers of as yet unread novels, my mind full of curiosity about the stories within.

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This was also the scene of my first-ever celebrity sighting. I was in the process of trying to stop myself from buying one of everything when suddenly Sara appeared next to me and began excitedly whispering that Elizabeth Mitchell was nearby. We pretended to be highly interested in calendars and self-help books as we subtly (I promise!) followed her around the store. My only chance to get a picture occurred a few minutes later as we left the bookstore. In case you can’t tell, she’s the tall one in the brown shirt gracefully running down the sidewalk.

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After a warm afternoon of shopping and enjoying the scenery, it only made sense to eat ice cream. And if you’re going to eat ice cream on Bainbridge Island, you’re going to eat ice cream at Mora Iced Creamery. Calories do not count when you’re on vacation, right?

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After all of the driving, shopping, walking, and eating, I needed a nap. I decided it was the perfect time to check into my hotel. Which was a mistake. Because once I did, I never wanted to leave. Ever again. I wanted to move in and live there forever. My hotel of choice was not really a hotel, but rather a small inn. The Inn at Pleasant Beach was everything I love in a place to stay: beautiful, unique, and comfortable with an amazing view and incredible attention to detail. Seriously, never go there because your life will never be the same. You will be utterly dissatisfied with every other place you sleep.

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I never wanted to leave this spot.

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Literally, the only problem with the room is that it felt like a bit of a waste to stay in such a romantic place all alone. But I did my best to hold up under the disappointment. In fact, it would take some seriously awesome plans for me to be willing to leave my cozy room. Thankfully, I had just that – dinner reservations at Restaurant Marche with Sara, her husband, and her in-laws. There is just about nothing that makes me happier than great food and interesting conversation with wonderful people. This evening did not disappoint.

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Cheers to friendship and the French 75, which is now perhaps a new favorite cocktail of mine.
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Picture with the chef. I know people.

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Vichyssoise
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The vegetable plate was beyond delicious – corn flan, sautéed collard greens (maybe my favorite), gingered green beans, roasted cauliflower, and wood-fired zucchini. Not pictured, but also one of the best things ever – the frites with house-made ketchup and aioli.

And of course, it’s not a complete meal without dessert. We needed to make sure all the food groups were covered and I am fairly confident that “dessert” is one of them. Or should be.

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Meals like that, full of delicious food, laughter, and free flowing conversation including an impromptu book club – life does not get better than that.

After returning to the inn, I could think of no better way to end my day than by taking a relaxing, hot bath (in that incredible bath tub – I could practically swim in it) followed by drinking hot tea while reading a great book curled up next to the fire.

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It had been a long and wonderful day; it took me approximately 3.8 minutes to fall asleep after crawling into the super comfy bed. Sometimes, life is perfect.

The Art of the Showcation

You’ve heard of a vacation. You’ve heard of a staycation. But now that I live in Oregon, I get to enjoy what I have termed a showcation. This is when I have the opportunity to take a mini vacation and show off my home to friends and family who are visiting. My first experience with the Oregon showcation was when my brother visited in March. My entire motivation at that time was to convince him that Oregon was so amazing that he needed to move here. I’m still holding out hope that I will be successful. When my parents recently visited, I was motivated to convince them that I am, in fact, content and happy and doing wonderfully well living in Oregon. In other words, I needed to show them that I am doing okay, even if I was crazy enough to move thousands of miles away from them.

So I highlighted three aspects of my life that make me incredibly happy: amazing friends, beautiful places, and delicious food. Really, what more could any girl want?

Amazing friends: One reason I chose to move to Oregon was that one of my best friends moved here. One evening while my parents were here we hung out with her and her family. This proves to my parents that I am not all alone in Oregon. For example, I imagine that as my parents, they worry that I will get sick or in a car accident or stub my toe and that there will be no one there to help. Or something like that. Spending time with friends proves to them that they have (a little bit) less to worry about.

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Beautiful places: Pretty much anywhere you look in Oregon is scenic, so it would not have been hard to show my parents that I am surrounded by beauty. However, just to be safe, I made sure to show them the breathtaking, the awe-inspiring, the beyond beautiful. Beginning with Crater Lake.

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If a place like this doesn’t convince them that I live in an amazing place, nothing will. But that’s not all. There are also rivers and oceans and mountains and flowers. As an added bonus, they were able to enjoy all of this without breaking a sweat. Literally, it was like in the nineties and humid back in Arkansas, making the relatively cool Oregon weather seem even more wonderful by contrast.

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Shore Acres State Park was initially a private residence. The house is no longer there, but the gardens remain, gardens set against the dramatic backdrop of the rocky Oregon coastline.

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The only original building still standing is the gardener’s cottage.

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This particular rose had a citrusy smell.

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Delicious food: Last but not least, I took my parents to some of my favorite restaurants, as well as trying some new ones. I cooked them Oregon favorites like salmon and made homemade dishes that were good enough to convince them that my mostly vegetarian diet is not short on flavor.

While at Crater Lake, we tried the restaurant in the lodge. It was lovely and the food was quite good. 

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A salad made with Oregon ingredients such as hazelnuts and marionberry vinaigrette, and Oregonzola. It was especially yummy accompanied by the beer cheese soup.

Perhaps my favorite restaurant in the Roseburg area is the Lighthouse Bakery. An all vegetarian restaurant, my parents were somewhat skeptical that they would enjoy it. However, between the view and the incredible food, my parents were quickly convinced that a restaurant that did not serve meat was worth the drive.

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We also tried a new-to-me place in Grants Pass. River’s Edge, located as the name suggests next to the Rogue River, did not disappoint. We sat outside on the expansive deck and enjoyed our meal accompanied by live music. The scallops I ordered were beyond amazing and my mom got to eat one of her favorites – crab legs. It is a restaurant I will certainly go to again.

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Everything about this makes me happy.

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I am certain that my parents continue to wish that I lived a bit closer to home. However, I think that after their first visit to Oregon, they understand why I love living here. The people, the places, the cuisine, each of these did their part to reassure them that I’m happy and living a life that I love, even in far-way Oregon.

Couchsurfing in China: The Epilogue

How does one end an amazing, once in a lifetime, trip to China? I don’t know how most people do  it, but I chose to fit in a 24 hours stopover in Dallas. Just enough time to see friends, eat Torchy’s queso, and oh yeah, take a shower after a long day in the city and an even longer flight. But not really enough time to sleep much…

But before we get to all that, this is really important to say: You know how there is this romantic idea of sitting next to the cute stranger on the flight and falling madly in love? Well, the whole sitting next to a cute stranger thing is totally overrated. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed the dinner conversation with the very attractive world traveling engineer who I was fortunate enough to sit next to on the Shanghai to Dallas flight. However, one never sees the scene wherein the female protagonist (that would be me…) tries to both get some sleep, not exactly the easiest task on a plane in the first place, while not ugly sleeping. Which means no drooling, no awkward head bobbing, no crazy hair, and definitely no accidentally leaning over on your seat mate while sleeping. Have you ever tried looking attractive while sleeping on a plane? Not easy! Especially while wearing compression socks to prevent my feet from swelling. Sexy. Despite all of that, I quite enjoyed the flight…

And then I arrived in Dallas, almost 8 months since I had moved. My lovely friends were kind enough to want to hang out with me despite the fact that I had not showered in an unmentionable amount of time and had been sitting on a plane for 13 hours. We ate Torchy’s (and I may or may not have brought an order of queso back in my luggage), told stories, laughed, and just generally had a wonderful time. And as if all that were not amazing enough, I got to take a legit shower. Sorry Kelsey if I used all the hot water.

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What happens when a bunch of 30-somethings try to use a selfie stick. There was a table of not-so-30 -somethings not-so-silently mocking us.
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This. This is happiness.

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Saturday morning, another sweet friend picked me up for lunch at one of my favorite spots that I miss terribly – Patina Green. After savoring every bite of my cauliflower sandwich and every minute of the conversation, I was dropped off at the airport to finally go home for real.

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I have the best friends, hands down.

The amazing part was, as I took in the view while flying into the Portland airport, that I realized I really was coming home.

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In the 8 months I had lived in Oregon, this place had begun to be my home despite the distance from every place I’ve ever lived and the total lack of knowing people in the town I had moved to less than a year before. It took traveling far away for me to appreciate for the first time the home that this new place had slowly become. As my flight landed in Oregon, I came home.

I always wish I had adequate words to capture the moments I spend in the places I go. I hope despite my shortcomings as a writer, you found something to enjoy or entice or ponder in the time you spent reading about my trip. It was a week of (mostly) ordinary life in a city in China that reminded me what an extraordinary life I live. Thanks for being a part of it!

Couchsurfing in China: Friendship

Friendship is one of those things that is hard to put into words. It is impossible to describe the complexities of relationships that begin and continue by choice, despite distance and time and change.

Candi and I have been friends since we were 13 years old. We later became family when she married my cousin. We made it through the awkward teenage years, road trips to Florida and back, and being roommates for two years of college. But in the past few years, the circumstances of our lives (ummmm, grad school controlling my life; Candi moving to China) brought more distance into our relationship, both literally and figuratively. Given the recent distance, I was unsure how my week in China would go. Fortunately, I spent a week being reminded of all the wonderful things that friendship can be.

Friends pick up where they left off. Whether it has been days or months or years, with friends it feels like you were never apart.

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Friends shop together and share clothes. Okay, so maybe this is not necessarily true for everyone, but it is definitely true for me. In college, my roommates and I used to joke that we each had four closets because we so frequently borrowed one another’s clothes. Even though I was only in China for a week, I managed to borrow multiple items of clothing from Candi and we certainly spent time shopping. Sometimes the only way to make a decision is to get a second opinion from a friend.

Wearing a pair of Candi's leggings because it was cold and so I could ride the e-bike without flashing anybody.
Exhibit A: Wearing a pair of Candi’s leggings because it was cold and so I could ride the e-bike without flashing anybody.
Candi's fleece
Exhibit B: Candi’s fleece
Candi's tennis shoes
Exhibit C: Candi’s tennis shoes

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Friends can just be together. You don’t have to do anything special to have a good time. One evening, we went for a walk around campus before buying a watermelon that we shared while sitting on a bridge. It was nothing special, but it was wonderful.

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Friends make you brave enough to try new things. Whether that is staying out after dark

Apparently Candi being outside in the evening was an almost unbelievable sight
Apparently Candi being outside in the evening was an almost unbelievable sight

or trying new foods

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or booking a plane ticket to China, the presence of a friend can be the difference between being too cautious to try something new and feeling capable of going outside of your comfort zone.

Friends may push you out of your comfort zone, but they also share common interests. For me, that usually involves coffee.  Okay, it always involves coffee. In a single week in China, Candi and I went to no less than 3 different Starbucks, not to mention the other times we spent obtaining and drinking coffee.

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However, as much as I love coffee, sharing a cup of tea with a friend is a ritual I sometimes enjoy. One evening, Candi and I relaxed over traditional Chinese tea.

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Chinese tea is accompanied by the savory, not the sweet - things like sesame seeds, breadsticks, and cucumber, with the sweetest food being something like melon.
Chinese tea is accompanied by the savory, not the sweet – things like sesame seeds, bread sticks, and cucumber, with the sweetest food being something like melon.

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Friends survive painful experiences together. Sometimes friends walk with you through the worst parts of your life. Other times, you get massages together at a Chinese spa. One night, and by night I mean like 10 pm, Candi and I found our way to a spa for foot massages. Anticipating a relaxing evening, we ordered tea and sat back in the comfortable chairs.

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And then the massage began. First, our feet were forcefully immersed into a scalding hot bucket of water. And when I say scalding, I mean food could have been safely cooked in it.

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After holding our feet in the buckets of water, the massages began. A series of miscommunications led to my masseuse increasing the pressure rather than decreasing it. I think I may have cried. Eventually, in response to a combination of Candi’s translation skills, my tears, and a few hand signals, the pressure was reduced and I mostly enjoyed the remaining foot and back massage, although it was certainly unique among the many, many spa experiences I have had. At one point, my masseuse hooked his arms under mine and jerked me up into the air. Like I said…unique.

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By the end, I was feeling a bit disheveled.
By the end, I was feeling a bit disheveled, although I will admit I was also more relaxed.

Friendship can be many things – fun and strength and laughter and tears. Friendship is some of the things I have mentioned and many more that I have not. I am thankful for the many incredible friends I have in my life and I am thankful that I got to spend a week in China with one of the friends I have known the longest. Anything you would add to the “friends are.. ” list?