Tag Archives: me

Bachelorette Weekend, Thirties Edition

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.

These fried green beans with jalapeño honey are basically the best thing ever
Wood-fired pizza with fennel sausage
Mushroom risotto
Roasted brussels sprouts
And, because there had not been enough food, steamed mussels

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.

There were, like, lots of different kinds of sangria. It only made sense to (make an effort to) try them all.
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I am so thankful for these friends and for the fun memories

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.

There’s even this little side door where room service delivers things so that you DON’T EVEN HAVE TO PUT ON PANTS for any late night snacks you might order. We didn’t order room service, but we did ask for some spoons for the dessert we picked up at the bakery, spoons which were promptly and privately delivered.

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.

And let’s not forget the view

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.

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A Year in (Financial) Review: 2017 by the Numbers

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.

California

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

Portland Weekend

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

Arkansas

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

Jamaica

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!

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The Year I Resolved to Go

I was never one to make New Year’s resolutions. I mean, I appreciated the idea, but it was just not something I did. But as 2013 changed to 2014, I found myself resolving to have a better year. And I did. As 2015 transitioned to 2016, I resolved to be grateful, making the most of every day while being open to new possibilities. And I believe I was generally successful, those resolutions in many ways leading to me meeting and falling in love with Brandon.

The beginning of this year, though, felt a bit different. As I began 2014 and 2015, all I could see were the possibilities, the potential of all the things that could happen in the course of the year. Equal parts scary and exciting, those were years where I did things like move across the country and take a last minute trip to South Korea. But as 2016 began, I felt a subtle shift, an almost imperceptible nudging at the edges of my mind. Now, as I look back on the year, I think what I was perceiving was that this was, perhaps, the end of something. Somehow, after this year, life would be more settled, my (carefully) impulsive decision making would need to be curbed, and my life would become simultaneously smaller and yet bigger, too, I think.

And that’s why I believe, without fully knowing why, I quietly resolved to simply go. My half-formed idea was that at least every other month I would take a trip. It didn’t have to be far or long, but I wanted to take at least six trips over the course of the year. I think I wanted to fit as much travel and adventure as I could into a single year (while also working full time, living far away from family, being responsible for a dog who is rather emotionally needy, etc.).

With that idea in mind, these are the places I went:

January: We rang in the New Year in Bend and enjoyed a weekend getaway to the coast.

February: Brandon and I spent Valentine’s weekend in Portland before I took a solo trip to Iceland later in the month.

March: My aunt came to visit and I got to show off Oregon.

April: I think I actually managed to stay put, other than some local hikes (or attempted hikes…).

May: This month brought an amazing birthday trip to Hawaii! And let’s not forget, my first camping trip in several years.

June: We camped and got to share the amazing Oregon summer with my parents.

July: I attended my first music festival ever – the Cape Blanco Country Musical Festival was a weekend of camping, music, and friends.

August: I bought a house. I think packing and moving and, you know, buying a house, pretty much ruled out going anywhere for a few weeks.

September: Brandon and I celebrated a year together with another trip to Bend. At the end of the month, I flew to Arkansas for my annual roommate reunion and to see family.

October: I took a work trip to North Carolina. It was my first time in North Carolina and I got to catch up with some old friends. And eat Southern food. It was a great time.

November: We celebrated Brandon’s 30th birthday with a trip to Washington (details to come, I promise!!).

December: This was, other than April, possibly the least exciting month of the year.

If you were counting, that was a grand total of twelve trips, an average of one per month. That number doesn’t even include the weekends when I hosted company, a full count of the camping trips, or the many single day adventures we enjoyed. Whew! I feel tired just thinking about it. 2016 was a great one!

Yes, this year may have been the end of something, the last of its kind in my life, at least for now. I have LOVED this year, the adventures, the new places, the lightness and carefreeness of it all. And most of all, getting to do so much of that with Brandon. I do feel sad about leaving this behind sometimes. And scared and excited. But the end of one thing means the beginning of something new. The next season of my life will be its own kind of adventure I imagine, full of unexplored territory and beauty and sometimes pain. But most of all love. A love that encourages me to let go of the past and move into the future. And although I will miss this phase of my life – it has been one of the best – I think I’m ready for the next one. Maybe there won’t be quite so many faraway trips and the weekend getaways will be less frequent, but I am guessing there will be some great surprises in store. Here’s to 2017. Here’s to new beginnings.

How Do You Travel So Much?

The question is often asked (or implied…), “How do you travel so much?” I think that generally breaks down into two separate queries: how I afford to travel and how do I have the time. So I thought today I would answer the questions!

First, how do I afford to travel.

1. The circumstances of my life. I am a young professional with no children. This is not necessarily helpful advice, because you can’t exactly send your kids back once they’re in your life, but it is a significant factor. At this point in my life my disposable income goes toward travel, although I am perfectly aware that these circumstances could change at some point. Thus, my other tips might be a little more practicable.

2. I save and budget. Each month begins with me spending a few moments putting together my budget for the month. One item on that budget is “travel.” I save money, even a little bit, every single month. Whatever you’re able to save will eventually add up to enough to go somewhere!

3. I stay tuned to travel deals and take advantage of them when I can. For real, I am probably subscribed to just about every travel deal list that exists. Some of favorites are Budget Travel, Travelzoo, and Tripalertz. You can set flight alerts using websites like Airfarewatchdog.com and Smartertravel.com for notifications when certain routes are on sale (for instance, I have an alert for flights to Arkansas – a recent alert I received led to me booking a trip home in September) and there is even a Groupon for travel deals.

4. I take advantage of opportunities. Last year, both my trip to China and to South Korea came about because I took up a friend on an offer of a free place to stay. Be warned, if you say, “Come visit sometime,” I will probably be sleeping on your couch at some point. Especially if you live somewhere cool. I also extend work trips by a day or two when possible, taking advantage of the fact that I’m already visiting somewhere to explore a bit.

5. I try to use points when I can. I am by no means an expert on this particular area of travel, but I am learning.

6. I spend a significant amount of time researching places I might want to go, finding budget options when possible. I find enjoyment in looking for that chic but affordable boutique hotel or finding the best cheap food a city has to offer. I balance splurges like a massage at a spa with free or inexpensive activities such as hiking or exploring a city by foot.

7. I unabashedly ask for the gift of travel.

8. I work extra jobs to earn extra money that I set aside for travel. It is not unusual for me to work well more than a typical 40-hour workweek, all for the sake of being able to go more places.

So how might this look in real life? Well, let’s take my recent trip to Hawaii for example.

  • Flights: I used 50,000 British Airways points I had previously earned through a credit card sign up bonus to book two roundtrip tickets from Portland to Maui. I paid a grand total of $22.40 in taxes and fees.
  • Hotel: I used 70,000 Marriott points, also collected through a combination of a credit card sign up bonus and spending on that credit card, for two nights at the Courtyard Maui Kahului Airport ($0). The next two nights were spent at the Plantation Inn in Lahaina, which cost $500 total for both nights. This rate also included breakfast, adding extra value to the cost.
  • Rental Car: My birthday present from my parents was a rental car for the trip, which meant it cost me $0! We used one tank of gas during the trip, so the entire cost of transportation was about $35.
  • Activities: After careful research, we decided to splurge on a luau ($260, for two people) and a snorkeling and sailing excursion ($290, for two people). The rest of the time, we did free things like relax on the beach and hike.
  • Meals: Okay, this is one area where I tend to spend more than average. I estimate that between the two of us, we spent about $600 on food, which includes the tip for the luau and some really, really delicious meals in a place not exactly known for cheap food.

All together, I spent less than $900 (because costs were split with my boyfriend) on an incredible, awesome, amazing few days in paradise. I know the “give up Starbucks” analogy is ridiculously overused. But seriously. Give up your coffee habit for 6 months, sign up for a couple of credit cards (and pay them off every month!) and you’ve got yourself a trip to Hawaii! In my book (and obviously in my book, travel is the best thing ever), that’s a pretty great trade.

The second part of the question, is how do I have time off? I am, after all, early in my career and have close to the minimum number of vacation days offered by my company (which, to be fair, is generous for the US).

1. I sometimes take trips no one else would take in a short amount of time (cough, South Korea, cough).

2. I plan out my vacation days to the hour months in advance. Just ask my boss 🙂

3. I take advantage of holidays and long weekends, sneaking in short weekend getaways or tacking the days onto longer trips.

4. I sometimes get to earn extra days off through attending conferences that require me to work weekends and working the occasional holiday. I also advocated for a 4-day work week, which gives me more time off to go places without taking any extra time off.

Taken together, I do everything I can to maximize my time off and travel as much as possible in the time available to me. Sure, sometimes that means being anything but well-rested, but again, for me the chance to travel is worth it.

Although the answers to the questions of how I travel are hopefully useful, the question I think is even more important is why I travel.

It’s not always easy and fun, after all. Returning from my recent trip to Iceland, I was again reminded of the stress and fatigue that come from travel. Cancelled flights, days of jet lag, a suitcase that takes days to unpack – all of these things are avoidable sources of stress that are directly related to my choice to travel. And yet, I continue to do this thing that, while incredible, is also stressful and exhausting. So what makes it so important to me? What makes the challenges of travel worthwhile?

I know to some my choice to travel as often as I can, sometimes alone, can be baffling. I work extra hours and make sacrifices in other areas of my life in order to afford to travel. I squeeze trips between work weeks, often exhausting myself, and use my time off of work down to the hour, not the day. It is not always easy and relaxing, but I do it anyway because it is something that is important to me, something that I see as essential to myself. I travel for many reasons. I travel simply because I enjoy it. There is nothing I love quite as much as waking up on the other side of the world to a day full of possibilities and unfamiliarity. I travel because I love to learn and because eating new kinds of weird and wonderful food is what life is all about. I travel to make memories and see the places others have only read about. I travel for many reasons.

But most of all, I travel because it challenges me and it changes me. It makes far off places in the world mean something in a way nothing else can. When I read a headline about something terrible or wonderful happening in another place, there is something powerfully personal about saying, “I’ve been there!” I can recall what I’ve seen with my own eyes and the people I’ve talked to. I have connections with people and places that allow me to think in nuances, not in black and white. To look for the good and acknowledge the evil, just as I do for my own place in the world. Through travel I am reminded that I am connected in ways both big and small to others in the world who live lives that seem so different from my own. This connection, this knowing, makes me desire to make the entire world a better place, not just my piece of it. I travel because it makes me a stronger, kinder person – someone who strives to understand when it’s hard and to care when it’s easier to turn away. I travel because this place, this world, that we live in is incredible. It’s beautiful and powerful and ultimately unknowable. And yet, I continually yearn to know more. This answer, these reasons, the why behind the discomfort, that is so much more than the how.

Sleeping in Seattle Day 3

Of the things I love in this world, time alone to recharge and to think is surprisingly high on the list. I say surprising, because I absolutely love the people in my life. I have said before that they are simply the best, most wonderful, and amazing people that could possibly exist. But sometimes, I just want to be by myself. More recently, I’ve discovered that I also enjoy the luxury of alone time while traveling. Of course I love exploring with others, but exploring alone is an entirely different and utterly enjoyable experience. My last morning in Seattle, I took the opportunity to do just that. Without the pressure of conversation or the need to be aware of another person, I could fully notice.

Notice the delicious tastes and textures and sounds as I treated myself to breakfast at Shaker + Spear, the Palladian’s onsite restaurant.

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Notice the smells and the noise and the color of Pike Place Market on a Saturday morning. Notice the lives that were being lived all around me and yet were separate from my own.

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Notice that what I really wanted to eat for lunch was the taste of authentic Chinese food, which I had been craving for months (thanks, Natalie, for the perfect recommendation!).

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And notice how so very grateful I am for the people and places, the sights and sounds, the tastes and travels that make up my life. What have you noticed today?

 

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?

 

Life is the Small Moments

As I prepare for my trip to China, I’m again reminded of how blessed I am. I get to travel, eat great food, work at a job that challenges me, and be loved by wonderful people. So often on this blog, I document the big things: trips and meals and time with too-infrequently seen loved ones. All of these things bring immense happiness into my life. But they are the uncommon happenings of what is really a most common life. The extraordinary moments, though wonderful, are not the moments that determine my happiness. Rather, I’ve learned that joy rests in noticing the small moments, the forgettable ones, the seemingly insignificant ones. Today’s post is about acknowledging these moments:

It’s 5 am yoga where I learn to love my body despite its imperfections.

It’s the blessedly short drive to work during which I can daily appreciate the beauty amid which I live.

It’s cuddles, kisses, and excited full-body wiggles from Sydney.

It’s watching the sunrise and sunset and stars from my own backyard.

It’s that moment at the beginning of a therapy session when I’m reminded that I have the opportunity and the privilege to help someone create a better life.

It’s drinking my morning coffee and contemplating the upcoming day.

It’s the process of preparing a beautiful, delicious, and healthful meal while listening to music too loudly and dancing quite poorly.

It’s getting so wrapped up in a great book that I forget where or when or who I am.

It’s the infinite group text with two of my best friends and hilarious conversations with my brothers.

It’s chocolate peanut butter ice cream or a glass of wine. Or both.

It’s cookies made just for me by a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. And it’s watching those sweet kids play outdoors with abandon.

It’s knowing that despite my distance from family, I have a friends who are like family who live nearby.

It’s sunshine and blue skies whether in the mountains or by the ocean.

It’s feeling that place in my heart that will always call Arkansas home.

Ultimately it’s these moments – the mundane, the everyday, the sometimes redundant – that determine the tenor and tone of my life. And what a lovely life it is. What are your small moments?

How to Convince Your Brother to Move to Oregon

Like all big sisters should, I have frequently had an opinion (or two… or ten) about what my brothers should be doing at any given point in time. And being the amazing big sister that I am, I was often successful in convincing them to agree with my (obviously superior) perspective. For instance, when we were children, I repeatedly convinced them that they should allow me to pretend like they were my own, personal, real-life dolls. Which basically meant playing dress up with them. Yes, pictures of my brothers in coordinating blue and pink dresses exist. There may have been makeup and high heels involved. But because I love them I will spare them the mortification that would ensue if I shared said pictures. Plus, I have bigger priorities at the moment (see below) that require at least one of my brothers to continue to like me.

Now that I live in far away Oregon, I have decided that at least one of my brothers should also live here, too. It seems perfectly reasonable to expect at least someone in my family to move closer to me. I shouldn’t have to miss them just because I decided I wanted to move halfway across the country. I want my cake (to live in beautiful Oregon) and to eat it, too (being close to family because I miss them). So it is only expected that I used Ethan’s recent trip to Oregon to implement my evil amazing plan: convince him he must move here.

Step 1: Introduce him to Oregon’s gastropubs and microbreweries. In fact, almost as soon as he got off the plane, we headed to Falling Sky Brewery in Eugene.

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Perhaps the best veggie burger I have ever had. The fries weren’t too bad, either.

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We had so much fun that we did it again the next day at Vista Pub in Brookings.

Four words: mango habanero jack cheese.
Four words: mango habanero jack cheese.

Step 2: Show him the undeniably beautiful and varied scenery of Oregon. Beach? Check! Breathtaking mountain views? Check! Redwoods? Check! Okay, so technically these were in California. Saturday morning, we drove to Jedediah Smith State Park in California to see the redwoods. Of course, I had to introduce him to the amazingness of Dutch Bros. Coffee first.

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Seriously, Dutch Brothers AND redwoods. How can he not move here?

When we stopped at the visitors center to determine where we wanted to hike, the ranger recommended the short Stout Grove Trail for the best views of the redwoods and then mentioned the Boy Scout Tree Trail, even if we did not want to hike the entire 5.2 miles. Apparently, this was where the Ewok Forest was filmed. She had Ethan at “Ewok Forest.” There was no way we were missing that.

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Navigating the old-fashioned way.
Navigating the old-fashioned way.

We spent Saturday night in Brookings, Oregon where even the Best Western has an ocean view.

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The next day, I showed Ethan even more of Oregon’s awesomeness with a drive along the coast. With views like this, no words are needed.

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I had to work Monday morning, but took the afternoon off to spend time with Ethan before he (reluctantly, I might add) left Tuesday morning. He had seen redwoods and the coast, but I couldn’t let him leave without introducing him to the North Umpqua. We spent Monday afternoon doing a bit of hiking – Fall Creek Falls, which was magical, and Susan Creek Falls, which was perfect because it’s an easy trail and you can actually talk when you’re not constantly walking uphill. Oh, and there were waterfalls.

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Step 3: Show him the wonderful and fun people he could hang out with if he moved to Oregon. We spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning with the family of one of my best friends. Okay, so technically a third of the people we spent the weekend with were from Texas. For now. My friend is implementing her own convince-them-to-move-to-Oregon plan with the distinct advantage of having grandchildren involved. Regardless, we had a really fun time eating delicious food, enjoying the antics of the kids, and spending time on the beach. Perfection.

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I get to call this place home. Thank you, sunset, for helping me convince Ethan that he should, too.

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A crucial part of my strategy was feeding Ethan delicious food: bruschetta, spinach artichoke dip, and homemade pizza. None of which I can take credit for. Although I will take credit for having friends who make amazing food.

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Step 4: Feed him oysters and seafood. You just can’t get fresh Oregon oysters or crab salad from crabs that had been alive earlier that day or smoked salmon sandwiches in Arkansas. And you certainly can’t eat such deliciousness while sitting next to the ocean.

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My first time eating raw oysters...
My first time eating raw oysters…

Step 5: Remind him how much fun we have together. And how awesome I am at being a big sister. I introduced him to Dutch Brothers and Radiolab. I forced him to watch Mockingjay and Pitch Perfect. I constantly elicited dating advice to get “a guy’s perspective.” We laughed. A lot. Why wouldn’t he want to leave everyone he knows back in Arkansas just so we can hang out/go hiking/have fun together more often? He’s pretty awesome, too. Like, he takes me out to dinner and does not expect me to put on makeup or fix my hair. And he changes the batteries in my smoke detectors. Which means that I don’t have to stand in a chair on a stool in 4-inch heels to change the batteries. Hypothetically, of course.

Step 6: Subtlety remind him about all the incredible things he “just didn’t have time to see.” The key here is subtle. Think, “I’m so sad we didn’t have time to make it to Crater Lake. I can’t wait for you to come back so we can go there!” and “Oh man, I’m so bummed that we didn’t get a chance to do a vineyard tour. Maybe next time!” or perhaps “You think this waterfall is great, you should see (insert one of many waterfalls here). You know, if you moved here we could go hiking together more often…” I am sure he did not pick up on my strategy.

Time will tell whether or not my plan was successful. Regardless, I am so thankful I had the opportunity to spend one hilarious and fun and unforgettable weekend with one of my favorite people.

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So it’s Been a While…

I have obviously not blogged in a while. And there are, like, 5 whole people who regularly read my blog and want an update about what’s been happening in my life. So here goes.

I wish I could say the reason I haven’t written is because I’ve been doing something fabulous and farflung. But the truth is, thus far in 2015 I have stayed close to home. Of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. For instance, I recently decided to try online dating. It’s been completely weird and (thankfully) mostly fun. And so far I’ve been able to follow my brother’s advice to “not get murdered.” So that’s nice. In addition to being weird, fun, and non-murdery, it’s also a surprising time commitment. I know. Excuses, excuses. And there’s this little trip to China I have coming up soon which is requiring both time and money as I prepare (but, seriously, I’m going to China!!!).

So yeah, I haven’t taken any trips yet this year. I have been on a couple wonderful hikes, though. And there are pretty pictures. That I’m sharing. Because Oregon is beautiful.

A snowy Watson Falls (snow!!!)
A snowy Watson Falls (snow!!!)

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Toketee Falls
Toketee Falls
North Bank Habitat has become one of my new favorite spots.
North Bank Habitat has become one of my new favorite spots.

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There have been breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.

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There has even been an Oregon Ducks shirt.

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Don’t worry, Dad, I’m still a Razorback fan. No need to disown me. I realize I’ve already risked my inheritance by getting a tattoo and all.

This year may have begun quietly. But then again, so did 2014. And then I took a last-minute trip to Oregon and my life went in an entirely unexpected direction. Whatever it may be, I’m ready for the next adventure!