Friday, August 30, 2013

El Techo de Lolinda

A few weeks ago while Raul was visiting, boyfriend had class so Raul and I went with Kyle to a meet-up 'make friends in the city' group at El Techo de Lolina. We had such a great time! The views were really amazing and I made some awesome French friends. My favorite, Myriam, just left today to go back to Paris. I hope I'll be able to visit her there sometime.

:) xo

Monday, August 26, 2013

Grown-up Matters

I was browsing Facebook the other night and I caught a post from a person I knew in high school. Hardly knew, really. But, knew from a few conversations and borrowing a pencil or two. I'm really not sure how all these high school people ended up my connections on there. At least 97% of them I haven't spoken to in almost 10 years (yeah, its terrible, don't remind me).
Anyway, this person looked really tired and stressed and just ...worn down. As you might expect for a small town in Oklahoma, they have a spouse, two kids, a mortgage, and the whole thing...and in the same town I went to high school in no less.
Now, this person was really cool when I was in high school. I wasn't cool. I was just sort of regular. I didn't become outgoing, or easy-going, or very confident, or any of the other qualities I'm SO thankful to have now until I was older...pretty much toward the end of college or later.
I was always envious of the cool kids because they seemed to chat along so easy and always liked the same things and always had money and time to go off and do fun stuff. I feel like I was at work, at technical school, night college classes, or (really honestly) off trying to make someone else happy. And I just had different interests. I wanted out of there so I didn't really get to experience high school in the same way most kids do.

I never shared these feelings with anyone because I was always trying to convince myself I didn't need to be cool and my less-cool friends were just as good. Which happens to be absolutely true, but unfortunately I never felt that way automatically (without my own convincing mantra looping in my head).
Which, basically made me a non-uncool kid at heart, yet not cool enough to be a cool kid. Needless to say, it was a trying period of (for lack of a better phrase) "finding myself".
I always wondered if my amazing un-cool friends knew this about me, they probably did. They must be un-cool amazing enough to give me an unloyalty pass.

When I saw how this person was doing I felt really sorry for them. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they have wonderful things in their life, amazing things actually, like parenthood, literally life-long friends, and having family close by. But to see them look so tired and, well, old...when the last time I saw them they were on the big sport team and always surrounded by the cute little popular girls and everything else. It was just a very stark comparison between what I remember and today.

I don't feel older. I don't think I look too much different, sans mentioning a few more crow's feet when I smile. It's just crazy that life can leave such a mark on one person and not much at all on another depending entirely on their life choices. I wish I could give this person some time for themselves and maybe some money so they won't have to work so hard. It makes me sort of sad. But, at the same time -- I'm really proud of myself for growing up so much that any of those old envious/retribution type feelings didn't even enter my head until hours later. When I realized how silly those feelings were in the first place. At 17 years old, cool kids and senior trips and invites to the mall and eating lunch at a certain place all seem really important.

But, none of it is. I'm so thankful now, looking back, that I stuck to my goals and I kept working towards my car, and my better job, and college. And, I'm thankful I never tried really hard to be cool. I so love being that person that's always just them and I'm afraid if I would have gone with the want in my heart and tried to be a cool kid...not only would I probably have failed, but I may not be me.

People tell you when you're young one of two major outlooks:
1. These are the best years of your life.
2. None of this stuff will matter once you're older.

I'm thankful now that I fall into category #2.

I told boyfriend this embarrassing admission the other night and, of course, he had the wonderful words of wisdom I can always count on him to deliver: "some people peak in high school, but you have you're whole life to have all the fun they only had for 4 years" (or something to that effect). He always knows just what to say :)

I guess this post had no real point except that: its always good in life to remember when you make choices, you have to live with them. Sometimes, you end up making the right ones for the person you'll be 10 years from now and sometimes you don't. Alas, for me, thank goodness - so far so good.

Me: age 18

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Northwest

Boyfriend and I had been planning our trip up north pretty much since we moved to SF. We both have family in Oregon and Washington, and I hadn't been to Canada. So, we took off!

First stop was to see my amazing cool perfect grandparents (love you grandma). Their house is looking great as usual with their bountiful garden, antique furniture, and lasting cozy comfort. I could spend a week just hanging out. They were such troopers dealing with our little to do list. Angelo was excited to visit Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR and Ninkasi brewery in Eugene, OR. We arrived the first day of driving just in time for dinner. Then we had a nice night teaching Angelo to play Cribbage. I did much better than when I was 12 or whatever the last time. I'm proud to say I can add a little better now.

After our daily eggs and bacon breakfast (yep, daily -it's awesome), Sunday morning we left for Newport. It's a bit of a drive from their house in Pleasant Hill but we were happy to not be driving for that one.

On our way we stopped at my grandparents favorite oyster farm. They love oysters! They fry them and its sooo good. If you're ever heading to my grandparents house, you should request tomato salad and oysters. The. Best. The white on the left of the photo above is all the oyster shells that wash up from the farm.

Once we arrived in Newport, my grandparents took us to their favorite chowder house called Mo's. Delicious chowder, and lots of clams. It was a really classic recipe- creamy, hardy, and it comes in family size which was perfect for us.

Next we stopped at a small aquarium in Newport because the brewery wasn't open yet. It was pretty good! You could touch the starfish and things :)

Newport was a lovely little coastal town. I'm really glad Angelo was able to see it. I'll always love the Oregon coast, even though it's really cold. We used to go a lot when I was little. I have a very brief memory of my dad and I running around with the ducks. I don't even know if it's real, but I like it anyway.

Rogue was very cool. The first of many breweries on this trip! We walked in just in time for a quick tour and we bought a few bottles to take home. There's no tasting room at this location, which was somewhat disappointing. It's a huge facility though with a separate large building for the Rogue distillery. The brewery is right on the water with a great view of the Newport bridge.

On the way back to Eugene, my grandparents thought it would be nice to drive the coast down. And they were right as usual :) We caught some beautiful views from the curvy highway. You can stop and see seals (for $7...yeah, we didn't do it). We went through Florence which is where my dad's mom used to live. She had an apartment there. I could see her really enjoying that town. It's quaint.

We made it to Eugene in the afternoon. Ninkasi might be my favorite brewery we went to for the whole trip. It was classy. They had these awesome little cards that describe the beer in perfect detail (with listed food pairings as well). I would definitely go back, have a party, drink more, etc. etc.

After a spectacular dinner, some tv, a long talk about real-life mermaids, showing them our next trip on the atlas, and just relaxing together -- we went to bed early for a long day Monday. I feel so blessed to get to visit my grandparents often. While living in Denver, I drove my uncle's mustang from Amity to see them and also met my mom by plane in Arizona to visit the next year. Then, from San Diego I was able to drive to their house in Yuma twice since it's not too far. And from San Francisco, I met them in Tulsa for my brother's graduation and now they are just a day's drive away until November when they go back to Yuma.

Monday morning we tried to leave didn't happen exactly like we thought. But, we did alright. On the drive from Pleasant Hill to Bend, OR there's an awesome waterfall. My grandpa told us about it - Salt Water Falls. So, we stopped...and got carried away as usual. Without preparing at all (I was wearing a white sweater), we left the trail and started hiking down to the fall.

Angelo made it of course. Not only did I only make it half way down, but I got dirty and I slipped and slid all over the shale coming back up. It's the attempt that counts (right?) :)

Once we made it to Bend, we stopped by my old house. I don't really remember the house, but I did remember the street and a friend of mine, Rachelle, who lived down the block. At 8 years old, our similar names was like the coolest thing ever. After that, we met up with my step-brother, his girlfriend, her son, my niece, her little son Jaython, and my nephew. I hadn't seen some of them in years and years, so it was wonderful to catch-up.
We headed to Deschutes Brewery all together. They have a café, which was perfect because we were hungry and the kids could come. Jaython was so cute -- we all were having beer and comparing each other's choices. The boys had orange juice, but Jaython spilled his and started crying "my beeeeeeer". It was hilarious, he's a cute kid.

As we left Bend we stopped really quick at the big Deschutes just to be sure we weren't missing anything. It was nice inside, lots of merch as you can imagine. We had a few samples before taking off again. My mom and step-dad met there, but I'm not sure at which location.

On our way to Hood River, we had the most amazing views of Mount Hood. It's this picturesque mountain all by itself surrounded by douglas firs and evergreens -- beautiful.

Hood River was a pleasant surprise. We really just stopped there to visit Full Sail Brewery, but the town was awesome. It's right on the Columbia river and that portion is the best place for kite sailing in the US. They were out full speed on a Monday afternoon. Our menus even said something to the effect of "their favorite part of working there is they can just leave for a quick kite sail break and come back". Pretty cool stuff. I hope I get to try it sometime soon. It's small but you can see the sailors in the photo below.

It felt like a pretty short drive from Hood River to Tacoma, WA where Angelo's dad, step-mom, and siblings live. We got there late, but it was great to see everyone. We lived in their guest house for 7 months or so in San Diego, so I got to know them all really well. Angelo's youngest brother, Brandon is so much bigger than when I saw him last. He's so cute :)

Angelo's dad took some time off work to hang with us, so Tuesday morning we left early with him to check out Vancouver, BC. My first time in Canada -- although, its really very similar to the US. We went through downtown and had one of the best cupcakes of my life (seriously better than sprinkles - get the lemon one), Japadog (you have to try it - I had the Yokonomi and it was amazing), and Tim Hortons "Ice Cap" (SO GOOD - better than anything they have at Starbucks). After that we drove over to Granville Island. Very similar to Seaport Village in San Diego, but Canadian! They had a lot of artsy shops and a huge food area just like the Ferry Building. Once we got there I wished we hadn't eaten so many cupcakes (don't judge me) so I could try all the yummy meats, jams, spices, nuts, and baked goods they had everywhere.

In Granville Island was the Granville Island Brewing Co., so we of course checked that out. It was just okay. Most of the beer wasn't amazing and the atmosphere was so-so. But, we added another one to the list! I feel like a real beer connoisseur after this trip, and I knew quite a bit already.

After exploring Vancouver proper, I dragged the two "real outdoorsman" to a little bit silly tourist-y thing called the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We crossed a couple of bridges to get there but it was amazing just how middle-of-nowhere it felt right outside the city. It has a really neat story about being a crazy long wooden bridge before it was converted. Everyone's favorite part by far was the round part. It's connected on two sides like a C which goes out over a small river surrounded by forest. It feels like walking through the top of trees if you don't look down. Some parts are glass bottom too. Pretty expensive for what it was, but that can easily be said about the entirety of Vancouver. Definitely one of the most expensive cities I've been in -- prepare a budget for NYC or LA.

This tree was growing straight up from a base on the side of a cliff. Crazy.

Here is the C shaped bridge. So neat. And to the right is how it connects. Boyfriend was very excited about the engineering involved in the placement of all the bridges. I love when he gets excited about things I think are just okay. It let's me know he can make me happy by being happy even if I'm not interested in the reason. That's very special to me.
This is about the point on trips when I need a good nights rest to not be a crabby monster. In this case, I got it in the car on the way back :)

Wednesday we went salmon fishing! We didn't catch any salmon, but we had an awesome time. And, caught some other stuff. Here I just caught a bottom fish (rock fish). In this particular part of the ocean near Mount Rainier, you aren't allowed to keep certain fish. It's mostly to do with Native American rights and some other pretty controversial restrictions. We heard a few less than happy stories about this. One guy caught a 12 or so pound salmon, but couldn't keep it because it wasn't tagged. Apparently only Native Americans are allowed to keep natural salmon.

But, we caught three sanddab's and got to keep those! We also pulled up a couple of really big dogfish. You can keep those, but they are difficult to clean and you have to clean them right away so we didn't. The landscape was amazing too. We had a really great day. I hope we get to fish more often soon.

Since we fished in the morning, the whole afternoon and evening we were able to spend with boyfriend's family. They are so easy-going and fun.

Thursday we headed to Seattle for awhile. We had had had to go to Paseo for sandwiches. All the hype was spot on. The best Caribbean food I've had for sure. The flavor was just awesome. I think we got a #2, whatever the real classic one is. They don't even have a sign on the building because everyone just knows how good it is. There was already a line at like 10 AM. After eating, we checked out the Fremont area around and boyfriend and I agreed its better than downtown. We'd both been to Seattle before, but this was our first time in one of the little areas and we really liked it.

Before heading out, we had to stop a Macrina for a lemon tart and cappuccino. His dad and stepmom shared with us, but we were able to take plenty of leftovers home for the kids.

On our way to Portland, we had some beautiful views of Mount Rainier. Another stand alone awesome mountain. Someday I'd really like to hike around it.

My aunt and uncle live in Vancouver, WA just on the other side of Portland so we went straight to their place after a long day. They saved us some ahi tuna, which was delicious. I love staying with family on vacations, I think you always get the best food!

My uncle spent all day Friday in Portland with us. I'm pretty sure he thought it was really funny we had all these places already planned to visit, but he kept up with us all day running around :)

First stop was Voodoo Donuts, of course. I know everyone's seen this one on Food Network. Let me preface with the fact that I'm already not much of a donut person, but I wasn't impressed with these at all. Mostly because their infamous cereal topped donuts had stale cereal on them! The best one by far was the maple bacon bar. That was yummy. Now I know and can just make a few pieces of bacon, pick up some maple bars and there's a special and delicious breakfast! It just seems pretty lame that you're famous for cereal donuts and you can't even manage to keep the --I'm sure really cheap-- cereal fresh. Either way, I'm glad we went.

On our day in Portland/continued brewery tour, we started with Basecamp. The decorations were rad. All hiking gear and outdoor activity based. The beer was good as well. Definitely worth the visit.

Next up, we went to find Hair of the Dog. Man, this one is neck and neck if not better than Ninkasi. Great space, great food, cool style, and my favorite beers of the trip. They were all outstanding.

After that we headed over to the Pearl District to walk around and check out some shops. My favorite area of Portland, its really hipster, urban chic, and fun. I love all the warehouse lofts and awesome people watching. We stopped into Powell's of course. Must do for Portland. I got a travel book and my uncle bought an awesome beers across America type book for boyfriend. He loves it.

 We also stopped at Bridgeport and Laurelwood for a few more tastings. Needless to say, boyfriend and I were having a great time. (with my uncle as designated driver).
That night they made a delicious BBQ steak meal with corn and a really good salad. We ate too much, but still managed to head out for ice cream after. I'm not sure how we do that, but I'm glad we do! The place was called Salt and Straw - made famous by crazy flavors like Strawberry Cilantro Lime Cheesecake and Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero. I kept it safe with Almond Brittle. Boyfriend got crazy with two different crazy flavors and loved them both! I tried them all, but when it comes to ice cream - I'm a purist.
The next day we drove out to my family's farm in Amity. So fun. My aunt and uncle walked boyfriend and I around the whole farm and taught us about the different grapes and trees. I'm so proud of that connection and really thankful I got to see it again. My uncle gave me some very cool antique surveying equipment of my father's father's. I'm building a nice collection of heirlooms. After that, we drove to McMinnville to see my lovely cousin and her family. They are such great hosts. We BBQed, had some home brew beer, played with my little cousins and just talked. My cousin's husband just built the kids a really cool bunk bed. They are growing up so fast. It was my uncle's birthday too so he had some gifts to open. I was only sad to leave them so soon. Hopefully next time we'll be able to spend some more time together.
But, I was almost excited to leave at the same time because we were heading to meet a big group of my dad's friends. I'll write another post about that experience. But, I'll say here that is was so awesome to learn so much about my father. Sometimes I'm sad that I didn't get to know him myself, but I always feel comforted to know that if I ever want to know something I have a constantly growing list of people to ask.
I'm happy to say I think we're very alike.
We ended up driving the whole night after that. I had so much to think about and boyfriend needed to get home and do some homework on Sunday. So we pushed through and arrived in SF around 7:00 AM. It was perfect though -- we cleaned up the apartment, unpacked, had a quick nap, then had the whole rest of the day to relax and get things done.
Such a great trip. Now we've really seen the northwest! So glad we were able to take the whole week to see everyone and do all the things on our list.
Love to everyone for making it a wonderful trip xo Ellie