Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter in Portlandia and other TV appearances

I'm excited to announce that I made my Portlandia debut last week! The link to view this special episode free on iTunes is embedded in this post's title. I'm in the opening skit, which is much shorter than I expected. We shot enough good/funny footage that I think it should have been at least twice as long as it is. But you can see me a lot, so that's cool!
We be grillin'
I worked on one other Portlandia skit a few months ago which will air sometime in early 2013. I'll post screenshots on Facebook if I make the final cut.
Look, there's the sun!
I also worked on an episode of Grimm recently which hasn't aired yet. It was the first time I got to ride in a police car on set as an active crime scene responder. I was even told to draw my gun but it was glued into the holster so I just kept my hand on my hip as if I was going to pull it out if necessary!
responding to a crime scene on Grimm (this episode has not yet aired)
Sadly, after five seasons, Leverage has wrapped for good. However, you can see me in two recent episodes:
I'm on the far right, standing behind Brett Kelly
The White Rabbit Job aired on December 5th. I'm one of three people at the factory that is wearing a white lab coat (and the only female); everyone else is wearing red jumpsuits so I'm easy to spot. You don't even have to watch the whole episode as the extras are only seen at the very beginning (first minute) and the very end (starting around minute 37). I'm also in the black & white surveillance video that the team looks at from minute 24:57-25:08 but it's mostly the back of my head so not anything that will make me famous.
I'm all smiles behind the guest stars
The Leverage season (and series) finale The Long Good-bye Job aired last night. I played a Highpoint Tower security guard. You can see me in the first few minutes as the lobby checkpoint guard searching a woman's purse (the dialogue is a voiceover) and also towards the end of the show, searching the theater. I'm in several other scenes as well but it's much harder to spot me in them.
Since moving to Portland last January, I have gotten a fair amount of work as an extra (10 days on Grimm, 5 days on Leverage, 2 days on Portlandia, and 2 movie shoots (Bad Signs and C.O.G.). Of course, I would love to do more and particularly would like to have a short speaking role, but I'm not expecting much in the coming months. Portlandia Season 3 has already wrapped and Leverage is finished forever. There are still a few episodes of Grimm Season 2 to shoot but they're on hiatus for a few more weeks. By the time they start working again I'll have had surgery on my right hip (something I will write about in a forthcoming post) and won't be able to work for several months. So I will close by saying how thankful I am to have worked with some really fantastic people (and actors) over the past year and to have made many new friends. I hope we can do more together in 2013!

Here are links to previous blog posts which I have written (and posted pictures & screenshots) about being an extra:

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Greg & I finally gave in to temptation and purchased iPhone 4S's this summer. This is our first foray into the world of the iPhone and, after six months of ownership, we are pretty pleased with our new-found connectivity.
our only real complaint about our iPhones: the battery drains quickly when you're running multiple apps
Greg has used a Windows-based phone (HTC Touch Pro2) for the past couple of years, but he couldn't take advantage of all the best apps due to their incompatibility with the operating system. I was using a Nokia E75, a very sturdy and utilitarian Symbian phone whose potential I couldn't fully realize since I opted to keep my costs low with T-Mobile's pay-as-you-go calling & messaging service.
Greg likes to use The Weather Channel app on his iPhone
I was somewhat hesitant to get an iPhone (or any similar new device) because I found it hard to justify the significantly higher cost for mobile phone & data service (combined we were paying under $50 per month whereas our new plan costs $130 after a 23% employer discount). Not to mention the initial cost of acquiring the devices (discounted to $150 each with a 2-year contract). Ultimately I was won over by the knowledge that I would be able to stay in touch with my family & friends more easily, respond to timely requests immediately (like confirming call times for my work as a background actor on Grimm, Leverage & Portlandia), access my calendar, notes & To Do lists (in Google Docs) while on the go, and navigate my way around town via public transportation more efficiently.
checking the bus schedule with the Kenu Highline attached to my jacket's pocket zipper
It is hard to estimate how much time and money the iPhone has saved me in the past six months but it is significant! During weeks that I'm out & about regularly, the PDX Bus app alone saves me a minimum of one hour per day of waiting time (because I know when a bus/train/streetcar is due to arrive and can plan my travels accordingly) and I waste less time trying to figure out how to get from Point A to B. To this end I also use Maps, Flashlight, and Around Me.
Apple Maps indicated this was a road. No joke.
My favorite money-saving apps are Safeway (particularly the Just4U program), Foursquare (random discounts when you check in somewhere for the first time), Yelp (for deals and helping narrow down restaurant options), and Happy Hours (no explanation needed!). Beer drinkers that we are, I use Taplister to find out what's pouring at our favorite bars.
free Mai Tai at Trader Vic's just for checking in on Foursquare
I also take LOTS of pictures and have several photography apps that I enjoy using like Instagram, Snapseed and MobileMonet. The iPhone takes excellent pictures in most settings and the quality is good enough that I've stop carrying my full body camera except when I know I'll need a powerful zoom.
one of my Instagram pics
Since we plan to keep these phones for the life of our 2-year Sprint contract, Greg & I decided to purchase AppleCare+ to extend the standard one year warranty to two. Besides hardware repair, this covers each phone for up to two accidental damage claims (subject to a $49 service fee). We figured this would be a likely occurrence given that we take them everywhere, including on bike rides, and that I expose mine to less-than-ideal conditions to snap photos on the spur of the moment, thus increasing the likelihood that I'm going to drop it in the process.
rainy day on the coast - Look, there's a dead bird! I guess it didn't have a Highline.
To ward off major damage caused by a simple drop, we both also purchased protective cases. I chose the Speck CandyShell Grip in my favorite color, purple, and Greg went with an armband/case combo since he uses his phone (music & fitness apps) during his workouts and while running. I've loved my case from Day 1 and have no complaints. Greg recently upgraded to a waterproof armband so he can still run/bike with his phone during inclement weather.
Thanks, Justin!!!
But the thing that gives me the most peace of mind when I carry my iPhone is the Kenu Highline. I read about this brilliant invention on a travel & technology blog I follow called Too Many Adapters. The review was posted just three weeks after we purchased our phones so the timing was perfect. I did some research and immediately contacted the company to request a Highline (retail $19.95) to demo. I received it just a few days later and now I can't imagine going anywhere without it!
Highline attached to my belt loop while bike riding
I typically attach the Highline to the zipper pull on a jacket pocket but have also attached it to a belt loop or a purse strap. I rarely disconnect it except when I'm just hanging out at home. Recently I was in an Apple store and they needed to look at my phone. When I pulled it out of my pocket, the Highline was attached and the employee immediately said "Wow, that's cool!" So, of course, I pretended to drop it, just opened my hand and let if fall towards the ground. I knew the outcome but the employee didn't. She was about to freak out as the Highline bungeed my phone long before it hit the floor. They definitely should be selling these in Apple's retail stores!
Highline attached to my dress's shoulder strap while biking
I can't tell you how many times the Highline has saved my phone from certain destruction. Plus it has eliminated any stress and insecurity I had about using my phone in pretty much every environment imaginable. Hold it over a boiling batch of wort while making beer - check; take photos & shoot video (with one hand) while riding my bike - check; lean over a 100 foot drop to capture the perfect shot of Lower Multnomah Falls - check. Bottom line, before you buy any accessories for your iPhone, including AppleCare, invest $20 in a Kenu Highline. You may discover that it's all the protection you need!
Highline attached to my Scottevest jacket pocket

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Experiencing the Four Seasons in One Week - Conclusion

It has taken me almost a month to publish four posts detailing my in-law's visit in October. Much has been going on in our lives lately which has impacted my spare time and has caused me to lose focus on writing. Still, I want to summarize their trip here, by documenting their impressions of our adopted hometown and the multitude of sights they took in.

Shortly after their visit, I emailed Dave & Linda and asked them to reply with a list of things they liked and/or would recommend for any visitor. I also requested that they include the things that they would do differently next time. What follows is an edited version of their feedback.

Dave enjoyed:
  • Mount St. Helens (in spite of the snow & clouds) and the two movies at Johnston Ridge Observatory
  • Portland Japanese Gardens (minus the hike up from the parking lot)
  • PSU Farmers Market (minus the parking ticket); he also rightfully suggested that we should have bought lunch from one of the vendors there
  • the dinner I cooked at home (awww, how sweet is that?!); the monster calzone we shared at Hopworks Urban Brewery comes in 2nd
  • OHSU tram and views
  • Columbia River Gorge (minus the gravel road)
The LaRowe's at Bridal Veil Falls
Dave was not so keen on:
  • wineries (he said they're "just not my cup of tea")
  • some of the pub food
  • the rain, snow, rain, snow...
bundled up at Johnston Ridge Observatory
Linda loved:
  • our self-guided tour of Portland (Day 2)
  • Mount St. Helens
  • Columbia River Gorge
  • the snow on Mount Hood
Linda enjoys the view from Marquam Hill
Linda would have preferred:
  • less rain, especially when we visited the coast
  • padded chairs at the brewpubs (seriously, I had never noticed how many places have hard wooden chairs until she said something!)
crappy weather on the Pacific Coast
Both agreed that next time they would prefer to stay closer to downtown Portland (and thus also closer to us) and they would like to visit during the summer months when there is less chance of rain.

As the title of these posts indicates, we truly did experience weather conditions covering all four seasons during the week they were here (with the exception of the hottest days of summer). As any native Northwesterner knows, having good rain gear and wearing layers is the key to being prepared for a day here. Still, as Linda wrote at the end of her email, "Portland is a beautiful area and I can see why you decided to move there."

Here are the links to the previous four posts:
Days 1 & 2
Days 3 & 4
Days 5 & 6
Days 7 & 8

The link to all of my photos from their visit is embedded in this post's title.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Experiencing the Four Seasons in One Week - Days 7 & 8

Day 7 - Tuesday, October 23rd
The LaRowe's had one last excursion on their wish list: a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge and Mt Hood. Again, the forecast was for clouds and some rain while Mt Hood had already received six inches of snow overnight. We got started around 9am knowing we had a lot of driving as well as plenty of stops to make throughout the day.

Our first stop was the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint. Basically this is a parking lot with a few informational signs and a nice view of the gorge to the east. We spent a few minutes here before continuing on the historic Columbia River Highway.
looking to the east from Portland Women's Forum viewpoint
I had already checked online for the latest road closures as I had read about an ongoing construction project to repair and replace deteriorating viaducts and retaining walls and to restore sections of the highway. As it turned out, the road was closed from just beyond the scenic viewpoint all the way to Latourell Falls. Our only options were to detour back to the interstate or take a back road off of Larch Mountain. I thought it would be more scenic to take the back road and had the assistance of the GPS on my iPhone to guide us in the right direction.
a typical stretch of the Columbia River Highway
The inherent danger in relying on GPS is that it doesn't always tell you the condition of the roads. Our route down the mountain was actually an old one-lane gravel road! Dave, who was driving, wasn't thrilled about continuing on this path, but I was confident that it would eventually meet back up with the historic highway past the closed section. And we did make it without incident although I'm sure Dave & Linda were on edge the whole time!
Alex Barr Road - our shortcut (calling this a road is generous)
Our next stop was Bridal Veil Falls. As the rain was holding off, I thought it would be nice to take a short hike. The signage indicated the trail was fairly steep but I had never seen these falls before and again convinced Dave & Linda that it was probably worth the effort.

From there we continued east to the requisite stop at Multnomah Falls. Probably because it was a weekday and the weather wasn't ideal, there weren't too many visitors and we were able to enjoy the short walk up to Benson Bridge for an excellent view of the upper & lower falls.

We finished up the drive on the historic highway and reconnected with I-84 heading east to our next stop, Bonneville Dam & Fish Hatchery. At the right time of year you can see thousands of salmon and other fish making their way up the fish ladder at the dam, but in late October it was pretty quiet. We toured the exhibits and then headed over to the hatchery to say hi to Herman the Sturgeon, a 70+-year-old monster of a fish.

It was already 1:30pm by the time we stopped for lunch in Hood River. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to eat at Full Sail Brewery (and I was ready for a beer!). I would have liked to take the free brewery tour again (I enjoyed doing this with my mom & step-dad in June) but our timing was a bit off (tours are on the hour) and I was afraid it would take up too much of the remaining daylight (the tours last about 45 minutes).
We briefly debated whether or not we should continue around Mt Hood (the long way home) as the rain seemed to be setting in. But again, I figured we had come this far already and wanted the LaRowe's to get the full loop experience. As it was just past the peak of fall harvest season, we stopped at Draper Girls Country Farm to browse the fresh produce and see the goats. On a nice day there is a beautiful view of Mt Hood from their orchard, but the clouds had completely enfolded the mountain on this gray afternoon.

We continued on Hwy 35 towards Mt Hood and soon reached the snow line. The road had been plowed and there wasn't much traffic; we even saw someone cross country skiing! Again there was a discussion as to whether we should turn back but the road was open and we were already closer to Portland coming from this direction. So I convinced Dave to turn off at Timberline Lodge.

As it turned out, the road was only plowed for the first few miles; the final stretch was still covered with snow! We only saw a couple of cars on the way up and we took our time climbing the final 2000' elevation to the lodge (which is at 6000').

not plowed
Normally, after checking out the exhibits on the main floor, I like to take a break and have a beer while sitting by the huge fireplace and gazing out at the mountain's peak rising just past the lodge. But we couldn't see anything but the trees about 100 feet beyond the windows plus it was already 4pm and we still had an hour or more of driving to get back to Portland.

on a clear day, the top of Mt Hood is visible through this window
So we slalomed our way back to the main road and proceeded (in the rain) to our apartment where we picked up Greg for dinner. Our choice for the "last supper:" Apizza Scholls, where we ordered two mixed pizzas: Apizza Margherita + Sausage & Peppers and Bacon Bianca + Pig & Pineapple (which guaranteed that Greg & I would get the leftovers!).

Day 8 - Wednesday, October 24th
We said our goodbyes to Linda & Dave after dinner last night as their flight was at 10:55am this morning and they would need time to eat breakfast, pack and drop off the rental car before checking in for their flight.

We had a great visit, which I will sum up (in their words & mine) in my next post. Again, I have embedded the link to all of my photos in this post's title.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Experiencing the Four Seasons in One Week - Days 5 & 6

Day 5 - Sunday, October 21st
Mount St. Helens was on the top of everyone's wish list of places to visit while Greg's parents were here. You can see the mountain from downtown Portland on a clear day so it's always there, tempting us with it's flattened summit to come see close-up the devastation wrought by the eruption in 1980.
I took this photo at Hoyt Arboretum when my mom & step-dad visited in June. Mt Rainier is on the left (150 miles away) and Mt St Helens is in the foreground (50 miles away).
The day we had set aside for the 2+ hour drive to the mountain started out cold & gray. There was even snow in the forecast for the national monument, which had just gotten it's first dusting of the season on October 18th.
We chose to drive to the north (far) side of the mountain because it has the closest visitor center to the crater that you can reach by car, the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Due to the heavy snow it receives, this area is only open seasonally, typically from Memorial Day to late October.
we've reached the snow line on SR504
The landscape changed significantly after we got off the interstate and approached the volcano on Washington State Route 504. While much of the timber land has been replanted, there is still plenty of evidence of the eruption in the form of the scarred hillsides and mostly barren Toutle River valley.
Toutle River Valley
the scarred ridge to the north of Mt St Helens
It was snowing lightly as we climbed higher up the ridge toward the visitor center. We stopped a few times to take photos but didn't get a real glimpse of the mountain because of the low cloud cover.
It's snowing! And Mt St Helens is in the background somewhere!
Luckily, shortly after we reached Johnston Ridge, the clouds parted briefly and we were able to see the most of the mountain, although we never did get a full view of the horseshoe-shaped crater.
Mt St Helens peeks through the clouds
Johnston Ridge
At the observatory we toured the exhibits then watched two films, one about the eruption and another about the natural rejuvenation that has taken place in the 32 years since the eruption. Both feature a nice surprise after the credits roll.
checking out the lay of the land
Linda & Dave take advantage of the indoor viewing area after the film is over and the curtain rises
It was too cold and slippery from the fresh snow to go hiking so we started heading back towards home. We did pull off at a scenic overlook that marks the edge of the blast zone where we read about the timber company's efforts to salvage their trees after the eruption. A bit later we stopped at Patty's Place for a late lunch (Greg & I had elk burgers!).
it was a bit cold for a hike
this is at the western edge of the blast zone

Day 6 - Monday, October 22nd
After the previous long day of driving, the LaRowe's opted for a leisurely morning exploration of the area around their hotel before they came over to our house around noon. Greg was back at work at his downtown office and we were all generally worn out from our busy weekend. Wanting to show them a bit more of our neighborhood, I took Linda on a Hawthorne Boulevard stroll, dropping in or window shopping at some of my favorite places (New Seasons, Pastaworks, Powell's, Crossroads Trading, Presents of Mind, Memento, House of Vintage) while Dave napped on our sofa. After Greg got home from work I cooked dinner with some of our New Seasons provisions: bacon-wrapped blue cheese-stuffed dates, salmon, kale, butternut squash; which all went very nicely with the David Hill Pinot Gris that Linda had purchased at the winery on Saturday.
Linda checks out the assortment of locally-roasted coffee beans at New Seasons Market
I'll wrap up the LaRowe's visit in my next post. In the meantime, the link to all of the photos I took during that week is embedded in this post's title.