Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Birthday Experiment and More Winning News

I celebrated my 38th birthday last Thursday, July 12th. Usually Greg & I pick a favorite restaurant to eat at or activity to do on our birthdays. But this year he was in Salt Lake City, UT on a business trip, so I was on my own for the entire week. I don't know where I got the idea, but I decided to see how many free things I could get just because it was my birthday.
Since this was my first time celebrating my birthday in Portland, I did some research online to figure out what my options might be. Just by Googling "free on your birthday Portland" I found a couple of helpful websites:
I quickly narrowed down my options to things that didn't require a second person plus I also had to consider my overall schedule for the week to determine where I might be able to get to via public transportation and when I would have time to do everything.

I also found out on the 10th that I would be working as an extra on Grimm on the 12th, but didn't know my call time until late afternoon on the 11th. Thus I didn't have as much time on my actual birthday to take advantage of all the freebies as I had originally planned. In spite of that, I still managed to do pretty well for the week. Listed below are the things I got and what I had to do to get them:

RAM Brewery - Free Mud Pie with purchase of any entree valid the week of your birthday. Must join MVP club to receive emails (free).
Einstein Bros Bagels - Free breakfast sandwich when you purchase any drink on your birthday or within seven days thereafter. Must "join the club" to receive emails (free).
Denny's - Free Grand Slam breakfast worth $6.49 only on your birthday with proof of I.D. No other purchase required.
Salt Grotto - Free 45 minute session in the salt cave worth $30 only on your birthday with proof of I.D. No other purchase required.
 Rogue Brewery - Free 32oz beer + choice of a t-shirt worth $18 only on your birthday. No other purchase required. Must be a Rogue Nation member (free to sign up).
Pastini Pastaria - Free entree at any price (mine was $14) valid on the day before, day of, or day after your birthday. No other purchase required. Must sign up to receive their newsletter via email (free).
Famous Dave's - Free entree with purchase of one entree valid for ten days after your birthday. Must sign up for P.I.G. Club (free). Since this was a BOGO offer I waited until Greg came home to take advantage of this one!
Redbox - Free movie rental valid for one month from your birthday. Must sign up for Redbox emails.
Marriott Rewards - One Elite night credit automatically added to your account on your birthday if you click the link in the email. Must be a Marriott Rewards member (free).

Here are a couple of things I didn't have time to take advantage of but wish I had:
Starbucks - Free drink only on your birthday. Must be a Starbucks Rewards member. I actually got the drink in the photo for free on Friday the 13th as part of a promo for the new Refreshers line.
The EastBurn - Birthday Power Hour (free drinks for you & nine friends). Email the restaurant to be randomly selected for the power hour, 9-10pm only on your birthday. I actually did get picked but was working on Grimm.
I really expected to be able to get a free haircut on my birthday, specifically thinking that Supercuts or Great Clips would offer something like that, but my research only turned up $5 off a haircut at Bishops Barbershop, which I didn't have time to do.

Considering that I used our Trimet pass to get around (and thus had no transportation cost), my only expenses related to my week of freebies were tips and the odds & ends required food or drink purchases. I estimate the total value of everything I received (the things I actually took advantage of) is at least $100. Not a bad birthday gift to myself!

I also received a gift certificate for a one hour massage at North Portland Wellness Center from my sweet husband and some generous monetary gifts from several family members. Thank you!!! I have been patiently waiting for many months now to purchase a new laptop, as my trusty little netbook is starting to show it's age (it has been my only computer for the past three years and has traveled around the world with me!). After much research and hands-on testing at multiple retailers, I ultimately decided to purchase an HP 15.6" laptop, putting good use to my birthday money. I actually just received the computer today so am looking forward to setting it up!

In other technology-related news, my other not-really-a-birthday-present-but-just-happened-to-buy-it-two-days-later gift was a new phone. I have been using one of my old Nokia phones with a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go SIM card for the past three years, which has extremely limited my ability to communicate while on the go. It was certainly a great way to save money, considering I was spending less than $10 per month for cellular service, but it was becoming more of a burden than a blessing. So again, after much thought & research, Greg & I are now proud owners of iPhones!

And finally, perhaps the best news of all. After an unexpected delay in tallying the results of the Portland City Living contest, which I wrote about in my previous blog post, the winner will be publicly announced sometime tomorrow as ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Enormous thanks to all of you who voted because it obviously made a difference. And you truly gave me one of the best birthday presents I could ever ask for! By my estimate the prize package is worth over $1750. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Our first visitors

As of July 25th, Greg & I will have been living in Portland for six months. The time is flying by! And now that we are in the best weather months of the year, it's the perfect time for visitors. My mom, Diane, and step-dad, Ronnie, who live in Orlinda, TN, were the first to come visit us. The timing of their visit was actually dictated by a wedding (one of Ronnie's closest childhood friends in Tennessee now lives in eastern Oregon and his daughter was getting married). So mom & Ronnie arrived on Sunday, June 17th and departed on Tuesday, June 26th.

Both mom & Ronnie had been to Portland before, separately, but neither had spent any real time in the city. Since I've traveled with both of them extensively over the past seven years, I have a pretty good idea of what they like to see & do. To prepare for their visit, I made a list of some of my favorite places in the Portland metro area as well as possible day trips. Then I let them choose how they wanted to spend their time here.

As I mentioned before, at this time of year the weather is much more conducive to being outside, but we still get a fair amount of rainy days in June. As it got closer to the week of their visit, I watched the forecast closely in order to determine the best days for activities that would be most enjoyable in sunny weather. I also knew that in order to see everything they wanted to see as well as to attend the wedding in Hermiston (three hours east of Portland), we'd need a car. Based on the forecast and our overall plans, I decided to rent a car for seven days, which left us with two days to sightsee on foot and via public transportation.

As for accommodations, Greg & I live in an 800 sq ft furnished one-bedroom apartment. We purchased a fancy queen-size air mattress to set up in the dining room area for guests. As it turned out, we didn't need it for mom & Ronnie because our neighbors were on vacation during the same days they were visiting and offered to let them stay at their house (in exchange for taking care of their cat). How nice is that?!?!

There are so many reasons why Greg & I love Portland that it was important for me to try to give our visitors a "taste" of all of our favorite things. This is actually not hard at all in a certain sense, as they could easily be incorporated into our daily activities. The challenge is to cram everything into 5 1/2 days! Here is the itinerary that I came up with based on their preferences and that we actually managed to follow. It just didn't leave much time for lounging around the house!

Sunday, June 17
Pick our guests up from the airport (in a Zipcar) at 1pm. Bring them home and let them get settled, then go for a walk around our neighborhood.

Monday, June 18
Buy all day transit passes. Use bus, streetcar & light rail to tour downtown, southwest & northwest Portland & Lloyd Center.

Tuesday, June 19
Pick up the rental car at 9am and drive to Astoria (two hours west of Portland) via Hwy 30. Sightsee & eat lunch at Ft George Brewery in Astoria, then follow Hwy 101 along the coast, stopping at Seaside, Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, and Tillamook Cheese Factory. Return home via Hwy 6.

Wednesday, June 20
Spend the day in Washington Park (International Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, Pittock Mansion). Meet Greg for happy hour at Portland City Grill (30th floor restaurant with great views of downtown & Mt Hood).

Thursday, June 21
Drive the Historic Columbia River Highway, stopping at Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, Vista House, Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls and Bonneville Dam. Lunch & brewery tour at Full Sail Brewery in Hood River. Drive Hwy 35 to Mt Hood, stopping at Draper Girls Country Farm. Have drinks at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood then drive back to Portland via Hwy 26.

Friday, June 22
Drive/hike to the top of Mt Tabor for great views of southeast & downtown Portland. Drive around historic Irvington neighborhood looking at old houses and heritage trees. Shop at Fubonn International Marketplace.

Saturday, June 23
Drive three hours east on Hwy 84 to Hermiston, stopping at The Dalles and Stonehenge in Maryhill, WA. Visit with Ronnie's friends in the evening.

Sunday, June 24
Visit Pendleton (shop at the Woolen Mills), Milton-Freewater (pick cherries & raspberries at friend's family orchards) and Walla Walla, WA (lunch at brewpub, wine tasting). Return to Hermiston to get ready for 5pm wedding & reception. Enjoy the celebration!

Monday, June 25
Happy 7th Wedding Anniversary to Diane & Ronnie!
Spend the morning helping Ronnie's friends pack up wedding decorations, catering equipment, etc. Drive back to Portland. Eat dinner at Salty's on the Columbia (river views and bald eagle sightings).

Tuesday, June 26
Take guests to airport at 4:30am. Come home & sleep a bit longer, then drop off rental car by 10am.

As you can see, we did about as much as humanly possible in the time they were here. Sadly, Greg had just started his new job the week before they arrived so he was unable to join us except in the evenings (and we often got back fairly late from our daily adventures so even then our time with him was very limited). But we had a wonderful time and my mom keeps talking about how she & Ronnie would love to retire out here!

I posted two highlights albums on Facebook, but to see all 485 photos that I took during their visit, please click on the link below:

By chance, shortly after mom & Ronnie flew home to Tennessee, I was notified that I am a finalist in a sweepstakes sponsored by Portland Monthly Magazine. The topic:  What makes Portland so livable? The grand prize: 
Obviously I'd love to win this wonderful package, so if you want to help, please vote for me by first LIKING Portland Monthly Magazine on Facebook, then VOTING for my entry here. You can vote every day through July 13th, and the finalist with the most votes wins, so please put a reminder on your calendar and vote, vote, vote! Many thanks in advance!!!