Thursday, April 6, 2017

From mountain to coast

My friend Corey flew in from New York City last Wednesday for a weeklong visit. He has been here before and I wrote about it in this post:
Corey is not a beer drinker, but occasionally he will have a pint with me
I met Corey at the airport around noon and we picked up his rental car, a brand new Subaru Crosstrek. After dropping off his luggage at the house, we had lunch at a Montavilla neighborhood spot, Tienda Santa Cruz. Afterward we stopped at a few dispensaries to stock up on supplies for the week. Later, we met Greg for drinks at Vintage Cocktail Lounge and ended up eating dinner there as well.
the wall of booze at Vintage
Since we've had a big winter in terms of snowfall, Corey couldn't resist heading back to Mt. Hood for some skiing. We drove up on a rainy Thursday morning; it started snowing just east of Sandy.
following a snow plow on Hwy 35
Thankfully, shortly after we arrived at Mt. Hood Meadows, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. I spent the afternoon in the lodge while Corey was on the slopes.
view of the Stadium Express lift from the lodge
After checking into our hotel in Government Camp, we had dinner at Charlie's Mountain View, then called it a night pretty early as it was still snowing at that elevation.
driving from Meadows to Government Camp
The next morning we were back at Meadows by 10 a.m. It was cloudy at the hotel, but it was sunny and clear at the lodge. While I resisted the urge to ski due to fear of getting injured (I've had hip and knee surgery since the last time), I did rent snowshoes and spent a total of four hours exploring the trails which I basically had all to myself.
snowshoeing on the Honeysuckle trail
The slopes closed at 4 p.m. so we started the 1.5 hour drive in light traffic back to Portland and were home in time to meet up with Greg for dinner.
this entree is called Three Amigos
I got up early Saturday morning to make a quiche so we wouldn't get hungry on the two hour drive to the coast. It rained most of the way to Cannon Beach but was just overcast and windy for the rest of the day.
Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach
We explored Haystack Rock at low tide, made a loop through Seaside, and stopped in Fort Stevens State Park to check out the wreck of the Peter Iredale.
the wreck of the Peter Iredale c1906
By 3 p.m. we had made it to Astoria and checked into our motel near the Megler Bridge. We walked to Buoy Beer for a late lunch / early dinner and watched the first NCAA semifinal game there. Afterward, we walked to the newest brewery in town, Reach Break, to taste some of their beers. By then the second semifinal (featuring the Oregon Ducks) was on, so we doubled back to Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery to enjoy more beer while we watched the game.
cargo ships at anchor
Breakfast on Sunday morning was at Pig 'N Pancake across the parking lot from our hotel. Even though I've lived in Oregon for almost six years, this was my first time to eat at the local chain. After loading up on chicken-fried steak, eggs, and yes, pancakes, we checked out of the hotel and drove up to the Astoria Column. Of course, it started pouring rain just as we left the hotel, but thankfully cleared up again when we reached the column.
Astoria Column
Greg and Corey climbed the stairs to the top for the 360 degree views, while I stayed down at parking lot level and took pictures. After meandering through the residential area filled with 100+-year-old homes, we stopped at Pier 39 to say hi to the sea lions.
As usual, they were hanging out on the boat dock, barking, fighting, and generally lying around doing nothing. When a big log floated by it caused a huge ruckus; I captured the sea lions' reaction in this video:
We drove east along the Columbia River, and crossed into Longview, Washington on the Lewis and Clark Bridge. Corey likes to play blackjack, so we stopped at The Last Frontier Casino in La Center. Luck was not on his side on this particular day, and soon we were heading south toward Portland.
view of Oregon across the Columbia
We got off at the Vancouver exit and drove down Main Street and around Esther Short Park so Corey could see the downtown area. Then we stopped at McMenamins on the Columbia to have a look at the just-below-flood-stage river.
I spotted this bunny in the parking lot
After crossing back into Oregon, we continued into downtown Portland and found a parking spot near Providence Park. We ate dinner at Thai Bloom, then had a quick pint at the Fred Meyer Stadium bar before walking to the stadium for the Timbers match. They ended up tying 1-1. After the match we drove home to rest and relax before the start of the work week.
Portland Timbers vs New England Revolution
Corey drove up to Mt Hood and skied Timberline on Monday, but I stayed home so I could attend the Beer Party PDX board meeting that night. After Greg and I finished work on Tuesday, we went out for a final meal together with Corey, whose flight departed very early Wednesday morning.

It was a great week and I hope we can do it again soon!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Recap of the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards

Since my friend and fellow beer writer, Ezra Johnson-Greenough, has already posted a comprehensive write-up about the winners on his blog The New School, I am going to share some of my photos from that evening.
Me and Maude Haney
The Greenneck Daredevils provided excellent musical entertainment
Logsdon wins their second gold medal of the evening
pFriem wins Best Brewpub Experience
Ben Edmunds accepts one of Breakside's 10 total OBA medals
Dr. Tom Shellhammer impresses with his German language skills.
He is teaching my upcoming Origins of Beer Flavors & Styles class!
Marielle Cowdin gave an inspiring speech about
protecting Oregon's wild places, wildlife and waters.
While I was hoping my friends at Culmination Brewing would take home some medals,
at least they got recognition for their excellent Burton Ale brewed in collaboration with Bill Schneller.
Ezra Johnson-Greenough announces the finalists for Best New Brewery.
Alesong was the well-deserving winner.
Baerlic wins Brewery of the Year - Small
The Commons wins Brewery of the Year - Medium
Breakside wins Brewery of the Year - Large
Finally, here's one of my favorite photos taken at the end of the event with Steven's phone:
Hilda Stevens, Steven Shomler, me, Jen Ulrich
The video of the entire 4+ hour event can be seen below.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Our First Visitors of 2017

This past weekend, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law flew up from Los Angeles for a visit. Their first visit was exactly two years ago, so they knew what to expect in terms of typical Portland winter weather. Mother Nature didn't disappoint, with constant rain all day Thursday (arrival day), some sunshine and a break from the rain on Friday, rain and fog all day Saturday (plus snow on Mt Hood), and rain on Sunday. It was also raining when I dropped Doug & Alexis at the airport Monday morning! In fact, as of the 21st, we have already broken the record for most precipitation in February.
a selfie at Bridal Veil Falls
In spite of the unforgiving dampness, we still made the most of their visit. After spending Thursday evening catching up over dinner and beers at home, Greg headed into the office Friday morning while our guests slept in and I went to a doctor's appointment. By the time I returned home, Doug & Alexis were ready to get some fresh air, so we hiked to the top of Mt Tabor. Thankfully the weather was cooperating and they were able to see the beautiful downtown skyline, Mt Hood and Mount St Helens.
Doug counting rings on Mt Tabor
We had worked up an appetite so we drove to one of my favorite Asian lunch spots Ha VL. Friday's soup options were Phnom Penh seafood or chicken pho; all three of us ordered the Phnom Penh. It was so delicious; we slurped away to our heart's content. Afterward, we took a short walk to the Fubonn Shopping Center to look for a specialty Korean seasoning that Doug needed for his spice cabinet back home.
Phnom Penh soup at Ha VL
Mission accomplished, we drove to the SE Hawthorne business district for some strolling, shopping, and people-watching. Soon enough it was time to make our way down to the vicinity of Greg's office to meet him for a few post-work beers. We decided to try the new Iron Tap Station at Brooklyn Yard, which turned out to be an excellent choice for their well-curated tap list, complimentary peanuts and pretzels, and the added bonus of being next door to Coco Donuts when an employee brought over a few bags of doughnut holes that were shared with all the Iron Tap customers.

Since we were in the neighborhood, I also insisted that we stop by the new Ross Island Brewing to visit my friends, the owners Carston & Maude Haney, and beer slinger extraordinaire Abbey Bowman. After a round of some fantastic collaboration brews, the gang was hungry so we doubled back toward our house and grabbed a table at East Glisan Pizza Lounge. We shared a bacon and a capicola pizza, washed down with more locally brewed beer, of course, and then headed home for a nightcap.

Our alarms went off fairly early Saturday morning as we had planned a day trip along the Columbia River Gorge and up to Mt Hood and I wanted to do the bulk of the driving (and sightseeing) in daylight. It was pouring rain as we left Portland but tapered off a bit when we stopped for breakfast at Shirley's Tippy Canoe just outside Troutdale at the west end of the historic highway. While it wasn't that busy when we arrived at 9:30 a.m., there was a group of a dozen people that was seated just ahead of us. We were given no warning that our food would take additional time to arrive, and we ended up waiting more than 30 minutes for our orders. By the time we ate as much as we could of the massive portions, it was already 11:00. Not the best way to start our day in terms of wasting valuable time!
chicken-fried steak at Shirley's
I have driven the scenic route many times now as it is a favorite destination of visiting family and friends. With limited time (and crappy weather), I have a rough itinerary of all the easiest stops for views of the gorge and waterfalls. We all donned full waterproof gear and made the most of our day, in awe of the tremendous amount of water in the falls, the result of all the heavy rain we've had this winter.
Doug & Alexis at Horsetail Falls
We also made a brief stop at Bonneville Dam, but sadly didn't have time to go inside the visitor center or to see Herman the sturgeon. We continued on to Hood River, where we planned to have drinks and snacks at Pfriem Family Brewers, but our plans were thwarted by an hour-long wait for a table and, due to the crowds, no place to even stand to enjoy a beer. As it was already 3:00 p.m., we decided to turn south toward the mountain, knowing we would likely encounter snow and unpredictable road conditions.
cherry trees in the snow on Hwy 35
Sure enough, it started snowing before we made the loop around to Hwy 26. Thankfully, the roads we in great shape, and it only took about 45 minutes to reach the turnoff to Timberline Lodge. It was snowing hard enough that the road to the lodge was getting some accumulation, but plows were actively doing their best to keep the path clear and we didn't have any trouble in either direction, thanks in part to my friends loaning me their 4WD Ford Expedition.
We spent about an hour on the mountain admiring the lodge's architecture, historical exhibits, and the intrepid skiers and snowboarders in almost white-out conditions. By then everyone was ready for food and beer, so we drove down to Mt Hood Brewing Co. in Government Camp where we ate burgers and drank happy hour ($3.00 pints!) beer.
The snow changed back to rain pretty quickly as we drove east in the darkness, and I was thankful to arrive safe and sound back in our neighborhood at 7:00 p.m. The guys wanted to stop for a beer at Montavilla Brew Works, a participant in Zwicklemania earlier in the day, so I indulged them even though I was ready to be home.

After a good night's sleep, I cooked breakfast for everyone Sunday morning then had to leave the house before noon to return the borrowed Expedition and meet up with my friend Cindy to take her to the airport. She had generously offered to loan me her car while she was out of town for the week, and it made sense to take her up on her offer to continue to be able to chauffeur our guests around for another day. I dropped Greg, Doug and Alexis at the Gateway Transit Center and they took the MAX all the way to Sellwood. I met up with them a couple of hours later at Laurelwood brewpub then we walked around (in the rain) and browsed at an antique shop before settling in at Lompoc's Oaks Bottom Public House for more beer and some happy hour totchos.
Alexis's parents gave them fifty $2 bills - Doug enjoys paying bar tabs with them
I already had plans to attend a memorial service that evening, so the gang tagged along to Ecliptic Brewing and enjoyed beers at the bar while I celebrated the life of Teresa Culp with her friends and family in the brewery. After an emotional but heartwarming couple of hours, I said my goodbyes and rejoined Greg and our visitors so we could get dinner at Fire on the Mountain, Greg's favorite wing spot.
We returned home to relax in front of the fireplace and get ready for the week ahead, and went to bed fairly early. I took Doug and Alexis to the airport on Monday morning, marking the end of hosting our first visitors of 2017.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


January 25, 2017 marks the official five year anniversary of our move to Portland, Ore. I have already documented our relocation process and adaptation to life in the Pacific Northwest in several blog posts,
When Less is More (i.e. The Big Purge) and For the Love of Portland so I thought I would take this opportunity to summarize what has happened over the past five years.
This is all we brought with us!
We moved here without jobs, without a car, and having never seen the furnished apartment we rented via Craigslist for the first four months. Greg started looking for full-time employment right away, while I got steady work as an extra on Grimm, Leverage, and Portlandia. I also immersed myself in the local beer scene, primarily by volunteering at all of the festivals. We spent all of our spare time exploring Portland and its suburbs on public transit, and occasionally rented a car for excursions to Hood River and Mt Hood, the coast, and Bend.
Alethea the TV cop
Greg started working for Cambia Health Solutions as a Problem Management Analyst in June, 2012. We extended our lease at the first apartment off SE Hawthorne Blvd as it turned out to be a great location and nice set-up for the time being. I had a very lucky year in the sense that I frequently won local contests including a new bicycle, a prize package worth over $2,000 from Portland Monthly magazine, and much more. I was less fortunate health-wise as the hip pain I started feeling just before we moved became almost unbearable. Once we had insurance through Greg’s new employer, I was able to see a doctor and determine that I had a torn labrum that would require surgery.
I won a bike!
2013 was the year of surgeries, physical therapy, and maxing out our out-of-pocket medical expenses. After six months of rehab from my hip surgery, which took place in mid-January, during which time I also had sinus surgery in late April, I developed severe pain and audible grinding in both knees. Even after more physical therapy specifically for my knees, along with Synvisc injections to help lubricate and cushion the joints, I still wasn’t getting any better. It doesn’t help that, in August, we moved into Irvington House, where I took on the role of full-time caretaker of the licensed vacation rental. This added a physical labor component to my daily routine, which was not the best thing for my knees. Within a few months my doctor recommended I have arthroscopic surgery, which we scheduled for December 31, 2013. The year was not entirely bad; we still made time for adventure and travel, including a two-week trip to Alaska, visits from family, and a winter vacation in Southern Oregon.
Rehabbing after my hip surgery in a CPM machine
Needless to say, 2014 started out pretty rough for me. After double knee surgery on New Year’s Eve, physical therapy was a long and arduous process. It took much longer to be pain-free than after my hip surgery and, even then, it seemed like I would never regain full mobility. I also developed severe pain in my upper back and neck, which required additional physical therapy as well as epidural steroid injections. Thankfully I had other things to look forward to, particularly travel planning. We took a wonderful trip to Europe in the spring, hosted several friends and family members throughout the year, and drank copious amounts of local craft beer. I also started writing for Oregon Beer Growler magazine, and I helped Greg prepare for his first marathon. All of this occurred while I continued to work as the caretaker of Irvington House.
At OHSU for physical therapy after double knee surgery
After another busy year, we wanted to start 2015 with a relaxing vacation. A 10-night cruise to Mexico out of San Francisco fit the bill, so that’s how we spent part of February. Little did we know how much things would change over the next few months. After much deliberation, Greg decided he wanted to look for another job as he just wasn’t happy at Cambia. Meanwhile, I was getting tired of the physical labor and being on call 24/7 that was required with my job at Irvington House. It turned out I didn’t have to quit; the owner’s sister and her husband had recently relocated to Portland and needed a place to live, so we were given short notice that we needed to move.
You can't see it clearly in this photo, but we're swimming with a whale shark in La Paz, Mexico!
Just as we got this news, I was departing for a one-week vacation in Alaska with my mom’s extended family. I had recently started doing freelance writing work for Brewery Consultant Group as well as helping out at Culmination Brewing as needed. Greg’s youngest brother got married in Indianapolis in early June so we flew there for his wedding. Thus, we finally started looking at apartments and even pursued the idea of buying a house in mid-June, but quickly hit a wall because of low inventory and high prices. Just when we thought we might have to leave Portland, Greg got a job offer from Trimet and I managed to secure us a lovely two-bedroom apartment on Mount Tabor. We moved shortly afterward, on the weekend of my 41st birthday.
This is the view from our deck at the new (and current) apartment. Mount St. Helens is visible on a clear day.
A few weeks later, on the evening on August 2, I got the kind of phone call you always dread. My beloved Uncle Jim, with whom I had just spent seven days in Alaska in late May, had taken his own life. I was beyond shocked. I immediately threw some clothes in a suitcase and got on the next plane heading east toward Indiana to be with my family and assist with the funeral arrangements. Jim’s death continues to affect me to this day but, even in the weeks after I returned home from the memorial service, I knew I had to keep my chin up and try to focus on the good things in my life. Thankfully, I had something to look forward to, as Greg and I had already planned and booked a two-week trip to Iceland in early September and we would also be traveling to Greg’s brother Doug’s wedding in Tennessee in October.
Cruising in Alaska with my family in May 2015. My Uncle Jim is the third person from the right.
2015 was a bit of a roller coaster ride so I definitely wanted and needed 2016 to be focused even more on what I enjoy most in life -- travel (and beer!). I succeeded, for the most part, by visiting seven states and nine countries on two continents in a total of nine different trips. I also helped Greg prepare for another marathon, started my own business, and spent some quality time with friends near and far.
Cruising the Panama Canal with our families in December 2016.
That pretty much sums up the past five years of life in Portland. As this post is already quite lengthy, I'll save the "future plans" part for my next post. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Portland Winter to Remember (and it's not over yet!)

While winter technically doesn’t begin until December 21, I am referring to meteorological conditions for the purposes of this post.☃
a bit of blue sky after the snow 12/15/16
After a lovely two-week cruise from Ft Lauderdale, FL to San Diego, CA through the Panama Canal, with multiple stops in Central and South America where the temperature averaged 90F with high humidity, followed by five days in San Diego exploring the local beer scene in mild 50F weather, I returned home to freezing rain in Portland on the evening of December 9, 2016. Several inches of ice had already accumulated over the previous two days creating treacherous conditions on roads and sidewalks. I was lucky to get up the slope to our apartment that night!
impact of the ice storm 12/10/16

icy rhododendron bud
That was the beginning of what has already been a record-breaking winter here in the Pacific Northwest. The ice had only a few days to melt until snow began falling on December 14. This was accompanied by below-freezing temperatures and created very slick conditions that persisted until the 19th.
father & son sledding down SE Stark St on Mt Tabor 12/16/16

the view of downtown Portland from the top of Mt Tabor 12/16/16
It stayed cold but relatively dry through the Christmas holiday, then snowed again on New Year’s Eve. That eventually gave way to rain, so the ground was only white for a few hours.
snowing just before midnight on 12/31/16
The first week of 2017 was bitterly cold, with lows in the teens and high winds that made it feel even colder. We got snow and ice again last weekend and were essentially homebound for three days. Greg went to work on Monday, but the roads and sidewalks were still so slick that he fell (but didn’t get hurt) and it took an hour and a half to travel five miles on foot and public transit because the buses were sliding and/or getting stuck. I didn’t leave the house until Tuesday afternoon and there were still patches of ice in many places.
if the snow and ice isn't cleared then treacherous conditions on SE 69th down to Burnside
The main reason I got out was to go to the store to get some groceries. The forecast was calling for more snow, so I stocked up on wine (we already had plenty of beer) and bought enough fresh meat and produce to last us through the rest of the week. Sure enough, as we were eating dinner around 6:00 pm, it started snowing. By 7:00 pm, everything was completely white. It continued to snow steadily all night.
the evening forecast on Tuesday, 1/10/17

this was taken after 30 minutes of snowfall on 1/10/17
When we got up on Wednesday around 7:00 am, we already had six inches of snow. I went out to take some pictures around our apartment just before 10:00 am. At that time we were up to eight inches. It continued to snow until around noon and then the clouds finally lifted.
9:45 am 1/11/17

exactly 8" of snow at this point
Since Greg was working from home, he was able to finish up a bit early so we bundled up and headed out for our usual winter weather destination, the top of Mt Tabor. From our house, it’s a one mile gradual uphill walk to get to the highest point in the park. We always make a loop around the top, enjoying the views of downtown Portland to the west. Then, if luck is on our side and it’s open, we take the eastern slope down along SE Yamhill Street, and walk another mile to Montavilla Brew Works. There we enjoy a beer or two before we walk ½ mile back home along SE Stark and SE Thorburn Streets.
walking south on SE 71st St towards the top of Mt Tabor

many skiers, snowboarders, and other winter sporting enthusiasts made the trek up Mt Tabor

one of the views to the west from the top of Mt Tabor
That’s exactly what we did yesterday afternoon, with the exception that we ran into a couple of friends at the brewery and decided to hang out longer to catch up with them. We were hungry after the physical exertion of our hike, so we picked up a huge calzone from Flying Pie Pizzeria for dinner. We eventually got home around 7:30 pm but not before we had a snowboulder fight!
the view to the east on SE Stark in Montavilla 
a pint of Bipartisan Porter

Greg toasts our huge calzone with a Dortmunder Wonder Lager

this snow boulder is heavier than it looks
Greg worked from home again today so we spent almost two hours this morning shoveling our sidewalks and the stairs down to our apartment. It’s our landlords’ responsibility, but they are at their vacation home in sunny Palm Springs, CA so the task fell to us this time. I always get pretty angry with my neighbors because they never clear their sidewalk and thus it is impossible to get down to the bus stop on Burnside without risking life and limb. Portland has a law (part of the city code) which requires property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks. I always photograph their uncleared section in case Greg or I end up falling and getting seriously hurt, so I can prove that they are liable when I take them to court.
Greg clearing the public sidewalk on SE Gilham

the sidewalk leading toward our apartment
I cleared the stairs and the path leading around to our back door
The current forecast indicates that it won’t get above freezing until Monday, and even then it may only be 34F. The rest of next week is predicted to be in the 40’s, so that should help. But, in the meantime, we get to enjoy this lovely white stuff for the next three to four days. I just hope we can do so without injury!
our neighbors built this awesome snow fort but didn't bother to shovel their sidewalk