Keeping Portland Weird

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sometimes you have to do stuff for you, mom. Recently I traveled to Portland on a pre-planned trip with a good friend. We wanted to go somewhere we both had neither been before and since I had a friend in the Portland area - we picked there! And wouldn't you know it - the area had 99% totality for the eclipse that hit the United States and although the entire Oregon area was packed and crazy busy - since we booked way in advance we were able to snag a deal on a car and an Airbnb rental without getting into the crazy rate skyrocketing!

Eclipsing with 99% totality
We flew into Portland on a Saturday and went straight to the little "downtown" area and met up with my travel partner's local friends for a drink and dinner. We settled at North 45 and ate outdoors in their patio area, enjoying some happy hour drinks and yummy burgers and IPA beer! It was fun meeting some locals and learning about their favorite parts of Portland and what they did for fun during the week!

Yummy burger, rosemary garlic fries and local organic ketchup from North 45
After dinner we made our way to some local thrift stores to peruse (because I thrift everywhere!) and then headed to the suburbs where we were staying with my friend and her family for the weekend.

While in the burbs, we did so much! Brunched at Pine State Biscuits - holy hannah it was amazing and well worth the wait!! Then we headed to Council Crest Park for some mountain viewing. It's an amazing little area where you can view all of the big mountains that surround the Portland area including Mount St. Helens, Mt Hood, Mt Rainier, Mt Jefferson and Mt Adams. It's pretty breathtaking - even on a slightly foggy day that we had.

Amazing biscuits and gravy at Pine State Biscuits
Views at Council Crest Park
Then we headed to the Nike employee store. Nike is based in Beaverton, OR and my friend works for their corporate office. We were able to get passes into the store and get some great deals on some Nike swag! Afterwards, we treated ourselves to a wine flight at a local winery, Rex Hill. Nestled on a hill, it had amazing views of the vineyard, and surrounding area. We were blessed with warm sunshine and enjoyed their rose and select pinot noirs. Then grabbed some food and were totally cashed for the night.

Enjoying some rose all day!
Monday was the big eclipse day! People were asked not to drive and so we stuck around my friend's house and shared their glasses to snag some glimpses of the sun - it was surreal moreso to see how eery the atmosphere was (dark, animals quiet, etc.) and watch everyone in her complex sitting outside in their glasses looking up. Was kinda like a sci-fi movie! But such a unique experience and once the eclipse was over my buddy and I headed into the city of Portland for our touristy stuff.

We snagged some donuts at Voodoo Donuts - what a unique place (that had a line at 11 am on a Tuesday!) with some yummy treats! Then enjoyed lunch and a drink at Pints brewery where I had a salad, free fries and an IPA! Clearly I like IPAs :) I had the Awesome Sauce New England Style IPA and it was delicious! Then we got to walking and made our way to the famous Powell's Book store and it did not disappoint! It's the world's largest independent book store and sells new and used books. To say it's massive is an understatement. It's gigantic with colored neighborhoods featuring every single genre of book you could imagine. I snagged the twins two books - a Curious George selection and Sisters ( a cute book about two sister who love each other but are different!). I also picked up an Oregon sticker for my macbook and a used fiction novel for myself! We finished out the day by checking into our Airbnb a few miles from the downtown area, relaxed for a bit and the ventured out for dinner at Kelly's Olympian which is a garage style themed bar/restaurant with motorcycles dangling from the ceiling and local brews on tap.
Standing in line at Voodoo!

Kelly's Olympian bar
We were pretty wiped after dinner and had an early night in (plus we were living 2 hours ahead of the time we normally live sooooo we were pooped!). On our final full day we planned to get up early and get naturistic. We drove to Multnomah Falls, a beautiful waterfall snuggled into the ultra high cliffs right off the interstate. You can walk up the the falls, over a bridge and then up to the very very top of the falls. It's great for a hike, people watching, and just enjoying some peaceful parts of nature. After the falls we headed back into Portland for lunch where we walked up and down the Nob Hill area checking out the shops and finally settling for lunch at the Fireside. And because I HAD to - I snagged a cone from Salt & Straw on our way out of the neighbor hood. I indulged on honey lavender ice cream with a second scoop of strawberry balsamic and black pepper. It was heavenly.

Enjoying the Multnomah Falls

Brunch at Fireside restaurant
Since we were up early that morning adventuring, we decided to go back to the Airbnb and do our own thing for the early afternoon. I went thrifting :) And then when I got back we had our last Portland meal at Bamboo sushi which was less than a mile from our stay. It was delicious but spicy! I had some tempura avocado which was an interesting taste and gosh their rolls were nommmmms. Then back to the Airbnb to pack and relax - and dread our super early morning wake up to catch our 8 am flight back to reality.

Overall it was a terrific trip - I would recommend Portland to ANYONE! The weather was great in the summer - warm but not humid. There's so much to do and it's such a free , unique place to adventure all of the areas the city has to offer. There's enough to do for 48 hours in PDX or up to a week in the area. PLUS the food and the beer is to die for!! Fantastic!

Single Mom Adventures: Road Trip Tips with Toddlers

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Since the girls and I went on our 7+ hour road trip last month, I thought I’d share some of my tips to keep your parental sanity in tact, the kiddos happy and family adventures continuing. Road tripping with little people, especially when driving solo (like no other adult) can be stressful! You’re trying to pay attention to the traffic, the directions, have people demanding things from you (juice! Movie! Snacks!) … plus it’s just a super long drive.

First things first - know where you’re going. I used to map out my drive and take a look at about how long it would take to get there, which areas we’d drive through, and get a general idea of things that we’d find along our drive. The site is neat because you can see restaurants, points of interest, gas stations, places to stay, etc. all along your preferred route. I was able to find a route that didn’t tack on too much time to our trip, and allowed us to pit stop in a fun place with lots of stuff to do - even if it was a short stop mid-trip!

Another big thing is to just know your kids. You know what they can tolerate and what they can’t. What snacks they like, movies, etc. I packed some snack favorites, made sure my potty-training daughters were wearing a pull up on the long drive, had their favorite movies and some new toys for them to fiddle around with. It wasn’t perfect, I won’t lie. The last 1.5 hour of the trip was trying. They were over it, I was over and we just wanted to all get out and stretch our legs. I did have to resort to my final-final bribe and that’s handing a cell phone over to them to watch Netflix. But that’s my last resort and I only had to use it once for about 30 minutes.

Pack a go-to back. I used a Thirty One brand organizing tote and made sure to have wipes, extra clothes for the girls, my wallet, snacks, etc. in the front seat with me. It was nice having everything at arms reach and when we did make a pit stop I just slung the bag over my shoulder for whatever adventure we went on.

Plan a stop … or several. Using, I did plan a “bigger” stop mid-way through our drive which from Chicago to northern MN put us in Wisconsin Dells. The Dells is a mega-resort area with TONS of family stuff to do. It was a perfect place for us to find some entertainment, stretch our legs and grab some food and then get back on the road. In the Dells we visited the Wisconsin Deer Park. It’s a park that has “tame” deer that roam around the property which you can feed from your hand! There are also goats, chickens, elk and tons of other animals too. It was the perfect toddler activity because they could interact with the animals, walk around, have lots to see.

Getting our wiggles out on our stop at the Dells!
And that put me at my final tip - plan nap time. Toddlers still need lots of sleep. And I knew that my kiddos could stay up and entertained for the first leg of the trip. So if we could make it to the Dells, do our activity and grab lunch, then by the time we hit our road again they’d be primed up for a snooze fest. And I was right! They zonked out for about an hour which was peace and quiet time for mom and much needed rest for the kiddos.

What are your favorite road trip tips with kids? I’d love to hear them!

Tell Me Something Good

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Tell me something good."

That question was posed in a divorcee Facebook group I'm in this week. Amidst the tragedy smacking the US/world left and right this year, someone was desperate to see what good has come into the world to those of us on the other side of divorce. At first I rolled my eyes. Things aren't terrific. What good to I have to share?

But duh. Tons.

Here's the thing. Divorce sucks balls. I read once that you get 1 year to grieve the end of the relationship/marriage. You get 1 year to whine about it, obsess about it, eat chocolate ice cream and binge on Netflix. One year to do nothing. And then that's it. Get your shit together and keep moving. If you don't, life will leave you behind.

So what's my good? I may not have found the love of my life, but I have had smaller relationships and dates and realized what I don't want, what I won't settle for and was strong enough to walk away (which is HUGE for me) because I didn't want that type of relationship even if that meant I would be alone. I received a promotion in my dream job and with the flexibility I need/want for my work/life balance. I chipped away at my debt (student loans, etc.) and am nearly debt free. Very very nearly. I just bought a home! I close at the end of September and it's in a terrific school district and is a single family home for me and my girls. In two years from my divorce, life moved along and I was moving with it.

So here's my advice to you. Take your time and grieve your loss. You need to process it and work through it. But life doesn't stop moving just because your marriage ended. I need you to be strong and figure things out for yourself (and your kids). I need you to be smart and think about your future. Guess what - you still have one! I need you to realize what you want in your life, for your kids, what you image things could be like. When you're sitting in the bottom of that shower weeping (guilty), I need you to start making a plan. When you're running out your anger and your tears hit you at mile six, I need you to start planning. I need you to know that you can do this.

Been stuck at home? Get a job. Get your resume out there, tweak the sh*t out of it, join LinkedIn, network, etc. DO IT. Don't whine to me that I don't know anything about anything. Just do it.

Drowning in debt? Make a plan. I follow Dave Ramsey but there are a few financial plans out there. Find one that works and attack the crap out of it. <here's where you tell me there's no moves you can make> Sell your car and get rid of the car payment. (Guilty! did that!) Find a reliable, older car with no car payment that can get you from point A to point B (did that too). Pick up a side gig (Lyft, eBay sales, babysitting, dog sitting) and put any extra money to your debt. Create a budget and stick to it.

No one is going to do this stuff for you except for you. So when you feel like everything is impossible and your heart is breaking in two - I need you to rise up and be stronger than that. I need you to be smart and find a way. I need you to realize that things won't be perfect and they sure as hell won't look like you thought they would - but they'll be okay. Freaking out about time with out your kids? (visitation or splitting custody with your ex?) DO SOMETHING to keep yourself busy when they aren't with you. Work out, bake, go out with friends, repaint your bedroom a color your ex hated (guilty) - do stuff for YOU! Take this time to do something for yourself. Your kids will be okay. Use that time to help mom be okay.

I'm not saying my life is terrific or anywhere I thought it'd be. But my train is moving and it's headed in the direction that I planned for it. Things are good now - and it's amazing to know that things can be even better. So keep trucking along. You can do this. You're strong enough to move forward.

It's Okay to Be Single

Friday, August 11, 2017

I usually have to remind myself this time and time again. As I see others move on, people truck along with their lives, and I'm moving ahead as well - albeit alone ... I have to remind myself that it's okay to be single. My heart is still healing, and I know I have a ton to still learn. But it does suck to not have that support person or someone to love and join me in the day to day stuff of life.

It's okay to be single because sometimes you have to be strong on your own first before you can be strong in a relationship.

It's okay to be single because you're willing to wait for the *right* person and not just *any* person.

It's okay to be single because you're standing on your own two feet and showing your children what a strong mom looks like.

It's okay to be single because you're proving to yourself that you are a survivor.

It's okay to be single because you have other things to focus on right now; your children, your career, your self-care.

It's okay to be single because you said so.

Single Mom Adventure: Car Ride Up North!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Recently, I tracked 7.5 hours to the great white north with my two kiddos in tow. We packed up some necessities and stuffed our belongings into my sensible sedan and headed for a weekend of fun on the lake with some of my closest friends from college and their families.

It was a magical weekend and guess what - my kids (and myself!) survived our solo drive there!! I was pretty worried because the girls are 3 and would be stuck in the car for over 7 hours and are notorious for demanding snacks, toys, and anything and everything under the moon while I'm trying to safely get us to our destination. Luckily, I preplanned and had a movie and their headphones all ready to go for the first leg of our trip from Chicago into the Wisconsin Dells. It was a 3.5 hour drive and when we arrived we did a pit stop for food and walking around a Deer Park where we were able to feed docile Bambi's right from our hands! It was a great activity that allowed us to stretch our legs, have a chill activity and then hop back into the car where the girls promptly passed out for the beginning of our longest 4.5 hour trek into Minnesota.

Feeding a sweet deer.

Hello, dude! This goat was hangry!
The last hour or so of the drive was a bit brutal. The girls were over the car, I was over the car, we hit some traffic, etc. But once we arrived and they were able to meet new people, play with friends and get relaxed it was much much better!

We spent the weekend enjoying the company of my best friends, swimming in the lake, boating and even just relaxing and watching Moana 875 times with the other kids. It was so great to have the fresh air, the relaxation and seeing my little girls meet some of my favorite people in the planet. They slept well, ate well, got along with others - it was truly amazing!

This cabin, though! :)

Ready to swim!
Our ride back we had some help with my friend and her gf riding back to Chicago with us. It was nice to have some company and someone to help wrangle the twins and their needs in the car ride so I could focus on getting us back home safely! 

Can't wait for our next adventure!