Monday, November 24, 2014

Birthday Hangover

But not a real hangover. For those who don't know, yesterday was my birthday. Last year I did a whole birthday week series of posts and if you missed those, you can go back and check out some great pictures of me as a kid:

This year's birthday was pretty low key, which was lovely. Saturday we went to Cray, a fairly new restaurant/bar in walking distance. I started off with this, a spiced apple cider. Yum.

Saturday night we had a wonderful homemade dinner with friends, complete with candles on the dessert (not ALL the candles, thankfully).

Sunday we sang at church and had a rehearsal, then Aaron dropped me off at home so I could nap while he went to the store to get dinner supplies.

Settling in for the birthday nap with Bella

My dinner request was Aaron's homemade mac & cheese and it was perfection on a rainy night!

Thank you to everyone who sent birthday greetings, whether by Facebook, phone call, text or tweet! Even Google got in the action:

Kinda cute, kinda creepy

But of course, this was also a bittersweet birthday. There's that phone call that will never come again. This begins the year of firsts and it hit me harder than I thought it would, so again I thank all of you even more for showering me with good wishes and love. xoxo

Thursday, November 20, 2014

All about that beer

I've laid a lot of heavy stuff on y'all lately, so how about something fun? Last week I was in Portland, Oregon for a software user conference. Sounds boring, right? Wrong. Don't forget that I work for a brewery. This is brewery-specific software, so when we broke for lunch, in addition to coffee, water and iced tea, there was beer. And for me, at least, the conference was super useful. AND, we had a good amount of free time, which I'll focus on now.

I traveled with my coworker Beth and neither of us had ever been to Portland. We arrived Tuesday afternoon and the conference started Wednesday. We stayed at Hotel Monaco, which I can't recommend enough. It's unique, the staff is lovely, it's dog-friendly, and they have a happy hour every day from 5 to 6 with free beer and wine.

Yes, that's a stuffed bear on the bed. They also had animal print bathrobes in the room.

Tuesday night we went to Deschutes Brewery. My beer of choice was the Fresh Hop Saison. For dinner I had the Steak and Blue Cheese Caesar Salad, which was good but was nothing compared to the Paprika Fries (which don't show up on the online menu). Um, amazing. Fries with smoked paprika, a garlic rosemary aioli and manchego cheese. We debated between those and the Curry Fries, which I bet are also incredible.

Wednesday night we had a conference welcome reception at Henry's Tavern. This place is huge and we had an area all to ourselves with free beer (they have over 100 taps - I had Full Sail's Amber Ale) and a buffet dinner. Afterward we went to Fathead's, which is a Cleveland brewery that just opened a Portland location two weeks ago. I had the Sunshine Daydream Session IPA (you'll notice that I don't drink dark beers; I like the flavor but it's just a little too much for me).

Thursday evening Beth and I went to dinner at Jake's Famous Crawfish, which has been around more than 110 years and is now part of the McCormick and Schmick's family. We shared the Dungeness Crab and Bay Shrimp Cakes as an appetizer (fantastic) and for my entree I had Horseradish Crusted Pacific Salmon, which was OMG-amahzing. No beer for me at this dinner; I drank wine.

Friday - our conference ended at 11:30 and we weren't leaving town until Saturday so off we went for food and beer! First stop: Lardo's for lunch. We loved this place and it would be dangerous for my waistline if I had one close to me. I mean, they have salads on the menu but if I'm eating here I'm not getting a damn salad. I had the current Chefwich, which you can see below and it was delicious, as were the Lardo Fries, with herbs and parmesan. I had a couple different drinks, including Rev. Nat's Hallelujah Hopricot Cider (forget any preconceived notions you might have about cider; this isn't grossly sweet and the apricot flavor is very subtle). I also had Arch Rock's Gold Beach Lager, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in October (oh by the way, our brewery also won 2 medals - a gold and a bronze).

After wandering around the Pearl District, visiting an art gallery and grabbing some coffee at Stumptown, we rode a bus across the river to Cascade Brewing Barrel House. Cascade specializes in sour beers, which I first enjoyed in Denver last April and I have now confirmed how much I love sour beer. We did a flight of tasters and our bartender was so friendly and helpful, giving us suggestions on which order to taste the beers, then we tried the Glueh Kriek, a hot spiced mulled sour cherry ale (which sounds strange but was kind of the best thing ever. We could have stayed there all evening but wanted to spread out our patronage. In another example of how fantastic the staff at Cascade are, they recommended some other breweries to try.

We walked to The Commons Brewery, which is kind of hard to find in the dark, but so worth it. It's a tasting room - no food or even seating to speak of, but they have eight taps and it's some damn good beer. I had the Aji Citron Reserve, which isn't on their online beer list, but it's a Saison beer with citrus and chilis so it's got a kick. I loved it. Also, I left my purse in the restroom and someone brought it and made sure I got it back. Seriously, Portland in general is so polite and friendly!

1. Glueh Kriek at Cascade
2. The tasting room at The Commons
3. The Commons' tap lineup
4. Flight of sours at Cascade

Then I got to have a reunion dinner with my college friend Michelle who lives in Portland. She's my sorority sister (Gamma Phi Beta) and fellow choir nerd and we hadn't seen each other since college. We had a lovely dinner at Paley's Place and tried to catch up 20-odd years in 3 hours.

Saturday our flight didn't leave until after 1:00 so we went to breakfast at Fuller's Coffee Shop, which is a diner in every way, and paid a visit to Powell's Books - a perfect end to our stay.

I can't wait to go back to Portland and explore even more of the area!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Time to get back at it

I often get annoyed when, after someone has died, people say "he/she would have wanted us to [insert anything from the important to the ridiculous here]." But I can say with absolute certainty that my mom would have been on my case for not writing blog posts for so long. She would call me and tell me that she missed the blog if I hadn't written for several days. Well, it's been over six weeks, but I'm finally ready to get back on the blogging horse.

A lot has happened in the past couple months and many times I've thought "that deserves a whole blog post," and some of these events may someday get their own posts, but for now I'll just do a quick recap.

The night of my mom's calling hours, our sweet goddaughter Lauren died peacefully with her parents and sister right there with her. She was nine months old, and this was expected, as she'd been struggling with a neurological condition her whole short life. I was blessed to have spent many hours with her as I would sit with her and hold her so her parents could take care of other things. Rest in peace, precious girl.

The weekend of Lauren's memorial service, one of our neighbors died very unexpectedly at 32. His name was Lincoln and while we weren't super close friends, he was a great neighbor and will be missed. We had a bonfire in his honor and check out this crazy picture from that night.

The reason we were able to have a bonfire is that we had to tear down our community garden and bocce court because the lots were sold and houses are currently under construction.

Left: a view from upstairs earlier this year.
Right: the view this morning, complete with port-a-john.

We were fortunate this year to be able to watch our niece Lauren run cross country twice.

I visited our niece Jackie at college. I even slept in the dorm! I can't believe we failed to take a selfie that weekend, but we did visit the tattoo parlor. Here's my new ink (on my left shoulder):

In October my brother and I went to Myrtle Beach for a week. Our parents had a time share there. Three years ago our dad was too sick for them to go. Two years ago I went with our mom and last year John Mark went with her. I'm so glad we each got to go there with Mom and now we've created new memories. It was a wonderful, relaxing week.

The sunrise photo was taken by John Mark, as I never woke up early enough to do such a thing.

That's enough catching up for now. Now I just need to catch up with reading my friends' blogs!