Archives for category: personal

8 months since my last post. Yowzas. I can blame it on a lot of things – moving to STL, working full-time, traveling almost every weekend for misc wedding activities, or really just being lazy. But I swearrrrr I’ve been trying to get back on here for the last couple of months or so, but couldn’t really think of the right post. You know, the “comeback post.”

I figured the best way to come back from my brief hiatus was to talk about my recent move to St. Louis, but I didn’t want the post to be just a mediocre ramble about how humid it is out here, or how the people look at you funny when you say you actually chose to move here. I wanted to put a little more oomph into it. But really, I was just waiting for something to click… something to hit me and get me excited to write again.

Enter TED talks. If you aren’t familiar w/ TED talks, slap yourself. Download the TED app, google TED talks, or literally just browse your FB newsfeed. There’s bound to be a TED video you’re friend is begging you to watch. That’s what happened to me the other day at least when an old friend posted the link to a TED talk on how to make stress your friend, and I did what everyone should have done.. and clicked on it.

I could go on about the entire talk, but what really resonated with me was the last minute, when Kelly McGonigal (no Harry Potter relations that I’m aware of) answered the question re: when choosing between a stressful job, and a less stressful job, which should you pick? Her response? Brilliant. The only thing that was missing was Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect in the background mimicking a slow fist pump whispering #crushedit.

She responded saying, “Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. The most important thing in making decisions is to go after something that creates meaning in your life, and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.”

Some say moving to a different city was crazy. Ballsy (sp?). Ridiculous. Brave. Inspiring. Stressful.

And now that I’ve done it, and lived here for ten months, I’d have to agree with them. Yeah, moving somewhere where you don’t have any friends is scary. Moving somewhere without a job completely cemented down is even scarier. And sure, you could say moving somewhere with no real sense of direction besides really just wanting to try something new, but still being bogged down by life’s realities can create tremendous amount of stress for one person. But before I moved, I was OK w/ this. And now, ten months later, I’m even more OK w/ it. And if only I had the wisdom, and the eloquently phrased answer of Kelly McGonigal a year ago, I would have been able to explain to people why I was so looking forward to this next phase of my life.

I believed moving to St. Louis was an opportunity for me to chase after some meaning in my life, and I’m very thankful I had the courage and strength to believe in myself to deal w/ the stress that has come with it. It hasn’t been an easy road. It’s been down right crappy at times. But the good times here have definitely prevailed over the bad, and I feel like the struggles have made the outcome that much more glorious.

Because what it all boils down to is, if we avoid change, we’ll never know what could be just around the corner. If we avoid challenges, we will never know our true potential.  And if we avoid discomfort, we’ll never know what it’s like to achieve greatness and meaning in life.



So this week I’m making the move to the midwest. St. Louis, Missouri. Home to the best sports fans in the country, the arch, Anheuser-Busch, countless casinos, and about 65 of my relatives. I’ll be living downtown in my very own artist loft. Yes, the place where people potentially throw paint up on the walls, drink a bunch of wine and talk about how fascinating and expressive it is. And I say ‘potentially’ not because that… doesn’t really happen… I say it because I’m not quite sure about the rules and limitations of the apartment complex yet :)

Regardless, I am nothing less than ecstatic to soon be living in a new city, and can’t wait for all the exciting adventures ahead.

But with that said, it is also kind of bittersweet to be leaving Virginia, where I have spent the last 17 years of my life. I’ll be leaving the city that is home to many of my nearest and dearest friends…. aka all those childhood friends and parents who stood by me through ALL the awkward hair styles and through all of my ridiculous fashion decisions (a 1st grader in tims and a huge Tigger sweatshirt, seriously guys?).

Richmond is where I learned all of the important stuff. Like, that turkey sandwiches taste way better with Doritos in-between the bread. Or that getting dropped off by your mom in HS was wayyyyy cooler than having to ride that dreadful yellow bus (But if you did have to take the bus for some reason, that you made sure to stand, not sit, in the back of the bus). Richmond is where I learned how to play kick the can, manhunt, and Last Chance. Richmond is where I co-founded a club called the Kreative Kids Klub and put on magic shows, circus routines, and guinea pig races for the neighborhood kids. And Richmond is where I preceded to co-adopt a manatee with all the money we raised at such fairs. For the short time I could actually touch my toes, I decided to take on karate, where I experienced my first regret: quitting a belt before black (*SMH). Virginia is where I was dubbed the name Shay, Shay Shay, Shanaynay, Shaydiz, Shanny, and everyone’s favorite… ‘Jeff’s little sister.’ Richmond is where I often passed the time by playing pool in our bonus room while blasting a mix CD of the Backstreet Boys, 98 degrees, Nsync, and Hanson. It was here that I also learned, much later, that such an activity was not a cool thing to do.

I had my fair share of themed bday parties, art projects, and collectibles (beanie babies, poggs, and the Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ series to name a few). I participated in about every after school activity, sport, community service project, and spirit competition growing up to bore a stranger for about a week. I learned how it felt to lose at an early age thanks to the hundreds of ping pong matches, basketball one-on-one’s, and.. let’s face it.. ANY sort of game I played against my brother. (Thanks Jeff!). And most recently, I learned how… entertaining it is to have your parents for roommates :)

Richmond will always be home to me because of all of the above, and much more. Most of my immediate family is here, and most of my childhood is here. No matter what St. Louis brings me, or whichever city after that, I will always remember all that Richmond has given and taught me over the years. Because after all, it’s here in Richmond that I gained one of the most important assets of all: the courage and confidence to move away and know I can make it on my own.

*shaking my head

Your birthday is…

…obviously the best day of the year. Or the best week, or even the best month depending on the person (cough… Jill… cough)
…the one day in particular that you are encouraged (or forced…depending on the age or choice in friends) to drink way more than you should.
…the one day when sometimes, weirdly enough, you get “sick” and can’t go to school or work.

But that’s just because your birthday is the day when you get to do whateverrrrr you want :) (also depending on your age, your choice in friends, and how close your parents live to you!)

Your birthday is…

…when you find yourself searching for any ache or pain in your body because people keep asking you if you feel older. And coincidentally enough (again, the age thing), you realize you might actually feel a bit more rusty than the day before.
…when you realize how many special people are in your life. But then you’re overwhelmed in thinking if you need to respond to everyone’s text and FB posts, or if simply “liking” each post or sending a general thank you post is sufficient enough :)
…when you step back and thank your parents for not only surviving those brutal nine months, but also the exhausting # of years following.

But it is also the day your mom reminds you of all the painful memories of that actual day, and that your birthday doesn’t technically start until 2pm because you took so daggone long to come out ;)

Your birthday is…

…the best because it is the one time every year that all of your favorite people come together to celebrate.

But it can also be the worst (for lack of a better term), because of the terrifying thought that today marks the day that you are one year older…. one year closer to being really old, and really grown-up, and really responsible. It is definitely a hard thought to digest, especially considering the difficulty of actually swallowing a thought ;) But then when you step back and remember how blessed we are to be where we are, with the people we are with, everything becomes great again.

If you haven’t figured out already, today is my birthday and I have hit the quarter-life century mile-marker. No, I do not having any additional aches and pains ;) but I do, unfortunately, feel a bit more grown-up. This year I will be moving to St. Louis, eventually starting a new career, and beginning the next phase in my life. The past 25 years has definitely been a blast.. filled with great friends and family, awesome trips and vacations, one or two slightly tipsy nights, several embarrassing moments (that may or may not have gone hand in hand), and many more milestones and memories.

Birthdays are the best, because it gives you an excuse to treat yo self, and no one is allowed to be mean to you. But it is also a chance for us to realize how far we have come, and where we want to go tomorrow. So happy bday to me, my homegirl Anna Wood, Hilary Clinton, and Pat Sajak.

My mom actually passed on this message to me last October 5th, (don’t worry is in fact Friday today :)) when I decided to take on another year with HSD. It was fitting then, and now, a year from then, this quote still applies. To me, it’s just another reminder to keep living in the moment and to keep moving in the direction that will bring me happiness. To go along with this message, I recently watched a Levi’s commercial starring big ol’ Russell Wilson, where he said his father always told him to keep the 3 P’s in his life: “Always persevere, always have great perspective, and always have great purpose in your life.” It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the pace of life, and compare yourself to where other’s are at or how people your same age are doing. And don’t get me wrong, that is certainly healthy to a certain extent – a good taste of competition and motivation keeps us pushing forward towards our goals. But it isn’t the only thing we need to concentrate on. Sometimes bumps in the road come up. Sometimes things take longer to come to fruition than you anticipated. Sometimes you find yourself feeling like everything is in slow motion and that you’re barely inching forward.

But the point is that you are still moving. The key is making sure it’s in the right direction!

Happy Friday everyone!

I woke up to the first foggy and dull day in my entire trip. Welp, guess it’s time to leave. But I had a few hours to kill, and I was not about to head to the airport without getting breakfast! :)

Left: A fellow clown trying to bring back a little sunshine to everyone.  Right: There are about 6 of these fresh markets at Pike’s Market. But that’s A-OK with me because they hand out free samples of the most delicious fruit ever. That’s one way to get a girl some breakfast.

Ahh… Piroshky Piroshky. This is another, more traditional way of getting a girl some breakfast. Highly recommended.

But after breakfast, it was time to hit the road. My spontaneous, solo-travel trip was over. After 8 hours of travel I’d be back on the East Coast, and back to the daily grind. So here are the ten main things I took from my excursion:

  1. I can do this. I can go somewhere new, by myself, figure out how to get places, and make new friends. This trip was a big confidence booster for me. I realized I’m capable of being independent… capable of putting myself out there, out of my comfort zone, and still able to have a great time.
  2. I’m still afraid of heights. But I’m brave enough to face them. With the number of bridges, cliffs, and log jams I had to cross, I would say I  embraced the experience and tried my best to overcome these challenges. I definitely “drank the sauce” if you will.
  3. Drink good beer. And drink it slowly. Because it’s expensive out here. I advanced from my Natty light days to the lovely world of microbrews and… nicer beer. (Still working on the vocab, obvi) I also learned that a brewery is often the best and easiest place to not only meet people, but to also learn about a city.
  4. Being in a new city makes you way more observant. I probably know the city of Portland and Seattle better than Richmond or Raleigh. And it’s embarrassing. When I was learning about each city from some of the locals, I kept thinking to myself…geez I hope they don’t come to Richmond because I don’t have the slightest idea about where to take a visitor. But on the plus side, I improved my directionally-challenged mind and have become a lot more observant of people, places, and…street signs.
  5. People still get kicked out of bars out here. It was often refreshing to overhear the drunken conversations at the bar, the annoying complaints of a perturbed customer, and the overly dramatic conversations from teenage girls and/or homeless people. Yeah, it seems like a whole other world out here, and people are super nice, but people are still people. And that was a comforting feeling for sure.
  6. Fashion doesn’t matter when you’re traveling. Especially when you’re walking miles and miles a day. Suck it up, and wear your ugly tennis shoes. Oh, and don’t pack so much. (I learned this, but then again I ‘learn’ this every time I pack. It just never really sinks in.. I guess)
  7. Put yourself out there. I already touched on this in number one, but it was really the biggest takeaway from the trip. No matter how stupid you feel, how ridiculous the situation or the question is, or how much your “cool factor” might decline… put yourself out there. You never know what will come of it, who you’ll meet, or what you’ll learn. And if you want an easy place to test out this adventurous attitude, come to Portland. You’ll fit in just fine :)
  8. Bring water on hikes. Come on Shannon, you got this.
  9. It’s a freaking small world. Whether it was meeting up with Amy in Portland, figuring out the bartender went to Godwin HS, or realizing a new friend was about to work with one of my best friends from softball… I couldn’t help but think of how small the world really is.
  10. No matter where you go, you will always have a support system back home. I couldn’t have racked up the courage to travel by myself, much less go through with it without my friends and family’s support back home. Every step of the way (taking me and/or picking me up from the airport, letting me crash at their house, treating me to dinner, giving me a pep talk when I was down, paying for some of my hotel nights, driving across town and through rush hour to visit with me for an hour, reading my blog :), and just simply being interested in hearing about my trip), I’ve realized how great I have it, and how many people really do care about me. Being in such a new and different place made me very thankful for all the friendships and relationships I have made along the way (and even the new ones from the trip). So thank you, you know who you are. I couldn’t have done any of this without you!

I could go on and on, but I know I might have already lost you due to the length of this post. This technically marks the ‘end’ of the trip-blogging, but I can’t guarantee that I won’t mention it or remember something else about the trip down the road. Thank you thank you thank you for reading my blog and following me on my trip. It was definitely worth it, and it happened at the perfect time.

And to those of you who have never taken a trip like this, or have never studied abroad, I highly recommend doing it. You learn a lot. About people, the world, and yourself.

Picking up from the EMP museum, I headed over to Japonessa for some more sushi. Sushi 3 times in Seattle. No biggie. I don’t feel bad about it, because sushi is da bomb (sha taaa! -right Jill?! :)). And third times a charm was definitely the case here, since they had happy hour all day and served by far the best edamame I’ve ever had.

I was pretty tired from all the walking I’d been doing the past few days, so I decided to kick it with my homies at Pike’s Market again. And then what do ya know, I ended up at yet another brewery soon after. Pikes Brewery – Cool environment, delicious beers, flying bottles, a personal hook for my backpack, I was in heaven. And to top it off, I met some pretty cool people from California and Nevada, who were also into the traveling scene, but surprisingly not big fans of the downtown Seattle scene (they lived in Bremerton). Regardless, we hung out for a while, and then headed over to Ivar’s for some local seafood and more beers, I mean… water. The way the night went was very similar to my first night of my trip in Portland, so it had seemed that everything had come full circle.

I saw a lot of different things in both Portland and Seattle, but what I’ll remember most is the different people I met along the way. Ranging from 18 to 70 years old, it was a cool experience to meet and chat with so many diverse individuals. They all had different backgrounds, different reasons for being in Seattle, different interests and passions, different personalities, and definitely different preferences in beer and fashion. But one thing they all had in common, was that they all took the time to learn about me and treat me with respect. Their kindness and genuine interest in me and my trip really made an impression on me. I doubt they have any idea how appreciative I am of their company, but I really couldn’t have had as great of an experience without them, whether it was just for ten minutes, or several hours.

They reminded me that it never hurts to take a few minutes out of your day and talk to someone new. That you never know how much those few minutes can make an impact on them, and brighten their day. It’s a simple gesture that can go a long way, and fortunately I was able to experience this firsthand.

My last night was a great cap to the entire trip. Great weather, great food, great beer, great city, and great people. I couldn’t help but go to bed with a smile on my face.

Up next: The flight home and the final wrap-up

Note: Very photo-heavy post

I took the morning to go to the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle. I’m not usually one to go to museums, but figured since Seattle had a great music scene, the museum would most likely be a cool experience. Andddd I’m glad I went. Now for those who know me pretty well, I’m not too savvy with music… at all. Main stream is usually my scene, mostly because it’s just convenient. So the museum was a whole new experience for me. Exhibits for Nirvana, the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and Jimi Hendrix, combined with a sound booth and sci-fi section, the museum was filled with gold. For me, being a music-newbie and more of a graphic-junkie, it was neat to just look at the design styles of the album covers, posters, ticket stubs, records, etc. A lot of the posters and flyers were handwritten and hand drawn, which showed just the raw talent of the artists and sheer sense of creativity running through these artists’ veins. It was really inspiring to see how they just took their ideas, and went with them. They didn’t worry about what others thought. They didn’t care if it was perfect. They just did it. Listening to Kurt Cobain talk about the history of Nirvana and hear him laugh about some of the stuff they did, some of the work they produced, showed that yeah.. it’s not always going to be perfect, and we will most likely laugh at it 5 years from now, but who cares. It’s more about the fact that the work displayed what you were thinking at the moment, what you were feeling at the moment, and that you went through with it. To me, that’s all that matters at times. During the emergence of rock, these bands went against the grain to pursue their passion, and I’m pretty sure most of us, if not all of us appreciate the risks they took.

I definitely came away from the museum feeling energized to create work (not music, don’t worry guys) and get back to designing for me. Not to mention the museum was great inspiration work for the Flat Rate Collaborate project a few of my fellow studio mates have been working on. Our current theme for this round is music. Can you say perfect timing?

Here are quite a few pictures to help you get a gist of some of the things I saw inside the museum.

Left: This display was to show how all sorts of bands are connected, whether it’s playing together, going on tour together, sharing band members, or whatever. It was crazy to see the levels of collaboration and overlap all these bands experienced. Right: Sculpture that consisted of about 700 instruments. Say whaaaat?

Left: Part of the Rolling Stones exhibit. The exhibition design of this museum was on point. Right: the book ‘Taking Punk to the Masses.’ Being the type nerd, I was pretty stoked about the typography and layout within the book. Not to mention the duck tape binding.

Left: Really enjoyed taking a look at all of the album covers for all of these bands. Genius work and so diverse!

Right: this picture was obviously a mistake, but I love how it turned out regardless.

Left: So much flair

Right: They had an entire exhibit dedicated to sound which let you test out different instruments and all the different ways to alternate the sound. I wasn’t sophisticated enough to figure the stations out though.

Left: A cool section that let the public complete the sentence: Music is ______. What would you guys have written?

Right: I kept my sticker. Whoops

Tuesday was dedicated to Fremont and Ballard. My brother’s good friend from college used to live in this area and suggested visiting it because it was dubbed the new, and upcoming place for younger people to live. This time I wore tennis shoes, and was ready to take on any long-distance walking paths, hills, and even freakishly long bridges.

To summarize the day, I went to several parks, ate at really delicious restaurants, walked up and down the main streets, and capped off the night with a few brewskis at one of the local bars. It was a low key day as far as sight-seeing, and was more of taking in the culture of the creative city and just doing the normal, non-touristy things. Ya know, like eating and drinking. With the occasional act of taking a picture of a random statue or sign.

But if you ever go to Seattle, make sure to visit Fremont and Ballard (by the way the crew from Deadliest Catch docks their boat in Ballard. I didn’t see them, but it’s still a fun fact). Both are a lot of fun and really seem like the places to be. Not to mention the gorgeous views that surround the cities.

Fremont bridge. Purrty.

View on top of Gas Works Park. Not pictured: A sorority learning their secret sorority songs. They were just as awkward and secretive as I remember.

I was starting to get the hang of skyline pictures after my 30th attempt. Not bad for the ol’ iPhone 4. These are views from Gas Works park as well. Beautiful start to the day IMO!

Left: No explanation for the statues, nor the accessories, but funny nonetheless. Right: This is the Fremont troll, located underneath Fremont Road. Kind of a freaky and sad story that comes with the meaning behind this statue. FB me if you want the details!

Left: This is the point of the trip where I decided to collect (cough.. steal) the coasters from all the breweries I went to. The bartender was from St. Louis. Go redbirds! Right: A restaurant had a huge rocket ship attached to it. NBD.

Right: That’s cactus in my queso people. Pretty darn good if you ask me. Don’t think I ate this dish the correct way though. New phrase for trying new things: Try the cactus.

Left: On my walk to Ballard (3 miles), I really enjoyed seeing all the artwork and different styled buildings. Fremont’s got some cool typography going on. Right: This is a picture of my best friend for the ten day trip. Definitely a cheap date if you ask me. But you know what wasn’t cheap? The orange juice that I had to buy in order to sit in this coffee shop. I guess when you’re desperate for an outlet to charge your phone and need to rest your legs, $3.58 for orange juice is reasonable…..right? :) (And sorry..just not a coffee drinker either. I know, I know…I’m not American)

Don’t worry guys, you are about to read a positive post! (Sorry for leaving it on a low-note for so long, but blogs=honesty…right?!)

So I had three people in Portland and 2 people in Seattle tell me I HAD to visit the public library in Seattle. Seriously? Is this a joke?

Apparently not. Apparently in Seattle, library’s are awesome and considered a tourist attraction. I’ll let the pictures show you what I’m talking about since I took… a ton. But I’ve never seen a bigger, more inspiring public library. I’ll tell you one thing… if I lived in Seattle, I would read books. :) The architecture of the ten-story building is pretty remarkable, based off a geometric, spiral design so that when you get to the top you can look down the entire library and see the floor level. What’s with the west coast and heights? But regardless, it was prettayyyy cool.

Next on the list was the infamous Pike Place Market. A combination of restaurants, vendor booths, and live music, Pike’s Market is definitely the place to be during the day especially when it’s 80 degrees outside. It’s the perfect place to people watch and just stroll up and down the market to really take in the culture and listen to some great music. The band below is called Tallboys. A folk band with some pure talent. The girl on the right is also a tapper. Brilliant. I caved in and bought their CD so I would be sure to always remember this day and how cool it was to experience Seattle’s culture at its finest. (Bonus question: True or false, I joined the little girl dancing in the picture soon after the picture was taken.)

Another interesting tourist attraction in Pike’s Market was the “Gum Wall.” And that’s right folks, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Definitely one of the those attractions that doesn’t need the “Please do not touch” sign, but it also didn’t stop the few brave ones from adding their personal touch to the mural! My personal favorite was seeing a high school prom picture pinned up by a piece of gum on the guy’s face. Now that’s some creative revenge!


Next? Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. The set-up is kind of like Krispy Kreme, where you can sit and watch the cheese being made. Not as appetizing as watching donuts, but it still didn’t stop me from ordering their famous mac n cheese. And yup, famous rightfully so. (Dank=delicious mom and dad)

I decided to take a break from Pike’s Market, and cross the water on one of the ferries to West Seattle and visit Alki Beach. The ferry ride was neat and gave a great view of Seattle’s skyline. But what I didn’t know was that the walk to Alki Beach was 3.2 miles away. About a mile in I was definitely wishing I had those rollerblades on this girl below. (Sidenote: getting better on my stalker pics, don’t you think?) The flip flops were definitely a bad decision, but they did make for a better picture in the sand, so there’s that! :) It was nice to be able to take a load off and stick my toes in the sand for a while. But the water, not so much. Too cold for this gal!

I headed back on the ferry to downtown, for a quick fish n chips from Ivar’s on the water, only to jump on another ferry to go to Bainbridge Island. It was a longer ferry ride (a little over 30 min) but the ferry was pretty pimped out. I felt like I was on a cruise ship, and didn’t have trouble taking a little catnap on a recliner! I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I got to the island, and I guess I could have done a little bit better planning for this short trip because when I got there I had no idea where to go. It’s a very spread out town with a lot of hills to walk, and I had no clue if I needed to go right, left or straight. So I picked a direction and started to find my way to the center of Bainbridge. Fun fact though, the town shuts down around 5:45pm. And I had gotten on the 6pm ferry. Womp womppppp. But I made my way around the town and was still able to get a good feel for this quaint place. I bar hopped a little to get a better feel for the people and the area, and witnessed the bartender create a homemade bloody mary with a mixture of hot sauces and no V8 juice.

The ferry on the way back was well worth the trip with the night skyline view of the city. At the end of the day, I was definitely exhausted from what seemed like a half-marathon amount of distance I covered throughout the day, but it was all worth it. I saw a lotttttt of Seattle, and I was starting to like what I was seeing!

Saturday was a big travel day. Returning my sweet ride, and hopping on the train to Seattle was pretty much the extent of the day. With my most recent travels being in the car or Megabus back home, I forgot how luxurious Amtrak rides were. And the view (I feel like this is the theme of my last 4 posts) was again.. wait for it… amazing. Paired with some Swedish fish and a Diet Coke, I was ready for Seattle.

But then we arrived, and I quickly realized I wasn’t in Portland anymore, and that Seattle was a pretty big city. The metro link system was confusing, the bus system was even more confusing. GoogleMaps, I love you to death, but you definitely keep trying to send me on the most inconvenient bus routes, my first one resulting in a 5 block, 45 degree incline walk, with all my luggage. Not cool dude.

The rest of the night I tried to see the night life of downtown, but also realized that this was much harder to do by yourself, and as a girl for that matter. But it’s typical downtown style, and I was just naive about the whole situation since I was fresh off my Portland-fantasy-days. So my night ended with actually a very delicious sushi dinner (sushi always makes me feel better), and a scenic walk home to my bed. Tomorrow would be better right?

Eh, not really. With high hopes of scalping a ticket for the Seahawks/Cowboys game to cheer on Russell Wilson in person, I didn’t know football in Seattle was so “big-time.” There were about 300 people trying to buy, and only about 20 people selling. And they weren’t people, they were scammers. Charging $200-$300 for tickets that were only about $80-$100 in value. Ridic. And this was still the case in the 2nd quarter! Outrageous. Again, being a girl in a bigger city in this environment takes some strength, so after a while I retreated to the local bar to watch Russell smoke dem Cowboys.

So the weekend was kind of a flop, but I think I was also pretty tired from all the traveling thus far. It wasn’t a good start to the Seattle experience, but I still kept a little hope for the rest of my days here. You win some, you lose some. Luckily the Seahawks won, and I won both my Fantasy games! (sorry Pops). But there’s always tomorrow.

Everyday isn’t going to be omg-the-most-amazing-day-ever, and I was definitely reminded of that this weekend. But there is plenty to see and do in Seattle, it’s just a matter of taking on the day with a new mindset, and possibly in a different direction :)

Seeing the space needle. Check.

After leaving Steve and Elsie’s house, I headed east along the Columbia River, still on the Washington side. I stopped at Beacon Rock, a) because it’s huge and b) because Steve said you can hike to the top and see a great view. So, hiking: Round 4-ish. No water once again (I’ll learn someday), I hiked up this 1000ft rock that seemed nearly impossible from ground level. And there’s nothing like going around in circles to really mess up your equilibrium and give you absolutely zero concept if you’re close to the top or not. But yes, the view was absolutely and 100% worth it. And I even had 4 bars and 3G service up there. Hoo-rah AT&T.

I then headed even more east, and stopped at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe for a quick bite to eat. The pizza was by far one of the best I’ve ever had. Even Food Network Magazine agrees. If you’re ever there, you’ve got to try the Solstice Country Girl Cherry Pizza. To die for.

(scroll down for 2nd part of the cruise around the river)

Left: Beacon Rock (no picture will do it justice)

Left: Stairway to Heaven/ Top of Beacon Rock  Right: Fear of bridges: faced, but definitely not conquered.

Left: View on the way to Solstice Right: Chorizo sausage, goat cheese, rosemary and thyme, and cherries from the Columbia River Gorge region

Once crossing yet another terrifying bridge (no picture for obvious reasons), I headed back west, now along the Oregon side of the river. By taking the old scenic highway route, I was able to stop every now and then to see some of the falls and trails along the mountains. Similar to hiking, I honestly don’t think I’ve seen a waterfall before. Or at least ones as cool as I saw here.

First non-self picture. One of the most awkward things in the world.

Above is a hidden trail called Oneonta Falls. At first glance, it doesn’t look like anything. But if you so dare to go further, you come across a log jam. Doesn’t look so threatening at first, especially when you see a petite girl and her little chihuahua-like dog crossing it. False. Don’t let this picture deceive you. It’s the scariest thing EVER. I actually went across one of the logs, and then proceeded to quickly turn around and walk back. But then I stopped and thought, ‘This kind of stuff is why you’re here, you have to at least try it.’ So I did. Luckily the girl was already gone, because let me tell you…it wasn’t a pretty sight. I’ll let you just try and envision me tiptoeing across these logs, occasionally bear-hugging some of them. Road Rules/Real World Challenge, might be a few more years til you see this gal. The worst part was that even after I successfully got across (quite possibly after a big fall), I didn’t have the sense to keep walking through the water and around the bend to see the waterfalls.

But honestly, this experience was a big turning point for me. I faced my fear of heights and did something I probably won’t have a chance to do again. The adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment was definitely worth the huge scrape on the back of my leg.

 Above: Multnomah Falls

Jaw dropping scenery and a few more hiking challenges to top off my trip to Portland. Can’t complain…I just can’t complain.

Next stop: Seattle, WA

On Thursday, I headed east to the Columbia River to visit the Gorge and all the falls. For those of you interested in geography, the Columbia River divides Washington and Oregon, and the mountain ranges and waterfalls that surround the river make up “the gorge.”

Let’s list the things that went well to start off the trip:

  1. Everything
  2. More specifically, I was upgraded to a sweet 2012 Ford Escape for no extra charge, and included XM Radio (wassup T-swift?!)
  3. It was yet another beautiful 80 degree, clear sky, no humidity day, and the ride along the river was absolutely gorgeous

Let’s list the things that didn’t go as well:

  1. Nothing. Except picking the wrong exit for a lunch break, that resulted in a 4 mile detour. Story of my life

I was headed to the Columbia River Gorge Guest House, aka the home of Steve and Elsie. (And this is where I give a plug about how everyone should visit and stay at Steve and Elsie’s Guest House.) Just picture a Shadowood-like house in Oregon. And if you’ve never been to Shadowood, picture an awesome cabin on 44-acres of land, surrounding woods, horses (not at Shadowood), a bonfire paired with s’mores and great conversation. Steve, a retired 69 year old maintenance manager and lifelong cowboy, and Elsie, a 55 year old Special Ed teacher, decided to open up their 5 bedroom house as a B&B, a wedding venue, and even a makeshift garage sale. Steve said at first it was there way of making use of the empty-nested house and make a little extra money. But later, he admitted he keeps doing it because he lives for meeting new people and hearing about their life stories.

When I got there, Steve showed me the ropes, and sent me off on a hiking trail that would lead me to the most beautiful views of the gorge. He was right. It was unreal. Just wait for the pictures. Then after dinner (at a restaurant on a marina I won’t recommend b/c it wasn’t that great), Steve and I made a bonfire and shared stories over s’mores and Diet Cokes. (helloooo perfect night)

It was a low-key night, but it was exactly what I needed. There’s nothing better than taking a day to chill out, recharge, and take in the surroundings. I’m not necessarily a ‘nature girl,’ either. I mean.. I hate spiders. I’m afraid of ticks (who isn’t?) I’m not the best hiker (but geez, after 4 hikes in 6 days, I’m getting there), and I’m a terrible packer and don’t think I could ever “back-pack” somewhere. But I do like what nature and a break from society can do for the ol’ soul. I enjoyed talking to Steve and listening to some of his stories. I enjoyed being able to open up to someone who is essentially a complete stranger. And I enjoyed getting the opportunity to see such amazing scenery, which literally at times, made me stop and say to myself, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing here.”

This day has been my favorite part of the trip so far, hands down. It was amazing. It was refreshing. It reinforced my reasoning for coming out to the West Coast. And it was exactly what I needed.

Columbia River Gorge Guest House. Check them out on FB, and visit them whenever you’re in the area.

The Guest House. Maggie. And some of the things Steve has found along some of his hikes. What an eye!

Green Stanley Thermoses. When Steve first started out with no money, he kept using these thermoses that kept breaking on him. So once he finally got some money, a nice green Stanley Thermos was his first purchase. You can say the green icon is more than just a sturdy liquid container to him.

So here we have myself, trying to capture how dang windy it was at this particular viewpoint. Not pictured: a very steep cliff. But I mean come on, the view was worth it, wouldn’t you say?

Views along the way of the hike. Mt Hood is in the background, but she’s a little camera shy.

So this area used to have a house on it. But the gorge bought the land, cleared it, restored it to its natural setting, and now has this cool circular seating area in its place, with an even cooler view. I see a Phase 29b at Shadowood in the future :)

Some artsy pics on the tail-end of the hike.

So yea, hungry horses are scary. I didn’t get the “make sure to feed them outside the fence” memo, and I was definitely cornered a few times by some rather large horse-friends. All a part of the experience, though……right?

Sub-par meal, but delicious beverages and a cool photo to make up for it!

Ohhh the stories that come out from just sitting around a bonfire. One of my favorite past times for sure.

Until we meet again my friends!

Nope. I’ve never hiked before. Or at least I don’t have a vivid memory of hiking in the past. Just something about constantly having to walk uphill, never really knowing how long 4.5 miles is really going to take, and the possibility of tripping over tree roots has never really been on my list of to-dos. But here in Portland, people hike. So, I hiked. A man from Bailey’s Tap Room suggested the 4-T trail, which stood for the four T’s that make up the route. Trolley, Tram, Trail, and Train. And I though, hmm, 3 legs of the trip don’t require any physical exertion. This is my kind of hike.

And let me tell you, one leg was plenty. My butt still hurts. The 4 mile hike kicked more than just my butt, too. But here’s what I learned from my first hiking experience:

Don’ts (not sure how to really go about the apostrophe placement. Emily and Mom, don’t kill me)

  1. Don’t just bring a half a bottle of water. Yes, I’m an idiot.
  2. Don’t start off wearing a jacket, assuming that it’ll be colder as you go up. Yea, I was really hot.
  3. Don’t feel bad that 60+ year olds are passing you, and that they are jogging. Just hope that this is their first time, too.


  1. Do it! The view is worth it.
  2. Bring a camera and a notebook (if you’re the reflective type like myself)
  3. And seriously do it, no matter how badly your body will hurt the next day. It will make that grilled cheese sandwich and maple syrup bacon donut from Voodoo donuts taste that much better. Wait what?

Excitement paired with fear. 0% soreness

The walk to part I: Tram. And, the Tram

Ah, the view of Council Crest Park. The highest point of the city.

85% soreness

Yea, I wasn’t joking about the grilled cheese and maple syrup bacon donut. Highly recommend both. Interesting facts about these two places: the Grilled Cheese Grill offers a sandwich called “the Kindergardener” where they cut off the crust for you. I definitely know people way older than 5 that would prefer this option. And Voodoo donut, the possibilities of donut toppings are endless. I saw some with fruit loops on it, chunks of oreos, and yes, bacon. It’s like french toast, on a donut.

After a quick nap and shower, I headed over to happy hour on the river. I was unfortunately seated next to a few Gamecock fans, but the lady from South Africa who talked about how excited she is to visit me in Virginia was a much better companion.

And to go off of my last post about how small the world is. Let’s talk about the bartender that night went to school at non other than Mills Godwin HS. Class of ’92. Unreal!

Not to mention, the restaurant had some pretty tasty sampler beers. (Yes, I sat down at a bar, by myself, and ordered the sampler of microbrews. But I soon gained a new friend, so I did not drink alone the entireeee night :)) Let’s just focus back on how ridiculously crazy it was that another Henrico County citizen was at the same rando bar as me in Portland.

See ya downtown, on to da mountains. (Next few posts will be about the Columbia River, waterfalls, and the gorge.)

They do it differently over here. People are laid back. Cars stop willingly for pedestrians. Bikes outnumber cars. Trolley tracks line the streets. A food truck is the new 5-star restaurant. Black tights seem to be the ‘in’ fashion. Vendors give homeless people free meals. No sales tax (winning). And nobody seems to care about how much money you make. They are just interested. Interested in you, your story, what you like to do, and if you liked that locally-brewed beer they just recommended.

This is my kind of city!

So instead of renting a car and driving to all the hotspots, I took a run around the river. (Which really was more like a slow jog that involved some walking and quite a few breaks for some snazzy pics.) The ‘run,’ however, included a stretch across a pretty narrow steel bridge that also contained the busiest road in the city. And.. I’m afraid of bridges. And heights. But I went through with it. And even stopped for a few seconds to take a very shaky picture so I could remember this terrifying experience. Go ahead and laugh, but this was just a little moral victory for me in my book :)

Then instead of going to an expensive restaurant that was recommended online, I went next-door to a hole in the wall sandwich shop. A terrific decision. A tasty tuna sandwich and root beer, combined with even better conversation with some locals. Falling upon goldmines like this is what has been making my trip worthwhile.

Now I have also been hitting a few of the tourists spots, like happy hour at Portland City Grill for the best view of the city (thanks to Trish!), but for the most part I’ve been trying to be a part of the crowd, and stick to the everyday activities. I’ve got to say, I’ve enjoyed the pace of life around here, and being just plain interested in everything Portland has to offer.

My view from my hotel. Baller status. Thanks K$!

The start of continuously making my body ache.

A few views from my trot around the river.

Geese and birds fill the cities. Put a bird on it Portland!

Here’s that shaky pic from the bridge I was talking about.

Bunk Sandwiches. Eat there.

My friends from Bunk Sandwiches sent me east to some of the neighborhoods to take in the culture and check out the cool shops and restaurants. We also like to refer to this activity as people-watching. I haven’t gotten my stalking-picture-taking-skillz mastered yet, so I took a picture of some bikes instead.

And Laurelhurst Park. Designed by the same person who designed Central Park. Also can’t forget that it was Sept. 11th, and several people were showing their American pride that day.

For happy hour, Phillip’s aunt treated me to happy hour at Portland City Grill. I was told I was pretty fortunate since it was a clear day and I could actually see Mt. Hood. Sorry that my phone doesn’t let you see it, though :-/

What the sign says!

I’m not going to lie, when I stepped off the plane in Portland, I had a 2 minute freak out. I was actually on the west coast, by myself, with no real itinerary. What did I get myself into? The 2 minutes seemed like forever, but they passed nonetheless, and I continued on to baggage claim. After getting my bags and hopping on the Max train, (public transportation in Portland is dabomb) I look out the window, and what do I see on the window ledge? 4 paper cranes. You have got to be kidding me. (For those of you just tuning in, the HSD staff were the ones that encouraged me and more or less pushed me onto the plane for this trip, so seeing the Japanese paper cranes was just a little reminder of the support system I have back home :)) It was also a sign that I was in the right place, that this trip was meant to be, and that everything would be OK.

It was about 1pm by the time I checked into my room, and I was already a bit jet-lagged and super hungry. Airplane peanuts only go so far :) So I headed out into downtown for lunch at one of the infamous food trucks, and thus began the trip.

Now, when you’re traveling alone, three things are very helpful:

1. Nice people – If you ever go to Portland, have been to Portland, or have just heard about Portland, you might have picked up on the notion that Portland people are really nice. Well, ‘really nice’ is an understatement. ‘Overly helpful,’ ‘extremely welcoming,’ and ‘super friendly’ are more like it. Yea, maybe the 3 maps and suitcase triggered a lot of it, but still.. everyone I met was easy to talk to and happy to help. Whether it was figuring out the streetcar system, giving suggestions on where to eat or what to see, or just striking up a conversation to pass the time, I never felt alone. So if you want to get your feet wet on the solo-travelling, Portland would be a great starting point.

2. A map – yes, GoogleMaps is nice, and having an iPhone was lifesaving at times, but I’m talking about an old-fashion, hard copy map. There’s nothing like whipping out a map that covers your entire placemat and the person next to you at a bar, and figuring out your next move. Yea I looked ridiculous and automatically labeled myself as a tourist, but it actually ended up acting like my own little wing-man. Not only did it start interesting conversations, but it also seemed to be quite the friend-magnet. After the first day, I didn’t use it as much since I was getting more acclimated with the area, but I still never left home without it :)

And 3. Coincidentally being in the same city as your BFF from middle school, who you haven’t seen in who-knows-how-long. There’s nothing like traveling 3000 miles to reunite with an old friend. Thanks to FB, we found out there might be a chance we’d be in Portland around the same time. So without hesitation, I texted Amy as soon as I landed, which happened to be about the exact same moment she was pulling into the city. We met up at a local brewery, and caught up on the past few years. We’ve tried several times to get together while we were both living in VA, but I guess there’s something about being in a completely new city that makes everything work out. It was the perfect start to my Portland trip, and it was just like old times. Not to mention, her boyfriend Will happened to meet up with a friend from his study abroad program, who ALSO happens to work for Portlandia. NBD people. (All you non-believers, see below for proof!)

Not only did I eat on the street with a pigeon, but I also tried a burger with spam on it. Drinking the sauce as we HSDers like to call it.

Bailey’s Taproom. Local beers, low price, and the most awesome digital diagram. Shows you the name of the beer, where it’s from, what color it is, how much alcohol percentage each beer has, and how much is left in each keg. Technology these days.

Amy and I reminiscing about my middle school haircut and how insane it was to meet up under such crazy circumstances. Check her out on Instagram to see all the pics from her 5-week roadtrip!

New friends, old friends, and Portlandia employees. Not pictured: our older friend David, who is a successful shrink in the Portland area, and may or may not have given me a peptalk about where I am in life, and what to do next. His going-rate is about $3/minute, so we paid our dues for his 45 minutes of time with a $3 beer. He didn’t even finish his beer.

Ha! Proof!

And here’s the infamous map. With photo proof that it brought along a new friend.