Thursday, April 26, 2012

What we did in the Portland area

We had such a blast in the one week we spent in the Portland area. The weather was very kind to us. It only rained maybe two days on and off and by the end of the week a heat wave hit. It went from 15C to 25C and it stayed there for a few days. It felt like summer and we were overdressed and sweating! We couldn't have been luckier though because we planned our shopping trips during most of the rain and all the things we did during the trip worked out great weather wise.

We drove A LOT. With all the driving that we did, some outings felt a bit like an European tour. We only got to spend maybe one hour tops at each place. I was particularly frantic while we shopped. There were so many great buys and so many great things that we just couldn't get in Vancouver. I would grab something and then have about 2 minutes to decide if I was going to buy it. Power shopping would even be an under statement. We were so productive though and I was sweating from shopping and carrying so much. No kidding! If we had more time, I would have definitely bought more so maybe it's a good thing I had a time limit :)

This trip was a preview of Portland and the surrounding area for us. We would definitely like to go back but next time we'll stay inside the city. After driving what seemed like forever to get there from Vancouver, we were so relieved to find that our resort by Mt. Hood was not covered in snow and that it was really nice! It was a one-bedroom villa with a full kitchen, washer/dryer in the unit, TV in the living room and TV in the bedroom, private patio with BBQ grill, and fireplace in the living room! The resort looked pretty new too so we were thrilled :) It's just too bad it was a 1 hour drive to Portland but we can't complain too much. We didn't use the amenities because we barely spent time at the resort itself but we did take full advantage of the kitchen. We only dined out for three full meals during the week. We shopped at Trader Joe's and made ourselves dinner and breakfast at home. I also prepped us some sandwiches for our road trip to the coast. The resort probably didn't think visitors would use the kitchen so much so we found ourselves complaining how ill equipped the kitchen was with supplies. We're hard to please, I know! No dish rack? We didn't want to use the dishwasher because it was too noisy and it took too long so we just hand washed everything and laid it loosely on the counter to dry. We ended up breaking one of the dishes as a result. Oops.

Grocery Shopping

There are so many local and organic choices for foods down in the Portland area. The Saturday farmer's market in Portland State University is now one of my favorite farmer's markets. There were so many organic stands and the local produce looked so amazing. If I lived there, I would have filled a shopping cart full of mixed lettuce leaves and greens like collards, kale of every kind etc. Of course I would use big reusable shopping bags because that's cooler and I would blend in well with the locals :) There was entertainment and music, food stands, bakery tables, wine, nuts etc. It was so lively down there and we went at such a perfect time. The weather was 25C that day and the morning was pleasantly cool when we got to the market. I bought plenty of local nuts, wine, bread, cookies, leeks, purple carrots, anise, and Jerusalem artichokes! It's so hard to find Jerusalem artichokes here in Vancouver and they are expensive. Here we call them sunchokes and I buy mine at Thrify Foods. They grow them in Portland and they looked so great and were cheap. I was literally doing the happy dance when I saw them:) They were everywhere too.

Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes)

We visited Trader Joe's for the first time and then by the time we left the US to come home, we had visited Trader Joe's five times. I guess you could say we love the place :) In fact, I'm probably going to write a post just about Trader Joe's on my food blog later.


We did about 75% of the things I had planned for us to do. Of course we sort of lost about two days of vacation if you factor in all the driving around. The driving was somewhat hard on us all and we are all super sick of our car now. Lol. Tristan was pretty good but he lacked sleep all week so he acted up in the evenings during dinner time a few times. That wasn't so fun:( Instead of going to bed at 9PM, he slept at 11:30PM and got up at the usual 7:30AM. He normally napped in the car for maybe 30 minutes during the day as well but all of that does not add up. He was just sleep deprived. On top of that, he was sick coughing for the first 3 or 4 days. The weather improved and I fed him lots of soup so he got better quickly. Thank goodness. It was an adventure for him to come with us on such a long road trip and I sort of feel bad for him because we didn't get to play in playgrounds much and we didn't bike at all. We did go snowtubing on Mt. Hood, which he really enjoyed :)

We wanted to spend more time in the city so we only took one coastal trip. We drove to Long Beach and then headed south to Tillamook. We went through Astoria but didn't stop. We did stop by Seaside and Cannon Beach. All the beaches are about the same. They were all long, wide, and white sand beaches. Cannon Beach is particularly stunning because of all the rock formations nearby like the "haystack." Our final destination stop was Tillamook. We got to the cheese factory there just before they closed so we were able to quickly try some cheese, buy cheese, and get ice cream. I was told their ice cream was awesome so I had to try :) We hoarded so much cheese from there, you would think we were Wallace & Gromit. Cheeeeese!

Two days before we left, we took an excursion to the Columbia gorge and river. We drove along the scenic highway from Troutdale along the Columbia gorge and stopped by Vista House and Multnomah Falls. Then we continued on all the way to Dalles, just to see the landscape change into desert and dry land. It wasn't as drastic as I imagined but in Dalles it was 28C. Of course we were already experiencing a hotter than usual day of 25C inside Portland. When we drove back through Hood River and back to our resort, the temperature dropped to 18C. Within an hour we went from a hot desert to snow in the mountains. It is pretty cool when you think about it.


Shopping on NW 23rd Avenue
We went shopping at Woodburn and also in around Portland on 23rd, the Pearl District, and Hawthorne. The biggest outlets are in Woodburn. It's mostly clothes and shoes though. There are tons of good buys and you can definitely break your bank if you are not careful. Consider yourself warned :) NW 23rd Avenue was our first shopping stop inside Portland and even though it rained that day, we really loved that street. The stores were on the ground level of what looked like Victorian style homes. The street actually reminded me a lot of my Fernwood community in Victoria. Williams-Sonoma is on that street, as well as the Kitchen Kaboodle, which I really liked. Two Tarts bakery is there and it's not far from St. Honoré Boulangerie, which was our very first stop inside Portland. The Pearl District is also a great shopping area. The flagship Powell's Books store is there, as well as Anthropologie, Sur la Table etc. Tons of stores that I love are there! Hawthorne is good for vintage clothes, especially "House of Vintage." It's so big so you will need time to sift through everything to find the cool stuff. It took me awhile and I only bought a couple of things. And of course, every neighborhood you go to, there are cafes and bakeries and so many things are organic, gluten-free, or vegan. I think all the coffee shops carry cow milk, almond milk, and soy milk. That was my impression anyway.

Meeting the Locals

On our last day there, we toured the Lan Su Gardens in Chinatown and then met up with one of Jean-Louis' tweeples, who was living in Portland. It's funny because we have only been there for a week and we have seen more places than him. He has been a local for over two years but has barely left the city center. Jean-Louis' friend is Vegan so he took us to a good restaurant called Vita Cafe that had lots of vegan and gluten-free food. It was on Alberta Street and it was his friend's favorite street in Portland. There were tons of great coffee shops, cool vintage type shops, colorful stores, eateries and art galleries. Vita Cafe was great. It was very family-friendly and we ordered a good variety of vegan dishes. Now we have ideas of what to make at home as well :) After lunch, we walked down the street to Barista. This is a popular coffee shop that serves local coffee. The main counter inside reminded me of a pub and bar. The cashier was dressed in a suit with a tie and had designer glasses on. The place just felt very hip. Jean-Louis' friend recommended I buy a bag of "heart" coffee since it's local and would be hard to find outside of Portland. I can't wait to try it! :)

Oh, another great thing we love about Portland is that it's the bike capital of the US and there are so many bikers and bike lanes there. The friends we met are bikers themselves and they were telling us that they practically biked from one end of the city to the other end without ever leaving a designated bike lane. That is awesome! Bike city and vegan paradise? Jean-Louis was happier than me! If you are a hippy, hipster, green type of person, or if you like vintage, Portland is your city, man.

Have you been to Portland, Oregon? Do you love it too? Vancouver, Canada will always be the best place to live for us but I certainly wouldn't mind moving to Portland for the short term :) I heard it could become like Silicon Valley one day so that means there would be great jobs for tech geeks like Jean-Louis and I. That would be something! :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Back from our Portland Oregon vacation

I heard a ton of great things about Portland, Oregon. When I was doing my vacation research and planning our week there, I had a feeling we would have a blast. In fact, before we even set out I was thinking that Portland sounded a lot like a place we could actually live for awhile. People were telling me that the coffee shops and bakeries there are to die for, that the people there are easy going and super friendly. The coast, beaches, and mountains are gorgeous. The shopping is incredible, especially because there is no tax at all! It's a great place to dine out because the food is of high quality and there are so many vegetarian and vegan choices. After spending a week there, I can say that all the things we heard about Portland are very true. We instantly fell in love with the area:)

We could totally live in Portland. At least for a couple of years. Imagine Vancouver, without much of the ethnic diversity, and at a larger scale. They say Vancouverites are somewhat uptight but you wouldn't really know until you meet some of the people in Portland. Customer service is excellent and people are just pleasant down there. The only thing is that you have to drive a lot to enjoy the mountains and the coast. I mean A LOT. We actually stayed in Welches and it took us an hour to drive into Portland's city center. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive from our resort out to the beaches along the northern coast. The amount of driving we had to do down there in one week was more than what we drive here at home in one year!!! Then again, we're only used to driving about 15-20 minutes a week here.

I'll write a more detailed post of what we did during our week there but for now, here is a sneak peek.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter crafts, Easter hunt, Easter day feast

This Easter was the most fun! In previous years, Tristan wasn't really interested in many crafts and he was too young to play in Easter hunts. He is almost 3 1/2 now and he is quite ready for all of that now.


We painted boiled eggs. Not only Tristan and I but Jean-Louis as well! Jean-Louis really got into it. He carefully painted a couple of pretty rainbow eggs :) Now that is what I call family Easter fun!

Tristan wanted a tiger so I painted Tigger.

Oh yeah, I also baked sugar cookies and cupcakes :) What kind of foodie would I be if I didn't?


On Saturday night, I planned a egg hunt for Tristan. I took the idea from the Easter hunt article I found, which suggested to insert clues inside eggs that would eventually lead to finding the Easter basket. I bought 8 plastic eggs from the dollar store and wrote 8 clues about where to find the next egg. The important thing is that all the eggs have to be located in the exact order! As I unfortunately found out last night, you can't just randomly hide the eggs. Lol.

I set aside the first clue and inserted the last 7 clues into 7 eggs. The first clue was given at the start of the game. The 8th and final egg said "good job!" and gave a clue of where to find the prize. It helps to write down all the clues and then number them in the order they should be found. Then I crossed my fingers, went to bed, and hoped everything would work out as planned :)

There are three floors to our home and I made sure clues were distributed everywhere. I planned it so that Tristan would have to go up and down the stairs many times. He had to work for his prize, yo!

Here are examples of some of the clues I used:
  • This is your favorite toy. You love playing this with daddy. Look around here for the next egg.
  • You sleep with this at night. His first name is "Black."
  • "To infinity and beyond!" Find me and you'll find the egg.
  • You hide here every time it is time to go have your bath.
The last egg had a different color note inside, which Tristan noticed right away. It provided a drawing of where his prize was located. Unfortunately, Tristan didn't get the drawing at all. Jean-Louis had to help him.

Overall, Tristan did extremely well. We did the egg hunt first thing in the morning when we woke up. I didn't want to risk him accidentally running into the hidden eggs. He was super excited when we first started. Near the end, he was a bit distracted and didn't really want to hear clues anymore. At one point, he went around randomly and searched for eggs. We told him the game didn't work like that. Then after it was all done, he kept asking why there aren't any more eggs to look for. When the Easter basket was handed over, he let him eat a bit of the chocolate right away. Then we sat down for our regular breakfast.
The "prize"

This was the first egg hunt I planned. My parents bought chocolate eggs for us when we were kids and they randomly hid them outside. It was hard to find them and I'm pretty sure some were forgotten completely. I love these planned egg hunts a lot better :)

This was Tristan's first egg hunt. He didn't really get it but he is still learning. We tried to explain it to him the day before to prepare him. When he woke up he knew there was an egg hunt so he dashed off and told us he was going to hide the eggs. I think he was referring to the eggs we painted the other day. My guess was he was going to the fridge to grab those eggs and hide them. No, no, no.

This was Jean-Louis' first egg hunt. He doesn't remember any egg hunt but that doesn't really surprise me because he grew up in France and the French don't go crazy with the chocolate, eggs, or presents. He comes from a Catholic family and they just go to church and have a nice traditional meal. It's only in the past 5 years or so that the crazy North American culture of chocolate eggs has crept into France. It's all for commercialization.


This year is the first year we ever had a vegetarian Easter. That's right, no meat! We had some eggs in the salad and a bit of cheese in the gougères, else it would have been a vegan Easter. Actually, we had non-vegan cupcakes too. Anyhow, the food was great and it was not a big deal at all. We had a vegan dish which resembled steak but was made from chickpeas and gluten. Psychologically, I guess we thought we were having meat and we were satisfied :)
Chickpea cutlets

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Our boy cute for another year?

Recently, I read that babies are only cute until they are about 4.5 years old. It's a bit of a silly study but it made me a bit sad knowing that we only have around another year left of cuteness in Tristan. That's silly too, I know. As his mother, I think he is adorable and probably always will. I guess the difference is that strangers will no longer see him as adorable anymore when he is 4.5 years old.

For the first two years, we practically took pictures of him every day. This was especially the case in the first year since he changed so much and was super cute. Now that he is three, we take pictures of him only during occasions or when we see something interesting or with just the iPhone. It's kind of awful really. My iPhoto used to be covered with events of just Tristan doing things but now, it's mostly just pictures of food. Lol. Or some times Tristan will appear in the picture but he is either decorating cupcakes, helping me cook, or eating food I just made. He's sort of the sit-in model for my food blog :)

Tristan is adorable, even if we are the only ones that think so. After reading this new study, I'm going to try to photograph him a bit more. I mean I still photography him at least every month. Also, I don't know about other 3 year olds but Tristan doesn't like to be photographed as much anymore. Before he didn't care but now he will tell us "no pictures!" Oy.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Training for a half marathon

It's that time again! I signed up for the half marathon in Vancouver and will be running it solo for the first time this year. I have ran every single race with Jean-Louis since I first started racing in 2002. It's definitely going to feel weird without him running next to me.

Now that it's April and the race is next month, I have to crank it up a few notches and run more. I have been so bad because I let myself gain maybe 5-10 pounds over the Fall and Winter. I'm thinking it's more like 10 pounds :( Of course, having a food blog right now doesn't help either. Lol. However, the good news is this past winter was probably the first winter we did not stop running. We normally throw in the towel around November and don't run at all again until maybe March. This past Fall and Winter, we ran right through even when it snowed a bit, or rained, or was terribly freezing outside. When it was pouring rain, we canceled. We aren't that hardcore! We still ran a couple times a week. Jean-Louis ran probably 3-4 times a week since he ran with his coworker at work. Needless to say, he doesn't really need this race. I do.

So the plan is for me to run a bit harder, do the half-marathon and then be at the point where I can start training a bit more seriously with Jean-Louis later in the year for a full marathon. I'll be registering us for that soon. As for my current plans, my temporary gym membership will expire in two weeks and then I will be running maybe 4-5 times every week. I'm going to start running 3-4 times every week now. Some people may think we are a little nuts to train for a 21.1KM race by running only 5-10KM but that's what we have pretty much always done and it has worked well for us so far. Seriously. We run half the distance of our race many many times and then we just assume we can run twice the distance when race day comes. Works for us.

At this point, I can truthfully say that I'm not ready. I can probably run a 10KM very slowly but for the past 4 months or so, I have only ran 5KM at a time. Sad, isn't it? I feel heavy and need a bit more weight to come off and I just need to run more and run further to build some confidence. I'm also a bit worried about missing a week of training because we will be away on vacation. We might try to fit in running somehow during vacation but it would be much simpler if we didn't. Okay, I'm not going to start stressing about this yet! I have like a month still to train. That's a lot, right? Okay good :)
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