Austin - December 2017

+ We had been planning on a two-week long trip to Vietnam for Thanksgiving but after some unexpected big expenses, we could no longer afford those flights. So we were left with two-weeks of saved up vacation and a bit of extra vacation money. When I found ultra-cheap flights to Austin, we decided it would be the perfect weekend trip in December! And we were right. Maybe we'll make a trip to Austin in December every year.

+ I really loved Austin. It felt like the Portland of the south, and since Portland is my favorite U.S. city and Austin has amazing weather in December, it was absolutely lovely. Incredibly food (see below), cool people, quite a few bookstores (also see below), great weather, lots (of cheap things) to do. And it's so dog friendly! I loved it. Next time we visit, we're bringing the dogs so we can join the people who hang out in food truck parks with their adorable dogs. Bruce and Bernie would love it if we moved here.

+ My sister used to live in Austin, so when I asked her for recommendations, she immediately told me to get tickets to Master Pancake theater at the Alamo Drafthouse. It's a classic movie accompanied by a comedy show and we booked tickets without even knowing what movie they were showing. Oh man. We've been missing out on the glory that is "The Room" (Tommy Wiseau, not Brie Larson) but I'm glad we saw it for our first time with Master Pancake. So. Funny. Oh. My. Gosh. And ordering legit food (not the TGI Fridays level food that other dine-in movie theaters have) while watching was awesome. Then walking out of the theater to find the insanity that is 6th street on a Saturday night was pretty fun, too.

+ Barton Springs might have been my favorite part of this trip. It's been cold in Indiana and I couldn't wait to soak up some sun, even if it was a little colder than summer weather. Thankfully the day we decided to go to Barton Springs, it was warm and sunny and we got there early enough to catch the senior aerobics swimmers. The place was empty so it must have been a bit too cold for Texans, but we loved it. Once we were done swimming, we took a walk over to the dog-friendly area of the springs and worked on our tans while we watched dogs run around freely in the water. I could've sat there all day. 

+ I firmly believe that any place with a river should build a place like this. Sacramento, get on that! The combination of fresh water and natural rocky bottoms complete with plant life with diving boards, lifeguards, steps, and ladders is incredible! When we go back to Austin, Barton Springs will be at the top of my to-do list. 

+ Speaking of swimming, we loved the pool at the Sheraton downtown and had the whole thing to ourselves for an hour. We swam more on this trip than we did all summer and it was excellent.

+ Obviously we had to hit up the local bookstores! Austin has quite a few niched bookstores, as well as the mecca, Book People, downtown. Oh man, I loved Book People. I could've spent all day there, and Josh didn't complain when I nearly did. I found a number of books and magazines I haven't been able to find elsewhere and loved hunting around for their MANY signed copies. I spent so much time reading through all of the excellent staff recommendations. With Christmas coming, I only walked out with two books, but you can bet I'll be back there the next time we're in Austin and will budget to buy lots more. And hopefully we can plan ahead to be there for one of their author events they seem to host every day!

+ Not everything is bigger in Texas, but the Half Priced Books sure are. We went to a boutique near one of the chain bookstores, so we figured we'd stop in- it's fun to get an idea of a place based on what kinds of book donations they get. I couldn't believe how big the store was. At least twice as big as the biggest location in Indianapolis. Again. We spent way too much time there.

+ We went to a number of boutiques, but my favorite shop was Tesoros on South Congress. The prices were so good that I may have gone a bit crazy with the handmade jewelry. If we had enough room in our shared carry-on I would've bought a lot of home decor. Something to keep in mind for our next trip to Austin...

+ I almost feel guilty that our first stop in Austin was In-N-Out, but I'm a perpetually homesick California girl so get off my back. And that was the least busy In-N-Out I've ever encountered and I'm concerned for the judgement of Texans as they seem to not love In-N-Out as much as they should. So ungrateful. But anyway. It was amazing and I miss In-N-Out so much. Moving on.

+ For every city I want to visit, I have a list of places I want to go to. Whenever I come across articles in food magazines, recommendations from friends, city guides, etc. I add the places to these ever-growing lists so I am prepared should I ever visit. The first place I ever added to my list for Austin was Elizabeth St. Cafe. I discovered it in my graphic design days when I wanted to do branding for food businesses. Elizabeth St. was a prime example of incredible design, but it also featured a menu that seemed made just for me- pastries and Vietnamese food. So I had to check it out for myself while we're in town. We ate a lovely dinner of bún and banh mi with steamed buns and I couldn't stop raving about how cute the place was. I was a bit concerned, as reviews seemed to agree the place is overrated as it's overpriced somewhat Americanized Vietnamese food. They're totally right. It's not the greatest banh mi or bún I've ever had. But I was paying for the decor, design, and excellent service and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. If you need to take away my foodie card, I understand. We even went back for breakfast treats the next day. I highly recommend the everything croissant.

+ Torchys. Okay, so I grew up in California where tacos are everywhere and I've grown to believe that for the most part, they are nothing special. I don't often seek out Mexican food so I wasn't particularly excited to eat TexMex in Texas. We almost skipped Torchy's in favor of other more interesting looking food trucks. But we wanted a cheaper breakfast that had a breakfast menu for Josh and a not breakfast menu available for me (who doesn't love scrambled eggs) and Torchy's seemed like a good fit. Oh. My. Gosh. I want to live on the Trashy Trailer Park taco. And the green chile pork was excellent as well. It was the greatest breakfast I've had in a long time and felt so Texas, especially out under a mesquite tree on a sunny morning. We may or may not have gone to Torchy's again for a late lunch... No regrets.

+ Gourdoughs made us feel like the ultimate fatties. Holy wow those donuts are dense (and delicious). And we may have gone a bit overboard getting the concoctions topped with marshmallow sauce and giant chunks of brownie. I feel fat just thinking about it. Very good, but prepare yourself, my friends.

+ It's become tradition for us to get dessert to go and bring it back to our hotel so we can indulge while taking advantage of the TV and room we don't have to clean. This trip we got a few treats from Sugar Mama's, which might be the food I liked the least on this trip, but it was good. And the night we went to Alamo Drafthouse, we went to Voodoo down the street for donuts. I couldn't pass up a chance to get me a Mango Tango! Of course they did not disappoint.

+ But seriously, nearly every eatery in Austin is beautifully designed. The Peached Tortilla also made it on my Austin list during my graphic design days and I'm glad we stopped! It wasn't mind-blowing food and I'm a little confused about their name since it was mostly Asian-fusion and the "tortilla" implies Mexican-fusion but whatever. We loved the vibe and beautiful decor. And they convinced me to have a sweet breakfast of ultra-fluffy melt in your mouth french toast with miso syrup that I really enjoyed.

+ Our hotel was a short walk away from THE Franklin BBQ so we walked down one morning. We went. We saw the line. We turned around and left. Good thing neither of us are BBQ obsessed.

+ Hands down, Odd Duck served the best food we ate in Austin. Sorry Torchy's. I made a reservation on a whim after seeing it recommended by Bon Appetit and I'm so glad we did.
1) The service was amazing. They didn't just point me to the restroom, they walked me there. They didn't just tell me what dishes were corn-free (sucky allergy to have because corn is in EVERYTHING in America), they made an annotated menu with available substitutions just for me.
2) The food. Oh man, the food. A good chunk of the menu is vegetable based, which I normally wouldn't love but the descriptions made it sound amazing. At any other restaurant, I'm not sure I would've ordered an egg-based, broccoli-based, or squash-based dish but we did here and it was incredible. In fact, I almost wanted to order another butternut squash dish for dessert. But not to worry because they had a butternut squash Baked Alaska that was just as good- butternut ice cream on top of a spice cake and covered in a toasted meringue. Excellent and perfect for sharing. Sometimes I go to a restaurant and it makes me want to go back to my culinary school days when I was studying and experimenting with food all the time, and Odd Duck did that for me. I love when I fall in love and feel inspired by the food I'm eating. 

+ You can bet we'll be vacationing in Austin again and we might even do exactly what we did on this trip. We had a lot of fun and definitely needed that quick weekend escape. 

November 2017 Reading Wrap

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Considering I managed to read many short stories and did a lot of writing in November, I'm amazed I managed to read this many books. With Christmas coming and some unexpected big expenses, I had to cut my book budget so, for the first time, I took advantage of my local library. I love being able to reserve books online and browse through their selection and not have to stress about money! Pretty sweet things, those libraries. I'm sorry I didn't appreciate them fully before.

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling

Josh only read the first Harry Potter way back when he was a kid, so we've been slowly going through the Jim Dale audiobooks for his enjoyment and it's so much fun! We'll be doing a lot of driving for the holidays and as we go about shopping, so it's a fun way to enjoy the drives. I love how much Josh is enjoying himself and after we read each book, we watch the movie and he gets so into all the little details. Sharing a world you love with someone you love is a lot of fun. It seems I always end up reading Harry Potter around Christmastime and it just feels so cozy.
★★★★★

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
A friend from the bookstore recommended this to customers and since I had a childhood obsession with Greek mythology, I had to give it a go! I'm so glad I did. This book took me right back to that childhood fascination and I was immediately hooked on this complex love story amidst a long and bitter war. Though this is fiction, the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus felt incredibly real and human, with jealousies and egos and disagreements amidst passionate love and deep friendship. If you're looking for a good escape read or listen, I highly recommend The Song of Achilles. 
★★★★☆

The Power - Naomi Alderman
I'd been anticipating this dystopian fiction ever since it made the Bailey's Prize list and I snatched it up as soon as I could (thanks Book of the Month!). Alderman fed into why I love dystopian novels as she turns everything we know upside down and lets us imagine a different future where, in this case, women have all the power after they learn to harness the physical electric energy within them. I didn't realize how much patriarchy was ingrained in me as I tried to imagine men relying so heavily on their female counterparts and women rising to the extremes that give them control over men's bodies. Unfortunately I didn't love it as much as I wanted to, as the narrative style felt a little jumbled and much of it contrived. I struggled with the middle section, but tore through the first and last sections and finished with quite the increased heart rate. It's an intense, fast-paced book that gives you a lot to think about!
★★★★☆

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
For the entire summer, I felt like I saw this book all over and people were recommending it up the wazoo. So I assumed it was a light summer read. It was not. Think "A Man Called Ove" but much darker. I don't think I thought it was as funny as others thought it was. Yes, there were moments I laughed, but once secrets were revealed, I felt a bit blindsided and couldn't find the humor anymore. BUT. I shouldn't judge books based on my preconceived notions. Honeyman sheds some light on tougher subjects and gives us a glimpse into the people around us who may not act the way we want or be as kind as we expect. I enjoyed this book and would recommend the audiobook for the fun accents with a talented performer. Well done, just be prepared.
★★★★☆

A Kind of Freedom - Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
I'm rather surprised I haven't heard more about this book. Spanning three generations, "A Kind of Freedom" gives readers a glimpse of the ongoing effects of Jim Crow on one family in New Orleans. Each sharing their own unique story, the experiences of Evelyn, her daughter Jackie, and grandson T.C. broke my heart and taught me so much about issues I'll never face. If you enjoyed Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing" and survived her never-ending cycle of building up and tearing down your home, you will likely appreciate Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's debut. I look forward to her work in the future!
★★★★☆

Asking For It - Louise O'Neill
This book is quite literally the stuff of my nightmares and one of the scariest books I've read. I knew it would be rough going in. I didn't select this book for entertainment, I read it for education. And in a way, this was one of the most educational books I've read about rrape becaues it really challenged me. Main character Emma is not a sympathetic character. She's a mean girl, shallow, vain and beautiful, who wants to prove her beauty by getting attention from men. And she doesn't stick up for or believe a friend who was sexually assaulted. So when Emma gets raped herself, it's hard to put yourself in her shoes and be on her side. O'Neill does not make this story easy for you to swallow. There are no neat and tidy happy endings (as there never are for victims of rape). She doesn't sugarcoat it. She's an amazing author for bravely penning this story and I'm grateful she's bringing these issues into light. Read at your own risk. It's rough.
★★★★☆

New People - Danzy Senna
I don't know any other author that gives me as complicated emotions as Danzy Senna. Last year I read her collection of short stories "You Are Free" and while I enjoyed her prose and social commentary, I found many of the characters completely detestable. But I'd heard good things about "New People" so I decided to give it a go! And once again, I was hooked and laughing at the snarky social commentary, but absolutely hating the characters and screaming at their decisions (which made it oddly fun?). I'd say I hated this book, but I kept picking it up after deciding I was done and I feel so strongly about it so... If you read it, let's discuss these crazy people.
★★★☆☆

Top Ten Audiobooks

Top Ten Audiobooks

I love audiobooks. Shoutout to my mom for starting us young and playing audiobooks during road trips to Disneyland or family reunions. I forgot about them for a while and then I had a boring data entry job in college and started listening to audiobooks to keep me awake and happy. Currently I use Libro.FM (your subscription supports independent bookstores!), OverDrive, and Hoopla (two different library audiobook platforms). Between the three platforms, I manage to listen to a lot of audiobooks and often it's the only thing that keeps me cleaning my house or entertained on longer drives.

So here are my favorites! And since I know a lot of people like to listen to audiobooks with family in the car (hi Mom!) I've included my own parental guidance ratings so you've been warned...

Harry Potter series - JK Rowling, read by Jim Dale
Duh. One of the first audiobooks I listened to, thanks to my grandparent's books on tape collection. Jim Dale is amazing and the audio is perfect for those that haven't read the full series yet (like Josh...). The UK version with Stephen Fry is also good.
PG - PG13

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries - Louise Penny, read by Ralph Cosham
Sadly, Cosham passed away after narrating book #10, The Long Way Home. Robert Bathurst reads the remaining books and does a nice job, but Cosham will always be the voice of Gamache to me. Penny has created what I call literary mysteries, with excellent writing, many historical and literary references, wonderful characters, and a setting I want to live in, despite all the murders. This is my favorite series of all time and they continue to get better and better.
PG13 (language, including Fbombs if those are particularly offensive to you)

World War Z - Max Brooks, read by full cast including Simon Pegg, Masi Oka, Mark Hamill, Common, and Max Brooks himself as the interviewer.
This audiobook got me through a ten-hour drive without sleeping at all (possibly because nightmares were sure to ensue) and almost wishing the drive was longer so we could finish it all. Josh re-listens to it regularly. The interview style format of the book works perfectly for audio and the full cast is marvelous. Be warned: It's ultra creepy. And nothing like the movie, so banish Brad Pitt from your memory.
R (violence & general creepiness)

The Nix - Nathan Hill, read by Ari Fliakos
This is a beast of a book that Fliakos makes much more digestible and addictive in audio form. He is incredibly funny and seamlessly moves from one type of voice to another.
R (sexual content)

Salt To The Sea - Ruta Sepetys, read by Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris, & Michael Crouch
This young adult historical fiction novel is incredibly well done and shines light on a lesser known part of WWII history in Eastern Europe. The excellent narrators bring these four teenagers to life and you won't want to stop listening.
PG13 (violence typical of WWII stories, though most is referred to subtly)

Hum If You Don't Know The Words - Bianca Marais, read by Katharine McEwan & Bahni Turpin
I started reading this book, but as I am not as familiar with South Africa, I stopped reading and started listening to it so I could truly hear the accents and different languages. It's a beautiful story and I loved having the voices of McEwan and Turpin in my head.
PG (Might lean into PG13? But it's definitely appropriate for teens)

Watership Down - Richard Adams, read by Ralph Cosham
I had never read this classic book, but I've always had an obsession with rabbits and after listening to Cosham narrate the Louise Penny books, I wanted more of him! And boy did he deliver. It's so well done and entertaining. I particularly loved his interpretation of the rabbit language.
PG (unless kids are especially sensitive to rabbit violence, in which case PG13)

Maybe In Another Life - Taylor Jenkins Reid, read by Julia Whelan
I can always count on Reid for a good romantic read when I need something light. Her narrators always deliver, but I really enjoy Whelan (who also narrated "One True Loves"). Reid gets you hooked on her alternative realities plotline and Whelan brings the characters to life.
PG13 (light language and sexual content)

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller, read by Frazer Douglas
This retelling of Achilles and Troy had me totally hooked and got me out of quite the reading slump/Netflix addiction. Miller writes a gripping story and Douglas performs masterfully.
PG13 (sexual content and violence)

Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen, read by Rosamund Pike
I'll always be a huge fan of the Kiera Knightley "Pride And Prejudice" movie and I loved listening to Rosamund Pike narrate this beloved classic. I felt like she used the voices of the movie which made it so fun to imagine and replay in my head with those actors.
PG

Honorable Mentions:

Magpie Murders - Anthony Horowitz (PG)
Born A Crime - Trevor Noah (R)
Everyone Brave is Forgiven - Chris Cleave (PG13)
The Hunger Games Series - Suzanne Collins (PG13)
Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng (PG13)
Sourdough - Robin Sloan (PG13)
Radio Girls - Sarah-Jane Stratford (PG13)
One True Loves - Taylor Jenkins Reid (PG13)
Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan (PG13 - R)
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper - Phaedra Patrick (PG - PG13)
Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey (PG)
My Brilliant Friend (and whole series) - Elena Ferrante (PG13)

October 2017 Reading Wrap

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I didn't have much time or emotional capacity to read this month so I only managed to get through three books (and partway through a number of others), but they were all great and worth it! So here goes...

Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
I found this lovely graphic novel in the sale section in a used bookstore and had to snag it! It only took half an afternoon to read, but Satrapi pulled me through so many emotions. The story of her childhood in Iran was heartbreaking, but with beautiful and funny moments of joy. I don't know enough about Iran, but this little book packs in a lot of it's history and gives me a good jumping off point to do more reading.
★★★★★

Hunger - Roxane Gay
I did not love Bad Feminist so it took me much too long to pick up a copy of Hunger as I wasn't sure I loved her style of writing and it kills me when I dislike deeply personal memoirs. But I gave it a go and just. Whoa. Gay shares her experiences on being a woman of size in this often cruel and insensitive world we live in, but she also shares the source of her "hunger" - getting gang raped at a young age. I'm not sure I've read a more deeply personal memoir. It was so hard to read, but I'm grateful she shared her story as it has helped me expand my view on what it's like to be bigger and to constantly deal with the trauma of sexual assault. I happened to read this book during the heartbreaking but inspiring #metoo movement and I'm grateful for women like Gay who bravely share their stories so we can learn and fight for change.
★★★★☆

Another Day In The Death Of America - Gary Younge
I'd been wanting to read this book for a while, but after the Las Vegas shooting I decided it was finally time to put down the fiction and read it. And then it took me a month to get through because it was just. so. heavy. Each chapter highlights one child who was killed by gun violence in America on November 23, 2013, a day selected at random. We learn about their lives, their stories, their deaths, and the aftermath. While Younge discusses the many options activists have put forward to end gun violence, he weighs the options, discusses whether or not they are actually doable, and to what extent they could curb the violence. But it is not the focus of the book and he does not have any solutions. I highly recommend you read this book to not only educate yourself on this huge problem in America, but also to get a glimpse of what it's like for each of these families from all walks of life across the country. The audiobook is very well done, but be prepared to sit in parking lots listening because you can't emotionally handle doing anything else...
★★★★☆

September 2017 Reading Wrap

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Braving the Wilderness - Brene Brown
There aren't many books that I want to purchase for anyone & everyone I know, but this is one of them. I read this one twice in one weekend (which I assure you I have never done before), underlining & making notes all over the book then listening to it with Josh so we could discuss it together. I'm not exaggerating when I say this book found me at the exact moment I needed it & truly changed my life & perspective. I found so much comfort in this book, but it also gave me the uncomfortable work of looking at where I need to improve. I simply adored this book & can't stop thinking about it. Please read this book.
★★★★★

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
I found myself completely absorbed in the story of the quiet upper middle class town of Shaker Heights, Ohio where families become entangled, drama ensues, & the respectable town is not so serene anymore. I'm amazed at Ng's ability to create nuanced characters, none totally detestable or loveable, yet wholly relatable. She deftly balanced & wove together many sensitive issues that face modern families & parents, giving you a look at both sides of the story as the characters come to their own conclusions. This would make an excellent book club book as you try to pick apart each character's decisions & justifications.
★★★★★

All Over The Place - Geraldine DeRuiter
I generally shy away from travel memoirs as they often devolve into "how-to do exactly what I did" or are full of privilege I can never relate to. This is not one of those books. In fact, I wouldn't necessarily call it a "travel memoir" but rather a memoir of a very hilarious & strong woman who happens to travel quite a bit. DeRuiter is crazy honest, scarily human, incredibly hilarious & surprisingly tender.
★★★★★

Born A Crime - Trevor Noah
Everyone told me I should listen to Born A Crime rather than read it & they were right! The book is compelling regardless, but Noah's mastery of South African languages & entertaining storytelling made the experience much more enjoyable. Of course this comedian had some very funny stories to tell, but I didn't expect to learn so much & I definitely didn't expect to cry. After I finished, Josh listened to it & we both have had some great discussions about Noah's perspective & life in South Africa. Whether or not you listen to this book, definitely take the time to read it! It will be worth it. 
★★★★☆

What Happened - Hillary Rodham Clinton
I wanted to know what happened these past two years & was thrilled that Clinton bravely shared her story. Her insights into the 2016 election & what she did right & wrong was incredibly enlightening. I found her relatable, funny, & inspiring as she told of the insane struggles she has dealt with as a woman in politics.
★★★★☆

Sourdough - Robin Sloan
I was not a big fan of Sloan's previous book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. It was weird. And weird in a direction I did not enjoy. Sourdough on the other hand was weird, but in a direction I enjoyed immensely. I mean, San Francisco with ties to Detroit, the tech scene, an underground food market, food science, charming & strange characters, & lots of mayhem. It was a fun & crazy ride, a perfect break from the heavier books I've been reading. I'm still not sure Robin SLoan writes my kind of books, but this is definitely my kind of Robin Sloan book.
★★★★☆

Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun - Sarah Ladipo Manyika
The story of a big-hearted aging Nigerian woman & the people with home she comes in contact with in. This short book is certainly not about plot, but rather about human connection & the way we perceive ourselves & eachother. It made me want to get out there & get to know my neighbors in the thoughtful way Morayo does.
★★★★☆

What We Lose - Zinzi Clemmons
This novel reads more like a collection of essays written by a fictional character. The format was quick, but not necessarily easy to digest as she covers the heavy themes of motherhood, daughterhood, love, loss & grief in a sparse 200 pages. Her language was so beautiful I regularly stopped to underline & make notes. While I loved the way she thoughtfully translated these difficult themes, I couldn't connect with the main character & didn't always love her deviations from the story with newspaper articles & history lessons. But it was a beautiful book that certainly shows Clemmons' skill as a writer & I can't wait to read more from her.
★★★☆☆

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions - Amy Stewart
The third & final book in the Kopp Sisters trilogy, I loved hearing more about the first female deputy in New Jersey. Fiction informed by historical research & embellished with interesting details & strong characters, the Kopp Sisters novels are perfect for feministy historical fiction lovers. The story of this novel was more focused on feminist issues than the past books which I found fascinating, but the plot was incredibly slow with not enough development on characters new to the books. I loved the first two books, but had to force myself to finish this one.
★★★☆☆

Portland - May 2017

+ Josh now does a fair bit of travel for his work which has its ups and downs, and this trip was definitely one of the ups. We flew out west a few days earlier than his coworkers to spend the weekend exploring the city together and my oh my was it fabulous!

+ As a Northern Californian who loves visiting Seattle, I'm embarrassed to say that before this trip, I had not spent any significant amount of time in Portland. I believe that I'd driven over a bridge and through the city "just to look" on our way up to Seattle, but I'd never actually stepped foot onto Portland soil. Or asphalt.

+ It's been a little bit since we've been to San Francisco, but I think Portland may have replaced it as my favorite city. I'm not even going to apologize. Or try to explain that to my parents.

+ Of course, like with any trip, my favorite part was the food. But this food beat the food of any other city of food I've ever been to.
Yes, I've been to NYC. Don't interrupt.
There were quite a few restaurants I had followed from afar for a long time, so I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to try their fare. I've learned to not set my expectations too high, just in case that insanely popular no-reservations restaurant is packed and we can't get in or that the eatery really wasn't worth the hype. Lowered expectations simply make travel much more fun.
But EVERY. SINGLE. RESTAURANT. blew. my. mind.
Not once did we finish eating and say "That was alright" or "I guess we should've gone to that other place instead" or "We need to go back to the hotel IMMEDIATELY so I can use the bathroom" (don't pretend that's never happened to you).

+ VooDoo Doughnuts is DEFINITELY worth the hype. We got in to PDX pretty late so we went to the closest location to grab a box for breakfast the next morning so we could sleep in. I didn't realize just how long lines could get until we drove by their original location the next [Saturday] morning. Go to their second location at midnight. And then if you really want to be like us, do the exact same thing the next night. It will be worth it. Also get the Mango Tango. I still dream about it.

+ Pok Pok. I just. I loved. I told Josh that I was pretty open when it came to restaurants we should try (since there were too many good ones to choose from) but I NEEDED to try Pok Pok. Even if it was packed and we couldn't make it in we still had to try. So we walked up at 6pm on a Saturday night expecting at least a 30 minute wait. We immediately got a table. A quiet table upstairs. With an excellent waitress who made great recommendations and kindly explained EVERYTHING. The limeade is delicious. The vinegar sodas are strange but also delicious (don't let Josh tell you otherwise). The wings BLEW MY MIND. I know I keep saying that. Leave me alone.

+ I will now share with you all of the other food we ate because it was all amazing and deserves mention, but I understand that the food I ate is only interesting to me so I will keep it short.
Nong's Khao Man Gai (never has chicken & rice been so, dare I say, mindblowing)
Boba drinks everywhere (Portland, you are my kinda city)
The Dump Truck (excellent name for a fusion dumpling truck)
Salt & Straw (now THAT is unique ice cream)
Lovely's Fifty Fifty (wood-fired pizza & housemade ice cream, but the side dishes were the real winners)
ChaChaCha! (to be honest the most disappointing food of the trip, but that's only because everything else was so amazing & Red Iguana has ruined all other mexican food for us)
Toadstool Cupcakes (the most unique cupcakes I have ever partaken of)
Other foods from food carts that has since slipped my mind....

+ We generally do a fair amount of shopping when we travel, but my favorite shopping experience to date has been the Saturday Market. Such a cool venue, so many unique (but actually cool) products, and delicious food to keep you going. That is shopping even Josh will love. It didn't hurt that there was a dog walkathon that ended right just up the river walk, so there were loads of adorable pups to ogle at while we shopped. First thing we found a jewelry maker who made etched brass necklaces and bracelets. I had to have the California bear pendant with waves etched onto it. Best souvenir ever (even if it represents CA not OR).

+ Best (affordable) boutique shopping I've experienced! I loved Tender Loving Empire, a unique gift shop + record label/store with loads of Portland themed goods. Their design aesthetic is on point. And thankfully they have a location at the airport because I regretted not purchasing a "West Coast" pin earlier in the trip but I was able to rectify the situation before flying home.

+ Green. Everywhere. I think that is why west coast cities will always delight me more than east coast cities- they embrace the green. Our hotel was north of the city and it was so cool to drive south along the river and look at the rolling hills of green trees. And the view heading south across the Columbia River and Government Island toward the airport literally took my breath away (momentarily, don't worry). I don't think a view had actually ever done that to me before then. Oh and "green" as in environmentally friendly is very cool too.

+ And last but certainly not least: Powell's. Of course we went to Powell's. We went to their main hub downtown on a Saturday afternoon and it was a claustrophobic nightmare. It was also a book lover's dream so I was very conflicted. They have an excellent selection and great prices for their used books and so many cool gifts and so many people taking selfies and standing around and not looking at books? I loved their Hawthorne location much more. It was smaller and more carefully curated and much less stressful and much less people and parking was significantly better so.... I won't apologize. Next time I'll try to make time for the Powell's hub on a quieter weekday. Either way, Powell's is amazing.

+ Portland, I love you. Most ardently. I will return to you and we will be together forever, if not in body then in soul.