Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Oregon - Day Three

Day 3 started with a stop at Dutch Bros. Coffee.  I don’t drink coffee, but how could I not go to a place that shared a name with my son?

From there we went to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse to check out the tide pools.  It’s hard to pick a favorite thing from my amazing weekend, but I think this might’ve been it. We climbed down to the beach so we could see what wildlife was there while the tide was out. Maybe I’m just easily impressed, but I was seriously amazed that I could be around these animals in their natural habitat.  I saw more starfish, mussels, anemone, urchins, etc, than I could count.  I was able to touch anything I wanted to. 

There were also seals sunning on the large rocks in the distance.  I really kicked myself for not bringing my professional camera. As we were about to leave, a seagull flew overhead with something in its mouth.  Then we saw it release the animal from its mouth, from a considerable height, so that it would crack open on the rocks.  We hurried over and found a broken urchin.  Smart bird!  We took a pic and then walked away so that the gull could return for the fruit of its labor.  (I should probably mention that Iris is about to finish her degree in Fisheries and Wildlife, which means she knows a ton about plants and animals and was able to provide me with so much insight into what we were seeing).

After that, we headed over to the lighthouse.  We couldn’t go inside this one, but we used that as another lookout point.  Sure enough, we saw more whale spouts! 

By then it was time for breakfast, so we went to Pig ‘N Pancake before heading to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. This isn’t a huge aquarium, but it’s fun because it has both indoor and outdoor exhibits.  There is a touch pool there that we spent a lot of time at.  I had to say I felt a little proud, though, since I had already touched many of the same types of animals in that tank out in the wild earlier that day!  We checked out the rest of their exhibits and then started the drive to Tillamook, OR, where we met her mom and step-dad for lunch at Pacific Restaurant. I really enjoyed catching up with them, since I can’t even remember the last time I had seen them. Next on the agenda was a visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Since it was Sunday, there wasn’t a ton of production happening, but we got to see the production process and sample different types of cheese.  We also pounced on the opportunity to get some of their famous ice cream.  It didn’t disappoint.  I did a sampler of three flavors and Grandma’s cake batter was the clear winner.

After that we headed to Banks, OR so that Iris could stop by her mom’s house and pick up a few things she needed for college.  Their house is atop a hill and has amazing views. We encountered 6 deer on the road up to her house, including 2 impressive bucks.  (Side note – the drive from Tillamook to Banks is gorgeous.  You don’t have cell service for a lot of it, which is a little scary, but the surroundings are neat). It was getting late in the day, and Iris was still going to have a 1.5 hour drive back to her campus after dropping me off, so we decided it was time to get moving.  Iris brought me to my hotel right by the Portland airport, where I’d be departing from super early the next day. It sucked to say goodbye, but we made a lot of great memories that weekend, and added a few more inside jokes to our repertoire.  Gosh, I love that girl.  I hope she gets to come visit me in Dallas soon.

TLDR: Portland is very Portlandy.  I was under-tattooed, under-crunchy, and definitely didn’t have enough flannel in my wardrobe.  Newport is awesome. If I lived anywhere near there, I would definitely vacation there. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway is a must. I would never get tired of that. You should visit friends who move away, especially when they move to/near good vacation destinations.

Oregon - Day Two

We woke up early on Day 2 since we knew we wanted to capitalize on all of our time together.  We headed to PineState Biscuits for breakfast.  Again we waited in a line out the door, but it was worth the wait!  I got a chicken biscuit with bacon, cheese, and gravy.  It was a whole chicken breast, aka, it was ginormous! From there, we started our 2.5 hour trek to the coast. We passed through McMinnville, where the “Spruce Goose” is housed at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.  I didn’t get a chance to snap a pic, but the museum looked incredible and I could see the massive aircraft from the roadway, thanks to the glass-front building.  Along the way we also stopped in Otis at the Otis Café, since Iris said their pie was famous.  It certainly didn’t disappoint.  (This restaurant is the reason for an inside joke that I’m guessing we’ll be laughing about for years to come). We got back on the road and continued our drive until we arrived at the Shilo Inn & Suites Oceanfront in Newport.  There was hardly anyone staying at the hotel since it was winter.  When I checked in, they asked if we wanted to upgrade to a better room.  It would be bigger and in a better location at the hotel.  I expected to hear an upgrade fee of at least $50, but she shocked me when she said it would only cost $15 more.  Umm, yeah, I think I can swing that.  We dropped off our bags, marveled at the amazing view from our room, and then headed out to check out the town. 

We first toured the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and then stopped at a lookout to check out the ocean.  Much to our surprise, we saw whales in the distance!  We could spot the spouts shooting up in the air with our naked eye, but Iris had her binoculars, so that was a bonus.  I was elated, and told her that that made my day!  Little did I know that experience would keep getting topped!

We went into Newport and walked behind some restaurants out onto a dock.  There were about 6 sea lions napping below us.  So fun to see! 

Then, while we were out there, I overheard a fisherman complain to his friend that he had caught a starfish.  I asked to see it, but he had already thrown it back.  He saw my disappointment, so when he caught another one a few minutes later, he called me over to see it.  It was incredible!!  Definitely the largest one I’ve ever seen outside of an aquarium.  I touched it and took a picture and then he returned it to the water.  I was on cloud nine.

We checked out some of the shops in the town and then had dinner at Mo’s.  I can't comment on the seafood there, because I got a cheeseburger!  I'm just not much of a seafood eater. It had been another exhausting day with a lot of walking, so we called it an early night.  I was able to FaceTime with Meezy and Dutch that night.  As soon as my face appeared on his screen, Dutch said, “Mommy hold you.”  I almost cried.  I missed that kiddo so much and felt horrible that I couldn’t hold him in my arms right then!  Side note – that kid’s vocabulary has exploded in the past month.  He talks so much and can form 4 to 5 word sentences.  I felt guilty for being away for a few days because he literally says or does something new and impressive each day.  Can’t believe he’ll be two in late February!

Day 2 was in the books!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Oregon - Day One

One of my favorite girls in the entire world lives in Oregon now, and I haven't seen her in a few years, so I decided a trip to visit her was in order.  Iris spent much of last year in Thailand, but is now back in the States to finish up her last semester at OSU.  She's a spontaneous world traveler, so I knew I needed to grab some of her time now, before she jetted off to her next destination!  My hubby was kind enough to let me take a few days for myself while he held down the fort.

My journey started super early on a Friday morning.  My Virgin America flight departed at 7am.  When I got to the airport, parking and the ticket counter weren't too bad, but the security line was quite busy.  I got in line and a girl got behind me.  Every step I took forward, she took one and bumped into me.  If it wasn't her bag hitting my back, it was her literally stepping on the back of my foot.  When the line would stop, I could often feel her phone (that she was holding in her hand) against my back.  Seriously?  What is the deal with that?  I turned around once and gave her a look, and she apologized.  Then she kept doing it.  I just don't get it.  How does someone not realize what they're doing, especially after being told, and then continue to do it?  How come the constant bumping into someone else didn't bother her too?  That annoyance kept up for about 20 minutes. As I got closer to the front of the line, where the TSA agent checks your boarding pass and ID, I saw multiple people fumbling to find their ID as they walked up to the agent.  Others handed him a boarding pass for the second leg of their flight, which was incorrect, so they had to fumble to find the correct boarding pass.  Again, seriously?  You had 20+ minutes to get your two documents in order, and you couldn't handle that task.  It's time to evaluate where you are in your life.  After getting past that nonsense, I was happy to find that my flight was on time and all passengers boarded efficiently.  We were ready to takeoff, but we just sat there.  And sat and sat and sat some more.  I saw some official looking employees walk to the back of the plane a couple of times, then go to the front of the plane to talk to the flight attendant and pilot.  At one point, the pilot even went to the back of the plane.  He seemed very annoyed.  Finally, a passenger from the back of the plane was removed from the flight.  She was mumbling angrily as she walked up the aisle.  I don't know what her problem was, but I was glad we had a 40 minute delay on the ground to deal with her, as opposed to being stuck with her in the air for nearly 4 hours!

I finally arrived in Portland around mid-day and was eager to see Iris.  I texted her that I was heading to baggage claim and she texted back, "waiting at virgin arrivals in a gray blazer." What?  The Iris I know would not be wearing a gray blazer.  That’s just not her style.  I looked all around and didn’t see her standing anywhere.  Then I realized my mistake.  She was waiting outside in a gray Chevy Blazer, the vehicle.  Hahahaha.  Blonde moment.  I got my bag, found her, and we headed off on our adventure!

Our first stop was Bunk Sandwiches.  The line was out the door, which it pretty much has to be since their ordering area only allows for a couple people.  Surprisingly, there was a table open, so we caught up a little bit over lunch.  The food was good, but the conditions were cramped!  From there, we went to check out our lodging for the night.  Iris had found an affordable place for us on airbnb.  We were renting the bottom floor of a tri-level house.  It had a bedroom, kitchen area, private bathroom, and separate exterior entrance.  A family was living in the upper levels, which could have been weird, but it wasn’t too bad.  The father was sweet and he wanted to help us with any of our plans if we had questions.  For the most part, he left us alone, which was great!  After dropping off our bags, we went to OMSI– the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry.  The line to buy tickets was super long, and it seemed pretty crowded, so that was a bit of a bummer.  But, much to our surprise, a lady with kids walked up and asked us if we’d like to be her guests.  She was a member and was able to bring guests in for reduced prices.  Score!  We bought tickets to an IMAX movie and to the Sherlock Holmes exhibit for much cheaper than it would’ve been as a non-member.  We spent some time in the permanent exhibits and watched the movie and then headed over to the main attraction.  The line to get into the Holmes exhibit was long, but it moved well.  Once we got inside, we were excited!  It was definitely an interactive experience.  There was a crime scene to study, and then you proceeded to visit different stations that would help you interpret the clues found at the scene.  For instance, there was blood spatter on the wall at the crime scene, so nearby they had set up three apparatuses that would spurt out red liquid on a glass frame so you could compare the pattern. Each would appear as the result of a different trauma, so you had to determine which one matched the crime scene and notate that in your notebook.  Then there was a section where you had different patterns in the sand to observe and decide which matched the crime scene.  One pattern was from drag marks; one was from a single set of footsteps; one was possibly from two sets.  Which looked most like the ones found at the crime scene?  There was a similar setup for bullet trajectory and for determining if a toxin was used.  I’m telling you – it was really cool!  Once you examined everything and marked down your guesses, you then got to check your answer and see if you were right.  Neither one of us got all the stations correct, but I chalk that up to it being really crowded and us not being able to spend as much time in each area as we would’ve liked!  Regardless, I highly recommend checking out the exhibit if you’re anywhere near the Portland area.  It’s too advanced for small kids, but pre-teens and up will enjoy it.

After that, we headed to dinner at Le Bistro Montage.  The food and cocktails were yummy, and the wait and bar staff were friendly and fun.  We got some red velvet cake that was delicious, but couldn’t finish it all.  We took the rest to-go and got to see one of the things that restaurant is known for – very elaborate to-go containers!  For Iris’s pasta, they placed it in a box and then made a huge whale, with spout, out of aluminum foil to place it in.  They made a rose out of foil to accompany our cake container.  It was cute, and I liked that extra touch.  We went from there to the White Owl Social Club and met up with a couple of Iris’s friends.  We had a couple drinks and shared funny stories.  By that time, I was pretty exhausted from the long day, so we headed back to our room.  Day 1 was in the books!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mama

One of my sisters came up with a great idea for my mom's birthday this past year.  Her birthday is on Christmas and she told us not to get her anything, but how could we really let my mom's birthday go by without getting her a gift?  Since she didn't need or want anymore "things," we opted to go a different route.  We compiled a list of family and close friends and contacted them with a request.  We asked if they could take a few minutes to write a letter to my mom.  It didn't need to be long or formal or anything in particular - just something from the heart from those she loves most.  My mom loves correspondence and reading and writing, so we figured this would be much better than buying her something.  We started making requests in October, and asked that letters/cards be sent to my sister's address for safekeeping.  That way we could compile them all secretly and then present them at one time on Christmas.  By the time her birthday came around, we had nearly 40 letters!  Here's a video of when we presented them to her:

And here's a pic of what she received:

She stayed up way too late that night reading all the letters, and she said she cried over and over again!  She was truly floored and grateful to all the senders, and we were just happy to provide the opportunity for so many people to tell our mom how much she meant to them.  We were happy to get to do that too.  Love you, mama.  Happy birthday!

Jack and Jill Bathroom Remodel

The layout for our Jack and Jill bathroom (aka Dutch’s bathroom) had one entrance from our office and one entrance from Dutch’s bedroom.  You couldn’t access it from the hallway. The entrances were carpeted, and they each had a large generic vanity with a sink and a nearby small closet enclosed with double doors.  The main part of the bathroom, with the toilet and bathtub, was tiled with a very outdated green tile and had atrocious wallpaper.  Let me give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Here's what you used to see as you walked down the hall towards the bathroom. If we were entertaining guests and sent them to this bathroom, they would've had to make a right or a left and go through one of two rooms to get to it. We have another bathroom on the other side of the house that guests can use, but it's small and attached to our laundry room. I would prefer to send people to a larger bathroom that doesn't require them to walk by a pantry and washer and dryer.

When you entered the bathroom, there was an extended vanity with a seating area, an oversized mirror, and double doors leading to the closet. It was all super plain and cheap-looking.

When you went into the main part of the bathroom, you saw the hideous floor tile and wallpaper.

Passing through there, you’d see Dutch’s side of the bathroom with a similar vanity, sink, and faucet.  It was, as you would’ve guessed, all gold hardware.

Now we get to the fun stuff!  The first step of the process was creating a doorway to the bathroom from the hallway.  That meant opening up the hallway wall, removing a half-wall on the other side of it, and removing the built-in drawers and doors of the closet.  Tada!  We have access.

Since the vanity in that area had previously been attached to the half-wall, we had it cut off to make it shorter so there would be an actual entrance area to the bathroom. Then we painted over the wallpaper and got new countertops, sinks, and faucets on both sides of the bathroom.

Next we got all the carpet and old tile removed and installed 16x16 travertine throughout the entire area.  Travertine is my go-to tile, in a neutral shade, because I love natural stone and the variations you get from tile to tile.  But, staying neutral means you can couple it with a ton of different wall or accent colors.  Travertine is typically more expensive than ceramic or porcelain, but you can find good deals at various flooring stores.  We went with Floor and Décor in Plano for this project.  Other items that were updated were the lighting and mirror in the hallway entrance area. Now, let me take you on a tour of our newly remodeled bathroom!

As you enter from the hallway through the brand new created doorway, the gorgeous travertine tile greets you.

To your left you will now find a shortened vanity with a granite top and a new sink, faucet, mirror, and light. I really, really love the light I found for this area.  It’s unique and the design looks cool with or without the light on.  I got it at Lamps Plus in Plano.

From there, you can head into the toilet area and see the fresh paint on the walls and new floor tile.

Dutch’s side of the bathroom still has the closet area, and retained its original mirror and lighting, but the new floor tile, countertop, sink, and faucet really change the look.

Here are a couple more pictures of the new entry:

I loved this project, because it was a good reminder that you don’t have to be stuck with the current layout of your house if you don’t like it.  Need a door somewhere?  Add one!  We actually added two, because in conjunction with this project, we also got a door hung at the end of the hallway leading to these rooms.  It was previously just an open walkway. We wanted a way to shut off the noise from the other side of the house where we watch TV and entertain, in case Dutch was sleeping in his room. 

It feels great to get this project completed.  I wonder what will be next???

Project costs:
Construction & door - $1,462
Tile and installation - $1,500
Countertops and sinks - $1,075
Fixtures and paint - $400

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Quick Living Room Updates

I know you're thinking, "Jeez, all she ever writes about is remodeling/updates to her house."  Well, I pretty much feel like that's all I spend my free time on, so it's a fairly accurate assessment!  We did the extensive paint job to the living room back in September, and then I felt like it was time to update the rug, decorations, and throw pillows.  It's not an easy task to find an 8' x 10' rug, however.  I went to at least ten stores, and I didn't like any of their styles.  Of course I found a ton of styles online that I liked, but they were typically $500 and up, and it made me nervous to order something that expensive online without having seen it in person.  Before giving up, Meezy and I headed down to Harry Hines Blvd, south of Royal, because I remembered seeing a lot of furniture and rug stores there in the past.  They're not your big name stores with a web presence, so you really just have to go take a look in person.  I'm so glad we did!  We ended up finding an 8.5' x 11' rug, in a design I loved, for $250.  We also found an affordable runner for the hallway outside Dutch's room that was substantial enough not to move too easily and that wouldn't get sucked up in the vacuum (the dogs' nails are loud when they walk/run on the hardwood outside his door, and I wanted to have a rug there to make it quieter when he's sleeping).

Next on the agenda was throw pillows.  I have a love/hate relationship with them.  I love having them because they can be a cute way to accent your couches and you can be more edgy or creative on their designs than you can on the design of your whole couch. But, on the other hand, I hate them because they can be so dang expensive!  I picked up one I liked at Bed, Bath & Beyond and the price tag said $70. What the what??  That's just for one small pillow!!  I also saw plenty more that were between $30 and $50 apiece. That's just crazy when I consider that I have two couches and a chaise lounge to accent.  I was also considering getting some pillows for this little alcove we have in our living room, which probably used to be where people put their television.  At those prices, I'd probably be looking at $500 minimum.  Then I discovered the throw pillow section at Steinmart. Hallelujah!  Their prices are incredible.  I wish someone had been filming me while I was there.  I just couldn't help but get excited when I'd pick up pillows and they'd be between $8 and $12. I took pictures of a few and texted them to Meezy to see what his preferences were, because I was having a hard time deciding which to buy.  After a few rounds of that, he finally told me to just buy them all and bring them home and then we'd decide.  I could always return the ones that we didn't like.  Steinmart's carts are very small, and I was stuffing mine full of pillows, and even had to carry a bunch more in my arms on the way to the register.  The total number purchased was 17.  SEVENTEEN!  Lol.  When I got home, Meezy estimated that I had spent over $500.  I was thrilled to announce that the total was only $200 for all those pillows!  We laid them all out, and thanks to the alcove, we actually used all 17.

As far as a new decoration, I really just wanted a large conversation piece to go in the alcove between the built-ins. We considered an indoor fountain, but determined the logistics and cost wouldn't be worth it. After showing Meezy a few different art pieces, and having him nix them, we finally decided on a large clock.  We found one at BB&B that was actually really cool and affordable.  So, after dropping another $40, we were done with the remodel.

Here's what the rug and throw pillows looked like before:

Everything was boring brown and red

And here's the new rug and pillows:

Look at that fun rug!  

Here's what the alcove looked like after we painted it, but before we knew what to do with the space:

And here's the after shot with the new decorations and pillows:

I love the results!  Next up, a post about our guest bathroom remodel.  That one has been a couple of months in process since we had to do it in phases while we waited for our foundation work to be completed. Stay tuned!