PDX

John and I have this terrible habit when we are traveling: We arrive, set our bags down somewhere and get so tangled up in exploration and adventures that we realize, when it’s far too late, that we are famished. I should also mention, he and I both become cranky toddlers when we are starved.  We also become incredibly indecisive. In a new place, any restaurant can be ok, or even good, but is it the BEST? Case in point: we once drove around Denver for 2 hours trying to find something, ANYTHING to eat, and ended up eating Little Cesar’s in our hotel room because we gave up. Now that we’ve traveled a few times together now, we know that we get like this, we can anticipate it.

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We arrived in Portland hungry. So… not a great start. Our first priority was to find the block of food trucks in downtown. The only problem? John thought it was this way and I thought it was that way (Ps: I was right) We wandered for about 15-20 minutes, which isn’t so bad for normal people (but not two adults acting like cranky toddlers) and finally I spotted the trucks off in the distance, hoping it wasn’t a mirage from hunger. I helped myself to banh mi and hawaiian BBQ while John was the last customer of the day for a Carolina BBQ truck. That’s more like it! We found a little park (well, really more of a bricked area) and sat down to enjoy our food, happily munching in silence.

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To make a long story short, we were finishing up our lunch when a heavily intoxicated homeless man came up to us, threatening us if we didn’t give him money for “booze and a blunt”. He mostly left me alone, and chose to scream just a few inches from John’s face. Another Santa Clause-looking homeless man disrupted the other man’s rant and asked him to leave. Once the angry man stormed away, the Santa Clause-looking man assured us that we would have been safe and moved his jacket. Both John and I didn’t catch a look, but I’m pretty like 90% sure he was trying to show us his gun. A GUN. Did I mention that this all took place within the first hour of being in Portland?

I tried not to take that experience to heart, but it definitely upset John a lot. In order to put ourselves in a better place, we headed to our Mecca, Powell’s. After about an hour of wandering on our own, John managed to find 6 books that he’d been searching for for years and I came up empty handed and frustrated. Though it didn’t occur to me at the time, I kept getting overwhelmed and then really tired. I ended up grabbing 4 magazines and a random book, just to feel like I’d accomplished SOMEthing, but left pretty bummed. John and I both used some downtime in the hotel room to decompress.

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Being pragmatic, I decided that we should walk around until we found something good to eat. Being us, we walked for at least 3 miles before we almost gave up. (I should note here that we passed several perfectly decent restaurants, but we wanted something quiet and something “our style”, aka: no chains). We even stopped back at the hotel restaurant, but it was roaring and packed to the brim with people. Finally, we headed in the opposite direction of the hubbub. At this point we were both officially hungry and I told John that we could walk for 10 more minutes before we should give up and just order room service.

IMG_0477Then, we saw it. Hamlet: super cute sign outside of a super cute bar. We treated ourselves to a baguette slathered in butter and a plate of super tasty applewood smoked prosciutto. And some wine! Needless to say we were happy, a little tipsy and very satisfied with finally having found someplace that fit exactly what we were looking for.

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The next morning I woke up on a mission, a Google mission. I searched for the BEST Portland breakfast within walking distance and didn’t find many restaurants that were open that early on a Friday. I finally came across the Original Dinerant which definitely fit the bill for diner-breakfast foods that John and I love. While my food wasn’t “the best” that I’ve had, it definitely wasn’t bad and for what the food lacked, it made up for in the most attentive service and adorable retro decor. Plus, John LOVED his Monte Cristo sandwich.

IMG_0494 After breakfast, we walked to Billy Galaxy, a super kitschy vintage toy store. John walked through and pointed out all the GI Joe’s he played with, and how many Star Wars figurines he had. I wasn’t really into a lot of toys as a kid, but it was fun to see him so excited about it! I should also mention that we went back to Powell’s (I know, I know) and I managed to pick up 2 more books and a tote.

DSC00274 It was about time to check out of our hotel, which was a bummer since now we had to lug our luggage and our gatrillion books around with us for the next 4 hours. (We obviously did not think this through) We started off our trek with doughnuts at Blue Star because it was recommended to us by pretty much everyone we knew. I can’t say much about my doughnut (ahem, Top Pot is way better, ahem), but it was a really beautiful space and it was fascinating to see how they rolled out the dough right behind the counter with their whole forearm!

IMG_0505 We wandered for a pretty long time and my back kind of felt like it was being stabbed by my backpack. It was pretty cool to see so many beautiful buildings and signage across the city, but John and I kept noticing just how many homeless people were around. We saw people defecating on the wall of the Chinese garden, we saw newspaper blowing across the sidewalk that had been used as toilet paper, we saw people screaming at each other on street corners and others staring with blank expressions at the puddles on the ground. I’ve been to Portland about a dozen times now, but I’d never seen it like this. I’m sure a large part of it had to do with the weather (the sun peeked out about 5 minutes the entire time we were there) but I also have a feeling that something has fundamentally changed. There was no construction going on. Buildings lay empty. And there were just SO many homeless people around. I feel snobby for saying this, but it was tough to see the beauty around us and I think in a lot of ways, we missed home. DSC00262DSC00264DSC00279DSC00284DSC00285DSC00297DSC00300DSC00302 After walking another 3 miles or so, searching for just a nice quiet park to sit in (spoiler, there aren’t any!) we decided to stop in the bustling Sushiland for some cheap sushi and a break from walking. I helped myself to a ton of their salmon nigiri because I’m pretty certain it was the best sushi I’ve ever had. Finally, we hobbled back over to the train station and immersed ourselves in our books and magazines until our train arrived. DSC00304DSC00308 I’ve traveled by train before, but this was John’s first time ever! He was much more patient than I with the dozen stops were had to make and the handful of delays that the trains put us through, but the trains were actually really well maintained and our first train actually had comfortable seats! If you hate driving, taking the train really didn’t take that much longer (especially with the traffic we saw on the 5 outside our window!) but for what you get in ease, you lack in control. Both of our rides took longer than expected and it was tough for me to deal with the other passengers loud conversations. It was a cool experience, but not one that I’m looking forward to experiencing anytime soon.

Aced It

I’ve wanted to stay in an Ace Hotel for years… probably close to 6-7 years. All my favorite bloggers and instagrammers (yes, that’s a thing) have been and it seemed like such a cool place. So why wait 6-7 years? Well, they’re a pretty pricey place to stay, plus I was always worried that I wouldn’t look “cool” enough as soon as I stepped foot in. That was 100% not the case at the Ace Hotel in Portland!

Pretty much as soon as we walked in I snapped this cliche picture, because it’s just as cool in person as it looks in pictures:

IMG_0466 The guy who checked in was the epitome of super-friendly Portland person. He cracked jokes, made special accommodations for our bags and promised to call in an hour or so (he did, almost exactly). I wasn’t worried for a second that I wasn’t “cool enough”. After a few hours of exploring, John and I returned to our bags and room. John oh so nicely said “If I didn’t have a girlfriend and kids, I’d totally move in right now.” Harsh words, but it was true that it felt like home almost immediately!

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We chose one of the larger rooms with a bathroom in the back of the hotel, which was supposed to be quieter. We loved the super-urban look outside of our window and they were right, it was super quiet, minus some old-building settling noises.

DSC00216DSC00213 Each room has unique art, but I have to say that it was probably my least favorite feature because our room has these anime-looking drawings on the walls. The bed was super comfortable and really cozy. John lounged for much longer than he normally would’ve! They also hand-wrote a note to me that started with “Hi Morgan!” It was such a great, super appreciated touch.

DSC00214DSC00218DSC00219The bathroom set up was a little different because the sink was in the main room, but that left more room for…. a CLAWFOOT TUB! Basically, I’m obsessed with clawfoot tubs and this one was especially cute. I wish I had had time for a bath! The bathroom set up actually suited us better because I was able to get ready while John was showering and vice versa.

Really though, it was just all the little touches that really put us over in the moon in love with the hotel…

DSC00245DSC00250IMG_0487DSC00259 Right at the end of our stay I talked John into taking photo booth photos in the main lobby (I’m slightly obsessed with photo booth photos). It turns out that we were not prepared for the first two AT ALL (see my reaction haha)

DSC00253DSC00258but the other two turned out really cute :) IMG_0500DSC00256 It seems silly to admit, but staying in the Ace Hotel truly inspired me! It was so special and unique and all those details really got to me. For what was slightly more expensive and slightly smaller than other options, we really got a lot out of our stay!

Eat Food.

From the few people I discuss food with, I get the feeling that I’m not the only person who get overwhelmed by what the hell we should eat eat. I have a friend who is always trying some new diet whether it’s paleo, whole 30, or juicing. I have another friend who eats whatever she wants, but works out obsessively almost every day. My sister just told me that she went to a trainer who told her to eat tilapia (or a can of tuna) every morning for breakfast. There’s definitely a disconnect there, and I know I feel it too.

I know I’ve been on a Michael Pollan kick lately, and I’m way late to the party on this, but he wrote a book that specifically addressed what he thinks that we should eat. And he should probably know, since he’s incredibly interested and educated in food. And he’s donate a ton of on the ground (or factory) research on this subject. In a world where I don’t know what to trust to eat, I’m pretty certain I can trust this guy.

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In his book, Food Rules, he explains his 3 rules:

What should I eat? Eat food. 

What kind of food? Mostly plants.

How should I eat? Not too much. 

These rules are easy to remember, easy to follow and he breaks them down into simple sound bites. I wanted to share my most favorite rules with you, and I’m hoping to share them with my entire family too!

Eat Food:

-Don’t eat something your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (So no gogurts, hot pockets, etc.)

-Avoid foods that have more than 5 ingredients (the more ingredients, the more processed it probably is)

-Avoid foods with ingredients that a 3rd grader can’t pronounce. (Don’t know what xanthan gum is? Don’t put it in your mouth!)

-Avoid foods that are pretending to be something that they aren’t. (Lite? Fake meat? Artificial sweetener?)

-Avoid foods you see advertised on TV.

-Shop around the grocery store and save the middle aisles for the end. (Most of the healthier foods are kept on the outside aisles and in the middle is the holy grail of sugar: cereal)

Mostly plants: 

-Save meat for special occasions. (A lot of Americans need meat in every meal, but not every meal needs meat as the main course.)

-Eat fermented foods. (Try adding more kimchi, pickles, yogurt, etc.)

-Eat animals that have eaten well.

-Eat food grown in healthy soil. (Not all organic farms are called “organic”, try to choose places who don’t douse their foods in pesticides)

-Eat all the junk food you want, but only if you cook it yourself. (People are lazy. If they want to eat cake, they are less likely to eat it if they have to make it.)

-Have a glass of wine with dinner. (OK!)

Not too much:

-Pay more, eat less. (It’s better to pay more in grocery bills than hospital bills)

-Stop eating before you’re full. (Think: “Is my hunger gone?” rather than: “Am I stuffed?”)

-Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored.

-Eat slowly. (He actually recommends putting down your fork between bites!)

-Buy smaller glasses and plates. (One researcher found that switched a 12 inch plate to a 10 inch plate cut food consumption by 22%)

-Don’t go back for seconds.

-Eat meals.

-Do all your eating at a table.

-Try not to eat alone.

-Cook.

 

I’ll be honest, it’s tough to know what to eat. But I think these guidelines are really helpful and I hope they help you too!

Check

I’d been meaning to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma for years, but never got around to reading it until this week. I knew it was an important subject and very well researched, but, well, it’s kind of depressing. And it makes you not want to eat anything anymore.

51QJJGnAsaLI’m glad I did though, and I wanted to share some less-depressing facts with you:

Talk your ear off:

-In the 1919, 1 in every 4 Americans lived on a farm. Today, America’s Farm Belt is a lower population and only about 2 million total Americans still farm. (That’s smaller than the population of Houston) Back then, farms could sustainably feed themselves (the farmers family, the animals and the crops) and the surplus was sold off. Now, many farms just make one thing (just corn, just wheat, etc.) and many farm families don’t even eat that one food!

-The natural rate of growth for the food industry should be about 1%, with the increase of the population. This creates a problem, because there are food businesses that want to make more money. They either have to: 1. Get people to buy the same amount of food for more money or 2. Eat more. Breakfast cereal is one of the most profitable foods: for 4 cents of corn, you can make a cereal that sells for $4.

-Most of us associate “supersize” with McDonalds or 7-11, but it was actually movie theaters that started this idea. They realized that they only way they could get people to pay more was to get them to buy more food at the concession stand, but they couldn’t get people to buy two popcorns, even though they wanted more in popcorn. They didn’t want to seem “piggish”. Selling more cheaply made food for a slightly higher price got people to buy more.

-Where a fruit or vegetable is grown determines its vitamin and mineral structure. Carrots grown in rich Michigan soil have more vitamins than Florida carrots grown in thin, sandy soil. Needless to say, Florida farmers didn’t like this information to be released, so the USDA stopped conducting this research.

-If the 16 million acres currently being used to grow corn to feed cows was used as well managed pasture instead, 14 billion pounds of carbon dioxide would be removed from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off of the road.

Moo:

-In the early 1900’s, cattle were slaughtered at 4-5 years old. In the 50’s they started to slaughter at 2-3 years old. Now, cattle are usually slaughtered between 14-16 months. The longer cattle age, the better they taste. Cows are now weaned from their mothers earlier too, because they gain weight faster from their feed than their mother’s milk.

-Cannibal tribes have found that when you eat the meat of your own species, exposes you to new infections. This is where Mad Cow Disease came from, cows were being fed pieces of other cows. The FDA banned most of this, but still allow cows to eat cow blood and cow fat.

-Manure from most cow farms is unusable for farmers, because the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, metals and hormones are so high that it would kill the crops. Their manure is considered a toxic waste.

 

-Whole Foods believe that their customers want to “engage with authentic experiences” of the days spent on farms, which is why each item has a story of where the chicken came from, what it ate, where it spent its days. (“Rosie was raised in a sunny field on a farm in Marin County”) The reality is that Whole Foods works with mostly industrialized organic farms and that Rosie lived an antibiotic-free life in a overcrowded room with a tiny door to the outdoors, that the chickens never learned to use.

-Horizon farms is the “Microsoft of the organic dairy business”, producing more than half of the organic dairy products in the US, but they raise their cattle in dry, empty lots in the desert. The cows are fed from imported grains and milked three times a day. In comparison, Stonyfield Farms sources most of it’s organic milk from smaller farms across the US and the cows are treated more humanely.

-Grass-fed meat and eggs have less total and saturated fats, and they have more CLA, a fatty acid that is linked to weight loss and preventing cancer. They also have more omega-3’s, which are an anti-inflammatory linked to more neurons in the brain and higher IQs.

Chomp:

-Koala’s have such a small brain that it doesn’t even fill up its skull. A lot of research proves that animals that just eat one thing (in this case eucalyptus leaves) have smaller brains and animals that have to search, hunt or grow their own food have larger brains. Humans and rats can adapt to any situation or food, which makes them more likely to survive.

-Disgust is an important factor in eating food. Humans feel disgust to protect themselves from harm. It prevents us from eating feces, corpses and body fluids.

-A mushroom is just the fruiting body of a subterranean network of microscopic hyphae, long rootlike cells that thread themselves through the soil like neurons. A single fungus found in Michigan ran underground for 40 acres! Some mushrooms can push through asphalt, others glow in the dark, some dissolve into black ink.

Live Slow

As much as we change, I like to think that we wore all born with a disposition, I just happened to be born a neurotic.

I’m sure there are a million stories that I could tell about young neurotic Morgan, but the one that stands out in my mind was when I was 10. 2000 was a pretty big year for me. I upgraded to less-ugly glasses. I had a hopeless crush on a boy  that was shorter than me. I also found out that  we were moving. I guess I should’ve been crushed, but I don’t remember being mad. I just remember the boxes.

My parents had been gentle about the news, and gave us plenty of warning. Brenna and I even helped pick out our new house. We knew it was coming. When the official move date was set, I asked my mom for boxes and started packing. Thing was, it was a month away. I packed up EVERYTHING and neatly labeled each box “Nancy Drew books” “socks” “horses” “More Nancy Drew books”. I stacked them as tall as I could and then spent the rest of the month without any of my things. I remember laying in bed every night that month, under just a sheet (I packed the blankets) and looking up at what (in my eyes) was the tallest mountain of moving boxes ever.

By the way, I’ve asked my parents about this memory, thinking I might’ve made it up. Or at least exaggerated. But no. I was just that batty. The funniest part is that they didn’t even think it was that weird, as far as my typical behavior went.

So needless to say, I’ve always been a little funny about moving. And by now, I’m really good at it. I think it’s a good mix of these neurosis, plus having moved 12 times in the last 10 years, that has made me become quite the minimalist. I don’t have much because I don’t like having much. And what I have, I love. I’ve dragged an old pay phone around with me for 6 years now, just because I love having it so much.

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I think it’s also my neurosis and innate minimalism that make me love anything Kinfolk so much. Every magazine feels like the start of a new season for me. Reading the pages is a mediation, it centers me.

Their newest book The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living really blew me away. The magazines focus on homes, but never to this extent. And while I didn’t receive any decorating advice, the book is more about how to make your home functional, special and yes, minimal.

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Many of the parts that stood out to me weren’t the pictures of pretty homes, in fact some of the homes downright aggravated me, but the writing between the photos of homes was really breathtaking.

…A reminder to readers to sit and enjoy sunrises and sunsets, because they are a natural biological clue to the brain to wake up, or slow down.

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…A gentle suggestion to sit and do nothing but gaze out the window sometimes, just to clear our minds.

…A celebration of casual, last minute, imperfect dinner parties, because we don’t live in a time of ice sculptures and butlers and that take out Thai and some messy countertops are ok to share with others.

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…An appeal to black thumbs to keep plants that need bright light in south-facing rooms if you live in the northern hemisphere and to not overwater.

…A proposition that saving the environment doesn’t have to be difficult, it can mean something as small as taking shorter showers, only washing full loads, setting thermostats to lower temperatures and plantings trees and gardens if there’s room for them.

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…An invitation to fully enjoy smaller living spaces by using rooms for multiple functions, cutting back on things like extra bathrooms, and larger closets. People who live in cities allows for shorter commutes, cuts back on the use of natural resources and allows people to interact outside of the home more frequently.

…A motion to savor dinners alone, when you dine with you. Delight in the taste, eat things others won’t touch, set a fancy table. You should be the best company that you keep.

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I hope your home feels like home to you.