Aug 272013
 

I had the pleasure of a mid-week day off last week when my brother and his wife came to visit. They only come out about once a year from Philly where they live. My sister-in-law is in medical school and they’ll probably be in Philadelphia for a few more years. I miss seeing them more often. It sucks that when they visit we only get a short amount of time together, but I understand. That once a year visit means they run around the whole time trying to see friends and family!

Andy and his wife Lisa (yes her name is Lisa too!) came down to Portland after spending almost a week with my parents in Seattle. The five of us went out to lunch at Cartlandia first. Everyone was starving!

We all ended up going to Good and Evil Wrap Company. My mom and I split the buffalo chicken wrap in a spinach tortilla. Lisa got the avocado tempeh wrap, Andy got the Pepper Jack Steak wrap and Michael go the same in a bowl so he could stay gluten-free. The food cart was a big hit and I was happy to turn more people on to my favorite Portland cart. I know I need to branch out and try other things, but dang that buffalo chicken one is addicting!

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After that my mom left to go do some wedding flower research at local farms (I think my mom and I might do the flowers ourselves) and then the four of us drove out to Kelly Point Park to spend the afternoon. It was a sunny, hot day and spending it near the water sounded perfect.

I packed a ton of water this time, and sunscreen! We were better prepared. We played bocce ball in the big field and it was the first time Andy and Lisa had ever played it! Team Lisa was ahead for most of it but the boys came up from behind and ended up winning.

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After that we moved to the beach and set down a blanket. The boys played another ring toss game I bought and us girls just chilled. I tested the water and it was cool but not freezing. I’m tempted to bring my swimsuit the next time Michael and I go down there!

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Spending the day playing in the sun wore all of us out I think. Dinner was decided and we went to Nuestra Cocina. I am so glad we went there! I’ve been a few times before but I just love their food so much.

I started with a lime drop (which was tart and sweet at the same time, delicious but lacking in alcohol if you ask me!).

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I ordered two appetizers for us all to share. The first was the special and it was a carnitas dish topped with pickled red onions. It was absolutely amazing! The pork had sweet fat on it that was almost candied. It was outstanding. I do not know how they made that meat so tender and sweet and perfect, but I wanted three more servings of it!

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The next appetizer was the Chile Relleno con Picadillo. It was a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with shredded pork, almond slivers and raisins. There was a crema sauce drizzled on top and seasoned with a little cilantro. It was just as delicious as the first dish but I liked the first one better. The second was really sweet.

Andy got the steak and drunken beans dish and he said it was one of the best steaks he’s had in a long time. I’m happy that we were able to satisfy the foodie in the family with an outstanding meal!

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Michael and I split an entree, which was the right decision! Since our first visit to this restaurant a few years ago, Michael has been raving about the half chicken he ate there. So we got it again. It was just as good as his memory told him. It was a grilled half chicken with a “Achiote rub”. I hadn’t heard of that before but man was it good! Slightly blackened, slightly spicy, a little sweet, basically perfect all around. It came with rice and salsa.

The four of us were slightly sunburned, tired and ready to relax. We made one stop at Beer Mongers to get some beer for Andy before heading home. He was like a kid in the candy store! For a moment I thought we’d have to leave him behind. He bought 6 different beers, all things I’d never heard of, and he turned me on to a new one! Well, new to me!

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He said it was one of his favorite beers and apparently it started the whole IPA craze. It’s called Pliny the Elder. I loved this beer! I want to get a few more bottles for home. It was smooth and not quite as hoppy and bitter as a lot of IPAs. There was a hint of something in it…for some reason I thought of peaches. Or a ruby red grapefruit–basically a sweet fruit.

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We were on a mission that night. Not just to catch up and drink beer, but to scare Lisa. Apparently she’d never seen any of the classic horror movies growing up and has never been scared by a movie. We discussed it thoroughly and finally decided she either needed to see The Exorcist or Nightmare on Elm Street. Classics. So Michael made popcorn, we settled in with our beers, turned the lights off and watched The Exorcist! While the movie is still good and holds up, she wasn’t scared. She said it was disturbing, but not scary….the quest continues!

Thursday Michael had to work so it was just the three of us. I took them to Tin Shed for breakfast. It’s a place I’ve wanted to go forever but the long lines discouraged me from trying it. Luckily a Thursday morning was the perfect time to go. We had to wait about 15 minutes for a table and that wasn’t bad.

Andy and I both got the special of the day. It was scrambled eggs with andoiulle sausage, cheese, tomatoes and corn. It came with a biscuit (which we all decided was the best biscuit we’ve ever had) and cheesy grits.

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I am so glad I finally got to try Tin Shed! YUM! One of my favorite breakfast meals in a long time! I want another biscuit!!!!

Sadly, after breakfast I had to drop Andy and Lisa off to where they were meeting her dad. It was time to say goodbye and I went to work. I was bummed out and feeling sad pretty much the rest of the day. It was so nice to see them, but if was not enough time! I wish they’d hurry up and move back to the west coast already. :)

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Sorry for the long post and I know it was heavy on the photos! Thanks for indulging me while I show off my little brother. :)

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Aug 072013
 

Since Michael and I had talked about marriage for a long time, I had started making a list of venues over the years. If I went to a wedding and liked it, I wrote it down. If I saw something online, I made a note. I figured that when the time actually came, I’d a) want to get started planning right away and b) would possibly feel overwhelmed about the whole thing. Having that list to start with made a big difference. Once we announced our engagement, we went over the list I had and even discovered a few new ones to investigate together.

Some of the issues we had with a venue were budgetary, preference and logistics. I have a big family (my family count was over 50 and Michael’s was 10 to give you an idea) and knew that a small location would not work. I also knew wherever we picked, they had to allow us to bring our own alcohol. Michael has several connections in his family and they could get us the booze a deal, so hell ya we were gonna take that deal! We also knew it would not be a religious wedding as Michael is an atheist and I’m a heathen (and would happily get married in the woods, barefoot with flowers in my hair). So churches and halls were off the list.

I have to admit, the planning stages were really fun with my fiance (how weird is that word, by the way?). It was really cool that Michael was so into the details and wanted to plan it with me! It was fun going to all the venues and getting a tour, too.

The places that were on my list that we disregarded were:

P:ear (too small)

Bridal Veil Lakes (too expensive)

Bella Via (too small)

Abernathy Center  (too expensive)

The Village Ballroom (not great reviews, one bathroom)

After narrowing down the list to just a few, I made a bunch of appointments at different venues we wanted to look at:

The Highcliffe Ballroom

Yale Union

The West End Ballroom

The World Forestry Center

North Star Ballroom

We both agreed on what our #1 and #2 picks were before we even saw the venues, but seeing them in person helped make the decision easy. So last Saturday we went out to lunch before going to see the first place. I had a Groupon deal for The Cheese Plate on NE Alberta. We both got the spicy spinach grilled cheese sandwiches, Michael’s on GF bread, and a side of pickled cauliflower.

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Lunch was delicious and just enough enough food. They had vegan and gluten free options, too, which is quickly becoming the new norm in Portland. I also decided I need to learn to pickle my own vegetables. :) We headed over to the first venue.

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The first place we saw was the North Star Ballroom. It was a VERY cute place. The building was an old brick Portland building that felt very unique and OLD inside. Not that that is a bad thing, it was just the feeling…old. Both Michael and I ruled out the venue when we first pulled up. I know this sounds bad, but the neighborhood was just too scuzzy and rundown looking. There also weren’t any nice places nearby to take pictures outdoors.

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We went ahead with the tour anyways and the North Star Ballroom wasn’t bad at all.I told Michael that if everything else fell through for some reason and budget was a major concern, I’d consider the North Star, but it wasn’t my preference. He felt the same way.

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It was fairly small inside for what I needed, but it was DOABLE. I left the tour feeling rather deflated because I’d anticipated liking the ballroom a lot and even thought it might be in the top 3 that we’d have to make a decision about. Sadly, it was not. But if you’re in Portland and looking for a more affordable venue that allows you a lot of freedoms, definitely try it out. It was a cute place inside.

Saturday night we met some friends at Cartlandia for dinner (I, of course, got the buffalo chicken bowl from the Good and Evil Wrap Cart–I mean really, why do I need to branch out to any other carts? I’m obsessed with theirs!) and then went to their house for game night (FUN!). Sunday came around and we had two more venues to look at.

The first was at the World Forestry Center, next to the Zoo and Children’s Museum. We met with the coordinator who was super nice and helpful and she went over everything before giving us the tour. At first we were thinking we’d be interested in Cheatham Hall. It was the right size for us and available for our dates.

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It was a cool space, round with several sliding accordian-style doors that opened it up further. It was definitely not big enough for both the reception and ceremony in the same place. But we could also rent the outdoor plaza that is covered by a tent to accommodate.

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It was a cool idea. I could do the ceremony or reception under the tent, and still use the ballroom. It was a pretty good option. Then she asked if we wanted to see Miller Hall since we were there. It was the larger space and the date we wanted wasn’t available, but we said sure, let’s look. And of COURSE that’s the one I wanted. :)

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The space was beyond cool. I loved the dark woods and beautiful tile work. The space was  much bigger and would accommodate both ceremony and reception. There was a huge lobby for people to check in, sign guest book, do a photo booth…anything. PLUS it included the outdoor grassy area! That means we do have an option for an outdoor wedding if we decide to.

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Michael and I left the venue and both felt like that was the one. We still had about 4 or 5 more venues to look at, one more right after that one in fact–and I cancelled all the other tours. The decision was made. :)

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